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Friday, October 1, 2010

EDITORIAL 01.10.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



Month october 01, edition 000640, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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










  2. MS 782474317884














  3. 50 yrs of Indus Water Treaty - By Arabinda Ghose





















  3. 'WHY TAX ME, WHEN ...?'























Thursday's judgement by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court deserves to be welcomed by every citizen of this country. Justice Sibghat Ullah Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Dharam Veer Sharma have, through their reasoning while dealing with the intricate issues raised by the petitioners and framed by the court, demonstrated admirable sense of fair play. This judgement reaffirms the majesty of law and strengthens the view that the judiciary, barring the occasional lapse, remains a towering institution in our country. Yes, it is true that the title suit has dragged on for six decades and the delay in coming to a conclusion has contributed to complicating the dispute in no small measure. Seen against this backdrop, these three judges have done a fine job by not delaying the verdict any further. It was expected that the parties involved in the case would appeal against the judgement as they now say they plan to do, but that does not detract from the import of the High Court's key decisions.

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement was premised on historical facts that showed a Hindu temple existed at the site of the Babri Masjid and the unshakeable faith that Sri Ram was born at this site in Ayodhya. The High Court has upheld both facts and faith. It has also accepted that the sanctum sanctorum where the idol of Ramlalla presides is inviolable. The court has similarly underscored the sanctity of Ram Chabutra and Sita's Rasoi. The statute of limitations stands revalidated. That a third of the 'disputed' land has been given to Muslims through a majority verdict as namaz was being offered at the spot is at best a minor issue that can be resolved in the long run, unless it is set aside by the Supreme Court. What now remains is the construction of a grand temple in honour of Sri Ram, Maryada Purushottam who embodies the dignity, honour and pride of India and is the eternal symbol of our nationhood. 

It will take some time for the parties to the dispute to study the lengthy and layered judgement — each judge has drafted his own verdict, concurring on some issues and differing on others — and come to specific conclusions on the implications of the finer nuances of the verdict. But that's a matter of detail and will in no manner change the fact that justice has been done in a manner that neither side can complain of the court not having been fair. It is noteworthy that by and large the entire country has accepted the spirit of the judgement; in a democracy there will always be naysayers. And, it is praiseworthy that people have shown exemplary maturity by maintaining peace and communal harmony. There is widespread appreciation of the need to abhor both triumphalism and grievance. If we must rejoice, it should be to celebrate the triumph of constitutionalism in our country. India has one more reason to be proud — as a democracy and as a secular republic. 








The project to provide each one of the country's one billion-plus citizens with a 'Unique Identity Number' has finally taken off. The villagers of Maharashtra's Nandurbar district became the first to receive their UIDs, or Aadhaar. But perhaps the Government should have avoided turning it into a political event to score cheap brownie points. By doing so, Congress runs the risk of tainting an otherwise noteworthy effort. Originally conceived as the Multipurpose National Identity Card by the NDA Government in 2002 to segregate citizens from illegal immigrants and strengthen the instruments of internal security, the project ran aground in 2004 when the BJP-led alliance was voted out of power. However, the Congress-led UPA Government has shown prudence to bring the concept out of hibernation and setting up a National Authority for Unique Identity under the umbrella of the Planning Commission. That the Manmohan Singh Government showed the courage of taking forward an inheritence from its rival predecessor, without displaying the political myopia and illogical arrogance that characterise the Indian political fraternity, is worth applauding. More so, because the implication the project has on national security cannot be ignored. There have been arguments about whether such a massive exercise was warranted when already various identity cards like the PAN Card, passport, BPL card and others exist. It is good the authorities realised that such cards cover only a fragment of the population. And without biometric attributes like fingerprints and iris scans, it is almost impossible for any agency to clean out duplicates and fakes. In essence, assigning an unique identification number based on fingerprints and iris scan and linking it with a person's other identification proofs like passport, driving licence, BPL card, PAN card, bank accounts etc. through a national database would enable agencies to check online all the information about the individual. So, if someone has a different address on his PAN card and driving licence, he is liable to get caught and biometric attributes will sieve out frauds. No more will it be a cakewalk for terrorists using hotels and homes as shelter for planning, instigating and carrying out attacks in the country, or for nationals from neighbouring Bangladesh and Pakistan to illegally migrate to India and acquire documents to prove 'citizenship'. 

Interestingly, the integration of the MNIC project with the NAUID project got a push after Mumbai bled when Kasab and his aides attacked the city on November 26, 2008. But roadblocks have dogged its progress. Mr Nandan Nilekani got a taste of bureaucratic red tapism as he struggled to set up his office as head of the NAUID and getting an adequate number of personnel. The Union Ministry of Finance did its bit by proposing to slash the budget for UIDAI by nearly half. What worked for Mr Nilekani is the Government's bid to stop huge corruption and pilferage in the PDS system across the country. It is common knowledge that there are more BPL cards in most States than the actual population living below the poverty line. And the array of subsidies and sops — from food, fuel, fertilisers to rural employment guarantee — never reach the intended beneficiaries without leakages. Now, that the project has been rolled out, one expects the Government would ensure its full implementation. 







The Sun has set on the Empire long ago. Since India is paying for the Games, it should be opened by our President

The Indian taxpayer foots a bill of more than `40,000 crore for an event that is this poverty-ridden country's desperate (and pathetically poor) attempt to project itself on the international stage. And the extravaganza is officially inaugurated by a minor royal figure from the erstwhile colonial power, now reduced to a whining third-rate global force. The republic's President stands on the sidelines, looking grateful that she has made it to the palace party. Seriously, can self-flagellation get any worse? Surely, this own-goal inflicted on ourselves must be an all-time low in history. Except, it may not altogether be an own-goal, as we will see later. 

This writer never thought that he would ever be rooting for the current President. Lèse majesté, or high treason against the sovereign, and all that, does not apply in Indian law. Thank heavens for our republican Constitution, I say. Therefore, let me affirm that President Pratibha Patil is among my all-time least favourite Supreme Commanders, jousting with the late Zail Singh for the last-in-the-queue designation.

Nevertheless, Ms Patil is our President, duly elected under the Constitution and statutes of this ancient land. She epitomises the honour and dignity of this venerable civilisation. It is for this reason alone that I stand up and protest, when her office is sought to be demeaned by a perfidious foreign power that wants its two paisa moment in the sun. 

Madame President cannot and must not be gypped by a chhokra from old Blighty, and that too a seriously deficient character who suffers from all sorts of handicaps. And gypped how? A diktat from the monarch of this European outpost, who has the audacity to claim that she is somehow our 'Head', by virtue of some old sting operation (the so-called declaration of India's membership of the Commonwealth) that Jawaharlal Nehru inflicted on us, when this country was still finding its feet. 

The British monarch is, even now, lunching out on Nehru's egregious decision in 1949, made without taking into confidence his number two, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, or any other Cabinet member, that India would remain in "the British Commonwealth of Nations" after becoming a Republic, which was the goal of 'purna swaraj', for which millions of Nehru's fellow Indians had suffered so much. For the British, this was the great face-saver that they had sought, because in the small print of the arrangement, there was this cosy sweetener that the British monarch would be the Head of this shady clique. 

Now, you don't make agreements like this with the British monarchy and expect to get away with it. Along with the Vatican, the British royal family is one of the oldest syndicates in the globe, and will do anything to protect and preserve its powers, privileges and riches. There is not a single institution that has such a long and virtually unbroken lifeline as the British monarchy. The last time it was ousted was during Cromwell's brief revolution between 1649 to 1660. Since they wormed their way back to power, the British royals have lorded it over, not just in their little island but in vast areas around the globe, including our hapless country. 

At some stage, they even transplanted a minor German royal family in their midst and effectively transformed themselves into a crypto-Teutonic cabal. They changed their name and anointed themselves as the 'House of Hanover'. A direct predecessor of the current monarch, George III, could not even speak English ; he was also certifiably insane, and the fellow was largely responsible for America breaking away from the British fold. American independence was the greatest loss they would suffer, until Indian independence 171 years later. In between, they murdered, looted and plundered the world, since their Empire spanned most of the globe. 

Some of their own thinkers unmasked the criminal enterprise; Edward Gibbon said: "Of the various forms of Government which have prevailed in the world, a hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule." The American savant James F Cooper was even more severe: "A monarchy is the most expensive of all forms of Government, the regal state requiring a costly parade, and he who depends on his own power to rule, must strengthen that power by bribing the active and enterprising whom he cannot intimidate". Despite this philosophical angst, the British royals prospered and flourished. 

The present denouement in Delhi which will play itself out at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is part of this saga of bribery and graft. How is that savvy politicians like Mr Suresh Kalmadi and company were unaware of the surreptitious agreement that the Organising Committee is said to have signed with London that the British monarch would inaugurate the tamasha? Did these characters not have the slightest notion that they were selling the nation's pride and honour down the river? What were the babus in South Block (Ministry of External Affairs and the PMO) doing all these years ? How is it that highly intelligent members of the Fourth Estate and retired mandarins have all been parroting the line that old Lizzy in Buckingham Place has the ordained right to open the event paid for by India? 

We all know that official memory is selective. Readers may not remember that a comparable attempt was made in Delhi in 1983 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, where the British tried a similar ruse. Old babus remember that a gullible Zail Singh was about to be taken for a ride by the Whitehall lot, as the latter insisted on a ceremonial chair that would place their Queen in a higher position than the Indian President. This chair politics was abruptly brought to a halt and the two leaders were seated equally. Raisina Hill veterans say it was Mrs Indira Gandhi's decisive role that preempted the British chicanery. Eventually, CHOGM was formally inaugurated by Zail Singh, with Elizabeth being a spectator and a guest. After the inauguration, Mrs Gandhi, of course, orchestrated the event.

This, then, is the difference between 1983 and 2010. Mrs Indira Gandhi, for all her faults, did the nation proud when it came to flying the flag. Mr Manmohan Singh does not seem to be of the same mettle. At least, so far. He can always prove us wrong even now by advising the President that the Republic's self-esteem cannot be jettisoned in underhand deals by the CWG Organising Committee. Charles can then watch the President open the Games, which is, rightfully, her prerogative.

-- The writer is a senior corporate and business analyst based in Delhi 








Mahatma Gandhi has been my favourite for seminars on leadership and management for years. In fact, in the last chapter of my first book, Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch, I described him as the ultimate successor of Krishna as a management guru. The reason is simple. To me, there is no greater a management guru than Krishna; and the Bhagavad Gita is my ultimate guide to management.

Krishna guides five brothers to victory against the army of one hundred brothers in the Mahabharata, and in a similar way, Mahatma Gandhi guided us to Independence against all odds. Whether Krishna existed or not is debatable but Gandhi was for real. It is common knowledge that Gandhi, just before his death, said, "Hey Ram, Hey Ram, Hey Ram," though now even that is debated by various scholars. However, what many of us don't know about Gandhi is that he used to read the Gita daily and called it the most important guide to success. 

So, what is it about the Mahatma that makes him such a revered figure even when it comes to management and especially marketing? For that, we have to perhaps study a little bit about his past and look at world history on the whole. Worldwide, freedom from the oppressor always meant violent struggles. Freedom was always synonymous with violent revolutions. You conquered power through the barrel of the gun and you got freedom by fighting violence with violence.

But India had a peculiar problem. The problem was our prevalent religion. Gandhi himself called Hindus cowards. I wouldn't say that. But we sure were complacent, patient, tolerant and relatively the most peaceful race in the world. Gandhi, of course, was a keen observer and a quick learner — a key trait of a great marketing man. This man, with a burning desire to succeed in getting India freedom and realising that violence didn't appeal to the common Indian man, changed and did what was never done worldwide — again, a great trait of a good marketing success story, that of being the first. And Gandhi surely was the first to bring to the world the concept of non-violence.

At first, non-violence was looked upon as the stupidest tool of revolution. But Gandhi knew what he was doing. He knew how to market his concept because he knew he was satisfying an existing need — the need to participate in the freedom struggle and throw the British out, which was combined with a desire to not be forced to take up arms and risk one's life. He knew that his concept was a great solution to this need. The next thing he had to do was to connect with the masses and spread the word.

In those days, when newspapers were a luxury, telecommunication absent and even transport and connectivity a rarity, getting the message across the length and breadth of this huge nation was the biggest possible challenge. Gandhi decided to go about it man to man. He always had a great respect for the end customer. He had said, "The customer is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so." And in his struggle, the end customers were the masses.

To connect with them, he gave up his suits and ties. In fact, to connect with them, his marketing campaign included burning of foreign clothes and making khadi. Many like Tagore didn't find it logical. But being a marketing man, Gandhi knew it was helping him connect emotionally with his audience and conveying his message to them. The common man often understands symbolic gestures better than great works of poetry. And Gandhi revelled in such symbolic gestures.

As a great marketing brain, he had done a great Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis. He knew his opponents and competition — the British — well. He knew that unlike, say, the Nazis, the British were more cultured and believed in being fair and had a court that they were answerable to. So, he knew that it would be almost impossible for the British to kill him if all he did was to walk and talk of peace. He used their weakness to be ruthless to his advantage and used intellectuals amongst them for his own public relations. Not to forget, he used fasting as a great tool to drive home the message that he was not scared of losing his life when it came to the cause he was fighting for. 

But, perhaps, the biggest marketing tool behind a great success story is always the art of owning a simple uncomplicated line in your customer's mind. Marketers spend millions to do it. That's what marketing is all about in the final analysis — owning that one line in the customer's mind. And Gandhi owned the line "non-violent movement". It was the perfect positioning line for him for the market he was catering to. And thus, in the end, success belonged to him.

The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian.







Government has no business uprooting poor for show of pride


In order to present a pretty picture of Delhi to the world for the duration of the Commonwealth Games, municipal authorities are reported to have shunted beggars, migrant labourers and jhuggi jhopri dwellers out of view. These are the very people for whom the hearts of politicians bleed in the run-up to elections. Cosmetic touches given to the city and satellite towns are meant to conceal pictures of poverty from foreign visitors most of whom may not exactly be in the gravy in their own countries. Horror stories have poured in of people who made an honest living out of growing vegetables in the Yamuna precincts, being pushed out and a school for labourers' children in Yamuna khaddar, run in sheds, being dismantled by the DDA on July 7. The UPA's much vaunted right to education is clearly a pledge made only on paper. East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit, who happens to be the son of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, was nowhere in sight when these unfortunate denizens of the capital were being dispossessed.

Last winter, removal of night shelters for the homeless on Pusa Road had resulted in a few persons, divested of such refuge, freezing to death. It is a measure of the Sheila Dikshit-headed Congress Government's schizoid persona that while the lady has with much fanfare opened charity kitchens for the poor, called 'Aap ki rasoi', it has reportedly also been instrumental in perpetrating the biggest financial jugglery, diverting funds meant for schemes for the uplift of Scheduled Castes and Tribes to high-end Games-related projects. That is, money intended for the benefit of the very people, seen as an embarrassment for the city, have been recklessly squandered. It is reminiscent of the Congress' 'Garibi hatao' propaganda in the Emergency era even while slums in Turkman Gate were being razed and the capital beautified. "Give them cakes!" summed up a disgusted TV news reporter, drawing a parallel between Ms Dikshit's pronouncement of her Government's legacy for the capital and the late French Queen Marie Antoinette's remedy for hunger-stricken subjects, who only wanted bread. It needs to be recalled that the queen was later beheaded for her ministrations. 

Gurgaon, the much-hyped millennium city, housing hundreds of swanky multinational company offices, golf courses and glitzy shopping malls, and on the verge of boasting of Metro connectivity to the capital's power centre, has been equally heartless about driving out migrant workers, without a voice. The sham that our democracy has been reduced to by the compulsions of global big business, linked to an international sports meet in the present instance, is evident in 60 families being displaced by the Congress Government in Haryana from their ancestral land and homes at Kadarpur village, near Gurgaon. The Government apparently acquired their land at a nominal cost as it is adjacent to the big bore shooting range at Kadarpur village. Building a road to the shooting venue as well as security concerns were the ostensible reasons for depriving these families of their homes, land and sources of livelihood.

As more shocking facts about Government transgressions emerge, the question that we need to address is whether India can afford such extravaganzas, given that an estimated 37 per cent of our population is still below the poverty line. First World promoters of sports extravaganzas, on the lookout for new markets in emerging economies, have found India to be a happy hunting ground in view of the willingness of corrupt rulers to bend rules to accommodate such costly exercises. The hosting of the Commonwealth Games on the Yamuna bed and floodplains, in contravention of environmental guidelines and a 2005 Delhi High Court order against such concrete encroachment, is a case in point. The estimated `70,000-crore spent on upgrading civic infrastructure; creating 1,168 luxuriously-appointed flats in 34 towers; sporting equipment; catering and so on is suspected to have benefited an intricate network of politicos, sports administrators, builders, contractors, babus, middlemen and their lackeys. 

Meanwhile, JPSK Sports Private Ltd, a subsidiary of Jaypee Group, the construction company that conservationists accuse of wanting to colonise and erode all of Uttar Pradesh's river environs by depriving residents cheaply of their holdings, is building the race track in Greater Noida for India first Formula 1 Grand Prix, scheduled for late next year. Delhi can breathe easy that the original plan of the promoters to turn Rajpath into the race track was shelved!

In view of the massive expenditure involved in hosting hallmark events such as the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, India, as a developing country, would betray its people by bidding for once again. 






No amount of packages will help, if there is governance deficit. Mr Omar Abdullah should change his style of functioning and reach out to all sections to instil confidence in his Government

Will the eight-point Kashmir package announced by the Centre this week click or is it going to be one more formula, which fails to get response? Is there a ray of hope for the Kashmiris who have been facing violence and lack of development? Will the separatists fall in line and allow the normalcy return to the beautiful State and will the Pakistanis keep off from meddling in the State? These are questions that need to be answered by the various stakeholders but primarily, the onus lies with the Union and the State Government and also the political parties to ensure that the package becomes a success.

By and large, the initial response from the political parties is mixed. While the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has publicly criticised it as "an eyewash" sticking to his demand for withdrawal of troops from the State and release of political prisoners, the moderates are mum. In occupied Kashmir, the pro-liberation leaders and parties have rejected the package. The BJP has criticised it as Kashmir-centric and anti-Jammu and Ladakh, while claiming it would support all steps, which are "anti-separatists and pro-citizens". The Congress, on the other hand, has welcomed it calling it a holistic and a well-thought out package and hoped the people of Jammu & Kashmir will reciprocate it. The CPI(M) also has welcomed the initiative and wanted the Unified Command in the State to positively consider a review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The PDP has described it as a good first step.

Since the eight-point package had been announced after the all-party delegation visited the riot-torn Valley and met people there, including the separatists, it has taken into account the inputs from the delegation. The Union Government has sent a signal that it wants a buffer between the Centre and the State; and that the removal of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is not a solution now. 

What does the package mean to the Valley? On the plus side, schools and colleges finally reopened on September 27 after three months, following the announcement of the package. The announcement of `100 crore of central grant to rebuild infrastructure for schools and colleges including classrooms, libraries, playgrounds et al has also been welcomed. But before that the children need normalcy and security.

The package also signals that the Union Government and the State Government would address the concerns of the youth. For instance, the decision to release those youngsters who had been arrested for stone-pelting is a good gesture to win over the youth. It is imperative to wean them away from the path of violence and there should be more such efforts. The withdrawal of Public Safety Act detainees and withdrawal of detention cases could also meet some response. On the flip side, the people of Jammu and Ladakh feel that setting up a task force for these two regions will not meet their demands. Already the State Finance Commission is doing this job and one more task force would only result in multiplicity of authorities. 

The proposal for appointment of interlocutors to hold dialogue with all sections of the society may be worth a try. The Government should make sure that the new interlocutors are acceptable to all. Prime Ministers from Narasimha Rao to Manmohan Singh have made efforts in the past two decades for bringing peace in the Valley, but they had only left behind a trail of cynicism and betrayed hopes. The real issue is the dialogue. With whom will the interlocutors discuss the issues? It needs two hands to clap and the success of the interlocutors lies in their efforts to bring the separatists to the negotiating table. Mr Singh held two round table conferences with the key separatist leaders, but they continue with their rigid position on "azadi". The separatists are unwilling to come to the table because they know they are in a strong position, now. Unless the Government makes efforts to weaken them they will not be ready for dialogue.

The proposed meeting of the Unified Command Meet to review the provisions of Disturbed Area Act could lead to de-scaling of barricades and checkpoints to ease movement of civilians in public areas and pave the way for non-application of the controversial AFSPA to certain parts of the Valley. The package, if implemented may address some concerns of the people but nothing will succeed unless the governance deficit and the trust deficit, as noted by the Cabinet Committee on Security observed, is bridged. Most important, the Mr Omar Abdullah should change his style of functioning and reach out to all sections to instill confidence in his Government. Any amount of packages will not help, if there is no governance. Cynical Kashmir watchers wonder what happened to the various packages announced by successive Prime Ministers all these years and where did the crores of rupees announced by the Union Government at periodic intervals go. Going by the discontent in the Valley, obviously, the money has not reached the intended beneficiaries. There should be no surprise if the Kashmiris take this as another such formula. It is for the political class to win over the confidence of the people.







The Sino-Iranian technology-for-oil collaboration defeats the very purpose of the UN Security Council's new set of sanctions to contain Tehran's nuclear ambitions

On June 9, the UN Security Council imposed a new slate of sanctions on Iran in an attempt to curb its nuclear ambitions. On September 22, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev backed these sanctions by issuing a decree banning arms deliveries to Tehran.

This means one can now talk about a full-fledged "arms blockade" against the Islamic Republic of Iran. But how effective can this blockade be, and what loopholes are open to Tehran?

Iran certainly ranks among the most powerful West Asian and South West Asian military powers. Tehran's might is determined by a number of factors, including its vast territory with abundant natural resources, growing population, the lack of a colonial past and the existence of well-developed cultural traditions that enabled it to emulate European military and industrial technology rapidly.

Iran is also one of the most powerful Islamic states. Many analysts believe that its military and political potential dwarfs that of Pakistan, which is a nuclear power. Moreover, the Iranian military potential exceeds that of other Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula countries several times over. In fact, none of these countries has a comparable population or industrial potential.

Iran also has a sufficiently well-developed defence industry. The country's leaders strive for self-sufficiency in this sphere, but Iran is unable to manufacture all the required military hardware independently. Although its potential in this area exceeds that of Pakistan in some respects, it is not self-sufficient.

The threat of military conflicts with countries of the Gulf and the United States forces Iran to maintain its armed forces in a high state of combat readiness, which would be impossible without foreign deliveries.

China is Tehran's traditional partner in the defence and engineering sectors. Bilateral cooperation peaked after the 1979 Islamic revolution when cooperation with the West and the Soviet Union became impossible.

Iran started receiving weapons and equipment from China in addition to the required technology and production licences. North Korea also provided Tehran with a large amount of technical information and completed models of ballistic missiles, some of which it had produced itself and some were Soviet-made. This assistance allowed Iran to fight Iraq in 1980-1988 from a more equal position. Iraq had a smaller population and size of the army but nonetheless wielded far more advanced military equipment than its enemy.

Iran and China continued to cooperate throughout the 1990s. Beijing needed an independent oil supplier while Tehran wanted to gain access to more or less advanced military technologies. After recovering from the war with Iraq, Iran began to assess its armed forces' long-term development prospects. Considering its advanced domestic industrial potential, Tehran gradually began to purchase technology rather than military equipment. Moreover, Iran began to cooperate with Russia and other post-Soviet republics, subsequently obtaining a number of modern military technologies. However, China remained its main partner. In the late 1990s, Iran and China began to scale down their direct military cooperation against the backdrop of improved Chinese-US relations.
Iran then solved its military-equipment problem by launching production of new systems it had copied from foreign equivalents. But not all kinds of military equipment are easy to copy like that, with air-defence systems and warplanes posing particular difficulties. Tehran found a way out by expanding its cooperation with Beijing in the technological-development sphere, which increasingly replaced direct arms shipments. Iran actively bought devices and technologies that would enable it to enhance its scientific and industrial potential. Tehran managed to acquire specialised Chinese equipment used in this sphere, including X-ray machines for checking the quality of rocket-and-missile engines, high-precision machine-tools for manufacturing elements of gyro-stabilised platforms used in guided weapons, mobile rocket-and-missile telemetry-control systems, in addition to other components and instruments.

International agreements place strict limits on arms deliveries to Iran. Consequently, Chinese-Iranian military-technical cooperation has increasingly taken the form of joint ventures. Moreover, the Iranian Government has signed a number of intellectual-cooperation agreements with Chinese universities, which are involved in training Iranian specialists and researchers in various fields.

Iran's technological cooperation with China has allowed it to launch production of its own short-range surface-to-air missile system, a copy of China's HongQi Red Flag/Banner HQ-7 air-defence missile, and to upgrade older operational SAM systems. Some sources claim that Tehran has come close to developing its own version of S-300-PMU Favorit (SA-10 Grumble) SAM system. This was thanks to its in-depth study of China's HQ-9 / FT-2000 missile system, right down to the minutest detail. 








IT would be somewhat premature to arrive at a considered view of the Allahabad High Court's judgment on the

title suit over the Babri Masjid site given that it is such a voluminous verdict but a few of its strands are unmistakable. It can't be said that the threejudge HC bench has been grossly unfair to the Sunni Waqf Board considering that it has been allotted one- third of the masjid site but the court does seem to have based its verdict on reasoning that is contestable.


As we have said before, this means the final of this protracted dispute will be played out before the Supreme Court of India, which the Sunni Waqf Board has said it will approach.


For instance, the High Court verdict seems to establish that the disputed site was indeed the birthplace of Lord Rama. Here it is difficult to resist the impression that the court has stepped into the domain of faith which was outside its bailiwick. In fact, we think the High Court erred by going into the question whether there was a temple on the site where the Babri Masjid was constructed in the 16th century. If the Archaelogical Survey of India's report on which the High Court has relied is anything to go by, it is possible that some Hindu place of worship stood where the mosque was constructed.


However, the question to be asked here is whether it is possible or even desirable to seek to undo historical events. Giving free rein to that logic will create mayhem in society with every second party laying claim to a place or site on the ground that it was possessed by them at some point in the historical past.


In our opinion the High Court should have confined itself to deciding the title suit on legal grounds, stating that settling this contentious matter in totality lay outside its purview since it involved faith. It would have been fairer to all communities if it had asked the Union government in whose possession the disputed site lies to implement the project that it had proposed in the early 90s. This involved building a temple and a few secular structures alongside the Babri Masjid so that the premises stood out as a symbol of India's syncretic culture.


The silver lining in Thursday's developments is the restraint shown by both sides in their response to the verdict. This sends out the signal that maintaining harmony is far more important than the outcome of this dispute.






IT comes as no surprise that the proposed discussions between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly ( UNGA) proved to be a non- starter.


It seemed that the commitment to resume the dialogue process was purely from the Indian side. It was magnanimous of India to persist in trying to engage Pakistan in spite of the insults heaped by the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during the joint press conference with his Indian counterpart in Islamabad in July.


India's main demand has been that Pakistan act upon the evidence provided to it against the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack as an effective confidence building measure. Mr Qureshi's stand that there should be no conditions for the talks is ridiculous as India cannot be expected to ignore the role of elements from within Pakistan in the Mumbai attack, especially given the strong evidence in hand.


Pakistan's stand reeks of duplicity. At one level it has voiced the desire to resume the composite dialogue that was initiated under Pervez Musharraf and was brought to a halt due to the Mumbai attack. But in complete antithesis to the spirit of composite dialogue, Mr Qureshi, in his speech at the Asia Society in New York, went back to Pakistan's old rhetoric of demanding American mediation on the Kashmir dispute, a stand that his country had put behind it over the last decade.


Pakistan's non- seriousness is apparent from the fact that he called for a plebiscite for the ' self- determination' of the people of Kashmir even though the UN resolution clearly stated that the plebiscite was to ascertain whether the people of Kashmir wanted to join India or Pakistan.


Pakistan cannot engage in such unreasonable posturing and at the same time expect India to drop all conditions for dialogue.









TWO days ago the US House of Representatives passed bill HR 2378 by an overwhelming majority of 348 to 79.


Almost all Democrat Congressmen voted for the bill and nearly 60 per cent of the Republican delegation did likewise. After six years of veiled and open threats, this is the first time that either of the houses of Congress has actually passed such a bill. Three related bills have been tabled in the Senate.


Some version of one of them has to be passed before it can go to President Obama to be signed into law. Will that happen? The chances are more than even that it will.


There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, is the imperative of electoral politics. Biennial elections to Congress are scheduled for 2nd November, barely weeks away, and the chances are very high that the Democrats will lose control in the lower house. Since only one- third of the Senate seats are up for election and by a quirk of chance, most of these are Republican seats, the possibility that the Democrats will also lose the Senate is smaller, but significant enough to be counted as a distinctive possibility.


This is a disastrous turn of events for the ruling Democrats after their massive gains in the previous two elections and the victory by a comfortable margin of the first black candidate for the office of President.




The patent groundswell that is running against them is primarily driven by economic disappointment and disapproval stemming from the massive increase in public debt in pursuit of " stimulus". It is a fact that jobs have not come back and the unemployment rate, even without reckoning the millions who have stopped looking for jobs ( and thus are not included in the unemployed), is way above that forecast by the administration when it pushed the magic that trillions of dollars in budget deficits was supposed to work on the economy.


The case for American recovery has persistently been made on " global rebalancing", meaning thereby at a general level, the decline in American trade deficits and the counterpart moderation of the trade surpluses of others. On a more particular level, it has come to mean a moderation of the US- China trade imbalance. The decline of American manufacturing business has in the eyes of many commentators been visibly matched by the increase in manufactured goods from China or vice versa.


Whatever the direction of the causality, the argument has been strongly made that policy measures to reduce the US- China trade imbalance is key to level the ground and thereby create more jobs in the US. President Obama made the point in February 2010, though somewhat obliquely.


Nobel laureate Paul Krugman — in between his fulsome paeans for trillions of dollars of more stimulus — been far more direct, arguing in his column earlier this year that " America had China over a barrel". Krugman has computed that China's renminbi policy lowers US GDP by 1.4 percentage points each year. Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute ( formerly the Institute of International Economics) has argued that renminbi undervaluation was costing the US half a million manufacturing jobs. Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the media that " We do this because one million American jobs could be created if the Chinese government took its thumb off the scales". In other words, the legislative move against China's renminbi valuation policy has become a centrepiece in the political platform to create jobs in the USA. In the run- up to a decisive election this is a powerful reason for both sides of the aisle to press for the legislation to become law.


President Obama has so far not taken a position on the legislation. Some interpret this as a possibility that he will not sign into law the legislation even if the Senate endorses the House bill and that the Administration will prefer to use it as a threat over Beijing's head to get more compliance on the renminbi valuation. It is a fact that the Administration has been less than enthusiastic about a confrontation with China, perhaps, the cynic will say, because the one position that is not going to the polls is that of President.




The Treasury Department has been loath to name China as a " currency manipulator". The Commerce Department has also expressed reservations. Eight former Commerce Secretaries and Trade Representatives from previous Democrat and Republican administrations, as some media outlets described it, " implored" Congress to desist from such legislation. There are two problems with the Administration holding up the legislation. The first is that given Beijing's current belligerence and self- confidence, it will likely toss any threat right back. But that is of course not a good enough reason to explain American motivation.


Unworkable ideas also have traction.


The second is however more potent.

If the legislation is ready to be signed into law and the White House demurs from signing it, it will put the Democrats into even greater peril in November.


The second reason why this time round the bill may be passed into law is that the text is a far more carefully worded one that the clumsy blunderbusses of 2005.


HR 2378 does not specify any countervailing rate of duty, but lays down certain principles to determine if a subsidy is being extended through a management policy that depresses exchange rates of the exporting country and invites affected US industry to seek countervailing duties.


HR 2378 is also amazing for its brevity — just 17 pages long in big bold print.


Remember the caustic commentary on the thousand pages of previous labours of this Congress? The current versions of the Senate bills are double this length and contain several other complications.


It would not surprise if something like the house bill gets passed. Given that it allows a process of determination of ( a) exchange rate depression, ( b) injury and ( c) a countervailing rate it is consistent with an approach where more pressure is sought in negotiations with China. One does not know what to make of the Congressional Budgetary Office ( CBO) costing of HR 2378 when it estimates a total of $ 120 million of duties through 2020. Should one just ignore this as mere pro forma rubbish or does it indicate that the law is unserious? What may it signal to China?




There is a third reason for the bill to become law, but this may not be all that material amongst all the gaming that is on. In 2005 when the first bills were tabled in the US Congress, the US trade deficit in the first seven months of the year ( January through July) was $ 414 billion, of which the deficit with China was $ 108 billion.


In 2010 for the same period, while the aggregate deficit has declined by 15 per cent to $ 354 billion, that with China increased by 35 per cent to $ 145 billion.


The problems that are holding back job creation and a return to growth in the West are mostly structural — the social cost of doing business is proving an excessive burden.


However, dealing with these issues — whether it is a 35- hour working week or unsustainable levels of pension and welfare are very hard politically. That is why protectionist policies may appear attractive, although in the final case such policies impose a tax on the country's own consumers.


Indian service sector exporters will have to face up to this challenge, though merchandise exporters may benefit, perhaps temporarily, from the pressure on China's exchange rate policy. In the medium- term global trade will most likely have to adapt to attempts towards explicit preferences for domestic job creation.


The writer is Member, Planning Commission









SOME hacks had predicted a " thrilling" clash between the Supreme Court and the Zardari government on Monday, September 27, that was supposed to result in the ouster of the government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani soon thereafter.


This was based on Mr Gillani's repeated avowal in and out of parliament that he would not write to the Swiss government, as demanded by the SC, to reopen the money laundering case against President Asif Zardari on the grounds that he enjoyed presidential immunity while in office.


The PM had buttressed his arguments by asking how the president, who is the head of state, supreme commander of the armed forces and an integral part of parliament, could be proceeded against in a foreign country without surrendering the " sovereignty" of Pakistan which is parliament's foremost duty to protect and defend as laid out in the constitution.


In the event, however, Mr Gilani's law secretary did not appear in the SC on Monday as scheduled to present the PM's point of view as expressed earlier. Instead the Attorney General politely requested the SC to postpone the matter until the fate of the government's petition for a review of the court's anti- NRO judgment, on which the court's order for a reopening of the case against President Zardari is based, was settled. Significantly, the SC accepted the AG's argument, thereby reprieving the PM until the next date of hearing, October 13, while simultaneously ordering the National Accountability Bureau ( NAB) to investigate and present details of all pending cases relating to Mr Zardari and other PPP stalwarts in other countries like the UK and Spain etc, thereby stressing its determination to unearth and recover all illegal funds stashed away abroad.


O N THE other side, the PM has lamely gone silent on his " Presidential Immunity" viewpoint in order not to provoke the SC but he also reneged from a commitment to compel all NRObeneficiaries to resign from their posts in government, in order to close ranks and protect the pillars of the regime.


Clearly, then, we have some breathing space but no solution to the crisis because each side seems bent on defending and enlarging its position. Equally clearly, the space for a cool rethink by both sides seems to been have brought about through the courtesy of the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, whose discreet council was broadcast on Monday via a picture of him sitting at ease in the presidency with the President and Prime Minister.


Conventional wisdom says that the army wants a much better performance from the sitting government rather than any regime change that brings in old and equally discredited faces and makes matters worse by fueling even more uncertainty and instability. But the dynamics of the key players — which include Nawaz Sharif, the opposition leader hungry for an early election — are such that any of them could push the others over the brink at any time and take the house down.


The government's strategy is plain enough. It is using guerilla tactics to delay decisions on hurtful matters until it is ready to call it a day as a " victim" of the " establishment"— a cover name for the army and judiciary, to reap some benefits in the next election. So it is blowing hot and cold. It accuses the establishment of witch- hunting the PPP government and making it impotent. The army has already claimed control over foreign policy and wants to dictate economic policy, including defense budgets. And it accuses the judiciary of encroaching on the space of the executive and unfairly claiming supremacy over parliamentary decisions and even constitutional amendments. At the same time, however, the government has placated General Kayani by giving him an unprecedented three year extension as army chief and sanctioned an immediate 25% increase in a supplementary defense allocation for 2010- 11 to fight the war on terror. It has also backed down and refrained from resisting several of the SC's controversial judgments and orders that affect it adversely.


Therefore we may expect that in the runup to the next D- Day, October 13, the government will fortify itself with better legal advice and initiate some novel moves to thwart the SC. It may either appoint a new chairman of NAB who is favourably disposed towards it or delay the appointment by putting the burden on the opposition with whom consultation is mandatory.


Without a dynamic and independent chairman, and a Prosecutor General appointed by him, NAB can hardly be expected to move efficiently in sync with the SC. The government may also request the SC to defer the matter of the NRO to parliament for review and obtain a majority- resolution in its favour, a course of action from which the government had shied away earlier as allowed by the SC before it struck down the NRO. That would make its current NRO review appeal that much stronger, and at the very least delay matters further.


If and when this fails, the government could plead Presidential Immunity and Presidential Sovereignty and further drag matters. In the final analysis, it could bring itself around to the idea of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities which is worded in such a way as to avoid any bartering of parliamentary or presidential sovereignty and without enabling any quick reopening of the case in Geneva by creating legal and constitutional controversy and disagreement abroad. Already, the ground for that seems fertile enough. The Swiss judge who investigated the money laundering case from 2003- 2006 and the Swiss Attorney General who closed the file in 2008 are not on the same page, with the former insisting that there was sufficient evidence to convict Mr Zardari and the latter determining that there wasn't, especially after the government of Pakistan withdrew its allegations in 2008 and made it a " past and closed transaction" under Swiss law.


Therefore the game for the PPP regime is far from over. At the heart of the matter are the core contradictions among the key players: the army doesn't want the PPP regime to be replaced by a PMLN regime headed by Nawaz Sharif; the SC doesn't want any elected regime to lord over it while it is making a revolutionary quest for popular legitimacy beyond the scope defined by the constitution and parliament; and the army is shy of a direct intervention in which the mainstream parties and the popular SC are arrayed against it.


This dynamic complexity is creating space for the PPP's slippery maneuverings on the brink of the cliff.



JUST back from Karachi where we'd gone for Kabraji wedding na. Oho baba, Kairas and Aban's son's. What do you mean you don't know them? He's a hot short lawyer in a hot short firm and she does nature. When I heard she's into nature and all, I asked her to tell me the names of her products.

" Which products?", she asked. Bhai all those natural, organic type skin creams, anaar ka shampoo and coconuts ki lip gloss.


She pretended to look non pulsed and I immediately thought keh vaisay, no matter how sophisty they may look oopar say, under say all these women are same.


They'll die before they tell you the name of their tailor or their face cream.


So I complained to Janoo keh look Aban's not caring shearing type and he looked up at the ceiling and told the ceiling slowly, ' She does NOT serve behind the till at Body Shop. She's got a very big job with IUCN. And that's an organisation that's trying to conserve nature — forests, animals, oceans, that sort of thing.' How bore! Anyways, the wedding was elegant, yet on simple side. Janoo tau was in his elements. He doesn't like big splashy weddings na. Crack.


All of Karachi's nice khandani types were there — Habib Fida Ali, the Mazaris, Ava Cowasjee and Parsi ladies in their beautiful old diamonds and their beautiful old ghararas — they call those satin all over embroidered saris ghararas na. Don't know why but they do.


Back in Lahore I was immediately chaired up when I saw on TV that a snake had been found in a room in Delhi ka Olympic village. Itna mujhay maza aya na.


Serves the Indians right, I said to Janoo, for doing so much of showing off and then having their bridge collapse on top of their heads and everyone in the world laughing at them. Bus! Then tau I don't know what happened to Janoo.


He lost it. Started shouting at me about how I could even have the guts to mention the failings of others when half our country's drowning and children dying of starvation and our cricket team cheating and rulers thieving. As if it's all my fault! Between you and me, Janoo needs a holiday. No?








The Allahabad high court judgement may not bring closure to the Ayodhya dispute. The Sunni Waqf Board has indicated that it intends to move the Supreme Court on the judgement, which says that the land where the Babri masjid stood must be divided between Hindu and Muslim groups. The court has ordered that there must be a status quo at the site for the next three months. All must respect the verdict and due process must be followed in seeking redress. It's welcome that political parties and religious groups have stressed the need to maintain peace and have appealed to cadres not to take to the streets. 


The court appears to have used non-legal categories like faith to come to conclusions about Ram's exact birthplace. The reasoning and evidence used by the court is hidden in the 8,000 pages that constitute the threebench judgement. But we hope the judges have based their conclusions on sound legal principles. In any case, the court judgement can be a first rather than a final step in resolving the dispute. If any party feels aggrieved, it has the right to go up to the Supreme Court. Both sides could come to a mutually satisfactory out-of-court settlement as well. 


It must also be kept in mind that the HC ruling doesn't condone the act of demolition of the Babri masjid carried out by the sangh parivar on December 6, 1992. The demolition wreaked havoc on the country's multireligious fabric. It divided communities and set us back by many years. The wounds are healing, slowly. Any act that threatens to reopen old wounds must be avoided. A new resurgent India has emerged from the debris of the violent 1990s. A new generation has come of age since then and it doesn't want to be tied down by ancient hatreds. Simply put, a mandir at what is believed by some Hindus to be Ram's birthplace is not an existential issue for this country, especially its youth. 


Political parties must recognise the shift in ground, which is best evident in the twin cities of Faizabad and Ayodhya. Local people, especially the youth, insist that their concern is not a mandir or a masjid at the disputed site but facilities that'll enable them to improve their material conditions. People have had enough of pitting Ram against Rahim. We need to move on and the onus is on the state, political parties and community elders to ensure that the issue is not kept simmering for too long.








Perceptions of a rift within the Obama administration on AfPak policy have been reinforced by Bob Woodward's recent book, Obama's Wars. There's considerable evidence that President Barack Obama's support to the current military surge in Afghanistan is at best half-hearted, qualified by a clear preference for an early withdrawal before the next presidential election cycle begins. That sends out mixed signals which are being dangerously misread in Islamabad. The Pakistani army and the ISI are already preparing for limited American presence in Afghanistan, which they think will provide the Taliban the space it needs to recapture Kabul. While Obama's withdrawal plans go against the advice of his generals, they have also incentivised Islamabad to harden its position on Kashmir. Recently its representatives raised the ghost of the old plebiscite proposal at the UN General Assembly, which has little traction in Kashmir, New Delhi or the UN. 


The lack of a coherent AfPak policy is exposed by the fact that in the event of a future terror attack against the US emanating from this region, heavy retribution has been promised to Pakistan. The paradox is that an American withdrawal will make such an attack more likely, which would draw the Americans back into the region. It is absolutely imperative that instead of closely tracking fickle political mood in the US, Obama rises above domestic considerations and starts listening to his generals. Afghanistan needs sustained military and civilian engagement to consolidate the gains of democracy and ensure stability. After the mistakes that have been made in the past, at least a decade of such engagement may be necessary.









When Brazil elects President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's successor on October 3, analysts around the world will wonder how Brazil will act without the man who has participated in every direct presidential election since democratisation in the late-1980s. While Lula turned president only in his fourth attempt in 2002, he shaped Brazilian politics like no other in recent decades. 


Lula was also one of the major proponents of stronger Brazilian-Indian ties. In 2003, in his inauguration speech, he was the first Brazilian president to call India "a priority" for Brazil's foreign policy. In India, by contrast, interest in the South American giant, soon to be the fifth largest economy on earth, remains strangely low. Despite the large geographic distance, Brazil has strategic significance and a strong alliance could be highly beneficial for India. The Indian government must therefore use the transition of power in Brazil as an opportunity to strengthen ties with Brazil's new leader and forge a lasting alliance. 


It is often forgotten that Brazil and India share, albeit indirectly, a long history. In 1500, Pedro Alvares Cabral landed in Brazil, which would become an important Portuguese colony and stopover on the way to Goa. This indirect connection through Portugal allowed an exchange of plants between India and Brazil early on. The coconut and mango, both from India, were introduced in Brazil, and manioc and cashew from Brazil were planted in India. Furthermore, most of the cattle in Brazil today are of Indian origin. 


After India gained independence, commercial ties remained very low, and no single trade agreement existed between the two countries until 1963. What shaped the following two decades was the diplomatic tensions caused by the decolonisation process of Goa, the Portuguese enclave in India. Brazil was historically close to Portugal, and until 1961 supported Portugal in its quest to keep Goa, a strategy condemned by the Indian government. 

Brazil and India were able to improve relations after that, and the two countries often aligned during the Cold War in multilateral institutions such as UNCTAD and the G77. After the Cold War, India and Brazil opened up economically and sought rapprochement, which culminated in 2003, when Brazil and India jointly led the developing world during the trade negotiations in Cancun, and when IBSA, a trilateral alliance with South Africa, was created. A year later, Brazil and India formed part of the G4 (consisting of India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) which sought to enter the UN Security Council as permanent members. 


Of course Brazilian-Indian ties are, due to the geographic distance, unlikely to reach the importance of India's relations with Russia or China. Expectations should therefore be managed carefully. But there are three areas where Brazil and India can engage meaningfully: the defence of democratic institutions and human rights in the developing world, the quest for economic development and the reform of global governance. Close ties would be mutually beneficial and help Brazil and India address these challenges. 


Brazil and India are the two principal emerging powers whose citizens enjoy a human rights-abiding liberal democratic system. Both countries have been able to maintain such institutions and rights despite highly diverse populations, a lack of social inclusion and high rates of poverty. In a world where an increasing number of national leaders look to China as an economic and political model to copy, India and Brazil provide powerful counterexamples that political freedom is no obstacle to economic growth. Both countries must make use of their legitimacy more frequently, for example, by jointly calling on Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe to respect the unity government with Morgan Tsvangirai. 


Secondly, India and Brazil share similar challenges in their respective projects to promote economic growth and lift millions of citizens out of poverty. Each country has a great amount of experience and can provide useful advice to the other side. IBSA has been a step in the right direction to institutionalise such knowledge-sharing, but more can be done. Brazil's knowledge in agriculture is sorely needed in India, while India can provide software expertise to Brazil. Other areas where the two can collaborate meaningfully is the combat against HIV/AIDS, cash-transfer programmes to combat poverty and ways to foster social mobility and women's rights. More platforms need to be created for both countries' civil societies to engage more frequently. 


Finally, Brazil and India need to continue to forge a strong partnership in their quest to reform global governance and assure that today's international institutions adequately reflect the recent changes in the distribution of power. While progress with the World Bank and the IMF has been slow, Brazil and India have immensely benefited from coordinating their efforts. Any renewed attempt to enter the UN Security Council as permanent members should occur in unison and after careful joint deliberation. 


Even if it will take time to implement the strategies named above, the potential mutual benefits of stronger ties between Brazil and India are too large to ignore. 


The writer is visiting professor of international relations, University of São Paulo, Brazil.




                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




You were the chairman of theGrameenBankboard.The bank's philosophy is "helping the poor help themselves". Howdoesthis'blameless'conception of poverty sit with your vision of poverty as structural injustice? 


Microcredit is no silver bullet. It meets a need, but the farmer operates not just in a credit market and so you need a much more holistic approach to address his problems. Microcredit can help in case of bankruptcy or a crisis, so that you don't get a Peepli Live kind of situation. 


Muhammad Yunus has recognised this. Microcredit basically has become a mechanism to take people above the margins of subsistence rather than to bring about any change in their lives, and that's how we interpret it. 


Microcredit as an institution has really established the creditworthiness of the poor and has brought them into the formal financial system. Now the need is for integrating this and then getting them upmarket so that you create financial products, which will enable them to use their savings and become investors in the macroeconomy. 


Inclusive growth seems to be trying to move away from "trickle-down economics" but it's basically premised on the understanding that growth and equity considerations can be reconciled. Is this possible in the short-term? 

This is my point of departure from the way in which "inclusive growth" is used both in India's 11th Plan and now in international literature. When they talk of it, it is budgetary transfer payments, which are to be made to the poor. 


I have no quarrel with the right to food. I don't quarrel with the right to work. These are all desirable. But at the end, you aren't addressing the structural sources, which compel people to go without food. They go without food because they don't have land, they don't have assets. So the relevant right is the right to land, the relevant right is the right to participate on competitive terms in the market. So for me, "inclusion" then means something different. The prevailing international agenda is essentially astructural. 


You speak of the importance of a strong public schooling system and the impact it has had in the industrialised world and Sri Lanka. In India, the Right To Education initiative is not necess arily doing that but is trying to accommodate some sort of redistributive effort. 


Yes, and this is in essence the weakness of both the Human Development Reports and the MDG agenda, which look at these issues in mechanical, quantitative terms. So you show you have 100 per cent enrolment in primary schools, you show you have retention in secondary education up to a point…but the quality of the services is not really recognised in the system. And it is the qualitative distinction, which is really creating the big divide in your society. 


My wife (political scientist Rownak Jahan), studied in village and zilla schools. She then got the opportunity to go to Dhaka University, stand first, get scholarships and go to Harvard. The possibility of people coming out of village schools today and going to Harvard is virtually non-existent. 

This has been the qualitative deterioration. In a knowledge society, this is creating a selfperpetuating elite and a permanent underclass of people.









In India, the big 'C' stands not so much for 'Cancer' as for 'Corruption'. Corruption, which seems to thrive at all levels, is perhaps the single biggest threat to our national economic and ethical health. Back-of-theenvelope calculations have suggested that if corruption could – by some miracle, by the waving of a magical wand – be exorcised like the demon that it is, India's economy could grow not at an ambling 8.5 per cent, as is being currently predicted by the finance minister, but at a galloping 10 per cent, or more. 


Abolish corruption? It's like saying 'let's abolish gravity'. Corruption has become as essential a factor in our lives as gravity, which keeps everything in its place. Any suggestion that it could be done away with sounds like a joke, and not a particularly funny one at that. Indeed, as shown by the various alternative names being given by people to the Commonwealth Games – Kamao Wealth Games; Come on, Wealth Games – the prevalence and inevitability of corruption is accepted with a wry smile, as are other inescapable facts of life, like death and taxes. Indeed, you can evade taxes, and you can postpone or defer death, through precautionary measures like maintaining a healthy lifestyle and going for regular medical check-ups. But do what you will, you can't elude corruption. It'll get you, not sooner rather than later but soonest rather than latest. 


OK, so corruption is something unavoidable, something that we have to learn to live with. But who's responsible for it? How does the spiral of corruption begin? Who's at the beginning of the ghoos story? The other day, the answer to that question was revealed to me. I realised who the source of corruption was: it was me. 


Since i can't drive – and as, despite the advent of the Metro, there is no public transport worth the name in Gurgaon where i live – i not only have to have a car but also a driver to drive it. Neither is a luxury; both are necessities. A couple of weeks ago, my driver – who's been with me for over 12 years and is a thoroughly decent and honest man – told me he'd have to take time off, maybe four or five days, maybe a week. I asked him what the problem was. He said his driving licence had expired and he would have to get it renewed. This seemed to be a routine matter. Why should it take several days to accomplish? 


Sarkari kaam aise hi hota hai, said my driver. That's how sarkari things are. However, there were 'agents' who could facilitate things, for a 'fee', and get the job done in one day. Previously, the 'rate' for such 'fees' had been . 200. But inflation had hit these 'fees' as it had hit everything. The going rate was now . 2,000. 


The choice was mine. I could render myself totally immobile and sit at home for an indefinite period while my driver tried to get his licence renewed. Or i could rent a car and driver at . 1,000 or more a day, for maybe five or six days. Or i could shell out the 'fee' of . 2,000. I shelled out the 'fee'. I couldn't afford not to. 


And now i'm stuck with the knowledge that i'm the one responsible for it all: all the scams, swindles and frauds – from the telecom scam of . 70,000 crore to the . 100 hafta given to a cop on the beat – that bedevil us. Corruption exists because we contribute to it, all of us, in small, everyday ways that we might not even notice: giving 'chai-paani' for an extra LPG cylinder, paying a 'capitation fee' for a college admission. 


 And the really funny thing about it is that the guilt stays with us, not with the person who accepts the 'chai-paani' or the 'fee'. We are the ones responsible. For it's not where the buck stops that counts. It's where the buck starts. I don't know about you, but i know it starts with me. 








The feral, giant creature of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute has been finally placed where it belongs: within the solid and safe confines of India's legal system. This is no mean feat. For those who have been following the trials and tribulations of the issue since 1949 when Ram idols were placed within the structure of the then existing Babri Masjid, a chapter that seemed to refuse to be closed has come to a major pit stop, if not necessarily to a close. What had initially been a property dispute morphed into something far bigger, fuelled by the sectarian politics of the late 80s that reached a bloody climax in the destruction of the disputed structure in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 and its horrific aftermath across India. Thursday's verdict was a product of its time. The India that dabbled in communal politics has given way to an India that finds such tremors to be obstacles, rather than short-term stepping stones for one community, in its path. But the high court's verdict couldn't have been left hanging indefinitely. For leaving such a sore open, even if it had become just a scar for an India that has moved on since, would have left the door ajar for future misunderstandings and calamities.


Political parties across the spectrum have reacted in a mature manner to the verdict. The judgement itself — essentially acknowledging the fact, for the first time, that a Ram temple did exist prior to a mosque being built over it, and the division of the contentious land between three petitioners — is a sagacious one that, importantly, leaves no 'losers'. There


may be critics who will find the law sidestepping certain issues, but they are liable to be nitpicking, missing the wood for the trees. The fact that the Sunni Waqf Board will be taking the verdict to the Supreme Court is itself a recognition that the 'Ayodhya' issue has been contained within the frames of the law. A bull has been caught by its horns and credit should be given where its due: the law overwhelming what had always seemed — and had, during a dangerous period of our political history, become — a matter of extra-judicial misadventures and posturings.


One hopes that even with the differences that may remain after the High Court's verdict, the judgement will provide enough impetus to all sides of the dispute to work out an amiable solution to independent India's most voluble property dispute. In the end, what is of prime importance and deserving both relief and applause is that the verdict, in no mean way, has been a touchstone moment for Indian secularism and a definitive step away from the pit of religious fundamentalism.





MS 782474317884


George Orwell fans may get some randy ideas, but Citizen No. 782474317884 won't be turning into an automaton with a serial number scrawled on her scalp. All that has happened is that 30-year-old Ranjana Sonawane from a village in Maharashtra has got a unique identity (UID) in the form of a number that will be stored in a central government database. As a result, if anyone decides to masquerade as Ms Sonawane — and such matters of proxy, we are told, do happen in India — her attempt will come to nought.


There has been much ink poured and air exhaled about what the purpose of a UID is. Those reared in tales of the Big Bad Government have assumed that India's citizenry will be tagged like cattle for some ultimate nefarious exercise some day. There are others who seem to think that having a unique number itself will solve the worries and provide the needs of a billion-plus people with index numbers. Both scenarios are not only exaggerations but also untrue. The UID project will simply record the existence of a person who resides in India. What can be done by utilising this information is a matter for other agencies for other purposes. Indexing books in a library is not synonymous with either building a readership or earmarking titles for censorship. It just remarks and records the fact that these are the books there. It's the same with Indians and their UIDs.


Ms Sonawane, being the first recipient of the UID courtesy the unique Aadhaar scheme, will always be special. It could, therefore, be interesting to see how she benefits down the years from her new ID tag. That's if anyone's interested in tapping this giant, inimitable project. And if Ms Sonawane allows us to track her unique trajectory.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





The Kannada writer U.R. Anantha Murthy likes to say that India lives simultaneously in the 13th and 21st centuries, and in all the centuries in-between. The wisdom contained in that remark is on display in India daily, or perhaps on any two days taken together. Thus, on September 29, 2010, the first 'Aadhaar' numbers were rolled out in a remote tribal hamlet on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. This represents the first fruits of an ambitious attempt to use the best of modern — and post-modern technology — to bring social services to the poorest Indians. On September 30, however, we were taken straight back to the Middle Ages, when the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court pronounced its verdict on a property dispute that, at the very least, dates back five centuries.


