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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

EDITORIAL 06.10.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month october 06, edition 000644, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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














  2. DR GOD





























































It is understandable that the Union Government should be eager to put an end to the simmering strife in the Kashmir Valley without any further delay. But it is doubtful whether the process can be hastened in any manner by the appointment of a politician as Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, a move that is being talked about in certain quarters. Those who are toying with the idea would do well to desist from moving in that direction because a 'political' Governor in the State could further accentuate current problems and make a bad situation worse. It is clear to all that the situation that prevails in the Kashmir Valley need not have come to such a pass had the National Conference Government played a more pro-active role and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had been more accessible to the people instead of remaining aloof. Having said that, it must be remembered that Jammu & Kashmir has an elected Government; if it has failed and faltered, then it must be held accountable and goaded into correcting its mistakes. The solution does not lie in upstaging the State Government by appointing a 'Super Chief Minister' by way of a politician as the Governor, whose natural inclination would be to meddle in administrative affairs and influence policy decisions. Since the Governor represents the Union Government, the appointment of a politician to this post will be seen as New Delhi trying to govern the State through its proxy. Not only will this breed resentment but also alienate mainstream politicians of Jammu & Kashmir who, we can be sure, will be hugely upset by such an arrangement. The experience of appointing active politicians, or politicians who desire to remain active even after being put out to pasture by their party bosses through the expedient means of appointing them as Governors, has been none too happy. A case in point is the running spat between the Government and Governor of Karnataka on account of the latter trying to usurp the rights of the former largely with the purpose of proving to the Congress's high command that he still remains useful for and loyal to the party, though he may have been dropped from the Union Cabinet and shunted off to a State capital. If what is being witnessed in Bangalore is bad, the consequences of putting a politician in the Raj Bhavan in Srinagar will be disastrous. 

There is a reason why accomplished administrators and Army Generals have been sent as Governors to Jammu & Kashmir as well as troubled States in the North-East. This is primarily because they are by and large apolitical and take an unbiased view of issues while remaining in the background and without interfering in the day-to-day affairs of governance. Also, it makes eminent strategic sense to appoint such individuals as Governors in these States. Mr NK Vohra as Governor of Jammu & Kashmir has maintained a low profile, but that does not mean he has not been doing his job. Nor does that make him culpable, in any manner, for the gradual collapse of the authority of the elected Government.








The shocking rape and murder of Maya Yadav, a police constable, by her colleagues at Kota in Rajasthan has once again raised questions about the integrity of our law-enforcers in the States. This is not the first time that the police have turned into predators, but what makes this incident particularly heinous is that the victim was one of their own. Police constable Desh Raj and cook Tulsi Ram entered the quarters of Maya Yadav on the pretext of watching television, raped her and then killed her to prevent her from lodging a complaint against them — all within the premises of Chechat Police Station. As if this were not bad enough, the Rajasthan Police, rather than act against the villains, tried to sweep the sordid truth under the carpet, hoping the stain on its uniform would remain a secret. The police acted against the guilty only after Chechat erupted and people attacked the police station. A similar incident surfaced recently in Jaipur when a tribal woman from Dausa district reported that a top cop had raped her 13 years ago and she had been denied justice since then. Under mounting pressure, the Rajasthan Government has finally asked the Special Operations Group of the State police to locate and arrest the absconding former DIG and find out how he escaped the law. Neither this official nor the men who raped Maya Yadav are alone in committing criminal misdeeds: A former DGP of Haryana, SPS Rathore, has been held guilty of molesting a minor girl and subsequently harassing her and her family till she committed suicide. Last month, people took to the streets in Bihar's Muzaffarpur and clashed with the police after a constable raped a 12-year-old girl. What makes this story particularly poignant is that the victim of the constable's lust had lost her way and innocently sought his help. 

It would be easy to wave away such ghastly instances of policemen committing crimes which they are supposed to be fighting as aberrations. But that would be self-defeating. The steep increase in the number of custodial deaths, rapes and other horrendous atrocities shows that the rot continues to get deeper with each passing day, week and year. A law-abiding society is supposed to respect those entrusted with the noble task of enforcing the law of the land, but the reality in India is to the contrary: People either fear policemen in uniform or have nothing but contempt for them. This is hardly conducive to either the functioning of the police force or maintaining law and order. Those guilt of bringing disrepute to the profession should be given exemplary punishment. But that would be only half the job done. What is needed is the implementation of police reforms and the demonstration of political will by the State Governments. Tragically, while there has been little or no movement forward on implementing reforms, the political class has abjectly failed to address the problem, too. This is best exemplified by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's callous comments following Maya Yadav's rape and murder. 






If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy floating by -- Japanese proverb

We made a mess of the CWG preparations but finally got if off to a start. Can we now solve the Ayodhya dispute forever too?

Image management professionals rely on, and mediapersons know, the axiomatic truth that every headline, however elating or distressing, is the successor of yet another headline. There is a river-like quality about the flow of news, and patience, for that matter, that allows the aggrieved, anguished or outraged to hope for justice. Also, "with a little bit of luck", going by the roguish expectations of Eliza Doolittle's father in My Fair Lady, today's imperative can well become tomorrow's irrelevancy. 

So, hang in there, you who may be squirming uncomfortably. Minimise the damage as best as you can, and be sure you will slip off the front page and television screen into that dark and comforting oblivion you long for, probably much sooner than you think. All things do pass, including glory and ignominy, to be replaced by further glory and ignominy, but not necessarily your own. This may be banal as an observation, but that doesn't seem to affect its home-truth quotient.

Besides, there is that other matter of coincidental juxtaposition — of inevitable good news and bad following each other, that also manages to cast its own moderating/eclipsing influence. 

Thus, for example, we had monumental corruption, incompetence and unhygienic squalor on display in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, memorably bracketed within a Organising Committee meditation in excellent 'East is East' fashion, under the full gaze of international media, on "our standards and their standards of hygiene", with more than a grain or two of truth in it. But, after making suitable amends on a war-footing with a clean-up act, getting rid of dirt, snakes, dogs and pestilential mosquitoes, and deploying langurs to deter Rhesus monkeys from visiting the venues, we find such typically colourful and exotic issues segueing seamlessly into the glamour and hoopla of the all-is-forgiven high-tech opening ceremony. 

And juxtaposed with the natural pride we all felt in witnessing this glitzy extravaganza, complete with Prince, President, players, pomp and pageant, and on to the actual competition and the glint of medals, is the other insistent news of the Sensex striking out towards an all-time high, even as the Gross Domestic Product growth rate competes ironically with the food inflation figures. 

And then, if that wasn't enough to grant the Government — its politicians, functionaries and bureaucracy — a reprieve from their bad publicity, you have a most sagacious three-judge bench verdict from the Allahabad High Court on the highly symbolic Ayodhya imbroglio. A verdict, long decades in its coming, representative of no less than the vitality and resilience of our social fabric as a country. And this verdict has been received, not with discontent and public protest, but in a spirit of statesmanship and communal harmony nationwide. There is profundity and pride in this outcome, given the fractious history of this matter, not easily matchable, now or in the future, by any other nation on earth, no matter how apparently integrated and homogenous. 

Surely then, any future nasty shocks notwithstanding, two rights or is it two-and-a-half depending on one's perspective, of varying import and relative stature, eclipse the remaining half. A half that is undeniably rotten, as it may continue to seem to those, both here and abroad, who prefer to make freer with criticism than praise. But of course this assessment too depends on the scales one uses to measure the abstractions underlying such weighty news flow. 

And willy-nilly, the people of India are thrust into a new position of maturity. We make a mess of the Commonwealth Games preparations and yet redeem our pride, yes,Monsoon Wedding fashion, as hazarded by our Sports Minister MS Gill. 


Our standards, of much more than hygiene and maintenance, on the other hand, are, without a doubt, quite deplorable. And it may be years, mysterious as the causes may seem, before we are able to get a fix on this sub-standard mindset. Meanwhile, we will have to endure international slurs and ridicule, and pay for our sloppiness and unreliability in lost business, cost overruns, missed deadlines, faulty execution, diminished diplomatic stature and credibility. 

So, easy as it may be to blame Organising Committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot for his embarrassing remarks on relativity and filth, he has not, some of us may recognise, said anything untrue. Our cavalier attitude to cleanliness can be demonstrated on any city street or village across our beloved country. We may know what clean is but that does not inspire us to make and keep clean, particularly in any civic sense.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Institutional Investors have pumped in close to $ 6 billion in the month of September alone, with a strong likelihood of much more to come in a belated acknowledgement that India is one of the few places they stand to make money in the next couple of years. This even as our absolute numbers of people below the poverty line keeps growing in relentless fashion.

And if we do finally resolve the Ayodhya issue with the building of a longed for grand temple to Sri Ram at his exact birthplace as well as a mosque on the banks of the Saryu river, we would, as a nation, have definitely achieved a proud milestone in the history of independent India.

If the import of the somewhat inscrutable Japanese proverb to do with revenge and rivers and floating corpses was meant to be about our communally conflicted recent past, it will have turned instead to a last laugh on our ill-wishers and detractors with less than absolute faith in our native cohesiveness and good sense. 

Besides, we have other ways and means. There is a very old, very wise, Indian concept of upaya, celebrated, at amongst other places, in the brilliant and visionary treatise Lal Kitab which has Persian origins and was originally written in Urdu. Without going into the esoterics of its efficacy, it is clear that the central suggestion is that of remedy and relief affordable to apparently intractable issues of karma and destiny. In short, there is no problem that cannot be alleviated or even solved with some flowing water, the gathering of certain offerings to be made and the performance of some prescribed rituals over the whole enterprise. It is, in the end, a most reassuring worldview.







Justice Sudhir Agarwal's judgement, running into 5,200 pages, makes two important points: A temple existed at the disputed site in Ayodhya and it was destroyed to build the Babri mosque. This puts to rest the assertion by 'secular' historians that temples were never destroyed by invaders from the west to subjugate the people of this land

The best part of the Ayodhya verdict is the judgement of Justice Sudhir Agarwal. Though a huge affair running to over 5,200 pages, his is one of the most organised and best-written judgements. One has to look at only the index he has provided in Volume 21 of the judgement to get to what one wants — whether it is to know what the decision was on any of the issues, or to search for any documentary evidence or oral testimony used or any case law considered. Any reasonably skilled reader of legal document may use the index as the key to unravel the judgement in a couple of days, which might otherwise take a fortnight. 

It must have taken Justice Agarwal long periods of stress and labour to produce such wonderful judicial document. And more, to maintain confidentiality, he must have done lot of the work himself. Also for writing the main judgement, he has analysed minutely all the evidence, documentary, oral and technical, himself; so that the other judgements just supplement his where there is agreement. But for his huge effort, it would be extremely difficult to unravel the Ayodhya verdict. If Justice SU Khan could write his "very short" judgement it is thanks to Justice Agarwal writing a very long one.

The Ayodhya verdict is not just a legal affair. It discusses, frankly but with sensitivity, the Hindu-Muslim interface based on historical facts. It also touches upon history, archaeology, sociology, religion and related disciplines. A reading of the verdict will reveal its reach and depth. So, the nation must be grateful to the judges, particularly Justice Agarwal, for their stupendous work. The criticality of Justice Agarwal's judgement, in the overall Ayodhya verdict, is manifest in that, virtually that what he has said has turned out to be the final verdict. It is because, with Justice Dharam Veer Sharma and Justice Khan taking almost divergent positions, to the extent Justice Agarwal agreed with either of them on any issue, his views became the final view on that issue. Just see the effect of his view on the most sensitive issue in the Ayodhya case, namely: Was a pre-existing Hindu temple destroyed to make way for the mosque?

Even though he agrees that a massive broken Hindu structure was found under the mosque, Justice Khan does not agree that any Hindu structure was demolished to build the disputed mosque. But Justice Sharma is firm that a Hindu temple was indeed demolished to build the mosque. Justice Agarwal analyses the evidence over some 900 pages and after holding that a Hindu temple predated the mosque at the spot, he says, on evidence, that "it can safely be said that the erstwhile structure was a Hindu temple and it was demolished, whereafter the disputed structure was raised". This makes it the court's view. But, having held that a Hindu temple existed before the mosque was constructed, Justice Agarwal was not keen to pursue the demolition issue. But he does. Why? Read on. 

He was compelled to do so by the lies of the experts relied on by the Muslim parties. Prefacing that, for the purposes of the case, it was "sufficient" to stop at finding "that the mosque had been raised" on a pre-existing "massive temple", Justice Agarwal writes, "It would not have been necessary to tell positively that there existed a massive temple structure, which was demolished and thereafter the disputed structure was raised." He then explains why then did he do that thus: The statement of so many experts appearing on behalf of the plaintiffs (Sunni Waqf Board) asserting that "temples in past were never demolished by the then Muslim Rulers or invaders from Persia etc, is so blatant a lie" that he was "reluctant to ignore it without referring to some well known historical" accounts of the demolition of Hindu temples, some "written by Muslim writers themselves". After that only, considering the massive evidence about destruction of temples, including at Ayodhya, Justice Agarwal concluded that a Hindu temple was indeed destroyed to build the mosque. Yet the visual media had kept on insisting throughout September 30 that the court had indeed held that "no temple was destroyed to build the mosque". 

The critical evidence that became one of the most contentious issues between the Hindu parties and the Muslims parties in the court was the Archaeological Survey of India Report which established that a massive structure "indicative of the remains which are distinctive features" of "the temples of north India" exsited under the mosque. The first point to note was that the ASI was brought by the High Court on its own in 2002, not by any party or the Government. The ASI did the GPRS survey and excavation under the High Court's orders and under supervision by two judicial officers appointed by the court, in the presence of the counsel for the parties. 

But the most disgusting part of this critical exercise, the importance of which to the case is brilliantly captured by Justice Agarwal, was the way the Muslim parties attacked the ASI work in the court, including on the ground that the BJP was ruling then, and that the ASI team did not include sufficient number of Muslims in the excavation work. This led to the court chiding them for suffixing experts with "Muslim", "Hindu" or "Christian". But now, after the verdict, the secularists are attacking the High Court for relying on the ASI's report almost in the same language in which the Muslim parties had attacked the ASI prior to the verdict! 






The recent China-Japan territorial dispute has made it imperative for India, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines to find the soft spots of China. Its overt interest in South China Sea and cosying up with Pakistan may jeopardise regional security

The war of nerves and words between China and Japan over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands (the Chinese call it the Diayou Islands) in the East China Sea continues, although the Japanese have released the Captain of a Chinese fishing trawler whom they had arrested on September 8, 2010, for criminal trespass into the Japanese territorial waters around the Japanese-administered islands. 

However, the Chinese are yet to release one of the four Japanese employees of a construction company whom they had arrested apparently in retaliation to the Japanese arrest of the fishing trawler's Captain. The abrupt Japanese release of the Captain after having initially shown its intention to prosecute him followed the Chinese arrest of the four Japanese employees. 

Rightly or wrongly, this has given rise to a perception in Japan that its Prime Minister Naoto Kan has let himself be bullied by China. The whole incident as it has been handled by the Naoto Kan Government has been seen by sections of the media and public in Japan as a humiliation of Japan by China. As if this perceived humiliation is not enough, Bejing is insisting that before the relations between the two countries could be normalised, Japan should apologise for the "illegal" arrest of the Captain and for his "wrongful" detention. If Mr Kan concedes this demand, it would amount to his admitting indirectly that the group of islands is Chinese and not Japanese territory.

There is disappointment in Japan over the failure of the Barack Obama Administration to come out strongly in support of Japan in this war of nerves with China. The US recognises the Senkaku as Japanese-administered since 1972, but has not recognised Japanese claims of sovereignty over the islands. At the same time, there is no denial of the interpretation that the protective provisions of the US-Japan security treaty cover the Senkaku islands too.

The Japanese were hoping that the US would come out as strongly against Chinese machinations in respect to the East China Sea islands as Ms Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, did in respect to the South China Sea islands during her intervention at a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi earlier this year. Surprisingly and inexplicably, the US has contented itself with statements merely calling for a peaceful resolution of the Sino-Japanese differences. 

Attention has not been drawn by analysts to the blatant double standards in Chinese diplomacy as seen from its policy towards India on the Kashmir issue and its policy towards Japan on the Senkaku issue. The Chinese have been saying that the recent changes in favour of Pakistan in their stance on Kashmir is an individual issue which should not be allowed to have an impact on the over-all relations between India and China. But, they have refused to treat the arrest of the Chinese Captain by the Japanese as an individual issue which should not affect the over-all Sino-Japanese relations.

They have made the entire Sino-Japanese relations a hostage to this single issue. They have allegedly stopped the export of rare earth elements to Japan on which the Japanese high-tech industries are dependent. They have suspended high-level contacts between the two countries. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao declined to meet the Japanese Prime Minister when the two were in New York last week for the UN General Assembly session. Beijing has discouraged its tourists from visiting Japan. It has cancelled the visit of Japanese delegations to the Shanghai Expo.

The only factors that have acted as a check on the Chinese bullying of Japan are Beijing's uncertainty over the implications of the US-Japan security treaty in so far as the Senkaku group is concerned and fears that if Beijing continued to over-react it might provide fresh oxygen to Japanese militarists.

In a statement before the Japanese Parliament on October 1, Prime Minister Kan said, "The rise of China has been remarkable in recent years, but we are concerned about its strengthening defence capabilities without transparency and accelerating maritime activities spanning from the Indian Ocean to the East China Sea. The Senkaku islands are an integral part of our country, historically and under international law. Good relations with China — Japan's largest trading partner — are vital to both countries, but China must act as a responsible member of the international community. Japan needed to adopt more active foreign and defence policies to deal with uncertainty and instability that exist in areas surrounding our country." 

His statement followed remarks by China's Foreign Ministry spokesman the previous day urging Japan to "stop making irresponsible remarks and safeguard the larger interests of bilateral relations with concrete actions". The spokesman, Jiang Yu, said, "We are willing to resolve our disputes through friendly negotiations but the Chinese Government's and people's will and resolve are unswerving on issues involving China's territorial integrity and sovereignty."

The regional "uncertainty and instability" consequent upon China's over-assertiveness in matters relating to territorial disputes should be of concern not only to Japan, but also to India, Vietnam and the Philippines. India's concerns over its long-pending border dispute with China and over the stepped-up Chinese support to Pakistan in the nuclear field and in the construction of road and rail infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan are legitimate. So are the concerns of Vietnam and the Philippines regarding the Chinese intentions and capabilities in the South China Sea.

The perceptions and concerns of India, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines relating to China should bring them together to discuss among themselves as to how to counter the over-assertiveness of China without creating a confrontational situation and without damaging the positive dimensions of their respective bilateral relations with China. Their discussions among themselves should cover the strong as well as the weak points of China — the strong points against which they should protect themselves and the weak points which they could exploit.

An editorial carried by the Chinese Communist Party controlled "Global Times" on September 21 under the title "Finding the Achilles' Heel of Japan" (annexed below) said: "Provoking China comes with a heavy price tag. Finding Japan's soft spot will help end its hostile policies against China during its rise." 

There is a need for India, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines to find the soft spots of China. Pakistan could turn out to be one such soft spot. India knows Gilgit-Baltistan and the Chinese-controlled Xinjiang better than the Chinese. North Korea, where a new leadership is emerging, could be another. The Japanese know North Korea as well as the Chinese do. India, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines should make overtures to the new, emerging leadership in North Korea and help it to free North Korea of its linkages with China and develop its prosperity. This is the time for India to seriously consider establishing contacts with the new North Korean leadership and invite Kim Jong-Un, the heir-apparent to Kim Jong-il, to India.

New Delhi's 'Look East policy' as it has evolved till now has over-focussed on our relations with the ASEAN. The relations with the ASEAN countries continue to be important. However, it is time to give an East Asia dimension too to our 'Look East policy'. 


The writer, a former senior officer of R&AW, is a strategic affairs commentator.







The Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger, tops the list of animals on the verge of extinction, even though hunting this sub-species was outlawed in Russia back in 1947. Today there are only 500 Amur tigers left in the Khabarovsk and Primorye territories of Russia's far-east. 

In the last 100 years, the global tiger population has decreased from about 1,00,000 to 3,000 or 4,000 tigers. Three sub-species — the Persian (Turanian) tiger, the Bali tiger and the Javan tiger — have become extinct. 

The number of tigers living in Russia has stabilised and the decline has slowed down in the last few years. "There should be about 600 tigers in Russia, which is as many as could live comfortably in their taiga habitat," said Mr Vladimir Krever, WWF Russia biodiversity coordinator. 

The Amur tigers are the most tolerant of human beings in the species. Unlike the bigger Bengal tiger, or the smaller but more aggressive Sumatran tiger, the Russian tigers are more peaceful and attack humans only in self-defence. The Amur tiger measures up to 220 cm from head to tail and weighs about 200 kg. It is second only to the Bengal tiger in size, but is much hardier and can comfortably bear even the harsh Russian climate. 

Between 50 and 80 tigers were shot annually in the far-east in the 1990s. Chinese pharmaceutical companies paid Russian poachers between $6,000 and $15,000 for the body of a large male tiger. In China, various parts of the tiger are believed to have strong medicinal properties. The border with China was completely porous back then, and customs officers had no experience stopping tiger derivatives smugglers, as this never happened during the Soviet era. 

Logging is another threat endangering the Amur tiger. Its main feeding grounds are the cedar, oak and ash groves where their prey, wild boars, comes to feed. When cedars and oaks are felled, the boars leave, and the tigers go hungry. Hunting tigers is also much easier in sparsely wooded forest areas. 

Everything is interdependent in nature. A decline in the number of tigers, who hunt old and diseased deer and boar, causes the number of hoofed animals to plummet due to epidemics. In addition, the tiger is replaced by the wolf, whose behavior is much more aggressive. A tiger kills only as many deer as it can eat, while wolves kill indiscriminately. 

The Global Tiger Summit, to be held in November in St Petersburg, will address the strategy for tiger conservation. It will be attended by the heads of Government of 13 countries where tigers are found. 

"We expect the participating countries to adopt a joint declaration of the common goal: To double the number of wild tigers across their range by 2022," Mr Krever said. 

A Global Recovery Action Plan, which is being developed for the forum, should take into account both national tiger recovery programmes and global elements, such as the illegal trade, storage and transportation of tiger pelts, international tiger protection programmes, and efforts to promote awareness of the value of wild tigers to their respective ecosystems. 

The first species strategy was approved in Russia in 1996 and was implemented the following year under the federal targeted programme for the preservation of the Amur tiger. A network of state preserves, national parks and refuges was set up in the tiger's natural habitat and surrounded by buffer zones and protective forests. 

But this is no longer enough to protect these tigers. The new Russian tiger recovery programme involves a major extension of the protected territories. Ecologists hope the Governments will approve the creation of a Russian-Chinese cross-border refuge on the Strelnikov Range in the Primorye Territory and the adjacent protected territory in China's Jilin Province. The refuge should include the Russian national park, Land of the Leopard, which consists of the Cedar Gully Preserve and the Leopard Reserve. 

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who visited the Ussuri Preserve two years ago, promoted the idea of developing a new strategy. During his visit to the tiger preserve, he took part in the medical examination of a female tiger and then fitted her with a GPS tracking collar. 

At a minimum, scientists would like to put GPS tracking collars on all tigers in the Ussuri and the Lazo preserves, two model conservation zones in the south of the Primorye Territory. Radio collars are no longer effective, as they can actually help poachers find the tigers. 

Currently, there are just a few camera traps set up to identify tigers, but these devices are, without a doubt, the future of the tiger recovery effort. They are so effective because each tiger can be identified by its unique coat pattern. Photographs of the tigers are stored on a special flash card, which scientists use to compile data on each tiger living in the area. 

Tigers do not trust humans in Russia and never let them approach too close. After centuries of merciless tiger hunting, fear of humans has become almost inbred, and no protection or conservation programmes can quickly undo this damage. But they can save many animals nonetheless.








THE INDIAN Air Force chief PV Naik's assertion that the air force needs additional aircraft to meet the needs of the Strategic Forces Command which is tasked with delivering India's nuclear weapons is somewhat hyperbolic.


It is well known that the Indian Air Force is short of aircraft because the Light Combat Aircraft project has been delayed a great deal.


But that should not mean that we have no aircraft for nuclear delivery. The Sukhoi 30 MKI and the Mirage 2000 multi- role fighters may not have been originally designed for nuclear weapons delivery, but they can perform the role if required. It would be surprising if the government has not ordered the configuring some of these aircraft for the purpose.


The SFC is not technically under the IAF, it is responsible to the Nuclear Command Authority, headed by the Prime Minister. Perhaps for that reason Air Chief Marshal Naik has decided to play some verbal hard- ball to sensitise the government to the urgent needs of the Air Force.


But the comment does remind us that as compared to our two nuclear armed neighbours, our nuclear weapons programme is woefully laggard. We have yet to get a decent long- range missile in place and as for the weapons themselves, there is a great deal of controversy over the success of the Pokhran tests, especially those relating to thermonuclear weapons. The government needs some credible action on this front, else our deterrent will be seen as a paper tiger. The rough neck of woods we live in has gotten much rougher, compared to the time the tests were actually carried out.







FROM his Rath yatra which unleashed mob frenzy across the country, to his controversial statements in Karachi praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani has often resorted to double- speak to gain political dividends.


His statement that the judgment of the Allahabad High Court on the Ayodhya dispute vindicates his Rath Yatra is both fallacious and dangerous. Nowhere in the entire judgment do any of the judges state anything in support of the Yatra, or even the politicisation of the Ram Janmabhoomi issue.


Mr Advani's stand is characteristic of the Sangh Parivar's selective respect for the law.


Time and again, the Parivar, including BJP leaders like Mr Advani have maintained that Lord Ram is above any court and the mandir will be built irrespective of the verdict.


Mr Advani's sudden respect for the judiciary and the statement that he has always favoured " legislation, judicial verdict and amicable settlement" as means for resolving the dispute is simply not true as he has been indicted by the Liberhan Commission for instigating the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the communal strife that followed.


It is unfortunate that the senior- most leader of India's main opposition party continues to cynically use religion for political benefits instead of focusing on the numerous problems that confront the country.







THE Nobel prize to British physiologist Robert Edwards for his path breaking discovery of in vitro fertilisation ( IVF) in humans reminds us just how profound a development this has been. It has touched the lives of millions since the birth of the first test tube baby in 1978.


This year's prize has additional significance in India, not merely because IVF technique is widely used in the country, but because an Indian doctor had independently developed IVF technique around the same time. Dr Subhas Mukherjee of Kolkata announced the birth of the world's second IVF baby, Durga, in October 1978 — barely ten weeks after Edwards.


But instead of recognising this achievement, fellow doctors accused him of fraud and the government instituted an enquiry against him — driving him to commit suicide in 1981. Edwards too faced resistance from dogmatic elements in the Church. The Indian medical establishment recognised Mukhrejee's contribution only two decades' after his death. The Nobel is a sad reminder that we must learn to encourage new scientific thinking and nurture new ideas.








IF YOUR maid does not come in for work, the dirt hits the floor, and stays there. If your driver, or cook, is deported along with the maid, then you are homebound; but a home without a kitchen is just a house.


The domestic- employing elite are understandably outraged. They feel it is unjust to target the poor and throw them out of Delhi just for the Games.


But it is more selfishness than sympathy that prompts this defense of the urban under- class.

It is not as if the Delhi beautification drive is a Commonwealth Games creation.


It has been around for a long time and always with the encouragement of the city's elite. They fully endorsed the many brutal slum evictions in the name of civic hygiene and pure optic pleasure. Consequently, the slum re- settlement sites, where many of their maids and cooks lived, were miles away from the city. So what if their domestic help had to spend half their living wage, and a good part of the day, in just getting to work! Delhi had to be prettified, and that was the big ticket item.


But now that sections of the slum population are actually being deported and sent to their " native" villages, our domestic life and tranquility are threatened. This alone explains the sudden surge of support for Delhi's poor.




Till the 1960s the idea was to find alternate houses for slum dwellers in the capital itself so that Delhi's residential areas would have a class mix. But after 1990 this pretence was dropped without a backward look. The earlier provision for in situ up- gradation of shanty clusters was abandoned as well. The emphasis now is almost entirely on relocating slum dwellers so far from the city that their property never becomes valuable one day.


This is a quick assessment, but there are at least 11 resettlement colonies that are 20- 35 kilometres outside the boundaries of Old Delhi and five which are clearly 15 to 20 kilometres beyond New Delhi's perimeters.


The rest are closer but not by much.


Most of them are more than 10 kilometres away from New Delhi or Old Delhi, whichever is closer.


It is an established fact that wages decline the further one goes from the city.


Eventually, it is a toss- up. Should the worker come to Delhi and get more money only to spend much of it on transport, or look for a lower paying job closer home, but away from the metropolis. In most cases the latter option is a less remunerative one which forces them to make the long trudge to Delhi on a daily basis. As that works well for us, we don't worry about the rest.


It is true that places that were once slums are now prime urban property. The land mafia, commercial agents and many politicians have made a killing out of this. Yet, there are still many demolished sites which have not been developed for years. What purpose then did those evictions serve? Of course, Delhi's slum dwellers have grown hugely. In 1981 they comprised 8.6 per cent of the population, but today it is around 27 per cent. A three- fold increase in less than thirty years! Yet, it is never population but the quality of people that make the numbers unbearable. As slums offend our senses, we see them everywhere, though they occupy only 6 per cent of the land.




The destruction of the Yamuna Pushta shanties in 2003 is a case in point. Who can contest that the rivers should be clean? Yet, in the euphoria to shine Yamuna's waters, nobody paid attention to a simple, overwhelming fact. The combined waste of the three lakhs living on the banks account for only 0.33 per cent of the total sewage discharged into the river.


The law too turned a blind eye to this dirty fact. The judgments issued on the Almitra Patel case, as well as on the one filed later by the Okhla Factory Owners' Association, endorsed the destruction of Yamuna Pushta. That its residents were sent miles away to places like Bawana and Halami Kala did not bother the judges, or the rest of us.


To make matters worse, the eligibility criterion for re- settlement requires the evictees to prove their residence in the now destroyed slum since the year 2000. As most of them did not have the requisite papers to establish this claim, about 88% of such families are still looking for a fixed address. After circling around the city for months they eventually find another empty spot to fill out. A few years down the line that area attracts a developer and out they go. This is the cycle of existence for a large section of the slum population. The Commonwealth Games has intruded midcycle in some places, and that is why some of us are suddenly running out of maids.


Quite often we are tempted to believe that slums were forcibly cleared only during the manic years of Sanjay Gandhi. The records, however, demonstrate that demolition of slums peaked in 2001, and has continued ever since. This has been consistent government policy for a long time.


The usual impression is that the administration is weak and unwilling to politically offend slum voters, but the truth lies elsewhere.


Votes are fine, but money is better.


When the price is right, near permanent slums are gone without a trace; or else they can linger on for years.




It is not just slums; even settled villages have often been re- classified as " encroached" area and their population driven out. This has happened to some old villages around Yamuna as well in places like Nangla Dawat, which is near Palam. It is not as if this was all then; it is happening even now.


In order to build a road to the rifle range for the Commonwealth Games, Kadarpur village in Haryana is threatened. Residents in this hamlet face eviction today even though many had been granted state compensation when some of their lands were acquired earlier. So this property is legally theirs, yet they have to leave now for the Commonwealth Games are coming.


A community destroyed because it is in the cross hairs of a rifle range.


While slum dwellers had to always reckon with administrative high handedness, the Commonwealth Games have raised the baton power of the police.


These officials are now deporting them from the city by wielding the 1959 Bombay Beggary Act. So if your maid, cook or driver has a temporary roof in Shahpur Jat, Rangpuri or Masoodpur, or in some other place that falls along the frequentlyto- be- travelled route of Games' officials, then be prepared for another fortnight of inconvenience.


Once the Games are over, the maids, drivers and cooks will be back. After so many days our house will be a home again.


With time, our pinch- nosed horror of slum dwellers will also return. But right now we miss them so much!


The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library








THE movement for separate Telangana state formation is poised to take an interesting turn with the launch of yet another political outfit, the Telangana Praja Front (TPF), by revolutionary singer and Maoist emissary Gaddar.


His announcement came at a time when the people and the political parties, for and against Telangana state, are anxiously waiting for the report of Justice BN Srikrishna Committee constituted to look into the demand for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. The committee has announced that it would submit its recommendations much before the deadline of December 31.


At this stage, Gaddar's entry in the name of reviving the Telangana agitation came as a surprise. He cited the same old argument that the Telangana state formation cannot be achieved through political lobbying or winning a few seats, but through a mass movement.


He is particularly targeting the Telangana Rashtra Samithi headed by K Chandrasekhara Rao, stating that the latter had failed to achieve the goal through lobbying in Delhi; it was only after sections of the people, particularly students launched a massive agitation was union home minister P Chidambaram forced to make an announcement on December 9 last year, initiating the process for the Telangana state. " However, instead of sustaining the movement and exert pressure, the TRS and other political parties entered into a compromise with the Centre in the name of restoration of peace and diluted the movement," Gaddar points out.


So, Gaddar wants to rekindle the pre- December 9 spirit of the Telangana movement among the people. Instead of depending on the political parties, he is planning to involve the weaker sections, particularly Dalits, OBCs, Muslims, women's organisations and cultural organisations, who had hitherto been neglected in the movement.


The meeting at the Nizam College grounds in Hyderabad will set the agenda for Gaddar's TPF and decide the course of action.


Yet, skeptics doubt Gaddar's ability to lead such a mass movement.


Firstly, he has a Maoist background. Though he claims to be only a sympathiser, it is an open secret that he still has connections with them. So, there will definitely be indirect support from the Maoists to his front.


But it is doubtful whether his front will get the support from the public, including educated youth, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers and journalists who have been the backbone of the TRS. And any Maoist- backed agitation is bound to have elements of violence and will attract government repression.


Given his background, there will be few takers for his statement that his agitation is only to bring pressure on the Centre to introduce a Bill in Parliament for Telangana state. People wonder how a person who does not believe in Parliamentary democracy is demanding the Telangana Bill in Parliament.


No movement can be sustained by mere singing and dancing. It requires huge financial backing.


Invariably, Gaddar will have to depend on contributions from people and the pro- Telangana industrial lobby. But it is doubtful whether they would fund his front, as they have been supporting the TRS. Under these circumstances, it remains to be seen how long Gaddar can sustain his movement.



INTERESTING as it might sound, is was the timely intervention by a Christian evangelist from Andhra Pradesh that made US pastor Terry Jones call of his crazy plan to burn copies of holy Quran on September 11.


Dr Kilari Anand Paul, a Dalit Christian from Chittivalasa village in the coastal Andhra ditrict of Visakhapatnam and settled in Houston, made a surprise appearance at Dove World Outreach Centre at Gainesville, Florida and made the announcement on behalf of pastor Terry, just 30 hours before the latter was supposed to burn the holy Quran.


" Terry is a radical priest. He was adamant on burning the sacred text. He was not listening to anybody and was prepared to even give up his life. It took me five sittings with him for nearly 20 hours to explain how this would jeopardise global peace," Paul said.


The evangelist said he instructed Terry not to speak before the media about desecration of the Quran; not to take up any such acts in future and shift to New York immediately.


" Hundreds of media persons from across the world had gathered in front of the Gainseville church on September 10 afternoon and I had to make the announcement on behalf of Terry that he would not be burning the Holy Quran," he said.


Asked why he had to intervene, Paul said he had received requests from prominent people such as former US senator and human rights activist Walter E Fauntroy, Captain William Bronson of Delta Airlines in Florida and other influential people of the Christian community like the Archbishop of Catholic Community, Washington DC. " They all know me because of my gospel meetings as part of the Global Peace Initiative.


They told me that all hell would break loose if Terry was not stopped. Finally, I had to rush to Gainesville and meet Terry," he said.









Bihar will go to the polls at an interesting juncture in Indian politics. The first major election after the Ayodhya verdict, the outcome may impact electoral strategies beyond the borders of the state. Political parties have so far downplayed the Ayodhya verdict. The big question is whether parties will continue to do so once campaign picks up in Bihar. 

Ayodhya could derail the carefully crafted strategy of Nitish Kumar for the assembly election. He believes that the JD(U)-BJP combine stands a chance if the campaign revolves around governance-related issues. Any shift towards caste or communal mobilisation can be to the advantage of his rivals. The JD(U) has been wary that the electorate would be polarised if the BJP harps on the Hindutva agenda. A communal polarisation may override the development plank that Nitish has promoted. A shift in focus from governance to identity issues could enable Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ramvilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party to wrest the initiative from the ruling combine. The RJD-LJP combine's biggest drawback is Lalu-Rabri's awful record when they held office in the state for over a decade. Ayodhya offers these parties an excuse to bring identity politics back in the reckoning. What makes the situation tricky for Nitish is that a communal mobilisation may look a tantalising prospect even to his ally, the BJP, though there's no hint of it so far. That could have major implications for the coalition in Bihar and even the NDA. 

The return of identity politics in the state could create problems for the JD(U) because its rivals are better positioned to exploit the outcome of caste and communal mobilisation. Hence, Nitish's appeal to the electorate to rise above primordial identities including caste and religion and look at the development agenda of the main parties. He could establish himself as a leader only after Lalu Prasad exhausted the politics of caste empowerment that dictated electoral outcomes after the Mandal revolution in the 1990s. The remarkable turnaround in Bihar's economy under his stewardship has enabled Nitish to champion the idea that social justice ought to include material well-being, not merely caste empowerment. He's got a point. 

What Nitish has so far achieved is to rouse the hopes of people. The improvement in the law and order situation and connectivity has created an enabling environment for investment and creation of jobs, but the state lags behind in the delivery of public goods and services. He's promised improvement on this front if given another chance. Hopefully, the election will revolve around issues related to the developmental concerns of the state and not regress to old slogans.






Test cricket is alive and well. The India-Australia clash in Mohali was many things: one of the closest finishes in the history of the game; an epic to rank with the best these two sides have produced as they have slugged it out over the past decade; and a riveting display of talent, including by one of India's finest batsmen. But perhaps most importantly, it was a palate cleanser. After the sordid match-fixing allegations and counter-allegations in England, India's last gasp victory was an opportune reminder of the spectacle the game can provide in the positive sense of the word.

The occasion was also a timely reminder of why Test cricket is considered the acme of the game. With its fluctuating fortunes that included at least four reversals in momentum, its periods of consolidation succeeded by phases of frenetic play and individual contests, this Test provided a rhythm a gathering and releasing of tension that the shorter formats cannot hope to match. And through V V S Laxman's performance one of the few Indian batsmen with a second-innings Test average of over and a consistent match-winner it afforded a glimpse of the wider canvas the five-day game allows its players to demonstrate their gifts. Now, if the Board of Control for Cricket in India takes one lesson from this match, let it be that bland one-day tours must be shelved in favour of Test match series of three or more games. India and Australia seem incapable of producing a dull match and, as two giants of the game, they could provide the much-needed counterpoint to cricket's recent crisis of credibility.









The People's Republic of China began life on October 1, 1949. The six decades since have witnessed an economic transformation without parallel in human history. It would be no exaggeration to describe it as a miracle. Everybody would agree. There is also a paradox. Poverty persists. And inequality is rising rapidly. But that is not in the news. 

The first half of the 20th century, 1901-1950, was characterised by economic stagnation: in real terms, growth in national income was 0.3 per cent per annum whereas growth in per capita income was negative at -0.3 per cent per annum. In sharp contrast, in real terms, growth in GDP was 5 per cent per annum during 1951-80 and 10 per cent per annum during 1981-2008, while growth in GDP per capita was 3 per cent per annum and 8.8 per cent per annum respectively. 

It is no surprise that, in nominal terms, GDP per capita rose from $92 in 1960 to $3,267 in 2008, so that it multiplied by 36. Some part of this increase was obviously attributable to inflation and exchange rate changes. Even in constant $2,000, however, GDP per capita multiplied by 18. Much of this was the outcome of rapid growth and the power of compound growth rates. If GDP grows at 10 per cent per annum it doubles every 10 years. If GDP per capita grows at 8.8 per cent per annum it doubles every 8 years. This acceleration in the latter was reinforced by lower population growth rates. 

Social indicators of development also registered impressive progress. Life expectancy at birth is 73 years. Literacy rates are about 95 per cent. Infant mortality rates are down to 18 per 1,000 live births. Enrolment and completion rates in primary school are close to 100 per cent. Gender equality in school education is almost there. However, progress is much less in indicators such as the under-five mortality rate, proportion of underweight children, births attended by skilled health personnel and access to sanitation facilities. Of course, social indicators are statistical averages, just as per capita income is an arithmetic mean. And neither captures the well-being of the poor. 

It would seem that poverty reduction in China has also been significant. The proportion of the population below the poverty line of $1.25 per day dropped sharply from 84 per cent in 1981 to 16 per cent in 2005. But the number of people below this poverty line, which is a critical minimum, was 208 million in 2005. However, the proportion of the population below the poverty line of $2 per day was much higher, even if it dropped from 98 per cent in 1981 to 36 per cent in 2005. And the number below this higher poverty line was 469 million in 2005. 

It is also worth noting that, in 2005, 15 per cent of the world population below the poverty line of $1.25 per day and 18 per cent of the world population below the poverty line of $2 per day lived in China. This is seldom recognised. 

The persistence of poverty in China despite such rapid economic growth is the paradox. The explanation lies in rapidly rising inequality. Theory and history both suggest that income distributions change slowly over time. But income distribution in China has worsened at an unprecedented pace when compared with experience elsewhere or earlier. 

The first manifestation is the distribution of income between people. Economists measure such inequality with the Gini coefficient which has a value of one when all the income in an economy accrues to one person and zero when every person in an economy has the same, equal, income. In China, this Gini coefficient rose from 0.29 in 1980 to 0.36 in 1990, 0.39 in 2000 and 0.47 in 2004, from among the lowest to among the highest in countries of the world in just 25 years. 

The second manifestation is distribution of income between wages and profits. Between the late 1990s and the late 2000s, in a short span of a decade, the share of wages in GDP fell from around 53 per cent in the late 1990s to 40 per cent in the late 2000s, while the share of profits in GDP rose from about 19 per cent to almost 32 per cent. This was an outcome of a strong bias in policies. Interest rates on household bank deposits are very low so that corporations can get cheap credit. Inputs such as energy, natural resources and land are also cheap for corporations, while taxes are low and state-owned firms do not pay much in the form of dividends to the government. 

Thus, corporate profits are high and household incomes are low. This explains why, in China, private consumption as a proportion of GDP dropped from around 48 per cent in the late 1990s to about 36 per cent in the late 2000s. This proportion is 70 per cent in the US and 64 per cent in 

The moral of the story is simple. China should endeavour to increase the share of wages in GDP and the share of households in national income. It would be good for its people. It would also be good for the world economy, which needs China to shift from export-led growth to consumption-led growth. 

The writer is professor of economics, JNU.




                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA





A day after winning the coveted National Film Award for best actress for her performance in Rituparno Ghosh's Abohomaan, Ananya Chatterjee was back in the studios shooting a television serial, an adaptation of Ashapurna Devi's novel, Subarnlata. She speaks to Subhash K Jha about her role and working with senior artistes like Mamta Shankar: 

I believe you are in a state of shock? 

It still hasn't sunk in. I never expected the National Award in my wildest dream, and that too alongside Amitabh Bachchan. This is a new beginning for me. I hope the Bengali film industry will take notice of me. As for Mumbai it seems like a distant dream. 

Bachchan was originally supposed to play the role that veteran Bengali actor Dipankar De plays in Abohomaan? 

(laughs) I want to thank Mr Bachchan for not doing the film. If he had been in it, it would be a different cast and i wouldn't be in it. My links with Bollywood are at the most vague. I had dubbed for Manisha Koirala in Rituparno Ghosh's Bengali film Khela. I don't know anyone in Mumbai. I wouldn't know how to approach anyone for work there because i've never done it in Kolkata. 


So are you a relatively new actress? 

No. I've been doing television in Kolkata for 10 years now. Why not? Bangla television has challenging parts for female actors. So many serials revolve around powerful women characters. In fact, i'm shooting for one right now. No major movie offers came my way until Rituda offered me Abohomaan. It was the role of a famous director's protegee and her troubled relationship with the director's family. 

What was your reaction when you were offered the lead in a Rituparno Ghosh film? 

When he called i thought it was a joke. When i realised it was actually Rituda, i couldn't believe he was so politely asking me if i'd like to do a role in his next film. I couldn't believe Rituda was offering me this role. By the time the truth sank in, i was already shooting for Abohomaan with veterans Dipankar De and Mamta Shankar. 

How did those two veteran actors treat you? 

Fortunately, they were not strangers to me. I had worked with Dipankar De on television. As for Mamta Shankar, i had learnt dancing from her. She has always been very, very supportive. Since she plays the director's wife and i play the muse she had very bitter things to say to me in the film. Each time Mamta would come and apologise after the shot. I couldn't have been luckier. 

Have did they react to your National Award? 

The entire Abohomaan team is proud of me. They've all been so generous in their joy after the National Award. Our film has won four national awards. I couldn't have hoped for more. Now i'm only hoping filmmakers would sit up and take notice of my performance. 

Is your role based on actress Madhabi Mukherjee and her relationship with Satyajit Ray

I've heard only from the media that my character is based on Madhabi Mukherjee. I was given no such brief. It could be about my filmmaker and his relationship with his protegee. Why not Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman?






months a school van driver repeatedly drugged, raped and sodomised three children aged between seven and 12 entrusted in his care is the swiftness with which it has been erased from public memory. Distracted by the ongoing violence in Kashmir, and the skeletons falling out of the closet of the CWG, the media seem to have lost interest in the case.


There have been few follow-up stories, barring a couple which said that the police were allegedly reluctant to pursue the case as some senior classmates of the victims, who were accomplices in the crime, are said to belong to so-called 'well-connected' families. Media indifference apart, there appears to be a general public reluctance to confront the entire issue of child abuse, the most repugnant and unforgivable of crimes, more so even than murder or rape. In this particular case, the unspeakable torment that the children suffered went on unnoticed for a year and a half till, finally, a suspicious mother, noticing the strange and withdrawn behaviour of the children, and the marks on their arms where they had been injected with drugs to make them more compliant, told a neighbour who, in turn, alerted the police.


Even as the Catholic church, in Ireland and elsewhere, has been shaken to its roots by the exposure of widespread paedophilia amongst its clergy and subsequent attempts to cover up such incidents in India we seem deliberately to look away from this most shameful of perversions, the corruption of innocence. These things happen in other places; they don't happen here, in our country, in our culture. Mohandas Gandhi's recorded practice of sharing his bed with nubile girls in order to test his ability to overcome physical arousal? That was an experiment in truth, not child abuse, no matter what psychological and emotional effects this may have had on those who were so experimented upon.


