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Friday, October 8, 2010

EDITORIAL 08.10.10

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month october 08, edition 000646, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH EDITORIAL http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. HOUR OF THE VULTURE - AJAY SAHNI
  2. MALIGNING THE RSS
  3. GENIUS IGNORED
  4. DONATE FOR A BETTER INDIA -  ARINDAM CHAUDHURI
  5. SHADES OF GREEN - ANURADHA DUTT
  6. ONCE THE GAMES ARE OVER... - KALYANI SHANKAR
  7. WORK ETHICS ARE NO LONGER POPULAR - VINAYSHIL GAUTAM

MAILTODAY

  1. RAHUL GANDHI HAS HIT THE NAIL ON THE RSS' HEAD
  2. MURDER IS RAREST OF RARE
  3. A TOP HEAVY AIR FORCE WILL EASILY LOSE ITS BALANCE
  4. PAKISTAN CAUGHT IN A ' BAR'BRAWL - BY NAJAM SETHI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. GOLD RUSH
  2. JUDGING THE JUDGES
  3. PLUCK THE LOW HANGING FRUIT - VIKRAM SINGH MEHTA
  4. 'NO TALKS WITH TALIBAN WHO'RE AGAINST WOMEN'S FREEDOM'
  5. THUMBS DOWN - JUG SURAIYA 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. ANARCHY IN THE UK
  2. NEW DELHI AT HIS DISPOSAL
  3. A HALF-WAY HOUSE - RAJDEEP SARDESAI
  4. REMOVE THE SMOKESCREEN - PRAFUL BIDWAI
  5. WE, THE FREELOADERS - NANDINI R IYER

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ANOTHER YEAR?
  2. SHUFFLE KERFUFFLE
  3. PLAYING NAMES
  4. CURRENT ACCOUNT CAUTION - ILA PATNAIK 
  5. KARNATAKA'S PLEASE-ALL PARTY - SANDEEP SHASTRI 
  6. A CODE FOR CHAOS
  7. THE AYODHYA VERDICT
  8. HOW CLEAN IS LLOSA'S NOBEL? - SUDEEP PAUL 
  9. A NEW LEAGUE OF DEMOCRACIES

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. TRADING CHARGES
  2. THE STATE OF CWG
  3. MUTUAL MISTAKE - SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN
  4. EVEN THE HARYANA LAND MODEL IS FLAWED - KRISHNAMURTHY V SUBRAMANIAN
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. SUN DOWN

THE HINDU

  1. ONE CRISIS TO ANOTHER
  2. EXTENDING THE LULA ROAD
  3. YOUNG, MUSLIM AND REFLECTING ON AYODHYA - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM
  4. FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE IN AYODHYA CASE - SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY
  5. U.S MILITARY ORDERS LESS DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS - ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
  6. MOVE TO PROTECT 'TREASURE WRECKS' IN SPAIN - GILES TREMLETT
  7. TALKING TO THE TALIBAN … THE BOOK ALL ARE READING - JULIAN BORGER

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. BJP'S DEEP CRACKS LED TO K'TAKA CRISIS
  2. MESS MANAGEMENT - SWAPAN DASGUPTA
  3. MEANING, MAGIC OF THE MAHATMA - SHIV VISVANATHAN
  4. NO PLACE FOR ATHEISM - SIDHARTH BHATIA

DNA

  1. A MILLION RUPEES TO DINE WITH AMITABH BACHCHAN
  2. PAK FEELS THREATENED BY OBAMA'S INDIA VISIT
  3. CRISIS IN KARNATAKA REVEALS SIMMERING DISCONTENT
  4. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BILLION INDIANS JUMP ON TWITTER… - VENKATESAN VEMBU
  5. CHINA-IN-PAKISTAN TO HINDER INDIA'S GROWTH AND POWER - HARSH V PANT
  6. WHAT WE WANT IS NOT WHAT WE NEED

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. ANOTHER DIMENSION
  2. FIGURES TELL A TALE
  3. PAKISTAN PATRONISES MILITANTS - BY TAVLEEN SINGH
  4. RISING SUPERSTARS IN INDIA - BY ARUN NEHRU
  5. OBAMA COMING TO INDIA - BY LALIT SETHI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. THE BADALS' BATTLE 
  2. RAHUL-SPEAK
  3. CM IN TROUBLE
  4. SYSTEMIC FLAWS IN EDUCATION – BY S. S. JOHL
  5. GUIDED TOUR - BY RAJNISH WATTAS
  6. TAMING THE RIVERS - KS RANA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. ANIMAL RIGHTS, HUMAN WRONGS

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. REVVING UP FOR GROWTH
  2. IS THERE A BUBBLE IN EMERGING MARKETS? - AKASH PRAKASH
  3. BIGWIGS CHECK IN - BHUPESH BHANDARI
  4. NOBLE CAUSES AND THEIR EFFECTS - DEVANGSHU DATTA
  5. BROAD-BASING BROADBAND - SHYAM PONAPPA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. THE YEAR OF THE PROFESSIONAL
  2. FM RADIO, POST-3G
  3. CARBON CREDITS
  4. ENSURING EMPOWERMENT & ENRICHMENT - SAYS KIRAN KARNIK
  5. RURAL POOR & POVERTY ERADICATION
  6. KARNARAM POONAR & SUJATA RAGHAVAN CHARKHA FEATURES 
  7. IS RICHER BETTER THAN SMARTER? - SANDEEP PAREKH 
  8. SUFFERING THE NOBLE TRUTH - MUKULSHARMA 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. BJP'S CRACKS VISIBLE IN KARNATAKA CRISIS
  2. MESS MANAGEMENT - BY SWAPAN DASGUPTA
  3. AYODHYA JUDGEMENT SMACKS OF FEUDALISM - BY KANCHA ILAIAH
  4. MEANING, MAGIC OF THE MAHATMA - BY SHIV VISVANATHAN
  5. VEDIC SCIENCE OF HAVAN - BY YOGI ASHWINI
  6. NO PLACE FOR ATHEISM - BY SIDHARTH BHATIA

THE STATESMAN

  1. BUNKER 'BUSTING'
  2. OVER TO THE PMO
  3. CONTRIVED THREATS
  4. CANDID CONFESSION  - RAJINDER PURI
  5. TILAK'S ROAD TO NATIONALISM - SUBRATA MUKHERJEE  
  6. A DHENKANAL DIARY - SUNRIT MULLICK
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. PARTY GAMES
  2. NO WINNERS
  3. ANIMAL SPIRIT RARING TO GO - - ASHOK MITRA
  4. THE FINE ART OF DELAY - BONA FIDE - MALVIKA SINGH

DECCAN HERALD

  1. SORDID POLITICS
  2. ON THE DEFENSIVE
  3. NO EASY SOLUTION - BY HARSH V PANT
  4. SPAIN ON THE ROPES - BY IGNACIO RAMONET
  5. INCREDIBLE INDIANS - BY DINESH KUMAR

THE JERUSALEM  POST

  1. A LEGITIMATE PLEDGE

HAARETZ

  1. WHO'S THE IDIOT HERE? - BY YOSSI SARID
  2. THE DANGERS OF HARMONY - BY AKIVA ELDAR
  3. AN INHERENTLY HUMILIATING DEFINITION - BY CHAIM GANS
  4. IT'S ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE ISRAEL'S LEGITIMACY - BY SHLOMO AVINERI
  5. THE LAST REFUGE OF THE SCOUNDREL - DOWNRIGHT SHAMEFUL.
  6. WHAT THE UN'S FLOTILLA REPORT MEANS  - BY HUGH POPE
  7. HARDLY A LOST DECADE - BY AMNON BE'ERI-SULITZEANU
  8. A DESTRUCTIVE REGRESSION - BY CLAUDE KANDIYOTI
  9. COLDLY CONSIDERING THE UNTHINKABLE - BY YEHEZKEL DROR

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. RECUSALS AND THE COURT
  2. NEW YORK'S PENSION SCANDAL
  3. THE EXPERIMENTS IN GUATEMALA
  4. HARD TRUTHS ON THE SPILL
  5. MAKE WALL STREET RISK IT ALL - BY WILLIAM D. COHAN
  6. THE END OF THE TUNNEL - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  7. THE FACEBOOK SEARCHERS - BY DAVID BROOKS

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON LEGAL SYSTEM: WHEN PROSECUTORS GO ASTRAY, JUSTICE TAKES A BEATING
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON LEGAL SYSTEM: DON'T MIX MISTAKES, MISCONDUCT - BY GARY G. GRINDLER
  3. TV MIDNIGHT BASEBALL IS NO WAY TO GET FANS
  4. IN FAILING SCHOOLS, PARENTS MUST STEP UP
  5. OPINIONLINE
  6. ANXIETY ON DISPLAY IN BLUE-COLLAR PA. - BY CHUCK RAASCH

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. A DEADLINE DAY IN MIDEAST
  2. SPEND $1, BORROW 41 CENTS!
  3. SAFEGUARDING THE RIGHT TO READ
  4. CROWDING OUT U.S. CITIZENS
  5. MEDICAID FOR THE DEAD?
  6. BINGE DRINKING AMONG OUR YOUTH

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - NORWEGIAN MODEL FOR EU?
  2. TURKEY'S EU BID: THE VIEW FROM WARSAW - MSEMİH İDİZ
  3. FREEDOM FOR TURBAN, JAIL FOR PLACARD - BURAK BEKDİL
  4. IT WAS THE STATE YESTERDAY, AND SO IT IS TODAY! - NURAY MERT
  5. TO WHOM SHOULD ERDOĞAN GIVE HIS TOUGH LOOK? - SEDAT ERGİN
  6. LET THEM DRESS THE WAY THEY WANT, WE HAVE HAD IT NOW - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. 'BIG BROTHER' IS ORGANIZING... - YUSUF KANLI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. UNRELENTING PROPAGANDA AGAINST PAK
  2. UN CONTINUES TO BETRAY KASHMIRIS
  3. CONSUMER PROTECTION AFTER DEREGULATION
  4. WHY SHOULD A DEMOCRACY BLOCK ISLAMIC BANKING? - M D NALAPAT
  5. BD REFUSES TO BE ENTICED INTO AFGHANISTAN - SULTAN M HALI
  6. THE REVIVAL OF ISLAM - MAULANA WAHIDUDDIN KHAN
  7. INDIA'S SOFT CORNER FOR ISRAEL - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  8. TALL ORDER OF FORMING AN IRAQI GOVT - OSAMA AL SHARIF

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. INDIVIDUALS SHOULD BE ASHAMED
  2. AVOID WISHY-WASHY ECONOMICS
  3. IN SEARCH OF A CONSENSUS WORTHY OF THE NAME

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. PUBLIC SCHOOLS: YOUR MESSAGE HERE
  2. GOSSIP FROM THE DESERT
  3. POLITICAL HAND ON WHEEL HINDERS AMBULANCES

 

THE GUARDIAN

  1. PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS: PROTECTING THE PUBLIC GOOD
  2. IN PRAISE OF … THE RIGHT METAPHOR
  3. THE NETHERLANDS: THE NEW FACE OF TOLERANCE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. CHINA DEBATES ECONOMY, WHILE U.S. TEMPTS DISASTER
  2. BY KEVIN RAFFERTY
  3. IRAQI BREAKTHROUGH OR BREAKDOWN?

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY
  2. INDONESIA-NETHERLANDS: LET THE PAST REST AND MOVE ON - TEUKU FAIZASYAH, JAKARTA
  3. SBY IGNORES RI'S LONG-TERM INTERESTS IN THE NETHERLANDS - A'AN SURYANA

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. GIVE ME SOME ELBOW ROOM - BY MICHELE A. BERDY 
  2. THIEVES SHOULD GO TO JAIL! - BY MICHAEL BOHM 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

HOUR OF THE VULTURE

AJAY SAHNI


The Government's response to the violence in Kashmir Valley has been predictable: Avoid hard decisions, buy peace for a few days


A plan of campaign should anticipate everything which the enemy can do, and contain within itself the means of thwarting him. — Napoleon Bonaparte 


The Indian state bought itself a few precious days of 'peace' — actually, the absence of fatalities (though some of those injured in earlier violence did die during this phase) or of high levels of mass violence — through a relentless 15-day curfew that paralysed life across the Kashmir Valley, and the diversionary spectacle of the 'All Parties Delegation' to Jammu & Kashmir. The pious intentions of the Union Government and the State Government have, since, been encapsulated in an 'eight-point peace package' that has done nothing to assuage the volatile separatist constituency in the State, and has been rejected even by the 'moderate' factions of the Hurriyat. 

Preliminary reports suggest that, while curfew has officially been lifted from 'most parts' of the Valley, it is, in fact, even now being imposed in all but a few upscale neighbourhoods and arterial roads in Srinagar. As for the Government's resolve to open educational institutions, and to provide special and dedicated transport, under protection, to school children, this is already falling apart. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the principal leader of the current disorders, has already announced a new 'calendar' of shutdowns, and has declared, that, "by showing false sympathy for our children, India is only trying to deceive us". The move to open schools can be expected to quickly collapse, with few, if any, parents willing to risk the lives of their children in the Union Government's gambit. 


Over the past weeks, the sheer and criminal ignorance of the policy discourse has been repeatedly exposed in what appears to be a competition to produce the most vapid statements. Among these, the winner must certainly be UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's call for "an immediate end to violence in Kashmir" and for "calm and restraint by all concerned". Unsurprisingly, the impact of this sanctimonious nonsense on the situation in the Valley has been no different from that of the high-sounding garbage that has been spewed out by many 'leaders' over the past 20 years of violence. 


As for the 'All Parties Delegation' — that blind, ignorant clutch at 'peace' — what were they thinking? What obscure secrets was this gaggle of ill-informed politicians, drawn from distant provinces across the country, expected to uncover during their brief and directionless visit? Their 'discoveries' cannot conceivably have been expected to include anything that was not already known to 'Delhi'. What this sad assemblage of discordant political voices has produced is just another edition of the enduring incoherence of policy that has systematically eroded governance and the hard won possibilities of peace in Jammu & Kashmir. 

It cannot have been otherwise. Initiatives based on contra-factual assessments of the prevailing ground situation cannot produce effective policy interventions, and the entire political assessment of the situation in the Kashmir Valley, and of the emergence of the current disorders, is contra-factual. 

According to the dominant narrative, the present 'disorders' or, as the separatists like to style them, 'intifada', commenced abruptly as a reaction to the death of Tufail Ahmad Mattoo, who was fatally hit by a tear gas shell on June 11, 2010. The internal contradiction of this narrative should have been obvious at this very point: Evidently, the security forces were already using tear gas against presumably violent crowds at this stage, so the disorders clearly preceded this incident. 

A quick look at the facts — something 'Delhi' and the All Parties Delegation apparently have had little time for — will establish that, with the sharp and continuous decline in terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir since 2001, essentially as a result of rising internal and external pressures on Pakistan, the separatists and their backers had decided to engineer a transformation of their movement to an intifada model — violent street mobilisation, backed by calibrated terrorist incidents. Sufficient cumulative intelligence of such intent has been available over at least the past five years. 


Crucially, these intentions had already been irrevocably demonstrated in several cycles of violent mobilisation, prominently including widespread disruption in the wake of the 'prostitution scandal' of March 2006; in June 2007, when the rape and murder of a teenager became instrumental in escalating an ongoing xenophobic campaign against the presence of migrant workers in the State; by the Amarnath land transfer agitation in June-August 2008; in 2009, again through June-August, in mass agitations and violence organised around the Shopian rape-murder allegations. Between these major mobilisations, there were numerous lesser attempts, focussed around various 'moral codes', 'anti-vice' campaigns, 'un-Islamic' content of television broadcasts, etc, most of which failed to secure significant traction, but each of which provoked some disruptions.


The current cycle of violent mobilisation is variously dated from June 11, 2010, the date on which Tufail Mattoo was killed; or from June 26, 2010, with the Krankshivan incident, in which protesters from Sopore confronted the police in the middle of a counter-terrorist operation. Two terrorists were killed, but two protesters also lost their lives. 


It is, however, altogether incorrect to believe that something new was initiated, either on June 11 or June 26. Indeed, protests had never ceased at any time in the post-Amarnath campaign phase. Since the supposed 'end' of the Amarnath agitation, there have, in fact, been several incidents of stone-pelting every single Friday, often at multiple locations, with a particular focus in the Srinagar downtown area. There was also the major Safar-e-Azadi (Journey to Freedom) campaign, which witnessed as many as 1,260 separatist rallies across the Valley, as well as the 'India Ragdo' campaign, which saw significant street mobilisation. The situation had, in other words, been kept on a continuous simmer.


Partial data available indicates that there were 350 pelting incidents in 2008, with 750 injured. In 2009, there were 250 incidents, with 250 injured. In just January and February 2010, there were 60 incidents, with 240 injured. In addition, the number of policemen injured by stone-pelters in these years were, 2008: 140; 2009: 320; 2010 (January-February): 96. Nearly 4,000 personnel of security forces and 504 civilians have been injured in street violence over the past three months, and more than 100 protesters and one policeman have been killed since June 11, 2010.


Through all this, the 'strategy' — if any — of the administration and the security establishment was simply to wait for the trouble to break out, and then to react with the use of available forces. Inevitably, in each such cycle, someone would die.


-- The writer is Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

MALIGNING THE RSS

RAHUL GANDHI SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER


It is shocking, to say the least, that the Congress general secretary should have equated the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to the Students' Islamic Movement of India during a Press conference in Bhopal on Wednesday. It was a gratuitous comment that need not have been made or elaborated upon; the heir apparent to the masnad of Delhi should have known better than to say, "I know only that both SIMI and the RSS are fanatical and hold fundamentalist views." By saying so, he has placed on display his appalling ignorance of both organisations as also of the nation's history and its current affairs. Irrespective of whether or not one subscribes to the RSS's philosophy or worldview, few would make bold to suggest that it is an organisation wedded to anti-national activities. Close to a century its pracharaks and cadre have dedicated their lives to the service of the nation and its people. Whenever and wherever there has been a natural disaster, the RSS's cadre have waded in to assist the civil administration, most recently in the aftermath of the super-cyclone in Odisha. It was the RSS that sent in its cadre to salvage the bodies of victims after two planes collided mid-air a short distance from Delhi: All the dead were Muslims. In remote areas and dense forests where the Government is yet to send in its officials, the RSS runs schools and development programmes for tribals. Despite its track record, the RSS continues to be vilified and maligned by pseudo-secularists: It has been banned thrice since independence, but on each occasion the ban had to be lifted as it failed to pass judicial scrutiny. But these details are obviously unknown to Mr Rahul Gandhi; he is equally unaware of the fact that his great grandfather invited the RSS to participate in the Republic Day parade of 1963 for its unstinted assistance to the Government during the 1962 war with China. No other non-Government organisation has been extended this privilege. In sharp contrast, SIMI has been banned for its role in seditious and terrorist activities; many of its members are in jail. Further comment is not needed.


What merits comment is the remarkable similarity between the outrageous comments of Mr Rahul Gandhi and those of another Congress general secretary, Mr Digvijay Singh, who takes particular delight in extolling the virtues of criminals and exonerating them of their ghastly crimes simply because they happen to be Muslims. The abuse that Mr Singh heaps on the RSS is of a piece with his perverse politics of pandering to communal forces; he brazenly indulges in defamatory statements and in the process denigrates and maligns Hindus as a community. Thrown out of power and denied the loaves and fishes of office by the people of Madhya Pradesh, he has lost all sense of decorum and balance. It would not be incorrect to presume that he got Mr Rahul Gandhi to repeat, parrot-like, the vile language that comes naturally to him, while in Bhopal, to derive cheap satisfaction from the belief that he had hit back at the organisation that facilitated his eviction from the Chief Minister's office. Little does he realise that he is seen as no more than an object of pity and ridicule. It's a shame Mr Rahul Gandhi chose to fall prey to Mr Singh's wiles. 

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

GENIUS IGNORED

ROBERT EDWARDS GOT RECOGNITION TOO LATE


It is a pity that it took the Nobel Prize Committee 32 years to recognise in vitro fertilisation as a major and innovative breakthrough in reproductive sciences. British biologist Robert G Edwards and gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe may have emulated god in a way by blessing mothers with babies conceived in test-tubes and petri dishes, but the people involved in the selection process of Nobel prizes did not give due recognition to the path-breaking discovery that fetched hope and happiness to women across the world for whom conceiving babies naturally was impossible. Now when the Nobel Committee has finally honoured Dr Robert Edwards with the Nobel Prize for medicine he is too frail at 85 and ailing to comment on the honour and his fellow researcher, Dr Patrick Steptoe, is long gone. Nor is the decision without oversight. Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay, who deserves equal credit for his pioneering work in this field at his humble clinic in Kolkata, should have been honoured posthumously, too. Tragically, Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay, who developed a markedly different IVF technique without knowledge of analogous research being performed in the UK, committed suicide after being vilified by the medical fraternity which doubted his work and forced the West Bengal Government to stifle his efforts and prevent him from publishing his research outside India. The research work that Dr Edwards and Dr Steptoe started in 1950 saw fruition in July 1978 when they brought Louise Brown, the first test-tube baby, to the world through IVF — a technique whereby eggs from a woman are removed and fertilised by sperms in a laboratory petri dish and the embryo is then implanted back into the mother's womb. Weighing in at five pounds and 12 ounces, when Louise Brown entered the world on videotape, her birth recorded for posterity, the nine-year struggle of Lesley and John Brown to have a child ended. Precisely 67 days later Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay helped deliver Durga Kanupriya Agarwal, the world's second test-tube baby, in Kolkata. Three decades later, the pioneering research work continues its 'happily ever after' run and four million more test-tube babies have been born. 


Sadly, the recognition has drawn flak from the Academy of Vatican Affairs of Life which has criticised the Nobel Committee for honouring Dr Robert Edward, saying it is "totally unacceptable" because the artificial insemination method raises ethical questions as it has led to selling of eggs and "a large number of devices to freeze sperm in the world". It is such criticism that has seen Dr Robert Edward and Dr Patrick Steptoe struggle for funds to carry on their research. While Dr Robert Edward and Dr Patrick Steptoe finally succeeded in presenting before the world a work that redefined reproductive technology, Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay was not so lucky and a promising life was cut short. Today, when 176 million women across the world who suffer from infertility look at IVF with some hope, these pioneers deserve all the honour that can be showered on them.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DONATE FOR A BETTER INDIA

ARINDAM CHAUDHURI


If the top 100 wealthy Indians donate one per cent of their total wealth, it will add $3 billion every year to the economy and fund major development initiatives for the masses. It will be a wise investment as a healthy, educated, well-endowed society will create a huge market


Post liberalisation, India has not only witnessed tremendous economic growth, but has also experienced something which was more of a distant dream during pre-liberalisation days. With stock markets surging northwards, India Inc has been all set to storm the lists that feature the richest of the world, both in terms of scale and scope. Not only did the Indian economy, within a span of less than two decades, touch the trillion dollar mark, leaders of India Inc have found slots in the Fortune 500 and Forbes lists with unprecedented frequency. There are 69 billionaires on the India Rich List, 17 more than last year.

However, such entries have not changed the attitude of these Indian corporates towards social causes. Unlike the West (and even China, Hong Kong and other Asian countries), Indian billionaires have largely kept themselves away from the whole idea of philanthropy. This is quite evident from the fact that in spite of the surging number of billionaires, the fate of our workforce has not changed much. How else can one justify India's Gini coefficient (an economic indicator that indicates the income inequality of the nation) of 36.8, which is even worse than that of Pakistan and Bangladesh?


The Asia-Pacific Wealth Report developed by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management reveals that in 2008, India had 84,000 HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) with a combined net worth of a staggering $310 billion (equates to approximately `14,000 billion) with each HNWI on an average maintaining a balance of `166 million — or more than $3.6 million. In 2009, the number of HNWIs grew and crossed the mark of a hundred thousand; and today, the same is estimated to be around 1,27,000. For the uninitiated, HNWIs are those who have assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables, and consumer durables. To top this up, Forbes lists around 69 Indians as billionaires, with the net worth of 100 wealthiest Indians being estimated at $300 billion as of 2009. 


Now, to get a better perspective of the huge disparity, one just needs to compare this prosperity at the top of the pyramid with the misery at the bottom. The average Indian currently earns $1,030 annually (the latest per capita figure). If one were to assume that everyone in India is caught in a time warp wherein the current billionaires' wealth does not grow beyond the current levels, and at the same time those at the bottom do not spend a single penny for the next many years, then it would take more than 970 years for the average per capita earning Indian to even catch up with the current billionaires. With such high income disparities, if the top 100 HNWIs decide to donate merely one per cent of their total wealth, they could add around $3 billion every year to the economy, which could then fund a huge amount for basic development initiatives. 


Again, to get a perspective of what this money can do, it is significant to understand how much does the Government earmark for social imperatives. With the Government planning to spend $6.72 billion on education and $4.83 billion on health and family welfare in this Budget, such a donation would go a long way in comfortably enhancing the allocation towards these social imperatives. Thus, a single year of donation can double and in some cases even triple the flow of funds, depending on the sector.


If not for anything else, this $3 billion, which is a mere one year's donation for India's richest, can take care of the sanitation problems of 700 million Indians for good. And all this without causing much dent to the personal wealth of these 100 wealthiest Indians. And mind you, here we are just referring to one year of donation. Imagine the magic it could create if this trend of donations could continue for perpetuity. Also, here we are referring to just the top 100 of India's wealthiest; imagine the social revolution that could be brought about if all 1,27,000 HNWIs donated one per cent of their wealth every year for social development.


Going by the way that India and Indian companies are making their positions formidable in various esteemed lists, it is very important for them to model their commitments in the way today's global companies view their duty towards society. If not for anything else, at least for all selfish reasons, because it is time for India's wealthiest to awaken to the fact that donating is not just about philanthropy, it makes good business sense too. A healthy, educated and a well-endowed society is a future market. And a one per cent contribution to create this huge market is definitely a worthy investment. 


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

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SHADES OF GREEN

ANURADHA DUTT


Development projects need not violate environment laws


When an alumina refinery starts construction to expand its capacity from one million tonnes per year to six million tonnes per year without bothering to seek any environmental clearance as mandated by law, it is not an 'environment versus development' question, but simply one of whether laws enacted by Parliament will be respected or not." This excerpt from 11th Indian Space Research Organisation-JNCASR Satish Dhawan Memorial Lecture, delivered by Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, on September 28 sums up the routine flouting of laws by companies, undoubtedly with the active connivance of administrators. Big business usually prevails over considerations of ecology and environment in the present milieu.


The Minister's observation is pertinent as it also draws attention to State-driven violations, with the Commonwealth Games Village on the Yamuna bed and floodplains being trashed by conservationists as a prime example of erosion of the river's fragile eco-system and flow area, in contravention of scientific evidence against such construction. The massive flooding of colonies adjacent to the Yamuna prior to the Games is seen by them as a grave warning of an impending deluge if the river environs keep on being appropriated for urban purposes. Games organisers got a reprieve in that the torrential rains and flooding suddenly stopped as the monsoons withdrew. But irresponsible policy-makers, driven by greed for developing real estate, the easiest money-spinner today, wilfully ignored earlier warnings. And they will blindly continue to bumble along in their quest for easy money — oodles of it, actually — as they now hope to foist the Olympics, a spent exercise in the First World, upon us. In the era of globalisation, promoters of international sport extravaganzas, like world beauty pageants, look towards emerging economies for profit and pelf.


In Mr Jairam Ramesh, India does have a leader, far-sighted enough to understand the crucial importance of sustainable development in a world, whose weather patterns are being altered by climate change; natural splendour and resources are being destroyed by indiscriminate mining, construction, deforestation, building of large dams, excessive extraction of ground water and other acts of rapine; and wildlife is disappearing because of swiftly depleting habitat. This is well illustrated by the condition of the Aravalli hills or whatever remains of them. They are close enough to Delhi, the power centre, for policy-makers to grasp the extent of the damage perpetrated on this natural buffer against the Thar desert by real estate developers under the patronage of successive Governments. Only parts of the hills remain in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and increasingly, in Rajasthan. In the event that further erosion of these hills is not halted, the desert will swamp the capital, if the Yamuna does not submerge it before. 


Scrapping introduction of BT brinjal, at least for the present, and spiking the Vedanta mining project in Odisha are some of the minister's notable achievements. He is also acutely aware of the impact of indiscriminate development on displaced people, acknowledging the 'fundamental right to livelihood security'. But the minister clearly is hemmed in by powerful interest groups. Referring to decisions taken on projects by his ministry in the past 15 months, he concedes that "we allowed a power project in Ratnagiri in the face of Non-Governmental Organisations' objections but imposed strict conditions that would be monitored by local institutions". This, then, is the dilemma facing a policy-maker with a green conscience. How does one place checks and controls on projects that are dicey? He attempts an answer in the course of his lecture:

"The vast majority of environmental and forestry clearances are in the 'yes, but' category but they do not hit the headlines like the 'yes' or the 'no' decisions do. Of course, as we gain experience, we must refine the 'but' in the 'yes, but' approach. The 'but' often takes the form of conditions that must be adhered to before, during the construction and after the launch of the project. I believe that in laying down these conditions, we must strive for three things: First, the conditions must be objective and measurable, so that it is clear what is to be done and whether it has been complied with. Second, the conditions must be consistent and fair, so that similar projects are given similar conditions to adhere to. Finally, the conditions must not impose inordinate financial or time costs on the proponents.


"'Yes, but' cases aside, there will most certainly be instances, few and far between I should add in the overall scheme of things, when a firm "no" will be required."


Conservationists feel that a firm no in many cases is the key to sustainable development. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ONCE THE GAMES ARE OVER...

KALYANI SHANKAR


The high-voltage start to CWG 2010 has left the Organising Committee gloating and patting itself on the back. But that should not stop us from bringing transparency in sports administration


Whoever said Indians lack national pride? At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday evening, I bore witness to a surge of the nationalist spirit when spectators gave a standing ovation to the Indian contingent as it marched past. With its high-tech lighting and beautiful decorations, the gala openinat the stadium dazzled the Western media so much so that they hailed India as "having arrived". Critical before the event, the British media was gaga after the ceremony ended while the Canadian media said the show had been 'pitch-perfect'.


It was indeed heartening to note that despite illiteracy, poverty and other shortcomings, India believes in itself as a nation and can put up a good show despite all odds. The obvious unpreparedness on the part of the Organsing Committee notwithstanding, the ultimate result exceeded expectations. India's "coming out party" was a grand spectacle that made the nation proud. 


The Commonwealth Games may not have been comparable to the Beijing Olympics but the warmth felt in the stadium was something only the chaotic Indians could muster. The multi-billion dollar ceremony intended to showcase India's might could have ended in disaster but did not, thanks to last-minute efforts to salvage the Games. With its technological marvels and depiction of India's rich and colourful heritage, the ceremony demonstrated all that India can be as compared to what it is. It is time for the citizens to wake up and bridge the gap. The show has proved that it is not too difficult. 


Any comparison between the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Delhi Commonwealth Games would be far-fetched as the Chinese extravaganza was not only perfectly executed but also demonstrated a degree of discipline and dedication that awed the world. China has become a global sports power, topping the gold tally in Beijing with 51 medals and winning a total of 100 medals — the result of a highly organised national programme to select and train athletes and target victory. India has won only seven Olympic medals ever including its first individual gold in shooting in 2008. 


The opening of the Games has showed the more humane side of Indians. While the Beijing Olympics brought China at par with the West insofar as conducting sporting events are concerned, India has still not reached those standards. Despite controversies over human rights and freedom of the Press, the Games were widely hailed as having been superbly organised. How did China manage to accomplish this? Some believe that it aims higher and implements its plans better. It also worked for sporting excellence. China, too, is grappling with high levels of corruption but India lags behind it in implementation and excellence in sports. From a tally of four medals in the 1998 Olympics, China bagged 100 medals, ranking only second to the United States in the 2008 Olympic Games. 

Now that Indian sportpersons are proving their mettle, especially the shooters and wrestlers, and bagging a few gold medals and nursing hopes of collecting some more, things don't look as bad as they did before the start of the Games. However, that does not mean that the country should forget the mess created before the Games or become complacent with what it has achieved so far in terms of sporting success at the various events. And after the Games are over, we should begin an examination of what brought about the present state of affairs and how things could have been done better. 

Remember how the Henderson report after the Chinese aggression in 1962 had gone into every aspect of the outcome of the war. Should we not find out who was responsible for the massive funds bungling? The public should have an account of every rupee that was spent and exemplary punishment should be meted out to those guilty of laundering taxpayers' money. 


First and foremost, if there is another international event of this nature, the Prime Minister should take direct responsibility on the conduct of the events. He may depend upon the PMO, cabinet secretariat and his cabinet colleagues but ultimately the buck stops with him.


Next comes avoiding multiplicity of authorities. There is no doubt that various agencies should be involved but there should be a unified command to monitor them. In the present case, it appears that no one is responsible. The Chief Minister of Delhi, chairman of the Organising Committee, Sports Minister, Minister for Urban Development and the Lieutenant Governor engaged in playing the blame game with the result that even if an inquiry is conducted, no one will be found accountable. 


Transparency comes next. The public should have access to all accounts for scrutiny. The managers of the events simply could not escape if such a thing were possible.

Fourthly, more attention must be paid to deadlines. The Chinese were going so fast with the preparations of the Beijing Olympics that the International Olympics Association had to ask them to go slow. We need not go that fast but at least the schedule should be completed on time. The Delhi Metro is a classic example of how we can do things better if we have the will to do so. 


Sports bodies like the Board of Control for Cricket in India and Indian Olympic Association, which are autonomous, must have a say in the organisation of the Games. The Sports Minister is talking of bringing a Bill to limit the tenure of the chiefs of these organisations to not more than two terms. This is a good idea as it will place a curb on politicians dominating the administration of these sports bodies.


Last but not the least, athletes should be given world-class training to participate in international events. More stress on training and less favouritism and corruption in sports bodies would go a long way in fetching more medals for India even in the Olympics. 


Sports organisations and the Government should not shove corruptions under cover, instead take this opportunity to clean up the mess and initiate reforms in order to avoid future embarrassments. Now is the time to begin such an exercise. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WORK ETHICS ARE NO LONGER POPULAR

VINAYSHIL GAUTAM


Employees who uphold organisational values are unpopular, while those who turn a blind eye to corruption advance in life. If this is the way companies are run, why lament a decline in their fortunes?


As one looks around the decision-making scene in the national frame of reference and makes an index of character traits of those who are seen as successful, a single, revealing profile comes to fore. Those who are considered successful are those who are soft-spoken and extremely pliable in terms of accepting the interests and persuasions of those that matter. By the same token, individuals, who are simple, direct and upfront, who uphold organisational values and work in the interest of the organisation, are unpopular and people generally wish to avoid them, if not actually work against them.


The phenomenon does not end here. To be even more successful, it is necessary to help people 'do their thing' and, at the very least, 'close one's eyes to some matters'. There is a logical corollary to this paradigm. If this is how people behave and this is what successful leadership is about, then decline in organisational fortunes should not spark lament. 


Clearly, there are contradictions. If the first approach outlined at the beginning of this article is justified then surely there should be no complaints about the consequences of such an attitude. On the other hand, if people wish the organisation to function efficiently, then it needs a no-nonsense approach focussing on results. Soft words and closing one's eyes to happenings cannot be the norm.


We have just experienced the opening of the 19th Commonwealth Games and by divine grace everything went off smoothly. However, the national image and credibility have taken a beating. For weeks, the nation came across to many stakeholders as clumsy if not downright corrupt and unreliable. There is no denying the fact that this does not make good business sense. Chances are fairly high that if there is no major disastrous experience in the next few days, the entire run-up to the Games would have faded from public memory and the authorities would be ready to overlook failures and shortcomings. The stage would then have been set for a repeat experience. Thus it is that we blunder from one crisis to another. Sometimes we get away with it, sometimes we do not. Public memory is not only proverbially short but our organisations seem to be living dangerously with an unpredictable risk graph.


Under such circumstances, it is natural for the powerful to become wilful and their will becomes the norm. The vitals of the system get sapped and nobody knows by how much it is moving away from the fulcrum and in which direction.


Similar is the story of bodies and committee even in institutionalised systems. Consider the case of the not-so-distant financial crisis. It is no great realisation to recognise that all businesses and organisations operate in a social, economic and business environment. People have to demand credibility in institutions and put pressure on delivery. This takes discipline. No good or responsible governance can be operationalised in the framework of laxness as elaborated above. Its fundamental ethics lie in a code of responsible business practices which can distinguish right from wrong. 


There are already natural risks in the environment and companies face the risk of a more complex, interconnected, potentially disastrous environment than that in the past. It is just as important that one should realise that the board of directors in many cases becomes a club of mutual obligations and various committees of enterprises far from serving as watchdogs became handmaidens of the powerful. Some independent directors want to continue on the board. Another powerful person has a minor personal advantage to seek and yet a third could not care less so long as his personal interest is taken care of. Add to it the endemic situation of inadequate information available on the board. Even a sincere professional would be at a loss to understand the nature, quality and type of asset and liabilities the enterprise is facing.


It is one thing to read the balance sheet and yet another to grasp its implications as a consequence of its being exaggerated or incorrect. Even if one did have the requisite information, it would be rendered largely infructuous because there is no concerted attempt to understand the assumptions which this piece has highlighted. A risk analysis of common organisational practices may provide a few pointers. 

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

RAHUL GANDHI HAS HIT THE NAIL ON THE RSS' HEAD

 

BY EQUATING the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India ( SIMI), Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has hit the organisation where it hurts the most. Nothing can be more insulting to the Hindutva ideologues than to be compared to their Muslim counterparts, for antagonism to the latter is the basis of their nationalist pretentions.

 

Given the RSS' background, Mr Gandhi's comments merely amount to calling a spade a spade. The involvement of RSS members in extremist activities pre- dates the SIMI or any other Islamist outfit in the country. The Jivan Lal Kapur Commission has established the RSS' role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, which was one of the most heinous acts of terror against the nation.

 

More than six decades later, RSS personnel are still reportedly involved in terrorist attacks, with senior functionaries like Jharkhand Prant Pracharak Ashok Varshney and Central committee member Ashok Beri found to be allegedly involved in the blasts in Ajmer Sharif and Mecca Masjid. The support to Hindutva terrorism runs right up to sections of the Sangh top brass as revealed in an expose by Headlines Today and MAIL TODAY in July.

 

RSS spokesperson's Ram Madhav's comment, that Mr Gandhi knows more about Italy than India, reflects the organisation's indefensibility against the charges leveled and its complete lack of a constructive ideology. Had Mr Madhav reflected on the roots of his own organisation, he would have been a little more measured in his retort to Mr Gandhi. The prominent Hindutva ideologue BS Moonje, who was the mentor of RSS founder KB Hedgewar, was deeply influenced by Benito Mussolini. The organisation was, in fact, conceived on the lines of Mussolini's blackshirts.

 

]Therefore Italian fascism, and not Hinduism, was the main inspiration behind the RSS. Mr Gandhi's statement marks a clear break from the kid glove approach to Hindu fundamentalism that his party had been following for more than two decades. It comes at a time when the Sangh Parivar, buoyed by the Allahabad High Court judgement on Ayodhya, is trying to mobilise mass support for a grand Ram Mandir. Mr Gandhi's attack on the RSS reflects a conscious attempt to avoid committing the mistake of abetting the Hindutva forces as the Congress, especially Rajiv Gandhi, had done.

 

It is time for the political class to contest the RSS' nationalist pretensions and deal with it as a fundamentalist organisation.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

MURDER IS RAREST OF RARE

 

]THE Supreme Court may have confirmed the guilty verdict of Santosh Singh, the man who raped and murdered Priyadarshini Mattoo, but it may not have punished him adequately.

 

The commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment could mean that the rapist and killer, who has served seven years in jail already, will become eligible for release after serving just another seven years in jail.

 

The purpose of judicial punishment is to deter crime, exact retribution on behalf of a victim, and to reform the criminal. In the Indian system, death sentence is reserved for the " rarest of rare" cases. But it is clear from the various judicial decisions, that this is a subjective affair. What is " rarest of rare"? Is it not the rape and murder of a three year old child? But the Guwahati High Court commuted the sentence of a man guilty of such an act in May this year.

 

But serving a mere 14 years, as is the norm for life sentences in India, is inadequate to meet the ends of justice. There is every danger that the criminal in question is of a pathological bent of mind. In that event, releasing him or her poses a grave danger to society.

 

At least in the Guwahati case, the court has specified that life sentence would mean jail for the natural life of the convict.

 

Commutation of death sentence should be accompanied by a mandatory requirement that the convict be kept in prison for his or her natural life. To this end, the Supreme Court needs to lay out the line, or get the government to put in place a set of mandatory guidelines.

 

In a country of a billion plus people, murder may seem commonplace, but for the person murdered, or his or her family, it is a rarest of rare events.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

A TOP HEAVY AIR FORCE WILL EASILY LOSE ITS BALANCE

 

AIR CHIEF Marshal Pradeep Naik has said that he expected the Indian Air Force to close the negotiations for the Medium Multirole Aircraft ( MMRCA) by March 2011, six months from now. In an interview to the Vayu Aerospace magazine on the eve of Air Force Day ( which happens to be today), he noted that the 126 aircraft will then be expected to be inducted by 2014. In the same interview he also revealed that the likely date for the induction of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft ( FGFA) is 2017. These are also the years in which the IAF will be acquiring additional 150 Sukhoi- 30 MKI fighters as well. So will the IAF go from being weak- kneed to top- heavy ? The Su- 30MKI is already considered the best fighter in the world today, exceeded only by the F- 22 Raptor, a programme that the US is terminating because the aircraft are too expensive. India will have some 272 Su- 30MKIs by the time the programme ends, presumably by 2020, when the FGFA, the Indo- Russian answer to the Raptor starts coming in.

 

Expense

 

By 2025 the IAF could well end up with all top- of- the- line aircraft, and not enough work- horses. If the MMRCA contest goes in favour of either the Eurofighter or Rafale, the IAF could have 272 Su- 30MKIs, 126 Eurofighter or Rafale's, and 200- 250 or so FGFA which Air Chief Marshal alluded to in another interview last week. So from an abject position of an air force which is 50 per cent obsolete, India could well end up with the most modern air force in the world, with even more fifth generation fighters than even the mighty US, since the F- 22 programme ends at 187 aircraft and we will have 250 FGFAs. There will also be some 320 or so LCAs, upgraded Jaguars, Mirage 2000s and MiG- 29s.

 

All this is a good thing, or is it? There are two issues here. First, these fighters will be all multi- role, as are most modern fighters and they will overlap each other's functions. More important is the issue of cost. Heavy fighters cost a lot of money. The Sukhois are of the order of $ 50 million per piece. The MMRCA, if it is the Eurofighter Typhoon, could cost more than twice that amount. But the bigger costs lie in running them. According to an estimate, the Typhoon and Rafale could cost some $ 16,000 an hour. The costs for the Sukhoi are not known, but may be twice as much because serviceability is a major problem with Russian aircraft.

 

Their engines have to be replaced at about 300 hours or so, as compared to 3,000 for comparable Western engines.

 

The country, and, of course, the IAF needs to take a hard look at whether they can afford all this. There is no doubt that we need to modernise our forces, but the need is for a balance that is distributed effectively between the Army, Air Force and the Navy. Bunched up acquisitions such as the ones we seem to be heading for could create major budgetary problems, or, result in parts of the air force remaining grounded because there is not enough money to fly the aircraft.

 

How did we land in this situation? Actually there is nothing unusual about it.

 

From the 1980s onwards, IAF acquisitions have been an opaque affair. In fact, only the current MMRCA buy is a model of transparency, as compared to what went on in the past.

 

Bribery

 

For example, there was no IAF demand for a Mirage 2000, but we bought them anyway. There is no trace of any IAF request for the Su- 30 MKI, but we have those, too. This is not unusual in our dense defence decision- making process which we have been trying to open up. At least two former Navy chiefs have told this writer that they do not know who wanted the Akula- class nuclear attack submarine that is likely to be added to our fleet soon.

 

It is not as though the equipment thus acquired is a dud. It is not. The best example of this is the Bofors 155 mm howitzer whose acquisition was so controversial.

 

The fact that bribes were paid for the buy does not detract from the fact that the guns performed superbly in the Kargil war.

 

The IAF got to love the Mirage 2000, as it does the Su- 30MKI. But the obvious implications of the acquisitions is that they were made for considerations other than purely our defence needs. These " considerations" could be strategic i. e. made as a politicoeconomic trade off. But the more obvious conclusion is that they are the outcome of bribery and corruption.

 

The acquisition of the equipment has been a cavalier process, tailor- made for wasting money, rather than obtaining the most economical solution. Take the Sukhoi programme. Initially India sought 40 aircraft, it was then persuaded to buy 10 that Indonesia no longer wanted. Then it was decided that the country would build another 140 under licence. Later, when the LCA programme was delayed, 40 more were ordered, and then, more recently, another 42. On the tarmac of IAF's Lohegaon airbase, there are another 18 old Sukhoi- 27PVs that India had got at the outset of the programme, which the Russians were supposed to upgrade to 30- MKI standards and didn't. They are no longer operational.

 

Profile

 

Ideally, the IAF in 2020 should be a threetiered force of 16 Su- 30MKI squadrons ( 320 aircraft) in the top- most tier, 8 of the MMRCA ( 160 aircraft), 6 of LCA ( 120), which means 280 tier II fighters, and the balance, 6 squadrons of upgraded Jaguars ( 120), 3 Mirage 2000 ( 60) and 3 Mig- 29s ( 60) would be tier III, aircraft reaching the end of their airframe life to be replaced by the FGFA, as it comes into service.

 

This, of course, would assume that the MMRCA would be a lighter aircraft, not a heavy twin- engine fighter. In the current competition there are three that fit the bill— the Swedish Gripen, the American F- 16 and the Russian Mig- 35. Of the three, the Swedish aircraft is the most modern and economical to operate. Such a force profile would not only provide the optimum defence solution for India, but help keep the operating costs down, a not inconsequential consideration for a dirt- poor nation.

 

We also need to keep in mind the latest trends in air power— the growth of robotic aircraft. In early 2010, it

was estimated that the US will spend some 15 per cent of its $ 230 billion budget for the next five years for unmanned aerial vehicles.

 

Considering that the price of the F- 22 Raptor is of the order of $ 150 million, it is little wonder that the US has been forced to curtail the programme. When you can get Predator and Reaper UAV's for $ 4 million a piece, bomb your enemies without risking your pilots, the decision is a nobrainer anyway. Already more drone operators are being trained than bomber or fighter pilots in the US. The trends of the future are more than obvious, but there is little indication that our manned- fighter oriented air force is considering them.

 

Technology is a fickle master, those who are not sensitive to its trends are condemned to obsolescence.

manoj.joshi@mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

THE LAHORE LOG

PAKISTAN CAUGHT IN A ' BAR'BRAWL

BY NAJAM SETHI

 

LAWYERS are striking across the Punjab. At the root of their grievance is the refusal of a district and sessions judge, Zawwar Hussain, to accommodate their demand that appointments to the clerical staff of the district courts should be shared with the executive of the Lahore Bar Association, an outrageous but settled modus operandi between the bar and bench.

 

Judge Hussain's refusal to concede, coupled with his stern — the lawyers describe it as arrogant — approach, in a dispute that has simmered for nearly three months, climaxed last week when a group of protesting lawyers at the premises of the Lahore High Court clashed with a contingent of the police summoned to the premises by the controversial and overtly politicised Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Khawaja Sharif. Scuffles outside the CJ's office led to the arrest of many lawyers. Later they were charged with terrorism but set free when their supporters began to spill over into the streets. In due course, the demand for disciplinary action against senior police officers who had ordered the attack on the lawyers was added to the demand for Judge Hussain's transfer, finally ending up with the demand for the CJ's head.

 

In counter protest, over 1300 district and sessions judges submitted their resignations.

 

But this only provoked the lawyers whose numbers have swelled to include supporters from bar associations across the province. The judges have been persuaded to withdraw their resignations and the CJ has nominated a three member commission to probe the incident. Judge Hussain has also been persuaded by the CJ to take a four month " leave" of absence. But all this has not dimmed the lawyers' passionate sense of outrage and the " movement" is threatening to acquire ominous proportions because all manner of vested pro- government and anti- government interests have jumped into the fray. These include officials of the PPP government, which is locked in a fierce battle for survival with the Supreme Court of Pakistan, along with their respective bodies of lawyers and independents who are in the midst of a make- or- break electoral battle to capture the commanding heights of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

 

T HREE major criticisms have been leveled against the protesting lawyers. First, that their original demand for a sharing of the administrative quota of employments was unreasonable. Second, that they provoked a violent backlash from the court and police administration when they became unruly and burnt an effigy of Judge Hussain on the high court premises and threatened to storm the CJ's chambers. Both criticism are justified.

 

But they are neither unprecedented nor extraordinary. Indeed, the young lawyers have been angry since they launched the lawyers' movement three years ago for the restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, and succeeded in their efforts, in the process dethroning General Pervez Musharraf. Their alienation from, and resentment of, their leaders like Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan and Akram Sheikh follows a division of the spoils of victory in which they feel they haven't even got the crumbs while their leaders have been selected to either pack the benches or grab the most lucrative cases before the restored judges.

 

It is also a measure of their much vaunted and aggressive political tactics during the lawyers' movement that they were allowed to get away with browbeating lower court judges without any disciplinary action taken against them. The earlier record shows that when a lawyer threw a shoe at a judge because he didn't like the judgment, the judge was transferred by the CJ while the lawyer was lauded by his colleagues. Much the same sentiment prevailed when a lawyer locked up a judge in his chambers or when another brazenly slapped a judge and was not admonished.

 

A third criticism is more significant. It is alleged that the lawyers are acting at the behest of the PPP in general and Babar Awan, the federal law minister, in particular. Dr Awan is at the centre of the government- SC confrontation these days. Evidence is cited of Dr Awan's distribution of funds to district bar associations earlier in an effort to buy their support.

 

The belated support for Ms Asma Jehangir's bid to capture the SCBA by a pro- PPP section of lawyers led by the former law minister, Latif Khosa, is also noted in the charge sheet.

 

BUT this charge is baseless. The lawyers are also led by two past presidents of the Lahore Bar Association — Muhammad Shah and Manzur Qadir — who won their spurs from the platform of the anti- PPP Hamid Khan group, with the former being bloodied at the hands of the baton- wielding police.

 

Indeed, their top leader is none other than Ali Ahmed Kurd, the fiery lawyer from Balochistan who rose to prominence during the 2007- 09 lawyers' movement. Mr Kurd had thundered two years ago that he would not rest until Khawaja Sharif was made CJ of the LHC and today he is demanding the same CJ's head for ordering police brutality against protesting lawyers. The supplementary charge that Dr Awan's cash- laden briefcases have helped Ms Jehangir's cause is also ridiculous because the district bars are only marginally involved in the SCBA elections.

 

To be sure, the biggest beneficiary of this new development is the beleaguered PPP government which is gloating over the yawning divide between bar and bench at a time when the SC is gearing up to deliver a coup de grace against President Asif Zardari. If the new lawyers' movement is not stamped out or compromised quickly, the SC could find itself in a bit of a soup when the government tries to marshal the same hotheaded lawyers to defend its cause against an insurgent and unaccountable judiciary from which the lawyers are increasingly alienated.

 

What you sow, so shall you reap. The 2007- 09 lawyers' movement let the genie out of the bottle by condoning violent and undemocratic protest methods. The subsequent political opportunism and moral corruption of most of its leaders and the blatant political bias of the restored judiciary served not only to alienate the more honest ones from the ranks but also taught others to emulate their seniors and grab a piece of the action. Now the wheel seems to have come full circle. Old leaders of the bar have been compelled to support young lawyers against the very bench from which they draw their material and political benefits.

