Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Thursday, September 23, 2010

EDITORIAL 23.09.10

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 23, edition 000633, 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. SINKING RATINGS IN INDIA
  2. GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR
  3. NO PRIDE IN THIS SHAME - SHOBORI GANGULI
  4. SINKING RATINGS IN INDIA
  5. GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR
  6. NO PRIDE IN THIS SHAME - SHOBORI GANGULI

MAILTODAY

  1. BJP STAND ON KASHMIR PANEL'S MOVE IS REGRETTABLE
  2. DON'T EXULT OVER THE SENSEX
  3. THINK OF BETTER EXCUSES
  4. COALITION ALIBI FOR CASTE COUNT - BY DIPANKAR GUPTA
  5. IPAD KILLERS ENTER THE RACE TOO LATE - SACHIN KALBAG

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. CONFIDENCE QUOTIENT
  2. AFTER THE DELUGE
  3. SAVING KASHMIR - AMITABH MATTOO
  4. BANNING NOT AN OPTION
  5. TOUGH MEDICINE CALLED FOR - VIKRAM SINHA
  6. TUNING IN TO GI BLUES - BACHI KARKARIA 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. WHO IS TO BLAME?
  2. REALITY BITES
  3. NANDAN'S NEW DEAL - SAMAR HALARNKAR
  4. SAVING FOR A RAINY DAY - KUMKUM DASGUPTA
  5. SET & MATCH

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ALL IN THE FAMILY
  2. HARD PRESSED
  3. PULLING IT TOGETHER
  4. WAYS OF MOVING ON - SEEMA CHISHTI 
  5. PEACE IS THE WAY - SAMUDRA GUPTA KASHYAP 
  6. DON'T REFORM THE EPFO, NPS IT - GAUTAM BHARDWAJ 
  7. THEIR VANISHING PLAYGROUND - SHAILAJA BAJPAI 
  8. OUR OWN CHINESE WAY - THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN 
  9. UNDERSTANDING OBAMA
  10. OBAMA AND IRAN - C. RAJA MOHAN 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. SEBI ON THE MAT
  2. SOFTEN THEM UP
  3. CHRONICLE OF A CRISIS FORETOLD - RISHI RAJ
  4. BETRAYING TRUST - MANISH SABHARWAL
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. PEEPLI LIVES

THE HINDU

  1. CRISIS-HIT GAMES ON THE BRINK
  2. REDUCING THE RISK OF MELTDOWN
  3. KASHMIR NEEDS A POLITICAL PACKAGE - HAPPYMON JACOB
  4. MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS: CHALLENGES AND THE WAY AHEAD - KOFI ANNAN
  5. A MEMORANDUM TO THE ALL-PARTY PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO JAMMU  - AND KASHMIR
  6. ACCESS TO ENERGY SEEN AS VITAL TO FIGHTING WORST POVERTY - DAVID JOLLY
  7. DOHA: DON'T TRADE OFF WOMEN'S RIGHTS - NAVI PILLAY

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. J&K: MPS MAKE A GOOD BEGINNING
  2. AFSPA IS NOT WORTH IT - SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. IS SKY THE LIMIT? - SIDHARTH BHATIA

DNA

  1. WE NEED BOTH A MANDIR AND A MASJID IN AYODHYA - FIROZ BAKHT AHMED
  2. A STRATEGIC FIT IS EMERGING BETWEEN INDIA & RUSSIA - RN BHASKAR

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. THEN IT WAS BAD;NOW NOT TOO BAD
  2. HARI SINGH : THE LAST MAHARAJA OF STATE - BY COL. J P SINGH (RETD)
  3. HIGHERSECONDARY EDUCATION IN CHAOS - BY P J BHAT
  4. KASHMIR: THE TASK AHEAD - BY K.N. PANDITA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. SYSTEMIC COLLAPSE
  2. AFGHAN POLLS
  3. BACK TO 20K
  4. AFSPA: DANGERS AHEAD - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. IN THE LINE OF DUTY - BY TEJINDER SINGH SODHI
  6. PSYCHOLOGY OF VOTERS EXPLAINS POLITICS IN THE US
  7. CHINA'S OWN 'HOLOCAUST' - BY ARIFA AKBAR

 BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. SLIPPING ON OIL
  2. CONSENSUS ON KASHMIR
  3. OVERVALUED RS FUELS EXTERNAL DEFICITS - SHANKAR ACHARYA
  4. BALKANISATION OF INDIA'S MARKETS - ARVIND SINGHAL
  5. AN ELECTRIC BREAKTHROUGH - BARUN ROY
  6. LEARNING CAN BE THE BEST VACCINE - INDICUS ANALYTICS

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. J&K: MPS MAKE A GOOD BEGINNING
  2. AFSPA IS NOT WORTH IT - BY BYSRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. LOOK AT CHINA: CAN'T WE LEARN SOMETHING? - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. REFORM OR A RAW DEAL? - SHUDDHASATTWA GHOSH
  5. IS SKY THE LIMIT? - BY SIDHARTH BHATIA
  6. DIETING IS A MEDITATIVE ACT - BY AMRIT SADHANA

THE STATESMAN

  1. MONUMENTAL SHAME
  2. CALCULATED NEGLIGENCE
  3. CONTRIVED ENTHUSIASM
  4. ARMY & SPECIAL POWERS - SUSHIL KUMAR
  5. VOICES OF SANITY AND REASON SHOULD PREVAIL
  6. THE ROAD AHEAD IN KASHMIR
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. DANGER SIGNAL
  2. ZERO SUM
  3. FACTS ON THE GROUND - MUKUL KESAVAN
  4. CHINA'S ASCENT - DIPANKAR BOSE
  5. NOT EXEMPT FROM CONTROVERSY
  6. SPORT AT A RATHER STEEP PRICE
  7. WASTE AND WONDER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. GAMES' SHAME
  2. MAGNIFICENT MARY
  3. CRISIS IN THE MAKING - BY DEVINDER SHARMA
  4. PROTECTING WOMEN'S FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS – BY FRANCO FRATTINI
  5. CARE FOR THY NEIGHBOUR - BY N NIRANJAN NIKAM

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. MISSED GOALS
  2. AN EXTREME JUDICIAL BLOCKADE
  3. FREEING UP MORE AIRWAVES
  4. TOMORROW'S SCHOOL LUNCHES
  5. BOAST, BUILD AND SELL - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. DON'T ASK, DON'T DEBATE - BY GAIL COLLINS
USA TODAY
  1. OUR VIEW ON GAYS IN THE MILITARY: 'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL' REPEAL IS ONLY  A MATTER OF TIME
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON GAYS IN THE MILITARY: KEEP THE LAW IN PLACE - BY TONY PERKINS
  3. STARTING TODAY, A BOOST FOR CHILDREN'S HEALTH CARE - BY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS AND JUDITH S. PALFREY
  4. TIME TO RETHINK 'WAR ON POVERTY' - BY CAL THOMAS AND BOB BECKEL

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. CONFIRMATION, AT LAST
  2. THE CHICKAMAUGA MESSAGE
  3. 55% DEATH TAX — OR JOBS?
  4. A 'COZY' SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
  5. AMNESTY PROVISION RIGHTLY FAILS
  6. REPAYING EVIL WITH GOOD

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT- PRESIDENT GÜL'S 'PRESIDENTIAL' WISDOM
  2. EDUCATION IN MOTHER TONGUE - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER
  3. GOOD OR EVIL? - ERSU ABLAK
  4. LOOKING AT TURKEY – IS THE WEST IN SLUMBER OR IN BLUNDER? - FARUK LOĞOĞLU
  5. LOOKS LIKE KILIÇDAROĞLU HAS TO VISIT BRUSSELS MORE - SERTAÇ AKTAN
  6. WATER WARS AND TURKEY - RICHARD REID
  7. TURKEY: PIOUS AND DISTANT FROM THE WEST IN 15 YEARS - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  8. CYPRUS TALKS (I) - YUSUF KANLI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NATION SALUTES APEX COURT
  2. VCS PUSHED TO WALL, WHAT A SHAME!
  3. DEADLY ROAD ACCIDENTS
  4. PAKISTAN IN THROES OF CHAOS - DR S M RAHMAN
  5. MUSHARRAF'S FUTURE PLANS - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  6. DEMOCRACY TO OVERCOME ALL CHALLENGES - FAROOQ MOIN
  7. CRIMINAL SILENCE OVER VIOLENCE IN KASHMIR - ALI SUKHANVER
  8. INDIA'S KASHMIR CHALLENGE - M K BHADRAKUMAR

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. OPENING UP IN A DIGITAL AGE
  2. WEST AUSTRALIANS HAVE A POINT
  3. INDIA'S RACE TO THE STARTING LINE HAS FAR TO GO IN 10 DAYS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. NSW WILL FEEL INTEREST RATE PAIN
  2. FINALLY, ACTION ON POKER MACHINES
  3. LET WATER FIND ITS OWN PRICING LEVEL
  4. GAMES OFFICIALS MUST DECIDE ON SAFETY NOW

THE GUARDIAN

  1. OBAMA AND AFGHANISTAN: CREDIBILITY GAP
  2. VINCE CABLE: TOAST OF LIVERPOOL
  3. IN PRAISE OF … MOSES

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. CHINA'S HARDENING ATTITUDE
  2. ARREST OF A PUBLIC PROSECUTOR
  3. THINKING IN TEHRAN SUGGESTS WEST OVERPLAYING NUCLEAR FEARS - BY GARETH EVANS

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. ACTIONS TO SAVE MDGS
  2. OPPOSING A COMMODIFIED GAME OF VIOLENCE - KHAIRIL AZHAR
  3. DOUBT AND WHY GOOD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS - JENNIE S. BEV
  4. MDG SUMMIT: ACHIEVEMENTS AND FUTURE CHALLENGES - IRFA AMPRI

CHINA DAILY

  1. FIGHTING FRAUD
  2. WASHINGTON'S WAYS
  3. YUAN CAUGHT IN A US POLITICAL TANGLE - BY ZHANG ZHOUXIANG (CHINA DAILY)
  4. FRIENDLY ADVICE TO JAPAN - BY HU FEIYUE (CHINA DAILY)

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. CRYING OVER SQUIRREL INSTITUTES - BY KONSTANTIN SONIN
  2. 7 More Years of the Great Recession - By Robert J. Shiller 

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

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

THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

SINKING RATINGS IN INDIA

POLL SHOWS OBAMA LESS POPULAR THAN BUSH


The key findings of the latest Gallup poll which reflect the declining popularity of the Obama Administration in Asian countries would surprise only the naive and the fully-paid up members of the US President's fan club. Nor would those who track current affairs be puzzled by the dip in the approval ratings for the US leadership under Mr Obama from 31 per cent in the closing days of the Bush Administration to 18 per cent in India. If we were to phrase this differently, this is how it would read: Far fewer people in this country endorse the policies and actions of the Administration headed by Mr Barack Obama than they did when Mr George W Bush was the President. This is primarily because the urban middle class, which forms the core of the US's constituency in India, is not as enamoured of all things American as it was two years ago. What has contributed to this reassessment of America by those who till recently nursed the 'American dream' and were deeply offended by any criticism of the US Administration is that Mr Obama has abysmally failed to live up to their expectations. Strange as it may sound, more people in India were taken in by the hocus-pocus slogans of the Obama campaign than in the US; as much was evident by the Indian media's obsession with the 2008 presidential race — it almost seemed the contest was taking place in this country and not somewhere else on a different continent altogether. The disillusionment has been largely generated by Mr Obama's callous disregard for Indian sensitivities (never mind his patronising praise for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) and his economic policies that are clearly directed at harming our IT companies in the hope that it would help domestic American industry. That's an absurd proposition because offshoring has helped the US, not harmed its interests; by introducing disincentives like a steep hike in visa fees and punitive taxation, the Obama Administration has helped neither Americans nor Indians. There are other issues that have offended Indians, for instance the Obama Administration's pandering to a belligerent, terror-sponsoring Pakistani Army; its willingness to do business with the 'good' Taliban; and, the manner in which India has been shoddily treated by the US on Afghanistan affairs.

No less important is the fact that Indians, unlike the Nobel committee members, are not impressed by those who indulge in vacuous moral posturing. Nor has Mr Obama helped his cause by taking a strikingly different position from his predecessor on the actualisation of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement: Mr Bush was seen to be aggressively pushing for it; his successor is seen to be unenthusiastic about taking the deal forward. A last point: The world may dislike or admire a strong leader, but it is not indifferent to him or her. Mr Bush triggered a wide range of responses, depending on the geographical location of the respondents. But nobody was indifferent to him. On the other hand, much of the world is indifferent to Mr Obama and his 'leadership', and this is most evident in the US where the great symbol of 'Hope!' is fast becoming a person who neither inspires faith nor ridicule: He is merely being suffered till the next election is held. In a sense, the mood in India reflects that which prevails in America. 

 

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

 


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR

DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR HIT BY SCAM


Former Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad Yadav cannot get away from the Rs 700 crore dedicated freight corridor scam on the pretext that the project did not come under the Ministry of Railways. The fact remains that the Dedicated Freight Corporation of India, which is supposed to implement the massive `4,000 crore project for the creation of infrastructure solely meant for rail freight traffic, was created during his tenure. Therefore, even if the corporation is an autonomous body, its functioning cannot be entirely outside the purview of the Ministry of Railways. It is amusing that the instant reaction of the former Minister for Railways, now fighting a grim battle for political survival in Bihar that goes to polls next month, was to distance himself from the scandal rather than deny there had been any wrong-doing. Perhaps he would have stepped into a trap had he attempted to offer an explanation because the scandal has been exposed by the Central Vigilance Commission and is not just an allegation by his detractors. While it would be unfair to suggest, in the absence of any evidence linking him to it, that Mr Yadav is involved in the scandal. But he cannot wave it away as irrelevant: The public exchequer has suffered enormous loss and this matters — if not to Mr Yadav then to taxpayers. The CVC has described the scam as a "criminal conspiracy" to cause loss to the public exchequer through limited tendering and awarding contracts at rates far above estimated and tendered costs. All this and more needs to be thoroughly probed. Are we to believe that as Minister for Railways, Mr Yadav was blissfully ignorant of the corporation's affairs?

The completion of work on the dedicated freight corridor is already behind schedule, as is often the case with all projects in this country. This is because those given the job are either utterly incompetent or totally corrupt; there cannot be a third explanation. Work has been further hit by the scandal as the World Bank, which is partly funding the project, is taking a closer look and may delay the release of the next tranche. It is anybody's guess as to how the World Bank will respond if it is convinced that all is not well with the project and that funds have been stolen through inventive means, as is more often than not the case with every project in the public sector. On the other hand, cynics would suggest that it is absurd to expect the dedicated freight corridor project to be implemented without any significant corruption: Were that to happen, our politicians, bureaucrats and contractors would find their professions no longer remunerative. The gravy train must chug along, no matter how many greedy individuals clamber on to it and how debilitating it may be for the nation. Such noble thoughts are not for those who spend public funds. 

 

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


THE PIONEER

COLUMN

NO PRIDE IN THIS SHAME

SHOBORI GANGULI


There is little hope that CWG 2010 will go down in history as the best Games ever. The nation stands cheated by a venal system


Lies can be manufactured and even credibly peddled as truth. But truth cannot be manufactured. And the truth staring every Indian in the face today is that the 2010 Commonwealth Games are threatening to become a source of huge national embarrassment, the hope long gone that a shining India and Delhi would uplift the country's stature at an international event. Ever since the city and the Government of India set upon the task of preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, there have been stories galore of rank ineptitude and inefficiency of the various agencies involved in the infrastructure development of Delhi, apart from, of course, corruption charges of shameless proportions. Yet the Group of Ministers on CWG and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit would have us believe that such Games related stories are a figment of the media's fertile imagination. 

Ill-equipped stadiums with crashing, leaking ceilings, potholed roads, stinking toilets in a Games Village surrounded by dengue-threatening flood waters, a sting operation that exposes an unforgivable security lapse, collapsing footbridges, garbage and debris piled across the city, filthy conditions compromising the city's hygiene — these are not the creation of an idle media or merely a "Western" (read White man's) perception of an Asian country that is trying to secure its rightful place in the world. It is all very well to feign indignation at foreigners passing judgement on us and to raise jingoistic slogans about the Games being our "national pride". But the bare truth is that the architects of CWG 2010, from politicians to bureaucrats, never really prioritised 'national' honour. Else, we would not face the prospect of a serious national humiliation come October 3. Arguably, the Opposition has been careful not to put the Government on the mat on this issue, arguing that successfully seeing the Games through ought to be a national priority. No issues with this position but then the citizens of this country, the honest taxpayers whose money has gone into a Rs 70,000 crore project, have the right to pose questions and demand honest answers. 


Despite the media's relentless campaign to keep everyone involved with the Games accountable, the Government has shamelessly held on to its teflon-coated conscience. Following stories of how advance teams have found conditions in the Games Village appalling, Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, with shocking brazenness, says some "friends" are too finicky when they complain about human excreta and paan stains in rooms meant to host the visiting athletes. If this was not stunning enough, the Games Organising Committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot tells us, "These rooms are clean to both you and us. However, it may not appear so to some others. They want certain standards in hygiene and cleanliness which may differ from our perception." Pray, when did hygiene become a relative factor and when did "perception" start dictating our notions of what cleanliness and sanitation mean? And to top it all, the Delhi Chief Minister uses the city's unprecedented monsoon burst to justify the tardy progress on various infrastructure projects whose deadline lapsed as far back as a clear and sunny March 31.


Much as we may now pray that the Games go off smoothly and incident-free, reports from every direction suggest that a venal and apathetic administration has denied the citizens of this country their right to call India a world-class nation, or Delhi a world-class city. Amid reports of corruption, security ill-preparedness and now dengue, top athletes are ticking Delhi off their travel plans. The Kiwis have warned us it is "only two seconds to midnight" yet the Games Village is far from ready and even further from hygienic conditions. They have even dangled the threat of the Games being called off, terming the current conditions "extraordinarily disappointing". The Commonwealth Games Federation president, Mr Michael Fennell, on Tuesday set a 24-hour deadline to the OC, questioning why parts of the Village were still not fit for accommodation. The Federation's CEO Mike Hooper has found the Village "filthy". Various voices of concern are now pouring in from England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, primarily about the accommodation for the 6,500 participating athletes, adding to the chorus that the Village is "unsafe and unfit for human habitation". 


Insults are being piled upon us with growing severity. Australia's advance team found the Village accommodation so filthy that it hired a professional housekeeping agency to 'clean' the flats. Other countries are now threatening to put up their athletes in hotels. This would mean a huge burden on the Government as it would then have to hire hotel rooms whose tariffs have already been pushed up in anticipation of the Games. Other complaints about inadequacies at the Village include stinking, dirty rooms, insect larvae in swimming pools and stray dogs all over. And if this were not enough, the OC has now been accused of deliberately misleading the CGF on its previous visits, showcasing fully completed projects like the dining hall of the Village while concealing the true state of affairs on the accommodation front.


Perhaps one can dismiss this international onslaught on our national pride as racist, biased, colonial, skewed, etc, etc, but must we not ask who made us so vulnerable to these attacks in the first place? Don't we have the right to know why the city's infrastructure is taking forever to build? Why are supposedly state-of-the-art stadiums developing roof leaks? Why are newly surfaced roads caving in? Why is the master showpiece of the CWG, the Village, not habitable barely 10 days ahead of the event? Must not the authorities hang their heads in shame when news comes in that China has already handed over the athletes' village to the Asian Games Federation for this year's Asiad due in November? Why are we faltering when Glasgow is ready for CWG 2014? Why is the Chief Minister's pet project, Delhi's mass public transport, so challenged that Delhiites are being encouraged not to move around the city for the whole duration of the Games in October? Do these questions hurt our national pride or is it our hurt national pride that compels us to pose these questions?

While this may be construed as anti-national, there is little hope that CWG 2010 will go down in history as the best Games ever. For, the nation stands cheated by a venal and inefficient system that inspired it to dream of the Games as India's national pride but fell far short of delivering on that dream. 

 

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

THE PIONEER

OPED

SINKING RATINGS IN INDIA

POLL SHOWS OBAMA LESS POPULAR THAN BUSH


The key findings of the latest Gallup poll which reflect the declining popularity of the Obama Administration in Asian countries would surprise only the naive and the fully-paid up members of the US President's fan club. Nor would those who track current affairs be puzzled by the dip in the approval ratings for the US leadership under Mr Obama from 31 per cent in the closing days of the Bush Administration to 18 per cent in India. If we were to phrase this differently, this is how it would read: Far fewer people in this country endorse the policies and actions of the Administration headed by Mr Barack Obama than they did when Mr George W Bush was the President. This is primarily because the urban middle class, which forms the core of the US's constituency in India, is not as enamoured of all things American as it was two years ago. What has contributed to this reassessment of America by those who till recently nursed the 'American dream' and were deeply offended by any criticism of the US Administration is that Mr Obama has abysmally failed to live up to their expectations. Strange as it may sound, more people in India were taken in by the hocus-pocus slogans of the Obama campaign than in the US; as much was evident by the Indian media's obsession with the 2008 presidential race — it almost seemed the contest was taking place in this country and not somewhere else on a different continent altogether. The disillusionment has been largely generated by Mr Obama's callous disregard for Indian sensitivities (never mind his patronising praise for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) and his economic policies that are clearly directed at harming our IT companies in the hope that it would help domestic American industry. That's an absurd proposition because offshoring has helped the US, not harmed its interests; by introducing disincentives like a steep hike in visa fees and punitive taxation, the Obama Administration has helped neither Americans nor Indians. There are other issues that have offended Indians, for instance the Obama Administration's pandering to a belligerent, terror-sponsoring Pakistani Army; its willingness to do business with the 'good' Taliban; and, the manner in which India has been shoddily treated by the US on Afghanistan affairs.

No less important is the fact that Indians, unlike the Nobel committee members, are not impressed by those who indulge in vacuous moral posturing. Nor has Mr Obama helped his cause by taking a strikingly different position from his predecessor on the actualisation of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement: Mr Bush was seen to be aggressively pushing for it; his successor is seen to be unenthusiastic about taking the deal forward. A last point: The world may dislike or admire a strong leader, but it is not indifferent to him or her. Mr Bush triggered a wide range of responses, depending on the geographical location of the respondents. But nobody was indifferent to him. On the other hand, much of the world is indifferent to Mr Obama and his 'leadership', and this is most evident in the US where the great symbol of 'Hope!' is fast becoming a person who neither inspires faith nor ridicule: He is merely being suffered till the next election is held. In a sense, the mood in India reflects that which prevails in America. 

 

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


THE PIONEER

OPED

GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR

DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR HIT BY SCAM


Former Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad Yadav cannot get away from the Rs 700 crore dedicated freight corridor scam on the pretext that the project did not come under the Ministry of Railways. The fact remains that the Dedicated Freight Corporation of India, which is supposed to implement the massive `4,000 crore project for the creation of infrastructure solely meant for rail freight traffic, was created during his tenure. Therefore, even if the corporation is an autonomous body, its functioning cannot be entirely outside the purview of the Ministry of Railways. It is amusing that the instant reaction of the former Minister for Railways, now fighting a grim battle for political survival in Bihar that goes to polls next month, was to distance himself from the scandal rather than deny there had been any wrong-doing. Perhaps he would have stepped into a trap had he attempted to offer an explanation because the scandal has been exposed by the Central Vigilance Commission and is not just an allegation by his detractors. While it would be unfair to suggest, in the absence of any evidence linking him to it, that Mr Yadav is involved in the scandal. But he cannot wave it away as irrelevant: The public exchequer has suffered enormous loss and this matters — if not to Mr Yadav then to taxpayers. The CVC has described the scam as a "criminal conspiracy" to cause loss to the public exchequer through limited tendering and awarding contracts at rates far above estimated and tendered costs. All this and more needs to be thoroughly probed. Are we to believe that as Minister for Railways, Mr Yadav was blissfully ignorant of the corporation's affairs?

The completion of work on the dedicated freight corridor is already behind schedule, as is often the case with all projects in this country. This is because those given the job are either utterly incompetent or totally corrupt; there cannot be a third explanation. Work has been further hit by the scandal as the World Bank, which is partly funding the project, is taking a closer look and may delay the release of the next tranche. It is anybody's guess as to how the World Bank will respond if it is convinced that all is not well with the project and that funds have been stolen through inventive means, as is more often than not the case with every project in the public sector. On the other hand, cynics would suggest that it is absurd to expect the dedicated freight corridor project to be implemented without any significant corruption: Were that to happen, our politicians, bureaucrats and contractors would find their professions no longer remunerative. The gravy train must chug along, no matter how many greedy individuals clamber on to it and how debilitating it may be for the nation. Such noble thoughts are not for those who spend public funds. 

 

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

THE PIONEER

OPED

NO PRIDE IN THIS SHAME

THERE IS LITTLE HOPE THAT CWG 2010 WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS THE BEST GAMES EVER. THE NATION STANDS CHEATED BY A VENAL SYSTEM

SHOBORI GANGULI


Lies can be manufactured and even credibly peddled as truth. But truth cannot be manufactured. And the truth staring every Indian in the face today is that the 2010 Commonwealth Games are threatening to become a source of huge national embarrassment, the hope long gone that a shining India and Delhi would uplift the country's stature at an international event. Ever since the city and the Government of India set upon the task of preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, there have been stories galore of rank ineptitude and inefficiency of the various agencies involved in the infrastructure development of Delhi, apart from, of course, corruption charges of shameless proportions. Yet the Group of Ministers on CWG and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit would have us believe that such Games related stories are a figment of the media's fertile imagination. 

Ill-equipped stadiums with crashing, leaking ceilings, potholed roads, stinking toilets in a Games Village surrounded by dengue-threatening flood waters, a sting operation that exposes an unforgivable security lapse, collapsing footbridges, garbage and debris piled across the city, filthy conditions compromising the city's hygiene — these are not the creation of an idle media or merely a "Western" (read White man's) perception of an Asian country that is trying to secure its rightful place in the world. It is all very well to feign indignation at foreigners passing judgement on us and to raise jingoistic slogans about the Games being our "national pride". But the bare truth is that the architects of CWG 2010, from politicians to bureaucrats, never really prioritised 'national' honour. Else, we would not face the prospect of a serious national humiliation come October 3. Arguably, the Opposition has been careful not to put the Government on the mat on this issue, arguing that successfully seeing the Games through ought to be a national priority. No issues with this position but then the citizens of this country, the honest taxpayers whose money has gone into a Rs 70,000 crore project, have the right to pose questions and demand honest answers. 

 

Despite the media's relentless campaign to keep everyone involved with the Games accountable, the Government has shamelessly held on to its teflon-coated conscience. Following stories of how advance teams have found conditions in the Games Village appalling, Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, with shocking brazenness, says some "friends" are too finicky when they complain about human excreta and paan stains in rooms meant to host the visiting athletes. If this was not stunning enough, the Games Organising Committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot tells us, "These rooms are clean to both you and us. However, it may not appear so to some others. They want certain standards in hygiene and cleanliness which may differ from our perception." Pray, when did hygiene become a relative factor and when did "perception" start dictating our notions of what cleanliness and sanitation mean? And to top it all, the Delhi Chief Minister uses the city's unprecedented monsoon burst to justify the tardy progress on various infrastructure projects whose deadline lapsed as far back as a clear and sunny March 31.


Much as we may now pray that the Games go off smoothly and incident-free, reports from every direction suggest that a venal and apathetic administration has denied the citizens of this country their right to call India a world-class nation, or Delhi a world-class city. Amid reports of corruption, security ill-preparedness and now dengue, top athletes are ticking Delhi off their travel plans. The Kiwis have warned us it is "only two seconds to midnight" yet the Games Village is far from ready and even further from hygienic conditions. They have even dangled the threat of the Games being called off, terming the current conditions "extraordinarily disappointing". The Commonwealth Games Federation president, Mr Michael Fennell, on Tuesday set a 24-hour deadline to the OC, questioning why parts of the Village were still not fit for accommodation. The Federation's CEO Mike Hooper has found the Village "filthy". Various voices of concern are now pouring in from England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, primarily about the accommodation for the 6,500 participating athletes, adding to the chorus that the Village is "unsafe and unfit for human habitation". 


Insults are being piled upon us with growing severity. Australia's advance team found the Village accommodation so filthy that it hired a professional housekeeping agency to 'clean' the flats. Other countries are now threatening to put up their athletes in hotels. This would mean a huge burden on the Government as it would then have to hire hotel rooms whose tariffs have already been pushed up in anticipation of the Games. Other complaints about inadequacies at the Village include stinking, dirty rooms, insect larvae in swimming pools and stray dogs all over. And if this were not enough, the OC has now been accused of deliberately misleading the CGF on its previous visits, showcasing fully completed projects like the dining hall of the Village while concealing the true state of affairs on the accommodation front.


Perhaps one can dismiss this international onslaught on our national pride as racist, biased, colonial, skewed, etc, etc, but must we not ask who made us so vulnerable to these attacks in the first place? Don't we have the right to know why the city's infrastructure is taking forever to build? Why are supposedly state-of-the-art stadiums developing roof leaks? Why are newly surfaced roads caving in? Why is the master showpiece of the CWG, the Village, not habitable barely 10 days ahead of the event? Must not the authorities hang their heads in shame when news comes in that China has already handed over the athletes' village to the Asian Games Federation for this year's Asiad due in November? Why are we faltering when Glasgow is ready for CWG 2014? Why is the Chief Minister's pet project, Delhi's mass public transport, so challenged that Delhiites are being encouraged not to move around the city for the whole duration of the Games in October? Do these questions hurt our national pride or is it our hurt national pride that compels us to pose these questions?


While this may be construed as anti-national, there is little hope that CWG 2010 will go down in history as the best Games ever. For, the nation stands cheated by a venal and inefficient system that inspired it to dream of the Games as India's national pride but fell far short of delivering on that dream. 

 

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

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

MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

BJP STAND ON KASHMIR PANEL'S MOVE IS REGRETTABLE

 

THE Bharatiya Janata Party's position that meeting the separatists was in violation of the all- party delegation's mandate is unbecoming of a responsible opposition party. The essence of such a delegation is that it is beyond narrow partisanship. It is an exercise in which the entire political class comes together on an issue of national interest.

 

The mandate of the delegation was to reach out to all sections of Kashmiri society to ascertain the roots of the present discontent. This obviously could not have been done without meeting the separatists, and this was always part of the delegation's agenda.

 

Meeting the separatists wouldn't, in any way, have diluted the BJP's position on issues like Article 370 and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. In fact the party's intransigence has limited the government's options of working towards a political solution of the Kashmir crisis.

 

The lack of support for the BJP's position is apparent from the fact that Rattan Singh Ajnala — a leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, its ally — was part of the team which visited hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

 

The BJP should recall the efforts of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who invited the separatists for dialogue under the framework of insaniyat ( humanity) without insisting on adherence to the Indian Constitution, an effort which won him the respect of many of the separatist leaders and brought the issue closer to resolution than ever before.

 

The all- party delegation was a corrective to the alienation of the state as well as central government from the Kashmiri people. This is yet another lost opportunity for the BJP to present itself as a responsible national party and an alternative to the United Progressive Alliance.

 

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


MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

DON'T EXULT OVER THE SENSEX

 

WITH the Sensex once again straddling the 20,000- point level, one may be pardoned for assuming that the economy has well and truly left the detritus of the global financial meltdown behind.

 

Even though the government has been guilty of using it as such in the past, the stock market isn't, and cannot be used as a barometer of the economy. The current surge in the Sensex, for instance, has only partly to do with the robust growth in the domestic economy and far more to do with the lack of recovery in other markets.

 

A flood of foreign money is driving the current surge. Foreign institutional investors have pumped in over $ 16 billion into Indian stocks this year alone, tempted by the prospect of sustained high growth in India, as well as high liquidity and poor returns abroad.

 

However, there are several areas of concern still. Inflation remains stubbornly high, the rupee is on steroids, driven by huge foreign inflows and exports are headed for trouble both because of a stronger rupee and the possibility of a double- dip recession in the US. Besides, as recent experience has painfully shown, foreign fund flows can be notoriously fickle and it would be imprudent to conclude that the markets will only continue upwards.

 

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

MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

THINK OF BETTER EXCUSES

 

SINCE being corrupt and inefficient means you really can't hold up honesty as a virtue, the least the organisers of the Commonwealth Games could have done is to come up with intelligent excuses for their lapses.

 

Games official Lalit Bhanot could have done better than offer the pathetic explanation that criticism of the hygiene at the Games village emanated from the fact that developed nations had different standards of cleanliness. Besides revealing his own fatuousness, Mr Bhanot is insulting in assuming that the reportedly poor hygienic conditions would have passed muster for Indians.

 

Then, we are being told not to make much of the foot- overbridge collapse on Tuesday since only a screw had got dislodged. Even if the organisers have not read the story about the kingdom being lost for want of a nail, they could have spared a thought for the 27 labourers who were injured in the incident, five of them seriously. Or perhaps only if the incident had occurred during the Games and killed a lot of people would they have been bothered.

 

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

 


MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

COALITION ALIBI FOR CASTE COUNT

BY DIPANKAR GUPTA

 

By giving the impression that it had to yield to Lohiaite parties the Congress has played down the fact that many of its own wanted such acensus

 

DIGVIJAY Singh has said on several occasions that Manmohan Singh " is an over rated economist but an under rated politician". At least one part of his statement rings true. Our Prime Minister can be ferocious, as with the Nuclear Bill, but he can also appear docile, as with the caste census issue. Yet, please note, on all occasions, coalition partners take the rap so that the Congress can look good.

 

Was it coalition politics that made the cabinet acquiesce to the demand of Mulayam and Laloo? That may have been the case if a weaker man were at the helm. But Manmohan Singh had already proved Digvijay right with the way he handled the Nuclear Bill. He knows his mind and is not an easy pushover.

 

This leaves us with just one inescapable conclusion. Contrary to popular belief, it was not coalition politics that forced the Prime Minister's hand. He relented to caste in the Census because his own party members wanted it that way.

 

The demand for a caste census was as much within the Congress as outside it. But Manmohan Singh successfully underplayed this fact by letting the dogs out. This had a lock- on effect on his party's progressive image. In which case, if Mulayam and Laloo were getting louder by the day, why should the Congress complain? Unmusical though this may sound, there are a large number of casteists in the Congress itself. But with activists of Samajwadi Party ( SP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal ( RJD) beating their chest in the open, Congress members could now stay home and yet get their way. Having one's cake and eating it too never appeared so realistic before.

 

PM

 

Through this entire period, Manmohan Singh helped his party hold on to its progressive credentials by making himself look weak. Should the occasion demand the same man could also act very differently.

 

On the Nuclear Bill, Manmohan Singh exuded the confidence that befits the leader of a pack. He clearly broadcast what direction his party was to take, coalition or no coalition. He called the bluff of the Left Front and happily shed them off like dead skin. It was a risky move; the CPI ( M) led group had stood by him against the BJP, but that did not count any longer. He did not want anybody to spoil his tryst with George Bush who had a foot already out of the door. What is more, Manmohan Singh had read the mood of his party well and this encouraged him to go ahead.

 

They were all looking for a way to shake off the Left, and now, at last, the tick was out of their fur.

 

If in UPA I, the Prime Minister could take on the Left Front with 59 members, how can Mulayam and Laloo with a combined strength of only 27 Parliamentarians daunt him? As an economist, our Prime Minister knows his arithmetic well. Why then did UPA II not force its way and call the bluff of Samajwadi Party ( SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal ( RJD) who support it from outside? Further, as these two parties were bloodied in the 2009 elections, they are in no mood to call for another one in a hurry. Mulayam and Laloo together have only 5 per cent of Parliamentarians and just about 5 per cent of votes polled in their favour. Ram Vilas Paswan, the other North Indian caste activist, could not get a single member from his party to Parliament, himself included.

 

If one were to take the six major political parties that officially have caste on their mastheads, their presence is not impressive either. In this Lok Sabha, their members constitute less than one fifth of the strength of the House.

 

Further, as they captured only 19.6 per cent of the votes polled, they fare no better in terms of their electoral base. Of these six caste parties, only DMK, with 18 Parliamentarians, is in UPA II. As Congress MPs wanted a caste census as much as those from DMK, SP and RJD, it was wise for Manmohan Singh to appear conciliatory. This gave the impression of a government hemmed in by coalition constraints.

 

Fortunately for the Congress, Laloo and Mulayam played their roles to perfection. Left to himself, the Prime Minister would have probably gone along with Chidambaram and Mukul Wasnik. They were opposed to caste in the Census, but were a minority voice in the Congress. If he really wanted to, Manmohan Singh could have also worked on the leading opposition party to come out differently on this issue. In fact, Gopinath Munde took some time before he supported caste in the Census, while Nitin Gadkari, representing the RSS view, actually opposed it.

 

Decay

 

Manmohan Singh is, in fact, quite adept at managing coalition politics. He could let his partners take a long walk if they did not see eye to eye with him, yet he could also give the impression that they hold his government on a short, tight leash. It is to his credit that a large number of people believe that coalition partners were responsible for forcing castes to appear in the Census. The truth is that at no stage was Manmohan Singh hostage to coalition arithmetic.

 

If anything, he was slave to his party's internal chemistry. This is why it was necessary to give the impression of conceding to a bunch of strays even while Congress held the whip hand.

 

The Congress has drifted away from the original ideals that went into its creation. Mrs.

 

Indira Gandhi had compromised her party's anti- casteist positions long before RJD and SP got into the fray. When these latter- day casteists surfaced, they found the atmosphere entirely to their liking. They gave small peasant aspirations a caste colour, aided, no doubt, by Mandal's recommendations.

 

At this point the Congress could have acted decisively and fought Mandal as Rajiv Gandhi had once begun to. In later years, the opposition to OBC Reservations waned and finally it became part of Congress's Manifesto. There was now little to differentiate the casteists in RJD, SP or elsewhere with the many that were in the Congress.

 

Along came the end of one party rule, and this exaggerated the politics of convenience and the bartering away of values that the Congress once stood for.

 

Tactic

 

Under Manmohan Singh the tactic, for all practical purposes, is to appease caste politicians without actually saying so. Other than capturing and retaining power, there is no larger game plan or strategy regarding the kind of India we should build. The Congress is trying to return to the days when its capacious umbrella sheltered a wide variety of interests simultaneously. It is this aspiration that separates it from many other parties which are either narrowly focused or spatially limited. But in these troubling times, there is room even for casteists in the Congress shade.

 

Nehru's days were plainer, simpler.

 

It was then unthinkable for anybody from within the party to voice a pro- caste or a pro- Hindu position. But fortunately for Manmohan's Congress, it can easily blame coalition politics today whenever it takes an opportunistic turn.

 

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

 

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

MAIL TODAY

DIGITAL INK

IPAD KILLERS ENTER THE RACE TOO LATE

SACHIN KALBAG

 

ON WEDNESDAY, The Wall Street Journal scooped about how Research In Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry smartphone maker, plans to launch its own tablet computer sometime next week during a developers' conference (see MAIL TODAY's My Biz section today, Page 37). For those who want to buy a tablet but don't want to spend a fortune on the Apple iPad — at present the leading tablet by a mile — this is great news.

 

A couple of weeks ago, Samsung debuted its tablet based on its Galaxy S smartphone platform. Asus, the Taiwanese computer and hardware giant has announced that its tablet, the intriguingly named EEE Pad, would launch in the first three months of 2011. Dell's Streak was launched in some parts of Europe last month. Acer, Lenovo and Cisco are expected to announce their tablets soon.

 

You'd think, therefore, that the odds are stacked up against Apple's iPad. Sometime back, this column explored the possibility of how the iPad could be a possible replacement for the laptop. Apparently, according to US retail giants, it is already happening. Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn recently said that his retail chain's sales of laptops has dropped by as much as 50 per cent. He later denied giving a figure, but the damage was already done.

 

But laptop sales are only secondary to the new tablet supremacy game. The fact is that in the next couple of years or so, it will be a tablet versus tablet market. BlackPad versus iPad or Galaxy versus iPad or EEE Pad versus iPad. Just that the iPad could be a common feature in all these battles only because the other entrants have been late and by the time all of them even begin to wage battle, Apple would have sold more than 6-7 million iPads (more if the China launch on September 25 is a success as it was in Europe and the US).

 

In India, Apple iPads are already available in the grey market, but at a huge premium.

 

For example, the lowest priced iPad ( the 16 GB Wi- Fi variant) which is priced at $ 499 ( ` 23,000) in the US is available at some mall shops for a hefty ` 35,000.

 

Most others get their iPad from their relatives and friends returning from countries where the iPad has already launched.

 

The iPad's supremacy will emerge from just one factor — it's a kickass product. It's beautiful, nay, it's downright sexy.

 

Unlike the BlackBerry BlackPad which, according to the Wall Street Journal report, will be able to go online only through BlackBerry smartphones, the iPad also has seamless Wi- Fi and 3G connectivity. This will be a major advantage over the others when it launches in India.

 

Apple has another plus — it has also launched more than a quarter of a million software apps for the iPod- iPhone- iPad platforms while the others will only be playing catch.

 

Samsung Galaxy has a wide range of software apps but its tablet is yet to hit the mainstream.

 

Clearly, Apple is way ahead of the rest in the software apps race.

 

Then we have the small matter of hardware. In what is surely a coup of sorts, Apple will launch the next- generation iPad even before the others come up their first. This new iPad could be even more appealing to markets looking for a seven- inch tablet.

 

The current iPad has a 9.7- inch screen and several users have complained it is too large to hold for longer periods of time.

 

It could also take the seven- inch Samsung Galaxy Tab head on.

 

In some features, the Galaxy is far better than the iPad. For example, the Galaxy allows you to make phone calls. It has cameras on both sides ( something that the iPad will probably have only in the next- generation variant) so video calls are easy to make. Most important, it has Adobe Flash compatibility which means that most of the online video content can be viewed on it.

 

The consumer would love this competition, and it would help to have choice but the rivals have entered the game too late.

 

And with too little. Therefore, it is more than a hunch that the Apple iPad will overcome the rivals even with its premium.

 

MICROSOFT IS BACK IN BROWSER GAME

IT SURE seems to be massive improvement over its previous version, and it shows. Microsoft has said that in less than a week after it launched Internet Explorer 9 Beta, more than two million users had downloaded the latest browser from the world's largest software company.

 

The IE 9 interface is minimalist, which is perfectly in tune with the rest of the browsers around, especially Google's Chrome. Users said it had seamless integration with Windows 7, Microsoft's operating system.

 

The tech blog Gizmodo posted this review soon after its launch: " Ninth time's the charm, sometimes! At least that's Microsoft's hope with IE9, which brings new HTML5 support ( including HTML5 video!), hardwareaccelerated 2D graphics, and a totally new JavaScript engine— and no XP support." It added: " Modern web apps are loaded with JavaScript, to the point that new browsers are practically measured by how fast they can render it.

 

( A faster JavaScript engine means sites like Gmail, Facebook and even Gizmodo don't just load faster, but runs more quickly.)" Seems like the latest version has got Microsoft back into the browser game which it had been losing to Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome.

 

PLANET MICHAEL WILL HAVE GOODS ON WACKO JACKO

 

SEE Virtual Worlds, a US- based entertainment company, has decided to keep Michael Jackson immortal online. On Tuesday, it announced that it is developing Planet Michael, a massively multiplayer online virtual world that combines online gaming with music, video and social networking.

 

According to SEE, " At its core, Planet Michael is a massive social gaming experience that will allow everyone, from the hardcore fan to the novice, to connect and engage in collaborative ingame activities with people worldwide." Planet Michael, the company said, will be a free- to- download world without any monthly subscription fees. But it hopes to make money with real world in- game economy that will help monetise the gameplay. For instance, it will allow players to take on dozens of different occupations and in certain instances, contribute to a charitable cause at the same time.

 

SEE is building the world with the permission of the Michael Jackson Estate, the sole rights owner to the singer's legacy. Says Martin Biallas, CEO, SEE Virtual Worlds, " When we first approached the Estate and talked about creating Planet Michael, one of our primary goals was to build an interactive environment where fans from all over the world come together to affirm Michael's lifelong dedication to fostering global friendships. In building a space worthy of those global connections, we envisioned a magical, enjoyable place that will capture that zest for fun and life that was at Michael's very core." An official communication said: " The new planet, currently under development and slated for launch next year, will be an immersive virtual space themed after iconic visuals drawn from Michael's music, his life and the global issues that concerned him. Entire continents will be created that will celebrate his unique genius in a way that underscores his place as the greatest artist of all time." Our only question: will they avoid all the uncomfortable questions about Michael's liking for minors?

 

sachin. kalbag@ mailtoday. in

 

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

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

THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

CONFIDENCE QUOTIENT

 

On Tuesday, the Sensex's FII-driven bull run helped Indian stocks breach the important psychological benchmark of 20,000. Though followed by the expected and feared choppiness a day later, the highest surge in 32 months at the bourses showed yet again that India's growth story has takers overseas. Global funds have poured nearly $16 billion this year into Indian equities. And not without reason. 


Economic data including latest factory output figures given a recent stock market thumbs-up has been consistently reassuring. Driven by domestic entrepreneurship and consumption and ready to boost key sectors like infrastructure and education, India's claim to maintaining high trajectory growth isn't considered a bluff. Also, recovering from a protracted meltdown, the world now fears the spectre of double dip recession. Emerging economies like India, China and Brazil cannot but become natural magnets for global funds seeking good returns. Going by a Bloomberg survey, the US, the world's largest economy, lags behind the developing world's big three in the investor confidence index. 


India's recent rallies at the bourses have been fuelled by FIIs, with domestic investors remaining net sellers. For the latter, the memory of 2008's wealth-draining volatility may be acting as a cautionary tale. To be sure, there's always the risk of FIIs reversing direction on Indian or global cues. That's when the impact of thin local backing would kick in. The future outlook, however, remains bullish. While vigilance is sensible, the RBI governor rightly suggests that policy intervention can have "unintended" results. Trying to manage the consequences of high funds inflow rupee appreciation could push up interest rates which, in turn, would attract FIIs. Wait-and-watch is required to determine whether incoming FIIs are fickle or, as assumed, guided by longer-term investor faith in India's economy. 


Some self-correction in the equity market can't hurt. Post-Tuesday, the market has already demonstrated its capacity to cool itself. Rather than lose too much sleep over its ups and downs, policymakers should focus more on bagging funds for the real economy. China got in the past two years a sum of FDI $137 billion India received over the past 10 years. That, surely, should spur us to open up sectors like insurance, retail, aviation and the like while creating friendlier policies to draw FDI to, say, long-gestation infrastructure projects. The government has been talking of easing rules with little to show for it in terms of action. A recent UN study identified China and India as the world's two top FDI target countries, pushing the US to fourth spot, after Brazil. Overseas investors are keen to place bigger bets on India. Let's seize the day.

 

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

THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

AFTER THE DELUGE

 

Large parts of northern India are under water. Unprecedented and relentless rainfall has triggered landslides in the Himalayas and swelled rivers in the plains. At least 70 people have died in Uttarakhand, the state worst hit by monsoon fury. Rivers flowing in from Nepal have breached their banks in Bihar. If the rains continue, Ganga, Yamuna and their many tributaries could overrun many small towns in Haryana and UP and even parts of Delhi. How prepared are we to handle this contingency? Flood management involves both short-term and long-term planning. The immediate concern is, of course, to send rescue and relief teams to flood-hit areas. The National Disaster Relief Force has been pressed into operation but the scale of the problem could stretch its resources. A clear picture of the extent of damage will be available only when the waters start to recede. Steps to address post-floods problems including food and fodder shortage and medical emergencies must be taken right away. 


Better management of the Himalayan ecosystem and river basins is necessary to reduce the impact of floods. Massive construction, mainly dams, has wreaked havoc on the Himalayan environment. Indiscriminate damming of rivers had caused them to run dry for long stretches in summer. Many of these rivers have multiple courses. These ought to be maintained as such to contain floods. The policy of raising bunds to prevent rivers from shifting course now appears flawed. A holistic and decentralised approach to flood management that factors in the river's history and ecology is necessary to check floods. 

 

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

 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

SAVING KASHMIR

AMITABH MATTOO

 

The visit of the all-party delegation to Jammu & Kashmir has generated hope and the expectation that it may still be possible to redeem the situation. The immediate task is now for New Delhi to move from the symbolic to the substantive, utilising the opportunity provided by the delegation's visit. And as the central government reaches out to build trust and confidence, it is essential that this is matched by the people and their leaders in the state, in word and deed. 


Even cynics will admit that the all-party delegation's visit demonstrated the human and, arguably, the best face of Indian democracy. Nearly 40 seasoned leaders, representing virtually every ideological hue, stepped out from their routine programme to try and reach out to even those demonised by the Indian establishment. 


In an ideal world, the exercise would have been more laissez-faire, but given the situation in the Valley, the political establishment performed, minor hiccups notwithstanding, with grace and imagination. Images of Sushma Swaraj praying at the Hazratbal shrine; Sitaram Yechury's surprisingly chaste Hyderabadi Urdu chat with Ali Shah Geelani; P Chidambaram engaging the victims of the Tangmarg fire; Ram Vilas Paswan breaking down all this represented a collage we should have witnessed at least two months ago, but it still made a difference! The visit has opened a window albeit slightly which was on the verge of being closed and bolted. Only an immediate initiative by New Delhi can ensure that goodwill generated by the visit will translate into real change on the ground. Acting now will not be seen as capitulating to street protests, but as demonstrating sensitivity and statesmanship. 


Remember the one ordinary Kashmiri who confronted the home minister with a simple question: "If we are citizens of India, why are you spraying bullets on us?" And another who asked: "If you say Kashmir is atoot ang of India, then why are you putting your own ang into the frying pan?" 


The prime minister must, having obtained feedback from members of the delegation, act on a variety of fronts, including the humanitarian, the political and the social. As a humanitarian gesture, all those jailed over the last three months for stone-pelting must be released, as must political detainees against whom there is no charge of committing any heinous crime. It is critical, henceforth, that no civilian is killed by the police and the curfew is lifted. It is also critical to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the stakeholders (especially the youth) in each district of the Valley. Based on this, confidence- and trust-building measures that will have maximum impact must be implemented unilaterally. 


The prime minister must also announce the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Several commissions like this have been formed throughout the world; the best and most successful was established under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmund Tutu in South Africa. A commission like this is not about fixing blame, but about accepting the tragic events of the past, bringing the past to a closure and moving together into a better future. It is about recognising the tragedy of two decades, of those who disappeared or who were killed, or the tragic displacement of Kashmiri Pandits. A commission like this can also be mandated to bring about a reconciliation between communities and regions; an accommodation between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims as well as between the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. 


The prime minister must draw upon the delegation and create a team of political interlocutors. They will represent, symbolically, the collective voice of the nation. It is only the collective political leadership of the country that can genuinely reach out, engage and resolve the problems of Jammu & Kashmir. Restoration of peace in J&K and a roadmap should not be influenced by national vote-bank politics and the rest of India must be educated about the importance of building peace in Kashmir. 


