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Saturday, October 2, 2010

EDITORIAL 02.10.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



Month october 02, edition 000641, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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



























































The defeat in the US Senate of an anti-outsourcing Bill aimed at penalising American firms that contract work to firms based in India is a resounding rejection of President Barack Obama's protectionist policies. His claim that the legislation to end tax breaks on such companies was aimed at saving jobs at home and reviving domestic economy is untenable because the Bill would not have completely stopped US companies from outsourcing jobs; it would have made it more expensive for them, thus harming that nation's economy in the long run. Like any other sensible private enterprise in the world that seeks to maximise profit alongside quality, US firms too have been outsourcing work largely related to the information technology sector to organisations based in India because they are assured of quality results at far lesser costs than what they would have to shell out back home. It may be that Mr Obama's sudden desire to prop up his country's economy by measures that directly impact India adversely is because his Democratic Party faces tough mid-term elections in November, but one fails to understand how he stands to gain by taking an anti-sourcing stance. After all, public sentiment there is not against outsourcing to India. Had that been the case, the Republicans would not have torpedoed the Bill in the Senate barely a month before the polls, nor would the US firms have protested against the discrimination. By withdrawing tax breaks to US firms that outsource work, Mr Obama perhaps hoped to demonstrate the extent to which he could go for the 'sake' of the US economy — even taking on a friendly India which commands at least 50 per cent of the global outsourcing market share.

The other reason why a penalty on outsourcing will fail to serve the purpose is because it simply is not the reason for the crisis the US economy faces. The greatest crisis now really is the rapidly declining image of Mr Obama among the American business community. According to a report published in The Economist, a recent Bloomberg survey revealed that as much as three-quarters of American investors view Mr Obama as anti-business, or as someone who does not understand the dynamics of business. There may be truth in that, because it explains his ill-considered taxation proposal on outsourcing against the wishes of US companies that have suggested other more sensible ways to contain deficit. It also explains the other discriminatory tariff and non-tariff barriers that Obama Administration has raised. For instance, the high levels of taxation that it imposes on textiles and food products that India exports to the US, and the massive hike in H1B visa fee which clearly aims at containing movement of Indian professionals for job opportunities in the US. It is ironical that the US, the self-proclaimed torch-bearer of free trade, should be now seeking to throttle that very concept. The Republicans have done well to nip one such attempt in the bud. It now remains to be seen whether Mr Obama insists on having his way. 








Even as the nation celebrates the birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who gave the world the concept of non-violence to fight against the injustice and oppression, a group of labourers in Rajasthan is staging a Satyagraha in Jaipur to get their rightful dues. The poor labourers, toeing Gandhi's line, will return to the Rajasthan Government the entire money they have earned during their 11-day stint under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to protest against the payment of one rupee as daily wage after they had completed the task required of them. It comes as a rude shock especially when the country is in the grip of spiralling inflation. The incident not just endorses the fact that subsidies and sops never reach the intended beneficiaries without leakages, but it has left the Prime Minister, who preached to world leaders in Toronto the concept of "inclusive growth", shamed as weaker sections in a Congress-ruled State are not even paid the minimum daily wages. Further, it throws open the hollowness of the rosy economic picture the UPA Government paints. While the Finance Minister, piggybacking the upward Sensex rally, gloats about the country being poised for 8.5 per cent economic growth, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative report shows poverty in India is increasing. The UNDP report has surely left the Planning Commission authorities red in the face by showing that India's official poverty figure of 29 per cent fails to capture the extent of real deprivation. In essence, the inequalities are increasing within the country because the finance-directed growth is increasing incomes and wealth for a few. Even as we are keen to show that we are at arms-length from being an economic superpower, children and women in the country are wallowing in malnutrition; the poor do not have access to health care and live without basic facilities like water and sanitation. 

Ironically, schemes abound to eradicate poverty and uplift the lot of people living below-poverty-line and in the margins like the MGNREGS, Pradhan Adarsh Gram Yojana, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, but neither are these properly managed, nor is there any accountability. The money is there, but the intended beneficiaries are shortchanged. The Government would do well to have mechanisms in place to identify the gaping holes leading to leakages and spare itself from embarrassment. It should realise that the democratic deficit, which is the gap between growth and development, exposes the failure of an elected government to fulfil the promises to its electorate. If the Government that promises of inclusive growth fails to intervene and arrest the downward slide, we will still be clubbed with countries struggling to stay afloat. 







The BJP must seize the moment, bury Ayodhya as a political issue and emerge as a broad-spectrum political entity

Socially acceptable, politically convenient and legally innovative if not unorthodox: That is about the best description of the judgement by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case. At one level, it does seem odd that in settling a title the three judges have in fact created a new title. Yet, if the judges had the relative freedom to do this it was also because of both the singularity and the uniqueness of the case.

Why was the Ayodhya case singular? When he delivers a judgement, a judge is conscious he is setting a precedent. He may be triggering the process of what is called case law, which could determine future judgements in subsequent, unrelated cases. There was no such burden on the three judges of the Allahabad High Court. The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991 prohibits any change in the "religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947". The only exception it makes is for the Ayodhya site, which was already the subject of a court case when the law was enacted.

As such, and despite the fear-mongering and doomsday scenarios of professional secular fundamentalists, there is no danger of the Ayodhya judgement being used to change the ownership or denominational identity of any other religious structure, be it in Varanasi or Mathura or elsewhere. The judges were conscious of this. They realised they were opening no floodgates and setting off no wave of me-too litigation. They knew this was a one-off, that the Ayodhya verdict represented a once and forever challenge. This allowed them to tweak the boundaries of jurisprudence. 

Every petition before any Indian court seeks a specific action that the petitioner considers just. It also ends with a request that the judge(s) grant this "or any other relief that the court deems fit". On Thursday, the Allahabad High Court took that innocuous phrase at face value.

Why was the Ayodhya case unique? To view this as a straightforward property quarrel would be to deliberately ignore its complexity and undermine the finesse and sensitivity that the judges have shown. The Archaeological Survey of India report established that a Hindu religious structure, possibly dating back to the 10th or 11th century, existed below the site. It was also clear that a functional mosque stood there from at least 1528 till the first half of the 20th century. Hindu worship at the location had continued for a significant though only estimable portion of at least the past two centuries, first at a platform (chabutra) outside the mosque proper, then, from December 1949, inside the mosque structure and finally, from December 1992, at the former site of the mosque. These were verities the judges couldn't ignore, at least not in a case with such wider ramifications, where victory had to seen to be both legal and moral.

When it came to establishing the title, the Sunni Wakf Board could not prove a history of ownership and transfer of the land to it by private munificence or royal/state decree. Similarly, the Nirmohi Akhada — a sect that sees itself as the custodian of the Hindu shrine that it says has existed at the site and does not surrender this right to the deity of Ram, which is a legal entity as per Indian law — had a claim based on tradition more than on property documents. 

Finally, there was the issue of the statute of limitations. Today, an aggrieved party can reclaim his property from a trespasser within a period of 12 years. Beyond that the trespasser becomes the owner of the title. The Nirmohi Akhada had lost the site in at least 1528. It had claimed redress 400 years later. Its suit was therefore time-barred. The Sunni Wakf Board had lost the site in 1949 and filed a petition in 1961 to claim it back. It appears that the statute of limitations at the time of the placing of idols in the mosque extended to six years. Hence the judges ruled the Wakf Board suit was also time-barred. 

Who now owned the property? Strictly speaking, the title may have devolved on the deity of Ramlalla, which had been resident at the location since at least December 22-23, 1949. This probably explains why the judges have ruled that the idols must not be moved from the site of the former sanctum sanctorum, the 60 feet by 40 feet area that is the inner core of the Ayodhya struggle.

However, the Ramlalla idol (and his legal personification) was also the most recent arrival to the location and the dispute, the case in his name being filed only in 1989. The Wakf Board and the Nirmohi Akhada had claims of a religious and social engagement with the site prior to 1989, though not a clear title. This was not so much a case as a conundrum.

What happens next? Presuming the verdict is accepted and there is no appeal or even if the Supreme Court upholds the judgement, there will be some give and take. The Nirmohi Akhada has been allotted the Sita ki Rasoi shrine and the Ram chabutra (platform) location. These are not contiguous. It may have to exchange small patches of land with the trust set up in the name of the Ramlalla deity. This will facilitate the construction of a proper temple. The Wakf Board must be free to use its one-third share as it wishes. If it wants to build a mosque that more or less adjoins the Ram temple, then it would be just and fair that the Hindu community support and facilitate this. It has redeemed its cherished temple, and must follow this up with not triumphalism but magnanimity.

For the BJP, the judgement offers post facto legitimacy to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of 20 years ago but also an opportunity to put the ghosts of Ayodhya to rest. If a temple and a mosque are built in close proximity — and if the party expressly backs such an idea — Ayodhya will be buried as a political matter. The so-called 'three contentious issues' — the Uniform Civil Code and the status of Jammu & Kashmir being the other two — will be down to two contentious issues. It will liberate the BJP from the charges of being a denominational party, rather than a broad-spectrum political entity, and enhance its middle ground, middle India positioning. It needs to seize the moment.









If there is a clear winner in the vexatious dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi, it is Truth (satya), which has triumphed in the face of formidable obstacles placed by cussed political actors nurturing communal vote banks, aided and abetted by an army of rapidly secular (read viciously anti-Hindu) fellow travellers in media, academia, and of course, the west-centric activists/busybodies. 

Thursday's fractured verdict, unsurprising for a court judging around 20 different issues over a span of six decades, is laudable for the fact that the three-judge bench exuded unanimity on the essential issues — that the disputed spot was the birthplace of Sri Ram; that a temple preceded the mosque removed by mob action on December 6, 1992; and that Lord Ram would not be dislodged from His abode. From 1528 to 1992 to 2010, it has been a long journey. The delivery of the judgment virtually on the eve of Diwali is fraught with poignant symbolism. 

The judgment has taken the friendless Hindu community towards closure, even though the verdict divided the land among the Hindu Mahasabha, Nirmohi Akhara, and Sunni Central Waqf Board. The central dome, where Ram Lalla Virajman, is housed has been given to the Hindu Mahasabha. 

Sites known as Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutra have been given to Nirmohi Akhara, a Panchayati Math of Ramanandi Bairagi panth, founded by Swami Ramanand at Varanasi in the 14th-15th centuries. The panth claims direct descent from Swami Ramanuja; its greatest proponent was Gosain Tulsidas, who immortalised the Lord in theRamcharitmanas, written in the reign of Emperor Akbar. Gosain ji popularised the enactment of Ramlila in public, and personally participated in the performances. The panth appeared at Ayodhya sometime after 1734 AD.

There was no way such a contentious case could be perfectly unanimous. Thus, Their Lordships Sudhir Agarwal and Dharam Veer Sharma dismissed the title suits filed by the Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara as time barred, being filed in 1961 for an event which took place in 1949; this automatically confirmed the title on the Ram Janmabhoomi petitioners. 

Justice DV Sharma further ruled that the building constructed by emperor Babur was built against the tenets of Islam (being a place of dispute) and did not have the character of the mosque (being without minarets). It was constructed over a massive Hindu religious structure as proved by the Archaeological Survey of India; Hindus have been worshipping the place as Janmasthan (birthplace) and making pilgrimages there from time immemorial. The murtis were placed in the middle dome of the disputed structure in the intervening night of December 22/23, 1949. 

Justice Agarwal noted there was no clear evidence when the mosque was built and by whom, but it existed when Joseph Tieffenthaler visited Oudh area between 1766 and 1771. Justice SU Khan agreed the mosque was built by Babur, but on the ruins of a temple, and some temple material was incorporated in the mosque. While Justice Sharma conferred the entire land on the Ram Janmabhoomi petitioners, Judges Aggarwal and Khan distributed it among the three disputants arguing that Hindu pujas and Muslim namaaz were offered in the same premises for many years; there was no formal partition of the land between them; hence they were held to be in joint possession. The last namaaz offered in the Masjid was on December 16, 1949. 

The case is complicated enough to vex the most acute legal eagle. To my mind, what is most striking about Ayodhya and recent high-profile cases like the Jessica Lal murder, Ruchika molestation, Nitish Katara murder, etc, is that the prolonged delay in the judicial process ultimately gave justice to the beleaguered litigants. This is because the cover-up/tampering with evidence and witnesses that could have resulted in miscarriage of justice if rapid trials were held could not be sustained in prolonged litigation and petered out, even as the social and political environment changed. It is a sobering lesson for those in a hurry.

The greatest vindication at Ayodhya is of the Archaeological Survey of India, whose experts work diligently to excavate and preserve the truth of our heritage in the face of extreme nastiness from arid Lib-Left academicians who grab state funding and western patronage to denigrate India's civilisation and culture. At Supreme Court direction in 2003, the ASI worked under the glare of a hostile media disinformation campaign, to unearth the truth that recovered the Ram Janmabhoomi as a Hindu heritage and validated Hindu civilisational memory. 

Special gratitude is owed to late Prof BR Grover, who single-handedly researched the medieval archives in Faizabad and discovered that Mughal-era revenue records listed the site as Masjid-e-Janmasthan — a direct reference to Sri Ram. Late Prof Swaraj Gupta assisted Prof BB Lal in his seminal work in Ayodhya, and had the brainwave of bringing a radar team to scan the surface below the ruins. The finding that there were man-made structures below prompted the apex court to order excavations; the rest is history… 

The most positive aspect of the judgment is that a peaceful settlement can be reached without political parties or Parliament. Both the Hindu Mahasabha and Sunni Wakf Board are aggrieved and plan to move the Supreme Court. The Muslim community would do well to resist overt and covert incitement by badly beaten and bruised secular fundamentalists who could barely conceal their rage in television studios. 

Muslims must accept with grace the basic letter and spirit of the judgment — that the land belongs to Sri Ram. The Sunni Wakf Board is open to negotiations, which is welcome, as it is difficult to perceive a situation in which the apex court will overturn this verdict and order ouster of Ram Lalla Virajman. We could borrow a solution from the old Arab practice (enshrined in Islamic law) wherein compensation can be offered to aggrieved parties. This would bring closure to all without aggravating the sentiments of any community. 

The writer is a columnist and author







But on one of the shiniest days in the history of free India our media pundits plumbed the depths of trivia

My judgment is short, very short," writes a relieved and happy Justice SU Khan, who delivered the Ayodhya verdict along with Justices S Agarwal and DV Sharma. But that "short, very short" judgment itself runs to 285 pages. The order of Justice S Agarwal, with annexes, runs to over, believe it, 5,200 pages; that of Justice DV Sharma tops over 1,700 pages, including annexes. It means this: to get a basic idea of the Ayodhya judgment one has to wade through some 8,000 pages. 

This long judgment may well enter the Guinness book as the longest judgment ever written! But, what the visual media and the participants in its debate had in their hands when they enlightened the nation for almost four hours was a one-page summary of Justice Khan's order; a two-page summary of Justice Sharma's; and a 12-page summary of Justice Agarwal's. Yet, in a couple of hours they settled the national opinion on the long judgment of 8,000 pages.

The "quality" of their discourse was self-evident, even self-serving. The visual media continuously ran headlines like "no temple was demolished to build mosque", when the majority finding on the issue, by Justices Agarwal (p5083) and Sharma (p28-104 in Waqf Board Suit) was that the mosque "had been constructed on the site of the Hindu temple after demolishing the same"; the judges had found that the Hindus had for long worshipped the place where the mosque stood as Ram Janmabhoomi (Sharma p172 Hindu Suit and Agarwal p5085). 

Most media projected Justice Sharma's views as minority view. Actually it is Justice Khan's that turns out to be that way, except on the division of the disputed area where Justice Agarwal partly agrees with him. But, on the issue of the broken temple predating the mosque and on the belief of the Hindus about the birthplace of lord Ram, Justices Agarwal and Sharma constitute the majority. Even Justice Khan does not deny the existence of the broken temple but says that the mosque was built on temple ruins. 

Again, the media did not highlight that the two Justices have dismissed the suits of the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara (believed to be the proxy for the Congress party); and also that the two Justices have decreed only the two suits filed by the Hindu parties. The consequence of this is immense.

The discourse on the visual media was less about the judgment and more about politics like whether the Court was right on deciding religious issues like whether it was Ram Janmasthan or there was a temple under the mosque. The media also wailed about why the nation should be wasting time on the temple issue when developmental issues are crying attention. Each of these comments is valid in itself; but they are no substitute for rigorous analysis of the verdict. Almost all commentators recalled the 1992 demolition, but did not say that Justice Agarwal (page 586) has concluded that that did not affect the rights of the Muslims in their suit. With the result, the millions who witnessed the TV channels did not get the right idea about the judgment; they got instead a distorted view of it. But they got the usual, and more, dose of lectures on "secularism". 

And most of the commentators were elated over the "statesmanship" in giving a third of the disputed place to Muslims. But they did not stop a minute to ask (unlike legal experts Rajeev Dhawan, regarded as a secular icon, and PP Rao did) how, after saying that the Muslims and Nirmohi Akhara had no right to sue, the two judges could give any share of the property to them. Political parties need votes; so they would speak only with that in view. But should these experts and intellectuals not call a spade a spade? Also point out what the Court has actually found as facts? They didn't. Therefore, the start of a national discourse on such a critical legal issue, with huge political and communal implications in future, could not have been shallower. More. For the last 20 years all political parties and secular intellectuals had told those who were for the Ram temple and those against to wait for the judicial verdict for resolving the dispute. Now move on to know whether the verdict achieves that objective. 

Without knowing who were the parties to the litigation, who has won and who has lost and what the verdict says cannot be deciphered. There were four suits in all before the judges — two by Hindu parties; one by Muslims (Sunni Waqf Board); and the third, widely believed to be the proxy of the Congress (Nirmohi Akhara). Some 121 issues were framed in the suits — like whether the Mosque was constructed on a temple demolished or in ruins; whether the Hindus had a long held belief that the disputed place was the birthplace of lord Ram; whether the four suits were within the period of limitation set by law; whether and how long the Hindus were worshipping at the disputed place; whether the Muslims were also worshipping in that place and from when to when; who owns the disputed land, the Waqf, Nirmohi Akhara, or the deity Ram. And so on. 

While the Hindus' suit had claimed the Janmasthan as exclusively that of the deity Ram, the Sunni Waqf Board suit had claimed it as exclusively its own. Nirmohi Akhara suit had claimed it again as its exclusive property. In law, this mutually exclusive claim of the three contenders meant that, if the suit of any one was allowed that would destroy the suit of the other two. This was how the cases, three of which were filed in 1989, the first one by the Hindus having been filed in 1950, began with the parties letting in oral and documentary evidence first and then arguing the case latter. The principal issue in the case was: whether the disputed place belonged to the deity Ram, or the Mosque or the Nirmohi Akhara. 

To decide this, the critical fact to be found was whether a Hindu temple predating the disputed Mosque existed. To unravel that the Allahabad High Court had directed the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to find out "whether there was any temple/structure which was demolished and mosque constructed on the disputed site" first by Ground Penetrating Radar (GRP) survey and, thereafter, by excavation. The ASI conducted the GRP survey and submitted a report in February 2003; after that it excavated the disputed area and submitted a further report of 574 pages. What was ASI's answer to the all-important question of temple under the mosque? How have the three judges decided the cases? What are the legal, political implications of the decision? These questions call for a clinical dissection of the 8000-page verdict. That will reveal whether the verdict solves the dispute, or escalates it. 

-- The writer is a noted columnist and invites feedback







The temple judgment must have come as a great and pleasant surprise to the Sangh Parivar because it is a kind of endorsement of its claim that the matters of "faith and belief" cannot be adjudicated upon. The BJP must be in a self-congratulatory mode because it was put into the defensive when its tall political leaders led a mob which destroyed the disputed structure on December 6, 1992. In spite of the Bommai case judgment, the Supreme Court had upheld the dismissal of the BJP State Governments, which had followed, because they had failed to defend secularism which, according to the judges of the highest Court, constituted the "basic structure of the Constitution of the Republic of India". 

Further, when elections were held in those States, the BJP was expecting renewed mandates after it had performed "yeoman's job" for the Hindutva cause. But, to its utter shock, the party was defeated in all the States of the Hindi belt. The BJP could not get political mileage or any dividends whatsoever. The so-called "Hindu" voters did not respond favourably in spite of the Sangh Parivar's dubious achievements in furtherance of the Ram cause. 

The Sangh and BJP leaders have always justified and legitimised their march to Ayodhya because as "true believers of Hinduism" they felt they just had to install lord Ram at His birthplace. Now we see the High Court unfortunately putting its seal of approval over the claim based on faith and beliefs; as a logical offshoot that Hindu temple of Ram can be built in Ayodhya. The Sangh Parivar's slogan that the Ram temple would be constructed at the same place where it had actually existed before its destruction has been endorsed by Their Lordships, and the Sangh's pride has been restored. 

While the BJP is on cloud nine, the Congress is facing the same old dilemma of Hamlet — "to be or not to be." Its old strategy of soft-Hindutva has been defeated before the undistilled Hindutva of the Sangh. The Congress has been caught in the web of its own deceit. It had hoped to balance Hindutva and secularism and failed to learn lessons from its electoral defeats of the 1990s which had its moorings in its reluctance to unambiguously defend the secular values and especially the Nehruvian legacy. 

Narasimha Rao had died a tragic figure because he failed to stand up to the forces which had decided to take the law into their hands. Politically, he could not rise against the temple demand. While a section of priests linked to the Sangh has celebrated the High Court judgment and demanded the immediate construction of the Ram temple, the Congress leadership has issued a wishy washy statement. While Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP heroically declared after the judgment that "the majority ruled that the location of the makeshift temple is the birthplace of Ram, and this spot cannot be shifted," the Congress' spokesman, Janardhan Dwivedi, said "We all should welcome and respect the judgment." 

Unlike the BJP which is in a celebratory mood, the Congress will have to do a lot of explaining because it has got to operationalise Dwivedi's statement about "welcoming" the judgment. Zafarayab Jilani, the Sunni Wakf Board's lawyer, said that the "High Court's formula of one-third land is not acceptable." When prodded further that the judgment should be read in the spirit of reconciliation in the national interest, he angrily responded that "only Muslims are always asked to make compromises in the national interest and for upholding secularism." This Muslim sentiment cannot be ignored by the Congress, which claims to have a "copyright" on secularism. 

The political fallout of the High Court judgment is that the Hindu-Muslim divide has further increased and sharpened. Karl Marx had alerted us to the idea of "false consciousness" and this is really applicable to the BJP because the story of conflicts on disputed places of worship has just begun. In spite of the law for the Protection of Places of Worship, any group can attack any place of religious worship on the plea that it "hurts religious sentiments" because it was allegedly built after destroying an earlier place of worship. A country with a long history has witnessed the destruction of religious places of worship by every community, including Hindus.

Can India survive with the baggage of history based on conflicting beliefs and faiths? Every political party has taken resort to opportunistic tactics. While dealing with problems like Ram Janmabhoomi, the emphasis should be on defending the rule of law, irrespective of religious considerations. Otherwise, the law of the jungle will prevail in the country. 

Special reference deserves to be made about imaginary constructions of religious identities for political expediency. It should never be forgotten that cultural diversity and pluralism make up the essence of India and the practitioners of Hinduism and Islam are internally divided into multiple sects and communities. Keeping in mind the present controversy, Tulsidas' Ramcharitmanas and Valmiki's Ramayan, along with many other Ramayans, are poetic imaginations. 

-- Professor Emeritus, JNU








THERE have been several occasions in the recent past when the very nature — and indeed the strength — of India's democracy was tested and questioned. Yet, if anyone had residual doubts, those were answered on September 30, the day the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court pronounced its verdict on the Babri Masjid- Ram Janambhoomi case.


In less than three days, the phrase, ' India has moved on' is threatening to become a cliché.


But it bears repetition that the India of 2010 is not the India of 1992. Shackled by economic restrictions imposed by the licence raj until 1991, India was just about waking up to a new kind of freedom then.


Now, all those millions who were born in 1992 are eligible to vote and perhaps would not let an Ayodhya

verdict determine their future.


Today, the Indian economy is zipping ahead at a growth rate of nearly 9 per cent, second only to China. It has some of the world's largest growing markets in almost all sectors.


Its GDP crossed $ 1 trillion a year ago, and the Indian middle class is an economic force to reckon with. India's software industry is a role model for countries to follow and with nearly 650 million mobile phone connections, it stands at the cusp of great sociological and economic change.


India's aspirations are vastly different now than what they were in 1992. The power of commerce and economic progress has perhaps triumphed over divisive political ideology and religious bigotry. In that sense alone, India has moved on.


The muted, almost dignified nationwide reaction to the Ayodhya verdict was a true reflection of what India of 2010 really wants — a genuine platform to usher in the next wave of economic progress. And bigotry be damned.







FOR LONG, Extra Terrestrial life has remained a favourite subject of science fiction movies and novels. In the real world, astronomers and scientists have been engaged in exploring the outer space and looking for signals there. This quest has resulted in the discovery of nearly 500 exoplanets or planets beyond our own solar system so far.


Now, for the first time, scientists have found one exoplanet which may be able to harbour life. The planet — which goes by the code name Gliese 581g — is located some twenty light years away from earth and is three to four times the mass of our planet. Scientists believe this is the first exoplanet with the right conditions for water to exist.


Though no direct evidence of life has been found yet on this planet, Dr Steven Vogt — who led the discovery team — believes the chances of this happening are " almost 100 per cent". In fact, scientists feel that there may be many more such planets.


With fresh advances in astronomy, the search for such planets and ETs is only going to intensify in the future. But the day when you can take a flight to one such exoplanet and encounter an army of aliens — as seen in sci- fi movies — is still many light years away.







FORMER Pakistan president and military dictator Pervez Musharraf thinks Pakistan is on the brink of another coup. While this may well be true, what is more likely is that a coup is what Mr Musharraf would have resorted to had he been in General Kayani's shoes.


The more interesting part of Mr Musharraf's comments is that while he wants the Army to be assigned a definite role in the democratic structure, he is against the institution having the power to overthrow governments.


This makes it clear that guarding against hypocrisy is not among Mr Musharraf's priorities.


]Or he has perhaps forgotten that he overthrew the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif in 1999, ushering in a long period of military rule.


Mr Musharraf's views on the Army's role may be in keeping with his antecedents as a military general but his stand that the armed forces mustn't overthrow governments also seems governed by his plans to float a political party of his own very soon. Some people like to eat their cake and have it too, don't they?










FROM the Islamist ideologue Maulana Abul ala Maududi to the Irish- American rapper Everlast, a varied set of figures and symbols have become part of the resistance discourse in Kashmir. The excesses committed by the security forces and the ham- handed handling of the unrest by the Centre and the state government have led to the convergence of these diverse resistance symbols against a narrowly- defined antagonist — the Indian state. Though the call for Azaadi echoes in the valley like never before in recent times, scratch the surface and one finds that there is little clarity as to what it entails.


In fact, the octogenarian Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his protégés like Masrat Alam Bhat as well as the teenaged stone- pelters have successfully subverted Kashmiri nationalism and Azaadi.


From the beginning of the insurgency, Geelani and the Jamaat- i- Islami which he has represented for much of his career have criticised Kashmiri nationalism. In fact, he has steadfastly maintained that ethno- nationalism of any kind is antagonistic to Islam. In Geelani's political worldview, which is determined by the ideas of Jamaat founder Maulana Maududi, Kashmir's accession to Pakistan accompanied by the Islamisation of Pakistan is a transitory stage for the establishment of an Islamic state worldwide. Time and again Geelani has stated that Kashmiris are Pakistanis as Islam binds them to Pakistan.




The main agenda of this section of Islamists, in line with Maududi's vision, is the Islamisation of society. A leader like Asiya Andrabi is a case in point. She cut her political teeth, not in pro- Azaadi demonstrations, but by mobilising support on issues of social morality. Her outfit, the Dukhtaran- i- Millat, had supported the little- known terrorist outfit Lashkar- i- Jabbar's diktat ordering women to wear the veil. Andrabi's supporters are known to have thrown acid on some women for not veiling themselves. Separatism, for this section of Islamists, is nothing more than a tool to gain legitimacy and extend their influence over society.


A testimony to their questionable commitment to Azaadi is the fact that in both the 2002 and 2008 assembly elections, large sections of the Jamaat had thrown its lot behind Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party ( PDP). Many former Jamaat cadre even joined the PDP. It is no coincidence that the PDP's election symbol was the pen and the inkpot — the same as the symbol used by the Muttahida Muslim Mahaz ( Muslim United Front) in the heavily rigged 1987 elections.


On its part, the PDP has abetted if not encouraged Islamism in general and Jamaat in particular at the local level.


Localised Islamist indignation on issues of moral corruption helped the PDP undermine the National Conference, which was seen to be upholding immorality in the valley. It also helped the PDP knock the wind out of the sails of separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik as local level religious radicalism was perceived to be less threatening than separatism.


The subversion of Kashmiri nationalism was in the interest of both the Islamists and the PDP. This Islamist mobilisation reached its true potential in the Amarnath agitation in which both Hindu and Muslim extremists went into a xenophobic frenzy and took to street violence and blockades as a means of protest. It was then that stone pelting first came into prominence. The discourse in the present unrest seems more communal than nationalistic. In much of the propaganda material the chief minister is referred to as Omar ' Singh' Abdullah and it is the Abdullah family's Islamic and not Kashmiri credentials that are questioned.


Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his Islamist protégés have a vested interest in ensuring that there is no space for dialogue.


Keeping the street as the main field for political contestation serves the cause of Islamisation and radicalisation of society very well. In contrast, Azaadi — defined as either freedom from the oppression of the security forces or even full- fledged independence — can be achieved only through a political process involving negotiations.




It is this aversion to negotiation and the centrality of the street that brings Geelani close to the stone- pelters who are probably younger than his grand- children. This is a generation which has gone through their formative years during the militancy.


They have witnessed the most brutal violence from both sides. In fact, they haven't seen a Kashmir that is free of militancy and the overwhelming presence of the security forces. They lack a frame of reference for a concrete political programme and desire a complete break from their existing reality. There is, therefore, little space for political negotiation in their blind rage. As it is, in the post- 9/ 11 world, radical Islamism has emerged as the main anti- establishment ideology in the world.


It is no surprise that these young stonepelters fancy themselves as some sort of Islamic Che Guevaras. A video posted by the " I am a Kashmiri stone- pelter" group on Facebook uses the song Stone in my hand by the rapper Everlast as the background score. Attached to the same video is a translation of the Surah al- Fil — a chapter of the Holy Quran which refers to birds sent by God pelting the enemies of Islam with stones. What Mr Geelani or Ms Andrabi would have to say about this fusion is beside the point. The use of both these symbols, completely out of context, for the sole aim of justifying rebellion shows the failure of Kashmiri nationalism to capture the imagination of these youngsters.


These protestors are far removed from the niceties of Kashmiriyat that lie at the heart of the politics of separatist leaders like Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabbir Ahmad Shah.


Far from leading the protests, these separatist leaders have been forced to join the bandwagon in order to remain relevant. In addition to the protests' subversion of Kashmiri nationalism, they pose a greater threat to the Mirwaiz in particular. The mob- Islamism of the Andrabi- Masrat Alam variety threatens the traditional and hierarchical religious linkages that lie at the basis of the Mirwaiz's authority. The two versions of Islam as well as their respective power structures are at complete variance. It is therefore no surprise that both the Mirwaiz as well as the leader of the Jamiati- Ahl- i- Hadith Maulana Shaukat Ahmad Shah have condemned stone- pelting , with the latter going to the extent of terming it un- Islamic.




The separatist leaders must recognise that their basis of power lies not on the streets but in their ability to negotiate the interests of the people of Kashmir vis- àvis the Centre. The cause of Kashmiri nationalism and Azaadi can be best negotiated through this process and not on the streets. It is therefore important that these leaders, sooner rather than later, dissociate themselves with elements like Geelani. The JKLF seems to have realised this as can be seen from its statement criticising Geelani for saying that an independent Kashmir is not viable. It has also taken on Pakistan- sponsored terrorist groups like the Lashkar- i- Tayyeba for " subverting the indigenous movement" and attempting to " sabotage the Kashmiris' spontaneous movement" through their mobilisation drive in Pakistan controlled Kashmir.


It is a welcome sign that the JKLF chief Yasin Malik has shown the magnanimity to be open to starting a process of dialogue with the Centre, in spite of the fact that his own cousin was killed in cold blood by the security forces. On its part, the Centre must enter into this process with all sincerity as it is of paramount importance that the dialogue table replaces the street as the field of political contestation.









WHEN someone worried came rushing to Jagmohan Dalmiya, the then president of the International Cricket Council ( ICC), and said that the Queen was keen to distribute the prizes after the World Cup final at Lord's, London, in 1999, he deflected the request very cleverly and deftly in a way that would not annoy the Monarch.


Dalmiya, much after demitting office in 2000, had revealed in an interview that his answer to the man was that the ceremony could be deferred by a few minutes and the Queen could leave the ground during this time. It happened exactly like that and as per the ICC convention — Dalmiya, being the president — presented the trophy to Aussie captain Steve Waugh.


That is Dalmiya for you — sharp, witty, humorous and known for never accepting defeat. And quite characteristically the old fox rallied back again to force his rivals in the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) to withdraw the case of misappropriation of money and announce the decision at Wednesday's AGM in Mumbai.


The 70- year- old seasoned administrator was facing allegations of misappropriation of ` 2.90 crore from the 1996 World Cup accounts. Like on several previous occasions he emerged from the abyss. But there is much more to him than that.

Dalmiya has an uncanny ability to find a solution to even the most tricky problem. Of course, he has been assisted by a core group of advisors and friends. They include noted advocate Usha Nath Banerjee, National Cricket Club secretary KP Kajaria, Cricket Association of Bengal's Gautam Dasgupta, former politician and diplomat Siddhartha Shankar Ray and the late Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu.

That Dalmiya helped raise millions of rupees to the BCCI's and ICC's coffers is well known.


When he was elected BCCI secretary in 1983 its coffers showed a deficit of ` 85 lakhs and when his term as board president ended in 2004 the balance had swelled to over ` 100 crores.


One of his former board colleagues recalls how he once surprised former board president AC Muthiah, whom Dalmiya succeeded in 2001, by squeezing an unexpectedly high sponsorship deal with a soft drink firm with his aggressive bargaining style.


The Kolkata- based Marwari knows how to deal with people.


During the 1996 World Cup at home, he received a request from the then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee for two match tickets. According to a Dalmiya's staffer, he took out two from the quota of another Lok Sabha member and gave them to Mukherjee. When his staff told Dalmiya that the affected MP had been pestering for more tickets, he reportedly replied: " I will cross the bridge when I come closer to it." It's not that Dalmiya is heartless.


He is very compassionate, especially with his personal staff as well as employees of the Cricket Association of Bengal ( CAB), of which he is the president, points out a close confidante.


" Once he got a BCCI meeting postponed due to ' personal reasons'. But actually he had to attend the marriage of a CAB clerk," he disclosed.


Dalmiya possesses a good temperament and doesn't get hassled easily. But after the Pawar- Manohar- Srinivasan trio snatched all his rights and privileges as BCCI administrator in December 2006, it did affect him. " In the last few years he seems to have aged faster and the effect could be seen on his health," said another of his close confidantes. " But in the last year or so, he has looked relaxed as it became increasingly clear that he was on a strong wicket against his BCCI rivals."



GREG CHAPPELL'S term as Indian team's coach ended well over two years ago, with a disastrous outing at the 2007 World Cup. But his legacy is quite evident even now, particularly in the cricketing jargon that he introduced in the country. Some of that may not have been used during the former Australia captain's twoyear tenure, but almost all players that came in contact with him often use that jargon even now.


Even Sourav Ganguly, who had a public spat with Chappell, uses some of that, though probably inadvertently. The other day, at the India Today Youth Summit in Delhi, when he was asked what's wrong with Yuvraj Singh, whom he had backed so strongly as captain, he replied using a term that Chappell used so often — ' process'. " You just have to deal with it [ ups and downs]. That's why it's important in life and in sport to keep it simple.


Just focus on performance.


Once you keep performing, the rest will look after itself," he said. And then he stressed: " Keep it simple as much as you can.


It's about the process." Before Chappell, this word was hardly used by Indian cricketers or coaches. The Aussie might have gone, but his legacy remains.



IT'S BLOWING hot and cold on the hockey pitches at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Tonnes and tonnes of ice is being used daily by players for post- practice ice bath — a modern way of relaxing their tired bodies, and a part of the cooling down process.


After their body temperatures shoot up during intense practice sessions on the energy- sapping artificial pitches, they go through stretching exercises to relax and then they hit the ice cubes. These ice cubes are put in inflatable plastic tubs and players stand waist down in them for a few minutes to cool down completely.


This exercise relaxes their bodies, particularly their calf and thigh muscles that bear the brunt on the merciless turf.


The demand from the 20 teams in the men's and women's competitions varies from 100 kg to 200 kg ice per practice session.


There have been well over 100 practice sessions since the stadium was opened for the teams on September 24 and there will be more at the Yamuna Sports Complex once the competition begins on Monday at the National Stadium.


Add a total of 54 men's and women's competition matches to this and imagine the quantity of ice that would have been used by the time the gold medal winners are decided on October 14. Mind boggling, indeed! Trucks full of ice are delivered to the National Stadium daily and it is kept in huge containers.


The demand by the Indian men's team, for instance, is 150kg for each practice session and another 50kg during matches, disclosed national coach Harendra Singh.


" Players need ice bath for refreshing themselves.


It also brings down their body temperatures," Harendra told M AIL T ODAY . " Apart from the 150kg for practice, we need 50kg for matches.


When players come out of the pitch during substitutions they wear ice jackets for immediate recovery. All the players who are benched during matches compulsorily wear ice jackets as they are sent on to the pitch again. We have 16 ice jackets, imported from Australia by the Sports Authority of India, and each one costs approximately ` 6,500."








Earth is animal planet. So, our men in uniform can hardly complain that, instead of guarding borders against phoren hanky-panky, they alone are tackling Games-related golmaal. True, soldiers have been fixing fallen footbridges, as well as sanitising and battling dengue-carrying machchhar at theGames Village. Naturally they feared that repulsing monkey marauders would be their next Mission Impossible. They've been spared, courtesy a new regiment in town. Ever since the Langur Sena put boots on the ground, an outlawed Bandar Brigade has been running scared. Many a terrorising plot of primates deploying flowerpots, banana peels and other projectiles stand aborted! 

Not that the simian saboteurs won't find new assignments. Partisans to their subversive cause conduct psy-ops everywhere. Ask the eyeless in Himachal. Far-sighted monkey business was suspected in a case of stolen spectacles at the HP power corporation office. The heists got so blindingly frequent, employees had to hide their glasses or wear contacts, and advise visitors not to be goggle-eyed. Temporary emigration is also possible, considering the blast Cape Town's baboons are having. Eating grapes in sun-fermented vineyards, their inebriated troops are raiding open-air lunch parties. Even better, the 'high' fliers are invincible against local people's counter-drunken insurgency weapons such as blaring vuvuzelas and plastic snakes! 

Talking of snakes and South Africa, a real one almost torpedoed that country's Games participation. Was another venomous bid foiled by its capture from an athlete's room? Does the failed 'sting' buttress Suresh Kalmadi's conspiracy theories? Happily, with India's famed snake charmers reportedly hired to patrol sensitive sites, the Games won't be boa-constricted. Nor will organisers need to heed critics' mamba-jumbo. Recent snake bytes, however, suggest that netas are making much adder about nothing. Cobras, pythons, vipers, anacondas, etc, are voluntarily slithering off to hibernate, the way Delhi's Games-harassed denizens are sidling off to holiday. Well, not all. Some reptiles, it seems, are forming a serpentine queue in front of Mallika Sherawat's lair. Didn't the glamour queen say she had to cootchie-coo with king cobra in a shoot for an upcoming movie, where she plays a snake-woman? Who says a reel-life naagin can't be persuaded to do a real-life repeat? Stranger things have happened in hisss-tory. 

Like billionairesses leaving their fortunes to pet pooches. Or the Delhi Kushti Sangh gifting buffaloes to wrestling champion Sushil Kumar, so he can muscle a milky way to an Olympic gold. Well, battle-weary pooches aren't impressed by the milk of human kindness. Without their help in sniffing a rat at public venues, would netas ever feel safe? Elite canine squads at Games sites don't want wag-the-dog politicos to distract from real issues. Such as why bulletproof jackets reportedly planned for four-legged law-enforcers as well aren't part of Games' doggy-bags. 

To boost morale, let's bark up the right tree. If nasty big Games hunters find mascot Shera a hard target, it'll be thanks to creatures big, medium and small. With all hands, fangs and claws on deck, air-to-ground protection for all is now a matter of inter-species cooperation. And thereby hangs and wags a tail. 








The verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on the title suits related to the disputed site in Ayodhya makes you wonder whether anything straight can ever emerge from the crooked timber of the majoritarian mind. The three parties involved in the suits the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Board of Waqf and the Ramlalla Virajman had expected, on wholly reasonable grounds, that the court would rule in favour of one or the other side without a trace of ambiguity. What the three judges decided instead was to trifurcate the land and hand it over to the litigants in equal parts. 

Among the factors that led them to do so, the most intriguing by far is the cachet of legality that they have bestowed on belief and faith. Both, we had assumed, naively as it turns out, had to be kept outside the ambit of the court. Here, judges weigh evidence rooted in incontrovertible facts, examine the pertinence of reasoned arguments and proceed to deliver a judgement that conforms, in letter and spirit, with the laws prevalent in the land. But by their very nature, faith and belief have no factual basis. They are above reason. And if push comes to shove, they aren't answerable to norms of legality laid down by mere mortals. 

This is the road that the three judges chose to tread. They looked upon Lord Ram not as a mythological figure who, given his exemplary life and character, dwells in the hearts of millions of Hindus, but as a historical character. This explains the court's willingness to identify the precise location of his place of birth. The exercise did not call for a shred of evidence. None was sought and none was forthcoming. It was undertaken simply because the faith and belief of Hindus decreed that the Lord was born under the central dome of the mosque that

was razed to the ground. 

Once faith and belief are factored into a resolution of a legal tangle, you embark, swiftly and surely, on the slippery slope of majoritarian conceit. Both can well come into play if a settlement is discussed outside the confines of a court. Attempts to this effect have indeed been made since 1992. Each one has failed. The reason, quite simply, is that when the sangh parivar asked for a compromise, it in fact wanted the Muslims to renounce their claims to the disputed area "out of respect for Hindu sentiments". That was no compromise solution at all. It was a summons to surrender. 

For this very reason, the Muslims asserted time and again that they would like the case to be examined in a court of law and that they would abide by its verdict. This affirmation of trust in the judiciary is easily explained. They had every right to expect the court to focus on the title suits without taking into account considerations that were extraneous to the judicial process. 

The biggest infirmity of Thursday's verdict, therefore, is that the court treated Lord Ram as a 'juristic person'. In the eyes of the law, a deity or an idol is thus entitled to be placed on par with flesh-and-blood litigants. The sheer brazenness of this stand, which belittles the exalted stature of Hinduism's most revered divinity, makes you wince. 

After this bit of 'creative' legal thinking, the other infirmities in the verdict appear to be no more than trifles. Take the issue of whether or not a mosque was built after demolishing a temple. From all accounts, the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India were incomplete at best and, at worst, misleading. At any rate, experts are divided on the subject. But that did not persuade the judges to exercise a bit of circumspection. 

But assume for a moment that Babar did order the destruction of a temple and the construction of a mosque in its place. How can you apply the laws of the 21st century to the depredations witnessed in the 16th century? And, more significant still, why should the sins committed by Babar visit his co-religionists today? In a country where, for example, Buddhists have been at the receiving end of Hindus, this can open a can of worms. This verdict therefore smacks of majoritarian arrogance which, one hopes, will be jettisoned root and branch by the Supreme Court. 

The silver lining in all this is that the country has by and large heeded the appeal of political parties and religious leaders to remain calm after the verdict. With the exception of a few hotheads, who have again raised the spectre of Kashi and Mathura, their own reactions have indeed been muted. Does this augur well for an out-of-court settlement? Much would depend on the outcome of a criminal case related to the demolition of the mosque that is being heard in another court. Exemplary punishment for those who brought shame and infamy to India could go a long way in persuading the Muslims to part with the land that is now rightly theirs in the larger interests of the nation. They can then walk tall as citizens who put the future of our democratic and secular republic above their sense of hurt.







Higher education in India has become extremely formulaic and rigid. Many universities here are more adept at churning out graduates than facilitating research and learning. It is a reflection of things that in the latest QS World University RankingsIIT Bombay was the sole Indian representative in the list of top 200 varsities. There is an urgent need to initiate reforms and streamline the higher education system. In this context, the proposal to have a common aptitude test, in addition to the class XII board examination, for admission into central universities is a good idea. The test, to judge students' analytical skills and inclinations, will help standardise the admission process with respect to students from various school boards. It is eventually aimed at easing the burden of multiple subject-specific entrance exams that most colleges conduct. 

The present first-past-the-post system, as manifest in admission cut-off lists, promotes rote learning. Students study with single-minded focus on getting a particular score so that they can get into the college of their choice. In most cases that choice is influenced by family and peer pressure. Feeding off this are innumerable coaching centres that guarantee admission into sought-after streams. So, students often end up pursuing courses they have no genuine interest in. A common aptitude test can help universities ascertain if a particular candidate is suited to pursue higher studies in a given subject. 

The current exam-centric process must gradually give way to a comprehensive system of evaluation that takes into account a student's overall performance. A common aptitude test is congruent with this thinking. However, care needs to be taken to ensure the autonomy of universities in the admission process, which must be insulated from political influence. We need to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach and start focussing on quality instead of quantity. 








