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Monday, October 11, 2010

EDITORIAL 11.10.10

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 11, edition 000648, 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. STOKING THE EMBERS - BALBIR PUNJ
  2. DESCENT INTO CHAOS
  3. COPING WITH JUNK
  4. PRAYERS, JUSTICE AND PEACE - RAJESH SINGH
  5. FAITH IS TIMELESS - PRIYADARSI DUTTA
  6. LOOKING AHEAD INTO THE FUTURE - SASWAT PANIGRAHI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. POWER AT ALL COSTS
  2. CHINESE DEMOCRACY
  3. MANNERS MAKE THE MIDDLE CLASS - DIPANKAR GUPTA
  4. 'WOMEN DELIVER MORE THAN BABIES'
  5. MARKED FOR LIFE - HARISH BHAT

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. READ BETWEEN THE LINES
  2. TICKET DISTRIBUTION
  3. SHANGHAI SURPRISE - RAGHAV BAHL
  4. OMAR IS HIS OWN WORST ENEMY - PANKAJ VOHRA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. NAME GAMES
  2. A LOT LIKE DEEPIKA
  3. PRIME TIME MEA
  4. DON'T BET ON IT - BIBEK DEBROY 
  5. BROADENING THE BASKET - YOGINDER K. ALAGH 
  6. THE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS APPLY - SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN 
  7. A FACEBOOK POLITICIAN IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
  8. WITHOUT THE BEES, WE STARVE
  9. HERE COMES THE BRIBE - SARITHA RAI 

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. WORLD BANK VS IMF
  2. COMMODITY CONUNDRUM
  3. HOW DODGY IS THE DATA? - SUNIL JAIN
  4. BUILDING WITH STRAWS – MEGHNAD DESAI
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. WHIMPERING LION

THE HINDU

  1. FUNDING THE CLIMATE CLEAN-UP
  2. IT'S NO REVELATION
  3. RUSSIA RESETS WITH U.S., SPRINTS WITH CHINA - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  4. BREAKTHROUGH AND EUPHORIA AT CHILE MINE - ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO & CHRISTINE HAUSER
  5. RELIGIOUS LAWS AFFECTING MIDDLE EAST CHRISTIANS - JILL HAMILTON
  6. FACILITATING MEDICAL EDUCATION REFORM
  7. FOR AN AGREEMENT, RESPECTING INDIAN CONCERNS - PALLAVA BAGLA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. FOCUS ON POVERTY, PRANAB TELLS IMF
  2. THE IDEA OF INCLUSION - JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

DNA

  1. INDIAN PIONEERS MOVE ALONG FUTURISTIC CURVE
  2. THE ROT BEHIND COMMONWEALTH GAMES FAÇADE STARTS SHOWING
  3. CHINA'S IGNOBLE BARK IS REALLY TELLING
  4. HOW RAJINIKANTH BRIDGED THE NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE WITH ROBOT - SANJEEV NAYYAR
  5. WHY WE STILL HAVE PIRATES IN THE 21ST CENTURY - GWYNNE DYER

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. MAINTAIN PEACE
  2. ANOTHER CASUALTY
  3. PAKISTAN: NOW A JIHAD AGAINST SUFISM? - BY D. SUBA CHANDRAN
  4. BENEFITS OF ELECTRICITY - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  5. CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS - BY RAM RATTAN SHARMA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. UN BODY IS NOT RIGHT
  2. A THREAT TO PUNJAB
  3. A NOBEL WELL DESERVED
  4. FAITH VERSUS FACTS - BY AMULYA GANGULI
  5. THE PRINCE'S SEAT-WALLAH - BY ROOPINDER SINGH
  6. ASPIRE FOR HIGH GROUND IN SPACE - BRIG KIRAN KRISHAN (RETD)
  7. MAKING COLD START DOCTRINE WORK - ALI AHMED

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. LIP-READING A GENERAL

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. BOOST VALUE ADDITION
  2. DON'T PASS THE BUCK ON GST
  3. WAR OF THE WORLDS
  4. MANAGING THE SURGE IN FOREIGN INFLOWS
  5. 'UID DEAL PROVES OUR CREDENTIALS' – SHELLEYSINGH 
  6. OF IDEAS & INNOVATIVE GROWTH – JAIDEEP MISHRA 
  7. OVERALL CONCEPT OF 'BEING IN HARMONY' - K VIJAYARAGHAVAN 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. FOCUS ON POVERTY, PRANAB TELLS IMF
  2. THE IDEA OF INCLUSION - BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN
  3. X-RAY OF THE DYSFUNCTIONS EATING AMERICA - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. IT'S THE STYLE THAT MATTERS - SHASHANK REDEMPTION
  5. THE POWER OF FAITH - BY DOMINIC EMMANUEL

THE STATESMAN

  1. SINGHVI SILENCED
  2. POINTLESS CHARADE
  3. PATCHY PARTISAN
  4. DEAFENING SOUND

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. USELESS MIDDLE
  2. DARK THOUGHTS
  3. A BIT OF SUNSHINE - BHASKAR DUTTA
  4. NOT THE USUAL NUTCASE - GWYNNE DYER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. BAD CHOICE
  2. TOTAL WRITER
  3. SHEIKH OF OPTIONS - M J AKBAR
  4. AMERICAN LETHAL FORCE UNDER LAW
  5. A GECKO'S ELOQUENT SILENCE - bBY VIJAYA BHASKARA REDDY

THE JERUSALEM  POST

  1. NO TO UNILATERALISM
  2. THE REGION: THE DECLARATION OF WAR THAT WENT UNNOTICED - BY BARRY RUBIN  
  3. BETWEEN LOYALTY AND BETRAYAL: ISRAELI DEMOCRACY IN 2010 - BY HAGAI EL-AD  
  4. IDENTIFYING WITH ISRAEL'S NATIONAL CHARACTER - BY DANNY AYALON  
  5. THE POLITICS OF PARODY - BY JEREMY RUDEN  

HAARETZ

  1. RESPECT THE KNESSET AND ITS INDEPENDENCE - BY ZE'EV SEGAL
  2. BEGIN VS. BEGIN - BY AKIVA ELDAR
  3. DIRTY SCREENS - BY GABRIEL WEIMANN
  4. THE MINISTERS ARE TO BLAME
  5. IN MEMORIAM: 30 DAYS AFTER ISRAEL TAL'S DEATH - BY AMOS OZ

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. TWO WORDS: WASTEFUL AND INEFFECTIVE
  2. BALKANS, PAST AND FUTURE
  3. WHOSE ADVANTAGE?
  4. WHAT'S YOUR TIMELINE? - BY EDUARDO PORTER
  5. DEGREES OF DEBT - BY JEREMY DEHN

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON STOCK RIGHTS: A CRACK OPENS TO GIVE SHAREHOLDERS MORE SAY
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON STOCK RIGHTS: NO WIN FOR SMALL INVESTORS - BY DAVID HIRSCHMANN AND LARRY BURTON
  3. SCIENCE AND RELIGION AREN'T FRIENDS - BY JERRY A. COYNE

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. A SHAME ON U.S. RESEARCH
  2. IMPROVING COMMUNITY HEALTH
  3. CHALLENGE OF PUBLIC HOUSING
  4. TROUBLING DISCRIMINATION CLAIM
  5. FOREIGN INTERFERENCE IN OUR COURTS
  6. ONE DIRECTION FOR SPENDING: UP

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - GUN LAW FIRES BLANKS
  2. AN OUTSIDER'S LOOK AT TURKEY'S HEADSCARF ISSUE - BARÇIN YİNANÇ
  3. ECONOMIST WARS: THE RATINGS WARS
  4. INTEREST GROWS AMONG GREEK YOUTH FOR TURKISH UNIVERSITIES - ARIANA FERENTINOU
  5. TURKEY UNDER THE AKP: NEITHER A EUROPEAN, NOR REGIONAL POWER - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY
  6. MARMARIS HOTELIERS IN FAVOR OF ABANDONING ALL-INCLUSIVE SYSTEM - SEDAT KİRT
  7. 'THE OLD TURKEY THAT WE KNOW AND LOVE' - CEM OĞUZ
  8. THE HEADSCARF - YUSUF KANLI
  9. INCLUDE WOMEN TO MOVE THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE PROCESS FORWARD - CARLA KOPPELL & REBECCA MILLER
  10. BOOM-TO-BUST BLAME LIES WITH EUROPE'S WATCHDOGS - PAUL DE GRAUWE

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PRESIDENT SHOULD NOT USE HIS DISCRETION INDISCREETLY
  2. DOMESTIC RESOURCE MOBILISATION IS THE ANSWER
  3. IHK FAST COMING ON WORLD AGENDA
  4. HOW "INCOMPETENT " OUR DOCTORS - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. SHIFTING THE AFGHAN WAR MESS - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  6. DANGLING LOGISTICS OF AFGHAN WAR! - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  7. TWO PARTY POLITICS - F D MASUOOD
  8. DRONE ATTACKS MAY BE LEGAL, BUT ARE THEY MORAL? - ALASDAIR PALMER

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. VALUE IN THE WILD RIVERS PLAN
  2. THE MURRAY-DARLING IS A CRUCIAL TEST FOR LABOR

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. GAMES EMERGE FROM CONFUSION
  2. MONEY GAME TURNS UGLY
  3. BRUMBY'S WOE-FILLED WEEK THAT WAS
  4. DOLLAR'S RISE AND DOLLAR-WISE ARE NOT THE SAME

THE GUARDIAN

  1. ALTERNATIVE VOTE: LOVED BY NO ONE
  2. ISRAEL'S LOYALTY OATH: DISCRIMINATORY BY DESIGN
  3. IN PRAISE OF ... BORIS'S BIKES

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. MR. CHAVEZ MEETS OPPOSITION
  2. IS JAPAN'S DISEASE CURABLE? - BY SHINJI FUKUKAWA
  3. INTERNET COMPANIES ROLL OVER, PLAY DEAD IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY - BY GUY SORMAN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE COSMETIC AMENDMENTS
  2. SHARING BIOPROSPECTING BENEFIT: FIGHT A LOSING BATTLE? - WALTER BALANSA
  3. THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE: THE MOVIE - WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE
  4. CONSEQUENCES OF INCREASING YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT RATE - SUDIRMAN NASIR

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. ABKHAZ RECALL THE 1990S WAR WITH JOY AND GRIEF - BY MATTHEW COLLIN
  2. THE RECKLESS ROAD TO WASTE - BY BEN ARIS
  3. LUZHKOV'S BATTLE AGAINST ANDROIDS - BY ANDREI RYABOV 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

STOKING THE EMBERS

BALBIR PUNJ


Rahul Gandhi is clearly seeking to play the tattered and torn communal card by equating the RSS to SIMI


Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's crass remarks painting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Students' Islamic Movement of India with the same brush has not come as a surprise to those who know the Congress's history and the record of the dynasty since independence. Both are replete with numerous instances when national interests were sacrificed for short-term political gains.


India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sought to put the RSS in the dock for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and banned the organisation. It didn't take long for the fiction to crumble and the ban was lifted when the courts found that the RSS had nothing to do with the assassination. After the nation was shaken by the Chinese invasion of 1962, Nehru invited the RSS to participate in the 1963 Republic Day parade to revive the drooping spirits of the people. We need not go into who was responsible for the policies that enabled the PLA to put an unprepared and ineptly-led Indian Army on the defensive. 


The anti-RSS charade was next taken up by Mrs Indira Gandhi. She sought to rescue herself from the growing opposition to her by dubbing the RSS and and the legendary Jayaprakash Narayan as "enemies of the country". This led her down the path of taking away the right to life and liberty of the citizens. The fascist streak in the Congress's family leadership was out in the open. So the people swept Mrs Indira Gandhi out of power in the 1977 general election. That verdict clearly sent a message to her about the credentials of the RSS.


Rajiv Gandhi, as Prime Minister, sought to win over the fundamentalist section of the Muslim community by overturning the Supreme Court's judgement in the Shah Bano case. To placate Hindus, he unlocked the gates of the Babri Masjid/Ramjanmabhoomi structure and allowed shilanyas at the site hoping to steal a march on the RSS. But lacking the discipline, history and dedication of the RSS, he ended up as a suspect in the eyes of both Hindus and Muslims. 


Mr Rahul Gandhi putting the RSS and SIMI on the same page has to be seen against this backdrop. The Students' Islamic Movement of India has remained banned for the last several years for proven anti-national activities and for waging war against the Indian state. Its involvement in terrorism, its recruiting young Muslims for terror-training in Pakistan and spreading venomous propaganda against India are well known. It can't be that Mr Rahul Gandhi is unaware that SIMI is funded and controlled by the ISI. His statement, therefore, is meant to please malcontents and ensure that his party does not lose the competitive game of communal politics which the likes of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav are playing in the wake of the Ayodhya verdict. 


After the Ayodhya verdict, it seemed that the only people troubled by the likely settlement of the dispute were our traditional Left intellectuals. Orphaned since the demise of the Soviet Union, they continue with their old agenda of pandering to Muslim separatism. They forget that even if the case goes to the Supreme Court and there is a final verdict, the dispute would still have to be settled through negotiations. Obviously, it is impossible for a new mosque to come up at the very spot where the Babri Masjid stood prior to December 6, 1992. 

Those who now accuse the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court of positing "faith above law" are the very people who have over the decades encouraged Muslim community leaders to resist any attempt at a negotiated settlement and keep the issue alive in the name of their peculiar brand of 'secularism'. They have made the issue one of a dispute between Hindus and Muslims. If the dispute was one of Hindus objecting to a mosque, how is it that hundreds of mosques have come up all over the country ever since India achieved independence? 

While Pakistan was declared an Islamic state, India did not opt to be a Hindu state. At no time in the history of the country did a Hindu king consider himself to be the ruler of a Hindu kingdom. Everyone thrown out of their homeland, like the Parsis and the Jews, found a refuge in India. Muslims who came to coastal India as traders and artisans much before the waves of invasions in the north were welcomed and given land to build mosques.

So how has this particular site at Ayodhya become a matter of dispute? The post-verdict statement issued by the Left-wing intellectuals, who never shed a tear when lakhs of Pandits were driven out of their homes in the Kashmir Valley, reflects their venomous view. In their outburst, they have even contradicted themselves. At one point they have attacked the verdict for ignoring the ASI's findings; at another they have accused the same ASI of "fabricating" evidence to support the view that a temple existed at the site. They have objected to the court taking into account faith, insisting law should be the only determinant. 


The faith of the Hindus that the place where the Babri Masjid stood was the birthplace of Sri Ram is offensive to these Left-wing intellectuals. But the faith of the Muslims who say they cannot give up their claim on the site — their lawyer says sharia'h does not allow it — is acceptable to them. 


The question whether the Indian identity is determined by a self-sacrificing prince who was willing to give up his throne or an invader from Central Asia is what the dispute boils down to. The Left-wing intellectuals and some frustrated politicians are determined to stoke the embers of the Ayodhya dispute. It is in this context that Mr Rahul Gandhi has sought to equate the RSS with SIMI. Mrs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had to pay a heavy political price for maligning the RSS. Mr Rahul Gandhi would do well to learn from their folly.

-- punjbalbir@gmail.com 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DESCENT INTO CHAOS

WHO IS LEADING THE WAR ON TERROR?


There is utter confusion over what's happening on the war front in Afghanistan where things have been going horribly wrong for the US-led forces in recent days. Entire convoys of tankers carrying fuel for the troops have been stopped and set on fire within Pakistani territory by the Taliban; Pakistan's Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has become increasingly belligerent in his responses to American requests for targeting, even at this late stage, specific Taliban and Al Qaeda targets; and, in Afghanistan there has been an alarming surge in the Islamist insurgency that continues to claim both ground and lives with each passing day. Back in Washington, DC, the Obama Administration has begun to show signs of despair and frustration. The National Security Council, which is an adjunct of the White House, has been scathing in its latest report on Pakistan's waning 'support' (it is surprising that the American still continue to persist with the fiction that there was any 'support' to begin with) for the US-led war on terror. The Pentagon now says sections of the ISI are involved with not only providing sanctuary to the Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders but also sustaining their bid to grab power in Kabul. Others involved with framing and implementing President Barack Obama's much-publicised AfPak policy have more or less given up on both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bringing in the General who helped stabilise Iraq to try and salvage whatever is possible in Afghanistan has not helped the US Administration. The situation just continues to get messier by the day on both sides of the Durand Line.


There are three reasons why India should be worried about the gathering chaos in its western neighbourhood. First, sooner or later we will have the barbarians at our gates once they have regained Kabul and further consolidated their hold over Pakistan courtesy the Generals of Rawalpindi. Second, Pakistan has manipulated the situation to its advantage and would want India squeezed out of Afghan affairs the moment the last American soldier leaves. Needless to add, this would hugely hurt India's strategic interests. Third, in sheer desperation the Americans are likely to pile further pressure on us to give in to Pakistani demands, especially on Jammu & Kashmir, in the hope that this will provide them with a lifeline in the region. It is the third reason that should worry us the most at this point of time: Mr Obama is not visiting New Delhi to demonstrate his love for India but to try and extract concessions whose consequences can only be devastating. Given Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's obsession with Pakistan and his eagerness to keep the US in good humour, it would be facetious to suggest that any suggestions to compromise India's national interest will be met with stiff resistance. There is no percentage in dropping guard and pretending all is fine, when it clearly isn't. Sadly, the Opposition is too distracted by its own problems to play an effective role. 

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

COPING WITH JUNK

FORCES NEED EQUIPMENT, NOW!


Air Chief Marshal PV Naik's statement that nearly 50 per cent of the Indian Air Force's military equipment is obsolete is truly alarming even if one accepts his prompt assurance that the figure will be brought down to 20 per cent by 2014. This is not an ideal state of affairs given the fact that Pakistan has been receiving huge supplies of military hardware from both the US and China which have significantly contributed to its aggressive posture vis-a-vis India. While India has emerged as a regional economic superpower, its efforts to grow in stature worldwide cannot be realised with depleted defence forces. Since the conflicts that it is involved in with its neighbours require negotiations to resolve, New Delhi would be severely constrained in such talks if it had to bargain from a position of weakness — which would be the case if our defence capabilities decline any further, irrespective of the economic progress made by us. Look at the extent of obsoleteness: Our MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft are 40 years old and should have been phased out completely by now; decades old radars are no longer in a position to track planes fitted with state-of-the-art technology; and, our ground-to-ground as well as air-to-air missiles are at least three decades old and ought to have been retired for good. When defence technologies are getting upgraded at a furious pace, disadvantaging the Indian Air Force and its fine personnel with antiquated equipment is really playing with the security of the country and failing the people who guard the air corridors.

But it's not just the Indian Air Force that carries the burden of old technologies; the Navy and the Army too are struggling with the malaise. Our T-72 tanks are fitted with second generation fighting devices, whereas most modern armies the world over have already upgraded to third generation equipment. While it is true that we have taken the first step towards resolving this issue by inducting the T-90 tanks and the Arjun Main Battle Tank, it will be some time before the newer acquisitions reach the critical numbers required. But perhaps the most glaring failure in equipping our Army with the latest hardware — one that could prove costly if we were to be forced into an armed conflict — is in the artillery. The last purchase we made were the Bofors guns and since then, following the massive scandal, our decision makers developed such cold feet that they have refused to finalise even a single artillery deal in the last 30 years, thus severely compromising national security. The Indian Navy, which has now been mandated to play a greater role in international waters to fight piracy, besides remaining on high alert to foil terror attacks, is similarly handicapped. How can one expect the Navy to deliver with outdated submarines — 10 of which should have been decommissioned by now — and three-decade-old helicopters and planes? Defence Minister AK Antony is aware of the looming crisis. Sadly, he has done precious little to correct the situation. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PRAYERS, JUSTICE AND PEACE

RAJESH SINGH


The message of the Ayodhya verdict is clear: It is meant to unite and not divide communities. The out-of-the-box judgement has upheld faith in the light of fact and cold logic while muting the dispute's religious overtones 

Wouldn't it be splendid if the warring parties in the Ayodhya dispute accepted the Allahabad High Court judgement and moved ahead — may be with some mutual agreements additionally in place? That, perhaps, may have been the idea the three judges had in mind when they parceled out the disputed land in equal proportion to the three litigants in the title claim. Unfortunately, the verdict is being shred to pieces using conventional tools of analysis, and those doing so are failing to appreciate the fact that the Justices Sudhir Agarwal, Dharam Veer Sharma and SU Khan have demonstrated a courage rarely seen in Indian judiciary while tackling cases with strong religious overtones. In such matters, the reactions of the people and their political representatives are an accurate indication of the extent to which the verdict has been accepted. On that count alone, the three judges have received a general endorsement because the ruling is seen as one that seeks to unite rather than divide the communities over the dispute. 


There are at least three good reasons why the verdict deserves praise. One, that it has come at all, thus shortening if not ending the legal journey of the case; two, it is an out-of-the-box ruling that is as much a practical solution as a legal order; and three, it underlines the importance of faith and belief as a legal factor in deciding issues. Many critics of the judgement drawn from civil society have pounced upon this last factor to press home the point that the ruling is fit to be trashed. How can the judiciary, they say seething with anger, allow itself to be led by matters of faith? The judges, they pronounce with righteous indignation, should have limited themselves to tangible matters of law. Hearing them, one would be led to believe that the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court did not take into consideration any scientific evidence, but merely relied on faith as the deciding factor. 


In any case, these are objections of afterthought. The opponents appear to have forgotten that all the parties to the dispute have religious connotation. The Sri Ram Virajman, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs are all driven by religious agendas, and what they placed before the judges of the Allahabad High Court was as much a matter of faith as of legality regarding possession of land. Again, the critics have missed the point that one of the parties to the case — the Sri Ram Virajman — is a deity, and that a deity in our country has a legal status? 


The deity is a matter of faith and belief; some consider it in a form or shape while others relate to it as a formless entity. So, what is the big deal if the court has considered faith as one of the factors in its path-breaking judgement and given a symbol of faith a legal recognition? Remember, that a prominent Muslim leader commented on a television channel that steps to address the issue arising out of the ruling would be taken keeping in mind the sharia'h framework — again one that is driven by a particular religion. One cannot escape the role of faith in such disputes, and any approach that ignores the reality would fail to truly address the issue.

The country's apex court best understood this reality when it accorded a legal status — albeit that of a Minor — to a religious deity. We can to a great extent thank the West for that. According to Common Law, which forms the basis for several Western legal systems and which we have in many ways followed since British rule, there are two persons: Natural and Legal. Natural persons are human beings, while Legal (juristic) persons are any beings or things or objects that are treated as persons by law. For legal purposes, they are given treatment similar to that accorded to human beings. Thus, for instance, the deity Ram is a 'juristic person' in the eyes of the law, and that is how got represented in the Allahabad High Court as Sri Ram Virajman. 


The question of whether a Hindu Deity can be a juristic person or not was decided by a Privy Council in the case Vidya Varuthi Thirthia Swamigal Vs Baluswami Ayyar, AIR 1922. It was ruled then, that "Under the Hindu law, the image of a deity of the Hindu pantheon is, as has been aptly called, a 'juristic entity', vested with the capacity of receiving gifts and holding property".


A similar conclusion was reached by Lord Moulton in the Privy Council decision in Ambalavana Pandara Sannidhi Vs Meenakshi Sundareswaral Devastanam case, where the judge pointed out that the general trustee was only a representative of the idol who is a juridical personage, and the true owner.


It must be kept in mind that Common Law concept is based on a series of judgements that courts or tribunals deliver, rather than on statutes laid down by legislations. It comes in handy in cases like the present one where the issues to be addressed go beyond conventional legal doctrine. 


Yet again, in another similar judgement much later in 1981, the Supreme Court in Radha Kanta Deb Vs Commissioner Of Hindu Religious Endowments case ruled that a Hindu idol was recognised as a 'juristic person'. The verdict came after the apex court heard to decide an appeal whether the appellant-temple was a public endowment or a family deity that the appellant claimed it to be.


Significantly, whether the title of a 'juristic person' can be accorded to a religious monument like it is given to a deity, on matters of faith, was elaborated by a court while rejecting in 1935 the claim of a mosque to be recognised as a juristic person. The dispute, located in Lahore, was between the Sikhs and the Muslims and involved control over land where a mosque and a gurduwara stood side by side. When the case of the Muslims fell on the issue of adverse possession, the Sikhs reportedly demolished the mosque. The aggrieved party then approached the court in the name of the mosque, which it claimed was a juristic person. But the Privy Council rejected the claim saying there was no analogy between a mosque and a Hindu deity. 


This of course is not surprising, since nothing in Islamic tenets can be identified to a form or person. Interestingly, the Allahabad High Court has ruled that not just the deity but also the Ram Janmasthan is a 'juristic person'. If this appears contrary to the Privy Council verdict, it is because Hinduism recognises idol worship while the mosque cannot be similarly 'personified'.

 

Finally, if the critics look beyond their so-called secular vision, they will find that the Allahabad High Court ruling is a pragmatic one and easily implementable, unlike the many high-sounding but entirely unworkable solutions that they have been offering as their contribution to communal harmony in the country. It is driven by a concern to be fair to all: Although the court dismissed the title suits of both the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara because they were time-barred, it gave one-third of the disputed land each to them — neither less nor more than what Sri Ram Virajman got. In other words, all the three parties have become joint holders of the disputed land, and can work out the minor details of appropriation among themselves. Sadly, that does not seem to be happening. What is likely to happen is the matter reaching the Supreme Court — with more parties getting enrolled in the legal dispute to make it even more complicated. 


Remember that things could have been bad had the court shut out the Waqf Board completely after dismissing its title claim, or if it had handed over to the Board the land where the makeshift temple now exists. Sometimes, midway solutions are best — and they should be given a chance to succeed.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FAITH IS TIMELESS

PRIYADARSI DUTTA


It's stupid to criticise the Ayodhya verdict, as eminent historians and Left-wing intellectuals have been doing, simply because it takes into account the Hindu belief Sri Ram was born at that very place 


The Leftists and proxy-Islamists are in a state of mourning ever since the Ayodhya verdict has been posted. Their consternation is unlikely to end with Navaratras lifting the mood of the country. The joyous season of Dussehra and Durga Puja can hardly bring any cheer to that deracinated lot. They are not really sore over the alleged legitimisation of Babri destruction in the title suit verdict. They are scandalised by the demolition of their phony historical constructs, like Turko-Mughal invaders were avatars of peace who did not raze temples, or persecute practitioners of Hinduism. And that explains the hair-splitting over the highly monitored findings of the Archaeological Survey of India, which all the judges have found convincing. It has been accepted that there are remains of old temples beneath the ground atop which the structure stood. It has not been challenged by the Sunni Waqf Board either. The 'secular' brigade, however, is at work, inciting Muslims to rebel. 

Archaeology is merely a part of the body of evidences which clinched the case in favour of the temple. The CPI(M) general secretary, Mr Prakash Karat, seems to have a moral problem with 'faith and belief' being given primacy over evidence in the judgement. This, he fears, will set a dangerous precedent. Mr Karat seems to forget that the ultimate victory of Communism was also a matter of faith, without hard evidence, which proved to be misplaced. The Communist parties had to invest a high quantum of planning, money, manpower and cruelty to achieve Socialism that Karl Marx felt was inevitable and would come naturally. The so-called October Revolution of 1917 was a military coup by Red Guards in Petrograd. Why doctrinal Communism failed was because Communists themselves doubted their faith. 


But the sanctity of Sri Ram and Ayodhya were never doubted, even by the Sunni Waqf Board or Babri Masjid Action Committee. They never contradicted the conventional belief that Sri Ram was born in Ayodhya, or this Ayodhya is the same city of his nativity. Even Allama Iqbal conceded, "Hai Ram ke wajood par Hindostan ko naaz/Ahle-nazar samajthe hai usko Imam-e-Hind" (India is proud of Ram, the people see him as their ideal). 

Eminent historian Romila Thapar is evidently disappointed by the verdict on expected lines. No archaeologist herself, she censures the 'revisionist' findings of the ASI. But whether she, or her fellow travellers of Sahmat, who have issued a joint statement against the verdict, will approach the Supreme Court as interveners is not known. The eminent historian should know that antiquity is not an academic concept in India. Hindus have enshrined Sri Ram over millennia, whereas more historical personalities like Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka and Samudragupta were forgotten in India until British Indologists and archaeologists resurrected them in the 19th century. Antiquity has a spiritual dimension in India. 


The 2001 Maha Kumbh in Allahabad attracted an estimated 70 million pilgrims. Can historians ascertain when did Kumbh Mela originate? Historically, it seemed to have been always there. The legend about its beginning is cosmological in nature that spans the world of gods and demons. It is also deeply allegorical, referring to the presence of divine nectar within the human heart. Can any historian tell us when the 51 shakti peeths of the Indian sub-continent were instituted? When were the 12 jyotirlingas of Shiva or 108 divyadesham of Vishnu consecrated? The Hindu view of time is cosmic, which the scales of history would fail to measure. 

It might be interesting to know whether those now decrying the Ayodhya verdict as triumph of faith over reason would also oppose the Muslim claim over the twin mosques, Al Aqsa and Dome of Rock, on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Mohammed, it is believed, was transported at night from the mosque in Mecca to Al Aqsa in Jerusalem, from where he ascended the heavens and came back. 


But it is disputed whether in reality Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem. Even the Quran, which mentions Mecca hundreds of time and Medina numerous times, never refers to Jerusalem. In contrast, Jerusalem finds mention 669 times in the Old Testament and 154 times in the New Testament, because the Bible was the product of that land and the Quran was not. However, Muslims, in defence of their claim to Al Aqsa, cite a passage in the Quran, the 17th sura, entitled, 'The Night Journey'. It relates that in a dream or a vision, Mohammed was carried "from the sacred temple to the temple that is most remote, whose precinct we have blessed, that we might show him our signs". 


It was only in 638 AD, when Arabs under Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem, that the site of the Temple of Solomon was identified as the place from where Mohammed had ascended the heavens. Caliph Omar, accompanied by Patriarch Sophronius, the surrendering magistrate of Jerusalem, went to see the Church of Holy Sepulchre. While they were inside the Church, the hour of namaaz approached, and Caliph Omar asked where could he spread his prayer rug. Sophronius said he could stay where he was, and pray inside the church. But Omar went outside to the porch of the Martyrium to pray, apprehensive that his zealous followers might come and claim for Islam the entire place because Omar had prayed there. And that indeed happened: Muslims took over the porch where Omar had prayed, whereas the Church remained as it was the holiest sanctuary of Christendom. 

Near home, Sinhalese, based on the authority of Mahavamsa, claim that Buddha visited Sri Lanka thrice. His tooth is said to be preserved in Kandy. But history shows that Buddha never went outside the north Indian plains. The Hindu claim on Ayodhya is certainly far more sound than these claims based on faith.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LOOKING AHEAD INTO THE FUTURE

SASWAT PANIGRAHI


If the Ayodhya Verdict did a delicate balancing act, India's mature response to the judgement was a fitting riposte to 'mischief mongers' and underscored the essence of nationalism. The verdict has given an opportunity to build mutual trust


After six decades of prolonged legal battle on Ayodhya, the verdict of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court stands out significantly because it did a delicate balancing act. In what could be the best possible legal option in present times, when the nation is sprinting away to become the next economic superpower, majority verdict of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court directed the 2.77 acres of disputed site in Ayodhya be shared equally among three parties: The Hindus, the Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara (a Hindu group). In essence, the verdict celebrates India's unity. And the reaction to the verdict, a fitting riposte to mischief mongers, reflects a new India that knows to act with restraint to an issue with religious overtones.

Upholding both faith and facts, the three-judge bench — comprising Justice DV Sharma, Justice SU Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal — concurred that the inner courtyard where the idol of Ramlalla is located belongs to the Hindus. With that Hindu right gets a visible recognition in independent India. This is a fitting reply to the pseudo-secular brigade who deliberately questions Lord Ram and his birthplace with their illogical rationale.

Historically, the razing of the Ram temple — built in the honour of Lord Ram on Ramkot hill, which happens to be the Janmasthan (birthplace) of the revered deity — dates back to 1528. Mir Baqi, a general in the army of invader Babar demolished the temple on his order and erected a mosque on its ruins. The mosque came to be known as Babri Masjid. The mosque was originally called masjid-e-janmasthan, thus, establishing the fact that it was a masjid built over the birth place of Lord Ram. The majority judgement of the Allahabad High Court vindicates the very historical fact that Babri masjid was an illegal construction.


Justice Sharma said, "The disputed building was constructed by Babar, the year is not certain but it was built against the tenets of Islam. Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque." He went on to add "The disputed structure was constructed on the site of old structure after demolition of the same. The Archaeological Survey of India has proved that the structure was a massive Hindu religious structure."


Justice Agarwal said, "Disputed structure was always considered to be a mosque. It has not been proved that it was built during the reign of Babar in 1528. The building in dispute was constructed after demolition of a Hindu temple."

"The disputed structure was constructed as mosque by or under orders of Babar," said Justice Khan, adding "Mosque was constructed over the ruins of temples…and some material thereof was used in construction of the mosque."

What led the judges to arrive at their conclusions was a wide range of archaeological, scriptural, literary, revenue and judicial records to corroborate the historical event.


The ASI report said, the Archaeological Survey of India excavations found clinching proof of a 10th century temple — a massive monumental structure having a minimum dimension of 50x30 metres in north-south and east-west directions — beneath the disputed site. It was over the top of this structure, the 'disputed structure' was constructed, directly resting over it during the early 16th century.

Numerous observations in different periods of history indicate a similar account that a temple existed on the spot, which had been destroyed to erect the mosque. However, there is a covert attempt by secular fundamentalists to create confusion on Lord Ram's origins, birthplace and the Janmasthan temple. They show scant respect for those clinching historical and archeological evidence. The shamed pseudo-secularists now dub the Ayodhya verdict as a "blow to India's secular fabric".


From the verdict, it is also clear that a functional mosque (though an illegal construction) stood in the 'disputed site'. The Hindus and the Muslims offered puja and namaaz, respectively together inside the premises until towards the end of the British rule. The British colonial administration also erected a fence to separate the places of worship, allowing the inner court to be used by the Muslims and the outer court by the Hindus. While there was no namaaz offered since 1936, offering of puja continued unabated since idols of Lord Ram 'surfaced' in the inner sanctum in December 1949. The Government of India proclaimed the premise as "disputed" and locked its gates, following the filing of the civil suit. 


The decision of the High Court to give Muslims one third of the disputed site, which includes a chunk of the outer courtyard area, could be seen as underscoring the Muslim faith. 


The verdict has opened an unprecedented opportunity for both Hindus and Muslims to build mutual trust. The two communities can rise above all past bitterness to build a temple and a mosque side by side to display the co-existence of diverse faith in our pluralist society. As Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat has aptly said that the verdict is "in the spirit of our inclusive national culture inspired by a sacred vision". In true spirit of the land, Shia Hussaini Tigers, a Shia youth organisation, has announced to donate Rs 15 lakh for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The move outlines a sense of brotherhood and the essence of nationalism. 


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

POWER AT ALL COSTS

 

It'll take a day or two more to know whether the Yeddyurappa government will stay. The battle for power in Bangalore is being waged at various levels and may end when the government takes the floor test ahead of the October 12 deadline. Whatever be the outcome of the vote of confidence, developments don't augur well for the BJP's first southern outpost. 


The credibility of the government is at stake as rumours fly around about the ways and means employed to defuse the crisis. Rebels stationed themselves outside the state as BJP and opposition leaders negotiated for their support. Of course the opposition too must share the blame for the current impasse - especially the Janata Dal (Secular). This has led to an erosion of credibility for the political class in general. 


The germ of the present crisis lies in the fractured verdict of the 2008 assembly election. The BJP, riding the sympathy generated by the refusal of its then ally, the JD(S), to respect a power-sharing agreement, won 110 seats in a 224-member assembly. 


The party, eager to form its first government in south India, lured a handful of independents and, later, a few MLAs elected on Congress and JD(S) tickets to make up the numbers. The demands of the newcomers were met, which altered the inner dynamics of the party. Thus, instability was built into the government at its formation itself. Multiple scandals, including some involving the chief minister's family, have marred its image since. The emergence of power centres like the Reddy brothers, and the resultant factionalism, also weakened the government. The losers in this battle are the people ofKarnataka.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

CHINESE DEMOCRACY

 

Rock band Guns N' Roses might have been mining the concept for irony when they used it as the title of their comeback album a couple of years ago, but Chinese premier Wen Jiabao certainly was not when he brought it up during a recent interview. The reformist tenor of the interview summed up in his statement "The people's wishes for, and needs for, democracy and freedom are irresistible" has caused a flutter among China-watchers. And with the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Chinese democratic activist Liu Xiaobo soon after, the temptation to read the tea leaves with regard to China's political future becomes great indeed. 


Political reform and democratisation in China is not an alien concept. Former CCP chiefs such as Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang have espoused such ideas before. Wen, in fact, is Zhao's former secretary. But when such reformist impulses have surfaced, they have created internecine power struggles in the CCP. With both Hu and Zhao, the reformers lost out. The question, therefore, is how much party backing premier Wen has. President Hu Jintao acknowledged the need for reform as far back as 2005. But there has been little progress on the ground and what he and even the premier might mean by democracy, human rights and the rule of law might be very different from how such concepts are understood in the liberal tradition. 


Village elections are a case in point. Introduced in 1988, they allow a certain measure of grassroots democracy. But Beijing limited it by allowing only handpicked candidates to contest. More importantly, democratic governance in China will not mean much when the CCP itself remains above formal power structures. If democracy is to succeed in China, it will have to be introduced with the same ingenuity Beijing has shown in reforming the economy; a carefully calibrated top-down imposition of democratic norms. 


But for such a shift to happen, there must be incentive for the CCP to bring it about. Perhaps a combination of factors a burgeoning economy, a growing middle class, the need to gain international legitimacy commensurate with its global profile and, yes, pressure exerted by a generation that has unprecedented international exposure through the internet and otherwise will be enough. Or perhaps the parallel rise of Chinese nationalism in that same generation will prove to be a countervailing force, ensuring that 'democracy with Chinese characteristics' remains a smokescreen. Whichever way it goes the outcome will shake the world, and deeply affect India as well.

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

MANNERS MAKE THE MIDDLE CLASS

DIPANKAR GUPTA

 

When facing the mirror, we suck in our stomachs and tell ourselves we are a trim, fit middle class. When we step back, the flab returns for all the world to see, but by then we are looking the other way. 

 

To get on to the scales and weigh in as a world-class middle class, the first exercise to follow is a regimen of good manners. Before a middle classsociety came into existence, there was patronage and privilege. While the lesser orders bowed and scraped as good courtesans, the nobility could be filthily abusive. 


A middle-class society changed all that. From now on, everybody was middle class regardless of their economic condition. The emphasis was not on acquisition or wealth, but on how one related to other people. The first rule, the warm-up, was to internalise the dictum that our social positions are interchangeable. 


Catching up with the West begins with good manners; not cars, stereos or even blue jeans. It is simply a matter of putting the horse before the cart. Manners are all about how we treat others whom we don't know personally, and probably never will. If Europe has a head-start of more than a hundred years over us, it is not because they got to commodities first. The advantage they sprung on the rest of the world was in evolving social manners. While we were still aspiring to be good clients to mercurial patrons, they were learning to treat their social others as equals. 


As early as 1873, Professor Thomas E Hill wrote a runaway best-seller called the Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette. It flew off the racks and even carried the recommendation of Schyler Colfax, then vice-president of the USA. It was not just another book destined for libraries, but was read and re-read avidly by the public. It had a mass appeal because it addressed a genuine social aspiration. 


This work is essentially about manners. It instructs us on how to behave with those who may not be equally fortunate. To begin with, Professor Hill cautions: "Do not always commence a conversation by an allusion to wealth." This is smack-bang contrary to what we naturally tend to do once our circumstances improve. The good professor also advised: "Do not call upon a person in reduced circumstances with a display of wealth, dress and equipage." In India, given our standards, equipage would include your chauffeur-driven Nano; so park it at a distance. 


The course just gets tougher as we go along. "Do not make a parade of being acquainted with distinguished or wealthy people or visiting foreign lands. All this is no evidence of any real genuine worth on your part." But practically every member of our 'middle class' would give an arm and a leg to call a VIP to dinner and boast about it later. Likewise, when we travel abroad we have more fun thinking of our envious neighbours back home than of the visit itself. 


Is it allowed to speak glowingly of one's culture and civilisation to foreigners? Never, advises Professor Hill should one "be over-boastful in praise of one's own country." Yet, we are nearly always doing just that. In the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, the presentation of our traditions and the commentaries that accompanied it were demonstrations of unabashed self-praise. No wonder Tagore abhorred nationalism for its intrinsic bad manners. 


By late Victorian times, good manners had evolved, as Professor Hill's book demonstrates, even though consumerism, fast cars and the Bose sound system hadn't. Manners crystallised in Europe for it was followed by the welfare state that put citizens in the centre. From now on, universal health and education at quality levels was open to all. This policy equalised hierarchies like never before. Tony Blair's grandfather was working class, but his father could send him to a private school in Scotland, and the rest is history. 


This is not an exceptional story. Many leaders and game-changers in contemporary America and Europe have similar biographies. Sweden was neither rich nor corruption-free, but after the introduction of universal health and education, it is a front ranker today, and a very middle-class society. Swedes don't know what snobbery means, but out there good manners will take you places. 


Today, every politician in America and Europe is reaching out to the middle class not the workers, not the capitalists. This is because good manners strengthened welfare policies that made almost everybody middle class, sharing broadly identical lives. Not only are there about 300 million registered cars in USA, but 4.7 million of those below America's poverty line own automobiles and 2,90,000 of these officially poor actually possess three vehicles or more. 


To get anywhere near that we have to work hard. Only 3 per cent of Indian families own cars and internet penetration is but 5 per cent at most. But can we attain western living standards by pure material acquisition and emulation? We have tried that for years and yet 23 per cent of our people have to forego medical treatment because they cannot afford it. Further, about half our school-going children are unable to master a simple paragraph or compute elementary sums. Copycat materialism is clearly not working. 


It's not in the Yellow Pages, but there is a one-stop shop for good manners. It is run by the Welfare State and open only to the middle class. 


The writer is former professor, JNU.

 

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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'WOMEN DELIVER MORE THAN BABIES'

 

At the UN plenary to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals this September, there was major heartburn on the tardy progress on MDG 5: reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health. Jill Sheffield is founder-president of New York-based Women Deliver, which helped formulate this goal. Bachi Karkaria spoke to her in New Delhi where she addressed the Young Champions of Maternal Health Change Summit organised by Ashoka, a US-based NGO and the Maternal Health Task Force: 


What are some of the promising technologies for maternal and newborn health? 

The Maternal Health Task Force has fostered some really cool innovations. In Zanzibar, mobile phones help ensure institutionalised deliveries. Rural community centres are equipped with a simple phone, with just one button to push as soon as a woman goes into labour. It's connected to the nearest hospital, which rushes an ambulance. 

Voxiva, a US dotcom company and the US-based Centres for Disease Control have created 'text 4 baby', a service which keeps up a flow of health messages for pregnant women and, later, for their newborns, including immunisation reminders. The maternal health task force now has an MDG 5 'map' of 60 countries, comprising public access services for women's health and a who's-doing-what-list of providers. Unfortunately, MDG 5 has had the least investment and progress, but if it doesn't make it, we're going to fall really short on all the other seven MDGs. They are synergistic. 


What are the three compelling needs for MDG 5? 

One, the political will, globally, to return family planning policies to an important position. It's still an inexpensive, quick, win-win solution. It should provide a smorgasbord of services for delaying, spacing and the opportunity for sterilisation. Two, provide skilled healthcare to attend births. Only 37 per cent of pregnant women in India see any health worker at all. 


And we know that the five major killers are the same, whether in India, Mexico or the US: post-partum haemorrhage, infection, hypertension, obstructed labour, unsafe abortions. A healthcare worker will provide good care quickly. Of all pregnancies, 40 per cent will have a complication, and 15 per cent will have a life-threatening complication. Three, make abortion safe. Incidentally, as many women have abortions in countries where it's legal as where it's not. Other follow-up investments are: give young people information and access, strengthen the overall health system and, fundamentally, accept that women's rights are human rights. 

Is there one silver bullet to safeguard maternal health

Yes, it is long term, but it's most effective: educate girls. A World Bank study showed that after seven years of schooling, there's a straight incline on graphs vis-a-vis improvement in family planning, income and health. More than knowing about history of geography, it's the empowering effect of education. 

Has the loss from maternal death also been quantified? 

It has been computed that the world loses $15 billion every year due to death and disability from being pregnant. When a mother dies, the newborn is unlikely to survive the next 12 months, and siblings under five are severely compromised. Women deliver more than babies. They are of economic and social importance to family, community, nation. 

 

Tell us about Ashoka and the Young Champions of Maternal Health. 

This programme was set up this January to identify the most entrepreneurial new ideas from 18 to 35-year-olds in improving maternal health. Young Champions harnesses youthful energy for advocacy and research. Ashoka, founded by Bill Drayton, comprises men and women from 60 countries with system-changing solutions for the world's most urgent social problems.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

MARKED FOR LIFE

HARISH BHAT

 

We felt embarrassed recently when we heard that the walls in some of the residential towers of the Commonwealth Games Village in Delhi bore stains of paan. But we must remember that we lead a stained life in many ways. Decades ago, my white school uniform shirts often bore unseemly stains of blue ink from my Camlin fountain pen. One particular shirt also sported the stubborn stains from an overripe mango i had eaten while walking back home after exams. 


As i grew older, the stains did not go away, though their nature changed progressively. During my college days, there were stains of nicotine on my lips, then secret lipstick stains, then messy stains of chicken butter masala. In the most recent case, my khaki trousers boast stains of wine. This last instance was the unfortunate result of my packing a bottle of red Merlot wine into my suitcase, when i returned home last week from a visit to Mumbai. I had prudently rolled this bottle into my soft trousers, in an attempt to ensure safety during the journey. But some of the wine leaked out, and my trousers now display the undeniable result. 


Not all stains are bad or ugly, though. Stained glass windows, i am told, are highly prized in cathedrals and other magnificent European monuments. I must mention that our own glass windows at home are often stained by pigeon droppings, though i am not sure how valuable this makes them. Natural stains on wood are highly valued on pieces of teak and other furniture. 


Stains and spots are also celebrated in literature and art. In the short story, 'The Second Stain', the celebrated detective Sherlock Holmes takes the assistance of a stain on a carpet to solve a particularly challenging case. Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, famously sleepwalks asking for the "damned spots" of the murdered king's blood to be cleaned away from her hands. And many pieces of ultra-expensive modern art appear to be no more than a series of random stains on canvas. 


Stains have also created an entire industry which produces hard-working detergents, stain removers, scrubbers and similar conveniences. Dry cleaners advertise their skills in teasing out stains of various types. My dentist recently scraped away stains from my teeth, and charged me the earth for this privilege. 


Special coatings have also been developed which claim to protect your silk neckties and shirts from all types of stains, though i have discovered that these are pretty useless against the assault of powerful Indian curries and dals. Find me a stain remover which is effective against turmeric and chilli spots, and i will find you the alchemists' stone which transforms lead to gold. 


Of course, the most disconcerting are stains on our character, which all of us do our best to avoid. I heard recently in a spiritually oriented lecture that one can even get stains on one's soul. This really bothers me, because i would not know where to reach them and how to clean them away. 

 

On the other hand, some stains carry the sweet whiff of nostalgia. My dog-eared copy of R K Narayan's novel Swami and Friends still bears old reddish stains on pages 86 and 87. These are the direct result of some delicious Tirunelveli halwa i was eating while reading this excellent and engrossing story at my home in Madurai many years ago. It so happened that the doorbell rang one day, and i left an uneaten piece of the sticky red halwa between the pages as i got up hastily to open the door. It was the postman, and he had brought me my much-awaited letter of admission into engineering college. Now, here is a stain that takes the top spot in my life.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

READ BETWEEN THE LINES

 

The good news is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now thinks the Indian economy will grow by 9.7 per cent in 2010. The bad news is that this blistering pace is not likely to be repeated next year. The IMF's latest world economic outlook raises India's growth prospects by nearly a third of a percentage point from its July forecast. But it retains the prediction for 2011 at 8.4 per cent.

 

It talks about how India's "low reliance on exports, accommodative policies, and strong capital inflows have supported growth". None of these conditions will, however, endure. First, the trade balance — India shrugged off the financial crisis because its imports slowed down faster than its exports — will return to negative next year as capacity-building stokes demand for imported plant and machinery. Strong domestic demand may have seen us through when global trade shrank, but once it revives, India will be back among the also-rans in the exports race.

 

Second, the policy environment cannot stay as benign as it is without affecting India's macro-economic health. Both fiscal risks as well as inflationary pressures have built up after two years of demand stimulation. The IMF feels the government needs to tighten its belt when Indians are furiously buying everything from cellphones to cars. The world at large is yet to recover from the financial meltdown and unless India becomes fiscally prudent, it may run out of moves if markets are spooked by further bad news. India's monetary stance is neutral after a series of rate hikes. This, the IMF says, should be accompanied by a rising rupee to help offset inflation, discourage speculative inflows, and support the rebalancing of how the East and West buy and save.

 

Finally, India's response to the surge in capital inflows — alongside the rest of emerging Asia where such flows have quadrupled from two years ago — has been to accumulate foreign exchange rather than allow the rupee to appreciate, and to keep a sharper lookout for price bubbles. The IMF finds this approach inadequate. "The best response to capital inflows may be a coordinated one, especially when they are driven by global factors or have global implications." Any single country that tries to manage the flow by either allowing its currency to rise or by building taller walls will merely divert the money to other destinations. It would be best if all of Asia were to put their heads together on what needs to be done about the dollar tide it is awash in.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

TICKET DISTRIBUTION

 

The now famous Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi has perfected the art of staying in the news. While we were scared stiff about the quality of the stadia, swimming pools and tracks, Mr Kalmadi has sprung another surprise on us: there's a shortage of tickets. Last week, this paper found kabadiwallahs walking away with sacks of tickets even of matches that were sure to get a near-full house. Another report talked of tickets being sold at a premium by CWG volunteers. The OC says that it has sold 900,000 tickets. But there are hardly any spectators in the 'world class' stadia.

 

When cornered, Mr Kalmadi's Man Friday Lalit Bhanot said that the OC printed fewer number of tickets fearing poor attendance because of the bad publicity preceding the Games. However, the ticket sale numbers touted by the committee also don't match up. While such risk management skills are appreciated, they should have been better used for a smoother run-up to the Games. Instead, when everyone is keen to tango, the OC has decided to stop the music.

 

Delhi is not a sports-loving city and this was a good chance to get people interested in sports. But now, thanks to the harebrained ideas of an extremely cautious OC, even that chance is being let go of. The funny part is that even the CWG sponsors, the public sector companies, have got a raw deal: there aren't enough passes for them.

 

What's the reason behind such zealous guarding of tickets by Kalmadi and Co.? Why does he want to keep us away from the Games? Call us if you know the answer.

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

SHANGHAI SURPRISE

RAGHAV BAHL

 

When a country of China's size 'develops' — nay, doubles its economy every eight years — it scorches the earth for resources. With a fifth of the world's population, China now consumes half its cement, a third of its steel, and over a quarter of its aluminum, creating a tectonic shift in raw material markets. China's outbound FDI was over $50 billion in 2008, doubling from the previous year. Its creeping economic hegemony over Sudan, Zimbabwe and other African territories is awesome.

 

China-Africa trade scaled over $73 billion in 2007; Africa has become China's second-largest contractual project market and third-largest investment destination. China controls two of the largest oil companies in Sudan, and consumes two-thirds of its oil exports. It helped build Merowe Dam on the Nile, Sudan's most prestigious project. It gifted Guinea-Bissau a marble parliament building. It buys platinum and iron ore from Zimbabwe. It colonises vast tracts of agricultural land in outright commercial deals.

 

Joshua Ramo, a former Time magazine foreign affairs editor and Goldman Sachs China advisor, has coined the term 'Beijing consensus' to define how China has overtaken the 'Washington consensus' in investments, aid and trade to Africa: "It does not impose onerous conditions on African States' policies, and is more active than the West in promoting industrialism in the global South."

 

But the thrust inside Africa has been so deep, uncompromising and wide that local people are pushing back. Take China Metallurgical's $1.4 billion investment into nickel mines in Papua New Guinea. An assistant labour secretary told Time, "What I don't understand is why they (the Chinese) are so stubborn to not respect our local culture. We are a democracy. They have to play by our rules or we will rise up." The locals panic about losing their land, and are miffed at rumours that China will use their nickel for a secret weapons programme. On the other hand, expatriate Chinese engineers call the natives 'completely uncivilised and running around almost naked'.

 

China compounds this attitude by shipping armies of labourers to overseas construction sites, often on illegal visas; an estimated 740,000 Chinese labourers were working on projects from Angola to Indonesia in 2008, up 58 per cent from the previous year. These aliens bring along everything with them, 'from packs of dehydrated noodles to the tell-tale pink-hued Chinese toilet paper'. Such an isolated 'bubble world' has been compared to American military bases in the Middle East. Within a few years, petty Chinese traders follow, setting up shop and threatening native entrepreneurs. Unsurprisingly, anti-Chinese riots have become common, 'from the Solomon Islands and Zambia to Tongo and Lesotho'.

 

Inevitably, there is also a darker side to this 'Beijing consensus', as Chinese arms and reconnaissance devices have found their way into the hands of the ruling juntas. In Namibia, a Chinese State-owned manufacturer of security scanners has been charged with bribing local officials to win a $55 million contract (until 2008, President Hu Jintao's son was the head of this company, although he has not been implicated in this case). China has also gained some collateral diplomatic advantage by spreading its tentacles in Africa. Historically, African countries have supported Taiwan. Over the last decade, six of them, including South Africa, have switched allegiance. A grateful China has cancelled 150 items of maturing government debt owed to it by 32 African countries. Such a friendly credit policy also fits in with China's designs on another, much less publicised, facet of Africa.

 

The conventional wisdom all along has been that China is commercially colonising Africa for oil and minerals. But that's an obvious conclusion. Hardly anybody has caught on that China could be eyeing Africa's consumer markets. After all, if you look at all of Africa as one country, its economy is uncannily similar to India. Africa is growing at 6-7 per cent every year; its demographic profile and per capita income is equal to India. There are 150 million elite consumers, and another 500 million aspiring ones — again, a lot like India. And China is doing 'another America' to Africa: it is giving cheap loans and tax credits to woo Africa to buy its cars, bicycles, computers, chocolates and T-shirts.

 

With one deft stroke, China could be filling its consumption deficit — with an economy of India's size. With one clever move, it could be answering critics who believe that China is doomed unless its citizens begin to consume. Unacknowledged by many, it may be tackling that problem on two tracks, one of which is in faraway Africa! As long as China is full of such surprises, the jury will have to remain out on whether China will falter, or jolt the pundits with its unconventional economics.

 

( Raghav Bahl is founder and editor of Network18, and the author of Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China's Hare and India's Tortoise )

 

* The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

OMAR IS HIS OWN WORST ENEMY

PANKAJ VOHRA

 

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah seems to be weakening his own case for continuation as the head of the government in the strife-ridden border state. By questioning J&K's merger with India and speaking the language of some of the separatists, the CM has demonstrated his ignorance, as also his inexperience in both governance and realpolitik. He also seems unaware that several issues are being brought up that were addressed in an agreement signed between Indira Gandhi and his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah, whose legacy he claims to have inherited.

 

It is true that Omar is on a sticky wicket and may have said what he did on the floor of the assembly to deflect criticism against himself for his all-round failure and inability to rule the state despite a mandate obtained in the 'fairest' elections conducted by the Election Commission of India. He seems to have started believing that Rahul Gandhi's support to him some weeks ago was enough and the Centre was duty-bound to back him even if he is unable to deliver. Rahul, in his apparent endorsement of young Omar, had recommended that he should be given more time. But, obviously, he too must never have imagined that his friend had erred in a major way while talking about the accession of the state to the Union of India.

 

Omar perhaps is not aware that the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, adopted in 1956, also makes it abundantly clear that the state is an integral part of India. His father, Farooq Abdullah, had also recently stated the same in Delhi. Between the father and son — both members of the same party — there is certainly an element of double-speak. While Farooq is talking in one language in Delhi, Omar, in order to buy peace with the separatists, has started speaking their line.

 

The CM must understand that he cannot be selective in his dealings with the Centre. If there are some reservations that he has about some people in the Union government, they can easily be addressed. If he feels that Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai exceeded his brief on the issue of lifting of the curfew, he should have taken it up with the prime minister and the home minister. He should know by now that Pillai does speak out of turn quite often and thus there is no need to make an issue out of it.

