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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

EDITORIAL 15.09.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month september 15, edition 000626, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. MAKE HIM ACCOUNTABLE
  2. DOWN IN KERALA TOO
  3. TACKLE THE DISEASE - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. THE WAR WAGED ON BENGAL - GAUTAM MUKHERJEE
  5. LESSONS PAKISTAN COULD LEARN FROM FLOOD - PIA MALHOTRA
  6. CAN ISRAEL DISOWN THE CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS? - DIAA HADID

MAILTODAY

  1. ALL- PARTY MEET ON J- K NOT LIKELY TO DELIVER THE GOODS
  2. GO BEYOND SYMBOLIC MOVES
  3. JUDICIARY AS THE LAST HOPE
  4. US MUST LIVE UP TO ITS REPUTATION - BY DIPANKAR GUPTA
  5. LEFT FRONT REGIME HAS FAILED ON EVERY COUNT - ANIRBAN ROY
  6. A BATTLE TO SAVE THEBENGAL TIGER

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. TIME TO ACT
  2. KEEPING COUNT
  3. WOMEN AND THE WORKPLACE
  4. 'NEW DELHI HAS DISCREDITED THE INSTITUTION OF DIALOGUE' - JYOTI PUNWANI
  5. FORCE OF ARMS - JUG SURAIYA 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. HOW TO FIX THE TRUST
  2. THE MEAT IS ON
  3. IT'S NOW OR NEVER - AMITABH MATTOO
  4. ALL EYES ON NEW DELHI - ASHOK BHAN
  5. STILL LOOKIN' FOR JIMI – JAWAHAR EZEKIE

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. IMAGE TRAP
  2. ORIGIN MYTHS
  3. MARGINS OF INFLATION
  4. GET THE STATE OUT OF THE ART
  5. TASNEEM ZAKARIA MEHTA 
  6. DON'T BLAME THE LAW - V R RAGHAVAN 
  7. MAOISTS & FRIENDS
  8. A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS - SUNIL KUMAR 
  9. ALL THE ACES - DESH GAURAV CHOPRA SEKHRI 
  10. TRADE AND PEACE - C. RAJA MOHAN 
  11. IN A POLITICAL AVATAR - MURTAZA RAZVI 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. FACTS ON THE GROUND
  2. GOOD NEWS ON INFLATION
  3. DEPENDENT ON DIRECTORS - BIBEK DEBROY
  4. GOOD NEWS ON INFLATION
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. GLASNOST

THE HINDU

  1. A BONFIRE OF VANITIES
  2. MAKE-BELIEVE ELECTIONS
  3. A VICTIM OF FUNDAMENTALISM - K.N. PANIKKAR
  4. VISVESVARAYA, AN ENGINEER OF MODERNITY - CHANDAN GOWDA
  5. LESSONS FROM THE EKJUT WAY - DIVYA GUPTA
  6. U.K. REFUSAL TO ANSWER RAISES AFGHAN CUSTODY DEATHS FEARS - IAN COBAIN
  7. WHAT THE U.S. ARMS DEAL WITH SAUDIA ARABIA MEANS - IAN BLACK
  8. CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS - IAN BLACK

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. LET SUSHIL'S GOLD BE AN INSPIRATION
  2. IN AUGUST COMPANY - P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. SOLDIERS LOST IN THE BABU MAZE - S.K.SINHA
  4. THE DEATH DEALER
  5. LIFE'S BEAUTY LIES IN FAIZ – MUZAFFAR ALI

DNA

  1. J&K CANNOT BE HANDLED WITH KID GLOVES
  2. VEERAPPA MOILY WORKS UP A LATHER OVER CORRUPTION
  3. IS GOOGLE DAMAGING YOUR BRAIN? NOT QUITE
  4. THE LESSON RAMACHANDRA GOWDA TAUGHT US - E RAGHAVAN
  5. DO WE NEED MORE BANKS? OR DO WE NEED STRONGER ONES? - RAGHU PALAT
  6. THERE'S A CASE FOR BURNING ALL THE HOLY BOOKS - VENKATESAN VEMBU
  7. DO WE NEED MORE BANKS? OR DO WE NEED STRONGER ONES? - RAGHU PALAT

THE KASHMIR TIMES

  1. PROVOCATIVE MOVES
  2. DELAYED PROJECTS COMPLETION
  3. WHAT IS CHINA'S AGENDA IN KASHMIR? - KULDIP NAYAR
  4. SALDANA..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. NEED FOR RESTRAINT
  2. DOUBLE MISTAKE
  3. SONIA GANDHI FACES DAUNTING TASKS - BY M K DHAR
  4. AFSPA--- A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE - BY B.L SARAF
  5. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSIONS AND THE TRUTH - BY UMASHANKAR JOSHI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. QUOTA CONUNDRUM
  2. FEW OPTIONS IN KASHMIR
  3. TACKLING CORRUPTION
  4. CRISIS IN THAILAND - BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA
  5. LIFE COMES FULL CIRCLE - BY SAI R. VAIDYANATHAN
  6. MISTAKES: OUR LIFE-LONG COMPANION - JOHANN HARI
  7. PEOPLE NEED TO BE NUDGED, OR DO THEY ? - CHRISTINA PATTERSON

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. THE BIG DA BANGG THEORY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. TIME TO LOOK AHEAD
  2. RIP VAN ANTONY
  3. HOW NOT TO EXIT AFGHANISTAN - SHYAM SARAN
  4. CCI WINS A 'COMPETITION' - M J ANTONY  
  5. IS A COMPULSORY CSR CESS A GOOD IDEA?
  6. WHAT'S WORSE THAN MUTUAL FUNDS?

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. MOMENT OF TRUTH IN KASHMIR
  2. SENSE(X) AND SENSIBILITY
  3. A CIGARETTE A DAY
  4. THE NEXT FINANCIAL CRISIS
  5. 'TECHNOMIC ENGINE GAINING TRACTION' - CHIRANJOYSEN 
  6. OLIVER TWIST AND MATCH-FIXING - RAGHU KRISHNAN 
  7. THE FATHER OF FEARS - VITHALC NADKARNI 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. LET SUSHIL'S GOLD BE AN INSPIRATION
  2. AN AUGUST COMPANY - BY P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. BRINGING MERCHANT OF DEATH TO JUSTICE - BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN
  4. SOLDIERS LOST IN THE BABU MAZE - BY S.K. SINHA
  5. THE DEATH DEALER - BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN
  6. LIFE'S BEAUTY LIES IN FAIZ - BY MUZAFFAR ALI

THE STATESMAN

  1. RAGING FIREBALL
  2. DROUGHT DIPLOMACY
  3. TALK TURKEY
  4. CONTRARY VIEW - BY RAJINDER PURI
  5. PERCOLATING ISRAEL'S IRON WALL
  6. CASE OF THE MISSING SUITCASE - SUDHA PALIT 
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. LONG HAUL
  2. OLD HAND
  3. KNOWING WHERE TO LOOK - K.P. NAYAR
  4. STOP THEM BOTH
  5. LEGAL FAQS
  6. MINING GOODWILL

DECCAN HERALD

  1. MOVE WITH CAUTION
  2. COMMENDABLE FEAT
  3. TACKLING MAOISM - BY ALOK RAY
  4. TURKEY'S THUMBS UP TO RADICAL REFORMS - BY MICHAEL JANSEN
  5. FRINGE BENEFITS - BY R VIJAYA BHASKARA REDDY

THE JERUSALEM  POST

  1. ERDOGAN VICTORIOUS
  2. ILLUSIONS AND MANIPULATIONS - BY ALAN BAKER 
  3. TERRA INCOGNITA: NEITHER ATHENS NOR SPARTA - BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN  
  4. IN MY OWN WRITE: ABOUT LETTING GO - BY JUDY MONTAGU  
  5. YALLA PEACE: PALESTINIANS HAVE ALREADY RECOGNIZED ISRAEL - BY RAY HANANIA  
  6. JUST A QUESTION OF TIMING? - BY ITAMAR MARCUS AND NAN JACQUES ZILBERDIK  

HAARETZ

  1. THE FREEZE AS A TEST
  2. GILAD SHALIT IS 'EVERYONE'S STEPSON' - BY YOSSI SARID
  3. WHERE HAS THE HYPOCRISY GONE? - BY AMIRA HASS
  4. THE STEALTHY LEADER - BY ALUF BENN
  5. THE STATE TAKES REVENGE ON YIGAL AMIR - BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. RATIFY THE NEW START TREATY
  2. MICROSOFT AND RUSSIA
  3. FISHING AT THE BASE OF THE PYRAMID
  4. WITH THAT GUY AS ... - BY LAWRENCE DOWNES
  5. WHO'S THE CON MAN? - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  6. POWER TO THE (BLOGGING) PEOPLE - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  7. IN MEXICO, A WAR EVERY CENTURY - BY ENRIQUE KRAUZE

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON THE FEDERAL BUDGET: TAX DEBATE REFLECTS BREATHTAKING DISCONNECT
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON THE FEDERAL BUDGET: DON'T RAISE ANYONE'S TAXES - BY CHRIS CHOCOLA
  3. SCHOOLS CAN'T MANAGE POVERTY - BY PATRICK WELSH
  4. SURE, HUMANS ARE DOOMED. BUT WHY SPEED IT UP? - BY WILLIAM CHOSLOVSKY

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. THE END OF THE RECALL
  2. INFRASTRUCTURE AND PUBLIC SAFETY
  3. OBAMA TAX RISE? GOP: 'NO!'
  4. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU, IF ...? - OBAMACARE IN COURT
  5. MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - NOW LET'S REFORM THE ECONOMY
  2. SELF-RULE FOR EASTERN (AND WESTERN) TURKEY? - BURAK BEKDİL
  3. TORN TURKEY, EUROPEAN TURKEY - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY
  4. WILL ERDOĞAN BE WALKING ON AIR FROM NOW ON? - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  5. YES TO FURTHER REFORMS, NO TO TRIUMPHALISM - JOOST LAGENDIJK
  6. SAGA OF AZERBAIJAN AMBASSADORIAL NOMINATIONS - MANSUR ASLANOV
  7. WHAT'S NEXT? (1) - YUSUF KANLI

THE NEWS

  1. BIZARRE, AND GRIM
  2. ON THE BRINK
  3. MONUMENTAL FOLLY
  4. THE ROT AT THE TOP - ASIF EZDI
  5. THE POWER OF HUNGER - TAJ M KHATTAK
  6. JAM, ANYONE? - MASOOD HASAN
  7. MY POLITICAL STRUGGLE - ASGHAR KHAN
  8. INTERRUPTION-DRIVEN MEMORY - ANJUM NIAZ

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GILANI MAY CONVENE APC ON IHK
  2. MUSHARRAF'S CONTRIBUTION FOR FLOOD AFFECTEES
  3. ERDOGAN CHANGES COLOUR OF TURKEY
  4. THIS IS NOT CRICKET! OR IS IT? - KHALID SALEEM
  5. WHERE ARE HIDEOUTS OF TERRORISTS? - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  6. TERRY JONES VS REST OF THE WORLD - SAEED QURESHI
  7. SELIG HARRISON — PAST & PRESENT - ALI SUKHANVER
  8. PEACE TALKS? WHAT'S ON TV? - ROGER COHEN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. HYPOCRITES? GREENS WOULD BLOCK CLEAN POWER SOURCES
  2. WELCOME BACK, MR TURNBULL
  3. PROTECT CONFIDENTIAL SOURCES

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. ON HIS SELECTION, KEVIN RUDD
  2. SYDNEY AS IT OUGHT TO BE
  3. DON'T PUT GOOD LAW IN JEOPARDY
  4. BARBARA'S NOT ALONE IN WORLD OF BIG FOUR BANKS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF ... KEATS'S TO AUTUMN
  2. THE REAL IRA: BLAST FROM THE PAST
  3. CHARLES KENNEDY: JUST PRETENDING

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. JAPAN'S RICE DILEMMA
  2. ANTI-BASE ASSEMBLY IN NAGO
  3. CORRUPTION IS NOT VERY SPORTING - BY HUGH CORTAZZI
  4. WHY PUTIN IS GOOD FOR JAPAN - BY TINA BURRETT
  5. SEOUL BLUNDERING ON NORTH

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. VOTE FOR LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
  2. $7.5B FLOWS TO THE COUNTRYSIDE
  3. IEW POINT: SYMBOLIC ACTS, REAL CONSEQUENCES - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  4. SECURING THE LIFELINES DURING A DISASTER - VINOD THOMAS AND RONALD S. PARKER
  5. INDONESIA IS NOT SUFFERING FROM THE DUTCH DISEASE - HS DILLON

CHINA DAILY

  1. GRASSROOTS MESSAGES
  2. ACADEMIC MORALITY
  3. POSITIVE SIGNALS
  4. ROAD TRAFFIC: JAMS TODAY, JAMS TOMORROW .. - BY JOHN SCALES AND PAUL AMOS (CHINA DAILY)
  5. FOR A MORE FLEXIBLE CURRENCY - BY YAO YANG (CHINA DAILY)
  6. ROAD TRAGEDIES SCREAM FOR ETHICS AND RULES - BY LIU SHINAN (CHINA DAILY)
  7. DIAOYU DISPUTE SOWED BY US - BY FENG ZHAOKUI (CHINA DAILY)

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE INTERNET ENDS TV'S MONOPOLY - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. RUSSIA'S HUGE BRAIN SITS ON A STUNTED BODY - BY MICHAEL DALBY AND STEVEN WEBER
  3. CAN RUSSIA BE GREAT? - BY JOSEPH S. NYE 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

MAKE HIM ACCOUNTABLE

BERATING OMAR ABDULLAH SERVES NO PURPOSE


It is understandable that there should be increasing frustration in the political establishment in New Delhi about the failure of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir to consolidate the peace that prevailed six months ago and build upon the gains of two successive and successful elections in the State, including in the Valley. But we must pause and ask if any purpose is served by openly berating Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and finding fault with a man who the Congress (and most other political parties, including those in the Opposition) till recently could not praise enough. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is no doubt upset over the spiralling separatist violence and, in a sense, cannot be faulted for saying there is a "governance deficit". Yet, in April he was most generous in showering praise on Mr Omar Abdullah and went to the bizarre extent of declaring him the "best Chief Minister" in India. So what has changed between April and September — actually, July, when street violence erupted — to merit such pitiless denunciation of Mr Omar Abdullah? It just cannot be the fact that he spends weekends in Delhi, or that he chose not to be in Srinagar on Eid-ul-Fitr last Saturday. Is it because the UPA Government has suddenly discovered that it has gone awfully wrong with its Pakistan policy? That it did not focus on Kashmir as much as it should have done? That it erred in not monitoring developments there? That by being seen to be capitulating to Pakistan, the Prime Minister sent out all kinds of wrong signals to separatists in the Kashmir Valley? These are some uncomfortable questions that need to be asked — and answered — rather than pillory Mr Omar Abdullah. By mindlessly attacking him at this point of time would mean further weakening the administration and demoralising the political leadership, such as it is, in the Valley. Needless to say, neither is desirable at the moment.


This is not to suggest that Mr Omar Abdullah has made no mistakes or that his performance as Chief Minister has been exemplary. If anything, he has squandered the enormous goodwill that existed for the National Conference at the time of the elections and allowed his arrogance to get the better of his judgement. If he is seen as distant and aloof, indifferent and uncaring, by his own people, then he has only himself to blame: He let himself be carried away by media's exaggerated description of him as the "saviour" and "great hope" of Jammu & Kashmir and the treacly praise of the Congress which should have known better than to invest so heavily in a callow politician with little or no experience of administration. While it is for him to introspect and take corrective action, Mr Omar Abdullah would do well to wake up and smell the coffee. Yes, he heads an elected Government and no, he should not be weakened nor his Government destabilised. That would be disastrous and its consequences would be unimaginable. A far better course of action would be to make him accountable and force him to deliver good governance. It's not enough to be Chief Minister. Mr Omar Abdullah must go out into the masses and listen to his people. Not all of them are with the separatists. He must seek out the saner sections and take their help. Above all, he should remember he is Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, and not the Kashmir Valley alone. There is time yet to make amends. Let him act, and act decisively now. 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DOWN IN KERALA TOO

BAD TIMES AHEAD FOR THE LEFT


The 1,208 local administration bodies in Kerala will elect their governing bodies for the next five years in the two-phase polls to be held on October 23 and 25. The coming civic polls are being seen as a full-dress rehearsal for the Assembly election due in April-May next year. The CPI(M)-led ruling LDF has already sought an 'anticipatory bail', saying the outcome of the local bodies elections will have no bearing on State politics. The truth of the matter is that the CPI(M) knows it's going to lose this round, as also the next. It is advantage Congress-led Opposition UDF due to the abject failure of the LDF regime in all fronts of governance: Collapse of law and order, scandals pertaining to land deals done with the connivance of Marxist bosses, inability of the Government to control terror elements and inefficiency seen in materialising promised projects— the list is endless. The LDF, which had scored stunning victories in the 2005 local bodies elections, is no more what it was. It has weakened terribly with several of its partners walking out to seek shelter in the UDF. It has also lost the support of most sections of the minorities. The Catholic Church, a formidable force in deciding the outcome of elections in Kerala, had backed the Left since 2004, but but since then it has drifted away, blaming the Government of being anti-Church. Several sections among the Muslims, most of whom had backed the CPI(M) in the 2006 Assembly election, leading to the rout of the IUML in its stronghold, are now determined to see the LDF eat humble pie.


Yet, despite the anti-Left wave, the Congress-led UDF is not too sure of sweeping the polls — either now or later next year. The UDF is busy struggling to quell rampant infighting rather than consolidating its position. The Kerala Congress, led by former Minister KM Mani, is asking for more seats, which the Congress does not want to give. At least three former LDF allies have joined the UDF in the past two years and they are all asking for their pound of flesh. Various groups in the Congress itself are locked in a battle for supremacy. Above all, Congress leaders are yet to chalk out a working strategy for the polls. What the Congress-led front is banking on is the support of its traditional vote-banks, the minorities, which had moved closer to the Left for a while and are now back to the moorings. The Catholic Church has resolved not to let the Left win in either of the two elections. It has already issued pastoral letters advising its followers not to vote even for Independent candidates propped up by people with "atheistic ideologies". These are the factors — apart from anti-incumbency and the various scandals that have tarred the Government's image — the LDF is afraid of in the run-up to this election as well as the Assembly poll. As in West Bengal, so in Kerala! 

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TACKLE THE DISEASE

ASHOK K MEHTA


The failure of Government to effectively combat separatism in Kashmir is being sought to be covered up by targeting AFSPA. That's self-defeating


Ninety-three days, 84 deaths and considerable confusion later, Monday's three-hour long Cabinet Committee on Security meeting on the Kashmir crisis produced nothing more than a routine statement reflecting that no one in Delhi or Srinagar has a clue how to subdue the violence which has escalated from stone-throwing to organised attacks on BSF and CRPF convoys and camps. Curfew, including for the first time at night, has been defied consistently and symbols of state attacked by organised mobs led by separatists — the Hurriyat and Muslim League — interspersed with foreign militants fishing in troubled waters.


The first question is: Why has the Union Government, which supports the National Conference-led Government in Srinagar, taken so long to react and ever so incoherently with a non-plan. The Press release after the CCS focussed on three issues: Dialogue with all political parties, including the separatists; an all-party meeting called for today (September 15); and, an appeal to youth to eschew violence while the Government was ready to address their grievance. The eye-catcher in the statement was reference to deficit in trust and governance, especially after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had singled out in April this year, during his visit to Srinagar, Mr Omar Abdullah as one of the best Chief Ministers in the country. Actually the Government has nothing left to offer to the people in the Kashmir Valley.


Equally, neither New Delhi nor Srinagar appears serious about defusing the mounting crisis, the worst since militancy erupted in Jammu & Kashmir in the 1990s. No Central or State leader has reached out to the people. Mr Rahul Gandhi, who connects best with the youth in the country, is conspicuously absent from the scene. 

The ongoing tragedy in Srinagar has conveniently shifted the focus from the collective failure of the Union and State Governments in providing the people an acceptable political accord and corruption-free governance to highlighting the alleged excesses of the security forces and repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Not only has AFSPA been highly politicised but also sections of the political establishment are trying to transfer blame for their failures to the Army. This is an absolute travesty of justice when it is the Army and other security forces which have created "the best ground conditions" in the last 20 years for a political settlement. 

The job of the military is in creating the environment conducive to political initiatives, nothing less, nothing more. No wonder, Chief of Army Staff, Gen VK Singh, has to periodically remind the Government that the gains of the security forces have been frittered away and AFSPA has been made the political scapegoat. The Supreme Court, in its judgement in Naga People's Movement for Human Rights vs Union of India, upheld the so-called draconian features of AFSPA on November 27, 1997.


From the intense debate that has taken place on AFSPA and sucked in the North East, the options appear to have narrowed down to maintaining the sanctity of the provisions of the Act but selectively repealing it from areas where the Army does not currently operate (forgetting that it applies to Central paramilitary forces too). This can be done by the Governor simply removing the tag of Disturbed Areas Act — and out goes AFSPA.

What we also forget is that Army convoys to the LoC and Ladakh pass through the Kashmir Valley, certain vulnerable points are guarded by it and many fixed installations that support troops on the border are located in and around Srinagar. People also forget that the Army, which had a substantial presence in Srinagar in the late-1980s, was replaced by the BSF and more recently as part of demilitarisation, the CRPF. As the militants were flushed out of built-up areas, the Army gave way to more benign but less capable counter-insurgency forces. The risk one takes in removing AFSPA is giving militancy a second chance in recreating a hotbed of insurgency from areas that had been liberated from it. In Manipur, AFSPA was lifted for political appeasement from parts of Imphal, clearing the path for insurgents to return to their strongholds.


Lifting AFSPA must be done on sound professional advice from the Army just as it was in the case of withdrawal from Siachen. The Army explained the risks involved: If Pakistani troops reoccupy the heights, don't ask us to vacate the aggression because it will be impossible. We have seen a trailer of this in Kargil. But the Army also said, as it is saying now, that it is a political call: You give the orders. The all-party meeting today will surely keep national interest above partisan politics.

 

What has not been debated is how to prevent the misuse of AFSPA by making it more transparent — both in investigation of alleged human rights violations and in meting out punishment. The Army operates in aid to civil authority as well as fights insurgency employing minimum force in good faith. Every soldier follows the Army Chief's 'Ten Commandments' as a moral and military code. No other Army in the world fights an externally-sponsored insurgency like ours without recourse to heavy weapons like artillery and Air Force, thereby incurring higher casualties. Its respect for human rights must rate as one of the highest among militaries across the world. 


The Army, however, must never condone fake encounters which have besmirched its professional reputation. It should come clean on all past cases and introduce more visible methods to root out the evil. Staged encounters have tainted AFSPA and have to be ruthlessly stamped out. Gen VK Singh must inform the country, especially people in Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East, about his plans to end the shame. He must also make more transparent the dispensation of justice for human rights violations. Few know that of the 1,500 cases registered against the Army (and investigated by the Army), only four per cent were true and 144 people were punished — dismissed, jailed, etc — within weeks and months rather than their cases languishing in civil courts for years.

Today's all-party meeting should not underwrite the political survival of Mr Omar Abdullah by playing with AFSPA which is not at the centre of the 'Intifada'. It is failure of politics. People want azadi from corruption and misgovernance, not AFSPA.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

THE WAR WAGED ON BENGAL

FOR ALL HIS GREATNESS AS A LEADER IN BOTH WAR AND PEACE, WINSTON CHURCHILL, WHOSE FAITH IN BRITAIN'S COLONIAL ENTERPRISE DID NOT FALTER EVEN AFTER THE SUN HAD SET ON THE EMPIRE, SHALL BE REMEMBERED FOR ONE OF THE MOST CRUELLEST DEEDS MAN HAS EVER COMMITTED AGAINST MAN: THE ARTIFICIAL FOOD SCARCITY WHICH LED TO THE LOSS OF MILLIONS OF LIVES IN BENGAL

GAUTAM MUKHERJEE


There is a new and largely critical book on Winston Churchill written by Frankfurt-based historical researcher Madhusree Mukherjee called Churchill's Secret War. It has, not surprisingly, been extensively reviewed in the Indian media. 


It says, amongst other things that help to strip away some of the lustre from the persona of the great man, that Churchill was deliberately and wilfully responsible for the last of the Bengal famines in 1943 that killed at least three million people. 


It was one of the diabolical ironies of the devout Anglican moorings of the British Raj, particularly during the Victorian era that saw it to its zenith, that we lost over 45 million souls to (about seven years of) periodic man-made famines throughout 200 years of British rule. And these needless deaths were caused by the imperial priorities of war, annexation and armies on the march, such as the Afghan War, or, as in Churchill's time, the World War II.


The Raj thought nothing of depriving the poorest 'natives' of basic staples of food by creating artificial scarcities resulting in rampant inflation in order to divert grain and victuals to the war or annexation effort of the day. 


But when Churchill wrote (had ghost written) his four-volume A History of the English Speaking Peoples, he lionised himself and dwelt on aspects of his selective memory. There wasn't, of course, a single word in it about the Bengal famine of 1943-44.


To an imperialist like Churchill, unwilling to preside over the loss of empire, anything that could strike a blow on the back of Indian nationalism was fair means. This included opposing limited self-government in the 1930s, vilifying Mahatma Gandhi, promoting the policy of divide and rule, and despising Indians in general for their temerity in wanting to overthrow British rule. So, genocide via famine, too, was probably reckoned to be par for the course, betwixt the many "weak whiskies" and cognacs that he famously consumed throughout the day and night.

To the credit of the Mughals, whom the British usurped power from in the first place, there was no such privation during over 400 years of their rule; though the Mughals were given to massacres and sackings of another kind. But such blood-letting, brutal as it was, did not involve, comparatively, such large numbers. 

Similar kudos must go to ourselves since independence notwithstanding the abject appeals that resulted in the humiliating PL-480 handouts from America in the 1960s, before our own Green Revolution made us food self-sufficient in the following decades. 


However, thousands of starvation-related deaths still occur in the poorest parts of the country today, owing to our callous political and bureaucratic bungling of surplus food stocks, abysmal storage conditions and appalling distribution inefficiencies. There is also the rank corruption in the rationale and timing behind questionable exports and imports of food. 

For all his rediscovered faults, Churchill's lasting contribution to history was his early recognition of the true intent of the Nazis. And that is why he was the right person to preside over the war years. But later, the British people, in their wisdom, saw to it that he was voted out of office.


Deprived of parental warmth as he was in his childhood, Churchill developed a vicious streak that was never very far from the surface. And it is one of the truisms of life that a man may burnish his image as much as he likes, but people can somehow see right through him to his essential self. 


As for imperialism itself, not only did the baton pass to the Americans directly but it is ready to be passed on to the Chinese sometime later in the 21st century. Though, in fairness, it might be a few years yet before we face such an eventuality. Besides, there could always be an unforeseen twist in the tale, resulting in the abortion of such naked ambition, seeking to actualise its inexorability, not through the dogs of war, but during peace.

Yet another icon of our post-war era, more properly blossomed in the 1960s, 1970s and after, is the musician John Winston Lennon of The Beatles fame who subsequently charted a solo career alongside Japanese-American Yoko Ono. He, too, had a new BBC documentary made on him. Called Lennon Naked, it dwells on his essential psyche. 


The new film shows Lennon's deep insecurity, his excessive drug taking and resultant psychosis, his cruelty towards his near and dear and an eccentricity and arrogance bordering on something darker. It clearly indicates that he was responsible for the break-up of The Beatles out of a spiteful hubris. 


Lennon's working class soul was essentially troubled by an anguish of abandonment felt from early childhood; much like the aristocratic but very lonely Churchill, brought up by governesses and preparatory schools. One compensated with an ostensible crusade for peace, however subversive; and the other, by ruthlessly prosecuting a war that he nearly did not win. 


Lennon's was the more lurid history. His mother Julia left his father to remarry when he was just six. His father went off to sea and disappeared for 17 years. Young John was brought up by his Aunt Mimi, while his own mother had three more children with her new husband, living just a few lanes away in his native Liverpool. And then she was tragically run over by a bus. 


All this was, no doubt, grist to the mill for the flowering of that famous Lennon genius, but it was also the reason for his pain and anger. Likewise, Churchill's lifelong leaning towards heroics, adventurism and brinkmanship was probably compensation for the hollowness and inadequacy he felt inside. It helped to keep the "black dog" on his back at bay, helped with liquor, long baths, the painting of passable water colours, and those famous cigars. 


Lennon's middle name was Winston. And both gentlemen, for all their storied glory, were tortured souls, driven, in equal measure, towards greatness and self-destructiveness. 


That Churchill was put out to lionised pasture, and lived for decades during which he saw the world he believed in slip into history, was perhaps fitting. Lennon was shot in the street by a crazed fan, the childhood injury done to his soul stilled by a bullet through his heart. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LESSONS PAKISTAN COULD LEARN FROM FLOOD

A DAM AT KALABAGH MAY NOT NECESSARILY PREVENT DISASTERS CAUSED BY INDUS BREACHING ITS BANKS. ONCE THE WATER HAS RECEDED, PAKISTAN SHOULD SEEK INDIA'S HELP IN MANAGING ITS WATER RESOURCES AND LOOK AT ALTERNATIVE MEANS

PIA MALHOTRA


The current deluge in Pakistan is an ugly reminder of the sheer incapacity of the local Government machinery to deal with disasters and crisis, particularly on such a large scale. Two thousand people are reportedly dead and around 27 million have been severely affected. Floodwaters have washed away millions of hectares of crops, submerged villages and destroyed roads and bridges. Disease is fast spreading among flood victims and there have been warnings that dams in the south may burst. The United Nations has said that the number of people suffering from the massive floods could be more than the combined casualties of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. 

 

The floods have been attributed to heavy rainfall, climatic changes, monsoon patterns, deforestation and damming. These reasons, however, merely scratch the surface. A report in The Guardian traces the heavy flooding to areas where the timber mafia is active. It claims that felled trees stacked in ravines for smuggling were dislodged by the force of water. These swept away people and bridges and also weakened the dams. The timber mafia has connections to many local and provincial-level politicians and constant logging has led to denudation and soil erosion that made the area susceptible to floods. There are also reports that the Tarbela dam was filled with timber, taking up all of its storage capacity. 


Instead of focussing on the human casualties of the floods, effort has been directed at politicising the situation. The disaster has sparked an unholy debate on the need to revisit the Kalabagh option. Could the Kalabagh dam have averted this tragedy or at least minimised it? Is building big dams the only option to control floods?

The Kalabagh dam could have absorbed over six million acre feet of water, say its supporters. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani, himself, suggested that the dam could have saved some areas of the country from widespread flooding. A petition was also filed in the Supreme Court, urging construction of the dam without delay. 

 

Besides creating unnecessary controversy at a time when the country is reeling under a calamity, the pro-dam lobby is ignoring some basic facts. That the Kalabagh dam is a run-of-the-river project and not a flood control dam goes unmentioned by them. Also, the fact that this project has been embroiled in inter-provincial disputes and conflicts, almost since the time of its inception, also makes any demands for an early construction naïve, if not completely baseless. After the demands for Kalabagh dam resurfaced, Minister for Culture of Sindh Sassi Palejo claimed that the dam, if built, would have destroyed the entire region of Khyber-Pakhtunwala. Sindh Abadgar Board president Abdul Majeed Nizamani said that if the dam were built, it would have caused ten times more destruction. 


There are a few things, however, that can be ascertained. It is a grim reality that there is massive mismanagement of water in Pakistan, in particular, and in South Asia, in general. Instead of harping on the need for building Kalabagh dam, creative ways of dealing with water issues in the future need to be envisaged. 

Rainwater harvesting is one such localised initiative that bypasses the time, costs and controversy of big dams. Rainwater harvesting is a simple method which aims to capture the run-off of rainfall in rainwater tanks which can be later recharged into the ground. It is especially useful in places like Pakistan and India which face alternating floods and drought. The tanks hold storm water and discharge them at a controlled rate and can hence control flooding. The water level of each tank is monitored at a disaster prevention centre through the Internet. Rainwater harvesting creates efficient storage of excess water and is furthermore executed without any ecological or displacement costs. 


Localised initiatives like flood warning systems in various towns and cities could have also assisted in saving the lives of millions of people. This is a highly sophisticated mechanism whereby the systems monitor the flood levels and automatically sound an alarm around two hours before the flood is due. A system like this might not be able to save immovable properties like houses but can provide enough time for the people to evacuate disaster zones. It is also capable of anticipating flash floods — largely caused by massive deforestation. There is only one localised flood warning system in all of Pakistan. 


India recently upped its flood aid from US $ 5 million to US $ 25 million to assist Pakistan which had initially refused to accept it. Instead of letting politics rule their bilateral relationship, both countries could use this disaster as an avenue for cooperation. Pakistan can learn about water management practices from India where rainwater harvesting systems have been successful. India can provide more than just money: It can provide technical know-how and logistical support. 


Article VII of the Indus Water Treaty, signed by both countries, provides space for cooperation. India and Pakistan already share flood data as envisaged under the treaty. This can and should be extended to water management practices like rainwater harvesting, watershed management, basin wide management, flood control mechanisms and efficient irrigation methods. 


Such mechanisms would be more effective in the long run than building big dams which demand time, money and a massive displacement of people. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CAN ISRAEL DISOWN THE CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS?

THE JEWISH STATE IS CONFRONTED WITH A MORAL DILEMMA AS THE CHILDREN OF FOREIGN WORKERS SEEK ISRAELI NATIONALITY, WRITES DIAA HADID


Israel will begin deporting families of illegal migrants in coming weeks, officials say, as an emotional debate rages over the ballooning numbers of foreign workers that some fear could threaten the country's Jewish identity. A decade ago, Israel began bringing in foreign workers in an effort to reduce its dependence on cheap Palestinian labourers. Now tens of thousands of migrants from Asia and Africa who entered the country legally but have since overstayed their visas have developed strong ties to Israel and have no intention of returning home. How to deal with the migrants hits on two of the most charged issues in Israel.


On one hand, the fear is that their growing numbers will dilute Israel's Jewish majority, while others warn that deporting them from a country born partly as a refuge for Jewish victims of the Holocaust is immoral. But it is the fate of the migrants' children that has really ignited the national debate: Their advocates point out that they are educated in Jewish schools and speak flawless Hebrew — they just aren't citizens or Jews.


"What about the Jewish heart and Jewish compassion and Jewish morality?" pleaded Mr Elie Wiesel, the Nobel winning Holocaust survivor, speaking out against the deportations. Mr Wiesel, who is not Israeli, said he found the issue so disturbing that he felt compelled to speak out on local affairs. Others fear that scenes of Israeli forces deporting children will do no good to the country's already tarnished image following last year's war in Gaza and the deadly attack on a Turkish aid flotilla in May.


Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who oversees immigration policy, dismissed migrant sympathisers as "bleeding hearts" in a recent television interview. "Nobody is worrying about... the Jewish identity of the state of Israel." Israel grants automatic citizenship to Jews but doesn't have an immigration policy for non-Jews.


To control the influx, the Government said in August it would issue permanent residency visas to children of migrants, but the criteria are so tough that most may still be deported. The children must have parents who entered Israel legally, be in school, speak Hebrew and have resided in Israel for at least five years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time his Government wanted to "take into our hearts children who grew up here and were educated here as Israelis," but he warned against creating an incentive for illegal migrants "to flood the country". So far, some 600 families have registered with the Interior Ministry. Another 90 families were rejected, while the families of another 1,000 children didn't even apply, because they didn't meet the criteria, said Ms Sigal Rosen, a migrant activist. Those families may be deported, she added.


Interior Ministry official Roi Lachmanovich said deportations would begin by the end of September, after a series of Jewish holidays and would proceed on an individual basis — there would be no mass deportations.

Since the Government announcement, anxious immigrant parents have been rushing to Government offices to apply for residency. Sounding very much like an Israeli, 15-year-old Demet, who is Turkish, said at an advocacy office for migrants that she hoped to join an Israeli army combat unit when she turns 18. Meanwhile, other children nagged their parents in Hebrew, some wearing necklaces with the Star of David.


"They cannot evict my daughter," said Florence, a 39-year-old from Nigeria who overstayed her tourist visa to work in Israel 10 years ago. "She was born here." Florence, who whispered to her six-year-old in Hebrew, declined to give her full name for fear that it would endanger her pending application.

Like many living in Israel illegally, Florence had believed an Israeli-born child would allow her to stay — precisely the fear of many Israelis. But the migrants have gained some powerful allies, including Cabinet Ministers on the left and right of Israeli politics and a group of Holocaust survivors. The Prime Minister's wife has spoken out against the policy, and Israel's kibbutz movement has vowed to hide the children in the country's 280 kibbutzim to thwart their deportation.


"This is not the Jewish state I know if it deports children," Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer shouted during a Cabinet debate. Israel was founded as an agricultural society but as it has industrialised and abandoned its one-time commitment to "Jewish labour," it has increasingly relied on workers from outside. Originally, Palestinians from the territories Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war filled that need, but with the uprising of 2000, Israel turned to foreign labour.


Fearing attacks, Israel tightly restricted work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, shrinking their numbers from 2,00,000 in the late 1990s to about 32,000 today, and replacing them with Chinese construction workers, Thai farm hands, Philippine caregivers and others. The visas were meant to last for just five years, but nearly 1,20,000 foreign workers stayed on, according to Government statistics, lured by steady work, good money, and in many cases, needing to pay off the steep fees from the employment agencies, which could run up to $ 13,000.


Several thousand tourists are also believed to have overstayed their visas and are working illegally. Israel also has around 17,000 African asylum-seekers who fled violence and economic hardship. Between the migrant influx and the much higher birthrate of Israel's Arab population, some here fear Israel's Jewish majority will gradually be eroded. 


Currently Jews make up roughly 80 percent of a population of seven million. The Government is now cutting back on foreigners entering the country. Last year, about 27,000 came to work in Israel — the lowest number since 2004, according to Government statistics. Migrant activists say the Government should shrink that number even more dramatically if they don't want to grapple with the burgeoning problem of foreigners and their Israeli-born children. "If the Government doesn't want anymore children, then they should stop bringing in their parents," said Ms Rosen. "It's as simple as that." 


-- AP 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

ALL- PARTY MEET ON J- K NOT LIKELY TO DELIVER THE GOODS

 

THE Union government's decision to convene a meeting of all political parties to elicit their views on the handling of the situation in Jammu & Kashmir is an indicator that it really has no good ideas of its own. Such meetings are usually ritual events, where parties recite their well- known and established positions.

 

We do not expect to discover any new pearls of wisdom, other than those already revealed by party spokespersons in numerous TV interviews.

 

Hard- headed and purposeful behind the scenes consultations with various party heads may, perhaps, have been a better idea.

 

Take the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, on which the positions of the parties are well known. The Communist Party of India ( Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat is on record last week as having demanded a removal of the draconian provisions of the Act, as well as the withdrawal of the Disturbed Areas Act from Srinagar.

 

As for the Bharatiya Janata Party, it is vehement that there should be no dilution of the AFSPA. The Congress party usually has multiple views on all subjects. Perhaps that is why the Union Cabinet itself is said to be divided over the issue, Defence Minister A. K. Antony's claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

 

We do not in any way underestimate the situation's complexity, intertwined as subnationalism in the Valley is, with religious fundamentalism.

 

But, in our system, that task rests firmly with the governments elected, in Srinagar and New Delhi.

 

J& K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah insists that the AFSPA's removal will do the trick. For its part, the Centre says, as it did after the Cabinet Committee on Security meet on Monday, that a dialogue was needed to address various issues including that of a " governance deficit", a code word for Mr Abdullah's failings.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

GO BEYOND SYMBOLIC MOVES

 

THE Union government seems to be choosing to focus on the trees while deliberately ignoring the woods in the grant of environmental clearance to mega projects.

 

While Vedanta Resources' project for bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa, as well as the Loharinag Pala hydel power project in Uttarkhand, were denied clearance by the Union environment ministry, the government has pushed through the Polavaram power project in Andhra Pradesh despite the fact that its impact on the local people and the environment will be on a much larger scale.

 

The project will displace as many as 1.8 lakh tribals in addition to affecting the livelihood of thousands of Godavari fishermen and damaging the Coringa bird sanctuary.

 

At one level this has exposed the government's double standards, at another, it puts paid to the hopes that Niyamgiri will lead to a much more sensitive land acquisition and rehabilitation policy, especially given Rahul Gandhi's involvement.

 

The government's actions are based purely on political expediency rather than any coherent policy or ideology on its part.

 

While Niyamgiri was crucial to projecting Mr Gandhi as a saviour, in Polavaram the government is being influenced by some powerful political lobbies in AP, as well as the need to placate the Telangana protagonists.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

JUDICIARY AS THE LAST HOPE

 

THERE are many august personages in this country who think that the higher judiciary often overreaches itself, straying into the executive's domain. The prime minister recently went to the extent of ticking off the Supreme Court that had suggested free distribution of grain for interfering in policy matters. To such a viewpoint, the 2G spectrum scam case offers a sound rebuttal.

 

The scam allegedly caused a loss of ` 70,000 crore to the national exchequer with Telecom Minister A Raja's role coming under a cloud. The investigating agencies are supposed to have incriminating evidence against the minister and his cohorts but there is no hint yet of the Central Bureau of Investigation moving against them.

 

The UPA government's hands are clearly tied because Mr Raja belongs to the Dravida Munnetra Kazgham, an ally whose support is vital for its existence. Under such circumstances which arm of the state, but the judiciary, can step in — as the SC did on Monday — to ensure that the guilty are punished?

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

US MUST LIVE UP TO ITS REPUTATION

BY DIPANKAR GUPTA

 

The issue whether or not amosque ought to be built near Ground Zero is not one of good faith or sentiment but legal right

 

A ROLE model is not like God, it is more like " Oh, my God!" The United States has long aspired to be the role model of the free world, and many Newly Emerging Democracies ( NEDs) draw courage and inspiration from America's past and present. Dean Rusk had once said: " The United States is widely regarded as the home of democracy and the leader of the struggle for freedom, for human rights, for human dignity. We are expected to be that model." The anxiety levels are currently very high among America watchers in NEDs. They are keeping a close tab on how Obama will handle the construction of an Islamic Centre near New York's Ground Zero. Will Americans hear Dean Rusk's words rumbling in their ears, or that of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich? Therefore, more than many Americans perhaps, it is those in Newly Emerging Democracies who hope the United States will remain true to Dean Rusk forever. Every time America falters, the forces of freedom and citizenship in NEDs take a beating. The United States must bear this in mind and live up to its global responsibility. The NEDs need America to be that beacon of hope in their struggle against feudal and atavistic forces within their own countries. In a way, America owes it to the NEDs to stay firm on that pedestal. If it falls, the hopes of millions, billions, around the world will fall with it.

 

America is not just another democratic country.

 

By its own admissions it is an " Oh, my God" model for the free world. This is why NEDs are waiting to see how the storm around the proposed Islamic Centre in New York is resolved.

 

Will it be in keeping with the highest standards of democracy, or by double talk, sentiment mongering or force? Democracy came late to many parts of the globe, usually after a protracted struggle against colonialism. During those hurtful years, American opposition to alien rule was a powerful source of inspiration to many freedom fighters in Asia and Africa.

 

Credentials

 

While the British and the Europeans were reviled by those who fought for national liberation, America was often upheld as a true repository of democracy. No doubt, America's own war of Independence against the British gave its image a special shine.

 

Since then, America has written and re- written several " howto" books on democracy. It fought racism without

compromise, it defended the rights of minorities in law and in practice, it apologised for the way the early settlers had treated the Native People, and it brought Nazism to its knees. America also knocked the socks out of elitism and refused snobbery entry visa into the new world. It is wrong to see Hollywood, cars, chewing gum and blue jeans as mere thingummies and baubles.

 

Realising freedom has never been so much fun as in America.

 

It is not easy for democrats in NEDs to put a happy face on America's gun laws, or the Iraq war. Nor is it easy to overlook the " profiling" of minorities. These might, however, be explained away in terms of the residues of history and the need to protect America from another 9/ 11. But opposition to the Cordoba Initiative to build an Islamic Centre two blocks away from Ground Zero has no extenuating arguments in its favour; at least none that can stand the test of law.

 

In the meantime, NEDs have reason to cheer as well. Mayor Bloomberg defended the legal propriety of setting up the Cordoba Institute. He saw nothing objectionable in a Muslim " themed" community centre which would be a " hub for interfaith interaction." Of course, Bloomberg mentioned sentiment and history, he made a few hand on heart statements, but what was most convincing was his declaration that Muslims have " a constitutional right" to build the Islamic Centre. This is the most important point for NEDs. Obama underlined the same point later when he said that Americans enjoy many inalienable rights and one of them is that citizens " can practice religion freely". It is then a matter of law and not of sentiment. The right to worship, the right to culture, and the right to freedom are all of a piece. It is not tolerance or benevolence of the soul that gives minorities the freedom to practise their beliefs as equal citizens.

 

It is, therefore, not befitting for the model of the free world to justify the construction of the Islamic Centre in the name of sentiment or good faith.

 

Law

 

It is true that if it is ever built, the Islamic structure will displace a nondescript 152 year old building which can only self- destruct to look better. Despite its near antiquity it does not qualify for " protected status" from any angle. Nor is it good enough to say that an Islamic Centre is all of two blocks away from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, so what reputation is this fuss all about? These qualifiers are unacceptable by democratic standards as they ask for leniency, for exceptions, too. They do not state the case in the name of the law.

 

It is really a question of law and not sentiment. In America you can burn the flag, so you can also burn any book. Interestingly, it is illegal in the United States to burn the dollar. In fact, anyone who " mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill…. shall be fined not more than $ 100 or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both." In which case let us play by the law. Let some people burn the Quran if they are sick enough to do that, but let the law protect the right to worship the Quran anywhere in the United States.

 

Echo

 

This is why Mayor Bloomberg took exception to those who said that the Islamic Centre can only come up in a " no- mosque zone". How large, Bloomberg asked, will this sequestered " no- mosque" area be? What should be the legal criterion for drawing its boundaries? Is it even possible to have a legal criterion for this one? The fact is, Bloomberg reminded us, there is a mosque standing today not four blocks away from Ground Zero. Should that be brought down to comply with the so- called " no- mosque" zone? All of these are not just American questions. They reverberate in many NEDs, and in India too.

 

The controversies around the Islamic Centre remind us of issues that came up with Babri Masjid. They remind us also of justice to victims of ethnic violence in Gujarat and elsewhere.

 

It can also tell us that secularism is not informed by religious tolerance or goodwill, but by inalienable rights as enshrined in the law.

 

What United States does today, most NEDs would have to take stock of tomorrow. For all our sakes, America must stand firm on that pedestal.

 

The writer is a senior fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library

 

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MAIL TODAY

HOWRAH EXPRESS

LEFT FRONT REGIME HAS FAILED ON EVERY COUNT

ANIRBAN ROY

 

MAMATA Banarjee and her Trinamool Congress are now fighting tooth and nail for an early-election in West Bengal.

 

The railway minister claims that there is no governance in the state and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has no right to be in power. But, is there a functional government in West Bengal? The question is extremely difficult to answer now as the governemnt's performance in the last one month has been pathetic. It couldn't even provide the people even a semblance of an effective administration.

 

Even senior CPI(M) leader and the state land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah recently admitted during a tour of North Bengal that there is lack of proper governance across the state.

 

As everyone talks of the wave of political change, the administration in West Bengal too is now caught in a transitional syndrome.

 

The entire system is apparently in a state of "pause", and waiting for a new set of people to come and govern the state in their own way.

 

The efficient bureaucracy, about whom everyone boasted in the past, has gone into inaction. As a result, the government machineries are all set to collapse.

 

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told a delegation from the Trinamool Congress recently in New Delhi that he had written three letters to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about the worsening law and order situation. And, he did not receive a single reply. There were only acknowledgements of the messages.

 

In the past ( especially during the Jyoti Basu era), the state was never blamed or criticised by New Delhi for being " inefficient". During UPA- I, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had even certified Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as the " best CM in the country". But now, the scene has totally changed, and nothing moves in the state.

 

The state government was ineffective in its handling of the drought this year. As drought hit 11 districts in the state, the central team found that the state government's failure in implementing minor irrigation projects was one of the main causes for it. Moreover, the state government did not follow New Delhi's suggestions for cultivation of alternative crops and timely distribution of seeds.

 

The officials from the Ministry of Agriculture also realised that the state government took them to the wrong places for inspection, which infuriated the poor farmers. Mr. Bhattacharjee did not even question agriculture minister Naren De.

 

As CPI( M) and Trinamool Congress workers are engaged in violent clashes everyday, the administration is unable to check it.

 

The police are caught in a state of total helplessness. It lacks the political backing in what is being called a " transitional phase". As a result, law- and- order has suffered. In the CM's own admission in the state assembly, political violence had claimed over 2200 lives in the state in the last one year.

 

Caught in the transitional syndrome, a lot of efficient and senior IAS officers have left, or have sought deputation.

 

Some of the mid- career bureaucrats have also started looking for greener pastures outside the state. This has significantly affected administrative functioning in the state.

 

Ineffective policing made the escape of Nicole Tamang from CID's custody " easy". Nicole, a central committee member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ( GJM), was arrested for killing of Akhil Bharatia Gorkha League leader Madan Tamang in Darjeeling.

 

A recent directive of the Calcutta High Court added to the problems of the rudderless administration. Taking cognisance of the plight of poor villagers hit by the Aila cyclone 15 months ago, the High Court directed the government to declare what steps it had taken towards the rehabilitation of the victims.

 

Over 60 lakh people were hit by the deadly cyclone. The state government had demanded ` 1,000 crore from New Delhi for relief and rehabilitation.

 

Though it received a part of the amount, no money or help reached the victims.

 

Where did the Aila funds go? Why was the state government ineffective in it's relief efforts?

 

A BATTLE TO SAVE THEBENGAL TIGER

THE Royal Bengal Tiger is the pride of Bengalis.

 

And, the state government is also serious about protecting the wild carnivore.

 

To stop encroachment and human disturbances in the Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site, the West Bengal government has recently served demolition notices to nine tourist lodges inside the biosphere reserve area.

 

The tourist lodges located at Pakhiralaya and Dayapur have been functioning without permission and are situated in and around the embankments. The government now fears that the resorts may endanger the embankments and cause flooding in the area.

 

The state government wants to do all it can to preserve the world's largest mangrove forest region and its unique ecosystem. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1989.

 

The state minister for Sundarbans Affairs, Kanti Ganguly, said that in addition to the tourist resorts, his department would now serve demolition notices to several other illegal buildings, including schools, which have been set up in different parts of the Sundarbans region.

 

DURGA PUJA TO GET A SUSH TOUCH

FORMER Miss Universe and Bollywood actress Sushmita Sen plans to come to Kolkata to enjoy the Durga Puja this year along with her two daughters. She wants to give them a feel of the biggest festival of the Bengalis.

 

Sushmita was in Kolkata last week to walk the ramp at a fashion show. In addition to her glamorous appearance in the City of Joy, the Bollywood beauty conducted a puja at the famous Kalighat temple.

 

The former Miss Universe made it a point to bring along her two daughters — Renee and Alisah for the Kolkata visit.

 

She is scheduled to visit Kolkata again next month for the Durga Puja. After all, she wants both her daughters to understand the rich culture of Bengal.

 

Anirban.roy@mailtoday.in

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TIME TO ACT

 

The high-profile Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs (CCS) failed to suggest any concrete steps to address the alarming situation in Jammu & Kashmir. There was talk that the Centre may announce a political package close to Eid, but nothing happened. There's been no decision on the sensible proposal from a section of the government to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from parts of J&K. As the Centre vacillates, the state is burning. The death count since June has climbed to 85, with 15 people killed in violence on Monday. There's an urgent need for the government to step in with concrete proposals to cool down tempers in the Valley. 

The CCS blamed a trust and governance deficit for the tragic situation in the Valley. The analysis is spot on. But what has the government done to bridge the deficit? The CCS blamed the Omar Abdullah government for failing to reach out to people. Sure, Omar and his team ought to have done more. So could have the PDP, the main opposition party in the state. The lack of imagination of the political mainstream, both in Srinagar and New Delhi, has allowed the separatists to exploit an inchoate rebellion of Kashmiri youth. The Centre has only strengthened their hands by refusing to act fast and decisively. State forces have been tactless in dealing with mob violence and the Omar administration has been shockingly insensitive to the deaths in police firing. 