A committee of vice-chancellors has proposed that students seeking admissions in central universities will have to pass a National Aptitude Test (NAT). As against subject-specific tests conducted by many of these universities, NAT along with class XII scores, will decide the merit of students. Many students, teachers and parents have justifiably opposed this 'in-principle' decision of HRD minister Kapil Sibal, to be implemented during academic year 2011-12. 

It is difficult to fathom the rationale for NAT. According to Sibal, it aims to test students' communication and analytical skills. And it is to ensure students who pass by rote learning get filtered out. But such reasoning is contradictory. It doesn't recognise the self-limiting propositions of NAT. Rote learning at the school level is the result of a mechanical system of grading that ignores the creativity and aptitude of students. Any sensible prescription would focus on the problem at the school level instead of having yet another exam add to students' burden. Worse, NAT will also create pressure on students in that their future will eventually depend on just these two exams. This shows the government's lack of trust in its own system. In addition, the possible removal of subject-specific tests will lower the quality of students in specialised streams. 

Besides, the proposal is elitist in the sense that it contradicts the stated objective of increasing university enrolment. Such a system cannot work in Indian society where widespread disparities exist in terms of the standard of education. Would it be possible for students from poor and government schools to compete on an equal footing with students from high-end private schools? Let's not forget that at stake is the issue of access to higher education, particularly for students belonging to the poor and marginalised sections of society. With exams like NAT, we are creating more stumbling blocks in the path of inclusive education.








For a dispute festering as long as the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi one has, it is only natural that the country was holding its collective breath to see how reactions to the verdict would be. While most of India has indeed, in the phrase of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, "moved on", one knows that in India's story of sectarian-ridden politics, you don't need to 'remember' or 'forget' to light a spark. Thankfully, a day after the three-judge Allahabad High Court bench delivered its judgement, almost all parties involved and following the contentious case have taken the verdict in their stride. Even those who have critiqued it have done so within the realms of jurisprudence and rational discourse.


The BJP, whose actual formative years and 'booster shot' to becoming a full-fledged national party lies in the Ayodhya movement, has behaved maturely. It would have been easy for the party to strike a triumphant note, making political hay while the sun of judicial approval of its belief — that the disputed site marks the birthplace of Ram — shone from the secular institution of a courthouse on Thursday. It would have been equally easy for elements of the Muslim community to take the irrational path of showing disapproval that lies outside the precincts of law. It would have been predictable for other parties to align themselves in pro- and anti-cubicles after the verdict. But none have picked on real or imaginary sores.


Much of this can be explained by the times we live in. India is no longer in the state of political flux that marked the 'Mandal' and 'Kamandal' years. Priorities have shifted. But at the same time, the Babri masjid demolition in 1992 and its violent aftermath as well as the more recent anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 were 'single-point' events that tipped the nation over into a communalised furnace. Sparks such as those have, and can, set the peaceful coexistence of differences ablaze. Which is why it is necessary to proactively continue in building and maintaining bridges between the two largest religious communities in the country.


The Ayodhya verdict has provided a strong 'hand-railing', a template, if you will, for sorting out Hindu-Muslim differences. While some critics of Thursday's judgement have compared it to "panchayat justice dividing the disputed property among the three contenders", it really is an outside-the-box verdict that is bent on a workable solution rather than a radical departure from judicial nitty-gritty. In a way, the Ayodhya dispute is a panchayat-style property case that required Solomon-like 'panchayat justice'. The case will move now to the Supreme Court. Between now and when the final judgement takes place in the future, the tangibles and intangibles of law and communal bridge-building must be firmly kept in sight.



                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





Variously described as an example of "judicial statesmanship" (Soli Sorabjee) and "an astonishing, one-sided judgement" (Rajeev Dhawan), the Allahabad High Court's Ayodhya verdict is likely to be one of the most furiously debated judicial conclusions in the history of Modern India. It appears to have evoked both hope and disquiet, depending, perhaps, on one's expectations, politics and ideology. Interestingly, the one adjective used uniformly across the legal divide to capture the essential character of the verdict was that it was "panchayat-styled justice."


But polemics aside, as we wade through the thousands of pages that make up the three distinct perspectives of the court, the verdict must be assessed by the benchmark set by one of the judges himself. Does it, as Justice S.U. Khan asks movingly in his prelude, succeed in clearing the "innumerable landmines" from the 1,500 square yards where "angels fear to tread"?


A panchayat, by definition, seeks to keep peace in the village by brokering a compromise between maximalist positions. Understood in this manner, the judgement seems to aim at being politically astute rather than legally brilliant. And indeed many questions are being raised about whether a dangerous precedent has been set by the specificity with which matters of faith seem to have become points of law. Could the majority judgement not have reached the same conclusion without, for instance, being evidentiary in approach?


In other words, could the decision to divide the property between Hindus and Muslims have been based more on a deference to religious beliefs and sensitivities on both sides than on any stated empiricisms? These are issues that will be deconstructed by legal experts in the weeks to come. For the rest of us, the real question is the one posed by the judges themselves: can the verdict provide an opportunity for national healing?


The answer to that question lies in a series of things that must not happen in the aftermath of a verdict that in any case will get locked by the Supreme Court. We also have to appreciate that the judges were left to play the role of sarpanch, because the men and women who should have— our politicians— failed to initiate a process for any real reconciliation. And in our understanding of where we go from here, we must take our cue from how the country responded in the immediate aftermath of the verdict — dignified, sober, restrained, and mostly, eager to move on. To build on this national mood, here are some essential prerequisites.


Petty triumphalism and gloating by those who see themselves as "victors" after the judgement is not just a loathsome response but one that is counter-intuitive to public expectation. The first discordant and ugly note was struck by the individual lawyers for several Hindu groups who violated every tenet of legal decency by rushing out of court into the glare of television cameras, flashing the victory sign, proceeding to oversimplify a complex judgement into dangerous generalisations. The court should not have permitted this to be the first dissemination of the verdict in the public domain. It smacked of the worst sort of small mindedness.


And it is this lack of grace that we must not allow our politicians in the days to come.


So far, the BJP and even the RSS have been essentially restrained and responsible in emphasising that the verdict must not be posited in terms of victory and defeat. But, should the party have been so quick in using the verdict to talk about a "grand mandir" at Ayodhya? If, as the party argued, the Allahabad High Court had paved the way for national reconciliation, then could the BJP not have shown a little more magnanimity of response? For instance, L.K. Advani, whilst talking about a Ram Mandir, could have also been more specific in welcoming the building of an adjacent mosque. Both Justice Khan and Justice Agarwal have underlined the "very unique" historic tradition of Hindus and Muslims offering prayers alongside at the site before the 1857 mutiny. The BJP could have focused more than they did on this syncretic history of India's religious edifice.


Equally, if any Ram Mandir is to built in a spirit of "reconciliation" then the truth of the demolition of 

December 6, 1992, must be addressed first. Yes, the thuggish and shameful demolition was not legally connected to the four title suits being determined by the Allahabad High Court. But since the judges showed enough innovation in their decision to divide the property between the communities, an observation — at the very least — about the demolition would have added more moral fibre to their good intentions.


The Congress, whose own history is far from above-board when it comes to Ayodhya, has also been strangely

wishy-washy in taking specific action against the perpetrators of the demolition. It is important to underscore that this verdict — with its varied perspectives on what the nature of the structure was —  does not change the fact that there needs to be accountability for the appalling breakdown of the law in 1992. We must understand that the Babri Masjid per se was not as important to the Indian Muslim, as the demolition made it.


And finally, while justice for 1992 remains a live issue, Muslim leaders too must allow their community's younger generation to embrace new priorities and dreams and not keep them locked into narratives of the past. Their rhetoric too needs to be responsible and non-inflammatory in these sensitive times.


In short, grace and generosity of response is what we expect from all the stakeholders. That, and a reminder that in Ayodhya, the flowersellers outside the Hindu temples are all Muslims, as are the men who craft the Hindu icons that the devout worship. That is the India we know and love. That is the India we must preserve.


Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV n The views expressed by the author are personal



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





Of all the madcap ideas to come out of the Commonwealth Games, possibly the worst is the one to hide away the city's beggars. Here's why.


Newspapers have been reporting that many beggars have either been arrested or forced off the streets. Unsightly slums are being hidden behind banners of Shera, our ironically chosen mascot whose big smile surely belies his endangered status. And migrant labourers, many of them roped in to complete unfinished works, are being told to steer clear of public sight.


Much of the rationale for hosting these hugely expensive games is that it will showcase an emerging, confident country. That's largely why China hosted an Olympics in Beijing and followed it up less than two years later with an expo in Shanghai. And look at the dividends. Despite its human rights record and despite its continuing censorship of online information, China can bully Barack Obama into putting off meeting the Dalai Lama in Washington and issue firmans to Norway against awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to any of the Chinese dissidents on this year's list.


Let's not single out India for trampling over the human rights of its poor. China razed entire blocks of housing and displaced thousands of people before its 2008 Beijing bash. Even democracies have not been immune to whitewashing. Atlanta in 1996 carted off 9,000 people, mostly black, for petty offences and Sydney before its 2000 Olympics passed laws criminalising homelessness and begging in tourist areas.


India's eagerness to put on its best party suit is understandable even if it is a bit of a joke given the huge rips in it caused by collapsing ceilings and gamboling dogs. The damage has been done by photographs of water-logged basements and paan-stained apartments and headlines with words including 'uninhabitable', 'corrupt' and 'inept'. How do we gloss over it? By hiding away the poorest of our urban poor we are hoping, stupidly, to present our own version of India's truth. In today's connected world where figures, images and voices are a click of the mouse away, do we really expect the world to believe that India is all malls, highways and high-rises – or to use a term that is out of fashion, India is shining, and only shining?


You can hide the beggars but not the statistics. What banner can disguise the cold fact that 410 million of our citizens live on less than $1.25 a day? Where do we tuck away our rank, 134 out of 182 countries, in human development indices? And do we pretend that our problems — beggars and poverty, hunger and illiteracy, gender discrimination and lack of access to medical care, Kashmir and Naxalism — simply don't exist?


But if there's awareness of our problems, there is also worldwide recognition for our achievements in medicine, technology, finance and literature. This past week, we were told that the 100 richest Indians share between them a wealth of over $300 billion. American politicians might rail against outsourcing jobs to India but American business follows the money. As long as we deliver, they will come — and never mind the smell and the sight of slums that greet them on the road from Mumbai airport.


By shipping out beggars, we have actually lost an opportunity. It is the opportunity to tell the world yes, we have problems; no, we are not proud of them; and yes, we will tackle them head-on. Underlining that message is another one of telling the world: please stop talking down to us. When President Obama links Kashmir with a permanent seat for India at the United Nations, we should — like China does on so many of its internal issues — be able to tell him to back off.


If we want our place on the high table of international affairs, we cannot dither or be diffident. Yet, I can't help asking just one last question: how much of the reported Rs 30,000 crore that we are spending on CWG would it have taken to find a more permanent solution to the problem of slums and urban poverty? And how long do you expect the camouflage to last?


Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer n The views expressed by the author are personal








It made for racy television: the Australian Channel Seven reporter Mike Duffy strolling into Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru stadium with a conspicuous suitcase stuffed with explosives. The Commonwealth Games' central fortress was revealed as terribly vulnerable, putting so many spectators and athletes at risk. Duffy's sting operation involved buying arms from a supposedly unauthorised dealer and then demonstrating how easy it was to pierce through Delhi's best laid security arrangements.


Except, as rival news channel ABC's Paul Barry put it, "It just didn't look right." How could Duffy have taken such an enormous risk, and what if he had been caught by security with a bomb on him? Barry blew the story to pieces in ABC's Media Watch programme, claiming that the filming was done when Games security was not in operation and the entire stunt was "ridiculous and dishonest".


The story was meant to illustrate Delhi's sloppy preparations for the Games and its awful laxity about potential security dangers. It was all right for Duffy to misrepresent himself in service of a larger truth, to expose India's under-preparedness. But instead of a public-spirited intervention, the Channel Seven report turned out to be a deliberate sham — the suitcase was empty, the dealer was a certified seller, and Duffy only got up to the traffic barricade. It was pure insecurity theatre — creating the appearance of chaos and confusion, editing reality to suit its biased purposes. It's sad but true that there's a constituency of viewers that would take in these stories with a certain glee and schadenfreude, as if they confirm what they knew of India all along. Reporters like Duffy are simply giving them what they want. Which makes it even more creditable that it was Australian network ABC that finally exposed the deception, and said it like it is.







There is good news for the Union government on the state of its finances. According to the latest statistics released on September 30, the government's fiscal deficit for the first five months of the financial year 2010-11 (April-August) fell by around 17 per cent compared to the same time period last year. There are two explanations for this improvement in the deficit. For one, the government earned a bounty of Rs 1.06 lakh crore from the auctions for 3G spectrum and broadband wireless access. This addition to the government's non-tax revenues turned out to be much higher than the Rs 35,000 crore that was estimated in the last budget. A second, unrelated boost comes from the buoyancy of the government's tax revenues in the first five months of this fiscal year. Net tax collections of the government have grown by 29.6 per cent on a year-on-year basis between April and August. This is a reflection of the sharp turnaround in the overall growth rate of the economy. In fairness to the government, at least some of the increase in the deficit to over 5 per cent was because of declining revenues and increased stimulus spending during the crisis. That has now clearly reversed.


The most direct impact of an improvement in government finances is on government borrowing: market borrowing by the government has reduced significantly (by almost half) and that has freed resources for use by the private sector. Reduced government borrowing also helps prevent upward pressure on interest rates, something that is without doubt good for investment activity. The government's own spending programmes will also be viewed as more affordable as the deficit declines.


Of course, a decline in the fiscal deficit is by no means a free licence for the government to spend more, carelessly. Fortunately, the evidence suggests otherwise. The government has increased its productive capital spending sharply in the first five months, while keeping its revenue spending at the same level as last year. Plan expenditure has also grown faster than non-plan expenditure. Importantly, in a ministry-wise breakdown of spending, the ministries of home, agriculture and HRD come out on top in terms of expenditure growth, which seems reasonably in line with the right priorities. The government must, of course, keep focused on the task of eventually bringing the deficit down to below 3 per cent of GDP.







It is little surprise that Abhinav Bindra will be the flag-bearer for India at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. After all, participating teams are aware that they make a statement by such a choice. China, for example, often settles on its basketballers to lead the contingent into the stadium — it's perhaps less to do with their height than to the Chinese devotion to basketball, never mind that the national team is not in the reckoning for the big titles. For a country that adhered to a gradual ascent to the top of the medals tally at the Olympics, the choice nuances otherwise facile statements about assertions of great power status through sport. For India, too long an also-ran at the big events, performance of the flag-bearer is understandably key. And Bindra, who gained for India its first individual gold at the Olympics, embodies the national aspiration for recognition in single-competition sports.


The opening ceremony of the CWG has got top billing. The entertainment may be riveting as promised, but opening ceremonies inevitably pass the spotlight to the athletes. After the hysterics of past weeks, that should be a relief. It may serve as a reality-check for why this country went to such lengths to bring the competition to Delhi, why it put up (sometimes with a readiness bordering on the masochistic) with nit-picking by anyone who cared to have an opinion on its preparedness, and why the Games should be the beginning of a process for Indian sport and not the culmination of a last-minute dash to get the facilities ready on time. For this country, the narrative about playing host is a bit different. And again, the China parallel is instructive. Countries like China and even South Korea have used their place in the medals tally to assert their bids for events like the Olympics and Asian Games, and thereby make a statement about how far the country has come — China's economic clout, South Korea's democratic transition.


For India, such events have been brought home because of its place in the world, and the hope has always been that local sport will benefit. So it was that the first Asian Games were hosted by India; in fact, it was the Indian Olympic chapter which won the argument that Asia needed its own games. So perhaps it's with the CWG, and the enduring desire that our athletes' performance meet the country's aspirations. Let's give them the attention that's rightfully theirs.









P Chidambaram says the media is over-analysing the Ayodhya judgment. He is right for the simple reason that this is not the last court verdict on this issue. Since this will certainly go up to the Supreme Court, this one is a bit like a semi-final match that ends in a draw but where both contestants enter the final. That is why assessing this judgment is still an academic exercise. More relevant, and interesting, therefore, is the popular and political responses to it and what they say about our evolution as a constitutional state and a secular, liberal, syncretic society and culture.


As investment bankers tell you, a good deal is the one that leaves both sides a little bit dissatisfied. That is the case here. Both sides find the judgment below their expectations, the Muslims more than the Hindus. Yet all criticism and questioning has been tempered with a maturity that surprised all of us, and the world. There were no motives imputed to the judiciary, nobody said it was fixed by the government, and nobody said he had lost his faith in the system. Of course, the angriest of all were the "ultra-secularists" of the intelligentsia. But they also criticised the court for giving a "panchayati" solution rather than a judicial verdict and expected the Supreme Court to "rectify" it. Nobody said it was fixed, nobody said the judicial approach was not going to work, and the fact that this class that came up with the most articulate criticism of the judgment seemed overwhelmingly inclined towards the Muslim argument, in spite of having been (at least) born Hindu, spoke well for our society and the system.


So here is my first takeaway from this September 30. When all else fails, politics, social dialogue, intellectual and philosophical argument lean on the system of institutions. But for that you have to build great institutions and also tolerate what you might sometimes see as their excesses.


Because it is the institutions that serve as both parent-cum-guardians as well as pressure valves of a democracy. Institutions that are seen as impartial, credible and fair protect us and our rights from the whims of the executive, vagaries of our politics and, most importantly, the tyranny of brute majorities.


The second takeaway has to be the pragmatism and wisdom of our politics. So far no political party has tried to exploit the verdict for partisan purposes. The Congress, you can see, is a little lost. Its government is simply relieved that the judgment has been accepted with unprecedented calm and equanimity so far. The party itself, having built its post-2002 politics (following the Gujarat riots) on aggressive, almost Nehruvian secularism, where the BJP was evil and its leadership vermin, if not worse, finds that a compromise such as this might help the larger common good rather than any grand turnaround to undo the injustice of 1992. That, in fact, will be and should be achieved by pursuing the criminal cases arising from the Babri Masjid destruction more vigorously. This judgment has in fact created space for just that, by distancing a criminal act from a purely civil property dispute. So the Congress needs to study the consequences and fine-tune its electoral politics accordingly. That is why the Congress response has been so measured, avoiding the easy temptation of lunging for the minority vote banks. This is in spite of the fact that in Bihar now, in Assam next year and, most importantly, in Uttar Pradesh in 2012, it will need to win back that Muslim vote it lost between 1989 (shilanyas under Rajiv Gandhi) and 1992 (Babri destruction, under Narasimha Rao).


Our politicians are the shrewdest Indians and it could well be that they are seeing a socio-political change that many of us have been anticipating and wishing for. It is simplistic to say India has moved on. But moved on from when to where? It can only be if the nature of vote-bank politics is changing fundamentally. Without that, India could not have moved on. Probably that is the change the Congress leadership has sensed, and the BJP even more so. What else would explain their surprisingly muted and mature response to what many of their supporters would have seen as a victory, even if a narrow one on points. L.K. Advani spoke to my colleague, Indian Express Senior Editor Vandita Mishra, expressing satisfaction with the court order but underlining that it did not justify the Babri demolition. Now, if you are a student of contemporary politics, think hard. This is a clearer denunciation and disowning of the crime of 1992 by a top BJP leader than you have heard of the Emergency of 1975 by a top Congress leader. There have been "regrets" expressed, but only about its "excesses". Only a fortnight ago, Advani had told Vandita and Saubhik Chakrabarti (Eye, September 19) that had he known the consequences that followed in either case, he would not have gone to Ayodhya while he would certainly have visited Pakistan.


Advani and his partymen have not discovered a new liberal approach to politics. Just like the Congress, they have also figured that India's politics has changed. That the insecurities, bitterness and frustration of the '90s that made Hindutva a propellant in their rise to power, are no longer there. This new India would only buy a new, improved political product. You want evidence: the only political criticism of the judgment has come from Mulayam and Lalu who now sit on the sidelines of power politics, having seen one of the two letters in their MY (Muslim-Yadav) vote banks move away.


Early on in journalism school we are taught the golden three-example rule. So here is my third takeaway. I stuck my neck out to hail the 2009 election result as conclusive evidence that India's rotten politics of grievance was now yielding to the new politics of aspiration. Let me take a risk again to say two more things. One, that the Congress and the BJP have both seen and embraced this shift and are now recrafting their political response to this new, aspirational electorate. Mayawati's studied and clinical equidistance and steely administrative control over law and order tells you that she has also understood the change. But three of the biggest, though localised, beneficiaries of the politics of grievance and fear, Mulayam, Lalu and the Shiv Sena, are in denial of this welcome change, and are, therefore, looking down the barrel, electorally.


Postscript: The question everybody is asking is, can a mosque and a temple coexist? India is full of such places.

My favourite is Kanchipuram, where the mutt of the Shankaracharya has a sizeable mosque next to it. What

makes this spot so unique is that right across the street, sternly overlooking the mutt and the mosque, sits a bust

of Periyar, the great atheist, iconoclast and the founder of the Dravida movement. An inscription under it reads:


There is no God,


There is no God,


There is no God at all,


The inventor of God is a fool,


The propagator of God is a scoundrel,


The worshipper of God is a barbarian.


So if you believe in Bhagwan, you go to Shankaracharya; you have faith in Allah, you go to the mosque; and if you do not believe in any god at all, just turn around and bow to Periyar.



Nobody would take any offence any which way. So welcome to Incredible India.







With the rain gods finally letting up and the sun shining down on the upcoming Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, attention has moved to the Games themselves. And while public perception remains largely negative, don't be surprised if the Games end up exceeding expectations, both on and off the field. It depends on whether the CWG 2010 Organising Committee, the National Capital Region (NCR) and its machinery and the country as a whole come together and channel the energy and buzz in a positive direction — towards the on-field competitive quality, the uniqueness of many of the disciplines on display, and of course, the spanking new stadiums that have been refurbished to almost unrecognisable levels of aesthetics and sophistication.


The opening and closing ceremonies of such global events often set the tone for what's to follow, and etch their way into everyone's impression of how the event itself was conducted. Although with the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, and other events where the competition is top-notch, a poor opening or closing ceremony can often be overcome by a scintillating performance ( like the gold medal ice hockey game between the US and Canada at the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010), for the most part, a gaffe or a blooper can irreversibly damage the reputation of an event. While the CWG, over the years, have neither the budgets nor the global audience needed to justify expenditure to the tune of a billion dollars, they manage nonetheless to put on a good show.


One hopes that Delhi 2010's opening ceremony will also showcase the NCR and the country's 5000-year-old culture and tradition in a befitting manner. One should note that a dazzling display of opulence and animatronics at the Beijing Olympics served a different purpose: an emphatic announcement that China was the economic superpower of the world, and could afford to spend the rumoured $58.5 billion as a carte blanche marketing expense, never mind the speculation that the infrastructure created and developed for the Olympics is now in a state of neglect and disarray. CWG Delhi 2010 has no such luxury, especially now that each expense by the OC is subjected to intense scrutiny and widespread debate. However, Delhi should take heart from two of its predecessors: Kuala Lumpur (CWG 1998), and Manchester (CWG 2002). While Kuala Lumpur used the CWG to catapult itself into the upper echelons of sports nations, Manchester took on the CWG to repair its torn image and economy and to develop/ refurbish sports infrastructure, and also to show the world that it was ready to host the CWG. Both were successful within these parameters, and hopefully Delhi will be too.


On October 3, 2010, the Queen's Baton Relay (QBR) will conclude its journey across the 70 Commonwealth nations. As of now, it is planned that Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra will carry the baton into the national stadium, and hand it over to Prince Charles (as the Queen's nominee) for him to officially "open" CWG 2010. The QBR itself has an intriguing history. It was first introduced at the 1958 CWG, the baton containing a message from the Queen to the participating athletes. Until the 1998 Kuala Lumpur games, the QBR would only visit the host nation and the United Kingdom prior to the Queen's message being read at the opening ceremonies to officially declare the Games open. Since the Kuala Lumpur games, however, the QBR now traipses through all 70 Commonwealth nations, passing through the hands of numerous dignitaries, celebrities, athletes, and others. This is similar in many ways to the Olympic torch relay, although the historical significance of the latter is somewhat better documented and understood. The QBR for the Delhi 2010 Games commenced on October 29, 2009 at the Buckingham Palace, and entered India via Pakistan at the Wagah border on June 25, 2010. Its timing unfortunately, coincided with the public outbreak of unhappiness, and so the relay itself has jogged under the radar. It has been an extremely well-organised national segment, and surprisingly popular at the local and regional levels, due perhaps to the absence of negative publicity.


CWG 2010 has until now been considered the nation's folly and the consensus has been the country is simply not ready to host an event of this magnitude. All of this will change, however, if October 3 imprints itself upon the perception of India and the world. If it conveys to all those who watch, critique or applaud — Welcome to CWG 2010. Ready at last, set to soar, and finally a force to be reckoned with in the world of sports. Swagatham.


The writer is a Delhi-based sports attorney. Views are personal









Nine-Eleven marked the peak in world terrorism. There is every indication that the Commonwealth Games being held in India will mark the peak in Indian corruption. How so? Ask any investor in financial markets — the blowout phase, a period when all norms, and rationality, are substituted by irrational exuberance, or despair. After the crisis, a new era begins. In a decade from now, if not considerably sooner, we will thank the CWG episode for changing the Indian corruption landscape. If it hadn't been for the most brazen in-your-face corruption, and corruption that did not produce any efficient results, the media and the middle class (or should it be the other way around?) would not have become hysterical and thus helped change the face of accountability.


That is a bit in the future. Herewith, some lessons from the past, lessons from all countries, developed and developing. First lesson: corruption is a fact of life, but especially so when a country is transiting from a low to a middle income country. It is true that developed economies have considerably less corruption than developing economies. But let us not forget that Spiro Agnew, former US president Richard Nixon's first vice president, had to resign in 1971 on grounds of corruption — he had taken a $25,000 bribe in the award of a construction contract!


Second lesson: there are differences in corruption. The India of the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s also had corruption, but it was mostly of the inefficient sort. You bribed, but things still did not happen. With the advent of economic reforms, and most importantly globalisation, we have moved to an era of increasing, but increasingly efficient, corruption. So how does this bad movie end — when the middle class says it cannot take it anymore. And for that, you needed the CWG, and a villain like Suresh Kalmadi. After all, what was his crime? That he did not deliver. There were cost overruns, misguided charging for toilets, all in the family affair in terms of hiring etc. Name me one organisation where some of these unfortunate corruptions do not happen. Okay, okay, there are some, but you get my drift. The simple point is that we ignore these drawbacks because there is an efficient outcome at the end. No matter how well the Games go, the stench of misorganisation will not go away for a long time.


The middle class, the NGOs, the civil society, and the media all smell blood, and more power to their noses. It is really doubtful whether another incident like this can occur. After all, what was Kalmadi's alleged crime? Is it the case that the Beijing Olympics did not involve non-minor corruption? Was South Africa able to jump over the historical process by not having a reasonable amount of corruption? Perhaps the answer to both questions is yes. Then pigs do fly and these non-corrupt nations have citizens with not red, but blue blood.


Good governance, or less corruption, is a luxury service — as countries become more educated, more developed, more middle class, they demand less corruption, and they demand more efficient corruption. In the past, this was a slow historical process; today, we in India, and other emerging economies, should consider ourselves lucky that we are living in the age of the Internet. There is literally no place to hide anymore. Non-recognition of this simple reality helps explain the seemingly bizarre actions of the CWG. They, oldies mostly, were brought up in a different era. They came to power and influence in an age where checks and balances either did not exist or were difficult to implement. They had gotten away with corruption and non-production many times before. Why, they thought, was today any different? So they continued, but business is not usual anymore. The Internet and the mobile and the TV allow for instant communication, checking, and transmission. Further compounding the problem for the do-badders is that "news is entertainment". And catching corruption in high places is news and entertainment!


And while we indulge in openly criticising ourselves and our society (and thank God we do that), here is something else Indians (and especially the oh-so-moral and upright lecturers from abroad) should take note of. Simultaneous with the CWG fiasco, and reinforcing my blowout theory, is another momentous Indian moment in the fight against corruption — the father-son lawyer duo of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan have alleged, with evidence, that eight of the 16 Supreme Court chief justices in India have been corrupt, where being corrupt is defined as being of "doubtful" integrity. I cannot say for sure, but it is likely that such a charge is unprecedented in the world. If there are other instances in world history, there cannot be more than a handful. It is for our system to decide whether the Supreme Court justices are guilty or the Bhushans. My bet is that truth and justice will prevail — the middle class champions will be proven right. And when the process of determination begins, the corrupt in India, and the world (Internet again!) will begin to have more difficulty in sleeping.


All in all, this is a moment to rejoice. There is pain today, but it almost guarantees a better tomorrow.


Introducing a fortnightly column by Surjit S. Bhalla, chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm.








There were many of us who never felt particularly strongly about the Ayodhya dispute. Some of us were too young then to be swept up in the dangerous enthusiasms that swamped a rapidly-changing India; some of us were a little too irreligious; some of us were simply too focused on what more narrowly impacted our own material future.


Hence the sentiment that dominated in the run-up to the Allahabad high court's judgment: a generalised unease that this issue, with all its blood-soaked historical baggage, its appeal to an atavistic, communal sense of who we are, would once again take over India's political conversation. That sentiment, universally apparent — even in the various quirky suggestions about what to do with the disputed site — was driven by those who felt that they had a stake in only one thing: in moving on.


So, now the judgment's out, naturally everyone wants to move on quickly. Nobody really wants to look at it very closely: because we're happy to read it as an attempt to force a compromise; because we're desperate to ensure nobody loses their temper; because partitioning something equally has a certain intuitive appeal; and because very few of us are lawyers, and we're correspondingly diffident.


And yet, suddenly, a good many of us who didn't really care earlier have started to care now. Because elements of the judgment, however sound in law, aren't really of the India that would leave religious-ideological brawls like Ayodhya behind. On the contrary.


Look, we want an India where an impartial law prevails. Where the institutions of the state step away from appearing to appease, subsidise, selectively ignore or interfere with people's faith. Where an individual's choice of identity slowly begins to expand out of the boxes in which this country has traditionally confined its people. Where the convenient fiction of property is respected — by the state, by our neighbours with lathis, by powerful corporations. Where our millennia of history are not mined for memories that serve as sources of grievance, but are viewed as a common inheritance, yet interpreted in whatever way we like.


But that isn't the India of the judgment. Yes, the alacrity with which everyone has pointed out that the Supreme Court always exists, that everyone must compromise, speaks of our deeply-ingrained respect for the judicial process. But can an India of impartial law make of this particular site an exception of the sort that it appears to? Is it really the only site in India where our religions have worshipped side-by-side — or on top of each other, alternately? If not, can our legal conception of ourselves push for an exception that's convenient, politically?


Can an India which believes there is a place for expertise in public life, be comfortable with the use of an archaeological report that can be read by judges in different, mutually exclusive ways? Either a temple there was demolished by Babur; or it was already in ruins before the mosque was built; it can't be both. Does it matter which? Does this, we think quietly, help us trust expertise? Or move us towards an India where conflicting histories matter less?


Can an India which has grown beyond pronouncing on people's religion be totally comfortable with a judgment that announces that a disputed site "is" the birthplace of a deity? We want our institutions to respect and protect the right to worship; but we aren't certain they can, or are meant to, certify what the essential features of a religion are. That doesn't fit our hopes for an India which wishes to leave behind the restrictions of identity.


Can an India which wishes to respect one set of beliefs of its citizens — in what they possess, which is

essentially what property is — have its institutions privileged over that set by another set of beliefs some others may hold? That hope for India was undermined by some of the reasons that were trumpeted as lying behind the denial of permission to mine in "sacred" Niyamgiri. Has it, we wonder, been strengthened today?


It could be, and has been, argued that some of these are precisely the strength of the verdict: that it establishes

for our methods of social organisation, our historic mental structures, a point of entry into our grafted-on

institutions of governance. Two things are deeply wrong with this idea: first, any point of entry for religious identity should be political. That's where the strength of numbers, of the ebb and flow of belief, should be reflected. The protections that our law provides, on the other hand, should act in the opposite direction, towards smoothing out the enthusiasms of a people gathered together to legislate. While no doubt sound in law, taking a majority belief as ground for a judgment is not what we've come to hope for and expect from our courts: that they stick up for those who have no other recourse, who feel otherwise disempowered. Facts about faith are central to the dispute. But, we worry, should they be central to the legal dispute?


Moreover, it seems plain odd that, even as we celebrate the possibility of an India where identities like those of

caste becomes ever more fungible, as we protest institutions that appear to crystallise those identities, we aren't

willing to express our doubts about creating a place for community identity that traps our public life in the

conflicts of the past.


And how, precisely, is allowing the claims of religion to determine state policy, or the framing of the law, or its application, different from the "appeasement" that all of us, especially the "appeased", wish to leave behind?


Perhaps it's understandable that those of us who're privately worried but who want to look ahead, and have always been consumed by other concerns will speak out very loudly. We're all looking sidelong at each other, hoping that no voices are raised, that we can get back as soon as possible to worrying about the Commonwealth Games or the Navi Mumbai airport.


And, of course, for us as for the various actual parties to the case, there's always the Supreme Court. The court that Justice S.U. Khan quotes as declaring, in 2004, that "as far as a title suit of civil nature is concerned, there is no room for historical facts and claims.


But the universal complaisance about this judgment is still worrying. The India we hoped for looks more distant today. And that's why, now, we care.







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. 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.The recession may be officially over, but unemployment is extremely high . 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 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 subsidising its exports. And these subsidised 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 US negotiators. In June, the Chinese supposedly agreed to allow their currency to move toward a market-determined rate. But, as of Thursday, China's currency had risen about only 2 per cent against the dollar — with most of the rise taking place in the past few weeks, in anticipation of the vote on the Levin bill.


So what will the bill accomplish? It empowers US officials to impose tariffs against Chinese exports subsidised by the artificially low renminbi, but it doesn't require these officials to take action. And judging from past experience, US 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 US officials as it is a signal to the Chinese. But it's a step in the right direction.


For the truth is that US policy makers have been incredibly, infuriatingly passive in the face of China's bad behaviour — 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.








Pakistan's papers, this week, suggest the future of the government is uncertain, with an attempt to prosecute President Asif Zardari on alleged corruption charges fuelling speculation of a possible change in leadership.


Dawn reported a frantic late night meeting on September 27: "In a late-night development, a group of journalists was invited to the PM's House at short notice. Having gathered there at about 10 on Sunday night, they were told a list of NRO beneficiaries would be released... An hour later they were informed the list would not be released... According to the sources, the law ministry had sent a list of around 70 NRO beneficiaries, including cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and ambassadors, to PM Yousaf Raza Gilani. They also claimed that before the court resumed on Monday morning, a summary dismissing these people would be signed by the PM and presented to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry." Monday morning was when the supreme court was to resume hearing the 18th Amendment cases. Each case has a bearing on the survival of the PPP-led government.


PM Gilani, reported The News, warned: "If something happens, we would not be alone to go home. Keep in mind, then all would go home and this is something no one would like to see happening in the given situation." He did not explain what he meant by "all".


Dawn reported on September 28: "Having braced itself for fireworks on Monday, the nation was greeted by a quiet and undramatic denouement by the afternoon. President Zardari, PM Gilani and army chief Ashfaq Kayani met at the presidency in the afternoon while the Supreme Court announced its decision to give the government time it had asked for and adjourned till October 13 the hearing of a case relating to implementation of its judgment on the NRO." This effectively pulled both the judiciary and the PPP-led government back from the brink of a high-powered confrontation.


Dawn added on September 29 that PM Gilani said his government would take a public stand on the demand to reopen the Swiss cases involving President Zardari after October 13.


Standing with Aafia


Pakistan saw a groundswell of political and public support for Dr Aafia Siddiqui this week. Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist who has been in American custody on charges of conspiring against the US. She was sentenced to 86 years in prison last week.


The News reported on September 27: "Pervez Musharraf called the mother of Dr Aafia Siddiqui three times recently to clarify his position but she never spoke to him and finally Musharraf sent his old comrade Rashid Qureshi to meet her in Karachi. Qureshi tried to prove Musharraf was not directly responsible for the disappearance of Aafia in 2003 but failed to convince the family of Aafia and even exchanged hot arguments with the sister of Aafia and other people present there. There is a general impression in Pakistan that Pervez Musharraf actually handed over Dr Aafia to US authorities... He even admitted in his book... that he handed over 369 people to the US and earned millions of dollars from the CIA ..." Dawn added on September 28: "It was only a short, silent march by the National Assembly members... though ruling alliance also joined the opposition-called protest over last week's sentence for Dr Aafia Siddiqui." The News reported on September 30: "MQM chief Altaf Hussain has demanded the conviction of Dr Aafia Siddiqui be declared null and void ."


View from Pakistan

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit verdict was awaited not only in India but in Pakistan too. The News on October 1 carried an article by political commentator Harris Khalique, who observed: "On September 30, the court has come out with a balanced and futuristic judgement by dividing the land. A mosque, a temple and a memorial can be built adjacent to each other. Indian politicians must move on if they are interested in a peaceful and prosperous future." Dawn's editorial stated: "Though what happened in 1992 is inexcusable, perhaps the verdict will be viewed as pragmatic if it soothes communal passions and ensures such ugly incidents do not happen again."


Daily Times carried a series of comments by various religious and political parties. The verdict was termed by them as: "a terrible miscarriage of justice; politicised judgment (which) relied on myth; biased, prejudicial, unjust and (in) violation of human rights; more political than legal; the court had tried to appease all; to wait and see as the aggrieved party has the right to appeal; it would not be fair to pass a judgment on the judicial system of some other country."









After more than a year, sugar futures are all set to stage a comeback in Indian exchanges, as the FMC has decided not to renew the order suspending futures trading in sugar. The decision, it would appear, is not so much based on the government's conviction about futures, and is more driven by the fact that in the 2010-11 crop marketing year that starts from October 1, production is expected to be around 4-5 million tonnes higher than last year. While the decision to lift the ban is a good one, it is obvious that a shortage in sugar production could well see it being reintroduced.


In order to have a consistent policy on futures, the government would do well to keep a few things in mind. For one, various studies—by the Abhijit Sen committee and the Unctad, for instance—have indicated that it is difficult to substantiate the belief that prices in the futures markets influence spot prices (subject, of course, to exchanges ensuring prudential norms on stock limits, margin requirements and so on being strictly followed). Another interesting aspect the government would do well to keep in mind is that despite futures being banned, prices of various commodities have continued to rise, suggesting what we've known all along, that prices in the futures market are determined by perceptions of future supply and not empty speculation. Sugar prices in the retail markets went on rising after futures were suspended and around early 2010, even threatened to touch Rs 50 per kg in the retail markets. This was largely due to supply shortages and costly import prices. Refined soyoil prices, to cite another example, moved up by more than 20% after suspension of futures trading in May 2008, as rising global prices ensured Indian prices went in the same direction. Similarly, retail prices of natural rubber, futures trading in which was suspended along with refined soyoil, also moved up by 20%, before falling back. Chana (chickpea) prices had also moved up even though futures trading had been suspended in the commodity at the same time. Ironically, before trading was suspended in all these four-commodities, the forward contracts in commodity exchanges had given definite signals of a price spiral.


If the government is still not convinced about the wisdom of allowing futures, perhaps it could conduct the final study on the subject, involving a much larger section of market participants. But let's end the on-off policy on futures markets since they ensure that the long-term benefit of stabilising prices gets completely defeated as market participants don't get stable price signals.







A month after the new guidelines on Ulips came into force there has been a sharp rationalisation in these policies sold by life insurance companies. Insurance regulator Irda has now given permission to insurers to come out with one policy each in four categories—guaranteed return, highest NAV, child protection and one normal endowment. As a result, from around 500 various types of Ulips last year, the number reduced to 250 in July and there are only around 45 policies of various insurers in the market now. Though capping the number of policies will reduce competition in the market, it was done to stop agents to churn products for more commission. The new guidelines have brought a capping of charges and will be spread out over the five years—5% for the first year and 2% for each subsequent year, instead of a high upfront charges deducted by insurers in the past. Though an agent's commission will come down drastically now, the increase in the lock-in period from three years to five years would help improve retention ratios as agents' commissions will be dependent on customer loyalty. This would motivate the agents to encourage their customers to consistently renew their policies and keep them in force. Insurance companies will also be compelled to focus on maintaining continuity and sensitise distributors to sell insurance according to the customer's financial goals and position. In the past, the insurers' strategy to offer a number of policies worked well as the commissions were high and front-loaded and deductions in case of surrenders were very high, too. This offered an incentive for lapses and insurers did not bother much as a surrendered policy even earned profits for the insurers. It is no longer the case as the surrenders' values have been capped and insurers will have to make sure that their products have high persistency ratio for profitability.


As Ulips are essentially a hybrid instrument to provide the dual benefit of life insurance and investment of the policyholder's fund in the equity and debt markets, over a longer period of time, say, 12 to 15 years, Ulips can now compete with mutual funds on a level-playing field. In fact, UK Sinha, the newly appointed chairman of Association of Mutual Funds in India, has said that some of the differences in sales practices between insurance and mutual fund products have narrowed but the gap is still wide, which needs to be removed because the two products are of similar nature.








The peak in world terrorism was marked by 9/11. There is every indication that the Commonwealth Games being held in India will mark the peak in Indian corruption. How so? Ask any investor in financial markets—the blowout phase, a period when all norms, and rationality, are substituted by irrational exuberance, or despair. After the crisis, a new era begins. In a decade from now, if not considerably sooner, we will thank the CWG episode for changing the Indian corruption landscape. If it hadn't been for the most brazen in-your-face corruption, and corruption that did not produce any efficient results, the media and the middle class (or should it be the other way round?) would not have become hysterical and thus helped change the face of accountability.


That is a bit in the future. Herewith, some lessons from the past, lessons from all countries, developed and developing. First lesson: corruption is a fact of life, but especially so when a country is transitioning from a low to a middle income country. It is true that developed economies have considerably less corruption than developing economies. But let us not forget that Spiro Agnew of the US, Nixon's first Vice-President, had to resign in 1971 on grounds of corruption—he had taken a $25,000 bribe in the award of a construction contract!


Second lesson: there are differences in corruption. The India of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s also had corruption, but it was mostly of the inefficient sort. You bribed, but things still did not happen. With the advent of economic reforms, and most importantly globalisation, we have moved to an era of increasing, but increasingly efficient, corruption. So how does this bad movie end—when the middle class says it cannot take it any more. And for that, you needed the CWG, and a villain like Suresh Kalmadi. After all, what was his crime? That he did not deliver. There were cost overruns, misguided charging for toilets, all in the family affair in terms of hiring, etc. Name me one organisation where some of these unfortunate corruptions do not happen. Okay, okay, there are some, but you get my drift. The simple point is that we ignore these drawbacks because there is an efficient outcome at the end. No matter how well the CWG goes, the stench of misorganisation will not go away for a long time.


The middle class, the NGOs, the civil society and the media all smell blood, and more power to their noses. It is really doubtful whether another incident like this can occur. After all, what was Kalmadi's alleged crime? Is it the case that the Beijing Olympics did not involve non-minor corruption? Was South Africa able to jump over the historical process by not having a reasonable amount of corruption? Perhaps the answer to both questions is yes. Then pigs do fly and these non-corrupt nations have citizens with not red, but blue blood.


Good governance, or less corruption, is a luxury service—as countries become more educated, more developed, more middle class, they demand less corruption, and they demand more efficient corruption. In the past, this was a slow historical process; today, we in India, and other emerging economies, should consider ourselves lucky that we are living in the age of Internet. There is literally no place to hide any more. Non-recognition of this simple reality helps explain the seemingly bizarre actions of the CWG. They, oldies mostly, were brought up in a different era. They came to power and influence in an age where checks and balances either did not exist or were difficult to implement. They had got away with corruption and non-production many times before. Why, they thought, was today any different? So they continued, but business is not usual any more. The Internet, and the mobile, and the TV, allows for instant communication, checking and transmission. Further compounding the problem for the do-badders is that "news is entertainment". And catching corruption in high places is news and entertainment!


And while we indulge in openly criticising ourselves and our society (and thank God we do that), here is something else Indians (and especially the oh-so-moral and upright lecturers from abroad) should take note of. Simultaneous with the CWG fiasco, and reinforcing my blowout theory, is another momentous Indian moment in the fight against corruption—the father-son lawyer duo of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan have alleged, with evidence, that 8 of the 16 Supreme Court Chief Justices in India have been corrupt, where being corrupt is defined as being of "doubtful" integrity. I cannot say for sure, but it is likely that such a charge is unprecedented in the world. If there are other instances in world history, there cannot be more than a handful. It is for our system to decide whether the Supreme Court justices are guilty or the Bhushans. My bet is that truth and justice will prevail—the middle class champions will be proved right. And when the process of determination begins, the corrupt in India, and the world (Internet again!) will begin to have more difficulty in sleeping.


All in all, this is a moment to rejoice. There is pain today, but it almost guarantees a better tomorrow.


—The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm








India has passed through a long and passionate debate on clearance to Bt-brinjal for cultivation—the first GM food crop in the country. As the public opinion that came forward was loaded against GM food, the government put a moratorium last February on its release for commercial cultivation and decided to gather some more information concerning the safety aspects. Six science academies of the country, that are expected to know much better than a common man about safety and benefits of GM brinjal, were given the task of assessing Bt-brinjal and have declared it to be safe. As the debate on GM crops in general and on brinjal in particular has created a lot of anxiety among the public, there is a need to provide credible information about various aspects of GM crops and products.


