Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

EDITORIAL 12.10.10

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at:


media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month october 12, edition 000649, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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







































































Anti-India venom was in full flow at a recent 'seminar' organised by UN in Delhi to promote Kashmiri separatists and their agenda

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reflected the growing Anglo-American itch to interfere in Jammu & Kashmir with his recent comments about the need to end the unrest in the Valley, hints about expansion of the Security Council and the pious hope that India and Pakistan would furnish an 'official request' for the UN to play a role in Kashmir. He did admit India was a victim of international terrorism but declined to identify its source.

Mr Ban Ki-moon's denial that the UN was planning to interfere in Jammu & Kashmir followed strong private (possibly also official) protests over the UN Information Centre's ill-conceived decision to host an India Ragdo (crush India)-type of seminar in its official premises on September 29. 

Touted as a dialogue, Sisters for Peace: Voices from Kashmir, the seminar was organised by the Women's Initiative for Peace in South Asia, the National Foundation for India and the UN Information Centre. The invitees were rabid secessionist women from Srinagar; the panelists were proudly anti-Hindu Left-liberals in whose ranks minority speakers and panelists could disguise their politico-religious agendas. 

The zero representation provided to other stakeholders — nationalist Indian Hindus, ousted Kashmiri Pandits, Jammu Hindus, Sikhs from Kashmir Valley and Jammu Province, Buddhists from Ladakh, Shia and tribal Muslims from all parts of the State — made the seminar possibly the most blatant instance of a Dialogue Minus the Nation. It was brazenly for and about Sunni Muslims of the Valley. So startlingly upfront was its political intent to promote the Syed Ali Shah Geelani faction of Hurriyat Conference that New Delhi must demand an official inquiry and transfer of UN officials who approved the decision to host it and cleared the list of invitees and panelists. I noted the presence of one Anna Stanhammar, who maintained discreet silence and left before the arrival of the Union Home Secretary, who was invited to accept the seminar's recommendations. 

The seminar's slant was obvious from the extreme impatience towards the few dissident voices. Mr Sajjad of Kargil, Ladakh, protested that "only the Valley wants azadi...We are suffering, tourist buses are being attacked and sent back, but we do not want azadi... The (all-party) peace delegation never came to us". He was rudely asked to "shut up".

A Pandit refugee said the mass exodus of four lakh Hindus in 1990 was to erase the Indian identity and pluralism of Kashmir Valley. It was followed by further massacres such as 1997 Sangrampura, then Nandimarg, then Chittisingpora, and now the Sikhs have got an ultimatum. When he said a nurse called Sarla Bhatt, who kept a tab on the militants, was cut into two pieces, he was simply silenced. Thereafter, Ms Meenakshi Gopinath (a candidate for the Vice-Chancellor's job in Delhi University from which post her insidious agenda can be promoted more vigorously), advised speakers to "stop the litany of injustices and break out of victimhood". This sage counsel was exclusive to Hindus; all Kashmiri Muslim women were given the liberty to defame the security forces and demand secession from India.

Following this homily, Ms Anjum Zamarud Habib of the Geelani Hurriyat faction made an intensely political speech, calling India a 'slave nation' and demanding that Jammu & Kashmir be seen as an issue of self-determination and not law and order. "Boys with stones in their hands can never be defeated. I tell you, they can never be defeated." Her thundering declamation astonished even the organisers who asked her to wind up, at which she retorted, "I will not speak at all if you stop me." They were cowed and never stopped a single Muslim speaker thereafter. She continued, "Young boys are carrying coffins on their shoulders daily, women are dishonoured, men are alive to take revenge — that is the reality." Attempts by a retired General and a CRPF officer to correct this mischief were treated with polite disdain.

Another woman said they had a right to protest against India. "Hamara buniyadi haq hai azadi." She was allowed to show a film clip of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and what purported to be Army violence (actually patrolling) in the streets. Then she chanted slogans for secession from India, to which Ms Nancy Kaul, convener, Daughters of Vitasta, took strong objection. 

At this disruption, Ms Sayeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, of Minister of State rank, came rushing across the hall with Ms Mohini Giri, former chairperson, National Women's Commission, and daughter-in-law of late President VV Giri. Walking past the shouting secessionist, both women made straight for Ms Kaul and made her sit down, even as the separatist continued her anti-India diatribe. 

When the commotion settled, this writer raised a point of order: "This was supposed to be a non-political seminar, yet provocative political speeches preaching secession have been made in the presence of a serving Member of the Planning Commission and a former chairperson of the National Women's Commission; can you two ladies please clarify your position on the same?" At this, Ms Hameed clammed up, while Ms Giri pleaded, "She has the right to speak, my daughter, let us listen to all." A rabid woman journalist piped up, "We cannot isolate Zamruda; they all speak like this in Srinagar and the streets of Kashmir." 

Emboldened, Ms Quratulain, a teacher in a Government college in Srinagar, asserted that Jammu & Kashmir was a 60-year-old problem, especially in the last two decades and again the last four months. Since the death of a youth in June this year, she said, "no MLA can face the mob and go to his constituency. India cannot keep Jammu & Kashmir without use of force. The youth are on the side of Geelani, education and development are rejected by Jammu & Kashmir..." 

Since this anti-national seminar got its weight from women holding Government posts, the Union Government needs to examine the sedition laws and take appropriate action. 

Finalising the recommendations to submit to the Union Home Secretary (whom UN officials failed to alert regarding the content of the proceedings), Ms Hameed endorsed Ms Jyotsna Chatterjee's suggestion of peace committees on the pattern of East Timor. Surely she is aware that the UN partitioned Indonesia in violation of its Charter which states that it will not promote secessionist tendencies in any member state? 

Former Member of Parliament Subhasini Ali said interlocutors being appointed by the Union Home Ministry must include 50 per cent women. It is our considered opinion that none of those present at the seminar are eligible for a mission to rescue the nation.







As was widely expected and specifically articulated in these columns last week, the Governor of Karnataka, Mr HR Bhardwaj, has chosen to play a despicably partisan role, making a mockery of the constitutional post he holds and fetching shame to his office. The direct involvement of Mr Bhardwaj in manufacturing dissent among a handful of BJP MLAs and Independent legislators who had aligned themselves with the party in order to destabilise the Government headed by Mr BS Yeddyurappa has been evident all along. It is amazing that these 16 MLAs, who should have submitted their resignation letters to the Speakers if their dissent been genuine, chose to meet Mr Bhardwaj at Raj Bhavan and informed him of their 'decision'. Sticking to the script drafted by him, the Governor asked Mr Yeddyurappa to seek a vote of confidence to demonstrate his majority on the floor of the Assembly. This was nothing but a deceitful ploy to pretend adherence to constitutionalism while working overtime to undermine the Constitution. As much was evident when Mr Bhardwaj, in gross violation of established norms, practices and privileges, wrote to the Speaker, instructing him how to conduct the confidence vote and thus seeking to usurp, in the most shamelessly brazen manner, the presiding officer's rights. It is laudable that the Speaker not only rebuked Mr Bhardwaj but went ahead with his decision to disqualify the MLAs. Those who are finding fault with this decision would do well to remember that the Congress resorted to the same move in Goa while dislodging the BJP from power: If that was right, so is this right. But such facts are wasted on a scheming politician for whom the Raj Bhavan is an extension counter of the Congress to be used for hatching conspiracies against the incumbent BJP Government. Snubbed by the Speaker, Mr Bhardwaj has refused to acknowledge the voice vote with which Mr Yeddyurappa's motion was carried on Monday — the pre-planned disruption of the proceedings by Congress's agents prevented a formal division — and predictably recommended the imposition of President's rule. It remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will endorse this crude assault on democracy and subversion of the Constitution. 

There are three issues at stake in Karnataka. First, should a bunch of corrupt MLAs willing to strike a Faustian deal for a fistful of silver be allowed to hold an elected Government and an entire State to ransom? Second, should partisan individuals like Mr Bhardwaj be allowed to get away with undermining democracy by abusing their office? Third, should the Union Cabinet be allowed to take an irreversible decision on sacking an elected Government and imposing President's rule without allowing the judiciary to decide whether the Speaker has acted within the ambit of the law? The Congress has a long history of sacking State Governments, starting with the dismissal of the CPI Government in Kerala headed by EMS Namboodiripad. Since then, it has remorselessly and repeatedly stabbed democracy in the back, showing scant regard and lesser respect for the Constitution. Such criminal misdeed must not go unpunished.







The long-pending appointment of members to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has exposed utter callousness of the Ministry of Women and Child Development towards child welfare even as millions of children in India languish in poverty, malnutrition and lack of education. The Ministry for the past 15 months has shown little interest in filling up the vacancies in the NCPCR, whose mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies and programmes at the national and State level are in consonance with the rights enshrined in the Constitution of India and in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Interestingly, way back on March 2, 2009, the Prime Minister's Office had cleared the appointment of four members — Ms Charu Wali Khanna, Ms Seema Sadiq, Mr Ajay Siwach and Mr M Sreedhara Murthy — whose names had been proposed by then Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury. The appointments were put on hold ostensibly because the Election Commission notified the general election and the model code of conduct came into force the same day. However, when the Congress-led UPA Government was voted back to power, the next incumbent in the Ministry, Ms Krishna Tirath, instead of getting the already delayed nomination procedure completed and take matters forward, chose to nominate a fresh set of names. As a consequence, the Ministry is yet to get the names of the new members approved by the PMO, a prerequisite as the posts carry the rank of Secretary. In a way, she has blatantly overruled the earlier decision and is now stuck with no decision.

The incident reflects two facts. The Ministers in the Manmohan Singh Government function at their own whims and fancies and are not bothered about the Prime Minister's approval. And, despite all tall talk, the Ministry of Women and Child Development cares little about ameliorating the plight of those who live on the margins. While our Finance Minister gloats about our growing economy, children suffer from malnutrition or die of starvation and diseases like diarrhoea. According to the 2001 Census, there were 1,26,66,377 child workers in India with Uttar Pradesh alone accounting for 19,27,997 working children. They not only toil away with their gaunt little hands to earn some extra pennies for their impoverished families, but lose their childhood under the burden of labour. With increasing privatisation of the healthcare system, they have little access to healthcare. Sadly, they do not even find mention as a separate category in the Government's National Health Policy 2000. This when according to UNAIDS, there are 1,70,000 children infected by HIV/AIDS in India. The Prime Minister, who advises world leaders on the merits of "inclusive growth", would do well to conduct a reality check at home. This might get Ministers like Ms Krishna Tirath to get things moving and not sleep over files.








The decision of the Nobel Committee to honour the Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo at a time of transition in China from economic to political re-structuring could rekindle fears of an externally-inspired attempt to destabilise the country. The ultimate losers will be the advocates of political re-structuring

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, 2010, to the imprisoned Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo, the co-author of Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto signed by more than 300 prominent Chinese scholars, writers, and activists and published online on December 10, 2008 — the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights — could be counter-productive.

The Charter, emulating Charter 77 issued by dissidents in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, calls for the implementation of the guarantees of China's Constitution and for institutions in China upholding democratic reforms, human rights, and the rule of law. It warns of national disaster in the absence of political change and makes 19 recommendations to improve human rights in China, including the establishment of an independent judiciary, freedom of association and an end to one-party rule.

Instead of embarrassing the Chinese political leadership, the award has made it defiant as could be seen from the writings in the Chinese media condemning the award, which is seen as politically motivated. The Communist Party-controlled Global Times wrote in an editorial on October 9: "The controversy in the West over Liu Xiaobo's sentence is not based on legal concerns. They are trying to impose Western values on China. Obviously, the Nobel Peace Prize this year is meant to irritate China, but it will not succeed. On the contrary, the committee disgraced itself. The award, however, makes it clearer that it is difficult for China to win applause from the West during China's development, and China needs to be more determined and confident in choosing its own development path, which is different from Western approach.

The Nobel committee made an unwise choice, but it and the political force it represents cannot dictate China's future growth. China's success story speaks louder than the Nobel Peace Prize."

The award is also seen as another attempt to humiliate China similar to the attempt made before the Beijing Olympics of August, 2008, to organise a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Games as a mark of Western disapproval of alleged human rights violations in China. The boycott move failed partly because the then US President George W Bush was opposed to any boycott which could be seen as a Western-inspired humiliation of China and partly because the indignant Chinese people called for a boycott of Western goods and Western departmental stores in China.

In an article, the same issue of the Global Times quotes Mr Shi Yinhong, a Professor in the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, as saying as follows: "The Nobel committee claims to be independent, but its decision to award the peace prize to Liu strategically caters to anti-China forces. The decision is aimed at humiliating China. Such a decision will not only draw the ire of the Chinese public, but also damage the reputation of the prize."

The award is badly timed because it has come in the midst of a debate in China on the need for political re-structuring as a follow-up to the economic re-structuring which the country has undergone with great benefit since Deng Xiao-ping opened up the Chinese economy in 1978. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has been in the forefront of this debate and has been increasingly articulate in calling for greater transparency in governance and greater freedom of speech which would allow constructive criticism of the way China is governed. Advocates of political re-structuring have been pointing out that ultimately the economic re-structuring would have to be followed up by political re-structuring at an opportune time when the political opening-up would not lead to political and economic instability.

The confidence gained by the political leadership as a result of the successful handling of the economic crisis, which had led to the closure of a large number of export industries and consequent loss of millions of jobs, has encouraged the debate on the need for taking up the task of political re-structuring envisaged by Deng himself. An article carried by the Global Times on August 23 pointed out: "Wen's remarks about political reform (at Shenzhen) came 30 years after the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping first raised the issue during an important speech on August 18, 1980, which was regarded as "the programmatic document for China's political restructuring".

Thus, the current debate on the need for political reforms is seen as nothing but the beginning of the implementation of a promise made by Deng himself in 1980. When Mr Jiabao and others speak of the need for political reforms, they do not mean the winding-up of the one-party rule as fondly hoped for by human rights activists in the West, but the identification and eradication of the negative aspects of the one-party rule. When Mr Jiabao talks of the need for freedom of speech, he means freedom to constructively criticise Government policies and working instead of having to implicitly support them. How to have public accountability under a one-party rule? That is one of the questions being posed during this debate.

It would have been in the interest of the West to let this debate develop and result in a genuine re-structuring of the political set-up in China. Instead, by giving the award to a dissident who has only limited following inside China and calling for political reforms, the Nobel Committee and those supporting its award would only strengthen the hands of those who are opposing any political restructuring of the Chinese set-up.

The Chinese leadership and people are fearful of any instability which could wipe out the considerable economic gains made by the country since 1978. The decision of the Nobel Committee to honour the dissident at a time of transition in China from economic to political re-structuring could rekindle fears of an externally-inspired attempt to destabilise the country. The ultimate losers will be the advocates of political re-structuring. 

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







The announcement of the 2010 Nobel Prize winners this week coincided with two anniversaries. October 2010 marks 35 years since Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and 20 years since Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded his.

This year, the Nobel Peace Prize was again conferred on a dissident and human rights activist like Sakharov, China's Liu Xiaobo. The Chinese laureate will not be able to travel to Oslo to collect his award in person, as he has just begun serving an 11-year prison term back home for allegedly plotting a coup. History repeats itself: Sakharov could not come to Oslo for his Nobel, either, as he was living in internal exile at the time.

Fifteen years after awarding the Soviet dissident, the Nobel Committee turned its attention to the leader of the USSR's Communist Party, Mr Gorbachev. It then spent the next 20 years touring the world, only to return to another campaigner for 'fundamental human rights' living in a country that is a permanent UN Security Council member and whose political system is not necessarily based on Western democratic principles.

This zigzag belies a consistent strategy, in fact. The Nobel Committee's U-turn from Sakharov to Mr Gorbachev had less to do with a change in worldview of the Norwegian Nobel Committee than a tectonic shift in world politics. The Soviet Union turned from a competitor and a Cold War adversary of the West into a constructive partner, willing to meet its former rivals halfway. The country humbly retreated from Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall. And it did so while Mr Gorbachev was in power. So it was only natural that the Nobel went to him.

But what do the five sages of the Nobel Committee, elected by the Norwegian Parliament, have to do with this, you may be asking yourself? Ideally, they should act as a modern-day Areopagus, removed from the nuts and bolts of world politics and concerned only with high, immortal values. As Alfred Nobel wrote in his will, the Peace Prize should be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing Armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

However, such abstract categories cannot hold up against the harsh realities of life. And so the Nobel Peace Prize has always been extremely politicised. In the past few decades, the committee's sympathies have been with the US-Nato-Western Europe camp. To prove this, look at the last three Nobel Peace Prize laureates before Liu.

One is former US Vice-President Al Gore, honoured for his work exploring the implications of global man-made climate change and developing measures to prevent them. Studying climate change is important, by all means, but this is more about science than the struggle for peace. As for preventive measures, the recent Icelandic volcano eruption and the heat wave that struck central Russia this past summer prove that no one has found a way yet to 'manage' Mother Nature.

After Mr Gore came Finland's Martti Ahtisaari, the mastermind behind the harsh peace settlement in the former Yugoslavia along Nato and EU lines, a staunch supporter of the Nato's bombing of Serbia and an architect of Kosovo's sovereignty. Far from peace, these efforts have escalated tensions in the Balkans, Europe's powder keg.

US President Barack Obama was awarded the Peace Prize last year, and not without controversy. To be sure, the committee had strayed from Nobel's will repeatedly, but they were mostly minor deviations. Also, how committed some of the laureates actually were to peace — such as Henry Kissinger, Yassir Arafat, Le Duc Tho, Yitzhak Rabin — remains in doubt. Even so, all of these people were awarded for some concrete peace-related achievements, such as signed peace treaties or approved roadmaps to peace. Those accords may have been broken later on and the roadmaps may have never led anywhere, but the important thing is to have some real, tangible result of a laureate's efforts to promote peace — a result that would prove his or her commitment.

As for Mr Obama, he had not produced any such result by the time the Nobel Peace Prize was announced. He was awarded in advance, for good intentions and election-year promises. The Nobel Committee took this unprecedented step in an apparent attempt to please a global power, which generated a lot of criticism. Some claimed that the committee had compromised its independent status and violated Nobel's last wishes.

Awarding the 2010 Peace Prize to Liu fits in with the Nobel Committee's trans-Atlantic strategy. During the height of the Cold War, the committee occasionally honoured some of the most uncompromising and vehement opponents of the Soviet regime. In 1970, for instance, they awarded the literature prize to Alexander Solzhenitsyn. According to the committee's official statement, he was awarded the Prize for upholding the traditions of Russian classical literature, but this explanation could not be taken seriously. As for the Sakharov's Peace Prize in 1970, it had clear political motivations.

It is hard to say whether this year's award to the Chinese dissident, in keeping with the Solzhenitsyn-Sakharov model, is a harbinger of a new Cold War between the West and China. But there can be no doubt that Beijing will take this as an unfriendly, politically motivated gesture. 

-- The writer is a RIA Novosti political affairs commentator. 







While Europe's latest terror threat stems from militants in Pakistan, a potentially greater menace lies just across the Mediterranean: Well-organised and financed Islamic terrorists from Al Qaeda's North African offshoot. Over the last month alone, the group has been accused of seizing five French nationals and two Africans from a mining town in Niger, part of its effort to make millions by kidnapping Europeans and getting ransoms. It is also blamed for a truck bombing, last Saturday in Algeria that left five soldiers dead.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb effectively rules a wide, lawless swath of the Sahara and is trying to overthrow Algeria's Government. It is active online and media-savvy, and has the globally recognised Al Qaeda brand name. It has also sparked arrests in Spain and France.

The question now is how far it has the will and means to turn its anger on Europe.

French and US counterintelligence officials suggest AQIM's logistics and networks are not yet mature enough to stage an attack on a European capital, but say it is a broad and constant threat. France's Prime Minister said on Friday that the group is in touch with fellow fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US military is worried enough that it trains African Armies to resist AQIM. "For years, I've said this — and we've known — that AQIM has capabilities to project outwards outside of Africa. ... It's just that no one understands the dynamics from Europe to Africa and back to Afghanistan," said Mr Rudolph Atallah, who has retired from his post as Africa Counterterrorism Director in the office of the US Secretary of Defence and now runs private security firm White Mountain Research.

For Europe, homegrown terrorists have long been a central concern. French authorities watch out for dual nationals who fall under AQIM's spell, via extremist websites or preachers in private prayer meetings in poor suburbs. Algerian militants who blended in with Europe's large North African immigrant community were linked to the 2004 Madrid bombings and killed eight and wounded scores of people in the 1990s in attacks in the Paris Metro. "If unfortunately a terrorist operation occurs, it will come from networks within those European nations," said Mr Mohand Berkouk, political scientist at the University of Algiers who specalises in Sahara and Sahel geostrategy.

The US Government warned Americans this week of new terror risks in Europe. Focus fell on Pakistan, where US drones have struck suspected Al Qaeda targets and where Pakistani officials say eight German militants have been killed. But two French counterintelligence officials said in recent days that terrorists tied to AQIM — and not Pakistan — are France's No. 1 security threat. One official says at least six AQIM-related cells have been dismantled across Europe in recent years. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. French National Police Chief Frederic Pechenard said last week that authorities suspect AQIM of plotting a bomb attack on a crowded target.

AQIM's operational ability to target something as prominent and well-guarded as the Eiffel Tower — evacuated twice in recent weeks because of bomb threats — remains unclear. A senior US counterterrorism official said AQIM is still considered an "underperforming" terror group that is quite dangerous in the region but not yet as able to direct attacks much beyond that.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said AQIM has faced internal battles, and as long as it is under pressure from Algerian security forces, it has been harder for them to export terror outside the region.

AQIM was born in 2006 when Al Qaeda adopted a violent group of Islamic insurgents in Algeria called the GSPC. The nucleus of devoted radicals proved ready to recruit and train fighters for Afghanistan and Iraq, and gave Osama bin Laden's network a potential forward base to attack Europe.

Today, AQIM is believed to have about 400 fighters active from Niger to Mali and Mauritania, conducts dozens of bombings or ambushes each month in Algeria, holds hostages and has increasingly bonded with drug traffickers, intelligence officials say.

AQIM's long-term goal is to create an Islamic state stretching beyond North Africa, and it has repeatedly threatened both France and Spain. France has troops in Afghanistan, a colonial history in North Africa and a new law forbidding Islamic face veils. Al Qaeda also says the reconquest of al-Andalus is a priority, referring to the period of Muslim rule of much of Spain in medieval times.

Algeria's African affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel decries ransom payments, calling for the UN to intervene to fight them. "It's not enough to say that we are against the payment of ransoms to terrorists. European institutions must take measures to criminalise this act," he said on Algerian radio. For Algeria, AQIM is a nightmare that authorities had hoped ended after the insurgency in the 1990s that left some 2,00,000 dead. 

A greater concern for the US and French officials are weaker Governments to the south, particularly Mali. A counter-terrorism action group created at France's urging will meet in Mali next week to boost the region's efforts to fight terrorism. 







MONDAY'S chaos in the Karnataka legislative assembly has exposed the Yeddyurappa government's utter disregard for democratic principles and procedures. This is a government that has failed to act against the most blatant cases of illegal mining as well as mobsters like the Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, but did not hesitate in sending the police to the floor of the assembly to intimidate opposition MLAs during the vote of confidence and the top police officer of the state was allegedly used to prevent the leader of the Opposition from entering the house in clear violation of the rules. The presence of " outsiders" in the assembly and the sham voice vote clearly vitiated what should have been a transparent democratic process.


Governor H. R. Bhardwaj may have exceeded his brief on Sunday by shooting off a letter to the Assembly speaker warning against the disqualification of the rebel MLAs. However, the arbitrary manner in which the vote of confidence was carried out has vindicated his stance, and lends support to his recommendation that the state be placed under President's rule.


Instead of discharging his duties in accordance with the law, the Assembly Speaker K. G. Bopaiah seems to have been motivated by the need to save the government at any cost. The most blatant example of the speaker's partisanship is his act of disqualifying the five independent MLAs under the Anti- defection Law, which is clearly inapplicable in this case.


The Yeddyurappa government's arrogance stems from the fact that it has been propped up by forces that are essentially undemocratic — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the illegal mining barons. The same barons that have now helped Mr Yeddyurappa win the trust vote with their money and muscle power, had held his government hostage not so long back.


The BJP tactics to preserve Mr Yeddyurappa's chair are unacceptable and they must be held fully accountable for reducing the Karnataka assembly to a farce.







THE gulf between the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BBCI) and former Indian Premier League ( IPL) commissioner Lalit Modi is well- known. Mr Modi's 15,000- page reply to BCCI's show- cause notice earlier this year is just one manifestation of this.


The animosity is probably the main reason why the IPL teams allegedly close to him in terms of overall ownership patterns — Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab — have been scrapped.


But it does raise the question as to the processes followed to do so. For instance, the other team with dubious ownership credentials— Kochi— has been given enough time to respond to BCCI's show- cause notice, but the other two seem to have been dealt with summarily.


Double standards also seem to have been applied in the case of the Chennai Super Kings which is owned by its secretary and presidentelect N. Srinivasan and whose brand ambassador is national chief selector K. Srikkanth.


BCCI could well end up cutting its nose to spite its face. Cricket purists may disdain it, but the $ 4 billion IPL franchise is indeed a money- spinner for the BCCI and an excellent platform for India's domestic players to earn good money and hone their craft.







PERVEZ Musharraf's short political career seems to be heading for a grisly end. Talal Bugti, the son of Nawab Akbar Bugti who was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2006 has offered a bounty of Rs 1 billion and 1000 acres of land for anyone who can behead the retired General, who is currently living in London. Musharraf has hastily pointed out that Nawab Bugti was killed while resisting the Frontier Corps, and that the chain of responsibility is far removed from his own person as president and chief of army staff.


But it was General Mushrraf who had initiated the military operations against the Baloch in early 2005, leading to widespread destruction and deaths. In December 2005 he intensified the operations warning Nawab Bugti " this time you won't know what hit you." Talal Bugti's action is obviously occasioned by the anger arising out of the circumstances of his aged father's killing and cannot be justified, but it is a warning to those who live by the sword; they can also perish by it.








THE parallel is not exact, but the Asian scene in which President Barack Obama's visit to India takes place next month is not entirely different from the one in which President Nixon visited Beijing in February 1972. Of course, there is no cold war between Beijing and Washington, or between Beijing and Delhi; the G- 2 absurdity lies buried, but the Sino- US relationship will remain close and of singular importance to either partner.


However, because of the rise of new powers on the world stage, the Asian strategic scene is in flux and the search is on for a new equilibrium of peace and stability in the Old Continent.


The United States' relations with China & Japan are well established. USRussia relations are evolving in a mutually agreed direction. Forward movement in US- India relations was interrupted with George W. Bush's exit from the White House. There is need for clarity of purpose and direction on both sides, which, hopefully, the forthcoming summit will provide.


American aims have been made clear: Washington recognises India as a rising power with important regional and world roles. Senior American officials have been saying that the President's visit will transform US- India relations into a defining relationship of the twenty- first century.


The President himself has said that he wants to make history in Delhi.


Much will naturally also depend on how our authorities, parliament and people treat this visit. It is time to close the books on the past, put small things aside, and forge a forward looking relationship worthy of the world's two great Democracies.




There is a lesson for both sides in the 1972 Nixon- Mao summit in Beijing. While the Americans and the Chinese exchanged views on everything under the sun— including their shared contempt of India — the focus, all the time, was firmly on the big strategic picture. The Chinese did not ask for much, but there was much giving by the greater power. That meeting laid the foundations of China's future dynamism and dramatic economic growth with the West's help.


The obvious areas of common American and Indian interest and future cooperation are defense and security including Cyber security; enhancement of India's economy and market through industrial and agricultural development; energy; and collaborative exploration of outer space.


There is a good deal of on- going cooperation between the two countries in education and agriculture. India now needs a second Green Revolution which American scientific and technological cooperation will greatly facilitate. In energy and environment- related issues, there is no virtue, or national gain, in our fronting for China. In contrast, India is still a very low carbon economy. We should, therefore, look for deals with the US and the leading European countries to enhance & harness our alternative energy resources, such as shale gas.


Since the mid 1990s defense cooperation between the two countries has made some progress, but much more is needed for modernisation of India's military. India should initiate the process by opting for 126 multi- role fighter jets from the US. Deals of this magnitude should be struck with an eye on political and strategic gain: in that context the choice between Sweden Sweden and US should be obvious.


There is huge scope for cooperation in space, and in the Indian Ocean. Maritime security is of common concern to both countries. Sooner or later China is bound to enter the Indian Ocean. It is for India, the US and other established maritime powers to manage this new development in such a way that the Chinese navy's advent in the Indian Ocean is not conflictual or confrontational but peaceful and cooperative. In view of India's large and growing interests and responsibilities in the Ocean and its outreach regions, India's maritime capabilities will require considerable expansion in the next 10 to 15 years.




It is to be hoped that the solemnity, the logic and the high strategic purpose of President Obama's visit will not be marred by bureaucratic wrangling over small things. Once the larger relationship is in place, matters like visa fees, outsourcing, entities lists, tariffs etc. will get resolved without too much argument and noise. Because of the hang- ups of a long, estranged past, we often, tend to be a little too demanding, or unnecessarily inhibited in responding even to wellmeaning American initiatives. A case in point is our Nuclear Liability Law. In June this year, President Obama had gone out of his way to back a reprocessing agreement.


Our liability legislation virtually excludes private American suppliers from competing in the Indian nuclear energy market. What a reward for a country without whose initiative and generosity, India would have remained a nuclear pariah! American grievance in this regard is justified; it should be appropriately addressed.


There is an impression in Washington that " the big thing India wants is Pakistan', that it will ask the President to pressure Pakistan regarding cross- border terrorism, or urge him to stop supplying arms to Pakistan. India's Pakistan obsession is a thing of the past, and Americans should be disabused of their false notions of imagined Indian complexes. We have the strength and the confidence to deal suitably with Pakistan on our own in any eventuality.


In their predicament with Pakistan, the Americans deserve our understanding and sympathy. For successful conduct of the war against Taliban, the Americans need Pakistan, and the smart Pakistani Generals have the US over the barrel. We should leave them alone to sort all this out in their own way in their own good time.




In Afghanistan our economic and social development work is popular with the people, and its worth as a stabilising factor is beginning to be recognised by the US. It is too bad that Pakistan does not like what we are doing for the good of the Afghan people. Clearly, Americans are not going to quit Afghanistan in a hurry, and certainly not in defeat at the hands of Taliban Lashkars operating from bases in Pakistan. If they propose any more practicable ways of India helping them, we should consider them.


For the rest, CTBT, FMCT, are nonissues.


India will sign the first when all the others have done it; and we can now safely engage in FMCT negotiations. As regards nuclear disarmament — President Obama's amour propre — Indian and US positions have converged. We should give a full- throated positive endorsement to the President's initiative.


I believe there are gains for India in the Proliferation Security Initiative and we should be part of it. We should also offer, for the President's consideration, to sign the NPT as a nuclear weapon power. This will lead to its natural culmination President Bush's Nuclear Energy initiative.