 

If Omar's statement was in response to extreme positions taken by his main rival, the PDP, he must understand that the PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter are in the opposition. They will obviously state certain things, which could appear to be orchestrated for the gallery. But he, as a responsible person (and chief minister), should show more restraint and maturity in dealing with matters.

 

He must know that his state is heavily dependent on the Centre for several of its requirements. Without Indian support many problems could get multiplied. There is certainly no attempt by anybody to undermine the special status J&K enjoys but there has to be an all-round realisation that India is a well-wisher and not an enemy of the people of J&K. Anybody can compare the living conditions in Pakistan-occupied territory and make up his or her mind as to which is better. The state is an integral part of India and some people living in 100 square miles of land in the Valley cannot determine its political agenda.

 

Omar Abdullah has been accused of running the state as 'an outsider'. There was a lot of hope vested in him when he took over, but it seems to have vanished with his inadequate performance. He is considered as a part of the problem. The Centre seems to be in the process of exercising an option of changing the governor of the state, but the people's disillusionment with the chief minister seems to be greater. While the hopes of many Generation-Next leaders are dependent on the success of the young CM, it is time the parties in the state look for a mature and better-informed alternative. Between us.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NAME GAMES

 

Last week, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar circulated a note to all government ministries asking them to refrain from indiscriminately naming different schemes after past national leaders, particularly Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. This will hopefully act as a welcome check on eager Congress ministers rushing to name their pet schemes after one of the past leaders of the Congress from the Nehru-Gandhi family, in a bid to please their present leaders, who also come from the same family. Ministers all too often see real political dividend in naming a populist scheme after the Nehru-Gandhis, thereby giving it a definitive signature which cannot be the appropriated by the government of another party, either at the Centre or in states. Whatever the motive, the fact is that there are already plenty of government schemes, at the Centre and in the states — some estimates suggest over 150 —that are named after the troika of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

 

Can the cabinet secretary's note signal a serious change in direction? For one, it must have been authorised at the highest level of the government — the cabinet secretary reports to the prime minister. So, the circular could have political weight behind it.

 

More interesting is the reasoning behind the "directive." The government, it seems, would not like the names of iconic leaders from the past to be used to describe schemes whose "implementation and impact are not always as they ought to be." Everyone is well aware that barring an exceptional few, most government schemes leave a lot to be desired. It can only be counter-productive to have a flop scheme named after a heavyweight leader. It is, therefore, in eminent political self-interest to be more careful while naming a scheme. It remains to be seen if all the Congress ministers view it the same way.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

 

A LOT LIKE DEEPIKA

 

In a modern multi-sports event, archery appears especially redolent of another, more ancient era. But it is among the competitions to have been changed most substantially by modern materials and also by extensive rewrites of the international federation's rulebook. Nonetheless, this estimate in The Complete Book of the Olympics provides a durable measure of the precision, focus and nerve required to bid for the bulls-eye: "This is the equivalent of shooting across three tennis courts laid end to end and hitting a grapefruit." As much as any other sportspersons, archers are not like the rest of us, they inhabit a motivation zone the rest of us can only speculate about.

 

That affirmation of difference has come to Deepika Kumari this month. On Sunday, she followed up her participation in the gold-winning women's recurve category with an individual gold. She did so in a competitive fray that included not just her icons in the national team, but also the Olympic bronze medalist. Deepika's open smile is already iconic. (To know how self-absorbed is an archer's quest, read sports historian David Wallechinsky on a champion who hushed her nerves with long walks in the night in a cemetery). In fact, her story has strands of a narrative we will gather if we sit with the heroes of this Commonwealth Games. The theme of parental focus and sacrifice would be dominant: her father, an auto-rickshaw driver in Ranchi, stayed true to her promise by funding her practice as much as he could, and knocking on the doors of the powerful to get her institutional support. It's not just that Deepika has redeemed her family's faith; her family has helped redeem a country acutely conscious of its dismal record in sports.

 

If these are stories that have brought cheer to the country this month, we need to heed them meaningfully. Even as we cheer Deepika and the enhanced promise of archery in this country, let's also wonder at the absence of talent scouts and an institutional outreach to promising children.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PRIME TIME MEA

 

In free societies, some will use their freedom of speech to spew vicious, hate-filled rants. Such people need to be condemned, and in free societies most will. But there are limits to what an expected reaction should be. In recent days, the Indian government's response to two separate incidents from the Southern hemisphere — one, to the bigoted mockery of a New Zealand television host, and the second, to news that a shockingly offensive email was circulating among some policemen in Australia — has crossed those limits. On Saturday the ministry of external affairs, under the instructions of Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, summoned the Australian high commissioner to express the government's official concern. This is, frankly, a ridiculous thing for the foreign ministry of a serious nation to be doing. Is South Block so underemployed, so overstaffed, that it can waste its time chasing the headlines? The more it tries to get itself on to prime time, the more it reveals that it is not ready for prime time.

 

The contents of the email circulating among some members of the Victoria police department were revealed by a Victorian newspaper. The department's chief commissioner described it as "disturbing, offensive and gross." The province's premier attacked it as completely contrary to his state's values. Clumsily intervening in that free society's workings through diplomatic channels is immature. And, before this, the foreign ministry's spluttering outrage at the New Zealand presenter's obnoxious mockery of Sheila Dikshit's name is even more shocking. It immediately surrenders the high moral ground; instead, we wind up with a situation in which this democracy's diplomats have to be reminded by foreigners that, in a free country, media-persons cannot be dismissed on the say-so of an offended government, domestic or foreign. For a moment imagine an anchor on NDTV or Times Now who offends China with some remark. Would we expect our government to take action on Chinese pressure? How would we respond to such a demand from an offended government except to judge as imperfect its understanding of press freedom?

 

A ministry that wastes its time on such matters misses the greater issues. It responds to this — but doesn't properly react to the troubling claims from Australia's PM on Delhi's security. We live in interesting, transformative times: China's rise is being contested; Musharraf, from London, is making one revealing statement after another. But, instead of crafting a mature foreign policy that takes such matters into account, the ministry is letting short-term, populist news set its agenda. A rising power needs, deserves, better.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

DON'T BET ON IT

BIBEK DEBROY 

 

Abhishek Manu Singhvi is no longer a spokesperson for the Congress, at least temporarily, until the party figures out whether there has been an irregularity. The issue concerns his appearance in the Santiago Martin and Megha Distributors case, agents for Sikkim and Bhutan lotteries, and a consequent ordinance passed by the Left Democratic Front. Local body elections are due in Kerala and the state-level Congress thinks the Singhvi action deprives the party of an opportunity to embarrass the LDF and that it embarrasses the Congress instead. Even before the party's action, Singhvi announced that he had voluntarily withdrawn. The Congress has the right to take its own decisions and beyond members of the party, such decisions do not concern other citizens. Singhvi's decision to take or refuse a brief is also a matter of individual choice and preference. However, two aspects have broader policy import.

 

First, is politics an exclusive career option? People have argued the bane of Indian politics is existence of career politicians, who regard politics as a profession and expect to earn a living from it. We must get more professionals into politics, so that it is no longer the exclusive preserve of perceived scoundrels. If that proposition is accepted, there can be potential conflicts of interest. We haven't been able to solve that ethics issue for MPs. Earlier, business lobbied with MPs and ministers. Today, we have businessmen as MPs and ministers. That conflict remains unresolved, especially for the more serious issue of ministers.Singhvi is not a minister. He is a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan. Should that prevent him from accepting a brief, be it for Dow Chemicals or Megha Distributors and/ or the Bhutan government? The legality of whether Megha Distributors has violated the law is yet to be determined. In the interim, should one prejudge because it concerns lotteries?

 

This brings us to the second point, our hypocritical attitude towards gambling and lotteries. Courtesy the Public Gambling Act of 1867, most forms of gambling are banned. Logically, a colonial piece of legislation that dates back so many years must be outdated and deserves a re-look. For a start, it doesn't even define gambling and doesn't apply to gambling in general. It applies to gambling in public and is "an Act to provide for the punishment of public gambling and the keeping of common gaming-houses". Other sections of the statute talk about "cards, dice, tables or other instruments of gaming", and "setting birds and animals to fight in public streets", suggesting these were what colonial legislators were bothered about. So ban them and specifically ban any attempt to make commercial profits out of gambling. However, this will not "apply to any game of mere skill wherever played". But the PGA isn't all there is to it, since entry 34 of the Seventh Schedule places betting and gambling in the state list. This is important because the Supreme Court's oft-quoted 1996 judgment (K.R. Lakshmanan v State of Tamil Nadu) was more about Madras-specific laws than the PGA.

 

One wonders what colonial legislators had in mind when they wanted to exclude games of mere skill. Perhaps they meant horse-racing. That's what the SC judgment was about. It allowed horse-racing and betting on horses. In separate judgments high courts and the SC have ruled rummy is a game of skill. By the same token, if ever tested, bridge will probably be construed a game of skill. Perhaps even poker. But not "teen patti". The mindset becomes clear, and it is no different from the colonial mindset, from a quote from the judgment: "We find it difficult to accept the contention that those activities which encourage a spirit of reckless propensity for making easy gain by lot or chance, which lead to the loss of the hard earned money of the undiscerning and improvident common man and thereby lower his standard of living and drive him into a chronic state of indebtedness and eventually disrupt the peace and happiness of his humble home..."

 

The rich know what's good for them, the poor don't. In that sense, getting birds and animals to fight (animal cruelty is a different matter) can't be condoned. Horse-racing is acceptable. So is on-line gambling, which the PGA doesn't cover, though exchange controls may get in the way. Casinos in Goa and Sikkim, especially if they are on cruise ships in the former, are acceptable. Brouhaha on betting over cricket has got intertwined with issues of match-fixing. Had that not been the case, we would have allowed betting on cricket too. But we won't allow betting when a poor person, the "improvident common man", is involved. In the process, we will invoke Mahabharata and Yudhishthira and gambling with dice. Neither Yudhishthira, nor Nala, two individuals involved with gambling in the epic, were poor. They were kings. And both were later taught skills of the game, which meant those were games of skill, not chance.

 

Other than horse-racing and casinos, we will allow lotteries, courtesy Lotteries Regulation Act (LRA) of 1998. That's because state governments wish to earn revenue through lotteries, even if the poor purchase these tickets. Incidentally, under the LRA, a state can prohibit sales of lottery tickets from other states within its territory, relevant for the Kerala case. Thirteen states now organise lotteries and percentage profits are fairly high for states like Meghalaya, Mizoram and other northeastern states. Bans rarely serve any useful purpose. They only drive the activity underground and colossal figures float around on size of the illegal gambling market and there are links with money-laundering too. Just because some "improvident common man" is imprudent, why ban an activity? That's like saying we should ban trucks because truck-drivers often spread AIDS.

 

Or ban elections because people, also poor people, also bet on them. Kautilya had far better sense. While lamenting the vice of gambling, Arthashastra advocates what we would today call better regulation. A superintendent of gambling is suggested. Why did Kautilya write Arthashastra? To rescue scriptures and science from the intolerance and misrule of the Nanda king, a relevant image.

 

Legalisation of gambling will mean greater revenue for government and better regulation and the latter is good for the poor. We should get newer products and more choice, better for the poor consumer too. If we are that concerned about the poor, let us earmark government revenue from gambling for social sector expenditure. In any event, let us give up this hypocrisy about gambling and lotteries. The LDF wishes to protect the Kerala government's monopoly and no more. If in power, the UDF will do the same.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

BROADENING THE BASKET

YOGINDER K. ALAGH 

 

Indian agriculture is already increasingly demand-driven. This will accelerate in future. More than two decades ago, we argued that agricultural diversification in India was basically driven by higher growth and domestic demand. The major impact of faster income growth was on domestic demand, leading a process of demand diversification in a big way. Agro-based items of consumption are not for elite consumption alone: as people become better-off, they eat more eggs, drink more milk and eat vegetables, fruit and cheese. This happened in the '90s, and by now this diversification of the food basket is well-known. The process is not smooth and the period of the East Asian meltdown, for example, saw a slowdown not only in India but in fast growing East Asia as a whole.

 

The underlying long-term trends, however, concern foodgrains growing faster than grains and non-crop-based agriculture, like animal husbandry, growing even faster. Within crops, demand for tree crops grows faster. These trends have exhibited themselves again in the recovery of the agricultural economy we saw in the period since 2004-05. The underlying trends are driven by the growth of the economy; urbanisation, since demand patterns differ between rural and urban areas; income distribution, since the rich consume differently than the poor; and of course population growth.

 

Given the level and growth of population, tastes and preferences will be a major determinant of demand. Also, per capita income will be determined by income growth. Giventaste patterns, relative prices will determine demand. These factors will vary by the distribution of income, since they will be different for the rich and the poor and in rural and urban areas. Income elasticities are high for cereals for the poor, and low for the non-poor. They are negative for inferior cereals for the non-poor. For commodities like milk and milk products, eggs and meat, edible oil and sugar, estimates of expenditure elasticities were high for poor households, in some cases above 2, but were below 1 for the non-poor. There is a substantial literature on the declining consumption share of grains by poor households in India and its impact on poverty estimates.

 

It is important to note that a reduction of the population below the poverty line also leads to the diversification of the food basket and not just an increase in cereal demand. In fact, the Asian Development Bank has argued that a strategy of diversified agricultural growth reduces poverty and malnutrition faster.

 

How? Reform leads to faster agricultural and rural growth, which is based on widespread and diversified agricultural growth, and also diversified agricultural growth generates rural incomes and employment which reduce malnutrition. This impact can be empirically measured. Income supplementation and public distribution policies, working through pricing and dual markets (both the open market and a rationing system), can be integrated into policies specifically aimed at households below the poverty line. Apart from the theory, these approaches had considerable policy impact. Dual pricing systems are still used in Indian policies. In the political economy literature Ashutosh Varshney used these estimates extensively. He placed these estimates in the larger context of the political economy discourse on policy support to farmers and food consumption of poor agriculturists.

 

The kind of estimates ADB and IFPRI have modelled have their origin in the Indian work on poverty removal, and in fact the first model of this type was worked out by R. Radhakrishna in the early '90s for the ADB, which showed that if these economy-level interactions were ignored, a cheap food policy (in those days Rs 2 per kg rice in Andhra) could actually make the poor worse off.

 

However, recently, food security has been given an immediate focus in policy by the welcome inclusion of abolition of hunger as an objective by the UPA government in its short-run policy agenda. This has led to two kinds of pressures on food demand exercises. The first is to raise the bar on poverty levels by the state governments and some agencies of the government of India, from the Planning Commission's poverty estimates. The other is to follow recent global work which tends to argue that almost the entire Indian population is poor.

 

The discussions of the National Advisory Council have endorsed arguments, which I too have made, for a dual-pricing policy, as well as targeting the nutritionally deprived in the 150 backward districts.

 

This might miss the point. The very poor should be selectively defined and targeted, but the growth process should be built around entitlements. Design of policy should provide incentives for widespread growth and these would include state-determined incentives. There should also be disincentives for those who erode widespread growth processes, by undermining institutions or synergies on a mass scale.

 

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS APPLY

SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN 

 

 If the Sensex is nudging 21,000 and close to its lifetime high which it hit in January 2008, it's because emerging markets (EMs), including India, are the flavour of the season. Fund managers around the globe are re-rating emerging markets mainly because these economies are far less leveraged than most advanced countries. Equally important, these economies are tipped to grow at a much faster pace than the advanced countries over the next decade.

 

At a macroeconomic level therefore, the Indian economy is in fairly good shape with foreign exchange reserves of close to $285 billion, although there are some concerns such as the widening trade deficit of $34.2 billion in the three months to June 2010, at a time when crude oil prices aren't really moving up, resulting in a growing current account deficit. There are also the more immediate concerns of high near double-digit inflation, which is expected to taper off to around 6.5 per cent by March next year and rising interest rates. But with consumption demand fairly strong and the twin engine of capital goods expected to start firing soon, a sustained 8 per cent GDP growth doesn't seem out of reach. That's way above the growth expected in any country except probably China; global growth in 2011 is estimated at 3.5 per cent with the US GDP expected to slow to 2-2.5 per cent. There's little doubt that India, with its large pool of entrepreneurs and a young, earning and aspiring population offers attractive investment opportunities. One only has to look at value creators like an Infosys or a Bharti Airtel to understand the potential.

 

To reflect these underlying changes in fundamentals, portfolio money is being moved out of the developed world into the emerging world. Goldman Sachs forecasts that EM equity capitalisation could rise from $14 trillion to $37 trillion in 2020 and $80 trillion by 2030 bringing the EM share of global equity capitalisation form 31 per cent to 55 per cent in two decades from now. Even before that, BRICs' share of world equity capitalisation is tipped to grow to 30 per cent by 2020 from 18 per cent currently.

 

Within the EM universe, India has the potential to grow relatively faster than its peers and as such, fund managers across the globe are beginning to allocate more money to India. Right now most funds are underweight on India, so the weightage is expected to go up in the future. Today, global funds (or those benchmarked to the MSCI World), put together have 0.65 per cent of their assets in India — an underweight position of 0.38 per cent compared with the benchmark weight of 1.03 per cent. Even a move to a neutral position on India could mean an inflow of nearly $7 billion given that these funds today have a corpus of around $1.7 trillion. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have bought Indian equities worth $20 billion so far this year despite the fact that India is now the most expensive market in the region; India's 12-month trailing PE (price/earnings) premium, versus EMs, had increased to 60 per cent at the end of August and given that since then India has only outperformed its peers, the market would have become even more expensive. Looking at it another way, at 20,400, the Sensex trades at a current PE multiple of 20 times while the Korean Kospi trades at 14 times, the Taiwanese Taiex at 15 times and the Shanghai SE Composite at 17.7 times.

 

Clearly, there are no basement bargains to be struck even at a disaggregated level; in other words stocks are not cheap. The market appears even more expensive if one considers that earnings growth may not live up to expectations; earnings for a clutch of 108 companies (excluding state-owned oil firms) are expected to grow by 13 per cent in the three months to September compared with 27 per cent in the quarter ended June 2010. However, the fact remains that there is an abundance of liquidity worldwide and that in order to avoid a potential deflationary spiral, the US Federal Reserve, will unleash more liquidity, in what is being called Quantitative Easing 2. Most Western economies will continue with an accommodative monetary stance and money managers will not have too much choice when US bonds are fetching 2 per cent. As long as there's liquidity and risk aversion globally is low, money will continue to pour into markets like India; the Sensex may take a bit of break when the focus shifts to the primary market in the next few months, but there'll be action yet.

 

The writer is resident editor, Mumbai, 'The Financial Express' shobhana.subramanian@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A FACEBOOK POLITICIAN IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

 

The Social Network, you're understandably sick of hearing, is a brilliant movie about Harvard upstart Mark Zuckerberg and the messy birth of Facebook, circa 2004. You leave the movie with the sinking feeling that the democratic utopia breathlessly promised by Facebook and its Web brethren is already gone with the wind.

 

Nowhere, perhaps, is the gap between the romance and the reality of the Internet more evident than in our politics. In the idealised narrative of digital democracy, greater connectivity has bequeathed more governmental transparency, more grass-roots participation and even a more efficient rendering of political justice. Thanks to YouTube, which arrived just a year after Facebook, a candidate for the US Senate (George Allen of Virginia) who was caught on camera delivering a racial slur was brought down swiftly in 2006.

 

The more recent miracle of Twitter theoretically encourages real-time interconnection between elected officials and the citizenry. But it has been easily corrupted by politicians whose 140-character effusions are often ghost-written by hired 20-somethings, just like those produced for pop stars like 50 Cent and Britney Spears. At least Obama and Ron Paul have admitted they don't write the Twitter feeds in their names. It took journalists poring through financial disclosure forms to discover that Sarah Palin had paid a Los Angeles blogger $22,000 to script her "Internet messaging." We must take it on faith that her former running mate, John McCain, an admitted computer illiterate who didn't use e-mail just two years ago, is now such a Twitter maven that he dashes off aperçus about Snooki , from MTV's reality show "Jersey Shore", to his followers.

 

Just as The Social Network hit the multiplexes, Malcolm Gladwell took to The New Yorker with a stinging takedown of social networks as vehicles for meaningful political and social action. He calculated that the nearly 1.3 million members of the Facebook page for the Save Darfur Coalition have donated an average of 9 cents each to their cause. He mocked American journalists' glorification of Twitter's supposedly pivotal role during last year's short-lived uprising in Iran. Gladwell concludes social media increase the efficiency of the existing order rather than empowering dissidents. In his view, social networking is far less likely to recreate the civil rights movement of the 1960s than to track down missing cellphones for Wall Streeters.

 

Gladwell's provocative Internet critique is complemented by the much-buzzed-about independent documentary, Catfish . It tells of a 25-year-old Manhattan photographer who strikes up a devoted Facebook friendship with a small-town Michigan family whose 8-year-old daughter is a painting prodigy. When the photographer seeks out his virtual friends in the real Michigan, it's inevitable that he and the audience will learn the hard way, as film critic A.O. Scott put it , that cyberspace is a "wild social ether where nobody knows who anybody is."

 

Even if Gladwell and Catfish are overstating the case, they certainly have one if you look at the political environment in our election year of 2010. The Internet in general and social networking in particular have done little, if anything, to hobble those pursuing power with such traditional means as big lies and big money. Perhaps what's most remarkable this year is the number of candidates who have tried to create fictitious avatars like the Facebook impostors in Catfish . In this wild political ether where nobody knows who anybody is, the Internet provides cover, not transparency.

 

Go online, and you'll discover that many of those now notorious false fronts for oil billionaires and other corporate political contributors have Facebook pages. We don't know who has written cheques to American Crossroads, the operation concocted in part by Karl Rove to raise $50 million to attack Democrats . But the American Crossroads page on Facebook sure looks like a bottom-up populist movement, festooned with photos of thousands of ordinary folk voting their "like" of the site.

 

What you might call our "Catfish" Congressional candidates are a perfect match for the phantom donors. The power of the Google search hardly deters those politicians intent on fictionalising their identities. Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic senatorial candidate in Connecticut, repeatedly implied that he had fought in the Vietnam War, though he'd served only stateside. A Republican in Illinois, inflated his own military history , bragged of a nonexistent teaching career , and exaggerated his derring-do in a teenage boating accident. An Arizona Republican with no children but a history of writing under a nom-de-porn on a racy website, burnished his wholesome image with a campaign photo in which nieces stood in for his nonexistent daughters . In each of these cases it was old-fashioned analog reporters, most of them working for newspapers, who finally penetrated the falsehoods.

 

When Christine O'Donnell ran an ad last week with the improbable opening line "I'm not a witch," we once again had to marvel at the Delaware primary triumph of a mystery candidate with a falsified résumé, no job, and apparently no campaign operation beyond out-of-state donors and out-of-state fans like Palin "writing" Twitter endorsements. O'Donnell's Facebook page is by far the most palpable presence of an aspiring senator who shuns public events and the press in Delaware . In a brave new political world where candidates need only exist in virtual reality, it's no wonder that Donald Trump believes he's qualified for public office because of his relative gravitas as a heavy on a television "reality" show.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

WITHOUT THE BEES, WE STARVE

 

Human beings and honeybees go way back. These days, the relationship is also big business. Agriculture depends heavily on industrial-strength pollination services — itinerant bees and beekeepers for hire, roving from farm to farm, blossom to blossom.So the stakes and the anxiety were enormous when bees worldwide started dying by the millions about four years ago, a phenomenon given the name "colony collapse." Last week, a team of scientists from academia and the United States Army 's chemical and biological research group announced that they had identified a possible culprit: a combination fungus and virus. Kirk Johnson explains the problem.

 

Are colonies still collapsing?

 

Unfortunately, yes. Dead colonies were reported in Florida in January and California in February, and some bee experts fear that the rate of decline could be as severe as in the initial days of the outbreak, in late 2006.

 

How badly has the bee population been damaged?

 

The numbers are rough estimates, but huge by any measure. About 20 percent to 40 per cent of the bee colonies in the United States have been destroyed, which adds up to perhaps 50 billion individual bees. Colonies that survive can bounce back in as little as a month or two, but a dark cloud is hiding there too: researchers and beekeepers fear that surviving bees could be disease carriers, leading to further outbreaks.

 

Has this happened before?

 

Nothing this swift, lethal or widespread exists in the bee literature. Honeybees did also mysteriously disappear in the 1880s, the 1920s and the 1970s, but nobody knows what got them.

 

Are climate or weather important factors?

 

Definitely. But is it global climate change? Not so clear. Hives in cool, wet places (think dark forest floors full of mushrooms — fungus country) have been hit harder than hives in hot, dry places.

 

How are the fungus and virus spread?

 

Bees are social. They share their food and live in closely confined conditions, so transmission of disease is always a potential problem. But some researchers think that the behaviour of the bees themselves during colony collapse plays a role: They disperse from the hive, flying off in every direction to the point of exhaustion and death. Why they do that is unclear, nor is there conclusive evidence that the dispersal leads to contact with other hives or bees that can then become infected.

 

Is eating honey dangerous?

 

No evidence of it. What seems to be killing bees is harmful only to them. And honey has natural antiseptic qualities that render many bee diseases inert in any case.

 

How about "killer bees"?

 

The academic-military team studied European honeybee strains (billions of American bees, like human Mayflower descendants, can brag of immigrant ancestors from the early 1600s). Some researchers think that the killer bees, born of interbreeding between an African bee strain and European bees, have immunity to colony collapse, but no one is sure.

 

Is this a real threat to our food supply?

 

The number of honeybees, and other species that help pollinate plants, has been declining for many years all over the world as factors like urban sprawl and pesticides take a toll on habitat. Even before the colony collapse crisis, the roughly 8 million honeybee colonies in the US a generation ago had shrunk to perhaps 2.6 million or so. At the same time, the growth of the global food bazaar — fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables from countries all over the world, many of them reliant on pollinators as agents of floral sex — has made bees more important than ever.

 

Are there precautions beekeepers can take?

 

Some bee medicines are available to help suppress the fungus. But since both the fungus and the virus thrive in damp conditions and cool temperature, scientists say that placement of hives is crucial — sunny spots, if possible, with lots of air circulation and no fog.

 

What would happen if there were no more bees?

 

There are, of course, other poetntial pollinators, like hummingbirds, butterflies and bats. But honeybees are, in fact, the real workhorses of the pollinating world — much more prolific and easier to manage in large-scale agriculture. And an environmental catastrophe severe enough to kill all the bees would likely take out many of those other pollinators as well, scientists say, which would be a planetary catastrophe for us, too. The relationship with bees that began that long-ago day with our ancestors in the woods is now intertwined with how we feed a crowded planet.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HERE COMES THE BRIBE

SARITHA RAI 

 

A Goan is compelled to pay a Rs 70,000 bribe for permission to rebuild his family home in Margao after he is told, "Can't be done, sir, not until..." For refusing to pay off a municipal employee, a 45-year old man in Ahmedabad is kept waiting a year to get his birth certificate. A New Delhi resident buckles and palms a 100-rupee note to a policeman accusing him of illegally operating his car as a cab while driving a foreigner friend to Agra.

 

IPaidABribe.com registers an astonishing assortment of first person anecdotes detailing bribe-giving across India. From Agartala to Vijayawada, it is a first-of-its-kind chronicle of you-and-me Indians' brush with an array of corrupt government officials. By graphically detailing and recording the universality of this Indian problem, IPaidABribe wants to analyse patterns, change processes and tackle corruption.

 

Launched six weeks ago, IPaidABribe (IPAB) is already making waves on the internet. It was set up by the Bangalore-based Janaagraha, a non-profit that works to change the quality of life in urban India by working with both citizens and governments. In the short time since its launch, thousands of Indians have gone online to record their experiences under a laundry-list of headers: I paid a bribe, I didn't pay a bribe, I didn't have to pay a bribe, I don't want to pay a bribe.

 

On its website, IPAB asserts that it wants citizens to "uncover the market price of corruption" and illustrates it with a graphic of a corporate employee bribing a policeman with his official entitlement of Sodexho food coupons. The numbers, types, locations, frequencies and value of bribes paid provide a snapshot of the extent of corruption in different cities. Janaagraha then uses them to argue for improved governance systems, tighter law enforcement and stricter regulation, thus reducing the scope of corruption.

 

According to Janaagraha co-founder Swati Ramanathan, recording a bribing incident is like owning up a sin in a confessional. She says IPAB is a "mandi", a marketplace where prices for various services are openly shared. In order to encourage more 'confessions', IPAB does maintain the anonymity of the bribe-giver. It does not unmask the bribe-taking government official's identity either — it aims to change processes and not target individuals.

 

As an early endorsement for its crusade, Janaagraha has just received a $3 million grant from the social philanthropy investment firm, Omidyar Foundation, backed by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of auction website eBay. This is the foundation's first grant towards government transparency outside the United States. Enthused by the responses to IPAB, Sunlight Foundation, an American firm that works in digitising government documents in various US States, is talking about launching a similar initiative in the United States. The Foundation said the website would help heighten awareness about the subtle forms of corruption rampant in the United States.

 

The results are already beginning to show. Karnataka's transport department has gleaned details of the bribes collected by transport officials based on the locations mentioned by the bribe givers. It has sent show-cause notices to 20 senior officials.

 

The initiative is headed by T.R. Raghunandan, an upright IAS officer who quit the civil service to join Janaagraha. In the "Ask Raghu" section of the website, the former official provides advice on how to deal with a policeman demanding a bribe or how to get a driving license or a passport without giving a bribe. Often, average people pay bribes because they do not have access to information on either the process or the fee to be paid for a particular service.

 

The website is supported by a dozen volunteers from Bangalore's IT industry. To get more Indians involved, the website will launch in several regional languages. By speaking up, Indians will perhaps shame the system into reforming. The Goan who paid the bribe to restore the family home speaks up on IPAB: "I am Indian, but I'm ashamed of this bribery culture in all walks of life."

 

saritha.rai@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WORLD BANK VS IMF


The contrasting views of the World Bank and the IMF on capital controls is not very surprising. While the World Bank president has said that emerging economies should take steps to contain fund flows as they could cause currency rallies and asset bubbles, the IMF deputy managing director called such actions undesirable. The different perceptions about the choice of policy to tackle capital inflows are mainly because the policies of the two multilateral financial institutions have evolved in different trajectories after the financial crisis. One of the lessons that the World Bank has drawn from the global crisis is that though tighter capital controls would have reduced the benefits the countries enjoyed during the boom period, such moves would have also prevented or at least moderated the domestic disruption and wealth loss during the financial crisis. So the Bank believes there is no convincing argument that the welfare benefits of liberalisation of the capital account in developing countries are very large or the risks of crisis are extremely small.

 

The view of the IMF on capital controls is strikingly different as it has come to conclude that the impact of capital controls at its best has been mixed and often temporary. The policy menu favoured by the IMF for mitigating risks from larger capital inflows includes tightening fiscal policy, and monetary polices to reduce interest rates depending on the inflation outlook, greater exchange rate flexibility, reserve accumulation through sterilised or unsterilised intervention and prudential regulation, with the policy mix depending on country-specific conditions. It would only opt for liberalisation of capital outflows or a restriction on capital inflows in cases where a surge in inflows is temporary. But even then it believes such a policy may lead to adverse multilateral effects as it diverts capital flows to other economies leading to a widespread use of capital controls that will prevent global re-balancing and hinder global recovery and growth. And the experience of the post-financial crisis years validates the views of the IMF because though global recovery remains weak, global imbalances have been substantially corrected, with the current account deficit of the US economy expected to reduce by half to 3.2% of GDP in 2010, while the surplus on the Chinese side shrunk by more than half to 4.7%. More flexible exchange rates now would only hasten the process.

 

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COMMODITY CONUNDRUM


Going by the recent surge in commodity prices, the world has firmly shrugged off the last of its Lehman woes. Most commodities are at either their pre-Lehman peaks or are inching towards them, particularly in the agricultural space. World Bank data shows the quarterly average prices of iron ore between January-September 2010 ranged between 101 and 205 cents per dry metric tonne unit, while prices were around 140.6 cents per dry metric tonne in the quarters preceding the Lehman collapse in 2008. Gold and silver have already surpassed all peaks reached before the economic meltdown. The quarterly average price of cotton is almost 22% higher than it was in the months before the Lehman crisis, prices of rubber (RSS 3, Singapore base) are almost 10-15 cents per kg more than in pre-crisis days. Crude oil and copper are, though, lower than the 2008 highs.

 

Which is why it is a bit surprising to see the IMF project that the growth in commodity prices could moderate in 2011, in keeping with the lower projection for global economic growth, from 4.8% in 2010 to 4.2% in 2011. According to the IMF, global crude oil prices will rise by 3.3% as against 23.2% in 2010, price of food items will decelerate by 1.3% as against a rise of 6.8% in 2010, while the growth in metal prices will slow down to 1.9% as against 31.4% this year. Given the slowing in economic growth, this scenario looks plausible. But the sharp surge in global liquidity, and lack of investment opportunities, could well result in a surge in commodity prices all over again, and once again give rise to the debate over whether futures fuel spot prices. In addition, in various agricultural commodities as well as oil, supply-side constraints also need to be kept in mind.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOW DODGY IS THE DATA?

SUNIL JAIN


It's been a pretty rough ride for India's chief statistician, TCA Anant, and by all means things look like they're going to get a lot worse. To begin with, there was the embarrassing goof-up on the quarterly estimates of GDP when Anant was away in Japan at the end of August, and his predecessor Pronab Sen had to be called in to mount a rescue operation, to find that the wrong deflators had been used to convert the 'current prices' data to '2004-05 prices' data. The IIP surge in July looked so funny that, in mid-September, RBI felt constrained to say "the high volatility over the past two months raises some doubts about how effectively the index reflects the underlying momentum in the industrial sector".

 

Around the same time, at a seminar in the capital, CMIE managing director & CEO Mahesh Vyas's presentation had a slide showing the growth in nominal sales of manufacturing companies for 2009-10 was a mere 1.63%. This was, in itself unremarkable, except that Vyas's next slide superimposed that bit of data on the IIP manufacturing, the index that measures growth, in absolute terms without worrying about inflation. This showed the 2009-10 growth was a whopping 10.92%. (10.92% in real terms versus 1.63% in nominal terms!) Indeed, while Vyas's data showed a reduction in growth, from 15.82% in 2008-09 to 1.63% in 2009-10, the IIP manufacturing showed a surge from 2.75% in 2008-09 to 10.92% in 2009-10. In other words, not only were the numbers dramatically different, they showed a completely different direction as well. Given that the index is ultimately a collation of what firms in the sector are selling, the sharp difference is inexplicable. And since CMIE is talking of a 1.63% hike in nominal sales, once you remove the impact of inflation, it goes into the negative arena.

 

A fortnight after Vyas's presentation, a top broking house Centrum put out a report on the July IIP data that was even more damming. Most newspapers carried editorials saying the IIP looked funny since, while growth was slowing till June, the July data suddenly showed a surge thanks to a spike in capital goods. Centrum actually went into the sub-components and found the surge was due to a 308% hike in insulated cables and wires on a month-on-month basis (and 517% on a year-on-year basis). It concluded, rightly, that the data was spurious, removed it, and found that instead of growing 63% like the CSO data said, capital goods growth was a mere 0.3%. The IIP growth for July, instead of rising by 13.8%, rises by just 6.2%. This distortion in insulated cables, Centrum says, has been there since May 2007—while the official data shows the May 2007-July 2010 growth was 195%, the 1995-2007 average was 12%.

 

What is Anant to do? He has ordered an audit into the collection of various economic data, beginning with the IIP. How long the audit will take is anyone's guess since, as Anant told this newspaper last month, one of the problems with the statistical system is that it just takes too long. It was always dodgy, he said, to do forecasting based on IIP data since the weights in it went all the way back to 1993-94, but it took 3-4 years to get various experts/committees to agree to using newer weights. He also said the criticism that NSS data systematically underestimated the consumption of the rich may also be correct—there's also a seminar in January on the NSS data where the usual lot of experts have been invited.

 

Whatever Anant does, or doesn't, it's a good idea to use private data sources to validate the official numbers with, or at least to get a sense of where they could be incorrect. The HSBC India Composite Purchasing Managers Index, it is true, also has survey results of service sector companies, but it is uncanny that, over the last few months, the PMI and IIP have never moved in the same direction. IIP growth fell from April to May and from May to June; the PMI got stronger and stronger in this period. The PMI got weaker in July, and that's when the IIP soared. The top few hundred firms in the country account for the bulk of manufacturing output, so why not at least look at their nominal sales data while finalising IIP? Look at sales data for firms who file taxes that are available with the finance ministry. CMIE's CapEx database has data on the investment plans of firms; why not look at this while putting out investment data? NCAER has income surveys, why not look at these while making poverty estimates? No dataset is perfect, but it may just help to see what the other data says.

 

There is a huge irony in Vyas's data comparison though. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, CMIE used to publish its own variant of the IIP and that varied dramatically from the official IIP. At one point, when the discrepancy became really huge, CMIE just stopped publishing its own variant.

 

sunil.jain@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BUILDING WITH STRAWS

MEGHNAD DESAI

 

The IMF met again last weekend and did not really get the world out of its trouble. The problem is, of course, that we do not know quite what sort of trouble still persists. The world is extremely uncertain and the remedy is not clear. Indeed, for the last two years or so, we all have been having the same discussion and yet there is no resolution. In the meantime, a government has changed in the UK and Larry Summers has moved on in the US. There is, thus, a depletion of the Keynesian Guard. Of course, the ultra Keynesians—Krugman and Stiglitz—think Summers and indeed Obama's reflation package are not Keynesian enough. Unemployment persists to be high and the growth rate of GDP, while positive, is low. They would argue that a bigger reflationary package is needed.

 

In the UK and elsewhere in Europe, the mood is not for reflation at all. The urgency is about cutting the deficit and the debt burden down as proportion of GDP. Europe's weaker economies Greece and now Ireland, not to forget Spain and Portugal, are still not out of trouble at all. Martin Wolf, Samuel Brittan and Robert Skidelsky have all been arguing against this deficit cutting strategy. Given that the output loss was anywhere from 4% to 7%, they would like a reflation that takes the economy above its trend growth rate and then slowly converge back.

 

The question is, Who is Right? Are the Keynesians right or are the deficit busters? Will we have a double-dip recession? Why suddenly is there talk of an exchange rate war across the world? There are anti-immigration lobbies gaining ground in Europe. After 15 years of globalisation and sustained expansion of flows of trade, labour and capital movements, is the world about to lurch back in 1930s-style protectionism?

 

My own view has been for some time that the recession was not a Keynesian one; i.e., it did not arise from lack of effective demand. It is a Wicksell-Hayek recession where overexpansion of credit, caused by excessively low interest rates leads to mal-investments. It is the banking system that becomes the problem as it ceases to function. This theory was popular before Keynes wrote his General Theory. After Keynes's triumph, economists forgot about banking and credit cycles and modelled every crisis as a result of lack of effective demand to be cured by fiscal action. Macroeconomics became an income-expenditure story with output playing a passive part and finance totally absent. Recovery was assured by fiscal action almost automatically.

 

But a Wicksell-Hayek recession is not amenable to fiscal reflation. Indeed, Hayek took the extreme point of view that it would make things worse by distorting prices further. There is some point to what he says. Despite nearly zero interest rate, there is little investment. Consumers are not spending the money they get but are saving it. After all, they entered the crisis with a high level of debt. Such credit as is being taken up goes into corporate deleveraging. We have already seen this in the Japanese recovery from its banking crisis. The recovery is long, slow and tepid.

 

There is reason to believe that this may be the case again. There are longer-run forces impinging at the same time. One is the loss of competitiveness of the western economies relative to the so-called emerging economies. This is along run shift, which Keynesian policies are unable to correct. The exchange rate wars are partly a form of tariff war to allow the older industrial countries to withstand the competition of the newer ones, especially China. But the reason for the loss of competitiveness is also in the economic theory underlying. Neoclassical as well as Keynesian economics makes no distinction between value and price. Sub-prime housing is just as valuable as widgets if the stock market says so. Classical economics made a distinction between the two and took the value of the product—its cost of reproduction—as the measure of wealth. Sub-prime housing does not become wealth because there is a house price bubble nor does it become valueless when the bubble bursts. It remains whatever the cost of building a house is.

 

Through the long expansion, western economies invested in activities by looking at the market bubble. Now they have few productive investments that can allow them to compete. In Keynesian economics, it does not make a difference if you dig ditches and fill them up again as long as wages are paid and spent on consumption goods. But at the end of the day, you have not added to the wealth of the economy.

 

The crisis of the western economies is a crisis of economics not of capitalism. There are older theories that may yet guide us out of the crisis if only we could revive them. I doubt though that the world will listen.

 

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

Bhutan bytes

After churning out ten of thousands of IT-enabled grads and postgrads back home, IT training company NIIT's top brass is busying itself with a couple of foreign 'VVIP' students these days. The company's chairman Rajendra Pawar and his key lieutenants are personally taking computer training classes for the who's who of India's tiny neighbour in the northeast, Bhutan. The list includes all Cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, the young King, chief election commissioner and the army chief and all elected representatives.

 

As part of its Economic Development Policy, Bhutan intends to turn itself into an international higher education hub. But before laying the red carpet for partnerships with the some Ivy league institutions to set up their Shangrila campuses, it seems a little brush-up of skills for its top policymakers and bureaucrats, especially from a friendly neighbour, is welcome.

 

Wrong number

 

Thanks to the confusion in the CWG's organising committee, most media professionals ended up getting two internet data cards. First they were given an MTNL kit. Soon after, the vendors were apparently changed and the database with the names of those who had got the kit got misplaced. This time around, they were given a Tata Photon card.

 

Now a 2% rebate?

 

At one point, the corporate affairs ministry was talking of asking firms to earmark 2% of their profits for CSR activities. It may be having second thoughts about this considering that officials of the ministry are now talking of trying to give fiscal benefits to companies who follow CSR activities.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

WHIMPERING LION

 

MGM studios, the studio that boasted "more stars than in heaven", is now facing bankruptcy, thanks to a leveraged buyout deal from 2005 went wrong. The pre-packaged bankruptcy plan proposed by MGM, provides its secured lenders 95.3% equity in exchange for wiping out its $4-billion debt. This would, in turn, allow the studio to start filming The Hobbit, a two-part prequel to the super successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. The deal is being negotiated in Los Angeles and aims to meet an October 22, 2010, deadline.

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a result of Marcus Loew's buyout of Metro Pictures Corporation, Goldwyn Pictures and Mayer Pictures, came into being in 1924 to provide a steady stream of films to Loew's chain of theatres. The studio went on to produce blockbuster successes like The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Meet Me in St Louis and Singin' in the Rain. Its logo—the roaring lion, aka Leo—was at one time the second most recognised in the world, outstripped only by Coca-Cola. After a glorious run-up to the 1950s—boasting stars like Clarke Gable, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor and James Stewart—the studio has been through a tumultuous four decades, putting out rather unremarkable productions, discounting the James Bond films, over the past 40 years.

 

By choosing bankruptcy over another sale, MGM has rejected several cash offers, including one from the Sahara India Pariwar, in the process staying true to its motto "Ars Gratia Artis" meaning art for art's sake, or the world may soon have seen James Bond in a new avatar—a paunchy cricketer.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

FUNDING THE CLIMATE CLEAN-UP

 

The United Nations climate change talks in Tianjin, China, witnessed some progress on the issue of financing of climate change mitigation and adaptation but there is a significant gap between the level of funding required and what has been committed so far. Fast-paced action on climate financing, including identification of new sources of funds, is essential to bring about an agreement on key issues such as forest protection and aid to vulnerable communities. Only then can a plan for the countries most affected be outlined at the Cancun conference of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change next month. Sustained negotiations on funding can deliver results, since the issue is less contentious than emissions reduction. A modest start was made at Tianjin to identify the modalities for allocation of the $30 billion fund promised for 2012 at last year's Copenhagen conference. Yet the donor countries came up with no big announcement at the Tianjin talks, and failed to convince the least developed and developing nations that they are doing their best. The costs of adapting to climate change in 2010 are estimated by the World Bank to be $100 billion a year. The initiatives outlined clearly fall far short of such sums. Moreover, there is need for clarity on the sources. What is offered should be "new and additional" as outlined in the Copenhagen Accord, and not a reassignment of other development aid.

 

The Tianjin talks also featured a public dispute between the United States and China on the question of steep emission cuts necessary to meet the goal of the Copenhagen Accord, which is to keep the increase in global temperature below 2° Celsius. There can be little question, as China points out, that the lead should come from the countries historically responsible for accumulated greenhouse gases, led by the U.S. Emerging economies such as China and India can engage in voluntary actions to lower their emissions but it is unrealistic for America or anyone else to expect that these nations enjoying the first fruits of economic growth will accept binding cuts. The way forward is for the industrialised world to cut its emissions unilaterally in the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol, while persuading the newly industrialising countries to reduce the carbon intensity of their growth by liberally sharing technology and providing finance. The good thing is that there is convergence on a major issue such as deforestation, which is estimated to produce more emissions than the transport sector. It is essential, therefore, that a comprehensive REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation+) is formalised at Cancun for implementation post-2012.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

IT'S NO REVELATION

 

In an interview to Der Spiegel, Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharraf laments that the world blames Pakistan "for everything" and sees it as "a rogue." Unwittingly, in the same interview, he provides a likely explanation in the admission that Pakistan trained militants to fight in Kashmir in order to force a discussion on the issue with India. The admission is only further confirmation of the well-documented proxy war that the Pakistan has waged in Kashmir. If there is anything surprising about the remarks, it is that the former strongman, who was forced out of the presidency in 2008 by the elected government, should have chosen this moment to spill the beans. Only last month, he launched with much fanfare a political party under his leadership, declaring he would return to his homeland and plunge into active political life. He, of all people, should have known better than to antagonise the Pakistan Army right at the start of a planned new political career. The implications for General Musharraf's political future aside, the statements reveal an alarming inability to connect the dots between Pakistan's policies with regard to militant groups, its unsavoury reputation as a hotbed of terrorism, and the difficult situation in which it finds itself today. Indeed, the ex-dictator's view is that Pakistan has the "right" to promote in this way its interests in the region.

 

The worrying part is that sections of the Pakistan establishment seem to share the former army chief's belief in this "right." How else to explain the stubborn refusal to crack down on India-centric militant groups, even after the whole world condemned the horror of the November 2008 Mumbai terror that was traced to the Pakistan-based militant group Laskhar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-dawa? As the United States and NATO have realised, there is similar reluctance to take on the Haqqani network of Afghan Taliban militants in North Waziristan, linked to the Pakistan establishment's interests in Afghanistan. The recent battering of Pakistan's north-western tribal regions by U.S. drones is said to be connected to the discovery of a terror plot targeting Europe and indicates the level of international frustration with Rawalpindi's double-games. Pakistan has cried foul at the violation of its territory; the more telling response was the torching of NATO supply trucks en route from the Karachi port to Afghanistan. The mess in which Pakistan finds itself today, and its international reputation, neatly summarised by General Musharraf, show the high price to be paid for using a weapon as dangerous as militancy in the pursuit of strategic interests.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

RUSSIA RESETS WITH U.S., SPRINTS WITH CHINA

THE KREMLIN SEEMS TO FACTOR IN THAT A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA CAN ONLY STRENGTHEN ITS LEVERAGE AS AN EMERGING POWER DURING NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE U.S. AND THE WEST.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

 

The downstream of a big-power summit can sometimes prove more exciting than the summit itself. No sooner the Sino-Russian summit (September 26-28) ended in Beijing than Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's jet landed in Petropavolosk-Kamchatsky, an incredibly ethereal city at the end of the world perched on high hills surrounded by volcanoes as far as eyes could see. But he was not enjoying the scenery. It was a mere stopover, as due to bad weather Mr. Medvedev couldn't proceed to Yuzhno-Kurilsk, the disputed island that Tokyo claims as its territory. And then, no sooner than he was back in the Kremlin, Mr. Medvedev received a phone call from United States President Barack Obama — to inform him personally that Washington was satisfied with Russia's credentials to be admitted as a member of the World Trade Organisation, the mainstream of world trade from where Moscow was kept out by the West through the Cold War era.

 

The two disconnected occurrences actually formed sequels to the Sino-Russian summit. Mr. Medvedev's decision to visit the Kurile Islands comes in the wake of Japan's acrimonious row with China over territorial disputes. Tokyo, unsurprisingly, went ballistic. Prime Minister Naoto Kan promptly reminded Russia that the Kuriles form an integral part of Japan. Tokyo made a diplomatic demarche. Foreign Minister Seiji Meihara warned of "serious obstacles" for Japan-Russia relations. Yet, Moscow's body language has been explicit — it gently drew attention to its disapproval of Japan's belligerence vis-à-vis China over the disputed East China Sea. While in China, Mr. Medvedev celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Soviet-Chinese alliance in the war against Japan (1936-45) and used strong language to convey Russia's solidarity — "Friendship with China is Russia's strategic choice, it's a choice that was sealed by blood years ago"; "The friendship between the Russian and the Chinese peoples, cemented by the military events, will be indestructible and will do good for our future generations."

 

Moscow knows that behind Japan stands the U.S. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an article in China's Renmin Ribao timed to coincide with Mr. Medvedev's visit to China criticised that "blocs," a legacy of the Cold War era, still exist in the Asia-Pacific and they are a "threat to national security and a source of dividing lines, mutual distrust and suspicion." He singled out for criticism the U.S. plans to deploy missile defence systems (ABM) in Japan. Moscow analysts have warned that the ABM poses a threat to both Russia and China. Russia's response to what strategists nowadays call the U.S.' "return to Asia" is non-confrontational but it has also unequivocally said that the American strategy to form a coalition of the willing, "like-minded" Asian countries under Washington's leadership reflects negative thinking.

 

As a detailed critique of the U.S.' Asia-Pacific enterprise, Mr. Lavrov's article merits attention in New Delhi. Besides, Mr. Medvedev's China visit underscored several templates, which have a bearing on the trajectory of the trilateral format known as "RIC" — Russia, India and China. First, for Russia, it is not a question of "either, or". It will apply itself diligently to the reset with the U.S., but will not allow the strategic partnership with China to be eroded either. The pro-U.S. lobbies in Moscow never tire of dwelling on a "Yellow peril" to Russia in the medium and long term. But the Kremlin, which is immensely experienced in managing the ties with Washington, seems to factor in that a strong relationship with China can only strengthen its leverage as an emerging power during negotiations with the U.S. and the West.

 

The Russian diplomacy is meeting with extraordinary success in dovetailing the country's strategic partnership with China with its core national interests in the strategic, political and economic fields, despite the fact that Russia is cognisant of the great ambivalences in China's rise. Mr. Medvedev candidly told the People's Daily that the Russian foreign policy was based on pragmatism aimed at promoting its national interests and galvanising its multi-directional diplomacy. The Russian approach holds serious lessons for India's approach toward its normalisation with China.

 

Energy cooperation was the leitmotif of the Sino-Russian summit. Russia has finally taken the plunge to explore the frontiers of energy cooperation — the world's number one oil producer combining with the world's biggest energy consumer. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin put it succinctly: "There are practically no limits to the growth of gas consumption in China. Russia has enough gas for the development of the Chinese economy." The past two decades' American attempts to diversify the West's energy imports from Russia so as to deprive Moscow the "geopolitical tool" to influence western policies is proving futile. On the contrary, the spectre that haunts the West is of Russia dramatically diversifying its own energy exports in terms that creates competition for the West from China. Similarly, Russia is making itself an "indispensible" partner for China. It will be supplying 300 million tonnes of oil through pipelines over a 20-year period starting 2011. The two planned gas pipelines are expected to transport 30 billion cubic metres of gas to China. On its part, China is allowing Russian oil companies to enter its highly lucrative energy retail market.

 

The alacrity with which Mr. Obama called up the Kremlin and waved the green flag for Russia's admission to WTO after years of dilly-dallying speaks of the urgency felt in Washington to give more bite to the reset with Russia. The NATO has invited Mr. Medvedev to attend its summit in Lisbon in November, and France is hosting a tripartite summit with Germany and Russia in October. However, the desert landscape of Russia's ties with the West is littered with bleached bones of carcasses that were fond hopes. So, Russia also pursues its ties with China in the defence sector. Mr. Lavrov said in Beijing that the two countries are discussing "very serious long-term projects" and "results will soon be known." Significantly, he added: "We [Russia and China] have no doubt that military-technical cooperation is one of the most important areas of our strategic collaboration and partnership ... I'll repeat: the plans are quite extensive in this field."

 

Four, Russia is opening the doors for large-scale Chinese investments for developing its backward far-east regions and in high-tech projects. An influential Moscow commentator wrote: "For America, China is an obvious strategic rival ... But growing economic dependence is causing these two rivals to tread cautiously and in a responsible manner. This is the kind of effect that we [Russia] should have pressed for in Russian-Chinese relations, because similar world views are a less substantive matter than factories or containers travelling across the oceans ... The bottom line is: we will deepen political relations through the economy ... The key objective of Russian policy now is the country's innovative modernisation ... The efforts that China is making to develop its own intellectual property base are tremendous, and in general the focus of global innovation is now shifting to Asia which, of course, includes China. Strategically, Russia has to draw new conclusions."

 

Indeed, Moscow has no illusions that just as for Russia, for Beijing, too, China's relationship with the U.S. will remain a top foreign policy priority. Even as Mr. Medvedev received the phone call from Mr. Obama, the official China Daily featured a commentary proposing that stalled Sino-American military ties "be brought back on track for the better development of bilateral relations as well as world peace. Neither government is taking the other as enemy and neither wants a military confrontation. Sino-U.S. relations should be based on mutually assured dependence." Indeed, Moscow, too, has since announced that it expects to sign a binding accord with NATO on "mutual military restraint" and that it will give serious consideration to the alliance's proposal for a joint missile defence system.

 

But the bedrock of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is the sensitivity that each side shows to the other's core concerns and vital interests. Russia has strongly supported China on the Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang issues and has shown its displeasure against Japan. At a joint press conference with Mr. Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao acknowledged this by saying "China and Russia will maintain international peace and stability and promote the overall recovery, health and stable development of the world economy." Mr. Hu called for a deepening of the bilateral mechanism of "strategic security negotiations while supporting each other on issues concerning their core interests."

 

Finally, their notions regarding "multipolarity" or "polycentrism" of the global system, a "democratised" world order or revamped international financial system, etc., truly reflect the two countries' long-term strategies. In sum, they have become acutely conscious of their shared interests. This is where the trilateral format, RIC, has some catching up to do. The new thinking in New Delhi creatively manifest on many fronts of foreign policy in the recent period should also pay attention to the raison d'etre of the RIC in the regional and international environment.

 

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

BREAKTHROUGH AND EUPHORIA AT CHILE MINE

SATURDAY'S BREAKTHROUGH WAS A CRUCIAL MILESTONE IN A LONG AND TORTUROUS EFFORT THAT HAS CAPTIVATED CHILE AND RIVETED THE WORLD.

ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO & CHRISTINE HAUSER

 

It was a moment of euphoria. At 8:05 a.m. on Saturday, more than two agonising months after a mine collapse trapped 33 men nearly half-a-mile beneath the earth, a powerful drill fitted with pneumatic hammers pulverised the last feet of volcanic rock and struck air.

 

In the chilly desert above, machine operators yelped and poured Champagne. Bleary-eyed family members, who had gathered at the site through the night, waved the Chilean flag, sang the national anthem and shouted "Viva Chilean miners!"

 

Below, the miners erupted in cheers, their cries transmitted by radio to the surface. They had been trapped for 66 days, the longest known time that miners have survived a collapse. On the other side of the drill tip was their escape shaft to the surface.

 

"There have been hard moments, beautiful moments, sad moments, moments filled with happiness, nights where we were cold here," said Juan Sanchez, 48, the father of Jimmy Sanchez, the youngest of the trapped miners. "But we just kept going, trusting in God that this would all work out. Right now, all I feel is happiness; it's like a calm has come over us."

 

The breakthrough was a crucial milestone in a long and torturous effort that has captivated Chile and riveted the world. An extraordinary array of international talent had been gathered and new rescue techniques pioneered on the fly to plow through rock without compromising the miners' safety. Chilean officials brought in advisers from NASA, custom-built a steel rescue capsule and even fed the trapped miners meat pies baked in the form of cylinders to be slipped down a narrow hole more than 2,050 feet below the surface.

 

But the ordeal is far from over and officials said it was likely to be Wednesday at the earliest before the miners catch their first glimpse of sunlight and breath of fresh air. The words of Mining Minister Laurence Golborne tamped down the festivities. "The families are clear, the miners are clear what still needs to be done and the time it will take," he said. "We still haven't rescued anyone."

 

The next phase of the rescue effort is expected to be just as perilous. The rescue shaft is little more than two feet wide, and engineers have decided to line its upper walls with steel pipes to prevent rocks from tumbling into the shaft and blocking the way.

