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Saturday, October 9, 2010

EDITORIAL 09.10.10

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 09, edition 000647, 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. TAUNTING THE POOR
  2. HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  3. BOGUS DISSIDENCE
  4. SPARE THE ROD
  5. 'SECULAR ETHOS': THE MAGGOTS ARE OUT - TATHAGATA ROY
  6. FUNDAMENTALISM OF THE LIBERAL KIND - AVISHI SHRIVASTAVA

MAILTODAY

  1. BJP'S POSTURING ON J& K IS CYNICAL AND OF LITTLE HELP
  2. KEEP UP PRESSURE ON 26/ 11
  3. A SIGNAL TO CHINA
  4. SOMETIMES IT MAY BE BETTER TO SAY THAT YOU DON'T KNOW - BY ANJALI JOSEPH
  5. GAMES OC NEEDS A FEW LESSONS IN ETIQUETTE - QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. SPOOF OF IDENTITY
  2. TIME FOR A FRESH START - CHETAN BHAGAT
  3. REDISCOVERING EMPEROR ASHOKA - GAUTAM ADHIKARI
  4. BOTH CAN COEXIST COMFORTABLY
  5. WRITERS FUNCTION BEST AT A REMOVE - ANIL THAKKAR

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. TALKING ABOUT A GREAT GAME
  2. A VERY REAL ESTATE - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
  3. A CHINK IN THE ARMOUR - PRATIK KANJILAL

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. DISSIDENT'S TURN
  2. BEWARE PROTECTIONISM
  3. DAMMING EVIDENCE
  4. THAT CITY STATE OF MIND - SUNIL JAIN 
  5. HITTING THE BIG TIME - SHARON FERNANDES 
  6. SELLING MUSHY PEAS FROM LONDON - MURTAZA RAZVI 
  7. KICKING ACROSS THE POND - KARTIKAY MEHROTRA 
  8. THE TRUTH ABOUT FACEBOOK FRIENDS
  9. GAY AT THE GAMES
  10. GEORGINA MADDOX

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. COLLECTIVE IRRESPONSIBILITY
  2. WILL EARNINGS DISAPPOINT?
  3. A WEAK CURRENCY IS A GOOD IDEA – SAUGATA BHATTACHARYA
  4. INDIA SHOULD REJECT SUPERPOWERDOM? - DEEPAK GOPINATH
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. STILL LIU

THE HINDU

  1. LITERATURE NOBEL FOR A WORLD CITIZEN
  2. BUILDING SMART CITIES
  3. ALARM OVER EUROPE'S LURCH TO THE RIGHT - HASAN SUROOR
  4. A SOMBRE APPRAISAL OF WATER RESOURCES - T.N. NARASIMHAN AND V.K. GAUR
  5. THE PHENOMENON OF BOLLYWOOD IN EUROPE - KAMALA GANESH

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. OMAR SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE CAREFUL
  2. INDIA'S LONG JUMP - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. A LESSON OR TWO FROM UK - KISHWAR DESAI
  4. CAVEMAN APPROACH? THINK AGAIN! - SHOBHAA DE
  5. HEARTBURN & TEARS - S. NIHAL SINGH
  6. A LESSON OR TWO FROM UK - 2010 - KISHWAR DESAI

DNA

  1. OBAMA WON'T SEEK HIGH-PROFILE ROLE IN KASHMIR: LISA CURTIS
  2. VENKATESAN VEMBU
  3. WHY DOES HAPPINESS WEAR THIN OVER TIME? - V RAGHUNATHAN
  4. THE ADMAN'S TWISTED WORLD - AKSHAYA MISHRA

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. NEED FOR BALANCE
  2. JOY OF REUNION?
  3. PAKISTAN ON BRINK OF POLITICAL CRISIS - BY ML KOTRU
  4. DEEMED UNIVERSITIES BE ABOLISHED - BY R.C. MISHRA
  5. BUOYANCY OF INDIAN ECONOMY - BY DR. SATISH MISRA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. OMAR IN TROUBLED WATERS
  2. INDO-RUSSIAN JOINT PROJECT
  3. FACEBOOKED
  4. OBAMA'S AF-PAK DRIVE IN TURMOIL - BY HARSH V. PANT
  5. IF POLITICIANS RETIRE… - BY AMAR CHANDEL
  6. WHITHER MEDICAL AND HEALTH CARE - PUSHPA M BHARGAVA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. BOILING OVER BILLING DISPARITY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. GOING PRIVATE - T N NINAN
  2. NITISH ONCE MORE IN BIHAR? - DORAB R SOPARIWALA
  3. TRIGGERING AN ARMS RACE IN CYBERIA - DEVANGSHU DATTA
  4. GOLD WON'T GLITTER ALWAYS - SUBIR ROY
  5. PAKISTAN - IN BITS AND PIECES - V V
  6. WEN KAN WE TALK? - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  7. J&K - WHY INDIA HAS NOTHING TO FEAR - B G VERGHESE
  8. FREEDOM ON TWO WHEELS - GEETANJALI KRISHNA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. LEAVE IT TO G20
  2. FOR AN HIV VACCINE
  3. KIMCHI CRISIS
  4. 'WICKED' PROBLEMS AND THE IAS - SAMEER SHARMA
  5. 'NEW LAW WILL CURB ILLEGAL MINING' - SUMITCHATURVEDI 
  6. THE GREAT INDIAN GERONTOCRACY - RAGHU KRISHNAN 
  7. MOTHER CAME BEFORE ALL - VITHAL C NADKARNI 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. OMAR SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE CAREFUL
  2. VAASTU CHANGE HELPS ACHARYA
  3. BJP'S CRACKS VISIBLE IN KARNATAKA CRISIS
  4. CAVEMAN APPROACH? THINK AGAIN! - BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE
  5. HEARTBURN & TEARS - BY BY S. NIHAL SINGH
  6. A LESSON OR TWO FROM UK - BY KISHWAR DESAI

THE STATESMAN

  1. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT 
  2. PERILOUSLY SKEWED 
  3. TRENDS IN BRAZIL 
  4. MIND YOUR MANNERS, SIR! - BY SUDHIR KUMAR JHA
  5. 'WE SIMPLY NEED TO MOTIVATE EVERYBODY'
  6. ON RECORD
  7. WILL RSS BACK KASHMIR AUTONOMY?

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. THE TIME OF THE HEROES
  2. WATCH THE SPACE - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

DECCAN HERALD

  1. LACKING IN TEETH
  2. WAITING FOR REFORMS
  3. TRUST DEFICIT - BY RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA
  4. HEALERS AND DEALERS - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. OH, TO BE ARGUS-EYED! - BY PADMA GANAPATI

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. MR. PALADINO AND THE SYSTEM
  2. LIU XIAOBO
  3. THE SEPTEMBER REPORT
  4. HIGH COST OF CRIME - BY CHARLES M. BLOW

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. THIS IS HOW EU HELPS FLOOD AFFECTEES
  2. SMALL DAMS TOO ARE SHELVED
  3. US ALERT WAS INDEED FAKE
  4. PAK SOVEREIGNTY MUST BE RESPECTED - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  5. INDIA'S INTERFERENCE IN BALOCHISTAN - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  6. MACH ADO ABOUT PRESIDENT'S IMMUNITY - DR S M RAHMAN
  7. KARACHI BLASTS: TARGETING PAKISTAN - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  8. AFGHANISTAN: WAR WITHOUT END - MICHEAL KROSS

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. RANN'S ACTIONS SPEAK VOLUMES
  2. ANOTHER HARD DAY AT THE OFFICE
  3. EXPORTERS FACE TOUGH ROAD AS THE CURRENCY SURGES

THE GUARDIAN

  1. UNTHINKABLE? L'ENTENTE MILITAIRE
  2. SHADOW CABINET: CONSTRUCTIVE OPPOSITION
  3. CLIMATE CHANGE: TROPICAL HEAT

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. TESTING TIMES FOR MR. KAN
  2. CHEMICAL RESEARCHERS SHINE
  3. LEADERS' BROKEN PROMISES ARE COSTING LIVES - BY PETER SINGER

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. STILL DON'T GET IT, MR. GOVERNOR?
  2. IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON JAKARTA - TOMMY FIRMAN
  3. MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS: WHO CARES? - LAKSMI AMALIA
  4. JAKARTA WILL (NOT) SUBMERGE? - FIRDAUS ALI 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

TAUNTING THE POOR

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


A million mutinies may be the harvest of brutal policies of a Government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich

Indian democracy — with apologies to Abraham Lincoln — is Government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. The poor and the weak exist to serve the rich. They can be ruthlessly evicted, marginalised and even be killed, if they stand in the way. Even if they are not murdered suddenly and violently, they are slowly sent to the hereafter by the deprivation of livelihood, the denial of adequate nourishment, ill health through the payment of criminally low wages or the denial of rightful wages through governmental corruption and private chicanery.


One would doubtless run into a volley of invectives as one says this. India has free and fair elections. People vote and change Governments. There is a lively, free and much-feared media that regularly exposes corruption and wrongdoing by officials and the politically and economically powerful and has, in some cases, compelled retribution and remedial action by an administrative machinery which had remained silent. India has a Constitution that guarantees a comprehensive set of fundamental rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, which lays down the coordinates for enlightened governance.


The argument that economic exploitation continues despite all this would be met by the answer that minimum wages have been statutorily provided in many sectors of the economy, the industrial workforce, even drivers and those engaged in public and private sanitation, now enjoy middle-class life styles. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has hugely benefited the rural poor. The Green Revolution and land reforms have markedly improved the life of farmers. A state-run healthcare system exists almost everywhere; primary education is reaching down to the grassroots level.


All this is true. India is a democracy in a formally-institutional and mechanistic sense. While institutions do function, they often do so grossly imperfectly and do not deliver what they are supposed to. An independent judiciary does not help beyond a point, if those without resources cannot access it and if one has to wait for years to receive a judgement. Lawyers' fees are reaching for the skies and not many lawyers are prepared to fight pro bono for the poor. Besides, most such lawyers are beyond the reach of the poor in the countryside, and some of them in peripheral urban areas. As for state-run healthcare, one has only to visit Government hospitals and health centres in some part to realise the farce that it is. 


A significant section of industrial and service sector workers, no doubt, enjoys middle-class incomes. They, however, represent a fraction of the country's total work force. The rural poor remain exploited and under-nourished because of the corruption that prevails in the NREGS in many States. Even farmers, who have done well, are increasingly driven to suicide by rising costs of inputs, inadequacy of crop insurance facilities, poor returns and the debt burden. Both they and those below the poverty line in rural areas are vulnerable to forcible eviction to facilitate the setting up of industries, mines, and infrastructure like roads. Compensation, even where the amount does not turn it into a cruel joke for the victims, is usurped by crooked Government employees and middlemen.

There are, doubtless, non-Government organisations reaching out to the disprivileged. While many of them are doing an excellent job, many operate under severe financial constraints. It is hardly a secret that Government employees demand bribes for even sanctioning reimbursements for programmes for the benefit of street children. NGOs whose welfare activities exist on paper and whose funds are diverted to private pockets — and there are quite a few of them — are, course, generally flush with money, as they are skilled in the art of greasing palms.


As for the media, the focus is increasingly on entertainment, the celebration of the wonders of the market, and the altruism and excellence of corporate entities. The result is a diversion of the focus of public discourse from the plight of the poor to the titillating world of trivia, the glorious world of endless consumption, including luxurious travel.


How many print publications and television channels report serious, informed debates in Parliament and the State legislatures? How many have run sustained campaigns against the systematic genocide of tribals and their culture, and the rape of the environment, in the name of development? How many, for example, have opened their pages or programmes for an adequate debate on the pros and cons of the UID? The discussions that have occurred have been desultory and far-between. 


Long before John Kenneth Galbraith wrote The Affluent Society, RH Tawney had said in The Acquisitive Society, published in the 1920s, that in a society with great disparities of wealth, the money that should have been invested on meeting the subsistence needs of the poor ends up catering to the consumption urges of the rich which ensures higher returns. This is precisely what is happening in India. People have money to hire a plane and celebrate a wedding in mid-air, or charter aircraft and take friends on foreign jaunts to celebrate their birthdays, but would not donate the amount thus spent on a hospital for poor children.


The harsh fact that consuming Indians, whose ranks now include those from the middle-class as well, have no time for what Swami Vivekananda called Daridra Narayan, or the god that resides in the poor. Worse, a section with money to influence bureaucrats and politicians and run advertising blitzkriegs, is mercilessly dispossessing and evicting the poor and the week.


The poor and the disprivileged are not going to endure their plight passively. Their anger is alienating them implacably from the existing order. They are, in their respective areas, being drawn to the most powerful group that stands for the overthrow of it. It is the Maoists at some places and/or communal, linguistic, ethnic or separatist organisations in some others.


Repression will not help. Extremist violence of one kind or the other is raging in large parts of the country and may spread all over with time. Extremist groups are establishing links among themselves and trying to launch coordinated action. On how many fronts can the security forces fight, particularly if, following American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan, its arsenal swelled by aid, unleashes both jihadis and its conventional forces against India? One has to switch to a development pattern that does not destitute the poor.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BOGUS DISSIDENCE

DEFEAT GOVERNOR'S GAME IN KARNATAKA


There is clearly more to the political crisis in Karnataka, which has shaken the Government headed by Mr BS Yeddyurappa and resulted in Governor HR Bhardwaj directing the Chief Minister to seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly to demonstrate he continues to command majority support, than meets the eye. The sudden eruption of dissidence in the BJP's group of legislators cannot be attributed to Mr Yeddyurappa's recent decision to drop certain Ministers from — and include others in — his Cabinet alone. It is entirely the Chief Minister's prerogative as to who should be a member of the Cabinet; those found to be under-performing or not performing at all deserve to be dropped. Ministerial berths are not a matter of right, but privilege. Sadly, this principle is lost on an increasing number of BJP legislators who place their own interests above those of the party; it is reflective of the erosion of inner-party discipline the party faces in some of the States where it is in power. That apart, it would not be incorrect to suggest that the 14 BJP MLAs, accompanied by five Independent legislators, who 'rebelled' against Mr Yeddyurappa, precipitating the current crisis, were prompted by more than the lure of fishes and loaves of office. It is entirely possible that Mr Bhardwaj, who has been exerting to destabilise the Government ever since he was posted as Governor of Karnataka, has played a significant role in instigating the 'rebellion'. After all, he stands to gain the most if the Government were to fall — which it won't, much to his displeasure — because he can then claim a reward from his party bosses for his signal service to the Congress: His return to the Union Cabinet from which he was dumped rather unceremoniously and put out to pasture. It is also evident that the JD(S) leadership, comprising the venal father-son duo of Mr HD Deve Gowda and Mr HD Kumaraswamy, both of whom have been smarting ever since they were kicked out of power by the people of Karnataka, are involved with stoking dissidence in the hope of regaining power by hook or by crook.

The BJP must do everything to prevent the Yeddyurappa Government from falling on account of the manipulations of an unscrupulous Governor and his friends in the JD(S). This is not the time to be squeamish or take a moral position; this is war by another name and it has to be won, if only to put Mr Bhardwaj and the Deve Gowda clan in their place. The Speaker has done the right thing by serving notices on the 'dissident' legislators, asking them to explain why they should not be disqualified for their anti-party activities. Unless they return to the party-fold, they should be disqualified and barred from voting. That's the law and it must be followed. The BJP, meanwhile, should stand by Mr Yeddyurappa and not concede any quarter to the 'dissidents'. At the same time, every effort should be made to persuade them to see the folly of their deed and desist from persisting with their decision. If they remain recalcitrant, then so be it. The BJP has the numbers in the House and there is no reason why it should allow Mr Bhardwaj and his friends to trample on democracy.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

SPARE THE ROD

LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE


The recent arrest of the principal of Kolkata's La Martiniere School for Boys has once again brought corporal punishment in schools under public scrutiny. The principal and three teachers were arrested seven months after a class VIII student allegedly committed suicide and his family claimed that the 13-year-old was driven to take the extreme step after being caned and humiliated at school. Although the police chargesheet only confirms physical assault and acquits him from charges of abetment to suicide, the principal earned his share of brickbats from teachers and society alike when he admitted to severe physical thrashing, saying he did not know that caning was illegal. Close on the heels of the principal's arrest, came the news of a 12-year-old girl from Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan losing vision in her left eye after being brutally beaten by her teacher for not completing her homework. Failing to make her voice heard, her mother took the help of a television news channel to bring the incident to light. In yet another shocking case, a class VI student 11-year-old Ajay Bagarti of St George High School in Bargarh district in Odisha was allegedly beaten to death by a teacher because he had not done his homework. A case has been registered against the absconding teacher and the police are trying to trace him. 


These cases of corporal punishment — sheer callousness on the part of teachers who are entrusted with the task of building the future of our nation — have made people sit up and ponder upon the inherent flaws of our education system. Interestingly, it is such a caning incident that made arguably the best mind of the country, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, leave school and shun formal education. While the cultural richness of his family groomed him well, he showed the world that informal education could stimulate intellect and enrich the mind. Later, when he picked up the pen he ridiculed the rote-learning system, saying, "We pass examinations and shrivel up into clerks, lawyers and police inspectors." The recent Hindi film 3 Idiots, which caught the nation's imagination, aptly ridiculed our archaic education system that demands a student to cram up textbooks without any application of mind. It is unfortunate that such shocking incidents have failed to shake up authorities who believe passing several examinations by rote-learning should be the aim of education. The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development must drastically reform the archaic education system to free young minds from the stifling environment where merit is judged by marks and not creativity. Children should be allowed to learn at their own pace what they find interesting. Tagore has shown the way by establishing Viswa Bharati; now it is for others to follow if they want to save precious lives of youngsters.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

'SECULAR ETHOS': THE MAGGOTS ARE OUT

TATHAGATA ROY


Resplendent in the post-judgment discourse is an emphasis on jurisprudence and professionalism which panders to the national liberal elite. To hell with law based on evidence, juristic behavior which doesn't fit the so-called secular fabric of India


I remember facing TV cameras on September 29 in the course of a debate in Kolkata — the bastion of secularism (beside several other 'isms'), and ironically the abode of no less than thirty or forty lakh fugitives from Islamic persecution in erstwhile East Pakistan. Everybody had secularism coming out of their ears.

"Oh, we must make sure that the secular fabric of the country is not endangered! Oh, our secular ethos must be safeguarded at all costs"! Usually in such gatherings I sound the wrong note, and I believe it enlivens the debate and of course raises the TRP of the channel, which is why I, a notorious non-secular, get invited in the first place. So, true to form I said, "but must we forget the damage that has been done in the past? Like for instance, the Great Calcutta Killings or the Noakhali Carnage of 1946! Shouldn't we admit that such things happened, shouldn't we take lessons from them and resolve that they never happen again! Didn't Santayana say that people who do not draw lessons from history are condemned to re-live it, or words to that effect"? "Aw, come on", everyone else, including the anchor said, "this is not the time to mull over past mistakes! Let's close ranks and resolve to bury what lies behind us. And it is most important that we accept the court's verdict, and make no trouble." And then they said, "Amen".


Did I notice a hint of smugness in their faces, that they knew it was going to come their way? Maybe there was, and maybe there wasn't. The next afternoon I was invited again. By this time the smugness was a little more apparent, the 'secularism' a little more sugary. I got tired, excused myself and went home and slept. I had another session coming in the evening, by which time the judgment would be out.


When I got up the judgment was out and there was widespread confusion all round. Except that everyone knew that the expected had not happened. Some said two judges had concurred, some said no, the judges had delivered separate but concurring judgments, and some said, not that either, they had not concurred on many points. But one fact stood out. Contrary to the expectation of many, most people said that the judges had said that Ram Lalla viraajmaan would remain viraajmaan, and no way he could be pulled out.


I drove down to the Town Hall in Kolkata, where the next TV debate was to take place. The debaters no longer seemed to be so composed as in the last two sessions. There was an addition, a very respected ex-Chief Justice of the Calcutta and Bombay (not Kolkata and Mumbai) High Courts, a person who had all his life strictly steered clear of all politics. He said something significant: that under Indian Law, Ram Lalla (or for that matter any Hindu deity) is a 'juristic person', but a mosque is no such thing. He followed this with some legal abstractions which no one understood well. Some pointless and desultory discussion followed, everybody dutifully expressed satisfaction that there had not been any violence so far. On the question of appeal to the Supreme Court, the fact that the only surviving original litigant, Hashim Ansari, said he would not like to go on appeal, was somehow glossed over. By and by everyone went home.


Then everyone had a breather on the national holiday. By this time some had had the opportunity to read up some salient paragraphs of the judgments —though reading up all eight thousand-odd pages was out of the question. And started having second and third thoughts about what to do, where do they stand, will or will not 'they' still vote for them?

The case was dead, the dead had begun to putrefy and the hour of the maggot had arrived.Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, who had once made a trip to the Iranian embassy to beg them to get him Shia votes (they refused), was a wrestler by profession before he blundered into politics. In the wilderness for quite some time, he now sees an opportunity to curry the favour of his favourite community and thunders out: "The verdict appears to have been given more on the basis of faith and belief rather than on the basis of legalities and evidence. I am firmly of the view that the court has somehow ignored or overlooked various legal issues and relied more on the faith and belief of people. This is not how a court should have acted."

Now we could possibly listen to Mulayam Singh holding forth on the nuances of Greco-Roman wrestling as opposed to free-style, but on the legalities of a judgment delivered by three honourable judges of the High Court? Even Sonia Gandhi would not have dared to do this. I doubt if Mulayam can correctly spell all the words he had said against the judgment.


Predictably, Mulayam is not alone. "A blow to India's secular fabric", screeched a group of 'eminent historians', artists and activists led by Romila Thapar, the grand old lady of the famous whitewashing crew (term explained later). They supposedly raised "serious concerns because of the way history, reason and secular values" have been treated in the verdict. Coming together under the umbrella of a Communist Party of India (Marxist)-sponsored outfit called Sahmat (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust), they questioned the court's premise to base its judgment on the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which had claimed that remains of a temple were found beneath the mosque.


Ponder if you will, for a second, over what these people are saying. The Archaeological Survey of India, a wing under the Ministry of Culture in the Government of India, clearly a non-partisan, non-religious (and therefore secular) body of government-accredited professionals, had excavated the place and extracted some artifacts. There were three first-class magistrates in attendance then who verified the authenticity of the articles and marked and numbered then. Their Lordships of the High Court had based their judgments on the basis of this evidence. Now, says Sahmat, no, your Lordships cannot rely on this, because this is no evidence. But how do you say that, this is evidence according to all our training, according to the Indian Evidence Act 1872! No, your Lordships, retorts Sahmat, evidence is what we call evidence. Evidence must support the minorities, or else it is no evidence, because . . . because that is what the secular fabric of the country requires! But what has secular got to do with it? Ah, it appears that Lordships' education has been confined to Law alone and is not complete! Secular has to do with everything, everything. Eating, drinking, defecating, you name it. Secularism, Lordships, is a complete code.


Thus spake Sahmat, aka the whitewashing crew, whose principal job is to whitewash all misdeeds of the Muslim rulers of this country. Suitably echoed by Mulayam Singh and the rest. The hour of the maggot has truly arrived. 

 

The writer is an author and BJP leader 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FUNDAMENTALISM OF THE LIBERAL KIND

TAVISHI SHRIVASTAVA


The difference between secular politicians' initial and studied responses is the realisation that culling Muslim votes depends on postponing a resolution on Ayodhya


A week after the landmark judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue in Ayodhya, political parties and sectarian, religious and fundamentalist groups in both the majority as well as the minority community have complicated the issue. Perhaps the highly politicised matter could hardly be acceptable without further dragging it to the Supreme Court. Some of the inner contradictions continue to dog the controversy with the main parties ccusing each other and the conciliatory talks, which were going on side by side. 


What is now worrying the so-called political outfits is the fact that they are all angling to appease the minorities obviously with an eye on the coming Vidhan Sabha election in the state. Apparently the plight of the Congress happens to be the worst of all as the leadership is speaking in double tones. At the first instance, it had welcomed the verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, but now after having second thoughts it believes that the Ayodhya title suits could not condone the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Congress Working Committee at its meeting held in New Delhi decided, "not to play a direct role in facilitating reconciliation between the two communities .On the contrary, it welcomed all the efforts by the main litigants to find an amicable settlement to the issue."


The Samajwadi Party was probably the first one to display its displeasure following the Ayodhya judgment. The SP chief, better known as the messiah of the Muslims, had said: "I am rather disappointed by the verdict since I am of the view that the question of land should not be decided on the grounds of faith. It is surprising that faith has been given priority over the judicial process and evidences. This is certainly neither good for the Constitution of the country nor for the judiciary." In the past Mulayam Singh Yadav had assured the minority the preservation of the Babri Masjid and remarked: "Yeha parinda bhi par nahi mar sakega." But what followed came as a shock for Yadav as he was out of power and the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. In the ensuing elections, the minorities who had till then formed the solid vote bank of the SP, gradually shifted their base to the rival Bahujan Samaj Party. The Muslims were also angry with the Congress for being a mute spectator when the Masjid was pulled down during its regime at the Centre. The then Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, had assured that he would not allow anyone to even go near the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This resulted in a complete exodus of the Muslims despite Rao's apologies. 


Now the national secretary of the CPI, Atul Kumar Anjaan, lashes out: "If you see the political connotations of both the Congress and the BJP, both the parties have used the Ayodhya issue to further their own political gains. They have acted aggressively while patronising religious fundamentalists active in Ayodhya from time to time." He explained that the High Court judgment was based on faith and religious belief and the basic tenets of history, archaeology, legal and logical facts with regard to secular democracy. The road to the Supreme Court is open to all and no one should interpret the High Court judgment to suit their political jurisprudence until the apex court takes a final decision. Lashing out at the Congress he remarked, "It is the party's historical nature that it always tried to fish in troubled waters. At present the party does not know where to go. Some questions are even being raised whether Congress is following the secularism of the late Pandit Nehru. Both the Congress as well as UP Chief Minister Mayawati are standing on the same pedestal, whereas the SP had taken a position right from day one. Just imagine what the CPI had said initially that a national monument be constructed at the controversial site in Ayodhya, is now being echoed by a vast section. Many people have risen from "runk to raja" from paupers to millionaires, as a result of the contentious Ayodhya issue."

Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Kalraj Mishra was of the view that all parties should refrain from issuing statements on the title suits in Aydohya. Pointing out that the contradictions he added, "The Congress has stated that despite the fact that it respects the High Court judgment, it is amazed at the Court's silence on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Both the issues were different. The Allahabad High Court had to decide the ownership of the land at the disputed site. The verdict dealt with title of the land. The demolition of the Babri Masjid was not under its purview. The HC judgment neither has a winner nor a loser, the BJP believes that the verdict is the culmination of a long battle." The state party spokesman, Vijay Bahdur Pathak, remarked, "Ayodhya is not a political issue. It is a symbol of national integration and culture of the country. No politics, please."

As politicians are trying to pull the Muslim votes in their kitties, they are trying to keep the Ayodhya controversy alive, at least till the elections. However it is equally surprising to note that the masses are hardly interested in the tug of war among the outfits. They feel that Ayodhya has by and large outlived its utility. There has been a perceptible shift in the agenda of the parties ever since the BJP had ridden the Ram wave to fulfil its political gains. The BJP which had claimed that it was a party with a difference seemed no better than the rest. Religion which had occupied priority over other issues has been put on the back burner while development of various constituencies is on the top position. In fact, it was observed that the trend in the recent elections was based on the performance of the party in the saddle. There was an instance wherein the electorate boycotted elections as a protest since the ruling party had failed to fulfil its electoral promise to the voters. No wonder political parties are eyeing the Muslim vote bank by hook or by crook in their efforts of reverting back to the Ayodhya issue.


-- The writer is Political Editor, The Pioneer, Lucknow 

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

BJP'S POSTURING ON J& K IS CYNICAL AND OF LITTLE HELP

 

THE Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) seems to have gotten its knickers in a twist over Omar Abdullah's remark that Jammu and Kashmir " acceded" rather than " merged" with India in 1947. Historically, Mr Abdullah is right. Like Jammu and Kashmir, some 560 Indian princely states became part of the Indian Union through a Instrument of Accession signed by its ruler. There was no provision for " merger." That happened in the case of Sikkim when an uprising led to its prime minister approaching the Indian Parliament to accept Sikkim into the Indian Union, an event confirmed by a subsequent referendum. " Mergers" usually happen with unitary states, the republic of India is, on the other hand, a federal union of states.

 

The BJP leaders have only betrayed their own ignorance of the Indian constitution. The party's approach throughout the current unrest has been reactionary and uncharacteristic of a responsible national party. Its vision of a hyper- nationalist unitary India and wild allegations like " the J& K government is backed by terrorists" is precisely the kind of rhetoric that provides fodder to the separatists.

 

The party's dubious role in organising violent protests and blockades during Amarnath agitations not only gave new lease of life to the secessionist movement but also perpetuated a culture of mob- violence.

 

Mr Abdullah's comments are significant as they define Azadi in terms of provincial autonomy on the lines of the National Conference's autonomy resolution of 2000. But they seem to be motivated more by the need to preserve the NC's political turf. It is this reluctance of the NC to concede any political space that has alienated it from vast sections of the Kashmiri people. It is important that all the political actors committed to the Indian union keep aside their narrow short- term interests and work towards a political resolution of the crisis.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

KEEP UP PRESSURE ON 26/ 11

 

THE international arrest warrant against five Pakistanis, including two serving army personnel, for their role in the horrific Mumbai carnage of November 2008 is better late than never. It has been just about a year since the FBI arrested David Coleman Headley and gained invaluable information about those who plotted the attack. Yet, it has taken all this time to issue the notices.

 

Three of the five, Syed Abdur Rehman Hashim, Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali are officers of the Pakistan Army. The other two, Sajjid Majid and Ilyas Kashmiri are Al Qaeda operatives, though the latter has been a member of the Pakistan Army at one time.

 

The importance of the warrants is that they target the principal conspirators of Mumbai . Pakistan has arrested Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Zarrar Shah and some others for the Mumbai attack, but they were obviously expendable.

 

On the other hand, Pakistan has refused to act against the military officials, even though they acknowledge that they may have been involved " without authorization" in the attack. The issuance of the warrant at the instance of a special judge in New Delhi is a means of telling the world of the role played by the Pakistani establishment in the attacks.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

A SIGNAL TO CHINA

 

BY awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel committee has sent a significant signal that China's rising economic and political power comes with greater responsibility towards human rights. This must be seen in the context of China's increasingly assertive posture as was evident in its recent confrontation with Japan and the fact that it tried to pressure the Nobel committee against Mr Xiabo's selection.

 

Unfortunately, given the authoritarian nature of the Chinese state, the honour to Mr Xiaobo is unlikely to help the cause of democracy and civil rights in the country, and may even prove counterproductive. The disconnect between Beijing and the international public opinion is evident from the hostile reaction of a Chinese foreign ministry official who termed Xiaobo's selection as a " blasphemy against the peace prize". Moreover, the influence of American interests on the peace prize — an extreme example of which was the selection of President Barack Obama last year — harms it's credibility and will only fuel further hostility in China.

 

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

SOMETIMES IT MAY BE BETTER TO SAY THAT YOU DON'T KNOW

BY ANJALI JOSEPH

 

DOESN'T synecdoche sounds as though it were some sort of medical complaint, maybe related to bones or joints? As in, " She suffers from synecdoche. She can't even stand up straight first thing in the morning", or, " Ashtanga yoga really keeps my synecdoche under control." Of course, it's actually a rhetorical figure of speech, the use of a part of something to stand for the whole (" New Delhi's response is..." when what's meant is the Indian government's response). It's on my mind now because in recent months I've started to feel like a walking synecdoche, or at least as though some of the people I come into contact with would like it if I were.

 

Ayodhya

 

Since last week, and the Allahabad high court's verdict on the Babri masjid petition, the idea of what it means to be an Indian is once again prominent in the ether. It's a question that's both compelling and tedious, in somewhat the way that talking about a relationship is; like talking about a relationship, it tends to happen when things aren't going that well, and turns not into a way of resolving problems but into an absorbing activity all its own.

 

I'm reminded of the scene in English, August when Upamanyu Chatterjee's protagonist Agastya is cornered by a persistent and boring woman at the Madna Club, who asks him what being Indian means to him. He tries to deflect the question, but she's relentless. Finally he says that he supposes that anyone who is born an Indian and hasn't bothered to go to the trouble of changing his or her passport is an Indian. " That's shut the bitch up," he concludes, silently and triumphantly.

 

In the small parts of the television coverage of the verdict that I saw on the internet, since I wasn't in India, there were moments when people in Ayodhya itself were interviewed about the masjid/ Ram Janmabhoomi question.

 

Frequently, they tried to point out, with the slightly desperate patience of people whom no one will ever really listen to, that this was not their battle and never had been, that they didn't want to get into it, that they wanted to exist in peace.

 

It's a much smaller and, in the overall scheme of things, clearly more insignificant question, but I feel the same when people ask me questions about what it means to be an Indian, or an Indian writer, or how Indians feel about this or that question. How could I possibly know? Why are you asking? Or, alternatively, there are as many possible legitimate answers to this as the result of the sum of one billion multiplied by how many times a day each of us changes her or his mind about anything.

 

Writers

 

But people — including me — are stupid and lazy, and it is tempting to feel that every small bit of knowledge one troubles to acquire is actually a thread that, if pulled hard enough, will turn out to be attached to a much larger scheme for understanding complex things.

 

Ignorance gets a bad press, but talking rubbish doesn't, perhaps because the media survives on using a little bit

of knowledge to extrapolate to much larger suggestions.

 

Over the course of a career in journalism, that could add up to actual expertise.

 

But when it becomes a tendency instead to canvass one opinion and turn that opinion into a fact, it's obviously

ridiculous.

I thought of this when one of the publicity people at a literary festival I was peripherally involved with asked

me to answer questions for a local newspaper in London. They wanted to know why British Asians weren't writing more novels, and what could be done to get them to write more novels, questions that stalled me.

 

Briefly, I had worrying visions of myself flitting phantom- like into British Asian households and tearing teenagers away from their iPhones and laptops and forcing their noses into books or e- readers.

 

I also realised that I had no idea how many novels a year are published in Britain, and which proportion of those

by British authors are by Asians, and whether this is disproportionately low given the size of the Asian population in Britain.

 

Was I supposed to know this? I felt as though I'd been caught with my homework undone. But in fact, all they wanted was an opinion. I felt overwhelming weariness, pointed out carefully that I'm not British, and therefore not a British Asian, and retreated.

 

A day or so later, someone asked in a radio interview what I had been trying to represent about India when I wrote about two characters in a novel. Again, I didn't really understand the question.

 

Indeed, I found it a very strange question.

 

Novelists are not secret service personnel who operate under a cloak of the clandestine, at least not when they are lucky enough to live in a politically free country.

 

If they had things to say about the state of the nation, would they not do so openly? If someone writes then about other things, like specific invented people, or real places, why not simply assume that is what she or he wished to write about?

 

Agnosis

 

I've decided my new yogic asana is going to be agnosis, or if you prefer, ignorance.

 

Smile and repeat after me the mantra: " I don't know." What does the new India think about globalisation? I don't know. Was the site of the Babri masjid the birthplace of Lord Ram, a person of whose factual existence there is no recorded evidence ( please note, I'm not saying that means he wasn't real)? I don't know. When the Supreme Court's own investigation into the demolition of the masjid concluded that this event was not accidental or spontaneous but, in fact, planned and organised, why have those who were responsible not been charged in a criminal court? I don't know. Why don't the people who care so much about their Hindu dharma clean up our holiest river, the Ganga, currently choking under pollution, rather than worrying about the birthplace of a divine incarnation? I don't know.

 

Will it shut the bitches up? I don't know.

Try it and see.

The writer's debut book is Saraswati Park published by Harper Collins ( 2010)

 

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MAIL TODAY

THIRD UMPIRE

GAMES OC NEEDS A FEW LESSONS IN ETIQUETTE

QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI

 

THERE is little room for debate that hockey wizard Dhyan Chand's family is not just the game's No. 1 family of India, but the numero uno of all sports. Members of this clan have won India a total of five Olympic gold medals and one bronze besides one World Cup gold, one silver and one bronze medal. This is besides their numerous appearances in international matches and hundreds of goals.

 

But, for some inexplicable and strange reason, this humble family has often not got its due, especially at big occasions.

 

Dhyan Chand, a triple Olympic gold medallist, himself had to face several embarrassing situations, including the time when he was critically ill and admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. Even after he died, the officialdom failed to react in time even as his son Ashok Kumar, a former India captain, rushed to the Pachkuiyan Road crematorium to hire a van to take the body to their native place, Jhansi.

 

Even at the ongoing Commonwealth Games ( CWG), the family has been virtually ignored by all, including the sports ministry, the CWG organising committee, the Indian Olympic Association ( IOA) and the national hockey federation, that is if it exists at all.

 

Ashok Kumar, who scored the title- winning goal at the 1975 World Cup, feels the pinch. " I have been given a single accreditation for the CWG hockey competition. What am I supposed to do with it alone? What's the use if my family members are not allowed to accompany me to a venue that is ironically named after my father — the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium?" he told MAIL TODAY . " During the 1982 Asia Games too I had received only one pass." Ashok says his son is buying the match tickets daily. " My elder brother Brij Mohan Singh has come down from Kota to watch the matches, thinking that I would be able to take him to the stadium," he said. " The real issue is not only about my family; there are many other players, including Olympians, like me who are facing the same treatment." For instance, Ali Sayeed, a member of the 1964 gold medalwinning Olympic team, came down to Delhi from Gorakhpur to watch the World Cup held in Delhi in February- March. But he was given a royal ignore by IOA president Suresh Kalmadi as IOA- appointed Hockey India had organised the tournament.

 

Ashok too was initially ignored for the World Cup. " But after I wrote to Kalmadi, I received 10 passes for my family," he says.

 

Frustrated, he went to meet the CWG ticketing in- charge Harish Sharma on Friday, but the visit was in vain.

 

Unlike in hockey, the Board of Control for Cricket in India doles out hundreds of passes to all former international players for Tests and ODIs while matchhosting associations separately provide passes to local players.

 

Interestingly, the Gwalior District Cricket Association delivers five passes at the residence of Roop Singh — the younger brother of Dhyan Chand and twice Olympic gold medallist — for each ODI played in that city, discloses Ashok. " They do that even today, without fail, as a mark of respect because the venue, the Roop Singh Stadium, is named after him," he says.

 

Ashok narrates another startling story. " Dhyan Chand was ignored for an international tournament held in Ahmedabad in 1968- 69 and he had to buy match tickets. Yes, it happened with him," he discloses.

 

At the 1982 World Cup in Bombay, Ashok had to go through a similar humiliation. " I had just retired and despite that I was not given while I saw hotel waiters and peons taking away bundles of passes," he reveals. "[ For some people] we as a family are dead and gone," he said. " We are into hockey for the love of it; we are ready to give. We don't want anything, but they should at least acknowledge our contribution to the game."

 

VILLAGE STILL BASED ON DESI- STYLE ADJUSTMENT

DESPITE CWG organisers' claims that everything was now hunky- dory at the Athletes' Village, " adjustments" continue to be made. Apparently several people are still trying to check in, with no rooms available.

 

A request was made to an official on duty at the Village on Friday but he declined it, saying there are no rooms at all. " The person who called wanted us to adjust three more people, in addition to the five who have already checked in [ in a particular category]. We have told them to come later as there is hardly any room to accommodate them," said the official.

 

" We told them that some gymnasts and swimmers are leaving on Sunday, so some space will be created then." Another official said that athletes checked in late because the track and field competition was supposed to begin later. " Indian discus thrower Krishna Poonia and her coach- cum- husband Virendar were one of the latest athletes to check in at the Village on their return from Ukraine. They came on Thursday and were accommodated as per the existing check- in list," he said. " A few days ago, legendary PT Usha along with her protégé Tintu Luka had checked in and were happy with the accommodation."

 

PLUMBING WOES FOR SWANKY HOCKEY STADIUM

SERIOUS plumbing problems at the world's best hockey stadium have forced teams competing in the Commonwealth Games to another location for postmatch ice baths. Sports manager Denis Meredith, employed by the CWG organising committee, said that this problem was identified during the World Cup this year but persists even now.

 

" Here, I understand, the pipes are too small to take in the water, which is spreading everywhere. It was noticed during the World Cup but still hasn't been fixed." Meredith told M AIL T ODAY . " All other teething problems have been resolved with hard work. But we haven't really resolved the plumbing problems; they are working on it every day here. We have made some arrangement for the teams to have their ice baths in the spare change rooms on Pitch No. 2, to reduce the water in the original change rooms. Teams are happy with that," said the Aussie who was here as an FIH official at the World Cup too.

 

There have been other " teething problems", like disbersing the payment to technical officials and a pipe burst at the main field, but 66- year- old Meredith said all of them have been resolved.

 

" Initially, they wanted to pay the daily allowance only to India's international technical officials. They are in five- star hotels with us. But they have now fixed that. The usual practice is that everyone is treated as equal if they are appointed by the FIH, but this is not an FIH tournament.

 

If they are appointed by locals, it's different," he said. " We have six Indian international technical officials on our panel out of a total of 44 from around the world. We get $ 50 as daily out of pocket allowance besides two meals a day — it's very fair." But Meredith's own accreditation problem continues. " My accreditation was invalid. They issued a new accreditation and it's still invalid, but I am still getting in. I think the problem is that they have not updated their database, which they apparently do once a day. The men's tournament director still doesn't have a car," he said, listing a few other problems that continue.

 

Qaiser.ali@mailtoday.in

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

SPOOF OF IDENTITY

 

The Di is cast. In a 'royal' gaffe, Suresh Kalmadi recently avowed that "Princess Diana was there" at the Games opening ceremony. Prince Charles's spouse Camilla wouldn't have enjoyed being confused with royal biwi No. 1, the late "people's princess". Sure, the 'pati, patni aur pehli woh' blunder drew sniggers. But consider a British news item on the incident. While ribbing Kalmadi, it pokes fun at India's PM being asked to shift seats so the "president's wife" could sit next to Prince Charles. So far as we desis know our prez is a lady, who certainly doesn't have a "wife". Rather, hubby dear is generally part of her jumbo entourages, discounting the time she rode a fighter jet short on space. 


Foot-in-mouth, evidently, kicks both ways. Unless gaffe-bags can't pretend their cluelessness about people's identities is a comedy of errors. As US presidential candidate, Bush Jr once faced a foreign policy quiz to test if he was a man of the world. Asked if he could name Chechnya's president, his admirable reply was: "No, can you?" Nor was his inability to identify the General in Pakistan's labyrinth incomprehensible. How could he have known then that his future "stalwart ally" would be baptised Busharraf? 


Some willingly blur identity. Take the youngest son of ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-un suddenly so resembles his grandpa, the ruling dynasty's founder, that a cosmetic surgeon is rumoured to have done the trick. If that's true, this is probably the first case in the plastic age that jowls replace slim cheeks and a youthful single chin courts double trouble. If Hollywood stars went under this doc's knife, they'd join the ranks of the US jobless. 


Back home, the BJP's e-identity has undergone cyber-surgery. Net-users entering an e-portal resembling the party's have been routed to arch-rival Congress's website! Well, since the BJP hops between riding chariots of ire and catching the "vikas" bus, surfers may have been spared bafflement about the object of their search. Admit it though: if there's never a dull moment, it's thanks to shape-shifters. Why can't protean Pervez pose as a great democrat or saffronites sing of Hindi-Jinnah bhai-bhai? As for Lalu, the lalten-wallah who once denied Bihar roads now promises motorbikes for schoolkids. Hasn't popular CM Nitish Kumar done the same with cycles? Why not pinch a rival's mode of political transport for a few votes more? 


Identity is a many-sundered thing, in life and beyond. So it is that Michael Jackson seems born again as scarecrows in a Taiwan rice farm. No optical illusion, these straw-guys in fedora hats are a farmer's news-grabbing way of giving the now-deceased King of Pop a new scaremonger's identity. It's a thriller, this licence to wear as many topis and masks as possible. As MJ would say, don't stop till you get enough.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

TIME FOR A FRESH START

CHETAN BHAGAT

 

Before i begin, i would like to make the usual disclaimer about writing a political column: I have no bias towards any party. The only party i support is the 'we-do-a-good-job' party. My views are as an observer of trends, and recent indicators do show that the BJP is in a stronger position than ever before. But can it come to power? Well, it is possible. However, converting that strong position to being in office will take a few steps which i'll try to outline below. I do this mainly because a strong opposition brings out the best in the ruling party, which in turn is best for the country. 


First, i must say the restraint shown by the BJP after the temple verdict is impressive. Think about it; the judgement essentially proved the BJP right. It is an issue the BJP spearheaded over the past few decades at the cost of significant negative PR, losing almost all moderate voters and gaining a sticky communal image. The BJP and its best friends the RSS, VHP and other saffron-lovers didn't do a fist-pumping exercise. There weren't victory marches or celebrations. No, the BJP and company kept quiet and maintained, for the first time in their history, poise. 


It is difficult to do that when you are in the opposition. A victory like this would be tempting to highlight especially for party workers sitting idle at ground level. A feast for the priests, a yagna lots of PR-friendly options were there to gain instant attention. 


So why didn't the BJP do it? More than that, how were they able to control their feisty friends in saffron? 


The answer is simple the BJP is, and knows that it is, in a stronger position than ever before. 


The self-goals by the Congress have helped it to a large extent. Unchecked spending in the budget led to massive inflation; the Commonwealth Games mega-corruption scam where the accused are still shielded; the vacillating on Kashmir, are just a few mistakes made by the ruling party. Add a top leadership that controls everything but says nothing classic signs of non-accountability and it isn't a pretty picture. The scale has tilted in BJP's favour, which in any case had only a 4 per cent lower vote share than the Congress in the previous election (hence a mere 2 per cent switch to the other direction is enough to change the game). 


But self-goals or unforced errors are not the only things that make people switch their vote. People need to be attracted to the BJP rather than come to it merely because of being repelled by the Congress. To give an analogy from a different world Apple had a history of attacking Microsoft. While it did give Apple some cult fans, it never made Apple a serious threat. It is only when Apple made significantly better products that people made the switch. Today, Apple is bigger than Microsoft in market value. 


So what would be the better product offered by the BJP? First, they will need to clarify their core values and goals in brief. Manifestos are too long and archaic. The core values should fit on the back of a visiting card, or fit in an SMS, and be easy to understand. A possible set of core values can be full accountability and communication; zero tolerance for corruption; youth representation and secular, inclusive, pro-business growth. 

Second, the core values should be backed by action. Accountability and communication can come from making it mandatory for all sitting MPs to make their work diaries public on an online platform. Zero tolerance for corruption can come from proactively and publicly weeding out corrupt elements within their own party well before trials prove them guilty. Youth focus can come from a formal youth recruitment drive and reserving a significant percentage of tickets for youth candidates. All these actions would require the kind of politics 
India may not have seen before but is definitely ready for. 


Third comes a somewhat cosmetic but still important point. Leaders must come across as aspirational to the youth, which means everything is important qualifications, communication skills, charisma, grooming and, yes, fitness and looks as well. While this may come across as shallow, these traits make a person media friendly, and the power of the media cannot be underestimated. 


Finally, there has to be an end to psycho-like behaviour rabid speeches just don't inspire confidence. Hate-speech makers are akin to an actress doing an item number in movies they attract attention but they lose credibility for a long-term career. Decide whether you want the lead role or the item number. 


Pretty soon the Commonwealth games will be over and Parliament will reopen. The real fireworks will be seen then if the opposition unites to get the guilty punished. Taking a leadership role in that exercise, the BJP can finally shed its old skin and emerge in a prettier avatar a modern, secular, moderate, right wing party. It is then we will finally have a real opposition. It is then that temple bells will finally ring, waking up the smug rulers we have today. It is then we will have a chance of having not just a Ram Janmabhoomi, but a Ram Rajya (now that's a useful catchphrase). Are you up for the challenge, BJP? 


The writer is a best-selling novelist.

 

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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

JUST GRAFFITI

REDISCOVERING EMPEROR ASHOKA

GAUTAM ADHIKARI

 

WASHINGTON: Just as a mug of strong coffee is leavened with milk, so must strong governance be moderated by a sound system of ethics. Heard that before? Well, it goes a long way back, in fact to Emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. 


No, Ashoka did not wake up to the smell of coffee in those days. But he deserves the title 'great' more than the conqueror who came up to the River Jhelum just before Ashoka's grandfather, Chandragupta, established the Maurya dynasty in Pataliputra. In any review in line with today's values, Alexander and his father Philip of Macedon were brigands; Ashoka was one of the world's earliest known enlightened rulers. 