Gandhi's experiments with truth while being violative of current norms of child protection, at least as practised in other countries did not constitute paedophilia. But to believe that paedophilia, the physical defilement of children, does not occur in India, or is very rare, would be a dangerous delusion. Reviewing Mira Nair's film, Monsoon Wedding, a Delhi-based film critic took exception to the character who had sexually abused his niece when she was a child, saying that this was an un-Indian anomaly.


As Pinki Virani's unflinching testimony, Bitter Chocolate, reveals, far from being an anomaly, child abuse is horrifyingly common in India. Though the joint family system may have become outmoded, cramped quarters are frequently shared by adults and children, often breeding unhealthy proximity. The practice of leaving children with domestic help increasingly common in a milieu where both husband and wife are working can also lead to abusive practices.


Some commentators have pointed out that the issue of child abuse has been overplayed in the West, with people being coaxed by motivated researchers to concoct false 'memories' of being victims of sexual predation when they were children. But if this most destructive of social diseases has indeed been overplayed in the West, it has been criminally underplayed in India. Sexual abuse apart, India's children are victims of economic necessity which compels them to do hard manual labour, often in hazardous and brutal conditions, in order to survive. India has the Right to Education Act and it has more anti-child labour laws than any other country in the world; it also has the largest number of child workers.


We like to idolise childhood and infancy. But despite all our sentimentalism, Bal Krishna would have a sorry time of it in 21st century India.








Well, Test cricket hadn't really gone away. But with the first Test match between India and Australia at Mohali slipping and sliding and skidding to such a stop that a day later it still seems to be moving, the sheer thrill of Test cricket has been firmly established again. Much has been made of the Test format by the pundits. They have consistently argued that the five-day, four-inning format provides enough time, the perfect canvas for 'things to play out' in their natural course. Much of this 'traditionalism' is seen as grand-philosophising as a buttress to the more chatpata versions of cricket. But as the Mohali Test clearly showed, the Test match at its finest is a thing to behold, an architectural display of skills set at various levels that makes the different pace


of a match a core element of excitement. Like the sprint is contained within a marathon, all forms of cricket are contained in the Test.


At Mohali, we were also witness to the pure gladiatorial contest between the bowler and the batsman. In these gnat's wings-attention span of today's One-Dayers and Twenty20 cricket, the die is loaded heavily in the favour of batsmen. Essentially, the shorter forms are a thwacking match in which the batsmen pile up scores that the bowlers try to restrict. In the Test, the bowler becomes the predator with the batsmen defending their three-stumped citadel even as a target is set. So Shane Watson, Tim Paine, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina played their parts in their first innings to set up targets in the face of the wonderful hostility from the bowlers. But it was the pacemen on both sides — Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan and Ben Hilfenhaus — who held the fortunes of the game along the seam between their fingers.


Which makes the figure of V.V.S. Laxman, bravely facing the Australian chin music that snared half of the Indian team despite spraining his back, such a tower of sporting grit and greatness. Like life itself, everything happened at the Mohali Test, with even Fortune playing its part. The Test was glorious to watch. And, oh, India winning it by a wicket must have added that extra layer of joy to the beauty that we witnessed.







In ancient times, reproduction and fertility were a societal obsession and often an important element of religious worship. In modern times, they are the concerns of individuals and an important element of biological and medical science. This transformation's most well-known manifestation has been in vitro fertilisation. His Nobel Prize for medicine has highlighted how Robert Edwards, the doctor who pioneered this technology, not only made major scientific strides but also how much his technique changed social attitudes as well. It is hard to believe how much controversy surrounded the first test tube baby but today, a couple announcing their intention to attempt IVF barely raises an eyebrow any more.


However, IVF was merely the vanguard of what has become an endless stream of reproductive and biotechnological advances. All of these have transferred more and more reproductive choice into the hands of individuals and away from the diktats of either society or government. This is both inevitable and positive. Increasing choice is almost a one-line definition of what a society should strive to provide its individual components.


Today there are debates about cloning, stem cell research and the likelihood of genetically engineering humans. At most, such arguments should help people realise that the means of reproduction is no one's concern but that of the parents. At best, they should clarify that if there is any regulatory role, it is in the commercial transactions surrounding fertility technology and the consequences of conception. Finally, they should help popularise the idea that reproduction is no longer a mystery but a process that is now so well understood that it is open to human manipulation — and that this ultimately will improve the quality of human life.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





Jagat Mehta, one of the most morally and intellectually engaged human beings I have had the privilege to know, has just published his memoirs. He calls it The Tryst Betrayed. The reference, obviously, is to Jawaharlal Nehru's famous midnight pronouncement.


Yet this is by no means an anti-Nehru book — quite the reverse. Jagatsaheb, as most people call him, was in the first batch of the Indian Foreign Service, hand-picked by Nehru, who was also our first foreign minister. Like many civil servants of that generation, he adored Nehru. And reading the book makes it clear that for Nehru as well, Jagatsaheb was special: he was the only foreign service officer to accompany Nehru on his election campaigns in 1957; the only one to ride horse-back to Bhutan with him and Ms Gandhi too (there were no roads then).


It's also not an anti-India book. Jagatsaheb recognises India's achievements as a democracy and, in more recent years, as an economy. If he titled the closing chapter of his book 'Why has India underperformed', it's because he has such lofty hopes for us. As the nation of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru, he believes we should aim higher — a more democratic economy, a more profound democracy, a more moral foreign policy.


One could argue that this is being too idealistic, but one thesis of the book is precisely that we have often run into problems by not being idealistic enough. Jagatsaheb's most-telling example is our relation with our smaller neighbours — Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The book is full of instances where we found it difficult to resist the urge to bully them, even though in the long run this only undermined our interests. Farakka Barrage, for example, was more or less explicitly imposed on Bangladesh, despite the fact that the Bangladeshis saw this as a tax on their nation's lifeblood. The Farakka waters did little to 'flush' the silt out of Hooghly, certainly not enough to save the Kolkata port. In the end, we just made sure that a lot of useable water ended up in the Bay of Bengal, and earned the enduring hostility of a large proportion of the Bangladeshi population.


Our reluctance to allow Nepal free transit for its exports and imports — even though unrestricted transit is a widely-respected right of landlocked sovereign nations — made us many enemies in Nepal. This is one reason why we haven't yet been able to negotiate with Nepal on building dams on the rivers originating in the Nepalese Himalayas. These dams would generate electricity that we desperately need and slow down the rivers that are the source of so much erosion in the Nepalese Himalayas and annual floods in the north Bihar plains. The reason they never get built in part is that the Nepalese don't trust us enough to be willing to enter an agreement where we are monopoly buyers of the power that they have to sell.


Afghanistan is another example. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, we chose not to complain, at the cost of abandoning our commitment to non-alignment, and our long-term alliance with the Afghan people, in order to show the Soviets that we were with them. Jagatsaheb, who was foreign secretary at that time, feels that the Soviets would have understood if we had chosen to stand by our principles, and argues that this decision drove the Afghans into the willing arms of the Pakistanis, and thereby contributed directly to the Afghan involvement in the Kargil war and beyond. Had we stuck to our principles in 1979, the book speculates, 9/11 might never have happened.


There is, however, another sense in which we were not idealistic enough. We idolised Nehru but lacked faith in what he stood for — rationalism, intellectual engagement, being open to ideas. We didn't challenge him enough when he was wrong; instead, even the professionals who were supposed to be his source of information and advice convinced themselves that "Panditji knows best".


This is what led to the fatal misunderstanding about China's intentions in 1962. Panditji misread the signals that Chinese were sending us ever since the Tibet issue arose, and no one dared to tell him otherwise.


But it had much wider consequences. As Jagatsaheb put it: "Panditji was the greatest democratic dictator in history, but twelve years of his Prime Ministership were largely wasted." We failed to make use of his charisma, his enthusiasm, his ability to inspire, to achieve social goals that would otherwise have been difficult. Because delivering basic health and education weren't Nehru's priorities — he was entirely in favour, but seemingly hadn't grasped the sheer magnitude of the challenge of universalising quality education and healthcare in a vast and multifariously divided country like ours — and his advisers and colleagues did not force him to rethink, we still remain tragically backward in those areas. We celebrate Nehru's birthday as Children's Day, but it was the children's tryst that was most egregiously betrayed.


Jagatsaheb remains optimistic. He thinks "we can retrieve our standing", by returning to the legacy of idealism that we inherited from Gandhi and Nehru. He insists that idealism does need to be naïve — it's about holding ourselves to a standard that we hope but don't expect of others. That is certainly how he lives his own life.


Abhijit Banerjee is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT


The views expressed by the author are personal



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





This past weekend, a report in a Delhi newspaper made the observation that the Allahabad High Court judgement in the Ayodhya title dispute case would damage the JD(U)-BJP alliance in the Bihar election. Muslim voters would run away from the JD(U), the report suggested, as they now considered Ravi Shankar Prasad — BJP MP and a lawyer for one of the Hindu petitioners in the case — a hate figure. Paradoxically upper caste (and presumably Hindu conservative) voters too would walk away since the verdict for a Ram temple had come from the judiciary and not the BJP.


This neat 'heads I win, tails you lose' formulation has left most serious practitioners in Bihar nonplussed. They insist that the Ayodhya judgement is scarcely an issue in the assembly election there. Indeed, so careful has been the response of most Hindu and Muslim socio-religious organisations, as well as of mainstream political parties, that it is worth asking if anybody seriously wants to reignite Ayodhya as a political or electoral issue.


There is only one way in which Ayodhya can corrode Indian politics again. For the most part, those who are instigating this are not the regular 'religious fundamentalists' but self-proclaimed 'secular modernists', taking their litany from television studio to television studio and op-ed page to op-ed page. They are picking loopholes in the judgement, misrepresenting it where possible — for instance, a judge's observation that there is a history to the Hindu perception of Ayodhya being the birthplace of Ram is being passed off as acceptance of Ayodhya being the physical birthplace of Ram — but at no stage are they pointing to an alternative solution that is legally workable and socially sustainable.


This is such a fringe intellectual position and so divorced from the larger reality of India, as evident from the relief the judgement has evoked and the genuine desire of people to sort out the issue and move on, that it's a wonder it is still getting such traction.


There is an attempt to provoke Muslim leaders into intemperate rhetoric. There is criticism of the judges, even to the extent of the clothes they wear and the food they eat as if this somehow clouds their legal sensibilities. There is an attempt to scare the Congress that the 'Muslim street' is upset, that it will lose minority votes and that it should oppose the judgement if not promise to negate it by legislation.


Should all this happen — and in their own way


Mulayam Singh Yadav, desperate to stay alive in Uttar Pradesh, and Laloo Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar too see this as a dream scenario — there will be a counter-mobilisation of Hindus. The politics of the early 1990s will return.


There are two caveats to be entered here. First, the India of 2010 is very different from the India of 1990. This is a more prosperous and more optimistic country, and consequently less tolerant of political adventurism and direct action. Second, once earlier the Congress has walked down the path recommended by the 'secular modernists': in 1986, when it upturned the Shah Bano judgement. It paid a price for the next 20 years. It has no reason to fall into that trap again and that is why, after the Allahabad HC judgement, its response has been correct and guarded.


As a result, the Congress doesn't want to reopen Ayodhya; the BJP wants to can it and move into the next phase of its evolution (wherever that may take it); and even the religious hotheads of the 1980s (Hindu and Muslim) have been remarkably calm and sense a reconciliation is possible. Ayodhya's politics is gradually being buried. Will the 'secular modernists' please allow the Ayodhya industry to be dismantled as well?


Ashok Malik is a Delhi-based political commentator


The views expressed by the author are personal



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





If sport is a metaphor for life, and if the Commonwealth Games are a metaphor for the Commonwealth, then let just one sporting event submit itself for treatment: the marathon. Life, the Games, and the Commonwealth: all, in their own way, equate to the gruelling 26-mile race in which one person may win the prize, but competing — and sharing with fellow competitors — is for all.


When the proud athletes of 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth entered the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at the Games opening ceremony on Sunday evening with their heads and flags held high, India's own Commonwealth Games marathon will be beginning its last, 10-day-long lap. From the moment the Games were awarded to this country, its sights have been set on this huge moment. There have been long stretches of an empty, uphill road on the way, and an anxious burst of final pace. But it is grit, fuelled by momentum and inspired by the exhilaration and magic of the crowd that have carried these Games over the line. India has literally and metaphorically moved the earth to make this happen, and it is now being cheered home.


The 54 members of the Commonwealth, too, run the race of life. Sometimes we run together; sometimes we run ahead or fall behind. Sometimes, we run into the metaphorical wall of pain. Some run through them; some are stopped in their tracks before they dust themselves off and run again.


We run as individuals, we run as groups. But ultimately we run as the entire field — anyone who competes, wins. There is loneliness but there is also camaraderie for the long-distance runner. And all encourage each other. These are Friendly Games that can unite a third of the world's population. Countries large and small, rich and poor — all run this race.


"If you want to win something," said the great Czech runner Emil Zatopek, "run 100 metres. And if you want to experience something, run a marathon."


Kamalesh Sharma is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth


The views expressed by the author are personal








When Robert Edwards was at Cambridge University, a childless couple next door often visited his young family and peeked at their pram. "I couldn't but be aware of the feelings aroused in them. The trees bore fruit, the clouds carried rain, and our friends, for ever childless, played with our Caroline, our Jennifer."


Thirty-two years after Edwards' research, in collaboration with fellow-scientist Patrick Steptoe, produced the world's first "test-tube" baby, the entire reproductive revolution enabled by in-vitro fertilisation has been given its due. Robert Edwards has been given the Nobel prize for medicine for his pioneering work. Initially, the project faced a wall of resistance — to many, it seemed horrid and dehumanising that an egg could be fertilised outside the mother's snug womb, in a petri dish. IVF was one of the first major struggles of the emerging field of bio-ethics. Many radical scientific advances have been marked by this tussle, the drive to know and the conservative desire to limit such progress. IVF regulation was an expectedly fraught affair in most countries, and while governments initially shied away from research funding, scientists, doctors and those eager to be parents kept up the pressure. Technology and commerce came together to expand possibilities for infertile people around the world. Artificial fertilisation is still repugnant to many religious groups — the Vatican has protested the Nobel committee's decision to honour Edwards.


But, by now, that once daring idea has become mundane and naturalised, and nearly four million babies have been brought into the world through IVF intervention. While there are studies that indicate chances of higher birth defects among these babies, the science is still inconclusive on the risks. The real worry is the fact that doctors usually transfer more than one embryo into the womb, hoping at least one will take — which creates its own dangers like stillbirth, developmental delays or cerebral palsy. But those niggling doubts pale in comparison to the tremendous gift that this technology has been, given that the vast majority of IVF children are perfectly normal. It has enabled infertile men and women, those with ageing eggs, and gay and lesbian couples to experience parenthood. This Nobel, more than anything, affirms life.






Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik was quite unequivocal about the state of the Indian Air Force's equipment at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Half of it, he said, is "obsolete." He did add that, in his opinion, the IAF was quite "capable" of carrying out its defensive role. But, nevertheless, this is a statement that should be viewed with genuine concern. It is, of course, to be hoped that Naik, as well as the other service chiefs, do not just jolt the establishment with such statements — that they underscore them with substantive and detailed inputs to the government.


While disturbing, this cannot be considered altogether surprising. The IAF's requirements are technology-intensive. Aside from the big ones — the hundreds of fighter planes required — surface-to-air missiles and air-defence systems are also needed. Meanwhile, over at army HQ, the situation is not too different. One far-from-isolated example: in August this year, an eight-year quest to modernise India's artillery resources, a quarter-century old now, ran up against a brick wall, as trials for a new 155-millimetre gun were cancelled because of a fear that defence procurement procedures were being violated — a fear stated, but not backed up with an FIR. These requirements, of course, will necessarily be met by foreign contracts; because the establishment has consistently found itself unable to visualise an expansion of the defence-industrial base in proportion with India's growing needs, instead pushing public-sector producers that have definitively proved they can't meet demand.


If these concerns are being put to the armed forces' civilian controllers as bluntly as they have been to the rest of us, there is little question where the responsibility lies: at the top. The defence ministry under A.K. Antony has consistently found itself unable to spend its budgetary allocation. This, at a transformative, pivotal period in Asia's history, as China's military rises inexorably, and India's neighbourhood generally remains turbulent. China has expanded its border infrastructure, updated its hardware. The differential between Indian and Chinese capabilities has reached scandalous proportions. This is, more than anything else, a failure of political will, for which the highest political authorities should be held answerable. These challenges should be addressed not just by Antony but by the prime minister and his party too.








 As preparations for US President Barack Obama's visit to India in early November gather momentum, Asia and its rapidly evolving geopolitics are emerging at the very top of the bilateral agenda.


Amidst the rise of China, Beijing's new tensions with Japan and the Southeast Asian nations and the search for stronger regional institutions, both Washington and Delhi are redoing their sums on Asian security.


As the conventional wisdom on Asia's peaceful rise begins to unravel, India and the United States are under some pressure to raise their game in the region. That in turn demands greater cooperation between Delhi and Washington in devising a new Asian order.


In a series of recent conversations with this writer in Washington, senior officials of the Obama administration welcomed India's expanding profile in East Asia and extended strong support to Delhi's Look East policy.


Under-Secretary of State William Burns said the US places "special emphasis on the role India plays in Asia in ensuring order, balance and security." Contrary to the earlier fears in Delhi that Obama might look at India through the narrow prism of South Asia, his administration sees cooperation with India as important for the political future of East Asia.


"I think it is fair to say that the US does not characterise the engagement with India as confined to either South Asia or East Asia," Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell told this writer. "Our discussion with India now covers the full range of issues relating to South Asia, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, and global issues as well," he underscored.


India too believes that the distinctions between East and South Asia can no longer be sustained. "We have global interests, the Chinese have global interests. All the major powers are not only interdependent on each other, but also are dealing with each other across a whole range of issues, none of which recognises some artificial geographical construct like South Asia or East Asia," National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told an audience in Washington last week.


For Delhi, the question can no longer be how to stop China from playing a larger role in the subcontinent, but how India can expand its own footprint in East Asia.


The Obama administration would like to see India step up the pace and scope of its engagement in Asia. "We fully support India's Look East strategy. We recognise that all nations in Asia want closer partnerships with India," Campbell said. "We would like to see India's role in Asia manifest itself in terms that go beyond declarations of intent."


While China looms large over the new geopolitics of Asia, Washington does not see its engagement with the region in terms of a zero-sum game. The American emphasis, instead, is on deepening old alliances, building new partnerships, engaging China, and creating an enduring Asian security architecture. Similarly, India too wants to strengthen its cooperation with China while improving its own position in the Asian order.


"Multilateralism in Asia during the '90s has been essentially trans-Pacific," Campbell said. "During the last decade, it has become centred on pan-Asian integration. In the new phase, India, along with the US, must have a much larger role in shaping the Asian economic institutions and its security architecture."


ASEAN's recent invitation to the US and Russia to join the East Asia Summit, the Obama administration believes, will create the "core of a new map" in Asia that might frame the international relations of the region in the future. The East Asia Summit currently includes the 10 member states of the ASEAN and six others — China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.


For its part, India is welcoming the US entry into the East Asia Summit and is eager to engage it in the Asia Pacific. According to Menon, "Traditionally, India and the US have viewed each other across the Eurasian landmass and the Atlantic Ocean. We get a different perspective if we look across the Pacific, across a space that we share and that is vital to the security and prosperity of our two countries."


The Obama administration has already had two rounds of consultation with India on East Asian security issues at the level of senior officials. Both Washington and Delhi are pleased with the tenor and substance of their dialogue on East Asia and hope to institutionalise it.


As they deepen their regional security dialogue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Obama have a few weeks of intensive diplomatic engagement ahead of them in Asia.


After spending nearly three days in India in early November, Obama will head to Indonesia, where he spent his childhood. Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono is expected to be the chief guest at India's Republic Day celebrations in January.


After Indonesia, Obama will head to South Korea and Japan, the long-standing US allies in Asia. In Seoul he will join the leaders of the G-20, who are gathering for the first time in Asia since the forum was created in 2008 to manage the global financial crisis.


Dr Singh will also travel to the G-20 meeting in Seoul in November and will have a chance to meet Obama. In October, he will participate in the East Asia Summit in Hanoi.


In what is expected to be a consequential bilateral visit to Japan in October, the two sides are likely to announce bilateral measures for trade liberalisation and reaffirm their commitment to deepen the strategic partnership.


A changing Asia, then, will be very much on the minds of President Obama and Prime Minister Singh when they meet in Delhi in a few weeks from now.









Nepal's military ties with the British are the oldest in the region, perhaps in the world. But now, the relationship appears strained and complicated. The Gorkha regiments set up after Nepal's defeat by the British and the subsequent 1816 Sugauli treaty (that Maoists say reduced Nepal to the status of a semi-colony of the British and later India, post-1947) are still in operation. In better times, this bilateral link was projected as proof of an enduring historical relationship.


However, that relationship has now been clouded by suspicion and mistrust. A large part of Nepal, including the army (unofficially) believes the British government moved closer to the Maoists in the later years of the insurgency and post-monarchy, and chose to decry the Nepal army alone for alleged human rights violations during the conflict. General Chhatraman Singh Gurung's five-day official visit to the UK, which began on October 3, has therefore triggered intense speculation about the future of military ties.


Over the last few years, the British have corrected their policies of pension discrimination for retired Gorkhas and provided residential facilities in the UK for such personnel, which has almost set off an exodus. While this has been largely welcomed, it has grossly affected Nepal's major foreign exchange earning.


Apparently, General Gurung chose to visit the UK at a time when a high-powered Chinese delegation (led by their third in command) was keen to have an important discussion with him. The Chinese team put off its visit because General Gurung was unavailable. India's army chief will be coming to Nepal in the first week of December to receive the title of "Honorary General" (a reciprocal arrangement between the two countries since the mid-'60s) from President Rambaran Yadav. China has been expanding its influence in Nepal to match India's, focusing on sound ties with the army. But the Nepal army's current challenge lies in defining the meaning and importance of its relations with the UK.


To reassure the British that the Nepal army has a "zero-tolerance policy" towards human rights violations, the army headquarters issued a statement to that effect prior to General Gurung's departure. But he also confided to some senior army officials that he was not going to accept any sermons from British authorities.


New York-based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are pressing the UK to secure a commitment from General Gurung that the Nepal army would fully cooperate in expeditious investigations of human rights violations during the years of conflict. The army blames a couple of UN bodies in Nepal — the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and some human rights NGOs — for systematically denigrating it, in league with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M), which is itself responsible for human rights violations during the conflict. Its stated position is: let all the cases of the time be referred to the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission instead of isolating the Nepal army over it.


In fact, the human rights groups' influence on the British government is decisive. In 2002, a few months after a visiting British minister stated in Kathmandu that "Terrorists cannot be accepted as winners" — a hint that the British were implacably opposed to Maoists then waging war against the state — Britain's then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw indicated a clear policy shift when he called on King Gyanendra during his London visit. Nepali authorities now reveal that some covert British activity promoting this new policy had been noticed, but never taken seriously in Nepal. Prior to Gyanendra's visit, the British embassy in Kathmandu had casually informed the media about a British general being abducted and later released by Maoists during a visit to western Nepal. "That, in fact, was a stage-managed act and, during that event, Maoists had acquired satellite telephones and other sophisticated equipment. We never suspected our oldest military ally of having developed that kind of relation with the Maoists," a senior government official said. "We did not even interrogate the British official in question".


After the April 2006 political transition, British government agencies in Nepal have been perceived as radically pro-Maoist and anti-army. Gurung has been forthright about taking such "discriminatory attitudes" head-on, while talking to UN officials and representatives of diplomatic missions.


Like India, Britain is yet to resume the supply of arms to the Nepal army, which had been suspended as a sign of disapproval of Gyanendra's takeover in early 2005. But while India backed the Nepal army to the hilt in the post-monarchy days, especially when Maoist chief Prachanda, as PM, sacked the then-army chief, General Rookmangud Katawal, in May 2008, Britain and the Scandinavian countries (which massively fund human rights organisations in Nepal) looked the other way. General Gurung is unlikely to seek the resumption of arms supplies from the British during his visit. Nevertheless, it might be rather embarrassing for the British government if he raises the matter of their double standards on the question of human rights violation issues in Nepal.








It's often easy for folks in the business process re-engineering or management consulting space to say "change is the only constant in life" — for organisations and individuals alike. But for any radical idea to fructify, it has to be exciting, purposeful and inclusive. Especially for sarkari set-ups, where babus are accustomed to a set pattern of working, programmed to go by the rule-book.


After deciding to eventually transform itself into a thinking organisation — or what it calls a Systems Reforms Commission — the Planning Commission has taken the first tangible step towards changing how a Five-Year Plan is written. And, believe it or not, this is no baby step.


That the Planning Commission is forcing upon itself "a new way of thinking" without necessarily being pushed into it by external factors is in itself commendable. Over the past decades, Yojana Bhavan has become a stodgy organisation, losing its importance as a potent knowledge resource for India's political economy. Frequently, it has ended up being used by the government to achieve narrow political gains.


There was some hope when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked a non-politician with globally acknowledged credentials — Montek Singh Ahluwalia — to head it. Unfortunately, Ahluwalia spent his first five years doing more of the same, without really bringing any freshness to the ideas at Yojana Bhavan.


There was nothing remarkable about the making of the Eleventh Plan or its contents. In fact, the joke that, except for the numbers, all Five-Year Plan documents read the same, was told even more after Ahluwalia failed to enthuse in his first stint. Arun Maira, the former India CEO of the Boston Consulting Group, and a member of the reconstituted Planning Commission, would know this better. Dozens of top-class policymakers he interacted with, before taking to the PM a proposal to overhaul Yojana Bhavan, told him that the organisation had lost its relevance.


Now, the end of the Eleventh Plan (2007-12) is just a year away. And acknowledging that there can never be a "tomorrow" for change, Ahluwalia recently signed off on the "new thinking" his officials have proposed in their draft of the approach paper to the Twelfth Plan (2012-17). An approach paper essentially lays down broad contours, providing the contextual background for writing the Plan. The Planning Commission's officials are still digesting the new approach, and have gingerly started their quinquennial exercise to prepare a long-term strategy for faster, inclusive and more sustainable growth.


Breaking from the past — when a few babus sat together and penned the approach paper — Maira and Pronab Sen, principal adviser to the Planning Commission, prepared a "strategy matrix." The columns in the strategy matrix comprise forces — big systemic issues affecting every sector — such as land and environment, innovation and enterprises, governance and institutions, and citizens' expectations. The rows, on the other hand, are sector-specific subjects: macro-strategy, social justice, infrastructure and human capital. This results in some 340 cells. Sen, who has been the lead paper-writer of at least two earlier Plans, would admit that there was no method to the earlier process. It was exclusionary and had no stakeholder involvement. Issues that seemed systemically important to a few found greater focus in the final Plan document.


To make the entire process more inclusive, each officer in Yojana Bhavan has been asked to prepare a two-page note on one cell. The first page talks about the situation "as it is" and the second "what it should be" during the Twelfth Plan period. Simply put, the write-up on each cell will explain how the combination of a particular force and a particular sector will help achieve growth objectives during the next five years. The one-month deadline for completing this exercise ends on October 25. Over a two-three-day retreat, the Plan panel will then shortlist or identify some 20-25 cells crucial to achieving a fast, inclusive and sustainable growth strategy. These will be posted at, an already-registered website. Ahluwalia is not shy of using social networking sites such as Facebook to drive traffic to the dedicated Plan site.


Earlier, besides being exclusionary, the planning process was quite deterministic. It did not conceive of alternative scenarios. For instance, political and civil-society opposition to land acquisition was clearly not something for which the government had budgeted while seeking to aggressively push a development agenda. The cells in the matrix will now describe the impact of such forces on different sectors. Similarly, trade-offs were not explicitly recognised. As India's chief statistician, T.C.A. Anant, points out, rising prices are not really surprising, now that the lower rung of the population pyramid has money to spare for more food, given the intervention of rural employment guarantee-like programmes. High inflation is a trade-off the government should have been prepared for.


The new strategy matrix will talk about all this and more. Once the Planning Commission firms up its views, it will call for focused consultation with various stakeholders, including — but not restricted to — political parties, state governments, civil society organisations, judiciary, youth, women and the informal sector. There are some who are not convinced that the "new thinking" is necessary and whether it will eventually lead to a structured approach paper and eventually the Plan document. For that, neither Ahluwalia, nor Maira, nor Sen has a ready answer. But then, this is a small risk to take when the option is to let Yojana Bhavan die a dinosaur.









In the spring of 1997, the literary quarterly Granta published an issue devoted to India's Golden Jubilee. The tone was cautious but celebratory: on the cover, the country's name was printed in bright red letters, followed by an exclamation point. Fifty years after partition, an independent India was rapidly establishing itself as an international power. The issue, which consisted largely of contributions in English, was a testament to India's extraordinary intellectual and artistic richness. Seventeen years after Salman Rushdie's shot across the bow with Midnight's Children, a new generation of Indian writers was, in Granta's words, "matching India's new vibrancy with their own."


The American appetite for Indian culture has only grown. Many of the writers who arrived on the scene in the 1980s and '90s — Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things was first serialised in Granta), Amit Chaudhuri — continued to publish fiction and reportage, and a new wave of novelists, including Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga, went on to write prize-winning, best-selling books. Readers of Roy, Desai or Adiga — not to mention the viewers who flocked to Slumdog Millionaire — have not been spared portraits of Indian life's miseries. But the folkloric and redemptive aspects of the stories have merely solidified Westerners' rosy vision of India. These books and films have also complemented the work of writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, who was born in London and raised in Rhode Island and has written vividly about Indian-Americans. The Indian experience, however foreign, has become part of the American experience.


Now, Granta has assembled another well-timed issue devoted to the subcontinent, but this time the subject is Pakistan, partition's other child. In the past few years, several Pakistani writers — including Mohammed Hanif, Nadeem Aslam, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Kamila Shamsie, contributors to the Granta project — have been praised for their fiction.


But there is no exclamation point on this colorfully designed Granta cover (inspired by Pakistan's painted buses and trucks), and the collection lacks the whimsy that Americans simplistically identify with India. Granta's Pakistan is a country of jihadists, anti-Americanism and increasingly misogynistic and brutal forms of Islam. Mohsin Hamid's terse short story, for example, is a first-person tale of being beheaded; it ends with the narrator describing "the sound of my blood rushing out."


Such subject matter will hardly surprise. It's almost impossible to pick up a newspaper without reading about Pakistan's war with fundamentalists, its corruption and its willingness (or unwillingness) to help the American military in Afghanistan. "We are getting attention. It's a Pakistani moment," Daniyal Mueenuddin, whose story collection garnered raves last year, said to me.


The collection also reflects debates over the degree to which Muslims can and want to assimilate to the West. While Indian immigrants are thought to arrive with vibrant traditions, Americans worry that transplanted Pakistanis hold dangerous religious and ideological beliefs. Granta's contributors do not skirt these realities.


Indian writers can hardly be accused of whitewashing the status of women in India. But the Pakistani contributors to Granta are particularly attuned to the misogyny that has been so central to recent debates over Islam. The longest entry, "Leila in the Wilderness," a novella by Nadeem Aslam, concerns a Pakistani whose husband physically and mentally abuses her because she is unable to give birth to a male child. Mohammed Hanif's story "Butt and Bhatti" is also unsparing in its portrayal of gender relations, with a male protagonist who is unable to divorce romance from violence. "The Sins of the Mother," by Jamil Ahmad, is even more squirm-inducing: his story recounts the attempts of a couple to escape their families, and the gruesome stoning that follows.


If these tales are excruciating, the contributors' critique of American foreign policy may make some readers uncomfortable in an entirely different way. Many of the writers describe the harm done to Pakistan in the 1980s by American-backed dictator Zia ul-Haq. The secular ideals of Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (evoked in "Portrait of Jinnah," an essay by The New York Times correspondent Jane Perlez), vanished in Zia's increasingly Islamicised country. Even the sympathetic characters here are full of rage at America. "A country demoralised and humiliated by its myriad problems could either turn reflective, or it could simply blame everyone else," the novelist Kamila Shamsie writes in "Pop Idols," her essay about growing up in Karachi immersed in John Hughes movies and Madonna records. Many characters in these stories have chosen blame. While Arundhati Roy and others have fiercely criticised American foreign policy, those tensions tend not to be at the centre of Indian fiction.


But perhaps the starkest difference between this collection and Indian diaspora literature in recent decades is the depiction of immigrant life. Pakistani immigrants, especially in the years since the September 11 attacks, face challenges completely different from those of their Hindu counterparts from India. (Of course India has a huge Muslim population, but the country is seen as a victim rather than a perpetrator of terrorism.) "Restless," Aamer Hussein's account of his formative years in London, and Sarfraz Manzoor's "White Girls," a rumination on interracial romance, are funny and poignant. But the most famous Pakistani immigrant in America, and the one whose story is told at length here in a piece of reportage by the American novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lorraine Adams and the Pakistani journalist Ayesha Nasir, is Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber. The essay somewhat glibly presents his radicalism as a result of American foreign policy, but it does highlight some of the harsher realities confronting Pakistani-Americans. Shahzad's inability to fit in — a theme treated with delicate melancholy in the immigrant tales of writers like Jhumpa Lahiri — is less melancholy than terrifying.


For all the violence and brutality in this collection, the reader does get glimpses of a less visible Pakistan. (In a humorous touch, the photographer-protagonist of Uzma Aslam Khan's story "Ice, Mating" is rebuked for not taking war photographs, and is told that his more artistic snapshots lack "authenticity.") The great value of Granta's compilation is that it shows us this side of the country while never ignoring the crueler, more vicious aspects of Pakistani society.







Before leggings, when there were letters, before texts and tweets, when there was time, before speed cameras, when you could speed, before graffiti management companies, when cities had souls, we managed just the same.


Before homogenisation, when there was mystery, before aggregation, when the original had value, before digital, when there was vinyl, before Made in China, when there was Mao, before stress management, when there was romance, we thought we were doing all right.


Before apps, when there were attention spans, before "I've got five bars," when bars were for boozing, before ringtone selection, when the phone rang, before hype, when there was Hendrix, we got by just the same.


Before social media, when we were social, before thumb-typing, when a thumb hitched a ride, before de-friending, when a friend was for life, before online conduct, when you conducted yourself, before "content," when we told stories, we did get by all the same.


Before non-state actors, when states commanded, before globalisation, when wars were cold, we did manage OK, it seemed.


Before celebrities, when there were stars, before Google maps, when compasses were internal, before umbilical online-ism, when we off-lined our lives, before virtual flirtation, when legs touched, we felt we managed all the same.


Before identity theft, when nobody could steal you, before global positioning systems, when we were lost, before 24/7 monitoring and alerts by text and e-mail, when there was idleness, before spin doctors, when there was character, we did get by just the same.


Before organic, when carrots weren't categorised, before derivatives, when your mortgage was local, before global warming, when we feared nuclear winters, before "save the planet," when we lived in our corners, before the Greens, when we faced the Reds, it seemed we did somehow manage just the same.


Or did we? Before iPads and "search," in the era of print, before portable devices, when there were diaries, before movies-on-demand, when movies were demanding, before productivity gains, when Britain produced things, and so did Ohio, did we really and honestly get by just the same?


Before January cherries, when fruit had seasons, before global sushi, when you ate what you got, before deep-fried Mars bars, when fish were what fried, before fast food and slow food, when food just was, before plate-size cookies, when greed was contained, before the obesity onslaught, in our ordinariness, could we have gotten by all the same?


Before attention deficit disorders, when people turned on, before the new Prohibition, when lunches were liquid, before Lady Gaga, when we dug the Dead, before "join the conversation," when things were disjointed, before reality shows, when things were real, yes, I believe we got by just the same.


Before "I'll call you back," when people made dates, before algorithms, when there was aimlessness, before attitude, when there was apathy, before YouTube, when there was you and me, I'm sure we managed just the same.


Before "carbon neutral," when carbon copied, before synching, when we lived unprompted, before multiplatform, when pen met paper, before profiling, when there was privacy, before a billion bits of distraction, when there were lulls, before virtual community, in a world with borders, before information overload, when streets were for wandering, before "sustainable," in the heretofore, before CCTV, in invisibility, before networks, in the galaxy of strangeness, my impression, unless I'm wrong, is that we got by quite OK.


Before I forget, while there is time, for the years pass and we don't get younger, while I can pause, let me summon it back, that fragment from somewhere, that phrase that goes: "The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production ... and with them the whole relations of society."


Yes, that was Marx, when he was right, before he went wrong, when he observed, before he imagined, with terrible consequences for the 20th century.


And if back in that century — back when exactly? — in the time before the tremendous technological leap, in the time of mists and drabness and dreams, if back then, without passwords, we managed just the same, even in black and white, and certainly not in hi-def, or even 3-D, how strange to think we had to change everything or we would not be managing at all.







The latest edition of the CPI(ML) monthly, Liberation, discusses the cancellation of the Vedanta group's mining project in the Niyamgiri hills. It says that, while one Niyamgiri has seemingly been saved, there are hundreds of Niyamgiris all over the country where a "state-sponsored destruction campaign" is on. It cites the Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh and the proposed nuclear power plant in the environmentally delicate Konkan region of Maharashtra, and claims that while the environment ministry is now being described as a "green crusader", it has actually functioned as a "green destroyer." On to Rahul Gandhi's visit to Niyamgiri, it says: "one hand of the Congress is busy coercing and displacing the Adivasis, while the other hand garners sympathy... and pretends to be their soldier and saviour. The politics of the Congress revolves around this calculated combination of Operation Green Hunt and Operation Greenspeak and we must unmask the hypocrisy of Rahul Gandhi's professed concern for the deprived tribal people." "When the rhetoric of Nehru and Indira could not stop the radical Left even during the heyday of 'non-alignment' and 'mixed economy', can the 'clever lines' of Rahul Gandhi fool a people who are bearing the brunt of the pro-corporate, pro-imperialist policies of the Congress," it asks.


Ayodhya adventure


The lead editorial in the CPI's New Age describes the verdict of the Allahabad high court as "judicial adventurism." They reach this conclusion in light of the Supreme Court's observation — in a matter related to the acquisition of land in Ayodhya in 1994 — that it does not have jurisdiction on mythical issues. "From the summary of the judgment it seems that... the two judges of the Allahabad high court have traversed a field the SC has refused to enter," it notes. It was also critical of the observation that the Babri Masjid cannot be treated as a mosque as it came into existence "against the tenets" of Islam. "It means they have concluded that the Babri Masjid was built after demolishing the temple. Obviously these are fanatical observations, and they will spark a heated debate about the jurisdiction of the courts in dabbling with questions related to history and archeology," it says, noting that it was time people were mobilised on real socio-economic issues, pushing emotive topics like Ayodhya towards judicial processes.


Spoiled companies


Following reports that corporate India has rejected the idea of reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the private sector, the CPM says the UPA government's failure to implement the policy, after promising it six years ago, betrays its lack of political will about providing social justice. An article in the CPM weekly People's Democracy says: "these champions of neo-liberal policies want the government to abdicate all its responsibilities towards the people. But, they have no shame in demanding the government act proactively in their favour, be it to rescue them from the recent crisis, offering bailout packages, or doling out 'incentives'." It claims that industrial houses that have benefited immensely from the reservations provided to them in the name of "protection" by the government, are arguing against reservations now. "They do not think twice when demanding incentives and tax holidays in their competition with foreign players, even in this era of globalisation," it says. Noting that the UPA government makes a lot of noise about inclusive growth, it says the Centre must realise that growth with inclusiveness requires a concerted effort. It needs to be backed by legal protection against caste-based discrimination, and specific legal measures to implement reservations for SCs and STs in the private sector.


Compiled by Manoj C.G.







Sam Pitroda's proposal to get various government outfits, from the Railways to BSNL, to be part of an SPV, which will roll out an all-India optic fibre network, is a bad idea, and harks back to the old licence-raj days when only government organisations were seen as having the will, and capacity, to execute projects of national importance. Apart from the Railways and BSNL, other proposed partners are Gail and Power Grid Corporation. Under the proposal, armed with funds from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund, the SPV will roll out this national broadband network. The proposal, of course, is better than the original one where the whole project would be under the department of telecommunications (which is why the DoT is opposing it!), but there are several problems with it. For one, the project is so delayed that most telcos have substantial optic fibre networks of their own, albeit not a national backbone. Two, if there is a need to develop a backbone in areas that are not already wired up, why not just bid it out to private sector players? Which, by the way, is how the USO functions—it identifies an area where connectivity is to be delivered, and then bids this out.


There is another problem that needs to be kept in mind while looking at government companies/organisations, that of slippages in execution. Part of this has to do with the fact that such organisations come under Article 12 of the Constitution and so all contractors to them feel free to go to court—you just have to look at BSNL's chequered history of contracts to know how serious this is. More important, whether due to inefficient working or other reasons, organisations like BSNL are no longer the firms they once were. BSNL's revenues, for instance, fell from Rs 40,177 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 35,812 crore in 2008-09. In terms of the number of rural subscribers, BSNL has been beaten hollow by firms like Bharti, Vodafone and even Idea-Spice—while Bharti had 43.2 million rural subscribers last December, Vodafone had 30.3 million, Idea-Spice 26 million and BSNL only 22.4 million. The three private firms have even connected more villages than BSNL has—BSNL has covered 2,85,495 villages as compared to Bharti's 3,34,891. In other words, private sector firms are way ahead of PSUs in connecting even villages, so why does Pitroda believe the PSU-government way is the way of the future.






If we were to use its reception as a yardstick, revolutionary technology always seems to play Jekyll and Hyde. There couldn't be a better example than what Robert Edwards devised in 1978, when he supervised the birth of the world's first petri-dish baby. The British government refused to fund this controversial ambition while the Catholic Church damned it as threatening God's design for procreation. Public opprobrium was so widespread that the medical staff put on their surgical scrubs in a broom cupboard and wheeled the patient into the operating theatre themselves, having dismissed the porters and the set up decoy exits for the doctors. Now, Edwards has been awarded the 2010 Medicine Nobel. What was once a fringe technology has gone mainstream. In India too, IVF treatment clinics have permeated Tier II and III towns. In 2008, Rajo Devi Lohan of Haryana's Alewa village turned up as the world's oldest mother. Married in 1950, she couldn't read or write but got herself an IVF baby just 30 miles from her village. At 70, she perfectly epitomised Edwards's conviction that "the most important thing in life is to have a child".


Lohan later said that the doctors never warned her that it was dangerous to have a baby at her age. Elsewhere in the world, data has begun pouring in about all kinds of side-effects. Like an Australian study showing that IVF treatment increases the odds of having a boy to 51 in 100 as compared to 56 in 100 in case of natural conception. There are also studies showing IVF babies' enhanced vulnerability to autism, cancer, etc. Scary multiple birth stories have grabbed headlines. But a comparable number of studies show there is little association between fertility treatment and health risks. Everything actually comes down to regulations, which continue to show wider cross-country variations than in other medical fields. The UK has overturned donor anonymity. Turkey has banned its citizens from going abroad to collect donated sperm or eggs. Italy ruled that all fertilised embryos should be put back in the womb and then overturned that ruling. But India continues to muddle along without any law concerning assisted reproductive technology. There are the ICMR guidelines but these have gaps. We can't export embryos but these are regularly couriered from abroad for implantation into surrogate mothers.








Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee President, was interviewed. Subject to Commonwealth Games (and not just opening ceremony) being satisfactorily held, the interview was headlined as India now being in a position to mount an Olympic bid. However, that's not all Rogge said. He also said, "I think it would be fantastic if India could improve its sporting performance. You have great athletes and you have one overriding sport, which is cricket. But we need more gold medals from the second most populous country in the world." At Melbourne in 2006, India was fourth, after Australia, England and Canada, with rankings determined by total number of medals. With tennis included, a host country advantage and a large contingent, the Indian aspiration is one of being second in the Delhi tally. Despite national pride, that seems a trifle unlikely. The fourth spot has been up for grabs since New Zealand was ousted. But there is a large gulf between England and Canada, and India. Even if one were to inch out Canada, it would be quite an achievement. Let's not forget. India won more medals in Manchester in 2002 than Melbourne in 2006. However, it is also true India's performance has improved since 2002.


There has been some research on economic performance and medal tallies, including, say, football World Cup, though most of this is pre-Beijing. With limited geographical coverage, Commonwealth Games are not the best indicator of global sporting clout. However, whichever sporting event one considers, one can't deny India punches below its weight. This is especially true if one correlates medal tallies with population. There is a moot point about whether one counts all medals equally, or whether one gives, say, 3 points to a gold, 2 to a silver and 1 to a bronze. However, India being an outlier (in a negative sense) is irrespective of this weighting problem. And so are Indonesia and Bangladesh. If population is the variable, China is also a negative outlier, despite its apparent sporting success, but much less so than India. Positive outliers (those that punch above their weight) are the US, Russia, several European countries and even smaller countries in Africa and Caribbean. A more plausible correlation is with GDP rather than population, the argument being that richer countries have better governance and general infrastructure, in addition to being in a position to spend more on sports. There are, of course, questions about whether one uses official exchange rate GDP numbers or PPP (purchasing power parity) figures.


Most studies use official exchange rate GDP and understandably, India becomes less of an outlier. This effect is reinforced if GDP is replaced by per capita GDP. On an average, if one includes population, per capita GDP and host country advantage, one gets a pretty good handle on medal tallies, though India still remains an outlier. However, there are two additional points that need flagging. First, there is a difference between absolute levels of these variables and their increments. For instance, an increment in GDP can boost incremental medal tallies significantly. This has happened for China and with some wishful thinking, may now be happening for India.


One can validate such a hypothesis with India's performance in Asian Games (not South Asian Games), though 15th version in Guangzhou in November will be a test. Beijing in 2008 might also be a partial validation. Second, and this is an important caveat, distributions of medals across sporting events are not quite rationally determined and often tend to be arbitrary. This is something one fails to adequately address when one considers overall medal tallies. For example, in summer Olympic games, there are many more medals in track & field and swimming.


Hence, beyond questions of spending more on sports and sports infrastructure and increasing efficiency of expenditure, there is a tactical issue about targeting this expenditure better. If increasing number of medals is the objective, resources are better spent on track & field and swimming than on team sports like hockey, where a single medal can be the end result. This takes one to legacy effects of CWG. While Delhi's infrastructure will be left in better shape, it is doubtful that sports will be given a boost. On that, there is indeed an opportunity cost argument in the Mani Shankar Aiyar proposition. And there is also an inefficient public expenditure argument. It is not quite the case that in market-based economies, there is no public expenditure on sport. But whether it is these countries, or the Soviet bloc model (still followed by China), public expenditure is far more efficient than in India. Indeed, several of India's recent successes (chess, tennis, shooting, golf, badminton) are instances where private resources (even sponsorships) have been forthcoming.