Mere offer of talks or the promise of an economic package from 
New Delhi may not be sufficient to influence the situation. Political and administrative gestures aimed at reducing security presence may be necessary. These needn't wait for a political consensus, as the government seems to be wanting. Neither should the Centre wait for the violence to subside before announcing a political package. Delay in reaching out to the aggrieved people in the Valley will be construed as a lack of sensitivity to the situation in the state. An all-party delegation from New Delhi could travel to Srinagar for a dialogue with various sections of the Kashmiri civil society and to get a sense of the public mood. 


Governance deficit in J&K is directly linked to the absence of political institutions at the grassroots, which has led to a concentration of state power in Srinagar and New Delhi. Strengthening of local bodies could empower people at the grassroots and enable better use of public funds. A government far removed from the people won't be perceived as able to understand or address the latter's concerns. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

KEEPING COUNT

 

The Election Commission (EC) has issued new directives requiring all election candidates to henceforth open exclusive poll bank accounts and have their expenses monitored by shadow expenditure registers. Coming into effect with the upcoming Bihar assembly polls, these regulations are congruent with Nirvachan Sadan's responsibility to ensure integrity in the electoral process by securing it against the influence of money power. The EC has also decided to call an all-party meeting soon, one aim being to try and resolve the ongoing political spat over electronic voting machines (EVMs). Inarguably, adoption of EVMs revolutionised India's democratic process. So, when 13 political parties jointly contend that the technology can be manipulated, it's a matter of concern. That, however, doesn't mean India should junk EVMs and return to using ballot papers, as demanded in certain quarters. 


On curbing electoral malpractice, EVMs have been a huge improvement over paper ballots. They have drastically reduced costs, the time needed to declare results and shouts for recounts. They have virtually eliminated invalid votes and streamlined the overall poll process. If they at all fall short of being tamper-proof, there's a case for improving the system, not doing away with it completely. The argument that countries like Germany and Ireland have discontinued with EVMs doesn't cut much ice, given EVMs in India have special security features suited to local needs. The BJP wants EVMs to be backed by a paper trail, but this would militate against the idea of electronic voting. Rather, with the EC's two-stage randomisation plan to randomly deploy the machines and seal them in the presence of various observers, it's hard to see how EVMs can be rigged. An all-party brainstorm is desirable in that securing the poll process's credibility is a collective duty. We need to end political squabbling on EVMs, given the proven merits of technology-aided electoral reform.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

WOMEN AND THE WORKPLACE

SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT AND VISHAKHA N DESAI

 

NEW YORK: Even as Western Europe and the US struggle to emerge from the global recession, China and India are surging ahead. China is projected to become the world's largest economy within the next decade; India could leapfrog Japan into third place in individual country GDP rankings as early as 2012. One of the chief engines of these explosive economies: educated women. 


Educated women are pouring into the professional workforce in China and India, with profound implications for national and multinational corporations. Yet even as employers rely on this growing cadre of "white-collar" women, many have little understanding of the complicated career dynamics of this rich tranche of talent. Misconceptions abound, from cultural cartoons to western wannabes. 


The ambitions of female talent in the top two emerging markets and the challenges they encounter are complex, fundamentally different from their western counterparts and significantly nuanced, according to a recent study from the New York-based Centre for Work-Life Policy (published in theHarvard Business Review). To begin with, despite many similarities, accomplished women in China and India are not interchangeable. 


Chinese and Indian women demonstrate stratospheric levels of aspiration - 76 per cent and 86 per cent respectively aspire to a top job, double that of their counterparts in the US. But while 85 per cent of Indian women consider themselves "very ambitious," only 65 per cent of Chinese feel the same. This may be partially due to the fact the concept of female ambition is seen through a negative prism in China. 


Furthermore, while women of both nationalities demonstrate impressive levels of loyalty to their employers, 85 per cent of Indian women say they are willing to "go the extra mile", compared to 76 per cent of Chinese. Lastly, while ambition holds up throughout an Indian woman's career lifespan, it inexorably sinks in her Chinese counterpart. 


The first broad-based generation to assume the right to a career confronts entrenched social mores that both sustain and sabotage them as they create new roles. Communism's egalitarian legacy left the expectation that Chinese women would work, regardless of marital or maternal status. In contrast, more than half of Indian women experience pressure from their spouses and in-laws to quit working when they get married. Even after having a first child, only 35 per cent of Chinese women were pressured to "drop out", while 52 per cent of Indian women were criticised for continuing their career. 


Childcare issues drag down the career dreams of Indian and Chinese women to a far lesser degree than their western sisters. Working mothers in China and India are able to think big thanks to a robust matrix of hands-on extended family, inexpensive domestic help and an increasingly wide range of daycare options. 


Eldercare, however, has the potential to derail a career. The vast majority 94 per cent of women in India and 95 per cent in China are responsible for their parents and in-laws, with more than half contributing up to 20 per cent of their salaries. Filial piety is so deeply rooted that "daughterly" guilt often exceeds "maternal" guilt. 

"Daughterly guilt" is even more pronounced in China than in India (88 per cent versus 70 per cent) where women confront the one-two punch of communism's one-child policy and the tradition of a wife caring for her husband's parents. With demographers projecting a leap in the percentage of the population aged over 60 across these regions, this burden is a ticking time bomb. 

Extreme jobs are the norm for educated women in both countries, with an average workweek significantly longer than the standard 40 hours. But Chinese women routinely notch up more than 70 hours per week, while Indian women rarely break 60 hours. 


Over a third of women encounter bias in the workplace, where entrenched "old boys" networks form nearly insurmountable barriers. However, more Indian women than Chinese 45 per cent compared to 36 per cent feel they have been treated unfairly because of their gender, another legacy of communism. For more than half of Indian women, the combination of family "pulls" and workplace "pushes" smothers their initial enthusiasm: 55 per cent have considered scaling back their ambition or quitting their jobs altogether, compared with 48 per cent of Chinese women. 


Cultural constraints limit women's mobility and hamstring their career potential. Because of societal disapproval of women travelling alone nearly 75 per cent in both countries report difficulties Indian and Chinese women often eschew customer/client-facing roles which involve frequent business trips, even though these roles are the fast track to professional success. Furthermore, more than 50 per cent of Indian women feel unsafe on their daily commute, causing them to skip the after-hours functions where career-boosting contacts are made. 


As highly qualified women in these critical emerging markets struggle to balance the demands of career, children and culture, employers have an unprecedented opportunity to help them fully realise their potential. To do so, companies will have to gain a deeper understanding of the ambitions and needs of their top female talent, and alter their policies accordingly. But the lessons learned in attracting, sustaining and retaining the best and brightest women can only enhance and strengthen an organisation's operations worldwide. Helping these talented women grow is the surest route to continued growth, now and in the future. 


Sylvia Ann Hewlett is president, Centre for Work-Life Policy; Vishakha N Desai is president, Asia Society.

 

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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'NEW DELHI HAS DISCREDITED THE INSTITUTION OF DIALOGUE'

JYOTI PUNWANI

 

Founder editor of English daily Kashmir Images, Bashir Manzar talks to Jyoti Punwani on the current unrest in the Valley: 


Why is Kashmir back on the boil? 

The present unrest started with the army killing three so-called militants in an 'encounter'. The state police found they were innocents. The army could do this only because of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). It's been our long-standing demand that this Act be revoked. You don't need it to fight the 200-300 militants that officials say are left in Kashmir. The PM said we must have a zero tolerance policy towards human rights violations by security forces. Kashmiris find that among the security forces, there's a zero tolerance policy towards human rights!


This movement is different from the 1990s' armed revolt against India. That was taken over by foreign militants with an alien ideology, and Kashmiris distanced themselves from it. But the issues raised then remain unresolved. Between 2002 and 2005, there was a lull. Everyone thought New Delhiwould reach out. But it didn't and the youth are angry that these issues have not been addressed. Since there's no space in the Valley for any democratic protest, they have no alternative but to take to the streets. This is the generation that has grown up amid army raids; they've seen only torture and death. So they aren't afraid to confront the forces. But they don't believe in guns. None of those killed, all aged between nine and 17, were armed, except with stones. There are no militants involved today. In fact, for the first time, the effigy of Syed Salahuddin, chief of the United Jehad Council, was burnt when he ridiculed the stone-pelters. 


But the hawk S A S Geelani is still respected. 


The disturbing thing is that the leaders are those who have always talked more about religion than politics. In 1997, Geelani had said the Kashmir issue is about religion; we have a problem with Hindu India. He's always been unambiguous about his preference for Pakistan. But my paper interviewed 15,000 Kashmiris, and 80 per cent said that Kashmir is a political issue, with its own history. 


When i came to Mumbai in 1994, i was shocked to see the number of burqas on the street, much more than back home! Now, the woman who has imposed the burqa in Kashmir is one of those running the show, Asiya Andrabi. I see a gradual shift towards religious radicalisation. The young boys in the forefront of the movement all look very modern, but their conversation on social networking sites is only about religion. They identify with a broader Muslim identity. That's because we didn't reach out when the movement was about democracy and secularism. If we don't reach out now and try to find out what they want, we will soon have our own Taliban in Kashmir. New Delhi must initiate the peace process. 

How? 
India has always been arrogant. The PM asked leaders to come with suggestions. Sajjad Lone did so. Was he invited again? No. The same has happened with other leaders. The institution of dialogue has been discredited by New Delhi so much that the word has come to mean sell out. New Delhi must change its mindset. It is no longer fighting militants. Create an atmosphere conducive for talks. Revoke the AFSPA. Seven hundred boys have been arrested under the Public Safety Act in the last three months. When they come out after two years, what would they have turned into? You have to release them. Finally, dialogue should be aimed at delivery.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

FORCE OF ARMS

JUG SURAIYA 

 

(This piece is a comment)

Can democracy come out of the barrel of a gun? That has been the question haunting Kashmir since the current spiral of agitation began in June this year and which, so far, has claimed over 80 lives, including those of women and children. One of the chief demands of the stone-throwing pro-azadi protesters has been the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The Act, which has been in force in J&K since 1990, sanctions defence personnel to "fire upon or otherwise use force against any person who is acting in contravention of the law".

 

There has been a sharp divide over the continuing use of AFSPA. While the army and the defence ministry (as well as the BJP) are in favour of its retention as being the only way to stamp out the smouldering fires of foreign-inspired insurgency, some among the top echelons of government, including the home minister, have argued for its withdrawal. Their point has been that flood-devastated Pakistan is no longer in a position to promote subversion in Kashmir, and that the ongoing azadi movement is increasingly indigenous in nature; far from being an antidote to the agitation, AFSPA will only fan the spreading fire of azadi.

 

Apart from J&K, AFSPA remains in force in other areas, including north-eastern states such as Manipur, which have also raised demands for its withdrawal. Enacted in 1958 to combat the Naga insurgency which was spreading to Assam and Manipur, AFSPA is an implicit admission of political failure, with dangerous consequences for our democracy.

 

It has been the political backtracking and doublespeak of successive governments, at the Centre and the state level, which largely have contributed to the current impasse in Kashmir where the Army has been seen as the sheet anchor keeping the troubled state within the republic's democratic polity. This has severely undermined not only the underpinnings of democracy but has also had a demoralising effect on the Army.

 

The proper role of an army in a democracy ^ as opposed to a military dictatorship such as Myanmar's ^ is to protect the country from external threat. The Army cannot ^ or should not ^ be used against citizens of its own country, except in the most extreme of extreme cases. While it was evident that Pakistan was promoting cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, the Army had a legitimate role to play in the state. Today, the challenge in Kashmir is not that of countering cross-border terrorism so much as of finding a political solution to the issue of the grassroots demand for azadi. The partial withdrawal of AFSPA will be the first step in initiating this long-delayed political process.

 

The AFSPA problem is not limited to J&K or to the north-east. There has been a growing tendency to use ^ or attempt to use ^ the Army to deal with crises which have arisen out of the failure of our political class to find political solutions to the many forms of insurgency the country faces. The growth of Naxalism, described by the PM as the country's biggest security threat, is a case in point. Naxalism is not a disease; it is the symptom of a disease, and the disease is political paralysis. At one stage, there was kite-flying in Delhi's political circles that the Army should be deployed against the Maoists. Fortunately, such suggestions were scotched, not least emphatically by the Army leadership.

 

Against a dismaying backdrop of corruption and apathy, the Armed Forces remain a bastion of dedication and discipline. To misuse them to cover up political sins of omission and commission would be to jeopardise their morale, an act of sabotage tantamount to treason.

 

No, democracy does not come from the barrel of a gun. And in a true democracy ^ as opposed to an armocracy, or military rule ^ the Army should be the first to acknowledge that.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

HOW TO FIX THE TRUST

 

Everything that could have possibly gone wrong in Jammu and Kashmir between Saturday — when the Valley erupted with violence on Eid — and today seems to have gone wrong. Mobs have erupted in various parts of the Valley, security forces have responded with bullets, the Omar Abdullah government has thrown up its hands at its own irrelevance, and various separatist factions have made attempts to tap the groundswell against the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi. The turmoil has left 17 dead and the region in a state of anarchy. So inextricably linked are the (lack of) politics and (breakdown of) law and order in the Valley that it would be easy to think that a total clampdown will make all the problems go away. It won't. But the mess of lawlessness and acts of destruction must be removed so that there can be movement — in any direction. Nothing can stick if Kashmir continues to lava-melt.

 

In a situation where symbols are invested with much more than what the symbolise, the latest catalyst for mobs to lash out against the State is the alleged airing on a Tehran-based television channel of the news of the desecration of a Koran in faraway America. A strong and unequivocal condemnation of the supposed blasphemous act from New Delhi must be repeatedly and visibly made as an immediate measure. Coming from a perceived adversary, this may not amount to much for the 'faceless' agitators, but it certainly can do no harm in an atmosphere now surcharged more than ever with anger and retribution.

 

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has offered a dialogue to protesting Kashmiris that will include issues of "trust deficit" and "governance deficit". Whether New Delhi likes it or not — and even though such a dialogue is indeed pertinent and necessary for a solution or not — these issues will fall on deaf ears in Kashmir Street today. The out-of-control protestors need a different kind of dialogue with New Delhi, one that will address the latter's reasons for putting off a plebiscite for independence conducted by the United Nations. Restating that Jammu and Kashmir is an "integral part of India" can't be the basis of a dialogue; those setting their own backyard aflame quite obviously do not believe that. It's not our case that New Delhi gives up on its own belief. But some kind of explanation will be required at some stage after law and order is forced back in the Valley as to why Kashmiris were promised something and then it was taken off the table. It's not easy to turn dogma into a rational argument. But it must be done to bridge the 'trust deficit'.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

THE MEAT IS ON

IN YET ANOTHER EPISODE OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, LADY GAGA BEATS THE PETA GIRLS TO PUSH VEGETARIANISM

 

Showing some flesh has always been par for the main course among celebrities. It's the cheapest ticket to the next level of attention-getting. Stefani Germanotta a.k.a. Lady Gaga, a student and successor of Lady Madonna -of the `Material Girl who knows her Cabbala' fame -has finally made it to this sombre page by dint of the raw couture that she wore to the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday. Looking like a cross between the Bride of Frankenstein and someone on whom a cow has coughed up its innards, Ms Gaga has brought to pop music what Maneka Gandhi brought to vegetarianism: a bit of bizarre glamour.

 

But looking at Ms Gaga and her chorizo-covered rump peeka-booing, one must say that her get-up is a far more effective campaign in support of vegetarianism -which, we are told, does not involve consuming meat of dead animals -than all those naked ladies hiding behind placards from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Ms Gaga has not shown any overt interest in being a brand ambassador for vegetarianism (or, for that matter, non-vegetarianism, in case the idea was to make meat look more alluring). But a master of pop cultural theory and practice, the performer must know that once the `art' is out in public, the artist has little control on how people will perceive it.

 

The need to wear the most outrageous piece of clothing (sic) is hardly a monopoly of the post-modern, paste-out-ofthe-YouTube world. The annual races at Ascot in Britain showcases the most bizarre headgears and hats. Something that Ms Gaga is also known for displaying. In the end, there's one thing that both she and Salman Khan know: the point is not to look good; it's to be dissected.

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

IT'S NOW OR NEVER

AMITABH MATTOO

 

The grave crisis in Jammu and Kashmir demands a collective national response, and the all-party meeting today is a forum that must help devise a comprehensive consensual strategy for the state, even  if anarchy seems to be the  defining feature of the Valley's polity at the moment. This can happen only if there is a minimum agreement on at least three issues.

 

First, it must be recognised that today almost the entire Valley has been overwhelmed by a collective expression of rage, led by the youth who were born or grew up during the years of militancy and who are driven by a sense of hopelessness. This is a product largely of our own follies, and our inability to translate the gains of the election in 2008, the most inclusive in J&K's history, into long-term dividends, and these mistakes have been compounded over the past few months. Consider this: nearly 90 civilians have been killed since June and not one national leader — outside Prakash Karat of the CPI(M) — has thought it fit to visit the state. Under these circumstances, it would be too much to expect Pakistan, and other anti-India forces not to fish in these troubled waters.

 

But it's equally important to realise that the pro-Pakistan constituency in the Valley, before the present troubles, had shrunk dramatically. After all, the political and social conditions in Pakistan had not gone unnoticed in the Valley. Second, the 'fire' in Kashmir can only be doused by a multi-track approach that targets and addresses the people of the state, not individual leaders or parties (separatist or mainstream). This approach should have only one goal: the political, social and cultural empowerment of the people and a real abiding assurance of security for every citizen. This can be achieved by a systematic, imaginative and continuously monitored plan of action devised in close coordination with the government by the leaders of the major political parties.

 

Third, it is essential that we accept that J&K is unique and must be dealt with specially. Its uniqueness is obvious for a variety of historical reasons recognised even by the Supreme Court. In 1984, in Khazan Chand vs the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the court unambiguously held that the state holds "a special place in the constitutional set up of the country". Earlier, the 1983 Srinagar Declaration adopted by the Opposition conclave that included Jyoti Basu, I.K. Gujral, Chandra Shekhar and Parkash Singh Badal, stated that "the special constitutional status of J&K should be preserved and protected in letter and spirit". More important, however, is Kashmir's singular importance to the very idea of India, which is often forgotten. A Muslim majority state that voluntarily acceded to India in 1947 lent tremendous strength to the construction of India as a vibrant, secular and pluralistic State.

 

The battle, therefore, to win back the hearts and minds of the Kashmiris is critical not just for the strengthening of the ideals that inspired Indian nationhood, but is also central to the war against obscurantism and extremism. In other words, J&K must no longer be dealt with the kind of political ineptitude and bureaucratic inertia that has often characterised the Centre's policies towards many other states. This requires the necessity of rising above partisan considerations. This fact is clearly understood by the UPA and the NDA leaderships.

 

If there is acceptance of the above, the all-party meeting must consider the following three-point plan of action. First, an all-party parliamentary delegation must visit the state at the earliest to carry an on-spot assessment of the situation and meet with as many 'ordinary' Kashmiris as possible as well as political leaders, in Srinagar and the countryside. Political leaders have an intuitive ability to a do a quick stakeholder analysis and they must be tasked with working out confidence- and trust-building measures that must be unilaterally implemented by New Delhi.

 

Second, a special task force must be immediately constituted by the prime minister and dedicated full-time to J&K (headed by a Cabinet minister or by the PM himself). It must be made responsible for monitoring, on a daily basis, the situation in the state, and assisting in governance and developmental activities and other pressing problems in the state and to reduce the 'trust' and 'governance' deficits.

 

Third, the all-party meeting must demand that UPA leadership and the government appoint a credible team of negotiators to conduct a political dialogue between the Centre and the people of the state. The dialogue should be as inclusive as possible, and no group or individual must be considered untouchable. No conditions must be attached at the beginning of a dialogue. It is quite obvious that any negotiations the Centre conducts can, in no way, compromise the unity and integrity of India. Even separatists realise this. But any explicit conditionalities make it difficult for many to take the initial leap from the streets to the negotiating table. The people of the state must be made to see that the genius of the Constitution is such that it can be made to accommodate the most robust aspirations of even the most disempowered or marginal group.

 

When the rest of the nation demonstrates its good faith towards the people of J&K, it should be possible to redeem the situation. The people of J&K, even at the worst of times, have almost always demonstrated reasonableness. They are naturally inclined to travel along the path that leads to peace, prosperity and people's power. The time has come for our political representatives to remove all the hurdles on this path. Collectively, the Indian nation is indeed capable of achieving what might today seem an impossible task.

 

Amitabh Mattoo is Professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

ALL EYES ON NEW DELHI

ASHOK BHAN

 

The deadlock over Kashmir has to be broken and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is right in stating that status quo is not an option. Manmohan Singh, while addressing the top commanders of the armed forces, expressed concern on the unrest and emphasised on the need to address the grievances, provide better delivery of services and generate avenues for economic advancement of the people of the state. He also reiterated the willingness of the government to talk within the framework of the Constitution to every person or group who abjures violence. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) also came out with a dialogue prescription to address issues like trust and governance deficit. An all-party meeting is slated for today. Where do we go from here?

 

A large, silent majority of people in Kashmir had eagerly awaited the results of the CCS meeting. They had expected that a solution would be found. They were disappointed that it ended with nothing more than the oft-repeated willingness of the government to hold a dialogue. True, the CCS couldn't have ignored the fresh spate of violence after Eid prayers and the protests against the alleged desecration of the Koran. It was compelled to defer a decision to gain some more time to gauge the situation.

 

However, the all-party meet does provide the government an opportunity to work out a consensus on the future road map. Going by the outcome of similar earlier attempts, we should not expect miracles from an open house discussion. Political parties will go along their stated positions. They will be critical of the central and state governments for their handling of the situation. The fact of the matter is that eventually the government will have to take the call and it can't be delayed for long.

 

The question now is will we have to wait for violence to end before the government announces some confidence-building measures? The 'internal' dimension can be addressed through a dialogue between New Delhi and the people's representatives of J&K. All cases of detainees under the Public Safety Act can be reviewed. Those not involved in heinous offences can be released. Youngsters involved in stone-pelting incidents can be considered for release if their parents and community leaders vouch for their future conduct. However, the cases of the masterminds of violence and pro-Pakistan ideologues will have to wait.

 

The most-talked about issue in Kashmir remains the fate of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The point in issue is its phased revocation depending on the ground situation. Let's not talk about its dilution at this stage, as it is a legislative exercise and can't be done in a hurry. It is known that the army is not deployed in Srinagar and law and order is looked after by the local police, which is helped by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

 

The reduction in volume and intensity of terrorist violence over the years has to be kept in mind while re-visiting our deployment strategy. The situation in 2010 is very different from what it was in 1990, when the AFSPA was introduced. One day we will have to relieve the army of its duties. This hard political decision can't be endlessly postponed. It is time to consider a phased withdrawal notwithstanding media reports of its opposition by the armed forces. The J&K Police, with the Central Paramilitary Force (CPMF), is capable of handling the situation in Srinagar. While considering this, it's advisable to not be overawed by the past two days' violence, which, though indicative of the fragility of the situation, wasn't, strictly speaking, part of the ongoing turmoil.

 

There is a broad consensus that dialogue is the only way forward. Return of peace can't be set as a pre-condition for moving towards the dialogue process. Without lowering guard on the security front, the government has to be magnanimous in announcing some confidence-building measures. It's supposed to not only provide an exit route from the current cycle, but also give a clear signal of its willingness to go by the judgment of an elected state government. The all-party meet should support the government to announce confidence-building measures to break the impasse. All eyes are on New Delhi.

 

Ashok Bhan is a retired Director General of Police, J&K The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

STILL LOOKIN' FOR JIMI

JAWAHAR EZEKIE

 

For those of us of a certain age, it seems that every day there's a 40th anniversary of a landmark event: Woodstock, the Moon landing... Now, it's the turn of Jimi Hendrix, who died and went to the Great Gig in the Sky 40 years ago on September 18, 1970.

 

I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Ranchi in early October, having lunch with my Dad, who was visiting me in boarding school, when I read the news of Jimi's death. There was just one magazine in India at the time that catered to us teenagers: JS (earlier known by its full name, 'Junior Statesman'). Because the magazine was a weekly, Jimi's death and that of Janis Joplin, who died 16 days after Jimi, were mentioned together.

 

I was nearly 13 in September 1970. None of Jimi's music had been released in India yet. But I knew Jimi. We all knew Jimi. My mother had sneaked me into a show of the A-rated Woodstock: The Movie at our club in Durgapur. The censors had cut out all the scenes of nude hippies. Fortunately, my mother didn't worry about all that. So after she sold the club secretary a dummy and sent him scurrying off in search of something she had absolutely no need of, I walked in and watched the movie with my kid brother after the lights dimmed. Sitting next to Mum I explained to her how Mike Shrieve of Santana was probably the most exciting young drummer around and there was that maniac Keith Moon of The Who, and "Just look at Roger Daltrey's jacket!"

 

And there, right at the end, almost like an elegy, was Hendrix playing his searing, screeching, iconoclastic version of The Star Spangled Banner, the American national anthem channelled through the sound of the turmoil of the Vietnam War. Jimi blew my 12-year-old mind that day. As many of the adults filtered out of the hall bewildered by this strange movie, I knew I had seen something very special.

 

So special, that 35 years later I took my sons to pay tribute to Jimi at his graves in Renton, Washington, United States. We had driven to Seattle from Portland, Oregon. My wife and I took several wrong turns, and ended up in the parking lot of a mall. We were thrilled when we saw a police car swing behind us. Surely the cops would point us in the right direction. My eldest jumped out of our car and went across to speak to them. "Could you tell us where we could find the Greenwood Memorial Park?" he asked.

 

A woman police office stepped out of the vehicle, as if in a Coen Brothers' movie, pushed her Aviator sunglasses up her nose, hitched up her pants by her gun belt, and turned to him and said, "Lookin' for Jimi?"

 

Half an hour later we were by his side, standing by this mausoleum that was strangely incongruous in this otherwise quiet and un-noteworthy cemetery. Someone had left a half- drunk bottle of vodka; there were countless guitar picks, scribblings in chalk. We stood around, my sons and I. I told them the same story I just told you, of how Grandma had sneaked me in to the Woodstock movie, and how I had read the news to Grandpa of Jimi's passing. They wanted to know more. I told them it was a long story. Just like the cop said: we're all still lookin' for Jimi.

 

Jawahar Ezekiel was a DJ with the Yuva Vani radio channel in Calcutta in the 1970s The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IMAGE TRAP

 

A recent health brochure in Haryana was like one of those visual guessing-games of odd one out. The state's health department has been exhorting its schools to ensure the well-being of the babies, guard them against deficiencies and diagnose the obvious signs of illness. Among the stock images of government messaging was an image that looked nothing like the average — it was a wee little fair-skinned baby with soft blond hair. When the fact was brought to their notice, no one seemed to mind the baby's odd appearance — apart from declaring the picture "pleasing."

 

This isn't the first time an image has been plucked from the web and bunged into a government campaign. The HRD ministry once used pictures that resembled a Benetton advert, with happy multiracial children. More damagingly this year, the ministry of women and child development put in a picture of a former Pakistani air force chief to stand in for a generic, mustachioed military man. The ministry then, like the Haryana officials now, brushed off the embarrassment, saying that the message was more important than the origins of the image.

 

And they have a point — after years of being inundated with the same images, we've all learnt to skip straight to the content, if at all, when it comes to government messaging. A child planting a sapling, a girl laughing into her veil, the families on tractors. Maybe the blond baby, if anything, will jolt some synapses, and be memorable for its difference. And maybe the earnest message that it was meant to illustrate will actually stick in some minds. Alas, copyright issues are another matter.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ORIGIN MYTHS

 

Would a Mahabaleshwari strawberry by any other name taste as sweet, or a Guntur chilli as spicy? That's the question, with India's registry of geographical indications swelling from 120 to 132 in the last four months. Geographical indications are a form of intellectual protection, legal expression of the idea that sometimes, there is a necessary relationship between the place and the product. According to the TRIPs definition, they "identify a good as originating in a certain geographical region, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin."

 

The French call it terroir — a sort of DNA of a wine's taste that is produced by a combination of soil, water, trace elements and subtle qualities in the climate that makes it particular and not replicable elsewhere. Certainly, there is a clear rationale in providing a product's provenance. In the case of wine or cheese or maybe even bhujia, it is galling when other producers cash in on the painstakingly-built reputation of a certain region, diluting its brand. Also, it helps consumers tell the difference between the real thing and its copycat versions.

 

We might comfortably imbibe large quantities of champagne that didn't come from Champagne, or parmesan that has no connection with Parma, but it is easy to understand the unfairness that intricately worked, laboured-over Kancheepuram sarees can be made by machines in China and passed off to buyers who don't know better? The GI registry copyrights these brands, protecting the community rights and goodwill of the name. This regulation is internal to countries, but it can become a major irritant with international trade, as when India and Pakistan recently sparred over jointly registering basmati.

 

Economic logic aside, the rush for GI cover hides a fundamental anxiety — is there really something ineffable and particular about many of these products? If it was that easy to tell the difference between Malabar pepper and any other, or if it was truly impossible to create haleem as good as Hyderabad's, then would they need the heightened GI protection? Either way, the mechanism is meant to assure and foster distinctiveness and in a country of so many proud traditions, these appellations can help local artisans and producers position their wares better.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MARGINS OF INFLATION

 

The government has released the new wholesale price index (WPI) with a larger weight accorded to manufacturing, and less to primary products. This reflects the current composition of GDP rather than that of the early nineties. This is a welcome development as the earlier index had 1993-94 weights which are now out of date. Inflation measured by the WPI will now be more representative of price movements today than it was earlier. The WPI seeks to measure the prices of a basket of goods similar to the GDP non-services in value-added terms. For example, as a consequence of the revision, the weight of primary articles will go down, and the weight of manufactured items will increase.

 

While this is good news, basic difficulties with the WPI as a measure of inflation still remain. The key function of a price index is to represent the cost of living of an average household. This requires going to households, measuring what they buy, and averaging that in order to know what products go into the price index and with what weights. Such a process would inevitably find that households consume a lot of services, ranging from education and health services to personal services such as haircuts. The WPI suffers from an unpersuasive mechanism for the choice of products and their weights. There is also a problem with the prices: despite its name, not all the prices used in the WPI are wholesale prices. They are sometimes retail prices, sometimes wholesale prices. Even minimum support prices feature in the calculations made for making the index. In summary, while the new WPI is an improvement upon the old, it is still not a good measure of inflation in India.

 

The new data agrees with the old on portraying a high inflation rate. The rise in food prices is not the main issue today. It is the rise in non-food prices, which is now faster. These are feeding into wages and higher inflationary expectations. At the same time there a little evidence of fiscal consolidation or significant monetary tightening that could curb inflationary expectations. This could become a very big problem in the coming decade, and should be addressed urgently. In recent speeches, Reserve Bank Governor D. Subbarao has made claims that inflation targeting in India is neither "desirable nor practical". Such speeches worsen inflationary expectations and should be avoided.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

GET THE STATE OUT OF THE ART

TASNEEM ZAKARIA MEHTA 

 

The simple statement that "no one is interested in taking on the responsibility and challenge of reviving our museums" does not represent the real saga of these great repositories of our culture, our identity, our history and our present talent, in particular the National Museum. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

Certainly, leadership is the need of the hour if we are to rescue these great institutions from irreparable damage. There are many fine art historians with substantial experience both in India and abroad, who would jump at the challenge of bringing alive the National Museum. But to attract such talent, the government must give up its "mai baap" approach and not interfere in the running of museums. It must create an enabling environment for the experts to succeed.

 

Of course, relinquishing control is never easy and there are many systemic blocks. But it is a precondition for success. It has been done in other areas, so why not culture?

 

First, the right person must be appointed as director. No art historian of repute is going to apply, and they need to be persuaded. The government must go out of its way to make jobs at our museums attractive. Certain steps can be taken to improve the working environment. First, the government should grant greater autonomy to museums. The National Museum, for example, is a department of the government. This means that all the financial and decision-making authority vests with the government. The director has limited powers and has to seek approval for all plans — exhibitions, design improvements, education initiatives, recruitments, etc. These approvals can take months as they have to go through a labyrinthine government pathway. And years, if they get questioned by junior officials who do not understand the special requirements of museums and exhibitions. More frustrating, the director has to get government approval to travel overseas to present a paper. This is particularly galling for those whose expertise (and reputation) depends on international exchange and who have to deal with officials who do not appreciate the significance of this participation.

 

Second, the government should grant the director greater authority over staff. The staff at most museums have been around for decades and they often resist the authority of new directors knowing well that they have security of tenure. One hears stories of keepers refusing to open their archives to a director or trying to sabotage new initiatives.

 

Museum directors in India spend a great deal of their time in and out of courts refuting charges or trying to get rid of troublesome individuals. There is also the problem of unions, mostly affiliated to political parties and when those affiliations are with the opposition political parties, the unions use every opportunity to find fault with the museum's performance.

 

Third, the director must be given a free hand in recruitment. Today many posts are lying vacant but it is wrong to infer that young people are not interested in taking up museum jobs. In fact internationally, museums offer a much sought after career. Our youth will be interested if the opportunities at our museums are rewarding, invigorating and the remuneration is competitive with other cultural institutions and art galleries. At the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, for instance, we receive applications every week and many of the candidates have degrees earned at some of the best institutions abroad.

 

The suggestions above are validated by my own experience with the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum (the Mumbai city museum and the second oldest museum in the country). It has made the leap from decay to dynamism because of several factors. First, a special purpose vehicle based on a public-private partnership was created through the establishment of a management trust which includes INTACH, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) which owns the museum, and the Bajaj Foundation, which gave the money for the institutional and architectural overhaul. The restoration won UNESCO's highest award of excellence. Second, the board approved a set of terms that granted INTACH full autonomy for restoration and revitalisation of the museum. Third, the MCGM created a corpus to give financial autonomy to the museum. The board sets the broad parameters but within that, the director has been granted substantial discretionary authority. Finally the staff has been hired on a contract basis with sufficient safeguards built in. Museum directors in India are expected to be jacks of all trades. Major museum functions like curation, exhibitions, education, colle- ction management and conservation, research, marketing and operations are specialised activities, and should be given over to experts.

 

The culture ministry has started the process of change but they face strong vested interests. They cannot remove incumbent directors. To do so, they have to go to the courts and suffer the delays of our judicial process with the knowledge that, after years of litigation, the courts will most likely rule in favour of the incumbent. However despite all these challenges, the ministry must continue the process. With determination and the willingness to open up and seek the partnership of civil society, it will be able to bring about much positive change.

 

The writer is the managing trustee and honorary director of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, vice-chairman of INTACH, and chairman of the CII task force on museums and heritage

 

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

DON'T BLAME THE LAW

V R RAGHAVAN 

 

There is a vociferous demand for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the states of the Northeast and from Jammu and Kashmir. This emotive demand places Indian political and security considerations in avoidable opposition. The first dichotomy is in the realm of politics and political expediency. AFSPA is by law, required to be promulgated only in exceptional circumstances and for a limited duration. After that duration, it is only to be extended by a decision of the legislature or Parliament, which should satisfy itself on the conditions requiring such extension. The reality is that governments in the states and at the Centre have made the extensions of AFSPA a routine process. Consequently, in some states of the Northeast, AFSPA has remained for five decades! Political parties have had no qualms in asking for revoking AFSPA when in opposition, and seeking its continuance on coming into power. Elected governments seem to feel no sense of helpless inadequacy that such actions demonstrate, of their need to govern by military force.

 

Militant groups all over the world, when confronted by the legitimate power of the state, unfailingly offer to negotiate, seek withdrawal of the military, the release of prisonersand unconditional talks. This, more often than not, is an attempt to gain time and regroup their forces. When the Indian government did not help, AFSPA has been made into a rallying cry. In J&K and the Northeast,the central issues of governance, empowerment and a negotiated consensus on a political solution are relegated to the background, while AFSPA has been turned into a field for political jousting.

 

The powers that are made available under the act are to be utilised, indeed, must be employed with military judgment and discretion backed by empathy for the innocent populace. It is essential to remember that this process of judgment is to be undertaken in a conflict situation, within minutes, where the opponents are armed, firing from a house in which women and children have been taken hostage, or when arms and munitions are being taken out of a hidden site and other similar situations.

 

If AFSPA's enabling powers are to be revoked, diluted, or made subject to normal processes of law, the military will conduct operations not on the basis of military judgment, but on the need to defend its actions in courts. That is what the state police and paramilitary forces do, and the limits of their operational efficacy are evident to all.

 

Modifying the powers granted by AFSPA is an unquestioned prerogative of the Indian Parliament. The merits of diluting the powers will no doubt be seriously discussed in Parliament. The consequences of such dilution of powers will, however, be felt outside Parliament. They will have a lasting and debilitating effect on the ability of the Indian state to apply military force as a last resort in the defence of its citizens, against internal and foreign-inspired armed groups determined to destroy the values that the Indian nation stands for.

 

An argument often made is ofAFSPA not having made a change either in the Northeast or in J&K, despite being in use for decades. This is clearly a case of misplaced blame. AFSPA is not a solution to the causes which have led to India's internal conflicts. Neither is it the cause of such conflicts. It is no more than one instrument the Indian state can employ to bring militancy under control. The Indian military has repeatedly obtained the conditions in which socio-politico-economic instruments can be used to deal with the causes of conflict. It is not as if the Indian state has failed in this. In Mizoram and Tripura, this outcome has been effectively gained. It has been largely obtained in Assam and partly in Nagaland. If it is unobtainable in Manipur, the fault is not with AFSPA but with the political executive of all shades, which has sought and continues to seek its permanent promulgation.

It will be necessary to highlight that more casualities in all such conflicts have come about by the actions of forces other than the army. The ministry of home affairs will do well to publish the figures of deaths and injuries caused by the state armed police, the paramilitary forces, as also by internecine fighting between militant groups. That will set the record right on the role of forces other than the army.

 

The Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission's report on AFSPA is often referred to. The report is confidential, but is available on the web portal of at least one national newspaper. The commission had recommended significant changes, but did not dilute any of the enabling powers granted to armed forces in AFSPA for conducting operations. In its extensive hearings in the Northeast, more cases of killings and maiming were attributed to state armedpolice than to the armed forces.

 

The decision on AFSPA's withdrawal from some parts of J&K is a political choice. It nevertheless has security consequences. In Manipur, such selective withdrawal led to militant groups regaining control. An offer to withdraw AFSPA, as an encouragement to secessionists to join talks, conflates security and political considerations. The government, by doing this, will be bartering its legitimate right to use force for an uncertain outcome.

 

While the armed forces cannot refuse a constitutional directive of the government, they will also leave no one in doubt of the security consequences of a flawed political choice. The nature of internal conflicts in 1950s was vastly different and simpler than today. Those who drafted the AFSPA then have been proved prescient about the nature of conflicts the Indian state is facing today. It is time to revisit the assumptions under which the act is used. The armed forces have performed their tasks in the confidence that AFSPA safeguards them in their onerous and thankless job. It will also be good to remember that AFSPA is not a colonial legislation, but one drafted by independent India's Parliament.

 

The writer, a former DGMO, was a member of the Justice Reddy Commission on AFSPA

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MAOISTS & FRIENDS

 

In the latest issue of CPM journal People's Democracy, general secretary Prakash Karat targets activists like Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar for siding with the Maoists in the context of the week-long campaign his party has launched to protest against attacks on CPM cadres in West Bengal, allegedly by the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists.

 

He says some 270 members and supporters of the CPM and the Left have been killed in the last two years. The campaign, according to him, was also to expose the position of those "intellectuals, social activists and so-called civil libertarians who are supporting this murderous partnership." He writes: "The likes of Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar are condoning the inhuman killings indulged in by Maoist gangs by extending support to the Trinamool-Maoist gang-up. Many dubious NGOs are involved in this anti-Left enterprise. This is a common tactic of right-wing forces; they enlist the support of the ultra-Left to provide a cover for their reactionary platform."

 

Purulia vs Amethi

 

Through the lead editorial in People's Democracy, the CPM hits back at Rahul Gandhi for his attack on the Left Front government in West Bengal. Referring to Gandhi's description of Purulia as the most backward in the country, it compares Purulia with Rae Bareli and Amethi (the constituencies of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, respectively): "The number of people below the poverty line in Purulia is 31 per cent compared with 54 per cent in Rae Bareli and Amethi." It also reminds Rahul Gandhi that Bengal had established the three-tier system of democratically elected bodies 14 years before Rajiv Gandhi rolled out panchayati raj: "This is the hard reality between those who mouth concerns of two Indias and the Left that takes steps to provide relief, despite severe limitations imposed by our Constitution on the state government's ability to raise resources."

 

Free to change

 

The CPI weekly, New Age, carries an article on the recent Supreme Court direction to the government to

distribute rotting foodgrain to the poor. It says: "it appears that the apex court has stepped on the toes of Parliament and the executive." The observation in the article is based on a statement issued by the CPI after the Supreme Court directive, saying the ruling raises serious questions like: can the apex court "usurp the powers of the Parliament and executive", since in this case, the government has to decide state policy.

 

The party had argued that it cannot support the position of the court just because the judgment appears to be pro-people, contending that if it is allowed to do that there is no guarantee that it would always be pro-poor. But after the PM's criticism of the SC directive, the party changed tack and said the remarks were "uncalled for" as "it is not an issue of the Supreme Court exceeding its jurisdiction and trangressing into the domain of the executive" and "one has to understand the proper spirit and the language of the order." Now, New Age reiterates that free food is no solution and asks the government to universalise the public distribution system instead.

 

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS

SUNIL KUMAR 

 

Academics and researchers are expected to guard against bias and preconceived notions but a recent article by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, ('No HR in HRD', IE, September 8) flirts merrily with both. One would have expected the head of the Centre for Policy Research to objectively research facts before arriving at conclusions. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Enlightened readers of The Indian Express deserve better. Since civil servants do not have the privilege of volunteering half-baked opinion based on inadequately researched facts, I shall confine myself to highlighting facts, carelessly deficient, in Mehta's piece.

 

First, Mehta writes that a bill for setting up educational tribunals did not pass Parliament; a definitive statement indeed, but entirely untrue. The bill was carried in the Lok Sabha and its discussion deferred to the winter session in the Rajya Sabha.

 

As for the proposal for a National Commission for Higher Education and Research, no draft of the bill has ever been circulated by the HRD ministry. The ministry set up a task force consisting of academics of unquestionable credentials — namely, Mrinal Miri, Goverdhan Mehta, N.R. Madhava Menon, M.K. Bhan, Narendra Jadhav, Anandakrishnan and Syeda Hameed — for preparing successive drafts of the bill. The task force circulated a draft for public discourse. This initial draft, after wide consultations across the country and among academics, state governments and other stakeholders for more than a year, has undergone substantial changes.

 

The final draft has not yet been submitted to the ministry. The ministry will only take a view on the structure of the National Commission for Higher Education and Research when the final draft is submitted to it. The HRD minister has often made public pronouncements, widely carried by the media, stating that the ministry is yet to take a decision on the final architecture of the proposed body. This can only be done after the final draft is submitted by the task force and inter-ministerial consultations are held. These facts have, of course, escaped Mehta's analysis. By castigating the draft, he is unwittingly criticising members of the task force, whose combined academic stature and credentials in research may be somewhat modest compared to Mehta's, but are, however, unimpeachable and widely respected.

 

Mehta goes on to say, "the ministry tried to supposedly scrutinise the deemed university system by withdrawing recognition to several institutions." This is also factually incorrect. No recognition to any institution deemed to be university has been withdrawn, till date. Indeed, owing to a stay ordered by the Supreme Court, no show-cause notice has even been issued to the institutions categorised as unworthy of continuing as "deemed universities" by the review committee consisting of P.N. Tandon and other academics of note. Obviously, Mehta is not aware of the process or the parameters that the review committee of experts has taken into consideration before submitting its findings to the ministry.

 

Mehta also states, "the Supreme Court had to intervene to superintend the process." This, again, is erroneous. The ministry voluntarily submitted the findings of the review committee, since the Supreme Court has, in an ongoing related matter (Viplav Sharma v Union of India & Others) raised issues of care and rigour required in declaration of institutions as deemed to be universities and the scrutiny thereof. As a matter of fact, the setting up of the review committee and the progress in the committee's work were seen to be in the full knowledge of the Supreme Court from time to time. Therefore, to insinuate otherwise, is in fact unwarranted in a matter that is sub-judice before that court. I do not know if Mehta knows what the establishment process is in the setting up and scrutiny of deemed universities. He may have an opinion which may suffer from lack of information or understanding.

 

Mehta says, "the standing committee was right to object to it" (the bill). The committee did not object to the bill. In fact, its recommendations supported the legislation, but gave additional suggestions. Mehta then says, "a plausible case could be made for a limited dispute resolution mechanism". Indeed, the bill provides for such a mechanism in clauses 15, 17, 31 and 33, if he cares to look at the bill once again.

 

Mehta says, "student grievances of particular kinds require better in-house mechanisms and it is not advisable to legalise them in the same way you might want to legalise other forms of regulatory issues." It would have been obvious that this is precisely what has been done, if only Mehta were to spare some time to look carefully at the bill — together with the inter-connected legislative proposal relating to the prohibition on unfair practices in higher education that has already been introduced in the Lok Sabha.

 

It is wrong to assert, as Mehta has done, that "the composition of these tribunals is nothing but a vast contrivance to secure more sinecures for about-to-retire civil servants." The tribunals at the level of each state, and each bench of the National Educational Tribunal, would consist of a judicial member and an academic member, along with an administrative member who has had long experience of administration in "educational matters". All three representations are equally essential in determining disputes coming in the purview of the bill. It is not clear how academics are under-represented in this categorisation, and Mehta has, once again, got it all wrong.

 

Mehta is also in deficit of facts when he says that norms of judicial representation as set out by the Supreme Court have been violated in the tribunals bill. The reply by the HRD minister to the debate in the Lok Sabha where the issue was raised had amply clarified this — but then Mehta may not have had the time to follow the debate.

 

To be concluded

 

The writer is additional secretary in the Union human resourcedevelopment ministry

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ALL THE ACES

DESH GAURAV CHOPRA SEKHRI 

 

In many ways, US Open 2010 will be remembered less for the quality of the tennis on display, and more for the compelling story lines, the have-nots and perhaps could/should-nots, the records broken and — especially from an Indian context — further ignited hope in the future of tennis.

 

One cannot overstate the achievements of the Rohan-Aisam duo, and this bodes extremely well for the future of tennis in India, politics, diplomacy, and other storylines aside. The two have taken their lumps over the years, while steadily rising through the ranks, starting with the ITF Futures, to the Challengers, growing as players and as a team. Rest assured: this team is for real, and the US Open finals run not a flash in the pan. Men's tennis in India today boasts two of the greatest doubles players in the history of the game, one of the most highly touted juniors globally in Yuki Bhambri, arguably the greatest college tennis player in the history of America's collegiate championships in Somdev Devvarman, and now, the enticing prospect of an India-Pakistan combination with the skills, size and experience to dominate men's doubles for some time, if all goes according to plan. Incidentally, the top-ranked college player from Somdev's alma mater, the University of Virginia, is also an Indian, Sanam Singh.

 

Indian tennis will flourish and thrive as more Indians take heart from these results and accomplishments and take advantage of the opportunities that are likely to be made available now that tennis is once again a mainstream sport in this country.

 

Without a doubt, this is the golden era of men's tennis. We have been treated to a decade of glory, where two players with contrasting styles, personalities, surfaces, auras, leading arms, and above all, divergent in their career paths and polarising in their fan-base, have staked individual claims to one day being known as the greatest of all time. With his ninth Grand Slam title, and his maiden US Open, Nadal has now become the seventh man in the Open era to have won the career Grand Slam, joining the ranks of, among others, Roger Federer — who, with 16 Grand Slam titles, is arguably the greatest men's tennis player of all time. Between them, Rafa and Roger have 25 Grand Slam titles; and yet one could argue that men's tennis in the last five years is the deepest and most competitive in recent memory. Del Potro, the defending champion who destroyed Nadal in the semifinals last year and who is clearly a match-up predicament for Rafa at the Open, was out with injuries, and Andy Murray, the pre-tournament favourite, went down in a typically frustrating loss to Wawrinka. The next couple of years will be intriguing, culminating in 2012 at the tennis purist's dream: with the world's greatest tennis players fighting for an Olympic gold at Wimbledon's All-England Tennis Club.

 

The writer is a sports attorney

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

TRADE AND PEACE

C. RAJA MOHAN 

 

The unfolding Sino-Japanese contest over a few uninhabited islands, brought into full international view by the collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and the Japanese coast guard last week and the diplomatic argument that followed, casts a shadow over the widely held proposition that economic inter-dependence leads to peace.

 

China and Japan are the world's second and third largest economies, with their GDP standing at around $5 trillion. Beijing and Tokyo are now each other's largest trading partners, replacing Washington. Bilateral trade is now of the order of nearly $300 billion a year. The gathering conflict, then, over a small group of islands, called Diaoyu by the Chinese and Senkaku by the Japanese, seems incongruous with the deepening economic inter-dependence between Beijing and Tokyo.

 

Liberal internationalists have long argued that economic integration dampens the normal impulses for rivalry among great powers and strengthens incentives for skirting, if not resolving, territorial disputes. Amidst the all-round improvement of great power relations in East Asia since the end of the Cold War, it seemed the region was well on its way to peace and stability. The institutionalists reinforced the liberals by arguing that regional organisations help deepen economic integration and dampen territorial nationalism.

 

For the last two decades, it appeared that East Asia was on course to reproduce the post-war European model in our own continent. All that Asia needed was to bridge the "institutional gap" with Europe. This simplistic view is beginning to take a knock amidst the renewed political tensions between the region's major powers — China, Japan and, of course, the US.

 

Smaller countries that were generally relaxed about rising China are now scrambling to either reinforce old alliances with great powers or seeking new security partnerships. While all of Asia benefits from China's economic growth, many in the region are worried about the rapid accretion of Beijing's military power and its assertiveness on territorial issues.

 

Japan's will

 

As China mounts relentless pressure on Japan over the trawler incident, Tokyo has released the ship's crew while holding its captain for trial under Japanese law. The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday demanded the captain be released "immediately", and warned that the incident is poisoning the bilateral relationship. Japan is yet to frame formal charges against the captain. Once he goes to trial, there might be a lot less room for compromise.

 

India's role

 

As Asian nations cope with China's rise, at least some of them are looking towards Delhi, whose strategic capabilities are growing, if at a slower pace than that set by Beijing. In his address to the combined commanders' conference on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed to the growing interest in Asia about defence and security cooperation with India: "There is a palpable desire on the part of the countries of this region to enhance cooperation with us which we must reciprocate." On the rapidly changing power balances in Asia, the PM insisted: "The Asia-Pacific region, including Southeast Asia, needs much more attention from us — and this must seep into our defence and foreign policy planning as never before."

 

Few in the Indian strategic community will quibble with the PM's proposition. While India must contribute more than ever before to the security and stability of Asia, the big question is whether our defence establishment is really ready to undertake that responsibility. To be sure, India's defence engagement with many Asian nations, including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore, has steadily expanded in recent years. To convert India's current defence chatter into concrete strategic outcomes, Delhi needs a comprehensive reorganisation of its outdated defence structures.

 

raja.mohan@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

IN A POLITICAL AVATAR

MURTAZA RAZVI 

 

So what is Pervez Musharraf expected to do by staging a comeback with his all new All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) that is set to launch in Dubai on October 1? That's perhaps why little is being said in the Pakistani media of the former general/president, his political aspirations or the party his friends are busy putting together.

 

The Muslim League (ML) is a strange animal, with many incarnations — an obvious contradiction in terms of its "Muslim" credentials. Generals/presidents from Ayub Khan to Zia-ul-Haq to Musharraf have relied on the ML to hold on to power, allowing a rubber-stamp parliament under their martial wings. There have also been and are the party's breakaway factions whom the military establishment fell foul of. The latest official ML that Musharraf commandeered during his reign was a resurrection of the ML which had supported Zia before him, with only a change of faces at the top. The second-tier, and also qualitatively so, Chaudhry brothers replaced Zia's surrogates, the Sharif brothers, in the Musharraf-led ML. However, this time around the Chaudhrys too must walk the tightrope alone; Musharraf proved to be their undoing in the 2008 election which was held, unwittingly, without the military umbrella shielding them.