 

This is yet another demonstration of the extraordinary twists and turns of Pakistan's fissured state institutions and civil society organisations in the midst of an existential crisis for national survival and growth.

 

The writer is the editor of the Friday Times

 

JUGNU MOHSIN

LAST night, dream is coming. I am in Makro supermarket where I am meeting General Kayani. He is pushing trolley full of politicians and technocrats. " Are you needing any help, General Saab?" I am asking. " No thanks" he is saying, " but please hop in". I am thinking about it and then deciding that why should I? Again he is saying, " Please hop in. As you can see, there are some bargains in the trolley. There's a special offer on technocrats today. It's 50% off". " Off with what?" I am asking. " Never mind", Kayani is saying, " just get in next to these burqa clad technocrats". Then I am wondering that why are they wearing burqas, hain ji. Kayani is saying, " they do not want to reveal themselves before their sell- by date". I am not being sure that this is a good deal for me. Again Kayani is saying, " Let me assure you, Mian Sahab, it's a bargain.

 

Buy one, get one free". " You mean technocrats? Buy one, get one free?" I asked. " No, no" he said, " I mean governments.

 

Buy the federal government, get the provincial government for free. Two for the price of one." In my dream, it is looking nice deal. I am thinking of hopping into Kayani's trolley. Then I am seeing that there is Pir Pagaro in it also, and Altaf and all the smelly FATA wallahs and Musharraf wrapped up in recycled paper and I am thinking that it's going to be quite a squeeze in Kayani's trolley. With all this confuyion in my had, I am telling Kayani that let me to just push the trolley with you for some time and I will decide latter that if I am gatting into it, hain ji. He is saying ok but remember that the Special Offer is far Limited Period only.

 

When we got to girl at the till, she started toting up General Kayani's purchases. Then she said, " That'll be Rs 10/ General Sahab". " Is that all?" he asked. " Yes" she said, " these politicians and technocrats come free with the trolley." Then Kayani and me came out of Makro and many people saw us and joined our bang wagon. Together we wheeled his trolley into the car park where we met Hillary Clinton. " Where are you two taking all these people?" she asked. " To the cleaners" Kayani said. Then he asked her to join us for lunch. " What do you have in mind?" Hillary asked. " Let's go to Salt '• Pepper Village" he said, " my treat". " No general", she said, " My treat". We are going to Village where we saw another technocrat behind a deg. " What he is cooking, hain ji?" I asked Kayani. " The books" he said.

Nut far sale NS

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

GOLD RUSH

 

With the Commonwealth Games well underway, sports mania appears to have gripped Delhi. After a sluggish start, ticket sales have picked up. Certain events such as the upcoming India- Pakistan hockey clash have seen tickets sold out well in advance. Though there have been some complaints regarding parking of vehicles and rigorous security drills at venues hindering viewing experience, on the whole the Games have been smoothly conducted and without major hiccups. 


What has been truly heartening is the performance of Indian athletes. At the time of going to press, India - with 14 golds and 32 medals in total - was second only to Australia in the overall medals tally. Most of India's success has come in shooting, wrestling and weightlifting, with a few Commonwealth Games records being broken. Credit goes to the respective sporting federations for nurturing a promising batch of youngsters. India's performance in shooting in particular has been dominant, as exemplified by Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra who have been head and shoulders above the rest. With relative newcomers such as Anisa Sayeed and Omkar Singh also producing gold medal-winning performances, our sharpshooters have truly proved their mettle. In addition, medals are expected in boxing, badminton, table tennis and lawn tennis. 


Notwithstanding the commendable performances so far, there are certain disciplines that do need a lot of work if Indian athletes are to boost their medal prospects at the London Olympics. Two areas that need focus are athletics and aquatics. It is because our performances over the years in these two disciplines have been lacklustre that India has been slipping in overall rankings. The situation in aquatics is succinctly summarised by that of Prasanta Karmakar - the paralympic swimmer who won the bronze in the 50m freestyle category - or of Avani Dave - India's representative at the solo synchronised swimming event. While Karmakar has been knocking on doors for sponsorship and funds, Dave doesn't even have a full-time coach. Unless basic facilities are ensured, it would be wishful thinking to expect our athletes to compete with the best in the world. 


The primary aim of the Commonwealth Games should be to nurture interest in those sports in which our athletes haven't been at par. It is only then that we can hope for a new generation of athletes to take up these games and sponsors to follow suit. In this regard, the Delhi government's proposal to allow schoolchildren free access to the various events is a good idea. But more needs to be done. In the meantime, kudos to those who have made India proud. Hopefully, the gold rush will continue.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

JUDGING THE JUDGES

 

The Judges Standards and Accountability Bill that was hanging fire for quite some time has been finally approved by the Union cabinet on Tuesday, setting the stage for its introduction in the winter session of Parliament. If Parliament signs the Bill into law, it should act as a check on the recent and alarming rise in accusations of corruption in the judiciary. Given the judiciary's important role in governance, it is imperative for the government to put in place institutional safeguards that make it more accountable to the public. A system less harsh and cumbersome than impeachment, but stricter than current accountability procedures that make it an internal affair of the judiciary which no one else need know anything about, is overdue. The Bill seeks to fill this void through an oversight committee empowered to probe complaints against judges. 


Headed by a former Supreme Court chief justice, the committee will also include the Attorney General of India, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, a high court chief justice and an eminent person to be appointed by the president. Here, the onus will also lie with the government to ensure that people of integrity and merit are appointed in the oversight committee. Commendably, it would be mandatory for judges to declare their assets and liabilities under the new Bill, which also aims to tackle the issue of conflict of interest in cases. Overall, the system it proposes should balance judicial accountability with its independence. If implemented in true spirit, the new system can help maintain the respect that the judiciary commands in the country.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

PLUCK THE LOW HANGING FRUIT

VIKRAM SINGH MEHTA

 

The Commonwealth Games got off to a good start and hopefully will conclude without incident and in a shimmer of individual glory. But the tarnish of corruption and nepotism that has preceded the Games will take a long while to fade. There will be post-mortems. Official committees, TV, print and the public chatterati will probe the 'What', 'Why' and 'How'. What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? And how can we prevent a repeat of the mistakes made? The responses will be familiar, but most likely they will all have a ring of generality and abstraction about them. For, as everyone knows, corruption is not a superficial malaise. It has deep roots and it cannot be excised without a root and branch review of our existing political, social and governance institutions. The interplay, for instance, of democracy (one person, one vote), geography (the spread and size of constituencies) and demography (the large voter population and consequent campaign costs) encourages politicians to use executive authority as a platform for fund-raising. It promotes corruption. A post-mortem that diagnoses the problem and prescribes the solution but sidesteps the question of implementation may be likened, therefore, to an "idle parlour game". 


I am not a cynic and i do believe there is merit in discussion even if the conversations are far removed from political reality. For it is only through such discussion that we can hold onto our ideals and specifically understand how the Games officials were able to ride roughshod over established checks and balances. But equally i am a pragmatist. We have to move the conversation beyond the banter of a parlour. We have to somehow translate the prescription into action if only through small shifts in the needle of governance. 


A random review of the intelligent press and one cannot but be struck by the many examples of government activity that do not harness the full value of its efforts. These are examples where the gap between potential and actual value exists not because of systemic blockers or political vested interests but because of specific policy shortcomings, viz the application of inappropriate technology; the misalignment of incentives, the inefficient use of existing facilities, etc. These are gaps which prima facie can be cemented through incremental and therefore feasible shifts in policy. This point can be better illustrated through three examples - each drawn from material in the public domain. 


The recovery rate of hydrocarbons from the discovered fields in India is only 28 per cent. In other words, 72 per cent of the hydrocarbons that have been discovered are not monetised. This is a statistic reported by the Director General of Hydrocarbons. Internationally, the average recovery rate for fields of similar geology is over 40 per cent. The reason for this difference is the non- or misapplication of appropriate enhanced oil recovery technologies. These are proven technologies that are accessible either off the shelf or through partnerships. There are no systemic barriers to their implementation and no one stands to gain by keeping the rates at current levels. The enhancement of the recovery rate (and domestic hydrocarbon production) does seem, therefore, to be a low hanging but valuable fruit that is yet to be plucked. 


The MIT Poverty Action lab installed a video camera in select village schools in Udaipur district and told the teachers they would receive a Rs 50 bonus if they taught for more than 20 days a month. Also, that their salary would be deducted by Rs 50 if attendance fell below 20 days. The level of absenteeism dropped from a base line of 37 per cent before the experiment to 17 per cent. A similar scheme of monitoring and incentivisation for auxiliary nurses working in primary health centres generated equally positive results. Teacher and health worker absenteeism is a complex matter and the experiment does not purport to address the multiple political, social, cultural and economic factors that contribute to it. But it does make an important point. A simple, well-directed and affordable incentive structure can significantly reduce the consequential costs. Here again, prima facie there is fruit within reach. 


The inefficiency of our public distribution system and the inadequacy of distribution facilities are often cited as reasons for regional food shortages despite a national surplus. N C Saxena (a former secretary to the Planning Commission) has suggested that these are weak excuses. There are lakhs of 'anganwadis' and school centres where cooked meals are already being distributed and which can and should be used to distribute food grains. 

In our hierarchical and precedent bound decision-making structure (and with the shadow of the vigilance officer casting a pall over initiative), there is a bias towards the status quo. Sins of omission are often less costly than acts of commission. But this is a bias that flows from convention and legacy procedures and not necessarily from systemic vested interests. Whilst we must not lose sight of the ideal of clean governance, we must not also ignore the potential monetary and social value that can be unlocked by doing better what we are already doing. And by looking to answer the question, "What must be done to avoid the avoidable cost?" 


The writer is chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India. Views expressed are personal.

 

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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'NO TALKS WITH TALIBAN WHO'RE AGAINST WOMEN'S FREEDOM'

 

Massouda Jalal is a psychiatrist and paediatrician based in Afghanistan. After the fall of Taliban in 2001, she emerged as a powerful voice of Afghan women and later contested the 2004 elections as a presidential candidate. Jalal was minister for women's affairs in the Hamid Karzai government for a brief while. As director of Jalal Foundation, she travels across Afghanistan to champion women's empowerment and rights. She spoke to Ashima Kaul : 


In an effort to involve the Taliban in the political peace process in Afghanistan, the Karzai government recently announced a 70-member peace council, which includes some provincial leaders close to Taliban. How do you assess the development? 


The world knows what Afghan women had to undergo during the Taliban regime. They are still blowing up girls' schools and throwing acid on their faces. Taliban will never guarantee women's rights, hence as an Afghan woman i see the formation of this council and reconciliatory efforts towards the Taliban as trading off women's rights for peace in Afghanistan. We will never allow this, hence we reject the council. There should not be any talks with Taliban who're against women's freedom. Secondly, the peace council does not have a single woman in it. Afghan women demand an inclusive peace process. 


What is your suggestion for that to happen? 

Let us first of all think of what we inherited from the women who struggled before us. The government should include women who are in the government and outside from different backgrounds who have contributed during the last 10 years in rebuilding Afghanistan. We have to recognise women's contribution in the peace process. The United Nations should continue keeping track of the implementation of international commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Beijing Platform for Action. The UN should keep on making statements whenever the rights of women in Afghanistan are violated. The UN should support the development of a critical mass of women leaders in all sectors of my country. But we should also continue talking and getting the support of men and imparting among young boys the value of egalitarian relations between females and males. This will help in pursuing a holistic agenda for peace and development in the country. 


Do you have a message for the Asian women? How can they support the struggle for rights? 

There is a saying that sisterhood is global. The women have no particular country because the country of the women is the whole world. No matter where you go, women are disadvantaged, except in Nordic countries perhaps. So, the cause of the Afghan women is the cause of women all over the world. You cannot say that you have succeeded in improving the status of women unless the status of the Afghan women has improved. The international community including the Asian women, especially women groups from India and Pakistan, can support Afghan women by collectively protesting against the compromise the government might strike with the Taliban for the sake of a so-called peace process in Afghanistan. 


When i was minister for women, parliament would always think about abolishing the ministry. But with the help of the international community, the ministry of women continues to exist in Afghanistan. We have struggled to include a law on elimination of violence against women in the Constitution. We are afraid that these may be diluted in future. Asian women and the international community can keep the pressure on and ensure that women's rights are not traded off for the reintegration of the Taliban and their reconciliation with the government.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

THUMBS DOWN

JUG SURAIYA 

 

(This is a humorous piece)

The great biological watershed that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and puts us on top of the evolutionary heap on this planet is our opposable thumb: our ability to fold our thumb against our fingers which enables us to hold things. Things like tools, and weapons, and paintbrushes, and pens, and screwdrivers. Other animals don't have the opposable thumb. That is why no animal other than man could have constructed the wheel, made spears and knives (and, later, AK-47s and nuclear bombs), written the works of Kalidas and Shakespeare, made the Taj Mahal and sent rocket ships to the farthest reaches of our solar system. The story of human civilisation is the story of our opposable thumb. No opposable thumb, no human civilisation. And no text messages on our mobile phones.The great biological watershed that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and puts us on top of the evolutionary heap on this planet is our opposable thumb: our ability to fold our thumb against our fingers which enables us to hold things. Things like tools, and weapons, and paintbrushes, and pens, and screwdrivers. Other animals don't have the opposable thumb. That is why no animal other than man could have constructed the wheel, made spears and knives (and, later, AK-47s and nuclear bombs), written the works of Kalidas and Shakespeare, made the Taj Mahal and sent rocket ships to the farthest reaches of our solar system. The story of human civilisation is the story of our opposable thumb. No opposable thumb, no human civilisation. And no text messages on our mobile phones.

 

My mobile phone makes a noise like a psychotic cockatoo on steroids. I have received an SMS: Get! Originial spritual (sic) products by! SHRI NATH SANSTHAN! Hanuman Kawach, Sai Kawach, Rudrax each 2000. Shani Kawach-1500, Nazar Dosh Niwark-1000.

 

And if it's not originial spritual products by! SHRI NATH SANSTHAN! it's bound to be: FIRE EXTINGUISHER Refill ABC at 400 Rs, call VIKAS. Or it's: Get (2 in 1) BELT VIBRATION SAUNA BELT Rs 999/-*(100% RESULT) FREE YOKO +FREE DELIVERY. While I'm trying to figure what a FREE YOKO might be, freely delivered to boot, my phone sounds off again: DEEMAK, COCKROACH, MOSQUITOES, RATS, WOODBORRER (sic), OR ANY OTHER PEST PROBLEM (SMELLS/NON SMELL TREATMENT) FREE INSPECTION.

 

Before I can decide if I want to be freely inspected for (SMELLS/ NON SMELL TREATMENT) I get another SMS: CHANDRA MANGAL ke MAHALAXMI YOG ka kya asar padega apke jiwan mein. Kya hogi DHAN VARSHA apke jiwan mein. JANE VIDHWAN PANDITON. And if it's not VIDHWAN PANDITON offering me a MAHALAXMI YOG, it's someone telling me I've inherited a Nigerian gold mine, and all I have to do to claim my legacy is to remit a zillion bucks to cover the cost of legal fees.

 

Commercial SMSs are bad enough. What's even worse are personal SMSs from people I know. I'm not obliged to respond to a FREE YOKO regarding a vibrating WOODBORRER. But I am required to reply to: R U OK 2 MT TDY? It takes me a while to figure out that this is not an algebraic equation but someone wanting to know (NO) if I can meet (MT) them today (TDY). Using my opposable thumb (OPPBL THMB) I text back: YES. Back comes the query: WHN? Which I, correctly, interpret as WHEN? I'm about to punch in 4 when I realise that in SMS-ese 4 stand for FOR, so instead I settle for 5, which stands for nothing other than 5, in SMS-ese or Proto-Prakrit.

 

By now my thumb is sore with all the effort. But the game of SMS ping-pong isn't over. I get another message: WHR? I look up the SMS dictionary I've bought and confirm that WHR? means WHERE? Where? Where - or rather, what - is the shortest location to text? I steel my thumb to one last effort: HRE. And let the other guy figure out which HRE (HERE) I mean when i say - or rather, text - HRE (HERE).

 

Why do we do it? Why do we SMS? When it's so much less effort, and less costly, to just phone up and talk to the person instead of all this back-and-forth SMSing? We do it because telecoms, which make more money on SMSs than on calls, have convinced us that SMSing is KEWL (COOL) while calling is UNKEWL (UNCOOL). Besides, what else but to SMS with do you (U) think Darwinian selection gave you (U) your (UR) opposable thumb?

 

Putting an ice pack on my traumatised thumb, I reflect that a medieval instrument of torture was called a

thumbscrew. Are SMSs the 21st century's thumb screw?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

ANARCHY IN THE UK

 

Dialectics, Didi and Dunderhead. Where else can you get such a heady cocktail if not in Cambridge University?

 

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat will be attending a memorial meeting of one of his old professors and will be speaking on the, ahem, continuing relevance of the Left in India.

 

This will happen on October 22. On October 25, another great ideologue, a Leftist who knows that she is one, Mamata Banerjee will be speaking to the Cambridge equivalent of the cotton sari-clad ones about the demise of the Left in India.

 

Going by past Cambridge University debates — and this 'encounter' can be seen as an incremental debate — there should be a result. But before any cravat-wearing desi Oxbridge-type tries to cast aspersions on Ms Banerjee's English accent, let it be told that the Trinamool leader already has the rhetorical advantage of striking a demotic pose.

 

Mr Karat, with his well-enunciated English and bush shirt, can only thank his stars (and not stripes) that the two are not sharing one stage.

 

But next to the River Cam, where the likes of Jyoti Basu cut his teeth and started 'believing' via the tenets of the British Communist Party, the world outside West Bengal and A K Gopalan Bhavan will realise that like Batman and the Joker, Ms Banerjee and Mr Karat are two coins of the same side.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

NEW DELHI AT HIS DISPOSAL

 

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah seems to have got tetchier over the past many months. For him to state in the J&K assembly on Wednesday that the state "had not merged with the Union but acceded to it under an agreement" is remarkable.

 

For a person who was brought into his current position by what has been universally considered as a fair and free mandate under the auspices of the Union of India, to suddenly swerve and duck and pass the buck shows a panic mentality that hardly suits a chief minister.

 

The state under Mr Abdullah's purview has been on the boil for some time now.  Whether one feels sympathetic to his position or not, the proverbial buck does stop at his table.

 

The fact that Mr Abdullah has been unable to control the spiralling law and order situation in the Valley is bad enough. But to now play the politics of blame is taking the situation one dangerous step further.

 

The immediate cause for him to lash out against the Centre has been the Opposition party, People's Democratic Party's remark that it seemed that New Delhi has been "running the show" in the Valley.

 

Mr Abdullah's response has been childish. He has stated that he is no "puppet of Delhi". This is playing to the gallery as part of a knee-jerk reaction. The Centre understands the gravity of the problem in Kashmir and has provided Mr Abdullah enough elbow space to take charge. Unfortunately, instead of taking charge, he has passed the proverbial buck.

 

Mr Abdullah is being churlish while complaining that the Union government has not consulted him on reopening educational institutions in the state. He has also strangely criticised Home Secretary G K Pillai for "undermining the authority of the state's institutions" by speaking about lifting of curfew from Srinagar.

 

These complaints would have sounded more sturdy were Mr Abdullah in charge of the anarchic situation in the Valley and had been stonewalled by New Delhi. That is not the case. The inability to conduct according to his mandate has forced Mr Abdullah to placing the blame in the usual corner: New Delhi.

 

The fact is there for everyone to see. The Centre's eight-point agenda was known to Mr Abdullah a day before the Cabinet Committee for Security took it up. It's one thing to critique an agenda that looks towards reaching out to disgruntled elements. It's quite another for him to trash it because it's easier to reject anything and everything coming from New Delhi.

 

It's unfortunate that Mr Abdullah is using the Centre as a punching bag. J&K, as he has reiterated when it has suited his purpose before, is a part of India and solutions must come in tandem from both Srinagar and Delhi.

 

Bringing up the matter of the home secretary lifting curfew in parts of Srinagar in July is a matter of technicality.

 

It definitely doesn't need to be the point of conflict. Let Mr Abdullah realise quickly that the stop-gap arrangement of blaming the Centre is a strategy that serves no purpose. No matter that it's a dangerous path to take.

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

A HALF-WAY HOUSE

RAJDEEP SARDESAI

 

It has been my considered view that December 6, 1992, would not have happened in the age of  24-hour news television. Through the forest of microphones and broadcast vans that would have swarmed the disputed site in Ayodhya, it would have been impossible for either the Uttar Pradesh government or the Centre to deny knowledge of what was happening on ground zero.

 

In 1992, there was just Doordarshan to provide a filtered version of the news with the first grainy visuals of the demolition being sent hours later by the BBC. Is it any wonder that there was ample scope for both misinformation and mischief which triggered off the first wave of riots?

 

Today, there are more than 120 news channels. The frenzied competition among channels has been brilliantly caricatured in Peepli Live, but ironically, the manic nature of the medium may well have acted as a round-the-clock watchdog when the Ayodhya judgement was delivered last week, thereby ensuring that there was no place for any potential trouble-maker to hide.

 

That a majority of news channels consciously shied away from projecting extremist voices is also a sign that amid the madness of the news whirl, there is still some space for restraint and responsible journalism.

 

The electronic media revolution is just one of the many changes that have taken place in the last 18 years, ensuring that September 30, 2010, was never going to be a repeat of  the horror of the winter of 1992. The biggest transformation, of course, has been in India's emergence as an economic force.

 

In 1992, economy was growing at 2.2 per cent; today it hovers around the 9 per cent mark. In 1992, our forex reserves were $2.2 billion, now they are as high as $287 billion. The sensex was around 2,000 then, now it has crossed the 20,000 mark.

 

With economic muscle have come rising aspirations. In 1992, per capita income was pegged at around Rs 1.8 lakh per annum; it is now almost triple at Rs 5.16 lakh per annum. From 70 lakh cars on India's roads then, we now have more than 1.8 crore vehicles. From 4 lakh computers then, we now have over 4 crore computers. Then, we were dependent on the telephone lineman for a connection, now India has more than 580 million mobile subscribers.

 

The presiding deity for new India is neither Ram nor Rahim, but Lakshmi. The biggest urge is not to build a mandir or a masjid, but to own a house. Ayodhya reminds upwardly mobile India of a past they are keen to forget: a past of political conflict and economic scarcity. New India wants no interruption in its march towards a better life, no violent eruption that will threaten their bank balance.

 

In their worldview, both Praveen Togadia and a Shahi Imam are dinosaur-like agents of trouble who need to be marginalised.

 

So far, so good. But has this 'new' India really moved on from the antagonisms of the early 90s as is being repeatedly suggested in television studio chatter?

 

A few weeks ago, we conducted a 'sting' operation to find the truth behind reports that Muslims find it difficult to rent a house in urban middle class localities. On hidden camera, the deep-seated prejudices that are often masked by political correctness were laid bare.

 

For a young Muslim to rent a house is still a challenge, remaining as he does a prisoner of stereotype. In 1992, the 'Muslim as terrorist' was dismissed as fringe element propaganda; now, a series of terror attacks at home and abroad have convinced even large sections of the silent majority that Muslims are untrustworthy.

 

At the same time, a victimhood complex has trapped the average Muslim into believing that the entire system is ranged against them, sparking anger and resentment within the community. Travel to any Indian city and the physical and psychological divide is increasingly apparent. You now have distinct 'Hindu' and 'Muslim' neighbourhoods, with worryingly minimal social interaction. Communal harmony and secularism have been reduced to mantras, lacking any real resonance on a divided street.

 

Which is why any self-congratulatory note struck by the near-total calm in the aftermath of the Ayodhya verdict needs to be tempered by the harsh reality of  an India which remains dangerously segregated in the mind.

 

The majority community in new India doesn't want street violence, but is not averse to asserting their religious identity while endorsing the idea of a 'grand' Ram temple in Ayodhya. Likewise the minorities would like greater education and job opportunities, but they are also unwilling to 'surrender' their claim to a mosque at the disputed site.

 

In the circumstances, Ayodhya remains a crisis point but also presents a truly 'historic' opportunity to redefine the majority-minority equation.

 

Can the Sangh parivar, which resorted to extra-constitutional methods to bring down the mosque, now genuinely reach out to the minorities instead of engaging in any form of triumphalism? Can the Congress, with its votebank mentality, be a credible, non-partisan observer rather than send out conflicting signals?

 

And can Muslim groups get rid of the paranoia of being in a state of permanent injury? It is only when minds are freed of fear and prejudice, that India can truly claim to have moved on from Ayodhya. And then maybe unitedly construct a temple-mosque complex as a symbol of hope and reconciliation.

 

Post-script: A day after the Ayodhya verdict, Ram was replaced by Rajinikanth as the top headline. Forty-eight hours later, it was the glittering Commonwealth Games opening ceremony that took over. And a week later, from worshipping at the temple of Ram, all of us were worshipping at the feet of our very own cricketing divinity, V V S Laxman. Whether India moves beyond Ayodhya or not, 24-hour news TV sure does.

 

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

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

REMOVE THE SMOKESCREEN

PRAFUL BIDWAI

 

The disclosure by the Centre for Science and Environment that 11 of the 12 leading brands of honey sold in India contain high levels of harmful antibiotics should make us acknowledge our failure to evolve and enforce environmental and health standards.

 

Similar disclosures were made about pesticides in soft drinks and coliform bacteria in 'safe' bottled water. More distressing is the documentation since the 1980s of high content of pesticides and other toxins, including lead, in a majority of samples of foodgrain, vegetables, meat, eggs and milk tested by public laboratories.

 

These revelations triggered some corrective action in soft drinks, a product the middle class guzzles. But, strangely, none in grain, vegetables and milk-consumed universally and hence far more important for public health. This shameful elitism extends to the absence of minimal standards of air or water quality, essential for people's well-being.

 

Three types of failure are involved here.

 

First, there are no domestic standards. (Only exported honey conforms to antibiotic content norms.) The public has no right to demand clean, safe water, ambient air or a low-noise environment. India produces/uses thousands of chemicals. But the Ministry of Environment and Forests lists less than 700 hazardous chemicals.

 

The second failure is enforcement of standards, a stunning example being vehicular pollution. Delhi has five million vehicles but fewer than 200 inspectors to check them for pollution.

 

The third failure lies in monitoring and verification of compliance of the conditions of clearances/licences. As Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh candidly admits: "In the last 10 years, we must have approved about 7,000 projects… (each with) conditions and safeguards… But unfortunately, we don't have a system of monitoring compliance with these standards."

 

So, one is dismayed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's September 6 statement urging that India must go easy on environmental regulations lest investors be put off. Singh said environmental concerns must not lead to "perpetuation of poverty" or a return to the "licence-permit raj". This derives from Singh's new thesis that "the only way we can raise our heads above poverty is for more people to be taken out of agriculture".

 

The proposition reneges on the task of fighting poverty in the prevailing context as an imperative in itself and a precondition for any government's legitimacy. It also assumes that environment is dispensable, but industrialisation is not. Good climate science tells us the opposite: ecological damage is irreversible and India must embrace low-emissions growth before it's too late.

 

There is no causal link between environmental protection and poverty. In fact, unregulated industrialisation severs vulnerable people from natural resources and pauperises them. Singh should know better than to use loaded pejoratives like licence-permit raj to describe environmental protection.

 

India is one of the world's least environmentally regulated countries, undergoing rapid environmental deterioration. India ranks low in the Columbia-Yale University Environmental Performance Index — 123 among 163 countries. So eager is the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) not to appear obstructionist that it clears 92 per cent of all applications.

 

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) process has been badly whittled down in favour of nonsensical self-certification. So-called consultants routinely cook up EIA reports. Yet, the MoEF accepts incomplete applications, without wildlife or hydrological clearance, often approving four to five applications a day! The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991, have been cynically sabotaged to transfer forest land and permit construction close to the high-tide line.

 

The Energy and Resources Institute estimated in 2007 that environmental damage in India amounts to seven to ten per cent of GDP. Even if half is true, this should jolt the government out of denial into corrective action. India needs more, not less, and stricter, environmental regulation if it's not to destroy its natural resource base.

 

Praful Bidwai is a columnist, and author of a recent book on climate change and India. The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

WE, THE FREELOADERS

NANDINI R IYER

 

Oh my god! We were going on a pair of tickets – each priced at Rs 50,000. For me it was the highlight of going for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games 2010. A pair of tickets — albeit complimentary — worth two months' salary. Phew! I spent Sunday morning calling all my relatives and friends about the development.

 

So there we were, the two of us. I'd checked the previous night with a friend in Delhi Police who had advised me to reach by 4.30 pm for a ceremony that was to start at 7 pm. To be on the safe side, we decided to arrive an hour earlier than that. Friendly volunteers guided us to a queue to gate number nine.

 

But where exactly did the queue, of people waiting for both gate number nine and six, end?

 

The man in my life was unperturbed. He was, after all, not a native Delhiite like me, and had never been to any such event. I was a little taken aback but perhaps that was because in the 1982 Asiad, I'd gone in through another gate, holding my mother's hand and escorted by a police officer to the VVIP enclosure.

 

I thought to myself, "Okay, this is just the security point for the first gate. After that, we'll separate with the minuscule elite group who hold tickets (please note: each worth Rs 50K)."

 

People who joined the queue included men wearing ties and formal suits and elaborately coiffured women. I'd smartly opted not to visit a beauty parlour on my way for 'bridal make-up'. I smirked because I hadn't worn three-inch golden sequined stilettos either.

 

After about 20 minutes had passed, a man near me — he obviously could not stand the sweaty odours emanating from all around him — grumbled: "They're treating us like this when we have such expensive tickets."

 

And back piped a voice: "Each one of us in this queue have the same tickets priced at Rs 50,000. Like you, we haven't paid for them either, they're complimentary." It was the Emperor's New Clothes all over again.

 

The faces in that queue were a dictionary definition of the phrase 'let down'. Barring a little boy who held a Rs 1,000-worth pass and wanted to see a ticket that said Rs 50,000 (even if it was stamped complimentary), the game was up.

 

The whole bunch of bureaucrats or their relatives around me realised that there were thousands of people holding the precious Rs 50K, 25K and 10K tickets all around them. Some had the grace to look ashamed when they realised there were in fact people in the queue who had actually paid for their Rs 1,000 tickets.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER YEAR?

 

No tyrant is more oppressive than he who was oppressed till yesterday. In making clear and direct threats to the bureaucracy in West Bengal — notably, the two Central services of the IAS and the IPS — Union Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee hasn't justified her promise of retribution for officers she and her party allege have acted as the CPM's henchmen on that ground, but it isn't hard to figure out the connecting logic. What no longer holds though is the image of the Trinamool activist as the perpetual victim. That IAS and IPS officers are leaving the state in droves, and many more are anxious to do the same, is because the Trinamool has never been so strong and looked as set to assume power. Now, that creates a problem unique to Bengal where the Left Front (or the CPM) had overshadowed everybody else for more than three decades.

 

Ever since last year's Lok Sabha polls, the CPM's hold has been slipping. Moreover, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee seems to have abdicated administrative responsibility. If that hasn't helped, Banerjee's threats to the depleting bureaucracy, to say nothing of her additionally irresponsible calls for withdrawing Central forces from the Maoist-affected areas, are fast taking Bengal to the brink of a prolonged crisis. The state — thanks to cadre violence, Maoists, a moribund government, and an opposition that smells blood — is in a governance vacuum. At this rate, any transition, provided there's one next year, could be chaotic and the next administration will have few senior and experienced bureaucrats to begin with.

 

Of course, at the root of it all lies the CPM's unparalleled success in replacing government with party and keeping loyalists alone in administration and institutions. Banerjee, in screaming vengeance, is also opting for the easiest way — merely copying the CPM model of governance. Perpetuating this system of spoils and purges should be anathema for any corner of a democratic nation, least of all for a state in political chaos.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

 

SHUFFLE KERFUFFLE

 

The BJP government in Karnataka faces the abyss, as over 20 MLAs, including some ministers, turned on it and withdrew support. The Yeddyurappa government is straining every nerve to cajole and lure MLAs back, and save its hairsbreadth majority in the house.

 

It's a tense moment, certainly, but they had it coming. Yeddyurappa's recent cabinet reshuffle was a fraught affair, with the chief minister using the occasion to reassert his authority. After the Bellary mining barons showed him who was boss last November by engineering a wave of dissension, he had been forced to toe their line and rearrange his cabinet. In the last reshuffle, he tried to undo that humiliation, bringing back their bete noire Shobha Karandlaje, for instance. But the problem runs deeper: the clash of ambition between the party's core group and the independents whom the BJP has wooed over now seems harder to contain. Karnataka carries great symbolic weight for the BJP — it is the first state in the South that the party has captured, after laborious effort. But as long as its magic potion remains the spoils of office rather than the persuasiveness of good governance, its hold will remain precarious. And this is equally true for the Congress and the JD(S), whose grip on their own party leaders is just as shaky. Even now, the extent of the BJP's trouble is unclear and in flux, as the MLAs who withdrew support suddenly turn around to profess full faith in the government.

 

The ease with which legislators can be persuaded to shift parties is the big, distorting factor in the state. Karnataka's politics boils with money. Its legislators are fickle, used to picking party allegiances on the basis of inducements of patronage that make some of the country's biggest political scandals look paltry in scale. The tentacles of powerful mining and real estate interests snake into every major party. Conflicts of interest have flooded the system with so much cash that it is crucial to restore balance.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PLAYING NAMES

 

It has long been apparent that a hint of racism has underwritten the attitude of some nations of the Commonwealth to the Games in Delhi. That it has broken out in its ugliest form on a New Zealand television show is, therefore, not so much of a surprise. TV anchor Paul Henry, host of TVNZ's Breakfast Show, let what was subliminal spill out onto the surface when he deliberately mispronounced Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's name to make it sound like an expletive. He left little doubt about his racist motive when he went on to add that the expletive was particularly well-suited to describe her because she was Indian. Henry has now been suspended by his channel for two weeks, but for singling out New Zealand governor-general, Sir Anand Satyanand, for not being a "New Zealander". In any event, New Zealand's high commissioner to this country did the courtesy of apologising for that bigoted remark.

 

However, condemnable as the slur is, should it have snowballed into a diplomatic incident? The external affairs ministry reacted by summoning the high commissioner, a move usually reserved for the most aggravating circumstances. Admittedly, Indian officials have had to field some irrational and provocative statements from leaders and sports officials of the Commonwealth countries, and they have generally done so with dignity. Indeed, they have tended to err on the side of dignified clarification, rather than tough talking. In the New Zealand television incident, however, the ministry may have over-reacted. Surely the case is not that governments should be responsible for what television anchors say. If so, this country's television anchors should give the MEA pause.

 

Beneath the surface, though, a real churning may be on. Now that the Commonwealth Games have begun and the subject has changed to the sports themselves, it is evident that the event has changed from its long-ago avatar as a competition for the subjects. Hosting of the Games has traditionally been the tightly held preserve of a select few — Canada, Australia and the components of the United Kingdom. Delhi is the second Asian host, after Kuala Lumpur in 1998. The Caribbean has been host only once — Jamaica in 1966. After all the jittery last-minute-ism this year, the sports infrastructure in use announces a clear upgrade. Indian athletes in the fray, with many on a new ascendant, are the best refutation of charges that sport is an elitist indulgence. They have taken ownership of the competition, and in myriad ways, modernised the CWG.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

CURRENT ACCOUNT CAUTION

ILA PATNAIK 

 

 India's current account deficit widened to 3.7 per cent of GDP in the April-June 2010 quarter. Imports are about one-and-a-half times of exports and they grew rapidly as the Indian economy witnessed healthy growth. Exports of goods and services also witnessed high growth, but not fast enough to prevent the deficit from rising.

 

Is the large current account deficit a matter of concern? Should the government or the Reserve Bank of India respond to the deficit? Should they change trade policy, impose capital controls or intervene in foreign exchange markets?

 

India has, especially after the 1991 crisis, lived with a fear of current account deficits. In addition, the experience of many low income countries with large current account deficits has been unpleasant. A sudden stop in capital inflows in the face of high deficits has led to a balance of payment crisis. When a country runs a current account deficit, as an accounting identity, it requires capital inflows in order to finance this deficit. If these capital inflows stop, the country can be thrown into a crisis.

 

Could the present level of India's current account deficit lead to such a scenario?

 

The first question is whether this is a long-term trend. Is India witnessing long periods of high and rising current account deficits building up to a position of high net indebtedness? An examination of the last five years shows that apart from the period immediately following a crash in world trade after the Lehman crisis in September 2008, there is no such trend. The long-run average has been roughly two per cent.

 

Second, the deficit has not been financed as much by debt as by inflows of capital attracted by India's high growth path. The striking fact here is that these flows are continuing even after one of the worst financial crises of the century. The fear of a sudden stop of capital flows is lower than it would have been, had global finance been in an overheated state. India's relatively stronger growth is likely to continue to attract capital inflows to finance the current account deficit. Further, India's engagement with foreign investment, including portfolio and private equity flows, has deepened over the years and is likely to get stronger and deeper in coming years.

 

Third, as the world economy recovers, exports are likely to grow even faster. The collapse in exports witnessed during the crisis is the main reason for the present current account deficit. When the world economy is back on track, even though the outlook looks bleak at present, the deficit is likely to go back to its average level.

 

One may therefore argue that the current level of deficit is a short-term phenomenon and does not pose the threat of a crisis. Even so, were action necessary, what could be done? There are three kinds of steps that could be taken.

 

First, there could be direct action on the current account such as restricting imports or encouraging exports

either through quantitative restrictions or a change in duties. This is an obviously bad idea. It would be distortionary, it would create lobbies and be difficult to get rid of.

 

The second and third set of actions would work through prices — that is, the rupee. Without capital inflows, a high current account deficit would have resulted in rupee depreciation, making exports cheaper and hopefully expanding them. The rupee is not depreciating today despite the crisis, as there is a high demand for rupee assets. Blocking capital inflows could put downward pressure on the rupee and the price effect would make imports more expensive and exports cheaper and thus reduce the deficit. This strategy has risks. We may ban one or the other kind of capital inflow, but money usually finds its way around capital controls. Also, changing capital controls makes the economy unattractive to foreign capital in the long run. Flip-flops in policy make foreign capital jittery. Apart from a few areas of debt and participatory notes, India's broad approach to capital controls has not involved major reversals in policy. This creates confidence among investors and facilitates foreign capital to become a reliable source of funding for domestic investment.

 

The third option could be for the RBI to intervene directly in the foreign exchange market to push depreciation. This is a bad idea as it would pump up money supply in an already inflationary economy. Sterilisation of forex intervention is difficult under the present levels of government borrowing. The RBI has broadly stayed away from forex markets for a year and saved itself a lot of trouble on the monetary policy front. It will be wise to stay that way.

 

The biggest problem with the set of actions that work through the rupee is that we are assuming, first, that the rupee will move. Second, we are assuming that imports and exports will respond significantly to the change in the exchange rate. If both happen, the current account deficit will come down. Evidence, however, suggests that the price elasticity of Indian exports is very low. The volume of Indian exports is hugely dependent on the volume of world trade and world GDP. In recent years, Indian exports grew fast when the rupee was appreciating and slowed down when it depreciated. The overwhelming determinant of export growth is going to be the pace of recovery in the US and Europe.

 

Not only is manipulating the rupee unlikely to be effective in impacting the current account deficit, it will also be inflationary. In the present scenario of high inflation, a weaker rupee will push up the price of imports. While this may or may not reduce the volume of imports, depending on the price elasticity of imports, it will lead to pushing up the price of tradables further. Given the present level of high inflation, this is not desirable.

 

In summary, first, the high level of current account deficit is likely to be a short-term phenomenon. As the world economy recovers and exports pick up, the deficit is likely to go back to sustainable levels. India may see one or two more quarters of high current account deficit, but we should not panic. Second, if we do want to act, we need to remember that all policy measures have costs. We need to carefully weigh these costs before taking any action. At present, it does not appear that any of these costs are worth incurring.

 

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

KARNATAKA'S PLEASE-ALL PARTY

SANDEEP SHASTRI 

 

 Ever since the BJP came to power in Karnataka, it has staggered from one crisis to another. The acid-test that the government now faces is a by-product of the compromises the BJP has had to make, assurances that the leadership gave to important people at past moments of critical challenge, and, above all, the internal contradictions in the party that remained unresolved and have now reached a crescendo. Those who have closely observed the state's unfolding political drama might not be surprised by this turn of events. In its eagerness to acquire power and remain in power, the BJP has had to make innumerable compromises for which it is now being made to pay a heavy price.

 

This crisis has been set off by a group of party MLAs rebelling against the chief minister and the party, and submitting a letter to the governor withdrawing support to the government. The underlying reason is the discontent over the recent reshuffle of the council of ministers. The CM should have known that any move to dislodge a few and accommodate a few more would inevitably invite dissatisfaction. It's for this reason that the state BJP president held out the promise, soon after the reshuffle, of yet another exercise of addition and deletion in the not-too-distant future. The hope was that dangling the ministerial carrot would keep dissidence within manageable limits. The party realises that a slew of inducements would be needed to a range of potential dissidents to stave off (at least for the moment) this political impasse.

 

The 2008 assembly elections saw the BJP inch close to power. It fell short of a majority and came to power with the support of independent legislators. In return for their support, the independents were accommodated in the council of ministers. In the run-up to the 2008 elections, the BJP strategically welcomed into its fold several leaders who did not necessarily subscribe to the party's core ideology. Disgruntled leaders from the Congress and the JD(S), influential leaders from among the politically significant caste groups, those representing the mining lobby and real-estate interests were all accommodated much to the chagrin of the party faithful. The contradictions between the original loyalists of the party and the new recruits were clearly apparent even during the run-up to power. Soon after the BJP government was installed, the leadership launched "Operation Kamala". The strategy was to induce Congress and JD(S) MLAs to resign and contest the by-elections as BJP candidates. The party hoped that it could "manufacture" a majority and reduce its dependence on the independents. Operation Kamala was partly successful but had innumerable costs. Those who joined the party had to be suitably rewarded with ministerial positions, causing much heartburn and distress among those who had been long loyal, and saw their own ambitions vanishing into thin air.

 

With the BJP government having to appease so many diverse interests, it was only a matter of time before controversies sprang up and snowballed into crises. Corruption charges against those in power were exposed with regular frequency. Ministers were forced out of office in view of the embarrassment they caused to the party. Rebel groups emerged within the party and sought to use these acts of omission and commission to strengthen their claims to office. The leadership was unable to assert itself and this emboldened the rebel groups and those aspiring for ministerial berths to publicly stake their claims.

 

What works in the BJP government's favour is the inability of the opposition parties to drive home the advantage. Even in this current crisis, a major challenge that both the Congress and JD(S) fear is "Operation Kamala Phase-II", and both parties are trying hard to hold on to their flock. The Congress remains a hopelessly divided house and has not been able to get its act together. The JD(S) remains a force in limited pockets and the influence of its "first" family has resulted in the side-lining and exit of many potential leaders.

 

Will the government be able to prove its majority on October 11? Political machinations at all levels and within all parties are clearly visible. The BJP is trying to ensure a return of the prodigals by offering them a basket of promises. This is bound to lead to new pockets of rebellion. The JD(S) is keen to fish in these troubled waters and stitch together a coalition with the BJP rebels and the outside support of the Congress. The Congress is waiting for a cue from the high command and is limiting its public position to demanding a dismissal of the BJP government. The next few days are indeed decisive, and could dramatically change the course of the state's politics.

 

The writer is a Bangalore-based political scientist and pro-vice chancellor of Jain University express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A CODE FOR CHAOS

 

A new malware programme, Stuxnet, might have targeted the Iranian nuclear programme. Clues in the coding suggest to some that Israel was the creator. It has appeared in many countries, including China, Indonesia and India. It appears designed to attack a certain type of industrial control computer, used to manage pipelines, power grids and nuclear plants. John Markoff explains the context.

 

How widespread is cyberwarfare?

 

A 2007 FBI report asserted that 108 countries had at least some offensive cyberwarfare capabilities. And there has been widespread speculation that a secret cyberwar "arms race" is under way as a number of countries build sophisticated software and hardware attack capabilities. Most recent wars and military engagements, like Russia's quarrel with Estonia in 2007 or with Georgia in 2008, have been accompanied by a "cyberwar" engagement, in which government and financial websites have been targeted.

 

What was the earliest case of cyberwarfare?

 

In his book At the Abyss, Thomas C. Reed, a former secretary of the US air force, described how industrial control software was covertly added by the US to equipment being shipped to the Soviet Union from Canada. When the equipment was installed in a trans-Siberian gas pipeline in June 1982, it suddenly went haywire, touching off a huge explosion and fire.

 

But security experts have been concerned about potential cyberattacks since the 1970s, during the early days of the Arpanet, the military predecessor to the Internet. There was great concern about a network connection — a now old-fashioned 9600-baud modem — that had been installed by scientific researchers linking Moscow and the United States, via a mathematics research centre in Vienna. When national security officials discovered the link, financing to the centre was cancelled.

 

How is Stuxnet different?

 

Stuxnet is the first widely-analysed malware programme that is intended to jump from Windows-based computers to a specialised system used for controlling industrial equipment, like electric power grids, manufacturing plants, gas pipelines, dams and power plants. Previously, most high-profile cyberattacks have focused on websites and corporate or military networks.

 

That's true when it comes to proven cyberattacks. There has also been speculation about possible sabotage. For example, The Los Angeles Times reported in 2001 that intrusions into the network that controlled the electrical grid were traced to Guangdong, China. Later electric grid attacks have often included allegations that the break-ins were orchestrated by the Chinese.

 

In the case of Stuxnet, what are arguments for and against Israel's involvement?

 

Ralph Langner, a German security researcher, pointed out that it appeared that Stuxnet had been tailored to attack a nuclear facility. Several hints suggest Israeli authorship, including a possible allusion to the Book of Esther, which describes Jewish retaliation against Persians, and a number, 19790509, that appears to refer to the date of the execution of an Iranian Jew by a firing squad in Tehran.

 

Many analysts have said it is unlikely that an Israeli or American operation would leave such blatant clues. Someone could want to plant evidence pointing incorrectly to Israeli involvement. Most specialists say the authorship may never be discovered.

 

What kind of attack do computer security experts fear most?

 

There has been widespread fear about attacks that jam or damage large financial networks, the electric power grid, power plants, transportation systems and such modern infrastructure.

 

In many cases, the first step in securing these systems has been to ensure that they are entirely separated from the Internet. However, in many cases they use internal networks based on the Internet protocol, as well as common computing equipment, like Microsoft and Intel-based computers. That means they remain potentially vulnerable to a "sneakernet" attack, in which a malicious programme is physically carried in.

 

Can this kind of attack be done by a lone hacker?

 

In the case of Stuxnet, computer security specialists generally agree that it was not the work of one person but rather a team of sophisticated programmers. Many who have examined the malicious code have stated that it would have required an organisation with substantial financial resources to develop, test and then release such a programme. Certainly nations with cyberwar capabilities are potential suspects, but they are not the only possible creators. China, Israel and the Palestinians are all known to have irregular cyberarmies of motivated hackers with significant skills.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE AYODHYA VERDICT

 

In a signed piece on the Allahabad high court's judgment regarding the Ayodhya dispute, entitled, 'Kya zaroori hai Supreme Court jaana — zara ghaor karein...' ('Is it necessary to go to the Supreme Court, give it some thought!'), on October 2, the editor of Rashtriya Sahara, Aziz Burney, writes: "Our various religious leaders have also expressed their opinion in favour of going to the Supreme Court. Some political leaders involved in Muslim politics too have expressed dissatisfaction with this verdict, and said that it has been given on the basis of faith and not on facts. With great respect and humility I want to request that, for God's sake, now there should be an end to politics on this issue, and we should reconsider any intention to go to the Supreme Court, and give some more thought to it — and also consider seriously if the judgment was different, and according to what we wanted, what would have been the situation in the country, what could have been the reaction of the majority of the people?"

 

But Jamaat-e-Islami's biweekly Daawat is very critical: "The judgment is extraordinary, in fact, historic, as it has given 'aastha' a legal status. The verdict given by the learned judges, giving precedence to traditions over facts, has added a new basis to the world of law, and now judgments would be given on the basis of aastha, even if contrary to facts."

 

The paper adds: "This verdict has given legality to the Janmabhoomi movement, as the court has accepted not only that Ayodhya is the Ram Janmabhoomi, but the site where the Babri Masjid was constructed 475 years ago is the actual janmasthan of Ramchandraji... This verdict has, in fact, opened the way for questions being raised about the surrender of other such mosques on the basis of aastha."

 

Delhi-based daily Hamara Samaj, in its lead story on October 3, says that Justice S.U. Khan, one of the three judges, has in his judgment said that the opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid in 1986 by the district and sessions judge of Faizabad, "without following the due procedure" was responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

 

In an editorial entitled, 'Na koi jeeta, na koi haara' ('Nobody won, nobody lost'), the daily Sahafat writes on October 2: "So far, both contestants in the Ayodhya dispute had been of the view that the Babri Masjid was built by Babar's commander Mir Baqi. Muslims have been paying tax on the mosque's land for 60 years. In spite of this, the failure of the Sunni Waqf Board to prove this in court is astonishing."

 

On the adverse reaction of some eminent jurists and journalists to the judgment, the leading Mumbai daily Inquilab, writes in its October 5 editorial: "the reason for such an intense adverse reaction to the Allahabad high court's judgment is that it does not resolve a problem going on now for 60 years. It may quite possibly give birth to many new problems... If this judgment is not challenged in the Supreme Court, tomorrow any claim on the basis of faith will have to be accepted, howsoever unbaked, meaningless and baseless it might be... The meaning of accepting the disputed site as Ram Janmabhoomi is that whatever was done to 'achieve' it was legitimate, and whatever will be done in the future too will be legitimate. Under this ruling the demolition will also not be illegal."

 

Hyderabad's leading daily, Siasat, castigates the legal team of the Sunni Waqf Board in an editorial on October 1. It adds: "It has to be kept in mind that whereas it is a question of faith for the Hindus, for Muslims too it is of religious importance."

 

The Kashmir Package

The eight-point package on Kashmir announced by the Centre has been generally welcomed. Rashtriya Sahara, in an editorial on September 27, writes: "The formula can be considered a positive initiative. Although the hardline group in the Hurriyat Conference has rejected it, yet it can be a cause for satisfaction for the Central government that the Mirwaiz Omar Farooq-led moderate group, and Kashmiri organisations like JKLF, have not adopted a rigid stand and instead given an indication of talks and an exchange of views among themselves, so that some clear reaction to the formula could be expressed. Also, it has been described as a good beginning by almost all political parties of Kashmir, including the PDP... The Centre has tried to give a message to the people of the state that it is serious about removing the lack of confidence with regard to security forces."

Patna and Ranchi-based daily, Qaumi Tanzeem, in an editorial on September 28, writes: "Instead of the separatist leaders deriving some benefits from the recent visit of the parliamentary delegation, by bringing before it some solid suggestions for economic development, social stability and educational advancement in the Valley through a positive attitude, all of them adopted a totally negative posture. And now that the Centre has announced an eight-point formula for peace and stability, they have rejected it outright. This act of theirs can, in no way, be termed as constructive." The paper has also criticised the BJP's stand on the package.

 

Lucknow-based daily Qaumi Khabrein, in its editorial (September 27), describes the package as a "second healing touch, after the balm of sympathy on the wounded hearts of Kashmiris" that was the parliamentary delegation. It says: "The most important decision is the proposed panel for continuing dialogue, to be headed by a political leader... It is hoped that the government will not keep the proposed panel confined to representatives of the Congress or the UPA, but will include representatives of other political parties, and also those representing other sections of the society, particularly journalism, literature, sports, cinema, etc."