GM products are developed through gene technology that is of two types—one that involves genetic modification and one that doesn't. Though bio-technology has existed for a long time, it now has tools to use living organisms to create new products. Further, genetic modification is also of two types. The modification that involves incorporation or deletion of genes to change or add new traits, and the modification that uses material from other species (transgenics). Bt-brinjal—like Bt-cotton—has a gene from soil bacteria, which provides pesticide resistance and, in turn, reduces cost, saves the fruit from damage, leads to higher output and reduces environmental pollution. Reduction in the use of chemical pesticides also reduces the damage to human health due to lower presence of pesticide residue in the edible part.


The tools for genetic modification are getting more powerful to increase the range and reach of this technology. Things like dealing with climate change by transferring a gene from plant that grows at high temperature under arid environment to a plant that requires moderate temperature and high water seem possible through genetic modification. Indeed, these would be great achievements when they occur.


However, along with hope, GM products carry risks. The potential of GM technology to open myriad of options and opportunities for creating newer products looks scary as one thinks of some strange genetic manipulations. There are also fears about unknown consequences of this adventure if they are not effectively regulated. Countries/groups consider the threats from GM products to be very high and thus totally reject them. Critics of GM crops raise environmental, food safety and ethical concerns. On the other hand, a large number of responsible researchers assert that risks associated with GM crops are often overblown by those who do not have adequate understanding of these crops, or have a bias against them. The scientific world sees a great potential in GM products for increasing productivity and production, quality improvement, disease resistance, tolerance to abiotic stresses, and for achieving several other goals for human welfare.


It is interesting that despite strong opposition from several quarters, area under transgenic crops has increased

rapidly during the last 10-15 years. Globally, genetically modified canola, maize, cotton, soybean are grown on large areas and Bt-cotton has almost swept the cotton-growing area in India. Some GM products have already entered into India's food chain and, so, it is not possible to keep the country free of GM foods. The worldwide trends also indicate that it would be very difficult for non-biotech crops to compete with biotech crops. So, a country like India faces a big challenge if it decides to keep GM crops away. Domestic demand for food is bound to rise under the pressure of population and growth in income with shrinking resource base, stressful production environment and threatening climate change with unclear consequences. All of this would require that we use all options at our command, including GM technology. Let there be no doubt that GM crops are not a panacea but we have few choices that can give better results.


The strongest opposition to GM crops relates to concerns for human health and environment. But this is never compared with the hazards associated with the use of chemicals and growth hormones being used in food production using conventional technology.


Like any other technology, there are some potential dangers associated with GM organisms and transgenics. Because of these dangers there should not be outright rejection of these highly promising technologies. The fact that there may be risks along with benefits with the use of GM technology necessitates that we put in place a strong GM technology regulator for assessing, monitoring and managing these potential risks and carefully harness the potential.


—The author is director, National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi. These are his personal views







Shuffle, reshuffle


While rumours of the reshuffle gather momentum, not all ministers are worried. Aviation minister Praful Patel, for one, says it was supposed to happen before the monsoon session but didn't happen. "Now much more important things like Commonwealth Games and Obama visit are before the government," he says.


Among the other theories about the reshuffle are that education minister Kapil Sibal may swap places with law minister Veerappa Moily.


No children please


All ministers have been given free passes for Commonwealth Games' opening ceremony on October 3 but the passes are only meant for the ministers and their spouses. Their children have to stay at home or will have to buy tickets. Even if they buy tickets, they have to sit away from the parents as pass-holders—in this case ministers and their spouses—have been allotted designated seats in the VIP lounge.


Fancy marketing


Salman Khan was asked how he felt about Dabanng soon outstripping the BO collections of 3 Idiots. "Cool… ya… but not three (3 Idiots), it will be Big Boss 4," he said, holding up 4 fingers. In case you didn't get it, Salman is the star of Big Boss 4 and was trying to get in some advertising for it.






If, and when, a temple for Ramlalla does get built at Ayodhya, chances are the visitor to it, as indeed to any temple in the country, will be told about how many tonnes of steel, and cement, were used in its construction, even the amount of gold that was used (for older temples, that would be the amount of gold which king donated) to cover the dome or the sanctum sanctorum. The Mukesh Ambani chronicle, which news agency PTI says will be out next fiscal, appears to be in danger of going the same way since the report says, it will chronicle the movement from polyester-to-petrochemicals-to-retail and might not dwell on the personal space of India's most-talked about business family. In other words, you could well get a beautifully produced tome telling us the cement and steel used at Patalganga is enough to build an eight-lane expressway to the moon, an interesting factoid, but little else.


The late Dhirubhai had great stories to tell, Hamish McDonald talks of his golden and silver chappals to hit people with to get them to see reason; others suggest he spoke of friends in government as insurance policies for which a regular premium needed to be paid to ensure they didn't lapse. Even if there's no inside dope on Ambani-versus-Ambani, we hope the book is peppered with Mukeshisms. Read HP Nanda's, The Days Of My Years, to know what we're talking of.












The general weakening of currencies across the global markets has been described by Brazil's Finance Minister Guido Montego as a manifestation of an "international currency war" that is threatening to take away his country's competitiveness. Indeed for a variety of reasons, many governments have been pursuing policies which, directly or indirectly, lower the external value of their currencies. The United States and a few other issuers of reserve currencies have embarked on a monetary expansion to check falling domestic demand while a few others, notably China, have intervened to keep their currencies from rising. The alleged "currency manipulation" by China has invited some strong words and, even threats of counter action by the U.S. In the past, there have been currency conflicts and efforts to prevent the situation from getting out of hand. In September 1985, the U.S., the U.K., France, West Germany, and Japan jointly decided to push for dollar depreciation. Even earlier, in 1971, the U.S. abruptly ended the dollar's convertibility into gold, signalling a preference for cheaper currency. What makes the present situation different is the emergence of China as the world's second largest economy. Besides, an agreement at the global level is not easy to arrive at because of the variation in the pace of recovery and the divergence in strategies among the major economies.


India, Brazil, and other emerging economies have had to reckon with a surfeit of capital inflows which, unless properly handled, can threaten macroeconomic management. Brazil has tried a Tobin-type tax, with only limited results. India has traditionally depended on a two-stage intervention by the RBI to check a sharp rupee appreciation. Surplus dollars were mopped up and it was followed, wherever necessary, by sterilisation of excess domestic liquidity. Reducing the volatility of the rupee and building up adequate reserves to guard against risks have been the other objectives. Yet, for reasons that are not clear, the RBI has stayed away from the foreign exchange markets since August 2009. The rupee has appreciated sharply in relation to the dollar. More light on India's apparently contrarian stance might be shed in the next credit policy statement, due in early November. Given the present levels of coordination in international forums, these concerns across the world may not result in currency wars or mutually injurious "beggar thy neighbour policies." However, since currency-related disputes are but a manifestation of the bigger problem of global imbalances, the ongoing efforts at correcting the imbalances in an orderly way need to be pursued vigorously.







The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has survived a vote of no confidence in an episode that confirms him in office but has much wider repercussions for Italian politics and democracy as a whole. He and his Freedom People movement remain in office because a group of MPs attached to the Prime Minister's former ally, Gianfranco Fini, decided to reject the no-confidence proposal; Mr. Berlusconi won by 342 votes to 275, with three abstentions. The ostensible reason for the potential rebels' change of heart was Mr. Berlusconi's restatement of his party's election-winning programme, including reforming the justice system, giving regions greater fiscal autonomy, supporting the poorer south of the country, and fighting organised crime and illegal immigration. (Tax cuts were also mentioned.) Significantly, there was no mention of legal immunity for senior office-holders; an earlier law providing immunity was declared unconstitutional in 2009. The atmosphere on the Italian Right nevertheless remains acrimonious. Mr. Fini proposes to create a new party, but his group's recent vote may well have had to do with the fact that the newspaper Il Giornale, which is owned by Mr. Berlusconi's brother, has linked Mr. Fini to shady property deals and to companies in overseas tax havens.


There is nothing new about the Prime Minister's use of his vast media empire and contacts to intimidate rivals or the judiciary. But his political survival means that highly unsavoury episodes will continue to loom large. For example, an associate who admits paying women to attend parties hosted by the Prime Minister has been investigated for drug trafficking and for aiding and abetting prostitution. As for the restated policies, they could cause serious problems. Tax cuts could exacerbate Italy's budget deficit, which at 5.3 per cent is lower than the euro-zone average. Secondly, regional fiscal autonomy could widen the north-south economic gap. Thirdly, populist talk on immigration will encourage the extreme Right. Furthermore, judicial reforms will strengthen suspicions that Mr. Berlusconi, who has already been named as jointly responsible for bribing a judge in a media-takeover case, will try to limit the judiciary's powers. On the other side of Italian politics, however, the Left has a real opportunity to put behind it corruption scandals and some lacklustre election campaigns, both of which greatly helped Mr. Berlusconi. If the main centre-left body, Pier Luigi Bersani's Democratic Party, can revive the opposition, it will dominate the lead-up to the next general election in 2013 and improve the entire tone of the country's politics.










Politics is said to be akin to a game of chess but in Pakistan it took on the contours of a Rubik's cube over the past fortnight as speculation on a regime change — orchestrated or ordained by the military, possibly with some help from the Supreme Court — seemingly assumed a life of its own.


Figuratively, at least, the "opinion-makers" appeared to have taken to the Rubik's cube with gusto: various permutations and combinations were bandied about to find an alternative to the ruling dispensation while maintaining the façade of democracy.


Seasoned watchers of Pakistan's domestic politics maintain this is nothing new. It is almost seasonal. In fact, some call it the two-year-itch whenever a democratically elected government is in place. And this government has already completed 30 months — the longest any democratically elected regime has since the one led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the early 1970s.


The only difference was this time the all-too-familiar talk of regime change was not just confined to drawing-room buzz in a country prone to conspiracy theories but became the dominant narrative, courtesy 24x7 news networks. Loaded statements and knowing glances became the order of the day as people who claimed to know the script left sentences unfinished, leaving the air thick with mystery and a craving among others to know more.


Led by the media, the speculation thickened as it spread because of the general belief that the fourth estate was itself being prodded in a certain direction, so much so that journalists appeared to be the cheerleaders for change even if it meant serenading the readers on a return to a military rule packaged in civilian clothes. Never an easy person to defend, President Asif Ali Zardari was the one they were after. If, in the process, the fledgling democracy fell by the wayside — yet again — so be it. That was the general drift. The voices of reason of uncompromising advocates of democracy had little impact.


So authoritative were media reports in their prediction of Pakistan on the verge of a precipice because of its present crop of rulers and so uniform was the cacophony from rival media houses that it was not just scribes but also politicians who were taken in by the rhetoric. And slowly, but surely, the unanimous condemnation that Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain's invitation to patriotic generals to take "martial law-type action against corrupt politicians and feudal lords" attracted in August began to unravel a fortnight later. The former President, Pervez Musharraf, began to emerge as a poster boy for the pro-changers three years after his ouster.


Pir Pagara, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Functional) — one of the many PML factions that dot this country's political firmament — became a daily fixture on television networks. Regarded as a prop of the military — Pir Pagara is reported as referring to himself as a "representative of GHQ" (the military headquarters) — the PML (F) suddenly developed a magnetic field with the PML (Quaid) merging with it.


Others drawn to this magnetic field included Musharraf-regime Minister Sheikh Rashid of the Awami Muslim League and the former President's spokesman, Rashid Qureshi. While the thrust was on getting all PML factions together, the PML flag-bearer — led by the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif — did not reveal its cards. Now there is talk of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan toying with the idea of joining the Pir Pagara-led alliance.


Curiously, the PML unification drive has sought to call itself the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) — the name General Musharraf chose for his party launched on October 1. The party, according to Maj. Gen. Qureshi (retired), approached the Election Commission in March itself for registrationas APML.


Simultaneously, Article 190 of the Constitution was flagged. Again, the cat was set among the pigeons by the MQM. When MQM leader Mustafa Kamal first brought up Article 190 in a televised discussion to show how the Army could be called to intervene within the ambit of the Constitution, he had the anchor scrambling for the supreme law book of the land.


Article 190 states that all executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Court. Given the friction between the government — particularly the presidency — and the Supreme Court over a slew of issues, including reopening cases in Swiss courts against Mr. Zardari, the President's detractors latched on to this provision to call for judicial intervention in the hope of ushering in a regime change.


As the stand-off between the government and the judiciary became sharper — according to the media, it was expected to reach a point of no return this past Monday — and as Mr. Sharif said he would always side with the Supreme Court if push came to shove, the first signs of panic could be seen in the ruling dispensation.


Within Parliament, which is in session, and outside, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani sought to secure across-the-floor commitments to democracy while maintaining that his government was not going anywhere. Brave words, indeed, given the all-round flak the government has been attracting for its poor performance — laid bare during the floods that everyone concedes were of a proportion unmanageable by any government alone anywhere.


Despite the show of confidence, the Pakistan People's Party's organisational structure was activated with a series of meetings convened by Mr. Zardari, in which the party was apparently asked to prepare for any eventuality. Simultaneously, with the Supreme Court accepting the government's plea for more time to implement its December 2009 verdict overturning the amnesty law, National Reconciliation Ordinance, PPP seniors are working on the premise that neither the judiciary nor the military wants to derail the democratic system.


"Both take pains to emphasise that they don't want to derail the democratic process, regardless of their distinct perspectives on various issues. Had there been any doubt in the above, there would have been no back-channel with the judiciary and no publicly declared meetings with the military to exchange views on arising situations and dealing with them in unison by developing greater understandings," is what PPP managers in the government maintain.


In particular, they point to the statement put out after the much-talked-about meeting of the "troika" — Mr. Zardari, Mr. Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — last Monday in which all three are supposed to have resolved to "protect and defend" the democratic process.


"This is a new democracy working against decades-old history of institutional mistrust and problems. Please give it some credit for respecting everyone and taking everyone along under the toughest of circumstances, despite getting a lot of unwarranted flak from an impatient media," is yet another PPP refrain.


And, its main consolation is drawn from the prevailing state of affairs. "For all this hyper talk of 'change,' who in their right mind would want to take charge of a state of affairs in which delivery is as tough as nails? Wouldn't it be better to have this government deal with all the dirt and get bogged down in the process so that by 2013, things would be calmer and more exciting to take charge of?"


While the government got a breather this week, the weekend will see another flurry of speculation with Gen. Musharraf's party launched, while the man himself makes his moves from London and via the social networking site, Facebook. Giving a clarion call of "Pakistan First" and signing off as "PM" — for Pervez Musharraf or Prime Minister, take your pick — the former President says this is the start of his comeback to Pakistan in time for the next general elections.


But, in the din of it all, governance — the lack of which provided legitimacy to some erstwhile flag-bearers of democracy to push for change with military help on the premise that ends justify the means — seems to have taken a back seat. The floods might have receded but the millions rendered destitute have fallen off the radar.


In the crucial reconstruction phase, the floods no longer make it to the headlines as politicking takes precedence. And, instead of taking the government to task for all its ills and making it perform, conspiracy theories and concrete plans — call it what you will, as the truth probably lies somewhere in between — have kept the ruling dispensation engaged in a fight for survival.


Footnote: Arshad Sami Khan, Chief of Protocol of Benazir Bhutto and father of Adnan Sami, recalls in his book Three Presidents and an aide: Life, Power & Politics that he got the first inkling of her imminent ouster when a relative came to borrow his sherwani for Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi for the swearing-in ceremony later in the afternoon!









The verdict is a political judgment and reflects a decision which could as well have been taken by the state years ago. Its focus is on the possession of land and the building a new temple to replace the destroyed mosque. The problem was entangled in contemporary politics involving religious identities but also claimed to be based on historical evidence. This latter aspect has been invoked but subsequently set aside in the judgment.


The court has declared that a particular spot is where a divine or semi-divine person was born and where a new temple is to be built to commemorate the birth. This is in response to an appeal by Hindu faith and belief. Given the absence of evidence in support of the claim, such a verdict is not what one expects from a court of law. Hindus deeply revere Rama as a deity but can this support a legal decision on claims to a birth-place, possession of land and the deliberate destruction of a major historical monument to assist in acquiring the land?


The verdict claims that there was a temple of the 12th Century AD at the site which was destroyed to build the mosque — hence the legitimacy of building a new temple.


The excavations of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and its readings have been fully accepted even though these have been strongly disputed by other archaeologists and historians. Since this is a matter of professional expertise on which there was a sharp difference of opinion the categorical acceptance of the one point of view, and that too in a simplistic manner, does little to build confidence in the verdict. One judge stated that he did not delve into the historical aspect since he was not a historian but went to say that history and archaeology were not absolutely essential to decide these suits! Yet what are at issue are the historicity of the claims and the historical structures of the past one millennium.


A mosque built almost 500 years ago and which was part of our cultural heritage was destroyed wilfully by a mob urged on by a political leadership. There is no mention in the summary of the verdict that this act of wanton destruction, and a crime against our heritage, should be condemned. The new temple will have its sanctum — the presumed birthplace of Rama — in the area of the debris of the mosque. Whereas the destruction of the supposed temple is condemned and becomes the justification for building a new temple, the destruction of the mosque is not, perhaps by placing it conveniently outside the purview of the case.


Has created a precedent


The verdict has created a precedent in the court of law that land can be claimed by declaring it to be the birthplace of a divine or semi-divine being worshipped by a group that defines itself as a community. There will now be many such janmasthans wherever appropriate property can be found or a required dispute manufactured. Since the deliberate destruction of historical monuments has not been condemned what is to stop people from continuing to destroy others? The legislation of 1993 against changing the status of places of worship has been, as we have seen in recent years, quite ineffective.


What happened in history, happened. It cannot be changed. But we can learn to understand what happened in its fuller context and strive to look at it on the basis of reliable evidence. We cannot change the past to justify the politics of the present. The verdict has annulled respect for history and seeks to replace history with religious faith. True reconciliation can only come when there is confidence that the law in this country bases itself not just on faith and belief, but on evidence.


( Romila Thapar is a distinguished historian of Early India.)








The West is using radical Islam as a tool in geopolitical games for dominance, Indian and Russian scholars have said in a unique collaborative project presented in Moscow this week.


The project, "Radical Islam", a 480-page collection of papers prepared by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, and the Experimental Creative Centre (ECC), Moscow, was unveiled at a press conference in Moscow.


Edited by Sergei Kurginyan, ECC president, and Vikram Sood, vice-president, ORF, Centre for International Studies, it offers a fresh perspective on radicalisation of Islam, placing it in a wider geopolitical and philosophical framework. It examines the roots, the contexts and manifestations of radicalism in Islam, as well as activities of Islamists in South Asia, Central Asia, Iran, the Middle East, Europe and the former Soviet Union.


Presenting their joint study, Indian and Russian scholars noted the West's role in playing the card of radical Islam.


'A factor since Partition'


"The West has been using religion and religious violence to promote separatism since the partition of India," said Ambassador M. Rasgotra, President, ORF, Centre for International Relations. "The British were the first to do it in India, then the Americans learnt the trick. They incited jihad in Afghanistan, stirred separatism to break-up the Soviet Union and tried to tear Chechnya from post-Soviet Russia."


Dr. Kurginyan said that Russia still faced the danger of the West trying to re-enact the "Afghan scenario," when radical Islam was used to provoke instability. He recalled that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had cultivated and financed Islamic radicals in Afghanistan to drag the Soviet Union militarily into civil strife in that country in 1979.


One of the Russian contributions in the book analyses the U.S.' "deepening alliance with Islamism" along the vast southern "arc of instability" stretching from Northern Africa to the Chinese border. This strategy included the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, the arming of the Afghan Mujahideen, the support of Muslim radicals in former Yugoslavia, cultivation of "moderate" Islamists in the Middle East, and finally, "the new alliance with Pakistan" to reintegrate the Taliban into the political mainstream in Afghanistan. The scholars noted the special importance of the Indian and Russian perspectives on Islam as it differed greatly from the Western perspective. "The West tends to look at Islam in black-and-white, while Indian and Russian researchers look at it in [a] multiplicity of identities, discourses and ideas," Mr. Sanjoy Joshi, ORF said.


"Islam has been [a] part of life both in India and Russia for centuries, whereas the West in those same centuries was the oppressor of Islam," Mr. Rasgotra said, adding that India and Russia had much to gain from sharing their experiences in handling the problem of radical Islam.


"The nature of the problem is the same, even as its manifestations may be different. Your experience is relevant to us and our experience is relevant to you," he stressed.


Dr. Kurginyan hailed the project on as a "revival of scholarly cooperation" between the two countries. "I've never seen such a meeting of minds between researchers from different countries as in this Indo-Russian project."


"Radical Islam" has been brought out in Russian and its English edition is to be published in India. The editors said the ORF and ECC, planned to undertake further studies of Islam and other issues of mutual interest.







Scientists believe it could explain how the smaller, modern-day creature evolved.


Scientists have discovered the fossilised remains of an enormous red-feathered penguin that cast a long shadow across the shores of Peru 36 million years ago.


The fossil of the bird, which were discovered by Peruvian student Ali Altamirano in the Paracas national reserve on the country's southern coast, could help explain how its modern descendants evolved.


The new species — known as Inkayacu paracasensis, from the Quechua for water king — was nearly one-and-a-half metres tall, making it twice the size of its largest living relative, the emperor penguin.


Its plumage was as distinctive as its stature. Feathers attached to the bird's wing reveal that it would have been reddish-brown and grey in contrast with the black-and-white of living penguins.


After finding a patch of scaly, soft tissue preserved on one of the penguin's flippers, the team nicknamed it Pedro, after the hero of a Colombian telenovela. Pedro's remains, right, show that while the flipper and feather shapes that make penguins such excellent swimmers evolved early on, the colour patterning of modern penguins is likely to be a far more recent development.


Researchers established Pedro's plumage colours by comparing its melanosomes — the tiny, pigment-carrying structures within cells — with those of living penguins.


In a paper published on September 30 in the online edition of the journal Science, they report that the fossil's melanosomes were much smaller than those of its modern descendants.


'Paracas is extraordinary'


"Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colours and flipper shapes of ancient penguins," said Julia Clarke of the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences, the lead author of the paper. "We had questions and this was our first chance to start answering them." Clarke described the Paracas site as an extraordinary place that could still yield "new discoveries that can change our view of not only penguin evolution, but of other marine vertebrates". — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






Vietnam held a grand ceremony at Hanoi on October 1 to mark the beginning of the 10-day celebrations observing the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of the country's capital city of Hanoi.


Pham Quang Nghi, Chairman of the Hanoi People's Committee said in a speech that Thanglong, an old name of present day Hanoi, was chosen as Vietnam's capital city 1,000 years ago. It has since grown substantially in the past 25 years in the country's reform and innovation processes, said Nghi.


Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) attended the ceremony and applauded the socio-economic accomplishments of Vietnam in general and Hanoi in particular in the past few decades. The celebrations will give Vietnamese and foreigners a chance to know more about the history and charm of Hanoi. "This opportunity will help advertise the image and attraction of Vietnam and Hanoi to the international community," said Bokova. During the opening ceremony, Bokova said the UNESCO was very pleased to have the Thanglong Imperial Citadel recognised as a UNESCO cultural heritage.


The UNESCO would like to strengthen ties with Vietnam and especially with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Thousands of officials and people from the Vietnamese party, government, army, diplomatic corps in Hanoi, and other walks of life were present.


— Xinhua








It is a big relief that the country as a whole has responded maturely and peacefully to the rather complicated verdict delivered on Thursday by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on the Ayodhya title suits. Under the watchful eyes of armies of securitymen and alert administrations, cities and towns across the land by and large went on with their lives: even in so-called trouble-prone metros like Mumbai and Hyderabad it was mostly just another normal day. In fact, it almost seemed like apacifist's dream come true when, compared with the unseemly days of the early '90s when the Ayodhya controversy spilt much blood on the streets. This sedate reaction did have much to do with the nature of the verdict, which had something for everyone. This ensured that disappointment and elation remained at manageable levels. While some legal brains have poked fun at the verdict as "panchayati" justice (though since when did the word 'panchayat' become such a slur in mostly-rural India?), the fact remains that it was clever and nuanced enough to keep extreme reactions at bay.
Praise is also due to the governments at the Centre and in the different states who, for once, coordinated and cooperated in an effective manner to ensure that things did not go out of hand. All governments, including those rules by stakeholders in the Ayodhya dispute, stayed focused on preventing trouble in the streets, and they succeeded. This makes it all the more evident that when governments decide to act effectively, they can ensure that peace is maintained even in the most trying circumstances. The political parties and religious organisations too kept their promise (though some were clearly itching for a session of chest-thumping or breast-beating) and spoke in a reasonable manner about their misgivings and or indeed satisfaction over the verdict.

But all this would have come to naught if the country's much-touted but rarely-understood aam aadmi had not cooperated. It were ordinary citizens, whose main interest always lies in making a living (unless insidiously provoked otherwise), who ensured that the verdict on the decades-old Ayodhya dispute did not trigger violence. The candid photograph of a Hindu and a Muslim in Ayodhya having a quiet laugh is a snapshot of the way India's citizenry reacted to the verdict. They may have their opinions, and sharp ones at that, but they did not allow these to disrupt the lives of their neighbours.

All this is a pointer that India might have changed, perhaps very substantially, from the early '90s when communities eyed each other with suspicion and were ready to jump at each other's throats at the slightest provocation. It is not that religious identities don't have significance any more. They do. But in election after election in recent times, people have shown that what matters to them more are the "sadak-pani-bijli" issues rather than disputes about shrines. Also, a new generation has grown up after the Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 that subscribes more to dreams engendered by liberalisation rather than apocalyptic visions of religious fervour. At the cost of sounding self-congratulatory, we can say that India is slowly maturing, at the cost of much pain, as a nation and as a political entity. It might be just a coincidence that the nation's calm reaction to the Ayodhya verdict comes on the eve of the 141st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who gave his life to maintain Hindu-Muslim amity across the subcontinent. After a long time, this possibly is a fitting tribute to the Father of the Nation. And the silent revolution that changed India's attitude has been bottom-up rather than top-down. This too is a tribute to the Mahatma, who always felt that real change should come from below!








 "Go forth and multiply, Make fields of human grain Live longer lives and never die And pray to God for rain..."

From Population Blues

by Bachchoo


This week has seen the culmination of a soap opera in British politics. Just as I can't explain the plot of, shall we say, Coronation Street to an Indian audience by referring to the drama and machinations of an Indian soap — like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, it is difficult to get across the actual drama of this real-life soap on the political stage and its possibilities without referring to an Indian political parallel.



I don't want my Indian visa cancelled. Neither do I want to be arrested when I next step onto the tarmac of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, nor be invited to some party in the Dilli Capitol and be disposed of in an "encounter"; so let me very clearly state that what I am about to say is pure conjecture, fictional, imaginary etc. Suppose, just suppose, the Congress Party elected its leaders by a really democratic vote of the whole party and its various component sections. One may accept that within this process there will be "votebanks" and some horse-trading will inevitably take place as rival would-be leaders jockey for positions — a democratic tradition prevalent in the Greek city-states.

Suppose further that the Congress Party has gone into Opposition and a coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has resigned and moved on to some illustrious international appointment and an election for Congress leader is to be held sometime soon.

Rahul Gandhi, as is already being proposed even out of our supposed fictional frame, is the favourite to win the election. All the other candidates lag far behind him in popularity. He has the endorsement of Soniaji and of Dr Singh. Then a few weeks before the election, despite all her seeming reluctance in the past, Priyanka Vadera throws her pallu, so to speak, into the ring. She speaks at the hustings against some of the policies and initiatives with which her brother is associated and, when the day comes, narrowly wins the poll and is declared leader of the Congress Party and potential Prime Minister. Rahul, somewhat annoyed at his sibling stealing the election from him despite being, till the last moment, the bookies' favourite, decides to quit politics and go off and train as a pilot.

Let me repeat that this is just an analogy I wish to draw to what has just happened in the British Labour Party.


Ed Miliband, a junior minister in the last New Labour government, stood in the leadership contest to succeed ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown who resigned when Labour lost the May elections, competing against his older brother David, who was strongly tipped to win.

David had been Mr Brown's foreign secretary and was in very many senses treated by the party and its MPs as the heir apparent. He was the favourite for all the months since the contest was announced. There were three other candidates, at least one of them a credible leader and relatively senior politician, but the Miliband brothers made all the running, with David ahead in every poll.

The soapish drama of such a contest was unavoidable. The Miliband brothers, sons of Marxist academic and writer Ralph Miliband and a Labour activist mother, were both brought up in the traditions of the British Left. According to their family friend (and my mate, who has tales to tell) Tariq Ali, who was in and out of their house when they were but infants and teenagers, they were brought up in a hothouse environment of Marxist and socialist debate.

Come the Labour Conference this week in Manchester, the votes of the three sections of the Labour Party were garnered. The first section, the general membership of the country, gave David Miliband a majority. In the second section, the Parliamentary Labour Party, a majority of MPs voted again for David. What tipped the balance in younger brother Ed's favour were the block votes of the third section, the trade unions. The difference between Ed's majority and David's minority was less than two per cent. Ed was duly elected and in his inaugural speech as the new leader made very generous, even sentimental, overtures to the brother he had come from behind to defeat. Newspapers and TV programmes, neglecting to some extent the policies that the brothers put forward as their policy platforms, played up the sibling rivalry.

In that first speech Ed denounced the Iraq war and Labour's enthusiasm for it as "wrong". It was a war David had strongly supported and the cameras turned to his face to show the nation his jaw tightening as Ed denounced this bit of the past. Very many in the packed conference hall clapped their support. David, with other ministers who had taken the country to war, kept his hands in his lap.

And now David has announced that he is going to leave the Shadow Cabinet and not serve under his brother as a front bench opposition spokesman. He gave his reasons. If he did join his brother's team, the media would be on the lookout for every cigarette-paper-thin difference in their policies and pronouncements in order to revive the brothers at war soap opera story.

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband, leader of the Opposition, has given clear signals to the Liberal Democratic Party, which is the junior partner of the present governing coalition, that their policy preferences are close to his. During his election campaign he attacked the Lib-Dem leadership who had taken ministerial positions in the Tory-led government of David Cameron. He even appealed to dissident Lib-Dems to cross the floor and join Labour. Not a word of it in his inaugural speech.

Which leads me to speculate on another possible turn in the soapy politics of Britain. David Miliband's departure from the front bench will leave vacant the position of shadow chancellor of the exchequer. A very senior Liberal Democrat, one Vince Cable, now business minister in the coalition, is rumoured to be extremely unhappy with some of its key fiscal and other policies. There is no indication that he is so inclined, but Mr Cable could announce his discomfiture, quit the government and even quit the Lib-Dem Party after holding secret talks with Ed. His crossing the floor and becoming shadow chancellor for Renewed Labour would bring the coalition crashing and precipitate a fresh election, giving the Ed-Vince Labour Party a real chance.
As I said, Machiavellian fantasy, based on Leftish principle — but one would love to plant the possibility in Vince's head.








So it has happened. Ram has been demoted from a divine being to a mere earthly creature. He even has a birth certificate from the Allahabad high court. Soon he may be expected to acquire a voter identity card from Mayawati and a Unique Identity number from Nandan Nilekani. This court victory for litigant Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman,among others, is just the beginning of his arduous life on earth. In a curious twist of destiny, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu is now in his worldly avatar as a UP-ite.

Dragged down from his heavenly pedestal by his fanatical followers, Ram has other problems too, as a historical being. He seems to have been born several centuries ago, no one knows exactly when (but they will, they will, just wait!) and is still in his infancy. This young VIP in Ayodhya, residing amidst ruins where the central dome of the Babri Masjid used to be, is Ram Lalla. It was in the name of this infant god that the centuries-old mosque was demolished by his followers. And thousands killed as a result. As an infant, Ram Lalla allowed what he would probably not have permitted as a grown-up Maryada Purushottama.
But while the infant Ram resides in this seat of violence he is reported to have all these heroic exploits as the prince of Ayodhya and Sita's husband. Is dear Ram Lalla all grown up and married too? Why, there is even the Sita ki rasoi, his wife's kitchen, right beside his nursery. Can he be both an infant and an adult at the same time? Can he be in several places at the same time? Sure he can, as a god. But as a historical being? When divine beings are reborn as earthlings, their wings are clipped. They cease to be gods. The same Allahabad high court may frown upon this claim of omnipresence from the litigant, accepting it may set a dangerous precedence.
As it is the courts set limits to the powers of gods. Recently the Bombay high court has ruled that gods are incapable of playing the share market as it turned down the petition from an association of gods demanding a account. But all these gods had PAN cards, insisted the gods' counsel, and were shareholders already! Never mind, said the court, the gods did not have the "personal skill, judgment and supervision" required. When a god becomes a legal person, he needs to be judged accordingly.

And one of the powers that Ram has clearly lost in this court case is his divine ability to recreate himself and his world. "Ram is born in countless ways, and there are tens of millions of Ramayanas", said Tulsidas in the 16th century. Not anymore. Ram has now been cast in stone, imprisoned forever in a unidimensional figure by this week's historic court verdict.

Last year, when the Liberhan Commission finally released its report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid after 17 years, it made several recommendations. Regarding the authenticity of the claims of Ram Janmabhoomi/ Babri Masjid it said: "The question whether a structure was a temple or a mosque can only be answered by a scientific study by archaeologists, historians and anthropologists. No politician, jurist or journalist can provide a comprehensive answer to such questions… Therefore, set up a statutory national commission of experts to delve into these questions…" The government curtly replied that it was not necessary to appoint another national commission, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) would be enough.

This week, the court ruled in favour of Ram Lalla based on the findings of the ASI. Senior historians like Irfan Habib doubt the authenticity of the findings, and believe that evidence may have been planted that the ASI could not detect. The courts can only act on whatever information they are given. And our government bodies are not known for efficiency.

I feel for the ASI. What on earth could they do? In 2007, when they were asked to tell us about the Ram Setu, they had their heads bitten off. They had stated that being a science and technology department, they would have to examine the Ram Setu in a scientific manner, not "solely relying on the contents of a mythological text." So, although ancient mythological and literary texts are culturally important, they are not historical records that "incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters or the occurrence of the events depicted therein". It neither accepted nor denied Ram's existence, and said that the bridge was not manmade, but naturally formed.

Immediately there were charges of blasphemy, ASI officials were suspended, the culture minister almost had to resign and the ASI was forced to change its view in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile the law minister said of course Ram was a historical figure — sure, he existed.

But which Ram was the historical figure? Valmiki's demigod? Kamban's god? Tulsidas's literary deity? Krittibas's homespun hero? Vimalasuri's Jain champion? Chandrabati's householder? The Santhals' tribal hero? Periyar's flawed protagonist? North India's imposing Lord Ram is hardly present in southern India. In the east he is more of a mythical hero than a god, and he practically disappears in the northeast. In one court judgment we have swept aside our rich heritage of many Rams, each equally dear to the devotees of each region, swept aside thousands of years of cultural history and memory, and fixed on a "historical figure" — the UP-ite Ram Lalla, who is forever in infancy.

This is a sad day for our pluralistic tradition. Giving a third of the land to "Muslims" while "Hindus" get two-thirds may be politically expedient for the moment, but it will not stem the rot of refashioning collective memory. The verdict, well-meaning as it is, has been interpreted by Hindu fanatics as justification for their acts of desecration of the mosque. Unless the government moves on these criminal acts, and brings at least the culprits named in the Liberhan report to book, there will never be closure. And in his new avatar as an earthly infant, poor Ram Lalla woudn't be able to protect us either.


Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted








Like everything else happening in India, Ayodhya has also become a global issue. So though I am still in Delhi, I got a call from a UK-based talk show to discuss the Ayodhya verdict. However, whilst the tone of discussion in the Indian media has been largely restrained and respectful of the judgment, and most of the Indian publicseems to have welcomed it, the tenor of some of those who were phoning in and sending emails to the UK show was both worrying and surprising. It was almost as though instead of applying a soothing balm, the verdict had antagonised some of them into saying the most outrageous things. Even those callers who praised the judicial verdict as a triumph of the democratic process could not help but take a dig at one or the other community. Needless to say that all the Asian callers were based in the UK and other parts of the world — but their reactions were quite shrill: to the extent that, I feel, if some of the reactions had been read out on Indian TV, it could aggravate an already febrile, albeit peaceful, environment.

Does this mean that there is a deeper polarisation between the communities all over the world, and that resentments over the decades (and sometimes centuries) are remembered and brought forth at moments like this?
A few of the participants spoke of harmony and peace , but a feeling was also articulated that perhaps the judgment gave little, or at least not enough, to the Muslims. The fact that it opened a door for a multi-faith place of worship to exist (through the division of the land) was perhaps not emphasised enough — this needs to be understood more, at an international level — as that is the only solution which will ultimately allow the people of Ayodhya to live peacefully.   

If this verdict — a healthy, if still imperfect — attempt at reconciliation created such a deep division, especially among those Hindus and Muslims who are not even living in India any more, it obviously means there is still a canker of resentment. Despite surveys in India showing that the youth has moved beyond these petty, religious disputes, a majority of the non-resident callers on the show were young and angry over historical and past grievances!

The Hindus were angry because they felt "they" had suffered centuries of humiliation during the Mughal rule, and the Muslims were upset over the 1992 Babri Masjid destruction, and indeed, thought that the present judgment added to their minority status woes in India. This historical baggage meant that many of them could not even attempt to think about reconciliation.

All of this was, of course, a far cry from the "unity" theme which was running through the Indian media and politicians as commentators attempted to read it as a positive verdict.

Can there be any other way out of this? Looking at the even more positive side, all I can say is that whilst the mandir and masjid may be constructed, eventually, side by side, can one look purely at the economic and commercial angle and say that the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will mean a complete regeneration of the city? Forget the religious side of it all, it will simply become an important tourist destination! And why not? In a country where the Sensex is soaring over 20,000 points it is not a crime to take a completely money-making direction. Think of the souvenir shops, the guided tours, the theatrical enactments — the whole industry created around the cult of Rama, Sita and Hanuman. After all, religion has been one of India's more successful exports, and many of the adjoining countries worship Rama as well, so they will visit too. Instead of the people of Ayodhya living in constant fear of violent confrontations, there will be prosperity and industry, all of which will give employment to those who need it more than they need religion and its ugly shadow of violence.
I can only think of how well Stratford-upon-Avon has been exploited with its association with William Shakespeare. The tiny village rakes in pounds faster than you can say Romeo and Juliet. So if some people actually believe that Rama was born at that precise spot, why can't
we exploit their belief to thehilt and make money in the bargain?

The UK is also where many of the disused churches have been converted into shops and flats — and even pubs (without any objections from anyone). And why not? I can only wish that all of us could see things beyond religion, in a more pragmatic fashion. After all, real religion is practiced in privacy, between you and your God — the rest is all dikhawa, or perhaps, commerce.


MEANWHILE, THE other big story, Commonwealth Games, lurches along from scandal to scandal. Everyone is now waiting for the Games to begin so that we can actually see the real reason why our money was spent so recklessly. Otherwise there is a growing impression that it was actually used to get Suresh Kalmadi and Co. rich and richer. However, looking around the new air-brushed Delhi one wonders at the banishment of the "real" India. The India which is malnourished, uneducated and lives in slums has been physically removed from sight. Beggars and even domestic workers have been rounded up. Buildings which are shabby are hidden behind high plastic sheets, and dismal, muddy, barren pavements have suddenly started sprouting green shoots and young trees in abundance. Thousands of plants have been literally thrust into the ground — and now that the rains have stopped — they have already begun to droop and whither. In other areas, men and women are desperately planting grass (just a day or two before the Games). Money is being poured into pavements while those who slept and lived on them are being rudely shunted out.

The "real" India has also vanished because the buses have disappeared from the streets. Think of the loss to the exchequer because people are not being able to come into office on time, partly due to the lack of buses and partly due to the terrible traffic jams everywhere. The worst is that even the thelawallas, ie, the hawkers who come around with fruit and vegetables, are unable to enter colonies due to security restrictions.
All those that the police suspect are being asked for a proof of identity. And these are usually the poor daily wagers. Instead of flying all the way to a remote village in Maharashtra, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have simply given the unique identification number to one of these poor slum dwellers, right here in Delhi. It could have helped them to stay on in their city — as a symbol of the "real" India.


The writer can be contacted at










For his work of over 40 years as a tireless campaigner for democratic land reform as an instrument of poverty alleviation in developing economies, Roy Prosterman, founder of the Rural Development Institute (RDI), is acknowledged as a 'Champion of the World's Poor'.


Working with governments, including in India, to design and implement laws, policies and programmes, the RDI has provided secure land rights to more than 100 million families in over 40 countries.


In an interview to <i>DNA</i>, Prosterman, who has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, explains how a redesign of the traditional land reform model in India — to give 'micro-plots', rather than full-size farms to the rural landless — might be the key to successful rural development.


Why are land rights for the poor important?


Half or more of the world's population still makes a large part of its livelihood directly from farmland. The relationship that


people have to those lands — their land rights — is fundamentally important to their nutrition, income, status and security. In India, there are programmes under which landless families in Karnataka, West Bengal, Orissa and elsewhere are given a tenth of an acre of house-and-garden plots. Families that receive such plots will, even before they talk about nutritional and income benefits, mention


'status' or some form of empowerment that derives from land rights.


The same is the case for the status of women when the patta (title) is given in the name of the husband and wife — and in some cases the wife alone. From all indications, it has a whole range of positive impacts.


Has land ownership demonstrably lifted large masses of people out of poverty?


It's moved them several rungs up the


ladder out of poverty, but not necessarily all the way. They are better off than they were before, and it gives them the biggest boost they've ever had.


It gets their nutritional levels within the range of basic needs, and substantially increases their incomes. A fairly extensive survey in Karnataka of families that received 'microplots' (which are a tenth or a fifteenth of an acre) revealed that the average family was able to meet all its vegetable needs, most of its fruit needs — and most of its dairy needs — because they would save to acquire a cow. Additionally, the sale of surplus yielded an income equivalent to about $200 a year, which is how much a farm worker would earn in a year.


Which countries have the best record in land reforms?

The three great post-war examples in Asia are Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, all of which had comprehensive land-to-the-tiller programmes. In Taiwan, in the 10 years following the programme, rice production went up 60%, and farm incomes by 150%. When people had the security of having their own land, they could make a variety of improvements and diversify.


In each of the countries, implementation was the key: all three were under some form of authoritarian government, and they decided they wanted to give land ownership to tenant farmers because it was essential for economic development and political stability.


What holds up similar reforms in India?


One of the reasons for the consistent failure of land reforms in most states in


India and elsewhere is that policymakers initially wanted to give full-sized farms (of about three or four acres) to all non-land owning households. But in a state like Maharashtra, that would have needed 30% of all arable land, and they couldn't afford to pay anything close to market price. So they resort to quasi-confiscatory programmes.


How can you change things? Well, you can turn a confiscatory programme into a market-based one if you can redesign it so you don't need 30% of arable land. If you gave just one-tenth of an acre as house-and-garden plots to all landless households in rural India, you'd require less than 1% of the arable land, so you can afford to buy the land. Market-based land reform is impossible if you need 30% of the land, but quite possible if you need only 1-2% of the arable land. That 2% can secure long-term stability and reasonable prosperity of rural societies. It's one of those situations where thinking outside the box is critical.


So, how has this micro-plot model worked in India?


One of the nicest things about the house-and-garden plot concept is that when the land is contiguous to the house, you can do valuable things on it that you might be fearful of doing on land that's located farther away — such as animal husbandry and growing fruit trees.


Our surveys in Karnataka and West Bengal of families with no land other than a micro-plot showed they were remarkably effective.


The programme needs no additional legislation, it only needs government


resources: the wherewithal to acquire land.


The Central government is putting in Rs 1,000 crore for land acquisition, and has said it will match the funding provided by the state governments.


How does the women's land rights programme work, and how has it helped?


For decades, the tendency in land reform work was to think of the family as a mysterious black box whose internal workings were not looked at. It was adequate to list the husband as the 'Head of the Household' in land title documents, and you assumed the benefits went to the family. You didn't think of women's rights. But for about a decade, we've been making sure that women's land rights are addressed.


In India, for instance, in all the house-and-garden micro-plots programmes, the wife's name is at least jointly listed on the patta. And where it's locally acceptable — and established as such by field work — the title is given in just the wife's name. The result has been quite striking in terms of women's empowerment and women's control over food production, income and nutrition.


Globally, a given amount of income or food production in the wife's control (rather than in the husband's) has a much higher multiplier effect. It's more likely to be used fully to improve kids' nutrition, to send girls as well as boys to schools, and to get medical assistance to girls as well as boys. There's also been one study (done elsewhere) to suggest that where the wife's name is on the land title, there's a sharp decline in domestic violence.


How was resistance overcome in patriarchal societies like India?


It doesn't seem to have been a problem so far. When you're giving incremental rights to land to people who haven't any land rights yet, the husband recognises it's a big benefit if it's explained that the wife's name is to go on the title. If you did that with existing land holdings, the response might be different.In fact, we're now working to empower daughters as well by having their names too on the title.


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In late August, this year, the world shook for many when they went online (on their computers, PDAs, iPads, laptops) and realised that the comfortable zone of talking, chatting, sharing and doing just about everything else, had suddenly, without a warning, changed overnight (or afternoon, or morning, depending upon the time-zone they lived in).


With a single change in its privacy and location settings, Facebook, home to billions of internet hours consisting of relationships, friendships, professional networks, social gaming, entertainment trivia, memories and exchanges, allowed its users to geo-tag themselves when on-the-move.


Much energy, rumour and panic has gone into the introduction of this feature. The interweb has been abuzz with people wearing tin-foil hats (or the digital equivalent of it) and shouting as loud as they can, about the old paranoia of Big Brother in new settings like Facebook. It is of almost no consequence that the feature is not really indulging in any private tracking but was offering an interesting mix of bringing together the everyday physicality of life on to the Facebook feed.