The judgement is believed to be more than 2,000 pages long. I write this an hour after it was delivered, and so base myself on the bare summaries offered by the advocates who, on coming out of the court, shared them with the TV channels. From this, it appears that the court's decision was somewhat in favour of those who claimed that at least part of the site in contention was by custom and tradition believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. Indeed, one of the lawyers, in a positively triumphalist spirit, announced that this would facilitate the building of a grand temple, which, in turn, would lead to the making of a 'resurgent new' India.


 That this lawyer is also a senior leader of the BJP was surely no accident. Still, one must hope that his feelings of exultation will not be answered by sentiments of gloom and dismay on the part of the lawyers who represent the Sunni Waqf Board, or those who claim (equally fancifully) to speak for the Muslims of India as a whole. This verdict should not be interpreted in terms of victory and defeat, still less communal victory and defeat.


 The evening before the judgement, the Home Minister expressed the view that India had, as he put it, "moved on" from the polarising religious politics of the past. Whether we have indeed moved on will not be known for some time yet. For the judgement will go on appeal to the Supreme Court. As that process unfolds, a crucial role in maintaining the peace will have to be played by the Union and state governments, and by the major political parties. But responsibility and caution must also be exercised by freelance activists, whether Hindus or Muslims. Victory marches or angry sermons can and must be eschewed.


 The Allahabad High Court itself seems to have vaguely recognised the imperative of communal harmony. Hence the compromise apparently endorsed by two judges, that the land be divided into three parts, one going to a sect long established in Ayodhya, a second to a (presumably new) trust to represent the Hindu god and the third to the Sunni Waqf Board. How this division will actually take place does not seem to have been spelt out. It does, on the face of it, seem an untenable solution and one productive of more conflict. How, for example, will the respective shrines for Muslims and Hindus be built? And how, in a place already marked by so much blood and discord, will worship ever be peaceful and uncontentious?


I write this not just as a historian, but as one who lived through north India from 1988 to 1994, and saw, at first hand, evidence of the lives lost and villages burnt as a consequence of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation. My own view has thus been that the land should have long ago been acquired in toto by the Centre, and put to a purpose other than the construction of a temple or/and the reconstruction of a mosque. By that action the government would have equally offended the Muslim bigot and the Hindu bigot, but perhaps struck a chord with the public as a whole. Judging by their statements to visiting reporters, the young students of Ayodhya themselves seem to favour the construction of either a stadium or a hospital. To those eminently reasonable suggestions, a friend has added a third and possibly even better one: why not a park for the citizens of Ayodhya, a town marked — like all such in India — by a conspicuous lack of green and pleasant open spaces?


That this kind of solution has not been seriously discussed, still less acted upon, is due to the pusillanimity of successive central governments. They passed the buck to the courts, who, by offering their undefined and perhaps inoperable compromise, have now passed the buck back to the administration again.


Fortunately for the government, the case will now be argued before the Supreme Court, which means that it may be some (many?) years before a grand Ram temple and a comparable new mosque can come up on adjacent plots in what is already a very crowded city. In the meantime, one must hope that India 'moves on' even further, such that the ordinary citizen places greater — far greater — emphasis on demanding decent education, affordable healthcare, and (above all) a dignified means of livelihood rathar than living or re-living the sectarian religious disputes of the recent or ancient past.


Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. The views expressed by the author are personal



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





It's good to see the smile back on your face just ahead of India's biggest sporting spectacle. Must admit that a lesser man would have been beaten a long time ago. Through all the criticism you've had to endure in the last few months, not once have you even offered to resign. That is the mark of a good politician-cum-sports administrator: the ability to brazen it out even in the most adverse circumstances. Maybe you should be considered for the new Fevicol advertisement with the tagline: 'No one sticks to the chair like I do!'


But this letter isn't meant to be a Kalmadi-bashing exercise. That's the soft option that we shall reserve for the idle twitterati. The more complex exercise is to dissect just why India's moment of  national pride has almost become a national embarrassment. Why is it that a nation aspiring to be on the global high table can't organise an international mega-event with greater skill?


When I interviewed you earlier this week, you suggested that there was a 'conspiracy' against India. It brought back memories of Indira Gandhi and the 'foreign hand' and, frankly, must be seen for what it is: a patent attempt to escape from the real issues. If we were more honest with ourselves, we would admit that the Commonwealth Games (CWG) mess offers a mirror to the corrupt and lethargic state of the Government of India (GoI).


Take, for example, what your sidekick Lalit Bhanot said the other day when shown pictures of unclean toilets at the Games village. "Their (western) standard of hygiene and cleanliness could be different from ours so there is nothing to be ashamed about," was his rather ill-timed remark. Predictably, it sparked off an indignant response in TV studios. But in government offices, Bhanot's remarks may strike a chord.


Ever been to meet a secretary at Shastri Bhavan? The smell emanating from the loos of the premier neta-babu building would be enough to give you an instant nasal illness. Or come with me to the secretariat in Mumbai where the walls of every floor are lined with ubiquitous blood-red paan stains.


Take also the multiplicity of authorities managing the Games, who have made passing the buck a national sport. When a footbridge collapses, the urban development minister blames the Delhi chief minister who points to an absentee lieutenant-governor, while the sports minister ducks questions. As for officers and ministers scurrying around like plucked chickens to get the Games village in shape after seven years of sloth, it truly is farcical. For anyone who has had to deal with government departments, be it for a passport or a house completion certificate, none of  this would come as any surprise. There is no single-window clearance and things invariably happen only at the last minute after we've run an obligatory marathon of government offices.


At least the ministers can be eventually held accountable by the voters. What of the faceless bureaucrats who have perhaps been the biggest  beneficiaries of the mess? As the Central Vigilance Commission report had pointed out, a majority of the large-scale projects, which are under the scanner for massive cost overruns were managed by senior bureaucrats. Will any of them ever be touched, or indeed, become the butt of SMS jokes? The fact is that the Games became one large public sector undertaking in which the concept of accountability was given a convenient go-by.


]Ironically, the man who could have enforced higher standards of probity is himself a product of the same bureaucratic apparatus. As prime minister of the nation, Manmohan Singh should have empowered a high quality management professional to be the chairperson of the CWG Organising Committee. That he allowed you that privilege was the first mistake as it only reinforced the status quo. For much of the last seven years, you were accountable to no one but a bunch of hand-picked cronies, some of whom have already destroyed their sports federations. Instead of creating a professional enterprise, the Organising Committee became Suresh Kalmadi and Friends Incorporated.


The PM's second mistake was to appoint a series of sports ministers who were neither interested nor committed to the CWG. If Mani Shankar Aiyar had been in the private sector, he would have been instantly sacked for repeatedly attempting to sabotage the Games. If M.S. Gill had been in corporate India, he would have been put on a voluntary retirement scheme a long time ago. The PM could have appointed a young, enthusiastic minister in charge of sports instead of wasting their talents in some anonymous ministry with little work.


Unfortunately, our economist PM appears to have little personal interest in sports. The result is that the CWG was treated as an avoidable distraction rather than seeing it for what it is: a chance to showcase the best of India to a wider world. Almost two decades ago, the PM had opened up the economy with spectacular results. The Games were an opportunity to unshackle Indian sports from State intervention. Sadly, we missed the chance.


]It's not as if the government can't get it right. The success of the Delhi Metro project has shown what is possible if the right man is appointed to lead a high-profile enterprise. The Metro project is headed by a man of unquestioned integrity and professionalism: E. Sreedharan. Pity we can't say the same about the CWG leadership.


]Post-script: A lot of people are wondering what you will do, Mr Kalmadi, after the Games are over. They need n

ot worry. Even if you don't get your Olympic dream realised, there is always next year's Pune Ganeshotsav to look forward to. Since that's ostensibly a private event, you hopefully won't be charged with misusing taxpayers' money there! Enjoy the Games!


Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief, IBN 18 Network. The views expressed by the author are personal








The US Senate, on Wednesday, blocked a legislation that would have stopped tax concessions to American companies that resorted to outsourcing. The bill had sought tax concessions to companies that created jobs in the US. The failure to get the anti-outsourcing bill the requisite number of votes in the US senate is obviously good news for India's IT industry. India's IT industry exports services worth $50 billion and the US alone accounts for 60 per cent of that.


But an anti-outsourcing stance, often adopted by President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party, has repercussions beyond the Indian IT industry. It gives the clear impression that the US is not inclined to stand by the principles of free trade. Sure, recessions, like the one the US is still to recover from, do fuel protectionist sentiments, but it is for policy-makers to resist such pressures: protectionism, which often becomes retaliatory, is damaging for economies, particularly in downturns. It's also peculiar for the US to want to lurch towards protectionism right at the moment it is putting enormous pressure on China to end its protectionist stance of undervaluing the yuan. Had the anti-outsourcing bill become law, it would have smacked of double standards.


If none of those arguments is convincing, those in favour of restricting outsourcing should simply consider the interests of US firms. Outsourcing work to India and other countries cuts costs and brings enormous efficiency gains. That helps US firms keep up with the best in a global marketplace. It would have made little sense to push a policy that will only reduce the competitiveness of US firms in the midst of a terrible slowdown.







The United Nations General Assembly tests the stamina of most diplomats. They must patiently sit through long, sometimes laborious, often provocative speeches. Occasionally, a performer will come along, as Libya's Muammar Gaddafi did last year, to make everyone sit up. But most of the time, energies are devoted to using the big tent to organise bilateral meetings. This has been a particularly useful opportunity for India and Pakistan, and meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA session are now routine. Unfortunately, not this year. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's rhetoric in New York this week left little scope for a meeting with Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna to be fruitfully organised. That is in itself unfortunate; it is made more disturbing by indications that it is by design that the mechanisms for meeting between the two countries are being made more conditional, and therefore difficult.


Pakistan's call for a "free, fair and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices" came after more than a decade. Reports suggest that India was keen that the two foreign ministers met in New York and agreed on a "comprehensive" list of subjects to resume dialogue on. Qureshi's speech set back that expectation. It is one more step in reversing that progress in bilateral relations made in the latter part of Pervez Musharraf's rule. This approach also bears the stamp of the Pakistan army. Qureshi is widely believed to be the voice of the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, in his country's currently embattled elected government. The Pakistan army, post-Musharraf, has given all signals to diminish hopes of serious engagement between the two countries. These dispiriting signals that Pakistan is now not interested in improving relations and discussing substantive issues are coming from its domestic politics as well as the posture adopted by the army. Yousaf Raza Gilani is politically under attack, and appears to have lost the establishment's backing for bilateral initiatives. The army chief is also less shy of revealing his mind than he was when he first took charge.


Bob Woodward's typically explosive new book, Obama's Wars, is a reminder of Kayani's "India-centric", unyielding posture — and also of the current leadership's reluctance to consider the consequences of not engaging substantively with India's security concerns.







The Lucknow bench's verdict on Ayodhya is far from simple. And that is unsurprising: the judiciary was asked to respond to an entire block of issues, by one judge's count as many as 30. And the exact implications of the judgment, the precedent it sets, and its relationship to settled law will be discussed and dissected for some time — which is as it should be. The most important thing, however, is that it be discussed calmly; and parties to the case give every evidence of being willing to do that, even as they weigh the merits of an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court.


That is, in fact, an indicator of the judgment's broad thrust. None of the petitioners is completely happy, and each thinks an appeal might be called for. In effect, this is a reminder that maximalist positions of any sort will be either untenable or unimplementable. Whatever the way forward now, it will of necessity involve compromise and agreement. That is, in the three-judge bench's opinion, the legal outcome; and that is also, by all appearance, the likely political requirement.


It is important, too, to take a step back and realise what was being asked of the courts and the people of India here. Our judicial institutions were being asked to address what has been one of the most divisive political issues that independent India has faced; and so many of India's people, forward-looking and aspirational, have expected that a peaceful, legal mechanism will provide satisfactory closure to the problem. In this verdict, and in what appears for now to be a measured response to it, we see that hope in action. But what is true by implication is that, if the court's verdict on this issue is to have political heft, other Ayodhya-related cases can't be considered minor or forgettable. Nobody can stand behind the judicial process on this case — and in the matter of the Babri demolition case, for example, duck out of legal consequences. The question of culpability for that act is completely unrelated to the legal question of ownership of the Babri site. And those cases need to be pursued visibly and energetically. They, too, reflect the hope of the vast majority of Indians that our institutions are mature enough to deal with vexed questions without permitting the use of violence. Faith in the law requires stringent action against those who take the law into their own hands.









The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court has perhaps delivered a judgment befitting India: On God: there should be no dispute. On property: compromise. On history: move on. At first glance, based on the summaries, this has all the elements of an artfully worked out set of fine distinctions and complex historical judgments. Justice S.U. Khan, for instance, in his summary seems to recognise the special sanctity of the spot for Hindus as the birthplace of Ram. He seems to recognise the existence of temple ruins at the location. But he does not accept the contention that Babur demolished the temple; the ruin predates the temple. They all recognise that the site has been jointly used in various ways. They seem to recognise that long usage has some bearing on who has rights. And they divide the property. More controversially, the judgment is seen as sanctifying the appearance of idols on the site in 1949.


The full grounds on the basis of which these conclusions have been reached will have to be unpacked in the weeks to come. But the symbolism of the current moment is powerful. In the immediate context, it is important to recognise the three important ways the judgment is likely to be criticised. And it is equally important to resist the temptation to do so unthinkingly. On history, many will be disquieted by the fact that the judgment seems to legitimise the gradual appropriation of the site that began with the placing of idols in 1949. But it would be a mistake to read the judgment this way for two reasons. One, we should remember that nothing in this judgment exonerates the thuggish acts of demolition carried out in 1992. Indeed, arguably, it now liberates the courts from the danger of being caught up in the vortex of communal politics. As an institution, it can mete out punishment to those who took the law into their own hands without inhibition. Two, 1949 was a benchmark in the sense that the event happened in independent India. But the court seems to recognise that that event itself cannot be divorced, legally or historically, from the prehistory of the dispute. But it revisits the history for closing a chapter rather than opening new wounds. While the exact grounds of Justice Khan's conclusions await analysis, the rhetorical effect is powerful: you can acknowledge the birthplace of Ram without blaming Babur as responsible for its destruction. The legal niceties of this will need to be unpacked; as a historical resolution, it displays a subtle sensibility.


The second pressure is going to come on the property issue. Is the suggestion that the property be divided into three parts a legally compelling resolution? While everyone has the right to appeal, it would be a mistake for any side to go for a maximalist position. For that would be to overturn what the court seems to be saying. It is acknowledging in an elliptical way that the title suit is complicated. Any ambition to establish the singularity of claims will reveal more about the relentlessness of the plaintiffs in pursuit of property than it will do justice to the complex issues involved in this dispute. In effect, the claim that the property has been, historically speaking, jointly used is both a reminder and an exhortation that coexistence in a literal sense is possible.


The third pressure is going to come from those who will find objectionable the court's assertion that this indeed is Ram Janmabhoomi. Has the court not pronounced on a claim it has no competence to pronounce on? Again, the judgment will bear careful reading. But from the summary it appears that all the court has relied on is a proposition that is plausible: that for a long time many Hindus have regarded this as Ram's birthplace. This proposition is all you need to say that there is legitimate dispute, and an alternative claimant to the site. Denying this proposition would not have been avoiding questions of faith and theology. It would rather have been seen as simply and wilfully overlooking a history of representations and beliefs necessary to understanding the character of the site. One can still argue that the court has come out the wrong way. But what the court has not done is validate faith in a crude sense; it seems to be saying that facts about the faith are relevant to this dispute.

Each of these three critiques, if pursued assiduously, will have political consequences. If the property rights claims are agitated with fervour, by any side, it will simply signal veniality in the face of an enormously sensitive and historically complex issue. If the historical claims are contested with relentlessness, it will simply keep India trapped in old historical debates that have no resolution outside the ideologies of those who pursue those historical claims. And if issues of faith are reopened, it will polarise society once again.


The acknowledgement that this site be regarded for this purpose as the birthplace of Ram is, if anything, an attempt to de-politicise religion. Our standard distinctions between faith and reason, between myth and history, do injustice to what the court had to grapple here. Whether Ram is an artefact of faith or reason, of myth or history, eternal or contingent, real or non-existent, can be debated. But the court seems to recognise that that discussion cannot simply wish away the forms of self-consciousness that have characterised Indian society. Edmund Burke once said, rightly, that religious wars can be incited by denying religion altogether. The court seems to accommodate its claims, without jeopardising the secular character of the state. This will not satisfy purists. But it is not an implausible way of strengthening secularism.


It is hard not to think of the moral carnage that has been associated with the Ayodhya movement. The process of healing and faith in Indian institutions will be strengthened if those guilty of violence are punished. This verdict is not unassailable, but it seems like a workable compromise. Some may object to the fact that it seems too much like a compromise, a set of brokered deals rather than neat first principles. But the blunt truth is that most of our jurisprudence on the deepest issues that have divided us have this character, whether it is on reservations, or Mulki rules in Hyderabad. The question to ask is not whether it is a compromise. The question to ask is whether the compromise takes us forward in the direction of the constitutional values we cherish.


The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi








The dispute over the land where the Babri Masjid once stood goes back almost 500 years. Yet, it only became a potent and divisive political issue in the second half of the '80s. It could potentially have become a political hot potato in independent India as early as 1949 when some Hindu idols were placed inside the mosque. Incidentally, that is also when the courts were first petitioned on the matter. But the issue did not get political traction, despite the then very recent history of violent communal discord that had marked the partition. Why?


The most likely explanation is that the mood of the nation at that time was not oriented towards settling historical scores. Having just overcome its biggest grievance, colonialism, the nation, led by a very credible set of political leaders, was keen to look ahead towards a new and prosperous future, than to a traumatic recent past. Jawaharlal Nehru, the pre-eminent political figure of that time believed that rapid industrialisation would help Indians get over narrow parochial considerations like religion, caste and region.


He might have been right if he had chosen to focus on economic growth as the end goal rather than state-led industrialisation. Because as it turned out, the state-led industrialisation strategy (later converted to a more virulent socialism by Indira Gandhi) failed miserably to generate sufficient resources and opportunities to deliver the prosperity that was promised to all in 1947.


The failed promise was evident by the '80s which was perhaps the decade when the politics of grievance firmly took centrestage. It wasn't as if grievances were confined to any particular socio-economic group, but political mobilisation was always going to be easier around familiar parochial interests, which then clashed with one another. So when lower castes mobilised, there was an upper-caste backlash. If Muslim groups mobilised (as in Shah Bano), there was a Hindu nationalist backlash. In fact, the Hindu nationalist movement that chose the Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya as its political symbol was driven more broadly by a grievance-based backlash against lower castes and minorities, who certain groups (mostly upper-caste Hindus in north India) believed were being "appeased" in perpetuity by the secular elite.


An important point to note here is that the root of this conflict was the battle for what were, at least compared to today, rather limited resources of the state: the Hindu rate of growth could have only generated so much over three decades. And because markets were tightly reined in, there were even more limited resources outside the domain of the state. It is precisely this bleak, cynical scenario that led to an outpouring of rage on the Ayodhya issue and on the Mandal Commission, perhaps the two most defining features of a grievance-dominated politics in the late '80s and early '90s.


Interestingly though, almost exactly at the peak of grievance-based politics in the early '90s, another radical force was being unleashed that would eventually help the country break out of that vicious political cycle: economic liberalisation. What has happened to the nation in the 19 years since is a return to a mood similar to the one that characterised the early post-independence period, a mood dominated by optimism about a new, prosperous future. It is this mood that now dominates the thinking of young India — people of your correspondent's generation — where settling old scores or revisiting history isn't a priority at all.


Two decades of free markets and high growth have changed attitudes quite fundamentally. For a start, a significant part of the population now accesses resources and opportunities from the non-government, private sector. That reduces the competition for access to the state's resources. Of course, there is still a section of the population, namely the poor, who are completely dependent on the state for resources. But two decades of high growth have ensured that the government has more resources to redistribute to this section of the population without the need for conflict.


Markets are also very different from the state in the sense that they are blind to differences between people on the basis of caste, religion and region. Ability and merit tend to be the main criteria for getting ahead, and most people perceive a certain fairness in that. In sharp contrast, politics and the state, even in 2010, are driven by parochial considerations like caste, religion and region. It isn't therefore surprising that many young Indians have a disdain for politics which never seems to be forward looking enough.


It is, of course, too early to say how politics, so easily cynical, will react to the Allahabad high court judgment on Ayodhya. But it would be safe to say that the overwhelming mood of the nation is to look ahead to the future, not the past.








When Rome magistrates opened an investigation last week into the Vatican bank over transparency issues, it was not only a bold assertion of state over church, it also pointed to one of the Vatican's greatest continuing challenges: facing modernity.


As in the sexual abuse scandal, in which for years the Vatican appeared to declare itself outside — or above — civil law, this time the issue is the Vatican's famously opaque finances, which for the first time are being held to tightened European Union anti-money-laundering statutes.


While Europe remade itself after the Second World War, balancing its powers through treaties and linking itself together through banking agreements, the Vatican remains an anomaly as the last absolute monarchy in the West. But today, its ancient ways are running up against civil institutions that increasingly view the church as they do any other multinational.


"The Vatican has to understand the world has changed," said Donato Masciandaro, the head of the economics department at Bocconi University in Milan. "If it doesn't understand that the world has changed, it risks having violations every day against the anti-money-laundering norms."


The investigation is a test not only for the Vatican but also for Italy, torn between its European Union commitments and the Catholic banking networks that its ruling class has long dominated.


In a telling example of the climate of deference, news of the most important church-state clash in Italy in decades was broken, not surprisingly, by Il Sole 24 Ore, the country's leading financial daily — not on Page 1, but on Page 18, next to a flattering article about the pope's recent visit to Britain.


The case began on September 20, when Rome magistrates preventively seized $30 million from the Vatican bank and placed its chairman, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, and its director general, Paolo Cipriani, under investigation for what officials said was failure to disclose adequate information about two money transfers the bank tried this month, from an account it held in a Rome branch of Credito Artigiano S.p.A. to two other accounts it held.


The Vatican has said that the investigation is a result of a "misunderstanding," while Gotti Tedeschi has essentially called the matter a reporting error inflated to make headlines. But others believe it is potentially the tip of the iceberg.


Last year, magistrates began investigating all accounts held by the Vatican bank in Italian banks, acting on alerts from the Bank of Italy — which for the first time declared that the Vatican bank should be treated like any other bank outside the European Union and be subject to higher reporting standards under a 2007 European Union anti-money-laundering directive.


The magistrates were also emboldened by a 2003 ruling by Italy's highest court that paved the way for Vatican officials to be tried on charges that Vatican Radio antennas had harmed nearby residents with electromagnetic waves. The landmark ruling said that although the Holy See was a sovereign state, the Italian state must be able to protect its citizens from actions carried out by individuals who work for the Vatican. But unlike in the US, the high court ruling does not set precedent, and if a judge presses charges in the Vatican bank case, a long legal battle is expected.


One mystery in the new case is why the Vatican bank, formally known as the Office for Religious Works, would have asked Credito Artigiano to wire $30 million from an account that magistrates had in fact already frozen in April for officials' failure to disclose required information in earlier attempted transfers. Some interpreted it as a test of the Vatican's old ways.


"It's clear that it was a dangerous move," said Ignazio Ingrao, a Vatican expert at the Italian newsweekly Panorama, who first broke the story of investigations into the Vatican bank last December. "They wanted to force their hand, hoping that Credito Artigiano would have helped them."


But Credito Artigiano appeared to have little choice in reporting the suspect transfer to the Bank of Italy, which earlier this month sent its second notice this year advising all Italian banks to treat the Vatican bank with greater scrutiny — or potentially face charges.


But another mystery is what happened between September 6, when the Vatican bank made the transfer request, and September 14, when Credito Artigiano alerted the Bank of Italy that the information was missing.


Here, some see signs of a possible power struggle between Gotti Tedeschi and Giovanni De Censi, the director of Credito Artigiano's parent company, Credito Valtellinese — who also happens to sit on the Vatican bank's board of advisers.


The investigation comes at a time when the Vatican is under increased pressure by civil authorities in the continuing sexual abuse scandal, especially in Belgium, where the authorities staged high-profile raids of church property over the summer. But it also comes at a complex transitional moment for Italian banks, in which new power players connected to the rightist Northern League political party are fighting for seats at a table traditionally held by the Catholic banking establishment.








The tumultuous acrimony following the Sangh Parivar-sponsored Babri demolition that nearly dismembered the nation in 1992 was based on the mobilisation of rampaging mobs out to avenge historical "wrongs." Will the verdict of the Allahabad high court after six decades of litigation result in renewed sabre-rattling? Has the matter of the facts triumphed over the matter of the faiths?


The cacophonous crescendo in the visual media, led by shadowy organisations claiming divine right, over the last few days brought back into focus lingering, subterranean religious hatred. Something that could possibly impede our nation's march towards peace and promised prosperity.


The shimmering facade of relative equanimity, and the appeals from all parties to accept the verdict and for composure, has put the onus on all Indians to bury the past, and to accept the high court's answers to the contentious title suit.


With the verdict dismissing the claim of the Sunni Wakf Board on the land title, and with credible evidence — as the court opines — to support the contention that temple ruins existed prior to the construction of the mosque in 1528, rebuilding the mosque at the same place is now virtually impossible.


Secondly, if the title suit itself is dismissed by a majority opinion, why have the Muslims been given one-third of the entire 67 acres? The court also puts its seal on the fact that Ram Lalla was born in the disputed site — which should bring about closure for most right-thinking people.


The self-anointed guardians of an entire faith, the various arms of the Sangh Parivar, have always maintained that both the places of worship cannot co-exist and that they will fight against this legal order and go to the Supreme Court. The once-strutting and now emasculated Muslim organisations, intoxicated with hollow egotism, will slowly resume rabble-rousing — having contributed little, except fight for self-aggrandisement. They were aptly described by Justice Liberhan as "the now-defunct Muslim bodies"; he said they "are as culpable as well, for their failure to provide leadership." The Babri Masjid Action Committee and others should be disbanded and consigned to political rubble. The silence of Shahabuddin, Azam Khan and others is deafening — and thankfully we can now expect a more erudite, younger and inclusive-minded leadership to guide the believers.


Were the Muslims misled by their self-appointed leaders? It appears that the angst and the hype they built up is largely responsible for the present despondency.


Another significant part of the verdict — about the idols being placed — is silent on one aspect: who placed them? A more detailed fine reading of the judgment will probably partially satisfy all parties, and make them more amenable to rationality and reasoning.


All political parties will, sooner than later, assess the immediate impact of this verdict, and then plan their political revival based on the reactions of the aam aadmi. In the political sweepstakes, perception and image are of greater import than reality; the canny politician knows what to peddle to his constituents.


This litmus test of our nationhood, one based on constitutional democracy and respect for the law, will test the UPA government to its limits. As in 1992, any failure to uphold the law, or any clandestine pusillanimity, will deal a body-blow to the secular fabric of our nation. The pugnacious Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh may say he does not trust the VHP — but the question that needs answering really is: "can the UPA withstand the test of trustworthiness in upholding the law" in light of the verdict?


The burden, in our secular state, lies on both the state and the contesting parties. Whenever the law appears supine, protectors become predators. The aggrieved parties will move on to the Supreme Court; but this opportunity to provide closure, to heal the wounds of mutual hatred must be looked into earnestly.


The 170 million Indian Muslims will have to reflect on their present situation if we have to contribute to the betterment of our future generations. We must go beyond the "victimhood syndrome," and the double charge of being both "appeased" and "anti-national" at the same time. And the change has to be from within. In light of this judgment, the people responsible for the violent aftermath and tumult should also quickly be brought to justice, because justice should also be seen and delivered.   


The writer is chairman of the editorial board at the Kanpur based Urdu newspaper 'Daily Siyasat Jadid'








Sometimes, looking for an explanation for hard-to-understand aspects of society becomes necessary when these say something about ourselves — and our compulsive necessity to create the inexplicable. And Rajnikant's journey to superstar and veritable demi-god is one such social phenomenon, one that's escaped many an analysis.


Yet there's the compulsive urge to try once more, on the occasion of the release of his new movie Robot — supposedly the most expensive Indian movie yet, and even that's only an aside in hype of the sort his movies have generated without fail over the past decade. What can explain this larger-than-life experience?


I can think of three possible, if partial, explanations.


Firstly, Rajnikant's celebrated style, and the "antics" that are so characteristic of it — the flip of his cigarette, the twist of his goggles. These are not merely style statements; they are also socially subversive acts. While his ease with sunglasses subverts class symbols, his use of cigarettes dignifies "mass" symbols. Often doing them together creates a strong effect within the confined social space of a cinema hall.


Secondly, Rajnikant has a distinct body language, and a mode of projecting it that is unusual and therefore powerful. His side glance, his twist of the fist, his rather awkward style of sitting cross-legged, to mention a few, exude a rare energy and confidence — a person at ease with himself. In a segregated society that is at best judgmental, and at worst prejudicial, both the art of being at ease with oneself and the science of self-confidence and self-esteem are denied to most individuals. It is an indulgence; few can afford to refuse to be socially conditioned, to live by the terms they set. In cinema and real life, body language such as Rajnikant's is a rarity: it allows you to lower your guard, without the threat of losing your sense of the self or your self-esteem.


In a caste-ridden society where the colour of one's skin, one's dress sense and eating etiquette, and one's choice of profession are all under scrutiny, this provides on-screen relief. It is almost like licence to behave — to speak, think and gesticulate — as one would like.


Finally, there is something very distinct about the relation between his on-screen and off-screen images. They are completely disjoint — and, in addition, there appears no anxiety to cover that up. This lends inexplicable authenticity to his over-the-top on-screen characters and performances. He is known to be simple and honest; his lifestyle is modest; he remains a vegetarian and sleeps on the floor, keeping luxury at arms' length, in spite of being the highest-paid actor in the country.


Nor does he hide his modest background as a bus conductor in Bangalore; indeed, every story about him begins with that fact, and ends with his current demi-god status. He comes across, and looks, unbelievably different in real life from what he does on-screen — calm, polite and, of course, bald.


He began his career in films with negative roles, as a villain, and before moving centrestage as an iconic hero. And throughout he has come across as unfazed by changes, and thus authentic. The only actor who shared some of this was Raajkumar, the matinee idol of the Kannada cinema industry, known for his austere persona and lifestyle.


And both Rajnikant and Raajkumar maintained a respectable distance from the arena of active politics. In complete contrast, stars such as NTR and MGR nurtured larger-than-life-images in real life as well; they were overwhelming and overbearing, benevolent and glad to extend feudal patronage. Rajnikant is none of these, and therefore his public persona is at odds with the demands of an active political life. While Rajnikant represents himself in a film to entertain his fans, NTR and MGR re-presented themselves on-screen as what they were supposed to be in real life.


In a context where directors exploit the star's off-screen images — whether of Salman Khan as brutish, loud and impulsive, for his character as Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg, or Sanjay Dutt as gullible and emotional for his character as Munnabhai — to create an authentic on-screen image, here is a person who creates an on-screen image that is genuine precisely because he is not that character, but simply someone who intends to entertain. He, therefore, succeeds in doing that like no-one else.


The writer is at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi








The "animal spirits" of which Keynes spoke are on the prowl across the United States. Their mood is ugly. The spirits are wary and troubled. Corporations and individuals are hoarding cash, when they have any, because they're not buying


On a weeklong visit, I found a mood of deep unease in an America that seems to have descended into tribalism — not ethnic, but political, economic and social. Uncertainty is pervasive. The government's rescue of Wall Street combined with the acute difficulties of a middle class struggling to get by on stagnant or falling incomes has sharpened resentments.


This is not a momentary phenomenon. Nobody seems to think unemployment is going to fall significantly from 9.6 per cent — a level more often associated with France — in the near future. Get used to the new normal.


I spoke to a retired Wall Street executive who got out a few years back and set up a small business where he had to make payroll (sobering), but was freed from the debilitating short-termism of financial institutions that, over his career, had become dominated by traders "who look at economic opportunity rather than economic conditions."


He said the final straw came in 2002. Top executives at the bank where he worked gathered to discuss their bonuses. The issue before them was whether to maintain those bonuses in a time of economic contraction, which would require firing 5 per cent of the workforce, or take a 25 per cent bonus cut, which would allow those jobs to be kept.


"The guy running the meeting asked for a show of hands on who would accept a reduced bonus," he said. "There were 30 of us in the room. Three raised their hands. I was one of them." The job losses went through, this executive left, and the bank today is still trying to claw out from its uncontrolled excess.


America is a land of associations. Solidarity has not vanished from the land. But it's in retreat. None of those guys who wanted all their yummy money was anything but rich. Fragmentation holds sway. The stock market used to be a fair proxy for the state of the economy. Now it's a market of traders, not investors. They want to know what the spread is today and tomorrow; they can make money on the way up or down; they care far less about USA Inc.


So the market goes where it goes — up of late but largely directionless (which makes it harder on those up-or-down traders) — while out on Main Street the struggle to make family payroll continues. People work longer hours, they juggle how to cover their kids' needs, how to de-leverage just a little — and they're still meant to "consume" for the economy's sake.


The share of national income held by the top 1 per cent of American families has doubled in recent decades to 20 per cent. That's a huge shift. I spoke to Doug Severance, a Vietnam vet who's a hotel employee in Aspen, Colorado. "When I moved here in 1984 we were all family," he said. "Now either you arrive in a Learjet or you're a servant."


Obama hope has dissipated in short order. He's not entirely to blame and he's not blameless. The exclamation from Velma Hart, a black Obama supporter, at a recent town hall meeting — "I'm exhausted of defending you," — struck a national chord because so many people feel the same thing.


Arriving from the UK, it was the uncertainty that was most striking. That's about the worst thing for an economy. As one Chicago executive put it to me, people who are creative rise above a consistently applied set of rules. Opacity kills.


Britain has similar post-binge economic problems — of personal and national debt and spiraling deficits. But Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat partners have actually put bipartisanship to work — did any Republicans notice? They are looking to lock in five years of stability through a new law and push through painful cuts across government departments.


Five years is a decent stretch. In America today, quarter-to-quarter concerns hem in even a visionary chief executive.


The policy debate in the United States is head-spinning. Nobody knows if there's going to be more fiscal stimulus, after the first $787 billion, or how a row over taxes will end. Under an Obama proposal, Bush-era tax cuts are due to expire at year-end for affluent couples and small business owners earning over $250,000. Republicans are digging in, saying it's crazy to raise taxes in a faltering economy.


It's not crazy. Ending the tax cuts for the rich is a minimum signal for a divided land, a statement that the two Americas are acquainted with each other. But with Obama facing a stinging midterm defeat, it looks like a long shot. What is needed above all is some clarity and sense of direction — the kind Cameron has given in London and booming China consistently applies.


Without that expect the animal spirits to keep on hoarding, an inward-looking America bent on retrenchment, and a new normal that lasts and lasts. The New York Tim









How the economy reacts to yesterday's judgment on the title suits of the Ram Janambhoomi/Babri Masjid will depend, needless to say, on whether there is a law and order problem in the days and weeks to come. So far, with all political parties advising calm and paramilitary forces deployed in sensitive areas, things look under control, certainly investors in India's stock markets seem to think so. In the run-up to the day of judgment—the Supreme Court judgment, after the parties appeal it, will be the final word—the Sensex fell by less than one percentage point. On Thursday, it about made this up. None of this is to suggest you won't see wild gyrations in the Sensex, but past experience suggests the index doesn't take too long to get over an event; two, its movements are increasingly correlated with global developments more than they are with local ones (see graphic on today's Reflect page). When Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi died, on May 21, 1991, the Sensex, then at a mere 1,300 or so, hardly moved—it fell a mere 0.43% the next day. The Sensex, still in its infancy, rose 4.68% the day Manmohan Singh ushered in economic reforms in 1991. By 1992, when Harshad Mehta was moving the market, it rose to about 4,500 by April 1992, the impact was serious. Exposing Harshad's scam on April 26, 1992, saw the Sensex fall 12.77% the next day, 5.71% the day after; it recovered 5.81% on the third day but then sank another 8.41% after that. The Sensex fell around 15% in the 3-4 days after 9/11 since the fear of a global crisis was topmost on investors' minds—in contrast when, a few months later, India's Parliament was attacked, the fall was under 4% over the next few days. The sharpest fall, by more than 11%, was sparked by the Left's comments on TV before UPA-1 was sworn in. The Lehman collapse, similarly, caused a greater fall in the Sensex than even the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.


It's not just financial investors that react in this manner. Large parts of India are under the threat of Naxalism, but this has not deterred FDI from pouring in. Nor, for that matter, have reports on competitiveness and economic freedom. India ranks 124th out of around 180 countries on the Economic Freedom Index, and China is 140th—tell investors who're pouring in billions in these countries that they'd be better off investing in Botswana (28th) and they'll laugh at you. Ditto for the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report that ranks China 27th and India 51st among 139 countries. If political parties continue to demonstrate the kind of maturity they have over the past few weeks, and the law and order situation is kept under control, there's no reason why yesterday's judgment shouldn't be a blip in India's economic history.







The rollout of the unique identity numbers under the Aadhaar project within two years of the notification of the project, and a little more than a year after appointing its CEO, is a credible achievement of the UPA government. The scale of the project, combined with the fact that it is the first time that the country's much acclaimed expertise in IT is being used on a such a massive scale, makes it a test case for using cutting-edge technology in governance. But the challenges are much greater than in the earlier projects, like the introduction of EVMs, where problems were largely of a technical nature. This is because though the rollout is expected to be smooth in the rural areas, where the gram sabhas and village elders can vouch for the identity of the people, the scenario is likely to be complicated in the cities, where it will be difficult to verify the credentials of the large migrant population. But though verification is a difficult task as documents can often be faked, the main advantage of the system is that it fully rules out any duplication of identities, as it is impossible to fake the biometric information.


Rolling out the numbers and setting up a central identities data repository that provides a uniform base for all identity verifications will only be the first step of Aadhaar, a term that means 'foundation'. The fact is that the social gains from the project will start only when the different public and private agencies start using the UIDs for verifying the credentials of the participants or beneficiaries in various projects. The potential gains are huge as this will be of great help not only to the large number of poor who have no documents to prove their identities, and which are often unscrupulously stolen to usurp their entitlements from the government that run into thousands of crores, but also to the different public and private agencies like the I-T authorities, the PDS, health agencies, pension and PF schemes, telecos, and banks whose limited resources are often substantially depleted by ghost entities and duplicates. Law & order agencies will also gain substantially as the crimes of habitual offenders can be quickly traced with the biometric evidence from the centralised agency. Whether Aadhar will be put to good use, and how long this will take, will of course depend upon how soon party chief Sonia Gandhi says it has to be used in various social security schemes.








While India has a world class equities trading ecosystem, one of the last missing building blocks is a mechanism to borrow shares. Stock lending is important because it will improve the pricing of stock futures, and because it will enable expression of bearish views about non-derivatives stocks. A stock lending mechanism has been under development for a decade. In 2010, there seems to finally be some traction in this. If this works out, then one of the last missing pieces of the equity ecosystem would fall into place.


Divergent views of an array of participants are the essence of finance. If a person feels optimistic about a stock, he can borrow money and buy shares. What about the pessimist? When a share price is Rs 100, a pessimist borrows shares and sells them on the market. He is obliged to return the shares at a later date. If the pessimist is right, the share price goes down to, say, Rs 90. He then buys the shares back at Rs 90 and returns them, for a profit of Rs 10.


The ability to borrow shares is thus essential to a free and fair market: just as optimists can borrow money, pessimists should be able to borrow shares. While this is the right way to think about thousands of listed firms in India, there is a privileged set of 200 firms that are different. These stocks have stock futures trading. India is unusual by world standards in having achieved success with stock futures at NSE. Stock futures are cash settled, thus giving true symmetry between the optimist (who would buy the stock futures) and the pessimist (who would sell the stock futures).


While stock lending is not important for a healthy and balanced speculative price discovery to come about for these 200 stocks, there is still a vital role for it, in the process of arbitrage. Derivatives pricing is done by arbitrage. The futures price should reflect an interest cost of carry over the spot price. If the futures price on the market is too high, then arbitrageurs step in, who buy an equal quantity of shares on the spot market and sell the futures, thus making a profit while taking no risk.


But what happens if the futures price is too low? The arbitrage strategy then requires buying the futures (since this is too cheap), and simultaneously selling an equal quantity of shares on the spot market. But what if the person doing this arbitrage does not own those shares? He needs to be able to borrow them. Thus, a stock lending mechanism fosters pricing efficiency for the stock futures, by connecting shares (in the portfolios of lenders) with the arbitrageur.


In the international experience, stock lending is done on a private basis. The borrower and lender meet each and undertake the lending. This leads to trouble when the borrower defaults, in which case the lender stands to lose his shares. In India, a unique path was chosen by Sebi: that of requiring a counterparty guarantee of the clearing corporation, and of having a transparent screen-based system for borrowing.


For many years, this did not work out. There have been times when the present author has despaired of making

this work and recommended that we drop back to private borrowing mechanisms, as is done in the West. In 2009 and 2010, finally, it appears that the problems are being resolved. Sebi went through a revision of its rules about the stock lending mechanism. In June, NSE's clearing corporation (NSCC) implemented a screen-based matching platform and a full counterparty guarantee, reflecting these new rules.


In recent weeks, this has started exhibiting some traction. Over 10 weeks, lending worth Rs 300 crore has taken place, with an average of Rs 5.5 crore a day. A total lending fee of Rs 64 lakh was paid. While these numbers are puny, they still suggest that the basic design mistakes, which have characterised previous attempts, have been addressed. With further debugging, there is a potential for fairly big numbers to rapidly come about. Every investor who has shares sleeping in a depository account now has an opportunity to make a little revenue by lending out these shares.


At present, there are two key constraints. First, institutional investors are absent on the lending side. For any investor, earning a little additional revenue by stock lending is a free lunch, since NSCC guarantees the return of shares thus eliminating credit risk. The constraints which hold back mutual funds, FIIs, banks and insurance companies from lending shares need to be removed.


Secondly, for firms lacking stock futures trading, stock lending is of critical importance in enabling the expression of negative views. Absent stock lending, stock prices have a positive bias since optimists can take positions while pessimists cannot. Hence, the scope of stock lending needs to be broadened beyond the derivatives list.


—The author is an economist with interests in finance, pensions and macroeconomics








While China's economic diplomacy is manifestly directed towards maximising export markets and scooping up enormous trade surpluses from partner nations, a parallel assertiveness is surfacing through Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in far-flung regions of the world. The primarily state-owned manufacturing, infrastructure and energy companies that have helped China amass foreign exchange reserves worth $2.7 trillion are dipping into their war chests to acquire foreign assets and set up production outlets in distant corners, spreading Chinese influence in ever newer terrains.


According to the official China Daily, the country is now the fifth-biggest investing nation worldwide and the leader in this category among developing nations. Although the bulk of outbound Chinese FDI stays within fast-growing parts of Asia, it was in Africa that Beijing first made a strategic push for political traction via a combination of investments, aid grants, loans, trade pacts.


China had to set aside barely 2.6% of its global outbound FDI to become the second-most valuable foreign investor in Africa after South Africa. A corollary shift in power dynamics on the continent followed, as China displaced the US to become Africa's pre-eminent external patron. Brazil and, belatedly, India have realised the worth of Africa and have been left playing perpetual catch-up with China by increasing their own respective outward FDIs.


One peculiarity of China's dedicated thrust into Africa, followed by a similar storming of Latin America through mega investments in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, is that the state has decided investment priorities and destinations rather than private Chinese entrepreneurs. Foreign policy planners in Beijing have motives and goals that are grafted on to plain economic common-sense calculations about return on investment and risks of pumping money into a specific market.


In the process, it is quite likely that some decisions about Chinese FDI in parts of Africa and Latin America do not lead to the most efficient allocation of resources, but the overall outcome is one of consolidation of Chinese presence and clout in continent-sized land masses. What we are seeing in China's all-smothering FDI methodology is an externalisation of the 'giantism' and domestic high modernisation, which British economist EF Schumacher found so distasteful in the 1970s. It involves a 'whole or nothing' mindset, whereby FDI is akin to financial carpet bombing that leaves no patch untouched in a chosen target range.


If one thought the Chinese investment juggernaut would exhaust itself in the limitless possibilities of Africa and Latin America, a new turf has appeared on the horizon in the last few years. The poorer and weaker economies of central and eastern Europe are now finding themselves the newest willing recipients of China's capital barrage. As in the case of Africa and Latin America, Beijing is not improvising on the go but arriving with a predetermined blueprint to invest in manufacturing, real estate and infrastructure sectors of an entire patch of Europe's less advanced economies like Albania, Moldova, Hungary, Poland, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia.


In July, these European featherweights held a promotional event called Sino-Europe Investment Day at the Shanghai World Expo and parroted that since they were capital-starved, as much Chinese investment as Beijing would deign to give was welcome. Although we have not yet seen an official Russian expression of concern over China's financial train rolling into Moscow's backyard, the net geopolitical effect of Beijing's enlarging investment footprint in Africa and Latin America has been one of balancing or replacing pre-existing great powers. So, as China presses on in central and eastern European gateways to the far more lucrative west European market, the political question will rear its head in the Kremlin as to how far this can be allowed in what Russia considers to be its 'near abroad'.


China's global rise through economic instruments appears peaceful on paper but arouses presentiments and reorders existing balances of power in different regions. Dragonomics can be a threat to resident powers who took their domination of various regions for granted. Chinese grand strategy is rousing the complacent out of the wrong sides of their beds.


—The author is associate professor of world politics at the OP Jindal Global University






No news is good news

Food minister Sharad Pawar is often accused of not doing enough to control runaway food prices, so he's now come up with a possible solution. Why, he asked the other day, do food prices have to be declared on a weekly basis when the overall Wholesale Price Index is declared once a month? At a conference of sugar cooperatives, Pawar said India's sugar prices were lower than those in even Brazil, the world's largest producer—ditto, he said, for wheat and rice prices. "I don't understand why prices of foodgrains are calculated on a weekly basis when the prices of other items like electric goods and clothes are calculated on a monthly basis." He was not an economist, he said, but would be happy if he could be told why this was the case.


The final word


Chambers of commerce, it seems, are used to being on both sides at the same time. Assocham's press release on the Ayodhya judgment doesn't disappoint: "The High Court verdict is a win-win for all."


Watch your constituencies


If many ministers and MPs are not to be found in the capital these days, it is because party chief Sonia Gandhi has asked them to go back to their constituencies to ensure peace and calm once the Ayodhya judgment comes out.






Even the most die-hard supporters of international policy coordination and forums like the G-20 would have to admit that when it comes to the crux, two countries matter more than all the others put together: US and China, a powerful


G-2. Now, as the after effects of the global meltdown continue to linger, particularly in the US where growth is sclerotic and unemployment over 10%, the G-2 looks set to meet in a head-to-head confrontation. The US House of Representatives will likely pass legislation that will equate China's undervalued exchange rate with an illegal export subsidy. This will eventually pave the way for the US government to impose trade barriers on Chinese goods entering the US. That would be the beginning of a costly trade war.


Of course, it is far from obvious that the legislation passed by the House will also be passed by the Senate and then signed into law by the President. So US retaliation is still in the realm of the possible, not reality. It may not be in US interest to force a trade war with China: raising trade barriers to Chinese imports will simply make a lot of goods more expensive for US consumers, who are already reeling from the recession. Sensible policymakers in the US would also not want to force a rapid appreciation of the yuan, which could potentially derail China's growth: China is, after all, the leading engine of growth in the process of global economic recovery. So, the US is stuck between a rock and a hard place on how to handle the yuan problem.











The majority verdict of the Allahabad High Court on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is a compromise calculated to hold the religious peace rather than an exercise of profound legal reflection. This search for a compromise informs the orders of Justice S.U. Khan and Justice Subir Agarwal even if they would seem to stretch the law and, at times, logic as well. The third judge, Justice D.V. Sharma, decided that the disputed structure could not be regarded as a mosque and ruled in favour of the Hindu plaintiffs. The effect of the majority judgments is that the disputed land of 2.77 acres is to be divided equally among the two Hindu plaintiffs, the Nirmohi Akhara and Bhagwan Sri Rama Virajman, the deity regarded as a jurisdic person that can own property, and the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs U.P. The portion of the inner courtyard where the central dome of the Babri Masjid stood before its demolition and where the makeshift temple now exists is to be given to the Hindu plaintiffs. The rest of the area where the Babri Masjid stood, including part of the inner courtyard and some part of the outer courtyard, is to be allotted to the Waqf Board. The Nirmohi Akhara is to be allotted the buildings that stood in the outer courtyard of the premises, including Ram Chabutra and the Sita Rasoi, while it is to share the unbuilt area of the outer courtyard with Bhagwan Sri Rama Virajman. To facilitate such a three-way division, and also to provide access, some part of the land acquired by the Central government around the disputed land could be used.


In arriving at his decision on the three-way division, Justice Khan has concluded that the disputed structure was a mosque constructed by or under orders of Emperor Babar and that it was built not after demolishing any temple but on an area where some temples were already in ruins. He notes that before the mosque was constructed, the Hindus believed that somewhere in the large area of land where the Babri Masjid came to stand later was the spot of birth of Lord Ram. After the mosque was constructed, they came to believe that the place where the mosque stood contained the birth spot, and much later in the decades before 1949 they came to identify that spot as the one under the central dome. He also holds that much before 1855, the adjoining Ram Chabutra and the Sita Rasoi existed and Hindus were worshipping there. According to his finding, the idol of Lord Ram was placed for the first time under the central dome of the Babri Masjid in the early hours of December 23, 1949. In view of the side-by-side worship and joint possession of the disputed site, he would declare both parties as joint title holders. However, that part of the land under the central dome of the Babri Masjid where the idols were placed and the makeshift temple now stands after demolition would be allotted to the Hindus.


However, Justice Agarwal who also favoured the division of the land differed from Justice Khan on some critical issues. He does not find evidence of Babar having built the mosque or any material to support the exact date when it was built, though he finds it was in existence before 1776. He finds also that the idol had been placed under the central dome on December 23, 1949 but wants that spot to be allotted to the Hindus. The Sunni Central Board of Waqfs is to get no less than one-third of the total area in dispute, including the rest of the area on which the mosque stood and some part of the outer courtyard. Justice Sharma finds that the idol was placed under the central dome on December 23, 1949 but in his other findings and conclusions he differs radically from his fellow judges on the Bench. He has ruled that as the disputed structure was built against Islamic tenets, it could not be regarded as a mosque.


At one level, from the standpoint of political morality, the verdict could be viewed as partially rewarding those who placed the idol overnight under the central dome of the mosque and those who in 1992 razed it to the ground. Nevertheless, the confusing mass of findings the reasons for which are not entirely clear and the compromise nature of the verdict along with the substantive outcome of dividing the disputed land have restrained any party from claiming outright victory or sulking in total defeat. The Sunni Waqf Board and the Sri Ramjanmabhoomi Trust have indicated that they would appeal against the verdict to the Supreme Court.


All sections of political opinion had issued appeals for calm and restraint on the eve of the verdict but apprehensions of disturbances remained, and a last minute effort was made to halt the judgment. The Supreme Court struck a blow for the rule of law and decided that the judicial process that has been winding slowly over the last 60 years ought not to be halted at the last minute for fear of disturbances and under some imaginary hope of the parties arriving at a negotiated settlement. If overall the reaction from the public and from large sections of political opinion has been subdued, much of it has to do with the mood of the nation in which the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue does not find much traction any more — in striking contrast to the 1990s. On balance, the nature of the Allahabad High Court verdict should help the nation as a whole put a longstanding dispute behind. Secular India needs to move on and not be held hostage to grievances, real or imaginary, from the distant past. A great deal of the responsibility lies with political parties and religious groups to maintain harmony in the face of fundamentalist forces seeking to disturb the peace and profit from raising communal issues. They ought not to allow revanchist sentiment and any talk of revenge to come to the fore as many of them did in the 1980s and 1990s by their passivity or collaboration. For too long has the Ayodhya dispute remained an obsession with large sections of the people. It is to be hoped that after this major, even if not final, step in the judicial process it will cease to occupy the political stage.









The latest contribution to the discourse on China comes from Jaswant Singh, former External Affairs and Finance Minister. His opinion piece in the American media enjoins our strategic community's current discourse on the power dynamics in Asia. He is convinced that India has a "great game" on its hands and seems to imply that the outcome of this game will critically depend on its military prowess and its strategic alliance with the United States, whereas expanding Sino-Indian economic cooperation ultimately becomes inconsequential. Mr. Singh has articulated these views at an interesting point in the U.S.-India strategic partnership. To be sure, President Barack Obama's forthcoming visit to India gives them a sense of immediacy.


However, is there a great game in our region, and if so, is it as one-dimensional as Mr. Singh suggests? He says: "Rudyard Kipling's old 'Great Game' now has new contestants. Instead of an expansionist Russian empire confronting Imperial Britain, it is now China hungry for land, water, and raw materials that is flexing its muscles, encroaching on Himalayan redoubts and directly challenging India."


It may seem an esoteric historical detail in current polemics, but thanks to able historiography in the West, we now know that Imperial Britain exaggerated the "perception of threat" from Czarist Russia with the purpose of expanding its own influence in India and in the regions to the southwest in a wide arc that stretches from Cairo to China's Xinjiang — Greater Middle East. There is a spellbinding book by David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, which Jawaharlal Nehru would have acquired for our Parliament library had been alive today. Unlike Kipling's fiction, Fromkin provides calm, meticulously researched conclusions on Imperial Britain's strategy leading to the great Middle East settlement of 1921 — and the immense vistas of decades of history that provided its backdrop.


What makes Fromkin's world of yesterday absolutely fascinating is that the world of today bears striking similarities. Then too, as the decline of the Ottoman Empire began accelerating, there was a furious struggle for geopolitical space (and resources) among the established and emerging powers in Europe. There were great anxieties as a revolution was erupting with an obscure ideology amid convulsions of social unrest that were threatening to breach the dam in the established powers and which had no easy solutions.


The great game today, too, is a pantomime. The U.S. moves into Middle Asia to get embedded in a region which it historically never accessed — and couldn't access so long as the Soviet Union existed. These U.S. moves are, like Kipling's fiction, easy to dissimulate but the geo-strategic thrust is barely disguised: get embedded in a region that holds multitrillion dollars worth of mineral resources, and which overlooks 4 nuclear powers (potentially 5), three of which are emerging powers that may at some point, inevitably, see the raison d'etre of getting together in a post-Bretton Woods world order. Mr. Singh loses the plot.


He asserts: "The Chinese urge is to break from the confines of their country's history, and thus China's own geography. An assertive and relatively stable China, it seems, must expand, lest pent-up internal pressures tear it apart." This is taking a walk fearlessly into terrains where Sinologists fear to tread. The point is China is a neighbour and even if a neighbour is not tailor-made for us, we have to live with it. And that can commence only by knowing our neighbour without pride and prejudice. The well-known American historian and author, Jeffrey Wasserstrom (who edits The Journal of Asian Studies), also happened to amble across these tricky terrains last week. Whereas Mr. Singh is self-confident, Prof. Wasserstrom is unsure about the great ambivalences in the Chinese story. I need to quote him at some length:


"One way to interpret China' elevated rhetoric … is as another indication that Chinese leaders have grown supremely self-confident and are eager to throw their weight around. The reality, though, is more complex … words and deeds are often shaped by a mixture of insecurity and cockiness … Of course, there are moments when China's leaders do seem like people who know that they are succeeding and want others to acknowledge it.


"And yet, when news broke last month that China had officially replaced Japan as the world's second-largest economy, instead of crowing about surpassing a long-time rival and having the top spot, held by the U.S. in its sights, the government issued statements emphasising that theirs remains a "poor, developing" country… Why, then, do China's rulers continue to backslide into doubt and fear, why do they seek to avoid having China labelled a superpower?


"China really is still a "poor" country in terms of per capita income. And parts of the country are more similar

to sections of troubled "developing" countries than to China's showplace cities … Outsiders are increasingly convinced that China is a superpower, and that it needs to show that it can be a responsible one. But China's rulers only sometimes embrace the designation — and the [Chinese Communist] Party still sometimes behaves as if it had only a tenuous hold on power."