 

According to the Delhi-based daily, Jadeed Khabar (September 27), "What is needed is to definitely convince the Kashmiris that their interests can be served only by their continued solidarity with India, and any type of separatist movement can only increase their problems; it can not decrease them."

 

Compiled by Seema Chishti

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

HOW CLEAN IS LLOSA'S NOBEL?

SUDEEP PAUL 

 

We are thankful that the Swedes have spared us the labour of digging up for ourselves, with the gradually exploding information and intensifying insights from the eyes and the ears of the Internet, another obscurity from the morass that goes by the name of world literature. Pardon the prejudice, but I'm glad this isn't going to be about a South Korean or Chinese dissident that Beijing might have invested heavily against. On second thoughts, I might have been spared the pain. Having heavily invested myself for the most part of the decade, emotionally (the intellectual bit long having lost sight of itself), in the reading public's longstanding hopes for the Big One for Philip Mortified Roth, Mario Vargas Llosa must be as good as it gets.

 

That still leaves out Carlos Fuentes, but Latin American literature returns to the Nobel high table after exactly 20 years. The last Latin soul to get the literature prize was Mexican poet Octavio Paz, of literary and diplomatic associations with India, in 1990. If Horace Engdahl found contemporary American literature provincial and parochial, did the Academy think up some other monstrous reason for ignoring Latin America for this long? Or has Peter Englund, Engdahl's successor as the permanent secretary, just announced an unblinkered and more generous Academy?

 

Well, nobody's going to complain about Llosa. Except that he should have got the Nobel at least after The Feast of the Goat (2000, original publication). Which brings us to the choice of Harold Pinter in 2005 — undoubtedly Pinter was Nobel-worthy, but about three decades earlier. And a choice the Academy will hopefully be made to account for in the hell where it'll go — Elfriede Jelinek, 2004. Add to that Doris Lessing's (2007) Pinter-lite anti-Americanism, and the overt politicisation of the literature Nobel, the Academy's unabashedly extra-aesthetic preferences, are marched before us every October as a hackneyed parody of a parody. Even Herta Müller, still an unknown in most climes, is suspect — if Messrs Engdahl (2009 was his last Nobel supervision) needed someone to

 

remember 1989 and the Iron Curtain by, what about Milan Kundera or, dare one say, Ivan Klíma?

 

But perhaps that was just as well. Roth is in august company of the Nobel ignored — Joyce, Proust, Kafka (Borges would never have got it). And Messrs Kundera-Klíma have been saved from a instant recall they would have hated themselves for. That's why, reflexively, the timing at least is questioned, if not the recipient: Pamuk (2006) in Turkish trouble, Naipaul (2001) a month post-9/11. Thus we return to the man of this Nobel moment: Mario Vargas Llosa, arch-novelist, essayist, critic, journalist, failed politician. In candid terms, Herr Englund, how clean have you made Llosa's glory?

 

Llosa is the antidote to Gabriel García Márquez, and the pivotal alternative of the Latin American Boom. That's as much about style and technique, and the duel between Magic Realism and realism, as about politics. The waters here run deep. In 2007, a 1976 photograph of a black-eyed Márquez surfaced, giving the lie to those who denied the details and intensity of the parting of ways. As with Boom literature, that black eye had multiple symbolic significances.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa, with one of the most penetrating and perceptive of theses on his one-time friend and mentor (García Márquez: Story of a Deicide, 1971), began on the left and swung to the right, losing the presidential election to Alberto Fujimori in 1990, the last year a Latin American writer won the Nobel. He calls his politics "liberal", and that's been a long march from his communist sympathies. It's also the kind of journey Márquez would never make, involving at its core a denunciation of the Revolutionary Cuba that the Boom once so admired. For Llosa, Castro's imprisonment of poet Heberto Padilla was an assault on his more fundamental belief in individual freedom of conscience. The other matter at the heart of Llosa's transformation was the Uchuraccay investigation into the massacre of eight journalists in 1983, three years after the start of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) uprising — a horror that also produced a novel, Death in the Andes (1993).

 

From the early Modernist seriousness of The Green House (1966) through the distinctly Post-Modernist playful lightness of the middle works such as Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977), to Llosa's later novels (and The War of the End of the World, 1981, will go down as his most ambitious, even if its greatness is subject to opinion), is a trajectory Latin America cannot match in richness and surprises. Llosa is the archetype of the Boom genius successfully transiting to the Post Boom hall of fame. As for the Academy, one last question: after years of the most nauseating political correctness, no matter how right, why have you picked a political conservative? Does Sweden's, the utopia of social democracy, lurch rightwards have anything, any thing, to do with it?

 

Half-a-century hence, with the literature Nobel a mere curiosity, they'll seek these Octobers to see how the

 

literature prize spoke, only, of the Academy itself.

 

sudeep.paul@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A NEW LEAGUE OF DEMOCRACIES

 

The Cold War defined the international strategic environment from 1945 to 1990. Jawaharlal Nehru formulated non-alignment as India's grand strategy, which he viewed as the most appropriate one to enable India to consolidate and integrate itself as a pluralistic, secular and democratic union of states. That strategy enabled India to deal successfully in its initial years with the communist insurgency launched after the Calcutta congress of Asian communist parties in 1947, following the Zdhanov thesis. While communist insurgencies were started in Indonesia, Malaya, the Philippines, the Indo-Chinese states and Burma, India was the only instance where the communists were enabled to join mainstream democratic politics and wield power at the state level.

 

That grand strategy enabled India to benefit from large-scale PL-480 assistance from the US, and from US technical support for India's Green Revolution. India also set up steel plants, IITs and industrial projects like BHEL with assistance from other Western democracies. The Indian armed forces' initial development and their apolitical tradition were also the result of then-close cooperation with the UK. Non-alignment also enabled India to obtain Soviet support, not only for major projects like Bhilai and Durgapur but also to develop a mutuality of security interests with the USSR: China, under Mao, had turned aggressive against both India and the Soviet Union.

 

Those who criticise Nehru on the grounds that his non-alignment prevented faster economic development in India should look at Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and the Philippines, who joined Western military blocs in the '50s. They did not benefit from it in the '50s and '60s; Western investment started only in the '70s, after the rehabilitation of Western Europe and Japan was over. By the '70s, the US was an ally of China in the Cold War. Nehru's non-alignment strategy not only served India well during the Cold War, it also attracted an overwhelming number of newly decolonised nations, which resulted in the non-aligned movement. While the relevance of non-alignment in the post-Cold War world can be questioned, there is no doubt that non-alignment as grand strategy served India well, and served the international community too.

 

Nehru emphasised that while the pursuit of the national interest is the primary driver of a country's foreign policy, it should be "enlightened national interest." It should not hurt other nations' national interest unduly. What kind of grand strategy does India need today, which will serve its own interests as well as international interests?

 

The world of the 21st century is radically different from what that of the 20th century. This is a globalised world, with nuclear weapons in the hands of nine nations. As former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote, "For the first time since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the prospect of violent conflict between great powers is becoming ever more unthinkable. Major states are increasingly competing in peace, not preparing for war." The recent financial crisis and the international efforts to counter terrorism illustrate how interdependent today's world is. Unlike in the Cold War period, when democracy was confined to a few states, today all major powers except China and some of the emerging economies are pluralistic, secular and democratic. The US, EU, Russia, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Australia are part of this formidable list, over half of the global population.

 

If the world is to remove poverty, sustain its development and protect its global commons, it must adhere to the values of pluralism, secularism and democracy. They are threatened by jingoistic, authoritarian systems and religious extremism. Terrorism has become a derivative of nuclear deterrence, practiced by states of doubtful legitimacy, and democracies have been extensively targeted. Religious, ethnic and economic grievances are sought to be exploited to subvert democratic, pluralistic and secular nations through arming terrorist groups.

These negative global trends have to be effectively dealt with by pluralistic, secular and democratic nations coming together, just as non-aligned nations came together to oppose the Cold War and the arms race. In this age of IT and globalisation, those nations which support one-party authoritarian systems or propagate religious extremism are not totally immune from the pressures of global values. Greater intelligence-sharing on terrorist and subversive activities, more unified efforts to intercept financial flows in support of such activities, and greater military and security cooperation among the community of democratic, pluralistic and secular states — especially in defence of the global commons — should help to defend their values against such threats.

 

India took the initiative on non-alignment. Subsequently it appealed to Nasser and Tito, and they promoted the non-aligned movement. There is a community of democracies based in Warsaw meant for the promotion of democracy. India and the US are members. There are another 15 member countries: Chile, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines, Mongolia, Morocco, El Salvador, Cape Verde, and Italy. It is obvious that this group is not meant to defend the values of pluralism, secularism and democracy. The grand strategy called for today has to be more robust and proactive than the non-aligned movement or community of democracies. New institutions like the G-20 are developing. There are groups like IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa), Asean, the East Asia Summit, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, NATO, the Organisation of American States, the Organisation of African Unity and the Commonwealth. The creation of an organisation to defend pluralism, secularism and democracy itself will increase the pressures on deviant states to mend their behaviour.

 

There will no doubt be opposition to the idea. Crypto-communists and closet Maoists will denounce it as an imperialist conspiracy. Wahabis and jihadis will call it anti-Islamic since, according to them, democracy is anti-Islamic. When the leaders of the first two pluralistic, secular and democratic countries of the world meet, they are expected to explore the common grand strategy required to defend pluralism, secularism and democracy and a world order that will progress these ideas forward.

 

These days strategic partnership is a much-used term. There can be strategic partnership in different areas. India and the US face the common strategic challenges of religious extremism and single-party governance ideology. There is general agreement that these challenges cannot be met by the actions of a single nation, however powerful it may be. Therefore, the oldest and largest democracies have an obligation to take the lead in shaping the new world order of the 21st century.

 

The writer is a senior defence analyst

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TRADING CHARGES

 

It is one of the biggest ironies of the recent times that even as India and the US come closer together, forging strategic ties in crucial areas like nuclear energy, trade relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply during the period. So much so that Indian businesses and the government has planned to take up the major issues that limits Indian exports when the US President visits the country early next month. Particularly disconcerting are the numbers on India's exports to the US, which have risen by only around $2 billion over the last five years, even as India's total exports have risen by more than $75 billion during the period. Consequently, the share of Indian exports to the US in India's total exports declined by almost 6 percentage points to 10.9%. In contrast, India's imports from the US rose by $7.5 billion during the period, with the US's share in total Indian imports shrinking by less than a percentage point to 5.9%. And overall trade numbers show that the share of India's trade with the US as a proportion of India's total trade shrunk by 2.8 percentage points to just 7.8% between 2005-06 and 2009-10.

 

The only consolation is that India continues to have a trade surplus with the US, though the amount has sharply fallen by almost two-thirds, from $7.9 billion to just $2.5 billion over the last five years. Particularly galling for India has been the stagnant or declining fortunes of labour-intensive products like textile and gems & jewellery. Numbers for the five years show that important textile products like knitted apparel and accessories, non-knitted apparel and accessories, worn clothing and gems & jewellery has either stagnated or declined. India's grievance is that exports have been hit by non-tariff barriers like sanitary and phytosanitary measures, multiple regulations and the higher duty on products where India has a comparative advantage. However, to be fair, the US exporters also have a long list of grievances on Indian trade polices. Particularly irksome to the US exporters are that large gaps between the bound rates and applied rates of agriculture products, which allow the government to sharply raise tariffs and curb imports. Another major grievance is the lack of transparency in India's tariff schedule. It is not easily accessible at any one location, which imposes significant burdens on exporters. So, boosting the trade relations between the two countries requires a greater effort than some just some tinkering at the edges.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 THE STATE OF CWG

 

The opening ceremony of CWG neutralised many initial negative reports. However, the issue of multiplicity across government ministries and departments remains. This is a general malaise and had the government not possessed so many hydra heads, all public delivery would have been more efficient. But this is compounded in a place like Delhi and post-CWG, needs sorting out, especially because the CWG success may persuade the government to bid for Asian Games 2019 (postponed from 2018) and some future version of Olympics (possibly 2020). Delhi is neither fish nor fowl. Since 1993, Delhi may have become a State in the sense of possessing a Legislative Assembly, but it lacks a State's powers. The union territory legacy remains and national capital territory is jointly administered by the Delhi government and Union government, with the LG as representative of the latter. While the police not being under the purview of the Delhi government is the most visible instance of its lack of powers, there is more. For instance, there are effectively three municipal corporations—MCD, NDMC and Delhi Cantonment Board. Contrary to popular impression, MCD is controlled by the LG and not the chief minister, though a decision has been taken to incrementally move MCD to the latter. While the country may talk about the 74th constitutional amendment and empowerment of urban local bodies, NDMC is not even elected and is directly controlled by the Centre.

 

In blame games associated with the CWG, Sheila Dikshit and Suresh Kalmadi were visible faces to attack, though responsibilities lay elsewhere. In a similar fashion, citizen interface with the government is identified with the CM, failing to recognise the CM and Delhi State have inadequate powers. Barring road transport (metro and airport have also been separately carved out), power distribution and to a lesser extent, DJB (where MCD also has a role to play), few utilities are with the State government. There is DDA too, answerable to the urban development ministry and the central PWD. It shouldn't be surprising that urban planning is in a state of collapse. Delhi wasn't a UT initially and a complete statehood demand goes back to the 1950s. More recently, a statehood Bill has been doing the rounds and has got embroiled in political bickering between the Congress and BJP, and the difficult issue of separating standard law and order (with a State police) from security assigned to VIPs. Now that the MCD is moving, how about adding NDMC, DDA and some segments of the police?

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

MUTUAL MISTAKE

SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN

 

Dear Mr Bhave,

 

I read yesterday that you want your successor to join Sebi a month before you step down as chairman so that the transition can be a smooth one. That is a nice thing to have done. Indeed, your three years at Sebi have proved that there is a regulator that is willing to stand up for what it believes is right. Sebi has denied a licence to an entity, which wanted to start an equities exchange, on the grounds that the ownership pattern of MCX-SX didn't meet your standards. And you put forth your reasons without mincing your words, even though many people have argued your decision was wrong, that the 5% rule was a bad one, that MIMPS did not apply to demutualised and corporatised exchanges like MCX-SX. Sebi's order said: "...excluding the warrants held by a shareholder in computing the limits of ownership in an exchange would violate the spirit of the MIMPS regulations and would not be in consonance with it....I am of the considered view that converting 'equity shares' into 'right to equity shares' is an attempt to work around the requirements and attempting to merely meet the letter of regulation 89 (1) of MIMPS regulations."

 

I'm sure Sebi must have been under tremendous pressure, as it was when the promoters of Ranbaxy wanted a change in the pricing rules for routing a deal through the exchanges, when it was selling its 34.8% stake to Daiichi Sankyo, so that it could save on capital gains tax. You did not budge then either, saying exceptions could not be made. It's reassuring to learn that there are still people who do an honest day's work.

 

You also did a great job of pointing out that Ulips are nothing but mutual fund schemes bundled together with an insurance cover. Whether, therefore, Sebi should be supervising Ulips can be debated but your action triggered a fall in the very high commissions that life insurance companies have been charging customers and embarrassed Irda into changing the way business is done. While the way in which the issue was raised could have been different—perhaps Irda could have been coaxed into rewriting the rules—there is absolutely no doubt that unless your organisation had drawn attention to these sometimes usurious commissions, customers might not have got a fair deal for years to come. There will be pain in the industry, yes, but then Irda needs to sort that out, you have done your bit. I am curious, and would love to hear your comments on why the HLCC mechanism completely failed to sort this one out since you did take the proposal to it before you went public.

 

You have also cracked down on foreign institutions insisting that the investor base is broad-based and it's good to know that Sebi is tracking the money movements of big industrial houses and is not afraid to summon even the chairman as it did with the ADAG Group. Of course, one of the best things Sebi has done, in the last three years, is to increase the penalty, for promoters who let their warrants lapse, to 25%. For sure, no promoter is going to be deterred by this penalty, and will find a way to recover the amount from the company at the cost of the shareholder. But it's an improvement over the earlier 10%. Sebi has also made life easier for companies looking to raise money from the markets by shortening the time to market; also the time between the closure and listing of an issue is now far shorter. From an investor's point of view, Sebi plans to increase the investment cap for subscription to an IPO to Rs 2 lakh for larger issues and has also ensured access to ASBA so that he saves money; Sebi has also created a level playing field by asking institutions to put in 100% of the application money upfront. And small investors can now take a cue from the large buyers since they are allowed to put in their applications to an IPO, a day later.

 

Where things seem to have gone horribly wrong is in the mutual funds industry. September saw a record Rs 7,000 crore worth of equity schemes being redeemed. That's not really surprising because with the Sensex nudging 21,000, investors want to cash out and many of them have waited for nearly two years to make money. But it's sad that while the rest of the world is enjoying the stupendous bull market rally in India, as is clear from the nearly $21 billion that's come in by way of portfolio flows, India's investors have sat it out. Ever since entry loads were banned last August, money has only moved out of mutual fund schemes. We respect your intentions to help small investors but what's happened is that not even a handful of investors has participated in this rally; they would not have minded paying a 2% commission for an 80% or even a 50% return. We have to remember that mutual funds are a push product and therefore, it's not such a bad thing that investors pay some commission. It's true there are enough and more malpractices in the industry but perhaps you could have reduced the loads in a phased manner and the message would have gone home, both, to the agents and the funds that they cannot continue to mis-sell products or continuously churn portfolios. But in doing away with loads entirely, an entire universe of investors who today, would have started believing in the equity markets, has lost out. After all, it is also Sebi's job to encourage people to channel their savings into the market and especially through mutual funds. What a missed opportunity this has been! You could make history, Mr Bhave, by reversing your decision. If commissions can be charged for the sale of even a mobile phone, why can't they be charged for selling mutual funds?

 

Sincerely,

 

shobhana.subramanian@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EVEN THE HARYANA LAND MODEL IS FLAWED

KRISHNAMURTHY V SUBRAMANIAN

 

The central government is proposing to adopt the famous Haryana model for compensating displaced people whose land is acquired for big industrial projects. Along the lines of the Haryana model, the central government plans to provide an annuity of Rs 15,000 for 33 years for land acquired for government projects and an annuity of Rs 30,000 for 33 years for land acquired for private projects. Let us try to analyse the optimal method of payment to landowning farmers by applying the principles of corporate finance. The key messages from such an analysis are easily summarised: First, land acquisition transactions between private parties and the farmers involve situations where one party has more information than the other, i.e., situations involving 'asymmetric information'. To mitigate these information asymmetry problems, the optimal method of payment to the farmers should mix features of debt and equity. The current Haryana model proposes fixed annuity payments that resemble features of debt; in settings involving asymmetric information, such payments are usually suboptimal.

 

What is the fair price to pay when the government/a private party acquires land from a farmer? To answer this question, recognise that market transactions enhance the welfare of the seller and the buyer only if market imperfections do not exist. However, an important market imperfection indeed exists in land acquisition transactions: the buyer of the land has more information about the potential value derived from its use compared to the seller of the land. To understand this in more detail, consider an automobile manufacturer that wants to build an automobile factory by acquiring land from farmers. The automobile manufacturer is much more informed about how the price of land will escalate in future once the agricultural land is converted into an industrial district and the automobile factory is set up on that land. In contrast, the farmer who parts with this land is not as well-informed about the potential for increase in the price of his land. In economic jargon, this situation is labelled to be one where there is 'asymmetric information' between the buyer and the seller.

 

In corporate finance, we value an asset as the sum of two components: (i) the value of the asset as it is in its current condition, i.e., the book value of the assets; and (ii) the present value of the growth opportunities that can be created using this asset, i.e., the difference between the market value of the asset and its book value. A cursory glance at the market and book values of firms traded on the BSE or the NSE would inform us that for most firms, the market value is considerably higher than the book value. Since firms are after all collections of tangible and intangible assets that they own or control, this also implies that for most assets the market value dominates the book value.

 

In the land acquisition context, the value of the asset in its current condition equals the current market price of the land while the present value of growth opportunities equals the present value of the future increases in the price of the land due to: (i) setting up of factories; (ii) conversion of the land from an agricultural tract to an urban/semiurban area; and (iii) economic development in the area and adjoining regions. Note that in a typical real estate transaction, where you buy a house, the present value of growth opportunities is minimal. Therefore, paying the real estate developers the current market price amounts to a fair transaction. However, in our land acquisition context, the present value of growth opportunities from industrial activities is enormous. Therefore, when the government/private party pays only the current price of the land to the farmer, they deprive the farmer the value of growth opportunities created using his piece of land; this value is owed to the landowner. It is scarcely a surprise then that the farmers feel that the government does not pay them a fair price for the land.

 

In the corporate finance context, when a firm approaches the capital markets for financing, the transaction is saddled with asymmetric information about the present value of future growth opportunities. Specifically, the owners and managers of a company are more informed about its growth opportunities compared to its investors. When the degree of such asymmetric information is large, hybrid securities, i.e., securities that combine features of debt and equity, enable the firm to raise financing and thereby mitigate problems associated with asymmetric information. This is because hybrid securities offer the upside associated with equity while at the same time assuring the steady cash flows associated with debt. By enabling the investors to share the upside and thereby mitigate the uncertainty associated with future growth opportunities, a hybrid security enables the firm to circumvent problems stemming from asymmetric information. At the same time, the steady cash flows similar to debt limit the downside risk associated with uncertainty about future growth opportunities.

 

(To be concluded)

The author teaches finance at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

That's my spotlight

Being a good sport, it appears, is foreign to some sportsmen. Beijing Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra came second to Gagan Narang in the 10 metre air rifle event. You'd think the fact that India won the gold would have been enough to keep the champion happy. Bindra went and congratulated Narang but then left for Chandigarh immediately, reportedly telling people he would now be back only for the closing ceremony. So fellow shooters who enjoyed his presence even when he was not shooting will have to do without him. In sharp contrast is Leander Paes, who's always with his team whether he's playing or not.

 

Tamil tunes

 

Getting the copyright act changed is proving to be a big hurdle and though the Cabinet cleared it many months ago, it continues to remain stuck in the parliamentary committee. While powerful Bollywood producers have managed to stall the change thanks to their connections with politicians, Javed Akhtar has pulled off a smart coup. He went to Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi and managed to convince him that the changes would benefit struggling artists. Karunanidhi has now weighed in favour of the change, so this may speed up the bill's passage.

 

Celebrity quotient

 

Kaun Banega Crorepati is going to sport a new look in its next season. A new helpline is to be added for participants, in addition to the current 50:50, phone-a-friend and audience poll. The next season will see participants being able to ask a celebrity for help. So if, for example, Javed Akhtar is the celebrity chosen, the audience can ask him for help not just on films but on any subject.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

SUN DOWN

 

Our main star's role in global warming is suddenly up for questioning

 

If there were prizes going around for a science that had grabbed global attention in the new millennium, it would have to go to climate science. Yet, this is a science dogged by controversies. There have been all those accusations of academic laxity that dogged IPCC. And this cerebral uncertainty has translated into policy surprises, as happened when Tuvalu hijacked the Copenhagen summit, putting the usual rich and emerging economy suspects on the back foot. Now comes a study questioning the role of the Sun in global warming, a role that we could hitherto rely upon as a certitude. The lead author of the said study is based at Imperial College, London, and the said findings have been published in Nature. Basically, after monitoring the Sun's activities from 2004-07, scientists found that even as the amount of energy reaching the Earth was increasing, Sun's activity was also declining. This is surprising. Lead author Joannah Haigh points out, "These results are challenging what we thought we knew about the Sun's effect on our climate. If further studies find the same pattern over a longer period, this could suggest we may have overestimated the Sun's role in warming the planet, rather than underestimating it."

 

To underline the significance of this study, let us emphasise how the Earthly impact of the solar cycle is conventionally accepted as one of the most reliable factors in an unstable array of climate variables. Human activity is so unreliable; looks like natural forces are no better.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

ONE CRISIS TO ANOTHER

 

Just when he seemed to have weathered one political crisis, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa finds himself caught in another. After successfully dealing with the challenge from the 'Bellary brothers,' he is face-to-face with another revolt, this time featuring independents and new entrants to the party. Last year's crisis, spearheaded by the mining lobby of the Reddy brothers, had more legislators ranged against the Chief Minister, but it was less of a headache for the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The demand then was for replacing Mr. Yeddyurappa; and there was no real threat of the legislators walking out of the party. This time the rebels have gone straight to Governor H.R. Bharadwaj and withdrawn support to the government. Whether this is a bargaining ploy will become clear only closer to October 11, when a confidence vote will be taken on the floor of the State Assembly. But unlike last year, the opposition parties, the Congress and the Janata Dal(Secular), are active behind the scenes, and the BJP has little room for manoeuvring the government to safety.

 

Paradoxically, the crisis is, at least in part, the result of Mr. Yeddyurappa's growing clout within the party and government. The Chief Minister is no longer dependent on the support of the independents for the survival of the government. The BJP national leadership freed his hands for the recent Cabinet reshuffle, allowing him to bring in some of his favourites and weed out some of the detractors. While the independents realised they were being put on notice, those who were left out of the Ministry or were not hopeful of getting plum postings in boards and government undertakings knew they were likely to remain on the sidelines for the rest of the Assembly term. What could be the undoing of this band of rebels is the absence of a common programme or any kind of glue other than narrow self-interest. Whether Mr. Yeddyurappa passes or fails the floor test, Karnataka is set for a spell of political uncertainty. While the dissidents are unlikely to disappear in a hurry, they do not look capable of forming a stable government, not to mention offering an alternative programme of development. The BJP continues to pay the price for opportunistically cobbling together a majority in the Assembly after the 2008 general election with the help of independents, and then carrying out 'Operation Lotus,' a euphemism for engineering defections from other parties. Karnataka, which has tremendous development potential led by India's internationally admired IT capital, Bangalore, seems set to limp from one political crisis to another till the next general election.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

EXTENDING THE LULA ROAD

 

The fact that the Brazilian presidential election will be decided by a runoff brings into focus several key issues facing this emerging economic and political power. The campaign front-runner, Dilma Rousseff of the Worker's Party (PT), was halted by a late surge in the support for Marina Silva of the Green Party (PV); Ms Silva garnered no less than 19 per cent of the vote, leaving Ms Rousseff on 47 per cent and short of an outright win. The first question that arises from this is whether the October 31 runoff will see Ms Silva's supporters back Ms Rousseff or the second-placed Jose Serra of the Social Democrats (PSDB), who polled 33 per cent in the first round. Both are experienced politicians with very different backgrounds. Ms Rousseff is a former left-wing revolutionary who survived torture under the 1970s' dictatorship, has a formidable mind, and has been a career civil servant. Mr. Serra was a regional politician and served as a Minister under President Henrique Cardoso. It is notable that the PT candidate failed to score a clear win despite the backing she received from outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

 

The eventual winner will have a good starting point, not least because millions have been lifted out of poverty with Lula's Bolsa Familia (family grant) programme of state benefits paid directly to women in the poorest classes. Lula's use of oil revenues for the larger public good has helped in other directions as well. Brazil's current economic growth rate is an impressive 7.5 per cent. This has created higher expectations, for example in respect of the vital public education system, which is widely held to be crucial to the economy and especially to the formerly excluded groups of the poor. As in the case of India, Brazil faces formidable infrastructural challenges. The transport infrastructure especially needs substantial modernisation. The new President is likely to come under international pressure to rely on the private sector for this, and a PT government will put up some resistance to this. Secondly, in the light of the first-round vote, the new President will need to pay more attention to a range of Green concerns and issues and modify development policies accordingly. If Ms Rousseff prevails in the runoff, as she is expected to do, she will not only be Latin America's sixth woman head of state in the last two decades. She will also outrank German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in status. Substantively, she will be a catalyst for women to play a much greater part in all areas of Brazilian public life. The best runoff outcome would therefore be a Rousseff win with Green support. 

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

YOUNG, MUSLIM AND REFLECTING ON AYODHYA

YOUNG MUSLIMS SAY THEY WANT TO MOVE ON BUT ASK WHETHER THE AYODHYA VERDICT IS IN TUNE WITH THE ASPIRATIONS AND DREAMS OF YOUNG, MODERN INDIA.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

Travelling in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the October 30 Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ayodhya title suits, I was struck by the uniformity of Muslim opinion. Older Muslims said they wanted the verdict delivered quickly and whichever way, because that would bring to closure a wracking issue that had destabilised their lives and set them back by many valuable years.

 

The educated post-technology generation, innocently young during the benumbing years of the Ram Mandir movement, seemed disconnected from the issue. Not that they were unaware of the pain and insecurities of that time. Young or old, the heartland Muslim is a political animal, always well-informed and sharply intuitive. Yet conversations revealed an impatience to leave behind the past and embrace the future, however uncertain. There were complaints about biases, about being shut out of opportunities, about a sense of alienation. Yet even by these yardsticks, the world ahead was better for the young than the violence and darkness of the past. Their parents would know: All that mattered to the community in the decade after December 6, 1992 was their personal safety. Mulayam Singh in U.P. and Lalu Prasad in Bihar became saviours not because they delivered jobs but simply because they pledged to protect Muslim lives. A constant refrain heard in those troubled times was: " Hum hi nahin to aur kuch ka kya matlab?" (If we are not alive what use is anything else?) Who would want a return to that blighted past?

 

The "we-have-moved-on" buzz heard in U.P. became a roar in Delhi. It was everywhere. Television channels, hardwired to sensationalise the tiniest scrap of news, reverently mouthed the lines. Hindus said it. Muslims said it. Most of all, political parties, never known not to exploit an opportunity, said it. Verdict over, a fantastic, incredible quiet followed. There was not one incident reported from anywhere — not from Ayodhya, not from the rest of U.P., not from any of the known trouble spots, not from anywhere in India. The maturity of the average Indian was on spectacular display. For once, opinion-makers had got the mood right: India had indeed moved on. Equally heartening, Indians had proved that communal violence is never spontaneous, it is always politically engineered.

 

Unfortunately, the joy of this discovery was diminished by a disturbing realisation: The verdict itself was not in tune with the aspirations of a modern, democratic, young nation. The first dissenting notes emanated from the condemned world of "pseudo-secularists." The three-way division of land, ordered by the judges, was based not on hard, irrefutable evidence but on the claimed faith and belief of a claimed Hindu majority. Did India's Hindus, all 80 million of them, believe that Lord Ram was born at the same, precise spot where the mosque's central dome once stood? The verdict implied so, and handed that portion of the mosque to the Lord himself, deeming his rights to be overriding because he was a "perpetual minor." Was this the "majesty of law" that all sides respectfully invoked before the verdict, that Muslims in particular emphasised over and over?

 

Muslim organisations began to voice their disappointment. The Sunni Central Wakf Board, the main litigant on behalf of Muslims, correctly announced its decision to move the Supreme Court. But there were also the malcontents. The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid used the Friday prayers to deliver a fiery, rabble-rousing speech. Mr. Mulayam Singh began stoking Muslim fears. There was no mistaking the opportunism in these actions.

 

It was time, then, for some unbiased, untutored Muslim opinion. I decided to reconnect with the Muslim respondents I had met in U.P. I also decided to tap my circle of Muslim friends for young, educated contacts. The list included, among many others, the teenaged Shafat from Balrampur, Shamshad Ahmad from Barabanki, Ehsanbhai from Ayodhya, Aftab Alam, a teacher from Delhi University, Arif Ali, an M. Phil. student of Japanese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Shamshad Khan, a researcher at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, and Zafar Ahmad, a software consultant with a multi-national company.

 

They spoke calmly but clearly, a small minority with a sense of resignation but almost all others feeling pained that 21st century India could substitute reason with faith. There were no raised voices, no uncontrolled flashes of anger, no talk of invading the streets or starting an agitation. Mr. Shamshad Khan was "deeply disappointed" with the "extra-judicial" verdict but felt Muslims had other far more important matters to focus on: "Are we going to be held hostage to this issue forever?"

 

In truth, nobody wanted to be dragged down yet again by the Mandir-Masjid dispute. Without exception, everybody I spoke to said "never again; not down that path." However, most people added a caveat: This did not imply unreserved acceptance of the verdict. I reminded them of the Muslim promise that the community would honour the verdict, no matter how it went. Laughed Mr. Aftab Alam: "How do we welcome a judgment that talks of theology in the 21st century? I would have felt the same way if a standing, living temple in independent India had been demolished and its demolition justified in the name of Islamic faith."

 

As Mr. Alam and others saw it, there was no contradiction between wanting to move on and feeling dismayed by the judgment. Besides, how could India itself move on when the justice it offered went deep into the unknown past? Mr. Zafar Ahmad summed it up beautifully: "As a Muslim I may not question this judgment. But as an Indian I do because ultimately this issue is about Constitutional guarantees, about the preamble, about how modern India views itself. What precedents are we setting at a time we are projecting ourselves as an emerging superpower moving into the era of science, technology and reason? Are we now going to start digging underneath each time an issue of faith is raised?"

 

Another interesting point emerged from the discussions: The same verdict might have been acceptable to Muslims had the judges used secular reasoning to divide the property between Hindus and Muslims. A sagacious judgment would have been for the judges to dismiss the Muslim suit for being time-barred though accepting that the facts in the case were clear, well established and in favour of Muslims. A division on the grounds of joint worship could have followed thereafter. Instead, the court sanctified the 1949 political manoeuvre of physically moving the idols into position under the central dome; that crude, blatant act, watched over by a 40-50-strong mob, had become the faith of all Hindus.

 

Though perhaps not wanting it that way, older Muslims had found their identities entwined with the fate and survival of the Babri Masjid. In 1990, with Lal Krishna Advani astride his Ram rath, Mandir wahin banayenge (we will build the temple only there) had escalated into a war cry. Every Hindutva milestone crossed thereafter heightened the Muslim sense of isolation. The courts spoke reassuringly of maintaining the status quo. But the status quo had always altered — and always in favour of Hindus. In 1949, the installation of the idols became the status quo. In 1986, the opening of the locks became the status quo. In 1989, the shilanyas ceremony became the status quo. And finally, in 1992, the demolition of the mosque followed by the erection of the temple became the eternal status quo. That year, the Supreme Court severely censured the destroyers of the mosque. But in 2010, a lower court would stamp its imprimatur on that very status quo — by accepting that Ram lalla was born under Babri Masjid's central dome. The BJP's 1994 white paper on Ayodhya was almost prescient when it noted that the same courts that for years could not help Hindus came around once "the structure was physically occupied."

 

Today's young Muslims are very different. They do not identify with the mosque. It is immaterial to them whether a mandir or a masjid comes up on the spot. But as some of them told The Hindu, they are Indians first and committed to the values held sacred by the Constitution. These values, including protection of minority rights, cannot but come into question when justice, delivered in a court of law, tilts visibly towards the majority. Even without the shadow of the Babri Masjid, life is not easy for Muslim boys and girls, a fact brought out most graphically by the Rajinder Sachar Committee report on the status of Muslims. The report situated the community at a level below the Hindu OBCs but above Dalits. It highlighted lack of access to education, bank credit and employment. It said Muslims bore the double cross of terrorism and appeasement.

 

For the Muslim sense of injustice not to grow, for young Muslims not to feel the way their parents' generation did, justice, in every manner of speaking, must be delivered to them, and must be seen to be delivered to them.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE IN AYODHYA CASE

THE BABRI MASJID WAS UNAUTHORISEDLY DEMOLISHED AND THE CULPRITS MUST BE BROUGHT TO BOOK UNDER THE RULE OF LAW. BUT IN LAW, A TEMPLE AND A MOSQUE CANNOT BE CONSIDERED ON A PAR AS FAR AS SACREDNESS IS CONCERNED. THIS IS THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH CONSTANTLY BEING EVADED ON THE AYODHYA ISSUE.

SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY

 

T.R. Andhyarujina is a highly respected and accomplished lawyer who is very skilled in court craft. His major point in his Op-Ed ["A Verdict that legitimises the Masjid demolition," The Hindu, Oct.5, 2010] is that the 8,700-plus pages judgment of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on the Ayodhya dispute implicitly condones the 1992 demolition of the Babri Mosque structure because the Court did not take judicial notice and draw adverse inference [in fact no reference] against the directly or de facto affiliated parties (in the litigation before the Bench) in that destruction.

 

I do not dismiss this point because the structure was indeed unauthorisedly demolished and therefore the culprits and the planners of this demolition, whoever they are, have to be brought to book to uphold the rule of law. For this purpose, there is an ongoing criminal case in a special CBI-designated Sessions Court.

 

In this context, the question is whether every court will have to take judicial notice of this alleged illegal violent event even after the Supreme Court of India has taken such notice. Mr. Andhyarujina himself quotes the Supreme Court judgment [reported in (1994) 6SCC376] in which the court, while absolving the Hindus as a community of the blame, nevertheless held that "Hindus must bear the Cross for it." This was an extraordinary judicial observation and has profound implications for all communities whenever religious premises are destroyed.

 

The fact nevertheless remains that throughout the last several centuries, Hindus have deeply held as sacred as Ram's birthplace that exact spot where the Babri Masjid once stood. This is recorded in many official and judicial proceedings.

 

In 1885, for example, Mahant Raghubar Das, in a Suit No. 61/280 of 1885 filed in the Court of the Faizabad Sub Judge against the Secretary of State for India (who was based in London), prayed for permission to build a temple inside the perimeter of the mosque. His suit was dismissed on March 18, 1886, but in his Order the Sub-Judge, an Englishman, stated: "It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as the event occurred 358 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance." Since the British as policy never sought to disturb the communal and social status quo in India as evidenced, for example, on the 'Sati question,' the judge took the easy way out and dismissed the suit.

 

Temple did exist

 

It is now well established by GPRS-directed excavations, done under the Allahabad High Court monitoring and verification in 2002-03, that a large temple did exist below where that Babri Masjid structure once stood. Inscriptions found during excavations describe it as a temple of Vishnu Hari who had killed the demon king Dasanan [Ravana]. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) confirmed these findings on investigations that were directed by the High Court.

 

A fundamental question arises: Can a temple and a masjid be considered on a par as far as sacredness is concerned? Relying on two important apex judgments that hold the field today, the answer is: No. A masjid is not an essential part of Islam religion, according to a majority judgment of a Constitution Bench of India's Supreme Court (op.cit. 1994), whereas according to the House of Lords, U.K. (1991), the temple is always a temple even if in disuse or ruins.

 

In the famous Ismail Farooqui vs Union of India case [reported in (1994) 6 SCC 376], the Supreme Court of India observed: "It has been contended that a mosque enjoys a particular position in Muslim law and once a mosque is established and prayers are offered in such a mosque, the same remains for all time to come a property of Allah … and any person professing Islamic faith can offer prayer in such a mosque, and even if the structure is demolished, the place remains the same where namaz can be offered " [para 80].

 

The Constitution Bench then rejected this contention, stating: "The correct position may be summarised thus. Under Mohammedan law applicable in India, title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession. A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) can be offered anywhere, even in the open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India"(para 82).

 

Thus what was wrong with the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 was that it was unauthorised by law and hence a criminal offence. Otherwise any government can deprive Muslims of the Babri Masjid, which would be lawful if the government decides to do so in the interest of public order, public health and morality (Article 25 of the Constitution). This is the position in Islamic law as well since in Saudi Arabia the authorities demolish mosques to lay roads. Even the mosque where Prophet Mohammed used to pray was demolished.

 

Nataraja statue case

 

A temple however is not in the same category as a mosque in law. When I was Union Law and Justice Minister, this question of the status of a temple – even if in ruins or without worship – came up before me in November 1990 in a case of a smuggled-out bronze Nataraja statue that was up for sale in London. The Government of India under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had decided to file a case in the London trial court in 1986 for recovery. The Nataraja statue had by then been traced to a temple in ruins in Pathur, Thanjavur district. A farmer named Ramamoorthi had unearthed it in 1976 while digging mud with a spade near his hut.

 

When the news spread, touts of an antique dealer reached Ramamoorthi, paid a small sum, and smuggled it out to London, where in 1982 it was sold to a private company. In turn, the buyer sent it to the British Museum for appraisal and possible purchase. By then the Government of India was on to it and asked the British government to take action. The Nataraja idol was seized by the London Metropolitan Police, the company sued the police in court for recovery, but lost the case. An appeal was filed in the Queens Bench, which was dismissed on April 17, 1989. The buyer company went to the House of Lords.

 

On February 13, 1991, when I was Union Law Minister, the landmark judgment dismissing the buyer's final appeal [see (1991) 4 All ER 638] was delivered. The Bench consisting of Justices Purchas, Nourse, and Leggatt concluded: "We therefore hold that the temple is acceptable as party to these proceedings and that it is as such entitled to sue for the recovery of the Nataraja" [page 648 para g]. Thus a disused temple in ruins became a party, and we as Siva bhaktas as de facto trustees thus recovered the Nataraja idol.

 

No such ruling anywhere in any court exists for a mosque for the simple reason that a mosque in Islam is just a facilitation centre for reading namaz, and has no essentiality for Islam as a religion.

 

It can therefore be demolished and/or shifted in India under the Constitution as any building can — but of course authorisedly for a public purpose such as public health, public order or morality. The Union Government is committed by virtue of its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in 1994 to do so if it is found that a temple structure exists below the mosque site. It must hence perform now and deliver on its commitment on oath sworn in the Supreme Court.

 

This is the fundamental truth in the Ayodhya dispute that is being constantly evaded by those criticising the Allahabad High Court Judgment.

 

( The writer is a former Union Law Minister and the Convenor of the Legal and Parliamentary Cells of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

U.S MILITARY ORDERS LESS DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS

AFTER A DECADE OF WAGING WARS IN AREAS WHERE FUEL IS NOT READILY AVAILABLE, OVERDEPENDENCE IS BEING SEEN AS A LIABILITY,

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL

 

With insurgents increasingly attacking the U.S. fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.

 

Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.

 

The 150 Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.

 

Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.

 

Truck convoys are targets

 

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the huge truck convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters — in the latest attack oil tankers carrying fuel for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops in Afghanistan were set on fire in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, early on October 4. In Iraq and Afghanistan, one Army study found, for every 24 fuel convoys that set out, one soldier or civilian engaged in fuel transport was killed. In the past three months, six Marines have been wounded guarding fuel runs in Afghanistan.

 

"There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it's practical," said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 per cent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

 

That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

 

"Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan," Mabus said, "and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people."

 

He and other experts also said that greater reliance on renewable energy improved national security, because fossil fuels often came from unstable regions and scarce supplies were a potential source of international conflict.

 

Fossil fuel accounts for 30 per cent to 80 per cent of the load in convoys into Afghanistan, bringing costs as well as risk. While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.

 

"We had a couple of tenuous supply lines across Pakistan that are costing us a heck of a lot, and they're very dangerous," said Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps.

 

Col. Robert Charette Jr.,director of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, said he was "cautiously optimistic" that Company I's equipment would prove reliable and durable enough for military use, and that other Marine companies would be adopting renewable technology in the coming months, although there would probably always be a need to import fuel for some purposes.

 

Hybrid vessel, biofuels

 

Last year, the Navy introduced its first hybrid vessel, a Wasp class amphibious assault ship called the U.S.S. Makin Island, which at speeds under 10 knots runs on electricity rather than on fossil fuel, a shift resulting in greater efficiency that saved 9,00,000 gallons of fuel on its maiden voyage from Mississippi to San Diego, compared with a conventional ship its size, the Navy said. The Air Force will have its entire fleet certified to fly on biofuels by 2011 and has flown test flights using a 50-50 mix of plant-based biofuel and jet fuel; the Navy took its first delivery of fuel made from algae this summer. Biofuels can in theory be produced wherever the raw materials, like plants, are available, and could ultimately be made near battlefields.

 

Began in 2006

 

Concerns about the military's dependence on fossil fuels in far-flung battlefields began in 2006 in Iraq, where Richard Zilmer, then a major general and the top U.S. commander in western Iraq, sent an urgent cable to Washington suggesting that renewable technology could prevent loss of life. That request catalysed new research, but the pressure for immediate results magnified as the military shifted its focus to Afghanistan, a country with little available native fossil fuel and scarce electricity outside cities.

 

Fuel destined for U.S. troops in landlocked Afghanistan is shipped to Karachi, Pakistan, where it is loaded on convoys of 50 to 70 vehicles for transport to central bases. Smaller convoys branch out to the forward lines. The Marines' new goal is to make the more peripheral sites sustain themselves with the kind of renewable technology carried by Company I, since solar electricity can be generated right on the battlefield.

 

There are similar tactical advantages to using renewable fuel for planes and building hybrid ships.

 

"Every time you cut a ship away from the need to visit an oiler — a fuel supply ship — you create an advantage," Mabus said, noting that the Navy had pioneered previous energy transformations in the United States, from sail power to coal power in the 19th century, as well as from coal to oil and oil to nuclear power in the 20th century. Because the military has moved into renewable energy so rapidly, much of the technology being used is commercially available or has been adapted for the battlefield from readily available civilian models. — © New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

MOVE TO PROTECT 'TREASURE WRECKS' IN SPAIN

SPAIN'S NAVY RACES TO LAY CLAIM TO HUNDREDS OF WRECKS BEFORE A U.S. FIRM CAN GET THERE.

GILES TREMLETT


Spain has sent an armada into waters around its coasts to seek out hundreds of shipwrecks in an attempt to head off U.S. treasure hunters accused of plundering Spanish property from the seabed.

 

Over the past month, more than 100 suspected shipwrecks have been located by the Spanish navy in the Gulf of Cadiz, considered one of the world's richest hunting grounds for underwater treasure.

 

Dozens of Spanish galleons returning from the colonies in south American in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries are believed to have sunk in waters around Cadiz.

 

British Royal Navy warships and other British vessels may also be among the wrecks the Spanish navy says it has located.

 

Between 500 and 800 ships are thought to lie at the bottom of the Gulf of Cadiz.

 


Three Spanish navy vessels, including two minesweepers, and 100 navy personnel are devoting two months to the project, which will end in mid-November.

 

Legal battle

 

Spain is in the middle of a legal battle with the deep sea treasure hunters Odyssey over treasure the U.S. company has recovered from the seabed. It wants to avoid a repeat of the saga that began in 2007 when Odyssey salvaged an estimated $500m in silver coins and artefacts from what Spain claims was a Spanish galleon. The treasure was landed at Gibraltar and then flown out to the United States.

 

A U.S. court ruled last year that the find belongs to Spain, but Odyssey appealed and still has the treasure. It was due to submit its appeal at a US court on October 7.

 

Odyssey has also mapped sections of the English channel seabed. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

 

 

TALKING TO THE TALIBAN … THE BOOK ALL ARE READING

AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY TALIBAN'S FORMER AMBASSADOR TO ISLAMABAD IS EMERGING AS ESSENTIAL TEXT.

JULIAN BORGER


As initial contacts with the Afghan insurgents tentatively get under way, the diplomats, academics and pundits involved are grappling with a new problem: how to do business with a movement of which they have little direct knowledge.

 

It is a coalition of tribes and ideologies that is largely opaque to westerners and has committed little of its thoughts and internal workings to print. The exception is an autobiography by the Taliban's former ambassador to Islamabad, Abdul Salam Zaeef, which is now being seen as an indispensable primer for the small but budding peace industry. Several diplomats involved in the talks said it was emerging as an essential text.

 

The book, "My Life With the Taliban", provides a description of the movement from the inside, which differs on many points from the western view. After a childhood of brutal poverty in Kandahar province, Zaeef joined the jihad against the Soviets in 1983. He describes floating from one mujahideen leader to the next on the basis of family introductions, and becoming disillusioned with the mercenary motives and behaviour. Contrary to the widely held western belief that the Taliban were conjured into existence by Pakistani intelligence in the 1990s, Zaeef said they existed in embryonic form a decade earlier. He was drawn to the group because it offered an education as well as a rifle, and appeared to live by a code of conduct.

 

'A nationalist movement'

 

Most importantly, Zaeef portrays the Taliban as an essentially nationalist movement, which grew organically out of Pashtun culture, and which would be open to a settlement if it ultimately led to the departure of foreign troops.

 

"Zaeef's book gives a fluent and persuasive account of thinking among the more reasonable and responsible senior Taliban," a senior diplomat said. "It shows that they are patriots first, and ideologues second.

 

"Zaeef's account of his appalling treatment at the hands of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Americans makes sobering reading. But, most important, the book shows that there could be scope for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan and the region, if only America could bring itself to talk to its supposed enemies, rather than killing them." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

BJP'S DEEP CRACKS LED TO K'TAKA CRISIS

 

If there is one message that has come through clearly during Karnataka's current political crisis, it is this: the BJP is a divided house and the cracks run very deep. Unless something is done to paper over the cracks in double quick time, October 11, when chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has been asked by governor H.R. Bhardwaj to prove his majority in Assembly, might spell the end of Karnataka's third political option. And the crisis that began when 19 MLAs were flown out to neighbouring Tamil Nadu may see matters come to a head.
Despite its early promise of being a "government with a difference", the 28 months that the first BJP government in South India has been in power has been marked by the once monolithic party's biggest failing — infighting. It demonstrates once more that when the politician comes within sniffing distance of power, his penchant for greed cuts across party lines. A pity as this is the BJP's first shy at governance, at flying solo, and where it had promised so much but delivered so little.


That it is the third time in less than 11 months that Mr Yeddyurappa's government has faced a rebellion from within its own ranks raises several questions. Even if the BJP top brass somehow manages to quell this bout of dissidence and gets back to business as usual, the alarming frequency with which different groups with varying axes to grind bring the government so close to the brink of collapse must remain a huge cause of disquiet at the party headquarters in New Delhi. What's more, the cause for the derailment has been the same every time. While last November's putsch was the brainchild of the powerful Reddy mining magnates who used their considerable clout with the BJP top brass and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj to force Mr Yeddyurappa to move out key bureaucrats, as well as key advisers, the second attempt at destabilising the BSY government was moved by a similar impetus. Despairingly, so is the third.


This time the disgruntled, who had waited in the wings for long, whipped up a frenzy against the CM immediately after an ill-advised Cabinet expansion that saw the reinduction of two of his closest confidantes at the expense of other hopefuls. It's all too clear that Mr Yeddyurappa must go back to the drawing board and re-examine whether it is his style of leadership that needs a course correction. Surely he is aware that the BJP's national leaders see him as the key to widening the saffron footprint in the South. Surely he is aware too that in a state like Karnataka, riven by a cauldron of conflicting pressure groups who put caste and religion above all else, these are troubled waters that rival political parties like the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) will always fish in for electoral gain.


While the Congress, with its voteshare dwindling, has said over and over that it had no role to play in the current destabilisation of the BSY government, and that the BJP's only southern dispensation will fall from the weight of its own contradictions, its leaders can barely hide their glee as the crisis lurches to its predictable denouement. The smaller JD(S) could well be the spider in the web, hoping to break the BJP and form a minority government with Congress support from the outside. But with the BJP throwing all its pointmen, including former rebel-turned-BSY ally Janardhan Reddy to woo the rebels back into the fold, all eyes will be riveted on October 11. On Manic Monday, the chief minister must ensure that all his 123 MLAs — BJP and Independents — come home to vote. And that the numbers tilt in his favour.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

MESS MANAGEMENT

SWAPAN DASGUPTA

 

Mahatma Gandhi is, arguably, the one Indian whose name is likely to have an instant recall anywhere in the world, not least in the countries of the erstwhile British Empire now grouped as the Commonwealth. Yet, ask an average Briton, including the ones who have at least two A-level passes, to write the Mahatma's name and you are likely to be presented with the scrawl "Ghandi". Probe a little further and you may well be told that that the same "Ghandi" was the father of "Indira Ghandi" and the founder of India's most enduring political dynasty.
Given the prevailing mismatch between fact and perception, especially about matters concerning "foreigners", we need not be unduly harsh on the hapless Suresh Kalmadi for expressing his gratitude to Princess Diana for being present at the grand opening of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) on October 3. To this go-getting MP for Pune, more accustomed to "managing the environment" (Dhirubhai Ambani's persuasive explanation for his success in business) than engaging in polite small talk at convivial dinners, knowing the hierarchical difference between the Duchess of Cornwall and the Princess of Wales is not Brash India's overriding priority. As they say in "the Poonjab", Naththa Singh and Prem Singh, one and the same thing.


