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Friday, September 24, 2010

EDITORIAL 24.09.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month september 24, edition 000634, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

































































There was a time when States hit by the worst of natural calamities were left to fend for themselves. Any assistance provided by the Union Governments was strictly measured out; if the State was not ruled by the Congress, even this was denied. In brief, the concept of Central assistance, even if it existed, was entirely a matter of discretion and, hence, an instrument in the hands of the Union Government to punish those who did not vote for the Congress. On the other hand, those who voted had for the party — and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty — were not left to starve and die of hunger and disease. In part this 'step motherly' attitude was also prompted by the shortage economy that prevailed during the decades when India experimented with Nehruvian socialism and came to grief: There was barely enough for the people to survive; in the absence of any surplus resources, it was tough to cut corners to help any State in distress as that would mean depriving others. Thankfully, that situation does not obtain any more. The shortage economy no longer haunts us; the States get a far greater share of resources than they ever did; and, there are enough funds to help a State in distress on account of a natural calamity. Yet, experience shows that this is not how it plays out in real life. The discriminatory attitude of the past still exists and plays an important role in determining the quantum of Central assistance. The NDA Government led by the BJP did try to be fair and just while responding to requests for assistance by State Governments, but that was a temporary digression from the practice established by the Congress. The day the Congress returned to power in 2004, it was back to the past and has been so since then. 

Nothing else explains why the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand should have to repeatedly appeal for the Union Government's help and travel to New Delhi to request the Prime Minister to intervene, and elicit no more than a stony silence. Yet, the same Union Government wastes no time in announcing substantial relief when Congress president Sonia Gandhi peremptorily demands assistance for Uttarakhand. This is absurd and must be stopped forthwith. It is not for the Congress president or the NAC chairperson to decide which State should receive Central assistance and how much; the disbursal of funds from the public exchequer should be according to laid down norms that are automatically invoked in the event of a natural disaster or calamity. That's how the NDA Government had conceived the management of natural disasters in the States: A joint mechanism would be set up that would self-activate itself in the event of a calamity and the rest would follow with clock-work precision without requiring political approval and bureaucratic intervention. Such a mechanism does exist on paper: It remains dormant when it is most required, most possibly because bureaucrats lack the gumption to act on their own lest their political masters of the day feel offended. The solution lies in setting up a statutory body in New Delhi and similar bodies in the State capitals with experts as members and the authority to intervene effectively as and when required. The present 'system' should be discarded, even if that were to hurt the Congress. 







Even as the global economy makes a slow, laboured progress to recovery, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development warns of emerging pre-meltdown patterns in that revival, at least among the developed economies. It is an observation the crisis-ridden nations can ignore at their peril, since growing current account imbalances threaten a repeat show of the fiscal nightmare. The Trade and Development Report 2010, recently released by the UNCTAD, has set the alarm bells ringing by observing that villains like insufficiently regulated financial markets and global current account imbalances are still flourishing in developed nations and could yet again plunge growth rates next year. Well, this alone may not result in a serious recessionary trend, the knee-jerk reaction by Governments of placing restrictions on fiscal policy to counter the dip can indeed trigger recession. As the report says, the "rebound from recession will not endure" on the basis of the current temporary measures like exceptional fiscal stimulus programmes the developed economies have been implementing. With the rich nations facing a downturn, developing countries like India, which have strong economic ties with developed economies, will be hit to some extent. Though trade could take a beating, the markets in the country would remain robust — as they did when the sub-prime crisis felled some of the world's biggest financial institutions and sent international stock markets into a tailspin — for two reasons. First, Indian firms have relatively limited exposure to the global market's wild swings; and second, because of inbuilt systems. 

The real threat is, therefore, not so much for India as it is for the developed world, although the global real GDP is expected to grow by a decent 3.5 per cent. But then any figure will look impressive when compared to the downslide experienced in 2009 as the GDP went tumbling down for the very first time since the World War II by nearly two per cent. Taken in isolation, the fact that the world trade has picked up pace is worth an applause. However, with prospects looking glum in developed countries, the task of real economic revival falls on developing economies like India. As the report points out, emerging market economies in Asia and Latin America are leading the recovery. Asia's trade volumes have already touched the pre-crisis levels and its GDP is likely to grow by eight per cent in 2010. This fact alone should lead to a greater degree of cooperation between the developed and the developing economies and among the G 20 nations, since there appears to be little consensus on how to ensure sustained growth — by resorting to greater fiscal austerity as Europe favours, or getting more expansionary like the US desires. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between. 







Forgetting the signal contribution of the Armed Forces to the country and running them down will prove disastrous

September 22 came and went. Who remembered it? Not the television channels, nor the print media. This is a shame. On that day in 1965 the second India-Pakistan war was ended by a cease-fire. Neither side had gained a decisive victory but India clearly had the edge, holding 1,800 sq km of Pakistani territory against, 550 sq km of Indian territory held by Pakistan at the end of the war. And this despite the fact that the Pakistani Army was much better equipped. It had M-47 and M-48 Patton, M-4 Sherman, and M4 Chaffee tanks. India had to make do with M-4 Sherman, Centurion, AMX and PT-76 tanks. The Indian Air Force played an equally glorious role, particularly in halting thrusts by Pakistan's armoured formations in the plains of Punjab and the Akhnoor sector in Jammu, and damaging Pakistan's airbases. There were no major naval conflicts.

It was mainly because of the valour, courage and resourcefulness of the officers and men of the Indian Army and Air Force that the country could hold its head high at the end of the war. Yet, India did not remember them on the 45th anniversary of the cease-fire. No memorial ceremony was held to honour those that fell; not a word was said in praise of the gallantry they displayed. There was, of course, nothing surprising about the amnesia. The nation lionises personnel of the Armed Forces during conflicts and forgets them in times of peace. 

Nor has the political leadership shown anything near the urgency it should have in ensuring that the Army, Air Force and Navy have the best weapons, combat vehicles, aircraft and naval vessels available globally. This holds even now, when the country faces a surge in Pakistan-sponsored terrorist strikes as well as the possibility of things erupting in a full-fledged India-Pakistan war, in the next couple of years, a war which Pakistan will fight with its arsenal swelled by massive military and financial aid from the United States. Instead, a vocal section talks of reaching out to organisations in Kashmir that seek Jammu & Kashmir's secession from India, demands the abrogation/ significant dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and calls for the withdrawal of the Army and para-military forces from the State.

It is not difficult to foresee the consequences of acceding to their demands. 

The withdrawal of the Army and the para-military forces from Jammu & Kashmir will mean that the mountain passes along the Line of Control and International border will not be India's line of defence against terrorist infiltrators and invading Pakistani forces. They will come down virtually unopposed to the plains of Jammu using the road infrastructure built in the State for development and defence. The revocation/modification of the AFSPA will handicap the Army whenever it is called upon to fight insurgency/terrorism, not only in Jammu & Kashmir but wherever it is deployed for the task. Equally, it will be a vindication of those who have been trying to tar the image of the Armed Forces and project them as trigger-happy and prone to atrocities, which in turn is liable to demoralise the forces, inhibit their actions and further undermine their counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. This is something the country can hardly afford.

The point needs to be made because the Armed Forces have been repeatedly sent to fight wars and undertake counter-insurgency operations with one hand tied behind their backs. In 1962, they were sent to the heights of the Himalaya ranges, ill-armed and ill-supplied. They had .303 Lee Enfield rifles, when the Chinese had semi-automatic ones. They had in most places two-inch mortars when the Chinese not only had eight-inch ones but in much larger numbers. One reason for this was that our ordnance factories were making coffee percolators when they should have been making guns and munitions. In places like Se-La pass, jawans had to pull the 25-pounder self-propelled guns physically through roads hardly equipped for taking them up. Many of them were not used to the great heights to which they were catapulted from the plains and had only summer uniforms to protect themselves against the freezing cold. Everywhere, they were hugely outnumbered by the Chinese who were much better armed, clothed, and supplied as their supply lines were much shorter. Yet in most places, they fought almost to the last man and the last bullet. The battles at Goswamy Hill, Rezang-La, Gurung Hill, Dhola and Walong will forever stand testimony to the valour, fighting ability and patriotism for which the officers and men of the Indian Army are justly famous the world over.

As seen above, they performed remarkably well in 1965 when they were relatively less disadvantaged. And they won a decisive victory in 1971 when they were prepared and were aided by Bangladesh's Mukti Bahini, whose personnel provided valuable field intelligence inputs and combat support in the eastern sector. 

Apart from outstanding performance by the Army and the Indian Air Force, the war saw, for the first time since independence, the Indian Navy engaged in major operations. In an operation code-named 'Operation Trident', the Western Fleet devastated the Karachi harbour, destroyed several Pakistani naval and commercial vessels and critically important reserve fuel tanks on the night of December 4-5, 1971. In 'Operation Python', the Indian Navy attacked Karachi roads, destroying the remaining fuel tanks and three merchant navy ships, on the night of December 8-9. Operating in the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean, the Eastern Fleet played havoc in the Chittagong area as well as off the Kulna coastline besides sinking the Pakistani submarine, PNS Ghazi. It suffered a major loss when INS Khukri went down in the Arabian Sea with the loss of 18 officers and 176 seamen. The Kargil story is too fresh in people's minds to require re-telling.

The threat India faces from Pakistan, Al Qaeda and the Taliban will grow in the next several years if the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan with a face-saving treaty that enables a Taliban / Al Qaeda take-over of that country. There may even be a war. India will then require its Armed Forces to be adequately equipped and their morale high. Forgetting their signal contribution to the country and running them down will then prove disastrous. So will be indulgence to organisations that will sabotage India's war efforts. 









The massive floods inundating north India, from Uttarakhand and Haryana to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Bihar, are seen by ecologists to be the inevitable fallout of the disastrous policy of colonising floodplains and riverbeds; building embankments that fail to contain swelling seasonal waters; and as in the case of Tehri, mammoth dams at the wrong sites. As Ganga overflows the Tehri dam, built on the confluence of Bhagirathi and Bhilangana, submerging crowded settlements and farmland downstream, and the teeming waters of Yamuna rush towards Delhi and Agra, imperilling the successful hosting of the Commonwealth Games, all the activists, who for years have been warning against the policy of hemming in and altering the natural flow of mighty Himalayan rivers, fed by glacial melt and monsoon rains, feel vindicated. Their worst fears, of Apocalypse, are yet to be realised.

The Yamuna has flooded areas in Delhi close to it, compelling people to move out with their domestic animals. The river's fury demonstrates that the alarm raised over the possibility of a deluge threatening the Games village at this completely inappropriate location has substance. Protective bunds have prevented water from inundating the complex. The advice given earlier by campaigners to renovate existing stadia and Government housing at Lodhi Road and CGO complex as the staple of Games-related infrastructure, instead of beginning from scratch, and that, too, in the hazardous river environs, may prove portentous. For the river seems determined to wreck havoc in areas now colonised but formerly part of its bed and floodplains. Fortunately, the irrational plan to build a London Thames-like embankment along the river was scrapped under pressure from experts, who pointed out that the Yamuna, unlike Thames, was too volatile during the monsoons to allow such a structure to exist. Otherwise, the force of the deluge would have been more severe, especially if the embankment had breached.

In view of past incidents of flooding, green campaigners are incredulous that policy-makers never took these into account while planning for the Games. Were they simply short-sighted or were they venal and greedy, hoping to cash in on projects and boost real estate prices in that part of the city? Available data cites August and September as flood-prone months. Major floods involving the Yamuna occurred in 1924, 1947, 1978, 1988 and in September 1995. Now, with incessant rainfall and water-logging disrupting completion of projects, the Sheila Dixit-headed Delhi Government, Delhi Development Authority, Organising Committee and other concerned agencies need to be made accountable for their lapses as the same power caucus has been in the city since India won the Games bid in 2003. 

Meanwhile, lower reaches of Uttarakhand, western Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are bearing the brunt of the overflow from Tehri and tributaries of the Ganga. This should convince policy-makers of the dangers of building large dams upon Himalayan rivers and changing their course. If anything, human interventions to subjugate these great rivers and channelise them for ill-conceived development purposes in contravention of all natural laws seem to spur them to break all bounds. Conservationist Ananda Banerjee pragmatically views floods as the rivers' bid to reclaim their own lands, which have been lost to indiscriminate colonisation. Trans-Yamuna colonies, Noida, the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation complex at Shastri Park and at Yamuna Bank, Akshardham temple and the Games village all occupy fragile river precincts, and, thus, are exposed to flooding. Since Delhi is located in seismic zone IV, the second most earthquake-prone zone in India, these areas also face the additional danger of quakes, owing to the porous nature of the soil, thereby putting them at greater risk. Just last week, tremors of a quake with its epicentre in Afghanistan were felt in this region. 

In the case of the Games village, the Delhi Government and DDA cannot shrug off blame for deliberately locating it at a site that conservationists condemned as being hazardous. Earlier, the Delhi High Court in December 2005 had passed an order, meant to protect the river from encroachment by any structure. In the light of this order, litigation against the site of the Games village led the High Court to propose an environmental survey of the site by a committee, to determine whether it was part of the riverbed and floodplains. However, the apex court inexplicably overruled the High Court, allowing the Games village construction. The activists have applied to the apex court to expedite hearing of their review petition.

As more water is released from the Hathnikund barrage in Haryana into the Yamuna river, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan convener Manoj Mishra observes that it is time that water planning is transferred from engineers to ecologists if such disasters are to be pre-empted.







A declaration of support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council could help the Obama Administration regain some of the popularity it has lost

The popularity ratings for US President Barack Obama are rapidly declining in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the results of a recent Gallup Poll . Mr Obama's approval rating in India has fallen to the lowest since he took over in 2009. Could it be due to the Obama Administration's policies pertaining to India? If so, how would the Americans and Indians make his impending visit to New Delhi in early November a success? No doubt, the bilateral relations between the two nations have moved forward and India is seen as an "indispensable partner" by the United States, but there are more expectations at home from the US President. 

Significantly, President Obama is making his maiden visit to India during his first term unlike his predecessors Bill Clinton and George WH Bush who did so during their second term. To be fair to him, Mr Obama also hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his first state guest in November 2009 with all fanfare. 

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's trip to Washington, DC this week to work out the details of the presidential visit is significant. There is eagerness to showcase achievements on both sides in taking the India-US relations forward. Foggy Bottom is also keen to witness a new level of strategic partnership. It is no secret that Mr Singh wants to make the visit historic in every sense. 

However, there are some irritants which need to be dealt with before the visit. How far the two sides can engage in give-and-take depends on a lot of things; Ms Nirupama Rao had conveyed New Delhi's concerns at a hectic round of meetings with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House National Security Advisor James Jones and other senior Administration officials. 

First of all, there is a perception that Mr Bush cared more for India than Mr Obama. It was Mr Obama who recently signed the Border Security Bill, which seeks to increase the visa fees categories of H1B and L1 to fund border security. This has come as a rude shock to most Indian companies. 

The second concern is about outsourcing. It is no secret that India is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the American and European outsourcing in the Information Technology sector. Recently, Mr Obama had announced in Ohio that tax cuts would be given only to those US companies which do not outsource jobs. As the US is moving towards increased protectionism, India is also examining whether there is any violation of the World Trade Organisation agreement on services. This has been taken up during Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's visit this week to Washington. 

The third concern is high technology transfer to India. There is ban on high-tech transfer after the Pokhran test and as the Indo-US ties improved in recent years, there was relaxation of most items but New Delhi has been demanding further relaxation, insisting that the US must dismantle the technology denial regimes against India.

Other irritants include recent Pakistani statements on Kashmir, continued infiltration into Kashmir, the issue of cross-border terrorism and painfully slow progress in bringing to book those responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Pakistan's role in Afghanistan and how some Pakistani based groups are promoting terror are some other problems. 

Both Washington and New Delhi would like to announce one big-ticket item during the visit. Growing support for a permanent seat for India in the United Nations Security Council would no doubt go a long way. A US declaration of support for India would not only bolster its chances of permanent membership of the Security Council but also accelerate the UN reform process. So far, the Americans have not committed themselves in public except making vague statements unlike some other countries, which have offered open support. 

New Delhi has concerns that any US exit from Afghanistan at this point of time or even in near future would strengthen the terrorist organisations and extremist elements in the region which it feels would not be good for the security of the US, Europe as well as India. The issue of increased assertiveness of China in the Indian Ocean and Asia was also discussed during these meetings.

The US, on its part, is keen to sign at least three defence agreements with India. The US maintains that India needs to act on three draft agreements: The Logistics Support Agreement, the Communication Interoperability and Security Agreement and the Basic Change and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation. Pentagon would like to put these agreements in place when Union Minister for Defence AK Antony visits Washington later this month. Washington would also like India to buy more defence equipment, conduct meaningful joint exercises and exchange more high profile visits with the three Service Chiefs.

The US has concerns over the nuclear civil liability Bill. Ms Rao has conveyed that while India was willing to discuss and address suppliers' concerns, the legislation was consistent with the international nuclear liability convention. 

Mr Sharma, Mr Antony and Union Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna should utilise their visit to Washington this month to further New Delhi's interests. While Mr Obama's is not considered a make-or-break visit, it remains relevant in the context of taking the bilateral relations between the two countries to a new high. After all, when the President of the United States visits India it simply cannot be without substance or "deliverables" and it constitutes something to which both New Delhi and Washington are looking forward. The visit should be a great opportunity for serious Indo-US engagement and not merely a public display of bonhomie. 






If caste enumeration has to reach its logical conclusion of power applications, it must be concurrent with domicile enumeration. Pursuit of self-defeating goals can indeed be a dangerous game

There is something about the decision-making processes both at the macro- and micro-levels that needs attention in this country.

Progressively, there is a tendency to insist that 'any judgement is fine so long as what I want is done.' This sort of a situation is dangerous in more ways than one.

Worse is the insistence that I will yield ground if you will yield ground to further my objectives. The upshot is that decision-making becomes transactional with both sides conceding each other's vital interest. The merit of the decision or its relevance to the larger or the long range good appears a remote concern.

Statements are being made, increasingly, at public platforms, which give one the feeling that decision-making is an exchange phenomenon.

Suggestions of 'exchange concessions' have been made in the context of the caste-based census discussions. It has been alleged in certain columns of the media that the expected concessions on caste census are to mollify the hurt sentiments of certain caste satraps on other issues.

If this is the algorithm of decision-making then perhaps it is time to sit up, think and act. The trend needs to be reversed immediately and completely.

The discussion on the caste-based census has been in the public domain for a while and many arguments have been made both for and against the idea.

The bald truth is that caste is a subjective criterion. There is no objective means of either claiming it or countering it. As it becomes increasingly evident that caste is a major political plank, caste combinations are going to get progressively fragmented and even amongst the so-called castes there will jostling for sub-caste identity. The trend is so obvious, say, when it comes to Dalit and Mahadalits. There are other examples, which show that slogans will be coined and movements attempted for what perceived advantage accrues to whom for saying what on matters of social identity. When in the mid-19th century, the British took the decision to undertake enumeration of caste in the demographic profile it was clearly a response to their discomfiture in 1857. Even they discontinued the practice. One is not quite sure of what is the nature of discomfiture now, or the trigger. 

Some other indicators are also worth flagging. 

The proportion of OBCs rose between the two National Service Scheme rounds of 1999-2000 and 2004-05. The competitiveness for being declared a 'backward by statutes' has many ramifications and would not necessarily help even the beneficiaries.

There are objective questions which need to be raised and which need to be considered. If the States keep increasing the list of reserved category castes, what is the value of a census undertaken in 2010? The situation will continue to be in flux depending upon the changing perceptions of the vote bank.

Interestingly, caste affiliation is the only affiliation which is as constant as the perception of the claimant. One can change one's religion but not one's caste.

The list of imponderable questions is large. If a given caste is of a given status in a State and is backward there, there are instances where the same caste is not considered backward in another State. Hence if caste-based enumeration is to reach its logical conclusion of power applications, it would stand to reason that it must be concurrent with domicile enumeration.

On one side, we claim India is one and the Constitution provides for freedom of movement, rightly condemning anyone who puts obstacles to it. Yet by virtue of caste enumeration, we are by implication legitimising the criteria of being a domicile which would require use of a very different logic altogether. Even if we overlook the logic, domicile would be almost impossible to document for a large part of the population. It would be even more difficult to give operational meaning to it.

Anyone with a broad understanding of Indian sociology would also be aware that there are certain open-ended categories in the list such as orphans and destitutes. Names of some castes are found in both the list of Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes. Further, as is known, there is a legitimate demand of the converts of reserved categories from Hinduism to other religions for reservation benefits.

Somewhere, the transactional process of decision-making has to stop. Pursuit of self-defeating goals can be a dangerous game.







THAT the organisers of the Commonwealth Games have botched up in a big way is not in question. Both the Comptroller General of India and the Central Vigilance Commission have testified to this fact in the past. And if more evidence of this was needed, that has been thrown up in the last two days with revelations of the lack of preparedness at the Games Village and the bridge collapse near the main Games venue which left 27 labourers injured.

At the same time, legitimate criticism of the organisers must not blind us to a few other facts. For instance, it is surprising that the Commonwealth Games Federation which is crying itself hoarse over the conditions at the Games Village has woken up so late. CGF CEO Mike Hooper had been stationed in New Delhi all this while but how is it that he did not ring the alarm bell earlier? In fact, he is said to have found the Village comparable to the one in Beijing less than a fortnight back.


There is no escaping the conclusion that much of the uproar in the international arena over Delhi's readiness for the Games has less to do with issues like hygiene and sanitation and more with the security of the visitors.


Delhi was always under the terror radar but the attack at tourists in the Jama Masjid area last week has given a concrete form and shape to fears that international athletes may be targeted during the Games. So, if Delhi wants to check the growing number of top athletes opting out of the Games and nations delaying the departure of their teams, it is on this front that it must assure them. However, with just about ten days left, what it can do is limited.







THE politics of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee seems to be based on the sole agenda of dislodging the Left Front government in West Bengal. Dropping Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee from the list of invitees to the inauguration of the Joka- BBD Bagh Metro Rail project, at which the President of India was the chief guest, was petty to say the least.


The failure to invite the Chief Minister, and the delayed invitation to the surface transport minister, cannot be attributed to mere inefficiency on the part of the organisers. It was clearly managed in such a way as to turn the ceremony into a Trinamool Congress function. In spite of the presence of the President and the West Bengal Governor, Ms Banerjee used the function to take potshots at the Left Front government.


It is of paramount importance that a ceremony in which the President is present is spared of any partisanship. But there seems to be little space for etiquette in Ms Banerjee's politics. The Trinamool Congress' support for the Maoists, even to the extent of supplying arms to them, is testimony to the cynicism that underlies the party's actions.


The Railway Ministry was an opportunity for Ms Banerjee to prove her governance credentials, but sadly she has squandered it for the sake of narrow political ends.







WHY should people be surprised at Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate being unable to account for Rs 5.55 billion? Where do you think all the money that goes into promoting terrorism in India, financing the Taliban in Afghanistan and buying up politicians in Pakistan comes from? Actually it is somewhat surprising that the sinister ISI has had to even acknowledge that it actually spent that money. Around the world, including here in India, intelligence agencies spend monies for which there is no accounting, at least not to the people who provide them the money— the various legislatures.


The infamous Mehran Bank scandal of the early 1990s had revealed how the ISI uses the money. At the time, it was revealed that many politicians had received money and even the then army chief Mirza Aslam Beg had got Rs 140 million. The money had played a role in the creation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, an alliance of Islamist parties aimed at checking the Pakistan Peoples Party headed by Benazir Bhutto.








IT IS one of the more persistent ironies of our times that protests on the erection of a mosque in America should come at the time of a judicial decision on the demolition of one in India. In both cases the mosque is being seen by many as desecration; in one, a violation of the private memory of the dead of 9/ 11, and in the other, the public myth of Lord Ram, firmly ingrained in the Hindu mind after 6/ 12.


In India, while constitutional law clearly separates church and state, temple and municipal corporation remain closely entwined. The Supreme Court order to remove all religious structures from public lands is a welcome demand in a country where commerce often masquerades as religion. Though city municipalities have the power to demolish all illegal constructions, in matters of offending shrines they look the other way, taking regular bribes for allowing their stay and pretend disturbing religious sentiment when questions of demolition arise.


While much of Indian life is a daily stage of religious ritual and offerings, American rites are more controlled.


Recent remembrance in America follows a cycle of ten years.




A decade after the 2001 attack New York is expected to unfold the new scheme for Freedom Park; two fountains pouring a continuous string line of water into the hollows of the Twin Tower foundations. In the mid eighties similarly, the testimonial wall of the Vietnam Memorial opened to public view a decade after the end of the war.


In both, the sentiments of national grief were to be absorbed in an architectural abstraction, a collective catharsis that could be shared by the thousands of private names on public view.


The personal and private nature of American memorials is part of a tradition which publicly celebrates history as a living memory. 9/ 11, Vietnam, Korea, become deified into public memory through time and the passing of generations.


Indian memory has a mythological dimension that often makes the physical memorial a distortion.


Unlinked from the present, statues and structures are literal rather than imaginary or abstract reconstructions.

Along Mumbai's shoreline a 30- metre high Shivaji on a horse will soon ride the waves; at Tees January, where Gandhiji was assassinated, his footsteps are painted in red cement. The Ram Mandir, if built, will doubtlessly be the physical representation of a perfect structure, as are the larger than life memorials to Ambedkar and Mayawati.


Unlike the American view of remembering ordinary people passing in difficult circumstances, the Indian vision

is heroic and elevates the remembered into mythic giant proportions, removed from the puny humanity they represent.


Yet the wider American debate on the proximity of the mosque to Ground Zero propels a country into contradictory social positions. Church congregations in small southern and mid- western western towns, usually affronted by anyone that is not white, Anglo and Protestant would doubtlessly raise hackles at something as alien as a mosque in their midst, as did the Florida pastor.


The more liberal coasts and big towns, with a wider experience of ethnic and religious diversity likewise maintain that the constitution allows all religious practices, filmmaker Michael Moore going so far as to suggest that the mosque be built on the foundations of the World Trade Centre.





The widening arc of these disparate views are encouraged in a country that prides itself in the freedom of speech while at the same time casting suspicions on people who voice too liberal a stance, even typecasting and rounding up those whose skin matches that of the 9/ 11 plotters. The armour of self- protection and Homeland Security is now the grey mist of paranoia that surrounds people with beards and olive skins when they enter America. Between taking off shoes at airport check- ins, and getting finger printed and photographed on arrival, the brown traveller is guilty until proven innocent. The doors of American freedom are open to some, closed to others.


Amongst those adopting a moderate view of the mosque debate is a proposal to underplay Islam and construct an interfaith community centre, a flawed idea that would be seen as anti- Muslim by the more radical elements, and an un- American compromise for the liberals.


Equally, giving in to constitutional rights and proclaiming a mosque would be a slur on those for whom Ground Zero is still painful memory.


A similar lose- lose situation awaits the site at Ayodhya. In light of the American sensitivity to Islam and the blame it must forever carry for 9/ 11, the Indian touchiness to Lord Ram belongs to a less logical strain. Amongst Indian extremists the war between Hinduism and Islam is being fought in the battleground of mythology, a jihad without proof or reason. Whether Ram or a temple existed on the site, whether the site was in fact the foundation of the Babri Masjid are questions so deep into imaginary time, that even the Supreme Court can take a decision on land title alone, settling a feud between two warring brothers whose father left no will.




Whatever the decision, it will doubtless spark heat amongst the rabid members of both sides. The RSS, the Bajrang Dal and Muslim organisations campaigning for mosque reconstruction will surely welcome any decision as long as it is in their favour. Passions will not only run high, but with political parties watching on, can be made to run high.

The courts' usual method of delaying judgement in the hope that time will heal religious wounds, and perhaps lead to an out of court settlement, may yet be the most effective path. So while the streets of New York become the testing ground for American intolerance, thousands of paramilitary stomp the streets of Ayodhya, awaiting the large scale violence that follows any religious decision.

Though well known that Muslim emperors razed temples and built mosques on their foundations, the call to historic correction in a new time is dangerous and regressive. Does establishing that the Portuguese and the British looted India in the 18th century allow those in today's India the right to claim compensation? Can we fight a legal battle with the heirs of Vasco da Gama and Mehmud of Ghazni now? It is a question without end.

The writer is an architect







THERE is no denying it.


Some sort of political change is now inevitable in Pakistan. But what and when are more moot. Consider the omens.


Nawaz Sharif, whose soft- opposition had confused many, has finally declared that some sort of constitutional political change is needed sooner than later in order to thwart the increasing possibility of unconstitutional intervention to set governance right. He is also clear in his mind that his PMLN party is not interested in forming a coalition government in Islamabad right now with the help of discredited fair weather friends. That suggests two possibilities: either cobble a vote of no- confidence against the Zardari government and compel new elections immediately or lean on the Zardari regime to pull up its socks, straighten out the economy by taking some hard decisions, remove some contentious or corrupt ministers and promise an election in 2012 instead of the one scheduled in 2013.


The first option is a non- starter for two reasons: this is not the right season for elections because the prevailing public sentiment is decidedly anti- politician and anti- sham- democracy, so a low voter turnout is likely to hurt the PMLN rather than the PPP because its conservative vote bank is likely to split into four factions representing the PMLN, PMLQ ( Chaudhries), All Pakistan Muslim League ( Musharraf) and Tehreek- i- Insaf ( Imran Khan); and no politician in his right mind would want to be in the driving seat when hard belt- tightening economic decisions have to be taken which will provoke an anti- government backlash from most sections of society.


Therefore the second option is more attractive: it will set some of the parameters of the economy right for the long term but make the Zardari regime even more unpopular in the short term, thereby ensuring smooth sailing for the PMLN in the next elections and government while enabling it to build on the economic sacrifices of the people during the term of the present government.


The other signs of change are more ominous. The Supreme Court is not pulling its punches any more. After being dormant for three months, the cases against President Asif Zardari have been revived with obvious urgency.


The petition in the Lahore High Court challenging his right to hold two offices — that of the head of the PPP and President of Pakistan — has been supplemented by another petition claiming that he was not qualified to be President of Pakistan from the outset because of the political position that he held of being the chairman of the PPP. The other case, in which the SC had earlier ordered the government to write to the Swiss authorities and revive the money laundering case against Mr Zardari, has also been put on fast track by two aggressive moves: the original 5- member bench headed by Justice Nasirul- Mulq has been whittled down to a three member bench headed by the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, himself, and an ad- hoc judge, Justice Rabbani, has been opted into it — the implication is obvious enough; the federal law secretary has been given short shrift and ordered to advise the prime minister to write the letter or face charges of contempt of court. He has now advised the PM that Pakistan cannot surrender its sovereignty by asking a foreign country to prosecute its president, supreme commander of the armed forces, head of state and indivisible part of a sovereign parliament to any foreign country.


The courts are also putting on the pressure by other means: two suo motu notices have been given, one to examine charges of political manipulation of flood water breaches by Sindh politicians allied to the Zardari government; and the other to investigate corruption charges against the federal water and power ministry in sanctioning dubious rental power projects with unduly high power- selling rates. ( The fact that more credible charges of political manipulation of flood water breaches against the PMLN Punjab government have been studiously ignored by the SC should not be missed).


A dangerous gridlock is clearly developing between the SC and the Zardari regime. In consequence, Yousaf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, seems to have taken off his silk gloves.


HE THUNDERED in parliament the other day that the cabinet would not accept any " unconstitutional" decision or order by the SC that violates the sacred " sovereignty" of parliament and constitution.


He wants an accountability law that targets generals, judges and bureaucrats no less than the vilified politicians in the dock today. He will also have no truck with notions of a government of technocrats imposed from outside. President Zardari has also held meetings with his party's hawks and told them to shore up their defenses for resistance, saying " I will not go quietly into the night"! But the footnotes in the thunder of the president and prime minister must not be missed. They say they are ready to take a fresh look at their economic and political mismanagement and even change some of their most controversial ministerial captains to appease the critics. In order words, put their house in order, cut wasteful expenditures, plug corruption and take the hard economic decisions needed to save Pakistan from going down the tube.


Will they reform themselves or will they have to be pushed out of business? A vote of no- confidence is certainly possible if a couple of Mr Zardari's coalition parties like the MQM and FATA switch sides. But it won't beget a new coalition government if Mr Sharif, who fields the second largest chunk of parliamentary votes, is not on board. The critical factor here is that Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari are obliged to weigh their options in a dynamic setting because the military and SC are also simultaneously weighing theirs against all politicians.


The writer is the editor of The Friday Times



LOOK at Altaf, sobbing and pouring like a watering can over that ghastly murder in London. I mean I'd say a lot more about this except that I'm bound by an agreement called " The Silence of the Lambs" which I've concluded with Patriotic Generals ( PGs). I'm told other people who've signed up to become Silent Lambs are various fifth columnists in the political parties and sundry technocrats. The unfortunate but undeniable fact is that all these opportunists are founding members of the Lambs since it is they who've always held firmly to the theory of " PGs To The Rescue". I've been a maverick about this, as on most issues but since I can't win an election fair and square, there's no way forward except to hitch my wagon to the PGs.

As for Altaf, you know that I have a history with him. I even took him to court over the killing of my party workers when the Chief Justice went to Karachi uninvited some years ago. Well, the PGs have told me that I'm going to have to forget all about that and kiss and make up with Altaf ( although kissing people like Altaf has not been my top priority in life), having called him every name in the book, and also having called the PPP every name in the book for having done precisely that.


Anyway, we'll bridge that cross when we come to it.


General Kayani called me the other day and said, " Imran, why don't you come over to GHQ to discuss the Bangladesh model". I told him, " Don't waste your time, General. The Bangladesh model is bound to be short and dark with greasy long hair. Why don't we discuss the Brazilian model, or even better, the Argentinian model? She has the most impressive vital statistics — 34, 22, 34 — and the longest legs". There was a long pause on the phone line. I said, " Hello? General Kay? Are you there?" To which he emitted a long sigh and asked in a resigned tone, " If I may ask Imran, where did you receive your primary education?" " Aitchison, of course" I replied promptly. " That explains it" he said and the line got disconnected.


But I called him right back and told him that he should immediately call a Joint Session of Parliament.


" I'll supply the joints", I told him, " and you can supply the Parliament". Then I explained. " Once all the Parliamentarians arrive, I'll pass the joints around and once they've smoked up, they'll all be nicely high without being mighty. That's when you can get them to sign on the dotted line. What do you think?" Strangely, the line went dead again.



Hello? General Kay? Im the Dim










Following August's record-making traffic jam stretching across 100 kilometres and 10 days, monster vehicular congestion hit Beijing this week. Despite multiple-lane expressways, the sheer pressure of nearly five million automobiles often brings China's capital to a crawl, vehicles crammed together, driving under 15 km an hour, over several hours. India is no stranger to agonising traffic. Our urban centres, shaped by crumbling colonial infrastructure and poor post-colonial planning, are hit daily by new cars on old roads. With a BRIC report predicting India will own the world's maximum vehicles by 2050, we must tackle traffic conditions now. Congestion impacts the urban experience, ideally about equable public spaces and invigorating private zones. Against high accident and road rage figures, it's time to stop driving in circles and address core issues fuelling stressful traffic conditions. 

One palpable issue is the lack of modern public transport. In a landscape where small towns are the size of European nations, this is a major oversight. The Delhi Metro's birth is welcome but long overdue. Omissions lead to emissions; metro stations are often so far from neighbourhoods that people drive. We need alternative transport models to make commuting in India less of a pain and perhaps, even a pleasure. 

One choice is waterways. With rivers crossing several locations, we could follow in Bangkok's footsteps and develop watercourses, taking the heat off our streets. Another step is light railways across what the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission terms 'Category B' centres holding one million-plus. Merchant, migrant and monument-rich, these need transportation beyond bus-and-rickshaw models. Where gaps exist between residential areas and stations, 'pod-cabs', as announced by Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, are welcome but footpaths and cycle tracks would also be useful. Stringency over transport development is essential. There is little point making new roads if these are washed away by rain, leaving vehicles traversing new potholes. Citizens' associations with non-governmental bodies should watch costs and quality of urban links. 

A major issue regarding public transport in India is private aspiration. Owning one's own vehicle is part of growing wealthier. Prohibitive measures like colour-coding would force owners to eschew vehicles some days. However, alternative mindsets can also be encouraged. The state could offer special point-to-point executive services. Pride can be encouraged in public transport. Like Moscow, we could create fascinating artworks at metros. Like Britain, our politicians could start using trains or buses. Cynicism is fun but belief pays in wondrous ways. Perhaps, by addressing our traffic issues with sensitivity, we could touch deeper chords within our collective selves.







The Mangalore crash in May, claiming 158 lives, brought into sharp focus the safety and infrastructure problems dogging the Indian aviation sector. But a move to address one major aspect of those shortcomings is now being subverted by bureaucratic resistance. Aviation minister Praful Patel has revealed that there have been 70 near misses in the past three years. Justice R C Lahoti's recommendation on the formation of an independent air traffic control (ATC) gathered dust for 14 years. Now that it is finally beginning to be implemented, factions within the Airports Authority of India (AAI) want to turn the idea on its head and make the new organisation just another administrative unit with air traffic controllers forming a minority of its personnel. This is missing the point entirely. 

Domestic air traffic has jumped from 15 million passengers annually to 35 million over just the past six years. This is set to grow even more rapidly with domestic airlines expected to add over 600 planes to their fleets over the next two decades. And to handle all this, there are just a thousand ATCpersonnel across the country managing 2,500 flights a day. This is an unacceptable shortfall. It's little wonder that near misses are so frequent. To deal with the various factors responsible for this shortfall low wages and poor working conditions and hours, among others the establishment of a corporatised body specifically for ATCs is essential. This is in keeping with best practices in the US and Europe. If the proposed body is to work outside the overall bureaucratic structure of the AAI, the aviation ministry must step in now.








The Commonwealth Games (CWG) are Delhi's biggest sporting event ever. Yet with just days left for the event, the national media discourse on Delhi 2010, world opinion and indeed the mood in the city present a rather gloomy picture. 

In Canada and Australia, athletes have been issued instructions that India isn't secure enough amidst recent terror threats and Canadian athletes are not to stay on in Delhi following their event. While some are upset at the prospect of missing out on the cultural experience of India, others concur that it is ultimately the Canadian Olympic Committee's responsibility to ensure security concerns are given due importance. New Zealand has gone further, voicing concerns about whether the Games can finally start on time. ScotlandWales and a series of other smaller commonwealth countries too have spoken out about the state of under-preparedness, in the process dealing a body blow to India's global brand positioning. 

Similarly, while many may dismiss the Queen's decision to give Delhi a miss her first non-attendance at the Games in years as irrelevant, it only underscores the negative undercurrent of the discussion in Britain. Human rights activists, at home and abroad, continue to be concerned about the working conditions of labourers in this last-ditch effort to finish things, a concern likely to deepen with organisers' pronouncements on differing standards of hygiene in the West and in India. 

Three clear strands emerge in the discourse surrounding the Games. First, our politicians remain confident but some of the confidence on display appears to be false bravado. Second, they betray a growing sense of urgency in trying to wrap things up. This sense of desperation explains the rapid pace of work in the last two weeks, a pace in sharp contrast to the agonising apathy witnessed between 2003-09. Third is the sentiment expressed in the official website for the Delhi Games, which says the "Games will leave behind dramatically improved, world-class sports facilities that generations of Indian sportspersons can use in the future. The establishment of an Olympic-size pool as well as a gym in Delhi University will boost sports among the youth of Delhi." 

Are such claims tenable? The answer now hinges not only on what happens during the Games but, more appropriately, on the legacy they will leave behind. On the plus side of the ledger, Delhi is ready to offer the world's athletes some first-rate stadiums for most sports competitions. But is this enough? Can 
CWG 2010 create a rallying cry of "sport for all" or will Indian sport continue to remain a lottery destined only for a few? These questions continue to animate experts on the eve of the Games. The notion of sport for all was certainly part of the Delhi 2010 legacy vision, which states: "More than all, the legacy of the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi will be to boost the sports culture as a part of the daily life of every Indian, particularly the youth." 

Also, going by the definition that soft power is the ability to get what you want by attracting others to your values, the government and the CWG Organising Committee have promoted the Games as a tool to attract the West to what they call a truly "modern India". At the same time, it is obvious to everyone that there is a sizeable section of India that chooses to remain beyond the realm of this marketing effort, for whom the Games don't signify much more than opulent spending with little tangible gain in the long run. 

As Ashis Nandy has recently argued, "Anybody who spends a few days here will know that there is another India which is rebelling against the version of the official India, the ultra modern India being hammered home by the government. The slums of Delhi for example are in a different kind of dialogue with the mainstream discourse on the Commonwealth Games." 

For Nandy, the contradiction between the official rhetoric on India championed by the government and the "dissent" so easily noticeable in the slums of Delhi are too obvious not to be taken note of by global commentators and policymakers interested in studying the Games' legacy. Such comments are gaining strength as the clock ticks, once again drawing attention to the issue of the sustainable legacy of the Games. 

In the final analysis, despite all the contradictions surrounding the legacy rhetoric, the CWG, if staged well, will make a statement to a sizeable global audience. A failed Games experience, on the other hand, will add strength to the murmurs that there remains a serious disconnect between India's newfound modernity and the masses of Indians who still face pitiable conditions of existence. 

At its best, Delhi 2010 was to herald the start of a new journey. At the time of writing, such a possibility appears remote. Delhi 2010 was meant to reorder the city, herald a new era, but it now looks to be a last-chance dash to finish the remaining work. Whether or not the Games are a spectacle to remember and the organisers are able to erase negative projections will shape the CWG's lasting legacy, a necessary assessment that will commence exactly three weeks from now. 

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.



                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




Anekantvad is Jain philosophy that perceives life as being multi-dimensional. What we think we see is only part of life, rarely the whole. 

Though most of us operate from our periphery, often saying and doing things spontaneously, without thinking or planning, we are all eventually guided by our centre. What is our centre? It is usually that core collection of feelings, beliefs, conditionings, thoughts, biases, prejudices, ideas, perceptions, points of view, and opinions --- basically whatever we think we are. This centre is often mind-based, not being or soul-based, for those things always operate out of silence and love. The soul or being is our real centre, as opposed to the mind or ego based 'pseudo-centre' from where we frequently and unknowingly operate. 

Very few of us operate from pure love. Invariably, we tend to operate from fear, or its subsidiaries, like hate, greed, envy, avarice, mistrust, anger, competition and frustration. 

The Jain concept of Anekantvad is beautiful. It says that any truth is relative to the perspective from which it is known. Reality is comprised of innumerable substances, both material and spiritual, and these too are constantly changing and in a state of flux. Raw materials that make up material and spiritual things too, are impermanent. And hence, it is near impossible for ordinary individuals to see the whole truth, the complete truth, of reality. What we often see, due to our limited vision, perspective, point of view, our senses and sensibilities, or beliefs, our social upbringings, our limitations is a thin slice of life, or reality. What we see in not the untruth, but it cannot be the entire truth, which is too vast for mere mortals to comprehend, and is also constantly undergoing modification and evolution. It needs a highly evolved or enlightened soul, of the calibre of a Mahavira, Buddha, Jesus or Nanak -- or the 24 Thirthankars, who form the foundation of the Jain religion -- to be able to see and understand that whole truth. 

The most common story cited to illustrate anekantvad is that of a king who called six blind men to touch and describe an elephant. All of them came up with different answers, calling the elephant a rope, fan, snake or wall. While they were partly right, they were nowhere near the whole truth. All of us see the world and life from our limited perspective. If we knew this, then we would not be in conflict with others. But we assume that what we know is the whole truth and that the other is wrong. And hence there are conflicts all over the world, basically because my truth does not agree with yours, although both of us don't know that we are both only partially correct, and are both likely to be wrong. We strongly hold on to our partial or wrong concepts, and fight over it, tooth and nail. When the final picture emerges, or with the passage of time, when we look back at the past, we will often see how our words and actions were often wrong. 

Anekantvad, once understood, will make us realise that our knowledge is partial and incomplete. We form our central core from this partial truth, and hence are prone to get into conflicts with others. If we recognize that we don't know the whole picture, we are likely to become less aggressive and more humble, which will pave the way for more peace and joy on earth.



                          THE TIMES OF INDIA




(This is a humour piece)


When I was a kid growing up in Calcutta, vampire movies starring Christopher Lee as the blood-sucking Count Dracula were hugely popular. The character was based on Irish novelist Bram Stoker's creation, who in turn was based on the real life Transylvanian chieftain, Vlad the Impaler, so called because of his engaging habit of skewering his enemies on poles, like human seekh kebabs. I used to go to see Dracula films. Or at least, parts of Dracula films. Because when I knew that Christopher Lee was about to leap out of the lurking shadows like a monstrous bat out of hell to sink his fangs into yet another victim to drink their blood, I'd cover my eyes with my hands. How did I know exactly when Dracula was going to pounce? Simple. The background music was a dead giveaway. The background music is always a dead giveaway in not just Dracula movies but in all horror films. When the background music begins to grow louder and louder dum, dum, Dum, Dum, DUM, DUM, DUM! you know that Dracula, Werewolf, Phook, whoever, is going to get into the act. And if you're sensible like i used to be you'll cover your eyes with your hands, warned by the music getting louder and louder. Everyone can hear the godawful music and the sinister warning it conveys, that something bad, Something Very Bad, is about to happen. Everyone in the movie hall can hear it. The people out on the street can probably hear it even over the noise of traffic, it's so loud. But do you think the about-to-be victim on the screen generally a female with a heaving bosom can hear it? No. Not a chance. She can't seem to hear a sausage, and keeps going farther and farther down this dark, spooky corridor which bends and twists like a slithering snake. And of course she gets what's coming to her. Which, in the case of the movies i went to as a kid, was Dracula, ever-hungry for human blood. 


Now, all these years later, vampires are back in my life. No, the villainous Count Dracula has not risen yet again from the grave. The vampires that infest the whole of Delhi and the National Capital Region, where I now live, are called machhars. More specifically, dengue machhars. And they're far more difficult to dodge than old Dracs ever used to be. For one thing there's no background music getting louder and louder to announce the arrival of one of these bloodthirsty fiends. Just a brief buzzing, whining sound and the hellish creature has bitten you and sucked your blood. When Dracula sucked people's blood in the movies, he turned them into vampires, or the living dead. When dengue's machhars, today's vampires, suck their victims' blood they give them dengue, a killer disease, which might turn them into the dead dead. 


In the Dracula movies, vampires could be frightened off by religious insignia, like crucifixes. Dengue machhars, being atheists, aren't frightened off by crucifixes, Chinese-made Ganesh images or the collected works of Deepak Chopra. Dengue machhars have also developed an immunity to DDT and other pesticides. So how does one combat these devilish creatures? 