I always feel vicariously humiliated when our government asks every visiting dignitary to support India's case for permanent membership of the U. N. Security Council. U. N. reform is 10, perhaps 15 or 20 years in the future. There is strength, and dignity and power, in not asking.


Why can't we learn from the Chinese to be patient and wait for our time?


The writer is a former foreign secretary








UNION Minister for Heavy Industries Vilasrao Deshmukh must have been quietly satisfied at the events in Karnataka. The Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa was faced a stiff challenge from the rebels in his own party and though he won the trust vote, his government still appears to be in danger.


About nine years ago, Deshmukh had to face a similar test in Maharashtra when he was the Chief Minister. It began in a similar fashion— with discontent in the Congress's alliance partner the Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP). One after another legislator started talking how the work in their constituencies were not being completed. They spoke of how their own government had disappointed them.


Deshmukh did not pay much attention to these complaints, or rather preferred to have fun at NCP's expense. The simmering revolt was being fanned by the then Leader of the Opposition Narayan Rane and the BJP under Gopinath Munde was playing companion to him.


The wind seemed to be sailing in Rane's side until he started Deshmukh had many nervous moments when his govt was under threat poaching Congress legislators.


Several Congress legislators were lured to luxury clubs run by Sena corporators. It was then that Deshmukh woke up to the real threat to his throne and he decided to act swiftly.


He then tapped his sources in the BJP, especially his close friend who is in the Lok Sabha now. This leader told him that it was all engineered by the Sena and if he wanted his flock to remain intact, he must move them outside.


It was then that the NCP legislators were taken to Indore in Madhya Pradesh and the Congress legislators were taken to a resort- cum- spa in Bangalore owned by film producer Sanjay Khan. BJP activists, headed by Nitin Gadkari and his close aide Vinod Tawde were keeping a constant watch on possible rebels and were masterminding the strategies after Deshmukh's friend withdrew himself from the action.


After a tense week, the Deshmukh government won the vote of confidence in the state assembly.


But not before a few NCP legislators were expelled. It worked both ways — it reduced the magic number for a majority and also served as a lesson to other possible detractors. It helped that the NCP man Arun Gujarati was the Assembly Speaker. Unlike the Karnataka assembly speaker K. G. Bopaiah, though, Gujarati took extreme caution to fit his judgment within the frame of law.


The battle in Karnataka was also fought on similar lines. Discontent against Yeddyurappa was fanned by the JD- S and the Congress, BJP legislators were taken to a resort in Goa ( with a small drama at the Mumbai airport where Tawde, who watched over Congress legislators then, played a guard to his party MLAs for over nine hours) and were brought to Bengaluru just in time for the trust vote.


The Karnataka speaker also used the same weapon— expulsion of MLAs to swing the game in BJP's favour.


It is interesting to see how politicians from all parties suddenly start accusing each other of lowering the moral standards and putting the democracy on sale. When the BJP did it in 2000 it was Chanakyaneeti and now that it suffers the same fate in Karnataka, it is Congressneeti.



MUMBAI University vice chancellor Dr Raj Velukar's knee jerk reaction to the agitation by the Shiv Sena's student wing took even Chief Minister Ashok Chavan by surprise.


Dr Velukar offered to remove Rohinton Mistry's acclaimed book Such A Long Journey from the BA syllabus after the Sena, at the behest of Uddhav Thackeray's son Aditya, threatened violent protests. Their reason to oppose the book was quite surprising— the book had one paragraph against the party.


The varsity's step to ban the book played into the hands of the Sena as plans are afoot to launch Aditya as the GenNext leader at the annual Dussera rally this year. What better start could the Thackerays have asked for? It straightaway hailed him as the hero of a successful battle.


The war in the form of civic elections in Mumbai, however, is still ahead. It is then that his charisma will be tested against his uncle Raj.


Till then Aditya can bask in the glory of an easily won ambush.



POLITICS makes strange bedfellows. Ask North Mumbai Sanjay Nirupam who was originally an RSS man, moved to Shiv Sena before joining the Congress.


Given his stature in the Sena, Nirupam was expected to be equally dashing in the Congress. But he chose not to attack the Thackerays and worked his ways quietly to become a MP. His victory over Ram Naik in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections was thanks mainly to the MNS candidate who ate into Naik's votes. Ironically, it was Nirupam who was a thorn in Raj's flesh when both were in Sena.


Now Nirupam has joined hands with local BJP leaders against the NCP in his constituency. He has organised a ' dandia raas' with free entry. For the last five years, NCP had hijacked the dandia in Borivali. But Nirupam's offer of free passes could change the rules of game. It was Nirupam who changed the face of Dahihandi in Mumbai after he raised the prize money to ` one lakh.



TWO violent incidents in Maharashtra's naxal- affected Gadchiroli district will keep Home Minister RR Patil on his toes for some time. Starting the week was a landmine blast at Perimeli that killed a few policemen and it ended with a hand grenade blast at an ashramshala in which school children were killed.


Patil has now taken the challenge of becoming the guardian minister of the district. To his credit, he is spending time there, working earnestly to get the inert state machinery moving.


One had the opportunity of sitting through a couple of meetings where Patil took stock of government projects. The situation is more pathetic than what it seems sitting in Mumbai. Except for one official working with women's self- help groups, none seemed to be up to the task.


Many didn't even know the population of the local community. One official refused to accept lobsters could be bred in sweet water when the district collector told him how lobsters from the taluka where he lived were famous and were bred in sweet water. It later turned out this officer was sent there on a punishment posting. When it was revealed how the state government spends lakhs on collecting just 500 litres of milk, sending it to Chandrapur for processing and bringing it back for distribution, Patil was stunned. When he asked why the villagers were not providing buffaloes, he was told the scheme allowed only cows.


Patil didn't know what to say.


Not everything is so gloomy. He inaugurated a project to connect over 100 schoold by video link. The link could also prove useful in propagating government schemes. It turns out that the people don't even know what schemes and projects the government has. The government has now started SMSing three key people in villages when the food grains under the public distribution scheme left godowns and when they are likely to reach PDS shops.


These are small but significant steps.







The political crisis in Karnataka has turned into a constitutional crisis. The drama unfolding over the past one week had pitted the offices of the Speaker and the governor against each other. The ruckus over the confidence vote in the Karnataka assembly on Monday has led the governor to conclude that the constitutional process has been disrupted. He has recommended the dismissal of the Yeddyurappa government. President's rule is not the best option in a democracy. At the same time, the current political impasse in the state needs to be resolved. The ugly power-brokering of the past few weeks has brought things to this pass. A high court judgement is expected to clarify the choices available at this point. 

The Speaker's expulsion of 16 MLAs reduced the effective strength of the House to 208 and made it possible for the BJP to scrape through in a controversial voice vote. Undertaking a voice vote on such a critical issue ought to have been avoided. The vote should have been held in a more transparent manner to avoid controversy. The credibility of the process is now under a cloud. 

The Speaker's decision to expel the MLAs before the vote is also being questioned, since their withdrawal of support may not strictly qualify as an act of defection as the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution defines it. The anti-defection provisions provide two conditions under which a legislator can be disqualified. One, if he has resigned from the political party that set him up as a candidate in the election or, two, if he has voted or abstained in violation of his party's directive. These provisions would have kicked in if the rebels had voted against their party in the confidence vote. Also, five of the expelled legislators were elected as independents and hence, presumably, outside the purview of the anti-defection law. The Speaker's interpretation of the anti-defection law and the timing of his response could give credence to the allegation that his intent was to save the government. 

Once the dust settles, political parties can be asked if they have the numbers to form another government. Hopefully, the process of government formation then will be shaped solely by political factors. The fractured nature of the 2008 verdict and its messy aftermath makes it difficult to expect a stable and principled government. But all possibilities must be explored before fresh elections are ordered in the state. 







After all the speculation, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has kicked its clean-up of the Indian Premier League (IPL) into high gear. Scrapping the Rajasthan and Punjab franchises is a drastic move, and one bound to have a ripple effect through the IPL as a whole. But it must be seen in the context of the allegations of improper ownership and shareholding patterns. If the IPL is to have an international profile alongside the likes of the Premier League, such irregularities cannot be allowed. What can be done, however, is to minimise the uncertainty such an overhaul is bringing about. And there, the BCCI is falling short. 

The rationale for erstwhile IPL commissioner Lalit Modi's ouster and subsequent investigations of the various franchises was the need for transparency. It is a standard that the BCCI itself shows little interest in adhering to. How else to explain the board's abrupt reversal of its earlier decision to send show-cause notices to give the two franchises 15 days to respond to accusations? Or the convoluted web of overlapping interests? BCCI president-in-waiting N Srinivasan, for instance, also happens to be the owner of the Chennai franchise one to which national selector K Srikkanth has links as well. These are blatant instances of conflict of interest that would not pass muster in any organisation serious about transparency. The BCCI must realise that the IPL depends on investor confidence and fan loyalty. And if it does not adhere to the highest levels of probity to retain both, it will simply be a case of 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss'. 









The Babri masjid was built in 1528 at Ayodhya by Mir Baqi, the governor of Ayodhya at the time. He built it adjacent to the Ram chabutra, which is held sacred by the Hindus. This was a clear deviation from the Islamic principle. According to Islam, the places of worship of two religions should be built at a considerable distance from each other. 

When Caliph Omar visited Jerusalem in AD 638, he wanted to offer his prayers. At that moment, he happened to be in the Church of the Resurrection of Jerusalem. The Christian bishop told him he could offer his prayers inside that very church. But the caliph refused. He said that he would offer his prayers at a stone's throw from the church. If he offered his prayers right there inside the church, it would create a controversy in the future. The Muslims of later generations would say that they would build a mosque there because their caliph had offered prayers there. Notwithstanding this historic example, Mir Baqi built a mosque adjoining a Hindu sacred place. This was bound to create problems. 

In 1949, some Hindus placed three idols inside the Babri mosque. Unable to manage the crisis this created, the Muslims reacted: their failure to adopt the prophetic principle in this regard started an unending controversy between the two communities. 

At the time of the Prophet, in the first quarter of the 7th century AD, idol worshippers had placed 360 idols in the premises of the Kabah, Mecca. But the Prophet never reacted. He simply ignored the situation and tried to change people's hearts. And the result was that, within 20 years, Meccans abandoned idol worship and became the followers of the Prophet. Then those Meccans themselves removed the idols from the Kabah without any confrontation or bloodshed. 

In 1991, during the prime ministership of Narasimha Rao, the Indian Parliament passed a legislation called the Places of Worship Act, 1991. According to this Act, the government of India was bound to maintain the status quo of all places of worship on the Indian soil as it stood in 1947. But there was an exception that of the Babri masjid of Ayodhya. The Act maintained that the Babri masjid issue was in court, so the government would wait and it would be its duty to implement the verdict of the court when it was given. 

This Act was a most reasonable one and Muslims should have accepted it as such. But they rejected it outright and resorted to street demonstrations. The demolition of the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992, was nothing but the culmination of this negative course of action adopted by the Muslims. At that time i said: "Babri Masjid ko Hinduon ne toda aur Musalmano ne usko tudwaya." (The Hindus demolished the Babri masjid but Muslims provoked them to do so.) 

The Muslims subsequently took the very impractical line that the masjid should be rebuilt on the same spot. At that time, i said that the rebuilding formula was totally unrealistic; Muslims should accept the alternative formula of the relocation of the mosque. 

It is a well-known fact that the relocation formula has been adopted by Arab countries. When these countries wanted to replan their cities, they found that there were many mosques that were obstacles to city planning. They did not hesitate to relocate such mosques. I said at the time that Muslims in India ought to adopt this same formula and accept the relocation of the Babri mosque. But again the Muslims refused. 

Now, after the judicial verdict on September 30, 2010, the Muslims are generally saying that this verdict is contrary to their hopes and they will challenge it in the Supreme Court. But this is not going to solve the problem. It is an emotional reaction to the verdict and not a well-considered response. 

Suppose the Muslims refer the issue to the Supreme Court and suppose it issues a judgement in their favour. Even then it will not solve the problem. The Muslims themselves set a precedent in 1985, which is enough to predict the situation as it will unfold. 

In 1985, the Supreme Court issued a judgement in the Shah Bano case, which ran counter to Muslim aspirations. So the Muslims refused to accept the judgement. They took to the streets and the government was compelled to pass a new Act. The Hindus would certainly say that it was now their turn to refuse the verdict issued by the Supreme Court. 

The only solution to this problem is for the Muslims to decide to put a full stop to this issue. If they put a comma, then there will be no end to it. We have lost 60 years by putting comma after comma and now this is the last chance to bring closure to the issue so that the relationship between the Hindus and the Muslims may be normalised. And this full stop means either leaving it to the government to implement the verdict or agreeing to the relocation of the Babri mosque. There is, in reality, no third option. 

The writer is an Islamic scholar. 







Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has suggested solving the Sir Creek and Siachen glacier problem areas before tackling the Kashmir issue could build confidence within India and Pakistan, aligning political opinion in a positive direction. Musharraf's suggestion is distracting at best. In the heavily-loaded context of India- Pakistan relations, it is quite possible to get lost in a virtual snowstorm of disputed areas and conflict points scattered over a vast region. The two nations must keep clear sight of the core issues existing between them. Kashmir and terror are at the heart of India-Pakistan dynamics. Without addressing these centrally and working discernibly towards their solution, smaller issues will only fall by the wayside. 

What's surprising is how low Musharraf aims in suggesting that the two countries focus on just Siachen and Sir Creek for now. Going by his own account, the two sides had been on the verge of resolving Kashmir on his watch. And this had been on the basis of the four-point formula suggested by Musharraf: softening of the Line of Control, self-governance, phased withdrawal of troops and joint supervision by India and Pakistan. There's considerable independent evidence supporting Musharraf's claims in this area, including that New Delhi has never denied such claims. Of course, New Delhi would also have to be satisfied that anti-India terror camps have stopped functioning from Pakistani territory, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba has been curbed. 

What's needed at this point, now that the two sides are talking again, is for India-Pakistan negotiations to pick up from where they had left off under Musharraf. Merely settling Sir Creek and Siachen is not going to change things overnight and resolve fundamental issues between India and Pakistan. Move on Kashmir and terror, and everything else will fall into place. 







Pervez Musharraf has rightly suggested that India and Pakistan don't have to wait for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute to mend bilateral ties. Both countries can indeed make some tangible progress by initially focussing on just two disputes Sir Creek and Siachen glacier. Given the burgeoning trust deficit between the two countries, our policymakers should aim for resolving less touchy issues. This will create a positive environment and enable forward movement on more contentious issues like terrorism and Kashmir. 

The current impasse between the two sides is a result of the rigid emphasis on the resolution of core issues. By contrast, New Delhi's approach in the past had been to bypass the most difficult issues while plucking the low-hanging fruit where there could be a meeting of ground between the two sides. The same spirit needs to be revived. For instance, in Sir Creek a 96-km strip of water sandwiched by the marshes of the Rann of Kutch the two navies had conducted a joint survey in 2007 to know the exact conflict area. Yet, a settlement is still hanging fire. What the two sides need to display is political will to walk that extra mile. 

The Siachen issue needs to be resolved from a humanitarian standpoint as well, instead of being held hostage to other issues between India and Pakistan. At an altitude of over 20,000 feet, it is the world's highest battlefield where the two armies are pitted against each other in minus 60:C temperatures. Since the 2003 ceasefire, soldiers have died mainly due to frostbite and avalanches. Isn't it futile to pitch armies against each other in such inhospitable terrain? With regard to India's concern over breach of agreement by Pakistan, we now have the technology to monitor the area without maintaining a large physical presence. 







"You didn't order a special meal!" the flight attendant had barked. 

Seated in row 53F of a non-stop from Newark to aamchi Mumbai, i squirmed as 52F performed the inevitable act of reclining his seat to the fullest. The burly one to my left was fast asleep, drooling on my shoulder, even as the woman to my right balanced her home-made khakras upon the armrest. Crouched in a fetal pose, i had fed on peanuts and now grappled with a lone grape that resisted my fork attack. 

I had transitioned from starters to dessert all in the same plastic tray in less than a minute. The main course was not in my food karma since the airline had botched my vegetarian meal request as usual. The flight attendants had already sashayed to the next row to serve them their poison. If i could do a 16-hour stretch with my head between my knees, i must be able to survive without the main course. 

Not so with the demigods of business class. No sooner had the flight service started than that secret curtain separating business and economy was swished shut, sequestering the elite from the crass. By the continual jingle-jangle of silverware and the heady aroma wafting through the galley, i wondered what courses of 
exotic cuisine were being dished out in bone china with a flower vase to boot. 

Over the years, i have quickly come to realise that more than the choice of hors d'oeuvres and entrees, it is really service that separated the citizens on either side of the curtain. In first or business class, your food comes with a menu itemised by fancy-sounding French words followed by a mouth-watering description. Lolling in that 180-degree reclining leather seat 1A, you won't be shaken awake from slumber by the shoulder. Nor, for that matter, will they leave you hungry if the airline doesn't have the Asian Vegetarian (AVML) selection that you requested. Instead, they will take a fruit slice or two from a leftover fruit platter (FPML) and add a carrot from a raw vegetarian platter (RVML), throwing in a truffle culled from a first-class plate. 

Airline fare that once brought up horrific memories of stale bread and mouldy food has now become an industry mechanised by such secret codes. What once used to be a cornucopia of whatever-the-locals-ate-where-the-plane-took-off-or-was-headed is now transformed into varied examples of fine dining. These days, diabetics and the lactose intolerant have their own meal plan while even the Scandinavian airlines ponder the fine nuances between Muslim, Hindu, Jain and Kosher appetisers. 

Alas, with all that downturn talk, airlines have started cutting corners even with all that variety. One leading US airline figured out it could save over $40,000 annually by dropping one olive from its salads. Of course, economy-class passengers get to bear most of the brunt. Most lower-cost carriers get you to buy arctic-frozen samosas or the ubiquitous vegetable sandwich from their carts. Some don't even have a dining option, forcing you to forage for food in the airport stalls. These treats get interesting as you move outside your comfort zone. 

"Flied lice or snack soup?" the woman struggled with her English in a rural airport stall in China on my way to Beijing. I wasn't in the mood for rice and was willing to let the accent pass. However, the second choice on the menu intrigued me no end. After some attempted phrasebook Mandarin accompanied by hand gestures, i gathered that snake soup was a local delicacy offered only in select outlets. 

Coded in the airline system as a Jain Meal customer, i might settle for an AVML or even a baby meal. But this took the stale economy-class cake. I was now left with my favourite airline dining options of 10 years ago Food or No Food. 








Beneath the layer of a chugging economic powerhouse, a bullish stock market and a 'we-have-arrived' swagger, India's core fundamentals that lie beyond pure economics are still very weak. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute's 2010 Global Hunger Index (GHI) released on Monday, India is ranked 67, miles 'below' China (9), worse off than Sri Lanka (39), Pakistan (52) and Nepal (56). The GHI rated 84 countries on the basis of three equally weighted indicators: the proportion of people who are undernourished, the proportion of children under 5 who are underweight, and the child mortality rate. The real import of India's abysmal status becomes evident when seen in percentage terms: the country is home to a whopping 42 per cent of world's malnourished children and 35 per cent of the developing world's low-birth weight infants. Every year, 2.5 million children die in India, accounting for one in five deaths in the world. Sadly, more than half of these deaths can be prevented if children were well nourished in what the authors of the report have called the "thousand day window of opportunity", which means intense nutritional focus from -9 to +24 months — that is, the pivotal 1,000 days between conception and a child's second birthday.


It is not the first time that the nutritional deficiency has brought India under the unsavoury spotlight. In September, an ActionAid report said that the country's "failure to invest in agriculture and support small farms has left nearly half the country's children malnourished, with one fifth of the one billion plus population going hungry". Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his desire that the government addresses malnutrition on a "war footing". Such data proves once again that the social security net and the delivery systems are not working as seamlessly they are trotted out to be. Most scandalously, they don't even have any nutrition focus. Take the still-defective Public Distribution System. Its focus has always been on rice and wheat. Perilously, the same is the case with the waiting-in-the-pipeline Food Security Act. Why is it that India is so pusillanimous when it comes to bringing about changes in policies? And why does it shrink and go into a hole each time it learns some unpalatable truths from evidence gleaned from international organisations? Isn't it time that we formulate a new format for Integrated Child Development Services that, in its present form, doesn't even cover the nutritional needs of a pregnant mother and by extension her unborn child? In the absence of a nutritional input, many in rural India believe that they can 'cure' distended the stomachs of their famished children by branding them with pokers. Without sounding like a party-pooper, that's how 'ahead' of the pack we are.


Since access to proper healthcare is a right of any child, there's a greater need to tackle the underlying conditions that cause malnutrition in this country. Let the rhetoric stop and the government prioritise nutrition as a key issue in political and policy processes. Otherwise, we will be saddled with a population that will make a mockery of that fashionable mantra: 'demographic dividend'.







For a change, it's not one of those patriotic songs from the AR Rahman stable. John Lennon, who would have turned 70 last week, wrote a song called 'India India' during his, Hare Krishna phase, and it has finally been released. Indian Lennon fans should be exclaiming 'John Guru Deva, Om', but we suggest to hold your horses. Recorded in 1969, the year when Rajesh Khanna was king and the top-grossing Hindi film was the Khanna-Sharmila Tagore starrer, Aradhana,Lennon's idea of India has, well, dated badly.


This was the time when India was still the land of snakecharmers. Indira Gandhi was on her first term as PM and when Lennon asks in the  song, "India, India, take me to your heart/ Reveal your ancient mysteries to me," he isn't being as much a cliché-mongerer on the lines of Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love but a superstar backpacker of the times.


So before you light those joss-sticks and put on those granny glasses to listen to Indian spirituality via Carnaby Street, remember that 'India India' will be a bit out of sync. Our suggestion: listen to Abbey Road, that brilliant 1969 Beatles album instead. Don't get suckered by that 'India connect' ruse in every story.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





People's faith in the rule of law can't be interpreted as their unquestioning acceptance of law that is based on faith. Unfortunately, such an interpretation is what appears from the judgement delivered by the three-member Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on the over 60-year-old petitions seeking adjudication of the title deed of ownership of the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land. These judicial pronouncements are, therefore, seen by many as more a political adjudication than a legal one. Surely there will be appeals in the Supreme Court.


LK Advani, who spearheaded the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation by leading the infamous 'rath yatra' that culminated in a bloody trail of communal riots and the eventual demolition of the Babri Masjid, has rushed into claiming that, "the situation no longer is faith versus law, it is faith upheld by law".


In the evolution of human civilisation, the dividing line between mythology and history and between theology and philosophy has always resulted in conflict situations. The ease with which myths are passed off as real historical facts have, indeed, laid the foundations of many constructs of nationalism. Noted writer Karen Armstrong, in her work on the history of myths informs that they assume a peculiar character of being real while not based on reality. On the widely held belief that myths constitute the collective historical memory of the people, noted historian Eric Hobsbawm says: "It's not a question of people constantly remembering: they remember because someone is constantly reminding them." So, people are constantly reminded in order to rouse their passions to serve a political end.


In a modern, secular, democratic republic, such matters will have to be settled in the political realm. In the judicial realm, the courts are meant to adjudicate on the basis of evidence, facts and legal provisions and not on the basis of "faith' and "belief'. The symbol of justice, universally, is that of a lady with her eyes covered and holding a pair of scales that are evenly balanced. Justice, thus, is blind to the relative strengths of the political mobilisations, or, for that matter, any other social strength of the contesting claims. It is based entirely on the law of the land that is derived from our Constitution.


Naturally, this judgement raises many serious questions. For instance, would the judgement have been the same if the Babri Masjid was not demolished and continued to stand today? This is relevant in the sense that when the petitions were filed before the court, the Babri Masjid stood on that very spot. Does the judgement, therefore, justify the demolition? The demolition was universally condemned and is seen as the biggest disfigurement of secularism, which the apex court decreed as a fundamental feature of our Constitution. In fact, on this basis, the apex court had upheld the then P.V. Narasimha Rao government's decision to dismiss some state governments on the ground that they had mobilised kar sevaks for the demolition of the Babri Masjid.


Likewise, what about the FIR lodged by Sub Inspector Ram Dube of Ayodhya police station stating that a group of 50-60 people stealthily placed the idols of Ram and Sita in the central dome of the Masjid in the night of December 22-23, 1949. The later sequence of events — the locking and the much later unlocking of the mosque's doors etc — are vividly recorded by the Supreme Court in its judgement in the Ismail Faruqui vs Union of India (1994) case. All these raise serious questions about the jurisdiction of the courts to adjudicate on matters of "faith' and "belief'.


After the judgement, slowly but steadily, the shrillness is mounting, asking the Muslims to give up their one-third of the land and join the "building of a grand temple' in a gesture of reconciliation. Efforts are building up for a fresh round of communal polarisation in the name of reconciliation. When the hated apartheid regime was defeated in South Africa, the Nelson Mandela government had to confront the issue of reconciliation between the victims and perpetrators of inhuman crimes. After a wide and an intensely passionate debate, a seminal conclusion was arrived at: justice was a pre-requisite for reconciliation rather than an alternative to it. Thus was constituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


Thus, reconciliation is possible only when the truth is established first. Justice will follow accordingly. The truth, in this case, is that the Babri Masjid existed for over four centuries. The High Court, however, relied more on the "faith' of the people who believe that Lord Ram was born on this very spot. Apart from appearing as a post facto justification of the demolition, the judgement also gives a legal clearance to the slogan "Mandir wahin banayenge'. Can the legal outcome of a property dispute be influenced by an act of illegal demolition? Separate legal proceedings are pending on cases related to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Justice must be delivered on these matters.


The Supreme Court will now have to deliver justice upholding people's "faith' in the rule of law and not on a law that is based on "faith'. This has to be in conformity with the blindness and the evenhandedness of the Lady of Justice. This judicial process is the only recourse that people have to seek a solution to such disputes. It is, therefore, incumbent to thwart all efforts that seek to sharpen communal polarisation. This judicial process must be allowed to come to its conclusion and deliver justice without any pressures being mounted that can weaken the secular, democratic foundations of modern India.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





Prakash Jha's Rajneeti, much like Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy, was conspicuous by the absence of a typical hero who manifests ethical power. All main characters, amoral or immoral, bore shades of grey. The political developments in Karnataka over the past few days are similar.


The Constitution, as applicable to the states, was scripted with some 'lead characters' in mind — the chief minister, his council of ministers, the opposition, the governor and the speaker. Equally, the Constitution in spirit was meant to provide a platform for heroic performances. The performance of these actors has betrayed the unwritten aspirations of the supreme law of the land.


When a senior minister of the state government came under a cloud for the involvement of his son in a land compensation racket, the leader of the government decided to leave it to the courts to decide the matter. Bizarrely, some rebel members of the ruling party experienced belated pangs of their conscience and decided to convey their angst to the governor. It may have just been a coincidence that there had already been grave rumblings after a recent unpalatable cabinet reshuffle, and that a senior leader of the opposition was intervening as a well-wisher of the 'downtrodden'. Before one could say 'Jai Karnataka', the rebels were shunted from resort to resort, from state to state, perhaps to protect them from their own conscience.


Curiously, even members of a large opposition party were reported to have been 'sheltered' at a getaway. Did they need protection from a sin about which   the Lord's Prayer states: 'Lead us not into temptation'? While the floor-test was awaited, the governor had already written to the speaker to maintain the "character and configuration of the house". My reading of the Constitution tells me that the governor was always meant to be a dispassionate patriarch. That may be wishful thinking.


While honourable members were sought to be traded like scrips on a stock exchange, the gods were also summoned by the chief minister to guide him in his yeoman efforts. And just in case you forgot the other lead character, the speaker, you forgot at your own peril. The speaker chose to disqualify the members for quitting their party by a novel interpretation of the 10th schedule, when the same members were the recipient of a party whip to vote in its favour. Extraordinarily, even independent members were subjected to such an interpretation! Just like the governor, the speaker was also supposed to be non-partisan, but...


So, while Bangalore continues to be pounded by a growing real-estate mafia, the state police were, instead, utilised to physically eject members from the Vidhana Soudha. A three-minute voice-vote in lieu of a ballot followed and became the basis to determine the 'confidence' in the ruling party.


Pray, why do I not feel so confident about my state? Maybe it's because I still believe, naively, in outdated concepts such as constitutional morality.


Ironically, as the disqualified members move the high court, the governor has returned to the scene and promptly recommended imposition of President's Rule. The Union cabinet, another lead member of the plot, now gets a chance to perform on this unhealthy stage. At this point, one has reached the stage in the film where no one really cares if the characters survive or not. Propriety, however, demands that the court be permitted to decide on the validity of the disqualification rather than any vindictive application of Article 356 to oust the government of the day.


Alas, this screenplay has altogether omitted the role of one protagonist. In this convoluted plot, the heroes as per the script that is the Constitution — the people — seem to have been left incommunicado.


Aditya Sondhi is an advocate practising in the Karnataka High Court and the Supreme Court. The views expressed by the author are personal.








After the perceived "low" voter turnout in the polls to six municipal corporations in Gujarat, comes the call again from L.K. Advani to renew efforts to make voting compulsory. Although the average of 43 per cent turnout has surpassed the 2005 state average of 39 per cent, Narendra Modi's government, it may be recalled, had passed a legislation last December making voting compulsory in civic elections — but the bill was returned by the governor. Advocates of mandatory voting argue that there's no better way to "legitimise" electoral results than by making them literally reflect the will of the majority. And the way to do so is to ensure that every voter casts her vote. Invariably, this notion of giving elections as "democratic" a character as possible runs up against the question of whether there's anything democratic about compulsory voting at all.


At the heart of this debate is a clash of perspectives: do we regard voting as a civic duty or as a civic right? Coercion negates choice. In as much as a voter should have the right to reject everybody in the fray or register her disgust with politics or even dissent (all democratic rights, incidentally) by not voting, compulsory voting — by cancelling that latitude — is a coercion. And there's no known equation between democracy and coercion. In fact, it's reminiscent rather of authoritarian states that, following the inexorable logic of dictatorship, make a show every now and then of 100 per cent voting to generate altogether pre-determined results.


India doesn't have low voter turnouts by global standards. Democratic politics entails candidates and parties campaigning to persuade the electorate of their agendas and turning out to vote. That's the mechanism that legitimises democracy best. Exercising the right to not vote is a democratic choice. Ask weary Belgians who face punitive action in their small and divided, and some might say inexplicable, country for not voting.







That the run-up to the Bihar election would be a buzzing, feverish affair was never a matter of doubt — even as former alliance partners, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress traded insults, calling each other dengue mosquitoes and swine-flu viruses. Now, senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has set off another storm. Criticising the decision to concede so many seats to the LJP, Singh added that party chief Lalu Prasad's biggest mistake had been to sever connections with the Congress in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Singh, who was rural development minister in the last UPA government has considerable political stock with the Congress. But he has clearly said that his remark was not motivated by the desire to cross over, and that there was "no question" of rebellion. As an elder statesman of the RJD, he certainly has the authority to make an introspective statement on the party's past mistakes.