At a time when India is wallowing in the glory of a spectacular cultural extravaganza, many gold medals and an incredible Test victory over Australia, it may seem distinctly unpatriotic to flash the proverbial gutter inspector's report. Indians, as Ian Jack has helpfully reminded us in the Guardian, do tend to leave things till the very last minute. The preparations for the formal inauguration of New Delhi in 1931 were, for example, completed barely "five minutes before closing time". So why blame sports minister M.S. Gill for his prescient but nonchalant comparison of the CWG with a Punjabi wedding? If the CWG is, as we have repeatedly been told, all about "national pride", Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit shouldn't be grudged for preening at her own ability to snatch a jugaadu "pass" from the jaws of failure.


The final cost of procuring what in my university days used to be called a "gentleman's degree" may haunt Indian public finance for many years to come but that, the optimists will say, is a small price for the benefits of a possible real estate boom in Delhi and the creation of many more politically connected millionaires. India lives for the present and the "exemplary punishment" the Prime Minister has promised for those guilty of corruption is unlikely to be a priority of the future. Like the potholes in newly-built roads, the edible will be blended with the inedible, overlaced with pungent spices, and cooked into a khichdi which, at best, will contribute to a bout of Delhi-belly. In the immortal words of Lalit Bhanot, the physical instructor from Delhi University who chose to be the public face of Kalmadi-ism, "the Westerners have different standards; we have different standards; everyone has different standards…"


Mr Bhanot was mercilessly pilloried for his reflections on hygienic standards so much so that he chose to abandon his high public profile. India, it would seem, was being disingenuous. Mr Bhanot may not have the finesse of the Delhi chief minister or the disarming candidness of the Union sports minister but underneath his gauche bluster he did unwittingly capture the essence of the Indian state's penchant for desi standards, the euphemism for tackiness.


The CWG may well be a facet of the burgeoning "cash and carry" industry but it has nominally been painted as a bid to showcase resurgent India to the non-US Anglosphere. Instead, we have succeeded in exposing the country's rough edges which no amount of invocation of 5,000 years of culture can iron out.
The imperious overkill that has defined the bandobast would have been national scandals in most-evolved democracies. In India, some deft "media management" has ensured that the focus on sloth and high-handedness has been kept to a bare minimum. It was not a fiercely-independent Indian media that exposed the shameful conditions in the Games Village: the initial protests were from foreign team managers and the revealing pictures were put on show by the BBC only a day after the domestic media gave the arrangements a hyperbolic thumbs-up.


It needed a pesky foreign media to ask a basic question on Day One of the Games: where are the spectators? The insouciant Kalmadi replied that there were mile-long queues of, presumably, invisible Indians waiting to get into the stadia. By the end of the exchange, wrote the reporter for the Times, Kalmadi "sounded like Monty Python's Black Knight won, on having his limbs hacked off, retorts: Just a flesh wound".


Few Games have been less spectator-friendly and more citizen-unfriendly than the `70,000 crore orgy in Delhi. In the name of traffic management, arterial roads linking Lutyens' Delhi to the satellite towns have been closed for 15 days. On October 3, all markets and offices in the national capital were forcibly shut down, making Delhi resemble a ghost town. In the name of security, a brusque constabulary has confiscated lipsticks, car and house keys, loose change, pens and even reading material from spectators, thereby making it clear that their very presence of humans constitutes a security hazard. The not-wanted message has been reinforced by cumbersome procedures for the purchase of tickets to events. To cap it all, the state-controlled Doordarshan — a creature that TV viewers have all but forgotten — has used its favoured position to dish out sub-standard coverage reminiscent of the bad old days of socialism.


There is a picture of India that is emerging from the CWG. It is an India defined by inefficiency, venality, non-accountability, shoddiness, brazenness, high-handedness and, above all, gullibility. It is a view that focuses on the biggest impediment to India realising its true potential: a bloated state that has lost its ability to cater to the public good.

 

Fortunately, there is another India.

Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

MEANING, MAGIC OF THE MAHATMA

SHIV VISVANATHAN

 

There is something about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that is incredibly seductive. Decades after his death, I still visit Sabarmati Ashram every year on October 2. It is always disappointing. There is a spate of badly sung bhajans, the usual attendance of a few religious leaders looking like something made in a wax works, a few remaining Gandhians smelling of age and mothballs. Thousands of people come to the ashram that Gandhi left in 1930, never to return. One senses a ritual, a sense of tourism redeemed by the few who come to pray and find some sense of the politics of Gandhi.


October 2 becomes a report card time to assess the fate of Gandhi and his ideas.


The village he dreamt about is disappearing and the agriculture and the crafts which he saw as the life blood of a people appear obsolescent. Between suicides of farmers and the fear of farming the younger generation is showing, agriculture appears a tenuous activity.


Even the ashram which he saw as a site for future thought experiments appears ethically empty. Gandhi conceptualised the ashram as a place that would tackle the problems of the world even while it slept. As one walks around the ashram one senses the aura of the place. It survives even a few idiot Gandhians reciting Gandhi like a multiplication table. A visitor senses the museumisation of the man. He is now a memory banalised into a collection of souvenirs. One can pick up kitschy statues for `200. They are badly made and overpriced. The shop has old pictures retouched so badly that they would not grace a barbershop.
One lazily walks to the room where he lived. The charkha he worked on sits like a live object, almost pregnant with meaning. One wonders why it was seen as a luddite object, a piece of anti-technology when it was an invitation to an alternative way of inventing. Gandhi wanted technology to create community, to add to the competence of citizenship, to fight obsol escence. He who wanted to fight the idiocy of the village where men were toothless by 50, is being treated like a village idiot. One forgets that this man wanted the ashram to rework the world. His Archimedian point was an ethical one. With ethics as foundation and prayer as a lever, Gandhi could say give me an ashram and I will transform the self.


As you walk around Charles Correa's building, you sense that this modest building might be one of the most endearing of the architect's creations. As one reads the quotations on the wall, walk past photographs as fragments of history, one senses the building is devoted to the art of memory. It seems to say walk and remember. Every time I jaywalk through this history, I am moved. The museum is dog eared, the arrangements slap dash and yet one is captured by the magic of the man. One trembles at the prospect of the Gandhi tucked into each man whispering other possibilities.


As one walks in the hot sun, thinking of Dandi, it strikes one that while there have been studies of Gandhi's fasts, prayers, his attempts to confront sexuality, one discovers little attention has been paid to his idea of walking. I am referring to the everydayness of walking not just the ritual of the padyatra.


Walking for Gandhi was the measure of the body. Walking defined the proportions of the city. Walking was a measure of locality. Walking defined the nature of place and its familiarity. Walking defined and gave content to the idea of Swadeshi. Walking provided an ethics of scale. Gandhi's theory of walking was profound and profoundly everyday and yet one finds little on it. Thomas Weber who recreates Dandi with care often with a scholar's pedometer has no reflection on walking. Gandhi's ideas on walking are more bereft of scholarship than his life in South Africa.

One walks over to Meera Kuteer, a fragment of a cottage where Madeline Slade and Vin obha once stayed. The ceramic commode has a sculpted quality to it. It has a sense of proportion. If architecture were to define minimum need, this would be the place. It almost feels like a cloak rather than a house. Its modesty gives it a sense of the sacred and the onlooker realises history was made from such little building blocks. My walk has become a pilgrimage.


It is about three in the afternoon. Another movement for agriculture is about to start. It is a yatra, half pilgrimage, half protest against the fate of agriculture.


The Gandhians who speak are inane but the activists smile tolerantly. They realise theirs is a long struggle. I speak to one of them. She is practical. I ask her for her badge. She gives it happily. It is at that moment you realise that while Gandhians might have mothballed Mahatma into inanity, these activists have created a more sustainable view of his ideas. They stick to their ideals, more pragmatically and join your laughter. They understand the ebb and flow of politics better than one and hint history flows like a stream only in retrospect. Struggles have a sense of ebb and flow which they seem to recognise and even enjoy.


I feel an un-gandhian need for tea. Tea with pakoras. As I walk back, visitors are hugging Kantibhai's statue of Gandhi as if it was their favourite uncle. A Japanese visitor stands more reverentially for a photograph. You sense a difference. Foreigners stiffen with respect, acknowledge the sense of sacred and history. Indians scurry like mice. If the statue sloped like a seesaw, they would slide happily down the side. As one leaves, one salutes the other statue warning one "to see no evil". Ironically it seems a warning that once you leave the place one is returning to Modi's Gujarat.


An autodriver's drama later, one has moved on. You realise you are caught in a time warp, only you are not sure whether it is past or the future. I feel uncomfortable. Gandhi haunts you. He is no nag but he can sense the need for goodness in every man. Only he insists ordinary goodness is not enough. It is a quiet reminder that as evil gets inventive, the civics of goodness has to think out-of-the-box. You dream of a Satyagraha that can fight terrorism and smile helplessly to yourself.

 

The auto moves tiredly across the city.

 

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

NO PLACE FOR ATHEISM

SIDHARTH BHATIA

 

Debates around the Ayodhya judgment — a remarkable piece of jurisprudence, which has gone way beyond questions of legality — have centered around a few themes. Secular constitutionalists have pointed out that the judges relied more on the question of faith rather than the law and this can have repercussions in the future. The Hindutva brigade has immediately seen it as an endorsement of their stand that the question of the birth of Ram goes beyond mere human law. Not all litigants are happy at the verdict and are planning a challenge in the Supreme Court; after all, who would be satisfied with a small parcel of land when the aim was to get the whole property. And the general reaction seems to be one of relief, that the matter is mo re or less over and we can move on.


But there is a small constituency, on the fringes and hardly vocal or influential, which may be wondering what the implications of the judgment are for them. Since belief and faith are the cornerstones of the verdict, what does this imply for the non-believer? The learned judges decided to make Ram Lalla — call it the idol, the divine presence or just the projection of mass faith — as a litigant and allowed a human to represent him in court. And then, in their wisdom, they concluded, inter alia, that faith did matter and could trump the law book in such cases.


Does this not make faith as a central tenet of socio-legal issues? In a future contest between a non-believer and the faithful, say on the question of a temple that encroaches on the former's land, would the plaintiff have any chance? And more fund a mentally, do non-bel ievers — atheists, anti-Godwallahs, rationalists or mere agnostics — matter in the Indian system even if they are hardcore adherents of the constitutional and legal process?


It is not a question that can be easily discarded. In India, atheists are seen as a kind of fringe group, even cranks and do not matter, not in society not in public policy. The Constitution says India is a secular Republic, which in our country has come to mean that the state stays away from religion. In practice, the state merrily consorts with relig i o us (mainly Hindu) practices; no pu b lic building or structure is inaugurated without a puja and public off icials are not only open about their own religious affiliations, they even use state resources to promote their favourite gurus. The Election Commission draws a line at using religion to campaign, but this stricture is often breached, even if subtly.


Contrast that with the US, where the courts have been strict and uncompromising in enforcing state secularism. Prayers were struck do wn in schools and attempts to put up Christian symbols in public bu ildings. In France, while we ch afe at the bans on showing religio us symbols like the burqa and the turban in state schools, what we do n't understand is they are also eq ually firm on wearing crosses. In fact, France takes its secularism and anti-religion stance very seriously.


In all of Europe, which has seen the dark side of organised religion, belief in God is at its lowest. Going to church is seen as a practice for unenlightened, rural populations. Churches in England are falling into disuse. The advent of migrants — Hindus, Muslims and Catholics and other Christians from the Eastern European nations — has upped religious activity, but this has not pleased the host populations, who continue to be anti-religion.


Public intellectuals like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) have attacked the idea of God, which was getting a boost when openly religious politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair came to power. In the Western context, the fight is between the adherents of Creationism (the not ion of a divine masterhand behind all creation) and Darwinism, which is the theory of evolution.
In India, no such debates have ta ken place — they wouldn't stand a chance. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the last major public figure who was openly an atheist. There are many others but they prefer not to talk about it. Even the Godless Communists consort with devotees during big festivals. India was alw a ys a religious land, and now the ur ban young find it cool, happily li ving with tech, consumerism and new-age spirituality. We know how religion and faith can be misused by politicians and the havoc this can wreak on our social fabric, but this does not discourage us; inste ad, we latch on to it more and more.


The law, on the other hand has always been secular and by implication, a non-believer, but after the Ayodhya judgment, this becomes an open question. If faith can move mountains, create big political movements and also inspire judgments, then it is a potent currency in the India of today. Atheism and non-belief have no chance of making a mark in public and social life, whatever the hard constitutional reality may be.

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

 

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DNA

            REPORT

A MILLION RUPEES TO DINE WITH AMITABH BACHCHAN

 

Yes. Amitabh Bachchan is still ahead of others on the popularity charts. This is not just a perception but a fact based on people's willingness to pay hard earned money just to dine with him.

 

He beat younger competitors like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, who are a quarter of a century younger. In an auction to mark the Joy of Giving Week, the senior Bachchan got Rs10,02,000 for a lunch date.

 

The others scored in other categories. Breakfast with Akshay fetched Rs5,92,000 and a gym session with Salman, Rs3,52,000.

 

Bachchan's celebrity longevity may not be a puzzle to many of his fans but it certainly remains one for sceptical Bollywood-watchers.

 

It has to be conceded that the actor combines star quality with an undeniable gravitas. He has transformed himself into a charismatic senior citizen through sheer professionalism.

 

He works at small and big things paying equal attention to everything he does and that seems to impress and inspire people. Work matters and it is much better if it pays too. Bachchan has mastered this art.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

PAK FEELS THREATENED BY OBAMA'S INDIA VISIT

 

When it comes to Pakistan, the United States of America and Kashmir, it often seems to India that nothing has changed. The news that a team from the US embassy in New Delhi met Kashmiri separatist leaders in the Valley just ahead of US president Barack Obama's visit to India later this year brings up old fears about Pakistan manipulating the West to interfere in Kashmir and India's internal matters.

 

Usually, this is a direct attempt to deflect attention from Pakistan's own problems and this time it appears to be the same. Pakistan, apart from grappling with its own fissures and political instability, has the additional pressure applied by the US to deal with terrorists operating within its land and its links with the Taliban. In such a situation, the current law and order situation in Kashmir must have seemed like an unexpected gift for Pakistan and it has wasted no time in upping the ante.

 

Yet, it may not be necessary for India to assume that we are back to the bad old days. The US could well be playing its new game of paying lip service to Pakistan's concerns, perhaps as a pay-off for greater US excursions into Pakistani territory. It might also be a way of appeasing Pakistan for the attention being given to India when it comes to commercial and economic ties.

 

And, most of all, Obama is not scheduled to stop by Pakistan when he visits India. India must make it clear that unsolicited outside interference is unacceptable when it comes to Kashmir.

 

The current problems in Kashmir notwithstanding, it is evident that Pakistan is no longer part of the solution even as far as most Kashmiris are concerned. If there is an additional worrying point for India, it is Pakistan's cosy relations with China.

 

As far as the US and Pakistan are concerned, we know from experience that Pakistan occupies a special place in the US's view of the world. But at the same time, India is too important for the US to behave the way it did during the Cold War.

 

India's increasing success and its growing economy have made it a very attractive proposition for the rest of the world. It is perhaps that which threatens Pakistan the most, as it loses so many of its advantages day after day.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

CRISIS IN KARNATAKA REVEALS SIMMERING DISCONTENT

 

The turbulence that is rocking the 29-month-old Yeddyurappagovernment in Karnataka is a reflection of governments formed on the basis of bargains and trade-offs.

 

The decision that has triggered the latest crisis is the dismissal of four of the ministers, all independents — Shivaraj Tangadagi, D Sudhakar, PM Narendra Swamy and Venkataramanappa — whose support was needed to form the government in the first place and who were given ministerial berths as a reward for the support.

 

They have been joined by 14 of the BJP legislators and one independent. This has reduced the Yeddyurappa government's strength in the assembly to 104 in a house of 224. Governor HR Bhardwaj has asked the chief minister to prove the government'smajority on the floor of the house before October 12.

 

Chief minister Yeddyurappa has been running a disaffected government. His cabinet and party colleagues are unhappy with his manner of running the government. The rebel legislators say that the chief minister is not paying attention to matters concerning their respective constituencies. Whatever may be the accuracy of the complaint, what seems pretty clear is that the BJP is riven by intense factionalism and that leaders encourage thistendency to embarrass the chief minister.

 

Attempts to mollify the angry legislators seem to have failed. The chief minister's bete noire, tourism minister G Janardhan

 

Reddy played the emissary and flew to Chennai where the rebels were camping but failed to win them over. It is interesting to note that Reddy and his brother Karunakara have been strident critics of Yeddyurappa and they made it difficult for him to choose his cabinet.

 

Some of the senior BJP leaders are blaming the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) for creating dissensions within the ruling party but it does not wash. The BJP has now to face up to the fact that it is vulnerable to the temptations of power. Chief minister

 

Yeddyurappa cannot escape the blame, at least partially, for the problems. He does not seem to inspire trust and confidence. Both the chief minister and the party will have to realise that playing the old game of winning support by offering office does not ensure stability.

 

Of course, BJP is not the only party riven by factionalism and personal ambition. Now that it is in power, it will have to learn to deal with the problem as best as it can; blaming political rivals is not helpful.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BILLION INDIANS JUMP ON TWITTER…

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

The week gone by gave some easily excitable Twitterati in India much cause for hashtag hubris. That's because on two proximate days, India-related discussions made it to the top 10 trending topics on Twitter, a real-time barometer of the volume of chatter worldwide on the engaging — and even borderline addictive — social media platform.

 

The first was on the day of the Allahabad High Court verdict in the case relating to the dispute over the land where the Babri Masjid stood and which is claimed as the birthplace of the Hindu martial-god Ram. As a digital brigade of Indians clambered onto the Twitter board to discuss (as much as 140 characters would allow) this much-anticipated verdict, the terms 'Allahabad high court', 'Ayodha' and even 'Nirmohi Akhara' burst through to the top 10 trending topics, ahead of scintillating discussions about the private lives of debauched pop stars and suchlike other weighty topics that typically engage Twittering minds.

 

The second was on Tuesday, when the India-Australia cricket match at Mohali ended in a thrilling one-wicket win for India, made possible by valiant knocks from VVS Laxman and (somewhat improbably) Ishant Sharma.

 

The names of both these batsmen made it to the top trending topics worldwide, propelled by countless Tweets singing their praise; the fact that, first, Ayodhya's Ram and, subsequently, Laxman had put India on the Twitter map came in for much mirthful commentary. These were then shamelessly plagiarised by thousands of others without observing the due process of ReTweet protocol, but the echo chamber effect was enough to send their names soaring up the trendline charts.

 

The news that a 500-year-old dispute centred around the birthplace of an ageless god had fleetingly acquired wide publicity on a modern-day social media platform facilitated by the wonders of technology appeared to trigger indescribable excitement among many Indians. Likewise, the news that Laxman had momentarily edged ahead of pop singer Justin Bieber in the celebrity chatter-list drove some Twitter users to breathless ecstasy. Some saw it as a sign that India was beginning to acquire a strident social-media voice on the global stage and that it was implanting itself on the world's consciousness.

 

There are of course many Indians on Twitter who enrich the platform as thought leaders who disseminate astute, insightful observations relating to their domain expertise; equally important, there are many others who electrify Twitter as rollicking entertainers who keep up a steady motormouth stream of 'lol-worthy' Tweets. But as with most sample sizes, these meaningful contributors to debates — either as educators or entertainers — account for a tiny fraction of the overall group. The rest — like me — are only adding to the decibel level, and to claim on the basis of that collective buzz that Indian Twitterati are planting their flag on the world stage is to mistake 'noise' for 'voice'.

 

Given the very low Internet penetration levels in India, and going by Twitter demographics by country, India actually ranks very low on the social media scale; these occasional bursts of trendline highs are achieved only because — to paraphrase Jawaharlal Nehru's Tryst with Destiny speech — India is awake when much of the world that Tweets in English is asleep. Last year, a study of Twitter usage worldwide by a leading market research agency established that India accounts for barely 1.3% of Twitter users and less than 1% of total Tweets contributed.

 

The US, for instance, accounts for over 50%of Twitter users and over 56% of Tweets. In China, where Internet penetration levels are far higher than in India, the parallel universe of Chinese-language microblogs are rather more popular than Twitter; in any case, the restrictions on social media use in China inhibit Twitter from acquiring a critical mass. And in Japan, too, English proficiency levels are relatively low. Which is why India's English-language shadow on Twitter seems relatively longer.

 

In his recent book, When A Billion Chinese Jump, on China's looming environmental crisis, The Guardian's Asia environment correspondent Jonathan Watts recalls a childhood nightmare: that if a billion Chinese jumped together, they would knock the world off its axis. Much the same effect may apply to the Twitter world: when a billion Indians jump, they can momentarily sway Twitter trendlines with their chatter. But that may not mean 'we, the Tweeple' are finding a voice on the world stage; it may only be that we are merely contributing to meaningless chatter. But perhaps that's the defining characteristic of a platform like Twitter…

 

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DNA

COLUMN

CHINA-IN-PAKISTAN TO HINDER INDIA'S GROWTH AND POWER

HARSH V PANT

 

As tensions mount in East Asia between China and Japan and Beijing makes it clear that it intends to defy international opinion to sell nuclear reactors to Pakistan, something seems to be changing in New Delhi too.

 

Our sage-like prime minister who has previously described China as India's greatest neighbour has now been suggesting that Beijing could be tempted to use India's "soft underbelly," Kashmir, and Pakistan, "to keep India in low-level equilibrium".

 

Our ultra-cautious defence minister has admitted that "there has been an increasing assertiveness on the part of China". After trying to push significant divergences with China under the carpet for years, Indian decision-makers are being forced to acknowledge that relationship with China is becoming increasingly contentious. The challenge now is to understand China and its motivations clearly.

 

Divisions within China about the future course of its foreign policy are starker than before. It is now being suggested that much like young Japanese officers in the 1930s, young Chinese military officers are increasingly taking charge of strategy with the result that rapid military growth is shaping broader foreign policy objectives. Civil-military relations are under stress with the PLA asserting its pride more forcefully and demanding respect from other states. "A country needs respect, and a military also needs respect," wrote a major-general recently in the PLA's paper.

 

It is also possible that China's aggression is a symbol of its weaknesses, a result of its sense of internal vulnerabilities. The clampdown on media and internal dissent is stronger than ever before. Troubled regions of Tibet and Xinjiang are being tightly controlled. And in that context the very success of India poses a challenge.

 

While the Chinese Communist Party can continue to self-righteously claim that the western model of political and economic governance is not an ideal one, it is more difficult to counter the Indian model which offers a different pattern of development, and in a democratic framework. In that sense, it's a battle of ideas between China and India as much as anything else.

 

Though China overtook Japan as the world's second-largest economy as far back as 2001 in purchasing power parity terms, it was last month that China bypassed Japan in terms of nominal GDP measured in current exchange rate terms. By 2020 China is expected to be the largest economic partner of every single country in the Asia-Pacific. Measured against this standard, Chinese policy makers, by and large, don't consider Japan and India as competitors.

 

India is not very important in China's foreign policy calculus and there is a general perception that India can be easily pushed around. The chaos of Indian democracy is seen as reason for India's vacillating foreign policy. New Delhi's actions have strengthened that impression. The Chinese believe that a strong reaction to Indian foreign policy overtures would be enough to

 

deter New Delhi from countering China's moves.

 

It is not clear if China has well-defined external policy objectives, though her means, both economic and military, to pursue them, are greater now than at any time in the recent past. Pakistan, of course, has always been a crucial foreign policy asset for China but with India's rise and US-India rapprochement, its role in China's grand strategy is bound to grow.

 

There is no need for India to counter China by matching weapon for weapon or bluster for bluster. India will have to look inwards to prepare for the China challenge. After all, China has not prevented India from pursing economic reforms and decisive governance, developing its infrastructure and border areas, and from intelligently investing in military capabilities. If India could deal with the China challenge in 1987, when there was a real border standoff between the two, there should be less need for alarm today when India is a much stronger nation, economically and militarily.

 

A resurgent India of 2010 needs new reference points to manage its complex relationship with the superpower-in-waiting China. A start can be made by making the Henderson-Brooks Commission report public so that an honest debate can commence on China and the challenge it poses.

 

India will also have to work more purposefully with other powers, most notably the US, in countering China. After the initial hoopla about a G2, China's relationship with the US has also soured. The recent Chinese bluster on the issue of South China Sea too provides an opening for New Delhi to cultivate security ties with countries in East Asia. Given the legitimate interests that all regional states have in such an undertaking, cooperation in this realm will be easier to achieve.

 

China's Global Times had warned last year that "India needs to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China." India should raise the stakes high enough so that instead of New Delhi, it's Beijing that is forced to consider seriously the consequences of a potential confrontation.

 

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WHAT WE WANT IS NOT WHAT WE NEED

 

Crash. Thump. Clang. Knock.

 

Hammer. Rrrrrrr… an army of men seem to be crawling on and through my house. Periodically they are either drilling or hammering god knows what into what… by now I have given up trying to figure out who's doing what. Instead I huddle in a room trying to block the noise and intrusion… and pondering on the merits of a being a cave dweller.

 

I have always believed in the William Morris dictum that one shouldn't own anything that isn't functional or beautiful. In fact, I have always tried to surround myself with things that are both functional and beautiful. And when it came to the windows, I was determined they ought to also be made by a very dear friend of mine who has always had the effect of ushering in good karma into my life.

 

With him behind the blinds, it would have the dual effect of keeping both the sun and bad vibes out… What began as a little window dressing, suddenly became a mammoth project when we went fabric-shopping. Bales of fabulous fabric were strewn on the floor, marked at half their price. Suddenly I decided that I would also re-upholster just about every inch of padded surface in my home.

 

Suddenly my home was acquiring a whole new look. "All very well, dearest," my husband said, "but have you looked at the damp patches on the ceiling in the guest bedroom?" And so we decided to get that looked at too… How we seem to fill our lives. No matter what we have, there is always more we need. And it seems to become more complex with choice. It occurs to me that there was some merit to living in caves. At least you do not have to ponder on the images dancing before your eyes and wonder if LED is truly all that superior to LCD…

 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

ANOTHER DIMENSION

 

Our examination system has never come under scanner so much as it is at the moment. It has been rocked by several exposures of malpractices --- theft of question papers, mass copying, tampering of answer-sheets and mark lists and, to cap it all, the audacious impersonation attempts. Now it has witnessed yet another murky dimension. In fact, the latest occurrence has two elements. First, it does not involve just the students who are taking a test. It concerns the students who happen to be teachers in real life. They were appearing in the paper of education psychology in distance elementary education. Instead of honestly answering the questions they were seen indulging in mass copying. On being spotted and stopped by a four-member flying squad of the State Board of School Education (BOSE) belonging to Doda district they did something no cheater was reported to have done so far in the State thereby duplicating their offence. Some of them pounced upon the invigilators and assaulted them. Police investigations have revealed that they were aided by a few outsiders (ironically identified as the members of a teachers association) as well in executing their violent reaction. It turns out that the teacher candidates did not stop at that. They went on to allege that they had invited action because they refused to oblige the BOSE team by paying bribe. Prima facie it appears to be an afterthought on their part to camouflage their own misdeed. The police has found no truth in their allegation. The invigilators had already made six cases of unfair means and were in the process of doing more when they were interrupted and physically targeted. The theatre of all the amazing drama has been the Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Kishtwar. The incident poses a serious question to the teaching community. What can it do to isolate bad fish from its pond?

 

The episode has coincided with an observation made by a teacher on this page recently. He has noted evidently on the basis of personal experience "a major tendency" towards the adopting of unjust practices in examinations "in many areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Ramban, Rajouri and Poonch districts." He has followed it up with a stunning comment: "Most of the teachers who entered this pious department through backdoor influences are involved in the obnoxious practices like examination fixing and paper leakages to collect money from the students." There is a timely warning: "The sub-standard lust of the teachers for money at the cost of their honour and the suicidal quest of the parents for good percentage combined with the detrimental innocence of our students have always resulted into the career-staking frustration of the students' lot during the later stages of their life."

 

Few expected that one would come across a practical example from one of the hilly districts rather too soon. The experience shows that the situation is no better elsewhere. Most of the impersonation bids, for instance, have been reported from this city. These have been marked by the connivance of politicians too. The latest is that an impersonator has been caught in a matric biannual examination by the Arnia police in our adjoining Samba district. The malady is thus much deeper than what we can perhaps imagine. Do we need to add more?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

FIGURES TELL A TALE

 

At times the statistics do tell a tale of woes. According to the latest information furnished by the Government in the legislature there are more than 45000 unemployed professionals in the State. They include 2772 doctors, 5999 engineers and 19172 technocrats. The position is also similar in the two divisions with Kashmir accounting for a slightly higher number on this count. In all there are 33694 vacancies (both gazetted and non-gazetted) in various administrative departments. These have been referred to the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Service Selection and Recruitment Board for doing the needful. The most recent Economic Survey throws substantial light on rampant joblessness on both sides of the Pir Panjal. It actually describes unemployment as "a social issue of serious concern." Since it goes strictly by the official information its assessment is based on the 2001 census. It mentions that there are a total of 37.54 lakh workers (26.09 lakh main workers and 11.45 lakh marginal workers). Of more than a million in the latter category half suffers from disguised unemployment (which means that more people are engaged in some activity than the number of persons required for that). There is no reason to believe that this negative phenomenon has been reversed. The picture in this regard has only worsened with the passage of time. The Survey itself notes: (a) "the educated unemployed population has been recorded as 89796 in 2008 which is 8.69 per cent more than the previous year"; (b) "number of workers employed in handicraft and horticulture/agriculture sector has remained constant in 2006-07 and 2007-08 as there has been no additional absorption of the human component in these sector"; (c) "handloom sector has shown decline in employment over the years"; (d) "unemployment rate in respect of J&K State, has been worked out to be 5.2 percent (5.4 percent for males and 3.5 percent for females) which is on higher side when compared to the All- India figures of 3.1 percent (3.1 percent for males and 3.0 percent for females) and the neighbouring States viz Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, and North Eastern States which are having lower unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, 3.9 percent, 2.4 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively"; (e) "unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent in urban areas of the State is on the higher side when compared to its neighbouring States"; (f) "male unemployment rate of the State in rural areas is 5.1 percent which is on the higher side than its neighbouring States and all-India level"; and (g) "with the annual average growth rate of 1.81 percent in population, the literacy is growing at an annual average growth rate of 2.126 percent, which results in addition to the educated youth year after year."

 

With this background in view it is small wonder that Governor N.N. Vohra has recently reiterated the need for ensuring the highest standards of learning so that the youth of the State is equipped to compete with the best in national and international markets. The Government for its part has launched the Sher-i-Kashmir Employment Welfare Programme for Youth (SKEWPY). There is also the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Besides, the other plans are announced from time to time. An effective remedy lies in encouraging private entrepreneurship and private-public cooperation.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN PATRONISES MILITANTS

ON THE SPOT

BY TAVLEEN SINGH

 

Last week General Pervez Musharraf became the first head of state to admit publicly that when he ruled Pakistan his Government created terrorist groups to use against India in Kashmir. He told Der Speigel that he had no regrets about having used terrorism as a pillar of his foreign policy because in his view it was the only way to get India to talk about Kashmir. The magazine quoted him as saying, 'They were indeed formed. The Government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.' 
What is intriguing about Musharraf's confession is not just that it is unusual for heads of state to admit to sponsoring terrorism but his pride in doing what he did. In the same interview he complains about the West treating Pakistan as a rogue state. He says, 'The West blames Pakistan for everything. Nobody asks the Indian prime minister, why did you arm your country with a nuclear weapon? Why are you killing innocent civilians in Kashmir? Nobody has bothered that Pakistan got split in 1971 because of India's military backing for Bangladesh…….everybody is interested in strategic deals with India, but Pakistan is always seen as the rogue.'
The ex-President of Pakistan appears not to have noticed that the reason why Pakistan is seen as a rogue state is exactly because its Government has, for at least two decades, sponsored terrorist groups that have committed horrible crimes in the name of Islam. Ever since 9/11 made Islamist terrorism the biggest threat to the world, as we know it, there have been hardly any terrorist plots that did not involve Pakistanis. If 9/11 did not have Pakistanis among the nineteen suicide bombers who flew those planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon it cannot be said that the first attempt on the World Trade Centre in the nineties did not. The attempt failed but was plotted entirely in Pakistan. Did it have the support of the Pakistani Government?
The London bombings in 2005 involved British suicide bombers of Pakistani origin. The plot to blow up aeroplanes over the Atlantic two years later involved Pakistanis, the men who killed Daniel Pearl were Pakistanis and the men who came to Mumbai on 26/11 were Pakistanis. As we approach the third anniversary of that sickening incident we need to remember that it happened after Musharraf had been replaced by a civilian Government and yet there appears to be clear evidence of the involvement of serving Pakistani army officers. The reason why the Indian government still does not know the names of the men who controlled the operation from Pakistani soil is believed to be that they could include at least one serving army officer. David Headley has said that the whole operation was planned and executed by the ISI.
It is equally important to remember that the Lashkar-e-Toiba was created by the Pakistani army and it was the Lashkar that was directly involved in 26/11. Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed has remained a free man despite being the founder of this ghastly organization because the Pakistani army still controls Pakistan and is unlikely to start eating its own children. It is in the light of all this that we should see Musharraf's confession.
From an Indian point of view the problem is that we know what Pakistan has been up to but are not sure how to deal with it. Whenever I have talked to high officials in South Block they have had no hesitation in admitting that they have known for ages that the Pakistani Government is the main sponsor of terrorist groups that operate against India. I remember in particular an interview I did, just after 26/11, with a very senior bureaucrat in the Government of India who when I asked if rogue ISI men were involved in 26/11 said, 'There is no rogue ISI. There is just the ISI.'
Having said this he admitted that when dealing with Pakistan our problem was the same as the problem that the United States faces when dealing with Pakistan. And, this problem is that we have the choice of either engaging Pakistan in dialogue or letting it slip beyond the pale and be taken over completely by jihadi Generals and jihadi groups. That this is a very clear possibility can be seen from the number of jihadi attacks that have taken place in recent years against the Pakistani Government. Two years ago Taliban fighters came within sixty kilometres of Islamabad after having already established Taliban control over Swat and Waziristan. 
The reason why the Americans are forced to pour money into Pakistan's bankrupt economy is because of the hope that if the government of Asif Ali Zardari can show that it can deliver governance it will be a bulwark against the jihadis. Unfortunately, Zardari's Government has been as inept as it is possible to be especially in providing efficient and timely relief to the millions of flood victims who now live in makeshift camps across the country. The jihadis, from all accounts, appear to be a doing more efficient job even where this is concerned. 
All of this is very worrying when seen from India because the last thing we need is an Islamist Pakistan. If jihadi Generals take over the army and jihadi groups take over the Government in Islamabad it is not the United States that will be their first target but India. All you need to do is YouTube a Pakistani jihadi website to discover just how much a hatred of India defines the very philosophy that fuels the jihad. Faced with a choice between a Musharraf type head of state or a Taliban type head of state Indian officials have so far been inclined to go with the former but the question that needs to be asked today is whether this strategy has worked. 
The answer to this troubling question is that it will be seen to have worked if another 26/11 does not happen. If it does and the Indian Government once more resorts to peaceful, diplomatic means of dealing with Pakistan the Government of Dr. Manmohan Singh is unlikely to survive. But, will war provide a solution? Unlikely, because it would weaken the Pakistani state, such as it is, and the Pakistani army leaving the field open for a full scale takeover by groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Meanwhile, we should at least try and persuade those whom we can still talk to in Pakistan that they need to withdraw support to all jihadi groups and not just the ones that threaten the West.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

RISING SUPERSTARS IN INDIA

BY ARUN NEHRU

 

The opening ceremony was a super success and must have surprised many who had witnessed a disaster situation in the Village and you cannot blame the media here or abroad for the negative thoughts generated and we cannot afford to be in denial of the facts concerning poor governance and I cannot believe that those in authority and control were oblivious to the situation in the Village. We have been ridiculed as a Nation for something which was simple and uncomplicated and the boos and jeers which greeted Suresh Kalmadi on his speech at the Opening function were not meant for him alone and at the same time I must mention that the capacity crowd and the enthusiasm displayed by the public is also a tribute to those who performed and delivered and no surprise that CM Delhi got a positive nod for her efforts in the last week which retrieved the situation. We do not need the services of a eminent astrologer to predict the outcome of the games and I have little doubt that the closing ceremony will also be a great success and the Stadium will be full to the capacity available. We are good at what we do and over the past decade our growth in excess of 8% cannot be attributed to the wisdom of a handful of individuals in the government but to the all round efforts of all Indians and look around you and in every field of activity you will find 'super stars' and having seen governance at a senior level for close to three decades I have little doubt in stating that we have created more than a mere 'miracle' as a Nation and look at all the talent and ability we have in India and look into any discipline of activity be it politics, industry, science, education, the arts and we have no shortage of 'super stars' and sadly the CWG 10 threatened to wreck our reputation achieved over a decade of performance and this lapse will not be condoned by the public if those in governance fail to take action after the CWG 10 are over and this issue is not about Sports alone but covers every aspect of governance.


As I write this we win a thrilling Test match and I cannot think of anyone who was not glued to the TV set on the last day and in the CWG 10 we make a splendid start and win gold medals but physical attendance is very poor both at the Cricket match and in particular at the Games and much of this has to do with the excellent TV coverage we have and watching sports these days is no longer a 'family' outing with the excessive security arrangements which sadly have become a necessary part of our lives in every part of the Globe. Cricket is in a class of its own but for the first time in this decade we find greater recognition to tennis, badminton, golf, boxing, wrestling and the list will continue to grow with additional exposure and after the CWG 10 there will a new list of champions in every sporting discipline and we have to carefully assess if we have the administrative structure to deal with this situation. The management of Sports is going to be a major issue and as endorsements and private financial aid increases things will become more professional and change is 'inevitable' ! The games are on and we have a few days left and with the security constraints we cannot expect great 'physical' attendance at the venue except perhaps on the last few days and looking at the future we should allow schools and collages by rotation free attendance in many of the facilities and in Delhi alone thousands of children will benefit from this gesture and this will not raise any security issues. 


We have to be practical and as things stand the biggest family entertainment today are our new shopping malls and Cineplex facilities and hundreds of restaurants to match every budget and these are packed to capacity and with time we see TV sets appearing in every corner of the Mall and even if the attendance is low in the venue the games are being watched. Few of us will forget the splendid efforts of VVS Laxman and young Ishant Sharma and only a few will remember the names of the wrestlers and the shooters who won the Gold medals today as a comparison but things are changing and the change is coming rather swiftly and we will have a new set of super stars for the future. Change is already in the 'air' and besides the efforts of the government both at the Center and in the States, the Sports associations and Industry the electronic media has a vital role for the future and I was delighted to see a TV show on CNNIBN which paid a tribute to our super stars of the past and there is a message in this for all of us for the future.


The Closing ceremony will be a grand affair and we will again see a multitude of VVIP and VIP guests with their security contingents [everything is at public expense] and I sometimes wonder how many were able to visit and see the games besides the ritual appearance at the Opening and Closing ceremony. They will have few problems but the others will go through a three or four hour wait as they encounter several security obstacles and something has to be done about this in the future. My suggestion for the future would be to have a 'VIP' enclosure for our sporting champions both past and present and also include in these categories the 'future' from the schools and colleges and what a splendid opportunity this would be to pay our tribute to these 'super stars' who have done the Nation proud. We have many miles to go but I feel that the next five years could be very special and we have to take our opportunities as they come and as the Closing ceremony takes place for the CWG 10 we should think on positive lines for the future and staging the Olympics must be our objective and this and much more will happen as we look into the future. We will be back to the Bihar elections in a week and we wish the government well as new measures are deployed in J&K and on the Ayodhya issue a negotiated settlement on both sides should be encouraged by all political parties. We have important elections in the USA within a month and we could see changes in both the Houses as the President is under pressure as the US economy continues to struggle with low growth and we look forward to welcome him as he makes his first visit to India.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

OBAMA COMING TO INDIA

BY LALIT SETHI

 

President Obama is coming to India at an opportune moment next month amid a glorious mild winter with warm days and cool mornings and evenings and with almost all irritants on both sides already resolved. They have, therefore, to discuss how to go to the next stage of joint efforts and strong cooperation in world affairs. The problem over US moves to restrict outsourcing information technology work and exporting jobs from America to India has resolved itself with the Senate rejecting the Democratic Bill and not even allowing it to be introduced in the Congress. 


The Republicans and some Democrats took the view that in fact such American moves would not create jobs but block efforts to create jobs. With that Indian concern being settled out of court or political arena, President Obama, who is an admirer of Dr. Manmohan Singh, could consider moving to the graver issues of security, terrorism and closer economic ties between the two largest democracies of the world. Mr. Obama can, therefore, look forward to fruitful discussions on diverse issues of mutual interest and of great import to the two countries.
After US withdrawal of combatants from Iraq, which has been immensely popular with Americans and around the world, Obama is facing a test in the mid-term elections to the Senate and of several Governors of States, but massive loss of jobs in the US in spite of stimulus for banks and failed companies, has failed to revive the economy, but he has still to take the next steps to shore up his sliding or diminishing popularity among voters. International image making is one of the ways of giving oneself some kind of self-assurance even if the domestic scene is somewhat gloomy. Mr. Obama seeks India's approval or concurrence on his plan to withdraw NATO troops from Afghanistan in 18 months as India is a key player in rebuilding that beleaguered country's infrastructure, including road, schools, hospitals, bridges and training police for internal security and law and order. 


There has been a feeling that sudden American departure from Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan would jeopardize Indian civilian presence as the Taliban might make the Indian development activity there impossible for lack of protection because Indian projects and diplomatic missions have been under attack for a long time. But assurances are being given to India that future security concerns would be adequately addressed before American departure from that hapless country.


There is now appreciation around the world, including India, that the recent display of Chinese arrogance and belligerence could be attributed to the Chinese belief that the US is preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan and they could play games with a number of countries, including Japan, a key American ally and a close friend of India. An Indian foreign policy expert outside the government has argued that "exit" from Afghanistan would be a "smart" strategy for the US and India need not be overly concerned with such a move. The new Indian Army Chief has gone on record to say that the Indian Army is capable of handling aggression from two fronts, namely China and Pakistan, simultaneously. Even though this point of view was reiterated at the recent Army Commanders' conference in New Delhi, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, told the assembled commanders and the Defence Mininster, External Affairs Minister, Home Minister and his own National Security Adviser, that India could not be preoccupied with Pakistan's mischief and sponsorship of terrorist attacks and overlook the games China is playing in South Asia by building a network or "necklace" of ports in Mynamar, Sri Lanka and now Gwadar in Balochistan to encircle India. Indian defence preparedness is vital and will not be overlooked. It is in this light that India is engaging Pakistan in negotiations and possibly warning it about Chinese intentions of treating Pakistan as a surrogate nation or a client State, which could be ordered about to do its dirty work against India.

India is possibly recalibrating its attitude to the possible American and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in the light of American assurances that it will not be found wanting or leave no stone unturned in the next 18 months to stabilize the situation there and has put Pakistan on notice that unless it takes meaningful steps to curb terrorism and not play host to terrorists targeting India, it could face grave consequences and be hit by American drones from the sea even when combatants might have withdrawn from Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama would be seeking India's comments on such a policy and expect a positive Indian response. India is unlikely to agree without demur, but will not hesitate to warn the US about Pakistani duplicity, of which the US appears to be well aware. (NPA)


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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE BADALS' BATTLE 

FOCUS ON CENTRAL DEBT OFFER

 

THE Shiromani Akali Dal has got its priorities wrong. Instead of working out a collective response to the Central loan waiver offer, the party has chosen to target Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. On Wednesday the political affairs committee of the party authorised Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to take appropriate action against his outspoken nephew. When Mr Manpreet Singh held a press conference on Thursday afternoon claiming that he had not violated the party discipline and that the Chief Minister had ruled out any action against him, everyone believed the issue had been sorted out.

 

However, later in the evening the Chief Minister issued the warning that none would be allowed to create indiscipline in the party. Though he did not name Mr Manpreet Singh, the message was clear. More importantly, he claimed that he was pursuing the issue of debt waiver and was waiting for an official response from the Centre. The veteran Akali leader obviously does not want Mr Manpreet Singh to create embarrassment for the government, which has been cool to the Centre's terms for a debt relief. It is well known that the ruling Akali-BJP combine is in favour of subsidies while Mr Manpreet Badal had been openly opposing these in the past also. Mr Badal seems to believe that Mr Manpreet Singh has now crossed the limit.

 

In a democracy like ours political differences are natural. Leaders do speak out on issues they feel strongly about at forums other than the party. Mr Manpreet Badal might have made some critical observations about the style of functioning of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal but the thrust of his interaction with the media has been to seek wider support for the Centre's offer to lighten the state debt burden almost by half. This is not the time to get embroiled in petty controversies and lose sight of the larger issue. The mounting debt is a source of worry for all.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

RAHUL-SPEAK
RSS SHOWN THE SIMI MIRROR

 

CONGRESS general secretary Rahul Gandhi seems determined to establish that contrary to his soft demeanor, he is ready for a no holds barred political slugfest. He has laid it thick for the saffron camp by equating Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with banned terrorist outfit Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). That he did so while speaking in Bhopal, the capital of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, carries its own message. Essentially, he has repeated what former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh has been saying for years now, but coming from him, the words acquire added pyrotechnics. Read along with what Home Minister P Chidambaram said about saffron terrorism the other day, it is clear that the Congress is keen to go in for the BJP jugular in a big way.

 

The goal appears to be two-fold. One aim is to draw the minorities closer to the Congress camp and the second is to enthuse Congress cadres all over the country in general and Madhya Pradesh in particular. He is hanging the allegation on the fact that some persons belonging to the Bajrang Dal, the VHP and Abhinav Bharat have been found involved in terror incidents and the RSS has not denied its association with them.

But tarring the RSS in such a fashion is fraught with risks. SIMI is a proscribed organisation, which the RSS is not. Nor is its top leadership directly involved in terrorism like that of SIMI. Then there are also the social activities of the RSS to contend with, like promoting education and nation-building. To that extent, the statement can be counter-productive. The man on the street might even draw the conclusion that the RSS is being unfairly targeted and the latter may thus get public sympathy. Calling the RSS communal or even fanatical might have passed muster but equating it with SIMI might very well prove to be a case of going overboard.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CM IN TROUBLE

INSTABILITY HAUNTS BJP GOVT IN KARNATAKA 

 

THE BJP-led B.S. Yeddyurappa government in Karnataka is in trouble again. The latest crisis is an offshoot of the resentment over the recent Cabinet reshuffle. Apparently, it has been reduced to a minority on Wednesday following the withdrawal of support to the government by 20 MLAs — 15 of the BJP and five Independents. In the 225-member House, the BJP has 117 (including the Speaker), the Congress 73 and the Janata Dal (Secular) 28 members respectively. There are six Independents. To quell rebellion, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has dropped six ministers from the Cabinet, four on Wednesday and two more on Thursday. Incidentally, the four ministers sacked on October 6 were Independents who had lent crucial support to Mr Yeddyurappa when the BJP had failed to get a majority in the May 2008 Assembly elections. Fearing poaching, the rebel legislators have been hopping from one city to the other — Bangalore to Chennai to Kochi and then to Mumbai.

 

The Reddy brothers of Bellary — who had spearheaded the revolt against the Chief Minister a few months back — are on his side now and currently engaged in fire-fighting operations to save the government. It is a moot point whether Mr Yeddyurappa would survive the confidence vote in the Assembly on October 11. However, his plan to advise two or three senior ministers to quit office to help him induct five to six new faces into the Cabinet could exacerbate the problem.

 

Mr Yeddyurappa seems to have failed to enforce his authority and discipline in the party and the government. Ever since the BJP was returned to power in the 2008 Assembly elections, after a bitter coalition experiment with Mr H.D. Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular), instability has been haunting the government. The BJP did manage to woo a few Independents, got them re-elected to the Assembly on the party ticket and made them ministers. However, they were not happy with the portfolios. Factionalism has increased in the party and every legislator is lobbying for ministership or chairperson's post in boards and corporations. They are also protesting against the appointment of some tainted colleagues as ministers. Worse, reports of too many scams, wheeling dealing and corruption have dented the image of the only BJP government in the South. Needless to say, the BJP has ceased to be a "party with a difference."

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

SYSTEMIC FLAWS IN EDUCATION

VILLAGE-LEVEL COUNCILS CAN PROVIDE REMEDY

BY S. S. JOHL

 

THERE has developed systemic dichotomy in the delivery of education in the country. Wards of some 80 per cent of the total population of the country (about 65 per cent that live in the rural areas and 15 per cent in the urban areas) study in government schools. Wards of only about 20 per cent population, urban and some rural rich, study in private or the so-called public schools. A handsome number of school-going children in government schools belong to the Scheduled Caste and the Backward Classes.

 

Although logically, giving some margin for favouritism and corruption, the best of the lot of teachers are employed by the government and they are paid handsomely, they do not perform their duties with due responsibility because there is no accountability in government service. These teachers, with a few honourable exceptions, indulge in different types of malpractices such as not holding the classes, confusing the students in classes so that they (students) keep tuitions with them (teachers), and even subcontract their jobs at nominal payments. As a result, these students are left high and dry.

 

Neither can they compete for admissions to higher education – not to speak of admissions to medical, engineering or other professional courses – nor do they qualify for gainful employment. Thus, 80 per cent of the population does not get access to relevant and quality education and is being left out of the development stream. It can at best get engaged in menial jobs.

 

On the other hand, private schools, in spite of the various restrictions imposed on them, are flourishing on hefty donations from rich and educated parents, and charge high fees. These schools employ teachers from the left-out stock and pay very low salaries. Yet, ironically, these teachers perform well and train the students to qualify and grab almost the entire seats in the institutions of higher professional education.

 

An earlier survey by Punjabi University, Patiala, had shown that at the university campus 94 per cent students were coming from urban areas and 6 per cent from rural areas. Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, had only 4 per cent students from rural areas. Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, had less than 4 per cent and Punjab University, Chandigarh, only 2 per cent students from rural areas. Many of those classified as rural students come from rich families and have mostly studied in urban private schools.

 

Although the universities have taken measures to improve the ratio of rural students on their campuses, like admissions after matriculation and opening up of neighbourhood campuses as is done by Punjabi University, the huge imbalance persists. The situation gets further aggravated due to the absence of science subjects at the plus two level in many senior secondary schools in rural areas.

 

Primarily, it is the lack of accountability that is plaguing education in government schools. This is mainly responsible for the serious dichotomy in the delivery of relevant and quality education at the school level, which in turn is developing the country into an India of the rich and Bharat of the poor. As a consequence, even the high-level growth the economy is registering is being appropriated by the minority upper strata of society, and disparities in income distribution are increasing concomitantly. No wonder, more than 77 per cent of the population in the country is living on Rs 20 or less per capita a day. On the other end, as an example, fancy single-digit and double-digit numbers of cars are being bought in auction in lakhs of rupees.