Geo-tagging, a term which refers to your ability to expose your location (voluntarily) using mapping visualisation tools that can triangulate your position using GPS or IP address systems, while accessing internet platforms or games, is being widely used by users of technology who enjoy blurring the lines between real life and virtual reality.


Facebook's Places feature allowed users, accessing Facebook from their mobile phones, to 'check-in' to places near them, calculated on the position of their mobile phones, thus making it available for them to share where they are (or were) with their friends. While the panicwallahs who were going blue in their face have started breathing again, there is something in this panic about being located and marked, that needs further probing. I am aware of the possibilities of abuse it might lend itself to, if, say, for instance, I had stalkers (I have none, though), or if somebody accusing me of stealing their pig and my lawyer can prove that I (or at least my phone) was in a particular location at the time the crime was being committed.


To many, this might seem some sort of an exaggerated reaction. How can people be so interested in trivial things like these? How can people have time to actually be doing 'all this stuff'? To those digitally dissonant I offer a tilt of the head but to the Digital Natives who occupy, seamlessly, their social networking sites, their everyday material life, their MMORPGs (games, in shorthand), their blogs, their photo accounts and their multiple distributed digital selves, these things are important.


You might not have heard of the phrase Digital Natives, but they are here and among us. The generation that grew up with digital technologies as a part of their social (and in some case, biological) DNA relate to technologies differently. Rather than external prostheses or tools of function, technologies are their ways of being.


The oldest Digital Native has turned 30 this year, and the youngest Digital Native is still gestating, visible only in sonograms and medical records that document its presence. Digital Natives are everywhere and they might be producing knowledge that you and I read off Wikipedia. They might be playing games and immersing themselves in fantasy universes. They might be forming communities that transcend geographies and lifestyles. They might be orchestrating political campaigns that affect the fates of nations. They might be changing the notions of ownership and property even as we read this. They are embroiled in new technologies, they move from the physical to the virtual with effortless ease. They are slowly but relentlessly changing the contours of the worlds we all occupy. Digital Natives are here to stay and it is time we start listening to them, about who they are, what they do, how they think of themselves and how they are shaping the futures of the days to come.








The scene was pure Wall Street. There was a throng of hedge fund managers, bankers and entrepreneurs schmoozing and noshing on caviar, appetisers and chilled Sauvignon Blanc at a Manhattan piano bar.


But the talk was pure India. The guests were there to celebrate two new India-themed funds being listed on the New York stock exchange. India's economic expansion in recent years — the sharp run-up in stocks — has proved an irresistible draw for US investors. But those chasing the siren song were stunned by India's shambolic preparations for the Commonwealth Games.


"You guys did a decent job with the 1982 Asian games. So why is India choking this time?" an American fund manager asked me while I gulped my drink to fortify myself. What could I say? We have a sports minister, a babu who thinks that the games are like an Indian wedding. MS Gill has suggested that there will be disasters but the CWG will go on! It's like a shaadi, yaar. Ho jayega.


It is hard to think of an attitude that is more out of sync with what corporate India is trying to achieve. The games were supposed to light a fire under India's aspirations to greatness instead of tarnishing the country's allure as an investment destination.


Delhi may be swinging into damage-control mode, but the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post have already given American readers blow-by-blow accounts of collapsing bridges, child labour and filthy conditions in the Indian athletes' village. It is also bad timing. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee & Co are flying to New York next week to pitch investors at the India Investment Forum.


After the CWG fiasco, Mukherjee will have a tough time convincing Americans about India's willingness to benchmark against global standards.


"I'm inclined to own more India at some point. But its infrastructure sucks… the government can't even build the infrastructure for the Delhi games," ground out a fund manager.


On the other side is the Chinese government. Talk about boring! But they are executing their eleventh "five-year plan." They do exactly what they say they will do. The Beijing Olympics was hailed as exceptional. Even if the Delhi games run smoothly, Brand India has taken a hit. The damage is done — the West thinks India, at least the government, is bungling and corrupt.


New York ratings giant Moody's says the CWG fiasco puts into question confidence in India's infrastructure and its capacity to organise large events. Now why did Manmohan Singh fall asleep at the wheel? In the midst of the chaos, and corruption that is India, shouldn't he have kept a firm grip on the Games? Indira Gandhi knew the Asian Games would be a disaster unless she got involved. As the central co-ordinator Rajiv Gandhi built infrastructure for the games that made Delhi more livable. The Asian Games Village survives till today.








makes mockery of secularism and rule of law in IndiTHE verdict of theLucknow bench ofAllahabad high court onthe Ayodhya dispute, deliveredon Thursday, will be rememberedmore for its extra-judicialimpurities than as a citable caseof immaculate jurisprudence.Immediate impact of the pronouncementwithout untowardfallout, amid hyped fears aboutits grave consequences, is perhapsa more significant developmentthan the judgement itself.By and large every section ofpublic, political and religiousopinion responded with commendablerestraint which if sustainedover the next few weekscould be a really great achievement.However, that is a milliondollar question, given the pastrecord and known tendency ofthe extremist fringe to exploitevery possible 'opportunity' ofthis kind.The content, context and wisdomof the puzzling judicial verdictlend itself to diverse and
contradictory interpretations.There has been no dearth ofopinions from hailing it as anact of 'judicial courage' to condemningit as a 'panchayat rajdecision'. To a layman, bothseem almost equally convincing.Indeed, the 10, 000 page judgementwritten by the threejudges of the high court is so fullof confusing conclusions thattheir individual interpretationsbecome stretchable all too easily.For instance, the court wasasked to pronounce on the ownershipof the plot of land atAyodhya. Instead of answeringthe simple question in clear cutterms, as judicial verdict is supposedto do, the judgement inthis case is fraught with ominousimplications. On the onehand it has ousted the claim ofthe Sunni Waqf Board but onthe other it upheld it by awardingone-third share of the disputed
property to the Board.Judicially, this position is irreconcilable,as much as it defieslogic. Similarly, the udgementholds that the birth place ofLord Ram is exactly under thecentral dome of the destroyed 3-
dome structure (Babri Masjid)but relies on what is patentlyquestionable inconclusive findingof the Archaeological Surveyof India. Yet it is this dubiouspart of the judgement that tiltsthe balance of not only the ownershipdispute but the entiregamut of its political and ideologicaldimensions. The judgement
looks to be an odd mixtureof facts, mythology and principles.Perhaps the saving grace liesin that part of the judgementwhich by consensus of all thethree judges says that statusquo will prevail at the disputed
site for next three months andthat leave to appeal against theverdict is instantly granted tolitigants. Prime MinisterManmohan Singh's statementrightly emphasised this pointwhile counselling patience andrestraint. There is no doubt thatthe case will land in the lap ofthe Supreme Court of Indiasooner than later. Obviously,
the judicial process is yet to beexhausted in the six decade olddispute. All that can be said atthis moment is that the lastword has not been said in thecase, mercifully. The Allahabadhigh court judgement has created
a piquant political situationfor the central government.It was the Congress government,of PV Narasimha Rao, inNew Delhi when the BabriMasjid was demolished inDecember 1992, in gross violationof rule of law, civilisedbehaviour and political propriety.The demolition marked theculmination of politically-motivated
communal frenzy. Nowwhen that act has virtuallybeen 'santified' by theAllahabad court verdict there is
again a Congress government atthe centre. Deeper analysis ofthe judgement delivered onThursday brings out a highlydisturbing feature of Indianpolity. It sanctifies lawlessnesspropelled by communal frenzy.
Nobody can deny that the ideologicalpackaging of LKAdvani's Rath Yatra in theearly 1990s that culminated in
wanton destruction of over 400year old Babri Masjid was antisecular,anti-constitutional andit mocked at rule of law. Thecourt verdict has virtually justifiedthe 1992 demolition bydeclaring, on questionable findings,
that the birth place ofLord Ram was indeed where theHindu's believed it to be andthat the Babri Masjid had beenbuilt over the site of a demolishedtemple. The BJP whosestalwarts are facing criminalcharges in the demolition casehad every reason to exude satisfactionbeyond their expectation.Given the propensities of the
Sangh Parivar, it is only a questionof time when they launch amore determined offensive to 'torecover' 33, 000 sites of 'demolishedtemples' across the country.Ex-post judicial approval ofthe demolition at Ayodhya in
1992 is a boost to the campaignfor 'restoring' temples identifiedby the Parivar. The politico-ideologicalfallout of the Allahabadhigh court judgement is going topose toughest challenge to theCongress party and its government.The minority community'sfaith and confidence in theruling party's will as well ascapability to defend secularismand rule of law is now in moreserious doubt. One Congressgovernment connived in the
demolition of the Babri Masjidand another one failed to preventthe dastardly act frombeing sanctified with judicialapproval. Muslim minority hasreason to be more fearful afterthe verdict, notwithstandingrestrained initial impact of thejudgement. Triumphalism liesat the root of the Saffron ideology.And Muslims have always
been at its receiving end. 







IT is a pity that it took theJammu and Kashmir governmentalmost more thanthree months to restore the cellular
phone service to its subscribersin North Kashmir.Unfortunately, the people livingin North Kashmir have been
bereft of the mobile phone servicefor three months withoutany fault of theirs. The governmentcould not give any plausiblereason for suspension of thisservice when the world is movingfast in the 21st century and
tele-communications is thebackbone of any society aroundthe world. Keeping your ownpeople deprived of this serviceamounts to criminal negligenceat a time when authorities aremaking all out effort in rovidingcommunication facilities totheir peope in every nook andcorner of the world. It has providedmuch-needed relief to thepeople, who pay for such servicesin order to keep themselvesinformed and connected withtheir kith and kin, who arespread over all over the world.Sadly, security issues are usedas tools to take away such servicesfrom the people in J&Kwhere instability has been thehallmark of the present dispensation.Mishandling of the situationin J&K first took the tollof Short Message Service (SMS)in whole of the state withouttaking into consideration howsuch a step on the part of thegovernment can adversely hitthe people. The decision onrestoration of SMS service is yetto be taken by the government.The internet facilities extendedto J&K in 1998 have alwaysremained uncertain becausenobody knows when this facilitywould be withdrawn on the pretextof security concerns. Itappears that the government isresorting to collective punishmentto punish most of the people,who are not at fault by takingaway such facilities whichhave revolutionized the communicationnetwork in the countryand the world.






IT'S not aboutRama. It's notabout Babur. It'snot even about a templeor a mosque. It'sabout an assault of a
kind we've never seenbefore, on history, lawand the truth.Nobody's seen thejudgment yet but what
we gather is that by a2-1 majority, the courthas decided to carve upthe site in three, and tohope for the best.
When on 6 December1992 a mob of 1,50,000,stirred by deliberatelyprovocative speechesfrom right-wing Hinduleaders, demolishedthe Babri Masjiddespite a solemn commitmentto ourSupreme Court thatthe mosque would notbe harmed, it was inevery sense a desecration,most especially ofour Constitution andthe law. Far lesserinfractions havereceived harsher treatment.At stake were thesanctity of the law andthe Constitution, and
the immutability of ahistorical fact. Themasjid has been onthat site for centuries.That the site is specially
revered by Hindus isalso historically true.The only question ishow far you permit onehistorical truth to
trump another andachieve the undoing ofa shared heritage.Rapid Action Forcepersonnel on duty near
Minar Masjid onThursday (deepakturbhekar)One hundred twentyfour years ago, ColonelChamier, an
Englishman serving asthe District Judgedecided a suit claiminga right to build a templeoutside the masjid
premises. He visitedthe site. He concluded -perhaps wrongly - thatit was built in Babur'stime, that it was on
land held sacred byHindus, and then said:"... but as that eventoccurred 356 years ago,it is too late now to
agree with the grievances."Typically English,eminently sensiblestuff. Perhaps a littletoo straightforward for
our more complicatedlatter-day sensibilities.The High Court hadbefore it the survivingthree of four claims
filed in relation to thesite. The first was atitle suit of 1950 byGopal Singh Visharadseeking, among other
things, the right toworship at the site.A second similar suitwas filed and withdrawn.In 1959, theNirmohi Akhara - aHindu religious institutionfrequently atloggerheads with theVHP - filed a third titlesuit for possession of
the site. In 2002, theMuslim Wakf Boardwoke up and filed itsown claim. This oneseems to have been dismissed
on technicalgrounds such as limitation.Central to the litigationare the idols ofRama said to havebeen installed there in1949; that is, veryshortly after the horrorsof Partition. From43 years, both communities
used the site sideby side till, for reasonsthat were clearly politicaland had nothing todo with faith or even
the shared use of thesite, a political partystaged a frontal attackon the Constitutionalimperative of secularism.
Secularism's bestdefinition is one singleword, a word on whichEM Forster wrote aremarkable essay: tolerance.
All the suitsbefore the High Courtdemanded a non-seculardecision. Not oneshould have succeeded,
even partially.The implications ofthe High Court's pizzaslicingapproachshould frighten us.What we are told is
nothing but this: it isperfectly all right todemolish an old structureand to lay claimon the basis of some
real or imaginaryright, and to do so evenby taking the law intoyour own hands, cockinga snook at the
Supreme Court andmaking rude gesturesat the Constitution. Ifthis is to be a precedent,what's next? The
Taj Mahal? Humayun'sTomb? The LodiGarden monuments?For nearly three centuriesfrom 1526 AD
the Mughal Empirecreated a nation statepreviously unequalledin economic power andterritorial dominion.
The benefits of thatempire are with us stillin more ways than canbe described: technology,
astronomy, metallurgy,trade, language,music, literature, artand, of course, architecture.Curiously,
while we are keen toattack the Mughals,principally on thegrounds of religion, weare markedly less
enthusiastic about targetingthe Britishthough they, too, professeda different religion.
The reason is obvious:we would be utterlyincapacitated withouta raft of the manylegacies the British left
us from railways andthe civil services to thevery concept of democracyand, of course, thejudicial system. We
embrace these legacies,and use some of themto attack an earlierheritage, unmindfulthat we are what we
are not despite our history,but because of it.







The response to the Allahabad High Court judgment on the title suit of the disputed land in Ayodhya shows that India has truly moved on. The people have reacted with maturity, dignity and respect to the verdict. This proves that they have become wiser whatever the members of the political class may say or do. The worst fears have thus been belied. The entire nation was on tenterhooks in the wake of the horrifying experience of 1992. There was one of the biggest mobilisations of the security forces in peace time from one end of the country to the other. It is a matter of immense satisfaction that the younger generation in particular has let it be known that it believes in shared prosperity; it would not like to be bogged down by old controversies and traditional mindsets. The parties to the dispute before the court too have acted in the manner expected of them. The Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara both have announced their intention to move the Supreme Court for their own reasons. There is nothing wrong with this. After all, our system gives an opportunity for one and all to exhaust all available options for seeking redress of a grievance. The two of them lay claim to the whole land. The effect of the High Court ruling is that the status quo remains for three months during which modalities would be worked out for dividing the land into three parts, the Waqf Board and the Akhara getting one-third each of it. In other words there is time available for them to knock at the door of the apex court. In our view they should instead settle for talks and bury the hatchet once and for all. Indeed, the Allahabad High Court has shown that it is possible to do so.


Admittedly, the judicial decision is being subjected to varying interpretations. It is also being said that it is an emotional response to a legal issue. Does that not enhance its merit and significance? All three judges of the Bench that has made history have disagreed on quite a few points. But they are unanimous in their view that the part of the land is believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. Who will disagree that Ayodhya is part of the Hindu psyche? This reality can't be wished away straightaway. At the same time the current situation is that Muslims have been hurt over the demolition of the structure that they thought was a mosque about 18 years ago. It would be counter-productive to ignore this sentiment. The judgment now gives us a chance to take a new path. It tells us that it is possible for us to co-exist. Certainly we can have a grand Ram Temple and an impressive mosque side by side. Some other route can also be found to accommodate one another.


One can't miss at least one irony of the scenario. The members of one community who are exposed to the charge of having deliberately demolished the religious place of the other have actually ended up razing to the ground the symbol of their own faith. Can this conclusion be faulted in retrospect? It is only through conciliation and not conflict we can have harmonious human ties.







The worst fears are coming true. An authoritative finding has confirmed that only 40 per cent of agricultural land affected by devastating cloud burst in Leh district in August can be reclaimed. The mudslides have played havoc in the trans-Himalayan territory. According to a report in this newspaper this conclusion has been reached by a high-level team comprising scientists of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Kashmir, Defence Institute of High Altitude Research Leh and senior officers of Agriculture, Horticulture and Command Area Development departments. A detailed document in this regard is being given final touches. It will soon be submitted to the State Government which may bring it to the notice of the Prime Minister's office for requisite financial assistance. The team is stated to have carried out an experimental reclamation exercise in the badly affected Taru village. It has taken a month to complete its study initiated at the behest of Governor N.N.Vohra. In actual terms only 550 hectares of agricultural land can be retrieved out of 1420 hectares which got filled with slush in the deadliest ever natural disaster in Leh district. A local expert has been quoted as having expressed the view that only those fields could be restored to their original health which were buried under up to five feet of mud. Those inundated with a heavier dose of mud had little chance of becoming productive again. The cost of recovery has been calculated at Rs 3 lakh per hectare for land swamped with one to three feet of undesirable material and Rs 4 lakh per hectare for that affected by the higher quantity. The total cost may thus work out to be Rs 20 crore. It is generally believed that once a thick layer of mud settles down it becomes extremely difficult to remove it. Even if it is got rid of it leaves behind a barren land. There is a need of urgency in ushering in necessary corrective measures in Leh. A recovery plan needs to be set in motion without delay. There is still a month's time available to us before the winter on the roof of the world, as Leh is known, assumes a more severe dimension making any such reclamation activity virtually impossible. Whatever we can regain by then will be worth it. Certainly we can make the most of it if we can arrange for sufficient funds to take up the job on a war footing.


We must say that we don't visualise any difficulty so far as the inflow of money is concerned. The President downwards everyone has been keen to lift Leh out of its trauma the soonest possible. It is also because of overall concern that there has been sufficient availability of resources for the rehabilitation of hundreds of uprooted families of the district. It should be realised that if we don't do enough in October we would have to cool our heels till the end of March next year. We should better avoid such a possibility. Leh has already suffered enough. The well-informed quarters have all along been worried about the spectre of scarcity of food and animal feed after the destruction of agricultural and other land in Leh. If we can't meet the challenge in time we should seriously go ahead with devising alternative strategies. Surely we know how to stock the material and ensure its even distribution in bad days.












Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistan Foreign Minister, is obviously a poor learner. Everytime he makes a mention of the 'K' word he expects the whole world to rally round him in strident India-bashing. A snub, even gently delivered by any of his country's well-wishers, bar the all-weather friend, China, he would suggest, is misplaced, not intended for his feudal ears! He is so carried away by his pompous Cambridge prose that he has come to believe that he serves his country's cause by pouring more venom into his anti-India diatribes.
The recent incidents of violence in the Kashmir Valley, unfortunate as they were, offered to him the right occasion and the proper forum, the UN General Assembly, to launch yet another anti-India tirade. Unfortunately, his feudal anger found no response from any member country. India for its part reminded him yet again that the K word could not be discussed in isolation.

The Pakistanis might have tried to push in more hardcore terrorists into the valley as part of an effort to give a more violent twist to the existing unrest in the valley but unfortunately there are not many local buyers for the gun. The local Kashmiri Muslims has instead taken to pelting stones at the police and their slogan in the valley

is simple: Azadi.Except for the tired old voice of Syed Ali Shah Geelani not even confirmed separatists seek

merger with Pakistan. Not to suggest that the civilian population in the valley has not suffered these past many weeks but this is the kind of suffering they have inflicted on themselves, fully aware of the cost they were paying for listening to separatist hate music. They obviously rarely want Pakistan to champion their cause any more. Never mind the state governments ham handed response to the separatists.

The Pakistan desperation was obvious when a ranking soldier blamed India for Pak's recent worst natural calamity. It sounded comic when the man said the Siachen glacier had started melting away because of the presence of the Indian Army units there. India may have offered 20 million dollars in help to that country in its moment of grave tragedy but the myopic leadership of the country did not hesitate to see some evil design behind it before saying yes finally. That's after the aid was refused once. Whose was the initial 'no' to the aid offer? The Army or the political establishment, it does not make a difference Pakistani politicians must look up to the Army for every change of breath. 

Interestingly, it was the Army that wanted outfits like the Laskhar-e-Toiba to be given a free hand in collecting the distributing aid among the flood victims, their number running into millions. For the record, though, the Pakistanis lose no opportunity to trumpet their war on the Pakistani Taliban along the Pak-Afghan border, mainly to please the Americans. That's a strategic necessity to extract more and more US funds as military aid.
To return to the neighbouring country's obsession with Kashmir, the word from New York, as I write, was that Shah Mahmood is seeking a meeting with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna to pursue the elusive Indo-Pak dialogue. The Pak Foreign Minister had at the General Assembly session and later at some Press briefings made the customary pejorative references to New Delhi and its "suppression" of the Kashmiri Muslims. No need for Islamabad to speak of its direct sponsorship of militancy in the State nor of the pitiable role Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Pakistani pro-consul in Srinagar, has unleashed on towns and cities by sponsoring clashes between the police and groups of youths.

Last week's visit to the State by an interparty parliamentary group led by Home Minister Chidambaram has given a filip to the hopes of more peaceful times in the valley with Geelani, allowing hardly any breathing space to the population promptly issuing his calendar of defiance which, curiously, required the valley's large student community to continue to abstain from attending schoolds, asking them not to take their annual school or college tests and simultaneously asking teachers to observe hartal. Geelani's edict reminds me of how the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mahsoud of the Frontier had issued a similar edict sending hundreds of schoold children from Swat running to far away districts to pursue their education.
Geelani who in his time assured good professional education to his own children couldn't care less if thousands of Kashmiri students, living in the valley, lose a year or two of schooling responding to the octogenarian pro-Pakistani leader's calls. Nobody seems to realize that just one lost year could cost the students dearly in future competitions within the State for admission to professional colleges.

Geelani may have a problem with Hindu India and his own financial and ideological reasons for merger with Pakistan but is that reason enough for him to paralyse the routine of running their daily lives by the people of the valley. Why doesn't Geelani or for that matter the separatists ask the Kashmiri Muslims in Pakistan, how and why their dreamland has become a virtual failed State, with the organs of State at each others throats. 
Sindh and Baluchistan are seething with discontent and only last Sunday you had the spectacle of the country's Minister of State for Defence Production openly accusing the Army of the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the Baloch nationalist leader and of Benazir Bhutto as well. The accusation regarding Benazir's murder was thrown at the Army's doorstep when Gen Pervez Musharraf headed the Government of the country. And how can we forget how a former Army Chief was asked to divert millions of dollars to let Nawaz Sharif winning an Army backed campaign some two decades ago. Gen. Beg himself has admitted it.

Pakistan's record in Gilgit, Baltistan region, what it now calls the Northern Territories, is even more dismal. Thousands of miles of territory belonging to the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir and under Pakistani control has been ceded to China to help it construct an expressway to Gwadar port in Baluchistan. The expressway, an extension of the Karakom road, built in occupied Kashmir years ago, giving China access to nearby ports of Iran etc. And in Gilgit and neighbouring areas, the Pakistani military as a matter of policy has changed the demography of these places much the same way as it did in Baluchistan, pumping in Punjabis and some Pushtoons, to outnumber the Baluches. Much as the valley Kashmiris may have to complain against the local police or "denial" of democracy they well know that New Delhi has not tried to change the demography of the valley. The Chinese did it in Tibet and in Chinese Turkestan. To conclude one can only pray to God to give toothless less tiger Syed Geelani the good sense to help all parties in Kashmir to work for peace and stability. Toothless tigers do in old age make one last desperate attempt if only to save their violent legacy.









The status of a nation, its over all socio-economic condition can very well be assessed by judging and appraising the status of its women. The development of a country is dependent on the literacy of its people because it is literacy that gives the divine light to walk along the path of success and prosperity amid all disappointments and darkness of life. Literacy does not mean the literacy of men alone but also of women with equal stress and fundamental rights. In the society both literate men and women are equally needed to develop the society as it is equally important to have adequate sharpness of the two blades of scissors to make it really effective. Education as we know and believe is power to fight against any form of evils. The centuries old practices and prejudices throughout the world have severely hindered and depredated the women's right of education to an appalling state keeping them subdued and submerged in abysmal darkness and making their lives full of exploitation and humiliations. Inspite of many international conventions affirming women's human rights, women are still malnourished and illiterate than men. Women constitute the most elegant resources of a society and is the dynamic source of powers and comprise the backbone of a family. Ignoring women's literacy leads to gender inequality, which in turn severely affects socio-economic growth process of economy and ushers social stratification causing serious damage and destruction to women and jeopardizing their empowerment. The matter is important because women are more susceptible to socio-political victimization than men owing to their powerlessness, voicelessness which can only be reinstated through extensive literacy drive. Both for women and more specifically for girl children education is a must to ameliorate the miseries of their lives. Being deprived of education and decision making power in the home, women face serious constraints in rearing healthy and productive children. Because of their illiteracy, they often tend to have more children than they wish, thereby exerting mounting pressure on them selves, their families and above all the society. 

Of about 96 million illiterate adults in the world, two thirds are female. The picture is grim and grueling where the women are poor, socially disadvantaged and destitute, and have little participation in the wider society making them more risk susceptible. The illiterate and poor women who usually live and depend on fragile eco-system, are to be made literate and be given adequate education and training to check environmental and natural degradation to a significant level. The social dimension of achieving goals requires significant up-gradation of the status of women through literacy drive. Practically women's literacy, is the antecedent to women's empowerment the recent buzz word around the globe, commensurate with the world wide emerging demand for empowering of women, women education has become highly pertinent. In order to give a focused attentions to accelerate women literacy particularly among the poors, socially disadvantaged and weaker sections of the community where including the girl children are debarred from and are devoid of learning for various reasons, the Govt. of India has taken recourse to comprehensive literacy drive for women. 

Considering the grave situation of continued victimization of women and girl children and the critical needs of education in life, the Govt. of India has implemented various policy measures to promote and accelerate women's education in India, including education of girl child on a holistic approach, both at central and state levels. To expedite women literacy rates substantially several incentives schemes have been adopted like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mahila Samabhya, Mid Day Meal Scheme, etc. A high priority has been accorded to the education sector, as national programme of nutritional support to primary education, district primary education programme, national programme for education of girls at elementary level have been launched with the objective to provide additional support to education of girls at the elementary level. The open university system is a step towards diversification of courses offered through non traditional system of imparting education and learning with a focus on the educational needs of women who for various reasons beyond their control could not avail of the institutional learning. 

The situation is grave and formidable where the women are poor and illiterate. The girl children are more susceptible to social evils and crimes than the boys particularly in the lower income groups. The various social exploitations and humiliations on women and girls over several hundreds of years have devastated the women race with powerlessness, voicelessness and ill treatments. The only remedy to overcome this horrible malpractice is to make them literate by providing them education at any cost through both formal and informal systems, so as to achieve a balanced socio-economic development because any attempt to develop a society will be a futile effort unless and until the women are brought to the forefront of the society through proper education, training and social as well as economic upliftment.








The characteristics of Ram Raj could be seen in the Ramcharitmanas. The main characteristic relates to the happy living, other than the moral ethical and spiritual values possessed by the human beings, animals and even natural resources. It is stated in Ramcharitmanas " Dehic , Devic , Bhotic Tapa Ram Raj kahui na vyapa." In that rule no body suffered physically with ailments of physical or mental agony, no suffering through natural forces and through godly curse. No disasters, no natural calamities and no loss through any means. All were living happily. Nature was tuned to the well being of the people. The sea was throwing all "rattans"(costly stones) on the shore that could be picked up by the people. Every house had all these costly stones in possession and the source of lighting was the; Lal" that emits light. The rain god was acting to the wishes of the people and rain was on demand. The cows were giving milk to serve the need of the masters. There was no dearth of both material possessions and animal wealth. The nature was bountiful and providing all demanded requirements like honey and fruits. This was all due to the incarnation of the "Sakar Braham" i.e. Lord Rama. Do we have a Sakar Braham now like Lord Rama? Certainly not. As such we cannot expect Ram Raj of that kind unless such force descends to earth and rules.

Then what type of Ram Raj could be possible. The father of the nation must have considered Ram Raj not on those lines where some supernatural force will descend from heavens and rule. He gave practical demonstrations of bringing change in one self through different practices. He demonstrated through his austerity that one should eat to live and not live to eat. He further wanted to knit the society through love for all and lift the downtrodden and socially disadvantaged groups from abject poverty. He intended to infuse our old values of the scriptures and awaken the masses through these practices. Prayer was his weapon to spread brotherhood and peace of mind. His stress was on the social and economic development of the rural areas. That is why he started weaving Khadder cloth which was symbolic of rural economy through which income generation process could be started and led to achievement of self sufficiency in the villages. He coined Harijan word to make the downtrodden feel the close proximity to Hari, the Hindu God. It was an attempt to give them a place of honour in the society and keep provision for their special upliftment.

Gandhiji's life is an open book where there is no hypocrisy. No untrue statement. His means were always good to achieve the most difficult objective. He demonstrated through Satya graha his insurmountable will to lead a mass movement and compelled the foreign rulers to vacate the country. This half naked Faqir created a revolution in the mighty empire of the British crown. He gave the country a direction, a place of honour and dignity to live with head high. His attempts to establish Ram Raj through his own living demonstrated to the people both in power and common man as to how to achieve this. He could not see his dream fulfilled during his life time, but left to the people in power to follow the principles, the way of life and plan actions and lay strategies to achieve the goal of establishment of Ram Raj. From that time our power apparatus is engaged in economic development and with slogans of alleviating poverty. All conceptions are very good, but the implementation part- all of us see.

How Gandhiji's looks on us when we celebrate his birth day? How the followers who deliver speeches in his honour feel in the core of their hearts? Are the blessings being showered on them by the immortal Gandhiji? This event comes every year and we repeat the same heartfelt emotions and pay obeisance and convey our message to those who have not witnessed Gandhiji or read his literature or books like "My experiments with truth".









IT is a matter of much relief that the verdict of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute has evoked a response that is sober and mature. The disgusting demagoguery that characterised the early 1990s when a frenzied mob brought down the Babri Masjid, triggering off riots in several cities, has been replaced by a measured response where faults and inconsistencies are being pointed out in the judgement in the right spirit while making appeals to the people to maintain calm. Be it the RSS, the VHP and the BJP on the one hand and the Sunni Central Waqf Board and other Muslim groups on the other, both before and after the verdict there is temperance and moderation. This, in some senses, reflects the disgust of people at large, especially the youth, with divisive and violence-triggering politics. In that respect, this is truly a welcome development.


One may legitimately pick holes in the judgment of the three-judge Bench, principally that the verdict has been given less on the legalities and evidence than on faith and belief, but the cold reality is that with the issue having assumed hugely emotive dimensions, a judgment that ignored this could have had serious consequences for peace and tranquillity. By decreeing a three-way division of the disputed land among the proponents of Ram Lalla, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board, the Bench, by a 2-1 verdict, has given the joint title of the property to all the three parties fighting for the title. By asserting that the portion under the central dome of the demolished three-dome structure where the idol of Ram Lalla had been kept in a makeshift temple was the birthplace of Lord Rama "as per faith and belief of the Hindus," the court has shrewdly opted for the status quo. Likewise, the status quo has also been maintained on the buildings that stand in the outer courtyard of the premises, including Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi, to which the Nirmohi Akhara had staked claim. 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 Sunni Waqf Board. It is left to the board to decide whether it builds a mosque there and it would be the responsibility of the authorities to devise ways to ensure that the ingress and egress to the temple and the mosque do not cross each other's path.


Clearly, it is thanks to the compromise nature of the verdict that the contending parties are not overly elated or disappointed. It is time now to look forward and not backward. Political parties must continue to play a mature role and not fall a prey to playing divisive politics again. The Sunni Waqf Board and the Sri Janmabhoomi Trust, both of which have declared their resolve to go to the Supreme Court, are well within their right to do so. But once the Supreme Court gives its ruling, the final verdict must be duly respected and adhered to by one and all. Now that there is an element of sanity in the responses from both sides, it may be worthwhile for Hindu and Muslim representatives to even attempt to evolve a compromise settlement and then present it to the court.


The Hindu protagonist parties must not take the vesting of the land under the demolished domes to them as a vindication of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. That indeed would be a dangerous standpoint to adopt. The demolition case is a separate issue that must run its natural course and those responsible for it and thereby hurting the religious sentiments of the Muslims must be brought to book. The Ayodhya dispute has for too long occupied centrestage. It must now be relegated to the background and issues of roti, kapda and makaan must come to the fore in the interests of the teeming millions in the country. For too long have gullible voters been manipulated by vested interests in the name of religion and caste. It is time the people stopped succumbing to such divisive issues, thereby strengthening the fabric of national unity.







PUNJAB Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has committed in the Vidhan Sabha to rid Punjab of air and water pollution by November 30 next year. Though this may be a tall order, given the magnitude of the problem, it is heartening to note that at least the government is turning its attention to a serious issue. A persistent funds crunch usually comes in the way of Punjab's grandiose projects but this time money has been sanctioned by the Centre and the state too is doing its bit.


The condition of water resources in general and the rivers in particular is abysmal. The excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers has contaminated the Punjab ground and surface waters. Cities and towns as well as industries discharge untreated waste in the rivers and canals with impunity. Year after year dead fish are found floating in the Satluj near Nangal. Himachal units too contribute to the problem. Air has been spoiled by the state's industries and thermal plants, an increasing number of vehicles and the burning of farm residues. How the government curbs these known sources of pollution will be keenly watched.


Central grants are available for clearing the urban mess as well as laying or repairing sewerage in cities but the political leadership refuses to meet the condition of introducing user-charges. The fact that Ludhiana's toxic Budha Nullah has still not been cleaned up despite funds from the Centre and intervention of the Punjab and Haryana High Court raises doubts about Mr Badal's claims of making the state's water and air pollution-free within a year. In the absence of political backing the Punjab Pollution Control Board has become a toothless tiger. How serious politicians are on this issue is clear from the fact that only 30 of the 117 MLAs were present in the House to discuss air and water contamination on Thursday. Let us hope Mr Badal proves the skeptics wrong.









ONE did not expect a miracle from the all-party parliamentary delegation which went to Srinagar and Jammu a few days ago. But I did believe that the problem that had remained frozen for so many years would begin to move. In one way it has. Some MPs, particularly from the Left, have said on their return that things cannot go on in the valley as they have been. They have suggested to the government to have a roadmap.


This is where the parliamentary delegation will get stumped. Unfortunately, the government has no roadmap. It wants to solve the problem. But it has no concrete proposal which it can place on the table. Home Minister P. Chidambaram has offered a package after visiting the valley. The important part of the package is the appointment of three interlocutors. This is welcome as far as it goes. But unless New Delhi indicated to the interlocutors the contours of a political formula, it would be a wild goose chase.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has indicated that anything within the Constitution would be acceptable to him. Still the interlocutors would be at sea to fathom the extent to which they can go. If it is up to them to strike some kind of a deal, they would be hard put to reconcile the aspirations of the Kashmiris without knowing the limit the government has in mind.


And if the interlocutors have politicians among them, as Press reports indicate, their task would be still more difficult. Politicians are people with the baggage and party affiliations. Also, the interlocutors have to be such people as enjoy credibility in Kashmir as well as the rest of India. Satisfying the government and the people at the same time may be well-nigh impossible.


However, those who are asking for "azadi" have to keep in mind that the solution has to be from within India even if it is outside the Constitution. I think the different parties in Kashmir realise this. Their postures may be different but it must be there in the heart of their hearts that separation is not possible.


What is immediately required in the valley is normalcy. This has a lot to do with the governance which Chief Minister Omar Abdullah fails to provide. He has to retrieve the people from alienation and distrust which plague them. The inhuman life which the Kashmiris have been leading for years - today it may be worse - doesn't seem to be ending. The non-violent struggle which Yasin Malik had launched after leaving the path of insurgency did not persuade New Delhi to initiate talks with him or such other people. It lost a golden opportunity.


The youth was bound to become restive and resort to something like stone pelting as their new weapon when nothing was happening in the political field. That they have adopted a radical posture is a temporary phase because fundamentalism and Kashmiriyat do not go hand in hand. The Kashmiris are a secular people. That philosophy is bound to prevail once the dust and din of protests settles down.


That some MPs felt revolted over the excess committed by the security forces was natural. Indeed, the forces used to old methods and weapons do not know how to handle new forms of resistance. They do not differentiate between insurgency and protest. Words cannot describe the daily life of humiliation and hurt which the Kashmiris go through. Naturally, they are hardened in their attitude. Losing one person per day for the last three months because of security forces' action develops such a frame of mind. They want to retaliate in any way which acts as catharsis. It does not know of caution or fear.


The basic question is that of a roadmap, that is the solution. The main opposition party, the BJP, is not willing to accept even Article 370 which gives special powers to Jammu and Kashmir under the Constitution. Srinagar gave New Delhi only three subjects: defence, foreign affairs and communications. If the Centre wants more it has to ask the state for it. New Delhi cannot usurp authority on its own because it violates the terms and conditions of accession. New Delhi cannot appropriate more on its own. All powers the Centre has acquired after the arrest of Shiekh Abdullah, then the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, have to be restored to Srinagar.


True, some MPs were irritated to hear the demand for "azadi", wherever they went in Srinagar and the nearby areas. The word epitomises the Kashmiris' expression of frustration and helplessness. They have stopped talking about the option of Kashmir joining Pakistan for a long time. What option they have except "azadi", they argue, when they find - and believe - that they have no other way in the face of New Delhi's "oppression." They believe that "azadi" from both countries is the best way out. "Azadi" means emancipation, or release from misrule, not necessarily sovereignty. This is where India's hope rests.


The interlocutors must read the memorandum given by civil society members in Srinagar. There is no word of

"azadi" used, but it clearly describes what they go through. The memorandum says: "The free hand given to the armed forces to kill and maim civilians, while enjoying complete immunity, is unacceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir state. People's spiritual, physical, economic and social spaces have been greatly infringed because of a massive military presence in the state."


Civil society should, however, see that their school-going children do not sit at home in the crossfire between the government and those who goad protests. Education does not brook any break because it ultimately gets translated into certificates and degrees. The separatists, whatever their point of view, should not come in the way of children's education.


Somewhat belatedly, the Home Ministry has done well to ask the state government to release all political prisoners, including the youngsters, arrested during the last three months. However, responsibility should be fixed for false encounters carried out on the line of control. Also, the security forces should answer for the killing of young men who were not even part of the protesters.


The setting up of a high-power commission to go into the security forces' excesses would give confidence to the Kashmiris and may make them trust that the visit of the parliamentary delegation was not a joy ride. Once New Delhi and Srinagar have come to agree on the terms of a settlement, they should associate Islamabad with it, without which a lasting solution may not be possible.
















MARK TWAIN had dictated his autobiography but sealed the text with instructions that the book shall be published one hundred years after his death. It is natural that his readers would be counting the days to October 30, 2010, when the book (Vol-I) will reach bookstores in the US.


Not many have matched either his literary output or the simplicity of the anecdotal style of his narrative. And, of course, his wit, often directed at the outlandish mores of society, has had few equals. Once when asked what he considered a good Christian, his spontaneous response was: "He keeps the Sabbath when there is anybody around, and when there isn't, doesn't".


We do not know what the clergy thought of him but Queen Victoria must have been pleased as punch with Mark Twain's witticism: "The English are mentioned in the Bible: blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."


Mark Twain wasn't averse to having fun with his children. One of them once asked, after an admonishment by his teacher, as to why must he be good ? The fond parent said promptly: "To be good is noble. And to tell others to be good, is nobler. And no trouble".


Any visitor to the museum at Cairo would know how tiresome the histories of antiquity of the mummies become. In a moment of irreverence, Mark Twain turned to the guide and said, "We will double your fee if you show us a fresh corpse!"


Like many successful writers who live by their trade alone he too fell on hard times. So, he took his family on a world tour and wrote the travelogue "Following the Equator." The moment they touched at Bombay, he was charmed by India and Indians of every shade.


This becomes evident where he records his conversation with an English-speaking priest at the temple of Lord Hanuman. May be, his looks betrayed skepticism concerning the aerial transportation of a whole mountain to bridge the gap between India and Sri Lanka. But Mark Twain was quick to admit the irrefutable logic of the priest: "Don't you believe that the waters of the Red Sea parted to allow passage to Moses and his flock to reach the promised land? We too live by our faith."


A thought once crossed my mind that perhaps the poet Alama Iqbal drew inspiration to compose his song "Sare Jahan Se Achha" from Mark Twain's unique impression of India:


"So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or Nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked."









ONE rank — one pension (OROP) has been the demand behind which Ex-servicemen (ESM) have been rallying ever since the Sixth Pay Commission was made public in March 2008. It needs to be restated that OROP is a demand for equity and justice and not for money per se. The concept is based on demanding equal pension for equal work, independent of the date of one's retirement. This is not the case at present and older pensioners are getting lower pension than their younger counterparts of the same rank and for equal length of service. Prima facie, this is unjust.


The Congress spokesperson understandably eulogized UPA 1 and UPA 2 for what they have done for the ESM since 2004, but made some statements that do not fit facts. His assertion that all personnel other than officers have been granted OROP was incorrect. When cornered, he corrected his version to say that the difference between pre and post January 2006 pensioners is only one to eight percent. This is again blatantly wrong as the difference is more than 50 percent for jawans. He also claimed that all personnel other than officers were very happy with what they have got. If this were so, they would not have been protesting and depositing their medals still. Thirdly, he attempted to create an impression that jawans are happy and the problem exists only in officers' pension. One wonders whether this statement and not-so-subtle attempt to create a divide was his personal opinion or whether he was towing the official line.


In either case, it was unfortunate and unbecoming and needs to be clarified. When he announced that the government has agreed to constitute a separate Pay Commission for the defence forces from the Seventh Pay Commission, he was rightly booed. Going by precedent, the Seventh Pay Commission report might come out around 2018. There is no denying that the government announcement is merely to shelve the problem and not solve it.


Some have suggested a compensation package instead of higher pension, but In this they overlooked the fact that OROP is all about justice and not about money. While accepting the hazards of military life, an economist recently equated a soldier to a fireman who might get killed while entering a building that is on fire. Apart from the fact that the fireman has a choice whether or not to enter a burning building where a soldier does not, it is also relevant to remember that there is a fundamental difference between dying and getting killed. In the former, that the soldier faces, there is a readiness, even a willingness, to sacrifice one's life for the nation. Getting killed on the other hand is a passive action and more accidental than voluntary. While one has all the respect for the firemen, it is difficult not to point out that while soldiers die in almost every operation, firemen do not die in every building that goes aflame.


Another misconception that needs correcting is about the injustice. A father and son, both having served in the same regiment, retiring in the same rank and after equal number of years, and staying under the same roof get a different pension to the disadvantage of the father. This is patently unjust. The economist propounded a theory that a son earning more than the father is a law of nature, but it overlooks two ground realities. First, one is not talking of earning; the son might have earned relatively more while in uniform. The subject instead is remuneration for the work already done in the past. If that work was equal both in quality (rank) and quantity (length of service), then remuneration must also be equal. Secondly, if the laws of nature were to be applied to soldiering, then the economist needs to ponder how natural it is for a soldier to be ordered to advance in the face of bullets and die an 
unnatural death?


The suggestion that OROP is not legally tenable is equally out of sync. If the past and present presidents, vice presidents, judges, legislators and host of others can have same pension for old and new pensioners, then why cannot the soldiers get it? Any government that hides behind the law to deny its soldiers their dues is only touting an excuse, not a reason.


Unfortunately, the bureaucracy is playing the villain, as brought out by Commodore Uday Bhaskar. When late PM Indira Gandhi gave a decision to sanction OROP and Uday, as the secretary, was required to prepare minutes, the senior bureaucrats told him to omit this point as they would take it up separately. And there is a more recent example. When enhancements in pension were announced on March 8, 2010, the service widows were left out. Aghast, I wrote to the Secretary, Ex-servicemen Welfare Department, but received no reply. I next wrote to the Defence Minister and again, no reply. Then I sent a letter to the Prime Minister. The reply that came through Army Headquarters bore a PMO file number. It said that the widows were not covered because the Committee of Secretaries (headed by the Cabinet Secretary) had not recommended it. The reply leaves no doubt about who in the government calls the shots. It is also an admittance of the harsh reality of the tail wagging the tiger. Leaving the widows out of the ambit of the enhancements has been a very insensitive action by the government and has caused widespread resentment among the veterans.


Successive Parliamentary Committees have been recommending OROP. Besides, seeing the support of the public, of the courts as evidenced by their recent pronouncements, and of the Members of Parliament, so ably shown the lead by Rajiv Chandrasekhar who has renounced the increase in his MP salary till OROP is sanctioned, the writing is clearly on the wall. Isolated, the government can only delay grant of OROP but cannot deny it. Though none of us would like that to happen, it cannot be said that a serving soldier, seeing the plight of his father or uncle whose profession he had followed, will remain unaffected. The unhappy prospect can be grave.


The writer is former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff








IS atta-dal cheaper for a pensioner who retired in, say 1995, than an employee retiring today? Absolutely not. Then why should an old retiree be paid much less pension than an equally placed person retiring today in the same rank and with the same length of service? Legalese apart, this is the question that stares the present system in its face. But then, the logic is equally applicable not only to defence pensioners but to all pensioners irrespective of the service they retired from. And this is where I differ from some veteran organisations, which time and again bring in the talk of honour, valour and sacrifice of defence personnel while trivialising the roles of other occupations.