There is not much the ministry of youth affairs and sports can claim credit for. Since government won't become more efficient, all we can do is to increase per capita GDP and medals will follow.

The author is a noted economist








Self esteem is delicate thing, you don't know what it will drive you to do. Especially in the case of a 13-year-old who probably hasn't even learnt to verbalise fully his emotions. A teacher canes you, a fellow student bullies you, or a lot worse, and you commit suicide. To that extent, everyone is to blame. Blamed not in the sense they're to be booked under some section of the IPC or now under The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 like the principal of La Martiniere for Boys, Calcutta, was for his alleged role in the suicide of Class VIII student Rouvanjit Rawla, but blamed in the sense that no one was able to spot the problem. The boy's family had originally filed the FIR under the abetment to suicide section of the IPC, but the police booked them under Section 324 (voluntary causing hurt), Section 355 (assault with intent to dishonour a person) and Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act (torturing a child). Tempers are running high, and La Martiniere is standing by the principal.


Now that the first arrest, and of a school principal, has been made under the charge of corporal punishment (it used to be called caning when we were in school several decades ago), it's time for the education establishment, and that includes parents, to get together and see what kind of hole we're digging for ourselves.


It can be no one's case that teachers be given the right to bash up children with gay abandon, and certainly police action or whatever else needs to be taken against such teachers. But let's not make a law to deal with the exceptions.


That, however, is precisely what the Right to Education Act has done. Section 17 (1) of the Act, which deals with this, has this to say, "No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment". While the physical punishment part is still understandable, though I think it is fraught with problems in terms of maintaining even a modicum of discipline in a classroom, what do you say to mental harassment? If the teacher can't touch a child who is misbehaving, she can at least give the child a talking to, or ask the child to stand outside the classroom. Is that mental harassment? Section 17 (2) of the Act is clear that it is and says "whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be liable to disciplinary action under the service rules applicable to such person".


The other thing a teacher can do, and this was a common threat when we were in school decades ago, is to hold back a student a year, or threaten to do so. Mental harassment? Section 16 of the Act is clear this is not to be tolerated. "No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education". That settles that I suppose, and you can go to court to enforce this right under the Constitution.


So can we decide, as parents and teachers, how we expect teachers and schools to educate our children, to ensure they actually study and don't disrupt classes. How do we ensure the process of education does not become one big prison where teachers don't get caught up in just dealing with babudom instead of teaching our children? A fourth of all schools have to reserve seats for the poor or any other section, weak or disadvantaged, that the government decides. So a considerable portion of the school's time is going to be spent dealing with various babus and commissions, perhaps even Parliament, answering why enough kids of the poor/disadvantaged haven't been admitted. Add to this the threat of "mental harassment", the fact that no child can be held back, once again to be enforced by some babu somewhere… We're asking for serious trouble in terms of the quality of children being turned out of our schools. Think of the teacher at the next PTA meeting. Think of her as we begin our race to the bottom.





Electrifying papayas

BJP chief Nitin Gadkari called various politicians and journalists for dinner to talk of Bihar, but ended up talking of the cultivation of papayas and how to increase their productivity. When Bihar politicians asked why they were talking papayas instead of politics, Gadkari was quick to say the problem with politics was that no one talked development. He was especially harsh on Bihar's electricity generation, roughly 125 MW, which he said was even less that what he generated from his plant in Nagpur.


Image makeover


What McKinsey did, can Wally Olins do better? Change the image of West Bengal, that is? The Left Front government at the helm for three decades now, has decided to hire Olins, who is branding London for the 2012 Olympics, to "create a brand idea and brand identity for Bengal". There are severe challenges facing Olins as his team prepares to re-brand Bengal, so that investors express a desire to set up shop in the state and tourists visit. Experts agree Olins has his task cut out. In 2001, when McKinsey was hired to rebrand Bengal, it didn't have a Singur to contend with. Now, every investor remembers in harrowing detail how the Tatas were shunted out with their one lakh rupee car project, with Mamata Banerjee heading the resistance. It doesn't help, does it, that her party is in the driving seat for the 2011 assembly elections?


New interlocutor?

Wajahat Habibullah, who was rumoured to become the new interlocutor on Kashmir after he steps down as the country's Central Information Commissioner, will be joining the World Bank as an advisor or a consultant. In which case, the search for a new interlocutor may have to be stepped up again.






The paid news syndrome, exposed over a year ago, resurfaces periodically, drawing criticism, only to die back down. To check the use of money power, the EC has proposed the monitoring of electronic and print media for information that "appears" to be paid news. The EC will now include the cost of "news" in candidates' expenditure tallies if it is seen as "paid news". Besides safeguarding the electorate from misleading information, this measure intends to prevent candidates from exceeding the ceilings on expenditure on campaigning, who often to resort to paid news over issuing advertisements. The first of many problems with this approach is that the caps on canvassing budgets are outdated and need revision. And how is the EC to decide how to price the paid news?


Setting morality aside, are candidates using paid news the only ones distorting news flow to voters? Isn't Doordarshan an official propaganda machine controlled by the government in power? And what about using government programmes like NREGA and publicising them as handouts from the party in power? Using NREGA funds to build Rajiv Gandhi gram sewa kendras in each gram panchayat, which is what Jean Drèze and Aruna Roy objected to, surely fall in the same category. If the goal of this exercise is to prevent the misrepresentation of information, the EC will have to do more than sniff out paid news—auditing political parties, restructuring Doordarshan, uprooting private contracts and so on should also fall under its mandate. There is a problem with paid news, but it is the least of the EC's problems.











There is nothing quite like Test cricket. Despite the success enjoyed by the abridged, dumbed-down versions of the game, cricket spread over five long days remains the truest measure of genuine sporting skill. For those who thought it lacked drama and excitement, the first Test between India and Australia at Mohali must have been a revelation. India, the current top team in Tests, and Australia, who dominated all forms of the game not too long ago, fought for every run and every wicket on each of the five days. Fittingly, the match swung this way, and that before reaching a climactic end, with India winning by the narrowest possible margin. If fielding errors influenced the early course of the Test, the final few overs of the match were sheer theatre, with umpiring errors contributing to the excitement of the struggle (on a wearing but far-from-unplayable pitch) between the Indian batsmen and the Australian bowlers and fielders. Two episodes of the endgame captured the essence of the Test. Ishant Sharma, who intelligently partnered an ice-cool, free-stroking V.V.S. Laxman in a remarkable 81-run stand that brought India to 11 runs short of victory, was adjudged leg before wicket by Ian Gould when even the naked eye could see that the ball was missing leg stump. Next, needing 6 runs to win, the Number 11 batsman, Pragyan Ojha, seemed trapped plumb in front by Mitchell Johnson, but umpire Billy Bowden thought otherwise; Ojha set off for a run, was sent back, and was nearly run out by a substitute, whose throw narrowly missed the stumps; with no Australian fielder backing up, the home team earned four runs as a well-deserved bonus.


India's number one status in Tests now looks secure. Although M.S. Dhoni's team is nowhere near the dominance Australia achieved under Steve Waugh, and until recently under Ricky Ponting, India is a deserving champion. A point to note is that this surge was made possible not by the youngsters who have bloomed under Dhoni, but by the priceless old guard of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and Laxman. Dravid and Laxman no longer play the limited over formats of the game; and Tendulkar wisely stays away from international T20s, conserving his genius and strength for a higher purpose. As for Test cricket, it can do with some careful induction of technology to minimise the impact of umpiring errors. Making a referral system mandatory will only benefit umpiring, which is a stressful business at the best of times. The Mohali Test had two good umpires in Gould and Bowden but both made mistakes. Thankfully, they seem to have evened out, so neither team has too much cause for complaint. On to Bangalore now where more excitement is guaranteed.







The wheels of the selection process for the Nobel Prizes can turn in inscrutable ways. This was evident yet again when this year's prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the British biologist Robert G. Edwards for his pioneering role in the development of human in vitro fertilisation (IVF) therapy. He had teamed up with gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe to work out techniques to safely extract eggs from women, fertilise them externally, and implant the tiny embryos back into the womb. As the result of their efforts, the world's first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in July 1978. Some four million more babies have since followed her into this world (thanks to the use of similar methods), giving immense joy to countless infertile couples across the globe. The technique has long since proved its worth. In 2001, Dr. Edwards was given the Lasker Award, which often presages a Nobel Prize. However, according to Christer Höög, a member of the Nobel selection committee, recent follow-up studies that showed that IVF children are as healthy as the normally conceived ones were "a contributing factor" in this year's award. Dr. Edwards, now 85 and in poor health, and Dr. Steptoe, who died in 1988, had to cope with technical hurdles, lack of official support, and much flak in order to achieve their goal. After the U.K. Medical Research Council refused to back their effort in 1971, the duo relied on a private donation to continue. Even after Louise Brown's birth, no governmental support was forthcoming.


But Drs. Edwards and Steptoe were more fortunate than an Indian team led by Dr. Subhas Mukherjee, who developed markedly different IVF techniques. The world's second and India's first test-tube baby was born in Kolkata just 67 days after Louise Brown. But Dr. Mukherjee was prevented from continuing these efforts and could not even publish all the details of his work; he finally committed suicide. As IVF techniques have gained acceptance, much of the scientific controversy that surrounded the early work in this field has subsided. But the widespread use of such methods has created new ethical issues. For example, 'rent-a-womb tourism' has become a thriving business in India, with wealthy couples from abroad paying poor women large sums of money to carry IVF embryos to full term. Consequently, in a report submitted to the central government in August 2009, the Law Commission of India came out in favour of legislative intervention to legalise altruistic surrogacy arrangements and prohibit commercial ones. As always, government and society must find ways to get the best out of a technology while being vigilant to limit its misuse.










The high mortality and morbidity associated with road traffic injuries are a major public health challenge worldwide. Every year, road traffic crashes kill an estimated 1.2 million people. The figure for the injured is over 50 million. Significant increases in these estimates are projected over the next decade. However, the scale of individual tragedies rarely attracts media and world attention.


Ninety per cent of such injuries occur in the developing world. India has had the dubious distinction of high rates and a steady increase in road fatalities over the past three decades. The poor and the vulnerable (pedestrians and cyclists) bear the brunt. The majority of the victims are men aged between 15 and 40 and economically active. Road accident injuries often overwhelm emergency and casualty departments of most hospitals, which result in their coping poorly with the patient load. A significant proportion of non-fatal injuries results in traumatic brain damage and substantial disability. Deaths of breadwinners often push families into poverty. The social and economic costs are massive and often difficult to quantify.


First world highways and third world context: The last decade saw many new national and State highways connecting different parts of the country. These modern marvels have shortened transit times, thanks to greatly increased speeds of travel. However, the designs of these highways did not take into account the local reality. They were built on existing roads, which connected small towns. These motorways now go through towns; they bisect villages. Pedestrian crossings, near towns and villages, make for killing fields. Lack of fencing around and elevation of the highway allows animals to encroach upon the road, setting the stage for crashes.


The absence of overbridges, underpasses and alternative roads for village traffic means that speeding vehicles compete with slow-moving farm and rural traffic (cycles, rickshaws, hand and animal-drawn carts and tractors). It is common to see rural and farm vehicles travelling in the wrong direction on dual carriageways. In addition, alcohol outlets along the highway and the absence of routine checks by highway patrols encourage drunken driving and add to consequent disasters.


Quick-fixes with no master plan: Flyovers and elevated roads dot many major Indian cities. However, these are essentially quick fixes. Most cities do not have long-term master plans for transport and traffic. Ad hoc and non-uniform solutions to local road situations are common. The absence of traffic lights and roundabouts at most road junctions results in ambiguity over the right of way. Routing heavy vehicular traffic through densely populated areas, and poor and non-standardised road signs and markings also compound the problem. The location of bus stops and traffic lights often leaves much to be desired.


Lackadaisical enforcement: There is a basic lack of knowledge of road safety rules among users. Driving tests in India never examine the actual driving skills on regular roads. "Mirror-signal-manoeuvre" is unheard of, overtaking on the left is the norm and red traffic lights are considered suggestions rather than absolutes. Periodic tests for the safety of older vehicles and drivers are non-existent. Vehicles with just one headlight on or those with misaligned high beams are a common sight. They make driving after dark a hazardous experience.


Slow vehicular traffic hogging the fast lanes is a common sight on highways; so are heavy vehicles parked on slow lanes, with no tail and emergency lights. Seat belts in cars and crash helmets for pedal and motorcycles are not used regularly, increasing the risk of serious and fatal injury. Excessive speed, novice drivers with no knowledge of road safety and those with high blood alcohol levels contribute to serious road crashes. The failure to maintain adequate distance between vehicles also makes driving on Indian roads perilous. Vehicles overloaded with people, produce and products go unchecked. In addition, those identified for breaking road safety rules are often a source of additional income for enforcement personnel.


Different rules for different vehicles: Traffic rules are more often observed in the breach. Vehicles have the right of way over pedestrians even at pedestrian crossings; bigger vehicles have a right of way over smaller vehicles. Flashing headlights imply an immediate claim to right of way. Idiosyncratic signalling is common among truck drivers (for example, the use of the right-turn indicator to allow overtaking) and this increases ambiguity and risks of crashes.


Fragmented responsibility: The design, construction and operation of different classes of roads lie with different government agencies, resulting in a fragmentation of responsibility. The rural-urban and the legislation-implementation divides, and the lack of coordination among different authorities result in road safety falling in no-man's land. This also results in a lack of accountability. The consequent lack of leadership in the area of road injury prevention adds to the difficulties.


Social issue and equity: The extent of a society's civilisation can be judged by its regard for pedestrians' rights. In India, there is little respect for such rights. Road injuries disproportionately affect the poor. The burden of such injuries, harm and consequent disability is much greater among pedestrians and those who use pedal and motorcycles. Large sections are at risk for such injury, making it an urgent social issue. The increase in vehicular speeds on unsafe roads raises concerns about equity, justice and fairness for a large section.


The way forward


India needs to aim for safe and sustainable road systems. Research and development over the past few decades in the West have proved that a range of interventions exists to prevent crashes and injury. India has many good intentions, rules and statutes on its books but the gap between what is known to be effective and what is actually practised on the ground is often wide. A commitment to injury prevention is lacking. Mobile ambulance and curative health services are no substitute for prevention. As with all public health approaches, road injury prevention requires effective management to put in place sustainable and evidence-based measures and overcome obstacles to implementing safe practices.


India does not seem to have a road injury surveillance system. Under-reporting of road injuries is common and hides a major public health problem; police and health data only provide partial accounts of the magnitude and nature of the issues. This is particularly true of non-fatal, yet severely disabling, outcomes. There is need for accurate data collection systems. These will aid in planning interventions and designing better and more appropriate road systems.


There is also need to seriously examine and correct lapses and inadequacies in road design and planning. Periodic fitness certification for all motorised vehicles, universalisation of road signs and enforcement of law and safety regulations are crucial. Driving tests should be made more stringent and should test knowledge in addition to driving skills. They need to be conducted on regular roads. Refresher training and re-testing should be introduced. We should have zero tolerance of underage drivers. India needs to consider severe penalties for violations; cumulative penalties for recurrent infringements should result in temporary withdrawal of licences or a permanent ban on driving.


Road traffic systems are highly complex and can be dangerous to human health. Injury prevention requires an extremely coordinated effort on the part of the government and society. It mandates a "systems approach;" understanding the system as a whole, the interaction between its elements, and the identification of points of intervention. Road safety is a shared responsibility. It requires political will and administrative commitment from the government, industry, public works departments and law-enforcement and health agencies. Governments need to identify lead agencies to guide the effort, research the problems and policies, prepare the strategy and action plans, allocate human and financial resources and implement specific interventions. Non-governmental and community organisations can play an important role by highlighting the issues, studying local problems, educating and informing the general public and suggesting solutions.


A combination of legislation, enforcement of laws and education of road-users can significantly improve compliance with key safety rules, thereby reducing injuries. While strategies from developed countries can be adopted, there is also need to study the local context and implement relevant interventions and plans to improve road safety. The current rates of morbidity and mortality due to road injuries are both unacceptable and avoidable. Road safety should be high up on the political, administrative and community agenda.


(Professor K.S. Jacob is on the faculty of the Christian Medical College, Vellore.)









The time for a well defined national health policy is now, with 3.7 million people with dementia living in India


The person with dementia, his family and the community they live in are a paramount focus of health policy development.


An inclusive bottom-up approach to health policy making is far more likely to work than a top-down one


A brainstorming session on future perspectives in dementia care and health policy, at the National Dementia Summit held recently in New Delhi, is most insightful. The key prompts for this interactive session are simple and follow a 5W1H management model — who, what, why, when, where and how, in Rudyard Kipling's "six friendly men" mould. We begin by asking who should take part in developing public policy. The large number of stakeholders becomes apparent: apart from Government, civil society agencies, medical, nursing, paramedical and other professionals, university faculty and researchers and those engaged in the care of dementia; the person affected (if able), their caregivers and families, clearly should all have a say in health policy development. Other stakeholders include the insurance sector, private care providers and agencies rendering dementia related services — pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, medical instrumentation industries; hospitals, hospices and homes. There is unanimity on whom health policy should target; everyone affected by the condition regardless of their economic or social circumstances.


Prevention of risk factors


When should dementia health policy become operational (at what point of time in the lifespan) we ask. The discussion among experts is animated. They point out that primary prevention i.e. the prevention of risk factors that increase the likelihood of dementia development: hypertension, obesity, high lipid factor levels and diabetes; smoking and alcohol consumption; should begin young, perhaps even in teenaged years. These being the risk factors for many chronic and lifestyle diseases, the benefits of such primary prevention will undoubtedly go far beyond dementia, to a host of other chronic and lifestyle diseases. Secondary prevention, the optimal management of risk factors once they have developed, usually begins in middle age, when risk factors surface and are first detected in individuals. Tertiary prevention, early diagnosis of dementia, even in the mild cognitive impairment stage, often mistaken to be part of normal ageing; the early treatment with drugs that can slow down the disease; and supportive interventions for the caregiver, is universally believed to be mandatory. The group is unanimous that the time for a well defined national health policy is now, when there are an estimated 100 million elders in India, 3.7 million of whom are believed to have dementia.


Participants believe that a health policy for dementia should be comprehensive and cover standards for diagnosis, treatment, clinical management; spelling out clearly the role of the family, community and government. Aside from this, dementia requires considerable care, which goes far beyond cure: rehabilitation care, respite care and palliative care, all of which must be clearly outlined. Dementia is a condition with many ethical, legal and financial implications that need to be addressed; and is also the focus of much research. Participants feel strongly that such health policy development should be inclusive and bottom-up, assimilating inclusively the views of all stakeholders; not top-down, based on the views of a minority who have access to the corridors of power. International delegates point out that there is evidence today that the bottom up approach to policy making is far more likely to work that the top down one. In this context participants express their regret that much of health policy development in India remains top down, with stakeholders being seldom consulted.


Discussing the focus of a health policy, there is general agreement that all essential domains of dementia care need to be addressed: thus the person, family especially the principal caregiver and community health resources all need importance. However, given dementia's inherent nature, a disabling condition with complex medical and social needs, secondary care, even tertiary care, cannot be avoided at times of diagnosis; for management, both drugs and non-drug therapies; and complications. At the same time rehabilitation care, both in-patient and out-patient, needs emphasis. When asked to choose between these different domains of care, putting focus on one, participating experts and stakeholders are unanimous; the person, his family and the community resources they can leverage upon are a paramount focus of health policy development.


We proceed to ask "who should do what?" for the person with dementia. Interestingly, the need for co-operation and partnership between government, civil society, private providers and affected families becomes immediately apparent. The government clearly has to lead on making dementia a national priority, guaranteeing support for the caregiver and developing new dementia policy and legislation, all of which need immediate and timely action. On the other hand civil society support groups and care providers clearly have their work cut out for them taking ownership for tasks like increasing awareness in the community, improving dementia identification and care skills, and developing community support systems. The development of comprehensive care-giving models will require the involvement of experts: universities and tertiary facilities, working in tandem with affected families. Research is seen as one area where all parties need to take part. The government must increase funding for dementia research; pharmaceutical agencies and industry must contribute their mite; as must universities and other academic agencies; civil society supporting and enhancing the process; families participating with enthusiasm and altruism.


The development of dementia health policy, as it has unfolded here, is by no means unique to that condition. The majority of chronic diseases, a rising burden in India today, will require a similar approach: paradigms that address long term care (when cure is not an option); participation and co-operation among a range of agencies, often as different from one another as chalk is from cheese; and inclusive, bottom up health policy development. While a nodal national agency charged with this responsibility will probably be part of the answer, this discussion on dementia brings to the fore, an urgent felt need in this country, for health policy paradigms that will address the emerging epidemic of chronic and lifestyle diseases. Isn't it time our policy makers and Kipling's six friendly men, met?


( Dr. Ennapadam S. Krishnamoorthy is Honorary Secretary, The Voluntary Health Services, and Senior Consultant in Clinical Neurology and Neuropsychiatry based in Chennai.)










You sit in a chair, facing a computer screen, while a clinician sticks electrodes to your scalp with a viscous goop that takes days to wash out of your hair. Wires from the sensors connect to a computer programmed to respond to your brain's activity.


Try to relax and focus. If your brain behaves as desired, you'll be encouraged with soothing sounds and visual treats, like images of exploding stars or a flowering field. If not, you'll get silence, a dark screen and wilting flora.


This is neurofeedback, a kind of biofeedback for the brain, which practitioners say can address a host of neurological ills — among them attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, depression and anxiety — by allowing patients to alter their own brain waves through practice and repetition.


The procedure is controversial, expensive and time-consuming. An average course of treatment, with at least 30 sessions, can cost $3,000 or more, and few health insurers will pay for it. Still, it appears to be growing in popularity.


Cynthia Kerson, executive director of the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research, an advocacy group for practitioners, estimates that 7,500 mental health professionals in the United States now offer neurofeedback and that more than 1,00,000 Americans have tried it over the past decade.


The treatment is also gaining attention from mainstream researchers, including some former sceptics. The National Institute of Mental Health recently sponsored its first study of neurofeedback for ADHD: a randomised, controlled trial of 36 subjects.


The results are to be announced October 26 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In an interview in the summer, the study's director, Dr. L. Eugene Arnold, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University, noted that there had been "quite a bit of improvement" in many of the children's behaviour, as reported by parents and teachers.


Arnold said that if the results bore out that neurofeedback was making the difference, he would seek financing for a broader study, with as many as 100 subjects.


John Kounios, a professor of psychology at Drexel University, published a small study in 2007 suggesting that the treatment sped up cognitive processing in elderly people. "There's no question that neurofeedback works, that people can change brain activity," he said. "The big questions we still haven't answered are precisely how it works and how it can be harnessed to treat disorders."


Caution and disapproval


Dr. Russell A. Barkley, a professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina and a leading authority on attention problems, has long dismissed claims that neurofeedback can help. But Barkley says he was persuaded to take another look after Dutch scientists published an analysis of recent international studies finding significant reductions in impulsiveness and inattention.

Still, Barkley cautioned that he had yet to see credible evidence confirming claims that such benefits can be long lasting, much less permanent.


Another mainstream expert is much more disapproving. William E. Pelham Jr., director of the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University, called neurofeedback "crackpot charlatanism." He warned that exaggerated claims for it might lead parents to favour it over proven options like behavioural therapy and medication.


When it was developed


Neurofeedback was developed in the 1960s and 1970s, with American researchers leading the way. In 1968, Dr. M. Barry Sterman, a neuroscientist at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), reported that the training helped cats resist epileptic seizures. Sterman and others later claimed to have achieved similar benefits with humans.


The findings prompted a boomlet of interest in which clinicians of varying degrees of respectability jumped into the field, making many unsupported claims about seeming miracle cures and tainting the treatment's reputation among academic experts. Meanwhile, researchers in Germany and the Netherlands continued to explore neurofeedback's potential benefits.


Major attraction, claims


A major attraction of the technique is the hope that it can help patients avoid drugs, which often have side effects. Instead, patients practice routines that seem more like exercising a muscle.


Brain cells communicate with one another, in part, through a constant storm of electrical impulses. Their patterns show up on an electroencephalogram, or EEG, as brain waves with different frequencies. Neurofeedback practitioners say people have problems when their brain wave frequencies aren't suited for the task at hand, or when parts of the brain aren't communicating adequately with other parts. These issues, they say, can be represented on a "brain map," the initial EEG readings that serve as a guide for treatment. Subsequently, a clinician will help a patient learn to slow down or speed up those brain waves, through a process known as operant conditioning. The brain begins by generating fairly random patterns, while the computer software responds with encouragement whenever the activity meets the target.


Dr. Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research at Columbia and the author of "The Brain That Changes Itself" (Viking, 2007), said he considered neurofeedback "a powerful stabiliser of the brain." Practitioners make even more enthusiastic claims. Robert Coben, a neuropsychologist in Massapequa Park, N.Y., said he had treated more than 1,000 autistic children over the past seven years and had conducted a clinical study, finding striking reductions in symptoms, as reported by parents.


Maureen and Terrence Magagnos of Lynbrook, N.Y., took their seven-year-old son, Peter, to Coben after he was given a diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder in first grade. "He had classic symptoms of autism," said Magagnos. "His speech was terrible, he made very little eye contact and he screamed for attention — literally screamed."


Their exceptionally generous insurance covered neurofeedback, so they decided to give it a try, with sessions twice a week for the next five years.


At the start of the treatment, Coben said, he discovered that Peter had been suffering tiny, asymptomatic seizures. He says neurofeedback helped stabilise the child's brain activity, eliminating the seizures. And within three months, said Magagnos, a retired police officer, Peter's teachers were calling to report remarkable improvements.


"Today I'd say he has 'autism light,'" he added. "He still has some symptoms, but he is much more manageable."


Whether such results can be achieved with other children is a matter of debate.


'Use at home' systems


As practitioners lobby for broader acceptance, including insurance recognition, a sure sign of neurofeedback's

increasing popularity is the number of companies selling supposedly mind-altering systems to use at home. With names like SmartBrain Technologies and the Learning Curve Inc., they offer equipment purported, respectively, to "pump the neurons" and "make lasting changes in attention, memory, mood, control, pain, sleep and more."


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all biofeedback equipment as medical devices. The only approved use, however, is for "relaxation."


Peter Freer, a former grade-school teacher who is chief executive of a North Carolina firm called Unique Logic and Technology, says that since he began his business in 1994, he has sold several thousand of his "Play Attention" systems, advertised to improve a child's focus, behaviour, academic performance and social behaviour.


Neurofeedback in general is largely unregulated, with practitioners often devising their own protocols about where on the scalp to place electrodes. Results vary widely, and researchers caution that it is extremely important to choose one's practitioner with care.


When it comes to the actual devices, Dr. Kerson cautioned that they should never be used without experienced supervision.


"Oftentimes what people do is find a way to get one of these machines on eBay and use it at home," she said, adding that unskilled use could interfere with medications or prompt an anxiety attack or a seizure. "Neurofeedback is a powerful therapy," she said, "and should be treated that way." — © New York Times News Service









At least, that's what the U.S. federal highway administration believes. According to the New York Post: "Studies have shown that it is harder to read all-caps signs, and those extra milliseconds spent staring away from the road have been shown to increase the likelihood of accidents, particularly among older drivers." In New York City, this will mean replacing 2,50,900 street signs with signs that cap up only the initial letter. So BROADWAY will become Broadway. A new font, Clearview, has been developed for the purpose. Cost: $27.6m (although, to put that figure in perspective, 8,000 signs have to be replaced every year for $110 each through normal wear and tear).


For a 'gentler NY'


Officials argue that the changes will save lives and the city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, also suggested that the new signs might reflect a kinder, gentler New York. "On the internet, writing in all caps means you are shouting," she said. "Our new signs can quiet down, as well." Despite hysterical Daily News coverage that said "several" New Yorkers were "outraged" by the change — it quoted three — the paper's own poll showed that two-thirds of the public is behind the switch from capital letters.


It won't surprise regular Guardian readers that I agree with them. The Guardian style guide has long encouraged the gradual move away from capitals. So do other newspapers and websites, although some venerable style guides are still agonising over whether to lowercase internet and world wide web. (Be assured they will do so, perhaps in time for the 22nd century.) In part, the switch from capitals reflects a society that is less deferential than in the days when the Manchester Guardian would write something like this: "The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, Mr LLOYD GEORGE, presented the Naval Estimates to Ministers and Members of the House."

Most readers seem comfortable with a less formal style. A grand total of two people complained about our

coverage of the pope's, rather than the Pope's, recent visit to the U.K. We did receive a letter last week complaining that calling David Cameron the prime minister, not the Prime Minister (a style we have been following for more than a decade) reflected a "lowering of standards", but such complaints are few.

We need to be ever-vigilant, however, against the capital offenders. Politicians, civil servants and Real Estate Agents are three groups that remain intent on drowning us all in this alphabet soup. (On October 3 I was presented with a government statement that said: "On the Chancellor's recommendation the Prime Minister has appointed the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to the Public Expenditure Committee ... ") Capitals do have their uses, of course. As the Urban Dictionary puts it: "Capitalisation is the difference between 'I had to help my uncle Jack off a horse' and 'I had to help my uncle jack off a horse.'" To return to traffic signs. New York's commendable decision is an echo of one taken in the U.K. 50 years ago, when the brilliant designers Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, given the task of updating the U.K.'s chaotic system of road signs, concluded that "a combination of upper and lowercase letters would be more legible than conventional uppercase lettering". They produced a new font, known as Transport, which they felt would be friendlier and more appealing to British drivers than the stark modernist style used in continental Europe. The classic British road signage that they designed is still in use. ( David Marsh is the Guardian's production editor.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010








China will launch two environmental research satellites in the near future from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in north China's Shanxi province, the launch centre said on October 5 in a press release.


The two satellites — of the "Shijian VI—04" group — are designed for carrying out space environment probes.


The satellites and the launch pad are in "good condition", and preparations proceeding well. — Xinhua









The Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded Monday to British physiologist Robert Edwards, known worldwide as the "father" of the test-tube baby, comes at a significant juncture. Male and female infertility rates have been going up sharply across the world, with at least one in 10 married couples unable to bear children. Thanks to environmental pollutants, the phenomenon of infertility has also started showing another alarming trend — mothers passing on infertility to their sons at birth.

It is in this context that the importance of the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) technique should be understood. IVF has come a long way since it was first conceived in Dr Edwards' laboratory in the 1970s, and today it is one of the most sought-after medical intervention procedures when all other assisted reproductive techniques have failed. Though IVF has brought cheer to the otherwise gloomy world of infertile couples, it still continues to be a difficult proposition for most ordinary people around the world because of the prohibitive cost involved. But that does not in any way discount the fact that it is a modern miracle.

Almost four decades have passed since Dr Edwards successfully discovered the secret of growing life outside the body. It took him and fellow researcher Patrick Steptoe (who died in 1988) a few more years to make it a cuddlesome reality — in the form of Louise Brown, the world's first baby conceived outside a mother's womb. Thanks to Dr Edwards, infertility, particularly female sterility, is no longer a curse. The IVF miracle has brought happiness to over four million families across the globe. This medical technique has been perfected over the years so much so that the success rate of an IVF couple conceiving a child has equalled that of a normal, healthy couple. The success ratio is now 5:1: which means that one in five attempts ends in a successful pregnancy.

Kudos to the never-say-die spirit of Dr Edwards, who, despite being forced into a corner by religious fundamentalists opposed to the test-tube technology, carried on his research till he achieved success. His challenging spirit inspired doctors around the world to practice the IVF technique more vigorously. In India, despite its deep-rooted religious beliefs and cultural traditions, IVF is not looked upon as a taboo any longer — despite the controversy surrounding the birth of Durga, this country's first and the world's second test-tube baby, just three months after Louise Brown came into the world. (The Kolkata doctor who made that possible, Subhas Mukherji, and two of his colleagues had to face ridicule and humiliation at the hands of the medical fraternity and subjected to a government-appointed inquisition — to such an extent that he was driven to take his own life three years later. Posthumously, decades later, he received belated recognition from the Indian Council of Medical Research, which acknowledged that he too had made significant contributions of his own to IVF techniques.) Today India is one of the few nations where this form of assisted reproductive technology has reached its zenith. Of the four million children born through IVF and allied technologies worldwide, India accounts for almost half a million. It is undeniable that IVF brought hope to millions of couples who would otherwise have no chance of having children.

The task now before researchers and administrators is to bring down the cost of IVF technology to an affordable level so that the joy of having children can be shared by poor couples too. Another major challenge is fighting environmental pollution that is leading to female infertility. Endometriosis, mostly linked to chemical pollutants, has emerged as an important cause of infertility in women these days. Unless this is arrested, no quantum of advancement in IVF technology will help couples. The Nobel Prize will hopefully motivate scientists to apply their inquisitive minds in this area as well.








Over the last two weeks Washington has witnessed a virtual procession of Indian ministers and senior officials, all of them anxious to clinch as many outstanding issues as possible in order to make US President Barack Obama's first visit to India in the second week of November a big success. Talks between them and their opposite numbers have been "comprehensive and cordial", and there is conspicuous optimism on this score. However, there is yet no certainty about how far the things would go.

India's commerce minister Anand Sharma was the first to arrive. Having protested against the manifestly unfair and even discriminatory restrictions the United States has imposed on outsourcing of IT business, he made his point to his hosts rather politely. Foreign minister S.M. Krishna was next. Though he came primarily to receive a prestigious international award on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York, he was the only one to have met Mr Obama on the fringes of the UN General Assembly session. Defence minister A.K. Antony's arrival created much excitement because huge defence deals are under discussion and the American side is keen on announcing them during the presidential visit. Close on his heels came national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and in the course of two days saw US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, defence secretary Robert Gates, his own opposite number, General James Jones, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, an array of senior defence and security officials and no fewer than eight senators, including Senator John Kerry and Senator John McCain. India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, unquestionably the most important Cabinet minister, would be in Washington today.

Mr Menon also found time to address a meeting of opinion makers at one of the major thinktanks, the Carnegie Endowment. In his speech he expressed satisfaction with the state of the bilateral relationship, describing it "better than ever before", but summing up the situation thus: "Ours is a partnership that has come a long way in a short time, but it still has enormous potential". In his view, the time to tap that potential and for both countries to become "ambitious" about their relationship was "now", that is to say before the Obama visit.

Against this backdrop, let me focus on the preparatory work for the Obama visit now in progress. The first point to remember is that while the members of the US President's Cabinet and officials concerned are busy in brisk discussions, the President's own mind is on something else. He and his Democratic Party are in the throes of a very hard mid-term election to the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, and so great is the economic discontent in the US today, that the Democrats might lose control of at least one of the two houses of Congress, if not both. No wonder then that Mr Obama is concentrating on hot-paced electioneering in a vigorous attempt to mobilise his young followers that seem to have got disillusioned.

As it happens, the US President is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi for a three-day stay on November 7, barely a week after the crucial mid-term Congressional poll. In June last — at the time of Indo-US strategic talks at the level of foreign ministers — Mr Obama had gone out of his way to declare that during his visit to India he would "make history". How far he can live up to that promise is a moot point but, according to American sources, the desire is there. Indian sources are also hopeful.

While high-level discussions on some important issues are still on, some matters are apparently settled. One of these is the purchase of 10 C-17 transport aircraft by India, a deal of great significance to the US because it would keep the production line going and thus save a minimum of 20,000 jobs at a time when unemployment is America's biggest problem. Another similar military deal may also be concluded soon. In addition, India has already bought $4 billion worth of defence equipment and material and orders worth the same amount are in the works. All these deals are under the US Foreign Military Sales rubric, which means government-to-government transactions. The US is very keen also on the sale of more than 100 F-18 advance fighter aircraft but it is a competitive deal for which there are global tenders and several competing offers. Whether a decision on it can be taken before the visit is difficult to say. Moreover, there is no American answer yet to Mr Antony's complaint, voiced during his visit as well as afterwards that America's supplies of sophisticated military equipment to Pakistan that has nothing to with fighting terrorism is causing difficulties for India.
The Indo-US nuclear deal, entirely a handiwork of former President, George W. Bush, is the epitome of the transformed India-America relationship. Despite his earlier opposition to it, Mr Obama has carried it forward. It is indeed in its final stages of implementation though India's Nuclear Liability law has become a sticking point for the US. The Indian side has told it that the two governments should complete their respective obligations after which private companies can enter into necessary negotiations.

Transfer of high technology, including defence technology, to India seems to be a more difficult issue in Washington than it had appeared to me in Delhi. Whatever the inclination of the White House, there is much resistance within the American bureaucracy. The outlook is much brighter on "creative and innovative" cooperation in such fields as agriculture, science, technology, education and healthcare.

Overriding all this is the wider and crucial matter of defining the exact content and meaning of the strategic relationship between the world's largest and most powerful democracies. During the last 20 months, Dr Singh and Mr Obama have met six times. But almost every summit ends up in what may be called "give and take". What is needed is a wider, principled and long-term strategic partnership based not just on congruence of interests but also on shared values. What Mr Obama would say on this subject will be the key to the future.








The Musharraf-Manmohan Singh "Open Borders" solution to the Jammu and Kashmir imbroglio reached its zenith in 2006-2007. It was a product, as in history, of personality and events. Pakistan was cornered by the US after the 9/11 attack to turn on the Taliban, Pervez Musharraf the military dictator was desiring to be statesman and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's peace vision was in sync with his party's desire to woo the Muslim vote. The July 2006 train bombings in Mumbai retarded the pace of the parleys. Mr Musharraf's exit, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the ascent of her husband AsifAli Zardari were all pointers to a game change in Pakistan.

However, even after the 26/11 at tack in Mumbai in 2008, we co ntinued to believe that the parleys had been interrupted and not derailed. This make-believe bonhomie has invited Pakistani sn u bs. Firstly their silence over $5 million Indian humanitarian a ss istance after the Pakistani floods. When upped to $20 million, Pakistan specified its manner of giving i.e. the UN ambassadors of both countries in New York in the beatific presence of Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General. This was followed by exchange of barbs at the UN. From the UN General Assembly (UNGA) po d ium, and elsewhere in New York, Pakistani foreign minister S.M. Qureshi chided India for ducking the civil unrest in Kashmir. It is not Pakistan raising the issue, he alleged, it is the people of the Valley. His coup de grace was in his UNGA address that the Kashmir issue was "about the exercise of the right of self-de t e r mination by the Kashmiri people through a free, fair and im partial plebiscite under the UN auspices". The "P" word se nt the Indians epileptic, Indian ex ternal affairs minister S.M. Kr ishna dubbing it "unsolicited and unt e nable". India called off a bilateral meeting with Mr Qure s hi, the latter then retorting it was India avoiding contact, which he was ready for "anytime, anywhere".

Why has Pakistan relapsed into anachronistic formulations, long discarded and at variance with bilateral accords like the Shimla Agreement? Perhaps Pakistan is reverting to its default position, in which is anchored the core belief system of the Army and the Islamists. Mr Musharraf was making a foray to test the waters, the Army silently acquiesced, while the Islamists undermined it through periodic attacks on India. More importantly the context in which Mr Musharraf op erated has changed i.e. the Kashmir Valley is undergoing civil unrest unseen for decades, Pakistani leverage vis-a-vis US has increased with the US President Barack Obama's imperative for an honourable withdrawal from Afghanistan and the rise of Pakistan's all-weather friend China.

The situation in the Valley merits closer scrutiny. The calls for "azadi" are not new, their vigour is. In December 1963, reported loss of Prophet's relic had unleashed a similar unrest. It is perhaps not a coincidence that this happened after India's embarrassing thrashing at the hands of China in 1962. Contrariwise, Sheikh Abdullah the family's paterfamilias finally settled with the Nehru-Gandhi family only in 1974, after the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 and the emergence of India as the dominant South Asian power. Peace and harmony prevailed till Sh eikh Sahib's demise in 1982. The incompetence of his son and successor Farooq, the electoral fra ud in 1987 and finally Pakistani victory in Afghanistan and Soviet withdrawal in 1989 rel easing jihad blooded hordes all encouraged Pakistan to now turn its terror machine towards the Valley. Today Omar, a third generation Abdullah, lacking the charisma and guile of his grandfather, or his father's charm and grace has only his pal Rahul Ga­ndhi's goodwill to sustain him in a task to which he is clearly unequal.
The all-party delegation's visit, followed by an eight-point initiative and the promise of special interlocutors are a good opening gambit. The weakness is the unavailability of a political figure who can translate all this into a cogent political strategy and a narrative that undercuts the leaders who are fuelling the unrest.

Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars depicts growing US wariness with Pakistani duplicity. The US is also reacting to emerging Chinese assertiveness in East Asia. With Mr Obama due in New Delhi next month India needs to enlarge its options and its Kashmir narrative. The April 1948 UN Security Council plebiscite resolution needs revisiting, which India of the 1950s and 60s spent time ducking. India of 1971 felt it had overcome it with the Shimla Agreement. A rising India, today needs to debate it with Pakistan and with its people in Kashmir. Is Pakistan ready to let its Shia minority in Gilgit and Baltistan even consider the option of escaping their prison for freedom in India? Valley needs to be told by us and by the P-5 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) that none of them wants an independent Kashmir — a potentially Islamised Swat Valley. Are the four million people of the Valley wanting to be swallowed up by a Pakistan at war with itself? Why are no politicians espousing such a narrative in the Valley? Exchanging a part of the Valley for Gilgit and Baltistan makes greater strategic sense as it would sever overland links between Pakistan and China.
Kashmir is the door through which Pakistan is allowing the Chinese power to percolate into South Asia. Is Pakistan willing to forsake its special relations with China for a deal on Kashmir? If not, any concession to Pakistan will be one to China. The US needs to reassess its interests in the context of this great game and, for perhaps the first time, have a frank discussion with India on a common malaise — a headache called Pakistan.


The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry








The French must be fuming. Despite all their protestations of European superiority and the efforts of L'Academie Francaise to save French from being polluted by Anglais, English is winning the battle hands down.


More than 300 million Europeans now take English as their first foreign language and more than half of them consider themselves to be fluent in it. There's even worse news for the French; German is the second most popular "foreign" language.


A survey done by Eurostat shows that English is the preferred foreign tongue in just about every European country except Luxembourg, where German comes first.


However, credit for the popularity of English should go as much to the Americans as the Brits. The ascendancy of English more or less coincides with the rise of the US as the most powerful nation in the world. Across the world, English has become the chosen language of communication.


Hollywood, television and popular culture have also played a part here. One pertinent point remains to be debated though — when the most popular language is English, is it time to change the phrase lingua franca?







A key question that intrigues the China-watchers is how the


Middle Kingdom can be a successful market economy while running a closed political system.


Many in India believe that China's faster economic growth is because there are no democratic impediments like a vocal opposition or divided civil society. It seems that China's leaders are thinking of the issue as well, as can be seen from the thoughtful answers that prime minister Wen Jiabao gave to India-born Fareed Zakaria in an interview on CNN last Sunday.


Wen told Zakaria: "I don't think a system or a government should fear critical opinions or views. Only by heeding those critical views would it be possible for us to further improve our work and make progress." More than just being a trite answer to a difficult question from a Western journalist, the reply suggests that Chinese leaders are at least thinking about the issue.


Earlier, in an interview to New York Times editors in 2000, the then Chinese president Jiang Zemin had said that China could not afford to be a liberal democracy in the Western sense because that could create chaos. After 10 years, it seems that Chinese leaders are able to tackle the question with greater poise.


Wen said: "I believe that while moving ahead with economic reforms, we also need to advance political reforms. As our development is comprehensive in nature, our reform should also be comprehensive."


With its rise as an economic and political superpower, Chinese leaders clearly are not too defensive about reconciling a communist political system with a free-market economy. Wen reminded Zakaria that the substance of democracy is more important than its form. This will not silence China's western critics but Wen has clearly indicated that China is no longer afraid of greater openness.


Without defending the Chinese approach to democracy, it would do the democratic West some good to introspect on the content of its own democracy — warts and all — and why it has failed to reduce gross inequalities. China needs to be evaluated in its own terms, and not only through the prism of Western predilections.







Anyone who is old enough can remember the wonder the world felt with the birth of Louise Brown in 1978 — the world's first test-tube baby. Since then, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) has led to close to four million births worldwide and given hope to childless couples everywhere.

It seems surprising, therefore, that it has taken so long for Robert Edwards, the 'father' of the first test-tube baby, to receive his much-deserved Nobel for medicine.


The Nobel Institute in Stockholm called Edwards's work a "milestone" in medicine, and went on to say that infertility afflicts more than 10% of couples worldwide. Edwards, now 85, had started work on this process in the 1950s.


IVF involves taking the embryo out of a woman, fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory dish and reinstating the resultant embryo into the uterus. Several improvements have been made since 1978, bringing IVF procedures closer to many more couples looking for children of their own.


This is one of those few Nobel prizes in the sciences which the common person can relate to. Infertility is a problem which affects human beings at the emotional level since it deals with the ability to procreate. IVF is an almost magical procedure for those potential parents desperate to pass on their genetic inheritance for posterity. This Nobel choice is a fine acknowledgement of the human ability to push the boundaries of science and of nature.


It is ironic that Edwards's prize has forced India to look at its own IVF pioneer, Subhash Mukerji, who worked on his procedure independent of Edwards, differently. The result of his endeavours — nicknamed Durga — was born in Kolkata two months after Louise Brown. Mukerji had to face opprobrium and humiliation and finally committed suicide in 1981. Efforts are now on to give him proper acknowledgment and in 2005 the Indian Council for Medical Research lauded Mukerji's efforts.


Edwards documented his research and work every step of the way, while Mukerji did not. This is a major stumbling block for Indian scientists and researchers. Today, doctors feel that Mukerji's method is simple and easy to use. Nothing, however, can take away from Edwards's achievement — and there is little doubt that he was first with it.


Edwards also faced criticism, especially from those who felt that IVF-born children would not survive or would not be able bear children naturally. Both suspicions were proved wrong, and at last, the IVF pioneer has gotten his due.









After the Allahabad high court judgment, I was shocked to see the same old faces, the so-called Muslim leaders (or rabble rousers) on various TV channels claiming to represent Indian Muslims. These so-called representatives have, over the years, ruined their followers emotionally, sentimentally, educationally and economically.


These are the same lumpen clerics and intelligentsia who were responsible for taking the Babri issue to the streets, adding to communal tensions, letting the historic mosque be razed to the ground and then leaving the hapless community to fend for itself.


In the aftermath of the Babri verdict, not a single incident of violence was reported from any Muslim area — which suggests that they've accepted the court verdict.