 

Unless remedial measures are taken at the grassroots level, no top dressing will be of any help. For instance, many top class business schools are coming up in addition to dozens of elite institutions already in existence. The question is: for whom? The hefty fees, running into lakhs of rupees, charged by these institutions of higher learning are exasperating figures for the rural and poor segments of society, even if a few of their wards reach the level of counselling . These elite institutes can be rightfully labelled as by the rich, of the rich and for the rich!

 

The remedy lies not in organisational changes at the top, but taking steps that removes the systemic malaise that plagues education in government schools.

 

With this end in view, there is need for setting up village-level education councils for all schools in the rural areas. These councils should be non-political and honorary in nature and should have five members (one of them chairman). The selection should be out of fairly educated/literate parents, whose wards are studying in those particular schools. Panchayats should have no role to play in the formation of these councils. Two members should retire every year by turn or when the ward of any member leaves the school.

 

These councils should watch and monitor the content and quality of education as well as performance of the teachers and evaluate the percentage of the students who are made capable of qualifying for higher education or gainful employment. These councils should be the reporting authorities to the Departments of Education, which should take quick action on their reports / recommendations. Funds at the margin for an improvement of the facilities that make the delivery of education more efficient should come to schools at the recommendation of these councils.

 

The Departments of School Education should remain in monitoring mode on the functioning of these education councils and should not hesitate in removing non-functional and inefficient/ unsuitable members. It should be ensured that there is no interference from the village panchayats in the functioning of these councils. The main thrust of these councils should be on enforcing accountability on the part of the teachers.

 

Another step that is vital for improving school education is the eradication of the malaise of tuitions being forced on students by unscrupulous teachers. Taking of paid tuitions (not free guidance) on the part of teachers should be declared cognizable offence, punishable by dismissal from service. The organisational changes that are being brought about in the top administration of the education system in India will not serve the purpose of removing this serious dichotomy, but will certainly fiddle with the federal character of our country and will not leave much space for regional diversity.

 

Even the introduction of EDUSET for the on-line delivery of education will require trained and fully accountable teachers. Village schools at present do not have the needed capacity to benefit from such an improvement. The benefits of all such interventions will again gravitate to the already privileged sections of society. If the delivery of education in the country is to be made inclusive in reality, tackling the lack of accountability on the part of teachers in government schools, especially in rural areas, and an effective check on the system of paid tuitions are the necessary preconditions, rather prerequisites. The question, however, remains: whether the policy makers will ever change their mindset in this direction!

 

The writer is a former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

GUIDED TOUR

BY RAJNISH WATTAS

 

Much before the scheduled visit of Prince Charles, known for keen interest in architecture — though not exactly modern — the buzz in my neighbourhood was that I would be the chosen one to conduct his city tour. I was a sure bet, they said, 'no one else keeps talking about the making of Chandigarh in his sleep, in his bath, in his puja or even at a wedding or a funeral...."

 

But that was not to be. Yet, with my clairvoyance picked up from the friendly roadside fortune-telling parrot, who almost made it to the CWG Inaugural, I can give you a peep of the visit:

 

"A very, very warm welcome to your Royal Highnessji, Sirji"

 

"Thanks ol' boy'

 

'But Sirji, I'm not an old boy, I was just retired early ..'

 

'Wish Mummy would do that too .."

 

'Anyway where are we going?'

 

'Sir, to the great temple of modern India's democracy, the Capitol Complex.'

 

'Democracy? Ok, Ok, something that the bearded hottie Kaalhmaadi too kept muttering about with his baby balloon.'

 

'Sir, the building that you see is the Assembly...'

 

'Oh! you mean that silly thing with a bowler hat? Who designed it?' 'Sir, it's a work of brutalism art by the famous French architect Le Corbusier.'

 

'We're not amused... we leave you with great classical stuff like the Viceroy's Palace designed by Sir Edwards Lutyens ... and there you go and get a Frenchman ... they don't even bathe or change their undergarments ... And you call yourselves as loyal subjects of Commonwealth, whose games you call us to open, in spite of the racing season at Derby!

 

'And what's that aircraft carrier HMS Nelson look-alike?' 'Sirji, please don't be annoyed, it's the Secretariat, where all the babus, I mean all the worthy superior officers coming in red light Ambassadors, sit Sirji.

 

'Oh, that's your town's official red light area! Hah hah! You chaps sure got some sense of humour from us, jolly good. 'And that far out thing near the hills, a weather cock I suppose?'

 

'No Sir, it's our City's emblem the Open Hand which means "open to give, open to receive."

 

'Must have been our Tony boy's idea to raise funds for the Iraq war, as Bush's little poodle. Must tell you we at the Buckingham Palace were not amused!'

 

And why do you have these huge bloody maidans all over where no one, not even an Englishman on a hot summer day would venture out? Are you planning polo matches.... my friend Bubbles of Jaipur could help.

 

'Ok, cheerio, bye, bye.'

 

Then the cavalcade rushes towards the city's rehri market, where His Royal Highness was keen to buy some spices and tea, as ordained by 'mummy."

 

In the distant hills I could see the sun setting.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

TAMING THE RIVERS

IF FLOOD STORAGE IS MADE A PART OF ALL DAM PROJECTS, MISERIES CAUSED BY FLOODS AND DROUGHT CAN BE MINIMISED. THE STRATEGY, THEREFORE, SHOULD INVOLVE INTEGRATED PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT OF LAND AND WATER RESOURCES 

KS RANA

 

THE wet season this year has led to a rude awakening, particularly in J&K, Himachal, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. The importance and complexity of water-related problems attributed to several causes is being voiced by a cross-section of society. While normal life in the hills was paralysed by landslides and soil erosion, the plains got inundated for weeks, causing a massive loss of lives, crops and property. On other side, states like Bihar, eastern UP, Jharkhand and parts of West Bengal faced a drought syndrome. In both cases, normal life and socio-economic conditions were affected by a revealing contrast of an excess of and deficiency of the monsoon.

 

We cannot alter the weather pattern or influence an occasional El-Niño phase controlling it over a period varying from three to seven years. However, distress resulting from such events can be minimised to a great extent by integrated management of the land and river system comprising the catchments, drainage lines, feeding streams, floodplain and the main river channels.

 

For many years decision-making over land use has paid limited attention to hazards associated with the water environment. Short-term and piecemeal commercial interests are often pushed through in a compartmentalised mode ignoring the fact that the river, its catchments, floodplain and groundwater are essentially a hydrological, geomorphologic and ecological continuum. A holistic approach generally emphasised is not compulsorily translated into a master plan format for sustainable development of the resource.

 

Guidelines for the preparation of a river basin master plan with a 25-year perspective were prepared by the Central Water Commission in 1990. These can be modified and used as per the local terrain, climatic conditions, basin specific features, including the frequency of floods and drought. A periodic review of the plans is necessary to update and improve them incorporating changes on account of new developments in the intervening period.

 

While some states and central agencies have already taken the initiative, most others are still pursuing a project-to-project approach with overlapping features and conflicting interests. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are funding projects for the preparation of the master plan for the basin's water resource to promote its integrated development. The states can take benefit of such institutional funding.

 

Every state should have a master plan for each of the river system within its territory. For inter-state rivers, the master plan prepared by a state for river reach within its jurisdiction may be amalgamated and approved by the central government.

 

The problem of floods and drainage congestion faced by Delhi is not new. A master plan for drainage was prepared way back in 1976. Its implementation could not keep pace with fast urbanisation. Later, a technical committee was constituted by the Lt Governor of Delhi in 1993 (this writer was its member from the CWC) to find out inherent defects in the existing drainage system and suggest measures for improvement. The committee studied all aspects in detail, undertook field visits, interacted with various functionaries and public representatives in Najafgarh, Barapulla, Shahdara, Bawana and also drainage basins in the neighboring Haryana territory falling into the Yamuna river from its right bank.

 

Apart from coordination with multiple construction agencies for rigorous enforcement of the drainage standards as well as its pre-approved layout plan, the other important issues requiring the attention of the Delhi government are: pre-monsoon cleaning of drains and removal of obstructions, floodplain zoning and regulation, flood-risk mapping, flood insurance and improving embankments to contain backwater effect of three barrages viz Okhla, ITO and Wazirabad when the Yamuna is in spate. The old master plan for each major drain should be updated every alternate year for incorporating changes in the landscape. The area-wise action plan evolved earlier may also be updated and implemented keeping pace with rapid urbanization.

 

In case of Haryana, the major river Yamuna flowing along its eastern boundary has two barrages at Dakpathar and Asan in Uttrakand territory upstream. The third barrage at Hathnikund is located in Haryana. None of them has flood storage. Maneuvering of the excess influx due to heavy rain in the upper basin is not possible. Embankments along the river have provided some defence from floods but once breached, inundation of the adjoining areas in Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat, Sonepat, Faridabad etc is imminent.

 

The other small rivers in Haryana -- Tangri, Markanda, Ghaggar and its tributaries originating in the fragile shivalik hills, Som and Pathrala -- have sufficient damage potential during the monsoon. NH-1 is often submerged and damaged affecting mobility in the entire region. These rivers are seasonal and carry quasi totality of sediment in a flash flood. It is important to prepare a separate master plan for each of them. Water and sediment yield of these small basins may be assessed for constructing cascade of small dams to intercept sediment and store run-off. The emptying of dams and flushing of sediment before the onset of the monsoon starting from the most upstream are necessary. The filling of the empty dams should start from the most downstream one. When properly constructed, maintained and operated, these measures can moderate floods, enhance water availability in the lean season, recharge aquifers and improve the ecology of the degraded Shivalik ranges.

 

Three major rivers -- Beas, Ravi and Satluj -- meander through Punjab in their lower stretches. Most of the annual flows to these rivers is contributed from Himachal territory upstream. The monsoon run-off in Punjab area is evacuated by seasonal streams like the Ghaggar, White Bein, Black Bein, Sakkikiran and numerous "choes" carrying debris in flash flood . Ranjit Sagar on the Ravi river is the only dam in Punjab. It is primarily a hydropower project having irrigation as an additional component. All the main rivers in Punjab territory are mostly embanked supported by spurs. When breached, large areas in the Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Phagwara, Nawanshahar and Ropar areas are affected by floods.

 

Jammu and Kashmir does not have a serious problem of floods except that the Tawi river occasionally inundates low-lying areas before exiting to join the Chenab in Pakistan territory. Flash floods in seasonal streams and landslides are but matters of concern. The Leh region was severely jolted by a catastrophe during the early part of August. Several inhabitations were wiped out and hundreds of lives lost. The state has three hydroelectric projects at Baglihar, Dulhasti and Salal on the Chenab river. Uri-I and Uri-II hydropower projects are on the Jhelum river. Though on the main rivers, none of them has a flood cushion to hold the monsoon run-off.

 

Before entering the neighboring states, the major rivers originating in Himachal or flowing through it have the Bhakra reservoir on the Satluj river. The Nathpa-Jhakri project on the same river is a run of the river type for power generation and has to be shut down for weeks during the monsoon due to an excess sediment load. In between the Kol dam in the offing is also for hydropower. The Beas river has the Pong dam for irrigation and power generation. The Pandoh dam in the upstream is for the diversion of the Beas water to the Satluj river for supplementing Bhakra irrigation and power generation. The other projects in the Beas basin like Larji, Parbati-I, II, III and Malana are for hydropower generation. In the Ravi basin, the power projects are Baira-Siul and Chamera. All of them are in HP territory.

 

Each off these major river basins has three or even more dam projects but none with dedicated flood storage. The leverage of extra flood cushion would have given the much-needed flexibility to hold excess water and regulate its release for attenuating the high flow. This at a small cost of the entire project could have also taken care of the peak load of power and irrigation demand in a lean season. In its absence, the inundated areas downstream may have to learn to live with similar floods unless the future projects are designed for flood moderation and their integrated management resorted to by the co-basin states. At present only the empty space out of the designed storage in the Bhakra, Pong and Ranjit Sagar dams can absorb some of the monsoon inflows to provide incidental flood relief, which as already seen, is not enough to mitigate the real problem.

 

Some sense of flood security is provided by embankments along the rivers in the plain reach and the location specific dykes in the urbanised areas. These structures are generally at risk from floodwaters flowing under, through and over them undermining their stability. It is difficult to protect or reconstruct them during floods Therefore, vulnerability of the structures should be assessed well before monsoon and strengthening measures taken with proactive planning.

 

River form is the end product of complex fluvial processes and keeps on changing in response to water flows or sediment inputs. It is a proven fact that any kind of obstruction in the natural river domain could lead to serious consequences. There being no mechanism to regulate the floodplains in the country, several industries, habitations and institutions have come up on the river right-of-way and cannot escape the fury of floods.

 

The antidote to distressful floods and drought has to be pursued with more powerful multi-disciplinary means. Plantation in denuded catchments can be a part of it but not enough by itself due to the inherent saturation limit of the soil. Holding part of the peak flow in storage reservoirs for regulated release is the most effective way for flood moderation. Easier said than done.

 

Many a time the areas under floods during the monsoon face a drought-like situation during long dry spells in a lean season. If flood storage is made an inbuilt component of all dam projects and a small portion of the net storage dedicated to drinking water and critical irrigation, alternating miseries caused by floods and drought can be effectively staved off. The planning strategy, therefore, should foster integrated planning and management of land and water resources of the basin through legislation.

 

Local decision-makers vis-à-vis implementing agencies must appreciate the scale and complexity of the river basin as a whole and evolve programs within its carrying capacity to fit in to the approved master plan. Clearance and coordination of projects of multiple agencies directly or indirectly involved with water resources in a basin may be assigned to an independent regulatory body comprising reputed professionals from different disciplines. All stakeholders and even co-basin states for programmes of inter-basin ramifications should collaborate to achieve the objective of holistic development and management of the water resources.

 

The writer is a former Chairman of the Brahmaputra Board (GOI)

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

ANIMAL RIGHTS, HUMAN WRONGS

INDIA HAS FAILED TO PROTECT ANIMALS DESPITE THEM BEING AN INTEGRAL PART OF OUR RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL HERITAGE


My cousin, Aniruddh, a senior fellow at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego has an ongoing love affair – with a sulphur-crested cockatoo. Aniruddh studies music, language and the brain. Two years ago, a colleague introduced Aniruddh to Snowball, aforesaid cockatoo. Snowball isn't just your gardenvariety cockatoo. He has a very specific like, and it is, quite improbably, the Backstreet Boys' song, Everybody. He dances to it. In an interview in June with the New York Times, Aniruddh spoke about his work and, specifically, Snowball. Throughout that interview, Aniruddh referred to Snowball by name, or as "the bird" or "he". Never "it". 

 

In the late 19th and early 20th century, scientists declared animal anthropomorphism – the attribution of human qualities to animals – "unscientific". Much has changed since. What separates humans from animals? Cutlery? Taxes? Recreational sex? A sense of justice? What know now that the view of animals being non-sentient is wrong. In January 2010, researchers published findings showing that dolphins – long known to be intelligent – are in fact second only to humans in intellectual and learning ability. 

 

Examples abound of the most unexpected conduct from animals. Perhaps none is more dramatic than the story of the lion named Christian, bought as a cub in 1969 by two Australians, John Rendall and Anthony Bourke from Harrods in London. Christian was later introduced in the wild by George Adamson. A year later Rendall and Bourke went back to "see" him, despite being told that he was now completely feral and could not possibly recognize them. The video of what followed at that meeting – this enormous lion (and his two lionesses) all behaving like pussycats, evidently recognizing the two men – is the kind of thing you want to watch repeatedly. 

 

In his 1995 book, "When Elephants Weep", Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson shows us an entirely different dimension while a more recent book by Marc Berkoff, "The Emotional Lives of Animals", takes this work further. If Moussaieff-Masson's arguments are provocative, his examples push the boundaries of what we believed to be true. He tells of Michael, a gorilla in a signlanguage program, who is hopelessly addicted to the singing of Pavarotti; Siri, an Indian elephant who flavours her hay with a delicately split apple and doodles on paper; Alex, an African grey parrot with a vocabulary that includes apologising; and Toto, a chimpanzee who, back in 1925, nursed his owner Cherry Kearton through a malaria illness. 

 

In 1972, the Sierra Club Legal Defence Fund filed a path breaking action on behalf of 25 environmental organisations opposing Disney's $35 million dollar Mineral King ski resort near Sequoia National Park. The SCLDF lost that battle, but it won the war: Justice Douglas's dissent is a writing of rare power, grace and passion, a vision of what environmental justice really means. More recently, lawsuits have been brought in America in the name of the threatened animal. There is now sufficient philosophical and even legal basis for granting defined rights to animals. 

 

Despite being part of our religious and cultural heritage, modern India seems unable or unwilling to protect our defenceless, human or animal. The former sometimes find help. The latter rarely do. In Ahmedabad, Lisa Warden fights a lonely battle for humane treatment of stray dogs. The videos of what that municipality does to strays – hauling them with iron tongs, the dogs screaming in pain and terror – are stomach-churning. An annual sport, not too far now, is to tie noisy firecrackers to the tails of stray dogs. 

Is this what separates us from animals? 

 

Even more horrifying are the reports from PETA. A prominent medical institute in Delhi keeps confined in small cages several dozen monkeys. Action was not taken till PETA exposed what was going on: mishandled, fearful animals in tiny cages, monkeys imprisoned for as long as a decade, one for 20 years. Video footage shows the trauma: monkeys rocking from side to side and circling endlessly. 

 

We need this, we are told, for the greater human good. That seems very like the argument of the Nazis in developing their Final Solution: that caged monkey too has no name, just a number. 

 

Take away a name and you reduce a personality to a statistic. The seven elephants killed by a train and the Jhurjhura tigress hit by a vehicle are not just erased numbers. These are incalculable losses of demonstrably sentient creatures. Their killings are unacceptable. Every one impoverishes mankind. 

 

If we are at all serious about wildlife conservation, we must change the language of conservation: give animals – at least the larger ones, the tigers and the elephants and rhinos – names when we can, refer to them by gender and not as "it", and accord them the legal standing that Justice Douglas saw 40 years ago.

 

A PETA activist protests the ill-treatment of monkeys by a medical institute

GAUTAM PATEL

 

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

EDITORIAL

REVVING UP FOR GROWTH

BUILD CAPACITY TO SUSTAIN THE AUTOMOBILE BOOM

 

The passenger vehicles market in India appears to be on steroids. In the first six months of the current financial year, the sales of passenger vehicles (including cars and a variety of utility vehicles) have grown by over 26 per cent. With 1.4 million units already sold in April-September 2010, the country's automobile industry may well reach the magical three-million sales mark for the full year ending March 2011. The sales in the second half of the year are normally 10-15 per cent more than what the industry achieves in the first half. If the current demand buoyancy at home continues, automobile manufacturers may well beat most estimates for the Indian passenger vehicles market, according to which the country will witness sales of about five million units by 2015. Achieving 60 per cent of the target five years ahead of schedule is certainly an occasion to pause and ponder over the direction the Indian automobile industry is taking in a rapidly growing economy.

 

Remember the upside of the figures for the first six months. The 26 per cent growth has been achieved over a healthy base recorded in 2009-10, when sales for the full year increased by 27 per cent. Analysts had then argued that nothing much should be read into that handsome rate of growth because it was achieved over a relatively low growth rate of 6.7 per cent in 2008-09, when the global economic downturn had its impact also on the Indian market. The sales in the first half of the current financial year, therefore, are reflective of improved buoyancy in the Indian economy, in which growth projections are being periodically revised upwards, the stock markets are exuding a new degree of optimism and consumer sentiment has improved dispelling the earlier gloomy outlook.

 

 This revival also needs to be juxtaposed with the fact that the 26 per cent sales growth in the first half of 2010-11 has been achieved in spite of less than four per cent growth in exports. The sales growth scenario for the years ahead may look even rosier if the European markets, which account for the biggest chunk in the industry's exports, improve or the Indian auto makers build new export markets for their vehicles in the next few years to cushion the impact of a visible slowdown in the developed countries of the West. Indeed, the imperative for the Indian automobile industry is to pay heed to the recent projections of a two per cent growth rate for the developed countries, in sharp contrast to over eight per cent forecast for the developed Asian economies. The time is ripe for the automobile industry to shift gears. Instead of focusing on developed markets, it should improve its presence in developing Asian markets. The good news is that auto exports from India are still about less than a fifth of the industry's total sales, giving it a healthy cushion whenever export markets dry up or the hardening rupee makes exports a little less remunerative, even though the high import intensity in India's automobile exports somewhat reduces the full adverse impact of any exchange rate fluctuation either way. This is also the time to build domestic capacities, not only for producing the vehicles and automotive components, but also for expanding public infrastructure like better roads and mass transport systems. With a growing domestic market and a robust engineering capability, building a strong manufacturing base for vehicles and components along with better roads and a network of public transport system is a win-win strategy whose fruits will be enjoyed not only by the industry players but also by an economy that is poised for continued high growth in the next few years. Better roads and a reliable public transport system will complement a thriving auto industry and make its growth more sustainable.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

A TWO-SPEED WORLD

WHETHER V OR W, NOT YET TIME FOR LAISSEZ-FAIRE, SAYS IMF

 

Two years after the onset of the Great Recession, and a year into an as yet tentative recovery in the trans-Atlantic economies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes governments in both developed and developing economies must remain active and focused on ensuring the sustainability of the recovery underway. The IMF's World Economic Outlook 2010 forecasts 4.8 per cent world economic growth in 2010, followed by a marginally lower 4.2 per cent in 2011. The IMF rejects the prospect of a sharper global slowdown. V it will be, not W. But, this optimism is pinned on heroic performance by the so-called "emerging economies" — especially China, Brazil and India. India is expected to grow by a whopping 9.7 per cent this fiscal. Is this legitimate optimism, a statistical accounting issue, plain bravado or making up for past sins?! Having erred on the side of caution in the past, is the IMF erring on the side of exuberance? Critics may regard IMF's growth projections as optimistic, especially since it does point to the persistent downside of the global economic slowdown and the consequent stimulus packages — high unemployment, weak private sector animal spirits, high fiscal deficits, resurgence of beggar-my-neighbour trade and currency policies and the like. Clearly, the IMF expects a two-speed world in which advanced economies will remain sluggish and emerging economies will keep growth going.

 

There is nothing wrong in the global economy moving at two or even three speeds. Multiple business cycles are better than a single one. However, if the two-speed world economy has to not just sustain higher global growth but also ensure global stability, especially the stability of financial markets and trade flows, it is necessary for high-growth economies to be more open to trade. That is a message to China and India. The IMF has identified two other challenges for most economies — to get private sector "animal spirits" up even as governments wind down fiscal stimuli and to get the domestic economy buying more even as mercantilist trade policies are shut down. The IMF expects China and India to do more for global growth and draws attention to the fact that reviving growth in developed economies is vital for sustaining growth in the developing world. Though developed and emerging economies are growing at different speeds, the bottom line is, according the IMF, both need each other to be able to stand up and run, and governments in both the economies can do more to help. Not yet time for laissez faire!

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

IS THERE A BUBBLE IN EMERGING MARKETS?

THOUGH ALL THE CONDITIONS FOR A BUBBLE TO DEVELOP ARE IN PLACE, IT JUST ISN'T THERE YET

AKASH PRAKASH

 

Most market participants are currently scratching their heads, trying to figure out the answer to the above question. Are we setting ourselves up for another big bust, similar to the one in 2008-09? Should investors take their profits and bolt for an exit? But first the evidence, and the reason why investors are concerned.

 

 In terms of fund flows, dedicated emerging market (EM) equity funds reported strong inflows worth $4.3 billion for the week ended September 29, taking flows for the month of September to $13.2 billion (source: EPFR global); both weekly and monthly numbers are at the highest levels for the year. Dedicated EM equity funds reported positive flows for the 18th consecutive week, matching the recent record set from November 9, 2005 to March 2006. Since January 2009, dedicated EM equity flows have been over $130 billion, while developed market equity funds have reported outflows of $70.5 billion. The $130-billion inflow over the last 21 months is significantly greater than the total net inflows into the EM asset class from inception till 2009. Besides the quantum of flows, the composition is also worrying, since about 61 per cent of the flows year to date have been in the nature of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). ETFs either signify retail money, which is getting into these developing countries for the first time and is liable to get spooked easily, or they may be the vehicle of choice for large macro funds implementing an asset allocation shift from dollar and OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] equity assets. Either of these investors can get out of these markets as easily as they are piling in today. In fact, the main attraction of ETFs is the daily liquidity they offer. Conventional wisdom has it that more sticky, longer-term money will not use ETFs, but come into funds directly. There remains the feeling that money routed through ETFs is more transient or "hot money".

 

MSCI EM total return index relative to the MSCI World index is back to a new high at 150, after dropping to

below 90 in October 2008 (December 2006 is taken as 100 for both indices to show relative performance). Such an outperformance will normally revert back to the mean.

 

Trading volume in EM stocks has exploded, with trading volumes up almost fourfold from the lows of the end -2008 (source: BCA research). Extreme trading volumes normally indicate excessive speculation.

 

In terms of sentiment, Morgan Stanley recently held a macro conference in which 62 per cent of the clients present were most bullish about EM equities over the next 12 months. In Morgan Stanley's monthly buy-side survey, 86 per cent of its clients were bullish about EM equities, the highest reading ever for any asset class. This extent of bullishness is normally a classic contrarian indicator.

 

Also, puts on the Asian/EM markets are currently the cheapest and most efficient hedges in the world. The December 2010 95 per cent puts on the KOSPI (cost of 1.5 per cent) are 50 per cent cheaper than buying protection on the developed market indices, for example. This is unusual, as historically EMs have been perceived to be more volatile, with much higher hedging costs.

 

Though the above signs do indicate a need for caution, with a strong possibility of an interim correction, it seems premature to call EM equities a bubble. It could be a strong upward momentum or an overbought but not a bubble.

 

Though we have seen huge inflows into EM equities, a majority of the large, long-term pools of capital in the west, especially the US, are very underweight on EMs. An allocation of 4 per cent to EMs is considered to be high among this circle, and given the weight of the EMs in the global GDP or market capitalisation, one can see the scope for this to rise significantly over time. Most of these institutions also continue to carry an implicit 8 per cent required rate of return on assets to make ends meet. With bond yields globally at multi-year lows, and given the low inflation, low growth outlook in most of the west, these institutions will have to turn to EMs. Thus, though everyone gets it and talks about emerging markets and their decoupled growth prospects, asset allocations tend to move far slower. We are not any closer to being finished in terms of the movement of assets or allocations towards EM equities. We still seem to be in the initial stages of this structural shift. It is, therefore, not true that everyone has already fully invested in EM equities; there is a buyer at the margin.

 

In term of valuations also, EM equities are not really trading on any sort of significant premium to their developed market counterparts, trading at about 11.5 times earnings and 15 times even after normalising returns on equity ROEs (to long- term average). Before this cycle ends, I would expect most of the larger EMs to be trading at very significant premiums to the developed markets.

 

The recent drivers of the surge in risk appetite, viz. the likelihood of the commencement of QE2 in the US and similar moves in Japan, are only fuelling the surge in liquidity out of these markets. The current sweet spot that the EMs find themselves in, the one of very easy global liquidity and differentiated economic growth prospects, is unlikely to change anytime soon. EM equities seem to be far more sensitive to financial conditions in the US and the European Union than real economic performance in these geographies, and till such time as financial conditions tighten, EM will continue to perform.

 

There remains the chance of a 10-15 per cent correction at any time, but one still gets the sense that this decline would be short and temporary.

 

As for India, the markets are acting on cue. India remains among the highest beta markets, hugely geared to easy liquidity, as it needs capital flows both from an external financing perspective and on domestic liquidity considerations. Portfolio flows into India on the margin are important to sustain growth, liquidity and sentiment. Though the Indian market does seem a little stretched, it is not yet seeing the type of extreme enthusiasm (atleast locally) as seen in the end-2007. The majority of professional money managers in India remain quite cautious, with reasonable cash on the sidelines. Raising money for India is still not that easy, and though huge IPO issuance has begun, crazy excesses in this space are still some time away. The only wrinkle on the horizon is the momentum building in commodity prices, which can harm the attractiveness of the India story. Investors should be balanced and not lose their head since it is in times like these that the worst mistakes are made. Don't chase the markets, but remember this is not December 2007 either.

 

Many people are of the view that this whole cycle will eventually end with a big bubble in the EM equity asset class. I also subscribe to this view, since all the conditions for a bubble to develop are in place — easy liquidity, an economic displacement as the major EM countries decouple economically with the west and huge profits made by early converts to the idea. This bubble will come, it just isn't there yet.

 

The author is the fund manager and chief executive officer of Amansa Capital

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

BIGWIGS CHECK IN

THE HOSPITALITY MARKET IS READY TO EXPLODE, AND ALL HOTELS WILL GAIN SUBSTANTIALLY FROM THE BOOM

BHUPESH BHANDARI

 

Try to make sense of this. Mukesh Ambani is the new partner of the Oberois in East India Hotels. He has taken 14.8 per cent in the company; this has brought the stake of the Oberois down to around 32 per cent. A rights issue of Rs 1,300 crore is on the cards. Ambani has indicated that he will pick up the unsubscribed part of the issue. The market expects him to come out with an open offer because his stake will have breached the 15 per cent mark.

 

 ITC, which had bought a 14.8 per cent in East India Hotels and thus triggered the search for a white knight, has said that it will stay invested and subscribe to the rights issue. Analjit Singh, the original choice of the Oberois, too has said that he will not forgo his share of the issue. He holds around 4 per cent in the company.

 

Speculation aside, the one thing this clearly shows is that the hotel's stock is expected to rise sharply in the days to come. One view current in the industry is that Ambani, given his skills in aggregation and profitability, could help the company report better numbers in the days to come. Purists will tell you that this is just the mindset you don't require to run a luxury hotel chain like Oberoi — excessive focus on the bottom line can ruin the image of the hotel brand. The other view is that the hospitality market is ready to explode, and all hotels, not just East India Hotels, will gain substantially from the boom.

 

Take a look at the numbers first. Hawaii every year gets 8 million tourists from abroad, Thailand gets 10 million. Manhattan alone is visited by 24 million. India gets just 5 million. Of these, about 2 million are non-resident Indians on their annual visit home, and a million are backpackers. That leaves 2 million. This is indeed a very small number. But hoteliers look at the number with great optimism because it can only go north in the days to come.

 

A bigger source of business is domestic travel. The industry estimates that 550 million Indians travelled last year. Even if 1 per cent stayed in a rated hotel, it could mean 5.5 million people. Hotels, across categories, say local business is now bigger than overseas business. Even for a premium property like Ananda in the Himalayas, Indians now account for almost 50 per cent of the business, up from about 30 per cent till a year ago. It could rise to 60 per cent in the near future. And the supply is woefully short. Various estimates suggest that there are between 65,000 and 110,000 "organised sector" hotel rooms in India. The gap is huge. Tariffs, as a result, have risen steadily in the last year, though these are still below the 2007 and 2008 levels.

 

There are 47 global brands that want to enter the country. Experts say a luxury hotel can command a valuation of up to a million dollars (around Rs 4.6 crore) per room in the country. This was unheard of till recently. Valuations had never crossed $200,000 (Rs 92 lakh) a room. Some bit has to do with high real estate prices. Most hotel chains say that there aren't enough high-street locations available to put up hotels. That's why existing hotels are in the crosshairs of buyers. ITC, for instance, has also bought 10.2 per cent in Hotel Leelaventures. The Nairs, the promoters, hold 54.8 per cent. To ward off the predator, the patriarch of the family, Krishnan Nair, has devised a new pact between his two sons, Vivek and Dinesh, which says that none can sell his stake before offering it first to his brother. The scarcity of real estate has also made most companies take an asset-light model — they will run the hotel under their brand for a fee, while the hotel will be built and owned by somebody else.

 

Hotels have woken up to the fact that one brand isn't enough to tackle the market. New segments of travellers have emerged. One brand doesn't fit all. Global chains realised it years ago and each one has built a large portfolio of brands. It has struck Indians now. The Indian Hotels Company has four (Taj, Vivanta by Taj, Gateway and Ginger), East India Hotels has two (Oberoi and Trident), and IHHR Hospitality has two (Ananda and Ista). And there's a lot of action away from the luxury segment. Rahul Bhatia, the man behind India's most successful budget carrier, IndiGo, wants to put up 200 or so Ibis hotels across the country by 2015. ITC wants to raise the count of its Fortune hotels from 34 now to 100 soon. Bharat Hotels has almost a dozen coming up under Lalit Traveller.

 

When the slowdown set in sometime in mid-2008 and terrorists struck Mumbai in November that year, luxury hotels saw business evaporate into thin air almost overnight. Visitors cancelled their booking and room rates nosedived. The segment that didn't see a setback was the one priced around $100 (Rs 4,600) and below. People still had to travel, but they were on the lookout for cheaper options. Hoteliers know that travellers switch to lesser hotels in a crisis; but they don't necessarily upgrade when the business cycle improves. The long-term prospects clearly look good.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

NOBLE CAUSES AND THEIR EFFECTS

THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES AWARDS HONOUR CONCEPTS THAT WILL SHAPE THE LIVES OF FAR MORE PEOPLE THAN THE IDEA OF TEST-TUBE BABIES

DEVANGSHU DATTA

 

The 2010 Nobel Prize for Medicine to Robert Edwards has more instant resonance than the corresponding awards in physics, to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, and chemistry, to Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki. Everybody knows about test-tube babies.

 

 Edward and his colleague, the late Patrick Steptoe, provided the first demonstration of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), when they brought Louise Brown squalling into the world in 1978. Brown herself is now a (natural) mother and IVF is a globally standardised medical procedure. There are roughly 4 million IVF-born persons around the planet.

 

Assisted reproduction (AR) and surrogate motherhood are based on IVF. Both are major opportunities for Indian health care. Anand (Gujarat) is a global IVF-AR centre. Childless medical tourists fly in, find a suitable surrogate mother and leave as happy parents. IVF also generates controversy. Surrogate motherhood has tangled legal implications. There have also been objections by religious organisations on obscurantist grounds.

 

Despite the relative lack of media attention, the physical sciences awards honour achievements that promise to shape the daily lives of far more people. The recognition is for cutting-edge research, still moving from labs to industry. It could drive pharmaceutical research, and developments in alternative energy, computing, transportation, construction and many other fields.

 

The chemistry award is for "developing new, more efficient ways of linking carbon atoms together to build the complex molecules that are improving our everyday lives". The physics award is for "ground-breaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene".

 

The chemistry Nobelists trio developed "palladium-catalysed cross-coupling reactions" that allow for easy synthesis of complex organic compounds. Those techniques are energy-efficient "table-top" reactions, allowing for high palladium recovery, enabling the scaling up of many processes.

 

Possible applications exist in drug R&D, anti-fungal agents, fluorescent marking of DNA, and thin-LED displays. "No less than 25 per cent of all chemical reactions in the pharmaceutical industry are now based on these methods," according to Claes Gustafsson, a biochemist on the Nobel Committee. The research has sparked a "palladium rush". The precious metal is roughly a third as expensive as gold and its industrial usage is increasing exponentially because of it's catalytic properties.

 

All organic compounds contain carbon, which is unique in that it can morph into many crystalline structures, each with different properties. In 1996, a Chemistry Nobel was handed out for developing Fullerene (which has a crystalline structure resembling Buckminster Fuller domes).

 

The 2004 experiment that isolated the most unusual of these carbon-based materials, graphene, gets this year's Physics Nobel. Graphene is the strongest and thinnest material known. The crystalline structure looks like chicken wire. A sheet of graphene can be rolled out in monoatomic chains that are effectively two-dimensional. About 200,000 graphene sheets would be required to match the thickness of a single sheet of ultra-thin paper

 

Graphene is visually transparent, yet thick enough to be impermeable to gaseous atoms. It has somewhat superior electrical conductivity to copper. It's thermal conductivity is better than copper or silver. It is hundreds of times as strong as steel.

 

In the original experiment, the Russian-born duo of Geim and Novoselov isolated graphene from lead pencils (the "lead" is graphite, a very common form of carbon) using Scotch tape to scrape off tiny graphite layers in a Manchester University lab. The Scotch tape was chemically dissolved to leave graphene behind, embedded on silicon chips.

 

The possible applications are mind-boggling. "Graphene has all the potential to change your life in the same way that plastics did," according to Geim. Geim is incidentally, thus far, the only scientist to have won both Nobel and Ig Nobel Prizes. He was awarded the latter, "for first making people laugh, and then make them think" for an experiment where he whimsically levitated "yogi frogs" in magnetic fields.

 

Graphene could enable both cost-reduction as well as rapid acceleration of processor speeds in computing. It offers possibilities of breakthroughs in quantum computing as well, since quantum effects are possible with this mono-atomic material. It has obvious applications both in heavy construction and in touch-screen design.

 

It may also be used to make superstrong, ultra-lightweight cars, air-planes, cell phones and satellites. Nano-applications like Arthur C Clarke's concept of a space elevator that supplies satellites in geostationary orbit may actually be made possible by the tensile strength of graphene.

 

People are sure to find more innovative uses. It is very likely that, over the next two decades, industrial design across many fields and drug research will be driven by further breakthroughs based on the work that won the 2010 physical sciences awards.

 

It is also likely there will be cross-fertilisation. In 2010, researchers found ways to attach palladium to graphene, allowing underwater experimentation with carbon bonding. Where research will eventually lead is always impossible to predict. But it seems certain that entire new classes of drugs will be developed and graphene could well become the most ubiquitous material in the world.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

BROAD-BASING BROADBAND

EDUCATION AND TRAINING THROUGH THE INTERNET NEED COMMONWEALTH GAMES-LIKE CRISIS MANAGEMENT

SHYAM PONAPPA

 

The central government and the Delhi administration have shown they can engage in sheer execution to save face for the Commonwealth Games. Couldn't our governments choose to make similar efforts to improve an aspect of infrastructure that is perhaps the most powerful means for enhancing our productive capacity and quality of life: broadband? One might ask: why broadband, and not energy, water/sanitation, or roads…? While all infrastructure is essential, broadband gives the quickest, biggest bang for the buck, because of its nature vis-à-vis energy, water or transportation and our regulatory environment and functional organisation (for instance, the complexity of addressing power supply). If we could increase mobile phone coverage to present levels by reducing costs and increasing availability, it should be possible to do so for personal computer (PC) also, to draw on the wealth of free educational and training material for our vast numbers.

 

Unfortunately, for such infrastructure, there is no triggering crisis like the threat of failure of the Commonwealth Games, and consequently, no face-saving or glam factors, like the arrival of foreign teams and visitors. This article makes a case for a Commonwealth Games-type crisis management for broadband through a collage of factors.

 

 Consider these aspects of our demographics:*

 

Nearly 460 million people are aged between 13 and 35 today.

 

Of these, 333 million are literate.

 

In 10 years from now, the countrywide average age will be 29, compared to 37 in the US and China, 45 in Europe, and 48 in Japan.

 

As many as 100 million Indians — the combined labour forces of Britain, France, Italy, and Spain — are projected to be added to our workforce by 2020, which is 25 per cent of the global workforce.

 

This indicates our productive potential. Its realisation would require education and training, efficient functioning, i.e. the matrix of enabling infrastructure, and organisation. If these needs remain unmet, the demographic opportunity can become the liability of an unproductive population, with attendant difficulties and social hazards.

 

We have many formal and informal institutions providing training and education. We add nearly 300,000 engineering graduates every year to our pool of 2 million engineers. India's vocational training capacity is estimated at 3.1 million a year, whereas about 12.8 million people enter the workforce. However, the National Sample Survey (2004) found that only 2 per cent of the 15-29 age group had formal vocational training and another 8 per cent had non-formal vocational training. In the developed economies, the proportion of skilled workers is 60-80 per cent; Korea has 96 per cent skilled workers.**

 

Five years ago, McKinsey reported that only a quarter of India's engineers were employable in the IT industry. Recently, a survey showed this has reduced to 18 per cent.***

 

Apart from training and education in specific disciplines, the processes that make for good work practices are: systems thinking, a scientific temper, and goal-oriented work practices to meet standards of quality and time. Then there are the attributes of playing team, while engaging in a hard-charging individual effort. All these skills and practices are necessary and can be learned and renewed over time.

 

How will our workforce of over 500 million, adding 12.8 million every year, have access to continuing education and training, information for civic amenities and facilities and easy, efficient access to commercial and public services? What about the prerequisites of schooling, vocational training and university education? To answer these questions, consider parallel developments in domains such as distance education, e-learning and smart applications. Here are glimpses of the transformation underway in university and secondary education, especially outside India:

 

iTunes U has become one of the world's largest educational catalogues for free educational material. After three years, there are over 300 million downloads. Over 800 universities have their websites at iTunes U, including many of the top universities from the US, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore and so on.

 

Khan Academy (http://khanacademy.org), a brilliant, free educational site by an ex-hedge fund analyst and manager, Salman Khan (Salman Khan of Silicon Valley, not Bollywood), covers mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology, with over 18 million page views in August (http://khanacademy.org). Started in late 2006, Khan is reportedly developing an open-ended set of material covering many subjects, and is a favourite among people like Bill Gates, and John and Ann Doerr (Fortune:http://money.cnn.com/2010/08/23/tecnology/sal_khan_academy.fortune/index.htm). Of the 200,000 students who access this site every month, only 20,000 are from India.

 

There are many other educational sites from school level upwards, for instance, the Open Courseware Consortium (http://www.ocwconsortium.org) by MIT, with US members like the University of California (Berkeley), Michigan and so on. Many universities and schools have their own websites. There is the Wikiversity, with portals from pre-school through primary to tertiary education, non-formal education and research (seehttp://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Browse).

 

India, BCG estimates that Internet usage will increase from 7 per cent of the population in 2009 to 19 per cent in 2015 (237 million). PC penetration, which was just 4 per cent in 2009, is estimated at 17 per cent by 2015 (216 million). To quote BCG: "India has among the highest PC costs and lowest PC availability of all the BRIC countries (including Indonesia)." Mobile phone penetration, however, is 10 times higher, at 41 per cent. This appalling situation needs to be redressed.

 

Inferences
Hundreds of millions of Indians should use these websites and the Internet for radical transformation. This will require policies and practices aimed at providing:

 

inexpensive access to broadband;

 

greater access to PCs and PC-equivalents as they evolve (e.g. Pranav Mistry's SixthSense); and

 

systems and processes that encourage distance education, and discipline in all fields, with professionalism and excellence across all activities.

 

Regulations and tax regimes determine which activities are profitable, and to what extent. This is where the government and its policies come in. Could Internet users in India converge public opinion to rouse governments to address these needs, emulating the example of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE YEAR OF THE PROFESSIONAL

RAISE A TOAST TO ET AWARDEES!

 

THE list of winners of the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence 2010 has a preponderance of professionals. While professionals have always figured among the awardees, it is a remarkable turn of events that nearly two-thirds (seven out of 11) of the faces smiling out of the news report announcing the results of the jury meeting belong to those who are not from a promoter family. Clearly, the notion that only promoters can behave in an entrepreneurial fashion is being given the burial it deserves. L&T's AM Naik will receive the award for the second time, having won it in 2008 as business leader. Aditya Puri is praised as a conservative banker but, clearly, this is not conservatism of the kind that hugs the path of low growth — by accumulating the second largest number of employees among banks, HDFC is clearly gunning for growth and stocking up on the business' core raw material: talent. Mr Bhargav follows in the footsteps of public sector titan V Krishnamurthy, a major entrepreneur of modern India, often not recognised as such. Sugar baron Narendra Murkumbi and health care leader Pankaj Patel display the boldness raw entrepreneurship has acquired in India, which thinks globally to achieve locally. Ms Zia Modi is token, among other things, of the huge growth potential that professional services hold in fast-growing India. Mr Nitin Nohria is another face of India's success in global integration, both by his origins and by his academic focus on the emerging markets. Aruna Roy and Arvind Kejriwal, both civil servants who turned activists, have played a pioneering role in the campaign to achieve the Right to Information, and to translate that right into realised social practice. Sunil Mittal comes back to the ET awardees' list for a forceful role in the crystallising trend for Indian businesses to actively give back to society more than the incomes they generate. Kapil Sibal has been recognised for shaking up the sleepy bureaucracy that our education establishment had become, and urging it to reform so that India can live up to its promise. 
    By recognising and celebrating excellence in the art of combining capital and talent to ignite new creativity and prosperity, ET performs its core mission. Cheers!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FM RADIO, POST-3G

FACTOR IN COMPETITION FROM THE WEB

 

THE next round of spectrum auction for 806FM stations is set to begin in January 2011, with 160 channels across 60 towns being offered in the first phase of a three-year staggered process. The auctions of these channels will be conducted in the same manner as the one for spectrum to provide 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) services, that is, using clock auctions. Such auctions yielded huge revenue for the government. But it would be a big mistake for companies to bid or the government to expect huge amounts for FM radio licences. The simple reason is that 3G and BWA services would by then have made Internet radio ubiquitous. Internet radio can be accessed not just on computers but also on very many mobile phones even today. The download speed with the current 2G mobile technology is only a minor irritant. But the quality and speed of download would immensely improve once 3G services become available in a few months. That is an eventuality FM stations in India with their limited offerings need to be prepared for. Especially, as advances in electronics and the fall in prices of microprocessors and other parts would make feature-rich mobile phones the standard rather than the exception. Electronics in cars and homes will be capable of seamlessly and wirelessly integrating the sound output of phones into the main audio equipment. This would greatly reduce the significance of having specific airwaves for conventional radio broadcast. Pricing must factor in this change. 

The regulatory restrictions on content that FM stations can broadcast need a rethink, as well. There is no restriction on the dissemination of news on the Internet or phones — news capsules already find their way into phones as text messages. Most FM radio is not allowed to disseminate news. This would create a very tilted playing field when web radio becomes commonly available. Even in the absence of competition from the Web, it scarcely makes sense to deem that a licensed broadcaster cannot be trusted with news and current affairs. The restriction makes even less sense when the broadcaster is part of a media group that already disseminates news through print and television.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CARBON CREDITS

WHY LEVITY ONLY IN PHYSICS?


IT IS not often that scientists win the Nobel as well as the Ignoble prize, and therefore the feat of Prof Andre Geim is all the more commendable. He may have bagged this year's Nobel Prize for physics along with Prof Konstantin Novoselov for the discovery of grapheme that will hugely benefit electronics and other industries that need light, yet tougher materials, but his feat of levitating a frog (that got him the Ignoble 10 years ago with Michael Berry of Bristol University) is no less worthwhile for it brought physics closer to the layman. Funny physics can very easily be dismissed as an oxymoron, but if laughter can precede or illuminate a genuine 'Aha!' moment, it is all to the good. So the Ignobel's raison d'être — to award "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think" — is particularly crucial in a world that increasingly craves entertainment.

 

Sage science buffs described Geim's Ignoble-winning prankish demonstration as an example of the phenomenon called diamagnetism (a tendency to become magnetised in a direction opposite to an applied magnetic field) and indeed it eventually it has led to a technique to perform low-gravity biological experiments that would otherwise have needed a trip into space. But it was Geim's tongue-in-cheek revelation that he had been offered £1 million from a religious leader to levitate him in public that caught the public eye and maybe fired the imagination of a budding physicist or two. 


A decade on, Geim has chosen to say that the pathbreaking discovery of the two-dimensional avatar of carbon that could become a scientist's best friend, and not just bling, began as a "Friday afternoon experiment just for fun". Geim underlining the importance of humour as a medium to communicate matters esoteric is a lesson that stalwarts in other fields would do well to internalise.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

ENSURING EMPOWERMENT & ENRICHMENT

THE EVOLUTION IN APPLICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY, MORE INVESTMENT IN R&D AND SOCIAL RESEARCH, AS ALSO THE REMOVAL OF REGULATORY BARRIERS, WILL HELP UNLOCK THE POTENTIAL OF MOBILE PHONES IN INDIA, SAYS KIRAN KARNIK


GEOGRAPHY is dead", a popular refrain of the late 1990s, was a pithy way of encapsulating the wonders wrought by the communications revolution. Satellites, optical fibre and wireless technologies, combined with a virtuous circle between lower costs and bigger markets, enabled the spread of communication to all corners of the globe. This literally culminated in the mobile phone, which ensured that communication was accessible and affordable, any time from anywhere. 'Distance destroyed' may well have been the tagline of these new developments. 

 

In India, developments in this field were telescoped into a short time period: in a matter of a few years, we moved from the 'trunk call' (an operator assisted long distance call, with an interminable waiting time and, often, unspeakable quality) to instantaneous anywhere-to-anywhere calls, made even from cars and trains. The now-forgotten lexicon of urgent and lightning calls — unknown to today's generation — has been replaced by ringtones and conference calls, SMS and chats. In just 15 years, the mobile phone has moved from being the unseen to the ubiquitous: the most widely-owned durable India, with over 600 million connections. 

 

It is difficult to fathom what has driven this near-frenzy that has, especially in the last decade or less, made the mobile phone so all-pervasive. The technological advancements are well documented, and everlower costs for handsets, as also for usage, have been widely commented upon. There is, however, little research on cultural and sociological factors beyond the glib — nevertheless truthful — statement that Indians love to talk. In contrast, when TV went through great growth — in the 1990s, through cable and satellite TV — a lot of social research studies were done. While academicians should be doing more research on the mobile phone phenomenon, industry has done little to trigger this or to itself undertake studies on the underlying dynamics. 

 

A great number of innovations have been made by industry in technology, applications and business models. One example is the outsourcing model, where most major elements, bar the marketing, have been contracted out. It is ironical — especially at a time when the US is turning protectionist and trying to stem the flow of offshoring — that a billion-dollar contract for outsourcing has been given by an Indian telecom service provider to a US company. It is through such innovative measures that India has today amongst the lowest mobile telephony rates in the world. Another business model element, inspired by the 'sachet' principle, is extremely low unit-cost recharge for prepaid connections: a boon to the less affluent daily-income person. 

 

Some innovations meet unique needs: for example, the mobile doubling as a torchlight — so useful in power-starved India. While the camera feature is widely used, the radio in the mobile is far more popular, among many. Elsewhere, the two-SIM phone is a means of having an additional private number without having to carry a second phone; here, it is the ideal answer to the perpetual Indian quest for value-for-money: it enables one to have a fixed number for all incoming calls, and switch the outgoing one (through the second SIM) to the scheme or provider that offers the best deal at any given time. Both the torchlight and the two-SIM phones are, in many ways, the result of cocreation between the user and the manufacturer. On the other hand, some applications are purely user-driven: for example, that unique Indian invention of 'missed call' to send a no-cost message; or the creative use of numbers and symbols to generate an image for transmission via SMS. 
    NOW, new applications are evolving, and technological change is recreating the hand-held device. Position location is being integrated; soon sensors for monitoring health-related parameters may be added; and fingerprinting in conjunction with the UID/Aadhar will help establish identity. These and other developments will open the gates for a flood of new applications. Already, the mobile phone is being used to store money (through the prepaid SIM); now, with regulatory constraints eliminated through recent changes, it can be used for transactions, too. This major step will drive financial inclusion, with simple banking services being made available to millions. Also, the impact of this on the government's employment guarantee schemes can be substantial, since it could reduce payment delays, bring greater transparency, improve monitoring, and reduce corruption. 

 

All these present a phenomenal opportunity. While the mobile revolution has so far benefited mainly the big telecom service providers and the (primarily foreign) equipment manufacturers and handset makers, there is now a chance for many others — including startup entrepreneurs and SMEs — to both drive and derive benefits from the emerging possibilities. Technologists who can reinvent the hand-held and integrate additional features, software professionals who can develop new applications, business experts who can evolve new financial models, strategists who can create altogether new uses: all can help to generate new wealth for themselves and for the users. 