Here comes one now, buzzing and whining. It dive-bombs my unprotected arm like a kamikaze pilot. It stings me. Ouch. It sucks my blood. It flies off. Or tries to. In mid-flight it stalls, staggers, comes tumbling down to the ground. Stone dead. 

Dengue machhars aren't scared of Deepak Chopra. They don't give a hoot for DDT or any other pesticide known to man or machhar. But they aren't immune to one toxin: the blood of the average Dilliwala, poisoned as it is by the polluted air we breathe, the poisoned groundwater we use, the adulterated and chemically contaminated food we eat. No dengue machhar can withstand the lethal toxin that is the average Dilliwala's blood. Yep. Life really sucks. Especially for today's vampires.



                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




This is the centenary year for two singing legends from the world of Indian classical music. The renowned Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur and his peer Pandit Gajanan Bua Joshi, both of whom learnt with the legend Bhurji Khan around the same time. Mansur was an important torch-bearer of the Jaipur gharana and Joshi became associated with Gwalior having learnt in three gharanas, namely Jaipur, Gwalior and Agra. This week, New Delhi celebrates Mansur's centenary with a series of concerts and a photo exhibition celebrating his life. Ulhas Kashalkar , one of India's finest singers, speaks to musician Vidya Shah on the deep impact Mansur had on his understanding of music and gayaki as well as his training with Joshi: 

How did Mansurji impact your singing? 

I have always believed that one's taleem (learning) should also be replete with listening to other musicians. I did listen to a lot of people but Mansurji was one of my absolute favourites. I had heard him live many times, i have met him personally. I heard a lot of his LP records bahaduri todi, jaunpuri, the mellifluousness of his voice, the tayyari in Taankaari. Jaipur gayaki is so attractive and with his brilliance, i enjoyed it even more. He was really my ideal. 

This is also the centenary of your guru, Gajanan Bua Joshi. What was special about your taleem with him? 

He was an amazing man who was a very accomplished singer but also a very skilled violin player. He had evolved his own style of violin playing quite distinct from any other that we know. I went to him when he was fairly old. But for him taking on a disciple meant complete devotion to the disciple you may be a good shishya, but it is also very critical, very significant that one should be able to find a "guru" (not just a teacher) who is willing to dedicate time and attention. I was very fortunate that he agreed to take me on as a student. 

But he himself had learnt from several gharanas... 

Yes, he, at the same time as Mansurji, learnt in the Jaipur style with Bhurji Khan Sahib, with Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan in the Agra and Pandit Ramakrishnabua Vaze in the Gwalior gharana. I have been able to sing all the three gharanas thanks to my taleem with him. Each one of the gharanas has a different approach and style and to be able to sing them one needs to have an understanding of the basic tenets. 

How relevant is the gharana system in today's milieu? 

Gharanas are a body of principles. For example, in Jaipur you'll see long phrases that require breath control. These phrases are closely linked to the taal, highlighting every maatra, which could be on the beat or off beat. In Gwalior, one avartan is a unit; anvat raags get sung much more, aakar is important, the taan is different, the bol is treated differently. In Agra, you hear the nom-tom. Every gharana brings with it a fragrance. It was a given thing that students moved around to learn the nuances and details of various gharanas. A wonderful example is Mansurji himself. Although he sang in the Jaipur tradition he knew and he had learnt in the Gwalior tradition also well. The important thing is that he understood and made the distinctions consciously. Ultimately the music has to be "ranjak", attractive. These are important principles which one should adhere to, but that does not mean that one cannot borrow and adapt, that is inherent to classical music. 








Few events capture the new resilient Hindu rate of growth as dramatically as the Sensex crossing 20,000. Leaving most of the world behind, it has taken just 32 months for Indian stocks to reclaim the peak they had run up to before the Great Crash. This is on expected lines: India was among the first major economies to shrug off the credit crisis, the subsequent stock market rally is a celebration of this remarkable feat. The $20-odd billion that have flown into Indian stocks between January 2008 and September 2010 symbolise a world seeking reassurance that demand for goods and services has not disappeared altogether. Global capital is seeking out all such islands of discernible demand, and nowhere is it as visible as Indians buying cars and consumer goods, the triggers for the latest Sensex surge. The money will disperse as more islands come into view, till then Indian stocks will continue to sizzle.


If demand is what the world needs and India can provide a stable slice of it, the dollar tide in our stock market serves as a scout for later investment in productive capacities. The post-crisis portfolio flow could be the precursor of a bigger wave of foreign direct investment into India. There is, however, a big difference between letting your money ride on companies doing business in India and doing business here yourself. Bountiful returns are available to companies like the Asian car makers that have learnt to operate within the substantially lower price points of the Indian market. This requires a reworking of business processes that, say, a European car maker might find downright frugal. Those who make the cut can, and do, use their India experience to prise open newer markets.


Indians last year saved close to $400 billion and put a fraction of that into the stocks the rest of the world is chasing. The valuations that emerge from an extra $20 billion in our bourses are too rich for the Indian investor — he pulled $2-billion out of mutual funds as more foreign money kept coming in. Real estate and gold, traditional investment avenues in the subcontinent and less vulnerable to sudden capital flight, are at lifetime highs. This rent-seeking inherent in the Indian approach to investment needs to be curbed. The much-touted domestic demand is a function more of India's population than of rapid affluence. One reason being our predilection for unproductive investment. Every time the stock market scales a new peak we need to ask ourselves why more of our savings are not financial. If the underlying economy is on a firm footing, the gains from the stock market should not be left to foreign institutional investors alone.







Mamatadidi does not kid around when it comes to politics, but otherwise the child in her comes out


We are all being so unfair to Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee. Instead of appreciating her childlike enthusiasm about politics in general and her pet projects in her pet state, West Bengal, in particular, all that the media have been highlighting from Wednesday is Ms Banerjee's `breach of protocol' in Kolkata. According to reports, Didi did not invite Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the foundation-laying ceremony of a new Metro line in the city. The chief guest of the function was President Pratibha Patil. In a tit-for-tat gesture, later that evening the chief minister skipped the Governor's dinner called in honour of Ms Patil.


If we still have been unable to convince you to see the lighter side of Ms Banerjee, just listen to how she described the new project: it's a "dream project, cream project". How many of our hardboiled politicians can come up with such a gem? This is not the first time we are seeing Ms Banerjee's self-indulgent ways: in Singur, while the world was at the height of political frenzy over the future of the farmers, Ms Banerjee -who some would call the instigator-in-chief -was there doing her own thing: painting a serene Bengal villagescape and writing poetry. Only children can do this: first light the fire and then go back to their world.


Yet, in all this Didi never forgets that politics is no child's play: so even as she did that naughty thing of not calling Mr Bhattacharjee, she never forgot her political rhymes.


True to her colour, she told the gathering that her ministry would not acquire land forcibly for the project. That's better than dinner any day.




.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





In the last few years in different parts of India the issue of land acquisition has become politically explosive.  This isn't surprising as land, one of the few assets possessed by large numbers of people, particularly in rural India, is rising disproportionately in potential value as commercial and industrial development picks up, as there is never a dearth of real estate magnates, land speculators, local mafia, their political patrons and collaborators — who try to cash in on the bonanza of rising value, depriving the owners of their due — and of political opportunists — who try to capitalise on the discontent the issue generates.


In the wake of the most recent agitations around land acquisitions in Aligarh and Agra, the top leadership in the Congress has now come out endorsing the farmer-friendly 'Haryana model' for land compensation, with support already expressed by many industrialists, and modification of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, currently stalled in the Lok Sabha, on those lines. The Haryana policy includes, in particular, an offer to farmers of long-term annuity over and above the lump sum compensation for the land acquired.


In the last couple of years I've suggested in different newspaper columns my ideas about an annuity (sometimes I've called it a monthly pension for farmer retirement) in this context. The 'Haryana model', if widely adopted, will be a step in the right direction. But I think it still leaves several questions unanswered.


Where will the money come from, particularly in states less revenue-rich than Haryana? If the land is acquired for public infrastructure projects (like the Yamuna expressway), it has to be largely funded through a betterment levy on all surrounding landowners who will benefit from their unearned rising land value. If the acquisition is for private, commercial or industrial projects, I had suggested the annuity to be ultimately paid out of a professionally-managed independent public trust fund (like the pension funds of large public entities in many countries) where shares of the new company are vested as part of the price of the land sold. Proposals, in some parts of India, by business houses offering their shares to the land-sellers are, for all practical purposes, non-starters, as small farmers will not have the knowledge or risk-bearing capacity to manage such share holdings. Also, in order to reduce the risks even for the public trust fund, shares of companies in many diverse projects have to be pooled, so that the fund isn't brought down by the failure of any particular project.


How many shares are to be deposited for each hectare bought? Corporate buyers can always threaten to go to another state, thus setting off a race-to-the-bottom for the competing state governments in attracting capital. One, thus, needs some inter-state coordination in determining the rates of share payments. Maybe the whole country can be divided into zones (considering different aspects of commercial potential) with pre-announced area-based indices of value per hectare, on the basis of which both share deposits in the trust fund and the annuity payments are determined. In the case of mining projects the mining rights should be auctioned in a transparently competitive bidding process, and the proceeds are to be deposited in this trust fund for annuity payments to the dispossessed.


Given the scope for corruption at every step, the low trust in which people hold our politicians and officials, and the ease with which the issue of land becomes a matter of political football among rival parties (West Bengal is an ugly example), the whole matter of land transfer, administering of compensation and annuity, and resettlement should be handed over to an independent quasi-judicial authority or regulatory commission for each state, sufficiently insulated from the day-to-day political process but subject to periodic legislative review. The commission should regularly hold local hearings where all parties can present their cases and grievances.


All this means the stalled Land Acquisition Bill has to be completely overhauled before being taken up again. Its provision for 70 per cent buying of land through the market and 30 per cent through the state is unfair and costly. It's unfair to the land-sellers, as in the market process the numerous uncoordinated small sellers are no match for the bargaining power of large corporate buyers, and the sellers will often face the intimidating and strong-arm tactics of the land mafia, which will try pre-emptive buying. It's inconvenient and costly for the corporate buyer for whom the transaction costs of dealing with thousands of small sellers (particularly in densely populated parts of the country) are large, even apart from the problem of the occasional recalcitrant farmer in a contiguous plot holding up the process. The state has to be fully involved in the land transfer process, and its usual high-handed or corrupt tendencies have to be checked by strengthening the political accountability mechanisms at the local level.


The state should also be involved in organising training and skill-formation programmes for the people giving up their land — just promising them jobs, irrespective of qualifications, in the new projects is unfair to the employers and inefficient for the economy. It is also imperative for the state to arrange some compensation schemes and welfare payments to other, often poorer, stake-holders in the land (like sharecroppers and landless wage workers), who are usually bypassed by the market process.


Thus, the 'Haryana model' needs to be seriously restructured and supplemented, before politicians and industrialists start running with it as a magic potion.


Pranab Bardhan is Professor of Economics at University of California, Berkeley and the author of Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Rise of China and India (OUP)


The views expressed by the author are personal



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





The downstream impact of dams in the Brahmaputra river basin has been a major issue of concern in recent years in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (AP), even as plans unfold to develop at least 135 large hydropower projects to produce approximately 57,000 MW of electricity in AP alone. The past three months have seen major developments on the issue. Both an Expert Committee of Academics and a House Committee of the Assam Legislative Assembly submitted reports in June and July 2010 respectively, raising serious questions on the viability of upstream mega dams, with the under construction 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project being particularly in focus.


On August 12, the Rajya Sabha saw a lively discussion on the issue in response to a calling attention motion by MP from Assam, Birendra Prasad Baishya. On September 10, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh held a public consultation on the issue in Guwahati as a follow-up to an August meeting with a delegation led by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, a major peasants' movement in Assam.


Over the past few years, downstream impact concerns raised in the North-east include: loss of fisheries, changes in beel (wetland) ecology in the flood plains, impact on agriculture on the chapories (riverine islands and tracts), disruption of intricate socio-cultural linkages of indigenous communities with the river systems, increased flood vulnerability due to massive boulder extraction from river beds for dam construction and sudden water releases from reservoirs in the monsoons, dam safety and associated risks in this geologically fragile and seismically-active region.


One of the key issues that has come up is the drastic daily variation in river flows, which will take place after these dams are commissioned, particularly in winter. For example, the average winter (lean season) flow in the Subansiri river in its natural state is about 400 cubic metres per second (cumecs). Both the ecology of the downstream areas and peoples' use of the riverine tracts in winter is adapted to this 'lean' but relatively uniform flow of water through the day.


After the commissioning of the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri project, flows in the river in winter will fluctuate drastically on a daily basis from 6 cumecs for around 20 hours (when water is being stored behind the dam) to 2,560 cumecs for around 4 hours when the water is released for power generation at the time of peak power demand in the evening hours. Thus, the river will be starved for 20 hours and then flooded for 4 hours with flows fluctuating between 2 per cent and 600 per cent of normal flows on a daily basis.


The flow during peak load water releases in the Subansiri river in winter will be equivalent to average monsoon flows and will cause a 'winter flood', drowning drier riverine tracts that are used by both people and wildlife on a daily basis in winter. The downstream livelihoods and activities likely to be impacted by this unnatural flow fluctuation in the Eastern Himalayan rivers include: fishing, flood-recession agriculture, river transportation and livestock rearing in grasslands for dairy-based livelihoods. But downstream communities are yet to be officially acknowledged as project-affected persons due to upstream dams.


Flow fluctuations in rivers like Lohit, Dibang, Siang and Subansiri will severely impact breeding grounds of critically endangered grassland birds like the Bengal Florican, foraging areas of the endangered wild water buffalo, habitat of the endangered Ganges river dolphin and important national parks like Dibru-Saikhowa and Kaziranga.


The natural flow pattern of a river is like its 'heart beat' and alternate starving and flooding of these major rivers on a daily basis is a threat to the ecological and social security of the Brahmaputra floodplains. Comprehensive downstream impact assessment and public consent must be a mandatory part of the process which decides whether to grant or reject clearances to these dams.


Neeraj Vagholikar is a Panos South Asia Media Fellow (2010-11) and a member of the environmental action group, Kalpavriksh


The views expressed by the author are personal








Prasanta Lahiri (name changed) has been living just outside Delhi, in Ghaziabad, for the past nine years or so. He is unmarried, and now well past marriageable age.


Lahiri has a way of seeing himself vis-à-vis his neighbours and feels he is one of his kind. How? His bachelorhood, he thinks, makes him somewhat of an imponderable to the local community. Lahiri is sometimes curious to know what the women in the area think of him.


He speaks Hindi all right but the Bengali twang in his accent is prominent. Not being so North Indian in conduct and speech restricts his interaction with his male neighbours to just exchanges of pleasantries.


He is an agnostic, with an aversion to religion. So he does not take part in jagrans. Here too the ethnic factor comes in — a Bengali, and, therefore, a communist, and hence 'different from us', people perhaps say.


So far, maybe not so good, but tolerable. Now comes the dangerous bit.


Lahiri drinks. But why dangerous? The local foreign liquor outlet has patrons throughout the year except the two Navratri periods — in April and October.


But when others drink, their 'vice' is leavened by the fact that they're householders, god-fearing, believers in organised religion, supporters of Ayodhya's Ram Temple, and so on. Poor Lahiri has nothing to expiate his sin. However, at the end of the day, Lahiri would laugh over these, dismissing them all as products of his persecution complex.


Once a strange occurrence kept repeating very frequently at the house Lahiri lived in. Cough syrup bottles were turning up with remarkable regularity below the staircase (where one would expect to see vintage bicycles) on the ground floor — one at a time. Writers of thrillers or ghost stories could spin a yarn out of it, thought Lahiri, when he learnt about the matter. Those like him with a grounding in history would be reminded of the days just before the mutiny of 1857, when chapatis were found almost daily on the porch or the verandah of the homes of senior British officials.


But the dreamer in Lahiri was shot dead by the neighbour's crass question: do you keep the bottles below the staircase? Quickly recovering, he gave a brief 'no'.


Matters didn't end here. Word spread that Lahiri was indeed the offender. Why? Because he drinks, and drinks anything that's intoxicating — even cough syrup. Fine. But why does he keep the bottles below the staircase? Too many questions can be irksome for theory-mongers, particularly for those who are sure where Lord Ram was born.


Lahiri did not challenge. He thought over his imagined 'minority status', now threatening to acquire before him a real-life presence — Bengal provenance, bachelorhood, etc. Is he a natural suspect for this alone? And he shook with fright. What would have happened had he been in a real minority group, perhaps a Muslim?








The sub-plot of Bengal politics is hard to subsume under the main plot of Indian national politics. In keeping with the narrative defiance of regional politics, and exceeding the same in several respects, West Bengal's political narrative — with its predictable as well as surprising twists and turns — keeps itself in national headlines as a thing in itself. The mutual antipathy between Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Trinamool chief and Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, whom some are calling "CM-in-waiting", competes with the CPM-Trinamool hostility for space and prominence — so much so that it's pointless to look for the one with the uglier, pettier attitude.


Mamata Banerjee did not violate protocol by not inviting Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the foundation-laying ceremony of a new Metro project in Kolkata, where the president, state governor, Union finance minister and other officials were present. But it did violate a code of courtesy. After all, the project is in the state capital and it's a petty personalisation of politics to keep the state's most important political functionary out of it. Did someone complain about Banerjee treating the railways as her fiefdom? Well, she got the chance again since the Kolkata Metro, the oldest in the country, is also the only Metro under the Union railways — usually cited as the reason for its current state.


Bhattacharjee, the day after, expectedly refused to attend the Raj Bhavan dinner in honour of the president, sulking at the snub the day before. But this too is churlish on the part of the CM, who after all has shown that he cannot drop Banerjee from the political-personal equation. This antipathy has a long history but remains rather inexplicable, since Banerjee enjoyed a pretty decent relationship with Jyoti Basu in the patriarch's last years. Perhaps they individually, and separately, recognise that without mocking or insulting the other, and seen to be doing so, they would both weaken their self-definitions.







It is too bad that football is not a Commonwealth Games sport. England — and perhaps Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too — would have had a chance to enter a team. Given that they have separate football associations, and each is not given to gratuitous cooperation with the other, they have been conspicuously absent from the Summer Olympics, where they enter as a single team, Great Britain. In fact, even the automatic qualification of the hosts at the Olympics didn't exactly clear the path for a local team in London in 2012. As prime minister, Gordon Brown ran headlong into a political controversy for suggesting that a British football team should be enabled in 2012; and FIFA, football's governing body, had its own views of the matter. The Olympics are not exactly football's greatest stage, but you have to sympathise with a country of football fans without a team to cheer. But you can't always have the fray of your choice.


Who will the spectators in Delhi cheer next month? There has been understandable disappointment over the no-shows by top athletes like Usain Bolt and Phillips Idowu. But as the air suddenly thickens with consternation about assorted athletes withdrawing, it's time to recover some context. The CWG are not unmade by the athletes who do not turn up; they are a unique opportunity for those who do make it to give themselves a leg up the international order. For the Indian contingent, the competition schedule especially fits the bill. It has the disciplines in which our sportspersons need greater international exposure, a shot in the arm that a medal gives them to then take on more keen competition: there are, for instance, 23 golds on offer for male shooters, exactly the same as those on offer for male athletes (for women, it's 13 and 23, respectively). In athletics itself the Indian challenge has fallen some notches since its glory days at the Asian Games. The CWG experience on homeground will therefore be valuable.


Other contingents too will place the Delhi events in their larger strategy. This kind of event is the crucible for new heroes, not a benefit for established ones. Enjoy it on those terms.







An eighteen-year wait is about to get a little longer. The Supreme Court has deferred pronouncing on whether or not the Allahabad high court's judgment on the Babri title suit should be deferred till September 28 — which means the lower court will not be delivering its verdict on September 24, as planned. It might mean the judgment has been pushed back by just a week, but could well lead to an even longer wait. However, this is unlikely to stem the interventions that have urged everyone to keep their cool.


Indeed, that has been the most remarkable feature of this period of anticipation, the way people and organisations from across the political and ideological spectrum have called for calm, regardless of the judgment's content. Not just from the people who really need to, like Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. Or from chief ministers responsible for law and order, like Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, who warned, in his characteristically high-pitched style, that "enemies of the country are in search of opportunities to disturb its social fabric." No, the interesting point is how near universal is the fear that a judgment that displeases one group or another will toss us back into an earlier and damaging politics, how pervasive the concern that the irresponsible will seize control of the situation and use it, violently, to mar the India story. Various individual members of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board have gone on the record as urging "patience", regardless of outcome. Intriguingly, in some sensitive parts of Karnataka, the police have brought together Muslim community leaders and local VHP and RSS heads to jointly urge that the situation stay under control. Even the Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray called a party meeting to announce that "no Shiv Sainik will indulge in violence", and got on the phone to Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, apparently to coordinate security for Ganesh Chaturthi processions.


That's from the most direct stakeholders in the process. But all of us, in truth, have a stake in ensuring that no self-destructive spiral of rancorous bitterness is embarked upon. That's evident in the fervent, broad-based expressions of hope that any reactions to the verdict, whenever it comes, are mature and forward-looking — expressions visible online, in conversations, in paid advertisements, from Hindi film stars discussing their movies. The final judgment may have been postponed, but the demands for calm will not go away.









There are reports that Congress President Sonia Gandhi will lend her considerable political weight by being present at the launch of the UPA government's ambitious UID programme which seeks to give a single, unique identity number to all Indians in order to establish better state-citizen interface. In these politically charged times, with sections of the Congress sounding more coherent as opposition than the BJP, the Congress president's endorsement of the UID programme will indeed have great political significance. Of late, there is increasing opposition to the project by a small but influential section of civil society which has raised questions relating to potential violation of privacy and infringement of personal liberty by the state apparatus which might be tempted to abuse its access to the lives of citizens through the UID system.


Recently, Amartya Sen also lent some weight to such concerns by saying the UID project does raise questions of personal liberty.


Therefore, it is critical that Sonia Gandhi display unambiguous support for probably the most ambitious programmes undertaken by the UPA government so far. In fact many members of the National Advisory Council (NAC), which she heads, are highly sceptical about the UID programme. So this is one issue where Sonia Gandhi may differ with many members of NAC.


It is also interesting that among the first few UID numbers handed out will be to people living in Mumbai slums. In some ways a vast majority of the Mumbai slum-dwellers represent India's "mobile republic". As per official data, there are close to 250 million migrant workers in India who are on the move to seek jobs away from their village or place of birth. Mumbai possibly has the largest population of such subjects, most of whom are self-employed and relatively poor. So the symbolic importance of the UID launch in Mumbai slums must not be missed.


It must be clearly recognised that the emerging structure of India's economy is an unique one where 45-50 per cent of those incrementally gaining employment are self-employed. These self-employed citizens are largely poor and are considerably mobile in seeking work. The UID programme will particularly cater to some of these emerging structural realities of India's political economy. All current forms of identifications are based on specific geographical location, such as ration card, voter identification, driving licence, etc.


The UID will therefore be the only authentic, mobile identification number for over 250 million poor Indians on the move. Today banks invariably refuse to open accounts for migrant workers in big cities on the pretext that they don't have a permanent address. The UID will come as a great relief to this lot.


Some of India's liberal and enlightened citizens, who are ever so suspicious of the state's intentions, view the UID exercise as a "techno-commercial fantasy" which will not succeed. Indeed, there is a lot of cynicism around the project. However, for over 600 million poor, the physiological needs of survival clearly precede other philosophical/ intellectual concerns relating to loss of privacy felt so acutely by a section of liberal civil society.


One is not for a moment suggesting that the concerns over the UID project impinging on personal liberty are totally invalid. Simply put, there are the 600 million poor who, in the words of political scientist Partha Chatterjee, depend crucially for their survival on being able to choose tactically when to become visible and be counted by the state. This can be seen in government-led social sector programmes like rural employment guarantee, and targeted health and education services. The poor will certainly want mobile identities to be able to "become visible" at different locations across the country.


The rich, in contrast, want to largely remain out of the state's sight. In fact, it is likely that the creamy layer of society, which is economically and politically empowered, will not opt for the UID number. This lot has only limited interface with the state in their everyday life. They have access to private education, health, electricity and even security. They possibly depend on the state only for critical public goods such as clean air and water, since it is not easy to privately organise these.


Is there a contradiction between the majority of the poor seeking a sense of freedom by wanting to come under the state's radar and the others wanting to keep the state at bay while using it surreptitiously, when required? This paradox has been captured by Isaiah Berlin, one of the most influential political philosophers of the 20th century, in an essay where he explored "two concepts of liberty".


One concept of liberty, called negative freedom, is represented by the notion that individuals are totally free in society without any constraints or interference from others. The other concept — described as positive freedom — denotes submitting oneself to some collective form of self-determination, such as democracy. Even the 18th century French political philosopher Rousseau believed individual freedom is achieved through participation in the process whereby one's community exercises collective control over its own affairs in accordance with the "general will".


Of course, liberals argue that even in a democracy, driven by the general will, the government must actively create conditions for individuals to achieve self-realisation. This is seen in the form of constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, movement, etc in liberal constitutional democracies. In the context of the UID project, bringing a new privacy legislation will denote a measure of negative freedom gained by individuals who want to guard against an "oppressive state".


Overall, there is always a striving to achieve a balance between positive and negative freedoms in a modern democracy. The unique identity project, once implemented, will also be tested in terms of the balance our constitutional democracy achieves between positive and negative freedoms this massive exercise creates. Its legal-political complexity cannot be denied as it seeks to create an official identity to empower over a billion people. Therefore, one must debate but avoid passing a premature judgment over the question of loss of privacy and personal liberty at this stage.


Before he died some years ago, Isaiah Berlin had said the only question that still remained unresolved in his mind was, "where should individual desires end and the needs of the collective begin?" This philosophical problem is not so easily resolved.


The writer is Managing Editor, 'The Financial Express'








A query appeared on Facebook a few days before the all-party delegation's arrival in Kashmir. It was innocuous: anybody aware of the report of the last all-party delegation that came to Kashmir in March 1990 headed by then-Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, and including Rajiv Gandhi? Or the follow-up on that?


That query reflected the deep cynicism and credibility crisis marking the backdrop to the P. Chidambaram-led APD. These 20 years are the worst in Kashmir's chequered history, but ironically contain the brightest patch in its political progress.


The entire history of engagement between Kashmir and the rest of the country has been mired in events that have bred deep suspicion and cynicism. It's therefore the easiest conclusion for an ordinary Kashmiri to convince himself that "nothing is going to come out of this effort".


But a stark difference marks the two scenarios, which inspires one to invest some hope in this initiative. 1990 marked a foray into unfamiliar territory for Kashmiri youth, backed by a strong popular sentiment. For the first time, violent means came into operation as an expression of anger and frustration. The Rajiv Gandhi visit was doomed in the roar of guns that were to rule Kashmir and undo its political narrative.


Now things are different. Kashmir seems to have disowned the gun, is wary of it even as an external factor to an essentially political struggle. The arrival of the country's political elite in such a scenario in itself could become a watershed.


What has added to the misery and complexities of Kashmir has been the complete reversal of the political process that had, 63 years ago, defied the logic of partition and ended up in the accession of the country that was Kashmir (always described as such by Nehru) with India. No sooner did that happen, the state of India unfortunately decided to downgrade the relationship to an intelligence-security enterprise. All decisions were guided by strategic interests and implemented by the security establishment. Politicians had to follow what was laid down in intelligence blueprints. A country, with people priding themselves on a 5000-year-long culture and recorded history, was unfortunately to become the victim of perennial mistrust, which with time became mutual.


I was part of a delegation that made a 15-minute presentation to the country's political elite. We didn't say much in those 15 minutes. But there seemed to be an unexpressed bonding with our audience. In fact, nothing needed to be said on that day when a group of 40 hardboiled politicians landed in a place which never looked like a part of the world's largest democracy. An entire population of seven million had been imprisoned through the world's largest security set-up on that day. The "operation silence", by its very nature, betrayed a painful story. But the silver lining lay in that it was the day of khadi, not khaki, which was not visible in the meeting hall for a change.


The sentiment of self-determination was born with the fact of accession itself. It assumed many names along the way. It was Sheikh Abdullah's plebiscite and someone else's unfinished business of partition (to make this Muslim majority state part of Pakistan). Of late it is azadi. It represents a whole host of ideas ranging from a popular response to injustice, disempowerment, deprivation and political intrigue that has witnessed New Delhi supporting the least popular dispensations in the state. A section of this sentiment also questions Indian sovereignty drawing its argument from historical sources and the six-decade-long course of events. The denial of its existence has only made it more widespread and entrenched. What was required is acknowledging it and meeting it with more creative alternatives, which is yet to happen. However, the ferocity of this sentiment always remained inversely proportional to the quality of governance.


There have been good patches and bad patches in Kashmir's recent history. One good phase was post-1975, though the theme of Sheikh Abdullah's governance essentially remained emotional. The election of 2002 marks an important political watershed. Not because of credibility alone but the agenda of governance that, for the first time, established a genuine two-party system. The years following it marked important political progress, culminating in record participation in the 2008 elections even in the wake of the Amarnath upsurge. Mainstream politics became relevant to the resolution rather than hated and ostracised as part of the problem. The question that political pundits must answer is why the best-ever situation, when governance had become an issue and elections regained credibility, led to the present nightmare. Have governance and political conduct post-2002 set new standards that resulted in disillusionment post-2008?


While the all-party delegation came in an atmosphere of total mistrust, the way they tried to know the actual sentiment and reasons for the current crisis has suddenly raised hopes among many. The leaders could help achieve a breakthrough if they realise the sheer responsibility they have been able to go back with. They could replace the perennial image of the guilty men of India in Kashmir by another one — friends of Kashmir.


The writer is a PDP spokesman








The most important geopolitical relationship in the world is always the one between the world's greatest power and the world's greatest emerging power. Today the world's greatest power is the US and the world's greatest emerging power is China. Hence, in theory, the most important geopolitical relationship should be the Sino-American relationship.


Throughout history, the world's greatest power has almost always tried to block the emergence of a rival power that could become more powerful than it. Hence, the US should, in theory, be focused on preventing China's rise. In practice, we know it is not happening. To explain why not would take a very long article, if not a book. The bottomline is that the US has reconciled itself to China's emergence and has not put in place any long-term policy to thwart China's rise. Instead, a spirit of pragmatic engagement suffuses the Sino-American relationship.


The big question for the 21st century is whether a similar spirit of pragmatic engagement will also be the driving force for the second most important geopolitical relationship in the world, namely the relationship between the world's two greatest emerging powers: China and India. Indeed, within a decade or two, the Sino-Indian relationship will become the most important geopolitical relationship, for China will soon realise that a declining power like the US will provide fewer challenges to China's rise than a rising power like India. Given the potential importance of the Sino-Indian relationship, it is vital that in the early phases, the right policies are put in place for managing it.


On the economic front, it is easy to work out a win-win arrangement. PM Manmohan Singh put it well when he said that "there is ample space in the world to accommodate the growth ambitions of both India and China." China and India share a fundamental common interest in seizing the best historic opportunity they have had in over 200 years to grow their economies and to catch up with the developed Western economies. Neither China nor India has an interest in getting distracted by geopolitical squabbles.


The explosive growth in trade, exceeding all targets, also demonstrates the potential for the two economies to cooperate. In addition to the $50 billion in annual trade last year, Chinese companies have won $30-40 billion in contracts to build power stations and $10 billion in contracts to build telecoms infrastructure. Chinese companies are now supplying equipment for a quarter of the new power capacity India is adding to its grid, up from almost nothing a few years ago. When India opened up its economy in 1991, almost no one would have predicted the Sino-Indian economic relationship would have become as close and inter-dependent as it has. And there still remains strong up-side potential as there is a lot of genuine admiration in China for India's strong entrepreneurial class.


On the cultural front, there are also no fundamental contradictions between China and India. Unlike the relationship between Islam and the West, which is fraught with civilisational contradictions going back to the Crusades, there is little danger of a clash of civilisations between China and India. The more thoughtful Chinese scholars understand and appreciate that Buddhism was a big gift from India to China. And most Chinese have heard of the legendary journey that the famous Chinese monk Hsuan Tsang undertook in the years 629-645. Hence, it was wise for the Indian pavilion in the Shanghai Expo to highlight his visit.


On the cultural front, it might be useful for both the Chinese and Indian governments to undertake a sociological study of Singapore's society. No other society demonstrates the cultural comfort between Chinese and Indian societies as much as Singapore does. Singapore is clearly a Chinese majority society, with the Chinese making up 75 per cent of the population. The Indians only make up 6 per cent. Despite this, the president and several ministers are Indian, thereby contributing a significant share of the country's leadership. Sino-Indian marriages are growing faster than any other multi-cultural marriages in Singapore society.


The third leg of the tripod, the geopolitical leg, provides the shakiest dimension of the Sino-Indian relationship. A quick survey of Indian newspapers and journals will show a rising level of concern over the growing Chinese presence in India's neighbours, including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and, especially, Pakistan. It is quite natural for some Indian commentators to suggest China may be developing a containment policy around India.


Those who worry about such a potential Chinese containment policy should also be aware that the geopolitical stack of cards is already stacked in India's favour. The total combination of India's neighbours, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, cannot tie India down. By contrast, China may have to deal with a geopolitical nightmare if its rapid rise alarms its neighbours and competitors. A geopolitical combination of the US, India, Japan, Russia and Australia is something that no Chinese geopolitical planner wants to deal with. The combined political, economic and military weight of these five powers will be much larger than China's.


This is why China has been, overall, remarkably careful and prudent in managing its rise. It has bent over backwards in many ways to avoid alarming America. So far, by contrast, China has paid little attention to India geopolitically. Once it begins to do so, it will soon realise it is in China's long-term interest to maintain a stable win-win relationship with India. There will be difficult testy moments over issues like the border, Dalai Lama and Pakistan. Overall, despite the differences, both sides can work out a mutually beneficial relationship.


The writer is dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, and has written 'The New Asian Hemisphere: the Irresistible shift of Global Power To the East.'








The man hugs his goat and looks back at you gloomily. This still from the recent Hindi film Peepli Live has become a symbol of the aam aadmi's bemused take on the state's role in his life. So when officials of the Planning Commission were made to watch the film this week in order to be "sensitised" about the common man's understanding of major government programmes, things came intriguingly full circle.


The government is taking notice and appreciating political satire in a commercial film. Now that is something. Governments have traditionally not taken well to less-than-flattering depictions. So no matter what effect the screening will have on the Planning Commission, just the attempt to understand how state schemes can inspire such black comedy is a refreshing change.


In fact, a month ago there was another incident related to the film that indicated a new tolerance for criticism. Sharmila Tagore, chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification, reacted promptly to reports that two members of the board had raised objections to the film's supposedly derogatory reference to former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The film had already been cleared for screening, she noted, so there was no wind in stories that those scenes were sought to be snipped.


Peepli Live revolves around a debt-ridden farmer, Natha, who plans his suicide so his family may get Rs 1 lakh as compensation from the government. A local MLA suggests a "Lal Bahadur", a borewell hand pump, as per the scheme, be given to Natha to distract him from killing himself. There are other scenes where the agricultural ministry realises the enormous potential for embarrassment in Natha's suicide plan. A minister's aide rattles off names of government programmes — Indira Awaas Yojana, Jawahar Rozgar Yojana, Annapurna — where they can fit Natha and his goat, to entice him to reconsider. And not finding a single scheme, they then come up with a Natha card, which Natha himself cannot use. This reference to government schemes and how easily they can be thought of or discarded will presumably give Planning Commission members something to think about.


It wasn't always so. In 2006 another film Aamir Khan was associated with, Rang De Basanti, caused a flutter in the defence ministry. India's then official entry for the Golden Globe and Academy Awards, it focused on the aftermath of a MiG-21 crash, with the pilot's friends taking up the cause. The film cleared the censor board, but on the defence ministry's recommendation, there were more names added to the dedication slide for dead MiG pilots. Touching.


The government and the movies have a love-hate relationship. While it may squirm at titles and dialogues being used in films, the government does make available funds for cultural betterment. It was recently reported that a National Film Heritage Mission is being established by the information and broadcasting ministry with a corpus of Rs 660 crore. It plans to digitise, restore and preserve prints from films belonging to the National Film Archives, Children's Film Society of India, Films Division and the National Film Development Corporation of India, which incidentally has produced one of India's best received dark comedies, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.


Apart from preserving film, the government has over the decades enabled the emergence of some of the country's finest movie directors, at the Film and Television Institute of India. The government is definitely a part of the system that gives us wholesome cinema.


Then again, do government officials actually watch documentaries and films, especially from regional cinema, that touch on socially relevant topics? Maybe one could periodically update a viewing list. Or there could be videos streamed to government websites. But for now we hope the Planning Commission officers, who are drafting the 12th Five Year Plan, watched the man with the goat, closely.







World leaders have flown in first class to the United Nations this week to discuss global poverty over cocktails at the Waldorf Astoria.


The UN 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 anaemic 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 per cent 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 GDP growth in Africa has averaged more than 3 per cent 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 programme, 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 programmes — 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 programmes (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







Jamaat-e-Islami's official bi-weekly Dawaat, in an op-ed commentary, describes the judgment on the title suit at Ayodhya as "a great trial for the country". It says: "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that he would prevent the situation from being disturbed. But, here, the issue is not merely of disturbance, but of honestly implementing the court's decision, and ensuring the triumph of secularism, democracy and the rule of the Constitution, the tenets on which a question mark was put on December 6, 1992. Now, once again, there is going to be a trial of the country."


Sahafat, published from Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Dehradun, in its report on September 6, had created a stir by writing that some Muslim members of Parliament and a couple of editors of Urdu papers were trying to incorrectly "advise and mislead" not only Ahmed Patel but the Congress. The paper had said that Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid and an MP, Mohammad Adeeb, were at the forefront of this move. It had said that led by these two, a campaign was on to persuade the ulema for an agreement on giving up the site of the Babri Masjid for a Ram temple. According to Sahafat (September 9), Adeeb, who is also a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, had spoken about the campaign and said he had talked to Ahmed Patel in this regard. The report went on to say that because of these moves, the "Congress party is trying to move towards the objectives of the RSS and the VHP". And if it happens, the results would be the "rudest shock" for the Congress in its 125-year-long history.


Reacting to this report, Patel, political adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, has been quoted as saying: "The Babri Masjid issue is very sensitive and the judgment on the case is yet to come. Therefore, it is useless to say anything on this matter before the court's judgment. The report that there has been any talk by me with anyone on this is absolutely baseless."


Meanwhile, Adeeb too has, in a press release on September 13, denied Sahafat's claims and stated that his stand on the Babri Masjid is completely in conformity with the stand of the AIMPLB. Adeeb also said that he had complained to the police and intelligence agencies about the "false" reports published by the paper.


Text in context


According to a report from UNI's Urdu service, published prominently in many newspapers on September 15, the residents of Ayodhya were determined to maintain communal harmony in the town irrespective of the verdict. According to UNI, an SMS doing the rounds in Ayodhya carried recitations from the Koran as well the Gita. Another widely circulated SMS says: "Chehrey naheen, insaan parhey jaatey hein, mazhab naheen, imaan parhey jaatey hein, Bharat hi aisa desh hai jahaan ek sath; Gita aur Koran parhey jatey hain (human beings, not faces are read; honesty, not religions are read; India is the only country where simultaneously, the Gita and Koran are read)."


Such text messages, put out before the ban on bulk SMS and MMS, are very common in Faizabad these days, according to the agency report.


The All Party Initiative on Kashmir


Welcoming the visit of the all-party delegation of members of Parliament to Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad-based daily Siasat carried an editorial on September 22, saying: "There will be no immediate positive results of the delegation's meeting with hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, moderate leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF leader Yasin Malik. But important members of the delegation have tried to give a good signal by meeting separatist leaders. It provided an opportunity to understand the present situation in the Valley and rally and sentiments of the people".


The paper adds: "The reservations expressed by some members on the all-party delegation meeting with separatist leaders are regrettable. This delegation started from Delhi with completely sympathetic sentiments, but on reaching the Kashmir Valley, some members did not have even the least hesitation in expressing their prejudice. The Central government would regret the fact that it aborted its own efforts by including such leaders in the delegation."


In an editorial on September 21, Rashtriya Sahara argued: "The visit to Geelani's house by some members of the delegation and their meeting him can be described as an important step. But this visit to his house by only five of the 39-member delegation and the home minister's non-inclusion (in this group) not only reduces the importance of this meeting but it also weakens the positive message that could have gone from this meeting with Geelani. That no responsible person of the government, not even P. Chidambaram himself, went there has sent a message that the Central government does not give much importance to this group in the process of finding a solution to the Kashmir problem."


Delhi-based daily, Hindustan Express, in its editorial on September 20 says: "Geelani saying that no one put their finger on the real problem, of Kashmir's azadi, indicates he harbours a distorted view, that India and leaders of Indian political parties can be cowed down due to the recent violence in Kashmir. If he thinks that the Indian government would bow down on its knees and present Kashmir to him on a platter, he should forget about it. The time for an obsession with azadi is over. India can't talk to him while going out of the framework of the Constitution."


Compiled by Seema Chishti







The economy versus environment debate (see Ideas caFE on the opposite page on today's print edition) isn't going to get resolved in a hurry, despite the Prime Minister's intervention in a few cases. Speaking at the Express Group's Idea Exchange yesterday, parliamentary affairs minister Prithviraj Chavan said that environmental clearances would have to conform to both the letter and the spirit of the law. Mumbai needs another airport, the minister who hails from Maharashtra said, but the option of fixing the environment later while letting GDP grow first simply did not exist in today's circumstances of climate change.


More important, not all projects have an environment issue, is what Chavan pointed out on the possibility of getting critical legislation through Parliament. Given the number of seats the party has in Parliament, the only way it can get legislation through the Rajya Sabha is with the Left or the BJP's support, by and large. This means critical concessions on some occasions and a lot more uncertainty on others—while the Supreme Court has put off the Ayodhya judgement by another week, it is very possible the BJP attitude on cooperation may change once the judgement comes out, though leaders like LK Advani seem to be cautioning against that. Chavan cited one instance, that of the biotech regulatory Bill, where it has taken the government seven years already to iron out differences and in this case, the health minister now wants to have a look at it—the government is hopeful of being able to bring it in the winter session. In the case of other Bills where the BJP is likely to support the government—Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill—the problem is the differences between the constituents of the UPA. In the education tribunal Bill, Sushma Swaraj is on record saying the problem was not so much with the BJP as it was with constituents of the ruling coalition. All of which means these critical pieces of legislation, including the land acquisition one, aren't going to happen quickly since it is unlikely the government would like to clear a Bill with the Opposition's support instead of that of its own constituents. Time to revise that growth estimate downwards?







The announcement of the plans of Lawrence H Summers, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to President Obama on economic policy, to revert to Harvard at the end of the year could mark a new phase in economic strategy of the Obama government. Three major departures from the core team of economists who advised the US President in the worst recession since the 1930s, in quick succession and within just two years of the administration, is too unusual to be a pure coincidence. Summers' exit soon after the announcement of the end of the recession in the US by the conference board and the explanation that he needs to get back to Harvard to take up his teaching and research work hardly looks convincing given his previous stints there, not only as one of the youngest professors at the Ivy institution but also as its president, and the fact that he has already made millions from short corporate stints. But the gist is that the only remaining person now left from the original economic team of the President is the treasury secretary Timothy F Geithner, who was expected to be the first to leave considering the fierce resistance to his appointment by many Obama supporters. So far the President has tried to ensure some kind of continuity in his team by replacing the two earlier dropouts, Peter R Orszyg, the budget director, and Christina D Romer, the head of the council of economic advisors, by Jack Lew, who had previously occupied the office in the Clinton administration and Austin D Goolsbee, who is already a member of the council.


But finding a replacement for Summers is going to be a more arduous task given that few can match the economist either in brilliance or extensive first-hand experience. Pushing through progressive reforms right from the Clinton administration days, where he served as the treasury secretary, Summers has been the architect of the recovery act, the job creation measures and the financial stability programmes. But the inability of the programmes to generate sufficient employment opportunities has caused dismay, especially because of the growing political challenge in the mid-term elections. And the President, whose popularity is dipping sharply, would be hard put to persuade the best talent of the right vintage to join up, given that the prospects of a quick recovery remain elusive as ever, and given that consumer and business confidence remains stuck at recessionary levels.








The ongoing dispute regarding the shareholding pattern of MCX-SX is an opportunity to rethink the current regulatory conception of the stock exchange as the extended regulatory arm of the state. Given this regulatory conception, the ownership structure (legal ownership, ownership of economic interests, and ownership of control rights) of the stock exchange becomes a matter of public policy. However, the requirement to have dispersed shareholding is likely to result in an unacceptably anti-competitive outcome.


There is a different way of looking at stock exchanges—not as frontline regulators, but as the equivalent of a shopping mall for securities. We do expect shopping malls to comply with the building safety code, but do not expect them to "regulate" the shop owners. If we treat stock exchanges the same way, we would expect them to comply with basic regulations regarding trading systems and infrastructure, but would not expect them to regulate either the listed companies or the stock brokers.


We could not have thought of stock exchanges like this a century ago because there were no securities regulators in those days and the central banks too did not bother to regulate the markets. For example, in the US a hundred years ago, it was left to the New York Stock Exchange to demand that companies publish their annual accounts (and delist even large companies like Proctor and Gamble for refusing to do so). Similarly, in those days, it was the London Stock Exchange that imposed free float requirements (67% free float!) because there was no other regulator to do so. Today, we expect the securities regulators, the company law departments and the accounting bodies to perform much of this regulatory role.


The time has come to ask whether the stock exchange should be a listing authority at all in an era of demutualised stock exchanges and alternate trading systems. There are stock exchanges elsewhere in the world that are listed on themselves; this appears to me to be as absurd as a snake swallowing its own tail. Of course, the alternative of a stock exchange listing on a rival exchange is only slightly less laughable. Some countries have shifted the listing function into an arm of the regulator itself and I think there is much to commend such a move.


Another problematic area is that of market surveillance. In an era of highly interconnected markets, the idea of each exchange performing surveillance on its own market is an anachronism. A stock exchange that sees only the trades happening on its own platform is no match for a market manipulator who trades in multiple cash and derivative exchanges (as well as the OTC markets) and shifts positions across these markets to avoid detection. The flash crash in the US markets on May 6, 2010, has highlighted the folly of relying on surveillance by the exchanges. Some of the best analyses of the events of that day have come not from the exchanges or the regulators but from data feed companies that specialise in processing high frequency data from multiple trading venues.


The final regulatory barrier to free competitive entry into the stock exchange industry comes from the extreme systemic importance of the clearing corporation of a major exchange. In the UK, the ability to outsource clearing to LCH.Clearnet has been very important in the emergence of alternate trading venues. Indian regulators should also explore such a solution.