In 2009, Lalu Prasad pushed the Congress to the brink when he announced a fourth front with Ram Vilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh Yadav, accommodating each other nicely in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — and leaving only about three seats in Bihar for the Congress to contest. That decision cost them dearly. The Congress decided to go it alone, solidifying its intention to rebuild and shun difficult, strength-sapping alliances. Lalu Prasad faced a personal humiliation, as the RJD won only four seats in Bihar that year. The RJD's "Muslim-Yadav" base has splintered, but Lalu Prasad may still manage to weave them together. It's difficult to predict what impact the Ayodhya verdict will have on the party, and Lalu Prasad has never passed up a chance to remind everyone of his starring role in the Ram Janmabhoomi saga, stopping the rath yatra and getting L.K. Advani arrested. His phenomenal personal charisma and knack for survival cannot be underestimated either.


A few months back, the RJD was de-recognised as a national party as well. This was its lowest point yet. Therefore, much depends on how he fares in this assembly election — it will decide if his intricate tapestry of caste alliances still wins elections in Bihar.







Medal hopes are guaranteed to keep the spectators interested, and it has perhaps been little surprise that stadia for boxing, wrestling, hockey competitions have often been packed. What does bear careful notice is that once the Commonwealth Games got into the weekend, a growing chorus could be heard: that tickets were no longer to be had at sales counters. The enthusiasm of spectators has given the Games a soundtrack and it has also upturned the stereotype of the typical Delhi person as a creature of patronage. To go by the stereotype, India's capital city is incapable of gathering as a community of equals and of enthusiasts at art, culture and sport events — equally, that it's incapable of doing so without making every significant event an occasion for the powerful and well-connected to show their separateness. It is salutary that the city has embraced sport. It would also be timely to wonder, whether a non-sarkari Delhi is now beginning to assert its character.


The biggest crowds have, of course, been at events where the home team has a competitive presence — in hockey, badminton, boxing and wrestling. For most of these schedules, it has been hard, mostly impossible, to get a ticket on-the-day. The significance of the crowds at these events should not be underestimated. That said, even sports where India has only a token presence have attracted good crowds, most notably swimming, where a number of records have been broken in the course of these Games. Quality action has therefore attracted a knowledgeable audience even when the home side has been largely absent. Spectator and athlete have a crucial relationship: each validates the other. This is healthy for sport; but allowed and propelled to its logical conclusion, the spectator's manifesto is also a civic one. She wants thoughtful procedure and openness in allowing access to the sport; in return she commits herself to playing by the rules, to the queues, security checks, traffic diversions, an essential code of sportsmanship, a democratic sharing of the commons.


Much has been said over the last few years about how the Games were meant to be a coming-out party for an emerging India. Delhi's infrastructure has certainly been showcased. More meaningfully, Delhi's changing geography and demographic profile can be seen in the stands. Delhi's no longer a city of government enclaves and the rest; entrepreneurs and professionals have expanded the city's limits into the National Capital Region and changed its aspirations. They are altering its character.









 For those of us who follow the sport of wrestling in India, the recent victory on the mats of the Commonwealth Games has been a long time coming, but is also an echo of the past. The victory of our champion pahalwans is a reminder that the history of the sport is long and runs deep into the soil of


South Asia. Ravinder, Anil and Sanjay stand as champions on the shoulders of giants.


The sport of wrestling in India, as elsewhere in the world, has been modernised, standardised and is highly refined in terms of training regimens, coaching, the development of skills and techniques. No small part of the success of our wrestlers and other athletes is a function of the development of world-class facilities and expertise at all levels of the state-sport complex. To twist an adage concerning the devil, and knowing the devil's language: to beat the best in the world, one must play by their rules.


For those of us who have a historical perspective on sport in India, success on the world stage must also be understood in a slightly different way.


Few will remember that exactly a century ago, in the era of colonial rule, a young boy from a very small town near Datiya in Madhya Pradesh wrestled his way to the heart of the empire and became world champion by defeating one world-class wrestler after another in London, 1910. Gama's remarkable story is worth remembering at this point in time, and not simply because the CWG invoke the legacy of imperialism. Gama's story draws attention to the history of a sport that has a complicated and conflicted relationship with modernity and nationalism. In this sense it is allegorical of other histories.


Gama's early 20th century victory in London opens up a perspective on a world of wrestling in the villages, small towns and city neighbourhoods of South Asia. Most people know almost nothing about this world. One tangent of its history, however, can be traced back to the epic era, and in relation to this tangent it is not surprising that a powerful, tireless, lightning fast young Muslim boy from near Gwalior came to be called "Krishna of the Kaliyuga" on account of the way in which he seemed to embody supernatural power and was able to vanquish giants. Merging with this tangent of history is a form of wrestling that involved the earliest manifestation of a "Greco-Indian" style that developed when the soldiers in Sikandar's army grappled with their challengers on the banks of the Indus. Elements of this style have percolated down from generation to generation of pahalwans supported through the patronage of kings and princes, including the ruler of Datiya who established an akhara and recruited a stable of champion wrestlers among whom was young Gama.


The akhara supported by the patronage of the Raja of Datiya was a place where wrestlers were kept as emblems of political power and prestige. As such, young boys were recruited into the stable and trained under the watchful eye of an ustad or guru. Legend has it that they were provided with mountains of food to eat — yakhni for the non-veg, almonds and ghee for the veg and litre upon litre of milk and cream — and that all they were required to do was thousands upon thousands of dands and bethaks, and to spend hour upon hour in the earth pits — which are really more like raised platforms of fine-grained fertile soil with sarson ka tel and haldi mixed in — sparring with one partner after another until they were covered, head to toe, with sweat and the soft red earth of the heartland, be it Sangli, Kashi, Datiya or Patiala.


In the mythic rendition of Gama's story he is said to have been able to do more bethaks and consume more food than anyone else in the Datiya akhara and was able to beat anyone by the time he was in his early teens. This brought him to the attention of relatively wealthy, powerful men who were active in the nationalist movement and they, with financial backing from a Bengali millionaire, Sharatkumar Misra, sponsored Gama's trip to London to compete in a world championship tournament sponsored by the


John Bull Society. Upon arrival the entourage from India was sorely disappointed when Gama was told that he was too small and unknown to be allowed to compete. Undaunted, they staged a theatrical challenge, announcing that any wrestler who could pin Gama in five minutes would be given five pounds sterling. On the first day Gama dispatched three local challengers. On the second day he pinned eight English champions, one after the other in a few minutes — without even having to adjust his langot, the story goes. This earned him a place on the world stage.


On September 12, 1910 Gama met Zybysko, the reigning world champion, at Shepherds Bush Stadium. Taller

and heavier by 55 pounds than the 5 ft, 6 in, 216 pound Gama, Zybysko was an imposing figure. They wrestled

for three hours and, according to reports in the Times, Gama relentlessly wore his opponent down until darkness brought the contest to an end.


The next day Zybysko did not show up, and Gama was declared the winner by default and became world champion.


Gama returned to India a national hero, but the inconclusiveness of the victory in London demanded a rematch. Recruited from the small, provincial princely state of Datiya into the higher-prestige akhara of the Maharaja of Patiala, Gama prepared himself to meet Zybysko on home turf in the winter of 1928. The maharaja had organised a trade fair to highlight the modern accomplishments of his state in the arena of agricultural and industrial development, and Gama was to wrestle with Zybysko in the context of this larger theatrical exhibition of swadeshi prowess.


On the afternoon of January 28 the two champions met on the edge of the empire — rather than at its centre — in an arena that was equipped with powerful electric lights in case Zybysko tried again to escape into the darkness. With tens of thousands of spectators from all over the country in attendance, Gama grabbed his 300-pound opponent by one foot and sent him crashing to the mat, flat on his back, in a mere 45 seconds. Needless to say the stadium erupted with cheers: "India has won, India has won!!" Even after the dust of victory had begun to settle, the media recounted the story again and again. Using an akhara adage inflected with sly, twisted understatement to describe this singularly momentous event, many news-papers put it this way: "Gama, you have shown the empire the sky."


Ravinder, Anil and Sanjay follow in the footsteps of the great Gama. They stand on his shoulders. This legacy of victory gives us a perspective on the akhara earth that is beneath the stadium mats.


Alter, a professor of anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, is the author of 'The Wrestler's Body: Identity and Ideology in North India'








One of the most politicised states in the country, Bihar, goes to the polls later this month and the outcome could be a political indicator for the rest of the country. If few are willing to wager on the result, it is because of several imponderables. Will caste loyalties prevail over administrative performance? Will religious identity matter? Can the BJP and the JD(U), playing to conflicting social constituencies, really gel together as partners? In a three-way division of votes, do voters opt for their first preference or for the candidate most likely to defeat the party they perceive as enemy number one? Small wonder that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in his blog, called this a "make-or-mar" election. Much like Narendra Modi's Gujarat campaign, Nitish has talked up Bihar pride, saying "Being a Bihari henceforth will be a matter of maan, and not apmaan."


No one disputes that, as chief minister, Nitish Kumar has wrought a phenomenal change in a state that stagnated for15 years under Lalu Prasad. Even Lalu does not seriously question Bihar's progress, taking cover by claiming he could have done the same thing if the Centre had given him more funds. Ordinary Biharis feel more secure today, with some 38,000 people having been put in jail for violating the Arms Act. During 2008-9, 2,417 km of road were constructed as against a mere 384 km in 2004-2005, the RJD's last year in office.


Nitish has focused on building a new support base for himself of EBCs (extremely backward OBCs) and Mahadalits (the most deprived of the Scheduled Castes), even offering them reservations at the panchayat level. But his campaign for social uplift of the most backward sections has alienated the Brahmins and Bhumihars, who resent upheaval in the social order. In the NDA, caste rivalries over ticket allotment has led to much bitterness, and it was after considerable manoeuvring that the BJP state president, C.P. Thakur, was persuaded to take back his resignation. The Congress hopes to exploit upper-caste resentment. It is also making a special pitch for Muslim votes, allotting 33 per cent of the party's tickets to minorities.


Bihar's 15 per cent Muslim population could have considerable impact on the outcome. The Congress's Muslim strategy received a major jolt with the Ayodhya title deed judgment by the Allahabad high court. Many Muslims hold both the Congress and the BJP responsible for the mosque demolition. Lalu, who points out proudly that he stopped the rath yatra and arrested L.K. Advani in 1990, may reap the benefits. Nitish, despite his special effort to establish his credentials with the Muslim community, finds it difficult to explain his partnership with the BJP. Narendra Modi may not be invited to Bihar, but BJP leaders Advani and Ravi Shankar Prasad, champions of the temple movement, are certainly planning to campaign.


Lalu pins his hopes of a comeback on cobbling together his old Muslim and Yadav vote-bank. His supporters point out that he won his earlier assembly elections by capturing between 25 to 30 per cent of the popular vote. Even when he lost in October 2005, his vote-share had declined only marginally to 23.5 per cent.


All the key players in this poll have much at stake. For Lalu Prasad and his alliance partner Ram Vilas Paswan, it is a question of political survival. A third defeat in a row for Lalu (the 2005 assembly polls and the 2009 parliamentary polls) would mean further marginalisation of Bihar's charismatic grassroots leader, who has even appointed his son Tejaswi as his political heir. The Congress is hoping for a revival of its fortunes, after a long spell in the wilderness. Even if it is not the front-runner, the Congress aspires to a reasonably good showing. If it succeeds, it would establish that the Rahul Gandhi-Digvijaya Singh strategy of going it alone in states where the Congress has lost its traditional base is working. It would be a morale-booster before the UP assembly polls of 2012. For the BJP, defeat would probably lead to a split in its 16-year-old alliance with the JD(U) and, with that, the gradual dissolution of the NDA. Nitish might decide it makes better political sense to fight elections on his own.


For Nitish, victory would be a vindication of his policies and proof that good governance can overcome caste

and communal ties in a state where both are major factors. The credit would go almost entirely to him, since he runs the state as a one-man show. Nitish would emerge much taller in national politics; in fact he would automatically be counted among potential prime ministerial prospects for the NDA.









Shekhar Gupta: Before I introduce my guests for this week's very special and very unusual edition of Walk the Talk, let me declare my interest in this. Many years ago, I travelled in the Northeast as a reporter, particularly in Nagaland where so many insurgencies were on, and where 11 brigades of the Indian Army were sitting to protect us from our own fellow Nagas. And what do we have today? A full battalion of these marvellous, brilliant young women from Nagaland, from the Nagaland Armed Police, who have come to Delhi, to protect us Dilliwallas from dangers and risks of all kinds. It's such a turnaround and such a wonderful comment on the history of India, the evolution of India and also the spirit of the Nagas. So wonderful to welcome you to Walk the Talk—Asenla Jamir, Joy T Fithu, Mhalo Ngulli—the three officers. I tried to guess your tribes and almost got it right—Ao, Pochury and Lotha. And your troops, young troops: Nyenpo Konyak from Mon district; Temsunaro from Mokokchung are an Ao as well; Acho Vadeo from Phek district from the Chakhesang tribe; Alem Jamir, an Ao from Mokokchung; and Angami from Kisama. So all of you are in your 20s, right? This is a mahila battalion?


Joy T Fithu: It's a mahila battalion. In India reserve.


Shekhar Gupta: So when you join this battalion, you know you may have to serve anywhere in India?


Joy T Fithu: Yes, exactly.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell us some of your experiences being in Delhi during the Commonwealth Games.


Asenla Jamir: It's a big experience and an opportunity for all of us. In the beginning, we were a little apprehensive but we all adapted quite well.


Shekhar Gupta: What were the apprehensions?


Asenla Jamir: We were apprehensive because this was our first duty...especially for our girls...their first duty. We were apprehensive about whether they would like a new place, and especially since it's such a big event, but they adapted quite well.

Shekhar Gupta: So when did you first get the news that you would have to go to Delhi during the Commonwealth Games?


Mhalo Ngulli: A month or so ago.


Shekhar Gupta: And what was your immediate reaction? Are baap re baap...

Mhalo Ngulli: Exactly. Our girls had just passed out this May and we were still undergoing our second phase of training so we were quite apprehensive. They had no exposure and we had to come here suddenly. So we were a bit apprehensive.


Shekhar Gupta: Joy, you studied in Delhi, I believe? 

Joy T Fithu: Yes, at Daulat Ram College.


Shekhar Gupta: So you are the Dilliwalla. Being the veteran Dilliwalla, did you tell them all the bad things about Delhi?

Joy T Fithu: I didn't, but I told them to be a bit cautious because we were coming to a metropolitan city straight from Nagaland. We came here not to frighten anyone or to kill anybody...though our combat dress looks like that...we came here to give security and protection, which the people of India need.


Shekhar Gupta: But your uniforms are very impressive and I believe when you carry rifles, nobody takes chances with you.

Joy T Fithu: Yes, nobody will dare do that.


Shekhar Gupta: And what were the most interesting questions you were asked by your troops?

Joy T Fithu: They were apprehensive that they will have a language problem, a communication problem. Then they asked, 'how is the water'? 'How is the climate'? So I said Delhi usually has pleasant weather in the month of October, so no need to worry. Try to be smart and take care of your health.


Shekhar Gupta: So tell me, what worries did you have about coming to Delhi?

Acho Vadeo: Since it was my first time here, I was very worried about the kind of people I would find here and what my duty would be like. But after coming here, I found the city to be quite different from what I had thought it would be. I find it interesting to be here now and to perform my duty when such an important event is on.


Shekhar Gupta: So when you walk around with rifles and you ask people to get out of the way, do they get out of the way?

Temsunaro: Yes, they do.


Shekhar Gupta: They are all constables. They are young.

Joy T Fithu: Four of them are havildars and one is a constable.


Shekhar Gupta: But all in the age group of 22 to 24?

Joy T Fithu: In the 18 to 25 age group.


Shekhar Gupta: Since they are a part of India reserve, you know they can be called any time.

Joy T Fithu: Anywhere in India.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell us about your earlier visits to Delhi. How is Delhi different from what it used to be?

Asenla Jamir: We have come here six to seven times for training—short courses only. Every time I come here, it looks completely different. It is completely different from Nagaland.


Shekhar Gupta: Did the older people in Nagaland ask you why you were going to such a bad place?

Temsunaro: Yes, of course they did, but we are not tense about being here in Delhi. Since we are well-trained soldiers, we can give our best out here.


Shekhar Gupta: Well-trained soldiers. That is a good one. And what is the funniest thing somebody said to you since you came to Delhi?

Nyenpo Konyak: The funniest thing—that we are too young, that it's our time to enjoy. But we are happy to have this job at such a young age.


Shekhar Gupta: I hope you also tell them that we are Nagas, we will remain young forever. Because from where you come, every Naga has to climb and walk and work so hard all day—it's such a tough terrain.

Nyenpo Konyak: Yes, that is true. We work so hard.


Shekhar Gupta: What is the reaction you are getting from policemen and women from other states whom you must be meeting—Delhi Police, in particular? What do police people from other states tell you?

Angami: Most of the time it is, 'do you understand me? Can you speak Hindi?'


Shekhar Gupta: Do your parents and grandparents or do you have any memories of that period, when there was so much violence in Nagaland?

Mhalo Ngulli: We got to see some of the violence. When we were still in college, we used to hear about most of the things happening in Nagaland. So we were witness to it.


Shekhar Gupta: Did you discover any surprises when you came to Delhi? Did you find people more friendly than you thought or less friendly?

Angami: They are friendly to us. They treat us very well. They really respect us.


Shekhar Gupta: They really respect you...particularly with the rifle. Your troops shoot well, don't they?

Joy T Fithu: Yes, they have undergone weapon handling.


Shekhar Gupta: And Nagas are also natural with guns.

Joy T Fithu: Yes, they are fierce looking and ferocious but they are young maidens with tender hearts.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell me, the Ao tribe has the most striking shawls, don't they? The ones with the white band and animal motifs on them?

Temsunaro: Yes.


Shekhar Gupta: Although I cannot say any tribe has the best shawls because each tribe has its own weaves and its own shawls. There are things that people don't know enough about Nagaland—that Nagaland is not just one tribe.

Joy T Fithu: It has 16 tribes.


Shekhar Gupta: Joy, tell us about your tribe Pochury.

Joy T Fithu: My tribe shares a district with the Chakhesang people. That is Phek district. We are still small, population-wise.


Shekhar Gupta: You speak the same language?

Joy T Fithu: The language is completely different.


Shekhar Gupta: Every tribe and sub-tribe has its own language?

Joy T Fithu: Yes, its own language. Rather, each village has a different language.


Shekhar Gupta: Then you evolved a common language called Nagamese.

Joy T Fithu: Yes, it's a mixture of Assamese, a little bit of Bengali and a little bit of Hindi. So, if somebody is Assamese or Bengali, he can understand what we are saying. And you can learn it within a month.


Shekhar Gupta: Is that so? You can learn Nagamese in a month?

Asenla Jamir: Yes, you can.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell us the most peculiar thing about your culture, the most distinctive thing that is different from others.

Asenla Jamir: Maybe the dialect. The dialect is the first different thing.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell me who thinks her tribe has the best shawls?

Joy T Fithu: Every tribe will say that they have the best shawls.


Shekhar Gupta: That is the true Deputy Commandant speaking. The true spirit of Nagaland. Have you made friends in Delhi?

Acho Vadeo: We've not made any yet.


Shekhar Gupta: So what kind of duties have you carried out?

Acho Vadeo: So far we have been doing patrolling. Different companies are doing different duties—on the Metro too.


Shekhar Gupta: Is it the first time you've seen a Metro? Because Nagaland does not have a rail line yet—only up to Dimapur. So tell us what you think of the Metro.

Acho Vadeo: It's very nice. We meet different people. They ask us different questions—'how do you carry this rifle'?


Shekhar Gupta: But you are a Naga. You can carry six rifles and climb mountains, don't you? So what are the interesting things that people have told you here? And how do you find the Metro?

Nyenpo Konyak: The Metro is great. We all are very happy to be on this duty. We see a lot of sportspersons. We are all very happy. We wish the event goes off smoothly.


Shekhar Gupta: But I hope you will come back to Delhi. Hopefully not just on duty but also on holidays.

Nyenpo Konyak: Yes, we are thinking about coming back again.

Shekhar Gupta: But tell me, not having come to Delhi and now having served in Delhi, do you feel a difference in as much as you feel this city belongs to you also? Do you now have a stronger sense that the city is mine also? It belongs to me?


Nyenpo Konyak: We are all Indians. We are happy to be in the Capital. Delhi has changed a lot. We see it in papers and radio stations. Delhi is like our hometown only. We feel comfortable.


Shekhar Gupta: You feel proud of it?

Temsunaro: Even though we are away from Nagaland, I feel at home. We are all Indians. We are all one.

Acho Vadeo: It is really interesting to be here and when I go back home, I'm going to share all my experiences and joy with my friends and my parents. I'm so excited to go back home.


Alem Jamir: I will share my experiences with my parents and with my friends. I have made some friends here in my camp.


Shekhar Gupta: So what do you take back from Delhi?

Angami: We have come here for duty. Later, we can go for some shopping.


Shekhar Gupta: But officers, I hope you take them for some shopping. Once you wind up your duty, what do you plan to do? Do you plan to take a couple of days off?

Joy T Fithu: We will wind up our duty by 14th evening or 15th. We have two days free. Our train is reserved for 17th morning. So in these two days, we plan to take them out to some of the historical places, to some of the shopping malls for shopping.


Shekhar Gupta: Absolutely. You must see the worst and the best of Delhi. Worst of Delhi means the shopping culture which is very different from the innocence of the hills.


Joy T Fithu: You were earlier asking us if we feel like a part of India. We feel we are a part of India, but our looks are very distinct and so people don't take us as Indians.


Shekhar Gupta: I think that is a wonderful explanation. The problem is with the people and their perceptions. People have to accept diversity.


Joy T Fithu: I think this is a good platform for us to tell Indians to accept us as Indians.


Shekhar Gupta: And I hope you take back the good memories. But before I let you go, two things I want to underline that I am sure all of you know. One, in a way, the last battle for the liberation of India, before India actually became free, the last armed battle was fought in your state, in Nagaland, in Kohima. The second thing, that many people don't realise, is that the law which is very controversial now—the Armed Forces Special Powers Act—was actually drafted for Nagaland in the '50s. It was called Armed Forces Special Powers Assam Act. And that's why such a brilliant, wonderful turnaround in India's history and in Nagaland's history that people who were feared—Nagas were feared in the '50s and the '60s and the '70s because of which the government had to enact such a terrible law—are here to protect us. Even better, they have sent some of their brightest, bravest and, I must say, most articulate young women, to do so. Thank you very much. I hope you enjoy your time in Delhi. And we hope we Dilliwallas give you no complaints. If we do, please employ the Armed Forces Special Powers Act against us.


Transcribed by Uttara Varma








Will India now get a rival IPL league, as former IPL chief Lalit Modi has advised Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals who have just been given the boot by the BCCI for violating shareholding and ownership patterns? Whether the franchisees, both suspected to be close to Modi, choose to go to the court remains to be seen, but it is interesting that BCCI chose to simply terminate the franchisees instead of levying a financial penalty for their breaking rules like transferring shares without the permission of the IPL governing council—in the case of the Kings XI, for instance, actor Preity Zinta and industrialist Ness Wadia were not among the original members of the franchise but bought into it later. The move has important ramifications for sponsors since the number of matches to be played will come down, this will also reduce sponsorship earnings for each franchisee. Lesser competition could increase each team's chances of winning and they also have the chance to now pick up some classy players from the ex-franchisees; for players in these teams, the future is writ with uncertainty and a lot depends on which teams pick up these players, and for what values. What's interesting is that the Kochi team, over whom IPL started unravelling, has been given 10 days in which to get its act together.


Even more interesting is the behaviour of the telecom ministry on similar issues of companies who have got 2G licences not actually being eligible for these licences. Apart from the issue of whether the licences should have been given without an auction, the CAG has written to the DoT saying "licences were granted to certain companies without proper verification of their eligibility". At least two companies did not have the authorised share capital at the time of application and increased this later. Others did not have telecom as an activity in their memorandum of association but made the necessary changes later. Yet, their applications were accepted and payments accepted from them—had they been rejected, or the companies told to fix their paperwork first, they would have lost their position in the line for spectrum and eventually not got the scarce spectrum. In another case, the CAG said, the application violated the rule that no telco could own more than 10% of the equity in another—yet the ministry chose to interpret the rules in a manner that allowed this. Makes you wonder how rules are interpreted differently across different organisations. Horses for courses, basically.







The political tussle on the regulation of the outside state lotteries in Kerala and the temporary removal of Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who held the brief for the outside state lotteries, as the Congress spokesperson, is important not just for constitutional issues it raises but more so for bringing to the fore the important issue of tapping the large revenue mobilisation potential of lotteries. This is of particular significance in a scenario where the states' fears of a resource crunch have put a spoke in the smooth rollout of the GST. As pointed out in a recent column in The Indian Express though the Lotteries Regulation Act of 1998 allows the states to run lotteries, only 13 states do so. And the market is dominated by the lotteries sponsored by the government of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim and other northeastern states, and Bhutan, which is also allowed to sell its lotteries in India under a bilateral agreement. These states generally appoint or authorise distributors or selling agents to run the business and collect profits. The state's government under whose jurisdiction the lottery tickets are being sold can collect only a token amount as revenue, as they can charge a minimum of Rs 2,000 per draw or a maximum amount, which is equal to what is being charged by the state government from its own lotteries.


This is a windfall gain for the distributors or selling agents from other states as they get away with only a few lakhs rupees per draw while collecting huge revenue. In fact, the Kerala chief minister claims that the annual outgo from inter-state lotteries is even larger than the states' annual Plan size. But the tax inflows from lotteries are negligible. The most recent estimates show that net revenue earned by the states from lotteries was just Rs 458 crore in 2003-04. This is minuscule when compared to the taxes levied on other vice products like liquor and tobacco. While the indirect tax revenues and levies from the liquor industry is estimated to be more than Rs 30,000 crore in the middle of the decade, from tobacco it is around Rs 10,000 crore. A more rational tax policy on lotteries can mobilise even larger resources and smooth the rollout of the GST.








Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) for 2010 has just been published. Several such cross-country indices float around. This one computes an aggregate index based on five broad areas of (1) size of government; (2) legal structure and security of property rights; (3) access to sound money; (4) freedom to trade internationally; and (5) regulation of credit, labour and business.


India is ranked 87th out of 141 countries. For the record, China is ranked 82nd. How can China rank higher if little freedom exists there, illustrated, say, by Liu Xiabao? EFW, and others like it, are about economic freedom, not political freedom. These two types of freedom may have some correlation, but aren't identical. For the record again, the top-5 countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Chile. Bottom-5 consists of Republic of Congo, Venezuela, Angola, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. That listing itself suggests there is a correlation between economic freedom and economic development indicators, be they per capita income, GDP growth, poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy, life satisfaction, corruption, and political rights and civil liberties and research based on EFW has probed these. Having said this, there are caveats. First, EFW is based on a set of variables.


Occasionally, there are criticisms of inclusion (variables shouldn't have been included) and exclusion (variables haven't been included). For instance, all EFW variables are driven by a desire to capture freer cross-border movements of capital. Why shouldn't there be variables on freer cross-movement movements of labour? Required data have now begun to emerge. Often, data aren't available objectively for some variables. Therefore, data are collected subjectively, through questionnaires and this raises problems. EFW doesn't itself collect data. It uses third-party sources. However, using third-party sources doesn't solve the third-party problem. It merely passes the buck.


Second, EFW is at a country-level and doesn't capture regional variations, important among large and heterogeneous countries. That's the reason sub-national indices have been attempted for countries like the US, Canada, China and India. But the present one is at a national level.


Third, once one has obtained objective data and subjective scores and has gone through a process of normalisation, there is the matter of weights and aggregation. Overall rankings are not sufficiently robust if these are changed. Consequently, one should focus more on scores, not ranks. A country's rank also depends on how other countries are performing. It is relative. A score is absolute and is a better indicator of how a country has been performing over time.


Let's look at India's scores. The closer a score is to 10, the better. India's aggregate score was 5.41 in 1980, declined to 5.13 in 1990, increased to 6.27 in 2000 and 6.48 in 2008. (Though the report is for 2010, because of time-lags, data are for 2008.) Reforms are also about greater economic freedom. Consequently, it shouldn't be surprising that India's score has improved over time, especially after 1990. For the individual five heads, size of government was 5.00 in 1980, 4.88 in 1990, 6.27 in 2000 and 6.84 in 2008. Legal structure and security of property rights was 6.32 in 1980, 4.79 in 1990, 5.99 in 2000 and 5.93 in 2008. Access to sound money was 6.29 in 1980, 6.63 in 1990, 6.88 in 2000 and 6.69 in 2008. Freedom to trade internationally was 4.32 in 1980, 4.02 in 1990, 5.54 in 2000 and 6.79 in 2008. Regulation of credit, labour and business was 5.22 in 1980, 5.29 in 1990, 6.09 in 2000 and 6.16 in 2008. At a broad level, though this is subject to specific variables included under each of these heads, this fits in with our perceptions of where reforms have occurred and where they have not. For instance, reforms haven't occurred in legal structure and security of property rights.


What one should focus on is not 1980 to 2008, but 2000 to 2008, or even better, 2005 to 2008 and there are 42 variables, clustered under those 5 heads. Between 2005 and 2008, if one zeroes in on the variables, India has declined on government consumption, transfers and subsidies, judicial independence, impartial courts, protection of property rights, standard deviation of inflation, inflation, trade taxes, NTBs, foreign ownership/investment restrictions, centralised collective bargaining, administrative costs, bureaucracy costs, extra payments/bribes, licensing restrictions and cost of tax compliance. A few of these might raise eyebrows, such as trade taxes or foreign ownership/investment. These don't seem to have worsened since 2005.


Answers have to be sought in the third-party data, not only for variables where there have been declines, but also where there have been improvements. For instance, why has there been an improvement in hiring and firing regulations since 2005? But such criticism, or even that of EFW in general, is pointless. There are other surveys too, identifying non-reform in similar sectors. Interpreted thus, results are robust.


The author is a noted economist








The budgetary position of the federal government in the US has deteriorated substantially during the past two fiscal years, with the budget deficit averaging 9.5% of national income during that time. For comparison, the deficit averaged 2% of national income for the fiscal years 2005 to 2007, prior to the onset of the recession and financial crisis.


Economic conditions provide little scope for reducing deficits significantly further over the next year or two; indeed, premature fiscal tightening could put the recovery at risk. Over the medium- and long-term, however, the story is quite different. If current policy settings are maintained, and under reasonable assumptions about economic growth, the federal budget will be on an unsustainable path in coming years, with the ratio of federal debt held by the public to national income rising at an increasing pace. Moreover, as national debt grows, so will the associated interest payments, which, in turn, will lead to further increases in projected deficits.