 

Already, the hand-held is being used to collect market research or other information and transmit it instantaneously, along with auto-generated location information, to a central point for nearinstantaneous analysis of such data from multiple locations. It is also being used to disseminate crop-care and price information and to provide answers to specific individual agriculture-related queries. It provides easy and widespread access to information, a key factor in empowerment. The hand-held has immense potential in socially-relevant areas such as health, education, training, employment and public distribution systems, besides rich new commercial possibilities. 

 

What is needed is more investment in R&D and in social research, as also the removal of regulatory barriers. What the mobile hand-held device can be used for is limited only by one's imagination. The mental construct of the 'mobile phone' needs to change to 'communication/ computing, integrated, multipurpose, portable' device, a 'cimp': a device that holds the promise of unleashing a revolution as transformational as that wrought by the steam engine. 

 

 (The author is an independent strategy     and policy analyst)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

RURAL POOR & POVERTY ERADICATION

KARNARAM POONAR & SUJATA RAGHAVAN CHARKHA FEATURES 


THE definition of poverty has been at the core of discussions and commitments at the international level to address it and, by a logical conclusion, to eradicate it. This intent is the basis for the lofty Millennium Development Goals adopted by the UN member-states and international organisations at the beginning of this century. Now, 10 years later, the UN Summit on MDGs in New York last month was meant to revisit, assess and reaffirm the overarching commitment to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty by the year 2015. 

 

Poverty cannot be viewed merely as a set of indicators, as a one-dimensional phenomenon. Rather, a complex play of regional, socioeconomic and political factors. And new estimates of poverty in the developing world by World Bank raise concerns about the incidence of extreme poverty being higher than previous estimates, which formed the baseline of the MDGs. 

 

In India, there are other concerns. Government policy and intent to address poverty issues is one thing. To actualise it is another. The fault often enough lies in implementation, but in this case, it is not solely that. Policymakers are found wanting on grasping the processes that contribute to poverty. Increasingly, as economists unabashedly declare and politicians reluctantly admit, any move to eradicate poverty is driven by growth of the economy, its GDP. 

 

How to connect this growth with poverty alleviation should be the overriding concern of our policymakers. The processes on the ground that keep the poor, poor, need to be examined more closely. Can we look at the patterns of production, consumption, transportation of goods and services in rural India from the point of view of the villager? At the local level, if we observe how wealth is created, where it reaches and whom it benefits, we may be able to identify ways to reduce the extent of impoverishment. 

 

If we take the village as a unit, not a geographical one but an economic one, it has a pool of resources, both human and natural. This essentially comprises agricultural land, trees, people, water, agricultural produce, wood, minerals, animals, milk, meat, animal skin and metal. This is the collective village property. Out of this wealth is created that translates into a slew of products and services, food grain, fodder, milk, leather, wood, metal, cotton to name a few, varying, of course, from region to region. 

 

The logical flow of this wealth to the end-user is what determines who stays poor and who benefits in the rural scenario. Much of what has been generated in the villages finds its way into the markets, which are invariably in urban centres or, at any rate, not in the villages. All the resources in the village, human and natural, are used to create wealth, which does not remain in the village to benefit its own people, but reaches urban centres leading to their prosperity. Much of what the rural population needs in terms of daily use is now available only in the markets, leaving them with no option but to go chasing the very goods they have been creating. 

 

This can help us discern why poverty eradication as a goal still remains so elusive. Why the growth in the economy or the whole edifice of government's policies, its slew of programmes, reforms and measures does not lead to a significant progress in poverty alleviation. The answer is quite simple. It is about giving the people a choice to make the decisions regarding their collective property, the generation of wealth at the local level, its distribution and usage. 

 

The mechanism for this is also available. The Gram Sabha, which involves all adults in the community, is the fundamental decision making body and, in a sense, the repository of all the resources of the village. According to the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, the development of villages is the responsibility of Gram Sabha. Indian policymakers will need to pay more attention to institutional reforms like the strengthening of Gram Sabhas, which would trigger the processes of poverty eradication.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CU RSOR

IS RICHER BETTER THAN SMARTER?

SANDEEP PAREKH 


ALMOST all financial regulations in India favour entities with more money than less. These regulations are often wholly agnostic to whether the entities are competent beyond some minimal standards. This is a pity, given the large number of smart and self-driven people who graduate from the IITs and IIMs and who have everything going for them except a very large chequebook. The regulations provide a virtually insurmountable barrier for these youngsters in India. 

 

While there are some areas that do require capital to run, there are many others which do not. So, while a bank or a custodian requires capital to operate with manageable risk, a portfolio adviser needs no bank balance to operate, as the adviser is as good as the advice she gives. Yet, Sebi regulations require a net worth of . 2 crore for a person to be able to give advice. 

 

To name just the one example among many others, let's examine the current securities market regime. To register as a credit rating agency or stock exchange, one must have a . 100 crore net-worth. To operate as a portfolio manager, one must have . 2 crore; for being a merchant bank . 5 crore; and to run the asset management company of a mutual fund, . 10 crore. 

 

There are several arguments forwarded by these net worth advocates. First, these net worth requirements act as buffer for losses and are, therefore, a means of providing redress to investors in case of some mishap or problem. This argument works for very few entities, and for most, the argument doesn't apply at all. For yet some more, the argument is inappropriately applied. It does indeed work for entities where capital is an important part of risk management of the operations of the entity. These would include, for instance, clearing corporations, custodians and underwriters. In reality, no requirement is imposed on clearing corporations; a fixed amount is charged on custodians — whether they manage 1X or 100X the amount of net worth — and a mere flat . 20 lakh is imposed on underwriters, again irrespective of the risk they manage. 

 

Some areas where the applicability is completely inappropriate are credit rating agencies, portfolio managers, asset managers and stock exchanges (as opposed to a clearing corporation, see my ET piece on May 12, 2010, on the subject). Having similar requirements for lawyers and accountants is as perverse as having them for these entities. One would be more comfortable taking investment advice from an IIM graduate than from a person who has . 2 crore in his bank and two employees on his payroll and who can ply his trade only because of his bank balance. Most of the provisions of net worth, particularly where they are inappropriately imposed, say nothing about what the person should do with the money. So, to start an exchange, one must have . 100 crore, but it is not specified whether just having a bank balance or assets of the amount is good enough or not. 

 

 The argument is almost comically disproportionate for some entities. A depository is required to have a flat net worth of . 100 crore, which is fair in principle because it deals in money equivalent and there is some residual risk in its operations. But whether the number serves the purpose is another question, given that each of the two depositories in India exceeds the GDP of the entire country. Clearly, the amount would be inadequate from a risk management perspective. 

 

 The second argument for supporting the net worth requirement is the fear that everyone will start offering services, thus making the area impossible to regulate. This argument offers only false comfort to justify an inappropriate requirement. Clearly, having lawyers or accountants who are allowed to practice only if they have over a crore rupees in the bank would restrict the class of persons regulated by the bar council, and thus make their regulation easier. But for obvious reasons, this is unacceptable. The financial markets are not too dissimilar from other markets and if well regulated, the chance of too many players would be weeded out by competition. 

 

Lastly, it is argued that allowing anyone to operate would open the floodgates of scamsters. This, of course, raises the question whether all rich people are honest and all not-so-rich, including middle class people with good education, are fundamentally not trustworthy. The lazy regulation of keeping money in the bank as an entry barrier needs to change, as it is built strongly on this assumption. 

 

A committee of Sebi did look into capital requirements of securities intermediaries and has recommended an across-the-board increase of net worth numbers without addressing the fundamental question of whether net worth is relevant to a particular business activity or not. Perhaps the committee should review the requirements and ask some fundamental questions. 

 

 (The author is the founder of Finsec Law     Advisors)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

SUFFERING THE NOBLE TRUTH

MUKULSHARMA 

 

UTILITARIANISM is difficult to dislike. The ethical theory says that all action should be directed towards achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. It's hard to disagree with this because most people regard happiness as positively valuable and unhappiness like pain and suffering as negatively valuable. However, there's a flipside: any increase of happiness means a decrease in suffering. So, why could the theory not propose that all action should be directed towards achieving the greatest reduction of suffering for the greatest number of people? Surely, that's difficult to disagree with too. 

 

Yet this line of reasoning leads to an intractable conundrum. For example, if it were possible to exterminate all life in the universe instantly, painlessly and permanently, would it be correct and ethically required that we do so in order to prevent any future suffering whatsoever — even if it means avoiding a pinprick? Whole hog adherents seem to have no choice here; they would have to agree. Furiously back-pedalling fence sitters on the other hand — those who never dreamed the proposition could be taken to its logical limit — suddenly might notbe so sure. Depending on their estimation of the relative amounts of future suffering, they may decide either way. 

 

The reason for the lover's quarrel is easy to understand. One lot are trendy atheists who nevertheless have developed principles. Although they might think the universe is random and meaningless and life has to intrinsic purpose, things like pain and suffering are still, well, painful to suffer. So away with it. The other lot are semipious agnostics or believers who aren't sure if there isn't some possible ultimate point or principle behind creation. Meaning, why buck it by taking such an absolute and grandstanding decision. 

 

 There's a way out though without recourse to belief, unbelief or maybelief. If the common bond of suffering is indeed a noble truth because it's a product of ignorance, illusion, impermanence or whatever and it's not going to go away by itself, nor will the death of all life necessarily extinguish it, then the only thing that makes sense is to deal with it on an individual basis first. If there's anything utilitarian at all the Buddha taught it was that no one can do the unsuffering for us because there are no saviours out there but ourselves.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BJP'S CRACKS VISIBLE IN KARNATAKA CRISIS

 

If there is one message that has come through clearly during Karnataka's current political crisis, it is this: the BJP is a divided house and the cracks run very deep.

 

Unless something is done to paper over the cracks in double quick time, October 11, when the Chief Minister, Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa, has been asked by the governor, Mr H.R. Bhardwaj, to prove his majority in Assembly, might spell the end of Karnataka's third political option. And the crisis that began when 19 MLAs were flown out to neighbouring Tamil Nadu may see matters come to a head.

 

Despite its early promise of being a "government with a difference", the 28 months that the first BJP government in South India has been in power has been marked by the once monolithic party's biggest failing — infighting. It demonstrates once more that when the politician comes within sniffing distance of power, his penchant for greed cuts across party lines. A pity as this is the BJP's first shy at governance, at flying solo, and where it had promised so much but delivered so little. That it is the third time in less than 11 months that Mr Yeddyurappa's government has faced a rebellion from within its own ranks raises several questions.

 

Even if the BJP top brass somehow manages to quell this bout of dissidence and gets back to business as usual, the alarming frequency with which different groups with varying axes to grind bring the government so close to the brink of collapse must remain a huge cause of disquiet at the party headquarters in New Delhi. What's more, the cause for the derailment has been the same every time. While last November's putsch was the brainchild of the powerful Reddy mining magnates who used their considerable clout with the BJP top brass and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj to force Mr Yeddyurappa to move out key bureaucrats, as well as key advisers, the second attempt at destabilising the BSY government was moved by a similar impetus.

 

Despairingly, so is the third. This time the disgruntled, who had waited in the wings for long, whipped up a frenzy against the CM immediately after an ill-advised Cabinet expansion that saw the reinduction of two of his closest confidantes at the expense of other hopefuls. It's all too clear that Mr Yeddyurappa must go back to the drawing board and re-examine whether it is his style of leadership that needs a course correction. Surely he is aware that the BJP's national leaders see him as the key to widening the saffron footprint in the South.

 

Surely he is aware too that in a state like Karnataka, riven by a cauldron of conflicting pressure groups who put caste and religion above all else, these are troubled waters that rival political parties like the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) will always fish in for electoral gain. While the Congress, with its voteshare dwindling, has said over and over that it had no role to play in the current destabilisation of the BSY government, and that the BJP's only southern dispensation will fall from the weight of its own contradictions, its leaders can barely hide their glee as the crisis lurches to its predictable denouement.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

MESS MANAGEMENT

BY SWAPAN DASGUPTA

 

Mahatma Gandhi is, arguably, the one Indian whose name is likely to have an instant recall anywhere in the world, not least in the countries of the erstwhile British Empire now grouped as the Commonwealth. Yet, ask an average Briton, including the ones who have at least two A-level passes, to write the Mahatma's name and you are likely to be presented with the scrawl "Ghandi". Probe a little further and you may well be told that that the same "Ghandi" was the father of "Indira Ghandi" and the founder of India's most enduring political dynasty.

 

Given the prevailing mismatch between fact and perception, especially about matters concerning "foreigners", we need not be unduly harsh on the hapless Suresh Kalmadi for expressing his gratitude to Princess Diana for being present at the grand opening of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) on October 3. To this go-getting MP for Pune, more accustomed to "managing the environment" (Dhirubhai Ambani's persuasive explanation for his success in business) than engaging in polite small talk at convivial dinners, knowing the hierarchical difference between the Duchess of Cornwall and the Princess of Wales is not Brash India's overriding priority. As they say in "the Poonjab", Naththa Singh and Prem Singh, one and the same thing.

 

At a time when India is wallowing in the glory of a spectacular cultural extravaganza, many gold medals and an incredible Test victory over Australia, it may seem distinctly unpatriotic to flash the proverbial gutter inspector's report. Indians, as Ian Jack has helpfully reminded us in the Guardian, do tend to leave things till the very last minute. The preparations for the formal inauguration of New Delhi in 1931 were, for example, completed barely "five minutes before closing time". So why blame sports minister M.S. Gill for his prescient but nonchalant comparison of the CWG with a Punjabi wedding? If the CWG is, as we have repeatedly been told, all about "national pride", Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit shouldn't be grudged for preening at her own ability to snatch a jugaadu "pass" from the jaws of failure.

 

The final cost of procuring what in my university days used to be called a "gentleman's degree" may haunt Indian public finance for many years to come but that, the optimists will say, is a small price for the benefits of a possible real estate boom in Delhi and the creation of many more politically connected millionaires. India lives for the present and the "exemplary punishment" the Prime Minister has promised for those guilty of corruption is unlikely to be a priority of the future. Like the potholes in newly-built roads, the edible will be blended with the inedible, overlaced with pungent spices, and cooked into a khichdi which, at best, will contribute to a bout of Delhi-belly. In the immortal words of Lalit Bhanot, the physical instructor from Delhi University who chose to be the public face of Kalmadi-ism, "the Westerners have different standards; we have different standards; everyone has different standards…"

 

Mr Bhanot was mercilessly pilloried for his reflections on hygienic standards so much so that he chose to abandon his high public profile. India, it would seem, was being disingenuous. Mr Bhanot may not have the finesse of the Delhi chief minister or the disarming candidness of the Union sports minister but underneath his gauche bluster he did unwittingly capture the essence of the Indian state's penchant for desi standards, the euphemism for tackiness.

 

The CWG may well be a facet of the burgeoning "cash and carry" industry but it has nominally been painted as a bid to showcase resurgent India to the non-US Anglosphere. Instead, we have succeeded in exposing the country's rough edges which no amount of invocation of 5,000 years of culture can iron out.

 

The imperious overkill that has defined the bandobast would have been national scandals in most-evolved democracies. In India, some deft "media management" has ensured that the focus on sloth and high-handedness has been kept to a bare minimum. It was not a fiercely-independent Indian media that exposed the shameful conditions in the Games Village: the initial protests were from foreign team managers and the revealing pictures were put on show by the BBC only a day after the domestic media gave the arrangements a hyperbolic thumbs-up.

 

It needed a pesky foreign media to ask a basic question on Day One of the Games: where are the spectators? The insouciant Kalmadi replied that there were mile-long queues of, presumably, invisible Indians waiting to get into the stadia. By the end of the exchange, wrote the reporter for the Times, Kalmadi "sounded like Monty Python's Black Knight won, on having his limbs hacked off, retorts: Just a flesh wound".

 

Few Games have been less spectator-friendly and more citizen-unfriendly than the `70,000 crore orgy in Delhi. In the name of traffic management, arterial roads linking Lutyens' Delhi to the satellite towns have been closed for 15 days. On October 3, all markets and offices in the national capital were forcibly shut down, making Delhi resemble a ghost town. In the name of security, a brusque constabulary has confiscated lipsticks, car and house keys, loose change, pens and even reading material from spectators, thereby making it clear that their very presence of humans constitutes a security hazard. The not-wanted message has been reinforced by cumbersome procedures for the purchase of tickets to events. To cap it all, the state-controlled Doordarshan — a creature that TV viewers have all but forgotten — has used its favoured position to dish out sub-standard coverage reminiscent of the bad old days of socialism.

 

There is a picture of India that is emerging from the CWG. It is an India defined by inefficiency, venality, non-accountability, shoddiness, brazenness, high-handedness and, above all, gullibility. It is a view that focuses on the biggest impediment to India realising its true potential: a bloated state that has lost its ability to cater to the public good.

 

Fortunately, there is another India.

 

* Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AYODHYA JUDGEMENT SMACKS OF FEUDALISM

BY KANCHA ILAIAH

 

I spent my childhood in villages where the landlords used to rule the roost. They used to resolve all the disputes of the villagers, especially land disputes that were so central to their life.

 

On an appointed day, the landlord would pronounce the judgement in the presence of several villagers. In a good number of cases the landlord would resolve the row by dividing the disputed land into three parts; the fighting parties get one share each and the third share would be taken by the landlord himself.

 

The Allahabad High Court's judgement on the Babri-Masjid and Ram Janmabhoomi case went exactly on those lines.

 

It was not modern law that was put to use in the resolution of the litigation but perceptions of the long-drawn out frustration of the disputing parties and the socio-political impact the judgement would have on the nation, that has witnessed enough bloodshed in its name.

 

This worked on the minds of at least two judges — Justice S.U. Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal. The third judge — Justice D.V. Sharma — took a subjective spiritual stand in favour of Lord Ram, who sat there not as God but as an infant landlord.

 

Even Justice Khan and Justice Agarwal reasoned out to be feudal adjudicators and joined their minds, if not hearts, with the ancient Hindu Agrahara ownership approach of Justice Sharma. The result is a non-legal but feudal mode of division of the land between the three parties — the Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

 

It made the frustrated parties remain non-violent for the time being. In Justice Khan's nuanced discourse, not jurisprudence, there was an agreeable negotiation between the two faiths. He thought that the Indian Muslims should be happy with a piece of land for a mosque to be built.

 

Justice Agarwal did a scholarly exercise of quoting from the Vedas, shastras and previous judgements to come to a common sense conclusion that this nation needs peace, even at the cost of law.

 

As one observer put it the judges distributed the land to their heritages, rather magnanimously. In the final analysis two-thirds of the land has gone to Hindus and one-third to Muslims.

 

As noted historian Romila Thapar argued, the court examined who demolished the temple under the demolished mosque about 600 years ago, but did not even mention the destruction of the Masjid in 1992.

 

Look at the way the three of them perceived the same evidence presented and the arguments of lawyers. Justice Sharma came to the conclusion that Babar's men demolished a standing Mandir and constructed an un-Islamic mosque using the pillars of the pulled down temple.

 

Justice Agarwal came to a conclusion that that there was a temple underneath, but said nobody could prove who built the Babri Masjid at what time. Justice Khan was of the firm opinion that the Masjid was built during Babar's period on his command and it was a mosque used for prayers.

 

The perception of even legal issues is conditioned by one's own family and religious background as is proved in this case beyond doubt.

 

Let us suppose that the bench consisted of two Muslim judges and one Hindu judge. Would the judgement have been different? Suppose such a bench was to divide 2.77 acres land into two parts, let us say, between a Masjid and a temple equally. Would there have been peace in India today?

 

Then the tall talk of reconciliation would have evaporated into the thin air. The RSS theory of "no winner and no loser" in this judgement would have become "the nation at loss" and Narendra Modi would have concluded that Allah and Bhagwan would not be allowed to share the land equally. Then the Maryada Purushotham would have come to the Yuddha Bhoomi with his bow and arrows.

 

Praise for the judgement is understandable. Justice Sharma and Justice Khan certainly should feel satisfied at the fame they won and the manner in which they served their respective religions quite faithfully.

 

But Justice Agarwal's is an ambiguous position. He walked through the razor's edge of reason than through his faith. It was the common sense, but not legal position, of Justice Agarwal that kept the nation free of bloodshed.

 

But once the case goes to the Supreme Court things might change quite drastically. If the Sunni Wakf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara get their entitlement and Ram Lalla does not get anything, will the theory of "no winner, no loser" be in operation? Or will the question of fighting for "national identity" come to the fore again?

 

As of now, let us pray to Ram and Rahim to work on the mind of the Nirmohi Akhara to donate its share equally so that a temple and a mosque could be built and a litigation in the Supreme Court be avoided. But in such cases, prayers have never worked; only muscle and money power have worked.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MEANING, MAGIC OF THE MAHATMA

BY SHIV VISVANATHAN

 

There is something about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that is incredibly seductive. Decades after his death, I still visit Sabarmati Ashram every year on October 2. It is always disappointing. There is a spate of badly sung bhajans, the usual attendance of a few religious leaders looking like something made in a wax works, a few remaining Gandhians smelling of age and mothballs. Thousands of people come to the ashram that Gandhi left in 1930, never to return. One senses a ritual, a sense of tourism redeemed by the few who come to pray and find some sense of the politics of Gandhi.

 

October 2 becomes a report card time to assess the fate of Gandhi and his ideas. The village he dreamt about is disappearing and the agriculture and the crafts which he saw as the life blood of a people appear obsolescent. Between suicides of farmers and the fear of farming the younger generation is showing, agriculture appears a tenuous activity.

 

Even the ashram which he saw as a site for future thought experiments appears ethically empty. Gandhi conceptualised the ashram as a place that would tackle the problems of the world even while it slept. As one walks around the ashram one senses the aura of the place. It survives even a few idiot Gandhians reciting Gandhi like a multiplication table. A visitor senses the museumisation of the man. He is now a memory banalised into a collection of souvenirs. One can pick up kitschy statues for `200. They are badly made and overpriced. The shop has old pictures retouched so badly that they would not grace a barbershop.

 

One lazily walks to the room where he lived. The charkha he worked on sits like a live object, almost pregnant with meaning. One wonders why it was seen as a luddite object, a piece of anti-technology when it was an invitation to an alternative way of inventing. Gandhi wanted technology to create community, to add to the competence of citizenship, to fight obsolescence. He who wanted to fight the idiocy of the village where men were toothless by 50, is being treated like a village idiot. One forgets that this man wanted the ashram to rework the world. His Archimedian point was an ethical one. With ethics as foundation and prayer as a lever, Gandhi could say give me an ashram and I will transform the self.

 

As you walk around Charles Correa's building, you sense that this modest building might be one of the most endearing of the architect's creations. As one reads the quotations on the wall, walk past photographs as fragments of history, one senses the building is devoted to the art of memory. It seems to say walk and remember. Every time I jaywalk through this history, I am moved. The museum is dog eared, the arrangements slap dash and yet one is captured by the magic of the man. One trembles at the prospect of the Gandhi tucked into each man whispering other possibilities.

 

As one walks in the hot sun, thinking of Dandi, it strikes one that while there have been studies of Gandhi's fasts, prayers, his attempts to confront sexuality, one discovers little attention has been paid to his idea of walking. I am referring to the everydayness of walking not just the ritual of the padyatra.

 

Walking for Gandhi was the measure of the body. Walking defined the proportions of the city. Walking was a measure of locality. Walking defined the nature of place and its familiarity. Walking defined and gave content to the idea of Swadeshi. Walking provided an ethics of scale. Gandhi's theory of walking was profound and profoundly everyday and yet one finds little on it. Thomas Weber who recreates Dandi with care often with a scholar's pedometer has no reflection on walking. Gandhi's ideas on walking are more bereft of scholarship than his life in South Africa.

 

One walks over to Meera Kuteer, a fragment of a cottage where Madeline Slade and Vinobha once stayed. The ceramic commode has a sculpted quality to it. It has a sense of proportion. If architecture were to define minimum need, this would be the place. It almost feels like a cloak rather than a house. Its modesty gives it a sense of the sacred and the onlooker realises history was made from such little building blocks. My walk has become a pilgrimage.

 

It is about three in the afternoon. Another movement for agriculture is about to start. It is a yatra, half pilgrimage, half protest against the fate of agriculture.

 

The Gandhians who speak are inane but the activists smile tolerantly. They realise theirs is a long struggle. I speak to one of them. She is practical. I ask her for her badge. She gives it happily. It is at that moment you realise that while Gandhians might have mothballed Mahatma into inanity, these activists have created a more sustainable view of his ideas. They stick to their ideals, more pragmatically and join your laughter. They understand the ebb and flow of politics better than one and hint history flows like a stream only in retrospect. Struggles have a sense of ebb and flow which they seem to recognise and even enjoy.

 

I feel an un-gandhian need for tea. Tea with pakoras. As I walk back, visitors are hugging Kantibhai's statue of Gandhi as if it was their favourite uncle. A Japanese visitor stands more reverentially for a photograph. You sense a difference. Foreigners stiffen with respect, acknowledge the sense of sacred and history. Indians scurry like mice. If the statue sloped like a seesaw, they would slide happily down the side. As one leaves, one salutes the other statue warning one "to see no evil". Ironically it seems a warning that once you leave the place one is returning to Modi's Gujarat.

 

An autodriver's drama later, one has moved on. You realise you are caught in a time warp, only you are not sure whether it is past or the future. I feel uncomfortable. Gandhi haunts you. He is no nag but he can sense the need for goodness in every man. Only he insists ordinary goodness is not enough. It is a quiet reminder that as evil gets inventive, the civics of goodness has to think out-of-the-box. You dream of a Satyagraha that can fight terrorism and smile helplessly to yourself.

 

The auto moves tiredly across the city.

 

* Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

VEDIC SCIENCE OF HAVAN

BY YOGI ASHWINI

 

All aspects of this manifested creation are different permutations and combinations of five basic elements or tattwas — prithvi (earth), jal (water), agni (fire), vayu (air) and akash (ether). A human being, by virtue of being part of this physical creation is thus also constituted of these five elements.

 

Of all the elements, agni is the most distinct. While it is possible to pollute all the other elements, agni cannot be polluted. It is, in fact, a medium of purification and transformation. Our ancestors, the vedic masters (rishis), were well aware of this property of agni and hence the vedic science of havan (and almost every vedic practice) finds its root in this unique characteristic of agni. A havan, therefore, is not merely a ritual. For a yogi, it is a medium of interacting with the divine energies that run the entire creation. For others, a havan leads to purification of the constituent elements thereby affecting transformation.

 

Does that mean the elements constituting a human being are impure? Just like earth, water, air and ether are polluted in the world around us, these elements are subject to pollution within the human body as well and this pollution, like the former, results in devolution or a movement towards vikriti. It is quite easy to trace the pollution of various constituent elements in a being.

 

The pollution of prithvi tattwa is characterised by an ever-growing desire for material comforts — a better living, a more lavish lifestyle, higher status in society and the like. Such an individual only thinks of hoarding more and more for himself/herself. But whenever you hoard, you are only depriving someone else of his/her share thereby incurring a karmic debt. It is well-known that the purest of water rots when it is held stagnant for a long time. When the jal tattwa gets contaminated, a being demonstrates abnormal sexual desires. Increasing popularity of sex-shops in the West and the gradual import of the concept here, use of sex toys — all these are indicative of a polluted water element. The vedic philosophy does not prescribe for the suppression of innate desires, but resorting to such measures merely indicates an adulteration in the natural order of things.

 

The agni tattwa cannot be polluted; it however gets suppressed with the onset of ageing in the human body. This manifests as reduced vision, weakening of digestive system and depletion of bodily strength and vigour in general. With the practice of Yoga and Sanatan Kriya, a practitioner is able to maintain the optimum level of fire element thereby retarding the effects of ageing. The vayu tattwa accounts for the proper functioning of the heart and lungs and, in turn, the circulatory and respiratory systems. A polluted vayu tattwa is thus responsible for cardiac disorders and degenerative diseases like the parkinson's and alzheimer's. Finally the pollution of the akash tattwa is associated with the diseases of the thyroid and parathyroid glands as well as weakening of the auditory abilities.

 

While a single havan has the capacity to resolve all these contaminations in the human self, for it to be effective certain things need to be kept in mind. The samagri, samedha (wood, either sandal or mango) and dhrit (cow ghee of the highest quality) used should be unadulterated. The thought (bhaav) of those participating in the havan should be pure. Lastly, the pronunciation (uchharan) of the mantras must be flawless with sensitivity to the crests and troughs. All these when combined with the surrender to the guru, ensure that the offerings hence made to the agni are sent in their purest form to the right dimensions thereby affecting the desired transformation.

 

The vedic masters studied the being and all related aspects in great depth. Thus, the science given by them is a perfect science. All one needs to do to reap its benefits is to practice it the proper way, under the guidance of your guru.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

NO PLACE FOR ATHEISM

BY SIDHARTH BHATIA

 

Debates around the Ayodhya judgment — a remarkable piece of jurisprudence, which has gone way beyond questions of legality — have centered around a few themes. Secular constitutionalists have pointed out that the judges relied more on the question of faith rather than the law and this can have repercussions in the future. The Hindutva brigade has immediately seen it as an endorsement of their stand that the question of the birth of Ram goes beyond mere human law. Not all litigants are happy at the verdict and are planning a challenge in the Supreme Court; after all, who would be satisfied with a small parcel of land when the aim was to get the whole property. And the general reaction seems to be one of relief, that the matter is more or less over and we can move on.

 

But there is a small constituency, on the fringes and hardly vocal or influential, which may be wondering what the implications of the judgment are for them. Since belief and faith are the cornerstones of the verdict, what does this imply for the non-believer? The learned judges decided to make Ram Lalla — call it the idol, the divine presence or just the projection of mass faith — as a litigant and allowed a human to represent him in court. And then, in their wisdom, they concluded, inter alia, that faith did matter and could trump the law book in such cases.

 

Does this not make faith as a central tenet of socio-legal issues? In a future contest between a non-believer and the faithful, say on the question of a temple that encroaches on the former's land, would the plaintiff have any chance? And more fundamentally, do non-believers — atheists, anti-Godwallahs, rationalists or mere agnostics — matter in the Indian system even if they are hardcore adherents of the constitutional and legal process?

 

It is not a question that can be easily discarded. In India, atheists are seen as a kind of fringe group, even cranks and do not matter, not in society not in public policy. The Constitution says India is a secular Republic, which in our country has come to mean that the state stays away from religion. In practice, the state merrily consorts with religious (mainly Hindu) practices; no public building or structure is inaugurated without a puja and public officials are not only open about their own religious affiliations, they even use state resources to promote their favourite gurus. The Election Commission draws a line at using religion to campaign, but this stricture is often breached, even if subtly.

 

Contrast that with the US, where the courts have been strict and uncompromising in enforcing state secularism. Prayers were struck down in schools and attempts to put up Christian symbols in public buildings. In France, while we chafe at the bans on showing religious symbols like the burqa and the turban in state schools, what we don't understand is they are also equally firm on wearing crosses. In fact, France takes its secularism and anti-religion stance very seriously.

 

In all of Europe, which has seen the dark side of organised religion, belief in God is at its lowest. Going to church is seen as a practice for unenlightened, rural populations. Churches in England are falling into disuse. The advent of migrants — Hindus, Muslims and Catholics and other Christians from the Eastern European nations — has upped religious activity, but this has not pleased the host populations, who continue to be anti-religion.

 

Public intellectuals like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) have attacked the idea of God, which was getting a boost when openly religious politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair came to power. In the Western context, the fight is between the adherents of Creationism (the notion of a divine masterhand behind all creation) and Darwinism, which is the theory of evolution.

 

In India, no such debates have taken place — they wouldn't stand a chance. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the last major public figure who was openly an atheist. There are many others but they prefer not to talk about it. Even the Godless Communists consort with devotees during big festivals. India was always a religious land, and now the urban young find it cool, happily living with tech, consumerism and new-age spirituality. We know how religion and faith can be misused by politicians and the havoc this can wreak on our social fabric, but this does not discourage us; instead, we latch on to it more and more.

 

The law, on the other hand has always been secular and by implication, a non-believer, but after the Ayodhya judgment, this becomes an open question. If faith can move mountains, create big political movements and also inspire judgments, then it is a potent currency in the India of today. Atheism and non-belief have no chance of making a mark in public and social life, whatever the hard constitutional reality may be.

 

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

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

BUNKER 'BUSTING'

A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD IN SRINAGAR

 

DISMANTLING 16 bunkers raised by the security forces in prominent locations in Srinagar is indeed a very visible sign of an effort to de-police the city ~ extremist elements would prefer the term de-militarise ~ and perhaps demonstrate a commitment to implement some tactical elements of the eight-point Kashmir plan recently unveiled by New Delhi. Yet despite the "relief" that may follow, it is little more than token action since there are an estimated 100 bunkers (for security reasons the precise number is not being disclosed) dotting the city. The size, and the number of men deployed in each will obviously vary, but together they do serve to confirm the abnormality of the situation that obtains. While it could be forcefully argued that the CRPF/ police ought to have long set about removing bunkers deemed non-essential, thereby making the residents feel more comfortable, it would be worth knowing if the forces removed them willingly, or merely "obliged" because it was politically correct not to maintain roadblocks in the presumed peace-map charted after the visit of the all-party delegation. If the dismantling actually translates into a confidence-building measure and makes some folk less hostile to the authorities it will be welcome. Bunkers have ever been eyesores, and it is worth asking why, over the past two decades or so, none of the security agencies considered having their check-posts designed to blend with local architectural styles ~ little gestures of that kind would reduce the "alien" image of military/paramilitary.


Yet what if the ground conditions remain violent ~ curfews are still being frequently imposed ~ and the separatist elements succeed in keeping passions ablaze? The security forces are under strain in J&K, and their morale and confidence will hardly be sustained by the chief minister, and some other sections of the national political leadership, creating an impression that they consider the forces part of the problem. Admittedly astute political leadership involves taking risks when "reaching out" to angry people. But unless measures to secure trust and goodwill immediately follow the dismantling of bunkers etc, and produce discernible dividends, the men who have struggled to avert the collapse of the "state" will feel awfully let-down by the netas. And it would be critical to bear in mind that while removing bunkers is perhaps acceptable, dismantling the counter-insurgency grid would be playing into the militants' hands. Stone-pelters might have breached the defences for the Kalashnikov-carriers to exploit.

 

OVER TO THE PMO

AS EAST-WEST METRO RUNS AGROUND

There was a sense of desperation in the Chief Minister's meeting with the Prime Minister on Monday. The CPI-M and the Trinamul Congress may have their respective reasons for deepening mutual distrust. But the kerfuffle isn't exactly relevant in the context of a matter as critical as urban transportation. The Opposition's shrewd political calculations alone explain why Kolkata's East-West Metro project has virtually run aground at the threshold. The project was conceived by the Left, which by itself can't be a reason for any party to erect roadblocks, however seemingly bright its prospects at the hustings. Equally is it a Central project, with Japan as the funding country. Altogether, the Centre, West Bengal and the two rival parties have managed to cut a sorry figure in terms of bilateral cooperation. And not least because a political impediment is anathema in the civilised world. As an upshot of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's meeting with Dr Manmohan Singh, the PMO has decided to intervene. The move suggests that it has eventually agreed to salvage the project from the political rut. If this ruffles the feathers of the Railway minister ~ like the continued presence of Central forces in the state ~ so be it. The East-West Metro is of far greater moment than the anxiety to score brownie points by postponing the execution till after the Assembly election. To put it bluntly, the PMO has called the bluff by agreeing to intervene and resolve the stalemate. Implicit is the message to the Railway ministry that the stalemate is of its own creation. This is another setback of sorts that Mamata Banerjee has suffered, soon after her proposal to hand over catering on trains to zonal railways was shot down. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation will not be divested of the responsibility.


At stake is the nitty-gritty of  rapid transit. It isn't a question of creating "an atmosphere of bonhomie" ~ the express purpose of the planned luncheon to be hosted by the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. The Railway ministry has been playing a political game by staying away from meetings on the East-West Metro ever since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The consequent delay in execution will inevitably result in an escalation of cost. The other red herring has been the refusal of the Railway ministry to give the go-ahead for the construction of underground stations at Howrah and Sealdah. The stalemate might end ~ just might ~ only if the PMO can make the Railway Board display a measure of assertiveness that must transcend the minister's whimsy.

 

CONTRIVED THREATS

WON'T PRODUCE MIRACLES ON SINGUR

Repeated references to the disastrous experience of Singur and Nandigram have brought casual confessions from the Left that "a few mistakes'' were made while both Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Nirupam Sen have defended their policy on land acquisition at every possible forum. More realistic assessments made within the four walls of Alimuddin Street should have revealed that Trinamul has thrived on the agonising contradiction ~ promoting industry through the acquisition and conversion of agricultural land at the cost of large-scale displacement. That the Left now believes the negative signals need to be neutralised is evident from a pathetic effort to mobilise land losers in support of a renewed demand for a Tata car factory at Singur. The Left-backed peasants who had "willingly'' surrendered their holdings and had received compensation should have already settled down to alternative sources of livelihood. That they have not escaped the political reverses is confirmed by the Left-inspired demonstrations outside Tata offices and elsewhere. 

 

The timing also suggests a last-ditch effort to undo the damage that Mr Bhattacharjee's industrial policy has caused in successive elections. It is far from clear why the Left has opted for barren posturing when there is no sign that the deadline of one month given to the Tatas by the agitators has the sanction of the party. Or whether the government can push for a factory on 600 acres without touching the 400 acres said to belong to "unwilling'' farmers who have refused compensations. There are too many complications added to the Singur fiasco including the state's offer to the Railways to start a coach factory when it was not even sure whether the Tatas would return the land. It is thus understandable that while Citu bosses hold out contrived threats to confuse the electorate and perhaps upset Trinamul's joy ride, the chief minister maintains a calculated silence. Not even the Left's ardent sympathisers would believe that there is any scope for convincing the Tatas through a final round of pressures and unionised threats. This is misery that the Left has inflicted on itself. One doesn't expect face-saving devices to work or miracles to take place before the actual deadline of the election.

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

CANDID CONFESSION 

METHOD IN MUSHARRAF'S MADNESS 

RAJINDER PURI

 

Pervez Musharraf set the cat among the pigeons by his interview to the German news weekly, Der Spiegal. Already red faced Pakistani officials are strenuously denying what he said. Consider first what Musharraf said. Then try to understand why he said what he did. 


Musharraf said that the Pakistan army trained militants and sent them across the border in Kashmir to spread insurgency. He said that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif turned a blind eye to the army's actions during the Kargil invasion that scuttled the Indo-Pak peace process. Musharraf justified the army's action because he said that Pakistan wanted to compel India to discuss Kashmir which is Pakistan's core issue. He said that Pakistan could not forgive India for having divided it to create Bangladesh. 


Why has Musharraf for the first time for any Pakistani leader confirmed what India has been alleging for decades? Readers might recall that when Musharraf formally launched his new political party from London last week this scribe had predicted that with tacit US support Musharraf would attempt to replace President Zardari who could conceivably be ousted from office mid-October by a court ruling that nullifies protection for his past corruption cases. It was also predicted that General Kayani might not derail democracy by consenting to a constitutional role for the army in the government's decision-making as Musharraf had proposed during the launching of his party. And it was speculated that this entire exercise might be welcomed by Washington because Musharraf was expected to renew the peace process with India over Kashmir which had progressed farthest when he was President. A visible forward movement in Kashmir peace would not only help the US compel a positive performance from Pakistan in Afghanistan, it might also help President Obama in the US Congressional election in early November. 


 Well then, why has Musharraf accepted Pakistan's role in spreading cross-border terrorism in Kashmir? There is media speculation that he wanted to embarrass the present government in Pakistan. This is not convincing. This may partially help Musharraf but the Pakistan government is already held in very low esteem by the public. Nor would it help Musharraf to embarrass General Kayani or the Pakistan army which continues to foment cross-border terrorism. Musharraf would be depending on Kayani and the Pakistan army if he returned to office. It could be that Musharraf's revelations were intended to set the basis of the future peace process that he might resume. 


The most significant aspect of Musharraf's candid confession to the German news weekly is that he spoke the truth. He has admitted that Pakistan did what India claimed and he explained why Pakistan did what it did. This is straight talk. It is an admission of what is considered unacceptable but is justified by Pakistani perceptions. There is nothing more effective than exchange of truth between negotiators if one wants to reduce the trust deficit. One is led to believe that if Musharraf does succeed in resuming peace talks with India as Pakistan's President the dialogue this time around might be more purposeful and rewarding. In the event that would also depend on whether the Indian government is equally candid and truthful about what it did and why it did it.  
Pakistan's deepest resentment flows from the liberation of Bangladesh. It is undeniable that the Indian government helped break up Pakistan. When Bhutto trampled over legitimate East Pakistan grievances and the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan army started military action in Dhaka, a veritable river of refugees started flowing into India. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi saw the opportunity to break up Pakistan. The Indian army trained Bangladesh's Mukti Bahini. Indian army personnel out of uniform led the Mukti Bahini. But the end result did not serve India. We had succeeded in creating two hostile Islamist nations instead of one. And both were heavily influenced by Beijing which sought to destabilize us for decades. 


India had the choice at that time to play big brother and help Pakistan remain intact as a genuine federation giving East Pakistan full autonomy. Pakistan's land access to Bangladesh is only through India. That would have helped India create a stable South Asia. Federations within India and Pakistan and a confederation within South Asia was what might have been achieved. Substantially the same arrangement can still be achieved except that Bangladesh is now an independent sovereign nation. 


Instead, Indira Gandhi acting like a big power puppet could not even consolidate the Indian army's victory in Bangladesh to end the Kashnmir dispute once and for all. With Pakistan on its knees and 90,000 of its soldiers held Prisoners of War, she signed the Simla Agreement that provided no tangible gain to India in order to help Bhutto retain power in Pakistan. This is not being written by hindsight. If one cares to search the archives of the now defunct  Illustrated Weekly of India in which I wrote a weekly column during the months before the Bangladesh war one would note that all this had been expressed then. It is only the pathetic poodles of India's leading dynasty dominating the media and bureaucracy who continue to sing paeans of praise for arguably India's most disastrous Prime Minister.  


In the event of Musharraf replacing President Zardari and the peace process being resumed under him, New Delhi would do well to prepare its brief in advance. This is the time for bold thinking. There is an enormous gap between India's potential and India's performance. There is a huge disconnect between political priorities and popular aspiration. Never has the need for burying once and for all the perennial problems besetting the nation for the past many decades been more compelling. There is the prospect of a paradigm change in India and in South Asia. The government should dare to make that change reality. The government could begin with Kashmir and Pakistan.

 

(The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist)

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

TILAK'S ROAD TO NATIONALISM

RELIGION, ACCORDING TO TILAK, JUSTIFIED ACTIVISM AND THIS APPROACH ENABLED HIM TO MOBILISE UNINVOLVED GROUPS, CREATE A WIDER SOCIAL BASE AND PROVIDE A MORE COHERENT, MASS-BASED OPPOSITION TO BRITISH RULE, SAYS 

SUBRATA MUKHERJEE  

 

The founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885 was preceded in the 1870s and 1880s by the appearance of a large number of associations spearheaded by educated Indians throughout the country. There were two interlinked purposes in the formation of these associations: (a) to open up channels of communication for articulating grievances and demands to the Raj; and (b) to foster a sense of national unity and pride that had come with the railways and the telegraph. The Indian Association was the apex body supplemented by a number of such associations at the local level like the Pune Sarvajanik Sabha. 


However, the Indian Association's efforts at national unity only achieved a limited success. One major reason for its limited success was the fact that it functioned from a central organisation in Kolkata, the imperial capital, which seemed an attempt to subordinate other provinces. It was a logical follow-up of the establishment of the universities of Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, in which Kolkata was the largest and the educated Bengalis were able to get jobs which were scarce, raising discontent of locals. A centralised political organisation with branches throughout the country was an unrealistic proposition in the 19th century Indian context. 
The early Congress leadership was conscious of the deep cleavages and built an organisational structure which was decentralised. It had no constitution, no definite ideological framework nor an identifiable group of followers. It was a version of what in contemporary times is referred to as a catch-all party. In such a loosely structured body, the main purpose was to put pressure on the British administration to be more accommodating. It was in continuation of the plank adopted by the early Indian nationalists from Rammohun Roy to Mahadev Ranade. 


The annual meeting was the most important event. It used to be given the widest possible publicity and the number of delegates steadily rose. The delegates used to come in their choicest dresses and for many it was an enjoyable holiday. The early Congress did not have any central executive and the discussions were restricted to national issues. No provincial or divisive issues, and no issues of class or exploitation were permitted. The major constraint on the early Congress was its awareness about the Indian fault lines ~ religion, language, region, caste, class and community. The issues it took up were mild, like reform of the legislative council, abolition of Indian council, reduction of military expenditure and promotion of technical education. It raised only secular and all-India issues with no demand for immediate independence. Its plank was a peaceful and constitutional movement for self-government. The majority of the delegates were prosperous, urban based lawyers who constituted about 40 per cent of the membership. The political mobilisation was extremely limited. It was an exclusive club of the privileged, the educated and the bourgeoisie. 


Aurobindo characterised the annual convention of the early Congress as a three-day tamasha signalling the extremist challenge of the 1890s which ultimately led to the Surat split in 1907. The radicalisation of the educated class was first evident during the Illbert Bill agitation of 1882 and consolidated in a formidable manner within a decade of its formation. The major shortcoming of the moderate plank was its inability to define India's political goal. Its method of agitation was also ineffective. With no roots in Indian society, it could not negotiate with the colonial administration from a position of strength. It also restricted the leadership among a small number so that other groups became impatient. But the crisis came to a head with Lord Curzon's decision to partition Bengal in 1905. Rifts within the Congress became acute threatening the unity of the national movement itself. 

The first authoritative articulation of the extremist position crystallised in Aurobindo. He castigated the early Congress leadership for dissipating Indian energies on trivial and cosmetic reforms with a total reliance on British goodwill for its success. He criticised the organisation for being a middle class in nature without any support of the ordinary masses. He advocated a new strategy with mobilisation of mass support with an unequivocal demand for Indian independence. It had to be a revolutionary upheaval which the moderate leadership did not even dream of. 


The impact of this new doctrine was felt in a big way in Maharashtra, then a powerful centre of Hindu resurgence and orthodoxy. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) was the first extremist leader to absorb this new emerging spirit. Other articulations in other areas of India followed the lead which Tilak provided in the 1890s. Tilak, a product of modern education did not deliberately enter government service. In the 1880s, he got deeply involved in the social and political movement. 


The discontent with the moderate leadership led the extremists to assert that mere declaration of loyalty to the Empire and petitions to British parliament were futile. The moderate strategy had three p's ~ pray, please and protest. Instead, the extremists advocated mass-based radical programmes which included swadeshi, boycott and national education as a better way to fight imperialism. They exhorted the Indian masses to follow the examples of Ireland, Japan and Russia. 


Tilak considered foreign rule as being responsible for the poverty and backwardness of India. The latter's dependent status had resulted in misery and humiliation. As a result, he was critical of reforms since that undermined traditional practices. Unlike the moderates, who stressed the need for reforms, Tilak demanded independence. This sentiment was captured in his well known assertion "Swaraj is my birth right and I will have it". 


Tilak opposed the Age of Consent Bill in 1891-92, which sought to raise the age of marriage from 10 to 12 years, on the grounds that it was an unwarranted interference by the British in Indian religious customs and that if there was a need for change it ought to come from Indians. He opposed reforms not in principle but thought it was undesirable that an alien government should undertake it. Subsequently, he widened his criticism against Indian reforms, initiated by Ranade and the Prathana Samaj, who supported the Bill by entering into long doctrinal arguments based on the interpretation of Sanskrit texts. His position changed from reaction based on a liberal opposition to state interference to an upholder of tradition and this metamorphosis established his popularity among the masses. Henceforth, Tilak became a direct and militant opponent of government measures and a defender of religious practices with public support. He considered political activity primary and social reform secondary. The moderates, on the other hand, stressed social regeneration.


To make the national movement mass-based, he revived Hindu festivals and symbols. He organised Ganapati festivals from 1893 and a Shivaji festival from 1895 to bring people together and give Hinduism a congregational character. Through the Kesari, a weekly in Marathi and Maratha in English, which he started in 1880, he infused militancy and stirred national consciousness differing from the moderates, for whom freedom of the press was a means to educate the masses and prepare them for self-government. 


Tilak did not distinguish between the worlds of religion and daily affairs. He emphasised that a person must perform within the world in order to seek unity with God and not withdrawal or renunciation. Religion, according to Tilak, justified activism, a concern for the human condition. This approach to religion enabled him to mobilise uninvolved and uninterested groups, create a wider social base and provide a more coherent, mass-based opposition to British rule. Within this framework, Tilak provided a radical interpretation of the Bhagvad Gita by pointing out that the central message of the Gita was not, as Gandhiji said, renunciation but a call for action to fight against evil. It was the duty of every Indian to liberate India from British rule. He admitted that in interpreting the Gita, he was strongly influenced by the English ethical philosophers like JS Mill and Herbert Spencer. 


Both in terms of personal sacrifice and dedication in articulating the right of India to be free, Tilak remains an unparalleled icon. In crystallising Indian opinion for freedom, his acts are comparable to Simon de Volivar. However, his pragmatism, centrism and passionate nationalism had safety valves to change according to the need of the hour. His remarkable statement about the extremists, "the extremists of today are moderates of tomorrow" is an apt articulation of his capacity to change without compromising with the goal of attaining swaraj.


It is ironic that the young Tilak who took the help of religion in an unprecedented manner to mobilise people in Maharashtra cautioned Gandhi, in his old age, against the Khilafat. He argued that mobilisation for the cause of swaraj would be counter-productive. It was a reflection of a mature Tilak who could comprehend, in the twilight of his life, the plural nature of our politics and society. Jinnah moved away from secularism to narrow communalism whereas, with Tilak, it was just the opposite - moving towards acceptance of secularism and pluralism. This is writ large in the functioning of the Congress in the initial phase of the Gandhian era which the followers of Tilak joined enthusiastically. They perceived Gandhi as a follower in the footsteps of Tilak.


The writer is a retired professor of the department of political science, 
University of Delhi

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

A DHENKANAL DIARY

SUNRIT MULLICK

 

Have you ever gone south when you intended to travel north? That is what happened to me when I was returning home from Dhenkanal. It was around midnight when I alighted from the Madras Mail at Cuttack, in a trepidation since the platform was dark and deserted at that time of night, and I was left alone waiting for my host to meet me.  Presently, he appeared and we took off. The car rattled through the solitary roads and about forty minutes later, we reached our destination, the sleepy little town of Dhenkanal.

 

As we neared the guest house where I was to stay, my nostrils were assailed by the overpowering smell of sugarcane.  I was the guest of Shakthi Sugars Limited, a company based in south India that had its factory in Dhenkanal. The guest house was part of a neat row of officers' quarters, with the sugar factory just across. There was also the delightful spectacle of a mountain just at the border of the complex. The next morning, around ten, the general manager of the factory came over to give me a tour of the factory. Truck after truck came laden with sugar cane, got weighed and upturned its load on a conveyer belt that disappeared inside the factory. I saw the whole process of the juice being extracted, turning into molasses, and emerging as granulated sugar that got tipped into gunny-bags which got loaded into trucks at the other end of the factory. It was literally sugar cane at one end, and sugar at the other.