 

The Chaudhrys — Shujaat Hussain, the head of the pro-Musharraf Muslim League-Q, then in power, and his cousin Pervaiz Elahi, former chief minister of Punjab — have for now distanced themselves from the general. They began to see him as a political liability during his last two years in power in which he started shooting himself in the foot. The Chaudhrys believed they had provided Musharraf the political platform from which he was able to rule for nine long years, but Musharraf knew otherwise — they only reflected the power the military had ceded to them under rigged elections, with little public support on the ground.

 

The killing of the veteran Baloch sardar, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in 2006 and the Lal Masjid operation in Islamabad in July 2007, in which over 100 militant Islamists were killed, particularly embarrassed the Chaudhrys, who had come to regard themselves as national leaders and, hence, spokesmen for all everywhere. This found them forced to embrace strange bedfellows for their political survival beyond Musharraf, as Baloch nationalists and the mullah brigade became the general's whipping boys.

 

The Chaudhrys' rivals within Musharraf's camp were the standalone former prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, in the "grand original party" and Altaf Hussain of the MQM. Both wholeheartedly supported the general in his unpopular endeavours, from the military operation in Balochistan to Lal Masjid, to the sacking of the Supreme Court judges in 2007, the imposition of emergency on November 3 the same year, followed by the issuance of the National Reconciliation Ordinance, reaching out to Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party. But Musharraf's relenting to Saudi pressure to let Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif back into Pakistan just in time for the 2008 elections was the last nail in the coffin of the Chaudhrys' camaraderie with the general. In 2008, they could not even win their own two hometown seats.

 

However, the PML-Q, even divided between the Chaudhrys' loyalists and their nemeses, was able to retain a good number of seats in Punjab, Balochistan and at the Centre, mainly because Baloch nationalists and Islamists had boycotted the polls, not necessarily thanks to genuine public support. It is this section of the PML-Q that Musharraf will try to woo for his new outfit, besides reaching out to his erstwhile friends, the MQM and the Muslim League (Functional) headed by the aged Pir Pagara, the supposedly divine head of the Hur peasant community in Sindh, famous for backing the winning horse. But the MQM and Pir Pagara have consistently supported direct or indirect military rule, and will wait to see if Musharraf has the army's backing for his unfolding political adventure.

 

Meanwhile, the Chaudhrys have panicked and reached out to Pir Pagara to thwart Musharraf's design to grab the Muslim League leadership. They have swallowed the bitter pill of offering Pir Pagara the leadership of a combined ML as a counterweight to both Musharraf's party and the powerful PML-N headed by Nawaz Sharif.

 

Musharraf is unlikely to be back in Pakistan any time soon, while the PPP, PML-N and the ferociously independent judiciary that he threw out hold their ground. But this being Pakistan, there's no forecasting the ramifications that the flood and its aftermath, terrorism, the alleged corruption of ruling politicians and an all but collapsed economy may have in the months ahead.

 

Razvi, an editor with 'Dawn', Karachi, is the author of 'Musharraf: The Years in Power'

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FACTS ON THE GROUND

 

Most of those who're appalled at the manner in which telecom minister A Raja handed out 2G licences at bargain basement prices in 2008 would be happy to see the Supreme Court notice asking him for an explanation. Since there has been no visible progress on the CBI case after the initial FIR was filed, on the basis of a PIL, the Court has also asked the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate for a progress report. Presumably, the telecom ministry will take the stance it has in the past, that its actions were in keeping with government policy. But keep in mind the Court had rejected this argument in the past. When STel never got all the licences it had applied for, thanks to Raja arbitrarily deciding to close the application window, the Delhi high court ruled in its favour. When the ministry challenged this, the division bench upheld the ruling that STel's applications had to be processed. The government appealed in the Court and, just to be sure, asked STel to stop services on the licences that it had; so STel's lawyers told the Court they didn't want the licences! The Court, however, did not overturn the Delhi high court's order.

 

The Court's order makes it clear it is not happy with the CBI's functioning, but the government's conduct in the appointment of the CVC suggests that it isn't too bothered either. But even if you assume there is a verdict that the licences are invalid, cancelling them is easier said than done. The licensees will appeal to Court saying they can't be blamed for government policy, some will cite a customer base, others like Telenor and Etisalat will cite a change in ownership structures. In the limited mobility case, after the TDSAT ruling, the government cited the large number of customers who could get affected—facts on the ground—and changed the law after asking the firms to pay a certain amount. That's probably the best option here, and the fact that the new licensees haven't met their rollout obligations could be used to pressure them. The lesson to the courts, the CBI and those in the government who genuinely want some action, is that all delays help Raja and the new licensees. As the late PV Narasimha Rao famously said, no action is also a form of action—the Prime Minister may not control Raja but he does control the CBI.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 GOOD NEWS ON INFLATION

 

The new series of the wholesale price index (WPI), with the base year revised up to 2004-05, launched yesterday bring good tidings for the government. Not only does the new index show that the annual rate of inflation has fallen faster than as measured by the old index, but it also indicates that the lower rates, as measured by the new index, are mainly on account of the faster dip in manufactured product prices. Thus, while the new index shows that growth in overall WPI has now come down for the fourth consecutive month to 8.5%, which is one percentage point lower than the numbers based on the old index, the growth in manufactured good prices have also shrunk by the same extent to 4.8%. This steady dip in inflation rates seems reason enough for RBI to let go its tough stance and hold the rates stable at least for the time being, especially since the pick up in the manufactured good prices has been the real reason for the further hardening of monetary stance.

 

But then what is the certainty that the new revised WPI provides a more accurate inflation assessment for conduct of monetary policy, as compared to the earlier series whose base year date almost a dozen years back to 1993-94? A look at the available evidence points to greater accuracy in the new series as it has scaled up the coverage, by both increasing the number of commodities included in the index by more than half to 676 and also by more than doubling the points from which the data is sourced to 5,482. And unlike the previous index where there was no uniformity, with price collection points spread across farm gates and primary, secondary, wholesale and retail markets, the new index has ensured greater uniformity by collecting price data only from the first point of bulk sale to the maximum possible extent. This should ensure a better reflection of the structural changes in the economy over the last 15 years and provide greater conceptual clarity. But the WPI can accurately reflect the real price trends in the economy only if it includes the the services sector, which still remains outside it ambit. In fact, the National Statistical Commission had recommended that this lacuna can be filled up by developing a separate services sector index and then merging it in the WPI after taking appropriate steps. That could take another year.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DEPENDENT ON DIRECTORS

BIBEK DEBROY

 

The Companies Act of 1956 has been amended several times. But it needs complete overhaul. There were abortive attempts in 1993, 1997 and 2003. After an Eradi Committee (2001), a Naresh Chandra Committee (2002) and an Irani Committee (2005), there is a version that is floating around, having been introduced in the Lok Sabha in August 2009.

 

The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) presented its report on this Bill on August 31. After these recommendations get incorporated, there is some prospect of new legislation during the winter session, especially because the ministry of corporate affairs has accepted several of the recommendations of SCF. First, there is the concept of one person company (OPC), that with a single promoter, and there is a difference with sole proprietorships in the way liabilities are treated. There is a point here about the way Indian companies are classified. Historically, they have been classified as public limited and private limited. The classification will now be through the number of shareholders, net worth and type of company (holding, subsidiary, etc). SCF legitimately wants precision about different types of companies, their exemptions/concessions and synchronisation with Limited Liability Partnership Act. Second, restrictions on payment of managerial personnel were removed in the Bill and shareholders could take decisions, on recommendations by the Board.

 

The SCF curbed this and a quote is illustrative. "The Committee are of the view that an overall outer ceiling on managerial remuneration may be prescribed. The ministry may evolve a rational formula for this purpose, keeping in view the growth in corporate profits and other related factors. The remuneration payable within this overall ceiling may be decided by the remuneration Committee of Board or shareholders as already proposed in the Bill. With regard to situations of absence of profits, the existing stipulation for central government approval may be retained." This rolls back reforms. Third, procedures have been simplified for commencement of business, alteration of memorandum, alteration of articles, issuing of global depository receipts, maintenance of accounts in electronic form, mergers and amalgamations of some types of companies and revival and rehabilitation of sick companies.

 

Fourth, quality of information disclosure will improve. Fifth, penalties have become stiffer and include criminal provisions. On procedures, quality of disclosure and penalties, nothing specifically needs to be flagged from the SCF. That's a matter of nitty-gritty detail. Sixth, insider trading will become a criminal offence and SCF's comments are about defining this precisely, conformity with Sebi and prevention of regulatory overlap. Seventh, there is a provision for class action. SCF wants banking sector to be excluded from class action suits, safeguards against frivolous suits and "studying the cross country experience on class action and the provisions proposed re-visited and reviewed so as to ensure that the measure of class action works out to be truly beneficial." Eighth, offences will be tried by special courts (National Company Law Tribunal) and powers have thus been transferred from high courts. There have been concerns over corporate mis-governance and fraud, especially after the Satyam scandal. The idea is the new Bill will reduce the probability of such frauds and improve corporate governance, though not eliminate it entirely. This will partially happen through better information disclosure and harsher civil and criminal punishments.

 

In addition, there are specific provisions for independent directors, boards and auditors. Perhaps the most important comments of SCF are on independent directors. "The appointment of Independent Directors should not be a case of mere technical compliance reduced to the letter of the law. ...The Government should, therefore, prescribe precisely their mode of appointment, their qualifications, extent of independence from promoters/management, their role and responsibilities as well as their liabilities. …The Ministry of Corporate Affairs thus needs to revisit the Institution of Independent Directors and make amendments in the Bill accordingly. A code for Independent Directors may be considered for this purpose. The appointment process of Independent Directors may also be made independent of the company management by constituting a panel or a data bank to be maintained by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, out of which companies may choose their requirement of Independent Directors." One should remember that there aren't too many people floating around with requisite skills to become independent directors.

 

Finally, there are secretarial and auditing standards and restrictions on auditors. The ministry of corporate affairs has some voluntary guidelines on corporate governance, formulated in 2009, and SCF wants these to be mandatory. In March 2008, there were almost 8,00,000 registered companies. If procedural costs are reduced and the OPC idea takes off, there will be many more registered companies and enterprises will move from the unregistered/informal to the registered/formal sector. With that kind of number, is it reasonable to expect that another corporate scandal won't happen? That is impossible. Will the new Companies Bill make it a little bit more difficult to commit fraud? That is undoubtedly true. But India hasn't solved the problem of independent directors and very few countries in the world have. The new Bill doesn't solve it either, even when SCF recommendations are incorporated.

 

The author is a noted economist

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

GOOD NEWS ON INFLATION

 

The new series of the wholesale price index (WPI), with the base year revised up to 2004-05, launched yesterday bring good tidings for the government. Not only does the new index show that the annual rate of inflation has fallen faster than as measured by the old index, but it also indicates that the lower rates, as measured by the new index, are mainly on account of the faster dip in manufactured product prices. Thus, while the new index shows that growth in overall WPI has now come down for the fourth consecutive month to 8.5%, which is one percentage point lower than the numbers based on the old index, the growth in manufactured good prices have also shrunk by the same extent to 4.8%. This steady dip in inflation rates seems reason enough for RBI to let go its tough stance and hold the rates stable at least for the time being, especially since the pick up in the manufactured good prices has been the real reason for the further hardening of monetary stance.

 

But then what is the certainty that the new revised WPI provides a more accurate inflation assessment for conduct of monetary policy, as compared to the earlier series whose base year date almost a dozen years back to 1993-94? A look at the available evidence points to greater accuracy in the new series as it has scaled up the coverage, by both increasing the number of commodities included in the index by more than half to 676 and also by more than doubling the points from which the data is sourced to 5,482. And unlike the previous index where there was no uniformity, with price collection points spread across farm gates and primary, secondary, wholesale and retail markets, the new index has ensured greater uniformity by collecting price data only from the first point of bulk sale to the maximum possible extent. This should ensure a better reflection of the structural changes in the economy over the last 15 years and provide greater conceptual clarity. But the WPI can accurately reflect the real price trends in the economy only if it includes the the services sector, which still remains outside it ambit. In fact, the National Statistical Commission had recommended that this lacuna can be filled up by developing a separate services sector index and then merging it in the WPI after taking appropriate steps. That could take another year.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EAVESDROPPER

 

Worse than journalists

The BJP has been conducting a workshop for all its media prabharis across the country, to better train them in disseminating information. A large part of their job is also to field questions from the media. At the workshop, a mock press conference was staged, with the national spokespersons being grilled by the delegates from the states who were posing as media persons. The grilling was so severe that one spokesperson confessed that it was "far worse than anything the media could ever do." "It just proves that the party has got more to fear from its own members than the media," said a visibly shaken spokesperson.

 

Strictly business

At an interaction arranged between members of the Indian Women's Press Corp (IWPC) and RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, questions over BJP president Nitin Gadkari's style of functioning flew thick and fast, with Bhagwat hard put to defend the man he hand picked for the job. "So what if he is very businesslike," Bhagwat said, "who said that success in business cannot be translated into politics." When told that there was a lot of negative feedback from the party on Gadkari, Bhagwat dared the naysayers to come to him. "Nobody has complained to me," he said.

 

Caution: Wetter Paint

Senior officials in Rail Bhawan were surprised to see workers painting the building last week in the middle of pouring rain. It appears the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee had said that the colours of buildings in the area had to match with each other. "We received the OC letter three days back. We have to complete painting as soon as possible," the administration department told the officials.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

GLASNOST

 

Microsoft untangles the Gordian knot between software piracy and human rights

 

Lake Baikal in Russia is estimated to hold 20% of the world's freshwater. When PM Vladimir Putin decided to reopen a paper factory polluting this natural wonder, Baikal Environmental Wave started organising protests against the move. But the group's work got paralysed as Russian authorities confiscated its computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. A similar fate has become familiar to many advocacy groups and media organisations across Russia, where up to 80% of the computers use pirated software but where pro-government organisations don't have to fear piracy persecution. Rather, victims have ranged from the election monitoring group Golos to opposition newspapers like Novaya Gazeta. Microsoft lawyers in the country have not only failed to aid environmentalists and other advocacy groups but have actually been hand in glove with state agencies, arguing that they were only acting in conformity with Russian law. But, in a momentous development, Microsoft has now announced a "new unilateral software licence for NGOs that will ensure they have free, legal copies of our products". Henceforth, the Russian government would not be able to bring Microsoft-related anti-piracy suits against NGOs because these groups would be deemed licensed users by default.

 

When Google won kudos for countering Web censorship in China by shutting down its mainland search engine, Microsoft looked like the bad boy in soft-walking the human rights issue. In the Russian instance, the company appears to have finally caught up with the global mood-shift on corporate ethics.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A BONFIRE OF VANITIES

 

Nearly a hundred people have died in clashes between police and protesters in Kashmir this year — more lives than have been lost in combat between troops and terrorists. The protests have made a bonfire of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's central policy vanity: the promise that he would pull off a grand resolution of the six-decade old conflict between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, where so many of his predecessors had failed. Monday's horrific religion-fuelled violence, which claimed at least 15 lives, was sparked off by television images of the desecration of the Koran by a mischievous protester in New York. But the fact that Islamists were so easily able to exploit the issue points to a larger breakdown of faith in both democratic politics and dialogue with the state. For that, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ambitious but pathetically executed pursuit of peace is at least in part to blame. Efforts to engage secessionists in dialogue, promises of phased demilitarisation, and a final peace deal with Pakistan itself: each of these enterprises ended in impasse. Each failure engendered cynicism and bitterness, which in turn legitimised Islamist hawks who contended from the start that peace was a miasma.

 

By talking big while having little to offer, New Delhi has unwittingly fanned the flames in J&K. Earlier this month, in an ill-advised gesture intended to inject fresh capital into Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's battered political fortunes, the central government let it be known that an Eid peace initiative was imminent. Made up in the main of a promise to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from some parts of Kashmir, the decision would have meant little change on the ground: the areas from which AFSPA was to be lifted have a minimal or zero military presence. But even this move was stalled by differences within the Cabinet. The abortive Eid package strengthened the hands of Islamists. If the central government wished to build bridges with ordinary people in Kashmir, all it had to do was allow the prosecution of soldiers charged with human rights violations. The State government, for its part, could have placed before the public a clearly thought-out, credible programme for rebuilding the police force. It could have thus paved the way for a phased pull-out of troops now involved in counter-terrorism duties. Both the State and central governments could have begun a serious dialogue on the content of federal autonomy, which must form the basis for any sustainable political solution in the State. Jammu and Kashmir is poised on the edge of an abyss. Firm, generous-spirited action to win over the people is needed, not post-dated promises and grandstanding.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MAKE-BELIEVE ELECTIONS

 

Recent developments in Myanmar indicate that the ruling junta is on a quest for a smokescreen of legitimacy before tightening its grip on the nation in the November 7 election. In the second major reshuffle this year, 70 senior military officers, including the Army's number three, General Thura Shwe Mann, quit their posts and are expected to join the Union Solidarity and Development Party, a proxy political party of the military. The first shuffle, in April, saw the exit of another group of senior military men, including Prime Minister Thein Sein. The moves are intended to give a civilian face to the new parliament, in which a quarter of the seats are reserved for serving military officers. The retired officers are expected to contest the remaining seats with no fear of defeat. By the August 30 deadline for registering candidates, the USDP had filed over 1,000 nominations while another pro-junta formation, the National Unity Party, is fielding over 900 candidates. On the other side, the two main democratic parties — the National Democratic Force, which split from the election-boycotting Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy, and the Democratic Front — have been able to put up fewer than 500 candidates between them. With the registration fee fixed at $500, they did not have the money to nominate any more.

 

It has been clear from the start that this election — the first in Myanmar since the historic 1990 contest in which Ms Suu Kyi's party emerged victorious but was barred from taking power — is no transition to democracy. New election laws barred Ms Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, from contesting because of her convictions by the junta. Under the rules, the ensuing boycott by her party led to its dissolution. The military, whether in uniform or in civvies, and pro-military politicians will dominate the 224-seat House of Nationalities and the 440-seat House of Representatives. What is less clear is the role "Senior General" Than Shwe, head of the State Peace and Development Council, the official name for the junta, has reserved for himself. It was believed that he too had stepped down from his post to contest the election as a civilian. But that has turned out to be unfounded. He is likely to continue at the helm even after the election and might quit as military chief only when he is assured of a successor he can trust. But even if he became a civilian ruler, and for all his engagement with the international community, including India, the Myanmar strongman cannot hope to acquire real legitimacy after denying Ms Suu Kyi her rightful place in the country's destiny.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

A VICTIM OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE DISMISSAL FROM SERVICE OF A LECTURER, ALREADY ASSAULTED BY A FUNDAMENTALIST GROUP ON THE CHARGE THAT HE OFFENDED RELIGIOUS SENTIMENTS, BY THE MANAGEMENT OF A GOVERNMENT-AIDED COLLEGE IN KERALA, RAISES MANY QUESTIONS.

K.N. PANIKKAR

 

A lecturer with Newman College in the town of Thodupuzha in Kerala, T.J. Joseph, was brutally attacked on July 4, 2010, allegedly by members of a fundamentalist group. It was an act of retribution: Mr. Joseph had framed a question for an examination for his students in the college, which offended their religious sentiments. The punishment meted out by the aggrieved group was to chop off his palm: it was reminiscent of medieval practices.

 

The authorities of the college, apparently endorsing the claim of the fundamentalists, suspended the 'delinquent' teacher and ordered an enquiry. The enquiry committee concluded that he had deliberately subscribed to an activity that promoted feelings of enmity between different communities/ religions.

 

The controversial question paper by itself had not lead to any manifest enmity between different religious communities, as the enquiry report had suspected. But the fundamentalists created a law and order situation by resorting to rioting.

 

Consequently, the lecturer was dismissed from service, and thus debarred from "future employment in any of the institutions maintained by or affiliated to the university."

 

Mr. Joseph had had no record of communal bias or instigation during his career in the college. He is reported to have been a conscientious teacher with a rapport with students and cordial relations with colleagues: this is evident from the public testimony of students. To them his dismissal was thoroughly unexpected, and they struck work demanding his reinstatement. But the college authorities did not relent. They took the position that they would reconsider their action only if the Muslim community made an appeal to reinstate him, or the court issued an order to that effect. A highly irrational act was thus sought to be imbued with legal respectability and given a communal character.

 

This incident is symptomatic of the creeping influence of fundamentalism that has led to violence in the country at large and certain recent outbursts in Kerala. What has happened to Mr. Joseph is also indicative of the vulnerability of academic space and the authoritarian tendencies of certain managements of educational institutions in the State. Mr. Joseph almost lost a limb (it has since been reattached through a difficult surgical procedure) to the brutality of religious fundamentalism, and he has now been deprived of his job by an insensitive and inhumane college management. While the fundamentalists resorted to the act in order to terrorise the 'deviants' and ensure that their religious fiats are carried out by all, the college management saw it as an opportunity to enforce discipline and to nip in the bud the influence of critical and rational thinking. Both actions are highly deplorable. Unfortunately, these have not led to a sufficiently strong reaction from the public.

 

It appears that there is ambiguity in the public mind about Mr. Joseph's own role. The reason is that the charge against him involves meddling with religious sentiments. Although new religions and sects emerge out of non-conformism and as a critique of the present, the established religions mostly see their interest to be linked with the status quo. That was perhaps why the Catholic Church was not moved by appeals to their humanitarian and philanthropic credentials. The Church has now issued a pastoral letter supporting and justifying the action of the college management. It is surprising that in a State that is surcharged by protests and a variety of public interest litigation processes, except for teachers' and students' organisations the liberal intelligentsia has not come forward in defence of Mr. Joseph.

 

The 'crime' he committed was to frame a question by reproducing a conversation between God and 'Muhammad' from a text written by film-maker P.T. Kunhi Mohammed, who is a believer. The 'mistake' he made was to change the name of the character of a lunatic in the original, to 'Muhammad.' The fundamentalist group was enraged by the use of the name of the Prophet.

 

Why Mr. Joseph changed the name is unknown. He is reported to have stated that he was not influenced by any religious reason but used a shorter version of Mr. Kunhi Mohammed's work. 'Muhammad' is a popular name among Muslims, and there is nothing in the text of the question paper to suggest that it was the Prophet who was implied. Nor did it contain any critique of any religion — including Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.

 

But to a fundamentalist group that resorts to terror tactics as an instrument of coercion, it provided an opportunity to further its cause. Among Hindus, Rama and Krishna are popular names and are worshipped as incarnations of god. Imagine a situation in which a reference to these names, in literature or academic texts or in a question paper, is considered blasphemous! If this happens, soon writers will find it difficult to give a name to their characters.

 

That fundamentalists indulge in such irrational behaviour is not surprising. They still live in medieval times, and with hardly any respect for human values. But that cannot be expected from those who have taken the responsibility of imparting education to people. The authorities of Newman College where Mr. Joseph has taught for 25 years quickly took the questionable step of first suspending and then dismissing him — all in the name of communal harmony and secularism.

 

Unfortunately, they did not realise that the greatest threat to secularism and communal harmony is religious fundamentalism. That is why the management's offer to withdraw the dismissal orders if the Muslim community made an appeal for such a withdrawal, becomes self-contradictory. The management seems to have overlooked the fact that by doing so it was reinforcing the communal, and not secular, consciousness. What was done would only help legitimise the fundamentalist forces and not strengthen secularism, as the college authorities claim. In fact, they should have stood by Mr. Joseph and defended his academic freedom as a teacher. Instead, they compromised with fundamentalism and extended to it a helping hand — also sullying the Christian character of the institution.

 

It is time the managements of public-funded private institutions were brought under a democratic structure, so that healthy norms prevail in these institutions and higher education becomes accessible to larger sections of the population, including the poor. It is to be hoped that either through legal intervention or democratic struggles Mr. Joseph would be reinstated, or adequately compensated.

 

But the brutality of the fundamentalists, on the one hand, and the irresponsibility of educational entrepreneurs, on the other, have already vitiated the academic atmosphere. In order to overcome this situation, new steps are called for, both from the government and civil society.

 

It also raises the larger, even if contentious, issue of the management of education in Kerala. Since 1984, the government, through a system of financial aid, meets the entire expenses towards payment of salary and maintenance of private colleges. The share of the management is meagre. What the managements typically do, however, is to milk these institutions through various means.

 

It is common knowledge that most of these colleges indulge in corrupt practices, both in the matter of appointment of teachers and grant of admission to students. Since there is practically no control exercised by the government or the universities over aided institutions, many managements treat colleges as a source of income. Some of them also fatten their purses by conducting self- financing courses, utilising facilities created by public funds. The Central government has introduced in Parliament a Bill to prevent the prevalent unfair practices in the field of education. How far it will succeed in doing so is anybody's guess.

 

Religious fundamentalists are on the rise among Muslims and Hindus. Permitting them to influence the practices of education has long-term implications. The most dangerous possibility is the state of social and political consciousness such compromises would produce. Compromising with religious fundamentalism, as the authorities of Newman College have done, is likely to lead the country to Talibanism.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

VISVESVARAYA, AN ENGINEER OF MODERNITY

ON THE OCCASION OF HIS 150TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY TODAY, SIR M. VISVESVARAYA'S LEGACY IS BEST COMMEMORATED BY BRINGING TO IT ALL THE ETHICAL QUESTIONS THAT MODERN INDIANS HAVE OFFERED ON THE ISSUE OF DEVELOPMENT.

CHANDAN GOWDA

 

Sir M. Visvesvaraya, the oldest surviving icon from 20th Century Karnataka, occasions various sentiments. Enthusiasts of Bangalore's image as a high-tech city see in him an early champion of modern industry. Whereas those sick of the corruption in public life cherish him as a symbol of probity. Whatever the ends of invocation, Sir M. Visvesvaraya's charisma has proved durable.

 

Born to a poor Brahmin family in Muddenahalli in 1860, Sir M. Visvesvaraya (Sir MV) completed school in Chikballapura and Bangalore. (Folklore recalls he studied under a street lamp). After completing his B.A. at Central College in Bangalore in 1881, he studied engineering at the College of Science in Pune. Upon graduation in 1883, he started his career as an Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department, Government of Bombay, where he put in 25 years of distinguished service. After a short stint of work for the Nizam of Hyderbabad, when he helped control the Musi river floods, he became the Chief Engineer of Mysore in 1909. Three years later, he became Dewan of Mysore and stayed in office until 1918.

 

No well-researched biography

 

Few details about Sir MV's personal life have survived. Sir MV's 1951 autobiography, "Memoirs of my Working Life" takes its title in dead earnest, suggesting that he either fiercely guarded his privacy or felt it unimportant to share his experiences outside office. Pop hagiographies only echo familiar facts and fables about his achievements in office. A well-researched biography of Sir MV's life doesn't exist.

 

Sir MV became Dewan of Mysore at a time of controversy. The Brahmins of Mysore, especially the Hebbar Iyengars, had protested that all the Dewans of Mysore had been "outsiders" and not "Mysoreans." After the British ended their 50 years of direct rule over Mysore and restored conditional power to the Maharaja in 1881, they recruited Dewans from the Madras Presidency. This had invited resentment from the local officialdom in Mysore. Sir MV, who had earned a good reputation as the state's Chief Engineer, appeared the right candidate at this time. His ready identification as a Mysorean is a pointer to the complexities of cultural identities since he spoke Telugu at home and a grandparent on his father's side spoke Tamil.

 

Since 1881, the Mysore dewans had affirmed, with varying zeal, their desire to build an industrial economy in the state. Their views drew from the powerful 19th Century European ideas of social evolutionism that argued that all societies moved from agriculture to modern industry. The romantic longing for modern industry took on a feverish pitch with Sir MV. His famous slogan — Industrialise or Perish! — is testimony to his theoretical convictions and the intellectual politics in colonial India.

 

The colonial intellectual game is now familiar: the West had Reason, discipline, science, capitalism, in short, modernity; and, India was home to ignorance, fatalism, low technology, feudalism. The power of these illicit claims is evident in Sir MV's vision of progress, which sought total reform of local institutions. For him, most features of local society appeared a deviation from his imagined modern social order. He frequently regretted the lack of discipline, efficiency, and hygiene among Indians. His speeches usually included statistical comparisons to show the advanced state of the West and India's own backwardness. Japan was an inspiration since it had proved for him that an Asian country could also progress through a proper borrowing of Western methods.

 

Sir MV noticed "waste" in different spheres of social life. Interpreting society through the lens of productivity, he made an unusual observation: "Mental energy is wasted in caste disputes and village factions." For him, caste inequality was wrong as it did not allow for the optimal use of individual energies toward building a society. A popular anecdote has it that he exclaimed, "What a waste!" when he beheld the Jog Falls in Shimoga district. Hydro-electric power could be harnessed at the site of the water falls. Aesthetics had to be subordinated to considerations of utility.

 

His writings

 

Friendships in Pune with G.K. Gokhale, the political leader and M.G. Ranade, the nationalist economist, had had a formative impact on Sir MV's ideas of economic development. Besides "Reconstructing India" (1920) and a pioneer text on state planning, "Planned Economy of India" (1934), Sir MV published numerous short books on issues like village industrialisation, nation building, and unemployment. His writings are silent on India's historical experience or culture. Culture usually surfaces in his writings as a technical problem in his scheme of achieving progress. In 1915, he observed that "supplanting the spiritual ideals of the country" was of paramount importance. Two years earlier, he had nodded at Montesquieu's spurious ideas about climatic effects on human nature: "In our warm climate, we have not got the same incentive to exertion and we may never be able to attain the same level of prosperity as Western people."

 

Achievements

 

Sir MV resigned in 1918 in protest over the Maharaja's decision to set aside state jobs for "non-Brahmins." By this time, he had helped establish the University of Mysore, the State Bank of Mysore, Mysore Chamber of Commerce, among others. Popular memory in Karnataka views the Bhadravati Iron Works and the Krishnarajasagar Dam (KRS) across the Cauvery river as two of Sir MV's major achievements. Both these projects stood as marvels of state planning. Despite incurring losses for the first 15 years, the iron plant was sustained by the state. Completed between 1911 and 1931, the KRS was likened to the Aswan dam. State guests (including Mahatma Gandhi, in 1927) were taken to visit these places. Generations of school children have visited here and partaken in Sir MV's romance with modern technology.

 

Sir MV did not denounce colonial rule publicly. Mysore's precarious position as an indirectly ruled state of the British did not allow him, or the Maharaja, or any of the other state functionaries, to be openly critical of the British. But he doubtless resented the colonial restrictions which impeded his plans. And never more intensely, perhaps, than when the British disallowed car manufacture in Bangalore in the early 1940s. Sir MV had tried hard, along with Sir Mirza Ismail, a successor Dewan of Mysore, to realise his dream project of establishing a car manufacturing plant in Bangalore.

 

After stepping down as Dewan, Sir MV took up intermittent government projects in Karachi, Bombay, Orissa, and Hyderabad as adviser and consultant. He travelled in Europe and the United States a few times as part of delegations of industrialists. He was awarded the Bharata Ratna in 1955.

 

Sir MV was of frail physique from a young age. His Sanskrit teacher in school had apparently remarked he wouldn't live past 30 years. He lived to see his birth centenary celebrations.

 

Many early 20th Century Kannada literary figures have written eulogistic poems about Sir MV. Their admiration for him, however, seems to rest less on an engagement with his thought than on trust in the purity of his intentions. He acquired popular fame as a person who strove selflessly to develop the country and make it modern. The excerpt below from a hit song from the 1972 blockbuster, "Bangarada Manushya (Man of Gold"), the longest running movie in Kannada film history, is illustrative:

 

If Visvesvaraya had not toiled

 

And allowed Cauvery to flow

 

And not built Kannambadi?

 

Would this precious land have harvested gold?

 

Prosperous Kannada land, our prosperous Kannada land?

 

In the heady post-Independence days of nation-building, the imagined and actual deeds of Sir MV became parables for a society trying to find direction. He never used his office for personal favours. He never went late anywhere. He never spoke without prior preparation. He took dress formalities seriously. He worked hard. He was efficient. Delightful anecdotes around such claims surround the mythic figure of Sir MV.

 

Sir MV's enchantment with modern industrial civilisation is sure-footed. Not a trace of self-doubt exists. His legacy is best commemorated by bringing to it all the ethical questions that modern Indians have offered on the issue of development.

 

( Chandan Gowda is Associate Professor of Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion, National Law School of India, Bengaluru. He is presently completing a book on the politics of development in modern Mysore.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

LESSONS FROM THE EKJUT WAY

FROM JHARKHAND, TALES OF CHANGE THAT SPELL NEW PROMISE FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

DIVYA GUPTA

 

Largely thanks to recent news reports, Jharkhand's West Singhbhum district conjures up certain images in the mind — Naxalite-dominated, tribal-populated, mineral-rich … From distant and urbane Delhi, it sounds like the badlands.

 

A three-hour drive from Ranchi to Chakradharpur town, or "CKP" as it is known in the district, presents an entirely different picture. A tranquil and lush green landscape reveals itself along a seemingly endless natural tunnel formed by sal and banyan trees that flank an undulating and windy road. No other car or person is visible for a mile at a stretch sometimes. Barring the occasional slowdowns at security checkpoints manned by personnel in khaki uniforms, there is no visible sense that what has been termed India's "gravest internal security threat" may be inches away, in the woods.

 

It is to counter a different, more visible internal national threat, though, that West Singhbhum and its neighbouring districts have been positively cited in leading international publications of late. Between 2005 and 2008, as many as 193 villages in West Singhbhum and Saraikela districts in Jharkhand and Keonjhar in Orissa witnessed a 45 per cent reduction in newborn mortality, a 20 per cent reduction in maternal mortality and a 57 per cent reduction in post-partum depression.

 

The reductions are all the more striking because they have occurred against the backdrop of two States that have routinely recorded some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the country. Along with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the States of Orissa and Jharkhand account for a lion's share of the approximately million infant deaths and 80,000 maternal deaths that occur annually in India.

 

An NGO's success story

 

Behind these striking achievements is the work of Ekjut, a non-governmental organisation run by the husband-and-wife doctor duo of Prasanta Tripathy and Nirmala Nair. Lean-built and enthusiastic, and with a salt-and-pepper moustache, Dr. Tripathi could at first glance be taken for an Army officer.

 

"The way I look at it, it's just no age to die," he said, explaining his motivation. "This work is also about paying it forward for future generations."

 

Dr. Nair is his quieter half, but with a resolute air about her. Both of them spent a substantial chunk of their early careers at Tata Steel, India's largest producer of steel. The company set a high standard of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in earlier years but has increasingly come under fire for its role in environmental degradation and the displacement of some of the very same marginalised, tribal communities that Ekjut serves. "We knew even back then that someday we'll work closely with communities," says Dr. Nair, who worked in the Tata Steel hospital in Jharkhand's mining town of Normundai. Dr. Tripathi had meanwhile helped shape and implement the company's CSR initiatives.

 

Functioning in partnership with the Institute of Child Health, University College London, Ekjut received funding from the Health Foundation. It cost an estimated $33 per daily-adjusted life year (DALY) saved, compared with the World Bank standard of $127. It was less for interventions to reduce child mortality. On April 3, 2010, The Lancet (Volume 375, Issue 9721), the rigorously peer-reviewed medical journal, featured a lengthy article on the "Ekjut trial"— as it has come to be known. The same publication recently ran a report titled "The Countdown to 2015: Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival," in which India's performance in curbing infant mortality was marked "insufficient," and its maternal mortality level was classified as "high."

 

Ekjut's main approach seems dumbfoundingly simple — to piggy-back on the network of women's self-help savings groups in order to discuss child and maternal health issues. On closer scrutiny it becomes clear that a triad of strong guiding principles has played a critical role in the success: community mobilisation, participatory learning and empowerment.

 

At the crack of dawn, about a dozen women belonging to the Ho tribal community gathered outside one of the mud houses in their village in Chakradharpur. Seated on a large jute mat, about half of them held infants in their arms. Chicks and hens fluttered about. Many more babies lay naked on the mat. Younger children playing about crawled in, too. Two facilitators called the meeting to order and rolled out a chart with photos stuck on. As the meeting wore on, infants intermittently clung to their mother's breasts.

 

By the end of it, little piles of tamarind seeds had formed in front of each picture on the chart. "These tell us the type of problems that women face in the village," said Sumitra, a straight-talking, star Ekjut employee. She is from the Ho community. "The more seeds the women pile up in front of a picture, it means the more common that problem is in that village," she said. "Then we customise our work for each problem."

 

Tamarind seeds in front of picture charts form just one example from a single meeting. As the cycle progresses, a series of meetings take place regularly across all the districts where Ekjut is at work. Now there are six such districts in Jharkhand and three in Orissa. The communication tools get more innovative and the meetings more participatory. They employ visual cards, dummy dolls, storytelling, role play, street theatre, dancing and singing and a lot of talking in between. The result is behaviour change that is hard to see and easier to measure, as Ekjut's painstaking data collection and analysis demonstrated. Still, some before-after patterns are discernible.

 

Mothers speak

 

Junga Saman (30) has mothered eight children, of which three died of unknown causes. "In my village, when you've a baby you're considered dirty," she said. "The baby is not breast-fed for days. Both are kept away from everyone in the house. Often, the mother only gets to eat bread with salt and garlic. Earlier, when a problem arose, we would pray. Now, I go to a doctor at the slightest problem. I ate spinach, fish and vegetables during and after my recent pregnancy. I breast-fed for six months from the first day."

 

Geeta Tiu (32), mother of four, has been attending Ekjut meetings for five years. "Earlier, we didn't clean our hands before cooking and eating," she said. "We'd just leave the baby and go off to work. Now we clean and grow vegetables ourselves. We keep the water clean in the house. Women in the village help one another and sometimes pool money to transport someone to hospital for delivery and visits to the doctor."

 

Shanti Shandal (25), who has two girls, lost a baby during her first pregnancy. She had a retained placenta, which a midwife took out by hand — medically speaking a strict 'no.' She said: "The baby was born weak and just lay in the cold for and cried all night. I didn't know at the time that I should go to the hospital. He died the next day. In later pregnancies, I went to the anganwadi and took vaccinations and iron tablets, too."

 

Government health officials typically cite challenging terrain, poor infrastructure and "disturbed areas" as reasons for poor performance in a range of development efforts. If there is anything the Ekjut trial shows convincingly, it is that while these conditions can pose genuine hindrances, they can be overcome with strong political and human will, commitment, investments and rigorous monitoring and follow-up. This is underscored by the Ekjut trial's most telling outcome — the poorest and most marginalised people benefited the most. There was 73 per cent reduction here in newborn mortality as compared to 36 per cent for the general population.

 

"This was not by design," says Dr. Tripathi. "But it shows that if the project design is robust, the poorest will automatically benefit the most."

 

As for the threat from the woods, the State-level Director of the National Rural Health Mission, Aradhana Patnaik, said: "Health and education have never been targeted by Naxalites in Jharkhand."

 

( Divya Gupta is an independent journalist supported by Save the Children to raise awareness about issues around child mortality, ahead of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals summit to be held in New York from September 20 to 22.)

 

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THE HINDU

   OPED 

U.K. REFUSAL TO ANSWER RAISES AFGHAN CUSTODY DEATHS FEARS

FOR MORE THAN TWO MONTHS, DEFENCE OFFICIALS HAVE EVADED QUESTIONS ABOUT DEATHS IN CUSTODY.

IAN COBAIN

 

The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) is refusing to disclose whether any individuals have died in British military custody in Afghanistan, raising concerns that a number of people may have been killed during interrogation.

 

For more than two months, defence officials have evaded questions about deaths in custody since British forces began operating in the country in 2002.

 

The questions were posed amid the growing evidence, reported by TheGuardian on September 13, that British troops and Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel are suspected of being responsible for the murder and manslaughter of a number of Iraqi civilians, in addition to the high-profile case of Baha Mousa.

 

The incidents

 

Victims in Iraq include men who have drowned after allegedly being pushed into canals and a man who is alleged to have been kicked to death on board an aircraft.

 

However, when asked on July 8 this year whether there had been any deaths in U.K. military custody in Afghanistan, the MoD replied: "In Afghanistan, there have been no deaths in detention facilities." Told that this did not answer the question, the MoD replied on August 18: "No one has died in U.K. formal detention facilities during Op Herrick." Operation Herrick is the codename given to most, but not all, British military operations in Afghanistan over the last eight years.

 

Defence officials have also sought to respond to the question by insisting that they did not have a clear understanding of the term "custody".

 

Although defence ministers have answered a series of parliamentary questions about deaths in U.K. military

custody in Iraq, asked about any such deaths in Afghanistan a spokesman replied: "We do not mean to appear unhelpful, but to answer your question properly we first of all need to understand exactly what you mean. 'Custody' is a term that we no longer use in this context as it is vague and open to misinterpretation." All subsequent questions to the MoD have been ignored.

 

Phil Shiner, a lawyer acting in a number of cases in which both Iraqis and Afghans have died, said on September 13: "The question is a simple one: when U.K. forces had custody of Afghan civilians, how many were subsequently killed? "Weasel words about how to define custody and thus give no answer to that simple question leads to the inevitable conclusion that the answer is unpalatable." Soldiers who have served in Iraq have been prosecuted over the deaths of three civilians.

 

In each case all the defendants have been cleared, or the charges withdrawn, except in the case of Baha Mousa. One soldier was jailed for a year after pleading guilty to inhumane treatment of the hotel receptionist, who was tortured to death while being interrogated by British troops in September 2003.

 

It has now emerged that British troops are suspected of unlawful killing in a number of other cases. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

   OPED 

WHAT THE U.S. ARMS DEAL WITH SAUDIA ARABIA MEANS

RIYADH AND WASHINGTON PUT 9/11 BEHIND THEM.

IAN BLACK

 

Arms purchases from the U.S. are central to the Saudi kingdom's strategy of asserting its military leadership in the Gulf and confronting Iranian influence. This U.S. deal includes significant offensive capabilities — thus the repeated warnings from Tehran about it being "destabilising".

 

In public the Saudis and their partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council support using diplomatic means to tackle Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions, but express greater concern behind closed doors, diplomats say. Iran insists it seeks only civilian nuclear power, not weapons.

 

Relations between Washington and Riyadh were badly damaged by the 9/11 attacks and the identification of the Saudi origins of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But common strategic interests and pressures generated by the arms industry and the recession helped smooth differences. U.S. defence sales to the Gulf doubled from $19bn in 2001-2004 to $40bn in 2005-2008.

 

It is striking that this deal has met little opposition from the pro-Israeli lobbies, which in the past have worked to prevent the Saudis acquiring advanced equipment. Nowadays Saudi Arabia also supports the Arab peace initiative, which offers to recognise Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state. King Abdullah is said to have been convinced of the sincerity of the U.S. commitment to Riyadh and pushed the arms request despite his air force wanting to divide sales between the U.S. and Europe. Recent months have seen mounting tensions between Riyadh and Tehran, with Arab regimes pressing the U.S. to adopt a tougher stance. In a meeting with Hillary Clinton in Riyadh in February, foreign minister Saud al-Faisal stated that the Iranian nuclear threat demands "a more immediate solution" than sanctions. The package reflects the convergence of the strategic views of the U.S., Israel and conservative Arab states regarding Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions and bid for regional influence. But Saudi Arabia denies reports it has secretly agreed to allow Israeli planes through its airspace if they were sent to bomb nuclear sites in Iran.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS

IAN BLACK

 

The second paragraph of the International Page report, "Trade unions threaten action against job cuts" (September 14, 2010), said: "Chancellor George Osborne plans to cut £60 billion from next year's budget…." It should have been £60 million.

 

The sixth paragraph of the Online and Off Line column on rural employment guarantee scheme (Op-Ed Page, September 13, 2010) referred to a working group chaired by John Dreze. It should have been Jean Dreze.

 

Sport Page Corrections: Sushil is the second Indian wrestler to win a medal in the Olympics and not as reported in the September 13, 2010 (first edition) report, "Sushil storms into final." The mistake was corrected in later editions.

 

In the report, "Super Kings starts campaign in style," the tally of wickets mentioned in the scoreboard (and not the text) is correct. Muralitharan, Ashwin and Bollinger claimed two wickets each.

 

The report, "Queen Kim's reign continues," said "this was her third US Open final. It was Clijster's fourth US Open final. Kim might have played in only four Grand Slam finals, but what was reported was her quote: "It took me six or seven finals until I finally got one."

 

It is the policy of The Hindu to correct significant errors as soon as possible.

 

Please specify the edition (place of publication), date and page.

 

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The Terms of Reference for the Readers' Editor are on www.thehindu.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

LET SUSHIL'S GOLD BE AN INSPIRATION

 

Olympic bronze medallist Sushil Kumar's freestyle gold medal at the Moscow world championship on Sunday is another signal event in India's slow but sure momentum in the world sporting arena. For years, team sports like hockey, football and later cricket held the tricolour aloft... at long last, though, individual sports and athletes are slowly making a mark on their own. Consider the feats of Ramanathan Krishan and Vijay Amrithraj and later of Prakash Padukone, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to find a parallel. The closest one comes is two years ago when Abhinav Bindra struck gold at the Beijing Olympics, months before Saina Nehiwal put in her golden run in women's badminton. Some of these feats must stand the test of time before being counted among the truly great moments in Indian sport, but there can be little doubt that Sushil's latest achievement, when he beat Russia's Alan Gogaev 3-1 in the 66-kg freestyle final to earn India a first-ever gold at the world level, is extraordinary by any description. There is in one sense a very direct link to the Haryana lad from the near legendary D.K. Jadhav, who landed independent India's first-ever individual Olympic medal at the 1952 Helsinki Games, and it comes at an important time for Indian sport.


Not very long ago, four fellow-members of the wrestling squad for the Delhi Commonwealth Games returned positive samples in a drug test, casting a cloud over a team expected to win a significant number of CWG medals. In that sense, Sushil's Moscow triumph, under a strict regimen of frequent drug tests in and out of competition, is a signal achievement — one that the nation and the Wrestling Federation of India will hail. As WFI president G.S. Mander said, "The victory comes at a very important time because everyone is looking forward to India doing well at the Commonwealth Games. Though there is no direct bearing on others' prospects because of those doping cases, Kumar's victory is a morale booster... and shows the kind of form he is in". Hopefully, that shameful episode will now be left behind as the CWG countdown enters its final lap. Sushil himself looked pleased as punch, and said on return: "This gold means a lot to me... all wrestlers dream of becoming a world champion some day, but only a few realise this dream... I am the first wrestler from India to win the world championship. It is great for the sport — all wrestlers will now think if Sushil can, why can't I?" Sushil is now set to become as much of a role model as fellow Haryanvi Vijender Singh, who too returned home from Beijing with an Olympic bronze. Vijender, however, managed to generate far more public adulation, possibly due to his sheer physical appearance, and perhaps greater media savvy. Sushil, in the meantime, plugged away in the shadows, but now with his impressive Moscow performance will earn a well-merited slot among the poster boys and girls of modern Indian sport. It is nothing less than the unassuming lad deserves, despite the fact that Indian officialdom once again put on display its worst colours, with the Union sports minister literally pushing Sushil's coach Satpal Singh — himself a wrestler of no mean achievement — out of the frame in a desperate bid to corner the limelight with the star of the moment. It is at times like these that one is forced to wonder when sport will truly and genuinely get its moment in the sun in India, not just when it throws up the occasional champion.

 

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

IN AUGUST COMPANY

P.C. ALEXANDER

 

For the first time in six years, after Dr Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister, we have begun to hear sharp criticism of his priorities for reform and even his style of functioning, and it's not just coming from sections of the media but also from within the Congress Party. There have been embarrassing reports in certain sections of the media, both in India and abroad, that Dr Singh was seriously considering retirement before the end of his second term. For far too long he was reluctant to defend his role as Prime Minister through the press, but when he chose to break his silence on this issue, at a meeting he had with some senior editors on September 6, 2010, he expressed certain views on the role of the Prime Minister which are quite at variance with the evolution of the parliamentary system into a veritable prime ministerial system in several countries. Let us examine some of the views expressed by Dr Singh on September 6.


One persistent criticism against Dr Singh's style of functioning over the last two years has been that he is not in full control of the steering wheel of government and that he has been forced to adopt a low profile as he is not the real power centre in the government or in the party. The trend in every country which had adopted the parliamentary system of democracy has been for the Prime Minister to function practically as the head of a presidential system of government. This is not a new trend in Western democracies; it started very visibly during the World War II when Britain had as its Prime Minister a dominating personality like Winston Churchill. The power wielded by Prime Minister Churchill during the war years in the parliamentary system of government was so great that the US administrator-cum-statesman Harry Hopkins said that the provisions of the British Constitution and powers of the War Cabinet were just whatever Churchill wanted them to be at any given moment!


It was not merely the exigencies of the war or the dominating personality of Churchill which triggered the process of transformation of the Prime Minister from one among equals in the Cabinet to become the captain of the Cabinet. Subsequent developments like the active involvement of Prime Ministers in the conduct of foreign affairs and the growing importance of summit meetings served to further enhance the power and influence of the Prime Minister. Ivor Jennings, one of the most reputed authorities on democratic systems of government, has gone to the extent of saying that "given a solid party backing and confidence among party leaders, a British Prime Minister wields an authority that a Roman emperor might envy or a modern dictator strives in vein to emulate".


In the circumstances in which Dr Singh became Prime Minister, it was obvious that he could not claim "full party backing" or "confidence of party leaders". And now that he has spoken on what he considers to be the ideal relationship between the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the government and the party, Dr Singh does not seem to be unhappy with the rather limited role he is playing in India's parliamentary system.
Dr Singh referred to the type of relationship which India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had with some of his colleagues in the party. Dr Singh seems to believe that concentration of power in the office of the Prime Minister is not compatible with the spirit of a true democracy and this seems to have made him adopt a very tolerant attitude towards internal dissensions being aired openly, sometimes by senior members of the party.
Dr Singh claims that there has been a much greater degree of cohesion between the different strata of leadership under his stewardship compared with the period when Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister. With due respect to Dr Singh's knowledge and experience, one is constrained to point out that there cannot be any comparison between the manner in which Nehru functioned in relation to his senior colleagues like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel or Maulana Azad and the way Dr Singh is functioning. Sardar Patel had a statute in the party and the nation which no leader other than Nehru in the history of the Congress Party had; in fact, his hold on the party organisation was much stronger than Nehru's, but Patel willingly accepted Gandhiji's decision to make Nehru the leader of the party in Parliament.


Further, it is well known that Krishna Menon would have been included in Nehru's first Cabinet if the choice was left entirely to Nehru. Maulana Azad, who was one of the front leaders of the Independence Movement, had strongly opposed the inclusion of Krishna Menon in the Cabinet till all corruption allegations against him (in the purchase of jeeps in London for the government) were probed and he was cleared. Azad had threatened to resign from the Cabinet if Nehru insisted on making Krishna Menon a Cabinet minister and Nehru was not prepared to deal with such a situation.


People like Nehru, Patel and Azad cannot be compared with the leaders of today. They were together engaged in building a new nation brick by brick and were not bothered about the vicissitudes of the relationship between the Prime Minister and themselves. That is how the foundations of a genuine democracy were laid within a very short period after India became independent.


Dr Singh has rejected the suggestion of a disconnect between the government and the Congress and claimed that he would not ask every Cabinet colleague to "shut up". He has said that he sees nothing wrong in the expression of different points of view by his ministers and senior party colleagues; but the question here is of creating the impression among the rank and file of the party that there are strong differences at the top levels on some important policy matters that the government wants to introduce. Once consensus is reached at the top levels of the party and the government, it is expected that all others fall in line and do not continue to be critics of the government.


Dr Singh is quite right in saying that he does not want to shut the mouths of senior members of his party or the government, but there should be some discipline, particularly among senior members, about the timeliness and manner of expressing differences of opinion. Democracy without discipline can lead to confusion and near anarchy and therefore it will be quite necessary for the Prime Minister to enforce discipline among all members of the government, irrespective of their rank and standing, if the object of good governance is to be achieved.