 

But installing tonnes of steel pipes is not without risk, and could even cause further collapse. The men will be raised one by one in the capsules, nicknamed the Phoenix, which engineers are concerned could snag the walls of the shaft. The miners themselves, some weakened by the ordeal, might have to set off dynamite to widen the hole on their end so that the capsule has enough room.

 

Even so, it is going to be a tight fit. The rescue shaft is not straight, bending through rocky walls and providing as little as a few inches of clearance around the capsule. The miners have been keeping their weight under control so they can fit in the capsule, which is about 21 inches wide and built with suggestions from the NASA team.

 

Atop the rescue drill, operators of the T-130, which beat out two other rigs working simultaneously to reach the miners, celebrated by pumping their fists in the air and spraying each other with Champagne. "This is a symbolic moment," said Ximena Matas, a local city councilwoman. "The families have been waiting a long time for this."

 

The gold and copper mine, near the northern city of Copiapo, caved in on August 5 but it was not until 17 days later that a small bore hole reached the miners and they sent up a message telling rescuers they were still alive.

 

All along, Chilean officials have worked to involve the miners in their own rescue, duties intended to aid the work as well as the miners' psychological health. Their work continued on Saturday as they helped the drillers bore through the final few feet, said Claudio Soto, an employee of Schramm, the maker of the T-130 drilling rig.

 

Mr. Soto said the miners were in radio contact with the chief driller, telling him when the tip of the drill first appeared. That way the driller could slow the machinery down, to avoid a sudden breakthrough of the entire drill, which would have put undue strain on the equipment.

 

"They were telling us how much more we had to go," he said. "In that way it was a very, very controlled operation."

 

Mr. Soto described the final few days of drilling as very intense, with the drill getting stuck several times. "The rock fought us back all the time," he said. "It was really difficult. There had to be very precise work from the drillers." The drill had to be removed from the hole twice, a process that took about 12 hours each time. He said the last moments before the breakthrough were very tense. "The whole crew was standing and looking at the drill pipe," he said. "When we hit total depth, everybody was jumping and screaming and hugging each other … We opened some bottles of Champagne — not for drinking, just to celebrate."

 

Workers spent much of the day removing bars and evaluating the integrity of the rescue hole by lowering in a video camera. Mr. Soto said there were noticeable fractures in the walls from the surface down to about 98 feet.

 

Many family members had said they preferred to wait a few days more to allow workers to case the hole than to risk the well-being of the miners.

 

At a news conference on Saturday night, Golborne, the mining minister, said officials had decided to install a steel liner along the top 315 feet of the shaft. The work was scheduled to start late Saturday.

 

More than 20 private companies worked on digging the three rescue holes, which were drilled simultaneously. In the end, the T-130 rig pounded through first. It used a special "downhole hammer" drill, made by Center Rock, a company in western Pennsylvania, that contains pneumatic hammers that pound the hard rock to bits as the drill rotates. "The downhole hammer technology was very, very helpful to develop a good penetration rate and break such a hard rock," Mr. Soto said.

 

Later on Saturday, family members cheered and hugged operators of the rig as it was driven out of the mine with truck horns blaring.

 

The miners will be extracted one at a time, with two capsules alternating voyages. Each capsule contains tanks of oxygen-enriched air, a hands-free phone and retractable rollers to protect it as it bounces along the wall.

 

It remains to be decided in what order they will emerge, although officials said on Friday that the strongest would likely come out first, partly so they could help guide the rescue effort at the top, advising the emergency crews on conditions below. But officials also want the fittest on the first trips in case the capsule gets stuck and needs to be physically dislodged. Once the rescue capsules start running, the ordeal of more than 60 days will end with a one-way trip of 11 to 12 minutes, officials said.

 

(Alexei Barrionuevo reported from the San Jose Mine, and Christine Hauser reported from New York. Henry Fountain contributed from New York, and Pascale Bonnefoy from Santiago, Chile.) — New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

RELIGIOUS LAWS AFFECTING MIDDLE EAST CHRISTIANS

JILL HAMILTON

 

If a couple are divorcing or separating in Damascus the outcome is decided by holy law. It is the same for all Muslims, Christians and Jews in Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem or Cairo. With the exception of Turkey, there is no civil family law in the Middle East. Nor are there register offices for marriages or civil courts for divorce. Citizens have to attend courts run by kadis, priests, bishops or rabbis.

 

Religious laws have exclusive jurisdiction in marriage, divorce, separation, child custody, alimony, maintenance, adoption, guardianship, etc. Catholics cannot terminate a marriage unless they find grounds for annulment. Only the Orthodox churches allow divorce.

 

Even though divorce and remarriage are now tolerated in most parts of the western world, the Christian courts are unlikely to be high on the agenda of the two-week conference of Middle Eastern patriarchs and church leaders which began in Rome on Sunday. Alarmed at the drop in the number of Christians in the Middle East — from around 20 per cent before the Second World War to below 5 per cent — Pope Benedict has convened a regional synod. Much has been written about the problems of Arab Christians in the region, but few analysts look to the multi-stranded patriarchal system of Christian religious laws as a contributory reason for dissatisfaction among its 10-15 million Christians.

 

Jerusalem, like the rest of Israel, has 14 different legal systems covering family law to accommodate the diverse faiths of its citizens. The Jews have one set of laws, so do the Muslims, but the Christian denominations have 10.

 

As opposed to the Sharia, Druze and rabbinical courts, which are supervised by the Ministry of Justice, ecclesiastical courts have full "autonomy." Judges are appointed by the churches alone. Unlike the Jews and Muslims, Christian courts have no websites. Nor do they publish precedents of cases or judgments, or allow court reporters or members of the public to attend court hearings.

 

The way Muslims are subjected to Sharia law is often regarded with distaste in western society, yet Sharia courts in Israel and the West Bank are a beacon of transparency compared to the Christian courts. It is difficult in some areas to even find basic facts, let alone the law used.

 

While this month's Middle East synod is much-awaited, so are reforms to change this system — inherited from the Ottoman millet system, which recognised the autonomy of the Christian communities to run their own internal affairs, especially religious and civil matters.

 

Note: Jill, Duchess of Hamilton, spent the past five years, while completing her PhD on Patriarchy, the Dark Side of Legal Pluralism, living partly in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

ONLINE & OFF LINE 

FACILITATING MEDICAL EDUCATION REFORM


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent announcement that legislation on the proposed National Council for Human Resources in Health (NCHRH) will be introduced in Parliament soon is significant for three reasons. First, it will meet the Union Health Ministry's demand for a new and separate regulatory body for medical institutions under its control and not under the purview of the Ministry for Human Resource Development. Secondly, the legislation will seek to create an atmosphere that will help deal with issues relating to the quality of the medical education and an equitable distribution of the available medical education resources. Thirdly, it offers an opportunity to restructure and revamp India's medical education system to suit the changing needs of the time. The objective is to evolve a trustworthy, highly professional, and inclusive medical education and delivery system that will take care of the health needs of all sections of the people without any discrimination.

Health deprivation and the need for radical reforms in the medical education system to overcome the huge challenge have been on the public agenda for several years now. But it is the April 23 arrest of Dr. Ketan Desai, chairman of the Medical Council of India (MCI), the 56-year-old regulating authority, on charges of massive corruption involving crores of rupees, the appointment of a three-member team to inquire into irregularities in the functioning of MCI, and the subsequent dissolution of its executive council, the top decision-making body, through a presidential ordinance that brought the urgent need for reforms to centre-stage.

 

Healthy discussion

 

These developments, in quick succession, have led to a healthy discussion in the media. Leading doctors and experts in medical education and health-related issues have proposed that the recent developments should be seen as a historic opportunity to take a fresh look at the regulatory process and improve the standards of medical education, which, in turn, will lead to ensuring an effective and enduring medical delivery system. For this, the thrust must be on training medical professionals to focus on treating diseases afflicting the vast majority of the people. It is masses of the poor who are victims of utter indifference in most public and private hospitals. This indifference is related to the retrograde policies central and State governments have been following in a market-driven reform regime for well over two decades.

 

An insightful article by George Mathew, M.S. Seshadri, and K.S. Jacob ("Time for a transformation," The Hindu, June 7, 2010), points out that the MCI, the agency that was constituted to regulate medical education and practice "had failed on many fronts – despite good intentions." The MCI, they go on to say, was "packed with medical professionals, many of them from for-profit medical colleges. This often resulted in narrow perspectives and conflicts of interest. Each [group] specially represented on the body pushed its own limited agenda, often missing the bigger picture of the health needs. The woods were missed for the trees."

 

The authors of the article propose that the new regulatory authority should be composed of diverse stakeholders. It would ensure that the focus is on "overall health and health care needs, rather than narrow professional interests." They point out that the students of under-graduate courses are trained mostly in dealing with "exotic and rare disorders" but not in attending to the simple medical needs of local communities. They contend that health care needs should be determined not on the data and priorities of western countries but on the specific needs of the people in this country. In short, the NCHRH should aim "to channel education to deliver relevant health care to the vast majority of India." It follows that the basic doctor should be "a competent general practitioner who has the background to specialise."

 

The tasks before

 

Some writers on medical education go further and advocate enriching the syllabi and curricula in medical education with the inclusion of the humanities and social sciences. Why? Because "the practice of medicine is based on application of science for the improvement of human health." The physician who handles human lives needs to equip himself or herself with a combination of humaneness and sound scientific temperament. The existing medical syllabi do not provide for this. Even the knowledge in science they provide is confined to biology and chemistry. There is a need to include physics as well in the medical syllabi. With the application of medical science expanding, knowledge in the social sciences and humanities, including literature, music, and the fine arts, can play a significant role in applied medical science. The debate on these issues continues in the Indian and foreign media.

 

Another area the NCHRH cannot afford to ignore is streamlining the admission process and introducing examination reform. A recent newspaper report exposed an examination-related irregularity committed by Dr. MGR Medical University in Chennai. The University reportedly admitted that it gave 'grace marks' ranging from 10 to 45 to students who had failed the first year examination but were allowed to write a supplementary examination in February 2009. The award of as many as 45 grace marks is in gross violation of the Medical Council of India Act. (Normally, only five grace marks are supposed to be given in such cases.) The same facility has been provided also to the failed students of the Dental Colleges affiliated to the University, with grace marks ranging from 8 to 25, also in violation of the norms of the Dental Council of India. State Health Secretary V.K. Subburaj was reported to have told the newspaper that the government would soon initiate an enquiry. Significantly, the report was based on information obtained under the Right to Information Act.

 

Such violations are symptomatic of a system of education that has gone seriously wrong. There are certainly high expectations of the proposed new, reformed regulatory framework.

 

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

 

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THE HINDU

                                                                                                            INTERVIEWS    

FOR AN AGREEMENT, RESPECTING INDIAN CONCERNS

INTERVIEW WITH FRENCH ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION CHAIRMAN BERNARD BIGOT.

PALLAVA BAGLA

 

France is a world leader in the field of nuclear power, generating three-quarters of its own electricity by splitting atoms, while India has now joined the mainstream of global nuclear commerce. So, are there any lessons for India from France? Can there be Indo-French nuclear collaboration? Bernard Bigot, Chairman of the French Atomic Energy & Alternative Energies Commission, says France would be happy to work within the framework of India's nuclear liability legislation, and he hopes to ink contracts worth Euro 11 billion for two 1650 MW European Pressurised Reactors to be installed at Ratnagiri. Excerpts from an interview he gave NDTV Science Editor Pallava Bagla.

 

India recently passed a nuclear damages and liability legislation. Are you, and France, happy with the provisions? Can French companies still supply nuclear reactors to India?

 

Yes, for sure. French suppliers could provide nuclear reactors to India within a framework. First, we fully respect this Indian choice about nuclear liability. It's a very important step, as you know. There was some initial concern because it's not the usual… international way to proceed. We recently had in Vienna a very fair and deep discussion with Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, [the Chairman] of India's Atomic Energy Commission. He explained to us clearly what was behind that decision. I really believe we can work together in order to secure liability for the Indian people and also good protection for the French suppliers to deliver without too much risk.

 

Do you have any suggestions on how some of the so-called irritants in the nuclear liability legislation could be ironed out, so that suppliers' concerns are assuaged while the Indian people are well protected?

 

We received a clear explanation, and really I think that within the given framework, the application, documents which will come later. We'll find a common agreement fully respecting the concerns of India… I'll say we were anxious to see clear legislation that is well-adapted to Indian situations [that] on the other hand gives proper confidence to the suppliers if they behave as they are doing, usually with very high quality standards. They'll be pleased and [will] work together without any concern.

 

France hopes to sell its 1650 MW EPR reactors to India. How soon can we see the Indo-French contract for their purchase? Is it likely to happen during the French President's visit to India?

 

As you know, there was a government-to-government agreement signed during Mr. Sarkozy's visit to India two years ago. So now it's a new step, and really we expect that this new step will be passed during the [President's] next visit to India in December. Areva and its [Indian] counterpart, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd., have been discussing this for long and we greatly expect that they'll converge towards a common agreement, a common understanding, before the end of this year.

 

How good is the safety record of nuclear power plants in France?

 

As you know, in France right now, over 78 per cent of the electricity supplied comes from nuclear energy. So it's very important for France to [maintain] safety, because without safety there is no [future] for nuclear [energy]. We have what we call a nuclear safety authority… It [the record] is quite satisfactory… The International Atomic Energy Agency [has found it to be satisfactory]. So I believe France's record is very good as far as nuclear [energy] is concerned.

 

On France's 1600 MW EPR, is its design safe, and does it use uranium efficiently?

 

Yes, as you know… the EPR is a reactor that takes advantage of the experience of two highly qualified reactors. One is French…, coming from the early-1970s, and the other is German. It has been designed in association with the nuclear safety authorities of the two countries. Really I believe it's top-of-the-list as far as safety is concerned. On the other side, it takes real advantage of its capacity in order to use [optimally] the uranium content of the nuclear fuel; it's expected that we'll save 15 per cent of uranium per kilowatt hour produced. So I really believe it … takes the best of the experience, more than 50 years, from France and Germany...

 

Are you excited about the Indian nuclear energy market? Will France be a reliable and long-term partner for India in nuclear energy?

 

Yes, I had an opportunity to visit India a few years ago, and I'm expecting to come back this year. We see that India has a very clear policy on nuclear technologies… to develop this energy. Really who would not be excited to see such a large country having a clear policy to develop this technology? It's exciting because we really believe that nuclear energy is good not only for France but also for India… It'll be a very good example when India succeeds. That's why for sure we wish to have a commercial relationship with India, but…we want a strategic relationship. We believe that in the field of nuclear policy, in the field of training young people and engineers, in the field of cooperation in R&D, we have a strong will to be fair and [be a] long-term strategic partner of India. As you know it's a very important issue how to deal with spent fuel. We're very pleased that India and France share the same vision — which means that if you want to have sustainable nuclear development, you need to take advantage of all the natural uranium you get from the mines. And so, we expect that we'll be able to work closely with India.

 

The French company Areva is building a large EPR in Finland. The project is delayed. What has caused the delay, and what are the cost implications of the delay? More important, why should India buy an unproven reactor?

 

As you know, right now EPR is a new type of reactor, it's the first of its kind with a very high standard of safety and efficiency. But it has a very clear relationship with previous [types of] French reactors and take full advantage of the…experience… So I don't see any difficulty, with the proven record of this reactor… It's the first of a kind, and there have been some delays… because there are different ways to proceed in France and in Finland as far as the development and construction go. In France, for example, there's a global agreement of the nuclear safety authority, and after that these suppliers can work very smoothly. In Finland, it's one step by one step. There are about 14… [pending] orders… so it takes more time. I've visited the workplace four times now, and I can assure you that it's quite impressive from the point of view of technical performance… It's interesting. As you know, TVO which is the owner of these reactors, is considering building a new one after the one that is being built. …EPR is one of the brands they want to supply… Maybe it was little bit ambitious to say that it would be built in just four years. Now we know that it takes longer. I don't expect any further difficulties. The client is quite satisfied by the way it's proceeding right now from the technical point of view.

 

In a joint statement the nuclear regulators of France, Finland and the U.K. expressed concerns over the safety of the EPR. How have you, and Areva, addressed the concerns?

 

EPR is fully qualified and fully licensed. But after this global agreement, [there was] some discussion in order to make improvement. So... they went to check and design… They asked EDF and Areva to demonstrate more clearly that one of the options will be better. So these issues have been largely resolved; really there is no… fight between the nuclear safety authority and the providers. It's just the normal discussion before you give the final agreement to build. Right now, for example, Finland is going to finish as the nuclear safety authority has agreed … The British one is on its way and the French one will also … So it's a normal debate.

 

(Pallava Bagla is Science Editor, NDTV, and correspondent for the Science magazine)

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

FOCUS ON POVERTY, PRANAB TELLS IMF

 

There can be no quarrel with the resolution passed at the end of the 22nd meeting of the international monetary and financial committee of the IMF's board of governors in Washington D.C. on Saturday. It dealt with important global issues like the fragility and unevenness of the economic recovery of member countries, warned against policies that would aggravate the situation, reform of the International Monetary Fund through greater representation for emerging economies on its executive board, greater surveillance to uncover the vulnerability of the larger advanced economies and increasing effectiveness in managing capital flows which could endanger inflation management in emerging economies. But the area in which the IMF resolution appears to fall short is giving the attention needed for the global war against poverty. India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee highlighted this forcefully when he voiced concern that an additional 64 million people across the world have been pushed into poverty; that joblessness has increased; and that international financial flows, while having recovered from their lows, are still far below 2007 levels. He pointed out that the realisation of the UNDP's millennium development goals by their 2015 deadline had certainly suffered a major setback as a billion people are still suffering from acute hunger — a number that is unprecedented in history.


In this context, Mr Mukherjee pointed out that the developing countries and emerging market economies would not be able to bear another global financial crisis. One does not know if the finance minister included India in this category, but it is a scary thought. India and other emerging economies have come in for a lot of praise at different international platforms of late on how they had managed to weather the global financial crisis and were on the path of recovery, unlike the countries of the developed world. But as the finance minister warned, the emerging economies were better prepared the last time in 2007-08 as they had used their internal financial strengths and discipline to neutralise to a large extent the full brunt of the global crisis. But now that they have used up their "fiscal space" and "buffers" against fiscal shocks, these economies might not be in any position to face another global financial shock. In this context, Mr Mukherjee said the world was fortunate that food and fuel prices had remained moderate during the crisis, while noting that a lot needed to be done on both issues. Food scarcity and rising prices of food items loom large on the horizon, and the world needs to do something about it urgently. There is also a pressing requirement to raise agricultural output through research and development as well as to ensure that the prices of key commodities such as oil do not escalate beyond what the developing economies can bear. This can be achieved if there is a greater understanding at the IMF of the real needs of developing and emerging economies, including of course the least developed economies. To that extent, India's finance minister echoed the demand of the emerging and developing countries for a more equitable representation on the IMF's executive board. The developed countries have proved reluctant to shed their bloated quota of representation and voting rights, and Mr Mukherjee drew attention to the emerging countries' claim to better treatment on the basis of their GDP. At present, while the emerging economies represent 47.5 per cent of global GDP, they only have 39.5 per cent representation on the IMF board. A five-seven per cent increase in their representation thus appears eminently justified. In the run-up to the coming G-20 meeting there should be further consultation between all countries on this vital issue.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE IDEA OF INCLUSION

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

Mrs Sonia Gandhi addressed a massive public meeting at Trichy recently, and the key message in her speech was her commitment and that of the Congress towards inclusive growth. The idea of inclusion is possibly the single-most important concept in our democracy today.


Inclusion is a noun that can be prefixed with a variety of adjectives. We can have financial inclusion, educational inclusion, knowledge inclusion, gender inclusion and, of course, political inclusion. Yet, do recall what Jawaharlal Nehru said in his remarkable, iconic and never-to-be-forgotten "Tryst with destiny" speech on the midnight of August 15, 1947: "Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments".
Inclusion too is one of those indivisible phenomena. No one type of inclusion can be seen in isolation. Social inclusion inevitably leads to political inclusion. Political inclusion leads to economic inclusion. Economic inclusion leads to financial inclusion. The challenge before us is simple: how soon and how quickly can we expand the "inclusion" universe?


Making India's economic growth all-encompassing, accessible to the greater populace and to that degree inclusive is one of the major achievements of the UPA government. I would go to the extent of arguing that by hammering away at such egalitarian ideas, by promoting them in speeches, policies, meetings, conferences, in Parliament and outside, in government and in civil society, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and the UPA have made economic and financial inclusion an irreversible and ineffaceable part of Indian public discourse.


Nothing reflects this better than the flagship programme of the UPA government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). To my mind, there is no greater manifestation of financial inclusion and no greater avenue of social justice and reconciliation.


We live in an unusually dynamic country. In today's India, wealth is being created at a scorching pace. The number of dollar-denominated millionaires has gone up by 50 per cent in the past year. Yet there is also acute poverty in this country. This is the country that has 670 million mobile phone connections and, as per even the most optimistic estimates, only 400 million personal bank accounts. Indeed, less than 100 million Indians — under 10 per cent of the population — have PAN cards. These people have names, not identities. They have no ID numbers; they are not treated as human beings as much as statistics.


Programmes like NREGA and Aadhar, the Unique Identification Number project, are designed to give such people an identity, a marker that they exist and that their contribution to the national economy is appreciated. Above all, they are designed to give them work and a wage that allows them the right to be seen as equal citizens — the right of financial inclusion.


We must remember that in all of rural India there are only 32,000 bank branches. Just five per cent of India's 650,000 villages have bank branches. People in rural India get no phone calls from gushing, excited call centres girls and boys; they don't have bank officers chasing them. Rather, they thirst for a bank to arrive and to get their tired, feeble hands on a passbook.


In his Budget speech in Parliament in February 2010, the finance minister committed to taking banking services to 73,000 villages, each with a population of at least 2,000, by March 2012. Even so, financial inclusion should not be de-contextualised and should not be regarded as limited to the ability to open a bank account, get a PAN number or invest in financial instruments. Economic inclusion is the mother from which both social inclusion and financial inclusion draw their strength. This can take many forms and has diverse implications.


For example, one of the key issues exercising policymakers, business leaders and ordinary citizens alike is the issue of land acquisition and purchase for industrial and infrastructure purposes. Does our responsibility towards the farmer and the small peasant end at giving him one-time compensation for his land and telling him to walk into the wilderness? Is the dimension of economic and financial inclusion not better served in making him a long term partner, some sort of equity holder, in the wealth that will be created from his land?
This is one of the key challenges in the path of inclusive growth. It holds a mirror to all our questions and conundrums related to social, economic and financial inclusion.


Where do the solutions lie? Certainly they don't lie exclusively in the domain of the state and with the government. India has a growing and increasingly prosperous private sector. Whether by way of business extension or by means of corporate social responsibility, Indian business has to complement the government's efforts at boosting financial and other forms of inclusion.


Civil society too has to play a role. The role of non-governmental organisations in incubating self-help groups (SHGs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) is well known.


In turn, these organisations encourage members to pool resources and open bank accounts or set up a small seed capital for tiny, self-owned businesses, even a shop or a agro-based based business. SHGs and CBOs are invaluable tools for financial inclusion, particularly for empowering women.


There are hundreds of millions of little people who make up our enthralling, enchanting society. Their stories are stories that, I would imagine, tell us more about India's economic progress than which billionaire has bought which private plane. This is where the saga of tomorrow's India is being drafted. This is where the nuts and bolts of financial, economic and social inclusion are being forged.


Consider the canvas. Can one think of anything more magical than an activity that fulfils an economic need, furthers a socially useful idea, creates employment, empowers women and yet promotes financial inclusion?
We must strive to optimise this golden mix, each one of us and do what we can do.

 

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson. The views expressed in this
column are her own.

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DNA

            REPORT

INDIAN PIONEERS MOVE ALONG FUTURISTIC CURVE

 

Vanity Fair's Next Establishment 2010 list is of much interest to us in India because it features three Indian-origin people.

 

It has Anjula Acharia Bath of the south Asian cultural website DesiHits.com, which streams Indian popular music and Bollywood gossip. The other two are FourSquare's Naveen Selvadurai and Bloom Energy's KR Sridhar. Selvadurai's is a smartphone application and Sridhar's is one that helps limit the carbon footprint.

 

What these three indicate is that some Indians are ahead of the curve in the information technology sweepstakes. According to the magazine, the 39 people (including the three Indian-origin ones) listed in the Next list "are doing some empire building of their own — be it through iPhone apps, web retailing, fashion, entertainment or environmental causes".

 

If they continue doing well and building strong businesses, they could join Vanity Fair's list of the 100 most influential people of the information age — though that is some distance away.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

THE ROT BEHIND COMMONWEALTH GAMES FAÇADE STARTS SHOWING

 

When the Commonwealth Games (CWG) inaugural ceremony went off far better than expected, the nation collectively heaved a sigh of relief and felt a surge of pride.

 

There was reason to believe that with this successful start, India had put all its CWG troubles behind and was on its way to hosting a spectacular show. A triumphant Suresh Kalmadi even boasted that the time had come to bid for the Olympic Games. As usual, we were all-forgiving and hoped that the bad experiences were behind us. The implicit and explicit assumption was that henceforth everything would fall into place.

 

Alas, the promise has turned out to be hollow. Last-minute paint jobs and patchwork may make outward appearances better, but what's behind does matter. With attention focused on getting the stadiums ready, the authorities never had the time or the inclination to check if all the systems were okay, whether the officials were sufficiently briefed and trained, whether the swimming pool water was of international quality — well beyond Lalit Bhanot standards.

 

This might explain the series of gaffes we are witnessing today: of empty stadiums and non-availability of tickets; of a runner nearly getting a medal before a rival team realised that she had a false start that the officials missed noting; of an electronic scoreboard collapsing; of a Ugandan official's car crashing into a

 

security barrier that failed to open… one can go on. This isn't merely to record complaints but to point out that the initial delays have had a cascading effect. The Games will still go off well: all the problems noted can and are being fixed. But it will also mean that what could have been a perfect event will now end up being just about passable.

 

Our real work begins after the games end — when the last athlete has left. The government had promised to punish all those who were guilty of sins of omission and commission. This must be done, if only to send out the message that we cannot always excuse failures.

 

Without a proper post-mortem and corrective action, we should not even dream of staging the Olympic Games.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

CHINA'S IGNOBLE BARK IS REALLY TELLING

 

China's objections to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize emphasise the very reasons why democracy is so important.

 

By slamming Norway and threatening problems in ties between the two countries, China has once more misunderstood the difference between the state and the public. In democracies, there is no problem if the two are at odds; it is dissidence which makes a democracy strong.

 

But a state-controlled society may be able to build huge bridges and dams, but their success depends on crushing the human spirit.

 

Liu, 54, was jailed after the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989, where pro-democracy students clashed with the Chinese army. The Chinese authorities came down hard on democracy and human rights activists and it is only China's economic clout and superpower aspirations which have stopped much of the world from condemning it outright. So sensitive are the Chinese authorities to criticism that even minor transgressions on the Internet are treated as major crimes.

 

The Nobel committee has, in a sense, stayed true to form by picking a controversial candidate for its peace prize. Several of its winners have surprised the world and some have left the committee with egg on its face. The omission of Mahatma Gandhi from the list of awardees is shocking to some, although it could well be argued that Gandhi hardly needs a certificate from the Nobel committee to ratify his contributions to the world.

 

But an act of omission is very different from acknowledging the importance of a pro-democracy dissident in a totalitarian state. The world's discomfort with China and its resolve to open its economy to the world while keeping everything else under lock and key is well-known. In fact, China was similarly enraged when dissident Chinese writer Gao Xingjian was awarded the

 

Nobel for literature in 2000.

 

As the Nobel committee chairman has pointed out, the more powerful China becomes, the more it has to get used to criticism. All governments and nations in the world face this problem but those which are democracies are better equipped to deal with it and some, in fact, celebrate it. This Nobel prize, in many ways, forces both China and the world to re-examine the relevance of totalitarianism today. It will give a fillip to dissidents everywhere, and also demonstrate to China that the party's writ cannot — will never — run outside its borders. There is a lesson in this for all autocratic states around the world.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

HOW RAJINIKANTH BRIDGED THE NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE WITH ROBOT

SANJEEV NAYYAR

 

Surfing through TV channels a couple of days ago, this writer was surprised to see a Delhi-based child sitting on his father's lap saying how he loved Robot and had become a fan of Rajinikanth.

 

Some other Hindi-speaking viewers said they loved the movie inspite of seeing the Tamil version and not understanding a word.

 

Another spoke of a friend who had travelled some 50km to Porbander to see the Tamil version of Robot.

 

Have you ever heard of a Tamil movie being released in Gujarat? Use of technology has given the movie universal appeal. Robot, and an earlier Rajinikanth starrer, Sivaji — The Boss, have broken language barriers.

 

For the record, the movie was released in 2,250 screens worldwide. This includes 500 screens in Tamil Nadu, 350 in Andhra Pradesh and — believe it or not — 700 in North India. The movie was released in three languages simultaneously. In Tamil and Telugu Robot was titled Endhiran.

 

It could be one of the biggest grossers in Indian movie history. At the end of the first week, the film is understood to have grossed Rs117 crore.

 

Even if it isn't, Robot underscores a new phenomenon in India film-making — the gradual erasure of the North-South divide.

 

In part, this is the result of the hero Rajinikanth's multi-dimensional identity. Born in Bangalore to Maharashtrian parents, he was named Shivaji Rao Gaekwad. This is why we saw Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray hugging the superstar the other day at his home.

 

After struggling through his initial years (he worked as coolie and bus conductor), he did a course in acting at the Madras Film Institute and has never looked back. His stardom proves that even an ordinary bus conductor can, through hard work, luck, positive karmas and spirituality, succeed.

 

The generations of Tamils who opposed Hindi as a national language must be having the last laugh. They are probably telling themselves: "We did not allow the Hindi-speaking people to override our rich language; instead see what Rajinikanth has done. A movie made by Tamilians for Tamils is a superhit in Delhi. So what if it is dubbed in Hindi in some places?"

 

Quite clearly, the India of 2010 is not the same as the one of 1960-80, when Tamils were burning buses and committing self-immolation to prevent Hindi being foisted on them.

 

Let's see how far we have moved since then through the star-cast of Robot itself. Rajini himself has Maharashtrian, Kannadiga and Tamil associations. The heroine Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is a Mangalorean. She has married a man whose paternal grandparents belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Punjab while the maternal ones were Bengali.

 

The villain, played by Danny Denzongpa, is from Sikkim. Music director AR Rahman is a Muslim convert, who was born Dilip Kumar Mudaliar.

 

Endhiran is a movie made for Tamilians but its main characters belong to various parts of India. In a deeper sense, the movie shows that an Indian could be residing in any state but there is a bond that helps us relate to one another.

 

Unfortunately, the West is used to seeing every relationship in black and white and demands a clear explanation for such bonding. In India, everything has a shade of grey. We must stop being defensive about who we are and search for what binds us rather than what divides us! For far too long have invaders and rulers split our ranks!

 

You may ask what has changed? The process of change started with the advent of satellite TV in India. The popularity of Chennai-based performers like Prabhudeva broke the barriers. The song Muqabla Muqabla was a big hit in the 1990s.

 

The Tamil version of the song was very popular too. TV allowed Tamilians unhindered access to Hindi channels and vice-versa. Indians of every state probably liked something that their own language and culture did not provide.

 

The development of the information technology sector in Tamil Nadu and foreign investment required many non-Tamilians to work in Chennai. The inter-mingling of communities played a role as well.

 

Economic liberalisation and cheaper foreign travel have resulted in a broader worldview. These have helped overcome some adverse affects that arose from the creation of linguistic states.

 

Lastly, it is all about money, honey. The film's producers realised that a movie costing Rs162 crore can make super-profits only if it is released all over India. Why should a producer restrict his movie to four states when a Hindi version can be seen in another 15 and abroad?

 

Endhiran has also made me proud of belonging to a 5,000 year old civilisation — a civilisation that allows people of every region to practice their local culture and yet be a part of a larger reality called Bharatiya Sanskriti. In modern marketing parlance, the relevant words are: Think local, Act global.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WHY WE STILL HAVE PIRATES IN THE 21ST CENTURY

GWYNNE DYER

 

The good news is that something is finally going to be done about the pirates who infest the Somali coast and raid far out into the Indian Ocean.

 

A group of London-based insurance companies led by the Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group (JLT) is planning to create a private navy to protect ships passing through the Red Sea and north-western Indian Ocean.

 

It's about time. Even now, after the monsoon season has kept the pirates relatively quiet for months, 16 ships and 354 sailors arebeing held captive in the pirate ports along the Somali coast. The average ransom paid to free those ships and their crews has risen to around $4 million, and it's also taking longer between the hijacking of a ship and its release.

 

So a fleet of 20 fast patrol boats crewed by well-armed mercenaries could be just what the doctor ordered. Unhampered by the legal considerations that paralyse the navies, they could just kill the pirates wherever they found them and dump their bodies into the sea.The bad news is that this is not what the insurance companies are planning to do at all. Instead, this private navy would operate under the direct control of the international naval force that is already in the area, with "clear rules of engagement valid under international law".

 

In other words, if you have insured your ship with JLT or its associates and paid the anti-piracy insurance premium (up to $450,000 per voyage for a supertanker), then you will be escorted by this private navy. The pirates, not being complete fools, will just go and attack other ships instead.

 

How can it have come to pass that we have a major pirate problem in the 21st century? They sorted that out in the early 18th century. Why has it got unsorted again?

 

Blame international law. When they were codifying the law of the sea back in the 1970s, the world had no pirate problem worth talking about. So they dropped the rule of "universal jurisdiction" that had been the key to suppressing piracy in the bad old days. "Universal jurisdiction"meant that every navy could arrest suspected pirates of any nationality and try them under its own national laws, since pirates had been defined as "the enemies of all mankind." That's how piracy was wiped out in the first place.

 

But when they were writing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in the 1970s, there were no pirates anymore, so they dropped the rule of "universal jurisdiction" in favour of a legal regime more attuned to modern notions of human rights and national sovereignty. What has replaced those old rules, in practice, is a legal quagmire where you can never be sure who has legal jurisdiction. So the navies (which could easily suppress the piracy if they were free to act) refrain from using force, and are reluctant even to arrest people at sea who are quite obviously pirates.

To extinguish piracy again, we need a modernised version of the old rules. That requires prompt action to create a comprehensive international agreement that gets around the Law of the Sea.

There is one other issue, of course. If we use serious force against the pirates, they will threaten to use force against their captives. Some of them might be killed. But since there will never be a time when there are no captives in the hands of the Somali pirates until and unless we crack down hard, that is a risk that we just have to take.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

MAINTAIN PEACE

 

It is deplorable that an idol has been stolen from the ancient Gouri Shankar temple of Sarkoot in Kishtwar town. It is still worse that the incident has become a cause of tension. The Hindu minority whose religious sensibilities are affected has observed a complete bandh in the area in protest against the theft. Clearly it is suspected that there has been a foul play. Can a doubt merely be the reason enough for kicking up a storm? What do we gain by giving vent to our resentment in any manner? Don't we walk into the trap of mischief-makers who are bent upon destroying harmonious human relations? Why don't we believe that it can also be the handiwork of thieves as well? There is no dearth of those wanting to make a fast buck by hook or by crook. For them it does not really matter whether they break into the abode of God leave alone other places. It is not ruled out that they may have picked upon the bust of "ashtadhatu" (combination of eight metals --- gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury) "bal swaroop" (baby) Krishna thinking that it is made of pure gold. This may well have been the basis for them to have not touched gold jewellery on other holy images which are there in the shrine. It can't be easily explained then why they have decamped with the entire cash from the safe. How safe was the safe itself which was last opened on the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami? Invariably, however, it has been seen that these questions don't count much in a matter involving faith. Almost invariably the first reaction of the devotees is emotional. They take a sentimental view of the situation and go along with it. At times their response can be counter-productive because, whether or not we like to admit it, they are moved beyond a point.

 

Given this background it is to be appreciated that the people though very sad have been calm while registering their anguish. The police and the administration too have acted swiftly. They can't be unaware of the communally sensitive history of Kishtwar where the slightest provocation has come in handy for rabble-rousers to set up one section of people against the other. Four special police officers (SPOs) who were supposed to be on duty in the vicinity at the time of the occurrence have been disengaged. An Indian Police Service (IPS) officer has been put in charge of the inquiry. Forensic science experts and sniffer dogs have been pressed into operation. The para-military forces have been deployed in strength in and around the district headquarters.

 

All these steps should be reassuring for the aggrieved section of society. We should never fail to keep in mind that as citizens it is our responsibility to live in perfect accord with each other. Of late there have been a couple of happenings in this region which are disturbing. Not very long ago an act of sacrilege in Chassana (Reasi district) had drawn us to the edge of our seats. What happened in Mendhar (Poonch district) can't be a cause of comfort either. We should guard against mischievous elements. We should keep our eyes and ears wide open and effectively isolate the black sheep in our midst.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

ANOTHER CASUALTY

 

After the Railway repair work and the NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) plants we have another casualty because of the continuing turmoil in the Valley. According to a report in this newspaper there has been mass exodus of labourers employed on the Mughal Road project. The executing agency, Hindustan Construction Corporation, has been able to carry out its assignment only on a few patches during the past more than three months. About 400 skilled and semi-skilled personnel, who were from outside the State, have gone away. They have been driven away by threats from anti-national elements as well as unrest in the Valley. Even the State subjects engaged in the project have left for their native places in other parts; they too are hesitant to come back. Anti-national forces have made an attempt to loot the blasting material as well when it was being taken to the headquarters of the Corporation in Shopian. Not surprisingly, the movement of men and material has been affected. From the little workforce that is available a semblance of work is being done on the Bufliaz end in Poonch district. With this background in view the fate of the deadline of September 2011 fixed for the completion of all road works is anybody's guess. At this point in time nothing can be said with certainty about taking up seven major bridges and tackling avalanche-prone areas for which a cut-off date of October 2010 has been fixed. It is said that the Corporation is trying to woo back the labourers. How is it going about this task? It is not clear. Nevertheless the idea that they should be brought back and engaged in double shifts to make up for the lost time is a good strategy. What else can be done in the given circumstances? Indeed, on the whole, it is disturbing that everything has virtually come to a standstill in the Kashmir region. Not only the railway track and other property has been damaged it is not being allowed to be set right. Whatever water resources we can use because of the restrictions imposed by the Indus Water Treaty are also going waste in the absence of their application for electricity generation. Now the proposed alternative national highway between the two Capital cities too has hit bottlenecks. We hail it as a historic route but don't realise that we are making a sort of dubious history while desperately trying to revive it.

 

We know fully well that there are people among us who don't want us to succeed. We are aware that they are in a hopeless minority. Yet, we don't assert ourselves boldly enough to show them their place. Instead, we seem to surrender to their whims and violent thoughts. On the other hand, the administration is also caught in a bind. It resents any remark about there being "governance deficit." The reality, however, is that it has not been able to instil confidence among the persons engaged in various development activities by providing them with adequate security and leading them from front. The greater duty, of course, lies with us as the inhabitants of this State. We do understand that we have a stake in peace and prosperity. But we don't join hands to achieve this objective. Isn't it ironical?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

PAKISTAN: NOW A JIHAD AGAINST SUFISM?

IN AND AROUND J&K

BY D. SUBA CHANDRAN

 

Last week, one of the most revered shrines of Karachi - Abdullah Ghazi, was attacked with twin suicide bombings, leaving more than ten dead and many injured. Considered as one of the most important places of Karachi, the shrine and its saint - Abdullah Ghazi, are believed to be the guardians of one of the most populated city in Pakistan. In fact, even today, despite the technological advancements and weather studies, many in Karachi trust the shrine as a principle factor in protecting Karachi from cyclones. Perched above a hill, overlooking the sea, the shrine has been a symbol of reverence for the last many centuries; the three day festival held in every December, not only attracts the Muslims of different sects, but also non-Muslims. Who will target such a shrine, which is considered as the protector of Karachi?


Should the attack on Abdullah Ghazi shrine be seen in isolation? Or is there a pattern? Unfortunately, some of the attacks during the recent months in mainland Pakistan and other terror related incidents in the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) in the recent years, hint a trend against Sufism and local culture, customs and beliefs.


The attack on Abdullah Ghazi shrine in October, looks like an action replay of an earlier attack in Lahore. In July 2010, there were three suicide attacks in the shrine of Syed Ali Hajwairi, better known as Data Gunj Bakhsh. Like Abdullah Ghazi is considered as the patron saint of Karachi, Syed Ali Hajwari is considered as the patron saint of Lahore. Earlier, in March 2009, in Peshawar, there was another attack on the mausoleum of Rehman Baba, a sufi poet.


Clearly, the selection of places, shrines and the saints is not a coincidence. Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar are the most important cities of Sindh, Punjab and the NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkwa), known for their multi cultural and cosmopolitan outlook in Pakistan. During this decade, there has been an increased attack on these cities, by the religious right on the political spectrum and the radical groups led by the TTP and numerous sectarian organizations. While the efforts of the erstwhile MMA to make an impact in these cities are well known, the radical onslaught on these cities are generally carpeted under the rubric of terrorism.


Is there a struggle within the Islam, led by a radical fringe, which is trying to terrorize the majority in Pakistan? Available data, though limited, hints the possibility of such a pattern. The radical onslaught is not only against Sufism, but also against local culture, customs and beliefs. This is more visible in the FATA, where the Taliban and its local offshoots are attacking the symbols and pillars of the pashtunwali - the tribal code of pashtun. Especially, in the FATA, one could see a visible pattern in trying to undermine the role of jirgas (led by the tribal elders) in deciding the pashtun way of live. From matrimonial disputes to land and crime, the tribal jirgas led by the pashtun elders have been the primary agents of social justice, imposing tribal harmony. The verdicts of these jirgas have always been based on the tribal customs, based on pashtunwali. Until now. During the recent years, the Taliban have been attacking them, in an attempt to impose Shariah based on their own version of Islam. Numerous suicide attacks have been carried out against these tribal jirgas; in fact, the Taliban suicide bombers have killed more tribal leaders of the FATA, than the American.


Why are the radical elements going after the Sufi shrines in Pakistan, when the majority of the mainstream believes in Sufism and local customs? Both in the FATA and in the mainland Pakistan, the radical fringe is attempting to impose their version of Islam. 


Will they be able to succeed? Based on their experience and the relative success in the FATA, especially in Waziristan, perhaps the TTP believes they could. The hard reality is, the TTP though forms the fringe, they are not alone in this madness. The sectarian militants including the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and even the Jaish-e-Mohammad also share a similar view; the attack on Shias and the Ahmediyas in the recent months is not a mere coincidence. While the multiple attacks in Lahore on the Ahemediya mosques in May this year alone killed more than 100 people and gained widespread condemnation, there have been more than twenty such sectarian attacks, all over Pakistan, since 2009, killing more than 400 people.


Both the TTP and other sectarian organizations are trying to impose their version of Islam, by attacking the others. Since independence, the Ahmediya community has been continuously under attack; the religious Right, led by the Jamaat-e-Islami and all factions of the Jamiat-ul-Islam targeted the Ahemediyas, leading to two draconian acts/ordinances in 1974 and 1984. The first one was an Act passed in 1974, by the democratically elected government, declaring the Ahmediyas as non-Muslims, and the second in 1984, an ordinance by the military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. 


After their success against the Ahmediyas, during the last two decades, the Sunni radical elements, have been targeting the Shias. It is also no coincidence, that the sectarian fault lines, though were inherent in the society, they got widened only in the late 1980s and peaked during the late 1990s. After a relative lull during the early part of this decade, the sectarian attacks have started again during the last few years. 


A major difference now, in terms of the sectarian attacks in the last two years, when compared to the last decade, is the association of the Taliban. In the 1990s, the Taliban was not a factor in the sectarian attacks inside Pakistan. Nor, would have one heard about attacks against local customs and traditional beliefs in the 1990s. And the involvement of the Taliban now explains, why the Barelvis are being targeted. Whether Deobandi, Wahabi, or a mixture of both (or perhaps, a version of their own), the Taliban and its local offshoots in Pakistan have started an internal jihad, to force their version of their Islam. If local customs comes in their way, they will also be targeted; attacks on Pashtunwali in NWFP and FATA, and Sufism in the rest of Pakistan, is a part of this new disaster. 


Sometime during the 17th century, Rehman Baba, one of the most loved pashtun Sufi poet, whose mausoleum was attacked by the Taliban, wrote: "Humans are all one body; Whoever tortures another, wounds himself."
The author is Deputy Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BENEFITS OF ELECTRICITY

ARE THEY UNLIMITED?

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA


That electricity leads to improvement in standard of life is undisputed. Question is how much? Benefits of eating bread are self-evident. But one does not cut the mango tree in his backyard to buy bread, or he does not mortgage is ancestral house for this. He calculates the benefit from bread to be less than the cost of cutting the mango tree. But he cuts the same mango tree to raise money for buying a tractor. Likewise it is necessary to assess the benefits from electricity. We should produce more electricity if benefits are large; and less of the same if benefits are less. However, it is difficult to measure the benefits from the use of electricity. The students studies under a lamp in the night. Pray! How to measure the benefits of burning the lamp? Economists have worked out two methods to overcome this difficulty.


First method is to assess the 'willingness to pay' for the purchase of electricity. Consider the purchase of mango from the market. How much is the benefits from eating the mango? This can be assessed by asking the person how much he is willing to pay for that purchase. Say, the price of mango in the market is Rs 30 a kilo. But the customer was willing to pay a maximum of Rs 40 for it. The benefit derived by the customer from the purchase is, then, Rs 10. 


One of the topmost institutions in the country in the field of energy is The Energy Research Institute, more commonly known as TERI. It is headed by Nobel Laureate Dr R K Pachauri. TERI has made a survey of industrialists and farmers in Karnataka and Haryana. It was found that industrialists were willing to pay Rs 5.20 per unit for reliable electricity while farmers were willing to pay only Rs 3 per unit. This study was done in 1999. On the average I reckon this will be equal to Rs 7 per unit today. The cost of electricity is about Rs 4 per unit. The benefit drawn by the consumers will, therefore, be Rs 3 per unit.


Another method to determine benefits from electricity is to compare the cost of production with other sources. This is called 'replacement value' method. We can calculate how much it will cost to replace the electricity from the next best available source. Say, the cost of producing hydropower is Rs 3 per unit. If hydropower is not generated then the same electricity will be produced from thermal plants. The cost of thermal power is, say, Rs 4 per unit. Thus, the benefit from generation of hydropower is Rs 1 per unit. The customer will have to pay an additional Rs 1 per unit because hydropower was not produced. The benefit from prevention of this additional burden on the consumer will be Rs 1 per unit. 


The average benefit from the two methods works out to about Rs 2 per unit. The amount paid for purchase of electricity is about Rs 4 per unit. Therefore, more electricity should be produced if the cost of production is less than Rs 6, and less electricity should be produced if the cost of production is more than Rs 6 per unit. 
The cost of production of electricity has two components. Some costs are incurred by the producer. These include cost of plant and machinery, labour, coal, etc. This is about Rs 3 per unit. Other costs are incurred by the society. These include global warming, increase in disease, loss of biodiversity, etc. 


These environmental, social and political costs are huge. I have assessed the environmental costs from one hydropower project, namely, Kotlibhel in Uttarakhand, to be Rs 8 per unit. The total cost of electricity is, therefore, Rs 11 per unit. This high price is not visible though because the environmental and social costs are borne by the poor people living along the rivers and thermal plants while the benefits from generation of electricity are reaped by those living in Kolkata and New Delhi.


So here is the problem. The benefits from consumption of electricity are Rs 6 per unit today while the costs are Rs 11 per unit. Hence, we should reduce the production of electricity. At lower level of production, the benefits will be more and costs will be less. At some point the benefits will be equal to the costs. That is the amount of electricity that we must produce. We should charge higher price so that people do not use electricity for running escalators and air-conditioners in shopping malls. The poor people will be spared of the environmental costs and total welfare of the country will increase.


But a powerful lobby of contractors is at work. They have created hype that benefits from consumption of electricity are astronomical. Therefore, they say, we must produce as much electricity as possible. It does not matter if the nation's sovereignty is put to risk by dependence on imported uranium; or the culture of worshipping free-flowing rivers comes to an end; or global warming takes place; because the benefits are so huge so as to dwarf these costs. These contractors have purchased the intellectuals of the country and got them to give astronomically high estimates of benefits from electricity.


The National Hydro Power Corporation gave a contract to TERI to evaluate the costs and benefits of two hydropower projects. TERI concluded that the benefits of electricity were Rs 74 per unit in 2005. At present this may be Rs 100 per unit. This is strange. TERI itself has evaluated the benefits to be about Rs 7 per unit by 'willingness to pay' method. Now it has raised that figure to Rs 100 per unit. It is on this basis that the Ministry of Power is trying to increase production of power at any cost.


TERI arrived at this figure by comparing the consumption of electricity and national income over the years. It found that an increase in consumption of electricity by 1 unit went hand in hand with an increase in national income of Rs 100. From this comparison, it concluded that benefits of one unit of electricity were Rs 100. Problem is that the contribution of other inputs to national income has been ignored. The contribution of land, labour, capital and technology is all assumed to be zero. It is assumed that the only input in national income is electricity. This can be understood by an example. We may ask the farmer what is the benefit from the tube well? He will calculate the contribution of seeds, fertilizers, tractor, land, technology, management and tube well. Then he will assess how much of the production is due to the tube well. The same should be done for national income. TERI should have assessed the contribution of other inputs in the national income and then determined how much was due to electricity. Unfortunately, in its anxiety to please NHPC, which had given the contract, TERI set aside its intellectual honesty and concluded that benefits from electricity were Rs 100 per unit. Such conclusions have become the basis of ever increased generation of electricity and putting our sovereignty, culture and environment at stake. Our economist Prime Minister should intervene and put a stop to such misinformation being spread by the contractors. True benefits and costs of electricity should be assessed and only so much electricity should be generated that is beneficial.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS

BY RAM RATTAN SHARMA

 

Corporal punishment is common in rural Govt. Schools, but it also happens in good schools in cities also. Do children really deserve being beaten ? Does using the rod help the child become a better person? We all have gone through this type of disciplining at school. We know that beating children has never disciplined them. The only thing it serves is quenching a power hungry teachers quest for control and quick fix solution to quieten a noisy bunch of kids. But what about the impact it has on the kids. Some parents and teachers resort to speaking or other means of corporal punishment as a way to discipline children. When we spank children as a form of discipline, we may well be teaching them that it is okay to hit some one, that people can dominate you. That one has to do what one is told and not to think as one wishes. That it is okay to act in anger. These are the messages that one would like one's children to have, especially when a child's self concept and self esteem is developing.
It is crucial that they are given guidance on how to behave and the way they are disciplined. The first in creative discipline is to look at your self rather than the child. Schools that take huge donations and feels under stand that the kids coming to their schools are the basic foundation and they have to be nurtured well. Beating child is an example of a teacher who has literally given up on all other means of educating a child. Teachers need to have a pool of creative ideas to control the class and inculcate good behaviour. By resorting to a cane every time you cannot control the class this way.


Schools need to share their best practices with each other. Parent teacher meetings serve as a platform for the school to show case its achievements but not parents to show their concern. Schools should ensure that the teachers meant for lower classes have to be the best. Degrees and qualifications are of no use if a teacher lacks patience in dealing with kids. No doubt, kids these days are smarter and teachers need to be equally smart in handling them. It is high time that teachers start realizing that a noble profession like teaching requires not only degrees, but patience and creative mind set. Talking to the kids, engaging them in creative, activities, keeping them occupied, giving them small tasks that challenge them, are all means to make school what it is actually meant to do i.e., transmission of knowledge. Controlling small kids is indeed a tough task, but by setting our expectations right and rewarding positive behaviour children learn to behave well. Disciplining kids is an ongoing process, not only at school, but also at home. The problems faced by the teachers too need to be duly addressed. The management has to ensure that the size of the class does not exceed. Teachers have to be paid reasonably well and on time. Incentives have to be given to keep the teachers focused and motivated. Regular work shops need to be held to enhance their knowledge and clear career goals need to be set. Education is an emancipation. These are the formative years for any child. The worst thing would be if a child refuses to go to the school for the reason that teacher beats him. Teachers need to have pool of creative ideas to control the class and inculcate good behaviour. 


Through teachers, flow the values and culture of a nation and its people. Despite the age old values of the country's education system, teachers need to accept change in keeping with the times, maintaining a fine balance between traditions and innovations. One of those changes includes the abolition of corporal punishment in schools. The (Right to education) bans corporal punishment and mental harassment. It also bans detention and expulsion. Over the past few years, a number of cases of corporal punishment, even leading to death and suicide have come to light. The school environment should be free from fear, trauma and anxiety. No child irrespective of caste, gender or community to which he or she belongs should dread the thought of going to school. 
(The author is former Dy. Librarian University of Jammu, General Secretary Vichar Kranti Manch International)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

UN BODY IS NOT RIGHT

ARUNACHAL IS AN UNDISPUTED PART OF INDIA

 

Whatever explanation the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) may offer for showing Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as "independent entities", having nothing to do with India, it deserves to be assailed for its unjustifiable approach. Even if the FAO has the tradition of depicting disputed territories in the manner it has done, it should not have presented before the world Arunachal's status as a controversial one.

 

For the FAO, Arunachal is no different from J and K though both fall in entirely different categories. India and Pakistan have, of course, fought wars over Kashmir, they seem to have almost made up their mind that borders cannot be altered. Even the Kashmiri separatists' talk of "azadi" has undergone a change. The concept of "azadi" is now being described in a manner which indicates that greater autonomy may be enough to keep the separatists quiet under the circumstances. This means that the FAO should shun the old practice of showing Jammu and Kashmir as an "independent entity".

 

One fails to understand what has made the FAO change its past stand on Arunachal Pradesh. China has been indulging in some embarrassing tactics relating to what it calls Tawang, but its actions have never been as serious as to make the world believe that the territory is disputed between the two Asian powers. China's questionable actions have been apparently aimed at entering into a bargain to settle the border disputes between the two countries. There have been occasions when China has provided proof that it has no quarrel with India over what the FAO calls "Arunashal".

 

The UN and its affiliates should avoid contributing to disputes between different countries. Their activities should be aimed at creating harmony in different regions, and not giving birth to tensions. The FAO should change the practice of depicting even a disputed territory as an "independent entity" in the interest of peace and stability. 


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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A THREAT TO PUNJAB

POLITICS MUST NOT CLOUD FISCAL CRISIS

 

THE on-going power struggle in Punjab has diverted attention from the real threat to the state's finances. The state's Chief Secretary, by his own admission, was instructed to contradict the state finance minister's claim that the Centre had offered to waive as much as Rs 35,000 crore of the state's public debt.

 

But the issue is not whether the state has received a formal 'offer' and 'in writing' from the Centre, as the state government seems to expect. Indeed, it should be the other way round and it is the state, as debtor, which is required to pray for the waiver 'in writing' and convey to the Centre its willingness to abide by the terms and conditions. The heart of the matter is that no state can afford to pay Rs 8000 crore or more every year by way of interest-payment and the sooner the state's total debt is reduced, the better off it will be.

 

Punjab, if it is of any consolation, is not the only state which has a huge debt burden. Indeed, while Punjab's debt is estimated to be Rs 71,000 crore, several other states like Maharashtra, Gujarat , West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have debts which are three or four times higher. But then these states have a correspondingly higher population and state GDP as well. The annual report on state finances by the Reserve Bank of India, however, has noted the increasing indebtedness of the states, their rising interest burden, their stagnant tax: GDP ratio, their declining non-tax revenue and rising expenditure on non-development sectors. Virtually all states in the country are caught in the vicious circle of spending most of their revenue on wages and salaries, subsidies and interest payment.

 

The prescriptions are also provided by the RBI and the state government need not take Manpreet Badal's words for them. Non-tax revenue of states at 10 per cent of the total is far lower than international norms and hence the states are advised to rationalise user charges for water, health and education services, get rid of public utilities in the red while raising tax revenue with measures like plugging under-valuation of property and withdrawing or tapering sales tax exemptions. Punjab must also address the quality of expenditure being made by the state government. The least Punjab can do as a first step perhaps is to withdraw power and water subsidies from the rich farmers.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A NOBEL WELL DESERVED

LIU A TORCHBEARER FOR DEMOCRACY

 

THE Norwegian Nobel Committee deserves to be commended for its choice of Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Sentenced to 11 years in prison last December, a year after being arrested as lead author of Charter 08, a manifesto issued by Chinese intellectuals and activists calling for free speech and multi-party elections, Liu has been an epitome of dignity and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in his country.