It's a pity that Ashoka's historical profile is globally far less prominent than that of Alexander. We in India grew up learning about his magnanimity and that of other enlightened rulers such as Harsha Vardhana and Emperor Akbar. In the West, the wisdom of these rare men is unknown to most schoolchildren. Lately, however, a few intellectuals have begun to draw attention to them, particularly to Ashoka. 


Apart from Amartya Sen's many writings on the subject, references to the governance style of Ashoka appear in a number of recent books and essays. For instance, in his book The Rational Optimist (Harper Collins, 2010) Matt Ridley, a writer on evolutionary thought and an open market enthusiast, applauds Ashoka's opening up the Mauryan economy, efficient tax administration and building of solid infrastructure to facilitate trade. Bruce Rich, environmentalist and left-leaning critic of globalisation, has republished his 2008 book To Uphold The World: A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India (Beacon, 2010), which is all about Ashoka. 


Third in the line of Mauryan emperors, Ashoka inherited a system of governance fashioned by Chandragupta acting on the advice of Kautilya, the brilliant writer of Arthasastra, the world's first treatise on political economy and statecraft. Kautilya emphasised the building and smooth functioning of institutions based on his clear conviction that people would behave well only through a combination of restraint, punishment as well as well-devised incentives. Ashoka added an ethical dimension. 


Rich says that the emperor relied substantially on the Kautilyan system but went beyond by infusing it with a different ethic. Ashoka's core doctrine was a reverence for life, which went beyond the role of just treatment by human beings of one another because "reverence for life means upholding the world". 


Writes Sen, in a foreword to Rich's volume, that an "underlying concept of fairness is based on Ashoka's basic belief, influenced by his conversion to Buddhism, in the fundamental value of all life. It is a shared reverence for life that can, according to this approach, make everyone behave spontaneously in a responsible and considerate way, without the compulsion of forced good behaviour." 


In other words, Ashoka's idea of good governance rested on a strong institutional framework of Kautilyan political economy but was well-tempered by a sense of fair play, justice and human rights. Which is what liberal democracy today is all about. 


Twenty-two and a half centuries down the road, we are still working on how to strike a right balance between enabling justice and rights on one hand and strong institutional functioning of the state on the other to ensure good governance. India's modern administrators seem to be supervising a degenerating quasi-imperial model of governance which was well suited to optimise revenue extraction and keep unruly subjects on leash, while opposition to such haughty rule is stuck in a stale mode of hartals and burning of public property, idiotic fasts and effete walkouts. 


Perhaps a process of rediscovery is due. Maybe a young set of leaders will rise who will read the humanitarian edicts of Ashoka and study the astute advice of Kautilya on the ins and outs of good governance while preparing to accept positions of public responsibility. They could do well to remember that one old leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, revered Ashoka and thought Kautilya was much cleverer than Machiavelli. 


Maybe they will, like Ashoka, realise with humility that governance today is not rule by the mighty in democratic garb. It is learning how to be servants of the people.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

BOTH CAN COEXIST COMFORTABLY

 

Nobel laureate Mario Vargos Llosa is a man of many parts. Though best known for his fiction, Llosa is a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines. He believes that journalism helps him have "a toehold in reality". A writer, Llosa argues, must not shut off the world and be confined to his library. 


Llosa's view of journalism as a possible bridge for a creative writer to society is spot on. There's a misconception that practising journalism impairs creative writing. The logic behind this argument is that journalism is an inferior trade influenced by the here-and-now of events, whereas creative writing is a journey across boundaries of space and time. The first part of the argument is true, but the latter mystifies the writer's profession. Journalism is certainly no enemy of creative writing. On the contrary one could feed the other, as Llosa both suggests and exemplifies. 


Some of the greatest 20th century writers have been journalists. Gabriel Garcia Marquez worked for newspapers until his classic work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, became a bestseller. But the salient point is that he continues to produce reportage and has even set up a journalism institute. Writers like Albert CamusGeorge OrwellJoseph Roth, Ernest Hemingway there are so many of them could easily combine the twin tasks of preparing reportage and commentary for newspapers and writing fiction and philosophical tracts. 


Another important aspect to be remembered is a piece of journalism could in the course of time qualify as creative writing. The reportage of Ryszard Kapuscinski (Soccer Wars, Imperium), Michael Herr (Dispatches), Vassily Grossman (The Road) is considered on par with the finest non-fiction ever written. Good journalism like good literature is about man and society. At their peak, both are reflections on the human condition. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

WRITERS FUNCTION BEST AT A REMOVE

ANIL THAKKAR

 

Given the trajectory Mario Vargas Llosa has followed as a writer, it is not surprising that he feels that a writer must immerse himself in reality; that being a journalist affords one the chance to do precisely that. But Llosa may well be the exception that proves the rule. For every Llosa, there is a Marcel Proust someone he himself used to illustrate his point or a Cormac McCarthy or Thomas Pynchon; hugely influential literary figures and famously reclusive, choosing to shut themselves away from the world to focus on their craft. 


Llosa, in fact, is one of the lucky few. Others have attempted to mingle reportage and the literary arts and failed. V S Naipaul, another Nobel Prize winner, is a case in point. Since he turned his attention to non-fiction, travelling through, say, India or swathes of Africa and examining their shifting landscapes a leisurely form of reportage, but reportage nevertheless his fiction output has shrivelled. This, after all, is the same man who said that the novel is dead. Arundhati Roy is another example. She's a writer who, after winning the Booker Prize for her debut novel, has focussed her energies on espousing the Naxal cause and has had nothing left over for a literary career. 


This either/or equation is not surprising. Literature, in its purest expression, deals with the expression of overarching themes; of the history of ideas. Viewed from this perspective, there is a fundamental dichotomy between the art of the writer who must thus view the world at a remove to discern the patterns he writes about and the journalist who is knee-deep in his reality, compelled to write about the here-and-now to a deadline. Llosa aside, the transcendent and the immediate do not mix well. 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

TALKING ABOUT A GREAT GAME

 

Everyone in Afghanistan is talking with the Taliban. While New Delhi is little more than a mute observer of these negotiations, their consequences for India will be considerable. But India should not expect too much good news from talks with militant groups like the Haqqani network, whose main patrons are Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.

 

India can understandably be in two minds about reports that Kabul and Washington, with Islamabad serving as an interlocutor, are holding peace talks with elements of the Afghan Taliban.

 

Almost anything that allows Afghans to put down their guns and return to normalcy is a plus for India. However, New Delhi can rightly be worried at how much of the goodwill that Afghans have for India will be allowed to manifest itself in a Kabul regime that includes Taliban elements.

 

The present round of negotiations seems to be a consequence of all-round weariness. The Obama administration has been desperate to begin a US pullout from Afghanistan even before it was elected. President Hamid Karzai has been trying to find a like-minded Taliban leader for years, in large part because he fears a US pullout.

 

Pakistan is in less of a hurry, but the rise of the Pakistan Taliban is sufficient cause for it to want some stability. Finally, there is some evidence that the depredations of US drones has led even a hardline group like the Haqqani network to accept negotiations as an option. But there should be little doubt that Pakistan and the Taliban are playing a slightly stronger hand. The US and Afghanistan distrust each other so much as to almost be two separate players at the table.

 

If there is anything India should seek to do in this game, it would be to strengthen the hand of the US and the Afghan government. This will not be easy. But there are signs India has broken free of its previous dependence 
on the old Northern Alliance and has made considerable inroads among the Pashtun majority.

 

Polls show Afghans of all stripes give India the highest favourable rating of any country. New Delhi should leverage this, along with its relationships with other Afghan neighbours, to try and tilt the balance at the negotiating table.

 

This may not be all that much, but in this version of the Great Game no one is overwhelmingly dominant and small differences can have a large impact.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

A VERY REAL ESTATE

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

 

I do not know if the precincts of the high court in Lucknow have a garden and if that garden has maalis. I have simply assumed that to be the case for the following imaginary narration.

 

Waiting for the court's pronouncement on the Ayodhya case, a reporter gets to talk to two gardeners, Yusuf and Raghu, in the grounds of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

 

Reporter: What do you think will be the verdict?

 

Raghu: What can it say? If it says mandir, then the masjidwalas will be cross…

 

Yusuf: And if it says masjid, the mandirwalas will not forgive it.

 

Reporter: But the court has to pass some order. But then if no one is satisfied, what is the use?

 

Yusuf: But then this is not just about individuals.

 

Raghu: It is about communities.

 

Reporter: Is it really about communities? Is the man on the street really bothered about whether there should be a mandir or the mosque should be re-built?

 

Raghu: I would say, the man in the street is bothered but within limits. The man in the street would like to see something done in Ayodhya, which satisfies pious people. But the man in the street wouldn't want to either break anyone's head for that or have his own head broken in the bargain.

 

Reporter: So, what according to you would 'satisfy pious people'?

 

Raghu: Let us see… One side says, 'You have broken our mosque'…

 

Yusuf: The other side jumps and says: 'But you broke our temple before that…'

 

Raghu: The first side then says '… No, no it was already broken… in ruins…'

 

Yusuf: Then the other side says '… Let that be so, why did you have to build a mosque over that ruin or over any ruin…?'

 

Raghu: The first side then says 'I did not… Babur did… and that was a long time ago…'

 

Yusuf: The other side then asks: 'But was that right?'

 

Raghu:  To which the first side says 'I can't answer that but was it right for the old mosque to be brought down now?'

 

Reporter: And so it goes on and on…

 

Yusuf: Yes, on and on.

 

Reporter: Think of a solution that would satisfy pious people.

 

Raghu: I'd say before anything else, there was soil, there was something growing on it, watered by the river. And plants grew on that soil, trees, flowering trees, fruit-bearing trees…

 

Yusuf: Khajur…

 

Raghu: Banyan…

 

Yusuf: Roses… There were streams there…

 

Raghu: And ponds…

 

Reporter: And so, what does that take us to?

 

Yusuf: There was peace... No one thought of 'this is mine'.

 

Raghu:  'No, no it is mine'.

 

Reporter: This is all very beautiful, but…

 

Yusuf: … what will satisfy pious people?

 

Raghu: The trouble is pious people are not just 'pious'. They are also now…

 

Reporter: Influenced by others, by people with their own plans.

 

Yusuf: Exactly. The whole trouble starts from there.

 

Reporter: And so…?

 

Raghu: Back to your question?

 

Reporter: No, forward to some solution. Your solution, shall we say.

 

Yusuf: All right, let us say that there may have been a temple there… which may have been pulled down...

 

Raghu: Was pulled down…

 

Yusuf: And in its place a mosque built and was also pulled down... So now, let us say goodbye to all buildings there…

 

Raghu: No buildings?

 

Yusuf: Arey, how many buildings can you build on two or three acres anyway, especially, if each has to have some walking space around it for a decent garden…? You asked us your question as we are malis right? So, let us say let us have on the site on which stood a mosque and on which earlier stood a temple, what existed before those structures were built… what may have been seen by the devta…

 

Raghu: Ramchandraji.

 

Yusuf: Yes, Ramchandraji and his abba…

 

Raghu: Raja Dasrath.

 

Yusuf: Right, what those two might have seen…

 

Raghu: As is, if they were to come there now, they would recognise it as their own place…

 

Yusuf: Right. Let us plant at the centre of the site, right below the central dome… Let us plant… What would

you suggest, Raghu?

 

Raghu: A huge banyan…

 

Yusuf: Barhiya! A great banyan, with many roots…

 

Raghu: It'll grow slowly but grow great… it will give shade… shelter…

 

Reporter: I like the idea...

 

Raghu: The banyan, sending newer and ever newer roots which grow into trunks themselves and then send another generation of roots down, tells us about eternal life…

 

Yusuf: That should be at the centre of the site. Around it should be other trees...

 

Reporter: And not just trees but perhaps some flowering shrubs as well?

 

Raghu: The parijat, certainly. Such fragrance!

 

Yusuf: I would insist on the rose, all varieties of it.

 

Reporter: If we have the banyan and other trees with a wild look won't the rose-lines look too… too streamlined?

 

Yusuf: Janab, life is like that, is it not, a little wild, a little in our hands…

 

Raghu: Let us have the banyan in the middle, with a scatter of trees all around it, the khajur trees on an elevation to the west so that they can be seen against the brilliantly changing lights at sunset, and in between them, not trimmed rows of roses but rose bushes so that we can see them in their own natural condition… And let us have on the opposite side, the east, tulsi bushes growing wild…

 

Reporter: I am entranced…

 

Raghu: Sir, look… the court seems to have given its decision…

 

Reporter: Heavens! I missed it…

 

Yusuf: That bearded gentleman there… he looks pleased!

 

Raghu: And that other bearded gentleman… He looks a little downcast.

 

Yusuf: Janab, now don't you feel downcast at having missed the moment in the court. We have seen thousands of orders being given. This way and that. But the grass here, it never stops growing. The more the rose bush is trimmed, the more fragrant comes the flower.

 

Raghu: And oh yes, I forgot to say, we must have on the Ayodhya garden…

 

Reporter: Will there be one?

 

Raghu: Why not… some day… when everyone has had enough of buildings… I was saying we must have on that garden some sandalwood trees.

 

Yusuf: Absolutely… The axe that falls on it, janab… it gets scented. Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

A CHINK IN THE ARMOUR

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

The Aadhaar universal ID has been rolled out to general applause and will soon change our lives across the board. The project should accomplish its mission, which is to improve the delivery of rural welfare. It may liberate the poor and marginalised from the cash economy and give them access to formal finance and banking. And if the ID is made mandatory for big transactions, it may reduce money laundering and shrink the black economy. And yet, a crucial chapter is missing from this bestselling success story. The law protecting Aadhaar data from illegal access is yet to be written.

 

Remember 1991, when Manmohan Singh and P.V. Narasimha Rao topped the bestseller lists by opening up the economy? That success story had suffered because Singh neglected to write a crucial chapter on safeguards. Liberalisation without adequate controls and oversight spawned the Harshad Mehta scam, which wiped out the stock market, destroyed nascent public confidence in investing and damaged the reputation of leading banks and institutions, including the Prime Minister's Office.

 

Two decades later, we are repeating history by rolling out the Aadhaar story to gushing reviews, but with a chapter missing again. It was supposed to lay down the law on privacy and data security. In India, electoral rolls have been used to target riots. We have seen profiling by religion, region, class and community — ask the Muslims, the Nagas, the very poor and the 'criminal tribes'. The government is blasé about even the lowest form of data crime, mobile spam. However, it temporarily banned bulk SMSes before the Ayodhya judgement, so it's not helpless in this matter. It's just not very helpful. It's increasingly disrespectful of the citizen's privacy and, invoking the spectre of terrorism, wants to read our lives like an open book. In this atmosphere, implementing Aadhaar without privacy safeguards is as risky as liberalising the economy without market controls.

 

Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, has said that the agency only gathers identity data, which is already available with separate government agencies, adds biometrics and uses it to authenticate identity. 
But that is a half-truth. Aadhaar already has a financial profile thanks to its welfare and banking functions. Besides, it will connect the dots between the data stockpiles of various government agencies. It will assemble fragmented data about individuals into comprehensive information and, through connections with the National Population Register and the National Intelligence Grid, it will allow government to generate the profile of anyone residing in India, right down to their travel patterns and spending habits.

 

Terrorists and thugs will get their just deserts, but should the rest of us be data-mined? Especially when we know that our data will be leaked or sold eventually, like our phone numbers are sold to spammers? Many countries have seen misuse of national identity data despite having legal safeguards like the European Directive on Data Protection or the US Federal Privacy Statute. And the Aadhaar system's data safeguards are merely technical and procedural, not legal. Before it is fully deployed, we should enact umbrella legislation specifying penalties for illegal or arbitrary data access, whether by government, private parties or individuals. Until then, Aadhaar will remain a success story with a tragic flaw.

 

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

 

pratik@littlemag.com

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DISSIDENT'S TURN

 

The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded this year to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China," is an inalienably politic choice, never given without a motive. Awarding it to Barack Obama last year, then just nine months into his presidency, set to rest in perpetuity all notions of a Peace prize without a message. If the 2009 award was a signal to the surprised US president to follow up on his rhetoric, this time round the Norwegian Nobel committee, believing that "there is a close connection between human rights and peace", has signalled the People's Republic to clean up its human rights record. The writing on Beijing's wall: with power comes responsibility; your breathtaking economic progress is fine, but you still practise political medievalism. The liberties promised in your own constitution are distinctly absent from your political reality. You must change.

 

Liu Xiaobo, jailed for 11 years for his role in the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and for drafting Charter 08 — a call for democracy, electoral politics and human rights observation in China — is the People's Republic's most famous dissident abroad, but almost unknown within China. While the confused Chinese can neither privately take pride in nor publicly celebrate a fellow citizen's Nobel glory, Beijing has not only warned of damage to Sino-Norwegian relations but had also blacked out the broadcast of the announcement, calling the choice an "insult" to the Peace prize.

 

Liu Xiaobo, whose Charter 08 evokes memories of Charter 77 — both the document and the civil initiative associated above all with Vaclav Havel, poet-playwright, former Czech dissident and president, and a supporter of the 2010 Peace Laureate — probably doesn't know yet he's won the Nobel, and will have to wait till his wife is allowed to visit him and convey the news. But both he and the regime that's jailed him know that a "politic" choice is not just judicious but also cunning.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

 

BEWARE PROTECTIONISM

 

Speaking at the India Investment Forum in New York, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee warned the US against resorting to protectionism. What he likely had in mind specifically in the context of the bilateral relationship were US restrictions on H1B visas and the persistent political tirade against outsourcing. Unfortunately, the ugly head of protectionism is rising globally at precisely the moment when the global economy needs it the least. There are, of course, reasons for this. The post-crisis economic recovery in many parts of the world, but particularly in the advanced economies, has been painfully slow; unemployment rates are high. The temptation for politicians to lurch to damaging populism, against free trade, is therefore quite high.

 

More worrying than careless rhetoric is the potential outbreak of a real currency war, where countries try to outdo each other in undervaluing their currencies to give a boost to exports and growth. China is the root of this problem, insisting on a rigid, undervalued peg to the US dollar. This gives it an unfair advantage over other exporting countries: countries like Thailand and Colombia have already responded by devaluing their currencies. The advanced economies are also tempted to respond in kind. The US has been trying to push the dollar down by keeping interest rates close to zero. In the midst of this damaging race to the bottom, countries like Brazil and India, which have, so far, not resorted to blatant currency manipulation, are likely to take a hit on the export front. Over the medium term, if everyone joins the budding currency war, all the world will get is higher inflation and no real gains on either exports or growth for any single country.

 

This is going to be a test for international policy coordination at the next G-20 summit in South Korea, and could well determine the credibility of this institution. After the euphoria over coordinated stimulus in late 2008, international coordination has been rather disjointed. Even the long-promised reform of IMF voting structures, something the finance minister flagged in New York on Thursday, has remained a promise unfulfilled.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DAMMING EVIDENCE

 

If there is one focus for the growing concern that UPA-II is characterised by policy incoherence, it could be the Union environment ministry. Yes, it must implement environmental regulations carefully. But that must not serve to encourage populist nay-saying; nor should it be used to undermine policy directions decided on by the cabinet. Yet these are precisely the directions in which the ministry has deliberately chosen to take its policy interventions. There is a careless irresponsibility at work here that threatens not only the UPA's authority but also the chances of a political consensus around a depoliticised, effective environment policy.

 

Consider the letter Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has written to the PM. It asks for all hydel power projects in Arunachal Pradesh to be reviewed and for a moratorium on further clearances. Is this a straightforward application of his job description? On first sight, perhaps — but emphatically not if you consider the context of this intemperate demand. First: the development of India's border areas has been prioritised, both as a strategic and a humane necessity. Humane, because these areas have for too long suffered from an infrastructure deficit that multiplies the negative effects on their peoples of their isolation; strategic, because, across the border, China's massive connectivity projects are creating a palpable infrastructure gap.

 

More context: the minister says that dams are "bound to be the subject of agitation" in Assam. He claims this on the basis of meetings with NGOs he has personally chosen to empower through a process of "consultation" that cuts out the people affected and instead engages those who are unelected that yet claim, for one reason or another, to speak for the affected. To stoke up trouble between upper and lower riparian states, and to link it to the Congress's prospects in

 

Assam's assembly elections, shows that this minister, like some other members of his party, is unwilling to pay even lip service to the responsibilities that go with being in the council of ministers. In a country as complex as India, being a Union minister requires a combination of wisdom, intellect and, also, maturity. What the position should not allow for is grandstanding in any shape or form. Policy on the development of the Northeast was formulated with care, by an inter-ministerial group; poking holes in it is an action that should only be taken with an equal amount of care.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THAT CITY STATE OF MIND

SUNIL JAIN 

 

 An urban Indian in even the smallest town, on average, earns 50 per cent more than her rural counterpart due to, among other things, a lot more job opportunities. Logically, when the proportion of Indians living in cities rises, so will India's average income — NCAER-CMCR estimates that if this rises from the current 30 per cent to 40 per cent, this alone will make average household incomes across the country rise seven per cent. The 40 per cent figure is what the McKinsey Global Institute projects India's urbanisation levels to be by 2030, by which time they will account for 70 per cent of India's GDP.

 

The question then is where these people will stay if urban India isn't to become one vast slum. Increased floor space index, or the proportion of construction that can be done per square yard of land, is an obvious solution especially given that urban Indian FSIs are around a fifth or less of those in other parts of the world, but given that it requires a completely different kind of sewerage/ water/ electricity/ transport paradigm, this may not be that easy to implement across huge swathes of land. But whether it is or not, it is clear India needs a lot more cities, and that's just not happening. How many brand new cities have you heard of coming up in the recent past, of the type Ajit Gulabchand is developing at Lavasa, near Pune? Sure, Gurgaon, near Delhi, has really grown over the last few years, and there are other such examples (Gulab-chand has got some inquiries from a few other state governments), but I'm talking of really new cities and on a scale that makes you really sit up.

 

It is this that makes the DMICDC's (Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation) industrial city project interesting. For one, the sheer size. Twenty-four cities with 5,000 sq km of land (Delhi is 700 sq km, Navi Mumbai is 163 sq km and Mukesh Ambani's Navi Mumbai SEZ is 140 sq km) over the next 30 years; seven of these, with 2,000 sq km and likely to cost around Rs 325,000 crore, are to come up in the next eight years. Not all the 2,000 sq km will get developed by then, since cities take 20-30 years to really develop, but a reasonable start will have been made.

 

The DMICDC has some innovative plans, like building the trunk infrastructure of sewerage lines, power plants and a central Bus Rapid Transport line going through the city before the city is given out to private developers/ builders. Essentially the idea is to go the Gurgaon-Noida way with bulk of the work being done by private firms, but without the urban chaos you associate with a Gurgaon. The idea being that if homes are close to the workplace, if people can walk/ cycle to work, electricity consumption can fall by as much as 40 per cent — all your Leeds standards for energy efficient buildings, DMICDC CEO & MD Amitabh Kant says, are missing the woods for the trees. The cities are to have vibrant industrial areas, which is the way it should be since you can't have industry far away from cities and yet expect it to thrive, so there will be a lot more work that will need to be done on tackling the environmental hazards associated with large industrial areas — it should be educational since so much of urban work in India is about shifting industrial areas out of cities instead of embracing them.

 

DMICDC is planning some experiments on greening existing cities, involving top Japanese firms, and we have to see whether we have the capability of turning around our cities into modern Asian cities — four Japanese consortia are working on feasibility reports and detailed plans for Manesar, Dahej, Sanand (of Tata Nano fame) and Shendra. This is not just critical for the DMICDC's new cities, it is something we need in all cities, like Delhi for instance, if they are to survive — more important, if India is to urbanise without the carbon footprint becoming a killer. For all its grand plans, DMICDC is more about industrialisation than anything else — the plan is to increase industrial output in the region by around 1.6 times by 2040 — and will probably be home to 10-15 million people, a far cry from the need to accommodate 260-280 million in the next 20 years alone.

 

What is critical to whether DMICDC will work or not is the way it is to be financed. Under the current plan, each city will be developed by an SPV, equally owned by the state government and the Centre — the DMICDC will really function like a project consultant. While the Centre is being petitioned to give out around Rs 3,000 crore to each city's SPV to start off work, the real money will come in as the SPV starts selling the land under its control. So, the SPV builds part of a road network and power plants and, when land values around it start rising, it sells off some land to make a killing. This is the financing model, the ability to fully monetise the value of land.

 

When was the last time you heard of a city in India monetising its land value? When was the last time you heard of a city in India charging land taxes based on realistic valuations of the land? The reason is simple, thanks to the politician-builder mafia, the real value of the land is never monetised by the state. The land is acquired at dirt cheap rates, the builder makes a killing once this is developed and sold and a part of this goes to the reigning politician. How, if ever, the DMICDC cracks this will be interesting, and critical, and will be a model for the rest of the country.

 

What's also not clear is how cities are to develop if they are to be run at the whims and fancies of politicians like ours. Mumbai needs resources to survive, but the votes are in Maharashtra. Hyderabad needs resources, but the votes are in Telangana. CEOs, like for SEZ- or DMICDC-type cities, are one solution but you wonder what it does for democracy if a company is to run the way you live. Elected mayors with more powers are a good start. Whether it will resolve the politician-builder mafia is not certain. But what is, is that this is at the heart of making urbanisation happen, whether it is the McKinsey report or the Isher Ahluwalia one, expected in the next month or two.

 

The writer is opinion editor, 'The Financial Express' sunil.jain@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

HITTING THE BIG TIME

SHARON FERNANDES 

 

 Fourteen strangers under one roof for 90 days, with around 30 cameras following their every move, all the time, Bigg Boss has consistently invited immense curiosity. The reality show is well into its fourth season, but what is striking this time round is how many of the celebrities chosen for the show have had a close brush with the law.

 

The contestants this time include senior criminal lawyer S.G. Abbas Kazmi, who was sacked as the counsel for Ajmal Kasab, Rahul Bhatt (who hit the news for his acquaintance with David Coleman Headley, who is now charged with scouting targets for 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks), Seema Parihar, an ex-convict who spent 18 years in the jungles of Chambal, and Devinder Singh aka Bunty Chor, who has nearly 500 court cases pending against him and inspired the film Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!.

 

Clearly, the line between news and entertainment is porous in more ways than one. People who hit the headlines often end up extending their fame, featuring in reality shows like Bigg Boss. When Seema Parihar walked into the Bigg Boss house, she struggled to communicate with the rest of the housemates. Even Kazmi appeared to have had a difficult time digesting her experience, her "main jungle mein rahi hoon" story. Meanwhile, Rahul Bhatt strolled in and plonked himself next to Kazmi, explaining that while the government and investigating authorities were good to him, the media had played the story all wrong. Another time, Singh (Bunty) visibly squirmed at the mention of the word "chor" when it was used by the show's host, Salman Khan (who has himself had more than one dramatic encounter with the law), before he was ushered into the house. All this action took place in the very first show of this season.

 

Bigg Boss has made big news on its own. While Bunty has already been evicted from the show, during which he covered the camera lens with a sock and abused the producers, the show has been slammed by forces outside the house too. The Shiv Sena wants the show scrapped because of the Pakistani contestants — Ali Saleem, who uses the alias Begum Nawazish Ali, and is the host-scriptwriter of a well-known talk show in Pakistan, and Veena Malik, a model and former girlfriend of Pakistani cricketer Mohammad Asif, who was in the news for her revelations on the Pakistani cricket match-fixing scandal. Now being shot under high security, the show is operating under heavy pressure. One wonders how this will bear out on the other participants.

 

This isn't the first time that news channel favourites have been part of mass entertainment on TV. Rahul Mahajan is the obvious case in point. Soon after his father, the BJP politician Pramod Mahajan died, he was arrested by Delhi police on charges of possessing and consuming drugs. And while news of his failed marriage was still doing the rounds, he was seemingly perfect for the show. Mahajan hasn't stopped at one reality show though — he went ahead and found himself a wife on another television contest. Now, his new wife has accused him of domestic violence, news that again brought him back into the public glare. For those whom the news television cameras have tired of, entertainment shows like Bigg Boss are the perfect opportunity to revive their sagging popularity.

 

But why do these shows work? Clearly, there is an avid audience out there that wants to see Veena Malik put on her make-up and chatter about shady dealings in Pakistani cricket, or wait for Kazmi to throw in an interesting new detail about Kasab. Part of their appeal is that viewers want to know more about the news, with all the anecdotes and asides that news stories may not provide. Apart from the sheer fun of watching contestants live in a television hothouse, struggling to survive on the show and sparring with each other — which is the draw of all reality TV — these new participants exert a special fascination. They are already interesting to us, thanks to their news splashes.

 

Of course, the appeal of such shows is still the sense they give you, of being a fly on the wall and a silent judge of these personalities.

 

The logical extension of these reality show formats is, perhaps, a camera recording the messy legal proceedings of a celebrity divorce, or even a plastic surgery — and all this voyeurism will still be justified by the important-sounding tagline, promising you "the real person behind the celebrity mask."

 

sharon.fernandes@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SELLING MUSHY PEAS FROM LONDON

MURTAZA RAZVI 

 

 It seems that Pervez Musharraf has been barking up the wrong tree from London since he launched his all-new, All-Pakistan Muslim League. Pakistanis are neither flattered nor amused to hear his views on arch-rival Nawaz Sharif, nor on slain Baloch nationalist leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, whose hideout in a remote cave he had ordered air force jets to bomb, killing the veteran politician. Balochistan, Pakistan's geographically largest, natural resource-rich but socio-economically poorest province, has never been the same since.

 

Condemnation of what the former general and president has been saying in his recent interviews to the media is universal. Many say he's lost his marbles; Prime Minister Gilani said just as much the other day when he told a flabbergasted parliament to "leave him to himself."

 

A handful of Musharraf's cronies back home find themselves hard-pressed to issue retractions on the general's behalf as he makes embarrassing statements one after the other — not least of which was the shocking admission that the army under him trained mujahideen to fight Indian rule in Kashmir, "because Nawaz Sharif [then PM] had sold out on the cause." And that he was proud of his "achievement" in the Kargil war, which brought the all-but-forgotten Kashmir issue "to the forefront."

 

His interviewers forgot to ask him, "So what happened next?"

 

The general seems firmly encapsulated in his own labyrinth, a character right out of Marquez. The tragedy is not that he ran a banana republic in his heyday, but that by the time he left his doomed republic it had run out of bananas. Today's Pakistan, which does not seem to do anything right — from governance to the economy to diplomacy to cricket — is largely of Musharraf's creation. It is cast in the mould he left behind, one to be used for churning out one disaster after the other by men perhaps of lesser mettle than the general himself.

 

Other recent bloomers by the general include accusations that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the head of Musharraf's own erstwhile Muslim League, his cousin Pervaiz Elahi, the former chief minister of Punjab, and Mir Zafarullah Jamali, the former prime minister, are all liars. This after the general boasted in front of his few admirers in the UK that he was never afraid of lying when he had to. What's to stop him from lying now, was another question his interviewers missed.

 

Since the steady decline that set in for his popularity graph around 2007, it's been a journey that has continued downhill. This indeed makes analysts here wonder: who advised Musharraf to enter Pakistan politics and why? There's very little in terms of any tangible ground support he can count on. His popularity in the immediate aftermath of the 1999 coup stemmed directly from his position as army chief; but by the time he hung up his uniform in November 2007, the generals had begun to see him as a liability. Therefore it was only a matter of time when they finally asked him to bow out in August the following year, sending him abroad. The army has shown little love for him ever since.

 

True, Pakistan politics is on a rollercoaster ride, what with corruption scandals swirling around Zardari, Gilani and their ministers, and a very activist Supreme Court out to get the ruling politicians. But this is hardly a window of opportunity for the general to sneak back into power, even in the foreseeable future. Musharraf's recent offering of regrets to the superior judiciary for his dismissal of 60 higher court judges in 2007 is too little to placate the judiciary. And then there are loud cries from the opposition parties to bring Musharraf to trial for high treason — for twice abrogating the constitution, defacing the basic document, and for the cold-blooded murder of Akbar Bugti.

 

The only positive change that Musharraf made to Pakistan was putting the dancing girls back on TV screens. They had been conspicuous by their absence since 1977 when his predecessor, General Zia-ul Haq, rolled up the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government and unleashed his controversial Islamisation process. The real menacing ghost from that fateful era, the Islamist resurgence, was largely left untouched by Musharraf. The opening up of the media scene, with its no-holds-barred political discussions, was a more significant development — something that even he, in his latter months, and his successors now cannot roll back. But these changes have not really translated into building a constituency for Musharraf. The media continues to hate him with a passion.

 

In a country where news channels and their carnivorous political talk shows have much higher ratings than entertainment channels, it is hard to imagine how the general can sell the Mushy peas that he's been cooking up in the "old country." Pakistanis would much rather have their meaty biryanis and tikkas instead of the bland English country vegetable.

 

Razvi, an editor with 'Dawn', Karachi, is the author of 'Musharraf: the years in power'

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

KICKING ACROSS THE POND

KARTIKAY MEHROTRA 

 

 Made famous by the two-year turnaround he pulled off to lead the Boston Red Sox to their first baseball championship in 86 years, John Henry and a team of investors from Boston have thrown almost $480 million at the problem in Liverpool. Henry and New England Sports Ventures (NESV) seem to be in earnest in their attempt to purchase Liverpool FC: although fellow Yanks Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Jr, have yet to file out of their offices at Anfield , Henry and his comrades are already talking about building a new stadium there, while shoring up long-term rights to the team's star Spanish striker, Fernando Torres.

 

Surely this is all spectacular news for fans cowering behind their couches come game-day, as their once-heralded Reds become beleaguered basement-dwellers, sitting in the doldrums of the Premier League table, with just one win to their name during the young season.

 

But almost by clockwork, ownership groups from the US which attempt to cross the pond and pay for "real-football" fail the franchise, bottom out — and, in one case, fall into bankruptcy — leading to non-violent if virulent protests by fans against owners who have dissipated their beloved teams' glory.

 

The similarities in the sporting pastimes between the people of England and New England halt firmly at the "E". By early October, Bostonians are knee deep in the Sunday tradition of 300-pound men slamming their helmet-covered heads into each other, when the Patriots take to the gridiron for three hours of American football. And since 2002, when Henry bought the then championship-starved Red Sox, even the arm of the Patriots' legendary quarterback Tom Brady takes a back seat to the Sox's chase for baseball's always-elusive World Series.

 

In England, October means one thing: that the Gooners, the Scummers and the Yid, Lardy and Cider armies are out to play. Fans all over Britain are in full form, hopeful that their owners won't be this year's dunces; that their managers won't be canned before Christmas, and that the light at the end of the tunnel won't be snuffed out by injuries, poor transfers — and in the case of this year's Liverpool FC, a contentious battle over ownership.

 

So why do Americans think they can make it work? American leagues are littered with salary caps, luxury taxes, free agency, and overzealous players' unions that have caused season-ending players' strikes in football, baseball and ice hockey. In England, the formula is simple: a winning club equals money, and a championship club equals more money. But a George Steinbrenner-like attitude, aimed at overspending for big-name superstars and purchasing players in an effort to purchase championships rarely translates to glory — unless you're Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. What it does result in is in debt and animosity amongst fans.

 

The game is called beautiful for a reason. The best teams are made on the training field through practice and chemistry. Having the best players to make runs, the strongest players to blast shots that soar for 50:50 balls, and the smartest players to mentally defeat the opposition never hurts — and it hasn't hurt Chelsea — but it isn't necessarily a formula for success, as it has been for the New York Yankees, now pushing for their 28th World Series championship while bragging of a salary bill of $240 million. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, they spent $140 million, while the Yankees they beat on the way spent $197 million.

 

If Henry succeeds, he will be an exception to the rule. In 2005, the Glazer family — owners of the American football's Tampa Bay Buccaneers — bought Manchester United, the most profitable sports franchise in the world, for nearly $1.3 billion. Although the team's value has doubled since, the franchise's debt is now more than $1.11 billion. To buy the club, a prospective ownership group would require £2 billion or $3.2 billion. This week, the Glazer group revealed that the team posted record losses — nearly $133 million — despite a record turnover of nearly $455 million. And when fans are not outside Old Trafford protesting the United's ownership, they're still paying through their noses to sit inside the stadium to watch a third-place team.

 

In 2006, Randy Lerner, owner of the US National Football League's Cleveland Browns bought Aston Villa for a mere $102 million. The team finished 11th in 2006, followed by consecutive sixth place finishes since the 2007-08 campaign. Lerner's deal was followed one year later by the Hicks-Gillett group, which bought Liverpool for nearly $350 million. Although the team's net revenue put Liverpool in the top-ten list of the most profitable football teams in the world, the club's overall value has fallen 19 per cent in the last year, and from $1 billion in 2008 to $822 million in 2010, according to Forbes' annual survey of soccer team valuations.

 

Even so it wouldn't be correct to argue that a failure to manage big football money is solely an American problem. Sheikh Mansour, owner of Manchester City, racked up $186.8 million in debt during the 2009-10 season — followed by losses of $200 million over the current season, largely the result of deciding on heavy transfer spending.

 

Perhaps Liverpool's worried fans should focus less on the fact that their new rich owners' American — and more on what he's going to do with his money.

kartikay.mehrotra@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT FACEBOOK FRIENDS

 

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 per cent 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 realised. 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-fulfilment 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: IQ 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.

 

-David Brooks

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

GAY AT THE GAMES

GEORGINA MADDOX

 

The Commonwealth Games mean different things to different people. For those who support the cause of ending discrimination against lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender/ inter-sex people, it is the chance to stand up and be counted. This Sunday Matthew Mitcham, an openly gay diver with an Olympic gold under his belt, will be hitting the aqua at the S.P. Mukherjee swimming complex. And a forward doing the rounds says there's an intention to "paint the complex rainbow." Tickets for the event are sold out, and it seems that the LGBTI supporters of Delhi intend to show up for the happy occasion in big numbers.

 

The fact that an out gay man is swimming at an event as big as the CWG calls for lots of cheer, given that being openly queer in the testosterone filled arena of sports is more than just a little tough.

 

We all remember the true story of the swimmer from Goa on which the 2005 film My Brother Nikhil was based. Even though a disclaimer was issued "that the characters in the film are not based on anyone real" to enable Onir to go ahead with his film, many knew who it was based on. For those who don't remember the flick, Nikhil, played by Sanjay Suri, is a state swimming champion who, when he is detected with HIV, is thrown out of his team and of his house. It is only after his tragic death that everyone finally comes around. This was Bollywood; but the sporting arena has many true-to-life stories of discrimination and homophobia that have led to many a gay, lesbian or inter-sex person staying firmly in the closet.

 

While it may currently be glamorous to be gay — recently England cricketer Jimmy Anderson posed naked for the gay magazine Attitude, although he identifies as straight, and is married — it has been hard for the more vulnerable groups of the queer community like lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and inter-sex people.

 

When Martina Navratilova came out as bisexual in 1980, it was because rumours of her "affair" with best-selling author Rita Mae Brown had leaked out. Coming out in the '80s was not easy; while she gained a huge LGBTI following, and now openly supports organisations like the Rainbow Endowment, it cost her sponsorships and support from various sport brands that did not want to be seen as endorsing homosexuality.

 

More recently, South African athlete Caster Semenya was asked to take a "gender verification test" to prove she

was a woman after her gold medal in the 800-metre race at the 2009 athletics world championships. The possibility that Semenya is an inter-sex person challenged our understanding of gender as a binary. The athletics committee feared that Semenya would have an unfair advantage if she had changed or tampered with her gender. Closer to home, in 2006, 25-year-old Santhi Soundarajan was stripped of her 800-metre Asiad silver medal because she "failed" the gender test.

 

Gender tests for women are not a new phenomenon. In the 1960s, they were mandatory for all international-level female athletes. The organisers said this was to make sure they weren't actually men — and they basically involved the athletes undressing in front of a group of doctors. This practice ended pretty quickly, due to outrage among the female athletes. Now, a lot depends on the appearance, and in some instances the performance, of a female athlete. If she performs suspiciously well, then she is dragged in for a gender test that includes an anatomical evaluation, a genetic analysis, a chromosomal analysis — and a psychological evaluation.

 

"Caster is being subjected to the latest 'sex science' in order to fit her into our neat little binary, so that the apartheid of sex can be upheld within the sporting tradition. Many people who consider 'race science' intellectually problematic (for example, eugenics, The Bell Curve, and so on) think 'sex science' is no problem at all," writes Andrea James, a queer activist, writer and film-maker.

 

The story of a small town boy who wanted to play cricket with the boys but was discovered to be a "girl" hasn't just been played out by Rani Mukherjee and Shahid Kapoor in the movies; there are scores of young transgender and inter-sex "boys" who are kept off the playing field because they cannot tick the gender box as male or female.

 

The answer to this discrimination currently lies in something like the Gay Games: an event that began in 1982 in San Francisco, and draws thousands of LGBTIs from across the world. A young lesbian recalls how thrilling it was to see Navratilova a hairsbreadth away from her on the track field: "I was standing so close that I could see the veins on her muscular arms. But I did not want to ask for an autograph because on this day we were all there for a bigger cause," she says. Perhaps, one day, we will not need a Gay Games.

 

For now, lets just cheer for Mitcham.

 

georgina.maddox@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COLLECTIVE IRRESPONSIBILITY


What's going on in the Cabinet? First, Jairam Ramesh goes and stuns everyone when he declares half of India's coal mines as out of bounds; when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intercedes, he relaxes this; later, the law ministry says, his decision was bad in law. Now, when India looks like it's moving on the promises made by Singh in 2008 to develop Arunachal Pradesh, partly to keep the Chinese influence at bay, Jairam goes and writes a letter to Singh highlighting the views of some NGOs that "we should not make Arunachal Pradesh a pawn in the race between India and China". Is this just reverting to the unstated Congress policy of yore, of keeping tribals pristine pure, and backward. There's also some less than subtle posturing going on. Jairam talks of how "over a thousand people participated in an interaction which extended over six hours" and "these are bound to be the subject of agitation" in Assam; logically, if there was a genuine undercurrent of tension, the MP from Assam, the PM himself, should have been the first to know. It's also not clear why Assam should have a problem with run of the river projects in Arunachal since, if anything, these should help control the rivers before they come and wreak havoc on the state.

The letter goes on to talk of a "feeling in vocal sections of Assam's society... that 'mainland India' is exploiting the North-East hydel resources for its benefits". What is the minister advocating? If other states felt their ore, or their wheat or rice, was being exploited by the rest of India, where would India be?

 

What we need is a statement from the PM on this, not just because most of the projects were cleared by UPA-1, but on the issue of collective responsibility of the Cabinet. Are strategic issues to be discussed in a town-hall meeting; should ministers, like Jairam, be conducting open house meetings that seem more designed to incite passions instead of cooling them down and where, perhaps due to a rush of blood, rash promises tend to get made; should even India's work in Bhutan be subject to a review by the environment ministry; most important, is every minister free to go and make his views public on any subject, or is there some sense of collective responsibility?

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WILL EARNINGS DISAPPOINT?


All those dazzled by the Sensex, may be in for a disappointment next week, when the first of quarterly results start trickling in. Instead of performing better, India Inc's sales growth is expected to slow a bit, and the slowing in profits growth is expected to be even higher. The consensus among brokerages that have come out with their results preview is that the year-on-year revenue growth of the Sensex companies would be around 20-22%—this was 27% in the June 2010 quarter and 54% in the March 2010 quarter. The range for profits growth is higher, between 8% and 13%, and this compares poorly with an 18% growth in the June 2010 quarter. In terms of sectors, oil and gas is expected to see a net profit growth of 36% on a quarter-on-quarter, while its year-on-year growth is expected to be about 25% because of better realisations for oil-marketing companies. The financial sector is expected to post 20% year-on-year growth in net profit driven by growth in net interest income. The other significant contribution to growth would come IT sector because of volume growth in the US. The key under-performers during the quarter are likely to be auto, telecom and cement. Though the auto sector continues to deliver strong growth on topline, it continues to reel under high raw material costs like steel, which would dent overall operating margins, resulting in a dip in net profitability.

 

What this suggests is that the Sensex will continue to be priced higher than competitor countries. At 18.8, the sensex PE is higher than Brazil's 13.1, Indonesia's 16.8, China's 15.3 and Malaysia's 15.8. Investors, however, look only to the future and this is where the projections are rosier. Motilal Oswal, for instance, expects the PE to fall from 18.8 for 2010-11 to 16 in 2011-12. This could change if the Sensex keeps going up, a possibility given the continued FII inflows and the likelihood of this increasing if the global economy continues to remain sluggish. With the expectations from India Inc so high, the room to slip on earnings target will reduce with each passing quarter.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

A WEAK CURRENCY IS A GOOD IDEA

SAUGATA BHATTACHARYA

 

Currency wars" is the motif du jour of global finance. As with real thing, even an accurate precision strike will result in collateral damage. In this case, it might be India.

 

That prospects of additional Quantitative Easing by major central banks in developed countries has coincided with a renewed surge in the equities markets of emerging countries is certainly not a coincidence. QE, hitherto, has not had much of an effect in increasing bank lending in developed markets, but has now morphed into a potent tool for engineering currency depreciation. Japan learnt the lesson very quickly. A brief period of active currency intervention by the Bank of Japan yielded very little, forcing the central bank to drive its policy rate down to zero and announcing a 5-trillion yen securities purchase programme. The recent slide in the dollar started with the Fed's FOMC statement indicating a renewed QE programme. Prospects of continuing and even increasing QE, in turn, will further spur carry trades, which have been potent for most of the year.

 

As global Treasury chiefs and central bankers gather for the Fund-Bank meeting in Washington, DC, the fears of the effects of a developed world awash with liquidity and red fiscal ink boiling over into emerging markets have begun to assume frenzied proportions. Japan, Brazil, Peru, Taiwan, Korea, have all intervened to weaken their currencies. Brazil, one of the largest destinations of foreign portfolio funds, in addition, increased its IOF (Financial Operations) Tax on foreign inflows into fixed income and investment funds from 2% to 4%. Countries have also begun to demonstrate that they are willing to live with higher inflation than they might think optimal, forgoing monetary tightening and living with the tradeoff of lower interest rates not giving an additional incentive for foreign funds to seek arbitrage returns.

 

While most emerging markets have responded quite sensibly to the capital inflows, the challenge for policy authorities there is to prevent asset bubbles from building up.

 

Policy authorities in India must be getting increasingly worried about the prospects of a surge in foreign funds flows into India, even more than in 2007 and early 2008, and memories of the consequences of domestic liquidity management remain fresh. The rupee has appreciated 6% against the dollar over the past month, about the same as some other large EMs, but much more than Brazil's 3%. In this context, the following are some thoughts, loosely woven together on India's external links.

 

One, the criticism of the recent increase in caps on foreign portfolio investment in Indian sovereign and corporate debt is largely misplaced. India needs to tap into global capital pools to fund the massive investments that are required, particularly for infrastructure, at which the limit relaxations are targeted. Global funds can be accessed in two ways. Indian borrowers raise foreign currency resources abroad (external commercial borrowings), increasing our external debt, or foreign investors provide funds in local rupee currency (portfolio investments). In the event of economic stress, the former can result in foreign currency defaults, even under conditions of basic domestic solvency, whereas the chances of an outright default is probably lower for rupee-denominated debt. Both events would entail a sharp depreciation of the rupee, but in a Pareto sense, the latter is a preferred option.

 

Second, in India's case, the effects of capital flows driven appreciation of the rupee in an environment of a large current account deficit are particularly worrying. Normally, a widening current account deficit should set in motion an equilibrating mechanism, with a depreciating currency expected to boost exports with increasing competitiveness and the rising cost of imports reducing the demand for goods sourced abroad and diverting this to domestic manufacturers. This "automatic stabiliser" shrinks the gap. A gush of capital flows distorts these demand and supply signals and encourages a sustained widening. This would not be a problem in itself, except that beyond a threshold, this creates investor risk aversion, leading to a sudden reversal of capital flows and very large movements in currencies, which tends to be disruptive for macro stability.

 

So what might be a sensible menu of options for India? Overall, leaning against the wind by RBI is not likely to make a material difference to the direction of the rupee for any sustained period of time. However, India needs to increase its exports to counter the inevitable inflow of foreign funds. India does not diversify its demand markets, but, this somewhat paradoxically, might actually provide greater leverage to act against continuing capital flows. A multi-pronged strategy is needed to boost exports. In the short time, I am veering around to the view that a weak currency might be the primary driver to achieve this, with the absorption of the attendant costs. However, this can help only for very limited periods, even as the basic economic fundamentals of export infrastructure get strengthened.

 

—The author is senior vice-president, business & economic research, Axis Bank. These are his personal views

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

 INDIA SHOULD REJECT SUPERPOWERDOM?