Our fiscal challenges are especially daunting because they are mostly the product of powerful underlying trends, not short-term or temporary factors. Two of the most important driving forces are the ageing US population, and rapidly rising healthcare costs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the ratio of federal spending for healthcare programmes (principally Medicare and Medicaid) to national income will double over the next 25 years, and continue to rise significantly after that.


This year, there are about five individuals between the ages of 20 and 64 for each person aged 65 and older. By 2030, when most of the baby boomers will have retired, this ratio is projected to decline to around 3, and it may subsequently fall yet further as life expectancies continue to increase.


Failing to address our unsustainable fiscal situation exposes our country to serious economic costs and risks. In the short run, as I have noted, concerns and uncertainty about exploding future deficits could make households, businesses and investors more cautious about spending, capital investment and hiring. In the longer term, a rising level of government debt relative to national income is likely to put upward pressure on interest rates and thus inhibit capital formation, productivity and economic growth.


Amid all of the uncertainty surrounding the long-term economic and budgetary outlook, one certainty is that both current and future Congresses and Presidents will have to make some very tough decisions to put the budget back on a sustainable trajectory. At various times, some US Congresses and foreign governments have adopted fiscal rules to help structure the budget process.


In 1985, Congress enacted the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, which, among other things, specified a target path for the federal deficit, including the elimination of the deficit by 1991. However, the target path proved to be unattainable. In 1990, a new approach imposed a pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule (which) required that any tax reduction or mandatory spending increase be "paid for" with offsetting tax hikes or spending cuts, so that projected deficits over the 5- and 10-year horizons would not be worsened. Currently, Congress operates under more limited PAYGO rules.


Many other countries have experience with fiscal rules. The European Union, by treaty, established fiscal rules in the early 1990s, with the goal of ensuring that all members would maintain sustainable fiscal policies. Even before the recent financial crisis and recession, however, the enforcement mechanisms for these rules did not prevent these targets from being breached, and fiscal problems in several euro-area countries have recently been a source of financial and economic stress.


I will discuss four factors that seem likely to increase their effectiveness.


First, effective rules must be transparent. If a prior agreement limits the size of the available pie, it may be easier to negotiate outcomes in which everyone accepts a little bit less. Second, an effective rule must be sufficiently ambitious to address the underlying problem. As I mentioned, PAYGO rules, even when effective, were designed only to avoid making the fiscal situation worse; they did not attack large and growing structural deficits. Third, rules seem to be more effective when they focus on variables that the legislature can control directly, as opposed to factors that are largely beyond its control. For example, actual budget deficits depend on spending and taxation decisions but also on the state of the economy. As a result, when a target for the deficit or the debt is missed, ascribing responsibility may be difficult. Fourth, and perhaps most fundamentally, fiscal rules cannot substitute for political will, which means that public understanding of and support for the rules are critical.


Excerpts from the Fed chairman's speech at the Annual Meeting of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, Providence, Rhode Island






BJP tops Bihar polls

Going by data released by National Election Watch, the BJP has the most number of candidates in Phase 1 of the Bihar assembly elections that have pending criminal cases against them. Over two-thirds of the BJP's candidates fall in this category, 63% in the case of the Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party, 46% for chief minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, 43% for the Congress and 39% for Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal. Of the 154 candidates, 22% (98 candidates) have charges like murder and attempt to murder charges and three have pending cases related to rape. Over two-thirds have not declared their PAN card details.


Cairn't do that


Cairn Energy Plc's press conference, supposed to smoothen things for the oil company that is trying to get permission to sell its India business to Vedanta, ended up with more controversy. At the press conference, several journalists were upset that one TV channel had an exclusive interview with CEO Bill Gammell. To pacify them, journalists were told that the interview had been handled from the UK and the Indian arm didn't know about it.


To quote from Gammell's interview: "I didn't inform India … I apologise".






Trio explain why wage rates don't fall enough in the face of large unemployment


When markets fail, what wins the Nobel? Research on market failure, that's what. The 2010 Nobel season closed with Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen and Christopher Pissarides getting the economics prize for their work on why markets don't clear. If unemployment levels in the US are so high, why don't wages fall enough to make the economy competitive again; why don't housing prices fall enough so that bargain hunters come and buy up stock? The other contenders for the prize, leading with a 34% probability, according to iPredict, were Chicago's Richard Thaler and Yale's Robert Shiller for their work on irrational behaviour. Ironically, the US Senate didn't approve Diamond's nomination to the Fed after President Obama nominated him earlier this year, though the US could do with people who understand what Diamond won the prize for.


The trio, working in what are called 'search markets' (job searches, house searches), explain how frictions exist, very often due to regulation and policy, and prevent buyers and sellers coming together in a market-clearing equilibrium. It could also be the costs involved in match-making, in companies finding employees and employees finding companies. Diamond, an economist with the MIT, an authority on social security, pensions and taxation has contributed significantly to the basic foundations of such markets while Mortensen and Pissarides expanded the theory and applied it to labour markets. The resultant model, i.e., the Diamond-Mortensen-Pissarides (DMP) model, is a widely used tool to estimate the effects of different labour-market factors on unemployment. It specifically deals with the determinants of unemployment and their impact on the labour market and can be used to design unemployment benefits. India's NREGA activists could also learn a thing or two from the Nobel.











The BJP Government in Karnataka ought to have adhered to higher standards of political morality, and not sought to "win" the floor test in the Legislative Assembly through summary and wholesale disqualifications. Sixteen of the legislators were hurriedly disqualified by the Speaker to enable the government to "win" the confidence vote, with the Assembly strength so reduced. Those disqualified included 11 BJP MLAs who had revolted, and also five independents, who were ironically disqualified for having joined the BJP as associate members soon after the elections. The Yeddyurappa government was formed after an inconclusive election verdict with the support of independents and defectors from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), many of whom were rewarded with ministerial offices. The JD(S) and the Congress did not really create the present crisis, though they have sought to use the situation to their advantage. Dissidence manifesting itself in open defiance and attacks on BJP leaders in the State, threats of withdrawing support, and demands for ministerial berths have been a feature of the BJP government since its inception. It has been moving from one crisis to another, with the Reddy brothers representing the mining lobby playing the roles of trouble-makers and trouble-shooters at different times. After giving in to the dissidents the first time round, Mr. Yeddyurappa sought to reassert his authority by dropping some ministers and inducting some others but this attempt has now triggered a major crisis touching on the very survival of the government.


It is a moot question if the BJP legislators in announcing the withdrawal of support to the government could be said to have voluntarily given up their membership of the party and incurred disqualification. On the other hand, in contrast to such anticipatory disqualification, the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution allows a party to condone the action of a legislator voting in defiance of its whip within 15 days after the vote. In an unwarranted move to thwart disqualification before the vote, the Governor had directed the Speaker to maintain the strength of the House as on October 6, but the Speaker chose to ignore the direction. This gubernatorial overreach notwithstanding, the Speaker's hurried and summary disqualification, the unruly protests in the Assembly by the opposition, and the manner of voting have vitiated the floor test which is the constitutionally mandated process to demonstrate the support for a government. Clearly, the motion of confidence will have to be voted upon all over again to establish the legitimacy or otherwise of the government. For this test, the relevant strength of the House will turn on the question of whether the disqualification of the 16 legislators is valid — an issue that is before the Karnataka High Court which can examine if there has been any "violation of the constitutional mandate, mala fides, non-compliance with the rules of natural justice and perversity." All constitutional players ought to wait for the judicial determination of this question to be followed by a proper floor test. President's rule at this stage would be wholly unwarranted, and the Central government would do well to hold its hand and not accept any recommendation from the Governor for the imposition of President's rule.







The Centre is set to enumerate an unprecedented number of disabilities in the February 2011 population count. The move is an advance over the last decennial exercise where this vast and vulnerable segment was enumerated for only the second time since Independence. Information will be sought from persons who suffer multiple impairments. The mentally ill and the mentally retarded are to be counted under separate heads. People can also declare any impairment they may be afflicted with, other than the ones specified. Finally, disability-related queries have been moved up in the questionnaire, enhancing the chances of better reporting and coverage. Contrast this with the official thinking in the past, as reflected in the fact that the first three headcounts in free India did not enumerate the disabled. The reasoning was that given prevailing stereotypes and prejudices, the overwhelming tendency would be for families to conceal rather than disclose the relevant information.


This exclusion should explain, at least in part, the wide discrepancy between official figures and global estimates of the percentage of the disabled in the overall population, and also the government's failure on the policy formulation and resource allocation fronts. The overall benefits from an increasing thrust on data collection on a wide gamut of impairing conditions far outweigh the problems of accuracy and certainty, which is in any case inherent to the census operation as a whole. The advantages cannot be dismissed lightly, especially since disability is known to be both a cause and a consequence of poverty. The issue of age-related impairments is another important dimension in view of the increase in longevity as a consequence of India's unfolding demographic transition. And, one should not lose sight of the innumerable instances of limbs and livelihoods lost owing to prolonged armed conflicts. Come February, the enumerators and voluntary organisations will have their task cut out.










Recently, the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum received positive attention on two counts. The IBSA Fund, which extends assistance to developing countries, won the 2010 United Nations Millennium Development Goals award for South-South cooperation. A second maritime exercise, IBSAMAR II, was held in the Indian Ocean off the South African coast, involving 11 ships of three member-states.


Clearly, IBSA has come of age. Journeying through four summits and six meetings of a Trilateral Commission comprising Foreign Ministers, the forum has scored many gains.


Unfolding changes


Of the three Foreign Ministers who signed the June 6, 2003 Brasilia Declaration, which gave birth to IBSA, one no longer holds office, the second has another portfolio, and the future of the third may be uncertain in view of the on-going presidential elections.


At the Summit level too, actors have changed. India's commitment to IBSA has remained strong, despite the change of leadership from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh. It now seems somewhat different in South Africa, which has been represented by three Presidents in recent years. Does Thabo Mbeki's passion for IBSA still guide policymakers in Pretoria?


An evaluation of the likely implications of BRIC turning into BRICSA may be relevant, if and when South Africa joins the former comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China. The impact of succession in Brazil will also be watched closely.


IBSA's identity stems from its uniqueness, the ability of the three large countries — all democracies, rising economies, proponents of inclusive development and multilateralism — from three different continents to work together, despite their obvious differences. Its success lies in broadening its convergences and cooperation. As Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim once observed, IBSA is an alliance not against anyone but "in favour of our peoples;" it is also "in favour of a multipolar world where democracy — political, social, cultural — prevails."


Key facets


IBSA needs to be assessed in terms of four important facets. The first is coordination and articulation of common positions on international and regional issues. The joint declaration, issued at the last Summit in Brasilia in April 2010, reflects the member-states' perceptions of global governance, social dimensions of globalisation, climate change, disarmament and non-proliferation, among others. On U.N. Security Council reform, they have tried to speak with one voice, while keeping in view South Africa's dilemma (between an ardent desire for permanent membership and the anxiety not to stray from the joint African position). Regarding the Doha Round and climate change, IBSA prefers to speak after adequate internal coordination.


The tendency to hold forth on regional issues, one or more of which may be of direct interest to only one member-state, reminds old-timers of a similar impulse within the Non-Aligned Movement in the past. Are Brazil and South Africa really interested in Afghanistan, or is India in Haiti? Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that IBSA's views are monitored closely in capitals around the world.


Secondly, the IBSA Fund, a facility for alleviation of poverty and hunger, has been a notable achievement. International recognition of its success should be quite encouraging. It is apt that the three rising economic powers stand committed to assisting fellow developing countries, with specific projects in a few targeted areas. So far, seven countries — Burundi, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Laos, Cambodia and Palestine — have benefited from it. However, critics would argue that IBSA assistance is too limited, with each member-state contributing just $1 million annually. Surely, they can afford to be more generous. If IBSA truly wants to make a difference, it should step up its assistance, expedite its decision-making and undertake more projects.


The third facet, trilateral cooperation, has been perceived from the outset as "an important tool" for promoting social and economic development. At the Brasilia meeting in 2003, the Foreign Ministers identified five broad areas: trade, investment, tourism, defence and science and technology (including IT and energy). An extraordinary proliferation of areas has since occurred, covering a large segment of governance itself. Sixteen working groups have been in operation; 12 Memorandums of Understanding are in force; and another five are awaiting ratification. Officials of the Ministries handling education, health, revenue administration, agriculture, etc., appear engaged in frequent inter-continental travels for exchanging ideas and crafting cooperation programmes. Their labour, it is hoped, will promote taxpayers' welfare in the near future.


In this context, trade should receive a high priority as a complex structure is being put in place. The first two stages have been reached, with the signing of the Sacu-Mercosur Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and the coming into effect of the India-Mercosur PTA in April and June 2009. Efforts to finalise an India-Sacu PTA need to be expedited. In August 2010, Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma pledged that a PTA would be finalised "soon." If officials deliver on this quickly, the way would be cleared for forging a Trilateral Trade Arrangement (TTA) involving Mercosur, Sacu and India. This is already being hailed as "the largest trade agreement in the developing world" of future. This ambitious goal needs a deadline. Will the TTA be a reality when IBSA turns 10 in 2013?


Energy has often been cited as an ideal field where each country has special expertise which is of benefit to others: Brazil in biofuels, South Africa in coal-to-liquid (CTL) technology, and India in renewable sources of energy. After useful preliminary work, it is now time for IBSA to launch a series of projects demonstrating synergy and complementarities.


On the face of it, defence cooperation may seem to lack potential; but the reality is different. IBSA does not face a common conventional threat, but it has been developing shared threat perceptions, especially in the region around South Africa, the geographical centre of the IBSA world. This explains its growing interest in augmenting cooperation among the three Navies. Connectivity through better transport and telecommunication links has been given due priority, but progress has been slow.


The fourth facet is a steady expansion of interaction beyond the executive wings — and indeed beyond governments. Meetings have been arranged of parliamentarians and representatives of apex courts. Business leaders, women activists, editors, academics and artistes have been engaged in frequent exchanges in order to provide a strong civil society underpinning to IBSA inter-governmental cooperation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been especially supportive of these endeavours, deeply conscious of the immense value of people-to-people relations.




While, admittedly, the people-to-people dimension has been growing in scope, it is still driven largely by governments. To be truly effective, the civil society leadership should lead rather than follow them. Besides, the implementation of MoUs and other agreements needs substantial improvement.


And then there are two larger political developments. President Lula's successor will make a crucial impact on the evolution of IBSA. South Africa's quest for joining BRIC is also relevant. Pretoria claims to have made a positive impression on the BRIC leaders through President Jacob Zuma's personal diplomacy. Friends of IBSA, however, hope that he remains fully committed to its further consolidation.


The answer to the titled query is thus clear: IBSA is more than a talking shop; it strives to be an influential powerhouse. In order to get there, it needs to work harder, implement its decisions faster, and involve civil society more.


(The author served as India's High Commissioner to South Africa from 2006-09.)









The allegations in Saturday's (October 9) edition of the London-based Guardian newspaper that the Commonwealth secretariat has abandoned its commitment to defend human rights could not have come at a worse time. [Titled "Commonwealth has abandoned human rights commitment – leaked memo" it says: "Leaked document obtained by the Guardian shows staff told by secretary general it is not their job to speak out against abuses."] Bad press around the Delhi games had already led to questions about what the Commonwealth is for these days, and this news potentially undermines the very thing that sets the association apart.


If the Commonwealth is to survive in the 21st century, it needs to show that it stands for something more than its ties to the old empire. The obvious choice, reaffirmed most recently when leaders met late last year, is a commitment to "fundamental values and principles" around human rights and democracy. Putting these lofty ideals into practice may be difficult given the diversity of the association — which covers Australia to Zambia — but if its leadership is not seen as a credible custodian of these values then the rest of the Commonwealth project will suffer.


Unlike most other multilateral groupings, the Commonwealth is rooted in a long history and buttressed by unrivalled civil society and business networks. There is no Royal OECD Society or G20 Parliamentary Association. This gives the Commonwealth a huge advantage.


But it also means that its institutions have a harder time carving out a role for themselves. With a total budget less than one per cent of the Department for International Development's, and fewer staff than Cornwall council's fire and rescue service, the secretariat is unlikely to find too many areas in which it will be uniquely placed to add real value. It could be a convenor, bringing together diverse experiences and expertise from around the world, but without an over-arching purpose it risks descending into a series of expensive talkshops.


A champion of values


The Commonwealth's role as a custodian and champion of values, therefore, is its unique selling point and the area where it has been strongest in previous decades.


No other body boasts a global membership of countries that have voluntarily signed up to such strong ideals. Nor does any other have a mechanism for self-regulation like the Commonwealth's ministerial action group, which has the power to suspend, and ultimately expel, recalcitrant members.


The Commonwealth played a lead role in the global campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, with the secretary general often taking a view that was unpopular with member states, notably Britain. And it pioneered independent international election-observer missions, many of which criticised practices in member states.


But the organisation has been woefully quiet in these areas in recent times. The Gambian president has threatened journalists and human rights activists without any criticism from the secretariat and it took almost three years after the coup for Fiji to be finally suspended late last year. Though we are told that work is being done behind the scenes, public silence hurts the association's credibility.


Just as the world is crying out for a credible moral authority, the Commonwealth has become shy and retiring. The fact that the association is governed by consensus is a unique strength, giving all its members an equal stake and preventing the kind of politicised deadlock that so often cripples the U.N. security council. But in recent years the consensus ideal has become an obsession, locking the Commonwealth into being as conservative as its most conservative member, many of which are reluctant to sanction criticism due to their own less-than-perfect records.


In contrast


By contrast, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees campaigns tirelessly on international protection; and just last month the European commission warned France over its treatment of the Roma.


The problem for the Commonwealth is as much philosophical as political. The fear of being branded neo-imperialist seems to have made it reluctant to push too hard on human rights. Yet, given that its members have freely subscribed to these ideals, holding them to account on their promises is hardly imposing western liberalism.


If the Commonwealth is to recover from its recent battering, it must make good on its promise of being an association that holds to its values. This means lending a helping hand where appropriate but also pointing a finger where there are serious shortcomings. The founding fathers had visionary ideals. Nehru had hoped that the modern Commonwealth would bring "a touch of healing" to the world. Today, it's the Commonwealth that needs an urgent dose of courage and ambition. (Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah is director of the Royal Commonwealth Society.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010











People in developing countries who make a living scavenging the dumps of electronic equipment thrown away by the first world face daily hazards most of us never consider as we gaily order our new mobile, laptop or flat-screen television. Recycling our waste electrical items is a dirty job, and those who do it are among the poorest and least educated in the world.


The common practice of burning plastic cables to gain quick access to the valuable copper inside, for instance, gives off smoke that can cause chest and lung problems. Some of the chemicals released into the environment are carcinogenic. Crude break-up of electrical items can cause heavy metals such as lead and mercury to leach into the soil, and then into the water table. From here, they are taken up by plants, ingested by animals, and eventually accumulate at the top of the food chain, in humans.


Illegal to ship


Though it is now illegal under the U.N.'s Basel Convention for developed countries to ship their toxic e-waste to other countries, there's no doubt it still happens. And even when electronic equipment is certified as safe for re-use and exported legally, the thousands of manual workers who dismantle it are still unlikely to have had any training in how to safely handle it.


Educating these workers in what is a highly casual sector is the problem now being tackled by Professor Oladele Osibanjo, director of the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre For Training and Technology Transfer for the African Region. Osibanjo, based in Lagos, Nigeria, has campaigned internationally against illegal dumping: now, he says, it is imperative to educate workers in how to retrieve the valuable components they depend on for financial survival without damaging their health and that of their community and wider environment.


The difficulty lies not simply in persuading them to attend training, but in finding suitable methods of teaching technical skills to individuals who are often illiterate.


E-learning and workshops


To have any hope of making an impact, training methods must be flexible and highly accessible, and this is where e-learning materials created by U.K. company Learning Light have played a part, in combination with face-to-face workshops led by Dr. Margaret Bates from Northampton University's Centre for Sustainable Wastes Management. Approached by Osibanjo to see if she could facilitate some initial training for waste workers in Lagos, Bates had to think hard about how to adapt her university approach to teaching people with no academic background. Making graphically clear the long-term effects of poor working practices — through visual images of illnesses contracted because of pollution — is one way she tackled the problem.


"If you're going to stop people continuing with dangerous working practices you have to show them more than just a financial incentive. So the first workshop we ran was the really horrible one, about dioxins and how babies can be affected. We spent time showing participants very visually the effects of this kind of pollution." About 150 people came along, including local associations of scavengers, dismantlers, repairers, refurbishers and retailers of used and component parts in Lagos state. Representatives of the largest informal e-waste market associations in Lagos also attended.


"The participants were advised to choose from continuing with the present methods, which can shorten their life span, and spend most of the money made from the business in paying for healthcare costs; or adopt international best practice using correct tools and personal protective equipment, and live longer and healthier lives," says Osibanjo. "Later, the participants admitted to being enlightened that they are at risk of being hurt by e-waste." Nothing like this had ever been on offer in Nigeria before, says Bates. Driving home the dramatic impacts on human health required her to lead the first workshop; the second session, however, used a tutorial programme already developed by e-learning design specialists Learning Light for prisoner education in the U.K.


Though Bates was present for this session, too, the idea is that in future she need not be. It's crucial to the long-term success of this initiative that workers can study under their own steam.


Delivered in discrete online units requiring no reading or writing, and designed to meet the requirements of the European Union's Weee (waste electrical and electronic equipment) Directive, Learning Light's teaching units are loaded into a computer — or accessed online where broadband services are good enough — and use strong visual and oral prompts that translate easily from a U.K. context to a Nigerian classroom.


"We've got modules for dismantling inkjet printers and computer base stations," says Bates — but that's just the start. Learning Light is developing teaching modules for a variety of equipment types that will ultimately be remotely accessible.


The impact of combining face-to-face contact with experts from Northampton's Centre for Sustainable Wastes Management, with an e-learning course that can be carried out thousands of miles away, could make a significant impact on the safety of those working in the Nigerian dismantling industry, suggests Bates — if funding can be found to keep the course going. Getting approval and encouragement from Nigerian government officials will be vital.


In the U.K., the Learning Light course leads to a nationally recognised vocational qualification now, with the help of feedback from the initial training sessions, Bates and Osibanjo are working with Nigerian regulators to create a distance-learning programme that will lead to a formal Nigerian qualification for people who might never even have finished school. The sooner a course can be accredited, the easier it will be to attract funding that allows those who rely on our electronic waste to do so without putting their health at risk.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010







Peruvians are ecstatic after Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 7.


Sales of his books have skyrocketed in bookstores across the country. Moreover, a cultural week was announced to promote the reading of his works.


Javier Ochoa, a manager of a bookstore in Arequipa, said that sales of Vargas Llosa's books have quadrupled after he won. "We sell some 25 of his books by day," he said. "There were people who did not know him (Vargas Llosa) in the past, but with his winning this award, people will read more and we will sell more," a book seller in Lima said. The Education Ministry has announced it will promote the reading of Vargas Llosa's works in all schools nationwide, including the initiation of a programme called the Reader's Plan to encourage students to read one book each month. The Culture Ministry announced on October 10 that it would host a cultural week to pay homage to Vargas Llosa and support creating a national award with his name. — Xinhua








A $22 billion clean-energy city being built in the desert outside Abu Dhabi will no longer aim to produce all its own power, the developer revealed on October 10 following a wide-ranging review that retools some of the project's ambitions.


Plans originally called for Masdar City to become a self-contained "carbon-neutral" community of 40,000 residents and even more commuters. Cars would be banned. Waste and water would be recycled.


It is meant to be a marked environmental contrast to other cities in the Emirates, where fuel-guzzling SUVs and year-round air conditioning powered by fossil fuel are common.


Work till 2025


The state company behind the city said on October 10 the project now won't be completed until at least 2020 "four years after the original deadline" and that work could stretch until 2025. The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. which goes by Masdar or "source" in Arabic also backed away from original plans to power the city solely on power produced on site. The latest plans still call for the project to rely solely on renewable energy, however.


Masdar said it is exploring a range of clean-energy sources for the city, including geothermal energy and solar thermal cooling, but that it will also consider buying renewable power from other locations. Vast solar arrays were originally slated to provide the bulk of Masdar City's power.


Some parts of Masdar City are already up and running. Students and faculty began moving into six buildings housing a research facility known as Masdar Institute last month. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, a Gulf federation that has the world's largest ecological footprint per capita, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Masdar City is at the heart of efforts by Abu Dhabi, one of the world's biggest exporters of oil, to position itself as a world leader in renewable energy. The emirate is investing heavily in solar and nuclear power, and was picked last year as the home of the International Renewable Energy Agency. — AP









Sunday's decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to dump 2008 Indian Premier League champions Rajasthan Royals and Chandigarh-based Kings XI Punjab for alleged changes in their ownership pattern between the time bids were first made for teams and subsequent years has come as a blow to the burgeoning


property that the IPL has become. Not only does this send out the clear signal that toeing the BCCI line is the only way to survive in Indian cricket, it also targets those the board perceived were close to sacked IPL "commissioner" Lalit Modi. At the same time, the BCCI-run IPL governing council, which met in Mumbai over the weekend, gave the new Kochi franchise 10 days to sort out its problems, which in many ways reflect the reasons that the Royals and Kings XI were shown the door in the first place. Predictably, it has kicked off a storm of protest, not just by Lalit Modi — who was busy tweeting his outrage on Sunday — but also by a significant section of the owners of other IPL teams, notably Vijay Mallya of Bangalore Royal Challengers as well as by those more directly affected: Preity Zinta of the Punjab side and Shipla Shetty and Raj Kundra of the Jaipur-based Royals.

In essence, the BCCI's step underlines the moves it made over the last few months to take back total control over the IPL in every aspect, which had clearly not been the case in the three years Mr Modi and his team ran the extravaganza. As part of the initial document, the franchisees had to make a commitment that no change in ownership patterns or other significant alterations would take place without the IPL governing council and the board itself being informed. Yet both the Royals and the Kings had apparently made a number of switches in ownership and investment patterns. On this seeming technicality, the axe fell on the two teams that apparently have some links to Mr Modi and his family, however tenuous. It remains to be seen if the BCCI's action can withstand legal scrutiny in the event of the aggrieved parties choosing to go to court. The immediate outcome of this move for the IPL's fourth round next year is that instead of 10 teams that would have been in the fray with two new inductions, the IPL returns to the more familiar eight-team format. There had been more that a few voices raised expressing concern over the amount of cricket the Indians in particular were required to play, especially in the aftermath of the World T20 debacle in the West Indies.

The other aspect of the BCCI's action is the complete and utter disregard shown to what should have been its basic constituency — the Indian cricket fan. Each of the eight franchise cities have painstakingly and at great cost and effort generated and nurtured a following, not just in their respective catchment areas but across the country and beyond. So what happens to those who owed loyalty to the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab? Are they to be casually discarded as some scores have to be settled? Surely those who run the game need to think of the sentiments, and the interests, of cricket lovers — for it is only on the basis of their money and support that the game has reached where it has today. But then, this is a familiar story for those in charge of sport in India — for whom athletes, players and the paying public are distractions, rather than being the reason for their very existence. The utter chaos that heralded almost every aspect of the ongoing Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is a very good example of this uncaring mindset.








What is racism and when should a national government take up arms against an act of ethnic or colour-based prejudice or discrimination. The issue is worth pondering because in the past week there have been several cases of alleged racism in relation to the Commonwealth Games. In most, India has played the victim and the ministry


of external affairs (MEA), pushed by a hyperactive media, has gone ballistic. In other cases, India has been accused of being the perpetrator and predictably the issue has been buried.

It began with a New Zealand television commentator punning on Sheila Dikshit's surname. It would have been fine as a party joke or college canteen chatter but on national television, it was in decidedly bad taste. The government of India criticised the remark, which it was within its rights to do; it then boycotted an official lunch hosted by the New Zealand high commissioner in New Delhi and demanded action against the television commentator.

Next, an email circulating among junior functionaries of the Victoria police showed a train passenger getting electrocuted in India and led to a series of comments on how this could be a way to "solve" the Indian student problem in Australia. It must be noted that the story broke in Australian newspapers and only after the Victoria authorities had begun taking remedial steps, including disciplinary action against the offending police constables.

India responded by summoning the Australian high commissioner to South Block. In a statement, the MEA said, "Such an entrenched bias among sections of law enforcers towards the Indian community is a matter of serious concern. Such behaviour and attitudes have no place in any society".

The third incident got smaller publicity. South African swimmer Roland Schoeman was distracted by the crowd and ended up making a false start in the 50-metres freestyle semi-final. Clearly upset, he assailed spectator behaviour: "It's an absolute disgrace. There's a guy in the stands just shouting, shouting, shouting. Someone like that needs to be ejected from this place. It is unacceptable to be at a professional event like this and having people in the stands going on like monkeys".

The use of the "monkey" word caused a minor controversy. The Commonwealth Games Federation had to step in and say it did not condone "racial slurs or racial behaviour". Schoeman protested he had pointed to the bad behaviour of one individual and not intended a racist remark.

Of the three incidents recounted above, the one involving Victorian policemen is the most serious. It required the India foreign office to intervene though the MEA statement, as well as media discourse in India, did seem to confuse aberrant behaviour by individuals with institutional prejudice as a matter of government policy. Nowhere in the world are lower-level policemen models of rectitude and enlightened social more. A Jat constable in Haryana may personally abhor dalits and hold the worst possible opinion of them. That is different from the Haryana police as an institution — much less the Haryana government or the government of India — being biased against dalits as a matter of deliberate policy.

It was even more complicated in the case of the New Zealand television commentator. His right to free speech, however perverted, is a matter between him, his employers and the slander and hate laws of his home country. The episode also constituted the acts of a private individual on a news network. Did it really implicate the New Zealand government and merit not turning up at the high commissioner's lunch? More important, as a democracy, with a free press it is proud of, didn't India look mighty stupid demanding action against a single journalist, and that too from a national government? This is the thing the world expects China to do, not India.
Finally, come to Schoeman's remarks. The simian comparison he made was not very different from the manner in which Sunil Gavaskar, writing in his book Sunny Days, described a rambunctious crowd in Kingston (Jamaica) during the fourth test between India and the West Indies in early 1976. Led by Michael Holding, the hosts bowled menacingly and aimed for the batsman's body. The crowd seemed to love it, in the manner of a Coliseum throng egging on blood-hungry gladiators.

Was Gavaskar racist — or was he just angry at the perceived unfairness of it all?

That aside, at sports events Indians tend to be terrible keepers of spectator etiquette. In 2004, this writer travelled to Athens for the Olympic Games. A doubles match involving tennis stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi got Indian fans particularly excited. A joint secretary of the ministry of sports, in Athens on a taxpayer-sponsored junket, got so carried away that each time an Indian player raised his arm to serve, he screamed, "Go Leander, Go Mahesh; Come on India!"