And if New Delhi continues to act in good faith, it is incumbent on the part of the people of the state, and especially the Valley, to respond meaningfully. While peaceful protests are part of the space that any democracy should offer its people, there is no scope for violence. The people of Kashmir have suffered and been traumatised over the lost decades and lived in uncertainty for the last six decades. Clarity of thinking is not easy in these times, but it is critical to move forward. It is time that the people and the leaders stop living under the illusion of a utopian dream. The reality is that the people must look for pragmatic ways to ensure the honour, dignity and the empowerment of the people in this globalised world. Running after the mirage of a distant paradise will only create conditions for greater suffering. And they must give dialogue and peace a chance. 


There is an India beyond bunkers, security forces and corrupt politics; it is the vibrant India of entrepreneurs, professionals, civil society activists, the robust and free media, and the political delegation that visited the Valley. More and more Kashmiris must discover this India and build a coalition with it. That is the best guarantee against the other India which they witness in the Valley. 


The writer is professor of international studies, JNU.

 

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

                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

BANNING NOT AN OPTION

 

Talk about banning Pakistan from international cricket, even for a short while, is extremely unfortunate and doesn't deserve any support. To be sure, there have been spot-fixing allegations, followed by the suspension of three talented young Pakistani cricketers by the International Cricket Council (ICC). But as this example suggests, serious note has already been taken and suspensions doled out. PCB chairman Ijaz Butt may have muddied the waters further with the charge that the third ODI of the series was deliberately thrown by the English side. But let the English board respond with a defamation case, and leave it at that. 


To castigate an entire cricket-crazy nation for the mistakes of a few individuals would be patently unfair. Ordinary Pakistanis are themselves disappointed by the way cricket is being handled in their country. If individuals are guilty and the case against them is proved, they need to be taken to task. In addition, the ICC and the various member boards can put pressure on Pakistan to reform its cricketing structure. But when cricket's base needs to be widened rather than narrowed, excluding one of the very few nations that play the game would be heavy-handed and counterproductive. 


Besides, let's have a sense of perspective. Cheating and match-fixing are limited neither to Pakistan nor to cricket. The ICC must devise stricter measures to insulate players from unscrupulous bookmakers. It would be counterproductive to single out Pakistan and avoid addressing the core problem. There is no denying that world cricket will be far poorer without the Pakistani team. After all, apart from being former world champions, Pakistan has given us some of the most exciting cricketers over the years. A ban on Pakistan cricket is excessive and simply uncalled for. 

 

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

                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

TOUGH MEDICINE CALLED FOR

VIKRAM SINHA

 

 From scandal to farce is never a difficult stretch. By way of retaliation in the ongoing fixing scandal, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board and fine purveyor of absurdities, Ijaz Butt, has decided to accuse England's players of throwing a one-day international. This is in keeping with how he and Pakistan high commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, have handled the entire affair. They seem to believe that pure bluster can carry the Pakistani board and team through this scandal. But matters have gone far beyond that, something that they fail to realise. And that is why when people like Ian Botham and Nasser Hussain say that it might be time to remove Pakistan from international cricket, they have a point. 

 

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

                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

TUNING IN TO GI BLUES

BACHI KARKARIA 

 

Along with Paithanis and Tellicherry pepper let's patent our peculiar peoples' traits?  


So now Kancheepuram saris have rustled their way into the elite club of products allotted a Geographic Identification status. In fact, they are one up on Darjeeling tea, Monsoon Malabar coffee and the Allepey carda-mom of all elaichies. Not only has this coveted tag been bestowed on a specifically superior product, for the first time even the authorized producers have been identified. 


As of now, apart from the anointed 21 Kancheepuran-based cooperatives and 10 other licensed individuals, no rag-tag weaver can add the famous 'K' word to his swishy silks. Punishment looms large for those trying to worm their way on to this brand wagon. It ranges from hefty fines to severe imprisonment, or both. In extreme cases, the violator could be thrown into a Stalin-ist camp or be forcibly wound around Jayalalitha. 


France's Champagne district originally won the right to safeguard its terroir from a magnum of smoothies who had cashed in on its celebrated name. As a member of the WTO, in 1999, India too began to protect its natural and manufactured kings from the pretenders to the crown; royalties must always go only to royalty.Geographical Identification, or GI, is globally instituted. In fact, not only does it cover such superior products as Spain's Galician veal, it also helps uncover some unsavoury secrets. Japan's National Research Institute of Police Sciences reportedly uses GI to identify problem corpses; it traces their place of origin by examining their resident parasites such as the JC, BK and EB viruses. 


This got me thinking about equally unorthodox GI apps. Why shouldn't the human traits so typical of our different geographical regions be similarly labeled and granted legal safeguards.  For example, as of now, every Jug, Suhel and Hariharan with a rudimentary knowledge of the 3Rs of Bengal - rosogolla, Rabindrasangeet  and revolution --  tries to pass off as an Hon Bong. This severely undermines the USP of the dyed-in-the-oohl original. A legally bheriphied GI security tag would protect the 24-carat citizens of amar shonar Bangla desh (Bangladeshis need not apply).


Similarly, the Punjab da puttar need not stop at demanding GI status for Amritsari kulchey or Butter Chicken in Ludhiana.  Instead, he should protect his whole lucrative three-ji spectrum - Rabbi, rowdy weddings and road rage - from being grabbed by wannabe impostors. Along the same lines, certain Mumbai parties need not draw the line at sole burping rights to vada-pav, but should insist on GI status for all their unique expertise. They could start with the rhumba-samba which has been shamelessly copied by every drunken dancer at every festive procession across India, or ask for sole bashing rights to all sons-of-the soiled.  

 

Yes, GI must be more widely applied. Why should a group that has perfected certain traits over generations, or even in the last riot, share its hard-earned spoils with some Jani-come-lately who simply walks in and creams off this commercially exploitable expertise? 


If a variation of the GI label is extended to an entire industry, Bollywood would have first rights. Today this prefix is appropriated by everyone, from the alley butcher to the global wedding planner. Such willful and criminal misbranding can be prevented by a detailed categorizing of who or what can be labeled 'Bollywood'. This should be done item number by item number.


There's only one hitch to all these GI safeguards. India will always have a problem with defining 'intellectual property' because here these two entities are almost always mutually exclusive. Our intellectuals seldom have any rights to property. And those who flaunt property seldom claim the right to be called intellectual. Much less want to. 

 

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

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

HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

WHO IS TO BLAME?

 

It's been a confirmation of what the nation had been fearing all along. Instead of using an international sporting event to showcase India's much-vaunted prowess as a global powerhouse and Delhi's status as a 'world city', the Commonwealth Games (CWG) has become a polaroid of everything that remains wrong about India 2010. If the feedback about the state of the Games Village from foreign missions being "unliveable" and "filthy" wasn't humiliating enough, the collapse of a footbridge near the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium as well as the collapse of a false ceiling within the same complex added injury to insult. The authorities may explain away the first complaint as a matter of cultural subjectivity. But the injury of 27 workers, with five reportedly in a "serious condition", is as objective an indictment of our authorities as it can possibly be. In both cases, the fall guy trotted out by the authorities over the last few weeks, heavy rainfall, wasn't to blame. Humans were.

 

Nations hosting international events don't wake up at the last moment only to flail about in panic. They start planning from years ahead so that there's a timeframe on which to rest and test until the actual show begins. The seeds of disaster were planted much before things got out of hand. As Union Sports Minister during the crucial years of 2006-2009, instead of ensuring that CWG preparations were streamlined and ramped up, Mani Shankar Aiyar went in the other direction, stalling and buttressing projects, all the while badmouthing the very notion of India hosting the 2010 CWG. With preparations getting off the blocks in such a 'suicidal' manner, it is hardly surprising that things have come to such a pass. Matters could have 'stabilised' were it not for the rat maze of multiple responsibilities that were doled out subsequently. Before the 1982 Asian Games, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi placed Rajiv Gandhi in charge of the organisation of the event. One prime reason for its success was that Rajiv Gandhi provided an organisational leadership as well as a single-point window of responsibility and accountability. For the CWG, we've had a CWG Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, responsible for management of venues and arrangements for delegates and athletes, passing the baton of blame elsewhere. We've had Sports Minister M.S. Gill, Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit playing furious rounds of some racquet sport, even as they have kept assuring everyone that everything's hunky dory. We even have the PM sending a team to take stock of venues and Games projects.

 

In a way, the CWG preparations have been a model-scale version of India itself. Tales of success and ambition laid out on a rockbed of medieval infrastructure and the sheer inability to create a new one. The Games will pass in a fortnight and we'll be the ones staying back. Once the Games are over, let the PM take stock of what went wrong with this years-long project that was supposed to be a proud showcase of India's capabilities. The least we can demand is that there's no repetition of this debacle.

 

 

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

REALITY BITES

 

Compare these two scenarios. An arresting man with a long beard holding a staff, his followers in tow, pursued by a pharonic army, commands the Red Sea to part. The sea obliges and Moses and his flock flee to safety. The other is that steady winds pushed the water back, creating a four-hour long opening in the sea. Take your pick; we'd definitely go for the first. The trouble with science is that it often robs our lives of colour and romance. The Ten Commandments would have been a sorry picture as per the scientific facts now unearthed by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado. Having grown up with the awe-inspiring belief that Jesus walked on water, do we really want to know that he might have actually executed this feat on the Dead Sea and not the Sea of Galilee, as it's impossible to sink in the former?

 

Closer home, when Ganesh idols started drinking milk, many of us were quick to verify for ourselves. But along came science and told us that such feats were but the result of some capillary action, taking the joy out of our lives for a bit. So, let us live by the dictum that ignorance is bliss, sometimes. What we don't know won't hurt us, will it?

 

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


.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

NANDAN'S NEW DEAL

SAMAR HALARNKAR

 

In less than a week, the Unique Identification (UID) project, or Aadhar as it is officially called, will roll out in an impoverished corner of tribal Maharashtra, heralding the most ambitious attempt

 

yet to transform the way the Indian State reaches its citizens.

 

There are two things unique about Aadhar (appropriately, it means 'the foundation'): how it's run and what it will do.

 

First, how is it run?

 

For a project that will eventually provide identities to 1.2 billion Indians, the number of people at work on one of India's most far-reaching government projects ever, is remarkably small: around 120. They are spread across Aadhar's headquarters in a Delhi office tower, its main centre in a Bangalore technology park and in seven states where Aadhar is close to launch. These people form a small, smart, flat

 

and fast team, extracted from India's state and private sectors.

 

Aadhar's 2S2F (small-smart-fast-flat) model is unsurprising. It was created by the man who — through a best-selling book of the same name by the American writer Thomas Friedman — gave the world the term 'The Flat World'. As chief of Aadhar, Nandan Nilekani, co-founder and former CEO of the iconic tech company Infosys, brings to the government skills he honed riding the waves of opportunity to the distant shores of a world flattened by technology, democracy and openness.

 

Nilekani has now created an organisation that is a precursor to tomorrow's government. At Aadhar's offices, you will find IAS officers from Jharkhand, techies from multinational giants like Intel, Cisco and Google and former investment bankers from everywhere. Some are employees, some are paid by their companies, a few are volunteers.

 

Second, what will Aadhar do?

 

This is where it gets trickier, as one might expect with a project of this scale. Strictly speaking, Aadhar's job is, as Nilekani likes to say, "to generate a 16-digit identification number for every Indian". But simply producing numbers is very limiting to Aadhar's talents. So, he's pitched Aadhar to handle projects as diverse as a national-highway toll-collection system, a technology backbone for the forthcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) and reform of the vast public distribution system (PDS) for subsidised food. Nilekani's expertise is project development and management; troubleshooting for the government and transforming its inefficient programmes should be up his street.

 

Of course, it isn't quite that simple.

 

Change, especially of the 2S2F variety, is never easy in eternal India. Officials resent Aadhar because its structure and brief challenges their world and work. This isn't very worrying. They can slow some bits of Aadhar, but they cannot stop it. The opposition from intellectuals is trickier. The bulk of it comes from the influential National Advisory Council (NAC), whose members are currently tasked with reforming some of the same national programmes that Nilekani and his team hope to handle, like the PDS. The NAC's chief is Sonia Gandhi, and she can stall Aadhar.

 

Intellectual challenges to Aadhar chiefly focus on concerns that Aadhar is, as NAC member and economist Jean Dreze put it, "a national security project in the garb of a social policy initiative". Given India's dodgy track record on civil liberties, this is a legitimate concern, but it is misaddressed. These are questions for the government, not Aadhar.

 

Other concerns focus on the benefits and efficiency of Unique Identification (UID) and technology in general as a solution for poverty. "I have seen technology really work wonders for the poor," said NAC member Harsh Mander. "One of the big reasons for the popularity of YSR (Reddy) in Andhra Pradesh was that old people got pensions on the first of every month. The worry I have is that a lot of India's poor survive by keeping out of the way of the State, from tribal forest encroachers to urban slum dwellers. I do wonder how UID will reach them."

 

The questioning will keep Aadhar open, democratic and innovative, pushing it to respond to issues as they emerge. Persuasive, affable and networked, Nilekani is no novice in Delhi's corridors of power. He's spent many days meeting and making presentations to UID's opponents and trying to win over high-power support. As another outsider, Sam Pitroda, the prime minister's advisor on national information infrastructure — a fibre optic network that will be vital to connecting UID's computers and hand-held devices — told me, "The resistance is part of the process."

 

The need for Aadhar is undeniable and urgent.

 

Proving identity is an insurmountable task for millions of Indians, particularly migrants, poor farmers and landless labour, who comprise most of the 400 million people who live below the global poverty line of $1.25 a day. These are people who often lose their history the moment they step out of their villages, cut adrift from the extensive social security schemes on which India will spend Rs 1.18 lakh crore this year. A fourth to half that amount never reaches its beneficiaries. As a start, the UID should be able to replace 19 documents that are variously accepted as proof of identity today — but incredibly hard to obtain — ranging from a ration card, passport or PAN card.

 

When Aadhar officially launches in backward Nandurbar on September 29 or 30, 10,000 Indians would already be enrolled in Andhra Pradesh, their faces and fingerprints recorded in what will eventually be a vast national database. Despite the hurdles, Aadhar's small team is racing ahead, hoping to enroll 100 million Indians by March 2011. Nilekani is offering India's reform process a new deal. It is a fine idea to embrace.

 

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


.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

SAVING FOR A RAINY DAY

KUMKUM DASGUPTA

 

 

The Food Bill is still in the works but has provoked a furious debate on the lack of grain storage facilities, rotting of grains and whether they should be distributed free to the hungry masses. Waking up to the fact that no food security programme can be effective without proper storage, the government is now planning to upgrade existing warehousing facilities and also adding new ones. However, between food security and large-scale storage, there's a missing link that needs to be taken note of: storage at the farm level. No one can deny the importance of decentralised storage; at least 25-30 per cent grains in the country are stored at the farm level.

 

However, it's not as if there hasn't been enough thrust on this issue: there are State institutes to look into the storage problems, like the Ghaziabad-based Indian Grain Storage Management and Research Institute (IGMRI) that was set up in 1968 to promote "research and development" of post-harvest technologies. Hoping to elicit some information about new farm-level storage structures, I called IGMRI director, Subhash Gupta. Gupta patiently heard my queries and then went about explaining the existing storage systems like silos, gunny bags, high-density polypropylene bags and the Food Corporation of India's "innovative" CAP storage. "What about new products for farm-level storage?" No, we haven't done much, he admitted.

 

Yet, policy-wise we did have a sound start: the Save Grain Campaign, which was initiated 43 years ago, was supposed to do what we are floundering on now. Through this campaign, the Centre was to initiate and train states in warehousing and storage of grains. The Centre wanted the states to take it up on a large scale but the latter did not want any "added responsibility". Finding no takers, the the campaign was withdrawn in 2008.

 

"Around 15-20 per cent foodgrain losses occur in large storage godowns. Along with investment in large storage capacities, we must encourage farm-level storage. This can be in the form of refining and improving the local/indigenous storage technologies and providing technical and financial support at that level," says M.B. Chetti, Dean, College of Agriculture, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka.

 

He and many experts like him suggest that if we want to leapfrog in storage capacity at the farm-level (since setting up large storages is time-consuming and expensive), new technologies like vacuum packaging could be the answer. They assure quality as well as a chance to store grains almost anywhere and that it can be done in villages by trained persons.

 

"Alternatively, we have to go for cold storage facilities for food grains, which is very costly since it involves electricity supply," says Chetti. Instead, vacuum packing, say experts, helps preserve grains and seeds for long periods without any deterioration in quality. In fact, an experiment was carried out in the university on the usefulness of the packaging system (using chilli) and the results were satisfactory. The available technology offers a seven-layer packing to preserve quality for long periods of time and once sealed, climatic changes have no effect on it. Elimination of oxygen from the pack helps in extending shelf life.

 

"At present only three-layer plastic films are manufactured in India. The seven-layered film needs to be imported. But the import duty is high," says Mohan Bajikar, a former student of Dharwad university and a promoter of new agricultural technologies. Of course, such technologies are expensive, but then delivering to the hungry isn't enough — quality must be ensured.

 

Food policy analyst Devinder Sharma, however, says expensive solutions like silos and warehousing are not the answer to procurement and storage problems. Instead, he says, "local production, local procurement and local distribution" is the answer, something like what Chhattisgarh has been doing. It procures paddy directly from farmers, buying it through cooperative societies and procurement centres at the village level. To store, he adds, the government can add a small godown next to each panchayat ghar.

 

Whichever way we look at it, decentralised storage cannot be left out of the loop if we want to ensure food security.

 

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

SET & MATCH

 

Why the hell are you rummaging about in the drawer like that?

 

I am looking for my cheque book.

 

Ah! that's good news. Are you planning to settle some old accounts with me?

 

With you? Of course not. With my dad, actually. I am sending a cheque to my father right now.

 

To your father? He will have a stroke if you surprise him like that.

 

Umm, then probably I should call him and warn him.

 

But what's got into you? Have you had a windfall or something?

 

Ah, windfall! Yes, of course, thanks to Mahesh Bhupathi. He has claimed a tax rebate on his dad's 'fee'.

 

Isn't senior Bhupathi his own father? Then what is this fee all about?

 

Mahesh paid back his father what the latter had spent on him. They had entered into a contract in 1994 and now he wants a tax rebate, but the courts are not convinced.

 

But...

 

I think it's a brilliant idea. One, you get a tax refund and then you can again take a loan from dad because you have paid off his 'first loan' and that too interest-free! I mean this beats all credit cards and bank loans hands down...

 

I think it's wrong to even think like that. There are so many things he must have given you that can't be monetised...

 

Why are you being so sentimental about it? It's such a win-win situation for both sides.

 

Do say: Dad's the way!

 

Don't say: My dad is an ATM!

 

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

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

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ALL IN THE FAMILY

 

Understanding North Korea presents a paradox — speculation about the Hermit Kingdom, the world's most distinctly secretive state, yields little. Yet, there's little an outsider can do but speculate about a regime which may, finally, be starting a leadership succession process even when there's not a single photograph as an adult available of the person speculated to be the likely successor. But the fact that North Korea's ruling Workers' Party has set a date (September 28), after a little understood postponement, for its biggest convention in 30 years to select its "supreme leadership body" should lay to rest some doubts.

 

The Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, is ill; his suspected stroke of 2008 increasingly evidencing itself in his appearance. The next leader — it's useless again to speculate what he'll be named since both "Great Leader" and "Dear Leader" are exhausted titles for the world's only hereditary communist regime — is very likely the third son, Kim Jong-un, preferred by the father, if the latter's longtime sushi chef is to be believed, because the youngest son resembles him most in appearance and ruthlessness. (The eldest son reportedly ruined his chances when he was caught trying to sneak into Japan on a false passport apparently to visit Tokyo Disneyland; and the second son is considered "effeminate" by the father.)

 

Jong-un, still in his twenties, won't succeed immediately. But if he's just appointed to a party post on September 28, it'll indicate the succession has begun. After all, Jong-il was introduced to the nation and the world in the last convention in 1980, and it took him another 14 years to succeed his father, Kim Il-sung. Jong-un, however, may not get that long a grooming time. For now, his elevation will be quiet, even as national capitals try to know more about the next leader of a nuclear-armed, unpredictable state.

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HARD PRESSED

 

One person's status quo is another person's stability. Sometimes, the same person's. Harish Khare, the prime minister's media advisor, set off a storm when he called the Congress a "status-quoist" entity with no real convictions. At a time when the Congress party-UPA government relationship is especially delicate, Khare's remark was wholly unexpected and, to a party traditionally intolerant of criticism, impolitic.

 

But Khare was speaking at the release of a political science book on Madhya Pradesh. He was not there as the party's spinmeister (which he is not), but as someone drawing on his experience as a journalist and political analyst. He spoke after Digvijaya Singh claimed to have followed a politics of conviction rather than consensus in MP. Khare pointed out that a single leader's initiative could not achieve much without having first carved a solid political constituency to back him. His comments on the Congress, while acknowledging the party's centrality, said that by attempting to be a big tent, it was structurally difficult for the Congress to accommodate radical demands. This is a perfectly unobjectionable thought to voice as a journalist and commentator, unless you view it strictly through a frame of loyalty/ disloyalty as some in the Congress now seem to. In any case, within a day Khare took the edge off by saying that his comments were limited to the specific experience of the MP Congress, and that he has always held that the Congress was "the nation's most enduring source of stability". The quick turnaround said more about the reaction than his original comments.

 

Either way, the party should learn to loosen up and give honest critique its due. If it wants to induct talented people from outside into party or government, it has to accept that they will come with their own perspective, not always tailored to party specifications. It simply has to learn to take unpalatable opinions, let alone mild, professorial remarks, without feeling betrayed. It should just let such matters go.

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PULLING IT TOGETHER

 

A couple of very visible glitches have hit the Commonwealth Games. Yet, the hysterical responses that the entire Games effort has fallen through convey a disturbing lack of proportion. Our long-standing pessimism about our ability to put any sort of show together needs little enough to feed on; and these stories have caused the already simmering hysteria that has surrounded the CWG over the last couple of months to burst into the open. It's difficult at this point to hear any voice of authority and reason — even, it would appear, in the government.

 

Of course, every major sporting event has been prefaced by loud doom-saying. Beijing, we were told, was too polluted for athletics, and algae had infected the watersports areas. Nothing was ready in Athens, people worried. Vancouver, before it hosted the Winter Olympics, did not have enough snow, and South Africa, before the World Cup, had too many muggers. Each of those narratives played up existing stereotypes about those countries — growing too fast; not ready to be a full member of Europe; lazy about global warming; not tough on crime. And thus, before Delhi's games, the attempt is being made to convince us that corruption and shoddiness will lead to disaster. But this time it's different — because the ultimate authority, the Union government, has not taken the lead, and has not wrested control of the narrative. Where is the sports minister? Why is the urban development minister not in full command of the facts? Why is it that concerns about the Games Village are not met with an authoritative statement that they will be properly cleaned — as they must be — before they're handed over finally, instead of an ill-thought-out quote from some middle-level functionary that implies India has different standards of hygiene? The story threatens to balloon out of control, losing all tethers to reality.

 

That India's government isn't countering the Delhi-bridges-are-falling-down spin effectively is one thing. But it's worth noticing, too, that other stakeholders aren't helping. Other Commonwealth authorities, for example, seem to think this qualifies as Someone Else's Problem. But is it? Remember, these aren't the Asian Games, or the Olympics, where the temptation to compete silences the nitpickers. No, these are about the Commonwealth as much as about games. Participants like Scotland, New Zealand and Australia should acknowledge they too are stakeholders not just in this event, but also in the idea of the Commonwealth Games.

 

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

 


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WAYS OF MOVING ON

SEEMA CHISHTI 

 

Ayodhya season is upon us again. The timeless city, holy for Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, whose amazing skyline and sunsets by the Sarayu river are the stuff of poetry, now awaits the verdict on title suits of the contentious portions of the land on Friday. The way everyone is reacting is as much a testament of how far things have "moved on" as of how they have not.

 

It would be useful to view this occasion to recount how much India has changed. First, along with the Mandal and Kamandal mobilisations in 1990-91, there was also the economic liberalisation that the Congress kicked off. Now, 20 years on, liberalisation has left its imprint and continues to do so. It has freed up entrepreneurial energies, and also changed the balance between the organised and the unorganised workforces, with its own set of consequences. The expansion of the media and consumption patterns have been matched by new aspirations and preoccupations. A fascinating wishlist of the new India, documented somewhat cynically in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Love Sex aur Dhoka or even Peepli [Live], indicates the conundrum that this new India has come to mean. Imagery in India has always fascinated those with an eye for opposites (slums outside the Taj Gateway being a tired cliché) and the country has never failed to satisfy those looking for both, like Barbies and Harappan-style toys sold within miles of each other. But the change, the pace of the change and the desire for more change has led to a disconnect with traditional ways of doing things, including how people are socialised and mobilised.

 

Those in the BJP who would love to recapture the space that crumbled out of their grasp — that simple Mandir-Masjid dichotomy — are only reconciled to the "mood" being different at the moment. There has been no philosophical change or shift in their politics. There is constant evasion if you ask leaders now on what has changed from 1992 to now — since promises to "respect" the law were made even then. The need to remain "quiet" given the exigencies of the elections in Bihar cannot always conceal the expectant glee of wondering what should be capitalised — Hindu "pride" or a sense of "injury", in case the verdict is otherwise.

 

The Congress has had a series of confessionals in the past two decades, one over Babri Masjid, then over their horrific treatments of Sikhs. In fact, it is the Congress that lost the most in this enterprise, as it even more cynically tried to do "both" — one Shah Bano and then Ayodhya — and unleashed forces it could not control. The fact that Narasimha Rao presided over the final levelling of the three domes was something they could not live down, till they finally purged him from the party pantheon. The decision to "go" for the Hindu vote was taken earlier — but it was useful to make him the fall guy. Even today, there is a certain ambivalence about how the party seems to be approaching it — a fear of a phenomenon that it happily acquiesced to some time back. Again, they offer phrases like "moved on", not a new thought or confident expression of an idea.

 

The big question facing both the big parties is — despite muttering on about keeping the law and order, is there any change in conviction or temperamental shift in how they undertake politics?

 

An apocryphal story is useful. Sitting with a bunch of Asian scholars at a London pub, a pretty Caucasian lady found herself being teased by some white blue-collared workers drinking nearby. They insisted she drink with them instead of with the "browns". She tossed her head and told them she wouldn't move because they were too "low-class". It effectively illustrates a bigger story about India, especially in recent times — about how one kind of classification has often been tackled by raising other kinds of classifications. Religious fervour, which threatened to tear India apart, was dealt with by gently reminding Indians about caste (1991-92), and then, too much caste and religion were gotten over by groups raising the gender question (even if briefly, in the March vote in Rajya Sabha on the women's reservation bill).

 

In the early 20th century, there was the "anti-colonial" experience that served as the glue to bring all kinds of sensibilities together, and forge a sense of being "one". It was a sense of being a citizen enforced by the relationship with a "colonial state". After Independence, there were several waves of language, region intermittently, caste and religion mobilisations that, under the garb of "uneven development", haunted our sense of being a nation. It was severely tested at times, especially in the early years. There were the language agitations in the '50s. In the '80s and '90s, caste erupted, not in a Brahmin versus non-Brahmin dynamic like in the south, but a sense of being powerful yet powerless among the OBCs convulsed north India. From the '80s on, religion dominated the discourse (sometimes parallel to caste and sometimes cutting across each other).

 

Now, post-liberalisation, a "new" India is growing up, with dreams and expectations of a much better material

future. Old mores are being picked apart, for better and for worse. And political leaderships are struggling to find a framework to respond to these aspirations and frustrations. Perhaps forced by the 2009 general election, UPA-II did try and grope for language that could reconcile the hopes and the pitfalls of this 21st century India. But once the exigency of the polls was over, the we-have-at-least-two-theories-of-everything school of thought took over.

 

So what's changed? And why do we pose that question? When old wounds resurface, as they have on the Ayodhya issue, it's almost like a refresher test for the citizenry and the Indian state in how it deals with such situations.

 

The verdict on Ayodhya is not yet out, and it is most likely to be contested. But whether new India, having "moved on", has found a new kind of politics to take in its new concerns and preoccupations is likely to be tested this weekend and beyond.

 

seema.chishti@expressindia.com

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

PEACE IS THE WAY

SAMUDRA GUPTA KASHYAP 

 

The Naga movement for a sovereign state, which has been marred by factionalism and violence in the past couple of decades, touched a new landmark when the two warring sides — the Issak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) — signed an agreement this weekend to reconcile on the basis of the "historical and political rights of the Nagas".

 

Another faction, the Naga National Council (NNC), the one that had actually launched the armed campaign for a Naga state under the leadership of the now legendary Angami Zapu Phizo, also joined the two NSCN factions to sign the agreement.

 

While the reconciliation process was facilitated by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), the most significant aspect of this effort was the presence of two top leaders of the underground movement, NSCN(IM) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and NSCN(K) leader N. Kitovi Zhimomi. In the words of the FNR, "the leaders patiently listened to each other and emphasised the need for Naga reconciliation and to end all violence and bloodshed amongst the Nagas."

 

In the past three or four years, Naga groups, particularly the two NSCN factions, have been busier fighting each other for territorial dominance and expansion. The ground reality is that the more area a group controls, the stronger and financially sound it stays. All the three main factions not only have their respective underground governments, but also collect "tax" from the people at rates that are revised from time to time. Within their respective governments, Muivah and Zhimomi are also regarded as "ato kilonser" — prime minister — of their respective Nagalim.

 

It has been a fact that though the NSCN(IM) has been in a ceasefire with the government of India since August 1997 and the NSCN(K) followed suit three years later, the two sides have engaged in a series of violent clashes that has left hundreds of cadres dead in the past three or four years. They have also engaged in a war of words, with each calling the other a stooge of the government.

 

To recall, while the NSCN was formed by Muivah and Khaplang after they broke away from the NNC in the aftermath of the signing of the "Shillong Accord" in 1975, the two subsequently parted ways following clashes in which Khaplang's followers allegedly killed about 200 of Muivah's men in 1988. Even after the ceasefires the two factions have signed with New Delhi, there has been a lot of suspicion within the Khaplang faction, because the government has been, for long, talking only to the NSCN(IM). No wonder Kughalu Mulatonu, a senior NSCN(K) leader, even went to the extent of saying, a couple of years back, that the day was not far when the Muivah faction would start singing Vande Mataram!

 

Factional clashes have also claimed a large number of lives in recent years, prompting the church, traditional institutions like the Naga Hoho and various civil society groups, including the Naga Mothers' Association, to call upon both sides to put an end to violence in the interest of the peace talks.

 

While these attempts did not yield much, it was the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) formed by Wati Aier, a highly respected Naga who heads the Oriental Theological Seminary in Dimapur, which finally managed to put an end to the hostilities. Aier, who has been working on this since 2008, got representatives of the three factions sign the Covenant of Reconciliation at Chiang Mai in Thailand last September, which paved the way for this agreement.

 

The reconciliation agreement has been already hailed by all quarters across Nagaland. While the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) has described it as a "landmark in the reconciliation process", the Naga Hoho has called it "another red-letter day" in the annals of Naga political history. Political parties, too, have not lagged behind in hailing the September 18 agreement.

 

Now, with the agreement in place, Wati Aier's FNR has said the signatories should now be engaged in working out their differences in the greater interest of the Naga people. It also reminded all Naga political groups that one without the other would be incomplete. "All of them are part of the jigsaw puzzle of the Naga nation and everyone has a role to play in ushering in an era of peace that Nagaland has been yearning for decades," Aier said.

 

Nagaland certainly can no longer afford to seek a solution to the six-decade-old problem with the groups remaining divided. New Delhi has also been insisting that the Naga leaders must come forward with a common voice to hammer out a lasting peaceful solution. It is time Muivah, Khaplang and the others realised the meaning of the old saying: divided we fall, united we stand.

 

samudra.kashyap@expressindia.com

 

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

 


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DON'T REFORM THE EPFO, NPS IT

GAUTAM BHARDWAJ 

 

India is the last major economy to attempt a large-scale pension reform. We are late by global standards. But we have the twin advantage of hindsight and one of the most efficient securities markets in the world. We are also early by global standards in the context of our demographic transition. As a result, we have a large young workforce that is still some decades away from retirement.

 

In this situation, it is feasible for India to implement a modern pension programme like the New Pension Scheme (NPS), where millions of young workers set aside a part of their incomes for old age, earn high real returns on their savings through well-regulated capital markets, and use their accumulated savings at age 60 to achieve a dignified retirement based on thrift and self-help.

 

Between 2000 and 2003, and after an assessment of its features, the Central government and 25 states decided to migrate their new employees to the NPS. Today, over 11 lakh Central and state government employees have joined the NPS and are earning nearly 14 per cent per annum from reputed fund managers like UTI, SBI and LIC. This way, informal sector workers, who were traditionally excluded from formal pension programmes, now have identical pension rights as government employees.

 

The NPS, however, is not an option for workers in private-sector salaried employment. They continue to face an outdated, poorly-administered pension and provident fund programme run by the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), which runs the Employees Provident Fund and the Employee Pension Scheme. These workers are forced to save a quarter of their incomes for old age. And since most of their savings capacity is consumed by the EPFO, they are often forced to dip into their retirement savings for a variety of their other, non-retirement expenses. This is not difficult, but unfortunately puts a serious dent in their pension corpus.

 

There are other important reasons also to rethink the role for the EPFO. First, despite many attempts, the organisation has been unable to create a centralised database of its membership. As a result, it is nearly impossible for EPFO's customers to transfer their accounts and past savings when they change employers or move to new locations. It is relatively (though not always) easier for them to close their account with their last employer, withdraw (and consume) their accumulated retirement savings, and open a fresh EPFO account through their new employer. This naturally reduces the pension accumulations of its subscribers.

 

Second, each individual has a unique retirement need and risk profile. However, the savings of all EPFO customers, regardless of the differences in their age, income or retirement outlook, are channelled to an identical investment portfolio comprising mainly government bonds that deliver a return of roughly 8 per cent. Equity markets in India on the other hand have consistently delivered nearly 6 per cent higher returns than government bonds. Both NPS and overseas pension funds investing in Indian capital markets recognise the importance of equities in a pension portfolio as every 1 per cent of additional return could increase pension wealth by 20 per cent over a 30-year horizon. EPFO's outdated investment policies and the resistance of its trustees to explore the equity option however takes away this upside for the private sector salaried workforce.

 

The difficulties with account portability and low returns (unless EPFO discovers a few thousand crores just lying around) has an even more serious impact on the retirement outcomes of the lower-income workforce that forms around 80 per cent of EPFO's membership. Without high real returns and easy portability, most of these workers will not be able to escape old-age poverty. For these reasons, an average EPF member retires with roughly Rs 30,000 in her PF account. This can at best produce an annuity of Rs 200 per month.

 

It is strange that the roughly 50 million EPFO subscribers have not been very vocal about its poor service quality or its inability to evolve with time. This is perhaps because half of EPFO's membership does not really exist as over 50 per cent of its accounts are dormant and contain barely a few hundred rupees. The majority (75 per cent) of EPFO's assets belong to some 15 per cent of its customers who perhaps have little reason to complain about a government-guaranteed, tax-free return of 8.5 per cent on average.

 

While it has certainly played an important role in launching a large, mandatory retirement programme when no other options were available, it is perhaps time for some serious introspection at EPFO. And it also time for the remaining EPFO subscriber base to step forward and demand the same rights and benefits that are already available to civil servants and informal sector workers under NPS — portable individual accounts, choices regarding products and fund managers, high real returns and optimum retirement incomes. One way to achieve this would be to embark on a long-drawn struggle to reform EPFO. It may however be easier to side-step this battle and instead take an alternate route that could be simpler, faster and cheaper.

 

To start with, EPFO should be registered as a Point of Presence with the pension regulator. It should require every large employer, including exempt and excluded PF trusts, to open an NPS account for their employees. Every month, employers would be required to deduct, pool and transfer the PF savings of their employees, along with a matching contribution, to the NPS Trustee Bank. The NPS Trust would in turn transfer these savings to a regulated fund manager and scheme selected by each subscriber. These employees should have an option to open a tier-II NPS account for non-retirement savings. Using a central record-keeping agency, formal sector workers will be able to easily change jobs or locations without losing or consuming past retirement savings.

 

On the face of it, this may seem impractical since it will involve a change in the EPF Act. But if this can change the retirement outcomes for several crore Indians, updating the EPF to reflect the reality of 2010 may be well worth the effort. With a somewhat reduced workload on EPF compliance, the EPFO could perhaps turn its attention to (a) more effectively and urgently resolving the Rs 50,000 crore asset-liability mismatch in the EPS, (b) bringing smaller employers with 10 or more employees into the NPS on a mandatory basis, and (c) embarking on a nation-wide communication campaign, in collaboration with employers, to convey the new rights and choices under NPS to formal sector workers.

 

This will create a genuinely useful pension programme for formal sector workers that is not only portable between employers under EPFO but also across all categories of India's labour market. After all, what is good for civil servants and the rest of the country cannot be suboptimal for EPFO's subscribers.

 

The writer is director, Invest India Micro Pension Services

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THEIR VANISHING PLAYGROUND

SHAILAJA BAJPAI 

 

At this rate, some countries may still participate in the Commonwealth Games, the athletes may occupy the Commonwealth Games Village without dirt assailing them, Delhi may host the event without terrorists or mosquito attacks, everyone may get to the stadiums via bridges or over-bridges that don't collapse, but the TV news channels won't be there to cover any of it. They will boycott the extravaganza; that's how mad it has made them.

 

Hardly blame them. They have been scurrying around Delhi for more than a month, in torrential rainfall, to find leaking roofs, incomplete construction sites, mud bath roads, to say nothing of standing in dirty water to measure the height of the rising Yamuna. Then on Tuesday, they had to trudge their way through the rain, the slush to the CWG Village, only to be exposed to the "filthy and uninhabitable" surroundings, to quote Mike Hooper's description of the Village. How the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation must have made them blush.

 

No wonder they vented their shame with footage of the Village and its "filthy" surroundings at great danger to themselves: we saw the mosquitoes drawn magnetically to the TV cameras. Worse, the afternoon witnessed the collapse of the over-bridge near the showpiece Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the news channels had to dash across. While nothing befell them, the anchors and reporters sounded more injured than those who were actually wounded in the incident. Live India asked us in clear exasperation: "Should we hold the Games?" Times Now spoke for all of them (and perhaps us?): "Shame for Kalmadi & Co," while NDTV 24x7 had Anurag Thakur of the IOA raging against the money spent on the Games under the banner headline, "CWG: Falling Apart?"

 

They were so incensed they got confused. The India TV anchor said 23 people had been injured, but its ticker claimed only four had sustained injuries. And although the TV reporters at the site of the incident were standing so close to each other, a mosquito would have had difficulty buzzing between them, most channels did what News 24 did: claim "Xclusive" coverage. Hello?

 

All of this comes after the poor TV reporters found themselves soaking in the Sunday downpour as they had to abandon the holiday for gunfire at Jama Masjid. "Attack on Delhi," declared India TV or, as it put it rather more ominously, "Dilli par hamla" (which sounds much more like a state of war). Then came the threatening e-mail from the Indian Mujahideen (IM), which warned against holding the CWG: "Be careful, be alert," the channel counselled. And if we shivered it wasn't only because the temperature in the capital was down to 23 degrees Celsius.

 

When news came on Tuesday of the "filthy" Commonwealth Village, you wondered whether IM, known to play dirty, were somehow responsible for it?

 

But this is no puzzle for exhausted, drenched TV journos. Call in CID (Sony). This most popular TV crime show would have solved the Jama Masjid attack in a jiffy. The empty cartridges discovered by the police would have been taken to the CID super scientific lab. Doctor-sahib would have shot a 9 mm weapon (similar to the one used in the Old Delhi attack) into a tank of water and the bullets would have immediately revealed the identity of the shooter. Detecting a single human hair on the original fired cartridge, an attractive female assistant (please note: always attractive) would then have fed the strand of hair into a computer that can generate a reconstruction of the assailant's face. CID solved a murder just so, in a Sunday episode, by exposing a skull to the skilful computer. CID would have matched the image with their CID files and come up with three possible owners of the face and visited each one. Won't reveal more, but they caught the criminal.

 

ACP Pradyuman & Co., the country needs you.

 

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OUR OWN CHINESE WAY

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN 

 

Tianjin, China: To visit China today as an American is to compare and to be compared. And from the very opening session of this year's World Economic Forum here in Tianjin, our Chinese hosts did not hesitate to do some comparing. China's CCTV aired a skit showing four children — one wearing the Chinese flag, another the American, another the Indian, and another the Brazilian — getting ready to run a race. Before they take off, the American child, "Anthony," boasts that he will win "because I always win," and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. "Now is our chance to overtake him for the first time!" shouts the Chinese child. "What's wrong with Anthony?" asks another. "He is overweight and flabby," says another child. "He ate too many hamburgers."

 

For the US visitor, the comparisons start from the moment one departs Beijing's South Station, a giant space-age building, and boards the bullet train to Tianjin. It takes just 25 minutes to make the 75-mile trip. In Tianjin, one arrives at another ultramodern train station — where, unlike New York City's Pennsylvania Station, all the escalators actually work. From there, you drive to the Tianjin Meijiang Convention Centre, a building so gigantic and well-appointed that if it were in Washington, DC, it would be a tourist site. Your hosts inform you: "It was built in nine months."

 

I know, I know. With enough cheap currency, labour and capital — and authoritarianism — you can build anything in nine months. Still, it gets your attention. Some of my Chinese friends chide me for overidealising China. I tell them: "Guilty as charged." But have no illusions. I am not praising China because I want to emulate their system. I am praising it because I am worried about my system. In deliberately spotlighting China's impressive growth engine, I am hoping to light a spark under America.

 

Studying China's ability to invest for the future doesn't make me feel we have the wrong system. It makes me feel that we are abusing our right system. There is absolutely no reason our democracy should not be able to generate the kind of focus, legitimacy, unity and stick-to-it-iveness to do big things — democratically — that China does autocratically. We've done it before. But we're not doing it now because too many of our poll-driven, toxically partisan, cable-TV-addicted, money-corrupted political class are more interested in what keeps them in power than what would again make America powerful, more interested in defeating each other than saving the country.

 

"How can you compete with a country that is run like a company?" an Indian entrepreneur at the forum asked me of China. He then answered his own question: For democracy to be effective and deliver the policies and infrastructure our societies need requires the political centre to be focused, united and energised. That means electing candidates who will do what is right for the country not just for their ideological wing or whoever comes with the biggest bag of money. For democracies to address big problems — and that's all we have these days — requires a lot of people pulling in the same direction, and that is precisely what we're lacking.

 

"We are not ready to act on our strength," said my Indian friend, "so we're waiting for them [the Chinese] to fail on their weakness."

 

Will they? The Chinese system is autocratic, rife with corruption and at odds with a knowledge economy, which requires liberty. Yet China also has regular rotations of power at the top and a strong record of promoting on merit, so the average senior official is quite competent. Listening to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China tick off growth statistics in his speech here had the feel of a soulless corporate earnings report. Yet he has detailed plans for his people's betterment, from universities to high-speed rail, and he's delivering on them.

 

Orville Schell of the Asia Society, one of America's best China watchers, who was with me in Tianjin, put it perfectly: "Because we have recently begun to find ourselves so unable to get things done, we tend to look with a certain overidealistic yearning when it comes to China. We see what they have done and project onto them something we miss, fearfully miss, in ourselves" — that "can-do," "get-it-done," "everyone-pull-together," "whatever-it-takes" attitude that built our highways, dams and put a man on the moon.

 

"These were hallmarks of our childhood culture," said Schell. "But now we view our country turning into the opposite, even as we see China becoming animated by these same kinds of energies. I don't idealise China's system of government. I don't want to live in an authoritarian system. But I do feel compelled to look at China in an objective way and acknowledge the successes of this system." That doesn't mean advocating that we become like China. It means being alive to the challenge we are up against and even finding ways to cooperate with China. "The very retro notion that we are undisputedly still No. 1," added Schell, "is extremely dangerous." The New York Times

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

UNDERSTANDING OBAMA

 

American President Barack Obama's statement that tax breaks should not go to companies which are creating jobs abroad and not in the US is seen as election-time posturing by the RSS. It feels the US is more in need of outsourcing than India and Obama's rhetoric might be forgotten after the November elections.

 

An article in RSS journal Organiser says that, rather than US policy changes regarding outsourcing, the BPOs and KPOs are more concerned with the way China has been making strides in educating its youth to take these lucrative jobs away from India. "Obama may be playing to the gallery, as politicians are wont to do when elections are approaching, but the US firms outsourcing jobs to India and its ilk would weigh the pros and cons in terms of savings through tax benefits and cost of talent and operations."

 

But as regarding China, it says there is a strong feeling that if India does not pick up its education levels and bring down talent coss even further, China would quietly encroach on these jobs as successfully as it has been in manufacturing sectors.

 

A new troika

 

An article in Organiser weaves an interesting theory. It says there is a Maoist-LTTE-jihadi gang in Kerala with active support from "pro-jihadi elements" like PDP's Abdul Nasser Madani, the Popular Front of India, SIMI and the Jamaat-e-Islami.

 

It says the Union home secretary has given "startling disclosures" of Maoist presence in the jungles of Wayanad, a district in northern Kerala. It claims that the arrest of an LTTE operative, Siva, revealed that over 1500 LTTE cadre have been sent to Australia, Germany, Italy and Canada through Kerala.

 

Adding to this is the threat of jihadi elements. "Several blast cases, acts of terrorism, including haul of gelatin sticks, export of terror to Kashmir, recent haul of explosives in trains and cutting of brake pipes of a train are being soft-peddled to save jihadis," it says.

 

It argues that both the Congress and the CPM are passing the buck on the question of banning the PFI, the group accused of chopping off the hands of a professor, in view of the forthcoming local body elections.

 

On illness

 

The lead editorial in Organiser, titled 'Health is wealth, but under UPA only the wealthy can be healthy', focuses on the healthcare scenario of the country. It says healthcare has become urban-centric, dominated by private players and ignored by government.

 

The write-up claims that of the total health spending in the country, all levels of government make less than a one-fifth contribution. The contention is that from 1995 to 2005 the hospital bed density has come down, and that while 60 per cent of the hospitals are located in urban areas, 80 per cent of India's population lives in rural areas.

 

"Some 80 per cent of doctors and 75 per cent of dispensaries are in city areas," the article says. On the other side, India is increasingly becoming a destination for international medical tourism, and has a high number of medical as well as nursing colleges as compared to other countries.

 

"All these statistics only go to show that there is a serious mismatch of policy and governance in this important social sector. While the situation has been steadily deteriorating since liberalisation, with the government increasingly withdrawing from its commitments, under the UPA government it has got only worse." The article also alludes to the increasing threat of spurious drugs and new seasonal diseases with funny-sounding names that crop up periodically: "They bring huge profits to the pharmaceutical companies."

 

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OBAMA AND IRAN

C. RAJA MOHAN 

 

As Delhi reaches out to Tehran to protect its interests in Kabul, some in Washington argue that the United States too must explore the prospects for a dialogue with Iran on how to stabilise Afghanistan.

 

The US and Iran have had conversations on Afghanistan in the the wake of the Taliban's ouster. They also occasionally talked about Iraq. Neither of these initiatives could survive the gathering confrontation between Washington and Tehran on the question of Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

 

As the US debates its options in the faltering Afghan war, the idea of a regional approach to stabilise the nation has been in play for a while. Those who underline the importance of the regional approach naturally emphasise the centrality of Iran, which has a long border with western Afghanistan.

 

Shia Iran also has a big ideological problem with the Sunni extremism of the Taliban. It had joined hands with India, Russia and the Central Asian Republics to help the opponents of the Taliban in the late 1990s.

 

President Barack Obama apparently favours a separate track of engagement with Iran on Afghanistan and might be ready to explore the opportunity to build on their shared interests in combating drug trafficking and preventing the return of the Taliban to power.

 

Obama has reportedly told a group of American newspaper columnists that Iran should and could be a "constructive partner" in Afghanistan. But most observers of US-Iran relations are sceptical whether Washington and Tehran can really build on their visibly shared interests in Afghanistan.

 

For Washington, the problem is that a dialogue with Tehran on Afghanistan might undermine the current efforts of the administration to compel Iran to slow down and eventually abandon its nuclear weapons programme. The Obama administration has expended much political and diplomatic capital in building an international consensus on tightening the UN sanctions against Iran and got many Western countries to impose further unilateral sanctions to squeeze the Iranian economy.

 

Opponents of the Iran engagement in Washington point to the dangers of letting the Afghan imperative undermine the larger challenge of containing Iran's defiance of the non-proliferation regime. American supporters of the sanctions say they are beginning to bite and hope that they will force Iran to count the costs of its nuclear defiance.

 

That Tehran had slapped down Obama's hand when he extended it to Iran early on in his presidential term last year, has also sapped much of the enthusiasm in Washington for engaging Iran.

 

When last year's street protests led by the Green movement against the rigging of presidential elections shook the Iranian regime, Obama was reluctant to castigate Tehran's repression in the hope of finding a breakthrough on the nuclear question. That breakthrough never came. If Washington is conflicted about dealing with Iran, Tehran is apparently even more divided on how to deal with the US.

 

An open podium

 

As Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is in New York this week, holds forth from the unique global platform that the UN General Assembly offers there will be considerable international interest in the next moves by him and Obama.

 

Ahmadinejad's decision to release American hiker Sarah Shourd, who was held captive in Iran for many months, on the eve of the UNGA session has raised expectations for some diplomatic movement between Washington and Tehran.

 

In his speech on Thursday, Obama is likely to stress that it's the basic question is not about an unending quarrel between the US and Iran, but about Tehran's nuclear obligations to the international community. As he did last year, Obama will insist that "the door is open to engagement" and that Iran must make the first move by offering nuclear concessions.

 

Whatever the impact of the sanctions, Iran's contentious domestic politics will not allow Ahmadinejad to be seen as making any consequential compromise in New York. He must look defiant and sound triumphal to his domestic constituencies even if he chooses to signal flexibility on the nuclear issue.

 

A big deal

 

As Iran's nuclear programme continues to advance, Tehran's nervous Arab neighbours are turning to massive purchases of sophisticated arms. According to reports in Washington, the Obama administration is preparing to notify the American Congress about the sale of advanced fighter jets and helicopters worth $60 billion to Saudi Arabia. This is said to be the single biggest arms deal ever announced by the US.