DEEPAK GOPINATH

 

Will this be India's decade? The country's business and political elite certainly seem to think so. Hardly a day goes by without a government official or pundit proclaiming India's readiness to take its place among the world's leading economic and political heavyweights. Chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu recently claimed that India is on track for double-digit growth rates and is set to join the ranks of industrialised countries by the 2030s. Raghav Bahl's bestselling Super Power?, which sees India overtaking China and unabashedly asserts India's supremacy reflects the self-congratulatory mood.

 

India may indeed overtake China in terms of economic growth this year but fast growth alone does not a global power make. To understand why, we need to look no further than Beijing. When China last month became the world's second-largest economy, displacing Japan, Beijing was quick to downplay the significance of the shift, preferring instead to stress that it remains a poor country, with GDP per capita of just $3,600, more than three times that of India but a tenth of Japan's, high income inequality and geographically uneven distribution of wealth between coastal and inland regions.

 

If any emerging market country can stake a claim to the superpower mantle it is China. So why doesn't it?

 

Chinese leaders are clear-sighted enough to know that the domestic challenges facing the country, including rebalancing the economy away from exports and towards domestic demand and maintaining stability, are their priority. Harping on its economic successes would mean accepting a leading global role that would require China to do more to be a good global citizen, including efforts to reduce emissions and doing more to address global imbalances. Both of these run counter to Beijing's overarching goal: to maintain employment and the political stability that depends on it.

 

This does not mean, however, that China meekly caves in when its interests are at stake. Back in June, when the US Congress was threatening to label China a currency manipulator, China agreed to replace the yuan's dollar peg with a managed floating regime linked to a basket of currencies.

 

But the yuan has appreciated barely 1% against the dollar since then, with much of the rise coming in the last week, when Larry Summers, President Obama's chief economic advisor, and other White House officials were visiting and the US Congress was once again taking up the cudgels China's exchange rate policy.

 

The reality is that China remains too self-interested to be a global power. And that's not a bad thing; it merely reflects the leadership's mature assessment of the country's needs. China is using the slowdown in the US and Europe to embark on the difficult process of putting the country on a sustainable growth path. Beijing has put in place measures to cool an overheating economy and the halt a property boom that were fuelled by low interest rates and excess credit expansion last year. The slowdown in economic growth from 11.9% in Q1/10 to 10.3% in Q2/10 and an expected 8.5% by year-end has not spooked policymakers. Indeed, recent strength in the housing market may result in Beijing delaying a widely expected easing of policy to next year.

 

China is keeping its focus then, not on seeking external validation, but on acting to rebalance the economy and deal with social and political fault lines. Success will take time and may be elusive. But at least Chinese leaders recognise the problems and are trying to solve them.

 

Contrast that pragmatic, domestically-oriented approach with India's attempts to rebrand itself as a superpower with expensive and dubious markers of modernity such as building the world's sixth-largest airport terminal or hosting the Commonwealth Games. The country's domestic challenges—from the popular uprising in Kashmir and the Maoist insurrections elsewhere to the mountains of rotting food grain and farmer suicides—are too glaring to be glossed over by happy talk about becoming a global power.

 

But politicians are not addressing the obstacles to sustainable growth in a systematic manner. In particular, the quality of institutions and governance remain weak, corruption is everywhere and poverty endemic. Instead, India seems hell bent on a dash for growth without recognising the fact, as China has, that growth is necessary, but not sufficient, and it is the quality of growth that counts. Until that happens, the wait for India's decade will be a long one.

 

—The author is a director at Trusted Sources, the Emerging Markets research specialist

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

First world virus

While foreigners coming to India, especially now at the time of the Commonwealth Games, invariably talk of the mosquito menace, the BJP has a question to ask. How come former BJP president Rajnath Singh got dengue while in New York where he had gone to address the UN General Assembly? While the delegation has returned home, Singh has stayed behind to recover. Some will argue that he got bitten while in India, but the BJP's having none of this.

 

Raja's in trouble

 

Many feel communications minister A Raja can't be touched and that, after all the noise has been made, no action will be taken against him in the 2G spectrum scam. In the Supreme Court case, he was represented by the same advocate who represented Ramalinga Raju. This got tongues wagging on whether this augured badly for the minister.

 

Some tax haven

 

It's natural to think, given the billions travelling to and fro all the time, that tax havens and those who administer them are a rich lot. Not so. The Prime Minister of Bermuda, one of the world's most famous tax havens, was in town to sign an exchange of information treaty and came to the finance minister in a normal taxi.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

STILL LIU


Last Christmas, a Beijing court sentenced Liu Xiabao to 11 years imprisonment for subverting state power. He had spearheaded Charter 8, a manifesto calling for multi-party democracy, private ownership of land, a judiciary not controlled by the Communist party and other reforms. He had been in trouble with authorities ever since the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, to attend which he abandoned a cushy US university job. His negotiations with the PLA helped several hundred students to vacate the square peacefully. Now, by winning the Peace Prize, Liu is in august company, which includes Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama (a judgement that created lots of consternation last year) but is also marred by significant omissions like Mahatma Gandhi. Insofar as the prize seeks to capture what's happening in the world and then encourage specific sentiments, it has clearly taken on what weakened US and European economies are wary of risking—challenging the Chinese government's authoritarian complex. Note that news about Liu is being censored in China, which had warned that the prize would hurt Sino-Norwegian relations. It has now called the prize an obscenity

 

After his Christmas sentencing, Liu stated, "I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one towards freedom is often a step into prison... Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer." We can count the Nobel as step two. But a long journey to democratic China still lies ahead.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LITERATURE NOBEL FOR A WORLD CITIZEN

 

The award of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature to Mario Vargas Llosa marks the Academy's recognition of one of Latin America's most celebrated authors, one who is not only a great storyteller but also a remarkable essayist, playwright, journalist, cultural commentator, and man of letters. A public intellectual who believes in the necessity of a writer's engagement with the important issues of the day, Mr. Vargas Llosa has been an outspoken political activist, who, like Vaclav Havel, once ran for the office of President in his country, Peru. Although he lost narrowly and later left active politics, his firm belief in the power of the pen to shape politics and culture underlies the bulk of his writing. According to the Nobel citation, he was being honoured "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat." Mr. Vargas Llosa, the first South American writer to win the Nobel since the great Gabriela Garcia Marquez was given the Prize in 1982, has written more than 30 novels, plays, and essays. Among the most acclaimed are Conversation in the Cathedral, The Green House, The Feast of the Goat and the brilliant semi-autobiographical work, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. His journalism and critical writings have been compiled into compelling anthologies that reflect what a literary critic calls a "fascination with the human craving for freedom and the liberation conferred by art and imagination."

 

Critics have also written of Mr. Vargas Llosa's persistent desire to demonstrate to the reading world "the important place of fiction and literature in the life of nations." And as he wrote in a magazine essay, "without it, the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty, would suffer an irreparable loss." While storytelling is largely the way through which he engages with this world, Mr. Vargas Llosa's concerns are very real; his complex narrative structures and the philosophical underpinnings of the issues he raises are very current, whether it is about the struggles of Peru or of the wider world. His political views, however, changed over the years and he moved from the left to a centrist-right position, campaigning for the presidency of Peru as a proponent of a market economy and free trade. He later left Peru for seven years, explaining in an interview that his ideal was "to become a citizen of the world" and that "if there is for me a fundamental idea of civilisation, it is this." While his importance in the cultural life of his country has not diminished in any way, in winning the Nobel the writer has obviously achieved his dream of becoming a true world citizen.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

BUILDING SMART CITIES

 

Cities have much to gain by adopting Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and must earnestly harness the opportunities they provide, urged the recently held Global Informatisation Forum at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. The forum, hosted by two United Nations agencies and the Shanghai municipal government, spotlighted how cities with the help of ICT can deliver public utilities better, improve mobility, reduce the carbon footprint, and enhance public participation in governance. Existing urban systems are unable to meet the complex demands of their burgeoning number of users. They often fall short of environment standards. Countries such as Malta and Japan have proactively addressed these issues with the help of technology. Malta opted for a smart grid system to manage power supply better. Unlike conventional grids, this bi-directional system allows consumers to get information about their energy use in real time. This enables them to make intelligent choices, regulate their consumption, and become energy-efficient. The utility companies too have optimised their power supply. Tokyo has mobilised technology to help the visually impaired to move freely. The electronic tags and markers placed at strategic places in the city helped the disabled to navigate by using either a portable computing system or special white canes with embedded sensors.

 

But how do Indian cities fare? The use of technology is often limited to a few municipal functions such as issuing certificates and collecting property tax. Initiatives such as the National Urban Information Systems, which are meant to support urban planning with the help of GIS applications, have not progressed well. Despite the Eleventh Plan stressing the need for using technology to relieve congestion, improve safety, and enhance the productivity of the public transport system, not much has been accomplished. After much delay, efforts to create the first intelligent transport system have begun in Mysore. Cities such as Chennai have put in place a GPS system to inform commuters about bus routes and timings — this however covers only a fraction of the bus fleet. The city mangers must quickly implement existing programmes and scale up the use of technology to improve all urban services. Urban policies often tend to be myopic: to them, building smart cities is about creating special enclaves with enhanced facilities for investment purposes. On the other hand, the experience of successful cities shows that the adoption of technology produces good outcomes when the city as a whole improves and the resulting benefits are shared equitably.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

ALARM OVER EUROPE'S LURCH TO THE RIGHT

OBSERVERS HAVE NOTED WITH ALARM THE GROWING ASSERTIVENESS OF EUROPE'S FAR RIGHT AND THE POLITICAL LEGITIMACY IT HAS COME TO ENJOY IN MANY COUNTRIES ON THE BACK OF AN INCREASINGLY ANTI-IMMIGRANT PUBLIC MOOD.

HASAN SUROOR

 

Last month, as sparks flew over the French government's crackdown on immigrants, particularly the way President Nicolas Sarkozy personally intervened to order expulsion of Roman gypsies, the New Statesman carried a cover story headed: "France Turns Right." While the French controversy rumbles on with the European Union threatening legal action against France for being allegedly in breach of one of its fundamental principles — the right of its citizens to move and work freely within the EU — it has been overtaken by reports of a broader Europe-wide lurch to the Right.

 

Observers have noted with alarm the growing assertiveness of Europe's far Right and the political legitimacy it has come to enjoy in many countries on the back of an increasingly anti-immigrant public mood. Post-war Europe has experienced Right-inspired social tensions before but this is thought to be the first time so many countries across the continent, including former communist societies, are affected.

 

According to Slavoj Zizek, Marxist intellectual and director of the London-based Birbeck Institute for the Humanities, the French move is "just the tip of a much larger iceberg of European politics."

 

"Incidents like these have to be seen against the background of a long-term re-arrangement of the political space in western and eastern Europe," he wrote in a newspaper article warning that the traditional liberal European consensus was under threat from "overtly racist neo-fascist groups."

 

Another commentator likened the trend to an "infection" seeping through the continent's body politic. In the words of Abdelkader Benali, a leading Dutch writer of Moroccon origin, Europe is in the grip of a new "cold-blooded politics" of hate and fear. He says it is threatening the once-tolerant countries such as his own adopted homeland, the Netherlands, where the stridently anti-migrant and Islamophobic Freedom Party is within striking distance of sharing power after emerging the third largest party in the general elections earlier this year on a platform to ban further Muslim migration and outlaw construction of mosques.

 

Even as its leader Geert Wilders is being tried for inciting hatred, he is shamelessly wooed by the Liberals and the Christian Democrats to prop up a minority coalition government. In return, they are willing to pay the price he is demanding: a ban on burqa and stringent curbs on immigration.

 

No wonder, Mr. Wilders boasted that the development was a sign of a "new wind" blowing in the Netherlands and proof that voters supported his party's determination to stop "Islamisation" of the country.

 

Immigrants like Mr. Benali say they find their country's transformation from a haven of tolerance and multiculturalism into a hothouse of prejudice and social tensions shocking. "In the 1980s, this message ['stop Islamisation'] would have made people laugh, but not now. Look around. In Sweden, the debate around Islam and migration is growing in urgency. And Islam is just a particularly toxic element in the anti-immigrant movement. Nicolas Sarkozy, who is part Jewish, is throwing out the Roma. In Germany, the country of the Holocaust, a former head of the Bundesbank, Thilo Sarazzin, is making a plea for reducing working class immigrants because of their low IQ. The idea that Europe is being kidnapped by an ever-growing non-western population is creating fear and populist parties are winning," Mr. Benali warned, writing in The Observer. Tellingly, the article was headed: "I migrated to Europe with hope. Now I feel nothing but dread."

 

In Sweden, hitherto seen as an "oasis of civility and openness," the "neo-Nazi" Sweden Democrats party (SD) has, for the first time, won seats in Parliament in a development that has shocked liberals. The country's political map is being redrawn in a way few Swedes could have once imagined.

 

"We're in," the SD's young leader, Jimmie Akesson, told his supporters. Liberal Swedish intellectuals have called for mainstream parties to reflect on why the SD was able to attract so many votes. "From no representation, it now has nearly 6 per cent of the vote, which means that it will get 20 MPs; it also destroys the previous centre-Right majority and creates an uncertain situation in Parliament," Swedish writer Henning Mankell pointed out but said that instead of denouncing those who had voted for it as racists and xenophobic, it was important to ask why 3,00,000 people, among whom were many working class voters, chose to support it.

 

Blaming the SD's success on the refusal of mainstream parties to listen to voters' concerns about immigration, he said: "If we had the debate, the SD might have got into Parliament, but with far fewer seats. In fact, they could have been kept out of Parliament altogether." In a chilling warning, he said: "But respect for the 3,00,000 people who voted for them [SD] demands that we accept the necessity of dialogue, before these 3,00,000 become two or three times as many."

 

According to media reports, many of those who voted for the SD had been life-long supporters of the liberal Social Democratic Party. They insist that they are not racist and have nothing against foreigners but believe that there are too many immigrants and their alleged refusal to "integrate" threatens Swedish values. "It's become crazy around here. You can't go out in the evening. I've got nothing against foreigners. I've been married to a Bulgarian for 40 years. But these people don't share values," one woman told a British newspaper.

 

A backlash against immigration, targeted mostly at Muslims, is also said to be behind the rise of extreme right-wing groups in Austria, Denmark, and Italy. In former communist countries such as Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania there is, in addition, a whiff of homophobia, anti-Semitism and a host of other social and cultural prejudices against minority groups. Far-Right groups have also made electoral gains in Latvia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

 

The economic crisis, with millions of people losing their jobs and facing an uncertain future, has heightened public hostility towards immigrants who are seen as "spongers" — foreigners who are "stealing" local jobs and being a "drag" on public services and other resources. The current climate offers a fertile ground for the Right, which is making the most of it.

 

Matthew Goodwin, who teaches at the University of Nottingham, says far-Right parties are cynically exploiting people's anxieties. "When we ask voters in a range of different surveys about their views about immigrants and about Muslims we can see quite significant pockets of anxiety in populations across Europe. These parties are the tip of a much deeper trend," he told al-Jazeera television.

 

"Their strategy is to mobilise opinion by arousing fear of the "other" — of anyone who is different: the fear of immigrants, the fear of crime, the fear of godless sexual depravity, the fear of the excessive state," as Professor Zizek puts it, echoing the findings of the Minority Rights Group (MRG), a London-based international campaign group.

 

In a report, it points to a significant increase in "right-wing radicalism" in the past two years — a period of deep economic crisis. In 2009, there were unprecedented gains for Right-wing parties in parliamentary elections across Europe.

 

"Successes in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections, and at the national parliamentary level, have allowed these populist right-wing parties to shift formerly far-right ideas, on immigration for example, into the mainstream," said Carl Soderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.

 

There is concern that the anti-immigrant backlash could undermine European unity. The strong reaction in Brussels to President Sarkozy's attacks on Roma settlers is a sign, analysts say, of how seriously the EU is taking the issue. "The battle between France and the European Union over Paris's treatment of Roma migrants … goes to the heart of the growing threat to one of the foundation stones of the EU — the right of the bloc's 500 m citizens to live, work and study in any of the bloc's 27 countries," said the Financial Times.

 

Critics warn that President Sarkozy's move — seen as an attempt to outflank Jean-Marie Le Pen's anti-immigrant National Front to which his party lost much ground in regional elections earlier this year — is a sign of the shape of things to come. They say it illustrates the "timidity" of mainstream centre-right parties in Britain, France and Germany to take on the far-Right politically. They have gone for the defeatist and lazy option based on the old playground adage that if you can't beat them, join them. In Britain, the Labour and the Tories have for long been engaged in a competitive rhetoric on immigration to steal the British National Party's thunder, and now we have President Sarkozy trying to give the NF a run for its money giving a new momentum to "a race to the bottom as to who can be more nasty to immigrants," according to Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Britain's leading rights group, Liberty.

 

The prognosis doesn't look good.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

A SOMBRE APPRAISAL OF WATER RESOURCES

IN A MID-TERM REVIEW, THE PLANNING COMMISSION CALLS FOR A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO WATER MANAGEMENT, BASED ON THE HYDROLOGIC CYCLE IN PLACE OF THE SILOS INTO WHICH THE RESOURCE HAS BEEN DIVIDED.

T.N. NARASIMHAN AND V.K. GAUR

 

In the Planning Commission's 11th mid-term appraisal report, Chapter 21 is devoted to Water Resources. Recognising that the problems in this area appear more serious than originally assessed, the appraisal calls for a holistic approach based on the science of the hydrologic cycle, to supplant the many different administrative compartments into which water management is currently divided. The salient findings of the report include the unsustainable depletion of groundwater caused by a progressive shift over the past decades from the use of surface water to more conveniently accessible groundwater; poor project formulation coupled with shortfalls in the Central government's support to enhance realisation of the irrigation potential; and the need for cautionary diligence before embarking on the ambitious project to interlink rivers. In conclusion, the report urges the implementation of the widely spelt remedial measures to protect water quantity and quality. It also recommends that rain-harvesting be enhanced, artificial recharge structures energised, water-use efficiency improved, and treatment and reclamation of urban waste water bettered.

 

As a planning document, the report aptly focusses on how existing water-use methods can be improved and enhanced through monetary and administrative reforms. The report defers unitary treatment of the hydrological cycle to the 12th Five-Year Plan. Even so, it is pertinent to examine what is involved in taking a holistic hydrologic-cycle view of the issue.

 

Factor of uncertainty

 

Perhaps the starting point is to recognise that the water over India is a finite, limited resource with uncertain annual variability. As such, it is to be monitored and managed on various spatial and temporal scales. Thus, the overall task is fundamentally "resource-limited." In other words, the nature of the resource is no more an externality. Traditional practices of using the most convenient source available were "policy-limited" in the sense that when water was assumed to be freely available, policy would encourage the use of the most convenient source. Given this perception, what needs to be done is to effect an orderly transition from a "policy-limited" mind-set to one of "resource-limited" mind-set. This perspective provides a context to examine what a "holistic view of the hydrologic cycle" entails.

 

Given a watershed or a river basin of appropriate scale of interest, a water budget allowing for evapo-transpiration and environmental flows, limits utilisable water to about 15 per cent of the total annual precipitation. This includes surface water and groundwater, including artificial recharge and rain-harvesting. Since surface water and groundwater are essentially components of the same resource, it would appear prudent not to separate them any longer. This notion is already central to the oft-declared conjunctive strategy of water management. Within the constraint of this water availability, we have to fit in all the extant water use and distribution structures — public, private, and cooperative — to optimise its use among the stake-holders. Deceptively simple in logic, this is a daunting, formidable challenge that confronts all segments of India's society, from the lay person to state functionaries and learned academies. The quality of their individual and collective responses to this fundamental issue will determine the quality of adaptation to the scenarios of severe scarcity that are unfolding.

 

In order to improve the chances of a transition happening from the silos to the hydrologic-cycle perspective, informed debates involving earth scientists and engineers are essential. They should present knowledge bases for decision options, among social scientists and administrators who formulate policies, and among citizens in general, who by the dint of intuitive visualisation and experience of the impact of these policies, may contribute wisdom. Such wide-ranging discourses are indispensable to define the collective and differentiated responsibilities of the various segments of society, in a common bid to conserve and safeguard the integrity of a resource that is vital for human survival. Yet, the Planning Commission's report devotes attention primarily to administrative and financial reforms, which by themselves will hardly help change the status quo. Can the country wait until the next Plan to consider the imperatives of a unitary hydrological cycle to guide its course?

 

National water policy

 

Indeed, one may argue that the time to act is now, especially in view of the Water Mission statement issued by the Prime Minister's Climate Council in May 2010. That statement envisages a national water policy being put in place by 2013. Should not that goal be coordinated with the Planning Commission's plans for the immediate future?

 

It is also relevant to consider the role of the Central government in the light of a unitary hydrological cycle. The Commission's report accepts the extant policy of water being a State subject, continuing in perpetuity. This implicitly relegates the Centre's role to merely providing monetary incentives for growth. However, based on developments relating to water policy in the European Union and other countries, one may visualise that the Centre has a far more important role to play in providing a heavy philosophical anchor that will give character to a national water policy as envisaged in the Water Mission. Elsewhere, we have emphasised the high desirability of a Constitutional mandate on water that would re-examine existing laws and policy to creatively respond to the new knowledge of water science that has been gained since their initial formulation.

 

Earth-related knowledge

 

So, it would be disheartening if India chooses to defer action in grappling with the complex task of water management that demands participation by the various segments of its diverse society. At an infrastructure level, the time is now to build institutions and training facilities to monitor complex earth systems, disseminate information on a real-time basis, and equally important, carry out research on understanding, and adapting to, these systems to delineate policy options that may become the basis for future legislative and regulatory acts. There are serious concerns that earth-related knowledge is lagging behind the physical and biological sciences in India.

India's vision for food security and economic security will be in jeopardy without the availability of stabilised water supplies over the coming years. For India's gifted and the bright, the most challenging future lies in advancing knowledge and understanding of the complex web of earth resource systems, water, land and the biological habitat through which matter and energy flow incessantly to restore equilibrium, and in the process, fashion the environment in which everyone lives and breathes. The task is formidable, but this is a challenge that India shares with many other countries. There are opportunities for creative thinking and breakthroughs that may enable India to provide world leadership. Much will depend on how the country's leadership, and those who help fashion policies, choose to act.

( T.N. Narasimhan is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California at Berkeley (tnnarasimhan@LBL.gov). Vinod K. Gaur is with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the CSIR Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation, Bangalore (gaur@cmmacs.ernet.in).)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

THE PHENOMENON OF BOLLYWOOD IN EUROPE

A CONFERENCE HELD RECENTLY AT VIENNA UNIVERSITY MARKED A UNIQUE RECOGNITION OF THE PHENOMENON OF POPULAR HINDI CINEMA BREAKING DESI AND DIASPORIC BOUNDARIES.

KAMALA GANESH

 

Indian art house cinema has attracted critical attention for many years now, and lately, popular Hindi cinema has also been under scrutiny by film studies scholarship. Yet, a three-day international conference just on 'Shah Rukh Khan and Global Bollywood'? And hosted by the University of Vienna, one of the oldest and biggest classical European universities, established in A.D. 1365?

 

The welcome message from Austrian President Heinz Fischer at the inauguration in the grand Museum of Ethnology was testimony to the fact that this new avatar called Bollywood has crossed over to non- South Asian audiences. The phenomenon calls for a debate: what is the relationship of Bollywood to Hindi cinema? How big is it really, why in certain countries and not in others? What are the distribution channels and the expressions of fan-dom? The immediate context is the huge, unprecedented fan base for Shah Rukh Khan in the German-speaking countries in the last five years. This has led to a virtual cult, with the fans — 'Shahrukhis' as they are called – having become an insistent presence in the public sphere.

 

The conference brought together more than 40 scholars and practitioners from countries of Europe and North America, besides India. They were from media, culture and performance studies; theatre, film and video studies; cultural anthropology, philosophy, literature, and from production, direction, design and choreography. There were exhibitions and video installations on the material culture of fan-dom. Anna Mandel, the German artist, presented her paintings inspired by Veer Zara. Kesariya Balam, the first Austrian 'Bollywood' film, was screened as also the documentary Mr. Khan Vienna Loves You by Mehru Hasnain. Nasreen Munni Kabir, film studies personality, gave the opening lecture.

 

From Hindi cinema to Bollywood

 

This is not the first time that commercial Hindi cinema has reached out to foreign audiences. In the 1950s, Raj Kapoor films were the rage in the (erstwhile) USSR. Mithun Chakraborty and Amitabh Bachchan in Egypt and Rajinikanth in Japan have had spells of heady fame. But these films were considered to be too melodramatic and emotional with 'over-the-top' singing and dancing for Western sensibilities.

 

India's transformation in the globalising 1990s — with liberalisation came the advantage in the field of information technology, attractiveness as a market, rapid rise of a consuming class, growth and clout of diasporic Indians — also led to the emergence of 'Bollywood'. Chroniclers track it precisely to 1995. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge ('Bravehearts shall win the bride') with its tale of love that conquers all, set amidst identity conflicts of Indianness abroad, became a runaway success, in India and in the diaspora. It set off the trend of films with a clear orientation to diasporic viewers, whose values and preferences were shared by the new Indian middle class. There was an emphasis on love, family and Indian culture, and concomitantly, explicit sex, violence, the villain and the macho hero were de-emphasised. Themes of poverty and other contemporary issues were eschewed in favour of fantasy and plush settings. Global Indianness was attempted through song, dance, costume, sets and location, by revving up the conventional formula with technical sophistication and by re-negotiating the terms between tradition and modernity. The biggest blockbusters were those that stuck to this formula. Karan Johar, the most prolific in this genre, usually locates his films in a diaspora setting. Only half his revenue is from India, that too from urban multiplex audiences, while the rest is from the diaspora, according to Komal Nahta, Editor of the trade magazine Film Information.

 

Bollywood actually connotes this specific genre; at least that is how it began. The term emerged in a playful column in Screen that was titled 'Bollywood Beats.' It went global through the ethnic programming of Channel 4 in the U.K. Despite its many detractors, it has come to stay — true testimony to the power of popular culture. At the same time, Bollywood is an entire money spinning entertainment industry, including websites, music cassettes, cable, radio. Of these, cinema is only a small part, as pointed out by Ashish Rajadhyaksha. Bollywood style and personalities are also inspiring much of popular culture in India — fashion, design, 'Page 3' public and private celebrations such as weddings, religious festivals and political rallies.

 

Beyond diasporic boundaries

 

Until recently, the avid consumption of Bollywood outside India could be explained in terms of the enormous growth of immigration to the West and the diaspora's increasing connectivity with home.

 

But how does one explain a 26-year-old Viennese secretary who speaks only German, spending chunks of her salary to travel to the annual Berlinale Film Festival to catch the latest Shah Rukh Khan release? Her home is a shrine decorated with his posters and CDs, and her trunk stores every single product endorsed by him. What does one make of this retired teacher from Kirchentellingsfurt, who as a teenager had turned her nose up at Beatlemania? Now with Shah Rukh, she says "it's like I am entering puberty again!" The fans in Germany and Austria are either pre-teen boys and girls, or then adult women from various age groups and classes; they are intense in their devotion. Ethnologist Bernard Fuchs has tracked the journey of Mini Khan, a doll version of the star that has become a prized trope for the original. A limited number is in circulation since the company closed production. A fan may look after a doll, make special costumes for it, take it along for film premieres, then pass it on to other fans in a different city, who may nurture it for a while. And thus it goes on, a bit like the utsava idol of a temple on tour and giving darshan.

 

A curious set of circumstances has triggered this phenomenon, starting with the Indian government's policy push to send not just art cinema but box office hits to film festivals. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, REM (for Rapid Eye Movies), a small German film distribution company, struck a deal with Yash Johar for his film Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham, which became the first Indian movie to run on mainstream German TV. The dubbed version that appeared on the popular RTL 2 channel, viewed both in Germany and Austria, had an astounding effect. "I was on my computer, with the TV on and I heard snatches of strange but gripping music. Distracted, I turned to the screen and was totally captivated by the dancing charm of Shah Rukh," recounts an enthusiast. German-born researcher Anuradha Bhalla recollects the thrill of her entire joint family in Bonn gathering around the TV for the event. The DVD circuit in Asian grocery shops, patronised until then by immigrants, was suddenly buzzing with inquiries from a wider audience. Regular telecasts started. Fan-sites mushroomed on the Internet, complete with personal narratives, poems to the idol, wall papers, and fan fiction. Shah Rukh became a rage. Elke Mader, a social anthropologist at Vienna University and the chief organiser of the conference, estimates the number of dedicated fans on SRK Internet sites to be around 50,000. The viewership of RTL2 is around two million.

 

The phenomenon of Bollywood in Europe is not easy to interpret. The very excesses of the Hindi film, spurned earlier, are now savoured and celebrated. Filmy fantasy, promoted by REM as exotic India, reaches out to even women who may have never visited India. Two centuries ago, German romanticism had set the stage for an India of the imagination. Many venerable Sanskritists and Indologists made their signal contributions without even visiting India. Surely one has also to look within contemporary German society, its gaps and voids, which Bollywood is rushing in to fill. But all this still does not explain the charismatic meterosexual appeal of Shah Rukh Khan, ultimately based on his emotional connect with the audience. British Film Studies has taken Bollywood seriously with the work of Rajinder Dudrah, Rachel Dwyer, Rosie Thomas and others. In India, academics have been a bit inhibited so far. The conference is a sign that Bollywood Studies is poised for take-off.

 

( Kamala Ganesh is Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Mumbai.)

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

OMAR SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE CAREFUL

 

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah could have weighed his words with better care when he spoke in the Assembly earlier this week. It was the first opportunity the young National Conference leader had to place his government's views on the complex issues underlying the three-month-long violent agitation which claimed more than a hundred lives in the Valley. In this time he was under heavy political pressure from the key mainstream Opposition, the People's Democratic Party, and every shade of separatist opinion. It would have been fitting for him to take on these forces ideologically and politically, and to underline the transparent quality of his good intentions in relation to the governance agenda. Instead, the chief minister appeared to get carried away, calling Kashmir a decades-old "dispute" between India and Pakistan. This is as close as a mainline Kashmiri politician has ever got to the Jamaat-e-Islami or Hurriyat position. It is probable that the young Mr Abdullah used the word "dispute" in a general sense. But he holds office under both the J&K Constitution and the Constitution of India. The former categorically states that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral territory of India. The clearest Indian case is that Pakistan has committed aggression in the Indian state of J&K, occupying about 40 per cent of its territory — and that India has every intention to have the aggression vacated. Given his constitutional position, the chief minister was obliged to protect the integrity of his position when speaking on the Assembly floor. It will not do to take an alarmist view of the CM's observations, but it is required that he be asked to refurbish his perspectives when speaking from public forums.


It is unlikely that the PDP and separatist elements will now show Mr Abdullah greater solicitousness. It is more than likely that they will now demand his head, if only to demonstrate his fidelity to his own words in the House. The BJP has already asked him to resign. The CM may thus find himself cornered between the politics of Hindu nationalists and Kashmiri Muslim nationalists. It is not in the Centre's interest that the National Conference-Congress coalition government go under on account of the chief minister's lack of political verve. It is, of course, quite appropriate for Mr Abdullah to assert that he was not a "puppet" of New Delhi. He is an elected leader, after all. But it is baffling why he saw the need to state the obvious. New Delhi has not treated him in a subservient manner at all, scrupulously according him all the constitutional propriety and respect that his position demands. Citing a statement of the Union home secretary apparently made in July during a television interview is to stretch matters. Looking back, it was a minor issue and the chief minister has needlessly sought to blow it up out of proportion, possibly just to look good in the House.
The stage we are in calls for the selection of interlocutors to open political channels with relevant sections of Kashmir opinion. The chief minister will do well to show awareness of this in his public statements, and to facilitate the broad process as a call of history instead of getting caught up in dodgy history by suggesting that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India under an agreement. This is plainly unhistorical. The facts are that in late 1947, the maharaja beseeched New Delhi to send Indian forces into the Valley to protect his state from Pakistani invaders, and in return for this he signed the instrument of accession. The document was signed in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the chief minister's grandfather, following a specific demand of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made on the maharaja.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

INDIA'S LONG JUMP

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "How green was the valley

How black the rock

How orange the sunset

How scarlet her frock..."

From the Opera Badmash Bahu by Bachchoo

 

The Commonwealth Games in Delhi are, with their preparations in disarray, with dissent, derision and disclaimers from the international press, from the organisers, from the Indian government, from participating teams, inevitably invite comparison to the more smoothly organised Olympics of yesteryear across the Himalayan ranges. The two great economies destined to inherit the earth, each with its own model of burgeoning capitalism and each with its distinct faulty pretence at "democracy", presented each its own showcase of organisation to the world.


One has to be careful of assuming that "the world" was watching. I am writing this from Germany and though the British press and TV and the Indian press are equally full of stories of the failures and triumphs of the Commonwealth Games arrangements, there is little mention of them in Deutschland. The people I speak to are oblivious of these happenings. Europe doesn't seem to care what Britain and its former colonies get up to. Here, in Saarland, crossing the border to Metz in France even, there is no awareness of the debates or the debacle. But a substantial number of countries, 58, are part of the Commonwealth and they know and they can compare.
The common wisdom is a matter of the self-evident facts. China can organise things on time, seemingly without effort. Earthquakes, famine, internal dissent and external criticism are no bar to the march of showmanship. The symbolic operas and the thousands of schoolchildren moving in clockwork unison to produce those mass demonstration patterns that can only be seen from the air, must and did go on. The accommodation was perfect, the temperature adjusted, the carcasses of dogs hidden away from the butchers' display windows for the duration, the cockroaches, rats and snakes sent off to re-education camps and all was bon homus and efficient.
The contrast between the proficient handling of the Beijing Olympics and the muddle-through impression of the Indian Commonwealth Games has tempted very many commentators to glorify the events into X-rays of the body politic of the two countries and also allegories of the relative promise of each.


While one may admit that the X-ray provides an unflattering but accurate picture of conditions as they are now, the idea that the perfection of one and chaos of the other are indications of what lies in the future is debatable.
That Indian officialdom, government and capitalism are blatantly corrupt is true. I am told by businessmen who do business in China that the private capitalism and even the state-controlled productive economy are not at all free from bribery and corruption. The Chinese take bribes to cut red tape and get things done and to circumvent objections. The difference is that in India a bribe is a speculation, you pay and pray. In China it's a guarantee: you pay and play.


That the Chinese workforce is subject to strict and draconian disciplines whereas the Indian labourer is held to task by poverty and dire need within an exploited existence is also, to a great degree, true.
The Chinese have, through their enforced one-child-per-couple policy restricted the population of their now growing and future generations to manageable levels — numbers of people who can be fed, clothed, housed, educated, given medical treatment and employment. India has allowed the free market and ineffectual birth-control propaganda to determine family sizes. This may lead to "over-population" and a mismatch between resources and needs now, but what of the future?


What happens to a one-child family in a culture which still prefers boy children to girls? Do the Chinese surreptitiously make sure that they bring forth men children only? Will this result in a generation or two in a complete imbalance between the sexes with two or more men to every woman? And then will the government legalise polyandry, as it is in Tibet, allowing women to have two or more husbands? Or will sex-starved male Chinese armies pour over the Himalayas looking for Indian brides?


Most civilisations have dealt with gender shortages one way and the other by prescribing polygamy, burning widows, exporting girls to dance clubs in West Asia and casinos in Europe and other ploys. But what of the real problem of ageing populations and the supply of welfare and pensions to those who are past their productive working years? If the older Chinese generation has, because of the one-child policy, two or more old people for every working young one, won't this play havoc with the country's pension policy? One assumes that the Chinese oldies, with Communist Party bosses traditionally drawn from the geriatrics, will have the political clout to resist any move to compulsory euthanasia.


That's one policy whose hazardous effects are built in to present Chinese efficiency. What then about the rule of diktat which produces such spectacular feats of production today? The world knows that if the Chinese government wants a piece of land or needs to develop a natural resource for the common good, it can order any tribals or others off it without the possibility of protests or Maoist agitation to stay put. India's capitalism and corruption on the other hand are regularly hampered in their efforts at encroachment. The Narmada valley, the failed attempt to build cars in Nandigram and now the resistance of the Naxalite belt to intrusive mineral exploitation wouldn't happen in Maoist China. Beijing's will will be done.


History teaches us that bureaucracies tend to get more and more rigid and as a consequence less and less effective. Also that one-party rule in the name of the people becomes one-party rule in favour of the party and the people eventually catch on.


It may well be that these deductions from even recent historical examples, together with the population's age imbalance will affect China in ways that mar its miraculous efficiencies. It may also prove that India's chaotic, corrupt and even cruel capitalism, coupled with its population growth and battered and abused but extant democracy will assist it in the future long jump, pole-vault and hurdle-jumping events of the global economic games.

 ***************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

A LESSON OR TWO FROM UK

KISHWAR DESAI

 

It is always great to come back to London — and this time more so because I have managed to escape the high decibel 24/7 Commonwealth Games headlines. Or should I say — I have nearly managed to escape them because now the UK media is groaning about "Delhi belly" —claiming that over 40 of their swimmers have been affected by the poor quality of water in the swimming pools. No doubt the organising committee's secretary general, Lalit Bhanot will unleash a quick repartee about "the different standards of their water and our water", and thus shrug off the complaint like water off a duck's back. But perhaps the swimmers were far too delicate to be released (without mini-filteration plants attached to them) into the turbulent swimming pools of Delhi. (Think of the positive side, at least there were no dogs paddling alongside — so what if there is a bit of tummy trouble?)


In one of the more snooty but serious comments in the Times, questions were raised whether these young swimmers should have been thus endangered. What India forgets is that is these Games are fiercely competitive, and the tiniest slip can mean a lost medal. These swimmers, it was said in the article "live in a cocoon of dedication, toil and sacrifice". For each day in each swimmer's life, the British public pays between £12,000 and £27,000. Altogether around £2 million a year of British Lottery funds, and soon another 15 million from British Gas will be spent on British swimmers as they prepare for the Olympics. These are not amateurs and are "far removed from the threat of mosquitoes, Delhi belly and four hour bus tours to the pool". While these words may bite and wound our easily aroused Indian pride — they are true. Also it is true that, as the commentator points out, most of the Indian competition would not even have reached the first tier of the required level and is dependent on regional or family funding.


So whilst we are quick to blame Kalmadi &Co for their sh o rt-sightedness — what about the rest of India? Where were we when we should have been preparing our children for the fi ght of their lives? Did we pour the lakhs of rupees required in to their training ? Did we insist on proper conditions being pr ovided to them? If we look for instant results in everything (po ssible only in opening and closing ceremonies) — without the investment of love, funding and toil — we will continue to get poor headlines. So lets enjoy whatever gold tally we get — al ongside the kicking the rest of the world is bestowing on us. And believe me, this is not racist, much though we would like to think it is!

 

Meanwhile, it has been an interesting week: watching David Cameron address the Conservative Party conference as Prime Minister of Britian for the first time, and also see the recently-elected Ed Miliband take over as the Leader of the Opposition with his Shadow Cabinet. Both leaders are young, new to the job and good at playing happy families. Though Ed Miliband, as an unmarried father, has had his share of criticism from women because he had (as yet) not signed on as "father" on his 16-month-old son's birth certificate. It seems he may have been too busy — but women are wondering if this makes him the ultim a te commitment phobe? It is something which stands out in stark contrast because Mr Cameron has been steadfast in his support of marria ge. He has been quick to be se en with his children, and even carried his third child, Fl or­ence, just a few months old, into the party conference.


Of course, the cynics say "Dave" is using every trick in the book to get people to trust him: he has to negate the image of the Conservatives as the "nasty party". So far, sadly for Labour, "Dave" seems ahead of the game. He has been conciliatory in forming a coalition, is very quick to praise them, is removing old fears, even about Tories being homophobic, and is trying to come across as being Mr Nice Guy.

Mr Miliband, already, is creating the opposite image. He is emerging as a ruthless game player, in both his annihilation of his brother's ambition, and in his careful manipulation of the trade unions which have supported him. But his biggest advantage is that he comes with zero expectations — as no one has yet seen him on the world stage. Even in his role as environment minister he was not a heavy weight. Therefore, no matter what he does — most people will be forgiving of any initial mistakes. He has four years in which to seize the initiative. In this battle of Nice Dave versus Tough Ed — it is difficult to predict the winner, since the UK is facing difficult economic times, with a growth rate of just 0.5 per cent .

 

Coming from India — where the emphasis is to Spend! Spend! Spend! — it is disorienting to be in country where the theme song is Cut!Cut!Cut! But India should learn a lesson from the welfare state which the UK so carefully built up, and is now dismantling. The benefit system in this country had been admirable — supporting education, health and the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly and stay-at-home mothers with children. But now that the circumstances have changed and the state is forced to downsize, the outrage among the middle classes is palpable. Losing benefits is something which pinches badly — at any time. Once you give something for free — it is always difficult to grab it back.


The Indian government is lucky that in that it seem to be pro-poor even though often the actual benefits never reach the intended recipient. Civil society is not organised enough to protest. But the day some charismatic leader unifies the growing civilian anger it will be difficult to conceal corruption or avoid providing the benefit. And why not? Like in the UK, India is ripe for an honest, young national le a der. But (with the exception of Rahul Gandhi) we have very few.


So what are the various political parties waiting for? If these yo ung charismatic leaders cannot be found in India — they sh o uld launch an international search for youthful brilliant talent and lure them back to India to join politics. Remember, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi learnt their politics abroad — and for a good reason. Perhaps the children who st u dy and live abroad understand how the world views them and yet retain their patriotic fervour.They bring back fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Sometimes these lessons are learnt from the en vironment around them, and many of the lessons are positive.


Think of this: already 100,000 volunteers have signed up for the 2012 London Olympics, and are being trained. Imagine if we had been able to do that two years earlier in India!

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

CAVEMAN APPROACH? THINK AGAIN!

SHOBHAA DE

 

Aren't you just sick to death of Commonwealth Games and everything connected to it? I am. It's come to a point where I really and truly don't give a flying err... javelin... whether we win gold, silver, bronze, tin, copper, brass medals. The opening ceremony that we are crowing about was ummm... impressive but hugely "inspired" ( like our Bollywood films and music), but what the hell — you want a tamasha, you got a tamasha. I no longer care if Suresh Kalmadi can't tell the difference between Camilla and Diana (so long as the bonny Prince Charles doesn't make the same mistake, aall eez well). I for one, can't wait for the khel to get over and asli life to resume. Mumbai, of course, remains totally indifferent to what's going on in Dilli. Mumbai has its own games to focus on — and those don't involve athletes. All this came into sharp focus as I boarded the last flight to Aurangabad and noticed the bored expressions of passengers in the lounge as they turned their attention away from television screens showing the Games (live), and focused instead on sexier options on their BlackBerries and iPhones. Sad but largely true. Even Dilliwallas aren't chuffed about these momentous Games, preferring to flee the capital or stay back cribbing about various inconveniences. Tauba, tauba, even chief minister Sheila Dikshit's seetis and impromptu gigs weren't enough to inject the much needed josh into the dheela/marela Games.


As I emerged from the airport in Aurangabad and was swept away in an S-Class, fully loaded and impressively customised Mercedes, I looked around me in utter astonishment. We were on the main and only big road in this sprawling city of 20 lakh people, with a history that goes back to 3rd century BC. My local hosts told me India's biggest, flashiest shopping mall is soon coming up to challenge the glory of the historic Ajanta and Ellora sites close by. Imagine that! A shopping complex to challenge a World Heritage complex. A sign of our amazing times. In any case these are the last three years for tourists to rush to these magnificent caves and temples before they shut down for the much needed restoration and facelift. In anticipation of an unprecedented rush of visitors from overseas, hotels are gearing up and hoping to make big bucks. Along this stretch which extends through the city, our fancy car is frequently overtaken by even fancier cars. I am told a staggering order for 28 more S-Class Mercs has already been placed with the car giant. At over one crore a pop, these numbers are pretty damn cool. But hold it — that's nothing! This is also the city that had got the Mercedes guys back in Stuttgart to turn somersaults with glee when local chaps got together and placed an order for over 150 Mercs — yup, 150 — in what became a record breaking deal that had the auto world talking. So, who were these anonymous fellows who happily put down serious money for spiffy German wheels (I remembered there were 500 industries in what was described in the Seventies as one of the "fastest growing cities in Asia")? I met a couple of them during my short stay. They are young, hungry and ready to take on the world. The Merc is but one of the cars in their collection. I saw Porsches, BMWs and Bentleys cruising Jalna road, and behind the wheels were the proud owners and their designer-clad wives. Looking at some of them, it's hard to imagine the quantum of wealth at their disposal. But clearly they have it — loads and loads of it. Some are first-generation tycoons who jet around the globe from Zambia to New Zealand, selling everything from steel to seeds. They belong to a super exclusive club of richie rich Aurangabadis, and party hard at one another's sprawling villas, with seven-star resort level pools and other luxurious facilities. They rarely feel the need to come to Mumbai or Delhi, since they love their local lifestyle — and who wouldn't? These guys are brash, confident, global citizens — a far cry from the country hicks envious city slickers imagine them to be.


But for me, the real Aurangabad story of change and transformation, was the one I witnessed at the Maulana Azad College For Women, established by the late Dr Rafiq Zakaria in 1968 (at the time, it was a separate, segregated section of the main college, created so that girls from conservative sections could access higher education if their parents were averse to co-education). In 1991, the college became a separate entity. While Rafiq was the visionary, it is his widow Fatima, who has injected life and dynamism into this scrupulously clean college where even the gardeners are women. Fatima is a revered figure in Aurangabad. At 75, she works tirelessly to ensure that the poorest section of the society gets a shot at quality education. It starts at toddler level — a pretty daunting challenge. But Fatima has licked the problem by providing a free bus service to pick up these kids and bring them to school. I spent some time on this campus on a searingly hot afternoon. Over 900 students, along with their teachers, had gathered under two gigantic neem trees, their heads covered with traditional scarves. I met their principal, an elegant, soft-spoken lady, who'd earned her doctorate in computer sciences from this very same college years ago. Fatima was glowing with undisguised pride at having realised her late husband's dream and taken it forward in such an inspiring way. Along with her son, the stupendously famous Fareed Zakaria (a trustee), Fatima presides over a college complex with 15,000 students, a lot of them toppers in their chosen discipline. She also personally screens and supervises all interviews — students and staff alike, to ensure there is no hanky-panky. I was told the going rate to get a teacher's post at other colleges is a staggering 15 lakh of rupees.


I was meeting Fatima after several years (she was one of my fi rst editors). It was with abso l u te delight that I noted her glowing skin and actively ticking brain that is constantly looking for wa ys to serve the "flock" better. Si n ce she also presides over the Taj Catering College (IHM) and ed its the Taj Magazine, hers is an admirably full and fulfilled life. Fatima presides, okay? She is the undisputed Grande Dame of all she sees.
What next, Fatima, I asked her. Promptly, she reeled off a list of programmes, starting with a nati onal level workshop on women, water and the environment. My kind of woman. A total babe!

 

— Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

 

 ***************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

HEARTBURN & TEARS

S. NIHAL SINGH

 

If the fumbles leading up to the Commonwealth Games showed the inability of India's administrative and political leadership to stage a major international sporting event without heartburn and tears, New Delhi's extraordinary reaction to a New Zealand television anchor making fun of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is the icing on the cake.


The television anchor in question, Paul Henry of the state-owned TVNZ, was racist and vulgar in referring to Ms Dikshit, but for India's external affairs ministry to come out with a statement saying the comments were unacceptable and calling the New Zealand envoy to make a formal protest were uncalled for. Although both the New Zealand high commissioner and his foreign minister, Murray McCully, condemned the remarks, the latter calling them "gratuitous and insulting", his ans w er was that it was up to the company or the Broadcasting Standards Authority to discipline him.


In fact, Henry was suspended by the television station last Tuesday for questioning whether the country's Indo-Fijian Governor-General, Anand Satyanand, was a proper New Zealander. How often has India dealt with complaints from fellow developing countries for what has appeared in the Indian media and replied with the standard answer that the country enjoyed a free media.


Perhaps India has acquired a new sensitivity to criticism against the backdrop of the avalanche of criticism around the world on sliding deadlines for preparedness, inadequate and dirty accommodation and a senior official of the Indian managing committee suggesting that there were different standards of hygiene for Indians and the outside world.


India redeemed some of its self-respect by st aging a successful opening, but glitches continued to plague the events such as erring scales for weighing bo x­ers, doubts over the quality of water in the main swimming pool and a mixup of transport arrangements for event judges.