It happened two or three times, with all four players on court turning in the direction of the screeching middle-aged Indian. Eventually, it was pointed out to Mr joint secretary that spectators were expected to maintain complete silence while a player was serving or during a rally. The cheering was to take place strictly after the point. There was a certain difference between a tennis match and a football game. The epithets used to describe Mr Joint Secretary that day in Athens were far worse than "monkey"; and they were all the work of fellow Indians.

A fourth recent fracas arose during the marchpast of nations at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. A Doordarshan commentator described an African contingent in a strange fashion: "Here comes Malawi. It is in Africa. It is one of the world's least developed countries".

Predictably, the high commission of Malawi protested. Doordarshan's director-general wrote back offering an "unconditional apology" and insisting the "derogatory" description was "unintentional" and "inadvertent". There wasn't even the remotest suggestion, let alone self-admission, that India's public broadcaster had been racist. Neither was there any question of the government of Malawi boycotting the Indian high commissioner and asking New Delhi to punish the Doordarshan commentator.

Given this, why is India's establishment so prickly when comes to claiming offence from white nations in the Commonwealth? Is it exhibiting some deep-seated psychological inadequacy? That nagging suspicion just refuses to go away.

Ashok Malik can be contacted at








When mobile phone marketers light up at the mention of the man in the mud shack, you know something serious is happening in the Indian countryside. The big picture is the soaring number of mobile phone connections in the country — over 670 million at last count. Zoom in, and there is the more fascinating story of how low-cost, long-battery-life cellphones are showing millions of Indians a way out of the ghetto.


Last week, I dropped into the office of a man who explained how batterynomics works on the ground. His work takes him to places that are yet to be connected to the power grid or have little electricity. Pretty bleak scenario, you would think. But not for Rajesh Sharma, director of operations, Zen Mobiles and rural markets adviser to the Indian Cellular Association.

Key to the wild success of the new models of cellphones with long battery life, he points out, is India's failure to provide 24x7 electricity to the vast majority of its people. Around 89,000 villages out of 5.93 lakh still remain un-electrified. A majority of the un-electrified villages are in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — states lagging behind in key human development indices.

Zen Mobile's latest promotional campaign starring Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan seeks to tap this terrain. In the commercial, Bachchan, dressed in rustic gear, is the man with a projector surrounded by villagers waiting to see the Bollywood blockbuster Dhoom. Unfortunately, just as Dhoom's title track comes on, the lights go off. The audience is livid and wants the money back. Bachchan asks everyone to be quiet and pulls out his ace — a Zen M-25  handset equipped with long battery back-up, video applications and  multimedia. Anger turns to exuberance and the crowd grooves to the title track Dhoom Machale playing on the mobile which incidentally costs around `3,000. The promo calls it Zen Mobile's mini-theatre.

Mr Sharma is optimistic about the product's future. In small-town India, where everyone lives with agonising power outages and in the villages, the message rings true.

Shyam Raj, a mobile phone dealer in Dumka, Jharkhand, draws attention to a common sight in the countryside: people trudging miles to recharge their mobile phones. Each recharge costs between `5 and `10. The user has to make at least a dozen such trips every month. Whoever has access to electricity — the grocer or the petrol pump dealer — can make money out of it. Low-cost cellphones with long life battery are a huge boon to Mr Raj's customers, as they save time and cash.

The phone has thrown up immense possibilities to those minimally touched by development. The farmer in a remote village can know mandi prices and much else. But utility is not the only attraction. Whether millionaire, mazdoor or mud shack dweller, the mobile phone today is as much an entertainment device as a communication tool. The difference is that the mazdoor and mud shack dweller want the combo cheap, and customised to their special needs. Whoever figured this out early is making heavy inroads into the exploding rural customer base.

Whoever did not is suffering.

It is pretty much a David and Goliath tale with a touch of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. The telecom revolution kicked off in India in the late '90s. Traditionally, multinationals ruled the roost. But in a hyper price-sensitive market like India, it was only a matter of time before local and less-known manufacturers clambered aboard the mobile phone bandwagon. The leader in this pack of emerging vendors is Micromax Mobile whose founder was inspired by a group of villagers standing in the afternoon heat waiting to get their cellphones charged from a car battery that was mounted on a bicycle.

Today it is these local low-cost mobile handset sellers who are creating the buzz. With over half of India's population living in villages and the teledensity in its urban centres — like Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai — having reached saturation point, customising handsets for first-time buyers is a smart strategy that is paying off. And India and China are working together to make the rural backwaters the hotbed for innovation — Indian vendors typically get the phones manufactured in China or Taiwan.

Why are the less known Indian companies giving sleepless nights to the likes of Nokia, the market leader? Mr Sharma says it is because the locals figured out that many of the new customers would be small town, rural and poor, and spent time designing products to cater to their unique needs.

Apart from long battery life, the dual SIM card is a big attraction of the new mobiles. Every low cost cell offers this facility. Nokia got on to the dual SIM game a little late, losing market share in the process. Users are buying phones that support more than one SIM to take advantage of a variety of plans offered by different service providers. Typically, at the low end, people want one reliable number for the free incoming calls, and they have another for outgoing calls.

The Indian companies are doing well because they are incorporating feedback from the field into the design. Earlier models of a particular brand of low cost cellphone had a torch at the top of the handset. There were complaints and the more recent models have the torch at the bottom so that a user can continue speaking while walking down unlit village lanes. These phones also have a slot for a memory card. For a few hundred rupees, one can buy such a card with local content — songs, videos — opening up immense possibilities for locale-specific entertainment.

All this is exciting not only for those in the mobile phone business. Mapping the trail of the buyers of these new gizmos provides a handy deprivation index for planners. The first-time users of a low cost long battery life cellphone are most likely to live in areas that are hungry for reliable energy, and least likely to have access to a health centre with a fridge to store life-saving drugs or a school with students who have enough light in the evenings for their homework.


Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at








The euphoria witnessed in certain circles about the state of the Indian economy is more than a bit disconcerting. Statistics are selectively highlighted, inconvenient facts are deliberately ignored and attempts are made to present a picture that is far rosier than what reality would warrant. The mood is perhaps truly reflective of the ongoing


Commonwealth Games in the national capital which, in more ways than one, represent the best and the worst of the country. Ostensibly to showcase India's capabilities to the rest of the world, we have constructed modern monuments on the backs of the most underprivileged.

Particular projections of the Indian economy that were recently put out have made those in government who are paid to be optimistic, rather giddy with joy. The latest World Economic Outlook released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on October 6 places the likely rate of growth of the country's economy during the current calendar year at 9.7 per cent, above the 9.4 per cent estimate made in July. This prognostication is higher than projections made by the Asian Development Bank (8.5 per cent) and Crisil (8.1 per cent) and above than the 8.5 per cent projections for the financial year (ending March 31, 2011) made by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council and the ministry of finance. In between these estimates is one made by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (9.2 per cent).

It is now widely accepted that in the foreseeable future, India would be growing faster than China although, according to the IMF, China is expected to grow faster at 10.5 per cent during 2010, while in 2011, the rates of growth of the Indian and Chinese economies have been projected at lower levels of 9.6 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively. Putting aside for the time being the veracity and credibility of the projections made by the IMF — it went terribly wrong in anticipating the scale and depth of the international recession in 2008 and 2009 — the simple point is that there is every reason to believe that India's gross domestic product would soon start growing faster than the speed at which the economy of the world's most populous country will expand, reversing a trend that is decades old.

A technical econometric exercise in a paper released in August by three economists with the ADB (Working Paper 609, "Using Capabilities to Project Growth 2010-30" by Jesus Felipe, Utsav Kumar and Arnelyn Abdon) projects a relatively higher rate of growth for India over the next two decades. Between 1990 and 2007, the Indian economy grew by an average of 6.47 per cent each year against 10.34 per cent in the case of China. However, between 2010 and 2030, India's growth rate would vary between 5.78 per cent and 7.07 per cent against China's 4.15-5.12 per cent, the ADB paper has projected.

Official spokespersons are gloating for other reasons as well. The sensitive index crossed the 20,000 mark but is yet to exceed the 21,000 peak that had been touched in January 2008. Even as a study by MCX Stock Exchange and Nielsen — the "Indian Equity Investors Survey 2010" — indicated that barely 1.4 per cent of the population of the country have invested some proportion of their savings in the stock market, cakes were cut in Indore to celebrate the recent rise in the Sensex. The fact is that the Sensex is zooming because foreign institutional investors (FII) have poured more money into Indian stock exchanges than ever before — between January and October 8, net inflows by FIIs stood at $20.4 billion or over `90,000 crore.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has repeatedly asserted that the government is not contemplating curbs on capital inflows (unlike some other developing countries) that create a set of complex problems by adding to domestic money supply thereby fuelling inflationary expectations despite the RBI's attempts to "sterilise" such inflows. Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia has denied claims that the Indian economy is "over-heating", a term indicating that domestic manufacturing capacity is not keeping pace with demand resulting in inflationary pressures. Yet, the IMF has asserted: "Among some major emerging economies, capacity constraints are beginning to boost prices… India has seen a sharp rise in inflation".
That indeed, is the crux of the problem, namely, the government's abysmal failure to curb inflation in general and food inflation in particular, which is right now is excess of 16 per cent, according to the government's own revised official wholesale price index. Of late, having burnt their fingers repeatedly, government spokespersons have stopped making claims about when inflation would come down. The FM says he is "concerned" about the rise in prices. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — world-renowned economist that he is supposed to be — was last asked when inflation could be expected to abate, he snapped at the questioner saying he was not an astrologer. As for the residents of the national capital, the situation is a bit worse than in the rest of the country as the rise in food demand (thanks, of course, to the Commonwealth Games) has sent prices of vegetables and sugar soaring.

There are none so blind as those who will not see. Even as swank apartments have been pre-sold at fancy sums in the Games Village, the World Bank estimated that the present housing shortage in the country varies between 20 million and 70 million. The Bank has pointed out that between 35 per cent and 45 per cent of India's urban population with monthly incomes ranging between `5,000 and `11,000 do not own homes.

Even as the number of dollar millionaires and billionaires in the country increase with predictable regularity each year — see Forbes magazine's rich list — figures put out by the government state that the average Indian earned less than `45,000 a year, a tad lower than the World Bank's estimates of India's per capita income at $1,200 a year. That works out to be less than `4,000 a month — an amount that can be easily blown up over a meal in a five-star hotel. This, mind you, is the average national income not what is earned by those below the poverty line. Are you surprised still why the influence of left-wing extremists is extending beyond the forests in the Red Corridor where adivasis live to the concrete jungles of urban India?


Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator









Indian democracy has taken another knock following the sordid events in the Karnataka assembly on Monday.


The BJP government in the state barely survived a vote of confidence after the speaker disqualified 16 legislators.


The opposition cried foul — but it's clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.


When legislators are kept locked up in resorts and whisked away to neighbouring states to keep them from changing their minds, it's difficult to pretend that there is anything called a free and fair conscience-driven vote.


The governor, HR Bhardwaj, has muddied the waters further by recommending president's rule. He has essentially played the role of Congress lackey in an opposition-ruled state.


What is one to do when every constitutional functionary — from legislators to ministers to the governor — fails to play by the rules? The courts are obviously the last resort.


The answer cannot be central intervention, for this is a matter only voters can decide. If our elected representatives are going to behave in unseemly ways and subvert the verdict of the previous polls, correctives can be applied only by the people in an election. But that, of course, is not going to happen anytime soon, for the purpose of all the skulduggery was to avoid another election.


]The fundamental issue that keeps coming up again and again — whether in Goa or Jharkhand or Karnataka —is the use of money power to buy the loyalties of legislators. Since money can only buy limited-period loyalty, governments will be vulnerable to vested interests that have the money to swing votes. Clearly, there is an unholy alliance of politicians, businessmen and muscle-power subverting the very essence of democracy.


The root cause is the high cost of getting elected, which makes politicians seek huge hoards of cash. Businessmen provide it in return for policy favours (illegal mining rights, cheap land allocations, et al). This cycle of dirty money driving dirty politics driving dirty business can only be resolved through electoral funding reform. That's the place to begin.







You do not have to drive your car any more. It will manage on its own with help from video cameras, laser and radar sensors.


A futuristic car, which has been doing its test runs through the crowded streets of San Francisco, is to be launched by Google, the internet behemoth.


While the product in itself bamboozles, Google foray into automated cars certainly raises eyebrows. If Apple's Steve Jobs took to iPhones and he came to it through the iPod, there was a logical connection of sorts.


The pod and the phone were extensions of the computer device. But the move from search engine to self-navigating internal combustion engine seems like a great leap of faith. The argument that it would bring down the number of people who die in road accidents seems unconvincing.


An intelligent machine can also run amok if something goes wrong with its internal circuits; not for nothing did Stephen King create an eerie tale with his car.


An accident-free car, though, is an idea worth waiting for. It is not hard to imagine that at least the poor in India, especially those who are forced to sleep on pavements in our metropolises, may be rooting for this new automated car because drunken driving could then be reduced to a tale from the distant past. Machines have a romance of their own, and they inspire prayers and dreams.








In its haste to show who's boss, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should not forget what it set out to do when it ousted Lalit Modi from the Indian Premier League (IPL). His exit was a chance to clean up the image of the league, not add to the murkiness.


On Sunday, BCCI president Shashank Manohar announced the axing of two IPL teams, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, due to breaches of agreement revealed in an internal probe. No one can have any quarrel with Manohar & Co wanting to eliminate the parties involved in 'shady' deals. But to bring down the sledgehammer on two teams without so much as a warning reeks of bullying. It isn't a coincidence that both Kings XI and Royals have been considered to be close to Modi, who is clearly not a favourite with the current dispensation. Blunt announcements like Manohar's only give fodder to the conspiracy theorists — that this is a vendetta, not a clean-up. IPL may nominally belong to the BCCI, but in a larger sense it is owned emotionally by its fans. The BCCI clearly did not think about the fans of Rajasthan Royals and Kings IX who have loyally worn the teams' jerseys in the first three IPL events. Fans have lost the most in the tug-of-power of Indian cricket.


There is one more thing to worry about. With the league already down to eight teams, there may be a need to invite more investors in the future. If the behaviour of the board veers towards bullying rather than partnering, then attracting big investors, who also come with huge egos and strong opinions, will be very difficult. Most importantly, the BCCI's bosses must show that the change in IPL's leadership has been for the better. But has the dictatorial nature of decision-making that Modi was accused of really changed? IPL franchise owners are already crying foul, demanding to be made partners in change as opposed to 'slaves' who merely obey diktats.


Going forward, the BCCI must provide absolute transparency in the reasons for the two teams' ouster, even if it means sharing details of its inquiry. The need of the hour is to prove that their intent is to make the league work, not destroy it. Modi is not their focus, Indian cricket is. The bottomline is this: whether one likes it or not, IPL is today India's best-known sporting property. It is a property worth preserving.









The reform debate in India has developed a single-point focus on the entry of foreign entities into various sectors.


Whether it is retail trade or education or banking, the word reform means allowing the entry of foreign players. It is really unfortunate because there are a zillion other things one needs to do in the context of reforms.


There are intense discussions at the level of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the ministry of finance about opening up the banking sector to new entrants, both domestic and foreign. The usual suspects — various lobbies called industry associations — are giving their views to justify the interest of private business, both Indian and foreign.


Two critical issues in this discussion pertain to providing banking licenses to business houses and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), and more branch licenses to foreign banks.


An associated issue is the quantity of capital that should be prescribed as the minimum. Banking is an important arm of the


society because it channelises our savings and investment. Domestic saving is of the order of 35% of GDP and households contribute more than 70% to this. Financial savings constitute nearly half of all household savings.


In spite of all the hype about the Sensex and stock markets, nearly 60% of the financial savings of the household sector went into bank deposits in 2008-2009. The share of stocks was an abysmal 3%, while insurance and pension had nearly 30%. Hence banking is a crucial


element in our economy's scheme of things. We have more than 70,000 branches spread across the length and breadth of our country.


There are surely enough experts in the RBI and the finance ministry who are familiar with the reasons why banks were nationalised in the late 1960s and even in 1980.


One of the major reasons was the misuse of bank funds by business groups which controlled banks. If industrial houses are allowed to own banks then this will go against the elementary idea of not allowing conflicts of interest.


Though lenders and


borrowers are technically different entities, in terms of commonality of interests it is the same person sitting on both sides of the table when businessmen run banks. Arm's length


relationships and Chinese walls are of little relevance since not only do we not have exceptional policing, but the exact opposite.


The negative impact of the ownership of banks by business houses on millions of unwary depositors is going to be humongous. Hence one should perish the thought of large business houses owning banks.


The other segment being considered for more licenses is large NBFCs. Here again it will be more appropriate to have a separate regulatory body for well-run entities and remove restrictions which impinge on their performance rather than converting them into banks.


Let it be recognised that even now many of the banks are fulfilling their priority sector requirements by lending to these NBFCs. The latter, in turn, provide funds to the ultimate beneficiaries. Let well-run NBFCs be encouraged to remain NBFCs.


Let us also remember that the entry of private players in the past has not been as rosy as it is made out to be. We have the examples of Global Trust Bank, which was neither global nor trusted, TimesBank and Centurion Bank. These banks had to be absorbed by state-owned banks or more solid private banks at a huge cost.


As for foreign banks fostering inclusive growth, it's an oxymoron. By definition, foreign banks in India have always looked at the cream of the market. In their case we must go strictly by reciprocity.


For instance, till 1994, a Citibank could not even open branches in other states of the US due to legal restrictions. But that did not stop it from demanding more branch licenses in India.


The elementary principle should be that they should have full-fledged banking companies in India or listed subsidiaries. They can't expand in India with mere branches or representative offices. One is tired of reading in small print that all disputes have to be settled in London or Tokyo. Now is the time to demand what is required by India since the foreign banks find low-hanging fruit here and are eager to enter. Actually, we should have higher domestic statutory liquidity ratios and capital requirements for foreign banks.


The RBI and the finance ministry must allow domestic banks already operating here to offer complete net banking services to citizens without any brick and mortar facilities. It will reduce the cost of operations, provide higher interest rates to customers and will be a big success, given the love affair of the Indian middle-class with the Internet and mobile phones. Perhaps public sector banks should even float a subsidiary for net banks.


Banking reforms should focus on innovation and protection of domestic savings coupled with prudence in lending rather than flamboyance, razzmatazz and other circus elements.








In George Mikes's delightful book How to be an Alien, he makes, to use a colloquialism, absolute chutney of the British. He pokes fun at their customs, their intellect, their soul (or lack of), their eating habits, their accents — in fact, everything he can think of. Then, as he writes in the intro, he was sorely disappointed because only one man that he had heard of was disgusted and threw the book into the fireplace. Everyone else laughed uproariously. So I thought it would be fun to imagine if someone wrote such a book about India and Indians.


Well, okay, it would be fine if the writer just made fun of us in a general kind of way. Without mentioning names, communities, regions and so on and just sticking to stereotypes as figures to make fun of. Because the verboten list is very long.


No political leaders, dead or alive (except, currently, Suresh Kalmadi; you are allowed to say anything you like about Kalmadi), no people admired by politicians of any hue, no historical figures, no gods or goddesses (of any religion), businessmen, industrialists, film stars, policemen (this is because every time some film makes fun of cops, the cops burst into tears), no one who might be if sentimental value to six people living in one building society, no legendary figures who may or may not be historical, barbers, the armed forces, doctors, Sikhs (because they have been getting sick of all the silly santa-banta jokes about themselves and really, maybe they have a point) and anything which annoys the grandchildren of famous people.


Of course, the writer had better not be from either Australia or New Zealand or, shudder shudder, they would have immediately have to be lynched for racism and worse.


Therefore, let us add to the list. You cannot make fun of our names, the spellings of our names and the pronunciation of our names. However, there are exceptions.


Suppose your name is Harinder and you change it to Harry, then you have changed the rules and our fair game. Or suppose you have abandoned your native land and now live in some foreign land. Then those of us left in the native land (in this case, India that is Bharat), are allowed to make fun of you. But the people of the country where you have now chosen to live may not make fun of you (racism).


You cannot make fun of the dirt in India, the toilets (or lack of), our swimming pools (no matter how dirty you

may think they are) and our standards of hygiene (or lack thereof). Then add our history, culture, past, future… actually, I don't know what's left to make fun of.


But the best part is that we all do it, all the times, to ourselves. But we have the good sense to be subversive. We know that everyone is very sensitive in India to images on chappals and names of bars in foreign lands. So we just do it slyly and not in this foolish public manner.


We all need a little irreverence in our lives, right?


So here's what I propose. Let us have a national list of Holy Cows and allow ourselves to make fun of say, 10 at a time. This way, we will be equally offensive to everyone in rotation.


Since there will be a quota and a rota system, our natural tendency for bureaucracy will be fulfilled. And we will be fair, because everyone who's anyone (dead or alive, real or legendary) will be on the list.


Except: no foreigners will be permitted to make fun of us. Ever. (Racism).








The just-sine dine adjourned session of the Assembly is not likely to leave anyone happy. Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone does his job efficiently and competently. His image has acquired a big boost all over the country after the successful conduct of the conference of presiding officers of legislative bodies in Srinagar in June this year. He must have expected a better show than that has taken place under his nose this time. Indeed, at one time, he has been forced to remark: "Some members are unfortunately taking the House for granted. I will be the last person to tolerate this." He warned that he would be forced to use marshals to remove unruly members from the House. He did not have to wait for long to translate his warning into reality. Surely he had to get a few members lifted out of the House. Evidently Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has bitten more than that he can chew with his contentious accession-not-merger remark. Is this his response to the Central Government's categorical observation about "trust deficit" and "governance deficit" in the State? Is it an indication that he has read some writing on the wall? How does he gain by adding glee to the camp of separatists who in any event are not enamoured of him? Has he said all that he has done on the floor of the legislature to win back the support of a section of his own party flock? Will it enable him to walk out of his Gupkar residence into the streets of the Summer Capital, turf of the National Conference (NC) in the none-too-distant past, with more confidence? What is Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi thinking now after having voiced backing for him at a critical juncture? We shall get the answers to these queries sooner rather than later.


Doubtless the proceedings have suffered because of the absence of the main opposition party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP). One wishes that the PDP would have actively taken part and used its legislative skills and the knowledge of rules to better effect. For the believers in democracy it should be a matter of concern that the NC and the PDP virtually don't like to see each other's face. Their stand-off has the harmful potential of dividing the society down the line in the Valley in particular. It may create bitterness of the sort witnessed in the wake of Sheikh Abdullah's movement called "Tarak-i-Mawalat" in the mid-1960s. The Sheikh had then called for the social boycott of the Congressmen in Kashmir in the wake of Mr Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq's move to convert the NC itself into the State unit of the Congress. It is not surprising that there are observers who think that the younger Abdullah's outburst at this juncture is meant to respond to what is interpreted as the PDP's "soft separation" approach as and when the situation arises.


Does the State benefit from this game of one-upmanship? As it turned out later the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the third largest party in the Assembly, and the Panthers Party too felt compelled to stay away from the House. What can the ordinary citizens do if the legislature ceases to be a forum of free and frank debate and is instead rocked by boycott and acrimony?






How do we measure the industrial sickness? There can't be two opinions about its widely accepted definition. It applies to companies that should have accumulated losses equal to or exceeding their net worth at the end of any financial year. This in itself, however, may not reflect the correct scenario. Before we proceed further let's have a look at the existing situation. According to information given by the Government in the ongoing session of the State legislature 418 units in the State have been declared sick --- 89 of them in the Jammu province and 330 in the Kashmir division. These constitute nearly 2 per cent of the total number of 39450 industrial units on the whole --- small, medium and large scale. The total money invested in them is over Rs 3671 crore --- Rs 2924.34 crore in this region and Rs 676.82 crore on the other side of the Jawahar Tunnel. In all there are 50 industrial estates, 22 of them on this side of the Pir Panjal. Nine industrial estates are under development in the Kashmir division --- two of them in Leh district, and three in this region. If there is heavy outlay in this region the reason for it should be clear to all of us. There is comparatively peace in this part of a turbulent State all the more so in its planes. The entrepreneurs both from within and outside have found it more convenient to put in their money here. They have also found it a suitable location to make use of concessions available to them. On the other hand, the large-scale incidence of sickness in the Valley can be easily explained. It is because of the continuing turmoil and violence. At times the situation does improve but it only flatters to deceive. An effort has indeed been there to somehow push the pace of development in the Valley. It is evident from the number of industrial estates there. It is futile to blame anyone including the Government for the sort of anti-climax that we come across now. All of us must share the responsibility. We have not yet developed stake in peace in the Valley. From time to time the administration does conceive measures for the rehabilitation of sick units. One basic hurdle in our way is the remoteness and isolation. We are far from the major markets. We have a railway station and a busy airport.


Besides, our road network is fairly good especially the national highway which is one of the oldest in the country. The transportation involves high cost. This in turn adds to the price of our goods taking a further toll of their competitive edge. A result is that per force the majority of our local industrialists cater to local markets. One of their target territories is the Kashmir division. At the moment they are caught in a jam. Their money worth crores is blocked because of the chaos in the Valley. At the same time their products have piled up for want of takers. It is not that their counterparts in the Kashmir region are better placed. The latter are suffering because of entirely different reasons. To cap it all there is all-pervasive corruption. What is it all if not sickness?









Former Pakistani army chief Pervez Musharraf has expressed apprehension of military intervention in Pakistan. British government has issued an advisory to its nationals in Pakistan to be prepared for any eventuality and withdrawal from Pakistan within four hour notice. Is military intervention round the corner in that country?
Devastating floods and its mismanagement, proliferating terror, corruption and bad governance are strong enough reasons for the alert Pakistani military to intervene. For earlier coups in the country reasons were less stringent. 

Mismanagement of quick relief to the victims of flash floods computing to nearly two crores, has exerted great pressure on Pakistan military to intervene. Army chief General Kiyani, with his clout in the Pentagon, is cognizant of precarious position of his country.

Add to it the situation in southern city of Karachi. It is torn asunder with ethnic and sectarian strife in which various elements are involved. Baluch insurgents have forced nearly hundred thousand Punjabis to quit the province and thus has begun the ethnic cleansing of Baluchistan. The situation in that troubled province is grave to the extent that Pakistani foreign office is repeatedly bringing the onus of trouble to the doorsteps of India. They can find easy escape in doing so despite India's firm rebuttal.

The situation has become very grim owing to visible stand off between the judiciary and the Government. If this stand off is not immediately and amicably resolved, military intervention is imminent. That is what General Kiyani talked to President Zardari when he met him recently.

During the closing days of his regime, the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had issued what is known as National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) which granted amnesty to politicians, bureaucrats and many others charged of various crimes like corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder and terrorism. A large number of high ranking officials, influential politicians and men of consequence became the beneficiaries of this ordinance. However the Pakistani public had not taken to it kindly.

On December 16, 2009 the Pakistan Supreme Court in a case lodged against the Ordinance declared it unconstitutional. With this historic judgement, some politicians and bureaucrats who were the beneficiaries, voluntarily resigned to escape the consequences of the supreme court verdict. But there were many who did not resign and continued at their positions. Recently Prime Minister Geelani urged those who were implicated but did not resign to quit the office. Interestingly included among the affected are the Interior Minister Rahman Malik and Haqqani, his appointed ambassador to the US.

More pressure was built on Islamabad government when the supreme court asked it to reopen the cases against the beneficiaries included among who is no less a person than Asif Zardari the president. The court asked the government to open the case against him in regard to his Swiss bank accounts.

This led to a bizarre situation as the Government defied the court order saying that no action could be taken against the incumbent president in terms of Pakistan's existing constitution. But the supreme court has its own definition of the clause in the constitution. Ruling against Zardari can bring down the Government and that is the apprehension lurking in the mind of Government circles.

Pir Pagaro, a descendant of the Pagaro house of spiritual leaders in Karachi with disciples and followers called Hurr, has always been supportive of Pakistan military in its wars with India. In the Pakistan-sponsored tribal invasion of Kashmir in 1947, it was the same Pir Pagaro who issued directives to the invaders. As the Government-judiciary logjam developed, Pir Pagaroo's residence in Karachi called Kingra House, became the political hub. The importance of the house will be understood from the fact that quickly after Musharraf's coup, Sheikh Rashid, now opposition leader and then a cabinet minister in Musharraf regime was the first to visit Pir Pagaro. Other ministers followed him.

Chowdhury Shujaat Hussain president of Pakistan Muslim League (Q) announced merger of his party with Pagaro's Muslim League (Functionality) and he expected cricketer Imran Khan to merge his party also with Pagro's group. Recently General Kiyani, the army chief met at GHQ with opposition leader Sheikh Rashid, constitutional expert and former Law Minister S.M. Zafar and a former minister Amir Muqam. The links speak more than what may be presumed.

In another development, Pakistan proposes to raise its defence spending 61% to 553 billion rupees (US $ 6.4 billion) to next June after adding further 25% or 110 billion rupees to amount already approved by the Parliament for this financial year for which 343 billion rupees had been allotted. Why this whooping increase in the military budget is not without reason. The Dawn of 24 September made an insinuating remark, " Neither the Government nor the military has seen it fit to divulge any details, making it difficult to comment on the need for such an extraordinary increase."











Let's contemplate a while whether our country is still one piece intact which was handed over to us after independence by Gandhi ji, Patel and Azad or we have brought about certain disheartening changes in its character. Is it the same country and are we the same Indians who, once upon a time, set an invincible account of extending refuge even to the enemies; showing mutual tolerance and the unparalleled unity? Are we the same sons of the soil who, at times, pulsated in a single unison and flexed our muscles to extricate our motherland from the shackles of British Imperialism? If we look at the post-independence India, our heart stops palpitating and our blood congeals to find that the same land of matchless humanity has less or more turned into a slaughter house for many national figures so much so that the 'Cold-bloods, and 'thick-brains' did not spare even Gandhi ji (who never fought for anything else than the cause of nation), Indira Gandhi and the statesman like Promodh Mahajan. 

The land of happiness stands fully transformed into a valley of lamentations, innocent killings and panic prevailing all around. What has happened to us? Have we ever introspected? Let's us make an estimate of our national character and think of what we have lost and gained so far. Are all of us true to our nation? Do we pay taxes and work for its fiscal progress. Unfortunately not at all. Let's learn something from two laymen of Japan. One of the Indian Parliamentarians had to receive a slight scolding for counting the money- balance returned by a shopkeeper in Japan when she was over with the shopping, the shopkeeper retorted, "Madam, you should not have counted the balance. By doing so you have challenged my integrity. 

We the Japanese receive Tax for the country first and then our profits from the customer with not even a pittance more than the genuine." A Japanese young boy, when asked what he will do if someone abuses Budha, replied, "I will behead him" and when asked how will react if Budha abuses his country, he said, "I will behead Lord Budha." See the extent allegiance to the nation. And of course it must be there. Nation is above everything else. But we are corrupt in the offices, non-serious in schools and liars at home. There was a time when every moment of an Indian's life used to be governed by the dictates of moral uprightness and ethical values; when love and affection tropically pulsated in our body; when we extended refuge even to the enemies and used to be kind to the Youngers, respectful to the elders and friendly with the equals. That is why Romain Rolland's empathy spills over to embrace India as its character compels him to declare' "I am' perhaps, at heart half an Indian" or "it will be very soon for my soul to find its true place for I have a feeling that in this incarnation I went to the wrong house." When he came across the best account of our humanitarian and ethical behaviour, he would say likewise, "Never at any moment have I felt stranger. It was like my own treasure let buried and finding it again." This was our country once upon a time that appealed to the heart and mind of all at home and abroad as well. 