P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

SOLDIERS LOST IN THE BABU MAZE

S.K.SINHA

 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote about the Army in the Harijan on April 21, 1946: "Up till now they have been employed in indiscriminate firing on us. Today they must plough the land, dig wells, clean latrines and do every other constructive work they can, and thus turn the people's hatred of them into love". Perhaps his thinking was influenced by the fact that Indian soldiers under the orders of Brigadier Dyer had opened fire at Jallianwala Bagh and perpetrated that most horrible massacre. It was almost a miracle that on our becoming independent, our colonial Army was overnight transformed into a national Army. It became the most popular instrument of the state with the people of India. This transformation came about due to its stellar role during Partition when it was the only effective instrument of the government to restore order, and followed it by beating back the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir. Hy derabad was liberated and succour provided to the people during various natural disasters. The people's perception of the Army changed radically. (I use the word Army in a generic sense to include the Navy and Air Force.)


Addressing West Point cadets, General Dwight Eisenhower stated, "When diplomats fail to maintain peace, the Army is called upon to restore peace and when the civil administration fails to maintain order, the Army is called upon to restore order. As the nation's ultimate weapon, the Army must never fail the nation". The Indian Army has been performing this role admirably, executing the nation's will but never imposing its will. Yet the fear of the man on horseback has haunted our political leadership and has been exploited by the civilian bureaucracy for its vested interests. This has led to the neglect of the Army by the government in many ways. No wonder the Supreme Court on April 1, 2010, stated, "We re gret to say that the Army officers and the armymen in our country are being treated in a shabby manner by the government".


Whereas the parliamentary committee's recommendation on a hike in the emoluments of members of Parliament was passed with undue haste, its recommendation on the long-standing demand for one rank, one pension has been stuck in the maze of bureaucracy. This has caused much frustration among ex-servicemen who have been surrendering their gallantry and war service medals. The MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar, in his letter to the Prime Minister on August 25, 2010, has taken the noble stand that he would not accept his increased salary as an MP till the government sanctions one rank, one pension. Despite all the justification for one rank, one pension, this demand has been turned down repeatedly on the plea that civilian employees must also have a similar provision. The conditions of service in the Army are entirely different from the civil services. The hardships and dangers faced by the soldier, early retirement and poor career prospects after retirement have to be taken into account. It is not only in the case of pensions but also in salaries, protocol status and career prospects that the military has been treated unfairly.


After Independence, Indian Civil Service and Indian police officers retained their old scales of pay but the new entrants in their succeeding services, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), were given lower payscales. In the case of the military this was done retrospectively. As a major, I drew a salary of `1,100. This was suddenly reduced to `700. All my contemporaries in different ranks suffered such unprecedented paycuts. Sardar Patel, in his note dated May 22, 1947, disagreed with "differential treatment proposed to the officer class of the forces. The home department took the view — and I think it is the right view — that the old entrants on more favourable scales should continue to enjoy the old scales". The Sardar's wise advice was ignored at the altar of financial expediency. The culture of discipline in the military was different in those days. No one went to court, nor was this blatant injustice taken up in the press or in Parliament. We accepted this with a stiff upper lip. Without a murmur officers went to war in Kashmir, many making the supreme sacrifice. Successive pay commissions since Independence have continued treating the military unfairly. In comparison with its civilian counterparts, the military lost out every time.


Since 1947, career prospects in the armed forces, compared to the civil services, have become phenomenally worse. Wholesale proliferation of higher ranks in the civil services since 1947 has resulted in India having the most top-heavy civil administration. This only undermines efficient functioning. In a state there used to be one chief secretary, but now there are dozens of super chief secretaries with higher rank and pay. Similarly, instead of one inspector general of police in a state, we have dozens of DGPs, ADGPs and numerous IGPs. There used to be only four levels of civil servants in the Central Secretariat, from undersecretary to secretary. That has now increased to seven levels, to principal secretary. In the police a new zonal level of functioning has been introduced in many states to supervise the supervisors. Almost all IAS officers end up as secretary or additional secretary, and all IPS officers as DG or Additional DG. In the Army, the majority of officers cannot go beyond colonel. The shortage of several thousand officers in the Army underscores that the Army is now a very unattractive career.


The protocol status of the Army in the table of precedence has also been successively downgraded with every revision of the table. After Independence, the Army Chief was initially ranked with the judges of the Supreme Court but above the secretary-general (this appointment was abolished after a while and in 1963 the appointment of Cabinet secretary introduced). The Army Chief was now placed below Cabinet secretary, and thereafter to many others. Today he ranks below members of the Union Public Service Commission.
This persistent downgrading of the Army applies to all officer ranks in the Army. In 1972 we had proposed that the Field Marshal should get his full pay as he is not supposed to retire and be ranked with Bharat Ratna holders, that is, just below Cabinet ministers. This was not accepted and he was ranked along with the service chiefs, that is, below Cabinet secretary. As for salary, Manekshaw was given arrears amounting to `1.2 crores after 33 years, a few weeks before he died. Imagine. Such shabby treatment of India's first Field Marshal who led Indian arms to a great victory. A minister of state represented the Indian government at his funeral.
The cause of the neglect of the Army in India is our irrational higher defence organisation on which the bureaucracy has a stranglehold, isolating the Army from decision-making. This does not happen in any other democracy. Unless this is set right, the Army will remain neglected.

 

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

***************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE DEATH DEALER

SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

 

In the racy and fast-paced story of crime with underworld linkages, the final episode of Viktor Bo ut's extradition case concluded on August 20. The case of Viktor Bo ut, a Russian citizen, hit the headlines in 2008 when Bout was arrested through a US-planned sting operation in Bangkok. Bout, popularly called the "Merchant of Death", faces charges of terror linkages and transnational crimes in the US.


The trial in Bangkok saw the Thai judicial system take about turns as two different rulings emerged. In the first ruling by a lower court, the gro u nds for Bout's extradition to the US were dismissed since Bout was not in possession of the weapons he was alleged trading. The court stated that discussing a crime was not grounds enough for his extradition and that no actual charges could be brought against him.


However, the case was appealed and the lower court's verdict revoked. The ruling on his extradition to the US was passed by the appellate court on the basis of new evidence which the US provided against him, of financial irregularities and money laundering which were linked to weapons trade and narcotics.


In a battle in which the United St ates and Russia were pitted ag a inst each other, Thailand found itself in the unenviable position of being right in the middle of a spat that was reminiscent of the Cold War years. The pressure from both the US and Russia was immense. Wh ile the US pressured Thailand into fulfilling its commitment to th eir bilateral extradition treaty, Russia for its part accused Thailand of human rights abuse and buckling under US pressure. Russia alleged that Bout was merely an ordinary bu sinessman who happened to be at the "wrong place at the wrong time". With little option but to deal with the matter, the Thai government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took a balanced diplomatic position and laid down the rules of its judicial system as the basis for Bout's extradition.


From around the early 1990s, Viktor Bout has surfaced time and again in connection with arms sm u ggling and transnational crimes in many intelligence repo rts. His activities were traced to conflict zones in Africa, South Am e rica and the West Asia. In fact, Hollywood's 2005 Nicolas Cage film Lord of War was inspired by Bout's life. The sobriquet "Merch a nt of Death" is from the title of his 2007 biography — Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, And the Man Who Makes War Possible — by Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah. The book, which reads like a complex story of underworld crime and trade nexus, reveals details of Bout's life and work.
Though Viktor Bout's life became public around 2005, he has been on the radar of intelligence sources and law enforcement agencies for mu ch longer. US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
sources stumbled upon his name in many conflict zones, and everywhere he was linked to arms trade and smuggling activities. The dossier on Bout alleged his complicity in both narcotics and arms trade.


In March 2008, in a sting operation in Thailand carried out by the DEA, Bout was arrested while trying to negotiate a deal with undercover DEA officers posing as me mbers of a Columbian insurgency group. In the sting operation, Bout is alleged to have agreed to supply large numbers of anti-aircraft guns and 5,000 AK-47 Kalashnikovs.


Following the 2001 terror attacks, the US has been keenly following the networks of arms trade emergi ng in the global sphere. Mostly th is has been with regard to its own security given that it remains a pr i me target of various terror networks.


From around the early Nineties, the region of conflict shifted from Asia — particularly the Cambodian conflict which was the centre for arms from Russia. Small arms from this region moved to other conflict zones in Asia such as Aceh and Sri Lanka. The separatist conflicts in these regions were critical in sustaining the trade in small arms to which trade in narcotics was linked.


When one looks at the theatres of conflicts in Asia, the most likely areas of Bout's operation are in West Asia and it is from here that he is alleged to have supplied weapons to the African continent. As far as the Afghanistan conflict is concerned, Bout has been known to supply arms to the Northern Al liance that was fighting the Taliban. However, later he was also linked to arms supply to both the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.
Bout's linkages with groups in Afgh an istan are important from India's security concerns given that these networks fed into Pakistan and had deeper implications for the Kashmir issue and cross-border terror.
Deeper scrutiny may reveal the various other theatres of conflict in which arms have been supplied from Russia by Bout. Bout's linkages to the vast network of demand and supply chains is something that Russia is seeking to contain. Yet, it was alleged during the extradition hearing, that Russia was ke en to protect Bout as he was close to the political leadership in Mos cow. The evidence that Bout may provide in exchange for a lesser punishment may prove embarrassing for the Russian government.


In the triangular tussle between Washington, Moscow and Bangkok, the extradition ruling has led to a strengthening of US-Thailand ties which had been on the backburner for a while. Simultaneously, this case has led to the deepening of fault-lines in US-Russia relations which were already precariously balanced. Both the United States and Russia were at loggerheads over the case, rather than showing any willingness to cooperate in the matter.


Viktor Bout's case has revealed a new and far more complex form of organised crime that is not just conducted across countries and continents, but deals with terror networks, the underworld, and state-level actors as well. Bout's case exemplifies the need for concerted efforts to break these networks and address the issues of transnational crime in a more concrete manner.

 

Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

LIFE'S BEAUTY LIES IN FAIZ

MUZAFFAR ALI

 

Everyone is aware of energy and how it impacts our life, but faiz is a special flow of energy from a divine source. It's energy that comes with His grace; it's energy that is blessed. The first time I realised this was when I visited the Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer in 1990.


The beauty of life is all about the flow of this energy — the highest, the purest, the most powerful and the most sustainable. It is the energy of human emancipation which takes the mind into the realm of the unknown, from zahir (revealed) to the batin (hidden). This is the basis of all creativity, of all art. You have to liberate yourself from the visible to enter the realm of the invisible. Every human being, every living creature is empowered to take the journey when the divine faiz flows through him/her. Today the need for reinvention of the physical and esoteric beauty, with the coming into existence of virtual space, is at an all-time high. In today's world the journey gets easily diverted into many mindless causes, by many petty agendas created to make money or wash off guilt. Beauty, for the minds of the theatre, museum and gallery-going people is readily being converted into products and commodities of exploitation. Therefore, you need a master to protect, preserve and present beauty.

 

For beauty is the path of this sacred energy... the passage for its flow.


You need to be perceptive about the raw and even the evolved from where you absorb beauty. This was the essence of Islam. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) could have negated everyone who had preceded him and said that I am the first and the last. But he absorbed the limitless faiz that had preceded him through the earlier prophets and was still around him. It was revealed to him in a powerful invincible form, through divine words which he faithfully reflected. He was indeed the first poet of the Divine who proved that a society is soulless without such poetic revelation. Through this he created a soul that lives in secret realms, only to be discovered by a poet at heart. It is not easy to be poet or a poet at heart. A poet has to preserve his soul and keep it cleansed to mirror the beauty and anguish of society.


The flow of faiz is the reason for life, and people are very receptive to this. They are quick to know the source of this energy and are ready to flock to it. They go there not through discipline or fear. They go with deep reverence, adab, on a quest for a thirst to be fulfilled. They go there to receive purity which enriches them. And while they are in the proximity of th at source they radiate that aura. They are away from wor l d ly machinations and fears. They are receiving and giving out positive energy. Faiz changes destinies and makes the unexpected happen. Efforts are directed without intention in positive ways, and larger human concerns become prominent in one's spirit.


The best state to receive faiz is in a state of surrender and submission to the will of God. The Prophet (PBUH) took it to the realm of Mehraj, where lesser humans cannot reach, making him the final source of faiz. He empowered Ali in His lifetime to be the source of his faiz. In many situations when he said Man kunto maula fa haza Ali un Maula (of whom I am the Master, Ali is the Master), or Ana Madinatul Ilm wa Ali un Babeha (I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the door), Ali was destined to be the last Caliph of Islam, just like the Prophet was the last of the prophets. And thus through Ali, faiz came to imams, saints and walis who can only transfer this faiz through his faiz.


It is through regular practice of this surrender that such pe ople were created and when they were no more, faiz st ill continues. They took surrender to its highest limit hu m anly possible. They took it to the extent that showed th eir ultimate faith in His will. They made it a part of th e ir living and through this annihilation in the Supreme Be ing they manifested love, ishq for the world. This was the ishq and surrender of Abraham, of Husain in Karbala...


This ishq was also expressed in jewel-like, beautiful po etic thoughts, for fellow human beings to share their state; to live those moments of truth that were revealed to them. They never preached, they only shone, they ne v er said what was good or bad, but only emitted a frag r a nce for which he has given us all a sense to appreciate. Th ey exemplified beauty which was pure and not perishable.


They didn't create art but their life became art. They inspired art and artistes to take that surrender forward which gave out love, through which flowed faiz. They did not pigeon-hole the truth that was revealed to them, instead they liberated it for the entire humanity, like the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain.
The world is always a new place. Each day is new and unseen. It has been gifted to us to design and create and celebrate the oneness of His creations so that there is no impediment in the flow of his faiz.

 

— Muzaffar Ali is a filmmaker and painter.


He is the Executive Director and Secretary of the Rumi Foundation. He can be contacted at www.rumifoundation.in

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

DNA

            EDITORIAL

J&K CANNOT BE HANDLED WITH KID GLOVES

 

There are no quick-fixes to the turmoil in Kashmir. It is notsurprising then that at the end of a three-hour meeting, the cabinet committee on security (CCS) could not decide on what to do with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which is now operative in the valley. It was decided to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue in order to arrive at a broaderconsensus.

 

This could turn out to be elusive. It seems that withdrawal of the AFSPA from some of the quieter parts of the state is a way of mollifying bruised sensibilities of the people and creating an opportunity for the political opposition led by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) of Mehbooba Mufti, as well as the faction-ridden separatist Hurriyat, to engage in some sort of a dialogue with the government.

 

It is clear to prime minister Manmohan Singh and his government as well as chief minister Omar Abdullah that tweaking the AFSPA could open the door for the start of what could be complicated negotiations with Kashmiri leaders on questions like autonomy, open borders with parts of Kashmir that are now administered by Pakistan, and a dialogue that will ultimately involve both Pakistan and Kashmiris — separately, if not simultaneously. Politicians and negotiators are aware of what is meant by negotiations over Kashmir, but no one from the government, or even from the political class, is willing to say it straight.

 

The Congress waffles and the BJP adopts an uncompromising position even as leaders in both parties are aware of the issues at stake.

 

If negotiations are to make headway once begun, it will be necessary for political players at the Centre and the state to be clear about the ground rules. If India recognises that Kashmir is a thorny bilateral issue with Pakistan, then Islamabad cannot be wished away.

 

But if the assumption is that Kashmir is an internal matter of India, and Pakistan has no role to play, then the Indian charade of claiming the whole of J&K, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit and Baltistan, has to be quietly set aside. India will then confine itself to dealing with J&K comprising the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh.

 

If the separatists do not agree to this territorial definition of J&K, then they have no place at the negotiating table. The National Conference will also have to give up its pre-1953 conditionality. It is time to stop handling Kashmir with kid gloves.

 

***************************************


DNA

EDITORIAL

VEERAPPA MOILY WORKS UP A LATHER OVER CORRUPTION

 

Union law minister Veerappa Moily is not happy with outgoing Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha's remarks last week that one in three Indians is corrupt. Moily thinks Indians have been insulted and the nation's pride has been hurt. He wants an apology on our behalf.

 

Of course, it was not the nation's pride Moily was so bothered about as its international reputation. Considering that India figures at the bottom of just about every listing on corruption, Moily's staunch defence seems a little misplaced. The world has few illusions about us and Moily needs to be aware of that.

 

As for Sinha, he dealt largely with complaints against government. Rather than insulting Indians, he seems to

have been generous by finding that only 30% of our population is corrupt. The experience of most Indians is that corruption is endemic and nothing works in this country without it. That costly boondoggle called the Commonwealth Games, with a misspent amount of Rs30,000-40,000 crore, is a stark pointer to our failings.

 

Instead of false outrage — do politicians really believe that the people trust them when it comes to money and integrity? — Moily would have better served if he had asked the veteran officer how he had reached that conclusion. Ignoring corruption or pointless breast-beating is not going to solve the problem. If the problem is solvable.

 

Sadly, as we all know, it is the politician and the bureaucrat who nurture corruption in our society. It is their greed which feeds the greed of others. Bribes are paid usually because they are demanded and work is stalled until money changes hands. This is the sad truth whether you want a ration card or a multi-crore tender. Moily should save his posturing for a subject where he can get greater resonance. When it comes to corruption, the former CVC might have known what he was talking about. More than an apology, what Indians would rather have is solutions.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

IS GOOGLE DAMAGING YOUR BRAIN? NOT QUITE

 

There can be two reactions to the new Google Instant that offers search results even before the complete search term is typed. One is wow. The other is fret about what it is doing to us. A London-based author says Google, by offering quick information, is affecting our capacity to store information. He argues that the search engine deprives our brain of daily calisthenics, and it could remedy that by making search difficult.

 

Going by his view, where one ought to be self-reliant, one could admit that the overdependence on Google can be damaging. But these are times of immense constraints, time being the biggest. We are information economies, heavily reliant on swift communication and implementation.

 

What's useful is not deep thinking but quick thinking. There is no replacement for wisdom, but when millions can be won or lost in an instant, speed is vital.

 

Technologies are created to address specific needs and they shape us in turn. Technological determinism has for long led societies and cultures to realign themselves to changes in modes of production. This generation's is a wired reality, of the 'wisdom of crowds', where aggregation of information in groups, facilitated by portals like Google, result in decisions that are sometimes superior to those made by a single person. Fast-paced technological change will forever put values in flux. It's inevitable.

 

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DNA

MAIN ARTICLE

THE LESSON RAMACHANDRA GOWDA TAUGHT US

E RAGHAVAN

 

Finally Mr Ramachandra Gowda was shown the door by the chief minister who probably was left with no other option — particularly after details of all that could go wrong in recruitments in medical colleges emerged from inquiries within the government and after the high court made pretty caustic comments about the way the entire issue was handled.

 

That the medical education minister was a reluctant party to the decision to get him to put in his papers is there for all to see.

 

Short of being thrown out kicking and screaming like a kid, he did every thing to protest his innocence. Even if he was innocent — we will know about that soon enough because of the case pending in the court — it is very obvious that he was culpable for not taking any steps to correct the wrongs.

 

Other than blaming vested interests for putting him in a predicament, he did little to right the wrong in what is patently a scam of the first order. It is not only out-of-turn appointments in two medical colleges and bending every rule to do that that the minister seemed to be fully supportive of.

 

The suspicion is that there were many other scams in his department and that those close to him benefited enormously by filling up non-medical vacancies in these colleges, hiring people for posts that were not there or hiring those who were not qualified for particular jobs.

 

While it might be fairly useful for the government to look into all these cases, the suspicion that remains to be addressed is that there possibly exist cases of similar wrong doings in other ministries and departments as well. Now, in the face of lack of specific complaints, the government will argue that it can't go on a fishing expedition. That might be logical up to a point but such suspicions need to be addressed and there certainly is a case for a critical and detailed examination of all ministries because what is involved finally is public faith and public money.

 

All the more reason for a serious midterm review of all ministries because Ramachandra Gowda is not the first one to go under

 

such circumstances. There were at lease two other cases before him forcing the exit of ministers.

 

Come to think of it, the number of ministers who were shown the door for some reason or other in this particular dispensation is not insignificant. There were five ministers before Gowda even if you were to count Shobha Karandlaje out of that list. There were no personal charges against her and she became a casualty because of her proximity to the chief minister and may have given the impression that she was more powerful than other ministers.

 

Most others went out under a cloud. So far, six ministers had to resign and the seventh one, the social welfare minister, was moved out to another ministry because he was seen as inefficient.

 

Seven ministers in less than three years is a fairly large number and is a sufficiently strong comment on the level of performance of the ministry. That is what makes a compelling case to figure out if there are many other equally bad eggs. There are several high-profile but non-performing ministers in the cabinet and that is there for all to see. Weeding out deadwood is always a huge challenge because, in the first place, incompetent leaders come to occupy positions on account of their clout, derived because of support by caste lobbies, and not ability. That is why a degree of incompetence gets built into the system and chief ministers get an opportunity to correct that, often only partially, at the time of reconstitution of the Cabinet.

 

Such an opportunity seems to be available to Yeddyurappa pretty soon. If there is no major surprise in the results of the two by-elections, the chief minister may have to go in for an expansion of his ministry and what he does will be an indicator of the seriousness of his intent. It is a tough task on hand and most chief ministers fail the litmus test of public opinion because cabinet reconstitutions are not made with public good in mind. Worse, any such exercise creates room for discontent among those denied a shot at a ministerial berth.

 

That is why it is futile to anticipate a great deal of change in the way the government functions. That is again why every time there is a Cabinet expansion or reshuffle, one counts how many from a particular caste group or how many from a lobby within the ruling party got in.

 

***************************************


DNA

COMMENT

DO WE NEED MORE BANKS? OR DO WE NEED STRONGER ONES?

RAGHU PALAT

 

The Reserve Bank of India has, at a time when banking around the world is becoming consolidated, issued a discussion paper on the entry of new banks in the private sector. This is based on the finance minister's budget speech in which he said that there is a "need to extend the geographic coverage of banks and improve access to banking services." This means that more branches need to be opened in villages and smaller areas so that more would have access to banking services.

 

This was the intent, too, when 10 banks were permitted to be set up after 1993 and two more after the revised guidelines in 2001. Of these, six were promoted by banking professionals, one by a media house, one by conversion of a cooperative bank and four by financial institutions.

 

The four by financial institutions are not only thriving, but have also taken over other banks. Of those floated by professionals, only one remains and that is because it was supported by a strong foreign bank. The cooperative bank which converted into a commercial bank has stayed afloat, to a great extent, because of its parentage. Even though it is a community bank, it has not been able to make its presence felt.

 

The first question that comes to mind is whether industrial houses should be permitted to promote new banks. The RBI says that licenses can be granted, provided the promoter group has no involvement in real estate (because of its speculative nature) and if the promoters/directors are of unimpeachable integrity. If these are the norms, some companies known for their integrity and good corporate governance — the Tatas, Godrej and Mahindras — may not be permitted to apply for a license as they have real estate arms. Would that be good?

 

I accept that it would be short-sighted to even consider giving licenses to banking professionals. Though given with the best of intentions in the past, it backfired. It is clear that professionals cannot, without backing, be successful.

 

The banks that have grown and done well have been those promoted by financial institutions. Of these, three are worthy of mention - ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank. These three have grown significantly and are professionally run. Why did they succeed?

 

In my opinion it is because they had competent visionaries at their helm — KV Kamath, Aditya Puri and PJ Nayak.

 

The RBI is grappling with the idea of whether there should be a cap on promoter shareholding, the extent of

foreign shareholding in a bank and minimum capital requirements. To survive, a bank has to be well capitalised. The minimum capital should be at least Rs1,000 crore. Any lesser amount would make the bank ineffective. I do not think the extent of promoter holding or foreign shareholding matters if the bank is backed by and headed by people who are competent and with integrity.

 

The larger question is whether industrial houses should be permitted to open banks. I have a concern here that business houses have interests in many sectors. They are constantly seeking finance to expand their businesses. A bank within the group is bound to be seen as a source from which finance can be drawn. There will be ways by which Chinese walls will be made ineffectual. This is why in countries such as the United States, industrial houses are not permitted to promote banks.

 

I question, too, the need to make access available. Does this mean more branches should be opened in rural and

semi-rural locations? Opening branches in villages and smaller towns is not commercially viable. A survey done a few years ago by a leading consultancy firm established that over 87% of branches in villages and backward areas are not commercially viable. It has also been established that with electronic banking and anywhere banking, a multiplicity of branches is no longer an imperative.

 

Consequently, banks have been closing down loss-making branches. Banking has to be seen as a commercial

 

activity, not as a social obligation. It cannot be wielded as a political tool. In 1969, the motive behind nationalisation was political power. The follow-through with loans given to farmers,

 

cobblers and rickshaw pullers made once proud commercial banks technically insolvent. We must learn from our mistakes and not repeat them for political expediency.

 

Loans must only be given to those who have the intent and the ability to repay.

 

All enterprises are accountable to shareholders for their performance and have a bounden duty to make profits. In such a scenario, financial inclusion cannot be a priority. A thrust such as this will flounder as have others which were floated with this intent — regional rural banks and local area banks.

 

Licenses should be given because there is a need and not because little villages in the boondocks are underbanked. Or that cobblers and farmers are not being given loans.

 

***************************************

DNA

COLUMN

THERE'S A CASE FOR BURNING ALL THE HOLY BOOKS

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

There's an unintended irony about the (eventually aborted) campaign last week by Terry Jones, the pastor of a fringe church in Florida, to make a bonfire of copies of the Koran on the grounds that it was an "evil book". Jones isn't the first man of Christian faith who was broadcasting to the world his loathing of the Koran and, more broadly, of Islam. Since the 8th century, when Islam spread across Europe, that religion and its Holy Book have served as objects of hatred — and, on occasion, fear — for Christians.

 

Christian clergymen and scholars branded the Koran the "work of the devil" that was dangerous to Christian souls, and this revulsion was immortalised in popular Christianliterature and hymns down the ages.

 

The "clash of civilisations" continued right up until the 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire, expanding through conquest, was at its apex. In the 16th century, however, German theologian Martin Luther advanced an effort to publish Latin translations of the Koran — in the belief that free dissemination of Koranic ideas among Christians would refute "the abomination of Mohammed" and do "grievous harm" to the Turks. Fighting efforts to censor and prevent the translation and dissemination of the Koran, Luther wrote: "To honour Christ, to do good for Christians, to harm the Turks, to vex the devil, set (the Koran) free…"

 

In other words, the Florida pastor Jones' campaign against the Koran only marks the continuation of a medieval-era Crusade mindset, except that the denunciation of the Koran today finds expression in vastly different ways. Where once Christian clergymen campaigned to have the Koran translated and distributed in the belief that dissemination of its ideas would damn it, today's 'man of the cloth' would rather organise a bonfire of the scriptures!

 

There are countless precedents in history for calls to burn the holy books — even in India, where it happened as part of a process of 'religious reformation' from within. For instance, when Dalits' historic campaign in Vaikom in the early 20th century for the right to enter temples met with opposition from orthodox Brahmins who cited the Hindu scriptures in their defence, Dalit leader BR Ambedkar said that if, indeed, the scriptures defended the practice of untouchability, they ought to be burned.

 

At a later satyagraha led by Ambedkar for Dalits' access to public water, the Manusmriti, which codified a caste-based social order, was publicly burnt.

 

The Zen philosophical tradition exhorts practitioners to "burn the scriptures" and "kill the Buddha". But this isn't a call to religious war; it is, rather, an inspiration to reject tradition and the "fundamentalism" of "doctrines" and, indeed, all external sources of divinity — and instead make the inner journey into one's one consciousness, which lies at the core of the Buddhist spiritual order.

 

An overly faithful abidance by the hardcore fundamentals of established religious orders lies at the root of most religious conflicts today. Not only is it building walls and hardening attitudes all around, it also interferes with the process of interactions based on humanistic principles.

 

To the extent that moving away from "ordained" and "revealed" principles of religious orders can perhaps enable people to interact, even if only occasionally, in the secular space of humanism, there may well be a case for symbolically 'burning' all the scriptures by breaking the constricting bonds of religious fundamentalism.

 

***************************************


DNA

COMMENT

DO WE NEED MORE BANKS? OR DO WE NEED STRONGER ONES?

RAGHU PALAT

 

The Reserve Bank of India has, at a time when banking around the world is becoming consolidated, issued a discussion paper on the entry of new banks in the private sector. This is based on the finance minister's budget speech in which he said that there is a "need to extend the geographic coverage of banks and improve access to banking services." This means that more branches need to be opened in villages and smaller areas so that more would have access to banking services.

 

This was the intent, too, when 10 banks were permitted to be set up after 1993 and two more after the revised guidelines in 2001. Of these, six were promoted by banking professionals, one by a media house, one by conversion of a cooperative bank and four by financial institutions.

 

The four by financial institutions are not only thriving, but have also taken over other banks. Of those floated by professionals, only one remains and that is because it was supported by a strong foreign bank. The cooperative bank which converted into a commercial bank has stayed afloat, to a great extent, because of its parentage. Even though it is a community bank, it has not been able to make its presence felt.

 

The first question that comes to mind is whether industrial houses should be permitted to promote new banks. The RBI says that licenses can be granted, provided the promoter group has no involvement in real estate (because of its speculative nature) and if the promoters/directors are of unimpeachable integrity. If these are the norms, some companies known for their integrity and good corporate governance — the Tatas, Godrej and Mahindras — may not be permitted to apply for a license as they have real estate arms. Would that be good?

 

I accept that it would be short-sighted to even consider giving licenses to banking professionals. Though given with the best of intentions in the past, it backfired. It is clear that professionals cannot, without backing, be successful.

 

The banks that have grown and done well have been those promoted by financial institutions. Of these, three are worthy of mention - ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank. These three have grown significantly and are professionally run. Why did they succeed?

 

In my opinion it is because they had competent visionaries at their helm — KV Kamath, Aditya Puri and PJ Nayak.

 

The RBI is grappling with the idea of whether there should be a cap on promoter shareholding, the extent of foreign shareholding in a bank and minimum capital requirements. To survive, a bank has to be well capitalised. The minimum capital should be at least Rs1,000 crore. Any lesser amount would make the bank ineffective. I do not think the extent of promoter holding or foreign shareholding matters if the bank is backed by and headed by people who are competent and with integrity.

 

The larger question is whether industrial houses should be permitted to open banks. I have a concern here that business houses have interests in many sectors. They are constantly seeking finance to expand their businesses. A bank within the group is bound to be seen as a source from which finance can be drawn. There will be ways by which Chinese walls will be made ineffectual. This is why in countries such as the United States, industrial houses are not permitted to promote banks.

 

I question, too, the need to make access available. Does this mean more branches should be opened in rural and semi-rural locations? Opening branches in villages and smaller towns is not commercially viable. A survey done a few years ago by a leading consultancy firm established that over 87% of branches in villages and backward areas are not commercially viable. It has also been established that with electronic banking and anywhere banking, a multiplicity of branches is no longer an imperative.

 

Consequently, banks have been closing down loss-making branches. Banking has to be seen as a commercial

 

activity, not as a social obligation. It cannot be wielded as a political tool. In 1969, the motive behind nationalisation was political power. The follow-through with loans given to farmers,

 

cobblers and rickshaw pullers made once proud commercial banks technically insolvent. We must learn from our mistakes and not repeat them for political expediency.

 

Loans must only be given to those who have the intent and the ability to repay.

 

All enterprises are accountable to shareholders for their performance and have a bounden duty to make profits. In such a scenario, financial inclusion cannot be a priority. A thrust such as this will flounder as have others which were floated with this intent — regional rural banks and local area banks.

 

Licenses should be given because there is a need and not because little villages in the boondocks are underbanked. Or that cobblers and farmers are not being given loans.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

PROVOCATIVE MOVES

BELLIGERENCE AND USE OF STRONG-ARM METHODS NO WAY TO DOUSE THE FIRE


Both the alleged incident of desecration in the United States and the burning of a missionary school in Valley's Tangmarg area, in response to the sacriligeous act, are condemnable and need to be strongly opposed by all those who believe in secular values and humanity. However, it would be fallacious to both ignore the first act and simply blame a television channel for the provocation, and more than that foolishly believe that the anger of the people in Kashmir was provoked simply by this one incident which happened thousands of miles away. Kashmir has been on the boil for over three months. The fresh spate of anger was already simmering with people out on the streets against the excessive curbs on the occasion of Eid when the news of alleged sacrilegious act broke out. It would be equally fallacious to believe that people who have been out on the streets for more than three months against repressive acts of the government and its security agencies can be stopped by introducing more repressive measures like curfews, more firing, arson, use of non-lethal weapons which magically turn lethal in this part of the world, arrests and demonising the people or their leaders. Instead, it is causing more provocation, pouring more fuel to the already raging fire. Instead of making serious and consistent efforts to woo the people and tame the anger, all that the government has done in the last three months is oscillate between positions of absolute belligerence and talk about introducing packages in Kashmir. While belligerence is provocative, rhetoric based on imperfect understanding of the Kashmir problem and the anger of the people makes them more restless, testing their patience. Weeks after hints were being dropped about probable dilution of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a draconian law that is seen as a license for human rights abuse, or its removal from four districts, the plan seems to have been abandoned with only a promise of an all-party meet to discuss Kashmir situation. Obviously, such dismaying developments are likely to add to the anger of the people, who have begun to feel that diplomatic rhetoric is being deliberately used simply to buy time and befool the people. 


But what caused Monday's deadly anger was not just the flip-flops of the Centre. The sacrilegious act in Michigan state of United States of America may only have added to the existing anger. But the root cause lay in the unaddressed voices of the people and the increased dose of repression that came with Eid. Saturday's events in Kashmir and how these were interpreted by the government had already created a feeling among the masses in the Valley that there was a great conspiracy to malign them and the leaders. While chief minister talked about being let down by the Hurriyat, the DGP talked of using more stringent efforts to crush the rebellion. Such confusion was not only designed to provoke more rage. It was also aimed at creating confusion to cover up for the gaps in the official theory of separatists instigating Saturday's violence, even though there seemed to be quite a distance between the government buildings that were burnt down and the venue at Lal Chowk where no acts of violence took place except for some damage to the clock tower as youth clambered with one another for hoisting flags atop the structure. Nonetheless fresh FIRs have been lodged against Mirwaiz blaming him for instigating the violence even though his recorded speech offers no evidence of the same. The methodologies were similar on Monday when the government chose to dismiss the existing anti-India anger and simply blame the Iranian news channel for the provocation, even as the US ambassador is reported to have condemned both the attacks in Kashmir and the act in Michigan that triggered the unfortunate Tangmarg incident. The government also went ahead with the circulation of taped conversation of a man believed to be the aide of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, alleging instigation by him for the events on Monday. However, the conversation, as appeared on television channels, does not prove any instigation of any kind. Clearly, while the state government, in all its inertia and helplessness, is twiddling thumbs, the Centre is simply engaged in the heated activity of rhetoric. Both continue to operate with exercise of greater tyranny in Kashmir and befooling the nation with propaganda. Though indeed, protestors in Kashmir need to act with more restraint and not harm buildings, particularly attack them on communal or sectarian lines, where is the justification of use of highly disproportionate force, which is so clearly visible. Curfews are imposed without any basis, youth are randomly picked up, arrested and tortured or killed even as the debate at the national level veers around the need for use of non-lethal weapons. Non-lethal weapons can be less harmless only as they are used as per instructions. In Kashmir, where security forces are armed with extra constitutional powers, it is deemed rightful to even flout the basic warnings and instruction manuals for use of such weapons. Funerals are also not spared and cases of targetted killings including those of children as young as eight year olds continue. In such an atmosphere, how does one expect the rage to be tamed? It can only be provoked more, gradually reaching depths that are unfathomable with consequences that are unimaginable.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

DELAYED PROJECTS COMPLETION

TIME AND COST-ESCALATION CAUSING INCONVENIENCE TO RESIDENTS


The latest call of the divisional authorities to the engineering departments to complete the road communication and bridges between Jammu city and Vijaypur speaks volumes about the delay in the completion of the projects taken in hand by the concerned agencies. Already the delay in Balole nullah bridge on the outskirts of Jammu city has created unnecessary inconvenience to the vehicle operators and motorists during the past few years. This is also leading to long traffic jams on the highway besides delaying commuting between Jammu city and Bari Brahmana. Apart from this, the link roads between Jammu city and R S Pura areas on one hand and connecting roads up to Akhnoor and areas beyond have not been completed despite the fact that the funds and infra-structure required for this purpose has been provided to the concerned agencies well in time. This is also leading time over-runs and cost-escalation for which no accountability has been fixed by the government on the contractors and other agencies involved in these projects. Moreover, the clearance of the project sites has been pending with the construction agencies and this has been leading to unnecessary hardships to the commuters and people living in these localities. Many a time, it has been observed these sites are not cleared by the contractors for saving money and these jobs are left to the civic authorities. The government and its supervising agencies need to wake up and monitor the progress as well as clearance of the sites in time so that inconvenience can be avoided to the people. Even within the city, people have been forced to take to streets on these issues. Timely action on the part of the government can prevent law and order problems within and outside the city in this regard.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

COLUMN

WHAT IS CHINA'S AGENDA IN KASHMIR?

KULDIP NAYAR


I was then home minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's press officer in 1962 when India and China fought a war. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's disappointment was clear from his remark that he never expected "a communist country attacking a developing country."


His daughter, Indira Gandhi, who later became prime minister, explained the country's reverses as a choice between postponing economic development, which her father thought was the immediate need, and stepping up expenditure on defence, which "we believe could wait for some time more".


This may again be the dilemma before New Delhi, although it is better equipped and better prepared than it was in 1962. The lack of infrastructure on the border, modern equipment, roads and aerodromes, once again tell the same old story of not coming up to the standard which the Chinese claims or probes demand.


There may be something in the argument that the rhythm of 8-9 per cent growth rate may be disturbed if more funds are diverted towards defence. It is equally pertinent to know how much should be allocated for one and how much for the other is never clear even though the threat perception has to be kept in mind.
When China built the Aksai Chin road in Ladakh in 1954, despite knowing that it was Indian territory or at best a disputed one, it should have been clear to New Delhi that the clash over the unsettled borders was bound to come "sooner than later".


Nehru depended on diplomacy and came a cropper. Whether the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has come to the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan area for flood relief work or as a force to stay there is, no doubt, a point of concern. But New Delhi's grievance should be more directed against Islamabad.


Pakistan angle

If Pakistan, whatever its compulsions or considerations, is not opposed to the presence of PLA, India's protest would have little meaning. True, technically, Pakistan Kashmir is part of Jammu and Kashmir which acceded to India in 1947 after the British left. But it is an open secret that India has often discussed agreements which would make the present line of control as an international border.


In 1972, when the Shimla pact was signed, then Pakistan Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was made the offer. He reportedly agreed to it, but could not sell it to his colleagues.


No doubt, India has passed a unanimous resolution in parliament to get back the Kashmir under Pakistan. But then parliament has also passed a resolution to secure every bit of Indian territories that China has "occupied".

 

Rhetorical statements may be part of politics but not of well-considered foreign policy.


Even for a settlement on Kashmir, India and Pakistan have to discuss the territorial claim which both countries cherish. The involvement of Kashmiris - a must for any solution - makes things more complicated.
But why should China try and divide the state into the 'northern part of Pakistan' or 'India-controlled Kashmir'? This indicates that Beijing has already decided upon the status of Kashmir.


For example, the Chinese Embassy at New Delhi gives visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir on a paper, stapled with the passport. Does Beijing's Islamabad office follow the same practice? And why should China deny a visa to Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, General Officer Commanding in Chief, Northern Command, because he has been serving in Kashmir?


Beijing's gameplan


Beijing's role is not confined to semantics. It has its own agenda. On top of it, the presence of about 10,000 men of PLA in Gilgit-Baltistan is ominous. Of course, Islamabad is the immediate power to react to it, even though the two countries are close friends.


The various steps China has taken should make things clear to New Delhi. However, it would be na‹ve to play into the hands of China as India did in 1962. A sense of growing strength has given Beijing a measure of superiority. It is crudely exhibiting it.


Beijing is also an emerging power in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. New Delhi should also reach out to Taiwan, Vietnam and other south Asian countries which are feeling the assertiveness of China.
Beijing should be made to realise that India has accepted China's suzerainty over Tibet, but not the demographic change or the ruthless repression in that territory.


Nehru warned India in 1962 that "It is a little na‹ve to think that the trouble with China was essentially due to a dispute over some territory. It had deeper reasons. Two of the largest countries in Asia confronted each other over a vast border. They differed in many ways. And the test was as to whether anyone of them would have a more dominating position than the other on the border and in Asia itself."


If India continues to feel the "assertiveness" of China, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said, Beijing would have to do more to win India's trust. Once a Pakistani foreign minister told me that the road to peace from Delhi to Beijing goes through Islamabad. Can Pakistan help?

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

COLUMN

SALDANA..!

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

The watchman was asleep! I woke him up harshly; he stumbled to his feet, a seventy year old, who should have been resting at home with his feet up, but now still working to support his wife. "What's your name?" I thundered.


"Saldana!" he said, looking at me stoic faced.


"Santana?" I asked remembering Woodstock band and the marathon drum solo.


"Saldana!" he said.


"You were asleep!" I shouted. He looked at me, his face impassive.


This morning I heard he had died. "Jaundice!" the other watchmen told me. I remembered him asleep and knew he had slept that night because he was already suffering. And my thoughts went to us the chosen when we fall sick:


"Jaundice!" shouts the doctor, "Bed rest! Lie still! Recoup!"


But for Saldana there was no lying still, there was no recouping, till death gave him the rest he must have truly longed for.


And this morning as I heard what Salman Khan had said, asking why there was so much of hype over 26/11, why so much hullabaloo over the people who had died in the terrorist attack at the five star hotels, and why there was hardly any such ballyhoo when hundreds died practically everyday in railway stations and in floods I knew he had spoken the truth.


Thousands died in Bhopal, but even as we looked at sightless eyes, we closed ours. Thousands are dying in Pakistan in the floods, we see them lunging out for food packets and drinking water and we turn the page.


But when a hundred die in a five star hotel it becomes history!


I was a hundred metres from VT station, at the Press Club when Kasab and gang attacked Mumbai. I saw the bloodstains on the floor, the pictures of cheap suitcases and luggage and yet I exploded with everyone else on the attack at the Taj.


Nobody cries for the poor who die, except a God above.


I can picture Saldana today as he walks around in a home above:


"What is this?"


"Your home Saldana!" says the angel.


"Am I supposed to be its watchman?"

"Oh no, not anymore, you own it!"


I remember him sleeping; did I even ask if he was sick? No, I didn't! And yet if a colleague of mine falls asleep at his desk, I would be all concern.


Do the poor of this world have to die before they are comforted and looked after, or can't we look at them, not as watchmen, garbage collectors and maidservants but as human beings, and start giving them some solace here on earth?


"Santana?" I had asked remembering the Woodstock band and the marathon drum solo.


"Saldana!" he'd said and that was the last I ever heard his voice.


bobsbanter@gmail.com

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

NEED FOR RESTRAINT

 

A reported act of sacrilege in the United States has served to add fat to the fire already raging in the Kashmir valley. It has also triggered tension in other parts of our Muslim-majority State. A "misguided individual" is said to have desecrated the holy Quran. Its telecast by an Iranian network was provocation enough for mobs to go on the rampage starting, it seems, with the Budgam district. An angry crowd set fire to the Tyndale Biscoe School in the scenic Tangmarg and torched several government offices. An attack was carried out on a police station. On the whole the Valley has ended up with an alarming highest death toll of 18 on a single day on Monday in the ongoing spell of violence that has almost invariably invited the police action. For the first time a policeman too has died in this about three-month long highly disturbed phase. Can one mistake justify the other? This is a question that obviously loses relevance as and when communal tempers run high. We are bewitched by religious fanaticism. Instead of isolating the trouble-maker we end up perpetuating his error. It is a self-destructive strategy. We in this sub-continent ought to have known it better than our counterparts in the rest of our continent and other continents. Alas, we refuse to learn from our previous bitter experiences. Some mischief-monger does something terribly wrong in one corner of the world. We are up in arms in another corner and damage our own house. How does the burning of a Christian school in this State harm that rabble-rouser in the US who may actually be laughing his heart out because his evil purpose has been served? If we take out our frustration on an institution just because it is of the same faith to which he may have belonged then clearly we can't say we are not guilty. 


We are equally to be blamed. Our response is an example of cutting off the nose to spite the face. We have frittered away our precious lives. We have razed to the ground to a school in which our children study and not of the aliens including those who have wicked designs on our State. It is no wonder that even Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is all for his religion, is stunned. If what has been attributed to him is to be believed, he has said: "I can understand that emotions of Kashmiri Muslims have been hurt by the desecration of Quran. But at the same time, we have to control our emotions and not create such a situation which could give chance to vested interests to defame Islam and our movement." Of course, we have to take any of his statements in this regard with a pinch of salt. For, he himself passionately believes only in the supremacy of his own creed along with whatever concessions it may provide to the followers of other faiths. It is not the first time that a Christian education institution has been targeted in the Valley. Earlier a principal of the Tyndale Biscoe School in Srinagar itself has been shot at in his chamber. Another school in Pulwama has been aimed at as well. At that time the matter was sorted out through discussions with clerics on both sides expressing their disapproval much like Mr Geelani has done on this occasion. Now, the problem has its genesis in a foreign land. The reality nevertheless is that there are elements among us who seize every chance to fish in our troubled waters. We have thus to be doubly cautious. First, we have to guard against those who are bent upon playing a mischief. Then, we have to isolate the others just wanting to multiply the effect of that mischief. 


If the harmonious human relations ever become a casualty it is because the majority of us keep silent when we ought to be standing up to be counted. Our muted reaction to violence in the name of religion amounts to merely paying a lip service to secularism. The exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from their homes and threats to the miniscule Sikh community ought to have opened our eyes. Evidently it is not so. We have opted to set our own house on fire when even the US is sufficiently embarrassed by what has happened on its soil. American ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer has rightly described the act as "disrespectful, intolerant, divisive and abhorrent." He has asserted: "The acts of this one individual are not representative of America and American values. These acts are well outside of the American mainstream and offend millions, including myself… America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings… One misguided American tearing pages from the holy Quran will not change this --- today, tomorrow, or ever." For its own peace and credibility especially in the Muslim world the US has to take exemplary action against the culprit. It can't be denied that presently there is wide mistrust between Uncle Sam and the followers of Islam leaving scope for one mischievous person to widen the gulf. On the other hand, we in this country may claim better understanding of all religions. Why should we then prove ourselves unworthy of our knowledge? We must observe restraint and do no further damage to our composite identity. There are, as an American observer has been quoted as having said, in every society some people who are "completely bonkers." Why should we fall in their trap? 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

DOUBLE MISTAKE

 

Indeed, it is galling to note that there has been mass copying during a paper in the B.Ed examinations in two colleges in our habitat. It is all the more shocking that the concerned staff including invigilators have actively connived in this extremely disturbing malpractice. In another instance in a college in Udhampur the B.Ed papers scheduled for September 16 and 23 are stated to have been wrongly opened. Again, it is a serious mistake. Put together these two happenings further expose the vulnerability of our examination system to mischief-makers on the one hand and non-application of mind on the other. We are already plagued by such evils as well-organised rackets of impersonation, theft of question-papers and tampering of not only answer-sheets but also marks' list. How long can we go on bearing with such glaring violations of sanctity of our academic life? We must eliminate them lock, stock and barrel.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SONIA GANDHI FACES DAUNTING TASKS

BY M K DHAR

 

Much praise has been heaped deservedly on Sonia Gandhi on the occasion of her election as Congress President for the fourth consecutive term, making her the longest serving Chief in the party's 125 year history. Her achievement in arresting the decline of the Congress after the post Babri free fall and make it the undisputed winner in 2009 is considerable in political terms. The self-invited decline of the disappointing Bharatiya Janata Party rule, which dismayed people who expected it to perform miracles, helped in the process of revival of the Congress. Ideologically at war with each other and with larger-than-life egos, the BJP leaders had relied on the hope that the party's religious appeal would vanquish all enemies. But that did not happen and still they show no sign of correcting themselves, thus rendering the party incapable of returning to power at the Centre in the near future.


Even though things look rosy for the Congress, its problems are still far from over. Its rivals are active, still unreconciled to its rise and striving their best to pull it down once again. The party faces major hurdles and daunting tasks ahead and its capacity for survival and ability to satisfy the people's aspirations will determine the road ahead. The decline of the BJP helped the Congress and Sonia Gandhi played her cards deftly and skillfully maneuvered it through tortuous paths, overcoming the many hurdles put in her way by her opponents who wanted to prevent her form taking roots in Indian politics and dominating it. The Congress return to power last year was as much a tribute to her organisational skills, deftness at winning and retaining allies but refusing to be blackmailed by them, particularly the Left parties which are still manipulated by external forces inimical to India.


The victory was helped by her government implementing many poor friendly strategies including rural employment guarantee, cheap food for below-the-poverty line people, women's empowerment and social sector and other areas extension, among others. After her husband Rajiv Gandhi's death the Congress was adrift and threatened to sink further. The polarisation brought about by Mandal-Mandir politics saw the party losing the crucial constituencies of Muslims, other Backward Classes and Dalits in north India, as well as, huge political spaces across states to rivals, mainly caste-based parties. Its catch-all appeal was blunted with the middle class, put off by the stink of corruption and compromises. The task confronting Sonia Gandhi, as she set out to resuscitate the moribund organisation, was truly Herculean and she handled it skillfully and with courage. 
Her re-election was essentially a one-horse race, establishing that she has emerged as the unchallenged leader, with appeal across the rank-and-file. In its 125 years the Congress has had 71 presidents, but only five of them women Annie Besant, Sarojini Naidu and Nelli Sengupta during the freedom struggle and Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi since Independence. Indira Gandhi took over during tempestuous times, strengthened the party with economic reforms, neutralised the Left and feudal elements, nationalised banks, abolished privy purses of the former maharajas and gave the slogan of "Garibi Hatao". Even after her defeat (a reaction to the thoughtless act of imposing Emergency) in 1977 she was back in power in two years with a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha.


Sonia Gandhi has not achieved that feat yet, but she has taken the party tally from 112 in 1998 to 206 in 2009, thus neutralising the doubting Thomases in the party and demoralising her opponents, particularly the BJP which saw its dream of returning to power shattered. She also curbed the national ambitions of several regional outfits, such as, the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati, Janta Dal and Nationalist Congress Party. While Sharad Pawar remains a firm ally, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav have pledged their support to the UPA government because they want to ensure that the BJP has little chance of coming back to power. In Indian politics, alliances make and break, so one is unsure of the future. But Sonia Gandhi's effort is to give the Congress an unassailable lead by winning the majority in the Lok Sabha in the next election in order to impart stability to governance and free it from the contrary pulls of the allies who have their own political agendas and harbour great ambitions.


In order to ensure the stability of the UPA Government which is now running its second five-year term, she has maintained an equilibrium in relations with the Prime Minister and has backed him to the hilt to curb the ambitions of some other hopefuls in the party who think Manmohan Singh is indecisive, particularly while dealing with issues of national security, terrorism, Pakistan, or even China which is making annoying moves all along the border. She relies on her trusted advisers for inputs on various aspects of policy and after securing opinions, often contradictory, comes to her own conclusions. She even struck a compromise on the caste census issue and shrewdly distanced herself from the RJD and SP in order to try to stage a come-back on her own in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. But, at the same time, she has been unable to check her party's slide in Orissa and Karnataka or a virtual revolt in Andhra Pradesh.


Although she has worked tirelessly to revive the Congress in states under opposition rule, she has met with only partial success. The promised organisational reforms have not been carried out, non involvement of grassroot workers persists and the youth are still hesitant to join the party despite Rahul Gandhi's appeal. Building an organisation from scratch is not an easy task, particularly in non-Congress states where the competing parties offer many allurements and have unlimited funds at their disposal to influence the voter in their favour. Though considerable progress has been made in UP towards the party's revial, in Bihar the situation is fluid. 
The price situation has soured the mood of the average voter and he may not vote for the Congress with any great enthusiasm in the October Bihar Assembly elections. These elections will be the first test of the success of the UPA's policies and of the initiatives by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to revive the party in the state. Of course, they will campaign intensively in Bihar to turn the tide, but the result of their effort may not get reflected in the results. Again, lack of organisational support for the poll effort is going to cost the Congress dearly Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been assiduously cultivating his constituency with many sops and has improved the law and order situation. The anti-Nitish Kumar vote will get divided between the Congress and the RJD-LJP combine, though the Congress hopes to improve its position.