Indeed, India needs to introspect over its failings, which are indications of two fault lines that have developed in the system, the administration and the political leadership. Ever since the days of Indira Gandhi promoting a politically committed bureaucracy for her own partisan ends, the once famed civil service has been unable to maintain its standard. After all, if the then Prime Minister could push civil servants around for political motives, so can a string of chief ministers for whom civil servants have become mere toys to be moved on a chessboard. Only recently, a member of the Indian Administrative Service in Uttar Pradesh has sought premature retirement after being bounced from one post to another.


The second, more important, deficiency lies with the political system as it has evolved. India is not unique in having to live with coalition governments. But the coalition culture has yet to evolve. As it happened, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Mark I was in a somewhat happier position because there were clear red lines on what the Left parties extending support were not willing to accept. The Left was not part of the government.


UPA Mark II has proved to be a messier proposition because two of its main supporting parties, the DMK in the South and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, are seeking to extract all they can from their support. The DMK takes its price of support upfront while Ms Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress has a one-point agenda — of supplanting the Marxists in West Bengal in next year's elections — and tailors her role as a Union minister accordingly, irrespective of the wishes of the Congress Party.


But the central political problem facing the government at the Centre is that the two-headed power structure, with Manmohan Singh manning the government and Sonia Gandhi the Congress Party, is simply not working as it should, with the result that the smack of firm government is missing when it is needed most. For one thing, it is no secret that Mrs Gandhi exercises the ultimate authority over the party and government policies. This inevitably weakens the Prime Minister's authority in running the country.


For instance, what excuse can there be for the political leadership failing to act well in time within the seven-year window it had to prepare for the Commonwealth Games when it was clear years ago that key preparations were falling hopelessly behind schedule? Besides, it is a sign of a weak Prime Minister when every major issue requires the formation of a Group of Ministers (GoM), which reports to the Cabinet before it can take a decision. Indeed, this new institution is subverting the manner in which the Cabinet functions in a system of parliamentary government.


True, India is facing more than its share of problems — from Kashmir to Ayodhya to the belligerence and new assertiveness of neighbours. But political lea dership is tested in tim es of crisis and the ruling party of the day mu st prove equal to the occasion if it is to cont i n ue to retain the peop le's respect and support. Preparations for the Co m monwealth Ga mes ha ve proved that it is not performing as it should.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has himself lamented that the administrative machinery has atrophied. To which the obvious question is: what is the government doing to set things right?


Taking offence at a foreign television presenter making fun of the Delhi chief minister by creating a diplomatic incident is no way to create an aura of nationalist rhetoric. Wisely, Ms Dikshit herself has refrained from reacting, but such action can only lead to raised eyebrows around the world. Many of us, as well as much of the world, had assumed that India was grown up and, unlike too many countries, did not take offence at the mere suggestion of disrespect of the country or its leaders. It is time for the government to get its perspective right.

 

 ***************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

A LESSON OR TWO FROM UK

2010 - KISHWAR DESAI

 

It is always great to come back to London — and this time more so because I have managed to escape the high decibel 24/7 Commonwealth Games headlines. Or should I say — I have nearly managed to escape them because now the UK media is groaning about "Delhi belly" —claiming that over 40 of their swimmers have been affected by the poor quality of water in the swimming pools. No doubt the organising committee's secretary general, Lalit Bhanot will unleash a quick repartee about "the different standards of their water and our water", and thus shrug off the complaint like water off a duck's back. But perhaps the swimmers were far too delicate to be released (without mini-filteration plants attached to them) into the turbulent swimming pools of Delhi. (Think of the positive side, at least there were no dogs paddling alongside — so what if there is a bit of tummy trouble?)


In one of the more snooty but serious comments in the Times, questions were raised whether these young swimmers should have been thus endangered. What India forgets is that is these Games are fiercely competitive, and the tiniest slip can mean a lost medal. These swimmers, it was said in the article "live in a cocoon of dedication, toil and sacrifice". For each day in each swimmer's life, the British public pays between £12,000 and £27,000. Altogether around £2 million a year of British Lottery funds, and soon another 15 million from British Gas will be spent on British swimmers as they prepare for the Olympics. These are not amateurs and are "far removed from the threat of mosquitoes, Delhi belly and four hour bus tours to the pool". While these words may bite and wound our easily aroused Indian pride — they are true. Also it is true that, as the commentator points out, most of the Indian competition would not even have reached the first tier of the required level and is dependent on regional or family funding.


So whilst we are quick to blame Kalmadi &Co for their sh o rt-sightedness — what about the rest of India? Where were we when we should have been preparing our children for the fi ght of their lives? Did we pour the lakhs of rupees required in to their training ? Did we insist on proper conditions being pr ovided to them? If we look for instant results in everything (po ssible only in opening and closing ceremonies) — without the investment of love, funding and toil — we will continue to get poor headlines. So lets enjoy whatever gold tally we get — al ongside the kicking the rest of the world is bestowing on us. And believe me, this is not racist, much though we would like to think it is!

 

Meanwhile, it has been an interesting week: watching David Cameron address the Conservative Party conference as Prime Minister of Britian for the first time, and also see the recently-elected Ed Miliband take over as the Leader of the Opposition with his Shadow Cabinet. Both leaders are young, new to the job and good at playing happy families. Though Ed Miliband, as an unmarried father, has had his share of criticism from women because he had (as yet) not signed on as "father" on his 16-month-old son's birth certificate. It seems he may have been too busy — but women are wondering if this makes him the ultim a te commitment phobe? It is something which stands out in stark contrast because Mr Cameron has been steadfast in his support of marria ge. He has been quick to be se en with his children, and even carried his third child, Fl or­ence, just a few months old, into the party conference.


Of course, the cynics say "Dave" is using every trick in the book to get people to trust him: he has to negate the image of the Conservatives as the "nasty party". So far, sadly for Labour, "Dave" seems ahead of the game. He has been conciliatory in forming a coalition, is very quick to praise them, is removing old fears, even about Tories being homophobic, and is trying to come across as being Mr Nice Guy.

Mr Miliband, already, is creating the opposite image. He is emerging as a ruthless game player, in both his annihilation of his brother's ambition, and in his careful manipulation of the trade unions which have supported him. But his biggest advantage is that he comes with zero expectations — as no one has yet seen him on the world stage. Even in his role as environment minister he was not a heavy weight. Therefore, no matter what he does — most people will be forgiving of any initial mistakes. He has four years in which to seize the initiative. In this battle of Nice Dave versus Tough Ed — it is difficult to predict the winner, since the UK is facing difficult economic times, with a growth rate of just 0.5 per cent .


Coming from India — where the emphasis is to Spend! Spend! Spend! — it is disorienting to be in country where the theme song is Cut!Cut!Cut! But India should learn a lesson from the welfare state which the UK so carefully built up, and is now dismantling. The benefit system in this country had been admirable — supporting education, health and the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly and stay-at-home mothers with children. But now that the circumstances have changed and the state is forced to downsize, the outrage among the middle classes is palpable. Losing benefits is something which pinches badly — at any time. Once you give something for free — it is always difficult to grab it back.


The Indian government is lucky that in that it seem to be pro-poor even though often the actual benefits never reach the intended recipient. Civil society is not organised enough to protest. But the day some charismatic leader unifies the growing civilian anger it will be difficult to conceal corruption or avoid providing the benefit. And why not? Like in the UK, India is ripe for an honest, young national le a der. But (with the exception of Rahul Gandhi) we have very few.


So what are the various political parties waiting for? If these yo ung charismatic leaders cannot be found in India — they sh o uld launch an international search for youthful brilliant talent and lure them back to India to join politics. Remember, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi learnt their politics abroad — and for a good reason. Perhaps the children who st u dy and live abroad understand how the world views them and yet retain their patriotic fervour.They bring back fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Sometimes these lessons are learnt from the en vironment around them, and many of the lessons are positive.


Think of this: already 100,000 volunteers have signed up for the 2012 London Olympics, and are being trained. Imagine if we had been able to do that two years earlier in India!

 

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

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******************************************************************************************

DNA

INTERVIEW

OBAMA WON'T SEEK HIGH-PROFILE ROLE IN KASHMIR: LISA CURTIS

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

Strained relations between the US and Pakistan, which are notionally allies in the war on terror in Afghanistan, came close tobreaking point last week when Pakistan shut down a crossing on the Af-Pak border used by Nato troops.

 

Yet, the US cannot walk away from its troubled relationship, short of a "game-changer" event such as a successful terrorist strike in the US that emanates from Pakistani soil, explains Lisa Curtis, a South Asia expert at the Heritage Foundation who served in former president George W Bush's administration. In an interview to DNA's, Curtis reasons that the Kashmir issue — which Pakistan projects as a "core issue" — is a red-herring, and the Obama administration has overcome its initial "naiveté" on it.

 

In the light of last week's events, how would you characterise the state of relations between the US and Pakistan?

 

This is a period of high tension. For the first time, Pakistan has closed down a border crossing on Nato's supply route. It looks like they did it primarily because of an incident where a Nato helicopter hit a Pakistani army post, but there's also frustration in Pakistan over the escalated drone strikes in the region. Even though Pakistani forces allow these strikes to occur, the Pakistani public is getting to feel it's an infringement on their sovereignty and that the US is taking Pakistani cooperation in the war on terrorism for granted.

 

Is Pakistan a reliable partner in the war on terror?

 

It's widely recognised in the US that Pakistan is not a reliable partner. The US does receive some cooperation from Pakistan in terms of information to disrupt terrorist plots and fighting militants in the tribal areas. But, there's also a lack of cooperation against terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban that are still fighting US forces in Afghanistan. This leaves US officials frustrated in developing an effective Pakistan policy. They want to continue the tactical cooperation they're getting, but they don't know how to secure strategic cooperation for the US to win the war in Afghanistan.

 

Will the drone strikes be scaled back to placate Pakistani sensitivities?

 

I don't think so. The US has increased the drone campaign in part because they received intelligence about potential terror plots. It looks like the strikes were able to eliminate some of the people involved in that plot. The US will make decisions based on what is necessary to protect its citizens from future terror strikes — not based on any complaints that Pakistan may have on the issue.

 

Doesn't the US have leverage over Pakistan to challenge its double-dealing on terrorism?

 

The US doesn't have adequate leverage over Pakistan: the billions of dollars in aid it provided Pakistan has secured very little leverage. We are trying to figure out how to develop an effective policy towards Pakistan. What tends to trump the conversations is that people believe things could get much worse in Pakistan: if the US pushes too hard, we could have a situation where you have a rogue Pakistan in control of nuclear weapons, a nightmare scenario. One of the reasons we can't develop our leverage over Pakistan is because there is such a high risk of instability.

 

Can't the Nato troops and the US end their reliance on Pakistan for supply routes to Afghanistan?

 

We should be doing everything we can to find alternatives to the Pakistani supply routes. But I don't think we'll

ever be able to replace what Pakistan provides. Even reducing our dependence would send a signal to Pakistan. I don't think we're going to see any change in the status quo until — god forbid! — there's a successful terrorist attack in the US. We should do everything to prevent such a possibility. This requires Pakistan to do more, and if we have to use some more stick — rather than continue to pour in aid — we should be doing it.

 

It's almost like the US is stuck in a bad marriage it can't walk out of…

 

That's a good analogy: it is a bad marriage the US can't walk out of. The US needs the cooperation it gets from Pakistan, and to that extent it does need Pakistan. And Pakistan too needs the US: it relies on US assistance. There is mutual dependency, but certainly the relationship isn't to the satisfaction of either side. It's difficult to say what the breaking point will be. But I'd speculate that a successful terrorist strike in the US that emanates from Pakistan's tribal areas would probably represent a game-changer.

 

To secure greater leverage over Pakistan, will the US offer it concessions on Kashmir?

 

I don't think so. The Kashmir issue is more a symptom of the larger problem between India and Pakistan; it's not as if dealing with Kashmir will make these terrorist groups melt away. The aims of India-focussed groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba are broader than Kashmir: they're trying to wreak havoc throughout India and dent the country's image as an emerging power. They use the situation in Kashmir to justify what they're doing, but they're not interested in Kashmir.

 

The idea that if the US intervenes in Kashmir, it would help focus Pakistan's attention on dealing with militant groups is a misunderstanding. The focus should be on convincing Pakistan to crack down on these groups for the sake of its own stability. The non-state actors that Pakistan supported to destabilise India are now destabilising Pakistan. The sooner Pakistan accepts that reality, the better.

 

Does the Obama administration realise that Kashmir is a red herring?

 

There's increased understanding on this point. Initially there was some naiveté: a connection was mistakenly made that if the US could resolve Kashmir, the problems of South Asia would go away. That's typical of new administrations: they come in with an idealistic view that the US can wave its magic wand and resolve problems. Kashmir represents Pakistani paranoia about an emerging India. At the heart of the issue is convincing Pakistan that building up its economy is the best way for it to protect its regional interests, not trying to wreak havoc on its neighbours. I think there's a growing understanding within the Obama administration on this point, so we won't see the president trying to seek a high profile role on Kashmir.

 

He's learnt the lesson from when as a presidential candidate he promoted the idea of a Kashmir envoy. He may raise the issue in private meetings and seek to get more information to enhance his own understanding of the region. The best way to pursue this may be encouraging New Delhi to deal with Kashmiri grievances, which we've seen over this summer. But the other part of it is convincing Pakistan not to take advantage of this situation like it did throughout the 1990s when it supported insurgent groups in the region.

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DNA

COLUMN

WHY DOES HAPPINESS WEAR THIN OVER TIME?

V RAGHUNATHAN

 

You might as well ask, 'Why is time the best healer?' One who lost his foot to a land mine or an arm to a threshing machine isn't perpetually depressed. How does he get over the trauma? Why is the guy who was euphoric about winning that Rs5 crore lottery not in a perpetual state of euphoria? Why? Well, it's all for the same reason why seasoned singing stars reserve their best for the latter half of their concerts! Now this needs a bit of clarification.

 

Researches in behavioural economics tell us that we humans are wired to discount the past. To show exactly how this works,

 

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and others exposed some of their volunteers to some discomfort that they were asked to rate on a 100-point scale every five minutes. The discomforts varied in duration (15 to 35 minutes) and were proffered in ascending or descending level of discomfort, with degree of steepness of the discomfort level itself varying from one to the other.

 

The discomforts used varied from noise level to pressure of air from a nozzle to films with graduated unpleasantness, etc.

 

The results of these experiments were interesting. For the same overall level of discomfort, the ascending discomfort experience was considered much more unpleasant than the descending discomfort experience.

 

For example if the subject were exposed from, say 30 decibels to 160 decibels of noise gradually (ascending order of decibel) or if they were exposed from 160 decibels to 30 decibels gradually (descending order), the respondents overwhelmingly considered the first experience to be much more unpleasant than the second one.

 

Kahneman calls this the 'Peak-End Rule'. According to the rule, how events peak (like ascending or descending) and the memory

 

retained from the end of an experience are what leave a more lasting impression on one's mind. In other words, people do not necessarily evaluate the past based on the overall experience.

 

They go more by their most extreme experience (peak) and by the experience towards the end (end). Hence the Peak-End rule.

 

This could also mean that if you are making a presentation or a speech, how you end probably counts more than how you began.

 

If you are in an interview, your performance in the later moments will weigh much more than your performance early on. But this also means that even if you fouled up on your interview or your date early on, you can hope to recover by ensuring that you end the meeting or the date on a high note.

 

You can now see why seasoned singing stars reserve their best for the latter half of their concerts. You judge a company or mutual fund performance most by their most recent results. That they did extremely well two years ago counts for very little.

 

Events of the distant past are discounted fast. Unfortunately, this is also the reason that we tend to take the good turn done to us by a friend in the distant past lightly while putting disproportionately higher weight on his more recent behaviour.

 

The peak-end experience has its uses in human beings leading their lives with a sense of proportion. For instance, it is the peak-end phenomenon that also goes some way into explaining why one may feel terribly miserable if one were to lose a limb in an accident but eventually come to terms with the mishap. That's probably also why lottery winners are not forever in euphoria and paraplegics not as unhappy with their lot as you and I may imagine.

 

For those watching paraplegics it is saddening because it is a recent experience, but for paraplegics and their families, this is a distant event and nicer things may well have happened since to soften the blow. Closely related to the above phenomenon is 'hedonic impact'.

 

For example, winning of a lottery may render the subsequent happy events less exciting. And by the same token, a tragic experience may make one unhappy, but it also makes one tolerate subsequent experiences, which are less painfulbetter than someone who did not have a tragic experience.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

THE ADMAN'S TWISTED WORLD

AKSHAYA MISHRA

 

It was a perfect world back then. The early man learnt to stand erect, he went about hunting and gathering with no great fuss, and the early agriculturist conned wild animals into accepting the virtues of domesticity.

 

The alpha man got his share of adoring women, but others wooed their lot too. It's not known yet whether they drew dirty, sexually explicit graffiti on the walls of abandoned caves, but things looked to be in order then, and till many centuries and civilisational leaps later. Men remained just men and women what they were, unencumbered by the concept of 'size'.

 

Then landed the adman with his big idea of 'perfection', and went about categorising all by 'size' — from zero to infinity — and the style quotient.

 

Why obsess over Neanderthals and admen on an innocuous, sunny day, one might ask. That is what the adman drives you to. He cooks up the idea of the perfect man, garnishes him with unusual properties and leaves you bristling at your own shortcomings.

 

Catch the hidden message in the giant billboards on the city's roads or the mannequins staring at you from their glass enclosures. You are a goner, that's what they convey. To begin with, your looks have a lot of catching up to do; you lack the smartness, the attitude, in most cases, the hair too, and whatever goes into the package called the perfect person, the model that is.

 

Stare at the billboard again and read between the smiles.

 

The hairless hunky man on his bike and the bikini-clad enchantress riding pillion are sending out a not-so-subtle message. "Cave man", "savage", "nerd", they seem to be saying.

 

Bewilderment seeps in soon. Why is it so? What on earth was so terribly wrong with the everyday Johns and Janes that someone had to devise a new species as the ideal? Then troop in the questions.

 

How could they find a combination of numbers (36-26-whatever) to define a woman's shape? Why do they create people for the dresses and not the other way round? Who gave these people the right to sit in judgment about others anyway?

 

There is no historical or archaeological evidence yet to prove that the early man shaved his chest, acquired an eight-pack, built-up biceps and triceps and preened before the mirror before setting out to woo the woman. There's no proof either that he wore designer tree bark suits or used deodorant (read: stink remover) on a date. But it is possible he was never reminded of being inadequate. It was a normal world. And they did not have models.

 

You look around and notice a small crowd — individuals in all shapes and from size sub-zero to size jumbo — ogling at the mannequins. A few are busy smiling back at the underclad woman on the billboard; others walk by barely noticing anything amiss in themselves. Cavemen all, and suddenly the world is normal again.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

NEED FOR BALANCE

 

There is absolute necessity for striking a balance between development and safe surroundings. A mismatch between the two can have an adverse effect on public health. It needs to be admitted that we have ignored the environmental factor in the early stages of our growth. In the name of achieving progress as soon as possible we have gone about the task in a haphazard fashion. A view from a distance, for instance, would reveal that as picturesque a spot as Patnitop already looks grotesque with cemented structures all over the hills. Its famous meadow, which was the first introduction to its natural opulence, is a thing of the past. Not many would recall that something like that was visible only a couple of decades ago. All said and done, it is wrong to find fault with anyone. We can't ignore that our initial priority has been to derive social-economic benefits from our available resources. It has not been an ordinary job. The entrepreneurs and the government apparatus have joined hands to make it possible. Environment concerns have come into play with the passage of time. These are born of realisation that we have to be wary of atmospheric pollution because of its negative impact on our well being. We can overlook them only at our own peril. However, this can't mean that we have to demolish all our existing structures in order to restore green cover and ensure dirt-free air as well as clean water from numerous springs and streams in our vicinity. We ought to find a middle ground unless there are certain extreme cases calling for thorough surgical operations including payment of compensation to those who suffer on this count. There is a lot of expertise that can be easily reached these days to carry out remedial measures. 
This topic assumes relevance in view of a report in this newspaper that the majority of brick kilns and stone crushers are operating in the State in violation of the norms. Even those stone crushers continue to function which have been served closure notices. How is that possible? Such state of affairs exposes the concerned authorities to the charge of having closed their eyes. Certain specific issues have been raised: (a) the State Pollution Control Board has relaxed rules without taking into account the opinion of the majority of its members; (b) there is a nexus between "a few vested interests and a strong lobby of bureaucrats"; (c) it was mandatory to set up kilns at a distance of 500 metres from highways and district roads and 1.5 to 2 kilometres away from residential areas but the prevailing scenario is murkier. There are about 250 brick kilns and 122 stone crushers in this region alone. 


It is not clearly known why the Board has felt the necessity of changing its guidelines except that the officials who have done it are no more in charge of its affairs. There should be no hesitation at all in applying the essential correctives without further delay. It ought to be done without unduly twisting anyone's arms. The sole purpose should be to take care that a development activity and environment around it survive in perfect harmony with each other. Both are to our immense advantage and can't be treated in isolation. 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

JOY OF REUNION?

 

Usually the family reunions after long separations are a matter of joy. We know it from experience in our part of the globe. The movement of people across the Line of Control (LoC) in the undivided Jammu and Kashmir, as it had existed in 1947, has been rewarding. The long-lost kith and kin have met after decades through the shortest possible route. True, there have been a few black sheep as well. They have tried to mask their real identity as couriers of militants. Their number has not been large. In any case they have been caught in time. There is no reason also why they or their misdeeds should be allowed to cast black shadow over a well-intentioned exercise. For a variety of reasons the strength of to-and-fro travellers has dwindled with the passage of time. At one time it had touched 350 a week. Now it averages less than 50 every week. Looked from one angle this phenomenon is not difficult to comprehend. The initial enthusiasm may have given way to a steady approach. Of course, the relations between the two countries take their own toll. If warm these yield greater traffic. If strained which these largely are the people prefer discretion to be the better part of valour and choose to stay back at home. At the same time it is quite a revelation that there are some persons who have stayed put on both sides after the expiry of their fixed period. A report in this newspaper puts their figure at four --- two each from either side. The duo from the occupied territory has obtained stay order from a court in this region on the ground that it wants to live with their family members with whom they have joined up after a long time. They don't want to go back because there is nobody to look after them. The two travellers from our part of the State have not come back although more than a year has passed ---- in fact, two years in the case of one of them. It is said that they also have got the judiciary to intervene in their favour. 


Our report says that at times the people have to be forcibly pushed back into their respective territories after they exhaust their time. It must be an anti-climax for them. Can anything be done to ensure that they reside as long as they want? By now it ought to have been possible. After all the purpose of diluting the LoC was to strengthen human bonds torn apart by decades of suspicion and hatred born of a harmful two-nation theory based on religion. If it has not been fully achieved it is because of terrorism that has played the villain. "Azad" Kashmir, as the occupied land across the LoC is locally known, has not got rid of its dubious reputation as the base camp of all terrorism in this part of the State especially the Valley and the higher reaches of this province. What worsens the atmosphere is Islamabad's official patronage to a dastardly activity like this. The ordinary citizens would be happy to live in perfect harmony. It is a vain wish when their government --- in this instance Pakistan --- does not have clean hands.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN ON BRINK OF POLITICAL CRISIS

MEN, MATTERS & MEMORIES

BY ML KOTRU

 

Is Pakistan at the brink of yet another major political crisis? At least two major pillars of the power structure seem to be pointing towards that. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the all powerful military chief recently asked President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to put their house in order! This was said not just in passing.


The General listed three major heads to make the point that the Zardari dispensation was continuing to be soft on corruption, unable to take charge of the plummeting economy and, rubbing salt into the wounds, reminding the government of its failure to respond to the worst ever natural flood crisis facing Pakistan. Gen. Kayani had some unpleasant things to say referring to government's going "the extra mile to play down unauthorized attacks of the north western territory of the country by the Americans.


The extent of Pakistan Army's annoyance with these unauthorised attacks on Pakistani soil can be in measured by the defiant stand taken by the Army: cutting of the Torkhum road link connecting Peshawar with Kabul past Jalalabad. This is one part of Zardari's problems. Twenty seven standing oil tankers were blown up by Sunday.
Gunning for him on the other front is the judiciary with Chief Justice Ifitkhar Chowdhury, reinstated as the CJ after Gen Pervez Musharraf's downfall, by insisting that the immunity granted to him by Musharram on the last day of his Presidency is no longer valid after the Court had thrown out the National Reconciliation Order passed by Musharraf.


The NRO granted pardon to nearly 100 individual Pakistanis facing "accountability" cases and to ensure that his diktat was not challenged Musharraf had followed the promulgation of the NRO, by sacking several High Court judges, including Chief Justice Ifitkhar Chaudhry.


The nationwide revolt by lawyers and the civil society against the arbitrary NRO by Musharraf finally saw him on the run and, wisely or unwisely, Justice Chaudhry has chosen to ask for his pound of flesh, thus forcing the President and some of his key advisers into a face-off with the judiciary.


Chaudhry rejects Prime Minister Gilani's argument that the courts cannot act against the President while he holds office. To top Pakistani government's troubles, come the ever deepening suspicions between the American Generals and their Pakistani counterparts. The Americans have been openly questioning Pakistani Army's bona fides, its seriousness to bring to order the radical Taliban in Afghanistan and along the Pak-Afghan border.


On the contrary, the Americans believe that the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence is behind the troubles which reduced the Afghan President Hamid Karzai to tears during a public address last week. The blocking of the vital supply route for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan because of a cross-border NATO airstrike that killed three Pakistani soldiers has virtually shocked the Americans out of their wits. The move to disrupt the supply route underlines tensions in the US-Pak relationship. The Army, concerned as it obviously is, about the American role in Afghanistan-it has never ceased to think of a strong, independent Afghanistan being inimical to Pak strategic interests - is willing to go with the ISI chief Gen. Pasha's assessment that Islamabad continue to play cat and mouse with President Obama who is committed to withdraw from Kabul sooner than believed earlier.

Gen. Kayani, himself a former ISI chief and once considered close to Gen. Musharraf is going with the ISI assessment. He has his guns trained on the Zardari-led dispensation which he knows has lost credibility nationwide. Justice Chaudhry's pot shots at Zardari and some of his Ministers do not worry the Army. If anything it only suits its long term objectives vis-à-vis Afghanistan, not to forget the eastern front.
Reports have had it for sometime now that military has deployed the bulk of aircraft received by it from the US for the war on Taliban to the east to "keep India from needling us", as he is reported to have said.
I don't know whether there is any nexus between Gen. Musharraf's tell-all statement in London last week in which he accused all the political parties of having "lost track of Pakistan" and his decision, therefore, to revive Qaide Azam Jinnah's Pakistan Muslim League. Addressing a largely receptive crowd he warned that at the present rate and given the set of politicians at the helm Pakistan may soon become a failed State.


He was aware, he confessed, of the serious mistakes he made during the last year of his presidency, suggesting that he was nothing if not a good student to learn from past errors.


Musharraf, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, overthrowing Nawaz Sharif, and stood down in 2008, said in London that Gen Kayani could be forced to intervene against the unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari. Musharraf was aksed if he saw anything serious in a crisis meeting last week in Islamabad between Kayani, Zardari or Prime Minister Gilani. His laconic reply was "you saw the photographs; I can assure you they were not discussing the weather".


Interestingly, though, Musharraf reverted to his once famous refrain that the military be given a constitutional role in governing the nation of 167 million people. "The situation in Pakistan can only be solved when the military has some role. If you want checks and balances, stability in the democratic structure of Pakistan, the military ought to have some role. For his part Gen. Kayani has told the President and the Prime Minister that the civilian leadership must puts its house in order. He asked for crackdown on everything that is holding the country back.


A warning, a veiled one, though, that if the Zardari dispensation fails to deliver the goods, it may have a lot to explain. For its part the Zardari dispensation, it appears, may not be in a position to make a total break with the Americans in Afghanistan or in the war against domestic terror. So all it can do to divert attention is to encourage the Army and the ISI not to relent on the Indian front. And that may be why we have heard the Pakistan Foreign Minister in New York and the Laskhar and other militant outfits in Lahore and POK raising the pitch on Kashmir. We may see the State receiving more corss-border terrorist movement. The hue and cry raised by separatist outfits for removal of our Army from the valley fits into that scheme. 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

DEEMED UNIVERSITIES BE ABOLISHED

BY R.C. MISHRA

 

The Central Government could find itself in a spot with the Supreme Court asking it to consider the possibility of shifting some of the 44 "unfit" deemed universities to the "deficient" category. The Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry will have to weigh immediate "interests" of students against the urgent need to "improve standards" of the deemed universities. 


An expert panel headed by P.N. Tandon had undertaken an intensive evaluation of 126 deemed universities. The panel found that only 38 of these institutions were fit to retain the status of deemed to be universities. Another 44 were adjudged to be in the "deficient" category. It was suggested that these institutions be given three years time to improve their standards. The remaining 44 were found to be "unfit". The panel had suggested that these 44 institutions should revert to their original status of affiliate colleges. This would ensure that students in these "unfit" deemed universities get a degree from the affiliating university. 
The apex court has asked the Government if it would be possible to move any of the 44 unfit institutes to the deficient category. According to the court the measure would protect the interest of students in these institutions. For the ministry of human resource development, the apex court's request could present a problem. It would mean going against the recommendations of the expert panel it had appointed and whose report it accepted. The panel consisted of P.N. Tandon, professor emeritus, AIIMS; Govardhan Mehta, chairman National Assessment and Accreditation Council; M Anandarishnan, chairman, IIT Kanpur, and Mrinal Miri, former vice-chancellor, North East Hill University. 


Going against the accepted suggestions of its high-profile panel could adversely affect the ministry's credibility vis-a-vis expert panels in the future. On the other hand, disregarding a suggestion made by the apex court in the interests of students too could present a problem for the ministry. 


Each of the 126 deemed to be universities was assessed on nine parameters, with a maximum score of 45. The 44 deemed universities which were categorised as "unfit" scored less than 19. The "deficient" institutions scored between 19 and 31. The remaining 38 deemed universities, which were seen to maintain standards, scored above 31. 


Parameters considered for making this assessment included availability of the qualified faculty, infrastructure, and sanctity of the admission process, research facilities and output. Given the low score of these 44 institutions, it would be difficult to find any mitigating factor to help these institutions retain their deemed to be university status. 


The apex court has raised the question of students' interest. In its affidavit submitted in January, the Centre stressed that it was committed to protecting the interests of students in these institutions. To this end, it had submitted that "all pre-existing colleges not found suitable for the status of deemed to be university should revert to status quo ante as affiliated colleges of state university of jurisdiction," to enable them complete their courses.


The "unfit" institutes are located across 13 states UTs and their constituent units are located within the geographical and academic domain of 28 state universities. The Centre had assured the apex court that if an institution is unable to obtain affiliation, effort would be made to facilitate migration or re-enrolment of students to equivalent or similar courses in other institutions. Students enrolled in distance education courses affected by the derecognition should be enrolled by the IGNOU or state open universities and further admissions into these de-recognised universities should be stopped.


The division bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma asked the unfit 44 to furnish details about their student strength and courses before the next hearing on December 7.


Instead of looking into what is wrong with deemed universities, it should have enquired into what is wrong with university education. As a result of this flawed approach, many universities which do not deserve to be described as such continue to flourish, whereas others, superior in discipline and in quality of instruction, have been dubbed as incompetent.


On a personal note, my wife was a UGC nominee to enquire into the accreditation of a college in Rajasthan. That college had given degrees in chemistry for several years without having a single teacher to teach that subject. The labs had been condemned as unfit and had not been repaired. The person who received her in the morning had vanished by the evening because he had been transferred to a "better" college and he wanted to join before the order could be revised - by political pressure. That university remains accredited; that college "functions".


Then, we have a problem, peculiar to our country, of "affiliated colleges". We have over 20,000 colleges in the country. Very few of them are worthy of being part of a university. Admittedly, we cannot close them all. The least we can do is to relieve universities from the responsibility of carrying them on their rolls and suffering on their behalf.


Affiliated universities are a legacy of the British Raj, as a result of which our universities spend most of their energies testing students. The Controller of Examinations (or the equivalent) is a formidable figure, at times more powerful than even the Registrar or the Vice-chancellor. This kind of lopsided administrative system permits worthless colleges to flourish, with universities being unable to do anything about them.


Critics will argue that such a free system will make matters worse. I do not think so. First, universities are unable to enforce any discipline. Second, good colleges will then have the freedom to rid themselves of the corroding influence the not-so-good ones wield in the university policy. Third, there will be greater transparency, which does not exist at present and hence pulls down good colleges.


The ideal university I can think of is one which has many disciplines - arts, sciences, engineering, medicine, law and the like. For each discipline it will have one and only one constituent college - of its own choice. All other colleges become autonomous. (INAV) 


(The writer is former Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi )

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BUOYANCY OF INDIAN ECONOMY

BY DR. SATISH MISRA

 

The Indian market has been rising for the last few weeks and is likely to touch 21000 marks in coming days. Does this show the strength of the Indian economy or is it just a bubble waiting to burst? 
Such questions are haunting ordinary Indians who do not understand the complexities of the economic forces and its dynamics. While this is true that markets in the past have witnessed crash also but at present the rise is an indicator of the state of Indian economy whose fundamentals are sound and is fast emerging as one of the vital pillars of the global economy.


According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Indian economy is expected to grow at 9.5 percent in 2010. The IMF said that favourable financing conditions and robust corporate profits are going to accelerate the domestic economic expansion. The IMF had earlier project a growth figure of 8.8 percent. 


According to Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), overall industrial growth numbers continued on the path of buoyancy. The FICCI study said that the industry segments that registered a sizable increase in output were food products, cotton textiles, jute products, paper products, rubber and plastic products, petroleum, coal and tar, metal products and among the capital goods were the machinery and equipment, transport equipment and parts. 


Even the growth momentum of the six core infrastructure industries was maintained with the increase in petroleum products. However, cement and steel sectors remained sluggish which was a cause of some concern but experts say that even this is a temporary phenomenon. 


Even the total revenue of the government has stepped up sharply this year with more than two fold increase, from Rs 105378 crores up to July 2009-10 to Rs 238524 crores up to the month of July of current fiscal. Consequently, the magnitude of fiscal deficits, cause of major concern, has contracted by almost 43 percent during the period of 2010-11 over the previous year. It is true that this has become possible because of the auction of 3G and BWG. 


The total foreign investment swelled to US $ 10.8 billion but it was due to increased portfolio investments. The world's largest private equity company, Blackstone Group, is likely to invest US $ 1-2 billion in the next three year. Blackstone Group founder Schwarzman indicated recently that his company sees Indian economy doing well in coming years and that is why his group was keen to invest in India.


One of the motors of growth is going to be in the field of physical infrastructure. The expected expansion of investment in physical infrastructure, including housing will drive the construction sector. Accordingly, the GDP arising in the construction sub-sector would rise by 10 per cent in 2010/11, which is likely to inch up to 11 per cent in 2011/12. In the "trade, hotel, restaurants, transport & communication" sub sector, growth picked up in the last two quarters of the year. 


The Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister expects this trend to be reinforced with 10 per cent growth in both 2010/11 as well as 2011/12. There will be no contribution to expansion from civil service pay in the current year but the private sector component of the sub-sector "community and personnel services" will continue to register strong expansion in line with the rest of the economy, it said. Software and BPO activity is expected to expand significantly in 2010/11, both in the domestic and export sectors. Along with steady expansion in the financial industry, the Council expects this sub-sector to record growth of 9.5 per cent in 2010/11 which will rise further inApart from these factors, one of the crucial factors of the country's economy has always been agriculture. On the basis of a normal and excellent SW monsoon, a strong rebound in crop output in Kharif and Rabi in 2010/11 is expected. The better seed and fertilizer availability and the construction of a large number of water harvesting structures through the MNREGA lend strength to these expectations. Moreover, the expansion in horticulture and animal husbandry and a low base effect should generate a farm sector GDP growth of around 4.5 per cent in the current fiscal, Economic Advisory Council to Prime Minister said in its report.


Monsoon has been rather good and it is expected that Kharif crop which was badly hit last year because of poor and scanty monsoon is going to witness higher rate of growth. When crop arrives in the market around November, the markets are expected again to witness a rise. 


Still there are many challenges and if the country has to move on this growth trajectory then inflation would have to be tamed and relative social peace would have to be maintained. At the same time, it is absolutely essential that the country enjoys political stability. Both the public as well as the private sector are vital to this growth. 


In the words of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee the country's economic growth may go into double digits. "For the first time it appears entirely within the realm of possibility that India will break into double digit growth within the next five years", he asserted recently. 


It may be reminded here that the 10 percent and above growth is absolutely imperative for the country if it has to provide food, jobs, education, nutrition and security to its 100-crore plus citizens. (NPA)


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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

OMAR IN TROUBLED WATERS

COMPETING WITH SEPARATISTS WON'T PAY

 

JAMMU and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah could not have made his controversial speech in the state Assembly on Wednesday without giving much thought to its consequences. He had never been under so much pressure from separatists and others in the Opposition camp as he had been experiencing since June 11, when a cycle of violence began leading to the loss of 110 lives in the valley. The Centre's announcement about the reopening of the educational institutions in the state and the lifting of curfew from Srinagar came when his ability to govern under difficult circumstances was being questioned. Despite this, he enjoyed the support of the Centre. This was, however, not enough for him. He noticed his popularity declining considerably. Hence his assertion that he was "not a puppet of the Centre" and that he ran the government as an elected Chief Minister of the state.

 

Mr Omar Abdullah, however, did not stop at this. He further declared that "Jammu and Kashmir's accession to India is under an agreement and it is not the merger". Then he went on to make a terrible blunder by saying, "We want a resolution of the K-issue as would be acceptable to the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir and also to the neighbouring country". His description of accession and mentioning of the "neighbouring country" (obviously, Pakistan) must have come to score a debating point, but this amounts to going too far. He has landed himself in trouble. This is not the way to tell the separatists that he felt for the aspirations of the people of Kashmir more than they do.

 

The separatists have their own game plan. Mr Omar Abdullah as an elected Chief Minister should not have thought of competing with them. He has only weakened his case by responding to the separatists in the manner they talk about Kashmir. He has provided a handle to the PDP, the BJP and other opposition parties to beat him with. The Chief Minister is a sensible person no doubt. But he must remember that his position cannot improve by raising issues that have nothing to do with the prevailing situation.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INDO-RUSSIAN JOINT PROJECT

FIFTH GENERATION FIGHTER WILL SHARPEN AIRPOWER

 

UNION Defence Minister A.K. Antony's recent statement that India and Russia have sorted out all issues pertaining to the joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and that the deal is slated to be signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to India in December is heartening indeed. Considering that the joint development of the multi-role transport aircraft with Russia is also on the anvil and India has decided to go in for long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft from the US, among other equipment, it is refreshing that the need to upgrade India's air firepower is being addressed after all. Only last week Air Chief P.V. Naik had sent shock-waves across the country when he admitted that 50 per cent of the Indian Air Force equipment, including fighters, radars, transport aircraft and air defence systems, was either obsolete or obsolescent.

 

That the Russians have settled for joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and of multi-role transport aircraft is no flash in the pan. It is an index of their faith in India's technological prowess as borne out by its indigenous development of the Light Combat Aircraft, the Advanced Light Helicopter and by co-production of the BrahMos cruise missiles with them in a cost-effective manner. Though the Indo-Russian FGFA will be based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50, which flew for the first time this January at their facility in Siberia, it will be built to the IAF's specifications. Significantly, it is being touted as superior to the American F/A-22 `Raptor', the world's only operational FGFA as of now.

 

If there is a flip side to Indo-Russian defence cooperation it is that projects get delayed inordinately and this leads to considerable cost escalation. Not only has the FGFA been delayed, India had bought Gorshkov frigate in 2004 and its delivery, originally fixed for 2008, has now been finalised for 2012-13. In the case of the Akula-II nuclear-powered submarine, the two sides have now reportedly postponed the delivery to March next year, though India was supposed to get it last year after trials. This week's talks between Antony and his Russian counterpart resolved to cut down delays but the proof of the pudding would lie in its eating.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

FACEBOOKED
A CAUTIONARY TALE

 

EVERY day, social networking sites have been throwing up new challenges and shaping how people interact with one another. Social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Orkut enable people who are separated by geographical distances to interact and share each other's lives, thus strengthening their bonds. Their usefulness can be gauged by the fact that the market-leader Facebook has more than 50 crore active users, 50 per cent of whom log on on any given day. An average user has 130 'friends' to share his comments with.

Sometimes, Facebook's strengths create situations that throw up new challenges for its users, and the world at large. In a recent case, schoolchildren commented negatively against a teacher in words that were distasteful bordering on obscenity. The remarks were meant to be shared among "friends" and were not for the consumption of the public. The students were subsequently identified and punished for that act. The school's action has brought to the fore the debate about whether Facebook information should be used to discipline students. How much of the students' activities outside the campus should their schools monitor? What right to privacy do they have for online activities? There are no clear-cut answers to such questions.

 

Many issues arise when the cyber reality clashes with the real world, especially since this is uncharted territory as far as rules and regulations are concerned. The young people of today have many new modes of expression that cause anxiety among adults. For them there is no difference between a verbal and an online chat. Sometimes their activities are taken too seriously by administrators. On the other hand, those who use social networking sites, too, have to realise that what they do online has real-world consequences. What is online can never really be private. Thus, all those who spend an average of over 70,000 crore minutes per month on Facebook must be cautions about what they post. At the end of the day, it is the unwritten but widely accepted rules of civil behaviour that govern our social lives, both online and offline.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

OBAMA'S AF-PAK DRIVE IN TURMOIL

TOUGH TIMES AHEAD FOR INDIA

BY HARSH V. PANT

 

BOB Woodward of the Watergate fame is back once again with his new book, Obama's Wars. Despite the hype, there is nothing in the book that is really shocking or revelatory. There is no analysis, commentary or policy assessment in the book. One finds only narrative and an unyielding focus on relationships among its principal subjects. What Woodward lays bare, however, are rifts at the highest echelons on decision-making in Washington over America's mission and strategy in Afghanistan as well as the vociferous and highly personal nature of policy disagreements.

 

Woodward's book is largely a near-verbatim account of US National Security Council meetings last fall where the administration hashed out its Afghanistan policy. It should come as no surprise to learn that the Obama Administration was deeply divided and riven with suspicions. America's civilian and military leaders were divided on Afghanistan, and the level of distrust between the two was so high that Obama ended up designing his own strategy.

 

Obama comes across as a cold, calculating decision-maker who ultimately decides to pander to his base by including a deadline for withdrawal. He was frustrated with his military advisers who he felt were thwarting his search for an exit plan. In the end, all the US seems to have got is a plan to exit but no strategy to win the war.

 

Obama has been looking for a way out of Afghanistan ever since he took office. He has avoided talk of victory all along, suggesting that America needs a plan about how it can "hand it off and get out of Afghanistan." Looking for an exit, Obama took the extraordinary decision in December 2009 of sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan along with the announcement of an American withdrawal from July 2011. It is now clear that this decision has led the US adversaries to conclude that President Obama's heart is not in the war. He has no will to fight. What is equally confounding is the basis on which Obama made this decision. After repeatedly arguing during elections that Afghanistan was the "good" war, the "necessary" war, Obama started searching for an exit strategy because he couldn't "lose the whole Democratic Party". As Woodward argues, "He was looking for choices that would limit US involvement and provide a way out."

 

The shadow of Vietnam looms large over the debate on the Afghanistan strategy. The US Vice-President, Joe Biden, is said to be "pessimistic and more convinced than ever that Afghanistan was a version of Vietnam." The President himself is reported to be so determined to avoid a Vietnam-like morass that he ends up writing his own strategy memo. An administration review of the Afghan war is scheduled for this December and it is unlikely to convince the Obama White House that America needs to win the war in the Af-Pak area.

 

Though Pakistan remains the key to success in defeating the Taliban and eliminating Al-Qaida's activities in the region, the Obama Administration has grown impatient with Pakistan for its foot-dragging against the militant sanctuaries in border areas. Fears about Pakistan — a nuclear power with a fragile civilian government, a dominant military and an intelligence service that sponsored terrorist groups - have shaped the trajectory of Obama's Af-Pak policy. The US intelligence has been warning that not only does Al-Qaida and the Taliban continue to operate from safe havens within Pakistan but terrorist groups have also been recruiting westerners to wreak havoc in Europe and North America.

 

For Obama the reason to create a secure, self-governing Afghanistan was to prevent the spread of the "cancer" from Pakistan. Pakistan's main priority has been to take on its home-grown branch of the Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). But the links between the TTP and other terrorist organisations are much too evident to ignore. The US has also pressured Pakistan with regard to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Though the Pakistan government is holding the commander of the Mumbai attacks, he "continues to direct LeT operations from his detention centre" and LeT is now even threatening attacks in the US. Pakistan has been successful in hoodwinking the Americans so far and there is little likelihood that anything will change in the near future.

 

India will have to fight its own battles. The US will start moving out of Afghanistan next year. As a consequence, the Indian footprint in Afghanistan should increase if it wants to preserve its vital interests. The Pakistani military has become adept at the double game it has been playing with Washington. It recognises that America's reliance on Pakistan is at an all-time high and it will extract its pound of flesh from the West. As the threat of instability increases, the centrality of the Pakistani military is only likely to grow. And given the well-known anti-India views of the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, New Delhi would be fooling itself if it believes that negotiations with Islamabad and Rawalpindi are likely to lead to any sort of a desirable outcome.

 

Much like General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, who continues to believe that he could "add time to the clock" and "get what we need" as long as some progress is shown, many in India also continue to believe that the US will retain a substantive presence in Afghanistan as long as the mess in the Af-Pak area is not sorted out. But Woodward makes it clear that this is a dramatic misreading of President Obama. He means when he says that America is not in the business of nation-building over the next 20 years.

 

India will be facing some tough choices in the coming months. It will have to raise the level of its game if it wants to retain any relevance in the evolving strategic milieu in the Af-Pak area.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

IF POLITICIANS RETIRE…

BY AMAR CHANDEL

 

POLITICS is one profession in which there is no retirement age (there are some other professions also, but less said about them the better). That is why one has never heard of an ex-politician. At worst, some of them become Governors.

 

However, if at all our leaders decide to hang up their boots, they will surely not suffer for want of lucrative avenues. Here are some post-retirement relocation possibilities for them:

 

Mamta Banerjee may open a chain of hospitals near railway tracks. The way the frequency of train accidents has been increasing, there will never be any shortage of patients.

 

Sharad Pawar can turn into a successful astrologer and fortune teller. He is a natural in the field. Whenever he said sugar or some other commodity was going to get costlier, it always did.

 

An out-of-politics Omar Abdullah will surely be lapped up by the film world. I am told he already has an offer to play Emperor Nero in a Hollywood production.

 

Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal can make a fortune by manufacturing power generators and inverters in Punjab.

 

Mani Shankar Aiyar is my candidate for being the Chairman of the Organising Committee whenever India gets to host an Olympics.

 

Once Bhupinder Singh Hooda is done with politics, he should become president of a khap panchayat.

 

Lalu Prasad Yadav is wasting his talent fighting elections and his brothers-in-law. He can be the fodder king of the country whenever he wants. He can make additional millions by being a Visiting Professor at various agricultural universities around the world, and share with them the secrets of how he made his buffaloes give quintals of milk every day, which he and Rabri Devi then used to bring up their children like kings.

 

Maneka Gandhi should raise a monkey brigade, which will be trained to catch human beings and put them in cages.

 

Her son Varun will do well joining the police force where his ability to curse, rave and rant will come in very handy.

 

L K Advani and Uma Bharati can turn into architects, specialising in temple architecture.

 

Mayawati ought to be a mall builder. The first one of these can be a 100-storey structure to come up in Agra at the exact spot where the famed Taj Mahal now stands. Marble from the dismantled Taj can be used to make elephant statues.

 

Once out of jail, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda should become a mining magnate while A. Raja can float the world's largest telecom company if at all he is kicked out of the Union Cabinet.

 

Our good old Suresh Kalmadi deserves to be a demolition expert, of course.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHITHER MEDICAL AND HEALTH CARE

THE GOVERNMENT HAS DELIBERATELY ALLOWED ITS HOSPITALS TO GO TO SEED SO THAT PRIVATE HOSPITALS CAN FLOURISH

PUSHPA M BHARGAVA

 

WHEN I was a college student in the 1940s we, like others, had a family doctor - a general physician (GP). He was the best friend of the family. Specialisation in medicine was yet in its infancy.

 

Even today, with so much specialisation, the backbone of the national health service in the UK is the family doctor - a GP. He decides if you need to go to a specialist. In fact, very few need to, for over 90 per cent suffer from less than 0.1 per cent of known diseases, and the family doctor can take care of such common diseases better than a specialist because he knows the patient very well.