It was an abode of fraternity, fellow feelings, mutual respect, secular attitude, democratic way of thinking, Communal harmony, and above all unity in diversity. Diversity added colour to the beauty of our nation and unity infused strength in it. What has happened to the same nation today? What we are fighting for? Don't we think even once that we stab our motherland by killing our brethren; we deprave the sanctity of our national character by dishonouring other faiths staining the image of our nationhood? We should not forget that we are proud Indians upholding the best of morality and humanity in the world. We have taught others to live peacefully and respectably. We should dislodge the certain amount of glaring and galling aberrations and distortions that have crept into our national character over a long period of time due to some mischance and revive our glorious values once again. I believe that the biggest chunk of our nationhood has all the best of head and heart enough to outshine any other nation of the world, with a small number of some ailing-brains but the tragedy is that the same small ill-bred segment of our country rules roost and decides the fate of the rest. Our nation, excepting a few of her naughty brains, is sober and silent like the deep sea; touching and turbulent like a hill stream; caressing and creative like Ganges. We are versatile in the art of living. But at present the sad spectacle of our country has of-course made our motherland shed blood-tears. 

Some of the corrupt and opportunist souls have brought a bad name to the democratic fabric and centuries-old moral and ethical character of this nation. The entire India today is inextricably caught in web of sporadic violent eruptions in the name of races, region, religion and many more that is nothing but the handiwork of some of the cunning, crafty, manipulating and mischievous elements who can go to any extent for the ulterior motives. The recent political history of our country stands dotted with myriads of scandals, embezzlements, murders, anti-national dispositions of our own people; moral corruption, and what not. Even the dacoits and murderers have been placed on the high pedestal to influence the process of national development and so much so that they matter a lot in deciding the foreign policy of our nation also.

The people of our nation, on majority basis, are gullible and credulous and if the contours and curves of their character have undergone this perceptible change, it is due to the pulls and pressures of their social surrounding; political maneuvering and disloyal custodians of our governance. People generally complain' that in the not very distant past, men and women were moved' and motivated by a profound sense' of duty towards the national goal of independence and eradication of mass exploitation and discrimination. But today degeneration in character has set in to such an extent that the Political Metamorphoses at the helm of affairs fail to see beyond their nose and unabashedly indulge in double-talk and double-deal. Gandhi had predicted well a short while after freedom that the concept of National Politics seems to be dwindling into the lust for Power-politics. Every one is busy with capturing power and to grab the 'Chair' politicians can go to any extent. Corruption has seeped into the blood of our system. The growing hiatus between their words and deeds; the nasty nerves between money-power and muscle-power, are sad commentary on the present state of affairs. Willy-nilly we have to swallow the painful fact down our throats that some people thrive more in hypocrisy than 'in plain-speaking but the majority still believes that- this erosion' of values and corrosion in character are only a temporary abrasion and will soon 'disintegrate and disappear when the hollowness of excessive materialistic glitter and glamour stands vanished and the originality of our so-called 'Netas' gets unveiled to the wisdom and tenacious rage of our countrymen. 
There is no denying the fact that our long history is replete with men and women of rare courage, conviction, commitment; men who for the sake of duty, personal honour and national integration and non violence, embraced the gallows, and left their marks on the sands of time as immortal legends of valour and chivalry. The saga of their lives symbolizes and epitomizes the best and the most virtuous vibration and vivacity of our national character. In the face of a grave crisis and foreign aggression, the most sublime and supreme passion of patriotism displayed by us will remain indelibly stamped on the portal of universe till the life pulsates and like a tornado it washed away the dirt and dust of petty politics and preconception from our biased minds. We should not only believe in our great ancestors but act upon their words too. It is the time to take a pledge to behead the demon of all mutual differences and restore the lost glory to our motherland. Let's repeat the words of Guru Dev, "……where the mind is free and the head is held high…..into that world of freedom, oh my Father, let my country awake".









Who said India is "poor" or "poverty" is a serious problem for India? Just go through the newspapers and everyday you will find projects worth thousands of crores of rupees being announced! If you had watched the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, you will never believe that there are millions of people in India going to bed hungry or thousands of Indians dying of hunger.

The ceremony itself was wonderful and kudos to the thousands of people who would have worked day and night to make it a gala event. But thinking of the money that went behind all that in addition to all those scams that the media discussed heatedly for the last one month, any sane person would have felt uneasy.
Recently, glancing through the papers I found a couple of projects announced for Noida worth thousands of crores. Like this, so many things are happening around the country. If all this is our own money, then there is some serious thinking to be made regarding our priorities. When our family members are hungry, do we splash money on sprucing up our exteriors and garden and entertaining hi-fi guests? If all the money is from outside, then the thinking is to be all the more serious, because we are getting into very scary situations by increasing the

debt of the economy.

Whenever anybody speaks about this glaring anomaly, there are people who shun such a person as "old-fashioned", "enemy of development" and "out-dated." Very few commoners see the nation in entirety. What most of us see is our immediate surroundings and we get carried away by the pomp and glory of a metro - sexy sky-scrapers, posh malls, shining highways and what not.
These are what are projected as the signs of development by our developers. India is just not Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai. And development of all nations need not be of the same kind. Even the so-called industries that are coming up and being claimed as saviours of the poor are doing more harm than good to the nation as a whole, either because they are serious threat to our rich natural heritage or to our strong social fabric.

We just remembered Gandhi last week. His forethought and ideals are all-time relevant. He did not base his ideals on fantasy. He travelled across the length and breadth of the country, studied our strengths and weaknesses and then suggested the steps that we should be taking to develop our country. Since India's life-line is its village and her strength is agriculture, he suggested strengthening villages by supporting agriculture and related activities and following the model of cottage industry. He was seriously against migration from villages to the cities and recommended reverse migration as the panacea.

We claim our so-called development tools are providing employment to thousands of rural youth. We forget that most of these youth are carried away by the glamour of the cities and land themselves in dirty, congested slums and lead all their lives in poverty, disease and debt, when had they been in their villages, they would have led simple but healthy self-sufficient lives.

But to ensure that they stay back there, the villages have to be made attractive - not by putting up huge industries which pollute their water, air and soil but by using their local skills and produce for profitable ventures and giving them their due. 

I was watching a very thought-provoking interview on DD National channel. An American writer and photographer Stephen P. Huyler was talking so passionately about our rich rural culture and heritage. He has settled in India because he loves everything Indian - her soil, her rich culture, her vibrant people, her rich natural treasure and her deep spiritual strength. From time immemorial, there have been thousands of travellers, who came to India and have written volumes about our strengths. Why should we ignore those strengths and go in for something so alien, that we are destroying our own heritage? Why can we not open our inner eyes to see ourselves?

Is there no way of retaining our identity of "simplicity" and leading successful lives? Why go in for glitz and glamour which are but temporary, despite our rich spiritual knowledge of what actually life is? Is it not possible to utilise the crores of rupees that we have or can afford to borrow, to strengthen our country in our own ways, instead of aping somebody else? Who says we should not develop? We have to develop, but in the right way and in right proportions, so that the benefits of all our projects reach the entire country and not just the elite urban class. (INAV)








KARNATAKA Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj's recommendation to the President to impose President's rule in the state under Article 356 of the Constitution and put the State Assembly under suspended animation is not entirely unexpected. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa may have won the confidence vote on the floor of the House on Monday, but the manner in which he proved his majority support was questionable. The House also witnessed chaotic and unruly scenes. Speaker K.G. Bopaiah's role in disqualifying 11 BJP rebels and five Independents has sparked off a major controversy. He cannot escape blame for abusing his powers under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. He changed the configuration of the House, despite the Governor's advice not to disqualify the rebels before the trust vote. Mr Bopaiah is thus charged with bailing out the tottering BJP government in a blatantly partisan manner.


Of course, there are some grey areas in regard to the Speaker's role under the Anti-Defection Act. Was he justified in rushing through the confidence motion by voice vote and not without a division in the House? Was it not incumbent upon him to give the BJP rebels and Independents adequate time to present themselves before him and defend their stand? Was he within his rights to disqualify Independents on the ground that those supporting the ruling party for over six months had ceased to be Independents? While constitutional experts need to dwell upon these issues — the Karnataka High Court's ruling on the constitutional validity of the Speaker's action is also awaited — there is need for clarity on the Speaker's powers vis-a-vis the Tenth Schedule because Goa, too, has become a victim of partisan Speakers bailing out the ruling party during the trust vote.


The Centre, on its part, will have to tread cautiously on imposition of President's rule. The UPA has majority in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha. Consequently, getting President's Rule ratified by the Upper House, as required under the Constitution, would be a tough task for the Congress. Moreover, the Janata Dal (Secular) — which has been in the forefront of the campaign for dislodging the Yeddyurappa government — would be an unreliable ally for the Congress in any future government formation in Karnataka. The Congress cannot forget how Mr H.D. Deve Gowda's sons treated both the Congress and the BJP.







THE reverberations caused by the banishing of Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals from the Indian Premier League on Sunday are likely to be heard for long. The move is unprecedented, and so are the circumstances in which it has come. Ostensibly, the BCCI has made this drastic announcement after the IPL Governing Council meeting because the teams had violated shareholding and ownership patterns. But obviously, there is much more to it than what meets the eye. One reason why the Kings XI and Rajasthan Royals got the sack order was their "perceived proximity" to ousted IPL chairman Lalit Modi, whose hands are not exactly clean in the whole affair. There are numerous question marks over the allocation of TV rights, mobile rights and many other mega deals. In fact, there are also murmurs that Modi had stakes in these two teams through some front persons.


There are serious money-laundering charges too. The Enforcement Directorate's investigations have reportedly revealed that the exchequer suffered losses running into hundreds of crores of rupees because the IPL indulged in Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations and money laundering. The government had reportedly told the BCCI in no uncertain terms that if it did not step in, government agencies would. The stiff action is a warning to the Kochi team which has been told to clean up its act in 10 days or face the music.


It is almost certain that the aggrieved teams would go to court. That may lead to some more dirty linen being washed in public. In a way, that would be good because the rumours of dubious happenings behind closed doors have already cast a dark shadow on IPL affairs. It is necessary that there is a thorough clean-up at the earliest. Fans of the two teams are bound to feel disappointed. However, even they would want that no questionable happenings take place in the gentlemen's game.









A boom in real estate has led to a haphazard expansion of cities. As prices and profits zoom, builders, bureaucrats and politicians join hands to subvert regulatory norms. Nowhere is this ominous nexus as much evident as in Shimla. The once-admired hill capital of Himachal Pradesh has witnessed a wild growth of a concrete jungle, strikingly captured in a photograph in The Tribune on Monday. Citizens, environmentalists and NGOs keep making feeble protests at the fast-depleting green cover but no one cares. Shimla has to be saved from its politicians, especially those in power.


Two recent decisions of the BJP government in Himachal confirm the suspicion of it being in league with operators in the realty sector. One, the government plans to withdraw the ban on construction in Shimla's 17 green pockets. The "Queen of Hills" has already over-stretched itself to accommodate a growing population. The pressure on the civic amenities is visible. Drinking water shortage and lack of parking space are driving tourists away to less-crowded destinations. Construction work on widening the roads, the dumping of debris on roadside and frequent landslides during the monsoon cause accidents and traffic jams, giving nightmares to daily commuters.


Two, the power of clearing building plans is being vested in the Shimla Municipal Corporation, which has been a mute witness to numerous violations of its rules by the well-connected, including MLAs and bureaucrats. Rule enforcement is lacking almost in every town. Otherwise, how could 14,000 unauthorised structures come up in the state? Every town needs planned growth in keeping with its natural beauty and resources. The fact that the Shimla development plan has remained shelved for four years now does not inspire confidence in the state leadership's ability to carry forward the save-environment drive. It has clearly no idea where the state is heading. Perhaps, judicial activism may save the state from its mission of self-destruction.

















THERE can be no greater proof of failure of India's foreign policy than the reality of our unsatisfactory relations with all our immediate neighbours. From Pakistan in the West to Nepal and China in the North, Burma and Bangladesh in the East and Sri Lanka in the South, our relations with these countries vary from hostility to indifference.


China's influence in countries on our periphery has been on the increase. In addition, China has this 'String of pearls policy'. Though it is a nightmarish situation, India's security establishment seems to sleep well. The Maoists' problem and the one in Kashmir are security challenges being addressed in a cavalier fashion. Even if one is to discount the problems in the North-East, the overall security scene is disquieting.


We have been decidedly and overwhelmingly complacent on the issue of national security. Not only has our foreign policy failed to create friendly environment on our periphery but grossly neglected the emerging threats.


This policy suffered further setback when distant Japan, Australia and some South East Asian countries acquiesced to China's claim that Arunachal Pradesh is a disputed territory. China has been calling it South Tibet and not a part of India.


Moreover, China has declared Jammu and Kashmir a disputed territory and started stapling visas of visitors from that state. More recently, it has reaffirmed its stand on this issue by denying visa to a senior army officer posted in Jammu and Kashmir and who was leader of a military delegation to China.


This stance of China and reportedly inducting large body of troops into Gilgit region of the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) is to give a fillip to the ongoing turmoil in the Kashmir valley, besides controlling any unrest in this part of POK. While China occupied large tracts of territory in Ladakh, Pakistan illegally acceded the Shaksam valley in PoK to it. China is also reported to be improving the Karakoram highway and setting out to build a high-speed railway line to Gwadar port on the Gulf of Oman, for transporting oil to Tibet and Xinjiang province from where it can be ferried to mainland China.


There are suggestions flying thick and fast in the media that India must strongly protest against this Chinese move into PoK. But, protest to whom? China will summarily dismiss such protests and going to the United Nations will merely resurrect the old ghosts of Jammu and Kashmir. At best India can deny visa facility to Chinese, but what of the massive trade we have with that country?


China's policy keeps time on its side while complacency is our forte. Even keeping time on its side, China has been assiduously and with single-mindedness creating overall military capabilities and military infrastructure in Tibet and spreading its influence in countries on our periphery. It has with equal zeal and purpose followed the policy of using Pakistan as a proxy and a cheap option to tie down India locally.


Then, there is the 'String of pearls policy' to squeeze India from all sides. China is building its naval strength at a furious pace and making forays into the Indian Ocean. We have slept through more than half a century, ignoring the emerging security scene and the gathering storms all around and within India.


Not only have we been complacent but decidedly negligent of the emerging security threats, both internal and external. At 2 per cent of GDP for defence as against 7 per cent of China out of GDP, twice the size of ours, India's lack of concern for its security ought to appear alarming, even to one with impaired vision and the dimwitted.


In the real world, economic strength in the absence of military power is unsustainable. The gunboat diplomacy and wars of nineteen century were to capture markets and enhance influence and commerce for economic gains. The power play of the 21st century is going to be no different except that the form, formulations and contours of policy and coercive techniques will undergo a change.


For long we have been indulging in a puerile debate on the issue of 'development versus defence,' as if the two are mutually exclusive and in no way reinforce each other. The mandarins in Delhi have been smug in a world of make believe. To quote Arun Shourie, "Corresponding factors that keep us from growing as fast as our potential are precisely the ones that weaken our defence. The same holds for constituents of defence: the choice is not, 'valour or high technology,' cyber warfare or conventional warfare or nuclear capability but capabilities across the broad spectrum."


China has developed the Gwadar port and it will have a strong naval presence there. This port is at the mouth of straight of Hurmoz through which oil supplies from the Middle East flow to India. The strategic importance of this move by China does not seem to have fully dawned on the Indian security establishment.


The Chinese Navy will also have berthing facilities at the Sri Lankan and Burmese ports. Radars at Coco Island keep watch over the naval ship movement from mainland to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and India's missile launches from the Balasore missile range in Orissa.


India has helplessly watched developments in Nepal. It is with China's help that the Sri Lankan government was able to decimate the Tamil Tigers. China, even with a late start, has galloped ahead, leaving us far behind in the fields of economy, science and technology and military capabilities.


It is not our case that the developments on the Tibet border and in POK are the harbinger of an early conflict, but these do not bode well for India. These developments need to be taken as a wake-up call and shake ourselves out of our complacency and stupor. Activating a few airfields and adding some roads or two mountain divisions and deploying two squadrons of fighter aircraft or lodging a protest will not do. These are knee-jerk reactions and reminiscent of our actions leading to the 1962 war with China.


India as a nuclear and emerging economic power, in the midst of potentially unstable regimes and with ambitions to exercise influence for the stability and security of the region and to safeguard vital national interests, cannot have military capabilities which in no way match those of the potential adversaries. Equally, an antiquated and potentially dysfunctional decision-making and operational system in the defence apparatus is anathema to the successful conduct of defence and foreign policy. India's ability to meet future security challenges is highly suspect and this state of affairs cannot prevail any longer without seriously jeopardising national security.


There is, therefore, the requirement of evolving a comprehensive and long term national security policy taking into account the current and future security concerns and synergising these with foreign policy. Thereafter, we must work assiduously to develop military capabilities backed by diplomatic thrusts to meet the security challenges of the future and be in a position to exercise influence in our immediate neighbourhood. We need to double our efforts to enhance our economic strength and create compatible defence capabilities.


The writer is a former Deputy Chief of Army Staff








I am fortunate to belong to a generation having as many love choices as one has while purchasing soap at a grocery.

Being uninitiated to the internet, I had asked my Net-savvy friend about its benefits. He named forging friendship as one of them.


I admired his nobility of having such a lofty notion of human relationship. I recollected the adage of one of my teachers of yore, who had once told a stupefied generation that friendship is 'all giving and asking for nothing in return'.


Oblivious of my teacher, I was now under the tutelage of my friend of the present, who was keen on delivering a lecture on "The art of modern friendship".


The first part of his lecture was delivered on "Net and the art of friendship". His elocution enlightened me on how the world and its deliverance lay in embracing Facebook.


Brimming with wisdom, I decided to upload a handsome looking picture of mine on Facebook. In a few days, I received the first declaration of love. "I am Anita and I wish to see you," the message was candid. I was reminiscent of one by the same name with whom I had studied once. So, I wrote back: "Are you the same Anita whom I met before?"


The message was reciprocated, "Yes, I am the same, your Anita. Why do you not send me a scrap?"


But I was puzzled as her photograph gave the impression of a woman much older than I had anticipated. So, I wrote, "How could you change so fast? You look like my aunt!"


I had unwittingly enraged her as she wrote back, "You rat! Have you no manners to talk to a lady? Come hither and I will show you your aunt. Idiot!"


Undaunted, I tried another hand at Net-friendship. I browsed on till I paused at one photograph. She was the one, I decided and wrote to the lady in nervous undertone, "Hi, M'm! I watched your snap and it was divine. Would you mind to have platonic relationship with me?"


Bewildered, she wrote: "What is that you wrote, Plato? I know only Alto. Do you have one?" I was jolted.


So, I went for the new gizmo, the cell phone. My friend, a 'graduate' at love-management unleashed a message, "Hi, babe! Wanna be my friend?" In no time came the reply, "Yea, dude! Dun!" I was amazed at the rate at which he succeeded in forging a relationship. I ventured to ask him the principles of Love management. "3Ms," he said, elaborating, "Muscle, Money and Media."










IN an earnest search for realism through the artistic portrayal of Latin American nature, myth and society, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa stands as one of the most important contemporary novelists. European and nativist tendencies elbow each other in the multi-ethnic climate that he is located in. A Peruvian social activist, novelist, playwright, essayist, journalist, literary critic, he emerges in his novels as a writer of romance and seduction, which though a far cry from the Latin American political novel, still involves the reader in Peruvian history.

Mario Vargas Llosa 


Finally, Llosa has won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, being the second South American after Garcia Marquez, whom he has never seen eye to eye and, on one occasion, is known to have punched him at a public gathering.


Announcing the award, the Swedish Academy praised Llosa "for his cartography of the structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."


Undoutedly, he has always asserted that the novel is inherently an interrogatory and an oppositional genre and should develop and enlarge life: "I don't think there is a great fiction that is not an essential contradiction of the world as it is. The Inquisition forbade the novel for 300 years in Latin America. I think they understood very well the seditious consequence that fiction can have on the human spirit."


Though his writings are infused with (a representation of) power and corruption within the Peruvian society, he has often expressed his delight at not joining politics. In A Fish in the Water, the memoir that Vargas Llosa published in 1993, he recollected the advice with which Octavio Paz tried to discourage him from entering politics: "incompatibility with intellectual work, loss of independence, being manipulated by professional politicians, and, in the long run, frustration and the feeling of years of one's life wasted."


Nevertheless, the decadence, the impoverishment, the terrorism, and the multiple crises of Peruvian society drew him to the challenge of seeking "the most dangerous job in the world." Llosa's bid for the presidential election many years ago made anonymity impossible. He is of the view that his life as a novelist and a playwright would have been ruined as both politics and writing "are activities that demand total dedication and have a very different attitude towards many things. As a politician, you don't really have the independence, the isolation that is indispensable for a writer; I knew that would mean at least a temporary sacrifice." It is apparent, therefore, that his defeat in the elections was a blessing, enabling him to focus on writing.


Accentuating the close link between writing and politics, especially in Latin America, Llosa elaborates: "The basic problems are not solved yet in our countries. They are not like advanced Western societies where the basic model is more or less agreed upon by everybody, and writers don't feel pushed to intervene. But in countries where nothing is settled, where basic decisions are still uncertain, I think that pushes writers to be much more engaged in political matters — as they were in Europe in the 19th Century."


Llosa has played a fundamental role in an attempt to fashion a Latin American literary tradition and revitalize the Latin American novel. The inspired output and the theoretical and critical fervor has always had close links with the ongoing cultural growth, an innate critical self-awareness of its history and local reality being the source of the efforts towards political, economic and cultural revolution.


Llosa is loved by millions around the world, especially in his country, Peru. He has written more than 30 novels, plays and essays which are powerful satires on Latin American backwardness and machismo, with an ingenious exploration of the myth and legend of Peru, setting him somewhat apart form his other fellow writers. "They're not only fantastic novels that read beautifully", Ruben Gallo, a professor of Spanish-American literature remarked on hearing the news about the award. "He's one of the authors who in the 20th century has written the most eloquently and the most poignantly about the meeting point between culture and politics in Latin America."


The Time of the Heroes, a savage burlesque on life at a Peruvian military academy, remains his finest book. The Green House is more experimental. And Conversation in the Cathedral remains one of the most horrifying and outstanding portraits of political evil, a monumentally gripping novel. His doctoral dissertation on Garcia Márquez was followed by several books on literary criticism, among them La Orgía Perpetua. The Bad Girl is irresistible.


The ascending bourgeoisie and the constant struggle between the civilised and the barbaric marks the overall character of his writings showing his profound conscientiousness in the development of national literature. With Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, and García Márquez, Vargas Llosa is among the most distinguished writers, whose endeavour has been to buttress the literary foundations of their land.


Although Vargas Llosa has followed the tradition of social protest of Peruvian fiction, exposing political sleaze, racial prejudices and violent behavior, he has underscored that a writer should never negotiate artistic aims for ideological half truths. He has written widely on how other Latin American nations have adopted the free market economy, except Peru, which continues to live in miserable poverty.


For Llosa, the need of the hour is concern for his country, and this is something which refuses to disappear in his fiction. The milieu of his novels resounds with disappointed dreams for a more flourishing Peru within the murky Peruvian history. He has always believed that "humans must resist (tyranny), especially at the beginning. Later it is harder to resist once the system is in place. But it is always possible."








Maggie Fox

THE three winners of this year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry all developed new ways to make carbon atoms stick to one another-a mundane-sounding process that in fact underlies the very basis of life. The processes can be used to make new drugs-notably cancer drugs based on the toxins produced by a Caribbean sea sponge-but also to create electronics and a variety of other compounds.


Richard Heck, who retired from the University of Delaware and now lives in the Philippines, Ei-ichi Negishi at Purdue University in Indiana and Akira Suzuki of Hokkaido University in Japan all work in a field called organic chemistry, not the "organic" like in organic foods, but a reference to carbon, the basis of life as we know it.


"Carbon-carbon bonds are the lifeblood of organic synthesis," said Dr. Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.


"If you think about building a house, the carbon-carbon bonds are the framing," added Berg, whose agency has helped fund Negishi's work for 20 years. Often when a trio of scientists wins a Nobel prize, they have either worked together or built upon and improved one another's work, but in this case the three worked in parallel and each has a chemical reaction named after him. The prize was awarded for their various catalyzation techniques using palladium, a rare metal in the same general family of elements as platinum.


The palladium is the catalyst, meaning it helps make a chemical reaction occur more quickly or efficiently. In this case it works almost like a matchmaker, pulling together carbon molecules and then butting out.


"You only need a small amount," Berg said. "It helps make the carbon-carbon bond, gets released and then you can use it over and over again," he added. "It's part of the green chemistry trend." Being able to speed up the building process can help scientists synthesise compounds that otherwise would be hard to make.


It revolutionizes the kinds of techniques that chemists have available to make new medicines and new plastics and new materials. —Reuters




A MAVERICK British scientist, who became known as the "father of IVF" despite once being considered an outsider to the medical establishment, has Professor Robert Edwards, 85, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his pioneering work on the in vitro fertilisation of human eggs that led to the birth of the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. Professor Edwards, whose funding request for IVF research was turned down by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the 1970s, is the sole recipient of this year's prize, which cannot be awarded posthumously. His co-worker, the gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe, died in 1988.


Robert Edward


The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden said that Professor Edwards' contributions represented a milestone in medicine. His work led to widely used IVF techniques which have allowed an estimated 4.5 million "test tube" babies to be born worldwide over the past 32 years.


Tributes to Professor Edwards flowed in from colleagues, scientific leaders, politicians and the research council that once denied him funding — a private donation in the end allowed him to continue the work that led to the world's first successful IVF pregnancy.


"The MRC is delighted by the award which recognises Professor Edwards' dedication to ensuring his early research translated into clinical practice," said Declan Mulkeen, director of research at the research council.


"The MRC didn't fund Edwards' work in the 1970s for a range of reasons, including safety and ethical reservations present at the time. In the 1970s, infertility research was given a lower prominence in research funding priorities and in clinical practice," Dr Mulkeen said.


Professor Edwards, a blunt-speaking Mancunian, started studying IVF using the egg cells of rabbits. He achieved his first successful fertilisation of human eggs in a test tube in 1969 and had the insight to realise that human fertilised eggs would not develop beyond the first cell division unless he allowed them to mature within the ovaries before removal.


The Nobel committee said that he clarified how human eggs mature, how different hormones regulate the maturation process and at which point the eggs are most susceptible to being fertilised by sperm. With Dr Steptoe, he also found ways of obtaining eggs from patients in a safe way, using the then relatively controversial technique of laparoscopy. —The Independent




TWO Russian-born scientists shared the 2010 Nobel Prize for physics for showing how carbon just one atom thick behaved, a discovery with profound implications from quantum physics to consumer electronics. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the University of Manchester in England conducted experiments with graphene. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is a new form of carbon that is both the thinnest and toughest material known. "Since it is practically transparent and a good conductor, graphene is suitable for producing transparent touch screens, light panels and maybe even solar cells," the committee said. Novoselov, 36, is a dual British-Russian citizen while Geim, 51, is a Dutch citizen. A committee official said Novoselov was the youngest physics laureate since 1973. Geim, speaking at a Nobel news conference via telephone, said he had not expected the prize and would try not to let the news change his routine.

Andre Geim (left) and Konstantin Novoselov 


"My plan for today is to go to work and finish up a paper that I didn't finish this week," he said. "I just try to muddle on as before."


Novoselov said he was keen to move on. "I've had a bit too much graphene in my life-I've been working on it for seven years now-so we want to explore a little bit away from this area," he said. — Reuters











For the last two days, ever since the BCCI summoned all the cockiness at its disposal to expel the IPL's Punjab and Rajasthan teams, I've been thinking about a time not long ago when Indian cricket was ruled by a man from the East with a wicked grin and a mischievous glint in his eyes. 


In his prime, Jagmohan Dalmiya was in control of every room he walked in. Radiating power that surpassed cricket politics, his apparent lack of polish, his frequent use of 'thee' instead of 'the', and his unimpressive posse of sidekicks, somehow added to his aura rather than taking away from it. Never reckless, never loud, he gave the impression that his throne could never be usurped. But Dalmiya's rise – first as the BCCI's lord and master and then as the only man in cricket since Douglas Jardine to evoke unmitigated anger from the world press – was going to be far less dramatic than his fall. 


A rebellion was brewing back home by 2005, and though he pulled every trick in the book to survive one election against Sharad Pawar's group of dissidents, led by the fire-breathing Lalit Modi, he couldn't make it the second time. 


In the years that followed, Dalmiya ran from court to court, from pillar to post, asking just to be left alone by a new regime that was a collection of his long-time enemies and estranged allies. The BCCI called his ouster a cleansing, but in actual fact, it was anything but. The Board was just restoring its power equation because one man had started to bestride the narrow world like a Colossus. 


Five years later, Lalit Modi is being uprooted for similar reasons. In fact, it's much easier for the Board to act against him because Modi is a creation of the media and the BCCI's political churning, rather than a genuine power centre in his own right. 


The Indian Board functions as a private club of 30 individuals, each with voting rights. The members change, they fight with each other for control, but their hallmark is the ability to stick together when faced with an external adversary. The moment Modi lost the elections of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) last year, he was no longer one of the 30. He'd become an outsider. 


Soon after that, the Board officials wanted more say in the IPL. They added their own people to the Governing Council, they took away crucial signing rights from him, and the row between Modi and secretary N Srinivasan over the role of IMG was a clear indication of what was to follow. 


Finally, with things coming to a head this year following Modi's indiscreet tweets, which led to Income-Tax raids and ED enquiries, the Board needed to dust him off and move on. Modi's biggest mistake was his belief in his own invincibility. Encouraged by a media that had sworn allegiance to him, he retaliated by sending 10,000-page replies to BCCI notices, and, with every front-page article, thought he was gaining the upper hand. 
    When people were talking about how Modi had hired big-shot lawyers to defend him, and how the Board was on the back foot, I had found it quite amusing. Never before had I known the Board to be the weaker party in a conflict. It was just biding its time, not running scared as Modi's conceit allowed him to believe. 


Over the course of the last few months, the BCCI has yanked Modi out of its set-up, and has then systematically uprooted the remnants of his ever having been there. The decision to expel the Punjab and Rajasthan teams, for example, is a statement of the BCCI's extreme arrogance. 


 No matter how strong the case against the two teams, this won't be a true cleansing unless some other franchises – starting with Srinivasan's own conflict-of-interest-ridden Chennai Super Kings – are thrown out as well. But the Board doesn't care. It's simply fixing its power equation, and once again, taking no prisoners. 