Of course, it is an extraordinary intellectual challenge facing Indians to comprehend China. To compound it, we base opinions on dogmas and beliefs. Don't trade and investment constitute "constructive engagement" and become "CBMs"? There is a Chinese proposal today that they desire to build nuclear power plants in India — yes, maybe even bigger than the ones in Pakistan — having been India's "strategic partner" historically in the nuclear field. Somehow, our gurus are missing out on the quintessence of history and diplomacy, something our Chief Ministers in Karnataka and Gujarat who frequent China seem to grasp better — that good politics is about creating wealth.


If we are savvy, instead of sitting on the ground and crying about the amazing pace of development of Chinese territories across our borders, ask Chinese companies to come forward and invest in our border roads, too. According to Kamal Nath, China is prepared to increase threefold its present investments in our infrastructure sector. Why can't China build a world-class container terminal near Thiruvananthapuram so that we won't end up depending on the Colombo port, which China is expanding? The Sri Lankans seem to anticipate better the acute infrastructural problems of the Indian economy as it moves into a dazzling trajectory of growth.


The recent U.S. Senate testimony by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on China following his consultations with the Chinese leadership, including President Hu Jintao, provides a fascinating essay in realpolitik. Mr. Geithner said: "We [U.S.] have very significant economic interests in our relationship with China… [China's] efforts to encourage growth led by domestic demand ultimately mean more demand for American goods and services… [U.S. investment] in China provides a major channel through which U.S. exports flow, and as a result contributes to creating jobs here at home at our exporting firms … China has a very substantial economic stake in access to the U.S. market … And we have a very strong interest … in the Chinese market, so that U.S. businesses and U.S. workers do not face unfair trading practices. I want to be clear: a strong and growing China benefits the United States."


Mr. Geithner, a personal friend of Mr. Obama, is pondering how China makes butter and how they can make butter together. There can be differences of opinion over what should be our appropriate and principled response to the Chinese way of making butter. Yet, today, there is so much for Indians to know: how, for a start, China is beginning to climb from low-end assembly lines and sweatshops to green technology and wind turbines and solar panels and electric cars. As Orville Schell, director of Asia Society's Centre on U.S.-China Relations, put it recently: "The first priority is to get our own house in order, so we're not filled with so much anxiety that is easily transferred on to the rise of another country."


The pity is, just the wrong people could exploit Mr. Singh's plain thesis: middlemen for American arms manufacturers. India has a need to modernise its armed forces for meeting the new security challenges and "asymmetrical" wars that we may (or may not) fight. But we don't want to be hustled into things. Look at the contemporary politics of power. Saudi Arabia is embarking on a $60-billion dollar arms deal with the U.S. The Obama administration admits that the deal will generate thousands of new jobs in America.


In the run-up to the arms deal, the arms manufacturers and their middlemen whipped up nerve-wracking xenophobia regarding a growing "Iranian threat." Meanwhile, the U.S. is inching towards normalisation with Iran. China is a serious challenge to the U.S. and the challenge is increasingly how to tap into China's growth. Mr. Obama's ultimate focus is on butter, how to make more butter in America — with the Chinese brought into that enterprise.


(The writer is a former diplomat.)










Gist of findings:

1. The disputed structure was constructed as mosque by or under orders of Babar.


2. It is not proved by direct evidence that premises in dispute including constructed portion belonged to Babar or the person who constructed the mosque or under whose orders it was constructed.


3. No temple was demolished for constructing the mosque.


4. Mosque was constructed over the ruins of temples which were lying in utter ruins since a very long time before the construction of mosque and some material thereof was used in construction of the mosque.


5. That for a very long time till the construction of the mosque it was treated/believed by Hindus that some where in a very large area of which premises in dispute is a very small part birth place of Lord Ram was situated, however, the belief did not relate to any specified small area within that bigger area specifically the premises in dispute.


6. That after some time of construction of the mosque Hindus started identifying the premises in dispute as exact birth place of Lord Ram or a place wherein exact birth place was situated.


7. That much before 1855 Ram Chabutra and Seeta Rasoi had come into existence and Hindus were worshipping in the same. It was very very unique and absolutely unprecedented situation that in side the boundary wall and compound of the mosque Hindu religious places were there which were actually being worshipped along with offerings of Namaz by Muslims in the mosque.


8. That in view of the above gist of the finding at serial no.7 both the parties Muslims as well as Hindus are held to be in joint possession of the entire premises in dispute.


9. That even though for the sake of convenience both the parties i.e. Muslims and Hindus were using and occupying different portions of the premises in dispute still it did not amount to formal partition and both continued to be in joint possession of the entire premises in dispute.


10. That both the parties have failed to prove commencement of their title hence by virtue of Section 110 Evidence Act both are held to be joint title holders on the basis of joint possession.


11. That for some decades before 1949 Hindus started treating/believing the place beneath the Central dome of mosque (where at present make sift temple stands) to be exact birth place of Lord Ram.


12. That idol was placed for the first time beneath the Central dome of the mosque in the early hours of 23.12.1949.


13. That in view of the above both the parties are declared to be joint title holders in possession of the entire premises in dispute and a preliminary decree to that effect is passed with the condition that at the time of actual partition by meets and bounds at the stage of preparation of final decree the portion beneath the Central dome where at present make sift temple stands will be allotted to the share of the Hindus.




Accordingly, all the three sets of parties, i.e. Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara are declared joint title holders of the property/ premises in dispute as described by letters A B C D E F in the map Plan - I prepared by Sri Shiv Shanker Lal, Pleader/ Commissioner appointed by Court in Suit No.1 to the extent of one third share each for using and managing the same for worshipping. A preliminary decree to this effect is passed.


However, it is further declared that the portion below the central dome where at present the idol is kept in makeshift temple will be allotted to Hindus in final decree.


It is further directed that Nirmohi Akhara will be allotted share including that part which is shown by the words Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi in the said map.


It is further clarified that even though all the three parties are declared to have one third share each, however if while allotting exact portions some minor adjustment in the share is to be made then the same will be made and the adversely affected party may be compensated by allotting some portion of the adjoining land which has been acquired by the Central Government.


The parties are at liberty to file their suggestions for actual partition by metes and bounds within three months.


List immediately after filing of any suggestion/ application for preparation of final decree after obtaining necessary instructions from Hon'ble the Chief Justice.


Status quo as prevailing till date pursuant to Supreme Court judgment of Ismail Farooqui (1994(6) Sec 360) in all its minutest details shall be maintained for a period of three months unless this order is modified or vacated earlier.


Justice Sudhir Agarwal


( Relevant paragraphs containing result/directions issued)


4566. In the light of the above and considering overall findings of this Court on various issues, following directions and/or declaration, are given which in our view would meet the ends of justice:


(i) It is declared that the area covered by the central dome of the three domed structure, i.e., the disputed structure being the deity of Bhagwan Ram Janamsthan and place of birth of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of the Hindus, belong to plaintiffs (Suit-5) and shall not be obstructed or interfered in any manner by the


defendants. This area is shown by letters AA BB CC DD is Appendix 7 to this judgment.


(ii) The area within the inner courtyard denoted by letters B C D L K J H G in Appendix 7 (excluding (i) above) belong to members of both the communities, i.e., Hindus (here plaintiffs, Suit-5) and Muslims since it was being used by both since decades and centuries. It is, however, made clear that for the purpose of share of plaintiffs, Suit-5 under this direction the area which is covered by (i) above shall also be included.


(iii) The area covered by the structures, namely, Ram Chabutra, (EE FF GG HH in Appendix 7) Sita Rasoi (MM NN OO PP in Appendix 7) and Bhandar (II JJ KK LL in Appendix 7) in the outer courtyard is declared in the share of Nirmohi Akhara (defendant no. 3) and they shall be entitled to possession thereof in the


absence of any person with better title.


(iv) The open area within the outer courtyard (A G H J K L E F in Appendix 7) (except that covered by (iii) above) shall be shared by Nirmohi Akhara (defendant no. 3) and plaintiffs (Suit-5) since it has been generally used by the Hindu people for worship at both places.


(iv-a) It is however made clear that the share of muslim parties shall not be less than one third (1/3) of the total area of the premises and if necessary it may be given some area of outer courtyard. It is also made clear that while making partition by metes and bounds, if some minor adjustments are to be made with respect to the share of different parties, the affected party may be compensated by allotting the requisite land from the area which is under acquisition of the Government of India.


(v) The land which is available with the Government of India acquired under Ayodhya Act 1993 for providing it to the parties who are successful in the suit for better enjoyment of the property shall be made available to the above concerned parties in such manner so that all the three parties may utilise the area to which they are entitled to, by having separate entry for egress and ingress of the people without disturbing each others rights. For this purpose the concerned parties may approach the Government of India who shall act in accordance with the above directions and also as contained in the judgement of Apex Court in Dr. Ismail Farooqi (Supra).


(vi) A decree, partly preliminary and partly final, to the effect as said above (i to v) is passed. Suit-5 is decreed in part to the above extent. The parties are at liberty to file their suggestions for actual partition of the property in dispute in the manner as directed above by metes and bounds by submitting an application to this effect to


the Officer on Special Duty, Ayodhya Bench at Lucknow or the Registrar, Lucknow Bench, Lucknow, as the case may be.


(vii) For a period of three months or unless directed otherwise, whichever is earlier, the parties shall maintain status quo as on today in respect of property in dispute.


4571. In the result, Suit-1 is partly decreed. Suits 3 and 4 are dismissed. Suit-5 is decreed partly. In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case the parties shall bear their own costs.


Justice Dharam Veer Sharma


Issues for briefing


1. Whether the disputed site is the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram?


The disputed site is the birth place of Lord Ram. Place of birth is a juristic person and is a deity. It is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as birth place of Lord Rama as a child.


Spirit of divine ever remains present every where at all times for any one to invoke at any shape or form in accordance with his own aspirations and it can be shapeless and formless also.


2. Whether the disputed building was a mosque? When was it built? By whom?


The disputed building was constructed by Babar, the year is not certain but it was built against the tenets of Islam. Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque.


]3. Whether the mosque was built after demolishing a Hindu temple?


The disputed structure was constructed on the site of old structure after demolition of the same. The Archaeological Survey of India has proved that the structure was a massive Hindu religious structure.


4. Whether the idols were placed in the building on the night of December 22/23rd, 1949?


The idols were placed in the middle dome of the disputed structure in the intervening night of 22/23.12.1949.


5. Whether any of the claims for title is time barred?


O.O.S. No. 4 of 1989, the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs U.P., Lucknow and others Vs. Gopal Singh Visharad and others and O.O.S. No.3 of 1989, Nirmohi Akhara and Another Vs. Sri Jamuna Prasad Singh and others are barred by time.


6. What will be the status of the disputed site e.g. inner and outer courtyard?


It is established that the property in suit is the site of Janm Bhumi of Ram Chandra Ji and Hindus in general had the right to worship Charan, Sita Rasoi, other idols and other object of worship existed upon the property in suit. It is also established that Hindus have been worshipping the place in dispute as Janm Sthan i.e. a birth place as deity and visiting it as a sacred place of pilgrimage as of right since time immemorial.


After the construction of the disputed structure it is proved the deities were installed inside the disputed structure on 22/23.12.1949. It is also proved that the outer courtyard was in exclusive possession of Hindus and they were worshipping throughout and in the inner courtyard (in the disputed structure) they were also worshipping. It is also established that the disputed structure cannot be treated as a mosque as it came into existence against the tenets of Islam.


( Full text of the judgments at









A big bone of contention in many countries, Google's Street View mapping service on September 30 goes live in Brazil, Ireland and Antarctica, meaning Street View now has a presence in all seven continents.


Launched in May 2007 in five U.S. cities, the panoramic imaging service has gone on to map cities on every corner of the planet, attracting ire and admiration along the way.


As a learning tool


Brian McClendon, vice-president of engineering at Google Earth and Maps, wrote on the company's blog: "We often consider Street View to be the last zoom layer on the map, and a way to show you what a place looks like as if you were there in person — whether you're checking out a coffee shop across town or planning a vacation across the globe. We hope this new imagery will help people in Ireland, Brazil, and even the penguins of Antarctica to navigate nearby, as well as enable people around the world to learn more about these areas." Ed Parsons, Google's geospatial technologist — "When I joined Google, I was fortunate to be asked what I wanted to be known as" — said the latest move was "hugely significant" and that the service would continue to expand. "This allows you to visit places you don't normally," Parsons said.


"One of the challenges we wanted to crack is to go to these remote places, and one of geo team at Google went to Antarctica so he took some kit and took some imagery.


"It's called Street View, but there aren't many streets in Antarctica! "This allows people to understand the contrast between New York Times Square and being on the edge of a glacier looking at penguins."


Much has changed


Much has changed in the three years since Google launched Street View. Privacy was not nearly as contentious in the five U.S. cities — New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver — as it currently is in Germany, and the camera resolution wasn't technically as good. On both these scores, Parsons says, Google has continued to innovate: "With each new release the imagery is of a higher quality and there are more tools to protect privacy, the technology evolves and it's easier to navigate." The company's exploration to the southernmost continent, Antarctica, also marks the company's visit to a continent where it isn't facing — or has faced — legal proceedings. Since launch, Street View has attracted legal complaints from private citizens, criminal investigations from authorities, and close scrutiny by alarmed governments.


Parson said: "One of the things that caused us surprise was how different the various nations' view of privacy were. So we had to change the way we operate to accommodate that. Germany is an extreme example, but no two countries are ever the same and we built those privacy considerations [for Germany].


A concern


"In many ways new tech is always a little concerning to people. Like caller ID on [mobile] phones, that was concerning when it was a new thing, now it's accepted and agreed to be a useful feature. You have to draw a contrast between how many people use and the minority that are relatively loud.


"For us, it's about enhancing the use of Google Maps and we know that that increases by 20 per cent at least when Street View functionality is added, making it the most popular web-mapping site on the planet."


The new images will go live on Google Street View over the next 24 hours.


— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






When environmental campaigners began tracking a hi-tech South Korean trawler off the coast of West Africa, they were looking for proof of illegal fishing of dwindling African stocks. What they uncovered was an altogether different kind of travesty: human degradation so extreme it echoed the slavery they thought had been abolished more than a century ago.


"It was horrendous," said Duncan Copeland, a senior campaigner at the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), who boarded the South Korean-flagged trawler at the end of 2008 with naval forces from Sierra Leone.


"The men were working in the fish hold with no air or ventilation in temperatures of 40°–45°. It was rusty, greasy, hot and sweaty. There were cockroaches everywhere in the galleys and their food was in disgusting boxes. All they had for washing was a pump bringing up salt water. They stank. It was heartbreaking." As their investigation continued, the EJF found vessel after vessel, some up to 40 years old, rusted and in terrible repair, engaged in pirate fishing — an illegal trade that damages already fragile marine stocks and exploits human labour in shocking conditions.


The 36 crew members on the boat boarded by Copeland came from China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. Eight men shared a tiny windowless area of the fish hold with four cardboard "bunks" resting on planks. Four worked in the hold sorting and packing fish for the European market while four slept, and they would alternate, literally rolling out to allow the next to roll in.


The Sierra Leonean crew members said they were not paid with money but in boxes of "trash" fish — the by-catch rejected by the European market — which they would be given to sell locally. If anyone complained, the captain would abandon them on the nearest beach, they said.


"The conditions aren't good, but we can't do anything about it," a worker on another South Korean-registered ship told investigators. "We live with it, because it is hard to find work. If someone offers you a salary of $200 to support your family it's not good, but we have to live with it." In May, about 150 Senegalese men were found labouring in a ship off Sierra Leone; working up to 18 hours through the day and into the night, eating and sleeping in spaces less than a metre high. The vessel carried a licence number for importing fish to the EU, showing it had passed apparently strict hygiene standards.


EJF also found several apparently redundant trawlers out at sea still with crew on board, some of whom had been there more than a year with no radio or safety equipment.


'Forced labour'


"I was sent here by the company," said one fisherman on a trawler off the coast of Guinea. "The company sends a boat with supplies to bring me food like fish and shrimps. Nobody wants to come here." The fishermen's tales reveal the human toll of pirate fishing, a business thought to produce a catch of at least 11m tonnes of fish a year worth more than $10bn.


Vessels often stay at sea for months on end, with reefers coming alongside every couple of weeks to unload the catch and resupply them. As they operate in remote waters, they can avoid detection for long periods. The crew are effectively imprisoned, most cannot swim and many of those interviewed by EJF meet the U.N. definition of forced labour. Reports of violence, withholding of pay and retention of documents are common, said Copeland.


The investigators found a crew of 200 Senegalese operating off Sierra Leone in 2006. The men were living in a makeshift structure built on the stern of the ship, divided into four levels with barely a metre of headroom and cardboard packing boxes crammed together to serve as mattresses.


The ship did not appear on the official list of vessels licensed to fish in Sierra Leone at the time of sighting. Records show that it has visited Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, which is the largest landing point for west African fish into Europe and has been criticised by senior EU officials for its lax inspection regime.


But the investigators' original interest in fish stocks also produced worrying evidence.


Large-scale wastage


Several of the vessels boarded by EJF are bottom trawlers, licensed to import to the EU, catching high value fish such as shrimp, lobster and tuna. Bottom trawlers drag heavy chains across the sea bed, scraping up everything in their path including coral. In one case, the boat had been dumping more than 70 per cent of its catch overboard, including sharks — once the fins had been removed for the Asian market.


The vessel's owner had been putting its Senegalese crew out to sea in small boats to bring in tuna and shark to sell as caught by "hook and line", having first identified fishing targets with global positioning software. Many of the Senegalese were fishermen unable to sustain a livelihood in their own waters because stocks have been decimated by overfishing by hi-tech trawlers.


The EJF believes most illegal fishing is carried out by ships flying flags of convenience. Under international maritime law, the country where a ship is registered is responsible for its activities. Some countries allow vessels of other nationalities to register with them for a few hundred dollars and are known to ignore offences.


Pirate vessels can re-flag several times a season and frequently change their name. They are often backed by shell companies, which makes their real owners hard to trace and law enforcement extremely difficult. The maximum fine for illegal fishing is around $100,000, which is typically less than two weeks' profit from the trade, according to EJF.


The South Korean captain, first mate and engineer of one of the ships were arrested by the Sierra Leone navy and fined $30,000 plus their catch for fishing in the country's inshore exclusion zone. The same ship was however spotted in August, fishing again off the coast of Sierra Leone and Liberia according to EJF. (All at Sea, the Abuse of Human Rights aboard Illegal Fishing Vessels, EJF.


— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010








By ordering a three-way split of the disputed 2.7-acre site in Ayodhya between the Hindu Mahasabha, the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court has perhaps delivered the only possible verdict it could have on the vexed case that has dragged on for 60 long years. It is pertinent that the majority verdict, delivered by Justices S.U. Khan and Sudhir Agarwal (while differing on certain key aspects) harked back more to the long tradition of Hindus and Muslims worshipping together at the disputed site rather than to the knotty and complicated legal issues involved in the title suits. In effect, the verdict has sought to reinstate the?remarkable tradition of amity which prevailed in the area from the 19th century before the entire issue was complicated by political parties and religious outfits for their own narrow partisan ends.
Of course, a final analysis of the judgment can be made only after a detailed perusal of the court orders, which are understandably long-winded. But the general drift of the directive seems to be that the disputed land in Ayodhya is a joint property, in which all the three claimants have stakes. According to the reports available till Thursday evening, the two judges have said that the makeshift temple under the central dome of the structure where Lord Ram's idol exists belongs to the Hindus. The portion that has the "Sita Rasoi" and Ram Chabootara would go to the Nirmohi Akhara and the remainder of the land would go to the Sunni Waqf Board, where a mosque can come up. Justice D.V. Sharma, on the other hand, ruled that the entire site was the birthplace of Lord Ram and rejected the claim of the Waqf Board.

But the majority judgment prevails, and it seems to have been made taking into account the sensitivities related to the issue as well as the overall national mood, rather than simply from a narrow legal standpoint. Though some eminent lawyers have expressed disappointment over this legal "deficit", the country as a whole is likely to be pleased with the judges taking a broader national perspective on the issue rather than merely quoting the rulebook. Mercifully, the parties involved in the dispute have so far not chosen to portray the verdict as a victory or defeat. While the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has said it paves the way for the building of a Ram temple, it has been careful not to go overboard and has in fact stressed that the ruling was not a victory or a loss for anyone. Similar has been the response of most Muslim organisations. The political parties too have by and large welcomed the verdict, responding according to their particular ideological nuances but without adopting an alarmist or triumphant tone. The media too has been restrained and the populace generally calm. This is surely welcome. Legal hair-splitting is not the need of the hour.

Thursday's verdict is also clearly not the end of the road for the vexed dispute. The Sunni Waqf Board has already announced that it will appeal in the Supreme Court against the orders, and there is a chance that the Nirmohi Akhara might also go to court. It appears almost certain that the dispute will now shift to the country's highest court for another round of legal wrangling. But the verdict, despite the genuine disagreements it might evoke, also opens a window for a majestic reconciliation and an opportunity to put the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute behind us.?A mosque and a temple existing side by side at Ayodhya would not only be a grand spectacle but would also heal many a wound in the entire body politic. Hindus and Muslims are after all joint titleholders of the nation too.








Even with Mahatma Gandhi's 141st birthday looming tom­o rrow, it may be odd for a forei gn policy column to discuss him. After all, the Mahatma left international affairs largely to his disciple Jawaharlal Nehru, focusing on his domestic preoccupations. And yet, today, there is no do u b t ing Gandhiji's huge worldwide significance. The Mahatma's im a ge dominates the globe, featuring in advertising campaigns for everything from Apple computers to Mont Blanc pens. Wh en Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi swept the Oscars in 1983, posters for the film proclaimed that "Gandhi's triumph changed the world forever". But did it?

The case for Gandhiji-led global change rests principally on the US civil rights leader Martin Lu t her King Jr, who attended a lecture on Gandhiji, bought half-a-do zen books on the Mahatma and adopted satyagraha as both pr ecept and method. King, more than anyone else, used non-viol ence most effectively outside In d ia in breaking down segregati on in the southern states of the US. "Hate begets hate. Violence be gets violence", he memorably de clared. "We must meet the fo r ces of hate with soul force." Ki ng later avowed that "the Gandh i an method of non-violent res i s tance... became the guiding li g ht of our movement. Christ fu r n i shed the spirit and motivation and Gandhi furnished the method".

So Gandhism helped to change the American south forever. But it is difficult to find many other instances of its success. India's independence marked the dawn of the era of decolonisation, but many nations still came to freedom only after bloody and violent struggles. Other peoples ha ve fallen under the boots of inva ding armies, been dispossessed of their lands or forced to flee in terror from their homes. Non-violence has offered no solutions to them. It could only work against opponents vulnerable to a loss of moral authority — governments responsive to domestic and international public opinion, capable of being shamed into conceding defeat. In Gandhiji's own day, non-violence could have done nothing for the Jews of Hitler's Germany, who disappeared tragically into gas-chambers far from the flashbulbs of a war-obsessed press.

The power of Gandhian non-vi olence rests in being able to say, "To show you that you are wr ong, I punish myself". But that has little effect on those who are not interested in whether th ey are wrong and are already se eking to punish you for your disagreements with them. For them your willingness to undergo punishment is the most convenient means of victory. No wonder Nelson Mandela, who told me that Gandhiji had "always" been "a great source of inspiration", explicitly disavowed non-violence as ineffective in his struggle against apartheid.

On this subject Gandhiji sou n ds frighteningly unrealistic: "The willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful answer to insolent tyranny that has yet be­en conceived by God or man. Di sobedience to be 'civil' must be sincere, respectful, restrained, ne ver defiant, and it must have no ill-will or hatred behind it. Ne ither should there be excitement in civil disobedience, wh i ch is a preparation for mute suffering".

For many smarting under inj u s tice across the world, that wou ld sound like a prescription for sainthood — or for impotence. Mute suffering is all very well as a moral principle, but only Ga n d hiji could use it to bring about meaningful change. The sad tru th is that the staying-power of or ganised violence is almost al w ays greater than that of non-violence. Gandhiji believed in "we aning an opponent from er r or by patience, sympathy and self-suffering", but while such an approach might have won Au ng San Suu Kyi in Burma the Nobel that eluded the Mahatma himself, the violence of the Bu r mese state proved far stronger in preventing change than her suffering has done to bring it about.

In his internationalism, the Mahatma expressed ideals few can reject. But the decades after his death have confirmed that th e re is no escape from the confl i­c ting sovereignties of states. So me 20 million more lives have been lost in wars and insurrections since his passing. In a dismaying number of countries, in c luding his own, governments sp end more for military purposes than for education and healthcare combined. The current st ockpile of nuclear weapons represents over a million times the explosive power of the atom bo mb whose destruction of Hiro s h ima so grieved him. As 26/11 demonstrated, India faces the threat of cross-border terrorism to which Gandhiji's only answer — a fast in protest — would have left its perpetrators unm oved. Universal peace, which Gandhiji considered so central to Truth, seems as illusory as ever.

Outside India, as within it, Gandhian techniques have been perverted by terrorists and bomb-throwers declaring hunger-strikes when punished for their crimes. Gandhism without moral authority is like Marxism without a proletariat. Yet few who have tried his methods worldwide have his personal integrity or moral stature.
And in economics, Gandhiji's world of the spinning-wheel, of self-reliant families in contented village republics, is even more remote today than when he first espoused it. Despite the brief popularity of intermediate technology and "small is beautiful", there is little room for such ideas in a globalising, inter-dependent world. Self-reliance is too often a cover for protectionism and a shelter for inefficiency; India has pulled more people out of poverty by its economic reforms of the last two decades than wh en it pursued self-reliance. To d ay's successful and prosperous countries are those who are able to look beyond spinning char khas to silicon chips — and who give their people the benefits of technological developments which free them from menial and repetitive chores and broaden the horizons of their lives.

None of this dilutes Gandhiji's greatness, or the extraordinary resonance of his life and his message. While the world was disintegrating into fascism, violence and war, Gandhiji taught the virtues of truth, non-violence and peace. He destroyed the credibility of colonialism by opposing principle to force. And he set and attained personal standards of conviction and courage which few will ever match. He was that rare kind of leader who was not confined by the inadequacies of his followers.

Yet Gandhiji's Truth was essentially his own. He formulated its unique content and determined its application in a specific historical context. Inevitably, few in today's world can measure up to his greatness or aspire to his credo. The originality of his thought and the example of his life inspires people around the world today, but Gandhiji's triumph did not "change the world forever". I wonder if the Mahatma, looking at today's world, would feel he had triumphed at all.


Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram constituency








On September 25, home minister P. Chidambaram made an announcement about an "eight-point solution" to deal with the Kashmir crisis. It would appear to be a reasonable first step, but most Indians have serious doubts about its credibility, especially since India has just suffered its worst international humiliation (after the 1962 Indo-Chinese war) over the disgusting state of readiness to host the Commonwealth Games (CWG).
It is time we recognise that the biggest threat to India is a corrupt, incompetent, unaccountable and indecisive leadership that lacks strategic vision. This lethal combination is responsible for the growth of the "Kashmir cancer" since January 1949, when India, requiring just a few weeks to clear the Pakistani raiders from what is now Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), voluntarily halted military operations and approached the United Nations Organisation. After the 1965 Indo-Pak war, the strategic Haji Pir pass was returned, and the decisive 1971 victory was not exploited to resolve the Kashmir problem. So is it any surprise that the Kashmiri separatists seem to have nothing in common with the other 150 million patriotic and secular Indian Muslims?
In 2009, the Sri Lankan military cornered the entire Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leadership in a small enclave, and despite the international outcry, wiped them out. Look at how Russia and China have dealt with insurgencies in Chechnya and Xinjiang respectively. The Chinese do not allow any literature or newspaper or even signboards with Arabic script to enter Xinjiang province, nor do they permit any "uncensored" religious sermons in mosques.

Jammu and Kashmir has a population of about 10 million, of which 67 per cent are Muslims, 30 per cent Hindus, two per cent Sikhs and one per cent Buddhists. The Kashmir Valley has a Muslim majority of 97 per cent, while Jammu and Ladakh, respectively, are Hindu and Buddhist-majority regions. In the 1990s, some three lakh Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley in a systematic "ethnic cleansing" which was strangely identical to how Sunni-majority Pakistan reduced its 16 per cent minority population (in 1947) to below two per cent today. The same fate awaits the other minorities of J&K should the separatists ever succeed in getting an "independent J&K". Recent media reports indicate that post-September 11 and Id violence, over a 100 Muslim families from the Valley have migrated to Jammu to avoid harassment from the separatists.
The Indian government must avoid taking any hasty populist measures, which could have serious long-term implications. It needs to:

l Recognise that the separatists and their Pakistani handlers are keen to embarrass India — CWG and the visit of US President Barack Obama in November are, therefore, especially vulnerable times.
l Recognise that Kashmir is only one of the major internal threats to India, and take a holistic view keeping in mind external threats from China and Pakistan.

l Recognise that since 1947, the Indian military has maintained the territorial integrity of India at great sacrifice. Do not demoralise the security forces when you need them the most. Learn lessons from the 1962 disastrous war with China. Use the Army in "very rare cases", but do not dilute the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
l Create jobs in J&K by raising units of "Kashmir Scouts" and "Jammu Scouts", on the lines of Ladakh Scouts, for paramilitary duties in the state. Also, increase J&K police strength so that they can take over most security duties in towns and villages. The stone-throwing Kashmiri teenagers will give up intifada only when given gainful employment.

l Grant maximum possible autonomy to Kashmir, but only when the Hurriyat is disbanded and ceases to exist.
l Rehabilitate the displaced Kashmiri Pandits at the earliest by giving them free accommodation and jobs in well-protected settlements in the Kashmir Valley.

l Recognise that at four per cent, the J&K poverty levels are amongst the lowest in India, and that all the Five Year Plans of J&K are funded by Indian taxpayers (who cannot settle in Kashmir, while Kashmiris can settle anywhere in India), and, that the Central government allocates over 10 times per capita per year for Kashmir as compared to about `900 for Bihar. Kashmir is one of the most corrupt states in India and this "appeasement" funding benefits only a few who have a vested interest in keeping Kashmir on the boil.
l Any discussion with Pakistan should be limited to return of PoK and the "Northern territories".


The Indian government has belatedly recognised the possibility of India simultaneously fighting a two-front war against China and Pakistan, while coping with internal insurgency. Though an Indo-Pak conflict may occur at short notice due to a repeat of the 26/11 attacks, or another "raider" invasion of Kashmir, China may want to avoid war with India till it "resolves" its territorial claims on Taiwan, and in the South and East China seas. Nonetheless, the possibility of a short, brutal, Indo-Chinese encounter at sea to demoralise India with a "no-war risk incident" is highly likely, especially after China gets a new People's Liberation Army-endorsed hardline President and Prime Minister in 2012.

Can India emulate the ruthless Homeland Security of the United States, China's economic growth, and fight to win the war against the "three evils of extremism, terrorism and separatism"?

To deter external threats and extinguish internal threats, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would do well to concentrate on national security, "modify" his nine per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth obsession, increase our defence budget from 2.3 per cent of GDP to four per cent, change our "no first strike" nuclear policy, and double the Homeland Security budget. Above all, he must get "authentic" strategic advisers, weed out corruption, introduce accountability, lock-up the separatists, terrorists and extremists while ensuring a clean administration. Failure is not an option.


Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval
Command, Visakhapatnam







I have never heard of an organisation called UNOOSA. Not until this Monday when I read a news story that the United Nations is thinking of appointing an ambassador who will act as the first point of contact if aliens try to communicate with Earth. The story in London's Sunday Times was picked up by many newspapers in India; it even gave the name of the official designated to the post: Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, head of the little-known United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, known by its alien-sounding acronym UNOOSA.
It was an interesting story, with tantalising possibilities. There was the obvious one: the aliens land on earth and demand, "take us to your leader". So far we had assumed that the "leader" lived in the White House; now they will have to be directed to Ms Othman, humankind's chosen interlocutor for visiting life forms from outer space.

Alas, two days later the Vienna-based space organisation dismissed the newspaper report as "nonsense". UNOOSA said in a statement that its mandate "is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space and strengthen the use of space science and technology applications", according to an AFP report.
Still, the question that arises out of the story is, is there a global organisation, authority or individual assigned to deal with the eventuality of alien contact?

The people at Seti (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), an independent scientific endeavour, have set up what they call "a post-detection group" to "prepare, reflect on, manage, advise, and consult in preparation for and up on the discovery of a putative signal of extraterrestrial intelligent origin". But they are scientists; they will advise, but someone else will have to take a call.

According to Stephen Hawking, renowned astrophysicist and one of the world's most celebrated scientific thinkers, aliens almost certainly exist. His logic is simple: There are 100 billion galaxies in the universe, and each contains hundreds of millions of stars. It is unlikely that in this vast space we are the only life forms in the universe, he says in the Discovery Channel documentary Into the
Universe with Stephen Hawking (you can watch the clips on YouTube).

Hawking also warns us that these extra-terrestrials will not be a friendly lot. They will be hostile. After ravaging and plundering their home planet of all resources, they could be floating around in spaceships, looking for places to colonise. In fact he paints an alarming scenario: we are at risk from an alien invasion. And instead of reaching out to them, we should actually try our best to avoid them.

Our perception of alien life forms — their shape and size, what language they will speak and whether they will be hostile or will come in peace — is based on popular science-fiction books and movies. For all we know, the alien form we encounter could be just a harmless microbe on a distant planet.

In Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind or in E.T. we saw gentle and endearing creatures who came in peace. But Hawking says they will be aggressive. Perhaps like the revolting monsters in Ridley Scott's Alien or James Cameron's Aliens? Or more like the one in the movie Independence Day — advanced in knowledge, and evil in intention?

We saw another kind of alien in District 9, the movie that was nominated for four Oscars last year. They look like a cross between humans and lobsters, but are not so hostile. Something has gone wrong with their spaceship and they are stranded over Johannesburg in South Africa. They are hungry, their children are dying and they are at the mercy of humans. And you should see how cruelly they are treated by humans.

About 20 years ago, I saw a fascinating science-fiction movie called "V". It was actually a television series shown in the US and I had borrowed the videocassettes (I am talking about pre-DVD days) from a sci-fi fan.
The broad storyline is as follows: a technologically-advanced alien race of reptilian humanoids disguises itself as human beings and lands on earth. On the exterior, these aliens resemble humans; when they take off their disguise they become creepy reptiles. They say they have come in peace and offer to share their advance technology with humans, but their real intentions are quite sinister: they are trying to take over the
earth. When some humans discover the truth, they set up a resistance group and try to fight back.

I am reminded of "V" for two reasons: one, it's been re-made after two decades and I am wondering how I can watch it in Delhi. And two, if the aliens do land and demand to be taken to our leader, who will we take them to? Now that Ms Mazlan Othman says she is not our alien ambassador.


Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at









The judges have spoken. They have spoken in a split voice, but that was only to be expected in a case as sensitive as the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid one.


The Allahabad high court's verdict would have had greater validity and acceptability if it had been unanimous, but that was not to be. In view of this, it seems fairly certain that one or more parties to the dispute will appeal to the Supreme Court. But even taking that as a given, the judgment gives all parties a breather to look for a compromise during the 90-day period when the court's orders will be held in abeyance.


The judgment has gone slightly beyond the ambit of legality to award a third of the disputed 2.7-acre land to representatives of 'Ram Lalla'. Lord Ram exists in the realm of faith, and is not a legal entity. But interestingly, the majority verdict is that the idols of Lord Ram installed in 1949 will not be removed, and Hindus will get this portion of the land for sure in the three-way division suggested by the bench.


The Hindu groups have interpreted this to mean that they can now go ahead and build their temple, but this may be premature. They should also stop acting triumphalist if they want to build bridges to the Muslim community.


Since the entire disputed land is to be divided three ways between Ram Lalla, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Wakf Board, this effectively means two-thirds of the land goes to Hindu groups. The Muslims surely will not be happy with this.


On the other hand, the judgment of the only Muslim judge on the bench, SU Khan, appears to have held that no temple was destroyed to build the Babri Masjid. There were only temple ruins before the mosque was built.


This may not please the Hindus, for the whole "justification" for the vandalism of December, 1992, was that Babar's men were the first to vandalise a place of worship a few centuries ago.


It will take a few days for lawyers and the parties involved to understand the full reasoning and impact of the judgment, but one thing is clear: it would be best if all the parties use the interval to start working towards a compromise using the judgment as a rough road-map instead of lobbing the case in the Supreme Court's lap.


It is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will come up with anything better, given the intractable nature of the dispute. In the run-up to the judgment, some voices talked of attempting an amicable out-of-court settlement. The best thing that can be said about the Allahabad high court judgment is that it gives everyone something - thus creating the space for dialogue. The 90-day moratorium should be used by the government and well-wishers of both communities to work out a long-term solution.








Japan may have created the impression of having buckled under China's pressure by releasing the Chinese fishing trawler captain.


But the Japanese action moves the spotlight back to China, whose rapidly accumulating power has emboldened it to aggressively assert territorial and maritime claims against its neighbours, from Japan to India.


China's new stridency in its disputes with its neighbours has helped highlight Asia's central challenge to come to terms with existing boundaries by getting rid of the baggage of history that weighs down a number of interstate relationships. Even as Asia is becoming more interdependent economically, it is getting more divided politically.


While the bloody wars in the first half of the 20th century have made war unthinkable today in Europe, the wars in Asia in the second half of the 20th century did not resolve matters and have only accentuated bitter rivalries.


A number of interstate wars were fought in Asia since 1950, the year both the Korean War and the annexation of Tibet started. Those wars, far from settling or ending disputes, have only kept disputes lingering.


China, significantly, has been involved in the largest number of military conflicts. A recent Pentagon report has cited examples of how China carried out military pre-emption in 1950, 1962, 1969 and 1979 in the name of strategic defence. The seizure of Paracel Islands from Vietnam in 1974 by Chinese forces was another example of offense as defense.


All these cases of pre-emption occurred when China was weak, poor and internally torn. So today, China's growing power naturally raises legitimate concerns.


A stronger, more prosperous China is already beginning to pursue a more muscular foreign policy vis-à-vis its neighbours, as underlined by several developments this year alone — from its inclusion of the South China Sea in its "core" national interests — an action that makes its claims to the disputed Spratly Islands non-negotiable, to its presentation of the Yellow Sea as some sort of an exclusive Chinese military-operations zone where it wants the US and South Korea not to hold joint naval exercises.


China also has become more insistent in pressing its territorial claims to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, with Chinese warships making more frequent forays into Japanese waters. Add to the picture China's three separate large-scale naval exercises since April.


In Tibet, the official PLA Daily has reported several new significant military developments in recent months, including the first-ever major parachute exercise to demonstrate a capability to rapidly insert troops on the world's highest plateau and an exercise involving "third generation" fighter-jets carrying live ammunition. In addition, the railroad to Tibet, the world's highest elevated railway, has now started being used to supply "combat readiness materials for the Air Force" there. These military developments have to be seen in the context of China's resurrection since 2006 of its long-dormant claim to India's northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state and its recent attempts to question Indian sovereignty over the state of Jammu and Kashmir, one-fifth of which it occupies.


Against that background, China's increasingly assertive territorial and maritime claims threaten Asian peace and stability. In fact, the largest real estate China covets is not in the South or East China Seas but in India: Arunachal Pradesh is almost three times larger than Taiwan.


Respect for boundaries is a prerequisite to peace and stability on any continent. Europe has built its peace on that principle, with a number of European states learning to live with boundaries they do not like.


Efforts at the redrawing of territorial and maritime frontiers are an invitation to endemic conflicts in Asia. Through its refusal to accept the territorial status quo, Beijing only highlights the futility of political negotiations.


After all, a major redrawing of frontiers has never happened at the negotiating table. Such redrawing can only be achieved on the battlefield, as Beijing has done in the past.


Today, whether it is Arunachal Pradesh or Taiwan or the Senkaku Islands, or even the Spratlys, China is dangling the threat to use force to assert its claims. In doing so, China has helped reinforce the spectre of a China threat. By picking territorial fights with its neighbours, China also is threatening Asia's continued economic renaissance.


More significantly, China is showing that it is not a credible candidate to lead Asia. Leadership flows not from raw power but from other states' consent or tacit acceptance.


It is important for other Asian states and the rest of the international community to convey a clear message to Beijing: After six long decades, China's redrawing of frontiers must now come to an end.








The Commonwealth Games, which are to be inaugurated in Delhi on the October 3, have been characterised by Indian commentators as the biggest rip-off scam that has been pulled off within independent India, a tsunami of corruption that has laid waste at least the coastlines of India's izzat.


No doubt, down the line, the journalists and some bureau of investigation will seek to get at the truth and then perhaps the tumbrils will roll. Or perhaps the 'no doubt' is a bit optimistic.


The international media have not been slow to contrast the Indian mess with the triumph and showmanship of China's Olympic Games or of South Africa's relatively smooth hosting of the Football World Cup. The Indian press, trying to divert the attention, turned to the question of who should inaugurate the event.


The consternation, with TV footage and really disgusting photographs, has concentrated on the squalor of the unfinished accommodation which the athletes will occupy.


One much quoted incident involves an Indian boxing champion who went into the rooms allocated to him and sat on the bed. The mattress fell through the bed under his weight. He was amazed to find that it had been placed on the frame of the bed without any springs, planks or any other base to support it. I believe he has quit the Games in disgust.


I describe the trivial episode in detail because it reminded me of the time when I was lodged in a Delhi hotel which had more stars than a North Korean general. The rooms were great, the air conditioning worked but had to switched off when a TV crew turned up to interview me for matters related to the literary event I was attending.


They switched on some bright and hot lights to illuminate my features and after some time this made me hot, bothered and sultry. I proposed to Tavleen Singh, my beautiful interviewer that we take a break and have a cold beer.


She agreed, I took one out of the well-stocked mini-bar and looked around for a bottle opener. There didn't appear to be one in any of the obvious places, so I phoned room service and was very politely told that the bottle opener was fixed to the wall above the washbasin in the bathroom. That way it couldn't be mislaid. Perfect!


I took the beer bottle to the bathroom and located the opener. It was a perfectly serviceable metal device but it had been fixed to the wall three inches above the washbasin. It meant that no bottle could be placed under it and levered open. I called Tavleen Singh to share the absurdity. She immediately brought it to the attention of the management as she knew them.


Within ten minutes there were managers, engineers, architects and five other officials examining the anomalous bottle opener. 'Mistrys' were summoned. Apologies extended, pre-opened beer proffered.


The little mistake, worth a curious laugh and nothing more, was symptomatic of the larger picture. The mistry or his apprentice who had fixed that bottle opener to the wall had never used such a device in his life. The device hadn't opened the bottle but it let loose the genie that told stories of the vicious class structure of India.

Which urban Indian has not experienced the toilet seat which can't be raised because it has been fixed too far back under the flush cistern? Again, the workman has no use for such a toilet and can't be expected to automatically appreciate its mechanics.








The police are everywhere. That they would be posted in trouble spots was a given. But to see them do a periodic round of my neighbourhood, a sense of unease floods me. In my village in Kerala, the sight of a policeman is unusual.


The only time the police came to be part of the life there was during the Babri Masjid episode in 1992. The violence that had stricken Ayodha, thousands of kms away, was reenacted outside the teashop. A couple of RSS workers taunted a few Muslim students. In retaliation the Muslim League workers beat up the RSS men.


Suddenly Mundakotukurussi became a hot spot of communal violence, needing a full-time battalion of police stationed there permanently. But a month later the village settled back into a state of communal harmony; mutual hate and dissension forgotten.


As I write this, the Ayodhya verdict is yet to be announced. On various TV channels and in newspapers, there is speculation on what could happen post the verdict. Suddenly all of us are turning into boy scouts with 'Be Prepared' resonating in our heads.


I think of the various people I have met in the last 24 hours, and all of them have the same to say: why don't they just build a school or hospital on the site and settle it for good? Do we really need another sacred spot? As the people we seem to be clear on the way forward. If only the politicians with their agendas would allow us to…







Setback for India-Pak dialogue processTHE war of wordsbetween the foreign ministersof India and
Pakistan during the ongoinggeneral assembly session of theUnited Nations at New York,with both sides reverting backto the zero-some blame game,does not augur well for the dialogueprocess between the two
neighbouring countries forresolving all their outstandingdisputes for moving forward onthe road to peace. While speakingat the session ShahMehmod Qureshi stressed thatthe people of Jammu and
Kashmir should be allowed to "exercise their right of selfdeterminationthrough aplebiscite" India's minister for
external affairs S.M.Krishnatook strong exceptions to theseremarks by saying that India"did conduct plebiscite" everyfive years in the form of electionsto the J&K assembly.Krishna-Qureshi spat, unfortunateas it is, betrays not only alack of mutual trust but also ahate-spitting and war-mongeringmindset that threaten toderail the dialogue process.The reiteration of the statedpositions by the two sidesmakes its obvious that thepolitical leadership of Indiaand Pakistan is back to thezero-some blame game, underpressure from the hawks intheir respective countries whohave a vested interest in perpetuatingand even sharpeningthe conflict. The process of
composite dialogue has passedthrough off and on phases eversince it was started with thepeace in the two countriesremaining elusive thoughinevitable for the best interestsof the people of the two countries
including that of Jammuand Kashmir. Instead of breakingout of the straitjacket of thestated positions the leaders ofthe two countries time andagain stuck to their rigid andbelligerent attitude whichcomes as a major roadblock onthe road to peace.The peace process, despiteseveral setbacks and frequentdisruptions, had moved forward
after both the countriesshifted from their stated positionswith Islamabad not stickingto the UN resolution on
Kashmir and even talking of an"out of box" solution and NewDelhi too conceding the disputednature of Kashmir andexpressing its preparedness toinclude it among the outstandingissues on which the composite
dialogue was beingagreed upon. There had beenincremental progress on variousissues though unfortunately
the two countries failed totake the people of Jammu andKashmir on board for finding asolution to the Kashmir problem.The dialogue process, disruptedwith the Mumbai terrorattack, was again resumedafter the diplomatic ice wasbroken by a meeting betweenPrime Minister ManmohanSingh and his Pakistani counterpartYusuf Raza Gilani atthe sidelines of the 16th summitof the South AsianAssociation for RegionalCooperation (SAARC) at
Thumpu (Bhutan). One hadhoped that this will pave theway for sustainable dialogueprocess to resolve the outstandingdisputes. The resumptionof dialogue with the meeting ofthe two foreign secretaries hadagain generated hopes inKashmir for an early end totheir miseries with a just anddemocratic solution of the
vexed Kashmir problem. Butunfortunately it was not so.The two countries are againback to the path of cold war
with the frightened prospectsof another catastrophe.The people in both the countriesdesire peace and mutual
friendship and cooperation.They have suffered due to theprolonged conflict with the twocountries frittering away theirlimited resources for buildingwar machines. Militarization ofthe civil space has created
havoc. While the political leadershipin both the countries isbetraying a lack of will, bowing
before the extremists and jingoistsin their respective lands,it is the common people whoare suffering. The gains
achieved by the people-to-peoplecontacts, which created aclimate of trust to enable thetwo countries to initiate dialogueprocess, have been lostdue to the failure of the politicalleadership to shed theirintransigence and rigidity,understand the gravity of thesituation and overcome trustdeficit. A sustained and meaningfulengagement by overcomingthe trust-deicit is the onlyway out for moving forward onthe road to peace. The civilsociety in both India andPakistan must pressurize theirrespective governments toresume the dialogue process forresolving all disputes includingthat of Kashmir without muchdelay. There are indeed powerfulvested interests which areopposed to peace and friendshipbetween the two neighbouringcountries. But there isno reason why such elementsshould not be isolated insteadof getting influenced by themand continue the counter-productiveblame game. 







NOTWITHSTANDINGthe haughty claims ofthe helmsmen, themenace of stray cattle continuesto haunt the residents ofwinter capital city. Not to talkof narrow, congested lanes andby-lanes, the spectre of straycattle occupying the centralplace on almost all the importantand busy roads, thusobstructing the smooth flow of
traffic, is too common at anypoint of time in Jammu city.While during night hours, theentire stretch of lanes, bylanesor big roads is covered byall species of stray cattle,munching, relaxing with nohindrance from any quarter,what is nauseating is the factthat the scenario is not muchdifferent even during morninghours, thus creating literallymess on the roads. Ditto is thesituation about the stray dogs.Majority of the stray cattle are
actually domesticated animalsleft to wander on the roads bythe mean, wily owners afterserving their interests, muchto the inconvenience of fellowcitizens, both the pedestriansas well as vehicle owners. Forthis chaotic scenario, the mutecattle or dogs certainly cannotbe held responsible as this iseither the duty of the concerned
departments or theowners to keep a check on themovement of animals on theroads. As far as the concerned
authorities are concerned, theyhave failed in their duties onthis account at two fronts.Firstly, notwithstanding theirclaims, they have failed in settingup adequate number ofpounds and kennels to accommodatethe stray dogs/cattlebesides devising desired waysand means to check their population,particularly in case of
canine population, theunchecked increase of whichcan be dangerous in the form ofspread of rabies, a very commonproblem encountered duringsummer season. Secondly,the helmsmen have dismally
failed to rein in the errantowners who not only violatethe stipulated guidelines butthe animal rights as well.
Unless the authorities don'ttake stringent action againstthe offenders of law besidesfulfilling their own legal
responsibilities in this connection,the menace would continueto bother the other law abiding citizens.






ACCORDING to theTimes of India,President Obamawants India to resolve theKashmir dispute withPakistan to strengthenDelhi's case for SecurityCouncil membership.The news item onWednesday projected theHimalayan standoff as anobstacle to India's questfor big-power status. Onthe face of it, toKashmiris it might looklike a juicy carrot to danglein front of New Delhibut is it going to work?The report bases itsinsights on Obama's
thinking in BobWoodward's latest bookObama's War in whichtop US policymakers areshown probing ways to
defuse the Kashmir situationas part of an exitstrategy for the US fromthe Af-Pak theatre."Why can't we have
straightforward talkswith India on why a stablePakistan is crucial?"Obama is reported asmusing at one meeting.
"India is moving toward ahigher place in its globalposture. A stablePakistan would help."Implicit in the fulminationsis the idea that settlingKashmir would mollifyPakistan, where, USofficials say, hard-liners
are using the unresolvedissue as an excuse "tobreed an army of terrorists"aimed at bleedingIndia.One option was shelvedafter Gen Musharraf'sexit from power inPakistan. The new proposalsin the pipeline may
not be based on what theKashmiri Intifada desires(after its slogans for azadihave resolved the confusing
signals with regard toan Islamic or secularfuture) but on expedienciesthat suit world powersand are unrelated to
the turmoil in the Valley.The US effort hereresembles a South Asianversion of the CampDavid accord, which leftthe Palestinians high anddry, but brought a keyArab opponent of Israelinto a stage-managedembrace of the Jewishstate.It seems to matter lessthat the fate of occupiedPalestine has remainedhopelessly unresolved
since Egyptian PresidentSadat's unintelligent visitto Jerusalem in 1977 toembrace the right-wingIsraeli premier Begin. Sowho will play Sadat inPakistan and Begin inIndia?Persisting with theIntifada imagery, who is
going to play Kashmir'sArafat in the Begin-Sadatscenario? For whoever itis will be coerced intoendorsing a potentiallyunpopular accord andpummelled into submittingto the ubiquitous"international community's
will" till he loses credibilitywith his own people.Since the Kashmiriresistance before the currentuprising was
believed to be largelybankrolled by Pakistanand in some cases infiltratedby Indian agencies,there was little hope offinding a secular liberalleadership like the oneprovided in the case ofPalestine by GeorgeHabbash and NayefHathmeh.In Kashmir there wasnever room for someonelike the spectacular LailaKhaled who represented
a radical, but secularresistance. It has insteadgot a bunch of looselyallied resistance movementsthat range from
wishy-washy secular tothe obscurantist AsiyaAndarabi who peers out ofher veil through peepholes
and makes for amediaeval variant of thelegendary Palestiniandaredevil.When the author of the
Camp David accords,President Carter, visitedIndia in 1978, the ColdWar was at its height andhis mission was to secureDelhi firmly in the westerncamp. Kashmir wason one of its periodic backburners. In fact it was so
firmly off everyone'sagenda that Gen Zia presentedthe then shortlivedprime minister ofIndia with Islamabad's
highest civilian award.With a pliant Indiangovernment in which anardently pro-AmericanAtal Behari Vajpayee wasforeign minister therewas hope in Washingtonof a diplomatic coup. Theeffort came to grief with
the premature exit of thepro-Washington coalitionin Delhi.Something worse happenedfor American policy
in the region. At Carter'sbehest Prime MinisterDesai, even in his shortlivedinnings, went out of
his way to host thebesieged Shah of Iran inDelhi. The visit by theself-declared Arya-Meherturned out to be his lastformal reception anywhere.He was soondethroned only to becomean international pariah.
It is curious that Iran andPalestine were Carter'smain foreign policy initiativesand both ended in
disaster.The American hostagecrisis in Tehran, forexample, was deepenedby a fateful accident in
Iran's Dasht-i-Lut desertbetween two secretAmerican aircraft orderedthere to ostensibly rescuethe hostages. The disasterspurred RonaldReagan's challenge toCarter's second-term bid.It hardly seems like a
coincidence that Obama'shigh-stakes involvementin a Middle East peacebid accompanies a seriouslybad equation withIran. Carter became aone-term president andObama's chances are notlooking any brighter at
the moment.Possibly the strangestirony that links theCarter visit to South Asiawith Obama's proposed
arrival in Delhi inNovember is the fact thatboth democrats completea circle in Afghanistan. Itwas during Carter's presidencythat Soviet troopsdrove into Kabul, promptingUS national securityadviser Brzezinski to see
it as Moscow's Vietnam.Washington was eventhen haggling over theprice tag for Pakistan's
army to undertakeWashington's war inAfghanistan. Carter hadinitially offered $400mdollars. Zia described it as
peanuts. That dialoguetoday is eerily similar.That the war thatCarter began is beingsought to be wound up by
Obama in an inexplicablehurry, in both instanceswith the crucial involvementof Pakistan, will not
be lost on the voters aswhen the incumbentpresident puts his cap inthe ring for a secondterm.
In a strange way, thiscould be the single mostimportant factor to influencethe course forKashmir. It is sadly not
the determined stone-pelterswho would win theround in spite of the sacrificesthat have goneinto their militant campaign.If Palestinians ever getjustice it would not bewithout the internationalsupport they evokeagainst Israel's injustices,including most ofall from non-Arab countrieslike Iran, Venezuelaand now perhaps Turkey.What is the Kashmiriequivalent, other than apotential Sadat beingreadied to sell them down
the river?The tactics of stone-peltersevokes sympathy andsometimes internationalcondemnation of their ormentors,but if Israel isany example to go by, nooccupying force isdeterred by mere condemnation.
Kashmiris mightwant to learn from thosethat have overthrownpowerful adversaries inIran, Vietnam, Cuba and
Afghanistan.Alliance against arange of injustices outsideKashmir's immediateambit would win it badly
needed international solidarity,not mere lip servicefrom double-dealingMuslim countries. Thequestion is not whetherObama can bring succourto Kashmir. The point toponder is: will Kashmirbe used to bail out Obama
in Afghanistan and in hisown country?—(Courtesy: Dawn)







September 27 has come and gone. But it has left an important message behind. We must save biodiversity for the sake of our own well-being. On this date every year the World Tourism Day (WTD) is observed across the globe. This year the theme has been "tourism and biodiversity" the relevance of which to our State can hardly be over-emphasised. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has rightly pointed out: "Tourism and bio-diversity are mutual dependent." Biodiversity is a key tourism asset and fundamental to its sustained growth. An article in the latest Sunday magazine of this newspaper seeks to further elaborate it: "Tourism revenues resulting from the enjoyment of this biodiversity, often located in the world's less developed regions, are a significant source of income and employment for local communities. It is this relationship between tourism and biodiversity and the resulting positive impact on local livelihoods, development and poverty alleviation that must set the tone of sustainable tourism development." On this basis a case has been made for exploiting the State's available biodiversity potential to the hilt. In fact, we have a lot more variety as well to give a boost to tourism right from Lakhanpur to Leh. We may not have been the originator of the idea. Our consistent plea nevertheless in these columns has been to take a holistic view of tourism infrastructure in the State. We are an extremely blessed land with places of worship belonging to all religions. Just one well-organised trip can expose a visitor to grand edifices of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity. At the same time he gets to see our stunning natural possessions. Can there be a better site for making tourism pilgrimage a big success? As it is the devotees paying obeisance to Vaishno Devi at the Trikuta hills constitute an overwhelming majority of tourists turning up in the State. 