Therefore, the Congress has still a long way to go to be able to return to power in 2014 on its own strength. Of course, there still are four years left for it to improve its stock and attraction to the voter, many challenges still lie ahead and Sonia Gandhi cannot afford to rest on her oars. (NPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

AFSPA--- A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE

BY B.L SARAF

 

The Armed Forces ( Special Powers) Act ( shortly the Act hereinafter ) was originally enacted in year 1958 for the states of Assam and Manipur. Then, in year 1972 its operation was extended to whole of the North Eastern part of the country. Prior to the Act, the President had promulgated, on 25th May 1958, ordinance of the same title for the same purpose .In 1983 the Parliament enacted The Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh ) Special Powers Act, to deal with the extra ordinary situation which had arisen there as a result of terrorist activities of the extremists and the secessionist elements. It was later extended to Jammu & Kashmir as The Armed Forces (Jammu &Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 and came into force on 5th July 1990. The aims and objects of the Act were outlined by the Delhi High Court in A.I.R 1983 Delhi 513, wherein it held,"… if the circumstances warranted by the historical background are examined a social purpose is fulfilled by the statute. This is permissible. The parliament was justified in enacting the Act and its action in doing so was just, fair and reasonable ". The Gauhati High Court, later on, endorsed this view in PUDR case . The legislation is , primarily ,intended to protect the strategic interests of the nation and quell the secessionist activities, which, initially ,surfaced in Nagaland and other parts of the North East, finally engulfed Punjab and J&K.


The Act is extraordinary piece of legislation to meet extraordinary situation .The experts on the insurgency tell us that to meet the challenge 'speed and surprise' are the best tools to be employed .The Act , surely , emphasizes the point . Whenever there is threat from the secessionists, a state can invoke Sec 3 of the Act and declare the whole or any part as disturbed ,so that it can requisition the armed forces to come to the aid of civil powers Sec 4 empowers any commissioned officer , non commissioned officer or any other person of an equivalent rank to open fire and cause death of any person who is overawing the government or acting in contravention of any law if, in his opinion, it is necessary to do so. Similarly ,he can destroy a premises if, in his opinion, it is used as ammunition dump or a shelter to the terrorist .The words "if necessary" are loaded with caution .According to Delhi High Court ,in the case referred above, no absolute and unguarded power has been conferred on the armed forces to kill and destroy property in every situation. Sec; 6 --Sec 7 in our case - grants immunity to the persons from legal actions who act in good faith to exercise the powers . The immunity is not unqualified, as alleged by the activists. If the central government feels so it can sanction prosecution of the erring person. With design, a myth is being created by making casual and fleeting remarks about the so called blanket powers of the armed forces to run amuck . Well, this is not unique or special to the Act . Analogous provisions are there in Sec 197 Cr P C , Sec 5 of Prevention of Corruption Act and some other enactments . If law grants some protection to an alleged corrupt public servant heavens won't fall if a brave soldier , who constantly puts his life in the firing line to let his country men live ,is saved from motivated and frivolous litigation .Sec 6 has a judicial approval . So has the Act in general .In the above referred case the Delhi High Court noted the need to ensure that the officers concerned do not have to face frivolous litigation for the acts done in due discharge of the duty. There is an orchestrated campaign developing to change the language of Sec 6 to allow for the prosecution of armed forces in all cases excepting where, "government is able to convince the courts other wise ." If allowed ,it would mean placing a cart ahead of the horse . It will defeat the very purpose . Once prosecution is launched the agony starts . This is of no use to say ,after years of litigation , that the accused had acted in good faith.


Some provisions of the Act , no doubt ,are stringent. But ,then ,so are certain provision in other laws like N D P S Act. When we understand what kind of situations they have to contend with the so called stringency pales into insignificance . For instance ,one deals with the highly motivated bigots, bent upon to tear the country apart , and the other battles the chronic drug peddlers and the drug users . They all are menace to the society .
In 1991, the Attorney General of India ,while presenting second periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee ,argued that AFSPA was a necessary measure to prevent secession of the North Eastern states .He said that a response to this agitation for secession had to be quick and appropriate .His other argument was that the Indian Constitution, in Article 355,casts a duty on the Central Government to protect the states from internal disturbance, and there is no duty under international law to allow secession
AFSPA is not the problem. Malaise lies somewhere else. Normally, it is the duty of civil authorities to maintain law and order and keep the subversive elements at a bay .However, when things go beyond the control of the civil power then , as an extraordinary measure ,help of the armed forces is sought .The Act is an enabling provision . It gives powers to the armed forces to act according to the situation without waiting for an authorization of the civil authorities. Their job becomes akin to that of the police official whose actions are well covered under the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code .In that event certain degree of immunity is conferred on the armed force. The problem, in deed, is the failure of the civil power to cope up with the situation. Speaking conversely, such an enormity is created by the insurgents and the subversives that it becomes impossible for the civil police to deal with . A problem is ,thus , created which calls for proper and effective medication .More serious a disease more is the need of a strong medicine The practitioners of the medicine tell us the stronger medication, sometimes , causes serious side effects . Unpleasant and highly irritating boils and lacerations, temporarily, develop on the body of a seriously ill when he is subjected to a strong dose of chemotherapy. The AFSPA, no doubt, administers a medicine of strong potency .Because , resort is had to it when the patient has fallen, near, terminally ill. Some unavoidable collateral reactions are bound to happen . To save the situation from becoming ugly the malady must be prevented from erupting . The prevention and cure of the disease of insurgency is the problem Application of AFSPA is , unavoidable, "irritating" part of the solution process. There fore, job of the state is to get rid of the menace of terrorism and subversion . Once that is done , the Act would stand taken care of . Let us not confuse solution with the problem .If the state could manage the internal security problem with its police force and does not call Army for this purpose AFSPA would become non operational. 


The efficacy of the Act , as also of the other laws which are meant to curb the armed militancy and make life safe for a law abiding citizen , is often questioned on most absurd grounds . It has become fashionable for the so called activists to say that half a century old application of AFSPA in the North East and its two decades operation in J&K has not helped to change the ground situation for the better . So , they argue for its annulment . The same absurd argument was made by these megaphones of the disruptive elements to denounce the anti terror laws like TADA and POTA .Political correctness is stretched to the ridiculous lengths. Well , presence of a penal law on the statute book would not ,ipso facto ,mean elimination of crime from the scene . Had it been so then all five hundred odd types of crimes , made punishable offences under the Indian Penal Code , would have vanished in thin air soon after Lord Macaulay gave us the Law . No body should fool himself in the belief that a penal law will make a society completely crime free .In the same way, no civil law can assure a litigation free ambience . Should, then, we pray for abrogation of all the laws as they are a drain on the public exchequer? Every law is likely to be misused. That does not mean it has lost the purpose. Laws make situations manageable and ensure certain degree of order in the society . Remember, we don't live in ideal times . Let these 'activists' put hands on their hearts and say where would have Naga land been and what could be the geographic contours of the North East had not the armed forces ,aided by AFSPA ,held the fort for India .It worked well in Punjab. Same can be said about its working in Kashmir , the recent stone pelting incidents not withstanding . A cursory look at the internet should make us aware how certain ' e ' media is mischievously bent upon to emphasize the diversity between Naga and Mainland culture and constantly stoke the fire of separatism .


The demand of revocation of the Act ,coming from the valley, is political and sounds clichéd .Even if revoked , nothing will change on the ground. It, certainly, won't satisfy those for whom the mother of all demands is 'Azadi'.There is, enormously, more in the demand than meets the eye .


It is true that no law works to the entire satisfaction of the public at large and that there is always a room for the improvement .This could be true of AFSPA as well .For that ,Justice Jeevan Reddy committee has submitted a report to the central government We hope some action is taken in the matter ,keeping in view the prevailing security scenario in the country .But let every one be cautious not to through the baby out with the bath water .It is the duty of the state to strike a balance between the democratic rights of a citizen and the safety of the national institutions , apart from ensuring the geographical stability of the country . Institutions are built to strengthen the democratic and an orderly political set up .Seen thus, the rights of an individual are always subservient to the good of the country. Therefore, on occasions, a citizen will have to bear with a little bit of collateral inconvenience.

 

(The author is former Principal Distt. And Session Judge)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSIONS AND THE TRUTH

BY UMASHANKAR JOSHI

 

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)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

QUOTA CONUNDRUM

HOODA AGAIN MISHANDLES SITUATION

 

HARYANA'S Hisar town witnessed escalated mob violence for the second day on Tuesday, leading to the imposition of curfew and deployment of the Army in the affected areas. The tragic incidents could have been avoided had the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government been a little more tactful and tough with people, who burned public and private property and blocked highways, causing inconvenience to the traveling public. Preventive arrests perhaps could have been helpful since the Jats had been threatening to disrupt Commonwealth Games and stop water and milk supplies to Delhi. Though the administration was quick to order an inquiry by the Divisional Commissioner of Hisar into the circumstances leading to the death of one person, it did not waste time in establishing the guilt of the district police chief, who has been booked for murder under Section 302 of the IPC.

 

This is unusual. While the arsonists were roaming free, the Superintendent of Police and his colleagues were taken to task. The strong action was perhaps intended to buy peace with the Jat protesters. That the Hooda government has been soft towards the Jats is clear from the way it had handled the Mirchpur Jat-Dalit clash in which a Dalit and his daughter lost their lives. The government was pulled up by the Supreme Court for its laxity in arresting the accused. When Khap Panchayats were issuing death threats to young lovers of the same gotra planning marriage and courts were issuing orders for the safety of the victims, Mr Hooda made sympathetic noises about the importance of this age-old, Jat-dominated institution.

 

Caste-based reservations and politics of appeasement are inflaming passions resulting in such incidents. Opinion may be divided whether the Jats deserve reservations, but a fast-growing Haryana should not find it difficult to meet the economic aspirations of its people. Only the political leadership will have to rise above caste politics and ensure that fruits of development are evenly distributed.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

FEW OPTIONS IN KASHMIR

IT'S TIME FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO GET TOUGH

 

WHILE New Delhi gropes for a prescription to restore normalcy in the Kashmir Valley, it should be painfully evident that there are very few options before the government. In the event, the cabinet has rightly decided to convene an All-Party meeting on Wednesday to take stock of the situation and try to build a political consensus over the course it is likely to take. While the Prime Minister has repeatedly reiterated his readiness to talk to anyone on the legitimate aspirations of Kashmiris, and although he has been forthright in asserting that the grievances of Kashmiri youth need to be addressed, he has been badly let down by political leaders of the Valley. Rather than strengthen the PM's position, their encouragement of senseless violence and provocative actions have, quite unnecessarily, closed the door to dialogue. Any kind of talk with separatists is no longer an option. Nor does the government have much choice but to continue with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act ( SPA). Dilution of the Act at this point would not only be counter-productive but would also be interpreted as New Delhi's weakness, besides giving a fillip to a similar demand in North-eastern states.

 

It's time for New Delhi to signal that its patience has worn thin and that it cannot be taken for granted. Separatist leaders need to give a commitment on maintaining normalcy as a pre-requisite for talks. Even the political and economic package for the state, that the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been pressing for, must wait till the situation simmers down. While New Delhi must address the governance-deficit and the trust-deficit in the state that the official statement on Monday alluded to, it would be a colossal mistake to dilute the authority of Abdullah junior. The young Chief Minister has reasons to feel frustrated and he rightly feels that he has been pushed to the ring with one of his arms tied behind his back. He needs to be given the support that he needs.

 

While the government must take a long-term view of the discontent, alienation and restlessness that one sees in the Valley, the opposition needs to resist the temptation of scoring political points over the sensitive issue. That is because the nation cannot afford to speak in different voices on how to deal with the challenges in the Valley.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TACKLING CORRUPTION

MOILY'S DIATRIBE AGAINST BABUS UNFAIR

 

UNION Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily's diatribe against the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) and the then Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) for their so-called "failure" in tackling corruption is unfair. Propriety demands that a Minister should refrain from criticising another constitutional functionary, that too in a forum like the Central Information Commission, yet another constitutional office. The Minister may be right in referring to the CAG's delay in drawing attention to the innumerable scams. He has also said that timely intervention by the CAG and the CVC would have saved most of these scams. He was perhaps referring to the 2G spectrum scandal on which the Supreme Court has now issued a notice to Union Telecommunications Minister A. Raja to respond in 10 days. But who has prevented a speedy probe into these scams? Mr Moily's Law Ministry itself.

 

It is common knowledge how the Law Ministry, in response to a query from the Telecommunications Ministry last month, said that the CAG and the CVC could probe cases of corruption but not the government's policy decisions. Apparently, while the Law Ministry has gone by the letter and not the spirit of the law, policies have been tweaked to facilitate corruption. Clearly, it would be unfair to blame the CAG alone for the malaise. Corruption has permeated the system so much that the CAG and the CVC will find it difficult to eradicate the problem without the government's wholehearted support to fight against it.

 

The Law Minister has lambasted the then CVC, Mr Pratyush Sinha, for having called "every third Indian corrupt". Mr Moily may be right, but why single out Mr Sinha alone for the slow pace of investigation? He did his best in putting 123 IAS, IPS and IFS officers under the scanner during his tenure as the CVC, but the very system is such that it takes a long time to bring tainted civil servants to justice. Since certain forms of punishment cannot be awarded once the officer retires, a timely reference to the Union Public Service Commission (which is mandatory) at least six months in advance of his/her retirement is desirable to expedite action against the officer concerned. It is also time to revisit Article 311 of the Constitution that mandates prior permission from the government to prosecute a corrupt civil servant. Surely, the corrupt bureaucrats deserve no leniency or constitutional protection.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

CRISIS IN THAILAND

RECONCILIATION PLAN NEEDED FOR HEALING THE WOUNDS

BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA

 

FOUR months after the bloody military crackdown against the mainly rural-based Red Shirt barricades in the heart of town, centered around the busy Ratchaprasong intersection, Bangkok is not the same any more. Ninety-one persons were killed, 2,000 wounded and the Red Shirt protests cost $ 1 billion in business. Still business is slowly picking up.

 

The national broadcasting television channel where the youthful Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva goes for his weekly chat show has been attacked thrice with grenades, fortunately targeting more publicity than physical damage. In addition to these random acts of terrorism, a full-blown Islamist insurgency in the south of the country keeps the Army busy defusing IEDs, chasing insurgents and taking casualties.

 

The Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES), the nodal security agency engaged in restoring normalcy and hunting down former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Red Shirt supporters, has identified nearly 500 vulnerable places in Bangkok which are being kept under 24-hour watch. The national emergency has not been revoked from several provinces in the North which is the Red Shirt bastion. In Udan Thani province for example, the police is scouting for culprits who burnt down the Municipal Hall but left the King's portrait intact.

 

The King in Thailand like the King in Nepal a few years ago is worshipped as God and his supporters, as also those of the ruling alliance are generally identified by yellow — the colour of their head and wrist bands and T shirts. The all-powerful monarch is sick and has maintained an unusual silence over the events of the past months.

 

Thailand has seen 27 Prime Ministers, 18 constitutions and 24 coups since constitutional monarchy was introduced in 1923. Like Nepal and Bhutan, it was never colonised though it became the main base for the US war in Vietnam. Politics like elsewhere in this part of the world is a murky business. The powerful Army and police are completely politicised, virtually a state within a state, though ostensibly under civilian political control.

 

On several occasions, the King has mediated between the civil and military to restore constitutional control but the seeds of militarisation and politicisation are sown early at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School — the grooming ground of the military. The current unrest is symptomatic of a deeper malaise — of a potential civil war between the North and South, the haves and the have-nots, boiling down to bright colours. The Red versus Yellow power struggle simmering since 2006 came to a head earlier this year when fugitive, former Prime Minister Shinawatra who is wanted on several counts of corruption, led through video, his Red Shirts into a confrontation. Under pressure, the government offered fresh elections in 10 months, an opportunity they spurned demanding immediate polls.

 

Without experienced negotiators, the Red Shirts missed an opportunity to test their popularity at the hustings. The earliest an election is expected now is April 2011, giving the government and its allies the time to reclaim political space lost to the opposition.

 

The ruling Democrats have won handsomely the recent district and council elections in Bangkok, reflecting a new-found voter confidence in the party and alliance. This mandate has to be tested in the rural heartland where Thais voted hugely for Mr Shinawatra during the last elections.

 

Virtually leaderless without Mr Shinawatra, the former People's Alliance for Democracy and its new avatar, the New Politics Party (NPP) is unsure about its electoral and street strategies. Dispelling rumours of his ill-health, Bangkok newspapers last week released pictures of Mr Shinawatra shaking hands with Mr Nelson Mandela. Montenegro, one of the countries which have given billionaire Shinawatra citizenship, has assured Thailand that it will take action against him if Interpol puts Shinawatra on its wanted list.

 

Earlier, neighbour Cambodia with whom Thailand has a border dispute even over the renowned Preah Vihar temple, had the temerity to appoint Mr Shinawatra as the country's economic advisor, a post he still holds. Over the last two months, Mr Shinawatra has kept a low profile, including not tweeting for one month, as part of a change of strategy to convince his detractors that Thai court verdicts against him for abuse of power and corruption were politically motivated. While the Maoists in Nepal emulated unsuccessfully the Shinawatra model of power grab from the streets, Mr Shinawatra himself seems to be veering around towards the Nepali Maoist successful choice of electoral politics, laced with low levels of violence. He wants his critics to stop accusing him of being disloyal to monarchy, the most revered institution in Thailand. Detractors of the government have alleged that the rash of bombing incidents are being staged by the establishment to keep the emergency in place and hounding the Red Shirts. The perils of the emergency decree have affected press freedom and increased the visibility of soldiers on the streets.

 

Echoing the fears of the government, Chief of Army-designate Gen Prayanth Chanocha has said that the ongoing political instability would "fall in the way of his aim of keeping Army out of politics". Such a routine statement in Thailand by an Indian General is unthinkable. The annual reshuffle of the military takes place on October 1 in Bangkok. As many as 550 Army and Police appointments are changed at the stroke of the midnight hour.

 

General Chanocha has ensured that all his Class 12 mates at the Armed Forces Academies are elevated to Army Commanders. Only one General was overlooked for promotion as he had refused to join the Army crackdown to disperse the Red Shirts in May this year.

 

The most talked about case among the military is the one involving former Russian Army officer, Victor Bout, a big fish in the arms transfer business. He was arrested following a US sting operation in Bangkok about sale of weapons to Colombian FARC rebels. Mr Bout, apparently, knows how weapons reached the Taliban and the terrorists in Yemen and Somalia and is, therefore, sought in the US and Russia. America has invoked the US-Thai extradition treaty but an appeals court in Bangkok has turned it down. Reconciliation between Red and Yellow Shirts is a far cry, but people want to get on with their lives. First it was 'Remaking Ratchaprasong'. Now it is 'Bangkok Getting Ahead'. Mere slogans will not help. Fortunately, the Thai economy has shown remarkable resilience to short-term political shocks. Like in Sri Lanka, political violence has not had strong impact on growth. The economy grew at 9.1 per cent in the second quarter of this fiscal and is expected to stabilise around 8 per cent, the best since 1995.

 

The risks remain: three bomb attacks in one month are a big deterrent to tourism the country's biggest foreign exchange earner. In Shanghai last week, Mr Vejjajiva made a bid to host the 2020 World Expo at the same time as political parties called for reconciliation. Healing the political wounds requires a reconciliation plan and the Royal touch. The King could grant a Royal pardon to Mr Shinawatra to usher in a peace process towards political stability. It is not asking for the moon.

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

LIFE COMES FULL CIRCLE

BY SAI R. VAIDYANATHAN

 

HER wobbly feet could not hold her upright and she fell on the floor. I rushed to pick her up and put her in bed. She smiled and held on to two of my fingers that she could retain in her grip.

 

My wife heard the commotion and came running from the kitchen with tears in her eyes, but she stopped in the tracks when she saw her in my arms.

 

When she closed her eyes, I scanned the places where she could have hurt herself due to the fall and found that she had bruised herself on the knee. Her eyes winced in pain as I applied some ointment.

 

Her bright eyes followed anyone and everyone who moved about in her room and talking to her would elicit answers sometimes in monosyllables or nods and shakes of the head, but mostly in silence.

 

My wife and I took turns taking care of her — I, before I went to work, and she, in my absence. The routine was the same — feed her, clean her, bathe her, tuck her in bed.

 

Like children, she had an attitude and loads of cajoling was needed to bring her to our point of view. Feeding her was a task in itself as she would tightly clench her jaws if she didn't want to eat. This forced us time and again to nudge at her chubby cheeks or distract her with some small talk. Her lack of teeth made her take semisolid food, but juices and milk were the things she preferred.

 

That was my granny — full of life and a pillar of strength for the family for decades. But the clock had turned full circle and now, we were making efforts to do to her what she had done for my father and me without much effort.

 

Countless times had she fed my father and changed his nappies and years later, when I was born, her overflowing love gave her the strength to do all that to me — though with shaking hands.

 

It wasn't literacy that she relied on to manage the household efficiently, but her common sense and wisdom. Payments to the milkman, grocery shop, watchman, vegetable vendor, washerman happened on time without a hitch for more than half a century until she found all this was taking a toll on her health.

 

My wife, who now shouldered the burden, realised in no time the enormity of the job that the eldest member of the clan was taking care of without an additional wrinkle on the forehead.

 

Time managed to weaken her body, but not her spirit. Seeing our sad faces, she would say, "I still have the strength to fly to God's feet."

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

 

MISTAKES: OUR LIFE-LONG COMPANION

WE MAKE MISTAKES AND MAKE THEM EVERY DAY, BUT ARE LOATH TO ADMIT THEM. INDEED, THOSE WHO ADMIT MAKING ISTAKES ARE RIDICULED, RARELY TRUSTED AND OFTEN PITIED. BUT ISN'T IT THE RIGHT WAY TO ACKNOWLEDGE MISTAKES AND TAKE CORRECTIVE ACTION ?

JOHANN HARI

 

HERE is a series of questions that should be fairly straight-|forward, but are actually excruciating. When were you last wrong? What has been your personal life?

 

We all have a weird and paradoxical relationship with our mistakes. We can see that everyone around us makes errors all the time - yet we are always astonished when it turns out we are getting things wrong too. It is because, deep down, we see being wrong as shameful proof that we have been sloppy, or stupid.

 

This belief pervades our culture: we applaud the public figures who stay the course, even if it is wrong, and boo the ones who admit a mistake and make a U-turn or does a flip-flop. But what if - apologies for the irony landslide here - we are wrong in the whole way we think about being wrong?

 

A brilliant new manifesto has just been published urging us to reassess our relationship with our own mistakes: Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by the American journalist Kathryn Schulz.

 

Perhaps the best place to start her story is with an experiment first staged in the University of Berlin in 1902 by Professor Frank Von Liszt. In a classroom, two students began to have an angry argument, until one pulled out a gun. As the panicked students around them drew back, a professor tried to intervene - and a shot was fired. The professor collapsed to the ground.

 

The witnesses, unaware that all three were actors following a script, were then taken outside and quizzed about what they had seen and heard. They were encouraged to give as much detail as possible.

 

Everyone got it wrong. They put long monologues into the mouths of spectators who had said nothing; they heard the row as being about a dozen different imagined subjects, from girlfriends to debts to exams; they saw blood everywhere, when there was none. Most people got a majority of their facts wrong, and even the very best witness offered a picture that was 25 per cent fiction.

 

The more certain the witness, the more wrong they were. Every time the experiment is run, the results are the same.

 

The implications are pretty startling. Human beings can't even accurately describe an event of great importance that we have just witnessed with our own eyes. What does that suggest about our ability to be easily right about much more complex questions ? In American Pastoral, Philip Roth calls life, an astonishing farce of misperception. Our abilities to perceive and reason are painfully limited, while the world is unutterably complex. We are peering at an entire universe through a drinking straw.

 

So the meaningful question about any human being isn't : does he get things wrong? With these limitations, we will all make big mistakes. The real question is: does he take the time to understand his mistakes and learn from them ? But you can only do this regularly if you know how to think about mistakes in a healthy way.

 

There are a few areas of human life where people have found a way to do this. Revealingly, they are the areas that make things work better than any other - the sciences. To pluck one example out of millions, when Barry Marshall and Robin Warren proposed that stomach ulcers were caused by bacterial infections in the 1980s, almost all scientists disagreed. Now, after conclusive tests, everyone agrees.

 

It is not that scientists have less ego than the rest of us, or feel less sting when they are proven wrong. It is that they have developed rigorous techniques for constantly checking their claims against the evidence, and ruthlessly hunting out their errors and figuring out what they mean.

 

This approach can be extended. After two planes collided at Tenerife airport in 1977, killing 600 people, the airline industry introduced radical new protocols. Crew and ground members are now actually rewarded for reporting their own errors and screw-ups. The result ? Accidents fell dramatically, from 0.178 per million flight hours to 0.I04.

 

Now compare that to the way we conduct public life. One of the most predictable applause lines for any politician is to boast that he won't back down, look back or say sorry. Tony Blair wasn't unusual when he bragged: I can only go one way, I've got no reverse gear. But a car without a reverse gear would be banned from the roads.

 

Yet we have structured our public life so this seems like a sensible statement, while anyone who ever admits a mistake is talking themselves out of a job. You can hear the carping interviewers now: How can we ever trust you again, if you were wrong about this ? We make it easier to continue in error than to admit error and put it right.

 

If we want to face up to our mistakes more regularly, then we need to change the way we think about them. If we see them as proof of our own incompetence, we will continue to puff out our chests and pretend they aren't there. Is there a different way ?

 

Error is an essential step in the process of finding the right answer. Every scientist leaves behind a trail of disproven hypotheses and papers shot to pieces by colleagues. He doesn't see them as shameful, but as part of a process that was bringing him closer to the truth through experimentation.

 

Similarly, James Joyce, thinking about all the drafts he wrote that failed, said, "a man's errors are his portals of discovery".

 

But error may be even more fundamental than that. From the moment we are born, human beings are creating theories about the world, based on limited evidence. It's how we survived: if our ancestors hadn't generalised that all lions are dangerous, you wouldn't be reading this. Errors are often simply this necessary impulse reaching too far, or misfiring. So the impulse that makes us wrong is also the impulse that makes us human.

 

Since reading Schultzis book, I have been trying harder to train myself to think systematically about my own mistakes. Every week, I make a list of what I have got wrong, personally or professionally, and try to figure out how to get it right next time. I can't entirely drain the pain from it but I do think there's a hunger out there for this approach: the most positive reaction I have ever had to a column was when I tried to publicly explore how I had got the Iraq war so horribly wrong.

 

What I learned from that awful mistake - the true factors that drive US and UK foreign policy, rather than propaganda claims - have led me, I think, to positive insights since. If I had instead run from the error and insisted it wasn't there, I would be stuck in a bloody blind alley, devoid of insights.

 

Tim Harford of Radio 4's More or Less has suggested an annual prize for the politician who makes the most constructive admission of error. It'd be a good start - but we will best seek a healthier approach to error in public life when we achieve it in ourselves.

 

You will get something wrong today, and tomorrow, and every day of your life. So will I, and everybody you know. You don't have a choice about being wrong sometimes: mistakes will be your life-long companion. But you do have a choice about whether to approach your error in terror , so you suppress, ignore and repeat it - or to make it your honest, open ally in trying to get to the truth.

 

— The Independent

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PEOPLE NEED TO BE NUDGED, OR DO THEY ?

WE DO NOT ALWAYS MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE. DOES THE STATE, THEN, NEED TO NUDGE US TO THE RIGHT DIRECTION ?

CHRISTINA PATTERSON

 

STICK a bowl of cashew nuts in front of your dinner guests and they might eat so many that they spoil their dinner. Take the bowl away and they'll nudge. The Nudge Theory was developed by a couple of American academics who have also found favour at the White House.

 

Richard Thaler is a Professor of "Behavioural Science and Economics" and director of "Centre for Decision Research". Cass Sunstein is a Professor of Jurisprudence. Together, the pair are, according to the cover of their book, hot stuff.

 

Nudge first caught British Prime Minister David Cameron's attention when it was published two years ago, and was swiftly placed on a recommended (but not, one assumes, compulsory) reading list for Tory MPs.

 

It wouldn't be quite fair to describe the cashew nuts as Newton's 'apple' of nudge theory (that honour should probably go to the houseflies etched on the urinals at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam which apparently "nudged" men into urinating a bit more precisely, and are now almost more famous than the book), but the cashew nuts are certainly the key.

 

When Thaler plonked the bowl in front of his guests at a dinner party, watched them stuff themselves and then, worrying that his haute cuisine would be wasted, whisked it away, he appears to have undergone a eureka moment. His guests thanked him for his intervention and then (being economists) mused on how it was possible to be happier, now that their choices had been reduced.

 

Some of us (particularly those of us who, if faced with a barrel of kettle chips, would probably eat them until we literally dropped dead) have no problem at all understanding why his guests would be happier once released from the prison of their dinner-wrecking greed, but these, we must remember, were Americans. This was the land of the free (and the freedom fry), the land where it's more important to be able to carry a gun than to have fewer people murdered, and it's more important to be free not to pay for healthcare insurance than to help keep millions of your low-income neighbours alive.

 

This, presumably, is why the rather obvious point that people don't always make brilliant choices, and it's possible to give them a little "nudge" in the right direction, without resorting to anything as Stalinist as state intervention, is presented as if it were the lost symbol that humanity has been awaiting.

 

We are all, say the hot duo, "choice architects", making choices for ourselves, and making choices that will affect other people's choices.

 

Nudge is a very lively read, and you can certainly see that sitting around discussing its ideas would be a whole lot more fun than ejecting people from their council houses or snatching away their jobs (although, to be fair, Cameron and Clegg manage to make that look like great fun, too).

 

David Cameron hasn't suggested suspending laws about seat belts, drink-driving, or smoking in public buildings - horrible infringements of liberty though these all are. He hasn't suggested the abolition of the congestion charge. He has, however, endorsed his Transport Secretary's end to "the war on motorists". In Oxfordshire, the speed cameras have already been switched off. Speed cameras, according to the Department of Transport's own statistics, reduced fatal accidents by 42 per cent.

 

But freedom, as Donald Rumsfeld once said in another context, is messy. The context, of course, was the Iraq war, a war which our Cameron supported, but which his deputy thinks was a war crime. But let's not talk about that. Let's talk instead about etching houseflies on urinals.

 

— The Independent

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

THE BIG DA BANGG THEORY

SALMAN KHAN STOPS TRYING TO ACT AND CONQUERS THE COUNTRY WITH A STARTLINGLY STUPID FILM

 

As a cursory glance at the box office will tell you, we all watched Dabangg this weekend. The film has been unanimously toasted, and a big bravo to Salman Khan for flexing his megastardom and tearing the shirt off the industry's pretentions. With a sneering invincibility invoking Lord Rajnikanth himself, Khan swaggers and struts his way through the film, that thin line of hair above his lip acting like Superman's spit-curl and endowing him with whistle-provoking screen presence. It's the kind of thing our Bollywood men haven't experienced in decades, and Khan pulls it off like only he can, unencumbered by the need to act. 

Abhinav Singh Kashyap, not so much. Dabangg is unashamed, unapologetic, unpretentious – all laudable assets – but did it also have to be so goddamned unintelligent? The film had such magnificent potential, a throwback to the cheesy cinema of the 80s riding on the shoulders of a superstar who'd guarantee it an audience. There was room for irony, wit, awesomeness, injokes, but the debutant director seems careful not to have anything to do with the word clever – save perhaps a nod to Mohammed Hanif's fantastic first novel – laying out a story so bloody plotless and coming up with a film that is nothing but background for Salman to trample on. 

And that's just pathetic. A tribute to a lost era of cinema is all very well, but you absolutely have to bring something new to the table. Om Shanti Om did it with elan, heading into the seventies and borrowing framework and plotpoints from the era, but also giving us a bona fide romantic comedy with heart and very distinct identity. Tashan is as 80s as cinema gets, with some brilliant moments as a Ramayana narrative is threaded through a bizarre action movie. This film, on the other hand, falls on the side of movies like Wanted: there may as well have been no script, with everything being superstar indulgence. 

But, you might counter, it works. The film is a blast, people are having fun in theatres, and it's full-on paisa vasool entertainment that delivers exactly what it promises. True that, but it had the promise of more. It isn't a take on 80s cheese, it 'is' 80s cheese. Except there's one critical difference: there is no plot. Our worst films from two decades ago were hammy, melodramatic, overthe-top, blatantly manipulative – but you couldn't fault them for a lack of storyline. From revenge to reincarnated siblings to evil thakurs to family feuds to impostors to amnesia, the films of the 80s, if anything, were immensely, claustrophobically plot-heavy. 

In Dabangg, even a dying mother doesn't really matter. The Aviator sunglasses, on the other hand, do. Anurag Kashyap, who recently tweeted a picture of himself with Quentin Tarantino, has praised his brother's film highly, and said it's the kind of film Tarantino would have made in India. Well, he might know Quentin better than us mere mortals, and while the worst of Tarantino's frames can be criticised for too much self-indulgence, show me one shot that's predictable. Dabangg could have been an iconic, subversive classic. It ended up a poor joke, one that had no business being longer than a 20-minute YouTube shot. This isn't a throwback, it's a throwbehind, a film that celebrates the very worst of our cinema and revels in its awfulness. The star works without question, but the film is a monstrosity. 

 

And yet we celebrate it, because people are dancing in the aisles and throwing coins on multiplex screens. First Ghajini, then Wanted, and now this. This film has guaranteed that twice a year for the foreseeable future, a megastar will be foisted upon us in a shameless and harebrained assault on the senses. And this just when we thought we had left that cinema behind. Groan.

 

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EDITORIAL

TIME TO LOOK AHEAD

RBI IS APPROACHING ROAD'S END ON RATE HIKE

 

In an ideal world, central bankers should be "forward-looking", as the cliché goes, and should base policy decisions on their assessment of future inflation and growth rather than dwell on the past. In the real world, however, they tend to be guided by the ebb and flow of macroeconomic data that, by their very nature, relate to the past. It is thus unlikely that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will ignore the two key data releases of the past fortnight — the index of industrial production and inflation — in deciding its policy stance in the first ever mid-period monetary policy review due this week. Both data points, incidentally, would make a case for more monetary tightening. Industrial growth for July that printed at 13.8 per cent in last Friday's release beat even the most optimistic expectation by a mile, suggesting that the manufacturing sector has lost none of its traction. Wholesale-price inflation for August clocked 9.5 per cent or 8.5 per cent, depending on whether one goes by the old WPI (with 1993-94 as base) or the revised index (with 2004-05 as base) that was released for the first time yesterday. Both inflation rates were way above the 5 per cent level that RBI targets. The global environment seems a little less intimidating than what it was even a month ago and that should give the central bank more headroom to push up rates without adverse consequences for capital flows and financial stability. Data from China released last week suggest that it is regaining some of its traction. US private sector employment data released earlier in the month were also encouraging.

 

That said, some caveats are in order. For one, the objective of monetary policy is to ensure a "soft landing" or a judicious balance between growth and inflation, not smother growth altogether. Liquidity in the money markets has been tight due to a combination of a large current account gap (and barely adequate capital inflows) and a subdued money multiplier. Banks seem to be on the verge of hiking lending rates spurred on by rising deposit costs. If monetary policy is seen to be too aggressive, the quantum of increase could be uncomfortably high in the coming months and that, in turn, could hurt growth. Besides, while industrial growth for July was indeed impressive, it relied heavily on the capital goods component that grew by a stupendous 63 per cent that month. This component of the index has been known to be extremely volatile and a number of economists point out that July's growth was perhaps an aberration. Industrial growth could, they point out, moderate going forward. The same holds for inflation that certainly seems high for the moment but is likely to come down going forward on the back of softer agricultural prices and a favourable base effect. Finally, the global economy remains somewhat uncertain and favourable data for a month does not necessarily mean that the worst is behind us. Given these riders, the best course of action for RBI might be to hike rates a tad (a quarter of a percentage point in repo and reverse repo rates perhaps) but clearly indicate that it is nearing the end of the cycle of relentless hikes of the past few months. That would make it a truly "forward-looking" central bank.

 

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

RIP VAN ANTONY

DEFENCE MINISTER WAKES UP TO NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD

 

India's Defence Minister A K Antony has woken up. Addressing the annual combined commanders' conference this week, Mr Antony said that India needs to keep abreast of "military modernisation" in its neighbourhood to ensure that India's armed forces "hold an edge in the region". India, Mr Antony said, "cannot lose sight of the fact that China has been improving its military and physical infrastructure. In fact, there has been an increasing assertiveness on the part of China." Good morning, Mr Antony, welcome to India's new neighbourhood. Under Mr Antony's watch, India's defence expenditure (defex) to national income ratio slipped below 2 per cent for the first time since the war with China in 1962. In 2008-09, the defex/GDP ratio was 1.95 per cent, a level India recorded last in the late 1950s, when Mr Antony's infamous predecessor, the late V K Krishna Menon, was presiding over the nation's defences with disastrous consequences. The defex/GDP ratio has continuously declined in recent years, from around 2.9 per cent to less than 2 per cent. It is only in the last year that the ratio has moved up to 2.3 per cent. Even this is way below the 3 per cent level defined as an "adequate" level of expenditure in India's first ever Strategic Defence Review prepared by the National Security Advisory Board in 2000. China spends over 7 per cent of its much higher GDP on defence.

 

It is not just China's military modernisation that India must take note of, but also China's strategic investments in India's neighbourhood, including the Indian Ocean region, and the military assistance that Pakistan has been getting from the United States, China and Saudi Arabia. The war in Afghanistan-Pakistan, rise of China and growing military build-up in the Indian Ocean region by all maritime powers have altered India's security environment in the past few years. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh famously said, it is not the intentions of each of the players that matter, or ought to matter, but the capabilities. India cannot remain oblivious to the growing strategic capabilities of its neighbours and others in its neighbourhood.

 

 In the face of such worrying changes, the government of the United Progressive Alliance has adopted a lackadaisical approach to investment in the country's military modernisation and defence preparedness. All the three services — army, navy and air force — are in dire need of additional funding. Securing budgetary support is not the real problem. Even when allocations have been made, the defence ministry has been unable to spend. This is partly due to the ministry's reduced capacity to handle complex equipment acquisition processes, and partly due to its reticence. Human resources at the defence ministry, from top to bottom, are in dire need of upgradation. The government must also open up the defence equipment industry to private sector players to improve the productivity of public spending at home

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BUSINESS STANDARD

HOW NOT TO EXIT AFGHANISTAN

ALIGNING INDIA WITH LONG-STANDING PAKHTOON ASPIRATIONS MAY BE A POTENTIALLY POTENT LEVER

SHYAM SARAN

 

At the recently concluded annual conference of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in Geneva (September 10-12, 2010), Henry Kissinger had a telling comment on the "exit strategy" being pursued by the US and its allies in Afghanistan. He said that the focus appeared to be more on exit and less on strategy. His strategy for a viable solution? A regional compact among key stakeholders that effectively sanitised Afghanistan from regional and great power competition. This would effectively give the country a neutral status, guaranteed by the international community and respected by the country's neighbours.

This sounds attractive but, in the present context, is not viable. It is important to recognise this because then for India the challenge will not be how to become part of some such exit strategy but rather how not to exit Afghanistan under different scenarios. Let us see why the Kissingerian strategy is unlikely to succeed.

 

 One, the stakeholders in this proposed compact must, at the minimum, include Afghanistan's close neighbours such as Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and, of course, the US as the dominant occupying power. Whoever takes the lead on this, the US will have to at least acquiesce in a major Iranian role, precisely at a time when it is leading an international sanctions regime against that country over its nuclear programme. I consider this unlikely.

 

Two, the Chinese position is problematical. There is a belief in some quarters that China may be positively inclined towards this proposal because of its fear over a spillover of Islamic irredentism into the adjoining Chinese province of Xinjiang. Chinese concerns are being exaggerated. China had no reservations in dealing with the previous Taliban regime in Kabul. It may also consider a Pakistani-dominated Taliban regime a better insurance for the pursuit of its interests in the country than a neutral dispensation. After all, Pakistan has always been extraordinarily sensitive to Chinese interests.

 

Three, US calculations are not entirely clear. The recent western projection of the Afghan Taliban, or elements of it, as possibly obscurantist but nevertheless nationalistic and hence acceptable as part of governance structures in Kabul, is one strand in American thinking. Another is the possibility of conceding de facto control of southern Afghanistan to the Taliban, while retaining a strong, deterrent presence in the rest of the country. This would suggest a somewhat more circumscribed "exit strategy" than is often assumed. The US may have objectives that go beyond the defeat of Al Qaeda. It may wish to retain a strong and enduring presence in non-Pushtun areas which enable it to counter Iran, Russia as well as China in Central Asia. Neutrality or even non-alignment for Afghanistan would go against such calculations.

 

Finally, it is doubtful that Pakistan would play ball. The enduring fear in Pakistan has been the possible erasure of the Durand Line as the frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan with the resurgence of a cross-border Pakhtoon movement, encompassing southern Afghanistan, the erstwhile North West Frontier Province (now renamed Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa) as well as Pathan-dominated areas of Balochistan. Despite its reliance on Pakistani goodwill and support, the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar did not accept the Durand Line. The nervous reaction in Pakistan to Ambassador Blackwill's advocacy of a de facto partition of Afghanistan between a southern Pushtun and possibly Taliban-ruled entity and a non-Pushtun remainder, derives from this anxiety about an irresistible tide of Pakhtoon nationalism, especially at a time when central control over an ethnically diverse and now economically ravaged country is becoming increasingly tenuous. Pakistan may well demand, as its price, an Afghan and international recognition and guarantee of the Durand Line. No Afghan government is likely to concede that.

 

India, therefore, should really be crafting a strategy to retain a strong presence in Afghanistan and even augment it, irrespective of what other actors decide to do. This is dictated by the need to prevent the country from once again degenerating into a base for jihadi terrorism against India. It is also an useful platform for India's engagement with Central Asia. India does have convergent interests with some of the stakeholders, both within Afghanistan and including some of its neighbours like Iran and Russia. At the very least, there are those who, like India, cannot accept a fundamentalist Sunni-dominated regime in Kabul. We need to help coalesce them together in the pursuit of our shared interests.

 

We must be mindful of the tendency among some of our western friends to offer concessions at the expense of India in a dubious attempt to buy Pakistan's support of their "exit strategy", however this may be defined. A British participant at the conference wondered whether it would not be wise for India to close its consulates in Afghanistan and retain only its embassy in Kabul, in order to "get Pakistan off your (India's) back". This is more like getting India off Pakistan's back! We should dispel the notion, widely held among the western strategic community, that India's presence and involvement in Afghanistan has been made possible thanks to the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF's) security cover and, therefore, it should not be allowed a "free ride" at the expense of western interests. These includes assuaging Pakistani security concerns vis-a-vis India, however paranoid they may be. The reality is that we have been able to sustain a significant presence in Afghanistan and earn considerable goodwill, including in Pushtun areas, precisely because we have been careful not to be associated with ISAF activities, but operate strictly on a bilateral basis with the Afghan government.

 

India should also revisit its position on the Durand Line. It may be worthwhile for us to signal that we do not necessarily recognise the Durand Line as a legitimate frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Aligning India with long-standing Pakhtoon aspirations may be a potentially potent lever to use as the new version of the Great Game unfolds in our neighbourhood.

 

The author is a former foreign secretary and currently senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CCI WINS A 'COMPETITION'

THE SUPREME COURT HAS SET DEADLINES FOR COMPLETING PROBES AND PASSING FINAL ORDERS TO HELP COMPANIES IN THE DOCK

M J ANTONY

 

The Competition Commission of India that was born in five-year-long smouldering litigation became a rare litigant before the Supreme Court as soon as it learned to walk. The new-found regulator dragged its own appellate tribunal to the court and walked back with more muscles in its legal arms last week.

 

The court ruled in a judgment running to over 100 pages that the commission can order an investigation into a complaint of an anti-competitive agreement or abuse of dominant position in the market. It cannot be appealed against except in rare cases. It can also issue orders temporarily restraining a firm from carrying on a disputed act till the enquiry is over. These can be done on a preliminary forming of opinion, without hearing the affected party. The court has, therefore, put enormous power in the hands of the commission. Since an enquiry by its director general can damage the reputation of a company and delay mergers and amalgamations with serious consequences to the players and the economy in general, the court has also put in place a set of fast-track procedures that were not originally found in the Competition Commission Act and its regulations. This is another instance of "legislation" by the court that is a matter of eternal controversy. But the judges have always claimed their right to fill up the crevices left by the lawmakers.

 

The court clarified that its directions are in the "larger interest of justice administration". The regulations prescribe a general rule that the investigation and proceedings should be concluded within a "reasonable time". Regulation 16 prescribes a limitation of 15 days for the commission to hold its first ordinary meeting to consider whether a prima facie case exists. A decision must be taken within two months. The court stated that this was too long a period, and it should be done in a shorter span of time.

 

To stop the prevailing practice of one party getting favourable interim orders or injunctions against another and then vanishing from the scene, the court stipulated that when an interim order is passed, the commission must pass the final order in less than 60 days.

 

The director general, who conducts investigations, is supposed to submit his report within "reasonable time". The court specified the time and restricted it to 45 days. It has further asked the commission to frame regulations spelling out the exact number of days within which each procedural step should be completed. Till a comprehensive set of rules is framed, the court's time schedule should be followed.

 

Though many statutes lay down target dates for procedural steps, it has been the bane of investigations and trials that the courts give liberal extensions and condone delays for the asking. The predecessor of the commission, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, also fell into the rut. It took a decade to get a final judgment from that commission. By then, the substantial issues might have receded, solved themselves, or become irrelevant leaving only the shell of the complaint before the commission and lawyers' bills before the parties. At present, it is clearing such deadwood and luxury litigation of corporations on borrowed time. The call for "expeditious hearing" should, therefore, be taken seriously by the Competition Commission, if it does not want to fall into the same trough where its predecessor fell and became irrelevant.

 

The example of the consumer commissions should be a warning to other quasi-judicial bodies dealing with market and consumer issues. The Consumer Protection Act and its Rules started with target dates. The complaints should have been finally disposed of within a few months. However, these non-formal forums have gone the way of all civil courts, with senior counsel followed by juniors carrying bundles of case law. Electricity regulatory authorities and their tribunals in various states are also caught up in legal riddles, often reaching the Supreme Court where several seminal issues are still to be determined. Despite target dates in other procedural laws, the average life of a suit is 15 years, according to the government.

 

The collaboration of the legal fraternity is essential to reduce the length of litigation. Last week's case involving the Competition Commission, SAIL and Jindal Steel & Power Ltd over supply of rails to Indian Railways is already one- year-old and all that has yielded is a benevolent judgment from the Supreme Court. Now it will go back to the commission, and perhaps to the tribunal and snake its way back to the Supreme Court. The nit-pickers will see to that. This is the area where the commission, the judges and the legal advisors should bring reforms from within lest the new-found law should again be bogged down in forensic quicksand.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

IS A COMPULSORY CSR CESS A GOOD IDEA?

THERE IS A CASE FOR MORE STRINGENT EVALUATION OF CSR PLANS BASED ON VOLUNTARY ALLOCATIONS, BUT A RULE-BASED APPROACH MIGHT BE MORE EFFECTIVE

 

SWATI PIRAMAL 

PRESIDENT, ASSOCHAM*

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has noted that a coherent CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy based on integrity, sound values and a long-term approach offers clear business benefits to companies and contributes to the well-being of society.

 The originally defined concept of CSR needs to be interpreted in a broader conceptual framework of how companies embed their corporate values as a new strategic asset, to build a basis for trust and cooperation within a wider stakeholder community.

 

Though there has been evidence of a paradigm shift from charity to a long-term strategy, the concept is still believed to be strongly linked to philanthropy. There is a need to bring about an attitudinal change in people about the concept by having more coherent and ethnically driven discourses on CSR. It has to be understood that CSR is about how companies balance their business ethics and behaviours with business growth and commercial success along with a positive change in the stakeholder community.

 

Several companies today have specific departments to operationalise CSR. There are foundations or trusts or a separate department within an organisation that looks into the implementation process.

 

Since these departments are treated as separate entities, they have a flexibility and independence to carry out tasks. But these entities often work in isolation without creating a synergy with the other departments of the company. There is a need to understand that CSR is not only a pure management directive but it is also central to the company and has to be embedded in its core values and principles.

 

Whatever companies do within the purview of CSR has to be related to its core business. CSR has to utilise things that companies are good at. It has to take advantage of core skills and competencies of companies. It should be a mandate of the entire organisation and its scope does not simply begin and end with one department alone.

 

There is a need to incorporate an evaluation plan that measures the short- and long-term impact of the CSR practice — apart from providing suggestions on improving fund utilisation and the methodology for executing projects.

 

Though there have been success stories of short-term interventions, their impact has been limited and has faded over a period of time. It is essential for companies to adopt a long-term approach rather than sticking to short-term interventions, involving the employees in the long-term process of positive social transition.

 

A clearly defined mission and a vision statement combined with a sound implementation strategy and a plan of action firmly rooted in the ground realities, and developed in close collaboration with implementation partners are needed for the successful execution of CSR. One area that can be considered for companies is to share best practices. A plausible framework for this could be benchmarking.

 

Therefore, the challenge is to apply fundamental business principles to make CSR sharper, smarter and focused on what really matters. This can be done by focusing on priorities, allocating 2 per cent of the book profit earned by companies on a voluntary basis from which returns that are expected are either tangible or intangible. There is a need to optimise available resources by ensuring that efforts are not duplicated and existing services are strengthened and supplemented. It's important to monitor activities and work in close liaison with implementation partners such as NGOs to ensure that the initiative delivers the desired outcome. Performance should be reported in an open and transparent way in the annual report so that everyone can celebrate the progress and identify areas for further actions.

 

A long-term perspective by organisations that encompasses their commitment to both internal and external stakeholders is critical to the success of CSR and is important for companies to be able to deliver on the goals of CSR strategy.

 

*The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India

 

BHARTRUHARI MAHTAB

MEMBER, PARLIAMENTARY, COMMITTEE ON FINANCE

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has emerged as a significant theme in the business community and is gradually being mainstreamed. I sincerely believe that responsible business is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into the business model. Ideally, CSR policy should function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism in which companies would monitor and ensure their support to law and ethical standards. Companies would also embrace responsibility for the impact of its activities on environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere.

Moreover, businesses focused on CSR would proactively promote public interest by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminate practices that may harm the public sphere.

 

CSR should mean a deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making and should honour a triple bottomline: people, planet, profit.

 

Some argue that CSR distracts companies from the fundamental economic role of business; others say that it is nothing more than a superficial window-dressing. For some, it is an attempt to pre-empt the role of the government as a watchdog over powerful multinational corporations. But I believe that there is a strong business case for CSR in that companies benefit in multiple ways by operating with a perspective that is broader and longer than their immediate, short-term profits. Taking responsibility for its impact on society means that a company should account for its actions. CSR in a way identifies "socially relevant behaviour", the determination of those to whom the company is accountable for its social performance. Under the requirement of the UK company law, social accounting to a limited extent is found in a Director's Report. In some countries, legal requirements for social accounting, auditing and reporting exist.

 

Business and commerce are not only to maximise returns for their shareholders but they have social responsibilities too. The business of leadership (be it corporate or otherwise ) is to change the world for the better. The economy exists to serve human beings. So, all economic entities have an obligation to society. With corporate hypocrisy and insincerity, there is a demand worldwide for better governmental and international regulation and enforcement, rather than voluntary measures, to ensure that companies behave in a socially responsible manner.