 

raja.mohan@expressindia.com

 

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

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

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SEBI ON THE MAT

 

Stock market regulator Sebi's insistence on a 5% cap on individual shareholdings in a stock exchange was always a bad idea since it would make it next to impossible to ever start a stock exchange. Not just a stock exchange, it is difficult to find any business where 20 promoters get together to start a business. Theoretically, a promoter with a larger shareholding could divest holdings down to 5% in the stock market, but this requires time since investors will only buy stock of a firm that's profitable or has a proven record—but Sebi's guidelines refused to allow MCX-SX, or any other promoter for that matter, that time. In effect, Sebi's guidelines make it difficult for well-capitalised stock exchanges to come up. In sharp contrast, fellow regulators like RBI are more relaxed and allow promoters a lot more time to divest their shareholdings down to the stipulated levels. MCX-SX has now taken its dispute with Sebi to an altogether different level with a letter accusing it of tricking it, and tricking it with "ulterior intent". MCX-SX argues that a Sebi official, executive director JN Gupta, had first prompted it to come up with a scheme to reduce promoter equity and once this was done Sebi chairman CB Bhave expressed his reservations.

 

Bhave has, for the record, said that he will investigate whether the new shareholding pattern meets the compliance requirements, but the MCX-SX offensive is important for two reasons. One, it raises the question of whether people who have worked with its rival NSE, in this case CB Bhave and Sebi member MS Sahoo, should be allowed to stand in judgement on them in Sebi. Different countries have different models. The US, for instance, actively encourages movement from industry to regulators and vice-versa. But the onus is on regulators; they have to demonstrate lack of bias to command respect. Two, the offensive should put all government departments, and regulators, on notice. Each action of theirs, and this includes non-actions, has a cost attached to them. And those in power have a responsibility to ensure their actions, or non-actions, don't impose a heavy cost on those being regulated. How Sebi responds to MCX-SX's offensive will determine how people look at regulators across the country. Ironically, the UK Sinha committee has just come out with a recommendation that says RBI needs to be a lot like Sebi—it needs to be open and transparent, giving well-argued reasoning to back each decision it takes. And here is Sebi that is now being accused of not being transparent and open-minded.

 

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


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 SOFTEN THEM UP

 

Management gurus across the world would do well to study the goings-on in India's telecom space, not to spot who the winners and the losers will be, but to understand new principles of management that are in the process of being played out. That telecom minister A Raja has helped out nine companies get licences at dirt-cheap rates is well known, as is the fact that he is under attack from those firms that lost out due to his largesse—indeed, if these firms had not lost out, it is doubtful there would have been the kind of attack there has been on Raja and the government. What Raja is now in the process of doing is quite ingenuous and, wittingly or unwittingly, the Trai has played a big role in this.

 

While the older telecom players were aggrieved by the favours given to the nine new firms, the Trai went and made things hell for them. It recommended that the government charge them for the 'extra' spectrum they had—anything above 6.2MHz—and that the rate of this be fixed on the basis of the 3G bids. Indeed, it recommended that when these firms' licences came up for renewal, in another few years from now, the rate for these should also be based on the 3G bids. This was a real killer—these firms bid high values for the 3G licences precisely because Raja had blocked their expansion options in the 2G space, and now that price was to be used to charge them for 2G spectrum as well. Between 2014 and 2021, the potential impact could run into around a lakh crore rupees.

 

With this, Raja had the telcos where he wanted them. So, a few days after the talk of a bailout package for the nine telcos began being discussed, and criticised, talk has begun of how the Trai recommendation on linking 2G and 3G prices may not be accepted by the government. That is, don't make too much noise over my bailout and I'll think of one for you. Whether the classic arm-twisting will work depends on whether Raja continues to have the clout to pull it off in the government. Watch this space.

 

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


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CHRONICLE OF A CRISIS FORETOLD

RISHI RAJ

 

Law minister Veerappa Moily should now be a happy man. On September 13 he blasted the country's highest audit office, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), for failing to make timely interventions that could have otherwise prevented many scams and scandals. Moily was scathing in his criticism when he said, "Scandals and scams are known even when they are being planned and executed. If audit draws attention to them forthwith in a well-published manner, such scandals can be halted mid-stride. Post-mortems are good but they can be conducted only when a patient is dead."

 

Guess who came to the CAG's rescue? Strange it may sound, telecom minister A Raja. The day Moily was ranting against CAG, Raja was happily confirming to journalists an earlier FE report that his ministry was working to give a bailout to the failed operators who were given licences by him in January 2008 through dubious means. As if acting on Moily's counsel, the CAG lost no time and dashed off a letter to the department of telecommunications (DoT) secretary warning against any such proposals as it would be violative of the telecom policy. With CAG having done its job this time by making a timely intervention, it remains to be seen whether this time Moily and his colleagues would be able to stop Raja from doing what he did in 2008!

 

However, in trying to stop Raja from committing an even bigger scam than he committed in 2008, the CAG has also dashed the hopes of any new operator biding time to let the three-year lock-in that prevents them from selling-off pass so that they can honourably exit the business. Here the CAG has gone on the 2007 Trai recommendations, which barred the new licensees from any merger and acquisition until the completion of their rollout obligations. It's another matter that Raja swears by this recommendation but happily tweaked this provision that enabled Unitech and Swan to sell part of their stakes to Telenor and Etisalat, respectively. While Raja prevented the promoters of the new telecom firms from selling their equity for a period of three years so that they do not make unearned gains, he happily allowed them to offer fresh equity, thus making a distinction between merger and acquisition.

 

However, the CAG's letter to the DoT clearly warns against any move by the companies to sell off and merge with another firm after the three-year period is over without first meeting the rollout obligations and paying a revenue-share fee to the government. The warning is timely because in January 2011 the lock-in clause comes to an end. Two companies would be strongly hit if the government decides to abide by the CAG's counsel—UAE-based Etisalat and the country's second largest mobile operator Reliance Communications (RComm). Reports started surfacing since April, after the peace pact between the two Ambani brothers, that Etisalat was going to acquire a stake in RComm. That such reports were pure humbug was pointed out in these columns subsequently. Later in June, RComm's board allowed the company to divest 26% stake in favour of strategic investors. Enthusiasts once again saw an RComm-Etisalat deal around the corner. However, the Etisalat chairman earlier this month accepted that any deal with RComm was not possible this year and that it was looking at other possibilities like buying a stake in Idea Cellular—which again is not possible.

 

The guidelines for M&A in the telecom space prohibits any company to have more than 10% stake in another telecom company within the same operating circle. However, a complete merger is allowed. Since Etisalat has 45% stake in Swan (now known as Etisalat DB), which has licences in 15 circles, it can't buy more than 10% stake in either RComm or Idea. A merger is ruled out because of the lock-in on Swan. So, the best course of action for Etisalat would be to wait until January 2011 when the lock-in ends and then merge with RComm or Idea if one goes by the latest statement of its chairman. However, now the CAG has spoiled the fruits of any such wait because if by then Etisalat has not met its rollout obligations, it should not be allowed to merge even then.

 

There are ways to meet the rollout obligations but the CAG has done its homework well here also. A company like Etisalat has not made commercial launch of services in any of its circles when the licence conditions demand that 10% of district headquarters be covered by year one and 50% by year three. However, Etisalat claims to have launched services in all the 15 circles with a subscriber base of 18,000! Achieving such milestones is not difficult. Rollout obligations do not require you to have subscribers so companies put up skeletal network through intra-roaming pacts with incumbent operators and meet the rollout requirements. No wonder no company has been fined so far for not meeting the rollout norms.

 

However, to check such loopholes in the rules the CAG has said that mergers should be allowed to the new players only after having met the rollout obligations and paying revenue-share licence fee to the government. Now here's the problem: companies like Etisalat may have met the rollout obligations as defined by some DoT rule but has not paid a single paisa to the government by way of revenue share licence fee.

 

So, with the CAG making a timely intervention and hoping that the government listens to it, the wait for January 2011 for Etisalat or RComm or any other new operator is not going to bear any fruit.

 

rishi.raj@expressindia.com

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


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BETRAYING TRUST

MANISH SABHARWAL

 

Despite his recent bail, Ramalinga Raju of Satyam has learnt the hard way that those who ride tigers end up inside them. But the hole he created—about Rs 10,000 crore—is small relative to the Rs 50,000 crore deficit in the Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) created by the trustees of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). If the trustees are not willing to take responsibility for this hole they must be held liable or made to resign so that we fix the birth defect in the governance structure at EPFO, which allowed the introduction of what is possibly the world's only pension scheme that has defined both benefits and contributions.

 

More importantly, the decision by the trustees to pay an above-market rate return to members is symbolic of the lack of "fiduciary" perspective at the EPFO Board. First, this money has not been earned but created by a kind of accounting that is of not much higher quality than Satyam. Second, if this mythical Rs 2,000 crore does exist, why not use it to fill in the EPS hole? Third, why reduce benefits under EPS and EPFO that are in good enough health to declare an investment bonus?

 

A trustee is trusted to act on behalf of somebody in the best interests of that somebody. It is now clear that EPFO trustees do not act on behalf of the members because the EPS hole is a bigger issue than the interest credit. And they are not unrelated issues but go to the heart of the "fiduciary" perspective because the trustees have recently decided to lower benefits for all members under the EPS scheme by crimping return of capital, abolishing commutation and increasing before retirement penalties. The new rules abolish Para 13, which provided three options for return of capital. 1) If the employee opted for 90% of original pension (gave up 10%), then the return of capital was 100 times the original monthly pension. 2) If the employee opted for 90% of original pension (gave up 10%), then the widow got 80% of the original pension for her life and on her death or re-marriage, the nominee got 90 times the original monthly pension as return of capital. 3) If the employee opted to get a fixed monthly pension of 87.5% of the original pension for a period for 20 years, on completion of 20 years, he would get 100 times the original pension. After this no pension would be paid. The changes also delete Para 12A around commutation; this removed the option by which an employee who opted for 2/3rd of the original pension as reduced pension would have the balance 1/3rd commuted and paid 100 times the 1/3rd as a lump sum. The most damaging change is to Para 12(7), which has changed the 3% penalty per year for early withdrawal before 58 years, for example, if you opted pension 2 years ahead of the 58, the reduction was 3% x 2 = 6%.

 

The 3% has now been changed to 4%.

 

These details may seem mind numbing but are exactly why the EPFO board has so far not been held accountable for their action. This lowering of benefits violates the argument that this scheme is sustainable given the Supreme Court judgement when the introduction of EPS was challenged by many employers in 1991. Nobody disputes that the trustees are free to reduce benefits but they should be held accountable. The EPFO board today does not have trustees but hostages of vested interests. The new board must be replaced by professionals from members, people with administrative experience, and investment professionals.

 

EPFO is a government securities mutual fund that charges 425 basis points while the most expensive public sector government securities mutual fund regulated by Sebi charges 25 basis points. EPFO does not cover more than 15% of its mandated population and has more dormant accounts than live ones. EPFO, no doubt, needs a new board and the resources to improve its plumbing. But most importantly, it needs competition so companies can pay their monthly contribution to a panel of licensed asset managers and benefits administrators.

 

The author is chairman, Teamlease Services

 

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


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EAVESDROPPER

 

NO PARKING

 

Prime Minister's media advisor Harish Khare had apparently wanted to set up an office in Shastri Bhawan, to be more accessible to the media, who often have difficulty passing the strict security protocol of the Prime Minister's Office at South Block. But the plan has had to be shelved as the I&B ministry apparently expressed its inability to secure a suitable room for him.

 

TRUMPET TIME

Aides of BJP president Nitin Gadkari are hard at work preparing a document elaborating on his achievements as party chief. A slim document, it lists his "developmental vision" as one of his primary achievements and more controversially the propping up of a BJP-led government in Jharkhand as a major one. This has ruffled feathers in the party, as it was no secret that government formation in Jharkhand was opposed by senior party leaders like LK Advani. Is this an act of defiance?

 

HEY RAM

A joint secretary recently sought a meeting with Jyotiraditya Scindia, the minister of state for commerce. Since the bureaucrat thought Scindia was a deeply religious man, he ended up narrating mythological stories. Scindia was polite enough to hear him out and then came out of the room in a huff demanding to know who allowed the official to enter.

 

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


THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

PEEPLI LIVES

LOOKS LIKE THE AAMIR KHAN PRODUCTION MAY IMPACT POLICYMAKERS

 

The great wonder of cinema is how a single production can drive up a tidal wave. This can be for good or bad. Leni Riefenstahl's 1935 documentary Triumph of the Will, with an opening crawl of Adolf Hitler flying into Nuremberg to review an assembly of faithfuls, worked as persuasive Nazi propaganda. Richard Attenborough's 1982 epic Gandhi continues to persuade global millions about the ethical force of India's non-violent freedom struggle long after it got wrapped up. Peepli Live, Shyam Benegal has predicted, will count among the select legion of films that truly bear upon the imagination of millennial India. Only the test of time will prove whether Benegal is right or wrong, but there are indications suggesting the former. The Prime Minister's reaction to the film is already on record, that "it has a moral lesson both for politicians and for the gentlemen and ladies of the media" when it comes to rural displacement. Maverick producer Aamir Khan claims at least 200 MPs have seen the film, notably including Opposition leader LK Advani who has lauded its "starkly realistic depiction of village life" that "may have been a first-time experience" for many urban viewers.

 

Now, the Planning Commission has also been party to a special screening. Deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia hopes the screening will sensitise development officials to ground realities and public perception. Finmin plans to follow suit. It's a tall order for a small-budget film, but Peepli Live looks like it may help improve our welfare delivery system.

 

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

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

THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CRISIS-HIT GAMES ON THE BRINK

 

Will New Delhi be ready to host the Commonwealth Games in time? That was the question on every informed Indian's lips around six months ago. That question is no longer relevant. The doubt should now be about the Games getting the final go-ahead from participating countries and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). The ever-escalating embarrassment for the country on the global stage in the chaotic and corrupt build-up to the Games turned into an emergency on Tuesday when a footbridge collapsed near the main stadium and several foreign delegates trashed the Games Village as filthy, unhygienic, and uninhabitable. How much more can the nation be shamed by a bunch of bungling sports officials, Ministers, and government agencies? If the top people in government failed to take their cue from CGF President Mike Fennell's criticism more than a year ago, when he warned of serious slippages in operational areas, it continued to dither even after Organising Committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi's position became untenable following corruption charges against his key aides. A few superficial changes were made by bringing in more bureaucrats into key functional areas after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But there was no saving the benighted project because quality had been compromised by incompetent and corrupt officials in every area connected with the Games.

 

To put the blame solely on the OC for every bridge and false-roof crash and incomplete Games Village blocks would of course be unfair. The government agencies were responsible for all construction work and they should be held accountable for the delays and mishaps as well. But the OC cannot escape criticism for the mess it allowed to remain in the Village in honour of the advance delegations from participating countries. The Games were supposed to showcase India's organisational ability to go with its rising stature on the global stage — as the spectacularly organised Beijing Olympics did for China. After creditably hosting the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982 under the inspired leadership of a rising Rajiv Gandhi, India might have expected to stage a memorable show with the CWG nearly three decades later. But the script has gone tragi-comically sour. At something like Rs. 30,000 crore of the taxpayers' money, the Games are the most expensive sports event hosted by India. It is certainly an extortionate price to pay in exchange for shame and disgrace. India perhaps should never have gone in for these Games but there is no question of a bail-out now. The task is gigantic. The organisers and the government must hold their nerve and make up for lost time. Several Olympic and world champions have withdrawn from the Games. The least that can be done is to ensure that the rest do not follow their footsteps.

 

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


THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

REDUCING THE RISK OF MELTDOWN

 

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a group of regulators from 27 countries including the United States, reached an agreement on September 12 on a new set of norms — Basel III. Under it, banks will be required to significantly raise their capital adequacy levels thereby reducing the risk of another financial meltdown. The agreement more than doubles the amount of equity capital that banks must hold in relation to their assets. Apart from enhancing the requirement to 4.5 per cent of their assets from 2.5 per cent, it calls for the creation of a "conservation buffer" of 2.5 per cent that can be used in an emergency. However, in such an eventuality they will be forced to conserve capital by, for instance, halting dividends. There is also a third, optional rule — a counter-cyclical buffer that regulators can impose when credit is flowing freely. On top of all this, banks have to hold 1.5 per cent of capital, which may or may not be in the form of equity, as an additional margin of protection, should the first line of defence — the core equity reserves — be breached. Basel III has been welcomed around the world as a substantial improvement over Basel II. Particularly, its recognition of the role of counter-cyclical measures in times of both boom and bust is a valuable lesson learnt from the latest crisis.

 

However, there are weaknesses which banks are likely to exploit for reducing the levels of capital they have to set aside. There are no clear guidelines on how liquid assets are to be valued. The new rules are risk-weighted: the more speculative their investment the more the capital banks must set aside. The risk will be evaluated by the rating agencies whose track record was not at all impressive during the crisis. The new rules are to be brought into force in phases starting 2013 and so they will not be fully in place until 2018. Banks in India are sufficiently capitalised and are unlikely to need additional capital as they migrate to Basel III. However, their profitability might be curtailed as the implementation of the new norms would result in a lower leverage. Also, the dominant public sector banks that rely on perpetual debt instruments to shore up their Tier-I capital will have the challenging task of maintaining a minimum common equity of 7 per cent. Even without the new norms, a few leading government banks feel constrained in their efforts to raise resources through capital market equity offerings. The government's shareholding in them cannot fall below 51 per cent.

 

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

 

THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

KASHMIR NEEDS A POLITICAL PACKAGE

ANY FURTHER DELAY IN ADDRESSING THE SITUATION POLITICALLY WILL LEAD TO INCREASING SCHISMS WITHIN THE KASHMIRI BODY POLITIC.

HAPPYMON JACOB

 

The most significant implication of this week's visit by an all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir is this: the Indian political class has collectively accepted the essentially political nature of the Kashmir problem. However, the benefits of the beginning of this much-awaited transformation of Kashmir from a 'securitised' narrative to a 'politicised' one will be short-lived if those reassuring words are not translated into actions. The Hindu's editorial (September 14, 2010) accurately summed up the United Progressive Alliance government's current approach to the Kashmir issue and the urgent need to move beyond mere words: "By talking big while having little to offer, New Delhi has unwittingly fanned the flames in J&K." Hence, the need now is to announce a clearly defined 'political package' for the agitating Kashmiris.

 

The all-party delegation cannot decide on such a political package; the Government of India can. But the more than hundred Kashmiris killed in recent months by the security forces have failed to prompt the Central government to think beyond its usual pious platitudes of dialogues, engagements and delegations. If New Delhi is determined to live forever in ignorance and denial, why should Kashmiris respond with anything other than cynicism to its out-dated and bumbling efforts towards what it likes to call 'finding a solution'? New Delhi's complete lack of vision, seriousness and sincerity in previous dialogues with Kashmiris has understandably meant that the proposal is simply seen as a short-term tactic aimed to calm the situation. Once national and international attention wanes, and the Kashmiri protesters go about their normal lives, the government might go back, as it has done in the past, to the business of conveniently ignoring that thorny little issue in northwestern India.

 

Beyond platitudes

 

What, then, can be done to bring peace to the Valley? Can we, under the prevailing circumstances, lay out a clear roadmap for a political resolution of the Kashmir issue? The very fact that a political package is being contemplated as opposed to an improvised military strategy in order to address a political problem is itself encouraging. But there is a need to flesh out what it really entails. A long and drawn-out process of political dialogue without any time-bound commitments is unlikely to be accepted by Kashmiris; so the first step is to articulate a timeframe. A political solution to the Kashmir issue can be imagined as a multi-phased one, with measures relating to it being implemented in the immediate term, the intermediate term, and the long term.

 

Immediate measures

 

In the immediate term, the government should put together a panel of senior Kashmir interlocutors. They should be asked to talk to a cross-section of Kashmiris, most importantly leaders of all dissident groups, in a sustained manner. The government should immediately review the status and consider releasing all political prisoners arrested under the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, and such other laws. The AFSPA should then be suitably amended or withdrawn. There also has to be a rethinking on the Disturbed Areas Act and the Public Safety Act. Thereafter, an empowered judicial commission should be tasked to probe all fake encounters and civilian deaths in J&K at the hands of the security forces. The commission must have a legal mandate to prosecute erring officers, both civilian and military.

 

Intermediate term

 

In the intermediate term, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) should be set up in the State to help Kashmiris come to terms with their past and to advance the cause of justice and reconciliation. Both India and Kashmir need to make peace with each other and with their complicated past. The TRC can consider bringing out a white paper on the commission and prosecution of human rights violations in J&K over the years. However, the most important aspect of this political package should be the adherence to Article 370 of the Constitution in letter and spirit. Article 370 has been chipped away by a succession of State governments with the collusion and at the behest of New Delhi. Most of the key features of the Article have been distorted or removed to such an extent that it is no longer recognisable. This is severely resented by Kashmiris. Indeed, the National Conference-appointed State Autonomy Committee had, in 1999, recommended that the President of India should strike down all orders that infringe on the 1950 Constitution (Application to J-K) Order, and the Delhi Agreement of 1952. This recommendation was not heeded by the then Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. It should be revisited at the earliest in conjunction with other recommendations from political parties such as the People's Democratic Party.

 

The BJP and many other weak-hearted nationalists have argued that giving special treatment to Kashmir will loosen India's control there, creating a domino effect. They argue that such actions would contravene the spirit of national integration. Yet multiple Indian States enjoy special provisions in varying measure and are still as much a part of the nation as any other. Moreover, as the Supreme Court clearly observed in its judgment in Khazan Chand vs the State of Jammu and Kashmir (1984), J&K "holds a special position in the constitutional set-up of our country." The Supreme Court further stated that Article 370 is the basis for a constitutional relationship between the Indian Union and J&K State.

 

For the long term

 

A permanent solution to the Kashmir issue is unlikely to emerge without the involvement of Pakistan. In the longer term, therefore, there is a need to revisit the back-channel decisions reached by the two countries on Jammu and Kashmir that can be implemented in the State in consultation with the people of the State. Now that Pakistan has, at least theoretically, given up many of its puritanical and irredentist positions on Kashmir, India should capitalise on the opportunity to seek mutually agreeable positions on the issue. India should also encourage the establishment of enduring linkages across the Line of Control, consultative mechanisms, trade, and public interaction between the two sides of J&K. Various non-governmental initiatives must be encouraged to bring people from the two sides of the erstwhile princely state. People-to-people contact such as this should not be underrated: it can contribute immeasurably to resolving long-standing conflicts such as that in J&K.

 

Any further delay in addressing the situation politically will lead to increasing schisms within the Kashmiri body politic. For instance, over the last few years we have seen an encouraging and creative political debate and ideological shifts between the mainstream and the dissidents in Kashmir. The ongoing agitation could undo that process of finding the middle ground. More significantly, one of the major casualties of this ongoing agitation would be the mainstream political ideas and processes in Kashmir. The mainstream Kashmiri politicians are not ready to go to the people today because they are scared and unsure what their response would be. The danger in Kashmir today is that the more mainstream your politics, the more likely it is that you would be termed a gaddar (traitor) by the agitating Kashmiris. So even the moderate dissidents are forced to take extreme positions.

 

Engaging Kashmiris in a result-oriented and goal-driven manner as laid out here is indeed taking the road less travelled, a road that is not easy to take. And so, before New Delhi decides to discard suggestions such as this, it needs to ask itself what serves India's long-term national interests better: maintaining the violent, chaotic, ungovernable status quo in Kashmir through brute force and military might, or meeting the legitimate political aspirations of the Kashmiris and convincing them that they have a place in the idea of India?

 

(Happymon Jacob teaches at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)

 

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

 


THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS 

MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS: CHALLENGES AND THE WAY AHEAD

THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE GOALS IS NOT OPTIONAL, BUT AN ESSENTIAL INVESTMENT IN A FAIRER, SAFER AND MORE PROSPEROUS WORLD.

KOFI ANNAN

 

People often ask me what I consider to be the highlight of my career with the United Nations. While there were many wonderful moments, hosting the largest collection of world leaders ever assembled to sign the Millennium Declaration in New York is certainly among the top. The can-do-spirit in the room was infectious. And, for once, the gulf between rich and poor, between countries often at loggerheads with each other, seemed to be bridged by a genuine partnership among nations and people. Development issues were finally elevated to the highest political level. And, for the first time, developing countries were challenged to translate their development vision into nationally-owned plans.

 

The eight goals and the results

 

There is no doubt that the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and their framework of accountability have served the world well. They have not only provided a much-needed sense of direction to national plans and international cooperation, they have also delivered measurable results. We have seen primary school enrolment rates double in Ethiopia and Tanzania. Countries like Malawi and Algeria transform themselves from food importers to food exporters. We have seen HIV infections fall significantly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the number of reported malaria cases halve in high-burden countries such as Rwanda and Zambia. All around the world, we have seen efforts to achieve MDG-based targets improve the lives of millions of people.

 

However, we are still far from achieving what we set out to do. Too many people remain caught in extreme poverty, too many remain hungry and sick, too many mothers die in childbirth, and too many children still do not go to school. We are also not yet doing enough to meet basic needs and fulfil basic rights, to protect the environment, to build effective international partnerships for development, or to harness private entrepreneurship to deliver public goods and services to those in need.

 

The challenges are still great and the circumstances have not become any easier since the Millennium Summit. Back then, there was palpable confidence that the world's problems could be addressed collectively and an open acknowledgement that, in a world of plenty and astounding technological progress, the poverty, hunger, and relative depravation that so many of our fellow human beings still faced was intolerable.

 

That confidence has now faded, and the international consensus on development is in danger of crumbling under the weight of successive crises and a changing world order — even as the true significance of our growing interdependence is becoming increasingly obvious. The disappointing Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen was an unfortunate example of this paradoxical trend. On the one hand, the appreciation that global problems cannot be solved in one country or continent alone is growing. On the other hand, this is not translated into decisive action and overdue reform of global governance. Lack of concerted leadership and cumbersome institutional arrangements on the international level and a growing array of financial and political pressures on the national level are proving to be formidable obstacles.

 

Serious investors needed

 

I am worried that these obstacles risk may have made the September 20-22 MDG Review Summit in New York a futile exercise, characterised by grand speeches and carefully-worded promises, but followed by little meaningful action.

 

Several important donors have already reneged on their commitments, or at least relaxed their development efforts. They have used a variety of justifications ranging from concerns about aid efficiency to the need for a more comprehensive approach to achieving development objectives. As a result, the latest projections predict an aid shortfall of around $21 billion against the global targets. While I agree that a more coherent and results-oriented approach to development is needed, this should not be used as an excuse to cut financial assistance at the first sign of difficulties. The MDGs do not need fair-weather friends, but serious investors in for the long haul.

 

Political will

 

Revitalising the political will to achieve the MDGs, and scaling up proven interventions, is the linchpin to success. As instigator and guardian of the MDGs, the U.N. has an important role to play in this process and the High Level Advocacy Group created by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is a welcome step in the right direction.

 

The primary responsibility, however, rests with national leaders. Their challenge is to re-articulate a compelling case for global solidarity and equitable growth. One that embraces but goes beyond aid. One that addresses the growing inequalities between male and female, rural and urban, rich and poor. One that does not measure development and progress purely in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) but also of the quality and sustainability of growth. The message must be that the achievement of the MDGs is not optional, but an essential investment in a fairer, safer and more prosperous world.

 

But achieving the MDGs is only the first step. For even if we succeed and meet all the eight goals by 2015, almost a billion people will continue to live below the poverty line. Hundreds of millions will remain hungry. Millions will continue to die from preventable diseases or unnecessary complications.

 

We will certainly need to take the MDGs to the next level after the initial deadline. While there is some scepticism about the utility of naming specific goals as basis for development strategies and institutional arrangements, I remain an advocate. After all, who can argue with an objective as simple and powerful as access to food and clean drinking water, jobs, health care and education for everyone?

 

( Kofi Annan was U.N. Secretary-General between 1997 and 2006. He now chairs the Africa Progress Panel (www.africaprogresspanel.org) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (www.agra-alliance.org), and heads the Kofi Annan Foundation (www.kofiannanfoundation.org).)

 

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


THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS    

A MEMORANDUM TO THE ALL-PARTY PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO JAMMU AND KASHMIR

IT WAS SUBMITTED ON SEPTEMBER 20 BY MEMBERS OF THE KASHMIR CENTRE FOR SOCIAL AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES.

 

We the members of Jammu and Kashmir's civil society wish to welcome this august delegation here, in this hour of immense grief and suffering, to the people of this State.

 

We are of the firm opinion that you respected members of Indian Parliament, who believe in the supremacy of democracy and the rule of law, will understand and help in addressing the political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with internationally recognised democratic principles and the rule of law. We also believe that you fully appreciate the fact that no credible democratic system can exist, nor can a people be expected to live in peace, under tight and humiliating military control, extra-democratic manoeuvring and undemocratic political and administrative systems.

 

The events of the past six decades in general and those of the past three months in particular are testimony to the fact that the voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be muzzled despite the State's repressive measures, which are totally untenable in this modern age.

 

Today a semblance of calm has been established in Jammu and Kashmir only after enforcing a strict curfew, deploying tens of thousands of armed forces, large scale detentions, a complete media blackout, a ban on sms services, and so on.

 

The free hand given to armed forces to kill and maim civilians, while enjoying complete immunity, is unacceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir State. People's spiritual, physical, economic and social spaces have been greatly infringed because of a massive military presence in the State. No economic packages and cosmetic administrative measures can be a substitute for demilitarisation and a life based on political justice and rule of law.

 

We sincerely believe India has a key economic and political role to play in the emerging world order. However, its intense pre-occupation with Jammu and Kashmir is hurting its image of being a humane, forward-looking and accommodative democracy. This long pending political issue is also hindering India's positive engagement with its neighbours, resulting in unfavourable political, strategic and economic situations for it.

 

Towards sustainable peace in Jammu and Kashmir, ending the six decades of political uncertainty here, and India's transition as a more confident economic and political superpower, we believe the government of India needs to embark on a two-pronged strategy:

 

1. Immediate measures for de-escalation and confidence building

 

For this we call upon your good offices to help initiate:

 

a) Release of all political prisoners, including children and youth arrested during the past three months.

 

b) Removal/withdrawal of bunkers and other security establishments from all civilian areas (pre-1989 position)

 

c) Fixing responsibility for civilian killings, fake encounters, including those carried out at the Line of Control (LoC) by army officers for promotions and cash prizes

 

d) Initiation of legal action against those members of armed forces responsible for the killing of innocent children, students, youth and other civilians.

 

e) Withdrawal/revocation of draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) and Public Safety Act (PSA), etc.

 

f) The return of all those people who have migrated from the State in the wake of the 1990 situation.

 

f) Immediate cessation of civilian killings and other human rights violations

 

2. Long term steps towards a result-oriented trilateral engagement with Islamabad and Srinagar to address the Jammu and Kashmir dispute

 

a) Phased, time-bound and verifiable demilitarisation and engagement with main stakeholders

 

b) Facilitating re-opening of physical road connections between Jammu and Kashmir and its neighbouring regions for trade/commerce as it existed prior to 1947

 

c) A meaningful dialogue with Srinagar for the final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

' Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.' — The Buddha.

 

Signatories:

 

Abdul Majeed Zargar, financial analyst; Dr. Altaf Hussain, writer-practising paediatrician; Anwar Ashai, social activist; Arjimand Hussain Talib, writer-columnist; Bashir Ahmed Dar, ex-Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education; Hameeda Nayeem, academician-activist; Dr. Javaid Iqbal, columnist and practising doctor; Noorul Hassan, former Chief Conservator of Forests; Quratul Ain, academician; Z.G. Muhammad, writer-columnist; Arjimand Hussain Talib, spokesperson, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS).

 

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


THE HINDU

 

ACCESS TO ENERGY SEEN AS VITAL TO FIGHTING WORST POVERTY

'WITHOUT ELECTRICITY, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT.'

DAVID JOLLY

 

More than $36 billion a year is needed to ensure that the world's population benefits from access to electricity and clean-burning cooking facilities by 2030, the International Energy Agency said on September 21.

 

In a report prepared for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals meeting in New York, the agency said the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015 would be possible only if an additional 395 million people obtained access to electricity and one billion gained access to more modern cooking facilities that minimise harmful smoke in the next few years.

 

"Without electricity, social and economic development is much more difficult," Fatih Birol, the energy agency's chief economist, said by telephone. "Addressing sanitation, clean water, hunger — these goals can't be met without providing access to energy."

 

The problem of energy inequality mirrors the gap between rich and poor countries, Birol said.

 

"The amount of electricity consumed by sub-Saharan Africa, with 800 million people, is about the same as that used in New York state, with about 19 million people," he said. The agency, which produced the report in conjunction with the U.N. Development Programme and the U.N. Industrial Development Organisation, looked at both the lack of access to electricity and the reliance on and use of traditional biomass like wood as cooking fuel. In sub-Saharan Africa, the report notes, the electrification rate is 31 per cent, and 80 per cent of people rely on biomass for cooking.

 

About 1.4 billion people lack electricity, and they are overwhelmingly in rural areas, the report said, while 2.7 billion rely on traditional biomass to cook. In addition to contributing to deforestation in poor nations, traditional cooking fuels degrade air quality, causing serious health problems and premature deaths, the energy agency report says.

 

Birol played down concerns that bringing more of the global population into the modern energy economy would be bad for the environment.

 

He predicted that meeting the development goal would raise global oil consumption just one per cent, while raising carbon emissions only 0.8 per cent.

 

Companies are reluctant to invest in many areas because the return is not guaranteed, he said, so seed money is needed from wealthier countries.

 

In Nigeria, a major oil exporter with a population of about 155 million people, 76 million do not have electricity, he said. "If only 0.4 per cent of their oil and gas revenues were invested in power production, they would solve the problem," he said.

 

'Clean Cookstoves' project

 

Separately, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the United States would provide about $50 million in seed money over five years for a project known as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. More than a dozen other partners, including governments, multilateral organisations and corporate sponsors, are to contribute an additional $10 million or more. — © New York Times News Service

 

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


THE HINDU

DOHA: DON'T TRADE OFF WOMEN'S RIGHTS

WHEN IT COMES TO ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF WELFARE, THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND STATES CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT LEAVE THE CONCERNS OF HUMAN WELFARE SOLELY TO MARKET FORCES.

NAVI PILLAY

 

The annual World Trade Organisation Public Forum on September 15-17 featured among its topics the role of women in reshaping the global economy as well as trade practices. This discussion did not come a moment too soon. It must now be taken and followed up with the seriousness it deserves in order to correct long-standing inequalities and promote both economic growth and human rights.

 

Women's work accounts for two thirds of the world's working hours. However, they earn only 10 per cent of the world's income. Women produce half of the world's food, yet they are typically concentrated in small land holdings that they till, but do not own, and that may be their only source of food. Their access to markets may be hampered by social constraints or by fear of sexual violence along unsafe roads.

 

As gatherers, women — particularly in indigenous communities — have often identified medicinal plants and developed plant-based pharmaceutical remedies. Frequently, these traditional medicines have been appropriated, adapted and patented with little or no compensation to the original knowledge holders and without their prior consent.

 

Another troubling aspect of women's work in the global market — particularly migrant women's labour — is that it tends to be concentrated in informal sectors which expose them to a heightened risk of abuse, including low wages, long hours, and uncertainty of tenure. Many of these workers in one given country compete with other women in similar positions in other countries. Such unbridled competition for global market shares among the poor of this world may engender a race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions. In export zones it has been reported that women were required to undergo a maternity test before obtaining employment. Child care benefits and parental leave are unavailable.

 

Human rights law

 

To level the playing field, human rights law is of great guidance. Specifically, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) sets the legal ground to promote and protect the rights of women in all spheres, including the economic field. To do so human rights law requires States to take positive measures in order to attain substantive and not merely formal equality between women and men. Further, the Human Rights Committee — the body that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — indicated that the principle of equality enjoins States to take affirmative action to stem the root causes of discrimination.

 

These principles and responsibilities also apply to intergovernmental organisations and agreements. In this perspective, the Doha round can and should incorporate all human rights, including the rights of women and accommodate their special needs, as well as take full advantage of their knowledge and skills.

 

What the world needs is a balanced trade agreement that puts the needs of the hungry — women, men and children — at its centre. Progress must not merely be measured and assessed in terms of economic growth and volume of exchanges of goods and services, but also in terms of the impact such trade has on those who live at the margins of the global market and have no control over the invisible hands that shape their livelihoods.

 

Moreover, in order to achieve fairer trade liberalisation in agriculture, developed countries must eliminate trade distorting export subsidies, especially given the inability of developing countries to offer similar protection to their farmers. Clearly, a rule-based international trade system must seek to correct these imbalances with specific rights-based and gender-sensitive approaches that empower women. At a minimum, it must ensure that their ability to secure food is not hampered by a bias for export crop production, and that States do not divert resources to satisfy that bias. Indeed, access to food is a human right.

 

Apparent short-term profits must be balanced against long-term goals that really benefit women and the communities where they are leading agents of social entrepreneurship. It has been found that when an educated girl earns an income, she reinvests 90 per cent of it in her family, compared to boys who devote 35 per cent of their income to their families.

 

As a result of the global financial and economic crisis, the need for regulation is now widely acknowledged. When it comes to essential elements of welfare, such as food, health care, and education, the international community and States cannot and should not leave the concerns of human welfare solely to market forces. Such welfare ultimately depends on not trading off women's rights. ( Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New Delhi. Navi Pillay is United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.)

 

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

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

THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

J&K: MPS MAKE A GOOD BEGINNING

 

In the barely 24 hours they had at their disposal during their recent visit to the Kashmir Valley, the all-party delegation of MPs drawn from across the board acquitted themselves with credit. They gave evidence of listening carefully to voices on the ground, and tried to cover as much ground as was feasible. There can be only two procedural grounds for regret — that the political delegation from the Centre should have gone earlier, and that they should have stayed longer. For many, this might have been their first visit to the Valley. It is also likely that many would not have been acquainted with the complex history of the place and its embattled present, especially in the context of the Pakistan factor and the steady rise of jihadist sentiment which has gone on under the radar. A pre-departure briefing for the MPs by experts drawn from the government and elsewhere might also have served a useful purpose. It is a pity such a familiarisation session was not arranged. Such a meeting might have helped our senior politicians rise over the newness factor to some extent, and permitted them the chance to establish a degree of historical perspective for themselves. The language of protest in the Valley acquires tones that change from season to season — a good example being the common term azadi, which in Kashmir lends itself to a host of meanings and interpretations, depending on who you speak to and when. The emotion most common in a situation such as Kashmir is one of being overwhelmed, and this plays spoilsport with cool analysis. A comprehensive briefing may have helped our political leaders cope better with such a factor.


Kashmir's main Opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti, chief of the PDP, may have a point when she says that curfew should have been lifted when the MPs were in Kashmir. The security concerns this might have raised would have been compensated by the greater opportunities for live interactions with local residents. Some MPs did well to knock on the doors of separatist leaders of different hues since the latter had turned down the invitation to meet the delegation officially. It will soon be time for them to read the tea leaves, and here they might do with some help. MPs as a group representing different shades of opinion have visited the Valley twice before, but this was the first opportunity when they had a chance to mingle with ordinary folk, although the brevity of time limited the scope for such interaction, away from the confines of a hotel or conference venue. More and frequent visits can only deepen the understanding of our political class of complex situations such as the one that prevails in Kashmir or in our northeastern states. In a large country, hot spots on the periphery tend to get overlooked otherwise as there are so many hot spots that are more proximate.


It is indeed a pity that many in Jammu almost boycotted the all-party delegation, citing grounds that appear specious. The team had gone as fact-finders and did not harbour any bias against Jammu, as has been implied. The displaced Kashmiri pandits, who should be restored to their homes in the Valley with dignity and in an environment of security, were clearly misled in not meeting the high-level visitors. They cannot have improved their case by doing so. It is to be hoped that their organisations adopt a more balanced stance in the future. Being astute, our political leaders will know they do not have a magic formula to settle long-festering problems. But the more they engage with pressing concerns, the more finetuned the understanding that they can bring to bear on policymaking.

 

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


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

AFSPA IS NOT WORTH IT

SRINATH RAGHAVAN

 

The crisis in Kashmir has yet again turned the spotlight on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The act has elicited much public criticism in the states where it has been invoked and employed. However, the Army has insisted that its provisions are essential for prosecuting effective counter-insurgency operations. The ongoing debate has largely been confined to a restatement of known positions. But the manner in which it is playing out tells us a thing or two about how professional advice and political judgment come together in shaping our security policies.


The act has two problematic provisions. Section 4(a) empowers military officers, down to non-commissioned officers, to "fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances". Section 6 holds that "no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central government..."


The public outcry against the AFSPA is fuelled by instances where the armed forces have misused the powers granted to them: custodial deaths and fake encounter killings, for instance. There are good reasons to believe that in the prevailing situation the act does provide the requisite latitude for such transgressions to occur. For one thing, Section 6 as it stands provides practical impunity to any officer who violates the requirements of the act. Even when the Central Bureau of Investigation has indicted Army officers for a fake encounter, the Central government has simply refused to sanction their prosecution. We need to ensure that officers who act in good faith do not have to constantly worry about being hauled up in courts. But this does not require the kind of cover provided under Section 6 of the act.


More worryingly, the Army itself has not done enough to ensure that its personnel have internalised the legal limits placed on their actions. Few serving officers will be able to tell you what exactly are the provisions of Section 4 of the AFSPA. The notion of immunity is well understood though. Indeed, legal (and ethical) issues are given little importance in the training of commissioned officers — never mind that of non-commissioned officers. The Army headquarters does issue "do and don'ts" to troops. But these are little more than laundry lists and hardly prepare the soldiers for the complex situations they encounter on the ground.  

     
None of this has prevented the military brass from stoutly and publicly defending the AFSPA. They have argued that amending or repealing the act would hamper the Army's operational effectiveness. This is a counterfactual claim advanced on the basis of nothing more than the assumption the military knows best. In fact, comparative evidence from other armies does not support the point that strong legal frameworks reduce operational effectiveness in dealing with insurgencies. Some analysts have claimed that the police (and other paramilitary forces) are ineffective precisely because they do not have the legal cover provided to the military by the AFSPA. This is a disingenuous argument. The police's operational weakness, as the Comptroller and Auditor General's performance audit reviews on modernisation show, lies in the lack of proper training, inadequate and outdates equipment. Furthermore, effectiveness in counter-insurgency operations should be measured not by the Army's ability to kill insurgents but by its ability to capture the will of the local populace. Seen from this angle, the AFSPA actually undermines our capacity to undertake counter-insurgency operations.
As problematic as the substance of their arguments is the form in which the military has advanced them. Both the Army and the Air Force Chief have voiced their opinion through the media. Of course, they have also said that it is for the government to take the call. But it is difficult to think of their public interventions as anything other than an attempt to indirectly pressure the political leadership. A former Army Chief has been quoted as saying that these are nothing more than exercises in educating public opinion. Such claims betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of democratic oversight of the military. The chain of accountability is clear: the military is responsible only to the political leadership, who in turn are answerable to the people. If in disregarding military advice, civilians jeopardise national security, it is for the people to take them to task by voting them out of office. The military is competent only to assess risks. It is the politicians who must judge them, and decide what risks are worth running. The military must also realise that the line between advising against a course of action and resisting civilian efforts to pursue it is rather thin.


But our political leadership is seldom willing to question professional military advice. Two government appointed commissions have recommended repealing the AFSPA. The Prime Minister himself has admitted the depth of resentment against the act. And yet the political leadership prefers to treat this as an operational matter. One thing, however, is clear from the current crisis: the AFSPA has become a political issue that calls for political judgment. It is time the political leadership stopped according excessive consideration to the military's views.


But the larger problem appears to be that the civilians are happy to go along with the military and skirt any politically difficult decisions. This bodes ill for New Delhi's ability to deal with the situation in Kashmir. Removal of the AFSPA can only be a starting point for engagement. Any serious effort will have to involve more contentious issues like strengthening Article 370, which ostensibly provides autonomy to Kashmir but has actually been used to erode its constitutional status. If the government does have the political will to take on such thorny questions, it might as well signal it by doing away with the AFSPA.     

Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

IS SKY THE LIMIT?

SIDHARTH BHATIA

 

A recent newspaper report in Mumbai spoke about the sale of a duplex flat in the city for a staggering `70 crore. Details were sketchy, but the figure by itself was so breathtaking that anything else really was redundant. In real estate circles, off-the-record of course, they will tell you a bit more. First is that this is by no means the exact price — it could be less but it could be more too. Next — this is by no means the only transaction at that reported price. The building has eight more such duplexes so this could be just the beginning.


The most amazing factor of this putative sale is that the building is not yet ready. Indeed, it exists only on paper as a plan. The builders ha ve announced they plan to const ruct the world's highest residential tower, right in the heart of Mu mbai but we do not know yet if all the permissions have been giv en, the structural plans approved and when if at all construction will begin.


Still, just the thought of a flat, in our own Mumbai, for about $17 million — which can buy one some pretty decent living quarters in Manhattan, Tokyo, London and Hong Kong — is enough to make one wonder where real estate is heading. Not that there haven't been expensive deals in India in the past — a bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi is said to have sold for much more a few years ago. But that is a bungalow for one thing and it comes with a lot of land around it and some very fancy neighbours. An apartment, even with all the trimmings like a swimming pool (and a rumoured helicopter pad, though that is highly questionable) is still an apartment, the view of the Arabian Sea notwithstanding.


Just about five kilometres from where this building is supposed to come up one can see the new Am b ani (Mukesh) skyscraper home co ming up. This Xanadu, said to cost upwards of one billion dollars — all this gleaned from newspapers but not confirmed officially — will reportedly have a petting zoo, a the atre, a disco, a beauty parlour, a conference room, living quarters for several round the clock staff, pa rking space for scores of cars and much more. Photographs of the interiors have been doing the rou n ds on the Internet but are almost certainly faked, since no one is lik ely to give them out. But passers by can glimpse the structure taking sp ace and it is clear that it is very big. With a family of five living there, the rest of the space is bound to be used for something.


Mumbai is in the grip of an edifice complex, with builders announcing grand plans for very tall structures. Each of the bigger companies has at least one 60-plus storey building in the pipeline and a few of the luxury projects, with 30-odd storeys (and seven to 10 floors of stilt parking) which were started four or five years ago, are already looking tired and jaded. Swimming pool in your terrace — that is so yesterday. Multi-level car parking — ho hum. Butler service — don't even bother selling. The luxury buyer's needs are being upgraded every minute and the builders are out to satisfy him.


But alas, this is Mumbai, which takes you to great heights but also has a habit of bringing you down to earth. Many an expensive building is suffering from a severe water shortage. It is disconcerting to pay `10 crore for a fancy penthouse and then put a plastic bucket in the bathroom to catch every drop of precious water. The municipal autho rities have said there is no guarantee that buildings under construction will get all the water they need.


The bigger question is that of public infrastructure. Can the roads where the skyscrapers are coming up (and many are in the old mills area in central Mumbai) take the traffic that will inevitably follow? What about parking? There is talk of multi-storeyed car parks, but in the past these ideas have not worked, and besides who wants to waste precious land for parking. The metro and skytrains are touted as solutions, but already reports have emerged that the authorities want to build a shed for trains un der the racecourse. How soon be­fore they take over the racecourse for another building? There goes the last big green lung in the city.


Knowing Mumbai, it will bumble along. The buildings will be made (somehow permissions always come through), people will buy the super-expensive flats and as for the infrastructure, well, Mumbai will ha ve to cope as it always has. For the common man the super luxury flats are out of reach and an object of envy, but perhaps he has some co nsolation in knowing that those who live there are stuck in the same traffic jam as his humble public bus.

 

The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

 

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

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

DNA

            COLUMN

WE NEED BOTH A MANDIR AND A MASJID IN AYODHYA

FIROZ BAKHT AHMED

 

There's a mysterious lull in the run-up to the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid verdict from the Allahabad high court. However, the voices of sanity call for a compromise. For millions of Hindus, the Ram Mandir is their Mecca, and hence, the offer must be gracefully made by the Muslims themselves. Then, the Hindus must also volunteer to build the Babri Masjid in the same 67-acre area and relinquish claims to any other mosque in Mathura, Varanasi or elsewhere.

 

This must be followed by a joint effort where Hindus and Muslims build both the Ram Mandir and the Masjid through joint kar seva. The supervising body ought not to be any political organisation but an inter-faith ecumenical committee consisting of people from all walks of life. Let it be called the Ram-Babri Ecumenical Complex for research on ways to lead a life based of mutual coexistence.

 

The presence of Ram is entrenched deeply in the minds of the vast majority of people of all faiths, and especially in the minds of the Muslims of Indonesia where Ramlilas are performed and witnessed with more enthusiasm than in India. The walled city of Delhi is alive with Muslim kids lined up to witness Ramlila. Ram is an ideal, a maryada purushottam to all, irrespective of caste, creed or faith.

 

There is little doubt that the Hindu response to the problems faced by Indian Muslims, if articulated properly, will be positive. It will not only help remove many of the prejudices against them, but also create a proper environment for a meaningful and lasting understanding. In all this, the liberal Muslim intellectual's role is of paramount importance. He must intervene to thwart the stratagems of politicians and give his community a chance for change.

 

Let's take a leaf from Iqbal who once wrote: "Hai Ram ke wajood par Hindustan ko naaz, Ahl-e-nazar samajhtey hein us ko Imam-e-Hind!" Truly, Ram is not just a maryada purushottam but the Imam (spiritual representative) of India. In 2003, the Prayag Peeth Shankaracharya, Swami Madhawananda Saraswati, had agreed to the building of a temple and a mosque within the area in question in Ayodhya. Had this suggestion been acted upon then, the country would have been spared further strife in the name of religion and a long-drawn court case.

 

Of course, political parties may never want the problem to be resolved. They are part of the problem, and not the solution. The so-called Muslim leadership has also been responsible for allowing the Babri Masjid to snowball into a national issue and become a symbol of the community's status in India. In fact, even before the kar sevaks, it was these so-called Muslim leaders who should be held accountable for the Masjid's destruction. After 1992, Muslims suffered a collective sense humiliation — and Muslim leaders have to take a share of the blame.

 

Today, the Muslim community in India needs a new leadership, which is imbued with vision, courage and perspective. It needs leaders in the mould of Maulana Azad, APJ Abdul Kalam, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Dr Zakir Hussain and Saifuddin Kitchlew, to name a few. These men believed that minorities have as much responsibility in a secular democracy as the majority. Their vision led to Muslims being called not a minority, but India's second majority. Such a leadership may yet arise from the educated lower middle class —a group until now suppressed by the nation's elite and the traditional Muslim clergy.

 

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


DNA

COMMENT

A STRATEGIC FIT IS EMERGING BETWEEN INDIA & RUSSIA

RN BHASKAR

 

For many people, Russia is merely a former communist state which is still trying hard to become a democracy. But there is another side to Russia, especially when it comes to India's interests. And it goes beyond Russia's conventional role of being a major arms supplier to this country. Russia is fast becoming the dark horse in a world where the US has begun losing clout, and China remains a state few are comfortable with.

 

To appreciate how Russia is important to India, one has to view the collapse and bounce-back of this country. Its rapid decline began in the 1980s during the Mikhail Gorbachov era. What hit it badly was the blight that devastated its wheat crop in the 1980s, which resulted in long bread queues. It led to the reintroduction of the war-time system of food quotas using ration cards that limited each citizen to a certain amount of product per month. Other reasons added fuel to the fire, and street riots began.