One rank—one pension (OROP), or more precisely "Equal pension for the same grade with same length of service", is definitely an equitable and ideal concept and should be granted, but it should be extended in time to all pensioners irrespective of the service from which they retired. If the defence services deserve it earlier or in a different format than others, it is not because their contribution is more hallowed than civilian employees but because they retire younger, at times 25 years before their civilian counterparts, are at call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and definitely lead a tougher regimented life. Every service or occupation, however, has a role to perform in sustaining this nation and the thin line between pride and superiority should not be crossed.


The outrage and retort of some members during a recent popular TV talk show, when a professor of economics suggested that there were other professionals too such as firemen who faced occupational risks, again reflected a kind of hollow supremacy which we are unknowingly instilling within the military society and that is taking us further away from the real world. Perhaps, the example of a fireman was not apt, but there are others such as personnel of the Central Police Organisations who face similar risks and probably lead an even tougher life. The only intelligible differentia that can be logically put forth is that defence personnel retire earlier.


Of course, also fallacious was the argument of the professor that defence personnel should be granted higher pay but not greater pension because the nation cannot afford it. Perhaps the professor did not know that pension, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is a "deferred wage" and a higher wage therefore has to rationally translate into higher pension. This fight should be won not by comparisons or running down others but by articulating a logical stance that is not easy to defy.


The idea should be to convince the government, the public and the nation as to why pensioners in general and defence pensioners in particular deserve a better deal. Though I do not agree with the oft-repeated conspiracy theory of the bureaucracy being always opposed to what defence personnel deserve, I can say it with conviction that mischievous elements at not-so-high-levels definitely have the ability to deceive the upper echelons of governance with misleading file notings on which there is no proper application of mind at the top but only affixing of initials as a mere formality. Or else nobody on earth could justify what has been labelled as "modified parity" or "rationalisation of pension structure".


The difference of Rs 1,400 between the pension of a Captain and a Major as on December 31, 2005 has gone down to Rs 250 on January 1, 2006 after the Sixth Pay Commission, rather than increasing with the enhancement of scales, while the difference of Rs 950 between the pension of a Major and a time-scale Lieutenant Colonel has gone up to Rs 11,600.


As on date, the disability element of pension of a 100 per cent disabled officer holding the rank of a full General

who retired on December 31, 2005 after 40 years of service is Rs 5,880 while the disability element of an officer of the same rank retiring a day later is Rs 27,000. In fact, a Lieutenant, the lowest commissioned rank, with one day of service released on January 1, 2006 gets a disability element of Rs 8,100 which is much more than that of a 100 per cent disabled General, the highest commissioned rank, who retired a day earlier. Probably it has been somehow established on file that an injury sustained in January 2006 is more agonising than the one sustained a day before!


The government may call it anything — modified parity or rationalisation, officialdom may put across a labyrinth of rulings and decisions to defend itself, but the net result is that the differentia between pre and post 2006 retirees is something that shakes the conscience. But how do we counter it — by rhetoric and presenting ourselves as "holier than thou" or by sound and logical reasoning?


The writer practises in the Punjab & Haryana High Court









 Today is the 142nd birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Among all the modern leaders of India, he is perhaps the most well known, most well read, and most written about leader. Later global leaders like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and even Barack Obama have admitted their intellectual debt and inspiration to Mahatma Gandhi. 


The Nobel Prize winning scientist and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Albert Einstein said of Gandhiji's methods, "I believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil." 


Thus Einstein acknowledged that non-violence was an essential and innovative idea contributed by Gandhiji as a practical political tool. Upon Gandhiji's death, Einstein had also said, "Generations to come, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth." It is a quite a powerful tribute to a contemporary personality. 


There are many remarkable facts of Gandhi, and one related to the age at which he began his public life in India. He had earlier studied law and become a barrister in London, and then practiced law in South Africa. But very soon he became an active participant in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. 


Unfortunately it wasn't until 1991, after 27 years of imprisonment of Mandela, that apartheid was fully dismantled legally that South Africa became formally a multi-racial society. Gandhi left Africa in 1915. His work in India started from scratch in that year. Most remarkably his age in 1915 was 46! He thus started his political life in India at an age when many people begin to eye retirement. 


Even more remarkably his first political guru, his most loyal and trusted disciple who carried on his work after his death, and his assassin were all Maharashtrian Chitpawan Brahmins. They were respectively Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Viniyak Narhari (Vinoba) Bhave and Nathuram Godse. Gokhale was primarily a social reformer who opposed child marriage, and became the President of the Congress Party in 1906. 


His stand on social issues was publicly opposite that of Lokmanya Tilak. Gandhi called Gokhale his mentor and guide (and Jinhah too was mentored by Gokhale.) Vinoba was Gandhi's first chosen individual satyagrahi and is also known as the father of the Bhoodan movement. This was a movement that appealed to the moral sense of landlords to donate their lands to the landless. 


Starting from 1951 in the next six years, the movement was able to general 5 million acres of land mainly from the states of Andhra, Orissa and Bihar. A former socialist and Marxist Jayaprakash Narayan became completely converted to the cause of this movement. The idea of Bhoodan (voluntary land grant), and later Gramdan (village grant), Shramdan (grant of labour service) can all be traced to Gandhiji's idea of capitalism in the spirit of trusteeship. In today's times of great conflict over land ownership, where every square foot becomes a war zone over ownership, it is important to recall that there was a viable mode of non-violent transfer of land that was made possible due to the influence of Gandhi and Vinoba. 


Today the pledge of even the five million acres already donated, runs the risk of being repudiated by the successive generations of inheritors of the donors. If the daan-patra (donor records) are properly computerised then that original donation will be held sacrosanct. Else who knows! 


Gandhi's thoughts on trusteeship in his own words: "I am inviting those people who consider themselves as owners today to act as trustees. Supposing I have come by a fair amount of wealth-either by way of legacy, or by means of trade and industry, I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood, no better than that enjoyed by millions of others. The rest of my wealth belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community." 



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A list put out by Forbes India says that India has 69 dollar-billionaires. That gives the country a near 7 per cent share of the world's billionaires (said to total 1,011), whereas its share of world GDP is just 2 per cent, and of global poverty an embarrassing 30 per cent. So many billionaires in the midst of a sea of poor people is, of course, a sign of inequality, and some call the contrast an obscenity. Comparisons are made between the wealth of a few ($300 billion for our 69 billionaires) and the country's GDP ($1,500 billion this year); but this is like comparing apples and (say) rivers, because the first is stock and the second is flow. If one must make comparisons, they have to be between the stock of wealth owned by the super-rich, and the stock of wealth that the rest of the country owns. Looked at this way, it would seem that the billionaires own barely 3 per cent of the total assets in the country, or less.


 If that seems like an outrageous claim, start with the value of the 280 million head of cattle that Indians own. Assuming just Rs 10,000 per head (most cross-bred cows go for more than Rs 20,000), the value is about $60 billion. But that is small beer when compared to the bank deposits that people have; the total is about $750 billion, and a good proportion of that belongs to individuals. But even that is small beer when you come to the value of land, of which India has 140 million arable hectares. At the acquisition price that Karnataka now has, of a mid-range of Rs 25 lakh per hectare for single-crop land, the total land value could be something like $7,500 billion. Add to that the value of all the houses (at least 100 million pucca homes), and you get another large figure. And don't forget that the billionaires own only a fraction of the value of all listed companies (we don't know about the unlisted companies). Put all the numbers together, and it seems somewhat obvious that the billionaires own only a tiny portion of the total wealth of the country.


Still, the equality issue cannot be evaded. It used to be said of Pakistan's "22 families" (actually about 43 families, before a wave of nationalisations in the 1970s) that they owned nearly half of the companies on the Karachi stock exchange. A quick study of India's listed stock suggests that the picture is not very different here, though you could argue that there is greater depth. About 150 business families figure as owners among the top 500 listed companies, and therefore have some prominence. But the top 20 own 32 per cent of 1,800 listed companies, and the next 30 families own another 8 per cent.


Ownership is, of course, only one of the issues. You also have to look at market structures and, therefore, monopoly power, how cleanly the money was made (a market economy needs entrepreneurs, after all, and will anyone complain about N R Narayana Murthy becoming rich?), whether much of the wealth is inherited or self-created, and what connections there exist between business and politics. You also have to look at tax issues, because the argument is often made that India's tax laws are kindest to the richest (no long-term capital gains tax, no dividend tax on individuals though there is a dividend distribution tax on companies, and so on). So, there is a fairness agenda to be addressed, which is different from an equality agenda — and more urgent.









On the birth anniversary of Gandhiji, it is useful to recall that he wanted to evict many things from India. One of those did happen a few months before his death. The others were deprivation, and societal disharmony. These still remain with us.


India currently has a high rank on the post-crisis growth league tables. For a country once known for acute poverty, the issue that should engage us is how fast this growth is pulling us out of that reputation.


 There is a recent study on shifting patterns of global wealth by the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which estimates the growth elasticity of poverty reduction in 24 countries, India among them. Incidentally, India is one of the non-OECD members of the Development Centre.


These exercises are difficult to do, and easy to criticise. Clearly, there are going to be severe data difficulties. Even something as standard as GDP growth can be under or overestimated, notwithstanding the worldwide standardisation of methodology under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Office (one of many useful functions performed by the UN system). As for poverty, annualised changes in the dollar a day headcount index necessarily have to be estimated from the discrete points in time at which survey data are available for each country. Poverty surveys with a large enough sample for statistical robustness are typically not conducted annually. So, we do not know the most critical thing about poverty, namely how much it fluctuates from year to year. Venezuela is a rare example of a country where annual income surveys are done. These show high volatility in growth and poverty from year to year, in response to fluctuations in the price of oil, the key commodity underpinning the Venezuelan economy.


For a family that graduates out of poverty in a particular year, the satisfaction of doing so will be tempered by the probability of slipping back into poverty the next year. If the graduation push came entirely from good rainfall, or some other such exogenous element, clearly there is no structural change in their situation, and no change in the slippage probability. For the graduation to be more sustainable, there has to have been a positive structural change, such as drought-proofing from better watershed conservation, or a relatively stable source of non-farm income.


A survey conducted after, say, a lapse of five years, will show the net change relative to the previous year of survey, but will not by itself tell us anything about whether the improvement recorded is structural, or simply a reflection of fortunate timing.


Notwithstanding these limitations, the growth elasticities of poverty reduction estimated in the OECD report for the 24 countries, over the 10 years from 1995 to 2005, invite our attention. They are obtained from average annual changes in poverty headcounts imputed from survey points, divided by average annual real growth rates of GDP per capita over those 10 years. Six of the 24 countries actually had positive elasticities, implying headcounts and growth moving in the same direction. Of the remaining eighteen with the right (negative) sign, India has the lowest rank, at 0.3 per cent of annual reduction in the poverty headcount for every 1 per cent of GDP growth (tied with Peru). China did much better, at a 1.2 per cent poverty reduction for every 1 per cent of GDP growth.


The stability of the denominator matters a great deal, when evaluating these elasticities. If GDP growth is itself volatile, either because of rainfall dependence or export dependence, the latter exacerbated where there is high export concentration by product and/or destination, a high growth elasticity of poverty would imply wide year-to-year swings in the poverty headcount. Stable GDP growth imparts stability and permanence to poverty reduction, at whatever elasticity.


India, with stable GDP growth, offers the hope that the poverty reduction observed, slow as it is, marks a permanent shift in the economic status of some, if not all, of those graduating out. China, with a high and stable GDP growth, and an (negative) elasticity of 1.2 per cent, is clearly far ahead.


The OECD study prescribes a path going forward for more rapid growth rates in the developing South, based on a global model of trade flows. The simulations show that the gains to the South from reducing North-South trade tariffs to North-North levels, are nowhere nearly as great as the gains from reducing South-South trade tariffs to those same levels. These results in essence place the burden of further acceleration in Southern growth on the South. The North is absolved of all responsibility.


This conclusion is contestable on several grounds. The average tariff in the South on manufactured imports from the South is 7.8 per cent; on imports from the North, it is 2.4 per cent. The reason is that Southern manufactured imports compete with domestic production, where manufactures from the North do not (on average). South-South tariff liberalisation simply cannot overcome domestic political opposition unless, at a very minimum, there is widespread confidence that the damage from closure of outcompeted production units can be contained. This, in turn, requires unobstructed, low-friction factor markets that are still a pipe dream in most countries of the South. It calls for a robust social safety net for those thrown out of work. Not many countries of the South can boast of such preconditions.


The distance between tariffs imposed by the North on imports originating in the South, and those originating in the North, is far wider than the equivalent distance in tariffs imposed by the South, for both primary and manufactured imports. This violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the MFN principle calls in the first instance for the North to lead the way by reducing the huge disparity in average tariffs by point of origin.


That still leaves a lot to do in the South to insulate those graduating out of poverty from slipping back.


The author is honorary visiting professor, ISI Delhi








How attractive are science and technology jobs for young people in India? To find the answer, I conducted a dipstick survey of opinion among 265 scientists and faculty members who were working on different research projects with funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), New Delhi1.


The questions ranged from the respondents' perceptions of the motives of the new generation of students and workforce in choosing careers, the general attractiveness of a science career in India, how parents influence their children in choosing subjects in higher education and researchers and scientists' satisfaction with their achievements while working in different laboratories or universities in various positions.


 The survey findings show that 63 per cent of the respondents believed that parents played an important role in guiding and influencing their children in choosing suitable careers. Also, about 80 per cent of the respondents strongly recommended that the new generation of Indian students and workforce opt for science and science career. However, only 12 per cent of the respondents had at least one child in science-related jobs. At the same time, 46 per cent of them reported higher satisfaction with their children's career choices. In this context, an important question is: Did the respondents also guide or influence their children to opt for careers other than in science?


Science as a careerFigure 1 presents respondents' opinions on three key issues related to science and science careers. The results are self-explanatory: the three sets of bars shows that most respondents thought the new generation's inclination for science and a science career was average or low, as was the extent of opportunities that were perceived to exist for young people to be future scientists. Satisfaction levels with their own achievements, however, were either high or average.

On the motives of the new generation of students and workforce, the respondents perceived that they would look at six concepts when choosing jobs2 and Figure 2 shows the extent of importance attached to these six motives that the respondents thought the new generation would attach to them. As the chart shows, the extrinsic orientation of a job or career has been perceived as the most important motive for the new generation. This factor contains items like job status, annual pay, pay compared to others and status of the organisation.

What countsI believe that in many responses, the respondents were, in fact, subconsciously responding to their own unfulfilled motives as scientists or faculty members (recollect that a large number of the respondents reported low to average satisfaction with their own achievements).


In the correlation analysis to examine the relationships between the six motives perceived for the new generation by the respondents (on the one side) and their general opinions on science and science career, it was observed that all significant correlations were positive. In other words, if the general opinion of the respondents about science and a science career improves, it is likely that the new generation will show better satisfaction with the six motives of a job and career listed above.


Two generalisations flow from the correlation analysis. First, if the general beliefs or attitudes of current scientists and faculty members about the low inclination of the new generation towards science careers and the existence of limited job opportunities for them are modified, and parent made more aware of career choices, "the intrinsic orientation" of the new generation can be achieved. Second, if the current scientists and faculty members and parents change their attitude towards science and science careers while guiding their children, then "the extrinsic orientation" of the new generation can be fulfilled.


Students and youngsters entering the workforce normally look to many of senior scientists and faculty members as their mentors. The research papers, articles and views expressed in journals on science and science careers determine choices, and writings and lectures on comparative analysis between the research environment in India and in other countries determine, to a great extent, the interest to continue study or work in India or to move abroad.


Since the respondents were working on projects with DST funding, they must have convinced DST representatives of their relevance and the likely impacts. They must have also justified the funding asked for in carrying out the research projects proposed. And it is likely that in many cases, the projects might have (justifiably) faced budget cuts, although few scientists decline to continue with a project because of a budget cut.


To conclude, I would like to mention a concept known as "positive psychology" that was first introduced by Abraham Maslow some 60 years ago. The research agenda proposed by Maslow included investigation factors such as growth, self-sacrifice, optimism, spontaneity, courage, acceptance, sharing and so on. Our seriousness in making science a meaningful career for the new generation depends on our efforts to incorporate some of these factors in our mindset and belief systems.


1These scientists/faculty members were those using DST funding during 2003-2005. Their names and addresses were taken from the DST website. The questionnaire was posted at all the names/addresses and responses from 265 of them were received.


2The results of Factor analysis with Varimax rotations.


The writer is a scientist with the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi










You keep stumbling upon Germany's convoluted past in odd, sometimes deeply disturbing, ways in the streets of Berlin. It confronts you everywhere and often, quite inadvertently, you will step on it. An area of the city's former eastern half that now houses fashionable art galleries is a fenced-in park. On the pavement stands a doom-laden bronze sculpture of women and children. Passersby leave small stones and flowers at its base. This was once Berlin's largest Jewish cemetery and a Jewish old people's home. Under the Nazis it was turned into a detention centre, with 55,000 people awaiting deportation to concentration camps; in 1943, they destroyed the graves, including the grave of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, using the headstones to build trenches.


 Such memorials dog your footsteps throughout the city. Inserted here and there in the cobbled streets are small brass plaques, each commemorating the name, birth date and tragic end of Nazi victims. They are called Stolpersteine, meaning stumbling blocks. There are 9,000 of them and for a contribution of ¤120 you can add another.


Elsewhere in the buzzing metropolis are other reminders of the city's stiflingly repressive, if less brutal, past. Tour guides point out the severe Stalinist facades extravagantly lined with Meissen tiles where the Communist apparatchiks of the erstwhile German Democratic Republic lived in relative style, or the headquarters of its dreaded secret police, Stasi, that employed 91,000 with an additional 180,000 informers — numbers far greater than the 7,000-strong Nazi Gestapo. Most visited of all is the remaining section of the Berlin Wall, about 1.8 km long, now emblazoned by murals and christened the "East Side Gallery"; the rest was hacked away by the city's jubilant population in the tumultuous days following November 9, 1989 when restrictions on the movements of East Berliners were over. People hammered down the hated "anti-fascist protection barrier", carried it off, or sold it, as souvenirs.


I was last in Berlin in 1990 shortly after the Wall came down when the contrast between the gloom and deprivation of the East and the prosperity and openness of the West was painfully apparent. It was that period in German history known as Die Wende ("the turn"). Not only have the borderlines vanished today but the unified Capital bears the stamp of robust homogeneity; so much so that when the young filmmaker Florian von Donnersmarck made his Oscar-winning film Lives of the Others a couple of years ago, about moral corruption under Stasi snoops, he was hard put to recreate the exact locations in East Berlin.


Lingering resentments between easterners and westerners (once teasingly called Ossis and Wessis) in this multicultural metropolis of 3.5 million are a thing of the past. Dark and damaging turns of history are neither forgotten nor buried here; rather they are carefully restored, even memorialised, as investment and innovation transform Berlin into the most happening Capital of Europe. Down-at-heel neighbourhoods of East Berlin such as Mitte and Friedrichshain are flourishing centres of avant garde art and counterculture; there are so many new museums, galleries and performance spaces competing for attention that the city has recaptured its place among the cultural strongholds of the world.


In the space of a few days, I visited an old water-pumping station by the river converted into a dance-and-music theatre by the choreographer Sacha Waltz; a bomb shelter from World War II that houses a private collection of contemporary art; and attended a beguiling production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in modern dress in Max Reinhardt's 19th century theatre that interpreted Shakespeare in Freud's dream analysis.


A new rule of unified Germany is that 5 per cent of the budget of every public project must be reserved for art. The new secret-service building coming up in Berlin has an art budget of ¤2.5 million; and the new Brandenburg airport reserves ¤3 million. Perhaps Capitals like New Delhi, aspiring to world-class status, could take a tip.









The minister for External Affairs in his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 29, 2010 spoke about the expansion of the Security Council. Rightly so.


In 2005, the UN observed its 60th anniversary. It was then hoped that the Security Council would become more representative to reflect the present-day international reality. This did not happen. The UN was founded in 1945. Its membership was 51. India was a founding member by virtue of her having been member of the League of Nations which had proved to be a dismal affair. The Security Council was to consist of five permanent and six non-permanent members.


 The permanent members were the US, the USSR, the UK, China and France. These five would have a veto. If one of them exercised the veto then no resolution could be passed. The US had made it abundantly clear that if there was no provision for a veto in the UN charter, it would not be member of the United Nations Organisation.


The UN charter can only be reformed/amended provided all five permanent members agree. A minor change did take place in 1963 when non-permanent members were increased from six to ten.


In 2004-2005, the foreign ministers of India, Brazil, Japan and South Africa spent much time and energy to ensure that the permanent members did not for all time retain their hold on the Security Council. The four did not succeed. The P-5 do not want their authority, influence and power to be diluted.


If ever the Security Council is to be expanded, it will require the approval of the P-5. Various formulas have been suggested. One, India, Brazil, South Africa plus Japan or Germany be added as permanent members. Two, Egypt and Nigeria be added. Three, the newcomers would not have a veto. Four, the P-5 would not in future exercise their right to use the veto. Five, the additional permanent members should serve for a fixed period so that other UN members also get a chance.


As external affairs minister, I had made India's position clear. We could accept being a permanent member without a veto. We could not be second-division players. One minority view was, "Let's accept what is being offered and ask for more later." The reality is that, "more later" is wishful thinking.


Of the P-5, Russia, the UK and France support India's bid for a permanent Security Council seat. That leaves the US and China. Neither has declared its support for India. The other day, an absurd theory was floated. US President Barack Obama, during his state visit to India, would suggest that if New Delhi settled the Kashmir issue, then the US would help India become a permanent member. Mercifully, the Ministry of External Affairs has rubbished this fanciful idea.


What about China? At the end of the state visit of President Pratibha Patil to China, it was proclaimed by some members of the delegation that Beijing had apparently assured our president that it would support India for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. This was a spectacular example of mixing facts with hopes. At no time has China declared its support for India. Neither will it. China practises realpolitik. It is in the power game. We have yet to learn to play the power game. China today is the sole representative at the Security Council of Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is a unique position. This is a wholly unfair arrangement. One cannot, however, ignore reality. China will continue to say that it would like to see India play a more active role at the UN. I may not have got the exact words but the sense I have undoubtedly caught.


We should also bear in mind certain sensibilities of the P-5, especially of China, the UK and France. China will, in the foreseeable future, not agree to have India or Japan as veto-wielding permanent members. Argentina will oppose Brazil. So will Mexico. the UK and France will veto if any attempt is made to adversely affect their present status. By any impartial criteria, neither of the two should be wielding the veto power. All one can say is, what cannot be cured must be endured.


Today is Gandhiji's 141st birth anniversary. The Mahatma's sense of humour needs to be better known. In 1931, he had gone to London to participate in the second Round Table Conference (RTC), called by the British to discuss India's future. King George VI held a reception for the RTC delegation at Buckingham Palace. After preliminary hesitation, an invitation was sent to Gandhiji. The main royal objection was to Gandhi's sartorial preferences. After the reception, the old man was asked by a correspondent, "Mr Gandhi, what did the King have to say about your dress?" The greatest of Indians replied, "His Majesty could hardly complain about my attire, as he was wearing enough for the two of us."








A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic

 Attributed to Stalin


Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen made two points in his seminal study, Poverty and Famines, based on the Bengal Famine (1943) and other examples from the world. First, all famines were essentially man-made mass hoarding because of widespread rumours and poor distribution; they were not caused by food shortage. In fact, Sen said, "The Raj was fairly right in its estimation of overall food availability but disastrously wrong in its theory of famines." Second, famines do not occur in functioning democracies because democratic governments have to respond to the needs of the people or else get thrown out. If you had any lingering doubts about Sen's closely argued study, it would be dispelled by Frank Dikötter'sMao's Great Famine: The History of China's Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 (Bloomsbury, Special Indian Price Rs 650) where "45 million people died unnecessarily between 1958 and 1962… in one of the most deadly mass killings of human history." Dikötter begins with first principles. The term "famine" or "Great Famine", he says, is often used to describe these four to five years of the Mao era "but the term fails to capture the many ways in which people died under radical collectivisation". Based on over a thousand archival documents collected over several years in dozens of Party archives spread across the country, the book demonstrates how coercion, terror and systematic violence were the foundation of the Great Leap Forward in which 2.5 million were simply tortured to death or summarily killed.


"Other victims were deliberately deprived of food and starved to death. Many more vanished because they were too old, weak or sick to work — and hence unable to earn their keep... People were killed selectively because they were rich, because they dragged their feet, because they spoke out or simply because they were not liked, for whatever the reason, by the men who wielded the ladle in the canteen." The book is divided into six Parts: The Pursuit of Utopia; Through the Valley of Death; Destruction; Survival; The Vulnerable; and Ways of Dying, which are rounded off with an Epilogue, an essay on the Sources and Select Bibliography. The first two parts explain how and why the Great Leap Forward unfolded, identifying the key turning points and charting the ways in which the lives of millions were shaped by the decisions taken by a select few at the top.


Part 3 looks at the scale of destruction, from agriculture, industry, trade and housing to the natural environment. Part 4 shows how the grand plan was transformed by everyday strategies of survival by ordinary people to produce something that nobody intended and few could quite recognise. Part 5 looks at the lives of children, women and the elderly, and Part 6 traces the ways in which people died, from accidents, disease, torture, murder and suicide to starvation. Here is a horror story from start to finish that you find hard to believe but are compelled to do so simply because of the depth and range of the research that has gone into the making of the study.


There is a well-known dictum that E H Carr laid down in his work, What is History?, on the reading of history: know the historian before you read the history. Dikötter is a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and of humanities at the University of Hong Kong. He is a Chinese-speaking expert (which explains why he had access to Central Party archives in Beijing and the districts) whose work has been endorsed by Jung Chang, author of two bestsellers — Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story. If credential is one of the criterion to judge the authenticity of scholarship, this alone would be sufficient to judge whether the bizarre story of the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution told here rings true or not.


Just how bizarre the whole experiment to catch up with the West was can be seen from these facts that are recounted in the first two parts: Utopia and the Valley of Death, which was guided by Mao's philosophy that "when there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half the people die so that the other half can eat their fill". He went on to add that anyone who questioned his policies was a "Rightist" that was applied to 13 million Party members. In his attempt to establish communism overnight, the most catastrophic exercises in utopianism was conducted. Impossible targets were fixed and when these fell short, Mao blamed it all on class enemies. The forced collectivisation of agriculture and the apparatus needed to keep it in place resulted in 45 million deaths.


The failure of the Leap Forward was followed by the Great Cultural Revolution with its slogan "bombard the headquarters". This was truly revolutionary for it toppled many of Mao's comrades and destroyed the institutional base of the Chinese Communist Party. It also marked a departure from the norm of civilised behaviour, producing cruelty and oppression on a horrific scale. Millions of Chinese suffered; many behaved pitifully and disgracefully.


When you read the detailed accounts of this organised madness, there is just one question that comes to mind. How did so many western intellectuals believe that Mao's attempt to build a new man would reinvent society for the good of all, was a unique experiment that had to be commended when all the evidence indicated that something was so obviously crazy? Were they also blinded by the tyranny of reason?









On September 23, 24 and 25, 1992, P V Narasimha Rao, then prime minister, called a meeting with editors of several national newspapers and magazines. The issue was: what should be done with Ayodhya? Most of them came out of the conference confused and disturbed. They wondered if the prime minister's idea of a solution to the Ayodhya tangle was to hand over the disputed structure to the Hindus.


Rao was a worried man. Karsewaks were massing in Ayodhya. Earlier in the week, at a meeting with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders, he is believed to have said: "Mandir banega aur bhavya mandir banega (the temple will be built and it will be a grand one)." And as an afterthought, Rao added: "Lekin masjid hatana theek nahin hai (but it may not be proper to move the mosque)."


 Rao had set up an Ayodhya cell in his office, headed by Naresh Chandra. In an interview to this reporter in October 1992, Chandra was strongly critical of the attempts made by a team of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professors to prove historically that Ram was not born in Ayodhya. "Progressive historians (like Romila Thapar, S Gopal and others) are more keen to present their modern, secular credentials.They want to sound superior and informed, but we find their writings opinionated and argumentative."


He added: "We would be rejecting history if we were to say that for the last 400 years (since Mir Baqi, a Shia from Iran, built a mosque at the disputed site), Hindus and Muslims have been living happily and sharing the same building forpuja and namaz. There has obviously been a temple here. Whether it belonged to Ram or someone else, we don't know because there isn't enough data. But the fact is there have been bitter conflicts over this place, and we cannot brush this aside, as the JNU professors have done."


The matter came to a head within two months, before Rao's project could be realised. On December 6 that year, to India's eternal shame, the government was unable to protect India's secularism and the "disputed structure" was brought down by mobs while the matter was still being heard by the courts. Recalling that event, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was uncharacteristically cutting about L K Advani's role. "Unlike the NDA's prime ministerial candidate, I will not be found weeping in a corner while hoodlums tear down a centuries-old mosque," he commented witheringly last year.


This time around, when the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has given its verdict, the law-and-order management has been exemplary. Not only have there been no incidents, there is a conspicuous build-up of security forces, and "miscreants" have been punished promptly (like the two boys from Kollam, Kerala who were found to have sent incendiary text messages). There is little patience with communal forces, although a Congress government is in power again and the man who was finance minister then is prime minister now.


So what has changed between 1992 and 2010?


Obviously that was a different time, a different atmosphere. Kalyan Singh, who was chief minister at the time of the demolition, visited Ayodhya on September 16, days before the judgment. Singh tried to sound as he did in 1992: "We will not sit quietly in case the judgment goes against the Hindu claim to the disputed site but political parties must stay away from this issue," he said at a public meeting. The 50 people who attended the meeting heard him disinterestedly and dispersed five minutes later.


The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has realised that even when in power, there are some things that a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government cannot do. On the other hand, the Gujarat government has been unapologetic about pulling the shutters down on the VHP's business dealings. So, one major stream of Hindu mobilisation has simply been disempowered.


But if we agree that no communal incident in India is ever spontaneous, then it is also true that administrative preparedness can prevent such incidents. In this context, even the Congress organisation concedes that the credit must go to the Uttar Pradesh government headed by Mayawati. Massive police and paramilitary presence was ensured by the UP administration.


In 1992, every jai Shri Ram was captured by TV and radio, anywhere it was uttered. In 2010, when lawyers were addressing the press and claiming credit for "winning" the case, some cries of jai Shri Ram were simply muted by TV channels.


Reactions to the demolition came in March 1993, in the shape of simultaneous bomb blasts all over Mumbai. But between 1993 and 2010, the Shiv Sena has split; and post 23/11, it is a different Mumbai.


So what does it all mean? The biggest difference between 1992 and 2010 is: India has lost the appetite to shed blood over religion. It stands to reason. Hindus have become more religious. But many religious leaders — well-known ones, not some leading shady sect — are facing criminal charges ranging from sodomy to murder. Funding to religious institutions, including madarassas, is under scrutiny,


However, Sun Tsu in the Art of War sounds a warning: Do not press a desperate foe too hard. Whoever the winner or loser in Ayodhya, the government needs to remember this.








Though there are more than 3,000 mutual fund schemes, these are well classified across the risk-return spectrum


In an article "Who cares for mutual funds" (Business Standard, September 1), Subir Roy takes what participants in the stock markets call a contra view — an approach contrary to popular belief and understanding to get the best results for the investor.


 Let us look at what Mr Roy says while restricting himself to discussing investments in equity-focused schemes.


There are more than 3,000 mutual fund schemes compared to some 500 actively traded shares and, therefore, it is difficult to select the right mutual fund scheme. If one can research mutual fund schemes, it is possible to research stocks too.


The questions are: what is the right tenure of the investment and how does the churn get affected by the performance of the scheme? The performance of the scheme can be affected by a change in fund managers. Choosing stocks of the 20 best-known companies and holding them for a long term are more likely to give handsome returns compared to returns from mutual funds.


This is a crude way of looking at mutual funds, which is arguably the simplest, cheapest and the most regulated way of creating wealth. Let us see why.


Researching mutual funds is a very simple thing: pick up five or six of the most well-known fund houses and you can be confident of robust system and processes with well-defined products with a consistent performance.


Compare this with picking stocks: it involves numerous variables from understanding financial ratios, to the business franchise, to the global macroeconomic environment. It is not possible for a lay investor do so. After all, even equity research analysts specialise in a limited number of adjacent industries.


Though there are more than 3,000 mutual fund schemes, these are well classified across the risk-return spectrum. Choosing two or three different schemes in each category from the well-known fund houses is far simpler than choosing the top 20 companies that will best negotiate vagaries of economic change over the next five to seven years. Unlike stocks, good mutual fund schemes come at no extra cost. On the contrary, they have the wherewithal to keep costs in check.


Organisations with well-established processes, which India's better-known fund houses can now claim to have, do not let their investment performance suffer because of a change in personnel. Such organisations neither create nor promote rock-star fund managers.


Investing in index funds is a passive way of participating in the market and they are judged by how closely they track the respective index. However, the better performing schemes have for the larger part of the last few years outperformed the market. Therefore, passive investments are yet to become attractive in the domestic markets.


A lay investor should arrive at an asset allocation for her investment portfolio depending on her risk profile and returns requirement. Some model asset allocations suggest a 70 per cent exposure to equity and the rest to debt for an investor in her late twenties or early thirties. The allocation to equities reduces progressively as one grows old.


The investor should review her asset allocation once every quarter and rebalance her portfolio to the model asset allocation. This approach helps book profits and enables higher investments when equity markets are doing badly. This discipline frees one of the decisions of the tenure of investments and insulates one from any mis-selling.


Fortunately, the Indian mutual fund industry has evolved greatly in the last few years and the regulator has pushed it to become more transparent and investor-friendly. This ensures that many investor misgivings are addressed. Though there have been quite a few cases of miss-selling, expected regulations and guidelines for mutual fund advisors will largely address this issue.


Investment is a science, it cannot be done on the basis of one's perceptions of companies or the economic environment. It needs expert advice and holding directly held securities in ones portfolio is for the high-net-worth individuals who can afford it.


For lay investors, mutual funds are the best vehicle to participate in the capital markets. Mutual funds bring with them the advantages of professional management. They offer high liquidity and reduced costs because of economies of scale and most importantly, reduce risk through adequate diversification. For small investors, a systematic investment plan while sticking to the discipline of reviewing and realigning the asset allocation is the best way to create wealth










HCL co-founder Shiv Nadar could very well catalyse an Indian corporate philantrophic movement. He says that he would leave about 10% of his wealth for philanthropic ventures, thus following the lead of celebrity billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who are running a campaign to urge other wealthy individuals to pledge at least half their wealth to charity. The Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation is engaged in projects across healthcare, education and poverty and development; and many of their friends, including Mr Buffet, have pledged to support that project. Giving away a part of personal wealth is not all that common in India, although religious charity is widespread. Very little of the giving that takes place is for social, humanitarian or developmental purposes. Much of the spending by companies in form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects is driven by tax breaks, although there are several honourable exceptions where notable companies and wealthy individuals have quietly gone far beyond routine CSR activity to promote purposes such as education, primary health, disease control and skill-development. The need is to bring more and more of our growing tribe of the wealthy to apply themselves to filling the gaps left by government agencies in social sector development, and to do so voluntarily, without either generous tax incentives or pressure from the government to set aside a certain portion of corporate earnings for CSR. Conscious capitalism would also take care to ensure that such funds provided out of concern for societal welfare are utilised efficiently as well. And it would mean some transfer of management skills from boardrooms to grassroot-level projects. 


High estate taxes have partly been the reason why many wealthy Americans pledge part of their wealth for philanthropic activities. Enlightened self-interest can serve the same purpose in India. Even as the demand for talent rises fast, the only supply going up fast is that of unskilled manpower. Converting the latter into drivers of India's economic growth is a challenge that is worthy of corporate India's best minds. And hearts.






MAHINDRA Satyam, formerly Satyam Computers, has met a statutory requirement by finalising its accounts for FY 2009 and FY 2010, 18 months after the software firm's founder Ramalinga Raju confessed to mammoth fraud. The only thing that is clear is that the company is doing well now: It has added new clients, bagged a part of the unique identity number project and is building on core competencies to regain lost ground. The management expects the company to turn profitable in two years. However, the financials do not give a clear picture on the actual losses suffered by erstwhile Satyam, thanks to a heavy dose of qualifications and the forensic audit's failure to track fund diversion and missing transaction trails. So, the hole in the company, estimated at . 7,955 crore, conforms to largely what Raju had confessed to in January 2009. Sure, forensic auditors were hamstrung as records were either missing or destroyed. Also, they unfortunately had limited access to documents seized by the government. Ongoing investigations into the Satyam fraud could bring in some clarity. However, the results of the forensic audit raise questions on whether our investigating agencies and auditors have the expertise or the will to unearth complex accounting frauds. A correct picture is a must to prosecute perpetrators of the fraud, and to facilitate the company's planned merger with Tech Mahindra. 


A special court is hearing the Satyam case. The Central Bureau of Investigation should expedite investigation into the scam for speedy completion of the trial. The government, on its part, should implement its plan to put in place early warning systems to detect fraud and work for speedy passage of the Companies Bill, 2009 to make statutory auditors and independent directors more accountable. In parallel, the government should reform political funding to usher in transparency in the relationship between companies and political parties. This would mark an end to the unholy nexus between companies and the political establishment, widely held to be the reason for the dire state of corporate governance in India and for the slow pace of investigation into the Satyam scam.






FASHION weeks in India have traditionally been about who came and who saw (whom) rather than who conquered the critics. The actual collections are still largely given the go-by in favour of the show-sha of spectacular sets and maquillage, spotting celebrity front-rowers, and the occasional wardrobe malfunction to keep the flashbulbs popping. Now all that looks set to change, judging from a trend just emerging at recent fashionweeks in the West, with a few designers opting to craft short films presenting their creations rather than going in for frenetic and shortlived runway shows. Films have the advantage of close-ups, obviate the need for expressionless models, and can be edited and reshown in fashion capitals around the world at minimum cost. While habitues may argue that a two-dimensional film can never compensate for the crackling atmosphere of a show, this may be the disruptive innovation that the fashion world has been waiting for. After all, there was a time when people thought that the black-and white nature of films could never replace the live action and excitement of theatre. Some technology-forward fashion brands have already resorted to spreading the word about their new collections to wider audiences via live-streaming and via smartphones and social networking sites. Now there is the added option of 3D screens, which can make the experience virtually real for fashionistas from San Francisco to Singapore. 


That would, of course, put certain famous-for-being-famous fashion-show regulars — not to mention starry celebrities — out of business in India. That would naturally also spell doom for those designers who rely either on star power or artfully dim lighting to gloss over their shortcomings on the creative front. Then the only proof of their success will finally be, as it should, consumer endorsement via actual sales!








WITH 340 million Indians living in our 5,161 cities and towns, forming 30% of the total population, urban GDP accounting for 58% and projected to rise to 70% by the year 2030, our annual spend in per capita terms in the urban areas is only $17. The Eleventh Five-Year Plan envisioned Indian cities to be the locus and engine of economic growth over the next two decades and suggested that the realisation of an ambitious goal of 9-10% growth in GDP depends fundamentally on making Indian cities more liveable, bankable and competitive. Yet the scenario today is that day in and day out, urban residents are constantly reminded and made aware of lack of adequate civic amenities. Rapid economic growth will naturally lead to an increase in urbanisation as cities provide large economies of agglomeration for individual activity. 


Unfortunately, the state of urban infrastructure has deteriorated to the extent that we are not able to fully benefit from these economies. Poor urban infrastructure inflicts a severe hardship on people. There is tremendous pressure on civic infrastructure systems like water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management, basic shelter, parks and open spaces, transport and so on. It has also led to deterioration in the quality of city environments. In several cities, the problem of traffic congestion, pollution, poverty, slums, crime and social unrest are assuming alarming proportions. 


The midterm appraisal of the ongoing Eleventh Plan points out that the transformation of Indian cities faces several structural constraints: weak or outdated urban management practices including planning systems and service delivery models, historic lack of focus on the urban poor, incomplete devolution of functions to the elected urban local bodies, unwillingness to progress towards municipal autonomy and an urban management and governance structure that is fragmented between different state-level agencies and urban local bodies. What makes it worse in the case of large cities is the concentration of urban population in few large cities with 68.9% population living in 441 class-1 cities which are cities with more than one lakh population. 


Let us first have an appreciation of the key issues involved. When it comes to water supply, one of the fundamental requirements of a city dweller and basic civic facility, only about 91% of the urban population has access to water supply facilities leaving a gap of 9% for whom making such a provision is still an unfinished task. Even within this 91% there are concerns. Only 70% of urban households are served by tap water, with remaining 21% relying on tubewell or handpumps. While 66% of urban households have their principal source of drinking water within their premises, 32% had it within a distance of 0.2 km. And 41% urban population had sole access to their principal source of drinking water with a huge 51% sharing a public source. In many cities, adequacy, equitable distribution and per capita rate of supply are not as per prescribed norms. 


An ADB study on benchmarking of water utilities in India shows that the duration of water supply varies in cities significantly. For instance, while Chandigarh receives a supply of 12 hours per day, Rajkot is at the other end with a supply of 20 minutes per day. No city as a whole had 24x7 water supply. The poor, particularly those living in slums and squatter settlements are generally deprived of the basic facility of access to water. At places cost incurred by the poor to fetch water is much higher than for valid connection holders. 


WHENwe move to the area of sewerage, the survey shows that 26% of urban households had no latrine, 35% were using septic tank and only 22% were using sewerage system. Only 62% of the urban population has access to sewerage and sanitation facilities. Laying a sewer network is such a difficult proposition for a city local body that most of them just cannot find the type of investment required for this. Even in cities where sewage facilities are available, connections varied from 48% to 70%. The Central Pollution Control Board says that against a generation of about 15,800 million litres of waste water per day in 300 cities with a population of more than one lakh, treatment facilities exist for only 3,750 million litres per day. Which means the balance is flowing or merging with water flows posing serious health hazards. A sanitation rating of citiesundertaken early this year by the Union ministry of urban development showed that no Indian city could come in the highest desirable category of 'green', with only four cities, namely Chandigarh, Mysore, Surat and Delhi succeeding to make it to the next best level of a 'blue' city. 


As far as municipal solid waste is concerned, it is estimated that about 1,15,000 tonnes of solid waste is generated daily in our cities but on an average, the collection efficiency of the waste ranges between 70% and 90% in metro cities whereas it is less than 50% in most other cities. Per capita generation of waste is in the range of 0.2 to 0.6 kg per day and it is increasing by 1.3% per annum. Going beyond collection, waste actually treated before disposal in the million-plus population cities is only about 30%. Landfill sites have not been identified by many municipalities and in several cities the landfill sites have exhausted and either the concerned local bodies do not have the resource to acquire new sites or there is stiff resistance to location of such sites close to residential or other areas of activity. While waste is a resource today, very few cities have been able to recognise this fact and move away from a traditional concept of spending money on employing persons to sweep and collect waste to the more relevant concept of outsourcing the entire process and converting the process to one of net return for the city. 


The recent McKinsey study on India's urban awakening sounds enough warnings on how continued low investment in our cities is going to create further complications as far as urban living is concerned. It is pointed out that India's urban spending remains at a dismally low level. Our annual per capita urban spending including capital and operational expenditure, at $50, is only 14% of China's average of $362 and less than 3% of the UK's $1,772. If we continue to invest in urban infrastructure at the current rate, say, $300 billion over the next 20 years, the urban infrastructure will be woefully short of what is necessary to sustain prosperous cities. 


(The author is secretary to the government     in the ministry of urban development)








THE Indian auto sector too faced the heat of the global slowdown, after growing at a fast clip during 2004-08. The economic meltdown hurt the bottomlines of both auto and auto components makers. However, both the sectors are now looking up in India, thanks to the government's stimulus package. Srivats Ram has taken over as president of the Automotive Components Manufacturers' Association (Acma) at a time when component units are facing a huge challenge in meeting the surging demand from original equipment manufacturers. 


Acma has 600 members. Ram, who steers the Rs 1,300-crore Wheels India of the TVS group, says Acma's thrust is to lower imports, promote growth across the value chain, encourage R&D, hone skills and scale up capacity. 


The buoyancy in the domestic market will enhance the total size of the auto components sector including imports and replacement market to $32 billion this fiscal year against $30 billion in 2008-09. The units are also gearing to step up investment to $2 billion from $1.7 billion. However, Mr Srivats Ram reckons that this will be inadequate and that the industry has to invest at least $3 billion every year over the next decade to support the aggressive growth in the auto industry. 


A rapid growth of the components industry will translate into at least one million more jobs in the sector that already employs over 1.2 million people. Its share in GDP is expected to grow to 3.6% by 2020 against 2.1% now. 


 "A high growth rate is possible only if all the links in the supply chain perform well. We would like to see the growth across the value chain. For this to happen, the OEMs and tier-I suppliers have to handhold other suppliers to give them confidence to invest in enhancing capacity." 


 As such, 80% Acma members have a turnover of less than Rs 50-100 crore a year. Unless these units expand capacity and upgrade technology, OEMs will continue to rely heavily on imports, he said. 


In 2009-10, for instance, import of components surged 20% to $8 billion when the auto sector posted a strong recovery after the global recession. This happened as SME suppliers down the line were unable to cope with the sudden pick up in demand. 


Acma is, therefore, focusing on capacity building, skill development and technology upgradation, and has lined up a slew of initiatives for SMEs. Traditionally, a majority of the units are family run and closely held. For them, finding resources for investment is a big challenge. They are averse to tapping private equity. At the same time, if they don't expand, auto majors from South Korea, Japan and Europe are bound to bring in more of their suppliers to meet the rising domestic demand. So, Acma will talk to leading banks to extend easy finance to the SMEs. 


The industry body also wants the government to float a multi-crore technology development and upgradation fund. On their part, states should create more auto and engineering clusters and special industrial parks to ensure that SMEs have proper access to power, telecom and other infrastructure. "We are also working with industrial training institutes to upgrade the curriculum and make it more appropriate to the current technical standards in the industry. Attrition too is a problem in the components sector and the solution is to invest more in training," he said. 