 

He is cast in the same mould as the Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who has been under house arrest for 14 of the last 20 years and is continuing to wage a relentless non-violent crusade for her country's return to democracy. Various world leaders have paid rich tributes to Liu as they have been doing to Aung San Suu Kyi but the Chinese government has been as contemptuous and dismissive of demands for Liu's release as the Burmese military junta has been of Suu Kyi's. This is truly reprehensible.

 

The Chinese government which is reaping the fruits of granting economic freedom to its people will sooner than later realize the inevitability of pushing through political reforms. Liu Xiaobo was exposed to western liberal ideas when he was teaching in the US and while his reformist ideas were throttled, there is doubtlessly a growing section in China that is seething in anger over the suppression of basic freedoms. Significantly, the Chinese made special efforts to black out news of Liu's Nobel award in China. As the telecast of the news began on BBC, the screen went black for six minutes. Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xio was whisked away to her village so that she may be kept off the international media. Such tactics have delayed a mass movement for political freedom but time will inevitably catch up with the Chinese government.

 

It is brave fighters like Liu Xiaobo who suffer and thereby ensure that future generations benefit from their crusades. Be it Liu or Suu Kyi, their names will be a source of inspiration for years to come.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

FAITH VERSUS FACTS

A STRANGE VERDICT ON AYODHYA

BY AMULYA GANGULI

 

THE most famous case of religious belief being given precedence over reality was the Catholic church's condemnation of Galileo in the early 17th century for saying that the earth moved round the sun and not the other way round, as it was believed in those days. Since this assertion amounted to blasphemy in the medieval period, the evangelists threatened the astronomer with torture and extracted a recantation from him for his "heretical" theory. It took another four centuries for the church to apologise for its mistake.

 

There are shades of such an error in the Allahabad High Court's judgment on the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute. Even if a Hindu deity has a legal status under Hindu law, it is doubtful whether this criterion is applicable to the Ram Lalla idols which were installed into the Babri Masjid on the night of December 22-23, 1949, by unknown persons, who were obviously of the same mindset as the Sangh Parivar's.

 

As is known, the authorities in India generally find it extremely difficult to remove the shrines which suddenly appear on footpaths, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road. In course of time, these entirely illegal structures become bigger and bigger, occupying larger stretches of the pavement and attracting more and more devotees. If it is nearly impossible to remove them despite the traffic problems which they cause, the reason is not only the fear of offending the Almighty, but also that the idols acquire some kind of a property right over the land on which their place of abode has been set up.

 

What is noteworthy in the case of such small places of worship and, of course, the larger temples is that even if, for argument's sake, some of them have been established after a forcible occupation of the land - or, at least, in the absence of any serious public objection - they all acquire legitimacy because of the property rights conferred on the deities by custom, law and general acquiescence. The difference, however, between these instances and the Ayodhya dispute is that, in the case of the latter, the Hindu shrine was set up inside a Muslim house of prayer.

 

The idols were not installed either on a government-owned plot of land, such as a pavement, or in a temple constructed on a piece of property where there was no other place of worship. For all intents and purposes, therefore, the surreptitious installation of the idols in the Babri Masjid was a violation of property rights of the owner of the building. It was also done by the perpetrators with mischief on their minds on two counts. One was an attempt to forcibly occupy a property which wasn't their own. And the other was to foment communal tension since the idols were placed inside a mosque.

 

There is little doubt that the troublemakers of 1949 succeeded in their second objective beyond their wildest dreams at least for a decade or so after the masjid gates were unlocked in the mid-1980s. Not only was the mosque destroyed by fanatics, the Parivar's political arm, the BJP, rode the resultant communal wave to attain power at the Centre, which the party and its predecessor, the Jan Sangh, could not have imagined for the first four decades after 1949. It is another matter that the wave has subsided and the BJP and the RSS have realised that the initial political gains from the whipping up of anti-Muslim sentiments have dissipated as the voters have seen through the cynical game.

 

What is more to the point, however, is that the dispute would not have arisen at all if the local authorities had taken the obvious step of removing the idols from the mosque on the morning of December 23, 1949, instead of letting them remain and locking the gates. It is unlikely that there would have been a popular upsurge against their removal considering that despite the communal tension generated by Partition, the Hindu Right was a minuscule force at the time.

 

But despite a written directive from Jawaharlal Nehru to UP Chief Minister G.B. Pant not to allow such a "dangerous example" to be set, Faizabad's Deputy Commissioner, K.K. Nayar, made no efforts to remove the idols although he acknowledged that their installation was an "illegal act". It isn't surprising that Nayar later stood for elections on a Jan Sangh ticket. Since that time "the Hindu community" has been bearing "the cross on its chest for the misdeeds of the miscreants", as the Supreme Court observed in 1994.

 

If politics and pusillanimity were responsible for letting the idols stay where they were despite the unease voiced by Nehru, the issue might still have remained dormant if Nehru's grandson, Rajiv Gandhi, did not make the mistake of ordering the opening of the Babri Masjid gates, apparently at the behest of another Nehru - Arun - who has since joined the BJP. Incidentally, G.B. Pant's son, K.C. Pant, has also shifted from the Congress to the BJP, pointing to the kind of political currents which have influenced decision-making and created unnecessary complications. Rajiv's move to unlock the masjid gates was also an attempt to placate Rightist sentiments, which had been upset by his earlier decision to overturn the Supreme Court's judgment on the Shah Bano case on alimony to Muslim women to please Muslim fundamentalists.

 

The reason why the Allahabad High Court steered clear of this tortuous history of the dispute was perhaps not to let the political angle supersede the social and religious ones. Hence, its comments on how the Hindus and Muslims used to pray together at the site, and how the Muslim experience in a pluralistic country, where they had once been the rulers and then were ruled and now were sharing power, could guide their co-religionists elsewhere. It is the social factor which evidently led the court to call for a three-way division of the site between Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara, which is one of the litigants.

 

But it is the religious elucidation, and especially Justice D.V. Sharma's contention that "the entire disputed site belongs to the Hindus as it is the birthplace of Lord Ram", which is likely to be seen as controversial. This is all the more so because, if "the disputed structure cannot be treated as a mosque as it came into existence against the tenets of Islam", as Justice Sharma has added, then the legitimacy of the Ram janmasthan concept can also be questioned considering that a surreptitious attempt was made under the cover of darkness to change the status of a place of worship. As is obvious, a legal justification for such an act of intrusion will set a "dangerous" precedent, as Nehru warned. It will also entail a rewriting of history if Ram is treated as a historical figure, and not a mythological one.

 

There is little doubt that the saffron brotherhood will link the verdict with the Ram sethu in the Palk Straits, which it believes is a remnant of the bridge which Lord Ram built on his way to Ravan's kingdom in Sri Lanka. But since the so-called sethu has been estimated to be 1.7 million years old, it turns on their head all the latest findings about mankind having left its birthplace in Africa no more than 100,000 years ago. This is the danger of letting religion intrude, first, into politics and then into jurisprudence as the Galileo episode showed.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

THE PRINCE'S SEAT-WALLAH

BY ROOPINDER SINGH

 

HOW terribly uncharitable of the British media to highlight the seat-wallah incident at the SP Swimming pool complex in Delhi during the recent visit of the heir apparent to the British throne, Prince Charles.

 

Now, if you are ignorant about the incident which is being referred to here, you are easily forgiven. While the Indian media was busy documenting various official visits of the Prince and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, The Telegraph, London, got a picture that showed an official "who is believed to work for the British High Commission" flipping down a seat, like the one we see in movie theatres, while the Prince waited and hitched up his trouser legs before being seated. He was later being joined by The Earl of Wessex, who is the Vice-Patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

 

Why, The Telegraph has even made a list of everyday chores that The Prince of Wales does not perform, like picking up his clothes after changing, squeezing tooth paste onto his brush and some other acts of a somewhat delicate nature, all based on heresy.

 

At the heart of the matter is a fundamental shift in social mores. The very society that exported the tradition of titles and honours to its colonies has now spawned a culture that is antithetical to them.

 

We on the other hand, have not only adopted the colonial practices as our own, we have embellished them and shown the world how well democratic practices can work with traditional, read Imperial and feudal, ones.

 

No one in India even noticed the incident. After Delhi, where we dazzled the world with our spectacular success at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, the Prince and the Duchess were feted by the Houses of Patiala and Jodhpur, both of whom have a tradition of performing this role for generations. Surely, they know how to take care of such needs, without any intrusive reporters spoiling the fun.

 

All, however, is not lost for the royalists. The same report mentioned how the royal couple stayed with "the Maharaja and Maharani of Patiala in the Moti Bagh Palace after joining them for a gala dinner. The Duchess wore an ice blue Bruce Oldfield silk dress with a lace overdress, set off by a diamond and aquamarine necklace." The item does not mention what the Prince and his hosts wore.

 

The Maharajas had a host of titles given to them by the ancestors of the Prince of Wales, but India abolished the titles in 1971. However, perks and posh quarters are taken for granted by our bureaucracy and the armed forces, as are hierarchies and squadrons of servants. The news that a seat wallah has been engaged for this purpose is surely of their interest, since it sets a wonderful precedent! In fact, there is no doubt that there will be much hand wringing about not having thought of it first.

 

One of the titles of former Maharajas that I have always found interesting is Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia or "the chosen son and wealth of the English". It's a pity that we can't hand out titles these days. However, almost four decades of abolishing monarchy we still know what it means. In the interest of improving international relations, in our land of erstwhile monarchies and what were five rivers, we should have a permanent position for a seat wallah for to the real Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia.

 

Surely, if the Punjab Public Service Commission were to get cracking, we would have it in place before the next royal visit.n

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ASPIRE FOR HIGH GROUND IN SPACE

AS MILITARISATION OF SPACE INCREASES, THE SECURITY OF INDIA'S SPACE ASSETS CAN NO LONGER BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED. YET THE GOVERNMENT HAS FOUGHT SHY OF GIVING ANY MILITARY DIRECTION TO ITS SPACE PROGRAMME. WITH THE AIR FORCE REPEATEDLY RECOMMENDING AN AEROSPACE COMMAND, THERE HAS TO BE COMPLETE INTEGRATION OF CIVILIAN AND MILITARY EFFORTS TO MEET NATIONAL INTEREST

BRIG KIRAN KRISHAN (RETD)

 

THROUGHOUT history, technological breakthroughs, and their innovative application have critically affected the course of wars, and the fate of nations. New weapons, propulsion, communication, and transportation technologies have often given unfamiliar directions to war - the machine gun, tank, the submarine, and the aircraft in the First World War, the Blitzkrieg combining modern communications with tanks and dive bombers, and the atom bomb during the Second World War, are a few of such examples.

 

In battle, military tacticians always vie to occupy high ground because of the military advantages of area domination and the all-round observation it provides. In the 21st century, space is fast becoming the new high ground. Since the end of the World War II, the race has been on to exploit this new medium for military advantage.

 

In October 1942, the Germans launched an A-4 rocket that traveled a distance of 190 km and reached an altitude of 80 km. However, it was from the mid 1950s onwards that the space race took off with the sharpening of the Cold War cleavage between the United States and the erstwhile USSR. The Soviet Russia took an early lead by placing an artificial satellite (Sputnik -I) in orbit around the earth in 1957. In the 1960s, the race intensified as both sides realised the potential. While running for the presidency in 1960, the late John F. Kennedy stated: "Control of space will be decided in the next decade. If the Soviets control space they can control Earth, as in the past centuries the seas dominated the continents." It indeed was a cause for concern for America since it also implied a lead in missile capability as advances in rocketry affected both the fields.

 

So far, the main military use of space has been to field satellite systems to support operations on earth and sea. The two Gulf Wars saw extensive use of space based assets by the US, and indeed gave the western forces a huge edge over the Iraqi forces. For the United States, military operations around the world, and as seen in Afghanistan, are now fully supported by satellite linked systems for surveillance, navigation, guidance, targeting, and command and control. An operator sitting in air conditioned comfort in USA can guide an UAV to its target on Af-Pak border using satellite based communication links.

 

India has been alive to the potential of space from the very start. The Indian National Committee for Space Research was formed by the Department of Atomic Energy in 1962, and work started on the Thumba Rocket Launching Station in Kerala. India's indigenous space programme began on February 22, 1969 with the launching of a small 10 kg pencil rocket from Thumba. From a small and halting beginning, India has come a long way, and is today considered amongst the world leaders in the field of space.

 

National economic development has been the guiding mantra of the Indian space programme. The Indian Space Research Organisation has primarily focused its effort on two major fields -- Building of rockets, and launch capabilities and secondly, satellites for remote sensing, meteorology, and communications. The commercial arm of ISRO, Antrix, is also hugely successful and sought after by countries for building and launching their satellites.

 

Though India's Integrated Guided Missile Programme (IGDMP) has benefited in no small measure from technology spin-offs of the space effort as well as migration of scientists from ISRO to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India has fought shy of giving any military direction to its space programme. The Indian establishment continues to emphasise the peaceful use of space for civilian benefit. The Indian Government has chosen not to form an Aerospace Command despite the Indian Air Force recommending it time and again.

 

The IAF possibly visualises space and ballistic missile encounters in the future. Many analysts are of the opinion that, "we will surely fight in space someday whether people consider it abhorrent, or not. Instead of aspiring for moral high ground alone, let India aspire for the high ground in space." The United States has advanced programmes for ground based directed and kinetic energy weapons as also space based systems for killing an adversary's satellites. Research is also being carried out for building weapons to engage targets on land, on sea, and in the air from space.

 

Any worthwhile ballistic missile shield cannot depend on ground and air based sensors and targeting systems alone. In January 2007, China in a demonstration of its anti satellite power, destroyed one of its own old satellites. It prompted the United States to shoot down one of its satellites in February 2008. The cat is finally out of the bag. Security of India's space based assets can no longer be taken for granted.

 

Internationally, it has been agreed that space should be used for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all human kind. The United Nations Outer Peace Treaty, 1967 provides the basic framework on international space law saying that space should be reserved for peaceful purposes. Currently efforts are being made to conclude an international agreement to prohibit development of weapons in space. The United States is unwilling to be a partner to such an agreement. Russia and China, while batting for the agreement, observers say, continue to develop military capabilities. Is it just a dichotomy in thought or double-dealing?

 

Today, India has no satellites purely dedicated for military use. The Indian Air Force has been pushing for a transit from being just an 'Air Force' to an 'Aerospace Power' since long. India has made impressive strides in the civilian uses of space. However, just the possession of communication, remote sensing, and mapping satellites doesn't confer military ability on the nation. There has to be a complete integration of the civilian and the military effort. Besides, now is the time to garner and test India's anti satellite (ASAT) capability before any treaties tie her down just as it happened in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) case.

 

The writer is a defence analyst

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

MAKING COLD START DOCTRINE WORK

ALI AHMED

 

THE latest spat between the two South Asian protagonist states, this time at the UN, indicates that their relationship remains under a cloud. The implication is the terror threat has not receded. Another Mumbai 26/11 cannot be ruled out. Should that occur, the government, having last time round promised firm action, would not be able to escape it this time.

 

The options include surgical strikes at the minimal level to Cold Start. While surgical strikes may help let off steam, they may not bring Pakistan around. This may entail moving up the escalatory ladder eventually. So does Cold Start have some answers?

 

In this way India would have the advantage on termination of hostilities. The advantage would yet require to be converted into political gains by a change of its proxy war policy on part of Pakistan.

 

The Cold Start strategy is Pakistan specific. It entails early launch of limited offensives by "integrated battle groups" up to limited depth by pivot corps. Following in the immediate wake. would be the strike corps requiring a little more time to mobilise. This way the integrated battle groups would have served to unlock the defences and the strike corps would be able to keep their powder dry for battle in the enemy's interior.

 

Care would be taken to keep the offensives well below Pakistan's nuclear threshold. Making quick gains, India can thereafter afford to appear responsive to international pressures for war termination. It would instead be the Pakistani escalatory counter moves that would need to be aborted.

 

The idea has faced much scrutiny since. Its sister service, the Air Force, was the first to take on the Army. The Air Force, viewing itself as the strategic force, prefers inflicting attrition on the military and terrorist assets from the air. The release of the joint land-air doctrine this summer has perhaps laid at rest their disagreement.

 

The more significant critique revolves around the escalatory nature of Cold Start. Since Pakistan's nuclear threshold is uncertain, it is not known which action could trigger a nuclear exchange. Pakistan has taken care to project a low threshold to keep India's conventional advantage under check. Launch of strike corps or attrition beyond a point on the Pakistani military by air operations could cumulatively trigger a nuclear situation.

 

The Army appears to have got round this problem by having two variants of the Cold Start. The first is restricting offensives to integrated battle groups only. This can be dubbed "Cold Start and Stop". The second, as described earlier, launch strike corps but restrict their employment to only one or two formations. This variant can be termed "Cold Start and Continue".

 

Between the two, Cold Start and Stop has the advantage. It can be more easily sold to the political leadership as a viable military option. The question that needs answering, however, is what political purpose is possibly served?

 

The most likely scenario of contemplation of the military option is another 26/11. Indian military options would range from the minimal level of surgical strikes to Cold Start and Continue. Surgical strikes and, at the next higher level, activation of the Line of Control through border skirmishes etc, help let off steam, but are unlikely to change Pakistan's anti India strategic posture. Avoidably, India may end up like Israel of having to repeat these periodically.

 

A counter offensive by Pakistan would see it seize the advantage, if India has not got off the blocks first. This implies a race to the opposite side's defences. In effect, since possibility of escalation of lower level options exists, to the military it would be better to preempt this. This makes Cold Start inevitable, even in case of exercise of the minimal option.

 

This is where Cold Start and Stop makes sense. It not only conveys the message intended through the lower level options unambiguously, but secures India better. India needs to build into the strategy that calls for a "politico-diplomatic" strategy, one arrived at once we stop criticising and instead engage with the idea constructively.

 

In effect, Cold Start and Stop is an "Operation Parakram Plus". Op Parakram forced Musharraf's turn around with his January 12, 2002 speech. It, over time, enabled the the Islamabad joint statement of January 2004 in which Pakistan agreed to end terrorism. However, it has not quite done so. It may require being jolted into action as promised.

 

But first the Army needs to weigh in on the side of "Cold Start and Stop" over its current preference for "Cold Start and Continue".

 

The writer is a research fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

LIP-READING A GENERAL

MUSHARRAF'S LATEST STATEMENTS ON TERRORISTS IN KASHMIR REVEAL A SENSE OF DENIAL ABOUT ALL OF PAKISTAN'S INTERNAL PROBLEMS


Ever wondered why Pakistani politicians always seem to launch or run political parties from plush foreign locations? Pervez Musharraf has just launched his All Pakistan Muslim League at a gentleman's club in Whitehall, Benazir Bhutto ran the PPP for years from Dubai and London, Nawaz Sharif ran his PML(N) from a luxurious palace in Saudi Arabia after a deal that got him out of jail under Musharraf and the MQM's Altaf Hussain is permanently based in the UK. It's a somewhat trite fact but it shows the vast gulf in our political cultures and the entrenched power dynamics as they have developed in our two societies over the decades. Can you ever imagine a breakaway faction of say the JD(S) or the Samajwadi Party launching and running a political operation from faraway London? 

 

The deeper problem is that mainstream Pakistani parties are controlled by a small clique of fratricidal elites – and Musharraf is now a politician – but because they are so distant from the touch and feel of the Pakistani street, as we saw during the floods, Pakistan's politicians, when in trouble, always fall back on familiar default positions from the past. And Kashmir is the biggest clarion call of them all. 

 

This partly explains Musharraf's mea culpa of the past week on terrorist groups in the Valley. Despite his various corrections since, he has not really deviated from the substance of the line he took in the Der Spiegel interview: that Pakistan supported or turned a blind eye to the terror groups because it saw it as a way of keeping the pressure on India to talk Kashmir. Whether Musharraf personally started these groups or not – as he has asserted in his rebuttals – is irrelevant. There is nothing here that we did not know before. What is new is that a former head of state is openly saying it. 

 

What is more revealing is that the General's assertion comes at a time when Pak politics is in a flux and the Army, firmly in the saddle, has been slowly but surely sharpening its hardline. Read transcripts of Musharraf's various interviews this week and you can draw a straight line between his worldview and General Kiyani's briefing to reporters earlier this year when he heralded a return to the usual tough talk on Kashmir, the foreign ministers press conference fiasco in Islamabad, Pak's raking up of Kashmir in the UN General Assembly last month, at least some of the recent upsurge in Srinagar and Pakistan's closing down of the Khyber Pass supply line for NATO troops. Musharraf is the Army's man and he's essentially echoing GHQ in Rawalpindi. His interviews are replete with a sense of denial about all of Pak's internal problems and the familiar discourse about the Army as its ultimate bulwark. 

 

This change of line is symbiotically linked with the Pakistan Army's bets on the endgame in Afghanistan. With Obama's deadline for troop withdrawal approaching, Rawalpindi's emboldened generals are playing hardball to regain Afghanistan, an area they have always regarded as one that would give it "strategic depth" against India. The brazen closing down of the Khyber Pass checkpoint and the television pictures of the burning NATO fuel trucks are a clear signal of intent and its double-dealing. At stake here is the Haqqani network which the US has been targeting and the Pakistani establishment values as a strategic lever in defining post-US Afghanistan. 

 

Hemmed in since 9/11, the Pakistan security establishment, looking at it from its own narrow prism, now sees an opportunity to regain its hand. Historically, Pakistan's generals have made strategic political blunders almost every time they have felt emboldened. Ayub Khan, for instance, started the 1965 war because of an assumption that India, on the backfoot after the Chinese drubbing of 1962, would fold up easily; Musharraf himself initiated Kargil because of a sense that Pakistan's nuclear parity would mitigate against a strong Indian repartee and the West would intercede quickly. But each time, this political over-reach has been disastrous for Pakistan in strategic terms. 

 

India's response needs to calibrated carefully, especially as this current phase of Pakistani verbal aggression comes during a time of unrest in the Valley. A soft healing hand in Srinagar must be matched with a tough diplomatic fist externally even as New Delhi watches the unfolding diplomatic game between Washington and Rawalpindi on Afghanistan. The outcomes of Kabul are linked to the state of play in Srinagar. Until Kabul's future is secure – and how Obama will react in the months ahead is crucial – the peace process with Pakistan seems destined to remain a non-starter. 

 

In 1965, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto walked out of a UN General Assembly debate on Kashmir shouting that "we will fight for a thousand years." In some senses, despite all the bonhomie, that mindset has become an almost permanent blind spot for much of Pakistan's political and military class. At a basic level, Musharraf is echoing this article of faith and it's something we can't afford to overlook as we move to soothe tempers in Kashmir. 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BOOST VALUE ADDITION

TO CUT CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT


THE latest available figures for merchandise trade show a huge 47% increase in the trade deficit for August, over the same period last year, due mostly to stepped up consumption demand. While exports added up to just over $16.5 billion, imports for the month, at just under $30 billion, were far higher, with oil imports amounting to nearly a third of the total. Given that under-recoveries (cost price less realised prices) in retailing petroleum products are reportedly over . 53,000 crore, price revision of diesel, petrol prices, etc is clearly warranted to better reflect scarcity value and stem demand. Note that for April-August, the trade deficit is over $56 billion, a 40% rise year-on-year (y-o-y) driven by an almost 32% increase in oil imports y-o-y. True, imports tend to boost exports (and re-exports). Petro-products have been our single biggest export item for some time now, but they are hugely import-dependent, provide little value addition — mostly in the single digits — and are far too capital-intensive, which suggests poor economic returns. As for non-oil imports, the key items are pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, and gold, which together account for more than a 15% share of imports, or second only to that of oil at 33%. 

 

 The point is that machinery and equipment make up just about 5% of the import mix, as per the recent figures. We surely need to boost project and capital goods imports that rev up investments, and so add to the economic growth potential. Gems and jewellery remain our second biggest export item, and the heightened imports of consumables would likely shore up exports. But we do need to boost value-addition. Further, the fact remains that machinery and instruments add up to a lowly below -5 % share of the export basket. This needs to change; such products tend to be both labour and skill-intensive. Similarly, drugs, pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals have just about a 5% share in our exports, which must rise as well. We do need to arrest the runaway trade deficit, and along with increased remittances and income from invisibles (read: export of services), bring the current account deficit (CAD) into better balance. We cannot always rely on sentiments-linked capital inflows to finance the CAD.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DON'T PASS THE BUCK ON GST

CENTRE MUST CONTINUE TALKS WITH STATES


THE Centre has reportedly declined to give a further push on the roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST), leaving the onus on states to carry the process forward. This is bad news. As the first among equals, the Centre cannot shy away from its responsibility of bringing states on board and ensuring a smooth transition to GST. Sure, states ruled by the BJP, mainly Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, have raised fresh hurdles and rejected the Constitutional amendments proposed by the Centre, saying it infringes their autonomy. The Centre has, however, erred by hardening its stance and declining to review the proposed Constitutional amendments to transit to the GST. It should show more flexibility and continue the dialogue with the BJP-ruled states to forge a consensus on implementing GST in the next fiscal year. States, on their part, should come up with viable recommendations that would address their concerns and not derail GST. The Centre can examine the merit of their recommendations to make changes, if any, in the GST design. 

 

 So far, both the states and the Centre have agreed to a dual GST, comprising a central and state GST. Two amendments in the Constitution are a prerequisite to adopting a dual GST. These include powers for the Centre to tax goods up to the retail stage and for the states to tax services. Most states, barring BJP-ruled ones, back these amendments. States should also be free to change GST rates if they wish to, though ideally they should not do so. The Centre has done well to address their concerns by dropping the proposal to grant itself a veto on the rate changes made by the states. Some states want the Centre to abandon the proposal to have a dispute settlement council as well. The Centre should be open to a review on this to see if states have any legitimate concerns. Only then will states willingly adopt GST. Adequate preparatory work must also go on at the central and state level, including having a robust IT system in place. But dialogue is the only way to get the GST rollout going in a federal polity.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WAR OF THE WORLDS

MONEY MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE


THE dilemmas of modern day living are confounding indeed. The West first discovered and revelled in the joys of technology, developing systems and lifestyles that were deeply dependent on energy, from heated (and airconditioned homes) to diets comprising out-of-season fruits and vegetables brought to their supermarkets by ultra-efficient cold chain systems. And they looked with sympathy at the Third World's "struggle" to eke out a daily existence with weather-specific clothing and nutrition, deprived as they were of the delights of automated systems of control and preservation. But no sooner had we reached a modicum of equilibrium with our 'developed' neighbours, with round-the-year availability of foodstuff and temperature-controlled homes and offices that we were wrong-footed again — by a West which suddenly seemed concerned about emissions, global warming, mass-produced and processed food, and 'unsustainable' lifestyles. Nothing less than eco-friendly homes and organic food would do, never mind that the cost of such lifestyles put it beyond the reach of the 'developing' world once again. Recession, however, has put a spanner in the West's works, because without money, fanatical sustainability is difficult to achieve. And that means an opportunity for jugaad solutions. 

Perhaps that could explain the runaway popularity of two recently invented items of clothing in Britain called the slanket and the snugglesuit — a sleeping bag with sleeves and a fluffy jumpsuit, respectively — both made of synthetic fleece, which would have been a strict no-no in more affluent times. That's quite an innovation: warmth without heating! Equally amazing is the British government's endorsement of the popular chef Delia Smith's heretical advocacy of ordinary chickens and frozen vegetables and fruits as acceptable (and affordable) sources of nutrition. Obviously, when the penny pinches, the saviours of the world come down to earth.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

MANAGING THE SURGE IN FOREIGN INFLOWS

IF ADMINISTRATIVE MEASURES SUCH AS RESTRICTING FII SUB-ACCOUNTS DO NOT CURTAIL THE INFLOW OF EXCESS CAPITAL, INDIA MUST REVISIT LEVYING A TOBIN TAX ON INFLOWS, SAYS U R BHAT


WITH a record inflow of $21 billion from foreign portfolio investors into Indian equities, year to date, it is time to revisit the possibility of using some form of Tobin tax as a policy tool to moderate foreign inflows and to improve the quality of such flows. Tobin tax, suggested by the Nobel laureate economist, James Tobin, envisages a tax on foreign exchange transactions to cushion exchange rate fluctuations by levying a penalty on short-term financial round trips into another currency. In a more generic form, this could be a tax on financial transactions to curb short-term speculative trades and to encourage long-term investments. However, such taxes can have the effect of raising the cost of allocating capital, thus reducing the efficiency of financial intermediation and causing distortions in the functioning of financial markets. While an introduction of a Tobin-type tax would certainly dent India's free market credentials, there are clearly limits up to which burgeoning forex inflows can be managed by resorting only to non-tariff-type barriers. 

 

The Reserve Bank of India has been articulating the case for a possible Tobin-type tax to manage surging capital inflows. Support for such a tax has come even from the developed countries with Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority of the UK, opining that some financial sector activity is useless from a social perspective and a Tobin-type tax may be required to curb excessive profits and pay in the sector. 

 

In fact, some variants of Tobin-type taxes have been tried in many countries including Brazil, Chile, Argentina, the Philippines, Malaysia and Israel, to name a few. The results have been somewhat mixed with foreign investors continuing to invest if there is a compelling case to do so even after factoring the distortions caused by the Tobin-type tax. The security transaction tax introduced in India in 2004 is a Tobin-type tax, which caused some short-term rumblings in the market, but it was business as usual after a few months. 

 

At nearly $300 billion, India has more than adequate forex reserves and therefore in an ideal situation, foreign capital inflows should roughly match the current account deficit. In addition to India's attractiveness as an investment destination, forex inflows into India are influenced by the prevailing investment climate elsewhere in the world. As inflows mount, the rupee appreciates, or if the exchange rate is kept stable to help exporters, forex reserves accumulate. 

 

The rupees released to the system while accumulating forex reserves would lead to increased levels of inflation. To curb this, interest rates would need to be raised, which in turn could attract even more capital flows. Sterilisation of the excess rupee liquidity is another option, but this requires the banking system to be willing to hold the additional supply of low-yielding government bonds. This also involves a cost to the state on account of the negative carry between the yield on its forex assets and the interest rate on the sterilisation bonds. 
    Unbridled international capital flows thus leave central banks with the onerous task of fighting exchange rate appreciation of the domestic currency on the way in and depreciation on the way out. In the late 1990s, at the time of the Asian crisis, the Malaysian government had taken the extreme step of locking in foreign investments into stocks for a year. China continues to maintain a depreciated currency and centralised credit allocation to keep its exports humming despite strong capital inflows, resulting in massive trade surpluses that are invested abroad. 

 

THE US has been calling for a revaluation of the Chinese currency on a scale that is comparable to the Plaza deal that was agreed between five leading western countries in 1985 to revalue the yen. With prospects of further quantitative easing in the US and Europe, capital inflows into the emerging world could reach unprecedented proportions in the coming months. The scale of capital flows into the Asian emerging markets is already exceeding that seen at the peak of the previous cycle in 2006-07 by about 60%. Capital is heading Asia's way, whether it wants it or not and it is time central banks find judicious ways to tame the impending volatility without threatening the broader economy. 

 

India has an arsenal of non-tariff-type barriers to foreign inflows in the form of limits on foreign holdings of rupee-designated debt paper, controls on external commercial borrowings, sector-specific limits and in some cases, prior approvals on foreign holdings in the equity capital of Indian companies. In addition, foreign investors are required to deal with high levels of uncertainty relating to several unsettled issues in tax administration and bureaucratic controls on foreign investor access, etc. 

 

In times of burgeoning inflows in the past, the security market regulator has tweaked regulations relating to participatory notes to moderate such flows. The recent measures at tightening the registration process by denying access to foreign institutional investors and subaccounts that have not met with the expected transparency standards relating to their holding structure can be seen as yet another measure to not only clean up the system but also to moderate inflows. 

 

Tobin-type taxes may need to be considered only if a stage is reached where foreign inflows cannot be managed by administrative measures like the ones detailed above. However, with several Indian companies and stock indices being traded in the international bourses, introduction of a Tobin-type tax would most likely end up exporting the business of trading in Indian stocks. This can have serious consequences affecting the liquidity and depth of the Indian stock markets. 

 

One recent example is the increased activity in Nifty futures in Singapore after the introduction of the securities transaction tax in India. While it is important to ensure that excessive capital inflows do not cause serious disruptions to the Indian economy, it needs to be recognised that efficient financial intermediation and a dynamic financial sector are essential for the proper functioning of a market economy like India.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V EASHOK SOOTA

'UID DEAL PROVES OUR CREDENTIALS'

SHELLEYSINGH 

 

NONE of the small to mid-tier technology services companies, operating for over a decade now has been able to get into the big league of TCS, Infosys and Wipro. The only exception, perhaps, is Cognizant, stealing a march over its rivals to get close to the top pack. MindTree held out a lot of promise when it began over a decade ago, but has just about managed to come out of the cluster of smaller companies. Cofounder and executive chairman of the $300-million MindTree Ashok Soota defends the company's performance. He expects the company's revenues to touch $1 billion in the next four years, outpacing industry growth. 

 

Why hasn't MindTree been successful in breaking into the big league? "Not quite so. We had a flying start as a dotcom company. After the dotcom bust, it took us three-four years to redesign our operations and rework our strategies. When the market opened up between 2003 and 2008, we posted a compound average growth of 59%, while the big companies grew at 28% in the same period," says Soota. 

 

Last year was relatively slow growth. "Yes, but now we are back. In our growth course, we have gone past two clusters — the group of small $100-million type of companies and the small-to-mid $200-million kind of companies. Now, you have the top four (TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant), then a few others including Patni and then us. We have moved away from the clusters and into a band." 

 

Soota is optimistic about his company sustaining the growth momentum. "We will grow faster than the industry. Nasscom has projected a 13-15% growth for the industry. My guess is, we will be scaling up the number and our guidance. In the next few years, the higher the overall growth of the industry, the more rapidly we will outpace the average. That is the next three-four year outlook. We will be $1 billion by 2014,'' he says. 

 

Over a dozen new segments — IT services and product engineering services, embedded technologies and R&D, software services that includes the cloud, analytics, software testing and infrastructure support — have aided growth. "The last is relatively new, but ready to take off. That's the business where people give you their crown jewels. We have begun to get our first multi-year, multi-million dollar deals here," says Soota. The last engine or the seventh business is what MindTree calls 'Next in Wireless', the entity created after the company acquired Kyocera Wireless India in 2009. 

 

MindTree has 2,300 out of its 9,000 employees in software test. Isn't that susceptible to automation? "As devices get linked to the interconnected world, thousands of types of test have to be done in a given software and hardware configuration. If there was no automation, all the manpower in the world wouldn't have been able to do even the tenth of what we are doing now. The market will keep growing and the need for experienced hands won't disappear.'' 

 

The company won the applications development and maintenance services contract from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Is India a big focus area? "India is about 8.5% of our business. When we are $1 billion, we would like India business to be 12-14%. For that to happen, we have to grow the local business by 50% a year in the next few years. UID and few e-governance deals that we bagged have established our credentials.'' 

 

 How do you view the noises around visas, curbs on outsourcing, jobs problem in the US? "Over the last 15 years whenever they (the US) tightened, the industry gained. The distinction this time is that the whole campaign is targeted at Indian players,'' says Soota. Will it impact business? "None of this is going to slowdown business. But in principle, we are unhappy on these uncalled for and discriminatory moves by the US.'' 

 

 What about your own future plans? "This is my third innings — about two decades of hands on engineering at Shriram Group, one-and-a-half decades at Wipro and now over a decade at Mind-Tree. I am enjoying this the most. I want to see the company through couple of big milestones — one is, the $1-billion target. Another, we would like to be among the 20 most-admired companies in our industry globally.''

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NOW&TH EN

OF IDEAS & INNOVATIVE GROWTH

JAIDEEP MISHRA 

 

WE CHANGE, whether we like it or not, mused the poet, contemplating shift and metamorphosis. Ideas and concepts also seem to have a way of being transformed — even revitalised — over time. Consider the idea of economic growth, output and production. In the domain of growth, there's an increasing emphasis on innovation, of creating economic value via new products, processes and organisational practices, than ever before. The efficiency improvements and productivity gains appear to herald a paradigm shift. 

 

Meanwhile, the planners in New Delhi are reportedly looking forward to the next Five-Year Plan, set to begin in two years. The mavens are perhaps chalking out broad economic aggregates and growth targets. Economic growth has after all been the traditional purview of macroeconomists. Yet, innovative activity is really about the microeconomic behaviour and role of economic agents like corporates, consumers and producers. And the way forward is how best to organise resources to boost, diffuse and sustain innovation. The ideators already underline that "people, ideas and things" are the real factors of production. 

 

Now back in the halcyon days of the 1950s, during our initial five-year plans, the investment rate as a percentage of total output was lowly, in the lacklustre single digits. Fastforward to the here and now, and there has been substantial structural change economy-wide. The investment rate, for example, has since grown from 9% to 35%, aided no doubt by the huge improvement in the savings rate since the 1990s. Going forward, what is required is the need to purposefully leverage investment in resources, skills and related capabilities to keep up and sustain the growth momentum. 

 

The study of growth dynamics did begin in right earnest in the late 1950s, with the pathbreaking empirical work of Robert Solow. It was his research that demonstrated that as much as 87% of economic growth in the US between 1909 and 1949 was due to an "unspecified factor or residual", characterised astechnological change. The point is that the Solow model showed that the vast bulk of growth is due to "advances in knowledge" and not quite due to additional inputs of the traditional factors of production like land, labour and capital. The basic results have been replicated for other economies in umpteen other studies, and Solow subsequently won the Nobel. Yet, the growth theory that he pioneered did have a recurring shortcoming in that it assumed technological change as an exogenous read stand-alone factor. And the thought leaders have since been focused on identifying specific attributes of technological change: innovation in products, processes and whole organisational forms. 

 

In the Solow growth model, technology is assumed to diffuse into the system more or less at a "steady rate". But such assumption would not explain how exactly the latter innovation comes about in the first place, as the model simply treated technological advance as something exogenous, taking place outside the economic system. So, although technology was given a pride of place in the scheme of things, the core issue of how to incentivise technology generation and rev up growth remained to be explained. 

 

But then one reason why economic growth is seen as defying simple explanations is because "ideas beget future ideas," and which in turn affect output. Any one innovative idea is likely to add and draw strength from another. The concept of "standing on the shoulders of giants," is as old as science, but until quite recently, incorporating the idea into economic models was seen as much too complex and not worth the effort. Hence the idea of exogenous technological progress. However, by the 1960s, leading theorists like Kenneth Arrow were already noting that "information is not only the product of inventive activity, it is also an input." Arrow, another Nobel laureate, went on to describe innovation as an "inherently uncertain" process, and how for instance proactive policy and societal vision can shore up innovative activity across the board. 

 

But it was as late as 1990 that economist Paul Romer published that landmark paper 'Endogenous Technological Change,' which formally builds upon the idea of "self-feeding nature of information". Romer's novel idea has been to model technological change and efficiency improvements to be very much a part and parcel of the system, much amenable to incentives, "positive feedback loops" and the purposeful spurring up of innovation. Romer's concept of increasing returns and growth brought about by knowledge and skills has been called an "idea about ideas", one of the most important developments in the field. However, the new growth theory does still require important details to be worked out. How, for example, does trade affect technological dynamism of corporates and entire economies? Further, how does public policy balance the need for opensource and exclusion in the domain of technology and innovation? But the bottom line is the need to augment innovativeness.

 

In the domain of growth, there is increasing emphasis on people, skills and ideas to boost efficiency gains 
Driven by productivity improvements, the economic growth process would never be the same again 
With our investment rate already 35% of GDP, we need focus on innovation to augment the growth momentum

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

OVERALL CONCEPT OF 'BEING IN HARMONY'

K VIJAYARAGHAVAN 

 

ONCE harmony or integrating of the different aspects of personality is attained, other aspects, including fulfilment, from where 'victory over oneself' follows, would be realised instantly. But then, the million-dollar question arises as to how this harmony is to be acquired. 

 

Without going into the techniques involved, which would vary from person to person and thus be difficult to be specified, it would be pertinent to dwell on certain observations and injunctions found in various scriptures and writings. Analysis and intelligent comprehension of these, by themselves, could provide the answer. 

 

The fact that conflicts within are stumbling blocks to progress is epitomised by this powerful quote of Somerset Maugham, "We are none of us all of a piece; more than one person dwells within us, often in uneasy companionship with his fellows." Recognising this fact, the Bhagavad Gita in three verses (2:45, 5:3 and 5:25) exhorts one to be freed of conflicts. While the conscious mind, along with certain aspects of the subconscious, decides to pursue the cherished objectives, other contradictory workings in the subconscious and unconscious decide otherwise. The eventual outcome is the inability to make the needed headway. 

 

The way out lies in the ageold injunctions of or concepts behind 'Know thyself', 'Quo vadis' and 'Self knowledge'. These are supplemented by the ceaseless prayers, 'Lead kindly light' and tamaso ma jyotir gamaya. The seeking aspirant sees thus light, as he charts his own right priorities and approach to men and matter and also divines his work upon this earth — his 'truest interest'. 

 

This, verily is knowledge of truth, whereby one is freed of doubts, vacillation and frailties — the Biblical concept (John: 8,32) that knowledge of truth would set one free. This also is the allegory of the Bhagavad Gita discourse — the chariot of life being regulated skillfully by the able charioteer (paramatma) by deftly controlling the reins, so that the senses and mental processes (represented by the horses) act in right coordination to lead the person seated in the chariot (jeevatma) effectively forward in his chosen direction. This is integration of the different aspects within, which verily is that state of harmony, resolute firmness and rock-like stability — that abode for 'victory over oneself'!

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FOCUS ON POVERTY, PRANAB TELLS IMF

 

There can be no quarrel with the resolution passed at the end of the 22nd meeting of the international monetary and financial committee of the IMF's board of governors in Washington DC on Saturday. It dealt with important global issues like the fragility and unevenness of the economic recovery of member countries, warned against policies that would aggravate the situation, reform of the International Monetary Fund through greater representation for emerging economies on its executive board, greater surveillance to uncover the vulnerability of the larger advanced economies and increasing effectiveness in managing capital flows which could endanger inflation management in emerging economies. But the area in which the IMF resolution appears to fall short is giving the attention needed for the global war against poverty. India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee highlighted this forcefully when he voiced concern that an additional 64 million people across the world have been pushed into poverty; that joblessness has increased; and that international financial flows, while having recovered from their lows, are still far below 2007 levels. He pointed out that the realisation of the UNDP's millennium development goals by their 2015 deadline had certainly suffered a major setback as a billion people are still suffering from acute hunger — a number that is unprecedented in history. In this context, Mr Mukherjee pointed out that the developing countries and emerging market economies would not be able to bear another global financial crisis. One does not know if the finance minister included India in this category, but it is a scary thought. India and other emerging economies have come in for a lot of praise at different international platforms of late on how they had managed to weather the global financial crisis and were on the path of recovery, unlike the countries of the developed world. But as the finance minister warned, the emerging economies were better prepared the last time in 2007-08 as they had used their internal financial strengths and discipline to neutralise to a large extent the full brunt of the global crisis. But now that they have used up their "fiscal space" and "buffers" against fiscal shocks, these economies might not be in any position to face another global financial shock. In this context, Mr Mukherjee said the world was fortunate that food and fuel prices had remained moderate during the crisis, while noting that a lot needed to be done on both issues. Food scarcity and rising prices of food items loom large on the horizon, and the world needs to do something about it urgently. There is also a pressing requirement to raise agricultural output through research and development as well as to ensure that the prices of key commodities such as oil do not escalate beyond what the developing economies can bear. This can be achieved if there is a greater understanding at the IMF of the real needs of developing and emerging economies, including of course the least developed economies.


To that extent, India's finance minister echoed the demand of the emerging and developing countries for a more equitable representation on the IMF's executive board. The developed countries have proved reluctant to shed their bloated quota of representation and voting rights, and Mr Mukherjee drew attention to the emerging countries' claim to better treatment on the basis of their GDP. At present, while the emerging economies represent 47.5 per cent of global GDP, they only have 39.5 per cent representation on the IMF board. A five-seven per cent increase in their representation thus appears eminently justified. In the run-up to the coming G-20 meeting there should be further consultation between all countries on this vital issue.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

THE IDEA OF INCLUSION

BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

Mrs Sonia Gandhi addressed a massive public meeting at Trichy recently, and the key message in her speech was her commitment and that of the Congress towards inclusive growth. The idea of inclusion is possibly the single-most important concept in our democracy today.

 

Inclusion is a noun that can be prefixed with a variety of adjectives. We can have financial inclusion, educational inclusion, knowledge inclusion, gender inclusion and, of course, political inclusion. Yet, do recall what Jawaharlal Nehru said in his remarkable, iconic and never-to-be-forgotten "Tryst with destiny" speech on the midnight of August 15, 1947: "Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments".

 

Inclusion too is one of those indivisible phenomena. No one type of inclusion can be seen in isolation. Social inclusion inevitably leads to political inclusion. Political inclusion leads to economic inclusion. Economic inclusion leads to financial inclusion. The challenge before us is simple: how soon and how quickly can we expand the "inclusion" universe?

 

Making India's economic growth all-encompassing, accessible to the greater populace and to that degree inclusive is one of the major achievements of the UPA government. I would go to the extent of arguing that by hammering away at such egalitarian ideas, by promoting them in speeches, policies, meetings, conferences, in Parliament and outside, in government and in civil society, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and the UPA have made economic and financial inclusion an irreversible and ineffaceable part of Indian public discourse.

 

Nothing reflects this better than the flagship programme of the UPA government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). To my mind, there is no greater manifestation of financial inclusion and no greater avenue of social justice and reconciliation.

 

We live in an unusually dynamic country. In today's India, wealth is being created at a scorching pace. The number of dollar-denominated millionaires has gone up by 50 per cent in the past year. Yet there is also acute poverty in this country. This is the country that has 670 million mobile phone connections and, as per even the most optimistic estimates, only 400 million personal bank accounts. Indeed, less than 100 million Indians — under 10 per cent of the population — have PAN cards. These people have names, not identities. They have no ID numbers; they are not treated as human beings as much as statistics.

 

Programmes like NREGA and Aadhar, the Unique Identification Number project, are designed to give such people an identity, a marker that they exist and that their contribution to the national economy is appreciated. Above all, they are designed to give them work and a wage that allows them the right to be seen as equal citizens — the right of financial inclusion.

 

We must remember that in all of rural India there are only 32,000 bank branches. Just five per cent of India's 650,000 villages have bank branches. People in rural India get no phone calls from gushing, excited call centres girls and boys; they don't have bank officers chasing them. Rather, they thirst for a bank to arrive and to get their tired, feeble hands on a passbook.

 

In his Budget speech in Parliament in February 2010, the finance minister committed to taking banking services to 73,000 villages, each with a population of at least 2,000, by March 2012. Even so, financial inclusion should not be de-contextualised and should not be regarded as limited to the ability to open a bank account, get a PAN number or invest in financial instruments. Economic inclusion is the mother from which both social inclusion and financial inclusion draw their strength. This can take many forms and has diverse implications.

 

For example, one of the key issues exercising policymakers, business leaders and ordinary citizens alike is the issue of land acquisition and purchase for industrial and infrastructure purposes. Does our responsibility towards the farmer and the small peasant end at giving him one-time compensation for his land and telling him to walk into the wilderness? Is the dimension of economic and financial inclusion not better served in making him a long term partner, some sort of equity holder, in the wealth that will be created from his land?

 

This is one of the key challenges in the path of inclusive growth. It holds a mirror to all our questions and conundrums related to social, economic and financial inclusion.

 

Where do the solutions lie? Certainly they don't lie exclusively in the domain of the state and with the government. India has a growing and increasingly prosperous private sector. Whether by way of business extension or by means of corporate social responsibility, Indian business has to complement the government's efforts at boosting financial and other forms of inclusion.

 

Civil society too has to play a role. The role of non-governmental organisations in incubating self-help groups (SHGs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) is well known.

 

In turn, these organisations encourage members to pool resources and open bank accounts or set up a small seed capital for tiny, self-owned businesses, even a shop or a agro-based based business. SHGs and CBOs are invaluable tools for financial inclusion, particularly for empowering women.

 

There are hundreds of millions of little people who make up our enthralling, enchanting society. Their stories are stories that, I would imagine, tell us more about India's economic progress than which billionaire has bought which private plane. This is where the saga of tomorrow's India is being drafted. This is where the nuts and bolts of financial, economic and social inclusion are being forged.

 

Consider the canvas. Can one think of anything more magical than an activity that fulfils an economic need, furthers a socially useful idea, creates employment, empowers women and yet promotes financial inclusion?

 

We must strive to optimise this golden mix, each one of us and do what we can do.

 

-Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson. The views expressed in this column are her own.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

X-RAY OF THE DYSFUNCTIONS EATING AMERICA

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

I still find it amazing that with all the climate, security, health and financial interests America has in reducing its dependence on oil, our Congress could not work out an energy bill over the past two years — especially when China, Japan and the European Union are all hurdling ahead on clean-tech. The fact that we failed to pass an energy bill — cap-and-trade, a carbon tax, efficiency standards, I don't care which — is actually a reflection of a broader US power failure. It is the failure of our political system to unite, even in a crisis, to produce the policy responses America needs to thrive in the 21st century. As the Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib noted: "America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so. A political system that expects failure doesn't try very hard to produce anything else".

 

It is a shame because America, while often paralysed from the top down, is alive from the bottom up. The more I travel around our country, the more I meet people who didn't get the word — that we're supposed to be depressed and on our backs — and they're out experimenting with education, innovating with technology and using the Web for start-ups. But our political system is not empowering, enhancing and inspiring their efforts at the speed and scale that we need.

 

If you want to see in stark relief all the forces undermining our system's ability to make smart, strategic, long-term decisions, read Ryan Lizza's article in the October 11 issue of the New Yorker, explaining just how the bipartisan effort by Senators John Kerry (D), Lindsey Graham (R), and Joseph Lieberman (I) to produce an energy-climate bill and enhance clean-tech innovation was killed this year. Entitled As the World Burns, Lizza's piece is an X-ray of the dysfunctions eating away at our future: politicians who only know how to read polls, never change them; media outlets serving political parties; special interests buying senators; mindless partisanship; an epidemic of low expectations for our government. And us — we elected them all, and we tolerate them.

 

Here are a few graphs from Lizza's piece:

 

* Mindless tribal partisanship: Lizza describing what happened to Senator Graham when it became clear in his home state of South Carolina that he was supporting a clean energy bill with Democrats: "Graham was holding a townhall meeting in the gym of a high school in Greenville, South Carolina. His constituents were not happy. One man accused him of "making a pact with the Devil". Another shouted, "No principled compromise!" One audience member asked, "Why do you think it's necessary to get in bed with people like John Kerry?" Graham, dressed in a blue blazer and khakis, paced the floor, explaining that there were only 40 Republicans in the Senate, which meant that he had to work with the 60 Democrats. A man in the bleachers shouted, "You're a traitor, Mr Graham! You've betrayed this nation and you've betrayed this state!'"

 

* A TV network acting as the political enforcer of the Republican Party: Lizza: "Back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill 'before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process', one of the people involved in the negotiations said. 'He would say: The second they focus on us, it's gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it's gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible'".

 

* Special interests buying policy: Lizza: "Then Newt Gingrich's group, American Solutions, whose largest donors include coal and electric-utility interests, began targeting Graham with a flurry of online articles about the 'Kerry-Graham-Lieberman gas tax bill'".

 

* Politicians who put their interests before the country's: Lizza: "Then, suddenly, there was a new problem: Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said that he wanted to pass immigration reform before the climate-change bill. It was a cynical ploy. Everyone in the Senate knew that there was no immigration bill. Reid was in a tough re-election, and immigration activists, influential in his home state of Nevada, were pressuring him".

 

* A political system that cannot manage multiple policy shifts at once — even though it needs to: Lizza: Obama aide Jay Heimbach attended meetings with the three sponsoring senators, "but almost never expressed a policy preference or revealed White House thinking. 'It's a drum circle', one Senate aide lamented. 'They come by: How are you feeling? Where do you think the votes are? What do you think we should do? It's never: Here's the plan, here's what we're doing'. Said one Obama adviser, explaining the President's difficulty in motivating Congressional Democrats on energy: 'The horse has been ridden hard this year and just wants to go back to the barn'".
I just have one thing to add: We need to do better...

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

IT'S THE STYLE THAT MATTERS

SHASHANK REDEMPTION

 

It seems things will soon change for the better in the BCCI if one goes by the style of new president Shashank Manohar.

 

Most head honchos and key administrators of the cash-rich cricket board have been maharajas, industrialists or high-flying operators owning private jets such as Lalit Modi.

 

However, Mr Manohar is a respected lawyer who has got both feet firmly on the ground. The Nagpur cricket aficionado did not even have a passport when he made it to the top elective office and the board had to ask its contacts in the government to quickly issue him one since he had to represent the BCCI at ICC meetings abroad.

 

Mr Manohar is now sweeping the BCCI clean with a new broom. He is a resident of Maharashtra but he has not shied away from letting Sunil Gavaskar go from the IPL governing council.

 

Financial discipline is the president's mantra and the BCCI's showpiece event IPL will also have to toe the line. We can perhaps tweak the title of the Hollywood classic and say a Shashank Redemption is happening.

 

Kalam's drill

 

It is not unusual for the former President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to play teacher. But this time around, his pupils were the defence minister, A.K. Antony, the Army Chief and the senior Army officers.

 

It so happened that after delivering the Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa lecture in the capital, Dr Kalam decided to speak on the virtues of "righteousness in the heart" and the good it would do for everyone.

 

Like a regular school teacher, he asked the "pupils" to repeat after him, "When there is righteousness in the heart, there is harmony at home. When there is righteousness in the heart, there is order in the nation. When there is righteousness in the heart, there is peace in the world".

 

The initial response didn't seem heartening, but then the teacher became stern and everyone obeyed. After the ritual was over, the much-relieved audience then erupted into loud cheer and applause. Then it was left to Mr Antony to have the final word. "His (Dr Kalam's) advice is well-received", the minister smiled.

 

Kalam's drill

 

It is not unusual for the former President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to play teacher. But this time around, his pupils were the defence minister, A.K. Antony, the Army Chief and the senior Army officers.

 

It so happened that after delivering the Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa lecture in the capital, Dr Kalam decided to speak on the virtues of "righteousness in the heart" and the good it would do for everyone.

 

Like a regular school teacher, he asked the "pupils" to repeat after him, "When there is righteousness in the heart, there is harmony at home. When there is righteousness in the heart, there is order in the nation. When there is righteousness in the heart, there is peace in the world".

 

The initial response didn't seem heartening, but then the teacher became stern and everyone obeyed. After the ritual was over, the much-relieved audience then erupted into loud cheer and applause. Then it was left to Mr Antony to have the final word. "His (Dr Kalam's) advice is well-received", the minister smiled.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE POWER OF FAITH

BY DOMINIC EMMANUEL

 

Many who use the phrase — "faith can move mountains" — may probably not be aware that it has its origins in the Bible. In the words of Jesus, to be more precise. Once when his disciples came and complained to Jesus and asked him as to why they could not remove a demon from a possessed person, he told them, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). It is worth noting that Jesus is not saying that one's faith should be as large as a mountain to move a mustard seed but just the opposite.

 

In his lifetime, as recorded in the Gospels, Jesus frequently cured the blind, the deaf and dumb, those suffering from leprosy, removed demons from possessed persons and even raised some from death to life. What is curiously affirming in most of these incidents is that every time Jesus healed someone, he hastened to add, "It is your faith which has saved you" as we find Jesus telling the blind man in the Gospel of Mark. On a small request made to Jesus from a blind man that he may see again, Jesus tells him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well". And immediately he received his sight… (Mark 10:52). It is tantamount to suggesting that along with his divine power what really cures a person or makes a person whole, is really an individual's own faith, even if its quantity may be as small as a grain of sand.

 

Faith or lack of it is the main difference between believers and non-believers. It is not that people believing in God are any less intelligent or rational than those who deny the existence of God. The defining difference is faith which is primarily based on one's experience of the divine.

 

Recently, the great British physicist, Stephen Hawking, created huge waves after he published his latest book — The Grand Design — declaring that there was no need of God for the world to have come into existence. People like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens — card holder atheists — assert that they are having great success in weaning people away from faith in, what they claim is a non-existent entity called God.

 

Among the many virtues that Christianity considers important, faith is rated among the three most imperative, also known as theological virtues, the other two being, hope and charity.

 

Faith can be in the God Almighty and creator, or any other Gods who we believe take care of us and provide for all our needs. It is to him and them we offer our prayers and worship and are often ready to do anything, including sometime, to go on a war, on the rather foolish presumption that by doing that we would defend our God. Faith at another level can be also in individuals as well as in systems.