 

On the concern that was expressed on the extent of CSR being undertaken by companies and the need for a comprehensive CSR policy in our country, the ministry of corporate affairs has agreed that the Bill may now include provisions to mandate the suggestion made by the Standing Committee of Finance. It is a welcome step to bring CSR to the statute. This reminds me of Denmark that has a law on CSR. On December 16, 2008, the Danish Parliament adopted a Bill that made it mandatory for the largest Danish companies investors and state-owned companies to include information on CSR in their annual financial reports. CSR is still voluntary in Denmark, but if a company has no policy on this, it must state its positioning on CSR in its annual financial report.

 

Companies are increasingly motivated to become more socially responsible because their most important stakeholders expect them to understand and address the social and community issues that are relevant to them. Once N R Narayana Murthy of Infosys said, "CSR is really about ensuring that the company can grow on a sustainable basis, while ensuring fairness to all stakeholders." This definition emphasises on a company's external relationships. Yet one should also focus on the internal aspect of CSR, in particular ethical behaviour, corporate governance and transparency. In our country, CSR is often regarded as a piece of rhetoric intended to placate environmentalists and human right campaigners. But companies should now begin to regard CSR as a normal facet of business.

 

A rules-based approach to CSR, as proposed in the Bill, has its advantages, but few would disagree that CSR ultimately depends on the personal integrity of the people who manage a company. Investing at least 2 per cent of average net profits in CSR may be hard to quantify but all will agree that CSR is not a neutral topic. It is not an unjustified intrusion into corporate affairs.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

WHAT'S WORSE THAN MUTUAL FUNDS?

IF THERE IS ANYTHING FAR WORSE THAN THE MUTUAL FUND ANIMAL, THEN IT IS ULIPS

SUBIR ROY

 

The Indian life insurance industry is having to reinvent itself because of the extensive new regulations put in place by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) to prevent customers of unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips) from being misled and fleeced. Any industry concerned with its image would be deeply worried if it is widely seen to have been thriving on penalties paid by gullible investors who were sold products they did not understand. This would turn into existential anxiety as a substantial source of revenue, mis-sold Ulips, now stood threatened.

 

 But the industry is no stranger to accusations of thriving on mis-selling. So, while it is likely to pick itself up, it is equally unlikely to have a change of heart and adopt a narrow path of ethical selling. This will remain a permanent source of danger for investors who will likely again fall prey to the industry's efforts to innovate new products that get round the new rules but are essentially lemons.

 

Decades ago, long before the life insurance sector was opened up, when as a young working person I started looking for life cover, I came up against a wall. There was nobody, absolutely nobody, willing to sell me pure life cover which involved no investment. Either they did not exist or there was precious little for agents in policies which focused on life risk. That's the way the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India formulated its schemes.

 

The whole focus at that time was on endowment policies, the business that LIC wanted to push. Over time, they became available in various permutations and combinations of so much of money back in so many stages. LIC, being a state monopoly, was hardly interested in educating the public; actuaries, who understood the probabilities of various risks, were mere ornaments in the organisation; and the public's understanding of what it was getting was negligible. I owe a lot to an old public-spirited gentleman in long, white, half-sleeve shirt, worn over the dhoti like a kurta, who used to do the round of newspaper offices and explain to those in the newly opened up field of business journalism that "the cost of covering life risk is no more than 1 per cent and the public is getting a very poor return on these endowment policies".

 

LIC needed all that it could make to, apart from funding socially desirable infrastructure investment, maintain its large, inefficient workforce and do the government's bidding in supporting this industrialist or that. The wisdom in the old man's words has come back to me periodically when I have spotted investment advice to the effect that it is wrong to mix up life cover and investment for a return. That way you get shortchanged. But the reason why people have still gone in for endowment policies is, other than there being no other option in the past, they have seen them as a way of forced saving, aided by a tax-saving sweetener.

 

This is the ancestry of the life insurance industry in India. The opening up of the industry and the advent of global players have brought in enormous customer focus and a sea change in customer service. But it has also introduced financial innovation and created convoluted products, mainly in the nature of Ulips. At a time when the global financial system has come to grief over complex products created by financial innovation, a late strike by the Indian regulator against similar innovation has thrown the Indian life insurance industry into the doldrums.

 

Life assurance in developed economies has gone through its own reform and met rising standards of transparency. This, coupled with the advent of the Internet, has led to a situation where most term life policies (pay a small premium to cover life risk for a period and get nothing if you are lucky to be alive at the end) are similar as there is not much scope for innovation there and are easily bought online. The good news for India is that term life insurance is getting a push. Two insurance firms have recently come up with new term plans and one of them, with the cheaper plan, is offering it only on the Internet, naturally, to keep costs low.

 

Regulation which improves markets and protects the consumer is to be welcomed. But the way Irda has gone about the task does not put it in kindly light. All hell broke loose when the capital market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), sought to regulate Ulips as it found some of them carried barely a trace of insurance and were, for all practical purposes, investment schemes. The Union finance ministry has come out in favour of Irda but two issues remain. Considering the period for which Ulips have been around, did the Sebi move galvanise Irda into action? Further, it can fine-tune and sanitise but Ulip as an animal being more investment than insurance, Irda can hardly be the best equipped to deal with it.

 

This brings us to the question addressed in the last column ("Who cares for mutual funds") which argued that if you have minimum capabilities and just a little appetite for risk, then do your own selection of leading equities and not go to them through mutual funds. Their schemes are a mixed bag and picking a good one is more difficult than picking a bunch of good equities. But if there is anything far worse than the mutual fund animal, then it is Ulips to which investors have till now turned in the eternal quest for better returns. The best mix for the lay investor is some bank or post office fixed deposits, something in public provident fund, a term life policy and a bunch of leading equities in which you stay invested for over five years.

 

subirkroy@gmail.com 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MOMENT OF TRUTH IN KASHMIR

NOT AFSPA, POLITICAL EFFORT NEEDED


THE choice in Kashmir is between a political initiative to transcend the current security-centred discourse and persisting with yet more forceful security. The very fact that the Centre put lifting or diluting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on the table is proof of acknowledgement that Kashmir calls for a paradigm shift in policy. The Centre should not permit that realisation and intent to be subverted, whether by the violence in Kashmir or by proponents of the strong-arm strategy within the government and the ruling dispensation. This is the key challenge before the country's political leadership: to initiate and sustain a real and wide-ranging political engagement, even if it is unlikely to find an immediate resonance in Kashmir. The Centre should ideally have initiated efforts to discuss the AFSPA much earlier, which could have averted a number of deaths and also possibly prevented the crisis from reaching the point it has. Instead, the rupture between the sentiments and political reality on the ground and New Delhi's overtly cautious fumbling for an adequate response now has only widened. Yet, there is no alternative except dealing with the political challenges facing the state in Kashmir. And after the inconclusive Cabinet Committee on Security meeting on Monday, New Delhi must now use the scheduled all-party meeting to hammer out a consensus on some bold and decisive moves that can begin to tackle the severe crisis. 

 

Measures like diluting the Act or a removal from some districts will not yield the requisite effect among the people. If at all the Centre does decide on either, or both, it must be accompanied by a definite timeframe for a full revocation of the Act, along with measures like releasing some prisoners — such as some of the hundreds of youngsters detained during the current protests — as well as initiating a wider dialogue with all sections, the separatist camps included. Over two decades of a security paradigmbased massive counter-insurgency effort has yielded a situation where the Valley seems further away than ever. A real, wide-ranging political effort has been missing. It is time to give that a chance.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SENSE(X) AND SENSIBILITY

VIEW SURGE IN SENSEX WITH CAUTION


THE 138.63-point surge in the BSE Sensex on Tuesday following a dramatic 409-point runup on Monday deserves a cautious cheer. It reflects a vote of confidence by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) who pumped in . 2,500 crore on Monday, taking the total FII inflow to close to $14 billion in 2010. However, that celebration must be tempered with caution. Portfolio flows are fickle by nature and chase yields across the globe. The resultant volatility in capital flows poses a serious policy challenge. The market solution, freeing exchange rates to reflect the shifts in demand and supply of dollars, is not an option in a poor country like ours where thin forex markets and the resultant see-sawing of exchange rates in response to capital flows have serious repercussions on the real economy, including, vitally, on employment. Intervention by the RBI in the forex market to keep exchange rate fluctuations within manageable bounds brings with it another set of problems: excess domestic liquidity which could become the proverbial last straw on the camel's back for the aam aadmi at a time when inflation is already high. If the excess liquidity is mopped up, it could hike interest rates. Overall, excess inflows would impose an additional cost on an exchequer already bearing a huge fiscal deficit. 

 

FIIs are attracted to India by our strong growth, driven by abundant global liquidity riding on loose monetary policy in the US. While there is every reason to expect that our growth momentum will be sustained in the medium term, there is no such certainty about how long US interest rates will be kept at near-zero levels. More important, while the levers to stimulate growth in an economy with a large domestic market are largely within our control, the situation is quite different when it comes to global liquidity. Hence, any reversal in the US monetary policy — unlikely though it is in the short-term, given the anaemic state of US recovery — will affect portfolio flows with consequences that go far beyond a fall in the Sensex. If the surge continues, and domestic asset prices and liquidity bloat in an unhealthy fashion, the government may have to move to take remedial steps. It would have to seriously consider an option that it has so far eschewed: some form of capital controls. It might help, of course, that even the IMF now considers such controls kosher

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A CIGARETTE A DAY

TO BLOW MINERS' CARES AWAY!


THERE are two ways of reacting to the news that cigarettes will be dropped to 33 miners trapped 700 m underground since August 5 following a cave-in in the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama desert of Chile. While it will take a few months to dig a 0.6-m-wide tunnel through 670 m of solid rock so as to lower a cage and lift the miners out one by one, those who are against all addictions could say that care should be taken to ensure the miners return safe after kicking the smoking and drinking habit. However, with the miners asking for cigarettes and psychologists talking about the possibility of anxiety and depression setting in at this stage, officials have decided to supply a cigarette a day to each miner. A doctor has stated that smoking in moderation need not pose a problem. 

 

Smoking as a stress-buster has been depicted in the 1961 Hindi movie Hum Dono where the debonair Dev Anand plays the role of a WWII soldier who sings, Mein zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya/Har fikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya, the message being one of how to move along with life while blowing away all cares into smoke! The same song played back on any Indian TV channel today would carry a statutory warning that smoking is injurious to health. It is unlikely that any such chirpy song or statutory warning will figure in the movie titled The 33 which Chilean director Rodrigo Ortuzar plans to shoot once the miners are rescued. In real life, the miners could be pardoned for feeling that it's not just smoking and drinking but mining which is dangerous! The Motorcycle Diaries tells us that it was the workers' plight in the Chuquicamata copper mine of the Atacama desert which inspired a young medical student called Che Guevara to think in terms of a revolution, way back in 1952.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

THE NEXT FINANCIAL CRISIS

THE POINT IS TO MITIGATE FINANCIAL CRISES RATHER THAN TRY TO PREVENT THEM. INDIA MUST REQUIRE BANKS TO HAVE EVEN MORE CAPITAL THAN WHAT BASEL III NORMS CALL FOR AND ADOPT OTHER PRUDENTIAL MEASURES, SAYS ARUN DUGGAL

 

FOLLOWING the recent financial meltdown, the leaders of the Group of 20 economies asked the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to come up with new rules needed to prevent another financial crisis in future. I am afraid this is an impossible undertaking. It is certain that there will be financial crises in future, though when and how are completely uncertain. The Basel Committee's agreement last weekend on the new capital requirements (Basel III) will definitely strengthen the global banking system so that the impact of the next financial crisis — when, and not if, it happens — does not cripple the global economic system as the most recent one has. 

 

It is also nearly certain that in a few years' time, there will be another economic boom and many of the lessons of the recent financial crises will largely be forgotten. Greed overtakes fear. Bankers will come up with new ways and complex instruments to circumvent the new Basel III rules. Irrational exuberance of the markets will be justified by the argument that we have entered a new era of growth and prosperity and the old economic principles are no longer relevant. These 'good times' will carry in them the seeds of the next economic downturn. There are signs of this already. No sooner was the ink dry on President Obama's signature on Dodd-Frank Act (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) than fierce lobbying started to make the regulations under the Act as mild as possible. 

 

We in India came out relatively unscathed out of the recent financial crisis. Hard to say whether we were lucky or smart — probably both. However, let's not forget that we were also affected and 2007-08 was a challenging period. Much of the impact was due to contagion, but there were a few excesses in Indian economy, particularly in the property sector. During the financial crisis, export industries like textiles suffered, the flow of credit dried up, stock market sank, property stocks dropped to one-tenth of their value, the auto sector stalled, confidence in the banking sector, particularly private sector and foreign banks, was shaken, economic growth slowed and unemployment rose. It is, therefore, important for us also to take measures now to strengthen our financial system to minimise the impact of the next global financial crisis on India's real economy. 
    In this context, the recent book, This Time is Different — Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, is very instructive. In this book, professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have discussed financial crises in 66 countries over the last eight centuries. It presents a comprehensive look at the varieties of crises — including government defaults, banking panics and inflationary spikes — from medieval currency debasements to the recent subprime meltdown. 

 

Broadly speaking, the next financial crisis is likely to be triggered by either an event risk or economic mismanagement. Event risk could be a big geopolitical crisis such as violent social unrest in China, North Korea going berserk, oil price spike to $250 per barrel, a major terrorist attack that cripples the banking system or any other such cataclysmic event. Economic mismanagement would include the usual suspects: high budget deficits, excessive debt accumulation, runaway property prices, overheated stock market, high inflation, etc. Even if a country is following prudent economic policies, it could be hit by the contagion effect of crises in a different, distant part of the world. 

 

TO PREPARE for the next financial crisis, India can take several precautionary steps: First, further strengthen the banking and financial system by capitalising it even higher than the new Basel III requirements. Ahybrid equity layer, which can be converted into equity at the RBI's direction, should be introduced. 

Second, annual stress testing of all banks on the lines of the tests recently conducted by the Fed and European Central Bank. The rating agencies are well-equipped to conduct these tests, but the basic parameters/scenarios should be uniform and specified by the RBI every year. 

 

Third, a more dynamic credit policy framework by the RBI and more importantly, by individual banks, such that credit is tightened quickly (and other measures introduced swiftly) when there are signs of excesses in any section of the economy. Most importantly, if property or stock prices are rising too fast. 

 

Four, countercyclical provisioning policy by banks. The RBI is already encouraging this but should consider taking loan loss provisions to 100% (from 70%) level in the next three years. This provision could be relaxed during the downturn to revive the economy quickly. 

 

Five, encouraging long-term capital flows such as FDI in plant & machinery, venture capital, growth capital and discouraging short-term or hot money capital Inflows. A further restriction on short-term capital flows should be considered. This will help reduce the contagion impact. 

 

Six, a well-capitalised subsidiary structure for foreign banks and financial institutions operating in India in such a way that if the parent institution runs into trouble, the Indian entity is not directly impacted. 
    Seven, we should enforce the Volker Rule i.e., strict limits on bank's proprietary trading and alternate asset activities, even though the rule got compromised in the Dodd-Frank Act in the US. 

 

Eight, a single consumer protection agency should be created to cover all financial products from banks loans/deposits, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, insurance, etc. This agency should focus on: financial literacy promotion, ensure that financial products are appropriately designed and marketed transparently to consumers with different levels of risk capacity, and grievance redressal. At present, these functions are fragmented among different regulators in India. The Dodd-Frank Act includes a very good model for this. 

 

Nine, executive compensation in the financial sector should be moderated. The RBI has already made a good start, but more emphasis on compensation linked to long-term performance is needed in all areas of financial services. 

 

Finally, private sector should facilitate creation of an independent and unofficial economic stability think-tank composed of experienced economists, bankers and academics that should monitor the Indian and global economy to identify excesses, overheating, emerging risks, etc, and share its independent views with the country's economic decision-makers. 

 

(The author is chairman of Shriram Capital     and former CEO India, Bank of America)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V E AART DE GEUS

'TECHNOMIC ENGINE GAINING TRACTION'

CHIRANJOYSEN 


AART de Geus, CEO of Synopsys — a leader in electronic design automation (EDA) space — has seen several economic ups and downs the last two-and-a-half decades he has been in business. This time around, he is optimistic that the world economy will ride out this recession too and that chip firms will play a major role. A techie, who has lifted Synopsys from a startup to a top-drawer technology firm, de Geus reckons it is neither technology nor economics but a combo of the two — called technomics — that is shaping future trends. 
 

"The recession had hit the industry hard. But as companies start refilling inventories, the semiconductor market is recovering faster than expected. Starting at about 17% in 1994, the growth rate of the industry has been gradually — and for the most part, fairly steadily — decreasing. Today, it hovers around a modest 5-6%. But given the recession, it is still substantially better than the recent GDP growth rates of most countries. In fact, it is likely that semiconductors will be central to driving the recovery of many regions," he says.
    According to him, since the fourth quarter of 2008, when the recession was at its worst, most semiconductor companies have been reporting better results, providing further evidence that economies are beginning to recover. "Memory foundries have recovered strongly. With little investment in new equipment in the last three years, they are using their capacities to the maximum. Most of our customers have logged strong results, are forecasting a strong six-month outlook and, in many cases, reporting capacity shortages," he says. 

 

But probe him a little deeper and he hedges his optimism, "While most firms are ramping up, they remain cautious. There is focus on cost throughout the supply chain. Semiconductor executives are reassessing every part of their business and moving resources to the most value-added functions and projects. Synopsys is helping customers, both in terms of cost and productivity focus, as well as with the need to accelerate innovation. But we too face challenges like cautious buyers, continued customer consolidation, huge competitive pressures and core EDA budgets that are not growing." 

 

But Synopsys' numbers lend credence to de Geus' positive thrust. For the second quarter, the firms' revenues were $338 million, at a non-Gaap earnings per share of $0.41, and it claims to have met all its target. "We carefully managed expenses and are on track to meet our operating margin target of 24% for the year. And we're heading towards meeting, or beating, our initial revenue, EPS and cash-flow objectives for the year," de Geus says. 

 

What are Synopsys' plans to lead this growth? "We lead the industry in advance designs all the way below 28-nanometre chips. And our product portfolio can handle the most difficult challenges. The interest in systems solution is rapidly growing and our research engine keeps us in a strong technology position," he said. So, despite market challenges, Synopsys' CEO says they have been able to focus on near-term growth efforts and the overall strategy remains unchanged. One, maintain the technology momentum, increase efficiency and expand core EDA leadership. Two, broaden core EDA capabilities. Three, expand beyond core EDA into emerging IP and systems space. 

 

Apart from higher sectoral run-rate, growth rates in emerging economies show there are strong signs of recovery, de Geus feels. "Though the industry remains optimistic about the future, the expectation is that there is still way to go before unemployment levels start to reduce significantly," he says, again peppering the optimism with some caution. 

 

India has been a chip design hotspot and, of late, there are signs of a nascent market sprouting. "Over the past 15 years, it (R&D centre of an MNC silicon major) has gone through several phases. The first was cost-driven. Then, teams here became more competent and started doing sophisticated chips. Now, I think it is the beginning of a new creative phase, led by a developing indigenous market. Whenever we have this combination of competence and consumer, you get creativity. Local feedback groups become the drivers for companies." 

 

Twenty years ago, the factors influencing growth of the semiconductor industry were technological. Today, the economic dynamics are of equal importance. And whereas systemon-a-chip was inconceivable just two decades ago, it is now at the centre of the semiconductor 'technomic engine', a way of thinking that brings together technology and economics. Technomics, to him, refers to the remarkable increases in both scale and systemic complexity across both technology and economics.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

OLIVER TWIST AND MATCH-FIXING

RAGHU KRISHNAN 


THE global entertainment and media industry is the fastest growing business in the world, projected in a PricewaterhouseCooper report to touch $2 trillion by 2011. International sporting events are a key component of televised entertainment. The global sports business industry was valued at over $410 billion by Plunkett Research in 2009. After football, cricket is the world's most avidly watched sport, courtesy South Asia where a quarter of the global population lives. India accounts for roughly 70% of cricket's global revenues. If football can pre-empt attempts at match-fixing, there is no reason why cricket can't do so. Unfortunately, the sport has periodically been clouded by match-fixing controversies. Cricket's tradition of being a gentleman's game has itself come in the way of the game being run professionally. In international football, where individual clubs form the basic structure of the sport with many clubs run by corporates, the professionalism at that level has rubbed off on associations running the national teams. However, in cricket, the post of not just the president but also secretary of the national association is an honorary one and the concept of a full-time professional CEO is largely unknown. Cricket's administrators seem invariably surprised when a crisis erupts, like the latest one on match-fixing. 

 

Cricket is also structured in such a way (into innings and overs of six balls each) that it is simpler for fixers to manipulate what happens without being suspected of matchfixing. For instance, during last month's ODI at Dambulla, when Lankan off-spinner Randiv deliberately bowled a no-ball so that India won with Sehwag stranded on 99, it was assumed that this was just gamesmanship and not spot-fixing, even though a lot of betting takes place on whether the last ball of an ODI is hit for a boundary or whether a player nearing his century will reach the mark. Even when spot-fixing is indicated (like on August 26 when Pakistani bowlers Aamer and Asif bowled no-balls on the first ball of the third over and the last ball of the tenth over of the Lord's Test a day after theEngland-based Pakistan businessman Mazhar Majeed had told two News of the Worldreporters masquerading as members of a shady betting syndicate that this would happen), there are cricketing legends like Imran Khan who say that this is not as serious as match-fixing where teams deliberately lose. 

 

The flaw in this argument is that it assumes that there are two kinds of fixers — those who induce cricketers to bowl noballs, and those who persuade teams to lose matches. Majeed himself was caught on tape stating that the no-ball demonstration he had organised was to prove that he could arrange for even games in the subsequent ODI series to be lost. Pakistan, he claimed, had deliberately lost the Sydney Test in January this year from a position of strength and had enabled a betting syndicate to walk away with £830,000! Yet, apologists split hairs between spot-fixing and match-fixing even when games have been lost by a few runs. 

 

That 19th-century novelist Charles Dickens had a far better understanding of human nature than some of the apologists for Aamer/Asif. In Dickens' Oliver Twist, Fagin recruited urchins like the Artful Dodger to pick pockets before grooming them into adult burglars and murderers like Bill Sykes. For those who think that murder and match-fixing are incompatible in real life, we only have to remember how, just a decade ago, South African captain Hansie Cronje admitted that the match-fixers had got him to do their bidding by initially offering money and then threatening him. When Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in a hotel room in the West Indies a day after his team had been shocked by Ireland in the 2007 World Cup, there were initially rumours that he had been killed while trying to prevent match-fixers from controlling the team. Sharjah was discredited as a cricketing venue because of the presence at the ODIs of the D-gang founder Dawood Ibrahim, implicated in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. In the wake of the latest no-ball controversy, there are again reports of Dawood controlling underworld syndicates involved in multi-million dollar betting rackets on ODIs. Pakistan's former coach Greg Lawson has even stated that Aamer could have been pressurised by these syndicates and cited the instance of a Pakistani selector telling him that he had been threatened that his daughter would be kidnapped unless a certain player made the national team. 

 

Splitting hair between spot-fixing and match-fixing could amount to not recognising the threat staring international cricket in the face. The ICC and national cricket boards should work together to uproot the nexus between match-fixers, money launderers (Majeed has been arrested for this offence also) and underworld gangs preying on the game. ICC president Sharad Pawar should use this occasion to demonstrate that cricket will remain a metaphor for fairplay despite all attempts by the Majeeds and the mafias to ruin it!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

THE FATHER OF FEARS

VITHALC NADKARNI 

 

IN HAUNTING retrospect, when the time came for his only parent's demise, the scribe found himself functioning like an automaton. There was the heartbreaking business of speaking calmly and clearly without a quaver; of invoking the Goddess of Illumination just once and that too by name rather than by sacred syllables. For the scribe did not want it to sound like goodbye or Godspeed. 

 

So he chose to reassure with gesture and tone. But inwardly he felt wretched. Thus, the son became the father of Man. Although all he wanted to do was to run away from reality. But he could not. Besides they were trapped together in the sterile embrace of medical technology. 

 

Then the healers in white and their acolytes in blue intervened to begin their resuscitation dance. Thus the father's last words turned out to be the son's name urgently called out twice along with "I'm feeling breathless." If he wanted action, he got plenty. But it could not prevent his departure to that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns. 

 

Thus, the scribe came face to face with what Sigmund Freud called 'our ultimate helplessness', which is the defining characteristic of the human condition. This was also Buddhism's 'truth of impermanence'. 


Paradoxically, our survival instinct itself operates from this primal truth, the therapists Richard and Bonney Schaub say in their handbook for spiritual realists, The End of Fear: Life is a wondrous and strange experience in which everything and everyone you see, including yourself (and your nonagenarian parent), is subject to change and loss at every moment. 

 Shakespeare 


summarises this primeval insight in As you like it: "And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,/ And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot,/ And thereby hangs a tale." The awareness of the worm wriggling inside the golden apple lies at the root of all our anxieties says psychiatrist Aaron Beck, the pioneering founder of cognitive therapy. 


"The monsters that come to take children away in the night are storybook models of the truth that one day you and I will be taken from our present lives," the Schaubs, who are also the co-founders and co-directors of The New York Psychosynthesis Institute, add. 

 

"And before we are taken, we will witness it happening to others, including those we love. Looking at it in this light, we see that our fears are not unreasonable at all."

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LET SUSHIL'S GOLD BE AN INSPIRATION

 

Olympic bronze medallist Sushil Kumar's freestyle gold medal at the Moscow world championship on Sunday is another signal event in India's slow but sure momentum in the world sporting arena. For years, team sports like hockey, football and later cricket held the tricolour aloft... at long last, though, individual sports and athletes are slowly making a mark on their own. Consider the feats of Ramanathan Krishan and Vijay Amrithraj and later of Prakash Padukone, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to find a parallel. The closest one comes is two years ago when Abhinav Bindra struck gold at the Beijing Olympics, months before Saina Nehwal put in her golden run in women's badminton. Some of these feats must stand the test of time before being counted among the truly great moments in Indian sport, but there can be little doubt that Sushil's latest achievement, when he beat Russia's Alan Gogaev 3-1 in the 66-kg freestyle final to earn India a first-ever gold at the world level, is extraordinary by any description. There is in one sense a very direct link to the Haryana lad from the near legendary D.K. Jadhav, who landed independent India's first-ever individual Olympic medal at the 1952 Helsinki Games, and it comes at an important time for Indian sport. Not very long ago, four fellow-members of the wrestling squad for the Delhi Commonwealth Games returned positive samples in a drug test, casting a cloud over a team expected to win a significant number of CWG medals. In that sense, Sushil's Moscow triumph, under a strict regimen of frequent drug tests in and out of competition, is a signal achievement — one that the nation and the Wrestling Federation of India will hail. As WFI president G.S. Mander said, "The victory comes at a very important time because everyone is looking forward to India doing well at the Commonwealth Games. Though there is no direct bearing on others' prospects because of those doping cases, Kumar's victory is a morale booster... and shows the kind of form he is in". Hopefully, that shameful episode will now be left behind as the CWG countdown enters its final lap. Sushil himself looked pleased as punch, and said on return: "This gold means a lot to me... all wrestlers dream of becoming a world champion some day, but only a few realise this dream... I am the first wrestler from India to win the world championship. It is great for the sport — all wrestlers will now think if Sushil can, why can't I?" Sushil, in the meantime, plugged away in the shadows, but now with his impressive Moscow performance will earn a well-merited slot among the poster boys and girls of modern Indian sport. It is nothing less than the unassuming lad deserves, despite the fact that Indian officialdom once again put on display its worst colours, with the Union sports minister literally pushing Sushil's coach Satpal Singh — himself a wrestler of no mean achievement — out of the frame in a desperate bid to corner the limelight with the star of the moment. It is at times like these that one is forced to wonder when sport will truly and genuinely get its moment in the sun in India.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

AN AUGUST COMPANY

BY P.C. ALEXANDER

 

For the first time in six years, after Dr Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister, we have begun to hear sharp criticism of his priorities for reform and even his style of functioning, and it's not just coming from sections of the media but also from within the Congress Party. There have been embarrassing reports in certain sections of the media, both in India and abroad, that Dr Singh was seriously considering retirement before the end of his second term. For far too long he was reluctant to defend his role as Prime Minister through the press, but when he chose to break his silence on this issue, at a meeting he had with some senior editors on September 6, 2010, he expressed certain views on the role of the Prime Minister which are quite at variance with the evolution of the parliamentary system into a veritable prime ministerial system in several countries. Let us examine some of the views expressed by Dr Singh on September 6.

 

One persistent criticism against Dr Singh's style of functioning over the last two years has been that he is not in full control of the steering wheel of government and that he has been forced to adopt a low profile as he is not the real power centre in the government or in the party. The trend in every country which had adopted the parliamentary system of democracy has been for the Prime Minister to function practically as the head of a presidential system of government. This is not a new trend in Western democracies; it started very visibly during the World War II when Britain had as its Prime Minister a dominating personality like Winston Churchill. The power wielded by Prime Minister Churchill during the war years in the parliamentary system of government was so great that the US administrator-cum-statesman Harry Hopkins said that the provisions of the British Constitution and powers of the War Cabinet were just whatever Churchill wanted them to be at any given moment!

 

It was not merely the exigencies of the war or the dominating personality of Churchill which triggered the process of transformation of the Prime Minister from one among equals in the Cabinet to become the captain of the Cabinet. Subsequent developments like the active involvement of Prime Ministers in the conduct of foreign affairs and the growing importance of summit meetings served to further enhance the power and influence of the Prime Minister. Ivor Jennings, one of the most reputed authorities on democratic systems of government, has gone to the extent of saying that "given a solid party backing and confidence among party leaders, a British Prime Minister wields an authority that a Roman emperor might envy or a modern dictator strives in vein to emulate".

 

In the circumstances in which Dr Singh became Prime Minister, it was obvious that he could not claim "full party backing" or "confidence of party leaders". And now that he has spoken on what he considers to be the ideal relationship between the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the government and the party, Dr Singh does not seem to be unhappy with the rather limited role he is playing in India's parliamentary system.

 

Dr Singh referred to the type of relationship which India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had with some of his colleagues in the party. Dr Singh seems to believe that concentration of power in the office of the Prime Minister is not compatible with the spirit of a true democracy and this seems to have made him adopt a very tolerant attitude towards internal dissensions being aired openly, sometimes by senior members of the party.

 

Dr Singh claims that there has been a much greater degree of cohesion between the different strata of leadership under his stewardship compared with the period when Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister. With due respect to Dr Singh's knowledge and experience, one is constrained to point out that there cannot be any comparison between the manner in which Nehru functioned in relation to his senior colleagues like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel or Maulana Azad and the way Dr Singh is functioning. Sardar Patel had a statute in the party and the nation which no leader other than Nehru in the history of the Congress Party had; in fact, his hold on the party organisation was much stronger than Nehru's, but Patel willingly accepted Gandhiji's decision to make Nehru the leader of the party in Parliament.

 

Further, it is well known that Krishna Menon would have been included in Nehru's first Cabinet if the choice was left entirely to Nehru. Maulana Azad, who was one of the front leaders of the Independence Movement, had strongly opposed the inclusion of Krishna Menon in the Cabinet till all corruption allegations against him (in the purchase of jeeps in London for the government) were probed and he was cleared. Azad had threatened to resign from the Cabinet if Nehru insisted on making Krishna Menon a Cabinet minister and Nehru was not prepared to deal with such a situation.

 

People like Nehru, Patel and Azad cannot be compared with the leaders of today. They were together engaged in building a new nation brick by brick and were not bothered about the vicissitudes of the relationship between the Prime Minister and themselves. That is how the foundations of a genuine democracy were laid within a very short period after India became independent.

 

Dr Singh has rejected the suggestion of a disconnect between the government and the Congress and claimed that he would not ask every Cabinet colleague to "shut up". He has said that he sees nothing wrong in the expression of different points of view by his ministers and senior party colleagues; but the question here is of creating the impression among the rank and file of the party that there are strong differences at the top levels on some important policy matters that the government wants to introduce. Once consensus is reached at the top levels of the party and the government, it is expected that all others fall in line and do not continue to be critics of the government.

 

Dr Singh is quite right in saying that he does not want to shut the mouths of senior members of his party or the government, but there should be some discipline, particularly among senior members, about the timeliness and manner of expressing differences of opinion. Democracy without discipline can lead to confusion and near anarchy and therefore it will be quite necessary for the Prime Minister to enforce discipline among all members of the government, irrespective of their rank and standing, if the object of good governance is to be achieved.

 

- P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra

 

***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BRINGING MERCHANT OF DEATH TO JUSTICE

BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

 

In the racy and fast-paced story of crime with underworld linkages, the final episode of Viktor Bout's extradition case concluded on August 20. The case of Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen, hit the headlines in 2008 when Bout was arrested through a US-planned sting operation in Bangkok. Bout, popularly called the "Merchant of Death", faces charges of terror linkages and transnational crimes in the US.

 

The trial in Bangkok saw the Thai judicial system take about turns as two different rulings emerged. In the first ruling by a lower court, the grounds for Bout's extradition to the US were dismissed since Bout was not in possession of the weapons he was alleged trading. The court stated that discussing a crime was not grounds enough for his extradition and that no actual charges could be brought against him.

 

However, the case was appealed and the lower court's verdict revoked. The ruling on his extradition to the US was passed by the appellate court on the basis of new evidence which the US provided against him, of financial irregularities and money laundering which were linked to weapons trade and narcotics.

 

In a battle in which the US and Russia were pitted against each other, Thailand found itself in the unenviable position of being right in the middle of a spat that was reminiscent of the Cold War years. The pressure from both the US and Russia was immense. While the US pressured Thailand into fulfilling its commitment to their bilateral extradition treaty, Russia for its part accused Thailand of human rights abuse and buckling under US pressure. Russia alleged that Bout was merely an ordinary businessman who happened to be at the "wrong place at the wrong time". With little option but to deal with the matter, the Thai government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took a balanced diplomatic position and laid down the rules of its judicial system as the basis for Bout's extradition.

 

From around the early 1990s, Viktor Bout has surfaced time and again in connection with arms smuggling and transnational crimes in many intelligence reports. His activities were traced to conflict zones in Africa, South America and the West Asia. In fact, Hollywood's 2005 Nicolas Cage film Lord of War was inspired by Bout's life. The sobriquet "Merchant of Death" is from the title of his 2007 biography — Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, And the Man Who Makes War Possible — by Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah. Though Viktor Bout's life became public around 2005, he has been on the radar of intelligence sources and law enforcement agencies for much longer. US Drug Enforcement Administration sources stumbled upon his name in many conflict zones, and everywhere he was linked to arms trade and smuggling activities.

 

The dossier on Bout alleged his complicity in both narcotics and arms trade. In March 2008, in a sting operation in Thailand carried out by the DEA, Bout was arrested while trying to negotiate a deal with undercover DEA officers posing as members of a Columbian insurgency group. In the sting operation, Bout is alleged to have agreed to supply large numbers of anti-aircraft guns and 5,000 AK-47 Kalashnikovs. Following the 2001 terror attacks, the US has been keenly following the networks of arms trade emerging in the global sphere.

 

From around the early Nineties, the region of conflict shifted from Asia — particularly the Cambodian conflict which was the centre for arms from Russia. Small arms from this region moved to other conflict zones in Asia such as Aceh and Sri Lanka. The separatist conflicts in these regions were critical in sustaining the trade in small arms to which trade in narcotics was linked.

 

When one looks at the theatres of conflicts in Asia, the most likely areas of Bout's operation are in West Asia and it is from here that he is alleged to have supplied weapons to the African continent. As far as the Afghanistan conflict is concerned, Bout has been known to supply arms to the Northern Alliance that was fighting the Taliban. However, later he was also linked to arms supply to both the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. Bout's linkages with groups in Afghanistan are important from India's security concerns given that these networks fed into Pakistan and had deeper implications for the Kashmir issue and cross-border terror.

 

Deeper scrutiny may reveal the various other theatres of conflict in which arms have been supplied from Russia by Bout. His linkages to the vast network of demand and supply chains is something that Russia is seeking to contain. Yet, it was alleged during the extradition hearing, that Russia was keen to protect Bout as he was close to the political leadership in Moscow. The evidence that Bout may provide in exchange for a lesser punishment may prove embarrassing for the Russian government.

 

In the triangular tussle between Washington, Moscow and Bangkok, the extradition ruling has led to a strengthening of US-Thailand ties which had been on the backburner for a while.

 

Simultaneously, this case has led to the deepening of fault-lines in US-Russia relations which were already precariously balanced. Both the US and Russia were at loggerheads over the case, rather than showing any willingness to cooperate in the matter.

 

Viktor Bout's case has revealed a new and far more complex form of organised crime that is not just conducted

across countries and continents, but deals with terror networks, the underworld, and state-level actors as well. Bout's case exemplifies the need for concerted efforts to break these networks and address the issues of transnational crime in a more concrete manner.

 

- Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

 

***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SOLDIERS LOST IN THE BABU MAZE

BY S.K. SINHA

 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote about the Army in the Harijan on April 21, 1946: "Up till now they have been employed in indiscriminate firing on us. Today they must plough the land, dig wells, clean latrines and do every other constructive work they can, and thus turn the people's hatred of them into love". Perhaps his thinking was influenced by the fact that Indian soldiers under the orders of Brigadier Dyer had opened fire at Jallianwala Bagh and perpetrated that most horrible massacre. It was almost a miracle that on our becoming independent, our colonial Army was overnight transformed into a national Army. It became the most popular instrument of the state with the people of India. This transformation came about due to its stellar role during Partition when it was the only effective instrument of the government to restore order, and followed it by beating back the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir. Hyderabad was liberated and succour provided to the people during various natural disasters. The people's perception of the Army changed radically. (I use the word Army in a generic sense to include the Navy and Air Force.)

 

Addressing West Point cadets, General Dwight Eisenhower stated, "When diplomats fail to maintain peace, the Army is called upon to restore peace and when the civil administration fails to maintain order, the Army is called upon to restore order. As the nation's ultimate weapon, the Army must never fail the nation". The Indian Army has been performing this role admirably, executing the nation's will but never imposing its will. Yet the fear of the man on horseback has haunted our political leadership and has been exploited by the civilian bureaucracy for its vested interests. This has led to the neglect of the Army by the government in many ways. No wonder the Supreme Court on April 1, 2010, stated, "We regret to say that the Army officers and the armymen in our country are being treated in a shabby manner by the government".

 

Whereas the parliamentary committee's recommendation on a hike in the emoluments of members of Parliament was passed with undue haste, its recommendation on the long-standing demand for one rank, one pension has been stuck in the maze of bureaucracy. This has caused much frustration among ex-servicemen who have been surrendering their gallantry and war service medals. The MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar, in his letter to the Prime Minister on August 25, 2010, has taken the noble stand that he would not accept his increased salary as an MP till the government sanctions one rank, one pension. Despite all the justification for one rank, one pension, this demand has been turned down repeatedly on the plea that civilian employees must also have a similar provision. The conditions of service in the Army are entirely different from the civil services. The hardships and dangers faced by the soldier, early retirement and poor career prospects after retirement have to be taken into account. It is not only in the case of pensions but also in salaries, protocol status and career prospects that the military has been treated unfairly.

 

After Independence, Indian Civil Service and Indian police officers retained their old scales of pay but the new entrants in their succeeding services, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), were given lower payscales. In the case of the military this was done retrospectively. As a major, I drew a salary of `1,100. This was suddenly reduced to `700. All my contemporaries in different ranks suffered such unprecedented paycuts. Sardar Patel, in his note dated May 22, 1947, disagreed with "differential treatment proposed to the officer class of the forces. The home department took the view — and I think it is the right view — that the old entrants on more favourable scales should continue to enjoy the old scales". The Sardar's wise advice was ignored at the altar of financial expediency. The culture of discipline in the military was different in those days. No one went to court, nor was this blatant injustice taken up in the press or in Parliament. We accepted this with a stiff upper lip. Without a murmur officers went to war in Kashmir, many making the supreme sacrifice. Successive pay commissions since Independence have continued treating the military unfairly. In comparison with its civilian counterparts, the military lost out every time.

 

Since 1947, career prospects in the armed forces, compared to the civil services, have become phenomenally worse. Wholesale proliferation of higher ranks in the civil services since 1947 has resulted in India having the most top-heavy civil administration. This only undermines efficient functioning. In a state there used to be one chief secretary, but now there are dozens of super chief secretaries with higher rank and pay. Similarly, instead of one inspector general of police in a state, we have dozens of DGPs, ADGPs and numerous IGPs. There used to be only four levels of civil servants in the Central Secretariat, from undersecretary to secretary. That has now increased to seven levels, to principal secretary. In the police a new zonal level of functioning has been introduced in many states to supervise the supervisors. Almost all IAS officers end up as secretary or additional secretary, and all IPS officers as DG or additional DG. In the Army, the majority of officers cannot go beyond colonel. The shortage of several thousand officers in the Army underscores that the Army is now a very unattractive career.

 

The protocol status of the Army in the table of precedence has also been successively downgraded with every revision of the table. After Independence, the Army Chief was initially ranked with the judges of the Supreme Court but above the secretary-general (this appointment was abolished after a while and in 1963 the appointment of Cabinet Secretary introduced). The Army Chief was now placed below Cabinet Secretary, and thereafter to many others. Today he ranks below members of the Union Public Service Commission.

 

This persistent downgrading of the Army applies to all officer ranks in the Army. In 1972 we had proposed that the Field Marshal should get his full pay as he is not supposed to retire and be ranked with Bharat Ratna holders, that is, just below Cabinet ministers. This was not accepted and he was ranked along with the service chiefs, that is, below Cabinet Secretary. As for salary, Manekshaw was given arrears amounting to `1.2 crores after 33 years, a few weeks before he died. Imagine. Such shabby treatment of India's first Field Marshal who led Indian arms to a great victory. A minister of state represented the Indian government at his funeral.

 

The cause of the neglect of the Army in India is our irrational higher defence organisation on which the bureaucracy has a stranglehold, isolating the Army from decision-making. This does not happen in any other democracy. Unless this is set right, the Army will remain neglected.

 

- The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE DEATH DEALER

BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

 

In the racy and fast-paced story of crime with underworld linkages, the final episode of Viktor Bout's extradition case concluded on August 20. The case of Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen, hit the headlines in 2008 when Bout was arrested through a US-planned sting operation in Bangkok. Bout, popularly called the "Merchant of Death", faces charges of terror linkages and transnational crimes in the US.

 

The trial in Bangkok saw the Thai judicial system take about turns as two different rulings emerged. In the first ruling by a lower court, the grounds for Bout's extradition to the US were dismissed since Bout was not in possession of the weapons he was alleged trading. The court stated that discussing a crime was not grounds enough for his extradition and that no actual charges could be brought against him.

 

However, the case was appealed and the lower court's verdict revoked. The ruling on his extradition to the US was passed by the appellate court on the basis of new evidence which the US provided against him, of financial irregularities and money laundering which were linked to weapons trade and narcotics.

 

In a battle in which the United States and Russia were pitted against each other, Thailand found itself in the unenviable position of being right in the middle of a spat that was reminiscent of the Cold War years. The pressure from both the US and Russia was immense. While the US pressured Thailand into fulfilling its commitment to their bilateral extradition treaty, Russia for its part accused Thailand of human rights abuse and buckling under US pressure. Russia alleged that Bout was merely an ordinary businessman who happened to be at the "wrong place at the wrong time". With little option but to deal with the matter, the Thai government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took a balanced diplomatic position and laid down the rules of its judicial system as the basis for Bout's extradition.

 

From around the early 1990s, Viktor Bout has surfaced time and again in connection with arms smuggling and transnational crimes in many intelligence reports. His activities were traced to conflict zones in Africa, South America and the West Asia. In fact, Hollywood's 2005 Nicolas Cage film Lord of War was inspired by Bout's life. The sobriquet "Merchant of Death" is from the title of his 2007 biography — Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, And the Man Who Makes War Possible — by Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah. The book, which reads like a complex story of underworld crime and trade nexus, reveals details of Bout's life and work.

 

Though Viktor Bout's life became public around 2005, he has been on the radar of intelligence sources and law enforcement agencies for much longer. US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sources stumbled upon his name in many conflict zones, and everywhere he was linked to arms trade and smuggling activities. The dossier on Bout alleged his complicity in both narcotics and arms trade.

 

In March 2008, in a sting operation in Thailand carried out by the DEA, Bout was arrested while trying to negotiate a deal with undercover DEA officers posing as members of a Columbian insurgency group. In the sting operation, Bout is alleged to have agreed to supply large numbers of anti-aircraft guns and 5,000 AK-47 Kalashnikovs.

 

Following the 2001 terror attacks, the US has been keenly following the networks of arms trade emerging in the global sphere. Mostly this has been with regard to its own security given that it remains a prime target of various terror networks.

 

From around the early Nineties, the region of conflict shifted from Asia — particularly the Cambodian conflict which was the centre for arms from Russia. Small arms from this region moved to other conflict zones in Asia such as Aceh and Sri Lanka. The separatist conflicts in these regions were critical in sustaining the trade in small arms to which trade in narcotics was linked.

 

When one looks at the theatres of conflicts in Asia, the most likely areas of Bout's operation are in West Asia and it is from here that he is alleged to have supplied weapons to the African continent. As far as the Afghanistan conflict is concerned, Bout has been known to supply arms to the Northern Alliance that was fighting the Taliban. However, later he was also linked to arms supply to both the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.

 

Bout's linkages with groups in Afghanistan are important from India's security concerns given that these networks fed into Pakistan and had deeper implications for the Kashmir issue and cross-border terror.

 

Deeper scrutiny may reveal the various other theatres of conflict in which arms have been supplied from Russia by Bout. Bout's linkages to the vast network of demand and supply chains is something that Russia is seeking to contain. Yet, it was alleged during the extradition hearing, that Russia was keen to protect Bout as he was close to the political leadership in Moscow. The evidence that Bout may provide in exchange for a lesser punishment may prove embarrassing for the Russian government.

 

In the triangular tussle between Washington, Moscow and Bangkok, the extradition ruling has led to a strengthening of US-Thailand ties which had been on the backburner for a while. Simultaneously, this case has led to the deepening of fault-lines in US-Russia relations which were already precariously balanced. Both the United States and Russia were at loggerheads over the case, rather than showing any willingness to cooperate in the matter.

 

Viktor Bout's case has revealed a new and far more complex form of organised crime that is not just conducted across countries and continents, but deals with terror networks, the underworld, and state-level actors as well. Bout's case exemplifies the need for concerted efforts to break these networks and address the issues of transnational crime in a more concrete manner.

 

- Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

 ***************************************


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LIFE'S BEAUTY LIES IN FAIZ

BY MUZAFFAR ALI

 

Everyone is aware of energy and how it impacts our life, but faiz is a special flow of energy from a divine source. It's energy that comes with His grace; it's energy that is blessed. The first time I realised this was when I visited the Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer in 1990.

 

The beauty of life is all about the flow of this energy — the highest, the purest, the most powerful and the most sustainable. It is the energy of human emancipation which takes the mind into the realm of the unknown, from zahir (revealed) to the batin (hidden). This is the basis of all creativity, of all art. You have to liberate yourself from the visible to enter the realm of the invisible. Every human being, every living creature is empowered to take the journey when the divine faiz flows through him/her. Today the need for reinvention of the physical and esoteric beauty, with the coming into existence of virtual space, is at an all-time high. In today's world the journey gets easily diverted into many mindless causes, by many petty agendas created to make money or wash off guilt. Beauty, for the minds of the theatre, museum and gallery-going people is readily being converted into products and commodities of exploitation. Therefore, you need a master to protect, preserve and present beauty. For beauty is the path of this sacred energy... the passage for its flow.

 

You need to be perceptive about the raw and even the evolved from where you absorb beauty. This was the essence of Islam. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) could have negated everyone who had preceded him and said that I am the first and the last. But he absorbed the limitless faiz that had preceded him through the earlier prophets and was still around him. It was revealed to him in a powerful invincible form, through divine words which he faithfully reflected. He was indeed the first poet of the Divine who proved that a society is soulless without such poetic revelation. Through this he created a soul that lives in secret realms, only to be discovered by a poet at heart. It is not easy to be poet or a poet at heart. A poet has to preserve his soul and keep it cleansed to mirror the beauty and anguish of society.

 

The flow of faiz is the reason for life, and people are very receptive to this. They are quick to know the source of this energy and are ready to flock to it. They go there not through discipline or fear. They go with deep reverence, adab, on a quest for a thirst to be fulfilled. They go there to receive purity which enriches them. And while they are in the proximity of that source they radiate that aura. They are away from worldly machinations and fears. They are receiving and giving out positive energy. Faiz changes destinies and makes the unexpected happen. Efforts are directed without intention in positive ways, and larger human concerns become prominent in one's spirit.

 

The best state to receive faiz is in a state of surrender and submission to the will of God. The Prophet (PBUH) took it to the realm of Mehraj, where lesser humans cannot reach, making him the final source of faiz. He empowered Ali in His lifetime to be the source of his faiz. In many situations when he said Man kunto maula fa haza Ali un Maula (of whom I am the Master, Ali is the Master), or Ana Madinatul Ilm wa Ali un Babeha (I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the door), Ali was destined to be the last Caliph of Islam, just like the Prophet was the last of the prophets. And thus through Ali, faiz came to imams, saints and walis who can only transfer this faiz through his faiz.

 

It is through regular practice of this surrender that such people were created and when they were no more, faiz still continues. They took surrender to its highest limit humanly possible. They took it to the extent that showed their ultimate faith in His will. They made it a part of their living and through this annihilation in the Supreme Being they manifested love, ishq for the world. This was the ishq and surrender of Abraham, of Husain in Karbala...

 

This ishq was also expressed in jewel-like, beautiful poetic thoughts, for fellow human beings to share their state; to live those moments of truth that were revealed to them. They never preached, they only shone, they never said what was good or bad, but only emitted a fragrance for which he has given us all a sense to appreciate. They exemplified beauty which was pure and not perishable.

 

They didn't create art but their life became art. They inspired art and artistes to take that surrender forward which gave out love, through which flowed faiz. They did not pigeon-hole the truth that was revealed to them, instead they liberated it for the entire humanity, like the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain.

 

The world is always a new place. Each day is new and unseen. It has been gifted to us to design and create and celebrate the oneness of His creations so that there is no impediment in the flow of his faiz.

 

— Muzaffar Ali is a filmmaker and painter.He is the Executive Director and Secretary of
the Rumi Foundation. He can be contactedat www.rumifoundation.in [1]

 

 ***************************************


******************************************************************************************

THE SATESMAN

EDIT

RAGING FIREBALL

BARES DELHI/SRINAGAR BANKRUPTCY

 

EVENTS of the previous few days had rendered irrelevant issues like diluting AFSPA and a routine political package that were to be discussed at Monday's meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security. What the upsurge in violence also exposed was that the governments in New Delhi and Srinagar were devoid of fresh ideas aimed at initially defusing the dangerously tense situation, and then addressing deeper issues. For, apart from signalling that confidence in Omar Abdullah had dissipated (courtesy the official statement mentioning "deficits" in trust and governance), the CCS yielded nothing. Calling an all-party meeting is an alibi for inaction, appeals and offers have had small impact in the past. Emotional Omar (his stock was always higher in New Delhi than in his state) is dejected over rejection of his AFSPA-related plea, may even react strongly, but reality would suggest that the situation has snowballed beyond token concessions. Today pointing accusing fingers, whether at separatist leaders or across the border, is meaningless. So inflamed are public passions that a comprehensive policy review is inevitable. Whether political consensus on that can be secured is questionable, the major Opposition party has its own extreme Kashmir-line. Yet it would be no exaggeration to say that the future of Kashmir as part of the country lies in the balance. Had Pakistan not been in a terrorism-breeding corner, international pressure would have mounted for some definitive action on the Kashmir "self-determination front". New Delhi has invited the current trouble: the price of its political inertia three/four years ago after the security forces had isolated the separatists from the masses. And the Abdullahs' inability to provide effective governance added to the woes. It may be wishful thinking, but the equivalent of a "national" government comprising the registered political parties in the state might offer some hope. Sadly, but perhaps to further their own interests, parties like the PDP appear to relish watching Omar stew. Regretfully, the Congress (his coalition partner) has exerted no positive influence. Maybe this is not the best time for government-change, but it is time for radically different initiatives.