 

The dissolution of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the Boris Yeltsin years made Russia a much-diminished superpower. Matters changed only with the emergence of Vladimir Putin. Whatever else may be said of him, he brought back Russia to its feet. He consolidated food production, without which Russia could not match the wheat diplomacy of the US and also feed its own population. He focused on regaining control of Russia's strategic oil and gold reserves which he believed were acquired at ridiculous prices by 'oligarchs' who had shortchanged the government.

 

Over the past decade, Russia has become the largest producer of gas, and the second largest producer of oil and gold in the world.

 

Even after repaying all its debts, Russia today has foreign exchange reserves of over $400 billion. As of 2008 it had bought back 48.5 tonnes of gold from other central banks, and had augmented its own gold reserves to 519.6 tonnes.

 

So what has this to do with India? Two critical factors make Russia critical for India, inasmuch as India will turn out to be significant for Russia, too. First, Russia has a landmass (17 million sqkm), which is almost six times that of India, twice as large as China or the US. It has at least 25% more water than India does, four times more than China and twice more than the US.

 

Russia has also consolidated its wheat production — notwithstanding the fires and the heat that damaged much of the crop this year. Over the past seven years, Russia's wheat production has swelled from 34 million tonnes in 2003 to 55 million tonnes in 2009. This is still less than the 77 million tonnes India produced in 2009, but it was grown on a fraction of Russia's lands. It now wants to give out at least 20 million hectares of its land (approximately 200,000 sq km) for joint-venture wheat farming but is believed to be willing to scale this up to 400 million hectares (four million sq km). India should try to grab this opportunity as a means to increasing its own acreage of wheat production.

 

Russia is also willing to work with India to build proper storage units for creating strategic reserves of wheat supply. That also makes immense sense. It protects Russia's wheat prices and counterbalances the wheat diplomacy that the US is known for.

 

But most critical of all is that for further exploiting its mines, and its economy, it needs people. Russia has a population density of just 8.3 people per squarekm compared to 359 for India or 139 for China. It will need people to get this done. And it knows that there are only two countries capable of exporting manpower in great numbers — India and China. But fear of China may not allow Russia to allow Chinese to work within its borders for extended periods.

 

That leaves the way open for India if only it knows how to use this advantage carefully, without upsetting Russia's own demographic preferences.One way would be for Indian workers to work there the same way they do in most West Asian countries, without the right to citizenship. Work permits can also be self-limiting, so that no permanent settlers are created. Other ways could be found as well.

 

India will need to ease the employment pressures it faces. And it will need to create competent skills that permit this labour to be exported in large numbers to Russia. It will also allow India to secure its own mineral and oil needs for the future. Instead of competing with China in areas where India can be outmanoeuvred and outpriced, India could work out deals with

 

Russia instead. One country that has done this very well is Germany. It may make sense for India to work out such relationships in partnership with Germany as well.

 

What this will do is allow India to maintain good relations with the US and (possibly) with China, yet balance its strategies by having

 

Russia as a friend and business partner. When business interests grow, friendly ties become stronger. India could do that with Russia to the mutual advantage of both countries.

 

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

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

DAILY EXCELSIOR

THEN IT WAS BAD;NOW NOT TOO BAD

 

In 1990 when Mr Jagmohan was the Governor of this State an all-party delegation had made an overnight trip to Srinagar. It included such formidable leaders as Chaudhary Dev Lal --- he was the Deputy Prime Minister at that time --- and Mr Rajiv Gandhi who headed the Congress. Despite its formidable composition the team was unable to move out of the hotel on the banks of the Dal Lake in those initial days of armed proxy war. It had a meeting instead inside the precincts of the hotel which climaxed into an angry verbal duel between Mr Gandhi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Mr Jaswant Singh. The two of them stopped only after Mr Biplab Dasgupta (Communist Party of India-Marxist) pointed to the presence of reporters on the spot. The reporters (then of the print media who had accompanied the leaders from the national capital) were asked to leave the place for the leaders free to sort out irritants at an in-camera session. One can't help but recall that experience in the wake of a three-day just-concluded visit to the State of another all-party delegation now. It was an entirely new team this time which did not include any of the players of 1990. Looked from one angle it shows that the new faces have emerged on the country's political scene. It is only to be expected given that there has been a gap of more than two decades between the two events. On the other hand, it also reveals that our democracy has travelled a long distance in the intervening period. The political class in the country may be much maligned but the positive role of some of its members in strengthening democratic order can hardly be denied. Having been largely caught unawares by the sudden turn in the situation in the Valley in particular in 1990 it has exhibited a much better appreciation of the ground situation this time. The members of the delegation have done extremely well striving to reach different sections of society.

 


Their visits to a hospital and the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar and the violence-hit Tangmarg especially speak of their concern. Their trips to residences and headquarters of three separatist leaders have already been amply publicised. They have followed them up by calling on Mr Shabir Shah in a local jail. It does not really matter whether or not there has been some prior discussion within the delegation about undertaking such exercises (a controversy raised in this regard is pointless as long as there is the concurrence of the leader of the squad). If we believe that they are our own people it is better to talk to them even if they don't want to or if they live in a denial mode or perceive that they have a larger-than-life profile. It is to be noted that almost all of these leaders have thrown the ball back into the court of the people. Viewed in that context they have done a great service. Whatever the genesis of the recent wave of violence in the Valley it has to be admitted that if there is fat added to the fire it is because of the killing of young persons in clashes with the police. This section of society is giving vent to its rage for its own reasons. It is fuming because of the loss of kith and kin. It is also angry because it does not find anyone applying balm to them. At the same time --- it may sound ironic --- there is a vast silent majority which is suffering in another way: It finds itself helpless in violence-scarred milieu even as it is much frustrated with the education of its children going haywire and its sources of livelihood becoming instinct. Both these parts of society are leaderless. The secessionist leaders express sympathy with them because it suits them in search of their eventual goal. However, for any one of them to claim that he is the leader is self-delusion. So far as the mainstream political parties are concerned they have displayed a distinct lack of connectivity with the masses. 


Indeed, it is odd that the National Conference leadership should be patting itself on the back for having facilitated the contacts of the members of the delegation with separatists. Why could not it express the same enthusiasm in persuading the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly to meet the visiting team? As the single largest party the People's Democratic Party has sent a team to participate in the talks while keeping its leader/leaders away. If it seems to be madness it is not without a method. The PDP leadership is clearly aiming to strike rapport with the people who feel disenchanted with the NC for varied reasons at least at this moment. For too long the PDP and the NC have been indulging in tit-for-tat tactics. In our view, they should reconsider their positions and settle for some bonhomie in their own long-term and overall interest. If there has been bigger focus on the delegation's visit to the Valley it has to be understood in context. At the same there can't be any reason why it should have been deprived of an opportunity of intense inter-action with the nationalist forces of this region. Indeed, the manner in which its Jammu visit has been handled is clumsy, to say the least. How can the members of the Kashmiri Pandit community be denied any satisfactory hearing in any dialogue on the State? They are the worst sufferers. It is futile to expect that a durable solution to the problem involving the State is possible without taking into account their aspirations as well as those of Jammu and Ladakh regions. Their feelings need closer study by the Central leaders. Indeed, there should be more visits by all-party national delegations to the State to familiarise with the situation and reach the people. The fact that most of them have local units should not be allowed to come in the way. It may pay to look beyond fixed mindsets. Keeping that in view the performance of the all-party delegation this time has not been too bad given the paucity of time at its disposal.

 

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

 


DAILY EXCELSIOR

HARI SINGH : THE LAST MAHARAJA OF STATE

BY COL. J P SINGH (RETD)

 

Maharaja Hari Singh was one of the most renowned ruler of British India as well as Indian Union as a ruler of geographically largest and strategically most important empire of Jammu & Kashmir which continues to remain in the lime light for several political and historical reasons. He ascended to the throne of Jammu & Kashmir State in 1925. He gained acclamation for being "The Last Ruling King of Independent India" since he continued to be Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir till 5th November 1952 while all other rulers of princely states had seized to be Kings by 1948. 


He ascended to the throne after the demise of Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh. He was son of Raja General Amar Singhji (younger brother of Maharaja Pratap Singh). He was born on 23rd Sept 1895 in Amar Mahal Jammu which presently is the museum of world fame and most popular tourist attraction in Jammu. When he was 13 years old he was sent to 'Mayo College of Princes' for studies. Soon after his admission in the Mayo College his father Raja Amar Singhji died . After his father's death, British Govt in Delhi took keen interest in his education and bringing up. A British Army Officer was deputed as his guardian with the responsibility of ensuring proper education and training with the aim of grooming him to be a good ruler. After completing his education in Mayo College he was sent to 'Imperial Cadet Corps' at Dehradun to imbibe in him Military and Martial traits as well as polishing his English language. Maharaja Hari Singh married Maharani Tara Devi in 1928 as his fourth wife after his previous three wives had died earlier one after the other without an issue. This marriage was on the advice of the astrologers and true to their prediction a Yuvraj was born to them on 9 March 1931 as the next Heir Apparent.


In 1915 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of J&K State Forces when he was only 20 years old. On assuming command of the state forces, he introduced lot of reforms in the training and welfare of officers and soldiers. Central cook houses called Langars and Officers Messes were introduced by him in the state force prior to which the officers and jawans used to cook their own meals. During the reign of Maharaja Partap Singh Union Jack used to fly on all official buildings of the State. Maharaja Hari Singh ordered their removal which was contested by the British govt but he didn't relent. Later, on Viceroy's request he allowed a British flag to be flown only on the residential building of the Resident. 


His rule has been described as glorious by British historians because of several reforms that he introduced in administration and judiciary. After ascending to the throne he brought about several rules and regulations for the welfare and betterment of his subjects. There are numerous instances worth mentioning but few of them such as making primary education compulsory for all subjects; men & women, prohibiting child marriage and opening all the places of worship for his low caste subjects are most remarkable. He opened lot of new schools and colleges to promote education. He managed to check corruption in the administration by adopting unique ways of detecting corruption, findings culprit officials and punishing them. He banned begar and it is said that during his rule none dared to accept bribes or deny wages for any services rendered. He even ploughed land himself to get land holding rights to his subjects. He was made a member of the Imperial War Council from 1944 to 1946 during the World War II. During the war he visited Middle East where he joined his units which were fighting against Axis Powers. He lived with them in their temporary trenches and bunkers which encouraged them and boosted their moral. Showing his solidarity with his forces in the battlefield earned him lot of respect not only of his men but also of the Allied Powers particularly of the British Army.
Hari Singh's rule witnessed lot of political upheavals. From 1931 onwards his rule faced Kashmiri insurrection against his rule which became a mass movement in the valley under the leadership of Sheikh Mohd Abdullah. He opposed Jinnah's Muslim League for its communal agenda illustrated in his two nation theory; hence faced his wrath. He was victim of hostility of Indian National Congress because of Pt Nehru and Sheikh Mohd Abdullah. Immediately after independence and partition of India he saw the tragic communal riots which engulfed the State of Jammu & Kashmir as well. It was followed by an invasion of his State by Pakistani raiders. Jammu & Kashmir had become an independent country after the lapse of British Paramountacy on 15 Aug 1947. It was during his reign that the first Indo-Pak war was fought on the soil of Jammu & Kashmir. Finally the Govt of India took over the control of J&K thus ending the 106 years old hereditary rule of the last Maharaja of India on 15th November 1952. 


Maharaja Hari Singh was a democratic and progressive ruler and knew what was to come. He had made it clear in the Round Table Conference in London that he was for independence of India for which he had to pay heavily as Britishers never trusted him thereafter. As a result he had to face many uprisings fomented and abetted by the British. He also knew that the era of the dynastic rule was to end soon for which he prepared his son to fit in the future democratic set up of the country. Dr Karan Singh bears testimony to it as he became the first elected head of the State as a Sadar-i-Riyasat and later Union Minister for many years and is still a Member of Parliament even 63 years after the transfer of power. In fact he should have been the President of India today. Hopefully next time. The credit for preparing him for the distinguished career in the changed political scenario goes to him. 


Lord Mountbatten visited Srinagar in June 1947. He advised Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to Pakistan on the grounds of religion of majority population and geographical contiguity. Although the advice amounted to be an order because the state was part of the Dominion. Maharaja ignored this advice and instead wanted more time to decide the future of his State. He knew that Pt Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah were for State's accession to India which was his wish as well. But all the rail and land routes to J&K passed through Pakistan. Despite Gurdaspur District falling part of India and River Ravi becoming the boundary line, there was no road or rail link to India through Pathankot which hindered Maharaja's early decision of accession to India. But Pt Nehru took keen interest in the development of road link to Jammu facilitating accession. When India gained independence he had the option of joining either India or Pakistan or to remain independent. He knew the consequences of all the options for which he offered Standstill Agreement with both the Dominions, which unfortunately was not accepted by Pt Nehru which changed the course of history. Had Pt Nehru accepted it, it would have given India over two months to understand the problems of the most strategic State of the world and prepare for anything untoward from any direction. It might have perhaps averted Pakistani attack in Oct 47 as the State would have been the joint responsibility of both the Dominions. However following the invasion by Pakistan on 21 October 1947 he appealed to the Indian Union for help. India refused unless he acceded to the Indian Union. He signed the instrument of accession with the govt of India on 26 October 1947 acceding his country to the Indian Union which included Jammu, Kashmir, Northern Areas, Ladakh, Trans Karakoram Tract, POK and Aksai Chin. The events mentioned above leading to the accession with Indian Union created Indo-Pak hostility which has resulted into 4 military conflicts and the ongoing proxy war in Kashmir. Due to unresolved and undemocratic nature of transition all the territories mentioned above are considered disputed.


Due to growing hostility with his Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah, he appointed his son Yuvraj Karan Singh as his regent and left for Bombay in 1949, never to return to his state there after. He spent rest of his life in Bombay. His passions for Polo, Horse Racing and Reading kept him occupied for the remaining period of life. He breathed his last on 26 April 1961 at Bombay. As per his will his Ashes were brought to Jammu and spread all over J&K and immersed in River Tawi at Jammu.

 

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


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

HIGHERSECONDARY EDUCATION IN CHAOS

BY P J BHAT

 

Education is an important activity in a society. It is an attempt on the part of adult members of a society to shape the development of future generations. In an organized social set up education is imparted to children in temples of learning- the schools. In the process of learning "Higher Secondary Education" has its own niche as it serves a bridge between the elementary education and vocational education / higher education. The education at 10+2, level contributes to the society's goals of democratization and understanding of social, cultural, scientific and technological aspects of contemporary civilization. Above all, education at 10+2 level shapes up the future of a nation by providing efficient man power for vocational institutions. At present 25% of the pass out at the 10+2, level are admitted to vocational institutions like Engineering colleges, ITI's, Polytechnics, Medical colleges, Agricultural universities and other institutions of higher learning. By the end of the year 2020, it is expected that about 40% pass out at the 10+2, level would be admitted to the vocational institutions in the country.


However, Higher Secondary Education is at cross roads in Jammu & Kashmir state. In the Past few years Education Department upgraded many High Schools to the Higher Secondary level especially after the implementation of Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan (SSA). However, the department failed to provide infrastructure and subject teachers in these newly upgraded schools. Most of the Higher Secondary Schools falling under this category are in the rural areas and remote places. These institutions have to cater the educational needs of 80% population of the state. Non availability of Class rooms, lack of laboratory facilities, over crowdedness of classes, dearth of subject teachers etc has been a remarkable contributing factor for the poor results. At present, the academic programmes at 10+2, level are being run by P.G.Masters /Teachers on the basis of interim arrangement. The Teachers / Masters who have been elevated as I/C lecturers some 10 years back have not been confirmed as yet. The Inchargeism in Lecturer cadre of employees has aggravated the frustration of the teaching community. 


The most significant aspect of education at 10+2, level is to identify the potential of the learners and shape it up for the proper vocational training. The qualified and experienced teachers play a vital role in shaping up the future of students. It remains a fact, though it may sound unusual to the reader that in most of the higher secondary schools different streams in natural sciences and humanities have been started without providing subject teachers.


There is another aspect relating to teaching community that has a direct bearing on the results at 10+2, level. Since September 2007, the Education Department has stopped departmental promotions of P.G.Masters / Teachers on the pretext of having passed their post Graduation in natural sciences or humanities from UGC/ DEC approved universities through study centres. This is violation of S.R.O: 339 called Jammu & Kashmir Private colleges (Regulation & Control) Act-2002. Notification issued by Higher Education Department Jammu & Kashmir Civil Secreterate on 20th of December -2005under S.R.O:339, section (20) and sub-section (3) reads as: "Un-authorized institutions shall not make any fresh admission to any of the courses. However, the students who are already admitted (i.e. upto cut off date Dec 20, 2005) shall be allowed to continue their studies till the conclusion of their academic programmes".The notification is self explanatory in the content revealing the fact that students who have been enrolled by UGC/DEC approved universities for P.G courses through study centres upto Dec20, 2005 and having passed such courses thereafter stand valid. Therefore, working teachers enrolled for P.G.Courses up to Dec20, 2005 and having passed such courses irrespective of year of passing can not be denied elevation as lecturers. Any such attempt would lead to unrest in the teaching community, who are being called "Nation Builders"& "Agents of Social change".

There is another category of Master/Teachers who are being denied elevation as lecturers in various disciplines on the pretext of Supreme Court Ruling of Appeal No: 4173 of 2008 titled "Sibi Madan Gabriel and Others". The supreme court in the Appeal No: 4173 stated that the masters degrees awarded up to 30-06-1989 on 10+2+2 pattern be treated as valid and thereafter, admission to P.G.Courses be granted only in respect of such candidates who either have passed 10+2+3 pattern or have obtained P.G. course in other subjects, if they have done first degree in 10+2+2 pattern. Here again Higher education department has failed to recognize the fact that Open Universities established by an Act of parliament or State Legislature in accordance with the provisions contained in section 2(f) of UGC Act, 1956 have relaxed eligibility criteria to provide access to higher education to a large population especially working employees. Admission to P.G.Courses by Open Universities including IGNOU, on 10+2+2, pattern is the reflection of flexible intake norms. It is an admitted fact that Kashmir University & Jammu University with a maximum annual intake of 600 students each can't fulfill the educational needs of 10 million population of the state. In such a situation a huge population has no access to the higher education. The students of far off places, working employees and youth belonging to lower strata of the society opt to persue their higher studies through Open University system of education. Thus, Open University system of education has assumed the dimensions of instrument of social change since its inception in 1970. 


Even when the education has become a global enterprise, Jammu & Kashmir state has still adhered to Lord Macaulay's education system of 1835, for some inexplicable reasons. India's population has already crossed one billion mark and with present growth rate we are likely to achieve the number one position in population by the end of year 2020.To improve the education scenario Union Government has already planned to allow establishment of foreign universities in the country. So we should recognize the role of Open University system of education and pave way to strengthen it to eradicate social, economic and political disparity in the multi-lingual & multi-ethnic Indian society. 


It is need of the hour to eradicate flaws that have unknowingly crept in the education system especially at the 10+2, level. Any further delay in mitigating the problems of teaching community and failure to provide infrastructure would further deteriorate the state of Higher Secondary Education in the state. Timely & remedial measure would not only improve the education system but also rein the divisive forces which are in operation to mislead the youth.

 

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


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

KASHMIR: THE TASK AHEAD

BY K.N. PANDITA

 

The task ahead in Kashmir is difficult but not insurmountable. Courage and firmness are required. Courage draws inspiration for a clear conscience that no state oppression has ever been let loose against the people.
Two decades ago people in the valley bade farewell to secularism. Now democracy as political arrangement is engaged in life and death struggle. By and large, after the extirpation of the minority in 1990, the valley has gradually adopted full pan-Islamic character. The manner, in which the Congress-led government at the Centre has been soft pedalling with this new phenomenon, makes observers believe that Indian State is reconciled to a theocratic unit within a secularist union. This is the new interpretation of Congress' secularism of Indian State. 
Elected governments, led by the NC or PDP in coalition with the Congress, both, have tried to play to the tune of religious extremists who form the core of the separatists and secessionists. Methodology might not be identical but compulsions are common. 


Externally sponsored gun culture has instilled so much fear into the layers of Kashmirian civil society as to force even reasonably sensible elements to speak the language that is sweet to the ears of anti-India movement.
At no stage did the valley political leadership muster courage to address large gatherings, and publicly engage them in a serious and decisive debate on extraordinarily important issues like accession, political system, role of religion, pattern of governance etc.


The bare fact or contrivance that some people and parties won in elections is not the end all of a democratic dispensation. Those returned to the assembly are mortally afraid of interacting with their constituencies on sensitive issues stated above. 


What is the contour of the fault line? Obviously it is the lack of conviction in democracy, secularism, rule of law and broad futuristic vision of a democratic-secular-welfare state in the process of development. 
Political parties are up in arms on each casualty and untoward incident. They dole out a litany of accusations against the police, security forces, army, state government and India. There is no dearth of taunts and rebukes. But nobody from among these brigades has the courage to ask who instigates crowds to violence, mayhem and arson? Nobody rises against these leaders demanding that they retire to their places and stop misleading and inciting the public.


The people are at war with the government perhaps because this government led by a young man with clear vision and conviction refuses to pander to the pressures of the motivated separatists. Had this been the policy of the previous government, Kashmir would not have drifted to disaster.


The party in opposition straightaway launched an attack on the Chief Minister and has been demanding his dismissal. It is pursuing the policy of self-aggrandisement, and not of healthy and constructive opposition. The worse is that it has no qualms of conscience for the dire consequences this policy is bringing in trail. 
The ongoing turmoil in Kashmir is not a movement against India; it is not a movement against Indian presence in Kashmir. It is the manifestation of a deep-seated rivalry bordering on animosity between the NC and PDP. The latter is determined to deal a deadly blow to the popularity of National Conference. In closed door meetings, its leadership often talks contemptuously of dynastic rule with allusion to the House of Sheikh Abdullah. 


Yes, there are some elements in Kashmiri society that have not been favourably disposed towards the Sheikh and NC. They were not reconciled to the accession of the Sate to Indian Union. Political disagreements should not lead to personal vendetta. In a democratic system, it is the vote that decides issues. It is the vote that had catapulted PDP to the seat of power in 2002 election, and it is the same vote that sent it packing home. 
The Congress, which entered into coalition with PDP in 2002 for power sharing did the greatest disservice to the State. Its lust for becoming the king-maker spelt doom to peace and tranquillity in Kashmir. Today the Congress is tight lipped on the covert agenda which PDP carried forward during its tenure. 


Not only that, when the NC-led coalition assumed power in the aftermath of 2008 elections, it wanted to make public a number of actions and decisions of the previous government that in no way subscribed to national interests. But it was the Congress --- the coalition partner--- that dissuaded it to do so. This is how the Congress is playing a dangerous and disastrous role in Kashmir affairs. 


National Conference is the elected government in J&K. It must run the administration with courage and determination. It should not yield to any pressure from within or outside the state. It has had a historical role and that will not and cannot be trivialized just because some leaders coveting power can incite the crowds by covertly playing religious card. Omar must assert. He has no need to be defensive. His government must pull out all skeletons in PDP's cupboard and lay these bare to the public gaze even if it means bit of discomfiture to the Congress.


A word to the Congress is worth saying. If Omar's government falls, the Congress shall have to wind up its shop in Kashmir for all times to come. Kashmiris will no more tolerate an arbitrator or his role in shaping their destiny. NC may re-surface after some debacle but the Congress will never. On its own it can never form a government, and hence it has no role but that of spoilsport, which the people in the State should understand and resist. Congress General Secretary has laid no obligation on Omar Abdullah if he supported his continuance. The Congress has no option but to do so.

 

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


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

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SYSTEMIC COLLAPSE

GAMES: FROM PRIDE TO NATIONAL SHAME

 

WHEN stadia, roads and bridges being readied for the Commonwealth Games were found to be way behind schedule and rampant corruption in their execution was exposed some months ago, there was still a faint hope that things would somehow fall in place at the last minute. But now that the last minute has arrived, there are no signs of the miracle. On the contrary, the collapse of the pedestrian bridge leading to the main venue, the Nehru Stadium, on Tuesday and the false ceiling of the weightlifting arena of the same stadium the next day have caused the ultimate embarrassment, putting a question mark on the very holding of the Games. Even if the much-awaited mega sports event does take place, it might showcase the country's shortcomings instead of its progress. That is a shame indeed because no expenses were spared to make the Games a success. But the men who mattered goofed badly despite numerous warnings.

 

What an ignominy it is that many of the participating countries have found the conditions in the Commonwealth Games Village "unlivable" and some of the participants have even pulled out, saying that hygiene is a bigger concern than terror. Organising Committee (OC) head Suresh Kalmadi and his colleagues had boasted that the Village would be the best ever but officials of the participating countries were greeted by dusty rooms and filthy toilets. Stray dogs were found lying on beds meant for athletes. Surprise of surprise, OC secretary-general Lalit Bhanot was still unfazed and dismissed the complaints saying that "hygiene standards are different for different people". Somebody should tell Mr Bhanot that when you organise an international event, you have to conform to international standards.

 

Even security is a serious concern. In spite of the attack on Taiwanese tourists near Jama Masjid, an Australian TV crew was able to walk into the main Games arena carrying a huge case for an explosives detonation kit. Not only that, they were able to obtain a detonator and explosives within a day's drive of the Capital. The litany of complaints has forced the Prime Minister to step in. But is a turnaround possible at this late stage? Athletes are to start arriving in a few hours. Some people deserve to be hanged for this national shame. 

 

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

 

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN POLLS

WARLORDS EXPLOITING THE SYSTEM

 

HOLDING elections in Afghanistan has been a very tricky job to do because of stiff opposition from the Taliban. Saturday's parliamentary polls provide fresh proof of this ugly reality. Over 1000 polling booths of the total 6,835 could not be used because of security reasons. The Taliban threat affected smooth conduct of the elections in many areas. It is not without reason that the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, which deployed 7000 observers to monitor the polls, has expressed "serious concerns" about the quality of the major democratic exercise after the controversial presidential election that led to President Hamid Karzai getting another opportunity to rule the country. Over 4000 complaints of booth capturing, ballot box stuffing, use of fake voter identity cards, etc, have been received. Yet the election managers were satisfied with their accomplishment. For them, conducting the polls itself is not a small achievement in Afghanistan.

 

Most of those who contested the elections are warlords, tribal chieftains, puppets of the West, et al. They have nothing to do with people's interests. The polls provided them an opportunity to capture the levers of power through fair or foul means. Once they succeed in entering the Wolesi Jirga (parliament), they will try to use it to perpetuate their questionable hold over the system.

 

The elections are over, but the results will take a long time to be officially announced because of the probe that will have to be conducted into the large number of fraud cases. But immediately the polls have highlighted once again that the Taliban control over a large part of Afghanistan remains intact despite the US-led multinational drive against the extremists. How President Karzai handles the situation remains to be seen. His own election was mired in controversy. Now he faces the allegation of supporting a large number of tainted candidates in the party-less polls. His government remains as weak as it was when he first captured power. If he tries to overcome his weaknesses by entering into a deal with the Taliban, which is quite likely now, that will be a remedy worse than the disease. 

 

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

 


THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BACK TO 20K

SENSEX SPREADS LIMITED CHEER

 

ALTHOUGH the BSE Sensex has crossed the 20,000 mark, the old euphoria is missing. Domestic institutional investors feel uncomfortable with the present valuations, while retail investors watch the spectacular show from the sidelines. Foreign money is driving the rally. Brazil, China and India have replaced the US as the most preferred destinations of global investment, according to a Bloomberg global poll. Thanks to the near zero interest rates in the developed world, a huge amount of surplus cash is chasing gold and equities in the emerging markets. The Sensex touched an all-time high of 21,206 in January 2008 before the US sub-prime crisis and resultant global financial turmoil caused the biggest market crash since 1929.

 

With memories of the crash still fresh, Indian investors have exited the market and now wait for a reasonable price correction. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) believe in the Indian growth story and prefer India to even China and Brazil to park their funds. No wonder, the Sensex has outperformed the similar benchmarks in China, Russia and Brazil. The foreigners' faith in the Indian market is justified by macroeconomic fundamentals. A good monsoon has eased inflation worries and will lift agricultural growth. The economy is set to grow at a healthy 8.5 per cent this year.

 

On the downside, there is a fear that the US and Europe may relapse into recession. This as well as the rupee's rise against the dollar may hurt exports. Foreign investment in equities and commodities is hot money that can flee as fast as it comes should there be any sign of trouble or if the US and Europe turn the corner. The present rally is not broad-based. It is confined to the sectors thriving on rising Indian consumption like consumer goods and automobiles. That is why India's richest – the Ambanis, K.P. Singh, Sunil Bharti Mittal and Uday Kotak — have not gained as much this time as they did when the Sensex had crossed the 20,000 level last time.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

AFSPA: DANGERS AHEAD

WHY INVOLVE ARMY IN A CIVILIAN MATTER? 

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

THE Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been questioned from day one. Not only civil liberty groups but many others have also thought that the powers given to the armed forces, when posted in a disturbed area, were too sweeping and too authoritarian.

 

The Act, among other things, gives the armed forces authority to kill anyone in a disturbed area on mere suspicion. No questions will be asked and it will be presumed that the killing was because of exigencies of the situation. The controversy has got revived because of the government's proposal to dilute these powers. If it does so, it has the authority in the polity we have.

 

It is an elected government which is answerable to Parliament. In a democratic set-up, the military is under the government and does not have to question the order given. I am shocked when I find Chief of Army Staff Gen V.N. Singh saying that the Army cannot do without the AFSPA and retired Army Chief V.P. Malik telling the government that if it wanted the Army it has to have the AFSPA.

 

Whether the government withdraws the AFSPA or amends it, it is its business. But when it listens to the Army commanders and does not act as the situation demands, the government makes amply clear that it is not its own master. That the people are supreme does not mean that the rulers they elect will be hemmed in by the Army or such other forces.

 

Similar compromises have led to the rule or domination of the military in many countries which do not know how to swim back to the free waters of democracy. How can New Delhi behave in a manner which casts shadow over the pre-eminence of the people-returned government?

 

I believe that the Cabinet was divided over the withdrawal of the AFSPA from certain areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Some said that by doing so it would spoil the situation in the areas where the AFSPA would continue to operate. Ultimately, a Cabinet committee was appointed to look into the matter more closely and, subsequently, there was a meeting of main political parties. What surprises me is that there was no one participating in different exercises who even questioned the efficacy of continuing the Act which has been in force for about 52 years in the Northeast and 10 years in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

It seems the government does not want to go against the wishes of the military which is keen to retain the powers that the Act gives. The question to find out is the areas where the AFSPA should apply and for how long is for the government to decide, taking into account the situation prevailing there. But the government's decision has to be dependent on the conditions on the ground, not on the protest voiced by the military.

 

Yet, the more important aspect is whether the Act should be there at all. The government appointed the Justice Jewan Reddy Committee to find out whether the Act had outlived its utility. The committee unanimously recommended five years ago that the Act should be abolished. The defence forces did not agree to curtail their draconian power and the Act continues. The government went by the advice of the military, not what the committee, having some leading NGOs in the area, had said.

 

Two questions, therefore, come to the fore. One, is there any utility in having the Act on the statute book at all? Two, is it necessary to give such sweeping powers to the armed forces in a disturbed area? The ideal thing is not to call the Army to attend to the law and order situation. The force is trained to defend the country's borders, and it should be confined to the task it knows the best.

 

Yet, if insurgency within the country demands deployment of the Army, it cannot be left to the military to give the government a list of do's and don'ts. What it boils down to is that the power which the military has come to enjoy for a long time because of the AFSPA should be continued perpetually. The proposition itself is dangerous. The observation by the military that it cannot fight in a disturbed area without the AFSPA is not understandable. This amounts to dictating terms to an elected government.

 

The problem is that the BJP which, because of staying in the wilderness for more than six years, has become irresponsible in its behaviour. Even before the meeting of all political parties, L.K. Advani says that the dilution of the AFSPA will weaken the country's defence. And he praises the sacrifices of the defence forces in the same breath. Playing to the gallery at a time when India is beleaguered with many problems is like foreclosing the options which the ruling party has every right to consider.

 

The country is proud of the defence forces, which have withstood many odd situations and have risked their lives. But the BJP does not have any exclusive right on the armed forces. Dragging them into controversies neither helps the country nor even the BJP. The party must understand that sensitive issues, if politicised, can take an unwanted turn. Coming to power is important for a political party. But it has to see that while attempting to do so it does not weaken the democratic structure or even remotely support methods which may recoil on the nation one day.

 

Not long ago, a special force of the armed forces by the name of the Rashtriya Rifles was constituted to deal with civil commotion. It was imparted a different type of training. If the experiment has failed, something else should have been tried. But the perpetuation of the AFSPA is not a solution.

 

What is happening in Kashmir or in the Northeast may come to brutalise our society. Democracy will lose its savour. Rulers will rue the day when, probably in panic, special powers were given to the men in khaki. Laws are for fair and orderly governance. Those laws which authorise maiming or killing on suspicion have no place in a democratic polity, even for a short period.

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

IN THE LINE OF DUTY

BY TEJINDER SINGH SODHI

 

No story is worth your life'. This was the first lesson taught to me by the then head of the department of journalism in Kashmir University, Prof Nasir Mirza, when I entered the department a few years ago as a young student aiming to make it big in the field of journalism one day.

 

Academics never remained my priority. So I always skipped the classes to walk along with journalists to see them do stories. But whenever I attended Professor Mirza's class I always got to learn a new lesson for life and profession.

 

A visiting foreign journalist rightly said that the new generation in Kashmir was politically very sensitive. That, indeed, was the case as we grew up in the environment where we were surrounded by the politics of not only India, but also Pakistan, and yes, China.

 

Working as a journalist was never an easy task; I saw many being killed, many being attacked and many being beaten to pulp, but the desire to be a journalist grew stronger with every such incident.

 

Now for the past three months, we the journalists in Kashmir have been facing the worst type of mental agony and despite knowing the fact that 'No story is worth your life' we risk our lives to get stories.

 

Owing to the curfew and strict restrictions on our movements our curfew passes are not honoured, we are humiliated but still we discharge our duties. Despite an undeclared gag we keep on sending the stories because that is what we do and what we are made and trained to do and what we get paid for.

 

A common man looks at us with much expectation as he feels that we would magnify his voice and we try to do so. We face the wrath of stone pelters, security forces and whenever our story displeases any of the party we get threatening calls, but we ignore all this.

 

When the all-party parliamentary delegation arrived in Srinagar in the hope to diffuse the tension, we the journalists defied all the curfew restrictions. Only one person from one newspaper was allowed to enter the venue. So my boss went in and dictated some of the stories to me which I typed and filed from a safe distance under the watchful eyes of many security personnel.

 

Covering the curfew and restrictions for the past three months and the visit of the delegation was always the first priority in my mind and I forgot that it was the marriage of one of my best friends and I was the best man. But I could not attend the marriage due to the stories.

 

All this has again taught me a lesson. A story has become worth a life-long friendship, as I know that I lost this childhood friendship forever for a story.

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PSYCHOLOGY OF VOTERS EXPLAINS POLITICS IN THE US

AMERICANS MAD AT EVERYONE & EVERYTHING

MAKING SENSE OF US PRIMARIESBY RUPERT CORNWELL

 

WHAT on earth is going on ? These days, a grounding in clinical psychology is probably of more use than a PhD in political science in determining whether or not the country is experiencing a collective nervous breakdown. Last week's batch of primary results in the United States have established one thing beyond doubt - that America's electorate has never in modern times been angrier, more volatile and less predictable than now.

 

The most spectacular proof came in the normally inconsequential state of Delaware, where Christine O'Donnell - spectacularly unqualified but blessed by the Tea Party and Saint Sarah and making all the right ultra-conservative noises - defeated Mike Castle, the state's highly popular former governor, in the Republican primary for the Senate seat long held by Vice-President Joe Biden. A month or two ago, such a result would have been unthinkable. But then came a Palin tweet on behalf of Ms O'Donnell, and the rest is history.

 

She is the seventh outsider, no less, backed by the insurgent Tea Party movement to topple a Senate candidate endorsed by the Republican establishment in this tumultuous primary season. Ms O'Donnell has had run-ins with the tax man, failed to meet her mortgage payments and equates masturbation with adultery, and may be a bridge too far for the good citizens of Delaware in November's general election. But some of the Tea Party crowd will certainly win, in an election year shaping up as a rout for the Democrats.

 

Up to a point, such an outcome should come as no surprise. At mid-terms, the President's party is invariably punished, especially when that party controls not only the White House but Congress as well - and after thumping wins in 2006 and 2008, Democrats are now overdue for a hammering.

 

Republicans need to make a net gain of 39 seats to retake the House of Representatives. The consensus is they will, and probably with something to spare; some analysts are even predicting a repeat of the 52-seat swing in 1994, when a pugnacious minority leader named Newt Gingrich led Republicans back to command of the House for the first time in 40 years.

 

In the Senate, the outlook is cloudier. The Democrats currently have a 59-41 seat edge. At the time of writing, they seem set to lose seven at least, although thanks to the victory of the "unelectable" Ms O'Donnell, they are likely to hang on to a seat that was previously considered lost. Even so, if Republicans run the table, as they say in billiards, they can still secure an outright majority. The Democrats, after all, did so in not dissimilar circumstances in 2006, propelled by the unpopularity of George Bush; so why not the Republicans now ?

 

But numbers tell only part of the story. For this is 2010, when even stronger emotions are loose in the land. Americans, as the whole world knows, are mad. They're mad about the economy, about high unemployment and a recession that feels like it will never end. They're mad at Wall Street, which got the country into the mess. They're mad at government, which, for all the colossal deficits it has run up, can't get them out of the mess.

 

They're mad at big business for exporting jobs to China, at China which cheats so blatantly on its exchange rate, at unions that can't deliver for the workers, at the media who tell everything like it isn't.

 

And they're mad at that cool-mannered guy in the White House who appears to feel nobody's pain. Heck, isn't he a Muslim, and probably not even a native-born American at all ? Finally, and most relevant to the upcoming election, they're mad at Congress and all those who sit and squabble there.

 

And since there are more Democrats than Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Democrats stand to suffer the most.

 

But at this point, if you believe a poll by The New York Times just 24 hours after Ms O'Donnell swept all before her, you must abandon politics-as-usual and reach for the psychiatric manual. According to this poll, voters are fed up with Democrats. But they are even more scornful of Congressional Republicans, whose strategy for the last 18 months has consisted of the single word, "no", to everything President Obama has proposed.

 

The survey found that voters believe that Democrats are more likely to help the middle class, have better ideas for solving problems, are more likely to create jobs, and are more likely to help small businesses. Democrats, it is further believed, have the right ideas about immigration. Yet by every measure, Democrats face a thrashing. Go figure.

 

This is indeed a strange moment in the US, and our psychiatric manual might argue that deeper, secular forces and anxieties are at work. An American might very well conclude right now that a system that has effortlessly delivered prosperity and top-dog status for generations isn't working any more.

 

You have to be 80 at least to have a clear memory of the Great Depression, the last time America was on its knees. From the moment of their birth, its citizens are told they live in the greatest country on earth, like no other in history. But now fear gnaws that the nation is in decline, that other countries have caught up, and even overtaken it.

 

A spate of recent surveys leave little doubt that this is the case. Last week's Census Bureau figures - showing that there are record numbers living in poverty and without health coverage, and that average incomes have stayed flat at best over the past decade, despite the fortunes made by a few - have underscored how this recession is the deepest since the Depression.

 

You sense a flailing around for the vanished certainties once encapsulated in the notion of "the American Dream", and a venomous search for scapegoats in the establishment that has failed them. That is the mantra of the right-wing talk-show hosts who ceaselessly stoke the indignation, egging on the Tea Party, blaming defeatist Democrats, ungrateful foreigners, and Rinos - despised "Republicans in Name Only", like Delaware's Mike Castle - for the country's every ill.

 

This, in turn, illustrates another facet of the paradox. The Democrats are set for a beating; but it is the Republicans who are split.

 

Something of the same happened in 1964, when the Arizona outsider Barry Goldwater defeated Nelson Rockefeller, incarnation of traditional East Coast noblesse oblige Republicanism, for the party's presidential nomination and then went down to a landslide defeat.

 

But this Tea Party moment goes further. It combines the grassroots fervour that Goldwater unleashed (and whose lasting effects make him one of the most important figures in 20th-century Republicanism) with a populism and nativism that are equally recurrent strands in US history.

 

Where all this will lead, nobody knows. Maybe Ms Palin, the linking element between the Tea Party and the Republican party proper, will do a Goldwater, leading an insurgency to capture the party's nomination in 2012, only to go down in flames at the general election. Maybe she won't run; maybe both she and the movement will fizzle out. Or perhaps the Tea Party will take over the Republican Party: or again, it may be gently co-opted into it.

 

Whatever happens, however, the current state of affairs spells trouble for everyone in the short term: for President Obama who must cope with divided government, with Republicans less inclined than ever to compromise; and for the mainstream Republican White House aspirants in 2012 - Mitt Romney et al - who must somehow harness the Tea Party's energy while preserving an appeal to centrists and independents who ultimately decide presidential elections.

 

Above all, it will be bad news for ordinary Americans, who having voted out one bickering Congress, are seemingly about to vote in a replacement that is likely to be even more partisan and paralysed, one in which the centrists who forge the legislative compromises that actually get things done will be in ever shorter supply. Americans hate government - but they also know they need it. Go figure. Or, rather, go see a psychologist.—The Independent 

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CHINA'S OWN 'HOLOCAUST'

BY ARIFA AKBAR

 

MAO ZEDONG, founder of the People's Republic of China, qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history, asserts an expert who had unprecedented access to Chinese archival material. Speaking at the Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time Mao was enforcing the 'Great Leap Forward' in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing "one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known".

 

Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.

 

Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history - which has until now remained hidden - has international resonance. "It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century .... It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot's genocide multiplied 20 times over," he said.

 

Between 1958 and 1962, a war raged between the peasants and the state; it was a period when a third of all homes in China were destroyed to produce fertiliser when the nation descended into famine and starvation, Mr Dikötter said.

 

His book, Mao's Great Famine: The Story of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, reveals that while this is a part of history that has been "quite forgotten" in the official memory of the People's Republic of China, there was a "staggering degree of violence" that was, remarkably, carefully catalogued in Public Security Bureau reports, which featured among the provincial archives he studied. In them, he found that the members of the rural farming communities were seen by the Party merely as "digits", or a faceless workforce. For those who committed any act of disobedience, however minor, the punishments were huge.

 

State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so they were deliberately starved to death.

 

He said the archives were already illuminating the extent of the atrocities of the period; one piece of evidence revealed that 13,000 opponents of the new regime were killed in one region alone, in just three weeks. "We know the outline of what went on but I will be looking into precisely what happened in this period, how it happened, and the human experiences behind the history," he said.

 

Mr Dikötter, who teaches at the University of Hong Kong, said while it was difficult for any historian in China to write books that are critical of Mao, he felt he could not collude with the "conspiracy of silence" in what the Chinese rural community had suffered in recent history. —The Independent 

 

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

 


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

EDITORIAL

SLIPPING ON OIL

TIME TO CREATE DURABLE PRICING REFORMS

 

Winds of change have begun blowing across India's petroleum sector, even though the speed is excruciatingly slow and the direction often confusing. In August 2009, the United Progressive Alliance government had decided to set up an expert group to recommend a viable and sustainable system of pricing for petroleum products. Six months later, Kirit Parikh, a former member of the Planning Commission and the expert group's chairman, submitted his findings which, for the umpteenth time, reiterated the need for complete deregulation of petrol and diesel pricing. It took another four months for the government to act on the expert group's recommendations, apparently in a half-hearted fashion. Petrol prices became free with its price going up by 7 per cent, but diesel prices remained under government control. The government ignored many other valuable suggestions of the expert group, but the oil marketing companies heaved a sigh of relief as they now had the government permission to raise prices of diesel by 5 per cent, kerosene by 33 per cent and liquefied petroleum gas by 11 per cent.

 

The glacial pace of change in oil sector reforms was also evident from the manner in which the oil marketing companies took another three months to effect the first change in petrol prices under the deregulated regime, even though there was enough justification to increase them much earlier. The average price of the Indian crude oil basket was above the benchmark $75 a barrel in August and September, and as the Kirit Parikh committee had reckoned, the oil companies should have been free to raise petroleum product prices whenever the international price crossed that level. Yet, only one of the state-owned oil marketing companies has so far raised its petrol prices, while others are still to decide what course of action to adopt, although private oil marketing companies have already begun selling petrol at prices well above those maintained by their counterparts in the state sector. This may well be the first sign of a truly deregulated petrol price regime where the oil marketing companies compete with each other with different prices, but celebrations over this could be premature. The memories of how the experiment with the dismantling of the administered pricing mechanism for the oil sector from April 2002 failed in less than a few months are still fresh. There is no systemic guarantee that the government will not relapse into the administered price regime once international oil prices start rising again and the consequent increase in petrol prices exerts enough pressure on inflation, forcing a politically weak government to roll back the reforms.

 

 An interim measure to pave the ground for more durable reforms in the petroleum sector would be to implement the remaining suggestions made by the expert group headed by Kirit Parikh. These include deregulating diesel prices and a more realistic mechanism for periodic increase in prices of kerosene and LPG. Remember that small periodic increases in petroleum product prices in line with the international crude oil market create fewer political problems. This will also ensure that years of inaction on raising prices of these politically sensitive products does not become a big fiscal burden for the government. Already, the total under-recoveries for the oil sector, after taking into account the June increase in prices of various products, are estimated at over Rs 53,000 crore, which will have to be borne by the oil marketing companies and upstream oil companies. If the remaining recommendations made by the Kirit Parikh committee are not considered and implemented soon, the slow but tenuous gains made in the last few weeks are likely to be frittered away.

 

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CONSENSUS ON KASHMIR

VOCAL MINORITIES MUST ALSO RESPECT MAJORITY OPINION

 

In a democracy, talking is always good. So, an all-party delegation going from New Delhi to Srinagar was a good initiative, even if a belated one. The visuals of Muslim leaders from mainstream Indian political parties hearing and conversing with separatists from Kashmir, along with leaders from other national and regional parties, have their own therapeutic value. Even the worst political adversaries must be seen talking all the time in a plural and democratic polity. It is not clear if any concrete results will come out of this initiative, but that should not be the basis of evaluating its purpose. If the streets and homes in Srinagar can return to a modicum of normalcy, and people feel more reassured about their safety and security and the government's commitment to zero tolerance for both terrorism and human rights violations, that in itself would be a huge achievement. However, the next steps are now as important.

 

The time has come for all political parties in Jammu & Kashmir to first resolve their own differences on the resolution of the problem of Kashmir. New Delhi can wait to see what kind of consensus emerges. Political parties that have already contested elections have established their representative credentials. Even those that have refused to contest elections should be viewed as representing a prevalent viewpoint, howsoever limited their constituency of support. Let a hundred ideas bloom from the ground. Delhi has made its position known, and the prime minister must work with national political parties to get a consensus around his own ideas. In Pakistan, the government of the day must do its bit, taking the process initiated by former President Pervez Musharraf forward. If all these conditions are met, further progress is possible. If not, status quo would drag on. Those who harp constantly on poor governance in Kashmir must accept that there is nothing unique about either the so-called "human rights violations" in Kashmir, or the high-handedness of government and security forces. Millions of South Asians routinely complain about these problems all across the region. Improved governance, respect for the rule of law and plural and representative democracy are the only options open and that is as true for Kashmir as for any other state of India, or nation/region in South Asia. Secession is no solution anywhere — be it in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka or India. The Manmohan Singh-Pervez Musharraf formula for the resolution of the problem of Kashmir could be the final solution if a significant majority in India, Pakistan and on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir endorses it, even if a vocal minority refuses to join the consensus.

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

OVERVALUED RS FUELS EXTERNAL DEFICITS

WHY HAVE RISING TRADE AND CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICITS IN THE LAST YEAR NOT LED TO A DEPRECIATION OF THE RUPEE?

SHANKAR ACHARYA

 

In April this year, I raised concerns over India's curious combination of rising external deficits and a rapidly appreciating rupee (see BS, April 10 and April 24). The articles made the following key points. First, India's current account deficit had risen above 3 per cent of GDP in the successive quarters of July-September 2009 and October-December 2009 (the latest data then available). Second, this had happened against the background of the sharpest ever increase in the real effective exchange rate (REER) of the rupee in a 12-month period (of 18 per cent, March 2009 to March 2010). Third, this unprecedented surge in real rupee appreciation appeared to have provoked surprisingly little comment or concern, perhaps because market agents, analysts and even policy-makers were unduly fixated on the nominal rupee-dollar rate and insufficiently sensitive to increases in the REER stemming from differential rates of inflation in India versus trading partners or depreciations in other major currencies such as the euro. Fourth, the sharply appreciating rupee was hurting not just exports but all tradable economic activities, including industry, many services and agriculture, particularly labour-intensive sectors such as garments, textiles, leather products and gems. Fifth, if net capital inflows continued to be robust, the authorities (government and RBI) needed to act swiftly to reverse some of the real appreciation by either intervening in the currency market or moderating capital inflows through "capital account management".

 

 As it happened, after May 2010 (when the REER index peaked at 120, compared to 98 in April 2009), there was a drop in capital inflows and a resulting decline in the rupee's nominal effective exchange rate (NEER), mainly triggered by rising global concerns over the Greco-European sovereign debt stresses and associated nervousness about risky assets, including emerging market stocks (Figure 1). The REER index moderated to 116 by July. Though less than the May peak, this was still unduly high relative to the pre-global-crisis average of 102 in 2002-03–2006-07, when RBI actively intervened to moderate real appreciation despite a sustained surge in capital inflows. Alas, such exchange rate activism appears to have been largely abandoned after 2008-09, though there has been little transparency about this major change in exchange rate policy.

 

The results of this policy inertia are reflected in India's external accounts. Goods exports, which had risen to 18 per cent of GDP in the first half of 2008-09, helped by the global commodity boom, not only fell to 13 per cent of GDP in the second half of the year as global trade plummeted post-Lehman, but pretty much remained there in the subsequent six quarters (Figure 2). Exports of $50.7 billion in the first quarter of 2010-11 were running 12 per cent lower than two years ago. In contrast, imports, which had also peaked in the first half of 2008-09 and dropped sharply in the second half, have grown quite strongly, from the trough of 20 per cent of GDP in Q4 of 2008-09 to an estimated 25 per cent of GDP in Q2 of 2010-11. This means that as India's good recovery from the "growth recession" of 2008-09 has sucked in more imports, the trade deficit has widened to above 10 per cent of GDP in the current quarter.

 

That is not all. Our misguided exchange rate policy has also contributed to a significant decline in net invisible earnings (trade in services and remittances from abroad) from 7.4 per cent of GDP in 2008-09 to hardly 5 per cent in the second half of 2009-10. No data for the current year have yet been published for non-trade elements of the balance of payments. But with a trade deficit of around 9-10 per cent of GDP in the first half of the year and net invisibles possibly stagnating at 5 per cent (equal to the latter half of 2009-10, and this could be optimistic given the recent protectionist moves by the Obama administration against outsourcing), a record current account deficit of 4-5 per cent of GDP seems quite plausible in the first half of the current year, and perhaps even for the full year.