 

It is not easy to define faith and even more difficult to measure and definitely not on a scientific scale. Faith is often described as taking a leap in the dark from the cliff of a high mountain knowing that some invisible hand will catch hold of you before you touch the ground.

 

Though faith is described and demanded of people in the Bible quite often, one of the simplest definitions one can find is given by St. Paul. He says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). However one defines faith, there is no doubt that faith in the divine has done great wonders for human beings.

 

Faith is not exactly whether one is able to explain the mysteries of creation and of the millions of galaxies and the "Big Bang" but it is to be able to convince oneself that every small and big inexplicable event that happens in one's life is guided by that divine power which we cannot see. For instance, science can explain a lot of things about creation, about human body, the DNA and so on. But science cannot exactly explain why if on the one hand there is so much of selfishness resulting in crime of all kinds (origin of evil), there is on the other hand, so much of goodness and concern for and towards people we do not know from Adams. Nor can science explain about the why of ethical values.

 

"For those who believe", as Jesus said, "nothing is impossible". In the next column we shall look at two of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible.

 

* This is the first article of a two-part series. The second article will appear on October 18.

 

— Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at frdominic@gmail.com [1]

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

SINGHVI SILENCED

POLITICS SMEARS LEGAL ISSUES


COMMENT on Abhishek Manu Singhvi's performance as both Senior Counsel and Congress mouthpiece must await another occasion. Immediate and unqualified must be a condemnation of the party leadership's moves to "discipline" him, suspend him from interacting with the media. What was his crime? Appearing in the Kerala High Court on behalf of a client on the "other side" of an issue upon which the state unit of the party was seeking to make political capital? Given the petty nature of state-level politics, the party might have suffered some embarrassment, but surely that does not suffice for a "basic" of our hallowed legal system to be cast asunder. Every individual ~ regardless of the charges faced ~ is entitled to the best legal counsel available and a person's professional and political commitments must be deemed distinct. As the oldest political entity in the land, and which had earlier been studded with legal luminaries, the Congress leadership ought to have adhered to high principle and rejected the state unit's complaint. What is even more disturbing is the buzz that the central leadership was initially inclined to ignore the whining, but got hot under the collar when one of its Kerala leaders suggested that since Singhvi was close to Sonia Gandhi she had possibly approved his accepting that brief. So, it appears, protecting "Madam's" image takes priority over established legal principle. In some ways the wheel has turned full circle. Recall the Congress' disgraceful campaign against Ram Jethmalani ~ admittedly a provocative maverick ~ for appearing on behalf of Indira Gandhi's alleged assassins. That he saved one of them from the gallows is testament to the supremacy of the law.


Singhvi is no Jethmalani: unlike the latter he buckled, withdrew from the case, and averred he would abide by any decision taken by the party bosses. It might be overdoing it to suggest that by not standing firm he has added to the declining perception of the profession ~ lawyers on strike, resorting to violence etc ~ but he certainly ducked an opportunity to re-assert legal principle and decry conditions in which lawyers from one community back off from defending alleged terrorists from another, etc. This newspaper holds no brief for the man under focus, but deems itself duty-bound at the present juncture to reaffirm its commitment to upholding the majesty of the law, and to state for the record that it was his father who once took up an unpopular brief for this newspaper during the Emergency. Alas, the Congress would place higher priority on preserving the reputation of Her Majesty of 10 Janpath.


POINTLESS CHARADE

OVER A GAMUT OF NON-ISSUES

Critics of the West Bengal housing minister, who takes pride in the initiatives he has taken at Rajarhat, now renamed Jyoti Basu Nagar, may suspect that he is raising the decibel over Mamata Banerjee's repeated rejection of his invitations to divert attention from the storm over the land allotment quota. While others may object to such aspersions, they will find it difficult to explain what difference the Trinamul leader's presence would make on ceremonial occasions in terms of public importance. However, the difference would have been crucial for Gautam Deb. He would have pulled off a miracle in bringing Mamata Banerjee, Somnath Chatterjee, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose on the same platform and perhaps gone on to claim an endorsement from the CPI-M's worst enemy. On the other hand, no one is deceived that all this is not part of the political games that both sides are playing in the build-up to the Assembly election. Miss Banerjee has left her rivals behind in performing rituals and has done better in getting a CPI leader to share the dais with her at her Midnapore rally. If Mr Deb was keen on countering that by getting her to share the stage with Marxists, ostensibly in paying tribute to a patriarch, he was perhaps being over-ambitious.

But why is the Left so obsessed with invitations? Either those it feels ought to come to its leaders or those that are spurned by its rivals? They are right to carp at the Opposition's refusal to attend official meetings ~ such as those to finalise panels for the chief information commissioner or chairman of the state human rights commission. But purely political rituals surely don't demand attendance in a state where political courtesies were forgotten a long time ago. If some leaders describe this as "petty'', they are pretending not to know that politics is Bengal has long ceased to produce people who rise above narrow interests. Voters, we hope, will see these stunts for the diversions they are; after all, they expect governance from those they elect.


PATCHY PARTISAN

DD AS DISAPPOINTING AS EVER

WITH much fanfare was it announced that sportspersons from 71 countries or territories would be participating in the Commonwealth Games. Sadly, folk all across the land that have to catch the action second-hand ~ on television ~ could easily get the impression that it is an "India show", with the others out there only to provide some competition. Never mind that India does not head the medals tally. For, true to its reputation, Doordarshan has come up terribly short of what is expected during an international sporting carnival. Revelling in the reality that it has monopoly rights. The technical angle is not the cause for complaint (the camerawork etc has been outsourced to an internationally reputed firm), it is the "management" that is so shoddy. Only occasionally, and perhaps by accident or coincidence, is an exciting event shown "live" if no Indian is involved. The switch from one venue to another suggests that the producers have little clue about competition schedules, or are unaware of what are the key events. The coverage is inconsistent, one day there was an overdose of lawn bowls then it disappeared from the Mandi House/Siri Fort radar. The anchors are much too jingoistic, possibly they deem themselves duty bound ~ it is, after all, a sarkari channel ~ to "fly the flag". It is also obvious that the local commentators at the competition venues have done no homework and know precious little about the track record of "phoren" participants. When, occasionally, the international feed is telecast domestically the knowledge-level of the commentators is so very different.


One of the young anchors in the studio repeatedly reminds us that Indian medal prospects in tennis had brightened with Lleyton Hewitt, Marcus Baghdatis, and Samantha Stosur away at the China Open ~ as if that was a master-stroke of CWG scheduling. And a young lady seems to think it is the battle of the sexes being fought out there: for her the only competition of note is whether men or women bring more medals to the host nation. What is unforgivable is that DD Sports and DD National present a common telecast, surely if each offered its own fare the coverage would have been much wider. For the record, viewers are informed that DD Urdu offers dedicated hockey coverage ~ but finding a DTH service or cable operator who offers that channel is as hard as locating someone in the Capital who has a good word for Suresh Kalmadi!

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

DEAFENING SOUND

PARTHASARATHI CHAKRABORTY 

ORGANISED ANARCHY IN KOLKATA

 

VERY recently, the Centre and West Bengal have announced stringent measures to control sound pollution. The initiative comes after decades. It bears recall that the Kolkata Environmental Management Strategy and Action Plan, a joint venture of the state government and Britain's ODA, had made certain recommendations to curb sound pollution.  


The problem has assumed alarming proportions in Kolkata and its suburbs. The city is one of the noisiest in the world. 


No one expects Kolkata to be a city of silence. But one can reasonably expect a measure of discipline. A survey report indicates that the tolerance limit of noise exists only for two to four hours.  For the rest of the day, the noise can be deafening, almost an organized anarchy. The power of hearing of eight persons out of 1000 citizens is extremely poor. Children are particularly  vulnerable. The victims of sound pollution are incapable to communicate with society. 


Sound plays a vital role in the communication of ideas. It is transmitted from the environment to our ears through the vibration of molecules. Noise is measured in terms of decibel dB (A) unit. The sound pollution is primarily anthropogenic is character. Listening to sound may not necessarily be a horrifying experience. The melodious voice of Julie Andrews in the film, Sound of Music can be an enchanting experience. But loudspeakers, specially at public meetings, affect our eardrums and can lead to stress in the nervous system. It can even induce anger, violence, and other harmful emotional behaviour that can ultimately lead to mental illness. 


The terrible sound of crackers or chocolate bombs can be a horrible experience. Noise from audio-cassette shops, generators, vehicles, small factories, heavy metals, and hawkers can together have a psychosomatic effect on people of all ages. Even a  simple pneumatic machine can pollute the environment. Heavy industries and factories are largely responsible for raising the level of noise. Altogether, sound pollution can be extremely damaging to public health. Yet the people of Kolkata have learnt to live with the menace. 


According to experts, the hazard of sound pollution can lead to neurological stress,  hypertension, gastritis, colitis, migraine and can even change the behavioural pattern of a person. Electro-encephalography tests reveal that one's sleep is disturbed if the sound level exceeds 55 decibels.  According to WHO guidelines, sound sleep may be experienced at 35 dB (A). Daily exposure to the noise level above 75 dB (A) for more than ten hours can impair hearing. The recommended maximum noise level is 55 and 45 dB (A) for the day time and night respectively. The domestic limit is 45 & 35 dB (A) only. The standard for maximum exposure to the noise level as per Environment Protection Act is 90 dB (A) for an eight-hour shift with the time limit halved for every 3 dB (A) increase.  Continuous exposure of industrial workers should not exceed 115 dB (A). One protective measure is to insert a wad of cotton dipped in  Vaseline into the ears. 


It is gratifying to note that the University Grants Commission has introduced environment studies in all streams. The curriculum is broadbased, covering sound pollution and its impact on society. However, more important than introducing the discipline is the need to arouse awareness at the popular level.  


In the manner of the Air Pollution Act, the Centre treats sound pollution as an offence that is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. The State and the Central Pollution Control Boards have also framed laws to tackle noise pollution. The Supreme Court and the Green Bench of Calcutta High Court have directed remedial measures.


The State Pollution Control Board is in a dismal state and needs urgently to be revamped. The environment department should enforce laws more stringently. Legislation against air horns should strictly be enforced. The "silence zone" of hospitals, schools and other educational institutions should not be disturbed. The people must be aware of the damaging effect of sound pollution, and they need to be united in their resistance.  
Noise is a sign of regression and not the progress of technology. Sound is a dreadful monster. Pollution can be lessened by suitable barriers. Trees are the most effective natural sound insulators; they can absorb the noise. Planting of more trees will not only enhance the aesthetic beauty of the city, but also minimize noise and air pollution.  


Scientific and technical knowledge regarding sound pollution cases, when taken to the court of law, raise many questions including the minimum acceptance level in terms of dB (A). What should be most cogent value for comfortable sleep during night ~ 30, 40, 50, or 65 dB (A)? According to a famous Chief Judge of the United States: "It is absolutely true that some judges are capable of learning as much science as is necessary before them, be it noise, air or water pollution. To improve the court's ability particularly in noise pollution cases, it would be better if outside experts were invited. The contradictory expert opinion is hardly rare. The establishment of a science court may solve many disputes in this regard. The proposed science court could be useful in exposing issues which are of immense importance and would allow the judges and others to be educated about scientific and technical knowledge."

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

USELESS MIDDLE

 

The government, then seized by reformist zeal, permitted investment in Indian capital markets by foreign institutions in 1992. In that xenophobic age, the step looked revolutionary. Nationalist jitters were controlled by setting up a licence raj: every foreign institution that wanted to invest had first to get approval from the government's own Securities and Exchange Board of India. How it was to decide whom to favour or disfavour was not specified. Those were days of delegation, and it was left to Sebi to make its own rules as it went along. Sebi, in turn, resorted to devolution; it decided to approve any foreign institution that a foreign regulator of its own kind had approved. Soon foreign institutions found that they could avoid Indian taxes if they invested through Mauritius, to which Indira Gandhi long ago had made a gift of a double taxation agreement. They went to Mauritian law firms, which suggested an even better solution: they would get foreign institutions, whichever country they belonged to, registered with the Mauritian regulator. Thus almost all foreign investment in the past 18 years has been made by institutional nationals of a single country — Mauritius.

 

The government worried from time to time: what if those ostensibly Mauritian investors were actually Chinese bankers or Pakistani politicians? It should not have mattered, for money knows no colour. But some people in the government are paid to worry and to create problems. To address their concerns, Sebi has required that the money invested by foreign institutions has to come from real persons, and has asked them to tell it who the persons or organizations are. Some of the foreign institutions began to arrange share transfers amongst their own customers. It did not go down well with Sebi; it asked to know who they were, and then stopped the practice.

 

Now, after all these years, the government has woken up to an easier solution: if it allowed the original investors themselves to invest in Indian markets, it would not have to write letters to intermediary institutions and ask them to provide the identity of those investors. This brilliantly simple idea, however, is bound to run into a hurdle. There is a precedent against it, which has lasted almost two decades; can it be overturned at the drop of a hat? Surely, whoever kept individual investors out of India then must have had a reason for it. The reason may be lost in antiquity, but that does not make it any less reasonable. Let them be reassured. The reason was that Sebi assumed that foreign regulators would have vetted the institutions registered with them. So many of those institutions failed in the past three years that the vetting is seen to be ineffective. Letting the investors in directly will remove a useless intermediary. More important, it may persuade the world's plutocrats to take an interest in India.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

DARK THOUGHTS

 

As the 33 Chileans trapped in a mine since August 5 prepare to join the world above, they must fortify themselves against the flurry of attention — most of it pleasant, though some of it perhaps not so — that they are bound to receive. Naturally, the global media are all agog at the news of their ascent, full of questions about how the men managed to hold body and soul together while living, for over two months, in conditions that are, quite literally, hellish. The miners organized themselves with remarkable expertise and discipline into three groups, and entrusted each with specific duties — from maintaining individual health records to the regular disbursal of food and other aid. Still, the going must have got tougher with each passing day, and a former journalist is reportedly conducting "media training classes" through video-conferencing to teach the men how not to lose their cool when faced with uncomfortable questions — especially those pertaining to sexual thoughts while underground, money matters and internal squabbles within the team. This training may well turn out to be useful for some of the miners, who will have to face furious spouses, alongside their no-less-enraged mistresses, who turned up at the rescue site bearing photographs of the same man. The mining tragedy may turn out to be a marital tragedy.

 

On another note, the incident itself should be a lesson in safety regulations for the industrialized world. It is amazing that even in the age of technological revolutions it took over 60 days to even initiate the process of saving these men, however admirably they may have been kept alive by the joint efforts of the Chilean government and the scientific community. But it is yet to be seen if the rescue capsule designed by Nasa is capable of lifting the men up to safety. It is perhaps not the time to rejoice just yet.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

A BIT OF SUNSHINE

THERE IS EVERY REASON TO BE CHEERFUL ABOUT THE INDIAN ECONOMY

BHASKAR DUTTA

 

As I write this, the Commonwealth Games are just a few days away. The controversies related to the Games, the public utterances of Lalit Bhanot and the like, have all hogged newspaper headlines. Some of the incidents are so ridiculous that they are funny — black comedy style. However, the overwhelming feeling is one of sadness and shame because the preparations or the lack of them, the apathy and scale of corruption, all reveal a gross failure of governance. If various wings of the government such as the public works department, the Delhi Development Authority and others cannot manage an event of relatively small magnitude, what hope do we have that the government will be an efficient manager of the economy?

 

Fortunately, the State plays an increasingly diminished role in the economy under normal circumstances. I have deliberately added the caveat "normal circumstances" because the actions and policies of the Central government were very important during the recent global recession — the government did manage to insulate the Indian economy from the carnage and mayhem occurring in much of the world economy.

 

Those days seem far away and the economy is thriving. Virtually all indicators look very promising. The economy has been growing steadily for some time now. The immediate future looks even more promising. Forecasts made by the government as well as several private organizations are all uniformly upbeat — the forecasts of the rate of growth of the gross domestic product fall in a narrow band of 8.5 -9 per cent. Since these forecasts were made before the onset of the monsoon, they did not take its impact on the economy into account. The rainfall this year has been extremely good in almost all parts of the country. So, agricultural output will be bountiful in the coming months, and this will have positive effects on the rest of the economy.

 

An important side effect of the steady growth of the economy has been a large increase in tax revenues accruing to the government. Indirect tax revenues have gone up by 45 per cent during April to August. Corporate tax payments have increased by 17 per cent, while personal tax payments have gone up by roughly 10 per cent during the same period. The increase in the latter component is probably, in part, owing to a greater degree of compliance by taxpayers. Of course, Indian taxpayers have not suddenly become more upright citizens — the increased compliance has been forced on them because the tax authorities have made it harder to evade taxes.

 

Apart from the increased tax revenue, the government has also received a bonanza in the form of the proceeds from the auction of telecom licences. The total amount collected by the government from different zones has exceeded all expectations. Roughly midway through the financial year, it is almost certain that the actual revenues collected by the government will exceed the projections made in the budget.

 

As a result, the government is planning to cut back its market borrowings during the rest of the financial year. This is good news for the private sector. Government borrowings tend to "crowd out" private borrowings in the sense that less is left for private sector borrowings. So, lower government borrowings will help keep market interest rates in check even if there is an increased demand for credit from the private sector. This is quite likely since credit requirements inevitably go up during phases of rapid growth.

 

Will the significantly more promising budgetary situation of the Centre be a one-off event? Greater tax compliance and steady growth in the GDP will ensure larger inflows of revenue to the exchequer. Of course, there will be no windfall gain in the form of auctions of telecom licences in the next few years. However, the government will probably be able to gain fairly substantial sums from a larger disinvestment programme. Perhaps, this will enable the government to restrict the size of its borrowing programme during the next few years. Most conservative economists who feel that the burgeoning public debt is not sustainable will certainly recommend this course of action.

 

There is one black lining to the silver clouds surrounding the Indian economy. While the increased economic activity within the country has led to a surge in imports, the continuing sluggishness in the global economy has meant that our exports have more or less stagnated. The combined effect has been a steep increase in the trade deficit. During the last quarter, the trade deficit has been as high as 10 per cent of the GDP. In other times, a floating exchange rate would have mitigated the severity of the problem — the external value of the rupee would fall, making imports more expensive and exports cheaper. This, in turn, would have reduced imports and increased exports.

 

This self-correcting mechanism does not work any more. As readers of The Telegraphare probably aware, the Indian stock exchange has now become one of the best performers in the world. Since the growth of the real economy has also been an outlier in terms of global growth rates, India has become one of the favourite destinations of foreign institutional investors. There has been a huge inflow of foreign funds, mainly on account of portfolio investment. So, there is no danger of the country running out of foreign exchange in order to pay for the trade deficit. In fact, there has been an increase in our foreign exchange reserves. Not surprisingly, there has been no decrease in the external value of the rupee.

 

There are apprehensions that this is an unstable situation. While some of the major European economies — in particular Germany and France — look as if they have resumed robust growth, many other countries, including the United States of America, continue to stagnate. So, the global demand for our exports is unlikely to pick up any time soon. On the other hand, imports may not taper off. So, the trade imbalance is likely to persist for some time. Portfolio investment can be very volatile. For instance, redemption pressures in the country of origin may force the FIIs to withdraw funds from Indian stocks.

 

Fortunately, our stock of foreign exchange reserves provides a very comfortable cushion. We can pay for several months' imports even if the inflow of foreign funds on account of portfolio investment dries up completely. So, there is every reason to be cheerful as far as the economy is concerned.

 

The author is professor of economics, University of Warwick
THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES COMMENCED

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

NOT THE USUAL NUTCASE

GWYNNE DYER

 

If Geert Wilders were some underemployed bigot ranting in a pub, you'd just move away from him. He calls the Islamic veil a "head rag", and says it should be taxed for "polluting" the Dutch landscape. He condemns Islam as "the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed" and the Quran as "the Mein Kampf of a religion that seeks to eliminate others". Just another nutcase with too much time on his hands.

 

But Wilders is no ordinary nutcase. He is a Dutch member of parliament and the leader of the Freedom Party, which came an impressive third in last June's elections. So the other parties cannot ignore him, even if he goes to jail, which is quite possible. His trial on five charges of inciting hatred and discrimination began in Amsterdam on October 4.

 

Wilders first achieved global notoriety in 2008 with the film, Fitna, which juxtaposed images of suicide bombings with verses from the Quran and depicted Islam as a force bent on destroying the West. After that, his Freedom Party got lift-off, and last June it won 15 per cent of the vote. In the Dutch political system, that gives him real leverage.

 

The Dutch political scene is so fragmented that no party has achieved an overall majority in any national election since World War I. No single party has polled over 30 per cent of the vote for more than two decades. It's a system that often allows small, single-issue parties to wield influence far beyond their numbers.

 

The two traditional conservative parties ended up with only 52 seats between them, which meant that they needed the Freedom Party's 24 seats even to achieve a paper-thin majority in the parliament. But how could they sit at the same table with a man who said such incendiary things about his Muslim fellow-citizens?

 

Random outcome

 

They solved their little problem by agreeing that the Freedom Party would vote for the new coalition government, but would not be an official part of it. There was a price to be paid: the new government would pass laws that sharply diminished the rights of Dutch citizens who happen to be Muslim.

 

Like most extremists, Wilders is obsessed with clothing, so burqas are to be banned altogether in the Netherlands if the deal holds. Police officers and other government employees would not even be allowed to wear the Islamic head-scarf. Immigration from non-Western countries would be halved, and the rules on granting political asylum to refugees made much stricter. This won't fully satisfy Wilders, but it's certainly a good start.

 

How can this be happening in the Netherlands, once seen as a bastion of liberty and tolerance? What is happening is the result of an accident that sometimes happens in political systems like the Netherlands, which encourage a proliferation of small parties. The Freedom Party doubled its vote in this year's election, partly because people are more likely to vote for a protectionist, xenophobic party in the midst of an economic crisis, but it still got only one-sixth of the vote.

 

That's the level at which anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim parties have peaked in other western European countries like France, Belgium and Denmark. It's actually less than what the predecessor to Wilders's party, the Pim Fortuyn List, polled in 2002. There are xenophobes everywhere who can inflate a six per cent Muslim minority into a threat to the nation's identity and safety, but they are not all that numerous themselves.

 

The Netherlands looks as if it has been taken over by the crazies, but what we are seeing is a random outcome, unlikely to be repeated, of the system of proportional representation. If Wilders can turn this into a free speech issue, and if he is jailed, then his support may expand beyond the far-Right. But the Dutch really aren't nastier than everybody else.

 

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

EDITORIAL

BAD CHOICE

"CENTRE HAS BEEN CASUAL IN FILLING A CRUCIAL POSITION."

 

The appointment of Central Information Commissioner A N Tiwary as the Chief Information Commissioner after the expiry of the five-year term of Wajahat Habibullah was highly inappropriate. The choice of Tiwary for the important position was bad not only because it is a stop-gap arrangement but also because his credentials for it are not the best. The CIC's position is not a promotion post to be made available to information commissioners. Tiwary's appointment as a commissioner about five years ago was also not proper because at that time he was the secretary in the department of personnel and training which is responsible for the selection of commissioners. There are only three months left in his term as CIC and so there was no good reason to elevate him to the position.


The stop-gap arrangement was made because the government was unable to find a successor to Habibullah. This only shows the casual attitude of the government about filling a crucial position. The fact of Habibullah's retirement was known  for months and the government had all the time to look for the right person. Appointing a bureaucrat in that position (even as commissioners) is wrong and undesirable because it has an antithetical relationship with the bureaucracy. The RTI Act enables the citizen to penetrate the opaque culture of the bureaucracy and question its wrong acts. To make the bureaucrats themselves preside over the information commission is therefore patently wrong. There are complaints that they delay their decisions or otherwise act to help their former colleagues. This makes a strong case against using these crucial offices as sinecures for retired bureaucrats. Unfortunately the practice is spreading and growing stronger. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu recently appointed retired chief secretaries as chief information commissioners, ignoring protests by RTI activists.

Activists all over the country have also criticised the appointment of Tiwary. It has also been pointed out that some decisions he took as information commissioner did not inspire confidence in his commitment to the spirit of the RTI Act. The Act envisages selection as information commissioners eminent persons with knowledge and experience of work in fields as diverse as law, journalism, education, science and technology, management, etc. But governments select only bureaucrats while they should be the last to be considered. It is again a case of the politician-bureaucrat nexus asserting itself against public interest.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TOTAL WRITER

"NOBEL PRIZE HAS GONE TO A WORTHY, DESER-VING WRITER."

 

The Nobel Prize for literature has returned to Latin America after nearly three decades with the award for this year going to Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. Llosa is one of the most acclaimed Spanish writers from the continent and arguably of the same eminence as Colombian novelist Gabriel Marcia Marquez who won the Nobel Prize in 1982. Marquez, if mischievously, acknowledged the honour for Llosa with a response which said "now we are equals". The comment from the literary world would be the question why Llosa was passed up for the honour all these years when even little known authors like Herta Muller and JMG le Clezio have won it. A bias towards European writers has been clear in the past but for once this year the award has gone to a worthy and deserving writer.


The Swedish Academy has stated that the award was given to Llosa for his "cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat". He was among the writers, with Marquez, who made the Latin American literary spring of the second half of the last century real for the world readers. Like others of his generation he is a great story-teller, rooted very much in the milieu of the world's poor hinterland, but with the uncanny ability to turn the local into a universal experience. By mixing the real and the unreal, the comic and the tragic, the traditional and the modern, he was able to create new landscapes of imagination, more intense than the real world. The themes in more than 30 novels and plays have ranged from personal experience to history to freedom and the fight against moral degradation. Through the decades his style and imagination have also evolved, as it happens with all writers who live their times ardently and find newer ways of responding to them.


Like many of his peers in Latin America, Llosa is a versatile writer and person. He has written novels, plays, film and literary criticism and essays, and has also been a journalist, a teacher and a politician. He is intensely political and has run for the presidency of his country which he narrowly lost. The politics also evolved, from the leftist convictions of his younger days to right-of-centre neo-liberal views. A writer who wanted to become a total person, just as, in the Academy's words, he tried to write the total novel.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

SHEIKH OF OPTIONS

M J AKBAR


"The world has changed since the 1989-1993 intifada, which is why the gun has given way to the slingshot."

 

You know a marriage has gone sour when one of the couple begins winking at the neighbour. The political wedlock between Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah was the celebrity event of our times, a signature moment that harmonised the hopes of a new century with the promise of generation free not only from the fuddy-duddy mindset of a Nehru-Sheikh ancestry but also the overenthusiastic mistakes of the daddy partnership between Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi.


It also aimed at being a sparky New India coalition that came into its own when Omar Abdullah used the 2008 debate on the Indo-US nuclear bill to offer a soliloquy on why he was an Indian first, with everything else in the queue of identities coming only after this  primary assertion. This speech was the ideological bedrock of Delhi's trust, and when Omar was sent to Srinagar in 2009, it  was as if Rahul Gandhi was sending not just another chief minister but a virtual national anthem.


When the history of ironies is written it will be a thick book. Neither Omar nor Rahul knew in the glorious summer of 2009 what anyone with even marginal memory could have told them: the path of good intentions is not only strewn with stones but has innumerable by-lanes that wind their way to Islamabad. The world has changed since the 1989-1993 intifada, which is why the gun has given way to the slingshot, but the purpose is the same, provocation, and a message to the world that while there might be a government in Srinagar it is not in power in Kashmir.


The syndrome suffered from additional confusion, born out of the simulated halo dangling behind the Rahul-Omar partnership. These young men were in politics, obviously, but they were not quite the kind of grubby politician who had one hand in the till and the other dabbling in compromise. The phenomenon is not particularly original. The favourite weapon of every generation is a broom with which to sweep the past away. But the past is much more than a collection of mistakes. It is also a repository of lessons. However, Delhi was gulled by the 'non-political' image it had generated out of a PR machine. It could not believe that Omar would descend from high ground towards the sub-text of Kashmiri nationalism.


Aphrodisiac
Omar Abdullah was 'above' politics as long as it suited him to waft on that lofty level. A politician does what is necessary to stay in power. Omar needed Congress to become chief minister; he had neither a majority on his own, nor even the boost of single-largest party in the assembly. He succeeded purely because the Congress was fashioning a new-gen success-story template that could be transported onto the national scene when needed. When that image exploded, a silent  but obvious countdown began in Delhi. 


Threat perception invoked the political instinct in Omar. When a politician sees power slipping away he begins to prepare the conditions for a return. Power is the aphrodisiac. If Delhi cannot provide it, someone else will mix the potent powder. Loyalty to India got Omar an internship in Atal Behari Vajpayee's ministry and barely 18 months of comfort under Rahul Gandhi's protection. Time to move on.

 

The Great Indian Hope remembered therefore that Kashmir only acceded to India but did not merge with it; he did not add that this was thanks to Dr Karan Singh's father Maharaja Hari Singh, who, unlike other princely states, insisted on Article 370 before signing the document of accession, because independence has been coopted into a Kashmiri Muslim agenda rather than a Kashmiri cause.


This makes Omar Abdullah an accessory to India rather than a citizen. An accessory's loyalty cannot be taken for granted, and so if there is a bit of adultery in an open marriage, why kick up a fuss? The Abdullahs like keeping a door open to Delhi and an ear open to Islamabad. They have to survive, you see, just in case you asked.

Peace is rarely an accident. Omar Abdullah negotiated a temporary settlement with the head of Jamaat e Islami, the openly pro-Pakistan Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Geelani welcomed the price of purchase after Omar made his 'accession-not-merger' speech in the assembly.


The discovery of Omar Abdullah as a 'Sheikh of Options' is interesting. Far more intriguing will be the rediscovery of his mentor in Congress. Fudge won't work. Omar was not writing a treatise, he was delivering a political speech fully conscious of its repercussions. So far the Congress left led by Digvijay Singh has knee-jerked towards Omar; its spokesmen bought time; and Rahul Gandhi preferred his usual way out of a dilemma, silence. At some point silence becomes consent. This is not the only problem. Farooq Abdullah is in the Union Cabinet. Does father share son's views? If yes, what are the consequences?


Omar might have gained a little temporary space in Kashmir; he has lost many times that in the rest of India. It is not an intelligent trade-off for a man still at the beginning of his political career.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

AMERICAN LETHAL FORCE UNDER LAW


The US should show the world that it is acting in strict compliance with international law.

 

The Obama administration has sharply expanded the shadow war against terrorists, using both the military and the CIA to track down and kill hundreds of them, in a dozen countries, on and off the battlefield.


The drone programme has been effective, killing more than 400 al-Qaeda militants this year alone, but fewer than 10 noncombatants. But assassinations are a grave act and subject to abuse — and imitation by other countries. The government needs to do a better job of showing the world that it is acting in strict compliance with international law.


The US has the right under international law to try to prevent attacks being planned by terrorists connected to al-Qaeda. But it is not within the power of a commander in chief to simply declare anyone anywhere a combatant and kill them, without the slightest advance independent oversight. The authorisation for military force approved by Congress a week after 9/11 empowers the president to go after only those groups or countries that committed or aided the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration's distortion of that mandate led to abuses that harmed the United States around the world.


State secrets

The issue of who can be targeted applies directly to the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen hiding in Yemen, who officials have admitted is on an assassination list. Officials insist that Awlaki is involved with actual terror plots. But human rights lawyers say that is not the case, and have filed suit to get him off the target list. The administration wants the case thrown out on state-secrets grounds.


In March, Harold Koh, legal adviser to the state department, said the government adheres to international law, attacking only military targets and keeping civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. 


Privately, government officials say no CIA drone strike takes place without the approval of the US ambassador to the target country, the chief of the CIA station, a deputy at the agency, and the agency's director. So far, President Obama's system of command seems to have prevented any serious abuses, but the approval process is entirely within the administration. After the abuses under President Bush, the world is not going to accept a simple 'trust us' from the White House.


There have been too many innocent people rounded up for detention and subjected to torture, too many cases of mistaken identity or trumped-up connections to terror. Unmanned drones eliminate the element of risk to the US forces and make it seductively easy to attack.


The government needs to make public its guidelines for determining who is a terrorist and who can be targeted for death. It should clearly describe how it follows international law in these cases and list the internal procedures and checks it uses before a killing is approved. That can be done without formally acknowledging the strikes are taking place in specific countries.


The administration should state that it is following international law by acting strictly in self-defence, targeting only people who are actively planning or participating in terror, or who are leaders of al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Assassination should in every case be a last resort. Before a decision is made to kill, the government needs to consider every other possibility for capturing the target short of lethal force. Terrorists operating on American soil should be captured using police methods, and not subject to assassination.


If practical, the US should get permission from a foreign government before carrying out an attack on its soil. The government is reluctant to discuss any of these issues publicly, in part to preserve the official fiction that the US is not waging a formal war in Pakistan and elsewhere, but it would not harm that effort to show the world how seriously it takes international law by making clear its limits.


Dealing out death requires additional oversight outside the administration. The government needs to employ some due process before depriving someone of life.


The government could establish a court like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorises wiretaps on foreign agents inside the US. Congressional leaders are secretly briefed on each CIA attack, and say they are satisfied with the information they get and with the process. Nonetheless, that process is informal and could be changed at any time by this president or his successors. Formal oversight is a better way of demonstrating confidence in American methods.


Self-defence under international law not only shows the nation's resolve and power, but sends a powerful message to other countries that the US couples drastic action with careful judgment.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

A GECKO'S ELOQUENT SILENCE

BY VIJAYA BHASKARA REDDY


The feeling of kindness, pity and empathy are unmistakable.

 

A tiny baby lizard resting its triangular-shaped head on its crossed forepaws with unblinking eyes and curled tail is lying a little away from me on the floor. It has been there for the last 15 days changing its position to different corners of my room but all the while in the same pose. I know for certain that it is sick and convalescing. It is unable to catch prey and has not eaten during these days. It is not certain how long it is going to survive.


The first day I saw it, my natural reaction was one of aversion. Instinctively I felt the urge to kill. But a second look evoked a feeling of pity. It appeared so helpless that I allowed it to lie down undisturbed hoping it would recuperate. This has continued for many days now. It still lies there undisturbed while my hope in its rejuvenation remains unaltered. Whenever it disappears from my sight, I feel happy that it has gone back to its brood with health recovered. But each time, a little while later I find it crawling near me unobtrusively. Each passing day has imperceptibly brought us closer.


What relation could there be between a tiny lizard and a man? Perhaps nothing. Yet the feeling of kindness, pity and empathy are unmistakable. My feelings may be ratiocination of my intellect. But what makes the non-thinking lizard comfortable next to me? It surpasses my understanding.


How could one explain even wild beasts, when under strange circumstances come in contact with human beings, develop a strong kinship, showing their love in abundance? Herds of deer fearlessly flock to human habitats near the jungle lodges. Even plants are known to respond to human affection. There must be a thread running through the entire creation linking all in a harmonious whole.


Kabir sings of the breaking of a mud pot that he used to fill with water but feels happy that at last it has released him from the bondage of filling. Though apocryphal, at a deeper level it speaks of going beyond selfish needs by the shattering of the ego and arising of universal love. When a highly revered person was asked when this kind of state could be reached, the impromptu answer was when one starts loving the whole creation.


The Upanishads declare that for the one who sees oneself in all and all in oneself, there is no grief or delusion. Science confirms that each object in the cosmos attracts every other object, the force of attraction being directly proportionate to the product of the mass of the objects and inversely proportionate to the square of the distance between.


A lizard next to me gives rise to all these thoughts. In its eloquent silence it is perhaps teaching me the essential unity of all existence and the thread of love running through it.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

NO TO UNILATERALISM

 

A "facts on the ground" approach to the creation of a Palestinian state is a radical departure from Palestinian nationalism.

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raised the possibility, during an Arab League meeting in Libya on Friday, of abandoning peace talks with Israel and turning to the UN Security Council and to the US to receive recognition for an independent Palestinian state delineated by the pre-1967 borders.


Israeli government officials ruled out this possibility as "unrealistic" and a "mirage."


Notwithstanding the Israeli officials' dismissive response to Abbas's threat – issued after Israel refused to extend a 10-month moratorium on new construction on the settlements in Judea and Samaria – the gambit of a unilateral declaration on the creation of a Palestinian state on territory presently under Israeli control is, unfortunately, looking increasingly possible. Supreme efforts should be made to prevent this from happening.

 

In February, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, speaking at the Herzliya Conference, outlined a plan, first made public in August 2009, to establish unilaterally a de facto Palestinian state by August 2011. By that time, according to Fayyad, whom President Shimon Peres has compared to David Ben-Gurion, "the reality of [a Palestinian] state will impose itself on the world."


The Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia) has supported aspects of Fayyad's plan, as have international donors.


The concept of a "facts on the ground" approach to the creation of a Palestinian state is a radical departure from Palestinian nationalism's advocacy of a windfall success through violence or international diplomacy. Rather than seeking an impossible military victory over Israel or waiting for the sudden achievement of a major peace treaty, the state-building program seeks to create Palestine step by step.


Pro-Zionists such as Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser for global democratic strategy in the Bush administration, have praised this "bottom up" approach to realizing Palestinian national self-determination.

It is seen as a way to achieve a breakthrough in Middle East peace where two decades of Palestinian- Israeli negotiations have failed and unilateral Israeli withdrawals have led to the creation of terrorist enclaves in south Lebanon and Gaza.


Once a Palestinian state is created that is capable of self-government, maintaining law and order and preventing terrorism against Israel, proponents argue, a final-status agreement with Israel will be easy to attain.


THE PROBLEM with this approach is that it carries with it the danger that, at some point, the Palestinians will be tempted to make a unilateral declaration of independence without first reaching a final-status agreement with Israel.

Fayyad has said that his state-building plan "is intended to generate pressure" on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

This apparently means that if Israel does not acquiesce to its demands on issues such as borders, security arrangements and Jerusalem during peace negotiations, the PA can always force Israel's hand through a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.


Such a move would strike a terrible blow to what little confidence Israel has in the PA's leadership. No Israeli government would withdraw from the West Bank or parts of Jerusalem as a result of a unilateral Palestinian declaration or a UN resolution. Instead, Israel would be forced to tighten security around Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. In parallel, the failure of Fayyad's bid would inevitably lead to the rise in the West Bank of Hamas, which would persuasively argue that violence and terrorism are the only means of achieving national liberation.

Though the PA should continue to institute reforms, build government institutions and plan new towns such as Rawabi, there is no substitute for negotiations – for dialogue, compromise and a commitment to long-term reconciliation.

The US should make it absolutely clear to the Palestinians that it opposes any unilateral moves.


Such a US commitment, moreover, should not merely be a carrot used to entice Israel into extending the building moratorium, as reported in recent days, but as a fundamental principle guiding the process of achieving a two-state solution.


The Palestinians, too, must realize that only through negotiations can a lasting peace be achieved. Perhaps internalizing this fact will encourage the PA to devote more energies to convincing the Palestinian people of the need for a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.


For better or for worse, Israelis and Palestinians must learn to live peacefully, side by side in their own autonomous states. UN resolutions or unilateral declarations won't achieve this end. Only face-to-face talks and dialogue will do so.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

THE REGION: THE DECLARATION OF WAR THAT WENT UNNOTICED

BY BARRY RUBIN  

 

The Muslim Brotherhood recently called for jihad on the US and Israel, adopting a view almost identical to al-Qaida's.

 

Here's something important: The Muslim Brotherhood's leader has endorsed anti-American jihad and a view virtually identical to al-Qaida's ideology. Since the Brotherhood is the main opposition in Egypt and Jordan and the most powerful group in Muslim communities of Europe and North America, this is serious stuff.


Does that mean all these branches are going to launch terror attacks, as one affiliate, Hamas, has long done? Not necessarily.

But hundreds of thousands of Brotherhood followers are being given a signal. Some will engage in terrorism; others will redouble efforts to seize control of countries and turn them into bases for war on the West.

 

The Brotherhood is the group that often dominates Muslim communities and runs mosques in the West. Its front groups are often courted by Western governments and media.


Yet here is the Brotherhood's new supreme guide, Muhammad Badi giving a sermon entitled, "How Islam Confronts the Oppression and Tyranny," translated by MEMRI in which he says: 


• Arab and Muslim regimes betray their people unless they confront not only Israel but also the US. Waging jihad against both is mandatory for all Muslims. Otherwise, "They are disregarding Allah's commandment to wage jihad... so that Allah's word will reign supreme" over all non-Muslims.


• All Muslims are required by their religion to fight as their highest priority, since "the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice, and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life."


• The US is easy to defeat through violence, since it is "experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading toward its demise."


• Palestinians should back Hamas in overthrowing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and unite in waging war on Israel.

• Rational calculations applied by the West to adversaries, assuming Muslims won't act in a revolutionary and even suicidal manner, want a better future for their children, etc., don't apply to the Islamist movement: "Allah said: 'The hosts will all be routed and will turn and flee' (Koran 54:45). This verse is a promise to the believers that they shall defeat their enemies... and that through Allah you shall triumph... The outcome of the confrontation has been predetermined by Allah."


Thus, it doesn't matter how long the battle lasts or its cost in destruction and death, you should go on fighting.

IN THE real world, Islamists are unlikely to win over, say, 50 or 100 years. But those views mean these 50 or 100 years are going to be filled with instability and bloodshed. Muslims don't have to agree with Badi's views, yet hundreds of thousands will, and millions will cheer them.


There's even more food for thought in Badi's speech.


"Resistance is the only solution... The United States cannot impose an agreement upon the Palestinians, despite all the power at its disposal. [Today] it is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan" because it has been defeated by Islamist warriors.


First, US efforts that seem to be succeeding at brokering Israel-Palestinian peace would only spark more violence, not less, as Islamists seek to defeat them. Desirable as peace or even progress toward peace might be, the West should have no illusions about those things providing regional stability; they will produce more instability.

Second, US apologies, concessions and withdrawals are interpreted by Islamists and many in the Middle East as signs of weakness, which spark further aggression and violence.


Note that it is precisely fear of a tough opponent thet keeps Badi from saying anything about fighting Egypt's government, which won't hesitate to throw Brotherhood leaders in prison and even torture them.

STILL, THE coming leadership transition in Egypt, with the death or retirement of President Husni Mubarak, seems to offer opportunities. The new harder line coincides with the Brotherhood's announcement that it will run candidates in the November elections – another sign of its confidence and increased militancy.

The Brotherhood is not a legal group, but the government lets members run in other parties. Its candidates won about 20 percent of the vote in the last elections – especially impressive given the regime's repressive measures. If the Brotherhood intends to defy Egyptian law now, there will be confrontations, mass arrests and perhaps violence.

Most important, however, Badi and many others sense weakness on the part of the West, especially the US leaders, and victory for the Islamists.


Even former British prime minister Tony Blair is warning about such things. Blair comes from the British Labor Party. Many conservatives understand these issues. But the West can never respond successfully without a broader consensus about the nature of the threat and the need for a strong response. Where are Blair's counterparts in the left-of-center forces in North America, the kind of people who played such a critical role in confronting and defeating the previous wave of anti-democratic extremism, communism? 


This new hard line signals: 


1. Increased internal conflict in Egypt, the start of a decade-long struggle for power in the Arabic-speaking world's most important country.


2. The likelihood that more Brotherhood supporters in the West will turn to violence and fund-raising for terrorism.

3. The true nature of the radical indoctrination – preparing people for future extremism and terrorism – in the mosques and groups they control.


4. A probable upturn in anti-American terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe.

In August 1996, al-Qaida declared war on America, the West, Christians and Jews. Nobody important paid much attention. Almost exactly five years later, September 11 forced them to notice. Let it be said that in September 2010 the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with 100 times more activists than al-Qaida, issued its declaration of war. What remains is the history of the future.

 

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

BETWEEN LOYALTY AND BETRAYAL: ISRAELI DEMOCRACY IN 2010

BY HAGAI EL-AD  


Loyalty bill crosses line from what is commonplace in democracies to what is commonplace in countries Israel would not want to associate with.

 

"Tyranny of the majority" is one of those Democracy 101 terms, invoked to differentiate as-if democracies, in which the system of government is dominated by adhering to the majority's rule, from true democracies – in which the whims of shifting political majorities cannot trump constitutional rights: protection of the equality of all citizens and communities, safeguarding minority rights, freedom of speech, protest and dissent. These are the building blocks of a true democracy, the tests any real democracy must pass.


Israeli democracy is failing its citizens. Pretending to advance "loyalty," MKs are in fact betraying our democracy. The "declaration of loyalty" bill, voted through in the cabinet on Sunday, is just one unfortunate expression of an unprecedented, current tide of antidemocratic legislation, attacking democracy at its very heart.

Indeed, Israel, as many other countries, requires those wishing to naturalize and become citizens to swear allegiance to their new country. The current wording of this declaration, as mandated by law and as in effect for decades, is "I declare that I will be a loyal citizen of the State of Israel."

 

For our current prime minister, justice minister, foreign minister and others, for some reason that is no longer sufficient.

Instead, they voted for a new version requiring non- Jews seeking naturalization to declare loyalty to "the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."


This new version crosses the line from what is commonplace in democracies to what is commonplace in countries Israel would not want to associate with. It is one thing to require adherence to the law; it is another altogether to demand that free individuals in a democracy sign on to a specific ideology or identity – and specifically one with particular religious content.


ONE MAY theorize that these are just words, they carry no concrete implications. It is symbolic, not practical. But symbols do matter, and in fact practical implications, and very troubling ones, do exist.


Symbolically, the new declaration of loyalty sends a clear message to all non-Jews in Israel, whether they were born citizens or have naturalized. It tells one in five Israelis: You are less a citizen than your Jewish neighbor, you have less ownership of your country, less stake in its future than other citizens. Thus, it introduces an oxymoron into the to-be-amended Citizenship Law: Telling some citizens that they are less equal than others is essentially anti-democratic. Requiring an oath to a Jewish Israel immediately makes that very Israel less of a democracy.

Practically, the new oath could limit the freedom of speech of naturalized citizens. As this country lacks a constitution, the conversation on its potential content rages on – as would be hoped for in a democracy. Many support, for instance, constitutionally enshrining full equal rights in a country that is a full democracy of all its citizens. It should be obvious that citizens in a democracy can advocate such a position – and indeed, there are current citizens who do.

But future naturalized citizens could find themselves criminalized if they make statements supporting such a position, which could be interpreted by the authorities as opposing the new oath. Such are the contradictions one runs into when trying to legislate ideology; that is why true democracies refrain from doing so. All citizens' – whether through birth or naturalization – beliefs, views and opinions should not be policed or criminalized.


Demanding "loyalty" was Israel Beiteinu's campaign highlight. The declaration of loyalty bill is an essential part of that party's platform, but now it will become the law of the State of Israel. On its heels, we can already foresee what awaits us on the next step down this slippery slope, with a spate of bills all using similar language: the bill on MKs' pledge of allegiance, the cinema bill that requires the entire crew of a film that seeks public funding to pledge allegiance and the anti-incitement bill (that already passed preliminary reading) which would criminalize speaking – oops, that is, inciting – against Israel as "Jewish and democratic."


To gain further perspective, it is worth pointing out that current laws criminalize incitement for racism or violence.

It was the speaker of the Knesset himself, MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud), who recently said: "Certain MKs... create an international image of Israel as an apartheid state."


Alas, these are not just "certain MKs," but the government from the prime minister down; and the issue is not that of "international image," but of the actual reality Israelis live in. Before we continue sliding down, it is time to renew our loyalty to the true makings of a real democracy: human rights, social justice and full equality.

The writer is executive director of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

IDENTIFYING WITH ISRAEL'S NATIONAL CHARACTER

BY DANNY AYALON  

 

There is nothing wrong with asking prospective citizens to pledge allegiance to the 'Jewish and democratic State of Israel.'

 

There has been much recent debate about what has been described as an amendment to the country's Oath or Pledge of Allegiance for those who seek naturalization, which was passed in the cabinet on Sunday. The furor has been over the addition of the words "Jewish and democratic state"; currently the law states that one need only pledge allegiance to "the State of Israel."


The opprobrium appears to center around the use of the word "Jewish," with critics throwing every epithet at the amendment, from "unconstitutional" to "racist."


These labels have sought to polarize the debate about an amendment which is completely consistent with our national character.


Since the inception of modern Zionism, which stood on the shoulders of thousands of years of historical and biblical Zionism, the "Jewish state" ahas been the rallying call for the return to political sovereignty in our ancestral land.

The father of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, wrote Der Judenstaat, "The Jewish State," during 1896, mistakenly translated into Hebrew as "The State of the Jews."


Almost a decade earlier, Naphtali Herz Imber wrote the words to our national anthem, unashamedly reflecting the Jewish yearning for a return to Zion that fills me with emotion and pride every time it is sung.


On November 29, 1947, the international community overwhelmingly recognized the establishment of a Jewish state. Less than one year later, the Jewish state was realized as David Ben-Gurion read the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence, which contained the term "Jewish state" no less than five times. Only minutes later, US president Harry Truman recognized Israel as the Jewish state.

CURRENTLY, ISRAEL faces the greatest delegitimization campaign of any nation. One of the main targets is its national character. Unfortunately, too many Israeli Jews have internalized this assault and have either forgotten, misunderstood or are actively working against the raison d'être of the reestablishment of Israel.


Regrettably, efforts to delegitimize Israel's national character have reached the mainstream even within our own country. It is simply astonishing to hear all the criticism of what should be an uncontroversial amendment. Would these same people have branded Herzl, Inbar, Ben-Gurion, Truman and even the UN General Assembly racist or discriminatory for the words they wrote? Much of the uproar derives from the simple misconception as to the meaning of the term "Jewish."


While many like to constrict the term as merely referring to a religious belief, its meaning is far greater. To be Jewish is to be part of a nation, civilization, culture and people. I frequently tell visiting dignitaries who are similarly uncertain that Jews are to Israel as the Chinese are to China and the French are to France.

When we ask prospective citizens to emphasize Israel's status as both a "Jewish and democratic state" we call on them to embrace the true meaning and substance of the State of Israel, without compromising their civil rights. Without these terms, Israel's unique significance is rendered meaningless.


There is a reason that the American Pledge of Allegiance evolved from the original, "I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


The additions, "of the United States of America" and "under God" addressed supplementary facets of the American national character and served as a guide for prospective immigrants.


Those who refuse to acknowledge Israel's national character wish to strip it of any defining features, to make it a "Hebrew-speaking republic" which leaves us little to be proud of. The unparalleled assault on our legitimacy is both from without and within, and we need strong and certain leadership to stand our ground.

MKs like Haneen Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Ahmed Tibi, the fiercest opponents of the amendment, regularly seek to undermine our national existence.


However, Israel Beiteinu is committed to stand against the constant post-Zionist assault, whether it is from Israeli academics who seek a boycott, local NGOs that attempt to censure or MKs who seek to dismantle the nation I so proudly serve. There needs to be a recalibration of civic responsibility and the duties and obligations of a citizen, as in every other democracy. The tumult surrounding the amendment amply proves that a reaffirmation of Zionist ideals is necessary.


THERE ARE also those who criticize the fact that the amendment relates only to those prospective citizens unable to make aliya through the Law of Return.


This again demonstrates a grave misunderstanding of history.


The Law of Return, built on the internationally accepted principle of jus sanguins, is the ultimate expression of the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Thus, the pledge becomes unnecessary for those who join us by virtue of their national and historic ties to our land and people. The Jewish state was created to deal specifically with the issue of the Jewish people, and the return of any Jew to his or her land is the fulfillment of this principle.


The Basic Law: Human Liberty and Dignity – one of the key components of our constitutional law passed by the Knesset in 1992 – states as its purpose "to protect human dignity and liberty in order to establish in a basic law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."


Those non-Jews who become citizens need to fully appreciate that the State of Israel is the national expression of the self-determination of the Jewish people.


Those who object to the new formula are doing untold damage to the sincerity of the Zionist mission, and make our case harder to explain.


Only by adhering to and proudly reinforcing our national character, not only to those who wish to join our people, but also to the nations of the world, will we validate our presence. Many nations actively promote their national mission, whether it is "American exceptionalism" or France's "liberté, égalité, fraternité."


Every nation has its national ethos, and Israel's "light unto the nations" can only be expressed through its Jewish character, which we must state clearly and unequivocally.

Those who disparage clearly describing Israel as the eternal aspiration of the Jewish people provide ample ammunition to those who seek the end of our national existence.


The writer is deputy foreign minister and an Israel Beiteinu MK.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

THE POLITICS OF PARODY

BY JEREMY RUDEN  

 

Could the Stewart and Colbert rallies play a hand in the American political landscape?

 

As the US approaches the midterm elections, one of the most interesting media events (or stunts, as some might call it) is unfolding. They're not strictly political, but might have implications on the political landscape. The episodes in question are the combined "Rally to Restore Sanity" and "March to Keep Fear Alive" by comedians Jon Stewart andSteven Colbert which are due to take place, simultaneously, at the Washington Mall on October 30.


Stewart's The Daily Show is a nightly comedy program which pokes fun at both the news and the media which cover it. Colbert's The Colbert Report, which was spun off from Stewart's show, copies the format half an hour later. The main difference is that Colbert uses a "conservative" slant when he's in character.


Both shows have found success and have managed to successfully parody the formats, language and visual methods used by the 24-hour news cycle in the US.

 

The rallies themselves are a direct response to another gathering which took place on the same spot just months ago. Conservative TV and radio host Glenn Beck held his "Restoring Honor" rally at the end of August. It was more like an old-time religious revival than a political rally, but nonetheless addressed the Republican base. While there's debate on the attendance estimates, it's safe to say that tens of thousands showed up.


Also worth mentioning is the "One Nation" rally, held by liberal groups in Washington DC on October 2. Organizers say they were planning this event in April and it was not arranged as a response to Beck's. But unlike "Restoring Honor," this was strictly political and as left-wing a gathering as you'll be seeing in the US. Once again, without getting into the numbers debate, many attended.


SO HERE come comedians Stewart and Colbert with their events being promoted as tongue-in-cheek as possible.

Stewart is saying tone down the rhetoric, keep politics civil.


"We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive and terrible for your throat, who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard, and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles," said Stewart.


Colbert, on the other hand, is taking the pseudo-conservative role to counter Stewart. The rationale from the event's site: "America, the greatest country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: freedom, liberty, and fear – that someone might take our freedom and liberty... They [Stewart] want to replace our fear with reason. But never forget – 'reason' is just one letter away from 'treason.' Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can't afford to take that chance."


This is biting political satire and they're taking it to the streets – but why is this so important? Well, it seems they're getting everyone upset. Left-wingers are saying these rallies make light of the real issues, while folks on the Right feel that this is a method to get out the vote and, to quote Beck, "to get them to vote for the unions."

The amount of coverage the rallies are getting is staggering, considering this is not supposed to be an event with "real-world" implications. It's parody. But as famed thespian Peter Ustinov once said, "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious."


The most interesting aspect of these events is that their meaning is totally open for interpretation, and I won't even try to put any label on them except to say I think it's a brilliant idea. But could these events play a hand in the American political landscape? There might not be a revolution in the making but, on the surface, the rallies claim to represent the people who are getting a bit tired of both the Democrats and Republicans, so will it mean something if half a million people show up from all over the country? It just might.


I ENVY TV viewers in the States for having such cutting-edge political satire. We do haveEretz Nehederet [It's a wonderful land], which is well done, but it's a weekly show which devotes only about half of its time to parodying current events, while relying on some dead-on imitations as much as sharp writing.


Surely anyone following the news in Israel realizes how much material there would be for an Israeli Daily Show.

As for keeping politics civil in the Holy Land, well, you only have to look at our elected officials on shouting-match TV programs such as Politica or Moetzet Ha'hahamim to see how that just might be a lost cause.


The writer is an independent media consultant, an adjunct lecturer at IDC Herzliya's School of Communications, and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in New York. Jeremy@jeremyruden.com

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

RESPECT THE KNESSET AND ITS INDEPENDENCE

THE KNESSET MUST ACT TO PRESERVE ITS ROLE IN THE CENTRAL POLITICAL DECISION MAKING PROCESS, WHILE PREVENTING THE GOVERNMENT FROM TAKING CONTROL OF THE SUBSTANCE OF LEGISLATION THROUGH "ARRANGEMENTS."

BY ZE'EV SEGAL

 

The 18th Knesset reconvenes today after an overly long summer recess. It will have to prove it's still alive and kicking, as a well-run parliamentary system requires. Its agenda includes fundamental matters of principle related to respect for our parliamentary government, which must be strengthened and improved.

 

A bill providing for a referendum should the government approve a withdrawal from territory under Israeli control by its nature threatens the Knesset's supremacy though the concept of a referendum exists in most democracies and is not viewed as damaging to the foundations of representative democracy.