 

Later that day, I had an engagement at the Law College there. At the entrance of the college was the statue of a young boy, which I had to garland. The boy was Baji Raut, a boatman's son. Baji Raut and his friends kept watch on their boats which were moored at Nilakanthapur, on the banks of the Brahmani river. At that time, there was a popular revolt called "Prajamandal Movement" against the tyrant Sankar Pratap Mahendra Bahadur, king of Dhenkanal , and the Political Agent of the British who was in league with the king. The village adjacent to Nilakanthapur was Bhuban which had a British contingent that the king had requisitioned to guard him at Dhenkanal. In order to help them cross the river, the British troops called for Baji Raut to bring his boat to the other side. The boy refused and the British opened fire, killing Baji Raut and six or seven of his friends. Their dead bodies were then carried to Cuttack as a lesson to the people. That is the story of Baji Raut, martyr of Dhenkanal.


Another remarkable experience at Dhenkanal was that of Mahima Dharm, an unusual religion that I observed at an ashram some distance from Dhenkanal. It's a sprawling complex with a main temple that doesn't house any deity. Its votaries were dressed in loincloth made of tree bark, and nothing else. At sundown, they gathered on the temple courtyard, raised their palms to the sky and shouted "Alekh," meaning "Nameless." That's all. There's an annual festival when thousands gather and are fed. If you're interested in this sect, you can buy their magnum opus called "The Philosophy of Mahima Dharm."


After my work was done at Dhenkanal, my hosts offered to drop me by car to Bhubaneswar where I could board the return train to Howrah. We found on the internet that the train was a couple of hours late, so we arrived at Bhubaneswar with plenty of time to spare. When the train chugged in and I clambered on to it, I saw that it was totally dark and silent, except for soft, snoring sounds. A woman lay sprawled on my seat with a couple of kids, someone on the opposite berth, and others on the top bunks.  I wondered in dismay what to do, and decided I'd let the conductor handle the situation when he came around.


The train started moving. I found an empty window seat and quietly sat down on it. I saw that the conductor had entered and was consulting his chart with some passenger. After a while, when he made no move to come around, I went up to him and said, tentatively, "There are people sleeping on my seat, and I wonder whether you could wake them up so I can have my rightful place." The conductor looked at me oddly and asked for my ticket. He consulted his chart and said, more oddly, "Your name isn't on the list." "What!" I said, dumbfounded. He consulted his chart again, ran his finger down the pages, and pausing, looked up at me. "Where are you going?" he said. "Why, Howrah," I replied. "Well," he said, this train is going south, to Hyderabad; and you're supposed to be on the train going north, to Howrah. That train left hours ago, in the morning."

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE REVOLUTION IN PORTUGAL 


Although the internal affairs of Portugal have long been in a parlous condition the news that what is apparently a successful revolution has broken out in Lisbon comes as a complete surprise. Three years have not elapsed since the world was shocked by the cruel assassination of Carlos I and the Crown Prince, and the sympathy felt for the young King who succeded his murdered father seemed to point to a period of political peace. But although a large section of the Republican party reprobate assassination, the anti-monarchical propaganda has been vigorously carried on, and it was noted at the recent elections that the Republican cause had made considerable headway. The immediate cause of the present rising is not stated in the telegrams which have so far come to hand. It is highly probable, however, that the revolutionary party does not represent the majority of the Portuguese people. The franchise in Portugal is enjoyed by all citizens who can read and write, or who pay taxes of the amount of about two shillings per annum. A General Election, therefore, ought to be a fair criterion of the sentiments of the population, and the Republicans, though they had largely increased the number of their supporters, found themselves in a small minority after the late polls. The leaders of the revolutionary party have, however, secured the co-operation of the Army and the Navy, and the latter has covered itself with glory by bombarding the palace. This adhesion of the armed forces to the revolutionary cause is an essential of success, but it is also likely to prove a source of serious embarrassment when the question of settling the future administration comes up for solution. Soldiers who have assisted to overthrow one regime are generally equally ready to overthrow another, unless their pretensions are recognised and fully satisfied. But, whatever may be the ultimate course of events, it is impossible to withhold sympathy from the Portuguese nation.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PARTY GAMES

 

It would be disastrous if a government were to allow partisan politics to dilute its security strategies. The Maoist rebellion in India, and the strategy to deal with it, are serious security challenges. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly described the Maoist revolt as the greatest threat to the country's internal security. The union home minister, P. Chidambaram, too, has always treated it as such. The Centre, therefore, cannot afford to see the fight against the Maoists in West Bengal the way the state's rival politicians tend to do. It cannot be of much consequence to New Delhi how the anti-Maoist operations by the joint security forces affect the political fortunes of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamul Congress. It is generally assumed that the battle has had some success in recent months. But, as Mr Chidambaram has said time and again, it is going to be a long and hard battle. A brief spell of success is thus no reason to either suspend the operations or dilute them in any way. Compulsions of partisan politics should not form any part of the anti-Maoist strategy now or any time in the future. This should be valid for such operations not just in West Bengal but also in any other part of the country where the threat exists.

 

Mamata Banerjee's demand for the withdrawal of the joint forces from parts of West Bengal is clearly ill-advised. What she says about the CPI(M) using the operations in order to reclaim lost ground is not without basis. The ruling Marxists are known to have used not only their own cadre but also the police to suit their narrow political agenda. Ms Banerjee should use legitimate political methods to try and counter the CPI(M)'s politics. But she should see the flip side of her demand for the withdrawal of the forces. It only reinforces the CPI(M)'s charge that she takes the Maoists' help in her fight against the former. Also, this is not the first time she has raised such a demand. She has been opposed to the deployment of the Central forces in the area and to the Operation Green Hunt right from its beginning. Her party's successes in recent elections make Ms Banerjee a potential winner in next year's state assembly polls. An unfinished battle against the Maoists could be her problem too if she has to rule West Bengal. More important, the rebels, if not defeated, can do to the rest of the state tomorrow what they have done to Jangal Mahal.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NO WINNERS

 

If it is October, it must be time for another political crisis to hit Karnataka. The steady corrosion of ideals by greed may not be unique to this state, but the unusual virulence of dissident politics is. Since its formation a little over two years ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka has been repeatedly compromised by bitter factionalism that has adopted the drive against corruption as its leitmotif to hide baser political instincts. The avowed reason why 19 members of the legislative assembly in the state have withdrawn support to the B.S. Yeddyurappa government, reducing it to a minority in the House, is to oppose its sheltering of corrupt ministers and its hand in dubious land deals. But the genesis of the crisis perhaps lies in the personality clashes and conflict of interests between the party bigwigs that surfaced a year ago when the Reddy brothers from Bellary challenged the authority of Mr Yeddyurappa to head the government. As then — October last year — the high-handedness of the chief minister has been blamed for the crisis. If Mr Yeddyurappa had rubbed the state's powerful mining lobby and the party's benefactors the wrong way in 2009, this time he may be said to have repeated his mistake by dropping, in the course of a cabinet reshuffle, most of the independents who had proved to be kingmakers. Together with other disgruntled members of the legislative assembly, the men have hit back at Mr Yeddyurappa for his not-so-innocent game of using a routine procedure to settle scores with his rivals in the party. Quite naturally, the Opposition parties — Congress and Janata Dal (United) — have been busy fishing in the troubled waters.

 

To say that this political game is proving to be dangerous to the concerns of governance is to state the obvious. Karnataka is groaning under the weight of corruption, the magnitude of which was exposed when the lokayukta, N. Santosh Hegde, tried to resign in exasperation a few months ago. The present land scandal and the controversy over the Reddy brothers — in which perpetrators and beneficiaries of corrupt dealings were shown to be the ministers themselves — prove that the situation in Karnataka is desperate. Given the unholy dependence of political parties on the financial clout of the corrupt, it is not difficult to predict that no matter who wins next week, when Mr Yeddyurappa is supposed to prove his majority, it will not be political propriety.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

ANIMAL SPIRIT RARING TO GO

INDIA HAS ALWAYS BEEN AMBIVALENT TOWARDS MONEY-MAKING

CUTTING CORNERS - ASHOK MITRA

 

The expression, 'animal spirit', packs layers of meaning. For one, it is nearly synonymous with the fierce combativeness that marks the animal world; survival depends on outsmarting other carnivorous animals in grabbing quarry. It is merciless competition, with no quarter given to rival predators.

 

There is nothing particularly unusual if, charged with such animal spirit, the Indian psyche is all keyed up to perform better than neighbouring countries in different spheres of activity. In the years immediately following Independence, Pakistan was the preferred opponent to score over. The country born out of India's own limbs however soon proved small fry. Except where the issue of Kashmir crops up, Pakistan has dropped out of India's list of qualifying rivals. Encouraged partly by cheerleaders from the sidelines, such as the Americans, this country has now chosen China as its preferred adversary. In a feverishly competitive climate, frenzy often displaces reason. To equal or outpace China in every respect becomes the single-minded objective. It gets reflected even in matters that are puerile. The Indian media, for instance, are full of glee that in the seating arrangements on the day the president of the United States of America was addressing the current session of the United Nations general assembly, India's external affairs minister was placed on the front row; China's representative was assigned a seat somewhere in the rear. This piffling thing has been trumpeted about as a great diplomatic victory!

 

Once the animal spirit captures the imagination, occupying the front row becomes the only criterion by which to judge someone's credentials. There was much heart-burn that while China is already the world's second-largest economy, India is yet far from being even a distant third. Achieving success in some alternative direction was set as a goal to assuage that hurt. An opportunity was soon opened up. China organized, with utmost competence, the Olympic Games a couple of years ago. Why could not India provide evidence that it was not any less competent? The authorities jumped at the offer to organize this year's Commonwealth Games, never mind if these Games are a poor relation of the Olympics. The challenge involved organizing gigantic construction works which called for intricate planning, very close coordination among different executing agencies and meticulous attention to detail. The buzzwords were India could do it; the underlying unstated theme was India could do it better than China.

 

Aspiring to surpass China — or, for the matter, the US — in organizing an event, even a mega event, need not be taken to be akin to asking for the moon. Problems however arose because of a factor which too is sourced in the unleashing of the animal spirit. A corollary of the philosophy extolling free play of the animal spirit is that, at both the individual and corporate levels, the effort must be to maximize the rate of profit. Organizing the Commonwealth Games, a challenge to the authorities, was also at the same time occasion for parties called in to participate in the construction activities to make as much money as they could. The vast network presided over by the organizing committee involved doling out contracts and subcontracts. The Games budget was reported to be around Rs 70,000 crore, not an altogether paltry sum. Contractors naturally made a beeline, competition between them was intense. The process of winning the contracts was almost like jungle warfare. Some palms, it is entirely conceivable, were therefore needed to be greased. The successful bidders had to shell out funds for the purpose as well as to make outlays for engaging labour and procurement of material. Since the contracts were for a lump sum, to maximize profit, contractors tended to economize on the wage bill by employing either 'sweat' labour or workers not quite equipped to do the assigned tasks. They tried to pare costs in other ways too, for instance, by lowering the quality of material used. The animal spirit is supposed to breed efficiency. It can evidently also lead to corruption and inefficient performance. For an initial act of corruption sets in motion a chain of consequences that are equally tinted: subcontractors who are chosen have to grease, in their turn, the palms of contractors. Since the subcontracts, too, are of the turn-key type with fixed payments, the effort to maximize returns at the level of subcontractors contributes additionally to sloppiness and deterioration in the quality of work. Small wonder that completion of the total work gets delayed, some ceilings and footbridges collapse, or washroom facilities fail to reach international standards.

 

It is a weird world though — a lobby actually exists overtly supportive of the cause of palm greasing. A theory started circulating some decades ago in certain sections of the academia in praise of the role of corruption towards accelerating economic growth in the poorer economies. One or two doctoral dissertations advocating the theme were in fact successfully defended in American universities. The argument proffered was simplicity itself. In developing countries, the government generally plays a key role in the initial stages of the growth process. Any governmental system is featured by a hierarchy of bureaucratic functioning which is time-consuming and therefore cuts athwart the objective of speedy development. Entrepreneurs and contractors responsible on the field for executing projects are the real promoters of growth. They, however, feel helpless, dependent as they are upon the sweet will of bureaucrats and politicians for key approvals. In this situation, they could, the theory suggests, do worse than pay speed-money to officials, big and small. Such payments will help release files and hasten decisions. Corruption in the form of offer and acceptance of bribe is therefore a necessary input which accelerates the development process.

 

It was patronizing theorization with strong colonial overtones, given the underlying assumption of bureaucrats and politicians in underdeveloped countries being not only addle-headed but corruptible too. Proponents of the theory again set at work. This time they thought they had come up trumps. Corruption indeed has magic power that helps promote economic growth; why, even American economic history is replete with instances of how development of the US in the 19th and early 20th centuries was greatly facilitated by daredevil initiatives on the part of specimens such as the Rockefellers and the Harrisons, who bribed their way through the bureaucratic maze to win crucial oil and railroad construction concessions that transformed the economy.

 

Since corruption made its contributions towards American economic growth and at least one former prime minister went on record that, after all, the vice was an international phenomenon and there was nothing particularly unusual about it, those advocating the cutting of corners in public life in due course did gain some ground on our shores too. This nation has actually always had an ambivalent attitude towards money-making. The emphasis on austere living that permeated the nationalist movement on the insistence of Mahatma Gandhi was a temporary aberration. The dictum preaching the dominance of mind over matter has been usually for the birds. Activists fighting the cause of money-making, whatever the means, even dared to draw lessons from Gandhi's enduring relationship with one or two big industrial houses. Such relationships, it was said, proved that the Mahatma too had recognized the social necessity of profit-gathering.

 

Any way, the regulatory system introduced in the country in the post-Independence period provided ample opportunity to adventurous entrepreneurs to corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. The native impulse to cut a few corners in the quest for money meshed with the economic doctrine which described corruption as an effective engine to speed up development. Now the other side of the coin: the mess visiting the arrangements for the Commonwealth Games is a prize example of the kind of mishap that the zeal for money-making might lead to.

 

The animal spirit goads one to be efficient in order to beat competition. It however also opens the door for corruption which in turn breeds inefficiency. Why not bottle up the animal spirit for a while?

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

THE FINE ART OF DELAY

BONA FIDE - MALVIKA SINGH

 

Why is the Rashtrapati Bhavan steadily falling apart, deviating from all the mandatory norms of maintenance and upkeep, both as a carefully-planned estate and a fine building? We continue to operate like an underdeveloped nation wallowing in all manner of intellectual, cultural and professional insecurities, managed by babus who neither have the experience nor the sensibility required to conserve our habitat in the best possible way. We, as a nation, have failed miserably to stall the continuing degradation. And no one in power is actively attempting to change the reality.

 

Edwin Lutyens built by incorporating many elements from indigenous traditions of architecture. He has been criticized by art historians for his condescending comments on India. But strangely, his work is far more 'oriental' than that of Le Corbusier, who influenced the sterile horrors of the public works departments or of the local Delhi Development Authority. Post-Independence India has the worst architecture imaginable, led by State-sponsored ugly buildings that have pockmarked an otherwise stunning landscape. In our desperation to ape Western sensibilities, we created monsters upon urban monsters. In the bargain, the government agencies that dominated this realm of manmade heritage destroyed the best by turning a blind eye to the mutilation and destruction. Conservation and protection continues to mean nothing to the authorities.

 

The pivot of our republic, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, has become a mishmash of babustyle and bad taste. Public properties such as this one must be managed by professionals, and the babu must be prohibited from intervening. Incumbent representatives, who live in these properties for as long as their term permits them to, must be given their private quarters where they can live as they like, but must be compelled to live within public rules in the public spaces of the manor. Our Raj Bhavans are like the worst and tackiest guest houses. In fact, some of the finest homes overseas that the government of India has acquired for Indian embassies and residences are in deep neglect, with ghastly interiors and decaying structures.

 

Good housekeeping

 

We present ourselves as a confused, careless, nation-state that has no self-respect, no pride and no commitment to excellence. The home reflects the person and the mindset. Ours need to be cleaned up and overhauled. Secretaries to the government of India who have till now ruled the roost must give way to the experts. A stringent rulebook needs to be conceived and established. No president or prime minister, minister or secretary, can be permitted to interfere in the basics.

 

Suggestions must be brought to the 'committee of pros' and then decided upon. Let us clean up the act both metaphorically and physically. Let us begin with Rashtrapati Bhavan, where the committee continues to be overruled by the babu, who just does not follow the orders, and by staff who know the fine art of delay. The degradation from the days of S. Radhakrishnan and Zakir Hussain to today is stark and disturbing. Accountability needs to be activated immediately. Let us not lose our legacies and cultures.

 

As an emerging economic power we must understand the importance of showcasing the material heritage that is our larger and more profound legacy, the strong plural foundation on which rests our unusual civilization. These are the inheritances that have bound the polity and its organic federal structure. Let us purge the corruption of our lives, starting at 'home'. And force the babus to deliver the goods and services, law and order, and thereby, civil society.

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

EDITORIAL

SORDID POLITICS

'THE REVOLT IS A SYMPTOM OF A DEBILITATING DISEASE.'

 

A year after the Reddys tried to pull the rug from under Yeddyurappa's feet and nearly did, yet another challenge to the stability of the government has been mounted, as usual from within the BJP, but with tacit encouragement from the two main Opposition parties. Nineteen MLAs, including seven ministers, have withdrawn support to the government sparking the crisis. The rebels have made a spurious claim for moral high ground providing their revolt the rationale of 'lack of development' and the continuance of corrupt ministers in the government. But in actuality, the objective of the attempted putsch is predictable. It is aimed at ensuring the continuance of some ministers who were afraid of losing their places in the cabinet and at armtwisting the chief minister to accommodate some of the rebels in his cabinet, or alternatively, provide them with some lucrative chairmanships of the semi-autonomous boards that successive governments have created to pacify the dissatisfied MLAs.


The revolt in itself is a symptom of a debilitating disease that the body politic in Karnataka is suffering from. Over the past few years, the moral standards of elected representatives in the state have degenerated drastically. The anti-defection law has not been able to check the rampant horse-trading and hocking of loyalty. Nor for that matter, the changes in the electoral laws have been able to stem the entry of the corrupt and corruptible into public life. The enormous power that MLAs and the ministers command is attracting the dregs of society to politics. While it is easy to blame the voters for electing such persons, one has to look at the broader picture to find the source of the malady. Certain undesirable aspects of the liberalisation of the economy, chiefly the rejection of service motto and altruism and placing money as the raison d'etre of individual and society had to have its consequences on public life. With wealth replacing learning and service as a virtue, it was inevitable that society at large would some day accept passively and unquestioningly, the pursuit of power and wealth as legitimate, even desirable goals. That explains the acutely worrisome public tolerance of the contemporary sordid politics.


Whether the leaders of the attempted coup succeed in their objective will be known over the next few days. It is also of little significance as to who wins or loses, since it is certain that the losers are the people of Karnataka.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ON THE DEFENSIVE

'AIR FORCE CHIEF'S STATEMENT IS A MATTER OF CONCERN.'

 

Air chief marshal P V Naik's statement at an Indian Air Force function this week that 50 per cent of the equipment used by the force is either obsolete or obsolescent raises serious questions about the country's defence preparedness. According to the air chief most of the hardware, including fighters, radars, transport aircraft and air defence weapons are not in the best and operational condition, though he maintained that the force is quite capable of carrying out its defensive role. He also mentioned the shortage of officers in the force, which is already known. Though the material and personnel inadequacies of the forces have frequently been pointed out, it is perhaps the first time that the top leadership of the forces is stating it in public. What is true of the air force may be true of other services also. Therefore it is a matter of serious concern.


There have been frequent public statements about upgradation of equipment and modernisation of the forces. But these have a hollow ring in the light of the air chief's statement. It is well-known that India's indigenous defence production industry is grossly inadequate and much of the needed equipment has to be procured through foreign contracts. The process is often caught in bureaucratic hazzles, corruption and other problems. The purchase of an aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, from Russia is a case in point. The cautious policy on procurement of weapons adopted by governments after the Bofors scandal broke out is also a reason. Modern defence hardware is very expensive and  allocation needs to keep pace with the requirements. This calls for political will and initiative. But why the defence ministry is not able to utilise its allocation also needs to be investigated.

India's defence profile should match its growing economic strength and the challenges in its neighbourhood. China and even the financially deprived Pakistan have constantly improved their capabilities and it will be suicidal if India is found lagging. Many of the defence items that are needed cannot be readily bought and have to be ordered years ahead of actual procurement. While the main responsibility for action lies with the government, the propriety of making a public admission of a such a serious handicap of the forces, as made by the air force chief, is also questionable.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

NO EASY SOLUTION

BY HARSH V PANT


No Indian govt can allow Kashmir's secession for fear of triggering a new spate of separatist struggles in the multi-ethnic nation.

 

The idyllic valley of Kashmir in India is in the grip of violence for more than three months now and the Indian government has been unable to get a grip on the situation. This time it's the new generation of young Kashmiris pelting stones at the might of the Indian State.


They are venting their anger at a government that has been unable to capitalise on the stability of recent years to provide them with economic opportunities and political reconciliation. The state government led by the much-hyped chief minister, Omar Abdullah, took around two months to reach out to the people of the state directly after more than 50 people had already died in street protests and police action.


Meanwhile, the government in New Delhi fiddled while the situation in Kashmir deteriorated. After squandering various opportunities for making real political progress over the last few years, its only substantive response was to deploy the Indian Army again after a hiatus of 15 years.


The vicious cycle of killings-protests-killings continues unabated in Kashmir with the government unable to intervene effectively. Even as the security forces have complained that their hands are tied in dealing with stone-throwing mobs, the demand to reduce the footprint of security forces in the state has come from the state government itself.


An all party delegation was sent to Kashmir to interact with Kashmiri parties, including the separatists, and report back, enabling the government to adopt various measures which would at least partially satisfy the agitators in Kashmir and initiate a dialogue under peaceful conditions.


Pakistan, meanwhile, used the present turmoil to make itself relevant, once again, to the situation in Kashmir and condemned the alleged 'blatant' use of force by Indian security forces against the protesters. India rejected such intervention as 'gratuitous.' India views some of the violence in Kashmir as orchestrated to coincide with the impending visit of US President to India in November.


A sense of fatigue in India over the issue of Kashmir in recent years has prompted suggestions that Kashmir should be allowed to secede. Some have pointed out that the costs of holding on to Kashmir are far too high even as others, including maverick author Arundhati Roy, have suggested that India should not be a coloniser, ruling people against their will.


It's important to recognise that the Indian state, for all its many faults, is not the only guilty party in the Kashmir imbroglio. The saga of Kashmir is one of competing nationalisms and political philosophies. On one hand, the Indian government continues to champion Muslim-dominated Kashmir as a symbol of India's secular democratic ethos and fails to acknowledge that a majority of Kashmiris have ceased to view themselves as Indians.

Separatism

On the other, the separatists who want the right of self-determination refuse to account for the aspirations of the Hindus and Ladakhis as if they're not a part of this dispute at all. A recent Ipsos Mori poll conducted by the London School of Economics underlined the differences between various parts of Jammu and Kashmir on the issue of separatism. While the separatist sentiment is strong in the Valley, the majority of the state want to be a part of India. 


Both the conservatives and the liberals in India and elsewhere fail to grasp the complexities of Indian and Pakistani interests in Kashmir and refuse to reckon with the long-term consequences of their supposed 'solutions.' Clearly, no Indian government is in a position to allow Kashmir's secession from India for fear of triggering a new spate of separatist struggles in the multi-ethnic, multilingual nation.
In fact, if there's been any success in the India-Pakistan 'peace process' in the last few years, it's been the recognition on both sides that redrawing territorial borders is strictly out of bounds. Moreover, broader geopolitical ramifications of an independent, landlocked Kashmir remain dependent on the kindness of its neighbours. India, Pakistan and even China would try to enhance their own strategic interests and compete for the loyalty of Kashmir.


It's not readily evident that an independent Kashmir would be less of a bone of contention between India and Pakistan than the present state of affairs is. Islamist extremism would get a boost worldwide even as India, already under assault from rising Islamist fundamentalism, would find it difficult to manage growing tensions between Hindu extremists and Islamist radicals. 


It's no exaggeration to suggest that it would be the end of India as the world has come to know. As it is, India's disaffected Muslim youth, possibly in league with militants in neighbouring countries, have stepped up terrorist attacks in the country's key economic and political centres.


As a liberal democracy, India must acknowledge the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. But it's equally true that all other stakeholders are interested in the conflict. The separatist leaders, the mainstream political parties in Kashmir and, above all, Pakistan can play the role of a spoiler the moment they see their own interests sidelined.

There's little likelihood of this conflict getting resolved anytime soon, and the trouble for India is that its heavy-handed effort to keep the lid on Kashmiri demands will continue to besmirch its reputation as the world's largest democracy and a claimant for global leadership, including a permanent membership of the UN Security Council.


A resolution of the problem that acknowledges aspirations of the Kashmiri people while sustaining the idea of India as a multicultural, multiethnic secular liberal democracy is vital not only for India's global vision but also for a globalising world order in search of a 'dialogue among civilisations'.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

SPAIN ON THE ROPES

BY IGNACIO RAMONET


Labour reforms have no relation to cutting the public deficit or reducing the state budget.

 

The days of social peace are over. The general strike held on Sept 29 in Spain protesting the labour reforms decided by the government of Prime Minister Zapatero marks the opening of what promises to be a period of social turbulence.


The government has decided to present to congress before the end of the year with a new bill that would raise the legal retirement age from 65 to 67 and extend the computation period from 15 to 20 years of work. Together with the labour reforms and last May's decree lowering the salaries of civil servants, freezing pensions, and cutting spending on public works, this bill has aroused the anger of labour unions and a significant proportion of salary workers.


Zapatero presented his decisions as irrevocable: "The day after the general strike," he stated in Tokyo on Sept 1, "we will move ahead with the same approach." This incited the unions to plan new protests.


In his intransigence, the Spanish leader is following the lead of other European governments. In France, despite three recent massive protests against pension reform, President Sarkozy repeated that he would not change the law. In Greece, six general strikes in as many months against the austerity measures had no effect on Prime Minister Yorgos Papandreu.


Stubborn

Grounding themselves in the principle that in a democracy policy is decided in parliament and not in the street, these leaders have brushed aside the discontent of wide swaths of society that were obliged to participate in the strikes or street protests to make known their specific grievances. 


But the reaction of these leaders is a mistake. They are assuming that electoral legitimacy trumps other forms of legitimacy and in particular social democracy. In any case, their inflexible attitude may serve only to fan the discontent and encourage the people to reject a subsequent phase of social dialogue and resort to a frontal conflict.

Since last May and the announcement of a brutal adjustment plan, the disgust of a large sector of Spanish society has not stopped growing. The nearly 5 million unemployed, precariously employed, jobless youth, women salary workers, low level civil servants, and all of their families are united in the conviction that the government has sacrificed them.


At the same time, through the bank rescue fund, the government transferred to banking and savings institutions almost 90 billion euros. It is not considering significantly raising taxes on the top income bracket, imposing a tax on the largest fortunes, or cutting defence spending (now 8 billion euros a year), funding to the Catholic church (6 billion euros) or even to the royal family (almost 9 million euros).


What many citizens find distasteful is the certainty that the government adopted these repressive measures against salary workers less out of its own conviction than in response to the dictates of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and to pressure from the financial markets which, threatening not to invest in Spain, demanded lower salaries and a reduction in the standard of living. Zapatero himself recognised this addressing a group of Japanese investors. And he repeated to the top managers of the major US commercial banks and investment funds that the reforms were intended "to make investors and the markets appreciate my firm determination to make the Spanish economy competitive".


Labour reform has no relation to cutting the public deficit or reducing the state budget, which are the primary demands of the financial markets. But because the government cannot devalue the currency to stimulate exports, it decided instead to lower salaries in order boost competitiveness.


These mistaken measures have no guarantee of success. Employment figures show that 93.4 per cent of new contracts were temporary. In other words, the labour market remains highly precarious. The only difference is that for businesses, it is now cheaper to fire workers.


After the crisis of the 90s, unemployment took three years to drop to the European average — and in a period of strong growth when Spain was receiving massive assistance from the EU. Today with this labour reform and anaemic growth expected for a long while, "employment in Spain, according to US economist Carmen Reinhart, will not reach 2007 levels until 2017."


And so, rejected by voters, this government will probably have lost power and hand over guidance of the country to the conservative and populist opposition. That is what happens when leftist parties jettison their own values and opt for policies that are shamefully right wing, as we have seen in Germany, the UK, and more recently Sweden.


IPS

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

INCREDIBLE INDIANS

BY DINESH KUMAR


The multitasking ability of the incredible Indians has gone totally unnoticed.

 

The dabbawalas of Mumbai have become a case study for the management schools on a global level. They have made live presentations in many prominent B schools across the globe. They have even caught the eye of the British royalty and their leaders have visited the palace. Now they are being taught English to meet the expectations of their upmarket clients. But the multitasking ability of the incredible Indians has gone totally unnoticed by the management gurus. When I read their case studies on the subject, I immediately trash them for I know that they have missed the Indian story.


Where else but in India, I challenge you, will you find a person driving a two-wheeler with sacks of grain loaded on the backseat, with plastic containers full of condiments on footrests on both sides, with the helmet hanging on the right elbow (to be worn on the first sighting of a traffic policeman) and a mobile resting on his left shoulder and the neck bent in that direction to make conversation. He drives, talks, brakes, and negotiates the crazy traffic on a rainy day on a potholed road. Now that is multitasking for me. You have surely seen a family of five on Hamara Bajaj that led to the concept of Nano in Ratan Tata's mind.


This may not be the best example but is unique in some way and merits a mention. And Indian women have been rated the best multi-tasking people of the world. 


There are two friends who come regularly  for a walk in a park, each having one ear plugged to the iPod listening to their respective favourite music and conversing with each other through the unplugged ears and solving India's problems. They talk, they walk, they listen and they solve and manage to wave greetings when you pass them by.


Or take the example of our leaders. Where else but in India, our political bosses can do a protest march across the state, interact with the media, do poojas on the way, get their heads shaven, manage the dengue fever crisis through remote control, abuse their opponents with gusto, plan a trip on the government expenses to the USA for a cultural gathering and still find time to count notes to keep their account of their unaccounted money.

I believe that it is the incredible masons, the electricians, the carpenters and the welders who will somehow get things ready for the Commonwealth Games. Our country's campaign poster should be Incredible Indians and not Incredible India as it currently is.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

A LEGITIMATE PLEDGE

 

There are those who would claim that there is an inherent contradiction between "Jewish" and "democratic."

If all goes as expected, the cabinet on Sunday will approve an amendment to the Citizenship and Entry Law that emphasizes Israel's status as both "Jewish" and "democratic." 


If passed into law, naturalizing citizens who are not Jewish, such as West Bank Palestinians who marry Arab Israelis and apply for Israeli citizenship, will be obligated to pledge allegiance to the State of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state."


Presently one need only pledge an oath of loyalty to "the State of Israel."


There are those who would claim that there is an inherent contradiction between "Jewish" and "democratic."


MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al), for instance, says the amendment would anchor in law Arab citizens' subordinate status in Israel.


A state cannot be both Jewish and democratic at the same time, he claims. Democratic values, Tibi and other post or anti-Zionists argue, dictate the creation of a state "for all its citizens" without any special treatment for one particular group. The Jewish Agency, the Law of Return and national symbols such as Hatikva must be scrapped to make room for a truly democratic state that gives equal expression to all disparate cultures, religions and national identities.


We believe, however, that there is no inherent contradiction between the two.


Israel was created by Jews for Jews in the wake of the Holocaust – which was the concrete example of the terrible consequences of Jews' lack of sovereignty. The modern sovereign state is the culmination of millennia of Jewish yearning and exile. The Jewish people are connected by a common religion, culture, history and national identity.


Like other peoples, including the Palestinians and the nearly two dozen Arab countries, Jews have the right to self-determination in their own sovereign state that protects its unique national attributes. That's why Palestinians, who one day, with Israeli support, will have their own sovereign state, will have to drop their demand for the "right of return" for Arab refugees who chose or were forced to leave Israel during the 1948 War of Independence. If this right of return were implemented, it would mean the demise of Israel as a Jewish state by destroying the present Jewish majority.


THE ROLE of democracy, meanwhile, is to ensure that while the Jewish people's political sovereignty is actualized, non-Jewish or non-Zionist minorities' rights, such as freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion and even the right to political representation, which MK Tibi and other Arab MKs enjoy, are carefully protected.

While Jews' multiple identities as a religious group, a nation, an ethnic group, and their connection of nationhood with a particular territory set them apart from other peoples, their demand for political autonomy is not exceptional. Greece, Armenia and Ireland all have repatriation laws that provide their respective peoples with special rights. In Germany, thanks to Article 116 of the Basic Law, hundreds of thousands of refugees of ethnic German origin or who simply belong to the German culture have been granted the right to automatic citizenship.

The goal of these laws is to maintain these states' unique national identities. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a nation-state without a single dominant culture.


What else unifies human beings, provides them with identity and purpose, gives them a sense of belonging? How else can they better give expression to universalistic values such as the fight against world poverty if not through the particularistic framework of the nationstate?


The US comes close to being a nation without a single dominant culture. But even there, prospective citizens are expected to make a pledge of allegiance. As part of the naturalization process they are requested to "renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign" entity and "support and defend the Constitution and laws of the US against all enemies."


Demanding from naturalizing citizens a loyalty oath to a "Jewish and democratic state" is a modest step that is part of a larger campaign to secure recognition for Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. It is not so much for the prospective citizen – sincerity cannot be coerced – as it is a declaration of purpose by Jews who have returned to their historic homeland.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WHO'S THE IDIOT HERE?

THESE GOVERNMENT MKS ARE TOTAL IDIOTS IF THEY THINK THAT THE PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND WHO AND WHAT ARE PULLING THE STRINGS IN THE KNESSET ECONOMIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE.

BY YOSSI SARID

 

Sometimes I am asked if I have any regrets as a public figure. And this is usually my answer: I have no major regrets, but I do have one small one: My last term in the Knesset was totally superfluous. I would have been satisfied with serving for 29 years, and I shouldn't have been dragged into another four, which turned out to be fruitless.

 

It was the superfluity that caused me to feel like a stranger there. A sense of strangeness is strange in light of the seniority I had accumulated, the extent of which is almost unparalleled. And it wasn't necessarily because I had descended from the heights of a ministerial position to become a lowly parliamentarian. I never had any particular problem switching from an important position in the cabinet to the opposition, returning once again to the back benches.

 

I felt like a stranger because, against my volition, I too often recalled my mother's scolding, which is apparently typical of many mothers: "Those friends aren't for you," she used to say when she feared that her son would fall into evil ways under the influence of bad friendships.

 

Even without overdoing the nostalgia - which I hate - I can't deny the reality: I entered the Knesset early in 1974, and in it I found Menahem Begin and Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, Abba Eban and Lova Eliav and Uri Avneri, who is still alive and kicking; they were all there. And I left the Knesset 33 years later, parting from Gamlielis and Gavrielis; you name them. Do you really have to be nostalgic in order to perceive the difference?

 

This week, for the umpteenth time, I thanked everyone who deserves to be thanked - first and foremost the members of my family - for giving me the strength to resign out of choice, without waiting for my friends to throw me down the stairs, or for a stretcher to carry me out.

 

That's just what I would have needed - taking part in the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee meeting that two days ago discussed the royalties from gas profits, and to return home disgusted and embarrassed, impatient and misanthropic. I would have been forced to listen not only to Yitzhak Tshuva and his overt and covert mercenaries, but also to the MKs who are his yes-men.

 

Sometimes I am still furious, and I have no doubt as to what I would have said on the spot to that Anastasia Michaeli - who, true to her Soviet upbringing and in the spirit of Yisrael Beiteinu, demanded that the Israeli security services investigate hostile domestic groups that are trying "to delay the development of the discoveries" of oil and gas and to sabotage the wells. If that is her demand, why shouldn't the Shin Bet security service be asked at the same time to examine Michaeli's motives.

 

And I have no doubt of my reaction to Minister Yossi Peled, who spread a camouflage net over the billions belonging to his former employer, as though they were tanks on alert for a surprise attack against Syria. As we already know, our generals have no problem switching hats.

 

At the committee session there was actually no discussion or debate. Differences of opinion can erupt only on condition that there is an opinion, rather than revolting crumbs spraying out from a big open mouth. Committee chairman Ofir Akunis, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's charlatans and lackeys, was the one who gave the signal for the political incitement and the preposterous security and legal threats, and others hastened to follow his example. A strong smell of toxic gas pervaded the room.

 

It isn't nice or polite to say of people - especially elected officials - that they are idiots. After all, anyone can say that anyone else is an idiot, so what's the point? And still, they are total idiots, these MKs, if they think that the entire public are idiots, and that the people don't understand who and what are pulling the strings behind these puppets, and behind our backs.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE DANGERS OF HARMONY

THE SURPRISE OF OCTOBER 1973 SHOULD HAVE SERVED AS A WARNING, BUT JUDGING FROM THE EVENTS OF OCTOBER 2000 IT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN INTERNALIZED.

BY AKIVA ELDAR

 

The records from the dark days of the Yom Kippur War are a reminder of just how disastrous was the foolish line of reasoning (known in Hebrew as the "conceptzia," or conception ) that led Israeli leaders in 1973 to think an attack was not imminent. The documents illustrate the importance of having decorated defense ministers be exposed to various points of view. We learned that those in uniform can influence the decision makers at a strategic level, and even rein them in.

 

The surprise of October 1973 should have served as a warning to the political leadership about the top brass singing in unison. It might have been expected that those in charge of Israel's security policy would internalize the critical difference between a welcome harmony within the General Staff, and a situation in which the chief of staff, his deputy and the head of Military Intelligence are purporting to sing in unison - but are very off-key.

 

When the records of the internal discussions held during the Israeli Arab riots of October 2000 are published, it will probably transpire that the "conception" was also prevalent when the Al-Aqsa intifada broke out. The records will show the contribution that the General Staff choir made to the escalation that caused thousands of victims on both sides.

 

The trio composed of then-chief of staff Shaul Mofaz; his deputy, Moshe Ya'alon; and the head of research at Military Intelligence, Amos Gilad - MI head Amos Malcha was shunted aside - sang what amounted to the following childish tune, off-key and in one voice: "The Palestinians are a violent gang / We'll tear them to pieces / We'll burn it into their consciousness / We'll get the better of them." They exploited to the last drop the political weakness of the prime minister and defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak, who was busy devoting all his energy to bequeathing to the world the ditty that goes "There is no partner."

 

This trio ignored the Arab peace initiative of March 2002, while promising that the American invasion of Iraq would improve Israel's strategic situation incomparably. To this day, we and the Palestinians are eating the spoiled fruit of the one-dimensional approach of this group.

 

In October 2010, at a time when relations with the Palestinians are so fragile, Barak has chosen to put at the head of the Israel Defense Forces three officers who were all forged in the same cauldron. The defense minister has put the armed forces in the hands of people who spent their best years carrying out policing missions in the territories.

 

First he appointed Yoav Galant chief of staff. Galant's positions were shaped through the prism of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians on the southern front. His most outstanding contribution to the strategic discourse during his years at the helm of the Central Command was his exhortation to the political leadership that they should raise the threshold of the conflict with Hamas and intensify the pressure on the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

 

It was said that Barak was aware that Galant lacks General Staff experience and would therefore assign him a deputy to fill in the gaps. When he was not able to find a suitable candidate from among the top officers, Barak brought in a reserve officer, Major General Yair Naveh.

 

The experience that Naveh has to offer, and in particular his overall perspective on the sensitive issues related to the occupied territories, is indeed rich. As commander of the Gaza division during the invasion of the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the intifada, he defiantly told a worried American administration that "if necessary, we'll remain there for weeks or months."

 

When he was in charge of the Central Command and commander of the Judea and Samaria District, Naveh made every effort to thwart government orders to dismantle roadblocks in an effort to somewhat alleviate the suffering of the civilians and strengthen the status of the Palestinian Authority. The military advocate general - who is supposed to make sure the senior officers realize the regional and international ramifications of their actions - approved an assassination operation in Ramallah just as then-prime minister Ehud Olmert was meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Before that, Naveh compelled the government to apologize to Jordan's King Abdullah for an embarrassing remark about the future of the Hashemite dynasty.

 

The trio is completed by the new head of Military Intelligence, Aviv Kochavi, who has a similar record of building trust with our neighbors. As commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, Kochavi came up with the idea of breaking down internal walls to make it possible for soldiers to go from house to house in the refugee camps. Like his two colleagues in the senior command, he too knows the Palestinians - through the sights of a rifle.

 

It's a pity that we'll have to wait another 30 years before seeing the documents that show the way the General Staff choir of 2010, and its conductor, are contributing to the disaster awaiting us now.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

AN INHERENTLY HUMILIATING DEFINITION

HOW CAN THE ARABS AGREE THAT THEIR INFERIOR EXISTENCE IS NOT ONLY A DE FACTO REALITY THEY ARE FORCED TO ACCEPT, BUT A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE AS WELL?

BY CHAIM GANS

 

Israel, in my opinion, must express the Jewish people's right to self-determination. I agree with Ruth Gavison on that subject ("A troubling parade of opponents," Haaretz in Hebrew, October 1 ) and disagree with Shlomo Sand ("A Jewish state or an Israeli democracy?" Haaretz, September 26 ). And for various reasons related to the possibility of realizing this right, Israel does not have to allow a mass return of Palestinian refugees.

 

But given the way Israel interprets its Jewishness, the demand that the Palestinians recognize this Jewishness is one they cannot accept.

 

Israel explains the Jewish political presence in the Land of Israel, both within the State of Israel and in the occupied territories, as deriving from the Jews' sovereign right to the entire land. This interpretation is reflected both in the government's settlement policy in the territories and in its discrimination against Arabs inside Israel.

 

This interpretation is deeply rooted in the Israeli Jewish consciousness, and is even expressed in the reasons given by those who are willing to concede parts of the Land of Israel, both rightists and leftists, for this willingness: They are pragmatic reasons rather than principled ones. Even according to the "national left" of Eldad Yaniv and Shmuel Hasfari, who hate the settlers, we must agree to divide the country not because justice requires sharing it with the Arabs, but because the circumstances demand it.

 

This consciousness, the consciousness of Jewish ownership of the entire Land of Israel, will continue to push Israel's policies to the edge of lunacy, and there is a genuine danger that it will lead to the loss of Israel as an embodiment of the Jewish people's right to self-determination. But that's our problem, that of the Jews; it's not the Arabs' problem.

 

The Arabs' problem is that for them to recognize Israel's Jewishness under this interpretation means acceptance of their inferior status in the Land of Israel, to the point that they could even be expelled from it. This is so because Jewish ownership of the Land of Israel has been interpreted as leading to conclusions that range from the "leftist" right-wing views of former Likud politician Moshe Arens to the rightist right-wing views of extremist Meir Kahane.

 

Arens, judging by articles he has published here recently, holds that Israel must annex the territories and become a rather self-contradictory entity: a binational state that does not allow one of its two nations a political-collective expression. And Kahane, as we know, holds that Greater Israel also has to expel the individual members of that nation from the Land of Israel.

 

Nor should we forget people like Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud ), Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu ) and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi ), each of whom, in the space between Arens and Kahane, conducts his own band, playing his own variations on the theme of Jewish ownership of the Land of Israel.

 

How can the Arabs accept a demand to recognize Israel's Jewishness according to this interpretation of the demand's justice? How can they agree to a demand that assumes that their inferior existence, both within the State of Israel and throughout the Land of Israel, is not only a de facto reality they are forced to accept, but a matter of principle as well?

 

One of the arguments that leading American philosopher John Rawls used in support of his capitalist-moderating theory of justice over pure-capitalist theories is that requiring people to accept the latter means demanding that they accept, in advance, the possibility of leading miserable lives not just as a matter of bad luck, but out of a principled choice. Nobody would agree to that, thought Rawls, and rightly so.

 

In order for Israel to be able to demand that the Arabs recognize its Jewishness, both its leaders and a majority of its population must become accustomed to justifying its Jewishness not by means of a proprietary Judaism, but by means of an egalitarian Judaism.

 

A long time will pass before that happens, if it ever does. In the meantime, we must agree to divide the Land of Israel between a state that is primarily Jewish and a Palestinian state, without further humiliating the Palestinians by demanding that they acknowledge their humiliation as just.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IT'S ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE ISRAEL'S LEGITIMACY

IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA, IT IS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE THAT ANYONE WOULD OBJECT TO A DEMAND OF THIS KIND.

BY SHLOMO AVINERI

 

It would be a mistake for the government to adopt a proposal to expand the general pledge of allegiance required of naturalized citizens (those who are not entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return ) by adding a pledge of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. If you try to grab too much, you can be left empty-handed.

 

When attorney Liav Orgad, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, Prof. Ruth Gavison and I drew up a draft immigration policy for Israel, we debated this issue. We also thought it was not sufficient for someone seeking citizenship, especially through marriage to an Israeli citizen, to make do with a general pledge of allegiance to the laws of the state of Israel.

 

We, however, favored a declaration about accepting the legitimacy of the state of Israel. This was likewise the stance we presented to a committee appointed by the government and headed by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.

 

Israel indeed sees itself as a Jewish and democratic state, and this is both correct and justified. But the content of this term is vague, making it possible for people who hold differing views to live with it in peace. For most of Israel's Jewish citizens, its significance is that Israel is the Jewish nation-state, and it represents the Jewish people's right to self-determination and its political expression. For part of the Jewish religious public, the term also has religious significance (and I presume Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas shares this approach ).

 

That is the right of Shas and those who think as it does, but there is no reason whatsoever for the state's Jewish majority, which attaches national significance to the term, to bow to this approach. Imagine someone in the process of naturalization, on being told to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, asking the Interior Ministry official handling his case what a "Jewish state" means. What would the reply be? After all, Israeli law does not define this term in any way - and that is a good thing. (I'm also not sure he would get an appropriate response with regard to the meaning of "democratic." )

 

There is, of course, an international aspect to this issue as well. Not everyone in the world understands the significance of the term "Jewish state," and incorporating it in legislation on a subject as sensitive as the naturalization of non-Jews would only engender confusion and criticism.

 

The claim being made by the prime minister's advisors - that if we demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, "we are also permitted to ask it of ourselves" - is absurd and hypocritical. After all, the proposed legislation does not demand it of "ourselves," but of others who want to become citizens.

 

Our proposal, to require naturalized citizens to declare that they accept the legitimacy of the state of Israel, addresses the problem, and is also a justified demand. After all, this legitimacy is what Israel's enemies, especially in the Arab world, reject. Palestinians who wish to marry Israeli Arabs may have difficulty voicing a declaration of this kind, but that is their problem. If they wish to be citizens of Israel, they cannot reject its legitimacy.

 

In the international arena, it is difficult to imagine that anyone would object to a demand of this kind. Even Arab human rights organizations, which oppose a pledge of allegiance to a Jewish and democratic state, would have difficulty opposing recognition of Israel's legitimacy. For if they did, they would confirm what some people already think anyway: That they do indeed oppose the State of Israel's legitimacy, and its very existence.

 

The government should be praised for its willingness to address the problem of immigration to Israel. But it doesn't pay for it to get embroiled in an argument over an issue of such sensitivity to so many people - in Israel, overseas and among the Arab public.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE LAST REFUGE OF THE SCOUNDREL

INSTEAD OF HOLDING A SOCIOECONOMIC DEBATE ABOUT NATURAL RESOURCES, SOME MKS MADE THURSDAY'S DEBATE NATIONALISTIC, SECURITY-ORIENTED AND DOWNRIGHT SHAMEFUL.

 

The saying "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel" came to life Thursday in the Knesset. Instead of holding a socioeconomic debate about the level of royalties the state ought to receive on its natural resources, some MKs made the debate nationalistic, security-oriented and downright shameful.

 

Economic Affairs Committee chairman MK Ofir Akonis (Likud ) claimed that people who support increasing the state's share in recent natural gas discoveries belong to the "fundamentalist left" whose goal is to establish a "Soviet economy." According to Akonis, these people also support parties hostile to Israel, primarily the Iran-Syria-Lebanon Axis of Evil, which plans to prospect for natural gas off the coast of Lebanon in order to undercut the value of Israel's natural gas reserves.

 

MK Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ) proposed that the security services investigate the activities of those who support raising royalties on suspicion of "activities against the state."

 

The Knesset debate was also shameful because no fewer than 15 gas and oil company lobbyists and public relations agents were at the meeting, compared to only 17 lawmakers. The public, in contrast, has no lobbyists or PR agents to speak for it.

 

The threat issued by the American company Noble Energy - which is a partner, along with Yitzhak Tshuva and others, in one of the biggest natural gas fields ever discovered in the Mediterranean Sea - was also reprehensible. The company's representatives said that if the state's royalty or tax policies changed, it would turn to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. That is simultaneously ridiculous and outrageous.

 

The debate should be restored to its proper frame of reference: a discussion about the distribution of income. The Sheshinski Committee, which studied the matter, is expected to issue its preliminary recommendations soon. It should ignore the noise and find a just solution that will not violate promises the government has made, but will transfer a greater share of the revenues from our natural resources to the coffers of the state and its citizens.

 

One possible solution is to maintain the present level of royalties, but to impose a special tax on gas and oil profits. That way, the state would receive a greater share of the income from its natural resources, but only after the enormous expenses of exploration and drilling have been deducted.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WHAT THE UN'S FLOTILLA REPORT MEANS

BASED ON INTERVIEWS WITH 112 PASSENGERS FROM 20 COUNTRIES, THE ACCOUNT IS THOROUGH, MEASURED AND CONSISTENT WITH PUBLICLY KNOWN FACTS.

BY HUGH POPE

 

A critical obstacle to restoring a healthy and working relationship between Turkey and Israel is both sides' mutual distrust and lack of information about the events surrounding the Mavi Marmara flotilla disaster at the end of May. The world is still waiting for an authoritative account based on full access to Israeli, Turkish and other actors. Israel has published only small parts of Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland's probe, which approved of the Israeli military's conduct during the operation. A civilian investigation under retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel may produce a comprehensive report, but key hearings have been held in secret and it is unclear how far it will go beyond an initial focus on the underlying legality of Israeli actions.

 

Turkey's lengthy official account remains under wraps with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's panel of inquiry, which has no mandate to probe deeply or establish criminal responsibility.

 

In the meantime, one benefit of the Ban Ki-moon probe is that it has given time and political cover to all to seek new information and think calmly about what actually happened. And - despite all that has been said - one unexpected place to look is the report adopted on September 27 by the UN Human Rights Council.

 

It is true that the HRC's generally disproportionate focus on Israel, and its disregard for the actions of many of the world's worst human rights abusers, not least among its 47 members, has greatly damaged the body's credibility.

 

Even the council's chosen rapporteurs on the flotilla rejected their original mandate because of "justified criticism" of its "bias." But the 56-page document deserves careful study. Even the United States, explaining its lone vote against the council's report, did not criticize its contents.

 

Based on interviews with 112 passengers from 20 countries, the account is thorough, measured and consistent with publicly known facts. And it does not leave the flotilla activists blameless.

 

For instance, the report notes tension between the political and humanitarian objectives of the organizers. It points out that organizers were aware of Israel's intention to use force, casting more doubt on their decision to actively resist, especially after Israel offered to send the goods to Gaza under neutral supervision. The account details differences between the contract crew of the Mavi Marmara and some organizers, including the Turkish NGO that owned the ship, who were determined to resist the soldiers.

 

At the same time, the report challenges the lethality and sustained use of force by Israeli commandos against civilians in international waters. In the seizure of the Mavi Marmara, it asserts that Israel used live fire from a helicopter to clear the top deck of hostile activists before any soldiers landed. It finds no evidence of firearms brought on board by the activists or used by them, as some Israeli officials have claimed. It shows that force used in Israel's takeovers of three other of the flotilla's six vessels was also disproportionate.