Indeed, it is sad that our most captivating asset --- the Kashmir Valley --- is the worst placed at this moment. We are talking strictly in terms of its worth as a tourism resort. We know the reasons for its decline. At one time it had occupied the pride of place as a globally hailed tourism resort. Even these days at least the domestic sight-seers throng it as and when there is a little improvement in the security scenario. However, one can't wish away the reality that presently it is deprived of its status as an extremely bewitching showpiece. Since a chain is as strong as its weakest link we on the whole thus tend to be a loser. How do we make the best out of a bad situation? The article, to which we have referred above, rightly points out to the necessity of bringing more and more places particularly in Jammu and Ladakh regions on our tourism map. It has already been done in the case of Baba Jitto-Jhiri, Sudh-Mahadev-Mantalai circuit, Zairat Baba Chamblyal, Buddha Amarnath, Nangali Sahib, Kailash Kund- Bhadarwah, Kud, Machail Mata, Sarthal, Sukrala Devi, Mansar-Surinsar, Sanasar and Jajjhar Kotli (all in Jammu region) and Nubra valley, Lake Moriri wetland conservation reserve, Pangong Lake, Zanskar, Hemis national park and Suru valley (in Ladakh region). We should make it a habit to expand this list. We should save and enrich our flora and fauna. It is a totally logical argument that tourism-related development activities should be carried out with care in a hilly and mountainous region which our State largely is. On this basis a plea has been made for cautiously completing the Lakhanpur-Basohli-Bani-Sarthal circuit which, it is said, would cost more than Rs 1000 crore. It is no doubt a huge investment along the 154-kilometre long route and should be made keeping in view the environmental consequences. 

We don't gain anything by fiddling with the nature. Instead, we should hone it as a jewel. Only if we can dispel safety concerns about the Valley we will be much better off. We have everything going in our favour --- scenic splendour, glistening meadows, shimmering lakes, charming valleys, snow-capped majestic mountains, ancient shrines, impressive art galleries, handicrafts, Dogra and Buddhist paintings and a rich and diverse cultural life. Perhaps, in the present circumstances, it would be advisable for us to focus first on dusting off all tourist places in this province and the Ladakh region. There are numerous unexplored resorts on this side of the Pir Panjal. They are awaiting proper recognition. Likewise the Kargil district of Ladakh needs a little more attention than that it gets currently. It is no less picturesque. Leh district on the other hand has already emerged as one of the topmost tourism destinations in the world. It is an example worth emulating elsewhere. Simultaneously, we should keep strengthening the road network in the Valley. Some key roads of the Kashmir region are in a bad shape. One leading to as captivating a spot as Yusmarg can test one's driving skill especially beyond Charar-i-Sharif. Our approach should be to build up each of our three geographical regions with the eventual aim of linking them together as one tourism entity. We should be able to present a guest with a good glimpse of our divergent natural resources and a healthy composite culture. This is possible if we are able to persuade him to move from Katra to the Hazratbal shrine to Hemis. Of course, this is just one example of what we can attain. As we sit together we will find that we have a fortune on hand: it involves us all and will only increase if we care to share it with others. 






Indeed, it is amazing that our public distribution system continues to be rocked by one scandal after the other. Invariably it relates to the pilferage of food grains meant for the people below the poverty line especially in remote corners of the State. A consequence is that a well-intentioned welfare scheme like this at times gets a bad name. Now we come across another evil dimension. According to a report in this newspaper recently, a whopping sum of more than Rs 10 crore of the State's Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department (CAPD) has been blocked by its staff at various levels --- Rs 8.5 crore in the Kashmir division (including Ladakh region). A major component is said to have been swindled by storekeepers in connivance with officials some of whom have been dismissed while some have retired. The Government has chalked out a recovery schedule. How will it help given the past dismal record will be worth watching.








50 yrs of Indus Water Treaty

By Arabinda Ghose


September 20, 2010 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Indus Waters Treaty by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ayub Khan at Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan. It is time there is a realistic assessment of the benefits accrued and losses suffered by India from this agreement.

It is well known that according to the terms of the Treaty, India was given the exclusive use of the three "eastern" rivers-the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi while Pakistan was allotted the other three rivers of the system the "western" rivers of the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab.

Since ancient times, the rivers of the "Panchanad" system were known as the Sindhu, the Shatadru (the Sutlej), the Vipasa (the Beas) the Eiravati (Ravi), the Chandrabhaga (the Chenab) and the Vitasta (the Jhelum).The Indus and the Sutlej originate from the Mansarovar area in Tibet, the Jhelum from the south of Srinagar, and the Chandrabhaga (confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga, both from the Rohtang Pass area from where too the Beas comes.

At the time of Independence and thereafter, one of the most tricky question confronting the two countries was the division of water resources assets between the two new countries, in the western sector. The British had built the Sukkur Barrage across the Indus in the nineteen twenties in Sind in which a number of Indian engineers too had participated which was the training ground for irrigation engineers who later gave the country giant projects such as the Bhakra-Nangal system.

India's problem was to find irrigation waters for the semi-arid areas of East Punjab, and Pakistan's problem was that although the British had provided extensive irrigation system in what later became West Punjab, the head works of these projects largely were situation in East Punjab. India too had a semblance of this difficulty because there was headworks near Ferozepur, just on the border with Pakistani Punjab which could be destroyed by Pakistan in no time in case of any hostility between the two countries. India had resolved this problem with engineers with foresight building a head works at Harike, more in the interior. However, Pakistan would have taken years and years to build the head works within its territory for irrigation system watered by rivers originating in India.

An immediate problem after Partition was a dispute about supply of water to the Central Bari Doab Canal and the Deepalpur Canal in West Punjab from East Punjab. This dispute was resolved by an agreement signed by the two governments on May 4, 1948. This agreement was signed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Mr. N.V. Gadgil and Mr. Swaran Singh from the Indian side while the Pakistani side was represented by Mr. Ghulam Mohammed, Mr. Shaukat Hyat Khan and Mr. Mumtaz Daulatana. 

There are 12 Articles of this Treaty. The Treaty was brokered by the World Bank and the representative was .W.A B Iliff. As is well known, the disputes regarding rights of use of the six rivers was settled by the World Bank According to Article II of the Treaty, "all the waters of the Eastern Rivers shall be available for the unrestricted use of India, except for some provisions such as domestic use and non-consumptive use. Pakistan shall be under an obligation to let flow and shall not permit any interference with the use of the waters of the Sutlej Main and the Ravi Main in the reaches where these rivers flow into Pakistan.

An interesting provision of this Article was that there should be transition period of ten years from April 1, 1960 to 31st March 1970 during which India was to limit its withdrawal of water for agricultural use, limited abstractions for storage and make deliveries to Pakistan from the eastern rivers. This period could be extended (perhaps it was ), till 31st March 1973.

This means India did not fully utilize the waters of the three eastern rivers, to which she was entitled to, in order

to enable Pakistan build the head works on these rivers when they entered Pakistan (via the Harike Barrage).
In other words despite the continuous unfriendly attitude of Pakistan, including the war in September 1965, India did not deprive Pakistan of waters over and above that due to it under the Treaty. This also means that India did not fill up the Govind Sagar reservoir of the Bhakra project for almost 13 years even after Jawaharlal Nehru had inaugurated the completed project in the nineteen sixties. 

The Western rivers were allotted to Pakistan (Article III) except for use in Indian territory for domestic purposes, non-consumptive use, agricultural use (under certain conditions) and generation of hydro-electric power. India was forbidden from storing any water of or construction of storage works on the western rivers.
One important provision of this Treaty (Chapter V) was payment by India of the Pound Sterling amount of 62,060,000 Article V says in this connection, "In consideration of the fact that the purpose of the system of works referred to Article IV(I) is the replacement from the Western Rivers and other sources of water supplies for irrigation canals in Pakistan which on August 15,1947 were dependent upon water supplies from the eastern rivers, India agrees to make a fixed contribution of Pound Sterling 62,060,000 towards the cost of these works.
Which amounts to India not only allowing Pakistan a grace period of 13 years (1960-73) before fully utilizing the waters of the eastern rivers allotted to her but also financed the building of head works in Pakistan on these rivers after they entered that country.

Yet, as everyone is aware, Pakistan is objecting to the implementation of the Tulbul navigation project on the Jhelum near Shrinagar, objecting to the building of the Kisanganga Project (called Neelam project ) across the Kishanganga river (no storage involved) and creating hurdles in the way of completing the Salal hydel project across the Chenab which does not involve storage .The Treaty did provide for use of waters of the western rivers in Jammu and Kashmir for irrigating 45,500 acres of annual irrigation. This volume does not appear to have been utilized fully till today. There is also no quantitative limit on Indian uses for domestic and industrial purpose in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to Article VII of the Treaty, India and Pakistan shall each appoint a Permanent post of Commissioners for Indus Waters. These persons should ordinarily be High-ranking engineer competent in the field of hydrology and water use. The two commissioners together will constitute the Permanent Indus Commission. There is a provision of appointment of mediators to resolve disputes which the two commissioners may not be able to resolve.There are also provisions for ensuring drainages by the two countries and on control of pollution on the waters of the two rivers. (NPA)









The General Assembly of UNO designated 1 October every year as the International Day of Older Persons through a resolution 45/106 of 14th December 1990. The International Day of Older Persons was observed for the first time throughout the world on 1st October 1991. Later, this day came to be observed in many countries and organizations. By designating a special day for the senior citizens, the General Assembly of UNO recognized the importance of older adults and their contributions to the development of human society. This day is dedicated to honour, respect and care for the elderly people of the world. 

According to a World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health study on the Kingdom's elderly, senior citizens suffer from loneliness, boredom, anxiety and depression. They should have a life of fulfillment, health, security and contentment, and be appreciated as an integral part of the society. It becomes important for the Older Persons to be able to enjoy their remaining life in their own families and communities. UNO has approved Eighteen Principles for the well being of Older Persons which are organized into five clusters, namely, Independence, Participation, Care, Self-fulfillment and Dignity. 

The form of elder care provided varies greatly among countries and is changing rapidly. Even within the same country, regional differences exist with respect to the care for the elderly.Traditionally elder care had been the responsibility of family members and was provided within the extended family home. Increasingly in modern societies, elder care is now being provided by state or charitable institutions. The main reasons for this change include decreasing family size and the geographical dispersion of families. Although these changes have affected European and North American countries first, it is now increasingly affecting Asian countries also.

The elderly population in our country increased from 12 million in 1901 to 19 million in 1951. According to an estimate India's elderly population is around hundred twenty million (120) at present will reach around 177million in 2025. Presently India has the second largest aged population in the world 

In Western and industrially advanced countries, pension schemes and social security system of the governments cover the economic needs of the old. However, in India the situation is quite different and the condition of the illiterate and poverty stricken older persons cannot be imagined. Nearly 90 per cent of the total workforce in India is employed in the informal sector. Thus, social security offered by pension schemes is available to only 10 per cent of the working population retiring from the organised sector. Many of the older persons who do not have any social security such as pension have to depend on the earning of their children for their sustenance and medical expenses. 

Older people in India are unfortunately marginalized. The fast changing pace of life has added to the woes of the elder person. This has led to severe adverse effects on the status and well being of the elders Vis-a Vis entire society. There are instances of well off children disowning their parents or dumping them in old age homes where they are left to live a life of depression and deprivation. There are also examples of elderly persons living independently in larger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and have become victims of robbery and even being murdered for valuables or to grab their dwellings.

Given the choice, elders always prefer to continue to live in their own homes (aging in place). Unfortunately the majority of elderly people gradually lose functioning ability and require either additional assistance in the home or a move to an eldercare facility. The children of these elders often face a difficult challenge in helping their parents and in making the right choices.

One relatively new service that can help keep the elderly in their homes longer is "respite care". This type of care allows caregivers the opportunity to go on a business trip and know that their elder has good quality temporary care, for without this help the elder might have to move permanently to an outside facility.It is important to realize that the family is one of the most important providers for the elderly whether it is actual care or a respite care. In fact, the majority of caregivers for the elderly are often members of their own family, most often a son/daughter or a grandson/granddaughter. Family and friends can provide a home (i.e. have elderly relatives live with them), help and meet social needs by visiting, taking them out on trips, etc. Areas of economic,social and health security can also be met by formulating better governing policies.

In every country older people contribute significantly to society. They may be taking care of grand children enabling their sons and daughters to go to work and thus playing an active part in community and family life. The youth of today has the energy and the power to bring the society forwards but the back bone of the youth shall always remain the value system bestowed upon them by their elders whose experiences and knowledge keep shedding light on virtues thereby guiding them to walk tall no matter how big they become. Older people need to be considered as the strong pillars of the society as they lay a strong foundation in making things possible to happen. 

A massive awareness program should be launched jointly so that adequate services are provided for parental care by the family and the nation as a whole and more economic and health development organizations should come into play with volunteers in order to bring encouragement and brighten the life of an elderly person. Remember that older people are like 'Doors to the past and windows to the future'. 

The knowledge and experience of older people is like a vast reservoir of resources which could be used for the betterment and welfare of the society. We need to treasure these precious jewels with love, care and responsibility to uplift our nation and our inner- self.









Not long ago I met a most moderate Kashmiri businessman who longs for peace to return to the Valley. He told me that till the violence started in June there was such an atmosphere of peace in Srinagar that his buyers from abroad said they could not believe that the city they were in was the one of the daily, violent protests that they had seen from a distance on their TV screens. The businessman blamed Omar Abdullah for the sudden deterioration in the Valley and said that had he been more sympathetic when the first deaths occurred from police firing there may still have been peace in Kashmir. There are many Kashmiris, and many political analysts in Delhi, who share this view. Omar is reviled for spending too much time in Delhi, for taking too many holidays and for having let the youth of Kashmir down by belying their hopes. This maybe true but it is not the whole truth and it is important that we examine the whole truth if we are to understand what is really happening in the Kashmir Valley.

The whole truth is that the separatist groups needs any old excuse to take to the streets and when there is no excuse they invent one. The whole truth is that no matter what the Government of India does it will not win the separatists over because the fact that they are separatists should make it apparent to even idiots in Delhi's corridors of power that they have a singular aim and that is to separate Kashmir from India. Rational arguments, grand gestures, visits by all-party delegations, promises of autonomy matter not one little bit because the only thing the separatist groups want is to separate Kashmir from India even if Ladakh and Jammu have no wish to go anywhere. 

So every year, usually at the height of the tourist season, they find a reason to take to the streets and create violence. In 2006 it was because of some prostitution scandal. In 2007 it was because of a rape case that involved migrant workers from India. In 2008 it was because of the plan to build pilgrim homes for Hindu pilgrims in Amarnath. In 2009 it was because of an alleged rape by security forces in Shopian. And, this summer it has been because a teenager called Tufail Ahmed Mattoo got hit by a teargas shell on June 11. Those who believe that this was the spark that lit the fire forget that a teargas shell must have been used because there were already violent protests. They forget the intercepted telephone conversations that showed separatist leaders lamenting that there had not been enough people killed in the protests.

Unfortunately, the people who forget all this more than anyone else are policymakers in Dr. Manmohan Singh's government and sundry human rights types whose only job is to sign petitions, light candles and make a racket on behalf of separatist and radical Islamist groups in the Valley. So the Government of India's grand gesture after more than a hundred people were killed in violent confrontations with security forces was to send an all-party delegation. Once in Srinagar Lefties in the delegation then went out of their way to seek out secessionist leaders and try to persuade them that they were on their side. It was an outrageous thing to do and the Bharatiya Janata Party should have made a lot more noise about it than they did.

If the Prime Minister wants to move towards real peace in the Kashmir Valley he must begin by making it clear that he will talk only to elected representatives of the Kashmiri people. There have been successful and fair elections in 2002 and 2008 and yet nobody in Delhi seems to believe that these are the real representatives of the Kashmiri people. This is an insult to democracy and a betrayal of those who dared vote. Separatist groups used violence and intimidation to prevent people from voting and despite this in 2008 there was a 60% turnout in the Valley. Should this not be taken to mean that ordinary Kashmiris have grown tired of the violence and want a return to normalcy? Could this not mean that they could be too frightened of radical Islamists to make this obvious except through the process of a secret ballot? Could this not mean that despite the protests that have caused most Kashmiri towns to remain under curfew for most of this summer what we are seeing is not the whole story?

Before sitting down to write this piece I spent some time on YouTube to see if there had been any attempt by the Government of India to tell their side of the story. There has not been. All the videos on YouTube have been put there by secessionist groups. There are at least three of Masarat Ali who is widely acknowledged as the leading secessionist leader today. He appeals to Indian security forces to leave the Valley and appeals to Kashmiri people to continue their 'sacrifices' to free Kashmir from the 'slavery' that it has suffered under India for sixty years. At least he is truthful about his objectives. There are other secessionist leaders who veil themselves in moderate clothing and use the alleged violation of human rights to speak in shrill tones to the Indian government. Notice please that they never, ever speak of the human rights that were violated when the Kashmiri pundits were driven out of the Valley. They continue to live in squalid camps twenty years as a result of the only instance of ethnic cleansing in the history of India.

If the Prime Minister seriously wants peace in Kashmir he must refuse to talk to any of these so-called leaders and make it absolutely clear that he will talk only to those who have been elected by the people of Kashmir to represent them. Those who want to secede must be allowed safe passage to that other Kashmir that is supposedly 'azad' across the border. India does not want anyone who thinks that living in a country that believes in democratic processes is a form of slavery. But, India is not going to allow another inch of Indian territory to be taken away in the name of Islam. Why is this so hard for the Prime Minister to say? Why does he not understand that unless he says this we cannot even begin to think about real peace in Kashmir?








THOUGH Punjab MLAs often spend considerable time on politicking, blame game, mud-slinging, slogan-shouting and disrupting proceedings in the Assembly, it is a matter of relief that they still come out once in a while with positive pieces of legislation. The Punjab Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill 2010 is one such legislation that will remove discrimination against daughters in matters of inheriting land. Though belated and passed hurriedly without debate, the Bill is still welcome.


In agrarian societies where land has a sentimental value it has been the practice to leave out daughters while dividing land among sons. Daughters are compensated through dowry in lieu of their share in the land. But then as awareness spreads and society is becoming sensitive to women's needs, and women too are asserting their rights, daughters have started getting equal social and economic rights. Despite some progress, Punjab and Haryana still have miles to go in ensuring parity between sons and daughters. The male-female ratio in the two states is still imbalanced as unborn daughters are liquidated even by their so-called educated parents. Grown-up girls are killed in the name of family honour if they dare choose a partner other than the one their parents approve of.


In such a social scenario the laws have to be updated to eliminate any bias against women. In fact, all laws in general and those concerning marriage, divorce, property ownership and inheritance in particular need to be re-examined. Some states, including Punjab, offer stamp duty concessions if property is purchased or transferred in the name of women. State budgets too should be gender-sensitive so that women get their due share in the state outlay. The government needs to provide women free health care for life and education up to at least the graduation level. If the woman of the house is educated and healthy, so will the family and society be. 








THE draft prepared by the Town and Country Planning (TCP) department, which is to be placed before the Himachal Cabinet, is about the worst thing that could happen to Shimla. It proposes to lift the ban on construction activity in the 17 green belts of the state capital where a blanket ban was imposed in 2000 to protect trees and green cover from further depletion. Once the ban is lifted, the land mafia can be depended upon to choke the lungs of the town as if there is no tomorrow.


The green cover of the city which had been saved from the axe for 10 years thanks to the ban will die a painful and unceremonious death. That will be a nightmare not only for the city but all its residents.


Earlier, there was a proposal to give only one-time relief to those persons who had bought land in the green areas prior to 2000 when a complete ban was imposed on construction activity. The present draft is far more cruel, considering that it aims to lift the ban permanently. The government is apparently succumbing to the lobby which has no compunction about turning Shimla into a far worse concrete jungle.


The heartlessness of it all is obvious from the fact that there is also a move to disband the Green Area Committee, which had been constituted to ensure that the green areas of the state capital do not shrink further. The power to allow construction activity in the green areas will be given to the local Municipal Corporation, which is notorious for looking the other way when there is an assault on trees. Those who love the queen of the hills need to fight tooth and nail to make the government see reason. Enough damage has already been done to Shimla. It cannot take any more. 








FORMER military ruler of Pakistan Gen Pervez Musharraf's plan to formally launch his own political party has been in the news for a long time. What was in doubt was his declaration that he would return to Pakistan to try his luck as a politician. Now, however, it is clear that he will function a la Altaf Husain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Obviously, he cannot take the risk of being among his people to "change the political culture" of Pakistan because of a number of cases pending against him.


The cases registered against him include those relating to his alleged involvement in the killing of Baloch nationalist Nawab Akbar Baghti, the Lal Masjid operation in Islamabad, suspension of the judiciary and the imposition of an emergency. General Musharraf cannot think of coming back home so long as Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who was suspended twice during the retired General's rule, is there on the scene.


General Musharraf, who has chosen a Friday to launch his All-Pakistan Muslim League because of the day's religious significance, perhaps, feels that this is the right time for him to announce his emergence on the political landscape of Pakistan. The Army has given a good dressing down to the PPP-led government in Islamabad for its poor handling of the crisis caused by the unprecedented floods. People in the flood-hit areas consider the Army as their saviour. The ruling politicians stand condemned. General Musharraf must be feeling vindicated as he tried to prove during his rule that the traditional politicians of his country were not fit to govern the country.


He patronised a Muslim League faction, derisively called the King's Party, when he was running the show as President. But the party fared badly during the 2008 elections, leading to his ouster from the seat of power. Only a small section of educated Pakistanis consider him as the man who saved Pakistan by reversing the country's Taliban policy after 9/11. A vast majority of Pakistanis hold him responsible for the suicide bombing culture that has endangered the very survival of their country. Keeping all this in view, one can easily say that his new political experiment will take him nowhere. 

















AS a lover and player of cricket, a few responsibilities entrusted to me have given me greater joy than being asked by the then Chairman of the BCCI, Mr N.K.P Salve, in 1982 to assist and look after the Indian cricket team visiting Pakistan. I was then India's Consul-General in Karachi.


During that series, Imran Khan devastated the Indian batting line-up, with only Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath performing creditably and consistently. The Indians were then still learning the art of dealing with reverse swing — an art perfected by the Pakistanis — though some in our team quietly noted that Imran seemed to swing the ball prodigiously only after the tea intervals! I then asked a Pakistani commentator what he thought of Imran's bowling against India. He replied that Imran had told him that when he played against India he thought of Kashmir and treated the encounter not as a cricket match, but as a jihad. It is not surprising that when he took to politics and formed the Tehrik-e-Insaf Party, Imran was joined by worthies like former ISI chief Lieut-Gen Hamid Gul and the viscerally anti-Indian former Foreign Minister and High Commissioner to India Abdus Sattar.


The Pakistan Cricket Board, like its hockey and squash administrations, was then run by its 1965 war hero, its former Air Force chief Air Marshal Nur Khan — a formidable individual, who even General Zia-ul-Haq would not dare to take on. Nur Khan did a remarkable job in changing the sociological composition of sport in Pakistan. He looked away from the traditional Karachi and Lahore elites and encouraged interest in sports in poorer neighbourhoods, apart from small towns and rural Pakistan. It was this approach that led to Pakistan turning out a regular stream of world class fast bowlers and unorthodox but gutsy batsmen. It was Imran Khan who moulded this motley crowd into a formidable team, performing brilliantly, but erratically. But it was impossible to ignore the underlying tensions that gripped any match Pakistan played against India.


I asked the founder and first Editor of the Jang Group of newspapers , Mir Khalilur Rahman, why his countrymen were so fired up when playing cricket against India. He wryly responded: "Our problem is that we treat the cricket field as a battlefield and think the battlefield is a cricket field"! Sadly, Air Marshal Nur Khan's is today a lone voice in the wilderness, raised against the futility of antagonism towards India.


Unlike the days when Nur Khan was a towering figure in Pakistani cricket, standards of financial propriety and fair play have fallen there like in India. Cricket, as a former Chairman of the BCCI is said to have remarked, is today primarily a source of entertainment for fans and of personal enrichment for others. The Indian media adopted a moralistic posture in lampooning Pakistani cricketers for their involvement in "spot fixing" in England, conveniently forgetting that four of our own erstwhile heroes, including a former captain, were banned for alleged involvement in "match fixing". Neither India nor Pakistan can honestly claim today that their sports institutions observe high standards of financial propriety. But it is ridiculous to claim that sports can be totally divorced from international politics.


The Moscow Olympics were boycotted by the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union returned the favour by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics. South Africa was banned from international sport when apartheid prevailed and the Anglo-Saxon bloc refuses to play against Zimbabwe because they dislike its ruler, President Mugabe. No government could have defied outraged public opinion and invited Pakistani cricketers when wounds of the 26/11 terrorist attack were still raw.


I was invited recently to participate in some television programmes when news came that the India-Pakistan duo of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi had staged an upset victory to enter the finals of the US Open. Sports buffs and professional bleeding hearts across the country were ecstatic, proclaiming that the young tennis stars were ushering in a "new era" of eternal friendship between India and Pakistan. Not to be outdone, our Sports Minister M.S. Gill, who is unlikely to get a Bharat Ratna for his ministry's stewardship of the Commonwealth Games, jumped in to proclaim: "I have one question for everyone. If Bopanna and Qureshi can play together, why not India and Pakistan?"


The minister was obviously ignorant of the fact that over the past decade the Cricket Boards of South Asian countries had got together and, using Indian financial clout, had effectively shifted the centre of cricketing power from the Anglo-Saxon world to the subcontinent. The headquarters of the ICC moved from the hallowed precincts at Lords to a centre of subcontinental cricket, the Emirate of Dubai in 2005.


While Sports Minister Gill was waxing eloquent on how sportsmen had set an example for others to follow came the chilling news that three Indian soldiers had been killed by jihadis from across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Those talking about a "new era in India-Pakistan relations" seem to forget the realities of the present era when terrorism sponsored by state agencies from across our border is taking lives across the country, from Kashmir to Kerala.


One wonders if the families of the three soldiers or their compatriots would have been very pleased by the media hype over the US Open. This is not to suggest that we should underestimate the contributions that sportsmen, civil society groups, business houses and academic contacts play in promoting better understanding between countries. And there are millions of people in both India and Pakistan who yearn for a better future in the relationship. We should, however, avoid hyping individual events when unwarranted.


Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi is an exceptional Pakistani sportsman. At a time when the Pakistani cricket team is afflicted with excessive religiosity — a legacy of its former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq — Aisam has challenged conventional thinking in Pakistan by partnering with an Israeli player in the international circuit. He won his first international tournament in 2008 partnering with Prakash Amritraj, winning the South African Open with Rohan Bopanna earlier this year.


Sports Minister Gill would do well to ask his Cabinet colleague, the Union Home Minister, to ease some of the draconian rules, now imposed on visas for Pakistani nationals, including their distinguished sportsmen like young Aisam Qureshi. Moreover, even non-resident Indians who recently acquired foreign nationality and hold multi-entry visas to visit friends and relatives in India are today targets of our Home Ministry's paranoia and are prevented from visiting India freely








DISCUSSIONS on contentious public issues like Naxalism, suicide by farmers, terrorism etc. generate much heat and passion. The remark that is often made to silence those voicing opposite views is: "Sitting in airconditioned rooms, what do you people know about the reality or ground situation".


It can hardly be said with certainty whether these persons are always closer to reality themselves. And be it remembered that all that they say is itself said in either an airconditioned conference hall or an auditorium!


In 1902 Willis Carrier first made an apparatus that controlled the temperature and air humidity. This 'chiller', now known the world over as airconditioner, that travelled across oceans and continents and fought searing heat waves, has now become an invention that many find hard to live without.


There are exceptions to the magic of this technological wonder. Gandhiji lived all his life in ashrams and jhuggis. He had no use for airconditioners and it is hard to imagine anybody with a cooler temperament and closer to the reality of the Indian situation than the Mahatma.


His views remained unchanged even when he was ushered into an airconditioned study by Lord Mountbatten who wanted to discuss with him the issue of partition of India. The airconditioner in Mountbatten's study nearly led to a 'catastrophe'.


Edvina Mountbatten who saw Gandhiji's shoulders shaking snapped the airconditioner off and covered him with her husband's bridge-sweaters. This implacable foe of technology refused to budge from his views on the partition of India which he had firmly set himself against.


Legendary Hakim Abdul Hameed of Hamdard Dawakhana was similarly opposed to airconditioning. He found nothing curative in it. He cured countless people while sitting, all his life, in a dimly lit room with a faintly moving ceiling fan.


It is in human nature to yearn for cool climes or comforts when troubled by heat. Romans used aquaducts. Our 'rishis' enjoyed the cool breeze in their sequestered ashrams in the midst of jungles and did lofty thinking. Even 'khap-panchayats' conduct their deliberations under well shaded 'Neem' or 'Banyan' trees.


But some comfort lovers are incorrigible. I recall the wife of a senior officer in Assam declining to accompany him to a mofussil town where he was posted by saying: "AC aru coco cola na holey, moi kinekva thakim" (how shall I stay without AC and coca cola).


Today tinytots reared in airconditioned homes complain when their classrooms and dormitories are found lacking in this facility. An example of a detainee in a lockup is worth citing. His kin came to me the other day and complained, "The lock-up is lacking in 'basic' facilities like western style commode and cooling device!"


Our Parliament and assemblies, the tribunes of our people, so well airconditioned and their proceedings so well televised, belie that airconditioning can always have a cooling effect. Our representatives claiming proximity to reality and people's feelings — which, indeed, they are expected to — sometimes forget all about airconditioning when they lunge for the throats of those who combat their views. Isn't it a reverse impact?








FOLLOWING the Supreme Court's ruling for the distribution of damaged food grains free to the poor, a number of articles have appeared on the subject. Two such articles -- one by Mr SS Grewal and the other by Mr. M.S. Sidhu -- appeared in The Tribune dated September 1, 2010. In the September 13 issue of The Tribune three more articles have appeared, one each by Nirmal Sandhu, Dr. Sucha Singh Gill and Dr. Manjit S. Kang, Vice Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University.


Let us first take the Supreme Court ruling regarding the free distribution of food grains. From time to time, the FCI has been declaring specified quantities of substandard wheat/rice lying in their godowns or those of MARKFED, the State Warehousing Corporation, the Central Warehousing Corporations and the like. These do not satisfy the specifications laid down for human consumption and are tagged as "unfit for human consumption". These are disposed of in the market for purposes other than human consumption.


Around 1972-73 I was the Managing Director, MARKFED(Punjab), and Mr S.L. Kapur, IAS (retd) was the Chairman. The FCI released some of substandard wheat to be disposed of as unfit for human consumption. The Punjab government received instructions to transfer the wheat to Maharashtra. Even before this letter reached us, grain dealers from Maharashtra were already in Chandigarh trying to get the allocations of this wheat.


I pointed out to the government that we should not deal with private dealers and transfer this to Maharashtra on a state-to-state basis. The Maharashtra Government was accordingly requested. They sent us a list of their authorised agents to take the delivery of wheat on behalf of the Maharashtra state. The wheat was transferred to these government nominees. It was clearly mentioned in all the paper work that the wheat was unfit for human consumption. However, somehow this wheat reached the distributing system in Maharashtra.


After a few months, both Mr S.L.Kapur and I received summons to appear before a Magistrate's court. We were held responsible for sending substandard wheat that was being sold to the public. We were charged under the IPC and the Essential Commodities Act. Mr Kapur and I had to appear in the court, had to undergo the court procedure and were allowed to leave on bail with instructions to appear whenever summoned.


We went to Maharashtra's Home Secretary to explain the whole case requesting him for the withdrawal of the case against us. After hearing us patiently, he asked us to see the Food Secretary in whose jurisdiction this case would be. We went to the Food Secretary and explained the whole situation again mentioning that the transfer was marked as "unfit for human consumption" and its disposal was to be organised by the government of Maharashtra and that It was for the Maharashtra government to ensure that it was not sold for human consumption. He also said he would examine the case. It took us two-three appearances in the court and almost begging the Maharashtra government before it was agreed to withdraw the case against us.


Dr. Sucha Singh Gill has observed that the Supreme Court order is "worth implementing immediately". The point I want to make is that it is not a simple matter to distribute substandard wheat to the poor free or otherwise. To carry out the Supreme Court ruling, the government will have to release only that wheat which meets the prescribed norms for human consumption.


The disposal of damaged wheat unfit for human consumption is a separate matter. The Government of India has already announced the release of 25 lakh tonnes of wheat for free distribution to the poor. When it comes to the actual working, it may or may not be the wheat which the print and other media has been projecting. Some of it even after cleaning and processing may still not be suitable for human consumption in which case the government will have to release good quality wheat. The disposal of damaged wheat will still remain a problem.


In the afore-mentioned articles, some other points have been raised. A lot of data as to how much wheat is produced, procured from the mandis and stored in various godowns and also how much wheat gets damaged every year. Sidhu has condemned the storing of liquor in the godowns of the Punjab Warehousing Corporation.


It may be clarified that the Punjab Warehousing Corporation has to work according to its own charter. These corporations are not meant for the storage of food grains only. They have to make the best use of their warehousing facilities keeping it commercially viable. Their major client may be the FCI but that does not debar them from storing liquor or other goods which give them better returns. Their apex body, the Central Warehousing Corporation, also follows the same policy. They too store a lot of food grains, but they also do a lot of other "godowning" according to their own commercial judgement.


Mr. Sidhu's suggestion about the construction of more godowns by the government under the PPP scheme is welcome and I am sure the Central and state governments will adopt or have adopted this approach. The storage in silos has also been mentioned. No doubt food grains stored in silos retain their quality for a longer period and damage is minimal. The FCI has been having silos for long. They have it in Moga, Kaithal, Delhi and other places. Adani, a commercial organization, is modernising these silos. I have seen that. They are doing a very good work for better handling and quick movement of food grains.


But there are other factors to be considered. Our country has not been able to go in for bulk handling of food grains on any sizeable scale. In this the farmer has left the FCI and other agencies far behind. The farmer has been bringing wheat/paddy in bulk for quite a few decades now. He puts tarpauline and other such material for lining trolley or his bullock cart and takes the produce to a mandi in bulk. Thereafter the cleaning and other operations are done manually by traders. The Punnjab government installed machinery for the cleaning of food grains at Khamano and some other places. This equipment remains unused.


After the purchase food grains are put in gunny bags, transported to godowns and again transferred by trucks to nearby railway stations for despatch to different destinations in the country or to ports for export. The Railways and road transport have failed to equip themselves for the bulk transportation of food grains. The bagged wheat stored has to be again bagged for further movement.


It has been mentioned that wheat should be sent to those allotted in other states direct from mandis. A quick evacuation of wheat from Punjab to other states again is not an easy matter. Almost 90-95 per cent of wheat is received in May-June. The total capacity which the Railways and road transport can offer is far below the requirement for a simultaneous movement. It has, therefore, to be stored in Punjab for some time before it can be sent to different states.


In around 1973-74 the then Punjab Food Minister (Mr Kharbanda) and myself (then Director, Food & Supplies) went to the then Railway Minister (Mr Hanumanthayia) for more allocation of rakes for a quick movement of wheat from Punjab. We both came back after hearing details of his plans as to how he is going to run the Railways more efficiently and get more return per wagon. The movement of wheat from Punjab did not seem to be in his calculations.


Dr. Manjit Singh Kang has observed that we should invest in storage technology. He too has emphasised that investment in food production in general and storage in particular is necessary if India has to have the long-term food grain production policy and meet the projected demand of 276 million tonnes in 2021 and over 400 million tonnes in 2050.


Increasing production to that level may be possible. The storage may remain a problem. More investment is needed for research in storage technology. Recently, a training programme was held for senior officers of the Food Corporation of India. They were given a broad picture of storage practices and methods followed in Western countries.


It is not that the Government of India is not aware of it. From the late seventies onwards the Government of India has been inviting and receiving many proposals about scientific methods of storage. There are a number of practices for better handling of storage. Silos is not the only alternative. Many other methods are cheaper and better than silos.


However, all such methods require bulk handling of food grains. The present system of mandis to godowns and dispatch will require bulk handling. From the farmers' field to the final destination, the handling will have to be in bulk. We need to look at the farmer with great respect. He moved on to bulk handling decades ago where the government is still stuck with the age-old system of handling and storage in gunny bags.


The writer, a retired IAS officer of the Punjab cadre now settled in Noida, is a former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Food, and Director, Board of the Food Corporation of India 







V.K. Malhotra, AGM (Public Relations), Food Corporation of India, writes: The article titled "The grain drain" written by Nirmal Sandhu (Centre Stage, September 13) mentions the following facts:


1. "The media recently reported that 50,000 tonnes of wheat had got damaged in Punjab alone, Sharad Pawar called the reports exaggerated. However, in the affidavit before the Supreme Court his own ministry proved him wrong by putting the figure at around 67,000 tonnes."


The actual quantity of damaged foodgrains as on 1.07.2010 is as under:


FCI: 11708 Tonnes


Punjab State Agencies: 54260 Tonnes


Haryana State Agencies: 1574 Tonnes


These figures were accurately quoted in the answer given on 27.07.2010 in response to the Lok Sabha starred question number 30.


2. "About 7.5 lakh tonnes wheat were damaged and sold as animal feed in 2004."


This figure is incorrect and has been bloated by several degrees as the food grains (i.e. wheat & rice) with the FCI that were damaged during 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 were 0.76 and 0.97 lakh tones, respectively. Thus, the cumulative total damaged food grains for these two years are 1.73 Lakh tonnes and not 7.5 Lakh tonnes of wheat as mentioned in the article.


3. "Strangely the FCI hands over wheat at below market rates to a select number of registered mills that sell flour at a hefty profit." The OMSS is a scheme under which wheat is released in order to bring down prices in the open market. Under this scheme wheat is sold by the FCI to technically qualified bulk consumers empanelled in accordance with the guidelines given by the Government of India through a process of open tenders. The reserved price for these tenders is fixed by a high-level committee set up by the government. In fact the FCI has been able to sell only 42,454 tonnes between April 2010 and August 2010. The federation of flour mills has been representing that the reserved price fixed by the govt./FCI is higher than the market price due to which the tender sale under the OMSS is so small.


Nirmal Sandhu responds:


1. The FCI has given the figure of food grains damaged in its own godowns, while my article mentions the figure of total food grains damaged, including those in Punjab and Haryana, which comes to 67,542 tonnes as the FCI's own figures show.


2. The FCI is citing the figures for the years 2003-04 and 2004-05. The figure of 7.5 lakh tonnes of wheat liquidated as animal feed pertains to the stocks held between 1998 and 2001. For details see IAS officer Ashok Khemka's article "Food stocks and prices both soar" published in The Economic Times on March 11, 2010.


3. The FCI has not mentioned the actual price at which it sells wheat to private flour mills. My observation is based on the March 2010 quarter when wheat was released to the registered mills at Rs 1,240 per quintal. The branded flour prices then were at about Rs 2,000 a quintal or Rs 200 per 10-kg bag. The FCI did not make enough wheat sales in the open market to bring down the flour prices despite having huge stocks. This benefited the mills at the cost of consumers.










It's not about Rama. It's not about Babur. It's not even about a temple or a mosque. It's about an assault of a kind we've never seen before, on history, law and the truth. 


Nobody's seen the judgment yet but what we gather is that by a 2-1 majority, the court has decided to carve up the site in three, and to hope for the best. 


When on 6 December 1992 a mob of 1,50,000, stirred by deliberately provocative speeches from right-wing Hindu leaders, demolished the Babri Masjid despite a solemn commitment to our Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed, it was in every sense a desecration, most especially of our Constitution and the law. Far lesser infractions have received harsher treatment. 


At stake were the sanctity of the law and the Constitution, and the immutability of a historical fact. The masjid has been on that site for centuries. That the site is specially revered by Hindus is also historically true. The only question is how far you permit one historical truth to trump another and achieve the undoing of a shared heritage. 


One hundred twenty four years ago, Colonel Chamier, an Englishman serving as the District Judge decided a suit claiming a right to build a temple outside the masjid premises. He visited the site. He concluded – perhaps wrongly – that it was built in Babur's time, that it was on land held sacred by Hindus, and then said: 
    "... but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to agree with the grievances." 


Typically English, eminently sensible stuff. Perhaps a little too straightforward for our more complicated latter-day sensibilities. The High Court had before it the surviving three of four claims filed in relation to the site. The first was a title suit of 1950 by Gopal Singh Visharad seeking, among other things, the right to worship at the site. A second similar suit was filed and withdrawn. In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara – a Hindu religious institution frequently at loggerheads with the VHP – filed a third title suit for possession of the site. In 2002, the Muslim Wakf Board woke up and filed its own claim. This one seems to have been dismissed on technical grounds such as limitation. 


Central to the litigation are the idols of Rama said to have been installed there in 1949; that is, very shortly after the horrors of Partition. From 43 years, both communities used the site side by side till, for reasons that were clearly political and had nothing to do with faith or even the shared use of the site, a political party staged a frontal attack on the Constitutional imperative of secularism. 


Secularism's best definition is one single word, a word on which EM Forster wrote a remarkable essay: tolerance. All the suits before the High Court demanded a non-secular decision. Not one should have succeeded, even partially. 


The implications of the High Court's pizza-slicing approach should frighten us. What we are told is nothing but this: it is perfectly all right to demolish an old structure and to lay claim on the basis of some real or imaginary right, and to do so even by taking the law into your own hands, cocking a snook at the Supreme Court and making rude gestures at the Constitution. If this is to be a precedent, what's next? The Taj Mahal? Humayun's Tomb? The Lodi Garden monuments?


For nearly three centuries from 1526 AD the Mughal Empire created a nation state previously unequalled in economic power and territorial dominion. The benefits of that empire are with us still in more ways than can be described: technology, astronomy, metallurgy, trade, language, music, literature, art and, of course, architecture. Curiously, while we are keen to attack the Mughals, principally on the grounds of religion, we are markedly less enthusiastic about targeting the British though they, too, professed a different religion. The reason is obvious: we would be utterly incapacitated without a raft of the many legacies the British left us from railways and the civil services to the very concept of democracy and, of course, the judicial system. We embrace these legacies, and use some of them to attack an earlier heritage, unmindful that we are what we are not despite our history, but because of it. 




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By all accounts, Satyam (now known as Mahindra Satyam) is out of the woods. Losses have been cut. The hole caused by Ramalinga Raju's misdemeanours has been plugged. The company is now hopeful of coming out of the red within two years. Once the results for the first two quarters of the current financial year are out in November, merger with Tech Mahindra will be initiated. This is great news indeed for the company's shareholders, employees and business associates alike. Timely intervention by the government did save the company from imploding. Had Satyam collapsed, it would have taken several years for Indian information technology companies to regain the trust of their customers abroad. The economic consequences would have been disastrous. Never before has the damage caused by a scandal of such proportions been contained within such a short span of time.


But what about corporate governance? Lengthy investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Serious Frauds Investigation Office notwithstanding, it appears there still isn't much to move against Mr Raju. His version, outlined in his confession of January 7, 2009, that he inflated the books only to show that Satyam was in the same league as TCS, Infosys and Wipro remains unchallenged to date. He didn't sell a single share during the seven years that he cooked the accounts, Mr Raju claimed. So, the fraud was not perpetrated for personal gains. Mr Raju may not have sold the shares, but he pledged almost his entire stake to lenders. Without inflated accounts, those shares would have been worth much less. Mr Raju's friends counter that he ploughed all the money back into Satyam to keep the show going. Those who are responsible for maintaining the highest standards of accounting say that the issue in the Satyam scandal was not the lack of controls over auditors but the failure of corporate governance. That may be true, but auditors point out that at least two issues that came up in Satyam are very much alive. Most companies are still in a rush to publish their audited accounts, which puts auditors under tremendous strain. This may result in lapses. Two, auditors still have to depend on the company to procure certificates of deposits with banks. These certificates were found to be fakes when Satyam unravelled. This was the core of the Satyam scandal. No mechanism has been put in place to make this process transparent and foolproof. However, auditors have become vigilant. They are no longer afraid to drop companies they don't feel comfortable with. It might mean lesser money, but reduces the possibility of getting mired in an accounting scandal.


There is something else that still calls for answers. The auditors at Pricewaterhouse spent long months in jail on the suspicion that they were hand in glove with Mr Raju. The evidence so far suggests that they were just negligent. Was the excessive focus on auditors from day one right? Mr Raju had claimed that only two others were aware of the shenanigans: his brother, Rama Raju, and his CFO, Vadlamani Srinivas. It is difficult to imagine that a scandal of such scale and complexities was pulled off by just three men. What about the independent directors? Though they all resigned from the board, they have been allowed to go free with a rap on the knuckles. The new management has done its job, almost. It is now for the investigators to take the Satyam scandal to its logical conclusion.








The decision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow banks to engage companies with large retail outlets as business correspondents has the potential to change the future of financial inclusion and branch banking in India. These, along with others eligible to act as correspondents like retired government employees and teachers, owners of kirana stores, operators of public call offices, agents of insurance companies and local entities such as post offices and self-help groups, can make up a formidable army which can take banking to the farthest corners of the country almost overnight without the need for new bricks and mortar branches. What can be delivered includes virtually every kind of retail banking service. Non-banking financial companies, i.e. large microfinance institutions (MFIs) which are so constituted, have been specifically excluded. As these, numbering close to 10, are in line to apply for banking licences, there can be no logic in the exclusion. They also have very wide and efficient rural networks and their exclusion can be counterproductive. As not all of them can get banking licences, do we want large FMCG companies to act as de facto banks but not large, professionally run MFIs?


RBI has outlined measures to ensure that this new army making up the long arm of banking works acceptably. All responsibility for what is done by correspondents will rest with the banks they are representing (at the ground level no one will be able to represent more than one bank) and in whose name all business will be conducted. Banks will continue to be liable for knowing their customers. The base branch to which a correspondent is attached will introduce the sub-agent of the correspondent to the villagers in the presence of local elders to prevent impersonation. Technologically, the hand-held devices through which transactions will be conducted will have to be linked real time to the parent bank's core-banking network and customers will have to be given debit/credit slips as proof of transaction or shown evidence of transactions on screens. Perhaps, most critically, RBI has forbidden those delivering these financial services from tying up transacting with them in their main line of business. A kirana shop owner should not be able to insist that the banking customer also buys her provisions from her. It is not clear if an FMCG firm will be able to tell the local shop owner that she will be made a sub-agent only if she does not stock the products of competitors. As small villages sometimes have only one store worth the name, which can front only one bank, and considering that the local shop owner also often acts as the local moneylender (now she will also process small loan applications), the scope for abuse is enormous. The guidelines have clearly stated that no fees can be charged from banking customers for any transaction, but it remains to be seen what will happen in a country where the village postman routinely takes his cut while paying out a money order.








A song in a film uses a popular brand in its lyrics. It runs as part of the film's promotion on all the channels a month prior to its launch. One week after the film's release and a declaration of it being a box office super-hit, the brand owner decides to sue the producer for misuse of brand name. It creates media buzz; the brand is alleged to have grown by 12 per cent in the same period! A week later, media announces that there has been an out-of-court settlement and the star who sang the song has become the brand's official ambassador.


 Did the film benefit — bums on seats — because of all this buzz? Has the brand benefited from all the exposure — in the song and the media buzz that followed?


In the 1987 movie Wall Street, Gekko and his protégé Bud Fox set the standard for men's power fashions with contrast collar shirts and silk square pockets. It popularised French cuffs, suspenders and brighter shirts. Men imitated the look (forgetting that the man who wore it went straight to prison). The new movie is more subtle yet awash with brands — Dunhill, Hickey Freeman, Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, Jaeger Le Coultre, Gucci, Pucci, Vera Yang, Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa. Riding on the popularity of the fashions promoted in the earlier version, publicists are working overtime to get the word out on who is wearing what in the movie to draw mileage for and rub off onto the brands — just in case viewers missed them!


Closer home, viewers are exposed to reality shows filled with brand and film promotions to seed themselves in. While stars appear regularly in shows to promote their upcoming movies, brands have found myriad ways to be present in such shows to reach their audiences. Chocolate is given when someone wins, soft drinks tell people to take a cool break, phones are used by anchors to call friends from the venue, a bank name prominently appears when a winner is given his cheque and anchors speak from laptops with brand names prominently displayed.


Aamir Khan is quite celebrated in the advertising and marketing world for his innovative film promotions. For 3 Idiots, he actually toured small towns incognito to get coverage in local media. For Ghajini, he generated interest by providing Ghajini-type haircuts in saloons, mannequins and ushers with similar hairstyles were seen in multiplexes.


A combination of in-content brand placement and subtle (or not so subtle) public relations support is being used to grab viewer attention. Media innovation is what it's called in advertising lingo. Do these work or do they end up being gimmicks? Would the box-office returns of Ghajini and 3 Idiots have been the same in case Aamir Khan didn't do what he did or did these acts actually bolster the films? Are brands placed in-content actually getting more consumers to buy them?


We, no doubt, live in a very cluttered environment. Getting consumer attention is a challenge. Besides the brand and media overload, consumers today have more cluttered minds — thinking and worrying about many more things. In this context, marketers need to work harder and harder to intrude into their minds. And, further, displace other brands from the consideration set. In this scenario, thinking new ideas — innovations — is perhaps a good thing. And experimenting is the only way.


Bombardment is one possible strategy. This, of course, needs big bucks. Yet, it doesn't guarantee attention. Blind spots and apathy occur naturally. Consumers are able to blank out what they don't want to listen to or retain. And much of the bombardment that happens could be just a waste of money.


Targeting communication in a more focused way is the other option. The challenge remains that in a mass, penetration market like India where scale is the name of the game, this doesn't generate confidence that niche media vehicles help reach select groups adequately enough and this provides enough width to deliver results.


Not surprisingly, it comes down to do "innovation" in mass channels to try to get attention. However, the challenge remains two-fold:


To do the innovation in a way that ties in with brand message and proposition. Pure salience has limited value as brands occupy slots in consumer minds based on past experience, imagery and relationship. Displacement would be difficult with such advertising. Further, as the media innovations field also gets crowded, they become blind spots. Empirical data show few people, except the most involved, actually go out to open magazine cover gatefolds or notice innovative shapes in print. And fewer people consciously notice brands plugged into video content as there are so many. Unless the styles and looks are distinct as in the new version of Wall Street, impact is likely to be limited.


There is a need to determine new metric of measurement. There may be a case of subliminal impact of many of such brand messages — from the bombardment that takes place by omnipresent brands to the more subtle ones done by placing within content. There could be a case of the unconscious being impacted and that influencing final purchase decisions, especially for the more impulse and low involvement categories. However, there exists very little tracking mechanism to determine how much final brand decisions are made on the back of such messaging. This could provide another model on how advertising works — beyond the classic AIDA and advertising cut through systems currently in place.


Clearly, the fact that marketers are investing in new innovations in brand messaging and advertising celebrates media innovations, indicates an intuitive need to go beyond reach and opportunities-to-see model of advertising. There is a growing recognition that if you don't make impact, you are lost. Creativity and insight do help — Fevicol remains a brand that has, with single-digit television budgets, succeeded in gaining consumer mind-space. However, in more crowded categories, a different solution is needed.


Film brands whose success depends on the opening weekend performance are experimenting — and experimenting a lot — often out of Hobson's choice. Product brands tend to have more time. Controversy-of-the-song kind that I spoke of at the start of this piece or just doing things differently is needed to get into the consumer's mind. However, the time has come for marketers to explore such innovations on large scale and measure their impact.


Something worth thinking about.


The author is country head-Discovery and Planning, Ogilvy and Mather India. Views expressed are personal. Comments at: 











During September, the BIS released the preliminary results of its Triennial Central Bank Survey on foreign exchange (FX) and derivative market activity in April 2010. It received a little bit of adulatory press in India, since a cursory reading showed that the share of the Indian rupee in the global FX market had risen (from 0.7 per cent in April 2007) to 0.9 per cent. With global market volumes having risen by 20 per cent to $4 trillion a day, this confirmed our pride that, like India, the Indian rupee is, indeed, asserting itself more and more in the world.


 A closer look at the research, however, generates some questions about this glib conclusion. First of all, the share of 0.9 per cent is actually 0.45 per cent, since the sum of all the shares adds up to 200 per cent (since both legs of each transaction are counted). While that is a bit of a deflator, the fact remains that the rupee is still 15th in the list of globally traded currencies, way ahead of the renminbi (0.3 per cent, 24th) and most other emerging-market currencies — the only ones ahead of us are the South Korean won and the Mexican peso.


However, of greater concern is the fact that the 2010 survey increased the list of reported transactions to include trades in USD/INR (as well as Brazilian real, Chinese Renminbi and Korean won). Thus, the 0.45 per cent market share reported in the 2010 survey counted all transactions with the rupee as one leg that were reported by 53 central banks; for comparison, in 2007, the rupee had a market share of 0.35 per cent, but this included only transactions reported by RBI. In other words, the 2007 numbers do not include offshore transactions, like NDF's, which are included in the 2010 total. Thus, it is possible — indeed, likely — that the total volume of rupee transactions (or certainly its market share) may have increased only marginally (or even fallen) from 2007.


Further evidence of this is found in the data showing the change in the total domestic FX volume. The daily volume reported by RBI in April 2010 was (equivalent of) $27.4 billion. That's — hold your breath — nearly 30 per cent below the daily volume of $38.4 billion reported by RBI in April 2007! Indeed, volumes had been declining since April 2008 — they had risen dramatically (by 55 per cent) from 2007 to 2008, after which they declined by 17 per cent to 2009, followed by a further sharp fall (of 38 per cent) to this year's modest total.


So, what does all of this mean? If the global FX market has been growing steadily, how come the Indian rupee market is not (or even shrinking)? This is all the more ironic, given that we have recently released a new symbol for our currency, supposedly indicating the growing impact of the Indian rupee in the world.


Well, first of all, we need to recognise that FX volumes were elevated in 2007 and 2008 as a result of huge capital flows as well as a highly active structured product and exotic derivative market. Another, and possibly related, factor that could have pumped up volumes in 2007 is the rather surprising fact that there was a huge amount of non-INR (cross currency) transaction activity — only 48 per cent of the reported volume had one INR leg. It would seem, anecdotally, that these transactions have substantially reduced.


And then, of course, there's the currency futures market, which has been trading close to $10 billion a day for the past several months. Conceivably, although contrary to accepted wisdom, the currency futures market, which does not find count in the BIS survey, could have drawn significant volumes away from the OTC.

My sense, though, is that only a small part of the OTC volumes would have shifted to the futures; retail and institutional speculation, which form the vast bulk of futures volume, was — and continues to be — severely constrained by regulations in the OTC market. Globally, most of the speculation finds its way, directly or indirectly, to the OTC market — global exchange-traded currency derivative volumes are a mere 4-5 per cent of the OTC, whereas in India the ratio is more like 30 per cent.


In particular, our OTC market is much too dependent on domestic dealers, who (in 2007) provided 45 per cent of the volume; the global average was 10 per cent. Globally, non-local dealers and other financial institutions (prime brokers, hedge funds, insurance companies, etc.) provided 76 per cent of market volumes, as compared with 38 per cent in India. While these numbers have doubtless changed by today, the overall picture — of stagnant or even declining OTC volumes despite a growing global market — makes it clear that the deregulation of the Indian FX market, which had been one of our pride and joys, has fallen behind the curve.


Your turn, Dr Subbarao.








ICICI Bank Chairman K V Kamath has a simple mantra to increase efficiency. He has always followed the 80:20 rule: Prioritise the vital few against trivial many. Kamath started following this rule when he was a student at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.