 

As proposed by MK Ofir Akunis (Likud ), a referendum would be held if the cabinet approves a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. The bill is far-reaching in that it doesn't require a Knesset decision or the passage of legislation before the plebiscite. As a result, it harms respect for the Knesset and its supremacy by completely bypassing the parliament and excluding it from the issue. Unsurprisingly, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a tireless advocate on behalf of a Knesset that has lost respect, said in this context that "a referendum does not work miracles and cannot bypass Israeli democracy."

 

There's another annual assault on the state's legislative branch, the Economic Arrangements bill, whose purpose is to put things in order at the Knesset and pass structural reform measures on a range of topics - without hearings or detailed scrutiny. The High Court of Justice is looking on from the sidelines. In a wide-ranging opinion, it warned against bypassing the Knesset through the arrangements law, but it has not intervened in view of the high authority of the Knesset itself.

 

It's worth remembering that power is ultimately vested in members of the Knesset, who are entitled to refrain from approving the provisions of proposed legislation, at least to the extent they don't directly advance the aims of the budget from an economic standpoint. It is fair to assume, however, this time, too, the coalition steamroller will prevail over most MKs.

 

Another test of principle the Knesset faces is posed by a High Court of Justice decision about two weeks ago in which the court refrained from invalidating income tax rules despite inherent discrimination of tax benefits for certain communities. The court warned it would act if changes were not made to the law.

 

The justices made the limitations on the legislature's power clear when harm is done to constitutional rights, to the right to equality or other rights. By virtue of this principle, the Knesset should debate the bill to amend the citizenship law to require new citizens to declare loyalty to "the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state." The Knesset should develop a formula that also provides that the state will respect the rights of all of its citizens. A cloud of discrimination would be lifted from the bill if it required the oath of every new citizen, Jewish or otherwise.

 

It's fair to assume this Knesset will not assert its role as a constitutional body by passing Basic Laws. The chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, David Rotem, (Yisrael Beiteinu ) has not excluded the prospect that bills designed to buttress social rights in the Basic Laws would be proposed, but passage is far off. Such legislation should not provoke ideological and political disagreement and should make it clear to the government that the right to minimum subsistence and to education and health care cannot be abridged without compelling budgetary reasons.

 

If the Knesset acts to preserve its role in the central political decision making process and in strengthening the rights of the individual, while preventing the government from taking control of the substance of legislation through "arrangements," it will prove it still exists in practice.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BEGIN VS. BEGIN

IF BENNY BEGIN WERE A MEMBER OF THE PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP, WOULD HE NOT INSIST ON NEGOTIATIONS BEING HELD ON THE BASIS OF AN AGREEMENT THAT CARRIES THE SIGNATURE OF MENACHEM BEGIN?

BY AKIVA ELDAR

 

As mentioned in the cabinet transcripts from the Yom Kippur War, Moshe Dayan, then defense minister in the government of Golda Meir, was one of the creators of the "concept," born during the Six-Day War that refuses to die. Dayan was an active participant in the settlements project in all the occupied territories, under the slogan "better Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh." In the euphoria typical of the man and the period, Dayan announced he was "waiting for a phone call" from the Arabs. When Egyptian President Anwar Sadat decided in 1977 to call Jerusalem, Dayan, then foreign minister in the government of Menachem Begin, sobered up and gave up his addiction to territory.

 

Begin had the rare opportunity, which fell into his hands, to undertake a revolution in relations with the leader of the Arab world. He shelved his public promise to join the settlement of Neot Sinai when the time would come for him to retire from politics. The former head of Etzel did not heed his comrades from the underground and gave back to Egypt all the territory that Israel had conquered in June 1967.

 

The preamble to the Camp David Accords, signed on September 19, 1978, states that "future negotiations between Israel and any neighbor prepared to negotiate peace and security with it are necessary for the purpose of carrying out all the provisions and principles of [UN Security Council] Resolutions 242 and 338." Begin crossed the Rubicon by setting a precedent that in return for peace, normalization and security arrangements, Israel interprets these instructions and principles into a pullout from the last centimeter of territory.

 

Moreover, Begin promised at Camp David, in connection with a permanent settlement of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip issue, that "the solution from the negotiations must also recognize the legitimate right of the Palestinian people and their just requirements." Begin referred to "the Arabs of the Land of Israel," which President Jimmy Carter confirmed that Begin informed him Israel considers synonymous with "Palestinians" and "Palestinian people." The leader of the "national camp" did not demand and did not receive an Egyptian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. These principles subsequently served in formulating the peace agreement with Jordan and as the basis for negotiations with Syria.

 

Ten years after the signing of the agreement with Egypt, the Palestinian National Council adopted the Camp David framework at the Algiers Conference. This followed an intense internal debate resulting in a painful division between Fatah and the rejectionist front. The Palestine Liberation Organization adopted resolutions 242 and 338, in addition to the demand for the implementation of the right of return. Fourteen years later, the heads of the Arab states completed the work of Sadat, Begin and Carter; at the Arab League summit they unanimously voted to support a peace initiative that offered Israel normalization in return for withdrawal to the borders of 1967 and a just and agreed resolution of the problem of the refugees in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (without making specific mention to the right of return! ).

 

And here we are, with the senior minister Ze'ev Binyamin Begin, a member of the Forum of Seven, among the leaders of the camp opposing what his father signed. In an article Friday in Haaretz, entitled "Rubiconians," he quotes a declaration Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made in early September, that he will not relinquish "the principle established by the Palestinian National Council in 1988 - recognition of resolutions 242 and 338, 1967 borders, Jerusalem as our capital, and the rights of the refugees in line with UN resolutions, especially 194."

 

If Benny Begin were a member of the Palestinian leadership, would he not insist on negotiations being held on the basis of an agreement that carries the signature of Menachem Begin? Indeed, Ehud Olmert did not reach a compromise with Abbas on the complicated issues. The lion's share of the difference lies in the fact that when Begin met with Sadat, 24,000 Jews lived in fewer than 40 settlements, while today there are some 300,000 settlers in 250 settlements and outposts. Either way, why does Begin not press the prime minister to continue the negotiations on dividing the country from the point at which they stopped?

 

Benny Begin is right. As he wrote in that article, the heads of the PLO have been stuck in the positions his father adopted 32 years ago. How unfortunate that he and his colleagues do not respect them and are stuck in positions that brought about the Yom Kippur disaster. "Shall the sword devour forever," Moshe Dayan asked in his book. Where is their question mark?

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

DIRTY SCREENS

THE HIDDEN ADVERTISING ON ISRAELI TELEVISION IS ALL CONTRARY TO THE RULES SET DOWN BY THE SECOND TELEVISION AND RADIO AUTHORITY.

BY GABRIEL WEIMANN

 

The television screens in Israel are filthy, and I am not referring to the quality of the content. The filth is found in the hidden advertising - logos that flicker into view and then disappear, promos for the stations' upcoming broadcasts, commercial sponsorships and amplified sound for commercials. All of this is contrary to the rules set down by the Second Television and Radio Authority.

 

There has been a swift process over the past few years during which these rules have been crudely crushed while the regulators relaxed and closed their eyes. There is hardly a moment on Channel 2 or Channel 10 without some latent advertisement: a logo promoting another show is parachuted into the corner of the screen, or the name of a corporate sponsor creeps in. There is not a moment with a clean screen.

 

In Israel, as in any properly run country, there are rules limiting the amount of advertising per broadcast hour, as well as the length of commercials. But advertisers and franchisees have learned to circumvent the limitations. They integrate advertising into the programs (known as content marketing, in the linguistic whitewashing of the television transgressors ), and they have numerous sponsors. During the morning and evening news programs, the TV channels air promos for shows that will be broadcast on those channels. That is not a news item; it is a promo dressed up as news.

 

Hidden advertising has taken over every corner, against the law. The hosts of cooking programs recommend wrapping paper, cooking oil or other products - and they do so for pay. For all intents and purposes, it's a commercial. Only we, the viewers, don't know that; we believe that these are the chefs' professional recommendations rather than the fruit of some dark agreement signed in a back room between an advertiser and a production system.

 

On children's programs, young eyes are exposed to latent advertising at a frenzied pace. Creators, writers and artists are forced to make the writing and the props accommodate commercial products.

 

Here, for example, is what singer and songwriter Shlomo Artzi said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth a few years ago: "I was supposed to give a huge performance in a park this year that would be broadcast live by the biggest franchisee on television, and then the process started. To have a performance in a park costs a tremendous amount of money. The matter of sponsorship was brought up. And then, I can tell you without a doubt, the sponsorship was going to gain control of us. At some stage, it was clear to me that this was no longer my performance."

 

This hidden advertising is not just illegal; it also harms the product. The creators are not masters of their work, but a tool in the hands of the brand and the image that the advertisers dictate. And the viewers are no longer watching a clean and original creation but a toxic mixture of dictates and constraints that the advertisers have forced on them.

 

Many PR offices have entire departments for content marketing, where experts work at getting commercial content onto TV shows. Since everything is done on the sly, it is difficult to know how many deals of this kind are closed, but according to mid-range estimates, content marketing amounts to a third of the money invested in television advertising in Israel.

 

Not only does the latent advertising put the television channels over the permitted quota of commercials, but commercial messages that appear at the bottom of the screen also impairs the quality of the television-watching experience. In addition, the volume gets cranked up during commercial breaks (in contravention of the Second Authority regulations ), so that even those who aren't watching can't avoid the screeching of the marketing.

 

The Second Authority and its public council are supposed to protect us, the viewers, and to fight those who pollute our screens. Not only do they have difficulty doing so, but at this time a proposal is about to be accepted that would give the franchisees broadcasting licenses and abolish the need for a franchise altogether. That would effectively do away with even the existing public oversight, leaving Israel's screen polluters free of any restrictions, prohibitions or regulations.

 

Doing so would be like giving dangerous drivers unrestricted driver's licenses that are valid for life. If our television screens are already polluted and Israel's culture and public discourse are already corrupted today, what will happen when broadcast license holders are allowed to operate without restriction?

 

The writer is a professor of communication at the University of Haifa and a former member of the Second Television and Radio Authority's public council.

 

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE MINISTERS ARE TO BLAME

THE ATTEMPT BY LABOR MINISTERS TO HIDE BEHIND BARAK'S MISCUES FOOLS NOBODY, THEY ARE NO LESS AT FAULT.

 

The opposition voiced by five Labor Party ministers against proposed changes to the Citizenship Law during yesterday's vote was made possible only after a number of senior party figures lobbied party head Ehud Barak to change his stance and vote nay. Even though Barak himself - who tried to walk the proverbial tightrope in offering his own proposal to add the phrase "in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence" - ultimately voted against the measures, his conduct on this issue does not bode well.

 

As he has done since assuming the chairmanship of the Labor Party, Barak has not held one consultation with his party colleagues.

 

He has again tried to drag them into political maneuvering that would have left a permanent stain on them and their party.

 

This is how Barak is leading his party - a weak, crumbling entity devoid of any of its own staked-out positions - to political irrelevance.

 

It has become nothing more than a tool of the extreme right while using the hackneyed excuse of remaining in the coalition to advance the peace process.

 

By constantly leaning on this pretext, the Labor ministers are allowing themselves to swallow an endless series of bitter ideological pills all for the sake of a sanctified end.

 

Yet the responsibility for the party's deterioration does not rest solely on its leader's shoulders. The attempt by Labor ministers to hide behind Barak's miscues - as if they had no influence whatsoever on their party - fools nobody. They are no less at fault.

 

Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Shalom Simhon, and Avishay Braverman will soon be put to the test. They will have to decide whether to hang onto their seats even after the peace process collapses.

 

Barak will assumedly not give up the Defense Ministry even if the negotiations fail and if this government, which continues to undermine Israel's liberal and democratic foundations, leads the state to another war.

 

The responsibility for the fate of the Labor Party - and by extension the fate of the vanishing political left - thusly belongs to the ministers and their party colleagues in the Knesset.

 

In the coming weeks, we will find out whether they have the strength to join the opposition and wage a struggle over the future and character of Israel or whether they prefer to permanently entrench themselves in the extreme and destructive political camp with which they have collaborated in recent years.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IN MEMORIAM: 30 DAYS AFTER ISRAEL TAL'S DEATH

ISRAEL TAL WAS THE FATHER OF THE IDF'S MERKAVA TANK.

BY AMOS OZ

 

I loved Talik the way a younger brother loves his older brother.

 

Talik was made of the stuff of a national leader. There was something Ben-Gurion-like about him: vision, ingenuity, leadership, broad historical perspective, a rare and profound understanding of forces and processes. Talik should have been a great statesman. Had Israel followed Talik's declared path, it would have fought only wars of necessity. Had it followed Talik's path, it might have been possible to achieve peace with security in exchange for land quite a while ago. But Israel did not follow the path of Talik, who saw in advance where we had erred and where we were being dragged.

 

I met Talik on an autumn day 50 years ago, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We were both first-year philosophy students. From our first encounter, Talik captivated me with the human warmth he radiated, his humor, his indefatigable curiosity, and his sweeping intellectual power. At the time, he was a highly praised colonel on study leave, and I was a boy of 20, a staff sergeant in the reserves. The casual friendship that was born in the cafeteria of the Sherman building turned into a profound one. We knew each other's secrets.

 

Talik was not only a friend, but also one of the greatest teachers I have ever met: a teacher of human nature and of the meaning of existence. A teacher of history and statecraft. A teacher of strategy, and a teacher of car and home maintenance. His thinking was broad-horizoned and philosophical, and always derived from humanistic principles. He was an enthusiastic Israeli patriot, but his patriotism never spilled over into narrow chauvinism. Already at our first meeting, Talik amazed us when, with fairness, respect and the power of persuasion, he explained to us the Arab point of view in the conflict. Afterward, he also presented his penetrating replies to the Arab claim, but he never stopped emphasizing that this conflict is not a Western featuring good guys versus bad guys.

 

Talik's opinions were always rooted in an all-embracing vision; his analytical power was profound and piercing. Anyone who found himself in a debate about principle with Talik was not to be envied: The force of his reasoning was as powerful as an armored attack. He always demonstrated angry impatience with prejudice, cliches and narrow-mindedness. He was a Renaissance man. Everything fascinated him: astronomy and psychology, literature and science, ideas and people.

 

Talik was one of the greatest military leaders of the Jewish people in our times, and many see him as one of greatest tank commanders in the world. In the United States Military Academy at West Point, his picture hangs alongside those of Montgomery, Patton, Rommel and Zhukov. But Talik is not only the highly praised general from the breakthrough battles of the Steel Division in the Six-Day War. He is not only the deputy chief of staff who demanded the call-up of the entire reserve system on the eve of the Yom Kippur War - and was turned down. Talik is also a commander of the southern front who saved dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of human lives by preventing, with unparalleled courage, a foolhardy initiative to renew the fighting unnecessarily after the cease-fire. For that he paid a high personal price.

 

The father of the Merkava tank is also the man who shaped the sharp, positive distinction between a "preventive war" (which he opposed ) and a "preemptive counter-strike" (which he justified under certain circumstances ).

 

But above and beyond the figure of Talik the statesman and the strategist, the general and the inventor, stood a modest man, a moshavnik who never forgot his origins, a warm, friendly and paternal man, who was willing at any moment to move mountains for a friend or for anyone who had been treated unjustly or had gotten into trouble: a driver who got lost, a quartermaster in distress, a guard at the gate who spilled out all his troubles. He was also a fanatic family man, whose love for his family knew no bounds.

 

My own world is less bright without Talik - as though one of our great lights has been extinguished. I will miss his voice and his wisdom. I will miss his marvelous curiosity, an insatiable curiosity, the curiosity of an alert and excited child who does not cease to be fascinated and captivated by the world almost until his dying day. Nor will he ever stop fascinating and captivating us.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

TWO WORDS: WASTEFUL AND INEFFECTIVE

 

New York State will spend an extraordinary $170 million this year on 21 juvenile facilities. The system has more than 2,000 employees to oversee fewer than 700 children.

 

This would be monumentally wasteful under any condition. The fact is that these facilities are disastrously mismanaged, and as many as 80 percent of the young men who serve time end up committing more crimes within a few years of their release.

 

New York should close down as many of these facilities as possible, preserving only the few it needs to hold genuinely dangerous young offenders. Low-risk youths — those found guilty of crimes like shoplifting, trespassing and petty theft — should be sent to community-based programs that do a much better job of rehabilitation and are far less expensive to manage. These treatment programs can cost as little as $15,000 a year, compared with the estimated $220,000 to house a child in a state facility.

 

To make that rational choice, Gov. David Paterson and whoever succeeds him will have to finally stand up to the labor unions that have pressed to keep these facilities open, no matter the cost to the state or its children.

 

Decades of research show that keeping young offenders locked up far from their families is a sure way of turning them into career criminals. Preliminary data collected by the New York City juvenile justice system suggests that recidivism for children handled through the city's largest community-based program could be lower than 20 percent. Instead of locking up a child, the Juvenile Justice Initiative provides intensive counseling and services to the family, with the goal of helping parents better manage the child's behavior.

 

That program and similar ones run by nonprofit groups have helped the city cut the number of youths it sends upstate by more than 60 percent since 2002. With other communities making similar choices, the number of children in state facilities has dropped from more than 2,300 in 2000 to about 680 today. Gladys Carrión, the commissioner of the state's Office of Children and Family Services, has closed more than a dozen unneeded facilities over the last three years. It has not been easy. The politically powerful unions that represent juvenile facility workers are fighting to keep facilities open no matter what the cost to children or the state.

 

The unions' biggest, and most counterproductive, triumph was a 2006 law that requires the state to give a full year's notice to workers before shutting down a juvenile facility. In January the state ordered the closure of the Tryon boys' facility in upstate Fulton County. The facility — which gained national notoriety after a mentally ill 15-year-old boy died there in 2006 — has been empty of children since June. It still has a staff of 80 people working there and will only officially shut down in January.

 

Faced with a ballooning budget deficit, Governor Paterson has ordered reductions in the state work force by the close of the year. He can save money and cut unnecessary jobs by ordering the shutdown of a half-dozen more juvenile facilities that are standing half empty, but fully staffed. That is just a start.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BALKANS, PAST AND FUTURE

 

Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo have come a long way since the 1990s. Serbia is no longer a rogue aggressor. Bosnia is no longer a killing field. And Kosovo, once a terrorized province of Serbia, is now an independent state. Washington and, in particular, former President Bill Clinton deserve a large share of the credit.

 

When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visits all three states this week, she will need to press them to continue the reforms, and the diplomacy, that are essential to their transition to a democratic, prosperous peace.

 

There is still an extraordinary amount of old business to resolve. President Boris Tadic of Serbia is eager for his country to join the European Union and has worked to lower regional tensions. This spring Belgrade finally accepted responsibility and apologized for the wartime Srebrenica massacre. But the government has yet to locate and hand over the military leader directly responsible for that crime, Gen. Ratko Mladic, for trial in The Hague, as Europe insists.

 

Belgrade still refuses to recognize Kosovo's independence, but has agreed to European Union-mediated talks. Mrs. Clinton should press both sides to engage seriously. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, whose rights Washington went to war to defend, must also do a better job of protecting its own ethnic Serb minority.

 

Bosnia's hugely complex political institutions, cobbled together at Dayton, are badly hobbling its progress. Fifteen years later, its two rival ministates (one predominantly Serb, the other mainly Muslim-Croat) with a three-person presidency can barely make decisions on essential issues. These include resettling refugees, resolving property disputes and deciding whether the national government or ministates should control former Yugoslav military buildings and equipment.

 

In national elections this month, Muslims and Croats chose moderate, more nationally minded representatives. The Bosnian Serbs elected leaders who are still calling for secession. Mrs. Clinton must make clear to the Bosnian Serbs that partition means isolation, while cooperation will open opportunities to join the wider European economy. She should also press the case for reforming the Dayton arrangements to create a unified, functioning state.

 

The chance for European Union membership is the best incentive for these three countries to move ahead. But recession and resurgent German nationalism have weakened the authority of E.U. institutions. The United States will have to stay strongly engaged to see things through.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHOSE ADVANTAGE?

 

Some of the private health plans that participate in Medicare will be dropping out next year, but don't blame health care reform. Most are unwilling to meet the sensible requirements of a 2008 law that they do more to earn the federal subsidies that have fueled their rapid growth.

 

Medicare Advantage plans enroll one-quarter of the 46 million Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare subsidizes these plans — paying them more on average than what the same services would cost in traditional Medicare. As a result, beneficiaries pay less or get extra benefits, such as dental coverage or even health club memberships. The extra cost is paid by taxpayers and through higher premiums for enrollees in traditional Medicare.

 

Health care reform will phase out these unjustified subsidies starting in 2012 and use the savings, $132 billion over the next decade, to help finance coverage of the uninsured. Enrollments are projected to fall as some plans drop out and others raise their charges or reduce benefits. There will still be plenty of private plans available, and any older Americans who can't find one to their liking will still have access to traditional Medicare.

 

For the coming year, Medicare Advantage plans covering an estimated 966,000 beneficiaries have decided to get out of the business. For most of these, it is the result of that earlier law requiring them to set up their own networks of doctors and hospitals. Almost all of their beneficiaries will have access to another Medicare Advantage plan serving the same area.

 

For now, despite all of the shrill warnings from critics, the Medicare Advantage market appears strong. Enrollment will go up next year and premiums will actually decline by about 1 percent. Average out-of-pocket costs will rise about 5 percent per beneficiary, a modest increase these days. Officials attributed that to hard-nosed negotiating with insurers that were planning to charge their enrollees more while increasing their profits.

 

Over time, the best Medicare Advantage plans will survive and the least efficient will close. That is what should happen. These subsidies are inequitable and far too costly for the American taxpayer.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHAT'S YOUR TIMELINE?

BY EDUARDO PORTER

 

My grandmother was born 100 years ago in the city of Pachuca, an hour's drive north of Mexico City. She died more than 10 years ago. But last week, as Mexico became one of the few countries ever to sell "century bonds," I couldn't help picturing her as a baby, swathed in cloth diapers, a turbulent century set to roll out before her.

 

Investors snapped up all one billion dollars' worth of Mexican bonds redeemable in the year 2110, despite the fact that they pay only 6.1 percent a year in interest. This is about double the paltry yield of 30-year Treasury bonds, and roughly what T-bonds paid just a decade ago. Fifteen years ago, Mexico couldn't issue 10-year bonds. Today investors are entrusting money to Mexico for a century.

 

Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, basked in this success. Yet my attention snagged on a statement the finance minister made to the Mexican press: "This demonstrates confidence that Mexico will remain a viable country." Indeed.

 

Other countries have issued very long-term debt. Britain even has perpetual bonds with no maturity date. And Mexico has made huge progress over the last 100 years. In 1910 its economy was worth about $42 billion in today's money. Today, the G.D.P. for Mexico amounts to about $1.6 trillion. Mexicans' life expectancy at birth rose to about 75 years from 33 over the period. In 2000 it became a real democracy, shaking off the 70- year stranglehold of one-party rule.

 

Yet Mexico's past century was hardly serene. In my grandmother's lifetime, the nation suffered a decade-long revolution and a five-year battle between church and state. Oil was discovered and nationalized. There were full-blown financial crises, currency devaluations and one default on foreign debt. Banks were taken over by the government, sold back to private owners and rescued from disaster by the public purse. Today Mexico is in a gruesome war against drug traffickers.

 

In light of past performance, investors might want to ask themselves whether they are allowing exuberance to carry them away, forgetting to ponder the potential risks of such a long-term debt. Could a government of the far future repudiate the debts of the past? Could Mexico run out of oil by 2110? What if the Chinese exporters that have pummeled many Mexican companies eventually obliterated manufacturing in the country? What would it export in order to pay the bills?

 

Maybe this is all about the bankers' sense of their own mortality. My grandmother was long-lived, but she didn't live to 100. Chances are the financiers who bought the bonds won't either. What's more, by 2110 they will surely have collected and spent their bonuses.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

DEGREES OF DEBT

BY JEREMY DEHN

 

Denver

THE Senate recently held hearings on for-profit colleges, investigating charges that the schools rake in federal loan money while failing to adequately educate students. Critics point to deceptive sales tactics, fraudulent loan applications, high drop-out rates and even higher tuitions. In response, the Department of Education has proposed a "gainful employment" rule, which would cut financing to for-profit colleges that graduate (or fail) students with thousands of dollars of debt and no prospect of salaries high enough to pay them off.

 

As an adjunct professor who teaches at one of these vilified colleges, I wish I could say the critics are wrong. They're not. The gainful employment rule is a step in the right direction, but it is only the beginning of what needs to be done.

 

I teach at state and nonprofit schools too, and I've worked alongside dedicated teachers in all three programs. But I've also seen how for-profit schools' mandate to serve both students and shareholders leads to big differences between the public and for-profit models.

 

First there's the cost: For-profit colleges are often much more expensive than comparable public ones. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, one for-profit institution charged $14,000 for a certificate in computer-aided drafting that a local community college offered for just $520.

 

Then there's the issue of how the cost is covered: for-profit colleges take a disproportionate share of federal education loans. Although only 12 percent of post-secondary students go to for-profit colleges, they account for 23 percent of federal loans. And students at for-profit schools default on their loans twice as often as their public school counterparts, leaving taxpayers with the bill.

 

This is partly due to the open enrollment policies at for-profit colleges. It's disturbingly easy to get accepted, receive thousands of dollars in loans and then flunk out with crippling debt and no degree to show for it. I'm about to fail 4 out of 11 students in one of my classes because they simply stopped showing up. Some students will fail anywhere, but at this rate it's clear that many of them should never have been sold on the program in the first place.

 

I've also been on the other end of these sales tactics. I once looked into taking a class at a for-profit college. The admissions counselor was quite skillful at avoiding my questions about costs, and pressed me to enroll in a full degree program, despite my repeated refusals.

 

Problems with the for-profit business model don't end with recruitment; they extend to the classroom. While my nonprofit orientation covered how to create a syllabus and relate to students, the for-profit session addressed the importance of creating paper trails on attendance, should a student need to be flunked, and a video on how to avoid getting sued.

 

Here's the part that's really going to make me unpopular at my next faculty meeting. Many of my colleagues are excellent teachers, but their qualifications aren't much of a priority for the college. While teachers at a state or private university are typically expected to hold M.F.A.'s or Ph.D.'s, for-profit teachers need only to have taken a few hours of graduate course work.

 

Teachers at for-profits are paid less, and work more. Full-time instructors teach up to four times as many classes as their state school counterparts. And although nobody teaches only for the money — I gross just over $30,000 a year, summers on, no benefits — I earn 50 percent to 65 percent more at nonprofits. I try to treat both jobs with the same seriousness, but I'd be lying if I said this was always the case.

 

The business model of for-profit schools may pay off for shareholders — just ask Goldman Sachs, which controls a third of the parent company of my for-profit employer, the Art Institute of Colorado — but it clearly isn't as effective at educating students.

 

In recent weeks, I've received disheartening e-mails from students urging me to fight to "save financial aid"; the colleges have been organizing students to campaign against the gainful employment rule. Which they clearly don't understand is in their best interests. And lobbyists have been highlighting the large number of poor and minority students at for-profits, who they claim will suffer most if the gainful employment rule cuts loan eligibility. But these are the students most hurt by for-profit colleges' predatory practices, and the ones most in need of a more reasonably priced education.

 

The real problem that's being ignored in this debate is that more Americans than ever are now trying to pull themselves out of the recession through education, and there aren't enough affordable degree programs to serve them.

 

Of course we should crack down on for-profit colleges that exploit students and taxpayers. Education should lead students out of poverty, not into it. But that's not enough. We need to quit subsidizing for-profit colleges, and instead devote our resources to expanding and improving the system of state and community colleges that work more effectively for a small fraction of the cost.

 

It shouldn't take an overpriced education to recognize that this is the right approach.

 

Jeremy Dehn teaches film and video production at the University of Denver, the Art Institute of Colorado and the University of Colorado at Denver.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON STOCK RIGHTS: A CRACK OPENS TO GIVE SHAREHOLDERS MORE SAY

MOST AMERICANS ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THE CONCEPT OF PRIVATE PROPERTY, WHICH IS CENTRAL TO OUR ENTREPRENEURIAL ECONOMY AND DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE.

 

So it might come as a surprise that this core principle of capitalism is coming under attack from none other than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a similar organization of business executives known as the Business Roundtable. The two groups are suing to block a new rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission that would give shareholders greater say in who runs the companies that they own. Specifically, it would give anyone who owns 3% of a public company, and has done so for at least three years, the right to nominate people for its board of directors.

 

As it stands, slates of directors are handpicked by corporate management. Shareholders may vote for them, or not vote for them, in a manner reminiscent of an Eastern Bloc election during the Cold War. Short of spending a fortune on lawyers and tracking down other shareholders, there is no way to challenge the management's picks — no matter how badly the company has fared.

 

This opposition to shareholder rights illustrates how groups that claim to be pro-business are often more interested in protecting entrenched business interests — specifically the managers who get rich from disempowered shareholders. The average compensation for CEOs of major companies surged from $6 million in 2001 to $15 million before the financial crisis of 2008, while investors made only modest gains that were eventually wiped out by the stock market crash. Though the average dropped in 2009, all indications are that the dip will be only a temporary reversal to a trend of skyrocketing executive pay.

 

Such pay-despite-performance schemes are one of the factors in investors' current glum mood about stocks. It's also a symptom of a broader and more disturbing economic trend of growing wealth concentration, in which the top 1% of earners get 24% of the nation's income. A reduction in CEO pay is not the target, or likeliest outcome, of the rule change. Most past efforts of hedge funds or groups of wealthy investors to challenge boards have centered on issues such as the general competence of management, or have been an effort to force the company to sell off assets.

 

Even so, the rule change is the best tool available. It would create an option for shareholders to voice their opinions that is between sitting by passively and mounting a fight for outright control of a company.

 

The Chamber and the Business Roundtable argue that the SEC's new rule would play into the hands of labor union pension funds. The first response to this charge should be: So what if it does? If a pension fund is a large shareholder, does it deserve to have its ownership rights abridged? That would be like repeatedly blocking a neighbor's driveway because you don't like him.

 

In fact, pension funds are a paper tiger. They represent a tiny fraction of stock ownership. And their overriding goal is the same as everyone else's, which is to maximize their returns.

 

Even the biggest, such the California Public Employees Retirement System, or Calpers for short, rarely hit the 3% threshold as they index and broadly diversify their investments. And if they did happen to reach the threshold, their power would be limited to suggesting names that the other 97% could vote on.

 

Giving shareholders more power to nominate the people who will oversee their companies wouldn't solve all their problems. But it would be start. It would also reaffirm the bedrock principle that property belongs to the people who own it.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON STOCK RIGHTS: NO WIN FOR SMALL INVESTORS

BY DAVID HIRSCHMANN AND LARRY BURTON

 

Two weeks ago, Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce went to court together for the first time in our histories, suing the SEC over its "proxy access" rule.

 

OUR VIEW: A crack opens to give shareholders more say

 

To understand why we're so concerned about this rule, it's important to understand who would use it. Not the millions of individual Americans who invest in public companies. An individual investor doesn't own 3% of a company, which is what's required to use the rule.

 

The rule's big users would be labor union pension funds and government pension funds. They already submit more shareholder proposals than any other type of shareholder.

 

Union and government pension funds aren't the most activist shareholders because they're responsible investors. Far from it, the mismanagement of union and government funds is legendary. Last week, yet another New York politician pleaded guilty to abusing the state's pension fund.

 

Instead, unions and government funds regularly use shareholder activism to pursue agendas of their own. To force a company to bargain with the union, for example, or to support a pet cause of the politician who oversees a state pension system.

 

The new proxy rule entitles these special interests to put forward candidates for a corporate board of directors at other shareholders' expense. Based on actual experience, we told the SEC these election contests would often cost a company — and therefore its other shareholders — millions of dollars. The commission didn't dispute our cost estimate for election contests. But it said we shouldn't worry because, in part, union pension funds and state politicians would take the company's best interests to heart. We know that's not true.

 

Shareholders at a majority of U.S. companies already can adopt proxy access — if they want it. This rule imposes the government's approach, regardless of what shareholders think. If a majority of shareholders believe that union and government pension funds would use the company proxy to waste corporate assets, they should be able to prohibit it. This rule says they can't.

 

That's not democracy. It's a costly government mandate at a time when American businesses, shareholders and workers can least afford it.

 

David Hirschmann is president of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Larry Burton is executive director of the Business Roundtable.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

SCIENCE AND RELIGION AREN'T FRIENDS

BY JERRY A. COYNE

 

Religion in America is on the defensive.

Atheist books such as The God Delusionand The End of Faith have, by exposing the dangers of faith and the lack of evidence for the God of Abraham, become best-sellers. Science nibbles at religion from the other end, relentlessly consuming divine explanations and replacing them with material ones. Evolution took a huge bite a while back, and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head. We now know that the universe did not require a creator. Science is even studying the origin of morality. So religious claims retreat into the ever-shrinking gaps not yet filled by science. And, although to be an atheist in America is still to be an outcast, America's fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief.

 

But faith will not go gentle. For each book by a "New Atheist," there are many others attacking the "movement" and demonizing atheists as arrogant, theologically ignorant, and strident. The biggest area of religious push-back involves science. Rather than being enemies, or even competitors, the argument goes, science and religion are completely compatible friends, each devoted to finding its own species of truth while yearning for a mutually improving dialogue.

 

As a scientist and a former believer, I see this as bunk. Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth. And while they may have a dialogue, it's not a constructive one. Science helps religion only by disproving its claims, while religion has nothing to add to science.

 

Irreconcilable

 

"But surely," you might argue, "science and religion must be compatible. After all, some scientists are religious." One is Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health and an evangelical Christian. But the existence of religious scientists, or religious people who accept science, doesn't prove that the two areas are compatible. It shows only that people can hold two conflicting notions in their heads at the same time. If that meant compatibility, we could make a good case, based on the commonness of marital infidelity, that monogamy and adultery are perfectly compatible. No, the incompatibility between science and faith is more fundamental: Their ways of understanding the universe are irreconcilable.

 

Science operates by using evidence and reason. Doubt is prized, authority rejected. No finding is deemed "true" — a notion that's always provisional — unless it's repeated and verified by others. We scientists are always asking ourselves, "How can I find out whether I'm wrong?" I can think of dozens of potential observations, for instance — one is a billion-year-old ape fossil — that would convince me that evolution didn't happen.

 

Physicist Richard Feynman observed that the methods of science help us distinguish real truth from what we only want to be true: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

 

Science can, of course, be wrong. Continental drift, for example, was laughed off for years. But in the end the method is justified by its success. Without science, we'd all live short, miserable and disease-ridden lives, without the amenities of medicine or technology. As Stephen Hawking proclaimed, science wins because it works.

 

Does religion work? It brings some of us solace, impels some to do good (and others to fly planes into buildings), and buttresses the same moral truths embraced by atheists, but does it help us better understand our world or our universe? Hardly. Note that almost all religions make specific claims about the world involving matters such as the existence of miracles, answered prayers wonder-working saints and divine cures, virgin births, annunciations and resurrections. These factual claims, whose truth is a bedrock of belief, bring religion within the realm of scientific study. But rather than relying on reason and evidence to support them, faith relies on revelation, dogma and authority. Hebrews 11:1 states, with complete accuracy, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Indeed, a doubting-Thomas demand for evidence is often considered rude.

 

And this leads to the biggest problem with religious "truth": There's no way of knowing whether it's true. I've never met a Christian, for instance, who has been able to tell me what observations about the universe would make him abandon his beliefs in God and Jesus. (I would have thought that the Holocaust could do it, but apparently not.) There is no horror, no amount of evil in the world, that a true believer can't rationalize as consistent with a loving God. It's the ultimate way of fooling yourself. But how can you be sure you're right if you can't tell whether you're wrong?

 

The religious approach to understanding inevitably results in different faiths holding incompatible "truths" about the world. Many Christians believe that if you don't accept Jesus as savior, you'll burn in hell for eternity. Muslims hold the exact opposite: Those who see Jesus as God's son are the ones who will roast. Jews see Jesus as a prophet, but not the messiah. Which belief, if any, is right? Because there's no way to decide, religions have duked it out for centuries, spawning humanity's miserable history of religious warfare and persecution.

 

In contrast, scientists don't kill each other over matters such as continental drift. We have better ways to settle our differences. There is no Catholic science, no Hindu science, no Muslim science — just science, a multicultural search for truth. The difference between science and faith, then, can be summed up simply: In religion faith is a virtue; in science it's a vice.

 

But don't just take my word for the incompatibility of science and faith — it's amply demonstrated by the high rate of atheism among scientists. While only 6% of Americans are atheists or agnostics, the figure for American scientists is 64%, according to Rice professor Elaine Howard Ecklund's book, Science vs. Religion. Further proof: Among countries of the world, there is a strong negative relationship between their religiosity and their acceptance of evolution. Countries like Denmark and Sweden, with low belief in God, have high acceptance of evolution, while religious countries are evolution-intolerant. Out of 34 countries surveyed in a study published inScience magazine, the U.S., among the most religious, is at the bottom in accepting Darwinism: We're No. 33, with only Turkey below us. Finally, in a 2006 Time poll a staggering 64% of Americans declared that if science disproved one of their religious beliefs, they'd reject that science in favor of their faith.

 

'Venerable superstition'

 

In the end, science is no more compatible with religion than with other superstitions, such as leprechauns. Yet we don't talk about reconciling science with leprechauns. We worry about religion simply because it's the most venerable superstition — and the most politically and financially powerful.

 

Why does this matter? Because pretending that faith and science are equally valid ways of finding truth not only weakens our concept of truth, it also gives religion an undeserved authority that does the world no good. For it is faith's certainty that it has a grasp on truth, combined with its inability to actually find it, that produces things such as the oppression of women and gays, opposition to stem cell research and euthanasia, attacks on science, denial of contraception for birth control and AIDS prevention, sexual repression, and of course all those wars, suicide bombings and religious persecutions.

 

And any progress — not just scientific progress — is easier when we're not yoked to religious dogma. Of course, using reason and evidence won't magically make us all agree, but how much clearer our spectacles would be without the fog of superstition!

 

Jerry A. Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at The University of Chicago. His latest book is Why Evolution is True, and his website is www.whyevolutionistrue.com.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

A SHAME ON U.S. RESEARCH

 

Rigorous medical research is essential to develop efficacious drugs to combat illness, but strict ethical standards must be in place for that work to proceed. The most important of these rules governs informed consent. Participants should be told of possible consequences — good and bad — that can arise from a study prior to enrollment. Failure to provide that information violates every standard of decency and medical and scientific research.

 

The U.S. government admitted recently that its scientists were guilty of such a horrendous act more than 60 years ago in Guatemala. Scientists working there on a 1946-1948 National Institutes of Health study purposely infected as many as 700 Guatemalans with syphilis and other venereal diseases. They wanted to test the effectiveness of penicillin. Not a single subject in the experiment gave consent. They couldn't. They were not told about the study or their roles in it.

 

The scientists' failure to do so is much more than an ethical lapse. It has overtones of racial and economic elitism, and it reflects an arrogance that is the antithesis of the American notion of fair play. Unfortunately, that attitude seems to have been the norm rather than the exception in certain circles in the first half of the 20th century. The experiment in Guatemala, which ultimately provided no medically useful conclusions, was not the only appalling act of its kind.

 

Much closer to home, the same government medical establishment monitored but did not treat hundreds of black male sharecroppers with syphilis who lived around Tuskegee, Ala., for four decades beginning in 1932. Even when antibiotics that might have helped arrest the course of the disease became available, scientists did not tell the men about the drugs. They preferred to keep the study going rather than end it. It can hardly be coincidental that at least one scientist involved in the Guatemala experiments later worked in the Tuskegee study.

 

The U.S. government, understandably, was loath to reveal its complicity in the Guatemala experiments. Indeed, it admitted to its involvement only when a researcher uncovered evidence of events in Guatemala while examining papers about the Tuskegee study — and then made it public. More than the apology issued by the Obama administration — which apparently had no knowledge of the event — is in order.

 

The apology is welcome, but it won't help those directly affected by the Guatemala experiment. It's probably too late for U.S. officials to provide assistance, pay reparations or otherwise indemnify any survivors. What's required now are government assurances that accounts of other similarly odious experiments aren't hidden away in the files — or still being conducted in some far-away place. Admitting to an ethical failure might exact a high cost in lost national honor and prestige, but that is far preferable to the continued concealment of repugnant experiments on human beings.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

IMPROVING COMMUNITY HEALTH

 

One result of the downturn in the economy has been a significant increase in the number of men, women and children who no longer are able to pay for health care on their own. Now, they must turn to a community source for health care and for preventive services. Community health centers and the local government centers that operate them have had a tough time meeting the increased demand. That's as true in Hamilton County as it is elsewhere around the country. Some help, though, is on the way.

 

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department is slated to receive $2.7 million to upgrade its facilities and to expand its services, according to a Friday announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant is part of $24 million awarded to agencies in Tennessee and $727 million granted to community health centers across the country under the auspices of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, The funds are more than welcome in a time of need. They should help the county agency to provide assistance to more hard-pressed residents of the community.

 

According to the HHS, the Tennessee grant should allow state community health centers to serve approximately 12,790 new patients. In addition to Hamilton County, other state grants were awarded to Cookeville, Johnson City, Rogersville and Linden. No information on the number of additional patients in Hamilton County that might be served was available. Whatever the number, though, it will improve the overall health of the community.

 

Ditto for other states and communities. Georgia, for example, was awarded more than $8 million. Those funds are designated for centers in Columbus and Wrightsville, according to the HHS. In all, grants totaling $727 million to almost 150 community centers around the nation were announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

 

Some critics are sure to denounce the grants as another "government giveaway." That's unfair, and it is far from the truth.

 

The grants, in fact, are a substantial and useful investment in community infrastructure and services. They should allow health centers to serve hundreds of thousands of additional patients. The value of those services is almost incalculable at a time when millions of Americans have no health coverage because they've lost jobs or because employers no longer provide insurance.

 

Community centers are one of the few places those individuals can find reliable preventive and primary health care service. A government program that underwrites or expands those services is welcome at any time, but especially so during a particularly difficult economic period.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

CHALLENGE OF PUBLIC HOUSING

 

It was in 1940, during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and before the United States was thrust into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, that some of the public housing units in Chattanooga were built.

 

That was a long time ago — seven decades.

 

So obviously, some of the early public housing units now are showing the effects of time and wear and tear.

 

The Chattanooga Housing Authority, which manages local public housing, reports some of the units are in such bad condition that they should be torn down.

 

That raises two big challenges, of course: What about the people who would be displaced if their present public housing were demolished? And where would millions of dollars come from to replace the housing units that need to be razed?

 

If a reported 1,600 run-down units (more than half of those in Chattanooga) were demolished, there would be big housing problems for thousands of local people.

 

Those eligible to live in public housing are single people earning up to $31,300 a year and families of four earning up to $44,700 a year. Residents pay a third of their income for rent.

 

The oldest units include the East Lake Courts on Fourth Avenue and the College Hill Courts on Grove Street. They were built in 1940. Some other units — the Harriet Tubman Development, built in 1952 and 1962, and Cromwell Hills Apartments, built in 1981 — also have some questionable conditions.

 

The ultimate decisions will come from the Chattanooga Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

Those decisions will involve lots of local people and lots of tax money. So they are awaited with a great deal of concern and interest by the current residents and our community in general.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

TROUBLING DISCRIMINATION CLAIM

 

An accusation alone does not prove wrongdoing. And so recent claims by former U.S. Justice Department officials that their superiors encouraged voting-rights enforcement that discriminated against white voters are not automatic proof that discrimination took place. But the claims should be investigated fully.

 

Former Voting Chief Christopher Coates told the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that the Obama administration preferred to focus prosecution on whites accused of racial discrimination rather than on minorities accused of the same thing.

 

"The election of President Obama brought to positions of influence and power within the [Civil Rights Division] many of the very people who had demonstrated hostility to the concept of equal enforcement of the [Voting Rights Act]," he testified, according to Tribune Newspapers.

 

He said, for instance, that he was told to stop asking job applicants if they were comfortable prosecuting minorities accused of discrimination.

 

And a Justice Department attorney — Christian Adams — "told the civil rights commission that ... some of his colleagues were interested in protecting only minorities," The Washington Post reported recently. Adams resigned from the department to protest unequal enforcement.

 

The Justice Department says it does not discriminate, but a case in Philadelphia raises doubts.

 

Two members of the radical New Black Panther Party — both in military gear and one carrying a nightstick — stood menacingly outside a polling place on Election Day in 2008. Common sense says that would intimidate voters. But the Obama Justice Department has mostly dropped the case against the men and the New Black Panther Party.

 

The administration's backers downplayed Coates' testimony. But he is not just a conservative activist attacking the administration. He was hired under President Bill Clinton and has worked for the liberal American Civil Liberties Union.

 

It is troubling indeed if race had anything to do with why this case was mostly dismissed.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

FOREIGN INTERFERENCE IN OUR COURTS

 

Opinion surveys find that most Americans support Arizona's tough new immigration law. Some, of course, do not support it, and there is nothing wrong with those on both sides making their arguments vigorously and trying to persuade others to see their point of view.

 

What is wrong is that a federal court intervened and put the law on hold. Arizona and other states and some cities have enacted various laws and ordinances against illegal immigration precisely because the federal government has not done its constitutional job in that arena. A court should not prevent Arizona from defending itself against costly illegal invasion.

 

Now, however, a bad situation may be well on its way to getting worse.

 

Arizona is appealing the suspension of its law, and 11 Latin American nations want the ultraliberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to let them submit filings expressing opposition to the law.

 

Not surprisingly, Mexico — from which more illegal aliens come to the United States than from any other nation — is on the list, which also includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru.

 

The nations claim that their relations with the United States will be strained if Arizona's law is allowed to take effect.

 

But if international relations are strained because of the actions of millions of illegal aliens pouring into our country from those nations, that is not the fault of the United States nor of Arizona.

 

What's more, the court should rule strictly on the basis of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. and Arizona law — not on the basis of how Arizona's law might affect our ties with foreign countries.

 

The court should reject the foreign nations' attempt to interfere in matters of American law — and it should allow Arizona's commonsense anti-illegal-alien law to take effect.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

ONE DIRECTION FOR SPENDING: UP

 

California has an admittedly strange law that is supposed to take effect when state lawmakers fail to pass a budget by a certain deadline. In the absence of a budget, the law is designed to automatically reduce the pay of all state employees to minimum wage. Then, once a budget is passed, back pay is provided and the usual pay scales kick in.

 

But when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently tried to enforce the law, the state controller, John Chiang, refused. He said it could not be done because California's computer software had not been updated to allow the state to cut government workers' pay.

 

That's a curious argument, to say the least. As Reason magazine pointed out, "Even sympathetic [technology] experts dispute this claim, noting that the system has been easily tweaked to handle nearly 50 separate pay raises as well as multiple automatic deductions for mortgage car payments, union dues, and tax withholding."

 

So in other words, California's computers can readily be adjusted to accommodate dozens upon dozens of raises for government employees, as well as various tax breaks and the like.

 

But it is only when there is a suggestion of reducing government workers' pay that the state's computers suddenly "seize up" and cannot function properly.

 

Isn't technology wonderful?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - GUN LAW FIRES BLANKS

 

Last week, a 7-year-old child in the southern city of Osmaniye was shot in the stomach. He clings to life at the time of this writing in a hospital after an errant bullet fired at wedding celebration struck him. As the incident happened on the occasion of World Children's Day, the tragedy was briefly news. Had it been any other day, even this minor acknowledgement would have been unlikely. For such shootings, accidents and deaths have become almost routine.

 

If today is a typical day, eight people will die in Turkey as victims of handgun violence. The average annual tally for gun violence is 3,000 deaths a year; a vast multiple of that is the calculation of the injuries and family trauma that results.

 

Outside the United States, a country with its own inexplicable worship of the "right" to carry weaponry, such carnage is unknown in advanced and developed societies. Yes, tight restrictions on firearms did not prevent a rampage last year in Finland that left five dead. Even the United Kingdom, where restrictions are so tight that even most policeman carry no sidearm, a gunman last summer killed 12 people and then himself.

 

But these are dramatic exceptions. They stun and shock and have led the nations of the European Union to adopt the world's tightest gun laws and a continental database on guns. Our gun violence, meanwhile, is almost routine. And it is growing. We find ourselves oddly relieved that the signs upon entering any airport in Turkey, "Silah Teslim Masası" are seldom translated into English. For the fact that a handgun storage service is available along with porters and an assortment of executive lounges is an indicator of something deeply flawed in our society. Perhaps it is just as well that this escapes the eye of the foreign visitor.

 

So why, given all of this, are we about to make the already easily surmountable restrictions on lethal weapons all the easier to circumvent? Why liberalize gun laws to enable those with permits to carry concealed weapons purchase up to five handguns? Why would we want to substitute the currently lame rule requiring a medical certification of mental competence for a gun license with weaker rules?

 

We do not know. But this is just part of the "reform" of gun ownership law sought by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that is now wending it way through Parliament. We do take heart that the AKP's Selami Uzun, who heads the committee now reviewing the legislation, has indicated a willing to listen to the many concerns of the draft law's opponents. Uzun has also signaled that he plans to take his time, and the law is unlikely to get a final vote before next year.

 

But we do wish the energy being devoted to this law were going into a broader effort to curtail growing street violence, domestic violence and suicide rates among young people. Guns laws should be tighter, not looser.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

AN OUTSIDER'S LOOK AT TURKEY'S HEADSCARF ISSUE

BARÇIN YİNANÇ

 

The issue of the headscarf is back on Turkey's agenda. The heated debate coincided with my reading of Hugh Pope's recent book, "Dining with al-Qaeda." As the subtitle, "Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East," suggests, the former journalist explains to his readers the many and rather complex faces of the Middle East, emphasizing that the region is much more than a monolithic "Islamic World."

 

One of the 18 chapters is dedicated to women in the Middle East. Some of the passages of "Subversion in the Harem: Women on the rise from Cairo to Istanbul" pertain to issues that are directly related to the current debates in Turkey.

 

One may recall the war of words between the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, on the different way the headscarf is worn in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.

 

Pope also compares Turkey with Iran in his book. Changes to the traditional moral and household duties of women are recent in the Middle East, following the lead of the West, says Pope. Family honor and submissiveness are still usually considered to be essential and symbolized by the appearance of women, yet women also use their appearance to make political points, according to Pope. "The Turks consciously unveiled in their 1920s secular revolution to show how they were turning toward the West. Iranian women covered up during the 1979 Islamic Revolution to turn their back on the West and its support for the shah's dictatorship. In the 2000s these two countries swapped places, with Iranian women pushing back their head scarves to register opposition to the regime and Turkish women wrapping themselves up," he says. "Each nation had its own struggle with modernity rushing in, and paradoxes abounded."

 

He says Turkey is almost schizophrenic in its attitude toward women. The country's republican secularists and its religious conservatives use women as their favorite political playground. But, argues Pope, this conflict is not only about the place of Islam in society, it is also a "new front in a long-running conflict about communities and social class. The religious-minded two-thirds of the population that is rooted in the villages of Anatolia tend to be pragmatic and open-minded about headscarves, whereas the more secular third is urban and often descended from refugees who built the Turkish Republic up from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire after the 1920s and views headscarves as the nemesis of their ideological goal to create a modern state.

 

For those who know Turkey and the headscarf issue, Pope's analysis might not be so new. But in the following passages he touches on one dimension that rarely comes up:

 

"The problem for me lies more in the Islamists' other main justification for headscarves; that they are part of women's duty to stop men lusting after them. Innocently enough, many young women therefore wear a chic headscarf that signals not that they are fundamentalists, but that they are morally upright and marriageable or are dutiful wives. But for exactly the same reason, the secularists are quite right, as in France, to insist that no headscarves be allowed in schools. A schoolgirl wearing a headscarf implies that I, as a man, might be lusting after her. I find the insinuation repugnant – if people really think there is such a general problem, they should first start educating the men."

 

Let me put it in different words. The headscarf also symbolizes in conservative Turkey that the woman wearing it is not an easy woman; implying in reverse that those who are not wearing it have the potential of being easy.

 

One of the drivers of the daily I was working at 10 years ago once told me how his daughter, living in Southeast Turkey, decided to cover her head, as her husband, a soldier in the Turkish army, used to go away for long periods of time. That way, she thought, she would not be harassed by men.

 

That's the point when I, as a woman not wearing a headscarf, perceive this attitude as insulting. Just because I am not wearing a headscarf does not make me "less Muslim" or less "dignified."

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ECONOMIST WARS: THE RATINGS WARS

AS THE WISE YODA WOULD SAY, BEGUN AGAIN THE RATINGS WAR HAS.

 

The Financial Times, or FT, beyondbrics blog featured several guest posts on the curious case of Turkish sovereign ratings last week. I say curious because according to one camp of economists, Turkey's sovereign ratings are way too low, and the country deserves an upgrade to investment grade.

 

There are different strands of this argument. As Credit Agricole Cheuvreux's Simon Quijano-Evans argues in the first of the FT series, one is to note that markets, as evidenced by the low spreads of Turkish credit default swaps, or CDSs, have already priced in an upgrade.

 

It is true that Turkey's sovereign ratings look unjustifiably low compared to its CDS spreads. But the CDS market, despite its sheer size, is rather illiquid, according to data from Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, a clearing house for over-the-counter derivatives.

 

Even if you adjust for liquidity, you have to remember that CDS spreads also depend on global factors. A simple statistical exercise reveals that U.S. interest rates and global risk appetite weigh much more on Turkish CDSs than domestic developments. In fact, sovereign CDSs tend to move together a lot, although country-specific factors do affect long-run trends and structural breaks.

 

But irrespective of the CDS argument, Turkey's economic fundamentals seem to speak for themselves. Many analysts who argue for an upgrade point at the country's sound banking system, low debt ratio, high growth rate and even status as a regional power.

 

Not so fast, Murat Üçer of Global Source Partners and Turkey Data Monitor warns in a follow-up post. He notes the country's vulnerabilities such as the challenging balance of payments and inflation outlooks, unbalanced fiscal-monetary policy mix as well as structural and institutional weaknesses.

 

There is no way to resolve the fundamentals debate. As I argued when the first ratings war broke out more than a year ago, for every indicator that shows Turkey is underrated, you can find another that illustrates it is overrated.

 

A useful simplification would be to note the dichotomy in Turkish data between "stocks" and "flows". Stocks look good, whether it be bank capital or debt-to-GDP ratios. But the flows story of the need to ensure high-quality capital flows to sustain growth looks shakier by the day.

 

There is also a much subtler argument: Analysts like Royal Bank of Scotland's Tim Ash agree that Turkey's economic indicators paint a mixed picture, but also argue that they are nevertheless better than some peers with higher ratings. At his FT guest post, Tim looks at the likes of Egypt, Hungary, Latvia and Poland to prove that Turkey is underrated relative to peers.

 

To me, that reflects the peers' mess-up (and the agencies' sluggish response) more than anything else. But it also presents an enormous window of opportunity, as Murat underlined in a phone chat. According to him, Turkey could easily move to investment grade and beyond if it capitalized on this opportunity by focusing on the much-needed reform agenda.

 

Tim also argues that sovereign ratings should gauge where a country stands relative to others as well as default probabilities and willingness to pay, but not necessarily economic strength. He is right if you look at how the agencies define ratings. But in practice, the agencies would have to change their whole methodology, as Murat notes. I would not count on them too much, as these were the guys who naively bought into the IMF Stand-by and fiscal rule fairytales, not to mention their role in the global crisis. 

 

That's why I think that this should not be a war among economists, but by them, against the rating agencies.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

INTEREST GROWS AMONG GREEK YOUTH FOR TURKISH UNIVERSITIES

ARIANA FERENTINOU

 

"Yes, if I can, I would not mind staying here to work, there may be more options," said my old student who came to visit me at my office last week. She is a Greek in her early twenties who was sent to Istanbul as an exchange student of Media studies about 3 years ago and decided to stay after her semester expired in order to follow a post graduate program in a private Turkish university. As her studies are due to finish at the end of the present academic year, she is faced with the choice of either going back to her own country and start her working life or stay abroad. She is among a few hundred of young people from Greece –and some from Greek Cyprus- who decided to select Turkey to further their university studies, and she represents a trend which according to all indicators, is likely to increase.

 

The "thaw" in the relations between Turkey and Greece triggered by two almost simultaneous earthquakes in both countries in 1999 is continuing. In spite of the absence of any decisive political move by any of the two sides to solve their bilateral problems once and for all, there has been a gradual and noticeable decrease of tension on a societal level which by now manifests itself in several ways: commerce, tourism, industry.

 

But one of the most interesting sectors where one witnesses the change is education. Greece is known as a country which sends a very high number of students abroad mainly for post graduate studies. According to the figures provided by OECD for the year 2009, more than fifty thousand Greek students were studying abroad. The figure is indeed impressive for a country of eleven million and when one bears in mind that Turkey with a population approximately six times larger, sends approximately the same number of students abroad as the Greeks (55,000 students in 2009).