 

Why have such rising trade and current account deficits in the last year not led to a depreciation of the exchange rate in both nominal and real terms? Part of the answer is that there has been a modest depreciation since May and up to mid-August (last date for which RBI data on NEER and REER are currently available). More recently, especially in the past six weeks, there has been a surge in portfolio capital inflows, which has helped finance the widening current account deficit and powered the Sensex to a 32-month high of 20,000. The resurgence in capital inflows, after their stutter in the early summer, may be due to several factors, including the anaemic growth prospects of America, Europe and Japan, and the associated continuation of exceptionally loose monetary policies in these jurisdictions. Basically, there is a great deal of liquidity sloshing around in global financial markets looking for an elusive combination of safety and return. Sometimes, when there are global jitters, as over southern Europe's sovereign debt issues in May and June, the flows turn wary of the so-called risky assets like emerging market equities. When such jitters are assuaged by policy measures or a change in perceptions, the yearning for better returns brings the tide back to Indian (and other emerging market) shores.

 

Recent history has underscored the key point: the ebb and flow of these cross-border portfolio flows is volatile and essentially unpredictable. To rely on such flows for stable financing of balance of payments deficits would be a triumph of hope over experience. Sudden surges in these flows also cause asset bubbles and exchange rate misalignments, with adverse consequences for the real sectors. Unsurprisingly, several emerging nations have instituted counter-measures, including significant restrictions on portfolio flows (as in Taiwan) or taxes on capital inflows other than direct foreign investment (as in Brazil). Despite gubernatorial speeches on "capital account management", the Indian authorities have remained surprisingly inactive over the past year.

 

With the current account deficit in the balance of payments set to climb to 4 per cent of GDP or higher and labour-intensive sectors taking a beating from a substantially overvalued exchange rate, the time for watchful waiting is surely over. A resurrection of active exchange rate intervention (of the kind successfully pursued in 2003-2007) is clearly called for. The tools and modalities are available and well-tested. Depending on the scale and variability of capital inflows, it might also be necessary and desirable to inject some policy teeth into the stated readiness to undertake capital account management.

 

The author is honorary professor at ICRIER and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India. The

views expressed are personal

 

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

 


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

BALKANISATION OF INDIA'S MARKETS

THE COMPLEXITY IN SEGMENTATION OF CUSTOMERS AND MARKETS IS ONLY GOING TO INCREASE, AND THAT TOO MANIFOLD

ARVIND SINGHAL

 

In the easiest of times, India was never really a single, relatively homogeneous market. Myriad differences in language, culture, ethnicity, social beliefs and practices, and climatic diversity made it very difficult to understand and keep track of what consumers really want, where the real markets are, how big the opportunity may be, and how to reach out to those consumers through appropriate products, channels, and value-proposition. Hence, the common and even today, perhaps the most simplistic segmentation of the market is either just "urban/rural" or merely gender-based, i.e. "men/women" or socioeconomic classification-based, i.e. SEC A/B/C or R1/R2/ R3 etc. Beyond this, segmentation is also often done by simply dividing India into four regions, i.e. North, West, South, and East, or sometimes state-wise, or the category of town-wise.

 

 However, this complexity in segmentation of customers and markets is only going to increase, and that too manifold, in the coming years and could eventually lead to a very different type of fragmentation of India's marketplaces wherein many of these fragments are fundamentally different from each other. These changes are concurrently taking place in many dimensions, leading to very different outcomes in different parts of India. For instance, the National Capital Region (NCR) is seeing a very different magnitude of economic activity than the rest of India, or even the states adjoining the NCR. The region already has the highest per capita income in the entire country (twice the national average), including the Greater Mumbai region. At the current growth rate, the region's "GDP" in 2025 could well be more than what India's GDP was in 1991! Similarly, the "GDP" of the top-eight Indian city/metro cluster (NCR, Greater Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and "greater" Chandigarh) could be as much as one-third of that of the entire country by 2025. Some of the relatively poorer regions of yesteryears could turn out to be new engines of growth in the next decade or so. These may include Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand as mega investments in mining, heavy industry, power generation and physical infrastructure begin to make a very perceptible economic impact in this East/Southeast region of India.

 

Beyond just the economic output, there are increasing differences even among each of these high economic growth areas. Investment in physical infrastructure is at very different levels between, say, the NCR and Greater Mumbai. Even in terms of diversity of education from primary to higher and vocational, each of these economic clusters is different from the other, leading to differences in the types and quantum of jobs created, and the percentage of women entering into career-oriented workforce. The NCR's Gurgaon sub-region, for instance, has clearly emerged as one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan in all of India, its abysmal infrastructure notwithstanding. Bangalore, with a very high share of the overall economic activity arising out of "export-oriented" industries namely IT and apparel manufacturing, is becoming more "international" in terms of attitude and lifestyle than any other region in India. And, there are many other such trends either already very visible or are in the making.

 

The implications for all businesses, but perhaps most importantly for marketers of consumer products and services, are many. The most important one could be to actually have more than one "business strategy", different products/services and even different marketing channels and approaches for these emerging "markets". Hence, while multinational firms may limit their planning to having a unique "India" strategy, companies already present in India for some years should now consider having an NCR strategy, a Greater Mumbai strategy, or an East/Southeast India strategy. The ground realities in these markets are sufficiently different to warrant such an approach. For instance, with increasing traffic congestion in the major metro regions and rising time-poverty, direct-to-customer selling and delivery of products and services utilising the about to be launched 3G and lower-cost broadband services will make more sense rather than investing in increasingly more expensive physical retail channels. "Ready to eat" or "ready to cook" food will find quicker acceptance in some of these clusters rather than on a pan-India basis. And there are many such differences and local opportunities (and challenges). It will be very interesting to see how Indian businesses adapt to this Balkanisation of the Indian marketplace.

 

arvind.singhal@technopak.com  

 

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

AN ELECTRIC BREAKTHROUGH

BARUN ROY

 

A transmission line between India and Bangladesh marks a meaningful first step towards cooperation in South Asia.

 

This is fast work, indeed, in the South Asian context, where the shadow of suspicion among neighbours is deep and long. Should we say it's also a good omen for the future? Last January, India offered Bangladesh financial help for a number of infrastructure projects, one of which concerned the supply of electricity to its power-starved eastern neighbour. Nine months later, Bangladesh is all set to build a 40-km transmission line on its territory to make this transfer possible. By 2012, hopefully, electricity will start flowing.

 

 It's surely a breakthrough, and, while both governments deserve to be applauded for playing the good neighbour, real credit must go to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It found willing parties and, true to its mission, stepped in quickly to bring the two together. In so doing, ADB performed a splendid catalytic role that could mean a lot for our difficult, knotty sub-region. It certainly raises hopes.

 

Early this month, ADB approved a $100 million soft loan to Bangladesh, under which a 400 KV transmission line will be laid from the Indian border to Bheramara, Kushtia, where a 600 Mw direct current substation will also be built. Bangladesh will chip in with the rest of the total project cost of $158.8 million. India will build, own, operate, and maintain, at its own cost, an 85 km line on its side of the border to connect with the sub-station in Baharampur, West Bengal. While 250 Mw is to be supplied from India's public sector generation, ADB will help procure 250 Mw more from private electricity traders. The Manila-based development bank will also help draw up the necessary interconnection agreements and build up Bangladesh's electricity trading capability.

 

Of course, the project is of great importance to Bangladesh, where more than half its 156 million people lack electricity and losses to the economy due to power cuts run into almost $1 billion a year. But of greater interest to us is the fact that it marks, at last, a meaningful first step towards regional cooperation in South Asia. ADB has described it as a "window of opportunity" and hopes this breakthrough would eventually make way for broader cooperation across South Asia, involving, for example, the tremendous hydropower potential of Nepal and Bhutan. The bank is a strong proponent of regional cooperation under its Strategy 2020 and has done a study on the scope for energy trade among the South Asian countries.

 

India's offer of a $1 billion credit line to Bangladesh, formally signed last August, provides a reasonable basis for such hope. Electricity grid interconnection is only one of 14 projects covered by that agreement for which the credit line would be used. Others involve roads, railways, bridges, and inland navigation that have important implications for Bangladesh's economic development. It is in India's interest to see that these projects succeed.

 

However, it may not be in India's interest to assume too high or direct a profile as it goes into the job. Not everyone in Bangladesh, or in the region, will appreciate India's motive or Sheikh Hasina's economic compulsions. It is, therefore, wise for India, as it certainly is for Bangladesh, to involve ADB as the catalyst even in bilateral projects. ADB has the authority, neutrality and trustworthiness to get things done even when neighbours aren't always in their best possible relations.

 

Giving projects a regional twist, by involving ADB, is a better way to reduce the scope for political opposition and get many more things done than would be possible in normal circumstances. For example, transit routes to India's northeast through Bangladesh, or to Nepal and Bhutan through India, would invite less criticism or suspicion if set against a regional context; and nobody can be a better catalyst for regional cooperation than ADB. Certainly not the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, on its own. It's just too politicised and fractious.

 

Equally, for ADB, making more bilateral matches would be the safest and surest way to fulfil its regional ambitions in South Asia. The formula of total approach that has worked wonderfully for it in the Mekong sub-region and is now gaining momentum in Central Asia, won't work in South Asia, since divisions among its nations are still far too many. While these divisions might not allow nations to agree on a broader, concrete, multinational framework upfront, they could be persuaded to work in twos or threes on smaller collaborative initiatives that would bring immediate neighbourly benefits.

 

Areas for such limited collaborations shouldn't be difficult to pick, and once they succeed and the results are there for everyone to see, doubts and suspicions will begin to melt, first in the immediate neighbourhood, then, gradually, across the region. Examples on the ground are always a better motivator than talks and promises, however loud and strong.

 

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

LEARNING CAN BE THE BEST VACCINE

THE MORE EDUCATED THE MOTHER, THE MORE LIKELY SHE IS TO VACCINATE HER CHILD AGAINST A RANGE OF DISEASES, A GOVERNMENT SURVEY SHOWS

INDICUS ANALYTICS

 

Universal child immunisation is one of the targets under the Millennium Development Goal programme to reduce child mortality; India is quite far from achieving this goal. The latest UNICEF Coverage Evaluation Survey 2009 estimates 61 per cent of the children in the age group 12 to 23 months were fully immunised, while according to government estimates under the District Level Household Survey-3 2007-08 (DLHS-3), 54 per cent had received the full immunisation schedule. Though the two survey estimates are not strictly comparable, it is apparent that with five years to the target, around 40 per cent of our children are missing out on some vital vaccines. The complete schedule of immunisation for children under two years includes BCG (tuberculosis), three doses each of polio and DPT (diphtheria, pertussis or whooping cough, tetanus) and measles. Often the first doses are given but the schedule for multiple dose vaccines is not followed through.

 

The disparity across states is, unfortunately, a ubiquitous feature of all Indian data. According to the DLHS-3 results, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura all had full immunisation coverage of less than 40 per cent, while the ratio is close to 80 per cent or more in Goa, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Punjab and Kerala. Barring the north-east, small states and union territories in general perform better with higher access to their population. States which cause the highest concern are Tripura, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur where more than 10 per cent of the children had absolutely no vaccination.(Click for graph)

 

 Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of children in India are vaccinated in government facilities, pointing to the relative success in the reach of the public programme. So, what is it that keeps children from being vaccinated? DLHS-3 data shows that 5.2 per cent of the children in rural areas did not receive a single dose vaccination at all, while this share was 2.9 per cent in urban India. The most commonly cited reason for not vaccinating at all is lack of awareness — around half of the mothers, in rural and urban areas said they were unaware of the need to immunise. In addition, mothers cited the fear of side-effects, lack of knowledge of the place or timing of immunisation, absence of medical personnel, distance to the immunisation centre etc. as reasons for not vaccinating their children. Clearly, in spite of the celebrity advertisements promoting vaccination, much more needs to be done to address these gaps in understanding, availability and access.

 

One important point brought out by the DLHS-3 survey is the link between the level of the mother's education and child immunisation — a little over a third of the children with illiterate mothers have received the full immunisation cover, while the percentage crosses 50 per cent when mothers have had less than five years of school.

 

Ultimately, of course, immunisation is just one part of an overall health programme to combat illness and mortality; the key to the health of the future generations lies in creating awareness, not only for vaccination but also for hygiene and sanitation.

 

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

 

For comments please contact sumita@indicus.net  

 

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


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

                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

J&K: MPS MAKE A GOOD BEGINNING

 

In the barely 24 hours they had at their disposal during their recent visit to the Kashmir Valley, the all-party delegation of MPs drawn from across the board acquitted themselves with credit. They gave evidence of listening carefully to voices on the ground, and tried to cover as much ground as was feasible. There can be only two procedural grounds for regret — that the political delegation from the Centre should have gone earlier, and that they should have stayed longer. For many, this might have been their first visit to the Valley. It is also likely that many would not have been acquainted with the complex history of the place and its embattled present, especially in the context of the Pakistan factor and the steady rise of jihadist sentiment which has gone on under the radar. A pre-departure briefing for the MPs by experts drawn from the government and elsewhere might also have served a useful purpose. It is a pity such a familiarisation session was not arranged. Such a meeting might have helped our senior politicians rise over the newness factor to some extent, and permitted them the chance to establish a degree of historical perspective for themselves. The language of protest in the Valley acquires tones that change from season to season — a good example being the common term azadi, which in Kashmir lends itself to a host of meanings and interpretations, depending on who you speak to and when. The emotion most common in a situation such as Kashmir is one of being overwhelmed, and this plays spoilsport with cool analysis. A comprehensive briefing may have helped our political leaders cope better with such a factor. Kashmir's main Opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti, chief of the PDP, may have a point when she says that curfew should have been lifted when the MPs were in Kashmir. The security concerns this might have raised would have been compensated by the greater opportunities for live interactions with local residents. Some MPs did well to knock on the doors of separatist leaders of different hues since the latter had turned down the invitation to meet the delegation officially. It will soon be time for them to read the tea leaves, and here they might do with some help. MPs as a group representing different shades of opinion have visited the Valley twice before, but this was the first opportunity when they had a chance to mingle with ordinary folk, although the brevity of time limited the scope for such interaction, away from the confines of a hotel or conference venue. More and frequent visits can only deepen the understanding of our political class of complex situations such as the one that prevails in Kashmir or in our northeastern states. In a large country, hot spots on the periphery tend to get overlooked otherwise as there are so many hot spots that are more proximate. It is indeed a pity that many in Jammu almost boycotted the all-party delegation, citing grounds that appear specious.

 

The team had gone as fact-finders and did not harbour any bias against Jammu, as has been implied. The displaced Kashmiri pandits, who should be restored to their homes in the Valley with dignity and in an environment of security, were clearly misled in not meeting the high-level visitors. They cannot have improved their case by doing so. It is to be hoped that their organisations adopt a more balanced stance in the future. Being astute, our political leaders will know they do not have a magic formula to settle long-festering problems. But the more they engage with pressing concerns, the more finetuned the understanding that they can bring to bear on policymaking.

 

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

AFSPA IS NOT WORTH IT

BY BYSRINATH RAGHAVAN

 

The crisis in Kashmir has yet again turned the spotlight on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The act has elicited much public criticism in the states where it has been invoked and employed. However, the Army has insisted that its provisions are essential for prosecuting effective counter-insurgency operations. The ongoing debate has largely been confined to a restatement of known positions. But the manner in which it is playing out tells us a thing or two about how professional advice and political judgment come together in shaping our security policies.

 

The act has two problematic provisions. Section 4(a) empowers military officers, down to non-commissioned officers, to "fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances". Section 6 holds that "no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central government..."

 

The public outcry against the AFSPA is fuelled by instances where the armed forces have misused the powers granted to them: custodial deaths and fake encounter killings, for instance. There are good reasons to believe that in the prevailing situation the act does provide the requisite latitude for such transgressions to occur. For one thing, Section 6 as it stands provides practical impunity to any officer who violates the requirements of the act. Even when the Central Bureau of Investigation has indicted Army officers for a fake encounter, the Central government has simply refused to sanction their prosecution. We need to ensure that officers who act in good faith do not have to constantly worry about being hauled up in courts. But this does not require the kind of cover provided under Section 6 of the act.

 

More worryingly, the Army itself has not done enough to ensure that its personnel have internalised the legal limits placed on their actions. Few serving officers will be able to tell you what exactly are the provisions of Section 4 of the AFSPA. The notion of immunity is well understood though. Indeed, legal (and ethical) issues are given little importance in the training of commissioned officers — never mind that of non-commissioned officers. The Army headquarters does issue "do and don'ts" to troops. But these are little more than laundry lists and hardly prepare the soldiers for the complex situations they encounter on the ground.       

 

None of this has prevented the military brass from stoutly and publicly defending the AFSPA. They have argued that amending or repealing the act would hamper the Army's operational effectiveness. This is a counterfactual claim advanced on the basis of nothing more than the assumption the military knows best. In fact, comparative evidence from other armies does not support the point that strong legal frameworks reduce operational effectiveness in dealing with insurgencies. Some analysts have claimed that the police (and other paramilitary forces) are ineffective precisely because they do not have the legal cover provided to the military by the AFSPA. This is a disingenuous argument. The police's operational weakness, as the Comptroller and Auditor General's performance audit reviews on modernisation show, lies in the lack of proper training, inadequate and outdates equipment. Furthermore, effectiveness in counter-insurgency operations should be measured not by the Army's ability to kill insurgents but by its ability to capture the will of the local populace. Seen from this angle, the AFSPA actually undermines our capacity to undertake counter-insurgency operations.

 

As problematic as the substance of their arguments is the form in which the military has advanced them. Both the Army and the Air Force Chief have voiced their opinion through the media. Of course, they have also said that it is for the government to take the call. But it is difficult to think of their public interventions as anything other than an attempt to indirectly pressure the political leadership. A former Army Chief has been quoted as saying that these are nothing more than exercises in educating public opinion. Such claims betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of democratic oversight of the military. The chain of accountability is clear: the military is responsible only to the political leadership, who in turn are answerable to the people. If in disregarding military advice, civilians jeopardise national security, it is for the people to take them to task by voting them out of office. The military is competent only to assess risks. It is the politicians who must judge them, and decide what risks are worth running. The military must also realise that the line between advising against a course of action and resisting civilian efforts to pursue it is rather thin.

 

But our political leadership is seldom willing to question professional military advice. Two government appointed commissions have recommended repealing the AFSPA. The Prime Minister himself has admitted the depth of resentment against the act. And yet the political leadership prefers to treat this as an operational matter. One thing, however, is clear from the current crisis: the AFSPA has become a political issue that calls for political judgment. It is time the political leadership stopped according excessive consideration to the military's views.

 

But the larger problem appears to be that the civilians are happy to go along with the military and skirt any politically difficult decisions. This bodes ill for New Delhi's ability to deal with the situation in Kashmir. Removal of the AFSPA can only be a starting point for engagement. Any serious effort will have to involve more contentious issues like strengthening Article 370, which ostensibly provides autonomy to Kashmir but has actually been used to erode its constitutional status. If the government does have the political will to take on such thorny questions, it might as well signal it by doing away with the AFSPA.     

 

-Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LOOK AT CHINA: CAN'T WE LEARN SOMETHING?

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

Tianjin, China

 

To visit China today as an American is to compare and to be compared. And from the very opening session of this year's World Economic Forum here in Tianjin, our Chinese hosts did not hesitate to do some comparing. China's CCTV aired a skit showing four children — one wearing the Chinese flag, another the American, another the Indian, and another the Brazilian — getting ready to run a race. Before they take off, the American child, "Anthony", boasts that he will win "because I always win", and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. "Now is our chance to overtake him for the first time!" shouts the Chinese child. "What's wrong with Anthony?" asks another. "He is overweight and flabby", says another child. "He ate too many hamburgers".

 

That is how they see America.

 

For the US visitor, the comparisons start from the moment one departs Beijing's South Station, a giant space-age building, and boards the bullet train to Tianjin. It takes just 25 minutes to make the 75-mile trip. In Tianjin, one arrives at another ultramodern train station — where, unlike New York City's Pennsylvania Station, all the escalators actually work. From there, you drive to the Tianjin Meijiang Convention Centre, a building so gigantic and well appointed that if it were in Washington, D.C., it would be a tourist site. Your hosts inform you: "It was built in nine months".

 

I know, I know. With enough cheap currency, labour and capital — and authoritarianism — you can build anything in nine months. Still, it gets your attention. Some of my Chinese friends chide me for overidealising China. I tell them: "Guilty as charged". But have no illusions. I am not praising China because I want to emulate their system. I am praising it because I am worried about my system. In deliberately spotlighting China's impressive growth engine, I am hoping to light a spark under America.

 

Studying China's ability to invest for the future doesn't make me feel we have the wrong system. It makes me feel that we are abusing our right system.

 

There is absolutely no reason our democracy should not be able to generate the kind of focus, legitimacy, unity and stick-to-it-iveness to do big things — democratically — that China does autocratically. We've done it before. But we're not doing it now because too many of our poll-driven, toxically partisan, cable-TV-addicted, money-corrupted political class are more interested in what keeps them in power than what would again make America powerful, more interested in defeating each other than saving the country.

 

"How can you compete with a country that is run like a company?" an Indian entrepreneur at the forum asked me of China. He then answered his own question: For democracy to be effective and deliver the policies and infrastructure our societies need requires the political centre to be focused, united and energised. That means electing candidates who will do what is right for the country not just for their ideological wing or whoever comes with the biggest bag of money. For democracies to address big problems — and that's all we have these days — requires a lot of people pulling in the same direction, and that is precisely what we're lacking.

 

"We are not ready to act on our strength", said my Indian friend, "so we're waiting for them (the Chinese) to fail on their weakness".

 

Will they? The Chinese system is autocratic, rife with corruption and at odds with a knowledge economy, which requires liberty. Yet China also has regular rotations of power at the top and a strong record of promoting on merit, so the average senior official is quite competent. Listening to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China tick off growth statistics in his speech here had the feel of a soulless corporate earnings report. Yet he has detailed plans for his people's betterment, from universities to high-speed rail, and he's delivering on them.

 

Orville Schell of the Asia Society, one of America's best China watchers, who was with me in Tianjin, put it perfectly: "Because we have recently begun to find ourselves so unable to get things done, we tend to look with a certain overidealistic yearning when it comes to China. We see what they have done and project onto them something we miss, fearfully miss, in ourselves" — that "can-do", "get-it-done", "everyone-pull-together", "whatever-it-takes" attitude that built our highways, dams and put a man on the moon.

 

"These were hallmarks of our childhood culture", said Schell. "But now we view our country turning into the opposite, even as we see China becoming animated by these same kinds of energies. I don't idealise China's system of government. I don't want to live in an authoritarian system. But I do feel compelled to look at China in an objective way and acknowledge the successes of this system". That doesn't mean advocating that America becomes like China. It means being alive to the challenge we are up against and even finding ways to cooperate with China. "The very retro notion that we are undisputedly still No 1", added Schell, "is extremely dangerous".

 

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

REFORM OR A RAW DEAL?

TAX LIABILITY WILL HARDLY REDUCE

SHUDDHASATTWA GHOSH

 

The Direct Tax Code (DTC) has been a roller coaster ride for individual taxpayers. The original version, presented in August 2009, had indicated very high slabs for taxation of individuals. Also, there were proposals to tax income which are currently not taxed. Examples are taxation of benefits like life insurance receipts and PF receipts at the time of withdrawal or at maturity; and taxation of gratuity, compensation on voluntary retirement. In effect, taxability was getting shifted to people's "sunset" days. In case of property owners (other than one property used for self-occupation), it was proposed that the higher of the contractual rent or a presumptive rate of six per cent of the ratable value would be considered as income. This again meant that the individual would have to pay a tax on an income which he may not earn at all.

 

The government invited comments on this draft code and took cognisance of the apprehensions expressed. A revised discussion paper was introduced in June 2010 rolling back most of the steep proposals and retaining the current method of exempting receipts from PF, gratuity etc. The proposed presumptive mode of taxation of income from house property was also withdrawn. However there was a subtle assertion that the tax thresholds in the original code were indicative, and would undergo calibration to accommodate reversals.

 

The final bill, presented to Parliament in August 2010, confers no new benefits on the individual taxpayer as compared to the existing legislation. Of course, certain steep proposals concerning individuals in the original code a year ago have been withdrawn. The proposed tax threshold limits now stand marginally above the present slabs. Thus, individuals earning `10,00,000 would pay about `25,000 less under the proposed DTC than what they pay now. However, under the original version of DTC, they would have paid about `71,000 less.

 

It should be noted that in certain cases the provisions of DTC are less beneficial than the current legislation. For example, tax benefits like leave travel assistance or higher threshold for resident women taxpayers are now not available. Also, dividend distribution tax is introduced on equity-oriented mutual funds. In effect, this would result in lower dividends in the hands of the individual investor. Also, dividends from non-equity mutual funds will now be taxed. In sum, compared to the present tax legislation the individual's tax liability will hardly reduce under the proposed DTC.

 

— Shuddhasattwa Ghosh, associate director, PricewaterhouseCoopers

 

SIMPLE TAX CODE IS GOOD NEWS FOR ALL

SHAILESH HARIBHAKTI

As a step towards simplifying, consolidating and bringing about structural changes in direct taxes, the finance minister tabled the new Direct Tax Code in Parliament on August 30 to be effective from April 1, 2012.

 

On the personal taxation front, the tax slabs have been encouragingly increased. The 30 per cent slab begins at a cheerful `1,000,001, as against the current `800,001. The basic threshold limit is proposed to be increased to `250,000 for resident senior citizens and to `200,000 for other individuals, including resident women. For instance, if an individual earns `10,00,000, he would pay basic tax of `130,000 under the provisions of the DTC Bill as against the considerably higher `154,000 under the present taxation regime. This would enable him/her to effectively fight inflation, and add something extra to his/her disposable income at the same time.

 

Although the new DTC has removed most of the exemptions for the corporate sector, it has retained certain exemptions for the salaried taxpayers, such as house rent allowance and leave encashment. There is also good news for those who fall ill. There is an exemption for medical reimbursement, and it has been increased to `50,000.

 

The new DTC also provides for an allowance to meet personal expenses. Employer contributions to approved provident and superannuation funds or any other approved fund will be deductible to the extent of prescribed limits as against the aggregate cap of `300,000 prescribed earlier.

 

Another very good thing for those with property is with regard to income earned from a house property rented out. It had been proposed in the earlier discussion paper that gross rent will be calculated on the basis of the higher of the two between contractual rent or presumptive rate of six per cent of rateable value/construction/acquisition cost. It is now to be calculated on the basis of the actual rent received or receivable. This ensures that one only bears the tax burden on the actual rent earned.

 

The DTC also provides for 100 per cent deduction in respect of capital gains on transfer of equity shares of a listed company or units of an equity-oriented fund which are held for more than one year where such transfers are chargeable to Securities Transaction Tax, and 50 per cent deduction if they are held for one year or less. This puts capital gains on transfer of securities at par with the taxability under the Income Tax Act, 1961. This will greatly boost share market and equity-oriented mutual funds.

 

— Shailesh Haribhakti, chartered accountant and chairman,BDO Consulting

 

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

IS SKY THE LIMIT?

BY SIDHARTH BHATIA

 

A recent newspaper report in Mumbai spoke about the sale of a duplex flat in the city for a staggering `70 crore. Details were sketchy, but the figure by itself was so breathtaking that anything else really was redundant. In real estate circles, off-the-record of course, they will tell you a bit more. First is that this is by no means the exact price — it could be less but it could be more too. Next — this is by no means the only transaction at that reported price. The building has eight more such duplexes so this could be just the beginning.

 

The most amazing factor of this putative sale is that the building is not yet ready. Indeed, it exists only on paper as a plan. The builders have announced they plan to construct the world's highest residential tower, right in the heart of Mumbai but we do not know yet if all the permissions have been given, the structural plans approved and when if at all construction will begin.

 

Still, just the thought of a flat, in our own Mumbai, for about $17 million — which can buy one some pretty decent living quarters in Manhattan, Tokyo, London and Hong Kong — is enough to make one wonder where real estate is heading. Not that there haven't been expensive deals in India in the past — a bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi is said to have sold for much more a few years ago. But that is a bungalow for one thing and it comes with a lot of land around it and some very fancy neighbours. An apartment, even with all the trimmings like a swimming pool (and a rumoured helicopter pad, though that is highly questionable) is still an apartment, the view of the Arabian Sea notwithstanding.

 

Just about five kilometres from where this building is supposed to come up one can see the new Ambani (Mukesh) skyscraper home coming up. This Xanadu, said to cost upwards of one billion dollars — all this gleaned from newspapers but not confirmed officially — will reportedly have a petting zoo, a theatre, a disco, a beauty parlour, a conference room, living quarters for several round the clock staff, parking space for scores of cars and much more. Photographs of the interiors have been doing the rounds on the Internet but are almost certainly faked, since no one is likely to give them out. But passers by can glimpse the structure taking space and it is clear that it is very big. With a family of five living there, the rest of the space is bound to be used for something.

 

Mumbai is in the grip of an edifice complex, with builders announcing grand plans for very tall structures. Each of the bigger companies has at least one 60-plus storey building in the pipeline and a few of the luxury projects, with 30-odd storeys (and seven to 10 floors of stilt parking) which were started four or five years ago, are already looking tired and jaded. Swimming pool in your terrace — that is so yesterday. Multi-level car parking — ho hum. Butler service — don't even bother selling. The luxury buyer's needs are being upgraded every minute and the builders are out to satisfy him.

 

But alas, this is Mumbai, which takes you to great heights but also has a habit of bringing you down to earth. Many an expensive building is suffering from a severe water shortage. It is disconcerting to pay `10 crore for a fancy penthouse and then put a plastic bucket in the bathroom to catch every drop of precious water. The municipal authorities have said there is no guarantee that buildings under construction will get all the water they need.

 

The bigger question is that of public infrastructure. Can the roads where the skyscrapers are coming up (and many are in the old mills area in central Mumbai) take the traffic that will inevitably follow? What about parking? There is talk of multi-storeyed car parks, but in the past these ideas have not worked, and besides who wants to waste precious land for parking. The metro and skytrains are touted as solutions, but already reports have emerged that the authorities want to build a shed for trains under the racecourse. How soon before they take over the racecourse for another building? There goes the last big green lung in the city.

 

Knowing Mumbai, it will bumble along. The buildings will be made (somehow permissions always come through), people will buy the super-expensive flats and as for the infrastructure, well, Mumbai will have to cope as it always has. For the common man the super luxury flats are out of reach and an object of envy, but perhaps he has some consolation in knowing that those who live there are stuck in the same traffic jam as his humble public bus.

 

- The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DIETING IS A MEDITATIVE ACT

BY AMRIT SADHANA

 

Is diet a four-letter word for you that leads to deprivation, suppression, and ultimately, failure? Maybe it always stays on your wishlist and seldom becomes a reality. Dieting cannot be successful unless it becomes your lifestyle. If you are on and off the diet do not expect any coveted results.

 

Let us analyse the problem from the other end. What is diet? The simple definition of diet is: eating with awareness. So before trying out various diet formulae, the first and the foremost would be growing your awareness.

 

Food is the most basic habit of the body, it is next to breathing. When the child is born and starts breathing, the first thing s/he gropes about is food. Food is one of the deep-rooted functions of the body, hence it is unconscious.

 

Watch people going in search of food in a big feast, their body language, their eyes, nostrils savouring the appetising aroma! They look almost mesmerised. Nobody looks conscious and alert. In this condition you can't expect them to be conscious of what they are eating.

 

Dieting is possible if the ritual of eating is converted into a meditative act. Ancient Indians gave a lot of importance to the ritual of eating. They said it is a sacrifice, a havan as the food was offered to the inner deity, the inner fire.

 

There is a beautiful meditation in tantra. The sutra goes like this: When eating or drinking, become the taste of the food or drink, and be filled.

 

Osho elaborates on the sutra lucidly: "Feel more... be sensuous. When you eat, first feel it with your hand... smell it. First let it be known by the body. Then taste it... close your eyes and let the taste spread all over. And don't be in a hurry; don't simply go on stuffing. Enjoy it... chew it well — because this food is going to become your body. Don't miss this opportunity. So receive it, welcome it, and you will have a totally different body within a few months. You become alive, as if you were a lion sleeping and now the lion is coming back... spreading its legs, stretching its body. You will find that same sensation of arising life".

 

It will be helpful if you meditate every day before you take food. Close your eyes and just feel what your body needs, get attuned to your body, your being. Let the body speak to you. Here are a couple of Osho meditations that may be useful in understanding your body.

 

Breathing and Eating: Be aware of the sensation when the breath is going out. Breath is the most vital thing. If you eat your meal with an emphasis on the outgoing breath, then no matter how good the food is it will not be good for your body. Even if you eat too much, there will be no nutrition if your emphasis is on the outgoing breath. So eat with the ingoing breath and let there be a gap when the breath is going out. Then, with a very small quantity of food, you can be more alive.

 

Humming Food and Beckoning Food: Make a distinction between the humming food and the beckoning food. Humming food is that which makes your body hum with health. If you can find your humming food, you can eat as much as you want and you will never suffer, because it will satisfy you. The problem arises only if you are eating food items that are beckoning foods. They cannot satisfy you. Feeling unsatisfied, you eat more, but whatever quantity of food you might intake, it is not going to satisfy because there is no need in the first place. The deeper you meditate while eating, the greater will be your gratification. Then overeating is impossible.

 

— Amrit Sadhana is in the managementteam of Osho International Meditation Resort,Pune. She facilitates meditation workshopsaround the country and abroad.

 

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


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

THE SATESMAN

EDIT

MONUMENTAL SHAME

THAT ELUDES THE SHAMELESS


MIRACLES over the next couple of days in rain-soaked Delhi are virtually all that can avert the nation facing disaster over the Commonwealth Games: the pull-out of a single team would ensure that. Disaster because disgrace has already been heaped upon the Capital, courtesy the corruption, wastage, incompetence of all the CWG organisers ~ not just the highly discredited organising committee. It was, however, difficult to determine what hurt more ~ the revelations of the filthy conditions in residential sections of the Village and the buckling of a pedestrian overbridge at the key Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, or the brazen, cynical refusal of those in authority to admit to what are really too serious to be written off as shortcomings or deficiencies. While Lalit Bhanot's treatise on differing standards of hygiene demeaned every Indian, all the contrived articulateness of S Jaipal Reddy failed to dispel the reality of a humungous mess having been made of what ought to have showcased India's emergence on a global stage. And Sheila Dikshit's confusion over the intended users of the collapsed bridge indicated that that all of them were now out of their depths. Depths that could not be attributed to the drenching over the last few weeks ~ had schedules been maintained all ought to have been up and running by now. No Reddy garu, the rain cannot wash away these sins. Maybe the bridge was a minor project, yet its collapse encapsulated widespread apprehensions of a quality-deficit in most Games-related construction, the result of delays and siphoning off funds.


It was in desperation that the head of the CWGF appealed to the Cabinet Secretary for intervention, but to be honest the highest political and administrative authority in the land cannot evade some responsibility for this fiasco. The warning lights flashed late in 2009, Mike Fennel had alerted the Prime Minister to impending problems, but only some bureaucratic tinkering resulted. Even her most severe critic would recall how Indira Gandhi launched the mission to salvage the 1982 Asian Games and contrast it with the feeble response from Dr Manmohan Singh ~ the man projected as having unshackled India from its Third World moorings. Alas, here is further proof that the Sensex is a poor indicator of national well-being. Routinely did the Delhi Government announce the blacklisting of the firm contracted to erect the overbridge. Sports lovers and patriots now have their own black-list: Manmohan Singh, Suresh Kalmadi, MS Gill, Randhir Singh, Lalit Bhanot, Jaipal Reddy, Sheila Dikshit… No doubt more names will be added in coming days!


CALCULATED NEGLIGENCE

THE TRAIN ACCIDENT IN MADHYA PRADESH

Monday's train accident in Madhya Pradesh, in which 23 people were killed, may not have been freakish, as the one in Bengal's Sainthia. The nature of the collision is the only similarity ~ a goods train ramming into a stationary express. Beyond that, the mishap is testament to the almost criminal negligence that now plagues railway operations. The station master of Badarwas has been arrested, and thereby hangs a tale.  The seizure of liquor bottles from his office has raised suspicions that he had downed a peg too many while on signal duty. There has been no comment yet at the level of the Railway Board, let alone the minister, on this flagrant violation of office discipline that has had mortal consequences. Of overriding interest was the need to gear up for the presidential grandstanding that marked Wednesday's foundation of the Joka-BBD Bag Metro track. The administration, that stumbles from one accident to another, stands denuded further still. The ministerial change of guard in 2009 promised an improvement; all that we see is nothing has changed.


The accident also raises the fundamental question whether train movement is foolproof to the extent possible. Prima facie, the goods train had entered the wrong track owing to a misleading signal. Instead of running on the "central line" without stopping, it had entered the loop line on which the Indore-Gwalior Intercity Express had stopped. To blame it on the rain is only to cover up human frailty, indeed the virtual collapse of discipline.  Which alone accounts for the liquor bottles in the station master's office. In the absence of automatic signalling, Badarwas makes do with a manual signal that the station master didn't bother to change. This is yet another accident involving trains on the same track.  Of course, the reason will be established "once the inquiry by the Railways is complete," to quote a senior Railway officer.  Nothing is more routine in this country than an official inquiry. The authorities must still be chewing over what went wrong at Sainthia. At Badarwas station ~ unlike in Sainthia ~ there are no cadres, Maoist or Marxist, to blame.


CONTRIVED ENTHUSIASM

CANNOT CONCEAL BENGAL'S INDUSTRIAL WOES

THE contradiction between the plush new headquarters of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and the absence of industrial activity on the ground is so obvious that both the chief minister and his industries minister can only seek cover in figures to project the government's achievements. For the past six months or more, the corridors of Writers' Buildings have echoed with claims that investment "proposals'' of more than Rs 7,000 crore were lying on the table for units ranging from steel and petrochemicals to food processing and of course IT. Why these are taking so long to be processed is a question they do not address on the "happy'' occasion of inaugurating a building that produces a picture that doesn't match the story. Now there are more revelations to the effect that landowners are so excited about the prospect of industrial revival that they have forgotten all about Singur and are flocking to the government with offers to part with their holdings ~ so much so that 6,500 acres are already in the kitty. Where all this land is located has been kept a closely guarded secret when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee finds Trinamul so indisciplined, directionless and irresponsible that it may again indulge in disruptions. Whether this will successfully target voters remains in the realm of speculation and recent indicators haven't been inspiring for the Left. That is why he must put his best foot forward not only to kill false interpretations of a casual reference he had made the previous day to the uncertainties ahead but to emphasise with renewed belligerence that the Left is here to stay.


If the chief minister was spared the task of justifying his optimism, he added to doubts on the prospects of industrialisation with the disclosure that he had deputed his irrepressible Hooghly comrade, Anil Basu, and Citu boss, Shyamal Chakraborty, to explore ways of winning back the confidence of farmers in Singur ~ both having distinguished themselves as architects of tension. A parallel demonstration planned outside the Tata headquarters would suggest the government's hands are tied as long as the agreement exists. That would revive the question on why the state, which didn't have physical possession of the land, chose to negotiate with the Railways on the prospects of a coach factory. There are so many mysteries on the industrial front that remain unsolved that contrived enthusiasm could prove counter-productive. At least until figures are converted into firm action, the chief minister would simply be seen to be making political statements.

 

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


THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

ARMY & SPECIAL POWERS

AFSPA SIGNIFIES THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

SUSHIL KUMAR


THE discussion on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has unfortunately degenerated into a political controversy and slipped out of context. In the process we have failed to realise that AFSPA has a vital operational relevance for which professional military advice ought to be heeded.


The political and historical reasons why the Indian Army was needed to control the crises in the North-east, way back in 1958, or in J&K in 1990, is not relevant to the rationale for enacting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. What is relevant is that AFSPA serves an operational purpose when the armed forces are diverted from their primary role of  external defence for internal security duties.


Internal security lies in the domain of the civil police and is legally outside the jurisdiction of the armed forces. While the civil police are suitably empowered for internal security operations, the armed forces are not, and hence AFSPA has been instituted to enable the armed forces to operate in these special circumstances .


Whether or not an internal security situation requires military intervention is solely the decision of the Government but when the armed forces are ordered to do so, AFSPA provides the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for conducting such operations. For the armed forces, ROE is always integral to their concept of operations and this is the primary reason why AFSPA is relevant .                                                                     

      
Viewed in perspective, AFSPA is essentially the Rules of Engagement prescribed by the Government when it orders the deployment of military units to control an internal security situation that has gone out of hand. Since the purpose of such a military deployment is to raise the operational threshold and enforce stronger security measures, it has obvious risks. It is through AFSPA that the Government underwrites the responsibility for such risks by providing legal immunity to the military units at the scene of action. The ROE thus spelt out in AFSPA empower the military to conduct the assigned mission in the best interest of national security.


The importance of ROE cannot be overstated. The bitter lesson of Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka, in the late eighties, bears testimony to the folly of ignoring such a vital operational imperative. The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) floundered when it was faced with a counter-insurgency situation against the LTTE for which the Rules of Engagement had not been defined. The story repeated itself a decade later when Operation Parakaram was hastily launched after the attack on Parliament in December 2001. It was a military deployment with a confused mission and without any ROE and turned out to be a punishing mistake. So let us face the ground reality, that Rules of Engagement would always need to be spelt out if the armed forces are deployed for internal security. Whether or not the army is required is a separate issue.


It will be interesting to note that the equivalent of AFSPA  even exists at sea on a global scale under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Rules of Engagement under UNCLOS enable international navies to enforce maritime security worldwide and curb unlawful activity such as militancy and piracy. It is a complex task since freedom of the seas and the mariners' Right of Innocent Passage remain sacrosanct. But the ROE laid down by UNCLOS has shown that where there is a will there is a way. And this was aptly proved during Operation Allondra Rainbow which was successfully conducted by the Indian Navy in the mid-Arabian Sea. Perhaps the heated AFSPA debate on land could look seawards for inspiration.
Some who know not better have raised the bogey of AFSPA as a draconian measure and cast aspersions on the role of the armed forces in internal security but thankfully our national security apparatus is made of sterner stuff and unlikely to be misled. Having said that, it is necessary to place on record that the Armed Forces have always opposed the idea of getting mixed up in internal security, which is clearly the domain of other security agencies. 


Is it not paradoxical that the need for AFSPA in internal security is being questioned after half a century, yet no one ever asks ~ why in the first place is the Army there? Resolving this controversy will surely test our national character.


The writer is a former Navy Chief and Chairman COSC

 

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

 


THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTVE

VOICES OF SANITY AND REASON SHOULD PREVAIL

 

There's a mysterious lull before the declaration of the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid verdict from the Allahabad High Court. However, the voices of sanity and reason implore that it would be best for Indian Muslims gracefully to offer the disputed patch of land in Ayodhya to their Hindu brethren for Ram Mandir rather than allowing the issue to be misused by politically ambitious elements in both communities.


For almost 1,000 million Hindus the world over, Muslims must understand, Ram Mandir is their Mecca and hence the offer must be gracefully made by Muslims themselves. Hindus must also volunteer to build the Babri Masjid in the same 67-acre area, relinquishing their claim over any other mosque in Mathura, Banaras or elsewhere. 


This must be followed by a joint effort. Hindus and Muslims should build both a Ram Mandir and a Masjid through a joint kar seva. The supervising body ought not to be any political organisation but an inter-faith ecumenical committee, consisting of people from all walks of life. Let it be called the Ram-Babri Ecumenical Complex for research on ways for leading a life based mutual co-existence. 


The presence of Ram is entrenched deeply in the minds of a vast majority of people of all faiths around the world and especially in the minds of the Muslims of Indonesia where Ramlilas are performed and witnessed with more enthusiasm than even in India. The walled city of Delhi is alive with Muslim kids lined up to witness Ramlila. Ram is Maryada Purushottam to all, irrespective of caste, creed or faith. 


There is little doubt that the Hindu response to the ills of Indian Muslims, if articulated properly, will be positive. It will not only help in the removal of many prejudices but also create the proper environment for a meaningful and lasting understanding with Hindus acting as their elder brothers. More than foes in the name of Hindus and Muslims, India needs friends! In all this, the liberal Muslim intellectual's role is of paramount importance. He must intervene to thwart the stratagems of politicians and give his community a chance for change. 


Let's take a leaf from Iqbal who once wrote: Hai Ram ke wajood par Hindostan ko naaz, Ahl-e-nazar samajhtey hein us ko Imam-e-Hind! It means, Ram is not just Maryada Purushottam but the Imam (spiritual representative) of India.


In 2003, the Prayag Peeth Shankaracharya Swami Madhawananda Saraswati had agreed to the building of a temple and a mosque within the area in question in Ayodhya. Had this suggestion been heeded, the country would have been spared further strife in the name of religion and the long drawn court case. 
Of course, political parties which have made the Ram Mandir a major issue may never want the problem to be resolved, so that they can continue to cash in on it for political gains. Politicians are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. Because once a problem is solved, they could find themselves without a platform. The so-called Muslim leadership has been responsible for allowing the Babri Masjid to snowball into a national issue and become a symbol of the community's status in India. After the mosque's demolition in 1992, Muslims suffered collective humiliation. This was in no small measure due to the failure of their representatives.
Most of the Muslim leaders are interlocutors or brokers who play the politics of vote-banks to acquire state patronage for themselves and their coterie. They are leading the backward in the community. They are characterised by petty-mindedness and a narrow outlook that is out of tune with reality.


Muslims in India suffer due to poor education, religious orthodoxy and economic backwardness, but their worst affliction may well be the opportunistic leaders who cry themselves hoarse about minority rights and reservations without trying to address the community's real problems. Few of them travel extensively, and only rarely do they meet anybody outside a small section of Muslim society. How many imams, intellectuals or Muslim politicians have commented on the terrible state of the community's educational facilities?
These fundamentalists are responsible for the negative image of Islam that is gaining ground. The same leadership which exploited the Muslim community ~ with the connivance of the state ~ at the time of the Babri Masjid demolition has now re-emerged for selfish gains at the expense of Muslims who already face enough social and economic problems.


Today, the Muslim community in India needs a new leadership, which is imbued with vision, courage and perspective. It needs leaders in the mould of Maulana Azad, APJ Abdul Kalam, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Dr Zakir Hussain and Saifuddin Kitchlew, to name a few. These men believed that minorities have as much responsibility in a secular democracy as the majority. Their vision led to Muslims being called not a minority, but India's second majority. Such a leadership may yet arise from the educated lower middle class ~ a group until now suppressed by the nation's elite and the traditional Muslim clergy. 


Some time ago, the Sikh community in Punjab offered to return an occupied mosque to Muslims. Recently, in Malerkotla, Punjab, local Muslims restored a church in the aftermath of the insidious Quran burning call. Such acts create a feeling of fraternity amongst communities. Surely, Muslims too are capable of such a magnanimous gesture? Goodwill is invariably reciprocated. If Muslims relinquish the disputed land to pave the way for a temple, surely their Hindu brethren will have no objection to the construction of a nearby mosque as has been confided to me by an RSS follower and friend, Vijay Goel. 


Let us not forget that ours is a composite heritage. Can we ignore Amjad Ali Khan's sarod, Bismillah Khan's shehnai, the Dagar brothers' dhrupad or Begum Akhtar's thumris? Should we forget the Sufi teachings that enriched our lives, the preaching of Swami Vivekananda, Kabir, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Amir Khusro, Moinuddin Chishti, Nand Rishi Nooruddin Wali, Dehat Bibi, Lallan Faqir, Guru Nanak, Baba Farid? 
Should we ban the bhajans sung by Mohammed Rafi? Should we pretend that Ghalib, Mir, Momin, Zauq, Firaq, Majrooh, Kaifi, Jafri and Sahir never existed or that they belonged allegedly to the "language of partition" ~Urdu? What will remain of us? A body without a soul. We are privileged to have such a rich, varied cultural heritage. If it is to be safeguarded, then we need both a mandir and a masjid at Ayodhya.
Indian Muslims should desist from agitating on non-issues and concentrate on two major problems ~ educational backwardness and economic deprivation. If the ills that afflict Indian Muslims are properly articulated, there is little doubt that the Hindu response will be positive. This would not only help remove prejudice and tension between the two communities but also create the environment for a meaningful and lasting understanding.


The writer is a commentator on cultural, political and social issues and a grandnephew of Maulana Azad

 

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


THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTVE

THE ROAD AHEAD IN KASHMIR

 

During the last six months there has been a perceptible change in the minds of the Indian public regarding the political problem that the Kashmiri Muslims are facing in J &K. Many old illusions of the Indian mind have started crumbling. Even the hardline nationalists on the Indian political scene have started realising that a political dialogue is necessary with the Kashmiri Muslims and that Kashmiris are not natural-born Indians like Biharis or Punjabis.


To keep Kashmir within the boundaries of India many revolutionary steps have to be taken if the government really wants to establish peace in the Kashmir Valley and retain it as a part of the Indian Union. It is also increasingly clear now that the problem lies only in the Kashmir Valley and not in the Jammu & Ladakh provinces. People like Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed will not have any major role to play in solving this problem and the government of India has to directly engage in dialogue with the secessionist elements.


In such a dialogue, the government may be assisted by NC and PDP leaders but the primary responsibility will be that of government of India. In such a dialogue, the government will have to persuade or coax Kashmiris to remain as special category fringe Indians with India agreeing to give the Kashmir Valley semi-independent status ~ Delhi retaining only Defence and External affairs in its jurisdiction. In other words, only the Indian Army will remain on the borders and the passport office will remain where it is. Kashmiris will have to have Indian passports. Apart from these restrictions, the Prime Minister of Kashmir should be free to take all other decisions himself. Kashmir could have its own currency and own airways and own railways and a separate Railway ministry.


The government of Kashmir will have to allow the Indian tourists to enter Kashmir through checkposts of the Kashmir government at Bannihal, Zojila and Buffliaz on showing their Indian passports and foreign travellers could be allowed in if they have a visa granted by the government of India. Kashmiris will have no problem in entering India through Jammu and Ladakh since they will carry Indian passports.The Kashmir government could allow Pakistani tourists and business men to enter Kashmir through a checkpost at Uri and for that the Kashmir government could issue them short-term permits. With these permits, however, they will not be able to cross the checkposts at Bannihal, Zojila and Buffliaz nor they will have any access to the Indian states of Jammu and Ladakh.