 The Written Analysis and Communication course, a case study-based analysis, was an integral part of the MBA syllabus. While other students would slog through the night to submit the assignment, Kamath used to submit his papers much before the deadline. That's because he was open to trading off an A for an A+ since he could use the time for more critical things.


That's the Pareto Principle at work for one of the most successful managers in India Inc. The principle suggests you focus on the 20 per cent that produces 80 per cent of your results. When the fire drills of the day begin to sap your time, spare a minute to figure out your priorities.


Too many managers are constantly busy doing work that can be done by their juniors, can wait or can be outsourced. In trying to focus equal attention on micro-details of every project, many managers do work that is not commensurate with their designation or salaries. They are, in effect, becoming clerks; worse, they don't allow others in the organisation to think.


Also, while trying to centralise decision making even for day-to-day work, CEOs often forget that such management style only overloads their star performers with extra work. Here again, the Pareto principle is at work. In any population that contributes to a common effect, a relative few of the contributors — the vital few — account for bulk of the effect. If these vital few are demoralised for a lack of empowerment, no workaholic CEO can salvage things.


The most important use of the 80:20 rule is that it defines the core of your job: work that causes problems for the company or the customer if it is not done. Applying the rule helps you know what to let slide when you don't have the time to do it all.


The 80:20 rule is being applied by some companies to reduce workload. The principle here is that if 80 per cent of products and work are not that crucial, it's not a bad idea to rationalise them and/or even outsource them.


The Pareto Principle is named after an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed that 80 per cent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 per cent of the population. Pareto went on to comment that 20 per cent of his garden's pea plants produced 80 per cent of the peas he grew.


Researching further, Pareto found that in just about any event, roughly 80 per cent of the effects come from just 20 per cent of the causes. Although this ratio is not constant and the proportions may vary, the pattern is broadly followed in almost every activity in which small efforts generate non-scalar returns.


Pareto died much before his principle was widely adopted. That credit goes to people like Joseph Juran who refined Pareto's work to make it usable and popular.


Many companies also use this principle for their compensation packages by introducing a pay-for-performance model. Employers are increasingly finding that the 80:20 rule really applies to their staff — with 20 per cent of them generating 80 per cent of the profits — and these people should be adequately rewarded.


But experts say the Pareto principle should be thought through before it is implemented, because overdoing it may create problems. Some companies have taken the Pareto Principle to extremes by focusing on only the "superstars", forgetting that helping the good become better is also a managerial responsibility, since no company can survive with superstars alone.


Beyond HR, fast-moving consumer goods companies learnt this the lesson hard way when they launched "power brands" to devote 80 per cent of their efforts on a few key brands that deliver the maximum profits. Though this worked wonderfully for some time, things changed when the slowdown hit and market dynamics changed. Smaller competitors, which were more nimble-footed and worked with lower overheads, took away share in key regional markets.


Result: companies like Hindustan Unilever had to redraw strategy and fall back on the hitherto neglected brands like Hamam to regain their market share in regional markets. Today, these brands are being feted by the company as jewels in its crown.


Similarly, by blindly focusing on the most profitable customers, companies can often invite a crisis. Don't forget that this segment of customers is also coveted by the competition. By spending too much time and money on them, companies may find themselves vulnerable if some customers switch loyalties suddenly.









India needs to be prepared as much for a surge of capital inflows as a shortage


At the beginning of each year, members of our tiny community of market economists and forecasters take a hard look at their spreadsheets, stroke their chins purposefully and conclude that the rupee will appreciate quite considerably over the year. Since 2007, their forecasts have, by the middle of the year, proved spectacularly wrong. This, of course, causes extreme angst and embarrassment and is usually followed by radical changes in forecasts and desperate (and usually futile) attempts at damage-control. In short, our community's credibility lies in tatters.


The reason for this consistent lack of success in predicting the fortunes of the currency stems from a somewhat persistent strain of the "India Shining" virus. Its most visible manifestation is the unshakeable belief that come what may, capital flows into India will be large and leave in its trail a hefty surplus of dollars that would, by the simple laws of arithmetic, translate into rupee appreciation. The financial crisis of 2007-08 was the first to blow a hole in this assumption. The lingering aversion to risk that came in its wake has also meant that despite apparently better "fundamentals", capital flows into India have been tardy in the years that followed. In 2006-07, the capital account surplus over the current account (the excess supply of dollars) was over $90 billion. This year, 2010-11, we will be lucky to get a surplus of $5 billion. That is, we should, on average, be left with an almost negligible surplus of about $500 million every month.


An associated symptom of this malaise is a tendency to overlook the current account deficit, the draft on capital flows that our persistent trade deficit entails. In 2008-09, the current account deficit was $38.4 billion. In 2009-10, it is likely to be in the range $42-45 billion. When forecasters tend to treat the rupee as part of a larger Asian pack and try and link the Indian currency's fortunes with that of the Asian basket, they tend to forget that most of our Asian peers either run current account surpluses or have relatively minuscule deficits. The data (see table) provide a hard reality check. In the April-August period, the Asian pack appreciated by 4.1 per cent. The rupee with its burden of the current account deficit has remained virtually flat. This despite the fact that portfolio flows into India have been higher than its Asian peers over the past few months.


There are implications that go beyond the narrow domain of currency markets. For one, the fact that capital inflows have been barely adequate to cover the charge on the current account is straining domestic liquidity. Excess dollars when purchased by the central bank lead to a release of rupees. With these flows falling short of expectations, RBI hasn't had much of an opportunity to buy dollars — the result has been a "core liquidity" shortage that is beginning to affect the banking system. The data on money supply illustrate this clearly — M3 growth is currently running at less than 15 per cent. A comfortable growth rate to support 8.5 per cent GDP growth rate and target 5 per cent inflation, going by a simple monetary targeting rule, should be close to 17 per cent, which is the level that is officially targeted by the central bank. To press the point further, monetary growth is running behind its target by a whopping 2 percentage points. Incidentally, some bank treasury managers anticipate the possibility of a resource crunch by the end of the year if credit demand does pick up. I suspect that a number of the liquidity projections made at the beginning of the year were based on a scenario where capital flows would be abundant. The risk of a sharp escalation in deposit and lending rates seems real.


What is the solution then? The first step is to recognise the problem. Both currency and liquidity forecasters (including RBI) need to jettison the "default" assumption that there will be an embarrassment of riches as far as external capital flows are concerned. While there is a chance that they will revive, there is strong probability that a decelerating global economy will put a lid on risk appetite and harness capital inflows. It is also important to recognise the fact that funding the current account deficit is going to be a problem and that is impinging on domestic liquidity. Thus, while it is important to have a contingent strategy in place to handle excess capital inflows, it is just as important to have a policy-mix in place to handle a capital shortage.



(In %)




1 week

Asia ex Japan















Commodity currencies





Note: The data are updated up to August 23, 2010
AXJ basket includes: SGD, KRW, IDR, THB, MYR & PHP Commodity currencies include 
the AUD and NZD
Source: Reuters & HDFC Bank

What should be the elements of this mix? RBI could perhaps make a start by hiking rates on NRI deposit schemes. Attractive interest rates have been known to push up these deposits and there's no reason why this won't work again. The bond market provides attractive arbitrage opportunities given the obvious arbitrage window that low interest rates in the global markets open. It is perhaps time to raise the portfolio investment limits on both corporate and sovereign bonds. The central bank could simultaneously consider diluting some of the extant restrictions on external borrowings. If the capital shortage persists, there could be more radical policy measures — a programme on the lines of the India Millennium Deposit (IMD) scheme might seem a little aggressive at this stage but could be the policy of last resort. Finally, ramifications of the capital shortage are more acute for domestic liquidity than for exchange rates (some would argue that a weak currency actually helps). If the liquidity problem gets out of hand, RBI might consider slashing the cash reserve ratio by the end of the year when inflation pressures dissipate. What we need in these volatile times is a nimble central bank and not one that remains married to its stance.


The author is chief economist, HDFC Bank. The views expressed are personal









THE split verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court neither brings legal clarity to the Ayodhya dispute nor paves the way for an amicable settlement. It is most apposite that one party to the case has decided to move the Supreme Court against the verdict. The essential non-judiciability of the dispute has manifested itself in the verdict as a jumble of faith, evidence, compromise and an implicit appeal for a negotiated partition of the disputed site among three claimants, including the Muslim body that claims to own the site on which the Babri mosque stood before its undisputed demolition in 1992. It is difficult to accept such a jumble as a reasoned judicial verdict. The Supreme Court needs to redeem the law from its deformation into a plea for pragmatic giveand-take. Granted, the Supreme Court is unlikely to find a legal solution to a problem that is not amenable to legal resolution. But, at least, it would be able to delineate the boundaries of what the law can establish and what it cannot. This is a task that has completely eluded the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court in the present case. 


A court verdict is but one of the many components that together constitute public life in India with its immense diversity of language, religion, region, ethnicity, community grouping, educational attainment and integration with globalised modernity. Such diversity is as much cause for celebration and cultural strength and richness as it is fraught with the threat of schism. What use we make of diversity is our collective choice. In making that choice, democracy has to distinguish itself from majoritarianism, which does not recognise the rights of assorted minorities. A majoritarian campaign to redefine India's nationhood in religious terms demolished the Babri mosque and weakened the secular foundations of the Republic. Judicial pronouncements, their articulation in state policy and political action must seek to reinforce those weakened foundations, not strike at them further. Political practice must now live up to this goal, even if the Ayodhya verdict has not. So far, the major political parties seem to agree. The Supreme Court can end fuzziness on the imperative of constructive political action to solve the dispute.







THE Unique Identity (UID) project or Aadhaar, to assign all citizens a unique 12-digit number associated with biometric data, has the potential to improve governance, but is no magic substitute for it. It can accurately target delivery of development programmes, and more. The number and biometric data being stored in a queriable central database, UID provides indisputable identity that is portable pan-India. But Aadhaar also presupposes continuing governance reforms, without which the UID's potential would remain untapped. The actual access to governmental programmes on health, education and employment do require proactive policy; the UID cannot and must not be seen as a cure-all for responsive governance. The identity that Aadhaar provides can, however, be used to rightfully access social programmes, and open, say, a bank account (subject to attendant requirements like address verification). The way ahead is for public agencies and organisations to incorporate UID in their schemes and products. 


The the biggest beneficiary of Aadhaar will be the aam aadmi, the common man, provided reform of governance structures and institutions are streamlined for a sound development delivery mechanism. The reality on the ground is that guaranteed identity is only available at a premium, which is why for, example, the subsidies really meant for the poor are routinely appropriated by the nonpoor. UID can be used to design a foolproof platform for the delivery of citizen services, as it would link an individual's digital footprint across multiple government agencies. The project authorities do need to put in place systems to avoid potential tracking, profiling and data misuse via UID. But its real potential is that it could put paid to fuzzy policymaking, with beneficiaries traceable and very much identifiable across space and time. The objective ought to be to purposefully target subsidies, rev up efficiency in policy-making and provide fiscal space for forward-looking investment in social and physical infrastructure. UID is also a tool for fiscal reform, provided transparency and governance gets the requisite leg up.








THE Russians should learn a lesson from all the eagerbeaver Delhiwallahs who had converted spare bedrooms into B&B accommodation in anticipation of hordes of visitors for the Commonwealth Games. With just days to go for the scandal-plagued games, bookings are negligible, allaying original fears that demand would outstrip supply in the Capital. It simply does not do to bank on the fickle traveller. Of course the Russians' plans for their boutique hotel in space are more modest — a mere seven rooms by 2016 — but the variables that would determine a steady tourist inflow causes concern. For instance, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is not being designed to include stopovers in space, and the American fleet of space shuttles will soon call it a day. That would leave only cramped Soyuz crew capsules and Progress cargo ships, that are currently only used by professional astronauts and materials bound for the international space stations, as the sole mode of transport. Considering that space tourists who are likely to opt for such an exclusive locale would want a luxurious experience, such vehicles may short-circuit the entire plan. 


Then there is the issue of what the tourists would do once they arrive. Other resorts in exotic locales offer beautiful vistas, gourmet cuisine, spa therapies, sightseeing, shopping and more. Regardless of what space stations looked like in the Bond movie Moonraker, the chances are there would not be much to do beyond floating about (literally) and looking out into the inky vastness of deep space. Catch the average jet-setter settling for that. The fallback clientele, of course, would be additional crews from the space station but would they (or their employers) want to fork out commercial rates to stay at the spacehotel? Even charging B&B rates may not attract tourists, as Delhi has discovered.








ONLY 21 players have achieved the Grand Slam or career slam, Nadal being the latest. However the hotly discussed "slam" is that delivered to merchant bankers. IPO pricing is not even regulated. When will promoters be slammed for not conforming to the freefloat regulation? This single measure will knock all the helium in the Sensex and take care of pricing and other chinks. It is easy to slam merchant bankers, particularly when fear and harassment are still the regulatory philosophies. But merchant bankers have thick skins — they would have taken the slam through one ear, slammed it out of the other and will continue the status quo. Some CEOs were there long before the regulator and have seen all chiefs come and go. And they will see many more. 


Merchant bankers are in a Catch-44 situation — caught between the devil, the deep sea, a rock and a hard place — i.e., regulator, media, investors and promoters. Let alone overpricing, they are also accused of "maximising promoter interests and not investors". But they have only themselves to blame for this image, which is enhanced by their presence on promoter/corporate associations. Are merchant bankers found on any investor forum? Shouldn't their affiliations be neutral, given that they are charged with a trustee role? Isn't this a minimum corporate governance arm's-length requirement? After all, they have their own industry body. If the index of internal cooperation is low and there is a self-created biased image, then you will get slammed, even if it is not your fault. 


But if merchant bankers are overpricing IPOs, then has the price discovery process failed? If the market is oversubscribing, then where is the overpricing? And "leaving something on the table" in a "market-based price discovery" system is a classical oxymoron. Let us ask one question — how many who "observe and regulate" have worked for a single day in a capital market intermediary, let alone handling an IPO? With a price band, 100% margin, pro-rata allotment and a closed syndicate, price discovery is a blind man looking for a non-existent black cat in a dark room. Rather than overpricing issues, merchant bankers underprice them. With margins and pro-rata allotment, underpricing is a well-engineered financial conspiracy among promoters, merchant bankers, their inhouse broking outfits (syndicate) and fixers. Only the company suffers. Recall the famous case of Salomon vs Salomon & Co. The interests of the promoter and his clique are not necessarily in the interests of the company. 


Under-pricing creates a good grey market and the listing day tamasha when the stock price is like a gymnast on a trampoline. Also, the longer it takes for a document to be "observed", the better as plenty of time is available to arrange the set-up. Since only the syndicate knows who has the shares, they make money in the frenzied listing-day trading when grey market bets are covered. What is lost in fees is recovered by brokerage. And regulations facilitate this working on both sides of the deal! Stocks have to be fully priced in the short term so that only long-term investors come in. Instead of worrying about pricing, which is not its concern, let the regulator and investor forums take a look at other aspects like the abridged prospectus (aka raddhi) — never in any industry has so much been printed that no one will ever read. What a waste of paper and trees. Mr Jairam Ramesh — are you reading this? 


OFIPOs since 2007, 62% are trading below their offer prices. What about 1947 or 1857? How long does an issue remain an IPO? Just six months, i.e. two quarterly reports, or the next annual report, whichever is earlier. Stocks have to always quote higher than their issue price? Then back we go to the famous "at par" pricing or the more infamous CCI formula, which was tougher than Einstein's relativity theory. But "at par" is also a price and recall how issues highlighted as 'at par' took investors and yes, you know who, for a ride. And can we have statistics whether PSUs have done better than private sector issues? Because when it comes to pricing, the country's biggest promoter is also a greedy Gordon Gecko. That's why the much despised discretionary allotment has come back in the avatar of "anchor investor" just before the PSU IPOs. To enable our netas and babus to allot underpriced shares to their favourites. The stories behind how IPCL and IDBI priced their IPOs before the book-building era would also be very interesting; but for space constraints, this will have to wait. 


Want proper pricing? Great. No price band, anchor investors, pro-rata allotment and 100% margin — regulatory artificialities that impede price discovery. QIB margins will be only 20%, retail 100%, bidding closed and allotment will start with the highest bidder. All brokers will be in the syndicate. And why not a French auction facility — and even more book-building structures in an IPO? There have been suggestions that retail should be barred from IPOs. No. Retail must also participate in IPOs. They are the key. But they must compulsorily bid. No herd-oriented bidding at the cut-off. The incentive is that retail who bid at/above the cut-off will get full allotment first. Since the maximum is only . 1 lakh (may be 2 lakh) this is ok, more so with application supported by blocked amounts (ASBA). There are no small or big investors. Only knowledgeable and ignorant ones. What is left after full retail allotment will be divided between QIBs and HNIs in an 80:20 ratio. Retail bidding cannot be controlled like that of QIBs and they will call the shots for true price discovery. The nexus of promoters-managers-QIBs-syndicate needs to be broken. A neat selfbalancing system. Do I hear "What an idea Swamiji?" 


When regulations facilitate true price discovery, there will be no need to slam anyone. Till then no one, repeat no one, has the right to point fingers, even at merchant bankers.







THE destruction of the Babri Masjid was a serious crime under Sec 295, IPC. The destruction violated the Constitution as it denied to every Muslim or a section thereof, the freedom of religion guaranteed to them by Articles 25 and 26 of our Constitution. The destruction of the masjid put an end to all previous controversies raised by Hindu organisations about their alleged right to erect a temple on the place where the masjid stood. This is because no court will give any assistance to those who unilaterally by criminal acts destroyed the subject matter of the dispute and violated the Constitution and the law. 


After December 6, 1992, the earlier controversies were replaced by one question: What was the duty of the central government once the Babri Masjid had been destroyed by the unconstitutional acts of a fanatical Hindu mob? To this, there can be only one answer: the Babri Masjid must be rebuilt, and Prime Minister (P V Narasimha Rao) gave that answer on December 7, 1992, when he said that he considered it his duty to rebuild the Babri Masjid. 


Far from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet discharging their duty to rebuild the Babri Masjid by taking valid legal steps to make such rebuilding possible, they have sidetracked the real question, thereby evading their clear duty. On January 7, 1993, the President promulgated The Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Ordinance, 1993. Also, on January 7, 1993, the President, acting under Article 143(1), referred the following question for the advisory opinion of the Supreme Court: "Whether a Hindu temple or any Hindu religious structure existed prior to the construction of the Ramjanmabhumi-Babri Masjid (including the premises of the inner and outer courtyards of such structure) in the areas on which the structure stood?" Some of the recitals to the Ordinance state that the lands at Ayodhya were being acquired to maintain publicorderandtopromotecommunalharmony and common brotherhood amongst the people of India. The Ordinance and President's reference are interconnected, for recital 5 to the reference states that notwithstanding the vesting of the area acquired in the central government, the Centre "proposestosettlethesaiddisputeafterobtaining the opinion of the Supreme Court and in terms of the said opinion". 


The Ordinance and the President's reference cannot possibly achieve the objectives set out in those measures. First, it is well settled that an advisory opinion binds nobody, not even the Supreme Court. Secondly, no court, much less the Supreme Court, would answer a question which required the court to carry out research not only in 500 years of history and archaeology but also in myths and legends contained in epic poems and in folk lore. Further, under Article 143(1), the Supreme Court may give its opinion but is not bound to do so. If, as is almost certain, the Supreme Court declines to give its opinion, the Ordinance and the reference cannot achieve the central government's objective ofsettlingthedisputeinthelightofthatopinion. Further, the central government cannot settle the Babri Masjid dispute. It can be settled only in one of three ways: 


By the parties to it setting out their respective cases for the decision of a competent court, and the Supreme Court is not a competent court of original jurisdiction for this purpose. Secondly, the parties can agree to the dispute being settled by arbitration. And, thirdly, the parties can settle the dispute on thetermsagreeduponbetweenthemselves. Therefore, the Ordinance and reference cannot resolve the Babri Masjid dispute. 


The Ordinance is void because it violates the fundamental rights of Muslims and Muslim denominations to the freedom of religion conferred on them by Articles 25 and 26. Clause 3 of the Ordinance vests the area acquired in Ayodhya in the central government. Clause 4(1), inter alia, vests all movable and immovable property in the acquired area in the central government. Clause 4(2), inter alia, extinguishes all trusts on which such property is held. Also, all restrictionsimposedontheuseofsuchproperty by any court, tribunal or other authority would cease to have effect. Clause 4(3) puts an end to all pending suits, appeals or other proceedings in relation to the properties vested in the central government. Clause 9 states that the provisions of the Ordinance states that the provisions of the Ordinance shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith in any other law or in any decree or order of any court, tribunal or other authority. 


But the provisions of the Ordinance cannot override the provisions of our Constitution. The SC has held in cases too numerous to mention that any law which extinguishes a religious trust or removes the trustees or managers of properties movable and immovable belonging to a religious trust is void, as violating Articles 25 and 26. 


Excerpts from a two-part article by an eminent lawyer published in ETin April 1993)







THE government in its last Budget announced a decision to permit the entry of new private banks in the country. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has seriously pursued this recommendation and prepared a draft on the scheme for issuing banking licences to the private sector. 


It is understood that new banks will start relatively on small scale in the beginning with . 500 crore to . 1,000 crore capital. The perception of experts is that the new banks will promote competition in the banking sector, which can result in more clientfriendly operations. This is one synergy, which can be realised through more competition in the financial sector. One can also conceive that the policy has taken a U-turn from the policy focus on consolidation of banks by merger. 


Former finance minister P Chidambaram made several statements saying that public sector banks, even the large ones, should merge in order to increase their scale of operation to compete with giant foreign banks. The Report on Trends & Progress of Banking in India 2006-07 stated: "The increased competition has provided impetus to bank mergers and acquisitions globally. Apart from meeting the challenges of increased competition, the mergers and amalgamations may be triggered by the deterioration in the financial health of these institutions, in particular those which are no more financially viable." The former finance minister consistently emphasised the consolidation and merger of banks to reap the benefits of synergies to the banking system. Why should we then promote new small banks in the private sector? 


Will new banks serve the deprived sections of the country by reaching out to small rural and urban households suffering from poverty? Statistics show that the rural sector received only 13% of total credit extended by the scheduled commercial banks (SCBs), but generated only 9% of total deposits of SCBs in 2006-07. This low percentage of rural deposits may be due to low per capita income of rural households at . 7,500 as against the per capita income of urban households at . 52,852. 


As a matter of fact, one can conclude that 90% of the rural households will be earning below the average of . 7,500. It may also be noted that the rural sector, with 60% of the workforce, generates only 17% of total GDP from agriculture. We do not have such statistics on poor and assetless urban households. So, with such a low per capita income, they necessarily should be considered for progressive financial inclusion on concessional basis. 

Will these banks with small-scale operations survive the present competition? If the banks are set up by industrial houses combined together, there is a danger of concentration of deposits. This may, first of all, impact the performance of public sector banks in terms of deposit mobilisation and lending business. The resources of the new banks may be diverted for investments and lending to industry and other non-agricultural sectors. Over the long period in future, the vision of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi should not be lost by the politicians. 


However, if the RBI and the government of India have finally decided to add a few new private banks, there should be a restriction on their lending to group companies and related persons of the promoters. If NBFCs owned by industrial houses are licensed, their financial operations will have to be watched with extra care that these bank should not concentrate their lending to non-agriculture sector only. It is also advisable that small-scale industry and retail business should also receive finances from new banks on merit. 

The point is not to oppose new banks but to prevent return to the pre-1969 era of banking. The RBI and public sector banks have done much hard work to spread financial culture in the country. However, there are still millions of households in the country that are so poor not only in terms of monthly income but also in terms of assets. These assetless households need not only financial help but also active guidance from banks. These new banks have to adopt a human approach in the areas like urban slums and rural sector so that the income gap may be reduced and asset generation takes place. 


 A pertinent issue which is not raised by the RBI and SCBs is the parallel level playing field for public sector banks and private banks. The public sector banks also should have full freedom in their functions, recruitment and promotions with similar salary and merit as in the case of private sector banks. Moreover, private banks should go to wider share ownership, listing on stock exchanges and allocation of 35% equity to public as per the Sebi guidelines. 


 (The author is former economic     adviser to Sebi







THERE'S something very sad and self-defeating about possessing things. Take land. Forget the bigger picture about how we're all going to die and take nothing with us — definitely not a large chunk of real estate — but how much of what we think we possess do we really? Like, what part of that freehold actually belongs to us? The answer is, it depends. On the surface, for instance, the flat two dimensional area of a hundred or thousand square metres is certainly ours to enjoy for as long as our lineage produces progeny but what about depth? How deep do our property rights go? Well, the cheerless answer to this is, very little. In fact about 0.00002% of the Earth's diameter. 


In other words, if gold, fossil or aburied meteorite is lying plumb under the master bedroom at a depth of a hundred metres it can't usually be claimed by anyone because, depending on the jurisdiction or mineral rights involved, that part of land belongs to someone else which is usually the government. It makes sense. Otherwise, because the earth is round one would eventually infringe on someone else's property on the antipodal side of the globe. Fortunately, this is not much of an issue because we cannot possibly explore that deep. Yet people like to think that what they mean by owning property is owning it to the centre of the planet. 


Sadly, this misguided feeling of absolute territoriality has overlapped into other modes of tenure too. Slave-owners, lovers and parents, for example, have for thousands of years continuously laboured under the delusion that their serfs, mates or offspring are totally theirs to the depths of other's being — until, of course, they're brought rudely back to the surface of the skin when uprisings occur, infidelities abound and children rebel. 

Yet very few learn that what we actually think we own is a projected flat outer surface and perhaps to a few millimetres below — if that — and that what lies way underneath can't be claimed as ours because it's not in our jurisdiction even metaphorically and never will be. This, too, makes sense, else we would be infringing on a much larger whole which the person undeniably is and which also involves many others coming in from different directions. Again, this isn't much of an issue because no one can possibly explore that deep. And we should be thankful for that because very often we ourselves happen to be the other person.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




By ordering a three-way split of the disputed 2.7-acre site in Ayodhya between the Hindu Mahasabha, the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court has perhaps delivered the only possible verdict it could have on the vexed case that has dragged on for 60 long years. It is pertinent that the majority verdict, delivered by Justices S.U. Khan and Sudhir Agarwal (while differing on certain key aspects) harked back more to the long tradition of Hindus and Muslims worshipping together at the disputed site rather than to the knotty and complicated legal issues involved in the title suits. In effect, the verdict has sought to reinstate the remarkable tradition of amity which prevailed in the area from the 19th century before the entire issue was complicated by political parties and religious outfits for their own narrow partisan ends. Of course, a final analysis of the judgment can be made only after a detailed perusal of the court orders, which are understandably long-winded. But the general drift of the directive seems to be that the disputed land in Ayodhya is a joint property, in which all the three claimants have stakes. According to the reports available till Thursday evening, the two judges have said that the makeshift temple under the central dome of the structure where Lord Ram's idol exists belongs to the Hindus. The portion that has the "Sita Rasoi" and Ram Chabootara would go to the Nirmohi Akhara and the remainder of the land would go to the Sunni Waqf Board, where a mosque can come up. Justice D.V. Sharma, on the other hand, ruled that the entire site was the birthplace of Lord Ram and rejected the claim of the Waqf Board. But the majority judgment prevails, and it seems to have been made taking into account the sensitivities related to the issue as well as the overall national mood, rather than simply from a narrow legal standpoint. Though some eminent lawyers have expressed disappointment over this legal "deficit", the country as a whole is likely to be pleased with the judges taking a broader national perspective on the issue rather than merely quoting the rulebook. Mercifully, the parties involved in the dispute have so far not chosen to portray the verdict as a victory or defeat. While the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has said it paves the way for the building of a Ram temple, it has been careful not to go overboard and has in fact stressed that the ruling was not a victory or a loss for anyone. Similar has been the response of most Muslim organisations. The political parties too have by and large welcomed the verdict, responding according to their particular ideological nuances but without adopting an alarmist or triumphant tone. The media too has been restrained and the populace generally calm. This is surely welcome. Legal hair-splitting is not the need of the hour. A mosque and a temple existing side by side at Ayodhya would not only be a grand spectacle but would also heal many a wound in the entire body politic. Hindus and Muslims are after all joint titleholders of the nation too.







Even with Mahatma Gandhi's 141st birthday looming tomorrow, it may be odd for a foreign policy column to discuss him. After all, the Mahatma left international affairs largely to his disciple Jawaharlal Nehru, focusing on his domestic preoccupations. And yet, today, there is no doubting Gandhiji's huge worldwide significance. The Mahatma's image dominates the globe, featuring in advertising campaigns for everything from Apple computers to Mont Blanc pens. When Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi swept the Oscars in 1983, posters for the film proclaimed that "Gandhi's triumph changed the world forever". But did it?


The case for Gandhiji-led global change rests principally on the US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, who attended a lecture on Gandhiji, bought half-a-dozen books on the Mahatma and adopted satyagraha as both precept and method. King, more than anyone else, used non-violence most effectively outside India in breaking down segregation in the southern states of the US. "Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence", he memorably declared. "We must meet the forces of hate with soul force." King later avowed that "the Gandhian method of non-violent resistance... became the guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation and Gandhi furnished the method".


So Gandhism helped to change the American south forever. But it is difficult to find many other instances of its success. India's independence marked the dawn of the era of decolonisation, but many nations still came to freedom only after bloody and violent struggles. Other peoples have fallen under the boots of invading armies, been dispossessed of their lands or forced to flee in terror from their homes. Non-violence has offered no solutions to them. It could only work against opponents vulnerable to a loss of moral authority — governments responsive to domestic and international public opinion, capable of being shamed into conceding defeat. In Gandhiji's own day, non-violence could have done nothing for the Jews of Hitler's Germany, who disappeared tragically into gas-chambers far from the flashbulbs of a war-obsessed press.


The power of Gandhian non-violence rests in being able to say, "To show you that you are wrong, I punish myself". But that has little effect on those who are not interested in whether they are wrong and are already seeking to punish you for your disagreements with them. For them your willingness to undergo punishment is the most convenient means of victory. No wonder Nelson Mandela, who told me that Gandhiji had "always" been "a great source of inspiration", explicitly disavowed non-violence as ineffective in his struggle against apartheid.


On this subject Gandhiji sounds frighteningly unrealistic: "The willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful answer to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God or man. Disobedience to be 'civil' must be sincere, respectful, restrained, never defiant, and it must have no ill-will or hatred behind it. Neither should there be excitement in civil disobedience, which is a preparation for mute suffering".


For many smarting under injustice across the world, that would sound like a prescription for sainthood — or for impotence. Mute suffering is all very well as a moral principle, but only Gandhiji could use it to bring about meaningful change. The sad truth is that the staying-power of organised violence is almost always greater than that of non-violence. Gandhiji believed in "weaning an opponent from error by patience, sympathy and self-suffering", but while such an approach might have won Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma the Nobel that eluded the Mahatma himself, the violence of the Burmese state proved far stronger in preventing change than her suffering has done to bring it about.


In his internationalism, the Mahatma expressed ideals few can reject. But the decades after his death have confirmed that there is no escape from the conflicting sovereignties of states. Some 20 million more lives have been lost in wars and insurrections since his passing. In a dismaying number of countries, including his own, governments spend more for military purposes than for education and healthcare combined. The current stockpile of nuclear weapons represents over a million times the explosive power of the atom bomb whose destruction of Hiroshima so grieved him. As 26/11 demonstrated, India faces the threat of cross-border terrorism to which Gandhiji's only answer — a fast in protest — would have left its perpetrators unmoved. Universal peace, which Gandhiji considered so central to Truth, seems as illusory as ever.


Outside India, as within it, Gandhian techniques have been perverted by terrorists and bomb-throwers declaring hunger-strikes when punished for their crimes. Gandhism without moral authority is like Marxism without a proletariat. Yet few who have tried his methods worldwide have his personal integrity or moral stature.


And in economics, Gandhiji's world of the spinning-wheel, of self-reliant families in contented village republics, is even more remote today than when he first espoused it. Despite the brief popularity of intermediate technology and "small is beautiful", there is little room for such ideas in a globalising, inter-dependent world. Self-reliance is too often a cover for protectionism and a shelter for inefficiency; India has pulled more people out of poverty by its economic reforms of the last two decades than when it pursued self-reliance. Today's successful and prosperous countries are those who are able to look beyond spinning charkhas to silicon chips — and who give their people the benefits of technological developments which free them from menial and repetitive chores and broaden the horizons of their lives.


None of this dilutes Gandhiji's greatness, or the extraordinary resonance of his life and his message. While the world was disintegrating into fascism, violence and war, Gandhiji taught the virtues of truth, non-violence and peace. He destroyed the credibility of colonialism by opposing principle to force. And he set and attained personal standards of conviction and courage which few will ever match. He was that rare kind of leader who was not confined by the inadequacies of his followers.


Yet Gandhiji's Truth was essentially his own. He formulated its unique content and determined its application in a specific historical context. Inevitably, few in today's world can measure up to his greatness or aspire to his credo. The originality of his thought and the example of his life inspires people around the world today, but Gandhiji's triumph did not "change the world forever". I wonder if the Mahatma, looking at today's world, would feel he had triumphed at all.


* Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram constituency








Who is the mystery lunch companion with whom I was recently spotted by a journalist? And why were we dining at a Chinese restaurant? What were we, the so-called "liberal elite", up to? Apparently these are burning questions that newspaper readers need answered.


To explain: I recently came across a short article published by Il Giornale on July 13 — a crash course in how to stir up suspicions and blur the line between gossip and news.


"The professor likes 'fusion cuisine'", the unnamed correspondent writes. The reporter continues: "Umberto Eco, the benchmark of left-wing thought, was seen last Saturday in Milan having lunch with an unknown companion at a restaurant serving Asian specialties on Via San Giovanni sul Muro. A sober place but certainly not an exclusive one, its menu offered these "classics" to the author of The Name of the Rose: Cantonese rice, soya noodles with curry, and chicken with vegetables and bamboo shoots, as well as more experimental recipes.


Fumbling with chopsticks must be a common passion among the liberal elite. In fact, the same restaurant also played host to another high-profile client recently: Guido Rossi, the well-known jurist, former senator, ex-chairman of Telecom Italia and extraordinary commissioner during the soccer match-fixing scandal of 2006. China is getting closer. All we have to do is set another place at table".


There is nothing extraordinary about this report; after all, many journalists all over the world make their living by recounting minor anecdotes. And since I doubt this writer spends every day lurking at a "non-exclusive" Chinese restaurant, just waiting for a story, I can only surmise that the aspiring Pulitzer contender goes there as a patron — after all, it's well lit, clean, and within the financial reach of those on the more modest levels of the journalistic hierarchy. Bored with eating egg rolls for the umpteenth time, the anonymous hack must have nearly fallen off his chair at the thought that he'd stumbled across an extraordinary scoop that would change the course of his career.


But for me there's nothing more normal than eating at a Chinese restaurant, and there's nothing unusual about Guido Rossi's doing the same. I didn't know that he and I frequented the same Chinese restaurant, but as it is a stone's throw from our respective homes — and as I presume that Rossi doesn't care to blow several hundred euros on an orchid stuffed with sea urchins in one of the fancier Italian restaurants in our neighbourhood — this comes as no great surprise.


So why would anyone bother publishing an item of such scant interest? Let me hazard a guess. First of all, it is common — but shady — practice to raise suspicions, even if only vague ones, about those who don't share your own ideas.


Not so long ago, one of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Italian TV networks put a tail on a judge, Raimondo Mesiano, who had ruled against him in a bribery case. The network secretly filmed the judge as he took a stroll, smoked a few cigarettes, went to the barber and finally sat down on a park bench, revealing to viewers that he was wearing long turquoise socks. The voiceover commentary described these actions as "strange" and "eccentric" — proof that he could not be in his right mind.


Did the network technically slander him? Not at all. But why would anyone go to the trouble of reporting on the judge's errands and wardrobe, as if sending out some kind of coded message? This is a journalistic technique unlikely to win any prizes, but it might have a different kind of impact.


Back in the offices of Il Giornale, the editors who were interested in my lunch destination were probably thinking about how to influence voters of a certain age: those who eat only a little spaghetti, without sauce, followed by boiled vegetables — and who would be horrified by the news that one of their countrymen had chosen to eat like the Chinese, with their infamous taste for monkeys and dogs.


Or perhaps the target audience was folks who live in some remote village where no one has ever seen a Chinese restaurant; or those who are suspicious of anything to do with what they perceive as an overly intrusive ethnic group; or those who believe that the use of chopsticks is a "common passion among the liberal elite", whereas decent people use knives and forks like their mothers taught them; or even those who think that Mao Zedong still governs China and that eating Chinese food means proclaiming, as the title of a 1967 film does, that China Is Near. The truth is that China is getting closer, as the item in Il Giornale suggests, but it's for reasons that smack more of Berlusconi's Right than of the "liberal elite" Left.


Now to this business of my lunching with "an unknown companion". Should I have held up a placard with his

name on it, in case inquiring minds wanted to take note? Why did he meet with me, and did he have a similar meeting with Guido Rossi a month earlier? And why in a Chinese restaurant, as though we were in a Dashiel Hammet detective novel, and not in a genuine, true-blue Italian restaurant?


So this is the kind of skulking around the "liberal elite" is up to. Good thing the press is keeping an eye on us.








On September 25, home minister P. Chidambaram made an announcement about an "eight-point solution" to deal with the Kashmir crisis. It would appear to be a reasonable first step, but most Indians have serious doubts about its credibility, especially since India has just suffered its worst international humiliation (after the 1962 Indo-Chinese war) over the disgusting state of readiness to host the Commonwealth Games (CWG).


It is time we recognise that the biggest threat to India is a corrupt, incompetent, unaccountable and indecisive leadership that lacks strategic vision. This lethal combination is responsible for the growth of the "Kashmir cancer" since January 1949, when India, requiring just a few weeks to clear the Pakistani raiders from what is now Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), voluntarily halted military operations and approached the United Nations Organisation. After the 1965 Indo-Pak war, the strategic Haji Pir pass was returned, and the decisive 1971 victory was not exploited to resolve the Kashmir problem. So is it any surprise that the Kashmiri separatists seem to have nothing in common with the other 150 million patriotic and secular Indian Muslims?


In 2009, the Sri Lankan military cornered the entire Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leadership in a small enclave, and despite the international outcry, wiped them out. Look at how Russia and China have dealt with insurgencies in Chechnya and Xinjiang respectively. The Chinese do not allow any literature or newspaper or even signboards with Arabic script to enter Xinjiang province, nor do they permit any "uncensored" religious sermons in mosques.


Jammu and Kashmir has a population of about 10 million, of which 67 per cent are Muslims, 30 per cent Hindus, two per cent Sikhs and one per cent Buddhists. The Kashmir Valley has a Muslim majority of 97 per cent, while Jammu and Ladakh, respectively, are Hindu and Buddhist-majority regions. In the 1990s, some three lakh Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley in a systematic "ethnic cleansing" which was strangely identical to how Sunni-majority Pakistan reduced its 16 per cent minority population (in 1947) to below two per cent today. The same fate awaits the other minorities of J&K should the separatists ever succeed in getting an "independent J&K". Recent media reports indicate that post-September 11 and Id violence, over a 100 Muslim families from the Valley have migrated to Jammu to avoid harassment from the separatists.


The Indian government must avoid taking any hasty populist measures, which could have serious long-term implications. It needs to:


* Recognise that the separatists and their Pakistani handlers are keen to embarrass India — CWG and the visit of US President Barack Obama in November are, therefore, especially vulnerable times.


* Recognise that Kashmir is only one of the major internal threats to India, and take a holistic view keeping in mind external threats from China and Pakistan.


* Recognise that since 1947, the Indian military has maintained the territorial integrity of India at great sacrifice. Do not demoralise the security forces when you need them the most. Learn lessons from the 1962 disastrous war with China. Use the Army in "very rare cases", but do not dilute the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.


* Create jobs in J&K by raising units of "Kashmir Scouts" and "Jammu Scouts", on the lines of Ladakh Scouts, for paramilitary duties in the state. Also, increase J&K police strength so that they can take over most security duties in towns and villages. The stone-throwing Kashmiri teenagers will give up intifada only when given gainful employment.


* Grant maximum possible autonomy to Kashmir, but only when the Hurriyat is disbanded and ceases to exist.


* Rehabilitate the displaced Kashmiri Pandits at the earliest by giving them free accommodation and jobs in well-protected settlements in the Kashmir Valley.


* Recognise that at four per cent, the J&K poverty levels are amongst the lowest in India, and that all the Five Year Plans of J&K are funded by Indian taxpayers (who cannot settle in Kashmir, while Kashmiris can settle anywhere in India), and, that the Central government allocates over 10 times per capita per year for Kashmir as compared to about `900 for Bihar. Kashmir is one of the most corrupt states in India and this "appeasement" funding benefits only a few who have a vested interest in keeping Kashmir on the boil.


* Any discussion with Pakistan should be limited to return of PoK and the "Northern territories".


The Indian government has belatedly recognised the possibility of India simultaneously fighting a two-front war

against China and Pakistan, while coping with internal insurgency. Though an Indo-Pak conflict may occur at

short notice due to a repeat of the 26/11 attacks, or another "raider" invasion of Kashmir, China may want to

avoid war with India till it "resolves" its territorial claims on Taiwan, and in the South and East China seas. Nonetheless, the possibility of a short, brutal, Indo-Chinese encounter at sea to demoralise India with a "no-war risk incident" is highly likely, especially after China gets a new People's Liberation Army-endorsed hardline President and Prime Minister in 2012.


Can India emulate the ruthless Homeland Security of the United States, China's economic growth, and fight to win the war against the "three evils of extremism, terrorism and separatism"?


To deter external threats and extinguish internal threats, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would do well to concentrate on national security, "modify" his nine per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth obsession, increase our defence budget from 2.3 per cent of GDP to four per cent, change our "no first strike" nuclear policy, and double the Homeland Security budget. Above all, he must get "authentic" strategic advisers, weed out corruption, introduce accountability, lock-up the separatists, terrorists and extremists while ensuring a clean administration. Failure is not an option.


* Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval
Command, Visakhapatnam








The first question to ask is, what is your prayer? "God give me this, give me that, and save me." What you are seeking in prayer is not God. What you are seeking is security and happiness. Ultimately, what you want with prayer is wellbeing but you are not willing to admit it. The first step is to be straight with yourself, then we can see how to cross the threshold of limitations to true happiness and wellbeing.


It is time we realise that looking to God will not help until we look at our own foolishness. If you sincerely look at your deepest motivation for religion, you will see you have never aspired for the Divine.


Please understand this: Your aspiration was never for the ultimate. Your aspiration is for comfort, for wealth, for power and pleasure. And you think God is a tool to achieve all those things.


When you are seeking protection or materialist things, greed and fear become the basis of your prayer, but this does not work.


Ordinarily, we think prayer is a means to reach God, but what do we really know about God? If we are truthful, we must admit we have no direct experience of God; we are coming from a particular belief system. The danger in using prayer to reach a God, we have no direct experience of, can be illusionary. Thoughts and prayer can open a person but at the same time they can create hallucinations.


Once hallucinations start growing, they take on a big dimension because illusion is always more powerful than reality. An illusion has the freedom of becoming anything it wants.


The cinema is more powerful than real life — given that, you can just exaggerate it the way you want it. When the illusory process gets exaggerated, it becomes more powerful than life. That is why we have always stayed away from prayer. Prayer cannot only be misused but can also be deceptive. Meditation, compared to prayer, is a much more reliable method to reach one's inner nature and experience the Divine.


Authentic prayer is a deep connection with the Divine inherent in everything and everywhere. It is a quality, a

state of being. As we become prayerful it is extremely beautiful, but that state is reached only when we connect with our inner nature. Then the experience is absolutely joyous.


When we are really joyous, we become receptive. Prayer no longer becomes a monologue, but a beautiful phenomenon and a celebration which brings great joy. Then we pray not out of fear or greed, but because prayer itself is the reward. Patanjali, considered the father of yoga, goes as far as to say that when one knows how to be truly prayerful, prayer is not a means to reach God, but God is a means so that we can pray.


— Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader. An author, poet, and internationally-renowned speaker, Sadhguru's wit and piercing logic provoke and widen our perception of life. He can be contacted at [1]








'HONOUR judicial verdicts" has been the message gushing down Raisina Hill these past days: a message that cannot be selectively applied by the highest of administrative authority. Even if it was an observation rather than a verdict or directive, public opinion would deem the UPA government duty-bound to act on the scathing comments on CWG mismanagement from a Bench of the Supreme Court (coram: GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly, JJ). The judges declared: "We can't shut our eyes to corruption when Rs 70,000 crore is involved. In this country payments are made without work being done." Even more telling was the quip, "till 15 October, Commonwealth is a public purpose and thereafter it will become a private purpose". True corruption and mismanagement of the Games was not the issue directly before it: that the Court considered it appropriate to refer to it cannot be written off as stray or irrelevant comment. It amounts to cautioning the government to fulfil its promise to comprehensively probe the fiasco when the event concludes: something which few are convinced will be seriously pursued. For by now a probe panel ought to have been constituted to monitor all developments, list areas where investigation is required to establish corruption, incompetence ~ or a lethal cocktail of both, "laced" with the belief that some folk can get away with anything. Indication that no serious action was contemplated came via the speedy denial from the PMO that the sports minister had been snubbed at a meeting. Various agencies mounted a salvage mission but Kalmadi, Gill, Bhanot etc have not been stripped of office, and strut about ready to claim credit for others' toil. Is it not standard practice for a person under a cloud to be shifted out pending inquiries lest evidence be tampered with? Why these double standards if a genuine probe ~ as opposed to a whitewash ~ is on the cards? Does Dr Manmohan Singh not owe something to his humiliated people? Indian sport must be liberated from those who have bled it dry. If not now, then when?
Those who seek to condemn judicial activism will question the Court's taking off on a tangent. They will do well to understand that when legislatures have become a sick joke, and those in authority are immune to media revelations, it is left to the apex court to "speak" for aam aadmi.




While confused voices within the Left suggested they weren't sure how to respond to Mamata Banerjee's mission to Darjeeling, the Trinamul leader gave the impression of having gone prepared to deal with the crisis. She was in no position to make official announcements except those concerning her department and even these couldn't be unrealistic. On the other hand, it would have been clear to Miss Banerjee that tensions were running high and that Gorkhaland was a dream relentlessly fed to the Hill population. She thus had to deal delicately with an aggrieved and agitated populace, while gently dousing demands for a separate state. And she must have been aware she was under the Left's scanner, as her opponents would pounce on the slightest opportunity to suggest she is as soft with disruptionists in the Hills as she is with Maoists in Junglemahal. While she managed this tight-rope walk with remarkable ease, there was also the inescapable reality of a deep division between the Hills and the plains ~ a cause for the distrust that has made the CPI-M's Siliguri strongman Asok Bhattacharjee unacceptable. Here, too, she needed to provide a healing touch before she could even begin to use development as a weapon to change minds.

The most ticklish question was whether Hill parties could be made to set aside their sectarian ambitions and converge on the basic issue of ensuring Darjeeling's social and economic growth. That Bimal Gurung and his rivals shared the sentiments was a good enough signal. Where the series of tripartite meetings have produced a wealth of bureaucratic jargon and left it to Hill parties to sort out the mess created over the years, Miss Banerjee managed to speak in a language that seemed to touch hearts ~ infrastructure, employment opportunities, new railway links to the Hills, a museum in memory of a Nepali poet, compensation for families of Gorkhas killed in the Kargil war and modernisation of the railway hospital. The closest she got to making it obvious she was on a political mission was when she also promised a second secretariat if voted to power. If that is a licence she has used better than others, it can hardly be held against her. Miss Banerjee has cleared the first hurdle with aplomb, and with a slew of suggestions of proposals that might well provide a framework for peace. This certainly must be the hope in the Hills.




Israel has gone against world opinion and the crisis in the Middle East has deepened in consequence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ended the ten-month moratorium on West Bank settlements. Almost inevitably, the Palestinian position has hardened considerably on two counts ~ Israel's unilateral decision and the almost immediate resumption of construction on disputed territory. The peace talks, with Barack Obama playing the honest broker, appear to be on the brink despite the fresh US initiative to salvage the negotiations. Israel has fended off the US President's appeal, made in the UN General Assembly last week, to prolong the freeze. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is determined to take a call on the diplomatic exercise which yielded virtually nothing in course of the two recent rounds, in Washington and Sharm-el-Sheikh. He has advanced a signal to both the USA and Israel, giving the American mediators a week to resolve the crisis. No less crucially and in the larger context, Mr Abbas intends to involve the Arab League in the consultations, pending the eventual decision of a pullout. Clearly, the Palestinian President is determined to extend the ambit of the negotiation process, such as it is. The involvement of the Arab League will be significant precisely because it had voted in July to allow Mr Abbas to go ahead with the negotiations.

The latest crisis is of Israel's creation. It has refused to freeze the settlements and in hindsight the recent talks would appear to be meaningless. The scenario is decidedly complicated, and it may not be easy for America ~ for all the finesse of Hilary Clinton ~ to unwind the tangle. The ground reality has changed and literally so. And Mr Abbas seems unmoved by Mr Netanyahu's appeal not to withdraw from the talks. The latter's hope of concluding a "historic peace agreement" is presumptuous in the circumstances. The Palestinian President has a domestic constituency to heed. He is right in his iteration of what he calls "fundamental issues", the rock on which a resumed engagement might yet flounder. Pregnant with symbolism has been Israel's use of bulldozers and concrete-mixers on the West Bank in parallel with the de-freeze. The Middle East has entered a critical phase.








THE Left leadership and pro-Left academics are trying to buttress the claim that the pro-poor policies, the alternative rural development strategy and the commitment of the Left Front government have ensured equitable development in the rural areas. Another claim is that the panchayats have facilitated the success of land reforms, leading to a fundamental transformation in rural Bengal.

Reports of starvation deaths and the movement by Maoists and tribals have made a mockery of the official claim. Going by the state government's own figures, as revealed in the "rural household survey", the level of development has been anything but uniform and outstanding. A survey of  the backward villages will help one to ascertain the extent and outcome of the pro-poor and comprehensive development programmes. 

The department of panchayats and rural development has surveyed the villages on the basis of the 2001 Census data. How many villages in the state have over 60 per cent "working age group population" earning a livelihood as marginal or non-workers? How many villages have to contend with 70 per cent female illiteracy? Going by these parameters, 4612 revenue-earning villages across 18 districts are languishing. Purulia district leads the category with 994 villages. And these regions have officially been designated as backward villages (BVs).


Subsequently, districts known to have fewer BVs have identified an additional 1331 such villages ~ taking the total number to 5943 or 15 per cent of the total number of villages in the state.

The panchayat department has unwittingly opened a Pandora's box. The myth has been exploded. The administration is now trying to fathom the socio-economic conditions in these villages. The common features are: predominance of SC/STs and Muslims, difficult accessibility, decrepit infrastructure in terms of connectivity, education, heathcare and dependence on agriculture. The backward villages are concentrated in the districts of Purulia, Bankura, Uttar Dinajpur, Malda, and Paschim Midnapore. They account for 50 per cent of the total number of villages in Uttar Dinajpur, 34 per cent in Malda and 15 per cent in Bankura. The 2007 survey revealed more distressing features. Agriculture is the principal occupation of 64 per cent of the households. Yet agricultural labourers are engaged for around 95 days in a year, 60 per cent migrate to other states at least once a year, 42 per cent of the villages have electricity connections whereas only 10 per cent households have domestic power lines, 45 per cent villages have to make do with kutcha roads,  58 per cent households lack sanitary facilities, 80 per cent of the villages have no adult education centre and disbursement of welfare scheme benefits gets invariably delayed ~ 2-3 months for old age pension, for instance. Another survey mentioned 55 per cent total and 75 per cent female literacy, the existence of 32 per cent landless households and the insignificant outreach of institutional credit. (The Statesman 30 June 2010).
We had undertaken a survey of 56 BVs (26 shortlisted by the panchayat department) in Cooch Behar district during 2008. The socio-economic profile conforms to other reports and documents. However, certain aspects deserve special mention.

1) The "out-migration" has been phenomenal. Indeed, the male population in the 20-35 age group was virtually untraceable in most villages. The remittance from the migrants helped many households to survive.
(2) The Continuing Education Centre was either non-existent or defunct. (3) Projects under NREGS were yet to take off in most villages. (4) Villagers complained of political bias or favouritism in the distribution of welfare benefits.

In certain villages, there was a marked reluctance to respond to our queries. Our presence was also resented.  The sense of frustration, if not outrage, was palpable.  It makes nonsense of the touted claims to development.  Political rhetoric can be counter-productive. The development initiative and decentralised planning has been hobbled by the politics of backwardness.

Some facts are incontrovertible. An estimated 15 per cent of the total villages and 8 per cent of Bengal's rural population languish in BVs. The finding is based on two  parameters. The number of backward villages will increase sharply if  broader economic and infrastructural indicators are  considered.

The overwhelming presence of SC/ STs and Muslims in the backward villages points to two facets  of rural Bengal. First, the social subjugation is related to other problems. Second, the failure of the state as well as the  panchayats to redress the grievances. Incidentally, most of the backward villages had for decades been under CPI-M panchayats. Therefore, the persistent plight of this section of the populace cannot but dilute the credentials of the Left parties as the perceived champions of the poor. 

Budgetary support has been provided for development programmes. Districts with fewer backward villages are expected to use the resources of the existing schemes. Only 48 per cent of the funds were utilised in 2008-09. The budgetary support is earmarked for livelihood, agriculture and infrastructure, but the focus tends to get deflected. Self-help groups continue to receive the bulk of the sanctioned funds. One wonders how these entities can have a direct impact on improving employment and literacy. The thrust of the policy ought to be on agricultural productivity and opening up of income generating avenues.

Given the overall trends, prospects of a turnaround are bleak. Official survey reports have been compiled and docketed. As critical as the resource crunch and bureaucratic bungling is the lack of political will and commitment. That largely explains why a major segment of the rural population continues to languish. They seem to be almost permanently marginalised and helpless. 

The writer is Associate Professor of Political Science, Tufanganj College, Cooch Behar







Let's share a joke that's going the rounds. It is about a priest who, having bought a house in a suburban street, puts up a nameplate with the message: "I pray for all". Envious, his neighbour, a lawyer, in order not to lag behind, promptly responded with the inscription below his own name: "I plead for all". His other neighbour, who happened to be a doctor, naturally followed suit to write: "I prescribe for all" under his name. Now, it was the turn of his next-door neighbour who was an ordinary layman and could not identify himself with any of the "noble" professions. He wrote after some thought: "I pay for all"! 

I nurse no grievance against members of Parliament for the raise they have chosen to give themselves. I also believe no one should grudge it. Being among tax-payers, it concerns me because we foot the bill. As a citizen, one is expected to be vigilant ~ to dutifully examine if our laws permit the claims made on the exchequer by legislators or, if the Bill passed, if it is in order in the light of the Constitution. 

Some MPs are reportedly so disappointed at the meagre raise that they reluctantly walked out of the House in protest. Their argument: it should be commensurate with their stature. They should get precedence over a cabinet secretary who is drawing a hefty Rs 80,000 per month. It follows that the MPs should be entitled to at least Rs 80,000 and one per month. Their logic has found many takers. 

Now let us do some maths. After the present hike, the salary, perks and allowances of an Indian MP stands as follows: monthly salary: Rs 50,000; monthly constituency allowance: Rs 40,000; monthly office expenses allowance for stationery and secretarial services: Rs 40,000. This works out as Rs 1.3 lakhs per month. In addition, the daily allowance at Rs 2,000 works out to about Rs 2 lakhs for 100 days in a year. Free electricity up to 50,000 units in a year. Three phone lines and 1.7 lakh free local calls a year; daily travelling allowance at Rs 16 per km; MP and spouse/companion entitled to unlimited, free first-class railway travel; MP and spouse/companion gets 40 free business-class domestic flights a year; for official foreign trips free business-class tickets and allowances; bungalow in Delhi, free furnishing, free medical expenses. Moreover there is pension which works out to Rs 21.8 lakh per year by a conservative estimate. Another estimate is at Rs 60,95,000 taking into consideration the value of the perks they get. 