 

The most popular country for the Greek students is the UK by far with more than 40% of young Greeks choosing British universities mainly for completing their post-graduate degrees. This is followed by Germany and Italy albeit with a large margin. It is interesting that US, a great favorite for the Turkish students is chosen only by approximately 5% of the Greek students. In the case of Greece, however one has to include as an important factor for choosing an EU country for studying, the low cost of fees for EU citizens.

 

But what interests us here is the new country of choice for the Greek students that is seen creeping in the figures of the last few years: Turkey, is now a country attracting almost 2.5% of the Greek students. One important factor which made Greeks selecting Turkey, was the use of English language as a teaching language among Turkish universities, mainly non-profit private universities. Other reasons are the proximity of the country, the relatively cheap living, the attraction of Turkey as nearby neighbor, political interlocutor and potential business partner.

 

The disastrous economic crisis which has been hitting Greece since last year has added new parameters in the way young Greeks are planning their future. According to figures published last week in the Greek press, young people in Greece still plan their studies abroad although this percentage has now dropped on some occasions as low as 30% compared to last year. According to the latest OECD figures for 2010, Greece remains the country among OECD members with the proportionately highest number of students who study abroad. That figure for 2010 was 35.000.

 

But what was different this year was that many young Greeks see studying abroad no longer as a short period of absence from home. The extreme instability in the job market, the uncertain political and economic future in Greece have made many young people ready to emigrate in order not only to further their studies and but then to settle abroad. Now, even younger people, graduates of middle education are thinking seriously of emigrating to countries like Britain, Germany, France or the US in order to complete their academic education and continue with building a career in their country of choice.

 

What is very interesting is that among the new countries of choice is Turkey. And whether the vast majority of Greek students who are coming to Turkish universities are at a graduate level, one can sense a career orientated trend towards Turkey. An indication for that is the dramatic increase of interest in learning Turkish among young Greeks, as states Mrs. Tina Zogopoulou, director of Greek-Turkish Center of Language and Culture in an interview to TGN (Turkish Greek News). "The interest is increasing year after year. Our knowledge for a "different" and a not so much spoken eastern language in European Union and especially in Greece, the crossroads between East and west, becomes a great professional advantage and provides its holder with an important tool," she notes.

 

Back in the 90s, it was mostly fellow journalists and representatives of NGOs, who would cross my door to ask me about life and politics in Turkey. During the last few years more and more young people are keen to "take the risk" and choose Turkey as a country for study and work. The interesting thing is that this time their parents are supporting this move.

 

To say that the people are running ahead of their political representatives would have been a triviality.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TURKEY UNDER THE AKP: NEITHER A EUROPEAN, NOR REGIONAL POWER

SONER ÇAĞAPTAY

 

Although the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, substantively dropped European Union membership as a top priority in 2005 and has since turned its attention to Turkey's Middle Eastern ties, it continues to allege that the accession process is of major importance.

 

However, herein lies the paradox inherent in the AKP's purportedly dual-thronged foreign policy: a categorically activist foreign policy in the Middle East and a concurrent commitment to EU accession are incompatible. In essence, everything cannot be a top priority. No country has ever gotten into the EU without making membership a top domestic and foreign policy priority, let alone while pursuing certain foreign policy goals that directly contradict those of the EU.

 

The AKP and Huntington's Clash of Civilizations

 

In 2005, the AKP made a 180-degree turn in Turkey's Middle East policy, moving closer to Iran and its proxies, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Sudan. An ideological view of the world, rather than religious sympathies, motivates this policy. Essentially, Mr. Erdoğan and his government held that Samuel Huntington correctly perceived a clash of civilizations, and that Turkey's place is on the side of the Islamists, not the West.

 

For instance, in his opus Strategic Depth, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wrote, "Turkey's traditionally strong ties with the West represent a process of alienation." Unfortunately, Strategic Depth has not been translated into English, though European policymakers would do well to read it to understand Ankara's new weltanschauung. The work's executive summary answers many questions about the AKP's foreign policy: "Since the end of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims have gotten the short end of the stick, and the AKP is here to correct all of that."

 

The AKP will not correct all wrongs against Muslims, though. This is because Islamism—a political ideology that sees Muslims in perpetual conflict with the West and with "non-believers"—and not Islam, guides the AKP's foreign policy. Ankara will therefore favor other Islamists over Muslims who do not share their Manichean worldview. Thus, the party will forgive and even defend the ills of Islamist regimes against fellow-Muslims, such as the Sudanese genocide of Darfuris or Tehran's suppression of its own population. Likewise, it will support Islamist Hamas and its violent goals, but not the secular Palestinian Authority or the peaceful Palestinian cause of statehood.

 

This selective solidarity also applies to ills committed against Muslims by non-Muslims, as long as those non-Muslims are anti-European. It exists because political Islam has made the strategic decision that the enemy of its enemy is its friend. Hence, Russia will get a pass regardless of how many Chechens it kills. Ankara, though, will always singularly target Israel, because the AKP adheres to the Islamist view that the Jewish state as such—irrespective of its specific borders or policies—will always be a sore in the "Muslim world."

 

Permitting this Islamist catalyst to exist within the Middle East's various conflicts produces devastating results for Europe. Because the AKP views everything through the lens of civilizational conflict, it cannot be an impartial mediator. This becomes clear when the AKP quickly becomes an advocate for the Islamist side when it is allowed to interject itself between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, or between Europe and Iran.

 

Since approximately 90 percent of Turks do not read or write languages other than Turkish, many see the world as reported to them and debated by their government. So, after eight years of increasingly authoritarian and dominant AKP rule at home, many Turks too now view the world through the Islamist perspective of a civilizational clash. It will take a spirited effort to dislodge this popular conception and restore the widespread faith in a European destiny for Turkey.

 

* This column originally appeared in Limes (Rivista Italiana di Geopolitica).

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MARMARIS HOTELIERS IN FAVOR OF ABANDONING ALL-INCLUSIVE SYSTEM

SEDAT KİRT

 

The all-inclusive system considered one of the biggest handicaps of Turkish tourism by many sector representatives is continuing to be an issue of debate.

 

Most of the time, hoteliers view the system as a necessity coming out of the competition in the sector and are obliged to accept all the demands of operators. This system is also heavily criticized by local shop owners. The system which is one of the fastest growing trends of mass tourism in recent years was first put into practice in five-star hotels and holiday villages. However, today three-star hotels and even the ones without stars have adopted this system to attract customers. This situation helps increase the number of customers but facilities are forced to sacrifice quality to reduce the costs. Now at this point experts draw our attention to the vicious cycle Turkish tourism is drawn into. 

 

While almost all facilities in Antalya and Bodrum have adopted the all-inclusive system, several accommodation facilities in Marmaris, which resembles a huge holiday village, are insistently resisting the system. They rather prefer half pension; that is, they include breakfast and dinner in the price. They help increase their revenue with extra food and beverage sales and preserve the quality of their service. Poseidon Hotel which is one of these facilities providing half-pension service to its customers since 2000 is awarded with "customer satisfaction" reward by Zoover, Dutch centered Vacation Reviews and Travel Opinions site. 

 

The four-star Poseidon Hotel which resisted the demands of tour operators against adopting the all-inclusive system is considered worthy of this reward thanks to the comments and evaluations of its customers.

 

"Our hotel is one of the few hotels which resist the all inclusive system. We do our best to ensure customer satisfaction with the half-pension system. Our primary aim is to increase our service quality more and more," said Kadir Çalışır, the general manager of the hotel.

 

In Marmaris, there are still hotels working with the bed-and-breakfast system which belongs to the early years of tourism in Marmaris. The owner of Yeşil Hurma Hotel, Mustafa Koçer, pointed out the difficulties in the market, saying: "Many facilities in our scale are trying to sell all-inclusive packages. It is not possible to understand how facilities without appropriate conditions will give this service. We are trying hard not to abandon the bed-and-breakfast practice; however, conditions and other facilities around us are pressuring our capacity."

 

On the other hand, some tour operators who bring tourists to Marmaris say they have not had much difficulty in selling the facilities with half-pension service in the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, and in the European market during the last two years. On the contrary, they even claim they attract better attention. They attribute the cause of this situation to the customer dissatisfaction about the service quality of hotels which give all-inclusive service. 

 

Some facilities that remain within the half-pension system and can survive with profitable high turnout in Marmaris are as follows: Elegance Hotel (Five Stars), Maritim Hotel Grand Azur (Five Stars), Poseidon Hotel (Four Stars), Sun Rise Hotel (Four Stars), Marbella Hotel (Four Stars), Royal Maris Hotel (Four Stars), Fantasia Hotel (Four Stars) and Flamingo Hotel (Three Stars).

 

Sector representatives in Marmaris point out that the all-inclusive system should be regulated within certain rules. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism should take action about the issue and local authorities should have the right to control the system within the framework of these rules. 

 

* Sedat Kirt is a former journalist who is currently the head of the Press and Public Relations Department at Marmaris Municipality. He is also the coordinator of the Marmaris Tourism Union.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

'THE OLD TURKEY THAT WE KNOW AND LOVE'

CEM OĞUZ

 

The United States nowadays is reportedly upset with Turkey. Actually, not a day passes without a news story in the American press questioning U.S. relations with Turkey because of Ankara's dissenting vote on sanctions against Iran and the crisis with Israel following the Israeli raid on an aid flotilla which resulted in the death of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American.

 

Certain political circles in Washington clearly hold the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, responsible for this alleged falling out between the two old allies. They are engaged in serious speculation as to whether Turkey is becoming more radicalized or religiously motivated and ponder if the current Turkish government has a hidden agenda in that regard. More importantly, they are acting as if it is the AKP that is strengthening the anti-American sentiments among the Turkish public. Paradoxically, commentators like me are also a subject of U.S. criticism in that regard. For instance, a close American friend of mine, an academic who has known me for more than a decade, ironically sent me an e-mail recently asking whether I had become a blind AKP follower, too. As a close follower of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review he was questioning my critical approach towards both the U.S. and Israeli governments.

 

In response, I asked him whether he had read the recent op-ed by İlhan Tanır, "Is the most brutal U.S. Congress session ending? Think twice…" Elaborating on the visit by a delegation sent by Ankara to Washington, Tanır wrote, "Two members of the opposition parties […] were mostly quiet and when asked, appeared to be in line with the [Turkish] administration's Iran and Israel policies, to the surprise of many."

 

Those who met the delegation might have been surprised by the alleged silence of the opposition parties, but it doesn't surprise me at all. Let me repeat what I have maintained as far as Turkey's relations with both Israel and Iran are concerned. No one in Turkey desires a nuclear Iran, there is no doubt in that regard. But I personally believe that the current approach by Western countries led by the U.S. will make things worse. In the Israeli raid, on the other hand, nine Turkish citizens lost their lives. I might not share their Weltanschauung, but this does not mean that I will accept Israel's illegal act.

 

Therefore, I feel obliged to remind my American friends that every criticism, unless presided by self-criticism, is inevitably unreliable. In fact, they are equally responsible for the sinking U.S. image in the Turkish public. For instance, Turks feel disappointed over the fact that Washington cast the lone vote against the endorsement by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a report that described the Israeli raid as illegal.

 

In such a milieu, U.S. efforts initiated by ethnic lobbies to punish Turkey will make things worse. A recent resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives precisely exemplifies this phenomenon. You will well remember that the House urged Turkey, in a resolution introduced by Gus Bilirakis, a House member of Greek origin, to work to retrieve and restore all lost artifacts and immediately halt the "destruction" of religious sites, "illegal" archaeological excavations, traffic in icons and antiquities in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or KKTC. I hear my American friends saying that the U.S. is a democratic country. But what about Turkey? Isn't Turkey democratic?

 

The real reason behind the turbulence between Washington and Ankara can be gleaned from an idea expressed by Brent Scowcroft in his interview with Daily News reporter Fulya Özerkan. When asked to describe how Turkey looks from Washington's perspective and to comment on Turkey's intentions, Scowcroft, the former U.S. national security advisor who is also said to have assisted Barack Obama, spoke of wanting the return of "the old Turkey that [they] know and love."

 

I urge my American friends to realize that Turkey has indeed changed, having in some ways matured as a nation and grown in confidence. Will they continue to love us as we reasonably assert ourselves on the world stage?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE HEADSCARF

YUSUF KANLI

 

Is it not the time to remove the veil in front of your eyes and see the bitter fact that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has no intention to resolve either the headscarf or the Kurdish problems of this county but only pretending as if it wanted so?

 

This is an "as if" government. It is committed to democracy, as long as democracy serves its aim of consolidating its absolute rule. It is for enhanced freedoms as long as they serve to its interests. It is liberal as long as it can rip its benefits. National interests, integrity of the country and the nation, peace and stability of the society, well-being of the nation, Turkey's EU vocation are just slogans to be used as long as they help advance the ruling party consolidate its conservative-Islamist and indeed pragmatist agenda.

 

The statement of main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu during the Abant meeting of his party – which was not attended by former party chairman Deniz Baykal and some 10 die-hard Baykalist deputies – accusing the premier and his AKP of having no interest in resolving the headscarf problem because they have been exploiting that problem to advance their political strength was indeed a remark which has to be taken very seriously.

 

That's indeed the case. The AKP and the prime minister have been pledging to resolve the headscarf issue whenever the country comes closer to an election. Each time the ruling party asks from the nation to vote it into parliament strong enough to resolve that problem, as well as some other important problems of the religious people or some ethnic or non-Muslim communities – very much like the Alevi or the Kurdish openings or meetings with the religious representatives of the non-Muslim groups – and each time they engage with the problem in such an amateurish manner that the push for resolution ends up further polarizing the country.

 

Were the government and Erdoğan indeed willing to resolve the Kurdish problem, for example, they would have avoided the Habur fiasco, after so many rounds of discussions with the eminent Alevi personalities they would have at least brought an end to the compulsory education of Sunni-Hanefi religion courses at primary schools – a demand strongly supported by the European Court of Human Rights also – or rather than scolding the CHP and expressing doubts on its sincerity would have approached the main opposition party's "we will solve the headscarf problem" declaration with a "We do want a resolution as well. What are your ideas for a resolution? How can we cooperate on this issue?" response.

 

This is a double-tongue government of deception. Though it has been refusing to give up arms, denounce terrorism, recognize the Israeli statehood, just because it participated in elections the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group is being considered by the AKP governance as a "legitimate political party" that Israel should negotiate with but the elected deputies of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, which indeed is nothing further than a political wing of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorist gang was shunned for years on grounds it did not denounce PKK terrorism – indeed the BDP has to do if it wants to be a political element further than a political wing of the PKK and which can contribute seriously to the resolution of the Kurdish issue – is only very lately and under intense public pressure is finally considered to be worth to talk to by the AKP.

 

AKP has been talking of democracy and enhanced rights but despite all the pledges it made over the past eight years it has not moved an inch to reduce the horrendous ten percent national electoral threshold barring minority views being represented in parliament, democratize the political parties legislation or achieve transparency in governance by limiting judicial immunity of both parliamentarians and top bureaucrats. But, as was witnessed with last month's constitutional amendments it has been steadily moving forward in consolidating its grip over both the executive, legislative and judicial wings of administration to the detriment of the separation of powers principle, which indeed is the pillar of democratic governance.

 

How can a "democratic government" allow the country turn into a "fear empire" or a "police state" with the Ergenekon thrillers, mass wiretappings, summary execution of the critics on the front pages or main news bulletins of the allegiant media?

 

It is indeed high time not only to resolve the headscarf problem of girl university students – which indeed a serious human rights problem developed as a consequence of political Islam converting it into a political-religious flag – but also to remove the veil of this "as if democratic" AKP mentality and realize where it has been derailing the country.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

INCLUDE WOMEN TO MOVE THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE PROCESS FORWARD

CARLA KOPPELL & REBECCA MILLER

 

As the Israeli-Palestinian talks stall, the United States should consider this opportunity to reassess the negotiation process more broadly. Previous talks have suffered from lack of both transparency and inclusiveness: for most of the past 20 years, an extremely small group of high-level political leaders has met behind closed doors, rarely sharing information with or seeking input from their stakeholders. If negotiators are serious about lasting peace, they need to engage those who matter most – their people, and women in particular, who feel little ownership over the talks specifically because they are rarely consulted.

 

In August we returned from a trip to Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where we worked with exceptional female leaders to create recommendations for improving Israeli-Palestinian talks. At that time, United States President Barack Obama was about to secure commitments for a new round of negotiations. Yet rooms full of smart leaders who want peace knew nothing about their representatives' positions or plans. Because of this secrecy, a fog of pessimism encircled the meetings. That pessimism persists.

 

The best way to give affected populations more ownership of the process is to open the talks to women. Research shows that when women are included in negotiations, they regularly raise key issues otherwise ignored by male negotiators, such as security on the ground, long-term reconciliation and human rights. Women often facilitate cross-conflict talks on the margins of formal negotiations that cultivate public investment in negotiations. When formally involved, women often help talks gain traction.

 

George Mitchell, U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, saw the value a critical mass of women adds when he mediated an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. There, the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, a Protestant-Catholic women's party, ensured that talks promoted reconciliation, recognized the needs of victims and youth, and secured human rights for prisoners. Additionally, they created a structure for continued consultation with civil society and built bridges among negotiating parties.

 

In other peace talks, too, women's inclusion has paid dividends. In Guatemala's negotiations, women ensured a balance of police and civilian power and preserved labor and indigenous rights while promoting dialogue and tolerance. In Darfur's negotiations, women focused attention on civilian protection and women's rights.

 

Female civil society leaders in Israel and Palestine have pointed out that had they been consulted when certain areas were being delineated as the Oslo Accords – the framework for future negotiations between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, or PLO – specified, they would have suggested slight changes to the way the lines were drawn that could have greatly improved access to land and water and better maintained the integrity of communities. Wisely, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced that, consistent with Israeli law mandating women's inclusion, the Israeli delegation will include a woman.

 

This is a step toward more inclusive processes, but only a first step. The Palestinian negotiating team included several women during the first rounds of negotiations at the Madrid conference and talks in Washington, DC in 1991, and they did have an influence, but the delegation no longer has women at the highest levels.

 

Proponents of secret negotiations argue that sharing information can give spoilers opportunities or decrease trust between negotiating parties. Ironically, the opposite more often proves true: transparency can fuel the forces for peaceful resolution of conflict and help push warring parties toward resolution. Research by Darren Kew, Associate Professor of Dispute Resolution at University of Massachusetts Boston and Anthony Wanis-St. John, Assistant Professor in the International Peace and Conflict Resolution programme at American University, shows a direct correlation between the inclusiveness of peace processes and the likelihood that agreements endure.

 

The host of upcoming negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, clearly understands the need for more inclusive peace building. In August 2009, she argued that "so-called women's issues are stability issues, security issues, equity issues."

 

Building on their personal experience, Clinton and Mitchell should lead the push to involve women and civil society in the Middle East peace process by: soliciting topics for the negotiating agenda from civil society and women; organizing public consultations with women and civil society organizations to hear their perspectives on the core issues; creating a formal consultative mechanism for civil society groups to feed input indirectly into negotiations; appointing gender advisers or civil society liaisons to assist official delegations; and offering negotiating teams additional seats at talks if women are added.

 

Polls show that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are tired of war and want peace. It's time to use negotiations to leverage and strengthen that will. It's time to re-envision the process so that the talks are transformative. That way, when we next travel to the Middle East, we will see infectious optimism instead of pessimism, and women in both countries fostering broad public support for successful, inclusive negotiations.

 

* Carla Koppell is Director of The Institute for Inclusive Security and the Washington, DC office of Hunt Alternatives Fund (www.huntalternatives.org). Rebecca Miller is Senior Program Specialist at The Institute for Inclusive Security. This piece has been distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission from The Institute for Inclusive Security.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

BOOM-TO-BUST BLAME LIES WITH EUROPE'S WATCHDOGS

PAUL DE GRAUWE

 

It's time for Europe's monetary authorities to take responsibility for what goes on in the economies of member states that share the euro.

 

The key to understanding the euro debt crisis lies in diverging macroeconomic movements in the region during the last 10 years. Southern euro-area countries, plus Ireland, experienced bubbles in their real-estate markets, while the northern member states had slow economic growth. When the boom turned into bust in some countries, their governments had to pick up the pieces, leading to huge budget deficits and debts.

 

Where do these macroeconomic divergences come from? It is often said the source of the boom-and-bust dynamics in countries like Spain, Greece and Ireland was the decline in real interest rates after their adoption of the euro. This triggered a boom in consumption and a bubble in the housing markets.

 

This doesn't explain everything. Italy enjoyed a decline in real interest rates after the introduction of the euro, yet it didn't experience a boom. Another explanation may be animal spirits, or the waves of optimism and pessimism that in a self- fulfilling way drive economies.

 

The euro area is far from integrated. A few years ago, "Angst" prevailed in Germany while bursts of optimism exploded in Greece, Spain and Ireland. Today, optimism drives the German recovery and pessimism rules in the once-booming countries. So euro-member states are still independent nations creating their own animal spirits.

 

Wage increases

 

This has caused diverging competitiveness over the last decade. The optimism in peripheral countries led to economic booms that triggered wage-and-price increases. A few years of such prosperity were enough to make prices and wage costs inconsistent with the rest of the region.

 

If booms and busts and the ensuing movements in prices and wages are the result of animal spirits that continue to have a national origin, what can be done about it? Do governments have the tools to deal with this? They surely have some. Budgetary policies can be used as an anti-cyclical instrument. But they are very constrained, mainly because the decision-making process underlying these policies makes them less than flexible.

 

There is another aspect that tends to reduce the capacity of national governments to deal with local cycles. Booms are most often correlated with domestic credit expansion, which can be lethal in combination with bubbles (especially in housing markets). This was seen in Spain and Ireland, where increases in bank credit helped cause property prices to soar.

 

Monetary solutions

 

Any policy aimed at stabilizing national economies must also be able to control local credit creation. It is clear that because the euro-member states have entered a currency union, they lack the instruments to deal with this. If economies are driven by credit-fueled animal spirits, the only tools that can effectively deal with this are monetary ones.

 

Members of the euro have relinquished these instruments to European monetary authorities. So can institutions such as the European Central Bank, or ECB, help out national governments? We have been told this is impossible because the ECB should only be concerned with system-wide aggregates. It can't be responsible for national economic conditions because it has one objective: the maintenance of price stability in the region as a whole, and because it has only one instrument to achieve this goal.

 

ECB focus

 

This is too cheap an answer. The ECB isn't only responsible for price stability, but also for financial stability. The debt crisis that erupted in the euro area last year had its origins in a limited number of countries. It is, therefore, important that the ECB focuses not only on aggregates, but also on what happens in individual nations.

 

Excessive bank-credit creation in some member countries should also appear on the radar screens of the ECB in Frankfurt. Some say the ECB can't deal with this throughout the euro area. This is not so. The euro system has the technical ability to restrict bank loans in some countries more than in others by applying differential minimum-reserve requirements, or by imposing anti-cyclical capital ratios. These can and should be used as stabilizers at the national level.

 

The euro system is partly to blame for bubbles in national housing markets and the associated increases in private debt. Better governance in the euro area should not only focus on the responsibilities of national governments, but also on those of the European monetary authorities, like the ECB.

 

*Paul De Grauwe is a professor of economics at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. This piece has been distributed by Bloomberg.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PRESIDENT SHOULD NOT USE HIS DISCRETION INDISCREETLY

 

IN the midst of growing controversy over appointment of a PPP loyalist as Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has not only justified the appointment but also defended the decision of President Asif Ali Zardari to reject outrightly the views of the Leader of the Opposition on the issue. Talking to newsmen in Murree on Saturday, the PM claimed that appointment of NAB chief was discretionary power of the President and there was nothing wrong if he exercised the same.

This is indeed very simplistic view of an issue that has caused upheaval in national politics and its brushing aside in this manner would not resolve the problem. As the President is also Co-Chairman of the ruling PPP, therefore, the Prime Minister might have thought it appropriate to defend his action as part of his responsibility yet in our view the Head of the State did not exercise the power judiciously even if consultation did not mean respecting the views of the Leader of the Opposition. In matters where the President has discretionary powers, these are never supposed to be used in violation of rules, regulations, laws, constitution and set traditions; rather these powers are utilised in the furtherance of national interests with good intentions. There are numerous instances when the incumbent President used his discretionary powers and prerogative in a highly controversial manner – just to advance party or personal interests. He did so in the recent past in bailing out convicted Rehman Malik besides an FIA official and an Indian agent against whom charges of terrorist attack in Lahore had clearly been proved. In fact, if one minutely examines the exercise of his discretionary powers in the past, one would find that the President was totally oblivious of the sensitivities of the people and adopted a damn care attitude. The Prime Minister might be right that the President has discretion in the matter but this is in relations to advice by the PM and not in relation to consultations with the Leader of the Opposition. What is the importance and relevance of consultations with the Opposition Leader if his views are so contemptuously rejected? The objective of the consultations with him are to ensure that a neutral and undisputed personality is appointed head of an institution that carries out accountability of the corrupt but the ultimate choice in this case shows that the very objective has been nullified. We would humbly point out to the President that he enjoys a unique position and should exercise his power in a manner that promotes national unity, cohesion and advances the cause of good governance. He is supposed to be a role model for others and should establish healthy traditions.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DOMESTIC RESOURCE MOBILISATION IS THE ANSWER

 

FINANCE Minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has told world finance leaders during annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington that Pakistan was pursuing a programme for economic stabilisation and that the Government was re-prioritizing budget and making necessary adjustments in the foreign assistance in the wake of devastating floods that harmed the economy badly.


Eversince the present Government took over, we have been hearing about economic stabilisation programme but regrettably it is far from stability and in fact the economy is getting worst with the passage of every day. The PPP Government obtained record loans from the IMF but there are reports that it is still exploring the option of securing additional loan worth 5.5 billion dollar to repay the old debts. Inflation is sky-rocketing and trade deficit widened to $1.6 billion in September 2010 from $911 million in September last year. Imports also went up from $2.41 billion in September last year to $2.78 billion in September this year. All these speak volumes about success of the Government programme and create doubts about its ability to manage things in future if it continues with its existing lopsided approach. The key to success is mobilisation of domestic resources but here again the Government has adopted a flawed policy of burdening salaried class and common man with more taxes. The rates of utility services are highest in the region and frequent upward adjustments are made in the prices of petroleum prices at a time when these have stabilized the world over. Those who have the capacity to pay are not ready to pay and the Government too is skipping plans to tax them appropriately. Agriculture income remains tax-free despite the fact that wheat procurement price in Pakistan is higher than the international market and feudal enjoy subsidies on fertilizers, pesticides and electricity (for tubewells) besides getting tractors on highly subsidized prices. Similarly, industries and businesses earning millions contribute almost nothing to national exchequer in collusion with the concerned officials. It is time to make genuine efforts for mobilization of domestic resources because the world community would not be forthcoming to dole out their tax-payers' money for long

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

IHK FAST COMING ON WORLD AGENDA

 

KASHMIR, which received little attention of the global community during the last few years, is now once again on the world agenda, thanks to the sacrifices of Kashmiri people. In the past, India was able to hoodwink the international public opinion with the force of intensive propaganda equating the freedom struggle of Kashmiri people with terrorism, an issue of serious concern to the world these days.


However, the situation is fast changing and one hopes that this realisation on the part of the international community would help Kashmiris secure their inalienable right of self-determination. It is encouraging that at least the UN Secretary-General has taken notice of the precarious situation in Occupied Kashmir where Indian forces are engaged in massive human rights violations. In a media interview in New York, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has expressed concern over the worsening situation in Occupied Kashmir. In a related development, the United Nations has finally listed Kashmir as an 'independent entity' and not being part of India, which is an acknowledgement on the part of the world body of the disputed nature of the territory. And, as President Barack Obama prepares to visit India, the United States has urged Islamabad and New Delhi to resolve the Kashmir issue. In this perspective, Pakistan's permanent representatives at the UN Hussain Haroon has sensitized the world about the need for peaceful resolution of the conflict for the sake of regional and global peace. It appears that the world has ultimately realised that resolution of the Kashmir dispute is a must for sustainable peace in the region and beyond. No doubt the global community and especially the powers that matter are not ready to pressurize India to agree to meaningful discussions with Pakistan for permanent settlement of the dispute yet a change in perception has definitely occurred and it is for Pakistan, leadership of AJK and overseas Pakistanis and Kashmiris to take advantage of the situation by projecting the cause of Kashmir in its true perspective.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

HOW "INCOMPETENT " OUR DOCTORS

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

 

It has become quite a routine for our power elite who are now getting all the facilities of treatment at government expense which was once available to government servants because they the government servants are poorly paid and could not afford expensive treatment even in Pakistan in private hospitals. . That was the reason why the government servants were given treatment at government expenses in Government hospitals. Now by and by the Government servant has been elbowed out and the political bosses who spend crores on their elections are getting far more facilities for treatment at Government expense and they generally want to go abroad for treatment of all kind of health problems. It is now fashionable to go for serious ailments abroad to US or UK They think that Pakistani hospitals and doctors, surgeons are no good compared to foreign doctors or foreign hospitals. How incompetent are our doctors is a matter which needs to be examined. 


Can Pakistani doctors/surgeons treat cancer, perform open heart surgery and brain ailments. ? In August 1995, I had what seemed to be a heart attack. My friend immediately took me in his Suzuki van to the PIMS, which then was still a far cleaner and well managed hospital because it did not treat such inordinate number of outdoor patients as now, may be several times more than in those days. I was rushed to I C U and some young doctors attended me giving me injections which put me to sleep. ICU was fairly well maintained, clean and not over crowded in those days. Next day when on his routine rounds of the ICU, its head of the Cardiology Department, Dr Afzal Mattu looked at my case history sheet , expressed his satisfaction on the immediate treatment given to me by the young internees but the third day on his morning rounds he looked at my treatment sheet and carefully saw my pale hands and asked me a number of questions: Are you passing any blood in urine or stools. Reply No, Have you lost your appetite Reply No, Have you lost weight recently , Reply No. Dr Matto looked at my hand closely and said " Surprise . Why have you recovered fast so soon . No I am not satisfied by your replies, I must have your blood examined and abdominal X ray done. The blood examination showed my hemoglobin very low just 7 whereas it should have been 12 at least. He said :You have too low hemoglobin. I will give you iron pills . My Hemoglobin started to improve. No I still do not believe you . You are passing blood, Matto said . You should leave the ICU and move to VIP room and have stay there till we have your complete diagnostic pathology tests He said he did not believe that I was not passing blood . I have a number of tests for a week in the PIMS. I was annoyed being detained in the hospital. After the X ray and stool tests Matto said Dr Koreshi You have cancer. You must have operation immediately. 


The interesting point was that Dr Afzal Matto was a Cardiac Specialist or head of Cardiology and I had gone for what was described as an angina attack yet he went much beyond his responsibility – to discover cancer. I was getting impatient to go home having been in PIMS for 15 days . The iron pills have been increasing my hemoglobin . Young doctors suggested that the quick improvement in my hemoglobin level indicated that it might not be the case of passing blood but some other disease and wondered whether I needed the painful cancer surgery. They advised me "No need to be in a hurry for an operation" Matto insisted on his diagnosis, Then I requested my friend General Aslam Beg to speak to the Commandant of the Military Hospital in Pindi to have my tests at the MH supposed to be the best laboratory .He telephoned Major General Arshad Commandant of the MH to have he had my tests done same day . The tests were done in few hours. General Arshad looked at them and said Doctor Koreshi No question that you have Cancer of the intestine, You better go for operation right away Do not lose time We can perhaps still save you, Go to the PIMS for the operation right away. 

Dr Ghayur Ayub, a Pakhtun from the Tribal belt , a very noble and kind surgeon was the head of Surgery in the PIMS . His father had been in the Foreign Service. He was willing to do the operation right away but before that he wanted to have my heart tests that I can survive the operation. The lady head of that Department in PIMS was not willing to clear me to undergo surgery and said that You are a high risk persons. You can die on the table during the operation. Dr Ghayyur Ayub said that he was ready to undertake the surgery if the lady incharge of the lab would clear me for the operation. Finally I argued with the lady saying I rather die of the operation table than of Cancer and got her permission to undergo the operation . The problem was to get four bottles of blood. My wife went from pillar to post but with no success. Finally Lt General Moinuddin Hyder then Adjutant General arranged it from the CMH .Dr Ghayyur Ayub did the operation warning my wife that I could expire on the surgery table. He opened me and came out of the Surgery room to tell my wife that it was localized cancer- in first stage- and had not spread . He did a successful operation I needed no blood transfusion and I gifted the four bottles of blood to the PIMS for use on some needy persons.


After the operation Dr Guayyur Ayub advised me to go to the NORI, Nuclear Oncology Research Institute, for further treatment of chemotherapy. Dr Kizilbash head of Nori prevailed on me as also Dr Ghyur Ayub that the precautionary treatment of chemotherapy should be taken which lasted under the supervision of Dr Faheem of NORI for three years with a break of three months each time. Each session of chemotherapy lasted for three hours. Thereafter I had periodic test tests to monitor that cancer did not recur and by the grace of Allah Almighty there was no recurrence of the problem I had a cousin as a Consultant at the Agha Khan Hospital where too I had check ups and tests. 


The total expenditure on three years treatment. Operation, technical examinations, cost of chemotherapy etc came to Rs 60,000. At the early stages of the problem, I consulted my cousins where should I have the treatment, Some of my cousins are the /were the top doctors and surgeons of Pakistan . They said the PIMS is one of the best hospitals in Pakistan , both doctors and the facility wise. I have about 30 doctors/surgeons in my "family" cousins , mostly women doctors in Karachi , including my daughter. It was their unanimous view that PIMS is one of the best hospitals in Pakistan. I experienced it . The nursing there was superb and as a token of my appreciation I left a big cake for the nurses when I left PIMS.


The fact to day is that except for advanced cases of brain surgery , very complicated cases of heart or for treatment of those ailments which require very advanced machinery etc, Pakistanis are capable of treating several cases of cancer, heart diseases , bone surgery etc. In open heart surgery Pakistanis have done quite well. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi provide quite good treatments in all such diseases. I was asked by PIMS doctors whether I would like to go abroad for treatment I preferred Pakistan , for several reasons. Quick treatment and immediate surgery was one. Expenses was another. It would have taken time to get Government sanction for treatment abroad, if given and by that time the cancer would have spread. And what would have been the cost of full treatment? By and large Pakistani doctors are as competent as foreign doctors. They lack latest equipment, machinery and advanced medicines, not professional competence. 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

SHIFTING THE AFGHAN WAR MESS

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

 

In the pursuance for the practical implementation of its 'pre-emption theory', the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had warned in the beginning of September 2010, for al-Qaeda's attack in Europe in the month of November. The main emphasis of the CIA warning was that al-Qaeda is regrouping in the North Waziristan Agency and some other areas of FATA in Pakistan for carrying out simultaneous attacks on London, and some cities of France and Germany. CIA reports also specified the pattern of these attacks, as akin to the Mumbai type terror attacks. Some officials of the Obama administration even believe that, apart from al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Tayyba are also part of this plot. 


Provision of these precise and pinpointed forewarnings to its European allies by CIA is a step worth appreciable. This would enable them to ensure their safety by taking necessary safety and security measures. But the basic questions which even a layman would like to ask; how CIA could know this all while these attacks are in the planning stage. Furthermore, if the warning is so real than why not those involved in the planning were nipped in the bird by precisely targeting those, who are planning to attack? Since in the garb of so-called global war on terror, CIA has very accurate and precision weapon system at its disposal, therefore, this would not have been a big deal.


Indeed, the theory of pre-emptive strikes is a U.S strategy of subduing those who disagree from its policies. The theory was applied to attack and invade Iraq in 2003, where the possession of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) was made as an excuse at the time of attack, without even UN mandate. However, the later revelations after killing over a million Iraqi people were quite contrary as known to the globe. A similar strategy was applied for Afghanistan for attacking and keeping it under occupation for an indefinite period. In order to know about the reality of this latest CIA's warning of attacks on European cities by al-Qaeda elements and concentration of its leadership in North Waziristan, one has to understand the background of US demands from Pakistan over last few years. Indeed, perceiving a threat to the security of its forces in the neighbouring Afghanistan, U.S has been emphasizing Pakistan to undertake a military operation in North Waziristan Agency quite frequently. This demand gained momentum after Pak Army undertook two major military operations in Malakand (Swat) Agency and South Waziristan Agency. Both these operations met unprecedented success in the entire history of the so-called global war on terror. Since these operations were conducted for few weeks and the terrorists infested areas were cleared off methodically, therefore, were much appreciated at the global level. 

After the success of these two operations and the international appreciations, people of US and Europe started questioning the achievements of US and NATO forces, occupying Afghanistan since last over nine years. In order to divert the attention of its people, US started accusing that terrorists from FATA region of Pakistan are intruding into Afghanistan, for fighting the ISAF troops. However, while levelling these accusations, US perhaps forgotten the fact that on the Afghan side of the Durand Line (Pak-Afghan), there is heavy deployment of ISAF and Afghan National Army. Why did that force fail to stop the intrusion or why did Taliban and other terrorists were not arrested or killed, once they were entering into the Afghan side of the border? 


On the repeated persistence, Pakistan informed its ally, the United States, that, operation in the NWA would only be launched once Government and security forces of Pakistan consider its inevitability. For such an operation, decision would be taken by Pakistan, rather getting a dictation from by another country. Besides, Pakistan maintained that military operations are necessitated, once there is an active resistance from the militants or there is an armed rebellion, challenging the writ of the Government. In NWA, generally there is a prevalence of peace since the 2006, military operations. People are not challenging the Government's writ. Therefore, Pakistan Army has advised the Government not to launch a military operation. Indeed, launching such an operation would rather be counterproductive. Such a military operation, if launched, would cause collateral damages and invite reaction against the Government. Indeed, over the period of time, the people of NWA have learnt to live with peace while accepting the authority of the Government of Pakistan; therefore, killing of peaceful people is not the mandate of Pak Army. 


US failure to compel Pakistan to launch military operations in NWA, in the last two years finally led it to prepare a new plot of attacks in European cities by militants from this agency. It is to be noted that during his two days official visit to Pakistan, Mr Leon Panetta, the CIA chief had separate meetings with the President, Prime Minister and the Army Chief. His main emphasizes were on the preventive measure to stop the likely attacks on European cities, originating from the North Waziristan. In this regards, the CIA Chief, was defending the overwhelming increase in the drone attacks on the North Waziristan Agency, which killed hundreds of the innocent people. It is worth mentioning that, out of the total 175 attacks carried out by CIA operated drones since 2004, over 25 drone attacks were undertaken in September alone. Except a few foreign militants, CIA itself accepts that most of the drone attacks caused the collateral damages. So far over 1700 innocent people have been killed in these drone attacks alone since their start in 2004. 


It is unclear as yet as to who really sponsor and heads al-Qaeda. However, this is for sure that, Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omer and Al-Zahwahari can now be considered as imaginary characters, whose messages are made public before any action by U.S or NATO forces in Afghanistan or once there is a need of public support to US or European leadership for convincing their people to remain quite. Previously these were also used for calling a wrath on Iraqi people. It is surprising to note that, any action of al-Qaeda is known to CIA in advance. For example, the May 1, 2010, car bomb plot by a U.S national of Pakistan descent, Faisal Shahzad; convicted and given life imprisonment by US Court on October 5, 2010, was known to CIA much earlier, as recently disclosed by Gary Leupp, an analyst of Iraqi and Afghan wars in one of his article entitled, "Threatening Pakistan," published in the Counterpunch magazine. 


Since the alleged plot was to be implemented in a very sensitive city of US, NY Times Square, and the executer was in the U.S, therefore, there was no reason to wait till the bomb could have been exploded, causing deaths of many US citizens. Thanks God that, the bomb did not explode. Otherwise, as recently revealed by Bob Woodward, in his book, entitled, "Obama's Wars," US would have hit 150 terrorists' heavens inside Pakistan. CIA would be familiar with them better, where these terrorists heavens are really situated inside Pakistan, as Pakistani peoples, the Government and its intelligence agency are unaware of such 150 terrorist's heavens. Since Pakistani authorities had put their feet down on the NWA military operation, therefore, ISAF helicopters thrice intruded into Pakistani territory and finally fired missiles on the Pakistani Post at Kurrum Agency, resultantly, killed three soldiers of the Frontier Corps. This is not the first time that such a violation of the Pakistan's aerial space or ground territory has been done by U.S or NATO forces, occupying Afghanistan, since last almost nine years. In June 2008, 11 Pakistani troops were killed as a result of US air strike on a Pakistani border post along Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan suspended the logistic support of ISAF after the attacks. 
Later through a joint investigation, it was proved that the fault lies with the ISAF for the violation of Pakistani border and killing the soldiers. Thereafter, US rendered a formal apology from Pakistani authorities and families of those who embraced shaahdat. After the formal apology, Pakistan has resumed the supply of oil and other logistic support to ISAF in Afghanistan. Pakistan has taken a principal stand this time by forcing the US to at least apologize. For the maintenance of national interest, we should obtained assurances from US and NATO to avoid such like acts in future. Furthermore, US and NATO cannot be allowed to take the mess of Afghan war into Pakistani territory. 

—The writer is an IR analyst.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

DANGLING LOGISTICS OF AFGHAN WAR!

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

Tacticians in Kabul have indeed shot the strategist Obama in his foot by conducting recent air space incursions and shooting down of Pakistani soldiers by NATO/ ISAF helicopters. President Obama's efforts to improve America's image amongst Pakistan public has indeed suffered a serious set back due to this incident. Apology tendered by the US ambassador to Pakistan on behalf of the government and people of America would help in cooling down the public anger; however the bad taste may prevail for quite some time.

 

As regards logistic calculus, around 60% of non-lethal supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan pass via two crossings from Pakistan, through difficult and inadequately secure land routes. Northern Distribution Network (NDN) handles 25% of supply and remaining 15% is conveyed by air. Monthly average of non-fuel supplies through Pakistan is over 4,000 containers, compared with 1,457 via NDN. Bulk of the fuel delivered by the Northern route is aviation related. Diesel and gasoline for ground vehicles and generators is conveyed through Pakistani routes. The NDN is also far slower and is three to five times costlier. NDN passes through a number of volatile Central Asian Republics; this network has its vulnerabilities which are far more serious than Pakistani routes. NDN is envisioned to supplement Pakistani supply line and not to supplant these.


NATO keeps a maximum of 30 days logistic reserve in its storage depots in Afghanistan. Reserves are already under strain due to high tempo operation in Kandahar. In case of protracted closure of Pakistani supply routes, NATO could be is in a serious danger of hitting a supply bottom rock. In case it has to rely on NDN only, which does not have the capacity to handle the entire logistic requirement, emanating acute shortages would definitely hit operational effectiveness. To ensure arrival of requisite logistics at destination, the US pays huge bribes to corrupt Afghan officials and warlords. Afghan Taliban gangs provide security to these logistic caravans in exchange for hefty protection money. The cost of a gallon of gas delivered to US units in Afghanistan is between US$ 800-1000. 


Fears are growing in Washington that the Afghan War may be lost. American popular opinion has turned against the war. Pentagon is scary that failure in Afghanistan will humiliate the US military and undermine America's international power, a replica of what happened to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. American strategy is based on a sick premise that by killing enough insurgents, it could "bargain from strength" and force the Taliban into a settlement. Whereas any meaningful effort of reconciliation should begin from Haqqani network, the powerful group that the US is anxious to dismantle. 


Effort to decimate various powerful groups is only incurring their heightened antagonism and undermining the process of reconciliation. Pentagon is convinced that it can still defeat resistance by Taliban and its allies "if only we can go after their sanctuaries in Pakistan". It is a replay of a fixation similar to that of crossing over into Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War. Frustrated tacticians expanded the war into Cambodia and Laos to go after Communist base camps. The war theatre expanded. Though Cambodia and Laos were destroyed, the war was lost. Victory in war is achieved by concentration of forces, not by spreading them ever thinner and wider. Pakistani leadership is caught between American demands and outraged Pakistanis. Recent polls show that Pakistanis now regard the United States as a greater enemy than India. 


Public sentiment has been simmering against the provision of logistic support to NATO/ISAF since 2001, induction of drones in the theatre saw a sustained anti-America spike; and hardly a day passes when the Afghanistan bound containers are not attacked, torched or looted. Yet, losses on this count are less than 1% of the net logistic flow through Pakistan. Recent violations of Pakistan's land and air space by NATO/ISAF have added to the fury of the public. Like Afghans, Pakistani's also take symbolic respect to their sovereignty quite seriously, and have emotional attachment to its manifestations. 


CIA operated drone attacks in Pakistan during September totaled as many as the previous four months combined. Pakistani government publicly protests against drone incursions. The recent drone barrage may be overkill. Out of 181 drone attacks since 2004, over eighty have come in the past nine months. The quality of the targets is not as good; success rate is about 2%. Likewise, other forms of fire support and cross border intrusions are on the rise. 


Hence perception is snowballing that out of frustrations, NATO/ISAF is becoming increasingly trigger happy. Modern warfare in all its manifestations is resource intensive. Even the insurgents require sustained logistical flow. Recent withdrawal of American vehicles, equipment and materiel from Iraq has been described as more massive and complex than the "Red Ball Express" that sustained the Allied offensive in Europe in World War II. This assessment pertains to a country which has flat, unimpeded access to Kuwaiti ports. Therefore, it is unrealistic to assume that over 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan could sustain combat operations at the current pace without Pakistani consent for allowing the transit of supplies. Americans are demanding contradictory things from Pakistan. Out of all such things that Americans want from the Pakistan is the assurance of sustained flow of supplies, this indeed is a requirement based on the ground realities of war. "Pakistan is not a walkover country," warned a senior ISI official. If the United States continues its cross-border attacks, he said, "I will stand in the way of the convoys myself." 


This official indeed represented the true public sentiment. A hard reality indeed! Pakistan, angered at NATO/ISAF escalations, has exercised one of its key levers against its ally. Unless the US decides to follow a pragmatic approach, the symbolic blockade by the government could soon become a public enforced choking. To ensure the flow of supply, Americans have to take care of sensitivities of Pakistani public. Any Pakistani government, whether civilian or military, could cooperate with the United States only to the extent it could manage the public anger against America.


The alliance is badly strained. However, there's a core of mutual interests that has the potential to steer relationship out of turbulence. Pakistan is poised to oppose any attempt to widen the scope of operations, both expanse wise, as well as weapon system wise. No Pakistani government or military leadership can survive if it's seen as a pushover for America. Scenario of American helicopter killing Pakistani soldiers will find no supporters in Pakistani leadership. Public sentiment is to shoot down such intrudes. Pak-US relations are fragile, yet sticky. To remain viable and sustainable, these need to be strengthened structurally. Need of the moment is cool heads in Washington, Islamabad and Kabul.


—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

TWO PARTY POLITICS

F D MASUOOD

 

Londoners may feel happy to find general turned politician who has decided to operate his political party, All Pakistan Muslim League from London. He would be a second, first is MQM chief. No doubt the city of London has always been a hub of Pakistani politics since long time.


The parachute landing of the general into Pakistan politics seems to be based on misunderstanding that the government in power is failing in running good governance and seriously grappling with huge task of rehabilitation of flood victims and the situation may further go to deterioration, economically and socio politically. The other factions of Muslim League have gone united under the canopy of Pir Paghara but PML(N) has not expressed any indication to join any faction perhaps apprehending that Pir Paghara may put the new faction of Muslim League into Musharaf basket.


The architect of new party while reading out his inauguration speech was looking new entrant of primary political school and reading out first page of elementary book of politics. Fumbling all the time he was confessing of his past blunders not mistakes throwing an impression of his large heart. The people have yet not forgotten his high-handedness particularly jumping over the constituency, a case of treason.

Besides, he has initiated hatred against PML-N chief perhaps thinking that his voters who have differences may join. Who has an ugly face it was seen at Brihigum meeting.


The power wrestling who pulls whom for landing into seat of authority seems to be a campaign only for self and selfish greed to avail the use or abuse of national wealth and nothing beyond this. It is all the more funny and pinching too that the unprecedented floods havoc has displaced millionS of hapless population sick and starving under the sky, property, agricultural produce, schools, roads, bridges, railways and transport net work has totally collapsed. Economy, employment, education sector and all national wealth producing units are in the worst state. Under the circumstances a complete chaos, frustration has threatened already weak network of governance. Out of prevailing situation the anti-government, unpatriotic segment of political clans are busy spreading rumours of PPP Government fall without naming would be leadership which can sail well to bring the drowning economy to the banks of safety and recovery. It is being initiated by different sources that stepping of boots is in the air. The true facts are one that Army is a national Army integral part of the government. Secondly on behalf of their fellow citizens they are fully engaged in flood rescue operations and rehabilitation is their primary target. Besides they are alert to take care of internal safety and security. Terrorism, defense of borders is round the clock engagement not allowing them to interfere country politics. They may be the last to earn bad name.

Gone are the days when masses were silent, fearful and believing that the inflicted miseries were written in their destiny. The public so to say voter's awareness is fully observing the behavior and role of politicians as whole. The victims of present day wretched state of affairs, members of silent civil society and common man of street are by and large realizing ever widening gulf between the ruling elite dominating the country through their tacts of exploiting,loot and plundering and the ruled resource less, honest, hard working, Loyal and sincere patriotic labelled as voters. 


It is their hard work, skilfulness, day and night endless labour which is providing oxygen to the country welfare and only this is the segment which is paying taxes depriving them and their families of comforts of life. It is a class which is providing foreign exchange by running across the borders undergoing all the odd eventualities at unfriendly lands missing love of motherland. The every day study directly or indirectly passes a realistic message to masses that whenever eventualities, emergencies, wars, riots ,protest rallies or slogans for claim of rights come up it is the loyalist sincere hard core patriots working labour and middle class who face all agony and turmoil and the affluent elite class find its refuge abroad in their already built palaces,business and trade set ups. They are last to undergo or to stand by their suffering fellow beings but first to command and avail the liou's share in national wealth. They live on bank loans, never to return and because of powerful influence being politics players go on enjoying their luxurious life style. Their descendents enjoy heredity right to land into country politics with same authority and command.


It is appropriate time, the wealthy may be genuine or fake degree holders, educated or illiterates, feudal, industrialists, and their offspring be declared first political party of rulers under the caption All Pakistan Rulers Party and their mandate be to rule but to rule by use or abuse of their authority. The second party would be labelled All Time Poverty Stricken Party. The membership be open to all those who are carrying miseries all the time on their shoulders and must prove that they and their families eat only twice a week because they are not free from every day labour and hard work in obedience to their masters.


It will save all Pakistan rulers party to run from pillar to post to bluff voters to win elections. The members of other party will weep and sleep with their destiny and not to be pulled out for slogans away. Healthy wealthy Pakistan would be vivid in dreams.


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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

DRONE ATTACKS MAY BE LEGAL, BUT ARE THEY MORAL?

ALASDAIR PALMER

 

Abdul Jabbar, a British citizen from Birmingham, was killed last week in Pakistan by a missile launched from an American drone. If Jabbar was indeed planning a Mumbai-style massacre in a British city, as the intelligence services claim, his death will be a relief. Yet the degree to which it now seems to be acceptable for the US to use drones to kill those it believes to be involved in planning terrorist attacks is alarming. Since the beginning of September alone, President Obama has authorised at least 25 targeted killings. 


The total since he came to office is more than 100. These have certainly killed some of the senior operatives of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. They have also killed dozens of people, including a large number of women and children, who were not involved in terrorism. And yet there has been very little protest, certainly compared to the storm of international criticism that greeted the decision to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo – a policy that didn't kill anyone, let alone any innocent women and children. 


The silence from human rights groups over the drone attacks is deafening. What has persuaded them that it is acceptable to kill people, including people who are not terrorists, but that it is inhumane to deprive them of a good night's sleep? There is no doubting the brutal effectiveness of drone attacks, or that they have a lot going for them in terms of risk and reward: they kill the enemy without exposing our forces to any danger. But the targeting is only as good as the information it is based on – and that information is, inevitably, often inaccurate.

Even when the targeted terrorist turns out to be in the building, there are often others with him who are also incinerated. In August 2009, for example, Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed in a drone attack: his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, a lieutenant, and seven bodyguards also died. No one knows exactly how many innocents have died as a result of drone attacks, but the total almost certainly runs to three figures. It is not easy to square that with President Obama's insistence that his administration is "living by our values" – unless American values now include the endorsement of indiscriminate killing.

The President has also stressed that America now complies with international law. Remarkably, he seems to be right: the consensus is that drone attacks are indeed legal. The UN produced a report on the topic at the end of May, which concluded that the best way forward is for an international conference of states to review the guidelines for setting targets "after a careful review of best practice".

Best practice? Well, I suppose there is such a thing, even when you are involved in targeted killing. The UN's Special Rapporteur thinks it involves specifying very clearly, in advance, whom you are going to target, as well as where, when, and why. That is something no country that uses drones will ever do: their success depends on the victims not knowing when or where they will be attacked. The fact that targeted killing has been deemed "legal" seems to have had the effect of making many people, including the President, think that it is morally justified. But that conclusion doesn't follow. There are plenty of things that are legal, but which you would not be morally justified in doing – just as there are times when you are morally justified in doing things that are illegal. 
Perhaps using drones to kill terrorists is a legitimate way of prosecuting the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It may be that the women and children who get killed as a result don't matter – although I would like to hear someone from the US government, or a human rights organisation, explain exactly why. But we – and the Americans – are deceiving ourselves if we think that something is OK just because international lawyers say it is. — The Telegraph

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

VALUE IN THE WILD RIVERS PLAN

 

Noel Pearson's carbon proposal is worth a look

 

THERE are a few inconvenient truths in Noel Pearson's critique of how creeping environmental regulation has strangled the economic opportunities available to Cape York's traditional landowners before they even got started. Pearson argues the Beattie government's Vegetation Management Act and then wild rivers legislation has lessened the ability of traditional owners to exploit what is arguably their one great asset, a mostly untouched environment and a desire to preserve it. It is not necessary to subscribe to conspiracy theories -- hidden plots to allow Australia to meet its Kyoto targets without taxing coal -- to see how the interests of state and federal governments, environmental groups and polluting industries have coalesced to the disadvantage of indigenous landholders on Cape York. Most likely, this example of dispossession is a case of tragic but unintended consequence.

 

Given Kyoto's byzantine rules, it is not clear to what extent indigenous land was accounted (that is, calculated for emissions purposes) in Australia's carbon accounts, given that it had never been cleared. But a Cape York Institute discussion paper has put a conservative figure of $565 million on the benefit the nation has received from the restriction of land clearing on indigenous lands at the Cape. It is ironic indigenous groups that have not spoilt their environment through tree clearing or other development now face additional barriers to entry to the emerging carbon economy. Farmers who cleared land now have the opportunity to profit from putting the trees back in. The big opportunity for the Cape is in the provision of ecological services to offset the sins of others elsewhere. In addition, a good deal of work is being done globally on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity. This could lead to the creation of markets involving payment for ecosystem services. Pearson has kept an eye on these developments and considers them the best opportunity to develop meaningful employment for Cape communities. He is dismayed at the wealth destruction for landholders in the new economy that accompanies the rollout of every new layer of environmental regulation. The opportunity cost of not having access to land clearing and traditional development has been compounded by the fact that in the new carbon market a premium is put on environmental stocks that are considered at risk. Where there is legislative protection, there is the presumption the state will pay to look after it. Pearson's preference is to have the carbon asset returned and indigenous areas excised from regulation. Alternatively, he has called on state and federal governments to pay money into a fund with the interest used for environmental management and low-impact projects such as eco-tourism. Not surprisingly, the ethic of Pearson's plan for a big pot of money for environmental maintenance has won support from his wild rivers sparring partner, the Wilderness Society, which he blames for the short-sighted campaign to lock up the areas. Any common ground is likely to become mired in philosophical difference.

 

Unless properly thought through, there is a danger any compensation scheme could quickly morph into welfare in another guise, rather than a genuine path to self-empowerment. Still, it is always a good time to consider real opportunities on Cape York: investing in proper environmental management can be money well spent.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

THE MURRAY-DARLING IS A CRUCIAL TEST FOR LABOR

WATER POLICY WILL CHALLENGE ITS COMMITMENT TO REFORM

 

THE Murray-Darling Basin guide released last week should be the start of a sustained public conversation about balancing the nation's environmental and economic goals. The proposal to cut water use across the basin, which covers 14 per cent of our land mass, could scarcely avoid being contentious, given that it addresses one of the most complex issues facing Australians -- how to ensure the viability of a great river system and the communities of 3.4 million people within the basin or dependent on its water. But despite the understandable outcry from areas of the food bowl about an overall cut of between 27 and 37 per cent, the report from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is a landmark in water policy, a document that will now inform debate ahead of decisions by the federal parliament next year. The Australian feels strongly about this issue. In 2001, we launched a Saving the Murray campaign with a 23-day boat trip down the river from Albury in NSW to the rivermouth in South Australia. Our series was heavily criticised by the Institute of Public Affairs, but it helped kick off the process that led to this report.