Modi, who likes to say he never walks the beaten path, was on Sunday forced to reach out for clichés. With nothing else going for him, the self-proclaimed iconoclast fell back on the 'the game is bigger than individuals' refrain. In Indian cricket, however, the game is nothing. No one is bigger than the BCCI. 


Srinivasan, the man responsible for orchestrating Modi's ouster, must remember that. Not too long from now, it will be his turn to face the axe. It won't be personal; just the Board's wheels turning. 



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





The telecom market boomed when tariffs and handset prices started falling; so did the consumer durables market. Over the past decade, both businesses have actually seen prices either stagnate or drop as a result of competition. Although the nature of these businesses is not strictly comparable, the market for direct-to-home (DTH) services can be called contrarian. Despite being available at a premium to cable and the Conditional Access System (CAS), India's DTH reach has grown so fast that it is soon expected to overtake the US to become the world's largest market by the first quarter of next year. India now has 26 million subscribers and is expected to end the calendar year with 30 million. By March next year, the number is expected to touch 32 million, making it the world's largest market, accounting for more than a fifth of the global market.


There are two ways of looking at this growth. First, that it is "artificial" in the sense that DTH service providers are heavily subsidising market growth. It is true that the operators have sacrificed profit in the interests of market creation and the cost of customer acquisition is extremely high. For instance, Dish TV, the largest DTH operator, spends Rs 2,500 to acquire a customer, basically by supplying the set-top box and dish virtually free, so it can be assumed the cost for other, smaller players is even higher. Little wonder, then, that the half-a-dozen-odd operators in India are collectively making losses of over Rs 6,000 crore. Hong Kong-based research outfit Media Partners Asia says the Indian DTH industry is bleeding, with a negative Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) margin of 84 per cent. But here's the thing: despite these losses, no one is predicting the demise of these operators or even the business. Indeed, Media Partners Asia has forecast that most DTH operators will start making money from 2013. By that time, the DTH subscriber base will be touching 45 million, almost three times the 2009 number. By 2020, DTH will account for over a third of the pay TV market.


 Second, these glowing predictions for DTH operators are being made despite a relatively high churn or subscriber attrition rates to relatively cheaper cable industry and areas mandated for CAS. Operators readily agree that churn — which can vary from 5 to 8 per cent — is a major challenge from the largely unregulated cable industry which can keep costs down by under-reporting its subscriber base and, therefore, underpaying broadcasters, and by broadcasting pirated content with impunity. DTH's success, on the other hand, is a prime example of how transparency and regulation can work to the interest of the consumer. Where the cable business grew haphazardly and is now increasingly hostage to powerful local politicians, who rake in rents from an underserved market, DTH has grown under the gaze of strict regulation. Obviously, in a market as fragmented as this, consumer experiences vary widely, but most will attest to the relative reliability of the satellite dish over the digital cable and the experience of dealing with call centres rather than elusive local repair-men. There is some obvious discomfort now that the regulator is exploring the option of regulating tariffs DTH operators charge consumers — including their jam-earning value-added services (movies-on-demand and pay-per-view) — since this is bound to squeeze margins even further and put them at an even greater disadvantage vis-à-vis cable. But perhaps this anxiety is overdone. "Unfair competition" can often force greater efficiencies, as it did in airlines and engineering — and the consumer certainly stands to gain.








The fresh initiative by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to meet ambassadors of the key members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, in a bid to revive the deadlocked Doha round of trade negotiations, is well-timed though a positive outcome may be doubtful. Coming ahead of the G20 meeting in Seoul in November, the move can help create a positive environment for the major trading countries to at least finalise the modalities for the Doha parleys which have been going on since 2001 without much success. Besides, it may also throw up some leads for New Delhi to pursue during the visit of US President Barack Obama next month. The role of the US, which has been shunning the negotiations table for long and has stood firm on its controversial stand on sectoral tariff reduction by developing countries, is going to be crucial for the talks to make any substantive progress.


Strategically, India's latest move is, indeed, part of its ongoing efforts to wipe off the tag of being an obstructionist that had got stuck due to New Delhi's unwavering stand on protecting its farm sector, which had resulted in the abrupt ending of some key WTO-sponsored meetings in the past. The image-mending course had actually begun in September last year when India convened a mini-ministerial confabulation which signalLed the resumption of the Doha talks after a prolonged hiatus. No doubt, further progress has still been elusive, but the negotiators have since remained engaged in discussing the issues concerning agricultural and manufactured products. However, considering the mutually conflicting trading interests of the developed and developing countries, as also of the importers and exporters, and the livelihood concerns associated with agriculture in the developing countries, reaching an agreement cannot be expected to be easy. Equally vexed are some other major issues, such as tariff-rate quotas, cotton subsidies, a special safeguard mechanism for the poor countries and nation-specific sensitive goods.


 Indeed, the broader issue at stake, which WTO Director General Pascal Lamy has repeatedly been reminding the global community of, is the relevance of multilateralism in international trade and the future of the WTO and the institutions created by it to ensure fair and transparent inter-country commerce. The growing practice among countries to get into bilateral and regional trade agreements is posing another formidable threat to multilateralism. While earlier only the US and the EU were entering into such deals, now others have also begun emulating them. Asean has already emerged as one of the biggest regional trading blocs. The way it is expanding by roping in rapidly developing countries like India and China, this may soon become the world's largest free trading zone. However, it can also be argued that such bilateral and regional commercial pacts can coexist with a WTO-negotiated global trade deal. It is believed that the successful conclusion of the Doha round can provide a $500-billion stimulus to the world economy. It may, therefore, be worthwhile to make one more attempt to carry the Doha round to its logical end.








Is the international monetary system in crisis? If so, what kind of a crisis? And what remedies are needed? These were issues in active debate in the various events surrounding the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that concluded this past weekend.


As with the Edinburgh festival and its associated Fringe, where the latter overshadows the former, the scale and variety of seminars and discussions on the sidelines now eclipse the formal meetings of ministers and officials attempting to provide policy guidance to the two Bretton Woods institutions. While it is excessive to claim that these events shape official opinion, given the scale of attendance (most events played to full houses) it seems reasonable to argue that they at least help crystallise the state of the debate.


 In the monetary area, the hot topic was the current state of the exchange rate system. This degree of attention reflects several developments. Given its close link to the trade union movement, there has been a long-running campaign by the Obama administration to compel the Chinese to appreciate the Chinese renminbi (RMB) against the US dollar. This is a campaign that now has the official blessing of the IMF's managing director, in contrast to the earlier position of the IMF that it was impossible to judge the degree of undervaluation of the RMB.


More recent events include the decision by Japan to intervene in the foreign exchange markets after refraining from doing so for several years (and promising to do more if needed), and a declaration shortly before the meetings by the Brazilian finance minister that countries were engaging in a "currency war". This formulation was chided as being undiplomatic, even if correct in substance.


An additional factor was the signal by the US Federal Reserve at its last meeting that it may again resort to "quantitative easing" (known as QE2) to guard against the risk of the US slipping into deflation. This move had the expected result of weakening the dollar, and currencies linked with it, such as the RMB.


This concern with exchange rates in the advanced countries, particularly the US, is relatively new. In earlier days, the US adopted a policy of benign neglect towards the external value of the dollar, reflected in the phrase "a strong dollar is good for America" and the famous statement of Treasury Secretary John Connally to the Europeans in the 1970s that "the dollar may be our currency but it is your problem". Even now, the official position of the European Central Bank (ECB) remains that as an institution created to achieve and preserve price stability, it has no target for the external value of the euro.


Yet, as the discussion at the seminars made clear, household, financial and government sectors in the advanced countries are all engaged in a protracted effort to retrench and consolidate after their past debt excess. This is taking place across all the major advanced economies. There is also massive excessive installed capacity globally, where current output on some estimates is as much as 10 per cent below potential capacity. As a result, even though the corporate non-financial sector is generally in decent financial shape, it has little incentive to invest in additional domestic fixed assets. Multinationals in particular are more likely to invest in the faster-growing emerging markets.


Given the inexorable logic of the demand side of the national accounts, the only remaining source of autonomous demand is growth in net exports. With income growth sluggish, this is more than usually dependent on gains in market share and shifts in relative prices. This explains the intensified recent focus on exchange rates and the associated issues of global imbalances, reserves accumulation, exchange market intervention and reserves diversification.


Despite this concern, much of it currently directed at China, there was a very wide range of opinions on the underlying defects in the international monetary system revealed by the current tensions, and what, if anything, could be done about it. As with the famous Rorschach inkblot test, I found myself agreeing with speakers who accorded with my own relatively conservative views on both the need for and prospects of deep reform.


Several of these, including Nouriel Roubini of New York University and Ted Truman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, noted that the underlying problem was an old one, well recognised by Keynes: an international financial system that forces contraction on deficit countries but not expansion on those running surpluses on some measure of current transactions (either trade or the current account) is a system with an innate deflationary bias.


Truman added that the framework for imparting greater symmetry to adjustment in global imbalances already existed in the Fund's charter, under Article IV, which deals with exchange arrangements. The provisions of that Article for surveillance and exchange adjustment had been routinely ignored by the major members, resulting in the present anarchy, for which the members were largely to blame. This is not unlike the flouting of the Maastricht criteria by Germany and France, the self-appointed custodians of the euro.


Truman also pointed out that the availability of the euro as a viable reserve currency exposed the fallacy of those who argued (as had Robert Triffin in the 1960s, and the Chinese today) that the supply of a reserve currency necessarily implies sustained deficits. The euro area has been largely in current balance over the last decade, yet the euro now constitutes just under 30 per cent of global foreign currency reserve assets. The "exorbitant privilege" of issuing a reserve currency thus consists of seignorage gains (which can be large), but not an unlimited draft on global resources. The fact that the dollar continues to account for the bulk of the remaining reserve assets reflects a voluntary choice made by asset holders, not some monopoly imposed by a global hegemon.


Where might all this lead to? The French assume the chair of the G20 next month, and have promised to make monetary reform the heart of their agenda. Having heard the learned and stimulating discussion of the last few days, my conclusion is that much work will be commissioned, but nothing much will change in the short run. A more stable international monetary system would entail nothing less than the sacrifice of domestic policy objectives to global goals, and there is little sign of this among the major players. Much easier to beat up on China!


The author is director-general, NCAER. The views expressed are personal










Why do we celebrate the niche and the speciality more than we do the big and the mass? Think about it. All research shows that Americans watch a huge amount of TV and advertisers pay a premium to reach them while they are watching the Super Bowl or 24. The biggest grossers are the most popular films — Avataar and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince topped the charts last year. Across the world, radio operators make more money playing popular music than any other content genre.


 As media options increase, time remains finite. So, audiences fragment. They spend more time doing their own thing on the mobile, online or on an iPad, or doing things on all of them at the same time. This has prompted almost all analysts to predict the death of mass media for over a decade now. Yet the fact remains that the more splintering there is, the higher is the premium that advertisers will pay to reach audiences in one block. In spite of all the talk about customised media and user-generated content, both consumers and advertisers want to be part of a larger experience that they can share with others.


That explains why TV-viewing in the US refuses to die the quiet death it was supposed to. As advertising rebounds in the US this year, the growth in television ad revenues has surprised almost everybody. It shouldn't.


Matt O'Grady, executive vice president for audience measurement at Nielsen, tracks how much TV Americans are watching, across devices and time. So, whether they are watching a show recorded on their digital video recorder (DVR), on the mobile, online or on the idiot box, he tracks all of that for advertisers. O'Grady says that more than 60 per cent of the TV Americans watch is on the good old idiot box, and then comes online, and then mobile. In fact, Americans watch less than four hours of TV in a month online, compared to an average of five hours they spend daily on the idiot box.


More important, as his colleague John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen online, says, the ad rates for online TV-viewing are a fraction of those for the same show on TV. That is because "brands are not able to tell their story in a two-ten second banner ad, like they do in a 30 seconder. The TV is a much more powerful vehicle for storytelling than the Internet for doing it," says he.


Go online and the story is the same. Gautam Anand, director, Google Content Partnerships for Asia Pacific, confirms that it is the professional content on YouTube that makes money, not the user-generated content. That means the shows, songs and films you watched on old media devices are the ones you are most likely to watch online.


Whichever way you look at it, the story is the same. Whether audiences splinter, devices do or content does, the instinct to huddle around the fireplace is strong among consumers. And advertisers want to catch them in that en masse huddle, over a film, a song or a TV show.


This is not to say the niche audiences, devices or content don't work. They do. And this is where whole lot variables come into play — the stage of life for the brand, the marketing objectives, the state of competition and so on. For instance, when Hutch changed to Vodafone, the best way to create awareness was through a blockbuster campaign across all popular media. However, to advertise every small change of tariff plans or new features, more targeted media, read speciality or niche, would work better.


What does the resilience of old media in highly mature markets, such as the US, show? It means that in India too mass media will dominate for decades to come. Currently, India is such an under-penetrated media market that it is almost foolish to talk about the death of mass media.


Can we, therefore, just sit back and enjoy the good old TV, newspapers and radio just the way they are. And count our blessings that the crores they make are not becoming thousands a la the US newspaper industry. 











Last month, the Union finance ministry released the Budget Manual. A 216-page document, it contains all the procedures and steps the government must follow while preparing the annual Budget. It is a unique document. No other ministry has ever tried to bring out in the open the procedures it follows before finalising, for instance, the foreign trade policy or the central and state plans. Finance ministry officials responsible for preparing the Budget Manual, therefore, should feel proud of what they have achieved.


 That it took 63 years for the government to come out with a comprehensive document like this is also a comment on the way the bureaucracy functions in India. Why didn't anyone else in the government system in the past so many years think of producing as basic a document as this? The answer may lie in the government's belief that the Budget procedures should remain shrouded in secrecy.


Thus, various Budget-related instructions and guidelines were available in the form of executive orders and circulars in different files in the Budget Division of North Block, the headquarters of the finance ministry. However, nobody made an effort to put them together. The idea of bringing out all these circulars and procedures in a single document and then making that public is, therefore, truly revolutionary. The net result of the exercise is that the Budget process has become transparent. This has also made simpler and less onerous the task of new officers joining the Budget Division of the finance ministry or, for that matter, any other ministry connected with the formulation of the Budget.


How elaborate is the annual Budget exercise? The Budget Manual lists as many as 37 specific steps that the finance ministry has to complete between the second week of September, when the Budget circular is out marking the start of the annual exercise, and the last working day of February the following year, when the finance minister presents the Budget in Parliament.


Once the Budget becomes the property of Parliament, the government must follow a different schedule, according to the Manual. Between the first week of March and the first week of May, the government has to ensure the completion of 25 more specific action points. These steps are required to get the various Budget-related Bills passed. For instance, the government has to get two appropriation Bills passed. One of these Bills proposes to allow the government to draw money from the Consolidated Fund of India until Parliament passes the full Budget and the other, after its passage, allows the government to draw money from the exchequer for the remaining months of the year.


In addition, the finance ministry has to get Parliamentary approval of the various demands for grants pertaining to the central ministries, the general discussion on the Budget and most importantly the Finance Bill, which contains all the legislative changes to give effect to the new tax rates and procedures. The target for obtaining the president's assent to the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill is the first week of May, which marks the end of the annual Budget exercise. In other words, the Budget exercise takes over seven months and three weeks in a year. The finance ministry may well ponder if it indeed needs such a long drawn-out schedule for the preparation of the annual Budget, now that tax rates have become more stable and the Budget is more about setting the government's expenditure priorities.


An interesting aspect of the Budget exercise is that about a week before the actual presentation, the finance ministry finalises the Finance Bill and sends it for printing. In other words, the finance ministry concludes its deliberations on tax rate changes or modifications in the provisions of the tax policy about a week before the Budget becomes public. The finance minister can still make some changes in non-tax-related matters as he finalises his speech just three days prior to presenting the Budget.


The three days before the Budget are indeed tense for the finance minister and his team of officials involved in the Budget exercise. While those in the Budget printing press in North Block remain locked inside the premises until the Budget is presented in Parliament, the officials in Budget Division prepare a summary of the Budget for the Cabinet. This is done two days before the Budget is due to be presented in Parliament.


On the day the Budget is presented, three other significant events take place. One, the prime minister gives his approval to the finance ministry's request that the Budget Summary be presented to the president. Two, the president recommends under Articles 112, 115 and 117 of the Constitution that the government may present its annual financial statement to Parliament. Three, the Cabinet meets and approves the Budget.


The surprise element in Budgets during the post-reforms era has seen a progressive decline, with tax rates remaining largely stable and fewer sector-specific exemptions or concessions. Now, the Budget Manual has put an end to the mystique and aura of secrecy around the procedures for preparing the government's annual financial statement.










THE governing council of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has acted rightly in terminating its contract with Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab for breaching ownership rules. Team ownership rules should be transparent as the IPL has become a money spinning business, driven by the national passion for the sport. IPL teams are public bodies and this warrants more disclosures by the franchisees that own IPL teams than what is needed under law. Both Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab were reportedly found guilty of transferring ownership without the permission of the governing council. The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), which owns IPL, has also been unable to identify the real owner of Rajasthan Royals. The company should come clean on its ownership and shareholding. Not doing so goes against the tenets of good corporate governance. The BCCI has, in this regard, discharged its supervisory responsibility. The board has done well to seek a legal opinion, though it leaves some uncertainty about the players, sponsors and the logistics of the next tournament. Similarly, a warning to the Kochi team to resolve its disputes shows that the BCCI is in command. The disqualified companies have, however, contested board's decision. Given the huge public interest in the sport, an independent panel to review BCCI's decision makes eminent sense. 


The board, comprising of leading politicians and businessmen, is the biggest beneficiary of the IPL. It shares revenues generated from the matches — spanning advertising, broadcast rights, event management and merchandising — with the franchisees. As the owner of IPL, the board implicitly or explicitly supported whatever the IPL did. The onus, therefore, is on the BCCI to clean up the entire IPL act, muddied with allegations of money laundering, misappropriation of funds and nefarious deals. Some companies that own IPL teams are registered in tax havens. The BCCI should reveal the beneficial ownership in these companies. Like the IPL teams, the BCCI is also an institution of interest to the public. It should, therefore, make its own operations transparent.







REPORTS of a possible global food crisis could not have come at a worse time for India. Food inflation is still over 16% and though plentiful rains this year hold out the promise of one of our best agricultural years ever, last week's warning by the US administration of 'dramatically' lower supplies of corn, rice and wheat could force the RBI to tighten more than otherwise warranted in order to rein in prices. The Food Security Bill, which has already run into rough weather for want of a viable and efficient delivery mechanism, could face a fresh threat on account of the additional financial commitment it will entail in a scenario of rising food prices. The US department of agriculture's prediction that the country's stocks of corn will fall to their lowest level in 14 years saw prices of agriculture commodities hit their upper limit for the day at the Chicago Board of Trade, the world's big (gest futures exchange. The Reuters-Jefferies CRB commodities index has risen to a two-year high as wheat, soyabean, sugar, cotton and barley prices rose in tandem in Europe. If prices continue to rise, global slowdown woes could be compounded by food inflation 


The global food situation is worrisome as the combination of an unusually hot summer in the US, drought in some large exporting countries including Russia and Brazil and heavy rain in Canada and Europe have hit grain and oilseed crops hard. The fall in supplies has prompted countries like Russia and Ukraine to impose export restrictions on grains. Meanwhile, big importers in West Asia and North Africa have reportedly started to hoard supplies. For now, fears of a repeat of the 2007-08 food crises seem misplaced. But with speculative forces entering the fray, worries about the role of speculation in pushing up prices will resurface. To the extent that we are not net importers of foodgrains, we may not be affected much by the looming crisis. But we will not be immune from it either. The last time global food prices rose in 2007-08, prices rose in India too, though by less than the international price. And that is bad news for all of us, especially for the 370 million below the poverty line.






IF THE eighth day of the eighth month of 1988 (8-8-88) was a good time to be born, especially in China where people believe in numerology, the tenth day of the tenth month of 2010 has seen quite a few babies making their debut into the world and fulfilling their parents' hopes and beliefs, even in the technologically advanced Silicon Valley (or Plateau) of India. "10.10: Yehi hai right time, baby" says The Times of India headline in its Bangalore edition dated October 11, above separate photographs of beaming mothers Ankitha Kumar and Pavithra Vinod and their just-arrived offsprings. Baby Nivritti Kumar scored a perfect ten, being born on the 10th second of the 10th minute after 10 am on October 10, 2010. Pavithra's baby boy was born 30 seconds later. The Bangalore Mirror notes the city's gynaecologists received quite a few requests from expecting mothers who wanted their babies to be born at 10 am on October 10 and not just because it was a holiday: Sunday! 


Proud parents of babies born last Sunday said they expected their children to be famous. Nivritti could even go on to win a gold in athletics for India at the Olympics, given her perfect timing of 10:10:10:10:10 while arriving in the world! And Pavithra's son, who was born round about the time Sachin scored his 14,000th run in Test cricket and on the same day India beat Pakistan to reach the hockey semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games, could go on to either emulate 'Ton'dulkar or even become the next Dhyan Chand. Granted, babies born last Sunday could also become celebrated statesmen/stateswomen or scientists or singers. However, success in sports is still a factor which not just unites but enthuses this nation and its billion-plus population. Which could be why the two babies are already clenching their little fists in their debut photographs!







GUIDO Mantega, honourable finance minister of Brazil, is to be credited with the latest buzzword — 'Currency Wars'. A fortnight ago, on September 27, Financial Times (and other media outlets) reported that the Senor Mantega had stated that "we're in the midst of an international currency war". In one of those remarkable feats of deceptive empiricism, that is now unfortunately commonplace, Financial Timeswent on to state that "the US dollar has fallen by about 25% against the Brazilian real since the beginning of last year, making the real one of the strongest performing currencies in the world, according to Bloomberg." This is supposed to sharply contrast against "a series of recent interventions by central banks in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in an effort to make their currencies cheaper. China, an export powerhouse, has continued to suppress the value of the renminbi". 


It is first necessary to set the record straight. At the end of July 2008, before the global crisis erupted, the Brazilian real traded at 1.56 to the US dollar. In late September 2010 it traded at 1.71, that is, 10% lower. What then about the "25%" which had made "the real one of the strongest performing currencies in the world"? That was because during the crisis, the real was the worst performer against the US dollar: from 1.56 in July 2008 to 2.62 in early December 2008, a massive drop of 68%. In contrast, the euro fell 24%, the Indian rupee by 22%, the Korean won 55% and the Chinese renminbi by 0%. The Japanese yen appreciated during the crisis by as must as 23% at one point. In fact, all Asian currencies, having first lost much less (or actually gained) ground visà-vis the US dollar, have also recovered more ground — whether it be the yen, renminbi, rupee, Malaysian rignitt or Taiwan dollar. Only the Korean won is in a position comparable to the real. 


If it had been only this bit of tendentious and mendacious reporting, it would have been par for the course in a world where distortions and deliberate misleading are considered valid weapons in our time of peace. It is, however, disconcerting to find the use of the phrase 'currency wars' in briefing statements of senior officials of the IMF. Does that august body subscribe to the deluded narrative which has concocted this so-called 'currency wars'? In fact, should it not be its obligation to straighten the facts? 


Some national governments are comfortable to see their currency zip all over the place, while others value stability and restraint, both in their actions and statements. It should not surprise social scientists, but it will perhaps many economists, that in such matters, there is an issue of culture. Just as leading European continentals look down upon the crazy Anglo-Saxon appetite for boom and bust, much preferring to lock up the excesses of individualism in the brick and mortar of massive government — run by clever civil servants or generals (take your pick) and not by the déclassé trader. So do Asian governments differ in placing great importance on stability, hence on gradual change and no sudden about-turns, please. 


Just 13 years ago, the IMF, backed by the developed West, sought to amend its articles to define currency convertibility away from current account convertibility towards "capital account liberalisation", the term "liberalisation" replacing "convertibility" at the last moment being a nod to the then ongoing Asian currency crisis. And today, we get advice from many in the West on how capital flows are a concern and controls may be a good idea. Of course, having so greatly profited from capital, developing a disdain now is not unexpected. It is an inevitable and defining characteristic of old elites. 


THE crux of the matter is of course the adamant refusal of the US economy to look up by the politically acceptable degree, despite all the mega-doses of stimulus medication. The advisers to the current administration clearly had excessive regard for the power of fiscal stimulus, irrespective of the circumstances. And perhaps, the evidence suggests an equally great lack of familiarity in the determinants of business decisions. They basically told the citizenry that the trillions of dollars being spent, the debt to be billed to them, would lift the economy up by the scruff of its neck; unemployment would be checked at 8%; and the economy would soon grow by 4%. Unsurprisingly, none of that transpired. 


With unemployment in double-digits, the recovery sluggish and the public mood darkening, the diagnosis (partially correct) is that the stimulus did fail to live up to promises made. Why? Because, it (the resultant incremental demand) leaked out through imports to China. The obvious question is — did you not think of it before spending the trillions? However, the deeper question remains: how to reinvigorate the dynamism of the American economy? It is only by achieving this, will "global (trade) imbalances" be fundamentally resolved. If China were to revalue its currency wholesale tomorrow — which it won't — the American consumer will mostly end up paying more, at least for some time to come. It is unlikely to create American jobs in manufacturing. Furthermore, the many new regulations that the present administration has brought into force are more likely to undermine American business energy than otherwise. Finally, the US seems singularly unwilling to have a confrontation with anybody and the China currency issue is perhaps the most classic. 
    Talking about Chinese currency manipulation (and what China may do with the $2.8 trillion foreign currency assets) is domestic political currency, but not foreign policy. That is unlikely to change. Days after the House of Representatives passed the enabling Bill to act against China, the Senate adjourned without discussing the issue. Considering that Congress adjourned without taking a vote on the budget, not taking the currency Bill forward may appear as small change. However, it is unlikely that after the elections of November 2, there will be a change in the unwillingness to have aface-off. This perhaps stems from a realisation that while it is convenient in domestic politics to speak thus, not only will a confrontation with China have many unpredictable consequences, but the domestic policy arguments for such action may indeed be seriously flawed. 


(The author is member, Planning     Commission)







SO, WHAT is the latest on the BJP's 'legal war' against the Congress for the so-called 'cyber theft'? The party had claimed that it has served a legal notice on its rival for "illegally and immorally diverting the BJP official website onto the Congress site". But, suddenly, the 11, Ashoka Road BJP HQ has gone slow on providing details of its legal action despite AICC spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan, saying her party had received no such legal notice. Her colleague, Manish Tiwari even tried to ridicule the BJP by saying that whosoever played the cyber trick deserved compliments for sparing web-searchers "the pain of going through unbearable stuff on the BJP website". The Congress camp claims there will be nothing to directly link the party to the vanishing BJP-site trick. As the BJP has gone defensive after the initial aggression, the Congress continues to insist the lawyers who are supposed to have served the so-called legal notice on behalf of the BJP should come out into the open. The countdown begins now. 



EVEN as Sonia Gandhi travelled to Tamil Nadu with the message that her party should work to revive itself in the state with due respect to ally DMK, seasoned Congress firefighters have been busy on a behindthe-scenes operation after getting wind of an AIADMK pre-poll move. Jayalalithaa, searching for match-winning allies, had silently reached out to popular film star Vijayakanth, proposing an alliance between her party and his DMDK that could be quite a game-changer. But after a series of hush-hush talks, the Congress seems to have persuaded the Vijayakanth outfit to fight all the seats on its own. After all, the DMK-Congress combine had hit bull's-eye in the last Lok Sabha polls in the state by getting the same Vijayakanth outfit to contest all the seats — which ensured that the anti-incumbency votes against the DMK-Congress front were divided between the Jayalalithaa front and the Vijayakanth outfit. It's back to basics for the Congress. 



SO, THE next meeting of the CPI(M) central committee will decide on the possible reinduction of Kerala veteran V S Achuthanandan into the party politburo. The chief minister had been removed from the top body on the charges of defying the party code by persisting with his crusade against the politics of inner-party rival Pinarayi Vijayan. It seems there is a realisation in the state and among the central leadership that the Pinarayi camp may have all the expertise in manoeuvring inner-party equations, but still lacks the credibility and mass appeal of the CM. So, the party has realised it needs the presentable face of V S to fight the tough battle with a message that the 'injustice to him' has been rectified. But given the factional volatility of the Kerala CPI(M), there may yet be some drama. 



AS THE Congress tries hard to ensure the Muslim voters of Bihar don't return to Lalu Yadav in the wake of the Ayodhya verdict, the pre-poll feel-good factor of the Congress has been marred by a series of protests by rejected Congress aspirants. The man facing the ire is AICC general secretary in-charge Mukul Wasnik. Already, some unhappy leaders have petitioned 10, Janpath, alleging mishandling of ticket distribution by Wasnik and his team. Some Congress activists even burnt Wasnik's effigy outside the PCC office in Patna. Given Wasnik's expertise in being a low-profile leader, the joke at 24, Akbar Road is that the effigy burning was the best publicity for Wasnik to announce his arrival in the big league.







    THE disconnect between conventional political wisdom and grassroots reality check can be fascinating. It is almost a fortnight since the Allahabad High Court's verdict on the Ayodhya title dispute. The peaceful and guarded conduct of the general public has proved wrong the worries about a post-judgment communal flare-up. Such was the pre-verdict projected concern that even politicians specialised in stoking the Ayodhya communal fire appealed for social harmony. The government managers tried to reassure one and all that the high court verdict would be a 'mere semifinal' before the losing side moves the apex court for the final verdict. So, can one safely assume that the man on the street has finally been enlightened by these multiple peace missions and chosen to behave himself, for once? Or is it a case that he has, by now, acquired enough experience to see through the games of those who trade in majority and minority communalism and has, therefore, chosen to put them in their place for good? 


Never mind the political class posting selfcongratulatory messages for getting the nation to behave itself, it is evidently clear that the credit goes to the aam aadmi's refusal to play ball with the post-verdict political plots of these very players. The man on the street has chosen to be on guard even as the aggrieved side is still in the process of discussing the next legal course alongside the effort to explore a post-verdict, out-of-court settlement. 


The gleeful declaration of the Sangh Parivar leaders that the verdict has 'indicated' their divisive Ram temple political plank and that Muslims should now gracefully' join them in 'building a grand temple' evoked no jubilant endorsement from the Hindu street or any aggressive rebuff from the Muslim street, thereby neutralising the political potential to unleash the politics of polarisation. L K Advani's attempt to appear 'generous and magnanimous', if not a 'pseudo secularist', by stating that his 'rath yatra-vindicating' verdict still 'doesn't justify the Babri Masjid demolition' was dismissed as a calculated posture given he, as an accused in the mosque demolition court case, has pleaded 'not guilty'. 