It will now be appropriate to revisit out Constitution. Article 106 provides: 106. Salaries and allowances of Members. ~ Members of either House of Parliament shall be entitled to receive such salaries and allowances as many from time to time be determined by Parliament by law and, until provision in that respect is so made, allowances at such rates and upon such conditions as were immediately before the commencement of this Constitution applicable in the case of members of the Constituent Assembly of the Dominion of India. 
It may be seen from a plain reading of this Article that, while in the first part, the words "Salaries and allowances" are mentioned, the second part which relates to Constituent Assembly, mentions only one word, i.e., "allowances". It is obvious that before the enactment of the Constitution, members were entitled to only "allowances" that were admissible to them during the period of sessions of the legislature. The Constitution had added the word "salaries" with "allowances" at the time of enactment by the Constituent Assembly. 
The Article was debated in the Constituent Assembly on 20 May 1949. It corresponds to Clause 86 of the draft constitution. The original Clause 86 did not mention salaries but allowances only. While responding to an amendment of the clause proposed by ZH Lari of United Provinces, Biswanath Das, member from Orissa, had this to say: "Sir, for myself I feel that I can have absolutely no truck with any point covered in this amendment and I feel that it is unnecessary, unfortunate and undesirable. Therefore, I support Clause 86 as it is, however much I would desire that there should be no scale of salary fixed for the honourable members of this House who ought to agree to work and serve the country being satisfied with the allowances that the Assembly would fix for themselves." 

However, the Article 86 was adopted with some amendments. It now stands as Article 106 in the Constitution providing for both salaries and allowances. It defies logic how a person receiving a salary should also be entitled to allowances for no additional work but the same work for which he is paid salary. However, MPs started receiving both salaries and allowances by an enactment in 1954. The Act as it was passed stood at the time by the name: "The salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament Act 1954 (Act 30 of 1954).'' Thereafter, amendments were made to this Act from time to time to enhance the salaries and allowances. 
In 1976, a seemingly innocuous amendment was brought. It substituted the words "salary, allowances and pension'' for the earlier "salaries and allowances" of the original Act. This amendment, it must be said, inserted the word "pension" in the original Act although the Constitution does not empower members of the House by Article 106 to grant pensions to themselves. This piece of amendment has gone unscrutinised by courts although, in my view, it must be held ultra vires the Constitution. 

Since the Constitution under Article 106 does not provide for any payment of pension to members of the House, we cannot avoid the inescapable conclusion that all pensions so far received by ex-members of Parliament are illegal payments beyond the permissible limits of Article 106 of the Constitution. In other words, it can be said that members of Parliament gave a back-door entry to the word "pension'' in order to arrogate to themselves what was not provided for in the Constitution. 

Well, now that MPs have provided for themselves both salaries and allowances for the same work and pensions disregarding Article 106 of the Constitution, and that some members still remain dissatisfied and have claimed salary at Rs 80,001 per month, should we not revisit Article 14 which guarantees "equality" as a fundamental right? 

A secretary in the government is a whole-time government servant and is not permitted to pursue any other profession, trade or business. MPs too receive salaries for the whole year irrespective of whether Parliament is in session or not. But they pursue professions as lawyers, doctors etc and even hold offices of profit under the government such as that of a teacher, assistant professor or an employee in a local government or statutory body and cheat the public exchequer by doing two or more whole-time jobs, drawing double salaries when employed and double pensions when retired! Is this what is meant by equality? After all, the people get the leaders they deserve.

The writer is an advocate and social activist







It is 4,000 years or more since the last woolly mammoths, with their spectacularly curved tusks and heavy shaggy coats, roamed the icy wastes of Siberia and Alaska. Climate change and hunting by prehistoric humans are thought to have driven them to extinction. But the trade in ivory from the tusks of the ancient animals is now booming – and may present a risk to the future of the African elephant, conservationists fear.
The bodies of thousands of woolly mammoths have been found preserved in the frozen Siberian tundra, and the tusks are the best-preserved part of all.

According to a report, as much as 60 tonnes of Siberian mammoth tusks are being exported from Russia every year, mainly to China, where they end up in the workshops of its flourishing ivory-carving trade, being turned into brooches, pendants, figurines and thousands of other ivory objects, and sold around the world.
Conservationists are concerned that this legal trade could be used as a front for the laundering of illegally poached elephant ivory, thereby fuelling the poaching of elephants. The trade in African elephant ivory was outlawed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Cites, in 1989, to halt the plunge in elephant numbers.

"Wild elephant populations were decimated by the ivory trade. By the time the 1989 Cites ban came into force, Africa's elephants had been reduced by more than 50 per cent," said Mark Jones, programmes director at Care for the Wild, the international wildlife charity which commissioned the mammoth ivory report. "Poaching continues to threaten wild elephants. Anything that encourages the continued demand for ivory products, whether mammoth ivory or elephant ivory, could potentially exacerbate this threat."

The report, by Edmond and Chrysee Martin, paints a remarkably detailed picture of a flourishing and valuable commerce in extinct animals – worth more than $20m annually. It points out that trade in woolly mammoth ivory has been going on in Russia and the rest of Asia for thousands of years, and reached a peak in the 19th century, but during the communist period from 1917 to 1991 business declined sharply.

However, since the early 1990s the domestic and international trade in mammoth tusks has reopened and expanded owing to the freeing-up of the Russian economy, more foreign visitors to the country and greater demand for ivory because of the Cites ban.

"In recent years," says the report, "60 tonnes of mammoth tusks have been exported annually from Russia, mostly to Hong Kong for carving in mainland China." There are also carving industries in parts of Russia, but most of these objects are sold on within the country.

Hunting for the tusks is now a major activity. "Every year from mid-June, when the tundra melts, until mid- September, hundreds if not thousands of mostly local people scour the tundra in northern Siberia looking for mammoth tusks," the report reveals.

"All are Russians, as foreigners cannot obtain a permit to collect tusks. Some tusks are easily seen on the banks of rivers while others are detected on the flat lands. All types of transport are used to transport the tusks: boats, lorries, aeroplanes and even helicopters."

The centre of the trade is the Siberian town of Yakutsk. Once the tusks are accumulated, traders send large planes to pick them up and send them to Moscow. They are paid for by weight. With the average export price of mammoth ivory in 2009 being $350 per kilogram, or $350,000 per tonne, the current trade is worth about $21m per year to Russia. The vast majority of the tusks are sent to Hong Kong, although some also go to Germany and the US. Nearly all are then re-exported to mainland China, where there is a well-established ivory carving trade, and where they are crafted into ivory objets d'art: some stay in China for domestic sale but many are sent back for sale to Hong Kong, and all around the world.

"Many thousands of recently made mammoth ivory items are for sale in Asia, Europe and North America," says the report. "People wishing to buy an elephant ivory object may purchase a similar one crafted from mammoth ivory that is legal and free of cumbersome paperwork. Mammoth ivory items are not for sale in Africa. If mammoth objects were to be offered in Africa, they could be a cover for elephant ivory items."
However, the report's authors fall short of calling for a mammoth ivory ban, saying there is no evidence that the worldwide mammoth ivory trade is yet affecting either the African or Asian elephant.

"For this reason, and because the species is extinct and large quantities of tusks are still available in Siberia, it is the opinion of the authors that a ban on mammoth ivory commerce is not currently justified," says the report.
Yet they sound a cautionary note, saying: "In future, a problem could occur if mammoth tusks of Chinese-made ivory items were brought into African countries, where law enforcement is poor, specifically as a cover for illegal elephant ivory carving and sales."

Although elephants are plentiful in Southern African countries such as Botswana and South Africa, in some countries of Central and West Africa, poaching is now pushing populations to extinction. Chad is thought to have only a few hundred left while Senegal and Liberia may have fewer than 10. Sierra Leone's last elephants were wiped out by poachers in November last year.

In Kenya, whose wildlife protection measures are among the strongest in Africa, the number of elephants killed by poachers rose from 47 in 2007 to 98 in 2008 and 214 in 2009. Reports suggest that at least 15 tonnes of African ivory tusks and pieces – the equivalent of up to 1,500 elephants – were seized in, or en route to, Asia during 2009.

the independent








Property Recovered After Two Years 

In the early part of 1908 a woman named Bilasi, aged about 45, of Beniatolah Lane, Calcutta, was murdered under mysterious circumstances. Her dead body was discovered one morning in her room, it being apparent that death was due to strangulation. The motive of the crime was attributed to robbery, as ornaments worth about Rs 1,000 belonging to the deceased wee found missing. Although inquiries were instituted, no clue could be obtained by the police, excepting that the name of one Gangaram Manji transpired as one of the persons who used to visit the deceased from time to time. 

Recently, however, the Criminal Investigation Department of the Nuddea district succeeded in arresting a man named Gangaram Manji, of Krishnaghur, in whose possession several gold ornaments to the value of over Rs 500 were found. In the absence of a satisfactory explanation the man was suspected, and on further inquiries it was elicited that these wee the identical ornaments missing from the room of the deceased woman. A local Inspector of Police came down to Calcutta on the 28th ultimo, to conduct the necessary investigations. The accused is at present at Krishnaghur awaiting his trial there under Section 411, I.P. Code, for being in possession of stolen property with guilty knowledge, and after his trial there, it is said, he will be brought down to Calcutta to take his trial in connection with the murder case. 










The law in a democracy has a relevance that goes beyond the textbooks and the courtroom. It is germane to a society and the way that society functions or chooses to function. The law can at critical points give to society a new direction and resolution. The long-awaited judgment of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on the Ayodhya dispute can be interpreted to do just that. The judgment provides a legal platform for peaceful resolution of the dispute and a reconciliation of the contending parties. By passing verdict on a past and present dispute, the court is actually looking forward to the future and is also urging the litigants, as well as the whole of Indian society, to look forward instead of backwards. The judgment puts on the Indian people the responsibility of creating a situation in Ayodhya where Hindus and Muslims can live and pray together as they did in the past. The judgment harks back to the past to demand of the Indian people to retrieve that harmony. In its spirit and in its nuances, this verdict is a landmark judgment.


What the judges have said does not allow any party or any community to claim a facile victory or to condemn it as a betrayal. The judgment records that the mosque did not demolish a temple but the mosque was built on ancient and utter ruins of a temple. These ruins predate by many years the construction of the mosque. This does away with the claims of those who have held that the mosque was actually built after demolishing a temple. The verdict also states the popular belief among some people, without necessarily endorsing it, that the birthplace of Ram lay somewhere on the piece of land on which the mosque had been built. It will not be unfair to assume that these statements of the court are not mere assertions but based on the findings of experts like archaeologists and historians. The point is important since it leads to the critical observation that within the same compound Hindus and Muslims had been carrying out their acts of worship. It is this spirit of co-existence that needs to be underlined as a foundation for a future settlement and reconciliation.


The court's order for a three-way partition makes it evident that the area has no one single owner. It asks the

various parties to recognize and accept the rival claims. The immediate response of the political parties and the political classes is to see the verdict not in terms of victory or defeat but as an attempt at a resolution. But outside the political process, it is paramount that the judgment be read in the context of India's culture of religious pluralism and not within the narrow confines of legal niceties. The court has done its duty — even more than its duty; it is now up to the people of India to abide by the high standards of secularism and religious harmony.








In spite of Barack Obama's perceived firmness in ending the Israel-Palestine conflict, the recent talks between the two countries ended inconclusively, if not with a renewal of mutual bitterness. Israel has literally refused to concede an inch of land. Rather, after a ten-month-long moratorium on building new settlements in East Jerusalem, Israel is unwilling to extend the freeze. No amount of persuasion, even coercion, by the United States of America appear to have its desired effect on the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. In fact, the impunity with which Israel defied the US affirmed Mr Obama's signal failure in handling the Middle East crisis with conviction. Mr Netanyahu must have had good reason to feel that he can get away with anything — which is why he could behave with such utter brazenness.


In dealing with Palestine, Mr Obama was no less jittery. He repeated the mistake of his predecessors of disregarding the popular mandate enjoyed by the Hamas, which runs the only legally-elected government in Gaza. Incidentally, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine approved by the US, is not recognized as such in this region. Wishing away the Hamas in order to pander to Israel's wishes is not going to make it vanish. On the contrary, Mr Obama's Middle East policy would gain a new lease of life and direction as soon as he reckons with this fact in a mature way. He could, for a start, give the Palestinian people an opportunity to elect a government of their own choice that could then confer legitimacy on future agreements with Israel. By refusing to come down heavily on Israel and helping to perpetuate a weak Palestinian leadership, Mr Obama is not only not doing the Middle East any good but also damaging his own diplomatic credentials. The longer he dithers on these fundamental issues, the possibility of any two-state solution becomes more and more remote. And with it, Mr Obama's dream of peace merely becomes an audacity of hope.








At its simplistic best, the most significant feature of the much-awaited Allahabad High Court verdict is that it has overturned the only other judgment of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute: a Faizabad district court verdict of 1886. At that time, confronted by litigation that arose from Hindu-Muslim tension over the issue, the district judge, F.E.A. Chamier, ruled in March 1886: "It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that occurred 356 years ago, it is too late to remedy the grievance."


On Thursday afternoon, a majority decision of the three-bench court disagreed with the fundamental premise of Chamier. It held that because the Babri structure was built after demolishing a pre- existing Hindu temple in 1528, it couldn't really be regarded as a legitimate mosque, at least theologically. As such, it had absolutely no hesitation in endorsing the belief among large numbers of Hindus in the Awadh region that the disputed site was indeed the rightful inheritance of Ram bhakts. The high court said that, ideally, the 70 acres or so of disputed property should be split three ways but that the Ram lalla (child Ram) idol should be allowed to remain at the site of what was earlier the central dome of the Babri Masjid.


The unambiguous verdict of the high court was, to say the least, unexpected. Till Wednesday evening, the so-called secular forces and the Muslim leadership were insisting that the verdict would establish the majesty of the Constitution and highlight the non-negotiable nature of the rule of law.


After the verdict, their enthusiasm is distinctly less pronounced. It has been suggested that the verdict is a tacit legitimization of both the installation of the idols inside the Babri Masjid in December 1949 and its dramatic demolition 43 years later. If the Babri structure was a non-mosque since its construction in 1528, the crime of the kar sevakswas the desecration of a medieval monument and not a place of worship.


Undoubtedly, this interpretation of the dispute is going to be contested in the Supreme Court. That a section of the Muslim community is unhappy with the judgment is obvious. But far more significant than that is the fury with which the judgment has been greeted by the secular modernists. Apart from contesting everything that the 'eminent historians' have been suggesting about Ram being born in Afghanistan or somewhere else and about the Babri structure having been built on vacant rock, the judges have attached greater weight to the Archaeological Survey of India report and to local tradition.


This approach is certain to send the secular establishment into a complete tizzy. Without exaggerating the importance of this minusculity, it can safely be said that this lobby will be desperate to have its reputation salvaged by the Supreme Court. Therefore, even if a section of the Muslim community decides that there is little point in persisting with the dispute and settles for an honourable way out, there will be a powerful secularist establishment urging the minorities to fight to the last.


The fight would have been worth it if there was a real danger that the Ayodhya verdict will open the floodgates of uninhibited majoritarianism and perhaps, even a Hindu rashtra. Such fears are grossly exaggerated. One of the features of the response of the organized Hindu camp to the verdict is the conscious show of restraint. TheHindutvavadis may have been pleased as punch that their central arguments were upheld by the court, but they have been very careful to not show it. This is on account of the realization that India is not in a mood for confrontational politics and that, unlike the 1990s, belligerence will be politically counter-productive. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for example, is elated that the whole Ayodhya episode has elevated it to the status of being Hindu India's most visible face. It would not like to compromise on that.


There are no doubt maximalists on both sides who seek total victory for themselves and a total defeat for their adversaries. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has many such elements in its leadership. Its demand, made only a few days before the verdict, that Hindus must have unhindered possession of all 70 acres of the disputed site and that no mosque should be located within the municipal limits of Ayodhya, suggests an astonishing degree of narrow-mindedness which is dangerous for the country. If these bigoted elements start interpreting the verdict according to their convenience, it will be only a matter of time before the whole atmosphere of India is vitiated and the Hindus lose the moral advantage they have at present.


Persisting with the dispute and taking it to the Supreme Court may well be inevitable but there is considerable merit in treating the high court judgment as a parallel plea for a compromise. The suggested partition of the 70 acres in three may seem a piece of legal innovation but its implications are more profound: an honourable settlement for both the Hindus and Muslims. If the local Hindus can retain possession of the garva griha — the epicentre of the dispute — there should be no objections to giving a share of the property to the Muslim community to either build a mosque or for any other purpose of its choosing. An open offer by the Hindu religious leadership to the Muslim community to bury the hatchet and come to an out-of-court settlement would be a gesture of magnanimity, which is bound to be welcomed by a large section of the minorities.


It is important that quick steps are taken to allay all the misgivings of those who see themselves as the defeated side. There will be enough politicians and general busybodies who will suggest that the high court verdict has menacing implications for all minorities — quite forgetting that the Places of Worship Act of 1991 make it impossible for an Ayodhya-type dispute to emerge in the future. There will be appeals to Muslim victimhood and the sinister suggestion that the community can never expect justice from a biased Hindu-dominated judiciary.


These are dangerous arguments but it is important to recognize that such whispers will resonate through the ghettos and will be fuelled by irresponsible websites. Minority egos are fragile and can easily be bruised. This makes it incumbent on Hindus to desist from triumphalism and instead show magnanimity and generosity. A unilateral Hindu offer to accommodate a mosque in the vicinity of the Ram temple will have a salutary effect. So far a section of the Hindu leadership has become captive to the proposed architecture of Prabhashankar Sompura, the man who designed the reconstructed Somnath temple in Gujarat, and whose son has designed the VHP version of the grand Ram temple. It would be better if some of the design is modified to factor in a larger sense of nationhood.


For the Hindus, the high court verdict was a significant victory. Statesmanship demands that it shouldn't also be translated as a landmark Muslim defeat. Ayodhya should end a very troubled chapter of India's history and not initiate a new discord.








And now, the responsibility of 'cleaning up' every third-rate and unacceptable plan concerning the Commonwealth Games has been finally given to the chief minister of Delhi, who has been put in situ at the last moment. How strange and ironic is that? It goes to show how ridiculous the many points of reference in Delhi's 'governance' really are.


A number of bodies, pulling in personal and different directions with no single, nodal entity as the responsible point of reference, have been fiddling with the preparations of the Games. Shady money-making has been a game that Indians are experts in, and the scale of the percentage that the 'operators' make depends on how well honed their manipulative skills are. The men and women who get this opportunity actively compete with one another in this newly devised form of Monopoly — that wonderful board game of yore — and win all the medals.


It has been an extraordinary experience to watch the unravelling of the truth as far as the planning and administration of the CWG are concerned. India has organized many events that showcased the best of this country — from classical art and handicraft to cricket, spiritual yatras and mass political movements. The decay we see in this particular case is unprecedented. The corruption of the mind and soul has shamed India. To think we have failed to put together the Games with dignity and professionalism is unbelievable, and all excuses — from the inconsequential to the complex — are unacceptable. Heads must roll, and a hastily incorporated eGoM must not be the wishy-washy solution because all that it manages to do is to delay things so that other horrors can take over the imagination of the people of India. We need to fast-track the delivery of punishment if we want to dignify India.


Old horrors

Money has taken precedence over the delivery of quality, and aesthetic sensibilities. The government, its babus and the political class are not, by any stretch of the imagination, competent to deliver anything that can stand up to international standards. Indian civilization, its people, their inherent skills and creative minds have stood the test of time and continue to command respect and admiration across the planet. Aided and abetted by the bureaucrats, these formidable and diverse strengths have been drowned in the quagmire.


The horror continues unabated. The graphic designs created by the government are bad and are stuck in a terrible time warp. The colour palettes are garish, textures shiny and slimy, the sensibility a mixture of the lowest common denominator of the West and the tacky jugadh of urban India that has become the unfortunate benchmark of the Indian aesthetic.


When confronted with questions about this scary reality which is plunging India into a morass, bureaucrats claim that their committees are on the verge of bringing about radical change. However, action on the ground is invisible and the stalling of renewal and reinvention is there for all to see. India is being stunted by babudom; there are no two ways about that. The management of the CWG, the many points of reference, the complete absence of accountability, the delays and last-minute jugadh, the corruption, blame game and so on represent the manner in which the government administers India and destroys its creative energy.


Are we going to revive and revitalize the best of India? Is there a tall leader with the necessary attributes to command the respect of the people and transform this nation state from a near banana republic to a truly emerging power with a supple rate of growth that benefits all?








China and President Obama have a lot to think about after the House voted, overwhelmingly, on Wednesday to give the Obama administration expanded authority to impose tariffs on nearly all Chinese imports.


Protectionist impulses run far too strong on Capitol Hill, especially in an election year. But China's aggressive undervaluation of its currency is providing a hugely unfair boost to its exports — hurting some American exports, but doing a lot more damage to others and hindering the recovery around the world.


If the House vote grabs Beijing's attention, that would be a good thing. We are skeptical that punitive tariffs are the answer. They wouldn't provide all that much redress to American companies because at this point, except for steel and a few other products, most of the things Americans buy from China: TVs, refrigerators, toys — are no longer made here.


As for whether tariffs would change Beijing's thinking, we fear there is at least an equal chance that China will lash back. A trade war would be disastrous for bilateral relations, complicating efforts to contain nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and disastrous for the world economy.


A more effective strategy would be to muster the support of the many other countries whose manufacturing industries have been mauled. China needs to hear and see that its currency policy is a global problem that is undermining the global influence it so clearly desires.


So far, Beijing has used its clout as a major foreign investor and the world's biggest importer of raw materials to mollify or intimidate its potential critics. The Obama administration needs to be at least as determined in its efforts to persuade others to finally speak up.


A lot of that can and should be done with behind-the-scenes diplomacy. There is also an important public part to be played. One of the best venues to get the message across — to Beijing and other world capitals — is at the World Trade Organization. China, which relies so heavily on exports, keeps an especially close watch there.


Last month, Washington filed two W.T.O. cases against China for duties it slapped on American steel and its discrimination against American suppliers of electronic payment services. It would be unlikely to win a case on China's currency manipulation (which the World Trade Organization does not define as illegal). A broad challenge against China's illegal trade practices, including providing subsidized energy and cheap credit to its exporters, could help embolden others to put forth their own complaints.


This strategy also carries the risk of retaliation. But the United States can't be paralyzed, and moving with others should lessen that threat. A few other countries are already speaking out. Japan has begun criticizing China's currency policies. Brazil's finance minister complained earlier this week about the "international currency war" set off by the manipulation of China's currency, the renminbi.


As the vote in the House loomed, Beijing defiantly slapped steep tariffs on poultry from the United States. On the day of the vote, Foreign Ministry officials warned of potentially dire consequences to bilateral trade relations, and China's central bank let the renminbi fall a little. Still, over the last three weeks, the bank allowed the currency to rise about 1.5 percent against the dollar, roughly three times as much as it appreciated in the previous three months.


Hours before the House vote, China's central bank issued a statement pledging to "increase currency flexibility," and "gradually improve the exchange rate setting mechanism." Beijing has made these promises before. Which is why the United States and other countries need to push harder, together.







Carl Paladino, New York's Republican candidate for governor, likes to portray himself as the political tough guy, the one, as he declared, who can "take a baseball bat to Albany." Now it appears as though the man who so enjoys dishing it out can't even take a tough grilling from an irritating reporter.


The latest outburst happened after Mr. Paladino complained that the news media is not investigating the private life of his opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Mr. Paladino, who has acknowledged a daughter from an extramarital affair, suggested to Politico that Mr. Cuomo also had affairs before his divorce seven years ago.


Mr. Paladino did not give any evidence of his charges, and Fredric Dicker of The New York Post later pressed him for details. Their exchange quickly grew heated, and Mr. Paladino, who was apparently already upset about photographers outside his daughter's house, threatened Mr. Dicker. "You send another goon to my daughter's house and I'll take you out, buddy," he snarled. When Mr. Dicker asked how the candidate would "take me out," Mr. Paladino said: "Watch!"


The Paladino campaign has tried to blame Mr. Dicker for this dispute. That misses the point, of course, since Mr. Dicker is not running for governor. And bullying, it is increasingly clear, is Mr. Paladino's standard operating procedure.


This is the man who vowed to parade Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver around "in one of those Roman cages," as he told Josh Robin on NY1 News, and agreed when a colleague called Mr. Silver the Antichrist and Hitler. In a CNN interview a week ago, he boasted that his campaign had "bloodied up" Mr. Cuomo's "surrogates" and "sent them back in a package." Of the State Legislature, he told The Buffalo News earlier this year, "I really want to wreck those people."


New York State has serious problems. New Yorkers are right to be frustrated and angry about Albany's corruption and ineptitude. The last thing this state needs is an out-of-control governor who can't take the heat.








In Boston last week, Judge William Young ordered the Justice Department to pay $5,000 each to the families of Debra Davis and Deborah Hussey. He said that the department's lawyers had bullied and maligned the families. This is only the latest humiliation from the F.B.I.'s continuous effort to cover up the crimes of two favored informants, James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi.


Under J. Edgar Hoover's "top echelon" program, the two brutal criminals gave information that helped convict three generations of a New England crime family. In exchange, the bureau allowed Mr. Bulger and Mr. Flemmi to carry on their own lives of extortion, intimidation, racketeering and murder. In 2004, Mr. Flemmi was finally sentenced to prison, for 10 murders, where he remains as, in the judge's words, "a supremely evil old man." Mr. Bulger has been a fugitive since 1995, when an F.B.I. agent warned him that Mr. Flemmi was about to be indicted.


Ms. Davis was Mr. Flemmi's girlfriend for almost 10 years, beginning when she was 17. According to testimony, when she wanted to end the relationship in 1981, he brought her to the house of Mr. Bulger's mother and watched Mr. Bulger crush her windpipe with his forearms. Ms. Hussey was the daughter of another of Mr. Flemmi's girlfriends. In 1985, again with Mr. Flemmi looking on, Mr. Bulger murdered Ms. Hussey. That happened just months after she told her mother that Mr. Flemmi had abused her sexually as a teenager.


The families sued the government in a civil action arguing that the F.B.I. was responsible for the murders after shielding Mr. Bulger and Mr. Flemmi for so many years. Judge Young awarded $1.35 million to Ms. Davis's family and $219,795 to Ms. Hussey's for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, funeral expenses and other costs.


In a coda to the lawsuit, the families asked the judge to penalize the government for its outrageous conduct throughout the litigation. In particular, they cited the Justice Department's claim that the families had breached their own "duty of self-preservation" by "fraternizing with known criminals."


The department insisted that Ms. Hussey's mother contributed to her daughter's death because she didn't tell police about Mr. Flemmi's "violent and criminal acts." The government maintained pretty much the same about Ms. Davis, since she "assumed the risk of her own murder by her relationship" with Mr. Flemmi.


Judge Young rightly found that "a meritless defense" with "the sole purpose of embarrassing the decedents' families." He ordered the $5,000 payments to cover the portion of the families' attorney's fees required to deal with the made-up claim. Judge Young's message in the main lawsuit was that the government contributed to the families' suffering and, under the law, they deserved compensation. His message in the coda is just as important and beyond a doubt: bullying by government lawyers is appalling and won't be tolerated.








A planet orbiting a star causes a slight disturbance in the star's rotation, the effect of the gravitational tug between the star and the planet. Astronomers have been studying the wobbling of stars for a couple of decades, in hopes of finding an exoplanet — a planet beyond our solar system — that might offer the possibility of sustaining human life. Now, after 11 years of searching with specialized instruments in Chile and Hawaii, a team of American astronomers has announced in the Astrophysical Journal that it has found the first likely candidate.


The planet is called Gliese 581g after its sun, Gliese 581, a red dwarf vastly dimmer than our sun and about 20 light-years from Earth. Potentially habitable does not mean Earthlike. It means that Gliese 581g is the right distance from its sun to be in the habitable zone, able to sustain liquid water and with enough gravity to retain an atmosphere. Gliese 581g orbits its sun in a bit more than 36 days and is almost certainly tidally locked, meaning the same side of the planet always faces the sun. That probably means wide extremes in temperature and a permanent twilight zone between night and day where the climates are more moderate.


What makes this discovery so important is that it happened so early in the search for exoplanets and after examining only a tiny sample of small candidate stars as close to Earth as Gliese 581. In the paper reporting their discovery, the astronomers discuss the probable implications with carefully calibrated language that still doesn't hide their excitement. "If the local stellar neighborhood," they write, "is a representative sample of the galaxy as a whole, our Milky Way could be teeming with potentially habitable planets." We are intrigued, too.








Serious people were appalled by Wednesday's vote in the House of Representatives, where a huge bipartisan majority approved legislation, sponsored by Representative Sander Levin, that would potentially pave the way for sanctions against China over its currency policy. As a substantive matter, the bill was very mild; nonetheless, there were dire warnings of trade war and global economic disruption. Better, said respectable opinion, to pursue quiet diplomacy.


But serious people, who have been wrong about so many things since this crisis began — remember how budget deficits were going to lead to skyrocketing interest rates and soaring inflation? — are wrong on this issue, too. Diplomacy on China's currency has gone nowhere, and will continue going nowhere unless backed by the threat of retaliation. The hype about trade war is unjustified — and, anyway, there are worse things than trade conflict. In a time of mass unemployment, made worse by China's predatory currency policy, the possibility of a few new tariffs should be way down on our list of worries.


Let's step back and look at the current state of the world.


Major advanced economies are still reeling from the effects of a burst housing bubble and the financial crisis that followed. Consumer spending is depressed, and firms see no point in expanding when they aren't selling enough to use the capacity they have. The recession may be officially over, but unemployment is extremely high and shows no sign of returning to normal levels.


The situation is quite different, however, in emerging economies. These economies have weathered the economic storm, they are fighting inflation rather than deflation, and they offer abundant investment opportunities. Naturally, capital from wealthier but depressed nations is flowing in their direction. And emerging nations could and should play an important role in helping the world economy as a whole pull out of its slump.


But China, the largest of these emerging economies, isn't allowing this natural process to unfold. Restrictions on foreign investment limit the flow of private funds into China; meanwhile, the Chinese government is keeping the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low by buying huge amounts of foreign currency, in effect subsidizing its exports. And these subsidized exports are hurting employment in the rest of the world.


Chinese officials defend this policy with arguments that are both implausible and wildly inconsistent.


They deny that they are deliberately manipulating their exchange rate; I guess the tooth fairy purchased $2.4

trillion in foreign currency and put it on their pillows while they were sleeping. Anyway, say prominent Chinese figures, it doesn't matter; the renminbi has nothing to do with China's trade surplus. Yet this week China's premier cried woe over the prospect of a stronger currency, declaring, "We cannot imagine how many Chinese factories will go bankrupt, how many Chinese workers will lose their jobs." Well, either the renminbi's value matters, or it doesn't — they can't have it both ways.


Meanwhile, about diplomacy: China's government has shown no hint of helpfulness and seems to go out of its way to flaunt its contempt for U.S. negotiators. In June, the Chinese supposedly agreed to allow their currency to move toward a market-determined rate — which, if the example of economies like Brazil is any indication, would have meant a sharp rise in the renminbi's value. But, as of Thursday, China's currency had risen about only 2 percent against the dollar — with most of that rise taking place in just the past few weeks, clearly in anticipation of the vote on the Levin bill.


So what will the bill accomplish? It empowers U.S. officials to impose tariffs against Chinese exports subsidized by the artificially low renminbi, but it doesn't require these officials to take action. And judging from past experience, U.S. officials will not, in fact, take action — they'll continue to make excuses, to tout imaginary diplomatic progress, and, in general, to confirm China's belief that they are paper tigers.


The Levin bill is, then, a signal at best — and it's at least as much a shot across the bow of U.S. officials as it is a signal to the Chinese. But it's a step in the right direction.


For the truth is that U.S. policy makers have been incredibly, infuriatingly passive in the face of China's bad behavior — especially because taking on China is one of the few policy options for tackling unemployment available to the Obama administration, given Republican obstructionism on everything else. The Levin bill probably won't change that passivity. But it will, at least, start to build a fire under policy makers, bringing us closer to the day when, at long last, they are ready to act.








Silicon Valley, Calif.

If I had as much money as Meg Whitman, I'd probably have a more exuberant house. Hers is perfectly nice. But at a time when other Silicon Valley moguls were installing underground squash courts, arcade-size game rooms and other gewgaws, she stuck with a New England-style colonial. The furniture is traditional. There's a middle-age Ford in the garage. There are definite signs of WASP parsimony and understatement here, especially compared with the $120 million she's spent on her campaign to become California's governor.


Whitman seems to have led a sober, performance-oriented life. She began her career at a string of traditional companies: Procter & Gamble, FTD florists and Hasbro. Then, in 1998, she took the leap to a ramshackle company called Auction Web, which became eBay. Even as annual revenues surged from $6 million to somewhere north of infinity, she could have won an award for Most Likely to Avoid Irrational Exuberance. She was the grown-up chief executive hired to look after financial discipline, management structure, customer analysis and other spheres of eat-your-veggies sensibleness.


The only hint of disorder in her house is on the dining room table, where there are stacks of briefing books piled askew. Whitman doesn't exactly soar into the realm of poetry when she talks about what she'd like to do if elected governor. But if you ask her about the need for earthquake-proof water levies or the intricacies of budget rules, you will be greeted with a torrent of figures.


She talks fast, begins too many sentences with "So..." and holds out her hands while counting off points on her fingers. Problems with the tax code? Four fingers pop up and four quick proposals follow. Problems with the State Legislature? Four fingers and four data points. Television doesn't quite capture how physically imposing she can be, and how locomotivelike she is when focused and resolved.


But Whitman is representative of an emerging Republican type — what you might call the austerity caucus. Flamboyant performers like Sarah Palin get all the attention, but the governing soul of the party is to be found in statehouses where a loose confederation of über-wonks have become militant budget balancers. Just as welfare reformers of the 1990s presaged compassionate conservatism, so the austerity brigades presage the national party's next chapter.


Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who I think is most likely to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2012, is the spiritual leader. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the rising star. Jeb Bush is the eminence. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rob Portman, a Senate candidate in Ohio, also fit the mold.


These are people who can happily spend hours in the budget weeds looking for efficiencies. They're being assisted by budget experts from the Hoover Institution, the Manhattan Institute and freelancers like Bob Grady, who did budgeting in George H.W. Bush's administration. Members of the caucus have a similar sense of the role history has assigned them. "This state had a party for 10 years and I'm the guy who got called in to clean up the mess," Christie says.


Christie is the Hot New Thing in the group because he not only has ideas to cut deficits but he's found a political strategy to enact them, even with a Democratic Legislature. One of the keys to cutting budgets, he says, is that "almost nothing can be sacrosanct." Inheriting an $11 billion deficit, he spread cuts across every agency. He even had to cut education spending by $820 million but said any individual district could avoid cuts if the teachers there would be willing to chip in 1.5 percent of their salaries to help pay for health benefits (few districts took advantage of this).


Democrats fought the cuts but could not swing public opinion. The big showdown came over the "millionaires' tax." Democrats sought to raise revenue by taxing the affluent. Christie vetoed the tax, arguing that the state, already hemorrhaging jobs, couldn't afford to make the business climate any worse. He won that battle and has dominated the state since. He was elected with 49 percent of the vote in a three-way race, and now he has a 57 percent approval rating.


Whitman has brought Christie to California to campaign for her and says he offers a roadmap of where she'd like to go. It's not clear that Whitman has as deft an enactment strategy as Christie does. It's also not clear that Californians are as alarmed about their fiscal mess as people in New Jersey.


But Whitman has the personality type that you're seeing more and more of these days. Not big picture, like Reagan. Not an idea volcano, like Gingrich. Not a straightforward man of faith, like George W. Bush. The quintessential New Republican is detail-oriented, managerial, tough-minded, effective but a little dry. If Whitman wins her race, she'll fit right in.








LOOKING out the window as the plane descended, I saw that Haiti had changed color. The familiar earthy brown tones of the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince were no longer visible; instead, everything I could see was deep blue — the color of the thousands of tarpaulins covering the landscape.


I had last seen my country one afternoon back in January, when I was evacuated four days after the earthquake. Returning last month for a four-week trip, I was afraid to see what I would find.


A soft rain greeted me when I stepped off the plane, as if to wash away my anxiety. So did the energizing rhythm of a calypso band playing under a nearby canopy. Dancing post-earthquake, I thought, had to be indecent. Instead I rocked slightly to the beat, smiled at one musician and put some dollars in his hat. The airport had been partly destroyed, and there was no air-conditioning at baggage claim, but I was happy to be home.


The traffic jam on the way to my house was an opportunity to slowly take in the changed neighborhoods, the camps, the rubble. I saw that the giant Caribbean supermarket I'd shopped at many times had collapsed and the small church of Ste. Thérèse, where I had attended funerals and weddings, was gone.


But above the devastation, I was surprised to see billboards advertising concerts by Haiti's best-known musicians, like T-Vice, Carimi and Tropicana. Perhaps, I realized, dancing wasn't entirely out of the question. Several musicians have already written songs about the quake. Many people sing along to this one: "Under the tarps, you are being ignored/ Tents and sheets, they don't want to see you./ Fissured homes are being ignored."


In many ways, Haitian art and folklore have begun to incorporate the earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince as well as Jacmel, Petit-Goâve and Léogâne. In the art market of Pétionville, the hilly suburb that has become the de facto center of the capital since the earthquake reduced the city's main square and shopping district to rubble, paintings of destruction scenes are for sale. They go for $50 to $400, depending on whether the buyer is foreign or Haitian and whether he knows how to bargain.


Haitians have even invented their own name for the earthquake: "Goudou Goudou." It's an onomatopoeia; when the earth shook, the rumbling sounded something like that.


But most of all, the earthquake has become the main theme of Haitian storytelling. I spent the month visiting friends, and all were eager to tell me about Goudou Goudou. All needed to say where they were when it happened, and what they had lost by the time it ended. Telling their stories was a way to affirm that they were still among the living, and not among the dead.



Joe, an architect, lost his house, his aunt and uncle, and an overflowing file of drawings. He is lucky because he was able to move in with a sister.


Évelyne also lost her home but went back the next day to search the rubble and found her passport and her cat.


Pat lost both his parents and his family home, and Nono lost his bakery.


Danielle slept in a tent in the parking lot of her office building for six months.


Émile sleeps with his family in a tent in his backyard; they can still use the kitchen in their damaged house. He joked that their tent was as opulent as that used by the president of Libya, Muammar el-Qaddafi.


Most cannot afford to rebuild, and even if they had the money, many are too traumatized to begin.


Pat complains that his hands have been shaking uncontrollably ever since the earthquake.


]Marie told me about her cousin, who still cannot sleep in a regular bed. He had a home office, and when the earthquake hit, the office collapsed. His beloved secretary of 30 years was buried inside. He moved in with Marie, and every night since, he has put down a mattress in her kitchen to sleep. At first, her family laughed, but it has now been nearly nine months and the laughter has stopped. He is a grown man, a 60-year-old, and they are worried. She asked: What will it take for him to rebuild his confidence, his life, his business?


Some people want to talk about what they can't remember: Amnesia after severe shock is common. I had lunch with one friend just a few hours before the earthquake, and she didn't remember a thing about the meal.


Another had amnesia for several weeks after the quake. The last thing she could remember was the co-worker sitting to her right at a meeting dying instantly, and the man on her left, who survived, yelling, "Don't leave me, don't leave me." Nothing else, not even that she walked nearly eight miles home from her office in high heels and a disheveled dress with her face decorated with mortar from the crumbling walls.



After all this talk, I felt I needed to get out and see some familiar sights. The Rex Theater, where I saw concerts, plays and movies as a child, was still standing, but there were cracks all up and down its gray walls. Fanal, my favorite crafts store, was gone. The Sacré-Coeur church, where I had my first communion, was mostly destroyed, but the cross stood defiantly in the ruins.


The country I knew has collapsed and a new one is growing in its place. On the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, a huge provisional city called Canaan is being constructed and populated. Wood poles hold up walls and roofs of blue tarpaulins. Some of the structures even have traditional terraces in front, like real houses. How provisional is this, I wondered? Will it become another slum like La Saline or Cité Soleil? How long will people stay?


Then there are the tents — in the middle of residential streets, in soccer fields and parks, on the prime minister's lawn. Some tent cities have restaurants, brothels, bars, beauty salons. Some offer medical clinics, latrines, water distribution, post-trauma counseling sessions. My friend Jeanine pointed out that, for many of the residents, it is the first time that they have ever had access to such services. I wondered if they might start to expect these things, to realize they have a right to shelter, medicine, sanitation and education, and that it is the government's obligation to provide them.


This is not to say that it is possible to find much good in those living conditions. The torrential rains are a menace, particularly when they come with strong winds that rip open the tents. Violence — including sexual violence — is an ever-present threat.


A woman I know, Solène, told me she was attacked in her tent in the middle of the night by over 30 men and women with picks, guns, wooden planks and rocks. They had come with kerosene to burn her alive because she was accused of being a werewolf. A police unit rescued her; although her physical wounds healed in a month, she will never go back to her old neighborhood. The police weren't much help: an officer said she really did look like a werewolf, and released the aggressors. She said she gets her energy and courage from God.



I wish I had that faith. Right after the earthquake, many people, myself included, said that this was Haiti's chance, that we could use the momentum of this suffering and solidarity to propel the country into the 21st century, and finally rid ourselves of that humiliating epithet, "poorest country in the Western Hemisphere." But after my month home, I am not so sure.


For all the vibrancy and resilience hidden under Haiti's tents and tarps, the rebuilding — what my friends call the "refoundation" — has been slow. It is not hard to understand why.


Just before I returned to the United States, I went to see Bartho, a friend and former colleague who lost three of his five children. He explained to me how each died, how he could not see their bodies. "Why did this happen?" he asked, his body fidgeting wildly, his voice cracking. I didn't know what to say; all I could do was listen. For my friend, as with Haiti, the pain of the disaster remains as palpable — and debilitating — as it was on that January day nearly nine months ago.


Monique Clesca is a novelist and a communication specialist for a development organization.








In this era of intense partisanship, this week's action in the House of Representatives on a China trade bill certainly stood out. Majorities from both parties joined in a 348-79 vote to give the Commerce Department more power to slap tariffs on goods coming from China.


No wonder. China repeatedly and willfully drives its currency down to make its exports cheaper than those produced in other nations. To make matters worse, China subsidizes industries, expanding their reach at the expense of manufacturers in other parts of the world.


It's also easy to see how going after China works politically in an election year, particularly with labor. From 2000 to 2009, America's trade deficit with China surged nearly 300%. During that same time, 5.4 million American jobs in manufacturing were eliminated. It's tough for U.S. manufacturers to compete against China's lower wages, looser regulations and cheaper currency.


In short, China is making a trade war politically inevitable. The question is not just whether to fight it but how to fight smartly. At a time when the global economy is particularly fragile, even a modest trade war could send the world back into recession, or worse. That's what happened in the 1930s, when the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariffs deepened the Great Depression. Nor is the impact of Chinese imports entirely negative: They lower costs for U.S. consumers, and China uses many of its excess dollars to buy U.S. Treasury bills, financing the deficit and holding down interest rates.


The most effective way to deal with China is to assemble a broad coalition of countries that sees its trade policies as a threat. This would help ensure that no nation would be acting purely to appease domestic constituencies. It would also put more pressure on China than one country acting alone


In a sense, the situation parallels the two wars against Iraq. In the 1991 conflict, President George H.W. Bushput together a broad coalition to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. As a result, the war was seen as a global campaign to thwart Saddam, rather than the United States' pushing its own ambitions.


In the far-less-successful 2003 war, President George W. Bush acted despite widespread opposition among allies, cementing a negative view of America in many countries.


Assembling a broad trade coalition will not be easy. Europe's interest in confronting China seems to have abated as the result of its own debt crises. Latin America has blown hot and cold on China. And Asian countries have other issues with China unrelated to the value of its currency.


But if China persists in its manipulation, other nations will come around. In the meantime, U.S. policymakers should use international reluctance to jump on board to pose a question: How much of America's trade problem is in Beijing, and how much in Washington?


America has built an economy based on consumption and borrowing, while many Asian nations (including, but not limited to, China) build theirs on savings and investment. The result is persistent trade deficits.


The Senate is expected to vote on the House-passed trade bill after the elections, and a little congressional saber-rattling might strengthen the Obama administration's hand in talks with China. But the best approach is for the U.S. to start living within its means. That would produce far less U.S. debt for the Chinese to buy with their dollars and make it harder for them to undervalue their currency. And it would certainly be worthy of bipartisan support.









We're in a trade war with China, and we're losing. For the first time, a majority of Americans agree that "free trade" hurts the United States. The facts back that opinion up, particularly in regards to China. It's time for action.


The Chinese government has been keeping the renminbi undervalued by about 40% as a deliberate and central plank of its export strategy. That's a 40% subsidy for the products they send here and a 40% tax on products we try to send there. Our dollars stimulate another nation's economy while we rack up unsustainable trade deficits at home. And other Asian nations have undervalued their currencies to compete with China.


The result is writ large on the walls of the Great Recession: 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities shut down in the last 10 years, costing us five-and-a-half million good-paying jobs, nearly half of those to China alone. The loss of these skilled workers, engineers, designers and scientists has undermined our middle class and dangerously eroded our technical, industrial and innovative capacity. Our trade deficit with the Chinese has soared since we championed their entrance into the World Trade Organization, from $83 billion in 2001 to $227 billion in 2009.


Should we allow that deficit to continue to grow? Conservative and progressive economists agree that a 25% to 40% revaluation in the renminbi would reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $100 billion to $150 billion a year, adding up to 1 million jobs to American payrolls.


The predatory trade practice of Chinese currency manipulation has consistently violated the rules the Chinese government agreed to live by when it joined the WTO. We've looked the other way too many times, like a fear-filled child hoping a schoolyard bully will just go away. It hasn't worked, and it won't work.


The House of Representatives took a big step forward this week in passing a long-overdue bill that will finally level the playing field. And today, 25 million unemployed and underemployed Americans cry out for action by the Senate to make this bill law when it returns after the midterm elections.


Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation.








The Justice Department recently took the unprecedented step of suing Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., for not cooperating with a federal inquiry. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said, "It is unfortunate that the department was forced to resort to litigation to gain access to public documents and facilities" as part of a civil rights investigation.


It is unfortunate, yet necessary. "I'm not going to be intimidated by the federal government going to court against us," Arpaio said last month. The probe into his office has gone on for over a year and a half. Arpaio is one of the USA's most visible foes of illegal immigration. He houses prisoners in huge tent cities and makes them wear pink underwear. On his website, he brags that his cost for feeding each prisoner is 15 cents a meal and that he uses women in chain gangs.


But does his office engage in racial profiling? Does he discriminate against Latino inmates? That's what the Justice Department wants to know — and Arpaio should cooperate. In fact, as a condition of receiving federal money, his office agreed to comply with all inquiries under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. If Arpaio continues to defy the feds, Maricopa County could lose up to $113 million in federal funds. Arpaio complains that the requests for information have been too broad. And though he claims that the inquiry is politically motivated, the preliminary investigation began during the Bush administration.


Arpaio is popular in his home state, but for all his tough talk, his record is troubling. He admitted on Larry King Live that his office arrests "very few" non-Hispanics, although they make up three-fourths of Arizona's population. In 2008, the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, judged his policies to be ineffective, harmful and a waste of taxpayer money.Statistics from the Arizona Department of Public Safety show that, from 2002 through 2009, violent crime was down across the state — except in Maricopa County.


True, the U.S. Marshal's Service just gave Arpaio favorable ratings in audits of his facilities — for the second year in a row.So why doesn't he give the Justice Department what they want and clear his name?


I see great irony here; the sheriff who loves to ask people for their papers doesn't seem to like having to show his. If Arpaio has nothing to hide, he should cooperate and vindicate himself. To do otherwise is obstructing justice. And no one, not even "America's Toughest Sheriff," is above the law.


Raul Reyes is an attorney in New York and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.







The Wall Street Journain an editorial: "Democrats seeking to boost voter turnout this fall are beginning to sound like the late comedian Chris Farley's portrayal of a 'motivational speaker' on Saturday Night Live. Farley's character sought to inspire young people by announcing that they wouldn't amount to 'jack squat' and would someday be 'living in a van down by the river.' ... In the new Democratic attacks on the voting public, not even Democrats are spared. ... Blaming the voters is not unheard of among politicians, but usually they wait until after an election."


Alex Slater, columnist, in The (London)Guardian: "The (Democratic) party relies on their policy achievements to speak for themselves. Sadly, that's not enough to sway many voters at the ballot box. ... (Democrats) are so old-fashioned. Their rhetoric is based on the truth. ... They're much better off attacking than they are defending their record, as they are forced to do this year. That's because, time and again, they make the mistake of touting real policies at the expense of actually talking and listening to voters. Hence the old Republican charge that Democrats are out of touch, elitist and believe they know better than voters what is in America's best interests. In reality, Democrats are just bad at explaining how they're working for voters. ... So, Democrats, stop for a moment explaining what you've done, and just listen and talk to what you hear. It might just save your seat in Congress."


Dick Morris, columnist, on Real Clear Politics: "Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and Majority Leader (Harry) Reid, the Democratic Party is facing the biggest defeat in midterm elections in the past 110 years. ... There is no Democratic message. ... The campaigns they are waging are formulaic. They make no attempt to defend the administration, but run away from it where possible. ... Instead, they are running almost exclusively negative ads. ... (The Republican) attack will force the Democrats to spend their resources defending their base and make it even easier to pick off marginal members. And while Republican resources shift to the previously solidly Democratic districts, eager donors anxious to develop relationships with the new Republican majority will fill their shoes."


David Rosman, columnist, in the Missourian: "It is time that the Democrats, progressives and liberals get off their collective butts and scream, 'We are pro-business and pro-labor. We want to tax the wealthiest 2% of the population by a meager increase of 2% to 3%, and cut taxes for 98% of the American citizens. We want a future for your kids.' The Democrats must get louder so the truth can be heard over the repugnant mindless dribble that is the propaganda of the right. As I tell my speech students, Democrats need to use their voice and project. Be heard or die."


Peter Birkenhead, blogger, on The Huffington Post: "If the last 30 years teaches us anything, it's that the Obama administration needs to shake off worries about dignifying conservative craziness with a response. ... Whatever happens in November, they need to use the next two years to forcefully, repeatedly confront the delusionists, articulate a clear vision in powerfully symbolic language, and connect the dots between that vision and policy. They need to learn how to fight the good fight, even for causes that might, at the moment, seem hopeless, and especially for the most direly consequential cause of all: keeping our politics from going completely off the rails. There's more at stake than just an election."








The end of September is a good time to try to understand how the stock market works and how investments you make there are likely to do.


September often signals sharp ups and downs in the market. It also sometimes hints what's ahead. Examples:


•The Dow Jones industrial average has just concluded its best September in 72 years, since 1939.


•On the other hand, just two years ago on Sept. 29, 2008, the D.J. had the biggest one-day drop in history — 777.68 points.


Why? The stock market, like many other things in business or pleasure, usually sees the effect of the end of the summer lull. More people get more interested and serious about more things in September.


Among the reasons are back to school and the beginning of major sports events. It's a good time to invest in or bet on both.


As the father of eight children — two natural born now in their 50s and six chosen (adopted) now ages 10 to 19, their education and their future has always been a primary concern.


If you invest just a little bit of money when they are born that you earmark for their education, their future is more likely to be secure.


Long term, the stock market probably will get the best results for them, although a mix of stocks and bank certificates of deposit may be the safest and surest.


It doesn't have to be big bucks. A few thousand — or even a few hundred dollars — invested for them at birth or when they are very young will grow into a meaningful amount by the time they're college age.


Educational trusts for kids are more important than toys, or clothes or cars. September-October is usually a good time for such investments.


Feedback: Other views on stock market investments


"I agree something put aside is always better than nothing. The key is to make sure this money is safe and sound within four years of having to actually use it."


Suze Orman, author and host, The Suze Orman Show


"Every season's the right season to put away money for kids' tuition. This fall might be best of all because the pessimism is creating bargains galore!"


Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money








No one enjoys paying property taxes, but many individuals honestly have trouble paying their tax bills on time. That's especially true since most counties and municipalities now require that the levy be paid in a lump sum. There's no equitable way to relieve the obligation to pay property taxes, but there are methods available to make doing so a bit more convenient. Hamilton County Trustee Bill Hullander and Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith will make them available them to the citizens they serve. Their offices soon will begin to offer partial payment or optional monthly payment plans.


While not unique in Tennessee, the payment plans announced in Hamilton and Bradley counties are rarely employed. Smith says only a few — probably two or three — counties in the state previously offered a monthly payment option. That's likely to change.


Smith said earlier this week that when word spread that Bradley County was going to implement the monthly payment plan, he received a flurry of calls from officials across the state who might want to adopt a similar program. Hullander's Thursday announcement is likely to elicit similar interest. And why not? While taxpayers can still pay their taxes in a lump sum, partial and monthly installment plans are viable alternatives.


The partial payment plan allows taxpayers to meet their obligation by setting up a payment schedule from October, when tax bills are typically issued, through February, when taxes can be paid without interest or

penalty. The amount paid each month can vary depending on a variety of factors. Information about the plans, payment schedules and any fees involved are available at the main and satellite offices of the trustee.


The monthly payment plan — which becomes operative in 2011 — is another useful alternative, particularly for those who prefer to pay the tax man in equal installments over the course of a year rather than all at once. Depending on the county, payment can be made by credit card, bank draft, by mailing payments or paying in person at the trustee's office. This plan, too, has merit for taxpayers. It serves county interests as well.


According to Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, a bit more than a third of the revenue in his county's general fund currently comes from property tax revenues. That's true in most counties. The bulk of that revenue now arrives in county coffers from December through February, the period immediately after tax bills are sent to property owners. As a result, cash flow can be slow at other times of the year. That sometimes makes it difficult for a county to pay bills and to meet other obligations.


The partial and monthly options could help ease that problem by providing more regular infusions of cash for

the counties..


The alternative payment plans are a win-win for all involved. They offer a convenient service to citizens. They will be implemented at no additional cost to taxpayers. Indeed, the latter is a requirement. The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury must scrutinize and approve the plans and associated costs before implementation. The process is justifiably rigorous, but Smith and Hullander agree that the effort is worthwhile. They're right. Approval allows their offices to extend new and useful services to taxpayers at no cost.


Their decisions to provide new services to constituents are welcome. While paying in installments can't reduce a tax bill, it can make it more convenient for taxpayers to meet the obligation. Other county trustees in the region reportedly want to establish partial or monthly tax payment plans in their jurisdictions. They should be encouraged to do so — as long as it can be done in a fiscally responsible manner.







Public libraries are the heart and soul of a community's educational, civic, social and economic life. That's especially so in rural areas and small towns. Sometimes, though, those libraries are unable to fulfill their mission. That's particularly so when it comes to providing the technical training, equipment and information residents need to become or remain competitive in the contemporary workplace. A series of just announced grants should help remedy that situation.


Nearly 80 mostly rural libraries across Tennessee will be awarded about $1.5 million to provide computers, peripheral equipment, high-speed Internet routers, education courses and job skill training to patrons. The project, a joint effort of the Department of State and the Department of Economic and Community Development, uses state funds to leverage additional money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program. Funds will be distributed soon. Libraries still have to finalize and sign consent agreements before money is forwarded.


Area libraries slated to receive grants include those in Altamont and Monteagle in Grundy County; Athens in McMinn County; Crossville in Cumberland County; Dayton in Rhea County; Decatur in Meigs County; Ducktown in Polk County; Dunlap in Sequatchie County; Pikeville in Bledsoe County; and Kingston and Rockwood in Roane County. The money will be put to good use under the grant proposals.


Many of the recipient libraries serve communities that are among the hardest-hit by the recent downturns in the national economy. In a state where rural access to broadband and other technology still is limited, the importance of increased availability of what promises to be first-class technical equipment and training for residents who want to earn or hone job-seeking skills can't be underestimated. Simply put, the grants are invaluable.