 

But in our country today, while there is a specialist of one kind or the other around every corner in our urban areas, there are simply no GPs; as a class, they have vanished. Till a few years ago, no medical college gave a M.D. (a post-graduate degree) in family medicine. Following my convocation address to the University of Health Sciences in Calcutta a few years ago, the Government of West Bengal decided to have such a course. Even today it is probably an exception. We need to reinstate the tradition of family physicians or GPs as a first step towards ensuring effective and least expensive medical care.

 

In the absence of GPs, we all go to specialists, and the specialist generally finds a disease that you are not suffering from and prescribes a cure for it. I was told of a person who saw seven specialists in a major corporate hospital. None of the specialists asked him if he was taking any drugs, and each of them prescribed him a course of different antibiotic. He ended up in the hospital with antibiotic toxicity.

 

Commonsense tells us that, excepting in the case of an emergency requiring a specialist in a particular area, it would be in the interest of the patient to first go to a GP and then to a specialist only if referred to by a GP. The tragedy is that even multi-speciality hospitals in a country -- that are largely in the private sector - do not have enough GPs, if they have one at all. We need to urgently fill this lacuna.

 

The second problem is that of increasing commercialisation of medical and health care in the last three decades, during which period the government has been increasingly abrogating its responsibility in this area. Till, the 1970s the government hospitals and those rune by trusts (such as Christian Medical College Hospital at Vellore) were very good. They were the only kind we had and each of them satisfied a minimum requirement. Health care was not a business but social service; it is just that the number of hospitals was very small. Today, health care is big business and the government is a party to it. It has deliberately allowed the government hospitals to go to seed so that private hospitals can flourish.

 

For example, people being treated under Arogyasri go to private hospitals; so everywhere new private hospitals are coming up to take advantage of this situation. Why didn't the Government, instead of subsidising private hospitals through Arogyasri, spend that money to upgrade its own existing hospitals and open new ones of quality. Further, private hospitals are given all kinds of concessions, for example in respect of cost of land and duty on equipment, on the condition that they will treat a certain number of patients free ; not one is treated free and the Government ignores it.

 

I do not deny that we have some ethical, people-oriented private hospitals but their number and proportion is extremely small. For a vast majority of private hospitals, the primary objective (in some cases, the sole objective) is to make money; cures in these hospitals are mostly incidental. They engage in gross exploitation of a patient (particularly the uneducated and uninformed ones) by total lack of transparency, inflated bills and unnecessary procedures.

 

Thus, according to a recent report, private hospitals in Hyderabad carry out, per 100 patients, eight times more hysterectomies, two times more tonsilectomies, three times more caesarian operations, and 15 times more appendectomies than are needed or done in govenment hospitals. This is in addition to unnecessary tests!

 

Not only that, there is a nexus between private hospitals and private doctors on the one hand and diagnostic centres on the other, so that when a doctor or a hospital asks you to go to a particular centre for a diagnostic test (whether it was necessary or not is another question), he gets a commission from the diagnostic centre for this referral.

 

Many private hospitals and private doctors in urban areas have touts in rural area who bring patients to the doctor or the hospital for a consideration. The tout gets a commission for the referral and also for the unnecessary tests done on the trusting and ignorant rural patients. In one case, we provided incontrovertible evidence for such an happening, with a complete recording of the conversation between the doctor and the tout, to the Medical Council of India (MCI), but nothing happened. We all now know the extent of corruption in the MCI with its Chairman in jail and its Governing Board reconstituted by Parliament.

 

The pity of it all is that wherever it can get away with it, the government has been a party to all the above happenings. Not that it cannot run first-rate hospitals ; examples would be AIIMS at Delhi, PGI at Chandigarh, and JIPMER in Pondicherry. But their number is extremely small. Most of the government hospoitals are just bad, steeped in inefficiency and corruption.

 

Sometime back, we found that in one hospital in Bhopal set up to take care of Bhopal gas tragedy victims, all the drugs used were fake and from companies that are known to make fake drugs.

 

One of the reasons for the situation outlined above is that to get admission in a medical college, most of which are private, you need to pay huge sums (as much as Rs 1 crore) as capitation fee. This money will have to be earned by the individual after getting the degree which, of course, is guaranteed. The quality of medical education in the country is abysmally low, except in less than 10 per cent of the medical colleges ; most of such colleges are run by the government or non-profit-making trusts.

 

It is true that government doctors don't make as much money as good private doctors do. But good government hospitals, often attached to good medical colleges, provide facilities that private hospitals do not - for example, of research and security. But, then, the system of capitation fees will have to be abolished de facto, not just de jure.

 

What should, then, be our medicare policy, taking ground realities into account ? As was shown by the late N. Antia (one of India's foremost plastic surgeons), we can have a successful and validated computer programme which can tell trained, bright high-school-pass young persons coming from the village itself, as to what drugs or treatment should be given to a person in 80 per cent of the cases. The programme would also tell him/her to identify the remaining 20 per cent of the reporting patients who should then be referred to the district hospital which should have basic diagnostic facilities.

 

Out of these 20 per cent over 15 per cent would be taken care of at a good district hospital. The remaining 5 per cent or so should be referred to good private hospitals committed to following a carefully prepared code of ethics, and covered by insurance. Obviously, facilities for transportation from the village to the district hospital, or to the nearest approved private hospital, would need to be provided. This kind of public-private partnership in medical and health care could go a long way in effectively democratising it and building a sound base for further improvement as the economic status of the majority improves.

 

Dr Pushpa M Bhargava is currently the Chairman of the Sambhavna Trust and The Medically Aware and Responsible Citizens of Hyderabad

Problems

 

n Even multi-speciality hospitals in the country do not have enough general physicians (GPs).

 

n Increasing commercialisation of health care.

 

n The government abrogating its responsibility.

 

n Exploitation of patients.

 

n Nexus between private hospitals and diagnostic centres.

 

n Capitation fees.

 

Remedies

 

n Reinstate the tradition of family physicians.

 

n All medical colleges should give a postgraduate degree in family medicine.

 

n Have a validated computer programme, which can tell trained, bright high-school-pass young persons coming from the village itself, as to what drugs or treatment should be given to a person in 80 per cent of the cases.

 

n The programme will also tell him/her to identify the remaining 20 per cent of the reporting patients who should then be referred to the district hospital which should have basic diagnostic facilities.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

BOILING OVER BILLING DISPARITY

ELECTRICITY IS SUCH A UNIFORM, UNBRANDED, UNDIFFERENTIATED PRODUCT. SO HOW COME DIFFERENTIAL PRICING?


There is a sacred law in economics, called the law of one price. It says that identical goods should sell for identical price. If there is a variation, then the buyers will rush to the lower priced outlet, causing the higher priced outlet to reduce its prices. Eventually all outlets will charge the same, and you should get a uniform price. 

 

This certainly seems to hold true for share prices. If your are buying 100 shares of a company, it does not matter whether you buy them in Bombay Stock Exchange or National Stock Exchange. The law is also mostly true for price of tomatoes, onions, vegetables, milk, eggs etc in your local bazaar. If there is variation across the city it is minor. 

 

For branded goods the prices differ, but that's more because of the brand premium. So Colgate toothpaste is not identically priced with Close Up. Same is true for sneakers, and cell phones. 

 

However, the more homogenous the product (or service), then one price should prevail. Right? Wrong! 

 

Take two examples. First is air travel between Mumbai and Delhi. On the same aircraft. In the same class (i.e. business or economy). Yet you will find two adjacent seats will probably be paying vastly different fares. For an identical service. And they don't grumble. Because they realise that the cheaper fare goes to the guy who booked well in advance. Under non-refundable category. On the net, using a debit card. While the other was a last minute purchase through an agent. So no grumbling. 

 

But another example is electricity. It's the same electrons which light up our homes, cool our food in the fridge, and illuminate our television screens. Electricity is as homogenous a product that you can imagine. And yet electricity consumers all over Mumbai city are paying different prices for the same usage. So an average user (consuming say 250 units a month), pays either roughly 750, or 1000 or 1200 rupees depending on whether he is a Tata, or BEST or Reliance customer. 

 

These differing prices are perfectly legitimate, and have been approved by the electricity regulator. Yet they break the law of one price. So how come? This is because the cost of providing power to retail customers is different for the three providers. Electricity regulation allows distributors to charge based on their costs, since they must earn a reasonable return and make a profit. 

 

So from data it appears that Tata has lowest cost power and Reliance has highest (among the three). But just as we can switch to a cheaper toothpaste, we have been allowed by the regulator to switch from one provider to another. It is not easy, but it is possible. If you don't like your high bills, then switch to the other company. 

 

This order was passed one year ago. It is an essential ingredient of the new electricity law which was passed in 2003, and it is called "open access". But this can only work to a limited extent. The more consumers who switch over, the higher will be the per user cost for those remaining back. And not everyone can switch over, since there are capacity constraints. 

Whatever the complications, why is it that the law of one price fails so miserably for something as homogenous as electricity? Don't we all pay the same price for water? For cable TV connection? For internet access? Unlike water the latter are provided by the private sector, which still makes prices converge. 

 

Hence it is time we figure out a way for electricity prices to converge. Else some of us will be boiling under the air conditioner! 

 

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

EDITORIAL

GOING PRIVATE

THE HIGHER ECONOMIC GROWTH RATE MAY ITSELF BE A PRODUCT OF THE SHIFT FROM PUBLIC TO PRIVATE

T N NINAN

 

Many structural changes have taken place in the economy over the past two decades — a greater share for international trade in GDP, higher savings and investment rates, even increased investment in infrastructure. One change that is intuitively accepted, but not usually commented on explicitly, is the fact that the public sector is no more in the driver's seat; it has made way for the private sector.

 

 This may be a somewhat obvious point to make, but most people have not woken up to the speed and the scale of the change. Between 1980 and 2000, the share of state-owned enterprises in corporate profits dropped from about 70 per cent to 55 per cent; the decline has accelerated in the last 10 years, the share dropping now to about 35 per cent. In other words, the shares of the public and private sectors have been virtually reversed. Bear in mind also that private household savings are twice total corporate savings.

 

Another way to track the swings is through the successive five-year Plans. Right up to the 1980s, public sector investment used to account for well over a half of total Plan investment; that figure is now down to barely 20 per cent. So, while planning may be seen as a hangover from the days of a Nehruvian "commanding heights" mentality, nearly 80 per cent of "Plan investment" is now done by the private sector.

 

Nowhere is the transition from public to private more noticeable than in infrastructure. About 50 per cent of new power generating capacity in the current five-year Plan (which runs through to 2012) will be in the private sector; in comparison, barely 15 per cent of the capacity at the start of the Plan was private. The big airports are now in private hands, and many ports are being developed by the private sector. Roads and railways too are moving to the public-private partnership mode.

 

This is highly unusual. There is no large economy in the world where the bulk of the physical infrastructure has been built by the private sector; it has almost always been done by the government. Even in India, it is not that the public sector has disappeared or become irrelevant; it still dominates basic sectors like finance (both banking and insurance), energy (oil and gas, coal, electricity) and transport (the railways). But its share has dropped dramatically in all these sectors.

 

There are several reasons why India has gone "private" — but classical privatisation is not one of them, though a handful of state-owned enterprises were sold to private interests by the Vajpayee government. A more important reason for change is the opening up of new areas to private sector investment (telecom, aviation, banking, insurance, etc.), even as public enterprises in these sectors have been held back by ministerial interventions of various sorts. It is worth pointing out that the most important reason for India going private is that the great champions of the public sector have hobbled it through their own actions. The oil companies have seen their profits evaporate because politicians will not allow free pricing of oil products. Similarly, the Budget has been saddled with a variety of handout schemes that have prevented it from putting money aside for capital investment. As for the future, the government will need to focus on higher outlays for education, health care and defence — all under-provided today.

 

Most people welcome the greater competition and competitiveness that the advent of the private sector has introduced. Indeed, the higher economic growth rate may itself be a product of the shift from public to private.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

NITISH ONCE MORE IN BIHAR?

WITH THE RJD+ TAKING ON THE JD (U)+ AND THE CONGRESS GOING ON ITS OWN, IT'S LIKELY THAT RABRI DEVI WILL CONTINUE AS THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

DORAB R SOPARIWALA

 

Bihar went to the polls in February 2005. However, the elections resulted in a hung assembly. After a spell of President's Rule, the state went to the polls again in November 2005. The JD (U) fought in alliance with the BJP, as it has done since 1996. The RJD tied up with the Congress party and the fifth player in Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP, decided to go on his own. The results put an end to the 15-year Lalu-Rabri Raj in Bihar, with the JD (U)-BJP alliance, or JD (U)+, decisively beating the Lalu-Congress combine (RJD+) by winning 143 of 243 seats. The RJD+ got reduced to 65 seats. The LJP, which fought on its own, found it had an exaggerated idea of its strength. It landed up with 13 per cent of votes and only 13 seats. 

Table 1

November 2005 - Assembly

Seats

Votes (%)

JD(U)+

143

36

RJD+

65

30.9

LJP

13

13.1

Others

10

11.1

Last year, in the Lok Sabha elections, the alignments changed a little. The RJD tied up first with the LJP (the new RJD+). Then the combine made a desultory offer to the Congress to join their alliance. The Congress rejected the overture, went on its own and contested almost all the seats. While it won just 10 assembly segments (out of 243), it caused significant damage to the prospects of the RJD+. The RJD+ won just 38 segments, while the JD (U)+ swept the board, winning 175 assembly segments; in every single region, the RJD+ was thrashed.

 

Table 2

May 2009 - Lok Sabha
by assembly segments

Seats

Votes (%)

JD(U)+

175

38

RJD+

38

25.9

Congress

10

10.3

Others

20

25.8

 

The results point to a significant characteristic of the first-past-the-post system. The system yields very few seats to a party when it wins lower than a certain threshold of votes. Once it crosses that threshold, it starts picking up seats at an accelerated rate and the rate keeps accelerating as the share of votes goes up. Also, as the leading party widens the gap between itself and the second party, there is an almost geometric increase in the difference in seats.

Compared with 2005, the JD (U)+ increased its vote share in 2009 by just 2 per cent to 38 per cent, but its seats went up by more than 20 per cent — from 143 to 175. That happened partly because the RJD+'s votes collapsed from 31 per cent to 26 per cent, widening the gap between the JD (U)+ and the RJD+ to a huge 12 per cent. The RJD+ won just 38 segments, down from 65. Thus, the JD (U)+, with 50 per cent more votes than the RJD+, won 4.7 times the number of seats won by the RJD+ (See Table 2).

 

For each 1 per cent of votes in 2009, the JD (U)+ won 4.6 seats; the same 1 per cent yielded a bare 1.5 seats to the badly trailing RJD+, clearly demonstrating the system's bias in favour of the leading party.
 

Table 3

Assembly seats won
per 1% vote

Seats

Votes (%)

 

Nov. 2005

May-09

JD(U)+

4.0

4.6

RJD+

2.1

1.5

With an unchanged team, the RJD+ is getting ready to battle the JD (U)+ for the third time in five years. So, what will it take for Lalu Prasad to contain Nitish Kumar? Well, a massive upheaval against Nitish Kumar. It is difficult to find a similar situation in Indian politics in which, other things being equal, an opposition alliance has been able to close such a huge gap in one election. There are always some defections among the parties, disputes over ticket distribution, some proxy candidates (wives fighting in place of husbands in jail), limited changes in caste and issue alignments from election to election (Are the upper castes very upset with Nitish Kumar for his aborted attempt at land reforms? Is the Ayodhya verdict likely to alienate the Muslims from Mr Kumar?) and the normal anti-incumbency, but to overturn a 12 per cent gap requires more than minor changes.

The Congress too starts with a low vote share of 10 per cent. It would need to increase its vote share very significantly to substantially improve its tally. There is little to suggest that it is sufficiently charged up to be able to do so.

 

Was there no chance of dislodging Nitish Kumar? Well, there was a scenario which existed if the RJD-LJP combine had co-opted the Congress to form a grand anti-Nitish coalition. In the first-past-the-post system, those who don't hang together hang separately. Had there been a grand coalition, just a repeat of the 2009 vote shares would have ensured that the JD (U)+ slipped to below a clear majority with 118 seats; and the grand coalition marginally behind with 111 seats. A bare 2.5 per cent swing in favour of the grand coalition — not an impossible prospect — would have taken it to an absolute majority. 

Table 4

If RJD+Cong+LJP fight
together in 2010

No change
in votes

2.5% swing 
from JD(U)+

JD(U)+

118

106

RJD+Cong+LJP

111

123

Others

14

14

However, it is known that coalitions are not perfect. In other words, all the backers of, say, the RJD would not necessarily vote for the coalition if the coalition's candidate is from, say, the Congress. Yet, a grand coalition would have made it a closer contest — but that is not to be.

 

Thus, with the RJD+ taking on the JD (U)+ and the Congress going on its own, the most likely scenario is that Rabri Devi (who is fighting from two constituencies) will continue to play the role of the Leader of the Opposition.

 

The author is a political commentator

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

TRIGGERING AN ARMS RACE IN CYBERIA

DEVANGSHU DATTA

 

Cyber-warfare is a loosely used buzzword. Every major nation routinely snoops on cyber-communications. Most have specialised departments for the purpose. It would be naïve to assume that surveillance is done solely to track terrorists. Undoubtedly, many of those departments also possess the capability to disrupt communications and most nations also have contingency plans to maintain continuity of their own communications if they are attacked.

 

 Despite the interplay of "Spy Vs Spy", there have been few acts of active disruption initiated by governments. The first nation-nation conflict to feature cyber-warfare was the spat between Russia and Georgia that flared into a shooting war in the South Ossetia region in August 2008.

 

While it was never acknowledged as officially sanctioned, every Georgian government website was knocked offline by Denial of Service (DoS) attacks originating from Russian cyberspace. The Georgian Web presence was reduced to free email and free blogging platforms.

 

In the past year, a far more sophisticated cyber-attack has been directed at Iran's nuclear facilities. The so-called Stuxnet worm crippled Iran's Bushehr and Natanz nuclear facilities by targeting the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

 

SCADA is integral to most industrial processes, in particular in the power industry, where it controls processes key to generation, transmission and distribution. Stuxnet can knock out individual power plants (along with other manufacturing units) and entire grids.

 

The worm exploited four previously unknown vulnerabilities in Windows operating systems to install rootkits. It can be spread by USB pendrives even if normal precautions are taken. A rootkit replaces normal programs with new programs that have the same functionalities, plus malicious functions, that can be remotely controlled. A rootkit will spoof the programs it replaces, until such time as it is activated to do damage.

 

Stuxnet can reprogram programmable logic controllers (PLCs) — specialised chips that control and automate electro-mechanical processes. PLCs are difficult to compromise and PLC rootkits are new to the malware lexicon.

 

The Stuxnet version identified in July 2010 had a date-stamped component from February 2010. It used stolen digital certificates to "convince" anti-virus programs it was legitimate. According to German security expert Ralph Langner of Langner Communications, the development may have cost several million dollars, "somewhere in the upper seven-digits".

 

There was a very high rate of infection in Iran and, to a lesser extent, in Indonesia and India. In systems outside Iran, the rootkits remained dormant and were never activated. The worm specifically disrupted Siemens SCADA systems used in specific configurations in the Iranian power industry. The nuclear power plant in Bushehr and the uranium enrichment centre in Natanz were hit, according to Iranian reports.

 

According to IT security experts, such as Eugene Kaspersky of Kaspersky Labs, the level of sophistication that Stuxnet displays could only be attained with "nation-state support". Langner, who has probably done the most detailed dissection of the worm, concurs.

 

While there are several Stuxnet-cleaners available, Langner points out, "The real threat is, Stuxnet provides a blueprint for aggressive attacks on control systems that can be applied generically. Such control systems may control the power plant that provides your electricity, the water utility that provides your water, the factory you work in, and the traffic lights. The technology of how to manipulate all such systems is now on the street."

 

It may soon be possible to clone Stuxnet-type worms at far lower costs. In that case, a range of installations and facilities could be at risk of everything from terrorist strikes to malicious sabotage to extortion. Doomsday scenarios are, therefore, easy to envisage.

 

As in the case of the Russia-Georgia DoS attacks, complete deniability exists. It is impossible to hold a nation-state responsible for Stuxnet, though the finger points at a couple of obvious suspects. Stuxnet is likely to set off a new arms-race.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

GOLD WON'T GLITTER ALWAYS

MY BELIEF THAT SOME DAY WOMEN THEMSELVES WILL NOT SEE MUCH INTRINSIC VALUE IN GOLD AND CONSIDER IT DISTINCTLY OUT OF FASHION HAS BEEN VINDICATED

SUBIR ROY

 

My reputation with my wife as a decent reader of financial tea leaves is in the mud these days. Every time she looks at the morning newspapers, after glancing at the day's offering of disasters and health scares, she turns to the price of gold and that's when my discomfiture starts.

 

It all began a few years ago when our daughter got into college and my wife declared: She's growing up and it is high time we bought a bit of gold for her. What for, I asked, adding, I don't see her generation appearing bedecked in gold on social occasions.

 

 Even if we spent all we have on gold for her, it will barely cover a few inches, the wife snorted back. All we can do is set aside for her a little something which will be of permanent value. I didn't want to get into a discussion with her on the long-term future of gold as a store of value, so I tried a more short-term argument.

 

Look, I said, gold is already on a high, and see the future in stocks. They will zoom, gold won't. If you are keen on creating value for her, let's buy stocks and then when they are real high we can sell them and buy gold which will have fallen behind stocks in price rise by then.

 

And lo and behold, that did happen. Stocks zoomed but then came something called the Great Recession and stocks bit the dust, making me do the same. In the Great Uncertainty, everyone ran and took cover in gold. When I saw the look in my wife's eyes, I reasoned: You cannot blame me for failure to predict what happens once in 70 years; the last time this occurred (the Great Depression) was in the thirties. Hold your calm, as all good investors do; stocks will rise again, the morning will come, gold will fall behind and then you can buy some.

 

It is in the last couple of weeks that life has become truly unbearable. Stocks are up again but gold is simply racing ahead and I am harangued by the wife every morning that if only she had not listened to me we, as a family, would have been so much better off. All I have been able to say is that gold does have peculiarities but it cannot go on rising in this manner forever. It will be absurd to buy now when prices are surely hitting the peak.

 

The role model for my wife are her colleagues in office. As good middle-class south Indian women, they have been steadily buying minuscule bits of gold on auspicious occasions, year in and year out, and they seem to be far better off for not having read economics in college and spent a lifetime in business journalism like me.

 

My inability to read the market has made me admit to myself that my opposition to gold is part scientific, part ideological and even part patriotic. That's quite something considering that I have not read pure science, see myself to be more pragmatic than anything else and will be one of the last to wave the flag for wrong reasons.

 

Putting scarce national resources in an unproductive asset like gold is such a waste, particularly in a poor country like ours. And more so when the demand for dowry and gold has been the cause of so much of social misery in our cultural history.

 

My aversion towards gold and the belief that some day, when Indian society becomes modern, women themselves will not see much intrinsic value in gold and consider it distinctly out of fashion have actually been vindicated. On being harangued by the wife on buying gold as a matter of duty towards our daughter, I have tried a clever stratagem: Why not ask her what she wants?

 

And she has not let me down. She would rather buy some new clothes and shoes and if we insisted, what she would really like is a wee bit of diamond set in a bit of white gold! And if that's beyond our means, then not to worry, and if we insisted on buying some gold in her name and that made us happy, then that too was OK by her. The indifference, not caring for the matter either way, was so different from my vehemence.

 

Even as I have rued my bad luck with gold, the only solace that I have had is from the life of a truly outstanding Indian. I G Patel, the great economist and administrator of the last century, whose life story I am currently researching, had this long run with gold. He disliked the metal, having seen from a young age the social havoc that dowry and gold wreaked.

 

So, when the government passed the gold control order after the 1962 war with the Chinese, he was all for it, and when goldsmiths protested and he, as part of a government committee, looked into the matter, the consensus view was that the policy should be left essentially undisturbed. Then he went on leave and the finance minister, T T Krishnamachari, had the committee's conclusion critically modified. IG was furious and left the government to teach at the Delhi School of Economics.

 

"There is ample historical evidence that gold has seldom been a good investment over the long run," IG said. I have repeated that to my wife. What I have not told her is what Keynes said: In the long run, we are all dead!

 

subirkroy@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

PAKISTAN - IN BITS AND PIECES

V V

 

All of these you are

and each is partly true

and none of these is false

and none is wholly true

 

This little poem is often used to describe America but can be applied with a few qualifications to India and Pakistan as well because of the confluence of birth, ethnicity and geographical location and the mixing of different cultures, indigenous and foreign. Very simply, we have multiple identities; we can't be just one thing as the latest Granta, devoted exclusively to Pakistan, (Special Indian Price Rs 599), tells us in a mix of short stories, poems, political and photo-essays. But readers will ask whether, like the Idea of India, there is also an Idea of Pakistan? Divided by tribe, wealth and religious sects, Pakistanis often seem to share little but a waning enmity towards India, the secret spring from which the army draws its strength. What, we often ask, do Baluchis, Pathans, Punjabis, Sindhis and Mujahirs, who make up the ethnic composition of Pakistan, have in common?

 

 There are 18 articles in this number, most of which are short stories that underline the violence that simmers in Pakistani society, particularly towards women who break the norms laid down by an ultra-conservative elite guided by the mullahs. The anthology opens with novelist Nadeem Aslam's long short story "Leila in the Wilderness", which is a further take on his novel Maps for Lost Lovers(2005) that spoke of how difficult it was for a Pakistani, even living in Britain, to accept the western concepts of equality between man and woman: the woman was the lesser being and that's it.

 

Here the child bride's husband wanting a son kills the girls she produces. Trapped, she grows wings to escape the wilderness — shades of magic realism which really means that in real life there isn't much difference between what is magical and what is real. But the tragedy is that the dice is loaded against the woman and with no recourse to appeal. This sets the tone for the anthology as Jamil Ahmad relates the story of "The Sins of the Mother". Here a Baluch couple elope and are given sanctuary by soldiers until their tribe comes after them to preserve their honour. The soldiers wash their hands of and the couple kill themselves. Their son is abandoned by the kinsmen and left wandering in a sandstorm.

 

It is violence, violence all the way. Mohammed Hanif's "Butt and Bhatti" is the story of a gangster who loves a nurse who rejects him. In a male chauvinistic society, this is unheard of; the gangster loses his cool, shoots a driver who rams his bus into a bunch of schoolchildren that sets off three days of rioting. The gangster disappears as the nurse dreams of her lost love. The moral: the man is always right; the woman is a fool.

 

It is the randomness of the violence that is frightening; anything can happen any time for no reason at all. Like suicide bombers who can never be tracked. These stories and others that you ought to check out remind you again that novelists and poets understand so much more and are not constrained to say it in the narrow straitjacket of academics and political commentators. Reality is much more authentic than the wildest imagination.

 

There are several political pieces: Jane Perlez: Portrait of Jinnah; Basharat Peer: Kashmir's Forever War; Fatima Bhutto: Mangho Pir; Lorraine Adams and Ayesha Nasir: The Trials of Faisal Shahzad.

 

Perlez, who was The New York Times' correspondent, gives a sympathetic portrait of Jinnah who she believes was genuinely interested in a secular Pakistan. But he was betrayed by the fundamentalist Zia ul-Haq, who swung over to the Americans. This alienated even moderate Pakistanis who joined ranks with the fundamentalists. As novelist Kamila Shamsie puts it in Pop Idols, "a country demoralised and humiliated by its myriad problems could either turn reflective, or it could blame everyone else", it now blames America for all its troubles. The problem with the contributions in this anthology is that all the Pakistanis either live in the West or have had long stints there which has coloured their outlook; they have not been introspective enough to see that the fault may not be with their stars but with themselves.

 

Basharat Peer, a Kashmiri living in New York, is a known face here, with his memoir on the ongoing conflict in Kashmir,Curfewed Night. Here in Kashmir's Forever War, he has written what would be expected of him for a western audience: a brief run down of the origins of the conflict style, the present state of militancy that he compares to the Palestinian-style intifada and the uncertainties of everyday life.

 

If you really want to know what's wrong with Pakistan, read Intizar Hussain's A House by the Gallows. Against the background of Zia's rigid fundamentalism, Hussain tells us of the paranoia that gripped Pakistan and still does. No dissent is tolerated and if state censorship doesn't cramp, self-censorship to keep on the right side of law makes sure that you do. It becomes an instinct that becomes a part of your DNA.

 

If you are interested in what's going on in Pakistan and whether the future will work, read this anthology from cover to cover.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

WEN KAN WE TALK?

A 'CHANCE' MEETING BETWEEN THE CHINESE PREMIER AND JAPANESE PM COOLED TEMPERS

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

 

Such things happen mainly in the wonderland of royal palaces of which the White House is, of course, the most royal, nay, imperial. They become doubly likely when a palace doubles up as the venue for that other fantasy — the international conference. And so, a working dinner at ASEM, the Asia-Europe meeting, was barely over in the Palais Royale here in Brussels the other evening when Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, barely four months in office, ambling through the corridors with only his interpreter in attendance, bumped into ... guess who? China's premier, Wen Jiabao, also strolling back with his interpreter.

 

 My Japanese friends insist they met "naturally". But it just happens they have not been on speaking terms — or, rather, only on angry exchange terms — since early last month. It also happens that being key members of the international party circuit, they will attend the East Asia Summit in Hanoi on the last day of this month. It would not do to embarrass their host, Vietnam's Nguyen Tan Dung, by turning their backs on each other.

 

Moreover, Kan himself will host Wen at APEC's mid-November summit. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), if you recall, won't open its door even a crack to India. I once asked a Tokyo foreign ministry official for the reason and he replied that the Japanese don't regard a country as truly Asian if the Rising Sun didn't illumine it during World War Two. My protest that the Rising Sun did rise in the Andamans and Manipur was disregarded. After all, Japan's Sun set in the district commissioner's tennis court in Kohima.

 

But to return to that Asian duo, Wen and Kan. At one level, their problem is over names. What Kan knows as the Senkaki islands is Diaoyu to Wen. It gets murkier after that. I mean the Chinese just drove a road through Aksai Chin when no one was looking. Here, the complex of occupation, sovereignty, colonialism, post-war reparation and restoration and secessionism makes the Schleswig-Holstein dispute look like a nursery game. And that, as Palmerston put it, was understood by only three men — the dead Prince Consort, a mad Dane and he himself, but he had long ago forgotten all about it.

 

There was no chance of this quarrel being forgotten even if the Japanese coast guard hadn't caught a Chinese fisherman (at least he looked like and claimed to be a fisherman, but who knows!) in waters he shouldn't have been in. That was on September 7. The fisherman — let's give him the benefit of the doubt — was released on September 24. But the Chinese are still crying blue murder. Not, in fact, since Britain threatened to go to war because Don Pacifico (a Portuguese Jew born in Gibraltar and, therefore, British) was allegedly mistreated by an Athenian mob, has a single man caused such a furore.

 

What furore, ask the Japanese placidly. The man was trespassing, he has been released and there the matter ends. There's no dispute over Senkaki. They have always been Japanese. Not so, say the Chinese. They want the islands because there's oil below. They also want the islands because Japan once merged them with Taiwan, then another Japanese colony, and, of course, they want Taiwan. China wants another apology too. One for wartime atrocities, one for the Yasukuni Shrine, now one for Senkaki/ Diaoyu.

 

Kan and Wen may have helped cool tempers. Events like ASEM have that effect. When the Singaporeans first proposed an ASEAN-Europe meeting, Pranab Mukherjee got a bit worked up and declared that "Asia without India was like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark". It was put to Wong Kan Seng, then Singapore's foreign minister, who shot back that the initiative was ASEAN-Europe, not Asia-Europe. It's been smooth sailing since then. The ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] process has been expanded and Asia's definition enlarged. We were proudly told that ASEM represents 58 per cent of mankind, 52 per cent of the world's GDP and 68 per cent of its trade. Other spokesmen gave slightly different figures but all the statistics make members like Myanmar, say, or Slovenia glow in the pride of belonging to a group that decisively influences the fortunes of humanity. No wonder Luxembourg's representative boasted to a Chinese dignitary that, between them, they represented one-third of mankind.

 

I hoped to hear that Mohammed Hamid Ansari and Shah Mahmoud Quereshi also ran into each other somewhere in the carpeted and chandeliered labyrinth of the Palais Royale. But the screen says India's briefing has just been cancelled.

 

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

J&K - WHY INDIA HAS NOTHING TO FEAR

INTERLOCUTORS SHOULD PRESS AHEAD WITH A RESUMPTION OF THE PEACE INITIATIVE BY DELHI AND SRINAGAR

B G VERGHESE

 

Contrary to established punditry, the J&K "crisis" is bottoming out and could soon move towards normalcy, hope and reconciliation. One may expect desperate efforts by both internal and external actors to undermine the peace initiative that Delhi and Srinagar are jointly fashioning. This could delay but need not deny progress, provided the government, learning from the recent past, perseveres and does not allow the process to be vetoed by spoilers.

 

The so-called "intifada" began in June in the midst of a promising tourist season, an untroubled Amarnath Yatra and a resumption of Indo-Pakistan contacts that presaged restarting the dialogue that was interrupted by 26/11. Islamabad failed to gain much mileage from the bogus water jihad it orchestrated earlier in the year, partly to divert attention from mounting problems at home. In the Valley, efforts were made to restart the quiet talks that the Hurriyat had broken off in panic after an attempt on the life of one of its moderate interlocutors Fazle Haq Qureshi. All manner of vested interests felt threatened by these trends.

 

 The fake encounter at Machhil was a military disgrace and those guilty of such crimes must be brought to book. But this episode alone could not have triggered violence. Earlier, the Amarnath Yatra Board land "scandal" had momentarily aroused passions in the Valley and Jammu on false premises. The alleged Shopian "rape" scandal, too, did not survive hard evidence of its fabrication.

 

The sudden burst of stone pelting thereafter was attributed to angry youth who have only known conflict and grief. They resent living in a militarised environment and seek azadi, variously interpreted as self-determination, independence or a "political settlement". These could have been the subject of dialogue. Instead, Friday congregations formed processions that targeted symbols of state and property, provoking a cycle of repression and violence. Processional calendars were issued, routes and targets defined and, with advance planning, stones handily found as and where required. Those who criticised and mocked the state did nothing to restrain the mobs. Tragically, some innocent youth and passers-by were killed. If the situation was mishandled and non-lethal methods were used to quell the rioters, those behind the agitation wanted blood on the streets.

 

The Centre finally sent an all-party delegation to Srinagar that circumvented the separatists' boycott by visiting Hurriyat leaders in their homes. An ensuing all-Party meeting in Delhi led to the announcement of plans to relax or lift curfew, redeploy security forces, consider softening the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, downscale bunkers and check points, offer ex-gratia payments and compensation for fatalities, reopen schools, and set up a group of interlocutors to conduct a broad-based dialogue. Much else could follow, including the implementation of the recommendations of the prime minister's earlier five working groups.

 

Fear still stalks parts of the Valley with Geelani and the Mir Waiz rejecting the proposed action plan as eyewash. Parents fret that their wards will not be safe going to school. Geelani insists on public acceptance of Kashmir as an "international dispute" — his way of saying that Pakistan must be fully involved as an equal party. This is meaningless verbiage. J&K is a dispute but it is not the fact but the nature of the dispute that is in contention. Under the governing UN Resolution of August 13, 1948, now dead, Pakistan is the aggressor that was to quit Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Gilgit-Baltistan Area, disarm and disband the so-called Azad Pakistan forces and hand over the civil administration to India for governance under UN supervision. Pakistan's wholesale default, its demographic manipulation and the changed geo-strategic environment precluded the proposed plebiscite.

 

The Mir Waiz and Yasin Malik (of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) posit azadi as the starting point of dialogue. But J&K was in fact independent from August 15 to October 22, 1947. It was Pakistan that altered that fact by force and fraud and, failing, tried again in 1965, and yet again by means of cartographic aggression in Siachen and subsequently in Kargil and through continuing cross-border interventions.

 

As for greater federal autonomy for J&K and intra-state autonomy, down to the local level through more fully empowered panchayats, the "sky is the limit". Articles 258 and 258-A provide for the Centre and states to entrust powers up and down the federal chain as evident in the rich brew of graded devolution incorporated in Articles 371 and 371 A to 371-I as well as through inter-state devolution to regional and sub-regional units and non-territorial entities extant in the Northeast.

 

Insistence on talks "within the framework of the Constitution" merely implies that any solution must enjoy sufficient national consensus to win a two-thirds majority in Parliament and, where necessary, to be adopted by one half of all state legislatures. The BJP is mistaken in thinking that Article 370, a mechanism for adjusting Centre-State relations with reference to J&K, weakens its "integration" with India. This is fully secured under Article 1 and Schedule I of the Constitution.

 

The clamour to remove Omar Abdullah by fiat from Delhi is misplaced and will only confirm the jibe that the J&K government is a mere puppet.

 

The internal dialogue now proposed must be uninterrupted. All elements should be invited to join the process. But none can claim a veto and any settlement will have to win popular endorsement through fair and free elections. India has nothing to fear if J&K is governed by the terms of the 1952 Delhi Agreement with Sheikh Abdullah or even by just the original heads of accession — external affairs, defence and communications. Most people in J&K would probably prefer a broader rather than minimal association with the Union. Jammu and Ladakh or sub-regions within them can win different degrees of autonomy or association with the Union through the mechanism of Articles 258 and 258-A.

 

Islamabad may huff and puff as the ascendant military and mullahs underscore their relevance. This will further expose Pakistan as a rogue state, given to doublespeak and unable even after 60 years to patch together a credible identity that defines it as something more than India's "other". Few in Kashmir now look on it with affection or trust. The sorry plight of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan is cautionary.

 

www.bgverghese.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

FREEDOM ON TWO WHEELS

GEETANJALI KRISHNA

 

The other day, stuck in an interminable jam on a Delhi road, I saw a young girl ride past on a two wheeler. Navigating easily between larger vehicles, she was a blip on my horizon within minutes. "That's the way to go in Delhi," commented my driver, "two wheelers are easy to navigate, a breeze to park and use minimal fuel … our government should be doing more to encourage them on the roads rather than buying more of those huge low-floor buses!" All we could do, stationary on the road that day, was to gaze in envy as two-wheeler after two-wheeler overtook us. "I drive a car all day," he said feelingly, "but when I get on my bike to go home at the end of the day, that's the only time I really feel mobile!"

 

This got me thinking. The metro and bus rapid transit have been touted as great ways to reduce traffic on Delhi roads, but what are the options for people who don't want to sacrifice their independence at the altar of public transport? I was thinking of college students, young professionals, tourists and and those who need to move around in the city at odd hours when public transport is not an option. Currently, they have no option but to either hire cabs and autos or buy yet another car to clog up our roads. Or so I thought.

 

 "It's for such people that we developed the concept of uRide in Delhi," said Anand Bhaskar Rao, one of the three young people who've recently started a first-of-its-kind scooter rental service in Delhi. "We believe that promoting the use of two-wheelers can decongest Delhi's roads without compromising on the fun of having one's own set of wheels," he said. Two wheelers, he added, took up little space on the road and in public parking lots. Compare them with autos that one routinely finds parked haphazardly on roads, or weaving dangerously through traffic, and two wheelers come up trumps.

 

Another impetus for starting a scooter rental in the capital was that Rao and co had heard too many horror stories from expat friends about Delhi's autowalas."We thought, scooter rentals have worked so well in places like Goa and Pondicherry… why not try the idea out in Delhi?" Rao said. So, along with partners Ashish Poddar and Rajeev Palakshatta, Rao started off with 10 scooters, a page on Facebook and very little else. "We decided to use only gearless scooters, no geared scooters or bikes. The gearless variety is easy to use even for people who haven't ridden one before, simple to maintain and eco-friendly," said Rao. Much more fuel-efficient than taxis or autos, these gearless scooters give a cool 60 kilometres to a litre of petrol.

 

They began providing a gearless Honda Activa, complimentary helmets and a city map for about Rs 200 a day. To avail of these services, clients just need to provide an ID proof, a two-wheeler licence and a sense of fun. "We've received a lot of business from people in the city on short-term assignments — both Indian and expat, who find it more convenient to hire a scooter for a month than deal with public transport," he said. Some of their clients are people who have recently moved to the city and have no proof of local address (mandatory when buying a vehicle).

 

Word-of-mouth publicity has got uRide scooter rentals thus far, and Rao is confident that this idea is here to stay. For it promises much more than a ride from point A to B — it's freedom on two wheels.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEAVE IT TO G20

FUND, BANK PAST THEIR SELL-BY DATE


IN AN unexpected twist, the World Bank has joined issue with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on capital flows. World Bank President Robert Zoellick has asked emerging economies to consider steps to contain capital inflows that could potentially lead to currency misalignments and asset bubbles even as his counterpart at the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has termed such actions 'undesirable'. The disagreement, if not face-off, between the two main arbiters of the global economy on the eve of this weekend's semi-annual Fund-Bank talks does not bode well for an early end to the spate of uncoordinated and protectionist actions by different countries. Western leaders are worried their fragile recovery would come to naught if emerging economies continue to intervene to rein in currency appreciation. Emerging economies, in contrast, are worried that surging capital flows in search of higher returns would artificially strengthen their currencies, damage their export competitiveness and make them much more vulnerable to hot money flows. Seen from their narrow perspective, each side has its own reasons. The problem is, in today's globalised world, all countries sink or swim together. Beggar-thy-neighbour policies, whether by way of unrestrained monetary easing (as in the US and to a lesser extent, the UK) and non-tariff barriers (as with restrictions on US outsourcing or the Bill passed by the US House of Representatives to impose countervailing duties on Chinese imports) or currency intervention (by China and, to a lesser extent, other emerging markets, including India) will not lead anywhere. 
    Strauss-Kahn hit the nail on the head when he observed, 'Everybody has to keep in mind this mantra that there is no domestic solution to a global crisis.' The only solution is global cooperation, not of the kind orchestrated by the IMF, but of a far more genuine kind represented by the G20. The occasion of the Fund-Bank meeting this weekend must, therefore, be used for some soul-searching by these two bodies and a recognition that they are no longer in a position to lead from the front. That lead role will have to await the Seoul meeting
of the G20 in November. The IMF should focus on raising the combined quotas of the developing countries in the run-up to becoming a fulltime secretariat to the G20.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FOR AN HIV VACCINE

INNOVATE ORGANISATION OF RESEARCH


ONLY 0.028% of India's population is HIV positive, but the sheer size in absolute numbers makes them the world's largest national contingent of those infected by the AIDS virus. Considerable progress has been made in providing first-line treatment. However, for pretty much the same reasons that have led to the development of antibiotics-resistant superbugs in India, many patients require second-line treatment, the drugs for which are very expensive. India has to give maximum emphasis to prevention, not cure. Within prevention, awareness and appropriate prophylactic behaviour have received the most attention, with basic research that could lead to an AIDS vaccine relatively neglected, both in terms of money and effort. The India chapter of the International AIDS vaccine Initiative has been trying to drum up policy support for a greater role for India in the global effort to develop a vaccine. Given the extremely complex nature of the virus and a couple of spectacular failures by commercial ventures to find a vaccine, it would be a mistake to expect pharma companies to discover a vaccine on their own. Government and charitable funding, such as from the Gates Foundation, is crucial. Funds are a constraint, but not the overriding one. The real problem is the lack of an institutional framework for extensive, coordinated research across the multiple disciplines that are involved in vaccine discovery. The colonial legacy of separating real research from the university system and locating it in assorted government laboratories is a major hindrance, and calls for remedial action from the proactive minister for human resources development, Mr Kapil Sibal. 

 

In any case, universities do carry out research in all the diverse disciplines that contribute to eventual vaccine discovery. The point is to encourage basic research in the universities, prioritise topics and coordinate the research. This would produce the much-needed diverse knowledge and expertise, and precursors to vaccine discovery. India has the young, scientific talent required, and must harness it, for its own sake, and the world's.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

KIMCHI CRISIS

A PICKLE OVER A CABBAGE CROP


INDIANS will remember that onions — or more precisely, the lack of them — can swing elections, leaving political parties teary-eyed indeed. One half of the Korean peninsula does not need to worry about polls but just which Kim will be chief next. The south, however, is in ferment about a very crucial element of its national identity, its kimchi. As kimchi-making season approaches — late October or early November — cabbage prices have risen fourfold due to bad yields, so it is not surprising that the pickled relish is being rechristened geum-chi, evoking the Korean word for gold. Ironically, as unusually wet weather has led to thousands of cabbages rotting in the fields, restaurants there have resorted to charging extra for kimchi, reminiscent of when those free, sliced or pink-hued pickled onions went off tables in Indian dhabas as well as five-star hotels. Radishes and cucumbers are accepted alternatives but the cabbage is clearly king when it comes to kimchi, so any shortage is bound to have repercussions. The South Korean government's steps to remedy the kimchi crunch should also evoke a sense of déjà vu in Indians squeezed by rising food prices. Not only has it eased import duties on the cruciferous vegetable, it has begun marketing them at fixed prices promising dire consequences to profiteers and hoarders. 

 

With demand still outstripping supply, the opposition has made coleslaw of the government's efforts by insisting that the four-rivers restoration project is to blame, as it has inundated thousands of hectares of cabbage patches in water and sediment. The government has stoutly denied the allegation, but if it does not act decisively and fast on cabbage, heads are certain to roll. Still, there is always a bright side. Maybe the north's Kims can create some good 'chi' by offering a cabbage leaf of peace....

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

'WICKED' PROBLEMS AND THE IAS

THE COGNITIVE PROCESSES THAT INDIAN CIVIL SERVANTS ADOPT TO TACKLE COMPLEX REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS HAVE MUCH TO OFFER B-SCHOOL CURRICULA, DEFICIENT IN WAYS TO TACKLE CONFLICTED, UNSTABLE PROBLEMS, SAYS SAMEER SHARMA


FOLLOWING the global crisis, increasing calls (e.g. Nitin Nohria – dean of Harvard Business School, Matthew Stuart) are being made to overhaul the B-schools pedagogy based primarily on technical rationality. The fact that the rational model is little used in real-time decision-making is well-known to the IAS. In real-life conditions are complex, uncertain, and unstable, leading to "wicked problems", a term used by Rittell and Webber to describe problems that are unique, lack clear-cut definitions or singular solutions, and cannot be unravelled using the rational model or its derivatives. 

 

Wicked problems, as opposed to tame problems, lack definitional clarity and depend upon an elusive political judgment for resolution. Moreover, diverse perspectives of multiple stakeholders add to the definitional conundrum. Second, solutions are often indeterminate. Wicked problems do not have stopping rules and only best solutions are possible. Often, we do not know when the job is accomplished and once we run out of time, money or patience, the problem is deemed to be resolved. Furthermore, solutions depend upon the level of analysis and choice of explanation and the "halflife" of consequences is long, every trial counts, and path reversal leads to another set of consequences. Third, wicked problems are unique and the singularity is accentuated by the fact that wicked problems are unstable and uncertain — problems are like "moving targets", they evolve as they are being addressed. 

 

To resolve wicked problems, IAS officers primarily depend on experience rather than on general theories and rules. Donald Schon and others suggest, in another context, that IAS officers build up a mental "usable repertoire of unique cases", carrying from the past a list of usable supply of experiences. Confronted with a new decision situation, the IAS scan the list, looking for common elements between the old and the new setting that are then used to understand, decide and act. In other words, the outputs of a previous experience are used as an input for a new operation and this is called "knowing in action". For example, the 'know-how' of a sub-divisional magistrate who is able to disperse protestors without using force lies in, and is revealed by, the way she talks to the crowd, shows force, or exhibits patience on different occasions. 

 

Frequently, IAS officers are surprised during task accomplishment and engage in reflective conversation with the situation. Confronted with unstable and unique situations, IAS officers try to develop a new description of it and test the new description by on-the-spot experiments, called "reflecting in action". The iterative process has the potential to lead to innovation, famously called jugaad. For instance, a municipal commissioner reading a long, analytical paper before the municipal council notices that several council members are falling asleep. She carries out a "thought experiment" on the spot, mentally cuts all but points of special concern to the dozing counsellors, and then speaks animatedly to wake them up. If they awaken and pay attention, her experiment is a success. Her reflecting in action on her knowing in action has taught her how to improve her future practice. Finally, at the end of the day, competent practitioners also "reflect on practice". During this process they submit their assumptions to a reality check, review their strategies and reflect on the unexpected. This helps them to understand the generalisability and scalability of their small experiences. 