Back to AFSPA. No one can trivialise the plea for less-draconian measures, and the conduct of the Army has also been found wanting. Yet the issue runs deeper. The Army should be called out only when conditions have so deteriorated that use of the ultimate force is mandated. Until then, it must be a police/paramilitary task. If Omar sees the Army as a problem ~ it and AFSPA are inter-twined ~ let him have the courage to de-requisition the troops. Trying to gain political/populist mileage at the Army's cost is downright cheap.

 

DROUGHT DIPLOMACY

DISTRESSING HINTS OF ANOTHER RITUAL

WHEN Left leaders used the anniversary of a food movement to lambast the Centre on its failure to respond to the distress of drought-hit villagers, they hadn't considered it necessary to disclose that a Central team's visit was already on the cards. The strident tones changed to quiet diplomacy when the team arrived for what seemed the impossible task of getting first-hand impressions in 11 districts in three days. That this suited the state was predictable; much like the experience that another Central team had last year when it came to assess the law and order situation after a series of clashes but remained confined to Writers' Buildings. This time around, they did go to villages, to drive through parched fields and then talk only to district officials. Political outfits like the SUCI were quick to emphasise the futility of an exercise that didn't include interactions with victims. This was made worse by the reluctance to visit the worst-affected villages, in Burdwan, where three suicides have been reported. But regardless of what the SUCI intended to achieve by organising a violent protest in Suri that called for police action to disperse the demonstrators, what it clearly meant was that the team was again under the direct supervision and control of the state government. This may not affect the final report to be submitted to the ministry of agriculture. But the team has spared the state the embarrassment of being exposed to public anger that has erupted fairly regularly in the recent past.


The more important question is when help will finally arrive. Follow-up action may take weeks, if not months. During this time, the state's demand based on dubious calculations may be seen in the context of Rahul Gandhi's unequivocal charge that funds allotted under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, for which the state demands Rs 1,400 crore, haven't reached the targeted beneficiaries. If that means further allotments will be subjected to proper assessment of utilisation, it suggests that the Central team may have performed another ritual in Bengal and that political questions will be addressed first. Bureaucratic and other tangles at times of distress make all sides culpable. But the state cannot escape the primary charge that it may have been again caught napping.

 

TALK TURKEY

REFERENDUM FAVOURS DEMOCRACY

Democracy has triumphed in Turkey on the 30th anniversary of the military coup. Sunday's popular vote in favour of an amended Constitution signals a setback for the army which had framed a statute in 1980 only to entrench itself in power. Well may the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claim that "democracy is at a turning-point". Whatever the political contours after the elections scheduled next July, the new Constitution will restore the power of civilian courts, bar the judiciary from banning political parties and allow the President and parliament to determine the composition of constitutional courts. The Turkish people have spoken against the political clout of the military which for the past three decades had imposed crippling curbs on democracy. No less significant is that the military did not interfere in the referendum.


Given the country's fractious polity, the discord within the political class over secularism and authoritarianism may yet persist. Turkey's membership of the European Union remains a consummation devoutly wished. Though Erdogan, as a moderately Islamist Prime Minister, has prepared the ground for membership, the evolution of democracy must be acceptable to Europe at large. The country's record since 1980 doesn't particularly inspire optimism; historically, it has witnessed four coups since 1960, reducing  the form of government to what Europe often describes as a "semi-democracy". And for far too long has the military been a law unto itself. Small wonder why the West has been rather lukewarm in its response to the referendum despite its positive indicators. Britain has been a steadfast supporter of Turkey's admission to the EU, but Europe as a whole seeks guarantees against racism and Islamist trends. The verdict of the referendum ought to pave the return of full-fledged democracy and crucially the restoration of the secular order that Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, had established in the 1920s following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. That precisely is the singular determinant for Turkey's membership of the club called the European Union.

 

*******************************************


THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

CONTRARY VIEW

DEFENDING DR MANMOHAN SINGH!

BY RAJINDER PURI


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assertion to a group of editors that the governments of Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi were more divided than his, continues to invite ridicule. Critics consider it sacrilege that he should compare himself with Nehru or Indira Gandhi. They consider his government rotten. I am in full agreement with the critics. Indeed, I consider his government more rotten than they do. But I also differ from the critics. I consider the governments of Nehru and Indira Gandhi also rotten. In my view the best PM since Independence was Gulzarilal Nanda. He twice became PM for just a week and then mercifully made way for a replacement. He thereby inflicted less damage to the nation than any other PM. 

 

In fairness to the PM he was not alluding to the quality of governments but only to the degree of divisiveness that existed in them. He described such divisions as part of the democratic process. It is the critics who took up the issue of quality. The critics sang praises of our past political icons and vested them with harmony, ideology and absence of serious differences. It is of course nonsensical to include Indira Gandhi in this ambit. After all she split her own government and party. The Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh duo has managed to keep the government and party intact through more than two terms of office. During Indira Gandhi's tenure of almost a decade and a half she failed to provide stability even once in spite of thumping majorities. So let's ignore Indira Gandhi and overlook quality of governance. Let's focus on the Nehru era and the degree of cohesion the leaders displayed before and after the Transfer of Power that is wrongly described as the winning of Independence.
For starters, recall this: "With all his great qualities, he (Mahatma Gandhi) has proved a poor and weak leader, uncertain and changing his mind frequently. How many times he has changed it during these last four years since the war began? It is very, very sad, this deterioration of a great man." This was Nehru's view about Gandhi recorded in his prison diary. What must have Nehru thought of Gandhi around the time when India became independent? Does that explain why Gandhi was totally marginalized by Nehru and Patel who had snuggled wonderfully close to Mountbatten by then?


Regarding Nehru's notorious Press conference in Bombay in which he deliberately sabotaged the Cabinet Mission Plan after the Congress had accepted it, which if honoured might have kept a federal India united, Maulana Azad commented: "Jawaharlal held a press conference in which he made an astonishing statement… Press representatives asked if this meant that the Cabinet Mission Plan would be modified. Jawaharlal replied emphatically that the Congress had agreed to participate in the Constituent Assembly and regarded itself free to change or modify the Cabinet Mission Plan as it thought best…this was one of the greatest tragedies of Indian history and I have to say with the deepest of regret that a large part of this development rests with Jawaharlal."
Sardar Patel was less kind about that same performance by Nehru. He wrote in a letter to DP Mishra: "He (Nehru) has done many things recently which have caused us great embarrassment… his Press conference immediately after the AICC are all acts of emotional insanity and it puts tremendous strain on us to set matters right."


Describing a Working Committee meeting Nehru wrote in his Prison Diary: "After I had finished, Vallabhbhai spoke. His tone was full of suppressed anger, pain and bitterness. He said that he had long suspected that Maulana and others had felt the way they had spoken…I was amazed at this outburst… these inoffensive remarks had upset Vallabhbhai and Kripalani and uncovered some deep feeling of resentment… This attitude amazed me… Ultimately I said that it was direct insult to me that my explanation should not be accepted in the spirit it was given."

Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Kripalani and Prafulla Ghose resigned from the Working Committee when the Congress passed the resolution that it would support the war effort. They claimed non-violence was a creed for them more important than Indian independence. Doubtless they were following Gandhi's dictate. Maulana Azad's sneering response in his book India Wins Freedom was: "If non-violence really was their creed how was it possible for them to take responsibility in a Government which spent over a hundred crores on the army?"
One can go on. One can catalogue the enormous errors of policy and internal differences under Nehru and Indira Gandhi. But the intention is not to denigrate past leaders. One must attempt empathizing with their circumstances and appreciate the times in which they functioned. They were in comparison political innocents dealing with the world's most powerful nation which was far more sophisticated than America today. 
At the same time, we live in the information era. We should not idolize the leaders who first governed India. If we wish to solve the problems facing us today we must go back in history to dispassionately acquaint ourselves with their origin. Politics is governed by ordinary mortals. The difference between the great and the ordinary is infinitesimal. It is just that sometimes ordinary individuals are thrown by karma or circumstance in the midst of great events. We call them great and deify them.


Today a confused government is wrestling with the Kashmir problem. More than 60 years ago an equally confused government created the Kashmir problem. Should we not understand how and why that happened? It happened because we were governed then as we are governed now by humans and not by gods. It is human to err. And our first leaders of independent India erred hugely with drastic consequences that continue to haunt us till today. So let's get real. Let's end sycophancy. Let's confront reality. 


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

PERCOLATING ISRAEL'S IRON WALL

 

 "The moral case for the establishment of an independent Jewish state was strong...But there is no denying that the establishment of the State of Israel involved a massive injustice to the Palestinians...a debt that must at some point be repaid". These lines in Israeli historian Avi Shlaim's powerfully argued and elegantly written The Iron Wall - Israel and the Arab World reflects one of the pioneering attempts made from within the academia to bridge the gap between the received mythology on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the amply-demonstrated historical facts. Sixty-two years after Israel's birth, myths continue to be propagated and facts ignored. 
Nine people died, and 30 were wounded, when Israeli troops boarded a flotilla of ships carrying aid for Gaza on Monday, 31 May 2010. The world condemned Israel's flotilla raid. Three months later, on 2 August US President Barack Obama set the clock ticking on Middle East talks, hoping, albeit "cautiously", that his administration will bring peace in Palestine through a two-state solution. Mr Obama has put a one-year deadline on these talks. But US alone cannot bring these peace talks to its logical conclusion. The very fact that international criticism of the raid forced not only Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to order a probe, but also compelled Israel to appoint the Turkel Commission, shows that world opinion also can make a difference in solving this impasse. 


The international community, and not just the US, can solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Here are some reasons why. First, with key actors like Hamas not present it is difficult to feel optimistic about the outcome of peace talks that are going on in Washington DC. Seventeen years ago, the US had initiated similar talks that had failed. Second, world leaders played an important role in unanimously attacking Israel for the raid. Consequently, commissions were set up and Israel had to explain its actions. Before the Turkel Commission, for instance, Israel defended the Gaza flotilla raid, in terms of what is permissible and "legal" within international laws. 


Third, even for the UN to succeed in its probe, an alert world opinion is imperative. The UN-led probe which met in early August is to report on its interim findings by 15 September. It may be recalled that UN has a track record of non-cooperation from Israel. The Goldstone inquiry in 2009 was critical of Israel for killing over 1300 Palestinians in Gaza but it did not lead to anything constructive. Israel's Foreign Ministry said that under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area.
For the UN probe to be effective this time, the question of the legality of the blockade itself has to be raised. If pursuing this end, requires questioning of the soldiers, the UN should stand firm and not give in to threats of Israel pulling out from the probe. It is at this point that world opinion will become important just so that Mr Ban Ki-moon's inquiry does not contribute to "a culture of impunity", as the International Federation for Human Rights have alleged.


A brief look at the chequered history of the Israel-Palestine conflict shows why Israel's top leaders' eagerness to explain their innocence before the Turkel Commission, their initial promise of cooperation with the UN-led investigation and Mr Netanyahu's promise of the pursuit of peace in Washington DC yesterday, can be interpreted as an unprecedented good sign. Israel was founded on 14 May 1948 but its political boundaries were never to its liking. Be it the Partition Plan for Palestine which was drawn by the UN on 29 November, 1947 or the Green Line that was drawn in 1949, the state of Israel only treated them as temporary.
Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, writing to his son in 1937 explained, "Erect a Jewish state at once, even if it is not in the whole land. The rest will come in the course of time. It must come." And, "come" it did from 1967 onwards. Israel continued to covet Negev desert, the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank, southern Lebanon, and the Golan Heights. In the years to come, much of these territorial goals were realised-at the cost of continuous war with the Palestinians and the Arab world. 

The myth about the precariousness of surviving amidst hostile Arab powers also falls flat in the face of facts. For instance, Jordan, under King Hussein, betrayed the Arab League in 1948 in order to offer a friendly hand to the fledgling Israeli nation, a fact that Israel chose not to care for much. Israeli army's bombing of Jordanian villages, during 1940s and 1950s, only shows the sham behind the "purity of arms" rhetoric that Israel propagated. It also mocks the myth of one helpless Israel against one united Arab world. There was no "one" Arab world. Post-1967 Israel's wars had very little to do with security and everything to do with expansionism. 
Ironically, a survey of this tumultuous history guarantees that answers to a solution in Palestine do not lie in the past. It has to be sought in the future. There are no lessons to be learned. Can it be asked why Britain sanctioned the Balfour Declaration which recognised the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland in Palestine? In The Arab Awakening, a compelling read, historian George Antonious, writing in 1938, warns that there can be "No room for a second nation in a country which is already inhabited" and that such attempts would lead to a "holocaust". Britain had no right to be charitable to Jews at the expense of the Arabs. 


International condemnation of Israeli expansionism in the past decades would have not only averted the tragic fate that Palestinians were faced with (and still face), it could have probably also struck at the roots of Hamas ascendancy in Palestine. Though the world failed to rise to the occasion and broker peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the last quarter of the twentieth century still showed signs of possible settlement from within Israel. First, coming back to new historians of Israel, (Avi Shlaim being one of them) it must be admitted that their work, which showed Israel's culpability in innumerable lost opportunities for peace, had a deep impact on Israeli society. 


Second, Peace Now, a three decade old non-governmental organisation in Israel also played an important role in swaying public opinion and convincing the Israeli government of the need for peace even at the cost of land. 
Unfortunately, at the turn of the century, and with a decade already behind us, the conflict that has devoured thousands of lives, has become more convoluted than ever. Support for Peace Now has also waned. With the rise of the Hamas, Israelis have found themselves vulnerable to rocket attacks. To expect them to sympathise with Palestinians who have lost their lives forgetting their own scars is perhaps unrealistic. Also, to be fair to the Jews, history has not been very kind to them. Jews had been expelled from Spain in 1492. What happened to the Jews in the Nazi regime five centuries later, was like history repeating itself. Given the Jews' history of suffering and persecution how can political Zionism be criminalised for aspiring to have a Jewish nation ? But, it is one matter to exist, and quite another matter to aim at unbridled expansion.


The mood in Israel might change. But the world cannot wait for that too long. It is now that international opinion can make the most difference and giving up on such a chance would be a crime to humanity and a gargantuan mistake. There are voices of reason in Israel but it is difficult to assess their impact on government policy. It is difficult to guess the mood of the common Israeli. On one hand, we have more than 150 Israeli academics saying they will no longer lecture or work in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. They feel that acceptance of the settlements caused "critical" damage to Israel's chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians. But 150 is not a big number, because on the other hand, we have the editorial page of The Jerusalem Post asking, do Israelis really believe that everybody is wrong and they alone are right? 


The answer is a resounding "yes". Thus world leaders can start stressing on peace and hope that surely some in Israel will see the merits of this stand.


Coming back to the debt that Avi Shliam thinks Israelis ought to repay to the Palestinians, one would think a morsel of peace would go a long way, longer than any aid that has been trying to reach Gaza. Former foreign minister of Israel, Moshe Dayan had famously said "Israel has no foreign policy, only a defence policy." In broad daylight that defence policy became offensive. It is high time the world did something about it, for if there is a time to percolate the "iron wall" it is now.

The writer is The Statesman's correspondent, based in London

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

CASE OF THE MISSING SUITCASE

NOW & AGAIN 

SUDHA PALIT 

 

My husband was well known for his absent-mindedness. Misplacing or losing things seemed to have been a part of his personality. In the course of his working life with a multinational company, he had to travel often to different countries on export work. On his return, I would invariably find something or other missing from his suitcase. And it was not just minor items like pens or note pads, but sizeable personal possessions too. 
Every time he returned from an overseas trip, it was a regular occupation of mine to go through his suitcase to find out what was missing, because I cannot remember any occasion when all the contents of his suitcase were where they were supposed to be. 


Our conversation on his return from any foreign trip used to run something like this: "Where is the cream coloured shirt that you had bought just before you left and had insisted on taking with you?" 
"My cream coloured shirt? Why, it must be in the suitcase where I had kept it." 
I would rummage through all the clothes in the suitcase which I had by now spread out over the bed, but there was no trace of any cream coloured shirt. On his return from another of his trips, I found an entire suit missing. This time, his destination had been London. Fortunately, soon after he returned, one of his colleagues went to London, so my husband rang him up and asked him to contact the hotel where he had stayed and see if he could bring back the missing suit. 


As it happened, the staff of the hotel had discovered the suit hanging in the wardrobe immediately after my husbandhad left, and were wondering how they could forward it to him. So they were relieved when his friend got in touch with them about the missing suit. It now acquired the sobriquet of "the London suit", although it is very much Indian. 


Shirts, trousers, ties, calculators and toilet kits were strewn all over the globe in the course of my husband's peregrinations. But through some means or other, most of them found their way back home. And according to the places of their brief sojourn, they acquired invisible labels. So, however inconvenient these "lost and found" episodes might have been, I learnt to look at the bright side of things. It now became much easier to identify the various pieces of his apparel. My husband had only to refer to his "London suit", and I knew exactly which one he meant. Then there was his "Bangkok shirt", his "Hong Kong tie", his "Manila trousers", and other items, all suitably labelled. 


I sometimes wondered if an occasion might arise when he'd miss a plane and leave himself behind. Well, this did not happen, but on one of his trips abroad, he did leave his suitcase behind, fortunatelyon the last lap of his journey. I had intended going to Kolkata airport to receive him, but something kept me back and I could not make it to the airport. Had I gone, this particular incident in his long saga of leaving behind his possessions could have been avoided. When he arrived home and I answered the doorbell with a welcoming smile, my eyes fell on his suitcase. "That's not your suitcase", I said. 


"Isn't it? It looks like mine." 


"Yes, it does look like yours, but yours is a bigger size. Didn't you check the luggage tag?" 


"No, but it looked like mine, so I brought it along." 

"Let's go back to the airport immediately", I said. "Some stranger has probably got your suitcase, and before he dumps it somewhere in disgust, let's return his legitimate suitcase to him and retrieve yours." 
At the airport, a solitary passenger was standing with my husband's suitcase beside him and looking around to see if he could possibly spot any other suitcase resembling his. We walked up to him and explained the mix-up. The suitcases were exchanged, with profuse apologies on our side and relieved thanks on his. 
The suitcase naturally acquired an appropriate tag. We began to refer to it as "the Kolkata Airport suitcase".

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

NEWS ITEMS

ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL 


Cooch Behar Cup: Final 

ARYANS (2) : MOHAN BAGAN (0) 


These two teams tried conclusions in the final of the above competition on the National ground on Thursday, and the game resulted in a win for the Aryans by two toals to nil. The Aryans started two short but the exchanges during the first half were nevertheless much in favour of the winners. During the second half the Mohan Bagan boys made strenuous efforts to get on equal terms but failed. The Aryans scored their first goal during the first half through N. Chatterjee, while their second goal was realised by R. Roy midway through the second half. 


At the conclusion of the game, Prince Jitendra Narayan of Cooch Behar presented the cupto the skipper of the winning team. 


Aryans. ~ S. Chatterjee, goal; S. Ghose and S. Bose, backs; A. Ghose, A. Dutta, and K. Ghose, halves; S. Mookerjee, R. Roy, N. Chatterjee, S. Chatterjee and Bhattacharjee, forwards. 


Mohan Bagan. ~ H. Mookerjee, goal; S. Bhattacharjee and N. Chatterjee, backs; S. Sarkar, H. Dutt and M. Mookerjee, halves; K. Roy, A. Sukul, Singha, B. Bhaduri andS. Bhaduri, forwards. 

Referee. ~ Sgt. Hounsell.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LONG HAUL

 

If the situation in Kashmir seems to have taken a turn for the worse, it is not merely because a day of street-fighting has claimed a greater number of casualties than before. It is also because the political momentum that seemed to have gathered after the prime minister's address to the people of the valley last month now appears to be coming to a grinding halt — but to look at it this way may not be entirely right. The failure of the cabinet committee on security to evolve a consensus on Kashmir would not have been perceived as the dead end it is being made out to be now, had the Omar Abdullah administration not carefully built up a campaign for an Id bonanza from the Centre. The disenchantment, particularly in National Conference circles, stems not only from the the Centre not fulfilling what was expected of it, but also from the cabinet committee reminding the state government that it had to take responsibility for the lack of trust and inadequate governance. However, even if one were to disregard the National Conference's sense of betrayal, the truth now staring the Indian government in the face is not a particularly happy one. In spite of the failings of the state government, the Centre has no option now but to support it, with the chief minister remaining unchanged. A change of leadership in the state is not feasible, and the imposition of governor's rule is the least healthy option.

 

Since it is going to be a virtual status quo in Kashmir until the crisis is resolved through a necessarily long and arduous process of dialogue, it is important to remember that a bumbling state government is just one of the realities which the participants in the dialogue will have to contend with. There are other factors, which they will not be able to ignore. That creating new jobs and economic regeneration will foster the right atmosphere for talks is as true as the fact that a decision on draconian laws like the Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act may also help restore a semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, the latter is not being considered worth talking about. The cabinet committee on security did not even touch upon the issue, and the strong objections of the Opposition and the army may keep the matter out of the agenda of the all parties' meet. It may be unwise to bend under pressure, but is it wise to appear inconsiderate?

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

OLD HAND

 

Before they can force the State to wither away, Nepal's Maoists seem to want the country's government to disappear. If seven attempts by the political parties to elect a prime minister had failed, it was primarily because of the former rebels' obstructionist tactics. The result is a dangerous political vacuum that has deprived the people of even a semblance of governance and also made the country's politics vulnerable to international manipulations. The recent allegation that a Maoist leader had accepted money from Chinese embassy officials in Kathmandu, in order to buy votes in the last round of the prime ministerial polls, is evidence of the danger. The Maoists' denial has been far from convincing, but they want to counter it with their old anti-India rhetoric. This is at the heart of their planned month-long agitation to protest against "foreign intervention" in Nepal's internal affairs. They see an "Indian hand" in anything that thwarts their moves. Thus, the failure of the Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, to be elected prime minister was laid at India's door. The truth, however, is that most parliament members do not trust the Maoists enough to give them the top job in the government.

 

However, a stable, democratic regime in Kathmandu is as much in the Nepali people's interest as in India's. When New Delhi mediated between the Maoists and the democratic parties of Nepal, the aim was to end the decade-long insurgency and restore democratic politics there. A peaceful Nepal is crucial to India's strategic interests in a sensitive border region. But India cannot remain inactive if the current drift in Nepal disturbs the geopolitical equilibrium in the region. Only last week, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, expressed his misgivings about an "assertive" China and its goals in South Asia. But Nepal needs to save itself from the Maoist games for the sake of its own people and society. Its democracy is fragile and flawed, but it would be a disaster if a communist coup knocks out democratic politics in Nepal. The current deadlock has not only brought governance to a halt but also clouded the incomplete peace process. The United Nations Mission in Nepal, which is the main international agency overseeing the peace process, has had its term extended thrice. Nepal could descend into another spell of anarchy if the political void derails the hard-won peace initiative.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

KNOWING WHERE TO LOOK

WHY THE US NEEDS TO DISCUSS EAST ASIA WITH NEW DELHI

DIPLOMACY

K.P. NAYAR

 

This week marks the start of intense traffic between New Delhi and Washington in preparation for Barack Obama's visit to India that promises to be rich in symbolism and atmospherics. Unlike the trips to India made by two of Obama's predecessors from the White House (Bill Clinton's in 2000 and George W. Bush's six years later), it would appear, as preparations start for the November visit, that the summit is open to being criticized for the absence of a lynchpin on which to build Indo-US relations cohesively during the rest of Obama's presidency.

 

However, such a lopsided vision of relations between India and the United States of America would be a disservice to the former's most important external relationship in one of its most critical phases. As yet, there may be nothing dramatic like the nuclear deal on the table as top diplomats from both sides shuttle across continents in preparation for the November summit, but there is much happening in both Washington and in New Delhi that will determine India's place in the world during what is referred to as the current, Asian century. And the diplomatic global positioning system, which will show the way to India's status in this century, still directs the drivers of Indian foreign policy towards Washington, notwithstanding the US's diminished place in the world and its reduced economic power.

 

Because of the way Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Bill Clinton on the one hand and Manmohan Singh and Bush on the other constructed Indo-US bonhomie in the new millennium, a lot of the substantial work being done between the two governments no longer needs high-profile or political intervention; such work is often done away from the glare of the media.

 

A few days ago, when this columnist was in New Delhi, a Japanese diplomat confided that the joint secretary in South Block dealing with Japan, Gautam Bambawale, would be in Washington this week to review developments in East Asia with Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. At the time of writing, Bambawale's visit to Washington, along with a small team of officials, had not been made public by either side. Anyone who did not know the assistant secretary of state for East Asia would have assumed from the Japanese official's demeanour that Campbell is the most important person in this diplomat's worldview after the occupant of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

 

That, in itself, is not surprising, coming from someone in the Japanese government. In fact, when rumours began circulating in January last year that Campbell would head the incoming Obama state department's East Asia bureau, Kyodo, the Japanese news agency waxed as if the post was that of a head of government. "If Campbell assumes the post," Kyodo reported, "it would be favourable to Japan as he could serve as a counterweight to [secretary of state, Hillary] Clinton, who some in Japan fear would lead the US to tilt toward China."

 

But, for better or worse, Indians must realize that this is the way the world is still structured. As those who make policy in Tokyo see it, if India's point-man for Japan is being invited by the Americans to discuss their region, then obviously India has arrived on the global platform as a key diplomatic player. It is on impressions and assumptions such as these in world capitals that India should build on as it charts its way to its status as a global power. The US cannot 'make' India a great power, as some members of the Bush administration once promised. But Washington can certainly pave the way for India's great power status in the Asian century, as clearly demonstrated by this episode.

 

Impressions on third countries apart, it is also a clear signal in bilateral relations that if the US feels the need to discuss East Asia at regular intervals with those in New Delhi who fine-tune the country's 'Look East' policy, obviously India's reach and importance have vastly changed, in a regional context, from what it was some years ago.

 

In Washington, the desire to consult New Delhi on China is itself not new. During the Clinton administration, a feeble attempt was made to do this, but the effort did not go very far and the process itself was not institutionalized. But, in March this year, the Obama administration not only revived it, but also expanded on the idea and sent Campbell on his first visit to New Delhi as its point-person on East Asia.

 

In Campbell's own words, during his talks with Bambawale in March, "we talked about South East Asia, China, North East Asia and developments there.... Our desire is to continue a strong dialogue with India about their so-called 'Look East' strategy, which obviously involves India playing a larger role economically, politically, strategically in the Asian-Pacific region. We welcome that, we support that, we think that is an important development in the next phase of Asia's growth. We talked about regional architecture and the desire to see India play a larger role in the emerging architecture of the Asian-Pacific region. And I must say we were quite satisfied by our discussions and I look forward to continuing deeper discussions with Indian friends about developments in the wider Asian-Pacific region."

 

What took place in Washington this week with the visiting officials from South Block was precisely a continuation of the deeper discussions with India on the Asia-Pacific that Campbell promised when he returned from New Delhi.

 

Unfortunately, it is most likely that any public discourse in India on this week's Indo-US dialogue on East Asia will attempt to reduce it to a discussion on China between South Block and the state department in an effort to serve vested interests who are trying on both sides to ensure that Sino-Indian tensions — real and imagined — are on the boil. However, India's relations with Southeast and East Asia are expanding so comprehensively that at last, the 'Look East' policy initiated by P.V. Narasimha Rao soon after the end of the Cold War is having an impact in the entire region. For instance, look at the range and depth of India's relations with Japan which, in fact, took up a large slice of the two-day discussions that Bambawale and his team had in Washington.

 

Many years from now, when strategic issues that have a limited shelf-life are discussed, resolved and implemented, after many toasts are offered at state banquets at the Tokyo Imperial Palace and in Rashtrapati Bhavan, long after the paper on which joint statements are printed has become sepia-tinted, the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad will be celebrated as an enduring testimony to Indo-Japanese relations in the 21st century. Similarly, when the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, which is being created with a financial aid of $90 billion and technical assistance from Japan, becomes a reality and transforms the lives of people living along a 1,483 km stretch between India's two big cities, it will be the vindication of a bilateral relationship that is a repetition of how the Soviets facilitated the celebration of Indo-USSR relations through the steel plants in Bhilai and Bokaro.

 

Albeit on a smaller scale compared to Japan, similar strides have been made in relations with South Korea. Here again, the Hyundai car plant in Chennai provides hard evidence of a flowering relationship that people can relate to. The Americans realize that they have gone out of their way with the Indo-US nuclear deal to attempt a transformation of Washington's relations with New Delhi. But, alas, they are also realizing that the nuclear deal is not something ordinary Indians can relate to. But when the Americans have to look to East Asia on how to structure their own relationship with India, it says a lot about the need for New Delhi to look east rather than west in its pursuit of a role on the world stage.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

STOP THEM BOTH

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

No one still imagines my fellow Britons to know their own history. But surely they must know their own language? They don't. And their ignorance is infecting others who use it.

 

First — it's too rich to miss — the history. Last year, a Cardiff University lecturer asked his new economics students to name the British commander at Waterloo. One in six knew. Just one in nine could name any 19th-century British prime minister. Nor are the students alone. The once-grand London Times recently wrote that the House of Commons was "destroyed" by German bombs in 1941. Hit, yes. But destroyed? My eye. Too bad the Times didn't use its.

 

As for language, the less said the better, maybe. But was I to sit silent when I read an Indian newspaper's report that a state minister "has made an offer that Don Corleone may have found difficult to refuse"? Sorry, my friends, but no. Godfather Corleone no doubt had political pals in New York, but not, even in fiction, in Calcutta. For may haveread might have.

 

Why? The short answer is "just because". A longer one starts with a look at may have. We use may to express present uncertainty about ongoing events: he may be at home. Perhaps he is, perhaps he isn't, both are possible but we aren't sure which is true. It's logical to use may have for present uncertainty about past ones: he may have been at home yesterday. "Possible", of course, implies "as far as we know"; his wife and the Almighty doubtless know the truth, but we don't.

 

There's no possibility, however, that Don Corleone found it hard to refuse any offer from Calcutta, no uncertainty about it: as we all know, he never got one. But suppose he had: the Howrah bridge, say, in return for the Brooklyn one. If offered that deal, he indeed might have found it hard to refuse. Might have, sic. Those words imply that if A had happened, then B might have — but in fact A didn't, so B couldn't. Some sequence of events was possible, but it didn't happen, and we know it didn't. That's where to usemight have.

 

The two usages are wholly distinct. Yet you can find may have for might have all over the British media. And their error is plainly catching on elsewhere.

 

Curiously, a similar error, but the other way round, also is common: might (or, less often, might have) instead of may (or may have) in such phrases as he might be clever,but he's no genius. That is an odd but wholly acceptable way of saying although he is clever, nonetheless.... Acceptable, that is, provided you use may, not might (unless, of course, you're reporting what someone said: in that case, the standard rules turn the original he may be clever, but... into the columnist wrote (eg) that he might be clever, but...).

 

Yet often — notably in sports reports — you'll find phrases like Tendulkar might be a great batsman, but.... That might is flatly wrong. Don't ask me why may is OK there even when there's no uncertainty: Tendulkar is a great batsman, period, and we all know it. But English is often odd. And things may not be so certain: he may (I don't know) be clever, but (I'm sure) he's no genius.

 

Strangely, this error runs against the one usage where may and might are equally acceptable. He may have gone home means it's possible, but you aren't sure. He might have suggests greater doubt: it's possible, but you suspect not. That usage makes the phrase about Tendulkar look even odder; it seems to imply real doubt about his skills, the very opposite of what the sports journalist intends. Yet might be... but is spreading from its British base, just as the erroneous may have is. They should both be stopped.

 

I don't expect that: today's error easily becomes tomorrow's idiom. But why invent idioms that lead to confusion?

 

THEWORDCAGE@YAHOO.CO.UK

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

LEGAL FAQS

ADVOCATE NIBEDITA ROYE ANSWERS YOUR QUERIES

 

Q: I built my house in the Rajarhat Gopalpur municipal area with permission from the municipal authority. However, the local councillor is now refusing to give his consent to the completion certificate. He is demanding a part of my land — which is vacant as per municipal rules — to construct a road. He also wants me to build a club for local political workers. How can I save myself from these unjust demands?

 

R.K. Sharma, Calcutta

 

A: The commissioner of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation issues the completion certificate once he is satisfied that the house or building is fit to be occupied in all respects. The local councillor has no role in this regard. So there is no reason for you to give in to his illegal demands.

 

Q:Our tenants pay rents of Rs 60 to 100 a month. They are, in fact, relatives of the original tenants who left long ago. However, the rent receipts are still being issued in the names of the original tenants. We have earlier lost a legal case against these people. How can we evict them?

 

Name withheld

 

A: You have not stated the details of the legal case that you lost. However, if you want to evict the relatives of your tenants, you will have to file a civil suit for eviction against your tenants on grounds of subletting and/or any other ground available to you according to the provisions of the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act. But before that, you should stop issuing rent receipts in the name of the original tenants. Instead, send the tenants a notice to quit the premises.

 

Q:My husband owns a flat in a co-operative housing society. My father has also purchased a flat in the same society. Now my father wants to transfer his flat to my name. Can he transfer it through a deed of gift? Can I become a member of a society where my husband is already a member?

 

Madhuchanda Ganguly, Calcutta

 

A: A person owning a house or apartment in his own name or in the name of a family member is not eligible to become a member of a co-operative society as per the provisions in the West Bengal Co-operative Societies Rules, 1987. Hence, in your case, membership to the same society is likely to be rejected on that ground.

 

Please send your legal queries with your name and address to Legal FAQs, The Telegraph (Features), 6 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700001. Or email us at legalfaqs@abp.in

Readers are requested to please keep their queries short.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

MINING GOODWILL

THE PROPOSED MINES AND MINERALS (DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION) BILL, 2010, SEEKS TO MAKE MINING COMPANIES SHARE THEIR PROFITS WITH THE LOCAL PEOPLE, REPORTS HEMCHHAYA DE

 

Environment activists, rejoicing at the recent jolt to the Vedanta mining project in Orissa, seem to be on a collision course yet again with industry groups in the country. A storm seems to be brewing over the proposed Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2010, put forth by the Indian ministry of mines, which seeks to amend the MMDR Act, 1957.

 

The draft bill seeks to levy additional taxes and duties — in terms of excise and customs duties and security deposits — on mining operations. It also gives greater powers to state governments to impose taxes on mining activities. What's more, the draft has included a provision whereby mining corporations are required to share 26 per cent of their equity or profits with indigenous people affected by their projects.

 

Furthermore, Section 42 (2) of the bill says the holder of a mining lease is required to provide employment and/or other assistance to affected families as per the "rehabilitation and resettlement" policies of the state governments. It also lays down that "the state government through the Gram Sabha or the District Council or the Panchayat... shall identify the families affected by the mining operations... before the commencement of such operations."

 

The draft bill explains that the compensation will ensure that affected families won't fall below the poverty line and that they receive an "income equal to at least the income earned by the family before the start of mining operation". Moreover, the compensation prescribed under this section "shall be in addition to any other amount or compensation payable to the person holding occupation or... traditional rights of the surface of the land under any other law for the time being in force".

 

Leading environmental organisations like the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have welcomed the profit-sharing provision in the bill. According to a CSE report, between 1950 and 1991, mining in India displaced about 2.6 million people and not even 25 per cent of them have been resettled. It further shows that for "every one per cent that mining contributes to India's GDP, it displaces three to four times more people than all development projects put together".

 

CSE director Sunita Narain maintains that the industry needs to "understand that unless the country can evolve an inclusive growth model, there will be no development at all". However, associations like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) have come down heavily on the compensation provision of the bill. They are also opposing the additional duties and taxes that it proposes.

 

In a letter to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, FICCI secretary general Amit Mitra says that the profit-sharing provision is "complex, difficult to implement, and will put a very high financial burden on mining companies." He adds, "The provisions relating to compensation, along with numerous others already imposed on the mining sector, will discourage modernisation of the sector and make many mining projects unviable."

 

Therefore, FICCI has recommended that the government opt for a "one-time fixed compensation" for the displaced or those affected by mining operations in any other way. FICCI is also of the view that the government should not impose any more cess or tax, other than royalty, on the mining industry.

 

"The government says it's following some international models insofar as the 26 per cent profit-sharing provision is concerned. If 26 per cent is the magic figure, why not ask for 26 per cent of the royalty companies pay to the government for the benefit of project-affected people," asks R.K. Sharma, secretary general, FIMI, a conglomeration of 350 mining operators and associations in India.

 

Sharma points out that shareholders who contribute financially will not accept the earmarking of 26 per cent of free shares or profits. "People who do not contribute financially will get away with 26 per cent of the profits, but will not share the losses. This will definitely drive away investors," he says. Therefore, FIMI recommends a royalty-linked compensation plan.

 

Environment activists, however, do not agree to this. "Of course, they will opt for a royalty-linked compensation because in the case of some resources like iron ore, the royalty paid to governments is as low as 10 per cent," says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director, CSE. "Indian mining companies make super profits. And some companies like Sesa Goa have cash reserves of about Rs 7,000 crore. So even after sharing 26 per cent of the profits, mining companies can keep a reasonable amount of profit."

 

Bhushan adds that the profit-sharing system is an established international best practice. For instance, South Africa's Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act includes provisions that give local communities powers to benefit from mining projects. Similar practices are also prevalent in mineral-rich countries like Peru, Chile and even Papua New Guinea.

 

However, some experts are of the view that even profit sharing may not be enough to protect the interests of those affected by mining operations. "Under international law, industrial projects cannot take place on tribal peoples' land, and they cannot be removed from their land, without their free, prior and informed consent," says Miriam Ross, spokesperson for the London-based non governmental organisation Survival International, which fought mining giant Vedanta on behalf of the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa where the company wanted to open bauxite and alumina mines. "While agreements to share the profits from mining with local people may in some cases be welcome, this is not a substitute for respecting indigenous peoples' rights to their land."

 

Ross feels that development for tribal people should not be the responsibility of mining companies alone. "If people get access to basic healthcare and education from a mining company, they will be under enormous pressure to accede to whatever it wants to do on their land," she says. "Where projects do go ahead, it's crucial that development assistance is used in the way the local people choose, rather than in the way someone else thinks is best for them."

 

Others believe that a profit-linked compensation approach could be abused as companies can tamper with their balance sheets and may not show their actual profits. "Fudging of profits is not desirable. In that case, an equity-based approach may seem better," says Nitya Nanda, senior research fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute, Delhi. "In fact, there is no perfect model. At the end of the day, a balance has to be struck keeping in mind the interests of all parties."

An official with the Indian mining ministry, who doesn't wish to be named, says the government is reconsidering the compensation and other provisions in the bill. "The bill is with the group of ministers concerned. Deliberations are on," he says.

So in all probability the bill may be tabled in Parliament next year rather than during this year's winter session, as many believe. Whatever the case may be, one hopes the government will stick to its new-found agenda of development with a human face.

 

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

EDITORIAL

MOVE WITH CAUTION

''THE LAW NEEDS TO BE WITHDRAWN, BUT NOT NOW.''

 

While the situation in Kashmir is worsening day by day, there is confusion in Srinagar and in New Delhi over how to roll back the angry tide of protests that has been sweeping the state. Monday was the worst day of violence in the recent past and there is no sign of improvement. The death of more and more people and the spreading and deepening of violence present a difficult situation. The security forces are overstretched.


Even in places where they are present in strength they are unable to act effectively to contain violence. The state government led by Omar Abdullah has given the impression that it has almost given up. Omar has not taken any steps to cool off the passions and control the situation. The deterioration of the security environment is in no small measure due to the state government's administrative failure.


Omar has reportedly warned that he would quit if the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is not withdrawn from at least some parts of Kashmir. It is true that AFSPA is a sweeping legal measure that gives armed forces powers to detain, arrest and kill people without the fear of retribution. It is makes the forces less unaccountable for their actions. 


The law needs to be withdrawn from Kashmir but this is not the best time for doing that. Both the Congress party and the UPA are divided on the matter. The armed forces which have an important role in dealing with the situation in the state now is against any hasty decision to withdraw AFSPA, even if it is only from some districts. The Cabinet Committee on Security could not take a decision and an all-party meeting has been convened on Wednesday. Since policies on Kashmir and methods to deal with the situation should have wide national support, the government needs to take into account the views expressed at the all-party meeting.

There are other initiatives which have been discussed and which can be taken to rebuild the trust of the people. The government can try to evolve a consensus on them and involve as many parties and sections of people as possible within the state and outside in giving a final shape to them and implementing them. The present unrest in Kashmir is not specifically and solely directed against AFSPA and so it may be premature to consider its dilution or withdrawal at this stage.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

COMMENDABLE FEAT

''SUSHIL'S PERFORMANCE OFFERS FRESH HOPE.''

 

For a sport that has deep roots in this country, wrestling has thrown up few world-beaters from India. Sushil Kumar's thrilling win at the World Championships in Moscow on Sunday does not mark a total turnaround in that abysmal record, but it does confirm the Indian champion's place in history while offering fresh hope to a sport grappling with difficult issues off the mat.


Sushil came to prominence two years ago when he won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing. A largely unknown face beyond the confines of his sport till then, Sushil brushed off a first-round defeat to emerge with a surprise medal — India's second from wrestling after K D Jadhav's bronze at the 1952 Olympics n Helsinki.


It has not been a smooth journey for the 27-year-old since then. Though accolades and financial rewards poured in following his Beijing success, Sushil angered the establishment when he was disqualified from the Asian Championships at Pattaya, Thailand, last year for being overweight.


On his part, the wrestler also did not endear himself to many when he criticised his omission from the national honours' list. The Pattaya episode and the sports ministry's subsequent warning seem to have had a positive impact on the wrestler as he has been on a winning march since then, taking the German Grand Prix title last year besides pocketing his maiden Asian crown in New Delhi earlier this year with spectacular performances.


His latest success underscores Sushil's mental and physical strength as he overcame a clutch of strong opponents before towering over Russia's Alan Gogaev in the final of the 66 kg category, winning five bouts in one day. The gold medal could not have come at a better time for Indian wrestling, struggling as it is to cope with charges of doping by some prominent competitors, including Arjuna award winner Rajiv Tomar, in the build up to next month's Commonwealth Games.


Sushil has done his bit to raise the profile of the event, which is also in the eye of a corruption storm. In the last lap to the opening ceremony on October 3, it was high time sport got its share of the limelight and Sushil's success, perhaps, will turn the attention on the men and women who really make the Games, instead of those who specialise in self-aggrandisement.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

TACKLING MAOISM

BY ALOK RAY


As there is no protection against the rise in the prices of pulses, there has not been a significant improve-ment in nutrition levels.

 

The Right to Food, to be enforced through the proposed Food Security Act, is one of the basic components of the UPA-II vision of inclusive growth. Under the Act, each BPL family would be provided 35 kg of foodgrains (rice and wheat) per month at Rs 2 or 3 per kg while the current market price is in the range of Rs 12-18.


This is expected to end starvation deaths in India. Critics, however, argue that 35 kg of grains would be enough to feed a family of four for only about 15 days. Hence, even if it eliminates starvation deaths, this alone would not provide the minimum calorie requirements. If the price of grains for BPL cardholders is fixed at Rs 2 per kg while the current market price varies in the range of Rs 12 to 18, then this would be equivalent to a cash transfer in the range of Rs 350 to Rs 560 per month per family.


For families with alternate sources of income this scheme would be a supplementary transfer, which may have significant consequences for different sections of the rural population. A recent study of the impact of a similar food security scheme (35 kg of grains at Re 1 per kg for ultra-poor families and Rs 2 per kg for the poor families) implemented in Chhattisgarh since 2006 throws light on the likely consequences of the Food Security Act, as and when it would be implemented throughout the country.


Overall, expectedly, the number of starvation deaths has come down drastically in Chhattisgarh. But since there is no protection against the rise in the price of pulses and oilseeds during the recent spurt in food inflation, there has not been a significant improvement in nutrition levels.


The impact of the near-universal food security net has been different for big farmers, small farmers and agricultural labourers. Chhattisgarh is predominately a rice-growing area. Most landless workers used to work on other peoples' land against wages paid in kind (principally rice).


Now a large part of their food requirement is being met by the food security programme and more work opportunities at minimum wages are available under NREGA projects in the villages. As a result, they are looking for non-farm work (including working in mines and brick kilns) against wages paid in money so that they can buy things other than foodgrains.


More work opportunities and better bargaining power have raised the wage rates for agricultural labour. This has made life specially difficult for small farmers who cannot afford to offer to the workers higher wages or a large number of work days compared to what the big farmers can provide.


Spending on vegetables


Some big farmers are moving away from paddy to cash crops (like vegetables) as the local demand for paddy (from which rice is derived) has come down and people are able to spend more on vegetables. Another contributory factor is the greater shortage of labour in the paddy cultivating season when many workers are busy cultivating their tiny plots of land. Labour is more easily available in the non-paddy season when vegetables can be grown.

At the same time, paddy itself is becoming more like a commercial crop. Earlier, much of the paddy cultivation was for subsistence. The production was mostly used to meet the family requirement for staple food (rice) and seeds for next year. Whatever little surplus remained was sold for cash. As the food requirement is largely being taken care of by cheap grains from ration shops, more surplus is becoming available to be sold in the market for cash. This is leading to greater  monetisation of the rural economy.


Once the basic food security net is available, many farmers  are also able to take greater risk and are found to invest more in HYV (high yielding variety) seeds and irrigation (like wells and pump sets) often with the help of bank credit. Ever increasing MSP (minimum support price) for rice and wheat and the government's readiness to buy any surplus at MSP is an additional factor inducing farmers to go for paddy cultivation as a commercial crop.


Consequently, the total area under paddy cultivation may not necessarily go down in Chhattisgarh. Even here, the big farmers have an advantage in that they find it easier to sell their surplus to the government procurement agencies than small farmers — specially when the agencies are under pressure to fulfil a procurement quota.


Despite the near-universal food security net, Chhattisgarh continues to be a hot bed of Maoist activities. Is it because the benefits of the food security net have not percolated to the remote tribal areas due to faulty distribution of ration cards and non-availability of foodgrains in PDS ration shops?  


Or, is it because many of them do not have any other source of earning and they are not able to buy their full entitlement of food even at heavily subsidised prices, in addition to the fact that the entitlement is not enough to feed the families for more than two weeks in a month? Or, is it that the grievances of the tribal people, fanned by the Maoists, have little to do with food security? We need find the answers.


(The writer is a former professor of economics at IIM, Calcutta)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

TURKEY'S THUMBS UP TO RADICAL REFORMS

BY MICHAEL JANSEN


It is ironic that the AKP, rooted in religious politics, has become the engine of transformation.

 

 

Turkey's adoption of a package of constitutional amendments in last weekend's referendum amounted to a victory for the millions of conservative Muslim Turks who yearn to play a central role in the politics of the country. The vote was also a triumph for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), an offspring of previously banned parties having roots in Islam. In the referendum, held on the anniversary of the Sept 12, 1980, military coup, a comfortable 58 per cent of voters supported the 26 proposed amendments, 42 per cent opposed.

Designed to meet European Union demands for legal reform, the amendments strengthened rights to equality for women and minorities, collective bargaining for labour, and child protection. The military was placed under the jurisdiction of civil courts and officers involved in the 1980 coup lost immunity from prosecution. The most controversial articles deal with the appointment of senior judges and imposing civilian control over the military.


The AKP is determined to exert influence over appointments to the constitutional court and other key legal bodies because they have been used by the militantly secular elite to repeatedly ban parties and politicians with a religious background.


Reining in the military


Most Turks favour reining in the military, which assumed the role of the country's guarantor, and holding officers accountable for carrying out coups. The first was in 1960 when the army arrested the members of the ruling party, put them on trial, and hanged the prime minister. In 1971 the army compelled the conservative government to resign and declared martial law.


In 1980, the generals, led by Kenen Evren, who became president, took over and imposed a new constitution. In 1997, the army conducted a 'white coup' by forcing the resignation of a coalition led by the parent of the AKP. On this occasion the generals allowed secular politicians to form a government.


As soon as the result of the referendum was announced, parties for and against the amendments as well as boycotters and human rights organisations lodged criminal complaints against the leaders of the 1980 coup. This demonstrated that the aggressively secular politico-military elite, which has governed Turkey since the 1920s no longer dominates the scene. Political power has been gradually assumed by the majority of Turks during the eight year rule of the AKP.


It appears that the AKP is tuned into what the mass of Turkish voters want. The AKP has ushered in economic reforms, presided over a period of domestic stability at a time West Asia has been in turmoil, advanced Turkey's bid to join the EU, and projected Turkish influence on the international scene.


Consequently, the AKP has won two national elections and secured the approval of its policies in two referenda. If Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan guides his party to victory in the 2011 parliamentary election, he will become the longest serving and most influential Turkish leader since Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state. This is more than likely because secular and nationalist opposition parties that called for a 'no' vote in the referendum are in disarray.


Civil constitution


Once the AKP secures a fresh mandate, it plans to draft an entirely new 'civil constitution' to replace the 1980 'military constitution.' In this new constitution, the AKP is expected to address the concerns of the country's 20 per cent Kurdish minority, its demands for recognition as a separate ethnic and cultural community and for a measure of self-rule in eastern Anatolia.


Analysts also suggest the AKP may press Turkish Cypriots to accept Greek Cypriot requirements for a deal for reunification of the island — divided since Turkey occupied the north in 1974 — in a bicommunal, bizonal federation. This would remove the Kurdish and Cyprus problems from the list of obstacles preventing Turkey's EU accession.


It is ironic that the AKP, rooted in religious politics, has become the engine of transformation of Turkey from a country where self-appointed generals have had the final say in governance to one where democratically elected civilian politicians reign for constitutionally defined periods.


Islamo-sceptic or Islamophobe western politicians and analysts never expected that the impetus for Turkey's democratisation would come from the AKP. But democracy was the party's only option if it was to challenge the secular politico-military elite that ruled the country for 82 years.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

FRINGE BENEFITS

BY R VIJAYA BHASKARA REDDY


Among walkers, topics range from most profound to profane, all in good humour.

 

Sitting at the wheel of my car on a heavy traffic day, I was listening to the FM radio. Between songs, a cardiologist was being interviewed. Many of his wise suggestions were on food. Then came the tip not to fret and fume while in a traffic jam.


This appeared redundant. Bangalorean is so used to the chaotic traffic, that he is no more ruffled by such minor irritants. He was advising to simulate rapid, forceful cough in case of a heart attack, before medical help could reach. Sane advice indeed! Yet it reminded me of the instruction given by the air hostess, before the take off, of how to fasten the life jacket tucked below the seat in case of emergency landing on water, to keep afloat. I always wondered was anyone in the history of aviation ever saved in this manner.


Then the talk veered on to benefits of walking. He was lamenting that this form of exercise is taken only by people who have already crossed their middle age when some form of ailment has already set in. Until recently, games were part of the growing up of children. This has almost now vanished with stress on academic attainment to the exclusion of all else. At this rate as they grow up they too would be joining us in parks making the present parks woefully inadequate.


Incidentally my mind strayed on to my morning walk. Besides health benefit, it has certain fringe benefits. You constantly meet the same people who over a period of time become your friends. At the end of walking you tend to assemble for a small gossip, the topics ranging from most profound to profane, all in good humour.


Take the case of my friend, who in his heady days of marriage, even before he could explore the mysteries of his new bride, she was taken away to her parents' house in Mumbai due to a much hated custom. Then flowed copious poetry in Sindhi from my friend's pen and all remained unanswered to his utter chagrin, till the day she came back asking much to his consternation to explain them as she could not read Sindhi.


Then there is our professor, a self-styled yoga expert was never tired of talking of the tangible and intangible benefits of yoga. But his misguided contortions consigned him to his bed to heal his weary bones. Now I dare say he ruminates only on the intangible benefits.


In his youthful days, our coffee planter was a sight of envy on his Royal Enfield. Strutting with his puffed-up chest, he was the talk of the town. After marriage, he took to the sober ways of a farmer but indiscriminate consumption of coffee and cigarette did him in. 


Now in his old age with all complications of health, he still struts around in the park with poor vision, on legs which barely carry him. Yet even now with a beatific smile, he twirls his moustache with the same old spark. Each day in the park opens up to new humour. I often wonder whether these fringe benefits are better than the benefits of walking itself!