Needless to say, no government of India worth its salt will ever agree to dilute Indian sovereignty over Jammu and Ladakh. If Kashmiri Muslims really intend to move towards azadi and accept semi-independent status for the time being they will certainly have to say goodbye to Jammu and Ladakh. In such a scenario, the Prime Minister of Kashmir will have to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and act like a good munzimyor (matchmaker). Kashmir will also eventually have to say goodbye to non-Kashmiri IAS and IPS officers and the government will have to accommodate them in Ladakh and Jammu cadres or in the Union Territories.
Kashmiri IAS and IPS officers should have the option to join either KAS or KPS or work anywhere else in India. While hammering out a settlement, the government of India will have to extract an assurance from the PM of Kashmir that Kashmiri pundits and Sikhs having state subject certificates issued from districts of Kashmir Valley will be welcome to go back to their old homes and enjoy a four per cent and two per cent reservation in government jobs.


We have wasted a lot of time in terrorism, pelting stones with CRPF and BSF firing bullets and killing innocent people. Now it is time that leaders of Kashmiris should sit down with the highest Indian authorities to hammer out a solution. If a solution is reached, Pakistan could also be invited to join the dialogue so that their aspirations are also met as far as possible. 


The writer is a retired member of the Indian Administrative Service

 

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


THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTVE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

News Items


Our Bombay correspondent says : A recent notification of the Bombay Government that the manner in which the Ganpaty festival is to be celebrated this year will be taken note of has resulted in a total collapse of the celebrations which were added to the ordinary religious observances during the last few years. Last year the Government had to prosecute the authors of several Ganpaty songs for defaming the Hon Mr Gokhale and for stirring up disaffection against the authorities. This year the District Magistrate has issued instructions to the DSP to require all those persons organising melas or singing parties to register the names and professions of all who make up these melas before the necessary passes for street singing are granted. As the melawallas apparently are averse to being under police surveillance no parties have been so registered and no passes have been issued. 


A correspondent writes that at about 7.30 AM on Thursday last the first train from Bargatchia collided violently with the first train from Sheakhala at the crossing near Kadamtalla station on the HA and HSL Railway. The result was that about six carriages were upset and several passengers injured. It is rumoured that one man is in a precarious state.

 

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

 


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

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

DANGER SIGNAL

 

Any system, if abused long enough, will ultimately begin to emit danger signals. Nothing illustrates this better than the embarrassments erupting around the preparations for the Commonwealth Games, heightened recently by the almost symbolic collapse of the hanging footbridge. The claim of Prashant Bhushan, a senior advocate and the son of Shanti Bhushan, the former Union law minister, that half the chief justices in the recent past have been corrupt, is another such danger signal. Only it resonates beyond the fear of international criticism for the upcoming Games; it reflects on the very foundations of democracy. It may be rather dramatic that the former law minister has ranged himself on his son's side, wishing to share the rigours of the contempt case against him. But the aura of slightly filmic drama has not lightened matters. Mr Prashant Bhushan has invoked truth as his defence against the contempt charge, and has submitted an affidavit together with "evidence" as support. This reportedly mentions impeachment proceedings against two judges that tripped on the want of an adequate number of signatures. And his father has submitted names.

 

Whatever the merits of the charges, they have certainly plunged the judicial institution into an unprecedented situation. Yet it could have been avoided. Transparency in judicial appointments, promotions and transfers has been urged for years. The delay in this reform may perhaps be put down to insufficient judicial will, especially since the higher judiciary tends to protect itself from scrutiny, claiming the privilege of its position. It is precisely this position — of neutrality above politics and vested interests — that should impel openness in order to remove doubt among lesser mortals. Caesar's wife has a strenuous existence. That no one is above the law must be demonstrated by the judges themselves: the recent voluntary declaration of assets is a good example. The executive, too, repeatedly passes on the more onerous of its own tasks, such as resolving the Babri Masjid controversy, to the courts, thus drawing the judiciary into the hurly-burly of political interests. Transparency at all levels and firmness on the judiciary's part regarding which cases are acceptable would lessen the scope of corruption charges. The importance of this change in approach cannot be overestimated.

 

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

 


THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

ZERO SUM

 

Democracy has always been the unique selling point of the Hamid Karzai government. Its proven ability to hold elections — four times in six years — may now be its only redeeming feature, given that it has failed the country and its international backers in every other way. Yet, the recent parliamentary elections in Afghanistan may not do much to improve the prospects of the country or its political head. Like the presidential elections last year, the elections to the Wolesi Jirga or parliament are mired in serious allegations of fraud. There are more than 4,000 applications before the electoral complaints commission alleging bribery, threat, bogus-voting and other kinds of fraud. Apart from delaying the results for months, the allegations harm the credibility of the Karzai government and do disservice to the aspirations of those who braved violence to cast their votes. There has been a significant fall in the number of voters in the parliamentary elections, which, unlike the presidential elections, were devoid of the momentum for change. The lack of interest among the voters is alarming, and if the Wolesi Jirga turns out to be as ineffectual as expected, there might be nothing to stop the people from turning their backs on a political system that is Afghanistan's only hope against chaos.

 

Mr Karzai has to remember that it is a functioning democracy, and not just a mammoth army and police force, that is his country's safeguard against being swamped by the Taliban or being occupied perpetually by international forces. Yet, his government, which has taken major strides in building the strength of the army and the police (who conducted the elections), has made no attempt to rid the administration of corruption or decentralize governance. As with the presidential elections, former warlords, ethnic leaders and a motley group of self-interested parties tried to grab their piece of the political cake during the parliamentary elections. Mr Karzai has had little control over the international game being played over Afghanistan. In spite of his objections, he has had to accommodate Pakistan's strategic interests in the region and the changed priorities of the United States of America. Presently, the president is trying his best to reach out to Iran and to India to uphold his country's, and his own, interests. A strong democracy at home would be better guarantee for Mr Karzai and for Afghanistan's sovereignty.

 

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


THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

FACTS ON THE GROUND

THE RAM MANDIR CAMPAIGN THREATENS THE REPUBLICAN PRINCIPLE

MUKUL KESAVAN

 

On the eve of the Allahabad High Court's judgment on the Ayodhya title suit and 60 years after the Constitution was framed, it's worth reviewing the republican principle threatened by the sangh parivar's Ram Mandir campaign.

 

Discussions about the constitutional nature of secularism and pluralism in India tend towards an interpretation of Articles 25 to 30 of the Indian Constitution. The first four articles in this sequence spell out the right to freedom of religion and the last two specify cultural and educational rights. Articles 29 and 30 are generally cited as evidence that the founding fathers intended to foster and protect pluralism, especially religious pluralism, in the new republic. If there is a warrant for pluralism in the Indian Constitution, it is Article 29. Explicitly titled, "Protection of the interests of Minorities", its first part says: "Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same."

 

When read together with Article 30, which gives all minorities "the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice" and then specifies that the State shall not discriminate against minority-managed institutions in the matter of funding or aid, Article 29 indicates that the State will not just deal equally with people in the matter of faith, but it also will exert itself to sustain the cultural distinctness of minority communities because it implicitly recognizes that in the majoritarian context of democracy, minority rights and minority cultures might be liable to erosion. This isn't a reading of the Constitution that commands universal assent. There are students of the Constitution as well as partisans who argue that the Constitution doesn't actually mandate secularism or pluralism at all, that it is silent on these matters.

 

It's often pointed out that till 1976, when the Constitution was amended in a disreputable context (the Emergency), the word 'secular' barely occurred in the Indian Constitution, far less 'secularism'. And this is true. Till Indira Gandhi amended the Constitution and its preamble to insert 'secular' and 'socialist', the word 'secular' occurred once in the Constitution and even there it wasn't used to describe the nature of the State that the Constitution had written into existence. And the word 'plural' or 'pluralist' didn't occur at all.

 

Ian Copland has an interesting essay on the absence of the word 'secular' or 'secularism' in the original text of the Constitution. He argues that both B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru sanctioned this absence deliberately: "this omission was quite deliberate and reflected an awareness on the part of the designers of the Constitution, notably Nehru and Ambedkar, that its provisions under 'freedom of religion' did not amount to what they understood to be 'real' secularism, namely the kind of polity famously embodied in the 1791 First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

 

The First Amendment to the constitution of the United States of America is the first of 10 amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. It says, famously, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". Copland's point is that the Indian Constitution explicitly empowered and instructed the State to interfere in the free exercise of religion for ameliorative reasons. Article 25, 2(b) made it clear that freedom of religion did not prevent the State from "providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus."

 

So State interference with religion was allowed for, even mandated, by the Constitution. In his excellent book, The Wheel of Law, the constitutional scholar, Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn, calls this interventionist secularism "ameliorative". By ameliorative, Jacobsohn means a type of secular State that recognizes the need to reform religiously inspired oppression and hierarchy as well as the need to maintain inter-community harmony, a dual task that calls for intelligent caution in the search for abstract justice.

 

Copland might well be right in arguing that Nehru and Ambedkar didn't consider the Indian Constitution secular if the First Amendment was their point of reference. We can either argue that the dominant Indian construction of secularism is just different from its Western meaning or we can agree to drop secularism as a description and use some other word for the Constitution's design for the relationship between the republican State and religious communities.

 

I propose pluralism because it avoids the confusions of a secularism with multiple meanings and also because it is a better, historically truer, characterization of the animating principle of the anti-colonial nationalism that was eventually enshrined in these articles of the Constitution. So while First Amendment fundamentalists might disagree with the full bench of the Supreme Court when, in 1973, it ruled that 'secularism' was a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, for Indians who recognize the beast, this is a problem of naming, not an absence of intent.

 

This reading of the Constitution's commitment to pluralism is contested by both liberals and majoritarian political organizations such as the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Shiv Sena, and the sangh parivar who prefer to emphasize the assimilative clauses in the Constitution such as the Directive Principles, which instruct the Indian State to move towards a uniform civil code. In this view, secularism means subordinating religious injunctions to republican laws whenever they come into conflict. The effort of Hindu majoritarians has been two-pronged: first to generalize the customs and prejudices of the Hindu majority into a national culture and then to frame republican law in terms of that national culture. Minorities would then have to live by those laws because they wouldn't be seen as majoritarian religious encroachments on their freedom of belief, but secular laws derived from a national culture.

 

The impending judgment of the Allahabad High Court on the title suits regarding the site of the Babri Masjid reminds us that even majoritarian vandalism — namely, the razing of the Babri Masjid and the demand for a Ramjanmabhoomi temple built where the mosque once stood — is justified by the argument that Ram is as much a national icon as a Hindu deity, and therefore it is appropriate for the Muslim parties to the dispute to cede their claim because they ought to defer to a nationalist imperative, the building of the mandir.

 

As Jacobsohn argues in The Wheel of Law, the ideologues of Hindutva want to reconstrue the secularism of the Indian Constitution in an Israeli frame of reference. Israel claims to be both a secular State and a Jewish one, a country where freedom of religion is a basic right and yet Judaism is the favoured and constitutive religion. The opinion of an Israeli judge, Justice Elon, states the majoritarian position categorically: "The principle that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people is Israel's foundation and mission, and the principle of the equality of rights and obligations of all citizens of the State of Israel add to the former, not to modify it; (there is nothing in) the principle of the equality of civil rights and obligations to modify the principle that the State of Israel is the State of the Jewish people, and only the Jewish people." The premise of this curious brand of secularism is that religious liberty is protected, but the State can still privilege the standing of true believers in the constitutive faith. Thus the Arab minority is offered equal citizenship rights in certain spheres but full membership of the political or national community is out of question.

 

However, unlike the Israeli constitution that begins by proclaiming Israel as "the birthplace of the Jewish people" and asserts "the right of the Jewish people to national revival in their own country", the Indian Constitution asserts no such thing. And it is unlikely that parties of the Hindu Right are, in the foreseeable future, likely to have the numbers to change the Constitution to achieve that end.

 

So the only way of achieving Israeli-style pre-eminence for a religious majority in India lies either through violent mobilization, which might change the facts on the ground and achieve such irresistible momentum that the supremacy envisaged by Hindutvavadiorganizations is established de facto (and this is the case in Gujarat, where the pogrom has consolidated an electoral Hindu majority and segregated a subordinate Muslim minority), or through judgments that strengthen the assimilative aspect of Indian secularism and create precedents for a 'creatively' majoritarian jurisprudence. This is why the imminent high-court verdict isn't just another judgment about a land dispute; it's an episode in an argument about the constitutional ground on which our republic is built.

 

mukulkesavan@hotmail.com

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


THE TELEGRAPH

COLUMN

CHINA'S ASCENT

DIPANKAR BOSE

 

For the first time, China's economy surpassed Japan's in the second quarter of this year. China's real achievement lies in the way it has created a vast reservoir of trained manpower with a certain standard of public health and food production to support it. China has also built an adequate infrastructure. These have made it a formidable exporter, which has made developed nations fearful of China, since they run huge trade deficits vis-à-vis China, with the United States of America topping the list by far. They have been clamouring for a stronger yuan, which they claim to be artificially low. China has a colossal foreign exchange reserve of $2.45 trillion with legal restrictions on movement of funds into and out of the country, and buys $1 billion worth of foreign currency a day to keep the yuan from rising. So, can China let the yuan rise significantly and, if so, will this reduce US trade deficit sizeably?

 

The Chinese economy grew by 9 per cent on an average between 1978 and 1993, and the poverty ratio fell sharply from 52.8 per cent in 1981 to 20 per cent in 1993. This had happened before the big thrust towards exports was given by devaluing the currency by 35 per cent in early 1994. Consequently, the ratio of net exports to gross domestic product became 2 per cent by 1995 from -2 per cent in 1993 . Later, it rose sharply from 2004 to reach 9 per cent in 2007 and dropped in 2008 due to the crisis. Thus, it was internal factors — reforms in agriculture, rural industrialization and egalitarian distribution of land-cultivation right, apart from developed infrastructure — that resulted in growth, exports and poverty reduction. The benefits of globalization followed after 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization. Predictably, the social composition of the Communist Party underwent a radical change during this period. Today, workers and peasants constitute less than 30 per cent of the party's membership as against 66 per cent in 1978, the year China adopted the path of state capitalism.

 

Reverse swing

 

The huge reserve of $2.45 trillion is inflationary because a corresponding amount gets released in the domestic economy. It earns a low return since nearly 70 per cent of China's reserves are in dollar-denominated, low-interest assets. Yet, China has allowed the yuan to rise just by 0.5 per cent last June in spite of strong international pressure. Exporters have amassed immense wealth and political power to block a significant rise in the yuan. This would displace workers who cannot be absorbed easily elsewhere, considering that China needs to employ more than 10 million young people every year.

 

US-China trade data shows that China's imports and exports were at the same level in 1985. Only once did China's exports fall from $337.8 billion in 2008 to $296.4 billion in 2009. In 2001, it rose by 2.3 per cent. In other years, it rose sharply between 10 to 35 per cent primarily because the average US real wage rose 3 times over these 25 years. China took full advantage of this unprecedented prosperity by devaluing the yuan by 80 per cent in stages between 1990 and 1994. But the US failed to increase exports in the expanding Chinese market commensurately. Between 2005 and 2008, the yuan rose by 21 per cent, yet China's exports grew from $196.7 billion in 2004 to $337.8 billion in 2008. China managed to cut costs despite the global price rise and stayed competitive even with a higher yuan.The US recovery of 2009 is now fading away and US consumers are spending less. So a significant rise in the yuan can make a sizeable dent in US trade deficit by making Chinese goods dearer in the US and US goods cheaper in China. But it would raise US inflation, given the range of Chinese imports, and it might increase the sale of Southeast Asian goods and European machinery rather than of US goods.

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


THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

NOT EXEMPT FROM CONTROVERSY

 

The government must ensure that importers do not exploit the Commonwealth Games duty waiver to reap unjust profit, writes Abhijit Bhattacharyya

 

As a tax-paying Indian citizen, I was concerned by a report in the media which stated that the finance ministry has extended "duty waiver to all CWG (Commonwealth Games) importers". The government, according to Section 25 of the Customs Act 1962, has the "power to grant exemption from duty". Yet, given the murky situation in which the CWG finds itself at present, doubts remain about the real motive behind this decision.

 

In fact, Section 25(1) of the Customs Act stipulates that if the Central government were to be satisfied that it is necessary to grant exemptions "in the public interest", it may do so by notification in the official gazette. The exemptions may be either absolute or subject to such conditions (to be fulfilled before or after clearance) as may be specified in the notification. Exemptions can be of two types: long-term — for ongoing things like military/defence/health sector and so on. On the other hand, short-term exemptions are given "by special order in each case exempt from the payment of duty, under circumstances of an exceptional nature". However, the question is that with just a few days to go before the Games, why did the government decide to issue the notification recently? What kind of things need to be imported now? By whom and which type of importers? One sincerely hopes that the ministry of finance will not have to conduct a post-mortem to sort out the mess created by overzealous sports administrators. Significantly, the ministry has been criticized for changing its earlier stand in which it had decided to deny exemptions to importers.

 

Reportedly, the ministry of finance (department of revenue) decided to re-examine its decision after the ministry of youth affairs and sports made a strong pitch to extend such a benefit to the vendors. Why didn't the ministry of youth affairs and sports press for such a demand earlier? Who are these 'vendors'? What are their names? What are they importing, or have imported? What are the description, quantity and the total value of their imports? What is the country of origin of the imported goods?Were these imports necessary?

 

The media report quotes a finance ministry official, and states that the "Sports Ministry has asked for Customs duty exemption to suppliers, contractors and vendors importing goods for the Games. They said both the Organising Committee and these vendors were importing for the same purpose and, thus, should get similar exemption. The Revenue Department is positively considering their demand". It is a hilarious situation. Multiple importers already exist, importing goods "for the same purpose". Why did the government succumb to the pressure tactic adopted by importers and sports officials?

 

Some critical questions remain unanswered.What is to be exempted and why? Who is to certify that the imported goods deserve to be exempted? Who will get the goods cleared from the various customs stations? The time-tested procedure that was followed during the Asian Games in 1982 could have been adopted. On that occasion, the ministry of finance had issued a notification well in advance which declared that "goods imported for the actual use and conduct of the games" under Section 25 of the Customs Act would be exempt. In other words, this was an event-specific exemption notification to forego revenue that belonged to the State.

 

Revenue, being public money, requires careful handling. Hence, a certification of the 'end use' of the duty-free goods is the most important and critical aspect of the procedure. In 1982, a designated under-secretary, who was on deputation from the customs department to the special organizing committee secretariat, was the sole authority to certify all imports pertaining to the Games. The main scoreboard of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, tracksuits, jerseys, sports equipment, timing devices and the Astro Turf — everything was certified by the said under-secretary.

 

Unlike the CWG, the Asian Games were not held in one city. The event was spread across three venues; Delhi, Jaipur/Ramgarh lake (for rowing) and Mumbai (for yachting/sailing). It was a daunting task that required flawless coordination. The organizing committee had to certify the duty exemption document of the goods. Unlike the present occasion, the dubious demand of importers, vendors or suppliers of claiming financial benefit was not met.

 

As of now, the needle of suspicion points towards a strategy of forcing lucrative fast-moving consumer goods on an unsuspecting market on the eve of the Games. It is highly unlikely that stadium equipment, lighting devices, arena gadgets, sports gear and so on would arrive so late in the day, denying players, organizers and officials the opportunity to test these before the start of the event.

 

The government must also ensure that the liberal act of foregoing public money is not exploited by unscrupulous and greedy importers to garner profit, thereby dragging the State machinery into new controversies after the completion of the event. The Indian legal system and the various acts and regulations under it are well-meaning and comprehensive on paper. The traditional weakness has been in their implementation. More often than not, major irregularities and the consequential loss of revenue have surfaced over the years.

 

The CWG is already embroiled in major controversies and serious allegations. The ideal way to make use of the exemption notification would be to make it transparent in nature. A full list of inventories of the types of goods that are lying at the various ports/airports of India could have been prepared. A cut-off date for all imported material should also be announced and the inventories approved by a designated senior official of the organizing committee, as was the case in 1982. A copy of the clearance certificate should also be sent to all the officials, departments and ministries connected to the Games. This will ensure the sharing of critical information, bring about a notion of collective responsibility and generate coordinated action.

 

All imported goods should be earmarked for "actual organization, use and conduct of the games". The "actual

user" should be the organizing committee and not the individual vendor, supplier or importer. By undertaking these measures, the government can reduce the possibility of future embarrassment and safeguard itself from allegations of any wrong- doing that may be hurled at it. Indeed, Indians are sick and tired of frequently accusing and abusing those who rule them.

 

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


THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

SPORT AT A RATHER STEEP PRICE

WASTE AND WONDER

 

On the US habit of mindless waste of energy — and some of its possible consequences

 

I have just returned from a short trip to the East Coast of the United States of America. I went there to participate in a strategy meeting. The location consisted of a pristine 400 acres of green lawns and 19th century mansions that now houses PGA golf courses with undulating fairways, manicured greens and stretches of challenging sand bunkers. The mansions are let out for conferences and meetings of the type I had gone to attend. The place is located alongside one of the most prestigious US universities bearing the name of the town in which the sprawling campus resides.

 

On arrival in the town and driving through the estate, my first reaction was that of regret for not carrying my golf gear with me. As our meetings progressed, my regret was gradually tempered by bouts of rain and the sight of diehard golfers soldiering on, drenched and bent against cold gusts of wind. I was happy to watch them play from the warmth of the meeting room instead of being among them in such inclement weather.

 

A stunning sight, the next morning, amazed me and has provoked me to write this piece. An overnight heavy rainfall had apparently made the sand bunkers soggy. A fairly large number of amateur players were expected on the course that day. Giant industrial air-blowers, mounted on mobile platforms, were being operated to dry the sand bunkers in order to make them playable by the time the amateurs arrived to play.

 

I was shocked by the sight of sand bunkers being blow-dried as I had never before witnessed such a scene. If this was the way they were going to dry the bunkers along the length of the golf course, I wondered about the value of the carbon debit this single golf course was accumulating for the benefit of a handful of amateur golfers.

 

The climate change sceptics, especially in the US, would scoff at my concern. And, in any case, the US being the largest per capita consumer of energy in the world, I could see why it has been consistently opposing every global treaty to reduce carbon footprint.

 

By the end of our meeting and on my way back, I wondered how the habit of mindless waste of energy might be more widespread in the US and if the consequences of such unquenchable demand for energy might have been responsible for the recent BP offshore blowout in Florida or even, more frighteningly, for the conjuring of the bogey of the weapons of mass destruction that led to the disastrous war in Iraq.

 

I love to play as well as watch the game of golf and am proud that Arjun Atwal became the first Indian to win a US PGA title. However, I am unable to reconcile myself to the game becoming an energy-guzzling monster, especially when electrical air-blowers are employed to dry bunkers so that 40 or 50 amateur golfers can have a good round of golf, in spite of nature willing otherwise.

 

The university town is well known for its Nobel laureates and Fields Medal winners, so it is a tragedy that this reputation is in such stark contrast to a golf course where wet bunkers are air-dried for amateur golfers' pastime. In the end, I was glad that I had not carried my golf gear. I would not have had the heart to play a round even if it had not rained.

ASHOK GANGULY

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


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

EDITORIAL

GAMES' SHAME

'THE AUTHO-RITIES HAD BEEN WARNED FOR MONTHS.'

 

India has rarely faced such an international embarrassment as that caused by the failure of the authorities to make adequate preparations for the Commonwealth Games which are just 10 days away, if at all they will take place. We had mentioned ensuring of security as the main challenge in the coming days, but it seems the provision of even minimum facilities for athletes and others is equally demanding. The Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Hooper has made a distress call to the prime minister's office over the filth and dirt in the Games village. A foot overbridge under construction collapsed on Tuesday and a false ceiling came off on Wednesday. Athletes have withdrawn, some teams are planning to and many countries have expressed strong displeasure over the playing and living conditions.


The authorities had been warned for months about the delays and poor construction. Stories of large-scale corruption have come into the open. But everyone connected with the conduct of the Games assured the country and the world that everything would fall in place by the last day. But things are actually falling in pieces. No action was taken against the Games committee chief Suresh Kalmadi in spite of telling evidence about corruption. It is not just Kalmadi, who should have been shown the door long ago, but many others are also responsible for the shameful state of affairs. Every arrangement should have been ready by March this year, with only checking and trials to be done after that. Instead, work is still going on in many areas. Mosquito-infested swimming pools, leaking roofs, dirty and uninhabitable living areas with dogs' defecation on athletes' beds and other disasters that are sure to be revealed in the coming days: what else is needed to show the country in the poorest light before the world? The Games were expected to showpiece India's ability to organise big world events. They have instead turned out to be a testimonial of our inability, incompetence, lackadaisical attitude, corrupt ways and callousness. When inadequacies came to light the authorities had the temerity to brazen them out and find fault with those who made the criticism. The name of the game is nothing but shame.


The buck does not stop at the Games authorities. The Delhi government and the Centre, including the PMO, had been well warned. Those who have brought nothing but shame to the country should be held accountable and punished.

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


DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

MAGNIFICENT MARY

'MARY IS A ROLE MODEL FOR MODERN INDIAN WOMEN.'

 

Mangle Chungneijang Mary Kom or simply 'Magnificent Mary' now stands in her own league. Her fifth consecutive World gold medal in boxing is a reward for her unyielding desire to be the best and the ability to ward off challenges of different nature. Born in Kangethi, Manipur, the 27-year-old did not have a happy childhood and her career as an athlete appeared going nowhere after flawed attempts at 400 metres and javelin throw. But then the big turning point came. Dingko Singh's gold-winning effort in Bangkok Asian Games set off a boxing revolution in Manipur and Mary Kom sensed a door opening for her. She did not allow the natural timorousness of a village girl from cashing in on that opportunity.


Mary Kom started training seriously only in 2000 but she has captured five World titles towards the end of 2010. She also had to take a two-year sabbatical from boxing after giving birth to her twins but she returned to grab back-to-back titles, an effort that revealed her hunger for success and dedication to her chosen field. In fact, Mary Kom rushed to the ring for training merely 15 hours after nailing her fifth World gold medal. With the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, only a couple of months away, she does not want to rest on laurels and wants to further polish her already awesome skills. A new challenge beckons Mary Kom as she has to find a slot in the 51kg category for the Asiad. If her performances thus far are any indication then the ace boxer will certainly measure up to the test.


Mary Kom's ambition is to clinch an Olympic medal and her opportunity will come in the London Olympics 2012 where women's boxing has been approved as a medal event. Despite success, she has managed to keep her feet firmly on the ground, keeping away from the media glare, nursing her babies and training for future assignments. In that respect, she is a genuine role model for modern Indian women who want to strike the right balance between professional and personal lives. And in a country where the status of legend is often bestowed at the flimsiest of excuses, reams of paper might not be used to extol Mary Kom. But from a sporting perspective, she has already become a true legend.

 

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


DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

CRISIS IN THE MAKING

BY DEVINDER SHARMA


UP produces more foodgrains than Punjab and Haryana, but because of its huge population, it is hardly left with any surplus.

 

Pitched battles are being fought across the country by poor farmers, who fear further marginalisation when their land is literally grabbed by the government and the industry. From Mangalore in Karnataka to Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, from Singur in West Bengal to Mansa in Punjab, the rural countryside is literally on a boil. Large chunks of prime agricultural land are being diverted for non-agricultural purposes.


While the continuing struggle against land acquisition for instance by farmers in Aligarh, which took a violent turn, and became a political ploy is being projected as a battle by farmers for big money, the reality is that a majority of the farmers do not want to dispense with their ancestral land. They are being forced to do so. This has serious implications for food security.


Let us take the case of UP. It is the most populous state in the country, and is also the biggest producer of foodgrains. Western parts of UP, comprising the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains, have been considered part of the green revolution belt. According to the 2008 Statistical Abstracts of Uttar Pradesh, in addition to 41 million tonnes of foodgrains, the state produces 130 million tonnes of sugarcane and 10.5 million tonnes of potato.


UP produces more foodgrains than Punjab but because of its huge population, it is hardly left with any surplus. What is however satisfying is that UP has all these years been at least feeding its own population.


This is expected to change. And that is what I am worried about. The proposed eight expressways and the townships planned along the route, along with land being gobbled by other industrial, real estate and investment projects are likely to eat away more than 23,000 villages, one fourth of the total number of villages. Former agriculture minister Ajit Singh has in a statement said that one-third of total cultivable land of UP will be eventually acquired. The state government neither denies nor confirms this, but acknowledges that land diversion is 'large.'


This means that out of the total area of 19.8 million hectares under foodgrain crops in UP, one-third or roughly 6.6 million hectares will be shifted from agriculture to non-agriculture activity. Much of the fertile and productive lands of UP will therefore disappear, to be replaced by concrete jungles. In addition to wheat and rice, sugarcane and potato would be the other two major crops whose production will be negatively impacted.


UP to starve

As per rough estimates, 6.6 million hectares that would be taken out of farming would mean a production loss of 14 million tonnes of foodgrains. In other words, UP will be faced with a terrible food crisis in the years to come, the seeds for which are being sown now. Add to this the anticipated shortfall in potato and sugarcane production, since the area under these two crops will also go down drastically, the road ahead for UP is not only dark but laced with social unrest.


Already a part of the BIMARU states, UP will surely see surge in hunger, malnutrition and under-nourishment. I shudder to imagine the socio-economic and political fallout of the misadventure that the government is attempting with such a massive land takeover. If the state governments can provide an incentive of Rs 20,000 per acre to those farmers whose lands are being taken away, I fail to understand why the same incentive cannot be provided to every farm family to protect agricultural land?


What is not being realised is that UP alone will send all the estimates of the proposed National Food Security Act go topsy-turvy. At present, as per the buffer norms, the government keeps around 20 to 24 million tonnes as buffer stocks for distribution across the country through the Public Distribution System (PDS). In the last few years however the average foodgrain stocks with the government have been in the range of 45 to 50 million tonnes.

Even with such huge grain reserves, food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has expressed his inability to provide 35 kg of grain per month to every eligible family. Imagine, what will happen when UP alone will put an additional demand of 14 million tonnes. Who will then feed UP?


The bigger question is where will the addition quantity of food come from? Already, Punjab and Haryana, comprising the food bowl, are on fast track mode to acquire farm lands. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab are building up 'land banks' for the industry.


Gone are the days when a worried Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, while addressing the nation on Aug 15, 1955, from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi said: "It is very humiliating for any country to import food. So everything else can wait, but not agriculture." That was in 1955. Fifty-five years later, in 2010, UPA-II thinks that food security needs of the nation can be addressed by importing food. There can be nothing more dangerous than this flawed approach. Is India slipping back into the days of 'ship-to-mouth' existence?

 

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

 


DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

PROTECTING WOMEN'S FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

BY FRANCO FRATTINI


Trying to simply impose behaviours by law is not enough: we have to go to the roots of the problem.

 

Promoting women's rights at the global level must aim to enhance women's role as pro-active individuals and as the essential and most effective channel for development and peace. However, to achieve this requires protecting women's fundamental rights, first and foremost the right not to be subjected to violence.


Italy has always been active with a number of initiatives and projects aimed at preventing violence against women. I am personally committed as a member of the 'Network of Men Leaders' launched last year by the UN secretary general within the scope of the campaign 'Unite to End Violence Against Women.'


One of Italy's main priorities in protecting and promoting human rights worldwide was combating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This practice is still a huge challenge in many parts of the world. In Africa, some traditional cultures consider it to be beneficial to women and their families, believing that it ensures girls a proper marriage and promotes chastity and family honour. Other countries in Europe, once unaffected by this practice, have become familiar with FGM over the last years, including Italy, where we have now an estimated 35,000 cases of FGM.


Roots of the problem


Female genital mutilation has been neglected for centuries. It was considered a kind of taboo, and the fact that it was often associated with ancestral traditions or religious myths complicated any open form of discussion or challenge. Illiteracy, poverty, and a lack of information have contributed greatly to the problem.


Luckily, over the last decade, the interest in and commitment to end this practice has reached a new level. FGM is now generally considered a violation of the human rights and physical integrity of women and girls. 


Since the 1980s Italy has been actively engaged in programmes to combat and prevent FGM, starting in Somalia. In 2004 we initiated a partnership with Unicef aimed at the creation of a political, legal, and social framework for the abandonment of the practice of FGM. We are now one of the key donors to UN programmes in this field, including the Unicef/Unfpa joint programme on FGM.


We are keen to reinforce our global partnership on this issue. The challenge is huge and requires a comprehensive approach and a wide range of strategies to be addressed effectively. One element is crucial to guide our action: understanding the social and cultural dynamics related to FGM. Trying to simply impose behaviours by law is not enough: we have to go to the roots of the problem and work on positive actions as well, especially in the fields of education and public awareness campaigns.


I wish to clarify that there is no paternalism in our attitude nor have we any desire to impose 'western standards' on traditional cultures. Our objective is simply to support African ownership of this initiative and strengthen a process that Africa itself started a long time ago.


Besides, we are not starting from scratch. We can now build on several initiatives that have taken place over the last months: in September 2009 we held in New York the first ministerial meeting on FGM, which brought together an initial group of 14 countries committed at the national and international level to support the fight against FGM; two months later, the government of Burkina Faso, together with Italy and the NGO 'No Peace Without Justice' organised a high-level regional meeting in Ouagadougou entitled 'Towards a Global Ban of FGM'; in March 2010, an event at the margins of the Commission on the Status of Women was co-chaired by the Ministers for Gender Issues of Egypt, Italy and Senegal, and a resolution on ending female genital mutilation was adopted by consensus, tabled by the African Group, and endorsed later by ECOSOC. Last but not least, in May 2010 an Inter-Parliamentary Conference took place in Dakar, with representatives of parliaments and civil society from 28 African countries, and a declaration was adopted urging, inter alia, the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution banning FGM in the world  in 2010.


We believe that the time has come to present an ad-hoc resolution on FGM at this session of the UN General Assembly. Such a resolution should be brief and touch on a selected number of priorities: a solemn ban on FGM, a reference to the main legal and cultural instruments underlying that goal, an appeal to the international community and the UN system, and a light follow-up mechanism.


The main point, however, is that this would be the first time the supreme body of the United Nations had spoken out on this matter — a major achievement in itself. This is one of the goals that we have set for this upcoming session of the General Assembly and I trust that the international community will be able to achieve it.


IPS

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


DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

CARE FOR THY NEIGHBOUR

BY N NIRANJAN NIKAM


We berate the West for the wrong influence it has on our younger generation.

 

One of our neighbours in Mysore, was celebrating his grandchild's birthday. My wife was not upset with the fact that she was not able to attend the function but with the attitude of the neighbour. They had coolly used our compound wall to tie the rope of the shamiana without bothering to even take permission from us.


I was just pondering over what my wife told me, when I happened to chance on a small news item in the news agency ticker. Somehow this interesting titbit had escaped many a newspaper. This related to the celebrity couple Clintons' daughter Chelsea Clinton's recent wedding. Chelsea's wedding planner had sent a note thanking the neighbour for putting up with road closures on the day of  her wedding: "Dear neighbour, This Saturday, Astor Court (189 River Road), will be the site for a very special event. There may be periodic road closures on River Road on Saturday evening. Should you have any difficulty accessing the road, please call us at 617 (896-044). We want to thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation. Please accept this gift as a token of our appreciation."


The gift was a bottle of wine. We all know how Chelsea's wedding had created quite some sensation, but President Barack Obama was not among those invited. But what is to be understood is the sensitivity displayed by the Clintons who did not just bulldoze their neighbour and blocked the road. Do we ever hear of such gestures here? What we see however, is about a minister getting angry and roughing up a citizen for overtaking him or with sirens blaring, crisscrossing the length and breadth of the city with total disregard for an ambulance carrying a patient in dire need of emergency medical attention.


Another interesting picture that I saw was that of the President Obama himself shifting the sofa in the White House along with his aide. Imagine our netas ever indulging in such mundane things. Not only do most of them think it is below their dignity but since the dynastic rule is the name of the game, the spoilt heirs to the gaddis have never been trained to think of the aam aadmi's grind with the daily chores.


We berate the West all the time for the wrong influence it has on our younger generation like disregard for family values, not caring for the elders, marriages, etc. But is not the gesture of Clintons worth emulating by all of us on a regular basis?

 

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


 

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

THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MISSED GOALS

 

Ten years ago, leaders of rich and poor countries pledged to build a better world by 2015. Among their vital goals: halving extreme poverty and hunger from 1990 levels, reducing by two-thirds the child-mortality rate and slashing maternal mortality by three-quarters and achieving universal primary education.

 

As they gathered at the United Nations this week, world leaders had to admit that their progress "falls far short of what is needed" to meet those targets by the deadline. The global recession set many countries back. But rich nations — including the United States — have not contributed the money needed to make this a reality.

 

The best way we can see of turning this around is for wealthy nations to make a generous and concrete pledge of aid for the next five years — and then deliver. The 0.7 percent of gross domestic product endorsed by world leaders in 2002 is a good place to start. Unfortunately, the United States and many others, including Italy, Germany and Japan, fall far short of that.

 

It was disappointing that President Obama made no hard commitment to increase development aid when he addressed the United Nations conference on Wednesday. The legalistic claims by some of his aides that the United States never really signed on to hard aid targets sends precisely the wrong message. If Washington isn't willing to fully ante up, there is little hope others will.

 

Still there was a lot in Mr. Obama's speech that made good sense to us. He made a compelling case for why foreign aid is an essential component of an effective national security strategy. And he outlined a promising new policy to bring coherence to the often incoherent American foreign aid and development system.

 

He said the United States would still be a major donor but would put new emphasis on using all of its tools — including trade and export credits — to help poor countries get to the point where they don't need assistance. He also, rightly, promised to hold recipient countries accountable for improving governance and combating corruption and to be "more selective and focus our efforts where we have the best partners and where we can have the greatest impact." That, too, is essential.

 

The meager progress on the so-called Millennium Development Goals underscores why more effective aid is so important but also why more money is needed.

 

The best news is that the share of people living on less than $1.25 a day seems on track to meet the goal of halving the extreme poverty rate. But most of those gains have occurred in China and other East Asian countries. Poverty rates in sub-Saharan Africa remain way too high. The world is far behind on many other goals.

 

Between 1990 and 2008, the mortality rate of children under 5 in developing countries declined only from 10 percent to 7.2 percent — far from the target of a two-thirds reduction by 2015. Maternal mortality declined only from 480 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 450 deaths in 2005. The 2015 goal is closer to 120. Enrollment in primary education reached only 89 percent in 2008, up from 80 percent in 1991.

 

Nobody can know how much money is needed to meet these and other urgent development goals. But, in 2002, rich donor countries agreed that contributions of 0.7 percent of their G.D.P. was, at least, politically feasible. Today, only Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have met the goal. In 2009, the United States channeled 0.2 percent of its G.D.P. to aid. On average, development assistance amounted to only 0.31 percent of G.D.P. of developed nations last year.

 

On Wednesday, world leaders again urged developed countries to meet this aid target by 2015. Talk is cheap. They have to deliver.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN EXTREME JUDICIAL BLOCKADE

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday with an agenda that includes consideration of nominees for federal district and circuit court judgeships who have already been approved by the committee once, or even twice.

 

They are going through the process again because Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote by the full Senate and then, having dragged things out, insisted on returning the nominations to the White House. They then invoked an obscure Senate rule that required the judicial candidates to be re-nominated. (Yes, these are the same Republicans who used to loudly demand that every one of President George W. Bush's nominees get a vote on the Senate floor, regardless of their qualifications.)

 

The most prominent of the five repeaters is Goodwin Liu, a law professor and legal scholar who would be the only Asian-American serving as an active judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Liu went to Stanford, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated from Yale Law School. He clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before beginning a teaching career at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

 

Indeed, it is largely his stellar background that is fueling Republican opposition. Mr. Liu, who is 39, is seen as a strong possibility to be on President Obama's short list for a future Supreme Court vacancy.

 

Conservatives do not like Mr. Liu's support for same-sex marriage rights, affirmative action and his view that the Constitution is a living document that evolves over time. But his views fall well within the legal and political mainstream. His warnings that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito would turn out to be extremely conservative were accurate. But Mr. Liu is no rigid liberal ideologue, as his support of school vouchers and charter schools attest. Kenneth Starr, the conservative lawyer who investigated President Bill Clinton, co-signed a letter vouching for Mr. Liu's "independence and openness to diverse viewpoints."

 

It would be nice if some Republican members of the Judiciary Committee voted for Mr. Liu and the four other re-nominees (along with three other new nominees). Whether they do or not, the White House and Senate Democrats should persist in fighting for their confirmation and the confirmation of the 16 other pending nominees already approved by the committee.

 

At the comparable point in the Bush presidency, the Senate had confirmed 61.4 percent of Mr. Bush's nominees. For Mr. Obama, it's under 50 percent. His nominees are no radicals. That description applies to Republicans holding up well-qualified choices like Mr. Liu.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FREEING UP MORE AIRWAVES

 

It took two years to overcome the opposition of television broadcasters, Broadway impresarios and Dolly Parton, but the Federal Communications Commission is finally releasing long-awaited telecommunications spectrum for public use. This should vastly increase the reach of wireless broadband around the country, extending Americans' access to the Internet.

 

On Thursday, the F.C.C. is expected to issue rules for the public use of so-called white space — spectrum allocated long ago to broadcast TV channels that remains unused. Releasing it would allow for new applications like high-powered Wi-Fi networks that penetrate buildings and work over long distances to connect rural schools to the Internet. It could be a godsend to beleaguered users of smartphones by easing data congestion on cellular networks.

 

The F.C.C. estimates that this is the first free big block of mobile spectrum made available for unlicensed use in two decades. While the amount of free space varies — there are few free TV channels in Manhattan, for instance — the F.C.C. estimates that in some markets there may be 10 channels available, with some 60 megahertz worth of new bandwidth.

 

Despite its public benefits, the plan to release the new spectrum has met fierce resistance since it was announced during the Bush administration. Arguing that the new services would bleed into their channels and interfere with their signal, TV broadcasters sued to stop the plan. Theater producers, broadcasters and Dolly Parton opposed the plan because it could bump out wireless microphones, which often use these wavelengths.

 

The F.C.C. is responding to critics' arguments. It plans to create a database of spectrum currently occupied by TV stations all over the country. New devices will have to check against the list and stay out of these occupied areas. There are also plans to allocate a chunk of spectrum for wireless microphones in every market.

 

The change comes none too soon. The last time the F.C.C. released short-range spectrum for public use 20 years ago, it set off a virtual technological revolution that brought us from the baby monitor to Wi-Fi. Who knows what the newly freed airwaves could deliver.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

TOMORROW'S SCHOOL LUNCHES

 

Effective lawmakers know when it makes sense to stand and fight for principle and when the time comes to accept a decent compromise. The House now faces that choice on legislation to improve school nutrition.

 

The Senate has approved the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which sets new nutritional standards and provides an additional $4.5 billion over the next decade for child nutrition programs, including healthier school meals. It would also expand the number of low-income children eligible for free or reduced-priced school meals.

 

The House version, approved by committee, is undeniably better. It provides $7.5 billion for nutrition programs over the next decade, and it does not try to partly offset the cost by taking money away from the food stamp program. The problem is that time has run out. Even if the full House passes its own version in hopes of wresting more from the Senate, there is little chance the Senate will take this up again this session.

 

That means that the chief sponsor of the House bill, Representative George Miller, a Democrat of California, and his allies need to swallow hard and rally their colleagues to pass the Senate version. In an encouraging development on Tuesday, the House leadership tentatively scheduled action on the Senate bill later this week.

 

While the bill is not perfect, its nutrition standards would help combat childhood obesity and ensure that youngsters eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The 6 cents-per-meal increase in reimbursements to schools is basically the same as the proposed House formula and means $300 million extra per year for schools. It would be the first noninflation-related increase in the reimbursement rate since 1973.

 

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, says that even the Senate's more modest bill would help "get junk food out of, and put more healthy food into, American schools." That is the sort of healthy change the House should have no problem embracing.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

BOAST, BUILD AND SELL

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

United Nations

 

World leaders have flown in first class to the United Nations this week to discuss global poverty over cocktails at the Waldorf Astoria.

 

The U.N. set eight landmark antipoverty objectives in 2000, so this year's General Assembly is reviewing how we're doing after a decade. We're off-track on most of these Millennium Development Goals, so let me offer three suggestions for how the humanitarian world might do better in framing the fight against poverty:

 

First, boast more.

 

Humanitarians have tended to guilt-trip people and governments into generosity by peddling emaciated children with flies on their eyes. But relentless negativity leaves the inaccurate impression that Africa is an abyss of failure and hopelessness. And who wants to invest in a failure?

 

In fact, here's the record: antipoverty work saves around 32,000 children's lives each day. That's my calculation based on the number of children who died in 1960 (about 20 million) and the number dying now (about 8 million a year).

 

Twelve million lives saved annually — roughly one every three seconds — is a reminder that global poverty needn't be a depressing topic but can be a hopeful one. Ancient scourges like Guinea worm, river blindness and polio are on their way out. Modern contraception is more common than a generation ago. The average Indian woman has 2.6 children now, compared with 5.5 in 1970.

 

That doesn't mean overselling how easy it is to defeat poverty. In their zeal to raise money, activists sometimes elide the challenges of corruption and dependency — and mind-boggling complexity. Helping people in truth is far harder than it looks.

 

For example, it's easy to build a school, but it can be tough to make sure that teachers actually show up afterward; they may live 100 miles away in the capital, receiving their pay for doing nothing. Or kids may be "enrolled" but miss months of school during the harvest. Or they may attend school but lack pencils, paper or books. Or they may be too malnourished or anemic from intestinal worms to learn anything. And Western aid to education sometimes just displaces domestic resources, which are then diverted to buy weapons instead.

 

In short, building an educational system in which students actually learn is difficult, and it takes more than money poured into broken systems. But it's also true that literacy rates and school attendance are rising sharply. More than three-quarters of African youngsters are now enrolled in primary school, up from 58 percent in 1999.

 

My second suggestion is to focus not just on poverty relief but also on wealth creation. The best way to overcome poverty isn't charity but economic growth, trade rather than aid. That's why East Asia has raised its living standards so much.

 

There, too, there's progress. We're seeing economic engines revving up from Africa to India. For the last decade, per capita G.D.P. growth in Africa has averaged more than 3 percent per year — faster than in America or Europe.

 

Wealthy countries could encourage prosperity creation by opening their markets wider to exports from poor countries. The United States has a program, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, that is an important step in that direction and should be expanded.

 

My third suggestion: punchier marketing. Humanitarians tend to flinch at the idea of marketing, thinking that's

what you do with toothpaste. But it's all the more important when lives are at stake.

 

This United Nations summit meeting is marked by the publication of tedious reports on poverty that almost no one will read, when it might gain more support with, say, a music video. After all, one of the most powerful tools to spread the word about educating girls was a "Girl Effect" video designed by the marketing geniuses at Nike. The first Girl Effect video went viral and has been watched by about 10 million people; its successor was released this week.

 

My hunch is that the most effective way to market antipoverty work in coming years will be by rebranding it, in part, as a security issue. Rich country budgets are so strained that it's unrealistic to think that governments will approve much new money — or endorse the excellent suggestion of a financial transactions tax to pay for global health programs — just to ease suffering.

 

But hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent fighting terrorism and bolstering fragile countries like Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan. We should note that schools have a better record of fighting terrorism than missiles do and that wobbly governments can be buttressed not just with helicopter gunships but also with school lunch programs (at 25 cents per kid per day).

 

International security is where the money is, but fighting poverty is where the success is.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

DON'T ASK, DON'T DEBATE

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

The legislative process is almost never uplifting. But if you watch the United States Senate in action these days, you come away convinced that the nation has jumped the shark.

 

On Tuesday, the Senate failed to override a Republican filibuster of a defense authorization bill. This is a new record for dysfunction. Until now, even when politics was at its worst, Congress did manage to vote to pay the Army.

 

The bill did contain a lot of controversial pieces. It eliminated the "don't ask, don't tell" rule for gays serving openly in the military. And the majority leader, Harry Reid, tacked on a provision that would allow undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children to win a path to citizenship if they serve in the military or go to college.

 

So the debate was about ... parliamentary procedure.

 

"I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate and preclude Republican amendments," said Senator Susan Collins of Maine. She supports repealing "don't ask, don't tell," but neither that nor pay raises for the troops could compare to the principle of unfettered amending.

 

Perhaps Collins was frightened by Tea Party talk in her home state. Perhaps she had been unnerved by Lady Gaga's decision to go to Maine and hold rallies on behalf of the bill. As a rule, moderate Republicans from swing states are not likely to be moved by a celebrity comparing gay rights to the dress made of meat she wore to an awards show. ("Equality is the prime rib of America.")

 

Cynical minds might presume that Collins was just caving in to her party's determination to keep the Democratic majority from accomplishing anything before the elections and grabbing at a convenient, if incoherent, cover. If so, she had plenty of company.

 

Orrin Hatch of Utah, who had supported the immigration proposal three years ago, said he was voting against it this time because: "They don't go through committees like they should in the Senate. They don't give the minority any chance at all to bring up even legitimate amendments, and this stuff has to stop."

 

Democrats said they had offered the Republicans ample opportunity to propose changes to the bill but that they weren't going to give them a blank check. The Republicans, with many references to the founding fathers, demanded the same open-ended system that was used when the Senate debated the financial reform bill, a process that ate up eight weeks of floor time.

 

Who is right?

 

People, it makes no difference. Never pay attention to procedural debates. They will make you crazy. It's like arbitrating a border agreement between two countries whose representatives keep fighting about who did what at the Battle of the 10 Skulls in 1284.

 

Plus, anybody who claims to be voting solely in the defense of legislative precedent is fibbing or delusional.

 

Senator John McCain, for instance, was nearly apoplectic about the fact that Reid was attaching unrelated amendments to the defense appropriations bill, like the one allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens after serving in the military. He had never seen such a thing "for as long as I have been privileged to be a member of this body." Except that he had, including Republican proposals on everything from allowing people to carry concealed weapons across state lines to banning Internet gambling.

 

McCain himself once successfully attached a campaign finance reform amendment to a defense appropriations bill, arguing that it was relevant because better campaign finance would give our men and women in uniform more confidence in the democracy they were fighting for. But that was the old John McCain, before he was kidnapped by space aliens and reprogrammed.

 

The only people more patently evasive about their motives than the procedural-purity Republicans were the two Democrats who refused to vote to end the filibuster. Both are from Arkansas, and they said they were impelled to break with their party because, um, the system is broken.

 

"I have heard my constituents loud and clear, and I will continue working to ensure that we do things in an open and transparent way. I opposed the motion to proceed because we all need to listen to our constituents and provide time to fully debate and consider the issues they care about," Senator Blanche Lincoln said in a statement.

 

She is in a very tough race for re-election and must have been trying to show Arkansas voters that she is an independent thinker. But it was a terrible plan. The poor woman is way, way behind in the polls. Give it up, Blanche! This is not the moment to try to woo the alienated independents with a strange and obscure press release. You should have voted with your heart, spoken your mind and gone out with a bang.

 

Ah, well, there's always the procedural whimper.

 

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


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

USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON GAYS IN THE MILITARY: 'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL' REPEAL IS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME

 

Whenever the president, the secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a federal court and a large majority of Americans oppose a policy that is counterproductive and discriminatory, it's just a matter of time before it ends.

 

So despite this week's setback in the Senate, repeal of the military's misguided "don't ask, don't tell" policy remains more a matter of when than if.