Acma has made a case for the government to encourage the industry to invest more in R&D with additional incentives. To help units learn the best management techniques, it has also tied up with the Indian School of Business for conducting management development programmes. 


 On the export front, he sees opportunities in new markets, including China and Indonesia. The US and Europe accounted for two-thirds of the total export of $3.8 billion last year. The markets are still subdued, though there are signs of recovery in the US. "India can still ride on its low-cost advantage to grow exports. It is driven by strong demand from the replacement market abroad. Besides, global auto OEMs, which have created vehicle platforms in India, are exporting parts to their markets. This has opened up opportunities for component units to become a part of OEMs' export strategy," he said.








IT IS said that the early 19th century British economist J R McCulloch originated the old joke that the only training a parrot needs to be a passable political economist is one phrase: "supply and demand, supply and demand." Last week, US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said that McCulloch's economics — the economics of supply and demand — was in no way discredited by the financial crisis, and was still extraordinarily useful. 


It's hard to disagree with Bernanke's sentiment: economics would be useful if economists were, indeed, like McCulloch's parrots — i.e., if they actually looked at supply and demand. But I think that much of economics has been discredited by the manifest failure of many economists to be as smart as McCulloch's parrots were. 

 Consider the claims — rampant nowadays in the US — that further government attempts to alleviate unemployment will fail because America's current high unemployment is "structural": a failure of economic calculation has left the country with the wrong productive resources to satisfy household and business demand.

The problem, advocates of this view claim, is a shortage of productive supply rather than a shortage of aggregate demand. But it should be easy — at least for an average parrot — to tell whether a fall in sales is due to a shortage of supply or a shortage of demand. If a fall in sales is due to a shortage of demand while there is ample supply, then, as quantities fall relative to trend, prices will fall as well. If, on the other hand, the fall in sales is due to a shortage of supply while there is ample demand, then prices will rise as quantities fall. 

Which do we see now? There are no places in the US economy where wages or product prices are rising more rapidly than expected. There are no places where a shortage of qualified labour or of available capacity is sufficiently great to induce managers to pay more than they have been used to paying for good hands or useful machines. 


McCulloch's parrot would call this conclusive. The coexistence of high unemployment with falling inflation and no bottleneck-driven price or wage spikes tells us that 'structural' supply-side explanations of America's current high unemployment are vastly overblown. 


Or consider the claims — also rampant these days — that further government attempts to increase demand, whether through monetary policy to alleviate a liquidity squeeze, banking policy to increase risk tolerance or fiscal policy to provide a much-needed savings vehicle, will similarly fail. These measures, too, are supposedly doomed because they all involve increasing governments' liabilities, and financial markets are at a tipping point with respect to sovereign debt. If governments that have already tapped-out their debt-bearing capacity now issued more debt or money or guarantees, they would deal a mortal blow to confidence. 
    Once again, an adequately trained parrot, unlike many economists nowadays,would ask whether the economic problems that current levels of government debt are causing reflect too much public debt supplied by governments or too much public debt demanded by the private sector. If the problem were that supply is too great, then new emissions of government debt would be accompanied by low prices — that is, by high interest rates. If the problem were that demand is too great, then new emissions of government debt would be accompanied by high prices — that is, by low interest rates. 


Guess which one the US and many other countries have? For a parrot, that's a nobrainer: the public-debt problem is not that governments have issued so much debt that investors have lost confidence, but that governments have issued too little debt given the enormous private-sector demand for safe places to park wealth. The problem, the parrot would say, is that households and businesses are still trying to build up their stocks of safe, high-quality assets, and are switching expenditures from buying currently-produced goods and services to increasing their shares of an inadequate supply of government liabilities. 


When economic historians examine the Great Recession, their overwhelming consensus is likely to be that its depth and duration reflected governments' refusal to try to do more, not that they tried to do too much. They will agree with the parrot that falling inflation showed that the macroeconomic problem was insufficient demand for currently produced goods and services, and that the low level of interest rates on safe, high-quality government liabilities showed that the supply of safe assets — whether money provided by the central bank, guarantees by banking policy, or government debt provided through deficit spending — was too low. 

 The question that will be a mystery to them is why so many economists of our day did not know how to say: "supply and demand, supply and demand." 


 (The author is professor of economics at the     University of California at Berkeley )     © Project Syndicate, 2010








THE seventy-something speaker was a clinical psychologist-turned Buddhist meditator. He was going to address a group of 100 meditation students. But suddenly he blanked out. 


He forgot what he was supposed to do. He didn't know where he was and why he was there. All he knew was that his heart was thudding furiously and his mind was reeling chaotically. 


Still, with face flaming and sweat streaming down his neck, he slowly put his palms together in front of his chest and started groaning out aloud what he was experiencing: "Afraid, embarrassed, confused, feeling like I am failing, powerless, shaking, sense of dying, sinking, utterly lost…" 


For several more moments he spoke with his head deeply bowed, continuing to name his experience of what it meant to be in the mid-throes of Alzeimer's disease. Then as his body began to relax, like mist falling upon a sighing sea of grass, the mindful awareness of his talk began to return, in fragments and snatches. 


This too he noted out aloud. 

Then at long last, the speaker lifted his head, opened his eyes wide and looked into the eyes of those gathered around him and softly, ever so softly apologised for letting them down. 


Some students were in tears. No one had ever taught us like this. His presence and courageous performance had become the deepest teaching. "Rather than pushing away his experience and deepening his agitation, Jacob (the speaker) had the courage and training simply to name what he was aware of," writes noted Buddhist trainer and healer Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance, "and most significantly, to bow to his experience. In some fundamental way, he didn't create an adversary out of feelings of fear and confusion. He didn't make anything wrong." 


She relates this practice of meeting whatever that's happening inside of us to the quality of unconditional or universal acceptance. Yoga terms as Mudita or utter friendliness, which aspirants are enjoined to use to counter and disarm opposing feeling of imbalance and disarray. 


"Instead of turning our jealous thoughts or angry feelings into the enemy (what the Buddhist term as the God of Negativity called Mara), we pay attention in a way that enables us to recognise and touch any experience with care," Brach explains. "Nothing is wrong — whatever is happening is just 'real life'. 


 "Such unconditional friendliness is the spirit of Radical Acceptance."






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




It is a big relief that the country as a whole has responded maturely and peacefully to the rather complicated verdict delivered on Thursday by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on the Ayodhya title suits. Under the watchful eyes of armies of securitymen and alert administrations, cities and towns across the land by and large went on with their lives: even in so-called trouble-prone metros like Mumbai and Hyderabad it was mostly just another normal day. In fact, it almost seemed like a pacifist's dream come true when, compared with the unseemly days of the early '90s when the Ayodhya controversy spilt much blood on the streets. This sedate reaction did have much to do with the nature of the verdict, which had something for everyone. This ensured that disappointment and elation remained at manageable levels. While some legal brains have poked fun at the verdict as "panchayati" justice (though since when did the word 'panchayat' become such a slur in mostly-rural India?), the fact remains that it was clever and nuanced enough to keep extreme reactions at bay.
Praise is also due to the governments at the Centre and in the different states who, for once, coordinated and cooperated in an effective manner to ensure that things did not go out of hand. All governments, including those rules by stakeholders in the Ayodhya dispute, stayed focused on preventing trouble in the streets, and they succeeded. This makes it all the more evident that when governments decide to act effectively, they can ensure that peace is maintained even in the most trying circumstances. The political parties and religious organisations too kept their promise (though some were clearly itching for a session of chest-thumping or breast-beating) and spoke in a reasonable manner about their misgivings and or indeed satisfaction over the verdict. But all this would have come to naught if the country's much-touted but rarely-understood aam aadmi had not cooperated. It were ordinary citizens, whose main interest always lies in making a living (unless insidiously provoked otherwise), who ensured that the verdict on the decades-old Ayodhya dispute did not trigger violence. The candid photograph of a Hindu and a Muslim in Ayodhya having a quiet laugh is a snapshot of the way India's citizenry reacted to the verdict. They may have their opinions, and sharp ones at that, but they did not allow these to disrupt the lives of their neighbours. All this is a pointer that India might have changed, perhaps very substantially, from the early '90s when communities eyed each other with suspicion and were ready to jump at each other's throats at the slightest provocation. It is not that religious identities don't have significance any more. They do. But in election after election in recent times, people have shown that what matters to them more are the "sadak-pani-bijli" issues rather than disputes about shrines. Also, a new generation has grown up after the Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 that subscribes more to dreams engendered by liberalisation rather than apocalyptic visions of religious fervour.






The ban on bulk SMSs received overwhelming support from an unexpected quarter. Schoolgoing children were delighted that their progress could not be tracked via this medium. Many schools have developed the practice of sending SMS messages to parents about their ward's attendance, weekly exam marks and other details. The ban on bulk SMSs stopped this, so there was no tell-tale message about poor marks or non-attendance. Bulk SMSs are automated messages which can be sent with the help of computers over the Internet. Journalists on political beats were also relieved. Political parties are in the habit of sending dozens of 'alerts' every day informing scribes about their daily activities. The inability of banks to inform customers about transaction details, however, was seen as a disadvantage and many anxious customers called up their banks to enquire whether something had happened to the bank.




It pays to know the habits and eccentricities of those from whom one wishes to get favours. Ministers and MLAs who have met the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, to plead for sanctions for new government junior colleges in their constituencies have been met by a blunt 'No'. The CM stated on the record, in the state Assembly, that he will not sanction new colleges as the government does not have the necessary funds. So, when the Vijayawada MLA, Mr Malladi Vishnu, got approval for a new junior college, and that too without approaching the CM, it was a huge surprise. Mr Vishnu had simply come to know that the CM has this habit of signing files and agreeing to projects if they come to him through the proper channel and contain favourable signatures from all the concerned officials and secretaries. Mr Vishnu managed to get all officials to favour his proposal and sign on the file, which, when it reached the CM, was duly approved by him!


"What I want is a new junior college which I have promised to the Vijayawada electorate. How I got it is immaterial," Mr Malladi Vishnu told other MLAs somewhat smugly, we are sure.




The manner in which the Allahabad High Court handled the contentious Ayodhya issue, has led some politicians from the state to hope that the verdict of the Justice Srikrishna panel, will be similarly acceptable. But everyone has their own version of what is acceptable. The former minister, Mr J.C. Diwakar Reddy, told everyone on Friday that the Srikrishna panel will also end up recommending three states, with Greater Hyderabad city as a Union Territory, just as the Allahabad HC ordered a compromise apportioning the disputed site to the three petitioners. The Kurnool Congress MLA, Mr T.G. Venkatesh, said he was optimistic that the Srikrishna panel would recommend a second state capital in Rayalaseema and continue with a united AP. T leader Mr Palvai Govardhan Reddy said Srikrishna will recommend bifurcation and leave Hyderabad to Telangana. Just as neither of the parties to the Ayodhya dispute accepted the verdict, it may well be that Justice Srikrishna's verdict will also be appealed.








 "Go forth and multiply,

Make fields of human grain

Live longer lives and never dieAnd pray to God for rain..."

From Population Blues

by Bachchoo


This week has seen the culmination of a soap opera in British politics. Just as I can't explain the plot of, shall we say, Coronation Street to an Indian audience by referring to the drama and machinations of an Indian soap — like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, it is difficult to get across the actual drama of this real-life soap on the political stage and its possibilities without referring to an Indian political parallel.


Now I don't want my Indian visa cancelled. Neither do I want to be arrested when I next step onto the tarmac of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, nor be invited to some party in the Dilli Capitol and be disposed of in an "encounter"; so let me very clearly state that what I am about to say is pure conjecture, fictional, imaginary etc. Suppose, just suppose, the Congress Party elected its leaders by a really democratic vote of the whole party and its various component sections. One may accept that within this process there will be "votebanks" and some horse-trading will inevitably take place as rival would-be leaders jockey for positions — a democratic tradition prevalent in the Greek city-states.


Suppose further that the Congress Party has gone into Opposition and a coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has resigned and moved on to some illustrious international appointment and an election for Congress leader is to be held sometime soon.


Rahul Gandhi, as is already being proposed even out of our supposed fictional frame, is the favourite to win the election. All the other candidates lag far behind him in popularity. He has the endorsement of Soniaji and of Dr Singh. Then a few weeks before the election, despite all her seeming reluctance in the past, Priyanka Vadera throws her pallu, so to speak, into the ring. She speaks at the hustings against some of the policies and initiatives with which her brother is associated and, when the day comes, narrowly wins the poll and is declared leader of the Congress Party and potential Prime Minister. Rahul, somewhat annoyed at his sibling stealing the election from him despite being, till the last moment, the bookies' favourite, decides to quit politics and go off and train as a pilot.
Let me repeat that this is just an analogy I wish to draw to what has just happened in the British Labour Party. Ed Miliband, a junior minister in the last New Labour government, stood in the leadership contest to succeed ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown who resigned when Labour lost the May elections, competing against his older brother David, who was strongly tipped to win.
David had been Mr Brown's foreign secretary and was in very many senses treated by the party and its MPs as the heir apparent. He was the favourite for all the months since the contest was announced. There were three other candidates, at least one of them a credible leader and relatively senior politician, but the Miliband brothers made all the running, with David ahead in every poll.
The soapish drama of such a contest was unavoidable. The Miliband brothers, sons of Marxist academic and writer Ralph Miliband and a Labour activist mother, were both brought up in the traditions of the British Left. According to their family friend (and my mate, who has tales to tell) Tariq Ali, who was in and out of their house when they were but infants and teenagers, they were brought up in a hothouse environment of Marxist and socialist debate.
Come the Labour Conference this week in Manchester, the votes of the three sections of the Labour Party were garnered. The first section, the general membership of the country, gave David Miliband a majority. In the second section, the Parliamentary Labour Party, a majority of MPs voted again for David. What tipped the balance in younger brother Ed's favour were the block votes of the third section, the trade unions. The difference between Ed's majority and David's minority was less than two per cent. Ed was duly elected and in his inaugural speech as the new leader made very generous, even sentimental, overtures to the brother he had come from behind to defeat. Newspapers and TV programmes, neglecting to some extent the policies that the brothers put forward as their policy platforms, played up the sibling rivalry.
In that first speech Ed denounced the Iraq war and Labour's enthusiasm for it as "wrong". It was a war David had strongly supported and the cameras turned to his face to show the nation his jaw tightening as Ed denounced this bit of the past. Very many in the packed conference hall clapped their support. David, with other ministers who had taken the country to war, kept his hands in his lap.
And now David has announced that he is going to leave the Shadow Cabinet and not serve under his brother as a front bench opposition spokesman. He gave his reasons. If he did join his brother's team, the media would be on the lookout for every cigarette-paper-thin difference in their policies and pronouncements in order to revive the brothers at war soap opera story.
Meanwhile, Ed Miliband, leader of the Opposition, has given clear signals to the Liberal Democratic Party, which is the junior partner of the present governing coalition, that their policy preferences are close to his. During his election campaign he attacked the Lib-Dem leadership who had taken ministerial positions in the Tory-led government of David Cameron. He even appealed to dissident Lib-Dems to cross the floor and join Labour. Not a word of it in his inaugural speech.
Which leads me to speculate on another possible turn in the soapy politics of Britain. David Miliband's departure from the front bench will leave vacant the position of shadow chancellor of the exchequer. A very senior Liberal Democrat, one Vince Cable, now business minister in the coalition, is rumoured to be extremely unhappy with some of its key fiscal and other policies. There is no indication that he is so inclined, but Mr Cable could announce his discomfiture, quit the government and even quit the Lib-Dem Party after holding secret talks with Ed. His crossing the floor and becoming shadow chancellor for Renewed Labour would bring the coalition crashing and precipitate a fresh election, giving the Ed-Vince Labour Party a real chance.
As I said, Machiavellian fantasy, based on Leftish principle — but one would love to plant the possibility in Vince's head.








So it has happened. Ram has been demoted from a divine being to a mere earthly creature. He even has a birth certificate from the Allahabad high court. Soon he may be expected to acquire a voter identity card from Mayawati and a Unique Identity number from Nandan Nilekani. This court victory for litigant Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman, among others, is just the beginning of his arduous life on earth. In a curious twist of destiny, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu is now in his worldly avatar as a UP-ite.


Dragged down from his heavenly pedestal by his fanatical followers, Ram has other problems too, as a historical being. He seems to have been born several centuries ago, no one knows exactly when (but they will, they will, just wait!) and is still in his infancy. This young VIP in Ayodhya, residing amidst ruins where the central dome of the Babri Masjid used to be, is Ram Lalla. It was in the name of this infant god that the centuries-old mosque was demolished by his followers. And thousands killed as a result. As an infant, Ram Lalla allowed what he would probably not have permitted as a grown-up Maryada Purushottama.


But while the infant Ram resides in this seat of violence he is reported to have all these heroic exploits as the prince of Ayodhya and Sita's husband. Is dear Ram Lalla all grown up and married too? Why, there is even the Sita ki rasoi, his wife's kitchen, right beside his nursery. Can he be both an infant and an adult at the same time? Can he be in several places at the same time? Sure he can, as a god. But as a historical being? When divine beings are reborn as earthlings, their wings are clipped. They cease to be gods. The same Allahabad high court may frown upon this claim of omnipresence from the litigant, accepting it may set a dangerous precedence.


As it is the courts set limits to the powers of gods. Recently the Bombay high court has ruled that gods are incapable of playing the share market as it turned down the petition from an association of gods demanding a account. But all these gods had PAN cards, insisted the gods' counsel, and were shareholders already! Never mind, said the court, the gods did not have the "personal skill, judgment and supervision" required. When a god becomes a legal person, he needs to be judged accordingly.


And one of the powers that Ram has clearly lost in this court case is his divine ability to recreate himself and his world. "Ram is born in countless ways, and there are tens of millions of Ramayanas", said Tulsidas in the 16th century. Not anymore. Ram has now been cast in stone, imprisoned forever in a unidimensional figure by this week's historic court verdict.


Last year, when the Liberhan Commission finally released its report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid after 17 years, it made several recommendations. Regarding the authenticity of the claims of Ram Janmabhoomi/ Babri Masjid it said: "The question whether a structure was a temple or a mosque can only be answered by a scientific study by archaeologists, historians and anthropologists. No politician, jurist or journalist can provide a comprehensive answer to such questions… Therefore, set up a statutory national commission of experts to delve into these questions…" The government curtly replied that it was not necessary to appoint another national commission, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) would be enough.


This week, the court ruled in favour of Ram Lalla based on the findings of the ASI. Senior historians like Irfan Habib doubt the authenticity of the findings, and believe that evidence may have been planted that the ASI could not detect. The courts can only act on whatever information they are given. And our government bodies are not known for efficiency.


I feel for the ASI. What on earth could they do? In 2007, when they were asked to tell us about the Ram Setu, they had their heads bitten off. They had stated that being a science and technology department, they would have to examine the Ram Setu in a scientific manner, not "solely relying on the contents of a mythological text." So, although ancient mythological and literary texts are culturally important, they are not historical records that "incontrovertibly prove the existence of thecharacters or the occurrence of the events depicted therein". It neither accepted nor denied Ram's existence, and said that the bridge was not manmade, but naturally formed.


Immediately there were charges of blasphemy, ASI officials were suspended, the culture minister almost had to resign and the ASI was forced to change its view in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile the law minister said of course Ram was a historical figure — sure, he existed.


But which Ram was the historical figure? Valmiki's demigod? Kamban's god? Tulsidas's literary deity? Krittibas's homespun hero? Vimalasuri's Jain champion? Chandrabati's householder? The Santhals' tribal hero? Periyar's flawed protagonist? North India's imposing Lord Ram is hardly present in southern India. In the east he is more of a mythical hero than a god, and he practically disappears in the northeast. In one court judgment we have swept aside our rich heritage of many Rams, each equally dear to the devotees of each region, swept aside thousands of years of cultural history and memory, and fixed on a "historical figure" — the UP-ite Ram Lalla, who is forever in infancy.


This is a sad day for our pluralistic tradition. Giving a third of the land to "Muslims" while "Hindus" get two-thirds may be politically expedient for the moment, but it will not stem the rot of refashioning collective memory. The verdict, well-meaning as it is, has been interpreted by Hindu fanatics as justification for their acts of desecration of the mosque. Unless the government moves on these criminal acts, and brings at least the culprits named in the Liberhan report to book, there will never be closure. And in his new avatar as an earthly infant, poor Ram Lalla woudn't be able to protect us either.

- Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: [1]









THE sole "indisputable" following the Ayodhya verdict is that there was no immediate communal flare-up. The jury, however, is still out on whether that constitutes evidence of society having matured and moved on since 1992, or just that the full implications of the split-decision of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court have yet to trickle down. There can be no relaxation of the security vigil, it takes little to inflame sectarian passions. Despite a veneer of restraint, much gloating is evident in the Hindutva ranks who insist that their position has now been judicially vindicated. The way in which they will carry that forward is as yet unclear, but do that they will ~ hence the risk of counter-action by Muslim groups is "live". Comment on the merits of the verdict must await detailed scrutiny of the judgments running into several thousand pages, but the summaries suggest that it was an attempt to please all that might actually wind up pleasing only a few ~ already elements from both sides have expressed dissatisfaction, and declared an intent to appeal to the apex court. Several legal experts have assessed the verdict as "politically correct, but judicially untenable": likened it to a "panchayat's award" etc. That only reconfirms the matter before the court had snowballed beyond title suits and historical facts to issues of sentiment, faith, and most regretfully partisan politics. Whether even the apex court can unravel those complex strands is, as yet, a matter of conjecture. What is not in doubt is that the government is duty-bound to ensure that the High Court's verdict does not get projected as justification of the demolition of the mosque ~ expediting the cases against those vandals (to use the least-severe description) is an immediate imperative.

Some positive spin is being given to the court's recommending a three-way split of the disputed area ~ having ruled on the spot where the idols are placed. It will, however, require statesmanship of an order hardly displayed by the present leadership of either community to raise both temple and mosque in tandem. Those Hindu leaders who see merit in the recommendation do not hide their feelings about talking from a position of strength ~ that alone will cause the Muslims to take a "no surrender" line. It is also easy to forget that the failure of previous attempts at a negotiated settlement is what upped the ante in the High Court. Given the UPA government's limited success in resolving issues like Kashmir, the Maoist menace and so on there is nothing to inspire confidence that it will effect a breakthrough. So it could be over to the Supreme Court: we wish their Lordships Godspeed.




IT is a long-standing comment on the health administration in Bengal that it required a ceasework by junior doctors to compel Writers' Buildings to intervene on a basic issue like security. Work culture even in an essential service has suffered because the government hasn't been able to choose between protecting the interests of patients and those of Left-dominated unions who have posed as the real centres of authority in government hospitals. If it has now risen to the emergency, it is because times have changed and the party in power has finally realised that large sections of the aggrieved public who will exercise their franchise soon far outnumber protected elements that have held hospital administrations to ransom. Just as Alimuddin Street, under pressure of circumstances, has ordered cadres to resign from school managements, there is now the extraordinary sight of touts being ordered out of hospital premises and the PWD being instructed to demolish unauthorised structures on premises which had been turned into safe havens for anti-socials. Why the government had to leave the cleansing operation till public opinion made it unavoidable is a question that the health minister may not like to answer.
There will still be doubts about the efficacy of measures such as regulation of movement on hospital premises, restoring CCTVs lying in a state of disrepair and posting policemen, apparently to deal with agitated relatives of patients who may be complaining about neglect rather than outsiders who have struck firm roots. Something needed to be done immediately to appease agitated doctors who resorted to extreme action after being targeted by the public in tragic situations. It doesn't help to tide over another crisis while ignoring the vital faults comprising the absence of both required infrastructure and discipline insulated from political interference. If after 34 years of Left rule, hospitals need trained personnel to carry patients in critical conditions to emergency wards and ensuring that medicine shops on hospital premises have adequate supplies, it cannot be very reassuring for the 70 per cent whom the chief minister claims are being served by subsidised health care. The state still needs to confirm that it is looking beyond short-interest objectives.





FOR a party which rode to power for the first time in the South promising to provide a clean government, the BJP's rule in Karnataka  has been anything but satisfying. Nearly 30 months into office, it is clear that this government is no better or worse than its predecessors. Riddled with factionalism, threats of resignations over ministerial berths and the lust for power exhibited by its MLAs, the B S Yeddyurappa government has only reinforced the adage that corruption is synonymous with politics and politicians. The party had promised improved infrastructure, an effective education system and clean governance; it has failed on each count. Its failure in providing timely shelter, including houses, to thousands of victims of last October's catastrophic floods in north Karnataka, showed its casual approach. Witness also the impunity with which some ministers were rehabilitated even after their functioning came under a cloud. This despite the High Court passing strictures against them in connection with the appointments of over 300 medical and non-medical staff in two government colleges, violating all norms  That the list of tainted ministers is a long one became evident when another worthy rushed to the Lokayukta's chamber this week, albeit discreetly. All in the face of  serious charges that he and his son face in the sale and purchase of government land.
Now, with the names of the chief minister and his family also coming under a scanner in connection with  land deals, the dice is clearly loaded against the BJP government as its image takes a beating. Admittedly, it has done extremely well in the by-polls that the state witnessed in the last two years as also the recent civic elections in the IT capital. The party, however, would do well to remember that it has only another 30 months to deliver. With improved prospects of the Congress and JD(S) finally coming together, the BJP may be forced to rue the wasted opportunity; even bury its ambitions of retaining Karnataka in the next elections. Such is the disgust among the public over its rule.









THE city of Calcutta owed its expansion and historical importance to its emergence as the seat of British colonial power in India. It was the nerve-centre of  economic and political hegemony. It was also the nursery of the 19th century Bengal Renaissance as well as that of  Indian nationalism during the Swadeshi movement. 
It is symbolic that on the day of Independence (15 August 1947), Mahatma Gandhi was in Calcutta. He was on a mission to heal the wounds of the communal riot. His primary concern was peace and ahimsa. He wanted to douse the embers of hatred and violence. He was able to ensure sanity and normality in a riot-torn city. It is a happy coincidence that C Rajagopalachari, "Gandhiji's conscience keeper", was the first Indian Governor of West Bengal. The Raj Bhavan became an abode of peace and social harmony. Its gates were thrown open to the people on 15 August 1947. 

Indeed, the Mahatma's connection with the city dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. He had already started his Satyagraha campaign in South Africa against racial discrimination against immigrant Indians. In the winter of 1901-02, he visited Calcutta and stayed in the city for a month.  He stayed largely at the India Club where GK Gokhale, his political mentor, was also staying. At that time, the Indian National Congress was holding its annual session in the city. Gandhi gained first-hand experience about the functioning of the party. He met Rabindranath Tagore at a dinner in the house of Radharaman Kar on Shyambazar Street. The two great men of modern India came to know each other through this chance meeting. He also met Acharya PC Roy, an interaction that marked the start of an enduring friendship. 

Subsequently, the Mahatma spent a month's time in Calcutta in December 1915 on his way to Rangoon. He was a guest of Bhupendranath Bose, a leader of the Congress and the president of the party's Madras session in 1915. Bhupendranath, a reformist, was a close associate of Gokhale.  

In 1920, Gandhi started the non-cooperation movement. A Congress session was held in Calcutta in August-September 1920. It adopted a resolution on the non-cooperation movement.  Chittaranjan Das was a vigorous exponent of this movement. When he died on 16 June 1925, Gandhi came to Calcutta to share the grief of the people of Bengal. Subsequently, he came to the city in November 1937 and prevailed upon the Bengal ministry to release the political prisoners and for the repatriation of prisoners in the Andamans. 

The Mahatma had his finest hour in Calcutta on Independence day ~ 15 August 1947.  Since the beginning of the month, the city had been hit by communal strife. The Muslim population was increasingly scared of a reprisal by the non-Muslims. HS Suhrawardy ~ the last Prime Minister of undivided Bengal and often blamed for the riot  on 16 August 1946 ~ and SM Usman the ex-mayor of Calcutta, prevailed upon Gandhi to remain in the city. His presence was deemed essential to countenance the scourge of communalism. 

The Mahatma started his mission on 13 August from his camp located in a Muslim slum area in East Calcutta.. Suhrawardy joined him in the peace mission.  Gandhi's immediate anxiety was to ensure that the Hindus and Muslims returned to their respective places in the city. His aim was to revive mutual trust. The outcome of his efforts was almost miraculous. On 14 August, the Hindus and Muslims suddenly came closer to each other. A central peace committee had been formed with the Mayor of  Calcutta as chairman in order to restore communal harmony. The Shanti Sena (Peace Brigade) also helped forge amity among the citizens.  A tremendous expression of joy and fraternal affection between Muslims and Hindus marked the dawn of independence in the city. As Governor, Rajaji personally congratulated the Mahatma for having performed the miracle. The government report had to acknowledge that Calcutta's return to sanity was Mahatma Gandhi's personal triumph.. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Governor-General, wrote to Gandhi saying that he was a "one-man boundary force". He requested him to visit Punjab to quell the communal violence there. 
Gandhi's efforts suffered a setback on 1 September when riots flared up again in different parts of the city. He was visibly annoyed. In a press statement on 1 September, he lamented  that the miracle of 15 August had proved to be fragile. He went on fast to retrieve the lost ground. And in a rejoinder to Rajaji, he made it clear that he was not willing to put the blame on the "goonda elements". Gandhi stated, "It is we who make goondas. Without our sympathy and passive support the goondas would have no legs to stand upon. (Collected Works, vol LXXXIX). 

The first chief minister of West Bengal, Dr PC Ghosh, Sarat Bose and Dr Syamaprasad Mukherjee met Gandhi. He continued with his fast and asserted that it was not against any particular community or party. His objective was "to purify",  to release our energies by overcoming our inertia and mental sluggishness and thereby purge the virus of communal discord. The fast continued till 4 September when it was called off on the assurance of representativs of different sections of  society. Before leaving for Delhi on way to Punjab, the Mahatma summed up the importance of his peace mission. "Calcutta today holds the key to the peace of the whole of India." His advice to the youth of the city was to "act as peace squads without arms". His message to the Shanti Sena Dal was "My life is my message". 

The message of  the Mahatma stands out as a beacon in today's India when sinister forces of darkness ~ in the form of terror and violence ~ are ever so active.


The writer is former Director, West Bengal State Archives







I have full faith in the people of India and I also have full confidence in the traditions of secularism, brotherhood and tolerance of our great country. I know that often it is only a few mischief makers who create divisions in our society. I would appeal to my countrymen to be vigilant and not let such people succeed in disrupting peace and harmony.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the Ayodhya verdict.

India has moved, especially for people born after 1992. They have a very different world view. Young people have moved on and they recognise that the India story is more than a dispute over religious places... It (India) is a much bigger story. 

Union home minister P Chidambaram. 

He (Shah Mahmood Qureshi) came here without his foreign secretary and, well, talks didn't happen. So the question of preparedness will have to be verified.
External affairs minister SM Krishna at the UN, stating that Pakistan was prepared to have talks with India. 

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leadership met me ... They didn't talk of a separate state. In fact, all their demands pertained to development issues. All of you are agitating for development, for employment and for civic amenities. I'll meet the Prime Minister and recommend that he should visit Darjeeling and announce a special package. 

Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee while addressing a public rally in Darjeeling.. 

I would suggest to keep the rooms locked. 

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit to athletes in the Games Village. 

The Budget is shrouded in mystery. Even in the whole text of Constitution, if you try to find out the word budget, you will not get it. Article 112 of the Constitution, which deals with the budget uses the phrase Annual Financial Statement. 

Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee while releasing the Budget Manual in New Delhi. 

We had a meeting with the police and security forces. Everybody was told to recognise identity cards and school uniforms as curfew passes and facilitate movement of students and teachers. 
J&K education minister Peerzada M Sayeed. 

We have always regarded banking as a high priority sector with huge opportunities and are evaluating different options under RBI guidelines. 

Anil Ambani, chairman, Reliance Capital. 

I want to iterate what Lalan Fakir had said, "there are only two kinds of people on earth, man and woman. All other divisions have been created by us." Let's respect humanity. 

Actor Prosenjit, who plays Lalan Fakir, the humanist poet-singer, in the film Moner Manush. 

Young boys and girls get so excited when they get a call from their friends that they forget all about where they are and what they are doing. 

Malati Das Ghosh, psychologist, on the reasons behind accidents caused by the use of mobile phones.







It is curious how history is repeating itself today in the case of the languages of India. Among the things bequeathed to this country by its Mahomedan conquerors was the language known as urdu. The Mahomedan invaders took the Hindustani language, left its grammatical structure very much as they found it, but fitted into it a Persian vocabulary, which contained many words which Persian had received in the same way from Arabic. At the present time, in almost every part of India a similar process is more or less markedly at work. English words are being adopted wholesale, and are being vernacularised, in some cases almost beyond recognition. No doubt there is a giving as well as a taking, the adoption of Indian terms into English as well as the contrary, just as the Norman conquest led to a considerable interchange between the English and French languages without either of them losing its identity. But while borrowing vernacular terms for English use is by no means rare, the assimilation or transformation of English terms, the adaptation of them to the structure of their own language, is much more common among those who do not profess to speak any but an Indian language, than the occasional use of Indian words by those whose only language is English. The result is that the Hindi and Bengali, the Tamil and Telugu, the Marathi and Gujarati, spoken in the bazar are as different from what is found in books as Urdu is from Hindustani of pre-Mahomedan times. In conversation it is comparatively easy to detect an English word, bobbing up in the following vernacular stream; but when written documents are interlarded with English terms, which are not only conjugated or declined as if they were Indian, but spelt according to Indian rules, the result is very confusing. In a school-inspector's report ~ of subordinate rank of course ~ we puzzle over dikteshan, until it dawns upon us that it is meant to represent "dictation". In the dhobi's bill we find phidar, which stands for "feeder". Familiar examples of the same kind are lotis for "notice", ~ found often in printed bills , and tikat for ticket, the "t's" in these two last words being almost invariably of the palatal order in Hindustani. The confusion becomes worse confounded when liberties are taken not only with the spelling but even with the pronunciation of English words. Sometimes contractions are used, sabin, for example, often occurring in police documents for "sub'inspector" and "smr" among railway men for "stationmaster".







Mohammed Azharuddin was the epitome of cool at the batting crease. In his early 20s in the mid-1980s when he began his Test career, Azhar, as he is popularly known, was like Mahabharat's Arjun, concentration personified. That explains his successive centuries in his first three Tests which is a record. Azhar scored a total of 22 centuries in Test cricket at an average of 45, and seven in ODIs at an average of 37. Captain of the Indian team for most of the 1990s, he saw the country win 14 Tests during his tenure, a record until it was overtaken by Sourav Ganguly. India won 103 ODI ties under his captaincy, still a record. During his peak Azhar excelled with his splendid, flowing willow. The grace of his effortless wristwork moved John Woodcock of The Times, London, to exclaim, "It's no use asking an Englishman to bat like Mohammad Azharuddin. For, it would be like expecting a greyhound to win the London Derby!" 

Everything was going great for Azhar till the match fixing saga that threatened to haunt him for the rest of his life. But that did not deter Azhar from beginning a fresh innings on a different turf - in the rough and tumble of politics. A few months before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Azharuddin joined the Congress. Promptly given a ticket to contest from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, he won the seat, defeating his nearest BJP rival Sarvesh Kumar Singh by a margin of more than 50,000 votes. In an interview with RC RAJAMANI he spoke of his new career and the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

From the cricketer's white flannels to the neta's white kurta pyjama ~ was it a smooth transition? What made you enter politics?

During the months before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, some well-meaning friends had been suggesting that I enter public life. I had also been thinking about doing something outside my familiar world of sports in general and cricket in particular. I mean I was in the right frame of mind to say "yes" to the suggestion from friends.

How did you decide to join the Congress? Was there any prompting from the party?

I always knew if ever I decided to enter politics, the party I would be associating myself with would be Congress.

How so?

Well, it was the Congress which fought for and got Independence for the country. Since 1947, the Congress has proved itself a reliable party that would work for the welfare of the people. Also, the party has an impeccable record of secular values. It has proved it has the administrative capability to rule a nation of one billion of different religions and regions. It was the Congress government in the 1990's that steered the nation from an impending financial disaster to splendid economic recovery.

Were you inspired by any Congress leader in particular?

 I have read about our freedom movement and always admired Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. Of course, I have never seen them. I have seen Indira Gandhi and met Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, I was a fan of Rajiv Gandhi. He was youthful and had progressive ideas to take India to the 21st century.

You joined the party in February 2009 and almost immediately were on the poll campaign trail. How was that campaign different from the cricketing ones?

When I campaigned for the elections, I came into direct contact with the people. It was a great experience. On the cricket field, the contact with millions of fans was not physical but one could feel it, it was palpable. One had to toil on both the fields ~ cricket and political ~ all through the day. Yes, in politics, it extends to night as well.

In cricket too you have matches at night?

Yes, these days (laughs)

How has been your parliamentary innings so far?

It's indeed awesome. The Lok Sabha chamber with 500-plus members. It was frightening initially to realise how one is going to stand up and speak before experienced, hard-boiled members. I may have been unnerved before a cricket crowd of sixty to seventy and even 80.000, but Parliament was a different kettle of fish. I was nervous in the first few weeks and wondered how I was going to take the floor when called to.

When did you make your maiden speech? And how did it go?

It was an interesting experience. Believe me it had a cricketing touch to it, literally. I made my maiden speech in July 2009, a few weeks after the 15th Lok Sabha was constituted. I spoke on the general budget 2009-10. My turn came very late in the evening. There were some interruptions too. As cricket was in my mind, I observed that I had waited patiently till late in the evening for my turn. It was much like in cricket where I learnt from the coaches that one had to have a lot of patience. As I was just getting over the nerves, the Chair ruled that I continue my speech the next day and adjourned the House for the day. So, much like a night watchman in cricket, I continued my speech the next day. I also made a mention of it to Speaker Meira Kumar who pepped me up when I spoke amid some interruptions. She asked the members not to interrupt and allow me to continue my maiden speech. Once I got into full form, the entire House was supportive of me and listened to the points I made.

If I remember right, you also said something about hitting sixes in the speech?

Yes, during interaction with journalists and other MPs in the Central Hall, it was suggested to me that I should hit a six when I took the floor, meaning I should make a great impact. Well, I recalled this in my speech and observed that I was not adept at hitting sixes and that I would like to leave that to my friend Navjot Singh Sidhu (BJP), my team mate in cricket and now political opponent.

What is your take on the Commonwealth Games with all the allegations of corruption over different projects and the apparent lack of preparedness?

I don't want to comment on the allegations as it has already been spoken about  at the highest government level ~ the PM himself. As a sportsman and a citizen, my concern is about the successful conduct of the Games. I think all differences should be set aside now and everyone should back the efforts that are on to get on with the Games. It's a matter of national pride and there is no room for partisan differences. It is a very tough task to hold the games because after the Asian Games in 1982, nothing of that magnitude has happened in India. A lot of people from various countries are coming to participate in these games. I think, the whole focus would be on our country. Therefore, we must leave no stone unturned to see the Games are held in great fashion. Once we do a good job, once we really do well in these Commonwealth Games, we can really go and ask for the Olympics to be held in India.

You are from Hyderabad and you are elected from Moradabad in UP.

Do you see yourself torn between divided loyalties?

Not really. As my constituency, Moradabad, of course would receive my full attention. But as an Indian legislator my concern is for the entire country and Hyderabad is part of it. While I can use the funds under MPLADS for the development of Moradabad, I can always suggest to the MP from my hometown to look after its development.

What would you like to do in Moradabad?

You know, the town is also known as Pital Nagri (brass city). We have some outstanding skilled labourers. The exporters have generated revenue worth thousands of crores of rupees for this country. This industry is now suffering from the effects of recession and fall in demand of the products from abroad and the local market. I have urged the government to take remedial steps for the revival of the industry and survival of the artisans and entrepreneurs. About 70 per cent of the people who live in my constituency are directly or indirectly linked with the metal industry.

The other day I heard you speak in Tamil with V Narayanasamy (parliamentary affairs minister). How much Tamil do you know?

Enough to understand and speak briefly. You know my room-mate during my cricketing days was Srikanth. I picked up quite a bit of Tamil from him. He was jolly good company.

Hyderabad boasted of giants like Tiger Pataudi, the late Jaisimha and Abbas Ali Baig. Did you ever play along with them?

They were all quite senior to me. I have watched them play and been inspired by them. I have also had the benefit of their advice and suggestions.










Institutions make or break a democracy. The judiciary — or, to be exact, the section of the judiciary that gave the judgment on the Ayodhya dispute — demonstrated the simple but much-neglected importance of institutions in a functioning democracy. The point needs to be made because public institutions in India, including the judiciary, come in for a fair amount of criticism, some deserved and some not. The applause for institutional good deeds is often not that forthcoming. Thus the three judges who delivered the judgment on Thursday should be congratulated for their hard work and for the service they have done to the Indian nation. The matter they had to decide was extraordinarily complex. Not only had the cases been with the court for an inordinately long time, they also involved sifting through masses of evidence. It also meant that the three judges had to delve into areas like history, mythology, architecture and so on, which do not normally fall within the purview of a trained legal mind. The issues and their complexities must have been exasperating, but the three judges succeeded in coming out with a pronouncement, which, shorn of the unavoidable legalese, was clear and comprehensive.


The very fact that the judges carried out the onerous task that had been placed before them is clear proof that institutions in India, when they are allowed to function and when individuals within the institutions have the will to function, can resolve matters, take decisions and make them public. The judges were aware that the matter before them was controversial and potent. Embedded in the legal case was an enormous amount of primordial emotion. This put on them an extra responsibility. But as their order shows, they were not influenced by any fear of prejudice. There is one more aspect which is of interest. There are actually three separate judgments with shades of difference among them. The existence of these differences perhaps added to the complexity that the judges had to face. This is also evidence of the level of understanding and co-operation that exists among those who work in India's public institutions.


Various hindrances, the complexity of the matter, the public attention that the matter attracted and the nuanced difference of opinion — all these were overcome to make way for a judgment that could well serve as a watershed in the resolution of the Ayodhya dispute and in the history of the Indian judiciary. The latter point needs reiteration because the judges have not only offered a solution but have also drawn the attention of the contending parties and of the public at large to India's tradition of religious co-existence and cultural pluralism. The judges have thus set a benchmark for society. The verdict is open to be appealed against in a higher court, but this cannot take away from the example the judges have set by upholding the highest standards of the legal system and the judiciary.










They were not quoting Jawaharlal Nehru. As Lord Hannay, the former British diplomat and passionate Euroenthusiast, explained, "unity in diversity", Nehru's favourite phrase for the wonder that is India of which no European in the room was even aware, is also the European Union's motto.


The choice of words must be happy coincidence since the concepts developed independently. But can the

experience of separate paths to a similar goal be pooled to draw lessons of mutual benefit? That was the purpose of this week's Oxford Conference on "Federalisms — East and West" with the subtext "India, Europe and North America". Facing the challenge of ensuring effective democratic participation in the EU's control mechanism, the organizers sought information on federalism in the United States of America, Canada and India. It was revealing that more speakers were invited from India (even excluding the always incisive Lord Meghnad Desai who is technically British) than from the two Western democracies.


According to a conference note, "Diversity in the sub-continent is at least as great as in Europe; and despite the many shortcomings of government, which Indians themselves so vigorously discuss, it can hardly be denied that they have a lively and effective democratic system, hence a demos in the relevant sense of the term." It ended with the hope that Europe would make good use of India's example "in overcoming what may well be one of the most damaging deficiencies of federal development in Europe".


Truth to tell, the EU is unlikely to find an answer to its most pressing worries by scrutinizing our constituent assembly debates, centre-state revenue manipulations or horse- trading between and within political parties. And the European speakers knew it. Democratic deficit may be a common lament and burden-sharing a common need. But, as Sudipto Mundle, the former director of the Asian Development Bank, explained, India's macroeconomic management has always been under central control. The problems that can arise if comprehensive fiscal reorganization does not precede an innovation like common currency lie way beyond India's comprehension because, unlike the US, we have always in modern times been under a single authority.


Thus, an unshared past divides India and the EU. But the demand for an architecture for global governance in a multipolar world might narrow the gulf in the future. Meanwhile, listening to the European speakers, the real story for me was that Europe should seek to learn anything at all from India.


When I first came to Britain in 1954, India may have been remembered with some nostalgia by a few but was generally treated with indifference. The only interested Britons were Labour Party stalwarts who looked on Nehru and Krishna Menon as protégés and India as more a cause than a country. They also rather enjoyed their unorthodox taste, and Fenner Brockway, who famously wore a Gandhi cap in the House of Commons, would joke that when he spoke of Indian independence at Hyde Park Corner, his audience was often only a man and a dog and the dog was usually more attentive. For others, India's main credential was that it was a member of what was still the British Commonwealth.


Contrary to our fondest dreams, which reverberated even in the buttery of St Antony's College where the conference was held, Western public opinion did not in those years hold Nehru in anything like the veneration we like to imagine. The towering global leader to whom the international community knelt in gratitude for pioneering a path of peace between the two Cold War contestants is largely a figure of our domestic mythology. Things might have been different if India had not needed massive aid but the combination of recipient and critic prompted sneers that are best forgotten today. The only excuse for dredging up that memory is to underline the significance of the volte-facethe conference reflected. It was another indication of the world's recognition of what India has achieved under Manmohan Singh and of the weight that India can pull globally if its economy continues to boom.


It makes no difference to the West's revised assessment that the prosperity is so patchy though some participants did draw parallels in private conversation with Tsarist Russia and the Bolshevik revolution. But there was no public deflection from the worship of Mammon. The EU is the "most noble political endeavour in a thousand years of European history" as Sir Peter Sutherland, the Irish lawyer who is chairman of the London School of Economics, grandiosely told the conference. But Sutherland is also chairman of Goldman Sachs International and can therefore be expected to be pragmatic enough to measure the morality that is claimed as the EU's strongest underpinning, in economic terms. India qualifies.