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

ERDOGAN VICTORIOUS

 

We will be seeing plenty more of Erdogan – including his unique brand of "democracy," and a foreign policy which apparently features as its centerpiece a steady distancing from Israel.

 

Ostensibly, the results of Turkey's referendum this week were a boon to democracy. Some 58 percent of voters approved a package of 26 amendments that protect privacy and personal information, strengthen collective bargaining for civil servants, and foster gender equality and other citizens' rights.


Even the controversial elements of the referendum, bitterly opposed by secular forces, also seemed to be, as EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele put it, "a step in the right direction" toward the realization of Turkey's dream of joining the EU. The curbing of the power of the secular-controlled military, which has deposed four democratically elected governments since 1960, also seemed to bring Turkey more in line with western democracies, where the executive and legislative branches of government have clear control over the armed forces.


However, as Prof. Efraim Inbar of Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies has argued, it would be Orwellian to describe post-referendum Turkey as "more democratic."


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is likely to use the new powers granted to him by the referendum to neutralize the secular opposition. For instance, President Abdullah Gul, a member of Erdogan's AKP party, was granted a key role in the appointment of justices to the Constitutional Court, which may soon cease to be a bastion of secularism after it is expanded from 11 to 17 justices.


The secularists can be blamed in part for having brought this potential Muslim resurgence on themselves.

Since the founding of the secular Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, the military elite has launched coups, occasionally accompanied by torture and extrajudicial killings, to secure secular political hegemony. It has aggressively pursued a strict separation of religion and state – such as a blanket ban on headscarves in universities, a move that prompted Erdogan's daughter Sumeyye and thousands of other daughters of conservative, wealthy families, to pursue their degrees abroad rather than remove their head coverings.

Now Erdogan's AKP, which has remained in power for the last eight years thanks to the support of Turkey's religious masses, is leading a counter Islamic trend.


A HARBINGER of what might lie in store for Turkey's secular elite was evidenced last month when Erdogan threatened to "eliminate" Tusiad, the country's largest business lobby, for not taking a clear stand on the referendum.

Tusiad rightfully responded that "To warn an institution of civil society that 'the neutral will be eliminated' ... will not strengthen the role of civil society in modern democracy."


The Turkish business community is already worried by the government's imposition of massive tax fines on the Dogan media group, whose newspapers have been critical of Erdogan's government. And businessmen have been complaining for some time now that to win government tenders they must conceal consumption of alcoholic beverages and other secular habits.


In April of last year, meanwhile, Turkey's delegation to the NATO summit initially rejected the appointment of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen – an outspoken defender of the freedom of expression of Danish cartoonists who caricatured the Prophet Mohammed – as the alliance's new secretary-general.


That kind of position raises questions about Erdogan's commitment to democratic values such as free speech.

THE SHIFT in power marked by the referendum will also likely impact relations with Israel. In recent years, the secular elite that controls the Turkish armed forces spearheaded joint military exercises with the IDF. In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, Israel's winter 2008/9 assault on Hamas in Gaza, during which Erdogan took the side of Hamas, and especially after the Mavi Marmara affair, cooperation has dropped to a new low. With the military leadership's power inside Turkey waning and Islamic influence gaining ground, relations between the IDF and Turkish forces are likely to suffer further setbacks.



And with Erdogan enjoying the political momentum of his relatively wide referendum victory, a win for the AKP in the July 2011 national elections is looking increasingly probable.


We will, it appears, be seeing plenty more of Erdogan – including his unique brand of "democracy," and a foreign policy which apparently features as its centerpiece a steady distancing from Israel.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

ILLUSIONS AND MANIPULATIONS

BY ALAN BAKER 

 

Israeli demand for Palestinian up-front recognition of this country as a Jewish state is as artificial as the Palestinians' demand for up-front cessation of settlement construction.

Talkbacks (1)

There is no doubt that the settlement issue now figures as the centerpiece of public attention both locally and internationally, above all the other no less important negotiating issues, such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security and water.


Undoubtedly, the issue is a relevant political and legal one, of concern to the international community which has consistently questioned the legality of Israel's settlement policies. But there are many other issues of far greater legal and political import than settlement policy, and one may thus wonder if this is the real reason for its having become the central and decisive issue in the negotiating scene.


In fact, the real reason for the "upgrading" of settlement- building from being merely one among other agreed-upon negotiating issues is a concerted policy of manipulation by the Palestinian Authority leadership – Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb Erekat and Nabil Sha'ath – to enhance the international pressure on Israel.


Clearly, this manipulation has been extremely successful, as is borne out by the fact that US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as the EU leadership and those same PA leaders, are all voicing one consistent demand – to renew the freeze on building in the territories.

THE QUESTION arises as to how such a major manipulation succeeded when there exists no mention in any of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements of any restriction on building by Israel in those parts of the territories still under its jurisdiction? Thus, the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (commonly termed Oslo I) lists "settlements" as a negotiating issue for the permanent status negotiations, along with Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security arrangements and cooperation.


In the Agreed Minutes attached to this document, the Palestinians acknowledged that they will have no jurisdiction in those areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that are the subject of permanent status negotiations.


In the Civil Affairs Annex to the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (commonly termed Oslo II), Article 27 sets out the agreed terms for planning and zoning and construction powers in the territories, stressing that powers and responsibilities transferred to the Palestinians would not cover those areas intended for permanent status negotiation, which remained within Israel's jurisdiction. No limitations were placed on Israel in this field of planning and zoning.


During the course of the negotiations in 1995, realizing that the draft agreement contained no requirement to freeze construction, Yasser Arafat requested that the Israeli team add a "side letter" by which Israel would commit to freezing or restricting construction during the process of implementation of the agreement and ensuing negotiations. Several drafts of this "side letter" passed between the negotiating teams, until Israel indeed agreed to restrict its construction activities on the basis of a government decision that would be adopted.


At this stage the Palestinian leadership decided to cancel its request for a side letter, preferring no mention in the agreement of any limitation on construction.

Evidently, at this point, in 1995, the decision was taken by the Palestinian leadership to artificially turn the issue of continued construction in settlements into an international issue, and it commenced a concerted campaign in the international community, international organizations and media.


This gamble paid off, and continued construction was manipulatively inflated into the present decisive, separate and major issue of the present negotiating process. So much so that even the Israeli government found itself playing along with this manipulation by adopting a unilateral 10-month freeze on construction, without any Palestinian commitment to enter into negotiations. In so doing, the government gave credence to the artificial and manipulative upgrading of the settlement issue.


ONE MIGHT view Israel's demand for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state as a parallel artificial and illusory demand. In fact, no such demand was made during the earlier stages of negotiation on the various Oslo and other accords. In these accords, the Palestinians recognized Israel's rights to exist in peace and security (Arafat letter to Yitzhak Rabin dated September 9, 1993) and its legitimate and political rights (preamble to both Oslo I and Oslo II). Nor was such a demand made in the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.


But it is patently clear that mutual recognition of sovereignty and political integrity, as well as the other standard components of a peaceful relationship as set out in the UN Charter, are tantamount to recognition of whatever religious, political and other character each respective state entity determines for itself.


Thus, if and when we reach the final stage of signing a peace accord with the Palestinians, recognition of each side's religious and political orientation will be an inherent component.


Hence the present demand for Palestinian up-front recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would appear to be no less illusory and unnecessary. Israel does not need Palestinian authorization of its Jewish orientation, and the mere repetition of the demand is a sign of weakness as to self-confidence.



Now that we are once again returning to a direct negotiating mode, after the absurdities of indirect talks over the last months, it would appear to be incumbent on both leaderships to come down from the high trees they have climbed, to give up the manipulations and illusions and to face the practical realities of dealing with the negotiating issues in a pragmatic, constructive and positive-looking manner.


The writer is a former Foreign Ministry legal adviser and ambassador to Canada and a former member of the negotiating team with the Palestinians.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

COLUMN

TERRA INCOGNITA: NEITHER ATHENS NOR SPARTA

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN  

 

Recent comparisons of Israel to these failed Greek city-states are sorely lacking.

There is a lot of talk these days, as there has been since the beginning of Zionism, about the future of Israel, the people, the state and the land. Inevitably it devolves into two central questions: What kind of Jew are you and which Jewish culture is the State of Israel supposed to live up to? The answers are more diverse than the question.

Some will say they are Josephus, the polyglot patriot turned memorializer of his people's travails. Some wish themselves to be the Zealots and some the martyrs, others the prophets. Inevitably the gap between who you believe you are and what the "state" has become is always great; it is never grasping its potential.


For some reason recently the question of Israel's future has come to be seen in Greek terms. Is Israel Athens or Sparta? Gadi Taub in Yediot Aharonot claimed in 2009 that the settlers love of the land "turned the Judaism of the settlers into an armed Sparta that replaced the spirit with materialism and the moral heritage of Israel's prophets with Joshua bin Nun's sword."


Influential columnist Eitan Haber, also in Yediot, claimed in a January article that by building fences around Israel "we are seeing the establishment of the new, modern-day Sparta here; yet we so much wanted to be like Athens."

Leonard Fein in the Forward countered that while Israel has many Spartan attributes, it is also Athenian, in some of its culture and in its hi-tech industry. His example of its Athenianess was, oddly, the fact that some Greek works have been translated into Hebrew – "These are as purely Athenian achievements as can be."


Really? Of all the things said about the Athenians, it's not clear they were great translators, perhaps he is confusing them with the medieval European monks.


The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levi joined the fray in July when he noted, "There is Athens and Sparta. Athens for peace and Sparta for wartime. Israel has been at war for 60 years, but it is still not Sparta; it is Athens. This is great, this is amazing."


A Muslim Web site called Albalagh.net includes an article entitled "Israel and Sparta," claiming that both sought to invade and enslave their neighbors: "Since Israelis and Spartans constantly feared a revolt by their oppressed peoples, both societies were militaristic and had citizen armies."


PERHAPS IT'S worth taking a step back and reminding ourselves who the Athenians and Spartans were. Classical Sparta was founded sometime around 800 BCE and rose to fame in 480 BCE when 300 of its legendary soldiers died in battle against a Persian army 1,000 times as large. As an oligarchy ruled by kings and a few elders, Sparta became a land power, relying on a small elite citizenry of trained warriors who were forbidden to work. Women enjoyed a high level of semi-equality, owning many of the estates. Spartans didn't build great monuments and had no real wealth. They defeated Athens in the famous Peloponnesian War and subsequently declined, mostly due to low birth rates, until the town became a mere tourist attraction for the Romans.

Athens by contrast was the city of semi-democracy from the sixth century BCE. A great sea power, Athenians shunned their women, who had few rights, and were prone to all sorts of internal strife and dissension.


They were great builders and philosophers. But they relied on money to field their armies and build their fleets, when their treasury was empty, their empire declined and the city fell to foreigners.


Every child raised in the West was, until recently, educated to admire these city states, the one a great military society of self-sacrifice, the other a progenitor of culture and democracy. Israel too, therefore, has been asked to liken itself to one or the other. And we supposedly see aspects of both here. The endless histrionics of the fringe-left, its cultural boycotts, its weird comparisons of hiding foreign worker children to hiding children during the Holocaust, or the Turkish hate-flotilla to the Exodus.


Who can forget all the recent congratulations of the feigned courage of Ilana Hammerman, who claims that she is breaking some taboo by eating Arabic food in Hebron or taking Palestinian girls to the beach in Tel Aviv? The professors who line up to condemn student organizations like Im Tirtzu for supposedly threatening democracy do so in the name of preserving Athenian Israel.


And what of the Spartan Israel? Is it the settlers in their caravans shunning gold but walking the land? Or is it the kibbutzim who still hold on to the myths of old, that they are producing agricultural products and going to the best army units, when in fact less and less of them go to the army and more and more of those agricultural products exist only because of state subsidies? Surely the demographics of the kibbutz are not so different than Sparta.

The truth is that Israel is neither and nor should it aspire to the failures that befell these Greek city-states. Who wants the internal strife of Athens, the self-doubt, the treachery of Alcibiades (its greatest general), and the weird admiration that so many Athenians had, cowering behind their Long Walls (built to connect their city to the sea), for the Spartans? And who wants the Spartan way of life, the spurning of work, the endless Adonis complex, the low birth rates and reliance on a class of semislaves to support society? Israel could aspire to much more than the current Athenian Europe, and more than simplistic and ultimately fatal Spartanism. But even while aspiring to more we could do well to learn from their past failures.



It was Athens that built walls around itself, and when its military failed, its walls could not save it from the internal coups that followed.


It was Sparta that invested so much in its army only to have it humiliated at Sphacteria in 425 BCE by Athenians who were barely schooled in war. Echoes of the recent problems faced by Israel in Lebanon or aboard the Turkish flotilla? Much can be learned in this history and less of it aspired to.


The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

COLUMN

IN MY OWN WRITE: ABOUT LETTING GO

BY JUDY MONTAGU  

 

There is physical need, and there is psychological need, and of the two, the latter is far more complex.

 

To every thing there is a season… a time to keep, and a time to cast away – Ecclesiastes, 3:1 


I remember a colleague telling me, many years ago, about her persistent efforts to get her adolescent son to go through his closet and put the toys he had outgrown into a large plastic bag so she could donate them to charity.


"I pestered him for ages," she said, "until one day, I pinned him down in his bedroom."


Then she described, with some amusement, the ensuing scenario: Son, pulling out an old teddy bear and placing it in the bag: "I don't need this any more."


Mom: "But you've had that teddy since you were two! You can't give him away!" (Son shrugs, and Teddy is retrieved.) Son, tossing a multicolored ball: "Goodbye, ball!" Mom: "But that was the very first ball you ever had... Grandma bought it for you – don't you want to keep it?" And so on.


"I gradually realized," confessed my colleague, ruefully, "that I was the one who couldn't bear to part with these old things we didn't need any more."


WHAT AN emotion-laden word "need" is. It sounds like beseeching, almost like a wail.


There is physical need, and there is psychological need, and of the two, the latter is far more complex.


It's bound up chiefly, it appears to me, with our memories and sense of security, which are of course themselves related.

My colleague, quite aware that her son, well on his way to adulthood, would never again play with his toys – but unable, nevertheless, to bear the thought of parting with Teddy and her son's first ball, gifted by Grandma – was most likely holding onto the sweetness of her son's early childhood; also, perhaps, to the happy recollection of her younger self; and to her bond with her own mother, who, if she was still with them, would not be around forever.

IT SEEMS, then, that there is a great deal more than meets the eye to the things we possess. Beyond their external, physical existence, they encompass a powerful internal reality that can play havoc with our feelings when it comes time to declutter.


Emotion enters every decision, particularly when the possessions we are pruning are things we've inherited from our parents. It can be true even when they've just been part of our lives for decades.


Security and familiarity lie in that clock on the wall, in that little table, that chair. Once they go, a part of ourselves – however small – and of our past, go with them.


It's unsettling.

Just how unsettling was brought home to me by a friend who is making aliya this year from North America. He related how agonizing – no less – it has been for him to decide what to bring along or send, and what to get rid of. He realizes that in cleaning up his apartment and sorting through his stuff, he is confronting a lifetime of memories, layer upon layer, many of them buried until now.


That's no simple thing. On the bright side, it might well make the business of settling into his new homeland seem easy by comparison.


LETTING go of people can be just as problematic as letting go of things.


There's a wonderful Zen story about two monks, one older and one much younger, who were going on a journey. Arriving at a flowing river, they came upon a lovely young girl who was fearful of crossing.


Without a word, the older monk picked her up, slung her over his shoulder and waded to the opposite bank. Once there, he laid her down and continued on his way.


The younger monk, hurrying behind, was speechless at his elder's behavior, and couldn't compose himself for several minutes.


Finally, he said: "You know the strict rules of our order. How could you act as you did?" "I put her down on the other side," his companion replied. "You're the one who's still carrying her."


THERE IS more than one moral to this story, but it does illustrate the difficulty of delinking ourselves from those with whom we oughtn't any longer to be preoccupied.


Ex-husbands and -wives, for instance.


There are divorced people who fancy themselves single again, but are in actuality as tied to their erstwhile partners as when they were wed to them.


They're easy to recognize, seizing on every opportunity to talk about their dreadful exes, implicitly demanding understanding of their side.


It's quite boring.


Some carry on lengthy legal proceedings way beyond the reasonable, aimed at righting this or that real or perceived injustice. Tragically many use their children as weapons against the former mates they are so furious with – and still so tightly wrapped up in.


They haven't learned to let go.

 

AS FOR children, there's a definite art to letting them go, allowing them to strike out on their own when they've reached the age and aptitude to do so – even when the direction they take isn't exactly the one you'd hoped for. That's what makes it an art.


The great, open secret about letting children go, of course, is that it's the one sure way to bind them to you for always in love and gratitude.


WITH Yom Kippur ahead, it might be instructive to recall the reply of a man interviewed on television after reaching 100-and-something and asked what he considered the reason for his longevity. It emerged that his secret lay in his ability to let go of angry feelings and replace them with forgiveness.


"I don't bear a grudge over anything," he stated, simply.


Echoed a feisty and thoughtful almost-96-year-old of my acquaintance: "When I bear a grudge, it's for five minutes only – and that's all. Life's too short for any more."


Clearly, some are better equipped than others to respond to offense so positively, but it's something to consider the next time someone gets up your nose.


THE ALEXANDER Technique, a revolutionary system of physical and mental reeducation discovered by F.M. Alexander in the early 20th century, holds as a central tenet the idea of "letting go" – of one's habitual patterns, one's preconceptions, even one's ingrained belief in the "right way" to attain one's goal. Only by letting go of these things is the body freed to regain its natural posture.



Said my teacher Dalia Altmann: "When you let go of something, you create space between you and it.


In that space there can be renewal. Without letting go, there is no possibility of renewal."


It seems like a good thought with which to end this first column of the new Jewish year.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

COLUMN

YALLA PEACE: PALESTINIANS HAVE ALREADY RECOGNIZED ISRAEL

BY RAY HANANIA  

 

The acceptance of this country is not only inherent in the Palestinians' repeated declarations but also in the fact that their leaders are sitting down and negotiating two states.

 

Talkbacks (4)

In the reality of the Palestine-Israel conflict, the field where peace is played is the United States. That "stadium," if you look at this like a sport, is the home field for the Israelis.


They have many advantages, including the support of the mainstream American media and an American public that still views the Leon Uris book Exodus as the bible of Middle East history.


I don't want to burn that bible, but I think it is important to weigh both sides and what they are really saying, to look past the rhetoric and analyze what is really being sought.


Both sides want peace. Even the fanatics want peace. They just want it at the end of a war with their opponents vanquished.

Real peace means balance, and balance has never been a major component of the ongoing negotiations that began in 1993 in – to use a sports analogy again – the White House Stadium.


LET'S LOOK at some key issues.


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is making his case that Israel needs to end settlement expansion and address the core issues. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is responding with the assertion that settlement expansion is not the key issue here.


Rather it's Palestinian violence (Israel's security) and the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state – a new precondition that has risen from the stalemate of years of failed negotiations.


According to Netanyahu, equilibrium does not exist between Palestinian demands on settlements and Israeli demands on security and defined recognition.

 

But that equilibrium does exist and Netanyahu can't simply brush it aside.


To the Palestinians, the issue has never been rejecting Israel's right to exist but rather Israel's imposed right to grab any land it wants.


To Israel, the issue is security and being recognized as a "Jewish state."


The fact is Palestinians have recognized Israel's right to exist. That is not only inherent in their repeated declarations but also in the fact that Palestinians are sitting down and negotiating two states.


Despite that, though, Netanyahu has asserted that the Palestinians have not compromised and they do not recognize Israel's right to exist, with the new caveat of being a "Jewish state," and he has insisted that Israel, and he personally, have recognized the rights of Palestinians.

What rights are those Mr. Netanyahu? If Israelis can't recognize that Palestinians have land rights, then what rights are they offering in exchange for a cessation of violence to reinforce security for Israel? What is Israel going to give the Palestinians in exchange for bringing this conflict to a final resolution? Ironically, the extremist movements of both the Israelis and Palestinians are being fed by Israel's rightwing rhetoric. Many Israelis do not recognize the West Bank as the West Bank at all and in fact refer to the area as "Judea and Samaria." It is an offensive term that is the equivalent to "Zionist state" used by many Palestinians who refer to the 1948 lands that were occupied by Israel.


Additionally, the right-wing Israeli sentiment is clear. They argue that the Palestinians, and Arabs, lost repeated wars and therefore also lost their right to claim ownership of the lands taken in those wars.


That is exactly the fuel that feeds the growing extremist movement. Because what Israelis are really saying to Palestinians is: "You only will get what we want to give you, and if you don't like it tough luck."



If Israelis really want peace, they need to drop the car dealership hustle and start speaking openly, candidly and compassionately about peace. Israel has the upper hand in this relationship. For now.


IF PEACE talks collapse, the Palestinian secular movement will eventually disappear and Israel will not only face the Hamas religious movement but the unbendable and uncompromising Islamic world, which increasingly is building its power and strength and would shift the balance in favor of a one-state solution.


The writer is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

JUST A QUESTION OF TIMING?

BY ITAMAR MARCUS AND NAN JACQUES ZILBERDIK  

 

Mahmoud Abbas's recent 'condemnation' of the Hamas terror attack that killed four Israeli civilians wasn't a condemnation at all.

 

When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently spoke in Washington and publicly condemned the killings of four Israelis by Hamas terrorists near Hebron, it generated a feeling of cautious optimism: "What happened yesterday and what is happening today is also condemned. We do not want at all that any blood be shed, one drop of blood, on the part of the – from the Israelis or the Palestinians," Abbas said.


After years during which glorifying terror and honoring terrorists has been a backbone of PA culture, was this statement heralding real change? Unfortunately, an examination of the internal PA responses to the attack, when not under the watchful eyes of Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu and the world media, quickly erased hope that the PA had distanced itself from terror.


A comparison by Palestinian Media Watch of the PA response to the murders of four Israeli civilians to their reaction to the deaths during the flotilla confrontations, emphasizes that the PA's response to Hamas's attack was not a condemnation of terror or violence at all.


The central and recurring theme of PA leaders and PA-controlled media in response to Hamas's attack was criticism of the timing of the attack because of the damage done to the Palestinian cause, and not criticism of the killings themselves. The PA's central and recurring theme in response to the deaths on the flotilla was strong condemnation of what the PA repeatedly defined as "a massacre" and "a crime."


The day after the Hamas killings, official PA media reported that "Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad said that the operation which took place tonight in the Hebron area and its timing, harms the efforts being made by the PLO to gather international support for the Palestinian position… He said: 'We condemn this operation, which contradicts the Palestinian interests and the efforts of the Palestinian leadership to gather international support...'" [PLO news agency Wafa, Aug. 31, 2010] 


Abbas, when he returned to Ramallah, like Fayyad, lashed out at his political rival, Hamas, for the timing of the shootings: "He [Abbas] said that the recent shooting operations in the West Bank did not constitute resistance: '… For why isn't [Hamas] resistance happening every day, and isn't happening at all, except on the day we went to negotiations?!… Why did resistance become legitimate only today?" [Al- Ayyam, Sept. 6, 2010] 


The PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash in his Friday sermon after the killings continued this PA line as he condemned the timing, even accusing Hamas of trying to help Netanyahu: "What is the secret of the timing for carrying out armed operations in the West Bank? We want to know the secret of the timing… Suddenly! – the moment that President Abbas reaches Washington, the moment that Netanyahu finds himself in the corner, pressed, forced to adapt and accommodate himself to the international approach, suddenly there is a respite for Netanyahu, and the Palestinians are in distress [because of the attacks]…" [PA TV (Fatah), Sept. 3, 2010] 

SO THE PA objected to the timing of the killings. Actually, were the PA sincere in their intention to condemn the killings, the attack in Hebron was a great opportunity for them to send a clear message to their people that violence is wrong and immoral. If it was violence that they wanted to condemn, timing could not have been better. Yet, none of the PA leaders seized this opportunity to condemn violence because it is wrong.


When the Palestinian Authority wants to send a clear message and seriously condemn what it perceives as terror, it knows how to do it. After the flotilla confrontation in May, the PA controlled daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in a series of articles called Israel "pirates, murderers, barbarians, transgressors of international law, lacking any connection with humanity," [June 3] and referred to Israeli conduct as "more than piracy and more serious than a massacre in its ugliness and its inhumanity. It is worse than a crime… a gang dressed up as a state," [June 5] and called to "protect humanity from Israeli fascism… Another barbaric Israeli massacre, bringing shame upon humanity and the civilized world… Israeli savagery… a massacre against humanity." [June 1] Tayseer Tamimi, then PA Chief Justice of Religious Court "denounced the shameful crime," [Al- Hayat Al-Jadida, June 5, 2010].

Abbas himself demonstrated that when motivated, he too knows how to send a clear message of condemnation."Israel has carried out a great crime" [Al-Ayyam, June 17, 2010], he said, referring to "the killing of innocent people," [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 27, 2010], terming it "premeditated and with determination to kill" [PA TV, May 31, 2010] and that Palestinians were "subjected to state terrorism" [Al- Hayat Al-Jadida, June 3, 2010].


WHEN THE PA wanted to condemn Israel's conduct in the flotilla confrontations, the recurring themes were "a new crime", "a great crime", "a long list of crimes", "enemy crimes", as well as "massacre", "bloody massacre" and "massacre against humanity."


On the other hand, never once was the murder of four Israeli civilians called a "crime" and certainly not "a massacre."

No PA leader condemned these killings saying simply that killing is wrong. In fact, even Abbas in Washington in his condemnation spoke not about a crime, a killing, or a shooting but chose to condemn "what happened yesterday."

Confirming the perception that the PA has not ceased its terror glorification, the PA Minster of Prisoners visited the homes of prisoners serving life sentences for murder, right after the Hamas killings. The celebrations over Abbas's "condemnation" of terror and the killing of Israeli civilians were clearly premature.


This PA focus on the timing of terror must be understood not as a shift in PA tactic but as part of the long-term ongoing Palestinian policy. Senior member of the Palestinian negotiating team, Nabil Sha'ath, after the Palestinian Authority called for the cessation of violence a few months ago, explained repeatedly that the "armed conflict" had to be temporarily put on hold "because of the inability to engage in the armed struggle, which has become undesirable now, although it is the right of the Palestinian people…" [May 20, 2010] "The current distancing from the armed struggle does not mean its absolute rejection … especially since the armed struggle at the present time is not possible, or is not effective…" [May 20] "It is our right to return to the armed conflict whenever we view that as our people's interest.'" [June 7, all in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida] 


THE WORST problem about the PA's criticism of the timing of the Hamas attack is that far from being the condemnation of terror that the world cheered, it is just the opposite: it is a reiteration of terror. The message Palestinians take from their leaders following this murder of four civilians is that terror remains a valid political tool – when the timing is right and when there is political gain. As senior PA leader Muhammad Dahlan explained: "This [the violent resistance] is our right, a legal right. The international community affirms it for us. But it is the responsibility of the leadership to use it when it wants, in the proper place and at the proper time." [PA TV (Fatah) July 22, 2009]



If the PA wants to be a peace partner it must sincerely renounce and condemn terror, and the PA must stop honoring terrorist murderers and turning them into Palestinian heroes. This must be done not in Washington but in the PA areas and in Arabic. If the PA continues to glorify terror and condemn only its poor timing, then Israel still does not have a peace partner.


Itamar Marcus is director of Palestinian Media Watch (www.palwatch.org). 

 

Nan Jacques Zilberdik is an analyst at Palestinian Media Watch.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE FREEZE AS A TEST

 

Netanyahu needs to understand that the expansion of settlements cannot be reconciled with a two-state solution, which he promised to advance, and that his ability to stand up to right-wing pressure is a test of his leadership.

 

Direct negotiations on a final-status agreement opened yesterday at Sharm al-Sheikh, in the shadow of the ongoing dispute over a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to quit the talks should Israel resume construction over the Green Line. Israeli ministers and coalition MKs are threatening to undermine the government's stability should it decide to extend the freeze at the end of this month. And the American government is seeking a wonder drug that would remove the settlement freeze from the agenda and cool the atmosphere in a manner conducive to substantive discussion of the conflict's core issues.

 

As a palpable illustration of the danger settlement expansion poses to the diplomatic process, the Interior Ministry's regional planning and building council for Jerusalem has just announced its intention to convene in the coming days to discuss a plan to build 1,362 housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, which is beyond the Green Line. This announcement came just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was conferring with Abbas in Sharm al-Sheikh. Thus once again, it appeared that Israel is not capable of stopping settlement activity.

 

The experience of the past year shows that with the help of goodwill and creativity on all sides, a formula can be found to restrain the expansion of settlements. Abbas has declared several times that he does not insist that Netanyahu publicly announce a settlement freeze; he would be content with a quiet pledge from Defense Minister Ehud Barak about a de facto freeze on construction in the West Bank.

 

Netanyahu needs to understand that the expansion of settlements cannot be reconciled with a two-state solution, which he promised to advance, and that his ability to stand up to right-wing pressure is a test of his leadership. The crisis over a building freeze during the negotiations is negligible compared to the challenges the prime minister will face in discussions of the core issues.

 

If, as he claims, Netanyahu wants to reach a final-status agreement within a year, he will soon have to make far more difficult decisions. If he does not want, or is unable, to confront his partners on the right over a temporary, partial freeze on building in the territories, how will he stand up to their pressure when the time comes to decide to evacuate dozens of settlements and tens of thousands of settlers?

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

GILAD SHALIT IS 'EVERYONE'S STEPSON'

IT'S SAD TO SEE SHALIT'S REAL PARENTS WASTING AWAY OVER THE HOLIDAY WHILE THE ENTIRE NATION RELAXES, HAVING SEEMINGLY ACCEPTED THE ABDUCTED SOLDIER AS A LOST CAUSE. EVEN THE MEDIA HAS LOST INTEREST.

BY YOSSI SARID

 

It was sad in the tent over Rosh Hashanah, and it'll be sadder still on Friday as Yom Kippur begins. Our pledges to free Gilad Shalit have come to naught. The state has abandoned him.

 

We may have thought of him while reading the Rosh Hashanah Torah portion about the binding of Isaac. But the Abraham of old was willing to surrender his beloved only son, while the Abrahams of today seem content to sacrifice "every mother's son."

 

Ministers came and went throughout the holiday, stopping for a moment to acknowledge Shalit's parents. President Shimon Peres asked them to take a break until after the holidays, that they needed some rest.

 

The prime minister also asked nicely, noting that the struggle can always be returned to. In other words, "get out of our faces, you nudniks, and let us all celebrate unimpeded." Even prime ministers apparently deserve a bit of rest during the holiday season.

 

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu were magnanimous enough to ask the Shalits not to involve their own children in the Shalits' just, but unnecessary fight. The royal couple even criticized the Shalits' reference to the Netanyahus' soldier son in speeches and declarations, when they asked the prime minister what he would do if it were his son. No one dared call the Netanyahus out on their comments, but something nonetheless seems to have changed in their approach.

 

If one's sons should be left out of the picture, why is Gilad inserted into matters that have nothing to do with him or his family? Why is the entire burden of national security being placed on his slight shoulders? Why are we deserting "every mother's son" in the name of all of our children?

 

Suddenly, the captivity of a single soldier has moved to the center of Israeli policy. If the prime minister had not wanted his son to enter the picture, why did he involve the children of others in his calculations of political cost and benefit?

 

The only explanation is that the Israeli government places tremendous faith in Hamas. It trusts the Islamist regime to do no harm to the captive. That was the same assumption that accompanied the Ron Arad file until his whereabouts were lost.

 

Israeli society has failed the Shalit test. Tens of thousands protested and hundreds of thousands expressed solidarity. But popular protests have little chance of succeeding here. With such parents like us, "everyone's son" has been orphaned.

 

It's sad to see Shalit's real parents wasting away over the holiday while the entire nation relaxes, having seemingly accepted the abducted soldier as a lost cause. Even the media has lost interest. In synagogues, worshippers pray for his wellbeing, just as they will begin to pray for rain in two weeks on Shmini Atzeret.

 

Aviva and Noam Shalit long ago switched away from daylight saving time. Their summer ended five years ago - since then they've known only darkness.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WHERE HAS THE HYPOCRISY GONE?

NO ONE THINKS TO ASK ABOUT THE CONSENSUS AMONG THE RESIDENTS OF PALESTINIAN CITIES AND VILLAGES ON WHOSE LAND THE SETTLEMENTS HAVE BEEN BUILT. THE MILLIONS OF PALESTINIANS DON'T COUNT AT ALL.

BY AMIRA HASS

 

In the late 1970s or early 1980s, Professor Asa Kasher spoke at a conference of some kind about the differences between Labor Party governments and Likud governments. The Labor governments were hypocritical, and there is something positive about hypocrisy, Kasher said. At least the hypocrite knows there is a binding system of values, and that he is not acting according to them. As a result, he disguises his actions.

 

It was understood from Kasher's comments that Labor governments knew that ruling over another people against that people's will was an impermissible act. The Likud, Kasher said at the time, as memory permits to reconstruct after the passage of 30 years, doesn't feel at all bound by those values. The impermissible had become legitimate.

 

By that measure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become a Laborite who is playing the hypocrites' game, whereas Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is the 2010 version of a Likudnik, by Kasher's definition. Lieberman is someone who tells it straight while his prime minister blurs and obscures to make it easy for the American allies to feign progress while we mark time in the realm of deja vu.

 

Lieberman the non-hypocrite knows what he's talking about when he says no peace agreement will be signed, even in another generation. A peace agreement is not a business contract. It requires a change of values of a kind that does not exist within the vocabulary of the democratic Jewish state, which elevates the system of double standards to a level of virtuosity. The people of this state are incapable of imagining themselves departing from the privileges that this system confers. And who cares if the flip side of those privileges is dispossession, suppression of freedoms and the risk of regional conflagration?

 

The day before yesterday, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi ) was interviewed on Army Radio's morning broadcast, and argued that it was impossible to continue the construction freeze in the West Bank settlements while the Palestinians went on building and building.

 

One cannot expect an interviewer on Army Radio or Israel Radio to surprise and ask, for example: "Since the principle of equality is suddenly so important to the settlement lobby, why then residents of Nablus and East Jerusalem cannot have a housing project in Haifa or live in Ashkelon or in a panoramic neighborhood in the Galilee, while residents of Haifa and kibbutz Hazorea are allowed to build in Nablus Heights or in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan?

 

But the interviewer didn't even correct a distortion of the facts and didn't tell the listeners that the Palestinians cannot build at will. In the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control, known as Area C, Israel has frozen Palestinian construction for the past four decades.

 

It can be assumed that the interviewer, despite numerous reports, is unaware of the building freeze beyond the pale of settlement allocated to the Palestinians. Natural growth only applies to Jews. In Area C, schools, kindergartens and water are only for Jews. The Mekorot Water Company's wells in the Jordan Valley supply quantities of water to the settlements and their orchards. The water flows from the Palestinians' land, and the pipes are fenced off. And the land is parched, because the Palestinians are not allowed to draw their own water from those pipes, as Israel imposes on them a quota which is not set to human beings' needs. In the democratic Jewish state, within its virtual borders, it's as clear as the sun rising in the east.

 

If the American partner had wanted to, it would have demanded to begin evacuating the settlements, not only to continue the construction freeze. But the territory robbed by the separation barrier - Ariel, Givat Ze'ev, Ma'aleh Adumim, Efrat in its Anglo-Saxon elegance and East Jerusalem - are all within the consensus. Whose consensus? The people of the democratic Jewish state and evangelical Christians, of course.

 

No one thinks to ask about the consensus among the residents of Palestinian cities and villages on whose land the settlements have been built. The millions of Palestinians don't count at all. And hundreds of thousands of Liebermans, if not more, don't feel the need to be hypocritical.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE STEALTHY LEADER

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU IS NO DIFFERENT THAN HIS PREDECESSORS; HE DELAYS DECISIONS ON THE TWO CENTRAL ISSUES ON HIS TABLE: COUNTERING THE IRANIAN THREAT AND THE FUTURE OF THE WEST BANK.

BY ALUF BENN

 

The essence of strategy, according to British military theorist Basil Liddell Hart, is to retain freedom of action while trapping your enemy in a pre-selected path. Whoever is able to keep his enemy guessing makes it difficult for him to concentrate his force, and whoever follows the expected path will face ferocious resistance.

 

Thus Israel failed in the Yom Kippur War and on the Gaza-bound flotilla: In both cases, the military and political leadership presumed easy victory and acted crudely. The other side anticipated how Israel would behave, prepared accordingly and neutralized the Israel Defense Forces' military advantage.

 

A good strategist delays confrontation until the last possible moment and leaves his opponent facing a dilemma, trying to guess intentions and aims until they are hit with a decisive blow. This is true in war and in diplomacy, and this is why statesmen usually hide their intentions. Every decision locks them in "corrals" and makes it easier for rivals to concentrate political power against them. This is why prime ministers prefer to watch ministers and the public waste their time trying to understand what it is they want.

 

Benjamin Netanyahu is no different than his predecessors; he delays decisions on the two central issues on his table: countering the Iranian threat and the future of the West Bank. Meanwhile, everyone is busily engaged in empty dialogue about his intentions and motives. Will he free himself from the shadow of his father and the pressures of his spouse? Is he afraid of Barack Obama and Avigdor Lieberman? Does he admire his former commander, Ehud Barak? Or, precisely the opposite, is he maneuvering the Americans and the forum of seven ministers according to his wishes?

 

At the start of his tenure, Netanyahu exhibited a direct and unsophisticated approach vis-a-vis the Palestinians. He stopped the Annapolis process and spoke about "economic peace." This allowed his rival, Mahmoud Abbas, to corner him as a rejectionist and frighten him with the delegitimization of Israel through the Goldstone Report and the international boycott movement. In order to extricate himself, Netanyahu had to pay by accepting the two-state solution, freezing settlements and limiting construction in East Jerusalem, as well as by cooperating with the United Nations following the flotilla incident.

 

Over the summer, the situation turned. The prime minister emerged from the corral, brought about the resumption of direct talks with the Palestinians and managed to cause uncertainty as to his intentions - all without conceding anything. His peace speeches in Washington, in which he referred to the "West Bank" - sacrilege of the Likud heritage - led the following question to resurface: What does Netanyahu want? A blame game with Abbas, American approval for an assault on Iran, or to be done with the occupation and the settlements?

 

As far as the prime minister is concerned, this is an ideal situation. His rivals at home and abroad are finding it difficult to decipher him and prepare accordingly. If he now manages to get through the issue of the settlement freeze, Netanyahu will enjoy freedom of action as relates to the Palestinians, until the deadline that was set for the negotiations.

 

But compared to the sophistication he has displayed on the Palestinian front, Netanyahu was caught by strategic inferiority vis-a-vis Iran. His declaration that an Iranian bomb would be a "second holocaust," an intolerable existential threat to Israel, convinced the world of his determination to attack Iran, which led to a detailed media discussion of a potential operation. This transparency enabled the Iranians to build up a military and diplomatic machine to counter this possibility, to threaten to destroy Tel Aviv if it is attacked and to present itself as a future victim to Israeli thuggery.

 

Under such circumstances, precisely when everyone expects an Israeli air armada over Natanz, Netanyahu must not attack. Following an anticipated path is a recipe for strategic disaster, as Liddell Hart warned.

 

Netanyahu must take advantage of the time-out expected in the Palestinian track to formulate a more sophisticated strategy regarding Iran, one that would leverage its weaknesses and neutralize its ability to harm Israel. The Iranians are cunning and careful, but they too have weak spots - just like Nasser and Saddam Hussein, who preceded them in challenging Israel's strategic supremacy in the region, and were defeated.

 

Instead of rushing toward a frontal confrontation, Israel needs an indirect approach. Finding it will be Netanyahu's essential task, the minute he manages to extricate himself from the chatter over the settlement freeze.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE STATE TAKES REVENGE ON YIGAL AMIR

DEMOCRACY IS MEASURED PARTLY BY ITS ATTITUDE TOWARD LAWBREAKERS WHO THREATEN ITS EXISTENCE. MORE THAN ANYTHING, THE FEAR AND VINDICTIVENESS THAT CHARACTERIZE THE DISCUSSION ABOUT AMIR BEAR WITNESS TO THE WEAKENING OF ISRAELI DEMOCRACY AND SOCIETY.

BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

 

Every time the murderer Yigal Amir's prison conditions come up for discussion, the rules of logic and wisdom go haywire. The state reiterates its arguments; Amir's attorneys respond; and each side indulges in emotional blackmail, extravagant claims and empty accusations instead of conducting a substantive discussion.

 

Amir wants to be released from his isolation cell; the state counters that this is impossible for two contradictory reasons: First, other prisoners would pose a mortal threat to Amir, and second, Amir is a dangerous security prisoner who is liable to have a bad influence on and incite other prisoners.

 

Amir replies that he has no intention of committing murder again, and that other "inciters," such as Marwan Barghouti, were not placed in isolation. The comparison to Barghouti - who, in the framework of a peace agreement, would be considered, like many before him, a leader who took part in lethal warfare in the past - is demagogic. And his pledge that he will not kill is laughable. Even if we assume that he dreams of aiming a loaded pistol at Benjamin Netanyahu's head, he would presumably have some difficulty fulfilling this dream while in prison.

 

But the state's arguments are also fallacious. If Amir is in peril, then the Israel Prison Service must protect him. But at no stage of the discussions about Amir's isolation was it proven that his life is in any kind of extraordinary danger. Those who raped or killed children are constant murder targets, as are state witnesses, but they are not put in isolation. At most, they are kept under observation.

 

And the claim about incitement is ridiculous. It's true that Amir is an ideological murderer. Outside the prison walls, he has admirers who see him as a successor of the Biblical priest Pinchas, who killed Zimri, thereby becoming a symbol of extremist zeal and, to many, an exemplary figure. But contrary to the widespread belief that Amir acted with the encouragement of extremist rabbis, his supporters believe (and apparently with cause ) that like Pinchas, Amir violated rabbinical counsel out of a belief in his messianic mission to save his people.

 

Yet even if Amir still clings to this ideology, his powers of persuasion are not demonic, and he is not liable to cause any more damage than any other megalomaniac or psychopath who serves time in prison. The use of the incitement argument sets a troubling precedent that opens the door wide to violations of prisoners' rights. But it is particularly troubling because the state's obstinacy pales in comparison to the pulsating emotions of the public, which demands that Amir rot in isolation.

 

This heartfelt public desire has no logical foundation. It is based on emotional revulsion at Amir, fear of the murderer within ourselves and lust for revenge. Were a poll to be conducted on the point, it is doubtful whether the public would be able to decide which is worse: killing a child, stuffing the body in a suitcase and throwing it into the Yarkon River; killing three innocent children in cold blood; or putting a bullet through the head of a statesman and thereby causing mortal harm to peace, democracy and society.

 

Such questions have no answer, nor do they need to have one. A murderer is a murderer, and human society is not supposed to classify cases of murder according to the horror and disgust they arouse. In view of the hysterical responses to the murder cases mentioned above, it is far from clear that Amir is at the top of Israel's scale of revulsion. Nonetheless, most of the public does not believe that isolating him is inhumane.

 

The reason for this is simple: Despite the efforts made on memorial days, the Rabin assassination was not a formative national catastrophe. On the contrary: It derived from cultural and ideological schisms that have only widened in its aftermath. The assassination presented Israeli society with an opportunity to clarify its positions. Instead, it preferred to block this process with a panicky, hypocritical and sanctimonious reconciliation.

 

In the context of this whitewash, Amir was defined as a "monster." The roots from which he emerged were suppressed, and the voices lauding his acts were drowned out by the demand to remove him entirely from our consciousness.

 

Democracy, though, is measured partly by its attitude toward lawbreakers who threaten its existence. More than anything, the fear and vindictiveness that characterize the discussion about Amir bear witness to the weakening of Israeli democracy and society.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

RATIFY THE NEW START TREATY

 

After 21 Senate hearings and briefings, the Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Thursday on the New Start treaty. The first nuclear arms control agreement with the Russians in nearly a decade, it calls for both sides to reduce their deployed warheads modestly to 1,550 from 2,200. The treaty also will ensure that each country has continued insight into the other's arsenal, with inspections and exchanges of information.

If those reasons are not persuasive enough, consider this: Failure to ratify will undermine Washington's credibility as it presses other wannabes — Iran and North Korea to start — to drop their nuclear ambitions.

 

Despite all of that, some Republican senators are plying bogus cold war arguments to delay or defeat the pact. Far too many others are still sitting on the fence.

 

The treaty has been endorsed by a bipartisan list of foreign policy figures, including Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Sam Nunn, William Perry and James Schlesinger. All three leaders of the nation's nuclear laboratories and seven former commanders of nuclear forces also are calling for ratification. These are not people known for weakening the country's defenses.

 

That hasn't deterred Senators Jim DeMint and James Inhofe, Republicans who are among the treaty's fiercest opponents. Jon Kyl, who isn't on the committee, is leading the fight in the full Senate. More moderate senators, like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Judd Gregg and Scott Brown, have yet to declare their intentions.

 

Critics claim that the treaty will limit America's efforts to build missile defenses, pointing to a line in the nonbinding preamble about the "interrelationship" between offensive and defensive strategic arms and a provision in the treaty that bans the use of missile silos or submarine launch tubes to house missile interceptors.

 

American commanders have no interest in using either that way. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says flatly that the New Start treaty will impose "no limits on us."

 

The critics — most loudly Mr. Kyl — also claim that the Obama administration isn't doing enough to "modernize" the nuclear weapons it retains. That is just flat out untrue. President Obama has pledged $80 billion over the next 10 years to sustain and modernize the nuclear complex — more than we think is necessary, especially at a time of huge deficits and two wars.

 

Richard Lugar, the committee's senior Republican and the Senate's most respected expert on arms control, has proposed a resolution of treaty approval to address the critics' concerns. According to one draft, any future agreed-upon limitations on missile defenses would require Senate approval. The draft also stipulates that the United States is committed to providing the money needed to maintain the labs and the nuclear arsenal.

 

For senators who are more interested in the national interest than scoring political points, that should be more than enough. Amendments that could force the United States to reopen negotiations with Russia are unnecessary and could scuttle the pact for good.

 

Failure to ratify this treaty would be hugely costly for American credibility and security. It would mean that the United States will have far less information about Russia's nuclear plans. (The two sides stopped sharing data and halted all ground inspections in December when the Start I treaty expired.) And it would mean no further reduction for the foreseeable future in the 20,000 nuclear weapons still in the two countries' arsenals.

 

The Senate needs to ratify New Start now.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MICROSOFT AND RUSSIA

MICROSOFT MADE THE RIGHT DECISION TO STOP HELPING RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES USE CLAIMS OF SOFTWARE PIRACY TO HARASS AND SILENCE DISSENTERS. ON MONDAY, IT ANNOUNCED THAT IT IS BARRING ITS LAWYERS FROM TAKING PART IN SUCH CASES AND WILL PROVIDE A BLANKET SOFTWARE LICENSE TO ADVOCACY GROUPS AND NEWS MEDIA OUTLETS IN RUSSIA, UNDERCUTTING THE KREMLIN'S TACTIC.

 

Still, Microsoft's willingness to lend itself to politically motivated investigations — it changed course only after an article by Clifford Levy in The Times on Sunday — suggests a shocking failure of corporate responsibility. The Times said lawyers for Microsoft bolstered state police in politically tinged cases across Russia. They made statements suggesting the company was a victim and called for criminal charges. After police seized a dozen computers from a Siberian environmental group, the group said all its software was legally licensed and asked Microsoft to confirm this. Microsoft would not. The police used information from the computers to track down and interrogate some of the group's supporters.

 

Before changing policy on Monday, Microsoft executives said the company was required under Russian law to take part in such inquiries.

 

Unfortunately, Microsoft is not the only American company that has failed to stand up for the rights of its customers in undemocratic countries.

 

In China, all search engines have helped the state control access to the Internet. In 2004, Yahoo helped Beijing's state police uncover the Internet identities of two Chinese journalists, who were then sentenced to 10 years in prison for disseminating pro-democracy writings online. Skype's Chinese partner, Tom Online, scanned text messages for politically sensitive words and stored them alongside user information on servers that could be accessed easily by the Chinese government.

 

The one company that has stood up to China is Google. In March, after five years of complicity with Beijing's censors, it began redirecting searches to its unfiltered engine in Hong Kong. By contrast, Microsoft's founder and chairman, Bill Gates, defended the company's continued collaboration with China's censors. "You've got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you're in, or not?" he said during Beijing's fight with Google. "If not, you may not end up doing business there."

 

In 2008, Microsoft and Yahoo joined fellow businesses, human rights organizations and other groups in the Global Network Initiative and pledged to protect privacy and freedom of expression online. But declarations are cheap. They must put principle before profit and refuse to aid and abet repression. Microsoft can show that it now truly gets it by extending its offer of a blanket license to political and news media groups in China and other repressive countries around the world.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FISHING AT THE BASE OF THE PYRAMID

 

Perhaps the most abundant remaining source of wild protein on the planet is krill, a tiny crustacean that lives in Antarctic waters. It is fed upon by nearly every Antarctic species, including whales, penguins, seals and many kinds of fish. The species with the greatest appetite for protein is humans. That harvest has now increased enough to start worrying ecologists.

 

An article in Nature magazine on Sept. 1 warns that increased fishing "is adding to the pressure of environmental changes" already threatening krill. Since krill feed on algae that grow under the ice, they are especially susceptible to the effects of global warming.

 

None of the harvested krill turn up on consumers' dinner plates as krill. Instead, it is ground up for fish meal for the aquaculture industry and processed into nutritional supplements. Meanwhile, no one is sure how many krill are out there. Estimates vary widely, from 100 million metric tons to perhaps 500 million metric tons.

 

The current harvest falls well within the agreed upon 5 million metric ton limit, but the commercial appetite is relentlessly growing. Norway has increased its fleet, and, for the first time, China is sending two krill boats to the southern ocean.

 

The treaty organization that sets the krill limit — the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources — is scheduled to meet in October. It needs to establish fishing limits for specific areas instead of for whole oceans. It needs to work with its member nations to get a more accurate scientific picture of how krill are doing. Humans have overfished nearly every fishery. Overfishing krill would be especially destructive since it would threaten the food chain of the entire Antarctic.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WITH THAT GUY AS ...

BY LAWRENCE DOWNES

 

By scanning earth's television broadcasts long after we are gone, other civilizations will be able to make certain judgments about human society. How among untold billions of lives, a few were deemed worthy of repeated and copious observation. Milton Berle, Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Danson, Oprah Winfrey, Simon Cowell: Truly these were giants of the species.

 

But there were others whose status might inspire mystery. Like the man in this photo. Who is that guy? Note to anthropologists: He's Harold Gould.

 

There are character actors. And then there is Mr. Gould, who died on Saturday in California, age 86. Mr. Gould and his mustache were one of the hardest-working, most-familiar duos in Hollywood. He had the face you could place, if not attach a name to.

 

Mr. Gould didn't start acting until his late 30s, but then he didn't stop. His talent runs like DNA through nearly 50 years of movies and TV. Some actors make mountainous careers out of a handful of parts. Not Mr. Gould, who had no blockbuster roles. Using bit parts like mosaic tiles, he built an awesome résumé.

 

He was Martin Morgenstern, Rhoda's father in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda." He was the crime lord Honore Vachon on "Hawaii Five-O." He was on "The Rockford Files," "The Love Boat," "Gunsmoke," "I Dream of Jeannie," "Get Smart," "The Golden Girls" and dozens of other shows better and worse. He was a grifter in "The Sting," a Russian nobleman in "Love and Death." He was Marlo Thomas's father in the pilot of "That Girl."

He was, in other words, that guy. And they are not making many more like him.

"They don't write parts for character people anymore," said Saratoga Ballantine, a producer of a new, unreleased documentary, "Troupers," about character actors who kept working past 80.

 

They include Mr. Gould and her father, Carl Ballantine, who died last year. (You know him, too: Lester Gruber, "McHale's Navy.") "Everybody's beautiful and Botoxed these days," Ms. Ballantine said. "Everyone's starting to look alike."

 

Looking alike is not what Mr. Gould did. He had other dimensions: a doctorate in dramatic speech and literature, a long career teaching drama in college, a family and grandchildren. He had all the parts of a satisfying life, plus a thousand others. LAWRENCE DOWNES

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHO'S THE CON MAN?

BY <