Shorn of listing, surveillance and clearing, a stock exchange would be very much like a shopping mall and it would be possible to permit free entry without any significant regulatory barriers. The regulators should then be blithely unconcerned about who owns, controls or runs an exchange. By unleashing competition, this could help bring down costs and improve service levels.


In the interest of ensuring competitive outcomes, I think it would be useful to also dismantle the utterly dysfunctional "fit and proper" regime throughout the financial sector. The global financial crisis has shown that there is scarcely any bank or financial intermediary in the world that is "fit and proper" enough to be entrusted with any significant fiduciary responsibility without intrusive supervision and stringent regulation. The illusion of a "fit and proper" regime only serves to discourage private sector due diligence.


I believe that regulators worldwide should accept this reality and abandon the "fit and proper" requirement altogether. Resources devoted to screening applicants at the point of granting a licence are much better spent supervising those who are already licensed. Today, the position is the opposite. In India banks and stock exchanges have retained their licences long after they had deteriorated to the point where they would not get a licence if they were applying for it afresh. This is an intensely perverse anti-competitive situation.


In short, the problems relating to shareholding pattern of stock exchanges highlighted by the MCX-SX episode should be solved not through legal hair splitting but through more robust regulatory frameworks.


The author is a professor of finance at IIM Ahmedabad








Let us start with the biggest paradox. In all probability, you have never been interviewed for any of the opinion polls. How can the polls then claim to reflect 'public opinion'?

The story goes that a woman actually asked this question to Gallup. Gallup explained that the likelihood of being interviewed for a Gallup poll is very low. It is, in fact, just a little bit higher than the likelihood of being hit by lightning in the continental US. The woman exclaimed that she had indeed been hit by lightning, but she had never been met by a Gallup pollster till then. Presumably meeting Gallup himself didn't count!


In any case, this is because almost all consumer research surveys are sample surveys. Censuses are rare in the consumer research context. They are infrequent even in the larger context of the nation as a whole. The Indian census, for instance, is carried out once every ten years. It happens to be one such instance right now. The reader will be aware that the process has begun for the census of 2011. As an aside, the census will put out the population count at the reference point—'sunrise of March the 1st'.


Sample surveys work because it's not necessary to meet everyone to estimate the prevalence of a particular phenomenon. Just as you sample a spoonful to test if a dish is done, all you really need is a 'spoonful'.


The usual cliché used to illustrate this point is of a cup of tea and the sugar test. One needs just a spoonful of tea to check if it is sugared. Of course, it's not error-proof. A spoonful may be good enough for a 'homogeneous' situation like in a pot of tea. But it will not be enough to get the full picture if it is a heterogeneous case, like a samosa heated in a microwave.


Anyone with experience of heating a samosa in a microwave will testify that one cannot rely only on a sample from the outer jacket. You need at least two samples: one from the outer jacket (which may be merely hot) and one from the core inside (positively scalding). The fact that a microwave heats from the inside out is a paradox in itself. But that is another story.


All we really need is an indication of whether it is likely to be too hot to put inside one's mouth. For this a test based on those two samples, one from the outer jacket and one from the innards, is good enough. It can yield a fair idea of how hot the samosa really is.


The statistical argument is that a precision of the result from a sample depends only on the sample size. It does not matter how big the sample is relative to the population it is drawn from. Continuing with the tea example, it does not matter if it is one cup of tea or one gigantic pot of tea—you still need only one spoonful to check.


This becomes a real paradox when we start imagining highly heterogeneous contexts in the real world of people. Every election season sees some political party muttering something about how a survey of a mere thousand people cannot really reflect the reality (especially if it is predicted to lose).


How can this be so? And, more important, how big a sample do we really need in order to 'get the full picture'? We shall examine these in the later columns. I must note here that while exploring these we also will stray from the realm of Paradox, and wander into the realm of Myth. Specifically, the 'Myth of the minimum sample of 30' and a variety of other faith-based statistical superstitions that lie underneath.


But sampling errors are only one part of the story. More than sampling errors and the math, it is important to appreciate that there are hundreds of other factors that render the survey results to be exactly wrong.


Consider the satisfaction measurement surveys at a retail outlet, like a grocery supermarket. In these, a sample of customers are intercepted and surveyed over a period of a week or ten days, every few months. It's obvious that the survey will only catch those who actually visit the store. It will simply not include customers who have stopped shopping there because they are really unhappy with the store.


So, one needs to be cautious while interpreting the satisfaction scores. More important, let us assume that the situation continues with more customers vanishing every week. So, the base shrinks and is 'purified' to the more satisfied lot who alone continue to shop from there.


The satisfaction scores will then misleadingly go up from one track to the other, even as the Researcher Nero fiddles with the calculator on the sampling error.


The author is president, Ipsos Indica Research. These are his personal views






Vatican Bank is caught in a money laundering scandal, again


Vatican Bank or the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) was created during WW-II. Despite some movement towards transparency and towards complying with OECD tax standards, IOR retains its offshore status, with workings still submerged in secrecy. We are told IOR emerged on the other side of the 2008 banking meltdown because of prudent management. Given its clandestine functioning, we can only take the bank at its word but its credibility is becoming shaky. Some of this has to do with the larger theological crisis where traditional Catholic strongholds have been seeing membership declining across parishes. The child-abuse scandal hasn't helped. Now, Italian police have frozen $30 million from an IOR account, with the bank chairman suspected of violating money-laundering laws.


As a court ruling about whether investigation into the case should proceed or not is awaited, the shadow of the past looms large, where inquiries have tended to meet dead-ends. Most famously, in 1982, a $1.4 billion currency fraud didn't only take down an Italian bank closely linked to IOR, that bank's chairman was found hanging off a London bridge, with suit pockets stuffed with stones, dollars and Swiss francs. The mystery of his death remains unsolved, never mind Godfather III giving it lots of play.






God's advocate


One of the four plaintiffs in the Ram Janambhoomi case, the judgement for which has now been postponed by a week, is Bhagwan Shri Ram Lalla Virajman, and its advocate is none other than the BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad. Whether tongue-in cheek or not, Prasad often refers to himself as God's Advocate.


To market, to market...


How Sebi Member MS Sahoo, one of the Members MCX-SX has accused of bias, got his current posting is an interesting story. An Indian Economic Services officer, Sahoo was posted in NSE and from there got posted in Sebi as a chief general manager. After a stint there, he reverted back to the finance ministry as a director. Sahoo then applied for the Member's job in Sebi when the post was advertised by came up against a hurdle when a fresh ministry circular said applicants from within the government needed a 25-year experience. Sahoo then quit the government, joined a private firm, and then got the Sebi job since the 25-year criterion never applied to him—Sebi has a quota for taking in Members from the private sector. Interestingly, when there was an income tax survey on Financial Technologies (promoted by MCX-SX's Jignesh Shah) and Sahoo was still in the ministry, he wrote to Sebi on the matter. MCX wanted to buy a one per cent stake in the Delhi Stock Exchange, and Sahoo wrote to Sebi saying it was not 'fit and proper'. The fact that MCX was 'fit and proper' to run a commodity exchange never occurred to Sahoo.








Administrations at the Centre and in the States that have their hands full with daunting law and order challenges have obtained a breather from the Supreme Court's order deferring the Allahabad High Court's verdict on the Ayodhya title suits. Among the issues to be decided in the suits are: whether the Babri Masjid was built on the site of a Hindu temple after demolishing it and what the legal effect of such an action is; and whether Muslims had offered prayers from time immemorial at the Babri Masjid and if Hindu idols were placed inside. Some of the suits date back to 1950 and after consolidation in 1989, four have survived and it was in these four that judgments were to be pronounced today. The plea before the Supreme Court was that, given the implications of the impending high court decision for communal harmony and in the circumstances in which the Central and the State security forces were overstretched in dealing with the Maoists, the situation in Kashmir and the security for the Commonwealth Games, the parties should be given one more chance to work out a settlement through negotiations. This unusual last minute plea on a matter that has defied a negotiated settlement for over 60 years, and more particularly since it flared up in the 1990s, hinges on the hope that the parties would change their attitude and work towards an agreement when the Supreme Court takes up the matter. If that hope fails to materialise, the relief for the administrations would be short lived. It was with some reluctance that the Supreme Court bench decided to order the high court to defer its verdict for five days, with one of the two judges inclined to dismiss the petition.


The Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi issue would no longer seem to inflame passions to the extent that it did in the 1990s, although the court verdict could still have a significant impact on communal harmony. No one would quarrel with the desirability of a fair and equitable negotiated settlement if only that were possible. Yet, if the judicial process itself were to be held hostage to fears of disturbances, it would amount to giving rioters a veto over the law-abiding and would have disturbing implications for the rule of law. The country has come a long way since the turbulent 1990s, and the lessons of that period have hopefully been learnt — the appeals for calm from all parts of the political spectrum are a good augury. Reasonable people on both sides of the communal divide should have no problems in accepting the judicial verdict whichever way it goes, and it would in any case be open to appeal. The nation as a whole should face the Allahabad High Court verdict squarely and demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law, with issues being resolved in judicial and other institutions of the state rather than on the streets.







As expected, the centre-right Alliance has won the Swedish general election, but is short of an outright majority in the 349-seat unicameral Riksdag. Under the almost fully-proportional modified Sainte-Laguë electoral system, initial results show the Alliance, which comprises the Moderate, the Centre, the Liberal, and the Christian Democrat parties, as winning 172 seats. The Moderates' leader and incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt therefore heads the first conservative government to be re-elected in Sweden since the 1930s. If the coalition holds, it will have a four-year term. The Social Democrats, who have governed for 65 of the last 78 years, have in Mona Sahlin their first leader never to have become Prime Minister. Ms Sahlin, on behalf of her own party as well as the Greens and the Left Party, conceded on the evening of the September 20 poll. As the Alliance had based its campaign on the evidence of a slow but definite economic recovery, the opposition failed to persuade voters to oust the ruling coalition. It seems now that the Greens will hold the balance of power. The Alliance agenda is relatively predictable and involves spending cuts and more privatisation, even though the national budget deficit is relatively small.


The election has, however, been dominated by the far-right Sweden Democrat Party, which has gone far beyond the threshold four per cent vote-share to win no fewer than 20 Riksdag seats. The party claims to have abandoned its skinhead past, but it has clearly attracted voters by combining near-xenophobic campaigns aimed at immigrants with brazen evocations of an idyllic — and fictitious — monocultural Swedish past. The success of this far-right group is further evidence of the strong and exploitable streak of racism and anti-Islamism in contemporary Europe. The rise of the far-right party with its pronounced anti-immigration bias is a shock for Swedish society, which takes pride in its tolerance. Its economy, one of the most successful in Europe, depends heavily on exports. Analysts even say Sweden needs more immigration, and believe that the country's exports will be at risk if it is perceived as xenophobic or racist. Clearly it is a tough road ahead for the new government, which must ensure that the advances made by the far-right do not imperil Sweden's traditional political stability and social cohesion. If the new Swedish government does not address the resulting cultural tensions, it could well provide the far-right with even more future successes.









Almost four years after Nepali political forces signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the country continues to have two armies — the official Nepal Army (NA) and the Maoist People's Liberation Army (PLA). The future of the two armies is at the heart of the peace process, and is directly linked to both government formation and Constitution writing.


A September 13 agreement between the government and the Maoists states the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants will be completed within the next four months. This may be difficult to achieve, given the complex differences between the two sides on the issue but it is central to moving the political process forward.


The PLA officially has 19,602 verified combatants in seven cantonments and 21 satellite camps across the country. But reports suggest that the numbers have dipped in recent months. The combatants receive monthly salaries from the state treasury. All PLA fighters and weapons, and a limited number of NA personnel and arms are monitored by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which has been in the country since January 2007.


As per the CPA, a special committee for the management, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants was set up towards the end of 2008 by the Maoist-led government. The committee, now chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Nepal, also has a technical panel to assist it. The basis for the integration is a vaguely formulated provision in past agreements, which say "verified Maoist combatants" will be eligible for "possible integration into security forces based on standard norms."


Three proposals


At the moment, there are three proposals on the table. The Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) have differences over nuances, but their position represents one pole. The Maoists have presented their own alternative. And UNMIN has come up with a 'non-paper' with a hypothetical 60-week timeline for integration and rehabilitation.


All parties agree that the PLA must be brought under the control, direction and supervision of the special committee immediately. Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' told the PLA at its annual celebrations in February 2009 that it was now under the committee, not the party. But this was not implemented. As per the recent government-Maoist agreement, the former rebels have once again pledged to put the former combatants under the special committee. The NC-UML has suggested that a secretariat with a coordinator, representatives of the NA, the Nepal Police, the APF, the Maoist Army and other agencies be formed for the purpose. UNMIN has emphasised the need to form implementing and coordinating bodies. There is also a broad agreement among all parties that Maoist fighters who opt for voluntary separation, rehabilitation, and integration should be categorised and separated. This should be followed by the actual selection of combatants for specific security agencies, even as others are offered attractive rehabilitation packages. But there are major differences in at least three areas.


Numbers, modalities & timing


The first has to do with the numbers. The NC and the UML argue that the number of combatants to be integrated must be first decided at the political level, before the process is initiated. They point out that the Maoists informally agreed to integrate 3,000 combatants in a conversation with the former Prime Minister, G.P. Koirala. In their proposal, the Maoists say the 'scientific way' would be for the special committee to ask each combatant what his preference is. Those who want to opt for voluntary separation or rehabilitation, and those ineligible due to physical disability can be left out. All others must be considered eligible for integration. They deny that a prior deal on numbers has been struck.


The second area of dispute is the basis of integration. UNMIN has pointed to the need for a political agreement on "rank harmonisation, entry norms and entry modalities" as a prerequisite for the process. The NC and the UML, with the support of the Army, insist that former Maoist fighters have to compulsorily meet the "standard norms" of the existing security institutions to be eligible for integration. They also say the combatants are "individually responsible" for integration. This is a reflection of the NA position that Maoist fighters can individually, as Nepali citizens, seek to join the army but there will be no entry on the basis of units.


The Maoists say "standard norms" in past agreements refer to the standard norms for integration, not the existing norms adopted by the security agencies for recruitment. The norms must be based on the "originality of Nepal's peace process." This assumes importance since many Maoist fighters may not meet the exact educational or physical standards of the NA and other agencies. The Maoists' proposal also categorically rejects the concept of individual recruitment. Their leaders argue that integration was a special provision based on the reality that the PLA was not defeated in the war, and the logic that it had to be "professionalised" and the NA "democratised."


The Maoists suggest that there could be further discussion on the modalities of integration. A separate force with their combatants could be created; a mixed force with their fighters and additional new recruits could be an option; and/or there could be an integration of the existing institutions.


The third area of contention is the timing. Formally, all sides recently agreed to finish the process in the next four months — by January 15, 2011 — but the politics behind the issue is more complex. Non-Maoist parties insist that the Maoists cannot be entrusted with leadership of the government, and the statute cannot be promulgated if they do not 'detach' from their military structure. For their part, the Maoists are reluctant to finish the process before they have reliable guarantees on the Constitution and power-sharing.


In their initial proposals, the NC and the UML insisted that the entire process — of determining numbers, separating the combatants into different groups, discharge of those who want to leave voluntarily, selection into security agencies; and rehabilitation — be completed in a month. In a recent concept paper to build consensus, the UML suggested that separating the combatants could be completed within a month, while the remaining process could take four months.


The Maoists have said the special committee can finish the process of deciding the numbers through

consultation in two months; and the separation into different camps can take another month. These two steps can form the basis of a preliminary consensus, and "after ensuring that the Constitution would be written, an action plan should be devised for completing the integration and rehabilitation works just before the promulgation of the Constitution."


In its timeline, UNMIN holds that setting up an implementing body, informing the combatants, registering their initial choices, and separating them into different groups could take 21 weeks. The additional process of discharge and selection could begin in week 39. Non-Maoist parties have criticised UNMIN as they feel its proposal is too close to the Maoist plan. Additionally, the fact that UNMIN's tenure ends by January 15 next will have implications for the process. But UNMIN's proposal should not be dismissed for, it has international experience in implementing complex peace deals.


Political will


The differences can be overcome if all parties display the requisite political will. Informally, all of them — including the Maoists — agree that 6,000-8,000 combatants can be integrated into all security organs, with 2,000-3,000 in the NA. A combination of flexibility in entry norms, and Maoist fighters going through the required training, could bridge the debate on "standard norms." The process can begin immediately but end some time before the promulgation of the statute. Once the PLA is under the special committee and Maoists are locked in, the other side should feel reassured and cede space to the biggest party in the power-sharing arrangement.


But all sides should first reassess their political positions. The NC and the UML should stop echoing the army's position only because they see it as an ally in their battle against the Maoists. Instead, the reform of the NA and bringing it under firmer civilian control are part of the peace accord. Isolating the Maoists is also counter-productive for, it only feeds their fear that "reactionaries" are out to "eliminate them" and makes them reluctant to give up their coercive apparatus.


For their part, the Maoists should stop being dishonest and using the PLA as a bargaining chip. If they want a new Constitution, they will have to make compromises on their political-military structure since other parties are justifiably insecure. The Maoists should feel confident since they derive their core strength from front organisations and a sizable mass base. If the question of two armies remains unsettled, there will be little chance of Nepal writing the Constitution or institutionalising democracy.








President Obama forced into a major damage-limitation exercise in the wake of explosive new book by veteran reporter Bob Woodward.


Barack Obama was forced into a major damage-limitation exercise on September 22 after a new book by veteran investigative reporter Bob Woodward painted a startling portrait of the strained relations between the White House and top U.S. generals.


Divisions within the U.S. administration during an Afghanistan policy review last year — that led to 30,000 more personnel being sent to the war zone and the setting of a July 2011 deadline for a withdrawal — have been well reported. What is new is the level of personal acrimony that apparently accompanied that debate.


In "Obama's War", to be published on September 27 but leaked early to the New York Times, Woodward claims that the infighting was ferocious, and punctuated by remarkably snide and bitter remarks. On one occasion General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is quoted as saying, in reference to Obama's administration: "You ****ed with the wrong guy." Another damaging section of the book reveals that Obama needed the withdrawal deadline for domestic political reasons, to keep the Democratic party happy. The revelations leave the president vulnerable to fresh attacks by Republicans just as Obama and the Democrats are struggling in the polls ahead of congressional mid-term elections in November.


The Republicans immediately seized on the president's remark about the need for a deadline, and said party politics should not be dictating national security policy. "That's what it's all about folks, politics, pure politics," a Republican National Committee spokesman, Doug Heye, said.


The book also threatens to damage already strained relations between Washington and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, as well as with Pakistan.


On September 22 the White House did not dispute Woodward's account, other than to correct a few minor points. But it stressed the extracts were selective and claimed that, when the book is read as a whole, Obama emerges as a president who is "analytical, strategic and decisive."


Among the other revelations are: — Obama's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, is quoted saying the Afghan policy "can't work". The vice-president, Joe Biden, describes Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, as "the most egotistical ******* I've ever met".


— Karzai is alleged to be suffering from manic depression and taking medication. Woodward quotes Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador, as saying: "He's on his meds, he's off his meds."


— The CIA has set up a 3,000-man Afghan paramilitary unit for covert cross-border operations, including assassinations, against al-Qaeda and Taliban havens, not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan.


— U.S. intelligence told Obama that Pakistan is not a reliable partner in the Afghan conflict. The president is quoted as saying: "We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan." There was angry reaction to the book from Afghanistan, where the palace in Kabul denied Karzai has mental health problems. A close Karzai aide said the revelations would undermine a much improved relationship between Karzai and the Americans. "It adds fuel to the fire of our enemies. Can you imagine the laughter of Mullah Omar [the Taliban leader] over there, reading this?" the aide said.


But Abdullah Abdullah, foreign minister in Karzai's first cabinet turned opponent in last year's presidential election, said Karzai's alleged mental problems had caused problems for the country. "It has affected the situation because it affects his decision-making."


In Pakistan, senior officials said Woodword's claims were out of date. "That was 2009 and this is 2010. Things have come a long way since then," said Pakistan foreign office official, Abdul Basit.


Blake Hounshell, managing editor of the Washington-based Foreign Affairs website, said the book would create enormous headaches for the White House. "If you thought the Rolling Stone article that got General Stanley McChrystal fired was damning, you ain't seen nothin' yet," he said. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010









Tucked away from the main, more opulent residential area of Changa Bangial village in Pakistan is an enclave of 18 households belonging to the same extended family. For this clan of modest means and education, an army colonel and a police sub-inspector provided the only living source of familial pride. Then a 17-year-old boy shot to fame with his immense cricketing talent and became the sole identity, not just for the family, but for the whole village, and the nearest city, Gujar Khan.


This young man, Mohammed Amir, is now embroiled in a spot-fixing case that has the potential to end his breathtakingly promising career in its infancy. The people of entire Gujar Khan tehsil see it only as a conspiracy to rob them of their pride. They are united in defending Amir's honour as their own. Hurt not as much by the suspension of Amir (and two teammates) by the International Cricket Council (ICC) ahead of the ODI series against England, as by the "revelations of Amir's ill-gotten riches" by a certain news group in Pakistan, their first line of defence is to bar all media from getting to the family.


I travel 70 km from Islamabad to get to Changa Bangial, where a local, Mirza Munir, has arranged my visit to Dhok Jandaran, the official name of the locality where Amir's family lives. But he tells me straight off that I may not be able to talk to anyone there, not even to kids in the street. Amir's family feels threatened by newsmen and Munir, as a fellow villager, is on the side of the family. We leave the main road for a narrow concrete path that curves around a field and brings us to an intersection where a mud track runs half a kilometre to the cluster of houses on our right that is Dhok Jandaran.


Munir stops at the intersection and points to the ground in the corner: "This is where Amir played cricket in his childhood." It's not a playground. It is a piece of untended land earmarked for the construction of a girls' high school that was never built. There's wild growth all over and the surface is bumpy. The recent monsoon spell probably.


We take the dirt track and stop in a square that is the entrance to the enclave. Two narrow, winding streets lead off at a right angle. All the houses have low boundary walls and identical name plates stuck to them. The streets are paved and clean. No open sewers and no stench of cow dung. Many of houses are single-storied and all are small but neat and well presented. Amir's house is at the far edge of the enclave with open fields on two sides. A Pakistani flag embellished with golden border is flying on a pole fixed on the rooftop — a symbol of pride for Amir's father, Mohammed Fayyaz, for having served in the Pakistan army. He retired as a sepoy.


The door is opened by Amir's youngest brother, Mohammed Ramzan. He whispers something in Munir's ear and hurriedly walks past me avoiding eye contact. Munir leads me into the house — three rooms built around a courtyard. The baithak — village speak for drawing room — is furnished in traditional style. Two chorpoys covered with brightly coloured bed sheets, a wooden sofa set with floral upholstery, vinyl flooring, dark coloured curtains of coarse material and a wooden rack along the length of a wall, displaying gold-rimmed tea cups and saucers.


There is no one meeting us here though. We are welcome to the house but not to the occupants. Amir is not here anyway. He has a house in Lahore where his parents join him off and on. In their absence, Amir's sister, eldest among the siblings, manages the village house.


It takes me a few minutes of wandering around to find another young man in the street. He is curt and unwilling to talk. Then his father shows up and introduces himself as Amir's paternal uncle, Raja Mehmood Ahmed. I introduce myself as a journalist who only wishes to hear the family talk about Amir, and not the spot-fixing case. I am invited in, and a little later Amir's elder brother and mentor, Mohammed Ijaz also joins us.


Ijaz, 25, runs a jewellery shop in Gujar Khan. He is wearing Pakistan cricket's official track suit. "Is it Amir's?" Yes, he replies with a hint of pride and affection for the kid brother who excelled his older brothers in the game they all love. Amir is the fifth among six brothers and except for the eldest, all have played tennis-ball cricket together in the village and all are left handers. "We had enough boys within the family to make two teams of six or seven players each. Amir used to be among the youngest but he bowled really fast, even for us older batsmen. I don't remember he was ever hit for a six," says Ijaz, a left arm leg spinner himself.


The youngest, Ramzan, is the only one eyeing professional cricket. He's also a leg spinner "and a decent batsman down the order," adds Ijaz. Ramzan is shy and lets Ijaz do most of the talking. At 16, Ramzan is following in Amir's footsteps, all the way from the middle school in the village to the boarding school cum cricket academy in Rawalpindi where Amir played with a cricket ball for the first time. "Watching Amir bowl with a tennis ball, I was convinced that he'll make it big if only he can play with [a] hard ball. But we didn't have the means to get the gear. Whenever our mother went out shopping to town, Amir would insist on buying the gear but was always told we couldn't afford it."


Spotting his talent


A grown-up cricket enthusiast in the village spotted the talent in Amir, took him to the academy in the big city, and bought him his first kit. Now Amir can possibly buy the best gear in the world but his brothers are still using his hand-me-down kits. "None of us has ever bought cricket gear. Ramzan has a full kit that he got from Amir. His bat is the one Amir used for his record score against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi. His pads, gloves, everything is second hand, and he's proud of it," adds Ijaz.


When Amir is in the village, they still play together. "When he is home, he's not a star, just a cricket loving boy of the village. He even plays with little kids. He adores our sister's only son Mohammed Kaif, 4, and takes him out for games all the time," says Ijaz, pushing little Kaif to say his salam to the guests. What do you want to be when you grow up? A batsman or bowler? "I want to be like Amir mamoon," pat comes the reply.


On the way back I ask Munir if he is into cricket at all. "Me," he laughs, "Never even watched a match in my 50 years." Still, what does he make of the allegations Amir is facing? "All I know is he is a good boy who's made Changa Bangial proud, and nothing anyone says is going to change that. The young in the village adore him for his game. He is their hero, and that isn't going to change either. Just give it time and his innocence will be proved to the whole world".








With the Indian economy poised for a robust growth in the next few years, energy security has become the focal point of policy formulation. From domestic finds in oil and gas to acquiring hydrocarbon assets abroad, dealing with foreign investors and negotiating transnational pipelines — all these issues have emerged as key points in India's quest to secure its energy future. Sujay Mehdudia spoke to former Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister and Rajya Sabha member Mani Shankar Aiyar on India's oil diplomacy and the changing dynamics of world energy. Excerpts.


How do you see India's position in the context of energy security, especially in view of a robust economy, acquisition of oil and gas assets abroad and exploration of domestic geographical areas?


Today we have a situation where we are more energy insecure today than we were 10 years ago. We have a confirmed discovery of gas in [Krishna-Godavari] KG basin D-6 by Reliance Industries but that is from over seven years back. Since then, not even the private sector has discovered any new find. If our own exploration is going to stagger in both oil and gas and if we do not put in enormous resources that are required in research and development to deal with the peculiar geographical problems found only in India, then the future seems insecure.


R and D is simply not taking place. No determined effort is being made for knowledge networking around the world. We are not really looking for our own oil and gas. We are still evolving a policy for shale gas when China has made huge strides in this field. The oil majors of Asia have converted the Asian premium into Asian discount. No effort is being made to bring Asian oil producers and consumers together. There is very active energy diplomacy called for to secure the full advantage of the Asian discount. Energy security has to be one of the focal points of our diplomacy at least till the mid-fifties of this century.


What is the situation with regard to an integrated energy policy vis-à-vis the external and internal dimensions of energy requirement?


Instead of focusing on West Asia and the extended South Asia, which is a repository of hydrocarbons, we are keen on crossing "two oceans" to secure our energy needs. The government's present integrated policies would not be able to secure energy for India in the 21st Century. The ground reality is that thorium- based energy would not be useful till the middle of the century. There is a need to competitively access oil and gas instead of finding ourselves stranded in a sellers' market.


Our failure has been to recognise that though we ourselves have a hydrocarbon deficiency, our immediate and proximate neighbourhood is simply soaked in hydrocarbons. The largest availability of natural gas in the world is in Qatar.


We are geographically fortunate in being able to potentially access by pipeline the gas resources of not only Turkmenistan and Afghanistan but also Uzbekistan, Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. To the East of us, gas is available in Myanmar, which it supplies to Thailand. We have made no arrangement to pipe this gas through a network of pipelines and bring it to India.


No progress has been made in talks to arrive at a deal with South Korea to supply gas from Sakhalin where we have a commercial interest on the basis of a switch deal to get gas into India from Sumatra.


Australia is emerging as a major supplier of gas; we have done nothing to secure gas assets there. Sitting as a terribly gas deficient nation, sitting in the centre of what would be a multiple sources of natural gas supply and to do nothing to access it shows the absence of recognition of importance of energy diplomacy.


What is the reason that foreign investors are fighting shy of investing in India especially when the economy is doing exceptionally well?


The government's intervention in the Ambani brothers gas dispute had an adverse fallout on India's energy security. To resolve a quarrel between two brothers, the government intervened to remind them that natural gas constitutes a sovereign national resource.


Following the legal dispute, prices are to be determined prospectively or retrospectively and where the gas must be sold will be determined by the government. In consequence, while the internecine fraternal quarrel is over, foreign and even domestic private sector interest in exploration has plummeted.


While the number of blocks for exploration increased, the number of awards has decreased and private bidders are keeping away, due to the government's gas policy and production sharing contract. This is essentially because we are perceived with some justice as a country where production sharing contracts are ambiguously drafted and terms redefined to the disadvantage of the investor who signed the documents in good faith.


India is also perceived as a country where producers can neither determine their prices nor choose their own

customer. Cairn, the most successful oil entrant in the Indian hydrocarbon sector, is packing its bags and handing over finds to Vedanta Resources, owned by an non-resident Indian, who has no previous experience of oil and gas.


They are only waiting for the Indian government's green signal so that they can leave forever for the green pastures of Greenland. What an indictment! India imports more than 75 per cent of its crude, along with one-fifth of its gas.


Instead, alas, we are doing practically everything we can to discourage international and even domestic players from entering our uncertain, deeply ambiguous hydrocarbons sector, thus massively promoting energy insecurity.


What should India do to give a new and aggressive look to its energy policy, both inwards and outwards?



India should engage in aggressive oil diplomacy. What we also need is a national energy policy and national energy security adviser to secure our future. We need an explorer-friendly exploration policy if domestic natural gas output is to surge. There is very active energy diplomacy called for. Even if all the dreams of thorium energy of Dr. Manmohan Singh are realised, then also we must realise that we cannot get to the 50s without passing through the 20s, 30s, 40s. And if we falter in between, we won't need thorium based energy as our economy would have collapsed by that time. I don't know why we do not make both in the External Affairs Ministry and Petroleum Ministry as well in other Ministries concerned with energy an 'External Dimensional Energy Policy' which is integrated with domestic needs. We have to become 'hunters and predators' for energy sources to keep our economy boiling.


The amount of attention that has been paid to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, in getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) nod and now the passage of the Nuclear Liability Bill, is a phase behind us. Anyone who has faith in nuclear energy can be content that more has been achieved in this area in the last four years than in the previous 40 years. But how do we face the next 40 years? We cannot face the next 40 years without access to affordable fossil fuel, until and unless the role of natural gas is given high priority and is matched by policies that encourage domestic production.


What are your views on the stalled IPI pipeline?


The Indo-U.S. energy ties including the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal had derailed the momentum of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline also known as the peace pipeline. If we are nervous of the U.S., why are we still continuing negotiations with Iran on the IPI whereas Pakistan, with its image of a failing State, has been able to seal a deal with Iran and secure energy for itself?


Tell us about this new thrust on shale gas and where India stands.


Shale gas is catching the global imagination with India having done little in exploring the potential. Europe and China have emerged as major producers of shale gas. In fact, China is producing more shale gas than the U.S. We are still in the process of evolving a policy on shale gas.


We in India have no understanding of shale gas. Instead of having an open acreage licensing policy, we are still making efforts to asses what are our reserves, locate them and then prepare a policy. We are a decade behind China. We are still hobbling along the path of underground coal gasification, a technology discovered by the Russians in 1920's. We are worse off than Europe. What is going to prove to be the single most important source of fossil fuel energy in the 21st Century, we continue to neglect — the fuel of the century.








Suddenly, a lot appears to be changing as regards the question of judicially deciding the status of the land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood until its demolition in December 1992. The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court to postpone by a week its pronouncement of verdict on the title suit. The verdict in the 60-year-old case was scheduled for Friday (September 24). The intervention of the country's highest court means that September 30 is the last clear date on which the high court may have the opportunity to deliver its judgment. The following day (October 1), one of the judges on the high court bench is scheduled to retire. If that were to happen, and the court has not spoken on September 30, it is likely that the verdict in the title suit pending for six decades will be postponed still further.

The reason for this unanticipated turn of events is that the Supreme Court decided on Thursday to entertain a special leave petition by a retired bureaucrat on the need to give more time to the parties to the land dispute to settle the matter through negotiation. On September 28, the two-judge Supreme Court bench is due to hear the arguments of the petitioner. On doing so it could decide to dismiss the SLP. In that event, the Allahabad high court (Lucknow bench) could proceed to give its judgment by September 30. On the other hand, if the Supreme Court finds it needs more time to dispose of the SLP, the pronouncing of the verdict in the title suit will in all likelihood be deferred.

It is interesting that last week the Lucknow bench had dismissed the same petitioner's plea for deferment, calling it "mischievous". In the understanding of the high court, when the parties to the land dispute had been unable for as long as 60 years to come to a negotiated settlement, it was unlikely they could do so now in a matter of days. Notwithstanding the stance of the high court, the Supreme Court has entertained the SLP (it was a split decision). It has also sent a notice to the Attorney-General of India, besides the contending parties to the land dispute. This suggests that the Centre is being invited to make its observations on the substance of the SLP. The plea contained in the petition is that communal disorder and violence might grip the nation if a verdict is tendered in the title suit at the present juncture, and this may be too much for the country to bear, considering the fragile internal security situation on account of the Kashmir issue and the Naxal insurgency, not to mention the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, now just over a week away, which would need guarding against terrorist mischief.

The prospect of the dire scenario painted by the petitioner coming to pass cannot, of course, be dismissed out of hand. Possibly it is worries on this count that made Union home minister P. Chidambaram make a public appeal to all citizens on Wednesday to maintain calm when the title suit is decided. The Cabinet Committee on Security had also issued a similar appeal earlier. It is interesting to see, then, that the counsel of the contending parties to the dispute have expressed some surprise at the Supreme Court order, and maintain that they would rather have the high court give its judgment at the earliest. The Supreme Court's intervention allows some room for negotiations between the Ayodhya disputing parties to come to a final settlement even at this late stage. It will be interesting to see what steps are now taken in this direction.








There were many eye-openers for the parliamentary delegation that visited Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week. One encounter that shook many members of Parliament (MPs) was with a "civil society" body known to be close to the All-Party Hurriyat Conference.

The delegation comprised, among others, two extremely articulate individuals: a doctor who had earlier practised in Britain and a lady who teaches English at a local college. The duo made a spirited and eloquent presentation of the terrible plight of Kashmiris under "Indian occupation" and why Kashmiris would spurn all "packages" and never reconcile to being a part of the Indian Union. While leaving, the doctor taunted the MPs: "We hope to see you again in six months, when you come to sign the first India-Kashmir Accord".
Ever since the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union in 1948 there has always been a significant separatist current in society, some favouring integration with Pakistan and others espousing an independent Kashmir. At particular moments in the state's history, separatism has also seemed the dominant tendency in the Kashmir Valley. In 1989-90, in the aftermath of the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping, the assassination of the older Mirwaiz and the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from the Valley, it almost seemed that the azadi euphoria would prevail over Indian nationhood.

Two decades later, history seems to be repeating itself, but with one significant difference. Rarely, if ever, has the politics of separatism entered the mainstream political discourse of India. It is not merely that the cry of azadi defines the streets and bylanes of Kashmir, drowning out other voices. What is truly amazing is the legitimacy that has been conferred on separatism by the media and the liberal establishment.

Even in the worst days of 1989-90 when India was governed by a ramshackle coalition were the separatists given such a sympathetic hearing by a community of opinion-makers close to the government. It has become drearily routine for advocates of separatism to be given prominent play in the media, often at the cost of the representatives of political parties in Kashmir. It has become fashionable for angst-ridden intellectuals from the Valley to highlight a perceived distinction between Kashmiris and Indians and to even proclaim that just because they carry Indian passports it doesn't make them Indians.

The perception that Kashmiri separatism is winning and India is on the verge of being turfed out of the Valley isn't on account of a groundswell of support for azadi in the West. If anything, both the separatists and their backers in Pakistan have been struck by the fact that, unlike Gaza, this intifada has been relegated to the fringes of Western concern. Yesterday's radicals like Tariq Ali have attributed this indifference to Islamophobia and the economic lure of India. On its part, India has also interpreted it as the international community's growing exasperation with anything with a Pakistan link.

In the mid-1990s, a former foreign secretary of India used to say that that the Hurriyat was being kept alive by the US embassy in Delhi. Today, no one makes any such claims and, post-David Miliband, every visiting dignitary is careful to avoid the K-word while engaging with India.

The paradox is that despite an absence of outside pressure, a section of the Indian political establishment appears to be losing its nerve and discovering the virtues of the separatists. Mrs Sonia Gandhi's brief intervention at the all-party conference on Jammu and Kashmir called for recognition of the "legitimate grievances" of the Kashmiri youth. It was an ambiguous statement that need not be over-interpreted. But it was the encouragement to Sitaram Yechuri and a clutch of MPs to call on Syed Ali Shah Geelani during the visit of the parliamentary delegation that needs dissection.

In theory, there is nothing per se objectionable about engaging with every section of Kashmiri society, including secessionists. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, for example, has long been seen as a desirable moderate. He is nominally in favour of azadi but given the right circumstances, his azadi may not be incompatible with the Constitution, particularly if the world community states its firm opposition to changing geography. Mr Geelani seems beyond the pale today but his background suggests that he too may be willing to redefine his priorities if azadi is seen to be a pipedream.

It is ultimately a test of nerves and endurance. The separatists got a big window of opportunity earlier this year thanks to chief minister Omar Abdullah's mishandling of the initial protests. To this was added the image problem of the Abdullah dynasty. A civil unrest against an elected government was twinned with the rising tide of Islamism and a pre-existing desire for Kashmiri distinctiveness. The results were explosive.

That a purely military response to the crisis is unwise is understood. Going by the classic anti-insurgency doctrines, the security forces can at best demonstrate that the Indian state cannot be defeated militarily and that separatists should explore other realisable alternatives. It would be fair to suggest that the resolve of the security forces in the Kashmir Valley hasn't eroded — although there is an urgent need to finetune its crowd control methods. What has waned, however, is the endurance level of the political dispensation in Delhi.
The division in the Cabinet over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is one example of the confusion that persists in Delhi. The other is the contradictory positions over the future of the chief minister — an issue where political wisdom and ground realities have been ignored in favour of Rahul Gandhi's flight of whimsy. Equally troubling is the belief that it is possible to engage fruitfully with the separatists from a position of equivalence. The net result is a situation where the separatists have convinced a large chunk of the Valley that azadi is imminent.

No wonder Mr Geelani was crowing as an obsequious Yechuri and company paid obeisance to him in the full gaze of the cameras. It seemed a dress rehearsal for the actual capitulation ceremony.


Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist








Kashmir is all too often read as a fragment. It represents for most a law and order problem, a security issue. It raises problem of terror, violence, secession and misgovernance. Its problems are often excessively personalised. Some believe that the presence or absence of one man can change the logic of the problem. For many now, it is the presence of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah. His opponents think he has lost control and his supporters argue he needs one more chance. One cannot make up one's mind whether he is the hero whose last three movies have failed or an overambitious extra. Oddly, what gets hyphenated is the question of peace to the fate of Mr Abdullah. I do not see why we cannot see him through a housewife's eye as a presentable young man whose premature entry into politics can reverse directions if he removes his i-Pod and puts on a hearing aid.

Mr Abdullah in his piquant way has a touch of all of us. His behaviour raises two sets of questions for all of us. Firstly, are we listening? But, more importantly, we have to ask what are the categories, the assumptions we share about Kashmir. Is it similar or different than the way we looked at Khalistan or Mizoram?
How do we look at Kashmir now? We read it as an integral part of India yet a problematic part of the nation state. In fact, it feels more Indian as it too has been ruled by three generations of the Abdullah family. A touch of dynasty as a snobbish form of nepotism make us feel at home. Secondly, the continuous violence has created a perpetual state of emergency.

An emergency, as the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben claims, is a state of exception. A state of exception is an episodic phase where the guarantee of fundamental rights is suspended. In a paradoxical sense, we suspend democracy to restore democracy. But the joke is often on us as an episodic event becomes a perpetual one and a state of exception becomes a permanent state of affairs and a permanent state of mind.

If we sit back and reflect, we realise that the very way we solve a problem adds to it. The Kashmir problem is in a state of perpetual impasse because we perennially operate with categories which are too procrustean or too predictable. I want to argue that the current ideas of the nation, the nation state, the security system, the idea of sovereignty, our sense of electoral democracy are adequate for problem solving. I am not an expert but I must confess that even a bit of naiveté can go a long way to humanising and transporting the problem.
Ask yourself? Why is it that whenever the problem of Kashmir is mentioned, we come up with the same categories and scenarios, the same characters and arguments appear.

Mention Kashmir and like Pavlov's dog, the state unravels the Army, the paramilitary, the same tired politicians, and the experts spouting PhD-endorsed clichés.

Kashmir is a scream, and a cry for help. The real politics is in the people. They are saying, "Something is wrong. Listen to what we are saying". Instead we label them as fundamentalists, secessionists, terrorists, agitators. Let us face it. Every Indian has a touch of secessionist in him. Every time I shift from Delhi to Chennai, I sense the need to secede. I assure you I am being serious.

What all of us are confronting is a thing called Delhi. Delhi is a livable idea that makes the rest of India unlivable. As long as Delhi remains Delhi as a mindset, the rest of India is and will be healthily regionalistic and secessionist and Delhi may not know it.

Delhi is a corset, a prudist view of politics, an outdated bureaucratic mentality that has infected two wonderful universities with a compulsion for committees. Intellectuals who won't clean garbage in front of their houses all demand to be policymakers. Delhi as an intellectual frame is an outdated paradigm. Sending Delhi to Kashmir to listen adds little to dialogue. It makes Delhi look liberal and pious as parliamentarians walk gingerly as if all the natives had AIDS.

One thing is clear. The piety of the conventional will not work. How can we create a conceptual and emotional thaw in Kashmir?

I was reminded of the wisdom of one of India's great activists, Ela Bhatt. She once suggested that Swadesism demanded a housewife's theory of politics and globalisation. She argued in another context that it is the women who suffer and it is the women who can look unsentimentally at life. Sentiments are too superficial for the emotions they feel. A housewife understands what continuous violence can do to the men and her children. She understands the sanity of livelihood and the normalcy of continuous work in sustaining a community.

A housewife, I was once told, is too shrewd to think that a suspension of hostilities is the beginning of peace. Peace for her, whether in Kashmir, Palestine or Darfur, is an everyday drama of hope in everydayness, where life demands the restoration of the normal, the flow of gossip and hospitality, the restoration of livelihoods and dignity. It is a recognition that peace speaks a language beyond the idiocy of security. Security, as Ms Bhatt once claimed, does not understand domesticity, the household economy and its connectivities with the globe and the cosmos.

I am not summoning Ms Bhatt, but using her insights to argue for a housewife's approach to Kashmir. Forget parliamentary delegations. Allow women to travel across, listen, share and celebrate.

Let civil society flood Kashmir so we hear the diversity of opinions, complaints and grievances. Security and intelligence are abortions of storytelling. Forget bandhs. Let us declare state mourning for the children we have killed. The housewife understands the Army but she will be the first to realise that the Army in brutalising Kashmir is brutalising itself.

A housewife understands pain and grief. She knows how to mourn. She may not recite history but she senses the intimacy of gossip. Let the housewife and the civil society take over. They will demonstrate the ridiculousness of security, terror and the politics that haunts Kashmir. A housewife's theory of peace may outthink the politicians by erring on the right side of simplicity.


Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist








There's a brand new Metro station about half-a-kilometre from where we live in south Delhi. It's on the line that connects Delhi to the satellite city of Gurgaon. We've been talking about it for months and finally it's up and running. The part near our house is underground; four stations later, as it enters Gurgaon it comes out of the tunnel and runs on giant pillars in the middle of the road. I haven't been on this stretch but I believe you get a panoramic view of Delhi's landscape.

Traffic on the roads that connect Delhi to Gurgaon is a nightmare. People who work in Gurgaon and now have a Metro station near their office, or those who live there and have offices along the route, can't stop talking about how convenient commuting has become. Our friend who has to visit clients in Gurgaon is delighted; so is our driver who lives in that part. They complain about the crowded coaches but they also talk about the smart stations, the speed of travel and the air-conditioned comfort of the journey. In short, they count their blessings.
For anyone who has used suburban trains in Mumbai, a ride even in a packed coach in the Delhi Metro is like business class travel. I grew up in Mumbai where I used to commute by train and bus. Mumbai's suburban trains have two classes — first and second. They are not air-conditioned. I had a first class quarterly pass to my place of work but during peak hours both coaches were equally packed. The only difference was the cushioned seats in first class — and the kind of people you rubbed shoulders with.

Long-distance train travel in India reflects the economic stratification of our society: The very rich travel by AC First; further down the economic ladder — and depending on the train — you have the choice of AC 2 Tier, AC 3 Tier, going all the way down to the unreserved general class.

In comparison, suburban commuting is more egalitarian. Mumbai trains may have two classes of coaches but there's a definite equality in commuter travel because over 80 per cent of the population uses public transport. The Metro in Delhi makes no distinction between the rich and the poor. Like the Underground in London, the Metro in Paris or the Subway in New York City, Delhi's Metro has only one class. There's no first, premier or club.
Last week, a newspaper reporter asked E. Sreedharan, the "Metro man" of India, "What's the point of a metro railway if the Indian middle class doesn't have the metro 'mindset' and believes that public transport is only for the poor?" His reply was: "That mindset is changing as people realise the metro is safe, reliable and fast. In five years, I am sure upper middle class India will use the Metro if it becomes available within half a kilometre of their house".

We have a Metro station half-a-kilometre from our house and yet when we went to Gurgaon the other day to shop for something we didn't take the train; we got into our car. It took us twice the time it would have taken in the Metro. As Mr Sreedharan says, the mindset must change. When we travel abroad we happily walk many blocks to catch the tube. Why not back home?

Apart from taking the pain out of commuting, the Metro is also bringing in social change. The copywriter in the advertising agency, the executive in the bank, the student going to college and the shop assistant in our neighbourhood market — they all travel in the same coach.

Many years ago, on work in London, I took two young colleagues out for a drink to a pub near our office in a fairly swank neighbourhood. As I went to the bar to get the beers, a young man, who was ordering his drink, looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. A moment later he said, "I don't think you recognise me, Sir. I deliver mail to your office". As I was trying to pick up the three glasses, he said, "Let me give you a hand". From the way my colleagues greeted him, they obviously knew him well or had seen him around. He was polite, and refused our offer to join us for a drink.