 

Under the policy, the military is barred from questioning a servicemember's sexual orientation (don't ask), and gay men and lesbians are allowed to serve only if they keep it secret (don't tell).

 

Because some servicemembers refuse to conceal their identity or have been outed, the policy has resulted in the

discharge of about 13,000 qualified men and women. These include combat troops, medical and intelligence specialists, and translators fluent in critical languages such as Arabic. The millions of taxpayer dollars spent to train these troops, and then their replacements, is money the nation shouldn't squander.

 

In the 17 years since "don't ask, don't tell" went into effect, public attitudes have shifted dramatically. In a Gallup poll in May, 70% said they favor allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly (including 53% of self-identified conservativesand 60% of Republicans), up from 40% in 1993.

 

Someone should tell the Senate. On Tuesday, 56 SenateDemocrats voted indirectly for repeal, but that wasn't

enough to overcome a filibuster by 40 Republicans and the Senate's two Arkansas Democrats. The politics around the annual Pentagon authorization bill are complex, but it's fair to say that repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" fell victim in part to the bitter partisanship and pre-election gamesmanship of both parties.

 

Republicans complained that the Senate was jumping the gun by rushing to approve repeal (passed by the House in May) before the Pentagon finishes a study that's due Dec. 1. But repeal would come only after the study is completed, and President Obama and military leaders would have to certify that ending the policy wouldn't harm readiness or morale. Moreover, the study is less about whether the military should repeal "don't ask, don't tell" than how to implement such a change.

 

That's the politics. The argument on substance should be over. It's simply wrong to use sexual orientation as a reason to bar qualified Americans who want to serve their country. Other nations — such as Britain, Canada, Australia and Israel — have ended their own bans on gay troops with no ill effects.

 

"Don't ask, don't tell" could go away even without an act of Congress. Earlier this month, a federal district trial judge in California held that the policy on gay troops violates due process and First Amendment guarantees of individual freedom while having a "direct and deleterious" effect on the military. Where the legal case goes from here is anyone's guess, but it's preferable that the policy end in a clean vote by Congress.

 

Profound change to the nation's core institutions always prompts friction, along with warnings of irreparable harm. But the U.S. armed forces are a lot more resilient than the fear-mongers give them credit for. In 1948, a racially integrated military was unthinkable to some; today it's unthinkable that U.S. forces could be segregated. In the not-too-distant future, a military that excludes some of its best and most capable volunteers because of their sexual orientation will be just as unimaginable.

 

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


USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON GAYS IN THE MILITARY: KEEP THE LAW IN PLACE

BY TONY PERKINS

 

Senate Democratic leaders tried and failed this week to advance a bill that would overturn a 1993 law against homosexuality in the armed forces. The vote reveals a continuing reluctance to use the military as a tool for liberal social engineering.

 

While homosexual activists have succeeded in slowly chipping away at public disapproval of their sexual conduct, the unique demands of military life have not changed. A soldier must represent his or her country and maintain military discipline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is why sexual behaviors such as adultery and sodomy remain crimes under military law.

 

To put people with sexual attractions to one another into conditions of forced intimacy — sharing bathrooms, showers and sleeping quarters — runs the risk of increasing sexual tension, harassment and even assault. These are clear threats to good order, morale and unit cohesion.

 

Homosexual activists complain of "discrimination," but the military has always been highly selective in its recruiting process. There is no constitutional right to serve in the military, and individuals are routinely denied enlistment on the basis of characteristics that would rarely, if ever, be the basis for exclusion from civilian employment. These include height, weight, family responsibilities, or even relatively minor health conditions such as asthma.

 

The number of servicemembers discharged for such reasons dwarfs the number discharged for homosexuality. Repealing the law would cause greater problems for recruiting and retention, as new forms of "discrimination" against those with traditional values would drive many such people away.

 

Polls showing support for homosexuals in the military have been distorted by biased wording. A recent Polling Company survey found that a 48%-45% plurality would prefer to "keep the law as it is" rather than "overturn the 1993 law and allow homosexual persons to serve openly in the military."

 

The experience of other countries is hardly instructive, either. Only one in eight of the world's countries allow homosexuals in their armed forces. The 10 largest military forces all exclude homosexuals.

 

The needs of the military must come before the demands of radical social activists. The 1993 law should stay.

 

Tony Perkins is a Marine Corps veteran and president of the Family Research Council.

 

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

 


USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

STARTING TODAY, A BOOST FOR CHILDREN'S HEALTH CARE

BY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS AND JUDITH S. PALFREY

 

Their first steps. Their first illness. Their first day of school. From the moment our children take their first breath, there's nothing that occupies the minds of parents more than their children's health. That's especially true for the parents of the millions of children who have to skip critical checkups and vaccines each year because of expensive co-pays or go without basic health care coverage, in some cases, because insurance companies refused to cover them.

 

But thanks in large part to the new health insurance reform law that President Obama signed in March, we're making progress helping these families. Today, as we mark the sixth-month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and several of its most important new benefits for children begin to take effect, the future for our children's health care is brighter than it's been in a long time.

 

The new benefits that begin rolling out today will give parents more control over their children's health care. In nearly all health insurance plans, children with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes can no longer be denied coverage. And insurance companies can no longer set the lifetime dollar limits on children's benefits, which often led to sick children losing their insurance right when they needed it the most.

 

Preventive care

 

As new plans come on the market, children will have access, at no additional cost to parents, to what are called Bright Futures services, the definitive standard of pediatric preventive care visits and treatments recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a result, more children will get regular well-baby and well-child exams, developmental screenings, immunizations and other needed care.

 

While today's reforms will help many children with private insurance, positive changes are also in store for children eligible for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. We got one piece of heartening news from recent Census data, which showed that even as we continue to climb out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the number of children with health insurance has held steady, mostly thanks to the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which President Obama signed in February 2009.

 

But there is still work to be done. About 5 million children today are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP but are not enrolled. That's 5 million children who are just a small step away from having critical health benefits. Working together with government officials, business partners, community leaders and health care professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Department of Health and Human Services has launched a campaign to find these children and sign them up for health insurance. We call it the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge. And we encourage all parents to visit www.healthcare.gov to learn more and to see whether your children qualify for these critical programs.

 

For too long, too many American children have gone without the treatments, medicines and checkups they need, whether it's the boy with asthma who couldn't get insurance and ends up in an intensive care unit, or the young girl with diabetes who misses checkups and needs weeks to get her sugars readjusted, or the kids who fall behind on their vaccines and screenings and suffer devastating illnesses that could have been prevented.

 

A wise investment

Today, we're taking some long overdue steps to fill these gaps in care. And in the coming months, we'll continue to work with partners across the country to make sure families have the information they need to take advantage of these benefits as they become available.

 

When we invest in our children's health care today, we're also investing in the healthy and productive adults of tomorrow. At a time when much of our attention as a nation is understandably focused on the challenges we face, it's worth pausing to celebrate the progress we've made toward improving our children's health, and with it, our country's future.

 

Kathleen Sebelius is secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Judith S. Palfrey is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

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


USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

TIME TO RETHINK 'WAR ON POVERTY'

BY CAL THOMAS AND BOB BECKEL

 

Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot. View the video version of this column atopinion.usatoday.com or at USA TODAY's YouTube channel, youtube.com/usatoday.

 

Today: What to do about poverty.

 

Bob: If folks had any doubt about the depth of this recession, they need not look any further than the number of Americans suffering in poverty. And I'm not talking about those who lost their too-expensive home because they were living large on credit cards and fictional home equity. I'm talking about people who were barely scraping by before this recession and who are now being buried under its weight.

 

Cal: With 8 million jobs lost in such a short time, it's no wonder.

 

Bob: Recent reports of an increase in the number of Americans who have fallen below the poverty line is tragic, but sadly predictable. When the economy sinks, people are caught in the undertow. In the recession of 1980, the poverty rate was 13%. Intoday's Great Recession, according to new data, it's up to 14.3%, or nearly 44 million people. Million!

 

Cal: Something else has been acting like a nest of termites, gnawing away at the foundations of our economy. We have spent trillions of dollars since Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty," and that war has been lost. If you wind up with as many poor people as when you began — actually more — something isn't working. What's not working — and here I will invoke an apt cliché— is that there have been too many handouts and not enough hand-ups.

 

Bob: I've never had a problem with the hands-up concept, the problem is: a hand-up to where? The fact is most poverty is concentrated in areas with fewer well-paying jobs. We can't expect the government to supply all those jobs, but there is still a role for government to play to encourage the private sector to create jobs in these poverty zones.

 

Cal: Wait a minute. Government can't simply wave the magic wand and create jobs? Isn't that what Obama and company have been trying to do since he took the oath of office?

 

Bob: Do you really want to get into the stimulus argument now?

 

Cal: We can tackle that another day. Look, we've been through "enterprise zones" and all sorts of other failed government programs and strategies for elevating the poor to independence. What's needed are incentive zones. Look at the common ground reached — however reluctantly — by Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich in the mid-1990s. They cooperated on welfare reform, despite claims from the left that people would starve and that the bill was "legislative child abuse," as Sen. Ted Kennedy put it at the time. They didn't starve. Most found work and are now paying taxes, not receiving them.

 

Bob: The jury is still out on the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform measure. Under that bill, the federal government no longer provided standardized welfare payments as they had since 1959. Instead, they left it to the states to implement their own anti-poverty programs. Some have apparently been successful and some have not.

 

Cal: The jury is still out?! I guess in your world it'll never render a verdict. Bob, this was a case where the states were far better equipped to decide who should get help and who was a lazy so-and-so simply gaming the system. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the states — and cities like New York— devised plans to wean the able-bodied off welfare by putting them to work. As a result, people got jobs as well as their dignity and self-respect.

 

Bob: As a liberal involved in anti-poverty programs over the years, I have a confession to make. It is clear to me that direct payment of welfare grants to people with no strings attached has bred two generations of people dependent on the government. I want to emphasize that our intentions were honorable, but like so many things, there were unintended consequences and in the case of many anti-poverty programs, one of those consequences has been the stifling of incentive to move out of poverty.

 

Cal: You know what that "road to hell" is paved with, don't you? But better late than never. You may not believe this coming from a conservative, but I have been poor. I know what it's like to squeeze every dime out of a dollar. But I never accepted poverty as the final verdict. I worked very hard — and was willing to work at anything, including jobs that had nothing to do with my professional goals — in order to feed and house my family. I had faith that better days were ahead. That's the attitude missing from so much of today's entitlement and dependency culture.

 

Bob: You are indeed a success story. For those on the left, you're too successful! However, you had advantages that many people on welfare today do not. You are educated, you came from a two-parent family in a safe neighborhood and went on to establish a wildly successful marriage. Many on welfare today are single mothers who lack education, have no child care help or transportation for jobs out of their neighborhood. Initiative alone can only do so much.

 

Cal: I know women who fit this profile and who are successful today. One of them, Star Parker, a Republican, is running for Congress from California. She and others who made it determined in their minds and heart to find a way out of poverty. A 60 Minutes show a few years back focused on the hard-core unemployed in New York and taught them how to dress and act at job interviews. Most found jobs. Yes, they were entry level, but it got them in the door.

 

Bob: There are always stunning, and laudable, examples like Parker, but let's be realistic. We're talking tens of millions of our fellow citizens in poverty today. Only a fraction of them will find the formula for success that she has. What about child care, transportation and those other impediments?

 

Cal: I am willing to see my taxes go for that, lest people hang on to the stereotype that conservatives believe in no assistance for those down on their luck. But here's a longer-term fix: While various administrations have been arranging the chairs on the Poverty Titanic, let's start focusing more on the children, but not with more failed government programs that do little to lift them from poverty. If we can save the kids, we can greatly reduce poverty in the next generation.

 

Bob: You'll get no argument here.

 

Cal: OK, since we've agreed in a previous column on education choice, I draw your attention to something that is actually working. The Children's Scholarship Fund in New York reports it has already helped nearly 29,000 disadvantaged children nationwide and 9,300 in New York City with scholarships to private schools. For adonation of $85, this non-profit is able to pay one child's tuition for a month. These kids can then get out of failing schools and find a sustainable path to a better life. I'm sending a check for $85. Can I count on you to match mine?

 

Bob: Of course.

 

Cal: The entire welfare formula has been wrong from the beginning. I salute liberals for compassion, but compassion without seeking to change behavior merely perpetuates poverty. People still must face consequences for bad choices.

 

Bob: What has been lacking in welfare are incentives for people to succeed. You're not going to force someone into success, but you need to remove as many obstacles as possible. I still believe government has a major role in removing these obstacles.

 

Cal: "You can do it" has been a cry I've heard since the training wheels came off my bicycle as a child. This used to be a nation that focused on people who overcame obstacles, not obsessed with those who couldn't. "Nothing succeeds like persistence," President Calvin Coolidge once said. He was right then, and the sentiment still works today. If government is to have a role in this, it should be mainly focused on encouraging incentive and persistence. Americans embrace these traits, and government should not encourage people to suddenly abandon them.

 

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

 

 


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

TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

CONFIRMATION, AT LAST

 

Almost a year after they were nominated and more than six months after they were unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, President Obama's four nominees to the TVA board of directors finally received Senate confirmation last week. The delay was unconscionable.

 

There was no question about the ability of the nominees. Barbara Haskew of Chattanooga, Neil G. McBride of Oak Ridge, Marilyn A. Brown of Atlanta and William B. Sansom are highly qualified to serve on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest government utility. That obviously meant little to several petty practitioners of partisan politics in the Senate.

 

Those senators — Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Mitch McConnell among them — held up the confirmation vote by placing "holds" on the nominations. The arcane practice is legal, but it is unnecessarily disruptive of the political process and the smooth and intelligent operation of government agencies and services. That is especially the case with TVA now.

 

The agency is entering a critical period in its history. The agency must move from its traditional — generally dirty — methods of producing energy to one that emphasizes low-cost, reliable and clean production. That calls for long-range planning that has been impossible for the current understaffed board to start. A full compliment of nine members is needed to take up such important work. Until lasts weeks confirmation, the Senate's outrageous delay made that impossible.

 

The addition of four new fur members to the board should expedite that important work. Each of the nominees

brings a welcome expertise to the task. For example, Dr. Haskins, the first Chattanooga in recent memory to serve on the board, is former dean of the College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University and is currently Distinguished Professor of Economics there. Moreover, she's familiar with the intricacies of TVA operations. She managed the authority's rate staff for eight years.

 

McBride is a long time advocate of more transparency in TVA operations. Dr. Brown is a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for her work on climate change and an expert on clean and efficient energy policy. The new board members' varied viewpoints, cumulative experience and fact-base advocacy should well serve the needs and interests of TVA's nearly nine million customers in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

 

Unfortunately, that service can't start immediately. Senate approval notwithstanding, Haskew, McBride, Brown and Sansom must await presidential commissioning and completion of certain administrative matters before they start TVA work. The government should expedite the process. There's already been enough delay. .

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

THE CHICKAMAUGA MESSAGE

 

Creating a positive, inviting image about a city or region can be a tough job. Many communities, to their credit, undertake the task. Chattanooga and other towns, historical sites and other attractions spend meaningful amounts of money and time to make their names known to a wide audience. It is almost always a prudent investment that holds the promise of a useful return. Often, though, recognition comes from unforeseen sources rather than carefully plotted and designed campaigns. Those unexpected events are all the more welcome for being so.

 

The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and be extension the entire tristate region, is the beneficiary of such positive exposure in the fall issue of Hallowed Ground. The cover of the award-winning magazine, published by the Civil War Preservation Trust, prominently features the Battle of Chickamauga and the related cavalry engagement at Reed's Bridge. The interior pages offer an in-depth view of the battle and events, personalities and locales connected to it. Various sidebars enhance the presentation.

 

Lively writing by David A. Powell, attractive period and contemporary photos and superb maps provide solid history and an attractive introduction to the battlefield and its environs — including Chattanooga. The issue should find an audience among both those familiar with the topic as well as those in search of introductory information.

 

The magazine and its contents provide the kind of positive publicity that tons of money and well-executed publicity and advertising campaigns don't often deliver. With a circulation of about 70,000 and a readership that might reach double or triple that, the magazine's account reaches an audience with a highly developed interest in the Civil War. It should inspire them as well as students new to study of the war and others to consider the battlefield and surrounding communities as places worth an extended visit. That, of course, is one of the major goals of any promotional or advertising campaign.

 

It's no accident that Chickamauga is featured in the magazine. "It was a hugely important battle," says Mary Goundrey Koik, deputy director of communications of the CWPT. "We'd never done a major issue on Chickamauga and it was more than high time to rectify that."

 

How true and timely. The sesquicentennial of the battle is approaching and the effort to promote the anniversary has started. The magazine nicely supplements that campaign.

 

Though the magazine is just now reaching subscribers, Ms. Koik said staffers already had heard glowing comments about its content. That is a clear and welcome sign that Hallowed Ground struck a responsive chord as well as an indication that the area and its attractions could benefit from the extended coverage of Chickamauga.

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

55% DEATH TAX — OR JOBS?

 

How do you like the prospect of losing as many as 1.5 million American jobs — if Congress lets a federal estate "death tax" take as much as 55 percent of a person's lifetime accumulated wealth next year?

 

Well, most of us don't worry much about estate taxes since most of us aren't in the "big bucks" category. But unless Congress takes remedial action on the estate tax, which diminished the past few years and expired at the end of 2009, the estate tax rate will return to a confiscatory 55 percent in 2011 on assets over $1 million.

 

How would that affect "ordinary people"? The higher death tax would adversely affect family-owned small

businesses, causing them to reduce hiring, because the tax would reduce incentives to invest.

 

Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, says members of Congress have suggested several estate tax "reform" plans. One by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would bring about a top-rate estate tax of 65 percent! By sound contrast, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., would repeal the estate tax altogether and permanently! There are several other proposals "in between."

 

But what about the effect on jobs?

 

Based on a new study, Holtz-Eakin says, "[I]f the estate tax were reinstituted at a 65 percent rate, more than 1.6 million jobs would be lost. If Congress takes no action and the estate tax returns to the ... rate of 55 percent, between 1.4 million and 1.5 million jobs would be lost."

 

Why would job losses result from high estate taxes? "The higher the estate tax, the less likely small businesses will invest in hiring. ... A 55 percent estate tax ... will decrease the probability of hiring between 7.6 percent and 8.3 percent," the economist estimates. "Higher capital costs translate directly to reduced incentives to invest," Holtz-Eakin says.

 

Our national goal should be to promote small family businesses for more jobs — but high estate taxes would discourage job development.

 

Many large estates involve family-owned businesses. So how would they be affected by high estate tax rates?

 

American Family Business Foundation President Dick Patten, whose organization commissioned the new study, says, "With fears of a double dip recession on the horizon, the last thing America needs is for Congress to threaten family-owned businesses with a huge tax increase, an increase that could put more jobs on the chopping block."

 

Instead of imposing a 55 percent estate tax, Patten said, "Permanent repeal is the best estate tax policy. At any rate above zero, small and family business — the engines of job growth in America — pay a heavy price.

 

"The death tax not only increases the cost of capital and discourages business expansion, it clearly destroys jobs. In the name of soaking the rich, the death tax hurts America's working people."

 

So, for the best interests of all of us, which is the better policy? "Soak the rich" or generate more than a million jobs for the American people?

 

Watch out for what Congress decides to do.

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

A 'COZY' SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

 

Every year, an organization called the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation gives members of the Congressional Black Caucus $10,000 to distribute in college scholarships to individuals of their choosing. The nonprofit foundation is technically separate from the Congressional Black Caucus itself, and the money for the scholarships comes from private corporate donations, rather than from taxpayers.

 

But the foundation and the caucus, which is made up exclusively of Democrats, are closely tied, with the foundation having been formed by the caucus. Now, unfortunately, at least two members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been found to be giving the scholarships to family members and associates.

 

In Georgia, Democrat Rep. Sanford Bishop gave scholarships to his stepdaughter, his niece and the future wife of one of his aides. And in Texas, Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson gave the money to relatives and to the children of an aide.

 

The foundation forbids the caucus to give the scholarships to family, but Bishop said the rules were not in force when he gave the money to relatives.

 

Doesn't that strike you as a flimsy excuse? Could anyone really think it appropriate to grant college scholarships — created by private donations — to his own family members?

 

Bishop and Johnson both say they will repay the money — now that word of the improperly directed scholarships has gotten out.

 

But if some of those we elect to represent us in Congress behave in ethically questionable ways even with relatively small amounts of money from private donors, is it not troubling to know they are also entrusted with the duty to spend literally trillions of our tax dollars? Does that make you feel your taxes are apt to be spent wisely?

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

AMNESTY PROVISION RIGHTLY FAILS

 

The U.S. Senate has rightly turned back a misguided attempt to give amnesty to potentially millions of people who are in the United States illegally.

 

Disgustingly, Democrats in the Senate had attached the provision — the badly misnamed "DREAM Act" — to a vital national defense bill. They hoped that by doing so, they would make it impossible for Republicans to vote against the overall measure.

 

But it didn't work. Republican senators, joined by Democrat Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, fortunately managed to kill the measure.

 

Granting amnesty to illegal aliens has absolutely nothing to do with protecting our nation. To the contrary, it would reduce our national security by encouraging still more people to enter the United States unlawfully.

The defense spending bill now should be brought back up in "clean" form — without the addition of any "pet political causes" that would do nothing to ensure our national defense.

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

REPAYING EVIL WITH GOOD

 

You might recall that back in March, a submarine from Communist North Korea torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel without the slightest justification, murdering 46 South Korean sailors.

 

It was a cowardly, vicious attack — and one that South Korea would have been well justified in answering with military force.

 

For various reasons, South Korea exercised incredible restraint in not responding militarily to Communist North Korea's violence. Yet now, even despite Communist North Korea's unwillingness to accept responsibility for the torpedoing of the South Korean vessel, South Korea has repaid evil with good.

 

It recently sent convoys of trucks loaded with hundreds of tons of rice and flour across the border to feed the hungry North Korean people. That nation's tragic and inefficient communist system cannot produce enough food to feed its people even in agriculturally good years. But with recent major flooding, the prospects for adequate food are even worse. That prompted the South Korean people to provide the emergency food aid in spite of their grief over the loss of their sailors in the torpedo attack.

 

South Korea and Communist North Korea offer the world a clear picture of the success of free-market economic systems versus the disaster of government-run economies.

 

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

 

 


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

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT- PRESIDENT GÜL'S 'PRESIDENTIAL' WISDOM

 

The remarks Monday regarding the United States-style presidential system made in New York by President Abdullah Gül are… well, presidential. Gül cautioned against a rush to embrace a new architecture of governance without thorough discussion. He is right.

Yes, for at least two decades the notion of a more federal system, something modeled along the lines of America's semi-autonomous states, with a strong executive at the center, have periodically appeared on Turkey's agenda. The first to seriously suggest such was the late President Turgut Özal, assumed in retrospect to be seeking a system of regionalism within which the long elusive accommodation of Kurdish aspirations might be realized. There may be merit in such an argument. It should take place. But any notion of a panacea through such tinkering should immediately be dismissed. Gül's warning about the dangers of a "sultanate" emerging from strong presidential power cloaked in the guise of federalism is one to which we pay heed. We have other concerns.

 

The presidential system praised for its promise of regional autonomy was the very one used to deny the rights of American minorities for a century after the country's civil war ostensibly ended slavery. The white majority relentlessly oppressed the black minority under the defense of "states' rights." Even in supposedly progressive and open-minded California, "states rights" made inter-racial marriage illegal until 1948.

 

The virtues of America's "two-party" system are often hailed in Turkey as a source of political stability and consensus-building. True enough. But in the last U.S. presidential election, more than 20 parties took part. That you probably never heard of the Reform Party, the Independence Party or the Peace and Freedom Party is due to the fact they struggle to be placed on the ballot, an impediment to democracy imposed by tacit agreement among the "mainstream" parties.

 

The experience of countries that have imported the American model is hardly encouraging. In Mexico, the world's only party with an oxymoronic name, the "Party of the Institutional Revolution," or PRI, used the presidential system to keep a lock on dissent and opposition for decades. And let's not forget Fernando Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines who did exactly the same with the presidential system imported into his country.

 

There are successful models of relatively democratic presidential systems outside the United States. France's comes to mind, ironically the source of the same laicism much derided by many of those advocating Turkish presidentialism today. Russia's system is hardly an inspiration today, but it may evolve in that direction and we are in fact encouraged by reforms sought by Russian President Dimitry Medvedev.

 

As Gül suggests, let's think through these matters coolly and calmly.

 

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDUCATION IN MOTHER TONGUE

CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER

 

Recently, I've been analyzing a taboo leading nowhere: "No bargaining with terror."

 

However, readers of this column remember that since the minute a concept of Kurdish initiative has been introduced, I've wrote, "You should convince those who is involved in armed struggle to lay their arms in order for mothers not to cry anymore." And I emphasize that we should act boldly.

 

My recent purpose is to stress the fact that the Sept. 12 constitutional amendment referendum gave us a really historic opportunity.

 

Today I want to warn Kurdish politicians.

 

In the last one year, some demands voiced under the Kurdish initiative have almost turned into asking the impossible.

 

In fact, the one who asks impossible does not want to have conciliation.

 

If we live together:

 

Turks should of course approach carefully to the Kurdish sensitivities and vice versa.

 

The real landmine, so to speak, targeting whole country is the escalating conflicts between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, that morph into a "Turkish-Kurdish" conflict.

 

Today, I'll talk about "education in mother tongue."

 

But first let me make the following distinction that is confused maybe on purpose:

 

1) Education for mother language,

 

2) Education in mother language.

 

In a democratic country everyone is entitled to learn his/her mother tongue beside the official language, if different.

 

And for that it is the state's duty to have selective courses on mother tongue and it should be private schools' right to provide such education.

 

However, education in mother language means education of all courses (history, literature, mathematics, etc.) in the mother tongue.

 

And such demand is the reason for a split.

 

For education is not about learning a language but also acquiring information.

 

Education is, at the same time, a process of discussion and absorption of common culture, values, traditions,

beliefs, aspirations, pains; in short, all elements keeping a community together.

 

If we will live under the Republic of Turkey umbrella, we should jointly claim these elements as a whole!

 

If our children have education in separate schools, we will raise generations who are not familiar with each other's not only language but also culture, values, traditions, customs, beliefs, aspirations and pains etc.

 

No one can keep them together around a common denominator. Within the process, separation comes automatically and naturally.

 

If Kurds insist on education in mother tongue, let's not waste resources, let's not waste time.

 

Let's split now.

 

And then let's allow everyone to go his/her own separate way!

 

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

GOOD OR EVIL?

ERSU ABLAK

 

The debate on hydroelectric power plants is getting harsher each day. However, the government doesn't seem to be affected by the ongoing debates and protests at all. There are 1,500 planned projects, 700 in the Black Sea region. The local people and NGOs are strongly opposing new constructions but they are pressing ahead with rapid development.

 

The hydroelectric plants produce electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is considered and indexed as renewable energy greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rather than fossil-fuel-powered energy plants. According to the UNEP's Division of Technology Industry and Economics 2010 Renewables Report, 2009's renewable investment figure was the second highest annual investment total ever (and four times that seen in 2004) and spending on new capacity (including large hydro plants as well as other renewables) was for the second year running bigger than the investment in new fossil fuel capacity. According to sources, once a hydroelectric complex is constructed, the project produces no direct waste.

 

Professor Kamil Kaygusuz wrote in Energy Resources Magazine: "Turkey has a total hydropower potential of 433 GW that is equal to 1.2 percent of the total hydropower potential of the world and to 14 percent of European hydropower potential. Only 125 GW of the total hydroelectric potential of Turkey can be economically used. By the commissioning of new hydropower plants which are under construction, 34 percent of the economically usable potential of the country would be tapped." 

 

Looking at these information one can conclude that Turkey must use all of its hydropower potential and to not use it would be very unwise. But then what are all the protests for?

 

If it is clean, if it is renewable than why are the local people rising against them? It can not only be explained by the fact that historically important places like Allianoi will be buried underground, as not all of the villages are so lucky to have a historical site near them.

 

The minister of energy claimed that the people who are against such projects are traitors. However I am not sure that he really listened to them.

 

While talking about a certain technology we often focus on the inner workings and don't spend any time thinking about its side effects, especially if they can be observed only in the long term. It is a fact that hydropower plants are renewable in the short and medium term. The long term is another story. In the long term they are one of the key figures of climate change. Water evaporates much faster if there is a plant on the river because the plant either makes the water move at a faster speed or collects it so that there is a greater surface area for evaporation. In time the flora and the rain patterns change, which affects those villagers who are beekeepers and fishermen even in the short term. Also the area downriver from the hydroplant usually dries up completely, which is a very big blow to those who earn a living by farming. Furthermore the electricity cables create uneasiness. The people of the Black Sea region are very disturbed by them. Even without the heavy cabling of 700 plants, the region has the highest cancer rate in Turkey and the people think that it is the fault of the government, who advised them to keep drinking tea collected from the region after Chernobyl. The 700 plants together will amount to 5 percent of the country's electricity demand when they will be completed. So it is the primary duty of the government to think again whether it worth it or not. Maybe just like Germany, building solar panels in warmer southern regions would be wiser.

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LOOKING AT TURKEY – IS THE WEST IN SLUMBER OR IN BLUNDER?

FARUK LOĞOĞLU

 

The result of the Sept. 12 referendum marks yet another critical turning point for Turkey. The singular intent of the referendum was to establish political control over the judicial branch of government. The other articles in the package, however positive they might have been on their individual merits, were mere embellishments.

 

The "yes" outcome, once the constitutional amendments take effect, thus paves the way for the excessive concentration of power in the executive branch, essentially doing away with the separation of powers. The executive would now reign supreme. Consequently, depending on what the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, does with its newly expanded political space, the nature of democracy in Turkey might soon change radically. 

 

The course the AKP is likely to follow should be consistent with its Islamist ideological outlook and with its policies since it came to power in 2002. In that case, Turkey is looking at a new phase in its political development where the government will exercise power with the support of a plurality of the country's population, with impunity, and once the constitutional amendments are in force, without checks or accountability.

 

The AKP leadership feels so emboldened with the results of the referendum that it has already pushed the button to move toward a presidential system. The country is entering uncharted territory where institutional and cultural underpinnings of democracy might no longer apply. It would be a regime still claimed to be a democracy, but bearing little resemblance in substance to it. A regime not resting on the rule of secular law, separation of powers and accountability cannot be democratic. Enjoying a plurality of popular votes is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of democracy. 

 

These potential prospects are ominous enough. However, why the Turkish public voted the way it did and what the AKP deployed to insure its victory at the polls is not the subject of this article. The subject here is the nearly uniform support and praise the AKP is getting from Europe and the United States after the referendum. Political quarters in the West are buying almost wholesale the AKP sales job that the reform package makes Turkey more democratic. Even President Barack Obama, who is unhappy with Turkey over Iran and Israel, joined EU circles in applauding the AKP. Western capitals actually failing to see the transformation of Turkey under the AKP into a society increasingly governed by the rules and precepts of religion is a proposition difficult to accept. Washington knows that Turkish democracy is slipping and that Turkey's foreign policy is shifting its focus away from the Euro-Atlantic community. On the other hand, Europe believes that what matters is not what happens in Turkey so long as the government there acts in consonance with European interests. Europeans follow Turkish developments more closely than Americans do, so they know what the score is. The West, therefore, understands where Turkey is headed. What the West does not understand are the consequences and implications of a Turkey driven by a religionist outlook. 

 

 

The current Western attitude toward Turkey is one of opportunistic and calibrated indifference. The present priority of Western leaders is to maintain sufficiently good relations with the AKP to reap the benefits of Turkey's cooperation and capabilities. They care for Turkey not for Turkey's sake, but for their own immediate satisfaction. However, beyond the short run, this shortsighted selfishness is likely to turn out to be a costly blunder on the part of Western powers.

 

If present trends in Turkey persist unchanged, we are likely to see a hastily implanted presidential system alien to and incompatible with our political and cultural traditions. The AKP probably contemplates the new constitution as a tool to facilitate the institution of the new Presidency. That president would have virtually unlimited powers. If the president were – as is likely to be the case – from among AKP leaders, he would want to reshape the country according to his worldview, i.e., Islamist ideology.

 

A non-secular, para-democratic Turkey would change power configurations, especially in the Middle East. Turkey, increasingly distancing itself from Europe, even questioning the usefulness of NATO and having trouble in its relations with the U.S., might further identify itself with Russia, Iran and Muslim countries. It would also mean the failure of democracy in a Muslim setting. A non-secular Turkey could no longer play the role of the advocate in the "Alliance of Civilizations" initiative. Turkey in the Islamic fold could exacerbate tensions with the non-Muslim world. A security provider, a stability promoter, a model for secular democracy that Turkey has been might cease to be. 

 

Turkey's allies and partners should take such potentialities and their implications seriously. Helping Turkey to sustain its secular democracy and insisting on the preservation of the basics (the rule of law, separation of powers, human rights, basic freedoms, gender equality…) of democracy would only enhance their own security and prosperity at home and improve the quality of global relations. 

 

It is time for the U.S. and European powers to act in terms of what they really know and think about Turkey. Expediency on the part of the West is not a wise policy. The Turkish public is highly suspicious about Western motives regarding Turkey, mostly fearing that the West wants to weaken and divide Turkey. Hence, if our friends and allies in the West believe these fears are misguided and that they really want to see Turkey in the family of Euro-Atlantic nations, they must demonstrate it with their actions and policies. Applauding the ruling AK Party in Turkey and blessing its moves are not enough to help Turkish democracy. The West must do more and better.

 

*O. Faruk Loğoğlu, a retired diplomat, is Turkey's former ambassador to the United States.

 

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LOOKS LIKE KILIÇDAROĞLU HAS TO VISIT BRUSSELS MORE

SERTAÇ AKTAN

 

Those who thought Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the main opposition party leader, would gain some support in Brussels for his cause on the 'no' campaign he lead during the pre-referendum period were quite wrong. His attempts to get at least few counter-opinions on the reform package ended with frustration. Even though he only met with the personalities who has the similar left wing political ideals, he could not get those precious words out of them saying: 'I do not think the outcome of the referendum is positive'.

 

This Brussels schedule of his was also questioned and openly criticized by some journalists based here. This was the first official visit and there were no Christian democrats, no greens, no liberals to talk to? He only had bilateral meetings with Martin Schulz, the Socialists and Democrats, or S&D, Group Leader in the European Parliament and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the president of the European Socialist Party, or PES, where both leaders strongly stressed out that the reform package is a step forward towards the European Union and that more reforms should take place.

 

What Kılıçdaroğlu emphasized over and over again in his meetings he had were the forty-eight journalists that are currently in custody in Turkey. Did he mention or not; some of them are in custody due to accusations of being in cooperation with some military officials for a take over of the parliamentary system, is unknown. What is known is the freedom of press, the freedom of speech and the freedom of judiciary were the key elements he used to make his points during the whole visit and these certainly gain some credits and were repeated by both Schulz and Rasmussen. Equal rights for women and union rights were also important topics that Kılıçdaroğlu managed to get some support on.

 

Now everyone agrees that a huge debate for a new constitution is inevitable. Brussels is expecting the change to start as soon as possible but it seems like the EU is also ok with the idea of doing it after the 2011 general elections just like the ruling Justice and Development Aparty, or AKP, announced right after the referendum. Seeing Brussels relaxed about this makes me think that everyone is aware that this reform package was just the beginning and has an unstoppable momentum. All parties ranging from international to national and local including the United States, the EU the minorities in Turkey, some major ethnicities and major religious groups in the country will be doing all the lobbying they can to shape the new constitution as it works in the best interest for them. Brussels will definitely have its advantages, after all, technically speaking the goal is to adopt a European way of life in many areas of society and the political system- or at least that is what they want to believe that the government's goal is. 

 

Looking back to the first visit of Kılıçdaroğlu in Brussels, I want to address one more important issue. It is an 'image age' we are living in and Kılıçdaroğlu has to be aware of this fact. Not using the protocol procedures and choosing to act like an ordinary civilian is not always considered as being humble, mature or may not always give the 'man of the public' image. Maybe such things are welcomed in Turkey and earn credit among the public but in the international arena it only looks like as if you simply do not have the organization team and power that is necessary to arrange and take care of very simple things. The result is sometimes just making the EU Enlargement Commissioner wait for 20 minutes or forgetting your mobile phone in the metal detector. If this is not the case, if it is totally a lack of organization just like it was the case of banners during pre-referendum and the voting of Kılıçdaroğlu, well then I can say that even if someone could manage to deploy specific personnel to undermine Kılıçdaroğlu's reputation, they would not succeed this much.

 

Before leaving Brussels, Kılıçdaroğlu said that he is planning to visit here more often and start to take more part in the EU membership process by sharing and cooperating with his counterparts. One thing is for sure that he sincerely wants to change the image of CHP in Brussels and I believe if he keeps his word on paying regular visits he will succeed. Just like in Turkey, the EU also sees Kılıçdaroğlu as an opportunity for dramatic change in Turkish politics and the quality of democracy. They already know that it is a different, a more participating, a more constructive and a more active opposition party which now has a bigger potential to become the ruling party of the country. Final word, Kılıçdaroğlu needs to visit Brussels more. 

 

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WATER WARS AND TURKEY

RICHARD REID

 

Water wars are the talk these days – as well they might be, since freshwater has become as strategic a global commodity as petroleum, but a scarcer one. In already more than 30 countries, a liter of water costs more than a liter of oil. New oil deposits will be found. Not so with water. The earth's present freshwater stock is all it will ever get, or has ever had.

 

Turkey is in luck with water. It's the only "wet" country in a legendarily dry region. It's also one of the three countries most mentioned when water-war scenarios are discussed. More on that later.

 

Our planet's water arrangement is a closed system. The sun takes water droplets up into the atmosphere as evaporation: they cool and come down as precipitation: rain or snow. The quantity of water cycled and recycled in this system is essentially the quantity of water that was available at the time of the dinosaurs. While one can cloud-seed and desalinate here and there, our basic water stock is finite. It steadily diminishes as we and millions of new humans draw down on it.

 

Turkey's luck is the possession of nine major rivers – the Tigris, the Euphrates, and seven others. Having them makes Turkey as naturally rich a location as Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have capitalized on the blind good fortune of their oil since 1930s. Ankara has only marginally begun to recognize and exploit its freshwater wealth, which besides its rivers includes Anatolia's lakes and wetlands.

 

Typical water war discussions that feature Turkey also focus on India and Egypt. The three countries are the main users of larger river systems they share with other countries.

 

Turkey shares the Tigris and Euphrates with Syria and Iraq. Egypt shares the Nile with Ethiopia and Uganda; the river rises from lakes in those countries. India has a treaty agreement with Pakistan to share the water of the Indus.

 

In the buildup to a conflict over river use it would seem that power would lie with the owner of the river's headwaters, as is Turkey's case with Tigris and Euphrates. Ankara could shut the spigot to fill one of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, or GAP, dams, as it has done briefly in the past, much to the disquiet of Damascus and Baghdad. With the Nile, the shoe could shift to the other foot. Egypt, though not the headwater country, might threaten Ethiopia over three planned hydroelectric dams downstream from Lake Tana. Indeed there has been talk in Cairo of using air power to dissuade the Ethiopians from doing so.

 

Regarding India, New Delhi's need to feed its economic boom may soon lead it to stretch its treaty with Pakistan and build a string of damns on the Indus in Jammu and Kashmir. These could push Pakistan to the brink. Pakistan has a mere one-month water reserve capacity and is wholly reliant on the Indus. A chilling background factor here is that India and Pakistan have fought three wars and are both nuclear powers.

 

A sustained shut- off of water to downstream countries from any of these four rivers would probably amount to an act of war. Pakistan's harvest would be lost. The Nile is Egypt's lifeblood. It would mean lights out in Syria, and worse in Iraq. Syria could resort to teaming up again with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, as it did not so long ago when its leader Abdullah Öcalan's militants were hosted by Damascus in the Bekaa Valley.

 

To recapitulate, global population growth and runaway consumption have given a must-have status to that most God-given of nature's gifts, freshwater. Seventy years ago oil rose to must-have status for Japan, and Tokyo started the Pacific War to get it. Countries that sense they've been driven to a wall do such things.

 

As tempers fray among the world's river-sharing countries, water-rich Turkey should be able to continue as a steady, treaty-respecting good neighbor, with no need to reach for the spigot. That is political good sense. It is not good sense to ignore the markets Turkey could create through the value-added export of the critically scarce commodity it has in such abundance.

 

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TURKEY: PIOUS AND DISTANT FROM THE WEST IN 15 YEARS

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

 

Usually I do not like fortunetelling, but it has something mysterious about it. No one knows whether or not guesses turn out to be right but everyone always listens out of curiosity.

 

Today I feel a bit like a fortuneteller. Looking at my data on hand I will try and take a guess at what Turkey will be like in 10 to 15 years' time. Very difficult though, because I know data on hand may change any minute and my calculations may be senseless. But there are data that won't change no matter what. Based on just these data I will tell Turkey's fortune.

 

Daily life will change much

 

Turkish society has always been pious but it was not very obvious. In the future we will face a Turkey that will be more pious or at least daily life will be affected by piousness.

 

For example, leave aside the liberation of the headscarf at universities; the religious way of dressing will affect a great part of society, even so in state offices.

 

For example, except for big cities on the coastal area sales in alcoholic beverages will drop and eating in public during Ramadan will be difficult.

 

The secular segment will shrink and conservative life style will prevail in society but it will never give up the secular-democratic system.

 

Those who are afraid of Turkey becoming a deep routed pious state or turn into a religious state like Iran will be proofed wrong. The secular segment, a mixture of Kurds, Laz (people who live by the black sea region), Alevi and Bosnian will not easily be shaped. We should expect a more conservative and closed life style compared to the present but no more than that.

 

Kurds will relax to an important extent

 

In about 10-15 years from now there will be an important change in the lives of our Kurdish citizens in Turkey. They will be able to take care of their own administration in places they make up the majority. Even if it is not explicitly mentioned, we can also call it an autonomous system, in which they will set up their own rules in daily life.

 

They will obtain education in their own language and other request which they have been longing for a long time. They will be one of the most important groups in Parliament.

 

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, will still exist but it will turn into an organization half political, and half armed and marginal. Some of their leaders not involved in terror will even show up in Parliament. The PKK will be remembered as an organization that will not threaten with terror or fear but from time to time scuffle with the Turkish State.

 

Among those who fight for independence will continue their struggle on a political front and fight for a Great Kurdistan embracing their own states.

 

Now this is where my fortune telling approaches some mysterious territory.

 

It is hard to calculate how Turkey's external relations will develop. For, it is an equation with too many unknown elements. Nonetheless, if we keep international extraordinary developments out of our calculations we may encounter Turkey as follows:

 

The European Union endeavor is over. This project will take on a different form because on one hand European countries don't want a huge Muslim country like Turkey joining them, on the other hand Turkey does not desire the EU as previously was the case.

 

Turkey will still be friends with the EU and United States but lose interest. Turkey will have a close but discreet relationship with the West.

 

Weight in external relations will be put on Turkey's immediate neighbors. Relations with countries like the Middle East, Balkans, Caucasus and Middle Eastern Republics will tighten and relations with countries like Russia, China and India will spread.

 

Relations will not be very close with Israel and we'll even see some attrition from time to time. If Iran obtains nuclear weapons relations will be very tense.

 

Maybe a never changing political classic will be Cyprus. It won't be off the agenda and a solution will still be sought after even though it is for sure that Cyprus will remain split.

 

A richer Turkey

 

Maybe I'll repeat myself but if this course can be kept up Turkey will be the richest country in this region. And if it is able to calm down the Kurdish issue one way or the other, surely Turkey's way will be paved.

 

It would suffice if only internal and international conjuncture doesn't change.

 

The urge of the Turkish society to become rich, the increase in the means of opening up to external and internal stability are advantages not to be found easily. A young society will also make up one of the most important play trumps for Turkey.

 

Turkey being located on energy line and being in a strategic position will provide for great opportunities many years from now.

 

Iraq falling apart is one other factor which would provide for the enrichment of Turkey, in case there won't be any great dispute or invasion of Iran by U.S. forces, that is.

 

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


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CYPRUS TALKS (I)

YUSUF KANLI

 

For the next few days, I will be trying to analyze the latest developments in the Cyprus talks. The tentative year's end deadline for a resolution on the island is approaching fast, yet developments indicate that unless Greek Cypriots go through a comprehensive evolution and overcome their mental fatigue, a settlement on the eastern Mediterranean island will not be possible any time soon.

 

According to some public statements the proposals of the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides on the thorny property aspect of the Cyprus problem apparently boosted the "hope" of the United Nations team "facilitating" the direct-talks process that there might be a Cyprus settlement. Now, instead of the "end of 2010" deadline, "deep throats" are whispering that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has started commenting that perhaps the process might be allowed to continue until the end of February 2011.

 

In private discussions, however, many people involved in the process underline that it might be conducive to the process to tell the public that there is hope for a settlement, but the two sides on the island are as far apart as ever on most key aspects of the problem. If the talks are to succeed there is a need to accelerate the process and get on board Turkey, Greece and Britain – the three guarantor powers under the 1960 accords – and convert talks into a five-party conference on the sidelines of which the EU as well as the five permanent members of the Security Council should sit as observers. Greek Cypriots are staunchly opposing such a conference on grounds that they are the government of the entire island and cannot agree to be relegated to the community status by attending on equal footing with the Turkish Cypriots. That is indeed the crux of the problem; Greek Cypriots are not yet mentally prepared to a bi-zonal and bi-communal federal settlement where the two peoples of the island are politically equal.

 

This mental fatigue of the Greek Cypriot side was reflected once again in their proposal regarding the property aspect of the problem. A careful examination of the Greek Cypriot proposals clearly demonstrate that there has not been an inch forward in the Greek Cypriot position since the 1975 National Council decision describing Greek Cypriots as owners of the eastern Mediterranean island and Turkish Cypriots as 500-year-old guests who cannot have any rights in the Cyprus Republic further than some minority rights. Neither the immense sufferings of the Turkish Cypriot people under genocidal practices they were subjected to in the period of 1963-1974, nor the developments on the island since the 1974 Turkish intervention are being taken into consideration in the Greek proposals.

 

Though Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias described the proposals he presented to the Turkish Cypriot side as "reasonable", acceptance of the package would mean saying "yes" to Turkish Cypriots becoming landless as over 80 percent of the properties in northern Cyprus would have to be handed over to Greek Cypriots and thus collapse of the socioeconomic structure established in northern Cyprus in the aftermath of the 1974 intervention. Thus, in the "Turkish Cypriot state" of the future federation, Turkish Cypriots would become lessee of Greek Cypriot properties. Naturally, such a demand is in total contradiction with the "bi-zonality" principle.

 

Secondly, Christofias is demanding that only 50,000 of the mainland Turkish people who settled on Cyprus and have acquired Turkish Cypriot citizenship might stay on the island after a settlement, the rest should be "paid and sent back to Turkey" while up to 100,000 former Greek Cypriot residents of northern Cyprus should be allowed to return to their former properties. That means up to 40 percent of the population of the reduced northern Turkish Cypriot zone would be Greek Cypriots. Is this compatible at all with the bi-communality principle the two sides agreed back in 1977 and 1979 high level agreements or the established U.N. parameters of a settlement?

 

Under the Greek Cypriot proposals title deeds of all former Greek Cypriot properties would be given back to Greek Cypriots. 90 percent of those properties would be handed back to Greek Cypriots, while the remaining 10 percent might be leased for up to 15 years to "current Turkish Cypriot users." Coupled with the demand that up to 100,000 Greek Cypriots should be allowed to return north, Christofias is indeed telling Turkish Cypriots they have no place on Cyprus.

 

Such demands contradict not only with the 1977 and 1979 accords and the established U.N. parameters regarding the bi-zonal and bi-communal character of the future federation but also renders Turkish Cypriots landless in their own homeland. Naturally, these proposals cannot be taken seriously or considered as "reasonable" by anyone in northern Cyprus.

 

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

 


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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NATION SALUTES APEX COURT

 

THE Supreme Court, on Tuesday, sent a loud and clear message that it wants implementation of the NRO verdict in letter and in spirit and would not entertain any lapse in this regard. While the Law Secretary was given the deadline of three days to write a fresh summary to the Prime Minister regarding Swiss cases, the apex court sent two of the NRO beneficiaries — Retired Brig Imtiaz Ahmad and former Chairman NAVTEC/OGDCL Adnan Khawaja right from the court room to Adyala jail.


The NRO itself and the case relating to this much-maligned deal has generated a lot of interest and Tuesday's development clearly showed that the apex court meant business. Unfortunately, it is more than ten months now that the Supreme Court delivered a clear and unambiguous verdict in the case but the Government is reluctant in implementing the judgement. The court ordered reopening of all cases from the stages they were before getting relief under NRO, explaining also that the sentences awarded would stand restored and properties released will have to be confiscated again. The order to send powerful people like former IB chief to jail is a major development that shows the firmness and determination of the apex court to establish rule of law effectively. This is perhaps for the first time in the history of the country that the court has asserted to such an extent and naturally the nation is appreciative of this resolve. This is because people of Pakistan struggled hard and made immense sacrifices for restoration of judges and independence of judiciary and now they expected of the judicial officers to move firmly towards the cherished goal of rule of law. Ironically, in Pakistan, laws are only meant for the poor while the influential people go scot-free even if they trample laws of the land and concrete steps are needed to arrest the trend. The nation salutes the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muammad Chaudhary for his straightforward approach to the issue of dispensation of justice and is justified in thinking that the struggle for independence of judiciary is bearing fruit.

 

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

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

VCS PUSHED TO WALL, WHAT A SHAME!

 

STRANGE things, which are not even conceivable elsewhere in the civilised world, do take place in Pakistan but regrettably no one is bothered. The public sector universities are facing worst-ever financial crisis just because of the short-sighted policies and callous attitude of the Government towards an issue that is directly linked to the future of the country. The situation has forced Vice Chancellors of these universities and students to virtually come on roads to protest against the loathsome attitude of the authorities concerned towards higher education.

A few days back, the VCs were clearly told by the authorities concerned that the Government would not provide them funds to run their institutions and instead they should raise fees and collaborate with private sector for the purpose. The bewildered VCs threatened to close down the universities from the 20th but then the Prime Minister intervened to save the situation, constituting a committee of VCs for negotiations with Planning Commission, HEC and Finance Ministry to sort out the issue. But their deliberations failed on Tuesday ostensibly because of cold-blooded approach of the bureaucracy. This is nothing new as the present Government is known for its lacklustre attitude towards higher education and one of the first things it did after assuming power was to wind up the otherwise highly beneficial project of universities of science and technologies, which were to be set up in collaboration with some friendly countries, and also curtailed drastically funds for higher education. However, the decision to choke funds of the universities almost altogether and to ask them to raise fees is reflective of the jaundiced governmental mindset. It is duty of the State to ensure that students hailing from poor segments of the society also get access to quality and higher education but it is obvious that the hike in fee would make it virtually impossible for them to get admissions in institutions of higher learning. This would effectively deprive them of their fundamental right and would amount to closing the door of higher education on them, as they cannot afford to pay mindboggling fees charged by private sector universities. We would, therefore, urge the Prime Minister to put his foot down firmly and spare necessary financial resources for education at all costs as we cannot afford to close our eyes to the future of the country.