But do Indians? That, too, is a theme that has been discussed as often as the ethical cost and political perils of gross material inequality. So, too, has the nature of Indian federalism. One of my earliest contributions to the debate posed the question in the 1970s — Is India a nation of many states or a state of many nations? Of course, it can be both. Julio Crespo MacLennan, a young Spanish historian, reminded the conference of nations within territorial Spain, and quoted Juan Linz, "Spain today is a state for all Spaniards, a nation for a large part of the Spanish state, but not a nation for important minorities." When George Mathews, academic and social worker, spoke in passing of "certain minorities" finding it difficult to rent accommodation in Indian cities, the last part of Linz's analysis was brought painfully home.


Otherwise, one has to search for points of resemblance between India and the EU of 27 (soon to be 28) sovereign nations groping their way to a future that will wipe out the horrors of past wars. "Never again!" says Sir Michael Palliser, former permanent secretary in Britain's foreign office, with quavering 88-year-old determination. The European Project, binding together countries with a recent history of conflict, holds lessons for South Asia. But the interesting tidbit of information that the Lok Sabha and the European parliament have approximately the same number of interpreters' booths does point to a less frivolous demographic commonalty that leads to more fundamental challenges. Like the EU, India must combine pluralist governance with effective decision-making, ensure the supremacy of the people in the midst of confusing multiplicity and take care not to forfeit the loyalty of those who might feel excluded from the economic process.


Common Indian bombast about an empire that stretched from Afghanistan to Java, whose contemporary republican successor has improved on Athenian democracy by empowering helots through the unique participative mechanism of panchayati raj, may not appear to augur well for mutually beneficial cooperation. But India's founding fathers demonstrated none of this facile insularity when they sought the icing of Ireland's Directive Principles and America's Fundamental Rights for the cake of the Government of India Act of 1935, on which the British parliament spent more time than on any other piece of legislation.


Paul Flather, secretary-general of the Europaeum, and his two fellow organizers of the event, need not be disappointed therefore if India's very different historical lineage does not seem to have much for the EU. Instead, they could profitably turn their attention to the neglected scope for brisk traffic in the other direction. Federal or unitary, modernizing India has much to learn from the EU and much to gain from a European alliance. India is already firmly linked in the east to Singapore and Southeast Asia. Europe could provide what Goh Chok Tong would call the second wing in the West for a balanced take-off. Before that can even be attempted, however, the EU must not only put its house in order but itself also demonstrate more interest in the world's largest democracy than it has done so far.








The roll out of unique identification (UID) numbers to 10 tribals in Maharashtra's Nandurbar district on Wednesday  marks the first step in the implementation of an ambitious scheme conceived by the UPA government. The importance attached to the programme can be seen from the presence of both prime minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at the function. It is to the credit of the government and former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani, who heads the project, that the first numbers were rolled out within a little over an year of the inception of the project. The project, named Aadhaar, seeks to give a unique 12-digit number to every citizen of the country in the next five years. The aim is not just to give another official card but to create a data base with the biometric signatures of the people. It will serve as a single identity proof to citizens where there are a multiplicity of them now.

Once the project is implemented it will help to correctly channelise the benefits of the government's various welfare schemes to the right beneficiaries, especially the poor. It is known that such schemes do not actually reach the intended persons because of bureaucratic hazzles and the existence of many intermediaries. Malpractices like embezzlement of funds, fraudulent actions and even illegal cross-border migration can be checked with the help of the numbers. The scheme will make it impossible for multiple identities to exist and will have a beneficial impact in areas as diverse as the PDS, health services, banking and tax administration. It will also strengthen law and order and national security systems. By enabling millions of more people to come into the financial system and cutting costs it can even give a boost to the GDP. Being a facilitator it will also help the middle class to deal more efficiently with the system by eliminating many cumbersome procedures, as when applying for a passport or a driving licence.

The project also stands out because it is first case of using high technology on such a vast scale anywhere in the world. The programme is a huge challenge because establishing the correct identity of over a billion people and forming a data base is no easy task. Doubts have been raised about misuse of the information and possible infringement of the privacy of people, but with enough safeguards in place, it can be a game-changer for governance.







The stock markets have seen a phenomenal surge in the last three weeks and are just a heave away from the all-time highs recorded in early 2008. While they had been steadily rising since May 2009, the last over two weeks have seen a 10 per cent increase. The  fact that all the emerging markets rose by only 5 per cent during the whole year gives a perspective on the Indian markets' performance. The reasons for the ebullience are not far to seek. The Indian economy is doing well in absolute and relative terms, while there is the threat of another recession in the US and Europe is still struggling. The monsoon was good, manufacturing and services sectors are doing well, there is no serious fiscal risk and domestic consumption demand is set to rise. The likely increase in interest  rates, as a result of Reserve Bank action to contain inflation, might affect the bond market and enhance the attractiveness of the stock markets.

While these factors present a positive picture, it will not go unnoticed that much of the market action was caused by the inflow of foreign money. Foreign Institutional Investors have pumped in about $15 billion this year and in the last few weeks the flow was faster. Indian institutions and mutual funds have actually withdrawn money during this period. This shows a nervousness among domestic investors. The markets are expensive when compared to even very bullish markets like China, Russia and Brazil. Hot money that has come in can find its exit as fast as it came and therefore retail investors should be careful while planning investments at this level. In most bull markets they realise too late that it is time for entry and when they enter, the markets start receding. Prospects of the economy in the coming quarters too are good. But market movements depend on many factors, especially external circumstances when FIIs have a crucial say in them as now, and unexpected turns in politics or economy. Some caution is therefore in order.

This also calls for increased vigilance on the part of the market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India. Price manipulations and other unhealthy practices which are common in such times should be curbed. SEBI can also keep a watch on the kind of hot money that is moving in.








The leaderless Muslim community, before it could reflect, was hustled into continued litigation by the lawyer for the Sunni Waqf Board.


Premature punditry on the Ayodhya verdict is a little bit like writing commentaries on Shakespeare after only reading 'Lamb's Tales'.

Rapid readers will take days and weeks to digest approximately 10,000, 4,000 and 260 pages of the judgments on Ayodhya delivered by Justices Dharam Vir Sharma, Sudhir Aggarwal and Sibqat Ullah Khan, respectively.

An impression had been created by a sideshow in Lucknow since September 15 that somehow the judgment was going in favour of the Muslims. On that day Justice Sharma, an avid Ram bhakt or devotee of Lord Rama, accepted an application that the judgment, due to be delivered by three judge bench on September 24, be deferred so that the parties to the dispute can arrive at out-of-court, compromise settlement. He did this without consulting the other two judges.

The matter reached a two judge bench of the supreme court which was divided on whether or not a compromise was possible. The quest for a compromise on an issue which had defied settlement for decades, indeed centuries, was seen as a desperate desire to 'defer' the judgment — because deferment would, for a variety of reasons, be for years.

The engine for deferment was Justice Sharma. He was on the bench and therefore knew exactly which way the judgment was inclined. Why else would he seek deferment? It was therefore assumed that the verdict was 'not' going in favour of the Hindus. It followed, in simple minds, that it was probably favouring the Muslims.

It is against this background that the responses aired by the two sides so far must be placed. Hindus, who thought the tide was turning against them, are relieved at the verdict. This sense of relief is being given a 'spin' of triumph. Conversely, Muslims, expecting victory, are disappointed.

Had Justice Sharma succeeded in 'deferring' the verdict, the response of the Muslims would have been loaded with irony. They would then have nursed a grievance that the higher judiciary had denied them justice.

The astonishment handed down by the court is coming across as stunned reflection. Time, in any case, has proved a healer. Even though there was much hype, most of it generated by an otherwise restrained media, there was no frenzy.

Good luck to Geelani

The leaderless Muslim community, before it could reflect, was hustled into continued litigation by the lawyer for the Sunni Waqf Board, Zafaryab Geelani, who proclaimed that he would go in appeal to the supreme court. Good luck to Geelani and the Sunni Waqf Board.

I propose an international award to him for having read, digested and produced a legal response to at least 15,000 pages of legalese penned by the Ayodhya Bench. And he performed this feat within the space of three hours!

Where was the need to rush when the verdict itself gives three months to all sides to, first, read the judgment, then consider, deliberate, accept or appeal. The pre emptive announcement is a function of fear that alternative, possibly more sensible views might begin to emerge from within the Muslim community.


Let me give you the reaction of my mother, now 94, who lives in our village, Mustafabad in Rae Bareli. She was cryptic: "Saanmp marey, na laathi tootey" (Kill the snake; don't break the stick). In other words, kill the 'snake' of Hindu-Muslim tensions without breaking the stick. It is difficult to explain ancient aphorisms but the 'stick' in her approach is Hindu-Muslim harmony.

Yusuf Muchhala, convener of the legal cell of the Sunni Waqf Board, says the three judgments appeared to be a "mix of facts, principles and mythology." This may be a succinct observation but, like, Geelani he is making observations without having read the judgments, the reasoning behind what the lordships have concluded.

As far as I am concerned, I grew up in Lucknow and never heard of Babari Masjid until the locks to the temple were broken. The subsequent story is charged with communal politics — on both sides.

Ayodhya is both a grist to the mill of communal politics as well as a matter of Hindu faith. That is the complication. Babari Masjid, on the other hand, is a matter of Muslim hurt. Scabs form over bruises. Wherever the Muslim turns towards Kaaba is his mosque. Reflect for a month. Think of ways to bring down the edifice of communal politics.

Unless the community disenges itself from the grip of backward leaders, it will be left holding, Babri Masjid, Shah Bano, Muslim character of universities, Salman Rushdie, corrupt Waqf boards, while the country and the world move on, into another zone almost







Shanti Bhushan, ex-law minister and now a leading advocate in the supreme court has published names of eight out of 16 former Chief Justices of India who were corrupt.


In its turn, the supreme court has charged him with contempt of court. It has shaken the nation's faith in its judiciary. It is reasonable to assume that if half of the chief justices of our highest court of justice were tainted, the ratio of corrupt judges in lower courts like state high courts, sessions courts, magistrates, Tahsildars was bound to have been higher. We have to face the fact that in our country verdicts of the courts are purchasable by those who can pay for them. It is a grim scenario in which the 'aam aadmi' is always the loser. I have not the foggiest idea what we can do about it.

I happen to know a few of the chief justices that Shanti Bhushan has named. Some I suspected of having religious or political bias. That is human failing and forgivable. But taking money to pronounce judgment in favour of a contending party is criminal and deserves severe punishment. One of the judges named by Shanti Bhushan I have known since he was one-year-old. I knew his grandparents, parents, his uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces. In short, our families were, and are, as close to each other as any two families can be.

I know this judge go from school to law college and became judge, chief justice of a state high court, to being elevated to the supreme court and ended up as its chief justice. After retiring he took life easy. But he suffered from what I call the Chaudhary complex. He wanted to be the boss of any institution he was member of. So he has become President of the Delhi Public Schools Society and clubs he was a member of. One morning, as he was leaving for a holiday in Goa and his luggage had been loaded in the car to take him to the airport, he had a massive stroke. He lost his power of speech and became unsteady on his feet. He is still unable to utter a word. I feel it is my duty to answer Bhushan's charges against him. I will do so not in the supreme court but in my columns.

How to celebrate

Last year when I turned 95, I decided to liberate myself from shackles of deadlines and learn to live in peace doing absolutely nothing. That was not to be. A close lady friend, who occasionally drops in for a drink, asked me "So what are you up to  now?" I replied, "nothing; for my new year's resolution was to do nothing." Undeterred she said, "Don't be silly; write about your friends now dead. You've told me so much about them."

I tried to put the idea out of my mind. I failed. I began to think about them and started writing about them. A fortnight ago I finished revising it. I called it 'Sunset Club' because the three main characters are in the sunset of their lives. It is largely based on their sexual fantasies of what they did in their younger days and are unable to do in their late 80s. It will be launched early November.

I decided to celebrate the event when I wrote the words 'Tamaam shud'. The only way I know of how to celebrate is to treat myself with a gourmet feast. I am no longer able to go out, but fortunately many eateries are within easy walking distance which deliver meals at your doorstep: more than a dozen in Khan Market, Ambassador Hotel and a few in Pandara Park. One can get Mughlai, French, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Burmese or Japanese. I ruled them out because wine does not go with any of them. It has to be European; or Italian. So I asked my daughter Mala to go across the road to the Ambassador Hotel and have a chat with the chief chef Sanjay Vij who I had known in my years in Bombay. "Leave it to me," he said. You will have it delivered 10 minutes before your dinner time at 9 pm. She paid the bill. As promised, the dinner arrived on the dot. It was prawns with sauces and salad. The dessert was something called Bulls Eye. It was indeed delicious. And a couple of glasses of Indian red wine. (Grover and Sula can match any foreign product). And wrongly named Bulls Eye — because the chocolate cake is shaped like a target with a hole in it, with a dollop of Vanilla ice cream was the testiest desert I have ever eaten. To cap it all, a meal meant for one lasted two evenings for three of my family.

Yoga miracle

My friend's son, Golu, used to bite his nails. I advised my son to send Golu to Baba Ram Dev who will teach him some yoga. After two months I asked my friend — "How is Golu now?"

My friend said: "Now Golu can bite his toe nails also.

Gift of silver

Santa: "I gifted my wife a diamond necklace last week on our anniversary and she did not speak to me for two months."

Banta: "Why so, was it fake?"

Santa: "No, that was the deal."

(Contributed by J P Singh Kaka, Bhopal)







Mom had tucked in a dream for me and that I, growing up, had never fulfilled.


She laboured many nights over the gift she was making for me. She would be at it long after I, then just seven years old, had fallen fast asleep. She was making me a sewing-box: cutting the cardboard bases; padding them and sewing the pretty blue cotton printed with plump pink roses over the top; lining the insides; fixing little elastic loops to hold small scissors, a tiny thimble and a pink measuring tape, and finally putting in the tidy little packs of buttons and spools of thread for darning, bright skeins for embroidery, and little squares of fabric for the samplers that she would teach me to sew.

It was only much later that I realised that between the tiny, fairy stitches that held that little sewing-box together, Mom had tucked in a dream for me that had been close to her heart, and that I, growing up, had never fulfilled. She had dreamed that I might also learn and love to sew. She told me so, only once, many years after the sewing-box had disintegrated, and with it, her dream. By then, her eyesight was failing fast and her once nimble fingers, now twisted from a stroke, could sew no more.

I thought back, with some guilt, to those summers long past, when I  would dutifully sit down to the mandatory couple of hours of sewing, all the while itching to be done with it and rush off to some corner to read. I remember turning to Mom a hundred times, threads in a tangle and tears of irritation threatening to fall down my cheeks as I struggled with the hated sewing. With infinite patience and skill she would gently untangle the knotted threads and help me work the pattern to completion.

Somewhere along the lines of stitches suffered in silence, she had realised that sewing simply wasn't what I wanted to do. My creative passion lay elsewhere. And so, she stopped buying me spools and skeins of thread, and bought me books instead. Two Christmases before she died, she gave me a beautiful leather-bound note book, and in it I wrote the stories that found their way into my first published book — a book dedicated to her.

I lost my mother six months ago, and in all my life, I have never suffered sadness more profound or loss more painful. I miss her so. Tidal waves of grief are known to knock me off balance when I least expect them to. Yet, lately, from out of the deep hollow left inside me with her leaving, a seed, given up for dead, has stirred and taken root and is growing with promise of the comfort for which my heart aches. For, 40-something years after I put my embroidery needles away, I have taken them up again. I have found something beautiful to do with my pain.

I am surprised at the delight that this once hated past-time now brings to me, as little cross-stitched pansies and bullion roses bloom beneath my fingers, still nimble, after all these years. Across the room, from the corner that once was hers, I sense her smiling presence.

My mother's dream was not dead, after all. It was simply 'a dream deferred.'









New Yorkers elected Andrew Cuomo as the state attorney general in 2006 by a large margin, but even then they were not certain what they were getting.


He had a mixed record as housing secretary during the Clinton administration. His experience as a lawyer was limited, and his decision to take a high-paying job with a developer who had once been sued by the state raised questions about his judgment. Over the last four years, Mr. Cuomo has exceeded expectations and laid nearly all of those doubts to rest.


He has taken on big fights and produced results, going after public corruption among fellow Democrats, keeping the pressure on Wall Street and producing other meaningful changes, most notably in student lending.


He could have pursued more civil rights cases, and he remained virtually silent on the same-sex marriage bill when his voice might have made a difference in the State Senate debate. Now that he is the Democratic candidate for governor, he should explain to voters how he plans to press that fundamental right forward, as well as other unfinished business, particularly the pursuit of corruption in the State Legislature.


A review of his record shows that Mr. Cuomo made the attorney general's office one of the most effective public interest law firms in the country. He did so with less arrogance than his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, putting to rest most fears about his own temperament. Mr. Cuomo's most important and original initiative was in confronting the corrupt student loan industry. He issued subpoenas and filed lawsuits to stop lending companies from paying college officials to steer students in their direction and got the industry to agree to a national code of conduct.


His office also negotiated a strong settlement with health insurers to clean up the conflicts of interest that were shortchanging patients who used out-of-network doctors. It created a Web site that finally allows citizens to follow Albany's workings — tracking legislative bills, state contracts and campaign finance filings.


His record on Wall Street was generally strong. As a result of Mr. Cuomo's investigation, investment banks can no longer shop around for credit ratings for the securities they sell. Investor advocates say he could have gone much further in cracking down on the rating agencies, but the change was nonetheless significant.


He went after the excessive bonuses being paid by the American International Group and Merrill Lynch, and forced several brokerages to buy back troubled securities that were sold to investors as absolutely safe. (Investor advocates have criticized him for letting one of those firms, Oppenheimer & Company, off the hook. His aides say he was trying to keep the firm from going out of business, but furious securities holders are not persuaded.)


In Albany, he vigorously pursued the pay-to-play system for pension business that disgraced the office of former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, leading to several convictions. The Times has reported that Mr. Hevesi is expected to plead guilty to a probable felony charge in the coming weeks. He filed a civil lawsuit against Pedro Espada Jr., the Senate Democratic leader, accusing him of diverting $14 million from his network of nonprofit health care clinics in the Bronx. The suit led to a federal investigation and Mr. Espada's defeat at the polls.

Still, there are so many legislators with undisclosed and conflicting outside interests that we wish Mr. Cuomo had found the legal methods to go after more of them. Mr. Cuomo has shown no lack of energy as attorney general, but he will still have to double his efforts on ethics reform as governor. In the campaign's remaining weeks, voters need to hear more about his plan to do that.








President Obama's call for sweeping changes in the space program got mugged by lobbyists and pork-minded legislators. An authorization bill for NASA — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — that cleared Congress will leave the agency mired in past technologies.


Mr. Obama shocked Congress and the space industry when he announced plans to abandon the Bush administration's goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2020 and terminate development of the rockets and crew capsules needed to get there. Instead, he proposed to rely on commercial companies to carry astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station orbit and called on NASA to develop "game-changing" technologies to make travel to more distant destinations — asteroids and eventually Mars — cheaper and faster.


That made good sense to us as a way to focus NASA on truly venturesome projects while leaving more mundane chores to private companies.


The bill, which the president is expected to sign and NASA claims to be grateful for, cancels most of the expensive Constellation program that was developing rockets and capsules to establish a base on the Moon. But it orders NASA to develop and fly a new heavy-lift rocket by the end of 2016. The only way to make that deadline (and follow detailed instructions in a Senate report) is by using technologies from existing programs, hardly "game-changing."


There is money for research on future space technologies but far less than the president sought. The bill also authorizes an extra shuttle flight beyond those already planned but fails to say where the $500 million to pay for the flight will come from, increasing the risk other NASA programs will be cannibalized.


A primary goal of those who drafted the legislation was to provide money and save jobs at existing NASA centers and their contractors. At a time of high unemployment, it's hard to argue with that impulse. But the result will be to postpone — possibly for decades — the development of the new technologies that could revolutionize long-distance space travel.








After decades of legal maneuvering, the General Electric Company finally agreed in 2006 to clean up the industrial pollutants it dumped in the Hudson River from the 1940s to the '70s. The consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency required the company to dredge the river free of toxic sediment.


The first phase of the two-phase project ended last fall. The second is supposed to start next year after a period of study to fix whatever complications arose in Phase 1. G.E. has now asked the E.P.A. to give it another year in which to decide whether to proceed with Phase 2. If G.E. decides not to, the E.P.A. could still order the company to act or find some other way to get the job done, while holding the company liable for dredging costs plus triple that cost in damages.


G.E. claims that Phase 1 stirred up too much contaminated silt and that it needs time and data to figure out what to do about that. Its chairman, Jeffrey Immelt, recently met with the E.P.A. administrator, Lisa Jackson, to make the case. New York's environmental agency has found that "resuspension" of toxic sediments during Phase 1 did not significantly raise levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in fish and river water. Its commissioner, Pete Grannis, has implored the E.P.A. not to allow any more maneuvering by G.E.


The company will have to clean up its mess one way or another, so what advantage is there in another delay? Maybe it thinks that with time it can assemble more evidence favoring its preferred solution of letting the PCBs lie. Or it may be awaiting a bolt of political lightning — a Congress willing to overrule the E.P.A., perhaps?


Unless the river is cleaned up, the PCBs will contaminate fish and water for years to come. This complex effort can be improved as necessary. But it must proceed. The Obama administration cannot let G.E. block the best hope for a clean river in our lifetime.








Take along a handkerchief if you plan to see the new education documentary "Waiting for Superman." Steve Barr, a tough-minded charter school developer, told me on Friday that he had already seen the film four times and still can't get through it without sobbing.


Mr. Barr believes that the film has pulled back the curtain on a world that most Americans would otherwise not have seen — the desperation of parents who struggle, often in vain, to get their children into better schools. (The Superman in the title refers to one charter school operator's childhood belief that the ghetto in which he lived might one day be rescued by the Man of Steel.)


Mr. Barr is unnerved by the cartoonish debate that has erupted around the movie. The many complex problems that have long afflicted public schools are being laid almost solely at the feet of the nation's teachers' unions.


In recent days, Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers (the nation's second-largest teachers' union after the National Education Association) has been portrayed on the Internet as the Darth Vader of public schooling. She talks like a union chief in the film — which makes no mention of her genuine efforts to work with school systems to promote reform.


The unions deserve criticism for resisting sensible changes for far too long and for protecting inept teachers who deserve to be fired. But at least in some places that is changing. And they are by no means responsible for the country's profound neglect of public education until about 20 years ago when the federal government began pushing the states to provide better oversight.


For years, urban politicians ransacked districts with patronage and fraud. Teachers chose to unionize in part to protect themselves from politicians.


The movie scene that pains Mr. Barr the most features a mother whose kindergartner has been barred from her parochial school on graduation day because of unpaid tuition. The family lives just across the street, which means the child has to watch as her classmates arrive.


Like other mothers in the film, this one is determined to keep her daughter out of traditional public schools that she regards as substandard. She applies to a highly respected charter school that fills seats through an excruciatingly painful lottery system. The applicants gather in an auditorium. The winners rejoice; the losers weep.


Mr. Barr has witnessed this kind of heartbreak at close range since he founded a nonprofit charter organization called Green Dot Public Schools in Los Angeles in 1999. Progress is being made. But the country needs many more good schools and better teacher contracts.


Charter schools run on public money but are allowed to function independently of the districts in which they reside. Nationally, most charter schools do no better in terms of student achievement, and far too many do worse. Green Dot is one of the stars of this movement.


Despite the fact that many of its 17 schools serve desperately poor, minority neighborhoods, its students significantly outperform their traditional school counterparts, on just about every academic measure, including the percentage of children who go on to four-year colleges.


Public schools generally do a horrendous job of screening and evaluating teachers, which means that they typically end up hiring and granting tenure to any warm body that comes along. Like other high-performing charter operations, Green Dot screens teachers closely — which means they get higher-quality teachers to start — and evaluates them frequently, with the aim of making them better at what they do.


The hard work pays off, including in staff stability. Despite rules that make it easier to fire staff members, last year Green Dot administrators terminated only 7 of more than 420 employees.


The film's director, Davis Guggenheim, gives Green Dot a cameo shout-out in "Waiting for Superman." But he did the story a serious disservice by not pointing out that these high-performing charter schools are fully unionized.


The 16 schools in California are affiliated with the National Education Association. The one recently started in the Bronx was put together by Green Dot and the New York affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. By rushing by this wrinkle, he sustained the sexy-but-mistaken impression that the country's schools can't move forward unless the unions are broken.


The real story is far more hopeful and more nuanced.








Which state is having the most appalling campaign season?

Wow, so much competition!


There's Arizona, where Jan Brewer, the immigrant-bashing governor, stomped away from her horrible debate performance while reporters yelled: "Governor, please answer the question about the headless bodies!" Always hard to beat a state with a headless-bodies controversy.


Arizona got additional awfulness points when Brewer announced that she was not participating in any future debates since she only needed to do just that one to get public campaign funds. Still more when she said she would probably change her mind if her poll numbers dropped. Even more for the fact that they haven't.


California (Fourth Month Without a Budget!) has a governor's race that's degenerated into a debate over whether Meg Whitman should take a lie detector test to refute the weepy claims of her undocumented ex-housekeeper. And in South Carolina, the most impossible Republican in the Senate, Jim DeMint, is opposed by an apparently delusional Democrat named Alvin Greene. He's facing a felony charge and pushing a jobs platform that involves putting people to work creating action figures of Alvin Greene.


Whenever you're looking for a dreadful political culture, you have to consider Illinois ($13 Billion in the Hole and Still Digging!) and its unending Chicago versus Downstate feud. The Republican Senate candidate, Mark Kirk, is running an ad downstate that telescopes his entire biography into the sliver of his life he lived somewhere in Illinois besides the Chicago area. ("Mark Kirk: Born in Champaign, attended college in Carlinville, with mainstream Illinois values.") This calls to mind the old saying that if a cat gives birth to kittens in the oven, it does not make them muffins.


Meanwhile, Kirk's ads demonize his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, as a "Chicago politician," which would seem to be the least of Giannoulias's problems, what with his family's bankrupt, sleazy-loan-making bank. Although to be fair to Kirk, The Associated Press reported that he managed, in a single interview, to refer to his opponent with the phrase "lent a tremendous amount of money to mobsters and felons" eight times.


I have to put in a plug for New York (Looking for Our Fourth Governor in Five Years!) where the Republican candidate, Carl Paladino, attempted to protect his love child from the prying news media by accusing his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, of having "paramours." Paladino later admitted that he had no proof, then reversed the reversal. Once again, it appears, New Yorkers will fail to achieve their dream of having a governor whose sex life is a complete mystery.


And everybody wants to talk about Delaware and Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Senate candidate who once had a date on a "Satanic altar," leaving us with an image even more disturbing than Eliot Spitzer's encounter with a prostitute with his socks on.


O'Donnell keeps having résumé problems, and it appears that she has particular trouble keeping track of where she went to college. She got her bachelor's degree last month, not in 1993. Also, the alleged stint at Claremont Graduate University was actually at a conservative think tank called the Claremont Institute. And rather than attending Oxford University, O'Donnell attended a course run by a group that had rented a room at Oxford University.


Colorado voters, in the fun-loving spirit that has filled so many Republican primaries this season, gave the gubernatorial nomination to a newcomer named Dan Maes, who had already been hit with one of the largest campaign finance violation fines in state history for claiming more than $40,000 in mileage reimbursements — which would suggest that he spent the last year driving the equivalent of more than a third of the way to the moon.


Now Maes is in résumé trouble, too, for apparently making up a story about being an undercover operative for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation in Liberal, Kan. Liberal is best known as the home of a "Wizard of Oz" Museum, although, unfortunately, that had nothing to do with the investigation, which involved a drug ring but did not involve Dan Maes.


But for overall awfulness, I'm going to go with Nevada, where Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is in a battle with Republican Sharron Angle in a race in which the voters have made it clear they loathe everybody. Both Reid and Angle have decided the wisest course might be to stay out of sight and just run attack ads, helping to turn this into the Year of the Burrowing Candidate. They did both appear at a forum at a Christian school recently but made sure they were never on stage at the same time. This made for a rather noneventful event, except for the end, when two female Reid supporters and a male Angle fan got into a fistfight.









Big-city liberals and their blogging buddies love to paint Tea Partiers as yokels with incoherent candidates and language-mauling signs. (Some have even dubbed their misspellings and grammatical gaffes "Teabonics.") On some level, this may be true. But there is also a certain hypocrisy to these taunts.


The unpleasant fact that these liberals rarely mention, and may not know, is that large swaths of the Democratic base, groups they need to vote in droves next month — blacks, Hispanics and young people — are far less civically literate than their conservative counterparts.


Therein lies the hurdle for the Democrats: How can they excite this part of the base that is not engaged and knowledgeable in an off-year election? How can they motivate these voters to help Democrats maintain their Congressional majorities when, according to a poll released this week by the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of blacks, 42 percent of Hispanics and 35 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 years old don't even know that Democrats have a majority in the House? It's sad. Pathetic, really. But it's a political reality. (Only 71 percent of Democrats overall knew that Democrats had a majority in the House. By comparison, 82 percent of Republicans knew it.)


Instead of focusing like a laser on this problem, part of the White House's new strategy appears to be to pick a fight with the left's ivory tower intelligentsia.


Vice President Joe Biden said at a fund-raiser on Monday that the Democratic base should "stop whining." The "professional left" may be whining, but underengaged Democrats are simply wandering. And, by the way, many Democrats don't even know who the vice president is. In the Pew poll, 64 percent of Hispanics, 51 percent of young adults and 45 percent of blacks could not name Biden as the vice president. (Only 35 percent of Republicans got it wrong.)


In a Rolling Stone interview this week, President Obama both described himself as a progressive and then laid into progressives for their "debilitating" mind-sets. Whom are you talking to, Mr. President? According to a Gallup poll released in July, most Democrats didn't even seem to know what a progressive was, and of those who did, slightly more said that it didn't describe them than said that it did.


This high-altitude bickering is a waste of time. You can't fight in the clouds if you want to win on the ground.


The smarter tactic is to build excitement rather than sow discourse. For example, Obama has made a concerted effort recently to reach out to young people, and that appears to be paying off. According to a Gallup poll released on Friday, the Democratic advantage in the Congressional races among young voters jumped 10 percentage points from last month, producing the "widest generational gaps so far this year."


Excitement is exhilarating and contagious, even if you're not aware of all the policies and players. Just ask those Tea Party yokels.








One in five American kids was living in poverty in 2009. Across the country, once solidly middle-class families are lining up at food pantries and soup kitchens for groceries or a hot meal. In New York City, a startling indicator of the continuing economic stress is the rise in the number of homes that don't have kitchens.

Election Day is approaching, but neither party cares to focus on the nightmare facing millions of Americans who have been laid low by unemployment, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies, and jobs that offer only part-time work, lousy pay and absolutely no benefits.


In an era of extreme economic inequality (which is another way of saying economic unfairness), Wall Street can be on a roll and corporate profits can streak toward the moon at the same time that ordinary American families are stuck in depressionlike conditions with precious little hope of relief.


The Democrats are trying to put the best possible face on this terrible economic reality, imploring voters to give them a little credit for preventing matters from becoming much worse. No matter how valid, that's a tough case to make to families whose properties are being plastered with foreclosure notices. Or to the breadwinners whose 99 weeks of unemployment insurance have been exhausted without anything in the way of a decent job materializing. Or the former middle managers now working for peanuts at Home Depot or Wal-Mart.


But at least the Democrats are still rooted in the real world. The Republicans, when they aren't behaving as though they've lost their minds completely (see O'Donnell, Angle, Paladino, et al.), are peddling a fantasy that has already damaged the country profoundly. The party's ludicrous "Pledge to America" promises to reduce federal budget deficits while, among other things, making all of the Bush-era tax cuts permanent and jacking up already insanely high defense costs.


The pledge is as dangerous as it is transparent. Economists have calculated that the tax cuts alone will cost nearly $4 trillion over the next decade.


These are the very same G.O.P. operatives who have spent years frantically looting the U.S. Treasury on behalf of their corporate masters, and they can't wait to get another crack at it. As John Boehner, one of the ring leaders, put it: "We are not going to be any different than what we've been."


What is especially weird is that while they are pushing plans guaranteed to increase budget deficits, the G.O.P. is united in opposition to investments in the economy that would put Americans back to work, revitalize sagging industries and eventually provide the taxes that are crucial to actually getting a handle on deficits.


Weirder still is that even Democrats who should know better are buying into this self-defeating austerity posture. More than 300 economists, including Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, have signed onto a public statement urging policy makers not to undercut any real chance at a recovery by focusing prematurely on deficit reduction. What are needed instead are prudent, sensible investments, especially in infrastructure, research and development, and green energy initiatives.


The statement, released by the liberal Institute for America's Future, noted that President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform would like to reduce the federal deficit to 3 percent of the gross domestic product by 2015. That's not realistic. It's not going to happen.


More important is the following point made by the institute in its statement:

"At the end of World War II, the U.S. was burdened with debt that totaled over 120 percent of G.D.P. But we made the investments vital to a new economy — the G.I. Bill, housing subsidies, the interstate highway system, the conversion of military plants, and the Marshall plan. We ran annual deficits over most of the next three decades and the debt grew in absolute size, but the economy and the broad middle class grew faster. By 1980, the debt had been reduced to barely 30 percent of G.D.P."


There is no doubt that the country, starved for revenues and still at war, will have to increase some taxes. Unnecessary spending should be attacked. But the nation is still in the throes of an economic crisis. Poverty is growing and the middle class is shrinking, and more than 20 million Americans are out of work or underemployed.


We can pretend that all of this is not happening and that there won't be grave consequences as a result. We can cling to the Ronald Reagan-George W. Bush fairy tale that handing over ever more riches to those who are already rich and powerful is the way to revitalize the American dream.


Or we can take our cue from the best moments in American history, when the nation rolled up its sleeves and placed the interests of ordinary people at the top of its agenda.









WHEN my dad, Allen Funt, produced "Candid Microphone" back in the mid-1940s, he used a clever ruse to titillate listeners. A few times per show he'd edit out an innocent word or phrase and replace it with a recording of a sultry woman's voice saying, "Censored." Audiences always laughed at the thought that something dirty had been said, even though it hadn't.


When "Candid Camera" came to television, the female voice was replaced by a bleep and a graphic that flashed "Censored!" As my father and I learned over decades of production, ordinary folks don't really curse much in routine conversation — even when mildly agitated — but audiences love to think otherwise.


By the mid-1950s, TV's standards and practices people decided Dad's gimmick was an unacceptable deception. There would be no further censoring of clean words.


I thought about all this when CBS started broadcasting a show last week titled "$#*! My Dad Says," which the network insists with a wink should be pronounced "Bleep My Dad Says." There is, of course, no mystery whatsoever about what the $-word stands for, because the show is based on a highly popular Twitter feed, using the real word, in which a clever guy named Justin Halpern quotes the humorous, often foul utterances of his father, Sam.


Bleeping is broadcasting's biggest deal. Even on basic cable, the new generation of "reality" shows like "Jersey Shore" bleep like crazy, as do infotainment series like "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," where scripted curses take on an anti-establishment edge when bleeped in a contrived bit of post-production. This season there is even a cable series about relationships titled "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" — in which "bleep" isn't subbing for any word in particular. The comedian Drew Carey is developing a series that CBS has decided to call "WTF!" Still winking, the network says this one stands for "Wow That's Funny!"


Although mainstream broadcasters won a battle against censorship over the summer when a federal appeals court struck down some elements of the Federal Communications Commission's restrictions on objectionable language, they've always been more driven by self-censorship than by the government-mandated kind. Eager to help are advertisers and watchdog groups, each appearing to take a tough stand on language while actually reveling in the double entendre.

For example, my father and I didn't run across many dirty words when recording everyday conversation, but we did find that people use the terms "God" and "Jesus" frequently — often in a gentle context, like "Oh, my God" — and this, it turned out, worried broadcasting executives even more than swearing. If someone said "Jesus" in a "Candid Camera" scene, CBS made us bleep it, leaving viewers to assume that a truly foul word had been spoken. And that seemed fine with CBS, because what mainstream TV likes best is the perception of naughtiness.


TV's often-hypocritical approach to censorship was given its grandest showcase back in 1972, when the comedian George Carlin first took note of "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." The bit was recreated on stage at the Kennedy Center a few years ago in a posthumous tribute to Carlin, but all the words were bleeped — not only for the PBS audience but for the theatergoers as well.


Many who saw the show believed the bleeped version played funnier. After all, when Bill Maher and his guests unleash a stream of nasty words on HBO, it's little more than barroom banter. But when Jon Stewart says the same words, knowing they'll be bleeped, it revs up the crowd while also seeming to challenge the censors.


In its July ruling, the appeals court concluded, "By prohibiting all 'patently offensive' references to sex ... without giving adequate guidance as to what 'patently offensive' means, the F.C.C. effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the F.C.C. will find offensive." That's quite reasonable — and totally beside the point. Most producers understand that when it comes to language, the sizzle has far more appeal than the steak. Broadcasters keep jousting with the F.C.C. begging not to be thrown in the briar patch of censorship, because that's really where they most want to be.


Jimmy Kimmel has come up with a segment for his late-night ABC program called "This Week in Unnecessary Censorship." He bleeps ordinary words in clips to make them seem obscene. How bleepin' dare he! Censorship, it seems, remains one of the most entertaining things on television.


Peter Funt writes about social issues on his Web site, Candid Camera.








THOUGH CIA operated drone attacks inside Pakistan territory have become a routine, the series of strikes by piloted NATO aircraft inside Pakistan is a grave violation of sovereignty which no country can allow. Thursday's attack by NATO helicopter on a border post at Mandati Kandaw in Kurram agency killing three FC personnel was nothing but deliberate to send a clear signal to Pakistan to follow the dictates of the occupation forces in Afghanistan. As if that was not enough, another border post, at Kharlachi, also in Kurram, was struck a few hours later.

The President, the Prime Minister and the official spokesman have rightly protested over these uncalled for violations. To convey its strong resentment Pakistan closed the Torkham border crossing for NATO supply containers. The exceptional series of strikes by piloted aircraft, as opposed to drones, signalled a general increase in tensions between Pakistan and the United States, already uncomfortable allies. The border closing was a clear demonstration to the Americans and NATO allies that Pakistan holds a clear leverage to their war effort in Afghanistan and they must respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Americans have been trying for years to decrease their logistical dependence on Pakistan but could only manage to get it to 80 per cent from 90 per cent and clearly they don't have any place else to go. After the border closing on Thursday, Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, trying to calm the tensions. That conversation followed a telephonic talk several days ago between Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and COAS General Kayani, about the previous strikes. In our view the reaction by Pakistan is not befitting to the gravity of the situation. The US helicopters have hit the State symbol which is almost declaration of war against Pakistan. The security personnel at the post in Kurram Agency only fired warning shots to signal to the intruding helicopters that they have crossed the Pakistani border. The border closing signalled the limits of Pakistan's tolerance for intrusions on its sovereignty and for the pressure it was willing to absorb from American officials on any range of issues. The Interior Minister was right in saying that "we will have to see whether we are allies or enemies". The US and the NATO must understand how much harder it would be for them to carry on the Afghan war if Pakistan stops cooperation. At the same time we would urge not only the Troika but the entire political leadership, the civil society and the media to take a very serious notice of the disturbing development because if not checked, there is a possibility of more similar incursions in the future.








AN Indian court Thursday ruled on one of the most bitterly contested religious sites, the Babri Mosque status, deciding that the land at Ayodhya should be split between one Muslim and two Hindu groups. In a case that spanned centuries of religious division history and languished in the legal system for six decades, the court verdict is testimony that the Muslims and Hindus cannot live together. 

The unorthodox decision by the three-judge panel in the State of Uttar Pradesh provided a Solomonic resolution to a case the authorities had feared might unleash religious violence across India. The case was considered especially combustible because the contested site, in the city of Ayodhya, was the scene of a searing act of religious violence in 1992 when Hindu extremists tore down the ancient Babri Masjid on the property. The destruction sparked riots that spilled into the following year and claimed over 2,000 lives, mostly Muslims. According to the verdict, the entire property should be considered jointly held by Muslims and Hindus and distributed under relevant Indian property statutes. The lawyer representing the Muslims said there is no reason of any loss of hope stating that they do not agree with the formula of giving one-third of the land to the Muslims. To give time for appeal and pacify the sentiments, the 2,000-page judgment, however, ordered that the status quo at the religious compound in Ayodhya at the centre of the dispute — currently under State control — be maintained for three months while details of the division are decided. So by and large it was the only possible way out to pacify all the stakeholders, though the Muslims have made it known that they would appeal against the judgement in the Supreme Court. In a country which claims to be secular, the site has been divided in three segments which in our view reflects separate Hindu and Muslim communities in India. This is also a testimony that establishment of Pakistan was essential on the basis of two-nation theory and Quaid-i-Azam visualized this at the right time and created the State of Pakistan for the Muslims of the Subcontinent.





IT was shocking to witness lawyers of the Lahore District Bar attacking office of the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court to press their demand for the transfer of a Sessions Judge. Of course every one has right to express his opinion but the attack and ransacking of the office of Justice Khwaja Sharif was uncalled-for.

There had been a number of incidents in the past in which lawyers in Punjab indulged in high-handedness in order to show their muscles. They have thrashed policemen, media persons and judges of the lower judiciary. Thursday's protest was unique in nature as scores of outraged lawyers tried to barge into the office of the Chief Justice to forcibly get the transfer orders of the Sessions Judge. When police prevented them, they shattered windowpanes of the office and staged a sit-in in the court premises. In retaliation, judges of the lower courts also protested against the lawyers act and took out rally in harmony with the Chief Justice. If the educated lot start behaving in such a manner, people across the country would start losing faith in the system and they would also indulge in similar activities to get their demands accepted. The country is already in difficult situation and lawlessness could greatly impact the economy. Members of the legal fraternity are important stakeholders in delivery of justice to the common man and Thursday's incident is very serious and representative bodies of the Bars need to take an urgent notice of it in order to prevent such ugly scenes in the future.








America is indeed a sole super power, but it needs to provide logistics to its forces especially American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. For supplies from water and food to tanks and other equipment, Pakistan is the only viable and most inexpensive route, and all other alternatives could drain American economy and one day it may lose the status of sole super power. Afghanistan, According to AP and AFP reports, Pakistan blocked a vital supply route for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan in apparent retaliation for cross-border helicopter strike by the coalition that killed three Pakistani frontier corps' troops. We have been suggesting in these pages that Pakistan should give adequate response to so-called friends who continue vitriolic and vicious propaganda to denigrate Pakistan, and tell America in unambiguous terms that Pakistan would withdraw from the war on terror if violation of Pakistan's space and smear campaign against Pakistan is not stopped. Pakistan has been protesting against drone attacks but there was some confusion as the US always claimed that there was a tacit understanding with Pakistan when former president Musharraf was at the helm. 

There have been statements from members of the US administration and US Generals that they would take action against the militants in FATA if Pakistan does not launch operation against Haqqani group in North Afghanistan. However, Pakistan had more than once categorically stated that Pakistan would decide about the time to launch such operation, if at all required. Though Pakistan is frontline state against war on terror, the US and its allies suspect Pakistan's intentions, and are not willing to address Pakistan's genuine interests vis-à-vis Indian role in Afghanistan. In the past, our rulers have been talking about strategic depth in Afghanistan, but such glib talk had been interpreted as if Pakistan wants to interfere in Afghanistan's internal matters to have a government of its choice. However, it is Pakistan's genuine desire or wish to see a friendly government and not a hostile government next door. One can argue that if America sitting thousands of miles away has strategic interest in Afghanistan, and India that has no borders with Afghanistan is trying to destabilize Pakistan, then why Pakistan should not express its concern and take measures to counter pernicious move of its enemies. 

In fact, the US and the West is pushing Pakistan to the precipice after which there is abyss by taking advantage of the rift between the political parties and state organs as well as Pakistan's dismal economic condition. It is hoped that Pakistan's leadership would rise to the occasion and unite to face and frustrate designs of its enemies. According to press reports and analyses, a permanent stoppage of supply trucks would place massive strains on the relationship between the two countries and hurt the Afghan war effort. NATO said it was investigating Pakistani reports that coalition aircraft had mistakenly attacked its forces. The coalition has at least once acknowledged mistakenly killing Pakistani security forces stationed close to the border. Anyhow, an official in Pakistan's Frontier Corps is reported to have told AFP: "We have suspended NATO supply trucks for the time being due to security reasons." Two officials at the Torkham border crossing in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber district and a US diplomat confirmed to the news agency that NATO convoys were not being allowed to cross. Anyhow, Pakistan should tell America that enough is enough, and America should look for other routes for supplies to its forces in America.

Last year, the United States and NATO had contemplated opening and expanding supply lines through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other goods to a military mission in Afghanistan after the US decision to send additional 30000 troops in the months ahead. But this proved an exercise in futility. According to The New York Times story, the plan to open new routes through Central Asia were reflective of an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass, which was closed temporarily by Pakistani security forces in November last when they started an offensive against militants in Jamrud and Landi Kotal in Khyber Agency to ensure continuous supplies to the US and NATO forces. Pakistan security forces had arrested 122 militants including more than 116 foreigners, and demolished houses of their hosts. Last November, the militants had torched cargo trucks and Humvees threatening to stop the supplies. 