I have often narrated this story to friends when we talk about social equality and social mobility.
I find it relevant in the context of Delhi's Metro because to an extent the Metro is a social leveller. Next time you travel in the train, you might spot the neighbour's maid in the same coach. It may not mean much to you but when she goes back home she will proudly tell her family: "Sahib and I were on the same train". The very fact that the two of you are travelling in the same coach is the beginning of change.


n Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at








A professor from the University of Notre Dame suggests that, maybe, cavemen and cavewomen were better parents than we were, despite the availability of thousands of books on parenting. Prof Darcia Narvaez believes that leaving babies to cry, and not allowing them the freedom to run around is raising a dysfunctional generation. Her message: relax and don't suffocate your children with personal constraints and the guilt they bring on. That the caveman had the advantage of fewer years of civilisation behind him cannot be denied. They were available for their children to hold and comfort them and breastfeed them for longer. They could get rid of them when they got on their nerves, thanks to extended families. All this led to less shattered tempers, and more warmth. This was the order of nature.


Contrast this to modern parenting of either too much control or complete abandon. We have controlled crying prescriptions, mollycoddling and overprotection. This is creating a self-centred generation that has, despite the earnestness of parents, been deprived of warmth. Successive civilisations have been marked by two things: more luxury, and greater control of nature. We may have reached the point where we envy the caveman for being all-natural, and for the range of freedoms he enjoyed.







Is the latest China-Japan furore over the detention of the captain of a Chinese fishing boat just one of those regular spats or a pointer to changed international power equations? A Chinese vessel had collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels last week, and since the captain and crew have been detained, the Chinese have escalated the event into a major prestige issue. Official level contacts have been cancelled and the Chinese prime minister has weighed in with threats of "action" and "consequences."


The Sino-Japanese tussle looks familiar to us, accustomed as we are to a war of nerves with the Pakistanis and, now, the Chinese. But look deeper, and the China-Japan confrontation is different. It's sharper and deeper. Relations between the two countries have always been strained because of negative historical baggage. Japan's imperial role in the first half of the 20th century had left behind a painful legacy among many of its Asian neighbours, including China, and the Koreas. After the Second World War, however, Japan has been a role model in terms of its economic growth. The rest of Asia and even China benefited from its example. Market forces forged a close bond between Japan and its Asian neighbours but that has not completely buried the


historical hatchet with China. Chinese leaders prefer to beat the nationalist drum whenever their own citizens start demanding a better life.


Whatever the compelling historical reasons, tensions between China and Japan, and between India and China, do not augur well for what is slated to be the Asian century. While a once bitterly divided Europe is transforming itself into an economic and political federation, Asia still seems to carry the nationalist frenzies peculiar to the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe. It would be tragic if Asia were to follow the bitter and bloody European wars before peace settles in. Strategies of friendship have to be put in place to achieve the idyllic goal of amity. China, Japan and India will have to do more to create conducive conditions to create Asian harmonies.







Is the latest China-Japan furore over the detention of the captain of a Chinese fishing boat just one of those regular spats or a pointer to changed international power equations? A Chinese vessel had collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels last week, and since the captain and crew have been detained, the Chinese have escalated the event into a major prestige issue. Official level contacts have been cancelled and the Chinese prime minister has weighed in with threats of "action" and "consequences."


The Sino-Japanese tussle looks familiar to us, accustomed as we are to a war of nerves with the Pakistanis and, now, the Chinese. But look deeper, and the China-Japan confrontation is different. It's sharper and deeper. Relations between the two countries have always been strained because of negative historical baggage. Japan's imperial role in the first half of the 20th century had left behind a painful legacy among many of its Asian neighbours, including China, and the Koreas. After the Second World War, however, Japan has been a role model in terms of its economic growth. The rest of Asia and even China benefited from its example. Market forces forged a close bond between Japan and its Asian neighbours but that has not completely buried the


historical hatchet with China. Chinese leaders prefer to beat the nationalist drum whenever their own citizens start demanding a better life.


Whatever the compelling historical reasons, tensions between China and Japan, and between India and China, do not augur well for what is slated to be the Asian century. While a once bitterly divided Europe is transforming itself into an economic and political federation, Asia still seems to carry the nationalist frenzies peculiar to the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe. It would be tragic if Asia were to follow the bitter and bloody European wars before peace settles in. Strategies of friendship have to be put in place to achieve the idyllic goal of amity. China, Japan and India will have to do more to create conducive conditions to create Asian harmonies.







A book by Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) is likely to make Pakistan uneasy. The book, titled Obama's Wars, is due for release on September 27 but excerpts from it are already out in the


media. It says that the CIA has trained and is running a special Afghanistan army of about 3,000 men to take on the Taliban and


al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Incidentally, ever since Obama took over, drone attacks inside Pakistan have gone up dramatically, clearly showing that the new administration in the White House


believes that elements of the Taliban and al-Qaeda are hiding in Pakistan.


Woodward's book, much of which was put out and is now available on blogs and news reports, says that soon after taking over as president, Barack Obama reached the conclusion that it will be impossible to win the war in Afghanistan unless the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan were first destroyed. But since sending US troops into Pakistan ran the risk of angering Islamabad and disturbing the latter's support for the war on terror, the administration asked the CIA to prepare a secret army to fight the Taliban and the al-Qaeda, and which it has been doing quite commendably.


But it is also a fact that the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda cannot be won without the support of Pakistan. Islamabad is bound to react once the news about the secret army becomes public, assuming it does not know about its existence already. It is unlikely to be too happy with Obama's secret army.


The report that a brigade-size army is actually carrying out operations in Pakistan might seem like good news to New Delhi, which has been gnashing its teeth in impotent rage over Pakistan's support for terrorists and the use of the Taliban for its own ends. However, Obama's wars are not going to ultimately help India combat the terrorist threat from Pakistan. The fact is Obama is already chickening out. He has publicly declared that US troops will start pulling out of Afghanistan by July, 2011. That is a desirable goal, but starting a pullout without destroying the core elements of the Taliban and al-Qaeda means they could regroup and rise once again. If they do that, the chances are that they will not only gain power in Afghanistan but in nuclear-armed Pakistan also, a scenario that is simply too horrible to comprehend. India has to figure out what a US exit means for Indian interests not only in Afghanistan, but back home as well.








The recent contretemps at a major Jodhpur hospital which involved striking doctors and dying patients is not an isolated event. There have been several similar instances in the past and there will be more in the future if the issues leading to such unfortunate confrontations are not resolved. In fact, just as the Jodhpur imbroglio cooled off, another similar storm flared up at New Delhi's AIIMS.


It would be simple to throw the Hippocratic oath at striking medicos and remind them about their ethical obligations. Doctors belong to the noblest of professions and are not expected to go on strike. But they are also human and cannot be expected to docilely accept blind violence.


A few years ago, a hospital in Thane (near Mumbai) closed down when supporters of a politician ransacked it after their leader died during an operation. Though this happened in a private hospital, most attacks occur in over-crowded, under-staffed, ill-maintained, poorly-administered government hospitals. Due to the operational failure of the three-tiered concept of our public healthcare system (primary health centres, district hospital, city hospital), the referral system is non-functional and patients land up directly at the big city hospitals. Doctors in these hospitals are, therefore, overworked and stressed out. Because of this, they tend to be brusque in their interactions with patients, which the latter misinterpret as callousness.


Indians are gregarious by nature. One sees this characteristic in the crowds that gather at festivals, house-warmings, naming ceremonies, marriages, etc. Unfortunately, having relatives and friends accompany a person to the hospital not only creates congestion and confusion but also strains the staff's patience. This can lead to a state of tension between the well-wishers and the attending doctors and nurses — and pandemonium if the patient dies.


Because of inadequate diagnosis and care in the earlier stages of the healthcare system many patients are brought in who are really hopeless cases. But the well-wishers accompanying them are not fully aware of this and expect miracles to be performed at the "big" hospital. Shortage of time prevents the doctors from patiently explaining the limitations.


When the patient cannot be saved, the disappointment turns to fury. Accusations of malpractice, inadequate attention, improper treatment, flow fast and furious and violence against the doctors and staff can result if security is not adequate. Since it is the younger lot of medicos such as interns and duty doctors who form the front ranks and interact directly with patients and relatives, it is this set of doctors which bears the brunt of any violence and they are in the forefront of protests and strikes.


What has been noticed in many of these confrontations is that the patients and their supporters belong to an influential section of


society, such as politicians or businessmen or administrators. They know they can create scenes and mayhem and get away with it. The police, as usual, come in too late, by which time the situation has turned into a minor riot. To gain control, they then proceed to belabour everyone in sight, which may include the staff, or onlookers, as happened in Jodhpur.


This is not a situation that should be tolerated with a shrug since it can have a copycat potential which is multiplied by the publicity given to them by the electronic media. Hospitals should not be turned to battlefields. This will only endanger the well-being of the other patients. Some suggestions to improve the state of affairs are in order.


First, the administration of hospitals should be turned over from civil servants and senior doctors to professional managers. These managers should be given adequate powers to maintain proper discipline and enable them to run a shipshape hospital with the right infrastructure.


Second, hospitals must earmark a separate waiting area for those accompanying patients, which is well barricaded from the medical care area. Access to the patient should be limited to just one or two persons at a time, even during visiting hours. This should be enforced even for politically well-connected patients. Security should be strengthened, so that in case of any untoward incidence, the situation can be controlled.


Third, there must be a medical public relations officer in every hospital who will interface between doctors and patients. In the case of critical patients, the function of the PRO will be to explain to the relatives the gravity of the case and prepare them for the worst in case the line of treatment does not succeed. Such explanations will mitigate the shock to relatives in case of a fatality.


Fourth, we need to have a medical ombudsman for every major hospital who will arbitrate on complaints of improper care, unnecessary and expensive tests, and incorrect diagnosis — which are the main grouses of patients.


Lastly, all medical courses should include special training in bedside manners, interaction with relatives of patients, and communicating and explaining the nature of ailments.








Life, alas, can sometimes be Janus-headed. Actually, make that two-faced. Here I was at the 35th Toronto International Film


Festival (TIFF), basking in the positive buzz offour Indian films being premiered at a festival known as an international launch pad for many cineastes. It wasn't just the robust ovations at the end of the screenings. Kiran Rao's Dhobhi Ghat, Sidharth Srinivasan's Pairon Tale, Aamir Bashir's Hadud, and Anurag Kashyap's The Girl in Yellow Bootswent down more than well with the audience.


It was the red carpet status of our stars that drew huge crowds.


The queue — composed of Canadian desis and a heavy sprinkling of goras — for Dhobhi Ghat at the elegant Elgin Theatre, seemed to go round the block, into infinity. They were the lucky ones with tickets, some bought in black. The unlucky ones in the swelling crowd across the road were waiting hours for a glimpse of Aamir Khan.


Interestingly, some of them were goras, like Rita, a housewife just this side of middle age. She happened to walk into a theatre showing 3 Idiots last year, was instantly smitten with Aamir and returned to see the film three times.


It felt good to be an Indian witnessing the enthusiastic response to our films, two of them by young, debutants: some smart journalist christened the new Indian cisnema "Hindie" — a witty combination of Hindi and indie.


But that good feeling vanished soon after my return to Delhi. The coming Commonwealth Games appeared to be heading towards a national disaster, and a national embarrassment.


A new steel drawbridge at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium's car park collapsed, some of the new residential towers for the athletes are filthy, top international athletes are pulling out — the list of mishaps just keeps growing.


As do the tales of sheer incompetence and colossal corruption. Ironically, while the image of India Shining is being given quite a battering — both here and in the international press- — the Sensex is on an upward swing. An enduring cliché about India is that it is a land of incredible juxtapositions and contradictions — both the boom and the doom. Most of our "Hindie" filmmakers showcased at TIFF have explored the aspirations and lives of those left out of the India hurtling towards modernity and prosperity. The underdog, the underbelly of a city, the dark side of man, class divides, those living lives of quiet desperation, come into focus in some of their films.


But what makes these films different from those churned out by Bollywood, films whichexplore the same terrain, is the lack of heavy didacticism and melodrama. There is more


experimentation with narrative structures.


There is a new, contemporary voice at work here, and with it a new sensibility, aesthetics and a slickness that is not of the smart-ass kind. For instance, in the impressiveDhobhi Ghat, Kiran Rao makes us hear both the throbbing heartbeat of this city by the sea that never sleeps (she has described her film as an ode to Mumbai) and the murmur of a broken heart of a woman on the verge of… Well, I can't disclose the ending.


As in Peepli Live, the dialogue in most of the Indian films screened at TIFF is natural, almost as if it has been improvised.


The ordinary man is in focus, without being stereotyped.


While the Canadians are coming down hard on the preparations for the Commonwealth Games, in Toronto at least, it was Salaam India.








Many years ago I had a choice: to wing the skies of the USA. Or get an eye-level view of America from a train. I didn't need a destination. All I needed to do was board a train and find a seat. The rest would happen by itself.


After a couple of train rides, a sense of familiarity dominated. At night you pushed back your seat, raised the footrest, prayed that the place next to you wouldn't be taken, elevated the hand-rest and curled into a ball. It required the resilience of youth to travel such long hours in such a cramped position. But the morning would bring with it a host of wonders.


For company: a woman who bought a goldfish to talk to; David, a little boy with caramels for eyes and a termagant for a grandma; Basil, a portrait painter with Groucho Marx eyebrows; tourist and dreamers; the elderly and the hard up; preachers and deltatramps.


Once across the aisle was Jacob Ohiyon, composer, musician, entertainer extraordinaire. Or so the leaflet he gave me claimed. He was travelling to Chicago like me. And then he gave me a two-volume tape of his renditions of popular songs… I preferred to hear him talk. He told me of a boyhood spent in kibbutz. Of late night watches with a rifle killed in a crossfire on the West Bank. Of


coming to America. Of seeking to put his roots in for the last 25 years. He shared his dinner with me: tuna fish sandwiches and pears which he sliced into crescent moons. Then he asked me to marry him!


Anything can happen on a train. A business transaction, a meeting with a long forgotten friend, self hypnosis, a murder, a confession, brief encounters, or even a proposal of marriage. What


other form of transport can rival this?


The writer is a novelist and author based in Bangalore







Clearly there are elements in the Chasana area of Mahore in Reasi district that are up to some mischief. In less than a week there have been two acts of sacrilege in the region. As a result there is communal tension in the vicinity. In the latest incident four alleged accused including a woman have been arrested. It is said that the police is keeping an eagle eye over the situation. It is desirable on the part of law and order machinery to exercise such vigilance. The past experience, however, shows that this in itself is not enough. There is greater necessity on the part of the people at large to keep their eyes and ears open. Instead of getting provoked we ought to observe utmost patience and restraint. We must analyse an occurrence thoroughly and isolate the bad fish that threatens to spoil our pond of communal amity. Never should we lose sight of the fact the number of those trying to create discord is always small. If they succeed it is because the vast majority of us keep silent. In other words we don't stand up against them knowing full well that they are wrong. Our stance is intriguing. For, we are aware that leave alone real even a perceived disrespect to anyone's faith is enough to snowball into a major conflagration engulfing us all. Yet, we don't react fast enough to bury the trouble in the bud. Only recently we have gone through hell in parts of the State. Why and how did this come about? Some crazy person in another corner of the globe was stated to have desecrated a holy book. He was being booed and condemned by most of his compatriots and leaders of his land. We did not care to listen to them.


Instead, one utterly foolish act was enough to blind us. We jumped into the fray with the intention of settling scores and ended up losing our lives and setting our own home on fire. By doing so we did instil fear in the minds of our own people --- a miniscule minority --- that they might have to pay for the sin of the one sharing their religion thousands of kilometres away. At times we do get an extremely uneasy feeling as if there are rising extremist tendencies in this province. Let us not fall prey to them. The difference between us and most of our neighbours is that we have chosen a secular path to live in perfect harmony with each other. It has been a conscientious decision taken more than six decades ago.


There is no doubt that it has served us well. We must stick to this course zealously. The manner in which the inhabitants of Jammu city have stayed united and looked after each other in the face of bomb blasts outside their places of worship is an example worth emulating. One also finds it heartening that peace rallies are being taken in different parts to underline communal friendship. What is more important is that we are not found lacking in courage of conviction when a rabble-rouser seeks to divide us. It is absolutely necessary to isolate him right in the beginning. We should keep this in mind as we deal with the situation in Chasana.







What is the point in being wiser after the event? This question must be weighing on the minds of parents in a village in Doda district who did not allow their children to marry according to their wishes. The boy and the girl were deeply in love with each other. From the reports it seems that they were not minors and, therefore, had a valid legal argument as well. For some reason which is not clear their families did not approve of their marriage plans. The consequence of their no was fatal. The two lovers were then said to have tied their hands and feet with each other, wrapped a sheet around them and jumped into the mighty Chinab in the Assar area. Their bodies were fished out from the river and together consigned to flames on a single pyre in accordance with the wishes of the grieving families. What they could not attain during their life-time they thus achieved in death. The Chinab which holds secrets of four of Punjab's famous love legends has yet another added to them. Who gained or who lost is query in this instance that has an obvious reply. Students of human nature and sociology have often tried to address the mysteries hidden within. Can the parents be blamed for telling their sons and daughters that their ambitions are wrong or misplaced? After all, they have brought up them with a lot of care. Why should two eligible persons be denied the desire to live together? Their hearts beat for each other and given the age their feelings gain primacy over everything else. This may not mean that their affection and respect for their fathers and mothers have been diluted in any manner. In this event too they have preferred to end their lives rather than hurting the sentiments of their parents. Can such approach be called a healthy remedy? Is our traditional family or social system responsible for scotching the aspirations of youth? It can't be so because it teaches us to observe mutual affection and respect. Have these dispensations failed to keep pace with the changing realities? Youth of today everywhere is seeking to assert its independence. Is this assertiveness hollow if it is not accompanied by economic self-reliance? Is it that their sizable section is still caught in a dilemma because of a conflict in their minds about modernity and traditionality?


These seem to be our perpetual concerns over the generations. The emergence of nuclear families and even the legitimacy bestowed in some sense to live-in relationships have not resolved them satisfactorily. Was not that great scientist Albert Einstein correct when he said: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I am not sure about the universe?" There is another gem from him: "The real problem is the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium that to denature the evil from the spirit of man." Each family and social tension can perhaps be solved by analysing the state of affairs surrounding it. We have to look at it from contemporary angle. The problem may still remain because there are too many people too few human beings.











Yesterday, while doing her homework, my four year old daughter asked me, "Papa, what is a traffic light?" Though I explained to her what a traffic light is, I wondered, how I would show her one, as there is none in our city or to be more precise, in our whole state.

Jammu city, though known for its massive traffic, has no traffic lights! Wonder then, how we Jammuites manage to drive! Simple! Through the skills of self management of traffic, which we have learned. It is just like Darwin's theory "Survival of the fittest" which says that animals learn to adapt to the new situation themselves and those who cannot, go extinct. So now, we in this state, have learned to learn many a things, be it learning to live with bomb blasts, living without water and electricity for several days, living with consistent calls for bandhs, living with matador terror on the roads, etc etc.

In Jammu, roundabouts are there in place of the traffic lights. A roundabout serves the purpose, so long as the traffic is manageable, but when there are snarls of traffic all around, especially in the peak hours, driving becomes awful, and the urgent need of traffic lights is felt. Also, in the absence of traffic lights, one remains at the mercy of the roundabouts, driving through which is treacherous, as traffic joins from more than eight sides in one roundabout, at some places . Thus the chances of a collision increase. 

There are certain crossings in the city like Vikram Chowk, Jewel Chowk, Mahesh Pura Chowk, Bakshi Nagar Fly over Chowk, Satwari Chowk etc., where maximum number of accidents occur and where driving is a herculean task. Driving through most of these crossings is a horrible experience, especially in the peak hours. It takes ten minutes to cross vikram chowk and there is always a risk of collision. This is one crossing where the lights are a must. The horrible experience of driving at these chowks, makes us say "this time I made it" after crossing the chowk. In the absence of traffic lights on these chowks with huge rush of traffic, we are waiting for a major accident to take place. Will the authorities then wake from their slumber and take note of the situation? No, the time to act is now. Otherwise it will be too late. The Government cannot afford a situation which brings embarrassment to it.

There was news, about two months back that the Government is planning to install traffic lights in the city but then, I don't know why the plan was cancelled. Traffic lights are there in small towns like Pathankot, then why can't we have them? It is strange that the city is doing without traffic lights. Doing without them is unthinkable, be it a big city or a smaller one" . These were the words of one of my friends who is based in Delhi. But I think that these things no longer affect us. Our state has become an exception now to everything. The authorities too now seem to have accepted this fact. So now whatever developments take place outside our state, it no longer matter to us.

One more thing worth mentioning here is the lack of matador stops in our city. The old stops built by the government are of no use today. If the authorities care to inspect them some time, they will come to notice this development. These stops have become the shelter houses for the stray dogs. Thus they are nothing more than wastage of prime space in the already scarce space on our roads. In the absence of the matador stops , it is a joyride for the matador drivers. They stop wherever they please. But this causes a great deal of frustration for the drivers following them as they stop their vehicles in the middle of the road several times. The footpaths too are useless if the pedestrians are not made to walk on them strictly. In almost every country of the world, there is fine for the pedestrians for not walking over them. Why not in ours?

So while other cities of the same size, as that of Jammu, are using speed guns and other modern equipments for their traffic management, the traffic police of Jammu, still relies on old methods of traffic management. It seems, that the traffic police of Jammu have no other job to do, except, of course, checking whether the drivers of two wheelers are wearing helmets or not. It's high time that the authorities woke up to the traffic mess and take immediate steps to solve the problems being faced by Jammuites.

So, as far as my daughter is concerned, I will show her the traffic lights when we cross Lakhanpur next time.








The much hyped direct tax code, in its current form, is designed mainly to benefit handsomely multinational corporations (MNCs) operating or to operate in India. And, this appears to be the sole purpose of the tax code, which, otherwise, looks like a zero sum game for the rest. In one stroke, the proposed code attempts to slash the corporate tax for foreign companies by 25 per cent to 30 per cent. They will be put in the same bracket as with local firms in so far as the corporate tax payment is concerned. The dual taxation policy for corporate income - one for national companies and the other for foreign firms - is practised by Governments in many countries across the world. Foreign firms are also often subjected to dividend repatriation tax. The present tax code has been particularly made foreign investor friendly. 

The huge reduction of corporate tax on foreign companies is in keeping with the UPA Government's psyche to drive the economic growth through increasing foreign investments in both the primary and secondary markets. The move is part of a big booster package for foreign investors being worked out now by the Government to open up several hitherto restricted sectors to overseas companies, giving them larger equity control and greater penetration into economy. The tax code provides an additional opportunity for the Government to make its intention clear before the existing as well as prospective foreign investors. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the finance ministry, the commerce ministry and the foreign investment promotion board (FIPB) are involved in expanding and further fine tuning the investment incentive package for overseas entities. 

Beyond the tax largesse to foreign firms, there is little to cheer about in the direct tax code by either domestic companies or individual tax payers. The loss of Government revenue on account of the abolition of surcharge on corporate tax has been doubly compensated by the introduction of dividend distribution tax at source, which will affect both companies and their ordinary shareholders. Both corporate promoters and shareholders will earn less, as a result. The only gainer is the Government. Dividend distribution tax is often described as regressive and even illogical since distributable corporate income is post-tax surplus belonging to shareholders. Dividend can never be branded as corporate income. If any party is required to pay tax on dividends, it is shareholder. It is also an unfair way to tax all shareholders at a uniform rate, be their annual dividend income Rs. 100 or Rs. 100 crore, say for example. Not all ordinary shareholders of companies are lucky to earn dividends on their investment every year. The list of blue chip companies is limited. Any stock investment is risk linked. Investment friendly economies normally spare stockholders from payment of dividend tax. 

The higher level of tax exemption at Rs. 2.50 lakh in the case of individual assessees prescribed in the direct tax code appears to be merely an eye wash. While it nearly denies the existing advantages of basic tax exemption enjoyed by pensioners, all senior citizens and women over others, the new exemption limit seems to discount the erosion of the value of money due to continuing high rate of inflation over the years and its direct impact on the gross income of an individual. At the moment, the maximum basic tax exemption limit for senior citizen, including women, is Rs. 2.40 lakh. The tax code raises the benefit level by a pittance, only Rs. 10,000 per annum. 

For the Government and organised sector employees, who are entitled to dearness allowance, higher DA may mean higher tax liability. This negates the very principle of awarding dearness allowance to employees to partly compensate for the loss of their real income in the face of high inflation. The code treats the concern of women and senior citizens rather shabbily and totally ignore the aspect of additional financial burden on medicine and treatment which the elderly population has to routinely suffer with advancing age. The tax code is rather harsh on this section of socially uncared people, who constitutes around 15-18 per cent of India's population. A good portion of them lives on income on personal savings alone. These savings accumulated over the years out of tax-paid income are generally invested in high security, low-yield bank fixed deposits, corporate deposits and LIC and post-office monthly income schemes. 

Even for the fast expanding section of tax payers, comprising the middle income group, who are leading India's march to consumerism and trendy lifestyle, the mode of tax computation in several areas such as house rent allowance, leave travel allowance, insurance and savings related allowances, interest on housing loans and repayment of principal amount, etc., is left rather hazy and uncomfortable. However, corporate executives will get some small tax benefits on driver's salary (Rs. 900 per month for company-owned cars), children's education allowance (Rs. 100 per month and hostel allowance of Rs. 300 per month up to two children) and employer's entire contribution to superannuation fund. 

Under the circumstances, the sudden urge on the part of the government to introduce a direct tax code remains a mystery. The existing system, which gradually brought down the direct tax level from its peak at 82 per cent until three decades ago to the current high at 40 per cent, has not performed badly. The downward direct tax levels had led to much better tax compliance by assessees, corporate or individual. Till the end of the 20th century, indirect tax by way of excise and customs duties and other levies was the highest revenue earner for the Government. Today, the Government's revenue from direct tax far exceeds that from indirect tax. Lower levels of indirect tax have made it happen. The Government should continue with this experiment to give tax payers more to earn more. The revised three-tier tax slab for individuals under the new code is hardly attractive and also out of tune with the present day reality. The lowest slab should have been raised to at least Rs. 10 lakh. 

The direct tax code is surprisingly silent on the circulation and expansion of black money and large unaccounted income being generated out of it. India's trillion-dollar-plus black economy is flourishing right under the nose of the Government and its revenue intelligence and tax administration departments. Private healthcare industry, education, housing and real estate businesses are among the latest and the biggest black money rollers. There is hardly any serious effort on the part of the government to regulate these sectors of business and tap their hidden income to further increase the direct tax revenue. Even a small slice of this black income is capable of raising the Government's tax revenue substantially and sharply reducing its fiscal deficit. The tax code lacks imagination and purpose at least in this area to tap such individual and corporate incomes and make them accountable for future. The large agricultural income, which represents almost a third of the economy, is, once again, kept out of bound for taxmen. (IPA)








The Commonwealth Games have turned into a disgraceful exhibition of everything that is bad about India but it looks even worse if you have just returned, as I have, from China. Not just because Chinese infrastructure is magnificent, modern and built at unbelievable speed but because the contrast between how China handled the Olympics and how we have handled a much smaller sporting event makes our humiliation deeper. China used the Olympics to exhibit everything that is best about the Chinese way of doing things and we have used these wretched Games to exhibit only our filthy underbelly. 

We have shown the world that India lacks basic concepts of hygiene, that our officials are inefficient and corrupt, that when workers are injured because a badly built bridge collapses our officials make it clear that the lives of ordinary people mean nothing to them. If all this were not already disgraceful enough we have officials proudly telling the world that Indians like to work in chaos and at the last minute always manage to put things together through a uniquely Indian system of improvisation that we call ' jugad'. In China officials who talk in such loose, stupid fashion usually end up dead so in a twisted sort of way we can be proud of Indian democracy for not allowing the random shooting of derelict officials. But, can we at least initiate the practice of sacking them? How long are we going to continue to allow officials to keep their jobs for life no matter how badly they do these jobs? In most democratic countries it is possible to kick officials out when they do not perform. In India their punishment is a transfer to some punishment post. This needs to change and it is only one of the changes that we need to make if we are to learn any lessons from these catastrophic Games.
Another change that needs to be urgently made is to develop a new approach to the building of all major infrastructure. On my last day in China I met an Indian Minister who had been as dazzled by the speed with which the Chinese have built their infrastructure as I was. So we got into a conversation about why India takes so long to do what China does so quickly. He gave me these reasons. Democracy throws up ministers who are incompetent to head the ministries they are given charge of. And, bureaucrats are too scared to take decisions because of vigilance department officials breathing down their necks. His words came back to me over and over again last week as we saw the arrangements made for the Commonwealth Games unravel in the full glare of international publicity. I realized that the Minister's assessment of why India produces shoddy infrastructure at snail's pace was wrong.

At the crux of what is wrong with the Indian approach is that we have a system that believes that cheapest is best. When a stadium needs to be built or an airport or a bridge we should look for those who qualify on the basis of the best designs and the best record. There should be very clear guidelines for this just as the World Bank has for projects that it loans money to. But, in India we prefer to obfuscate so that some political leader can alter the qualifications to enable some friend or relative to get the project. This usually means that the politician and his cronies make a large amount of money out of every construction project but it also means that we build roads that wash away with every Monsoon and stadiums that fall to ruin as soon as the Games are over. We will get the best only when only the best qualify. 

Another urgent change must take place in the area of processing a project. In India it can take ten years to decide, for instance, where to build Mumbai's new airport only to find that a new Minister for Environment appears and decides to cancel all previous clearances. Why is this being allowed to happen? Jairam Ramesh has made it clear that he will not allow the new airport to come up on the chosen site because it will cause environmental damage but he does not explain how it is possible to build airports without causing some amount of environmental damage. Since he has the power to delay the building of Mumbai's new airport indefinitely it is possible that we will still be looking for another site ten years from now. What nobody is asking him is how the Government of India can back down on its own clearances?

In similarly arbitrary fashion the Minister of Environment canceled clearances given to Vedanta to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills. He did this after clearances had been given by his own ministry and after the Supreme Court had cleared all objections to the project. Who will invest in India if this is how major projects are treated? Vedanta has invested thousands of crore rupees in its refinery in Orissa that will be rendered useless because of the arbitrary actions of an Environment Minister who appears to have acted at the behest of some very dodgy environmental groups. 

In the case of the Commonwealth Games there are many, many questions to which there are still no answers. Why did the Government of India bid for the Games if there was a Sports Minister called Mani Shankar Aiyer who hated the very thought of them? Between 2003 and 2007 why was nothing done to build the requisite infrastructure? After 2007 why were things done in such a hurry that transparency in bidding processes had to be sacrificed? Why is the Delhi government not being held to account for its appalling record of delays and shoddy building? Why was Suresh Kalmadi given overall charge without having any previous experience of organizing a major international tournament? Finally, what action will be taken against officials who have been responsible for disgracing India in the eyes of the world? If the Prime Minister's response is to appoint yet another Group of Ministers or inquiry commission you can be sure there will never be answers to these questions. What we need to demand is accountability now as soon as the Games are over.









RAZOR-EDGE courtroom dramas do not take place in cinema alone. Just when the country was waiting anxiously for the verdict of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, the Supreme Court has allowed a deferral until next week to enable Hindus and Muslims to resolve the protracted issue on their own. The apex court apparently feels that a last attempt should be made to settle the dispute amicably. It is of the view that even if there is one per cent chance of reconciliation, it should be given. However, how far this attempt succeeds is doubtful considering that although the petitioner, retired bureaucrat Ramesh Chand Tripathi, thinks so, the contesting parties to the dispute have said there is no chance any more of a compromise.


The issue is divisive to the extreme. The verdict could indeed lead to communal violence. The Home Ministry has already warned that the legal decision is likely to evoke sharp reactions and communal passions. The Uttar Pradesh government has deployed thousands of extra security personnel to deal with the law and order situation. But how far the ruling can be postponed is the moot point.


It is not clear what happens if the warring parties do not see reason. The Supreme Court will meet on September 28 to decide on the appeal. It has issued notices to all parties to the dispute and asked the Attorney-General to be present in the court. That means that the Centre can now put forth its viewpoint. It was not a party to the case so far. If the verdict is not delivered before September 30, one of the High Court judges hearing the case in Lucknow will retire and the entire trial may have to be conducted again. One just hopes that better sense will prevail and the matter will be settled out of court. If only…









THE manner in which Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had humiliated West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in not inviting him to the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Joka-BBD Bag Metro rail project in Kolkata on Wednesday is most unfortunate. Ms Banerjee's conduct is not only an insult to the duly elected Chief Minister of the state but also a mockery of established norms and conventions. It is common knowledge that Ms Banerjee is not a stickler for political etiquette. However, when she was organising an important function of her Ministry, that too, graced by President Pratibha Patil, protocol demanded that she should have shown the basic courtesy of inviting the Chief Minister to it. Moreover, the protocol rules of the Centre and the states demand that whenever the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister visit a state, the Governor and the Chief Minister should not only receive them at the airport but also accompany them to official functions at least in the state capitals.


In this case, though Mr Bhattacharya duly received the President at the Kolkata airport, he could not attend the function in the absence of an invitation. Worse, Ms Banerjee showed her pique and anger at the state government even while inviting Mr Ranjit Kundu, the state's Surface Transport Minister. Her Ministry reportedly sent the invite to Mr Kundu's office through a peon after the Minister left the office for the day on Tuesday evening. This deplorable attitude reflected the Railway Minister's refusal to realise the importance of showing basic courtesy to constitutional functionaries, if not political opponents. Clearly, politics should have no role to play when Union Ministers organise official functions in the states.


Unfortunately, this disturbing trend is not new in West Bengal. Killings and clashes between the cadres of both the Left and the Trinamul Congress have vitiated the political atmosphere in the state. The political divide is so sharp and bitter today that this has attained personal overtones. Wednesday's incident is an ugly manifestation of this decadent culture. If the Trinamul Congress is guilty of deciding not to share a platform with the state ministers, the Left, too, cannot be absolved of blame. Though it has been in power for 33 years in West Bengal, it has done little to strengthen democratic conventions and institutions by evolving consensus and carrying the Opposition with it.








I always turn to the sports section first.  The sports section records people's accomplishments; the front page nothing but man's failures".  Former US Chief Justice Earl Warren might have to rewrite these words should he be reading Indian newspapers these days which focus on failures and disasters waiting to happen. Be it the Commonwealth Games or the Ayodhya verdict, the media at times works up frenzy and loses balance. The recent spurt in scare-mongering on the Games, internal security, the Yamuna and Ayodhya has forced some foreigners to reconsider participation in the Games. Yes, corruption and shoddy work need to be pointed out but in a moderate and sober way without going overboard as some of the TV boys and girls seem to be doing.


If a pedestrian bridge has fallen, it does not mean the Games have collapsed as Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit aptly points out. If a chip of the false ceiling comes down, it does not become India's "shame". No doubt, Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his team will have a lot to answer for — but after the Games. The search for culprits will have to begin with Mani Shankar Aiyar, who as Sports Minister had delayed projects because of his personal opinion on whether India should hold the Games.


"The secret of successful journalism is to make your readers so angry they will write half your paper for you", so observed broadcaster C.E.M. Joad. First newspapers and TV channels work up readers/viewers with exaggerated and provocative accounts of events and then solicit/extract comment to support what they report. Whether on the Games or Ayodhya, the atmosphere has got so surcharged that if something actually goes wrong, the media must own up its share of the responsibility. TV kids, backed by TRP-hungry managements, tend to launch campaigns with a vengeance for causes small and big. Where is the focus on India's "can-do" spirit so ably demonstrated by E. Sreedharan in building Delhi's Metro?









THE demand for reservation for Jats in government services in Haryana has taken a violent turn. The discontent on this score, which has been simmering for a long time, has now erupted into fierce conflagration resulting in large-scale destruction of public property and killing of a youth in police firing.


Jats have been socially and culturally a backward community. Not long ago they were treated as an ill-bred, ill-cultured and ill-mannered lot, fit only for the hard toil in the fields. When stray cases from them started making forays into government services and private enterprises a few decades ago, there was a tendency to hide their identity. It was only during the ascendance of Chaudhary Chhotu Ram in the politics of pre-partition Punjab that the process of formation of Jat identity started taking a concrete shape.


It was the Green Revolution in Haryana which added to the social and political clout of Jats. However, this has reached a plateau now and there is a serious crisis in the agricultural economy in the state. Most of the land-holdings in the state are unviable. As per Agriculture Census, 2000-2001, individual land-holdings measuring between 0.5 hectare and 2 hectares numbered 4,18,783 out of the total 5,69,022. The increasing cost of agricultural inputs has further added to the woe, making farming a losing concern in the state. Thus, in every Jat-dominated big village in Haryana, one comes across youths feeling dispirited, disillusioned and lost, with no prospects of gainful employment and marital alliance. They are ideally suited to fuel any agitation which promises them a slightly less grim future.


There has been no industrialisation worth the name in the state which could open new avenues of employment. A comprehensive programme of dairy development, with Delhi as a vast market on the periphery, would have been an ideal strategy to deal with the crisis. Haryana is known for its best quality of milch cattle. Every small farmer could have a few milch cattle with loan from a bank and this would have provided gainful work for the unemployed youth. The experiment of Amul in Gujarat could have been replicated in Haryana. However, vast tracts of fertile land in the state, especially in the NCR region, have been thrown up for grabs by land speculators and property dealers.


The Justice Gurnam Singh Commission in 1991 recommended reservation for several farming communities, including the Jats in Haryana. Now, the then Bhajan Lal government is being blamed for not implementing the recommendations. However, what prompted the subsequent governments, all headed by Jat leaders, for ignoring the commission's report? In the unseemly game of winning brownie points, the Jats, a highly volatile community, have been used as a pawn by various political leaders to further their narrow interests. When the V.P. Singh government at the Centre introduced the OBC quota in government jobs, the Jats of Haryana were mobilised to oppose reservation by the then leadership of the community and a lot of public property was set ablaze.


The ire of Haryana Jats on the issue of reservation is understandable when their counterparts in Rajasthan have been put in the Central List and those in UP, Himachal Pradesh, Madhaya Pradesh and Delhi in the State List. It is only Haryana and Punjab with a sizeable section of Jats which have not included them even in State List. In the wake of neo-liberal policies of privatisation and liberalisation, the size of the cake of government jobs has shrunk further and this has led to a wild scramble to nibble at it. This has the dangerous portent of pitting one community against another. This happened in Rajasthan in the case of Gujjars versus Meenas. This has started happening in Haryana too. There was a fierce confrontation between Jats and non-Jats in Barwala town in Hissar district and the vehicle of the Jat Aarakshan Samiti chief was torched by non-Jats. (The Tribune, September 16).


The registration of a case of murder against Subhash Yadav of Hissar has evoked sharp reaction in the Ahirwal

region. The best course would have been to institute a judicial enquiry and take appropriate action in the light of its findings. The Mirchpur episode has alienated the Dalits. The growing caste cleavage, if not checked in time, is likely to assume alarming proportions in a state like Haryana where every happening is looked into through the caste prism. The situation demands an urgent meeting of all the groups concerned to take necessary steps for ensuring caste harmony in the state.


There is need to go beyond the narrow confines of reservation to understand the root cause of the problem. The development model adopted by our ruling elites in the country has benefited a small section at the top of the social pyramid, with the bulk of the population languishing at its bottom. A few hard facts should be in order to illustrate that India has seen the highest rate of economic growth in the world after China. It has the largest number of dollar billionaires in Asia.


However, the flip side makes a chilling reading. As per the findings of the Central Commission on Unorganised Enterprises headed by Dr Arjun Sengupta, India's track record in tackling hunger is among the worst in the world. As per the National Health Survey (2006), child under-nutrition in India is 46 per cent. In the Global Hunger Index (2008), India ranks 66th among 88 countries. Census data shows that 8 million cultivators quit agriculture between 1991 and 2001.


The country spends Rs 10,000 crore on a new airport. But funds for the hungry are hard to come by. "The poor in India are doomed," as Mani Shankar Aiyer, a former Union Minister, rightly laments. The uneven development of the worst kind, the talk of inclusive growth notwithstanding, has led to fierce fighting among different community groups for their share in government jobs. The system is fast losing its legitimacy. This poses a serious challenge to those who want to make Indian democracy a meaningful exercise for the toiling millions.







IT was a dull winter afternoon in 2001. The sun was almost behind the distant hills. The Baramula town had been calm for almost two months, after a series of encounters with terrorists. While the pattern of activities appeared normal, yet there was feeling of uneasiness. As we drove through the main market, the crowds were thinning out. In an hour or so, the down convoy to Srinagar was expected to pass through.


No sooner had I got to my headquarters, there was a frantic call — from the Commanding Officer — reporting "heavy firing on the convoy – right inside the market". As the situation cleared, it was evident that there had been some civilian casualties during the exchange of fire. While both the terrorists were eliminated, the fragile environment had become turbulent.


Next day, large crowds had turned out at the Cement Bridge. Security forces and the agitators battled it out over the next two days. Stones were repeatedly hurled at security forces that combated the fury with utmost restraint. The skills of the young stone-pelters were indeed admirable. The vested parties extracted maximum mileage. Fortunately, there were no casualties during the demonstrations.


Come spring, a number of activities were organised by the local Army units for the youth. The cycling race was a grand success. Cricket matches too were a huge draw.


"A Day with Your Army" was organised for the participants. They were thrilled to have the real feel of the weapon systems. Many showed keen interest to even join the armed forces. The oft-discussed topic of Azadi too surfaced. It was far from the concept of separatism. Most wanted normalcy and peace. Knock at night (terrorists or security forces), crackdown and encounters were what hurt them most. The majority felt that they were hemmed in between terrorists, security forces and political organisations.


The prize distribution function was the eagerly awaited event. When young Javed came to receive his prize, there was special applause for the most promising bowler. As he walked back to the seat, the tongue in cheek 'whispers' intrigued me.


During lunch, it emerged that alongside his bowling acumen, Javed was equally known for his pelting skills. During demonstrations he was much in demand. To gauge the expertise, an impromptu competition was organised between the officers and the young lads. It involved targeting a pole with the cricket ball from 25 metres. Javed's team won hands down.


The students left with a 'feel good' experience. They harboured the same dynamism, energy and innovativeness that you would find in the youth in any part of the country. All that they looked forward to was an environment free of fear, indignation and manipulation.


Today, when I see the snapshots of the stone pelting youth, I remember the likes of Javed. His parting words "Sir, my dream is to bowl for India one day; the pelting 'Googly' is only because of frustration, sheer irony of destiny" resonate deep within me. It's time nation took the call by making the right choices.








Today, Asia's leaders have an unrivalled opportunity to meet the Millennium Development Goals by relying on the region's people and resources to create new sustainable and inclusive sources of wealth.


DESPITE Asia's incredible economic might -- now leading the global economic recovery -- and continued high rates of economic growth, the region still faces chronic challenges of underdevelopment: hunger, disease and far too many families living in poverty.


The economic growth of Asia is impressive.  The region's GDP has doubled since 1990. In this period, the jobs created in Asia have lifted 500 million people out of poverty -- an incredible achievement, unmatched in human history.  This rapid economic growth has also resulted in the growth of a dynamic, globally connected and information-savvy middle class.


But Asia's growth is uneven: many countries, especially the least developed and small island states, still face challenges in making the development leap.  The task is far from complete.  Asia is home to about a billion of the world's absolute poor.  Hunger is a daily threat to one out of five.  As many as 480 million people do not have access to water, 900 million live without electricity, and one third of the residents of Asia's crowded cities live in precarious slums and squatter developments.  Just to meet the basic needs of the present and future generations -- to prevent millions from sliding backwards -- Asia will have to count on a phenomenal rate of economic growth unknown in the rest of the world.


Moreover, to rely so heavily on rapid economic growth has resulted in huge social and ecological costs.  Across Asia, hundreds of millions have joined the decades-long migration from countryside to urban areas, and internationally, in search of employment.  Income and access disparities have increased in almost every country, booming economies have depleted the region's natural resources, and polluted rivers mean that drinking water and basic sanitation are unobtainable for the poorest.


It has also left many countries vulnerable to a sharp rise in food and fuel prices and downturns in the global economy.  Our crowded urban spaces with poor social and physical infrastructure are vulnerable to the increasing risks of climate-related natural disasters.


Asia cannot continue to rely on the quantity of economic growth alone.  We need to focus on the quality of our economic and social development and on the sustainable use of our natural resources -- to ensure our place in the economic, social and ecological balance. Improving the quality of growth, including the ecological quality, requires a transformation of our current economic and social systems. 


Rather than solely relying on the cheap labour and ecologically costly export-driven economic model of the present, Asia can start a new regional interlocked economy of the future, based on greater eco-efficiency and social equity.


The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a project started by the world's leaders 10 years ago, offers such a transformation at a global level -- and a chance for Asia to share the benefits of economic growth with all its citizens.  Meeting the challenges set by the Goals — yardstick measurements of each country's efforts to meet the basic requirements of food, education and health for their people — is the responsibility of both national governments and the international community seeking to reduce poverty and advance human development in their respective countries and through a more just global economic order.  While progress has been seen over the past 10 years, with some countries moving faster than others, the final deadline of 2015 is now looming, and all the world and Asia especially have a long way to go.


To make good on the promises of the world's leaders will require new solutions and new urgency for a number of reasons:


Bringing women to the economic table. The MDGs push governments toward ensuring that girls are in school in equal numbers with boys and that women are part of governance and decision-making.  Tapping into women's economic power and market role is essential in producing a smart economic model for Asia that generates the wealth of a regional economy based on its people.


Asia's poor are a source of economic power. Asia's one billion people living below the poverty line can become the consumers of tomorrow in a vast Asia regional market and economy.  If Asia's leaders can close the development gap, increase income security, promote better connections between their citizens and the trade of goods across the region, the aggregate demand would increase.   Closing the development gap and meeting the MDGs could create a new middle class — what every country wants.


Investing in social programmes, investing in our environment.  To transform the Asia economic model, the MDGs offer the way forward.  Asia's new workers and new middle class still lead an insecure existence — affordable healthcare, schools, pensions and environmental sustainability are not optional, they are of urgent necessity.


In 1990, the world's leaders pledged to create a new world largely free of poverty by 2015.  Today, Asia's leaders have an unrivalled opportunity to meet that goal by relying on the region's people and resources to create new sustainable and inclusive sources of wealth and development.


The final MDG story is yet to be told.  All countries still have five years to seek the most promising path. Asia can tilt the balance to success.


The writer, UN Under-Secretary-General, is the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.








RIDING the waves of military and electoral triumphs, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rammed through Parliament the 18th Amendment which makes him the most powerful chief executive on earth. With the ban on two presidential terms lifted, he could now govern for life and groom his son Namal for dynastic rule. Rajapaksa has set up a committee to alter the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord-enabled 13th Amendment which was intended to provide Sri Lankan Tamils political devolution in a merged North-Eastern Province.