 

The rapporteurs list abuses by Israeli troops and officials, during several subsequent stages, including failure to tend properly to several injured people, degrading treatment of handcuffed prisoners during the long sea voyage to Ashdod, the parading of the detained activists in front of jeering Israeli onlookers at the port, attempts to force activists to sign self-incriminating documents, cases of unaccountable Israeli seizure of activists' cameras, computers, cell phones, cash and property, and individual beatings of at least 30 activists at Ben-Gurion International Airport at the time of their deportation.

 

The legal analysis of the rapporteurs - Trinidad's retired International Criminal Court judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, British former UN war crimes prosecutor Desmond de Silva, and Malaysian women's rights activist Mary Shanthi Dairiam - argues that Israel's blockade of Gaza is illegal because it is "collective punishment - inflicting disproportionate damage on the civilian population."

 

In the absence of evidence of weaponry on board, or of an overwhelming military threat, the report also sees the interception of the flotilla as illegal and "motivated by concerns about the possible propaganda victory that might be claimed by the organizers."

 

The report concludes that "the conduct of the Israeli military ... demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence." It finds "clear evidence to support prosecutions" in eight areas of international law ranging from murder to restricting freedom of expression.

 

The rapporteurs thank Jordan and Turkey for their assistance. They note their "profound regret that, notwithstanding a most cordial meeting" with the Israeli ambassador to the UN, they were informed of an Israeli position of "non-recognition and non-cooperation."

 

Toward the end of their mission, the rapporteurs sent a list of questions to Israel, but these went unanswered. The Israeli Foreign Ministry dismissed the resulting account as "extremist," but promised to study it. One would hope that many others, also in Turkey, will take into account the detailed and comprehensive material now available in this report.

 

 Hugh Pope, International Crisis Group's Turkey/Cyprus project director, is the author of "Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East."

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

HARDLY A LOST DECADE

THIS HAS BEEN A DECADE OF GROWING AWARENESS OF THE URGENT NEED TO REDUCE DISPARITIES AND REDEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MAJORITY AND THE MINORITY.

BY AMNON BE'ERI-SULITZEANU

 

This week marks 10 years since "the events" of October 2000, when 12 Israeli Arab citizens and a Palestinian were killed by Israeli police. Contrary to the common view that the interim period represents a lost decade in Arab-Jewish relations, a sober examination highlights just how central a position on the national agenda this issue has assumed - but also how much remains to be done to rectify the situation.

 

The initial response of much of the Jewish sector to the Arab violence that preceded the shootings was a virtual boycott of Arab-owned businesses. In that light, the fact that the government established an Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors just a few years later can be seen as one of the decade's most important developments. It is a clear acknowledgment that the Arab sector comprises a major untapped engine of economic growth and that Israel will be unable to make the much-desired leap to the next level of economic development as long as that community remains impoverished.

 

This understanding by official Israel is being expressed not only in plans and economic analyses, but in actions: the launching of pilot training programs for two underemployed Arab populations - women and college graduates; creation of a government investment fund to encourage employment initiatives; and, for the first time, an Arab town (Al-Shagor ) has become a partner in an industrial zone (Bar-Lev, in Carmiel ), with other joint industrial zones, including several under construction. Such ventures not only will reduce unemployment in the Arab sector, but will also generate revenues for Arab local governments on the verge of collapse and allow them to benefit from additional government development budgets.

 

Infrastructure investments have also been made. An increasing number of municipal master plans have been approved for Arab municipalities, and new housing projects as well as an NIS 800-million government investment program in 13 of them are in the pipeline. Until several years ago, public transportation in even relatively large towns such as Umm al-Fahm, Shfaram and Rahat was a fantasy, but public activism means that all three now have internal bus lines.

 

A growing recognition that adjacent Jewish and Arab towns in mixed regions must work together to promote shared interests has sparked several collaborative efforts. These include a joint tourism project among the towns of Wadi Ara and the Menashe regional council, and a joint campaign to survey and combat environmental hazards in the Galilee's Beit Hakerem Valley. In the field of education, programs were established to bring together pairs of Jewish and Arab schools for shared learning, and bold new Arabic language and culture curricula were introduced in growing numbers of Jewish schools, and recently expanded to the entire Northern District. The number of Arab teachers of Arabic in Jewish schools is steadily increasing, and two new fully bilingual schools have been established in Be'er Sheva and in the Triangle, joining those in Jerusalem and Wadi Ara.

 

Nonetheless, with all this progress, barely a dent has been made in the disparities that have been allowed to flourish over the years. Israel's Arab towns are still exemplars of neglect and discrimination, which only underlines the scale of investment required for these localities to be aligned with the standards in the Jewish sector. The proportion of Arab 12th-graders receiving matriculation certificates is actually on the decline, and the gap in per-student educational investment between Arabs and Jews is still wide.

 

The Israel police, which was one of the main targets of the Or Commission recommendations following the October 2000 disaster, continues to be a focal point of growing tension between Arabs and the Jewish establishment. This tension was manifest in, among other things, the deaths of more than 30 Arab citizens in a variety of encounters with the police since the 13 Arabs were killed a decade ago. No matter how we look at these statistics - even assuming that not all those killed were innocent citizens - the figures are unfathomable and fail to allay the suspicion that there was a connection between the national identity of Israeli Arabs and these encounters' tragic conclusion. It is noteworthy that police commanders, in view of this disheartening situation, have initiated a series of strategic trust-building steps with the Arab community involving thousands of police officers every year.

 

Despite the cautious optimism that might be warranted, the past decade witnessed a sore lack of the type of leadership that could have transformed these developments into a comprehensive approach leading toward true shared citizenship and equality; that would deflect the flurry of loyalty oath bills and would prevent such racist legislation as the amendment to the bill, which if passed would permit Jewish communal villages to reject Arab applicants. A leadership that would not hesitate to teach democracy and civics in schools, which would understand that perpetually seeing oneself as a victim (used to justify discriminating against others ) is not a work plan, and that acknowledging the pain of others is permissible. A leadership that condemns manifestations of violence and incitement against Arabs and recognizes their citizenship without conditions. A leadership that would finally acknowledge and embrace the Arab citizens of Israel.

 

No, this was not a decade lost. From the October 2000 events through the definitive Or Commission report and the "Future Vision" documents of the Arab citizens in Israel, and up to the anti-democratic winds that today blow through our streets - this has been a decade of growing awareness of the urgent need to reduce disparities, redefine the relationship between the majority and the minority, and acknowledge that these issues will accompany us for many years, long after any regional peace settlement is reached.

 

Amnon Be'eri Sulitzeanu is the co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, an organization that promotes coexistence and equality between Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

A DESTRUCTIVE REGRESSION

A MINORITY OF SELF-PROCLAIMED GUARDIANS OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE'S PURITY IS SECURING A MONOPOLY OVER JEWISH IDENTITY.

BY CLAUDE KANDIYOTI

 

A friend of mine here in Brussels, a Hebrew-speaking Jewish woman, tells the following: In 1997 and 2002, respectively, she adopted two children, a baby girl from Nepal and a baby boy from Cambodia. As someone deeply attached to Judaism, she sought to have these two children converted while they were young, and in 2003, she turned to her rabbi for that purpose. Unfortunately, in Brussels, with a Jewish community of 17,000, there is no Orthodox beit din (rabbinical court ), so she had to wait for the Israeli rabbi who comes every two months to this godforsaken community in order to have the job done.

 

The Israeli luminary, however, was not happy with the Jewish day school the children were attending, which he said was not religious enough for his liking. My friend, quite a stubborn lady, refused to back down. She did not understand how a rabbi who stopped in occasionally from overseas could judge the Jewishness of her kids' school. And so, the ordeal of trying to convert them went on three long years.

 

I was reminded of her story this past summer when I heard about the bill proposed in the Knesset by MK David Rotem, which, had it not been shelved for the time being, would have given local rabbinical courts in Israel a monopoly over conversions. One reason the government put the bill on ice was the angry response of American Jews. But it has implications for us in Europe as well.

 

It's not just that the bill, put forward by Yisrael Beiteinu - a supposedly "secular" party, which had promised to find a solution for possibly hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their children from the former Soviet Union who cannot marry in Israel because they are not considered Jews by halakha - falls far short of solving the problem. What really matters is the depth of the pit into which Orthodox Judaism has fallen, taking all the rest of us with it.

 

A process of historical regression is under way in Judaism today, by which the extremists have taken control from the more moderate majority. And so, in Israel, and not only there, a minority of self-proclaimed guardians of the Jewish people's purity is securing a monopoly over Jewish identity. And they are doing so with the complicity of the Knesset. Supporters of the Rotem bill argued that shifting authority over conversions to community-level Orthodox rabbis in Israel would lead to a more liberal approach. But why should anyone believe that the ultra-Orthodox would cede authority to the moderate Orthodox, especially on an issue like conversion? It will take more than a Knesset bill to turn that historical trend around.

 

According to the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, an Israeli think tank, the conversion issue is pressing for some 300,000 out of the 1 million Jews who emigrated from the FSU to Israel. The latest studies show that at least 50 percent of this population would like to become fully Jewish. Yet, the Jewish state allows its official "church" to make their life a misery. Instead of doing all it can to break the anti-modern stream's control of Jewish identity, it effectively allows a handful of hard-liners to keep the gates shut.

 

Considered from Europe, through the eyes of my friend with the adopted children, the choice is painfully clear: Play by the rules of the rabbinate if you can and will - or, alternatively, go to a Reform or Conservative rabbi and, in the event your kids decide to live in Israel, run the risk of their being considered second-rate citizens in their own country. The third possibility, of course, is to drop the whole business altogether and live your life. She chose to fight, and won. There are many others who don't. Israel and the Jewish people risk losing them forever.

 

In France, with the biggest Diaspora community after the U.S., and its own rabbinical court, the ultra-Orthodox have nonetheless hijacked conversion, and the whole process has become a nightmare. This is due not only to the rise of missionary movements like Chabad-Lubavitch, but also to the influence of an increasingly Haredi Israeli rabbinate. European rabbis feel its pressure and are wary that if they are too lenient, they will not be recognized by their Israeli peers.

 

And so, in France, only one out of four Orthodox conversions succeeds. Many decide to quit, for example, when asked to separate from their companion during the entire period of the conversion, which can take up to five years. There was even a case in which a French woman was instructed to sell her Parisian apartment and move closer to her rabbi's synagogue so she could walk there on Shabbat.

 

Of course, the real blame lays not with the ultra-Orthodox, but with the "secular" state that entrusted them with the extravagant authority to decide who is to be admitted into the People of Israel and who left out. But I would go further: Even if Israel were to manage to undo the Gordian knot of state and religion, it should not be up to the state to define the Jew and the non-Jew. This is a matter for the Jewish people as a whole, in Israel and in the Diaspora - for all its streams. For the monopoly of one of them, and the most obscurantist for that matter, means one thing, at least in Europe: the loss of a whole generation of young would-be Jews, and the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

 

Claude Kandiyoti is a Belgian businessman, and a contributor to the Belgian Jewish monthly Contact J.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

COLDLY CONSIDERING THE UNTHINKABLE

TRANSFERRING POPULATED AREAS TO ANOTHER STATE IS LEGITIMATE IF MOST OF THE AFFECTED POPULATION AGREES, BUT REVOKING CITIZENSHIP CLEARLY CONTRADICTS DEMOCRATIC NORMS.

BY YEHEZKEL DROR

 

The statecraft challenges facing Israel require much creativity, because, on critical issues, such as the peace process and Iran, all the options on the table are clearly unsatisfactory. But being creative depends on extricating oneself from the procrustean bed of frozen opinions and dogmatic views, on the right and the left alike, that reject ideas regarded a priori as taboo without serious consideration. Such have been the reactions to the proposal for swapping populated areas as part of an agreement with the Palestinians.

 

Transfer of populated areas has served throughout history as a part of peace agreements. Therefore the idea of transferring the Triangle and Wadi Ara regions of northern Israel, with their high concentrations of Arab residents, to a Palestinian state should not be rejected in advance. Instead, it should be considered from two perspectives: 1 ) normative legitimacy; and 2 ) realpolitik consequences.

 

In terms of democratic values, transferring populated areas to another state is legitimate if most of the affected population agrees. Revoking citizenship in areas selected on the basis of religious or ethnic criteria, however, and swapping territories against the will of the population living there, are things that clearly contradict democratic norms.

 

As is clearly reflected in numerous pronouncements, it is very likely that in the foreseeable future the vast majority of Israeli Arabs will not wish to belong to a Palestinian state, even given optimistic assumptions about its development. This sentiment can only be expected to deepen as they increasingly integrate into the Israeli economy and society. Therefore the idea does not meet normative requirements.

 

There are exceptions to the applicability of democratic criteria to territorial swaps, such as situations of emergency, in which the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state is seriously endangered, or the aftermath of a war. But these are unlikely possibilities, though their exploration within professional contingency planning is in principle desirable.

 

Another important exception would be a situation in which swapping populated areas or moving people against their will are necessary conditions of highly important peace agreements. This would be the case with Jewish settlements in areas due to become part of a Palestinian state. However, there is no Palestinian demand to receive parts of Israel populated by its Arab minority. And if, hypothetically, such a demand is made, it should be rejected out of hand, if only because of the danger it would pose as a precedent for dismembering Israel.

 

In terms of realpolitik, swapping the areas under consideration would leave Israel with a border wide open to illegal immigration and easily penetrable by terrorists. Transfer of territories near the country's center can only aggravate strategic security risks, even if accompanied by demilitarization agreements. And relinquishing areas with an Arab majority would set a precedent and create an incentive for demands by Arab concentrations of population in the Galilee and the Negev for political autonomy, something that could endanger the integrity of Israel.

 

In terms of the peace process, there is no possibility that the Palestinian Authority and heads of Arab and Islamic states would agree to territorial swaps opposed by the Arab population living there. Just presenting such a proposal would make Israel look bad, impair its relations with the United States, and damage the chances of peace.

 

Additionally, the proposed swap could most likely include only about 150,000 Arabs, which would not change substantially the demographic balance in Israel. And a stable Jewish majority in Israel - a requisite for a Jewish and democratic state - can be assured by preventing illegal entry and residence, integration of non-Arab and non-Jewish residents in Jewish society, a well-considered policy encouraging three- and four-child families, and more.

 

The correct conclusion is not that it is inappropriate to discuss the idea of a swap of populated territories. Israel urgently needs a lot of creative options that are not blocked by closed minds. This applies also to other ideas that are to some taboo, such as - assuming that there is a stable peace - allowing Israeli Arabs who so desire to be citizens of the Palestinian state with permanent residence rights in Israel (perhaps on a reciprocal basis, with respect to Jews wishing to live in the Palestinian state ).

 

But the overall substantive conclusion is that the idea of swapping territories populated by the Arab minority should be rejected. This is the case not because some may regard this option as inherently anathema, but as a result of normative and realpolitik analysis.

 

Therefore, the recent presentation of the proposal to swap populated areas by the Israeli foreign minister at the UN General Assembly - made without prior approval of the prime minister or professional analysis by the National Security Staff - was fundamentally flawed and reflects serious defects in Israeli governance. At the same time, those who opposed in advance the consideration of such options also suffer from serious cognitive failures.

 

Yehezkel Dror is professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His book "Israeli Statecraft: Challenges and Responses" will be published in 2011 by Routledge.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

RECUSALS AND THE COURT

 

Justice Elena Kagan's seat was empty when the second case of the new term of the Supreme Court was called for oral argument on Monday. Because of her previous job as President Obama's solicitor general, she has, so far, recused herself from 25 of 51 cases accepted.

 

She is making the right choice. But the court's voluntary system of recusal isn't enough to protect its impartiality and credibility. The justices decide on their own when their "impartiality might reasonably be questioned." There is no review, no requirement for explanation and no code of discipline as a check.

 

With a financial conflict, justices must follow the same rule as other federal judges: If they own a single share of a company's stock, even if it is in a blind trust, they cannot sit on a case that would affect the company. But where other judges are subject to appeal, the decision to sit out is left to the justice without review.

 

There are, of course, a variety of potential conflicts, including a former professional relationship with an attorney or even personal knowledge about a dispute or bias about a party. Three weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case about former Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to disclose the records of his secretive energy task force, Justice Antonin Scalia decided to go duck hunting with Mr. Cheney in Louisiana and accepted a ride to the outing on the vice president's plane.

 

Legal ethicists widely argued that he should not take part in the case. When the Sierra Club, an environmental group, filed a motion asking Justice Scalia to disqualify himself (it had filed the records request that led to the lawsuit), the justice rejected it with an extraordinary opinion: "If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap," he scoffed, "the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined."

 

The court confronted the issue of judges and potential bias in a 2009 ruling in the case of Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company. The court, in a slim 5-to-4 vote, found that the chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court should have recused himself in a case involving the coal mining company, which was a major contributor to his election campaign. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the contributions had created a "serious risk of actual bias" and the chief justice's failure to recuse himself had violated the other side's right to due process.

 

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing the dissent, was unpersuaded. "All judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution and apply the law impartially," he wrote, "and we trust that they will live up to this promise."

 

Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is preparing a bill that would address one part of the problem, the potential for a 4-to-4 deadlock if a justice recuses from a case. It would empower the justices to appoint a retired justice to fill in when a majority agree on who should get the assignment. That might be a start, although we suspect that the temptation to game the system would be enormous. What liberal justice would step aside if there were a strong chance that a conservative fill-in would be found — or vice versa?

 

More important, it fails to address the heart of the matter: how the appearance-of-impartiality standard should be applied and enforced. One possible reform would be to require a justice to explain, in a public statement and in detail, any decision to recuse or not. It would be even better to set up a formal review process. A group of other justices — serving in rotation or randomly chosen — could review each decision about recusal and, when necessary, have the power to overrule it.

 

Justices have life tenure to assure their independence and impartiality. They should not be the sole judge of whether they are meeting that standard.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW YORK'S PENSION SCANDAL

 

Alan Hevesi, the former comptroller, has provided the best argument to stop giving one person the power to invest New York State's $125 billion pension fund.

 

Mr. Hevesi pleaded guilty on Thursday to a felony corruption charge for accepting more than $1 million in travel expenses, sham consulting fees and campaign contributions. In return, Mr. Hevesi allowed his benefactor to earn more than $18 million in management fees for investing $250 million of the state's pension fund.

 

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, in his announcement of Mr. Hevesi's plea, accused him of indulging in a "culture of corruption." Mr. Hevesi, who is now cooperating with the broad pension investigation, could serve up to four years in jail, which would make him the highest-ranking elected official in New York State to go to prison in recent memory. In 2006, Mr. Hevesi resigned rather than go to jail for misusing state resources.

 

New York's comptroller alone determines how to invest the third-largest pension plan in the country, one of the biggest portfolios in the world. From January 2003 to December 2006, anyone who wanted to invest any of the state's pension funds needed to negotiate a way past Mr. Hevesi's political gatekeepers. In return for contributions or other rewards, Mr. Hevesi then handed out millions to their firms to invest and make millions in fees and expenses.

 

Two major reforms are needed to clean up this scandal and prevent it from recurring.

 

First, the comptroller's office should have a board of directors whose sole duty would be to protect and increase state pension assets, and it would have to approve the awarding of investment contracts. New York is one of only four states that give one official the power to invest pensions. Albany's lawmakers should also adopt public financing for comptroller campaigns, rather than forcing candidates to troll for money from lawyers or financial interests.

 

Mr. Hevesi was the seventh person to enter a guilty plea after an investigation by Mr. Cuomo and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Repayments of $138 million have been made to the fund. Mr. Hevesi's longtime political consultant, Hank Morris, is fighting 76 charges that he profited by controlling the lucrative contracts for managing pension investments.

 

With the Hevesi announcement, Mr. Cuomo's office also made it clear that the current comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli is not under investigation. But that news does not relieve him and Mr. Cuomo of pushing state lawmakers in Albany to provide more control over pension investing and to create public financing of campaigns.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE EXPERIMENTS IN GUATEMALA

 

A medical historian's discovery that American researchers in the 1940s deliberately infected hundreds of people

in Guatemala with syphilis or gonorrhea has provoked outrage in both countries. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rightly apologized to President Álvaro Colom of Guatemala. More will be needed to make amends, beginning with a planned investigation of this appalling breach of medical ethics.

 

The experiments were brought to light by Susan Reverby, a professor at Wellesley College, who found unpublished records in the archives at the University of Pittsburgh. The studies were led by Dr. John C. Cutler, an internationally known expert on sexually transmitted diseases and a former assistant surgeon general.

 

From 1946 to 1948, American public health doctors under his command infected nearly 700 Guatemalans — prisoners, mental patients and soldiers — without their permission or knowledge. Anyone who became infected was given penicillin and presumed to be cured, although records suggest that many were not adequately treated.

 

The aim of the research was to test whether penicillin could prevent the transmission of syphilis, whether better blood tests for the disease could be developed, and what dosages could cure syphilis. That cannot justify experimenting on human beings without their consent.

 

Although the American government, which financed the research, bears the chief responsibility, the studies were carried out in collaboration with Guatemala's top venereal disease expert and several Guatemalan ministries and institutions.

 

Top health officials insist that current rules governing federally financed research would prohibit such experiments. They require that subjects be fully told of the risks and give their informed consent. Institutional review boards must approve the research.

 

The Obama administration has said it will ask the Institute of Medicine to investigate the experiments; a presidential bioethics commission will suggest methods to ensure that all human research around the globe meets rigorous ethical standards. The Guatemalan government plans to conduct its own investigation. The United States should also pay reparations to any survivors that can be found and compensate Guatemala by paying for ethical health projects there.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

HARD TRUTHS ON THE SPILL

 

In May, President Obama asked a blue-ribbon commission to determine the causes of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, find out "what worked and didn't" in the government's response and identify ways to make drilling safer. He asked for frank talk, and he's getting it.

 

On Wednesday, the commission released four preliminary staff reports. One said, sensibly, that we need to know more about spill response in Arctic waters before drilling can proceed off Alaska; the other said that coordination among federal, state and local governments must be improved.

 

The other two reports were far more critical. The one on the dispersants used to break up the oil suggested that the administration — though poorly prepared — had been lucky. There was only one type of dispersant available in sufficient quantities at the time, but it did a reasonably good job of preventing major slicks and appears to be less toxic to fish than feared. (Its long-term effects won't be determined for months or years.)

 

The sharpest criticisms were of the administration's public response. By underestimating the oil flow, and then overestimating the oil removed, it said the administration "created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem."

 

To its credit, the administration recently agreed to assemble a group of top scientists to determine how much oil remains and what to do about it. But the White House's thin skin was on display Thursday, as officials insisted that nothing was ever concealed and that it threw everything it had at the problem. We suspect this will not be the last dust-up.

 

The commission needs to call it as it sees it. And the White House needs to understand that the best chance of ensuring that this disaster is never repeated is to acknowledge and then confront what went wrong.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

MAKE WALL STREET RISK IT ALL

BY WILLIAM D. COHAN

 

William D. Cohan on Wall Street and Main Street.

incentivesinvestment bankWall Street


Two years after the near collapse of capitalism, we certainly have our fill of financial reforms. The 2,200-page Dodd-Frank Act, which President Obama signed this summer, creates an Orwellian alphabet soup of new agencies, oversight boards and offices intended to protect us from ourselves.

The problem is that since the incentives on Wall Street have not been changed one iota by the new laws — nor are they likely to be changed by any of the soon-to-be-written regulations of federal agencies — we're no better protected from bankers' potentially reckless behavior than we were before the latest round of reforms.

 

It's not that Dodd-Frank ignored Wall Street's past excesses. The law will ensure that some, but not all, derivatives will have to be traded on exchanges and that some, but not all, of the banks' proprietary trading will be curbed and that some, but not all, of their private-equity and hedge funds will be shuttered or spun off. Dodd-Frank is also supposed to curtail Wall Street's penchant for creating conflicts of interest, although how the law is going to do that is far from clear.

 

"In the end, our financial system only works — our market is only free — when there are clear rules and basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excess, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system," President Obama said when he signed the bill into law. That rhetoric is fine, but unfortunately Dodd-Frank will do nothing to change the rules on Wall Street.

 

Nor, frankly, will the expected coming into force, in a couple of years, of the new Basel III capital rules, which will likely require banks to have common equity equal to 7 percent of the value of their assets.

 

Bankers and traders still have the same irresponsible, accountability-free incentives they have had for the past 40 years to generate as much revenue as they possibly can each year, regardless of the consequences. The change occurred when Wall Street firms stopped being partnerships, in which every partner put his full wealth on the line every day, and became corporations, which put the risks on their shareholders and creditors.

 

Dodd-Frank and Basel III both missed plum opportunities to change Wall Street's incentive structure. Which is a shame, since it would not have been difficult. Human behavior is pretty simple actually. We do what we are rewarded to do. On Wall Street, people are hugely overcompensated for generating revenue, which they do by selling products (stocks, bonds, advice on mergers or investing) and by using their vast balance sheets to facilitate trades for clients and to take the risks others don't want to take.

 

What's made all this possible is the vast amounts of capital that Wall Street firms have amassed. Fifty years ago, Goldman Sachs had around $10 million of capital, which came from its partners; today Goldman has upward of $74 billion of capital, derived mostly from the generosity of its shareholders and the creditors who have bought Goldman's public and private securities.

 

Over the past generation, this business model has worked well for one group in particular: the bankers, traders and honchos who work on Wall Street. These days on Wall Street, around 50 percent of every dollar of revenue generated is paid out to its employees in the form of compensation. What other business on earth does this? None.

 

And how would Dodd-Frank change this dynamic? It would give shareholders a nonbinding "say on pay" regarding the compensation of executives of public corporations. And even if a majority of shareholders expressed their displeasure, the companies would be free to ignore them. Yawn.

 

Regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission will also have the mandate to explore whether a Wall Street firm's compensation practices are contributing to excessive risk-taking and, if so, to try to do something about that, like making it easier for shareholders to oust directors. But that directive is an afterthought, too.

 

We already have definitive proof that Wall Street's compensation practices lead to excessive risk-taking: witness the way Wall Street's armies kept selling mortgage-backed securities filled with defaulting home mortgages long after the securities made any sense as an investment. Wall Street did the same thing in the 1980s with junk bonds, the same thing in the 1990s with Internet initial public offerings, and the same thing in the early 2000s with the debt of emerging telecommunications companies.

 

This sort of thing will happen again soon enough unless Wall Street's senior executives have the clear economic incentive to closely monitor the risks their firms are taking and make it their business to ensure that the risks are prudent.

 

IN June 1987, Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead, who had previously been Goldman's co-senior partner, reflected on the insider trading scandals that were roiling one Wall Street firm after another.

 

"Anybody who alleges that Wall Street is rotten I just don't think understands Wall Street," Mr. Whitehead told Institutional Investor magazine. "I think it's a remarkable system that still works effectively at the heart of our free-enterprise system. But if we are going to avoid sweeping government controls and regulations, then it is incumbent on the system to clean up its act."

 

Of course, Wall Street did not follow his advice about cleaning up its own act. Rather, Wall Street went to the other extreme, pushing its friends in Washington for less and less regulation all through the 1990s and early 2000s. Let the market regulate Wall Street, we were told repeatedly. Now we face the "sweeping government controls and regulations" that Mr. Whitehead feared.

 

This did not have to happen. For example, Goldman Sachs seems to understand the power of creating internal incentives to monitor and to regulate the risks the firm is taking. When Goldman went public in 1999, unlike other firms it decided that a group of its 400 or so top executives would get paid not out of the firm's revenues, but instead from the firm's pretax profits. If the firm has no pretax profits in any given year, these executives get (only) their six-figure salaries, not the tens of millions in bonuses they count on.

 

As a result, the senior brass at Goldman is hyperfocused on making sure the firm is always profitable, and it always has been. This may very well be the precise reason that Goldman alone saw the brewing mortgage meltdown and did something about it.

 

When other firms were losing billions of dollars in 2007 as the mortgage market exploded, Goldman made $17.6 billion in pretax profits, one of its most profitable years ever, and its top three executives split around $200 million. You would think the rest of Wall Street would emulate Goldman's approach to compensating its top executives. But it hasn't.

 

SINCE neither Goldman's example nor Dodd-Frank and Basel III will change Wall Street's behavior, we have to find a new mechanism. To my mind, its central feature should be that each of the top 100 executives at Wall Street's remaining "systemically important" firms be personally liable for the risks they take. Not just their unexercised stock options or restricted stock, but every asset they have in their possession: from their cars to their fancy homes to their bulging bank accounts.

 

The days of privatizing the profits for Wall Street and socializing the risks must end. As radical as this sounds, in truth it would be no different from when — before 1970 — Wall Street was a series of private partnerships.

 

We can't turn back the clock: Wall Street's big firms will never again be private partnerships. Instead, I propose that each large Wall Street firm create a new security that represents — and is secured by — the entire net worth of its 100 top executives. This security would be subordinated to all other creditors as well as to all preferred and common shareholders; in other words, if a firm goes bankrupt, this security is the first to be wiped out.

 

Had such a security existed at the time of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the net worth of the top 100 Lehman executives — no doubt totaling several billion dollars — would have been collected after liquidating everything they owned and paid to Lehman creditors, who under the current system will be lucky if they get back 10 cents on the dollar.

 

Wall Street's first reaction to this idea — aside from profanities — will be that it cannot possibly be done. Or that it would somehow threaten the sanctity of our capital markets.

 

But, in fact, it can and should be done. Indeed, Wall Street has all the intellectual capital it needs in its own archives to construct such a security: in the old partnership days every partner signed an agreement requiring him (and rarely her) to put his net worth on the line every day. Surely, clever Wall Street lawyers can draft a 21st-century version of the old partnership agreement.

 

What's more, Wall Street should take the initiative to do this unprompted. As John Whitehead warned, the banks' failure to show responsibility will only invite more government intervention.

 

If, however, the firms balk, the S.E.C. should require this sort of accountability from the senior managements as part of its new regulations governing Wall Street compensation. Or Congress should take advantage of the still-brewing outrage against Wall Street to force the creation of such a security.

 

Pretty harsh, right? Maybe, but Wall Street deserves no sympathy. Had this security, or something like it, been in place at every Wall Street firm five years ago, there would have been no mortgage bubble, no financial crisis, no deep and unsettling economic recession with nearly 10 percent unemployment, no need for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and no need for Dodd-Frank or Basel III.

 

Why? Because human beings do what they are rewarded to do — especially on Wall Street — and if they are rewarded for taking prudent and sensible risks, that's exactly what they will do.

This column appeared in print on October 8, 2010.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE END OF THE TUNNEL

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

The Erie Canal. Hoover Dam. The Interstate Highway System. Visionary public projects are part of the American tradition, and have been a major driver of our economic development.

 

And right now, by any rational calculation, would be an especially good time to improve the nation's infrastructure. We have the need: our roads, our rail lines, our water and sewer systems are antiquated and increasingly inadequate. We have the resources: a million-and-a-half construction workers are sitting idle, and putting them to work would help the economy as a whole recover from its slump. And the price is right: with interest rates on federal debt at near-record lows, there has never been a better time to borrow for long-term investment.

 

But American politics these days is anything but rational. Republicans bitterly opposed even the modest infrastructure spending contained in the Obama stimulus plan. And, on Thursday, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled America's most important current public works project, the long-planned and much-needed second rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

 

It was a destructive and incredibly foolish decision on multiple levels. But it shouldn't have been all that surprising. We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.

 

So, about that tunnel: with almost 1,200 people per square mile, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in America, more densely populated than any major European nation. Add in the fact that many residents work in New York, and you have a state that can't function without adequate public transportation. There just isn't enough space for everyone to drive to work.

 

But right now there's just one century-old rail tunnel linking New Jersey and New York — and it's running close to capacity. The need for another tunnel couldn't be more obvious.

 

So last year the project began. Of the $8.7 billion in planned funding, less than a third was to come from the State of New Jersey; the rest would come, in roughly equal amounts, from the independent Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and from the federal government. Even if costs were to rise substantially, as they often do on big projects, it was a very good deal for the state.

 

But Mr. Christie killed it anyway.

 

News reports suggest that his immediate goal was to shift funds to local road projects and existing rail repairs. There were, however, much better ways to raise those funds, such as an increase in the state's relatively low gasoline taxes — and bear in mind that whatever motorists gain from low gas taxes will be at least partly undone by pain from the canceled project in the form of growing congestion and traffic delays. But, no, in modern America, no tax increase can ever be justified, for any reason.

 

So this was a terrible, shortsighted move from New Jersey's point of view. But that's not the whole cost. Canceling the tunnel was also a blow to national hopes of recovery, part of a pattern of penny-pinching that has played a large role in our continuing economic stagnation.

 

When people ask why the Obama stimulus didn't accomplish more, one good response is to ask, what stimulus? Leaving aside the cost of financial rescues and safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, federal spending has risen only modestly — and this rise has been largely offset by cutbacks at the state and local level. Many of these cuts were forced by Congress, which has refused to approve adequate aid to the states. But as Mr. Christie is demonstrating, local politicians are also doing their part.

 

And the ideology that has led Mr. Christie to undermine his state's future is, of course, the same ideology that has led almost all Republicans and some Democrats to stand in the way of any meaningful action to revive the nation's economy. Worse yet, next month's election seems likely to reward Republicans for their obstructionism.

 

So here's how you should think about the decision to kill the tunnel: It's a terrible thing in itself, but, beyond that, it's a perfect symbol of how America has lost its way. By refusing to pay for essential investment, politicians are both perpetuating unemployment and sacrificing long-run growth. And why not? After all, this seems to be a winning electoral strategy. All vision of a better future seems to have been lost, replaced with a refusal to look beyond the narrowest, most shortsighted notion of self-interest.

 

I wish I could say something optimistic at this point. But at least for now, I don't see any light at the end of this tunnel.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE FACEBOOK SEARCHERS

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

In 1952, two-thirds of Harvard applicants were admitted. The average verbal SAT score for incoming freshmen was 583. If your father went to Harvard, you had a 90 percent chance of getting in.

 

Harvard's president at the time, James Bryant Conant, decided to change that. Harvard could no longer be about birth and WASP breeding, he realized. It had to promote intelligence and merit. Within eight years, the average freshman had a verbal score of 678 and a math score of 695. New sorts of people were going to Harvard — more intellectual and less blue blood. But Conant didn't want his school to be home to unidimensional brainiacs. He hoped to retain the emphasis on character.

 

In "The Social Network," the director David Fincher and the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin imagine that these two Harvards still exist side by side. On top, there is the old WASP Harvard of Mayflower families, regatta blazers and Anglo-Saxon cheekbones. Underneath, there is the largely Jewish and Asian Harvard of brilliant but geeky young strivers.

 

This social structure will be familiar to moviegoers. From "Animal House" through "Revenge of the Nerds," it has provided the basic plotline for most collegiate movies. But as sociology, of course, it's completely fanciful.

 

The old WASP Harvard is dead. As Nathan Heller writes in an intelligent blog post called "You Can't Handle the Veritas," (Sorkin also wrote "A Few Good Men"), most kids at Harvard today come from pressure-cooker suburban schools. The old clubs are "vestigial curios." Computer geeks do not spend their days desperately trying to join the Protestant Establishment because people born in 1984 don't know what it is.

 

Still, if the "The Social Network" is bad sociology, it is very good psychology. The movie does a brilliant job dissecting the sorts of people who become stars in an information economy and a hypercompetitive, purified meritocracy. It deftly captures what many of them have and what they lack, what they long for and what they end up with.

 

The character loosely based on Mark Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook, is incredibly smart. Over the years, movies like "Good Will Hunting" have delighted in showing acts of mental superheroism. Educated audiences seem to experience wish-fulfillment ecstasy while watching their heroes effortlessly leap hard math problems in a single bound. Zuckerberg does that a few times in "The Social Network."

 

But he is also intense. Success these days isn't just a product of intelligence. It's the brain and the thyroid together: I.Q. married to energy and a relentless desire to be the best. In this way, the Zuckerberg character is as elitist as the old Harvardians, just on different grounds.

 

What he is lacking is even more striking. The Zuckerberg character is without social and moral skills. It's not that he's a bad person. He's just never been house-trained. He's been raised in a culture reticent to talk about social and moral conduct. The character becomes a global business star without getting a first-grade education in interaction.

 

There is a propelling mismatch between his intellectual skills and his social and moral ones. Desperately, he longs to fill the hole. In the first scene, he tries with a one-way verbal barrage that is designed to impress but ends up repelling the girl he loves. Then he does it by creating the social network itself — trying to use the medium he understands to conquer the medium he doesn't.

 

In Fincher and Sorkin's handling, Zuckerberg is a sympathetic character because despite all his bullying, he deeply feels what he lacks, and works tirelessly to fill the hole. In a world of mentor magnets and eager-to-please climbers, he is relentlessly inner-directed. But this is a movie propelled by deficiency, not genius.

 

The central tension of the picture is between his outward success and his inner failure. It seems to be a tragic and recurring feature of life that the people who work to design great products for the golden circle find after they are finished that they are still unable to join it.

 

In the 20th century, immigrant Hollywood directors made hyperpatriotic movies that defined American life but found after fame and fortune they were still outsiders. In this movie, Zuckerberg designs a fabulous social network, but still has his reciprocity problem. He is still afflicted by his anhedonic self-consciousness, his failure to communicate, his inability to lose himself in the throngs at a party or the capacity to deserve the love he craves.

 

Many critics have compared this picture to "Citizen Kane." But I was reminded of the famous last scene in "The Searchers," in which the John Wayne character is unable to join the social bliss he has created. The character gaps that propel some people to do something remarkable can't be overcome simply because they have managed to change the world.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON LEGAL SYSTEM: WHEN PROSECUTORS GO ASTRAY, JUSTICE TAKES A BEATING

 

The great majority of federal prosecutors act professionally and ethically. But when prosecutors fail to play by the rules — intentionally or otherwise — the results can be devastating.

 

An ongoing USA TODAY investigation has documented 201 criminal cases in which federal judges found that prosecutors had violated ethics rules or laws. Judges caught some prosecutors hiding evidence, lying to judges or breaking plea bargains. In some cases, innocent people were imprisoned. Even when defendants were released or exonerated, some lost livelihoods and reputations. In other cases, the public paid the price when criminals went free, or served less time than they deserved.

 

In what surely was the highest profile case, Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to pull the plug on the corruption prosecution of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. After a jury found Stevens guilty in 2008, Justice conceded that prosecutors had hidden evidence that might have undermined the testimony of their star witness. (Stevens was defeated for re-election and died in a plane crash in August.) The prosecutors' actions are still under investigation.

 

Such swift action and public scrutiny are unusual. In part, this is because abuse isn't an everyday event. Justice points out that 201 cases since 1997 represent a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of prosecutions in that time frame. That's true. But by focusing on the rarity Justice misses the point, and it does so in a particularly unproductive way.

 

The simple fact is that prosecutors hold extraordinary power to ruin people's lives and, inevitably, the least ethical prosecutors will abuse that power, out of laziness, incompetence, ambition, whatever — not because the institution that employs them is corrupt but because inadequate vigilance enables them.

 

Since lives are ruined one at a time, the acceptable level of prosecutorial abuse is zero. But Justice appears not to see it that way.

 

In a much lower profile case than Stevens', an Orlando businessman named Nino Lyons was convicted in 2001 of carjacking, trafficking in cocaine and drug conspiracy. He faced a possible life term. After a team of defense lawyers began digging into the case, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell ruled that Lyons was the victim of a "concerted campaign of prosecutorial abuse." The most damning testimony against Lyons came from "jailhouse snitches" who were "allowed, if not encouraged, to lie under oath," the judge found. In 2004 — after Lyons had served 1,003 days in jail — the government dropped the major charge and Presnell dismissed the rest. In July, he took the extraordinary step of exonerating Lyons on all charges.

 

Despite the rebuke, federal prosecutor Bruce Hinshelwood continued to try cases in Florida until he retired in 2008 to open his own law practice. The Florida Bar investigated last year, but found too much time had passed since the trial to take action. Hinshelwood resolved the matter by agreeing to attend an ethics workshop and paying $1,100 in costs. The Justice Department still will not discuss the Hinshelwood case, citing privacy constraints.

 

Misconduct is certainly not confined to federal prosecutions. If anything, it's more common in state courts, where local prosecutors often have heavier caseloads and less supervision. The most notorious recent example of a runaway prosecutor involved the three Duke University students who were indicted on rape charges in 2006, despite a lack of credible evidence. A savvy defense team and the public spotlight vindicated them, and Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred and removed from office.

 

But, just as in the federal courts, most misconduct occurs quietly. A study released this week by the Northern California Innocence Project cited 707 California cases since 1997, both federal and state, where courts found prosecutorial misconduct. Sixty-seven prosecutors were repeat offenders, including five who had committed misconduct four or more times. During the same period, the California State Bar disciplined just 10 prosecutors.

 

Compounding the problem of prosecutors whose actions make a mockery of justice is a legal system that tends to coddle them. There's little public accountability and even less punishment by state bars, which have the authority to investigate and sanction the lawyers they license. In some cases, even appellate courts have tried to provide cover by omitting prosecutors' names when citing them for misconduct.

 

The Justice Department says it takes allegations of misconduct seriously, and Holder has established new ethics training classes and published yearly reports on infractions. But there's still virtually no public scrutiny of the department's actions. The annual reports by its internal watchdog list numbers of complaints, outcomes and summaries of some cases. The reports, however, are scrubbed of all names and identifying details. The department says it is constrained by the Privacy Act from naming names.

 

If privacy laws are getting in the way of public scrutiny, then Congress should amend them. But by finding excuses and casting the problem as insignificant, Justice invites further abuse.

 

Like plane crashes in the nation's remarkably safe aviation network, cases of misconduct by federal prosecutors are rare. But when breakdowns do occur — be they aeronautical or judicial — the right response is not to downplay them, but to investigate, assign responsibility and learn how to improve the system.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON LEGAL SYSTEM: DON'T MIX MISTAKES, MISCONDUCT

BY GARY G. GRINDLER

 

Put simply, a single instance of prosecutorial misconduct is unacceptable. At the Justice Department, we are keenly aware that people can suffer serious harm when we do not adhere to the great traditions of this institution. Overwhelmingly, the cases we bring are handled according to the highest ethical standards. Indeed, an internal review ordered by Attorney General Eric Holder last year found misconduct in just a tiny fraction of the 90,000 or so cases brought annually.

 

Unfortunately, because USA TODAY used examples stretching as far back as the 1970s and mixed together cases where attorneys made mistakes with cases where actual prosecutorial misconduct was involved, its report was misleading in its suggestion of the proportion of misconduct cases. That rate is in fact significantly smaller.

 

Our goal will always be error-free prosecutions, but we also understand that mistakes will unfortunately happen, as they do in every profession. When mistakes occur, we will correct them and be as transparent as possible within the bounds of the law, which restricts what information we can release.

 

Courts have generally held that it's a violation of federal law to disclose a career trial attorney's identity in connection with misconduct allegations against them. Now, when those allegations are made against higher-ranking officials, the law allows more latitude in disclosure.

 

We balance the competing interests case by case, but we favor disclosure when permissible. The attorney general has directed the department to work on finding ways to make more information available to the public about these matters.

 

One successful example of that work has been eliminating the backlog of public reporting on allegations of misconduct against attorneys. In the last 18 months, reports for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 have been completed and posted online. They include more information about the types of allegations made than had been disclosed in previous years. We also notify the complainants — including judges — of the dispositions of allegations and make referrals to the relevant bar authorities when appropriate.

 

While transparency remains a priority, there is no more important effort than preventing mistakes. That's why, under this attorney general, we've instituted a sweeping training curriculum for all federal prosecutors, and made annual discovery training mandatory. We've taken unprecedented steps to ensure prosecutors and staff have the training and resources to fulfill their discovery and ethics obligations.

 

When prosecutors intentionally disregard these obligations, we take action. We'll continue to work with prosecutors to ensure they have the support and resources they need. But it would be an injustice of a different kind for the thousands of men and women who spend their lives fighting to uphold the law and keep our communities safe to be tainted by a misguided notion that instances of intentional prosecutorial misconduct are anything but rare occurrences.

 

Gary G. Grindler is acting deputy attorney general.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

TV MIDNIGHT BASEBALL IS NO WAY TO GET FANS

PLAIN TALK BY AL NEUHARTH, USA TODAY FOUNDER

 

Tonight's National League Wild Card playoff game between Atlanta and San Francisco will start at 9:37 p.m. ET and end well after midnight, as the first Yankees-Twins game did Wednesday night.

 

Hardly a way to get kids to watch, especially Little Leaguers who are the key to the game's future as our national pastime. It also puts a strain on us old-timers.

 

TV — and its advertisers — have taken control of the times for playoff and World Series games. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who did a great job in introducing the Wild Card, simply has not kept the TV schedule from going wild.

 

Baseball started in the USA on a summer afternoon in 1839 in Cooperstown, N.Y. It was strictly a daytime sport until night lights were introduced in Cincinnati in a game against Philadelphia on May 24, 1935. Since then, playing under the lights has become the in thing, even for some Little League games. But midnight baseball is a recent wild card.

 

Times aside, much of the interest and sentiment on these playoffs will be with Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. He has announced he's quitting after this season, after 25 years that included one World Series title and five National League Pennants. He, along with Ted Turner, made Atlanta a major league city.

 

Cox may get a good farewell. My playoff picks:

 

•Atlanta in the National League.

 

•Yankees in the American League.

 

Philadelphia is Atlanta's biggest challenge in the National League. Either Tampa or Texas poses an American League challenge for the Yankees.

 

If both World Series teams are in the Eastern time zone, Selig should be able to schedule games before your bedtime. But if San Francisco sneaks in, you might need some stay-awake pills.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

IN FAILING SCHOOLS, PARENTS MUST STEP UP

COMMENTARY BY YOLANDA YOUNG

 

When people complain about the failure of our public schools, Washington, D.C., is often cited as Exhibit A. So it came as little surprise when President Obama told NBC last week that "the D.C. public school systems are struggling." He went on to say that "the broader problem is that for a mom or a dad who are working hard but who ... don't have a lot of choice in where they live, they should be getting the same quality education for their kids as anybody else."

 

True enough, but it may take Superman to make that happen. In the documentaryWaiting for Superman, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim exposes the flaws of a broken public school system, including the teacher unions that protect incompetent instructors.

 

But too often, all teachers — even the good ones — are cast as villains, and the Obama administration is partly to blame. TheWhite House's Race to the Top initiative — which rewards reforms that improve schools and close the achievement gap — judges teachers on standardized tests without controlling for the things outside a teacher's control. The same could be said of the plan by Washington schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

 

I can attest to this firsthand. As a participant in a program that provides books and author visits to Washington's public and charter schools, I regularly visit these schools. Their students are often poor, are being raised in single-parent households or are in foster care. For many, English is their second language. This is often the case in many urban schools, but Washington's profile is particularly grim. According to the Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, in Washington in 2009:

 

•30% of children lived in poor families (defined as income below the federal poverty level) compared with 19% nationally.

 

•48% of children in poor families did not have an employed parent.

 

•86% of poor children lived with a single parent.

 

Teachers do not have control over these statistics, yet these factors play a large role in the fact that Washington's high school graduation rate is 60% compared with a national average of 69%. Or that its dropout rate is 7.1% compared with 4.4% nationally each year.

 

Sure, some bad teachers should be replaced. But parents need to be engaged in their child's education. And they should be held accountable when their children don't show up to school. It's not enough that teachers care about their students' education; the parents have to care, too.

 

Yolanda Young is the founder of www.onbeingablacklawyer.com.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPINIONLINE

 

Gene Policinski, vice president/executive director of the First Amendment Center, onThe Hill's Congress Blog: "Peel back the complicated legal issues in Snyder v. Phelps, the case involving protests at military funerals that the U.S. Supreme Court (heard this week), and it comes down to this: How free are we to say something in public that is deeply offensive? ... The Fred Phelps family ... has appeared at funerals ... with their blunt, hateful messages that (military) deaths are God's direct punishment on America for tolerating homosexuality in society. ... Our history is replete with those who brought highly criticized, unpopular messages to the nation and that likely brought distress to many who heard them. ... But true freedom of speech makes no such distinctions ... in protecting participants in the marketplace of ideas. Even when it hurts."

 

Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times, in an editorial: "Few people or organizations would fight to protect the right of free speech more than the media. ... But, members of the media must follow certain rules as they attempt to gain information. 'Intrusion upon seclusion' can be claimed in most states if someone commits a 'highly offensive' intrusion upon another, invading a physical space of a plaintiff ... If that is a standard the media (are) held to, what justification can the high court find for protesters intruding, in a despicable way, on a private funeral?"

 

Tim Rutten, columnist, in Los Angeles Times: "(Protecting free speech is) the sound argument but a bloodless one — and to be morally and socially responsible, as well as constitutionally correct, it requires that those advancing it recognize that although government must be neutral, the news media must not be indifferent to the implications of the Snyder family's claims. Do we really want a society that makes no private place for grief? Albert Snyder and his wife are private people dragged into this for no reason other than that their son's sacrifice in the execution of a public duty made them the target of lunatics. ... If Snyder and his family must forbear to protect the First Amendment, the American media owe it to them to restrain their vulgar impulse toward the bizarre and the sensational."

 

Susannah Griffee, columnist, in New York University's Washington Square News: "If the Supreme Court rules that the moral principles protecting a person's right to a decent burial override the legal authority of the First Amendment, it will reduce the First Amendment's legitimacy and open the First Amendment to attacks from all sides. ... Public sentiment may argue that the case ... presents an example of immorality so unambiguous that it falls into a separate category of protected speech. The words of the protesters were certainly hateful, offensive and even immoral. But those words did not break the law, and the law, not public opinion, should stand before the Supreme Court."

 

Dahlia Lithwick, columnist, in Slate: "The headline writers are going to say that the justices 'struggled' with this case. That may be so, but what they struggled with has very little to do with the law, which rather clearly protects even the most offensive speech about public matters such as war and morality. They are struggling here with the facts, which they hate. Which we all hate. But looking at the parties through hate-colored glasses has never been the best way to think about the First Amendment. In fact, as I understand it, that's why we needed a First Amendment in the first place."

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ANXIETY ON DISPLAY IN BLUE-COLLAR PA.

BY CHUCK RAASCH

 

CONNEAUT LAKE, Pa. — The 2010 election in two scenes:

 

•On a rainy October night, Republicancongressional candidate Mike Kelly, an auto dealer nearing the end of a 15-hour day, is preaching to a choir of worried fellow business owners and leaders.

 

Energy-drilling executives, insurance agents, small business owners, doctors, security industry workers and others have come to give Kelly campaign donations, and to heal wounds from a tough Republican primary. Some had supported other candidates in that primary, but heads all over the room nod in agreement at Kelly's first words.

 

"There was great concern in 2008 about hope and change," Kelly said at a private club on the biggest natural lake in Pennsylvania. "What we didn't realize when they got there was they weren't going to change Washington, they were going to change America. And they have done quite a bit of damage so far."

 

He said that government spending and debt is a threat equal to World War II, and that his generation has the same obligation to ensuing generations, only this time the enemy is debt and government itself. He doesn't spare Republicans — what he calls "the old guard" — in his criticism. His targets are many, but the health care reform bill and the massive stimulus spending bill are the fattest.

 

Someone asks why more focus isn't on manufacturing jobs — a hometown issue if ever there was one. This congressional district in far northwestern Pennsylvania is where the iconic Jeep was created, where steelmakers and railroad car builders once employed tens of thousands. Kelly said he knows the power of a good blue-collar job; his father survived the Depression as a parts man at a General Motors' warehouse.

 

Kelly tells the group he has dipped into his own retirement savings and gone without pay for six months to make sure the 110 people on his payroll got their checks in lean times. If he can cut back, why can't government?

 

He equates the government's economic model with a worker earning $21,000 a year but spending $35,000, or a business owner going into a new year without a plan.