 

It is fitting in such a vital policy area that a proposal with its genesis in the Howard government's Water Act of 2007 has now become a test of Labor's reform will and negotiating skill -- not only with the public but with the states. The government can draw on a history of bipartisan support for reclaiming water but navigating the interests of South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland will not be easy. Despite promises from the states to allow a national approach, their willingness to undermine Canberra is legendary. Tony Burke was conciliatory yesterday as he reminded people there would be 12 months of community consultation and no compulsion to sell water to the government. But the Water Minister knows there are significant challenges ahead in juggling economic restructuring of basin communities with protection of the river system. There are livelihoods at stake, along with a traditional commitment to food security and agricultural development.

 

For now, there are urgent issues to address to ensure an informed debate. More work is needed on the economic impact of the proposed clawback. The authority's chairman, Michael Taylor, has acknowledged this, saying the impact could be "quite significantly higher" than the estimated loss of 800 to 1200 jobs. We also need more detail of the real costs of buying back water. The authority is mandated to protect the environment, not make judgments about where taxpayer dollars should be spent. But with estimates as high as $9.2 billion, more detail of the cost of buybacks is needed. The implications for food prices and security are central to the debate. The basin produces $15bn worth of produce each year, representing 39 per cent of Australia's total agricultural production. It hosts 40 per cent of Australia's farms. It is difficult to see how cutting water use by around one third -- as high as 45 per cent in some regions -- would not have an impact on domestic prices, on export income, and on our reliance on imported food. Indeed, we report today that Australia is already a net importer of food. But there is room for rationalisation: we have noted before that it may well make more sense to import cotton and rice while concentrating on growing higher-value crops more suited to local conditions. There is also a case for better technology. Much of the basin was opened up in the first half of the last century when the concept of a water price, separate from a land price, was unknown. Profligate use of water and poor management practices became entrenched. Reforms over the past two decades have created a trade in water that makes its cost more transparent but there is still plenty to room for improved practices to minimise water loss through evaporation and leakage.

 

If implemented, the cuts would see the mouth of the Murray open 90 per cent of the time, compared with 64 per cent under current arrangements. This is an ambitious goal that must now be weighed against the economic cost. As the authority says, the clawback proposals are not a "done deal" but rather an assessment, based on the best science, of the level of water that can be consumed from the system in an environmentally sustainable manner. Judging by the reaction to the report, not all the states seem convinced of a community mood for change. Victoria says there must be a better way, while NSW, Queensland and South Australia have been circumspect in their responses. The states can be expected to vigorously argue for compensation and transitional assistance to affected groups even as Canberra struggles with the demands for budget restraint.

 

There is no disputing the damage inflicted on the system, which has been under extreme stress from drought as well as water over-allocation. In the past few weeks, the system has been replenished by flood rains but its future health is far from secure. Australians must decide how much they are prepared to pay to save the rivers for future generations. One of the great anomalies of Federation was that the states were left to manage the rivers that cut across their borders. They have patently failed, happy to resort to interstate squabbling rather than pursuing the national interest. Now it is up to Canberra to seize the opportunity to address those failings. The authority's report is an important step in developing the sustainable solution that has eluded politicians on both sides for decades.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

GAMES EMERGE FROM CONFUSION

 

The 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi has been a triumph of Australian sporting achievement, among other things. Excuse us for crowing, but the medals tally tells the story. Australian swimmers produced the Games' crowning glory with Alicia Coutts's emergence into the front rank of a team which dominated the competition, Leisel Jones's eighth, ninth and tenth Commonwealth Games gold medals, and a fairytale victory over adversity in Geoff Huegill's comeback. The host nation India is also celebrating a best-ever medal haul, and a spectacular opening ceremony that brought the country's dynamism, diversity and irrepressible joie de vivre to a global audience.

 

Of course, the arrangements and facilities have not been up to scratch. Athletes have become sick on a worrying scale, some of the infrastructure has been second-rate and the ticketing was a shambles - to the point that some events have been staged in almost empty stadiums. Perhaps when India next organises a major international jamboree, it will contract out the job to private enterprise, the same force credited with the nation's economic rise in recent years.

 

That said, it has been encouraging to see the Games return to the developing world. Until now, Jamaica and Malaysia have been the only non-Anglo nations to host the event. Australia has hosted the most - four times in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney - followed by Canada, and New Zealand. A lot has changed since the 1950s, when all athletes paraded behind the Union Jack, but perhaps not enough.

 

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Frustration is understandable when poor facilities hinder elite athletes' quest for perfection, but remarks by some Australian athletes and officials have fed perceptions of intolerance on our part. We should be more generous. The problems afflicting India's Games so far have been a small price to pay for sharing the pride and joy that host nation-status can bring. The failings of Delhi reflect, in part, the reality of a planet on which wealth and comfort are unevenly distributed. If the Commonwealth and its games are to have a future they need to engage more, not less, with Asian and African member states. It's time the Games Federation stopped trying to replicate the Olympics' expensive grandeur, and developed a cheaper, more accessible model of the event that can be more easily packaged and implemented in developing nations. That - not new stadiums or sports mania - would be the most fitting legacy of Delhi 2010.

 

Meanwhile, we cannot but be excited by the prospect of the 2014 Glasgow Games and hopeful that the Gold Coast bags the hosting rights for 2018.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

MONEY GAME TURNS UGLY

 

Wayne Swan sounded smug and disingenuous when he suggested to reporters in Washington on Friday that the Australian dollar's rise to near parity with the US dollar simply reflected the underlying strength of our economy. While it was fair enough to brag about Australia's relatively strong performance, the Treasurer knows there is more to it than that. The dollar's soaring popularity is a byproduct of a mighty tussle between the United States and China which, some analysts warn, could trigger a global currency war, with potentially disastrous consequences.

 

It was this fear that loomed over the just completed annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, attended by finance ministers and central bank officials from around the world, including Swan. The US, backed by other developed nations, wants China to let its currency, the yuan, appreciate by much more than the roughly 2 per cent against the US dollar that it has allowed since June. The argument is that Beijing, by artificially keeping the yuan low to boost its exports and discourage imports, is undermining prospects of economic recovery and destroying jobs in the US and other developed countries.

 

The Chinese will not wear it. They suggest developed nations have damaged themselves by running up high deficits and moving too slowly to reform their financial systems. They insist any adjustment to the value of the yuan must be gradual. The Premier, Wen Jiabao, warned last week that to raise the yuan by 20 to 40 per cent, as some suggest, would cause social turmoil in China that would be "a disaster".

 

The debate has been civil, so far. The US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, did not criticise China directly, referring instead to countries whose currencies are "significantly undervalued". Even so, there are ominous signs that an outbreak of retaliatory beggar-thy-neighbour money gambits and protectionism is brewing. Several governments, including the US, Brazil and Japan, have eased - or threatened to ease - monetary policy or effectively devalued their currencies. The US House of Representatives has approved a bill threatening tariffs on Chinese imports.

 

Small wonder the IMF talkfest heard much about the urgent need for concerted action to rebalance the global economy and reform exchange rate regimes. The IMF will prepare reports on the effect of national policies on other economies. But the world will probably have to wait for effective action at least until next month's Group of 20 leaders' summit in Seoul. Julia Gillard has homework to do.

 

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BRUMBY'S WOE-FILLED WEEK THAT WAS

 

PREMIER John Brumby barely had time to savour the grand final victory of his beloved Magpies before the run of bad news started. Mr Brumby began last week by trying to defend the indefensible. He argued, with scant consistency or plausibility, that his government did not run a taxpayer-funded ''dirt unit'' to inquire into the private affairs of its opponents - but that there was nothing wrong with taxpayer-funded staff collecting information that might be used to hold opposition MPs to account. Later in the week, the government took a buffeting from reports presented to Parliament by Ombudsman George Brouwer and Auditor-General Des Pearson. Mr Brower unveiled squalor and abuse in the Victorian Youth Justice Precinct in Parkville, and Mr Pearson shed light on the worsening response times of Victoria's ambulance service by exposing a gap between the service's operational priorities and the government's allocation of the necessary resources. Finally, two of the government's most recognised, if not most admired, ministers announced that they were quitting politics. Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor and Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron will not be members of the new Parliament that Victorians elect in seven weeks' time.

 

Both men cited personal reasons for their decisions, and Mr Brumby predictably hailed the resignations as an opportunity to introduce new blood in the next cabinet. But the proximity of the election will make it difficult for many Victorians to dismiss the view of Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, who said that the ministers' departure indicated that the wheels were falling off a government that had ''normalised incompetence''. The truth is that both men are associated with underachievement on the government's part. Mr Cameron is perhaps best known for spending most of Black Saturday at home while Victoria burned, and Mr Batchelor's long political career has had many dubious episodes. As ALP state secretary before entering Parliament, he helped to organise bogus Nuclear Disarmament Party how-to-vote cards. As opposition transport spokesman he resisted the Kennett government's privatisation of public transport, but then retained the privatised system when he became minister. He also dumped the government's ''no tolls'' promise, and the enduring legacy of his time in the transport portfolio is the muddle that became myki.

 

Seven weeks is a very long time in politics, but a government seeking to extend its long tenure of office would not want any more weeks like the past one.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

DOLLAR'S RISE AND DOLLAR-WISE ARE NOT THE SAME

 

Currency war poses a grave risk to the world economy.

WHEN the Australian dollar appreciates in value against major currencies, especially the US dollar, pundits usually interpret the increase in terms of its local impact. A strong dollar is good for Australians who are travelling abroad or buying imported goods, but bad for exporters because their products become more expensive and therefore less competitive. That is what has been happening as the dollar has soared almost to parity with its US counterpart. Early on Friday it rose above US99¢ for the first time since the Hawke government introduced floating exchange rates in 1983, and in the coming weeks it may yet overtake the greenback. If that happens it will be a psychological milestone. The real significance of the dollar's stellar rise, however, cannot be explained by the usual checklists of winners and losers, still less by any sense that an appreciating currency is a profound national achievement.

 

Last week's rally in the dollar's value was prompted by increasing jobs growth, with the unemployment rate dropping to 5.1 per cent. The underlying cause of the rise against the US dollar, however, has been the resources boom of the past half-decade and the Reserve Bank's raising of interest rates to counter inflationary pressures arising from the boom. The higher rates have in turn driven up the dollar as they made assets valued in Australian dollars more attractive to investors, with the consequence that Australia's manufacturers, farmers and domestic tourist industry have become less competitive. This is the problem of the two-speed economy, which has been much noted by commentators but little attended to by policymakers.

 

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The rising dollar and the two-speed economy, however, are only the Australian consequences of a wider phenomenon, to which the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, drew attention in startling terms last week by warning of a currency war. Mr Strauss-Kahn urged China, which keeps the yuan artificially low against the US dollar, to allow the market to set the value of its currency. China has consistently refused to do this because an undervalued yuan helps keep its manufacturing exports highly competitive. Among other things, that has fuelled the demand of China's manufacturers for the minerals exported by Australia and other commodity-producing nations. But it has also had a devastating effect on other manufacturing nations, especially the US. The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would impose retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports if Beijing does not allow a revaluation of the yuan, and although the bill is not expected to become law it amounts to the first shot in the currency war feared by the IMF. If that war escalates, it would unravel the tentative steps towards international economic co-operation taken in the wake of the global financial crisis.

 

Commentators have long pondered the consequences for Australia of being caught in a war between its principal ally, the US, and its principal trading partner, China. But the kind of military conflict usually envisaged - over Taiwan, for example - reeks of fantasy. What is more likely, and thus far more dangerous, is the prospect of being caught in an economic war of the kind that Mr Strauss-Kahn has spoken about.

 

Thus far the Reserve Bank has declined to follow the example of central banks in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, which in recent weeks have intervened on capital markets to stop their currencies rising. And if the Reserve adjusts interest rates next month, it is more likely to raise, not lower them. Central banks, however, have limited power to deal with long-term problems generated by the structure of a national economy. If Australia is to respond seriously to the stresses caused by its rising dollar, governments must also take seriously the dilemmas posed by the two-speed economy.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

ALTERNATIVE VOTE: LOVED BY NO ONE

MOST COMMENTATORS HAVE DISCOUNTED THE CHANCES OF A YES VOTE NEXT MAY. BUT THEY ARE BEING TOO HASTY

 

Next May Britain is all but certain to hold a referendum on the alternative vote. It was striking, at all three party conferences, how little excitement there was about this. Liberal Democrats, who arguably have the most to gain from a yes vote, launched a half-hearted campaign to secure it but Nick Clegg's mention of the referendum in his conference speech produced only modest applause. Most Lib Dems see AV as a poor substitute for proper proportional representation. They would prefer a yes to a no, but their hearts are not in it.

 

Meanwhile Labour, which committed itself to an AV referendum in its last general election manifesto, came across as distinctly hostile to it at its conference. Ed Miliband promised to vote yes in his speech, but he did not say he would campaign hard for a positive outcome. Many Labour supporters have come to fear AV as a government plot, intended to keep the opposition out of power. The irony is that when Gordon Brown backed AV before the election, many Tories suspected exactly the same thing.

 

The Conservative party, whose MPs are being whipped in order to get legislation allowing a referendum through parliament, was overwhelmingly hostile. The small band of Conservatives who supportelectoral reform – some of them from Wales and Scotland, where the party has benefited from it – are critical of AV. A fringe meeting intended to drum up Tory support for a yes vote instead saw every speaker explain why full proportional representation would be better. The no to AV campaign has been licensed by the party leadership as a safe outlet for Tory discontent with the consequences of coalition.

 

So the mood among the political classes is underwhelming. AV is loved by no one, and distrusted by many. Most commentators have discounted the chances of a yes vote next May. But they are being too hasty. It is true that a negative outcome is more likely than a positive one, but defeat is neither inevitable nor something to wish for. Few voters can have thought hard about the issue. The campaign could make a big difference either way. But for now public opinion is split rather than opposed. In August a Guardian/ICM poll found 45% would vote yes and 45% no. If politicians seem hostile to AV, voters may even begin to warm to it.

 

There are weaknesses in the system, but the question people should ask is whether AV is an improvement on first-past-the-post. The answer is yes. It allows choice. It requires every MP to get the support of at least half their constituents. It stops votes being wasted. It is appropriate for a democracy no longer dominated by two big parties. Reformers in all parties must shed their reticence and campaign for a yes.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL'S LOYALTY OATH: DISCRIMINATORY BY DESIGN

 

New pledge requires future citizens declare their loyalty to an ideology, one intended to exclude Palestinians

 

There are two narratives at work in Israel that have a bearing on the capacity of its leaders to negotiate the creation of an independent Palestinian state next to it. The first is official and intended for external consumption. It is the one that claims Israel is ready to sit down with the Palestinians in direct talks without preconditions and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, should not have wasted so much of the 10 month partial freeze on settlement building before he did so. On Saturday, America was given another month by the Arab League to persuade Binyamin Netanyahu's government to halt settlement building, the bare minimum required for talks to continue.

 

There is however a second narrative, which could be called business as usual, and it has nothing to do with occupation, Iran's nuclear programme, Hizbullah's rocket arsenal, or any threat which could be called existential. This was evident in all its inglory yesterday when the Israeli cabinet approved a measure requiring candidates for Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to "the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state". The naturalisation oath would not apply to Jews, who are granted automatic citizenship under the law of return, so it is, by definition, discriminatory. The existing text binds individuals to declare their loyalty to the state of Israel. The new version requires future citizens to declare their loyalty not just to a state but an ideology, one specifically designed to exclude one fifth of its citizens who see themselves as Palestinian.

 

Palestinian Israeli leaders have described this proposal as racist. Palestinian Israeli citizens do not have to take this oath, but their partners seeking naturalisation do. Neither could agree with Israel's characterisation of itself as a Jewish state. It could be a state of Jews and all its citizens, but never a Jewish state. Nor is this the only bill around. There are 20 others in the slipstream that have a similar effect: there is a loyalty law for Knesset members and for film crews; there are bills that make it a criminal offence to deny the existence of Israel; that penalise the mourning of Nakba Day; that force any group financed by a foreign nation to report each contribution; and a bill to deny ethnic minorities' access to Jewish settlements. The authors of these proposals not only intend to create a state ideology but to police it.

 

The question that lies behind this is why, and why now? Are these the actions of a nation prepared to make a historical compromise, end occupation and live in peace with its neighbourhood? If they are and we are all wildly misinterpreting this, why alienate and incite the very people who could have helped by their example bring a historic settlement about, people who have accepted the existence of Israel, who have never in their history taken up arms against it? This applies to Christian as well as Muslim. The opposite is happening. The Palestinian Israeli experience of inequality and discrimination only promotes the view that being a minority in a state with a Jewish majority is rapidly becoming untenable.

 

The Labour minorities minister Avishay Braverman described the loyalty oath yesterday as a terrible mistake. But it is surely more that. Mistake implies miscalculation, and there is calculation in this. It seeks to pre-empt negotiation on the third core issue after borders and the division of Jerusalem – the right of return of Palestinian refugees to sovereign Israeli territory. Abbas happens to be one of those refugees. If Netanyahu refuses to extend the settlement freeze, Abbas, the most pliant Palestinian negotiator Israel is likely to encounter, has threatened to resign, dissolve the Palestinian authority or seek US and UN recognition for a future Palestinian state. Netanyahu is only hastening the day when this happens and in one sense, he is doing the world a service. Future citizens will be swearing loyalty to a state that can not make peace.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF ... BORIS'S BIKES

 

London's enthusiasm for bikes is gradually liberating it from the tyranny of the combustion engine

 

The enthusiasm with which London has taken to Boris's bikes – themillionth ride has been clocked up in 10 weeks – has evoked inevitable comparisons to Paris's Vélibs. Ours are supposed to be heavier, nicer to ride, more stylish, more difficult to steal (and less incentive to steal with the deposit scheme) and they don't have a basket. Theirs are about wandering and shopping as well as commuting – they call it Vélibération. Ours are about getting somewhere in under half an hour, after which time it becomes more expensive. Much has been made of the fact that only five bikes have been stolen, as opposed to 8,000 of Paris's 20,600 bikes, 16,000 of which have been vandalised and had to be replaced. The London scheme is still a baby in comparison and the mayor has been cautious about extending it. We will see what happens when there are more docking stations and it becomes a source of local pride to nick them. Before the bike scheme, cycling around Paris was considered a marginal activity, to be undertaken only by the reckless, rather like roller-skating behind buses. London already had a firmly established cycling culture. Both schemes, however, are changing the way we use big cities. Without turning the clock back to 1904, when 20% of journeys were made by bicycle, London is being gradually liberated from the tyranny of the combustion engine. Copenhagen or Amsterdam are already well on the way – more bikes means both quicker journeys and more pedestrians.

 

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            THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MR. CHAVEZ MEETS OPPOSITION

 

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's Socialist Party won a majority of votes and seats in parliamentary elections held Sept. 26. But the margin of that victory was considerably smaller than those of the past, and his opponents are claiming that they are the big winners in the ballot.

 

Mr. Chavez lost the unassailable majority he held in the legislature and, in theory, will be forced to negotiate with the opposition. In fact, Mr. Chavez has shown little patience for such niceties and has, when challenged, demonstrated a preference for running around constitutional hurdles, rather than working through them.

 

Mr. Chavez has been pressing his "Bolivarian Revolution" since he took power over a decade ago. The former army lieutenant colonel has championed a nationalist- populist-socialist domestic agenda and ridden opposition to U.S. policies to regional and international prominence.

 

His popularity has fluctuated: While the poor of Venezuela — and there are a lot — have backed Mr. Chavez's efforts to break the grip of elites on the country, his policies have proven less effective in delivering on the promise of equality and opportunity. Venezuela has a skyrocketing crime rate, high inflation, low growth and rampant corruption. Even with its substantial oil reserves — the foundation of Mr. Chavez's domestic and international stature — the economy is foundering.

 

But Mr. Chavez has been fortunate to face an opposition that is deeply divided and tactically incompetent. In the last election, held in 2005, the opposition boycotted the ballot, letting the president and his allies take an overwhelming majority in the legislature. By controlling more than two-thirds of the seats, Mr. Chavez could rewrite laws that checked his power, rule by decree and appoint allies throughout the government without fear of opposition. Not surprisingly he consolidated his power and those of his allies.

 

This time, the opposition learned from its mistakes and put up a single slate of candidates for the elections. Whether that unity will last until the 2012 presidential ballot — at which time a single opposition candidate is a necessary condition for the opposition to even have a chance — is uncertain.

 

In the most recent ballot, two-thirds of voters turned out to give Mr. Chavez's party 98 of the 165 seats in the National Assembly. The opposition coalition claimed 65 seats and a splinter party of the left claimed the last two seats. The popular vote was neatly split, with the ruling party winning 5.4 million and the opposition taking 5.3 million. The opposition is claiming that it in fact won a majority, but there is no evidence of significant fraud. Their claims that districts have been gerrymandered and that new voting rules gave more representation to rural districts where Mr. Chavez is most popular are harder to dismiss.

 

Mr. Chavez has said that it is positive that the opposition "accepted the rules of the game" and participated in the vote. The question, though, is whether the president is inclined to do the same. The opposition claims that it will use its presence to demand more say in governance, and begin the process of re-creating checks and balances in Venezuela. Mr. Chavez has demonstrated precious little tolerance for checks and balances and the obstruction of his wishes. For him, politics is a battlefield, not a place for compromise.

 

When an opposition candidate won a mayoral election in Caracas, the National Assembly promptly stripped him of his power and made him subordinate to a new officer appointed directly by the president. Opposition governors say the same has been done to them.

 

With the president and his allies occupying every major institution in the country, in particular the supreme court, and a legislature that can pass most laws by a simple majority, it will be difficult for the opposition to mount a real challenge to the president. The new National Assembly is not seated until January, so the president and his allies may act now to consolidate their position.

 

Venezuela's future depends on three factors. The first is Mr. Chavez's ability to genuinely improve the lives of ordinary Venezuelans. The president rose to power on a populist tide, and his longevity has been buttressed by funds generated by the country's oil reserves. But even that great wealth has been unable to compensate for inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption. His promises of a better life sound increasingly empty to growing numbers of Venezuelans. Two successive election results — the Sept. 26 ballot and the defeat of a constitutional reform referendum in 2007 — suggest the clock is ticking.

 

The second factor is the ability of the opposition to unify against the president. While he attracts powerful opposition, Mr. Chavez remains the most popular politician in the country. He retains strong and motivated supporters among the country's poorest inhabitants.

 

At some point, the opposition must reach out to them and promise that its policies will improve their lives. Politics as usual — the ongoing division of the country into haves and have-nots — is not an option for Venezuela.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IS JAPAN'S DISEASE CURABLE?

BY SHINJI FUKUKAWA

 

Since the 1990s, often called Japan's "lost 10 years," many parts of Japanese society have been disintegrating. Japan's influence has been in decline in the international community and on the global economic scene.

 

Its share of the world's gross domestic product dropped from 14.3 percent in 1990 to 8.9 percent in 2008, and could drop to around 5 percent in 2015 should this situation continue.

 

Japan now faces serious problems arising from persistent deflation, the yen's rise, employment uncertainty, weak state finances and a declining and aging population. It had the world's largest external net assets worth ¥266.2 trillion (about $3.1 trillion) at the end of 2009, but its economy might eventually start eating away at its inherited assets.

 

My deep concern is that Japanese society has fallen into a syndrome that should be called "the Japanese disease." Consider the following four points:

 

(1) The nation's reaction to domestic and external change is paralyzed.

 

While the IT revolution proceeded rapidly around the world amid globalization after the late 1980s, Japan was deeply intoxicated by its bubble economy and slow in coping with the bubble's aftermath. It thus failed to keep pace with change. While other major countries have stepped up their efforts to develop globalization-capable and intelligent human resources, the Japanese government's education policies and Japan's institutions of higher education have remained unchanged.

 

Consequently, many young Japanese have not paid attention to what is happening outside Japan. Furthermore, Japan lacks a sense of crisis about the economic effects that a declining population will bring.

 

While the world becomes multipolar, conflicts are getting more complicated and the system to manage international order is undergoing profound transformation. Japan fails to view these changes with an eye toward finding a new way to make international contributions.

 

(2) Governance is in confusion.

 

Although there was a change of government in the 2009 Lower House election, the Democratic Party of Japan administration has failed to present appropriate economic policies due to its self-righteous judgments and has deepened people's distrust of its policies.

 

As a result, the DPJ was defeated in the July 2010 Upper House election and a divided Diet emerged, with the opposition controlling the Upper House. The governing capability of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's second Cabinet, inaugurated Sept. 17, will be tested.

 

In the meantime, the Liberal Democratic Party also remains unable to present effective policy proposals and has failed to regain people's confidence. The two-party system is supposed to vitalize politics, but it may lead to political stagnation unless a real leader emerges.

 

Mutual distrust between politicians and public servants is also weakening the governing capacity of the nation. Public servants have lost their self-confidence because of bureaucracy-bashing. Few bureaucrats devote themselves to painstaking efforts to formulate policy as before. The DPJ government wants elected lawmakers to take the lead in developing policy, but their meddling discourages public servants' enthusiasm for policymaking and damages administrative efficiency.

 

It is unthinkable, in today's complicated domestic and external environments, that holistically optimum policy decisions can be made only by lawmakers' judgments.

 

What is now important in improving the nation's governance capability is creating a system to collect and utilize information and wisdom from bureaucracy and the private sector and getting politicians to develop a humble attitude and to make optimal judgments.

 

(3) The innovative capacity of enterprises is on the decline.

 

Japan's industries were proud of their strong competitive power in the 1980s. Conceit spread so widely among corporate managers that some of them boasted that "there is no longer anything to learn from managers abroad." After the burst of the economic bubble, Japan's business managers forgot the value of an "offensive" strategy for innovation and instead holed up, relying on "defensive" strategy.

 

Meanwhile, South Korean enterprises, learning lessons from the Asian currency crisis of 1997, have strengthened their international competitiveness through tieups and mergers. Chinese companies also have intensified their overseas competitiveness by boosting their management power. Some Japanese enterprises have endeavored to improve their profit-earning potential by enhancing business partnerships through mergers as well as overseas investments. But many other Japanese enterprises still depend heavily on conservative management policies. This is reflected in their low-earning capacity.

 

In addition, the government is lagging behind in its efforts to create an economic environment that helps enterprises launch vigorous business activities.

 

(4) Japanese society's sense of values generally lacks dynamism and its sense of solidarity is weakening.

 

Such factors as political paralysis, administrative rigidity and enterprises' conservative nature have sapped people's enthusiasm to pursue new values. Generally speaking, they bang down "the nail that sticks out" and are reluctant to praise successful people in a frank manner.

 

Japanese people, long accustomed to populism in politics, have amplified the their tendency to eschew individual effort and have relied on the government and society to pay the bills. As a result, they have ignored the changes, avoided risk and dampened enthusiasm for solidarity.

 

Although the annual number of suicides has exceeded 30,000 for years and schools have become dilapidated, society's efforts to solve these problems remain poor. With cases of child abuse on the rise and family bonds weakening, no social momentum exists to help build new family values.

 

Is this Japanese disease incurable? I remember the case of Britain, which suffered from the so-called British disease in the 1970s but made a spectacular recovery under Thatcherism. Japanese themselves should become aware of the current pathological condition of Japanese society. In this respect, the role of journalists and intellectuals is important.

 

Japanese society harbors a traditional dynamism of which many Japanese are no longer aware. It is the ethos or spirit that creates new knowledge by mixing domestic and external knowledge, attaches importance to trustful people-to-people relationships and seeks the right way, with individuals making incessant voluntary efforts to study. I consider these features the source of the strength that Japanese society needs to build up "Japan as No. 1," as professor Ezra Vogel put it.

 

I believe that if Japanese people restore their dynamic "Japanability" and make strenuous efforts to strengthen their capacity without relying on the helping hands of politics, they will surely overcome the prevailing Japanese disease.

 

Shinji Fukukawa, former vice minister of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and president of Dentsu Research Institute, is now chairman of the Machine Industry Memorial Foundation.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

INTERNET COMPANIES ROLL OVER, PLAY DEAD IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY

BY GUY SORMAN

 

PARIS — All over the world, Internet users entertain romantic delusions about cyberspace. To most of us Web surfers, the Internet provides a false sense of complete freedom, power and anonymity.

 

Every once in a while, of course, unsolicited messages and ads that happen to be mysteriously related to our most intimate habits intrude. They remind us that we Internet users are, indeed, under constant virtual surveillance.

 

When the watchers have only commercial motives, such "spam" feels like a minor violation. But in China or Russia, the Internet is patrolled not by unsolicited peddlers, but by the police.

 

So Russian human rights activists and the environmental organization Baikal Environmental Wave should not have been surprised when, earlier this month, flesh and blood policemen — not Internet bots — confiscated their computers and the files stored within them.

 

In the time of the Soviet Union, the KGB would have indicted these anti-Putin dissidents for mental disorders. This supposedly being a "new Russia," cyber-dissidents are accused of violating intellectual property rights.

 

You see, they were using Microsoft- equipped computers and could not prove that the software had not been pirated. By confiscating the computers, the Russian police could supposedly verify whether the Microsoft software that the activists were using had been installed legally.

 

On the surface, Microsoft and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's police look like strange bedfellows. But are they?

 

Microsoft's authorized representatives declared that they could not oppose the Russian police actions, because the Seattle-based company had to abide by Russian law. Such an ambiguous declaration can be interpreted either as active support for the Russian police or as passive collaboration.

 

Moreover, in previous cases, Microsoft had assisted the Russian police in their investigations of nongovernmental organizations.

 

Clearly, human rights activists in Russia cannot and should not count on Microsoft as an ally in their efforts to build a more open society. But Microsoft's ambiguous — at best — behavior is part of a pattern. Indeed, the record of Internet companies in authoritarian countries is both consistent and grim.

 

Yahoo set the pace in pioneering the active collaboration of Internet and high-tech firms with political repression. In 2005, Yahoo gave the Chinese police the computer identification code for a dissident journalist, Shi Tao.

 

Shi Tao had sent a message in praise of democracy, which the censors had detected. Following Yahoo's lead, the police arrested him. Shi remains in jail to this day.

 

At that time, Yahoo's managers in the United States, like Microsoft in Russia, declared that they had to follow Chinese law. Shi Tao, in his jail cell, was undoubtedly pleased to learn that China is ruled by law, not by the Communist Party. After all, the rule of law is what Shi Tao is fighting for.

 

Google, at least for a short while, seemed to follow different guidelines in its Chinese business, appearing to adhere to its widely proclaimed ethical principle, "Don't be evil."

 

To protest against censorship, the Silicon Valley-based company relocated from mainland China in 2009 to the still relatively free Hong Kong. On the Hong Kong-based search engine, Chinese internauts could read about Taiwan, the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989 or the Dalai Lama. On Google.cn, these sources, along with the results of searches using many other forbidden terms, simply did not appear.

 

Google's move seemed to reconcile its proclaimed libertarian philosophy with its business ethics. But that reconciliation did not last long: Google, after all, had accepted censorship from the beginning of its efforts in China, in 2006, in order to gain entry into the Chinese market.

 

After six months of life in Hong Kong, money talked: Google reinstated its mainland China service, and with the same level of censorship as before. In the end, Google, not the Chinese Communist Party, lost face.

 

Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have thus followed a strikingly similar road: Access to lucrative markets trumped ethical anxiety. The tools that they provide are politically neutral. Dissidents try to use them to pursue a democratic agenda. Police use them to detect and repress dissidents.

 

Either way, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google make money — just like, say, IBM, which in the 1930s sold its computing machines to the Nazi regime: The Nazis used these machines to make the destruction of their victims routine and bureaucratic.

 

Should we be shocked that Internet companies put profits ahead of morals? After all, they are ordinary, profit-seeking corporations, just like the IBM of Hitler's era.

 

Internet companies may, more than most, hide their true motives behind ersatz, democratic- sounding slogans, but in the end they are advertising products like any other. In advertising or self-promotion, the choice of words is determined by customer expectations, not by managers' philosophy, as the managers mostly have none.

 

Capitalism is always a tradeoff: We must live with unethical behavior by money-making corporations that provide us with useful new tools. These tools can be used by Iranians fighting dictatorship, or by Tibetan dissidents trying to save their culture. They also can be used to compute the number of exterminated Jews, to arrest a Chinese dissident or to break a human rights group in Russia.

 

Microsoft in Russia or Google in China teach us that capitalism is not ethical: it is only efficient. Entrepreneurs are greedy by definition: if they were not, they would go bankrupt.

 

An open society will never be created or sustained by righteous entrepreneurs or be the mere byproduct of political engineering. Liberty, as always, remains the endeavor of vigilant, free men and women.

 

Guy Sorman, a French philosopher and economist, is the author of "Economics Does Not Lie." © 2010 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

 THE COSMETIC AMENDMENTS

 

We initially felt encouraged by the government's move several months ago to strengthen the anti-money laundering drive by empowering the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to investigate suspicious financial transactions under an amended anti-money laundering law.

 

But the move miserably failed due to strong opposition from the corruption-infested House of Representatives. The bill on the amendments to the 2003 Anti-money Laundering Law that the House finally approved last Tuesday has been so deeply watered down that the new law will virtually contribute nothing to bolstering the anti-money laundering campaign.

 

Most damaging is that investigations into anti-money laundering cases remain to be controlled by the National Police and the Attorney General's Office, perceived to be the most corrupt institutions in Indonesia, which is internationally perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

 

Under the new law enacted last week, the mandate of the PPATK remains limited to analyzing suspicious financial transactions and filing those with strong evidence of money-laundering to the National Police.

 

But the National Police have been either unwilling or technically incompetent to investigate reports of suspicious transactions filed by the PPATK.

 

Police performance in handling money-laundering cases has been utterly poor. Of the almost 2,500 reports of suspicious financial transactions the PPATK has so far submitted to the Police, not more than 30 have reached the court. The police claimed that most of the reports did not have strong evidence on which to build money-laundering cases.

 

The most flagrant example of conflict of interest involving the police was related to the recent investigations of suspicious transactions worth tens of millions of dollars through the bank accounts of 23 senior police officers, whose monthly take-home pay ranges from only US$500 to $1,000.

 

The police announced after a few weeks of investigations that only two were found to hold strong criminal evidence, while the other 21 accounts were clarified as legitimate because the money was legally earned through legitimate businesses of the families of the account holders.  

 

The empowerment of the PPATK and the KPK would have gone a long way in strengthening the enforcement of the anti-money laundering law because corruption, beside drug trafficking and smuggling, is the main predicate crime from which laundered money is derived.

 

It would have been a breakthrough in the fight against corruption because, different from most other criminal cases whereby the burden of proof lies on the police and prosecutors, money-laundering suspects or defendants are the ones fully responsible for proving the legitimacy of the money.

 

We therefore find it mind boggling that while President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono keeps trumpeting the fight against corruption as one of his top priority programs, his coalition government, which controls 75 percent of the parliament, allows such cosmetic changes in such an important law for the fight against graft.

 

The only significant improvement in the new law is the mandate for the PPATK to send to the KPK and the National Narcotics Agency copies of the reports on suspicious financial transactions.

 

The new law allows the KPK to take money-laundering cases only when it finds, during its investigations of corruption cases, strong evidence of such criminal acts.

 

Indonesia will remain a haven for corrupt officials, smugglers, drug traffickers and other criminals to launder money.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

SHARING BIOPROSPECTING BENEFIT: FIGHT A LOSING BATTLE?

WALTER BALANSA

 

The world's attention will be on Japan soon as representatives of governments from 193 countries will gather in Nagoya from Oct. 18-29. The meeting will discuss how pharmaceutical companies and rich biodiversity countries to share the profits of drugs and other useful products developed from natural resources, a process known as bioprospecting.

 

The idea of sharing fair benefits from bioprospecting is rooted in the 1993 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The convention establishes sovereign national rights over biological resources and commits member countries to conserve and develop them for sustainability and share the benefit resulting from the use.

 

According to a patent specialist, Michael A. Gollin, "the basic bargaining of the CBD passage was that sovereign rights would be tempered by providing access to genetic resources in exchange for a share of benefits".

 

But nearly two decades on, a fair sharing remains a tough challenge in bioprospecting. This calls the impact of this month CBD meeting in Nagoya into question. Is the Nagoya's meeting strong enough to bring developing countries (the South) and developed countries (the North) closer together on this issue?  

 

In fact, benefit sharing from bioprospecting remains a controversial issue heavily debated between the South and the North. The South accuses the North of pirating its biodiversity (biopiracy) and claims the recent unfair benefit sharing from bioprospecting as new colonialism.

 

Unlike past colonialism, this time the North is accused of exploiting rich biodiversity of the South using advanced technologies instead of guns.

 

For thousands of years and many generations, the Indians have used neem trees for their traditional medicine, cosmetics and agriculture. But in 1994, the US agribusiness corporation W.R. Grace patented the method on the use of the neem tree, sparking a storm of protest in India and worldwide. After a long battle, India finally revoked the patent in 2000. India also successfully overturned the patent on the use of turmeric in wound healing in 1998. But, there are still 90 patents based on neem granted worldwide that India needs to fight against.

 

Biopiracy has also been fiercely challenged by many countries in South America. Brazil, Peru and Bolivia have also joined India at the forefront of biopiracy debate. These countries have tried to overturn patents related to the use of their natural resources such as cinchona from Peru or ayahuasca from Brazil, but so far their efforts have not come to fruition yet. Peru even has the image of the cinchona tree on its flag, constantly reminding the Peruvians of their unrewarded contribution to one of most important breakthroughs in medical history, the antimalarial drug quinine from the cinchona tree.

 

The rich biodiversity in Southeast Asia is one of the mostly biopiracy targeted, but has the least heard case compared to South America or India. In Indonesia, biopiracy dates back to the early 19th century when the Dutch smuggled cinchona trees from Peru and planted them in Java. Recently, most cases are based on hearsays with only two patents granted to foreigners are known in public domain (Inside Indonesia, Sept. 29, 2010).

 

However, Indonesia's decision to refuse to provide samples from avian flu victims to the World Health Organization in February 2007 and chose to collaborate with Baxter Company has stunned the world.

 

But it was a sign of the South's frustration, in this case Indonesia, at unfair benefit sharing on the use of its resources. It also proved that the South indeed has a bargaining power over its biodiversity. The Australian E-Journal and Debate Online wrote "Chicken Come Home to Roost" as a response to this action.

 

The trouble with the CBD is that it has been ratified by 193 countries but has not been ratified by the US yet. The US refuses to ratify the CBD because it was seen as an obstacle for the implementation of intellectual property rights (IPR). These two systems are also different in nature and are impossible to emend as many countries from the south have been trying to do. The CBD recognizes natural resources and its accompanying cultural values and sees traditional technology patentable. With the IPR system, however, traditional knowledge belongs to the public domain and cannot be patented.

 

The CBD also does not provide a specific mechanism on benefit sharing, creating ambiguity in its worldwide application. The end result is that every country has its own benefit sharing mechanism, which turns out to be very problematic for a country such as Indonesia. According to the Indonesian Constitution, the state owns all resources in Indonesia but specific areas are under regional authority according to the 2004 Regional Administration Law. This may open up different interpretations, leading to the infringement of natural resources rights (Inside Indonesia, Sept. 2010).      

 

Nonetheless, the CBD has also contributed to a good practice of bioprospecting in Costa Rica. This practice is always hailed as the best example of searching for drugs or other useful products from natural resources while conserving the environment. As environmentalist E.O. Wilson said, "useful products cannot be harvested from extinct species". But many people from the South remain skeptical of the North's willingness to share the "pie from bioprospecting" equally.

 

The CBD also increases global awareness of the importance of natural resources. India responded by developing its own Access Benefit Sharing Agreement (ABA) and the Biological Diversity Act 2002.

 

India even moved one step forward by creating electronic databases for its 230,000 formulations of traditional medicines last year. Meanwhile, Brazil is currently putting in place the strictest laws and regulations regarding the use of its biodiversity.

 

However, overzealous strict laws and regulations may be dangerous because they prevent research and development as well as conservation efforts in several countries. The cataloguing system is also good, but it may be counterproductive as in the case of London's joined physician patent backed in 1618. The patent was intended to protect the formulas in the book, but the book itself ended up being pirated as pirates always have their ways.

 

Nearly 20 years on, the uphill battle of fair benefit sharing from bioprospecting persists, making its long and winding way through Rio de Janeiro Brazil to Nagoya Japan.

 

It's time for participants of the meeting to look at the main source of the problem. They need to create the lacking specific benefit sharing mechanisms in CBD and synchronized laws and regulations with CBD in their own countries.

 

They also need to create conducive policies on bioprospecting at their home countries to encourage bargaining power and equal benefit sharing. Raising the awareness of stakeholders of bioprospecting impacts is also important, but trying to embed the CBD in the IPR may break our hearts. 

The writer is a PhD student at the University of Queensland, Australia.

 

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE: THE MOVIE

WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE

 

You may have seen Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, the Oscar-winning film on climate change. But have you watched Lakukan Sekarang Juga (Do It Now)?

 

This is a 21-minute documentary about climate change in Indonesia. The National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) released it in October 2009 to enhance public awareness of the issue.

 

Basically, it covers three matters: what climate change is about, what its impact is on nature and people and what the government and individuals can do.

 

The documentary starts in a feel-good manner with close-ups of cooing birds, butterflies fluttering over a bunch of flowers, a tiger wallowing in water, geese tramping together and young orangutans swinging from tree to tree.

 

A female voiceover asks: "Are you aware that our ability to enjoy these scenes is diminishing? These are the scenes that we will witness more often on a daily basis." The camera then records scenes of a cracked and arid landscape, flooding in an urban settlement and a cyclone on a rampage.

 

Pak Subur, a caricature shirtless farmer wearing a conical straw hat, is shown lamenting over the hard rainfall that has inundated his rice field — not once but three times in a year.

 

He asks why this has happened. The narrator then explains that it has to do with global warming, which stems from greenhouse gas emissions that have raised the temperature of the earth's surface and in turn caused weather and climate changes.

 

Climate change usually occurs due to changes in rainfall patterns, which in turn cause a shift in the seasons, according to the narrator. Dry seasons could be longer and more arid; wet seasons shorter and punctuated by intense rainfall that could bring flooding and erosion. The opposite, however, is also possible. Heavy rains could continue into the dry season, such as has happened throughout Indonesia this year, save for Bali and islands east of it.

 

The documentary continues with three fishermen in Java. The trio voice concerns over the shortened west monsoon winds, the greater distance their boats must travel and more fuel they must expend to catch fish and the high waves and intemperate seas they must brave to return with ever-diminishing catches.

 

To counter climate change, the film proposes a dual-track approach of adaptation and mitigation.

 

Adaptation is adjusting so as  to decrease the impact of climate change. Mitigation is action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

 

The film also explains Indonesia's efforts on the international stage. One such attempt was its introduction of the Bali Road Map at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, December 2007.

 

The Bali Road Map listed the steps governments should take to replace the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it expires in 2012.

 

With an emphasis on mitigation, the documentary ends with a description of a range of actions individuals could take to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. These include efficient use of household appliances, recycling non-organic and organic waste, and using bikes to commute to work.

 

The DNPI has done a laudable job in producing the documentary. The film has pertinent and instructive information on climate change in Indonesia, but it focuses heavily on Java and has a masculine bias.  

 

The film's three fishermen, two farmers and two bike-to-work advocates are all based in Java. Six of these seven interviewees were men. Women should have a say. Children, too, should have their voices heard as they own the nation's future.  

 

A major climate change issue is greenhouse gas emissions caused by forest destruction. The film gave little detail on illegal logging and land use change, from peatlands to palm oil plantations, for instance. These are two major deforestation and degradation problems outside Java that factor in significantly in determining the size of Indonesia's carbon footprint.

 

Indonesia's program to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) received only passing mention. Yet the government is fleshing out a REDD+ initiative with additional objectives as part of a detailed national action plan on climate change it is preparing.  

 

Perhaps a second edition of Do It Now! (with an exclamation mark) could focus on deforestation in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua,  with their vast tropical rainforests, and how the REDD program could save them.

 

It could record their concerns and aspirations of women and children in forest communities.  

 

Such a film could help the public understand President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's declared ambition to curb Indonesia's carbon emissions by 26 percent a by 2020. It could also illustrate how the REDD+ program could achieve that target.  

 

Indonesia's annual carbon emissions were 2.1 gigatons (2.1 billion tons) in 2005 and were estimated to reach to 3.2 gigatons in 2030. Indonesia has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 gigatons so that emissions in 2030 would be 67 percent lower than emissions in 2005, according to an August 2010 DNPI report, Indonesia's Greenhouse Gas Abatement Cost Curve. This would be one big story for a film to tell. 



Illegal logging and land use change factor in significantly in determining the size of Indonesia's carbon footprint.


The writer teaches journalism and has conducted workshops on development reporting at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute in Jakarta.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

OPINION

CONSEQUENCES OF INCREASING YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

SUDIRMAN NASIR

 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) recently launched a new report on global youth unemployment. The ILO reported that the global unemployment rate for young people had risen to its highest recorded level, and is expected to continue increasing at least until the end of this year. At the end of 2009, across the world, unemployment among young people (aged between 15 and 24) stood at 13 percent or approximately 81 million people.

 

This is an increase of 7.8 million since 2007, prior to the global crisis. In the Asia-Pacific region, home to 56 percent (or approximately 350 million people) of the global economically active youth population (of 620 million), there are 36.4 million unemployed young people. More specifically, 8.3 million young people were affected by unemployment in Southeast Asia.

 

Meanwhile, the Indonesia's Central Statistics Agency has reported that the number of registered unemployed in the country in 2009 reached 8.96 million people out of a workforce of 113.83 million, of which many were young people aged between 15 and 24. For sure, this data is alarming as the serious psychological, social, economic and health consequences of unemployment among youth are well documented.

 

In addition, numerous studies revealed that unemployment causes psychological and health problems. Unemployment should also be considered not merely as a deprivation of income but also a deprivation of dignity.

 

Out-of-work people are highly likely to suffer from deprivation of "manifest functions", or the direct benefits of employment, i.e. legitimate and regular income, but also deprivation of "latent functions", or indirect benefits of work such as engaging in meaningful activities, a structured life, respect from the community as well as from wider social networks.

 

Such deprivation may generate depression, disillusionment and isolation and therefore could trigger or aggravate psychological and physical problems.

 

Furthermore, studies have documented the association between unemployment, boredom, disenchantment and rampant engagement in risk-taking practices such as engagement in violence and excessive alcohol or drugs use among young men aged between 15 and 24 particularly those who live in low-income neighborhoods.

 

It should also be noted that direct and indirect benefits of employment have been identified as protective factors from heavy involvement in these risk-taking behaviors that may have serious consequences for health and wellbeing.

 

Additionally, unemployment among young people in poor urban neighborhoods is closely related to involvement in various forms of offenses, including expressive and acquisitive offenses such as vandalism, petty crimes or more serious crimes such as burglary and robbery. Off course, the association of youth unemployment and crime are not causal and mechanistic — not all unemployed young people will automatically engage in these activities.

 

However, unemployment evidently plays a pivotal role in exacerbating young people's vulnerabilities and susceptibilities to becoming involved in such activities.

 

It is therefore important particularly for the government (at all levels) to provide a supportive environment for economic growth, particularly the growth of the real sector, that has a great potential to absorb youth into the workforce.

 

It is also essential for the government (at all levels) to review their hostile policies toward the informal sector that play a key role in providing employment among young people with limited educational attainment and economic capital.

 

Studies have shown that hostile policies toward the informal sector exacerbate the suffering and marginalization of the urban poor. The experience of Joko Widodo, the mayor of Surakarta (Solo) in Central Java in better managing the informal sector is instructive.

 

Surakarta's experience has demonstrated that by carefully listening to people working in the informal economy and by better understanding the nature of work in the informal sector, a balance between the need to protect people's access to employment and the need to promote economic growth and enhance public spaces in the city can be achieved. It is noteworthy that citizens' rights to decent employment are clearly stated within the Indonesian Constitution.

 

For sure, considering the large number of Indonesian young people, it will take time to increase young people's access to decent employment but it is not impossible either. After all, the costs and the dramatic human suffering caused by ignoring and doing nothing to reduce unemployment among poor young people are clearly too high.


The writer, a lecturer at the Faculty of Public Health at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, is a PhD candidate at the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne.

 

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THE MOSCOW TIMES

OPINION

ABKHAZ RECALL THE 1990S WAR WITH JOY AND GRIEF

BY MATTHEW COLLIN

 

Rapid-fire explosions lit up the evening sky over Abkhazia's capital, Sukhumi, as the rattle of automatic weapons played counterpoint to a cacophonous firework display and the jubilant cries of intoxicated celebrants on the seafront promenade. It was one of the few days in the year when the usually half-

 

deserted streets of Sukhumi are full of people, the day when the Abkhaz celebrate their victory over the Georgians in the vicious conflict of the early 1990s.

 

War veterans in their old uniforms and medals joined a triumphant march through the city center. "Friends and relatives gave their lives for our independence, and we can't forget that," one portly, mustachioed officer told me, his eyes twinkling with martial passions. "We won't give up the freedom that we won with blood."

 

For the Abkhaz, it's the biggest party of the year. But for others, it's a time for grieving. The fall of Sukhumi to Russian-backed rebels in 1993 is seen by Georgians as a particularly traumatic moment in their country's troubled history.

 

A couple of days earlier, Georgian war veterans gathered in Tbilisi to commemorate fallen comrades and remember the land they lost. There were a few medals and uniforms, but the collective mood was dour and mournful. Many were refugees, whose hopes of going home are slowly and painfully diminishing as the years pass.

 

There were conciliatory words from Georgia's wartime defense minister, Gia Karkarashvili, who once notoriously threatened to wipe out the Abkhaz completely if necessary. Now frail and in a  wheelchair, Karkarashvili called on the veterans to drink for the Abkhaz who died as well as the Georgians.

 

One old soldier echoed these sentiments. "It is impossible to get Abkhazia back through war," he said. "Politicians should deal with that." Since the Georgia-Russia war in August 2008, the desire to take back Abkhazia by any means necessary seems to have been softened by the knowledge that any military incursion would be mercilessly crushed by Moscow.

 

But they also know this in Sukhumi, which means that calls for reconciliation are treated with contempt. "I fought in the war and my brothers died," asserted a middle-aged Abkhaz woman in faded camouflage fatigues. "We'll never give our Abkhazia to anyone, even if only one of us is left on this land."

 

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THE MOSCOW TIMES

OPINION

THE RECKLESS ROAD TO WASTE

BY BEN ARIS

 

RIA-Novosti ran a comparison of how much it costs to build a road in Moscow, the rest of Russia, the European Union, the United States and China. The differences are pretty stark.

 

China has the cheapest cost at $2.2 million per kilometer, with the United States and the EU coming in at about the same, $6 million and $7 million, respectively.

 

But the cost of building a road in Russia is among the highest in Europe, with a kilometer costing $17.6 million throughout most of Russia and $51.7 million in Moscow, an official at the Transportation Ministry told RIA-Novosti.

 

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told delegates at a United Russia party congress in September that the state intends to build 14,000 kilometers over the next five years and that all federally controlled roads would be repaired and upgraded to modern standards by 2020.

 

So why is road building in Russia so expensive? Companies have to obtain the land in the first place, clean off everything that is on the land and then often reconstruct some of the buildings elsewhere. If the road construction is in Moscow, the bureaucratic nightmare is much worse.

 

The clients that want a new road built — usually the city government — hire a contractor to do the actual building and pay it to overcome all of the bureaucratic obstacles on a turnkey basis.

 

The process is drawn out and difficult. The first job is to get hold of the land over which the road will run.

 

Moscow is a huge city, but many of the buildings are protected and all construction is heavily regulated by the city government. Real estate prices took off in about 2003, rising to make Moscow one of the top three most expensive cities in the world (although it has since slipped back to No. 56, according to Swiss bank UBS).

 

While the city government will support the contractor to keep land prices reasonable, the contractor still has to negotiate with the owner as well as tackle the extremely onerous paperwork associated with transfers of ownership to City Hall. Then there is the job of clearing off everything that is standing on the land.

 

But perhaps the most complicated problem is dealing with what is under the land. In the past 20 years, Moscow has grown beyond recognition, and much of this growth has been carried out recklessly and haphazardly. New buildings and their supporting infrastructure were built on an ad hoc basis as money became available. The end result is that the city is a messy, unmanageable tangle of pipes, power lines and telephone lines, most of which have different owners.

 

The  sewage pipes belong to the municipal government, and if the contractor is really unlucky, there might be a federally owned telephone line — like those connecting the Kremlin to the other government buildings dotted around town — in which case the contractor has to apply to the Federal Security Service for permission to move the lines, even if it is only a few meters. Russia's bureaucracy is never easy to manage even for the most simple projects — and it doesn't get much more complicated than this.

 

The contractor's job is to wade through this morass, and the faster it can get the work done the more the company earns. "If you compare the actual cost of just building the roads in Russia, then this cost is about the same as in Germany. … Much of the cost issue reflects the historic approach used from Soviet times," said Maxim Bakshinsky, deputy general director for development of Mostotrest. "Our labor costs are lower, but we have been investing heavily into state-of-the-art equipment."

 

The high cost of building roads represents all that is wrong with Russia today. Like the city's buildings, the economic system that has been built so far has been cobbled together as money became available to meet specific needs — or simply to make some money on a project.

 

As modernization becomes one of the country's most important economic strategies, Russia's leaders will be

focused on grand planning. This will mean supporting infrastructure with a view of future changes and additions.

 

It will take years — or even generations — to untangle the jumble that was created in the first five years of the economic boom that ended in September 2008.

 

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THE MOSCOW TIMES

OPINION

LUZHKOV'S BATTLE AGAINST ANDROIDS

BY ANDREI RYABOV

 

We will be discussing for a long time how Mayor Yury Luzhkov's dismissal will influence Russian politics, but it is useless to try to predict exactly how it will play out — even after Luzhkov's replacement has been named. Russian politics simply has too many variables.

 

Luzhkov fought tooth and nail with President Dmitry Medvedev, refusing to accept the president's offer to leave office on good terms. The former mayor also had sharp words for United Russia, which abandoned him as soon as Medvedev signed the dismissal decree. This helped Luzhkov earn some unexpected sympathy for having "behaved like a real man."

 

The people are becoming irritated by the country's pseudo-politics, the unprincipled opportunism and toadyism practiced by United Russia, which showed its true colors during the Luzhkov affair. It is becoming increasingly difficult for United Russia's leaders to mask their misdeeds with flowery speeches and other platitudes.

 

Luzhkov plans to create an opposition movement after he reached the conclusion that Russian politicians need to stop behaving like "androids" who mindlessly obey commands from above while holding no opinions or positions of their own. Does this mark the early stages of the formation of a competitive political system in Russia?

 

But Luzhkov faces serious obstacles. The recent histories of many former Soviet republics are rife with examples of political leaders who were sidelined and then returned as opposition leaders and even leaders of "color revolutions." These include Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, former Ukrainian PresidentViktor Yushchenko, former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian, former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

 

Russia has its own example: former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, who served a brief jail term for taking the side of the Supreme Soviet during the constitutional crisis in early October 1993, which culminated in tanks shooting the White House. After he was released, he was elected governor of the Kursk region. But that was a completely different era when intense political battles resembled noncontact karate, with losers going down for a moment, but then jumping up as if nothing had happened to continue fighting. Now the rules have changed. Battles are fought for blood, with losers dragged politically lifeless out of the arena. So far, there is no sign that those new rules have been abolished. Or perhaps Luzhkov thinks he is strong enough to overturn that system and reinstate the previous rules.

It would be a big mistake to hope that the situation can be improved in Moscow. It would be nearly impossible to halt the institutional corruption in City Hall, and it would also be difficult to end the destruction of Moscow's historical and cultural landmarks or the construction of ugly buildings simply by naming "the right guy" to the job — regardless of whether he or she is a liberal reformer or a new tough boss who knows the city well.

In short, it would be impossible to remove the fundamental problems that cripple Moscow without making profound changes to the entire country. As sad as it might sound, it would be better to leave Moscow's current system in place, even if this means maintaining the city's high level of corruption and inefficiency. The new mayor won't be able to significantly improve the situation anyway, and in the worst case he could cause the whole system to collapse in a matter of weeks. That is why it would be better not to meddle with anything until the federal leadership decides that it is time to make changes nationwide.

 

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