The two-thirds parliamentary majority necessary for a constitutional amendment and repudiation of the 13th Amendment was secured by dismembering further the hapless Opposition just when Indian Army Chief Gen V.K. Singh was on an ill-timed visit to Colombo and became the highest Indian dignitary to visit the IPKF memorial grudgingly constructed by Sri Lanka. The episode is reminiscent of another Army Chief, Gen K.S. Thimayya, being present in Nepal when King Mahendra dismantled democracy in 1959. Delhi made a big fuss about the royal coup. This time around, while India has maintained its stance of the three wise monkeys over events in Sri Lanka, the US has described the 18th Amendment as undermining constitutional democracy and removing vital checks and balances in governance. Although opposition to the Rajapaksa family consolidating absolute power has been muted, some Sri Lankans have called the 18th Amendment the death of freedom and democracy.


Sri Lanka's record in upholding human rights over the past five years of the war involving disappearances, killings and alleged war crimes has been below par.


Only the military phase of the ethnic conflict is over. Political reconciliation is a far cry. The Sri Lankan government achieved a rare military solution to an essentially political problem. The last instance of a comprehensive military victory in a full-blown insurgency was in Malaya in the late 1960s. Three other examples of the use of military force in addressing a political problem are Algeria, Chechnya and Angola, but in all three the victory was not as comprehensive as in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka has set a new paradigm in the use of force demonstrating that a domestic insurgency can be subdued with the right mix of strategy, resources and political will but most importantly a favourable geo-strategic environment. The high political, diplomatic and especially humanitarian costs of all-out use of force are not likely to be emulated by liberal democracies seeking a political settlement. The media gagging, unfettered controls, disappearances, killings, justificatory propaganda, blanket cover over the battlefield, etc, were some of the extraordinary means used by Sri Lanka.


Militaries the world over are trained to create conditions which are conducive to a negotiated political settlement. For all those who argue that there is no military solution to terrorism/insurgency, Sri Lanka has proved an exception to the rule. What is most striking about the outcome of the war is not just the complete elimination of the LTTE as an organised military force but also the decapitation of its entire leadership and capacity to wage a residual guerrilla war.


Yet, military coercion works in extremely limited and localised conditions. An unusual set of conditions and plain luck enabled Sri Lanka's military triumph. The one factor crucial for success was India. The repercussions of the strategic decision to help Sri Lanka to defeat the LTTE were never fully understood as India was reduced to a bit player towards the end of the war. New Delhi had not bargained for an outright military victory for Sri Lanka.


Neither had the Sri Lankans. They set out to weaken the LTTE and cripple their military capacity and not eliminate the threat posed by them altogether. How clinching India's passive and active assistance proved was manifest in the remarks of two Sri Lankan ministers soon after the war. While one said the war could not have been won without India's help, the other noted that Sri Lanka had expected India to ask it to halt the war after the capture of Kilinochchi on January 1, 2009.


In assassinating Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the LTTE committed the biggest blunder of its military struggle. Twenty years later, his widow and India's most powerful leader, Sonia Gandhi, many argue, presided over their destruction.


For weeks during their last battle, LTTE top commanders and elite fighters were crammed into an area the size of a football ground without splitting or dispersing to live to fight another day. They clung to their shrinking enclave in the hope that general elections in India would bring the BJP to power and an Indian intervention to halt the war. The ruling Congress alliance won the elections and the war for Sri Lanka.


Colombo's military success was the product of the right conjugation of political and military factors in a localised battlefield where the only neighbour in the north was pivotal to the defeat of the insurgency. Whether the military victory would translate into a political resolution of the ethnic conflict is still doubtful.


The way events are shaping in Colombo shows that New Delhi's expectations on a political settlement are likely to be belied. Has India given away too much for too little? Rajapakse had, on more than one occasion, told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he would implement in full the 13th Amendment. He has cleverly removed devolution from his list of four D's – the other three being demilitarisation, democracy and development. He's banking on the last to become the magic mantra. 


Two Sri Lankan experts – one Sinhalese, the other Tamil – lecturing at two different seminars concluded that India has been "fast asleep", ceding space to China and unable to help meet the political aspirations of the Tamils.


India is largely confined to development projects in the North and East with low visibility in the Sinhalese South where the Chinese are the dominant face. After the Hambantota port project the Chinese have bagged Colombo Harbour too. Sri Lankans attribute their military victory to China, especially after India's former National Security Advisory M.K. Narayanan admonished Colombo for getting weapons from China when India was the regional power. It is a different matter that Narayanan had also said, "We will decide what defensive weapons Colombo needs."


India's confused coalition politics and absence of strategic clarity have wrecked its Sri Lanka policy. The Rajapaksa family will now do the rest.









India has over 2,000 business schools — perhaps more than any other country. They churn out hundreds of thousands of management graduates every year. Has that made much of a difference to the way things are managed? How good is the quality of the talent being created, and is there adequate demand for it? While graduates from top business schools are lapped up by companies in India and abroad, a vast majority of them struggle to find a job. It is a clear indication that the quality of education is abysmal in the lower-rung business schools. The Business Standard Best Business School Survey 2010, published last week along with the September issue of Indian Management, shows that there is a precipitous decline in quality of management training as one moves down the list of B-schools. Look at some of the numbers. In the top category, 85 per cent of the faculty members are PhDs; in the bottom category, they form just 23 per cent of the faculty. The student-faculty ratio at the top is six; at the bottom it falls to 11. While faculty at an average top-category business school had combined publications of 71 papers and articles last year, the comparable figure for a business school at the bottom of the pyramid was a lowly six. This shows up in the packages on offer. The average salary amongst the top schools was Rs 11.9 lakh a year; the average at the bottom was Rs 2 lakh — a sixth. The reasons for this are not hard to seek. Most of the second-rung business schools have come up in the last few years. Students now look at the private sector and not the government for jobs, hence the proliferation in business schools. An MBA degree is the closest one can get to job security these days. At the same time, there are no entry barriers in the field. Worldwide, business schools make huge investments in their infrastructure. A bigger challenge is to get hold of a good faculty. But this does not deter Indian entrepreneurs from setting up business schools in every nook and cranny of India. The time has come for the government and the corporate sector to prescribe and implement academic and institutional norms for business schools.


Any manager of human resources in a company will tell you that recruitment from business schools is not easy. Apart from the handful at the top, there isn't much information available about others. The task is no simpler for an aspiring MBA. How does she compare and contrast two schools? There is any number of surveys in the market every year. But these are all perception surveys, not an analysis of facts and figures. They also assume that the respondents are fully aware of all the aspects of all business schools, which might not always be true. Most important, these rank only the top business schools, and leave aside the bulk at the bottom. The Business Standard survey, in contrast, is based on facts. Only business schools approved by the All India Council for Technical Education and that have seen two batches of students placed in jobs are surveyed. They are assessed on five parameters: intellectual capital, admissions and placements, infrastructure, industry interface and governance. The weight to each is assigned by experts. The data are collected and cross-checked by IMRB. Any business school that shows a sharp variation over the previous year is visited by an IMRB representative. As many as 255 business schools have been ranked in the latest survey. The upshot of the survey is that India's management schools need better management!








By approving the Forward Contracts (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2010, the Union Cabinet has set the stage for much-needed reforms in the regulation of commodity exchanges. It is worth recalling that the first bid to amend the archaic Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1952, was made in 2003-04 by introducing an amendment Bill in Parliament. However, the Bill could not be voted on due to dissolution of the Lok Sabha. A second attempt in January 2008, taking the ordinance route, ended in a fiasco with the government allowing the ordinance to lapse. Many in the ruling coalition held futures trading responsible for the commodity price spiral of that period. However, the situation today is different and this measure may, hopefully, get through. Even though commodity prices are still high, few blame forward trading and commodity exchanges for this anymore. Apart from the Abhijit Sen committee, set up specifically to probe this issue, a subsequent study by the Reserve Bank of India has also absolved commodity exchanges and futures trading of this charge.


However, the Forward Markets Commission (FMC), in its present avatar, is too weak to effectively regulate a mode of commodity marketing that has overtaken the equity derivatives market, in terms of volumes, in less than eight years. Being just an appendage of the consumer affairs department, the FMC is disallowed to take independent decisions and is expected to simply implement policy handed down by the parent department. The amended legislation will empower the FMC and bring it on a par with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). To ensure effective coordination between the two, the Bill seeks to place the chairpersons of both bodies on each other's boards. A step forward is also the introduction of new trading instruments, such as options trading in commodities and indices, and in other intangibles like weather derivatives. The lack of options trading has been one of the significant factors that has prevented farmers from hedging their price risk through commodity exchange platforms. Options trading will allow them to do so as it will give them the right, but without the obligation, of selling their produce at the exchange-discovered prices on a future date, if it suits them. Equally significantly, the amendment will open doors to institutional investors and banks into commodity futures markets. However, cautious regulation would be needed to ensure that markets are neither destabilised nor captured. The empowered FMC will have to not only weed out speculators and dabba traders (illegal operators of a parallel futures market), but also woo small, but genuine, commodity traders and commodity producers, notably farmers, to this mode of trading. The FMC should ensure that commodity exchanges perform their functions of price discovery and price stability in a fair and transparent manner.








Baby steps are pleasing to see, but when it comes to policy-making, one has to see where they go. Policy statements rarely provide the specific rationale for the proposed "baby steps". Economists, who see "baby steps" as "interest rate smoothening", infer a rationale for such actions in a variety of ways, as for example from the minutes of the policy meetings where they are made available. These "baby steps" are said to reduce financial market volatility. Central banks often believe that their credibility would be more secure if "baby steps" are taken in view of the many uncertainties relating to data, parameters and global economic conditions. All policy papers refer to such uncertainties.


 The Indian case is situated in a unique position at this point in time. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) exerts its independence in announcing policy rate changes whenever it feels that economic situations warrant them and not necessarily at the conclusion of the scheduled policy meetings. RBI also does not publish minutes of the meetings. This makes it all the more difficult to know what exactly is the impact of the "baby steps" in policy-making at each point in time over the short-term and medium-term of three years.


Economic realities are more important than mere statistical numbers. Commodity inflation, especially of food articles and fuel products, is what counts for most households. Forget about the wholesale prices with the old or the new base periods. What is critical for the householders are the retail prices that often represent a hefty mark up over the wholesale prices, depending on the special circumstances or the region under view. If one were to be in the Northeast, the retail prices that one pays would be higher than what consumers in other regions pay for the same commodity. Much depends on how food and fuel inflation would evolve in the remaining months of the year for retail prices or for that matter wholesale prices to be within the range of 5-7 per cent. One factor that would influence the outcome would be the food output growth and the international prices of crude oil. The overall growth is placed at about 8.5 per cent in 2010-11. But National Accounts information seems to suggest that consumption demand has not picked up.


Bank deposit growth has been sluggish and so is the credit growth, with expectations of a pick-up in credit in the coming months. The not-much focused non-bank financing, however, has been significantly high. Asset markets — in particular real estate and housing and stocks, and to some extent consumer durables, including gold — have been expanding both in terms of size and prices. The prices of real estate and gold as well as of stocks have soared so high that low-to-middle-income earners find it difficult to work out plans of having a stream of future incomes that would protect them from erosion of their real incomes. Asset growth has, in fact, been fuelled by a number of factors. Capital inflows and strong growth over a number of years in incomes with bonuses and other perquisites to white-collared workforce in the private sector are only two of the factors. In order to protect the real incomes of the public sector employees, the government granted increases in their emoluments, thereby aggravating the aggregate demand. The sharp increase in demand against the reduced availability of food articles in the preceding financial year, and in the period till now of the current year, led to not merely further commodity price increases but also to inflation expectations.


How do the householders react to the erosion of real incomes? Will they be satisfied with the authorities' attempts to improve supplies through fiscal incentives and to control aggregate demand through hiking interest rates in "baby steps"? The measures taken so far have not shown pronounced effects probably because of lags. As Keynes reminded us, the patience of the public is very limited. Private households and other agents tended to control consumption expenditures and invest in assets that give them high financial returns. The strong demand for assets is thus not a mere reflection of excess liquidity but a clear need to safeguard the real incomes in the wake of high inflation expectations. The large demand for assets would, however, not be possible without borrowings supplementing the own savings of households. The large foreign capital inflows (especially of the portfolio variety) have exasperated the situation.


To the extent private demand for assets is financed by banks, the central bank could tighten its regulatory framework with the help of improved monitoring mechanisms and sophisticated supervisory techniques. But where the private demand is financed by non-bank sources and unorganised sources in a significant measure, questions about financial stability would arise.


If there is merit in the above analysis, one wonders whether the current focus on "baby steps" only with reference to economy overheating is too narrow. There is very little indication of official appreciation of the challenges that would be posed if confidence in the sustainability of asset market growth is eroded and asset market volatility becomes a problem. There are very few good research studies that help one understand the factors that trigger asset market growth on such a sustained basis as at present and on the relationship between asset markets and commodity markets. Apparently, non-bank financing is not yet considered to be significant in the overall financing of activities. There also seems to be some complacency over the fact that the proposed Basel-III norms do not pose a problem for Indian banks.


It is time that the discussion on monetary policy is centred not merely on interest rate changes but also on the character and composition of financial flows. It is important to consider whether the "baby steps" and the structural measures that monetary policy takes would be able to address the problems that sharp asset markets growth and volatility generate in the short-to-medium term.


The author is former executive director, Reserve Bank of India










The prolonged monsoon and the diseases that come with it have really tested Delhi's health-care infrastructure. There is a huge shortage of beds in government as well as private hospitals. You can find patients wreathing in fever in the corridors, emergency wards, everywhere. Why aren't there enough hospitals around? Contrast this with the media: Nowhere in the world will you find so many newspapers, magazines and television channels than India. The reason is that there are no entry barriers. It takes little to set up a television channel and even lesser to start a newspaper. Hospitals seem to be a different story. There are 1.37 million beds in the country: 833,000 in private hospitals and 540,000 in government hospitals. This means, there is about one bed for every 1,000 Indians — pretty bad even by emerging market standards. But that's not the full story. According to Technopak Advisors, only 60 per cent or so of these beds are functional and relevant. That makes the average worse. And, 40 per cent of these beds are in the top-20 cities where about 10 per cent of the country's population resides.


If this doesn't scare you, look at some of the other numbers collated by Technopak Advisors: More than 46 per cent patients travel over 100 km for proper medical care. The average distance travelled for oncology is 500 km in the country, and 100 km for neurology and cardiology. There is an urgent need for 1.9 million hospital beds, 900,000 doctors and 1.8 million nurses if we want Indian health care to become what it ought to be.


Now look at it from the other end of the pipe. There is a huge upside to the hospital business in the country. Lifestyle disorders are on the rise; 16 per cent of the country's population has some form of medical cover, which means well over 190 million can afford proper treatment. Every 1 per cent of population that enters the "prosperous" category means 12 million possible customers. So, why aren't hospitals coming up with the same rapidity as news channels? Industry estimates say the growth in hospital beds will be as low as 4 per cent per annum over the next five years — a depressing thought. Not that the policy environment is adverse. A five-year tax holiday is on offer, 100 per cent foreign direct investment is allowed, and budget allocations are on the rise.


Hospital chains say there are still sizeable entry barriers. One, the investments required can be substantial. A secondary-care hospital in a Tier-1 city today costs at least Rs 45 lakh per bed. So, a 200-bed hospital can cost Rs 90 crore in capital expenditure alone. The annual recurring expense on the facility is another 2-2.5 per cent. According to Fortis Healthcare President Daljit Singh, it can take six or even seven years for full payback, provided the hospital is run efficiently. And banks, financial institutions and private equity funds are not too hot because they have still not fully understood the business model of a hospital. Singh says he meets investors and analysts regularly, but finds that they still struggle to figure out how the model works.


Land, of course, is a huge issue. In the past, state governments would give land at concessional prices to

hospitals, provided they set aside 10 per cent of the beds for the poor. But this doesn't happen any longer. Yes, in a new township, the state may still allocate land for a hospital at lower rates but such opportunities are few. That's why one finds many takeovers in the hospital business, and not too many greenfield projects.

The other big challenge is doctors. As a breed, they are paranoid about their reputation. So, most of them want to be associated with only those hospitals which have state-of-the-art technology — there is, therefore, really no scope for cutting corners in the business. And any new hospital needs these doctors to build its brand equity. Topnotch doctors now cost as much as the CEO of a company: Up to a million dollars. If that is the scarcity, why hasn't the law of demand and supply taken over? Why does India not produce armies of doctors?








Although India's GDP growth has recovered fast from the global crisis, very little is reliably known on whether it has generated adequate employment opportunities or has remained jobless in nature. In advanced economies, a revival in output is occurring but with double-digit rates of unemployment. According to the Economist, India is not too far behind with a joblessness rate of 10.7 per cent in 2009. But this is clearly only a guesstimate as the latest official number on the rate of unemployment is eight per cent on a daily status basis in 2007-08.


Unlike advanced countries where up-to-date information is available on labour market behaviour, this information is available in India only with a five-year lag. The last comprehensive survey of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) pertains to 2004-05. The next survey for 2009-10 has just been completed and the results will be published in 2011. The ministry of labour and employment, however, has so far conducted six successive quarterly surveys on the effect of the global slowdown between October-December 2008 and January-March 2010. These surveys indicate that there has been a net addition of 850,000 jobs in a sample of firms in industries like textiles including apparels, leather, metals, automobiles, gems and jewellery, transport and IT/BPO. The earlier quarters — October-December 2008 and April-June 2009 show a net decline in employment but there has been a turnaround since then. However, the fact that two-thirds of such employment has been generated only in IT/BPO sector while it is shrinking in labour-intensive sectors like textiles hardly indicates any broad-based upswing in overall job creation.


Given the unavailability of NSSO's latest 2009-10 data, the Annual Report to the People on Employment from the ministry of labour perforce has had to make projections from the 2004-05 survey for making estimates of the labour force for 2009-10 and thereafter. However, researchers are unlikely to be enthused by the report's findings as the unemployment rate derived from that estimate for 2009-10 is only a lowly 2.7 per cent on a usual status basis as it includes persons who are out of work and are seeking or available for work over a year.


Longer-term unemployment rates are unlikely to capture the impact of the global crisis on GDP growth in India and the resultant spike upwards in joblessness. They remain low because in a country with pervasive poverty few can afford to remain unemployed for long stretches of time. They are forced to take up self-employment or casual odd jobbing in the unorganised sector than be without work. Unemployment rates on a daily status basis that capture those seeking/available for work on a typical day in the year are certainly a better indicator than the usual status one.


Like the ministry of labour's report, one can extrapolate from earlier NSSO five-year surveys to derive more recent estimates, especially after the global crisis hit India. A disturbing fact is the sharp deceleration in employment growth to 1.8 per cent per annum from 1993-94 to 2006-07 from 2.6 per cent between 1983-1993-94 although growth accelerated to 6.3 per cent from five per cent over this period. These numbers imply a decline in employment per unit of GDP growth or employment elasticity to 0.28 from 1993-94 to 2006-07 from 0.52 over the years 1983-1993-94.


Applying this elasticity to the likely GDP growth of 7.4 per cent in 2009-10 to project the generation of employment provides an average of 8.7 million jobs generated last year. This is significantly short of the annual average 10 million opportunities generated before the global crisis struck. In other words, around 1.3 million fewer jobs were generated last fiscal despite a recovery in GDP growth. This shrinkage of employment opportunities when nine to 10 million people look for work every year will only swell the reserve army of the unemployed.


The number of unemployed in 2009-10 is substantial at 36.2 million out of a labour force of 465.3 million on a daily status basis, if one uses the projections of the Planning Commission for the Eleventh Plan (2007-2012). Disturbingly, the rate of unemployment appears stuck at around eight per cent. This rate did not budge from this level even when the economy experienced faster growth of 9.5 per cent in 2005-06 and 9.2 per cent in 2007-08. This was the case even when the global crisis impacted the economy and GDP growth plunged to 6.7 per cent in 2008-09.


Whether unemployment rates have become entrenched, impervious to the revival in GDP growth, however, is a task for deeper study. Certainly, the availability of NSSO's comprehensive survey data for 2009-10 will shed light on this matter. The fact that fewer employment opportunities are being generated when nine to 10 million people join the labour force each year obviously implies that the rapid recovery of the economy from the global crisis is basically jobless in nature — notwithstanding the good news regarding hirings in the IT/BPO space.


From the Ivory Tower will make research from the academic world accessible to all our readers








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




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Suddenly, a lot appears to be changing as regards the question of judicially deciding the status of the land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood until its demolition in December 1992. The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court to postpone by a week its pronouncement of verdict on the title suit. The verdict in the 60-year-old case was scheduled for Friday (September 24). The intervention of the country's highest court means that September 30 is the last clear date on which the High Court may have the opportunity to deliver its judgment. The following day (October 1), one of the judges on the high court bench is scheduled to retire. If that were to happen, and the court has not spoken on September 30, it is likely that the verdict in the title suit pending for six decades will be postponed still further. The reason for this unanticipated turn of events is that the Supreme Court decided on Thursday to entertain a special leave petition by a retired bureaucrat on the need to give more time to the parties to the land dispute to settle the matter through negotiation. On September 28, the two-judge Supreme Court bench is due to hear the arguments of the petitioner. On doing so it could decide to dismiss the SLP. In that event, the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow bench) could proceed to give its judgment by September 30. On the other hand, if the Supreme Court finds it needs more time to dispose of the SLP, the pronouncing of the verdict in the title suit will in all likelihood be deferred. It is interesting that last week the Lucknow bench had dismissed the same petitioner's plea for deferment, calling it "mischievous". In the understanding of the High Court, when the parties to the land dispute had been unable for as long as 60 years to come to a negotiated settlement, it was unlikely they could do so now in a matter of days. Notwithstanding the stance of the High Court, the Supreme Court has entertained the SLP (it was a split decision). It has also sent a notice to the Attorney-General of India, besides the contending parties to the land dispute. This suggests that the Centre is being invited to make its observations on the substance of the SLP. The plea contained in the petition is that communal disorder and violence might grip the nation if a verdict is tendered in the title suit at the present juncture, and this may be too much for the country to bear, considering the fragile internal security situation on account of the Kashmir issue and the Naxal insurgency, not to mention the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, now just over a week away, which would need guarding against terrorist mischief. The prospect of the dire scenario painted by the petitioner coming to pass cannot, of course, be dismissed out of hand. Possibly it is worries on this count that made Union home minister P. Chidambaram make a public appeal to all citizens on Wednesday to maintain calm when the title suit is decided.







There were many eye-openers for the parliamentary delegation that visited Jammu and Kashmir earlier this week. One encounter that shook many members of Parliament (MPs) was with a "civil society" body known to be close to the All-Party Hurriyat Conference.


The delegation comprised, among others, two extremely articulate individuals: a doctor who had earlier practised in Britain and a lady who teaches English at a local college. The duo made a spirited and eloquent presentation of the terrible plight of Kashmiris under "Indian occupation" and why Kashmiris would spurn all "packages" and never reconcile to being a part of the Indian Union. While leaving, the doctor taunted the MPs: "We hope to see you again in six months, when you come to sign the first India-Kashmir Accord".


Ever since the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union in 1948 there has always been a significant separatist current in society, some favouring integration with Pakistan and others espousing an independent Kashmir. At particular moments in the state's history, separatism has also seemed the dominant tendency in the Kashmir Valley. In 1989-90, in the aftermath of the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping, the assassination of the older Mirwaiz and the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from the Valley, it almost seemed that the azadi euphoria would prevail over Indian nationhood.


Two decades later, history seems to be repeating itself, but with one significant difference. Rarely, if ever, has the politics of separatism entered the mainstream political discourse of India. It is not merely that the cry of azadi defines the streets and bylanes of Kashmir, drowning out other voices. What is truly amazing is the legitimacy that has been conferred on separatism by the media and the liberal establishment.


Even in the worst days of 1989-90 when India was governed by a ramshackle coalition were the separatists given such a sympathetic hearing by a community of opinion-makers close to the government. It has become drearily routine for advocates of separatism to be given prominent play in the media, often at the cost of the representatives of political parties in Kashmir. It has become fashionable for angst-ridden intellectuals from the Valley to highlight a perceived distinction between Kashmiris and Indians and to even proclaim that just because they carry Indian passports it doesn't make them Indians.


The perception that Kashmiri separatism is winning and India is on the verge of being turfed out of the Valley isn't on account of a groundswell of support for azadi in the West. If anything, both the separatists and their backers in Pakistan have been struck by the fact that, unlike Gaza, this intifada has been relegated to the fringes of Western concern. Yesterday's radicals like Tariq Ali have attributed this indifference to Islamophobia and the economic lure of India. On its part, India has also interpreted it as the international community's growing exasperation with anything with a Pakistan link.


In the mid-1990s, a former foreign secretary of India used to say that that the Hurriyat was being kept alive by the US embassy in Delhi. Today, no one makes any such claims and, post-David Miliband, every visiting dignitary is careful to avoid the K-word while engaging with India.


The paradox is that despite an absence of outside pressure, a section of the Indian political establishment appears to be losing its nerve and discovering the virtues of the separatists. Mrs Sonia Gandhi's brief intervention at the all-party conference on Jammu and Kashmir called for recognition of the "legitimate grievances" of the Kashmiri youth. It was an ambiguous statement that need not be over-interpreted. But it was the encouragement to Sitaram Yechuri and a clutch of MPs to call on Syed Ali Shah Geelani during the visit of the parliamentary delegation that needs dissection.


In theory, there is nothing per se objectionable about engaging with every section of Kashmiri society, including secessionists. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, for example, has long been seen as a desirable moderate. He is nominally in favour of azadi but given the right circumstances, his azadi may not be incompatible with the Constitution, particularly if the world community states its firm opposition to changing geography. Mr Geelani seems beyond the pale today but his background suggests that he too may be willing to redefine his priorities if azadi is seen to be a pipedream.


It is ultimately a test of nerves and endurance. The separatists got a big window of opportunity earlier this year thanks to chief minister Omar Abdullah's mishandling of the initial protests. To this was added the image problem of the Abdullah dynasty. A civil unrest against an elected government was twinned with the rising tide of Islamism and a pre-existing desire for Kashmiri distinctiveness. The results were explosive.


That a purely military response to the crisis is unwise is understood. Going by the classic anti-insurgency doctrines, the security forces can at best demonstrate that the Indian state cannot be defeated militarily and that separatists should explore other realisable alternatives. It would be fair to suggest that the resolve of the security forces in the Kashmir Valley hasn't eroded — although there is an urgent need to finetune its crowd control methods. What has waned, however, is the endurance level of the political dispensation in Delhi.


The division in the Cabinet over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is one example of the confusion that persists in Delhi. The other is the contradictory positions over the future of the chief minister — an issue where political wisdom and ground realities have been ignored in favour of Rahul Gandhi's flight of whimsy. Equally troubling is the belief that it is possible to engage fruitfully with the separatists from a position of equivalence. The net result is a situation where the separatists have convinced a large chunk of the Valley that azadi is imminent.


No wonder Mr Geelani was crowing as an obsequious Yechuri and company paid obeisance to him in the full gaze of the cameras. It seemed a dress rehearsal for the actual capitulation ceremony.


* Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist








World leaders have flown in first class to the United Nations this week to discuss global poverty over cocktails at the Waldorf Astoria. The UN set eight landmark anti-poverty 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: anti-poverty 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 eight 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 anaemic 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 per cent 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 GDP growth in Africa has averaged more than three per cent 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 programme, 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 programmes — 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 programmes (at 25 cents per kid per day).


International security is where the money is, but fighting poverty is where the success is.








Kashmir is all too often read as a fragment. It represents for most a law and order problem, a security issue. It raises problem of terror, violence, secession and misgovernance. Its problems are often excessively personalised. Some believe that the presence or absence of one man can change the logic of the problem.


For many now, it is the presence of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah. His opponents think he has lost control and his supporters argue he needs one more chance. One cannot make up one's mind whether he is the hero whose last three movies have failed or an overambitious extra. Oddly, what gets hyphenated is the question of peace to the fate of Mr Abdullah. I do not see why we cannot see him through a housewife's eye as a presentable young man whose premature entry into politics can reverse directions if he removes his i-Pod and puts on a hearing aid.


Mr Abdullah in his piquant way has a touch of all of us. His behaviour raises two sets of questions for all of us. Firstly, are we listening? But, more importantly, we have to ask what are the categories, the assumptions we share about Kashmir. Is it similar or different than the way we looked at Khalistan or Mizoram?


How do we look at Kashmir now? We read it as an integral part of India yet a problematic part of the nation state. In fact, it feels more Indian as it too has been ruled by three generations of the Abdullah family. A touch of dynasty as a snobbish form of nepotism make us feel at home. Secondly, the continuous violence has created a perpetual state of emergency.


An emergency, as the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben claims, is a state of exception. A state of exception is an episodic phase where the guarantee of fundamental rights is suspended. In a paradoxical sense, we suspend democracy to restore democracy. But the joke is often on us as an episodic event becomes a perpetual one and a state of exception becomes a permanent state of affairs and a permanent state of mind.


If we sit back and reflect, we realise that the very way we solve a problem adds to it. The Kashmir problem is in a state of perpetual impasse because we perennially operate with categories which are too procrustean or too predictable. I want to argue that the current ideas of the nation, the nation state, the security system, the idea of sovereignty, our sense of electoral democracy are adequate for problem solving. I am not an expert but I must confess that even a bit of naiveté can go a long way to humanising and transporting the problem.


Ask yourself? Why is it that whenever the problem of Kashmir is mentioned, we come up with the same categories and scenarios, the same characters and arguments appear.


Mention Kashmir and like Pavlov's dog, the state unravels the Army, the paramilitary, the same tired politicians, and the experts spouting PhD-endorsed clichés.


Kashmir is a scream, and a cry for help. The real politics is in the people. They are saying, "Something is wrong. Listen to what we are saying". Instead we label them as fundamentalists, secessionists, terrorists, agitators. Let us face it. Every Indian has a touch of secessionist in him. Every time I shift from Delhi to Chennai, I sense the need to secede. I assure you I am being serious.
What all of us are confronting is a thing called Delhi. Delhi is a livable idea that makes the rest of India unlivable. As long as Delhi remains Delhi as a mindset, the rest of India is and will be healthily regionalistic and secessionist and Delhi may not know it.


Delhi is a corset, a prudist view of politics, an outdated bureaucratic mentality that has infected two wonderful universities with a compulsion for committees. Intellectuals who won't clean garbage in front of their houses all demand to be policymakers. Delhi as an intellectual frame is an outdated paradigm. Sending Delhi to Kashmir to listen adds little to dialogue. It makes Delhi look liberal and pious as parliamentarians walk gingerly as if all the natives had AIDS.


One thing is clear. The piety of the conventional will not work. How can we create a conceptual and emotional thaw in Kashmir?


I was reminded of the wisdom of one of India's great activists, Ela Bhatt. She once suggested that Swadesism demanded a housewife's theory of politics and globalisation. She argued in another context that it is the women who suffer and it is the women who can look unsentimentally at life. Sentiments are too superficial for the emotions they feel. A housewife understands what continuous violence can do to the men and her children. She understands the sanity of livelihood and the normalcy of continuous work in sustaining a community.


A housewife, I was once told, is too shrewd to think that a suspension of hostilities is the beginning of peace. Peace for her, whether in Kashmir, Palestine or Darfur, is an everyday drama of hope in everydayness, where life demands the restoration of the normal, the flow of gossip and hospitality, the restoration of livelihoods and dignity. It is a recognition that peace speaks a language beyond the idiocy of security. Security, as Ms Bhatt once claimed, does not understand domesticity, the household economy and its connectivities with the globe and the cosmos.


I am not summoning Ms Bhatt, but using her insights to argue for a housewife's approach to Kashmir. Forget parliamentary delegations. Allow women to travel across, listen, share and celebrate.


Let civil society flood Kashmir so we hear the diversity of opinions, complaints and grievances. Security and intelligence are abortions of storytelling. Forget bandhs. Let us declare state mourning for the children we have killed. The housewife understands the Army but she will be the first to realise that the Army in brutalising Kashmir is brutalising itself.


A housewife understands pain and grief. She knows how to mourn. She may not recite history but she senses the intimacy of gossip. Let the housewife and the civil society take over. They will demonstrate the ridiculousness of security, terror and the politics that haunts Kashmir. A housewife's theory of peace may outthink the politicians by erring on the right side of simplicity.


* Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist








Sound or dhwani is said to have originated from the damru of Lord Shiva. It is said that every perceivable and unperceivable object in the universe has a corresponding sound.


Sound, the first perceivable dimension of the physical creation, originates from a layer so subtle that a normal human mind would not be able to comprehend that force.


Prana is the force that pervades the universe. Manifested in different forms it makes itself perceivable. Mata Adi Shakti was manifested as the trinity for the purpose of physical creation. The first physical manifestation after the trinity was in the form of sound. Om (Aum) was the first sound and it came out of the damru of Lord Shiva. Divided into four parts (A, U, M and silence) it represents the journey of the spirit. Before sound, i.e. creation, there was eternal silence or absolute stillness. It was from here that the journey of an individual began. The emergence of sound marked the beginning of physical creation. The syllable "A" (as in approve) represents the force of Lord Brahma, the Creator; the syllable "U" (as in ouch) represents the force of Lord Vishnu, responsible for the preservation of all that is Created; and "M" (the humming of the male bee) stands for the force of transformation of Lord Shiva, as well as for stillness, that is, evolution, or coming back to where you started from; stillness, the fourth part, is the touchstone of evolution, since it is stillness that leads you back to where you began from. Therefore, sound can be termed as the first dimension perceivable in the physical creation.


Sound translates as colours to give form to everything in the universe. That is to say that from the dimension of sound emerges the dimension of colours and from colours everything that we see in the physical creation.


Sound has a deep and profound effect on the physical body of a being. Whether we are able to immediately feel the effect or not depends on the kind of sound one interacts with.


The effect of sound is also apparent in the behaviour of animals. The roaring of a lion creates an environment of dread all around, whereas the call of a cuckoo or the song of a nightingale soothes. When you sing a lullaby to a child, the child goes off to sleep. Even if the child doesn't understand the language of the song, he responds to the sound and pitch in a particular way. Generally, people who have fear inside them scream and shout on top of their voice, which is indicative of internal weakness.


A fearless person will never be seen raising his voice unduly. In earlier times, just before the starting of war, the warriors used to blow a conch — this was to generate fear in the opponent's army.


People who stayed close to jungles used to beat drums to keep fierce beasts and evil spirits away. All this was done keeping in mind the effect of the sound generated, for the sound affects not only the beings of the physical dimension but also the other dimensions, e.g. the spirits, ghosts etc.


Tantra is an ancient and sacred science that combines the energy of mantra (repetitive, rhythmic chanting of certain syllables whose permutation combination yields specific results) and Yantra (visual, geometric representation of a sound for instant and palpable results).


— Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting.
Contact him at [1]








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








ULTIMATELY what will determine the success-level of the all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir will be the strategy/ package the government formulates on the basis of its inputs. All else are no more than atmospherics. For, while some "live" feedback, not all of it pleasant, was obtained it speaks poorly of the national leadership's understanding of a long-festering sore that it took a 48-hour trip to come to terms with reality. Was there much to learn from an iteration of stated positions of major or small political parties ~ that too in presentations limited to a mere 15 minutes? The BJP distancing itself from what some apologists hail as "breakthrough" meetings with the separatist leaders Geelani, the Mirwaiz, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah, must detract from the gains of those interactions ~ a consensus report is unlikely, "politics" still calls the shot. As it did when Mehbooba Mufti reconfirmed she takes one, accommodating, stand in New Delhi but reverts to her less-than-helpful posture back home. Maybe a little steam was let off by the protestors at a hospital and the queries at the lone "open house" in Tanmarg: curfew restrictions (which the authorities insist are critical to maintaining law and order) prevented much release of tensions and anger in a supercharged atmosphere. The security forces might feel rather let down ~ none in the delegation appeared to have the guts to inform the emotional protestors that there would have been no cause for the police or paramilitary to open fire if stones were not hurled, government property not attacked. The delegation sent out only half a message. So, only in the sense that something is better than nothing, will the visit itself have significance. Perhaps a lasting gain will be that most members of the delegation could return aware that the ugly events of the last 100-odd days ~ like the AFSPA dispute ~ are only a symptom of the larger malaise. The call for azadi, raised at the hospital, might mean different things to different people, but those cries along with what the National Conference participant (and others) stated at the opening discussion testify to it being imperative to address the core issue. Even if the main Opposition party deems it a non-issue. Hence it all boils down to what New Delhi will now offer. Twenty years ago, when in somewhat similar circumstances an all-party delegation visited the Valley the then leader of the Opposition insisted that it was an exercise in futility if the government did not present a "position paper". Will UPA-II heed Rajiv Gandhi's demand and present one at the first available opportunity? Goodwill gestures and photo-ops have run their course. 



Veteran bureaucrats would vouch for the fact that even while engaging in individual initiatives it is necessary to observe a lakshman rekha in the expression of personal opinions that may not suit the party in power. Someone whose position on public issues is fairly well known but who is compelled by circumstances to wear an official hat may find it difficult to jettison his views during his tenure in government. But that is an adjustment that must inevitably be made in the Indian context. Shashi Tharoor paid dearly for refusing to recognise the dividing line during his brief tenure as Union minister of state for external affairs; now the Prime Minister's media adviser may have fallen into the same trap while participating in a seminar at which he was driven by his own convictions to make what were construed as unflattering references to the "essential character'' of the Congress party. Neither the disclaimer that he was speaking in his personal capacity nor a clarification, made by all accounts under pressure, that he was only referring to the Dalit situation in Madhya Pradesh, which is the subject of the book, can rescue Harish Khare from the embarrassment of trying to rationalise his entirely valid submissions.

However much Mr Khare may now try to draw the line between personal and professional commitments, there will be busybodies in the party who will claim that ministers and bureaucrats need to fall in line in whatever capacity they perform. The media adviser had reason enough to claim that this was a purely academic debate on an occasion meant to accommodate conflicting opinions. But it seems that while Digvijay Singh can cross swords with Mr Chidambaram on the latter's handling of Maoists ~ with no harm done to the Union home minister ~ there could be a different outcome when the Congress general secretary challenges Mr Khare on his contention that Congress is "status quoist''. Arguments from history ranging from abolition of the zamindari system to anti-untouchability laws were used to challenge Mr Khare's views. This is fine but the question is whether the verbal cross-fire involving individuals with minds of their own should be confused with the official badges they are obliged to wear. But that is a fine distinction which eludes those normally given to carrying out orders from above. The PMO may now have to decide whether a half-hearted clarification that leaves the core questions intact is a better option than getting a yes-man to advise on media. At least in one respect the Congress party has maintained the status quo over the past half century; it still can't stomach criticism.  



Lalgarh may continue to be on the boil for sometime yet if the CPI-M's first rally in two years in that volatile region of West Midnapore is any indication. The two worthies ~ one representing the party and the other the ministry ~ could have been more restrained in their utterances instead of playing to the gallery of cadres. In the event, Dipak Sarkar, the CPI-M's West Midnapore secretary, and Sushanta Ghosh, the minister for Paschimanchal development, may unwittingly have precipitated matters. The portfolio itself is a contradiction in terms. Neither the party nor its government can be unaware that the ferment in Lalgarh has only intensified since 2 November 2008, when the Chief Minister's convoy escaped a landmine blast. In the intervening two years, there is little doubt that the Maoists have entrenched their dominance. In the CPI-M's reckoning, however, the rally symbolised a perceived advance in the struggle for the mastery of Lalgarh. That "struggle" can only get more furious should the Maoists respond to the CPI-M's challenge: "It is now a matter of days before we enter Lalgarh and establish our control there again." The party leaders will only delude themselves if they imagine that such a robust expression after two years will boost the morale of cadres who may have fled the area. Public posturing, alas, can scarcely alter the chilling ground reality. It isn't a question of recovery or control of turfs; the impact of such a policy can be devastating. And yet this was the underpinning in Nandigram and is now set to be replicated in Lalgarh. The nub of the matter is that the place deserves a semblance of normality ~ not to mention development ~ towards which the government has made no effort. The hoisting of the CPI-M flag in Goaltore and another such ceremony planned in Salboni are no indicators of normal conditions. There is time yet before the Assembly elections to unveil the first development initiative in Lalgarh, a task that ought not to be confused with token rehabilitation of the floating guerrillas who surrender. Thundering speeches, wandering minds and flag-hoisting make for a convoluted exercise in self-deception. 








PAKISTAN is going through a harrowing time. The immediate cause is the unprecedented floods that have spread devastation on a scale that is hard to comprehend. The screens have shown pictures of water stretched across the country in all directions, rivers having burst their banks, canals having breached their margins, countless people in desperate straits. And as the waters retreat, disease has begun to strike, adding to the misery. And beyond that, there is the fear that ruined farmers will not be able to recover at all, having lost everything in the wreckage, homes, livestock, even seed grain for fresh planting. It is a cascading series of disasters. 
The task of dealing with this is well beyond the civil administration. It threw up its hands from the start, saying that a problem of this magnitude could not be tackled by one country alone and required massive international assistance. Help has been coming, and internationally there is quite a lot of concern and desire to help. Indeed, the full dimension of the situation seems better understood abroad than in the immediate neighbourhood, including India. 

Within Pakistan, where the regular administration has been virtually helpless, emergency aid has been provided by others, most conspicuously by the army. Pakistan's on-and-off love affair with its army is currently on a high. It is the army that has provided emergency services when they were most needed ~ rescue, evacuation, food packets ~ and earned public gratitude. Right-wing Islamist groups have also been prominent in relief and rehabilitation activity, as they were in Muzaffarabad after the earthquake. As on the previous occasion, their social work has burnished their credentials with the general public. 

The receding waters have left questions about how the government will be affected. The civilian government commanded little admiration even before the natural disaster took place, and its manifest inability to respond effectively has diminished its already reduced standing. What looked like airy indifference on the part of the leaders, traipsing around Europe while the country was drowning, has only reduced their standing further. And with that has revived the eternal question of what the army will do. 

Already it is generally believed in Pakistan that the last word on all essential issues ~ national security, India, Afghanistan, USA, Kashmir policy ~ lies with the army, not with the civilian rulers. So will they be tempted to be more overt in their command? And will the Islamist forces be able to force their way into greater prominence, taking a grip on governmental processes? Such issues have a grim reality in Pakistan and are not just matters of drawing room chatter. In the wake of the terrible jolt given by nature, real apprehensions exist about the stability of the system itself. 

These uncertainties inevitably have an impact on the entire region, not least on India. There is the immediate and pressing question of flood relief. India offered an initial donation of US $ 5 million in response to the appeal from the UN, soon increased to $25 million, and said it was ready to give more ~ as indeed it should. This is a time for a generous humanitarian response to a neighbour's plight. However, this being South Asia, generous impulses are not easy to procure or to put into effect. What India is ready to provide must go under UN colours, which only complicates the task of reaching those in need. Nevertheless, India needs to persist and try to ensure that it is able to help out with aid commensurate with the scale of Pakistan's requirement. 

Yet as the aftershocks of the disaster come to be assessed, especially in its impact on Indo-Pak ties, it is not possible to discern any change in the locked hostility between the two countries. There is no kindling of fellow feeling in face of Pakistan's travails, such as would transcend the age-old suspicions and permit aid and assistance to flow. To be sure, at the border there is something of a spurt in the supply of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and such like, from the markets of Amritsar to those of Lahore. Several hundred trucks are engaged in the trade, but this amounts to little more than taking advantage of the little chink that has been provided in border trade arrangements, responding to the supply difficulties caused by the floods. 
In other respects, the negative features of India-Pakistan relations could even be accentuated: the army and the Islamists, now more than ever prominent, are precisely those elements from which India apprehends the most settled hostility. They are regarded as the source of the subversion and violence that have brought bilateral ties to their current impasse. 

So what should India do? There are those who feel we should do nothing. Pakistan's obstinate readiness to shield those responsible for the outrage in Mumbai instead of taking effective action against them remains a real obstacle. Why, it is asked, does Pakistan not act on the evidence provided by India: decisive results may take long to procure, but that is no reason for present inaction and persistent quibbling about the evidence? What is to be gained, some observers ask, by trying yet again to revive the process of dialogue? 

Such sentiments are fairly widespread but so far India has not been deflected from its readiness to remain engaged and try to solve problems through dialogue. Only recently, India's Ministers of Home Affairs and of External Affairs paid separate visits to Islamabad, trying to regain momentum for the dialogue. The results were rather disappointing but not such as to bring the process to a halt. India would like to see resumption of the back-channel talks that brought the two sides close to a breakthrough in Gen. Musharraf's time, only to end when he lost authority. Today, the association of the back-channel with Gen. Musharraf has become a disincentive for Pakistan's current rulers to pick up the threads he had helped fashion. Yet nothing is gained by refusal to engage and the only sensible course is to persist with dialogue, to try to solve problems and not just turn away from them. There is also the fear that intransigence on our part will only feed the most hardline elements in Pakistan. Thus it was good that the ministers went to Islamabad and that the Foreign Secretaries spoke together. The outcome yielded less than was hoped for, but that is no reason to abandon the process. The ministers should remain in contact, and the Pakistan Foreign Minister should pay his return visit before the end of the year. There is no shortage of critical issues for the two sides to discuss. Let them get on with it. 


The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary








It was reported that when some MPs from Trinamul Congress presented incontrovertible evidence of more than 90 camps in the Junglemahal area by the CPI-M with their goons armed with illegal firearms, the Union home minister expressed his contrived helplessness and tried to evade his responsibility by stating that law and order is a state subject under the Constitution. He was technically correct up to a point. List II ~ state list in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution mentions: "Public order and police (including railway and village police) subject to the provision of entry 2A of List I".

But in public order there is a caveat which states "not including any naval, military or air force or any other armed forces of the Union or of any other force subject to the control of the Union or any contingent and unit thereof". In simple language it means that whenever any other armed force of the Union other than Army, Navy or Air Force is deployed in the state, the Centre would have a finger in that pie. It cannot logically and constitutionally evade the responsibility stating that such forces act under the order of the state agencies.
If the Centre has nothing to do with state public order and state police, one can logically ask why it maintains such huge paramilitary forces with a strength of about one million personnel. Numerically the strength of the central paramilitary forces approximates the strength of the Indian Army. They cost a huge amount of the taxpayers' money. The total cost of these armed forces went up from Rs 1,200 crore in 1988-89 to about Rs 8,300 crore in 2005-06. (Subramanian KS: Political Violence and the Police in India, Sage, New Delhi, 2007). When these forces are deployed in the state, they operate under the control of the state. So far so good. But if these forces are misused or abused, the Centre cannot remain a silent spectator. It has the inherent right to withdraw such force or to direct the state not to misuse them. The Centre cannot dodge its obligation in this regard on a make-belief pretext. In that case, it would be failing its Constitutional duty. Article 355 of the Constitution of India states "355: Duty of the Union to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance. It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every state is carried out in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution".