The current crop of Muslim leaders dictates terms and espouses views on issues that extend from the public domain to the privacy of bedrooms. Battered by populist rhetoric and the provocative militancy of its myopic and ill-educated clerics and shallow youth, the country's second majority (not minority!) stands at the crossroads.


The fact is Muslims also revere Ram and they have no objection to a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. Iqbal, the poet of the east, has written a wonderful and moving poem on the authenticity of the existence of Ram: He Ram ke wajood pe Hindostan ko naaz/Ahl-e-nazar samajhtey hein usko Imam-e-Hind.


The greatest tragedy of Indian Muslims is their leadership. The other day, Syed Shahabuddin was trying to open old wounds instead of looking for a newer India. Certainly, he didn't represent the views of common Muslims. His remarks will close whatever creaking doors the Hindu brethren have opened to Muslims.


Afflicted by educational backwardness, social stigmatisation, administrative apathy, religious orthodoxy and political expediency, the Muslim community is caught in a pincer. A large chunk of the blame must go to their so-called representatives. The clerics who have been seduced by the state to jump into the political fray are poorly versed in the community's problems. They are too suspicious to appreciate any effort by anyone to uplift the madrassas.


]The Muslim intelligentsia also suffer from a complex which makes them think about minority rights that have been denied to the community. During every election, it has been proved that all of them indulge in pernicious vote bank politics.


At the same time, Hindus must not think that the Allahabad high court verdict is a stamp of approval on the destruction of the Babri Masjid. No act of violence is acceptable. But in a ghettoised situation, churlish political middlemen have emerged as interlocutors for the two communities, picking on sensational issues to tighten their stranglehold on the people they pretend to represent.


They end up diverting the attention of the people from real bread and butter issues to Shah Bano, Babri, Vande

Mataram, Jamia Millia and the Aligarh Muslim University's minority character, Taslima Nasrin, etc.


For an ordinary Indian Muslim, the basic issues are education, employment, implementation of the Sachar report and safety and security. It's certainly not the Babri Masjid. Muslim leaders should offer this patch of land to the Hindu brethren to build the Ram temple.


The current Muslim leadership has completely failed to understand the aspirations of the youth aiming for excellence in an enlightened future. There is a desire to compete rather than grovel and grope for quotas and special favours and Muslim youth are disillusioned by the Ghulam Nabis, Najmas, Shahabuddins, Ahmad Patels, and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvis.


Muslims should realise that they have to change their whole outlook. They are now disliked by a large section of the majority community. This is reflected in the attitudes of not only Hindu communal politicians but also the media, which ends up presenting Islam in less than favourable light. India is a country of great diversity. No single community can claim credit for the richness of its culture, heritage and traditions. What's praiseworthy is that despite this diversity, India has remained united.


Muslims in India today must make all possible efforts to remove the cobwebs of religious prejudice and historical distortion. They must try and cultivate the Hindus in the same manner and spirit as their great leaders, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Syed Ahmad Khan, did.


In a democracy which is becoming increasingly religion- and caste-based, Indian Muslims must befriend

Hindus and desist from agitating on non-issues. There is little doubt that the Hindu response to the ills of Indian Muslims, if articulated properly, will be positive. It will not only help remove the many prejudices against them, but will also create a proper environment for a meaningful and lasting understanding with the Hindu community. Muslims have lost this opportunity by failing to offer the temple site to them in the first place.








If you are energetic and healthy, your mind will mirror it beautifully. It will work better. You will see it at its creative best. Be in good shape. It will do wonders to your self-esteem.


What you eat and how you exercise are crucial in the functioning of your mind. Watch and monitor it. Visualise yourself in a fit condition. A poor diet weakens the immune system, so avoid junk food.


Healthy food is rarely tasty. But develop a taste for it. Drink enough water. It


flushes out toxins in the body. Avoid tea or coffee after meals as it hinders


absorption of minerals. Say no to alcohol and smoking.


Your stomach is not a dumping ground. Eat only when hungry. Eat


sensibly and moderately. Stop before you feel full. Ensure you eat vegetables and fruits of all colours.


Most of us do not breathe properly. When we are tense, our breath becomes shallow. Be aware of your breath. Deep breathing supplies oxygen to brain cells. If you can do pranayama daily, nothing like it. Exercise every day. Even if you do 20 minutes a day, it is enough.


Stretch. That sluggish feeling will vanish. Muscles will become supple. The body will resist disease and build stamina. You will look younger. More than anything else, it releases the happy hormones called endorphins into your bloodstream, making you feel good.


Find out ways to become active, like using the stairs and not the lift. Make a list today.








Priorities are always misplaced when it comes to Kashmir. If economic packages always precede even a mention of a political package, and the eternal jargon of 'within the framework of the Indian constitution' gets in the way of providing even the basic democratic rights, politicking over who gets to mediate with Kashmiris occupies centre-stage rather than a pragmatic assessment of workable and doable things to begin with. Clumsiness characterises all decisions and actions taken by the Centre on Kashmir. It is less to do with the needs of the situation in Kashmir. It is more to do with the politics at the national level - the politics of the ruling regime with the opposition parties, the intra-coalition and politics within the major ruling coalition partner. Not to forget, the course of events charted also by the geo-political happenings of the world, dictated mostly by super power America. In keeping with these basic nitties gritties of how the Centre's response towards the Kashmir issue is shaped each time, this time the bone of contention is who will have the honour to head the group of interlocutors on Kashmir. It is amazing how a sensitive issue like Kashmir, especially in the context of the present scenario that has been crying for a sense of immediacy since the last nearly four months, is dealt with so much callousness giving the rulers all the liberty to do a bit of politicking with the opposition, within the party or other arenas including international ones. Complete discordance over trivialities is what easily gets in the way of positive and bold initiatives for peace. Whether, the Kashmir issue provides them yet another opportunity to score brownie points or whether these tactics are part of diversionary tactics and to buy time is not known. The resultant impact in any case is prolonging the crisis, not resolving the conflict but simply managing it, mostly through jackboots and force by security forces with its enormous consequences of human rights abuse. This in turn fuels more anger, making the crisis deeper and lesser negotiable. 

Already, the eight points formula doled out by the Centre is being observed in Kashmir as an ill-conceived plot to deceive and hoodwink the world opinion. It is not just too late, it is too little, offering simply administrative measures, which could have easily been taken at the state level and did not need the endorsement of the centre with all the backing of the opposition parties. What is instead required is an honest and sincere effort for not just mediation and opening up of meaningful talks for a meaningful peace coupled with some right moves to end the vicious cycle of violence on the streets. There should be no mistaken belief about the significance of introducing genuine confidence building measures to end human rights abuse. Unfortunately all well intended voices for introducing genuine confidence building measures in Kashmir to reduce the present anger and view the Kashmir issue in the spatial context of both a political and humane problem are met with venomous reactions from not just the right wing but also so called secular liberal. The need of the time is not politicking to delay but pragmatic workable actions to ease the situation, while coming to grips with the reality that the genesis of this present crisis does not lie as much in some over-hyped organized networking of stone pelters but in the basic denial of restoring civil liberties and proceeding with the talks whenever there were opportunities for building and shaping up a peace process. That the Centre has already lost the opportunity of dealing with the Kashmir dispute when peace process was on between India and Pakistan need not be over-emphasised. It may be futile crying over spilt milk. What is more important is to understand that there is still room for negotiation. It would be a blunder to waste this opportunity with a response that is borne from a closed mind. For charting a correct course for negotiations, the Centre first of all needs to focus on building up a suitable environment for talks, rather than wasting all its energies on deciding the Mr Right for the job. There can be no favourable environment for talks without first talking about reining in security forces and the police and admitting their criminal failures in restraint in the face of violence of stone pelters. Efforts have to begin for restoring a space for democratic protests and respecting these. Equally, though there can be no adequate justice for those who have been killed or wronged, nonetheless justice as per the provisions of the law and the constitution has to be ensured in each of the killings in the last four months. Centre's suitable boy, choice of which should not take so much of time, can then take on from this point.







Now when within a month or so, Durbar will be in the winter capital the preparations to spruce up the city to welcome neo-royals have already started. After the Durbar moves to this part of the state, the biggest nuisance confronted by the citizens is on account of traffic snarls on the congested roads of the city already grappling with traffic mess. It's not just on account of plethora of restrictions put in place to pave way for smooth VIP traffic flow at the cost of commoners but also because of additional burden of fleets of vehicles on the shrinking roads already crumbling under the unmanageable number of vehicles. Not only this, the unregulated traffic, coupled with several other reasons, has resulted into an alarming increase in the number of accidents not just in the winter capital city but in the entire Jammu district. Undoubtedly the severe crunch of man power in the traffic police department, too, is one of the major reasons behind the traffic mess. Therefore to give a semblance of order on the roads, the traffic police department has started a vigorous drive and to begin with recently it stressed the use of Zebra crossing at all prominent crossings of the city to ease traffic chaos and bring down the rate of accidents while crossing roads. The next step in offing would be the installation of traffic lights at the crossings. So far, so good! While the measures taken for enforcing the use of zebra crossing have evoked good response among the masses, the skepticism is quite high about the proposal of installation of traffic lights. Reason for this cynicism is not too far to seek as many a time the helmsmen have proposed that the traffic lights would be installed in both the capital cities for better traffic regulation. However the proposals never moved beyond the stage of rhetoric. This time, although the traffic police department has claimed that the proposal has already been cleared and a contract in this connection too has been accorded to a private company but that has not ended the cynicism about the claims, which have proved hollow in the past. Nevertheless, one hopes that at least this time the proposal would see light of the day and there would be semblance of order on the roads.







Not their criminal politicians who've betrayed their people and the folks on the streets know that. The youth, the lower middle classes and the workers - they've got the idea right that the only way to fight is with your back against the wall - either you die fighting or you fight dying. The treacherous government of India has sponsored generations of local elites to do the dirty job of suppressing the people on the street. 

Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Kashmir and President of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference has a fine English accent albeit fake and sure knows how to make a speech prepared before one or two or many mirrors look extempore: "I don't know why should I fear the nuclear deal. It is a deal between two countries which, I hope, will become two equals in the future" says Omar in 2008 while defending a fraud nuclear deal made by the Manmohan Singh government - in anticipation of being the head of a puppet government whose strings are pulled by a bunch of robbers in New Delhi - who themselves are puppets of a global mafia in Washington. 

There are neither decent armies in the world nor decent policemen. Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal jacket" (1987) makes the point rather well: armies exist on this planet to kill - not to do social justice or any justice. To take a line from Che Guevara that I'm fond of quoting, the Indian army is a bunch of "wild bloodthirsty animals determined to slaughter, kill, murder and destroy the very last vestige of the revolutionary or the partisan in any regime that they crush under their boots because it fights for freedom."

The Kashmiri on the street fights for freedom - freedom from poverty, underdevelopment and humiliation of being suspected and mistreated in the land of his or her birth. The streets have turned into oracles prophesying the doom of the exploiting classes. The leaders are shaking in their pants and looking towards the government of India to send in more forces to suppress the masses. Merely with stones and infinite determination they're able to resist a powerful army that has no qualms about murdering innocents because it is their job to do so. Though apparently leaderless these are well-organized groups who know how to turn the streets of their cities into virtual battlefields. To turn them down as angry and frustrated mobs would be cynical. They know what they've been through and after being lied to for decades by the leaders, the administration and the Indian government they're prepared to fight for power ironically inspired by a sense of powerlessness. 

Struggles are defined not by how they originate but how well they can be sustained. It is here contradictions manifest themselves. The worldview sustaining a prolonged struggle must be clearly understood. Religion as a matter of fact and Islam in particular that puts the justice of God above that of man cannot be the ideological framework of revolt. Islam which is essentially peaceful as a religion stands for preserving the social order and not disturbing or detracting from it. It does not encourage revolutions - after all it is the job of God to take care of the poor and the powerless. Your job is to place your trust in him and live up to what the Book says. Such an attitude is futuristic. Therefore the revolt must not be Islamized lest it lose its radical character.

Secondly, to attack Christian schools and churches - nothing is more self-defeating than that. The Christians in Kashmir have absolutely nothing to do with the intended burning of the Quran in the US; nor do the Christians in other parts of the world. It's a political struggle for power and not a Muslim-Christian thing. If some day Kashmir must become an independent state it should know how to treat the Hindu and Christian minorities. Without their support they will never have autonomy - simply never. Kashmir - the word itself - and the region carries a sacred association to Hindus of the valley and other parts of India. Any attempt to politically Islamise the region would be fatal not to mention unfair to its minorities. A revolt must base itself in equality and social justice along with a concept of modernity that will give women the political space to articulate themselves and the young the opportunity to make decisions with regard to their lives. If power is only for the men and the women and the young have to continue with the second fiddling - the revolt has failed in an important way. 
Most importantly for a revolt to succeed in the modern world it must have an international character. While it takes local roots, to reduce the struggle to narrow ethnicity-based nationalisms does not grip the public imagination any longer. Nationalism is a dying discourse and must be finished off as quickly as possible to make the earth more inhabitable than what it is. 

Revolts that happen on facebooks and twitters are not revolutions. They take too much time and kill the essence of what should be happening on the ground. A social revolt is a time for education and genuine camaraderie. Psychological and social barriers need to be broken down and a sense of sharing must prevail among individuals and groups. 

Forced by relentless round-the-clock curfews to live like prisoners in their own homes and having to face a violent army with barely any weapons except their own hands - the Kashmiris on the streets have acquired the first lesson in political education which is to fight by any means necessary. 

Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is currently working as an Associate Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad. 

-(Counter Currents







A problem we sometimes have, is trying to impress each other by using big words: The bigger the better, and it makes no difference if nobody understands what we are saying, we want to impress people with how we said it! My friend used the word 'malodorous' in his speech the other day.

"Why didn't you use a simple word?" I asked him.

"You've got to start using big words Bob," he continued, "malodorous means smelly!"

"So why can't you just say smelly or stinking?" I asked.

"You got to impress people," he said, "make them feel you know words they don't know!"

"Okay," I said, "here's something for you:

"A research team proceeded towards the apex of a natural geologic protuberance; the purpose of their expedition being the procurement of a sample of fluid hydride of oxygen in a large vessel, the exact size of which was unspecified."

"One member of the team precipitously descended, sustaining severe damage to the upper cranial portion of his anatomical structure; subsequently the second member of the team performed a self rotational translation oriented in the same direction taken by the first team member! Okay Frank in simple English what does this translate to?"

Frank looked at me, his face the epitome of confusion, "What the hell was that all about?"

"Big words," I laughed, "simple thought put in a lofty way!"

"I give up!"

"Okay," I said, "Its Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after!"

"You mean all those big words were that silly poem we learned in nursery?"

"Sounded pompous didn't it?" I laughed.

"Overbearing and pretentious!"

"Ah!" I said, "That's what Woodrow Wilson's father felt about speeches his son made! Woodrow Wilson while standing for the President of the United States used to rehearse his speeches in front of his father!"

"And his father found them overbearing and pretentious?"

"His father used to listen to his son intently and suddenly interrupt saying, 'what did you mean by that Woodrow?' And Woodrow Wilson would carefully explain what he meant"
"And what did his father say?"

"Old Mr Wilson would turn to Woodrow and say, 'then tell it like it is son, don't shoot a bird with a cannon ball when buckshot will do!"

Frank smiled and turned to me, "I get your point," he said slowly, "Especially about using a cannonball when a bullet would do! We need to say it simply, right?" I smiled in answer.






Close on the heels of the bandh observed in this region on September 30 against the "Kashmir-centric" policies of the Government comes another warning shot. Jammu's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) has now threatened to launch an agitation to end what it describes as discrimination. Much of the Chamber's sense of hurt is born of the absence of official response to its persistent demands for a fair deal. Indeed, it is strange that it has not been given as much as the benefit of consideration for its valid arguments. There can't be two opinions that the traders and industrialists of this region have felt the pinch because of continuing agitation on the other side of the Pir Panjal. Their payments worth crores are blocked. Their production has come under serious strain as the demand of their products has decreased. Moreover they carry the economic woes of the 2008 agitation; certain promises made to them at that time have not been kept. Surely the Chamber deserves better response. It has shown tremendous maturity in the wake of the continuing tension in the Valley. Its first reaction has been of rendering any assistance it can offer to its counterparts in Kashmir to overcome their problems. To the Chief Minister also it had made extended a helping hand. It has thus sent a message that it believes in shared prosperity. Similar has been the approach of other organisations representing the business community in this province. What else can they do to establish that they mean to do business and not politics? What do they do now that they find that their repeated genuine exhortations for an even playing field are being considered a sign of weakness? Clearly they are agitated that while money is pumped into the Kashmir region for the asking they are deprived of their due share.

Their latest ire is directed against the Union Government's eight-point initiative. They find it unacceptable that this region should have been ignored altogether in matters of financial compensation. They do see a bias when a Rs 100-crore package is announced for Kashmir and they are given a short shrift. Why should additional entertainment tax be imposed on cinema halls in Jammu while the trucks carrying fruits from Kashmir have been exempted from payment of toll tax at Lakhanpur? Why can't their virtually idle units be given extended benefits as non-performing assets (NPAs)? Why have the commitments made to them in 2008 remained unfulfilled till date? Why don't the educated unemployed youth of Jammu merit an allowance? These are all genuine queries that need to be satisfactorily answered by the powers-that-be in the State and New Delhi. Currently they are bitter. This is evident from the anger they have expressed against elected representatives from this region for not effectively pleading their case. Their assertion is unambiguous: "The leadership from the Jammu region has not come to the expectations of the people and (it has) failed to protect the interests and project their issues properly." Of course, they have gone on to ask why the families of 13 persons killed during the Amarnath stir can't be given Rs 5 lakh each as compensation which has been announced for those of more than 100 people killed in recent protests in the Valley.

One hopes that the governments both at the Centre and in the State sit up and take notice of anguish and annoyance that are resurfacing in this region again. What is felt but not said openly is that while anti-national forces are permitted to milk the state exchequer those standing for the State and the country are ignored. This sentiment should be addressed with all seriousness. It will be counter-productive to ignore the real demands of those individuals and organisations that do appreciate that the situation in Kashmir requires somewhat different handling. By no yardstick can the exclusion of a representative of business community of this region from the Prime Minister's job plans panel be justified. Admittedly, the eight-point initiative envisages the constitution of two special task forces, one each for Jammu and Ladakh regions, to examine the developmental needs of the two regions with particular reference to deficiencies in infrastructure and make suitable recommendations. In practical terms, however, it means little. The issues are too well known and crave for an immediate solution. The continuing delay can spoil the show. This is evident at another level as well. Why should the matter of appointment of vice-chancellor of the Central University in Jammu be hanging fire for too long?







A road accident in Kishtwar district last Sunday once again shows that we have not learnt our lessons from identical tragedies in the past. The concept of quick response teams (QRTs) has not taken off so far. There was no crane available in this instance to lift a tipper which plunged into the Chinab killing five and injuring one of its occupants. The district administration approached the GREF (Ground Reserve Engineering Force) of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). The GREF met the demand but its vehicle got stuck on the way because of a mechanical problem. An SOS was then sent to the Army. The difficulty this time was that the crane was available at some distance from where it was not possible to bring it to the spot immediately. The NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) was contacted as a final resort. It too wanted to help but was handicapped because while the crane was on hand the driver was not Sunday being a holiday. The idea of having the QRTs had its genesis in a series of road mishaps in the erstwhile Doda district of which Kishtwar too was a part. How can they function without having the basic equipment? It turns out that no money has been provided for the purpose of buying the requisite machinery. It is possible that the funds are there but no department is prepared to spare them for a common objective. Everybody's baby, as they say, is at times nobody's baby. 

A high-powered crane with reach enough to touch the river-bed of the Chinab should be there to meet any emergency. In fact, there should be more than one such apparatus in each hilly district at least. Why should the civilian authorities directly accountable for the safety of the people in the areas under their jurisdiction be found wanting in this regard? As it is we continue to suffer because of the ills of rash and negligent driving, dilapidated condition of vehicles and lax supervision. Why should we add to our list of woes?











One challenge was old as Babar, the second as old as Nehru. Both are aspects of India's most divisive dilemma, the Hindu-Muslim relationship and its impact on shared space. Why then, as the Allahabad High Court judgment showed and the sensible reaction of Indians proved, is Ayodhya moving from deathbed to health, and Kashmir slipping from wound to gangrenous coma?

The answer is simple even if its implications are nuanced. When politicians run the country you get fractious, ego-driven, fudge-coated misrule, as in Kashmir. When the country runs the politicians, there is healing. The message from the street on Ayodhya was unambiguous. Even if the dispute remains, the violence goes. Before the verdict the government was in greater panic than the people.

Indians did not suddenly become non-violent on September 30 in honour of Gandhi's birthday two days later. But they have, almost imperceptibly, turned anti-violence. The young are bewildered that their parents could have chosen chaos over construction, and acid over an economy. Their elders have abandoned nightmares from the past and joined a modern dream. The spirit of peace did not descend from leaders to the people, it rose from the street to the corridors of governance and justice. Politicians understood that if yesterday violence meant murder, today it means suicide.

The BJP realised that if 1992 catapulted it forward, conflict in 2010 could send it spinning into an abyss. L.K. Advani advised his party to remain calm in adversity and conciliatory in victory; RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat described the verdict as neither a victory nor a defeat for anyone. The Congress, which has consistently exploited the politics of irresolution, so that it can be all things to all constituencies, discovered that this tactic had become a self-activating trap. Hallucination is not my preferred form of relaxation; I am not suggesting that we have entered some form of nirvana. But the message from the Indian voter is self-evident. The cost of provocation will be defeat. 

The politics of irresolution has been the consuming tragedy of Kashmir. There is a substantive difference between life as usual and life as normal. Delhi's politics in this summer of discontent has revolved around a belated effort to resume life as usual. The usual provides flexibility for games. Militants and separatists can play footsie with Delhi while they dine off Islamabad's menu; Delhi can treat pacification as victory, after offering a sleeping pill and calling it medicine. The young picked up stones because they wanted change, not a couple of extra schools; women came out of their homes because they were angry at the usual and desperate for the normal.

The last time both Ayodhya and Kashmir were inflammatory was the period between 1990 and 1992: the fire across India was complemented by a rage for 'azadi' in the valley. We know what has changed in the Ayodhya confrontation. The poor have realised that poverty is not communal. They want the self-respect that comes with a full stomach; they have enough places to pray. This has dampened the politics of every form of communalism. 

But something has changed in the Kashmir scenario as well. The promise of Pakistan as the elixir and purist paradise for Muslims has collapsed for a second time. In 1971 it exploded and Bangladesh was born. By 2010 Pakistan has visibly imploded. Many more Muslims are dying of manufactured violence in Pakistan than in India. There have been only two major riots in India since 1992; after Babri and Godhra. Pakistan is a daily litany of death, and a collage of seamless civil wars. Indian Muslims do not need a sermon to educate them; they see facts in media. 

Kashmiris do not want to be annexed to a fractured geography. Their 'azadi' is ethnic rather than Islamic; it does not include Muslims from Jammu, let alone Muslims from Faizabad or Hyderabad. It is a heady, undefined fantasy that cannot pass the test of daylight. The solution lies, as in Ayodhya, when Delhi gets a simple message: the people are more important than politics.









The main constraints in crop production in Jammu and Kashmir State are soil erosion, low fertility status in many soils in terms of available plant nutrients - both macro and micro, salinity/sodicity, acidity and calcareousness in certain pockets of all the regions of the State. Scarce plain area for cultivation, extreme variation in agroclimatic conditions, lack of irrigation facilities, timely supply of agricultural inputs, poor economic, conditions of the farmers are the other constraints in agricultural production.

Out of the various factors contributing to cause 32 percent land degradation of the total geographical area of the state of 2, 22236 km2 including that which has been forcibly occupied by China and Pakistan, soil erosion is the main one. Soil erosion is causing great damage to the Siwaliks and the adjoining submountainous area known as Kandi belt vis-à-vis in the middle, upper and trans Himalayas.

Soil erosion and the biotic pressure on land has forced many farmers to migrate to Jammu and Srinagar cities from Siwaliks and Karewas for work. Once the meticulously sesame, maize and pearl millet terraces during Kharif and barley, gram and wheat during Rabi in Kandi belt of Jammu, are now the state of despair. Such terraces have been seriously damaged and exposed from heavy rains during monsoon, and washed down the precious top soil to the plains. Some of the most fertile agricultural lands of Palammorh, Bowda, Barwal and Logate belonging to Kathua and Barnoti blocks of Kathua district have been washed away. According to some of the elders, the yield of the wheat and maize in the existing lands has come down from 129 and 169 ha-1 to 89 and 109 ha-1, respectively. The main problem of Kumari village, at one time an important place not only for agricultural production but also an important place for night halt for up and down convoys of mules to Bhadu and Bilawar is also the water erosion. The erosion in this village is so heavy that it has almost taken away all the land and more is going every year. This is due to the Sahar Khad. Agricultural productivity of the land of this village will be totally gone if soil conservation are not taken well in time. Many other areas are also affected by erosion. 

Fertility status of soils from Jammu region belonging to three agroclimatic zones has been studied by many soil scientists of SKUAST, Jammu, in terms of available content of N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S, and micronutrients like Fe, Cu, Mn, Zn, Mo and B. Soils of temperate and sub-temperate zones have been found well supplied in available N, P, K contents, where as soils of subtropical irrigated zone are low in available amount of these nutrients. Similar is the condition of the soils of Kandi belt of Jammu, where the amount of available, N, P, K contents has also been worked out to be low. It is point to mention that soils of Kandi area are low in C: N ration i.e. less than 10:1, which indicates that organic matter of these soils is in advanced stage of its decomposition. And as such these soils call for addition of lot of organic matter to enhance their crop productivity. Similar is the need of the soils of Karewas which are also very low in available N, P, K contents. Soils of Jammu region have also shown deficiency in available sulphur to the extent of 24.2 percent in the soils of Jammu district including Samba (now a separate district) followed by those of Kathua, Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur including Reasi (separate district) and erstwhile Doda covering Kishtwar and Ramban tehsils now separate districts. Not only this, the deficiency of micronutrients like Zn and B, has been seen in a number of soils. The deficiency of the former is much more prevalent in soils of tropical zone belonging to Jammu and Kathua districts - food bowl of Jammu region, while the deficiency of the latter has been observed in temperate/subtemperate apple growing soils. Zn deficiency has also been noticed in citrus growing soils.
Salinity and sodicity, and acidity are the other soil constraints in crop production. Salinity, is due to the presence of salts like NO'3, SO"4, Cl', HCO'3. In many soils of Jammu especially Kandi belt and valley of Kashmir, soluble salt content has been found to the extent of 0.2 percent which is injurious to plant growth.
The problem of sodicity exists in the alluvial soils of Jammu plains. Salt affected soils i.e., saline and sodic have been found in Jammu district to the order of 10,000 ha1 Najjar etal.2006) or even more. They are present in Ladakh also.
Acid soils having pH less than 5.5 are harmfull for crop production due to the presence of toxic amount of Fe and Al and low availability of Ca, Mg and K. Occurrence of acidic soils having pH as low as 5.0 or even less has been found in many hilly areas of Jammu region (Gupta et al. 2009).

Another constraint causing slow growth of agriculture in Jammu and Kashmir is limited cultivated area being hilly terrain.

Assured water supply is an imperative, especially for high yielding varities of crops responding to high doses of fertilizers and pesticides. But in Jammu and Kashmir we have food crop area of around 9.45 lac ha and out of this 3.62 lac ha is under irrigation (38.80 percent) and 61.70 percent is rainfed. Since 1998 and onwards the farmers of a number of places of Kashmir argue, "continuous drought during the last few years caused huge losses to our crops. This disheartened us to the extent that most of the farmers are now drifting from rice cultivation to horticulture." Agriculture i.e., growing of crops in Kandi belt of Jammu is also not paying and therefore, many peasants of the area are leaving this avocation.

Due to burgeoning human population, the holdings of the peasants have become very small. On the whole, the average holding size is 0.99 ha. About 56 percent of the total holdings are below 0.05 ha, 32 percent in the range of 0.05 to 1.0 ha and 10 percent in range of 1.0 to 2.0 ha.

Thus, 88 percent of the farmers are marginal having their land holding size less than 1 ha and 10 percent small farmers with their holding varying from 1 to 2 ha. Hence these holdings are uneconomical to till. Moreover, these holdings are highly subdivided, fragmented and scattered.

All kinds of soil and water conservation measures viz; agronomic, biological, and engineering should be followed to control the soil erosion. However, out of these practices vegetative covers, vegetative barriers live hedges etc; have been found more effective than the mechanical or engineering practices. Similarly agronomic practices like crop rotation, land leveling, strip cropping and use of mulches should be done.
Use of organic manures, such as compost, farm yard manure is essential to increase the soil fertility. Wherever possible green manuring practice should be done.

Use of gypsum and liming is essential to reclaim the salt affected and acidic soils. To ensure food security for the future, only option is timely and effective space utilization in agriculture to follow diversified agriculture.








I grew up with the explicit understanding that hard work pays. It did. But of late this assumption has betrayed me. It has proved me wrong and demolished all those premises on which I had built up my understanding of academics. 

Three notches less than a decade of teaching the under graduate and post graduate students has made me realize the fallacy. One need not study hard to attain good grades. Stated differently, there is no relationship between study and grades. One can cook up one's marks card even without attending classes! Yes, it is possible now. Making such a statement a couple of decades ago would have been preposterous, nay, a sacrilege. Not anymore. Higher education in the present times is a business, shorn of any professional ethics and discipline. It is no more the privileged preserve of the committed few. 

Significantly, the Government itself is its biggest promoter as it furthers its populist agenda in the garb of democratization of higher education. In the process, obviously, quantity has outsmarted quality. When degree colleges are as ubiquitous as primary schools, it is apparent we need to relax the student intake rules as well. A highly subsidized fees structure moreover encourages even the most reluctant and the unwilling. Consequently who so ever wishes to enter the portals of higher education is admitted irrespective of the grades he/she obtains in the qualifying examinations. A college after all needs to have minimum student strength to justify the hefty salary bills of its staff. 

By the same logic, it needs better results, which are hard to come by from those admitted on relaxed criteria; hence, jugglery of marks at different levels. End result is half baked products. It is not surprising if the grades on the final marks card do not match the knowledge a student possesses after spending three long years in an institution of higher education. The blame lays as much on populism as on academics. But who cares? Inflated marks can fetch a candidate a secure and better paid government job, where knowledge is not a necessary qualification. Numbers are. 

A much worse situation prevails at the postgraduate level. Decentralization of post graduate courses was a good political move, but certainly a bad academic act. It has given opportunities to those who otherwise could never have been able to pursue their studies after graduation. It has undoubtedly improved accessibility. But, who said postgraduate education too has to be as accessible as primary education? 

Acquiring such a degree in a town and college where one finished one's graduation obviously deprives the prospective student the extra mile of knowledge which he/she could have imbibed had he/she been in a university campus. Such students are doubly deprived. For, the teaching - learning process in a college is as mundane and spiritless as is the campus itself. It remains entangled in undergraduate mind set, both academically and administratively. 

In no college of the state has academic and administrative restructuring been made to accommodate the postgraduate studies. No separate staff recruitments, no proper infrastructure, nor an environment that may inspire the entrants. No review of their functioning either by the government which introduced these courses, or by the universities which award the degrees. 

The result is arbitrary running of the courses. Lax rules prevail. A student can remain absent from class for months together without the fear of any penalty. He /she can carry on another course or a full time job. Or, submit assignments and appear for midterm tests even after the university semester end examinations are over! University departments would never ever allow such gross indiscipline to flourish. But colleges are a different breed altogether.

That is why postgraduate courses in colleges are such a great hit. Imagine a record 173 applications for 21 seats in geography this year. Academic sorcery responded by adding another 12 seats including 7 on payment. Fabulous! Hail the voodoo rules!!

Do we ever ponder as to the long term repercussions of such acts of academic populism that betray the sense of professional ethics? Unlike a graduate, a postgraduate gets the certificate to teach the undergraduates. Why? They are teaching even the postgraduates! One can well imagine the fate of higher education and society at large as such products initiate a vicious cycle of reproduction.

As populist politics joins hands with business and decides the fate of higher education, hard work is the obvious casualty, which anyway has little relevance in the present milieu. Little wonder, mediocrity has carved out a safe and stable niche in the intellectually almost barren landscape of academics in these campuses.









IT has been pointed out by numerous defence analysts also in the past, but when the chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, himself admits that 50 per cent of the equipment — including fighters, radars, transport aircraft and air defence weapons — was either obsolete or obsolescent (becoming obsolete), it is a matter of grave concern. This is an unfortunate consequence of the ill-advised policy followed by the political leadership in the wake of the Bofors scandal in 1990s to put a virtual ban on all acquisitions. Later also, enough money was not earmarked for purchases and this caused inevitable delays. Such equipment cannot be procured off the shelf. As such, it will be several years before the shortfall can be met. The IAF chief is optimistic that the obsolescence level will come down to 20 per cent by 2014-15. That will be possible only if amends are made immediately.


He has bravely underlined that despite this shortcoming, the IAF was capable of handling threats. That can perhaps be done, but that will take a heavy toll on its glorious men. In modern warfare, bravery of the men has to be matched by the excellence of their equipment. Having to make do with Russian-origin air defence systems such as the OSA-AK and Pechora and the shoulder-fired Igla missiles, which have been in service for more than two decades, the world's fourth largest air force is certainly handicapped. Equally serious is the shortage of 600 pilots and over 5,000 persons below officer rank.


On the other hand, China has been making big strides on the defence front. So is the case with Pakistan which may otherwise be on the verge of bankruptcy but has been modernising its defence forces on priority. India can ward off any foolhardy misadventure only if it keeps its powder dry and is battle-ready for every multi-front and multidimensional war.








THE US threat that the routes passing through Pakistan to Afghanistan will not be used for supplies to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan if Islamabad does not fully cooperate in preventing Taliban attacks on NATO trucks highlights the increasing tensions between the super power and its "ally" in the war on terror. As a result, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is feeling emboldened. Taliban militants set on fire over 36 NATO vehicles in south Pakistan on Friday alone. The latest such incident occurred on Monday. The extremists have claimed responsibility for what they did. This is quite disturbing for those engaged in fighting terrorism.


One of the factors affecting Pakistan's relations with the US is the continuing drone attacks on the militants' bases in Pakistan. In September alone 21 such attacks were carried out. It seems the US is not as successful in eliminating Pakistani Taliban bases as it claims. Increasing Taliban assaults on Afghanistan-bound NATO trucks passing through Pakistan provide proof of this ugly reality. These militants targeted this year as many as 55 NATO convoys, with 22 attacks occurring last month.


Despite their love-hate relationship, Pakistan has been getting considerable US military and economic assistance in the name of fighting Al-Qaida-Taliban militancy. The US feels it cannot eliminate the Taliban menace from Afghanistan if Pakistan's cooperation is not there. The US problem is getting complicated with China fast increasing its presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. This factor has emboldened the Pakistan Army, which has come out almost openly in opposing the US drone attacks. After the Pakistan Army earned accolades from the masses for its role in handling the flood-caused crisis, it does not want to be seen as siding with the US on the issue of drone attacks. It seems to be finding virtue in opposing the US. This may ultimately help the Taliban and Al-Qaida strengthen their bases in the Af-Pak area, derailing the drive against militancy. The world community cannot afford to ignore this alarming development.









WITH poise, and elan, the heir apparent to the British throne, The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, as a representative of Queen Elizabeth II, read out her message and declared the Commonwealth Games 2010 open. He stepped in for his mother, something he has made a bit of a career of, and charmed the crowds. The Prince and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, viewed the spectacular opening ceremony and attended other functions in Delhi.


Prince Charles was born a year after India became independent, and he had a long engagement with the nation and its people. A welcome guest, he has visited India on many occasions and left behind pleasant memories. On an earlier trip, he even played polo in Delhi, the very city that recently dazzled the world. Naturally, life is not all fun and games. His primary official duties done, the Prince discussed climate change with industrialists in Delhi, organic food with farmers at Fatehgarh Sahib and perhaps polo or politics at the Moti Bagh palace of a fellow polo aficionado, Capt Amarinder Singh who hosted a dinner for him, at Patiala. Then, it was off to Jodhpur, for another day of interaction with local environmental advocates, and a dinner in the royal environs of yet another palace. The Duchess of Cornwall has her own interests, and she too interacted with local people and visited a school.


To give him his due, the Prince has been an unobtrusive, yet effective ambassador of Britain for all his adult life. He is a powerful force on environmental issues, alternative systems of medicine and has focused on organic farming, a subject on which he has co-authored a book too. Just as the Commonwealth has been evolving over the years to reflect emerging realities and new needs, so too has been the man who would be King, some day.

















WISE words were spoken this past week. Sometimes we are so filled with anger and bitterness over the perceived wrongs of history that, enveloped in fog, we see the past but dimly and are unable to recognise the future. On the eve of the long-awaited Ayodhya verdict of the Allahabad High Court on September 30, there were appeals for calm all round as the future interrogated the past. Home Minister P. Chidambaram saw "The India Story" as much more than a dispute over a piece of land" that must not derail "the bigger story". Young people born after the Babri demolition had moved on and were animated by a very different worldview.


Even the most ardent contestants have thus far largely responded constructively to an unexpected but remarkable judgement. The verdict has steered a path between faith, history, practice and possession to open a door to a harmonious settlement and reconciliation. The two-to-one majority ruling is that a mosque was not built by demolishing a temple on Babar's orders, but was erected on the site of a ruined Hindu structure whose provenance as a temple is contested. Hence the property be now divided with a third going to each party: to the Hindus (the land under the former central dome where the idols lie), the Muslims (within the inner courtyard) and the Nimrohi Akhara (within the outer courtyard where the Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi are located).


The critical finding, articulated by Justice S.U. Khan, is that for centuries, and long before the matter became subject to litigation, Hindus and Muslims had in a real sense shared and indeed worshipped alongside one another within the same disputed premises. If then, why not again now is the unspoken premise of the majority judgement.


The judgement has been criticised by some scholars as being based on unproven historical evidence advanced by the Archaeological Survey which allegedly drew unfounded conclusions from site diggings. Others have expressed concern that the court has departed from historical facts and legal processes to affirm certitudes based on faith. This is not quite so. Justice Khan clearly says that it was only after the mosque was built that Hindus began to identify it with Ramjanamsthan while Justice Agarwal ascribes the area under what was the masjid's central dome as the Ramjanamsthan only as "per faith and belief of the Hindus". His observation is descriptive, not juristic. Justice Khan further makes it plain that "As far as the title suit of a civil nature is concerned, there is no room for historical facts and claims", including claims based on faith. Only Justice Sharma took the line that faith renders the spot where the idols now lie as the Ramjanamsthan, a juristic person and a deity.


It would appear that there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court but only after the High Court's prescribed three month cooling off period, during which the status quo will be maintained. It does not follow that any last minute compromise sought prior to the verdict precludes attempts at a compromise today despite initial statements to the contrary. This is because the parties now confront an entirely new situation. Earlier, the judgement was not known. Now with each side having got a third part of the land under dispute, an appeal could conceivably declare in favour of one party or the other. Half a loaf being better than no bread, there is now reason to be more compromising than before. Whether a compromise will, in fact, be reached is another matter. But the prospect of a negotiated settlement might now appear relatively more attractive.


Meanwhile, the criminal act of deliberately destroying the Babri Masjd on December 6, 1992, cannot be forgotten. The Liberhan Commission has framed the charges. The guilty must be tried and punished expeditiously, unlike what happened when the idols were conspiratorially planted under the central dome of the Masjid on a cold December night in 1949. Justice in this separate but adjunct matter is essential to bring closure to the Mandir-Majid dispute that has dragged on for centuries.


Something of the bigger story Chidambaram mentioned was manifest on the morning of the judgement when the Prime Minister inaugurated the monumental Unique Identification Number Aadhar programme in a remote Maharashtra village. He handed over a 12-digit number to a poor, unknown farm labourer, Sonawane, making her an identifiable person and an equal citizen of India with rights, privileges, hope and a numbered address that guarantees her a future.


Like a hitherto excluded wretch in a song of yore, Sonawane too can proudly proclaim that "I am Somebody, Not a Nobody, Nor just Anybody. And Everybody knows my Name". Everybody now knows Sonawane as she has a numbered name and address and can no more be treated as a nobody and fobbed of her rights. That surely marks a revolution ! Sceptics may entertain doubts about the UID solution. But Aadhar will prevail, with millions of Sonawanes marching to a new future under its banner. The road is long; but she now has the means to overcome.


Then, on September 29, the Supreme Court freed a Manipur editor from detention stating that "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both". This principle has wide application. A boisterous, jostling, protesting, growing India confronts a "million mutinies" of multiple transitions by heterogeneous groups fast maturing from tradition to modernity. For such a country, security in many ways comes from and is reinforced by liberty.









AS a family, we were all in for a celebration when my sister gave birth to her second child. Just as the arrival of a newborn results in endless horror stories of childbirth, this time discussions and comments were reserved to discussing birth order. Being the middle child, sandwiched between an older sister and a younger brother, I realised that the concept of a middle child was becoming a thing of the past. With more and more single child homes, we are definitely an endangered lot.


Our father would always introduce us in birth order as Number 1, 2 and 3. I often wondered why this order couldn't be shuffled. As any middle child will tell you, most parents with the sincerest intentions will pay a lot of attention to the first born when the younger one arrives. But what happens to the little number two when number three arrives?


All the attention is unknowingly showered on the first born, so that he doesn't feel left out and the youngest one because he is the baby, who by the way, never really grows up. Now that leaves us the second borns out in the cold. We, by the way, are a very hardy species, because we learn to manage and be heard at all costs.


The funny thing is that we are always considered the right age. If my grandmother wanted something and asked me, which she always did, I would often say, "Why don't you ask Priya?" You guessed it, the reply would be, "Beta she's older than you, let her be". Being the persistent middle child that I am, I would then turn the task over to my younger brother, but ……… he was always too young. Ten or fifteen, I was always just the right age!


We have to make a special effort to be heard, so we are usually the most talkative ones, irrespective of whether anyone notices or not. But one day someone did take notice of me; my dad. Ask any little girl and she will tell you what a wonderful feeling it is to have your dad's ears and eyes all to yourself.


Over the years I have developed a true and lasting friendship with my father. This has often resulted in feelings of deprivation amongst my siblings and I have been looked at accusingly for taking up too much of his time. As the 'sandwich', I know I never impinged on their time, let alone get my share of it.


But the myth of me being the apple of my dad's eye has been perpetuated for so long that sometimes I start believing in it too. I don't want to know whether this is a myth or a fact; all I know is that this myth has given me enough strength and confidence to look life squarely in the eye and I wouldn't change my special slot for the world.







The article, "Remedy worse than the disease" (Sept 9, 2010), penned by a former Supreme Court Judge and five former Chief Justices of High Courts, on the issue of the transfer of Chief Justices from one High Court to the other, has evoked a good response from jurists and experts (Sept 13 and 14). We present today two more views.


Justice D.S. Tewatia (retd)


TILL June 1976 no judge was ever transferred without his consent. Before that, a judge was transferred either on his request and when so transferred he joined the transferee court as the juniormost judge or when made a Chief Justice of another High court. The judges in the latter category readily gave their consent as in their own high court they stood in seniority with no prospect of ever becoming chief justice or such a prospect lay in distant future. Such transfers were more of a favour to the judge concerned.


During the Emergency in June 1976, some 16 High Court judges, including this writer, were peremptorily transferred. Impartial judiciary serves as a shock-absorber of grievances of citizens against fellow citizens as also against the rulers. Make this shock-absorber ineffective, the result would be a disorderly and anarchic society.


If the judiciary becomes subservient to the executive government, it becomes a handmaiden of the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, ministers and legislators of the ruling party, and their henchmen in the bureaucracy and outside.


Some sections ask, what is so peculiar about the transfer of High Court judges? After all, those in the Army, police, etc. are also subject to transfers. In civil services, the weapon of transfer is frequently resorted to harass an upright official. In the nature of things, the changing of office and with it the place of residence is inherent to these services. While the shifting is part of the service and inevitable and is accepted as such by the person concerned, the people at large are not affected because such shifting and transfers do not go against the public interest.


However, the judges are appointed to a High Court and all except a microscopic minority, who either become Chief Justice or are elevated to the Supreme Court, retire from that very post. So the nature of their service does not inherently involve shifting in the per se interest of service. In this context, the subordinate judiciary is insulated by the Constitution against the executive interference as the High Courts exercise exclusive power and control over their transfer and posting.


Moreover, High Courts do not consist of a solitary judge. Even in the Sikkim High Court, there are three incumbents (two judges and a Chief Justice). The close relations do not appear in the court of their relation judge whether sitting singly or in a larger bench.


A judge's friend, who as a matter of right can appear before them, if not so scrupulous, may easily exploit his friendship but not his relations. His colleagues on the Bench are not expected to conspire with him and sign on the dotted line. Where many judges have their relatives doing practice, such judges may start scratching each other's back. I have served for more than 18 years at the Bench and can say from personal experience that judges are above such petty, demeaning thoughts. If some judges are as unworthy as they are sought to be painted, then transferred judges in one court would be looking after in that court the interest of relations of transferred judges of that high court and vice versa.


What about a judge whose relation practices before the District Judge and Sub Judges who may be amenable to the High Court Judge's invidious influences to a degree greater than his colleagues on the Bench? And where should a Supreme Court judge go, whose relation may be practicing either in the apex court itself or in one or the other High Court or before the subordinate judiciary?


Should a Superintendent Engineer, Chief Engineer, Secretary or Chief Secretary forfeit his right to be in the service of that state if his bright son or daughter happen to qualify and join service of that state on the specious ground that he is likely to be favoured in his service career on account of his father's influence and such favouritism is likely to create disaffection in the given service? Extending the illustration to the Army, what would you do to a General whose son, out of patriotic fervour, joins the Army? There is no other service to which he can be transferred. Would you make either of the two to resign the job?


In writing this I am pleading a public cause and not the cause of High Court judges against their transfers as such. For an overwhelming majority of judges are made of sterner stuff. They would view it with stoic indifference. A little personal inconvenience to them or to their dependents caused by transfer would hardly be a price to pay for maintaining their self-respect and sense of duty to the country.


For by paying a paltry salary to a soldier, the nation expects of him, when the call of duty comes, to stand on his ground even at the cost of his life. The nation's expectation would be no less from those on whose comforts it expands a fortune. But under a corrupt executive regime, such High Court judges would not be transferred. They are likely to bask in the sunshine of the goodwill of the powers that be and eventually join in the loot of the citizens. It is the citizens who will be the sufferers if the independence of this constitutional post suffers a setback.


As an enlightened citizen, I, too, have a stake in the independence and health of this institution and as such, I owe it to myself and to my fellow citizens to point out that the government's policy on transfer is anti-people and against public interest.