 

FURTHERMORE, the art of competent practice is tacit and spontaneous; therefore, difficult to describe and explain. Dreyfus brothers describe the embedded craft as follows — "the mind of the proficient performer (IAS officer) seems to group together situations sharing not only the same goal or perspective but also the same decision, action or tactic. At this point not only is a situation, when seen as similar to a prior one, understood, but the associated decision, action or tactic simultaneously comes to mind". Additionally, the Dreyfus phenomenological five step learning process to progress from novice (IAS probationer) to the expert is especially relevant to train the IAS. The Dreyfus learning model starts with the novice (IAS, Phase I), progressing to advanced beginner (Phase II), competence (Phase III), proficiency (Phase IV), and finally, expertise (Phase V). 

 

Mastering a set of context independent generalised rules (e.g. public administration, welfare policies) and the skill (e.g. programme management) characterise a novice (probationer). The IAS probationer can follow these without the benefit of any prior experience, and performance is judged solely on the basis of application of guidelines. After returning from district training, during Phase II, the probationer advances to the next stage and begins to understand how rules can be applied under different conditions or in differing contexts. 

 

Subsequently, during district postings, IAS officers are exposed to a growing number of cases or situations, allowing them to adapt rule application to different features or aspects rather than follow rules rigidly. After their district tenures, the IAS learn to deal with increasingly complex cases, organising the information by adopting a "perspective" and responding to the features and aspects that the perspective makes important. Expertise is achieved only on the basis of a great deal of experience of real-life and varying situations and finally the expert the IAS officer responds intuitively, not on a consideration of which rules to apply. 

Accordingly, IAS officers are called upon to deal with wicked problems characterised by uncertainty, instability, and value conflicts. A unique inventory of experiences, not general theories and rules based on technical rationality, is used to decide on real-life situations. The challenge is, first, to learn from the practice of IAS officers to inform practice, and second, to integrate competent practice stories with management theories and techniques. Current trends to have a relook at B-school syllabus hold much promise to lead to the convergence of pedagogic purposes of Bschools and IAS trainers. 

 

(Author is an IAS officer. 

 Views arepersonal)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V E P K MISHRA

'NEW LAW WILL CURB ILLEGAL MINING'

SUMITCHATURVEDI 


HE IS at the helm of affairs of a ministry whose policies impact steel tycoons and poor tribals whose land is used to build multi-billion dollar steel plants. For the new steel secretary, P K Mishra, has a challenging task to ensure that his ministry's policy interventions meet investor needs without hurting the interests of tribals. He is in favour of the mining industry sharing its multi-billion dollar profits with tribals affected by these projects. 

This is precisely what the new Mines & Mineral Development and Regulation (MMDR) Bill seeks to do. Steel companies will have to share 26% of their annual profits with those affected by mining activities. "Land acquisition was easy earlier but not now. The new MMDR Bill will ensure that tribals also have a stake and reap the benefits of mining projects. The new mining law will also help curb illegal mining", he said. The government hopes that tribals, who have a stake in the project, will turn whistle blowers to fight against illegal mining. 

 

Mr Mishra, a UP cadre civil servant, reckons that the Indian steel industry is on course to meet its production targets, though demand will outstrip supply when the economy grows at a fast clip. "At current rate of expansion, we should be able to meet the requirements of economy for the next four-five years." says Mishra. 

The steel ministry has set a production target of 120 million tonnes of steel per annum by 2012. This is an ambitious target, considering that the present capacity is around 72 million tonnes only. The targets will include the output from public sector steel companies such as SAIL and RINL and private sector ones including Tata Steel and JSW Steel. Mishra is confident that the industry will achieve these targets despite mounting challenges such as environment clearances, tribal protests, delays in allocation of iron ore and coal mines and protest from land owners. The industry already has an investment of about Rs 11 lakh crore in the pipeline for completing its projects. 

 

He is, however, sceptical about the global competitiveness of Indian steel companies. "If the industry is not globally competitive, in the times of crisis, it will suffer losses and this, in turn, will disrupt the growth momentum," he says. Global competitiveness means that companies should scout overseas to secure raw materials that include buying mines of depleting resources like coking coal and iron ore, he says. 

 

Despite the best efforts of Indian steel companies over the last few years, none of the steel giants including state-owned SAIL has succeeded in acquiring any mine overseas. It is important for steel companies to own mines just like ownership of petrol wells for oil companies. 

 

China has overtaken Indian companies in securing raw material for its steel companies "Indian companies have to be far more aggressive. We are far behind China. If it is not done now, it might get too late for this", says Mishra. 

He also says that the Indian steel industry is behind the curve in serious research and development. "We need to spend much more on research and acquiring latest technology. Companies should plough back their profits into R&D. A steel institution of excellence formed collectively by Indian companies could benefit the entire sector", he says. 

 

But for now, all eyes are on one of the largest fund-raising effort by SAIL followon public offer (FPO). The FPO on the one hand will help government fulfill its annual target of raising Rs 40,000 crore through disinvestment in this fiscal year. At the same, the money will help the company meet its expansion plans.

 

According to Mishra, the current market conditions augur well for the FPO, with the Sensex breaching the 20,000 mark. However, there are limitations, too. "The markets are buoyant right now and it's good time to enter the market for anyone," he says. 

 

He also adds that the timing of first tranche of Rs 16,000 crore FPO will depend on the way markets perform near January 2011. "It is difficult to predict how long the markets will continue to do well. We will complete our due diligence by the end of December 2010 and then we will take call depending on the market situations that time. We are preparing to see that the FPO's first tranche hits the market in the current financial year," he says.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CU RSOR

GU EST COLU M N

THE GREAT INDIAN GERONTOCRACY

RAGHU KRISHNAN 


IN THE United Kingdom, after defeating his elder brother David in the poll for the leadership of the opposition Labour Party, 40-year-old Ed Miliband is talking in terms of a generational shift in British politics away from the ruling coalition led by 44-year-old David Cameron! The US is led by the 49-year-old Barack Obama whose counterpart in Russia is the 45-year-old Dmitry Medvedev. China is led by the 67-year-old Hu Jintao, whose successor is reportedly being groomed, Germany by the 56-year-old Angela Merkel, France by the 55-year-old Sarkozy and Brazil by the 65-year-old Lula who is retiring after completing two terms. 

 

Which is not to gainsay the significant contributions made by octogenarian leaders like Deng Xiaoping, who launched the reforms which transformed the economy of the world's most populous nation, China. In India, it was the reforms introduced in 1991 by then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Manmohan Singh, which gave the country the impetus which has transformed the nation to an extent where it is today the second-fastest growing economy in the world after China. However, Narasimha Rao was touching 70 when he became PM and his age was often cited as a factor which prevented him from taking quick decisions when confronted with a crisis. It is even stated that the demolition of the Babri Masjid took place on the afternoon of December 6, 1992, when the then PM was having his siesta. Which need not be true but age is a factor especially when the leader is in his 70s and the challenges are complex enough to wear out younger and fitter leaders. 

 

Something similar is happening in India today where Manmohan Singh has just celebrated his 78th birthday after serving as PM for the last six years. The mess over the Commonwealth Games has been attributed to the failure to centralise control so that decisions could have been taken promptly. And it's not that sports is totally divorced from other areas of national importance. Even global rating agencies like Moody's have observed that the Commonwealth Games failure could foster doubts among international investors on India's ability to create timely infrastructure in key areas. 

 

Apologists could say that the mess on the Commonwealth Games front is the price we pay for democracy and that countries like China have no such problems when it comes to hosting the Olympics since decision-making is much faster in more authoritarian setups. However, that argument cannot be stretched to excuse all failures. The issue is not just of China versus India. Brazil, the most populous country in South America, is also a democracy which believes in inclusive growth for a large section of its population that is below the poverty line. And Brazil has made a commitment to hosting not just the 2014 football World Cup but the 2016 Olympics. 

 

Games and international tournaments need not be the only parameter for measuring governmental competence. However, they are the most visible projects, given the international participation and the focus of the world media. The 2010 Commonwealth Games was awarded to Delhi in 2003, construction work started only in 2008 and the Manmohan Singh government tried to get all problems resolved through meetings of groups of ministers (GoMs) instead of having a clear chain of command like in 1982 when the preparation for the Asian Games was supervised by an apex body called the Special Organising Committee (SOC) headed by Rajiv Gandhi. 

 

Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Kalmadi may not have wanted an SOC but, given the fact that thousands of crores of rupees of taxpayers' money was being spent on the 2010 Delhi Games, the Manmohan Singh government should have insisted on accountability right from the start instead of letting things drift to a point of no return. Others like Infosys chairman-emeritus Narayana Murthy have wondered why the Indian private sector, with its expertise in project-management, was not roped in right from the beginning for the Commonwealth Games. 

 

Questions will now be asked whether the Manmohan Singh government's penchant for setting up GoMs to tackle all crises has become a substitute for effective decisionmaking even if the failures are not as immediately visible as on the Commonwealth-Games front. Questions could also be asked whether the 78-year-old PM should step down and make way for a younger leader instead of waiting till 2014 when the query of 'After Manmohan who?' could be articulated even more loudly. India is often described as a country with a future because the majority of the population is below 35. Which makes it that much more ironical that not just the PM but senior ministers holding key portfolios like finance, defence and external affairs are all septuagenarians. Why is it that in a country where bureaucrats retire at the age of 60, politicians are considered young when they are 60-plus!

 

Age is a factor especially when the leader is in his 70s and the challenges faced by the country are huge and complex 


Exceptions to the rule do exist: Deng Xiaoping and Narasimha Rao were already old when they launched reforms 


There is a strong case for lowering the average age of the Cabinet, a cause the Prime Minister himself has endorsed

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

MOTHER CAME BEFORE ALL

VITHAL C NADKARNI 


THE moonless night of all souls (sarva-pitra amavasya) has just receded in favour of the nine-day festival of the goddess (Navaratri). In India, this coincides with the end of the rainy season, marked with autumnal leaf fall and arrival of spring buds on trees and shrubs throughout the land. 

 

The beginning of the Indian female power fest is also marked by the coincidental release of the Forbes 100 most powerful women in the world list. This claims to have dug deep into 'business, media, politics and entertainment and lifestyle personalities' to bare 'connection after connection' among the extraordinary and influential women living in a country with the world's largest economy. Many of these powerful women worked together once upon a time; many more were rivals. Some, like Oprah Winfrey and Anna Wintour, have given platforms to other women. Others, like Michelle Obama, have changed the way women like Irene Rosenfeld run their companies. 

 

This is not just an artful coincidence, the compilers of the list claim: "Power begets power, and with women the effect can be viral. The spheres of influence of the Forbes Power Women intersect in incredible and inspiring ways." 

 

Ancient Indian tradition talks of an exactly similar sort of selfperpetuation of power in its myth of the birth of the goddess. But that affirmation of feminist power occurs with the concurrence and confluence of the powers of all the male gods! The Tantras envision the Great Mother as Shakti or the supreme principle of energy through which all divinity functions. 

 

The Devi Mahatmya, for instance, depicts this interdependence of male powers and feminine force with the story of all the gods pooling their powers into a single invincible source. This became renowned as the Goddess Durga, whose name literally translates as 'impossible to conquer'. 

 

Some feminist scholars and archaeologists such as Marija Gimbutas and Gerda Lerner believe that the story of Durga may have risen from womancentred societies supposedly spread throughout the prehistoric world. Needless to add, detractors have attacked the idea of a matriarchal golden age in the Neolithic as 'feminist wishful thinking'. But there's nothing wishful about the rise of the feminine in the present times, to quote the Forbes Purana: In the beginning there is Oprah...The 25 seasons' veteran is all set to fly solo on her own!

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

OMAR SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE CAREFUL

 

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mr Omar Abdullah, could have weighed his words with better care when he spoke in the Assembly earlier this week. It was the first opportunity the young National Conference leader had to place his government's views on the complex issues underlying the three-month-long violent agitation which claimed more than a hundred lives in the Valley. In this time he was under heavy political pressure from the key mainstream Opposition, the People's Democratic Party, and every shade of separatist opinion. It would have been fitting for him to take on these forces ideologically and politically, and to underline the transparent quality of his good intentions in relation to the governance agenda. Instead, the chief minister appeared to get carried away, calling Kashmir a decades-old "dispute" between India and Pakistan. This is as close as a mainline Kashmiri politician has ever got to the Jamaat-e-Islami or Hurriyat position. It is probable that the young Mr Abdullah used the word "dispute" in a general sense. But he holds office under both the J&K Constitution and the Constitution of India. The former categorically states that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral territory of India. The clearest Indian case is that Pakistan has committed aggression in the Indian state of J&K, occupying about 40 per cent of its territory — and that India has every intention to have the aggression vacated. Given his constitutional position, the chief minister was obliged to protect the integrity of his position when speaking on the Assembly floor. It will not do to take an alarmist view of the CM's observations, but it is required that he be asked to refurbish his perspectives when speaking from public forums.

 

It is unlikely that the PDP and separatist elements will now show Mr Abdullah greater solicitousness. It is more than likely that they will now demand his head, if only to demonstrate his fidelity to his own words in the House. The BJP has already asked him to resign. The CM may thus find himself cornered between the politics of Hindu nationalists and Kashmiri Muslim nationalists. It is not in the Centre's interest that the National Conference-Congress coalition government go under on account of the chief minister's lack of political verve. It is, of course, quite appropriate for Mr Abdullah to assert that he was not a "puppet" of New Delhi. He is an elected leader, after all. But it is baffling why he saw the need to state the obvious. New Delhi has not treated him in a subservient manner at all, scrupulously according him all the constitutional propriety and respect that his position demands. Citing a statement of the Union home secretary apparently made in July during a television interview is to stretch matters. Looking back, it was a minor issue and the chief minister has needlessly sought to blow it up out of proportion, possibly just to look good in the House. The stage we are in calls for the selection of interlocutors to open political channels with relevant sections of Kashmir opinion.

 

The chief minister will do well to show awareness of this in his public statements, and to facilitate the broad process as a call of history instead of getting caught up in dodgy history by suggesting that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India under an agreement. This is plainly unhistorical. The facts are that in late 1947, the maharaja beseeched New Delhi to send Indian forces into the Valley to protect his state from Pakistani invaders, and in return for this he signed the instrument of accession. The document was signed in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the chief minister's grandfather, following a specific demand of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made on the maharaja.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

VAASTU CHANGE HELPS ACHARYA

 

One may or may not believe in vaastu but for senior bureaucrat, Mr B.P. Acharya, it came in very handy to explain why some of his administrative actions like Emaar and allotment of lands to various IT and commercial ventures, have drawn considerable flak. The news about the Emaar scam started trickling in when Mr Acharya was at the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority, and became a flood after he became principal secretary for major industries, the office of which is located in the second floor of D Block in the Secretariat. Mr Acharya's well wishers found an answer to the inauspicious developments in the bad vaastu of his new office! The babu immediately effected changes suggested by vaastu experts. And whether it was the good vastu or not, Mr Acharya had every reason to smile soon after, with the crucial SC judgement on Raidurg lands wherein he was responsible for the state's success in owning land worth thousands of crores of rupees.

 

LOBBYING FOR BERTH HITS A NEW 'LOW' AMONG POLITICIANS

 

Ever since the CM announced that he will be visiting Delhi this month, intense lobbying has begun for ministerial berths as the CM is expected to discuss with the party high command the long awaited reshuffle of his Cabinet. Most of the lobbying is done discreetly, but Mr B. Mohan Reddy, panchayati raj teachers' union president and Congress MLC, saw no reason for this hypocrisy and openly asked the CM in the presence of thousands of teachers and the media to give him a place in the Cabinet. He did it in a spectacular manner too, by falling at the feet of the CM during a PRTU conference and supplicating for a post as thousands of teachers watched. Some teachers' unions criticised Mr Reddy for mortgaging the teachers' self-respect in order to wangle a berth in the Cabinet, but the PRTU president defended his action by asking, "What is wrong in falling at the feet of an elderly person? Yes, I have asked for a Cabinet berth. Without your asking, even your mother won't feed you, so I asked."

 

WHY EVERYONE LOVES GADDAR

 

Gaddar is hogging the media limelight once again on the Telangana issue and getting support from different quarters. The Congress MLA, Ms Konda Surekha, a Jagan Mohan Reddy loyalist, has found a way into the Telangana movement (and back into politics, after being sidelined by the Congress) by extending support to him. "I give my full support to Gaddar. Gaddar has no political background hence he can be relied upon," Ms Surekha says. Gaddar has also come as a blessing in disguise for the Telugu Desam, which is facing the heat from the TRS. The TD MLAs from Telangana are backing Gaddar, but the party chief, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, wants to wait and see what transpires at Gaddar's meeting and what is in his manifesto. Mr Naidu has advised Telangana party leaders not to go overboard on Gaddar in view of his Maoist background, as it may backfire politically.

 

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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

OPED

CAVEMAN APPROACH? THINK AGAIN!

BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE

 

Aren't you just sick to death of Commonwealth Games and everything connected to it? I am. It's come to a point where I really and truly don't give a flying err... javelin... whether we win gold, silver, bronze, tin, copper, brass medals. The opening ceremony that we are crowing about was ummm... impressive but hugely "inspired" ( like our Bollywood films and music), but what the hell — you want a tamasha, you got a tamasha. I no longer care if Suresh Kalmadi can't tell the difference between Camilla and Diana (so long as the bonny Prince Charles doesn't make the same mistake, aall eez well). I for one, can't wait for the khel to get over and asli life to resume. Mumbai, of course, remains totally indifferent to what's going on in Dilli. Mumbai has its own games to focus on — and those don't involve athletes. All this came into sharp focus as I boarded the last flight to Aurangabad and noticed the bored expressions of passengers in the lounge as they turned their attention away from television screens showing the Games (live), and focused instead on sexier options on their BlackBerries and iPhones. Sad but largely true. Even Dilliwallas aren't chuffed about these momentous Games, preferring to flee the capital or stay back cribbing about various inconveniences. Tauba, tauba, even chief minister Sheila Dikshit's seetis and impromptu gigs weren't enough to inject the much needed josh into the dheela/marela Games.

 

As I emerged from the airport in Aurangabad and was swept away in an S-Class, fully loaded and impressively customised Mercedes, I looked around me in utter astonishment. We were on the main and only big road in this sprawling city of 20 lakh people, with a history that goes back to 3rd century BC. My local hosts told me India's biggest, flashiest shopping mall is soon coming up to challenge the glory of the historic Ajanta and Ellora sites close by. Imagine that! A shopping complex to challenge a World Heritage complex. A sign of our amazing times. In any case these are the last three years for tourists to rush to these magnificent caves and temples before they shut down for the much needed restoration and facelift. In anticipation of an unprecedented rush of visitors from overseas, hotels are gearing up and hoping to make big bucks. Along this stretch which extends through the city, our fancy car is frequently overtaken by even fancier cars. I am told a staggering order for 28 more S-Class Mercs has already been placed with the car giant. At over one crore a pop, these numbers are pretty damn cool. But hold it — that's nothing! This is also the city that had got the Mercedes guys back in Stuttgart to turn somersaults with glee when local chaps got together and placed an order for over 150 Mercs — yup, 150 — in what became a record breaking deal that had the auto world talking. So, who were these anonymous fellows who happily put down serious money for spiffy German wheels (I remembered there were 500 industries in what was described in the Seventies as one of the "fastest growing cities in Asia")? I met a couple of them during my short stay. They are young, hungry and ready to take on the world. The Merc is but one of the cars in their collection. I saw Porsches, BMWs and Bentleys cruising Jalna road, and behind the wheels were the proud owners and their designer-clad wives. Looking at some of them, it's hard to imagine the quantum of wealth at their disposal. But clearly they have it — loads and loads of it. Some are first-generation tycoons who jet around the globe from Zambia to New Zealand, selling everything from steel to seeds. They belong to a super exclusive club of richie rich Aurangabadis, and party hard at one another's sprawling villas, with seven-star resort level pools and other luxurious facilities. They rarely feel the need to come to Mumbai or Delhi, since they love their local lifestyle — and who wouldn't? These guys are brash, confident, global citizens — a far cry from the country hicks envious city slickers imagine them to be.

 

But for me, the real Aurangabad story of change and transformation, was the one I witnessed at the Maulana Azad College For Women, established by the late Dr Rafiq Zakaria in 1968 (at the time, it was a separate, segregated section of the main college, created so that girls from conservative sections could access higher education if their parents were averse to co-education).

 

In 1991, the college became a separate entity. While Rafiq was the visionary, it is his widow Fatima, who has injected life and dynamism into this scrupulously clean college where even the gardeners are women. Fatima is a revered figure in Aurangabad. At 75, she works tirelessly to ensure that the poorest section of the society gets a shot at quality education. It starts at toddler level — a pretty daunting challenge. But Fatima has licked the problem by providing a free bus service to pick up these kids and bring them to school. I spent some time on this campus on a searingly hot afternoon. Over 900 students, along with their teachers, had gathered under two gigantic neem trees, their heads covered with traditional scarves. I met their principal, an elegant, soft-spoken lady, who'd earned her doctorate in computer sciences from this very same college years ago. Fatima was glowing with undisguised pride at having realised her late husband's dream and taken it forward in such an inspiring way. Along with her son, the stupendously famous Fareed Zakaria (a trustee), Fatima presides over a college complex with 15,000 students, a lot of them toppers in their chosen discipline. She also personally screens and supervises all interviews — students and staff alike, to ensure there is no hanky-panky. I was told the going rate to get a teacher's post at other colleges is a staggering 15 lakh of rupees.

 

I was meeting Fatima after several years (she was one of my first editors). It was with absolute delight that I noted her glowing skin and actively ticking brain that is constantly looking for ways to serve the "flock" better. Since she also presides over the Taj Catering College (IHM) and edits the Taj Magazine, hers is an admirably full and fulfilled life. Fatima presides, okay?

 

What next, Fatima, I asked her. Promptly, she reeled off a list of programmes, starting with a national level workshop on women, water and the environment. My kind of woman. A total babe!

 

— Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HEARTBURN & TEARS

BY BY S. NIHAL SINGH

 

If the fumbles leading up to the Commonwealth Games showed the inability of India's administrative and political leadership to stage a major international sporting event without heartburn and tears, New Delhi's extraordinary reaction to a New Zealand television anchor making fun of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is the icing on the cake.

 

The television anchor in question, Paul Henry of the state-owned TVNZ, was racist and vulgar in referring to Ms Dikshit, but for India's external affairs ministry to come out with a statement saying the comments were unacceptable and calling the New Zealand envoy to make a formal protest were uncalled for. Although both the New Zealand high commissioner and his foreign minister, Murray McCully, condemned the remarks, the latter calling them "gratuitous and insulting", his answer was that it was up to the company or the Broadcasting Standards Authority to discipline him.

 

In fact, Henry was suspended by the television station last Tuesday for questioning whether the country's Indo-Fijian Governor-General, Anand Satyanand, was a proper New Zealander. How often has India dealt with complaints from fellow developing countries for what has appeared in the Indian media and replied with the standard answer that the country enjoyed a free media.

 

Perhaps India has acquired a new sensitivity to criticism against the backdrop of the avalanche of criticism around the world on sliding deadlines for preparedness, inadequate and dirty accommodation and a senior official of the Indian managing committee suggesting that there were different standards of hygiene for Indians and the outside world.

 

India redeemed some of its self-respect by staging a successful opening, but glitches continued to plague the events such as erring scales for weighing boxers, doubts over the quality of water in the main swimming pool and a mixup of transport arrangements for event judges.

 

Indeed, India needs to introspect over its failings, which are indications of two fault lines that have developed in the system, the administration and the political leadership. Ever since the days of Indira Gandhi promoting a politically committed bureaucracy for her own partisan ends, the once famed civil service has been unable to maintain its standard. After all, if the then Prime Minister could push civil servants around for political motives, so can a string of chief ministers for whom civil servants have become mere toys to be moved on a chessboard. Only recently, a member of the Indian Administrative Service in Uttar Pradesh has sought premature retirement after being bounced from one post to another.

 

The second, more important, deficiency lies with the political system as it has evolved. India is not unique in having to live with coalition governments. But the coalition culture has yet to evolve. As it happened, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Mark I was in a somewhat happier position because there were clear red lines on what the Left parties extending support were not willing to accept. The Left was not part of the government.

 

UPA Mark II has proved to be a messier proposition because two of its main supporting parties, the DMK in the South and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, are seeking to extract all they can from their support. The DMK takes its price of support upfront while Ms Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress has a one-point agenda — of supplanting the Marxists in West Bengal in next year's elections — and tailors her role as a Union minister accordingly, irrespective of the wishes of the Congress Party.

 

But the central political problem facing the government at the Centre is that the two-headed power structure, with Manmohan Singh manning the government and Sonia Gandhi the Congress Party, is simply not working as it should, with the result that the smack of firm government is missing when it is needed most. For one thing, it is no secret that Mrs Gandhi exercises the ultimate authority over the party and government policies. This inevitably weakens the Prime Minister's authority in running the country.

 

For instance, what excuse can there be for the political leadership failing to act well in time within the seven-year window it had to prepare for the Commonwealth Games when it was clear years ago that key preparations were falling hopelessly behind schedule? Besides, it is a sign of a weak Prime Minister when every major issue requires the formation of a Group of Ministers (GoM), which reports to the Cabinet before it can take a decision. Indeed, this new institution is subverting the manner in which the Cabinet functions in a system of parliamentary government.

 

True, India is facing more than its share of problems — from Kashmir to Ayodhya to the belligerence and new assertiveness of neighbours. But political leadership is tested in times of crisis and the ruling party of the day must prove equal to the occasion if it is to continue to retain the people's respect and support. Preparations for the Commonwealth Games have proved that it is not performing as it should.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has himself lamented that the administrative machinery has atrophied. To which the obvious question is: what is the government doing to set things right?

 

Taking offence at a foreign television presenter making fun of the Delhi chief minister by creating a diplomatic incident is no way to create an aura of nationalist rhetoric. Wisely, Ms Dikshit herself has refrained from reacting, but such action can only lead to raised eyebrows around the world. Many of us, as well as much of the world, had assumed that India was grown up and, unlike too many countries, did not take offence at the mere suggestion of disrespect of the country or its leaders. It is time for the government to get its perspective right.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

A LESSON OR TWO FROM UK

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

It is always great to come back to London — and this time more so because I have managed to escape the high decibel 24/7 Commonwealth Games headlines. Or should I say — I have nearly managed to escape them because now the UK media is groaning about "Delhi belly" —claiming that over 40 of their swimmers have been affected by the poor quality of water in the swimming pools. No doubt the organising committee's secretary general, Lalit Bhanot will unleash a quick repartee about "the different standards of their water and our water", and thus shrug off the complaint like water off a duck's back. But perhaps the swimmers were far too delicate to be released (without mini-filteration plants attached to them) into the turbulent swimming pools of Delhi. (Think of the positive side, at least there were no dogs paddling alongside — so what if there is a bit of tummy trouble?)

 

In one of the more snooty but serious comments in the Times, questions were raised whether these young swimmers should have been thus endangered. What India forgets is that is these Games are fiercely competitive, and the tiniest slip can mean a lost medal. These swimmers, it was said in the article "live in a cocoon of dedication, toil and sacrifice". For each day in each swimmer's life, the British public pays between £12,000 and £27,000. Altogether around £2 million a year of British Lottery funds, and soon another 15 million from British Gas will be spent on British swimmers as they prepare for the Olympics. These are not amateurs and are "far removed from the threat of mosquitoes, Delhi belly and four hour bus tours to the pool". While these words may bite and wound our easily aroused Indian pride — they are true. Also it is true that, as the commentator points out, most of the Indian competition would not even have reached the first tier of the required level and is dependent on regional or family funding.

 

So whilst we are quick to blame Kalmadi &Co for their short-sightedness — what about the rest of India? Where were we when we should have been preparing our children for the fight of their lives? Did we pour the lakhs of rupees required into their training ? Did we insist on proper conditions being provided to them? If we look for instant results in everything (possible only in opening and closing ceremonies) — without the investment of love, funding and toil — we will continue to get poor headlines. So lets enjoy whatever gold tally we get — alongside the kicking the rest of the world is bestowing on us. And believe me, this is not racist, much though we would like to think it is!

 

Meanwhile, it has been an interesting week: watching David Cameron address the Conservative Party conference as Prime Minister of Britian for the first time, and also see the recently-elected Ed Miliband take over as the Leader of the Opposition with his Shadow Cabinet. Both leaders are young, new to the job and good at playing happy families. Though Ed Miliband, as an unmarried father, has had his share of criticism from women because he had (as yet) not signed on as "father" on his 16-month-old son's birth certificate. It seems he may have been too busy — but women are wondering if this makes him the ultimate commitment phobe? It is something which stands out in stark contrast because Mr Cameron has been steadfast in his support of marriage. He has been quick to be seen with his children, and even carried his third child, Florence, just a few months old, into the party conference.

 

Of course, the cynics say "Dave" is using every trick in the book to get people to trust him: he has to negate the image of the Conservatives as the "nasty party". So far, sadly for Labour, "Dave" seems ahead of the game. He has been conciliatory in forming a coalition, is very quick to praise them, is removing old fears, even about Tories being homophobic, and is trying to come across as being Mr Nice Guy.

 

Mr Miliband, already, is creating the opposite image. He is emerging as a ruthless game player, in both his annihilation of his brother's ambition, and in his careful manipulation of the trade unions which have supported him. But his biggest advantage is that he comes with zero expectations — as no one has yet seen him on the world stage. Even in his role as environment minister he was not a heavy weight. Therefore, no matter what he does — most people will be forgiving of any initial mistakes. He has four years in which to seize the initiative. In this battle of Nice Dave versus Tough Ed — it is difficult to predict the winner, since the UK is facing difficult economic times, with a growth rate of just 0.5 per cent .

 

Coming from India — where the emphasis is to Spend! Spend! Spend! — it is disorienting to be in country where the theme song is Cut!Cut!Cut! But India should learn a lesson from the welfare state which the UK so carefully built up, and is now dismantling. The benefit system in this country had been admirable — supporting education, health and the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly and stay-at-home mothers with children. But now that the circumstances have changed and the state is forced to downsize, the outrage among the middle classes is palpable. Losing benefits is something which pinches badly — at any time. Once you give something for free — it is always difficult to grab it back.

 

The Indian government is lucky that in that it seem to be pro-poor even though often the actual benefits never reach the intended recipient. Civil society is not organised enough to protest. But the day some charismatic leader unifies the growing civilian anger it will be difficult to conceal corruption or avoid providing the benefit. And why not? Like in the UK, India is ripe for an honest, young national leader. But (with the exception of Rahul Gandhi) we have very few.

 

So what are the various political parties waiting for? If these young charismatic leaders cannot be found in India — they should launch an international search for youthful brilliant talent and lure them back to India to join politics. Remember, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi learnt their politics abroad — and for a good reason. Perhaps the children who study and live abroad understand how the world views them and yet retain their patriotic fervour.They bring back fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Sometimes these lessons are learnt from the environment around them, and many of the lessons are positive.

 

Think of this: already 100,000 volunteers have signed up for the 2012 London Olympics, and are being trained. Imagine if we had been able to do that two years earlier in India!

 

- The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com [1]

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT 

APEX COURT REVIVES THE DEBATE

 

JUDICIAL verdicts are best analysed in the specific context of the case before the court. Yet, while reducing from "death" to "life" the punishment it awarded to the man convicted for the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Matoo ~ one of several high-profile cases in which the initial investigation was found dubious because the accused had "influence" ~ the Supreme Court has made certain comments that have bearing on the larger issue of the desirability of retaining capital punishment on the statute book. Certainly due note will be taken of the Bench (coram: HS Bedi, CK Prasad; JJ) observing that "When the option is between a life and a death sentence the options are indeed extremely limited, and if the court feels some difficulty in awarding one or the other it is only appropriate that the lesser is awarded.

 

This is the underlying philosophy behind the (rarest of the rare) principle". The observation will add to the several interpretations of that principle. Also significant was its conclusion that there was nothing on record to conclude that the convict in this case "would not be capable of reform" ~ it amplifies modern thinking that reform rather than retribution and punishment is the aim of a penal regime. And few human beings are so craven as to be beyond reform, at least they are worth a try. The advocates for abolishment of capital punishment will certainly welcome the observations: indeed, India is one of the few countries to persist with providing for a death sentence, which some insist runs counter to the basic Indian mores of compassion and forgiveness. Is a definitive determination  not  overdue? 


What is difficult to appreciate is the current tendency of the media ~ sadly "print" has succumbed to the pressures of the "visual" ~ to accord as much attention to emotional reaction as to considered judicial reasoning. It is understandable that the victim's family seek the proverbial "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth", but is it not less-than-responsible for such views to be so publicised as to create an impression that the judiciary fails to award deterrent punishment? Sadly, it is not only over-enthusiastic reporters and their "production" colleagues who seek to play the combined role of investigator, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner. What business did the chairperson of the National Commission for Women have saying the verdict made her "pained, sad and worried". The legal system will have cause for all that, and more, if "vengeance" is to be consistently confused with "justice".

 

PERILOUSLY SKEWED 

NREGS FUNDING WITHOUT POLICY 

Tuesday's meeting of West Bengal's panchayat minister with a Central delegation suggests that the pattern of NREGS funding within the state is open to question. The amazing fact that has emerged after several years of perceived implementation is that there is no policy per se.  Which explains the Centre's decidedly blunt directive to the state that it will have to frame a policy before further disbursement to the districts. Those districts that have not utilised 60 per cent of the funds will not be entitled to further pump-priming. Not that this is a special formulation for Bengal; it is in accord with the Centre's original directive that guides the scheme. As with a range of other critical spheres, the state's execution of the NREGS has been perilously skewed.
  With some six months to go before the assembly election, the administration is faced with a damned if you, do-damned if you don't situation. The state's panchayat minister pleads that a policy has not been framed because the panchayats under the Opposition have failed to utilise NREGS funds effectively. The scheme predates the change of guard (2009). One need hardly add that a not dissimilar charge can be levelled against the ruling party quangos as well. Anisur Rahman's parallel argument is that if funds are stopped to Opposition panchayats, the government will face the charge of discrimination. Between these two seemingly variant viewpoints lies the actual reason why the Centre's touted flagship endeavour has floundered. 
The state has been alerted against the ad hocism that has marked the partial progress and overwhelming regression of the scheme.  The minister has at least been honest enough to admit that a policy on fund utilisation has not been devised "due to political reasons". Equally, he has acknowledged that a policy will have to be in place to keep the scheme running. The friction and distrust can only intensify between now and the election. And with Rs 387 crore unspent in the last financial year, West Bengal is not in a position to cavil that "it is not getting enough".

 

TRENDS IN BRAZIL 

RUN-OFF HALTS OUTRIGHT VICTORY

Brazil is at the crossroads. The person widely expected to win an outright victory in last Sunday's presidential election, will have to seek a run-off in four weeks' time. Dilma Rousseff, chief adviser to the outgoing President, Lula da Silva, is largely credited with the phenomenal progress of the country's economy. Brazil is today the world's eighth largest economy and one of the four emerging powers along with India, Russia and China.  An estimated 20 million people have been rescued from poverty. The country's position as a player on the world stage is richly deserved, one that will be confirmed in 2016 when it hosts the Olympics, the first nation in South America to boast the honour. It is rather puzzling, therefore, that with 47 per cent of the votes, a convincing victory has somehow eluded Ms Rousseff of the ruling Workers' Party, though it is generally expected that she will pip the others to the post in the run-off on 31 October. 


 Did something go awry somewhere? What may have scuppered Ms Rousseff's prospects are reports of a corruption scandal involving one of the advisers to the government. Another factor was her intent to liberalise the country's abortion law, and this could well have led to a reverse swing in the evangelical Christian vote. Yet another is the environment and rain forests, a critical campaign plank that explains the impressive performance of the Green Party. Indeed, with an unexpected 19 per cent of the votes, it has been able to slow down the victory march of Ms Rousseff. 


 Clearly, the country expects her to be more explicit with the environment agenda if she has to ensure a convincing edge over Jose Serra's Social Democratic Party and Marina Silva's Green Party. Brazil is one of the fastest growing economies. Equally has this been largely achieved at the cost of the rain forests, already shrinking with the entry of agro-business enterprises. Growth has to be achieved in parallel with the protection of Nature, a dilemma that is as acute in Brazil ~ the guardian of the Amazon ~ as it is in India.

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

MIND YOUR MANNERS, SIR!

A WORD FOR WORD AND GESTURE FOR GESTURE

BY SUDHIR KUMAR JHA


THE professed iron-frame of the British Indian administration was not dubbed the Indian Civil Service for nothing. The pun on "civil" underscored its non-military character as much as "civility" that was in-built in their persona. I have often wondered how the initial inductees would have handled human interaction in course of their work, given the totally unfamiliar climate, culture and language. They did not have the benefit of Dale Carnegie's famous How to Win Friends and Influence People which was some years away in the future.
Call it serendipity but in course of one of my research forays into the archives I stumbled upon a memorandum on the subject of social  and official intercourse between European officers and Indians. It was printed in 1913 at the Government Press, Ranchi (yes, the provisional government of the newly-formed state of Bihar and Orissa functioned from Ranchi while the new capital was coming up at Patna). It was meant for the benefit of the young British officers starting their career in India. It draws heavily upon a set of instructions issued in 1821 to his Assistants in Central India by Sir John Malcolm, Agent of the Governor-General. Be it the subordinate staff or the public at large the emphasis is on easy accessibility while courtesy with compassion is to be the given norm of behaviour. The detailed do's and don'ts give a rare insight into the Indian psyche and leaves one wondering if the British understood us better than we do ourselves.


True, times are not the same. We are today a free nation. There has been perceptible democratisation of our services. Has it translated into making our public servants more civil, sensitive and empathetic towards aam aadmi? We can pick some tips from the century-old circulars, which remain as valid today, and leave our babus do some soul-searching.


In dealing with the public, (read native Indians), the British officers had to guard against being condescending and overbearing. For men may dread but can never love or respect those who are and must be appropriately acknowledged, a word for word and gesture for gesture. It may be a perceptible nod of the head or a raised hand, but never the left hand or just one finger. He had to be ever mindful of his conduct; he could be watching a thousand people with his two eyes but he was under constant scrutiny by  2000 eyes and more.
The young civilian was exhorted to be careful about his dress and deportment and about the kind of language he used. In order to communicate better he was encouraged to gain proficiency in the local language and custom. The opening gambit was important so as to put the supplicant at ease. How you addressed a person was important and his age had to be respected. Extra care had to be observed while interacting with women; there was no scope for frivolity lest it was misconstrued as flirting, a point worth taking note of by our officialdom. With increasing presence of women at the workplace today the male boss or colleague has to be gender sensitive. Showing Sir Walter Raleigh-like chivalry can be risky; so it is safest to be cordial but correct.
Accessibility tops the list of dos and don'ts. Telephones were still not for the common man and travel was time consuming and rigorous. Personally waiting on the sahib who thus the preferred option. "On no account should peons or servants be permitted to refuse access to their master without his personal orders." Demand for tips by minions was to be strongly discouraged on pain of severe penalty.


We can compare this with the ground reality today. Sometimes the officer takes pride in keeping a visitor waiting while he may be doing nothing better inside the chamber than chewing paan paraag or flipping the pages of a glossy magazine. You fare no better on the phone. In the morning the sahib is either in the bathroom or at puja. During office hours you will be lucky to get past his PA or his PA's PA. A message is seldom taken and is replied to even more rarely. Mobile phones flash either "no answer" or  "switched off". What would have been the British masters' take on that?

Once the visitor has been ushered in the officer should be all attention and hear him out patiently. "A refusal or an unpalatable order is accepted with much greater resignation when the officer, who has to give it, has listened to all that is to be said on the other side." Maintaining eye contact throughout is important. Fast forward this bit to the present day. The visitor may be pouring his heart out while the person across him is busy talking into his Bluetooth or sending SMS on his Blackberry.


What is valid in dealing with the public becomes crucial in handling the large staff he presides (and not lords) over. "An officer should be freely accessible to all his subordinates, and should make a point of knowing personally as many as possible of them." This is a universal leadership attribute and holds good for all times. One's own name is music to the ears and a good boss should address his staff by name. In appropriate situations he should add prefix and suffix to the name, such as "Mr So and So" or Ramchandra Babu or Mukherji Sahib. So that grievances, if any, are nipped in the bud. Easy accessibility is a must. An aggrieved person cannot open up before a haughty and domineering boss, give him a patient hearing but heed thy own counsel. "He should be shy of making promises but, if he makes one, he should always perform it." Being polite and graceful is one thing but he cannot afford to have favourites, and he has to let that be known and seen.


Being foreigners, the British could not be accused of nepotism, a charge our officialdom now is vulnerable to. Our bureaucrats are undoubtedly a favoured lot. Privileges and obligations go hand in hand, noblesse oblige. It may not be in their hands to solve everybody's problems, but their compassion can be a balm for the bruises. There is no scope ever to be uncouth and abrasive. Being polite and courteous always pays. Grace never goes out of fashion.


The writer is a former Director-General of Police, Bihar

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

'WE SIMPLY NEED TO MOTIVATE EVERYBODY'

 

Amita Chatterjee, a professor of philosophy, has been appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of Presidency University. After serving a long stint of more than three decades as professor at Jadavpur University and being a favourite of her students, she feels that the task of heading the prestigious institute is a great challenge. An alumnus of Presidency College, she tells ARUNIMA GHOSH that she hopes the institute will regain its past glory. 

There has always been a healthy rivalry between St Xavier's College and Presidency. Xavier's overtook Presidency five years back by bagging the autonomous status. Can Presidency overtake Xavier's now?
Just because an institute managed to get autonomous status a few years earlier, it does not imply that it has overtaken us. Neither will a late-starter always lag behind. A motivated lot of teachers, students and non-teaching staff can easily take the institute to new heights. We aim to rank among first grade universities.


Do you agree that the creation of Presidency University is a course correction? 
Well, it cannot be denied that the cream of the students who pass out from school either leave the state or opt for Jadavpur University instead of Presidency College. When I was a student at the college, it was considered one of the best colleges in the country. Thus, there is an urgent need to restore its past glory. 


What's your agenda?

We have to first identify the areas that are lagging behind and then find suitable solutions. A complete revamp of the curricula, syllabus upgradation, modifying the teaching and learning methodology, revising the evaluation procedure and improving the infrastructure, namely modernising the laboratory and digitising the library, are some of the measures that need to be taken to upgrade the institute to the level of a centre of excellence. In fact, we need to bring about a complete change in the academic atmosphere.

What's the first step towards improving the academic climate?

Raising the teaching standards. When we were students, there were professors who had such command over the subject that students from other colleges sought permission to attend their classes. We need to bring back that atmosphere. It's not that teachers of such stature have ceased to exist. We need to bring them back. There should be scope for organising lectures of such teachers from time to time. 


You are speaking about bringing the best teachers in the university but do you feel that political interference can be done away with during the appointment of teachers?

 

It is too early to comment on that. I'll simply say that merit should be the topmost priority for recruiting teachers.

Do you feel that the Left Front's policy on transferring teachers from Presidency to other colleges has caused the institute to suffer?


Partly yes, partly no. A teacher who knows that he or she would leave the institute after a certain period does not develop the compassion and dedication that is essential. At the same time, the purpose behind the Left Front's policy was a noble one. Rules cannot be broken to provide privileges to a section of the teaching community.

The results of the prestigious institute have systematically gone down. What's your impression of the new evaluation system and of the curriculum that needs to be introduced in order to check the trend?
The evaluation system has to be a continuous one. Instead of assessing what a student remembers, the assessment should be aimed at finding out how the student can apply the knowledge. Marking students on their class performance and other academic activities like seminars, discussions and projects is another way. 
The teaching methodology should be more interactive where both the teacher and students needs to work hard. Teachers should be able to use modern technology in classroom lectures. Remedial classes for weaker students are a must. We started it in some departments at JU. 


Student politics and campus violence have hampered the academic atmosphere in many colleges. With your experience at JU, how do plan to tackle this?


I was never involved in student politics in my time. But I feel every student should be politically aware. Student politics is not a bad thing but political parties have an important role to play. 


During my teaching years, I realised that if we gain the confidence of students, the problems can be dealt with. It is our responsibility to listen to the students and help them distinguish between what's right and what's wrong. One needs to give enough time and effort to gain the confidence of all sections of students. 


You had headed the Centre for Cognitive Sciences. Do you plan to start similar centres and inter-disciplinary schools at Presidency?


Why not? I think the Act has a provision for it. This is very premature. We need more time to come up with such things.


Do you think there should be a second campus for research activities?

I have already discussed this with the higher education minister, Professor Sudarshan Raychaudhuri. Space is a constraint. We need to come up with many new courses and programmes and the space available at present is not sufficient. But there are no proposal for a second campus as of now. 


What are the other priority areas?

It will be difficult for me to say now because there are many tasks. I need to first read the Act properly, then the decision-making bodies need to be set up. Interviews have to be taken for officers' posts. Infrastructure has to be upgraded as well.


During this transitional phase when the college is being transformed to university while you plan to change the academic atmosphere in the present political situation, how do you see your dreams being fulfilled?
I am very optimistic. Transforming the institute to a centre for excellence is a dream that all cherish. We simply need to motivate everybody. I feel that I'll get support and guidance from all quarters.

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

ON RECORD

 

The forces must return. We'll hit the streets against the joint forces until we oust them. 
Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee in Midnapore on the presence of joint forces which she alleges are functioning with the support of CPI-M cadres. 


I can assure you all that both politically and administratively Maoists will be defeated in Bengal. And we will not let them spread wings here. The original Naxalite movement in the country started from Naxalbari in Darjeeling district. But the current Maoist problem is not the continuation of the old Naxalite movement. It is a new phenomenon with new ideologies. 


West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee while addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry's national council meeting. 


Ask me on October 14 and I will tell you. 


Union home minister P Chidambaram when asked if he was satisfied with the Commonwealth Games security arrangements. 

Everybody's interested in strategic deals with India, but Pakistan's always seen as the rogue. 
Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. 


I know only that both Simi and RSS are fanatical and hold fundamentalist views. 

 

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Bhopal. 


We are not puppets of the Centre. 


Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on a comment made by Union home secretary GK Pillai. 


I have come to read the pitch as I gear up to take my stance as an opening batsman. 
First vice-chancellor of Presidency University Amita Chatterjee. 



Rajnikant is one of those rare men who have been true to the culture of Maharashtra. 
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. 



If any proposal for an out-of-court compromise is made by any party, it will be considered by the chairman and an appropriate decision shall be taken after consultation with the board. 


Zufar Ahmad Farooqui, Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board chairman announced that the board would move the Supreme Court against the verdict of Allahabad High Court. 

Prince Diana attended the ceremony. 
Suresh Kalmadi mixing up Prince Charles and his former wife. 

This is a mockery of justice. If this isn't a case of abetment of suicide, no case under Kolkata Police jurisdiction qualifies as one. 


Rouvanjit's father Ajay Rawla, when La Martiniere principal Sunirmal Chakravarti was granted bail within eight hours of his arrest. 



One of the best, one of the most exciting Test matches I have played and I have played some 150 now. 
Ricky Ponting, Australian captain on the Mohali Test.

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

WILL RSS BACK KASHMIR AUTONOMY?

 

A fusion of views between Omar Abdullah and Vaidya of the RSS could well provide a middle path that leads to a solution in Kashmir, says rajinder puri 

 

Resolving the Kashmir dispute would require the completion of two phases of negotiation. There are differences between the Centre and the Valley. There are also differences between New Delhi and Islamabad. Defusing differences with the Valley is the first and urgent phase. Having achieved that, defusing differences with Islamabad is the second but necessary phase. It would be unrealistic to believe that for a lasting and stable Kashmir solution Islamabad can be altogether ignored. So. how might the first phase be completed in order to facilitate initiation of the second phase?


This scribe in the past had made proposals for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Now, substantially conforming to the spirit of those proposals, there have been expressed two views couched in terms more acceptable than mine. The two views were expressed respectively by chief minister Omar Abdullah and RSS ideologue and former spokesperson MG Vaidya. Both views are not only compatible but are even complementary.
Omar Abdullah resorted to semantic quibbling by trying to draw a distinction between Kashmir's "accession'' to India from its ''merger''. But the central point of his complaint was valid. New Delhi did not honour the agreement between the central government and the National Conference in letter and in spirit. Omar's second point was unexceptionable. He urged the government to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan instead of continuing with the futile mollycoddling of Hurriyat separatists.


Vaidya of the RSS has proposed a radical solution that makes sense going by ground realities. He has proposed that the Valley be restored the pre-1953 autonomy that was granted to Sheikh Abdullah. He has insisted, of course, that first the Kashmiri Pandits must be honourably rehabilitated in the Valley. The Valley would have its own Prime Minister with powers over all subjects other than defence, currency, foreign affairs and telecommunications. The Valley would, of course, remain firmly under the President of India who would continue to appoint the Governor.