Against this background, let us see what has been happening in West Bengal with the CPI-M in power. The CPI-M government has created a civil war-like situation in the Junglemahal by setting up more than 90 camps of CPI-M goons and with illegal firearms. The attempt is to reconquer the area to ensure that voters there vote according to the diktat of the CPI-M in the assembly election of 2011. There are about 40 assembly constituencies in the area. They want to ensure rigging by sheer terror. This area is inhabited by adivasis like Santhals, Oraons, Mundas, Sabars and Lodhas.

Historically, adivasis are known to resist any violent intrusion in their life and society. The Santhal Revolution of 1856 was a major event in adivasi resistance. That was quite a number of minor insurrections in the Junglemahal area during the British regime. Pushed to a corner, they would again resort to armed resistance. The situation in the Junglemahal is highly explosive.

The combined forces of the CRPF and the state armed constabulary are actually protecting illegally armed CPI-M cadres. It is with the help of the combined forces, the CPI-M has reconquered their "lost" territory. What are the implications for CRPF deployed there? Instead of capturing Maoists, they are giving protection to the illegally armed CPI-M thugs who are causing depredations against the local population under the protection of the combined CRPF and state armed police.

Has the government of India understood the grave threat to their armed police force. Instead of seizing illegal arms, most of which are Chinese-made AK47, they are participating in the illegal operation of the CPI-M goondas. It is their duty to seize such illegal arms and to arrest people who are carrying or hoarding them. The sinister aspect of this illegal operation is that CRPF personnel posted in Junglemahal are getting thoroughly polluted by participating in this illegal venture. Without retraining they would be unfit to fight any terrorist group. The Centre should take note of this. To prevent further contagion, they should be immediately withdrawn from Junglemahal.

A Kosovo-type political cleansing was carried out by the CPI-M to establish its political hegemony in various parts of the state, particularly in Garbeta, Keshpur, Chhoto Angaria, Sabong, Pungla, Nanoor, Mangalkote, Bhangar, Khanakul and Goghat. Normal life in these areas was disturbed and many are unable to carry on their usual business. Large-scale migration has taken place from many of these places.

Recently, three ministers of the state ~ Susanta Ghosh, Abdul Rezzak Mollah and Kanti Ganguly ~ talked about a "bloodbath" in the state. By doing so, they committed a "terrorist act'' as defined in the newly amended Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They are pushing the population towards armed conflict through such provocative pronouncements.

It has been statistically estimated that between 1977 and 2009, 55,408 political murders were committed by the CPI-M. No one has been punished. About 100,000 murderers are roaming about freely in the state threatening peace everywhere. Life and property of law-abiding citizens are in grave jeopardy because of wanton, wilful, and gross violation of laws by CPI-M cadres and leaders.

Under the circumstances, it is clear that the government of the state is not being carried out in according with the provisions of the Constitution. Hence it is not only desirable but imperative on the part of the Union government to issue directives under Article 355 for (i) seizing all illegal arms everywhere in the state; (ii) arresting all those who are carrying and hoarding such illegal arms; (iii) apprehending and putting to trial all the murderers, rapists and arsonists who are moving about freely without any let and hindrance under the patronage of the CPI-M; and (iv) restoring peace and law and order in all the areas suffering from the depredations of CPI-M goons.

Failure to comply with these directives would attract the provisions of Article 365. Staying in West Bengal, one feels that the state is not a part of the Union of India as neither its laws nor its Constitution are observed here.

The writer is a former member of the Indian Administrative Service







The first thing you notice, upon pulling up to Chuck and Sally Heath's house in Wasilla, Alaska, is the Christmas tree of moose antlers piled up next to the driveway. Step inside the ranch-style home, and you get another unmistakable sign that you're not in the Democrats' America anymore: Chuck's prized collection of skinned and stuffed animals. Outside, a picnic table offers dramatic views of the Chugach Mountain range. It was in this setting that the Heaths, putting aside their natural wariness of press, agreed to meet a reporter, feed her fresh snap peas from their garden-and share their thoughts about their world-famous daughter, Sarah Palin. 
Should she run for president in 2012? Sarah's mother, Sally, doesn't hesitate. "It would be a tough thing to do," she starts to say, until Chuck interrupts: "It's up to her, whatever she wants to do." Sally, in a green zip-up sweatshirt, continues. "I love what she's doing now: scouting around for who would be good candidates, who honestly could stand up and speak and not be afraid to tell it like it is." 

They don't know her plans, the Heaths are quick to add, in their first national interview in over a year. But "it would be fun to find out some day", Sally says, with a contagious laugh. 

Some friends expressed caution about Palin's future. A former adviser in DC who remains friends with Palin said he doesn't want to see her run. "I think she's got a great life. She's got the world by the tail right now," this friend says. "I mean, she's earning a lot of money, which she never had before. She is speaking to adoring crowds wherever she goes. She's greatly appreciated by those she supports and she doesn't have to take all the grief that you have to take when you are running for or holding office." 

Others who are less-favourably disposed point out that Palin's aborted tenure as Governor left a lot of bad blood in Alaska; they worry that her baggage would be dragged back onstage in another national campaign, and hurt the state. 

But fans and foes alike warn against the dangers of selling Palin short. "Four years ago, right after she was elected, I was quoted as saying, 'The graveyards of Alaska are covered with the bones of people crossed by Sarah Palin.' While I said crossed, what I meant was underestimated," said Alaska Republican pollster David Dittman. 

Adele Morgan, one of Palin's oldest friends in Alaska, recalls approaching Palin in 2005, when she first heard that her childhood pal and basketball buddy was running for Governor. "I had heard that just from the grapevine so I went and asked her," Morgan recalls. "I thought that was quite the feat at the time. And I said, 'What are your plans?' I was just kidding around and I said, 'So do you want to be President?' And that was way back then and she said, 'Well maybe.' And I was like, 'Wow you got some goals there, girl!'" 

When she is in the state, she spends most of her time in her Wasilla home on Lake Lucille. She's ended the need to pop out to do TV, having recently added a studio as an extension to her house. In the past, she was often spotted shopping at Target and Walmart; these days, she sends her eldest daughter Bristol to the store, to avoid being mobbed by friends and well-wishers. 

Walt Monegan knows what it's like to have friction with the Palins on the grand scale. His firing as Palin's public safety commissioner led to the "Troopergate investigation". Monegan is still struggling with the fallout years later. The former Anchorage police chief still breaks down in tears when reminiscing about his time on the beat. If Palin does make a bid for the presidency, Monegan is sure to be held up by opponents as a case study in how she can wield power vindictively. He strongly cautioned against a future President Palin. 
Palin's foray this summer into the Alaska Senate race left similarly bruised feelings, exacerbating a long-running feud with the Murkowski family which has divided the state's Republican ranks. It started when former Senator Frank Murkowski bypassed Palin when, upon election as governor, he decided to appoint his daughter to fill out the remainder of his term in Congress. Palin returned the favour by ousting Murkowski in the GOP 2006 gubernatorial primary. The fighting continued this summer, when Palin's decision to back Joe Miller helped propel him past Lisa Murkowski for the GOP Senate nomination. 

Murkowski's campaign manager was John Bitney, who, until recently, was a Palin ally. A high-school friend who ran her 2006 campaign for governor, Bitney had a falling out with Palin when she discovered Bitney was having an affair with a family friend, a woman to whom he is now married. Bitney is skewered in Palin's book, Going Rogue, and says she sometimes uses her power to intimidate – "taking a nuclear bomb when a fly swatter would have dealt with the issue," as he puts it. 

In smoothing over some of these rifts, Palin's parents are a great asset. Monegan, the ex-public safety commissioner, says he hasn't had any contact with Palin or her inner circle. But last winter, he ran into Chuck Heath at a dinner celebrating Alaskan seafood. Heath ran over to Monegan and gave him a handshake and hug, telling him: "That's just politics. I still like you." Heath even went over to Monegan's table to meet his family and regale them with stories of his daughter's book tour. 

Has their daughter's fame affected them? "I still run with the same derelicts I did 30, 40 years ago and buy whatever beer's on sale," says Chuck with a laugh. "Hasn't changed me a bit." 

They both said they don't see their daughter much because she is on the road so often, but when they do they don't talk with their daughter about work. "We don't talk politics. We talk hunting, fishing, sports, and family. Just normal family, none of the political stuff," her father said. "She hears enough advice from everyone and criticism from everyone and she doesn't need to hear my bad advice. We hunt together, fish together, travel together and we don't socialise out in the limelight anymore because she's mobbed. She can't walk into a store anymore. We go to a lot of gatherings together, but she has to sneak in." 

the independent






The Table-talk of great men is always fascinating, and the account of a dinner party at Prince Bismarck's Berlin residence which forms part of the recollections of a Livonian journalist, named Eckhardt, now appearing in the Deutsche Rundschau offers no exception to the rule. Especially interesting are Bismarck's views on Schopenhauer. The conversation had turned on Bismarck's early days at Frankfurt, and Eckhardt asked whether at the table d'hote of the Hotel d'Angleterre his host had ever met Schopenhauer. "No," said Bismarck, "he had no use for me, nor I for him. Moreover, I have never had time or desire to occupy myself with philosophy. While I was a student Schopenhauer was still unknown. I know absolutely nothing about his system." Another guest, an admirer of Schopenhauer, then joined enthusiastically in the conversation, and explained that the philosopher's great merit consisted in the discovery of the fact that will power was the indestructible essence of the mind of man, and that intelligence was only of secondary importance. "That may very well be true," said Prince Bismarck, "at least as far as I am concerned, for I have often noticed that my will had already come to a decision while my mind had not yet finished thinking about the same subject."








The fall from triumph to titters is not quite the path of glory that India was hoping to tread with the Commonwealth Games. So, the one thing that the chaotic run-up to the Games has made difficult to hold on to surely is the old association of sports with national pride. The opposite of pride is, of course, the kind of disgrace that the Indian authorities are trying to turn into a sort of desperate optimism. But if the nicer way has not worked, then this shame is the only other way to learn what it actually means to find a place in the eyes of the world. The globalization of sports, like that of other forms of entertainment, demands that an event like the Games has to be done differently from, say, organizing the general elections. There is everything wrong about the Games being just the government's baby. The mix of corruption, cluelessness, sycophancy and sloth that a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats inevitably embodies in India can never, in a real and practical sense, pull off such a complex event. It demands standards of expertise, co-ordination and accountability — in short, professionalism — that ministers, chief ministers, cabinet secretaries and their kind are bound to bring down to a level of spectacular, but nonetheless shameful, chaos. And this is true not only for a mega-event like the Games, but also for various sports at ordinary times, when players and athletes have to deal regularly with the annoying and damaging influence of politicians and bureaucrats on their sporting careers.


It is too late now to make such a radical turn, but the Games need to be rescued from, and not delivered even more 'securely' into, the hands of the State. When the Games Village turned out to be a bit of a disaster, then the only thing left to be done was to transfer responsibility from the Delhi Development Authority to the chief minister's government. The chief minister has ordered last-minute salvage operations on a "war footing", turning a sports event into a military campaign. The fact that Suresh Kalmadi, Shera's biggest rival as mascot, used to be an air-force man makes the chief minister's battle-cry rather more bizarre. With England, Scotland and Wales making the least friendly noises now, the history of the 'Commonwealth' seems to have come a full, and ironic, circle. Incredible as it may seem, this is no way for the Empire to strike back.








The city police have presented Calcuttans with a unique puzzle. Should they be thrilled that they were granted one day of normal, civilized movement in the heart of the city or be furious that political processions, space-hogging hawkers and rule-breaking drivers are considered far more important than the ordinary office-goer or shopper every single other day? Should they be reassured that the police they are paying for actually know the laws and can even implement them, or should they despair that only the president's visit can get them to move? It is difficult to calculate whether the people's response to the police is likely to take on a more positive tinge after their show on the day of the president's visit. The Durga Pujas, for example, have shown the police at their best so far, and people are aware that they know how to keep the peace and smooth the passage of masses of humanity. But that does not mean that the police are interested in doing their job every day. Anyone trying to go anywhere, even on a day without a rally, knows that the city is gradually becoming impossible to navigate. Endless road repairs, broken pavements spilling with hawkers and messy with overflowing waste seem to close in as signals and traffic police conduct mysterious rituals that can leave resigned cars, snorting buses, restless two-wheelers and panting rickshaw-pullers stalled not just at crossings but at any point in the road. Evidently as antidote, the police completely closed traffic in certain parts of the city on the day of the president's visit. They decided that a VVIP was far more important than ordinary people trying to leave home for work.


Yet the police in Calcutta are going high-tech. Marvellous machinery to catch cyber criminals, to monitor traffic and seize offenders, to respond to distress calls has been set up. No lack there. But none of this has anything to do with, say, allowing political processions and rallies to always have right of way, or permitting patently lawless drivers of autos to get away with the most outrageous behaviour on the roads, endangering their own passengers and those of all other vehicles. It is a question of attitude. The police often say that they cannot perform uniformly because of a lack of manpower. It is not clear why recruitment should not be made a priority in this teeming city where jobs would be welcome. But would increased manpower also bring about a change of attitude?









A burden of their professional obligations, legal practitioners have to acquire the acumen to walk up and down on both sides of the street, though not necessarily at the same time. The recent tiff between the Supreme Court and the government over the respective jurisdictions of the judiciary and the executive has provided an occasion for the display of two sets of legal argument directly opposed to each other. Both views appear to be equally weighty.


One group of lawyers have little doubt that the directive of the nation's highest judiciary directing the authorities to distribute free foodgrains to the poor and the starving was, howsoever well-intentioned, a gross encroachment on the government's ambit of responsibilities as laid down in the Constitution. What policies and measures are to be adopted to provide food security to the nation are matters within the purview of administrative decision-making; these should be left to the exclusive care of the government, which represents the will of the people; the judiciary must not poach in the matter, it must rein in its 'activist' propensities.


The other group of lawyers are strongly supportive of the Supreme Court's observations. They fall back on certain provisions in the Constitution. True, the Constitution does not quite list among the fundamental rights of citizens the right to food; Article 21, however, concedes them the right to life. Since food is essential for living, and the judiciary has the prerogative to ensure that a citizen is not deprived of any of his fundamental rights, the Supreme Court, it is argued, is within its rights to ask the government to supply food, free of cost, to starving people who do not have the resources to buy food from the market.


One of the directive principles of State policy embedded in the Constitution is also referred to in this connection. That particular directive expects the State to assure citizens the means of livelihood. Whether food, which is the most essential means for staying alive, is being reached to the starving, it can well be interpreted, is something which should very much be the concern of the judiciary; it is within its ambit of responsibilities to instruct the State to act in conformity with the directive principle.


Should both the judiciary and the executive stick to their respective positions, the debate could be interminable. As far as the ground reality goes, the government, in any event, is bound to win out. If it chooses to ignore the directive of the Supreme Court — it has already expressed such an intention — the nation's highest judiciary has no instrument at its disposal to discipline the authorities. It could, at best, declare the government to be guilty of contempt of court. So what? There is no way it could punish the government for the committed offence. A situation is conceivable where, snubbed in this manner, the judges constituting the Supreme Court resign en masse and create a national crisis. That is, however, a most remote possibility.


There are, though, more things in the actual world than observance or non-observance of constitutional propriety. In the instance being referred to, it has suited the government to conceal some issues of grave import behind the smokescreen of the controversy over respective jurisdictions of the executive and the judiciary. What are being slurred over are the moral and humanitarian aspects of a circumstance in which, at one end, huge numbers of the country's poor are starving and, at the other, substantial quantities of foodgrains available with the government are rapidly going to waste because these are lying in the open on account of a lack of warehousing facilities. The Food Corporation of India, an arm of the government, procures foodgrains, mostly wheat and rice, from farmers and traders by paying prices that are higher than the prevailing market prices. Foodgrains thus procured are distributed to consumers through the public distribution system.

The FCI is, at the moment, carrying a total stock of grains exceeding 50 million tonnes, but storage space available to it can only accommodate 45 million tonnes. New warehouses are coming up and much scrounging is going on to rent extra space. Even so, the corporation has been compelled to keep a part of the procured grains in open space, exposed to the elements. A not-so-negligible amount of these grains lying under the naked sky is, on the government's own admission, rotting at a very fast pace and will soon be unsuitable not only for human, but also for animal, consumption. Against this background, responding to a public interest litigation filed before it praying for supply of foodgrains to starving sections of the population, the Supreme Court thought it fit to ask the government to allot for free distribution to poor people some of the grains that are about to be totally spoiled.


Let us assume that the quantum of grains dumped outside the godown and getting rotten is one million tonnes. The overall cost of procuring this quantity might be around Rs 1,000 crore. The government's point of view can be summed up as follows: even if the grains go to total waste and Rs 1,000 crore of public money go down the drain, these grains could still not be supplied free of cost to any citizens, not even to the starving, the authorities have no alternative but to be stern and brush aside so-called humanistic considerations. They have based their decision, it is claimed, on solid economic grounds. Even grains soon bound to be totally wasted could not be supplied free to the poor, at zero price, for that would be horrendously bad economics. It would affect adversely the incentive for grain production and have a negative impact on its output in future, causing great harm to long-range national interests.


The argument is based on the orthodoxy of what is known as neoclassical economics, which says that there must be no intervention from outside with the interplay of the forces of supply and demand in the market. If a government agency supplies free a certain quantity of foodgrains to a section of consumers, it will supposedly affect the demand side of the market and depress the market price, thus discouraging the producers. This point of view is regarded as holiest of the holy — the government would rather allow Rs 1,000 crore worth of foodgrains to go waste than utilize these to feed the hungry.


The nation's long-term interests, the argument runs, lie in a healthy rate of growth in agriculture, including foodgrain production; anything that could harm these interests must be abjured. The dictum to be followed is that there can be no free lunch, not even for the starving. The crucial importance of not deviating from this cardinal principle has been impressed upon the government by sponsors of the so-called Washington Consensus, whose writ is assumed to be as inviolable as the Ten Commandments.


The authorities will not walk the morality ground — heartlessness is king. But it is not really necessary to bring in issues of either ethics or humanitarianism in the matter. The government can be rebutted even on its own chosen ground. Has not the FCI already bought that lot of one million tonnes of grains from farmers and traders by paying procurement prices that are, in fact, higher than the prices prevailing in the market? How, then, could there be any possibility of discouraging producers? Farmers have already sold the grains at prices that have satisfied them; whether the grains are fed to rats or dumped in the Arabian Sea or used to feed some hungry people would be of no concern to them.


As long as the FCI continues to purchase at prices that are higher than going market prices, producers' incentive will remain unaffected in future too. That apart, poor starving people have no purchasing power, they have therefore no role to play on the demand side of the market. That is to say, given their zero purchasing power, they are irrelevant for the market process. Irrespective of whether the poor and starving are supplied free grains or allowed to perish without food, they are, in either case, not going to participate in the market process. The economic reasoning that the authorities have advanced for ignoring the Supreme Court's advice is, in sum, without basis. Not to mince words, it is comprehensibly bogus. It is a government's prerogative to be inhuman. In a functioning democracy, the electorate can be exploited to deal with such an administration in due course. The deployment of spurious economic logic to cloak that inhumanity nonetheless deserves to be exposed.








We have all been profoundly shamed. The discovery of human excreta in the bathrooms of the new residences constructed for the Commonwealth Games brought home the rude but fundamental fact that we are wallowing in a mire. The symbolism hit the bullseye. The operating system of governance in its broadest definition has collapsed. The government and its utterly inept departments — peopled by officers with no credentials or concern for quality — have been exposed. No one is ever made accountable and the rot and the filth — both physical and attitudinal — are condoned, covered up and allowed to develop into a deadly disease. Bureaucrats, much like the dengue mosquitoes, bite and poison all projects and good endeavours.


To have to hear Lalit Bhanot, a senior executive of the organizing committee, say on national television that "standards of hygiene differ..." confirmed that the organizers know no better and have no business to be where they are. Most Indians want to bury their heads in shame after being told that the Games Village is in a mess. In any civilized and effective set-up, resignations would have followed such developments. Here, the men and women who have betrayed the country are mouthing excuses and airing views without any knowledge of the prevailing international standards. With the sensex going berserk, India is poised to become a real slumdog millionaire because the government has been unable to put in place a functioning and clean operating system that is people-friendly and built on the premise of integrity.


Heads bowed


This reality of a rising rate of growth and a corrupt and corroded delivery system where 'accountability' is non-existent has led us into the worst anarchy imaginable. Leaders across political parties are sitting pretty in their plush ivory towers, and looking away when the horror confronts them. Committees are instituted and they die a natural death. Nothing changes, mediocrity is celebrated, quality is kicked on the shins, babus build walls around themselves and close ranks when exposed, decay is worshipped, feeble excuses are accepted by the political bosses; in all this, good governance becomes a mirage.


The CWG symbolizes this truth of supreme failure and massive corruption. Having made the lucre, no one cares a hoot. Municipalities have forced Indians to live in filthy conditions, minted money for themselves and delivered a corrupt and ineffective operating system that harasses ordinary Indians who have been compelled to learn how to 'work the ropes' to survive.

No leader has had the guts to introduce the reforms that have been suggested by numerous commissions, which were appointed at a huge cost to the exchequer. Be it the CWG or a small attempt at forging a partnership between professionals from civil society and one particular ministry of the government, the experience of having to deal with inept officers manipulating the venture at every level is another explicit example of the failure of governance.

Instead of taking on the challenge of the jobs at hand, many babus spend their time doing irrelevant and silly things, such as 'correcting' good English and converting it into gibberish only to 'mark' the copy; fiddling with the graphics executed by international professionals and then reducing the designs to rubbish that exposes the babus' insensitivity and lack of aesthetics; changing fundamentals at the last moment to ensure messy 'inaugurations', à la government of India, only to salute themselves. The sticky web of sheer shame has engulfed the whole of our wonderful and energetic nation.



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





The state cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday is a significant event in the state's politics and governance, not so much for its intrinsic worth, as the process through it was achieved. It also marked a milestone in the chief ministership of B S Yeddyurappa who had to go through the humiliating experience of being blackmailed, his authority challenged and his dignity besmirched, not by the parties that are political challengers to the BJP, but from within. Despite being largely instrumental in bringing into power the first BJP government in the state, by exploiting the popular sympathy generated by the JD(S) denying him the chief minister's chair, it was an amazing slide that Yeddyurappa suffered within 17 months of coming to power. Last October, Yeddyurappa appeared to be a pathetic shadow of the feisty political warrior that he was, sobbing in public over the armtwisting that the Reddy clan of Bellary subjected him to. He was forced to make a public sacrifice of two of his loyalists. His powers as head of the government were clipped, with Reddys' promoters in the BJP central leadership foisting on him a coordination committee which would dictate policy decisions to him.

The erosion of authority and period of uncertainty he went through seem to have steeled Yeddyurappa. The man from Shikaripur bided his time. Adopting Abraham Lincoln's strategy (although he may not have heard of him), Yeddyurappa decided to eliminate his enemies, by making them his friends. Slowly and inexorably, he began chipping away at the rivals' ranks. He repaired his relationship with K S Eswarappa. Then he enticed Renukacharya with a ministership. He marked for the chop the weak links in the Reddy ranks, many of whom had no glowing record as ministers. He then convinced the Central leadership that his hands needed to be strengthened if his government had to perform and got its imprimatur on his expansion plan. Then he made the decisive move.

Now that he has got his authority back, Yeddyurappa should try and repay the faith the voters have placed in the BJP. Since its inception, his government has been a disappointment. Now he has the opportunity to make amends. He must crack the whip and convince his ministerial colleagues that they are in the government not for personal aggrandisement and to pursue outmoded agendas, but for a higher purpose. Unless he is able to do that, his victory this week will be pyrrhic. 









The French government's crackdown on the Romas has invited widespread criticism as an attack on the human rights of a very vulnerable people. The Roma gypsies, who trace their ancestry to India, have for centuries been ill-treated and persecuted in Europe. 

They number about 10 million and form the biggest ethnic minority in the European Union, but are the most backward in economic power, education, health and other indicators. This is partly because of their lifestyle. They are scattered and nomadic and the mainstream prejudice has worked against them. They are branded a criminal tribe and kept away from human habitations. They have often had to face discriminatory and oppressive government actions. The French campaign is the latest.

President Sarkozy has ordered rounding up and deportation of the Romas to Romania and Bulgaria from where they are thought to have come, after it was reported that some members of the community were involved in violence in Paris. This flies in the face of human rights norms and all the legal covenants that France is a party to. The EU Office of Justice has threatened legal action against France, and has compared the action to the Nazi persecution of Jews. The EU warning is unprecedented. France has no legal or moral justification for its action. The EU charter ensures freedom of movement for all people and forced deportation is against all norms. It is also ironical that the crackdown is taking place in France, the most liberal of all European countries, where respect for freedom has marked state policy for generations.

Sarkozy's action is seen in the context of a weakening of his popularity. The economy is still in trouble and the government is caught in scandals. Elections are scheduled in the next two years and Sarkozy is believed to be tilting opportunistically further right to take advantage of the sentiments against migrant workers and minorities. Last week's legislative ban of the use of burqa is also seen in this light. The partial ban, which might affect only a few thousands out of five million Muslims, has been justified with the argument that the burqa demeans women and goes against secular principles of the state. Like the action against the Romas, it is also taken as marking an anti-minority stance.







Making do with poor execution and brushing inconvenient truths under the carpet, have become the hall-mark of our public projects.


Flogging the dead horse of the Organising Committee (OC) of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games may give us vicarious satisfaction. But, if we view the whole fiasco from a step back, we will realise that the functioning of the OC is a microcosm of the way in which activities in the public domain are being handled in this country.

Corruption, confusion, chaos, procrastination, delay, blatant political interference, multiple points of authority and responsibility working at cross-purposes, passing the buck, cost overshoot,  abysmal quality control and every other negative characteristic one can think of has become a part and parcel of public projects in India. The CWG project is not an exception but a typical example.

We are hearing so much about its infirmities because it is currently under the intense glare of the media. The environment in the country is so ripe for things to go wrong that Murphy's Law ('Anything that can go wrong will go wrong')  has become a truism here.

For this state of affairs, it is natural to first blame the delinquencies in our political system that has sapped the will of the people to be efficient and honest. To a large extent, this is true. We may boast of being one of the rare, stable multi-party democracies in the Third World but the toll that competitive politics has taken on ethics is so immense that honesty has become a rarity. When politicians become fawning 'yes-persons' to their leaders and a political career becomes the step ladder to loot, then democracy becomes worse than dictatorship.

With their hands in the pie of every public project, directly or indirectly, our politicians leave very little leeway for any project to be properly implemented. The very first thing they do is think of ways to milk the project for their personal, political and financial benefit. If the project is headed by a politician, as is the New Delhi CWG, then the handicap against successful implementation becomes that much greater.

However, over and beyond political shenanigans, is a culture of sloth, carelessness, cheating, slipshod work, unprofessional conduct, slovenliness and tardiness that we have cultivated since Independence that leads to messes like the New Delhi CWG. This culture is rooted in the four decades of government and public sector dominance of the economy during which poor performance was not punished and excellence not rewarded.
Look around in our cities, towns and villages and you will see what I mean — public buildings that are epitomes of poor construction, roads replete with potholes, footpaths that are obstacle courses, water pipes with leaking joints, drains bottled up with solid waste, power distribution networks with unshielded connections, canals clogged with silt and shrubbery, garbage bins overflowing with rubbish, uncleared construction debris strewn all over, toilets in public places filthy as can be and the like. With such a lackadaisical attitude towards work quality, it is no wonder that roofs fall, walls collapse, levees crumble, trains derail, streets get flooded with slightest of rain, power outages common, road accidents frequent and so on.

Poor execution

Thanks to such work culture, we have come to expect the least and accept the lowest common denominator from public authorities. Instead of excellence, making do with poor execution, brushing inconvenient truths under the carpet and somehow carrying on for the time being, have become the hallmark of our public projects. Some commentators are all praise for our 'jugaadbaji' (making the best of bad circumstances); I consider it a disgrace that we have to resort to it.

It is this culture of accepting mediocrity that is reflected in this response by Lalit Bhanot, OC secretary general about the complaints of filth at the Games Village: "It is not such a big issue we should be ashamed of — westerners have different standards (of hygiene), we have different standards." It is the same culture that led the chief engineer of Delhi's PWD to remark that the footbridge collapse was 'a minor incident' and that prompted cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar to term the collapse of a portion of the false ceiling at the Games main stadium as a 'minor incident.' And it is this same sanguineness in the face of inadequacies that prompted OC vice-chairman Randhir Singh to assure: "We have made top-class security arrangements," even though an Australian TV crew showed that they could walk into the stadium with a box full of detonators without being challenged.

As of now, the snafus in the CWG project are attracting newspaper headlines and carpet coverage by the TV channels. But media interest is fickle. When the Games somehow get concluded, without the presence of many star athletes and some contingents, media attention will shift to some other issue and the public will also lose interest in the whole affair. The CWG will be forgotten as a bad dream. That is what the organisers, the government officials and politicians are hoping.

That's a pity. Because the New Delhi CWG can form an excellent case study of how not to undertake a major public project. One of the IIMs should take this up as a research study, analysing every aspect: why India bid for the Games; state of preparedness in 2003; background of key OC personnel and background of those who selected them; financing (why were no funds forthcoming till 2008?); pattern of distribution of responsibilities and authority; reasons for expansion of scope of construction; system adopted for tenders and contracts; follow-up and execution methods, etc. Such a study will yield a treasure trove of 'Dos and Don'ts' for big public projects at least in the future.








We need to learn a few things from the US. There are also things that Americans should learn from us.


When President Barack Obama visits India in November, he is sure to visit Raj Ghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi whom he often cites as his inspiration. But the Bahujan communities and minorities would be happy if he also pays homage to Dr B R Ambedkar. This will make his visit a historic event. As such, they are looking forward to Obama's visit as he symbolises the hope of freedom for oppressed people across the world.

As Obama emerged out of the historic struggles of the blacks in the US, his visit could also inspire the movement for the abolition of caste, the Indian variety of slavery. 

Ambedkar is the best historical link between the Indian oppressed communities and also the blacks of America.

As mentioned above, Obama refers to Mahatma Gandhi more than any other US president. But one is not aware whether he knows much about Ambedkar who is generally compared with  Martin Luther King Jr, to whose civil rights movement Obama owes his political birth and growth. This nation considers Ambedkar not only as the father of the constitution but also as the liberator of all oppressed people. Though the ruling classes do see the similarities between Dalit-Bahujan struggles and the black struggles the masses can make out that historical linkages.

Multi-cultural tradition

There are other facets too. The religious minorities also look up to Ambedkar as as he was a Buddhist. Obama, while being a Christian, shares the blood of a Muslim father. If he pays homage to a Buddhist Ambedkar, apart from Mahatma Gandhi, he will be respecting the multi-cultural tradition of India. This will also attract global attention to Ambedkar's life and thought.

Ambedkar, who took out a civil rights struggle for abolishing caste and untouchability, made the new India possible. Imagine an India that has no dalit/adivasi or minority participation in the administrative, bureaucratic and knowledge structures. Imagine no dalit participation in the higher echelons of the nation in this century. They constitute 16.5 per cent of our population and Obama, as a first black president to visit India, should ideally take note of this.

Let us not forget the fact that Obama's educational emergence could be traced back to the affirmative action that blacks were given in the context of the civil rights movement of America. Likewise, thanks to the reservation system that  Ambedkar worked to put in place, dalits are now visible in every sphere of life. Jagajjivan Ram could become a deputy prime minister and K R Narayanan the President of India.

Obviously, there are things that we need to learn from the US and there are things that Americans should learn from us. As we know about Abraham Lincoln and Martin King, Americans should also know about both Gandhi and Ambedkar. Obama has done a lot to popularise Gandhi, and he could also do the same for  Ambedkar if he visits Nagapur Deekshabhoomi or other sites linked to Ambedkar.

The Deekshabhoomi does not represent just Ambedkar's idea of India but also the secular Buddhist tradition of the nation. It is a known fact that Rajghat does not merely represent Mahatma Gandhi alone but the whole range of secular Hindu tradition that he stood for.

India as a nation must also own the Buddhist cultural tradition as Buddha was born, grew up and built his spiritual and social Sangha system here. No other icon than Ambedkar can represent that cultural heritage in the modern period.

Will our ruling class ensure that Obama at least lays a garland on the statue of Ambedkar in parliament premises? Such a deviation from protocol will respond to the changing needs of the nation and will be positive and desirable.

Obama was keen to learn about the plight of the untouchables during his student years. And interestingly, both he and  Ambedkar were educated at Columbia University. It could also turn out to be an occasion for the country to come to terms with the caste and untouchability problem in the international arena. The stance of denial taken by the Indian government in the United Nations had done some damage.

But things are changing. Manmohan Singh is our first prime minister to admit the caste problem and Rahul Gandhi, took the British foreign minister to a dalit village in 2009 and Bill Gates to a Musahar dalit village in Bihar. Rahul Gandhi's recent statement that casteism is worse than racism shows that old attitudes are changing.

Let this government take one more step in the right direction by taking Obama to Deekshabhoomi. Let America know that India, too, is a mature nation grappling with its strengths and weaknesses.







We went about our adventure, savouring the thrill of plucking fruit after fruit.


"Alabad, Alabad," the hawker's cry pierced the silence of the cool, sunny December afternoon in Bangalore. I opened the door and peered outside to find a man pushing a cartload of guavas — purportedly the famed Allahabad variety known as 'Ilahabadi amrood' in Hindi.

I grew misty-eyed and the scene before my eyes changed... I was there! The guava trees, laden with luscious fruits, hung temptingly low over the hedge into the lawns of our barracks that were the quarters of the staff of the Civil Aviation Training Centre (CATC), Bamrauli, Allahabad, where Dad worked. The guavas came in all shapes, sizes and other properties — some were the size of mini melons (no exaggeration), hard and juicy; others the size of cricket balls. There were also golf ball-sized ones, soft and pulpy. But all were just as sweet and delicious.

Winter holidays were great fun. They meant comics (the original American westerns, classics Illustrated), Enid Blytons, Biggles, shuttle badminton —  and of course guavas, for us children of St Joseph's, dubbed 'Bamrauli boys' by our school headmaster. It was also the time for mischief! When in such a mood, we would sneak into the orchard on chilly, sunny mornings in a single file, a la Secret Seven, Famous Five,  pluck every fruit within our tiny reach and pass it to the last guy in the line who carried an inconspicuous cloth bag for the loot!

We went about our adventure stealthily, savouring the thrill and the joy as we kept plucking fruit after fruit, munching and passing on to the last guy. We would be all ears for the shout of the caretaker, who would routinely holler from time to time to keep off cattle, birds and trespassers. However, we kids had a well-rehearsed line for such occasions. "Ball dhoond rahen hain," we would yell back with practised nonchalance and a minute later, add a reassuring 'Haan! mil gaya' and scamper with the fruits of our labour. Then, somewhere in the shelter of an abandoned shed or the shade of a tree, we would relish the sweetness of the success of our childish adventure.

That was some 40 years back! Some time ago, when the barman at a local pub opened a can of juice with ACCOS written on it, to mix a cocktail, I reached for it, for I knew where it came from. ACCOS simply stood for Allahabad Canning Companies — where all the guavas and other fruits went for processing. The can bore the Bamrauli address where I had lived.

My reverie ended as the cry "Alabad, Alabad" faded away in the  distance with time.









President Obama made a compelling case at the United Nations for why a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is not only essential but may even be possible this time. Since the current talks began three weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, are reportedly grappling with some of the toughest issues.


This could all fall apart within days, however. On Sunday, Israel's 10-month moratorium on building settlements in the West Bank is set to expire. Mr. Abbas has threatened to walk away from the bargaining table if the moratorium isn't extended. Mr. Netanyahu has said his coalition partners won't allow him to do that.


It would be shortsighted and dangerous for the two leaders to throw away what could be the best chance in years for peace. President Obama, who called on Israel to extend the moratorium, needs to muster all of his diplomatic skills to ensure they don't.


The most rational compromise would be for Mr. Netanyahu to extend the moratorium — by 90 days, 120 days, whatever the sides will accept — and for Mr. Abbas to endorse the temporary measure. The two sides could then use the breathing space to negotiate the borders of the new Palestinian state.


That way Palestinians would have more confidence that their long-promised state will become a reality. Israelis would know which settlements will become part of Israel in the land swaps that must be part of any peace agreement. They could then resume building in those designated settlements.


We have heard from the Israelis, and even some American officials, that extending the moratorium is politically impossible for Mr. Netanyahu. Taking political risks is what leadership is all about. (And if this government falls, we suspect that Mr. Netanyahu could form a new coalition with the pro-peace Kadima Party, many of whose members came from his Likud Party.)


This certainly won't be easy for Mr. Abbas. He feels the Palestinians deserve — and were promised by the Obama administration — a permanent freeze on all settlement-building.


The potential return for both leaders, and the world, is huge. Mr. Abbas has the chance to become the founding father of the Palestinian state. Mr. Netanyahu, to be the leader who finally brought a lasting peace for Israel.


What makes this all the more tantalizing, and frustrating, is that everybody already knows the outlines of an agreement, covering borders, security, Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem. Decades have been wasted and countless lives have been lost as politicians on both sides failed to exercise the leadership and courage required to get there.


If there is any doubt about what the future holds if these talks unravel, clashes on Wednesday between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in and around the Old City of Jerusalem should be a stark reminder.

It is, of course, up to Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to choose. But as Mr. Obama made clear on Thursday, the Arab states who have spent years trumpeting the Palestinian cause need finally to match their rhetoric with action. They need to prove that they are willing to normalize relations with Israel as part of any deal. And they must encourage Mr. Abbas to compromise — and back him up politically and financially.


President Obama needs to help the Israelis and Palestinians get past Sunday's deadline and then keep pressing them to negotiate a real and lasting peace. This moment must not be squandered.







Tea Party supporters and their candidates like to imagine themselves as insurgents, crashing the barricades of Washington to establish a new order of clean and frugal government. In earthbound reality, many of the people pulling the Tea Party's strings are establishment Republican operatives and lobbyists. Some have made money off the party for years.


One example is Sal Russo, a gun-for-hire who has worked for former President Ronald Reagan, former Gov. George Deukmejian of California, former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, and many other Republicans. AsThe Times reported on Sunday, Mr. Russo saw a sure thing last year, establishing a group called the Tea Party Express to support candidates in the midterm elections and raise cash at the same time.


The group has spent nearly $1 million in an effort to replace Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic Senate leader. It spent nearly $350,000 to elect Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. It is pouring money into Alaska to support Joe Miller's Senate bid. And it has spent $250,000 in Delaware on behalf of Christine O'Donnell, now the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. Mr. Russo held a fund-raiser for Ms. O'Donnell and organized a rally.


In all, Mr. Russo and his group have raised $5.2 million and are the biggest independent supporters of Tea Party candidates. Of that, $3 million to buy advertising went to his political consulting firm or one controlled by his wife. Of course, he takes a substantial cut of each buy.


Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader, considers himself a godfather of the Tea Party and is co-author of the book, "Give Us Liberty: a Tea Party Manifesto." Writing in The Wall Street Journal, he called for a "hostile takeover" of the Republican Party, which sounds so very revolutionary until one remembers that he helped lead that party for many years, guiding its policies and raising its money. When he left office in 2003, he cashed in on his connections to become a very high-paid lobbyist at DLA Piper, one of Washington's biggest law firms, which has clients that include health-care companies, energy producers and foreign governments.


Then there is Carl Paladino, the Tea Party-backed Republican nominee for governor of New York. His bloodcurdling denunciations of Albany never seem to mention that he is one of the biggest landlords of state agencies, owning properties with $85 million in taxpayer leases in Buffalo alone that provide him with income of more than $5 million a year. He is the biggest property owner in Buffalo, and much of his empire has been constructed with state development incentives and tax breaks. An adviser is Roger Stone, an operator for Republicans since Richard Nixon's re-election campaign.


There are undoubtedly thousands of Tea Partiers who would love to purge Washington of well-connected lobbyists, high-priced political consultants and others who take millions of taxpayer dollars while condemning the lawmakers who spend it. They should take a long look at the leaders and candidates who are driving their movement and decide whether purging begins at home.







It is good news that Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, is donating $100 million to remake the failing public schools in Newark. But it will take a lot more than money to improve student performance in that city's troubled system, which has continued to perform dismally since being taken over by the state 15 years ago. Mayor Cory Booker, who will get substantial control of the system as a condition of the donation, must now rally his city and its unions behind an ambitious reform plan that raises standards and holds teachers and principals accountable for student performance.


The $100 million gift requires the city to raise matching grants over the next five years. Details of how the money will be spent have yet to be released. But Mr. Booker is likely to expand Newark's high-performing charter schools. By giving charter operators space — always the most expensive part of opening a school — Mr. Booker could easily chose from among the most successful charter school operators.


The money also could be used to pay for a new, performance-based teachers' contract like the one ratified earlier this year in Washington. The teachers there got a 20 percent raise that was underwritten by private foundations. The city got greater leeway to promote and fire teachers based on performance. This is a pivotal moment for Newark. It will soon be searching for a new superintendent and needs to negotiate contracts with teachers and principals.


Gov. Chris Christie is getting credit for allowing the deal to go forward. But bear in mind that he attacked the public school budget with a meat ax soon after coming into office, turning back the clock on hard-won financing reforms that were intended to give poor cities like Newark a fairer shake. Beyond that, states and municipalities need to be wary of shifting public responsibilities onto the shoulders of philanthropies that can easily change their minds by the next cause.


Still, the reform effort shaping up in Newark gives us reason to be hopeful about a problem that has afflicted the city and its most vulnerable families for too long.







Here is a shocking statistic: nearly two million people — mostly women and children — in the developing world die annually from illnesses brought on by breathing toxic smoke from indoor cooking stoves. The Obama administration is rightly doing something about it.


On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a global partnership aimed at providing 100 million clean-burning stoves to villages in Africa, Asia and South America. That would cover about one-fifth of the 500 million poor families that burn wood, crop waste, coal, even dung, for cooking and heating.


The United States will provide $50 million in seed money to the project, known as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Other countries and private organizations have pledged a mere $10 million to the cause. But, as Mrs. Clinton noted, "we have to start somewhere," and Washington will, and must, press for more.


Researchers have long known of the risks of primitive indoor stoves — including pneumonia in children, lung cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular disease. They have also known that these stoves contribute to global warming by producing large quantities of fine-particle soot normally associated with diesel engines and burning down forests.


The replacement stoves are relatively small, simple cylindrical devices costing less than $100 and capable of capturing between half and 95 percent of the harmful emissions. The program will sensibly not use the money to buy and ship stoves but, rather, to create small manufacturing companies close to the target populations — creating new jobs in the process. This is an ingenious and overdue response to a global problem.








One of the oddities of the current moment is that the country wants a radical change in government but not a radical change in policy.


On the one hand, voters are completely disgusted with Washington. On the other hand, they have not changed their fundamental views on the issues. There has been some shift to the right over the past two years, but the policy landscape looks mostly the way it did over the last few decades. We're still a closely divided nation; it's just that we're angrier about it.


The result is that over the next two years we'll probably see gridlock on stilts. The energized Republicans will try to reduce the size of government, but they won't be able to get their bills past President Obama. The surviving Democrats will try to expand government programs, but they will run smack into a closely divided Senate and possibly a Republican-controlled House.


Unable to do anything in the short term, both parties will devote their energies to nothing but campaign gestures for 2012. The rhetoric will fly. Childishness will mount. Public nausea will hit an all-time high.


Somewhere in the country, though, there is a politician who is going to try to lead us out of this logjam. Whoever that person is, I hope he or she is listening carefully to what the public is saying. Because when you listen carefully, you notice the public anger doesn't quite match the political class anger. The political class is angry about ideological things: bloated government or the predatory rich. The public seems to be angry about values.


The heart of any moral system is the connection between action and consequences. Today's public anger rises

from the belief that this connection has been severed in one realm after another.


Financiers send the world into recession and don't seem to suffer. Neighbors take on huge mortgages and then

just walk away when they go underwater. Washington politicians avoid living within their means. Federal

agencies fail and get rewarded with more responsibilities.


What the country is really looking for is a restoration of responsibility. If some smart leader is going to help us get out of ideological gridlock, that leader will reframe politics around this end.


Philip K. Howard has thought hard about the decay of responsibility and what can be done to reverse it. In a series of books ranging from "The Death of Common Sense" to "Life Without Lawyers," Howard has detailed the ways our political and legal systems undermine personal responsibility.


Over the past several decades, he argues, a thicket of spending obligations, rules and regulations has arisen, which limits individual discretion, narrows room for maneuver and makes it harder to assign responsibility.


Presidents find that more and more of their budgets are precommitted to entitlement spending. Cabinet secretaries find that their agenda can't really be enacted because 100 million words of existing federal rules and statutes prevent innovation this way and that. Even when a new law is passed, it's very hard to tell who is responsible for executing it because there is a profusion of agencies and bureaucratic levels all with some share of the pie.


These things weaken individual initiative, discretion and responsibility. But the decay expands well beyond Washington. Teachers don't really control their classrooms. They have to obey a steady stream of mandates that govern everything from how they treat an unruly child to the way they teach. Doctors don't really control their practices but must be wary of a capricious malpractice system that could strike at any moment. Local government officials don't really govern their towns. Their room for maneuver is sharply constrained by federal mandates and by the steady stream of lawsuits that push them in ways defying common sense.


What's needed, Howard argues, is a great streamlining. He's not calling for deregulation. It's about giving teachers, doctors and officials the power to actually make decisions and then holding them accountable. Some of their choices will be wrong, Howard acknowledges, but it is better to live in an imperfect world of individual responsibility than it is to live within a dehumanizing legal thicket that seeks to eliminate risk through a tangle of micromanaging statutes.


Howard proposes expanding specialized health courts, which would be more predictable than the malpractice system. He would lift controls on teachers and civil servants — giving them more freedom but then ending tenure and holding them accountable. He would create commissions to eliminate obsolete laws. He would expand judges' discretion and end mandatory sentencing.


Howard's agenda raises some thorny issues. But he has seized the crucial theme of the moment. If bad government undermines responsibility then it should be restructured. And he's offering one tool a creative politician could use to break through the logjam and help us avoid a truly awful few years.








Once upon a time, a Latin American political party promised to help motorists save money on gasoline. How? By building highways that ran only downhill.