The higher judiciary, along with the Army, still represents the only proverbial silver streak in the otherwise murky national firmament. The strength and stability of the democratic polity depends on the strength of institutional pillars on which it rests. The most important pillar envisaged in the Constitution is the judiciary and its strength is its independence.


Good rulers do not undermine the strength of such vital institutions. They take positive steps to strengthen them

and, in the process, strengthen their own capacity to do good to their people.


I am not aware if there is any other institution in the country that by and large works with such dedication as the judiciary. A judge — and this applies to the presiding officer of the lowest court of sub-judge to the highest court of the land — punctually takes to his seat in the court at the prescribed time, and works, as if glued to it, till the lunch hour. One feels as if one is committing an impropriety if one takes while holding the court even a glass of water. The same applies to the afternoon session. Not for him the diversion of pleasantries with a friend or the telephone talk or a tea session with his colleagues and friends or extended lunch hours.


After court hours, a judge has to dictate judgments. At home he has to read and correct the typescript of the judgment, and then reads the admission cases of the next day which consume at least two hours daily. One is not bound to do so. But the sense of duty compels him to do so. Otherwise, even the whole working day may not be sufficient to dispose them of. And then where to find time to decide the regular pending cases?


All this involves concentrated mental work. At times, one has to write lengthy judgments and spend weekends and even long vacations to complete them. But judges have never made a song of it. For they owe it to their high office and do so happily.


In the long history of the Indian high courts, one never heard of a seniormost judge, after the retirement of the Chief Justice, being kept as Acting Chief Justice for months and years before being appointed as the Chief Justice. Why, if not for ulterior motives? Never before 1976, an extension of less than two years was given to the Additional Judge of the High Court, if there was no vacancy of a permanent judge on the expiry of the initial term of two years. And the decision used to be taken weeks in advance. Not so since 1976 when the period of extension ranged from three to six months. Not because within this period a permanent vacancy is expected. It has become the style.


After the expiry of this short extension a further extension is given. That too, on the last day of his term. And then again, at times, no formal warrants of appointment, but on telephonic information to the High Court office that the term of the given Additional Judge is extended and the oath should be administered to him. I leave it to the judgment of Indian people whether these actions by the Centre were intended to enhance the independence and image of the judiciary or to decisively undermine it.


The writer is a former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Calcutta High Court. While retiring in 1988, four years before his superannuation, he had requested the President of India to impress upon the Centre the need to review the policy on transfer of judges








THE Punjab and Haryana High Court's turbulent past was apparently aggravated, if not created, by the Chief Justices from other states. A peep into the recent past provides enough evidence to pass a verdict against the trend of having outside Chief Justices.


In just five years, the High Court plunged into crisis at least thrice — twice on the issue of appointments being pushed by an outside Chief Justice. On an earlier occasion in 2004, the differences with the then Chief Justice also saw as many as 25 Judges proceeding on mass leave.


The latest in the series of crisis was brought about by the Punjab and Haryana High Court's former Chief Justice Vijender Jain. After spending about 18 months in Chandigarh as the Chief Justice, the "outside" Judge bade adieu to the City, but left behind controversies. Right from the appointment of Judges against the opinion of the High Court collegium, to sharing the dais with the Chief Ministers and going abroad for conferences, the outside Chief Justice's actions were always under the scrutiny of the Bar and the Bench, sometimes in hush-hush tones, sometimes openly.


Justice Jain had arrived in Chandigarh in November 2006 at a time when the High Court's image was at its lowest ebb among the masses due to the sharp divide between the Chief Justices, with extra administrative powers, and the brother Judges. In fact, much before his occupation of the coveted seat, the High Court had witnessed crises during the tenure of former Chief Justices Arun B. Saharya and B.K. Roy due to difference in opinion with the other Judges.


It was worse during Justice Roy's tenure as all except one Judge had proceeded on mass casual leave. The crisis had ended with Chief Justice Roy and at least two other Judges of the High Court being transferred out.


Chief Justice Jain, under these circumstances, was expected to "take everyone along". But by the end of his tenure, the High Court was divided over appointments and other issues. Even the Judges strongly supporting his moves during his initial days turned critical of his actions. At times they spoke openly against him.


Chief Justice Jain's actions during his tenure had evoked mixed reactions from the Bench and the Bar. If he went around cutting ribbons for inaugurating judicial complexes, he was appreciated by some for his progressive designs and blamed by many for wasting precious court time.


Things stabilised with the arrival of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal, undoubtedly. But a spin-off of their short tenures can be seen in the appointment of Judges.


Chief Justice Thakur was in Chandigarh for just more than a year; and Chief Justice Mudgal too leaves in January 2011 after spending about the same time. Both the Judges stayed here for durations too short to fill up the vacancies. As of now, the High Court has 47 judges as against the sanctioned strength of 68; and a pendency of more than two lakh cases.


A local Chief Justice does not have to wait and watch. He has already seen enough and can simply recommend

the names of advocates for elevation; and see them through before his tenure ends. Sending a Judge as the Chief Justice of another state also means displacing him at the fag end of his career as elevation more often than not comes at a time when retirement is staring in the face.


The Punjab and Haryana High Court's own experience with local Judges, functioning as Acting Chief Justices, is enough to reveal the system of not having outside Chief Justices works like a well-oiled justice delivery machine. Of late, Justice H.S. Bedi — now in the Supreme Court — and Justice Mehtab Singh Gill — currently the seniormost Judge — have ensured smooth functioning of the system during their tenures as Acting Chief Justices. The argument against outside Judges has already been built. It's now for the Union Law Ministry and the Supreme Court to examine the contentions and act expeditiously.


The articles (Sept 9 and 13) and comments (Sept 14) are available on










It's the stuff of comic-book cliché, the classic tale of a mild-mannered everyman without a vain bone in his body, the last person you'd look at in a crowd, a man who has the 'aging relative' look down pat… Yet, when Sivaji Rao Gaekwad ambles out of his wigless real life and swaggers onto the silver screen, there has to be a faster-thana-speeding-bullet moment where he steps through a phone booth, for the transformation is incredible. Growing instantly to several times the size of life, this man is so suddenly, awesomely mega that… that he's CAPITALISED, for god's sake. 


And his latest film sees him at his most magnificent. Shankar's Enthiran (or Robot or Robo, depending on where you watch it) is a remarkable technical achievement, a $35 million film that, while touted as Asia's most expensive, has effects comparable to Hollywood's $150 million behemoths. 


A spectacle it truly is, yet the film's true strength lies in turning the myth of Rajinikanth on its head, in stripping him of his 'punch-dialogues' and his 'entry shot' and making that allpowerful persona worshipped by millions into an ordinary protagonist, one who can barely make a fist. 


And while the man plays a believable scientist, noble to the core, it is his creation – a robot made in his own image, a Rajininstein, if you will – who does what Rajini routinely does in his films: the impossible. 


Thus is the fantasy – that invariable, bullet-halting, cigarette-juggling superhuman fantasy lying at the core of every Rajini blockbuster – given a shred of credibility, turning the unbelievable into, well, the legitimate. As the robot imbibes feeling and grows increasingly, wonderfully evil, narcissistically developing enough Rajinis to keep his fans in throes of ecstasy, the scientist himself is man enough only to run from a fight. 


It is an immensely clever subversion, further enhanced by the fact that audiences can, in this film, finally root for the bad guy. I've heard tell of a tiny local theatre where a drunkard, incensed by a vamp berating the superstar on screen and leaving him without a place to sit, yanked out his own and flung it at the curtain.


 It is the irrational, irony-free adulation reserved usually for the gods, and that devotion would mean immediate hatred for any antagonist daring to stand in their hero's path. Yet when it is Rajini himself, everything's allowed. 


We of the Bollywood habit, not blessed as often by this man's screenconquering presence, roll our eyes and laugh and make Chuck Norris jokes. Yet a film from this man, a smirk, a swagger, a line of ridiculously contrived dialogue, come as opiate to millions of people. 


We routinely celebrate escapism in our cinema, but Rajini stands higher up on this peak than any man in Hindi cinema. Is he then India's biggest star? Please. He's too big for competition. Even with a heroine who can't act, he's delivering the country's biggest hit, the mediocrity simply bouncing off his bulletproof grin. Smashing. 


Oh, and like the very best superheroes, he doesn't wear a cape. 



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Since January 2010, there has been a surge in equity values across every emerging market and India has been among the best performers. The Nifty, which tracks the 50 largest Indian stocks in terms of market capitalisation, is up 18.5 per cent since January 2010. At a value of 6,159 points on October 4, it is in touching distance of its all-time highs (6,357 points, January 2008). The Nifty is backed by strong price performance in most key subsidiary and sectoral indices. The CNXIT, which tracks technology stocks, and the Bank Nifty have both hit all-time highs. The Nifty Junior (which tracks stocks 51-100 by market capitalisation) is up 25 per cent since January. Many individual businesses, such as market leaders in metals and automobiles, are also at all-time highs. In the wake of the surging secondary market, the primary market has also seen heightened activity. There have been 53 IPOs since January 2010, raising around Rs 41,500 crore — a massive increment compared to 21 IPOs raising Rs 19,550 crore in calendar 2009. Another 40-odd IPOs, tapping about Rs 54,000 crore, are in the pipeline for the October-December 2010 quarter.


However, though this is clearly a global phenomenon, the extent of institutional polarisation is surprising. Since January, Indian domestic institutional investors (DII) have been net equity sellers to the tune of Rs 13,021 crore while foreign institutional investors have been net buyers to the tune of Rs 46,196 crore (roughly $10 billion). By inference, Indian retail traders and operators have also been net sellers. The difference in attitude became more stark in September. FIIs bought a net Rs 23,612 crore while DIIs sold a net Rs 12,907 crore. Obviously the FII buying over-compensated for the bearish local stance as the Nifty rose by 11.5 per cent in September. It is moot which set of investors is more "correct" in its respective evaluations. The Indian market is valued high, with the Nifty held at a weighted price-earnings ratio (PE) of 25.6. It must be remembered, though, that historically values in this range have been sustained only for very short periods.


 A PE ratio of 25-plus is also difficult to justify in terms of variables like interest rates, which dictate risk-free returns. It may be justified only if there is extremely high earnings growth through the next 12-18 months. While most advisories are positive, only time will tell if those optimistic expectations will pan out. There are two obvious structural dangers in this "one-legged" rally. One is an abrupt, deep correction if the FIIs suddenly change stance and start selling. It is impossible to assess the probability of such events. Turnabouts in attitude could occur for reasons unconnected with the Indian economy — another crisis in Europe or the US, for instance. The other danger is that Indian retail investors, who have eschewed equity investments since they suffered huge losses in 2008, will get sucked in by greed, just as the market peaks. If that happens, and the aam admi suffers another round of capital loss, his aversion to equity will become more marked. That could have unfortunate repercussions for upcoming IPOs and by extension, the public sector disinvestment programme. A level-headed approach to equities is, for all the above reasons, a good option.







Never a particularly elegant term to describe the Hindi film industry, the name "Bollywood" was not only a particularly unoriginal one, seeking glory from imitation, but it also suffered from delusions of grandeur, as if the Bombay film industry was the only base of the "Indian" film industry in the way Hollywood undoubtedly was and is for American cinema. But "Bollywood" acquired hegemony over Indian cinema with its budgets. So big was the investment in Bollywood that other Indian language cinema was never able to challenge its supremacy, despite the fact that technologically Chennai's Tamil film industry had kept ahead of Mumbai's Hindi film industry for a long time. In terms of the application of modern technology — photography, colour, sound and graphics — the Tamil and Telugu film industries have set the pace for Mumbai's Bollywood. But the big bucks were always with the Kapoors and the Bachchans and their like and Mumbai was where it was all on display. One man has changed that. Born Shivaji Rao Gaikwad, ironically a Maharashtrian from a Bangalore-based family, Rajinikanth has emerged as India's biggest box office machine with his new film Endhiran(Robot in Hindi). Apart from his "bus conductor to superstar" life story, Rajinikanth has made history by becoming one of India's most globally marketed film makers. He earned for himself an audience in Japan long before Bollywood made any impact that far to the East. While Mumbai's Amitabh Bachchan is still the "Big B", neither he nor any other Mumbai producer/ actor has experimented on a scale that Rajinikanth has. From a purely business perspective, a new milestone has been crossed in Indian cinema's business history by Mr Rajinikanth.


However, for all its quantitative growth, Indian cinema has some way to go in qualitative terms. While Endhiran (Robot) has made a mark with technology and technique, there's nothing original about either or even the film's theme. What is striking as of now is the sheer scale of the marketing effort. Hopefully, bigger budgets, bigger markets and deeper pockets will bring in their train better films, better produced. What Mr Rajinikanth has done with his latest offering is to show that India's so-called "regional cinema" can also go global. The world Tamil diaspora, and it is both large and prosperous, is a good enough market to tap. But when Japanese film-goers start going crazy, one can see that the appeal goes beyond the diaspora. The continued success of Indian cinema shows that India has a stake in an open market for cinema. World trade in cinema must not only become more organised, and corporatised, but it must also function on the basis of transparent rules of business. But, before Indian film makers demand a more level global playing field, they must ensure that the business of cinema becomes more businesslike at home. This has already happened to a considerable extent with the entry of companies and banks into film financing, but there is more to be done. India has the opportunity of overtaking the US as home to the world's biggest and most globalised film industry. Mr Rajinikanth has drawn our attention to the potential yet again.








The surge in portfolio inflows over the last three weeks and the consequent appreciation of the rupee have resurrected apprehensions of a loss of export competitiveness. The real effective exchange rate of the rupee (REER, a weighted average exchange rate measured against a basket of six currencies — the US dollar, the British pound, the euro, the yen, the Chinese yuan and the Hong Kong dollar — adjusted for inflation difference with six economies) shows a level of 111 if you go by the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) estimates available up to the middle of August and 119 for the last week of September if one uses JP Morgan's index that is available with the least lag. Thus compared to the base years of 2008-09 and 2003-04 that these indices respectively use, the real value of the rupee has appreciated 11 and 19 per cent, respectively.


 The fact that the trade and current account deficit seem to be alarmingly large (the July trade deficit was about $13 billion) adds a sense of urgency to these concerns. Though it is difficult to make an exact estimate since current account data is available only with a considerable lag, the consensus in the financial markets is that it is running at over 3 per cent of GDP, a good percentage point over the average 2 per cent that it recorded historically. The conclusion seems to be that the economy simply cannot afford to be saddled with a bloated currency. Thus the RBI needs to do something to prevent this


These concerns are indeed legitimate. Some questions, however, need to be answered satisfactorily before lobbing the ball over to the RBI's court. The first relates to the nature of currency competitiveness itself. Some economists (including myself) have argued that export competitiveness should be gauged against major export competitors and not against large importers like the US, Japan or the UK that figure in the RBI's or JP Morgan's REER basket.


If we assume that some of the east-Asian economies are our key competitors, the conclusions about the loss of competitiveness could be different. For one, barring the last three weeks, the rupee in nominal terms has actually underperformed (appreciated less) than a number of these currencies this year. Thus, between January and mid-September the rupee appreciated by 0.5 per cent. On the other hand, the Thai baht appreciated by 7.8 per cent, the Malaysian ringitt by 9.4 cent and the Chinese yuan by 1 per cent. Only the South Korean won seems to have underperformed.


The Bank of International Settlements computes a REER for each of the major economies against their key trading partners. A comparison of the percentage changes in their index for a period (say January-August 2010) could thus help gauge how each currency has fared in terms of its real (inflation-adjusted) competitiveness. The takeaway is the same as for nominal exchange rates. The real appreciation of the rupee was smaller than most of its east- and north- Asian peers (except South Korea). The bottom line is that if one gauges competitiveness among peer currencies, the concerns about an erosion of export advantage would appear a trifle exaggerated.



(In %)


based on REER

Indian rupee



Singapore dollar



Malaysian ringgit 



Indonesian rupiah



Korean won



Thai baht



Chinese yuan



Note: Gains/losses against the US dollar refer to the period Jan 2010-Sep 13, 2010

Note: REER calculations are based on Bank for International Settlements' REERs

Note: Real effective exchange rate (REER) calculations from Jan 2010 to Aug 2010

Source: Reuters and Bank for International Settlements

The second set of questions relates to what the RBI could have done to ensure exchange competitiveness rate of the rupee. I would argue that over the past few months, the RBI's hands have been tied. For one, the large current account deficit and a less-than-anticipated flow of capital have meant that outflows have almost been exactly matched. This has been reflected in a virtually static rupee with a bias towards depreciation. Typically, the RBI intervenes by buying surplus dollars from the market. As any foreign exchange trader would point out, there simply haven't been any dollar surpluses left for the RBI to buy from the market in the past few months. In short, the scope for intervention has been severely limited.


It is possible to argue that despite this knife-edge balance, the RBI could have steeped in to buy dollars. This would have created excess dollar demand and caused the rupee to depreciate, keeping the REER in check. This seems like a theoretically neat proposition. However, any dollar buying by the RBI would have unwound surplus liquidity in the markets since the central bank sells rupees to the market in exchange for dollars when it intervenes. At a time when the RBI appears to have been attempting to excise excess liquidity from the market to thwart inflationary pressures, foreign exchange market intervention would appear a little inconsistent.


The persistence of high inflation has added another twist. The REER factors in both inflation and the nominal exchange rate. It seems clear, given the movement in the nominal exchange rate and inflation, that a significant proportion of the rupee's overvaluation this year was in fact driven by rising domestic inflation. Domestic inflation, in turn, was driven by local commodity inflation, principally of agriculture products. In inflationary episodes like this, the option of augmenting domestic supply through imports remains a critical policy option. Allowing the rupee to depreciate would lead to an increase in the cost of imports and potentially add to inflation. Thus, the gains from a depreciated rupee could have been eroded by depreciation-driven inflation.


But tomorrow is another day. The fact that the RBI has not had scope or perhaps reason to do much in the past does not mean that it needs to do nothing in the future. Given the rupee's momentum, some intervention is perhaps needed at this stage. However, before contemplating something as severe as capital controls, the RBI needs to get a couple of things right. First, it needs to gauge competitiveness correctly.(All Asian currencies have incidentally gained in this phase.)


Second, capital controls have a habit of sending adverse signals and impinge on flows other than just portfolio flows. Given the huge resource needs of infrastructure and company capex, it is important to ensure that there is enough external capital available. By easing the caps on investment in bonds (thereby enabling more capital flows), the finance ministry has signalled that it is willing to trade the relatively short-term consequences of the rupee appreciation for long-term resource adequacy. The RBI should perhaps look before it leaps.










Remember Vijay Amritraj? In the 1970s, this young man had made waves in the international tennis world with his promise and talent. He was part of the ABC of international tennis, along with Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. Yet, he failed to fully exploit his talent and live up to the initial promise he showed. While donning the national colours, however, Vijay Amritraj did exceedingly well. He once took the Indian team to the Davis Cup finals and kept the country in the prestigious World Group of the tournament for many years.


One quality of his, even when he was playing on the professional circuit, stood out. In spite of playing great tennis and taking an almost unassailable lead in the game, he would suddenly paint himself into a corner, almost on the verge of losing the match. It is only in such moments, Vijay Amritraj, with his back to the wall, would play his best tennis. That was Vijay Amritraj. He will only excel under pressure.


 This is the underdog syndrome. Irrespective of whether you are the top seed or a favourite to win a tournament, you are likely to slip up and fare poorly in the early stages of a tournament or a match. Only after you perform badly and run the risk of losing the match or the tournament do you get back your natural rhythm and go for the win. The underdog syndrome can cost you dearly. Great players, suffering from this syndrome, end their career without ever exploiting their full potential. Vijay Amritraj was certainly one of them.


The Indian cricket team also suffers from this syndrome. Recall India's Cricket World Cup victory in 1983. After a string of creditable victories against formidable teams such as Australia and England, India put together a paltry total of 183 runs in 60 overs. Nobody gave India a chance to win the final with that low a score. This is when the underdog syndrome kicked in. With their back to the wall, ordinary-looking Indian bowlers put up a scintillating performance and bundled out the mighty West Indians to lift the Prudential Cup.


Why are we talking about Vijay Amritraj, the Indian cricket team and the underdog syndrome? Think about it and you will realise that a discussion on this issue is quite appropriate, considering what happened to the 19th Commonwealth Games, which opened in New Delhi last Sunday. As early as in 2003, India won the right to hold the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. It had seven years to prepare for the Games. A year ago, the first alarm bell rang since the construction of not even one of the main Games projects was on schedule.


Nobody in the government or the Games organising committee lost his sleep over these warning signals. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit even rationalised the delays arguing that the preparations for the Commonwealth Games were like those for an Indian wedding. In the early days, there is utter chaos, but at the end everything comes together and the wedding takes place without any glitches.


Critics pooh-poohed Ms Dikshit's rationalisation of the delays, but few realised that her explanation was also an indirect articulation of the great Indian penchant for painting yourself into a corner before losing all the advantages of an early start. Once you lose that advantage and run the risk of cancellation of the Games along with the levy of all kinds of penalties, you are firmly ensconced in the underdog's seat.


That is the inflexion point. Everybody gives up hopes of any recovery. The world pronounces you a loser. That is when the underdog wakes up from his somnolence and surprises everyone with tactical moves and quick rearguard action to make amends. The world, which had given up all hopes on the underdog, is pleasantly surprised and after seeing that India has pulled off the show, showers its praise and approbation for a job well done.


That is what happened to the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Why the world appreciated last Sunday's show was not because it was a grand achievement on a scale comparable to the best that came from other countries, particularly China. The appreciation came because the world was relieved that after messing it up so comprehensively during the early stages of the preparations, the Indians finally managed to keep the show going.


There is every reason, therefore, to believe that after earning the world's praise for salvaging the opening ceremony, Indian organisers will once again slip up and paint themselves into a corner. Once they are with their backs to the wall, they will again rise to the occasion and make amends to salvage the situation. That is the Indian way of doing things. You may also call it the underdog syndrome.










The inadequacies of the archaic Land Acquisition Act and its distorted implementation have become well known due to the recent agitations leading to occasional bloodshed. But the overarching evil of political and bureaucratic corruption is difficult to prove in a court of law since it demands a high degree of evidence, preferably a smoking gun. Judgments that specifically deal with mala fides in land acquisition are a rarity.


One such case, Jaipur Development Authority vs Mahesh Sharma, prompted the Supreme Court last fortnight to preface its judgment with the remark: "A narration of the facts leading to the appeal would indicate how money and land of the government have been squandered away by some of the officials by joining hands with certain private parties. It would also reflect how unscrupulous and adventurous people in connivance with bureaucrats and persons in power have not only sought to give undue advantage of giving compensation for land but also sought to grab valuable lands causing wilful loss to the government exchequer and gain unto themselves."


 The litigation over the right of an idol (read Mahant) to receive compensation for land two times, once after taking it over under the Jagir Act and then under the state land acquisition law, began in 1974 and reached the Supreme Court twice. The facts are too complicated to be summarised. The court, however, indicted the land acquisition officer who bestowed so many boons on the idol and the temple trustee who promoted his self-interest.


"If on the one hand, a government officer of the status of a land acquisition officer, who is entrusted with a public authority while performing a public duty, has sought to make an illegal land acquisition and also making illegal allotment of land, on the other hand it is a trustee and the manager who abused his position and has, following the trust reposed on him, sought to fritter away a property belonging to the idol," the court lamented and cancelled all the transactions that conferred undeserved benefits on him by the authorities and the high court.


The leading judgment of the court on this point, by some strange coincidence, again involves the Jaipur Development Authority. The court assailed "blatant misuse of public office by the minister for urban development". It pointed out the danger of conferring "unbridled, dual powers" on a single individual. The government acted through its bureaucrats and individuals who shaped its social, economic and administrative policies. They are accountable for social morality, the judgment said.


Wise words, but the court has to repeat the sentiments too often. Earlier this year, the court remarked that the case, Mahanadi Coalfields vs Mathias Oran, was a "text book example" of how the government and the authorities flouted their "most basic obligation under the law and even the fig leaf of legality was dispensed with". The Navaratna government company defeated the claim of the Surendragarh farmers for compensation for 23 years and not a paisa was paid till the court intervened. The facts of the case, Essco Fabs Ltd vs State of Haryanadecided two years ago also indicated political and "extraneous" considerations.


In one case, an ex-minister wanted to spite certain people by taking over their land for a wholesale market. The state government obliged, but the landowners moved the high court where the politician lost twice. At his behest, the government appealed to the Supreme Court. It protected the landowners, stating the smaller the man the more serious the matter. "No constituency in our poor country can afford Kilkenny cat (sic) politics and personality cult". (State of Punjab vs Gurdial Singh).


There are many ways to make the landowner run from pillar to post unless he is willing to pay bribes. In one judgment, the Supreme Court explained one method of harassment. First, the collector makes a conservative estimate of the value of the land. The owner is not given the award for a long time. Therefore, he cannot move a civil court for higher compensation. By then, the time limit for challenging the officer's estimate lapses. The Supreme Court came to the rescue of the landowner in the case, Bhagwan Das vs State of Uttar Pradesh.


Arbitrariness and discrimination are endemic. Correcting one such injustice in the case, Hari Ram vs State of Haryana,the court observed in April this year: "If this court does not correct the wrong action of the government, it may leave citizens with the belief that what counts is right contacts with right persons in the state government and that judicial proceedings are not efficacious."









The Seoul meeting could provide an opportunity to sort out differences between the US and emerging economies within the larger framework of global adjustment


After nine years of negotiations, the Doha Round is at an impasse. A number of reasons can be cited for this but some of the most important issues reside outside the ambit of the Round. Of these, the growing acrimony between the US and China on a range of economic issues is the most significant.


 The US' preoccupation with its uncertain recovery from the crisis and a stubbornly high unemployment rate do not provide a congenial environment for President Obama to take political risks on trade issues. The situation has been exacerbated by the anti-trade rhetoric emanating from politicians of all persuasions in the US, especially in the run-up to the mid-term Congressional elections scheduled for early November. Although much of this rhetoric is aimed at China, other emerging economies like India are not immune, as the recently enacted Border Security Bill and the Anti-Offshoring Bill (which was blocked by the US Senate on September 29) demonstrate.


Perhaps the most visible symbol of the differences between China and the US is the currency issue. On September 29, the US House of Representatives passed a Bill that would allow President Obama to impose sanctions on China if it is determined to be a currency manipulator. It is by no means certain, however, that the Senate will follow suit. If, indeed, the Bill becomes law, the systemic implications for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would be enormous. A determination by the US Administration that the currency practices of China constitute an export subsidy would almost certainly lead China to seek recourse in the dispute settlement process in the WTO. This is a challenge the WTO would be happier to avoid since the issue is way outside its core competence. Apart from the complexities of adjudication, there would be the likely problem of compliance. Moreover, if China is indeed guilty of currency manipulation, it is certainly not alone. Brazil's Finance Minister Guido Mantega spoke recently of an "international currency war, a general weakening of currency". The US Federal Reserve recently decided to continue monetary expansion by buying more securities and injecting more liquidity into the capital markets, thus driving up the price of gold and leading to a depreciation of the dollar vis-a–vis the euro and yen. Japan and Switzerland, among others, have taken similar decisions. The WTO cannot be the forum for deciding issues of global adjustment. These are larger issues that require a political settlement and the G20 is best placed to address them.


Another important issue holding up the Doha Round is the perception in the US that emerging economies have not made an adequate contribution in terms of market access in the negotiations. This was the major reason for the Bush Administration pulling the plug on the July 2008 Informal Ministerial Meeting and continues to be the cornerstone of the negotiating position of the Obama Administration. It is difficult to say how much this position is based on economics and how much on politics. While the US has obvious expectations of market access gains in emerging economies like Brazil, India and the Asean countries, its political focus is on China.


There are at least two problems with this approach. First, even if the other emerging economies were to accede to the US demands, it is by no means clear that the US will be the major beneficiary. As far as India is concerned, the simulations show that it will be China that is likely to gain the most. Secondly, the oldest cliché in the WTO is that in negotiations you never get anything for free. The US has given no indication that it is willing to pay for further concessions by others. The assessment of most observers is that, given its difficult political situation, the US is not in a position to make significant concessions.


But if it is indeed additional market access from China that the US needs to present an acceptable package to Congress, it can be argued that they are going about it in the wrong way. China's accession to the Government Procurement Agreement, which is underway, can deliver substantially more market access for US businesses than the incremental concessions likely from China in the Doha Round. Yet, the US has not exhibited much urgency or engagement on this. China recently presented a revised package of market opening in its accession process that was generally seen as a substantial improvement over their previous offer. The Europeans, always pragmatic, welcomed it. The US confined itself to a tactical expression of disappointment.


The gist of the matter is that the continuing preoccupation of the US with fixing its domestic economy is translating into a lack of meaningful engagement with the rest of the world on trade issues. In a rapidly changing global economy, the absence of US leadership is not only impeding the multilateral process, but is also adversely impacting its overall competitiveness. As Asia integrates rapidly within the region and outside, it continues to cement its position as the growth engine of the world. The European Union, which is not politically constrained on the issue of economic partnerships, continues to pursue vigorously its agenda of linking up with the dynamic emerging economies through a network of free trade agreements (FTAs). In this evolving situation, the US is the outlier.


Clearly, the key to resolving the Doha Round impasse lies outside the WTO. It is important that the issues between the US and the emerging economies, including China, are resolved politically. Such a resolution will need to be within the larger framework of global adjustment that the G20 is addressing. The November meeting of the G20 leaders in Seoul provides one such opportunity.


The writer was India's Ambassador to the WTO, Geneva between 2004 and 2010








IN FURTHER evidence of growing protectionist pressures in the US, the House of Representatives passed, by a huge majority, a legislation that would levy penal duties on imports from countries that fundamentally manipulate their currency. The Bill obviously targets China, but can be directed against any country. The Bill has yet to receive the approval of the Senate and President and it is not certain it would become law. Its primary purpose might well be to put pressure on China to relent on its perceived refusal to let the yuan appreciate. But coming as it does soon after the US clamped down on outsourcing from countries like India, it is a clear sign that US politicians will not hesitate to play to the domestic gallery. It is possible that Congressional elections due in November played a part but the bipartisan majority with which the Bill was passed shows protectionist sentiment cuts across party lines. And it is easy for it to cross national lines as well. 


On paper, loose US monetary policy was supposed to make American exports competitive by making the dollar cheaper vis-à-vis other currencies. Indeed, the fact that the dollar is the international reserve currency placed the US in a uniquely advantageous position of being able to dictate the terms. However, the structural weakness of the US economy, combined with the inability/unwillingness of the global community to allow a coordinated realignment of currency values, has resulted in each country looking to its own interests. In the US, this has taken the form of protectionism; elsewhere, of competitive devaluation. Both must yield to greater cooperation. Cooperation and coordination is what the G20, the grouping of the 20 largest economies, is supposed to achieve and has been holding summits about. The next summit, scheduled for November in Seoul, should serve as a forum for India to put up a strong case for cooperation and against unilateral protectionist solutions. India should strive to mobilise the opinion of the Bric countries, South Africa and the Asean to forge common cause against protection. But such a stand would be hollow if it does not simultaneously oppose mercantilist manipulation of currencies as well.







THE Election Commission's reported move to set up an expert committee to resolve the doubts raised over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) is welcome. The particular method voters use to exercise their franchise must be beyond reproach and seen as such. Examination by an expert committee will serve to reinforce public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process. Senior BJP leaders whipped up the debate over EVMs after the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. Other political and regional parties have also contended that the EVMs are not tamperproof. While these could have been dismissed as cries of sour grapes, there is no reason to give similar treatment to the concerns raised by the founder of Net India, Hari Prasad, now on bail, over the manipulation of EVMs. Reports said that the EC did not allow him access to a machine long enough to prove his point. The treatment meted out to Mr Prasad is disgraceful. No machine is perfect. The makers of EVMs, public sector companies ECIL and BEL, should be open to improvements in the design, if needed, to make EVMs tamper-proof. Proprietary rights on these machines should not militate against transparency needed in the electoral process. The expert committee can also look into the desirability and feasibility of securing a paper trail to back EVMs, as demanded by the BJP. 


EVMs are a significant improvement over paper ballots where the business of rigging was easy. They have lowered costs, eliminated invalid votes and made counting easier and faster. However, doubts have been raised about the security, accuracy and reliability of electronic elections in countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and the US. The Netherlands banned the use of EVMs in 2006. In 2009, the Republic of Ireland declared a moratorium on their use. The Supreme Court of Germany ruled that voting through EVMs was unconstitutional as it was much more complex than what the average voter could be expected to comprehend. However, EVMs used in these countries were programmable, which is not the case with the Indian machines. Plans to network the EVMs should be put on hold for the time being.








THE day could come when job-seekers could be analysed not just at the formal interview, where they are on their best behaviour, but even in the lift while on their way up to meet the potential employer. Bloomberg Businessweek even asked four authors of books on body language to categorise 100 unknown individuals taking lifts in 10 Manhattan buildings. The rationale was spelt out by one of the four, Chicago behaviouralist Dario Maestripieri: "Being in a restricted space with strangers is tensionprovoking. So, we do unconscious things to minimise the risk of conflict, like not making eye-contact." The other three, Tonya Reiman, Patti Wood and Marilyn Puder-York concurred with Maestripieri. 


The four authors identified 10 categories of common elevator behaviour. The Awkward Cell-Thumbers pretended to be busy with the mobile. The Arm-Crossers were not open to conversation. The Twitchers kept going through their bags or ruffling their newspapers. The Mumblers talked to themselves. The Yoga Masters had their heads up, arms down and feet planted firmly. The Hands-in-Pockets Guys demonstrated insecurity. The Adams and Eves assumed a figleaf position, with men clasping their hands in front of their crotches while women put their purses up around their chests. The Door-Gunners needed to be the first out. The Mr Uptights wanted to keep their distance. The Wall-Leaners were relaxed. The four authors also identified less common behaviour like harmless serial Hummers and Convex Pelvis Riders who conveyed a definite sexual come-on, à la Bertolucci's 1972 movie Last Tango in Paris where the male protagonist played by Marlon Brando does a few things over and above plain vertical transport inside a lift with a woman he is meeting for the first time! But what about people who just take the stairs? They could aver to two sound principles: hard work and safety. Are the employers watching?








GIVE me chastity and continence, but not yet." Bank regulators seem to understand the sentiment of the youthful St Augustine. The post-crisis Basel III capital standards delay banks' day of mortification. 

For banks, this is good news. The minimum ratio of core tier-one capital to riskweighted assets will be 7%, an expected leniency. But deadline was not the expected 2012. Instead, banks can wait till January 1, 2019 by when all Basel III's counter-cyclical provisions become effective. 


The grace period is long enough to let banks make profits out of assets currently sitting on their balance sheets as tax offsets from losses. 


Few of world's stock markets have offered a haven from fears of double-dip recession and Europe's debt crisis as India. Investors have sought sanctuary in India's growth story and foreign capital flows have all the makings of a Bollywood blockbuster. Indian equities trade at more than 18 times 2010 forecast earnings (five-year average is 16.2). In comparison, emerging market equities generally trade on an average of 12 times 2010 earnings, while Russia trades at just 6.7 times. 


The fundamentals behind India's growth story — abundant liquidity and strong domestic demand — remain robust. 


We still have lingering fears about a double-dip recession in the west. The fact is that today, big global economies are intertwined. So the US will get another recession only if the whole world does. 


P&G hopes to add a billion customers in emerging markets over five years — it already serves four billion globally. Food chains like McDonald's, Yum! Brands, and Wendy's/Arby's are ever more reliant on Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Russian diners to fuel growth. 


Emerging world today seems to regard the developed world, particularly the US, as a sort of erstwhile Roman Empire; yet, their prosperity is interdependent.


The RBI recently said India's current account deficit had grown to 2.9 % of GDP in 2009-10 (2.4 % last year). One reason for deterioration in the balanceof payments was decline in 'invisibles surplus', partly caused by falling revenues to India's outsourcing sector (direct correlation with anaemic US GDP). 


With surging Chinese demand and low supplies, copper stocks in LME warehouses have fallen to 3,80,125 tonnes (31% down from February peak of about 5,50,000 tonnes). Copper is set to test all-time high of $8,940 a tonne set in mid-2008. During 1980s and 1990s, China's 'steel intensity' (steel consumption/GDP) was falling. However, since 2000; China's steel intensity growth has outpaced GDP growth. 


Investors looking for some good news on rising prices need look no further than their breakfast plate. The soaring wheat has pushed up the cost of toast, corn for their cereal is up 30% over the last couple of months, coffee is at 13-year high and even sugar to sweeten it is significantly expensive. 

Anyone who bought into agricultural commodities in 2010 should be eyeing their meal with delight. The S&P GSCI Agricultural index is up 34% since June, as droughts combined with strong emerging market demand. As much as $80 billion tracks the GSCI indices, with billions more tracking others. 


PENSION funds use futures rather than buy physical commodities, which are expensive to store. When futures are in contango (longer-dated futures costing more than shorter-dated ones) as they are currently, passive investors are buying high and selling low. 


New age of beggar-my-neighbour policy has caused an 'international currency war' to break out amidst series of central bank interventions in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. 


Japan unilaterally intervened in currency markets on September 15, buying dollars and selling yen in a bid to weaken its currency from 15-year highs against the greenback. Though a central bank's forex sales may achieve short-term results — like the 2.6% spike in dollar-yen exchange rate — without coordinated action by other central banks, results get muted over time by enormous global volume (daily forex turnover is $4 trillion). 


There is little prospect of coordinated action between the US, China, Japan and Europe to weaken the dollar akin to the 1985 Plaza Accord. In China, the Plaza Accord is viewed as having led to Japan's great boom and bust; by reflating the economy to reduce its trade surplus, the Japanese authorities cut interest rates, inadvertently stoking huge bubble in the Nikkei towards the end of 1980s. 


Being net US dollar import-intensive, India stands to gain from falling dollar. Besides, intervening against rising rupee will add to domestic liquidity, undermining the central bank's fight against inflation. However, the RBI can offset additional liquidity by selling sterilisation bonds to Indian banks. India typically invests its reserves in US Treasurys. Recent rate hikes in India means that the yield differential between two-year Indian bonds and US Treasurys has widened to 587 bps (350 bps eight months ago). Due to this negative carry, the RBI loses money even as sterilisation bonds pile up. 


The movie Wall Street was a high-water mark for financial industry of the period. Gordon Gekko-esque wisdom, such as "lunch is for wimps" and "greed is good" (the actual quote is "greed, for lack of a better word, is good"), has since passed into common currency. 


Many buying tickets in the US for the sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps will be alumni of Oliver Stone's first film which inspired an entire generation. 


Prudent government policies that give precedence to FDI over passive ETF investment in stock indices will inspire an entire generation of a resurgent India. 


Indicators like Hindenburg Omen and head-and-shoulders patterns are making headlines. In July 2009, a headand-shoulders pattern emerged in S&P 500, but stocks continued to rally. And the joke goes that Hindenburg Omen has called 14 of last three bear markets. 


Markets today are unnerved by the Rumsfeldian notion of what we think we do not know. For markets to work best for everyone, every banker must, in words of another Wall Street character, be "just one trade away from humility". 


 I remain sanguine and expect global stocks to rally strongly in October. 
(The author is CEO, Global Money Investor)








 THE money markets have seen a major shift in terms of the liquidity that has been in the system since the start of the financial year. With tight liquidity conditions, which is consistent with RBI's policy stance, one does not subscribe to the view that statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) should be reduced for the following reasons. 


Banks accept public deposits and are in a way repositories of public trust, and the confidence reposed by investors in institutions is very important from the financial markets perspective. Investment in government bonds (SLR) acts as a macroprudential tool. In the current context when worldwide banks are being criticised for having risky asset portfolios, there is a perceptible shift among banks' asset portfolios from credit and other derivative instruments to holdings of sovereign government bonds. Indian banks have been able to withstand the storm due to these prudent polices of the Reserve Bank of India and it is, therefore, not the time to reduce the proportion of risk-free holdings. 


Also, SLR is not a liquidity management tool but a measure for risk mitigation and, hence, should not be changed frequently. In fact, SLR has been constant except for a brief tweaking in the aftermath of the global financial crises. 


A lowering of SLR has adverse implications for managing a large fiscal deficit. The government's borrowing programme has been unprecedented in the last two years, averaging around Rs 4.5 lakh crore. Banks are large subscribers of government bonds and help manage the borrowings programme. It is expected that the government will return to the path of fiscal consolidation after having weathered the crises in totality. Thus, a reduction in SLR should be concomitant with a lower fiscal deficit and, at this juncture, would not be the right step. 

Lastly, the credit growth has been lower than expected this year but, despite that, economic growth continues to be robust largely on the back of non-banking sources of finance. Hence, the argument for a reduction in SLR to augment lendable resources of banks also does not seem tenable at present.





THE statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) is a tool that the RBI uses to manage solvency of the banking system. The current level of SLR, however, appears high for growth of the banking system. 


India is no longer a restricted economy where the state is the sole funding source for development projects. The increase in private sector participation in the infrastructure sector lowers the need to channel resources to the government sector. The focus, therefore, should be to boost participation of the private sector. This can be done by providing ready access to debt finance instead of redistributing liquidity artificially in favour of the government sector and creating a demand-supply gap for private sector funding that, in turn, pushes up the cost of funds. This, coupled with low-yielding government assets, impedes credit growth and erodes profitability of the banking sector. 

A high level of SLR also distorts the interest rate structure and its usefulness as a signalling mechanism. Compliance with SLR targets compels banks to invest in government bonds, rather than allowing demand and prices of such securities to be determined by market forces. This availability of captive buyers for government bonds also lessens the need for fiscal discipline and limits the depth of the government debt market, as the government has little incentive to look for alternate and efficient funding sources outside the banks. 


Higher SLR also increases market risk for banks due to the sheer size of holdings of these price-sensitive securities. This, in turn, directly limits the ability of banks to absorb other types of market risks, including those arising from corporate debt securities. Thus, not just does a high SLR crowd out private sector credit, it also indirectly impedes the development of a deeper corporate bond market. 


Though SLR is used in India, other countries have similar solvency ratios. However, such solvency measures prevalent in most other emerging markets continue to be lower than that in India. Therefore, lowering the SLR in India will help continue the positive trend resulting from several past reductions in this ratio.







GOODS and services tax (GST) is considered to be the most important reform in indirect taxes in India and cannot be implemented without the support of the state governments. 


Under the proposed GST structure that the industry is aware of, states will get the right to tax services and the central government will be able to tax goods up to retail stage, which is presently restricted up to the manufacturing stage. This will be a major change and will increase the tax base for both the Centre and state governments. However, this requires amendments to the Constitution, which is an important factor in the process of introduction of GST in the right spirit. 


GST is a value-added tax, levied at all points in the supply chain with credit allowed for tax paid on inputs used. It would be levied on the basis of destination principle, which means in case of inter-state transactions, the tax would go to the state of destination and not that of origin. This principle is followed in most of the countries having federal structure. 


In the case of imports, in addition to basic customs duty, imports will attract central GST as well as state GST as countervailing duties and the portion of state GST collected by the Centre will be passed on to the concerned state. At present, no such provision exists. 


Exports would continue to be zerorated, well almost. The proposed GST structure has left our electricity duty and local levies like octroi, etc, which would continue to be embedded in the price of exported products. In other words, India would continue to export some of its taxes. Hopefully, over a period of time, all indirect taxes would get subsumed and Indian exports would not be uncompetitive on account of domestic taxes. 


Nevertheless, CII and Indian industry are eagerly awaiting the implementation of GST as it would consolidate various taxes levied on goods and services by central and state governments. GST would eliminate the cascading effect of some of the taxes, lowering the cost structure, reduction in effective tax rates on most of the goods, reduction in transaction as well as tax payment costs, and would be the first step in making India a single market facilitating speedy movement of goods. 


India implemented value-added tax (VAT) at state level between April 2005 and January 2008 and it benefited the industry and trade. This was done by the states and the central government facilitated it by way of providing compensation for any loss of revenue. Implementation of VAT resulted in the gradual increase in revenue for all states due to better compliance in the subsequent years. 


One of the apprehensions expressed by some states is loss of revenue on implementation of GST. Loss of revenue to states will mainly depend upon the decision on rate structure. In the beginning, a state with high productivity and less consumption could suffer loss due to non-receipt of any tax on goods produced and sold to another state under GST regime as 2% central sales tax (CST) will be abolished. Union finance minister has already assured compensation to the states for any loss of revenue due to implementation of GST. 


Most states are in favour of implementation of GST but some of them have expressed their concern about the loss of the right to tax. Each state will legislate its own GST law and, therefore, it will continue to have the right to tax goods. In addition, it will get power to tax services also. However, states will not be able to change the GST rate structure on their own. As per the draft amendment to the Constitution, a GST council would be set up comprising the Union finance minister, minister of state dealing with revenue and finance ministers of states. This council will determine any changes in GST rate structure in future by consensus. With such a scenario, the states will not lose the right to tax goods and services. 


Economists have predicted that implementation of GST would increase GDP considerably. Better compliance under GST regime would also have a positive impact on direct tax collection as all transactions would become transparent. This has also been the experience in other countries. Out of the additional revenue fromdirecttaxtothecentralgovernment, the share of states shall be 32%, as per the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission. This will be additional benefit to the states. 


With this scenario, the empowered committee of state finance ministers under the leadership of Asim Dasgupta should try to resolve the pending issues related to design of GST and support its early implementation in the interest of the country as a whole. The final beneficiary would be the average consumer of goods and services. We owe it to them. 


(The author is president, CII)


GST would eliminate the cascading effect of some of the taxes, lowering the cost structure 
The apprehension that states will lose the right to tax goods and services is unfounded 
Better compliance under GST regime would have a positive impact on direct tax collection and devolutions to states







SHAKESPEARE'S King Lear is one of the principal landmarks in the course of the farmer-poet Wendell Berry's life. In Lifeis a miracle, his essay against modern superstition, Berry describes how in the course of 45 years, he's returned to the play again and again. "Among the effects of the play —on me, and I think on anyone who reads it closely — is the recognition that in all our attempts to renew or correct ourselves, to shake off despair and have hope, our starting place is always and only our experience," he writes. 


"We can begin (and we must always be beginning) only where our history has so far brought us, with what we have done." What Berry calls his 'human estate', Indic tradition refers to as individual karma, which the modern scientific tradition locates in the interplay between genetics (guna) and environment (prakrurti). 


Whichever label one uses, such interactions can only lead to a 'false' or illusory sense of individuality or personal ego, says the Bhagavad Gita, which also describes it as "ahamkara or Isense of the foolishly inclined (vimudhatma), entirely born of the action of innate tendencies". 