Many rural libraries have struggled recently to provide the technical assistance and equipment patrons must have to obtain the skills and information needed to secure a place in today's workplace. The grants won't — can't — end all those troubles, but they should help make the task a bit easier.







Everyone knows we are suffering general economic recession. So many Americans are asking:


"Why does the federal government take so much of my hard-earned money in taxes instead of cutting spending for many of the things in the federal budget that are obviously unconstitutional, unnecessary and unwise?"


Wouldn't this be an excellent time for American taxpayers to demand that members of Congress cut much — why not all — really unjustified spending?


The average taxpayer may not understand the intricacies of federal budgeting. But members of Congress are supposed to. So it is the job of Congress to eliminate inappropriate spending, balance the budget and avoid too-high taxes.


What responsibility of the members of Congress is more basic?


What a difference it would make if Congress would just do its job well.







It should be obvious, for abundant reasons, that it is wise for public officials and employees to keep their government duties and private business activities completely separate.


There should be no cause for concern that they are acting other than in the public interest on public time, and they should use government facilities only for public business.


Questions have arisen involving the activities of Alan Knowles, Hamilton County's superintendent of support services for the Public Works Department; Missy Crutchfield, administrator of Chattanooga's Department of Education, Arts and Culture; and Education, Arts and Culture spokeswoman Melissa Turner.


Crutchfield acknowledged that she and Turner worked during city time on the private, for-profit, limited liability company Be Communications. It markets the online Be Magazine. Crutchfield said she and Turner did not get city money or make a profit from those activities.


Knowles has earned $157,345 since 2007 from Dove Ministries Inc., a nonprofit organization he heads that books Christian music performances. E-mail records show he did some work for the organization on county computers and county time. He said that will not happen again.


It shouldn't.


Since public officials and employees are responsible to the public for their taxpayer-supported employment, they should avoid anything that could raise any suspicions of conflicts of interest, or questions about the use of public time, facilities or funding.


When questions arise, they should be taken care of simply and quickly: The supervisors of those in question should instruct them to perform only their governmental functions on the public's time. Outside activities should be kept outside.


That way, the best interests of both the public and the individuals may be safeguarded.







U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is troubled that the Democrat-run Congress is going home this week for a long break without first ensuring that all Americans who pay taxes won't be hit with big tax increases in January.


Existing tax relief across a broad range of incomes is set to expire at the end of this year, unless Congress takes action to extend that relief. That creates a serious economic danger for our country, because imposing big new taxes in the midst of a recession is a sure job killer — in a time when we already have nearly 10 percent unemployment!


But President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress refuse to vote to extend tax relief for all. Instead, they want to single out "the rich" for tax increases — even though upper-income Americans already pay a vastly bigger proportion of the income taxes than other income groups pay.


Alexander points out that hundreds of thousands of small businesses — a huge potential engine of job creation — would be hit by tax increases on the so-called "rich."


"Raising taxes on anybody in a recession makes it harder to create jobs," he said in a conference call with journalists earlier this week.


He said he hopes Congress will use its "lame-duck" session after it returns following the Nov. 2 elections to pass legislation preventing any Americans from facing a tax increase next year.


He also pointed out that costly ObamaCare socialized medicine has already begun having the negative effects that he and other observers predicted. ObamaCare is among the key reasons why insurers are now raising premiums, for instance.


Alexander is optimistic that "the American people are going to send a message to Washington" in the elections that they are upset about its fiscal irresponsibility. He believes majority Democrats will be on the receiving end of much of that frustration.


"Voters know who's in charge in Washington," he said.

We hope that lawmakers of both parties who are elected in November will take that message to heart.







It is no secret that lobbyists' money talks in the halls of power in Washington. While politicians are not supposed to grant legislative favors in exchange for campaign contributions, lobbyists obviously would not shower millions of dollars on lawmakers if they did not think they would get something in return.


The public vaguely understands that this kind of thing goes on, but it is still disturbing when we see it in the form of a direct request by a politician for a contribution.


Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., is not technically a "representative" in the U.S. House of Representatives, because under our Constitution, representatives may come only from the 50 states, not from the District of Columbia. But she is a so-called "delegate" in the House, and that entitles her to vote in committees of that body.


Recently, a voice mail that she left for an unnamed lobbyist was made public. On it, she brazenly expressed disappointment that the lobbyist had not yet donated to her.


After pointing out that she is chairwoman of a powerful House subcommittee, she said this on the voice mail: "I was frankly surprised to see that we don't have a record so far as I can tell of your having given to me despite my long and deep work. In fact, it's been my major work on the committee and subcommittee has been essentially in your sector. I am simply candidly calling to ask for a contribution. As a senior member of the committee and a subcommittee chair, we have obligations to raise funds. And I think it must have been me who hasn't frankly done my homework to ask for a contribution earlier, so I'm trying to make up for it by asking for one now when we particularly need contributions, particularly those of us who have the seniority and the chairmanships and are in a position to raise funds."


Asked about the unseemly voice mail, she defended it as a "standard request."


It should be noted that she did not directly promise favorable legislative treatment in return for a contribution. Still, she threw around her authority and her seniority as if to suggest that she was in a position to help the lobbyist.


Is she the only person in Congress who has done so? Certainly not. But do you not find her crass request for a contribution improper, to say the least? Does it not suggest that she has something other than her constituents' best interest at heart?








We won't go so far as to predict the dawning of a new Turkish "Age of Aquarius." We would not seek to


summarize the post-referendum mood with lines from the old musical that, "peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars." Nor would we try and inspire Parliament on its opening day with the lyrical prediction of "harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding."


But a mood of consensus is clearly and surely in the air. Is it the aftermath of a hard-fought referendum? Is it a stage in the mourning of the terrible price Turkey has paid in recent decades, years, months and weeks to the scourge of terror? Is it the hitherto elusive acceptance of roles and realities among the actors on Turkey's political stage? Or is just that the kids are back in school?


Whatever the explanation, a new deportment is exhibiting itself. We see no miracles, but we do sense more listening and more reflection in a polity that is, oddly, divided and polarized at the same time.


The prime minister is meeting with journalists and speaking to the importance of criticism. The PM and the opposition leader are talking with civility over their differences on the timetable for more constitutional reform. And the president is seeking to encourage this conversation.


Virtually all sides, from the military's chief of General Staff to the leader of the outlawed terrorist gang in the mountains, to the former leader of same who is locked in prison, to the leaders of the pro-Kurdish political parties and NGOs, all seem committed to finding an exit from the cycle of violence. It seems.


Even the drafting of the implementing legislation for the just-approved constitutional amendments restructuring the judiciary is proceeding inclusively, incorporating the constructive criticism of many of the same judicial institutions most critical of the referendum itself.


Certainly there are exceptions to this emergent pattern still forming on the political horizon. The provocative decision by the leader of the main nationalist party to take in Friday prayers at an ancient mosque within the boundaries of the Armenian ruins of Ani would fall in this category. The inexplicable arrest of Hanefi Avcı is another. Renewed investigations into the deaths of late President Turgut Özal and Gen. Eşref Bitlis may well revive an air of conspiracy.


But in the main, we see in Ankara a new maturity somehow at work. We again confess we can offer no concrete explanation. But we certainly welcome, praise and salute it.


On this opening day of the new legislative term, with an agenda brimming with so many pressing issues, we are frankly heartened. We hope that these democratic winds be similarly sensed by all those gathering today at the Grand National Assembly. We hope lawmakers continue their work in the democratic spirit in which we sense it is commencing.







No matter how heartily the pro-government media may have tried to mask the inescapable "alcohol" dimension in last week's organized attack on art galleries at the heart of Istanbul, the crime scene smells of alcohol. According to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, "Such incidents occur everywhere in the world." Everywhere in the world? In the EU, for instance? In Japan? Australia? Russia? China? Brazil?


Fortunately, such incidents do not occur everywhere in the world. But why do conservative Muslims get so violently annoyed when someone consumes alcohol in their vicinity? In fact, they don't – not all the time, not everywhere. How many criminal cases have been reported, say, in Sweden, in which Muslims attacked Swedes because they consumed alcohol? In Greece? In the Netherlands? How many of the nearly 20 million Muslim residents of the EU have violently attacked bars in their host countries?


Pious Muslims tend to tolerate if non-Muslims drink alcohol. They turn much less tolerant, however, when they witness fellow Muslims doing the same. Ostensibly, this is a consistent behavior as the "faithful" know that drinking alcohol amounts to sinning in Islam only. But the captivating question here is why can pious Muslims turn violently intolerant when their fellow Muslims sin?


Putting the attacks on art galleries under the journalistic magnifier, the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Some residents blamed the gallery owners and guests for drinking alcohol in public in violation of Islamic law" (Social, religious divide on display in attack on Turkish art walk, LA Times, Sept. 26, 2010).


The newspaper quoted the owner of one of the galleries attacked last week as saying that "she refrained from serving guests bottles of beer or glasses of wine and deliberately served alcoholic drinks in plastic cups out of sensitivity for the neighborhood's values." It also quoted one local as accusing the gallery people of "provoking people [locals]."


That's the heart of the matter: "Sensitivity for the neighborhood's values." "Provoking people." Which values? Why provocation? Muslims, pious or not so pious, no doubt, have every right to abstain from alcohol. They have every liberty to be sensitive about avoiding alcohol "themselves." But being "sensitive" if someone else drinks alcohol is something else. And it cannot be called "provoking [pious] people."


Neighborhoods cannot have their "values." Anyone that might be living or behaving outside the scope of whatever these "values" can be should be free to live in any neighborhood in safety and peace. Neighborhoods cannot impose "values" on their residents. But for some reason the "values reasoning" works in one direction only. Has anyone heard of an incident in which alcohol-drinkers attacked people for not drinking alcohol? Why do non-smokers, Muslim or otherwise, not tend to physically attack smokers?


Observant Muslims should understand that faith is a private matter. They must learn to respect various degrees of manifest observance and no observance. Remember, there are millions of Muslims (some, no doubt, in Turkey) who believe that men should not shake hands with women. Can they, now, accuse Mr. Erdoğan – who does shake hands with women —of being a bad Muslim, or not a Muslim at all? Of course not. Observant Muslims should understand that the Quran commands them to abstain from alcohol. It does not command them to attack those Muslims who do not do so.


But let's try to be more understanding. Conservative Muslims may be reacting to alcohol in fear that drinkers may disturb them and their families. That's a more reasonable explanation. But that optimistic explanation too fails. What do people normally do if drunken people disturb an individual or a whole neighborhood? Call the police. What, then, explains organized attacks and violence? But for a moment let's appreciate the "fear factor."


But, then, why do observant Muslims also have the habit of attacking people who do not fast during Ramadan? Why do millions of Muslims who do not fast smoke, eat and drink secretly and not publicly? Not to offend those who do fast. Yes, some do so out of respect to others. But what about those who do so in fear?


Why do some Muslims attack those who do not fast? Because they fear the others may be dangerous like drinkers? Of course not. Because the Quran commands them to break the bones of those infidels? Not necessarily. In fact the Quran clearly tells the faithful that sinning does not make a Muslim an apostate. Then why do they ignore the essential teaching of Quran and feel urged to fight the infidel whom the Quran says is not an infidel?


Earlier this year this column concluded that:


"The bad looks on drinkers are at the core of the 'Great Turkish Divide.' It is the observant Muslims' self-granted authority to be programmed to collectively forbade evil and command good rather than just individually avoid evil and choose good. Sadly, there is more than just a storm in a wine glass," (Storm in a wine glass, March 5, 2010, Daily News)."


Observant Muslims must learn to respect other Muslims who practice the same religion in different ways. They must learn to respect, also, "sinning." They should stop behaving like there are sinless Muslims.








The government botched up its Kurdish initiative last year. A badly planned attempt at showing leniency to outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, operatives went awry at the Habur border gate, when militants from the group turned the event into a victory parade. This grated badly on Turkish nerves given that the PKK was continuing to kill civilians and Turkish soldiers at that time, and the government's Kurdish initiative was seriously overshadowed because of this.


The results of the Sept. 12 referendum, which strongly endorsed the government's package of constitutional changes, strengthened Prime Minister Prime Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's hand, so he clearly believes there is an opportunity to push his Kurdish initiative forward again.


The fact that the constitutional changes got overwhelming support in ultra-nationalist strongholds also empowered Erdoğan to be bolder on this topic. The electorate in these strongholds clearly did not give much credence to the blood-curdling warnings and threats from the ultra-nationalistic National Movement Party, or MHP, and effectively told the government to continue with its plans.


An attempt at indirect dialogue with the PKK is now underway, even if it is a terrorist organization for Turkey, as well as the U.S. and the EU. This is indeed a brave step and recalls the moment when Tony Blair felt he had to go the extra mile to solve the IRA problem, shortly after he was elected in 1997.


This is therefore a hopeful moment for Turkey from the perspective of many people who are aware that a quarter century of PKK violence, and counter violence – including torture and persecution – by the authorities, led to nothing in the end. Instead we have an unsolved problem that has festered badly in the meantime.


If courage and determination to solve this problem by rational means had been displayed 15 years ago, then steps such as 24-hour broadcasting in Kurdish, or the decriminalization of Kurdish names – be they of people or places – and the allowing of Kurdish to be spoken freely in public, may have counted for much.


But they do not appear sufficient today precisely because the problem was allowed to fester.


It is therefore "bitter pill time" for the Turkish public which has to accustom itself to ideas that it would not have swallowed five years ago, let alone a decade or two ago.


The most sensitive of these include an acceptance that imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has a political role to play and the idea of a partial or total amnesty for PKK operatives. It was not easy for the British public to accept such things in relation to the IRA, and many hard-line Protestants in Northern Ireland still reject them. It will clearly not be easy for Turks.


Other bitter pills that will have to be swallowed by the Turkish public include ideas such as broader regional autonomy and self-administration for the predominantly Kurdish regions of Anatolia, education in the mother tongue, and the acceptance of Kurdish symbols such as flags being displayed publicly.


There will also have to be some accountability, especially for the horrible torture and other crimes committed against Kurdish citizens in Diyarbakır Prison and other such institutions around the country over the years. In addition to this there are historic facts such as the brutality involved in suppressing the Kurdish Dersim uprising in 1937, which will have to be acknowledged by Turks.


Whether all of this is done by means of a "truth and reconciliation commission," similar to the one in South Africa, or by means of a judicial process – whereby the guilty are tried, and the victims provided an apology and compensation – remains an open question.


Of course, the Kurdish side will also have to swallow some bitter pills if it truly wants the process of dialogue initiated by the Erdoğan government to lead somewhere positive for the Kurdish citizens of Turkey and for the country as a whole. This is an organization after all, which – for all the romantic sympathy it may have garnered over the years in Western countries – has committed unspeakable crimes against women and children, let alone men or members of the security forces.


The PKK leadership will also have to control its "The Real IRA"-type maverick splinter groups who will no doubt want to continue the violence no matter what. As for what can now clearly be defined as the political wing of the PKK, i.e. the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, it will have to come up with reasonable initiatives to that make the attempt at peace work.


Therefore there is no room for smugness in all this. The process will be incredibly sensitive, so the government has to be imaginative, yet cautious, as well as bold in managing it. In brief, there is much to do and no place for complacency.


On the other hand one should also not underestimate the importance of what is taking place with regard to Turkey's Kurdish problem, and maintain a stance of cautious optimism. History shows us, after all, that Turkey usually gets it right eventually, even if this comes at last moment, and more often than not after having exhausted every other useless option.









As the former police chief Hanefi Avcı's book was published in August, I was working on a different file. So, I didn't have a chance to read it and write a piece on it. However, I am closely following the developments on Avcı.


His arrest the other evening made me, as a journalist, think about him and take a short journey in my mind with the help of archives, too. Through the journey, I came across the following facts.


'The Emperor has no clothes,' he said in Susurluk


The first I heard his name was on Feb. 2, 1997 as he was the subject of a parliamentary hearing into the Susurluk case. Avcı's remarks caused a great deal of reaction in Ankara at the time.


Although admitting in his deposition that the Security Department had put its mark on extrajudicial executions, Avcı said illegal structuring within the state was spreading in the gendarmerie and the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, as well. For instance, he said, MİT used the code name Yeşil back then. Avcı's deposition on the Susurluk case is one of the historic documents on the "deep state" literature in Turkey.


Instigator in the Mole Scandal


I ran across his name again during the Feb. 28 post-modern coup period for the involvement in the "Mole Scandal" broke out in the Naval Force Headquarters. Security Dept. Intelligence Unit Director Bülent Orakoğlu used police officer Kadir Sarmusak as a spy and obtained some secret documents on the West Working Group. Sarmusak was then doing his military service as a non-commissioned officer in the Naval Force Intelligence Department. Tension arose between the government and the military following the delivery of the said documents to the prime minister of the period, Necmettin Erbakan.


Avcı was together with Orakoğlu in the meeting where Orakoğlu asked noncommissioned officer Sarmusak to spy on and bring in the documents. Avcı was the deputy security commissioner in the period. As Orakoğlu faced charges in the court, The General Staff Military Prosecutor requested Avcı's deposition. "It is our legal right as the police department if there are preparations for a coup," said Avcı in a statement signaling the Security Department's attitude on the subject matter.


Ten days in Beyşehir Prison


As the Refah-Yol coalition government fell, the first thing the new coalition formed by the Motherland Party, or ANAP, the Democratic Left Party, or DSP, and the Democratic Turkey Party, or DTP, did was remove Avcı from office to passive mission. His name came back to the agenda again on Feb. 3, 1998, when Avcı appeared on a TV news program titled "32. Gün" (32nd Day). He was quick to cause yet another earthquake so to speak. Avcı repeated his statements over the Susurluk case and openly included the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, in the gang plan of his.


The Chief of General Staff Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı of the period sent a letter to the government and asked for the launching of an investigation against Avcı for insulting the TSK. Four days later, Avcı was removed from office and punished with a loss of seniority for 26 months. Concurrently, the MİT put into process a four-month-old criminal complaint for revealing the state's secrets. Therefore, AvcI was arrested by the State Security Court, or DGM, in that period, on Feb. 21 and sent to Beyşehir Prison. Avcı was acquitted after spending 10 days in the prison.


Operations against the HSYK and MİT


As the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government was formed in late 2002, Avcı was appointed as the Director of Security Department Organized Crime and Anti-Smuggling Unit. He ordered a series of critical operations in that period, one of which was the Lancet-2 Operation. Avcı worked together with Prosecutor Ömer Süha Aldan for the operation. During the investigation, as part of the operation, a bribery gang was exposed. The gang had even leaked into the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK. And gang members were sentenced afterwards.


Another operation Avcı was involved in the same period was about finding out the connections between Alaattin Çakıcı, a mafia leader, and MİT. Avcı revealed that MİT was paying special attention to the Çakıcı dossier via the Chief Justice of the Appeals Court, Eraslan Özkaya, of the period. That was a scandal! The government replaced MİT Director Şenkal Atasagun with Emre Taner.


Why was he dismissed?


Avcı was dismissed from the seat of Organized Crime Department director and appointed to the Edirne Security Department. The claim then that he was pursing corruption claims against some groups close to the government was found audience in the Security Department.


As I heard of Avcı's detention the other evening for having ties with the Revolutionary Headquarters, a leftist organization behind a deadly attack in Istanbul in 2009, I couldn't help myself but to connect all these incidents together.


* Mr. Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece appeared Thursday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.









Muş Gov. Erdoğan Bektaş was said to be having talks with an American. The American guy told him "Turkey is like a rectangular board slanted to the West. Everything flows to the West. You have to adjust the board. If you don't, things will not work."


Bektaş nodded his head and said, "There is a cost involved here, doing it and not doing it."


Needless to say, the cost of not doing it is letting the knife be stabbed in the backbone of Turkey, so to speak.


"We have to use opportunities and potential very well," said Demirci. "The idea once was to have money and leave the region. So, we should make people to have hopes again for living here."


One of these men is Yaşar Demirci, the Eastern Anatolia Development Agency, or DAKA (, general secretary.


Demirci is one of the best sociologists in the country. Better, however, is that he settled in Van along with his wife and two daughters in 1997 while everyone was trying to leave the southeast for the western Anatolia.


Demirci started to teach at Van Yüzyıl University and was appointed as DAKA general secretary last year.


 Created support for 74 projects


DAKA is one of the 24 regional development agencies since 2006. In the organization 20-something young and dedicated personnel provide source and consultations to private sector investors in Van, Bitliş, Muş and Hakkâri.


"Modern stockbreeding, tourism and labor-intensive sectors are our priority," said Demirci. "Sectors that are found not attractive in the West have opportunities here because labor force is cheap and the region yearns for investments."


In less than a year DAKA provided support to 74 projects and donated 14 million Turkish Liras. This is not a serious amount of money, but many things can be done with money in the region. The projects supported will create jobs for 830 people.


"We are new. We are trying to learn about things we'll introduce. Definitely, our number of sources will

increase," said Demirci.


Incentive policies applied in Gaziantep, Konya and Kayseri have failed in Van, Bitlis, Muş and Hakkâri.


Per capita income in the region is one forth of Turkey average. Unemployment rate is drastic. Investments for

hospital, hostel, school and road have been recently allowed.


"In order to put the region at ease, 'positive discrimination' is needed," said a man quite familiar with the area.


"Planning should be provided for debts of the region and their share in the budget should be increased. Insurance, tax exempt and tax cuts as well as credit facilitation are granted for new jobs," he said.


Resources in the region, however, are mostly untouched. People are hardworking, willing and hungry for prosperity. As terror comes to an end, Turkey will fly high and we'll see a big booming here. "When all these begin, we'll be ready, too," adds Demirci.


Why not? We have seen "Anatolian Tigers," the local and regional businessmen of Anatolia. Perhaps, we'll see the "Southeastern Tigers" as well.


The most optimistic man is Muş Gov. Bektaş. "Someday we'll tell our children about terror, but they will not understand us," he says.


*Metin Münir is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece first appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.








The pulse of Turkish-U.S. relations is beating fast.


Turkey, with its "minimize loss" mentality, has increased its efforts, which is apparent in President Abdullah Gül's efforts in New York and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's meetings with 88 different people.


This is the situation: Washington is increasingly becoming upset with Ankara.


The origin of this lies in the approach to Israel. The Iranian issue comes in second and is not vital but causes pain in the stomach.


Each and every unfavorable step by Turkey toward Israel directly affects Turkish-American relations. Everybody is uncomfortable and tense and it distorts the country's image.


The majority of those upset voice their concern in the U.S. Congress, U.S. media and also some NGOs. The Jewish lobby which supported Turkey for many years doesn't understand the change in attitude, nor does it intend to do so.


In this case the Obama administration finds itself in a difficult situation.


The White House and State Department try to give their relations with Turkey a new direction. It is accepted that the former relations order has changed but no diagnosis is being made for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ahmet Davutoğlu. It is being investigated whether this twosome is good or bad when it comes to Israeli and U.S. (especially in the Iranian issue) politics.


There are important questions in the minds of people.


Washington: Resend your ambassador


The administration is working on trying to understand Ankara and its intention toward Israel and waiting for relations to calm down. It tries to inspire Turkey so negotiations with Israel can start over again saying: "A cessation in relations with Israel would increase tension in the region. Such a situation would not be bearable either for Turkey or for the United States. You already said what you had to say. Resend your ambassador and ease relations." When giving this advice it looks out for the benefit of Israel. It does not recommend that Israel apologize but tells us to calm down.


Ankara: Have them apologize and pay compensation


Ankara doesn't care. It continues with its former attitude, saying: "They've killed nine of our people. They need to apologize and pay compensation. As long as they don't do so we won't take a step backwards."


We have not arrived at the point of breaking up. For there won't be a break-up with the United States easily. But once it breaks, fixing it would be very difficult.


We are on the verge of entering dangerous waters.


If we consider the latest developments we'd see that the course is not very good.


For example, the fact that Gül and Peres could not meet was externally interpreted as Turkey "setting a condition." And the administration badly wanted this meeting to take place.


It was denied that ammunition bought by Israel from Azerbaijan would pass through Turkey. The prime minister openly showed where relations stand when he said during a press conference, "No more weapon or ammunition will pass our country on its way to Israel."


And this upset Washington very much.


As someone who follows these relations very closely put it, "Turkish-American relations have lost their charm."


Thank God those directing external politics in Ankara know the dangerous course. They believe that they've arrived at the most outer point and now need to smooth relations slowly.


President Gül and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu are working on at least not harming relations any further.


Thank God the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration rejected awarding those who lost their lives during the incident with "martyr" status. This was a very vital sign and the correct decision.


Turkey probably won't get back to its former relations with Israel but it won't be hostile either. For everybody in Ankara knows that there will be much harm in the case of long disputes with Israel.


What is important for Turkey is the lifting or at least an easing of the Gaza embargo. An advance in peace negotiations these days will also solve any congestion in Turkish-Israeli relations.


If not managed well, it may lead to a disaster.


Davutoğlu's two-day show at Harvard


Davutoğlu put on a show on Tuesday and Wednesday at Harvard University.


The word show is not something I came up with. It's a word used by an American source that followed the two-day visit closely.


Harvard is a university that produces consultants to the U.S. president, prepares reports and influences foreign relations. It is a place where the most important brains in the world are produced and it is full of egos that look down on people. They don't like people easily, and despise people when they make even the tiniest mistake.


Davutoğlu was invited by a very important program of the university, the Kokkalis Program. The Kokkalis Program is one of the most prestigious and famous programs at Harvard. It award scholarships to young people around the world and invites world leaders to the Kennedy School of Government to speak.


The foreign minister met with students for two days and spoke to the president of Harvard and faculty members on multiple occasions. He also had discussions with other brains invited by the Kennedy School and answered their questions.


Guests were not only university students or faculty members. When such important speakers are invited, then there are also people invited from outside the university. One person responsible for organizing this event said: "We did not expect such interest. But this time everybody wanted to come." He knew that people were curious about Davutoğlu, as he is perceived as a person that is "trying to estrange Turkey from the influence of the United States and the West."


Although Harvard was expecting to pull Davutoğlu to shreds it found someone completely different. A person who is just like them, a faculty member trying to apply theories, a person whose language they can understand and a person with a different mentality.


I wonder if he was able to convince people with his speeches that included his strategic depth, Turkey's Iran politics and most importantly the new approach to Israel based on historical perspective.


The source, which followed all speeches, made the following evaluation:


"He may not have convinced the entire audience but he succeeded in showing that Turkey has become a different country. In the minds of the audience he created a picture of a Turkey that is not turning its back on the West while turning towards the East but a Turkey producing its own politics. He criticized U.S. foreign politics but did not insult anyone while doing so. He gave the impression of a self-conscious foreign minister."


According to the Americans, Davutoğlu passed a class at Harvard.


But what a pity these things don't change with a series of conferences at Harvard.


What's important is to extinguish the fire burning underneath Washington.


Ankara's intention is not to extinguish the fire entirely. It is to lower its intensity so nothing will spill.








At a meeting in Parliament, for over two hours, the succeeding and preceding chairmen of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, discussed a set of current political agenda issues. The meeting was a surprise development for the media as it was not announced earlier, but apparently was a planned get-together which was achieved at the invitation of new CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.


Obviously, there can be nothing abnormal in a party leader inviting a parliamentary deputy of his party to have a discussion. Particularly, it is a civilized move for a party leader to invite his predecessor and exchange opinions with him on some important issues of the country. In Turkey, a country which as if parties are registered property of leaders, it is indeed rather rare to see a change in party leadership unless for some reason – poor health, death or coups – the leadership was vacated. In the CHP as well, if the sex tape scandal had not forced Deniz Baykal step down, there would not be a Kılıçdaroğlu chairmanship today. In democracies, however, leaders come and go with the votes of the delegates of the parties. And when they go, they just go. They do not pretend as if they have gone but actually take a break and return a while later when they believe people have forgotten the humiliating election defeat their party suffered or the scandal they were implicated in. Consultation between the "newcomer" and "former" leaders of a party is nothing abnormal in Western democracies as the "former one" is no threat to the "new one" but someone who has some invaluable experiences to share with the new leader.


Though Baykal went with a sex-tape scandal at a time when he still had strong aspirations to remain as party leader and probably still might have some hope of eventually returning to the helm of the party, Kılıçdaroğlu inviting him for a tête-à-tête political consultation demonstrates Kılıçdaroğlu's humble personality and self-confidence.


These being said, I must underline that what has been leaked to the media about the meeting was rather shocking and underlines some of the serious challenges the CHP leader will have to face in the period ahead.


Accordingly, Baykal gave Kılıçdaroğlu three important messages: 1- Call for a party convention, put the new bylaws into force, rejuvenate the party and exert your leadership; 2- The headscarf (turban) issue was long ago resolved by the Constitutional Court. Rehashing that issue will not be appreciated by the CHP grassroots and will not help the CHP get conservative votes. Rehashing the issue will just help the Justice and Development Party, or AKP; 3- Avoid using the "amnesty" word, be careful regarding the Kurdish opening moves of the government which might endanger Turkey's national and territorial integrity.


The November 2008 convention of the CHP, under Baykal's directives, had changed the bylaws of the party. That convention, among some other important structural changes within the party, had decided on new bylaws curtailing the powers of the communist-party-style strong secretary-general post and creating more than a dozen deputy chairman posts to be filled among party assembly members by the party chairman at his/her discretion. The new bylaws were to enter into force after the 2010 party convention. Yet at the extraordinary convention called in May in the wake of Baykal vacating the party leadership after a sex tape scandal, Secretary General Önder Sav – who was instrumental in Kılıçdaroğlu being elected as the successor of Baykal – managed to convince delegates to cancel the entering into force of the new bylaws and thus protected his powers as secretary-general.


Even though the new bylaws were designed to give Baykal – as if he was to stay in office for ever – absolute power in the CHP, indeed they might have helped the CHP rejuvenate itself and get rid of the strong secretary-general post, residue of the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and İsmet İnönü leadership periods. Of course at the time of Atatürk and İnönü it was normal to have a strong secretary-general as both leaders were busy with state affairs and could not be expected to allocate much time to the party. But times have long changed and there is no longer any need for such a strong secretary-general post. Even if theBaykal-drafted bylaws needed a touch of democracy, a new set of bylaws is a must for the CHP. Will Kılıçdaroğlu manage that and exert his leadership?


Baykal's complaints over the use of "amnesty" and the Kurdish opening, on the other hand, reflects the strong conservative constraints within the CHP that Kılıçdaroğlu must overcome and add flesh to the promising political jargon he has started to use.


So far, as it appears, Kılıçdaroğlu will not engage himself in a new bylaws debate and try to postpone the issue to a post-election convention in 2011. But this Saturday Sav is coming together with provincial heads of the CHP and might push to consolidate his power to the detriment of his old friend Baykal and Baykal loyalists.


Despite serious challenges, if he is to stay as leader Kılıçdaroğlu must demonstrate vigilance and courageously try to cater to the "change" expectations of the social democratic voters. Naturally, change should start within the CHP.









 President Zardari has told ministers and PPP women parliamentarians that a "one-time" flood tax is unavoidable. The news of such a tax has been hanging in the humid monsoon air for weeks. While there would ordinarily be little objection to a measure intended to help the millions left destitute by the worst natural disaster to befall our nation, there are various reasons for having reservations about such taxation. First among these is the feeling that the government has itself not done enough to help the flood victims. We would like to know how much has been paid by parliamentarians, because it is they who possess sufficient resources on their own to make a real difference. A recent report by an NGO highlighted the assets they had declared, and we all know the tax returns filed by legislators and other politicians make comic reading -- tragic, rather. The British high commissioner has confessed to being astonished by the fact that the floods have had such a limited impact on our politicians.

We have also not seen the austerity measures that should have come into place weeks ago and only a few MNAs have made the effort to visit the victims in the flood-hit areas. Funds do indeed need to be raised for flood relief. We cannot depend entirely on aid; the international community has warned repeatedly of this. But the first step forward needs to come from the government. Administration and defence expenses need to be slashed and money saved from other places. Worst of all, as regards a flood tax, the concerns about corruption will create only further angst among people who fear their hard-earned money may end up in private accounts. It is also true that the system of taxation in our country is far from just. Those with vast tracts of agricultural land, the people who rank as the wealthiest in the country, escape tax on their assets. If they are to be effectively taxed, then a banding system that defines wealth must be created and, within that, gradations of wealth as well. The richest should be taxed the hardest and their assets independently verified to prevent their escape. Those on low incomes and mid-range salary earners must be specifically excluded. Those with limited means have already made donations. It is unfair to ask them to do more. The time for pussyfooting around the issue of untaxed or minimally taxed high-earners is long past. Now is the time for them to put money back into the land out of which they have been taking it for so long -- and in doing so bring a little equity into one of the world's least equitable nations.






Pakistan is already in receipt of considerable sums of donor aid and with the Kerry-Lugar Bill monies may be about to start moving in this direction the question of disbursal is uppermost. Donor nations are often wary of giving money to our government simply because they do not trust it to either spend it wisely or indeed to spend it at all -- at least on what it is supposed to be spent. Despite the perceptions that the entire NGO sector here is also riddled with corruption, there is a well-established network of reputable NGOs which are capable of delivering a quality service. These are agencies and entities which already have a history of participation in monitoring procedures and are publicly accountable; and which are attractive to donors. Conversely, government agencies which have been in receipt of direct funding have been found wanting in terms of audit trails when monitors eventually gained access to them. 

Ideally, aid cash should go directly to the government, but we do not live in an ideal world. The Asia Foundation, with its long history of working in Pakistan, is going to administer over 400 grants of varying sizes to civil society organisations, policy research and training bodies and business and media organisations. Interestingly, grants will also go to government bodies and agencies tasked with the advancement of women's rights. While this is a much-needed initiative, it is also a possible indicator of the shape of things to come. Ironically, we have an opportunity via programmes such as this to nurture a culture of accountability. That government agencies are a part of the grant cycle is likewise encouraging, and the irony is enhanced by the possibility of these agencies learning their accountability lessons from the much-maligned NGO sector.






 While Pakistan lags behind in many areas, it has galloped forward in some spheres. One of these are the 90 million mobile-phone connections reported by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority in a country of some 165 million people. This is in part a reflection on the poor state of land-based telephone communication, with millions going for the easier option of cell-phone connections. Texting services in Urdu make their use even more convenient. The technology can be used in innovative ways to make a real difference to lives. Whereas for many urban users mobile phones act as a fashion accessory, in more remote locations they offer a vital link with the outside world. With floods cutting off communities for days, services set up by innovative groups of individuals allow people to highlight needs by sending messages. 

The development of technology has made a huge difference in times of disaster; it has been used to generate maps guiding relief workers as to what is needed and where. What we need to think about is how we can use the vast number of mobile phones to serve other social purposes. Perhaps messages about education for girls, family planning, vaccination and a great deal else can be spread. The potential is there. The government, NGOs and welfare bodies need to consider how this technology can be used as a means to help us tackle some of the issues we face.







The Pakistani predicament cannot be understood or fully explained without a reference to history. We are what we are in large part because of the circumstances of our birth. That we were unprepared for statehood was no big disability. Nations learn on the march and we could have done the same. But we were scarred by something else. Our vision of statehood was very limited. In that sense it was flawed.

Partition and independent statehood should have meant a liberation of the spirit, a broadening of our mental horizons. But in our endeavour to construct an ideological state, resting on a system of thought which drew inspiration from the past, we set about erecting high walls and embankments around national thought. We should have been a progressive nation. We became instead an outpost of reactionary thinking.
To a large extent this reflected the kind of leadership we had. The Indian national movement had produced a whole range of outstanding leaders, spanning the political spectrum from right to left. With the perennial exception of Jinnah and one or two others, the leadership of the Muslim League was plodding and lustreless, nawabs and sardars drawn mostly from the aristocracy and the landed class. Such a leadership could not create a progressive nation.

There was another vital difference between the Indian national movement and the movement for the creation of Pakistan. The former struggled for independence from the British whereas the primary aim of the latter was to seek safeguards for the Muslim community against the Hindu majority.

Jinnah was amongst the first of the Indian nationalists. We must always bear this in mind. But on the whole the Muslim League leadership was not in the forefront of the fight against the British. That was not part of their outlook. Worried about the future they sought bulwarks against Hindu rule. And, given their social background, they were mortally afraid of anything that carried even a remote hint of socialism.

This was not a fighting mentality. This was a defensive mentality and its nature put a stamp on the texture and psychology of the new state. Small wonder then that audacity and the taking of risks, the ability to think big, were not the defining characteristics of our birth.

We did not prosecute the Kashmir war, 1947-48, with the vigour that the enterprise deserved. Jinnah was an ailing person and the men around him, a few exceptions apart, were men of straw. Where we should have lost no time in drawing up a constitution we wasted time in theological debates, one outcome of which was the Objectives Resolution.

Where we should have abolished feudalism and distributed Hindu property equitably, we allowed feudalism to retain its stranglehold in West Pakistan (East Pakistan being different) and distributed evacuee property on the basis of self-filed claims, opening the door to widespread graft and forgery.

The dominance of the bureaucracy over state affairs was no accident. The calibre of the Muslim League leadership almost invited bureaucratic meddling and interference. The higher bureaucracy being deeply conservative in nature, its growing influence meant a predisposition towards a policy of dependence upon the West. Our status as the United States' most allied ally and our membership of the anti-communist alliance were thus foreordained.

Our geographic location or, as we are wont to say, our strategic location, at the crossroads of history and the march of empires, should have given us confidence and strengthened a spirit of independence. In our case it gave rise to a sepoy mentality: a willingness to serve foreign interests at minimum wages. Before independence our so-called martial races served most loyally the British Empire. After independence our army has felt little qualms in serving American interests under one guise or the other.

So many things have changed over the years but this aspect of our national policy remains fixed in stone. We concluded our first military agreement with the US in 1951. Sixty odd years later we remain locked in America's military embrace, fighting a war whose direction and purpose are defined by the US.
Israel's American alliance has strengthened Israel. Israel uses and even manipulates this alliance to its benefit. Because as a nation we lack independence of thought and judgment our American alliance has had just the opposite effect, making us not more independent and strong but bolstering a spirit of subservience. When they feel the need Israeli leaders don't hesitate to stand up to the US. Our leaders, generally, quake at the prospect. This has less to do with our physical circumstances than with the quality of our thinking subservience being first of all a mental condition.

In India it was the quality of the leadership thrown up by the independence movement which ensured civilian dominance over the military. In Pakistan it was the sub-standard quality of the political leadership which ensured the military's dominance over decision-making. Given the material at hand, no other outcome was possible.

Pakistan also suffers from another disability: the overweening influence of Punjab in all matters great and small. Punjab's has been the dominant hand and, more importantly, the dominant thinking in shaping Pakistan. East Pakistan was pushed towards separatism because Punjab could not accommodate East Pakistani aspirations. Punjabi judges, acting in concert with Gen Zia (as his willing accomplices), hanged Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. When Pakistan's accounts before the final judgment seat are drawn up, Punjabi generals, mandarins and senior judges will have much to answer for.

The ideology of Pakistan is largely a Punjabi artefact. Pakistan as fortress-of-Islam is also, for the most part, a Punjabi concept. Islamabad as Pakistan's capital is a Punjab idea. For much of Pakistan's history the Punjabi elites and the army high command have marched to the same tune.

Punjab, however, was ill-suited to the role it had to assume, lacking experience of rulership and governance. In the over two thousand years elapsing between the invasion of Alexander and the partition of India, the only native ruler -- as opposed to Turks and Afghans -- which Punjab produced was the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh (whose conquest of Peshawar, by the way, ensured that Peshawar would be, on the annexation of Punjab by the British, a part of the British Empire and, by historic extension, a part of Pakistan).

No wonder, Pakistan's affairs are in such a mess. Through an accident of history Punjab is propelled into a position of leadership and it makes a mess of the whole thing.

Punjab and the army are synonymous. Punjab and the ISI are synonymous. Punjab and the threat from India are synonymous. The ideological state dedicated to a very primitive notion of national security -- underpinned by huge outlays on defence -- which we have created, is a Punjabi invention. The remaking of Pakistan has to begin with dismantling the national security state. Otherwise the sepoy mentality will remain alive and our begging bowl will not break.

The Delhi Sultanate, beginning with Qutbuddin Aibak and ending with Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi, and the Mughal Empire, from Babar onwards, were not fortresses of Islam. They were secular enterprises resting upon a superiority of arms and a vision of government in which the highest posts were occupied by the Muslim aristocracy but which, lower down the rung, allowed room for votaries of other faiths. This was out of necessity because such a vast kingdom could not be administered on sectarian or exclusivist lines.

The greatest Muslim kings and emperors of India were those who were the least bigoted. The worst were champions of fanaticism such as Aurangzeb. The Mughal empire's tragedy was Aurangzeb's victory in the war of succession which broke out during the lifetime of the Emperor Shahjehan. For the future of the empire Dara Shikoh, genial and tolerant, would have been a far better choice.

Pakistan's problem is the blinkers on the eyes of its governing classes. There has to be a liberation of the mind, a cultural revolution, before Pakistan can emerge from the shadows into the light. And before it can leave the sorrows of the past behind.








 That Mr Barrack Hussein Obama found Mahmud Ahmadinejad's words "outrageous, disgusting, and offensive," and his cohorts in America and Britain resonated his sentiments is just what one had expected from a man who came to power on the strength of false promises (Remember: Yes, we can!), but who fell in line within days of his entrance into that symbol of white supremacy where no black man was ever supposed to set foot. 

Notwithstanding the emotional content of this exchange in New York last week, the sad fact remains: it is Obama's remarks -- and not those of Ahmadinejad's -- which are disgusting and outrageous to millions of people around the world; a fact that will never be acknowledged by those intoxicated by the power of their military might; for these are people who can shed crocodile tears over the death of 3000 citizens of their country but who are not willing to even acknowledge that their hands are drenched in the blood of several hundred thousand men, women, and children of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

No, there is no way to open their eyes, for it is not the eyes which go blind, but the hearts. And no human being has the power and ability to open sealed hearts. What Mahmud Ahmadinejad said at the United Nations is what at least 83 per cent of the Muslim world's population has been saying ever since 2001: no independent inquiry has ever taken place to ascertain the truth of what actually happened on September 11, 2001; let us have an impartial international inquiry. Let us truly find out who was behind these attacks. And that is all that Mahmud Ahmadinejad said; what is so disgusting about it?

Horrendous as the events of September 11, 2001 were, they pale in comparison with the rain of missiles on the homes of innocent citizens of Baghdad, radioactive ammunition used in Faluja, the agony and suffering of thousands upon thousands of deformed children in Iraq now suffering because of the poisoning of the water system and contamination of earth by US and British bombs, the death of countless civilians in Pakistan through drone attacks, and the untold suffering and misery of the Afghans whose land has been scorched by unrelenting terror unleashed by America's covert and overt military actions now through the orders of the man who found Ahmadinejad's remarks disgusting but who cannot see what he himself has ordered!

Such is the nature of our times; such is the nature of this blindness that a man sees nothing but phantoms of his own making. The entire Western press was in an uproar over Ahmadinejad's remarks; exactly what one would expect from a media controlled by a few men and women who cannot understand how there can be one country in the world that does not bow down to the tyranny of their rulers and the might of their sophisticated weapons. 

A comparison of what Obama said with Ahmadinejad's subsequent remarks on his outburst is instructive:


instead of retorting back the next day, Ahmadinejad addressed a press conference in New York and said: "I did not pass judgment, but don't you feel that the time has come to have a fact-finding committee."

To be sure, the showdown in New York was just another American verbal attack against Iran and its leadership; Ahmadinejad provided them with a perfect excuse to expose their hypocrisy and shallow moral character, but by the time he left America, Ahmadinejad's remarks had already been broadcast to the entire world by none other than the American media; this was indeed clever on his part and a sign of his political acumen. 

For one seldom hears on American airwaves words like: "The Americans should not occupy the entire Middle East, bomb wedding parties, annihilate an entire village, just because one terrorist is hiding there." Or a clear, passionate and honest appraisal of the Zionist problem in Palestine which goes back to the Second World War: "Under the pretext of protecting some of the survivors of that war, the land of Palestine was occupied through war, aggression and the displacement of millions of its inhabitants; it was placed under the control of some of the War survivors, bringing even larger population groups from elsewhere in the world, who had not been even affected by the Second World War; and a government was established in the territory of others with a population collected from across the world at the expense of driving millions of the rightful inhabitants of the land into diaspora and homelessness. 

This is a great tragedy with hardly a precedent in history. Refugees continue to live in temporary camps, and many have died still hoping to one day return to their land. Can any logic, law or legal reasoning justify this tragedy? Can any member of the United Nations accept such a tragedy occurring in their own homeland?"
Ahmadinejad's showdown in New York also proved one more time that even one voice is enough to break through the web of lies and deceits constructed over years. Speeches at the UN have become a terribly nauseating affair, but when Ahmadinejad spoke last week and America and some of its allies decided to walk out, it was a scene worth watching, for in their departure was the proof that truth still matters.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:








The Supreme Court, while hearing a suo motu case on September 27, 2010, questioned the authority and jurisdiction of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to waive off Rs 256 billion bank loans during the period from 1971 to 2009 under Banking Companies Ordinance. The apex court directed the SBP counsel to submit details of at least ten cases from each year which met two conditions set in Section 33B of Banking Companies Ordinance, 1962 and which were pre-requisites for writing off loans. In the wake of February 2008 elections, the people of Pakistan thought that the rulers would respect their mandate by ending rent-seeking and make journey towards a true democratic polity. The ruling elite however as usual and expected resisted any such change.

The powerful ruling elite having the support of traders and clergy is bound to resist any move aimed at recovering the wealth amassed by them -- this money is their main source of power. The privileged classes, despite all their differences, are united as far as financial corruption, tax evasion, plundering of national wealth are concerned.

They feel threatened whenever a public debate takes place in media about their tax declarations and figures of loan write-offs.

Tragically, the apex court did not decide the issue of loan-write-offs though suo moto action was taken in 1996 and 2008. In 2008, according to press reports, the Supreme Court took serious notice of the fact as to how banks wrote off a staggering amount of Rs 125 billion as "bad debts" during 2000-2006, against Rs 30 billion written off during 1985-1999. According to reports, larger numbers of loans were written off under Circular No 29/2002, issued by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), of which major beneficiaries had been politicians and industrialists.

During the self-proclaimed "transparent era" of Musharraf-Shaukat, the loans write-offs in just seven years (2000-2006) crossed the figure of Rs125 billion, whereas in the much-publicised "corrupt eras" of elected governments (1985-1999) it was just Rs 30 billion. This comparison speaks for itself and does not require any further comment. The country's banks and other financial institutions wrote off an amount of over Rs 30 billion during the governments of Muhammad Khan Junejo, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. During the two tenures of Nawaz Sharif (1990-93 and 1997-99) total loans of Rs 22.35 billion were written off -- in his first tenure, a total of Rs 2.39 billion were written off and during his second, the amount went up to Rs 19.96 billion. The written off loans during the two tenures of Nawaz Sharif constituted approximately 74.5 per cent of the total of Rs 30.18 billion, written off between 1986 and 1999. During the two tenures of late Benazir Bhutto, a total of Rs 7.23 billion loans were written off, constituting 24.2 per cent of the total written off loans -- Rs 494.97 million in her first tenure and Rs 6.74 billion in the second term.

During the Musharraf-Shaukat era, an unholy alliance of bankers, businessmen-cum-politicians and bureaucrats managed to plunder the public money through an amnesty scheme from SBP, whereas banks had liquid securities to recover the loans. The SBP in the suo moto case submitted before the apex court that amongst the beneficiaries of Circular No 29/2002 were two sitting chief ministers of PML-Q regime.

The ruling elite skillfully engineered the amnesty scheme to get the benefit of write-offs and a consequential concession in tax law for no-taxation of benefits derived, whereas their personal wealth kept on increasing. All these beneficiaries of loan write-offs still possess assets worth billion of rupees. The criminal culpability of successive governments in this matter has tarnished the image of Pakistan in the eyes of the global community as a haven for the corrupt, plunderers and tax evaders.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1996 (Reference: Dawn dated October 16, 1996), took suo moto cognisance under Article 189 of the Constitution of Pakistan, took up this issue and the expressed intention of studying all the laws governing loan write offs. The apex court vowed to make authoritative pronouncement that "would eliminate the chances of misusing the laws for siphoning of public money." There is no record of what happened to that public-interest litigation case, it appears from the recent proceedings that the case is still pending after a lapse of 14 years.

The public interest litigation originated from a reference filed by then President, late Ghulam Ishaq Khan against a PPP MNA Rao Rasheed Ahmad, who as a member of loan write-off committee blatantly ordered the write off of a loan to his wife. There have been many such examples where the rich managed to plunder the savings of small depositors in a shameless manner. An unholy alliance of bankers, businessmen-cum-politicians and bureaucrats has destroyed the entire banking/financial system.

The politics of writing-off of loans in this country requires proper investigation and study as it will unveil may "big names" that are responsible for corruption and failure of the democratic process in the country. The country lost billions of rupees in the form of public revenues because of bad debts written off by the banks on the directions of the SBP. The Government of Pakistan, SBP and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) never considered the report of the Auditor General of Pakistan in this regard, showing a loss to the public exchequer of Rs 120 billion as far back as 1992. It is a matter of record that theBoard of Revenue in the presence of this audit report from the auditor general of Pakistan, issued another circular-instructions on February 4, 1993 vide its letter No 13(26)/IT-1/79 giving further concessions to the banks. The cases relating to plundering of public money to the tune of billions and blatant abuse of powers by rulers and their henchmen pose a serious threat to democratic culture.

The unscrupulous landed aristocrats and businessmen (some of whom are now politicians and elected members), state functionaries and corrupt bankers joined hands to deprive this nation of billions of rupees and colossal public revenues. The managers of the State Bank and FBR should be taken to task to explain who had asked them to issue "administrative instructions" in gross violation of law for loan write offs and giving tax benefits to the beneficiaries. The inquiry into loan write offs will reveal the modus operandi under which public money was siphoned as well who were the real beneficiaries. If we want to establish true democracy in Pakistan, the public money looted by these criminals should be recovered and all those who facilitated them should be punished.

The writers are tax lawyers, authors and teach at LUMS.

Emails: and








Recently, a fierce controversy erupted in the United States after the idea to erect Cordova House near Ground Zero was mooted by a Kuwaiti immigrant, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. The centre, a 15-story building, is proposed to be built 600 feet from where the World Trade Centre stood until the Sept 11 attacks. The complex will have a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, a swimming pool, a restaurant and a bookstore. Imam Feisal is a moderate Muslim who preaches the progressive version of Islam and emphasises its compatibility with American values.

The centre is named after Cordova in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. Cordova is famous for the coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews under the Moors. In America there was religious freedom, until the Sept 11 attacks sparked the debate of whether Islam poses a threat to American values. 9/11 was a traumatic incident that took the lives of 3,000 innocent people. But rather than investigating the underlying causes that prompted 19 radical Muslims to crash hijacked planes into the Twin Towers, the coterie of neocons launched a crusade against Islam.

President Obama strongly defended the Cordova Centre project during his speech at an Iftar dinner at the White House. He asserted that "Islam is a part of America" and also expressed appreciation for the contributions of American Muslims in the strengthening of the United States. The president's remarks triggered a furore as the opponents of the Ground Zero mosque were already indignant when the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the project in May by a vote of 29-1. 

But two days later, President Obama, in efforts to control political damage caused by his comments in favour of the Cordova Initiative, diluted his stance against the bigots. Perhaps the president has forgotten that the building of the centre will be a true victory of the voice of reason over the voice of dogmatism.
Those who object to its construction view the project as primarily an affront to the relatives of 9/11 victims. The sceptics hold the stance that the centre will become the breeding ground for militant Muslims and that thus the project will present a security threat to America. A dispassionate analysis makes it crystal clear that all these objections are preposterous and ridiculous. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, himself acknowledged the fact that American Muslims felt as much grief over the shameful incident of 9/11 as did other Americans. 
The critics must keep it in mind that blocking the construction of the Islamic centre will imperil the United States' centuries-old values of religious freedom and political liberty. In addition to offending the religious feelings of American Muslims, it will allow extremist elements to fan inter-religious dissensions in the flourishing cosmopolitan cultural atmosphere of the United States. Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich miss the point that promoting inter-religious harmony and cooperation is the only tool against religious fanaticism. The Republicans seem to be on a mission to mislead public opinion by twisting facts, whether it is on the question of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or that of Cordova House.

The supporters of the project say that the centre will be a symbol of tolerance and pluralism. The centre will not entirely be a place of worship. Instead, it will provide a forum for a host of cultural activities to the citizens living in the neighbourhood. The objective of the proposed centre is to foster inter-faith harmony and provide people of diverse backgrounds a place of learning, dialogue and understanding. Besides, this initiative will also allow Muslims a golden opportunity to clear out misunderstandings clouding their faith and repair strained Islam-West relations.

The truth is that the people who want to establish the centre are themselves Americans. The construction of the mosque near Ground Zero is aimed at bridging the differences and bring the people from different faiths closer by highlighting the commonalities. The support of other religious communities will go a long way to defeat the pernicious agenda of extremists to ignite conflict between Islam and other religions.

The founding fathers of America envisioned their country as being dedicated to democratic ideals. To deny a religious community its legitimate freedoms because of the criminal acts of a few rogue elements will be betraying the vision for which the "Land of Liberties" was founded.

If US authorities succumb to bigoted feelings on the issue of the complex, it will strengthen the hands of extremists and they will play up this issue to popularise their slogan that Islam is at war with the West as a whole. President Obama should stick to his guns and refuse to give in to the pressure of rightwing hawkish Republicans. At present the world stands in dire need of promoting common ideals of humanity. 

The writer is an advocate and teaches Constitutional and International Law at the Punjab University. Email: naumanlawyer@








 Brinkmanship is the name of the game in our blessed land. The government makes threatening noises to take on the Supreme Court and then subsides at the last minute. On its part, the court seems ready to deliver the ultimate blow, and then becomes "cool as ice and deep as an ocean," in the words of the chief justice. 
The game does not stop here. The military, according to the New York Times, has given an ultimatum to the government to clean up its act, or else. What if Zardari and company say no or dawdle about doing a bit here and a bit there, leaving their crony core intact? Will the generals cry foul and pull the plug on them? 
It is turning out to be an intricate chess game and Zardari is a good tactical player. He may not be wise, in the sense of understanding the larger scheme of things, but he is canny. He is good at calculating what others can or cannot do and has no shame in beating a hasty retreat if things become hot.

He understands well that the space for the military to take any drastic action has shrunk after nine years of Musharraf. It has not disappeared, but Zardari knows that the generals' ability to dictate terms is relatively circumscribed. He would give in if he sees a red line but is quite ready to blithely ignore pre-danger yellow signals.

It would be a judgment call for him to figure out whether the latest pressure from the military to improve governance is the last chance saloon or not. His prime minister does not think so because he is not ready to fire any allegedly corrupt minister. Is he being foolhardy, or is this the party line?

There is little doubt that some sort of crunch time is approaching. The military is deeply perturbed about the state of the economy, and it is not the only one. There is a deep sense of malaise in the country about what lies ahead. Inflation is projected at 25 per cent; investment is at a standstill and government on the verge of bankruptcy. 

Not all of it is due to corruption in high places, but add incompetence to this and it becomes a lethal combination. The new economic team led by Hafeez Sheikh has good credentials with Nadeem Ul Haque in planning and the superb addition of Shahid Kardar's steady hand at the State Bank. The question is, will they be given space to turn things around?

A terrible bleeding wound are the state-owned corporations, and it is here that corruption in high places is having a serious impact. The power sector is the worst, with WAPDA taking the lead in questionable practices. The Steel Mills saga is widely known. The story of its pillage is a textbook study in loot and plunder. PIA is virtually dead and on life support. 

One can go on and on. Every state enterprise of this poor nation has been a happy hunting ground for crooks. Virtually on a daily basis, the newspapers report one shenanigan after another, but no one in government is bothered. The recent appointment of a jailbird crony by the prime minister with no qualification as head of the OGDC indicates a certain contempt for public opinion. 