He has recommended the retention of Article 356 to ensure national integrity but, at the same time, the strengthening of Article 370 to discourage separatism. He suggests the continuing role of the Election Commission and the Supreme Court. Vaidya has recommended that Jammu be given separate statehood and Ladakh be made a Union Territory. Vaidya wants the Centre to call a round-table conference to discuss all these issues. All these views are contained in a paper circulated by Vaidya among his colleagues.
This is a startling departure from the known Sangh Parivar stand. Not surprisingly, the BJP has rubbished Vaidya's proposals. It might be argued that Vaidya is no more an office-bearer in the RSS and, therefore, may be considered a maverick. But Vaidya is too senior and important a leader to be dismissed as a loner. Quite likely the RSS has flown a kite through him.


It may be recalled that the RSS had earlier proposed the division of J&K into three segments. It is the autonomy proposal for the Valley that is new. That the distance between the RSS and the BJP is growing became evident from the restrained view of the Ayodhya court judgment expressed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in contrast to the utterances of LK Advani and other BJP leaders. 


It is welcome that political leaders are beginning to think out of the box in search of solutions to long-lasting problems.One hopes this breaks down the barriers that were erected between them by events of the past. A fusion of views between Omar Abdullah and Vaidya could well provide a middle path that leads to a solution in Kashmir. Interaction between them and among other political leaders seeking an end to the impasse in Kashmir is long overdue. 

 

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE TIME OF THE HEROES

 

If selfless dissidence and just outrage are the two crucial criteria expected of a Nobel laureate for literature, then the Peruvian-born writer, Mario Vargas Llosa, exceeds the bill. For, along with these two qualities, he combines a literary flare that is comparable to the genius of Gabriel García Márquez (a fellow Latin American who had won the prize in 1982), and is truly something to reckon with. Mr Vargas Llosa is most certainly not an obscure Chinese writer deploring the atrocities of the State or an East European nobody has ever heard of (or cared to remember) or an elder statesman from Africa whose chief claim to fame is whipping the West into weeping tears of contrition for its imperialist past. Most emphatically, Mr Vargas Llosa is not the redoubtable Harold Pinter, who could hardly be denied the prize after he had spent the last few insipid years of his career spewing fire and brimstone on the United States of America.

 

It is unlikely that the selection committee's oversensitive heart had bled for Mr Vargas Llosa, who is not only a political conservative (in fact, a failed politician himself) but also an outspoken critic of Fidel Castro. Mr Vargas Llosa's defence of democracy and the free market is so absolute that he reputedly fell out — indeed broke into fisticuffs — with his one-time pal, Mr García Márquez, whose loyalty to the Cuban leader has never faltered. For a change, genuine talent appears to have triumphed over political correctness, even though the awarding committee did add, perhaps a bit cautiously, that Mr Vargas Llosa has been honoured "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat".

 

Unlike Mr Vargas Llosa, who is as much of a celebrity man of letters as an intellectual rebel, this year's peace prize winner is a very different kind of a hero. Liu Xiaobo of China is serving an 11-year term, since 2008, for co-authoring the Charter 08, a manifesto demanding democratic reforms that was accused of trying to subvert State power. Given the stringent isolation in which Mr Xiaobo is held, it is unlikely that the news has travelled to him as yet. In any event, he would not have too many reasons to rejoice. Besides allaying the tormented conscience of the West, the Nobel peace prize has seldom affected the mission of crusaders like Mr Xiaobo, or the circumstances of the people they fight for, in any positive way. For instance, winning a Nobel did very little — in terms of real change — to Aung San Suu Kyi's plight in Myanmar, though the same prize did turn Barack Obama into a historical curiosity. Nonetheless, the Swedes have wagered quite a bit while selecting this year's peace and literature prize winners. The Chinese have made dire noises about a dip in Sino-Norwegian relations. And the politically-correct brigade is mildly scandalized. But the bookies are probably the happiest. Indeed, Ladbrokes is planning to send out a crate of champagne to the bidder who played 25-1 for Mr Vargas Llosa and helped the firm "dodge a massive payout".

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WATCH THE SPACE

THE REVIVAL OF MAJORITARIANISM IS UNMISTAKABLE

POLITICS AND PLAY - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

Between 1999 and 2009, I was subjected to a great deal of hate mail from supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and other such organizations. If an article I wrote touched in any way on faith, Hinduism, Hindutva, Gujarat, or Ayodhya, by breakfast I would have had deposited, in my inbox — or perhaps in the 'Comments' section of the newspaper's own website — mails which were hurt, complaining, angry, or downright abusive.

 

These mails stopped coming after May 2009, perhaps because the second successive electoral victory of the United Progressive Alliance had taken the wind out of the hardcore Hindutvavadi's sails. Now, however, in the wake of the Allahabad High Court's judgment on the title suit, they have begun pouring in again. The mailers are particularly angry at my suggestion — first offered in these columns, and later on television — that the piece of property under dispute must not be used for building a temple or mosque (or even both), but should rather be home to a hospital or park that would serve a trans-religious and truly human purpose. Some of the responses to my proposal follow:

 

"If the Ram temple was built on the site, believe me, there will be a resurgence of Hindus in their culture — which in a way is Indian pride."

 

"What would heathens know of Ram? or those Westerned corrupted mindsets Englished up, Englishmaniacs!"

 

"There are other better ways to prove secular bona fides than by killing the very spirit of Indian civilization which is but Ram! You mean fellas!"

 

"What this man is??? Is he cricket writer or historian? His knowledge of history is as filthy as D-grade novels. Look this man named Ramchandra Guha, who is hell-bent upon insulting Lord Ram. Your parents were certainly stupids who named you after Lord Ram."

 

"Who cares about your opinion, man? You speak as if you are representing a billion plus Hindus! Dimwits and slaves like you sit in a corner of your dimly-lit houses and pontificate to others. I am educated, young, well-read (with 3 masters degrees) and residing in the West. Yet I have great pride and respect for my country, its culture, my Hindu religion, its Heroes, God and philosophies. I know its worth. I know what Lord Rama means to Hindus. Length and breadth of India bear His name. His name is spread beyond India and in places like Malaysia, Indonasia [sic] and even Afghanistan! He is a national Hero. His birth place needs no certification from mere mortals. You want a park there? Get it built over your burial place, if you want to. Who the eff are you to pass your sick opinion onto the rest? Take a hike, loser."

 

The hurt, the anger, and, yes, the abuse. The internet does tend to promote vulgar and extreme language, so perhaps we should let the tone of the responses pass without further comment (although I cannot help remarking on the fact that it is rather typical that those who show the greatest reverence for 'Hindu' pride tend to reside in the West).

 

What these mails represent is a majoritarian worldview, where India is in essence a 'Hindu nation', its ethos, values, ideals and aspirations determined by the interpretation of the ethos, values, ideals and aspirations of the Hindu majority. There is an obvious paradox here — that, as poll after poll has shown, this majoritarian worldview is subscribed to by a minority of Hindus themselves. The vote share of the BJP at its peak was never more than 23 per cent. And yet, it presumes to speak for Hindus as a whole, and by virtue of the equation it makes between Hindu interests and the Indian nation's, for the nation as a whole.

 

The new majoritarianism of cyberspace has been encouraged by a striking omission in the verdict of the Allahabad High Court. This was the judges' silence on the demolition of the Babri Masjid, an act of criminality that led to widespread riots and the loss of very many lives. As the respected jurist T.R. Andhyarujina has remarked, by downplaying the destruction of the masjid which stood on that piece of ground for more than 400 years, the Allahabad High Court has, willy-nilly, "allow[ed] an act of lawlessness to benefit the party that indulged in it." Or, as another legal analyst, Manoj Mitta, more pithily observed, the judgment has permitted the vandals of 1992 to emerge as the victors of 2010.

 

Coincidentally, in the weeks leading up to the Ayodhya judgment, I was reading the early volumes of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. On the day itself, I had reached Volume 9. In the aftermath of the verdict, I had to temporarily put this work aside, but shortly after I resumed, I came across a strikingly contemporary statement by a man I hope I can uncontroversially refer to as both a great Indian and a great Hindu. In June 1909, a Muslim friend, Habib Motan, had asked Gandhi how Hindu-Muslim unity could be achieved within the diasporic community in South Africa, and, more importantly, within India itself. Here is what Gandhi replied:

 

"I make no distinction between Hindus and Muslims. To me both are sons of Mother India. My personal view is that, since numerically Hindus are in a great majority, and are, as they themselves believe, better-placed educationally, they should cheerfully concede to their Muslim brethren the utmost they can. As a satyagrahi, I am emphatically of the view that the Hindus should give to the Muslims whatever they ask for, and willingly accept whatever sacrifice this may involve. Unity will be brought about only by such mutual generosity. If Hindus and Muslims observe, in their dealings with one another, the same principles that govern the relations of blood-brothers, there will be unbroken harmony, and then alone will India prosper."

 

Following the split verdict, spokesmen of the RSS and the BJP began asking Muslims to show "magnanimity" by giving up the one-third share allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board. These proposals displayed a perhaps understandable ignorance of the English language. For only victors and rulers can afford to be magnanimous. As in 1909, Hindus are both numerous and more prosperous than Muslims. If a sacrifice is to be made, then surely it should come from those who are richer and stronger?

 

If one took Gandhi's remarks of 1909 and applied them directly — or literally — to the current dispute, then, instead of the Waqf Board handing over its share to the Hindu groups, it is the latter who should part with their two-thirds share to the Muslim bodies. In that case, only a mosque would come up on the site. This, of course, is what might have happened if the Sunni Waqf Board had won its title suit, when conservative Muslims would have demanded that the Babri Masjid be rebuilt.

 

In my view, a brand new mosque rather than a grand new temple is an equally senseless solution to the dispute. If, however, it is not to be either/or, can it be both? Such, of course, is the seductive proposal held out to us by Justices S.U. Khan, D.V. Sharma, and Sudhir Agarwal. History in general, and the history of the site in particular, tells us that this proposal is unworkable. It would spark off a further bout of competitive communal rivalry, with advocates of temple and mosque each demanding more space to play out their own particular fantasies. Hence my recommendation that a park or hospital be placed there instead. The only just, sustainable, and peaceful solution is for Hindus and Muslims alike to seek their spiritual solace in pieces of territory as yet uncontaminated by hatred and bloodshed.

 

ramachandraguha@yaho

 

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

EDITORIAL

LACKING IN TEETH

'STRONGER AND MORE EFFECTIVE MEASURES REQUIRED.'

 

The new Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill which was cleared by the Union cabinet on Tuesday is a half step forward to address the misconduct and failings of the members of the higher judiciary but it does not go far enough. It proposes to set up a mechanism to inquire into complaints against judges of the supreme court and high courts and lay down a procedure, where none existed short of impeachment, which has not been found to be effective. A five-member oversight committee under a former chief justice has been provided for, which will get the complaints investigated by scrutiny panels within three months and recommend action if there is evidence of wrong-doing. But the recommended action is inadequate, if experience is a guide.


The errant judge can be issued a warning which may not be taken seriously. For a more serious offence the judge may be told to resign. But the advice may not be heeded. As a last resort impeachment is still the remedy and that is time-consuming and tedious. Judges under the shadow of impeachment continue inappropriately in their positions. When a judge is advised to resign, the powers enjoyed by him or her, both judicial and administrative, should also be withdrawn. It should in effect mean suspension of all duties and powers. Former Karnataka chief justice P D Dinakaran, against whom serious charges of corruption and misconduct were convincingly raised, continued to discharge his administrative functions even when he was off his judicial duties. This was highly improper. Similarly, transfer of judges facing charges to other courts should also be avoided, as that is no solution or remedy. The transfers of Justice Dinakaran and Justice Nirmal Yadav of the Punjab and Haryana high court, who also faced a serious charge of corruption, only underlined the helplessness or unwillingness of the system to take prompt action against them.


The new bill seeks to replace the Judges Inquiry Act of 1968, which lacked teeth in dealing with judicial corruption, but retains the basic features of the old law. 


Parliament should put in place stronger and more effective measures than those envisaged in the proposed bill when it is introduced in the winter session. Since repeated attempts in the past to reform the system have failed, it must be ensured that the new initiative does not fall short of the requirements.

 

 

 

 

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

WAITING FOR REFORMS

'DEVELOPING NATIONS NEED A BETTER VOICE IN IMF.'

 

The long-standing demand of emerging countries for a greater voice in the structure of governance and policies of international financial institutions has again been voiced by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has sought at least a 5-6 per increase in the share quota in the International Monetary Fund. A few days ago, Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao also made the same demand at the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Brussels, and sought a deadline for the implementation of the proposed reforms. The demand had been made and even accepted at a number of fora, including the summits of the G-20 group, which best represents the world economy now. The IMF financial committee in Istanbul had also decided that greater share quota must be allotted to emerging countries. In spite all the decisions, implementation is still pending.


The decision-making power at the IMF and other Bretton Woods institutions represents the economic relations in the world after the Second world war. The relative economic strength in the world among nations has drastically changed in the last two decades but that has not been reflected in the IMF structure. The US has the highest quota but even small European countries, like the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxumbourg) group, have more voting power than India. China, India, Brazil and South Korea will benefit most from a restructuring of the voting rights, as they have stronger economies now. But the developed countries are reluctant to let go their control of the body. It is not only the voting power but also the senior management structure of both the IMF and the World Bank that needs to change. 


The top management positions are now monopolised by the US and Europe. There has been agreement to have a better, merit-based and transparent selection for these positions with adequate representation for emerging countries.

Only when the two institutions are reformed there will be credibility for their actions and greater accountability in their functioning. The role of the IMF has changed much and it has more relevance now, in the wake of the recent global economic crisis. To make it a more effective instrument of change, the developed countries have to let go their stranglehold on it. The legitimacy of these institutions will be questioned if there is continued dilly-dallying on the reforms.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

TRUST DEFICIT

BY RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA


Frequent political uncertainties have turned legislators into 'commodities' who are traded for astronomical sums of money.

 

During the May 2008 Assembly election campaign, B S Yeddyurappa was at his dramatic best: He shed tears in public, narrating how he had been 'betrayed' by his political opponents and sought 'one more opportunity' to be the chief minister of the state. The kind-hearted people that Kannadigas are, they developed enormous sympathy for him and voted him and his party, the BJP, to power to rule for five years in their own right. With the help of five Independents, Yeddyurappa once again became the chief minister, and as the people had given a severe drubbing to the opposition at the same time, he couldn't have asked for more.


But the pity is that once he was anointed in Vidhana Soudha, Yeddyurappa seemed to forget his 'masters' who installed him there. The corruption scandals and the intra-party bickerings of the last 28 months have not only tarnished the image of the government, but they constitute a great betrayal of the people. In public perception, the BJP government has shown itself to be an epitome of self-aggrandisement, evoking dismay and disgust even among those who were once its admirers.


So, when the special session of the state Assembly, starting on Monday, takes up the trust vote, not many people would be bothered whether the Yeddyurappa government survives or not as there is very little empathy left for it. Going by the Herculean efforts being put in to save the government, it shouldn't be a surprise if Yeddyurappa sails through the trust vote, but it will not be easy for him and his government to regain the people's trust which has been badly dented.


As the multi-crore land scam is at the heart of the current controversy, Yeddyurappa will perhaps try to use the session to 'expose' his political opponents and previous governments of being equally guilty. He would like to tell them, with examples, that his predecessors also indulged in the denotification of land and what he had done was nothing new.


It's like saying 'when the world is full of crooks, why point a finger at me when I am only following in their footsteps?' The argument doesn't hold water because, as chief minister, the people expect him to correct the mistakes of the past, bring the guilty to book, set the system in order and do away with discretionary powers which have led to so much corruption, rather than following the worst precedents of the past and offering dubious justifications.


Instead of doing all these, the Yeddyurappa government has gone one step ahead. From published records it is clear that the chief minister was a party to the illegal transfer of a plot of land notified by the BDA to his sons and son-in-law, besides allowing one of his close colleagues, Katta Subramanya Naidu, and his family members to milk the state government of crores of rupees from land deals.


Bad example


The genesis of the current rebellion in the BJP and the previous instances of rebellion is undoubtedly in the leader setting such a low benchmark for morality in public life. Can the legislators, many of whom first-timers and with no background of public service, be blamed for thinking that they have a birth right to be in the cabinet and make as much money as possible?

In such a competitive environment, the level of politics in all parties has reached a nadir. The legislators no longer think they need to regularly visit their constituencies, attend to the needs of the people and ingratiate themselves to the public so that they have a better chance of getting re-elected.


Frequent political uncertainties have turned the legislators into 'commodities' who are traded at the 'political exchange' for astronomical sums of money; they need not always be traded either because their loyalty to the parent party is also highly prized.

 

The common people may feel a sense of revulsion at the sight of the legislators being herded from one five-star resort to another and huge amounts of money being splurged on them, but the legislators and their leaders have gone beyond shame or remorse at such ugly display of power politics.


Now it is all about retaining or capturing power at any cost and what the common man thinks does not matter. After all, the politicians are not answerable to anyone till the next elections and making money by whatever means is neither a sin nor a crime which gets punished. The Income Tax department or other regulatory bodies have a long history of shutting their eyes to political corruption, while they only go after the small fries or those without political patronage.


The legislators also know that in the current scenario elections are all about using money and caste, and the more money you make when you have the opportunity, the better are your prospects of getting party tickets and taking on your opponents in enticing the voters.


The elections have been reduced to splurging as much money as you possibly can and all that you need to do is to sign some sham papers telling the election authorities that you did not cross the  expenditure limit. Very few legislators have ever been disqualified for electoral malpractices and it is nearly a zero-risk game.
So, what happens in the Karnataka Assembly on October 11 and 12 and whether Yeddyurappa's government survives or not is of little consequence to us, the citizens of this state.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

HEALERS AND DEALERS

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


Of all professions, that of healing the sick is regarded as the noblest.

 

Jesus was a healer — 'Eesa Masih'. He could heal people by the mere touch of his hand. He did not charge any fees for doing so. Since then, healing has become an expensive business as healers have to undergo six years of learning how to heal and have to have expensive gadgets like stethoscopes, thermometers, X-Ray machines and much else. There are huge differences in the fees they demand.


I know of two doctor brothers. One is a heart surgeon; he earns upwards of Rs 1 lakh every day. His brother is a physician. He refuses to take any fees and even goes long distances to treat sick friends without accepting a rupee. However, the majority of doctors not only charge high fees but also pass on their patients to their friends in the profession for further tests in expectation of getting patients in return. It has become mafia of doctors: the Hippocratic oath be dammed.


I recently come across a family which has three generation of doctors who combine paid for advice with free healing so that they can make their living as well as serve the poor. They are Bengalis settled in Delhi. Dr Samir Nundy is attached to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, his wife Mita set up a society to help spastic children. Their son Surajit Nundy was schooled in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya in the capital. After finishing his school he went to the United States to become a doctor. He started with Manhattanville college for pre-medical studies, sociology and computer science. 


Then to Duke University and got a PhD in neurobiology. He went to Washington University School of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health and set up his own practice in Boston. Two years ago he returned to Delhi, married the beautiful Mandakini, daughter of Manju and Suman Dubey. They have two little girls.


Surajit is a strapping 6 feet 3 inches tall, handsome young Hindi-speaking Bengali. He did not return home to make money but to combine comfortable living with serving the poor. First he explored prospects of doing so with Dr Binayak Sen's colleagues in Chattisgarh. Then returned to Delhi and through his father's contact met Reeta Devi Varma of the Ila Trust to see what she was doing.


The first day, she took him in her mobile clinic to Jama Masjid area, where doctors and nurses treated hundreds of men, women and children free of charge as well as gave free medicines. The next day she took him to the Red Light district of G B Road. Dr Nundy offered his services to the Ila Trust. He has been doing the rounds of Delhi's slums everyday and treat about a thousand people. One day Reeta brought him over to meet me. He was reluctant to talk about himself. I ferreted out bits and pieces of information of his past and future plans. It is evident he has to earn to provide for his wife and children as well as have the satisfaction of serving the needy. He must not be forced to return to the US, but made full use of by our government.


Monsoon express

There are a few features that our railways share in common with the monsoons. Most of our trains depart on time but very few reach their destinations as printed in railway time-tables, no matter what fancy names they are given: Rajdhani, Shatabadi, Deccan Queen, Queen of the Himalayas — or whatever. When I was able to travel by rail, I used to board the Shatabadi to Chandigarh from New Delhi at least four times a year to go to Kasauli. It used to pull out on the dot and gather speed soon after it cleared the suburbs of Delhi. However, I can't recall it ever arriving in Chandigarh on time: a delay of 15 minutes to half an hour was normal. Other trains are often late by an hour or two.

 

It is much the same with the summer monsoon. It is expected to hit our western coast by the last week of May or the first week of June. This year it broke over the Malabar coast on May 31. Then it moved northwards, gave a drenching to Mumbai a week later. Its progress further inland was preceded by dust storms and an occasional shower. Our weather forecasters assured us our first gift of rains on the June 24. On the day promised, by the afternoon, the sky was overcast; in the evening there was a dust storm followed by a light shower. We waited a week when the proper monsoon was scheduled to break over the city. Though more cloudy days came and went, there was no rain: as usual the summer monsoon, like our trains, always was late in arriving.


Why do monsoons, both summer and winter mean so much to us Indians? For one, despite our network of canals thousands of tubewells and water-harvesting devices, we remain heavily dependant on good monsoons to feed ourselves. The summer monsoon is the time of national rejoicing: flying kites, girls singing, dancing and seeing peacocks spread out their tails and raise their cries to rain-sodden black clouds.


Yoga miracle


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


(Contributed by J P Singh Kaka, Bhopal)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

OH, TO BE ARGUS-EYED!

BY PADMA GANAPATI


The work is never fully completed and the materials are left to languish.

 

Our roads, or what pass for them — uneven terrain full of potholes and pits, stones of varying sizes and shapes, heaps of sand and baby jelly with tiny patches of tarred surface here and there — are death traps for unwary pedestrians and drivers. Whenever I am on a road, I wish I were a little bit like Argus, the mythological character who had a hundred eyes. I would be quite satisfied with six pairs, just five more than the one pair of God-given eyes.


This pair helps one to look in front. A pair at the back would really make for greater comfort. A pair on the left and another pair on the right would warn me of vehicles that zoom in from the sides when least expected. If I could have a pair to look down, it would save me from slipping on banana skins and other orthopaedic disasters. And  to complete the set, if I could have a sixth pair to glance upwards, I could avoid drooping cables and electric wires. I don't think that it is too much to ask for, considering the skill it requires to negotiate our roads!


All the time I read of a clean, green Bangalore, and what do I see? Stumps of cruelly felled trees, trees that once formed a protective cover from the scorching rays of the sun, mounds of garbage, blocked drains and plastic bags and bottles littering open spaces. The authorities gear up to tackle this once in a long while. Cement blocks and stone slabs are brought in lorries and unloaded  here and there.


There is hectic activity for a couple of days. Hope lives eternal in the human heart. One is deceived into thinking that the accumulated rubbish (which shouldn't have accumulated in the first place) will be cleared. Repairs will be done. That's where one is mistaken. After some slap-dash work, the team disappears, leaving behind unused materials, adding to the existing rubbish. The work is never fully completed and the materials are left to languish.


As we were trundling along a particularly rough stretch, I asked my young nephew if the dream of smooth roads and even pavements would be realised in my life time. "In your life time?" he snorted, deftly avoiding a yawning chasm. "The dream will not be realised even in my life time!" When will a modern day Hercules arrive to clean up the Bangalore stables?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MR. PALADINO AND THE SYSTEM

 

Carl Paladino, the Republican nominee for governor of New York, portrays himself as a business-hardened outsider who would reform Albany's corrupt and bloated bureaucracy and drive out the pay-to-play special interests. "I'm just a regular guy from Buffalo," he says.

 

A look at his record as a developer shows that he has been an eager recipient of just the sort of government largess he so bitterly condemns and a generous contributor to politicians who can best do him favors.

 

His flourishing real estate business was stoked with tax breaks, multimillion-dollar state leases and government land giveaways. At the same time, he used his partnerships and corporations to donate nearly $500,000 to scores of elected officials, judges and candidates since 1999 — a bit more than most regular guys from Buffalo.

 

Mr. Paladino is the largest landowner in Buffalo, and building his empire required many local zoning variances and municipal permissions. Buffalo's politicians, who received generous donations from him for years, were happy to help. Though he was an owner of several downtown parking lots, he won a seat on the city's parking board, resigning in 1994 amid charges of conflicts of interest. He still serves on the board of the nonprofit corporation that manages parking lots for the city.

 

Mr. Paladino's money trail and cozy relations are worth remembering when reading on his Web site this admonition to the Legislature: "Don't let contributors and lobbyists influence your votes." Or when he criticizes his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, for relying on "special interests" and raising "Albany insider money." Or judging his vow to clean up the "rotten ruling class."

 

Mr. Paladino has a thriving private-sector development business, including the construction of more than 150 Rite-Aid drugstores in western and upstate New York. But a large portion of his holdings are older buildings renovated under the state's Empire Zone program.

 

The zones are intended to improve distressed urban areas and stimulate employment but have become better known for their mismanagement and for rewarding cronies with tax breaks. (The program is now closed to new participants.)

 

He won $3 million in tax reductions for his renovations, but, as The Daily News recently reported, only 25 jobs were directly created. His campaign has said that that does not count the jobs indirectly produced by his tenants, but a large number of those tenants were state agencies, which have paid him tens of millions of dollars in rent over the years.

 

Many of Mr. Paladino's investments have been a boon for downtown Buffalo, Niagara Falls and other areas. Much of that could not have been done without the sort of assistance from taxpayers that he decries.

 

The state's economic development arm bought a long-vacant office tower in Niagara Falls for $1 million then sold it to Mr. Paladino for $10 in 2002. He renovated it, and it now contains apartments, offices and a hotel. The same goes for a vacant department store building in downtown Buffalo that Mr. Paladino bought for $1 from the city and then restored.

 

Albany could use more politicians with business experience and sound business sense. But when a candidate who has benefited this way vows to kill off the state Department of Economic Development, it is difficult to take his promises seriously. He accuses the Legislature of being "bought by union campaign contributions," but he never mentions the huge donations that he and other business leaders have made.

 

After years of greasing Albany's gears — and accepting its gifts — it is ludicrous for him to claim to be anything but an insider.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

LIU XIAOBO

 

China warned the Norwegian Nobel Committee not to honor the democracy activist Liu Xiaobo. The committee didn't listen. On Friday, Mr. Liu — who is locked in jail on an 11-year sentence for spurious subversion charges — became the first Chinese to win the Peace Prize.

 

Mr. Liu and the Chinese should be proud. Beijing should be ashamed. On Friday, it said the choice "desecrates" the prize, compounding that shame.

 

Beijing is used to throwing its weight around these days — on currency, trade, the South China Sea and many other issues. Too many governments, and companies, are afraid to push back. Maybe someone in China's leadership will now figure out that bullying is not a strategy for an aspiring world power.

 

Mr. Liu represents China's best potential future. The 54-year-old scholar, writer, poet and social commentator is an unfaltering advocate of peaceful political change. During the 1989 pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, he staged a hunger strike, then negotiated a peaceful retreat of student demonstrators as thousands of soldiers stood by with rifles drawn. He has been harassed and detained repeatedly since then.

 

His most recent arrest — in December 2008 — came a day before a pro-democracy manifesto he helped author began circulating on the Internet. Charter 08 affirmed the importance of freedom, human rights, equality as "universal values shared by all humankind" and endorsed direct elections, judicial independence and an end to Communist Party dominance. The manifesto was on the Internet only briefly before it was pulled by censors, but it still garnered 10,000 signatures.

 

The Nobel Committee rightly noted that the Chinese government has lifted millions of Chinese from poverty but political change has not kept up with economic reforms. China's leaders can continue to repress their people or lead the way into an era of expanded freedoms.

 

No matter what Beijing says or does, the world will not forget Mr. Liu. It will not forget Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia and all the other jailed dissidents. We honor their courage and their struggle for freedom.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE SEPTEMBER REPORT

 

There was no good news in the September employment report. The economy lost another 95,000 jobs last month, as a modest gain in private-sector jobs was swamped by big losses in government jobs.

 

Worse, most of the new private sector jobs do not appear to be particularly good ones — bars and restaurants added the most positions of any sector, followed by temporary hiring services. Meanwhile, state and local governments cut good jobs, including 58,000 teachers and other education workers who were not called back for the new school year.

 

The job market is not stalling, it is regressing. There is no evidence that employment will recover on its own. Corporations now hold an astounding $1.6 trillion in cash, but they are not hiring. Government could help, but Republicans in Congress — for political and ideological reasons — have relentlessly delayed and blocked action.

 

Congressional Democrats have managed to keep jobless benefits flowing and pass bills for a hiring tax credit, bolstered aid to states and help for small businesses. None of these moves are up to the scale of the problem. President Obama recently proposed $50 billion in infrastructure investments, as well as generous tax credits for business investment. He will need to push a lot harder if there is any hope of persuading Congress to sign on.

 

The Republicans' antigovernment pitch is playing well in the polls. The jobs report should be the best argument against that.

 

Here are some more truths that need airing: Republicans revile last year's stimulus law, but without it, unemployment — at 9.6 percent — would be up to 2 percentage points higher, according to the Congressional Budget Office. With the stimulus waning, the unemployment number would be higher, but for the grim fact that some 3.5 million people have either quit looking for work or not entered the labor force during the downturn.

 

In all, September's job tally shows that more than 1 in 6 American workers is either officially jobless, no longer looking for work, or working part time because they can't find a full-time job.

 

What will it take to get companies to invest and hire again? Businesses need to believe that customers will be willing to spend, but high joblessness calls future spending into question, causing companies to sit tight. A big government agenda for jobs — including public/private partnerships in energy and transportation — could change that mind-set, attract corporate investment and create jobs. That is, if Washington's politicians — of both parties — had the courage to lead rather than pander.

 

So what are corporations doing with all of their money? Instead of investing in the country's future, some are beginning to buy back their shares or buy other companies. That will enrich shareholders but is unlikely to lead to more hiring.

 

President Obama needs to lay out and fight for an ambitious, detailed job-creating agenda. Americans need to understand that the alternative is more grim jobs reports for years to come.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

HIGH COST OF CRIME

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

When times get hard and talk turns to spending and budgets, there is one area that gets short shrift: the cost of crime and our enormous criminal justice system. For instance, how much do you think a single murder costs society? According to researchers at Iowa State University, it is a whopping $17.25 million.

 

Those researchers analyzed 2003 data from cases in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas and calculated the figure based on "victim costs, criminal justice system costs, lost productivity estimates for both the victim and the criminal, and estimates on the public's resulting willingness to pay to prevent future violence." That willingness to prevent future violence includes collateral costs like expenditures for security measures, insurance and government welfare programs. It's hard to believe that they could calculate the collateral costs with any real degree of accuracy, but I understand the concept.

 

(They also calculated that each rape costs $448,532, each robbery $335,733, each aggravated assault $145,379 and each burglary $41,288.)

 

By their estimates, more than 18,000 homicides that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded in 2007 alone will cost us roughly $300 billion. That's about as much as we've spent over nine years fighting the war in Afghanistan. That's more than the 2010 federal budget for the Departments of Education, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Labor and Homeland Security combined. Does anyone else see a problem here?

 

Although the annual murder rate in the U.S. has fallen to historic lows, it is still at least twice as high as that of any of the other rich countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In fact, it's even higher than in countries like Rwanda, Angola and Mozambique. And there are troubling signs this year as big cities around the country — New YorkPhiladelphiaChicagoDetroit — are seeing sharp rises in murder rates.

 

Our approach to this crime problem for more than two decades has been the mass incarceration of millions of Americans and the industrializing of our criminal justice system. Over the last 25 years, the prison population has quadrupled. This is a race to the bottom and a waste of human capital. A prosperous country cannot remain so by following this path.

 

Many crimes could have been prevented if the offenders had had the benefit of a competent educational system and a more expansive, better-financed social service system. Sure, some criminals are just bad people, but more are people who took a wrong turn, got lost and ended up on the wrong path. Those we can save.

 

We have a choice to make: pay a little now or a lot later. Seems like a clear choice to me. But I'm not in Washington where they view clarity as an affliction of the weak.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THIS IS HOW EU HELPS FLOOD AFFECTEES

 

PAKISTAN has long been demanding grant of GSP Plus status to sell its products at competitive prices in American and European markets due to lower taxes. This was in line with the country's policy of seeking trade and not aid to give a real boost to its economy on sustainable basis. In this backdrop, the decision of the European Union (EU) to offer suspension of import duties for three years on 75 Pakistani goods seems to be a step in the right direction and might help the country to some extent in overcoming its financial and economic difficulties.

A minute examination of the EU proposal, however, would reveal that it is merely an eye-wash and peanuts in the face of enormous challenges confronting Pakistan. The country's economy was already under great strains because of the ongoing war on terror, which, according to credible estimates, has cost Pakistan something in the range of $60 billion. The country has been diverting its huge resources that would otherwise have been meant for developmental activities to fund the war on terrorism and there was, therefore, fuller justification for Pakistan to seek preferential trade concessions from the United States and Europe, which they had granted to countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The EU listened to Pakistan's demand seriously in the wake of devastating floods that have inflicted losses worth billions of dollars to the infrastructure, agriculture and individual properties. The EU and many other countries of the world have been providing assistance for relief and rescue phase besides expression of solidarity over this unprecedented natural calamity. But the quantum of concession being offered is quite limited and is even three times less than what the EU itself had indicated a few weeks back. No doubt, more exports mean more industrial and commercial activities and thereby generation of employment opportunities for the people of Pakistan. However, in the first place the proposal has been approved by EU governments individually and even by WTO and other stakeholders, which means no one could predict the final shape of the offer. Similarly, the flood victims are in need of urgent assistance to rebuild their homes and the lost means of livelihood for which the country needs hard cash. It is also to be pointed out that the EU has offered concession of duty on limited items and that too is linked to fulfilment of conditions like good governance and human rights that could be stretched to either way to benefit or harm the country. We hope EU would make the offer more attractive and also fulfil its obligations for provision of immediate assistance that is a must to counter the negative effects of war on terror and floods.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SMALL DAMS TOO ARE SHELVED

 

THE present Government would be remembered in the history of the country as the one which abandoned the highly beneficial project of Kalabagh Dam unilaterally without trying to build the so-called national consensus on the crucial project. It has also failed to take any concrete measures for initiation of practical work for construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam, which is undisputed and delay in building of major water reservoirs would cost the country much in future.


It is, however, surprising that now the axe is also falling on small dams, five of which, according to a report, have effectively been shelved over 180% unjustified hike because of inclusion of unnecessary and irrelevant components in the feasibility studies. Though President Asif Ali Zardari deserves appreciation for taking prompt action to foil designs of those who wanted to mint money through these projects. However, the objective should have been achieved without shelving the projects altogether because the previous governments indulged in criminal negligence towards water projects and we cannot afford the luxury of wasting more time on this or that account. If the cost has been increased unnecessarily then the logical course of action would have been to trim the superfluous components. Construction of 32 small and medium dams in all the four provinces was one of the flagship plans of the present Government and delay in its implementation would not be in the interest of the country or the Government. In fact, we need to accelerate the process of implementation when China has already offered to provide loan worth $700 million for water projects in Pakistan. We hope that the President would take personal interest to remove the bottlenecks and expedite construction of all major, medium and small dams in the country to meet the growing energy and irrigation water requirements of the country. In fact, now that the Punjab Assembly, which includes sizeable Members from the PPP, has unanimously passed a resolution recommending construction of the Kalabagh Dam, the Government should make genuine efforts to build consensus on the project.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

US ALERT WAS INDEED FAKE

 

THE United States is long known for raising false alarms in fulfilment of its designs in different parts of the globe. It raised the bogey of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq just to create justification for its aggression against a sovereign country and remove the Government of the then President Saddam Hussain. Washington has also been doing this in this region for the last several years with its intelligence agencies and officials raising false alarms of threats to American and Western interests from militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas. 


Only recently, it resorted to the same tactics by claiming that Al-Qaeda was about to attack targets in Western Europe. Britain, which follows the United States blindly, was quick to endorse American reports besides France, which also got alerted in the face of mis-conceived threats. However, now a report appearing in the widely circulated British daily The Guardian, quoting Western intelligence sources, has revealed that the terror alert was politically motivated and not based on credible new information. It was obviously timed to justify the recent escalation in US drone and helicopter attacks inside Pakistan, which created a diplomatic row and pushed the country's relations to the coalition partners to the verge of collapse. The United States also frequently resorts to issuance of fake videos in the name of Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders just to maintain the tempo of its false propaganda. Unfortunately, some people in Pakistan also supplement the efforts of the United States by talking about threats posed by the so-called non-State actors. The United States and its local collaborators should now realise that their tactics are bound to fail and prove counter-productive.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PAK SOVEREIGNTY MUST BE RESPECTED

M ASHRAF MIRZA

 

Pakistan has stopped NATO supplies through Torkham in response to public outcry against brazen NATO helicopters' strike on a FC post in Kurram agency that killed three troops and injured three others. The attacking helicopters strafed Pakistani post on Thursday morning at 5.30 am and then after about four hours. In a cover up statement, NATO has, however, tried to justify the attack on the Mandata Kandeaho outpost as an act of 'self defence' just as they did about the three helicopter attacks last weekend in which more than fifty people were killed. A Pakistani military spokesman repudiated NATO's claim and said that Frontier Guards at the outpost had fired in the air to indicate to the ISAF helicopters that they have entered into Pakistan airspace. 'Instead of heeding to the warning, the helicopters fired two missiles destroying the post', he said. 


Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani has warned that Pakistan will be constrained to consider 'other options' to protect Pakistan's sovereignty if NATO strikes into its tribal areas from Afghanistan did not halt'. Pakistan's military has also told NATO leaders in Brussels that if NATO forces continue to mount military strikes inside Pakistan, Islamabnad will no longer be 'able to ensure safety of ISAF supply convoys'. 


Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said 'we will see whether we are allies or enemies'. Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit vowed that Pakistan will protect its sovereignty in all circumstances. The latest crisis in NATO-Pakistan relations has erupted just a day after Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had said to have reached a 'decent understanding' with Pak Army chief Generral Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani about last weekend's incursions into Pakistan as CIA Director Leon Panetta also held consultations with top Pakistani officials in Islamabad. An official statement issued after Panetta's meeting with President Zardari said 'any violation of its sovereignty internationally agreed principles is counterproductive and unacceptable'. US representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke has, however, warned that prolonged closure of NATO supplies will have 'colossal' impact, without elaborating his remark. 


It's unfortunate that Pakistan is being kept under constant pressure on one count or the other by the United States and other NATO powers to drift her deeper and deeper into the quagmire of the anti-terror war even to the risk of its internal peace and security. There can hardly be two opinions about the fact that the Afghan war is detested by all sections of the Pakistani people. From the National Assembly to the ordinary man in the street it is opposed as it has proven to be detrimental to Pakistan's interests. It has not only ruined its economy, but has also made it endure suicide bombings, bomb explosions, sabotage and sectarian violence that have killed thousands of people since the US invasion of Afghanistan. 


Pakistan is facing Taliban's revenge for its support to the US in the anti terror war on the one hand and is facing military incursions of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan into its territory. Instead of appreciating its sacrifices, Pakistan has to rather face pressure to do more. Drone attacks have been intensified inside Pakistani territory by the Obama administration inflicting heavy casualties. And now the NATO helicopters have not only started intruding into Pakistan's airspace, but also are attacking Pakistani check posts killing soldiers. The decade of Pak-US partnership in the war against terror has proven to be devastating for the Pakistani people, who have exhausted their patience with the United States due to its policies negating Pakistan's national interests. 

At the same time, the policy of appeasement pursued by Pakistani leaders especially Gen Pervez Musharraf towards Washington has, in fact, emboldened the NATO to act whimsically and unilaterally. Pakistan has, therefore, taken the right step to block the supply line for NATO forces in Afghanistan. It represents the sentiments of the Pakistani people, who have long suffered death and destruction due to US intervention in the neighbouring country. It's hoped that the supply will be restored only if the NATO tenders apology for violating Pakistan's sovereign airspace and gives solemn assurances that there shall be no recurrence of such incidents in future. The nation is already outraged at continued US drone attacks that are killing scores of people every week. Enough is enough. 


It's time to make the US and NATO understand that they should not take Pakistan casually as their operations in Afghanistan are squarely dependent on its logistical cooperation and support. Washington ought to know that even for its honourable exit from Afghanistan, it needs Pakistan's cooperation and support. The voices in Washington that the US should look for alternate route are welcome. It will be rather blessing in disguise for Pakistan that has suffered unprecedentedly as a result of its support to the US in the invasion of Afghanistan. It will hopefully spare her of the Taliban's wrath as well since they are targeting Pakistan primarily for this very reason. Ends. 


There is no reason for the United States or NATO to launch direct attacks on Pakistani soil. Islamabad has repeatedly asked for intelligence sharing and drone technology and offered to act against the militants. It has, in fact, acted in some cases. Pakistan's armed forces have, in fact, amply proven their ability to deal with the forces of terrorism through their operations in Swat and South Waziristan, which have since been cleared of militants. The two areas are now under full control of Pakistan's law enforcement agencies with government's writ prevailing. The achievements on this count have been internationally acclaimed. 


Both George Bush and Barak Obama have not pursued the right strategy. They needed to follow President Reagan, who got the Soviet Union defeated and forced it to vacate its aggression in Afghanistan without committing the US troops. The US, however, opted to launch the aggression against Afghanistan on the pretext of Al-Qaida because it has obvious political and military designs in Central Asia for which it wants effective control over Afghanistan. It is, however, evident that Washington can never gain hold over Afghanistan in. It has been able to secure the area of only Kabul airport in about ten years war against the Afghan people. 


The US political and military leaders had seemingly not studied the Afghan history before launching the invasion. Had they done so, they would have known the Afghan people's determination, ferocity and will to defend their freedom. Irrespective of US tactics, the ground reality is that the US and NATO forces are sinking in the swampy killing fields of Afghanistan. The defeat is rather staring in their face. 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

INDIA'S INTERFERENCE IN BALOCHISTAN

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

Balochistan is mineral-rich and strategically-located province, but it needs peace for creating climate conducive to investment and development, which would help improve the living conditions of the people of Balochistan. At the present, militants are actively involved in worsening the security situation in Balochistan, and insurgency has hampered growth and development of the province. There are targeted killings of people from other provinces especially Punjabi teachers and settlers. According to credible reports, telephonic conversation of some elements including Brahamdagh Bugti group, who are maintaining private jails and torture camps for their defectees and rivals. It is obvious from half a dozen calls intercepted by intelligence agencies that they are also involved in abduction, kidnapping of local civilians for ransom and also security personnel for acceptance of their illegitimate demands including release of their 'comrade in arms'. According to a news report carried by national English daily a few weeks ago, more than 100 Pakistani Baloch dissidents were sent to India by the Indian consulate located in Kandahar (Afghanistan) for six-month training. 


Before 2008 elections, caretaker Information Minister Nisar Memon had said: "India is interfering in Pakistan's internal affairs through information centers it has set up in Afghanistan, and promoting terrorism in Balochistan". At least two chief ministers of Balochistan - one former and the present one - also blamed India for giving funds and arms to insurgents to roil peace in the province. For some time, there have been voices expressing concerns that incredibly sinister is being played out around Pakistan's borders to exploit the present turmoil in the tribal region and in Balochistan. In 2008, former chief of army staff Mirza Aslam Beg in his article captioned 'Pakistanis foiled one conspiracy; it is time to check another one' wrote: "The Americans have established a huge intelligence network in Afghanistan to target Pakistan and a few other countries in the region. The intelligence setup was created in October 2001, at Jabl-us-Seraj, north of Kabul manned and operated by American CIA, Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad, British MI-6 and BND (German intelligence) to provide intelligence to the occupation forces". There were credible reports that area-specific outposts had been established to cover Pakistan, China, Iran and Central Asian states, and Afghan government had granted these outposts' network as status of diplomatic consulates. 


For quite some time, Balochistan is in the throes of ethnic, sectarian and tribal schisms. Apart from targeted killings of Punjabi settlers in Balochistan, ethnic and Shia-Sunni fracas has shaken the erstwhile ethnic and sectarian harmony, as criminal gangs are stoking ethnic and sectarian divisions. Pashtun political parties have opposed the target killings in Quetta and demanded of the Baloch nationalists to openly condemn these killings and disassociate themselves with the elements responsible for such heinous crimes otherwise they would demand that Pushtun areas be amalgamated with Pakhtunkhwa. In fact, rivaling international eyes, including world powers and regional countries are eyeing Balochistan avariciously to push it into their own orbits of influence and domination. According to political and defence analysts, the US, Russia, India and even Iran are either directly or indirectly widening the ethnic and sectarian schisms in Balochistan and FATA. Iran has a large Baloch population on its side of border with Pakistan and the Indian desire of weakening Pakistan by creating independent Balochistan will cost heavily to Iran also because greater Balochistan plan includes Sistan province of Iran. 


If Baloch sardars had cooperated with the government in establishing educational institutions in 1970s during Bhutto era, the new generation would have today assumed important positions today. It is true that Balochistan was neglected during British Raj and no serious effort was made for five decades to bring Balochistan at par with other provinces. But previous provincial governments including sardars were responsible in equal measure for the present dismal situation in Balochistan, as they always opted for the confrontation. Sardar Ataullah Mengal rarely appeared in television interviews, and the nation witnessed that in his reply to a question he had said that "America does not pay any attention adding that he would welcome if any country would help us to get freedom". Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Zain Bugti and Marri sardars also openly talk about disintegration of Pakistan, taking the position that Balochistan was never a willing federating unit, which is travesty of the truth. 

After 9/11, despite Pakistan's joining the war on terror, international media controlled by Jews continued its propaganda blitz not only to create doubts about its intentions regarding war on terror but also to raise concerns about Pakistan's nuclear programme and its assets, which they feared could land into the hands of terrorists. Rejecting speculations about the safety of its strategic nuclear assets, Pakistan has many a time categorically stated these assets are in safe hands and under strong multi-layered, institutionalized decision-making mechanism. And this fact has been acknowledged by the US and the West earlier. Previously, members of Bush administration, Senators and US Army generals in their statements had been hinting military action against alleged Al Qaeda camps inside Pakistan if they learned that attacks inside Afghanistan were planned at those sites. Pakistan always rejected such conjectures and had been categorically stating that it would not allow any foreign forces to conduct operation in Pakistan, as Pakistan has the power and the capacity to deal with the militants. Pakistan's success in military operation in Swat, Malakand, Bajaur and South Waziristan is conclusive evidence of Pakistan's capabilities. 


The problem is that the US and the West expect from Pakistan to wage a war against its own people in tribal areas, which could prove self-destructive. The double standards or malicious intent is obvious from the fact that they give a nod and blessings to negotiate with the Haqqani group whereas they push Pakistan to launch military operation against, what they say Haqqani network in North Waziristan. There is a perception that they have plans for post-withdrawal, and they wish to create bad blood between the Taliban and Pakistan. Some skeptics say that they wish to see things spinning out of control so that they could go to the United Nations Security Council and seek a vote to move in Pakistan's tribal belt, with the ultimate objective of taking control of Pakistani nukes. Anyhow, the ineffectiveness of the US forces, ISAF forces and Afghan forces raised by them is evident from the fact that during the last eight years they have neither been able to rein in Taliban nor establish the writ of the state throughout Afghanistan. It is true that former president Pervez Musharraf had made a commitment to cooperate in the war on terror, but Pakistan was certainly not obliged to be a part of the US adventurism in Iran or for that matter China or elsewhere in future. Our priorities must be based on our national interests and to achieve our broader objectives. 


—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.


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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

MACH ADO ABOUT PRESIDENT'S IMMUNITY

DR S M RAHMAN

 

Irrespective of the fact that any immunity to the President, as per Islamic ethos, is inconceivable, and contrary to the Objectives Resolution, which was the preamble in the 1973 Constitution, the present judiciary has not given any verdict one way or the other with respect to this issue. For the Swiss cases against the President, the apex court simply advised to write a letter to the Swiss authorities that the letter written by the Ex-Attorney General, was malafide as he was not competent to write for the withdrawal of the cases against Mr. Asif Zardari and others on the pretext that NRO had given exemption to them from any accountability. In the first place, the Supreme Court's order was to write letter to the Swiss authorities informing them of the real situation that the letter for withdrawal was not valid, as NRO has been declared ultra vires of the Constitution. The ex-Attorney General Mr. Qayyum had committed an offence as he was not authorised to issue such a letter to the higher Swiss authorities. It was against the propriety of diplomatic norms. It was only to correct the wrong done and to inform the Swiss authorities that NRO stands nullified, and as such to open the cases or to let them remain dormant was the prerogative of the Swiss Courts. Pakistan can not write that they must initiate the cases which were wrongly withdrawn. Presenting a real situation is the moral imperative for Pakistani government. 