 Let's examine this in the light of a subplot in King Lear. The old Earl of Gloucester has been blinded for his loyalty to the king. Can the blinding be justified as retribution for lack of judgement? For the Earl has falsely accused and driven away his loyal son, Edgar. 


Exiled Edgar disguises himself as a madman and beggar to serve as a guide to the blinded father, who wants to be led to the cliffs of Dover to kill himself. Instead of leading his blinded father to the edge of a precipice, however, he only tells his father that he is at the cliff. There, Gloucester renounces the world, blesses Edgar, his supposedly absent son and, according to the stage direction, 'falls forward and swoons.' 


When Gloucester comes to, Edgar pretending to be a passer-by at the bottom of the cliff goes to the earl.


Gloucester is dismayed that he's still alive. Edgar then utters the line that's the subject of Berry's essay. He assures his father that instead of dying, he still has some living to do. "Thy life's a miracle; speak yet again." 


Berry concludes that the fact that all of our lives are miracles does not mean that we have it all figured out. 


To experience life is not to "figure it out" or "even to understand it," but instead "to suffer it and rejoice in it as it is".





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The Nobel Prize in medicine for British physiologist, Dr Robert Edwards, 'father' of the test tube baby, comes at a significant juncture. Male and female infertility rates have been going up with at least one in 10 married couples unable to bear children. Thanks to environmental pollutants, the phenomenon of infertility has also started showing another alarming dimension — the trend of mothers passing on infertility to their sons at birth. It is in this context that the importance of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) pioneered by Dr Edwards in 1978 should be gauged. Today, IVF is the most sought after medical intervention when all other assisted reproductive techniques fail. Though IVF has brought cheer to infertile couples, it still continues to be a costly proposition for the common man. That does not discount the fact that it is a modern miracle. Dr Edwards' technique has remained in essence unchanged though IVF has also led to innovations such as embryonic stem cell research and surrogate motherhood. More than five decades have passed since Dr Edwards discovered the secret of growing life outside the body. It took him and fellow researcher Patrick Steptoe another decade to make it a cuddlesome reality in the form of Louise Brown, the world's first baby conceived outside a mother's womb in 1978. Since then, the miracle of IVF has brought happiness to about 40 lakh families across the globe, about five lakh of them in India. The success rate of an IVF couple conceiving a child equals that of a normal, healthy couple. The success ratio now stands at 5:1; in other words one in five attempts ends in a successful pregnancy. Long-term follow-up studies have shown that IVF children are as healthy as other children. The Nobel jury has pointed out that Louise Brown and a number of other IVF children have given birth to children naturally. But not everyone lauds Dr Edwards' discovery. Critics say IVF and related techniques are immoral because of the frozen human embryos destroyed. The Catholic Church has been stinging in its criticism of Dr Edwards' discovery. The Vatican has blamed Dr Edwards for creating a market in embryos and failing to protect human life. There have also been scandals that have sparked demands for tougher screening of IVF candidates and closer regulation of IVF clinics after a Spanish woman had twins at age 67 using IVF. She died of cancer three years later, leaving the infants orphaned. Last year, 33-year-old "Octomum" Nadya Suleyman of California, a mother of six, had octuplets in defiance of warnings that multiple pregnancies are closely linked to children born with abnormalities. Also, techniques used to screen embryonic DNA are also open to potential abuse. There is the risk of promoting gender choice, physical attributes and so on. But those are issues that are endemic in society, and not the outcome of IVF itself. The task now before researchers is to bring down the cost of IVF to affordable levels. Another major challenge is fighting environmental pollution that is leading to female infertility. Endometriosis, mostly linked to chemical pollutants, has emerged as an important cause of infertility in women these days. Unless this is arrested, no quantum of advancement in IVF technology will help couples. The Nobel Prize will perhaps motivate scientists to apply their inquisitive minds in this area too.







Over the last two weeks Washington has witnessed a virtual procession of Indian ministers and senior officials, all of them anxious to clinch as many outstanding issues as possible in order to make US President Barack Obama's first visit to India in the second week of November a big success. Talks between them and their opposite numbers have been "comprehensive and cordial", and there is conspicuous optimism on this score. However, there is yet no certainty about how far the things would go.


India's commerce minister Anand Sharma was the first to arrive. Having protested against the manifestly unfair and even discriminatory restrictions the United States has imposed on outsourcing of IT business, he made his point to his hosts rather politely. Foreign minister S.M. Krishna was next. Though he came primarily to receive a prestigious international award on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York, he was the only one to have met Mr Obama on the fringes of the UN General Assembly session. Defence minister A.K. Antony's arrival created much excitement because huge defence deals are under discussion and the American side is keen on announcing them during the presidential visit. Close on his heels came national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and in the course of two days saw US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, defence secretary Robert Gates, his own opposite number, General James Jones, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, an array of senior defence and security officials and no fewer than eight senators, including Senator John Kerry and Senator John McCain. India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, unquestionably the most important Cabinet minister, would be in Washington today.


Mr Menon also found time to address a meeting of opinion makers at one of the major thinktanks, the Carnegie Endowment. In his speech he expressed satisfaction with the state of the bilateral relationship, describing it "better than ever before", but summing up the situation thus: "Ours is a partnership that has come a long way in a short time, but it still has enormous potential". In his view, the time to tap that potential and for both countries to become "ambitious" about their relationship was "now", that is to say before the Obama visit.


Against this backdrop, let me focus on the preparatory work for the Obama visit now in progress. The first point to remember is that while the members of the US President's Cabinet and officials concerned are busy in brisk discussions, the President's own mind is on something else. He and his Democratic Party are in the throes of a very hard mid-term election to the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, and so great is the economic discontent in the US today, that the Democrats might lose control of at least one of the two houses of Congress, if not both. No wonder then that Mr Obama is concentrating on hot-paced electioneering in a vigorous attempt to mobilise his young followers that seem to have got disillusioned.


As it happens, the US President is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi for a three-day stay on November 7, barely a week after the crucial mid-term Congressional poll. In June last — at the time of Indo-US strategic talks at the level of foreign ministers — Mr Obama had gone out of his way to declare that during his visit to India he would "make history". How far he can live up to that promise is a moot point but, according to American sources, the desire is there. Indian sources are also hopeful.


While high-level discussions on some important issues are still on, some matters are apparently settled. One of these is the purchase of 10 C-17 transport aircraft by India, a deal of great significance to the US because it would keep the production line going and thus save a minimum of 20,000 jobs at a time when unemployment is America's biggest problem. Another similar military deal may also be concluded soon. In addition, India has already bought $4 billion worth of defence equipment and material and orders worth the same amount are in the works. All these deals are under the US Foreign Military Sales rubric, which means government-to-government transactions. The US is very keen also on the sale of more than 100 F-18 advance fighter aircraft but it is a competitive deal for which there are global tenders and several competing offers. Whether a decision on it can be taken before the visit is difficult to say. Moreover, there is no American answer yet to Mr Antony's complaint, voiced during his visit as well as afterwards that America's supplies of sophisticated military equipment to Pakistan that has nothing to with fighting terrorism is causing difficulties for India.


The Indo-US nuclear deal, entirely a handiwork of former President, George W. Bush, is the epitome of the transformed India-America relationship. Despite his earlier opposition to it, Mr Obama has carried it forward. It is indeed in its final stages of implementation though India's Nuclear Liability law has become a sticking point for the US. The Indian side has told it that the two governments should complete their respective obligations after which private companies can enter into necessary negotiations.


Transfer of high technology, including defence technology, to India seems to be a more difficult issue in Washington than it had appeared to me in Delhi. Whatever the inclination of the White House, there is much resistance within the American bureaucracy. The outlook is much brighter on "creative and innovative" cooperation in such fields as agriculture, science, technology, education and healthcare.


Overriding all this is the wider and crucial matter of defining the exact content and meaning of the strategic relationship between the world's largest and most powerful democracies. During the last 20 months, Dr Singh and Mr Obama have met six times. But almost every summit ends up in what may be called "give and take". What is needed is a wider, principled and long-term strategic partnership based not just on congruence of interests but also on shared values. What Mr Obama would say on this subject will be the key to the future.








Recently, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to a man who was reviled, in his time, as doing work that was considered the greatest threat to humanity since the atomic bomb. Sweet vindication it must be for Robert Edwards, the British biologist who developed the in vitro fertilisation procedure that led to the birth of Louise Brown, the first so-called test-tube baby.


It's hard to believe today, now that IVF has become mainstream, that when Brown's imminent birth was announced in 1978, even serious scientists suspected she might be born with monstrous birth defects. How, some wondered, could it be possible to mess around with eggs and sperm in a petri dish and not do some kind of serious chromosomal mischief?


And yet, in the 32 years since, our attitude toward Edwards' research has completely changed: IVF is now used so often it is practically routine.


The history of in vitro fertilisation demonstrates not only how easily the public will accept new technology once it's demonstrated to be safe, but also that the nightmares predicted during its development almost never come true. This is a lesson to keep in mind as we debate whether to pursue other promising yet controversial medical advances, from genetic engineering to human cloning.


Edwards and his collaborator, the gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988, became notorious after they announced that they had fertilised a human egg outside the mother's womb. In England, reporters camped out on the lawn of the prospective parents, Lesley and John Brown, for weeks before the baby's due date.


When Brown checked into Oldham General Hospital, outside Manchester, to give birth, she did so under an assumed name. Still, reporters sneaked past security dressed as plumbers and priests in hopes of getting a glimpse of her.


Meanwhile, criticism of the pregnancy grew increasingly extreme. Religious groups denounced the two scientists as madmen who were trying to play God. Medical ethicists declared that in vitro fertilisation was the first step on a slippery slope toward aberrations like artificial wombs and baby farms.


Fortunately, Louise Brown was not born a monster, but rather a healthy, five-pound, 12-ounce blonde baby girl. She had no birth defects at all, and suddenly her existence seemed to demonstrate only that there was nothing to fear about IVF. The birth of the "baby of the century" paved the way for a happy ending for millions of infertile couples – nearly four million babies worldwide have been conceived with the procedure.


True, IVF has not been without consequences. It immediately raised new questions: Would single women or gay couples use the technology? Would it be all right for couples to create and save excess embryos to be used in later attempts if the first try failed?


It has also opened the door to new controversial concepts: "designer babies", carrying certain selected genes; pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, which allows the possibility of choosing the baby's sex; and human cloning.


Even today, not everyone is comfortable with in vitro fertilisation. In a 2005 survey, 13 per cent of British adults, and a surprising 22 per cent of those under 24, said the risks involved in such fertility treatments might outweigh the benefits.


Yet with IVF the public has shown how it can debate the usefulness of a new medical technology, reject its abuse and in some cases embrace its benefits. We approve when a woman in her 30s who otherwise couldn't conceive does so through in vitro fertilisation, for example, but we cry foul when a 60-year-old tries to do the same.
As Edwards himself noted in the early 1970s, just because a technology can be abused doesn't mean it will be. Electricity is a good thing, he said, regardless of its leading to the invention of the electric chair.
Science fiction is filled with dystopian stories in which the public blindly accepts destructive technologies. But in vitro fertilisation offers a more optimistic model. As we continue to develop new ways of improving upon nature, the slope may be slippery, but that's no reason to avoid taking the first step.


Robin Marantz Henig is the author of Pandora's Baby: How the First Test
Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution








The Musharraf-Manmohan Singh "Open Borders" solution to the Jammu and Kashmir imbroglio reached its zenith in 2006-2007. It was a product, as in history, of personality and events. Pakistan was cornered by the US after the 9/11 attack to turn on the Taliban, Pervez Musharraf the military dictator was desiring to be statesman and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's peace vision was in sync with his party's desire to woo the Muslim vote. The July 2006 train bombings in Mumbai retarded the pace of the parleys. Mr Musharraf's exit, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the ascent of her husband Asif Ali Zardari were all pointers to a game change in Pakistan.


However, even after the 26/11 attack in Mumbai in 2008, we continued to believe that the parleys had been interrupted and not derailed. This make-believe bonhomie has invited Pakistani snubs. Firstly their silence over $5 million Indian humanitarian assistance after the Pakistani floods. When upped to $20 million, Pakistan specified its manner of giving i.e. the UN ambassadors of both countries in New York in the beatific presence of Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General. This was followed by exchange of barbs at the UN. From the UN General Assembly (UNGA) podium, and elsewhere in New York, Pakistani foreign minister S.M. Qureshi chided India for ducking the civil unrest in Kashmir. It is not Pakistan raising the issue, he alleged, it is the people of the Valley. His coup de grace was in his UNGA address that the Kashmir issue was "about the exercise of the right of self-determination by the Kashmiri people through a free, fair and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices". The "P" word sent the Indians epileptic, Indian external affairs minister S.M. Krishna dubbing it "unsolicited and untenable". India called off a bilateral meeting with Mr Qureshi, the latter then retorting it was India avoiding contact, which he was ready for "anytime, anywhere".


Why has Pakistan relapsed into anachronistic formulations, long discarded and at variance with bilateral accords like the Shimla Agreement? Perhaps Pakistan is reverting to its default position, in which is anchored the core belief system of the Army and the Islamists. Mr Musharraf was making a foray to test the waters, the Army silently acquiesced, while the Islamists undermined it through periodic attacks on India. More importantly the context in which Mr Musharraf operated has changed i.e. the Kashmir Valley is undergoing civil unrest unseen for decades, Pakistani leverage vis-a-vis US has increased with the US President Barack Obama's imperative for an honourable withdrawal from Afghanistan and the rise of Pakistan's all-weather friend China.


The situation in the Valley merits closer scrutiny. The calls for "azadi" are not new, their vigour is. In December 1963, reported loss of Prophet's relic had unleashed a similar unrest. It is perhaps not a coincidence that this happened after India's embarrassing thrashing at the hands of China in 1962. Contrariwise, Sheikh Abdullah the family's paterfamilias finally settled with the Nehru-Gandhi family only in 1974, after the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 and the emergence of India as the dominant South Asian power. Peace and harmony prevailed till Sheikh Sahib's demise in 1982. The incompetence of his son and successor Farooq, the electoral fraud in 1987 and finally Pakistani victory in Afghanistan and Soviet withdrawal in 1989 releasing jihad blooded hordes all encouraged Pakistan to now turn its terror machine towards the Valley. Today Omar, a third generation Abdullah, lacking the charisma and guile of his grandfather, or his father's charm and grace has only his pal Rahul Gandhi's goodwill to sustain him in a task to which he is clearly unequal.


The all-party delegation's visit, followed by an eight-point initiative and the promise of special interlocutors are a good opening gambit. The weakness is the unavailability of a political figure who can translate all this into a cogent political strategy and a narrative that undercuts the leaders who are fuelling the unrest.


Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars depicts growing US wariness with Pakistani duplicity. The US is also reacting to emerging Chinese assertiveness in East Asia. With Mr Obama due in New Delhi next month India needs to enlarge its options and its Kashmir narrative. The April 1948 UN Security Council plebiscite resolution needs revisiting, which India of the 1950s and 60s spent time ducking. India of 1971 felt it had overcome it with the Shimla Agreement. A rising India, today needs to debate it with Pakistan and with its people in Kashmir. Is Pakistan ready to let its Shia minority in Gilgit and Baltistan even consider the option of escaping their prison for freedom in India? Valley needs to be told by us and by the P-5 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) that none of them wants an independent Kashmir — a potentially Islamised Swat Valley. Are the four million people of the Valley wanting to be swallowed up by a Pakistan at war with itself? Why are no politicians espousing such a narrative in the Valley? Exchanging a part of the Valley for Gilgit and Baltistan makes greater strategic sense as it would sever overland links between Pakistan and China.


Kashmir is the door through which Pakistan is allowing the Chinese power to percolate into South Asia. Is Pakistan willing to forsake its special relations with China for a deal on Kashmir? If not, any concession to Pakistan will be one to China. The US needs to reassess its interests in the context of this great game and, for perhaps the first time, have a frank discussion with India on a common malaise — a headache called Pakistan.


* The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry








Adam, it's said, is the fastest athlete in history, since he came first in the human race! And, now, Adam's descendents have converged upon Delhi to race and to celebrate our commonwealth of races and nations. Indeed, India herself has been bracing up and racing to honour commitments to host this Commonwealth. So, with a gracious "Vanakkam! Swagatam!" Mother India welcomes her guests in a thousand Indian tongues, inviting everyone: "Come Out and Play!"


Seventy odd nations are competing in the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG). The number reminds one of the Biblical Worldview in Genesis (BWG) whereby humankind descended from Noah's three sons — Shem, Ham and Japheth — and their wives. Apparently, 70 nations were drawn from Noah's three sons: 26 from Shem, 30 from Ham and 14 from Japheth. "From these, the nations spread abroad on the earth" (Genesis 10:32). Typological interpretation sees Shem as the forefather of the Semitic people; Ham, of the African; and, Japheth, the European.


The meaning of the names of Noah's sons is significant. Ham means "warm", Japheth, "open" and Shem implies "prosperity". Isn't it our cherished desire that the CWG be conducted in an ambience of sisterly warmth and brotherly openness, promoting the prosperity of all nations, everywhere?


The BWG "table of nations" in Genesis Chapter 10 prefigures other conceptions of world community. In 1795 Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace: a Philosophical Sketch floated the idea of a comity of nations to promote peace among peoples. The League of Nations and the United Nations Organisation later gave concrete contours to these conceptions. Sport belongs to the commonwealth of humankind. Organised sport originated way back in 776 BC when the ancient Olympics in Greece introduced many footraces run in the nude, and eventually contests of strength like boxing and wrestling. Vedic India already spoke of riddle contests, gambling, races and other exhibitions of mental and physical strength.


The Bible says little about sports although some Biblical characters would've given CWG contestants a run for their money. Jacob wrestled with an angel (Genesis 32:22-32); David slew gigantic Goliath with a sling-stone (1 Samuel 17); and, Samson could bring the house down or dominate any tour de force with his superhuman strength (Judges chapters 14-17). Heroes though they were, besides Biblical acclaim, they got no medals.


Saint Paul uses a lot of images from the world of sports. He sees life as "a race wherein the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize". Stressing that "athletes exercise self-control in all things", he advises us "not to box as though beating the air... but, to run in such a way so as to win the race" (1 Corinthians 9:24-26). While the CWG will pit player-against-player in races for competition, God's rainbow in BWG (Genesis 9:8-17) embraces everyone in companionship, for, there is but one race: the human.


God's primal blessing: "Be fruitful!" reverberates through all global gatherings like the CWG, which must not only bear fruit in measurable terms of medals won, but in the priceless wealth of having come out, competed and won friends. Accomplished athletes in ancient Greece weren't awarded medals but crowned with leaves from the evergreen laurus nobilis. City walls were pulled down when victors returned home, since it was believed that a city with such valiant men didn't need walls to defend itself. Mother India has perennially broken walls and built bridges for her children of diverse creeds and cultures. In November 2003 India successfully bid to host the 2010 CWG with a heartwarming motto: "New Frontiers and Friendships". Seeking inspiration from the BWG, may the CWG see us running hand-in-hand echoing A.R. Rehman's: Jiyo Utho Badho Jeeto so that when life's race is run, with Paul we might say: "I've fought the good fight, I've finished the race. From now on there's reserved for me the crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:7).


— Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the
Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for
fostering justice, harmony and peace. He can
be contacted at [1]








I wasted a little time before writing this article, to see if I could produce a satire or a parody. This would have consisted of a fundraising letter from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to a potential donor. "Dear Leo", it might begin. "We are asking you, even in these straitened times, to make the largest contribution you can afford.


The security of the state of Israel is threatened as never before, and your help is urgently required. Alas, we can offer you nothing in return for your donation. Our representatives are still treated with scorn and contempt in the halls of Congress and by the White House. The news media remain deaf to our entreaties. If you choose to attend our annual conference, we can offer you nothing by way of 'access'. As usual, the secretaries of state and defence and the leadership of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will find plausible reasons to be absent. So will the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader. Try to think of your contribution as a mitzvah: a private good deed that may not even go unpunished."


I had to give the thing up. It just didn't have that ring of near-truth that a successful satire or parody demands. You may conceivably wonder what provoked this folly in the first place. Two separate fusses, one in Europe and one in the United States, have raised the awkward question of Jewish influence. Recently, the European commissioner for trade, Karel De Gucht, a Belgian, made some remarks about the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Washington, in the course of which he said: "Don't underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best-organised lobby, you shouldn't underestimate the grip it has on American politics — no matter whether it's Republicans or Democrats".


In the ensuing uproar, this statement was described by the editor of the British magazine Standpoint (a monthly publication that ingeniously manages to unite both Zionist and Roman Catholic conservatives) as "blatant anti-Semitism" and a voice "from Europe's unspeakable past".


Then, last week, Cuban-American TV anchor Rick Sanchez, apparently maddened by the taunts of Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, made some sarcasm-inflected remarks about the power of the Jewish minority in the United States and the sharing of its liberal assumptions by many at the networks. He was fired from CNN almost before he had finished getting this off his chest.


Now, of course, some Jews will detect the usual anti-Semitic "fork" here: the followers of the ancient faith being simultaneously indicted for being too conservative and establishment-oriented and too liberal and left-wing. But what has to be noted about both sets of remarks is how uncontroversial they are.


A few months ago, I wrote that the recent sharp deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations was at least partially explicable by a single fact: This past March, a key House committee voted to refer to the Turkish massacre of the Armenians in 1915 as genocide. The difference from previous years, I pointed out, was this: Until recently, the Israel lobby on the Hill had worked to protect Turkey from such condemnation. But after the Turkey's Prime Minister and Israel's President had a public quarrel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the lobby was in no mood to do any more favours. In other words, a vote with major implications for US foreign policy — positive ones in my opinion — was determined by the supporters of a single power. I did not receive a single letter of complaint after I made this observation, and I know nobody in Washington who would have challenged its obviousness.


It hasn't been that long since the late Yitzhak Rabin was complaining that groups like AIPAC had too much influence on Israel's policies. Is there a group other than AIPAC that exerts a comparable influence in the United States? Perhaps the National Rifle Association. And, of course, on the single issue of the maintenance of a failed embargo, the Cuban-American caucus and its funding base in Florida and New Jersey. (I wonder if Rick Sanchez would offer me an argument there.)


Coming to Sanchez, then, I ask myself if the world in which I have worked for so many decades — the intersecting and overlapping world of the news media, publishing, universities and the thinktank industry — is even imaginable without the presence of liberal American Jews. The answer is plainly no. Moreover, I can't think of any other "minority" of which this is remotely true, unless it were to be the other minority from which I can claim descent: people of British or Anglophile provenance.


So why the fuss? I think it has to do with the tone of voice in which these facts are stated. De Gucht, for example, added to his comments by saying: "There is indeed a belief — it's difficult to describe it otherwise — among most Jews that they are right". How untrue is this? Self-criticism among Jews, on matters of religion and statecraft, is actually rather noticeable. But anyone who has ever had a dispute with some of the spokesmen for the holy state may possibly have detected a whiff of righteousness here and there. (I pause to ask myself what it's like to be a Belgian, if there is such a thing. Too proud? Too masochistic? Difficult to decide. In contrast to Israel, it seems to be a country without pride in paternity or hope of posterity.)


In the manner in which Sanchez spoke, also, there was something like a buried resentment. He didn't descend into saying that there was Jewish control of the media, but he did imply that liberalism was linked to a single ethnic group, one of which Jon Stewart happens to be a member. Still, there is nothing criminal about this sentiment, and the speed of his firing, like the other recent abrupt resignation of conservative talk show host Laura Schlessinger and dismissal of Octavia Nasr, CNN's former senior editor of Mideast Affairs, seems to suggest a network system that cares only about playing safe and avoiding "offence". The best way to demonstrate the hidden influence of the chosen people would be for Jon Stewart and others to join me in calling for Rick Sanchez's reinstatement. If it then didn't happen, it would help us understand who really pulls the strings around here.


* Christopher Hitchens, an
internationally-acclaimed author,
journalist, political commentator and literary critic, recently wrote Hitch-22


By arrangement with the New York Times










THE genetically modified brinjal is now the victim of a scientific fudge. In a stark irony, it is the credibility of the scientists ~ more than the vegetable ~ that is at stake. It is now established that Bt brinjal had been promoted in this country by the post-modern generation of scientists on the strength of a report that they admit had been plagiarised from a magazine article. The fudge confirms misgivings that the arguments in favour of the GM crop were not based on independent research, not to mention empirical evidence. However, the report had approved GM crops to the extent of recommending the immediate commercial production of Bt brinjal. Well may the Government of India, notably the environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, stand vindicated. Commercial production was put on hold primarily for two reasons ~ that it would facilitate the entry of foreign companies such as Monsanto with a stake in agriculture and thus would hamper conventional farming ~ the source of livelihood for thousands ~ and no less crucially, because of its potential to harm public health. The fudged report lends the controversy almost an inconceivable spin.

The Indian scientist is in sackcloth and ashes. Yet one must acknowledge that the Indian National Science Academy has been gracious enough to own up to the irregularity, admitting that lifting from a journal without the mandatory attribution was "inappropriate". "We, the signatories, take the responsibility for the slip". It is of lesser moment whether the "recommendations remain unaffected by the slip-up".  The recommendations are essentially of the journal from which the academy admits "chunks of material" were lifted. INSA must also admit that it has relied on what social scientists would call a secondary source of information. 
The short point must be that it didn't make the semblance of an effort to conduct its own investigation into the merits and/or demerits of the genetically modified brinjal. Even footnotes, let alone reference to "works cited", would have saved the scientists from considerable embarrassment. Minister Ramesh uses the language of understatement when he describes the report as one that lacks "scientific rigour". Bt Brinjal has been overshadowed by a fudged enterprise. Science has been let down by the scientist.




Three years constitute a long time in politics, and most vitally for a volatile country like Pakistan. And Pervez Musharraf's resolve to return from exile on the eve of the 2013 elections and at the head of a party he launched in London last week is remarkably presumptuous. The creation of the All Pakistan Muslim League may be of little or no consequence. And the country's High Commissioner in Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, is not off the mark when he describes Musharraf as "yesterday's man". Nonetheless, yesterday's army chief and President has chosen a critical juncture to make the announcement ~ in the aftermath of the century's worst floods, the economic stagnation, and barely 48 hours after the army chief's blunt message to President Zardari. Yet there is a degree of exaggerated self-importance when he claims that he has what it takes to lead the country out of "the darkness that prevails in Pakistan". It is a fair guess that his return to power is unlikely.

In course of his performance last Friday, Musharraf has left more questions than he has answered. He has admitted that he had made mistakes that had had "an adverse impact", but somehow fought shy of spelling out what the blunders were. "I take this opportunity to sincerely apologise to the whole nation for those wrong decisions."  Chief among these were his reluctance to shed the uniform which arguably afforded some legitimacy to his presidency, the emergency, the removal of the Chief Justice and the overall subjugation of the judiciary. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the half-baked investigation and the suspected role of the ISI could be added to his list of misadventures. Not least because the UN report is a damning indictment of his dispensation; it has blamed Pakistan's security forces with the assertion that the assassination could have been prevented.  In a sense, the world body has unmasked the sinister agenda.

It would be premature to speculate whether his party will in any way impact domestic politics. The disconnect in making the announcement thousands of miles away is palpable enough. His return to his home turf remains ever so uncertain; fairly substantial is the possibility of a trial for treason over his seizure of power. He has addressed his signal of intent to a captive audience of  non-resident Pakistanis in Britain. The reality has changed dramatically since he left the shores in 2009.




NO party can blame Nepali Congress prime ministerial candidate Ram Chandra Poudel for continuing to contest though he realises the futility of the exercise. According to constitutional procedure, the charade must go on ~ unless he gives his withdrawal in writing ~ even if there is a lone contestant. After seven rounds of polling, his opponent and former Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal quit, hoping Poudel would follow suit. The latter lost in the eighth round as well and faces a similar outcome this week. After which, with the Dashai festival round the corner, the process might resume only after Diwali. In every fresh round, Poudel has polled fewer votes, with the Maoists, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Terai groups refusing to participate. Even those parties that supported the Nepali Congress till now have deserted Poudel. Dahal precipitated political uncertainties after he stepped down as Prime Minister following President Ram Baran Yadav's reinstatement of army chief of staff General Rukmandkud Katuwal, whom the former had sacked. Dahal wanted a motion against the President debated and in the process boycotted parliament proceedings, delaying the process of rewriting the Constitution.

Last week, a full Supreme Court bench scrapped a public interest litigation challenging President Baran's action as "unconstitutional", thus setting at rest any doubt about legal proprieties. By aligning with the Maoists and in persuading Dahal to withdraw from the prime ministerial contest, the NCP(UML) has isolated the Nepali Congress. Not surprising though, because after the 2008 constituent assembly elections they together ruled the country. But unless NC, the key player, is involved in forming a national government, it is pointless to adopt new strategies. Unless the parties make an assertive move to help the consitituent assembly meet the 2011 May deadline to promulgate a new constitution, the peace process will flounder.








THE incident of corporal punishment at a renowned boys' school in Kolkata has sparked off protests from all sections of society. The tragedy has deepened as the student committed suicide after being punished. He was caned by the Principal. This led to mental depression and eventually suicide. This isn't an isolated incident. Reports of teachers beating up and humiliating students are fairly frequent.  

Mahatma Gandhi never supported corporal punishment. He once caned a student who had shirked his responsibilities. Subsequently, he realised that corporal punishment was completely "unjust". He admitted that in this case, it was a crude manifestation of his anger and desire for revenge. He even regretted that he ought not to have acted in the manner he did.  

Most cases of corporal punishment go unreported.  A study conducted by the Union women and child development ministry in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Delhi revealed that 85.5 per cent of the students in Bengal suffered corporal punishment, one of the highest rates in India. The age brackets were 5 to 18 years and 18 to 24 years. Assam stood second; 64.3 per cent of the students were victims of corporal punishment.  

There is increasing concern over the efficacy of corporal punishment as a deterrent. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) opposes corporal punishment. The callous use of the cane to deal with the truant students has been identified as one of the important factors behind the dropout rate. Second, corporal punishment affects self-esteem and leads to mental depression. Over the past decade, there has been a 23 per cent increase in this problem among children.  

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has recommended a ban on corporal punishment in schools. By their definition, this includes not only beatings but any form of physical punishment and mental injury such as humiliation and insults.  Guardians have been advised to inform the police, as and when necessary.  

In an attempt to stop corporal punishment, Assam has enacted the Corporal Punishment in Educational Institutions (Prohibition) Bill, 2010. This Act has seven chapters and 25 clauses and is applicable in all educational institutions in the state ~ government, government-aided and private.  The teacher responsible will first be warned. In the next stage, his/her annual increment and promotion will stopped. There is also a provision for demotion, suspension and dismissal. In every case, the version of the students will be sought. If the teacher is proved guilty, then he or she will be punished according to the law. 

The Central Board of Secondary Education and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations have successfully done away with corporal punishment. The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education has failed to tackle the problem. The state's  attempts to ban corporal punishment have not been effective. Instances of such action, often causing grievous injury, continue to be reported even two years after the warning was incorporated in the code of conduct for teachers. 

Corporal punishment has also thrown up a number of issues which have wider social implications. A child does not grow by himself. The school, the family and the society at large have an important role to play in moulding the personality of a child. The school needs to be a social institution and for this the learning environment has to be planned, structured and implemented properly. Ideally, the school should be a large family of both teachers and students. The relationship between the teacher and the students should be warm and affectionate. The tragedy of our times is that the equation is soured on account of various factors. The school has a decisive role to play in this respect.

Mahatma Gandhi described the family as the "first university of a child". Qualities of caring and sharing, tolerance, mutual trust and adjustment to each other's needs, sense of respect, virtues of being honest, humility and truthfulness are best learnt at home.  It is in the home where the foundation is laid; educational institutions can build on that foundation. The parents have a vital role in moulding a child's character. The family is losing its traditional commitment to the child. The social atmosphere is being gradually vitiated. Today, a child is being brought up in an environment which is vitiated by violence, murder, sex, and corruption. All this can have a damaging impact on a child's mind.  

A mere ban on corporal punishment will not suffice. Unless the school authorities, the family and society are sufficiently conscious of this reality, unruly behaviour of students will not decline. And the provision of sparing the rod while disciplining the student will continue to be ineffective. 

Teachers are also demoralised. As often as not, they are heckled by both students and  guardians. This points to a serious social malaise that needs to be addressed.

The  school must nurture an environment that is conducive to learning and development of a child's character and personality. Various extra-curricula activities must be introduced, and maximum participation of students ensured. Parents should  instil  positive  values  in  the  child  and the teachers  should  present  themselves  as  role models.


The writer is Associate Professor of Social Work, Assam University, Silchar








The Union minister of law and justice has been saying on many occasions that laws will be made gender neutral in the next four years. Mr Veerappa Moily, recently replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha, said male chauvinism and dominance should disappear and that men should never allow women to be degraded and looked down upon. However, the existence of a number of laws that are tilted heavily in favour of women makes the layman wonder if gender neutrality means looking after the interests of women (read wives) only and ignoring totally the welfare of men.

Take for instance the anti-dowry law – Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code – which has reportedly been misused by many women to lodge false or exaggerated complaints against their husbands and in-laws, accusing them of cruel behaviour. Implemented in 1983, Section 498A is a criminal law. 

A case filed under this section is non-bailable (one has to appear in court to get bail), non-compoundable (the complaint cannot be withdrawn) and cognisable (the police has to register and investigate the complaint). The law says, "Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine."

This was meant to be a special law to get more convictions, but the opposite has happened because there are too many false complaints. Many women use the law to blackmail their husbands, allege activists of the Save Indian Family Foundation, a group that fights the misuse of laws targeted at men.

The false complaints can be filed due to many reasons. Sometimes, a wife wants her husband to sever ties with his family or stop giving money to his parents. If he does not comply with her demands, she slaps a false case against him alleging harassment for non-payment of dowry, allege the activists. 

Men also find it unfair that their family members are arrested in the event of the wife naming them in the FIR. Anybody named in the FIR is arrested. It can even be the man's parents, who live in a different town. The frivolity of the complaints was driven home by a recent newspaper article which reported that a wife was ready to slap a dowry harassment case against her father-in-law who had demanded fish curry for dinner. The wife, who was in no mood to cook fish curry, thought it would be easier to punish her 'errant' father-in-law by slapping a dowry harassment case on him.

Another law that is allegedly being misused is The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. This law assumes that all victims of domestic violence are women and it does not give a man a chance to complain or seek justice if he is being harassed or abused by his wife. It also assumes that wives are always honest and truthful. Therefore, proof and evidence to support the allegations of abuse are not required. 
Due to the lack of social support and legal protection, many male victims of domestic abuse are taking their lives every day, allege SIFF activists. False cases are severely hampering the personal and professional lives of the most productive section of the Indian population. 

Moreover, the so-called "women protection'' laws are causing more harm than good to women. In every false case, at least two women, a mother-in-law and a sister-in-law, are accused. Minor girls, married and unmarried sisters, ailing mothers and even aged grandmothers have been sent behind bars based on mere allegations and subjected to long-drawn trials before being declared innocent. 

Unreasonable and easily misused laws like Section 498A IPC and the Domestic Violence Act are creating a situation of fear and mutual distrust and adversely affecting inter-personal relationships between men and women in society. There is fear psychosis among men, who are increasingly finding it difficult to repose faith in women or marriage.

Despite the public outcry over the misuse of Section 498A IPC and the Domestic Violence Act, the government is not ready to make the proposed Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill gender neutral. It presupposes that women are always victims of harassment in offices and does not take into account the fact that a woman employee can be every bit as abusive and sadistic as a male. Such laws violate the essence of Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, which prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

Of course, the prime motivation in filing false cases is money. There are scores of cases, allege SIFF activists, where the wives threaten to go to the police or courts if they are not given hefty sums of money as "settlement''.


Sometimes, the clinching factor is the property and assets of their in-laws which the wives covet. What better way to usurp it all than foist false cases on one's in-laws and then demand a king's ransom. The proposed Bill against sexual harassment, if not made gender neutral, is likely to encourage the extortion "culture''. 

Though the sufferings of men and their families are increasing, the Indian government still thinks that it's women who need protection. It is continuing to turn a blind eye to these harassed men, who have to spend the best years of their lives running around in courts to proclaim their innocence. But, can anything better be expected in a country which ranks a lowly 84th in the Corruption Perceptions Index? 

The writer is a freelance contributor








There is a time to be in the city, for its comforts, conveniences, restaurants, lights, action... And there is a time to leave it behind. Like in the monsoons when the rains come down heavily and ravage everything, everywhere. In the city, rains are an unmitigated curse as they relentlessly expose its underbelly of filth. They jar on the life of its residents, who have to wade through obnoxious water on the streets and get sprayed by passing buses because the drains are clogged by indestructible toxic plastic bags. A veritable hell! 

A change in scenery to the wide open countryside and the tables are turned. The same rains wash away the grime from the leaves and the grass, making everything look fresh and green! Even the mud in the muddy waters gurgling over rocks in the stream below is freshly made. More fresh clouds come rolling in, thicker and darker, till they turn the day into quasi night. A surreal twilight in which all colours in sight ~ green trees, pale yellow plants, red mahua flowers, brown water ~ are clouded with a grey HB pencil. The stream swells, powered by the rain's intensity, and trips faster than the raindrops that drip from the canopy of my jeep. All this water will flow to the ocean, some sooner some later. Ocean, like death, is a great leveller. 

We pass the village pond, which is acquiring a healthy appearance after a debilitating summer that had carved on it a lean and hungry look. In spite of getting soaked in the drizzle, villagers are swarming the pond for their ritual bath. A smart fellow has brought an umbrella to avoid the rain and kept it ready in "open" mode while he takes his bath. He takes advantage of a break in the showers to finish and rushes through his prayers to the Sun God with folded hands. But a sudden outburst makes him abandon his position and grab the umbrella. There's always tomorrow to make up for today's shortfall in the number of slokas uttered. The village belle comes down the opposite bank, her sari dripping with rain. She changes into the dry one in her hand before dipping herself in the pond. After the bath, she goes back to her rain-soaked sari and heads towards home. One sari is strictly for bathing and one for the road! 

The paddy fields on either side of the kutcha road are dotted with men and women transplanting saplings and small channels trickling through their legs. There is a mud up to their ankle, but a smile on their face. I can't sit still in the jeep and step barefoot onto the road. The driver thinks I want to answer nature's call. Little does he know how I wish to respond to the call of Nature! The soft mud squiggles between my toes and tickles my feet. I walk and gambol without care because there are no toxins in the water or in the air to poison and savage my body. I can touch the very elements. What a blessed moment! 

There is a time to cut trees, for timber, furniture, firewood, joss sticks ... And there is a time to leave them to grow on the bosom of the hills. How else can we have a chance to escape from the pain of the rains in the city, and enjoy the joy of the monsoons in the countryside? 









Falling in love is not as simple as it seems, but it is very quick. Those intense over-powering feelings of being truly, madly, deeply in love are the result of complex and rapid brain activity. Being in love – or more precisely being in an emotional state of intense longing for union with another, involving chemical, cognitive, and goal-directed behavioural components – is a pretty complicated affair.

According to new research, it's not a basic emotion, as some thought, but a highly complex and businesslike process involving 12 areas of the brain working together to produce and sustain that magic moment. And researchers have discovered that the first brain activity specific to love starts within one-fifth of a second of being smitten.

According to a new study, The Neuroimaging of Love, brain regions with decidedly unromantic names, like the dorsolateral middle frontal gyrus and the anterior cingulate, as well chemicals like nerve growth factor, dopamine and oxytocin, are all involved in orchestrating these feelings of love. Some of these areas are those that are also active when people are under the influence of euphoria-inducing drugs – suggesting that falling in love may have a similar effect on the brain as using cocaine.

"Although many emotion theories have included love as a basic emotion, love is more than that," says Dr Stephanie Ortigue who led the study. "Love includes basic emotions and also complex emotions, goal-directed motivations, body image, appraisal and cognition." Passionate love, long the exclusive domain of poets, writers and artists, is increasingly being studied by scientists.

At the heart of the research is functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, a relatively new tool that is used to spot brain activity. The harder an area of the brain works, the greater the amount of oxygen it consumes.


The fMRI scan detects the increase in blood flow needed to supply that oxygen. It has been used in a number of areas, from the study of brain disorders to lie detection. By identifying areas of the brain involved in, for example, pain or anxiety it can also help in the development of new therapies that target those areas.
One of the new growth areas is its use in pinpointing areas of the brain involved in particular mental processes, especially emotions and behaviour, including sex drive, and love.

Mapping the course of true love through the brain is not simply an academic exercise. Understanding the brain networks that are activated during love may help clinicians to better understand relationship problems and sexual behaviours. It may provide doctors, psychologists, and therapists with new treatments for couples suffering from love addiction, love deprivation, or rejection in love.

"The better our understanding of love, the greater our respect for the significance and potency of its role in mental and physical health," says Dr Ortigue.

In fMRI love research, scans are taken of the brains of men and women volunteers after they have been shown visual stimuli related to their partner or loved one. The results are then analysed to see where the action is within the brain. Six fMRI studies have now been carried out on love, involving scans taken of 120 people, and Dr Ortigue and colleagues at Syracuse and Western Virginia universities, and the University Hospital of Geneva, have analysed the results to piece together a love map of the brain.

In one of the experiments, 17 men and women described as being truly, deeply, and madly in love with their partner had their brains scanned while looking at a picture of the partner for 17 seconds. The scans showed that there was increased activity in the caudate nucleus and putamen areas of the brain, which are associated with the brain chemical dopamine and with sensations of euphoria and reward. There was also activity in other dopamine areas, the same regions that are active in people using cocaine. 

Overall, Dr Ortigue's analysis shows that passionate love involves brain areas involved in emotion, motivation, reward, social cognition, attention, and self-representation or body image.

Activity in these areas leads to changes in the levels of a number of chemicals in the besotted brain, including increases in dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, vasopressin, and a decrease of serotonin, which results in the classic love symptoms, like obsessively thinking about the beloved, craving for a union with him or her, euphoria, and greater energy.

Nerve growth factor is involved too. Researchers at the University of Pavia in Italy measured blood levels of NGF in 58 men and women who had recently fallen in love, and two control groups. Blood levels of NGF were significantly higher in those who were in love. 

The highest levels were seen in men and women who had just fallen in love, compared to those in longer standing relationships. The researchers also found that the higher the levels of NGF, the greater the intensity of the relationship. Both these findings suggest that NGF may be involved in the very early stages of the love.

Romantic love is evidently stronger than the sex drive, because when one's sexual overtures are rejected, people do not kill themselves or someone else. Instead, abandoned lovers sometimes stalk, commit suicide or homicide or fall into a clinical depression.

The collection of brain areas that are active in passionate or romantic love appear to be unique to that particular kind of love, with research showing that maternal and unconditional love involve other areas.


the independent







A knock on the door at dawn to serve an arrest warrant is a procedure that is immediately associated with a totalitarian regime. It became a grim fact in the life of Sunirmal Chakravarthi, the principal of La Martiniere for Boys, one of the oldest and prestigious schools of Calcutta. The charges against him have been brewing for a long time and Mr Chakravarthi had shown no signs of fleeing to escape the hands of the law. On the contrary, he has been busy carrying out his duty of running a school. Therefore, the drama created by the police remains shrouded in mystery unless the manner of arresting Mr Chakravarthi is taken as evidence of naked high-handedness on the part of the police. This suspicion is fortified by the fact that the charges framed against the principal were not at all serious: they did not warrant this kind of drama and show of authority. The explanation given by a senior police officer that since the offence was cognizable, the arrest was mandatory is disingenuous. It tries to avoid the issue of the manner and the timing of the arrest. The Calcutta Police is not known for its efficiency but is notorious for its occasional outbursts of high-handedness. In this case, it has outshone itself in its overzealous show of power and thereby disgraced itself.


Any discussion about the arrest of the principal of La Martiniere for Boys has to face the question of corporal punishment in schools. This practice, once widespread and now in disrepute, should be the subject of a wide societal debate. Where is the line to be drawn separating punishments required to discipline an errant child from deliberate acts of cruelty and torture? It can be no one's argument that school children should not be disciplined and punished. Neither can it be argued that a child should be the victim of acts of cruelty. Good school teachers know somewhat instinctively where the line is located; they act accordingly and thus earn the respect of their students. Unfortunately, a section of public opinion, under the guise of enlightened views, has veered round completely towards political correctness. What is worse is that this political correctness engenders a kind of intolerance towards alternative views of disciplining. This is not to absolve Mr Chakravarthi of all responsibility for his actions that may have been produced from his ignorance of the law. But there is no ground for treating him like a dangerous criminal as the police did.








There is something strange about governments, parliaments or courts having to decide what women can or cannot wear. It should be a relief to women in Bangladesh that the Dhaka high court has left the decision to them. The court has ruled that no woman in that country can be forced to wear a burqa against her wishes. Bangladesh is not the only country to witness a new battle over the burqa. Last month, the French parliament approved a ban on the dress. A demand for a similar ban by a right-wing party is currently causing a lot of political and social tension in the Netherlands. But the Dhaka court's verdict offers a completely different view of the issue. Instead of banning any particular dress, including the burqa, it actually upholds women's freedom to choose their own dress code. If more and more women in Bangladesh now wear the veil, that too reflects their freedom of choice. But the fact that the issue reached the court points to a disturbing trend in Bangladeshi society. Religious orthodoxy has recently been abused in order to restrict the people's — and especially women's — freedoms. Sectarian groups have sought to impose their diktat on what women wear, study or do in general.


The timing of the Dhaka court's verdict gives it an added significance. Bangladesh is currently waging a battle against certain social and political elements that want to take it away from its moderate Islamic roots. Two recent decisions by Sheikh Hasina Wajed's government reflect this struggle. On her return to power, Ms Wajed set in motion the process for the annulment of the fifth amendment to the constitution which struck at the secular ambitions of the new republic. The country's supreme court subsequently upheld the government's move. The second — and more recent — initiative by the government relates to its attempts to bring the "war criminals" of 1971 to justice. The Dhaka court's judgment against forcing women to wear the burqa is thus best seen as part of an overall attempt to restore the rule of law. The judgment is, therefore, less about secularism than about the people's right to the rule of law. Those who force their will on women or men about a dress code or anything else actually challenge the rule of law. The verdict is a message of hope for all freedom-loving Bangladeshis.








The question of India's claim to be a fitting candidate for a permanent seat on the United Nations security council has resurfaced strongly in media columns in connection with President Barack Obama's forthcoming visit and the less-than-fulsome support of the United States of America to the candidature.

Every international organization has to change and adapt if it is to survive. Many, if not most, international organizations are languishing, their utility long exhausted, although their constituent members, for a variety of reasons, decline to kill them off. It may be salutary to remember that even moribund multilateral organizations are rarely formally disbanded as was the League of Nations in 1946 — after it had been completely inactive for seven years.