Earlier, on 10th November a group of militants had hijacked 13 trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces and World Food Programme on the main highway in Jamrud. Nevertheless, Pakistan had put in place a new plan and supplies were resumed by reopening the Peshawar-Torkham highway. Security forces started escorting convoys carrying fuel and other goods from Tahkt Bai to the border town of Torkham. Coming back to the US and NATO's efforts to deal with Afghanistan's other neighbours for alternative supply routes one can see that the only alternative supply land route could be Iran or Russia. Iran is not likely to provide the transit facility to the US due to the ongoing nuclear standoff, and secondly to contribute or facilitate permanent US bases next door. At present, more than 80 percent of the supplies flow through Pakistan, which are increasing as heavy materials are to be moved to Afghanistan to build the structures needed for an expanded American presence. 

The US had hinted that the other alternative could be Tajikistan or Turkmenistan, but all the Central Asian republics are land-locked countries, therefore the only option could be Russia; but Russia would not like to see the superpower on its borders. The US would have to think twice because Russia in that case would be able to make inroads in the republics and regain its control over them. Anyhow, US could use Central Asian states for supplies through C-130 planes or other military planes. But military vehicles and tanks could not be transported by air, and even if it is done the cost would be prohibitive. The US is already facing trade deficit, current account deficit and fiscal deficit. In these conditions, the US could go broke, since economic strength is sine qua non for military strength. America would have to make a choice whether it wants to safeguard future interests by giving India free hand in Afghanistan, or wants to ensure a safe exit from Afghanistan to save lives and honour, which is not possible without Pakistan's support and cooperation. 

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.







The political culture of undermining state and its institutions must end. Politicians are openly challenging judiciary to protect corruption and other vested stakes. Instead of upholding NRO, its beneficiaries have been rewarded. In public's eye, it is validation of corruption and an affront to country's law and constitution. The major political parties are colluding with each other to circumvent laws that challenge their illegal activities. The politician owned and or backed cartels, mafias and privatizations of national assets are exploiting ordinary citizens with no fear of accountability. The hundreds of changes in constitution through 18th Amendment including subservience of judiciary to parliament are illegal because 2008 election was held to restore democracy not change entire constitution. In the name of empowering democracy, 18th Amendment is being used to strengthen hold on political parties and in turn on national politics.

Independent Election Commission (ECP) should be returned under state control because it has failed to server interest of democracy, public and the state. EC is not independent because political parties are controlling it. It failed to take action against PM Gillani's election violations. Gillani addressed political rallies and announced schemes hours ahead of by-elections in Gilgat-Baltistan, Muzafargarh and Lodhran. The failure of EC to ensure transparent elections in political parties has promoted dynastic politics, stifled accountability culture in political parties and undermined party based democracy at grassroots. Due to lack of elections in the political parties, its members are unable to use ballot to choose their leaders and voice their opinion. All this has led to lack of public interest in politics and active participation in democracy.

EC cannot resist unlawful pressures and protect democratic processes in elections. The cases in point are fake degree cases, upholding transparent policy on asset declaration of the politicians, funding sources of political parties, bringing political parties to book on election violations, induction of controversial voting machines and reports of alleged US meddling in 2008 General Elections. The old election system involving judiciary, bureaucracy and intelligence setups was a better option because as compared to one election commissioner it was difficult for the individual parties or politicians to influence organs of the state and its representatives. The presence of independent media, freedom of access to information and civil society can help old election process work transparently. Therefore, elections should be organized under interim setups with help of judiciary, bureaucracy and State. 

The use of "safe seats" to keep successive generations of politicians in power should be finished. Politicians resist holding of population census to protect their constituencies from demographic and resultant administrative changes. The periodic holding of population census is important for national economy, future planning and public welfare but politicians avoid using it results for individual benefits. The State should ensure that governments of the day hold population census and implement its results for individual and national benefits. 

The assets of politicians and their families should be made public to end corrupt practices. In true democracies, assets of office holders, politicians and public servants are open to public scrutiny. Public has every right to know about financial details, family assets and overseas expenses of family members of every individual who is being paid from tax money. Pakistan has to take a diplomatic stand against countries offering tax havens and off shore banking to win its war against corruption money. Washington has won a legal case against six thousand rich Americans who were maintaining accounts in Swiss banks to avoid taxes back home. China is keeping 53 capital punishments to control corruption, misuse of public funds and abuse of powers. Pakistan therefore needs to take appropriate steps including upholding of scrapping of NRO to bring 8000 culprits to book and recover public's money. 

The failed anti-corruption systems should be replaced with national judicial system. The media reports of mega corruption by the politicians show failures of Public Accounts Committee (PAC). PAC has failed to address public concerns about mega corruption by politicians, public servants and cabinet members including media reports of misappropriation of billions of dollars by Pakistani foreign mission, loss of thousands of passports, and their alleged refusal to be held accountable for losses to national exchequer, undermining image and safety of the country. The failure of NAB to control corruption and its manipulation by politicians to protect individual interests in the aftermath of NRO are self-explanatory. It is therefore time to restore one judicial system for across the board accountability. 

The use of "elected and selected people" by the politicians speaks of Social Darwinism. PM Gillani comment that I am not "Naukri Pesha" reflects a superiority based mindset. It shows that politicians think that elected people are superior to selected people. In other words, the jobs of public and public servants are inferior. Politicians like him think that they are born to rule. The fact of the matter is Pakistan can only progress if our leaders are ready to uphold dignity of work and respect work of every citizen of the country without which this country would come to a standstill. As compared to the laudable efforts of public and armed forces, the politicians have failed to do their share of duty in current floods.

Politicians influence bureaucracy to execute unlawful orders. There is no denying that it takes two to tango but it is an also recognized fact that public servants are in no position to resist pressure of all powerful politicians. The ESTA Code (civil servants manual) offers sufficient protections and clear laws on dealing with meddling in state affairs. The political influence in working of bureaucracy can be reduced with the help of judiciary, media and public awareness. In this regard, secretary establishment and secretary finance can play an important role by refusing to execute illegal orders and financial allocations. In turn, in light of ESTA Code rules State audit and judiciary can recover losses of the state from pensions/salaries of guilty politicians and bureaucrats. 

The fiddling of political parties with the foreign policy must end. Foreign policies are based on decades they cannot be made in years. For the lack of foresight and due to vested stakes, Pakistan's Kashmir policy has suffered in last five years. Experts are of the view that acceptance of Kerry-Lugar Bill has undermined Pakistan's national interests. The slow progress on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and lack of economic activity on Gwadar Port by its owners speaks of foreign meddling in national affairs. It should end and those responsible for it should be held accountable for undermining national interests. The governments of the day are supposed to address routine bread and butter issues of the public. 

In 2008 general election, public voted against Musharraf's pro-America policies. PPP formed government on promise of change but instead it continued with Musharraf's policies of supporting America's so-called war against terrorism (SWAT), continuation of NATO supply line and other facilities. It has cost national exchequer $43 bn and in 2010 alone it cost $12bn. In turn, it has resulted in loss of 28,000 lives, flight of capital, increase in foreign debt, economic meltdown and high unemployment. Reportedly, 89 percent Pakistanis oppose America but Pakistan's government claiming to represent public is unwilling to uphold democratic aspirations of the public and change its pro-America policies to secure its geo-strategic interests in the region. Therefore, government is guilty of undermining democracy and national interests by failing to respect public sentiments against America and its support for SWAT. Finally, political corruption is a crime against state, democracy and public mandate. Those responsible for it should be punished in accordance to law of the land. The rogue politicians and political parties involved in political corruption should be banned to strengthen democracy and state institutions.








Pakistan is the first Muslim nuclear state born on 14th Aug 1947 as a result of Indian partition exercised by British Raj, as planned by the Governor General of India, Lord Mount Batten, in agreement with the Red Cliff mission. The partition was basically planned on the basis of Muslim and Hindu majority populated areas. However, a few critical adjustments were manoeuvred to facilitate India with a favour to have direct access from District Gurdaspur, a Muslim majority district in East Punjab to Kashmir through courtesy of two faithful friends, Mr. Nehru and Madam Mount Batten. This was the first seed of dissentions planted by the judges of partition against a poor newly born country. The second was the influx of millions of Muslim refugees thrust from India to Pakistan.

Pakistan struggled very hard for the first ten years but thanks to field Marshal Ayub Khan's leadership that it became economically and militarily the strongest country in the region, particularly after 1965 war with India. It was only then our Western friends and Russians started a nefarious vigilance on the growing importance of Pakistan. America and the West because of Pakistan's expanding influence on the Middle East Muslim nations, engineered sanctions against all military equipment including spares and economic restrictions with the excuse of using American equipment against India. Pakistan became thirsty of even the defensive spare support and economic assistance, and Russia because Pakistan acted as a strong shield against communism, which later resulted, crucial for them in Afghanistan in 1979. Indian leadership proved most absurd for not willing to resolve Kashmir issue and they are paying for it even today. This region could have been the most affluent in the world if India had come to terms on the controversial issues on the principle of partition.

Everyone was gunning to destroy a progressive Pakistan, which could have been an asset to the development of Asia and South East Asian region. They proceeded to dismember Pakistan in 1971 through Indian, Soviet Union including our very trusted friends of military alliances. Pakistan was broken with humiliating conditions and the desire that it could never stand in the way of all these godfathers again.

Indian jaguar hired by our faithful friends to take care of left over Pakistan in total subservient terms. God almighty had his own way of dealing with such imposters. He resurrected Pakistan stronger than before, as this was the country established to uphold his name. Chinese offered to fulfil the gap created by our friends. Pakistan recovered and got back on track of progress and development. Once again when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Americans returned to Pakistan with new love and hope to revenge their old rival. Pakistan and the Muslims from all over the world fulfilled their desire by defeating Soviets and breaking their union and alliances throughout the world. Soon after the retreat of Soviets the Americans introduced a new weapon of Pressler amendments' to harass and damage Pakistan.

India became nuclear power in 1974 after conducting an initial nuclear test Operation by the name of Smiling Buddha. On May 11, 1998, India carried out nuclear tests in Pokhran. Indian leaders openly started threatening Pakistan of her existence and laying her hands off Kashmir. Pakistan had no choice but to face the death trap by the similar defense for her survival. Pakistan under compulsion became nuclear on May 20th 1998. However, she faced the wrath of the entire world except China and the Muslim states but survived the sanctions levied by the developed world.

A new wave of intimidation started from our old friends, to either eliminate Pakistan or take away the nuclear capability from her. All sorts of failed states propaganda were launched to discredit Pakistan and warn the world to deal with her at her own risk. These were the reward of services by our friends in lieu of all sacrifices rendered during Russian invasion and Afghanistan crisis. 9/11 theatre was basically an episode relating to Palestine Israel conflict. All involved were the Arabs. The alleged planners were based in America, Belgium, and Germany, at least so were the results of the cases established against some of the people. Some people firmly believe that it was planned and executed by American Jews in aid of Israel. Whosoever did it, I, in the name of humanity appeal to them not to repeat such a heinous crime because the maximum damage of it is ultimately transferred to Pakistan. Osama Bin Laden, the so-called suspect was traced out in Afghanistan as the boss man of Al Qaeda, a key figure fighting as an ally of US against the Soviets.

Taliban government refused to handover Osama as their traditional morals and offered his trial by an international court in Afghanistan. However, Mr. Bush had some other plans of crusade, which is still around the neck of America and most of her Western allies. Pakistan was forced into this war with the options of "either you are with us or against us". Instead of using Pakistan to dissuade the war, US forced her to become party to it. Whether it was intentional to involve Pakistan with a view to reach her nuclear assets was by design, but the terrorist created threats point towards destabilizing Pakistan. At the same time supporting India on Kashmir in the name of cross border terrorism against Pakistan, involving India in Afghanistan's rebuilding and trading facilities, providing India with civil nuclear assistance was a big harassment to our people especially when the same was denied to Pakistan with flimsy reason.

Pakistan is a target of terrorism for the last nine years. This has been primarily because of our involvement in the Afghan war as American ally. The tribal belt has resented our joining the war as American partner. They regard our surrender to Bush as a fake discharge and an act of unnecessary cowardice by Gen. Musharaf. That is why the tribal's have since been fighting with Pakistan army, thereby destabilizing the entire North/North Western area of Pakistan. The country has been so disturbed because of terrorism brought through our forced involvement in American/Afghan war that no international team is ready to play cricket in Pakistan. On top of it daily drone attacks are increasing and generating hatred in the area against our armed forces and causing harassment in running day-to-day government. The result is causing chaos in Pakistan and the world is also crying about the nuclear security and mismanagement.

Putting a nuclear state against the wall is a dangerous trend. America, India, and the world must realize and refrain from such a dirty conspiracy otherwise the world might end up facing a very serious consequences bigger than 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The moment of truth has come for our good friends to realize excesses committed against Pakistan. India to understand how much both of us have lost by not coming to terms on Kashmir and other problems between us. There is a need for everyone to stop harassing Pakistan with flimsy excuses and leaving no choice for the people of Pakistan but to react and turn the entire country into a tribal society. 







US President Barack Hussain Obama has categorically assured New Delhi that Washington will not supply arms to Pakistan against India. This is not the first time that Washington is taking side of India, ignoring the ground realities and India's hegemonic designs and military built-up in Indian Ocean region. It was May 7, 2009 when President Obama told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting at the Oval Office that US do not want to be part of arming Pakistan against India. It is irony that on the other hand US and Israel are arming India to disturb the balance of power in the region. In the scenario, tall claims are once again echoing creating fears and suspicions that may lead to a renewed arm race. 

Although much of the Agni series were failure and Indian Armed forces could only confine to Agni I and Agni II but New Delhi did not miss the opportunity to announce Agni-V intermediate range ballistic missile ready for its first test. If everything goes as routine, the actual test of the 5,000-km range weapon is likely to be conducted only sometime in January-March 2011 but Defence Minister AK Antony probably want to impress Islamabad about its military might. It is an open secret that the Agni V could not even reach to the third stage so it would not be possible that the weapon could be ready by March 2011. Reportedly, serious problems have been observed in the missile's heat-shield assemblies. Indian defence ministry officials claims that although New Delhi's claims that the Agni-III has completed its routine of tests and is now ready for induction into India's nuclear force structure but that stage, in fact, is not anywhere near. 

In the latest development, the Indian Strategic Forces Command (SFC) has submitted a proposal to the Defence Ministry for setting up two dedicated squadrons of fighter aircraft which will act as "mini-Air Force". The new development in Muslim majority Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) on which Pakistan has its claim is not going unnoticed. In other words, SFC would be equipped with aircrafts that are battle proven and have capabilities to deliver nuclear-tipped missiles. These aircrafts aims to strengthen the Indian nuclear delivery system which is presently on land-based ballistic missiles i.e. Agni and Prithvi missiles and nuclear-capable fighters such as the Mirage 2000, Su-30 MKI and Jaguars. It would be interesting to note that under the pressure from US, New Delhi established SFC which is part of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) and is responsible for the management and administration of the country's tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile. On the naval side, India is trying to develop Arihant class nuclear submarine and under-sea launched versions of the existing ballistic missile systems. Despite these developments, Lieutenant General B S Nagal, who is heading SFC is not a very happy person as these developments are only on papers and would need couple of years to be certain about progress in the direction. In a yet another development Israel has provided Indian with Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV) against Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. However, DRDO is launched a new project. P.S. Subramanyan, Project Director of Aeronautical Development Agency has reportedly confirmed about the project, claiming that the reverse engineering is in initial stages. 

How Islamabad will take the new development is not some difficult riddle to guess. Pakistan is already nuclear power and has the capability to strike in case any attack comes from India. However, India's nuclear weapons would not be very effective as Pakistan lack depth and any nuclear attack from India would mean nuclear attack on Pakistan and at least one other country. With the latest call by the Indian defence strategist in which Pakistan has been invited for an all out nuclear arms race is seen with concern by many in New Delhi and Islamabad. Last week a Pakistani analyst claimed that Hindu extremist are gaining strengh in India and if God forbid, these fundamentalist take over the Indian nuclear weapons then the whole region will face the biggest ever threat one can even imagine. Many times a day, I gave a cool thought to the words of the analyst; what the analyst actually meant? All I could conclude is that either the nucluar weapons should be banned or the Hindus. 

Still I am unable to decide what is the ultimate answer to the riddle but one thing is for sure that none of the Pakistanis can never even think of eliminating the whole Hindu fundemantalists, even in the worse case. War with India or Hindus on the question of Jammu and Kashmir state is another thing but to eliminate some one on the grounds of race, religion or creed is criminal. It is Washington and Tel Aviv which are instigating India to behave bigger than its size otherwise what to talk about China, New Delhi even can't dare to carryout prolong war against Pakistan. Pakistan's nuclear deterence has so far forced New Delhi to behave civilized despite western powers efforts to disturb the balance between the two countries. The leaders of India and Pakistan should act mature and should not fall in the trap to make the South Asian region most dangerous spot in the world.








Although some may blame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for dropping the ball soon after their peace negotiations began three weeks ago, the more likely person who will be blamed should the talks collapse totally will be no other than US President Barack Obama on whom many had banked. Obama has been very reluctant to be forceful, much as this could have favourably tipped the balance in favour of a final settlement. On the other hand, his public remarks, including his speech at the opening session of the UN General Assembly earlier this month, were noteworthy for his bluntness over Israeli suspension of colonisation and ethnic cleansing that has been evident again this week in occupied east Jerusalem. Yet, as one columnist said on another subject, "when we really need [Obama] to take a strong stand, he's halfhearted" — a view that is gaining ground among several Middle East observers.

Why Obama avoids a serious confrontation with Netanyahu, who turned down the American president's plea to extend the half-baked moratorium on continued colonial expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories is anyone's guess. His weakened popularity in the country because of the economic slowdown probably compels him to tread softly especially that a mid-term election is less than five weeks away. But the official US record, should he be aware of it, is there for him to capitalise on. Should the negotiations succeed this will yield a much-needed shot in the arm, probably helping in extending his tenure. "The establishment of the [Israeli] civilian settlements [colonies] in those [Palestinian] territories is inconsistent with international law," a 1978 State Department memorandum says, and this is still US official policy. The memo was based on Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an "occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of is own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

And the ultra-rightist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has again added oil to the fire this week in the midst of US "scrambling" to keep the Palestinian-Israeli talks alive when he once again revealed his ugly face. He unabashedly told the UN General Assembly that "a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has to be based on a programme of exchange of territory and populations." In other words, he wants a part of Arabs, who number about one-fifth of Israel's population, to be transferred to the projected Palestinian state, in exchange for Israel keeping large colony blocs in the West Bank. If that is not ethnic cleansing what is? Here again is another shocking revelation from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics that punctures Israeli claims that the self-declared 'moratorium' was underway. At the end of 2009, the number of housing units that were actively being built on all the illegal colonies totalled 2,955. Three months later, at the end of March 2010, the number stood at 2,517.

"We are therefore talking about a drop of a little more than 400 housing units, some 16 per cent of Israeli construction in the West Bank over that period," reported Dror Etkes in Haaretz, the Israeli daily. He added: "It seems that it is possible nevertheless to take comfort from one thing. Benjamin Netanyahu will probably not win the Nobel Peace Prize but he is certainly likely to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, or at least Chemistry, in the name of the Israeli government, which discovered that, contrary to what scientists had thought until now, water is not the only substance that expands instead of contracting when it freezes." Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now has described Lieberman's speech as an "outrage" and was glad that Netanyahu claimed that it was not coordinated with him. If true, may be he would now consider a shakeup in his government and see if he can find more agreeable allies so that he can maintain the moratorium.

Of course, it is possible, as many believe, that Lieberman is actually the true and blunt image of the Israeli government, or else, how can one explain his presence at the UN General Assembly without having cleared his remarks with his prime minister. A serious challenge to the Israeli lobby in Washington, called AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), has lately come from another upstart "liberal" Jewish advocacy organisation called J Street. It has been revealed that the new group is receiving financial support from billionaire George Soros described as one of the world's wealthiest philanthropists to the tune of $750,000.

Soros had once criticised AIPAC for trying to ensure a hawkish, pro-Israel policy in the US government. J Street has reportedly clashed with AIPAC and other Jewish-American groups over US-Israeli policy, according to The Washington Times, "coming out in 2009 against Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza." "That's why," wrote New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, "Obama must now break some bones to get his way: Bibi, read my lips. It makes sense to extend that moratorium by a few months, for Israel and the United States." Words that the Arab League committee must digest when they hear Abbas on whether to continue talks. —Arab News







HE did not age as well as some but Tony Curtis, who has died at 85, was an extraordinarily handsome man at the peak of his career.


The movie stills and studio publicity shots from the 1950s and 60s reveal enormous charisma. Back then, as a regular with first wife Janet Leigh in the colour magazines, the Jewish boy from the Bronx was the classic matinee idol -- what we used to call a movie star. It was, according to those who knew him, all he ever wanted to be. Yet his gorgeous looks and predilection for women, booze and drugs at times overshadowed his talent as a comic and dramatic actor, not to mention his skill as a painter. Born to Hungarian immigrants, Curtis lived the American dream, feted for his Hollywood success. He starred in more than 100 films, with perhaps the best-known the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy, Some Like it Hot. The film is as fresh today and remains synonymous with Curtis and co-stars Marilyn Munroe and Jack Lemmon. Curtis never won an Oscar, although he was nominated for his performance in the 1958 movie The Defiant Ones, in which he insisted Sidney Poitier receive double billing -- a racial breakthrough. Curtis took risks, played against type and looked for roles that would challenge audiences. His looks helped put him on screen but it was his undeniable talent that turned Tony Curtis into a legend.







BRITAIN'S science academy, the Royal Society, has acknowledged the limits of current scientific understanding of climate change, revising its outlook.


A 19-page guide prepared by leading international scientists, including society fellows, is an honest account of where climate change science is clear and where it is less certain, such as the impact of energy emitted by the sun.


The ragged intersection between science and politics is the point at which much of the climate debate has been derailed. Politics demands certainty to make a convincing case for co-ordinated action. Science, on the other hand, is driven by scepticism. Each hypothesis formulated from empirical evidence needs to be challenged and tested to within an inch of its life before its veracity can be assumed. The 43 society members now believe the society's previous position was too strident and implied a greater degree of certainty than was justified.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's reports should have been seen for what they were, political documents. They were designed, quite reasonably, as a basis on which to build a political solution. The mistake was to elevate them to the status of divine prophecy. When the IPCC recommended in 2007 that nations reduce global emissions by 50 to 85 per cent by 2050 to have a reasonable chance of averting warming beyond 2C and "catastrophic" consequences, it was clear to those with a sophisticated view of science that the targets were based on assumptions fed into computer models. As the debate unfolded, those who exaggerated the evidence or presented only worst-case projections did much more to set back the cause of carbon restraint than the commentators they derided as deniers. Scare tactics have not worked, and will not work.


The Royal Society sets out a strong case for pursuing the cautionary, responsible approach long advocated by The Weekend Australian. The society cites strong evidence that increases in greenhouse gases due to human activity are the dominant cause of global warming. It is all the more convincing for its honesty and avoidance of doomsday scenarios pedalled by alarmists, whose proposals would wreak economic devastation. After a long, needlessly polarised debate, the guide is a welcome new start to help restore the credibility of climate science and civility to the discussion.







JULIA Gillard's instincts are correct. She should govern as if she has a margin of 10 or 20 rather than having scrambled her way to power with the help of cross-benchers.


Week one of parliament and Labor's precarious grip on government has been laid bare: managing the numbers and navigating the processes will be exhausting. Yet the Prime Minister has no choice but to hold her nerve and aim high. Caution may be the byword in the House of Representatives, where new rules of engagement mean the government could easily find itself in trouble. But there is no advantage in Labor lowering its policy ambitions. History shows that minority governments that govern as if they had won by a landslide can have great success at the ballot box the next time around. Indeed, the only care Ms Gillard needs to exercise is to make sure she is not blindsided by a so-called progressive agenda that pleases the cross-benchers but does not resonate in Labor's traditional heartland. In Queensland seats such as Longman and Rankin, for example, it is not same-sex marriage that will secure votes but sensible economic policies and the effective delivery of services.


The government's alliance with the Greens speaks to a significant constituency of predominantly salaried, professional, public service voters. For this group, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and an end to the coal industry meld into a political vision built on lifestyle rather than economic growth. Clustered largely, but not exclusively, in the inner cities, these voters are willing to back the Greens, safe in the knowledge their votes find their way back to Labor via preferences. But Labor must ensure that the power these voters have delivered the Greens in the 43rd parliament does not blind it to electoral reality. The truth is that these new "lifestylers" will not deliver majority government to Labor at the next election, no matter how much progressive legislation is passed. The winning numbers at the poll will come from a different group of voters -- the "enterprise class" of self-employed trades people and small-business operators who swing between the two major parties. If Labor is to convince this group, it needs to pursue small-government, low-tax policies to boost productivity and growth.


The Weekend Australian believes there is a substantial economic and social reform agenda that would not meet resistance from a responsible centre-right opposition. There is an emerging consensus on welfare reform, indigenous issues and mental health. In economics, it would be difficult for the Coalition to oppose tax and productivity reforms without being seen as wreckers. This is the foundation on which Labor must build: it cannot rely on climate change to attract the voters it needs to secure power in its own right. A price on carbon will delight the Greens but will be received very differently in Longman.


The Weekend Australian acknowledges the need for a carbon price, with the caveat that Australia should not move ahead of the rest of the world or damage the economy. Implementing a price will be politically delicate for the Prime Minister and we urge her to listen to her own Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, rather than to Greens leader Bob Brown. Mr Combet is a product of the union movement whose campaigning for workers has made him appreciate business and economic growth. The minister's own seat of Charlton, in which many people draw their livelihoods from coal, illustrates the fundamental tensions (not always appreciated by the Left) between a green agenda and that of Labor's industrial, working-class base. The Greens won less than 9 per cent of the vote in Charlton, well below their national average of almost 12 per cent.


Labor sees action on carbon as a way to restore credibility with voters after its backflip on an emissions trading scheme earlier this year. We recognise the need to provide certainty and the pressure on Labor, not just from the Greens but from sections of business. But the Prime Minister must take care to avoid the carbon trap. She must not be blindsided by this issue to the extent of ignoring broader economic and structural reform. A carbon price will not deliver Labor the numbers it needs at the next election: the swinging votes are in seats where jobs and prosperity, not climate change, are top of mind.








There is something about elections that resembles a grand final: the long build-up to the event itself, the live coverage of the count with its minute-by-minute changes and expert commentary from heavyweights past and present, the exultation of the winners and the gloom of the losers. Looked at this way, an election is the only sport that actually matters. On this double-grand-final weekend that statement probably needs a clarification: certainly many individuals may set great store by what happens on a sporting field, but the nation's choice of a government affects the way every one of us lives.


With most elections, though, the resemblance to sport ends when the result is known. Once the three-yearly federal political match is over, one party dominates parliament, and though the contest continues at a lower intensity, it is mostly a walkover. The numbers rule.


The election this year changed that for now, at least. It has extended Australia's political sporting contest long after polling day and the count. The hung parliament makes every vote a genuine contest between government and opposition. This week has shown how. The lower house's choice of a speaker - normally routine - became a matter of major tactical importance, in which the government believed it had an advantage with the agreement negotiated with the independents and the opposition, but then lost it when the agreement was abandoned by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. The contest for the position of deputy speaker became a matter of high drama. Has the position of deputy speaker ever before been a matter of national interest? Would most Australians have even known who the deputy speaker was? But when first Alex Somlyay and then Peter Slipper, both Liberals, defied their party to express interest, an appointment was transformed into an intrigue and a test of loyalty.


This week has also seen the government's loss of a vote in the House of Representatives for the first time in decades; the end of bipartisanship on Australia's involvement in Afghanistan; the government's abandonment of an election promise not to try to put a price on carbon emissions. Those are all big changes. All of them have been prompted to some extent by the new political environment that exists in Parliament.


It remains to be seen whether the government's ultra-pragmatic change of heart on a price for carbon will be unpopular. The politics of the issue are now so complicated that this extra twist may not even register with many people. The opposition's attempt to hold the government to a promise that neither it, nor the electorate, particularly wanted kept is probably doomed. Its withdrawal of bipartisan support for present policy on Afghanistan in favour of increased involvement also seems somewhat quixotic - though many will applaud the extra support for Australian troops which it implies.


The defeat of the government will most likely not be the last. As the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, said: ''What that means is this is finally a real Parliament. This Parliament is finally no longer an echo chamber of the executive.'' The opposition's refusal to grant pairs to ministers who are absent on minor matters will certainly keep the government on its toes. But the opposition, if it is to press the government closely, will have to be on its toes also. What happens in Parliament is suddenly of much greater importance than the day-to-day business of executive government, and keeping the numbers up will be a matter for both sides of grinding daily discipline.


But does it matter? Does the more even contest improve our national politics? In some ways it will. Not only does the Parliament become a more important national forum because it can no longer be taken for granted, but the rules which the independents have insisted on as a price of their support for the government should make it a more balanced and less one-sided place for the expression and examination of different viewpoints about legislation.


In other ways, though, it may not. Parliament has become a high-wire act. Any minor issue can turn into an existential threat to the Gillard government. That gives individual MPs - and not just the independents - considerable power. It is possible to imagine that it will not always be used wisely, and that trivia will acquire an undue importance.


This week has shown that the early post-election optimism that politics in a hung parliament might become kinder and gentler was certainly misplaced. But though it has become more difficult and less predictable, it appears to be manageable, so far at least. It may also now be on balance actually a little better - or at least a little more responsive.







What a relief. Just as the garage and the attic were getting overloaded, astronomers have found a second planet Earth. It's about the same size as Earth I - as we should now call this planet - and like Earth I (except for garages and attics), habitable. And it's close - only about 20 light years away, so getting there with a trailer-load of stuff to put in storage should be straightforward. If we get to Earth II early enough, it may even be worth checking whether any waterfront properties are going cheap. If there is water, of course.


On the other hand if there is water, there may be life-forms. And if they're anything like Earth I life-forms their garages and attics will be bursting at the seams too and they will be looking for a place to put their excess stuff, in which case our arrival may tip them off, and they'll be over here on Earth I in two shakes, hiring all the self-storage units in sight. On second thoughts, let's just take ours to the recycling centre.









The rocky planet freshly identified in orbit around the star Gliese 581 could indeed be a potential home for life, but nobody should contemplate relocation just yet. At speeds possible with rocket technology, a voyage to Gliese 581, in the constellation Libra, would take about 200,000 years. As a home away from a home, it won't work. But the planet now known as Gliese 581 g is a reminder of the extraordinary rewards of astronomy.


Cosmological science begins with the Copernican principle that there is nothing special about the solar system. Four centuries after Copernicus, this principle permitted a chain of observation, experiment and deduction that within half a human lifetime confirmed that the universe began with a big bang 13.7bn years ago. Robotic missions to Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn showed that if life could begin on Earth, then it could surely happen on any planet of a similar fabric and mass, orbiting a similar star in a zone not too hot and not too cold for liquid water. Giant telescopes counted the stars: 100bn or more in this galaxy, one of 100bn galaxies. But the solar system appeared to be alone of its kind. The first extra-solar planet – or exoplanet – was identified in 1995: a kind of hot Jupiter, circling close to the star 51 Pegasi 50 light years away. Since then, astronomers have found 490 exoplanets but "seen" none of them.


A planet is a ball of gas and dust dancing in a star's gravitational embrace. Gravity is a two-way thing and 51 Pegasi b was spotted from flickers of movement in the star that could only be explained by an invisible mass in orbit around it. Since then, researchers have confirmed the existence of exoplanets from rhythmic changes in starlight as an orbiting object moves across the face of the star, but that, too, is hardly a direct sighting. It took 11 years of observation and analysis to demonstrate that at least six planets orbit Gliese 581, and that one of them is a terrestrial-type planet in the so-called Goldilocks zone. Last year a purpose-built planet-spotter began the search for Earth-like planets as they transit across the faces of their parent stars. If there are other habitable planets, could they be inhabited? And if they are not inhabited, then could there be something very special indeed about Earth, and its citizens?


The Gliese 581 team say: "If the local stellar neighbourhood is a representative sample of the galaxy as a whole, our Milky Way could be teeming with potentially habitable planets." The next step is to devise instruments that can take a closer look, perhaps for distant planetary atmospheres that contain oxygen and methane, the telltale signature of life as we know it. Our Earth-like neighbour 20 light years away is not the climax of a search. It is just a beginning.








Some Conservatives will travel to Birmingham uncertain whether their party political glass is half full or half empty


Strange though it must seem to their opponents, some Conservatives will travel to Birmingham for their conference this weekend uncertain whether their party political glass is half full or half empty. Back in government the Tories may be, but having hoped for outright victory for so long, and having accepted as fact the poll predictions of narrow overall electoral victory, some are still angry that David Cameron failed to deliver on 6 May and ended up in coalition with the Liberal Democrats instead. Many of their complaints come down to Mr Cameron himself: that he tacked too far to the centre; that he cuts the rest of his party too much out of the loop; that he has given up too many cherished rightwing projects for the sake of the coalition. In short, that he presides over a government that is not Tory enough, perhaps not even Tory at all.


These kinds of views get a good showing in the newspapers, magazines and websites of the Tory right. But they are not the centre of gravity of the Tory party itself, never mind of the country – and nor, if the Tories have learned anything from their years in opposition, are they in the Tory interest. The Tories are only where they are today because Mr Cameron recognised the need to change the party and move it to the centre. His reward was 2 million more votes for the Tories compared with 2005 and the party's largest increase of seats at any election for 80 years. The Tory failure to do better was not due to Mr Cameron's modernisation and centrism but to his failure to persuade enough voters that they were credible. Throughout the election, the Tories struggled to push their share of the vote above a glass ceiling in the upper 30s – and still do today. The question that faces the Tories in Birmingham, therefore, is whether and how they can consolidate what Mr Cameron has given them, and then do better.


The essential answer is to stand by their man and his pragmatism, and not allow themselves to be tempted to the right. In the medium term, this is wholly bound up with the spending review that George Osborne will announce on 20 October. That package has always been too large, too rapid and too inflexible for economic safety, and thus threatens to hit the coalition parties hard in the ballot box. How hard it will do so is difficult to predict: this week's Guardian/ICM poll showed a large majority trusting the coalition to take the right economic decisions, alongside a narrower majority for the view that the plans go too far rather than get the balance right. Either way, however, it is extremely important for the coalition that the package is now constructed in the least unfair way (though cuts to services on which the poor most depend can never be considered as fair) and that ministers give no encouragement this week to the idea that they are engaged in an ideologically driven, rather than a necessity-driven, exercise. The signs are mixed. The speeches, debates and interviews which ministers give in Birmingham will be measured against this test.


Naturally, most Tory voters would prefer their party to govern alone. Most of the activists would too. That's why they support their particular party. Yet one of the most striking findings of this week's Guardian/ICM opinion poll is that 41% of current Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters alike already believe that the country is best governed by the current coalition rather than by any party governing alone. Two weeks ago in Liverpool, the Lib Dems managed to flex their own ideological muscles occasionally while at the same time showing themselves overwhelmingly committed to the pragmatic give and take of coalition. One of the important wider tests of the coming week is whether the Tory party, historic coalition sceptics, can do the same thing. If the answer is yes, the coalition's prospects are good. If the Tories spend the week complaining about the Lib Dems, never mind Mr Cameron, they will do themselves no favours at all.






When the transport secretary said 'We will end the war on motorists', the obvious question was: what war on motorists?


All right, not an actual war. A national newspaper is not calling for bayonets to be taken to tyres, nor for shotgun-toting mercenaries to patrol NCP car parks. But when the transport secretary, Philip Hammond, declared yesterday that "We will end the war on motorists", the obvious question was: what war on motorists? Presumably Mr Hammond is not referring to Gordon Brown's decision 10 years ago to freeze the fuel duty escalator. That decision was only reversed after six years – and the tiny increases in fuel duty since then mean that, after inflation, the tax remains 11% lower than it was in 1999. Nor did the transport secretary quote his own civil servants' figures, which show that the cost of motoringfell 14% between 1997 and 2009 – even while rail fares went up 13% and bus and coach ticket prices shot up 24%. What those figures suggest is not so much a war on drivers as a battle against users of public transport. And others who go under their own steam: as the Campaign for Better Transport points out, cities like Luton refuse to reshape their inner ring roads, thus making it harder for pedestrians and cyclists to get into the centre. When autophiles complain that rail travel is as much a middle-class pastime as Glyndebourne, they make the right criticism but draw the wrong conclusion: the answer is to make non-car transport cheaper and more readily available than cars. Harder than it sounds? Sure. But a (non-violent) war on motorists, rather than the current system of preference, would be a start.








Question: What can the public deduce from the recent fatal incidents involving large numbers of people in Jakarta and other parts of the country?


Answer: That they are free to carry out violence and violate the laws and regulations as long as they involve mobs, because police are unable or very reluctant to deal with mobs no matter how disturbing this is for the public.


Just look at what happened in front of South Jakarta District Court on Thursday and the days of violence in Tarakan, East Kalimantan. People were free to take up firearms and other weapons to kill each other, while police officers were apparently powerless to prevent such incidents from occurring.


The gang wars in South Jakarta killed three and wounded several others, including three police officers.


There were plenty of police inside the district court, but they could not stop the violence. Anti-riot police came to the locations about an hour after the incident. In Tarakan at least five people were killed.


Regrettably, similar incidents have been seen in many other parts of this country. Other mobs even dared to attack government offices, police officers or police offices.


This has become alarming. We really question police inaction against such violent mobs. Are the police reluctant to deal with mobs or do they have no capacity to deal with them?


Learning from a number of incidents in the past, police and other law enforcers are reluctant do deal with mobs, particularly if they have connections with both ethnic and religious groups. They may fear that crackdowns against the culprits would escalate the violence.


If this indeed is the case, we are really facing a difficult situation, because this means the mobs already rule this country. Such a situation may lead people to think violence doesn't matter as long as you involve mobs. And therefore, to reach their goal, people may just deploy large numbers of people to carry out violence for them.


We must stop this. Police and law enforcers must not give in to any mobs whatever their background or their reasons. Thorough investigations by the police into all mob attacks and severe punishments for the culprits may help stop this lawlessness. We cannot make any compromises with people who carry out violence.


If the police can act professionally against terrorism, surely they are able to deal with mob violence professionally. Since we now have the Detachment 88 counterterrorism squad, perhaps we need a similar force to target mobs.


Much discussion has emerged among experts concerning the reasons for the violence. Some say the social gap between the rich and poor has sparked jealousy in society. Lenience in the punishments of corruptors has also sparked resentment among the public, who have to work to meet their daily needs. 
All these arguments may be true, and it is the responsibility of the government to deal with these issues.


But on top of that we cannot allow this country to be ruled by mobs. We cannot allow people to stand around and watch criminals carrying out crimes before the police's very eyes, without any attempt to intervene.


We demand our police end this violence immediately.








Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim community in the world and has a population of more than 200 million. This number is far larger than what can be found in any country in the Middle East, where Islam was born.


As a Muslim dominanted country, Indonesia is also known by the mainstream view that people from other religions can live peacefully and side by side with their Muslim counterparts. Many observers have confirmed this idea by concluding that Indonesia is a very tolerant country.


However, in the last 10 years, and especially since the reformation era, the assumption that Indonesia is a country full of tolerant Muslims seems misleading with the re-emergence of radical Islam.


Countless acts of violence have helped justify the view that Indonesia is a bastion of extremism.


The series of bomb attacks that have occurred almost every year from 2000 to 2005 hammered home that Indonesia has changed.


The worst of these attacks took place in Bali on Oct. 12, 2002 , killing more than 200, most of whom were Australian tourists.


After the second Bali bombing in 2005, it looked as though Indonesia had settled the issue of Islamic extremism.


However, the last J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombings in July 2009 and recent terrorist activity have proved that terrorism in the name of Islam is a major problem within Indonesian Islam that must be solved.



Faced with the problem, many stakeholders have tried to find the best way to eradicate or deradicalize this



Nevertheless, the solution employed by the government has been mostly centralized in the militaristic approach. We can see this through the raids by the Indonesian Police's antiterror unit, Special Detachment 88, which are often broadcast on our televisions.


In general, this approach has not been very successful in eliminating radicalism in Indonesia as there are always new groups emerging to take their place.


It is like shaving our own beard; it grows again after we shave it.


The militaristic approach has not been effective in reducing radicalism. What has happened is the 


Beside the militaristic approach, there is another method which would be, in my opinion, more effective and essential in eradicating radicalism in Indonesia.


The method is through cooperation with Islamic institutions such as traditional Islamic boarding schools, known as pesantren in Indonesia. As we know, Indonesia has plenty of pesantren, most of which are affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Islamic organization.


Furthermore, traditional pesantren are well known for their moderate thinking such as their work in interfaith dialogue and pro-democratization, among others.


We can see this for instance in the work of P3M (Center for Pesantren and Community Development), which has for years had a program creating discussion among traditional religious leaders upon several contemporary discourse such as on the issue of the compatibility of Islam and democracy, pluralism and interfaith dialogue.


This fact is supported by Robin Bush, who said that pesantren are "in favor of civil society, democratic institutions and pluralism that were deeply rooted in Islamic teachings and perspectives" (Mun'im Sirry: 2010).


By incorporating the many pesantren we can have another voice to counter that of the terrorists. This idea needs support not only from the government but from the mass media.


As we know that the supporters of radical Islam have the resources and knowhow to publish their ideas through media and especially the Internet.


Employing their secular background such as engineering or multimedia, they can easily access a wide audience by creating new websites and blogs to spread their teachings.


This is contrary to the voice of the pesantren. With their basic training in religious studies, what they do is to teach what is right and wrong according to the Koran and hadith. Disseminating these teachings via modern media such as the Internet is a different matter.


To support this idea, there must be a comprehensive effort to help the students of traditional pesantren to publish their ideas through the mass media.


The effort can be either to train them to write religious discourse in local newspapers or to give them adequate skills in developing websites or blogs.


We can imagine if this attempt is successful there will be many resources, such as websites created by students of mainstream Islam, promoting peace and pluralism instead of violence.


This action is needed in order to give adequate information to the youngsters that Islam does not support violence or terrorism.


By giving them an abundant source of mainstream Islamic teachings, they will not be able to find other sources to support radicalism.

The writer is a lecturer at the State Institute for Islamic Studies (IAIN) Surabaya.








Agrarian reform is perceived as a policy option for solving a variety of pressing socio-economic problems, especially in rural areas. The idea is has long been popular in most countries, including Indonesia, and is still relevant today.  

Agrarian reform is stipulated in our Basic Agrarian Law No. 5/1960, which was created to redress land ownership imbalances in the post-colonial era. It obligates the state to regulate land and guide its utilization. The idea is to use sovereign land for maximizing prosperity for the people, both individually and collectively.


However, history tells us that agrarian reform has never been fully implemented. For a country with 101 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture, the fact that the average land ownership for farmers is only 0.4 hectares seems unacceptable.


As an agrarian-based economy, it is crucial for Indonesia to ensure land rights for approximately 50 million people (44.3 percent of the total labor force) who work in agriculture-related industries.


Furthermore, of 32.53 million poor people in Indonesia, 20.62 million still live in rural areas. One of the reasons rural people are still poor is because they lack land rights.


A recent study by the United Nations Human Rights Council questioned the relationship between land, agrarian reform and access to an adequate food supply.


The document reiterated the declaration of the 2006 International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, where 95 countries recognized that one important way to ensure the right to food was land reform focused on providing land access to marginalized groups.


History shows that redistributing land to landless and poor rural families can be a very effective way of improving rural welfare (Ziegler, 2002). Land reforms in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and Cuba have had a significant impact on reducing poverty and hunger and increasing economic growth.


The Landless Workers' Movement of Brazil (MST) proved that agrarian reform was also an effective means of creating new jobs. The cost of creating a job in the Brazilian commercial sector is between 2 and 20 times more costly than creating a job on farmland through effective agrarian reform.


In Indonesia, approximately 15.6 million households are smallholder farmers or landless rural families.


Another 8.59 million people are unemployed. The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) said 200,000 workers moved out of agriculture-related jobs last year. This means that although agriculture has the potential to create jobs, it is difficult to stay in the business. Of course, one of the primary difficulties involves land rights.


Agrarian reform is the most debated policy related to issues of food productivity. Indonesia is a net importer of soybeans, sugar, meat and milk. Land ownership inequalities have made it easier for big land owners to produce agricultural crops using the estate or plantation model. Monoculture cash crops (such as palm oil and rubber) are thriving, but at the expense of food production.


Production of food is not the only goal of farming. Nonetheless, there still are millions of people to feed in a country where production of staple foods (especially rice) is in decline relative to a growing population. There needs to be better incentives to make food production a more attractive employment option.


Redistributing land for food production and providing effective incentives focused on capacity building, market access and fair pricing to guarantee our national food security.


In response to the expectations of millions of landless and smallholder farmers in Indonesia, in 2007 President

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono asserted that the government intended to pursue agrarian reforms by providing the public with greater access to agricultural land.


Implementation, however, is still very technical, and some measures are not moving forward in accordance with the World Bank version of land tenure, including (but not limited to) titling, cadastres and land registries, which do not sufficiently address problems associated with food security, land rights, human rights and justice.


Vulnerable smallholder and landless farmers — and even consumers — in Indonesia need to prepare for a wave of change. Agrarian reform focused on stabilizing food production would be a good start. The government could initiate a comprehensive national reform program for food incorporating aspects of land ownership and market access. A participatory process involving civil society will be crucial to ensuring that the right people get the benefits they are entitled to. The National Land Agency (BPN) will play a significant role in surveying and registering the 7.3 million hectares of unclaimed land throughout Indonesia.


Furthermore, the government has to ensure essential services, such as farming credit on reasonable terms, infrastructure, market access and supportive environmental policies. As a national initiative, the program will also require a strong commitment to capitalizing on synergies that exist among government departments and agencies and their non-government counterparts.  



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