Swiss government also knows that the President enjoys immunity or what legal international norms exist in this respect. There was absolutely no harm in writing a letter, as it did not presuppose that the case against Mr. Zardari would be opened. Harping on the immunity issue, to my mind, even though I do not possess any legal background, is absolutely a diversionary technique. The PM's contention that the Supreme Court cannot change the Constitution is again to repeat the very obvious. No one in his true state of mind can say that Supreme Court has the power to amend the Constitution. The Supreme Court, however, has full authority to interpret the Constitution and also nullify any law which is against the spirit of the Constitution. The Parliament has the power to amend but not to abrogate the Constitution. Changing the basic structure of the Constitution or its very spirit does not lie with the Parliament. As per judicial expert Mr. Conrad of Heidelberg University of Germany, Parliament can not change the structure of the Constitution. India's apex court has followed this principle in its judgments. Amendments should remain within the norms of "amendment". 


The judiciary is quite ethical and moral in its orders against NRO beneficiaries. They have to be suspended till such time, they are cleared by the Courts. The Secretary General of PPP appeared before the Court and he has been cleared. Other beneficiaries of NRO should emulate it. Government's indifference and deliberate defiance by not honouring the apex court's orders for the last over nine months, it is guilty of affront to the highest judiciary. The persons who were declared criminals, instead of taking action against them, they were posted on very prestigious and lucrative jobs like Chairman OGDC and Chief Secretary Sindh. In a way, it is a message that it is the Government which understand laws and the Constitution and that the Supreme Court quite naively was not paying any credence to the 'immunity' which the President enjoys. If the President, hypothetically, in a fit of rage kills any opposition member of the Parliament/Senate, will he still enjoy immunity? The immunity is never absolute and is subject to interpretation by the Supreme Court. It is not understood why Government is so reluctant to rectify an error which the former Attorney General had committed. By writing a single letter, the Government would have established its credibility. The fear that the Swiss Courts would open the cases, shows that there is a 'fly in the ointment' otherwise the apprehension is unfounded. Why should one fear if he has done no crime, any money laundering or any violation of international law?The dignity of the apex court, after a long time has been established due to the 'will' of the people, which has asserted to lend dignity to otherwise a much degraded institution by General Pervez Musharraf, through uncivilized acts, which have never happened in the legal history of the world. By disgracing judiciary, is a way the dictator had humiliated the people of Pakistan. It is ironical, in fact out-rightly immoral on the part of the so called politicians and constitutional experts, who want General Musharraf to stage a comeback and grab political power, the voters being utterly ignorant and gullible. It could only be for utilitarian interests and not the least for Pakistan that they want him back to further pollute the political culture of Pakistan. 


So far as immunity to the President is concerned, the public opinion is in favour of rectifying the situation, as it is not congruent to the Islamic ideology. Even USA subjected its Presidents to face the legal proceedings. Nixon had to resign from his job and Clinton faced a great ordeal and embarrassment by the prosecution lawyers. The contention that Mr. Zardari is the commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, but so was Nixon, Clinton and even Indira Gandhi. Were not they enjoying the same status? A serving Chief of Army Staff was removed from service in Sri Lanka on charges of criminal offence. Two Israeli Presidents got sacked for sexual offence and embezzlement charges. Immunity was the brain child of Ayub Khan, the first sinner, who set the tradition of Marital Law and thus created a vicious precedence to follow by his successors. General Pervez Musharraf, who has practically destroyed every institution, and by his 'blind' subservience to USA, mainly to continue his own hold, Pakistan has been reduced to a vassal state, having no sovereignty whatsoever. Unfortunately, the civil government has the same style of governance – complete subservient to what the USA dictates. The Prime Minister, supposed to be the Chief of the Government is playing second fiddle to the President. It is a gross violation of parliamentary democracy. The President and the Governor of Punjab believe as if democracy only revolves around them. They are hardly the models for our youth to emulate. Only judiciary is conducting itself gracefully and has become a pride of the nation. It is fully determined to eradicate corruption from the society, which is the major determinant of our humiliating image all over the world. 


The confrontational stance of the government against the judiciary thus creating a great crisis has been averted though temporarily, widely believed to be due to the involvement of the Army Chief (though not a laudable step on the part of highest civil authority), but somehow this is a ray of hope that 'sanity, may prevail and the so called hawkish legal experts would be well advised to refrain from misleading the President/Prime Minister from graceful implementation of the Supreme Court orders. There is no other way out. Adlai Stevenson made a very valid observation: "Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that, some times he has to eat them."

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

KARACHI BLASTS: TARGETING PAKISTAN

LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)

 

On October 7, 2010 at least 9 individuals have been killed and more than 85 injured in two successive blasts near a prominent shrine in Karachi .The blasts occurred within minutes of interval at the gate of the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Clifton, where a large number of people gather everyday. Earlier just few days back a Sunni leader has been killed by unknown firers. More than 32 people killed and over 200 injured on September 1, 2010 when three suicide bombers blew themselves up in Shia March in Lahore and in another incident on the same day gunmen opened fire at a procession in Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi wounding seven. Since couple of months terrorists activities like blasts, target killing, robberies and kidnapping are remained on 'peek in the country. Reportedly, heads of two suicide bombers of Karachi blasts have been recovered. Pakistan's security situation has become pathetic just because of increasing foreign involvement. The terrorists have been operating covertly under the cover of religious and political individuals. It is quite alarming that more than 430 persons have been killed in Karachi this year alone.


Data Darbar shrine has also been targeted by suicide attackers in July 2010. In that attack, over 100 individuals were killed and many injured. In March this year terrorists targeted Ahmedi mosque in which many innocents' people have been killed. Any how, these blasts have linkage because of their likely aim of division of the society through sectarianism. The current wave of terrorism is giving very clear cut indication of involvement of Indian intelligence agency "RAW' and others foreign intelligence agency. The conspicuous increase in volatility has been noticed since after 'Mumbai attack". India has started all out proxy war against Pakistan and interested it to drag in sectarianism too. In this connection, she never let any chance and event to malign Pakistan in some terrorist activated. Most of the local analysts are also in the opinion that prevailing political and adverse security environment is in fact the plot against nuclear Pakistan. It is to note here that twin blasts of Karachi seem to be connected with the NATO and RAW collaboration against Pakistan. The blasts occurred when Torkham border has been closed. As a result supply convoy has been stopped and 300 containers have been parked after the NATO's attack on Pakistani troops. Though officials of ISAF and NATO are endeavoring to reopen the Torkham but in this regard still no decisions have been taken by the authorities' matters in the helm of affairs. The attack was condemned by whole segments of Pakistani society. Islamabad has taken the serious view of the situation and stopped NATO and ISAF to use Pakistani territory for provision of supplies to their troops. It is also added here that NATO and ISAF authorities are under heavy criticism since couple of days. Therefore, American ambassador also asked Pakistani nation to apology American for the said helicopter attack.

Anyhow, the prevailing terrorism wave have also exposed some more angles for deliberation and identifying the exact causes of the terrorism in the country. Firstly, RAW tried to cash the current rift between NATO and Pakistan and carried out blasts in Karachi. Secondly, RAW with tacit support of foreign intelligence agencies decided to target Karachi and other cities for forcing Pakistan to operate against Taliban and Haqqani group in north and south waziristan. Thirdly, ISAF and NATO's intelligence set up are backing RAW to foment terrorism in Pakistan so that they should be able to justify their past drones and helicopter attacks. 

The covert US drone war in Pakistan has killed around 1,340 people in about 152 strikes since August 2008. It is also mentionable here that near about 31935 civilians and more than 8000 soldiers have been scarified their lives to fight foreign imposed war. On the other hand only 2100 the western and American troops have lost their lives. Fourthly, situation in Kashmir and Maoist's areas are going worst day by day. Indian political and military leaderships are quite upset because of changing international opinion against New Delhi. In this connection, Indian Interior minister P Chidambaram and Chief of Army Staff have repeatedly threatened Pakistan and alleged China for helping Maoists. In a ceremony held on March 12, 2010 Indian home minister alleged Pakistan for their domestic ongoing violence and militancy. He said that any act of terrorism from Pakistani territory against India will be taken as not be tolerant in future. In fact, the purposes of such types of statements of political and military leadership are to justify Indian covert and open sabotage activities against Pakistan.

On March 13, 2010, two suicidal bombers walked up to Pakistan military vehicles and exploded themselves in densely populated area RA Bazar of Lahore cantt. In the same month Pakistani Intelligence Agency's "sub-office" in Model Town Lahore has also been targeted through a suicide attack.


The main features of their consensus were weakening Pakistan through economy, damaging political system, supporting separatists in Balochistan, defaming military and main intelligence agency (ISI) and spreading sectarianism while targeting carrying out targeting killing of various religious leaders, blasting scared places and religious processions . Thus current wave of sectarianism and defaming tarnishing ISI images through former CIA officials are very much part of hidden agenda of the foreign intelligence agencies. It was an open secret that former Intelligence chief of Afghanistan was a main linchpin of the entire game against Pakistan. Though, President Hamid Karzai picked a presidential guardian Rahmatullah Nabil, to lead the intelligence service. But he too failed to remove Pakistani concerns over utilizing Afghan territory by Indian intelligence agency for launching terrorists in Pakistan. Pentagon and CIA gestures towards Pakistan security forces and Intelligence Agency (ISI) though apparently remained very cordial but bitter aspect of these relations is this that Pentagon and CIA always doubted and mistrusted ISI and Pakistan Army. For example foreign electronic channel "Fox News" reported on October 7, 2010 that spokesman of CIA Col. Dave Lapan said the Pakistan intelligence service as an organization does not support terrorism, but some elements within the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI, may be providing assistance to terrorists. Lapan was responding to a report in The Wall Street Journal that suggested the ISI is pushing the Taliban to keep fighting in Afghanistan, undermining efforts by the Pentagon to end the war. The report would be an eye opener for Pakistani political and military top brass and proves that American and western partners of global war are how much biased towards Pakistan. Obama administration should also know that such type of lose stamens of Pentagon's spokesman will further weaken the already deteriorated relations between Islamabad and Washington. President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani condemned the Karachi blasts. They expressed condolences with the families of those who lost their lives in the dastardly terrorist act. The President said the government and people are determined to defeat terrorism and such gruesome acts cannot deter the national spirit is ready to defeat terrorists.

 

In short, twin blasts of October 8, 2010 would be taken as the continuity of Indian militancy supported by foreign hand against Pakistan. International community should come out and condemned the terrorism. India and her allies should be forces to stop fomenting terrorism against a country which is already passing through the worst kind of catastrophe (flood) of her history. Thus, to meet threat to our national security there is a need for standing up against terrorisms and government should also devise a counter terrorism strategy. The clear message of "enough is enough" should be communicated to ISAF and NATO. 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AFGHANISTAN: WAR WITHOUT END

MICHEAL KROSS

 

There is a clear and pressing need to end the monumental folly of prosecuting a war in Afghanistan. It is spreading in intensity into the tribal areas of Pakistan and could yet rattle a weak civilian government in Islamabad to bits. 


To persuade themselves that they are prevailing, the US, Britain and their allies maintain the illusion that they are building the capacity of the Afghan state, when that claim is being routinely undermined by corrupt elections and a president in Hamid Karzai who packs his administration with his relatives. Belief in the nation-building project has collapsed. The bar of success is being lowered.


The war has become both a magnet for, and training ground of, no less than two generations of jihadis, each more determined than the last. It is the rallying cause for terrorist acts against civilian targets across the world. Enormous military resources are being devoted to fighting the Taliban on both sides of the border – there are 140,000 Pakistan military in the tribal areas alone. Yet all that has been accomplished is a larger battlefield and a more intense battle. The Pentagon's initial optimism that a surge of US troops would push the Taliban out of Helmand and Kandahar has faded, even before troop levels have peaked. Everyone knows that this conflict can only end in a negotiated solution, but no one yet can imagine it happening.


It is against this background that we reveal today that talks have been taking place with the Haqqani network, a group based in North Waziristan and one of the most feared insurgents in Afghanistan. This is separate from the report in the Washington Post that Karzai has been holding secret high-level talks with the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban organisation based in Pakistan, about a comprehensive settlement. But taken together there is now credible evidence of a desire in Washington as well as in Kabul to address the leadership of the main Taliban groups, to reconcile the so-called irreconcilables, and not rely on a policy of removing them. It is not clear who is forcing whom to the negotiating table. It is assumed that the Taliban are propelled by a surge of drone strikes and by the desire of an older generation of fighters who know the benefits of peace to negotiate a deal, before they lose control altogether to radical Islamists. 


But too much also is unknown – how far these talks have gone, and whether indeed they present a viable alternative to the Taliban strategy of waiting the Americans out. For there is a third and more potent enemy that the US faces. It is chaos, the inability to stick to one course of action and to bend competing actors to that end. The war could continue simply because its momentum is now unstoppable. —The Guardian

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

RANN'S ACTIONS SPEAK VOLUMES

 

THERE are many things wrong with the Gillard government's rigid industrial relations system but here is just one absurdity that illustrates the pressing need for change.

 

Teenagers who want to earn pocket money by working for a couple of hours after school are banned from doing so, even when the arrangement suits the students and their employers. The failure yesterday of an appeal to Fair Work Australia by the National Retail Association and Master Grocers Australia against the three-hour minimum shift requirement in the retail sector should destroy the bipartisan consensus between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, which has ruled out any changes until after the next election, if at all. Unless the system is remedied, its rigidity will act as a brake on productivity.

 

One leader brave enough to challenge this cosy consensus, in deed if not in word, is South Australia's Labor Premier Mike Rann. While negotiating last year for private sector workers in South Australia to be covered by federal workplace laws, Mr Rann was sufficiently concerned about the federal system to keep public sector workers under state jurisdiction. He and Treasurer Kevin Foley, conscious of the need to cut their state deficit, are now using state legislation to axe 3750 jobs, including those of more than 130 executives, and abolish long-service leave and holiday leave loading. Such steps would be well-nigh impossible under the federal system. Quite rightly, Mr Rann puts the health of the South Australian economy ahead of the need to preserve the ideological purity of federal Labor's union-appeasing policy.

 

We suspect he is not the only Labor hardhead who recognises the Prime Minister has made the same mistake as John Howard in taking IR changes too far. We can understand if he wishes to spare Ms Gillard blushes by not criticising her in public but, in the interests of national prosperity, we urge him to have a quiet word in her ear.

 

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence claims that the three-hour shift requirement protects the wages of casual workers. It is hard to follow his logic, however, when the rule precludes many people, especially students, from working at all. Far from being an attempt by Scrooge-like bosses to exploit young workers, the case arose because of the efforts of teenagers in Terang, western Victoria, who lost their weekday shifts under Labor's laws. The teenagers are not available to work for three hours and their employer, the Terang and District Co-operative, quite reasonably, can't pay them for three hours when the store closes at 5.30 pm and the students start work at 4pm.

 

The only sensible solution is for the government, if it is serious about improving productivity and not just talking about it, is to get out of the way and allow the relevant parties to work things out to suit themselves. In case the Gillard government and Fair Work Australia haven't noticed, the nation has come a long way since the 1970s, when unions ruled the roost and IR laws were rigid and centralised. Small businesses and savvy teenagers, like most employers and staff, are quite capable of cutting a good deal.

 

Yesterday's ruling might have been subtitled "Let's do the time warp again" for the way it forces workplaces back to a more straightjacketed and less productive past. If Australia is to climb out of the mire of a system better suited to the less competitive world of 40 years ago, business groups -- especially those representing small businesses -- must campaign hard on the issue, well ahead of the next election.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER HARD DAY AT THE OFFICE

IN GENERATIONS PAST, THERE WAS A REWARD FOR WORKING HARD; IT WAS CALLED PAY.

 

You did your best for your employer and, took home a few folded banknotes in an envelope at the end of the week and perhaps a little overtime if you had been held back. Today, it appears, that is no longer enough.

 

Myer has paid its chairman, Howard McDonald, a $1.9 million bonus for his "special exertions for the benefit of Myer" during the stockmarket float last year. It included a special one-off $400,000 "exertion fee".

 

No one is suggesting that Mr McDonald is a shirker or that he did not work hard during those frantic months before Myer listed. But with a base salary of almost $500,000 a year, it's not as if the non-executive director was underpaid for his efforts. Don Argus, who as chairman of BHP Billiton ran a company 100 times the size of Myer, received a base salary of about $1m.

 

We support the principle of a fair reward for hard work. And we acknowledge that most of the nation's well-remunerated executives and directors put in long hours and carry significant additional burdens in terms of corporate responsibility. But exotic bonuses like these, dished out at directors' discretion with no measurable performance benchmarks, will not help the corporate community fight its fat cat tag.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

EXPORTERS FACE TOUGH ROAD AS THE CURRENCY SURGES

 

WITH national pride already in positive territory on the back of Australia's medal haul at the Commonwealth Games, we can be forgiven for enjoying an extra patriotic surge as our dollar approaches parity with the greenback.

 

As one television presenter said on Thursday: Go, you little beauty, go! In the complex world of currency exchange, however, there is no such thing as unqualified good news, as Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan have acknowledged. The rocketing Australian dollar might be good for consumers, but it is placing a burden on some sectors of the economy.

 

The Aussie dollar's rise to its best level since it was floated in 1983 reflects Australia's prosperity, driven by Asian demand for commodities such as iron ore, for which prices are rapidly rising. The strong currency is making imports cheaper, allowing more Australians to travel overseas and providing greater purchasing power as the cost of electronics and other imports tumbles.

 

It may not have finished yet. Westpac forecasts it will reach US102c by the end of this year, and US105c by June next year. Not that its natural level is on a par with the greenback. In June this year, it hit a low point of US81c and in April 2001 struck a record low of US47.7c.

 

The drivers behind the surging Australian currency highlight why now is not the time for Ms Gillard and Mr Swan to be complacent in their response to the wider forces reshaping the economy. Much of the recent rise is caused by the hammering the greenback has been taking as the US economy deteriorates more rapidly than had been forecast. Central banks elsewhere are using their exchange rates in a bid to boost exports and trade their way out of recession. Analysts expect the US Federal Reserve will adopt a new round of quantitative easing -- a mechanism where central banks buy up government bonds -- early next month. Central banks from England, the European Union and Japan have kept interest rates at record lows -- something the Reserve Bank of Australia has resisted. International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has warned that this could prove a threat to the global economy as it recovers from the credit crunch. China might eventually succumb to US and European pressure to appreciate the yuan, but this could quell its demand for Australia's coal and iron ore.

 

This makes it all the more important that when Wayne Swan returns from the IMF meeting in Washington, the government pushes ahead with micro-economic reforms that would lift productivity and help sectors squeezed by the currency surge. The government was told this by Treasury in its Red Book brief: "Tighter fiscal policy, and measures to boost labour-force participation and productivity, could play a useful role in complementing monetary policy, reducing the size of the required increases in interest rates and the exchange rates." This means overhauling the tax and transfer system and improving education to lift workforce participation and tackling inefficiencies in energy, water and transport. If the government overlooks such measures, the long-suffering manufacturing sector, tourism operators and farmers face a worsening squeeze as their ability to compete offshore.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? L'ENTENTE MILITAIRE

 

It makes sense for two European military powers to co-operate on warheads and joint submarine patrols but why stop there?

 

report, dismissed on both sides of the channel as speculation and therefore probably true, that the UK and France are negotiating an agreement which would see British nuclear warheads serviced by French scientists does not go far enough.

 

French defence analysts rightly say that for this to happen Britain would have to break its very special relationship with America in this field. Would that be such a bad thing?

 

It makes eminent sense for two European military powers, both of whom have nuclear deterrents which are independent in name only, to co-operate with each other on warheads and joint submarine patrols.

 

But why stop there? Why not consider transport aircraft, helicopter capacity and carriers? Why should French warplanes not operate from British aircraft carriers and vice versa?

 

The Royal Navy is still considering ordering cheaper catapult-launched aircraft for its future carriers, a move which would enable French Dassault Rafale M planes to land on them, because the cost of the alternative – the American F-35 Joint Striker Fighter – has ballooned.

 

The price of ordering two carriers and the 140 F-35s planned to go with them would be to scupper the rest of the fleet. France and Britain have much in common at the moment. Both are proud, postcolonial and broke.

 

Between them, they have 460 nuclear warheads. Each has conventional forces that neither can afford.

 

Signals intelligence (eavesdropping) should also be combined. Turn the entente cordiale into an entente militaire.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SHADOW CABINET: CONSTRUCTIVE OPPOSITION

 

Ed Miliband's appointments are further evidence he is a healing leader rather than the 'Red Ed' depicted by his detractors

 

Politicians do not fight elections in order to be the opposition. Yet opposing is critical, not only in some platonic democratic sense – where it matters more than people think – but as the forge for policies, arguments and personalities that can persuade voters and lead back to government. In opposition between 1974 and 1979, Margaret Thatcher's economics team shaped an agenda that dominated the next quarter century. The triumvirate Ed Miliband named yesterday – Alan Johnson as shadow chancellor, Douglas Alexander for the work and pensions brief and John Denham for business and skills – have the same opportunity under the new leader's guidance.

 

Mr Miliband, a politician still little known outside Westminster, has made a series of brave and in some cases unexpected decisions that are beginning to define his political character. Over the summer, culminatingin a speech at Bloomberg, Ed Balls had put a compelling case to shadow the job Gordon Brown wanted him to have in government. He knows the Treasury, he knows his economics and he knows his own mind. He was clearly the leading contender. He was rejected, and not in favour of his wife Yvette Cooper, as many had hoped, but in favour of the veteran Mr Johnson. Plenty of people will say Mr Miliband has made the wrong choice, but the reality is that giving the job to Mr Balls would have meant Mr Miliband kissing goodbye to any direct control over economic policy. There is unquestionably an impressive steeliness of purpose in rejecting Mr Balls' claim. Following this up with the choice of one of his brother's most ardent supporters – who was less than enthusiastic about his new boss in an interview with the Guardian on the day the results were declared – suggests a welcome readiness to make good the scars of the leadership contest and to lay to rest the exhausting and exhausted warfare between Brownites and Blairites.

 

Mr Johnson has none of the economic expertise of Mr Balls, but he has none of the baggage either. His merits to Mr Miliband lie as much in what he is not as what he is: above all, he was not at Gordon Brown's right hand when the wrong decisions were taken, and he has long since shed his old trade union priorities. He is a sharp politician with the extra factor, in the iconography of democratic politics, of being the embodiment of the aspiring working class, a former postman challenging the representatives of privilege. The two other leading influences on the economics agenda will be the shadow cabinet's only southern England Labour MP (outside London), John Denham, who shadows Vince Cable, and, from Scotland, Douglas Alexander, the alienated Brown acolyte turned David Miliband supporter. All of them will have to hit the ground running. The coming week will be dominated by higher-education funding, a brief that Mr Denham already knows (there is scope for an interesting alliance over a graduate tax that might give the coalition pause). The following week comes the spending review.

 

And having parked Mr Balls on the economic sidelines, it is smart to give him another of the so-called great offices of state to shadow. The Home Office brief will be absorbing, and it matters to voters almost as much as the economy. Civil libertarians may flinch at Mr Balls' enthusiasm for identity cards; choosing how to tackle the combative Theresa May will also be a challenge.

 

This has been a defining few days for Ed Miliband. On Thursday morning he welcomed the Hutton interim report on pensions and warned against strikes. Now a picture is emerging not of Red Ed, but of a pluralist, healing leader who is more sensitive to the evidence of the polls and the concerns of the voters than some of his supporters in the leadership campaign may have appreciated. To govern is to choose, but opposition involves choices too, and Mr Miliband has made some tough ones.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

CLIMATE CHANGE: TROPICAL HEAT

NEW RESEARCH SUGGESTS THE RELATIVELY LOW RISE IN TEMPERATURE IN THE TROPICS WILL STILL LEAD TO DEVASTATING RATES OF EXTINCTION

 

Yet more ominous news about climate change: its most devastating effects could be in the tropics rather than in the polar regions, according to new research in Nature. This is unexpected. For more than 20 years, climate scientists have assumed that, as the world warmed, the most dramatic climbs in average temperature would be in the coldest zones, with the lowest warming around the equator. This remains the case. But plants and animals already at the limit of their temperature tolerance may suffer drastically as the mercury climbs on the thermometer.

 

Corals bleach in warmer-than-usual oceans, and a dead reef means a loss of habitat for thousands of species. German and US researchers studied 500 million readings from 3,000 weather stations to measure temperature increases from 1961 to 2009, and considered the effects on the metabolisms of snakes, lizards and other cold-blooded creatures. The higher the temperature, the faster their metabolic rates, and the higher the demand for food and oxygen, they report. Animals that must work harder to find food will have less energy to spend on reproduction. The implication is that climate change will step up rates of extinction. Since the tropical regions provide habitats for the greatest richness of species, the losses will be greater. This is not the only bad news. Geophysical Research Letters has now published a Met Office study of the link between heat waves and rising average temperatures. Although nations last year signed the Copenhagen accord to limit global warming to 2C – without committing themselves to real action – even this increase could trigger unprecedented extremes of heat in places such as southern Europe and North America, with the thermometer climbing 6C above the highest levels experienced today.

 

These are both predictions. They may turn out to be wrong, and they will not impress those who are determined to dismiss climate change as a worldwide conspiracy cooked up by the Met office, Nasa, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and universities and research institutes around the world. This year the legislature of South Dakotapassed a resolution stating that the world had actually got cooler in the last eight years; and that "there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena".

 

Alas, there are governments that do accept the evidence, but have yet to act. Yes, there are uncertainties in all the climate models. But all the models, and all the data, consistently point to a warmer world, and a more dangerous one. How long can political refusal to confront the evidence continue, and at what cost?

 

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            THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TESTING TIMES FOR MR. KAN

 

With the opposition forces controlling the Upper House, the biggest task facing Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the current extraordinary Diet session is securing the passage of a supplementary budget for fiscal 2010 to bolster the flagging economy.

 

He must also cope with such issues as the looming indictment of former Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa over a funds reporting scandal and criticism over the government's handling of the row with China over the recent Senkaku Islands incident.

 

In plenary sessions held earlier this week, the opposition forces demanded that Mr. Kan exercise leadership to help the Diet summon Mr. Ozawa as a witness. Mr. Kan took a rather aloof attitude, saying that the Diet should make the decision itself. He apparently fears that if he agrees to the summoning he will face antipathy from Mr. Ozawa and his supporters. But if Mr. Kan sticks to his position, the Ozawa issue will continue to plague him in the Diet.

 

For its part, the opposition should refrain from using the Ozawa issue for the sake of politicking. They should not allow it to hinder deliberations on policy measures closely related to people's lives, including the supplementary budget.

 

They criticized the Kan Cabinet's handling of the Senkaku incident, accusing the Kan administration of pressuring the Naha prosecutors office to release the Chinese fishing boat captain arrested after his vessel's collission with Japan Coast Guard ships.

 

The Kan Cabinet may have handled the matter awkwardly, but it is imperative that the Cabinet and the ruling and opposition parties now focus on exploring the best way to handle relations with China, which appears to be intent on expanding its maritime interests in both the South and East China seas.

 

In this connection, they also need to study ways to deepen cooperation not only with the United States but also with other Asian nations. Mr. Kan must demonstrate leadership in these discussions.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHEMICAL RESEARCHERS SHINE

 

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday that the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry will go to three researchers — Mr. Richard Heck of the United States, and Mr. Ei-ichi Negishi and Mr. Akira Suzuki of Japan — for their work in developing the palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reaction, which has become an efficient tool for producing large and complex organic molecules.

 

The news indicates the knowledge level and experience of Japan's chemical research. Hopefully it will inspire Japanese chemists and other scientists, encourage more young people to choose scientific research as a profession and prompt the government to improve the research environment for scientists.

 

Organic compounds in such forms as medicines (including cancer drugs), fibers, farm chemicals and light sources for diodes in computer use are highly useful.

 

The skeleton of an organic compound is a chain of carbon atoms. Since carbon atoms are stable, it is difficult to make them react with each other when one attempts to create a new organic compound. In the reaction cited by the Swedish academy, palladium serves as a catalyst and induces carbon atoms to couple with each other. Thus researchers can produce new organic compounds in large amounts with precision and without having to put up with unwanted byproducts.

 

Mr. Heck began using palladium as a catalyst. Mr. Negishi and Mr. Suzuki separately refined the method. It must be remembered that many other Japanese chemists contributed to developing the cross-coupling reaction.

 

With Mr. Negishi and Mr. Suzuki added, 15 Japanese scientists (one of them having become a U.S. citizen) have won the Nobel Prize; six are chemists who have been honored since 2000. Many of them received the prize for their achievements made from the 1960s to the '80s.

 

The science budget was not large in those years. But researchers were able to freely develop their scientific breakthroughs. The government should increase the science budget to strengthen basic science. It also should free researchers from bureaucratic desk work that hamper their research work. A free atmosphere in laboratories is crucial for developing new ideas in science.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEADERS' BROKEN PROMISES ARE COSTING LIVES

BY PETER SINGER

 

PRINCETON, N.J. — In 2000, the world's leaders met in New York and issued a ringing Millennium Declaration, promising to halve the proportion of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

 

They also pledged to halve the proportion of people without safe drinking water and sanitation; move toward universal and full primary schooling for children everywhere — girls as well as boys; reduce child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters; and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases. These pledges, reformulated as specific, measurable targets, became the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

 

Last month, 10 years on from that meeting, world leaders returned to New York for a United Nations summit that adopted a document called Keeping the Promise, which reaffirmed the commitment to meeting the goals by 2015. The U.N. press release called the document a "global action plan" to achieve the MDGs, but it is more an expression of aspirations than a plan. What chance do we really have of keeping the promises made in 2000?

 

As the Yale philosopher Thomas Pogge has pointed out, the task has been made easier by moving the goal posts. Even before 2000, the World Food Summit, held in Rome in 1996, pledged to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015. By contrast, the corresponding MDG was to halve the proportion of the world's people who are suffering from hunger (as well as of those living in extreme poverty). Because the world's population is rising, halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger (and extreme poverty) means that the number will not be halved.

 

But worse was to come. When the Millennium Declaration was rewritten as a set of specific goals, the baseline for calculating the proportion to be halved was set not at 2000, but at 1990. That meant that progress already made could contribute to the achievement of the goal. And the goal became halving "the proportion of people in the developing world," which makes a big difference, because the developing world's population is growing faster than the population of the world as a whole.

 

The net effect of all these changes, Pogge calculates, is that, whereas world leaders pledged in 1996 that by 2015 they would reduce the number of undernourished people to no more than 828 million, now they are pledging only to reduce the number in extreme poverty to 1.324 billion. Since extreme poverty is responsible for about one-third of all human deaths, this difference effectively means that — if the final promise is actually honored — each year about six million more people will die from poverty-related causes than would have died had the original promise made in Rome been kept.

 

In any case, according to a recent World Bank/International Monetary Fund report, we are not on track to meet even the scaled-back global target of halving the proportion of hungry people in developing countries. Rising food prices — possibly related to climate change — have reversed past progress and last year briefly pushed the number suffering from hunger above the one-billion mark. That this should happen while developed nations waste hundreds of millions of tons of grain and soybeans by feeding them to animals, and obesity reaches epidemic proportions, undermines our claims to believe in the equal value of all human life.

 

The target of halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty is within reach, but mainly because of economic progress in China and India. In Africa, after economic stagnation in the 1990s, a decade of encouraging economic growth is reducing the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty, but not quickly enough to halve it by 2015.

 

There is better news on achieving gender parity in education, a key to reaching other goals, including lower infant mortality, which often comes about because educated women have fewer children. We also have a good chance of meeting the target of reducing by half the proportion of people in developing countries without safe drinking water — but to achieve the same with sanitation is proving more difficult.

 

On health goals, however, we are not even close. Maternal mortality is falling, but not fast enough. More people with HIV/AIDS are getting inexpensive anti-retroviral drugs and their life-expectancy has increased, but universal access is still far off, and the disease is still spreading, if more slowly than before. Progress has been made in reducing malaria and measles, and the rate of child mortality has fallen partly as a result, but the goal of a two-thirds reduction will not be met.

 

For a long time, rich countries have promised to reduce poverty, but have failed to match their words with adequate action. Of course, some important progress has been made. Millions of lives have been saved, but millions more could be saved.

 

To make sustainable progress in reducing extreme poverty will require improvements in both the quantity and quality of aid. Just a handful of countries — Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — have met or exceeded the U.N.'s modest target of 0.7 percent of GDP for foreign development assistance. But without trade reform and action on climate change, more and better aid will not suffice.

 

For now, it looks very much as if, come 2015, the world's leaders will have failed to keep their (watered-down) promises. That means that they will be responsible for permitting the needless deaths, every year, of millions of people.

 

Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. His most recent book, "The Life You Can Save," addresses the obligations of the rich to the poor (www.thelifeyoucansave.com). © 2010 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

STILL DON'T GET IT, MR. GOVERNOR?

 

Jakartans had high hopes when they picked Fauzi Bowo to be the city's governor three years ago. They were not just wooed by Fauzi's claim to be "the expert on Jakarta", a key plank of his campaign, but were convinced by his work as a city bureaucrat for nearly three decades.

 

Now many Jakartans are deeply disappointed. They have realized their city has not been getting better, and might be getting worse, under the leadership of "its expert". The governor has even considered not addressing the major problems he promised to resolve during the campaign, such as traffic chaos, a clean water supply, housing and the city's perennial flooding.

 

Fauzi and Prijanto, both supported by major political parties, were the first pair directly elected as the city's governor and vice governor and were inaugurated on Oct. 7, 2007.

 

Fauzi's program to address transportation problems attracted voters who were frustrated by the city's daily traffic chaos. Everyone knows that poor condition of the city's transportation system has long been the main source of other major problems, such as popular frustration, inefficiency and air pollution.

 

Unfortunately, Fauzi, failed to fulfill his promises, although he had opportunity to do so. Traffic congestion is even worse today due to the stagnation of several public transportation projects, including the Tranjakarta busway.

 

Jakarta now has 10 busway corridors, which have the potential to improve public transportation and reduce the commuter dependency on private vehicles. Unfortunately, Fauzi failed to optimize infrastructure. He failed deploy adequate buses on the corridors, which led to more crowding on city streets after travelers chose to use private vehicles instead of Transjakarta.

 

Meanwhile, the city also still faces a serious problem in supplying clean water to residents. So far, water operators can supply only 50 percent of the city's water needs. The administration also failed to renovate the existing pipe water network that has caused poor water quality. Last but not least is the administration's failure to find alternative water resources.

 

The city's dependency on Jatiluhur dam in West Java leads to water shortages every dry season. The shortage of clean water from tap water operators causes residents and businesses problems- and also encourages overexploitation of underground water supplies, which in turn causes environmental problems, such as land subsidence and sea water intrusion. Experts linked the recent road collapse in North Jakarta to this environmental problem.

 

To be fair, there have been achievements under Fauzi's leadership. Jakarta administration has acquired a large section of land for the East Flood Canal (BKT) project that would make it possible to extend the canal to the sea. This canal may be able to ease flooding in eastern Jakarta. The governor also managed to re-purpose previously occupied by commercial entities, such as gasoline stations, as green areas. Fauzi is also reportedly trying to reform the city's bureaucracy to improve public services.

 

Surely, there is still much to do for Governor Fauzi and his staff. We all know that Jakarta's complex problems cannot be solved by business as usual. Breakthroughs are needed. The governor only has two years to prove his expertise and fix the city's problems – or voters will have to find an alternative.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON JAKARTA

TOMMY FIRMAN

 

Coastal mega-cities in Asia are facing the adverse impacts of climate change, including flooding, rising sea levels and intense storm surges, all of which could damage housing, infrastructure and city and national economies. However, to a certain extent the issues of climate risks are still widely misunderstood and underestimated because discourse on the subject has largely been limited to circulation within the scientific community. Very little information has been systematically communicated to the broader public.

 

Jakarta is considered very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Nevertheless, the Jakarta administration still does not have a strategy to design and implement policies to deal with climate change. The central government has been more progressive, having issued several climate-related regulations, including air quality control, absorption wells, gas emission controls, bio-pore absorption holes, smoke-free zones and river and drainage improvements.

 

The Jakarta administration tends to focus more on disaster management instead of efforts to anticipate the effects of climate change. Instead of constantly responding on an after-the-fact basis, their efforts should be more proactive and consider long-term horizons.  

 

At present Jakarta has about 400,000 impoverished residents and another 300,000 nearly poor residents (BPS, 2008) who are vulnerable to environmental changes, including increased flooding and rising sea levels. If these people do not have any place to move, they obviously have no choice but to face the consequences.

 

One climate related hazard that has occurred often in North Jakarta is tidal flooding. It is projected that by 2050 some areas in Jakarta will be inundated if global warming continues at its current pace (Susandi, 2009). Many areas in North and Central Jakarta might one day be submerged and residents will suffer significantly from the resulting physical and socio-economic impacts.

 

Another factor related to potential inundation is land sinkage. There are four types of land sinkage in the Jakarta Basin: sinkage caused by groundwater extraction; sinkage caused by construction; sinkage caused by natural consolidation; and sinkage caused by tectonic shifts (Abidin et al, 2008).

 

The Jakarta General Spatial Plan (RUTR) is currently under revision, but is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. The present Jakarta Spatial Plan does not take climate change factors into consideration. Appropriate indicators to assess the impacts of climate change still have not been formulated. The revised spatial plan will incorporate analysis of hazards such as flooding, land sinkage and fires. If amendments to Jakarta's general spatial plan are under consideration, revision of the detailed spatial plan (RDTR) will also be necessary.

 

Geographic spatial information systems (GIS) have been installed by several government agencies, both at the municipal and national levels. However, at present GIS are mainly used for urban planning purposes, such as mapping and zoning, but their usefulness has not been systematically integrated with existing social, economic and climate data.

 

It is not an easy task to conduct a meaningful assessment of the climactic conditions in Jakarta, such as longitudinal analysis of rainfall and tides. However, data can be accessed in several central and local government institutions, including the Coordinating Body for Surveying and Mapping (Bakosurtanal), the Central Statistics Agency and the Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), but coordination among these agencies needs to be improved to enable effective and efficient use of data.

 

There are three agencies under the Jakarta administration whose responsibilities are related to coping with climate change issues coping activities, including the  Board of Regional Development Planning (Bappeda), the Board of Environmental Management (BPLHD) and the Provincial Coordinating Unit for Disaster and Refugee Management (Satkorlak PB).  However, there is no particular agency or institution in Jakarta assigned to conduct risk and vulnerability assessments, manage climate change data and disseminate climate information to the general public. There appears to be a lack of coordination among local government agencies when it comes to climate change and its potential impacts. This unfortunately describes the weakness of the National Council of Climate Change (DNPI), which is responsible for managing mitigation and adaptation research and communicating action plans at the national level. At present there is no road map on adaptation and mitigation programs to respond to climate change in Jakarta.

 

Climate risk assessments in Jakarta have been conducted by different research and government institutions in a fragmented manner. There is almost no correlation between among risk assessment and urban development.

 

Property developers building on the north coast of Jakarta, for example, have anticipated flooding and have responded by building canals and sophisticated drainage systems. However, the climate risks have only been considered for areas occupied by middle and upper class communities, while lower income neighborhoods have been neglected.

 

The knowledge of climate hazards and options for adaptation and mitigation among local government officials and related agencies needs to be supported by technical training. The commitment of local officials has to be strengthened.

 

There is an urgent need for better dissemination of information on climate risks facing Jakarta residents. Public awareness needs to be improved. People should be informed about what they stand to gain if they get involved in climate adaptation and mitigation processes. In short, public awareness should be the primary objective of a public climate change campaign.


The writer is a professor at the Bandung Institute of Technology, Bandung.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS: WHO CARES?

LAKSMI AMALIA

 

Most of us care about our health, but we often forget or ignore our mental health. If we have a physical disease we will immediately seek treatment from a doctor. However, if we get depressed we often do not want to see a psychiatrist for any reason.

 

Presumably, we are afraid of the mental illness stigma, or think that seeing a psychiatrist means announcing our mental disturbance to the people around us. This condition has also been seen in China, where the prevalence of mental health disorders is high, but only 8 percent of affected individuals seek professional help.

 

The stigma of mental health illness still clearly exists around us. It shows in our attitudes toward people with mental disorders, even though such disorders often have biological, chemical and genetic origins.

 

Mental health illnesses are amenable to treatment because many of them are caused by neurological disturbances.

 

Unfortunately, the myth that mental illness is a lifelong, hopeless and shameful condition still influences our behavior toward people with mental illnesses.

 

In Indonesia, people with mental health illnesses often fall victim to inhumane treatment. They are caged in small cells behind houses, chained to beds, stoned by neighborhood children, hidden by families, and in some cases their feet are clamped between stocks so that they can't move around.

 

Besides that, if they do not get treated at an asylum, they are sometimes taken to traditional healers who abuse them and place them in appalling and isolated conditions, in some cases with only a hole in the floor for urine and feces. Even if they do receive treatment at an asylum, medical personnel often do not treat them with dignity, respect or protection.

 

In the case of relapse, a psychotic episode, or getting angry with other people, many people tend to treat mentally ill people harshly without consideration. Two patients with mental illness were recently burned by people in Tangerang two months ago, meaning that their human rights were not protected.

 

The police, who are expected to protect people with mental health illnesses, sometimes just laugh at them. Moreover, families tend to neglect people with mental health illnesses.

 

Families are often ashamed to admit them as members of the family, and try hide them, and seek help from traditional healers and priests because they assume that they are possessed by demons or have had a spell cast upon them by someone.

 

Eventually these families run out of energy, patience and funds to take care of them, and hence let them go from family life. As a consequence, the number of mentally ill people on the streets has increased, while the government, particularly the Social Affairs Ministry, can not always provide care for these people in asylums and place them in homes.

 

There are many factors as to why mentally ill people are often treated badly. First, many have not received clear information about mental disorders and how to treat them. As a consequence, many mentally ill people only get comprehensive treatment after their condition has worsened.

 

Mental disorders can be treated with drugs such as antipsychotics and psychosocial treatment. From research carried out in China published in September in the Archives of General Psychiatry, combining antipsychotic medication with the psychosocial treatment led to better outcomes in early-stage schizophrenia.

 

Hence, once people learn to recognize and treat the symptoms of this mental disorder earlier and go to psychiatrists immediately, they will get better results.

 

Second, the stigma and myths about mental illness still exist, so mentally ill patients are sometimes treated badly by the people around them. The third factor concerns the financial problems of families who have mentally ill family members. Sometimes, they go to traditional healers and priests and finally, and then when they finally decide to take the mentally ill patients to a psychiatrist they don't have enough money to buy the medication and pay for the treatment.

 

In addition, mentally ill people such as those with schizophrenia depend on medication for as long as they live to prevent a relapse. That is why families should buy antipsychotic drugs continuously. For specific conditions when they must take the mentally ill people to hospital, they could not pay for the treatment without health insurance, especially for those from poor families.

 

Thus, with an increasing prevalence of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other psychotic disorders, there should be efforts to resolve these problems.

 

The government should care about mental illness. They could work with printed media, TV and radio stations to inform the public about mental health disorders to eliminate the stigmas associated with them.

 

This information could make more families take mentally ill patients to receive the right medication. The government should increase its health expenditure to provide psychiatric services such as the addition of facilities in asylums and the availability of free medication for their patients.

 

Many Asian and African countries only allocate 1 or 2 percent of health expenditure on psychiatric services. The government should therefore pay for neglected mentally ill people on the streets to receive appropriate treatment as their human rights should also be protected. The number of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychiatric social workers, and psychologist should be increased to provide better mental health services.

 

Moreover, mentally ill people need support from their families, friends and the community. Psychosocial treatments are very important in getting a better outcome. Psychosocial treatments consist of family intervention, improving social competence with social skills training, and reducing symptoms with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Mentally ill patients must be helped in their social and occupational functions, so that they can be more independent and get their confidence back again.

 

The availability of social support groups such as Perhimpunan Jiwa Sehat (the Indonesian Mental Health Association) and Komunitas Peduli Skizofrenia Indonesia (Indonesian Schizophrenia Community) could help the mentally ill and their families get information about mental disorders and psychiatric services.

 

These supporting groups could work with the government in campaigns to combat the mental health stigma in society.

World Mental Health Day will be commemorated on Oct. 10. This event could serve to improve our awareness of mental health and remind us to treat mentally ill people better, while considering issues of ethics.

 

We can see that mental health illnesses can be cured, so combating the stigma, increasing psychiatric services, and improving support from families, friends and the community could reduce the burden and make it easier for mentally ill people to have a better quality of life.

 

The writer is a student at the School of Medicine, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

JAKARTA WILL (NOT) SUBMERGE?

FIRDAUS ALI

 

What are the real ongoing and continuing environmental problems facing Jakarta? The academic answer is the carrying capacity that is no longer able to support the continuing increase of population.

 

This is because the city with an area of 662 square kilometers is poorly planned and managed so it is not able to accommodate its fast growing population demand for services. Hence, the city contributes pressure to the environment beyond its limited carrying capacity.

 

One of its essential resources for the city carrying capacity is water resources. What are the problems related with the water resources? First, we view it from water resources stressful aspect that is the increasing capacity of runoff, especially the effect of climate change, which creates climate anomaly and the degradation of water storage capacity, and infiltration of the soil, which extends from the upstream area to the Jakarta area itself.

 

The real impact of all these phenomenon is the flooding and stagnant water that occurs almost every rainfall (in the upstream area as well as within the city itself). Stagnant water and flooding are the real paralyzing cause for the city's chaotic and extreme traffic congestion. This situation is exacerbated by the condition of a dilapidated drainage infrastructure system (it was designed some 30-40 years ago).

 

More ironically, almost all of the drainage canals are no longer properly functioning because they are mostly covered by buildings and piles of sediment and solid waste.

 

The second issue is the limited resources to meet the city's water demand, especially clean piped water to meet the city water needs. This creeping problem has been linked to the serious  urban ecological issue that is currently receiving public attention, particularly after the collapse of Jl. RE Martadinata in North Jakarta. What are the causal relations of land subsidence and the limited supply of clean piped water?
A very limited piped water service coverage ratio, which is only able to supply about 44 percent of the total Jakarta water demand, along with a very high water tariff (presently averaging Rp 7,400 per cubic meter), excessive groundwater abstraction occurs especially by commercial entities (hotels, apartments, malls, office buildings and industries).

 

The massive groundwater exploitation exceeding its natural recharge capacity has continually caused the lowering of a deep groundwater table and eventually causing land subsidence in many locations in the city.

 

On the other hand, the city also has to face the rising sea water level due to global warming. These two phenomena will threaten the city's livable future, because some part of the urban area will likely submerge permanently if there is no technology, policy as well as social engineering intervention provided to mitigate the causes.

 

What are the available solutions for this very basic and essential urban problem? First is the need to rehabilitate and improve the whole city's drainage networks system starting from the micro, collector and macro drainage systems.

 

Second, is the need to control the runoff by maximizing the water infiltration and retention (storage capacity) on land surface through the construction of ponds, lakes, dams, as well as underground water storage (reservoir), which in turn could also be used as additional raw water sources for the Jakarta-owned water supply company (PAM Jaya).

 

Third, it is to restrict immediately the deep groundwater exploitation by adequately supplying clean piped water, and of course with affordable water tariffs. Adequately provided clean piped water can only be done by increasing the supply of raw water for processing.

 

In the condition that none of the rivers can be utilized  due to pollution,  increase the supply of clean piped water can only be carried out by first, reducing the water leakages, and second, by building a potable water supply provision system at Jatiluhur area, which originally was studied and proposed by the Jakarta Water Supply Regulatory Body.

 

Fourth, while awaiting completion of the Jatiluhur water supply system project, the business communities should be encouraged and obliged to carry out their domestic wastewater reclaimation measure in order to convert it into clean non-potable water. This measure would reduce the reliance on groundwater utilization as well as clean piped water for their water demand, whereas at the same time also reduce the amount of wastewater discharge into the water bodies.

 

Fifth, for a long-term perspective, we must revitalize all existing open water bodies such as rivers, streams, ponds and dams in order to make them suitable raw water sources for PAM Jaya and at the same time also provides city ammenities just as in other developed cities in the world provides its quality of life (as also mentioned in the Bible and the Koran that potrays heaven with streams and rives flowing).

 

All of these, of course, would need considerable investment, but the risks are much more costly when they become disasters, and at that time we would have little opportunity to make the necessary restorations.


The writer, a lecturer and researcher at the Environmental Engineering Department,  the University of Indonesia, is founder of the Indonesian Water Institute and a member of Jakarta's Water Resources Council.

 

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