I've always liked that story, but the truth is that the party received hardly any votes. And that means that the joke is really on us. For these days one of America's two great political parties routinely makes equally nonsensical promises. Never mind the war on terror, the party's main concern seems to be the war on arithmetic. And this party has a better than even chance of retaking at least one house of Congress this November.


Banana republic, here we come.


On Thursday, House Republicans released their "Pledge to America," supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, "Deficits are a terrible thing. Let's make them much bigger." The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration's tax proposals.


True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there's only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That's less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — "except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops." In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.


So what's left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won't cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: "No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress."


The "pledge," then, is nonsense. But isn't that true of all political platforms? The answer is, not to anything like the same extent. Many independent analysts believe that the Obama administration's long-run budget projections are somewhat too optimistic — but, if so, it's a matter of technical details. Neither President Obama nor any other leading Democrat, as far as I can recall, has ever claimed that up is down, that you can sharply reduce revenue, protect all the programs voters like, and still balance the budget.


And the G.O.P. itself used to make more sense than it does now. Ronald Reagan's claim that cutting taxes would actually increase revenue was wishful thinking, but at least he had some kind of theory behind his proposals. When former President George W. Bush campaigned for big tax cuts in 2000, he claimed that these cuts were affordable given (unrealistic) projections of future budget surpluses. Now, however, Republicans aren't even pretending that their numbers add up.


So how did we get to the point where one of our two major political parties isn't even trying to make sense?


The answer isn't a secret. The late Irving Kristol, one of the intellectual godfathers of modern conservatism, once wrote frankly about why he threw his support behind tax cuts that would worsen the budget deficit: his task, as he saw it, was to create a Republican majority, "so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government." In short, say whatever it takes to gain power. That's a philosophy that now, more than ever, holds sway in the movement Kristol helped shape.


And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.


Realistically, though, Republicans aren't going to have the power to enact their true agenda any time soon — if ever. Remember, the Bush administration's attack on Social Security was a fiasco, despite its large majority in Congress — and it actually increased Medicare spending.


So the clear and present danger isn't that the G.O.P. will be able to achieve its long-run goals. It is, rather, that Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way. As I said, banana republic, here we come.








LIKE many popular insurgencies in American history, the Tea Party movement has attempted to enlist the founding fathers as fervent adherents to its cause. The very name invokes those disguised patriots who clambered aboard ships in Boston Harbor in December 1773 and dumped chests of tea into the water rather than submit to the hated tea tax. At Tea Party rallies, marchers brandish flags emblazoned with the Revolutionary slogan "Don't Tread on Me" while George Washington impersonators and other folks in colonial garb mingle with the crowds.


Many Tea Party candidates and activists have tried to seize the moral high ground by explicitly identifying with the founders. Sharron Angle, who is mounting a spirited run against Harry Reid for a Senate seat from Nevada with Tea Party support, bristled at Mr. Reid's contention that she is overly conservative. "I'm sure that they probably said that about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and Benjamin Franklin," she protested. "And, truly, when you look at the Constitution and our founding fathers and their writings ... you might draw those conclusions: That they were conservative. They were fiscally conservative and socially conservative."


The Tea Party movement has further sought to spruce up its historical bona fides by laying claim to the United States Constitution. Many Tea Party members subscribe to a literal reading of the national charter as a way of bolstering their opposition to deficit spending, bank bailouts and President Obama's health care plan. A Tea Party manifesto, called the Contract From America, even contains a rigid provision stipulating that all legislation passed by Congress should specify the precise clause in the Constitution giving Congress the power to pass such a law — an idea touted Thursday by the House Republican leadership.


But any movement that regularly summons the ghosts of the founders as a like-minded group of theorists ends up promoting an uncomfortably one-sided reading of history.


The truth is that the disputatious founders — who were revolutionaries, not choir boys — seldom agreed about anything. Never has the country produced a more brilliantly argumentative, individualistic or opinionated group of politicians. Far from being a soft-spoken epoch of genteel sages, the founding period was noisy and clamorous, rife with vitriolic polemics and partisan backbiting. Instead of bequeathing to posterity a set of universally shared opinions, engraved in marble, the founders shaped a series of fiercely fought debates that reverberate down to the present day. Right along with the rest of America, the Tea Party has inherited these open-ended feuds, which are profoundly embedded in our political culture.


As a general rule, the founders favored limited government, reserving a special wariness for executive power, but they clashed sharply over those limits.


The Constitution's framers dedicated Article I to the legislature in the hope that, as the branch nearest the people, it would prove pre-eminent. But Washington, as our first president, quickly despaired of a large, diffuse Congress ever exercising coherent leadership. The first time he visited the Senate to heed its "advice and consent," about a treaty with the Creek Indians, he was appalled by the disorder. "This defeats every purpose of my coming here," he grumbled, then departed with what one senator branded an air of "sullen dignity." Washington went back one more time before dispensing with the Senate's advice altogether, henceforth seeking only its consent.


President Washington's Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, wasted no time in testing constitutional limits as he launched a burst of government activism. In December 1790, he issued a state paper calling for the first central bank in the country's history, the forerunner of the Federal Reserve System.


Because the Constitution didn't include a syllable about such an institution, Hamilton, with his agile legal mind, pounced on Article I, Section 8, which endowed Congress with all powers "necessary and proper" to perform tasks assigned to it in the national charter. Because the Constitution empowered the government to collect taxes and borrow money, Hamilton argued, a central bank might usefully discharge such functions. In this way, he devised a legal doctrine of powers "implied" as well as enumerated in the Constitution.


Aghast at the bank bill, James Madison, then a congressman from Virginia, pored over the Constitution and could not "discover in it the power to incorporate a bank." Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was no less horrified by Hamilton's legal legerdemain. He thought that only measures indispensable to the discharge of enumerated powers should be allowed, not merely those that might prove convenient. He spied how many programs the assertive Hamilton was prepared to drive through the glaring loophole of the "necessary and proper" clause. And he prophesied that for the federal government "to take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn ... is to take possession of a boundless field of power."


After reviewing cogent legal arguments presented by Hamilton and Jefferson, President Washington came down squarely on Hamilton's side, approving the first central bank.


John Marshall, the famed chief justice, traced the rise of the two-party system to that blistering episode, and American politics soon took on a nastily partisan tone. That the outstanding figures of the two main factions, Hamilton and Jefferson, both belonged to Washington's cabinet attests to the fundamental disagreements within the country. Hamilton and his Federalist Party espoused a strong federal government, led by a powerful executive branch, and endorsed a liberal reading of the Constitution; although he resisted the label at first, Washington clearly belonged to this camp.


Jefferson and his Republicans (not related to today's Republicans) advocated states' rights, a weak federal government and strict construction of the Constitution. The Tea Party can claim legitimate descent from Jefferson and Madison, even though they founded what became the Democratic Party. On the other hand, Washington and Hamilton — founders of no mean stature — embraced an expansive view of the Constitution. That would scarcely sit well with Tea Party advocates, many of whom adhere to the judicial doctrine of originalism — i.e., that any interpretation of the Constitution must abide by the intent of those founders who crafted it.


Of course, had it really been the case that those who wrote the charter could best fathom its true meaning, one would have expected considerable agreement about constitutional matters among those former delegates in Philadelphia who participated in the first federal government. But Hamilton and Madison, the principal co-authors of "The Federalist," sparred savagely over the Constitution's provisions for years. Much in the manner of Republicans and Democrats today, Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians battled over exorbitant government debt, customs duties and excise taxes, and the federal aid to business recommended by Hamilton.


No single group should ever presume to claim special ownership of the founding fathers or the Constitution they wrought with such skill and ingenuity. Those lofty figures, along with the seminal document they brought forth, form a sacred part of our common heritage as Americans. They should be used for the richness and diversity of their arguments, not tampered with for partisan purposes. The Dutch historian Pieter Geyl once famously asserted that history was an argument without an end. Our contentious founders, who could agree on little else, would certainly have agreed on that.


Ron Chernow is the author of "Alexander Hamilton" and the forthcoming "Washington: A Life."









Republican leaders, it seems, are getting hit from both directions. On one side they are taking flak from their own voters who have been rejecting establishment candidates and demanding a new approach. On the other, the leaders face an argument fromDemocrats that they don't really stand for anything, other than being against whatever President Obama is for.


To deal with this crossfire, top House Republicans unveiled a set of principles Thursday for how they would legislate should they retake the majority in November. Taking a page from their 1994 playbook, when leaders penned a "Contract with America" en route to capturing the House, they call it "A Pledge to America."


Sprinkled within the document are some good ideas — a spending freeze for most domestic programs, a hiring freeze for most federal agencies, and the medical malpractice reform that's a glaring omission in the new health care law.


Overall, however, the GOP manifesto — which would repeal the health law and extend all the Bush tax cuts — is not so much an answer to critics as it is more fuel for the criticisms. It would do little to alter the trajectory of runaway government spending. It lacks the big ideas that the right yearns for. And it instills the obstructionist tendencies that the left loathes.


Take, for example, the call for repealing the health care law. This would eliminate what the Congressional Budget Officeestimates as $390 billion in net spending over the next decade. In the context of a government that is projected to spend $14 trillion on all health care programs over that period, that's hardly a solution. And, as the spending in the health care law is more than offset with tax hikes, repeal would add $143 billion to the deficit through 2020.


For this dubious budgetary achievement, 32.5 million people would be cut off from insurance they could otherwise acquire. And new limits on noxious insurance industry practices, which kicked in Thursday as the GOP pledge was introduced, would be rescinded.


Even more irresponsible is the pledge's vow to permanently extend all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Doing so would reduce federal revenue by $3.9 trillion over the next decade, every penny of it likely to be borrowed, as has largely been the case since the tax cuts were passed. This giveaway, along with a new tax deduction for small business income, would dwarf the savings from the proposed domestic spending and hiring freezes.


While those freezes might help induce a useful change in attitude about Washington's spending, the sad fact is the nation hasn't begun the conversation about the tough choices necessary, on taxes and benefits, to head off a looming debt crisis. The type of spending the GOP would freeze, called non-defense discretionary, will drop tojust 17.5% of all federal outlays in the year that starts Oct. 1.


The Democrats likewise have no plan for dealing with the explosion of health care and retirement spending projected in the next two decades, other than to say they await recommendations from a bipartisan deficit commission after the election. On the Republican side, one congressman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has put forth a bold, if flawed, proposal to control federal spending. But he can't even get much traction on his side of the aisle let alone from the other side.


That leaves the nation in a lamentable holding pattern. For now, the Republicans' pledge is best seen as more smoke and mirrors for the campaign trail, unless it's a blueprint for governing in the borrow-and-spend fashion they mastered when last in charge.








With our Pledge to America, HouseRepublicans have crafted a comprehensive governing agenda after a transformative process of outreach through the America Speaking Out project. This is not a one-size-fits-all plan. Instead, it is an effort to set up an honest and full debate about the solutions we need by casting an overarching theme reflecting the American people's needs and desires.


Because we are crafting this agenda based on such a tremendous volume of feedback, comment and critique, we are able to speak with clarity on a broad range of issues the American people are concerned about: the economy, transparency and accountability in the federal government, and true health care reform that will bring down costs.


Eighteen months after a $1 trillion stimulus package, the economy remains troubled and the national unemployment rate hovers near 10%. Our plan puts job creation and economic recovery first. We have charted a course to bring the certainty our recovery requires. We have pledged to block a massive, job-killing tax increase on all Americans, and to rein in unpredictable regulations.


The institutions of the federal government are due for a change after this period where we have seen a startling display of deeply unpopular policies advancing largely on the basis of ideology. When the government no longer serves the public interest, it is the right and responsibility of the governed to take back control and to chart a new course.


The American people have expressed just that desire for a new course with the Democrats' new health care law. House Republicans pledge to repeal it and replace it with reforms that will actually reduce costs and bring meaningful coverage expansions. Sixty percent of people do not like the new health care law, and the more they know about it, the less they like about it.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now-famously said that "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." We have found out. The president said this would bend the cost curve down, but now we know that not to be true. This sort of Washington-knows-best arrogance is emblematic of how Washington has been run.


House Republicans are pledging to deliver an alternative way forward, offering an agenda that will allow us to turn the page on this period and deal with the issues the American people are most concerned about.


Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., was a leading architect of the new Republican agenda.









YANKEE STADIUM — "The House The Boss Built" brought together sometimes feuding "family" members — both professional and personal — at a heart-warming memorial for the late George Steinbrenner here Monday night.


The fact that the Yankees Beat Tampa Bay 8-6 on their way to a likely second consecutiveWorld Series championship helped. But events off the playing field were even more touching. Among them:


Joe Torre was back.


•So was Steve Swindal.


Torre left in a huff in 2007 after the Steinbrenners offered him a new contract based on future performance. He wrote a book sharply critical of The Boss.


Swindal, The Boss' son-in-law who was scheduled to succeed him, left in 2007 after a divorce from the Steinbrenner's oldest and charming daughter Jennifer.


On Monday night, both were back.


Torre marched with the Yankee team from the dugout to the center field celebration of the new memorial for The Boss.


Swindal was a proud observer as his and Jennifer's daughter Haley sang God Bless America behind home plate in The Boss's traditional seventh inning patriotic ceremony.


As a longtime friend of The Boss and a guest in his suite for most important games for over 25 years, two other scenes touched me:


Mariano Rivera lingering at the monument and reminiscing after all other players and family left.


Yogi Berra sitting alone and silently at The Boss' huge table in his suite, reminiscing.


Looking ahead rather than back: Hal, only 40, is doing a superb but low key job of following in his father's footsteps.


If you're a Yankee hater, you're in for some more sad years. If you're a Yankee lover, Hal likely will keep you as happy or happier than The Boss did.


Feedback: Other views on Steinbrenner


"Hal does not share his father's utter desperation to win, but who does? The Yankees' resources will keep the team powerful for years to come."


Ken Rosenthal, senior baseball writer, Fox Sports

"Sorry, Al, but George Steinbrenner never thought he was bigger than the players, and I'm guessing he would have been embarrassed by the size of his obscenely giant monument."


Bill Plaschke, sports columnist, Los Angeles Times








On Feb. 27, 2009, President Obama set a date for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq, declaring that while the country we would leave behind would not be perfect, the United States would have reached its "achievable goals" and must move on.


I've thought about that moment a lot lately since I watched the president keep his promise by announcing the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq. Without question, the primary recognition should be focused on the nearly 1.5 million Americans who put their lives on the line and the more than 4,400 who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for values that have defined the fabric of our nation for more than two centuries.


But for me, the moment compelled me to reflect on the year I spent in Baghdad while serving as a battalion chaplain. And it was the little-noticed personal stories that came to my mind. I thought about the day a soldier unexpectedly told me: "Chaplain, I'm ready to be baptized." I said, "Wonderful. We can make it happen this Sunday." His reply: "No, you don't understand. Tomorrow is not promised. I'm ready right now!" A few hours later I baptized him in a makeshift baptismal pool.


I thought about my amazement and pride in how many soldiers from various ethnic, religious and social backgrounds were able to put their differences aside and focus on a common enemy.


I thought about how many of these soldiers became leaders overnight. Though most had not graduated at the top of their high school classes or been voted "most likely to succeed," unlike some of their civilian counterparts back home, they were forced to grow up much faster, often making split-second decisions that could be the difference between life and death.


As Operation Iraqi Freedom ends, I wonder what historians in the years ahead will remember most about this war? I know that I'll not only remember the souls of those who died in combat, but those little-noticed personal war stories that didn't make the front pages of national and local newspapers. Those are the stories about when boys were forced to become men, when some put their faith in my hands, and when soldiers set aside their differences for a common goal in defense of their country's values.


Capt. James Key is a U.S. Army chaplain at Fort Myer, Virginia. He is the author of the new book Touch and Go: From the Streets of South Central Los Angeles to the War in Iraq.







The Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal,in an editorial: "In case you were out looking for a job or trying to figure out how to make your mortgage payment and missed the good news, we'll repeat it for you here: The Great Recession is officially over. ... The view from the ivory tower obviously looks quite different from the view on the streets. For millions of Americans, this recession isn't over yet — not by a long shot. ... Americans in all income brackets are worried about the future of the economy. This translates into weak consumer spending and limited investment in the business sector. The recovery won't take off until confidence in the economy is restored."


The (Greenville, N.C.) Daily Reflector, in an editorial: "That the economy's contraction may have abated some 15 months ago means little to an American populace still suffering in the worst financial climate since the Great Depression. Putting people back to work and creating a climate for recovery stands as the most pressing concern facing this country and the most prominent topic of debate leading up to November. ... The economic ruin is widespread, deep and profound, and it will take years of growth to recover, assuming that a full restoration is possible. ... The end of a recession should not be confused with the start of recovery."


John Cassidy, blogger, on The New Yorker: "Apparently, we have been enjoying 15 months of economic recovery. ... You still don't get it? ... Blame it on the civilian-academic divide. To most people, as the old saying goes, a recession is when your neighbor is out of work, and a depression is when you are out of work. But when professional economists talk about recessions, they mean something much narrower and more precise: a period during which economic output shrinks. According to the national income accounts, output and income both stopped contracting in June 2009. So that's when the recession ended."


Richard 'RJ' Eskow, contributing writer, on The Huffington Post: "According to a flurry of headlines ... a panel of economists just announced that 'the recession's over.' Is that true? Yes. Does that mean we're no longer in a crisis, or that steps to fix the economy aren't as urgently needed as they were before? Absolutely not. The situation on the ground — in the lives of the millions of people who must survive in today's economy — hasn't changed. We still need jobs, and we still need a concerted government effort to create them. The economists weren't declaring an end to the problem, but most Americans wouldn't understand that from the way the story was covered. ... Today's report doesn't change the fact that massive public spending is needed if we are to fix the damage that's been done and become the nation we want to be. ... More must be done to get people back to work. More must be done to rein in the runaway bankers who caused this problem. And we need to make sure people don't confuse 'an end to the recession' with 'an end to the misery.' "


The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, in an editorial: "From a historical perspective, we guess it's good to know when an event begins and ends. ... Unfortunately, this recession or any other is more than an academic exercise. ... Possibly the most painful realization is that while the recession is over in technical terms, most economists don't expect employment levels to return to the 5% to 6% level for another three years. That's not good news forDemocrats. The midterm elections won't be decided by the performance of Wall Street, or corporations that are hoarding more cash than at any other time in American history."











Many experienced observers say that China and the United States are moving in opposite directions. China, buoyed by its growing wealth and the influence it brings, is on the ascendancy. The United States, saddled with continuing economic uncertainties, with the cost of two wars and with divisive internal politics, is in decline. That might have been an accurate evaluation a few months ago, but it is not now. That is especially and surprisingly so in Asia.


The United States' increase in influence in the region increasingly dominated by China has little do with changes in U.S. policy, though that has helped. It has far more to do with China's deteriorating relations with neighbors, particularly Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. China's heavy-handed actions on a variety of issues have infuriated and, perhaps, frightened regional leaders. The result: Many Southeast Asian nations that not so long ago were cool towards the United States now actively seek its friendship and cooperation. In diplomatic circles, that counts as a significant triumph.


The catalyst for the souring relationships is China's claim that the entire South China Sea — an area flush with oil, natural gas and fish — belongs to it, and that it will act forcefully if necessary to protect that interest. That understandably angers Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. Each has made territorial claims on the sea. It's an important issue for both strategic and economic issues.


The United States, of course, has vital interests in the area. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made it clear the United States will protect them. Earlier this year, she told a group of Asian leaders that Chinese claims on two islands in the region contradicted U.S. interests and that she wanted to play a role in resolving issue. China did not take up the offer; it said the United States was interfering in its affairs.


In addition, Japan and China are at odds over maritime and fishing issues. China has protested U.S. involvement in naval exercises with South Korea. It claims that the operations infringe on Chinese military operations. Other disputes between China and other regional governments vary in intensity and importance, but have one thing in common. Each pushes the nation allegedly threatened by China closer to the United States.


President Barack Obama will surely attempt to nurture and expand the United States' growing influence in the region when he meets with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations today. The group is expected to issue a statement advocating peaceful resolution rather than the use of force to resolve the South China Sea disputes. That's likely to anger China and increase the diplomatic distance between it and its neighbors. The United States should work diligently to fill the resultant vacuum.







Many pet owners obey state law that requires rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats. Other responsible owners extend that protection to other animals such as ferrets and horses, as well. Too many, however, fail to protect their animals against what can be a deadly disease. The public is at risk as a result.


In Hamilton County, for example, a significant number of pet dogs and cats have not been vaccinated. Dr. Jennifer Kolb, president of the Hamilton County Veterinary Medical Association, says recent reports indicate that only 56 percent of the dogs in the county and 20 percent of the cats in the county are vaccinated. Though no cases have been reported so far this year, history strongly suggests that a low rate of vaccination puts an unacceptably high number of pets and pet owning families at risk for rabies.


Pet vaccinations — available at low-cost clinics in the spring or at vets' offices the year around — are vital to public safety, according to health officials and veterinarians. They preserve what is called a "buffer zone" to protect people from rabies. Vaccination of pets is the first and the best line way to safeguard those who come into contact with pets from the possibility of a rabies infection.


That's because pets are far more likely than humans to come into contact with typical carriers of rabies — raccoons, bats and foxes. If a family pet is bitten by rabid wildlife — an increasing possibility as the distance between human and wildlife habitation narrows and even merges — it will not contract the disease if it has been vaccinated. If it hasn't been vaccinated, they're likely to contract the ailment and to pass it on.


That's particularly troubling since health care experts say rabies is sometimes difficult to detect in its early stages. Rabid animals in the early stages might not have any overt signs of sickness or the aggression associated with the disease in its later stages. Thus a loving and unwitting pet owner could get the disease from incidental contact — a lick of the hand that touches an open sore or cut — and pass it on.


Rabies is fatal to animals and humans if it is not treated promptly. Fortunately, deaths are far less common than they once were. Treatments, including shots, that are widely available, and physicians and patients say they are not as debilitating as they once were. The regimen is most effective if rabies is confirmed and treated promptly.


The lack of reported cases here so far this year should not lull pet owners into complacency. Rabies remains a threat. Given the surprisingly low rate of vaccinations, it is difficult to say whether many pet owners willfully disobey the law or simply forget to protect their pets. Those who fail to have their animals inoculated should remember that the law requires them to do so. They, their families and their acquaintances would be far safer if they did so.







Time flies! It's already fall 2010. Our next presidential election campaigning will surely begin soon, if it hasn't already!

We know who one presidential candidate will be, of course. He's President Barack Obama.


But even some Democrats are still wondering how and why he was nominated — and elected — a couple of years ago! Compared with all of the presidents we have had, surely the inexperienced Obama was a very unlikely one. And in office, he has not proved he will be one of the great ones.


What did he do as a senator that recommended him? What has he done as president that recommends him for re-election?


It's easy to list the reasons Obama should not be re-elected in 2012. But you know the old saying: "You can't beat 'somebody' with 'nobody'"!


Realistic presidential candidates, especially non-incumbents, need lots of time, preparation, money-raising, organizing, speaking out on the issues and more to have any possibility of election success.


So if you are hesitant about keeping Obama in the White House through 2016, it is certainly time for one or more accomplished, outstanding, capable, qualified presidential candidates — who might have a legitimate chance to be elected — to emerge!


As yet, no such one has clearly risen into public consciousness! That's very disappointing.


Oh, some "names" have been mentioned. But who do you think we might pick who really would be a great president?


If you want a better president than the one we have, whom would you suggest?


What would you want him to stand for — and against?


What would you desire in his character, his experience, and his ability to inspire and lead us and our nation in the right direction and to avoid many possible mistakes?


Can you make a "list" of people you believe would be highly qualified, suitable — and electable?


For most us today, our current list of impressive potential presidential candidates is rather short, or nonexistent. That fact makes it even more imperative for us to begin to settle on two or three really outstanding and qualified people — soon. It takes time to put a presidential candidate before the people, to let him fully introduce himself, and to become adequately acquainted with him.


So, despite the fact the next presidential election is not till 2012, the time is getting short for the next genuinely qualified presidential candidate to appear and earn general majority support — unless, that is, you would be satisfied to have Obama continue not only through 2012 — but for "four more years" after that!







The Obama administration has not always seemed to fully understand just how tough things are financially for lots of Americans.


In a speech in late April, for instance, President Barack Obama said, "We're moving forward. Our economy is stronger; that economic heartbeat is growing stronger." He has made similar assurances since then.


The administration offers those assurances despite unemployment at 9.6 percent, and "underemployment" that has millions more Americans working only part time when they need full-time jobs. And even as hundreds of thousands of our people continue to lose their homes to foreclosure, the administration says we're "on the right track."


All those assurances have been cold (or no) comfort to the unemployed, the underemployed and those who have lost their homes, because the president's rhetoric does not create jobs, nor pay mortgages, nor buy groceries.


And ironically, there is now evidence that Americans' economic circumstances were growing worse even as the president was proclaiming back in April that things were getting better. The Federal Reserve says that in the April-to-June quarter, American households lost a net $1.5 trillion in wealth. That includes losses in things such as the value of homes and other assets, as well as the value of 401(k) plans that many rely on for retirement.


The average U.S. household lost almost $13,000 in its net worth from just April through June, the Federal Reserve reported.


"Households failed even to run in place during the April-June quarter," The Associated Press noted, and "household net worth would have to surge 23 percent to reach its pre-recession peak."


Economists are saying it may be the middle of this decade — five years away! — before the American people even get back to where they were financially, much less make any progress.


Despite the president's assurances to the contrary, we see little evidence that the president's and congressional Democrats' massive "stimulus" spending and their threats of higher taxes are turning the economy around.


Isn't it past time for a different approach, since the current one has proved so counterproductive?







President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats in Congress are playing a bit of a word game by assuring the nation that our economy is on the mend and is in "recovery." They point, in part, to very modest private-sector job creation to make that claim.


What they don't point out is that the small number of private-sector jobs being created is not nearly enough to keep up with the natural growth of the size of the workforce, from high school and college graduates, immigrants and so forth.


People are entering the workforce roughly twice as fast as companies can create jobs to provide them employment.


With the need for jobs growing much faster than the creation of jobs, employment is obviously losing, rather than gaining, ground.


Yet some still insist on calling that "recovery."


It surely doesn't feel like recovery to those who are sadly part of our nation's 9.6 percent unemployment rate, nor to millions more who are involuntarily "underemployed."


It will take more than word games to help them.







For 42 years, our nation could not properly honor one of our heroes of the Vietnam War. That's because the hero, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger, of Hamburg, Pa., was on a top secret mission when he was killed.


Etchberger was an electronics expert who had no formal combat training. But in March 1968, he gave up his life to save his comrades. He was helping evacuate wounded men from a radar station in Laos, which borders Vietnam, when he single-handedly fended off Communist North Vietnamese soldiers. After getting three men on their way to safety, he died when enemy troops' fire struck the helicopter that was trying to rescue him.


Now, President Barack Obama has posthumously presented Etchberger the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military honor. If Etchberger had survived, "He would be here just saying, 'I was doing my job up there,'" his son told reporters at the White House ceremony.


But it was a job that showed tremendous courage and that cost him his life. Decades later, we acknowledge his selfless service with humble gratitude.










We ask readers to return to last March when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched what was called


the "Roma initiative." At the historical first address to Europe's oldest Roma community, the prime minister won a roaring ovation from the 12,000-strong crowd.


"Our country, our land and our civilization is inspired by love and tolerance," Erdoğan said in his opening address. "It is the lack of tolerance that is the sole factor that destroys the inspiration our land is built on."


Noting his own childhood among the Roma in Istanbul's Kasımpaşa neighborhood, he decried the discrimination and racism he claimed to have witnessed many times. "What is important is that you are people and should be treated no different from the other people who live on this land."


In the course of Erdoğan's unveiling of plans to improve Roma housing in 40 provinces, improve education and create new employment opportunities, one woman told us: "'Today is the first time I cried out of happiness."


We applauded Erdoğan for his stance at the time. We do so again today. But we also must remind readers of the circumstance of hypocrisy that now exists, as Fatih Municipality, which is controlled by Erdoğan's own Justice and Development Party, is allegedly profiteering from expropriated Roma land in Sulukule. We also must remind readers, particularly at a time when Roma face growing threats and hatred in the European Union, that Istanbul's Sulukule has been home to the Roma continuously since the 9th Century.


What has happened is that land purchased through the right of eminent domain 18 months ago for about 500 lira per square meter is now being auctioned by the municipality for about 2,500 lira per square meter. Members of Turkey's Roma community, whose population officially is 500,000, are outraged. So are we.


Hacer Foggo, a community spokesman, noted the state housing authority has already begun constructing luxury residences in the already fast-gentrifying district near the Golden Horn. We do not doubt her claim that it will soon be filled with wealthy speculators and the families of the well-connected.


Ultimately, this will be ruled upon by the European Court of Human Rights, which already has a related case be before it. Turkey will again, as it has recently in the case arising from the murder of journalist Hrant Dink, agree to a "friendly settlement." State coffers will be tapped for some form of compensation. The profiteers, however, will already have secured their gains with impunity.


We can suggest an interim and imperfect solution, one that will certainly help Turkey's case in Strasbourg. This is that the sums now being accumulated by this government-led exercise in real estate be immediately placed in escrow on behalf of the interests of the Roma community. The use of the funds can be decided later. Given his promises, it is the least Erdoğan can do.







Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to receive accolades from the West for "liberalizing Turkey further and bringing it closer to Europe," as a result of the government's package of constitutional amendments, which got better-than-expected support in the Sept. 12 referendum.


Certain events taking place in Turkey, however, lead one to question whether the outcome of the referendum points to an actual liberalization of Turkish society or in fact to something quite different which points in the opposite direction.


The question is relevant since many sociologists and other observers of Turkish society are indicating now that the 58 percent "yes" vote in the referendum was more of an indication of support for the conservative and pro-Islamic Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, rather than for any genuine desire for liberalizing the country along secular lines.


The attack against an art gallery in Istanbul's Tophane district earlier this week by a club- and mace-spray-wielding mob is a good starting point in trying to answer this question. The mob apparently was angry that wine was being served at the reception held at the gallery. The guests, including foreigners, were brutalized, some requiring medical attention, leaving many questioning once again where the AKP is taking the country under the guise of "democratization."


Government spokesman Hüseyin Çelik, clearly aware of the need to be politically correct in this highly sensitive incident, condemned the attack, saying his party did not support such things regardless of where they came from, and added that they would ensure that those responsible were brought to justice.


While Çelik indicated that seven people had been arrested after the violent incident, almost all of these people had been released within hours of their arrest, something which fueled the social debate that followed this incident further. But the point here is not Çelik's political correctness in addressing the issue.


The point is that papers and those quarters that are politically close to the AKP were out there immediately trying to come up with justifications for the mob attack, and to shift the blame away from the aggressors on to those who were actually attacked. The bottom line in their arguments was that the locals were outraged when the wine-drinking guests at the gallery started spilling onto the pavement.


To a Western mind this sounds bizarre of course. After all, such things are a common scene in any major Western city of the world that considers it civilized. But obviously this is not possible in the heart of supposedly "secular" Istanbul's historic cultural region, known formerly as Pera and today as Beyoğlu and where the district of Tophane is located.


In the meantime there was no suggestion in the reports on any incident of drunkenness or rowdiness among the guests at the exhibition, who were ordinary well-dressed Westernized middle-class Turkish men and women, making any suggestion of rowdiness by them absurd to start off with.


The bottom line is that the perceived offence was the fact that the guests at the exhibition were drinking wine in an Islamic neighborhood, which one can clearly read as an Islamic fundamentalist neighborhood after this event. In other words, those Westernized guests were in effect "the enemy," to be beaten and left senseless if possible, but chased out of the district at all costs.


So where does an ugly rabble such as this get the courage to carry out such a violent attack in the heart of a megalopolis like Istanbul, which is supposed to be a "European Capital of Culture 2010," a stone's throw away from the local police station? Where does all this fit in terms of Istanbul being a "European city," let alone being a "Capital of Culture?" This is the main question to be asked by those observing Turkey and the AKP.


Many are now suggesting that this event is the result of the AKP's political success, and that it will be replicated in other parts of the country as time goes on. The argument is that fundamentalists were emboldened further by the results of the recent referendum, in which they did not vote "yes" for a democratic and liberal Turkey, but for a much more conservative and religious one given that the AKP is in power.


In the meantime many also recall the "AKP mindset's" perception of Westernized art forms. For example it was Erdoğan himself who, as mayor of Istanbul in 1994, suggested openly in an interview that ballet was a "below-the-waistline exercise," meaning that it was immoral and had to do with sex.


This is what he said, reflecting in doing so that he has no notion of what ballet is, and confusing it instead with burlesque dancing:


"It is known what a ballerina does, what she displays and for whom this is appealing. This is why I say clearly that I am for everything that does not go below the waist. But I am against anything that does, because one of cultural imperialism's most important branches today is to make people focus under the waistline," he said.


What he meant by "cultural imperialism" was course "Western cultural imperialism," and he continued to reflect his attitude when saying not so long ago that Turkey has taken all the immoral aspects of the West – no doubt meaning ballet and the like.


This general mentality was also reflected in another context during the recent World Basketball Championship in Turkey, when the cheerleaders, who have become part and parcel of the game, were told not to appear during the Turkey-Russia game because Erdoğan and his wife were going to attend.


Yet another example of what the AKP's understanding of art is was seen when Melih Gökçek, the AKP's Ankara mayor, insulted Mehmet Aksoy, a leading Turkish sculptor, some years ago because of a sculpture he made for Ankara depicting two lovers. Gökçek's response to what he and his kind considered to be an obscenity was, "I spit on such art."


Given this background one has to seriously question whether Erdoğan and the AKP are genuinely liberalizing Turkey or are merely introducing selective legal changes, albeit important ones, to try and consolidate their political position in Turkey by undermining the existing fortresses of Kemalism. Events like the one in Tophane should help focus minds in this respect.


In the meantime it should be no surprise to U2's Bono – who had a piece in the Daily News about their recent concert in Istanbul and his meeting with Erdoğan – that Turkey's chief EU negotiator Egemen Bağış (a key AKP figure) should have been booed during the concert at the first mention of his name.


It is after all increasingly clear to many people in Turkey that Western culture and the AKP's general cultural orientation do not provide a convincing mix, and the proof appears to be the fact that the country is being allowed to slide into Islamic conservatism more and more under this government.


The Tophane incident provides only the latest example. It is also clear where such events lead to in Turkey if left on their own. We saw this in 1993 when the Madımak Hotel in Sivas was burned down by an Islamic rabble, killing 33 people in cold blood, most of them Alevis and  among whom were some of Turkey's best-known poets, bards and thinkers.








I am not going to comment on the popular incident in Tophane/Beyoğlu in which about 50 conservative locals attacked two art galleries with knives, pepper spray, iron bars, batons and broken glass, and sent seven guests (including one Polish and one German) to hospital because "those strangers acted against our neighbourhood's morals and traditions." I am not going to comment, either, on the public prosecutor who was beaten because he was smoking during Ramadan. All that would be tantamount to commenting on cold weather in an Icelandic newspaper.


One Daily News reader's comment on the Tophane/Beyoğlu violence was probably more captivating than any columnist's (Tomtom posted, addressing his 'Kemalist' friends): "After your forefathers kicked the non-Muslim population from Istanbul that's the kind of people you'll have to get used to living with. So, don't complain about it." I admit there is a bit of oversimplification in Tomtom's words and the outburst probably comes out a feeling revenge. But that does not diminish the comment's wisdom.


I am not going to comment, either, on my fellow columnist Mustafa Akyol's recent piece, "'Secular doesn't mean liberal'" (Daily News, Sept. 22, 2010). Mr Akyol's reconciliatory title with which no sane man could disagree was followed by a text trying to forcefully prove to a foreign audience that Islamist/conservative Turks were in fact more liberal-minded than secular Turks.


One of Mr Akyol's few 'facts' supporting his argument was that a 'liberal' columnist had called İzmir 'the capital of fascism' (İzmir, as Mr Akyol pointed out, is otherwise known by the conservatives as 'infidel İzmir' because of its modern ways of living). So, be it. With scientific evidence Mr Akyol has proved that secular Turks are fascist-minded, intolerant, illiberal creatures, and İzmir is their capital – though, knowing his target audience, I was amused by his rather "don't love them, love us" language. No objections to that either. Yes, foreigners should love Islamist/conservative Turks.


The clash of opinions on any subject on the theme 'Turks are more liberal' and the way competing ideas are formulated, twisted, corrupted and nicely packaged have reached near-insanity. If we are really seeking 'the inescapable truth' rather than trying to make a career in propaganda there must be better ways than filling up hundreds of pages of books and newspaper columns.


I am not very optimistic that Mr Akyol would volunteer for a nice little sociological experiment to find out the truth because he kindly turned down a similar proposal a few years earlier. Yet I shall insist.


Here is my simple proposal in the name of science.


Experiment 1: I shall be disguised as a radical Muslim and go to the 'bastion of secular fascism' to mix with the locals. I shall make public speeches at main squares, on the streets and in coffeehouses. My speeches will basically tell the locals about the virtues of faith, condemn non-believers, and curse the locals because their 'infidel' town voted 'no' on Sept. 12. In return Mr. Akyol will be disguised as a radical secularist, go to my choice of a central Anatolian city and follow the experiment's pattern by making public speeches basically telling the locals about the virtues of atheism, condemn believers and curse the locals because their 'damned' town voted 'yes' in the referendum. If we both survive Phase I, we shall move on to Phase II.


Experiment 2: Same us. And the same locations for both of us. This time no radical secularist/Kemalist or Islamist attire or accessories. We'll both sport a Christian appearance and talk to the locals like missionaries, telling them we are at their doorsteps to convert them to Christianity. If we survive Phase II, then the final stage of our experiment will begin.


Experiment 3: Same us, same locations. But in this phase no Kemalist/Islamist/Christian attire. Mr Akyol and I will dress up like Orthodox Jews and talk to the locals to tell them about the virtues of Judaism and Israel's right to exist in our region.


I declare that I will volunteer for my part of this little experiment whose findings, I am absolutely certain, will give us an idea about which Turks really are less illiberal and less intolerant to 'the other.'


Like I did in my proposal a few years earlier, I must insist extra-extra tight (but surely discreet) security for Mr. Akyol's well-being. But he should not care about the well-being of this fellow journalist. I won't demand any security for myself.


I am hoping that Mr. Akyol will trust the Anatolian conservatives' tolerant, liberal attitudes and agree to my proposal. Sometimes one little real-life experiment on sociological matters can be worth a hundred scientific papers. 


Should Mr. Akyol think this a too tiring and unnecessary experiment requiring a lot of logistics, I can alternatively propose a smaller test: As we are on the way to our respective cities, we choose an average real estate agent, knock on its door, step in, pretend we are homosexuals and ask for an apartment and see which one of us can more easily get one. Well, OK, forget this last proposal dear column neighbour… This one could be dangerous for both of us!








On Wednesday, a lot of Azerbaijani people expressed their great delight at the confirmation of Matthew Bryza as the new ambassador to Azerbaijan by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. This feeling is logical for Azerbaijani people, because Washington has failed to appoint a new ambassador to Azerbaijan for over a year. Baku has viewed this inaction as proof of U.S. disrespect and disinterest in the development of Azerbaijani-U.S. bilateral relations.


Although the U.S. president nominated Bryza, a skillful diplomat who is a former Minsk Group co-chair, the U.S. Senate has delayed his validation because of the Armenian diaspora's strong lobbying efforts. The Armenian community is opposed to Bryza's appointment because of concerns over his partiality, as they view him as a diplomat with close ties to Azerbaijan who intends to strengthen U.S. interests there. The current impasse, from Baku's vantage point, looks like disrespect, or the dysfunction of the U.S. political system, or both. As a result, conclusions have been made in Baku about the U.S. capacity for leadership in the region.


Since the election of Barack Obama, recent developments showed that his administration's initial focus on the Caucasus was to push for the opening of the Armenia-Turkey border at any cost, even as the U.S. president "forgot" to appoint an ambassador to Baku. Starting in 2009, suffering from "cartographic camouflage," Obama's administration not only failed to develop, but even decreased the importance of the U.S.-Azerbaijan strategic partnership.


Many analysts ask the question: Is the United States losing Azerbaijan?


During this time both countries asked fundamental questions about the future of U.S.-Azerbaijan strategic relations. Both countries' politicians argued that the Obama administration has obviously failed to understand the importance of the region and there was a growing belief among the Azerbaijani public regarding Washington's "neglect" toward Azerbaijan.


Time showed that realpolitik has its limits in a fluid strategic environment, where the perspectives of a regional and a global power often diverge and sustainable relationships require commitment and frequent high-level consultation.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during her visit in July. At the meeting Aliyev said he expected the U.S. "to work closely with us [Azerbaijan] and with others on the resolution [of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict]." After Clinton, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an emergency visit to Baku, which jump-started the fence mending. It brought new hopes of the solution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and fresh air to the strategic partnership.


Clearly, after the August War in 2008, Azerbaijan stands as the strongest state among the three South Caucasus countries and Washington should review first of all its policy toward Baku because of their common interests.


On one hand, Azerbaijan needs U.S. assistance in the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and in balancing regional actors like Russia and Iran. Even if in the recent two years Azerbaijan adopted an "offensive tactic" in response to U.S. policy, after the new Russian regional initiatives, Baku is ready to renew its dialogue with Washington.


It may also be that last year's economic development caused by the increasing energy cooperation of Azerbaijan made a serious contribution to the strengthening of its foreign policy arguments.


On the other hand, the U.S. has strong economic and mostly strategic interests in Azerbaijan because of its energy resources and geographical location in the neighborhood of Iran and Russia. The strong partnership with Azerbaijan answers the strategic questions in Washington, related to the consolidation of the U.S. presence in the Caucasus-Caspian Sea region, the dilution of Russia's regional influence and the isolation of Iran.


As a result, the United States needs to state its long-term policy priorities toward the region. To be precise, the U.S. government policy toward the region (as any other regions), involves a multitude of governmental bodies. Little or no active coordination exists at present between them, and occasionally their interests and policies are in outright confrontation, as is sometimes the case with the departments of State and Defense.


Such is the case of Bryza's appointment to Baku, opposed by congressmen who are supported by Armenian diaspora groups. Long-term strategy needs high-quality coordination between governmental structures. As for the future, the U.S. needs to promote a more proactive rather than reactive policy in the region, and in those terms the appointment of Bryza is a "first" step.


Zaur Shiriyev is a foreign policy analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies in Baku, Azerbaijan.








When one compares the terminology and depth that is used to discuss U.S. foreign policy with that of Turkish foreign policy, it becomes somewhat clear why Turkey's Middle East policy becomes "incomprehensible" and "unrealistic" from an American perspective and why the U.S. Middle East policy is seen as "mechanic" and "elementary" from a Turkish perspective.


Surprisingly when it comes to the Middle East, both the United States and Turkey arrive at the same conclusions, despite having completely different approaches. Therefore, the most important observation with regard to American and Turkish approaches toward the Middle East is that, when it comes to end results and primary objectives, there is little disagreement between the United States and Turkey.


However, come methodologies and operational approaches, Turkey and the United States become two cooks in the same kitchen. Turkey's policies come from a normative/culturalist perspective that is deeply intellectual and historical and also has a clear awareness of the role of culture in regional politics (i.e. how to do or say things), whereas the United States approaches from a strictly realist and Cartesian rational-choice point of view. Therefore, when both sides lay down their arguments, the American side perceives Turkey's positions as "wishful thinking," "ideological," "touchy-feely" and uncertain, whereas the Turkish side perceives American positions as "unnecessarily harsh," "cold," "too hasty" and sometimes "culturally ignorant."


Both Turks and Americans that think this methodological difference will cause rivalry or incompatibility are needlessly throwing a mutually beneficial and promising long-term relationship away – because methodologies aside, Turkish-American relations are not ultimately conflictual. There is a lot of dot connecting to do for sure, but this requires more engagement; not less. Both Turkish culturalism and American pragmatism are valuable approaches toward Middle Eastern politics and work best when utilized together. The best way to utilize this convergence in primary aims and difference in methodologies comes through giving Turkey more space to maneuver regionally and "do its own thing" in the Middle East, during which the United States could remain watchful and "receive," rather than "transmit" constantly, without acting too dramatically and allow Turkey to pursue all subtle and cultural options that feel foreign to the United States.


This is specifically valid at a time when the U.S. Department of the State is critically lacking personnel with necessary language and cultural training in its endeavors in the Middle East; most critically with regard to Iran. Turkey, meanwhile, must remain in close consultation and interaction with the United States, putting effort into making sure that it is understood well in Washington. If Turkey ends up exhausting all "soft-power" alternatives and still remains unable to decrease the tension in the region, and if – for example – Iran comes to a point that both Turkey and the United States find unacceptable, then the United States can act as a "safety net." But unlike the Iraq war build-up, this time Turkey will know that it has tried all other alternatives and will be more supportive of increasing U.S. involvement in the region at the governmental, executive-branch and public levels.


The Middle East at large will soon become the missing "third leg" of U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership. However, this relationship is also evolving from a rigid "strategic partnership" into a more complex, multi-layered interaction in which culture and perception will play a far more important role than ever. It would be wrong to demote this relationship for the sake of both sides; instead and to the contrary, there must be a renewed effort in engagement and more willingness to listen. More crucially than ever, U.S.-Turkish relations require culturally transliterate civil servants, analysts and leaders, as well as programs and organizations that will put effort into facilitating this transliteration.


Perhaps the relationship can be given a new and positive push by proposing an exchange program for the junior and mid-career diplomats between the U.S. Department of State and Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This will ensure that important things will not get lost in translation in this important partnership and will sow the seeds of longer-term cooperation between Turkey and the United States.


*H. Akın Ünver is the Ertegün lecturer of Turkish and Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. This is the second part of a piece that was originally published in Political Reflection (Vol. 1, no. 3), at the Center for Strategic Research and Analysis on Sept. 15, 2010.








Following the Sept. 12 constitutional amendment referendum former main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal has come back and said the results are a defeat for his party; therefore, a general convention should be convened as soon as possible. Social democrats are accustomed to have conventions and Baykal is more accustomed. His past is full of convention successes. If there were be one nowadays, he might have a surprise for us…


Don't pay attention to my remark "He might have a surprise for us," we all know that the Baykal period is over. As many bureaucrats and high judiciary members, he obviously has failed to catch up with changes and developments taking place in Turkey and in the world.


Baykal completely turned the CHP into a statist party. The CHP's approach to basic issues of Turkey was determined as though it was a typical state party. The CHP's being a statist party was also considered before Baykal's period. However, during his time, that characteristic got more strengthened. Baykal turned the party into the one in single-party era. It is better to remember that deviations before him had also occurred and breaks-up from the center took place.


In the early 1970s the CHP under the leadership of the late Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit challenged the late President İsmet İnönü and adopted an approach different from the statist tradition. The period March 12, 1971 in this sense could be regarded as an interesting period. The Justice Party, or AP, led by the former Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel cooperated with the military putschers as Ecevit was an anti-militarist.