There is little doubt that this state of affairs is having a serious impact on the economy. People and politicians are corrupt in many countries of the world, but their economies are stronger and can easily absorb corrupt practices. Obvious examples are Japan, Italy and even India, where what the corrupt politicians take away is a miniscule proportion of their economy. In Pakistan's case, it is significant because the cake is smaller.
The million-dollar question is how can this paradigm be changed? No one wants democracy to suffer, even the military, from all accounts. There seems to be no stomach within it for any kind of overt intervention. It has understood very well after long years in power under Musharraf that it has no magic bullet to solve the nation's problems. It is good to see generals now freely acknowledging privately that they have little training or know-how to rule the country. 

The media has been shouting about corrupt practices from the rooftops but is having little impact. It imagines itself to be the new player in the power equation, but if the politicians develop a thick skin and are willing to live with the barbs thrown at them, it becomes impotent. It has no answer to being ignored. 

In theory, the ultimate game-changers are the people. If they rise up and demand better governance, the rulers cannot ignore them. But there seems little chance of any kind of concerted movement on their part, crushed as they are under the weight of inflation and the sheer struggle for survival. 

The politicians in opposition like Nawaz Sharif, who would want a change in the style of governance if not the government, are apprehensive about damaging the system if they push too hard. Any attempt by them to mobilise the people seems unlikely.

This brings us to the last resort, the judiciary. The Supreme Court has been pushing in all directions. It has shot down dubious appointments and through suo moto actions has stopped many a corrupt practice. In the process it has taken some negative propaganda, but it has persisted. 

The problem for it is that it is in the end a moral institution with certain constitutional powers, but no ability to enforce its writ if the government of the day decides to ignore its directives. This has been the case for a while now and the NRO decision is a classical example. 

Irrespective of whether it is a good or a bad judgement, the government of the day has no choice but to implement it. This the Zardari team has refused to do and the impatience in the court is increasing. If nothing substantial comes out by Oct 13, the outcome for Gilani and company could be serious.

One last piece of the puzzle in our context is the attitude of the Americans. According to the New York Times article, if there was any soft spot in the past for the Zardari regime in the US, it no longer exists. With a fair amount of American money in the pipeline, they--and their allies in Europe and Japan--are very concerned about corruption and bad governance. 

It has taken a while, but now the military, the judiciary and the Americans seem to be on the same page. This combination of forces in the Pakistani context is a lethal brew. It would be wise for the Zardari-led PPP government to recognise that the time has come for it to clean up its act, or it will be curtains.









TWO developments that took place consecutively on Tuesday and Wednesday provide ample proof of existence of a global conspiracy to malign and destabilize Pakistan. The Sky News on Tuesday crossed all limits of imagination by reporting that militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes in London akin to the 2008 assault on Mumbai as well as attacks on cities in France and Germany. And on Wednesday, in his address to the UN General Assembly, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna 'shared international concerns' about the 'growth and consolidation of militancy and terrorism in Pakistan'.

Pakistan military spokesman has done well by rebutting the wild speculation by Sky News, denying existence of such a plot and he rightly pointed out that the story does not quote any credible source. His contention is borne out by the US security officials, who did not confirm that a plot had been disrupted and only believed that the threat of a plot or plots remained there in theory. It is understood that the Western media is being fed by its intelligence agencies and the objective is to provide justification for aggressive actions inside Pakistan. There have been air and ground violations of Pakistan by Western occupation forces in Afghanistan and such stories are being planted to camouflage loathsome killing of civilians and innocent people by gunship helicopters and artillery shelling. The disclosure made by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, while winding up discussion on law and order situation in the Senate on Wednesday, that some foreign intelligence agencies recruit local people and train them for use against targets inside Pakistan or abroad with the sole objective of destabilizing the country and maligning it in the comity of nations, is an eye-opener. As far as India is concerned, on the one hand it is showing interest for a dialogue in the backdrop of the ongoing indigenous movement in Occupied Kashmir but at the same time it is churning out venomous propaganda in formal and written speeches before the world assembly. It is strange that a country which is guilty of State-sponsored terrorism killing dozens of Kashmiris daily should point accusing fingers towards others. Anyhow, these instances show that some countries of the world have joined hands against Pakistan and our Foreign Office, intellectuals, strategists and media will have to make sustained efforts to counter this propaganda.








ALL Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) senior leader Syed Ali Geelani has termed the US President Barack Obama's statement linking Indian bid to become permanent member of the UN Security Council to settlement of Kashmir issue as an important breakthrough. According to Times of India, the US President would convey this message to the Indian leadership during his forthcoming visit to New Delhi.

Though the US President has not made any formal or policy statement on the subject yet the report does indicate concern of the US leader about the plight of the Kashmiri people and potential dangers to peace in the region. In fact, during his election campaign, Mr. Obama made his intention known to take special interest in resolution of the long-standing conflict, promising to appoint a special representative for the purpose. However, the move was effectively scuttled on assumption of power by Obama by American bureaucracy under intensive lobbying and campaign by India. President Obama would be doing a great service to the regional and global peace if he takes up the issue in right earnest with India. Though the United States acknowledges Kashmir as a dispute, unfortunately it is still not willing to play the role of a neutral mediator because of its economic and strategic interests in India, which is being eyed as a lucrative market of over a billion people and a possible counter-weight to China. But we would point out to the US President that as a sole superpower, his country has certain responsibilities and obligations, which should not be sacrificed at the altar of self-interests. India has long been aspiring to become a mini-superpower and acquisition of a permanent berth at the UNSC would surely give a boost to its ambitions but strangely enough New Delhi is not willing to demonstrate maturity expected of a candidate for such a prestigious slot. It uses coercive diplomacy vis-à-vis its small neighbours and uses brutal means to suppress the legitimate cause of Kashmiri people and the worst aspect of the entire episode is that it has shown scant respect for the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir issue. We hope that the US President and his administration would not beat about ideas only and take practical steps to resolve Kashmir issue which is considered a nuclear flashpoint.





THE 50bps hike in the interest rate to 13.5%, effective for October-November period, has understandably evoked bitter response from the business community. This was the second consecutive hike in the rate following a similar raise announced in July for August-September period.

As usual, the State Bank, while jacking up the rate has taken the plea that it was motivated by its desire to tackle the surging inflation and widening fiscal deficit. However, no such impact was visible during the last two years when interest rate was increased significantly but no signs were witnessed of inflation coming down. We are sorry to point out that the SBP, time and again, proposes prescriptions to tackle inflation that have had more side effects than curing the targeted disease. Controlling inflation is not all about hiking the interest rate but has many other dimensions as well, which must be kept in view while taking such steps. Hike in rate squeezes investment and increases the cost of production leading to loss of exports as our products become uncompetitive in the international market. Unfortunately, our policy-makers and planners prefer to apply old formulas in the highly complex environment of the present-day world. They do the same to increase tax collection by hiking prices of petroleum products and utilities forgetting that these make life of the common man miserable and have negative impact on the overall situation and, therefore, there is a need to come out with out-the-box solutions to the problems facing our economy. We hope that the new Governor of the State Bank would discard this trend and would adopt a visionary approach to rectify the wrongs of the economy.









When Bill Clinton fought against George Bush Senior in the 1992 US Presidential elections, he kept the focus on the economy, going so far as to get coined a motto: "It's the economy, stupid", thereby ensuring that his entire team focused on bread and butter issues. Clinton understood that voters vote with their wallets, rewarding those who are seen as promoting prosperity, and punishing candidates whose policies may perpetuate poverty. If Barack Obama got elected as US 

President two years ago, a large part of the explanation may lie in the fact that his Republican Party predecessor, George W Bush, created an economic slowdown by going along with policies that promoted uncontrolled speculation and greed in business and banking circles. Even more devastating to US prosperity, Bush Junior ran two wars in the most expensive way possible, funneling contracts to high-cost US suppliers (many close to Vice-President Dick Cheney and other key supporters of his) rather than source materiel from the most cost-effective source, the way the US military operated during the Vietnam war.

Barack Obama's obsession for more than two years prior to the 2008 elections was to get elected, and these days, his sole passion seems to be to get re-elected. In order to ensure this, he is willing to adopt policies that appeal to the voters, but which can destroy the long-term health of the US economy. An example is outsourcing. There is no way that he can expand the coverage of healthcare and other services without relying on low-cost providers such as India. However, in order to win a few extra votes, he has followed Bush-Cheney in seeking to steer procurement only to US companies, in violation of WTO commitments and the rules of sound economics. The consequence is likely to be a ballooning of costs that may wreck his programs, most of which are very sound and indeed admirable, such as universal healthcare to US citizens. Each vote that he gains through preferring expensive service providers in the US rather than cheaper - and equally good quality - ones in India will cost him five votes as citizens digest the higher costs and lower coverage of Obama's protectionist option .

Watching the diplomatic dance between India and Pakistan, such as at the UN General Assembly between the two Foreign Ministers, what emerges is the fact that the India-Pakistan interaction almost totally avoids any serious discussion of economic issues. There are many ways in which the two countries can benefit from each other, thereby raising living standards. In both countries, several tens of millions of citizens are living in poverty, thereby making it desirable for efforts to be made that can reduce this percentage, the way it has happened in East Asia. However, unlike East Asians - who are smart enough to keep the or focus on the economy - we South Asians concentrate on other issues, thereby losing the chance for mutual prosperity. Both India and Pakistan need to pay attention to a common friend of both, China, which under the leadership of Hu Jintao is concentrating on economics and in the process, improving the lives of hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese. 

Consider the facts. By 2008,the Peoples Republic of China had overtaken the UK in the economic rankings, and in the next year, beaten Germany. This year, the PRC became the world's second-largest economy, displacing Japan, and is on track to become the globe's biggest economy within two decades. Indeed, this year the manufacturing sector of the Chinese economy has surpassed that of the US, a country where a careful assessment of its finances would show that it has a debt of more than $70 trillion dollars, or five times more than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Such a high level of debt would indicate that the US economy is in fact overvalued, the way several European economies are, and that the actual GDP may be closer to $10 trillion rather than $13 trillion. In a few years time, the biggest component of the US budget will be interest payment on the debt earned by foreign countries, especially China. Interestingly, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) of China can fund a lot of its expansion from the interest payments received from the US!.

Even during the time when Mao Zedong was in charge, China was careful not to overstep its reach. Intervention in the Korean War came only after General MacArthur foolishly decided to go upto the Yalu River and privately boast that he could take over China by the use of nuclear weapons. In the case of the 1962 border clash with India, the PLA withdrew from all the territories that it had taken over from the Indian army, in a clear sign that Beijing wanted a peaceful relationship with India. Since then, there has not been any other conflict, even during 1965 ,when India and Pakistan were at war, or during 1971,when several Indian divisions crossed into what was then East Pakistan. During the 1999 Kargil hostilities, sparked off by the strategic thinking of General Pervez Musharraf, undoubtedly a good tactician, China kept aloof, even though it reinforced its troops across the border, in order to be ready for any eventuality.

It is no accident that China has climbed so rapidly in the economic sphere. Since Hu Jintao took over as General Secretary eight years ago, he has concentrated resources on the western provinces, so that these days, they have become important sources of employment. No longer do people from faraway provinces need to come to the east coast of China to find work. They can find jobs close to their own homes. This decentralisation of economic growth to the hinterland has been a major achievement of Hu Jintao, as has been his policy of encouraging domestic R & D as well as a domestic market for Chinese companies. The wise policy of Deng Xiaoping - of "Economics in Command" - is being continued by Hu Jintao, who has broadened his vision beyond the east coast that was the focus of state attention during the decade when Jiang Zemin was in charge of the country. Interestingly, over the past year, the Chinese monetary authorities have sought to move away from US dollars and even the Euro, buying instead Japanese Yen, Korean Won and even commodities, so as to protect the economy against a sudden crash in the value of the dollar or the euro. Clearly, the bulk of attention being paid by Chinese policymakers is going to economic issues, unlike Pakistan and - to a lesser extent - India, where there is an obsession with matters other than "Roti, Kapda aur Makan". If China is succeeding in challenging the US, it is not because of its military but because of its economy. These days, Hong Kong is becoming a financial hub that is the equal of New York, London, Zurich and Frankfurt. One of the main reasons is the fact that China is the only country in the world powerful enough to ignore US demands that it reveal the bank accounts of people on Washington's radar. Swiss bank scurry to comply with such requests, as do those of every country other than China, where deposits in Hong Kong and Macau are safe from intrusive searches. Small wonder than hundreds of millions of dollars is flowing to these two financial centres from traditional ones in Europe. Had the Indian government got the commensense to set up offshore banking havens (such as in the Lakshwadeep Islands) or annouce an amnesty for Indian deposits in Swiss banks, several hundred billion euro may have returned to this impoverished country. However, so strong is the stranglehold of foreign financial institutions on the Reserve Bank of India and the Union Finance Ministry that such a proposal would never get implemented. Why? Because it would hurt the interests of the foreign financialinstititions where so many sons and daughters of VVIPs work, and where so many powerful people in india have secret bank accounts When will India and Pakistan learn that the economy is at the core of national resilience and power? That unless a country has a strong conomy, it cannot have a strong military? Both India and Pakistan are pathetically dependent on foreign countries for the supply of crucial weapons systems and for spares and maintenance. India has in effect barred the private sector from Defense production, so that those taking bribes for making decisions can maximise their illegal gains. Delhi has also prevented the export of Indian-made defense items, so as to avoid hurting the interests of the foreign armaments manufacturers who pump huge bribes into the Indian political and bureaucratic class each year. Small wonder that a situation similar to 1962 is emerging, in which the military power of India is woefully lower than that of the emerging superpower, China. The only way a country can have a strong defense is to have a strong economy. When will decision-makers in India and Pakistan accept this reality, and focus their energies on growth rather than on scoring inane points against each other? While the diplomats bluster and the militaries swagger, the people weep with hunger.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.







China has dispatched four military helicopters to Pakistan to assist with the country's flood relief. It is the first time Chinese military helicopters have been sent overseas to perform such duties. The four military helicopters, belonging to Xinjiang military area command, took off from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on September 21, as approved by the Central Military Commission of China. The four helicopters were previously engaged in transportation and search and rescue operations in the wake of several major natural disasters in China, including the catastrophic Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, and Zhouqu mudslide earlier this year. The most devastating floods in a century struck Pakistan in July and China has been Pakistan's major benefactor, coming immediately to aid its afflicted neighbour. Aside from personnel, the four Chinese military helicopters are transporting the much needed relief goods.

The Chinese helicopter team's first relief mission was conducted in the province of Sindh that is currently in the flooding zone. The Chinese helicopter relief team commenced their first operation overseas on September 25, taking off from Hyderabad, and plunged wholeheartedly in the mercy mission in flood-hit areas. Three helicopters, carrying the 4.8 tons of rice, flour, water and other necessities arrived at Johi 160 km away from Hyderabad, and hovered drop the supplies to the various settlements. After 7 hours and 45 minutes of flight, it successfully accomplished its first mission and returned to Hyderabad. On September 26, two Chinese helicopters delivered two tons of flour, mineral water and other living materials to the temporary shelters in Dadu, and Johi area respectively.

It is important to note that Pakistan's all weather friend China has always stood by it in its hour of need. In the current crises of Pakistan's worst ever floods, Chinese support has been along two epoch making tracks. The first is the value of the assistance, which has already reached US $ 250 million. This includes a sum of US $ 200 million pledged by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York on September 22. According to Chinese officials, this is the largest humanitarian relief commitment overseas ever made by China. The second is the deployment of humanitarian relief teams by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) for assisting the Pakistani army in its aid efforts. According to Chinese officials, this is the first time that the PLA's specially-trained disaster relief teams have been deployed abroad in large numbers. The PLA has deployed three teams——two in Sindh and one in Gilgit-Baltistan. Mr. Huang Xilian, Deputy Chief of the Chinese mission in Islamabad, told a media briefing in Islamabad on September 23 as follows: "It is for the first time in history that China has sent so many rescue and medical teams across its borders. The Chinese government sent a 55-member international search and rescue team, including 36 doctors and 19 technical support personnel, to the worst-hit region of Thatta in Sindh province late last month (August), which was the first international team to reach flood-hit areas of Thatta region. They brought with them 25 tons of high-tech medical equipment and medicine worth RMB 8 million. The second medical team of PLA, comprising 68 members along with relief goods including medicines weighing 80 tonnes, came to Pakistan and were deployed around the Sehwan area of Sindh province. Twenty members of this team are female, providing medical care to women and children. This is a record high in the history of PLA's foreign medical aid. The fact that China has sent some 200 doctors and paramedics in three medical rescue teams by now is a record high in China 's foreign medical rescue history." The third disaster relief team has been deployed in the Hunza area of Gilgit-Baltistan since January when large areas were flooded following a burst of a large artificial lake created by a huge landslide. The presence of Chinese military helicopters is a value added support. The Chinese have mentioned the total PLA disaster relief personnel deputed to Sindh as about 200. The Chinese engineering teams engaged in the repair of the badly damaged Karakoram highway to restore the communication infrastructure are over and above the Chinese relief teams assisting Pakistan. The Chinese have been emphasizing that the assistance given by them till now is in the way of emergency relief and that they will be giving separate assistance later for the reconstruction of the damaged economy. Despite the damages suffered by the Karakoram Highway due to the landslide of January and the floods of August, the Chinese engineers from the PLA have managed to keep the traffic moving. While the initial assistance in the beginning of August was airlifted to Islamabad from Chinese-controlled Xinjiang, the subsequent assistance has been coming by road along the Karakoram Highway. 101 Chinese trucks reached the Sust Dry Port via the Khunjerab Pass on Sept. 1, carrying flour and cooking oil. In fact, since the landslide and floods of January, the people living in the Hunza area are being kept largely sustained by the PLA in the Chinese-controlled Xinjiang region since the Pakistan Army is not able to reach them. 

This special gesture from the people and the government of China will go a long way in bonding the already solid ties that exist between the people of China and Pakistan. In these turbulent times, it is imperative that both countries hold up each other and support because their views on the security of the region converge, they have common aspirations and face common threats. The law of the jungle dictates that only the fittest survive. It is imperative that by joining forces, the two brotherly nations join forces and ensure their survivability.









Good manners and noble qualities of mind and character enjoy a place of crucial importance in the structure of Islamic teaching. Moral evolution and uplift was one of the main objects for which the sacred Prophet was raised up. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself has said: "I have been sent down by God to teach moral virtues and to evolve them to highest perfection."

Good manners are the first mark of good breeding and reflect directly on a person's upbringing. I have been given a very simple criterion for judging manners – good manners are based on consideration for other people. Tact, diplomacy and hospitality – all these are based on good manners. According to most scholars, one of the reasons that Islam spread in the region of South-East Asia, to places like Indonesia and Malaysia was the fact that Muslim traders appeared to have excellent manners. There was no Jihad in Indonesia. We must also remember that the converse applies and that bad manners reflect badly on Islam."

One of the most important aspects of a Muslim's life is for him to have a high standard of morals. Since the beginning of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) was mainly concerned with teaching and disciplining Muslims to have the best manners and the best personal characteristics. His personal life and behavior were reflective of his teachings, which were reveled to him by Allah (S.W.T.). In the Noble Qur'an , in surat Al-Qalam, Allah (S.W.T.) describes prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) saying: what can be translated as, "And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character." (Verse 4). The prophet's (S.A.W.) high standard of manners made him a model for all Muslims to follow. The prophet (S.A.W.) used to emphasize how important good manners are for Muslims. For example, Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet mentioned that "The best of you is the best among you in conduct." No other ethical system can match up with Islam's ethical system. Only Allah (S.W.T.) Al-Hakeem, with His great wisdom, could have made such a system that teaches humans how to deal with every aspect of their lives. This is because Islam is not a man made system; it is the deen of Allah, He (S.W.T.) made it complete and integrated. Only Allah (S.W.T.) Al-A'leem with His great knowledge that is infinite. No man has, can or will ever come up with a system that is so perfect. If you want a successful and happy life, then just apply Islam to it, and you will have wonderful results.

Islam is a beautiful religion, full of wisdom and harmony. If this wonderful religion is followed properly then a typical Muslim would only be a great example to follow. Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr: "The Prophet never used bad language neither a 'Fahish nor a Mutafahish. He used to say 'The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and Merits of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 759)". Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr: 

"The Prophet never used bad language neither a "Fahish nor a Mutafahish. He used to say "The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character." (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and Merits of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 759)". Narrated Masruq: "Abdullah bin 'Amr mentioned Allah's Apostle saying that he was neither a Fahish nor a Mutafahish. Abdullah bin 'Amr added, Allah's Apostle said, 'The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), Volume 8, Book 73, Number 56)". Narrated Masruq: "We were sitting with 'Abdullah bin 'Amr who was narrating to us (Hadith): He said, "Allah's Apostle was neither a Fahish nor a Mutafahhish, and he used to say, 'The best among you are the best in character (having good manners)."' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), Volume 8, Book 73, Number 61)".

Al-Tirmidhi narrated: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: "The best loved by me and the nearest to me on the seats on the Day of Resurrection are those who have the best manners and conduct amongst you, who are intimate, are on good terms with others and are humble, and the most hated by me and who will be on the furthest seats from me are those who are talkative and arrogant." Love of Allah is the basis of worship that should be directed to Him alone. Any other love should be for His sake too. 

Muslims should also love one another and wish the best for one another. Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: "One will not be a true believer unless he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." (Bukhari, Muslim, Nasa'i, Ahmed and Ibn Majah). Imam Malik and Imam Ahmed narrated: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: "Allah said: My love is due to those who love one another for My sake." It is obvious that one of the ways of advancing the noble Holy aims of Islam in an Islamic society is correct behaviour. The great Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.), addressing the sons of Abdul Muttalib says: You can never gather people around you with your wealth, so treat them with a smile face. 

Good behaviour and a warn human attitude is desired and expected from ever one but it is all the more so in case of the friends of the progeny of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and his family members were the ideals in this matter of nice behaviour and good nature and, hence, we, their followers, should also be a decoration for them and should never act in a way which may make them disgusted. Good manners are the fruit of proper worship and are part of good faith.

Good Manners mean the commission of those virtuous deeds by which human perfection is achieved which entitles a human being, in its true senses to be referred to as the best of creation. The effect of adopting these manners, propounded by Islam is that mankind receives tranquility, peace, harmony, happiness, love, affection, justice, equality and whatever a human being desire for a healthy and peaceful living. It is remarkable here to state that all these teachings are formed considering the responsibility entrusted upon human beings. 

It is clearly mentioned that Man has a dual responsibility to perform. The former has to express in a process of self development, physical, intellectual and spiritual. In other words, man's responsibility is to invite to God, so to say, exercise His right to dwell in the individual and urge him to use properly the balance set in his nature. The idea is in conformity with the Qur'anic exhortation. "O you who believed if you help (the cause of) God, He will help you and set your feet firm" (Al-Qur'an 47:7). 








Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Michael Fennell on September 25, 2010 has shown great concerns over poor security and administrative arrangements in relation to the games. While addressing a press conference he revealed that the Organising Committee and various other agencies involved are responsible for the mess and delays. He very rightly added that safety and security of the athletes would be of utmost distress. It is mentionable that the games are being conducted under extreme threat in New Delhi from October 3-14 this year. 

In fact security situation in India is too much pathetic because of multiple factors like, political controversy between Congress and Janta parties, Extremists Hindus are objecting participation of females in shortly trimmed sports costumes and have threaten to target female players. RAW in collaboration with Mossad have also has made a plan to stage some nefarious activity to divert global masses attention from Gaza issue, RAW has also decided to malign Maoists, Tamils and Kashmiries' freedom fighters after targeting some European team. On September 19, 2010 two Taiwanese tourists were wounded when two gunmen on a motorcycle opened random fire near the Jama Masjid. The firing has created a scare ahead of the Commonwealth Games. The attack came despite a high level of security in the capital since couple of days. It is talk of the town that attack was staged by RAW deliberately as preemptive of main action which might be occurring during the Commonwealth Games. 

The firing also sparked panic in tourists, officials and players participating in the games. Thus, the players of track events and athletes are the most worried individuals and not feeling secure which definitely would affect their performance during the real conduct of the game events. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on September 23, 2010 highlighted security fears surrounding the Commonwealth Games to be staged in India. Julia told to the media reporters that Australian athletes should decide for themselves whether or not to attend the Games. It is also notable here that Indian extremists Bal Thakray has also decided to hit Australian Teams since last year hundred of Indian students have been expelled by the Australian authorities.

It is worth mentioning here that holding of Commonwealth games in India already under immense criticism in the world media since couple of months. The Daily Telegraph claimed in his report that Delhi pipped Hamilton in the bid after offering huge sums of money to the 72 Commonwealth countries during the final presentation in Jamaica. The report also revealed that Australia received a kickback of $125,000 from India. "Delhi sealed the right to host the Games when their delegates emerged at the final presentation in Jamaica and offered all 72 nations $100,000 (then about $140,000) each for athlete training schemes if they were the successful bidders," the newspaper reported. 

Moreover, the administrative arrangements and constructive work has not completed where as few days are left in the opening ceremony of the games. The substandard constructional work of roads, tracks, games venues and building have further aggravated the problems and posing serious threats to the lives of the players and smooth conduct of the games.

According to Guardian four British cyclists the latest homegrown medal hopes to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games amid concerns over facilities and safety. England's Ian Stannard and Ben Swift, Wales's Geraint Thomas and the Isle of Man's Peter Kennaugh confirmed his concerns over "health and security. On September 26, 2010, a snake found on floor of hotel housing African Team at Common Wealth Games and that has created panic amongst he players in the hotel. Surprisingly Indian officials this time have not blamed ISI for dropping snakes, as they have done earlier when a flyover banged opposite to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. 

In short, the record monsoon rains, an outbreak of dengue fever, allegations of corruption and late venue construction have all added to suspicion by athletes, their families and Games officials from participating countries. The sports circles are also claiming that turnover of spectators to witness the games will also be minimal and below expectations. The bookies are also reluctant to cast their stakes. Thus, on the whole might affect the economy of India. 

The authorities involved in the conduct of the games should remove the bugs and ensure the security of track events. There is a great need of improving the administrative arrangements especially of livings, washrooms and dinning messes. Reportedly, authorities of Commonwealth games are again going to hold the meeting and will decide to fine India for poor and late. The arrangements and likely conduct of Commonwealth games will truly bring out the real worth of so called incredible and shining India. 








Once, pretty much everywhere, beating your wife and children was regarded as a father's duty, homosexuality was a hanging offence, and water-boarding was approved — in fact, invented — by the Catholic Church. Through the middle of the 19th century, the United States and other nations in the Americas condoned plantation slavery. Many of our grandparents were born in states where women were forbidden to vote. And well into the 20th century, lynch mobs in this country stripped, tortured, hanged and burned human beings at picnics. Looking back at such horrors, it is easy to ask: What were people thinking?

Yet, the chances are that our own descendants will ask the same question, with the same incomprehension, about some of our practices today. Is there a way to guess which ones? After all, not every disputed institution or practice is destined to be discredited. And it can be hard to distinguish in real time between movements, such as abolition, that will come to represent moral common sense and those, such as prohibition, that will come to seem quaint or misguided. Recall the book-burners of Boston's old Watch and Ward Society or the organisations for the suppression of vice, with their crusades against claret, contraceptives and sexually candid novels.

Still, a look at the past suggests three signs that a particular practice is destined for future condemnation. First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice. The case against slavery didn't emerge in a blinding moment of moral clarity, for instance; it had been around for centuries. Second, defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counter-arguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity. (As in, "We've always had slaves, and how could we grow cotton without them?")

Roughly 1 percent of adults in this country are incarcerated. We have 4 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of its prisoners. No other nation has as large a proportion of its population in prison; even China's rate is less than half of ours. What's more, the majority of our prisoners are non-violent offenders, many of them detained on drug charges. (Whether a country that was truly free would criminalise recreational drug use is a related question worth pondering.)

And the full extent of the punishment prisoners face isn't detailed in any judge's sentence. More than 100,000 inmates suffer sexual abuse, including rape, each year; some contract HIV as a result. Our country holds at least 25,000 prisoners in isolation in so-called supermax facilities, under conditions that many psychologists say amount to torture. Nearly 2 million of America's elderly are warehoused in nursing homes, out of sight and, to some extent, out of mind. Some 10,000 for-profit facilities have arisen across the country in recent decades to hold them. 

Other elderly Americans may live independently, but often they are isolated and cut off from their families. (The United States is not alone among advanced democracies in this. Consider the heat wave that hit France in 2003: While many families were enjoying their summer vacations, some 14,000 elderly parents and grandparents were left to perish in the stifling temperatures.) Is this what Western modernity amounts to — societies that feel no filial obligations to their inconvenient elders?

Sometimes we can learn from societies much poorer than ours. My English mother spent the last 50 years of her life in Ghana, where I grew up. In her final years, it was her good fortune not only to have the resources to stay at home, but also to live in a country where doing so was customary. She had family next door who visited her every day, and she was cared for by doctors and nurses who were willing to come to her when she was too ill to come to them. In short, she had the advantages of a society in which older people are treated with respect and concern. Keeping aging parents and their children closer is a challenge, particularly in a society where almost everybody has a job outside the home (if not across the country). Yet the three signs apply here as well: When we see old people who, despite many living relatives, suffer growing isolation, we know something is wrong. 

We scarcely try to defend the situation; when we can, we put it out of our minds. Self-interest, if nothing else, should make us hope that our descendants will have worked out a better way.It's not as though we're unaware of what we're doing to the planet: We know the harm done by deforestation, wetland destruction, pollution, overfishing, greenhouse gas emissions — the whole litany. Our descendants, who will inherit this devastated Earth, are unlikely to have the luxury of such recklessness. Chances are, they won't be able to avert their eyes, even if they want to. Let's not stop there, though. We will all have our own suspicions about which practices will someday prompt people to ask, in dismay: What were they thinking? Even when we don't have a good answer, we'll be better off for anticipating the question. The writer is professor of philosophy at Princeton University. — The Washington Post








MALCOLM Turnbull is correct to say he will not throw the baby out with the bathwater if the Coalition wins power and implements its own broadband policy.


Demolishing the bits of the National Broadband Network already built would indeed paint the conservatives as wreckers. Instead, the opposition spokesman on communications is taking a measured approach to the $43 billion project, telling ABC's Lateline the Coalition would incorporate any existing NBN infrastructure into its own version. If only the government was willing to be so constructive. The NBN is precisely the project deserving of review by a Prime Minister happy to justify policy backflips on the grounds of a hung parliament. Yet, far from engaging in serious debate on the opportunity costs of such an expensive project, Labor has dug in on the NBN. On Lateline, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that only $27 billion of public money was at stake with the rest coming from bonds and other private investment. Leaving aside the chance the NBN will never be viable enough to attract private money, the minister's nonchalance over such expenditure suggests he may be out of touch with voters. Nor does he seem concerned at the stimulatory impact of such a high public sector spend at a time when fiscal restraint is required.Or for that matter, the creation of another government monopoly.


Whether $27 billion or $43 billion, the NBN is an expensive gamble. Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim Helu says that rather than choosing fibre alone, Australia should take a multi-platform approach and recognise we don't all need or want mega-fast internet. As the lukewarm response from customers to the Tasmanian NBN rollout shows, it is not as simple as saying, "Build it and they will come". Labor says it is "future- proofing" us for the next 40 years, but is it? Mr Turnbull notes that as a student in Britain in 1978, he had to communicate back home via aerogrammes but by 2001 when his son was studying in the US, the net, email and cheap telephony had transformed communications. Who could have imagined such a revolution in just 23 years, let alone 40?


None of this is to argue against the value of first-class communications. Rather, our questions go to the lack of a cost-benefit analysis and Labor's failure to address the opportunity cost of such an expensive project. The government cannot hide behind the $25 million KPMG and McKinsey study into the NBN. Senator Conroy flashed the study on Lateline as proof of his case; the Prime Minister suggested in question time yesterday that the thick study rivalled War and Peace and presumably should be taken as Gospel. The government ought not be so cavalier: that study looked at how best to implement , not evaluate the government's model.


We understand the NBN was outside Ms Gillard's orbit during the Rudd government and that she has been preoccupied with other matters since. But this is one of Australia's biggest infrastructure projects ever and it is time for the Prime Minister to give it her serious attention. Having presided over the waste in her Building the Education Revolution, she should be doubly cautious about another government-led, high-cost exercise.







GOVERNMENTS and oppositions have selective hearing when it comes to advice from bodies such as the International Monetary Fund.


This week's generally positive report card on the Australian economy produced a consensus of sorts between Labor and the Coalition. There was bipartisan silence on the IMF's recommendation for a greater reliance on consumption-based taxes so that inefficient state-based taxes and personal income tax can be reduced, encouraging workforce participation and saving.


It would be hard to find a mainstream economist in the country who would not see the sense in the IMF's proposal as part of a wider tax reform program. But the political class has convinced itself that any changes to consumption tax would amount to electoral suicide. Welcome to the new era of reform-shy politics.


Next year's tax summit will be a second-rate affair unless the Labor government is prepared to put the GST on the agenda. The IMF's endorsement of the government's proposed mining tax as "a step in the right direction" is qualified at best. One proposal cherry-picked from Ken Henry's tax review was never going to amount to the "root and branch" tax reform we were promised.


The elimination of a swag of inefficient state taxes, charges and duties proposed by Mr Henry would alone lift long-term GDP by 1.7 per cent, according to Treasury's Red Book. Yet Wayne Swan has signalled that the issue will not be up for discussion. Tony Abbott, meanwhile, has painted himself into a corner by campaigning so hard against "big new taxes", real and imagined. Yesterday, he ducked the GST question on ABC radio, insisting the Coalition would not be dictated to by the IMF or the Treasury secretary.


The excessive caution of both the Treasurer and the Opposition Leader reflects these delicate, politically charged times but it compares unfavourably with the foresight and courage of their political mentors. In 1998, John Howard put his political career on the line over the GST, losing the popular vote but winning a small majority of seats. In the lead-up to the 1985 tax summit, then-treasurer Paul Keating wasted no opportunity to argue what was a sound case for a 12.5 per cent consumption tax, which was to offset major personal income tax cuts. The government went into that summit with three detailed reform options, and despite Bob Hawke caving in on a consumption tax under pressure from unions and the welfare lobby, the eventual outcome saw the top personal income tax rate cut from 60 to 49 per cent and the introduction of capital gains and fringe benefits taxes.


If the Gillard government is to approach next year's summit with a similarly cohesive and economically sound set of options, its obvious starting point is the Henry review's 138 recommendations, most of which remain untouched. Without too much cherrypicking, one important area to be addressed is the report's preference for a simpler, flatter personal tax system to encourage savings and provide an incentive for more welfare recipients to return to work.


It is the government's job to determine how such reform would be funded, but in ruling out a GST increase, they are closing off one efficient option. This is no time for the national conversation to be sidetracked by the the Greens' favourite hobby horses -- euthanasia, gay marriage and now the republic. Let's get serious.








AMID the rancour and one-upmanship of a tight parliament in which every vote counts, Liberal MP Ken Wyatt drew a warm, bipartisan welcome as he delivered his maiden speech on Wednesday.


The election of the first indigenous to the House of Representatives was a proud moment for all indigenous people and Mr Wyatt's Hasluck constituents. His maiden speech was a historic occasion that drew out the best in his fellow MPs on both sides.


In his "boohka" kangaroo hide cloak and red-tailed black cockatoo feather, Mr Wyatt struck the right note when he warmly acknowledged the positive impact of Kevin Rudd's 2008 apology to the Stolen Generations.


He also touched on one of the most encouraging features of contemporary politics -- the broad consensus, after past failures, that practical reconciliation and improved opportunities are the way forward to help indigenous people close the gap with non-indigenous Australians. As Aborigines take a more prominent place in the life of the nation, parliament should see more members like him on both sides of the chamber. While the challenges ahead are enormous, the emerging bipartisan approach represents progress at a political level that would have been hard to imagine a decade ago.








£4bn over four years is not an impossible target but can only be delivered 'ruthlessly and without sentiment'


It is a cliche of Whitehall that any chief of the defence staff invited to list Britain's enemies starts by pointing at the Treasury. The top brass never have enough cash to meet their needs, and Conservative politicians no more relish telling soldiers to cut down the mileage than Labour ministers enjoy telling doctors there are too many NHS beds. It is also part of the choreography of spending reviews that there will be a spectacular leak to the services' in-house newspaper, the Daily Telegraph.


This week, as the National Security Council met to consider the proposals for the strategic defence and security review, a letter from the defence secretary, Liam Fox, to David Cameron duly reached the Telegraph's front page. In it, Dr Fox warned the prime minister that the cuts he was being asked to make were intellectually and financially "virtually impossible". This is a serious and important argument. It is also a matter of internal party politics. Mr Cameron and Dr Fox were rivals for the leadership and have competing ideas about the future of Conservatism. Yesterday, the prime minister dismissed Dr Fox's fears, and insisted that careful thought had been given to the funding and structuring of the armed forces. This is not a full answer to Dr Fox's charge that the proposed cuts risked "grave political consequences" which would undermine the party's claim to put national security first. But it was an expression of political will.


Dr Fox has the enormous challenge of reconciling the needs of the three services at a time of economic stringency. Each believes the others could make cuts more easily. The truth is that when there are as many admirals as major warships and generals as infantry battalions, and a procurement budget that the National Audit Office describes as a £36bn black hole, £4bn cuts over four years is not an impossible target. But it is one that can only be delivered "ruthlessly and without sentiment", as Dr Fox himself put it in a speech in June.


For the past year, Mr Cameron and Dr Fox have engaged in complex manoeuvres of their own that have seen Mr Cameron threatening to introduce the outgoing army chief Sir Richard Dannatt as an adviser, Dr Fox openly critical of coalition, contradictory messages about the duration of the Afghanistan mission and an exchange of fire with the chancellor over Trident. This record weakens the defence secretary's argument. In a department sometimes unable even to deliver the right equipment to protect soldiers on the frontline, what is needed is not the special pleading and salami-slicing that has too often been the alternative to well-thought-through cuts. It needs leadership, and a good measure of strategic ruthlessness.











As an enthusiastic cook, I have always found it a pleasure to grow vegetables in our garden. I only have a small patch but it is prolific, and I enjoy harvesting potatoes especially. They offer terrific nutritious value, whether boiled, mashed, roasted or baked. One enthusiastic gardener in our village told me that the skin of the potato is the most nutritious part, and this is true, in the sense that almost all the protein in the potato is immediately below the skin.

When a potato is damaged or exposed to light, toxic compounds build up below the skin, protecting it against attack by underground insects – this is why eating potatoes that have turned green, because they've been stored in bright light, is not recommended. One story has it that the first potato plants were brought to Britain from South America by Sir Francis Drake. He presented some of them to Queen Elizabeth I. She was not sure what to do with them, so they were planted in her flowerbeds – where they flourished. Potatoes became popular in Ireland – a damp Irish acre produced enough of them to feed a family, and their pig. In the 1840s, a blight struck the potato there, and about a million people died in the ensuing famine.

In the fields here, ripe wheat has been cut down and carted away, leaving rabbits and field mice in a state of bewilderment as the forest of corn stacks where they've been living disappears. Already, our swallows and house martins have departed for their long journey over the seas. I wish them luck on their hazardous voyage because some of the second broods from the nests in the eaves of our old house were hatched quite late, and so they've not had much time to exercise their wings and grow strong. Last week rows of swallows were perched on the telegraph wires in the village. Now they have all departed.






From Greece to Japan to the US, countries across the world have been devastated by the banking crisis. But no economy has been wrecked quite so brutally as Ireland's. The erstwhile Celtic Tiger has seen its national income shrink 17% over the past three years – the deepest and swiftest contraction of any western country since the Great Depression. At the height of the long boom from 1990 to 2007, property in Dublin was worth more than in London. Since then, prices have dropped by around 40% – and are still sinking. At this rate, the country will soon hold the dubious honour of hosting the biggest property bubble and bust in modern history. When financiers joked in 2008 that the only difference between bankrupt Iceland and hard-up Ireland was one letter and a few days, they got it wrong – the mess the Emerald Isle is now in is so much worse.


And all the way down, Dublin ministers have promised voters that things are about to get better. Those emergency loans to the banks – that would sort it. These savage spending cuts – that would do the job. That decision to pretty much guarantee the entire banking system (with practically no questions asked) – this time for sure. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Like a body flung off the roof of a skyscraper, the Irish economy has just kept on falling.


They were at it again yesterday. The Irish finance minister, Brian Lenihan, promised voters that the national "nightmare" they have had to live with for the past couple of years would soon be over: "We are now bringing closure to that." He did not convince financiers, who have heard a similar form of words from Mr Lenihan every time he has brought forth another ill-advised plan. Even measured against the minister's previous gambles, though, this one is huge. Yesterday's bailout will include Anglo Irish, the property developer's favourite bank, as well as Allied Irish and Irish Nationwide – and it is set to raise the budget deficit from around 12% of national income to an astounding 32%.


When a country has gone bust in such spectacular fashion, the causes for its crisis are bound to range far and wide. Primary among them we might count an overreliance on property prices both for the feelgood factor and for public revenues. During the boom, Dublin cut income and corporation tax and relied increasingly on property taxes. As soon as the bubble burst, revenues collapsed. In other aspects, policymakers can claim that they simply stuck to the international orthodoxy for economic success – lure in foreign capital wherever you can, pursue your comparative advantages (which in Dublin, as in Reykjavik, came to be seen as finance) and remain open. But one of the lessons of what Gordon Brown once termed the first crisis of globalisation is that being open for business at all costs does not work well for small countries with homogeneous economies. And it really does not work with dozy policymakers.


As Pete Lunn of Dublin's Economic and Social Research Institute notes, the elite directing the Irish economy is more tightly closed than an oyster shell – so that the top civil servant in the department of finance would normally expect his tenure to be followed by a stint as chief central banker. Policymakers shrank from calling the property bubble a bubble until it had popped. And when it had burst, they accepted too easily the bankers' claims that they were merely short of liquidity rather than utterly bust. They did as the IMF advised and put into force some of the most savage spending cuts ever – with the result that nearly one in six workers is now unemployed, and that another economic downturn has begun.


Similarities exist here with other countries: just ask Gordon Brown. The big difference with the UK is that, as part of the euro club, Ireland cannot unilaterally devalue its currency. Its only road back to competitiveness is to cut workers' living standards. Which means that, whatever Mr Lenihan claims, the Irish economy has further to fall.








After months of thorough studies on several alternative measures to reduce fuel subsidies, the government again decided to indefinitely postpone its plan to limit the distribution of subsidized fuels due to what it sees as its technical unfeasibility.


The government had, over the past few months, mulled over several plans on how to reduce subsidies, not through price increases, which are seen as politically unfeasible, but by way of reducing the use of subsidized fuels.


The government revisited several ideas already studied in early 2008 when international oil prices rose to over US$100/barrel, such as limiting the access of private passenger cars to subsidized fuel through smart cards. But amid the vociferous debate about how to reduce fossil fuel use, efficiency and conservation have taken a back seat to politics.


The weak government and the narrow-minded House of Representatives did not have the political courage to bite the bullet.


Now, the government apparently no longer sees any urgency to cut fuel subsidies because international oil prices have, by and large, been on a par and sometimes lower than the average level the government has assumed for estimating the fuel subsidies for this year.


The misguided government thinks that because the budget allocation for fuel subsidies is still adequate, there is now no point in reducing the use of subsidized fuel. The government and the House still do not get it that the fuel subsidy is not only an issue of budget appropriation.


Nor do they realize the huge subsidy ($16 billion for this year alone) is   a wasteful expenditure, a gross misallocation of scarce resources and future tax, and a burden on the economy. It is also a gross injustice because the bulk of the subsidy has been enjoyed by private car owners.


And given our vast, porous coastal areas, the wide fuel-price differences with our neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, which are only 30 minutes away by boat, are highly vulnerable to abuse by smugglers.


We are suspicious that the larger-than-estimated consumption of subsidized fuels is being caused not only by the large increase in new car sales but is also due to fuel smuggling.


The latest cancellation of a sound energy policy simply throws any incentive for energy conservation and efficiency out of the window, putting future investment in renewable energy such as biofuel in limbo.


 Further down the line, it also means planting a fiscal "time bomb" which may explode any time international prices rise drastically, because the state budget remains held hostage by the fuel subsidies.


Since the House will most likely reject the government proposal to cut electricity subsidies by 15 percent, phased in over the next four years, total energy subsidies, which will be wasted and burned into carbon dioxide on the streets, will be much larger than the combined capital spending on education, health and badly needed infrastructure.


As long as the government and parliament are not united in their aims and do not have the political will to gradually phase out energy subsidies, the state budget will never be able to allocate a sizeable sum for investment in such key sectors as education, health and infrastructure.


The blunt fact, as Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo warned Tuesday, energy subsidies and interest payments alone would take up 30 percent of the state budget and the bulk of the remaining 70 percent would go to personnel costs and transfers to regional administrations, leaving less than 10 percent for investment.








If we follow the news on terrorist crackdowns in this country, we are not able to escape from the discourse of sharia and the Islamic state. "Initially, I want to enforce sharia in order to convey to Indonesia a better path, because only with sharia will Indonesia be better," said M. Sofyan Tsauri, a former police officer involved in terrorism (Kompas, Sept. 24, 2010).


They wanted to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state, said National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri in Medan after the killing and arrest of suspects implicated in a CIMB Niaga bank heist (The Jakarta Post, Sept. 21, 2010).


It is right that acts of terrorism have increased at an alarming rate and that we need to declare total war against terror. But we should never allow ourselves to justify all means to eliminate terrorism.


Terror cannot be overcome by terror, although it often looks effective in the short term, said this paper in an editorial published on Sept. 24, 2010.


So how can we fight terrorism? Besides law enforcement and other hard power mechanisms carried out by the police, we should also dare to challenge the rhetoric or discourse often used by terrorists and their supporters in Indonesia.


While we, as Muslims, respect sharia as the religious norm that is morally binding and therefore supposed to be performed voluntarily, terrorists in Indonesia tend to forcefully impose it on people who are confessed Muslims.


While we, as Muslims, based on religious conscience, are able to conduct sharia with or without the presence of an Islamic state, terrorists tend to see the Islamic state as an inevitable tool to enforce sharia.


While we generally see sharia as religious norms that can be adjusted and developed based on a different time and circumstances and therefore has a different appearance in different regions, terrorists tend to conduct sharia in an exclusive, immutable, rigid and intolerable manner.


While Muslims generally see sharia as something seperate from aqidah (creed), as indicated by using conjunction "and" in  Mahmud Syaltut's phrase al-Islam Aqidah wa Syari'ah, terrorists tend to see both sharia and aqidah as a creed that should be applied to other people by force in order to "save" them from the hellfire.


"In a state where Muslims have been given the freedom to conduct sharia norms, the need to establish an Islamic state is no longer relevant."

While we can generally accept the compatibility of Islam with democracy and proudly call Indonesia the largest Muslim country that proves Islam, democracy and modernity can thrive together, terrorists tend to oppose democracy and yearn to return Islam to its past classical period such as what can be seen in Afghanistan when ruled by Taliban regime.


While there are many criteria used by Islamic scholars to define the Islamic state, terrorists tend to pick a model of state or caliphate that tends to be theocratic. While other Muslims can see many ways to conduct jihad or to establish  an Islamic state, terrorists who actually more prefer to be called jihadists see armed struggle is the only way to establish an Islamic state.


The critical question that can be exposed is: Whether sharia should really be implemented through violence or by force. Discussion on this question can be initiated by questioning the main mission of the Prophet Muhammad. If we refer to history of the prophet or Islam as a whole, it is clear that Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, was from the beginning tasked to perform a moral mission.


Muhammad was never ordered to fight for power or to establish a state. Muhammad was even forbidden to force others to become believers. There is no single verse in the Koran that clearly orders Muhammad to form an Islamic state.


Montgomery Watt's book entitles Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, often referred by supporters of Islamic state as a proof that Islam is din wa dauwlah (religion and state).


It is correct that when he migrated to Medina, Muhammad was trusted to become the leader of plural society consisting of many tribes and religions.


It is right that the society led by Muhammad in Medina could have appropriately been called a state if measured by the criteria of statehood: territory, government, people and sovereignty.


A further question is whether the acceptance of Muhammad as the head of the pluralistic state in Medina was directly ordered by a revelation from God or because of his discretion (ijtihad).


By assuming that there are two kinds of actions taken by Muhammad, either directly ordered by revelation or based on his own discretion, in my mind, the acceptance of the prophet as a political leader in Medina was based on his individual reasoning.


Muhammad intended to set an example on how to become political leader in the context of a plural society like Medina.


The Medina charter, which is often called the first constitution in history, was made through a process of negotiation and deliberation among the "founding fathers" of this nation.


Since negotiation and deliberation are actually the essence of democracy, the state made by the Prophet in Medina could surely have been described as a constitutional democracy.


Therefore, principally, there is no difference between the Medina constitution and Indonesia's 1945 Constitution.


As mentioned above, the application of sharia for Muslims is part of their religious obligations. As such, despite the fact Muslims agree to use sharia as their social norms, not all Islamic scholars in the classical period agree on obliging Muslims to establish state or political power.


In a state where Muslims have been given the freedom to conduct sharia norms such as Indonesia and other secular states, the need to establish an Islamic state is actually no longer relevant.


In addition, if we nurtured opinion of professor Hasbullah Bakry in his book Bunga Rampai Tentang Islam, Negara dan Hukum (Collection of Essays on Islam, State and Law), Indonesia is substantially, based on five arguments among others is the compatibility of Pancasila with Islamic teachings, can be called an Islamic state despite Islam not being formally declared a state religion in the Constitution. Violent persuasion can never be justified by the dissemination of religious norms.


The writer is a lecturer at Sharia and Law School and part of the Postgraduate Program at Sunan Gunung Djati State Islamic University, Bandung.









Amid declining oil production, a long-standing issue that the Indonesian government has not satisfactorily resolved is whether to continue to be tough against oil companies on the question of financial incentives or to be flexible.


Although the government recognizes that to boost oil exploration and production it needs support and cooperation from oil companies, relations between the government and the oil companies, especially foreign oil companies, is basically hostile, and lacks mutual trust.


Protracted negotiations four years ago between ExxonMobile and Pertamina on operating the Cepu Block on the border of Central and East Java reflected a hostile environment where political pressure placed on Pertamina negotiators forced them to be tough in negotiations, while Exxon insisted on fairness as the basis for agreement. Only after the intervention of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did the two parties reach an agreement.  


Mistrust was also evident when the government, after much pressure from House of Representatives members, decided to impose a cap on the recovery costs of oil companies that signed production sharing contracts with the government.


Recovery costs are the costs incurred by oil companies during exploration that could be reimbursed by the government once the company enters production.


The cost is deducted from revenue before it is split between the company and the government. Although returns may be huge if oil is found, oil exploration is basically a high risk venture.


A company could lose millions of dollars if drilling operations strikes dry holes. As the risk is high, no bank will readily lend for oil exploration activities. Only companies with huge financial resources can afford this gamble.  The cost of recovery schemes are designed to acknowledge this risk, so oil companies feel it is unfair if a cap is imposed on their recovery costs.  


Other contentious issue between the government and oil companies is the treatment of import taxes.


The import of equipment by oil companies has been granted a tax exemption.


The exemptions are issued on temporary not on a permanent basis. Oil companies have to pay import taxes on equipment imported for exploration even though there is no certainty that oil will be found.  


The tax exemption is granted by the government but is subject to annual extension by the Finance Ministry. The industry wants long-term tax exemptions that provide long-term certainty for their operations.


The approach by the government in dealing with oil companies has come under question in the face of a significant decline in oil production over the last decade.


While Indonesia's population increased by 20 million between 2000 and 2009, oil production has dropped from 517 million to 345 million barrels. Over the same period, proven oil reserves fell from 5.2 billion to 3.8 billion barrels.  


As higher economic growth needs higher energy consumption, the government has to import more oil. In the third quarter this year, we spent US$7.2 billion for oil imports while our oil exports were only $6.4 billion.


After much complaining from oil and gas companies, the government planned to scrap the cap on recovery costs for oil and gas companies conducting exploration in Indonesia. The government has also decided to make tax exemptions permanent during the exploration stage. The decisions represent a belated recognition by the government that incentives and tax certainties for oil companies are the most serious issue in dealing with efforts to bolster oil exploration and production in this country.


The plan would contribute to the improvement of investment climate in oil and gas industry. There is still a long way to go to improve the investment climate for oil and gas industries. 

"If returns on investment here are less attractive, then oil companies will skip Indonesia and go to other countries that are considered more attractive."

As with other companies, legal certainty in this country is a primary concern. It has been almost 10 years since the law on oil and gas, which opened more competition, was enacted in 2001. But "resource nationalism" in this country never dies down and would always pose a threat to legal certainty.


Proponents have brought the law to the Constitutional Court for judicial review, resulting in revisions of some of its provisions. House members may amend, once again, the law on oil and gas on the grounds that it has not completely confirmed the spirit of 1945 Constitution.


They want a bigger role for state oil company Pertamina in the oil and gas industry. When laws governing the oil and gas industry cannot guarantee continuity and certainty, it could disrupt operations in these industries.


Oil companies have also to deal with local authorities, who have more power since the law on regional autonomy was enacted in 1999. In matters of land acquisition and construction permits for instance oil companies depends on the goodwill of local authorities.


Local resistance and concern on environmental damage could result in a setback for oil companies.


ExxonMobil was reportedly planning to pull out from Gunting block, located in East Java, after locals, mindful of the nearby Lapindo mudflow disaster, cut the company's seismic equipments several times.


Oil companies seem to have lost interest in exploration in Indonesia. Many oil blocks offered for biding by the government found no takers. The reasons could be lack of financial incentives or the blocks were too small to be profitable or they are located in remote areas that are technically more difficult to explore. It is important therefore that incentives given by the government should reflect various differences in each location.


The declining interest in exploration by oil companies take place in the face of increasing competition from other oil producing countries to attract investment. Indonesia has to compete with many countries that are offering more attractive incentives and investment climate.


If returns on investment in Indonesia are less attractive, then oil companies will skip Indonesia and go to other countries that are considered more attractive for investment. Improving the investment climate is the only way to prevent our oil and gas industries from being marginalized by oil companies.

The writer is an economist.








The murder of six generals between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 1965, 45 years ago, was a national tragedy.


Despite the controversy over Soeharto's or the Communist Party's involvement in the coup d'état, the tragedy was not the first reminder that the state's ideology, Pancasila, has been and is always being tested.


Heedless of the controversy over whether Pancasila Anniversary Day should be on June 1 or Aug. 18, it has been celebrated for years by high school students and civil servants. Under the Soeharto regime, together with other national holidays, it turned into a public commemoration with heavy politicking. Schoolchildren were very likely to recall most of the country's public holidays.


Yet many of us do not appreciate the historical celebration. You do not get harassed by colleagues and strangers when you do not celebrate it. It really has a diminishing meaning. Things become worse as the New Order government applied a single correct interpretation of its own on Pancasila, regarding opposing elements as not abiding by the state ideology. To an extreme degree, those frowning upon the government's interpretation would risk spending their days in prison.


It is high time to provide a jumping-off point for a Pancasila rejuvenation. It will require hard work, following the public cynicism toward previous government and aggressive Western influence over Indonesian values.


The Soeharto regime suggested that the misused interpretation of Pancasila had been organized by the ruling elites, with university and school students becoming victims of state brainwashing. Any attempts to rejuvenate Pancasila will need to touch on and involve youngsters, particularly school and university students. It stands to reason that younger people are fresh subjects for brainstorming and moving toward change compared to other segments of society.


A specifically designed course must be created for widespread Pancasila rejuvenation. Civic education could play a significant role in achieving this objective.


It is believed that civic education serves to arouse nationalism and enforce citizen's rights.


Rejuvenating Pancasila means restoring pride in state symbols, so nationalism cannot be pulled apart.


Civic education could rejuvenate Pancasila by taking multiculturalism and pluralism into account.


Multiculturalism, in which different cultures can coexist peacefully and equitably, is