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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

DEADLY ROAD ACCIDENTS

 

DEATH of a large number of school children when a bus carrying them plunged into the Jhelum River near Garhi Dupatta on Tuesday morning shocked and grieved everyone. The innocent souls were happily going to their school in the morning without knowing that they would meet this fate, reportedly due to the negligence of the driver as he was busy in talking on the mobile phone and lost control of the vehicle.


According to reports, a Peon of the school who was not a regular driver was plying the vehicle. If correct, it speaks of the criminal negligence on the part of those who deputed him to transport the young children from their homes to school particularly in the dangerous hilly area. This is not the first incident of its kind as deadly road accidents are taking lives of innocent people daily across the country. Most of the road accidents that occur, including fatal ones, are results of traffic law violations. Even otherwise, if no accident takes place still driving on roads in Pakistan is a stressful job because most of the drivers are least bothered about observing rules. Reckless driving, jam-packed vehicles, ill-trained drivers, lust for earning more money by overloading commuters, out-lived vehicles mostly owned by sets of elite class, carelessness by those responsible to check the plying buses, coasters, vans, wagons and even cars, non-implementation of traffic rules by the authorities concerned with multiple identical critical aspects like rampant corruption backed by the vile of pecuniary frustration are deemed to be the root causes of almost all the road accidents. Though no proper national record of deaths from road accidents is maintained in Pakistan, yet the staggering figures of casualties need to be taken notice of and preventive measures taken to avoid tragedies like the one that has befallen on the poor parents in Azad Kashmir. One can assume the pain and sufferings of the grief stricken families of the ill-fated children and expect that the authorities would take appropriate action against all those responsible for this tragedy.

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PAKISTAN IN THROES OF CHAOS

DR S M RAHMAN

 

The nation had a sense of relief that the Post 18th February elections, would usher in a new era of freedom from the Army rule, and a respectable civil culture of governance would add grace and dignity to the nation, besides incrementally building up its resilience to withstand any crisis and external threat. Implicit was a commitment that Pakistan would cease to be dictated by any power, no matter how heavy weight it could be in the geo-political arena. Decisions would cease to be one-man show, and that these would reflect the cumulative 'will' of the people, from its chosen representatives in the Parliament. Alas! It was not to be. A semantic dilemma grips the minds of the people. How substantively different in spirit really was the civil government as opposed to the despotic rule? A mere cosmetic paraphernalia of political governance - the upper house (the Senate) the Lower House (the Parliament), the Presidency, the provincial Assemblies, the governors of the provinces and so forth do not depict a real transformation that was needed, so that the country could exhibit symptoms of democratic governance, and not its mockery. Power still rests with one-man, who controls the Prime Minister, the Senate and the Parliament. 


Pakistan as inheritor of British legacy, has by and large, maintained the political, educational and judicial structure, with marked detoriation in every field. For instance, in parliamentary system, the President represents the Federation, and he is above party partismship. Under pluralistic system, there could be two or more parties, depending upon the maturity level of the political culture. The President is the custodian of the unity of the country, and as Head of the Federation, must act symbolizing those values, that constitute the aims and objectives of the nation. He must demonstrate through words and actions that Pakistan represents 'diversity in unity.' Pluralistic societies do have different political parties with different manifestos as well as regional differences in culture, linguistic or otherwise. But national ethos cannot be submerged in the sea of regional diversities. What binds a nation is the national language. 


Urdu is the national language representing the identity of the nation. It is indeed a great misfortune that President Zardari, the so called elected leader, has never used Urdu in addressing the combined sessions of the upper and lower Houses. One K.P (Khyber Pakhtunkhaw) leader had the audacity to say that Urdu was not the national language, quite oblivious of the fact that the Constitution is explicit on this issue and it unequivocally accepted Urdu as the national language. God forbid, if Pakistan did not come into being Hindi would have been accepted by the Pukhtoon leader, as his national language. Has not South India, a well as, West Bengal accepted Hindi as the national language, even though they have very rich regional languages? Moreover, it is problematic if India would have conceded to accepting Khyber Pakhtunkhaw as the name of the state on the ground that NWFP was a geographical name in nature. The biggest state in India is UP, which is the abbreviation of Utter Pradesh (Northern territory). Along with the language is the national dress that constitutes the integrative element of the nation. Of course, regional languages need to be encouraged but not by relinguishing the national language. Punjabi, Saraiki, Sindhi, Pushto, Brohi and others, have rich cultural moorings, and literary heritage but national cohesion demands adherence to national language. Unfortunately we degrade Urdu medium schools as lower in status against the English medium private schools for the children of the elite class. In pre-partition India, Hyderabad Daccan had Urdu as medium of instruction of all modern subjects of science and technology, which crated great scholars like Dr. Raziudin Siddiqui and others.


I had an occasion to visit Tokyo and was invited to address graduate students of Psychology in the Tokyo University. I was staying in a hotel in the down town (Ginza) and was very difficult to communicate as very few people knew English. With great difficulty, I could catch the train which enabled me to reach the University. All through the journey, I was wondering in what language would I address the students, as reaching from my place of stay to the University was indeed a very arduous task. Any way, I reached the Department and met the Professor, who had arranged my lecture. I asked him in what language could I talk as I had great difficulty in reaching the University. The Professor assured me that I should speak in English and try to be as simple as possible. Moreover, he assured that should there be any problem of understanding, he would translate it into Japanese. It was mandatory for every post graduate student to learn English. It was an hour long lecture and I found that I was communicating quite well with the students, particularly, when they asked questions, it became very clear to me that they had understood me quite well. When I was invited to tea after the lecture session, it came to me as a pleasant surprise that the 'book' which was the basis of my talk, was already translated into Japanese. Every department of the University is responsible for translating the latest books published in USA or in other countries. They too impart training in English but not at the cost of their national language. The same I found was true of the great peoples of China. Unless you respect your national language, you have no identity of your own. The way the national language has been neglected in Pakistan is indeed atrocious. So many universities and colleges are being opened like mushroom but the quality is shockingly very low. I have yet to come across my student who has masters degree in social sciences or strategic studies, who can express his/her ideas cogently in English even a single paragraph or so. The whole educational system is in a pitiable state, with three systems operating simultaneously, Urdu medium, English medium and Madrassa System. Our educational planners have no idea of developing a viable national identity. We had a very well knit nation, which steered the creation of the state of Pakistan and ironically the State has lost the nation.We have not learnt any lesson from the break-up of Pakistan, which indeed was the gravest national tragedy. How geopolitically important would have been Pakistan, if the two wings functioned in unison. I recall a very interesting episode, when I was attending a Church function in USA, in which every nationality had to present some aspect of its culture. Unfortunately, I was the only one from Pakistan and was quite perturbed as to what should I present, as I was horribly deficient in singing. From India, there were three or four representatives, especially two girls from West Bengal. They sang Tagore's songs, which were immensely appreciated. So when I was called upon the stage I said that the girls who have sung songs in Bengali, should be taken as Pakistan's contribution, as Bengali was only a regional language of India, whereas it was a national language of Pakistan. I got the due clappings, but the Indian students were amply frustrated and cursed me a lot. The reality, however, could not be denied.


Coming to the question of national unity, it is very shocking that President Zardari has repeated several times that the representatives of the four provinces came to him suggesting (after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto) that Pakistan, God forbid, "na-khappay" (should not exist) But it was he, who said that it would "Khappay" (it shall exist). After 62 years of Pakistan's existence, if the President himself makes such ridiculous statement, what message does he give to the world. Does it not convey that Pakistan was a fragile state about to collapse. This statement he made even in his recent controversial visit to UK. Which country will come forward to invest in Pakistan when the President himself makes such thoughtless statements? A country's viability does not hinge on any one individual but on its people, who are the bastion of the strength of the nation.


About the nature of corruption of the present regime, the less said the better. The global perception is that there could not be greater looters of national wealth as the elected politicians of Pakistan, ironically quite a number possessing fake degrees. Political ethos of the country is deplorable to say the least in which Dastis and Mastis thrive most and for the educated and knowledgeable there is no political space in the country.


The judiciary miraculously achieved its independence, despite the government-in- power's reluctance to do so and to continue with Dogar type judiciary, where judgments are made to order. Unfortunately, the policies are oriented towards creating hurdles in the implementation of Supreme Court's verdicts. The Law Minister, is hell bent that the Supreme Court judgments are flouted. Lawlessness and lack of accountability has touched the rock bottom, and one wonders if there exists a government of a sort. Karachi carnage and target killings should have resulted in the resignation of at last, the interior minister if not the entire cabinet. It is a killing field for the drug paddlers and the land grabbers. Morality, compassion and human heartedness are the worst casualties. The brutal killing of children is the worst possible reflection of barbarism and violence has become a national trait. The police are only the passive spectators.


The massive flood that has hit the country, does not move the conscience of the people within and outside the country, as they have no trust that money would be spent for the welfare of the victims of the flood. The Crisis Control Authority is hopelessly incapable of managing such a mega tragedy. There are no SOPs of water management, due to out-dated irrigation system. The flood water could have been preserved for meeting the dire need of the Agricultural sector. Pakistan's credibility was never as low as it is now. The shameless match fixing episode in London has added fuel to fire. The rapacious officials of the Cricket Board have not been subjected to any accountability. In any respectable society, they should have voluntarily resigned. Yet the rumour is that the President of the State is the magnet around whom the corrupt ones gravitate. One wonders, if this constitutes the revenge of democracy? 


—The writer is Secretary General, FRIENDS.

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

MUSHARRAF'S FUTURE PLANS

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

In May this year, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Nawaz Sharif, who was in London, to obtain his approval for approaching the Supreme Court to have General Musharraf brought back to Pakistan and put on trial. It had taken the PM more than two years to make this request to the former prime minister who was deposed by Musharraf in a coup, was put behind bars and later dispatched to Saudi Arabia in exile. As soon as he returned to Pakistan he demanded Musharraf's trial on charges of overthrowing his elected government and abrogating the constitution but nobody listened. 


On the contrary the PPP government which came to power through an insidious plan hatched by Musharraf in collaboration with the US to pardon all PPP leaders for their multifarious crimes and call the late Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto and install her on Pakistan's throne for the third time under his tutelage as President so that he could rule under the façade of democracy for another five years. The outrageous killing of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto however upset his planning and Mr. Zardari was enthroned as President of Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf continued living in the Army House where he lived as President. Full security arrangements were provided to him by the army. He went abroad several times and came back. Nobody bothered him. When the time came for him to leave the Army House, an army contingent gave him a guard of honor which he solemnly inspected. People thought he seems to be free now and no action will be taken against him. Subsequently he took refuge in London, where he is staying for the last two years, travelling to various countries on lecture tours. He told a news conference in Washington, where he has a wide circle of friends, that he would return to Pakistan before the next elections. He also launched a group named "Friends of Pakistan First", which included delegates from 26 US states. This group, he said, would provide financial, technical and intellectual support to him in his bid to launch himself in Pakistan politics. 


One wonders why the government had raised the Musharraf issue after sleeping over it for so long. One reason that comes to mind is the frustration of the government over a host of serious problems which have forced the people to come out on the streets in a nasty mood. The incompetent government can neither solve the gigantic problems nor can control the mass hysteria. It hoped if Musharraf was put on trial the nation's attentions would be on this issue for a quite a long time. But the important question is whether the army would allow its former Commander- in - Chief to be disgraced alone, without touching his Prime Minister, members of his cabinet and governors of the provinces who were partners in his "crimes". In the time honored tradition of Pakistan's history the corrupt and inefficient democratic governments have been overthrown by army chiefs since 1958 to 1999 when General Musharraf who overthrew the weak government of Mian Nawaz Sharif. General Musharraf ruled quite comfortably and effectively for about seven years but his luck ran out when he succumbed to his desire to extend his rule for another five years making a deal with late Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan, win the elections and form a government under him as President. This plan, however, was disrupted with the assassination of Ms. Bhutto which gave Mr. Zardari an opportunity to enter the President's House. 

To his added misfortune General Musharraf had a disagreement with the Supreme Court Chief Justice who, he thought, would strike down NRO which was his main trump card to win over Ms. Bhutto, and asked for his resignation, but he refused to quit. As a consequence Mr. Mushasrraf dismissed 60 superior court judges which led to a massive protest march by lawyers supported by some political parties which forced him to impose emergency in the country which weakened him still further. The faction of Muslim League headed by him lost the 2008 election which shattered Musharraf''s dream to rule the country for another five years. Finally he resigned on August 8, 2008.

Now, after hibernating in London for two years General Musharraf has declared his intention to launch his own political party on October 1, 2010 and return to Pakistan to take part in the next election. He told newsmen in Hong Kong recently that he is prepared to face any action against him on his return to the country, but as far as he knows there is no pending legal action against him. There are, he added political elements opposed to him who could engineer cases against him, but he was confident that nothing could happen because whatever he did had legal cover. General Musharraf urged the West to stay its course against Taliban or risk the destabilization of the region. He admitted that he had lost popularity in Pakistan especially after firing the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the subsequent state of emergency, but he said he was confident to rebuild his support base among the younger generation which is demoralized today and could be reawakened and motivated to introduce a new political culture in Pakistan. 


Considering the turmoil caused by floods and down turn of the economy, corruption at its highest and mis-governance at its apex, any leader who could mobilize the youth to take over the command of the country may certainly win the next elections and throw away the present fossilized political leadership. The history is witness that army chief's who overthrew the elected democratic governments through military coups, abrogated the constitutions and imposed martial law, were never tried by Pakistani courts and lived their lives peacefully till their natural deaths. If General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and even General Niazi who signed the surrender document of East Pakistan could not be tried, why should General Musharraf be an exception? His crimes were not bigger than those of others.

 

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

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

DEMOCRACY TO OVERCOME ALL CHALLENGES

FAROOQ MOIN

 

The PPP-led coalition Government and Members of Parliament have the mandate of the people through the elections and would protect democracy. The masses had paid a huge price for the restoration of democracy in the country. A mid-term review of the Government held in Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani resolved that democracy, Parliament and the unanimously adopted 18th Constitutional amendment by Parliament would be defended and protected at all costs. The unanimous 1973 Constitution has been restored with full support of all the political parties. It was further resolved to continue making strides in order to strengthen the democratic process and resolve problems facing the masses. The international community has realized that a democratic, stable and prosperous Pakistan is a key to address the global issues particularly on counter-terrorism. 


Pakistan is facing gigantic challenges and democracy is the only system which offers solution to overcome intractable problems. Pakistan's future lies with democracy. A democratic system tends to find solution to the complex problems by evolving consensus and accommodating all the stakeholders. It establishes unity within the broad and diverse viewpoints. The nation has the resolve to strengthen democracy and promote democratic ideals. The people are resolute in their commitment to safeguard their democratic rights. Pakistan came into being through a political and democratic process. Our forefathers achieved Pakistan through a democratic struggle and rendered numerous sacrifices for the establishment of a democratic country. The freedom struggle was fought along the constitutional lines. The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said in his broadcast talk to the people of the United States of America in February 1948, "I am sure that it (Constitution) will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy." 


The people and their political leaders have rendered great sacrifices for the restoration of democracy as envisaged by the founding fathers. The sacrifices of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and many others have led to the establishment of an elected Parliament. This year, both the Houses of parliament through unanimous vote have restored democracy by unanimously adopting the historic 18th Constitutional Amendment to restore its pristine democratic credentials. The sovereign parliament should not allow any attempt towards sabotaging the democracy. For democracy to gain strength, political harmony and reconciliation are a prerequisite. There is a need to inculcate the spirit of dialogue and accommodation. Fundamentalism and extremism are a serious threat to the democratic culture. The people are committed to eliminating terror from the fabric of society and completely banish terrorism. The democratic Government is taking effective measures to restore peace in every nook and corner of the country. All the democratic forces should pledge to make Pakistan a truly democratic country by promoting democratic values. The greatest threat to democracy is from extremists and militants who want to foist their political agenda on the people by bullet rather than ballot. There is a need to reinforce commitment to democratic ideals. Intolerance to dissent and disagreement also endanger democracy. The people are resolute in safeguarding their constitutional rights and reject anti-democracy elements that derail the democratic process as their ethos is democratic. The elected parliament in keeping with democratic traditions would ensure that democratic Constitution was not subverted by anyone. The people may have endured spells of dictatorship due to coercion but they have neither accepted nor accorded legitimacy to dictatorship, and have not accepted any adventurer sabotaging the democratic process and offered great sacrifices for the revival of parliamentary democracy. However, it has yet to gain strength for which there was an imperative need to work in a spirit of harmony and reconciliation. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani says there is no danger of dictatorship in the country, as the people had paid huge price to bring back democracy. "All the 442 Members of Parliament, including the National Assembly and the Senate, voted for bringing back the 1973 Constitution. And they are here to protect the Constitution", he stressed. 
There is a parliamentary system and functioning democracy and every Member of Parliament will protect the democratic system. The unanimous approval of 18th Constitutional Amendment, 7th NFC Award, more provincial autonomy, giving rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, etc, were major achievements of the democratic Government. There can be difference of opinion among the political parties on various issues, as they have their own political manifestos, but as far as the democracy was concerned, they are all together. The Members of Parliament will not like the democratic system to collapse. Despite the huge challenge of floods, the Government had the resolve to fighting the menace of terrorism and continuing on the path of sustainable economic reforms. The international community should help in coping with this huge challenge of rehabilitation of over 20 million people, as socio-economic stability in the country is a prerequisite to continue to focus on the war against terrorism. 


The Government has acted above political expediency and took some bold decisions as well as making persistent efforts to take all the political forces along on all matters of national importance and amicably resolving them through the support of the masses and Parliament to develop and further strengthen the democratic institutions. The major institutions of the State need to work in complete cohesion and within the laid down parameters of their constitutional jurisdiction in order to ensure that no harm could come to the democratic system in the future. An assertive parliament now wields authority that the lawmakers lacked for years and were demanding oversight on all issues including national security and defence. Keeping in view the national, regional and international challenges, it was essential to forcefully protect the national dignity, freedom and sovereignty by forging national reconciliation. 


The nation has been acting in a very responsible manner by giving a collective response as it wanted peace, progress and a strong democratic system. The people decided to restore democracy because of their firm belief that it can win a lost war, settle all disputes and make decisions with national consensus. The masses now realising that democracy alone can protect the Constitution, can consolidate the Federation by empowering all the Provinces, uphold and promote cultural diversity, interfaith harmony and fundamental human rights. Democracy has now galvanized the elected representatives to legislate with a vision and vigour. Parliament is cleansing the Constitution of all dictatorial insertions and distortions. The supremacy and sovereignty of the Constitution and Parliament have been established and the Government taking is the democratic forces together to further consolidate democracy, as earlier confrontations has resulted in a great loss. The nation is now moving on the path of stability and would achieve the smooth journey to flourishing of full civilian democracy through a collective effort by all the democratic forces.

 

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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

CRIMINAL SILENCE OVER VIOLENCE IN KASHMIR

ALI SUKHANVER

 

Neither USA, the commander of the universal war against terror, nor the most challenging so-called Muslim extremists could stop the notorious priest Terry Jones from burning the Holy Quran; it is something very strange; Terry Jones seems the most powerful because he simply ignored all threats and admonitions by saying ' My foot' to all. If Al-Qaeda and Taliban were really as powerful as portrayed by the western media, they would have till now slaughtered the notorious priest Terry Jones; the culprit behind the burning of the Holy Quran on 9/11 this year. The silence of these so-called Muslim extremist groups over the burning of the Holy Quran is not only surprising but also somewhat suspicious. Their silence questions their existence. In the story beginning from the insulting caricatures of the Holy Prophet and surely proceeding forward after this heinous episode of the burning of the Holy Quran , we find no where the so-called extremists; no reaction ; no revenge; all very astonishing. If they were there, they would have certainly proved their existence.


Religion is ever considered the most sensitive issue for every individual throughout the world. Even those who are non-practicing with reference to their religion are very much concerned about the holiness and sacredness of the religious philosophy they follow. Such people not only get irritated but also get agitated when their religion is ridiculed or disgraced. Surprisingly the situation seems absolutely different in case of the Muslim extremists. Selman Rushdie, Tasleema Nasreen, Seppo Letho and now Terry Jones; none of these culprits could be taken to task by the Muslim extremists. The scenario depicts the helplessness of the Muslims throughout the world. Every day, there is a new tale of insult and disgrace brought to the Muslims but their reaction is simply limited to slogans and resolutions. 


From Iraq to Palestine and from Afghanistan to the Indian Occupied Kashmir, the Muslims are being slaughtered cruelly and heartlessly. The situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir is no doubt the worst of all. According to the facts collected by the Kashmir Media Service just in the month of August,2010 the total number of killings of Kashmiries in Indian army custody was 72 , including 37 men, 4 women and 31children. More than 1505 got seriously injured at the hands of Indian security forces. Usually the cases of rape are not reported to the police or the media but even then more than 20 of such cases succeeded in getting the attention of the media. The international community is all time doing nothing but adopting the policy of 'see and wait'. At present the innocent Kashmiries are passing through the ever-worst phase of their life but the International community has done nothing so far for them. The scenic paradise of the Indian Occupied Kashmir is once again blazing with flames of fright and terror. Countless innocent Kashmiries have yet been injured and so many deprived of their lives. Schools, markets, offices, mosques and even the small mud-houses are presenting picture of a wasteland. Continuous curfew, non-stop strikes and much more; the situation is so much grave that this year most of the Kashmiries could not offer their prayers on Eid day. As reported by different news sources this new wave of agitation started as a protest against the burning of the Holy Quran in USA.


The Indian security forces tried to curb the protest by use of violent force which added fuel to fire. The protest against the US government turned into the protest against the Government of India. The Indian forces deputed there started behaving so nonsensically in response to the protest against the burning of the Holy Quran that the Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh had to ask the security forces to use humane methods to deal with the demonstrators. Some analysts say that from the day first, protest against Terry Jones was an extension of the anti-India feelings. Most of the Kashmiries are of the opinion that India could not have sustained its illegal, immoral and unethical occupation on Kashmir without US support and favour. They think that USA and India are two sides of the same face thinking with the same brain. The USA never ranks the Indian atrocities in Kashmir as human rights violations. Human rights violations in form of disappearances, torture, rape and molestation of Muslim women have become a routine matter in the Indian held Kashmir. The central government of India is using all fair and foul tools against the helpless people of Kashmir. Apparently they are free but actually they are leading a life worse than slaves. Some of the analysts have started calling the valley of Kashmir 'an open prison'. Instead of listening to the agonizing cries of the wretched Kashmiries, the Indian government seems more efficient in crushing their voices so that they may not attract the attention of the international world. It has banned not only the major Pakistani TV channels and newspapers in the valley but also blocked Short Messaging Services. A few weeks back various internet search engines like Google and Skype were also warned to be careful with reference to the services they provide to the users. In short the government of India is desperately trying to raise a wall between the Occupied Kashmir and the rest of the world.

The freedom movement in Indian occupied Kashmir is no doubt an indigenous one; with the passage of time it is gaining a new momentum and urgency. The Kashmiris are unanimous in their demand for self-determination. They need nothing from the world around but a moral support; the same which is being provided to them by the people of Pakistan. Kashmir is not a no-man's land. The people of Kashmir have their own culture, own traditions and their own philosophy of life; they are a nation. They can never be kept under the yoke of slavery forever. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, they will succeed in regaining their lost liberty and snatched identity. Still there is time for the government of India to understand the demands and desires of the Kashmiri nation and act sympathetically. 

 

The writer is a Pakistan based bilingual analyst on defence and strategic affairs.

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDIA'S KASHMIR CHALLENGE

VIEWS FROM ABROAD

M K BHADRAKUMAR

 

An unseen passenger would have travelled in the special aircraft ferrying the "all-party delegation" to Srinagar on Monday [September 20]. The distinguished parliamentarians might not have noticed the American's discreet presence. He came straight from a fateful conclave in a five-star hotel in Islamabad last Wednesday. For the first time in the 60-year post-colonial history of our region, the political and military leadership of the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan sat together under a chandelier in Islamabad to choreograph a new security architecture for the region and it was a dazzling display of American influence in our part of the world. A momentous chapter in regional politics is unfolding as the nine-year-old Afghan war slouched toward a denouement. Kashmir cannot remain unaffected when such a phenomenal tectonic shift in the regional balance of power gets under way. The Islamabad conclave was every bit about the reconciliation of turbulent relationships, matching of differing concerns of respective countries and the changing nature of diplomacy that is needed to influence the final shape of peace.


Pakistan brokered brilliantly to bring the US and the Taliban to the vicinity of a settlement. The picture that emerges is that in a near future the 1,00,000 US troops would stop fighting and dying in the Taliban's Pashtun strongholds in the south and east in a futile counter-insurgency operation and would thin out to relocate to the predominantly non-Pashtun regions in the north and west. The US's "combat mission" will end and what remains will be a few thousand troops (like in Iraq) to ensure that the affiliates of al-Qaeda do not regroup. 

The US can deploy air power or the special forces if an odd al-Qaeda fellow pops up somewhere while the Afghan army will incrementally come on stream. The end of bloodshed will remove the war from being a domestic political haemorrhage for the Barack Obama administration. At the same time, it will be a geopolitical coup insofar as the US military presence in Central Asia will be put on a long-term footing, which, in turn, enables the US to effectively pursue its global strategies in terms of the containment of China and Iran, the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a real-time provider of security for the Central Asian states and the perpetuation of the western dominance over the oil-rich Middle East, which is under growing challenge.

Indeed, Mr. Karzai has to walk a tight rope calibrating the Afghan aspirations of independence and sovereignty when there is an overflow of adrenaline through the Pakistani veins, having come so close to realising "strategic depth". Can Mr. Karzai count on no-holds-barred US backing? Most certainly, not. Washington has its own national interests vis-à-vis the Pakistani military leadership. Washington will not want to squander away the excellent chemistry between the Pentagon and Mr. Kayani for which it worked hard. India's regional policy, too, finds itself at a crossroads. The cementing of the US-Pakistani axis in Afghanistan cannot but affect Indian interests and it leaves a lousy feeling of being let down by the Americans. 


Be that as it may, New Delhi will still place hope that the US acts as a "moderating influence" on the Pakistani military. It is always good to hope. In ideal conditions, the US's moderating influence could work in three directions: a) India has legitimate interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot exercise a veto over it; b) the ISI should not use the Taliban-held regions as sanctuaries and training camps for terrorists operating against India; and, c) Pakistan should dismantle its own terrorist infrastructure and opt for settlement of differences through dialogue. The reasonableness of the Indian case is certainly not in doubt. But then, life is real. The US will be foolish to spend out of its capital of goodwill with the Pakistani military. Look at it this way. The settlement in Afghanistan strengthens the US's standing in the region but, paradoxically, it also makes the US strategies in the downstream predicated on the Pakistani military delivering on the stabilisation of the Afghan situation. The equation, you may say, is a serious one for Washington's future strategies. Put simply, Taliban is the best-organised Afghan group today, the creation of a viable Afghan national army is a long haul, and Pakistan can create mayhem in Kabul if it chooses to be a spoiler.


Arguably, US airpower and special forces may deliver shock and awe but wars are ultimately won and lost on the ground and it is inconceivable that the US troops would return to a combat mission in Afghanistan. The Taliban can comprehend the paradigm; the Pakistani military leadership knows it; and the US knows that the two protagonists know it. In sum, therefore, the Pakistani military will be holding the Afghan settlement by its jugular for the foreseeable future. Not that the Pakistani military will necessarily opt for strategic defiance of the US Why should it kill the goose that lays the golden egg? The Americans are good paymasters and Pakistan needs a lot of money these days to simply to stay afloat.


The most crucial variable for Delhi is that the US too would have expectations of India's good conduct in Afghanistan. It is all-too delicate an issue but India can no more stall the Pakistani demand for the closure of our consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar. Nor is the US going to plead our case. Much depends on whether Delhi is prepared to work with Washington's Asia-Pacific enterprise. In anticipation, the pro-US lobby and the Indian middlemen for Americans arms manufacturers are already on overdrive expounding bizarre theses — India should prepare for wars on two fronts simultaneously, Indian armed forces deserve better civilian leadership, etc. These lobbyists and commission agents are tirelessly drumming up a war psychosis and Sinophobia in order to pedal their case that Delhi should embrace all-round military co-operation with the US and work with the American global strategies. These bellboys have unabashedly become stakeholders in creating xenophobia and in keeping the nation's nerves on edge at a time when no one with a modicum of sanity would say India faces threat of armed aggression.


The commission agents of US arms manufacturers salivate over kickbacks but where do our national interests lie? We can't be "coolies" in the US's Asia-Pacific enterprise as it imperils our normalisation with China and will inevitably trigger a cold war in our region that sidetracks the priorities of development. Besides, we simply can't appease the American manufacturers by atrophying the time-tested friendship with Russia since if the push comes to the shove on Kashmir, whereas the US position remains ambivalent (although we unilaterally insist on interpreting it to be in our favour), we may need to shout across the Himalayas to our Russian friend. Most important, the US-Pakistan axis is pivotal for the US regional strategies in Central Asia and in a not-too-distant future Mr. Kayani will seek his pound of flesh on Kashmir. 


The Intifada unfolding in the Valley has diverse moorings and the killing of innocents may well turn out to be a sideshow in the 20-year deadly game that is far from played out. The political reality is that Pakistan has escalated its rhetoric on Kashmir. The government's invitation to China to invest in the development of J&K indeed underscores our growing sense of awareness. We need to carefully measure the timeline available to normalise the J&K situation. A regime change in Srinagar is not the priority today. Politicising the crisis will be a most irresponsible thing to do. The writer is a former diplomat. —The Hindu

 

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

 


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

THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

OPENING UP IN A DIGITAL AGE

 

THE nation's judges, other than Michael Kirby, formerly of the High Court, are rarely household names.

 

That could change following suggestions from the Victorian Chief Justice about using the internet to increase the transparency of the court system. Marilyn Warren wants live streaming of judges' decisions, audio recordings, court commentators on YouTube and a weekly online court newspaper. The Chief Justice has displayed an encouraging frankness in arguing that if judges want a better press, they need to open their courts in a digital age. She stopped short of urging television cameras in court but her ideas represent a big step forward. Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls agreed, suggesting yesterday the courts should stream entire cases on the net.

 

Every citizen has the right to walk unchallenged into any court and broadcasting these events just extends those rights to more Australians.

 

The Chief Justice argues that judges, unlike other institutions, cannot lobby for their points of view. They cannot easily defend their decisions on the six o'clock news. The sensible approach, she suggests, is for more raw material to be available so people can make up their own minds about judgments.

 

We reject the notion journalists are not doing a good job and are somehow irresponsible gatekeepers of legal decisions. The media takes seriously the privilege of covering the publication of court proceedings and its role as the eyes and ears of the public. But we agree the more material -- including transcripts and other documents -- available on the net, the better.

 

Justice Warren's approach contrasts with the judicial trend to block publication of court details via suppression orders. In 2008, her own Supreme Court clocked up almost four times the orders handed down in NSW. In May, her Supreme Court colleague, Lex Lasry, suppressed an article in The Weekend Australian Magazine in case it prejudiced the trial of Robert Farquharson for the murder of his three sons, even though it did not refer to the case. The magazine was withheld at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but more serious was the impact on open administration of justice. The order set a ludicrous precedent and showed the need for more robust discussion of judicial discretion. By urging full use of technology, Justice Warren has challenged her colleagues around the country to be part of that vital debate.

 

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


THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

WEST AUSTRALIANS HAVE A POINT

 

THE mining boom is great for the nation but is placing new strains on one of the planks of the federation -- the concept of spreading public dollars across the country.

 

Horizontal fiscal equalisation is embedded in the way Canberra manages the national economy, the Commonwealth Grants Commission ensuring Australians are not disadvantaged because of where they live. There have always been arguments about how to distribute taxes among the states but the emergence of a two-speed economy makes those tensions more acute. This week, as Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens reminded us he can set only one interest rate across the country, WA Premier Colin Barnett argued against the "one in, all in" approach.

 

There is nothing surprising in the decision by the grants commission to cut GST money to WA to offset increased mining royalties, but Mr Barnett tapped into raw support for states' rights when he attacked the commission as "an outmoded institution" and invoked the tax-revolt sentiments of the US Tea Party to boot. There is self-interest and politics here -- and short memories. WA has long oscillated between being a donor state (during mining booms) or a recipient state (during the busts). From Perth, the view of capitals like Sydney is understandably jaundiced: after 15 years of Labor, NSW's growth is hampered by a failure to implement reforms and build the infrastructure to promote prosperity. It is galling for the West to see the "eastern states" riding on the Pilbara's back. Yet just four or five years ago, NSW was complaining about Canberra siphoning off GST revenue to send to other states.

 

As the only conservative premier, Mr Barnett has nothing to lose by attacking Canberra, especially as he is in a fight with Nicola Roxon about the Health Minister's proposal to claw back 30 per cent of GST dollars to fund her new hospitals model. But Mr Barnett has raised serious questions about how to balance horizontal fiscal equalisation with the need to encourage the states to strengthen their economies and build wealth. Despite reviews over the years, the grants commission remains a bureaucrats' picnic, too focused on outcome rather than equality of opportunity. There are still too many disincentives to the states developing financial self-reliance. The West Australian Premier has a point.

 

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


THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S RACE TO THE STARTING LINE HAS FAR TO GO IN 10 DAYS

 

INDIA'S dire problems preparing for the Commonwealth Games show how far the world's second-largest nation has still to travel in its transition to a prosperous, efficient society.

 

Just 10 days from the opening ceremony, it would be a tragedy if organisers proved unable to solve various crises, including the collapse of a footbridge near the main stadium and part of the ceiling of the weightlifting venue, squalor in the athletes' village and an outbreak of dengue fever. Potentially, security looms as an even greater danger, with the Department of Foreign Affairs warning of a high risk of terrorism. That said, we would dearly love to see these games succeed for India's sake and for the athletes. We also recognise that staging an event on this scale is a major challenge for any nation.

 

It is understandable that such athletes as Australia's discus champion Dani Samuels have chosen not to attend. If the organisers cannot show that the buildings will be completed safely and that the village will be fit for habitation, more nations will join New Zealand, Scotland and Northern Ireland in threatening to withdraw. Australia's approach is right, leaving the decision to individuals at this stage, while seeking more details.

 

India's increasing prosperity is often compared with China's, but the stark contrast between the relatively efficient organisation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the shambolic preparation for the Delhi Games highlights the difference between the nations. In some ways, the current crisis is not surprising given modern India's wide disparities. The nation has enjoyed economic growth averaging more than 7 per cent per year since it opened up its economy in 1997. But despite the rise of an increasingly prosperous middle class of around 250 million people out of 1.1 billion, the severe poverty still endured by at least 200 million Indians in city slums and many rural villages has not been redressed. While overall poverty levels have fallen substantially over the past 20 years, the World Bank has found that malnutrition among children in India, concentrated in the poorest areas, is among the highest in the world, almost double that of sub-Saharan Africa. At a time of rapid growth, such statistics reflect poor governance.

 

In recent years, India's new-found confidence has allowed it to become increasingly assertive among the community of nations. In some spheres, notably cricket, its economic power has led it to adopt an unfortunate anti-Western chauvinism. This is evident in its domination of the International Cricket Council, its occasional disregard for the game's traditions, widespread corruption and its insistence that other nations block John Howard from the ICC presidency. If India is to emerge as a mature player on the world stage, its experiences in organising the Commonwealth Games should serve as a reality check about its status in the wider world.

 

If the Games are to succeed, the Commonwealth Games Federation and Indian organisers must do an honest assessment of what needs to be done in the next week and if necessary, tap into the expertise of past host nations. It is to be hoped that the anger within India about all that has gone wrong after seven years of preparation will prompt an effective, last-minute rescue operation.

 

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


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

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

NSW WILL FEEL INTEREST RATE PAIN

 

The Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, makes a compelling argument on why he cannot spare NSW mortgage holders the interest rate rises needed to cool inflation pressure coming from the mining boom. That would require separate reserve banks and currencies for all states and that is obviously ''unlikely to be practical'', as Stevens puts it. It is also true, as he argues, that NSW benefits to some degree from the mining boom through higher demand for services, materials and construction equipment. Shareholders in NSW also benefit from watching their mining share portfolios rise - as do all Australians through their superannuation. And booming tax revenue from mining profit also creates opportunities for redistribution among regions.

 

Stevens goes further to argue it is ''remarkable'' the divergence in economic performance between states is not larger. As evidence, he says variations in the US are much larger than the variations here. However, as he also says: ''That is not to say the differences are unimportant or immaterial to people's lives, nor that they could not get larger.'' Indeed. We maintain it is NSW households - with our oversized house prices and mortgages - that will suffer the most as interest rates rise. As NSW is home to a large workforce of tourism and manufacturing employees, jobs in this state will be arguably most at risk as the mining boom pushes up the Australian dollar, making those industries less competitive internationally.

 

Where the Reserve Bank lacks flexibility to respond to these regional differences, the new Labor minority government must step in. This should be an opportunity to address NSW's infrastructure deficit. While resources are fully deployed in the boom states, NSW will have more idle workers and materials to carry out government infrastructure projects. And as Sydney faces capacity constrains of its own making - urban congestion and housing shortages - programs to encourage people to move to other jobs centres could help ease pressure. Both Labor and the Coalition used the election to promise cash incentives for people to relocate to where the jobs are. Such bipartisan programs deserve a speedy passage through Parliament.

 

Ensuring Australia can continue to grow without generating wage and inflation pressures will also also require more of our current workforce. Tax structures which discourage work - through the punitive withdrawal of benefits and increased taxes - should be addressed. Should government fail on such important reforms, it is mortgage holders who will end up paying the price through higher interest rates. We have been warned.

 

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

 

 

 


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

FINALLY, ACTION ON POKER MACHINES

 

The federal government was tardy in getting around to measures that might ease the blight of Australia's poker machine gambling addiction. To say it's been awaiting meaningful action by the states - which bear direct responsibility for gaming regulation - is like leaving the obesity fight to makers of junk food.

 

Gaming tax provides the states with billions in revenue. They're as addicted to the gambling dollar as much as out-of-control punters are to the thrill.

 

The Productivity Commission presented the government with an exhaustive draft report on the issues last year, and a final report in June. It might have gathered dust had the independent Andrew Wilkie not wrested the Hobart-based seat of Denison from Labor last month and twisted the minority government's arm on gaming reforms in exchange for his vote.

 

This week, the government agreed that a panel of experts on problem gambling, along with the gaming industry, would advise it on implementation. High on the list is so-called pre-commitment technology, which the government is obliged to have installed across Australia's 200,000 poker machines. The panel will be chaired by Peter Shergold, John Howard's most senior public servant and now a University of NSW professor.

 

The technology, says the Productivity Commission, would keep gamblers within safe spending limits by cancelling access to poker machines when predetermined limits are reached. Whether the scheme will be voluntary or compulsory is undecided, but already the gaming industry predictably is painting a picture of Big Brother insidiously intruding on our privacy with a technology that will deter recreational players of poker machines but not problem gamblers.

 

The industry is given to overstating the consequences of actions designed to curb it.

 

Proof of the technology's effectiveness is in the eating. We don't pretend to know how well it will work, save to say it won't be a silver bullet. Perfect solutions aren't in the mix. The problem of 1 per cent of pokie players generating 40 per cent of pokie revenue is too complex and too elusive for magic wands. Of course, problem gamblers will search for ways around impediments; that's addiction.

 

But to dismiss an initiative on the grounds it won't cure cancer is to miss the point. We need speed bumps along the way. Law enforcement eavesdrops on phone calls between criminals knowing full well the crooks are aware of the risks and sometimes avoid telephones. The denial of easy communications makes criminal activity a little harder to organise and control. And that's a good thing.

 

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


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

LET WATER FIND ITS OWN PRICING LEVEL

 

Water supply is, like gas, a utility charged at appropriate rates on the straightforward principle that you pay for what you use.

 

WATER supply is, like gas, a utility charged at appropriate rates on the straightforward principle that you pay for what you use. This is different from, say, communications usage, which is predicated on which mobile or internet carrier one chooses, let alone the myriad plans on offer. Such a basis is sound for competitive and pragmatic reasons, and the consumer would expect no less.

 

What to expect, though, from the latest plans of Melbourne's water retailers that want to introduce various pricing options before the next water-pricing period, which begins in 2013? AsThe Age reported yesterday, the city's three retailers, which have varying prices but use the ''block tariff'' structure, want to introduce multi-tiered plans to suit different customer requirements. The largest retailer, Yarra Valley Water, has already begun work on a range of options for households and business. These include: a ''high security'' tariff, where the consumer pays a higher price for unrestricted supply; a ''scarcity'' tariff, with a cheaper rate for more frugal users but with more stringent restrictions; and specialist ''environment'' and ''community'' tariffs.

 

The object, according to the retailers, is to increase flexibility at a time when water prices are expected to increase dramatically to pay for large projects such as desalination. Although not all of the options might be imposed - in any case, they require approval by the Essential Services Commission - they are nevertheless indicative of a change of pricing policy that might not be to everyone's taste or, indeed, pocket. As consumer and environmental groups have told The Age, such pricing structures can be inequitable in solving wider policy problems, and lower-income households must be protected. Certainly, there is every case to better manage Melbourne's precious water resources, but not by imposing a choice system that penalises some consumers. Water is, after all, an essential, not a luxury - something the public at large has learnt from the long drought.

 

There is no doubt that water-price reform is inevitable, especially with the advent of the desalination plant, which, as this newspaper pointed out last week, will cost the taxpayer dearly, even in years when desalinated water is not necessary. But this should not be an excuse to instigate tariffs that, while preaching the advantages of frugality, still allow for profligacy by those who can afford it. Paying more should not be equated with the right to abuse the water supply.

 

Source: The Age

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


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

GAMES OFFICIALS MUST DECIDE ON SAFETY NOW

 

The lives of young people should not be placed at risk.

 

PREDICTIONS that international sporting contests might not take place because the venues are not ready or because of political and security tensions are not new. They were a familiar refrain in news reports before successive Olympic Games in Athens and Beijing, and more recently before the soccer World Cup in South Africa. But the doubts raised about this year's Commonwealth Games, which are due to open in Delhi in less than a fortnight, are of a different order of seriousness. There was never any real question about whether participating teams might withdraw from the earlier contests, or whether they would take place at all.

 

Yet those are precisely the questions that must now be answered about the Commonwealth Games.

 

There have long been doubts about whether the stadiums and the necessary support facilities, such as the Games

village, would be ready on time and safe to use. Not only have those doubts not been resolved, but this week they grew more intense. A bridge connecting the main stadium to the athletes' car park collapsed, injuring 23 workers, and officials arriving in advance of their national teams were appalled by the state of the Games village. Team leaders from Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales and Canada said that some rooms had been flooded by monsoon rains, while in others lights or air conditioners did not work, and toilets were blocked and befouled. It was hardly an endorsement for a village that is due to open today. Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell said the village was in a ''seriously compromised'' condition, and the federation's chief executive, Mike Hooper, conceded that it was ''filthy and uninhabitable''.

 

The state of the accommodation for competitors and officials, however, is not the only or even the chief reason why a question mark hangs over the entire Games. Security fears, which cannot be discounted in Indian cities even in the absence of the Games, gained renewed attention last week after two tourists were wounded when their bus was attacked by gunmen near a Delhi mosque. It is generally accepted that the Games stadiums have been made as secure as possible, but the same guarantees cannot be given for Delhi's roads, which all visitors must use: the travel advice for India issued by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warns of a ''high risk of terrorist activity by militant groups''.

 

Despite this official risk assessment, little concern has been shown by those who are responsible for the safety of Australia's athletes and officials. Sports Minister Mark Arbib yesterday said that withdrawing from the Games - something discus thrower Dani Samuels has already decided to do - would remain a matter for individual athletes. But Mr Arbib's apparent desire to reassure Australians about the Games paled besides the attitude of Australia's chef de mission, Steve Moneghetti. Mr Moneghetti said that reports of an 80 per cent chance of a terrorist attack in Delhi during the Games had been overstated, then explained that it was ''more like a 50-50 risk''. And this apparently, was all right because it was ''not Games-related, more for the city in general''.

 

It is not acceptable even to pretend that a 50-50 risk of a terrorist attack is acceptable, and if the assessed risk does not diminish in the coming days Australia should not send a team to Delhi. Some might argue that this would amount to a terrorist victory, and that the Games must proceed no matter what. Such an attitude confuses courage with recklessness. There is no reason why young athletes should be exposed to such a risk, nor any reason why the Games should proceed if the ramshackle state of the necessary facilities cannot be quickly repaired. India's government may be unwilling to face the humiliation of cancelling the Games, but the humiliation ensuing from disaster would be far worse.

 

Source: The Age

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

 

 

 


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

THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

OBAMA AND AFGHANISTAN: CREDIBILITY GAP

 

The President could find himself drawn ever deeper into a war he does not believe in

US troops in Afghanistan this month. It has been just over a month since the last of the 30,000 were deployed as part of the troop surge. Photograph: Brennan Linsley/AP

 

Barack Obama inherited both the war in Afghanistan and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now he tells critics, somewhat late in the day, that a Republican president's response to resurgent Taliban and bankrupt bankers would have been worse. True, but that does not mean that his response to both – a troop surge in Afghanistan and an inadequate stimulus package – were the right ones. It does, however, mean his ownership has been indisputably stamped on each of the worst legacies of the Bush era. Telling left-wingers to get real is beside the point. Obama first has to prove that these policies work, first and foremost because they are now his.

 

The task of winning back a growing band of sceptics is complicated – not least by the actions and words of his own administration. Doubtless all left for different reasons, but the fact remains that, with the departure of Larry Summers, his top three economic advisers have now quit in the runup to midterm elections in which the handling of the economic crisis will be the hot-button issue. In these circumstances, few are going to be wholly convinced by the formula that the best and the brightest left to spend more time with family, or with Harvard. So is it right to see this administration in the terms in which it describes itself – as a team that evolves over time – or as it is described by others, as an executive that finds big decisions difficult and makes them only after much blood has been split on the Oval Office carpet?

 

On Afghanistan, the apparent dissension matters. Bob Woodward's account of the internal debate that led to the troop surge is in many respects too contemporaneous for its own good. It has been just over a month since the last of those 30,000 troops were deployed, and it is only three months until the review of that decision has to take place. Yet we hear that Obama wants out of Afghanistan at all costs ("I am not doing long-term nation-building"); that David Petraeus, since appointed the commander of ISAF, says that the US will be in the fight for the rest of his life and probably his children's; and that they think that Hamid Karzai, the bearing on which the whole creaky wheel turns, is a manic depressive.

 

How much more difficult will it be for Obama when he has to stand up, some time before July 2011, and say the US is in Afghanistan for the long run? His only hope is that, by next July, the tide will have turned sufficiently for Gen Petraeus to say that counter-insurgency is working. Failing that, a recalcitrant president will have been drawn ever deeper into a war he does not believe in, and which he cannot get out of. He would have been better off trusting his instincts.

 

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

 

 

 


THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

VINCE CABLE: TOAST OF LIVERPOOL

 

This was a speech delivered in the authentic voice of the independent partyence in Liverpool. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

 

Between 2005 and 2010 the Liberal Democrats sometimes seemed to flirt with self-destruction, ousting two weighty and popular leaders, Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell, in favour of the little-known Nick Clegg. Throughout that time, Vince Cable increasingly found himself as the party's sole lifeline to the public, a senior Liberal Democrat of substance and radical instincts, as well as a good performer who rose to the occasion as a national figure of unusual authority when markets imploded in 2008. So important was Mr Cable to the Lib Dems that, at the last election, he was given equal billing with Mr Clegg in their campaign.

 

Yet since the election Mr Cable has struggled to find a role and regain his touch. Instinctively more a Lib Dem of the left than the right, insofar as such terms are useful labels in his party's theology, Mr Cable has kept relatively quiet since entering the coalition government. A cabinet job as business secretary, in a department permanently struggling to escape the Treasury's long shadow (and which he once aimed to abolish) probably felt like an anticlimax for a man who had long dreamed of being chancellor. Observers have thus sometimes judged Mr Cable to be unhappy to be sharing power with the Conservatives and eclipsed by the self-evident comfort and confidence of Mr Clegg. When journalists speculate about which Lib Dem might be the first to jump the coalition ship, the first name is often Mr Cable's.

 

Yesterday, at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool, Mr Cable finally made a dramatic return both to the limelight and to top form. His speech was technically very accomplished, with lots of good quotable lines, but it was the political substance that mattered most. Lib Dem delegates have proved themselves more resolute about the coalition than some expected before the Liverpool conference, but they remain anxious that the government's deficit-reduction package next month may leave them stranded on the wrong side of the divide as apologists for Conservative-driven cuts in which they do not, at heart, believe. Mr Cable's job was therefore to send the delegates home not just as a party of government but also as a party of progressive radicals. Mr Clegg, in New York on government business, might have struggled to do that. With something to prove personally, Mr Cable succeeded.

 

He did so by turning his guns once more on the monopolistic abuses of the financial sector and the City of London – still the subject that ignites more public indignation than any other. True, Mr Cable's swashbuckling language about spivs and capitalism taking no prisoners may contain rather more bark than bite. We have long known that Mr Cable wants, rightly, to get the banks to lend and that he wants boardrooms to change their ways, but there was no actual indication about how, or even perhaps whether, these things will actually happen. It's true, too, that Mr Cable remains a stronger deficit hawk than some of his admirers, and is a more orthodox economist than his reputation may imply. The fact that the policy announcements in the speech were cleared with Downing Street is also significant.

 

Nevertheless, it is the obligation of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition to bring vernacular bark and bite alike to the new government – and this was a genuinely distinctive Liberal Democrat speech, which fulfilled that obligation. It was delivered in the authentic voice of the independent party – with all options open for the future (Labour should note that phrase once it begins to think more sensibly about the multi-party future) – that Mr Cable insisted the Liberal Democrats must remain. This was not the speech of a crypto-Tory to an audience of crypto-Tories. It was the speech of a progressive radical to an audience of (mostly) progressive radicals. The Liberal Democrats – and the wider political world too – need to hold on tightly to that lesson.

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


THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … MOSES

 

Why replace a miracle that has captured Christian, Muslim and Rastafarian imaginations with a tale of fluid dynamics?

 

Artist's impression showing how a strong wind could have pushed back waters from two ancient basins, a lagoon (left) and a river (right), and led to the biblical account of the parting of the Red Sea Photograph: Nicolle Rager Fuller/PA

 

In his novel reworking the gospel, Philip Pullman had the good grace to emblazon the back with the words, in block capitals, "THIS IS A STORY." In that spirit, the unravelling of biblical mysteries through the device of two twins, Christ and Jesus, provides food for thought for atheists and thinking believe