In the aftermath of Sept. 12, 1980 military takeover the CHP became a statist party again. So Baykal took over the leadership at the end of long period of fights in the party administration.


Failing to understand the new Turkey Baykal united with statist bureaucrats, members of the high judiciary and top soldiers who resist democratization and change. Baykal resisted against the constitutional amendment, solution in Cyprus, ignored democratic initiatives to find a solution to the Kurdish question. He was dragged into a more statist course of line and austerity.


We should keep this background in mind while making assessments on Kılıçdaroğlu's leadership. Kılıçdaroğlu is from the southeastern province of Tunceli. He is of Kurdish and Alevi descent. Although the new CHP leader preferred to come forward with his bureaucratic personality rather than such "cosmopolitan" characteristic, he is really different from Baykal. Kılıçdaroğlu is a modest man except for his "typical Baykal-like polemics." He steps back at times, but makes different statements on the Kurdish conflict and the Dersim debates, contradicting Baykal's clique.


We can definitely say the Baykal period is over. However, the CHP Secretary General Önder Sav, who from the beginning, has involved in the Baykal period and come to the fore as the architecture of such hard-line structure in the party, was not sent away (Sav had played a crucial role in the Baykal resignation).


Therefore, two old "convention buddies" have remained in different sides. But the conflict that has occurred after a rooted friendship between the two still means something to the CHP. Baykal claims Sav controls the party half-in-half. And that is undeniable today.


However, this cannot go on. For the CHP traditions are not suitable. Besides, Sav still symbolizes the past in the eyes of CHP members who have turned their faces to the future.


In order for Kılıçdaroğlu to give new hope to people in the new period, a new administration is definitely needed. Discourse of innovation in the party with the old structure is not convincing (In this sense, Gürsel Tekin being appointed as the new vice chairman of the party right after the popular vote is quite meaningful).


The Kurdish conflict is one of the most important tests to determine Kılıçdaroğlu's journey as the new CHP leader from now on. Kılıçdaroğlu might have something new to say as he strengthens his old sayings. The new CHP leader had asked resignation of Onur Öymen who defended the Dersim massacre in the Baykal period. In that period, Kılıçdaroğlu had also asked a general amnesty for the solution of the Kurdish question. And during the referendum campaign trials he repeated the demand of general amnesty and said "If needed, we might have contacts with İmralı and Qandil."


Not only in the Kurdish conflict but in the issues of headscarf and the election threshold, we have seen Kılıçdaroğlu saying different things. He failed to elaborate some. Criticisms can be made as that he has failed to create new solid projects, but it is obvious that Kılıçdaroğlu represents a different identity and personality from the classical Baykal line.


We all see how much of a chance Kılıçdaroğlu will have in the CHP and in Turkey. As Turkey changes, social democrat grassroots change, too. And they have contacts with the world. Even a hard-line political party like the CHP experiences critical changes inside and will continue to do so.


I was not one of the pessimistic who have criticized Kılıçdaroğlu from the beginning and am still not. For the sake of balances in Turkey, it is critical to have Kılıçdaroğlu as the CHP's new chairman rather than having Baykal in the position. And this is something positive.


As for Sav, he best knows whether or not he would have a place in the party if a CHP totally sides with change.


Oral Çalışlar is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared Tuesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.








Turkey is changing, transforming – there is something going on. To say nothing is wrong is just offensive to intellect. Today's external politics are very different from the politics of 10 years ago. I wonder if this change stirs from ideological reality or the present conditions causing Turkey's change?


Previously Turkish external politics were straightforward. Especially conditions brought about by the Cold War required Turkey's external politics to align with Washington. In a bipolar world everyone would generally accept what the alliance leader said.


For Turkey, the United States and Europe were definite priorities. America was the boss. It had weapons, it provided loans and it was consulted in international relations. Europe was the most important market for our exports. That is why we were standing close to Europe and a full EU membership seemed ideal.


The Middle East was a fire burning those who reached out toward it. That is why we liked to stay away. We would pat the Arabs on their backs, support the Palestinians and warn the Israelis in a low voice, "Don't go too far, then we can continue our relationship."


In order not to "provoke Moscow" we wouldn't even establish close relations with Azerbaijan, leaving aside the Central Asian republics.


In short, the Turkish economy together with its military and external politics depended on the West. Today, Turkey and international conditions have changed.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sits in the deckhouse of Turkey. His attitude is not comparable to anyone else's. Ideologically and pragmatically he played a very important role in Turkey's politics, which was especially seen in his attitude toward the Iranian and Palestinian issues.


The Western world cannot accept Turkey conducting politics on its own and doing the opposite, especially on vital issues like Iran and Israel. A change in the accustomed order is being announced as "a shift in axis."


The Turkish economy is growing. The Western market alone does not suffice. Other market, other investment sources need to be reached. That is why it fine-tunes its external politics and looks after its own benefits.


Explain if there is a real shift in axis


We need to take criticism filled with suspicion and concern seriously. If Erdoğan and Ahmet Davutoğlu really don't have any preparation for a shift in axis then it is inevitable that they need to explain themselves.


By getting upset and linking these attitudes to conspiracies we only increase the number of questions.


If suspicions and concerns can't be eliminated then misunderstandings can't be prevented and the forces that want to see the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, slip will slowly get organized. They'll just lurk and wait.


And in the end not only the AKP but all of Turkey would pay the bill.

Harvard curiously awaits Davutoğlu


Up until now no other Turkish minister for foreign affairs has been awaited as curiously as Davutoğlu.


Davutoğlu is the brains of the couple (with Erdoğan) that transformed Turkey and the one who made the prime minister accept a difference in attitude toward politics.


And those who try to understand where Turkey is headed naturally follow Davutoğlu.


The latest example is that his speech at Harvard University's Kennedy School on Sept. 28-29 is fully booked already. I spoke to those at the university that organized this speech and they said: "Important people who we invited before and who never showed up said they'd come this time. The invitation list has become enormously long."


The speech and contacts at Harvard are very vital. I just hope that Davutoğlu does not speak too long and leaves more time for questions and answers. There is some good in not missing out on this opportunity. And you might guess easily that the foremost question waiting for him to answer will be a question regarding Israel and Iran.








In addition to contradicting the 1977 and 1979 high-level agreements and the target of the creation of a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, the Greek Cypriot proposals also fell contrary to the established description of certain terms. For example, while the "current user" term is internationally accepted – and endorsed not only by the UN but also by the European Court of Justice (in its Demopullos verdict) to refer to people who are authorized by an authority to use an area of land, Greek Cypriots said in their proposal that only the people residing in a property or using a land could be accepted as "current user." That is, if a person owns a property but the property is leased to someone, that person is not the "current user" of that property. Such a description is of course not conducive to a settlement.


The Greek Cypriot proposals were apparently written with a perception that life stopped in northern Cyprus back in 1974; nothing has changed since 1974; no one bought or sold any property; no court decisions were taken in northern Cyprus regarding individual property matters and no socioeconomic structure was established in the Turkish Cypriot administered area since then. Such an approach, if accepted, would naturally lead to an intense chaotic atmosphere in northern Cyprus.


The Greek Cypriot proposals divided the former Greek Cypriot properties left in northern Cyprus into three categories: Properties resided in; properties that generated income; properties left outside of the first two categories and considered as unproductive properties. Under the proposal the Greek Cypriot side indeed demanded title deeds of the entire Greek Cypriot properties left in the north while it demanded the right to return for up to 96 percent of the former northern Greek Cypriot residents while the "current users" residing or using the remaining four percent former Greek Cypriot properties might be accepted to lease those properties for three to a maximum period of 15 years. Furthermore, the Greek Cypriot proposals underline that elderly Greek Cypriots would be able to use their former properties in the north until their deaths. On the other hand, the proposal underlined that should they wish Greek Cypriots might "individually" give up their property rights in the north and demand compensation but under such a situation the value of the property should not be established under the prevailing conditions in north but rather according to international market conditions. Plus, the Greek Cypriot proposals categorically reject the property allocations by the Turkish Cypriot authorities for those Turkish Cypriots who left property in the north or who were given property in appreciation for their contribution to the Turkish Cypriot resistance movement.


Do you think these were enough? Unfortunately not. In the proposal that he described as "negotiable" and "reasonable" Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias as well demanded that Turkish Cypriots should hand back sufficient territory to settle up to 100,000 Greek Cypriots and send back to Turkey, excluding 50,000, all people who have settled in northern Cyprus since 1975.


Thus, in summary the Greek Cypriot proposal on property heading demand from the Turkish Cypriot side an extensive compromise on territory, title deeds of all former Greek Cypriot properties in northern Cyprus and thus render Turkish Cypriots landless in the state which is supposed to be the "Turkish Cypriot state" of the future federation with two constituent states.


That is, one of the citizens of the two of the constituent states of the future federation will have almost no title deeds; in their own constituent state on the island they will become lessees of citizens of the other constituent state. As if that was not enough, they are demanded to accept as well sending back to Turkey all mainland people excluding 50,000 who have settled in northern Cyprus and have since then acquired Turkish Cypriot citizenship.


What Greek Cypriots have proposed, then, was nothing more than what a western diplomat described in a recent talk with this writer: "A reaffirmation that they do not have any interest in resolving the Cyprus problem. The proposal reflects a serious mental fatigue."


Naturally, not only President Derviş Eroğlu but no political leader in northern Cyprus, including former "pro-settlement" Mehmet Ali Talat, would agree with Christofias that his proposal was a "negotiable and reasonable" one. Forget Turkish Cypriots, foreigners interested in the Cyprus issue do not hide as well how embarrassed they were with the Greek Cypriot paper.









IT is highly unfortunate that worthy professors, who are given respect all over the world due to their status in the society, have been forced to come on roads to agitate their legitimate demands. It was perturbing to watch this highly respectable lot airing its grievances with black flags, arm bands and raising slogans against unimaginable cut in allocations for the higher education.

The closure of 72 universities with hundreds of campuses all over the country including International Islamic University and Quaid-i-Azam University conveyed the impression as if everything was at the standstill. In our view, this development was more serious than some of the recent gruesome happenings but shockingly it did not evoke the kind of response that it should have in a civilized society. Except for PML (N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif, who demanded of the Government to pay heed to their demands, no other personality showed serious interest or expressed solidarity with the honourable VCs. Ministers of Finance and Education also showed lack of concern and only preferred to indulge in window-dressing. No doubt, the issue was discussed by the Federal Cabinet and points raised on the subject both in the National Assembly and Senate which were responded to by the Finance and the Information Ministers but a cursory glance at their statements would belie their claims of accepting all the demands of the universities. What the Government accepted is that studies of those learning in institutions abroad would not be disturbed and projects of the universities that are 90% complete would be provided funds to culminate. Why to discard numerous other projects, how can we ignore the need for new projects, what about crucial research, why not upgrade labs and workshops, and why not accept demand for fifty per cent raise in salaries and allowances of the professors when the increase has been allowed right from Naib Qasid to Secretary of all the ministries and divisions. Don't you remember that the Pay and Pension Commission had recommended separate salary structure for Education and Health but you are not willing to give the highly qualified segment of the society what you have already given to others? It is true that the country was facing worst ever financial crunch but let the wasteful expenditure all around be cut and not sacrifice the higher education to which the future of the country is intrinsically linked. To ask the universities to raise fees to mobilize resources for their salary requirements is myopic and clerical mindset devoid of any vision and the Government must review its flawed policy.








IT is encouraging that the OIC which represents over one billion Muslims across the world has shown serious

concern over the deteriorating situation in Indian Held Kashmir and asked India to enter into a constructive and result-oriented dialogue for the resolution of the problem. The OIC Contact Group on Kashmir at a meeting in New York Wednesday through a resolution reiterated its support to the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination. 

For the past several months entire Kashmiri population has risen up against the State sponsored terrorism and flagrant violation of human rights at the hands of Indian occupation forces. Innocent youths are being killed and incidents of rape, abuse of human rights, arrests, detentions and curfews have become order of the day in Kashmir. The Indian Government did not allow the APHC Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq to attend the OIC Contact Group meeting despite an invitation from the Secretary General. That is a proof of the high-handedness of Government in New Delhi which is bent upon suppressing the indigenous movement. AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan and other Kashmiri leadership presented a memorandum to the OIC Secretary General highlighting the gravity of the situation and rightly urged the Muslims Representative Body to take up the issue with the UN, permanent members of the Security Council and EU Parliament. We are of the firm opinion that mere showing of concern at the worsening situation in Kashmir by the OIC is not sufficient and falls short of the purpose for which it was formed. Muslims around the world are facing problems of enormous proportions like those in Palestine and Kashmir. The OIC is a big forum and many of its member countries enjoy clout the world over. If the OIC and its major members show interest and emphasise upon the world powers for the resolutions of the ticklish issues, we believe it will have desired impact. We would therefore impress upon the OIC to show a deeper interest to the situation in IHK, adopt a pro active role and utilize all the options available to get the Kashmir problem resolved in line with the aspirations of the oppressed people.






ADVERTISING the world over has become a huge and effective medium to influence the minds of not just the buyers of a product or service but also other segments of the society. Now there is a lot of creativity in print and electronic media advertisements and this mode of projection is fully exploited by advertisers here in Pakistan as well. 

There are, however, certain dos and donts which are followed almost everywhere in the world but unfortunately in Pakistan some of the ads are totally devoid of local sensitivities. Apart from the ethical basics of advertising like conveying truth and maintaining neutrality, the advertisers have to keep in mind social taboos, norms and morality standards of a particular society to which the message is directed. We are, however, sorry to point out that they do not keep in mind that after all Pakistan is an Islamic State and on the whole the country has a conservative society. Unfortunately, these days, a foreign cellular company has acquired notoriety by relaying offending messages through its ads on mini-screens that have sparked strong protests from the countrymen whose comments are pouring in newspapers offices including this one as well. It may be mentioned that the company hails from a country where blasphemous cartoons were first published, injuring feelings of the Muslims throughout the world and that is why some of its outlets were targeted by infuriated people. The company has every right to publicize its service but that should be done within the norms of decency and not propagating immorality. We would also urge the PTA and Pakistan Advertising Association to take notice of the deliberate attempts to make fun of local traditions, conventions, norms and morality for the sake of a few bucks.









After a gap of more than six years, your columnist is once again in the country that a century ago ran half the world. For years, indeed decades, he has been fascinated with the way in which a small island nation expanded across the globe to secure territory and resources to fuel its prosperity. Some say that much of the cause can be attributed to the spirit of democracy that pervaded the United Kingdom. However, this may be a simplistic view, for the reality is that the UK of the Empire period was a class-ridden nation, where the nobility (both economic and ancestral) had privileges denied to the many. Unlike in France or Russia, where there was a revolution against the aristocracy, the English never revolted against their nobility, except for the brief spasm of republicanism led by Oliver Cromwell four centuries ago. Of course, the difference between Britain and Russia was that in the former, it was much more easy for a low-born person to become wealthy than during the reign of the Tsars. When the nobility monopolised top positions the way the upper castes did in ancient India.

Inequality of income is a fact of life, but if this is accompanied by as severe an inequality in opportunity, then the society concerned becomes brittle and easy to break. In any country where a "caste" system develops, in which power and money get monopolised by a small segment on the basis of birth, there will come a period when such a society can no longer meet the needs and begins to fall apart. Such a danger exists even in the country that is today well on the way to becoming the next superpower, China. Should the Communist Party of China (CCP) get dominated by "princelings" (the children of top party leaders), then the hold of the party over the people will slacken, as will morale and motivation inside the party, which would change into an instrument for the retention of privilege created by birth. Already, a disproportionate share of the top echelons of the CCP comprise of cadres who were lucky to be born of influential parents. If this segment grows at the expense of those (such as current CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao) who were born from humble stock, the rapidly-evolving population of China would begin to lose respect and loyalty towards a party that has made China once again a Great Power.

North Korea is an example of a "communist" country that is in effect elitist. Indeed, it is now openly royalist. The Kim family has run the country since it was formed, and now power is being handed down to the third generation, the son of Kim Jong Il, who is himself the son of the founder of the "Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea", Kim Il Sung, who interestingly was raised as a Christian Presbyterian by his parents. Today, North Korea has become the same kind of society as Tsarist Russia was, because of the creation of a monarchy (the Kim family) and nobility (the children and grand-children of the military commanders who followed the Kims). Those North Koreans outside this charmed circle have no way of reaching the top. A few tried to succeed through setting up economic enterprises, but their capital was taken away by a "currency reform" introduced by the same grandson of Kim Il Sung who will take over from his father Kim Jong Il upon the latter's death, thanks to the support of the "New Aristocracy" of the DRK, the families of the early top backers of the "royal" Kim family. While China has not yet reached the stage of "Communist Monarchy" that has become the norm in the DPRK, the growing power of the "princelings" - the descendants of top leaders - is a worrying sign that the Communist Party there may be depending less on ability and more on bloodline to build its leadership in the coming decades. 

But why talk of North Korea and China? What about the situation in India and Pakistan? In India the ruling Congress Party is totally controlled by a single family, the Nehrus now led by the efficient Sonia Gandhi nee Maino, who is grooming her son Rahul to take charge after her time in office. By 2014,if not earlier, the 39-year old may become Prime Minister. What would his performance be? This columnist has been an early supporter, seeing in him the combination of modernity and enthusiasm needed to lead India into a bright future. However lately Rahul Gandhi seems to have fallen under the sway of a small group, which is a band of "NGO intellectuals" (most from foreign countries) who would like to freeze development in India the way Verrier Elwin persuaded Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s to block change in the north-east and leave the people there in their original state of dire poverty. Because of the access given to them by Rahul Gandhi, NGOs that seek to halt the industrialisation of India are gaining influence. Already they have ensured that many mega projects have been blocked, the effect of which would have been to lift from poverty the very people such NGOs claim to represent .

Officials in the HRD Ministry claim that Rahul Gandhi is also the inspiration behind the recent efforts by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to make non-government schools in India expand their student base by 25% "to accommodate the poor". In a slew of orders, the HRD Ministry proposes to ban educational institutions from detaining a student or disciplining him or her,thereby paving the way for anarchy in the classroom. As for the 25% extra students, many of whom will get admitted under political pressure, such an innovation could result in the closing down of numerous schools across the country, thereby seriously damaging India's future. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal are brilliant individuals, aware of the damage that such savage tinkering can cause to the cream of the school system in India. However, they may have no choice but to go along, given the reported reliance of Rahul Gandhi on the wisdom of the (mostly foreign) NGOs now proliferating all across Delhi and Mumbai. Sixty years ago, his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru made the same mistake, of relying on amateur expertise from afar, when he constricted the Indian private sector and launched a punitive tax regime that brought India down to the worst economic performer in Asia. This columnist still has faith that Rahul Gandhi will step back from the same abyss, and not follow his grandfather in relying on government (with a small "g") rather than on the People (with a big "P") for progress.

When a political system becomes in effect a monarchy, where a singlefamily surrounded by loyalists dictates policy, it creates a vulnerability that can be used by forces wishing the republic harm. Courtiers become immune to accountability, and hence get freed to doimmense damage.In the case of india, this is being daily demonstrated by the chaos that is surrounding the Commonwealth Games, which from the start has been an enterprise that has functioned under the blessings of Number Ten ( 10 Janpath, the official residence of Sonia Gandhi). The organisers have met her and her aides several times, and as a result, it may become impossible for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prosecute or even to admonish those who have clearly used the excuse of the Commonwealth Games to enrich themselves. The people of India would like full details - on the internet - of all the decisions taken by the Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee and in particular all the contracts signed by it. What is needed is a public commission of Enquiry into each and every contract awarded by the Games committee. Unfortunately, the Opposition in India is pathetically weak, and hence the only way accountability can infuse the malfunctioning Indian system is for the Prime Minister to force a full investigation into the Games and to ensure punishment for all those responsible for the giving of contracts that are clearly designed to enrich. Why were these contracts awarded? To whom? The one man in the present government who is honest enough to have no fear in finding out is Manmohan Singh, but will he be able to defy several powerful Congress leaders and fulfill his vow of Clean Governance to the Indian people? Will Rahul Gandhi stand by him if he goes down that noble path? Hopefully, the answer will be yes, and if it is, both Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi will go down in history as great Indians. 

Contrast Delhi with Winchester, the city where the conference being attended by your columnist is taking place. The highway from Heathrow airport to the town is broad and smooth,not like roads in India that are deliberately paved in such a way as to fall apart each year. The power supply works, unlike in India, where blackouts and brownouts are the norm thanks to government policies, except in states that are well-administered, such as Gujarat. The streets are clean, and there are abundant walkways On Indian rosds, by contrast, there are either no pavements or small ribbons that two people can walk together across. The few Indian citizens who have cars get 95% of attention, even though they account for less than 5% of the total poulation. Not to mention the fact that highway development has been very slow in India these past years, because those in charge want more bribes rather than greater coverage. The NGOs from abroad are happy to see India in such a quagmire. They would be uncomfortable to see the country change into a modern economy, because then they would no longer be able to preach the virtues of freezing development and society to the elite of Delhi and Mumbai, who are today treating the young men and women of these foreign NGOs operating in India with the same affection that they show to international cricketers. When the policy elite in a country outsources its thinking on matters as crucial as education and industrialisation to international NGOs, disaster cannot be far away.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.








China's delivery of the third F-22P frigate PNS Saif to Pakistan Navy is yet another burgeoning proof of Pak-China relations and fulfillment of Chinese pledge to support Pakistan's defence. In yet another landmark achievement in the expansion of the unwavering bilateral defence cooperation between Pakistan and China, Beijing has delivered the third of the four F-22P frigates PNS Saif to the Pakistan Navy (PN). The newly built warship of the sword class series constructed by Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard Shanghai was delivered in a colourful and impressive ceremony. As per the schedule, the PN's fourth F-22 frigate, being constructed at the Karachi Shipyard is progressing satisfactorily. This move by the Navy would be of great help to Pakistan in achieving self-reliance towards defence of its territorial waters. 

The F-22P or Zulfiquar (sword) class frigate, an improved version of the Chinese Type 053H3, is a general purpose frigate being built by China and Pakistan for the PN. The first ship, PNS Zulfiquar, was handed over to the PN on 30 July 2009 and the second, PNS Shamsheer, on January 23, 2010. The third, after undergoing sea trials has just been handed over, while a fourth is under construction. It has been reported that the F-22P Frigates are equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors. The ships also carry Z9EC helicopters onboard. Pakistan had been negotiating with China for the supply of 4 frigates since the late 1990s. The contract was signed on 4 April 2006 with the conclusion of negotiations for financing and technology transfer. The first three have been built at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, China, while the last is under construction in Pakistan by Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW). The $750 million contract also includes 4-6 Harbin Z-9EC antisubmarine warfare (ASW) helicopters as well as ammunition for the frigates.

With the addition of these ships, the strength of PN Fleet has increased considerably with much needed capabilities, while contributing in enhancement of country's shipbuilding capabilities. The F-22P hull uses many of the radar cross-section reduction features of China's Type 054 frigate to help it evade detection by radars mounted on other ships, aircraft and anti-ship missiles. The 76.2 mm caliber main gun is a Chinese development of the Russian AK-176M, the main difference being that the Chinese variant adopts a re-designed stealthy turret to reduce radar detection. The gun is designed to engage ships, aircraft and anti-ship missiles. In front of the main gun are two 6-cell RDC-32 anti-submarine rocket launchers. The frigate's primary surface-to-surface missile armament comprises eight C-802 subsonic anti-ship missiles carried in two launchers with four cells each, fitted between the foremast and the funnel. These containers are also compatible with the CY series anti-submarine rockets and may be loaded with a combination of anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons.

The FM-90N surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is fitted between the main deck and main gun. The launcher has eight cells each containing one missile and is fitted on a mount that can be elevated and traversed in the direction of the threat. The FM-90N can engage several targets, including supersonic and sub-sonic sea-skimming missiles, using different guidance modes simultaneously. The system is also designed to engage small targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). A close-in weapon system (CIWS), the Type 730B, is mounted on the aircraft hangar. Comprising two seven-barrel Gatling guns of 30 mm caliber, the F-22P is believed to be the first ship armed with the Type 730B, which uses off-mount sensors such as the Type 347G radar and the OFC-3 electro-optic director. 

The guns are mounted side-by-side on the aircraft hanger, with the off-mount sensors in between. The CIWS can be upgraded with the FL-3000N fire-and-forget missile system by installing up to two single-round FL-3000N launchers on each existing CIWS gun mount. The Harbin Z-9EC anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter is equipped with surface-search radar, low frequency dipping sonar, radar warning receiver, Doppler navigation system and armed with torpedoes. The helicopter can be armed with one torpedo on the starboard side. A small antenna on the roof may provide a data-link, allowing the Z-9 to act as a relay for targeting data between the ship and long range anti-ship missiles such as the C-802. The beauty of China's support to Pakistan is that it is willing to provide transfer of technology, help develop the infrastructure for indigenization and soft loans to support the project with no strings attached. Other nations are either just not willing to share technology. Even if they agree to provide transfer of technology, it is at exorbitant costs and may have strings attached. Some nations insist that Pakistani technology is too backward, lacks the skill and wherewithal and is unfit for accepting hi-tech expertise. China has proved over the ages that it considers Pakistan capable and worthy of keeping pace with the latest developments and making strides towards indigenization. The delivery of the F-22 frigates to PN is burgeoning evidence of the long lasting ties between Pakistan and China. In this period of global economic meltdown, China not only has a stable economy but it holds roughly $1.5 trillion in US assets, at least 65 percent of China's total foreign assets, and it is the second biggest foreign holder of US debt after Japan. 

Pak-China joint ventures to produce JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Trainer aircraft, Al-Khalid Tank, F-22 Naval Frigates have given a new dimension to Pak-China cooperation in the field of defense. Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) at Taxila, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra was also established with Chinese assistance. The Karakoram Highway, the strategic port of Gawadar and nuclear energy reactors are a manifestation of China's sustained interest in Pakistan, which make it imperative for us to reach out to our Chinese friends for our common endeavours for building a better future for our peoples and overcome the challenges to both nations and strive for prosperity. In these trying times it is imperative that we recognize our true friends and hold on to them steadfastly.









The month of Shawwal is extremely precious. Shawwal is a month which comes after Ramadan. Habib Allah Nur-ummin-Nur Allah Hazrat Mohammed Mustafa (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) has said "If any person skips his fast in the month of Ramadan so he can recover it by keeping fast in the month of Shawwal". Events in the month of Shawwal:- Shawwal is also very precious month of the following reasons:- Aftab-e-Taj ul Aulia, Mahtab-e-Taj ul Aulia, Nur-e-Taj ul Aulia, Diwani-e-Taj ul Aulia, Chirag-e-Taj ul Aulia, Hazrat Amma Bibi Maryam Taji Waliyah (r.a.) toke veil from this materialistic world in the month of Shawwal. Zikar in the month of Shawwal:- Some of the momentous prayers for the precious month of Shawwal are as follows:-

The Holy Quran must be recited daily. Mostly the Wirde (Continuous reciting, Errand) of Istagfar (Deprecation) must be done. Surrat ul Maryam, Qader, Rehman, Mawoon and Qader must be recited. Usually, Daruud Sharif must be Wirde (Continuous reciting, Errand). Extra Nawafil must be prayed for the Raza (contented) of Allah Almighty. Superiority of this month is Allah Almighty avowal the Dua and prayers offered by a person whole heartedly by the sake of Prophet Mohammed (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) and by His Holy Friends (Aulia, Sufi, Saints or Wali). Allaah 'azza wa jall, says in the Qur'aan, what means: "Say (O Muhammad): 'If you (really) love Allaah then follow me, Allaah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." [al-Qur'aan, 3:31]

This is a beautiful verse, named by some of the salaf as "the verse of the test", as it tests how true one's love of Allaah is. They explained that if one loves Allaah, then he must show that in his/her following of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam. The verse tells us that those who follow the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, if sincere, can in shaa' Allaah expect the following two:- Allaah ta`aalaa loving them: - Allaah ta`aalaa forgiving their sins.

One of the ways to manifest our loving of Allaah, by following the Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is to do those acts that he, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, advised his Companions, and the Ummah in general, to do. A sunnah which is certainly relevant to us in these days is his, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, practice to fast six days in the month of Shawwaal. Aboo Ayyoob al-Ansaaree narrated: Allaah's Messenger, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said: "He who fasts Ramadhaan, and six of Shawwaal, it will be (in terms of rewards) as if the fasted a whole year." [Reported by Muslim, at-Tirmidhee, Aboo Daawood, Ahmad, Ibn Maajah] So this is an established sunnah, which carries a great reward, even though we find a great Imaam differing in this issue. Ibn Rushd al-Qurtubee said that Maalik, raHimahumallaah considered this fast to be disapproved, "either because people might associate with Ramadhaan what is not a part of it, or either because the tradition had not reached him or it did not prove to be authentic for him, which is more likely." [Bidaayat ul-Mujtahid] However, we know that Imaam Maalik said: "Truly I am only a mortal: I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah, accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it." [Reported by Ibn `Abdul Barr, Ibn Hazm and al-Fulaanee] In commenting on the above mentioned hadeeth, As-San'aanee said in Subul us-Salaam: "If the thirty days of Ramadhaan fasting are assimilated with the six days of fasting in Shawwaal, it altogether makes 36 days. According to Sharee'ah, each virtue is rewarded ten times. Therefore, if we multiply 36 with 10, it makes 360, a number which equals the days of a year. Some scholars are of the opinion that these six days of fasting in Shawwaal must be completed in a continuous order right after the end of Ramadhaan. Some believe that is enough to merely complete six days of fasting in Shawwaal (in any order, either successive or with intervals), an opinion which is deemed to be correct."

Perhaps it is proper for us to pray these days on Mondays and Thursdays, as in that case we would be following another Sunnah: 'Aa'isha, radhiallaahu 'anhaa, narrated: "The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, used to fast Mondays and Thursdays". [an-Nasaa'ee, Saheeh] If it is easier for one to fast on weekends, then in that case one would still be following another sunnah at the same time: Umm Salama, radhiallaahu 'anhaa, narrated: Allaah's Messenger used to fast mostly on Saturday and Sunday, and he used to say: "They are the festival days for the mushrikeen, and I like to act contrary to them." [an-Nasaa'ee, Ibn Khuzaymah, who graded it saheeh, and Ibn Hajar agreed] But, again, this fast is not obligatory, rather only recommended. There is reward for whoever does it, and no blame upon anyone who leaves it.








Last night while scrutinizing my received emails, two mails of Indian soldiers made me force to write on a continuously deteriorating standard of my neighbouring's army. The emails addressed to me were of a non commissioned officer (NCO) and young disappointed captain of fighting echelon of Indian Army. The soldiers' identities are not being disclosed in this article because of the promise of anonymity. Out of these brave soldiers NCO has been court marshaled once he protested Indian Army selection criteria for deputation abroad. In fact the NCO pointed out in an inquiry that officers' cadre of his army is involved in financial corruption and takes money for selecting and sending soldiers on foreign assignments. In this regard, some incompetent soldier was preferred over him in the selection of foreign assignment. The NCO was thrown away from the army but still and till now failed to get justice despite knocking the door of Indian Supreme Court. 

The young Sikh captain (other sender of email) has remained posted in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) and saw occupied forces brutality and their criminal actions against armless innocent Kashmiries. He listed number of cases of raping girls, woman and murdering young Kashmiries in email. He himself witnessed the incident of night of third and fourth December 2008 at around 12:00 A.M. when six Indian troops of 36 RR and 146 Battalion CRPF barged in the house of Mohammad Abdullah Khatana in south Kashmir village at Dandipora, Kokernag locked Abdullah in a room after thrashing him. Then, afterwards four troop's gang raped the 17-year girl for an hour, while other two were guarding them. The captain further narrated that number of incidents of raping, murdering and beating of women, young and old individuals either are not being reported or covered by twisting on the name of militancy in Kashmir. He further added that confrontation of right and wrong in my mind is on peak which really made me half mad and losing pride of my commission in the army. 

The worries of young Indian captain are very genuine and can only be felt by true soldiers those join the fighting forces with pride, dignity, and faith. He stressed that he is depressed because of behaviour, corruption and immoral and unethical acts of his seniors and comrades. He said that he is feeling dispirited since two years or so and seriously thinking of quitting the army. At the end that spirited soldier asked me to help him in taking the decision.It is mentionable here that Indian armed forces are terribly losing their credibility because of increasing cases of mis-conduct, immorality, corruption, misappropriation and unethical activities. Brief accounts of appended cases in this article are sufficient enough to reveal the bleak and pathetic picture of Indian Army: 

Troops committed in IHK are involved in extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and rapes. More than one lac innocent Kashmires have been killed in Kashmir Nexilles and Maoist. During ongoing Kashmir Independence movement more than 300 Kashmiries have been been killed since September 11, 2010. Government of India made very very little progress on during over Indian Army mascara against Sikhs from 1984-94. Former Indian Army Chief; Gen Deepak Kapoor tried to over look misappropriation committed by the then MS. The former chief had to change decision on Ministry of Defence intervention. Four Gen officers (MS, Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash, Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali, Lt Gen PK Rath and Maj Gen P Sen) involved in land scandal in West Bengal Sukhna Cantt.

Israeli Aero Msls Scam. 64 Crore paid to middlemen, UPA govt earned 600 Crore "business charges", 6 % of contract amount. The Gorshkov Scam. Cdr Sukhjinder Singh, and officials in Indian Govt were bribed heavily by Russians for the deal. 1st Battalion of Indian Army recruited Sex workers, with the help of RAW, posted as border guards in IHK, to provide "fun". The soldiers are constantly committing t suicide, suffering serious med problems due to unsafe sex. According to Indian media reports females along either side of Indo-Myanmar, Indo- Bangladesh and Indo- Nepal borders are also victims of forced rapes by frustrating Indian soldiers. It is also reported that Indian Govt procuring 1,000 units of condom vending machines to promote safe sex practice. It is high time that over 20 senior officers (Brig or above) faced charges of corruption, moral turpitude in past 3 yrs. Maj Gen AK Lal, dismissed after proven guilty of sexually assault a junior woman officer. In 2007 two Lt Gen SK Oahiya, Sahni, two Maj Gen and more than 50 junior officers were charged for irregularities. CBI sorted out Maj Gen Anand Kapoor for possessing disproportionate assets amounting five crore. 

Maj Gen Gur Iqbal Singh Multani, found guilty in smuggling of large qty of liquor to his hometown. In Jul 09 Capt Poonam, ASC, has alleged 3 officers for mental sexual harassment. But unfortunately the same lady has been thrown out of army. In Dec 09 Brig Guredeep of 16 Corps earned millions in the name of forest fire. Now again 03 Jun 10, Engr-in-Chief Lt Gen Nanda, was asked by Indian Army chief to quit on molesting the wife of his Tech Sectary but Gen has been made clear through local type inquiry . 

Incidentally ,bulk of the corruption in armed forces is because of involvement of Indian intelligence agencies RAW and CBI Both agencies extensively found engaged in blackmailing, bribing, liquor sup, drug trafficking and offering girls to attract senior officers. RAW and CBI have become the symbol of terror amongst the troops. Indian young lots also seem to be worried about continue declining of the reputation of Indian armed forces since number of senior officers have been refused visa .in the recent past Canada refused visa to Lt Gen Amrik Bahia (retd) ex DGMO on ground that he had served in Kashmir, where Human violations were committed t by Indian Army. Fateh Singh was denied visa by Canadian government for his association with a "notoriously violent" force (BSF). Two brigs were denied visas in 08 and another in 09. Retired Lt Gen Bhatia was also refused visa in 08 on similar ground. Sidhu, a retired IB officer, was denied visa in Mar 10, as he belonged to the "inadmissible" cat of persons. Similarly, number of seniors' military leadership has cheated the nation and government over Kargil Conflict. The Armed Forces Tribunal has indicted a former Lt Gen (Kishan Pal) for showing bias against a Brig/ falsifying accts of battles. .In this regard AF Tribunal has ordered Army to delete a distorted report during the 1999 Kargil war. In short Indian Army Chief VP Singh rather feeling proud on their self generated wonders should analyze the factors and causes which are taking their soldiers away from humanity and profession. The Indian Forces including Para Military Forces and police are playing in the hands of politicians. These opportunists are using them for crushing Sikhs, Muslims and Christian. Thus, instead playing in the hands of extremists Hindus, General Singh should forces his political leadership to resolve the conflicts with the neighbouring countries. Gen must take stern actions against those violators of human rights.









In diplomatic parlance, the term "frozen conflict" generally refers to unresolved disputes affecting countries of the Black Sea region. But in the post-ideological, non-interventionist age that dawned with the fall of George Bush and Tony Blair and the rise of new, ruthlessly pragmatic, self-interested great powers such as China and India, a widening range of intractable conflicts, from Somalia, Kashmir and Kurdistan to Kyrgyzstan, Burma and Tibet might fairly be described as frozen, too. In many if not most of such cases, external conflict-resolution efforts are underpowered, stalled, failing, or non-existent. The appeals of pressure groups, think tanks and activists increasingly fall on deaf ears. The US and its junior partner, Britain, no longer actively seek to spread freedom and democracy across the globe. Instead, Washington has "reset" relations with authoritarian Russia, sought a strategic accommodation with communist China, moved to cut its losses in still shambolic Iraq and Afghanistan, and is aggressively arming Middle East autocrats.

What George Bush Sr called the "vision thing", exemplified by his bid to build a post-Soviet, post-cold war "new world order", is almost wholly lacking now. Today's more blinkered emphasis is on trade, oil and security, not self-determination or human rights. Diplomacy, in its highest form of independent, impartial mediation, is out of fashion. Only the current American-led peace efforts in Israel-Palestine contradict the overall trend. Even there, Barack Obama was obliged to justify his intervention by redefining the conflict as a threat to US national interests. The UN, ever a convenient scapegoat, is blamed more often than not for failures in tackling outrages such as the murderous treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka or Tibetans in China. 

But, as always, it is the member states, and particularly the security council's veto-wielding permanent five, that carry prime responsibility for collective action or, more commonly, inaction. Thus, for example, the major powers have put expediency before principle in tacitly agreeing not to pursue Sudan's indicted president, Omar al-Bashir, for alleged war crimes, at least until the looming issue of southern Sudan's secession is settled. Likewise, the Darfur peace talks are on the backburner.

Muhammad Farooq Rehmani, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir People's Freedom League and former convenor of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference opposition coalition, bears eloquent witness to the invidious consequences of such neglect. A journalist, author and political activist, he has spent nearly 10 years in jail, on and off, since first being arrested by Indian security forces in 1968. Kashmiris want the withdrawal of the Indian army and a plebiscite on self-determination, as promised repeatedly by the UN since 1947, he said. They are still waiting. "If the killing of innocents continues, the violence could get worse," Rehmani, who lives in exile in Islamabad, said in London this week. This summer's clashes, curfews and security crackdowns in the state capital Srinagar and elsewhere might only be termed an "uprising" that could be exploited by Islamist jihadis. Yet powers such as the US and Britain were reluctant to pressure a newly important India for a deal, he said. There was no peace process, no peace, and no prospect of it.

Sadly, Kashmir's plight is unexceptional. Attempts by Turkey's Kurds to win greater autonomy have stalled in the past year, mirroring the bigger problems facing an unrecognised Kurdish nation straddling Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. But there is zero international appetite for tackling the Kurdish question. Despite years of western hand-wringing over terrorism, piracy and immigration, Somalia remains a de facto no-go area for international diplomacy; likewise long-suffering Zimbabwe; likewise Thailand's disadvantaged southern Malay minority; the much put-upon Uighurs of China's Xinjiang province; and the Muslim peoples of the Russian Caucasus. Even where the international community has stepped in, lack of leadership, selfish calculation, and a craven reluctance to make a stand increasingly characterise much of what is happening now. Georgia's South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions remain under Russian occupation, despite the French-brokered 2008 deal for a troop withdrawal; Burma's criminal generals carry on regardless of international sanctions; and even Kosovo, that great test-bed of liberal humanitarian interventionism, is still too weak and divided to leave to its own devices, more than 10 years after its "liberation".

It may be this apparent diplomatic drift, this reluctance of individual governments and collectives such as the EU to risk new international entanglements or enforce existing rules and standards, comes in reaction to the ideologically driven excesses of the Bush years. Perhaps it is linked to the economic downturn in the west, with falling business confidence matched by falling diplomatic and political confidence. But perhaps, more than anything, it is the product of a new, narrow, self-serving national self-interestedness – a sort of Tea Party philosophy writ large in which charity begins at home, the weak go to the wall, and the devil take the hindmost. Whatever the reason, it's all very short-sighted, and dangerous, too. —The Guardian









A $65 million loss on unused swine flu vaccine that Australia can't even give away is not what Health Minister Nicola Roxon had in mind when she responded to concern about the disease last year.


While it is easy in hindsight to criticise health officials for getting it wrong, it is also the case that when it comes to addressing health fears, governments are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Even so, it is vital for the public to retain trust in the judgments made by experts, albeit in extremely difficult situations.


At the height of the panic, in April last year, The Australian noted the flu seemed to be spreading more rapidly in cyberspace than in the real world. But we noted that "comfortingly" Australia had amassed one of the world's biggest stock-piles of anti-viral drugs. Our scepticism about the pandemic was mixed with acknowledgement that the public health system could cope if the worst happened. Swine flu turned out to be like a seasonal flu, albeit with particular characteristics, but at the height of the panic, it was not so easy to predict that outcome. With memories of the devastating SARS epidemic still raw, the World Health Organisation went on the front foot, determined this time to be ready, not sorry. The WHO has since been criticised for being too close to the drug companies that made dramatic profits from swine flu vaccine. Yet the companies have to be drawn in on occasions like this to ensure drugs are available on the scale required. Overall, the experience has helped the WHO streamline its processes and leaves it better placed to respond in future. Another positive is that China now reports serious disease outbreaks. Beijing concealed SARS and its more open attitude is welcome.


Australia was advised that two shots of the vaccine were needed but in the end, one was enough, leading to half the stockpile now being redundant. A small price to pay? An unavoidable consequence of dealing with a new strain of flu? Perhaps, but health officials ought not be cavalier about public concern at the waste: while $65m is not an enormous figure, it is money that cannot be spent elsewhere. Similarly, the government would do well to monitor the issues raised in our pages today about the extent to which immunisation policies are based on advice from experts who also advise the pharmaceutical giant, CSL Limited. Advice in this area must always be independent if public trust in the system is to be maintained.







AFTER two exhausting months of electioneering we had almost forgotten what sound public policy looked like.


It is reassuring then that the new Trade minister, Craig Emerson, is confidently putting free trade at the top of the agenda, even though it is unlikely to yield many photo opportunities in the current political climate. Sandwiched between the regulatory policies of the Greens and independents like Bob Katter, who wants to block foreign bananas and manipulate exchange rates, it is an encouraging sign that the Gillard government might not throw up the white flag and surrender to the pre-modern tendencies of those who hold the balance of power. It is no coincidence that Dr Emerson's political career began as a senior adviser to the Hawke administration. Alongside Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean, Dr Emerson's elevation to Cabinet has strengthened the government's ability to foster investment and jobs by making Australia more competitive.


The free trade challenge should not be underestimated. The international trade liberalisation process that began in Doha, Qatar, in 2001 ground to a halt in mid-2008 as the global financial crisis unfolded. But after a tentative recovery in Europe and the US, the time is right for nations to re-engage with this vexed yet vital reform. Major opportunities to kick-start the process will arise at the G20 summit in Seoul and at APEC in November.


It augurs well that faced with high unemployment and unpopularity, the Obama administration has recognised that the US will rebuild prosperity faster by boosting economic activity through trade than by raising the protectionist shutters. In particular, the US needs to rebalance its one-sided trading relationship with China, in which the US is incurring monthly deficits of $US25 billion, driven by the low value of the Chinese currency.


Australia also has a great deal to gain from the process. Re-building tariff walls would be a bad mistake. The experience of the past 20 years shows Australians benefit from reduced protection even when other countries maintain their own barriers, as imported equipment becomes cheaper. Since the Doha collapse, our trade officials have concentrated on pursuing bilateral agreements with China, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. But such initiatives do not preclude Australia from being proactive in wider trade liberalisation. This nation has vast opportunities to increase the export of services, which account for three-quarters of GDP but little more than 20 per cent of exports.


Dr Emerson is following a well-trodden path for Labor, the party responsible for much of the reform that opened up the Australian economy to the world, beginning with Gough Whitlam's tariff cuts in 1973. The process picked up pace in the Hawke/Keating years with more cuts in 1988 and 1991 and Australia leading the way in forming the Cairns group of 19 free trading agricultural export nations in response to spiralling EU agricultural trade barriers. We would urge Dr Emerson to stand firm against any push from the EU and the US to include more environmental and labour standards in bilateral or multilateral trade deals which amount to back-door protection.


As Australia's average industry assistance fell from more than 30 per cent in 1970 to less than five per cent, The Australian supported the transformation consistently for the prosperity it brought. For at least two centuries, economic theory has recognised the power of "comparative advantage", or the dividend that flows from each country focusing on what it produces best and trading for the rest. In practice, real-world experience has confirmed the truth of the theory repeatedly.







NOT just the original crocodile man but outback man par excellence, Malcolm Douglas was an example of an Australian species which could well be under threat.


The documentary maker, who died in a car accident on his Broome property, was a hands-on conservationist who lived and breathed the bush. A world away from the armchair greenies of recent times, Douglas began navigating the wide brown land more than 40 years ago, producing documentaries and television series that helped generations of Australians fall in love with their country. His archive is vast, starting with the classic Across the Top from the 1960s.


The documentaries were sometimes roughly made, and Douglas confessed he had not grown rich on the proceeds. But his passion for the bush was enough to keep him going and he funded his losses with his crocodile park. Douglas, who settled permanently in Broome in the early 1990s, was not as famous as Steve Irwin or the Leyland brothers, or even the Bush Tucker Man, Les Hiddins. But the "barefoot bushman" had cornered the market in authenticity. His career spanned a period when the outback went from being our best-kept secret to becoming a global phenomenon. Although he was a commercial operator, as dependent as anyone on the tourist dollar, Douglas retained the image of an old-fashioned conservationist and naturalist. In recent times he was a prominent member of the Save the Kimberley Group that worked to protect the region from mining that might harm the environment or indigenous culture, although two decades ago, he had a long battle with Aborigines over plans to extend his crocodile park.


Among the flood of tributes on the internet yesterday, was this one: "Thanks Malcolm, for the adventures." We can but agree.








THE Delhi Commonwealth Games are shaping as a serious test for India, for the Commonwealth Games themselves, for the future of all such high-profile sports fiestas including the Olympics, and - almost an afterthought now - for the athletes.


The wayward nature of the preparations has passed the point where apologists can put it down to a problem of perception - of cultural differ