But the UN shows versatility, and that is why it is still relevant. No one would have imagined four decades ago that the UN would one day observe elections in many parts of the world, engage in successful conflict resolution in places like Cambodia and East Timor, that there would be as many as 65 peacekeeping operations since 1948, that tribunals would be set up for crimes against humanity, that there would be an International Criminal Court and that the UN would engage in massive relief and rehabilitation efforts in natural disasters like the Pakistan floods or in war-torn countries like Sudan. The UN is the only global organization and its reform and restructure are questions ultimately bearing on global governance. The UN has adapted its mandates and methodologies considerably over the decades and will continue to do so, but changing and adapting is a different matter from fundamental reform and restructuring.


The issues raised in the debate on UN reform relate to questions of decision-making, process, transparency and accountability, and with these, the related matters of monitoring and evaluation. These are indeed very difficult issues to resolve when it comes to dealing with sovereign states. Basically, there is a democratic deficit at the international level. In the most serious case, the issue of peace and security, which is in the almost exclusive purview of the UN security council, the UN Charter has all too often been subverted by the influence of one permanent member, thereby damaging the council's credibility.


When reform of the UN is discussed, every country will agree that changes are required but no two countries will agree on what those changes should be. The least developed, the developing, the small states, the landlocked, the industrialized and the emerging countries — all have different agendas that serve their own interests. This is what makes it impossible to reach a consensus. The countries making the loudest noise for transparency are the same ones that block the reform process and lobby hardest for their unsuitable candidates to find jobs in the UN system.


It is easy to point to waste and inefficiency in many UN agencies and organs, some of which have budgets only big enough to pay for the salaries of their own staff. For example, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan has been in existence from 1949 and is the oldest peace-keeping mission of the UN, though it is not called that. Few people in India and Pakistan are aware of its existence or what it is meant to do.


It would obviously be good to eliminate some agencies and set up others with new mandates relevant to the contemporary world. For example, a new UN agency to deal with energy, water and the equitable sharing of our global commons is overdue. It would be a step in the right direction to have a UN economic council to supplement the UN security council, and a new umbrella body called the United Nations Agency for International Development, which could coordinate the development work of the UN and supplement the Bretton Woods financial institutions.


The Bretton Woods institutions — the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and now the World Trade Organization — were conceived as part of the UN family. Their governing structure is heavily weighted in favour of the industrialized countries although their clientele has always been almost exclusively from the developing world. Very recently, the voting power of emerging economies like India and China has obtained a slightly higher quota, but both nations combined still total less than 10 per cent. This is clearly anachronistic and requires revision in keeping with the changed world order. The same argument applies to the UN security council.


The expansion of the UN security council to include India as a permanent member because of its size, population, democracy and contribution to UN peace-keeping is fully logical. India formally proposed its inclusion as a permanent member for the first time in 1994, when this writer was foreign secretary. It was in the same year that Japan made a similar claim. Both India and Japan were then, not coincidentally, in a competition for a non-permanent seat on the council, and both are still waiting in the wings for permanent membership.


The government of India has expended a great deal of time, energy and financial resources on enlisting support throughout the world. When the time comes, it will come because India's stature as an essential country, whose voice is required and respected, is recognized by everyone. In other words, when India no longer needs to even make a case. For many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with India, that time is not yet ripe. But this matter still obsesses the Indian media, for example, when the Indian president visited China recently and when China's response, whatever the media may have reported, was ambiguous, if not discouraging.


Restructuring the UN security council will need an amendment of the UN Charter, which is the constitution of the UN. This is a very difficult procedure requiring the approval of two-thirds of the membership of the UN and the consent of all five permanent members of the council, apart from the ratification by due constitutional process of all members. The process for considering amendment to the charter itself requires two-thirds of the general assembly and nine votes of the security council. Therefore, the charter has only been amended a handful of times in its sixty-five-year history, the last time in 1973.


Changes in structure without amending the charter have allowed the security council to take decisions even if the permanent members abstained instead of voting in favour. Take the admission of China instead of Taipeh in 1971 and Russia taking the place of the Soviet Union in 1991. The rules of procedure of various UN bodies have been repeatedly modified. But there are no short-cuts to expanding the numbers of permanent or non-permanent members of the council.


The fundamental point about India's prospects for permanent membership is that the outcome will have to be a package deal — one not only about India but also involving many countries covering all the continents. Permanent membership is not in the gift of any one country, however powerful it may be. There will have to be give-and-take, bargains will have to be struck, and no country will get full satisfaction. The reality is that there is no global consensus at present on expanding the council or on which specific countries it should include. The day will undoubtedly come when India will be a permanent member, and there is no need for us to constantly supplicate about this. We should build our own strength and credibility, address our weaknesses, and maintain our dignity. When the time is right, we will be welcomed in. We will not have to try and force the door open.


The author is former foreign secretary of India








The production of combat aircraft in India simply refuses to take off, the investment of millions notwithstanding. Every fighter plane of the Indian Air Force continues to be of foreign origin. The sole indigenous fighter programme, Tejas — the feasibility study of which began in 1983 — is expected to have its initial operational capability declared with delivery of half a squadron at the end of 2010, and full operational clearance is likely to be had by December 2014. By then, it would be more than 31 years since India started the enterprise to launch its indigenous fighter aircraft.


As if the ceaseless failure to build our own fighter was not bad enough, there is now the distressing news that India cannot even produce "basic trainers" for its budding pilots. Hence, the IAF will begin 'field trials' with at least six competitors to supply New Delhi's desperate need for basic trainers.


But the fact remains that India, despite being one of the top five military powers which can manufacture nuclear weapons, cannot design or produce fighters and basic trainers for its air force. If foreign suppliers take this fact for granted, they will not only fleece India but will also never supply the best and the latest at any given time. Also, when the customer is at the mercy of foreign manufacturers, do not expect any concession on the price tag of the imported stuff.


Understandably, India will rue her failure to match, or catch up, with the Chinese aviation industry next door. The success of China in this regard is a reminder of India's lamentable lack of enterprise. Yet the situation was not like this even a few years back. In the early 1980s, both India and China had a more or less similar development curve. For all her faults, Indira Gandhi was keen on indigenous enterprise.


Easy path


Thus, the HJT-16 trainer aircraft was designed by an Indian team led by V.M. Ghatge to meet the needs of the IAF. India also was to build the HAL Ajeet tandem two-seat operational trainer. On top of all, however, was the development of the HAL HPT-32 fully aerobatic piston engine basic trainer, which is now grounded.


The Chinese too were trying to be self-sufficient in aircraft production. They took the Soviet-origin designs of MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 while attempting to come out of their dependence on imported military hardware and technology. Thus China's Shenyang Jianjiji-8 (fighter aircraft) was the subject of an advanced combat programme initiated by Beijing in the early 1970s. China also launched her Harbin Hongzhaji-5, the equivalent of the then Soviet Ilyushin-28 tactical light bomber.


Thus, in spite of a modest beginning, Beijing soon gave a fascinating and fierce demonstration of its determination to dominate the airspace with an array of home-grown flying machines. The contrast with India is stark, real and wide. And it is widening by the day. Today, one of the main features which distinguishes China from India is that whereas Beijing faces numerous "restrictions, embargo, sanctions" and the like on military hardware and technology transfer from the West, India does not face any such hurdle. When 'cash-rich' India gets the 'best' straight off the shelves, why should it even attempt to be 'better than the best'?


Today, India is at a crossroads on defence hardware acquisition. What began long ago as a cherished dream to attain self-reliance in defence technology appears to be fast giving way to the easier path of import. This easy path to defence modernization constitutes an even easier path to prosperity through "acts of commission and kickbacks" for which the country is famous. The unending imports and the absence of indigenous technology create a win-win situation both for Indians and rule-breaking foreign arms dealers.




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





There have been statements of endorsement, appreciation,  criticism and reservations about the Allahabad high court's judgment on the Ayodhya issue in the last few days. The judgment was welcomed by many for the element of compromise that it carried but others found fault with it for the same reason. Compromise, in the strictest sense, is not a judicial function but only remains an end in dealing with intractable issues like the Ayodhya dispute. It is a moot question whether some ideas that formed the basis of the judgment, like the importance given to faith and belief, are legally sound. The rationale for the division of the disputed area will also not appeal to many. These will be discussed and debated in the coming days, and since both sides are going in appeal against the judgment, the supreme court will necessarily ponder over them and give its view, which should be the final verdict.

Meanwhile, the judgment  has perhaps again inspired efforts to find a solution to the problem outside the judiciary. Such efforts have failed in the past and there is no certainty that they will succeed now. Since both parties know their positions better now, as the high court has shed some light on them, there is a clearer framework for negotiations. But it does not help when suggestions are made by one side, even before any discussions take place, that a mosque can be built outside the disputed area. What are the talks then going to be about? It is also wrong, as some tend to believe, that the judgment has legitimised or diluted the gravity of the destruction of the Babri Masjid. That was a crime unrelated to the issue of legal ownership of the disputed land, and should still be pursued.

There are also attempts to take political advantage of the judgment, and these have started surfacing now. The aim is to exploit the sentiments of Muslims. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad finds it an attractive issue in the campaign for the state Assembly elections in Bihar. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was more crude and blatant when he said that Muslims felt cheated by the judgment. Mulayam's opportunism and cynicism are well known and he has no right to speak on behalf of Muslims. Such statements are unhelpful, and it is unlikely that the Muslims themselves will be impressed, as they can see through the game plan for what it is.







Germany's reunification 20 years ago is arguably one of the defining moments of post-World War II history. Germany was divided by Cold War politics; its subsequent reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall, set in motion a series of dramatic developments across eastern Europe that culminated in the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The reunification of Germany resulted in the redrawing of boundaries in Europe. It paved the way to a redefinition of the global order. Therefore it would not be an exaggeration to describe the reunification of Germany as one of the important milestones in recent history.

One of the huge challenges that united Germany confronted was the gap in economic development between East Germany and West Germany. Economic growth rate in the former, which was under communist rule for decades, was lower. Its people were unaccustomed to capitalist modes of functioning. The coming together of the two peoples, celebrated and welcomed at first, triggered conflict as West Germans tended to look down on their East German counterparts. Many East Germans who had long aspired for western lifestyles soon realised that all was not perfect in the new capitalist set-up. Support from the state with regard to employment and health, which they had taken for granted under communist rule, was now not available under a capitalist system. United Germany has had to contend with a spate of problems like unemployment and racism. Twenty years on, united Germany has emerged a force to reckon with. It is among the strongest economies. But deep economic, cultural and political divisions remain.

Germany's reunification held out much promise to divided Korea, but they have made little progress. Reunified Germany fired the imagination too of a generation of Kashmiris who saw themselves divided by a Line of Control and regional politics. Cross-LoC travel and trade has become a reality for them and India is moving to ensure greater interaction between Kashmiris living on either side of the LoC. It is hoping to make borders irrelevant. The reunification of Germany was possible because of the fall of the Wall. It brought gains but with it many problems too. Making borders irrelevant holds out a more inclusive, perhaps a more sustainable way of bringing divided people together.







The Land Acquisition Bill, currently being held up by the TMC, a coalition partner at the Centre, treads a middle path.


So far, the governments (Central and the states) in India have been acquiring land for infrastructure projects and private industries  by basically using the 1894 Land Acquisition Act for 'public purpose.' Nonetheless, even if legally permissible, critics question the morality of including private commercial ventures under 'public purpose.'

Moreover, according to them, the government may use the pretext of public purpose to acquire land far in excess of what is required for the infrastructure or the industrial project. Then it may sell the land at less than the market price to its favoured parties to build high-rise residential buildings, golf courses and even Formula-1 race track. Therefore, they argue that private parties must buy all the required land from individual owners by paying the market price, without the government playing the role of a 'land broker'.

The people in favour of a government role in acquiring land for private industry (including mining) would advance several arguments. One, for large projects requiring many thousands of acres to be purchased from a large number of sellers, a few strategically located owners may hold up the entire project indefinitely by refusing to sell even if an overwhelming majority wants to sell land.

Two, private industrialists and land mafia may use muscle power to buy land from poor people and tribals (specially when they do not have papers to prove legal title to land) at throw away prices. Three, the private investors may feel shaky to buy land directly from owners with doubtful legal ownership. But there would be no problem if they buy land from the government. In all these cases, the government may have to step in to protect the larger interest of society.

The upcoming Land Acquisition Bill, currently being held up by the Trinamool Congress (TMC), a coalition partner at the Centre, is treading a middle path. It suggests that if 70 per cent of landowners voluntarily agree to sell land to the private party, the government will have the right to acquire the balance 30 per cent by paying the same price.

TMC has two objections. One, it wants the threshold to be more than 70 per cent, if not 100 per cent. It is quite likely that they would settle at a compromise intermediate figure. Two, TMC is proposing that if the acquired land is not used for the stipulated project within five years, then the land should be returned to the original owners.

But that would be nearly impossible to implement. Once the owners have sold the land, many of them may use the money to buy land elsewhere or other assets and may not even have the money to buy back the land after five years. So, hopefully, TMC will not finally insist on this condition.

Compensation formula

The next vexed issue is compensation. Here some elements from all the competing models — like the Haryana (Congress-Hooda) model, the UP (BSP-Mayawati) model and the Gujarat (BJP-Modi) model —  may well be included in the final package, making it as attractive as possible to the sellers while keeping it profitable for the prospective buyers.

If at least 70 per cent of the owners with clear land title have to voluntarily agree to sell, the package will have to be attractive enough — otherwise they would not sell. On top of the market rate (which should immediately reflect the anticipated rise in price after the proposed industrial development in the area) other components of the compensation package could be: an inflation-indexed annuity or steady income for the next 30 years or so, a stipulated share in the future profits or revenue (as profit figures can be fudged more easily) of the company, training facility and a job to one member from each nuclear family of landsellers (or an additional monthly payment in lieu of a job when the person is not fit for a job in the project even after training) and returning a specified percentage of developed land to the original sellers.

An even more difficult problem is compensating the sharecroppers and landless labourers who would lose their earnings after the agricultural land is sold for industrialisation. To the extent the sharecroppers are legally recorded as such (as in Bengal), a certain percentage (say one-third) of the compensation for the landowner should go the sharecropper and the landowner should get the rest. 

But the unregistered sharecroppers cannot legally claim the compensation. They will have to be treated like landless labour. In most cases uneducated agricultural workers cannot be provided industrial jobs (that require a different type of skill). Hence, wage payment for some minimum number of days over a number of years (like, say, 5 years) may be assured to such people, in return for work at minimum wages for NREGA or similar community projects.

Though political pressure would be for giving them monetary compensation without work, that should be resisted for two reasons. One, free transfer would mean that people other than landless labour losing earning would be included in the list. Two, landless labourers, in any case, were earning wages by working in the fields. So, there is nothing wrong in asking them to earn money by working. In the process, some useful community assets may well be created which would be a bonus for the society.

(The writer is a former professor of economics at IIM, Calcutta)








Palestinians from Jerusalem lose their rights if they dwell outside the 'Jerusalem envelope'.


Sixty-six per cent of Palestinians living in the occupied territories oppose the resumption of negotiations, suspended since Israel resumed unfettered colonisation at the end of last month.

More than half approved of the Hamas attack that killed four settlers on the eve of the September 2 launch of direct talks. Palestinians are opposed because they do not see that talks improve the situation on the ground. Indeed, one Palestinian commentator pointed out that Jewish colony expansion, Israeli army raids on Palestinian cities, towns and villages, and fatal attacks on Palestinians increase during negotiations.

While Gaza remains besieged and blockaded, Israel's occupation regime remains firmly clamped on East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli colonies, roads, military bases and 'closures' have fragmented the Palestinian areas into enclaves surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory. Palestinians are denied freedom of movement and trade among enclaves while West Bankers and Gazans are denied access to Greater Jerusalem, 10 per cent of the West Bank land area, and to the Jordan Valley, 30 per cent. Palestinians are also barred from entering Israeli settlements.

Altering composition

George Rishmawi, director of the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement, told Deccan Herald that only "13 per cent of land in the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian development". The rest has been annexed to Jerusalem or allocated to Israeli colonies. Palestinian Muslim villagers have been forced to move into the district's three largely Christian towns, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, altering their religious composition.

Rishmawi said it used to take Palestinians 20 minutes to travel from Bethlehem to Ramallah. Today the journey can last from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on traffic at check points. Palestinian goods and produce for sale in Jerusalem or Israel and export must go through a terminal at Tarqumiya in the south of the West  Bank rather than direct to their destinations. Palestinian goods cannot travel through Israeli controlled areas in Palestinian lorries and have to be off-loaded onto Israeli vehicles.

Palestinian Jerusalemites are free to travel to the West Bank but not Gaza. They are not free to take spouses from the West Bank or Gaza because Palestinians from these areas do not have the right to reside in the holy city. Palestinians from Jerusalem lose this right if they dwell outside what Israel calls the 'Jerusalem envelope'.

While according equal treatment to Christians and Muslims on most issues, Israel makes one important distinction that creates animosity. Rishmawi observed, "It grants West Bank Christians permits to travel to Jerusalem for Christian holidays, even for minor saints' days. It is not the same for Muslims. For them it is difficult to get permits," even for the two major Muslim religious holidays.

The Jordan Valley extends 120 km along the Jordan River border with the Kingdom of Jordan.  Fifty per cent of the land here has been allocated to 36 Israeli colonies, 45 per cent to nature reserves, army camps and firing ranges. This leaves Palestinian farmers with 5 per cent of the land. Seventy per cent have moved from their villages into the main town of the region, Jericho, which claims to be 10,000 years old and the longest continually inhabited town on the face of the globe. 

Since occupying the West Bank in 1967, Israel has regarded the valley as its eastern border and insists on retaining control for security reasons. Palestinians flatly reject Israel's claim. Officials argue that a state without the valley would be surrounded by Israel, have no control over any of its borders and no sovereignty.

Ashraf Khatib of the Palestinian negotiations unit said the valley, which contains one-third of West Bank water resources, has become more important as an agricultural asset than as a strategic location for Israel.  Palestinians have not been permitted to sink new wells since 1967 while settlers drill deep boreholes consume six times more water than Palestinians. 

Palestinian business consultant Sam Bahour characterised the situation in Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative capital where he lives, as "five star occupation. Gaza is minus one star and Nablus [in the northern West Bank] is two star". 

The Palestinian Authority and World Bank claim 7-8 per cent growth in the Palestinian economy but Bahour said, "Growth is in consumerism". "If the economy is to grow, Palestinians must have control over electric power, water, oil, and land.  Israel keeps control" of these essentials. In his opinion, there can be no serious negotiations until Israel's occupation regime ends.







As we stepped out of the salon into the open air, I vowed never to return.


My mother is one of those mortals who thrives on common soap and water and manages to look like a film star. Still, I suggested she pamper herself a little. So off to a salon we trudged. It seemed like some sort of a utopia; 5-star like razzle-dazzle, aromatic candles and well-groomed staff, all north-eastern. While mom vanished inside for a facial, I thought of grabbing a little TLC for myself — a nice hairdo maybe.

One of the staff remarked that I'd look good in a coiffure a la Vanessa Hudgens of the 'High School Musicals' fame. I simpered; much flattered, then considered the wallet factor. On enquiring, the girl quoted 700 and I gave her the go-ahead sign. She ran her manicured fingers along my tresses and said, "Your hair's a little greasy. I'll have too shampoo it before styling and that'll cost you 150 extra." I was tempted to react but then okayed in resignation.

The shampoo session in progress, the lady became conversational — "You going to function today?" "Nopes, going to one 4 days hence," I replied languidly. "Then don't wash hair meantime. Otherwise perm gone," she warned. Jolted out of my chair in shock, I protested, "I thought this was supposed to last for 6 months!" "No, for 1 day only," she smiled at my ignorance. In panic I asked her the rates of a more permanent perm. "6000-7000, like that," she shrugged casually. "I need to talk to mom", I said feeling like a trapped creature. "Sit! I've already spoken to your mom," she ordered peremptorily.

I managed to barge into the chamber my mom was supposed to be in. A stranger I barely recognised was reclining on a cot, her face coated with some icky stuff being kneaded like dough. "Amma, is that you?" I asked tentatively. "Yeah" came the familiar voice "What is it?" Meanwhile my assailant had followed, hair-dryer in hand poised like a gun. "You came away before I could blow-dry" — her eyes spoke murder. In agitation I explained the situation to mom. "She's quoting unreasonable rates," I said keeping my voice low. Mom advised me to do what I deemed fit. "Please don't mind," I said addressing the girl, "Just shampoo'll do for now."

Like one true professional she nodded graciously. Once out of my mother's sight, she grabbed my arm with an eager — "You want hair-straightening? I do it for you for only 5000" I felt stifled again. But thanks to the general ambience here, I too had learnt courtesy and craft, "Would love that," I crooned sweetly, "will be here 3 days later — just before function. Nice parlour — yours." Much elated, the dame smiled broadly.

Mom came out many a minute later, looking pretty much the same. As we stepped out into the open air, I vowed never to return, least of all drag others to such queer places again.









Two infantry sergeants from the IDF's Givati infantry brigade face up to a three-year prison sentence for using a Palestinian boy as a human shield.


On January 15, 2009, in the middle of Operation Cast Lead, the two soldiers were searching a building in the Gaza City suburb of Tel al-Hawa while facing gunfire fromHamas militants, when they came across bags and suitcases suspected of being booby-trapped.


The two soldiers ordered a boy, who had gathered with family and neighbors in a bomb shelter, to open the bags. Apparently the two soldiers were motivated by the desire to protect themselves from a possible explosion.

"The boy, who feared for his fate and was under duress, wet his pants," wrote the three-judge military court that convicted the two IDF soldiers. "The option of using a civilian, especially a child, was not among the legitimate options at the defendants' disposal," the judges wrote. "Combat is no excuse for applying improper force."

THE JUDGES' ruling is commendable. IDF soldiers are and should be held to the highest moral standards even when Hamas and other enemies of Israel are not. The IDF's scrupulous adherence to war ethics gives Israel the incalculable advantage of justness of purpose. This is true even when terrorists cynically exploit Israeli morality to gain the upper hand on the battlefield. Hamas systematically uses Gaza's civilian population as human shields and purposefully blurs distinctions between militants and non-combatants. The bags discovered by the soldiers could very well have been booby-trapped.

Hamas has no qualms about killing its own people along with IDF soldiers.

Within this context the two soldiers' behavior, forbidden by both international war conventions and the IDF's own rules of engagement, can at least be understood, if not condoned, as a failed attempt to meet the nearly insurmountable challenges of fighting asymmetric, unconventional warfare in densely populated residential areas.

Judging from recent reports of purported "boredom killings" carried out by US forces in Afghanistan and documented revenge killings by allied troops in Iraq, other western armies fare no better, and sometimes much worse, than the IDF in such combat settings.

And if we are brutally honest with ourselves – especially those of us with children, relatives or loved ones serving in IDF combat units – we would have a hard time blaming a soldier, faced with a life threatening situation, who chooses to endanger the civilian population of the enemy rather than himself.

In the specific case of the two Givati soldiers, there were other options besides endangering themselves or Palestinians – options such as evacuating the entire building or blowing up the suspicious bags from a distance.

While the two soldiers should be disciplined, they should not be used as an example "so that others will see and be instilled with fear" as the IDF prosecutor's office argued after the conviction was handed down.

Education, not scare tactics, should be used with soldiers who are courageous and selfless enough to risk their lives in combat to protect their country. Nor should the soldiers be obligated to serve a prison sentence.

A suspended sentence that could be enacted in the case of future infractions is ample enough.

THE CASE of the two Givati soldiers should be used as an opportunity to restate the IDF's high ethical level and its capacity for self-criticism.

In recent years the IDF has augmented the ranks of the Military Police Investigative Department and has drafted more civilian attorneys into reserve duty to serve as military prosecutors. Judicial officers are consulted before and during the planning stage of counter-insurgency strikes. More emphasis has been placed on war ethics education, including the inculcation of the Spirit of the IDF [ruah tzahal] among troops, which includes an injunction not "to employ their weapons and power in order to harm non-combatants."

There is always room for improvement. And the handling of the case of the two Givati soldiers underlines that the IDF is committed to precisely that improvement.








The attempt to propagandize the incident in which two soldiers reportedly used a Palestinian youth as a human shield during Cast Lead is contemptible.


The Israeli public was recently subjected to an ill-advised and unfortunate publicity stunt during the court-martial of two members of one of the IDF's main combat units, who were tried for violating military rules and the norms of humanitarian law duringOperation Cast Lead by using a Palestinian youngster as a human shield, forcing him to open a bag they suspected held explosives.

While there is certainly nothing inherently wrong in expressing support for comrades-in-arms in accompanying them to the courthouse, the manner in which friends of these soldiers chose to publicize their position was particularly objectionable, in that they chose to wear T-shirts declaring their friends to be "Goldstone


This equation is both ill-advised and in particularly bad taste for a number of reasons. The soldiers had been convicted of committing crimes that violate both the IDF's own code of combat and the most basic norms of humanitarian law – taking children and using them as human shields. Neither the IDF rules for combat nor the norms of humanitarian law were invented by Richard Goldstone, in his report, and these norms and rules have existed and been applied in the IDF for many years.

In fact, the IDF expends considerable efforts toward inculcating humanitarian standards within the various military units, and this writer spent considerable reserve-duty time teaching all levels of the army about humanitarian norms, Geneva conventions, laws of war and the like.

One may certainly view the Goldstone commission as having been "born in sin," with its one-sided anti- Israel mandate approved by the UN Human Rights Council, and the resultant Goldstone Report as being politically motivated and drafted in a heavily biased manner. But the crimes for which the soldiers were put on trial, and the legal process within the IDF are a standard internal process, which Israel and its military are committed to go through in the event that evidence presents itself as to the violation by soldiers or officers of the rules of combat.

ISRAEL IS a country that prides itself on its justice system – both civilian and military. In our hasbara and other messages, we claim that fighting terrorists is not classical combat according to the rules of warfare between organized armies, because they, as terrorists, violate the rules, hide behind civilians, targeting our civilians and so on. Thus we are fighting illegal combatants.

Some soldiers and officers see this as a reason to "bend" the humanitarian rules and act outside the confines of the Geneva conventions. This is a problem, since international law has not really caught up with modern day terror and there are no international conventions that handle thse issues yet. The expectation of us is that as an organized army we will abide by the rules, even if our enemy doesn't.

People are not put on "show trials" to satisfy this or that organization or personality.

If the IDF prosecutors consider, on the basis of evidence before them, that grounds exist for bringing soldiers or officers to trial for violation of the laws and norms of warfare and violation of the IDF combat rules, then this is based purely on the evidence.

While there have been recent photographs and videos of soldiers posing (and dancing) next to Palestinian detainees, this regrettable behavior would appear to be highly untypical of Israeli soldiers in general, and is most probably based on individual "copying" of actions by US or British soldiers seen on TV or on the Web.

But, in any event, the soldiers convicted of using a youngster as a human shield are certainly not "Goldstone scapegoats."

If, on the basis of the evidence before it, the court convicted them, they are criminals who, as IDF soldiers, should have known better. The attempt to propagandize this regrettable situation, as if the process is not genuine but some kind of staged performance to humor Goldstone, is transparent, uncalled for and contemptible, and will hopefully be rapidly forgotten.

The writer is a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and ambassador to Canada. During his military service, he served as the military prosecutor in the Gaza Strip. Today he is a partner in the law firm of Moshe, Bloomfield, Baker and Kobo.








Illinois could become the leading state in helping resolve the Middle East conflict.

Talkbacks (1)


Rahm Emanuel is the most famous of US political candidates with direct ties to Israel. The former chief of staff to President Barack Obama left the job and declared his candidacy for mayor of Chicago. His father, Benjamin, was a member of the pre-state Irgun.

But he's not the only one.


mmigrated to the US to escape the growing conflict. His son was born two years before the 1967 war. Cohen broke onto the American political scene last March with a huge splash when he surprised everyone and won the Democratic Party nomination for Illinois lieutenant governor.


But Cohen was already accomplished in business in Chicagoland. He is a self-made millionaire.

The mainstream media ignored Cohen during the election, focusing instead on the leading establishment candidates after the governor, Rod Blagojevich, had been removed from office and accused of corruption.

Blagojevich beat all 23 major corruption charges, but the former governor's ties to high-profile American Arab businessmen made him a marked man to the media.

Cohen ran on a reform platform that promised to focus on job creation. When he won the election, the media turned ugly and began doing the job they failed to do when he ran, digging up dirt including details of his divorce and the antics of a former girlfriend whom the media charged had been arrested previously for prostitution.

Cohen stood up to the oftenunfair media and political onslaught, which in turn, ignored him when he talked about doing something for citizens of the state, and then pilloried him when his election put him in line to become the state's number-two government official.

Under pressure and threats, Cohen withdrew from the lieutenant governor's race, but returned and declared himself a an independent candidate.

"I am very proud of my family's heritage and my father's life in Palestine, and I am proud to be a Jew," Cohen told me after appearing on my morning radio show in Chicago. Cohen said he opposes violence, supports negotiations and the creation of two states as a solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict.

If he is elected governor, Cohen could become a prominent force to help strengthen the moderate voices, and will be a contrast to Emanuel, who has been secretive about his own ties to Israel.

Service in Israel's military is considered one of the highest honors and is respected among Israelis. It's often used to help deflect some of the nasty vitriol that dominates the Middle East discussion. My journalism colleague, Bradley Burston, notes at the bottom of his columns in Haaretz that he served in the IDF to deflect attacks from those who question his patriotism.

But just as military service is important in Israel, it is also very important in the US. Like Burston, I often cite my active duty in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War to respond to those who question my patriotism.

It's the main factor in the Illinois US Senate race with Democrat Alexi Giannoulis leading his Republican rival Mark Kirk, who has repeatedly exaggerated his own role as a "fighter pilot" in Iraq.

And it is important in the case of Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel served as a "volunteer" in Israel's military, repairing trucks, but he has refused to discuss the facts surrounding that role, or explain why he didn't serve in the US military.

THE MEDIA that beat up Cohen is touting Emanuel as the leading candidate to become Chicago mayor. He is one of the smartest minds in American politics, and was the architect of the Democratic takeover of the US House.

Emanuel's role as chief adviser to Obama shows he cares about supporting genuine peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

But it has caused him some problems with Chicago Jews, who feel Obama has been too supportive of Palestinians.

I think Emanuel would make a great mayor. His service in the Israeli military is not an issue to me. His role in the Obama administration, which is fair to Israelis and Palestinians, is more important.

I also think Cohen will make a great Illinois governor.

If they both win, Illinois could become the leading state in helping resolve the Middle East conflict. It's a state with just as many Arabs and Muslims as Jews, who all care about achieving peace.

The writer is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.








The boundaries of warfare are being stretched in novel, strange and frightening ways.

Reciprocal death sentences raging between Yemen and the United States offer a glimpse of warfare in the Internet age.

The topic opens with South Park, an iconoclastic adult cartoon program on Comedy Central, which in April mocked the prohibition on depicting Muhammad. An obscure website, Revolution- (whose proprietor was subsequently arrested on terrorism-related charges), responded by threatening the show's writers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Panicked, Comedy Central censored further mention of Muhammad.


Enter Molly Norris, a cartoonist at the Seattle Weekly, who showed solidarity with Parker and Stone by posting a facetious "Everyone Draw Muhammad Day" appeal on Facebook, hoping that a host of caricaturists would "counter Comedy Central's message about feeling afraid."

To Norris's surprise, dismay and confusion, others took her idea seriously, prompting Facebook campaigns for and against her "day," and the Pakistani government temporarily to block Facebook. Norris disowned her initiative, apologized for it and even befriended the local Council on American- Islamic Relations representative, to little avail.

Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist leader in Yemen, responded in July by issuing a death sentence on Norris, inaccurately but pungently called a fatwa.

On consulting with the police, Norris in September not only went underground but "went ghost" and disappeared entirely.

AWLAKI'S "FATWA" on Norris, however, is only half the story. The other half concerns a US government "fatwa" on Awlaki.

Awlaki was born in New Mexico in 1971 to well-connected Muslim Yemeni parents.

His father, Nasser, studied and worked in the US until 1978, when the family returned to Yemen. Anwar went to the US as a student in 1991 and spent the next decade in various degree programs (engineering, education), only to emerge as an al- Qaida-style Islamist figure comparable to Osama bin Laden both in ideological fanaticism and operational involvement in terrorism.

Arrested in connection with the 9/11 attacks, he was inexplicably released and allowed to move to a remote region of Yemen, where he currently lives.

US law enforcement connects Awlaki to several violent attacks on Americans, including the Fort Hood shootings, the attempted bombing of a Northwest flight approaching Detroit and the Times Square bomber.

Awlaki's terrorist record earned him a unique distinction: In April, for the first time in the nearly 250-year history of the United States, the government placed him on a "kill list," making him the only US citizen to be condemned to death by his own government without benefit of a legal process. Both the military and the intelligence services are targeting him; as one unnamed official puts it: "He's in everybody's sights."

In response, his father initiated in August – with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights – a lawsuit against the US government that challenges the targeting of Awlaki as illegal.

This extraordinary trading of fatwas prompts several observations.

First, Norris and all Americans currently live under the "Rushdie Rules," which punish whoever disrespects Islam, Muhammad or the Koran.

Make fun of Muhammad and you're on your own. Local and national politicians had nothing to say about her plight. Journalists, usually keen to protect one of their own, went silent. No organization sprang up to raise money for her protection.

Second, the Internet stands at the heart of this entire episode. It turned Norris's jokey idea into an international incident, brought news of it to Awlaki in remote Yemen, and allowed him to direct his American operatives. A mere 20 years ago, none of this could have taken place.

Third, the Internet and Islamism have together privatized war. At will, an American living in Yemen can disrupt the life of an American in Washington state. The US government has declared war on a citizen.

Fourth, Awlaki is a plain terrorist, sowing death and disruption, whereas the US government's "kill list" is defensive.

One is evil, the other is moral.

Fifth, why the inconsistency, whereby the US government permits itself "targeted killings" but denies this tool to Israel? Finally, Awlaki stands at an unprecedented crossroads of death declarations, targeting Norris even as the US government targets him. This is as startling in an Islamic context as it is in an American one.

The boundaries of warfare are being stretched in novel, strange and frightening ways.

The writer ( is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University








None of the current problems has anything to do with the US; all of them were "made in Pakistan."

Talkbacks (1)


In an op-ed in The New York Times last year, the newly elected president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardani, explained how the US could now "mend fences with Pakistan."

He claimed that "twice in recent history America abandoned its democratic values to support dictators and manipulate and exploit us."

Furthermore, the US "used Pakistan as a surrogate in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That decade turned our peaceful nation into a 'Kalashnikov-and-heroin' society – a nation defined by guns and drugs."


The US even created the Taliban, and was thus responsible for supporting the "most radical" Islamists in Afghanistan.

But that's not all. America is also at fault for having relations with India. "The perceived rhetorical one-sidedness of American policy often fuels the conspiracy theories that abound here – theories that blame the West for all of our ills."

And then Zardani capped off his complaints with a list of what America must do for Pakistan. America must "work with us to turn public opinion around," and the US must give money without strings attached, no "dependency" and the US must "mediate the Kashmir dispute."

Is there more? What else can Zardani order from the American menu? 

THIS PAKISTANI view is alive and well. The country's pseudo-liberal newspaper Dawnpublished an editorial in June that asked: "Would Pakistan in the 21st century be wracked by militancy and terrorism if the US hadn't supported Gen. Zia and pumped millions into the Afghan jihad?" A responsible person reading the Pakistani description of Pakistan's history, even if she took it at face value, would wonder, "If America has been responsible for supporting Pakistan in the wrong way, will not our new support for this government one day be used by another one to again blame us for all the ills of the country again?" The Economist's writers were not taken in. In a September article they claimed that Pakistan's elite, "with heroic exceptions," show "little appetite for trying to improve the place." Many prefer to blame their problems on others, ideally America.

They also blithely dodge tax – at around 10% of GDP, Pakistan's tax-collection rate is one of the world's lowest."

That is the situation today. Maybe it's worse; 20% of Pakistan was recently underwater from flooding, affecting about 21 million people. But even in the midst of the flooding, three bombings were carried out targeting minority Shi'ite and Ahmadiyya Muslims. One of the bombings, carried out by the Sunni Taliban, actually killed Shi'ites marching on "Al-Kuds [Jerusalem] day" in solidarity with Palestinians. More than 100 people were murdered in the bombings, and in response Shi'ites rioted across Pakistan. One must ask the writers at Dawn and Zardani: How can America be blamed for these bombings? Surely a way will be found.

Pakistan, of all countries, is probably the one where the people's heads are most buried in the sand. They are in denial about almost everything befalling their nation. In the province of Balochistan, which accounts for 48% of the land area of the country but only about 5% of the population, there is widespread resentment of the central government and an ongoing insurgency by the Balochistan Liberation Army.

In Karachi there has been a simmering ethnic conflict between Sindhis (Pakistanis from the province of Sindh) and Muhajirs (Pakistanis who immigrated to the country from India in 1948 due to partition and independence). There are around 13 million Muhajirs in Pakistan, and since their mass flight from India they have felt discriminated against.

They settled primarily in Karachi, where they now make up 6 million of a population of 13 million. In the 1970s they were the main driver behind the "language riots" that racked the city, and which were directed at Sindhis. They have been steadfast opponents of the Pakistan People's Party (Zardani's party, founded by his wife's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), which they view as a Sindhi-dominated organization. To gain political rights, the Muhajirs founded the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1984.

On September 17, Imran Farooq, a leader of MQM, was found dead in the UK. In response his followers in Karachi rioted because they believed his death was part of a conspiracy.

Zihad Hussein of The Wall Street Journal reported that "party supporters torched several vehicles and attacked markets."

He noted that in August MQM supporters had also rioted against Pashtuns (another ethnic group) after the murder of a lawmaker.

The Pashtuns make up 28 million of Pakistan's people and are the main members of the Taliban who have been active in the tribal regions of northwestern Pakistan and who succeeded in taking over parts of that region between 2001 and 2010.

None of these current problems, the massacre of minority Shi'ites and Ahmadis, ethnic violence or secessionist movements, has anything to do with the US; all of them were "made in Pakistan."

THE COUNTRY has a terrible habit of forgetting its own history.

Founded in 1948 by Ali Jinnah, a leader of British India's All Muslim League, it was birthed in blood by the expulsion of some 7 million Hindus and Sikhs. Mass ethnic-cleansing paved the way for a Muslim-nationalist nation. The cleansing of Hindus presaged the intolerance that has marked the country ever since, with rioting against Shi'ites and other groups, and interethnic clashes.

Coups, far from being America's creation, are part of Pakistan's culture. They began in 1958 and occurred again in 1977 and 1999. Rather than being on the side of India, the US has long cultivated relations with Pakistan, and rather than "using" Pakistan, it was Pakistan which used the US in Afghanistan, funneling weapons and money to the Islamists after making sure to remove any mention that they came from the "great Satan."

Pakistan's troubles are made at home, and it will be a wonder if the country can ever emerge from its internal problems.
The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.







Statistics gathered from investigations followed by Yesh Din show that only 8% of cases against settlers suspected of crimes against Palestinians have ended in indictments.


Talkbacks (7)

The burning of the mosque in the West Bank village of Beit Fajar, and its desecration with inscriptions attacking Muhammad, is an alarming development. Attacking religious symbols is as dangerous as it is reprehensible, and could lead to a cycle of retaliation and escalation between Israelis and Palestinians.

According to news reports, Israel Police is investigating testimony by Palestinians that a group of settlers arrived at the mosque in the middle of the night early Monday and set it on fire. If that is the case, it is another demonstration of growing boldness among settler extremists.


Such events can no longer be characterized as isolated incidents. Increasingly, we can see organized activities using violence as a tool for achieving political purposes. The infamous "price tag" policy, in which settlers attack Palestinian villages, is just one example of this worrying pattern.

This attempt through the use of violence to deter the government from enacting its policies and enforcing its laws is a classic example of terrorism.

And this infrastructure of Jewish terrorism has been expanding in recent years.

But settler extremism and violence is only part of the problem, and not necessarily the major one. The true culprit is the government's willingness to turn a blind eye to lawlessness and terrorism.

On December 11, 2009, for example, a mosque in the village of Yasuf, was burned. The perpetrators even sprayed the Hebrew words for "price tag" on the walls. Then as now, the authorities and public figures expressed outrage and condemnation, promising a swift and effective investigation.

The human rights organization, Yesh Din, has been monitoring the investigation into the Yasuf mosque arson. Ten months later, authorities say the case is still under investigation.

Although several suspects were detained shortly after the incident, no indictments have been filed. The same applies to the desecration of a mosque in Turmus Aiya. There, the investigation has been going on since December 2008 without any indictments.

Another mosque desecration in A-Nabi Elias from 2006, was closed without identifying any suspects.

THESE ARE only a few cases, of course, but when we examine the broader picture, the impression remains the same. Statistics gathered from the investigations followed by Yesh Din indicate that only 8% of cases opened against settlers suspected of crimes against Palestinians have ended in indictments. Yesh Din has documented grave flaws in the quality of such investigations, and in the general law enforcement on settlers in the West Bank.

So when prominent officials once again promise to capture the miscreants, we have ample reason to doubt their pronouncements. The implications are grim. Indulging Jewish terrorism is not just morally wrong and in breach of Israel's obligations under international law. It is not just a blow to our democratic values and institutions.

It is also a dangerous policy that could ignite violence and threaten stability.

While the government haggles with Washington about the scope of "legal" construction in the settlements (legal, that is, according to Israeli law), its tolerance of massive illegality, not just in construction, but also regarding serious acts of violence, belies the seriousness of its intentions. One can only ignore reality on the ground for a little while.

Then it explodes.

The writer is executive director of Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights.








Whether or not the talks fail, the peace camp here and abroad should fully support the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state next summer.


Pessimism," "doomed to fail" and "waste of time" – these words and phrases litter the reporting and blogging on the current talks between Israel and the Palestinians. One can only hope to be pleasantly surprised and hear that by the end of next summer they will be deemed a success. But seeing as how the pessimists seem to be a majority, now may just be the time to think of creative ways to end the stalemate.

One possibility would be for a third party to change the rules of the game. This would fundamentally change the status quo and force the two sides to act accordingly.

Hints about it have been popping up in the media in the past few weeks, but no dares say it out aloud, for various reasons.

Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad executive, points us in the right direction in the oped "Where the negotiations could be useful" (August 29) published in this paper : "Where the negotiations could conceivably be useful (and safer) for all concerned is if the American sponsors steer them toward reinforcing and facilitating the one success story they can point to: the Palestinian state-building effort in the West Bank... This in turn would ease the political endgame of international recognition for a Palestinian state – which is projected by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for next August when, coincidentally or not, the administration and the Quartet want the new negotiations to be completed."

There it is, right under our noses. The talks are to conclude next summer and coincide with the end of Fayyad's two-year program, begun last August, to ready Palestine for statehood. Will he declare a state then, regardless of whether or not the talks succeed? Fayyad has already denied reports that he will, and surely if a state is to be announced – shouldn't President Mahmoud Abbas be running the show? Moreover, Abbas himself has clearly stated that a unilateral declaration is not on the agenda.

Can they even think of going ahead with such a move before any attempt at reconciliation with Hamas? These and many other questions remain unanswered.

Daoud Kuttab states in The Washington Post on September 7 that it is simply no longer relevant whether or not the talks produce a state: "If the talks fail because of Israeli obstructionism, Palestinians will have no choice but to declare their state unilaterally and hope the world will recognize it. Those Americans who witness Palestinian conduct in the negotiating room over the coming year will have to decide whether to recognize the state or keep this conflict festering."

IF THE talks do fail and there are increasing signs of a future American recognition of a state, the gridlock could begin to unravel.

Just two weeks ago at the UN, President Barack Obama said a Palestinian state could be attained by next year. Also, there have been reports of secret agreements between Obama and Fayyad concerning a future declaration.

Obviously, there is no way Obama can come out today and support such a move; the talks would have to officially fail first. There's also internal US political issues that must be taken into consideration, predominantly the looming midterm elections.

This is the time for the peace camp in Israel and abroad to jump on the wagon and begin applying pressure on the American administration to publicly approve a unilateral declaration, should the Palestinians choose to go down that route.

Such a declaration would prompt immediate reaction from both sides. These reactions, unfortunately, could also bring bloodshed, including violence between settlers and Palestinians, an Israeli incursion and/or annexation of land that would cut a future Palestinian state into unsustainable cantons, and numerous other unpredictable scenarios. Yet despite the risk of violence, the opportunity to finally break the gridlock is surely a better option than continuing the bloody status quo of more than 40 years.

Whether or not the talks fail, and whether Fayyad and Abbas can work out the differences between them, the next stage for the peace camp must be a global grassroots campaign demanding that the US administration, along with the European Union, recognize Palestinian intentions to declare a state next summer.

The grassroots movement must begin here and now, so that this declaration will not prove to be a damp squib, like past Palestinian declarations. It can start right here – on this piece of paper, through the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter – all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Fayyad may claim a unilateral declaration is not on the agenda, but he's getting things ready on the ground for the summer of 2011.

Now all he needs is you, me and Obama.

The writer is a Tel Aviv-based journalist. He blogs at










Recently uncovered Yom Kippur documents should teach us the lessons of short-sightedness, complacence and misguided intelligence that preceded the war.


The Israel State Archives are releasing documents this week containing discussions by political and security officials from the first four days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Wednesday marks 37 years since the war, perhaps the most trying experience in Israel's history.


It is commendable that those who fought in the war or lost loved ones, and those born in following generations, can now read the texts documenting the war. It's sad that it took so long to release them. State archivists should understand that their responsibility goes beyond paperwork and doing the bidding of politicians with something to hide. Instead, their obligation is to history itself - that is, preserving the historical record and letting each individual draw his or her own conclusions from it.


The first document in the series, of an October 7 cabinet meeting (the day after the war broke out ) led by prime minister Golda Meir, offers no startling revelations. Those present have described the meeting and revealed the important parts of what was said there, even if the account remained incomplete. The disputes within Israel's leadership - between Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, between Dayan and Israel Defense Forces chief David Elazar and between Elazar and Military Intelligence, the Air Force and commanders on the ground - have been assessed and reassessed countless times over the past few decades.


Precisely because these documents offer nothing new under the sun, it's important to learn the lessons of short-sightedness, complacence and misguided intelligence that preceded the war. Meir, Dayan, Elazar, elected officials and army officers all failed to see the limitations of Israel's use of force and the possible forms its enemies' operations would take. Israel was resting on the laurels of its military achievements and conquests six years earlier in the Six-Day War, and failed to make an audacious, genuine effort to trade the territories in exchange for peace and security.


]The Netanyahu government includes ministers who experienced the war firsthand, and are now sitting in the chairs once occupied by Meir and Dagan. They bear responsibility for pursuing peace and compromise over stagnation and the threat of renewed war.









RHODES - Gavriel Haritos, a young attorney from Rhodes (his grandfather was governor of the island when Israel signed its 1949 cease-fire agreements there ), took a boat to the small nearby island of Symi. With him went a large file of documents and another Rhodes resident who is claiming family ownership of property on the island.


On the same boat sat another lawyer from Rhodes, and with him his client, who is claiming ownership of the same property. Near them sat the judge and her secretary (with a laptop ). On the dock at Symi they all met a representative of the local authority and together they went to hold court at the municipality.


This minor but strange incident - the case could seemingly have been heard at a courthouse in Rhodes, instead of everyone traveling to the smaller island, which has no court - is symptomatic of the interesting change that is occurring in Greece these days. For the first time in the country's history, the government has decided to institutionalize the registration of land ownership. And Symi, which was a flourishing island until a severe water shortage caused a drop in tourism that undermined its economy, was selected to lead the project.


Residents of Symi were thus asked in recent months to declare their property. The result surprised even experienced lawyers. According to the declaration, the territory owned by residents of Symi stretches from one side of the island all the way to nearby Turkey, including the sea between them. How can they prove it? They will drag each other to court, summon witnesses (neighbors, cousins and a few priests to make it all sound more credible ) and, in the end, when the judges decide, the registry will commence.


Ultimately, both sides will have to recognize that the gap between their declarations and reality is great, so all will go home unhappy. That is how the new era is dawning in Greece, an era of bitter awakening from the sweet dreams of grandeur.


This is not just happening in real estate, which has always been a wide-open and convenient field for manipulation by developers, corrupt politicians and quick, aggressive traders (including the church, which was responsible for the Vatopedi affair - the biggest corruption case in Greece, which exploded five years ago, and for which the church must now pay an enormous tax bill ). It is also happening in many other areas that until now had been lawless.


Suddenly, the Greeks must declare their income, keep books, provide receipts and pay tax on profits that had been hidden from the authorities for years. How refreshing, almost funny, to see the kiosk vendor insist on giving a receipt for two newspapers and a candy bar - and so, too, the gas station attendants and the restaurateurs.


The Albanians, who worked in construction in the islands at a ferocious pace, are going home, because the people who threw money around are now thinking twice before buying a seafront villa. And that leaves the Greeks without the excuse that "they are taking all the jobs."


But this sobering up is not restricted to material matters. It is also beginning to affect the way the Greeks look at themselves.


Several weeks ago, a book was published about the three tragic weeks of July 1974 in which the Turks defeated the Greeks. The book coldly analyzes the Greek national megalomania that led to this failure. The debate it stirred gained additional fuel when Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, in a speech during celebrations of the island's independence day, said that responsibility for what happened in 1974 falls equally on Turkey and Greece.


The Greeks are waking up from the euphoria in which they had been living since the 2004 Olympic Games. Many see a link between the current economic crisis and the nationalist ambitions that brought tragedy in the past.


Haritos, who studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, recommends that Israelis learn from the history of Greece. "Your economic success blinds you," he said. "You feel protected, strong, wonderful. You think you don't need a diplomatic compromise, but the truth is entirely different."


It is indeed hard to ignore the similarities. Hopefully, we will learn from the experience of others and sober up without needing to undergo a severe crisis.









The recent speech at the United Nations by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was the opening salvo in the election campaign for the 19th Knesset. Lieberman, who is chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, embarked on a bid for the leadership of the political right wing and positioned himself as the guardian of those "speaking the truth," who will not be pressured and will not capitulate like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The rivalry between Lieberman and Netanyahu is not new, but until last week, the two refrained from open war. Lieberman chose the "crisis" over the settlement construction freeze to push the prime minister against a wall, to raise doubts about his reliability, and to show right-wing voters who's strong enough to stand up to American pressure.


The American demand for a settlement construction freeze was designed from the start to threaten the unity of Israel's governing coalition and the stability of Netanyahu's hold on the prime minister post. It was also designed to engender constant tension between Netanyahu and the right flank of his Likud party, as well as his "natural partners" from other parties on the right.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas disclosed this strategy in an interview with the Washington Post last spring, making clear that he intended to sit on the sidelines and not budge until U.S. President Barack Obama brought about Netanyahu's fall from power.


He threatened and he followed through on his threat. He returned to direct talks with Israel just before the expiration of the construction freeze, and immediately disrupted them with the demand that settlement construction not be renewed.


Netanyahu was faced with problems on both the domestic and international fronts. His speeches about peace don't convince anyone in the international community; his assurances about achieving a historic peace agreement within a year are greeted with skepticism and his protestations of being treated unfairly are ignored.


"The world," including Obama, hates the settlements and wants the construction freeze. Unlike the freeze that ended on September 26, however, which did not rock the coalition boat, this time Netanyahu has encountered opposition. Lieberman is warning against an American plot to impose a peace agreement and says he will remain in the government and fight to foil it.


The response to Lieberman's insurrection should have been to remove him from the Foreign Ministry and replace him with Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni. Without a doubt, bringing Kadima into the government instead of Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and Habayit Hayehudi would send a message to the world that Netanyahu was serious and intended to reach a compromise with the Palestinians.


Such a step, however, is fraught with major risks. Livni could join forces with adversaries of Netanyahu and bring him down rather than saving him. That's what the leader of the Labor Party, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, did to Netanyahu during his prior term as prime minister.


And if Kadima joins the government and the peace process moves forward, that will relieve the pressure from abroad, but it will lead Likud to the brink of a split for a second time in five years. Lieberman will be ready to pick up the pieces, and the voters.


That's why Netanyahu has refrained from dismissing Lieberman following the U.N. speech. He preferred to wipe the spit off his face and sustain the media's criticism rather than engaging in a duel at a time and place of Lieberman's choosing. The foreign minister is considered a calculating politician who keeps his cards close to his chest and aces up his sleeve, but he also has his weaknesses. He is impatient and sensitive to what is written about him, and surrounds himself with yes-men. These are clear signs of insecurity. Sooner or later, he could stumble, or be put on trial, and his race for leader of the right wing and the country will come to a halt.


But it could come too late for Netanyahu, who has been left looking like a weak leader following the settlement freeze row. He is seen as indecisive, scurrying between right and left, between Lieberman and Obama, in an effort to avoid making a decision. The public is having trouble parsing his actions. Does he intend to withdraw from the West Bank or just trade barbs with Abbas?


The mystery will not be solved even if Netanyahu responds positively to Obama and extends the construction freeze for another two months in exchange for a gift basket of American assurances. He will only be buying more time during which he can sit on the fence.


He should come to Wednesday's inner cabinet meeting with a clear understanding of what he is presenting and what he intends to fight for. He should take a good look at his election campaign slogan, at his message to the public.


Is he a man of peace or a political trickster, someone holing himself up against the world or a groundbreaking statesman? His decisions as to what to do should flow from the more basic decision as to who and what he is. His continued waffling will only serve Lieberman, who is waiting for the right moment to make his move.










The recent speech at the United Nations by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was the opening salvo in the election campaign for the 19th Knesset. Lieberman, who is chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, embarked on a bid for the leadership of the political right wing and positioned himself as the guardian of those "speaking the truth," who will not be pressured and will not capitulate like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The rivalry between Lieberman and Netanyahu is not new, but until last week, the two refrained from open war. Lieberman chose the "crisis" over the settlement construction freeze to push the prime minister against a wall, to raise doubts about his reliability, and to show right-wing voters who's strong enough to stand up to American pressure.


The American demand for a settlement construction freeze was designed from the start to threaten the unity of Israel's governing coalition and the stability of Netanyahu's hold on the prime minister post. It was also designed to engender constant tension between Netanyahu and the right flank of his Likud party, as well as his "natural partners" from other parties on the right.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas disclosed this strategy in an interview with the Washington Post last spring, making clear that he intended to sit on the sidelines and not budge until U.S. President Barack Obama brought about Netanyahu's fall from power.


He threatened and he followed through on his threat. He returned to direct talks with Israel just before the expiration of the construction freeze, and immediately disrupted them with the demand that settlement construction not be renewed.


Netanyahu was faced with problems on both the domestic and international fronts. His speeches about peace don't convince anyone in the international community; his assurances about achieving a historic peace agreement within a year are greeted with skepticism and his protestations of being treated unfairly are ignored.


"The world," including Obama, hates the settlements and wants the construction freeze. Unlike the freeze that ended on September 26, however, which did not rock the coalition boat, this time Netanyahu has encountered opposition. Lieberman is warning against an American plot to impose a peace agreement and says he will remain in the government and fight to foil it.


The response to Lieberman's insurrection should have been to remove him from the Foreign Ministry and replace him with Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni. Without a doubt, bringing Kadima into the government instead of Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and Habayit Hayehudi would send a message to the world that Netanyahu was serious and intended to reach a compromise with the Palestinians.


Such a step, however, is fraught with major risks. Livni could join forces with adversaries of Netanyahu and bring him down rather than saving him. That's what the leader of the Labor Party, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, did to Netanyahu during his prior term as prime minister.


And if Kadima joins the government and the peace process moves forward, that will relieve the pressure from abroad, but it will lead Likud to the brink of a split for a second time in five years. Lieberman will be ready to pick up the pieces, and the voters.


That's why Netanyahu has refrained from dismissing Lieberman following the U.N. speech. He preferred to wipe the spit off his face and sustain the media's criticism rather than engaging in a duel at a time and place of Lieberman's choosing. The foreign minister is considered a calculating politician who keeps his cards close to his chest and aces up his sleeve, but he also has his weaknesses. He is impatient and sensitive to what is written about him, and surrounds himself with yes-men. These are clear signs of insecurity. Sooner or later, he could stumble, or be put on trial, and his race for leader of the right wing and the country will come to a halt.


But it could come too late for Netanyahu, who has been left looking like a weak leader following the settlement freeze row. He is seen as indecisive, scurrying between right and left, between Lieberman and Obama, in an effort to avoid making a decision. The public is having trouble parsing his actions. Does he intend to withdraw from the West Bank or just trade barbs with Abbas?


The mystery will not be solved even if Netanyahu responds positively to Obama and extends the construction freeze for another two months in exchange for a gift basket of American assurances. He will only be buying more time during which he can sit on the fence.


He should come to Wednesday's inner cabinet meeting with a clear understanding of what he is presenting and what he intends to fight for. He should take a good look at his election campaign slogan, at his message to the public.


Is he a man of peace or a political trickster, someone holing himself up against the world or a groundbreaking statesman? His decisions as to what to do should flow from the more basic decision as to who and what he is. His continued waffling will only serve Lieberman, who is waiting for the right moment to make his move.









"Even the deportation of one single child will cause diplomatic and international damage to Israel," Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said. We have already heard similar statements but Barak's formulation is especially deterring: That particular, one-time child, known to us from the humanist discourse and poet Natan Alterman's morality poetry, becomes a brief algorithm in the calculation of the new Israeli morality's damage control - the ethos of "what will they say."


There is nothing wrong with utilitarian considerations. There is a logical fault in utilitarianism that defeats itself. Isn't Barak's remark just as damaging, in its depiction of Israel as an opportunist in the grip of anxieties?


Let us suppose deporting the children and their parents is not only legal but also legitimate. Liberal Australia confines thousands of people knocking at its gates, with their children, in detention camps. But Israel's wretchedness, as reflected in Barak's reasoning, lies in it extraordinary vulnerability: The children deported from Australia will not appear in international prime time, whereas the scenes at Ben-Gurion International Airport will be broadcast as the top news item.


It appears the defense minister and his partners in the claim are convinced Israel has lost all its moral credibility in the eyes of the international community. In their view, all that remains is the image consideration.


We haven't always been like that. It used to be we offered the world a clear ethical agenda. We even had a constitutional document here that proclaimed forthrightly: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. The image consultants' version, i.e. Thou shalt not kill because it doesn't look good or Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor because what will the Egyptians and the Assyrians say was left out of the Bible. Rabbi Hillel the Elder said the world stands upon three things, and did not trouble himself with the question of how to present these things to the world's eyes.


As a rule, ancient Israel did not censor injustices. It probed and agonized over them. Elijah the Tishbite ("Hast thou killed and also taken possession?" ) was not silenced. Amos the Prophet ("ye kine of Bashan that are in the mountain of Samaria" ) was not censored.


The Children of Israel got into endless moral trouble, and then went and wrote it all down in a book. And because the establishers of the criteria had no qualms about rattling things, sooner or later the world heard.


From Isaiah Ben Amotz to Prof. Yeshaiyahu Leibowitz, the Jews carried a daring, arrogant and binding aspiration. In the marketplace of ideas they were always the leaders, never the led. Even when they were profoundly influenced by foreign cultures, even if they had to do a reset of moral systems, their voice rang out clearly. When held in the deepest contempt, when their situation was far beneath any "diplomatic and international damage," they strove for stature. Not for image-making.


Let us return to that one single child of the migrant workers. With no connection to the determination of his future by the government, anyone who sees this child as a pawn on the chessboard of Israel's international relations is treating him despicably. The deportation of this small Israeli is a matter completely different from the damage to the pagan god Moloch and goddess Ashera of our own day, "Image" and "Public Diplomacy," even if they lead to an identical outcome.


Nevertheless, there is some good in the vociferous, emotional and activist debate that has erupted here. It is beaming a small and surprising light unto the nations. It is impressive to hear Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is convinced "the decision (to revoke the deportation ) will be remembered in the history of Israel as one of the most humane and intelligent decisions taken by a government in Israel." Also worthy are the vacillations of many Israelis torn between contradictory value considerations. As long as that one single child is important to them in and of himself, it is permissible to debate whether this is a matter of "an Israeli like you and me" or of "a stranger or a sojourner; that he may live with ye." Both Hillel and Shamai are smiling somewhere in the place where they dwell.










For at least 44 years, it has been illegal for foreign corporations, countries and individuals to make political contributions in the United States for any election, either directly or indirectly. It is even against the law to solicit such contributions. But in this Wild West year of political money, that longstanding ban is being set aside. The United States Chamber of Commerce — one of the biggest advertisers in midterm races around the country — is actively soliciting foreign money, and government enforcers seem to be doing nothing to stop it.


According to a report issued Tuesday by the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group in Washington, the chamber is getting "dues" payments of tens of thousands of dollars from foreign companies in countries such as Bahrain, India and Egypt, and then mingling the money with its fund to advocate for or against candidates in the midterm races.


The chamber firmly denies the charge, saying its internal accounting rules prevent any foreign money from being used for political purposes. Money, however, is fungible, and it is impossible for an outsider to know whether the group is following its rules.


The chamber has vowed to spend more than $75 million before the November election, and it has already run 8,000 ads, most of which support Republican candidates. The ads do not urge a vote for or against a specific candidate, but when they accuse Senator Barbara Boxerof California of "destroying jobs," or call Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut "the worst attorney general in the nation," no one can mistake the intent. (The two candidates, both Democrats, are in tight Senate races.)


Because the United States Chamber is organized as a 501(c)(6) business league under the federal tax code, it does not have to disclose its donors, so the full extent of foreign influence on its political agenda is unknown. But Tuesday's report sheds light on how it raises money abroad. Its affiliate in Abu Dhabi, for example, the American Chamber of Commerce, says it has more than 450 corporate and individual members in the United Arab Emirates who pay as much as $8,500 a year to join.


Because of a series of court decisions that culminated in the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling earlier this year, these and similar 501(c) nonprofits have become huge players in the year's election, using unlimited money from donors who have no fear of disclosure. (Not surprisingly, the chamber has been a leading opponent of legislation to require disclosure.) One such group, American Crossroads, organized by Karl Rove, announced on Tuesday a $4.2 million ad buy to support Republican candidates, bringing the group's total spending to about $18 million so far.


The possible commingling of secret foreign money into these groups raises fresh questions about whether they are violating both the letter and spirit of the campaign finance laws. The Federal Election Commission, which has been rendered toothless by its Republican members, should be investigating possible outright violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act by foreign companies and the chamber.


The Internal Revenue Service, which is supposed to ensure that these nonprofit groups are not primarily political, has fallen down on the job. Last week, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, demanded that the I.R.S. look into whether the tax code was being misused for political purposes, and, on Tuesday, two watchdog groups made the same request of the agency.


The government needs to make sure that the tax code — and American control of American elections — is not being violated.







The big phone companies have been campaigning to convince Congress that attempts by the Federal Communications Commission to regulate Internet access like it regulates phones are a costly intrusion that will slow online investment and hamstring progress. And then — oops! — one of the big phone companies reminds us why they should not be allowed to discipline themselves.

Under pressure from the F.C.C., Verizon Wireless has now admitted that it incorrectly billed 15 million customers between $2 and $6, on average, for data services they didn't use. Apparently, Verizon's phones are built in such a way that it is easy for customers to accidentally press the button that opens a Web browser. If they don't have a data plan, that would immediately tag $1.99 to their bill, no matter how quickly the request is canceled.


Verizon Wireless says it will pay current customers back for the charges by crediting their accounts and will send checks to former customers. It estimates that it owes $30 million to $90 million in restitution.


Mistakes do happen. What's instructive about Verizon Wireless's behavior is that when customers called to complain about the problem, it often refused to reverse the charges. When the F.C.C. officially approached the company in December, it denied there was a problem. The F.C.C. opened a formal investigation in January. On Sunday, Verizon changed its tune.


The investigation is not over. The F.C.C. is still looking into how long ago Verizon Wireless was aware of the problem. It also hasn't yet decided whether to settle — allowing the company to make a voluntary payment while admitting no wrongdoing — or to start a formal proceeding to impose a fine. Letting Verizon Wireless off the hook with an "I'm sorry" plus restitution seems unlikely to have much of a deterrent effect.


The lesson Congress should take from this incident is that the telecommunications networks are too vital to leave to industry self-regulation.


Verizon and AT&T, along with the cable TV companies, are the biggest providers of broadband access. Verizon Wireless, the company's wireless unit, is the biggest provider of wireless Internet access. It's not just about who charges how much — as important as that is. The providers want the power to give preferential treatment for some content and restrict other sources.


]These decisions are too vital to our economy and our democracy to leave solely to industry.








Supporters of the tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who insist military justice, not the federal courts, is the best way to deal with terrorists, should pay close attention to Tuesday's events in a United States District Court in Manhattan. Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment, five months and four days after he tried to blow up his car in Times Square.


When Mr. Shahzad was arrested, and later given a Miranda warning, the "tough on terrorists" crowd screamed about coddling and endangering the country's security. They didn't stop complaining, even after Mr. Shahzad cooperated with investigators and entered a guilty plea with a mandatory life sentence. All of this happened without the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department breaking laws or violating Constitutional protections.


Now let's check in on Guantánamo Bay, where President George W. Bush opened an illegal detention camp, authorized torture and abuse, and then set up military tribunals engineered to produce guilty verdicts no matter how thin or tainted the evidence. When the courts declared the system illegal, Congress made it slightly better. President Obama improved it a bit more. But it is still not up to American standards, or to its task.


There are more than 170 inmates left in Guantánamo. Only 36 have been referred for prosecution, some very dangerous men. Forty-eight are in a long-term detention that is certainly illegal. Almost all the rest are in limbo while the Obama team tries to figure out what to do. The chances are dimming every day that prisoners like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, will ever be brought to justice.


The only inmate on trial in Guantánamo is Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was accused at age 15 of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan. He has been held in extralegal detention for more than eight years, and the military has been attempting to try him since 2005. The thin evidence against him is tainted by his credible allegations of abuse.


The Pentagon has further shamed American justice during the trial by imposing censorship that included temporarily banning four reporters from the courtroom because they published the name of a witness who had been identified in news reports and public documents.


This is the choice: Justice in long-established federal courts that Americans can be proud of and the rest of the world can respect. Or illegal detentions and unending, legally dubious military tribunals. It is an easy one.







President Obama announced last year the first big increase in fuel economy standards in three decades, plus a new requirement reducing tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.


The new standards — boosting fleetwide fuel efficiency by 30 percent to 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016 — are the most important environmental achievement of Mr. Obama's first two years. They are still not enough. Fleetwide averages in Europe and Japan already exceed 35 m.p.g. — and Europe is aiming for 60 m.p.g. by 2020.


The administration has rightly decided to keep pushing. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation announced four fuel efficiency proposals for cars and light trucks produced from 2017 through 2025. After discussion and review, a formal proposal is expected next year.


The most conservative scenario calls for an average annual fuel efficiency increase of 3 percent, which works out to 47 m.p.g. by 2025. The most ambitious calls for average annual gains of 6 percent, producing a fleetwide average of 62 m.p.g. in the same time frame.


Getting there will require significant technological advances — more gas-electric hybrids, more all-electric vehicles, bigger and better batteries, lighter (but equally strong) body materials, like aluminum. The agencies said the most aggressive plan would add between $2,800 to $3,500 to the cost of a new vehicle. These costs would be more than made up for in fuel savings.


Industry may well resist, even though its initial reaction was mild — constrained, no doubt, by the continued dependence on federal largess by General Motors and Chrysler. Further improvements in fuel efficiency are essential for reducing our dependence on foreign oil and addressing global warming. The administration should adopt the most rigorous possible standards.









The second time the beach ball hit me on the head, I started feeling motivated.


Not to become an instant millionaire with the help of Jesus and some cheesy business evangelists. Rather, I felt motivated to flee the 9-hour, $9.95 Get Motivated! seminar at the Verizon Center, which had devolved into a faux beach party with DJs playing '80s music and audience members tossing around plastic beach balls and dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Van Halen's "Jump."


But I stayed in the church of capitalism, determined to hear what wisdom headliners Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Dan Rather, Steve Forbes and Terry Bradshaw would dispense.


Aren't these guys affluent enough without whatever exorbitant fees they were collecting for their bromides to the beaten down?


Nearby, Fortune was hosting a gathering celebrating the nation's most powerful women, drawing speakers such as President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.


But the sports arena featured some weird counterprogramming: famous men who once were considered prospects for president, now buck-raking and giving a patina of legitimacy to carnival barkers pushing quick-cash schemes bathed in Biblical inspiration and patriotism.


Thousands of people mired in the new Age of Anxiety turned hopeful eyes to the parade of Professor Harold Hills, waiting for that one elusive diamond of advice that could change their lives.


Never mind that it was all a variation on "We are the ones we've been waiting for," or the scene in "The Wizard of Oz," when Glinda the Good Witch reveals to Dorothy that she has had the power to get home all along.


Except at Get Motivated!, the seminar organizers entice audience members to sign up for more seminars that, for a fee, will teach them the secrets of cashing in on stocks, real estate and the Internet.


I arrived at 8:30 a.m. as Steve Forbes was talking. Naturally, it was still about the flat tax, with the same lines he used when he ran a geek-chic campaign for the G.O.P. nomination in 1996.


Rick Belluzzo, the former chief operating officer for Microsoft, told us we need to "own our own development" and that "perseverance can pay off."


Then football analyst Terry Bradshaw lumbered on, momentarily alarmed when the shooting fireworks on stage nearly singed his backside.


"I need a woman with money," Bradshaw cackled, noting that he was a 62-year-old mama's boy with three ex-wives. He seemed more like a man who could use some advice rather than one paid for giving it.


"I've never really motivated anybody," he announced cheerfully.


The former Steelers quarterback grumbled that quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb get paid millions more than he did to follow plays dictated by coaches.


After noting that "Jesus is my savior," he shared this life lesson with the would-be entrepreneurs: When your receiver is about to be tackled, "Keep it simple. Chuck it to him anyway."


After the audience was wooed to sign up for more sure-fire money-making classes and DVDs, Colin Powell came out to a rain of red and blue streamers.


He was the most charming speaker, confessing that he coped with being out of the limelight by driving a Corvette, at 73, around suburban Washington. His advice? Be nice to the little people, the ones who clean your office and park your car. Write thank you notes on 4-by-6-inch cards. "I write with a fountain pen," he said. "Never a Sharpie. Never a ballpoint pen."


Then came another sales pitch from a guy who said he went from being a homeless drug dealer to the "world's No. 1 Internet wealth entrepreneur" with a $2.4 million estate in Texas. He offered a course at an airport Marriott valued at $11,226.90 for a bargain $29.


When it was his turn, Rudy Giuliani began with a few choice words about Al Gore and global warming, before moving on to his pearls of wisdom.


The first one was: "You have got to have a computer." As he explained to the diminished crowd that remained: "That other world that used to exist doesn't exist anymore."

Having advised the audience to get computers, he went on to counsel on ways to "protect yourself against the information revolution." The first was: "Read books."


He even got a little touchy-feely. "The government has to have a safety net. I'm not disputing that. But it's not important. The one that's really important is the one you create for yourself." He concluded, "You know how you do that? You love people."


I came away with one important new insight about getting rich quick: An easy way to do it is to dole out fortune-cookie maxims at get-rich-quick seminars.









The Terminator, a k a the Governator, is not happy. And you shouldn't be either.


What has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California incensed is the fact that two Texas oil companies with two refineries each in California are financing a campaign to roll back California's landmark laws to slow global warming and promote clean energy innovation, because it would require the refiners to install new emission-control tools. At a time when President Obama and Congress have failed to pass a clean energy bill, California's laws are the best thing we have going to stimulate clean-tech in America. We don't want them gutted. C'mon in. This is a fight worth having.


Here are the basics: Next month Californians will vote on "Prop 23," a proposal to effectively kill implementation of California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, known as A.B. 32. It was supported by Republicans, Democrats, businesses and environmentalists. Prop 23 proposes to suspend implementation of A.B. 32 until California achieves four consecutive quarters of unemployment below 5.5 percent. It is currently above 12 percent. (Sorry for all the numbers. Just remember: A.B. 32, good; Prop 23, bad.)


A.B. 32 was designed to put California on a path to reducing greenhouse gases in its air to 1990 levels by 2020. This would make the state a healthier place, and a more innovative one. Since A.B. 32 was passed, investors have poured billions of dollars into making new technologies to meet these standards.


"It is very clear that the oil companies from outside the state that are trying to take out A.B. 32, and trying to take out our environmental laws, have no interest in suspending it, but just to get rid of it," Governor Schwarzenegger said at an energy forum we both participated in last week in Sacramento, sponsored by its energetic mayor, Kevin Johnson. "They want to kill A.B. 32. Otherwise they wouldn't put this provision in there about the 5.5 percent unemployment rate. It's very rare that California in the last 40 years had an unemployment rate of below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. They're not interested in our environment; they are only interested in greed and filling their pockets with more money.


"And they are very deceptive when they say they want to go and create more jobs in California," the governor added. "Since when has [an] oil company ever been interested in jobs? Let's be honest. If they really are interested in jobs, they would want to protect A.B. 32, because actually it's green technology that is creating the most jobs right now in California, 10 times more than any other sector."


No, this is not about jobs. As, a progressive research center, reported: Two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, "have led the charge against the landmark climate law, along with Koch Industries, the giant oil conglomerate owned by right-wing megafunders Charles and David Koch. Koch recently donated $1 million to the effort and has been supporting front groups involved in the campaign."


Fortunately, Californians from across the political spectrum are trying to raise money to defeat Prop 23, but the vote could be close. George Shultz, a former secretary of state during the Reagan administration, has taken a leading role in the campaign against Prop 23. (


"Prop 23 is designed to kill by indefinite postponement California's effort to clean up the environment," said Mr. Shultz. "This effort is financed heavily by money from out of state. You have to conclude that the financiers are less concerned about California than they are about the fact that if we get something that is working here to clean up the air and launch a clean-tech industry, it will go national and maybe international. So the stakes are high. I hope we can win here and send a message to the whole country that it's time to put aside partisan politics and get an energy bill out of Washington."


Dan Becker, a veteran environmental lobbyist, echoes that view: "Now that industry and their friends in Congress have blocked progress there, the hope for action moves to the states" and the Environmental Protection Agency. "Unfortunately," he added, "polluter lobbyists are tight on our heels. They've offered Senate amendments to block the E.P.A. from using the Clean Air Act to cut power plant pollution. Since that failed, they are trying to block California from moving forward. ... If the people of California see through the misrepresentations of the oil industry, it throws climate denialism off the tracks and opens the door for a return to a science-based approach to the climate. It would be a triumph for the National Academy of Sciences over the National Academy of Fraud."


The real joke is thinking that if California suspends its climate laws that Mother Nature will also take a timeout. "We can wait to solve this problem as long as we want," says Nate Lewis, an energy chemist at the California Institute of Technology: "But Nature is balancing its books every day. It was a record 113 degrees in Los Angeles the other day. There are laws of politics and laws of physics. Only the latter can't be repealed."








EVERY time the United States suffers a recession, trendspotters hasten to identify signs of frugality, extol the rediscovery of thrift and find evidence that Americans are finally (finally!) kicking their demon debt habit. We crack open history books to locate the anti-debt impulse in pre-revolutionary America and troll through quotation collections for ammunition. I've been around long enough to go through this exercise twice — first in the early 1990s and then in 2001 after the dot-com bust. Here we go again.


Since the comprehensive, economy-wide debt bubble of the aughts burst spectacularly in September 2008, Americans, we are told, have rediscovered their inner skinflint. Indeed, the savings rate, which fell into negative territory in 2005 at the height of the boom, bounced back strongly. Through 2009 and thus far in 2010, Americans have been setting aside 5 percent to 7 percent of disposable income as savings. Web sites like and Groupon have attracted millions of penny-pinching users.


When the Federal Reserve reports figures on consumer credit, despite the dry prose, we conjure up visions of shoppers throwing their Visa cards into public bonfires. "Household debt contracted at an annual rate of 2 1/4 percent in the second quarter, the ninth consecutive quarterly decline," the central bank reported last month. The outstanding balances of revolving credit accounts — i.e. credit cards — peaked in 2008 at a little less than $1 trillion, and have fallen for 22 straight months, to $827 billion in July 2010.


It's a great story — if you believe it.


In fact, though, since the Lehman Brothers debacle in September 2008, the nations' total indebtedness has continued its inexorable rise, some measures of consumer debt are starting to rise again and the easy-money, no-money-down culture still prevails in crucial sectors.


Oh, and a look at the data suggests that the decline in personal debt is driven less by Americans giving up on credit cards than on credit card issuers giving up on Americans., a credit-card industry site, crunched data from rating agencies and the Federal Reserve and

found that in the 18-month period from January 2009 through June 2010, American lenders simply wrote off $124.1 billion in credit card balances as uncollectable.That accounts for nearly the entire $134 billion decline in revolving credit balances outstanding in the same period. And in the second quarter of this year, company write-offs were actually nearly $10 billion greater than the amount consumers paid down.


A similar dynamic may be taking place in the much larger housing-debt market. Mortgage debt has fallen for nine straight quarters — from $10.5 trillion in the first quarter of 2008 to $10.1 trillion in the second quarter of this year. But anyone who works in the industry knows that most of this decline can likely be ascribed to lenders writing off many of the loans they had heedlessly extended during the boom.


Meanwhile, as the economy slowly recovers, there are signs that Americans are rediscovering their free-spending ways. Total consumer credit, which includes non-revolving debt like car loans, has stabilized, and it rose in both June and July. It's back to where it was in the second quarter of 2009. Collectively, we don't seem to have run our credit cards through shredders. Mailboxes are again stuffed with credit card solicitations. Newspapers are filled with come-ons from car dealers offering zero-percent financing. The Federal Housing Authority offers mortgages on houses for as little as 3 percent down. You'd be forgiven for thinking that we've flown back in time to September 2006.


And, believe it or not, that's a good thing. The economic expansion that has been going along in fits and starts since June 2009 was initially powered by government stimulus and business investment. But for this recovery to mature, broaden and persist, the greatest economic force known to mankind — the American consumer — has to get back in the game.


In an economy in which consumers account for 70 percent of activity, credit is both a vital lubricant and the indispensable fuel. Money may make the world go 'round, but credit makes the gears of commerce run smoothly.


Many of our largest and most significant industries still have business models that rely on the use of debt to purchase goods and services. Unless you're a multimillionaire, it's difficult to make significant purchases — college tuition, a Viking stove, a Toyota Prius, computers, jewelry, a house — out of savings or cash flow from wages. The renewed willingness and confidence to spend money we don't have is vital to the continuing recovery.


John Maynard Keynes wrote of the paradox of thrift — if everyone saves, everyone becomes poorer, because demand for goods and services will fall. Here's another paradox: Running up consumer debt may be a moral failure and a recipe for long-term damnation, but it also contains the roots of our short-term salvation.


Daniel Gross, author of "Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation," is the economics editor and columnist at Yahoo! Finance.








Albert Snyder is angry, and with good reason. Four years ago, a handful of insensitive bigots from Kansas descended on the Maryland small-town funeral for his 20-year-old son, a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq, and used that solemn occasion as a low-rent backdrop for a grossly offensive campaign against gays.


Down the street from the church, picketers waved signs proclaiming, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "You're Going to Hell" and "God Hates You," among other sentiments. Snyder says the protests and a subsequent website tirade from the same group, directed in part at his son and the family, caused him to become ill, brought on depression and worsened his diabetes.

Today, Snyder's grievance will be heard by the Supreme Court, in a case that's expected to define the outer limits of free speech.


Many landmark free-speech cases have involved repulsive messages, but it's hard to imagine a less sympathetic messenger than the Rev. Fred Phelps and his self-styled Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka. Phelps and his small band of followers assert that God is punishing the United States — whether in disasters such as the 9/11 attacks or in the deaths of individual soldiers — for its tolerance of homosexuality. They insist they don't care whether the deceased, like Snyder's son Matthew, wasn't gay. They claim they're just seeking to draw attention to their cause, in the grand tradition of public political protest.


Why they think such tactics would attract public support is beyond the imagination of reasonable people, including Snyder. He sued for invasion of privacy, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Even though trial testimony established that Snyder didn't see the protesters until he caught up with TV coverage of the funeral, a sympathetic jury awarded him more than $10 million in damages.


The award, reduced by the judge to $5 million, was later wiped out when a federal appeals court ruled that, "notwithstanding the distasteful and repugnant nature of the words," freedom of speech protects the Westboro group's right to protest. And indeed it should. The essence of free speech is people can say things that are unpopular, not just what the government lets them say. To deny that right for one person is to threaten it for all.


But there's ample precedent for sensible limitations in cases like these, particularly when speech reaches the level of harassment. A judicious outcome would be for the court to define a reasonable buffer zone that protects the privacy of grieving families, while upholding the rights of Phelps and his followers to exercise their rights on public property.


As the appeals court in Snyder's case noted, "The safeguards of liberty have often been forged in controversies involving not very nice people." Long ago, Minnesota was blocked in its effort to suppress a controversial weekly paper because of its scurrilous, anti-Semitic and "scandalous" writings. Skokie, Ill., was told the American Nazis had to be allowed to march there even though the notion was deeply offensive to Holocaust survivors who lived in the area. And evangelist Jerry Falwell was barred from suing Hustler magazine over a highly offensive satirical"advertisement" involving incest and an outhouse.


Allowing Snyder's lawsuit would set a dangerous precedent. Should employers be able to win damages because strikers carry offensive picket signs? Should women seeking an abortion get paid for emotional distress, even when anti-abortion protesters at a clinic are standing at the distance required by law?


The answer surely must be no. The sanctity of military funerals should be protected, but in a way that also protects the freedoms soldiers lay down their lives to defend.








While in uniform, VFW members have fought in every war and conflict to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. They, better than most, know that most Americans have inherited the luxury of freedom while not having accomplished anything to earn it.


Other countries regulate public speech. The First Amendment prohibits such laws here. VFW holds dear and cherishes the First Amendment and the right of every citizen to express himself freely.


But the media are wrong to confuse freedom of expression in the Snyder case. The Phelpses did not happen to picket within sight of Matthew Snyder's funeral. They announced their intention to hijack the event. They stood at the church entrance, forcing the procession to reroute, and — contrary to media reports — they were still fewer than 300 feet away from mourners. They published an insult-filled "Epic" about the Snyder family. Albert Snyder was not a passerby who happened to dislike what he heard; he was the victim of harassment.


Second, no one watching the Phelpses' funeral protest would have understood their "message." The Phelpses believe that American soldiers die because of the country's tolerance of homosexuality. But their signs didn't say that. They said, "You're Going to Hell" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and depicted males engaging in anal intercourse. There is no "message" here, only vulgarity and insults.


Third, Matthew Snyder was not gay. No one in his family holds public office or is outspoken on gay rights. The Phelpses randomly picked the Snyders. Shielding their conduct from liability gives them free rein to show up at any funeral spouting anti-gay epithets and to write hate-filled tirades about any person. The First Amendment does not protect such arbitrary persecution.


Finally, the Snyder case is not about whether the government can prohibit the Phelpses from protesting. Albert Snyder asks merely that he be compensated for harm. Snyder presented evidence that the Phelpses' conduct made him vomit, interfered with his mourning process and worsened his diabetes. The First Amendment may exist to protect unpopular speech, but private lawsuits exist so that those who cause injury will be held accountable to their victims. If we deprive these victims of legal recourse, they may seek retribution in ways that are far less palatable.


Richard L. Eubank is national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.









Today, it is not uncommon to hear predictions that the names of the great publishing houses will soon fall from the covers of books to the footnotes of self-published history tomes. Casual observers could be forgiven for thinking this way based on headlines on the e-reading revolution.


First, Amazon announced that its e-book sales topped its hardcover sales for the first time. Then, in August, the Washington Post Co. sold iconic Newsweek amid questions about the future of weekly magazines. And just recently, this newspaper launched a "major organizational restructuring" as part of a continued shift from newsprint toward more digital platforms.


While this tide of headlines speaks to the sea change sweeping the publishing world, the industry itself is anything but washed out. In fact, many parts of the industry are thriving in the digital age.


Nowhere is this clearer than in the success of the e-book. The Association of American Publishers recently reported that e-book sales for the first half of the year were up more than 200%. Far from being the end of the publishing industry, this number is a sign of a new beginning.


Why is there such a gap between the perception of a dying industry and the reality of a rapidly adapting one? It begins with five common myths about publishing:


Myth No. 1. Publishers are merely printers. That would be news to companies like ours, which don't even operate their own printing presses. Publishers today are in the content business. We develop it; we design it; and we deliver it however our readers want it. And while a large part of our business remains in paper and print, we are seeing an unmistakable and irreversible shift toward bits and bytes with e-books and digital delivery platforms accounting for a growing share of the total market.


Myth No. 2. Authors don't need publishers in the digital age.Anyone who has ever written a book knows this to be false. Many great authors would never have found their audience without a great publisher willing to take a risk on their talents and market their works. At every stage of the editorial process, publishers partner with their authors as creative consultants, editors and designers. Ernest Hemingway had Maxwell Perkins from Charles Scribner's Sons, and Norman Mailer hadE.L. Doctorow from Dial Press.


These relationships are even more critical to a book's success in the digital age. With the ascent of e-books, authors will need publishers to serve as digital artists who can bring words to life by pairing text with multimedia features such as audio, video and search. While many of these functions are only included in so-called enhanced books today, they will be part of every book tomorrow.


Myth No. 3. E-books should essentially be free books. This would be true only if paper and binding represented the bulk of publishing expenses, and that is simply not the case. In bookmaking, manufacturing costs typically account for less than 10%-15% of the total. In short, the price of printing pales in comparison with the cost of creating content.


When readers buy new print books, they are paying for the ideas on the pages — not the pages themselves. At McGraw-Hill, as many as 10 editors and designers will have a hand in any given book. The process requires a significant editorial investment from publishers, and that dynamic will not change even as print gives way to electronic ink.


Myth No. 4.Consumers won't pay for digital content. Tell that to the millions of customers who have already purchased e-books. In cyberspace, just as in the local marketplace, people will always be willing to pay for quality. They understand that the masterful layering of a novel and the comprehensive expertise of a medical handbook do not come free.


This dynamic is no different in other areas of publishing. In journalism, for example, leaders such as News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch have argued that newspapers can no longer count on the steady stream of advertising dollars that powered the printing presses of the past. "In the future, good journalism will depend on the ability of a news organization to attract customers by providing news and information they are willing to pay for," Murdoch wrote in a recent column.


These changes are already taking place. Next year, The New York Times plans to roll out a new metered system for its website that will charge online readers a fee after they have accessed a select number of articles.


Fortunately across the media landscape, technology is facilitating this pay-for-content model. With the ease of devices such as the Kindle and iPad, it is now far more convenient for customers to locate and purchase the reading material they want by logging online than by standing in an actual line.


Myth No. 5. The last word on publishing has been written. Not in our book. Around the world, innovative

publishers are pushing the boundaries of technology to meet the demands of a new generation of readers. These publishers understand that the e-book is not a threat to their survival but rather an extraordinary opportunity to connect authors and readers in ways never before possible. That's the real future of the industry, and that's a story worth publishing.


Harold McGraw III is the chairman, president and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Philip Ruppel is the president of the company's professional book division.









You've probably already read about Monday's historic moment in the life of the Supreme Court and of the nation. When the Supreme Court convened for the beginning of its new term, three of the nine justices who emerged from behind the marble columns to take their seats were women — the first time ever that the court's membership has included that many women at once.


But you only read about it. You did not see it, unless you were among the 250 or so people lucky enough to secure a seat inside the court that morning. As one of those fortunate people, I can tell you it was low-key but dramatic. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg,Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan took their places at the bench alongside their male colleagues without comment, and only the barest of smiles. Kagan looked awestruck at first but soon was asking questions with confidence, and no trace of freshman jitters.


When was the last time such a symbolic public event was so invisible? We have grown accustomed to seeing such moments — from the inauguration of the first African American as president, to the launch of the first woman into space — on television. But not at the Supreme Court of the United States. Its stubborn resistance to modern means of engaging with the public it serves is annoying every day it is in session, but especially so on a day like Monday, when it should have let the people in to see history in the making.


The court's invisibility on Monday was especially inapt because both Sotomayor and Kagan, during their confirmation hearings,spoke enthusiastically about letting cameras in. "I think it would be a great thing for the institution, and more important ... for the American people," Kagan told the Senate Judiciary Committee in June. In 2009, Sotomayor spoke of her "positive experiences with cameras."


Nonetheless, the majority of justices still hang on to their defiance. Most members of the court seem to view remoteness as a virtue that distinguishes it from the other, more pedestrian branches of government. They also fear that cameras will spoil the dynamics of court arguments by causing lawyers or justices to grandstand or censor themselves.


To understand how wrong that is, look north. Canada's Supreme Court has allowed broadcast of its proceedings for more than 20 years. Its chief justice, Beverley McLachlin, recently told an audience of U.S. judges and lawyers that camera access is pretty much a non-issue. "We are just oblivious to them," she said. Only once could she recall a lawyer playing to the cameras, McLachlin said, and she took care of the problem quickly. "I told him to sit down." She added, "Nobody's dumbing down the process" because of cameras.


Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., hears all this and gets impatient. Allowing camera access is long overdue, he said, and he has pushed legislation for years that would require it. Now in the final months of a 30-year-Senate career, Specter is making a last campaign for S. 446. The public has a right to know what the justices are doing, Specter told me in a recent interview.This term, the court will be ruling on issues ranging from the sale of violent video games to minors, to state laws barring the hiring of illegal immigrants. "The public doesn't understand that the justices decided literally who lives, who dies," said Specter. "They decide all the cutting-edge questions."

Tony Mauro, Supreme Court correspondent for The National Law Journal, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. He also writes for a new newsletter, Supreme Court Insider.








Sen. Bob Corker's visit Monday to Chattanooga to tell us what's wrong with the health care reform bill passed by Democrats and the Obama administration, without Republican help, is rich in malicious irony — an irony bred in long, deep and unyielding Republican resistance to a truly comprehensive and fair universal health system.


His doomsday criticism about the future cost of caring for people laid off from work or victimized by benefit cuts in the Great Recession handed to us by the prior Republican administration is appalling. His laying blame on health care reform is akin to a gunslinger shooting an innocent victim in the foot and then complaining that the victim can't dance very well. We have to wonder how short Sen. Corker's memory has become, or how politically cynical he has become.


In the health care reform debate that consumed the better part of a year, Republicans repeatedly denied every decent proposal for a better system and a vastly superior reform bill.


Many doctors — and many Americans — wanted, and still want, a public option insurance plan that would allow every citizen the right to buy into a truly nonprofit national health-insurance plan administered like Medicare, or even as an arm of Medicare. With barely half of employees in Tennessee still provided an employer-based plan, such an option would be a honest-to-God life-saver for many working Tennesseans and their families. But what do Republicans care? They fought it tooth-and-nail, and killed it. What we got instead was state-by-state insurance exchanges.


A core group of physicians across the country is still demanding a bona fide single-payer system, which would cut our national health care costs approximately in half by reducing for-profit insurers' rich overhead spread, by bargaining with Big Pharma for prescription drug prices like those every other industrial nation gets (one-half to one-third of what Americans pay), and by levying a fair health care tax adjusted for income for a public-option plan.


To confirm the savings figures, Google the OECD international comparisons of the quality universal health care plans that all other industrial nations provide, most at roughly half the per-capita GDP costs of our pot-holed system, i.e., 8 to 9 percent for universal systems vs. 17 percent of GDP for health care in America. Plus, our inequitable system now leaves 50 million Americans without a health care insurance safety net of any kind, not even Medicaid.


Sen. Corker stood solidly with his Party of No's monolithic resistance to more comprehensive reform, and against putting regulatory reins on private insurers and the pharmaceutical and ancillary medical industries.


Why? Put simply, Republicans are in bed with health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and all their rich CEOs and upper-echelon managers who make a bundle by denying care (death panels anyone?) and charging bandit prices for prescription drugs, medical devices and virtually every ancillary medical service.


]These companies are heavy contributors to Republican candidates and the party's campaign coffers, and they all want to kill reform. So compliant Republicans are now planning to dismantle the administration's bill piecemeal by refusing to fund critical portions if they capture a majority in Congress. All their talking points about health care now go to the weaknesses that they drove into the new reform bill. Indeed, their "repeal and replace" mantra has become a core part of their campaign agenda — never mind the public interest in a more equitable health care system.


That is why it is so perverse for Sen. Corker to stage a press conference here at BlueCross BlueShield's new hilltop palace to complain that up to one out of three Tennesseans could wind up on the state's Medicaid plan once the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act takes full effect in 2014. That's not the plan's fault; it's the fault of low-wage jobs and Republicans' trickle-down economics.


Neither is it the plan's fault that both private and nonprofit insurance companies (including our BlueCross) have cruelly decided to drop their child-only policies. They made that decision because they can no longer exclude children with pre-existing conditions. Their economic practice of cherry-picking the healthy and leaving the sick to wither or die takes cruel precedence over flat community rates and real insurance for all. Without mandated community ratings, that's our health care race to the bottom in a nutshell.