The common man's refusal to play ball has now prompted saffron politicians to turn to the other lucrative aspects of their daily politics. How else does one explain the irony of a set of BJP rebel MLAs reducing the Yeddiyurappa regime to a caricature right when the saffron party wants the whole nation to believe it is riding the Ayodhya verdict to new political heights? Imagine, the poll-bound Bihar BJP is being blackmailed by its own state president by playing on 'Bhumihar unhappiness' at a time when the BJP has supposedly dressed up to lead the 'entire Hindu community' to celebrate the legal stamp on the Ram Janmabhumiissue! 
    The self-proclaimed 'minority champion' Mulayam Singh Yadav, who tried to wash away his 'Kalyan Singh blot' with a bout of post-verdict tears for Muslims, was also squarely denounced by community leaders themselves. The attempt of the 'too political' Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari to trade the vote-bank also found no takers in Old Delhi's lanes. 


 So does it mean that the new India, especially its young generation, has moved away to an extent of not feeling involved or bothered about a first-rate political and social issue like the Ayodhya dispute? The answer may not be a simple 'no'. It seems the people have outgrown politicians in terms of setting our social priorities and political responses. And there may be certain political factors that have helped the people in this. 

Unlike the 1990s and early 2000s when mainstream politics was dominated by the divisive and sectarian political agenda of the Ayodhya and Mandal-Kamandal planks, India has now entered a phase where the inclusive politics of development and a better economic deal for the common man is setting the discourse. No wonder, even a Narendra Modi is finding few takers beyond the Parivar core constituency despite his attempts to repackage himself as a development messiah. Even Lalu and Mulayam are now finding that their Muslim-Yadav constituency can't be nurtured only on a daily diet of 'insecurity politics'. The fact that a whole lot of productive social sector schemes have brought in a quality change in the rural belt, even in these days of inflation, has changed the tone and tenor of politics even at the grassroots. 
    But that does not necessarily mean the common man is not bothered about the Ayodhya verdict or not involved in the debate on whether the title suit should be settled on the basis of faith or legally permissible evidence, especially given the larger political target behind the mosque demolition. Ordinary Indians, irrespective of their religious affiliations, seem to have acquired the wisdom and skill to ensure that they remain concerned and responsive political citizens without being pawns in the destructive games of divisive politics. That is why the politician, much used to dictating the agenda to the common man, appears at a loss to gauge the post-verdict public mood.


Never mind the political plots, it is evident that the credit for peace, post the Ayodhya verdict, goes to the aam aadmi 

India has now entered a phase where the inclusive politics of development is setting the discourse 
Indians seem to have acquired the skill to ensure they remain concerned citizens without being pawns in divisive politics







DO ANIMALS have mystical moments, that fleeting ineffable sense of a cosmic connect? Despite the fact that this may sound laughable to some, who may perhaps not be up to speed with what scientists studying animal behaviour have been documenting for decades, a case can still be made for it. For instance, research suggests that spiritual experiences originate deep within primitive areas of the human brain which, incidentally, also happen to be areas shared by a lot of other animals with a similar brain structure. How can we absolutely rule out that the functions of those same areas are not shared by them too? 


A study in the journal Neurology has shown that out-of-body experiences in humans are likely caused by the brain's arousal system which regulates different states of consciousness. If we disrupt the region where vision, sense of motion, spatial orientation and awareness of body position come together, then out-ofbody experiences can be caused literally by the flip of a switch. Obviously, there's no reason to believe it's any different for a dog, cat or primate's brain, considering it's already been seen that when specific parts of the limbic system — which in humans give rise to feelings of altered states of consciousness — are removed from animal brains, drugs like LSD have no effect. 


Yet, in spite of the circumstantial evidence, it's still true we'll never know if animals actually undergo such experiences for the simple reason that they don't have the necessary language skills to communicate it. But isn't that the same situation humans face when they apparently experience a mystical moment? All they can tell us later is that there are no words to describe it. So if language can't be used as a tool to communicate it, how do we know what kind of subjective experience they had? Or if they had any at all? 


Besides, what makes us so exalted that we should be the only ones around with which the cosmos connects? In their recent book Wild Justice, animal ethologist Marc Bekoff and philosopher Jessica Pierce document a suite of animal behaviour that can only be defined as being indicative of morality. These include cooperation — as in altruism, reciprocity and trust; empathy — as in compassion, grief and consolation; and justice — as in sharing, fair play and forgiveness. If an animal can be a moral agency, what stops it from being a spiritual being too?






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Sunday's decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to dump 2008 Indian Premier League champions Rajasthan Royals and Chandigarh-based Kings XI Punjab for alleged changes in their ownership pattern between the time bids were first made for teams and subsequent years has come as a blow to the burgeoning property that the IPL has become. Not only does this send out the clear signal that toeing the BCCI line is the only way to survive in Indian cricket, it also targets those the board perceived were close to sacked IPL "commissioner" Lalit Modi. At the same time, the BCCI-run IPL governing council, which met in Mumbai over the weekend, gave the new Kochi franchise 10 days to sort out its problems, which in many ways reflect the reasons that the Royals and Kings XI were shown the door in the first place. Predictably, it has kicked off a storm of protest, not just by Lalit Modi — who was busy tweeting his outrage on Sunday — but also by a significant section of the owners of other IPL teams, notably Vijay Mallya of Bangalore Royal Challengers as well as by those more directly affected: Preity Zinta of the Punjab side and Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra of the Jaipur-based Royals. In essence, the BCCI's step underlines the moves it made over the last few months to take back total control over the IPL in every aspect, which had clearly not been the case in the three years Mr Modi and his team ran the extravaganza. As part of the initial document, the franchisees had to make a commitment that no change in ownership patterns or other significant alterations would take place without the IPL governing council and the board itself being informed. Yet both the Royals and the Kings had apparently made a number of switches in ownership and investment patterns. On this seeming technicality, the axe fell on the two teams that apparently have some links to Mr Modi and his family, however tenuous. It remains to be seen if the BCCI's action can withstand legal scrutiny in the event of the aggrieved parties choosing to go to court. The immediate outcome of this move for the IPL's fourth round next year is that instead of 10 teams that would have been in the fray with two new inductions, the IPL returns to the more familiar eight-team format. There had been more that a few voices raised expressing concern over the amount of cricket the Indians in particular were required to play, especially in the aftermath of the World T20 debacle in the West Indies. The other aspect of the BCCI's action is the complete and utter disregard shown to what should have been its basic constituency — the Indian cricket fan. Each of the eight franchise cities have painstakingly and at great cost and effort generated and nurtured a following, not just in their respective catchment areas but across the country and beyond. So what happens to those who owed loyalty to the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab? Are they to be casually discarded as some scores have to be settled? Surely those who run the game need to think of the sentiments, and the interests, of cricket lovers.







What is racism and when should a national government take up arms against an act of ethnic or colour-based prejudice or discrimination. The issue is worth pondering because in the past week there have been several cases of alleged racism in relation to the Commonwealth Games. In most, India has played the victim and the ministry of external affairs (MEA), pushed by a hyperactive media, has gone ballistic. In other cases, India has been accused of being the perpetrator and predictably the issue has been buried.


It began with a New Zealand television commentator punning on Sheila Dikshit's surname. It would have been fine as a party joke or college canteen chatter but on national television, it was in decidedly bad taste. The government of India criticised the remark, which it was within its rights to do; it then boycotted an official lunch hosted by the New Zealand high commissioner in New Delhi and demanded action against the television commentator.


Next, an email circulating among junior functionaries of the Victoria police showed a train passenger getting electrocuted in India and led to a series of comments on how this could be a way to "solve" the Indian student problem in Australia. It must be noted that the story broke in Australian newspapers and only after the Victoria authorities had begun taking remedial steps, including disciplinary action against the offending police constables.


India responded by summoning the Australian high commissioner to South Block. In a statement, the MEA said, "Such an entrenched bias among sections of law enforcers towards the Indian community is a matter of serious concern. Such behaviour and attitudes have no place in any society".


The third incident got smaller publicity. South African swimmer Roland Schoeman was distracted by the crowd and ended up making a false start in the 50-metres freestyle semi-final. Clearly upset, he assailed spectator behaviour: "It's an absolute disgrace. There's a guy in the stands just shouting, shouting, shouting. Someone like that needs to be ejected from this place. It is unacceptable to be at a professional event like this and having people in the stands going on like monkeys".


The use of the "monkey" word caused a minor controversy. The Commonwealth Games Federation had to step in and say it did not condone "racial slurs or racial behaviour". Schoeman protested he had pointed to the bad behaviour of one individual and not intended a racist remark.


Of the three incidents recounted above, the one involving Victorian policemen is the most serious. It required the India foreign office to intervene though the MEA statement, as well as media discourse in India, did seem to confuse aberrant behaviour by individuals with institutional prejudice as a matter of government policy. Nowhere in the world are lower-level policemen models of rectitude and enlightened social more. A Jat constable in Haryana may personally abhor dalits and hold the worst possible opinion of them. That is different from the Haryana police as an institution — much less the Haryana government or the government of India — being biased against dalits as a matter of deliberate policy.


It was even more complicated in the case of the New Zealand television commentator. His right to free speech, however perverted, is a matter between him, his employers and the slander and hate laws of his home country. The episode also constituted the acts of a private individual on a news network. Did it really implicate the New Zealand government and merit not turning up at the high commissioner's lunch? More important, as a democracy, with a free press it is proud of, didn't India look mighty stupid demanding action against a single journalist, and that too from a national government? This is the thing the world expects China to do, not India.


Finally, come to Schoeman's remarks. The simian comparison he made was not very different from the manner in which Sunil Gavaskar, writing in his book Sunny Days, described a rambunctious crowd in Kingston (Jamaica) during the fourth test between India and the West Indies in early 1976. Led by Michael Holding, the hosts bowled menacingly and aimed for the batsman's body. The crowd seemed to love it, in the manner of a Coliseum throng egging on blood-hungry gladiators.


Was Gavaskar racist — or was he just angry at the perceived unfairness of it all?


That aside, at sports events Indians tend to be terrible keepers of spectator etiquette. In 2004, this writer travelled to Athens for the Olympic Games. A doubles match involving tennis stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi got Indian fans particularly excited. A joint secretary of the ministry of sports, in Athens on a taxpayer-sponsored junket, got so carried away that each time an Indian player raised his arm to serve, he screamed, "Go Leander, Go Mahesh; Come on India!"


It happened two or three times, with all four players on court turning in the direction of the screeching middle-aged Indian. Eventually, it was pointed out to Mr joint secretary that spectators were expected to maintain complete silence while a player was serving or during a rally. The cheering was to take place strictly after the point. There was a certain difference between a tennis match and a football game. The epithets used to describe Mr Joint Secretary that day in Athens were far worse than "monkey"; and they were all the work of fellow Indians.


A fourth recent fracas arose during the marchpast of nations at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. A Doordarshan commentator described an African contingent in a strange fashion: "Here comes Malawi. It is in Africa. It is one of the world's least developed countries".


Predictably, the high commission of Malawi protested. Doordarshan's director-general wrote back offering an "unconditional apology" and insisting the "derogatory" description was "unintentional" and "inadvertent". There wasn't even the remotest suggestion, let alone self-admission, that India's public broadcaster had been racist. Neither was there any question of the government of Malawi boycotting the Indian high commissioner and asking New Delhi to punish the Doordarshan commentator.


Given this, why is India's establishment so prickly when comes to claiming offence from white nations in the Commonwealth? Is it exhibiting some deep-seated psychological inadequacy? That nagging suspicion just refuses to go away.


- Ashok Malik can be contacted at [1]








Here's the narrative you hear everywhere: US President Barack Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can't create jobs.


Here's what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.


Ask yourself: What major new federal programmes have started up since Mr Obama took office? Healthcare reform, for the most part, hasn't kicked in yet, so that can't be it. So are there giant infrastructure projects under way? No. Are there huge new benefits for low-income workers or the poor? No. Where's all that spending we keep hearing about? It never happened.


To be fair, spending on safety-net programmes, mainly unemployment insurance and Medicaid, has risen — because, in case you haven't noticed, there has been a surge in the number of Americans without jobs and badly in need of help. And there were also substantial outlays to rescue troubled financial institutions, although it appears that the government will get most of its money back. But when people denounce big government, they usually have in mind the creation of big bureaucracies and major new programmes. And that just hasn't taken place.


Consider, in particular, one fact that might surprise you: The total number of government workers in America has been falling, not rising, under Mr Obama. A small increase in federal employment was swamped by sharp declines at the state and local level — most notably, by layoffs of schoolteachers. Total government payrolls have fallen by more than 350,000 since January 2009.


Now, direct employment isn't a perfect measure of the government's size, since the government also employs workers indirectly when it buys goods and services from the private sector. And government purchases of goods and services have gone up. But adjusted for inflation, they rose only three per cent over the last two years — a pace slower than that of the previous two years, and slower than the economy's normal rate of growth.


So as I said, the big government expansion everyone talks about never happened. This fact, however, raises two questions. First, we know that Congress enacted a stimulus bill in early 2009; why didn't that translate into a big rise in government spending? Second, if the expansion never happened, why does everyone think it did?


Part of the answer to the first question is that the stimulus wasn't actually all that big compared with the size of the economy. Furthermore, it wasn't mainly focused on increasing government spending. Of the roughly $600 billion cost of the Recovery Act in 2009 and 2010, more than 40 per cent came from tax cuts, while another large chunk consisted of aid to state and local governments. Only the remainder involved direct federal spending.


And federal aid to state and local governments wasn't enough to make up for plunging tax receipts in the face of the economic slump. So states and cities, which can't run large deficits, were forced into drastic spending cuts, more than offsetting the modest increase at the federal level.


The answer to the second question — why there's a widespread perception that government spending has surged, when it hasn't — is that there has been a disinformation campaign from the right, based on the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers. And this campaign has been effective in part because the Obama administration hasn't offered an effective reply.


Actually, the administration has had a messaging problem on economic policy ever since its first months in office, when it went for a stimulus plan that many of us warned from the beginning was inadequate given the size of the economy's troubles. You can argue that Mr Obama got all he could — that a larger plan wouldn't have made it through Congress (which is questionable), and that an inadequate stimulus was much better than none at all (which it was). But that's not an argument the administration ever made. Instead, it has insisted throughout that its original plan was just right, a position that has become increasingly awkward as the recovery stalls.


And a side consequence of this awkward positioning is that officials can't easily offer the obvious rebuttal to claims that big spending failed to fix the economy — namely, that thanks to the inadequate scale of the Recovery Act, big spending never happened in the first place.


But if they won't say it, I will: if job-creating government spending has failed to bring down unemployment in the Obama era, it's not because it doesn't work; it's because it wasn't tried.








When mobile phone marketers light up at the mention of the man in the mud shack, you know something serious is happening in the Indian countryside. The big picture is the soaring number of mobile phone connections in the country — over 670 million at last count. Zoom in, and there is the more fascinating story of how low-cost, long-battery-life cellphones are showing millions of Indians a way out of the ghetto.


Last week, I dropped into the office of a man who explained how batterynomics works on the ground. His work takes him to places that are yet to be connected to the power grid or have little electricity. Pretty bleak scenario, you would think. But not for Rajesh Sharma, director of operations, Zen Mobiles and rural markets adviser to the Indian Cellular Association.


Key to the wild success of the new models of cellphones with long battery life, he points out, is India's failure to provide 24x7 electricity to the vast majority of its people. Around 89,000 villages out of 5.93 lakh still remain un-electrified. A majority of the un-electrified villages are in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — states lagging behind in key human development indices.


Zen Mobile's latest promotional campaign starring Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan seeks to tap this terrain. In the commercial, Bachchan, dressed in rustic gear, is the man with a projector surrounded by villagers waiting to see the Bollywood blockbuster Dhoom. Unfortunately, just as Dhoom's title track comes on, the lights go off. The audience is livid and wants the money back. Bachchan asks everyone to be quiet and pulls out his ace — a Zen M-25  handset equipped with long battery back-up, video applications and  multimedia. Anger turns to exuberance and the crowd grooves to the title track Dhoom Machale playing on the mobile which incidentally costs around `3,000. The promo calls it Zen Mobile's mini-theatre.


Mr Sharma is optimistic about the product's future. In small-town India, where everyone lives with agonising power outages and in the villages, the message rings true.


Shyam Raj, a mobile phone dealer in Dumka, Jharkhand, draws attention to a common sight in the countryside: people trudging miles to recharge their mobile phones. Each recharge costs between `5 and `10. The user has to make at least a dozen such trips every month. Whoever has access to electricity — the grocer or the petrol pump dealer — can make money out of it. Low-cost cellphones with long life battery are a huge boon to Mr Raj's customers, as they save time and cash.


The phone has thrown up immense possibilities to those minimally touched by development. The farmer in a remote village can know mandi prices and much else. But utility is not the only attraction. Whether millionaire, mazdoor or mud shack dweller, the mobile phone today is as much an entertainment device as a communication tool. The difference is that the mazdoor and mud shack dweller want the combo cheap, and customised to their special needs. Whoever figured this out early is making heavy inroads into the exploding rural customer base. Whoever did not is suffering.


It is pretty much a David and Goliath tale with a touch of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. The telecom revolution kicked off in India in the late '90s. Traditionally, multinationals ruled the roost. But in a hyper price-sensitive market like India, it was only a matter of time before local and less-known manufacturers clambered aboard the mobile phone bandwagon. The leader in this pack of emerging vendors is Micromax Mobile whose founder was inspired by a group of villagers standing in the afternoon heat waiting to get their cellphones charged from a car battery that was mounted on a bicycle.


Today it is these local low-cost mobile handset sellers who are creating the buzz. With over half of India's population living in villages and the teledensity in its urban centres — like Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai — having reached saturation point, customising handsets for first-time buyers is a smart strategy that is paying off. And India and China are working together to make the rural backwaters the hotbed for innovation — Indian vendors typically get the phones manufactured in China or Taiwan.


Why are the less known Indian companies giving sleepless nights to the likes of Nokia, the market leader? Mr Sharma says it is because the locals figured out that many of the new customers would be small town, rural and poor, and spent time designing products to cater to their unique needs.


Apart from long battery life, the dual SIM card is a big attraction of the new mobiles. Every low cost cell offers this facility. Nokia got on to the dual SIM game a little late, losing market share in the process. Users are buying phones that support more than one SIM to take advantage of a variety of plans offered by different service providers. Typically, at the low end, people want one reliable number for the free incoming calls, and they have another for outgoing calls.


The Indian companies are doing well because they are incorporating feedback from the field into the design. Earlier models of a particular brand of low cost cellphone had a torch at the top of the handset. There were complaints and the more recent models have the torch at the bottom so that a user can continue speaking while walking down unlit village lanes. These phones also have a slot for a memory card. For a few hundred rupees, one can buy such a card with local content — songs, videos — opening up immense possibilities for locale-specific entertainment.


All this is exciting not only for those in the mobile phone business. Mapping the trail of the buyers of these new gizmos provides a handy deprivation index for planners. The first-time users of a low cost long battery life cellphone are most likely to live in areas that are hungry for reliable energy, and least likely to have access to a health centre with a fridge to store life-saving drugs or a school with students who have enough light in the evenings for their homework.


- Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at [1]








Pressure at the modern workplace leads many of us to think that if we can do two things at once, we could save time and shine as a star in the melodrama of multitasking.


Multitasking has become a normal way of working. Simply put it means: trying to do too many things at the same time. It may be answering the phone, reading your emails, sending text messages, or even cramming in a busy social life on top of an already demanding job.


Research shows that multitasking makes you more productive, but the multitaskers have more trouble focusing and they experience higher level of stress. Even after multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. With an emphasis on multitasking we easily fall victim to anxiety and stress-related diseases which reduce the efficiency of our immune systems.


This type of mind creates a brainwave that is called beta wave — always excited, always active.


There is another frequency of the brain called alpha. A person who has completed a task and sits down to rest is often in an alpha state. A person who takes time out to reflect, a person who takes a break from a conference and walks in the garden is often in an alpha state.


Where beta represents arousal, alpha represents non-arousal. Alpha brainwaves are slower, and higher in amplitude.


People who produce more alpha brainwaves experience less anxiety and their immune systems appear healthier.


The alpha state is a pleasurable and relaxed state of consciousness essential to higher levels of creativity.


Osho has suggested a meditation technique which can help you produce more alpha waves, and make you calm and relaxed.


"If you can manage to do this, thoughts disappear, thinking disappears, but you are not asleep. You are fully aware... a deep peace surrounds you, and your whole being is replenished, rejuvenated", says Osho.


It is a scientific method, and needs to be followed precisely. It requires a commitment of 40 minutes a day for one year.


Sit, with a straight spine, but not rigid. Make sure you are comfortable. Put your left hand on the right hand, so that both thumbs touch each other.


Then let your gaze rest on your left hand, just go on looking into it in a very empty, passive way. This relaxed looking stimulates your right brain, because your left hand is connected with the right brain, and if you look at it, your eyes and your left hand eventually fall in tune and an energy cycle arises, and your right brain starts functioning.


Then inhale deeply, and say "one" inside. As you exhale deeply, say "two" inside. Continue to inhale and exhale counting up to 10, then start from "one" again. Do this for 40 minutes.


If you lose count, start again from one, and go from one to 10. The first 10 breaths should be as deep as possible. From the second cycle you can relax and let the breathing be natural, silent and quiet — but continue to count.


After you have been doing this for three months, change your counting. Only count exhalations. Exhale — count one, inhale — keep silent. Exhale — count two, inhale — keep silent.


Then again after three months, drop counting altogether. And just watch the breath.


But Osho also warns us that this technique is only a path to meditation, not the meditation itself. It does create mental peace, but meditation is beyond the mind.


— Amrit Sadhana is in the managementteam of Osho International Meditation Resort,Pune. She facilitates meditation workshopsaround the country and abroad.








The euphoria witnessed in certain circles about the state of the Indian economy is more than a bit disconcerting. Statistics are selectively highlighted, inconvenient facts are deliberately ignored and attempts are made to present a picture that is far rosier than what reality would warrant. The mood is perhaps truly reflective of the ongoing Commonwealth Games in the national capital which, in more ways than one, represent the best and the worst of the country. Ostensibly to showcase India's capabilities to the rest of the world, we have constructed modern monuments on the backs of the most underprivileged.


Particular projections of the Indian economy that were recently put out have made those in government who are paid to be optimistic, rather giddy with joy. The latest World Economic Outlook released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on October 6 places the likely rate of growth of the country's economy during the current calendar year at 9.7 per cent, above the 9.4 per cent estimate made in July. This prognostication is higher than projections made by the Asian Development Bank (8.5 per cent) and Crisil (8.1 per cent) and above than the 8.5 per cent projections for the financial year (ending March 31, 2011) made by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council and the ministry of finance. In between these estimates is one made by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (9.2 per cent).


It is now widely accepted that in the foreseeable future, India would be growing faster than China although, according to the IMF, China is expected to grow faster at 10.5 per cent during 2010, while in 2011, the rates of growth of the Indian and Chinese economies have been projected at lower levels of 9.6 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively. Putting aside for the time being the veracity and credibility of the projections made by the IMF — it went terribly wrong in anticipating the scale and depth of the international recession in 2008 and 2009 — the simple point is that there is every reason to believe that India's gross domestic product would soon start growing faster than the speed at which the economy of the world's most populous country will expand, reversing a trend that is decades old.


A technical econometric exercise in a paper released in August by three economists with the ADB (Working Paper 609, "Using Capabilities to Project Growth 2010-30" by Jesus Felipe, Utsav Kumar and Arnelyn Abdon) projects a relatively higher rate of growth for India over the next two decades. Between 1990 and 2007, the Indian economy grew by an average of 6.47 per cent each year against 10.34 per cent in the case of China. However, between 2010 and 2030, India's growth rate would vary between 5.78 per cent and 7.07 per cent against China's 4.15-5.12 per cent, the ADB paper has projected.


Official spokespersons are gloating for other reasons as well. The sensitive index crossed the 20,000 mark but is yet to exceed the 21,000 peak that had been touched in January 2008. Even as a study by MCX Stock Exchange and Nielsen — the "Indian Equity Investors Survey 2010" — indicated that barely 1.4 per cent of the population of the country have invested some proportion of their savings in the stock market, cakes were cut in Indore to celebrate the recent rise in the Sensex. The fact is that the Sensex is zooming because foreign institutional investors (FII) have poured more money into Indian stock exchanges than ever before — between January and October 8, net inflows by FIIs stood at $20.4 billion or over `90,000 crore.


Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has repeatedly asserted that the government is not contemplating curbs on capital inflows (unlike some other developing countries) that create a set of complex problems by adding to domestic money supply thereby fuelling inflationary expectations despite the RBI's attempts to "sterilise" such inflows. Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia has denied claims that the Indian economy is "over-heating", a term indicating that domestic manufacturing capacity is not keeping pace with demand resulting in inflationary pressures. Yet, the IMF has asserted: "Among some major emerging economies, capacity constraints are beginning to boost prices… India has seen a sharp rise in inflation".


That indeed, is the crux of the problem, namely, the government's abysmal failure to curb inflation in general and food inflation in particular, which is right now is excess of 16 per cent, according to the government's own revised official wholesale price index. Of late, having burnt their fingers repeatedly, government spokespersons have stopped making claims about when inflation would come down. The FM says he is "concerned" about the rise in prices. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — world-renowned economist that he is supposed to be — was last asked when inflation could be expected to abate, he snapped at the questioner saying he was not an astrologer. As for the residents of the national capital, the situation is a bit worse than in the rest of the country as the rise in food demand (thanks, of course, to the Commonwealth Games) has sent prices of vegetables and sugar soaring.


There are none so blind as those who will not see. Even as swank apartments have been pre-sold at fancy sums in the Games Village, the World Bank estimated that the present housing shortage in the country varies between 20 million and 70 million. The Bank has pointed out that between 35 per cent and 45 per cent of India's urban population with monthly incomes ranging between `5,000 and `11,000 do not own homes.


Even as the number of dollar millionaires and billionaires in the country increase with predictable regularity each year — see Forbes magazine's rich list — figures put out by the government state that the average Indian earned less than `45,000 a year, a tad lower than the World Bank's estimates of India's per capita income at $1,200 a year. That works out to be less than `4,000 a month — an amount that can be easily blown up over a meal in a five-star hotel. This, mind you, is the average national income not what is earned by those below the poverty line. Are you surprised still why the influence of left-wing extremists is extending beyond the forests in the Red Corridor where adivasis live to the concrete jungles of urban India?


- Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator










Well might China denounce the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo as an obscenity, but if Beijing measures reactions around the world it will find most people are happy at someone having found the gumption to nail the human rights record of an oppressive, occasionally obnoxious and generally authoritarian regime. The Peace Nobel might have lost the prestige it once enjoyed after it was given to Barack Obama for achieving precious little; indeed the severe backlash to last year's award may well have provoked the committee to pick Liu this year, who we predict will prove as popular a winner as Obama was an unpopular one. There can be little doubt that many countries around the world, including in developed regions, resent China's increasing belligerence. Certainly her neighbours ~ India, Japan and Russia ~ are wary of her, specially the first two over territorial and other disputes. But even countries outside the region chafe at Beijing's readiness to use its economic muscle to pilot the global agenda. The US seldom allows a country's democracy record to enter the equation when its interests are involved and might in any event not have a choice in the matter given the severe imbalance in trade ties with Beijing. But European nations with a history of libertarianism have generally been uneasy with China's contempt for individual rights. The committee's decision in Oslo may, to that extent, have been influenced by the mood around the world, the desire to put Beijing in its place.

If there is an obscenity, it is in China's strident denunciation of the award and its attempts to browbeat tiny Norway. While Beijing has the power to jail dissenters, it does not have the right to incarcerate a citizen whose actions are entirely in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In any event, Communism over the years has emerged as a diseased excuse for authoritarianism; not the least because given a choice every Communist regime ~ in Beijing, Kathmandu or Kolkata ~ would use it to stifle dissent.

Whether Liu was the most prominent ~ and deserving ~ of Chinese dissidents is of lesser import. There have been suggestions that his dissent was relatively mild, even though it drew an incredibly harsh response. The fact is that the world needed a symbol and the Nobel committee found one in Liu. Will Beijing learn a lesson? Unlikely, because the structures that allow the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army to administer China leave no room for dissent. Many more Lius will be needed to teach Beijing that dissent is the natural right of a human being.




ROAD races are the only non-ticketed events of major sporting festivals. That is neither accidental nor the result of logistic difficulties: it would not be impossible to find ways of levying an access-fee. It is a realisation of the positive role played by spectators lining the route, encouraging participants, that cause the organisers to issue an "open invitation". The Delhi Police and the agencies backing it during the Commonwealth Games have made it very clear that they do not subscribe to the theory of spectator support ~ it was through a ghost town that cyclists in the two road races pedalled on Sunday. Despite the route taking in the common man's showpiece of Lutyens' city, there was hardly anyone present in the much-hyped "face-lifted" Connaught Place. A sporting culture dictated special efforts to attract people to cheer the riders, a section of the circular roadway ideally lending itself to conversion into a "live" arena. But from the very outset the cops signalled that aam aadmi was unwanted. The barrier-fences indicated spectators were to be caged-in, the shutting down of the radial roads from as early as 9 p.m. the previous day, the restricted plying of the Metro, and the "advisories" in the media combined to serve the cops' single-minded purpose: keep the people away. It was a smug but false satisfaction Delhi Police expressed when highlighting that 15,000 security personnel had been deployed, there were snipers on the rooftops etc: had there been even half that many spectators the Capital would have provided a little warmth to riders' hearts. Instead it was an ice-cold reception. As disturbing as all the other restrictions (among other factors admittedly) that have resulted in CWG 2010 being among the least "attended" of multinational sporting carnivals. The larger picture is that the Dilliwallah has long suffered being treated like dirt in the "name" of security. When a VIP drives past the common man is required to look in the opposite direction, when the Games hit the road,  aam aadmi was virtually banished. The cops should have taken a cue from the untroubled running of the baton relay. Alas, from day-one the misguided "fort" mentality has dominated the security exercise, even though that testifies to gross incompetence. The Commissioner has not done Delhi proud. He and his squads ~ against whom several allegations have been made ~ have further eroded the image of what were once billed the "friendly games". There has been an overdose of "khaki killjoy".




THE judiciary has stepped in an area where both the Kolkata Port Trust and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation have been loath to tread. A Division Bench of Calcutta High Court (coram: Pinaki Ghosh and Shukla Kabir Sinha, JJ) has ordered the clearing of the Ganga as well as its banks. And the order has been advanced with a firm deadline ~ 24 hours after the Durga Puja immersion. Precisely till the last of the resplendent images is immersed in the river to be transformed into clay from whence it was moulded.  The twin problem of pollution on the banks and the further clogging of a river with a shallow draught has only worsened over time. Maritime activity has been further affected. Neither the Centre's KoPT nor the state's KMC have ever displayed the inclination, not to mention action, to clear up the mess on the city's waterfront, once an integral part of the urban landscaping. This time, the action taken will have to be reported to the court by the third week of November. Whether it is the Maidan book fair or an environmentally deleterious immersion,  the administration's attitude after the event has been marked by callous indifference. That slothful approach has reached a stage when either the army command or the judiciary has to intervene. The High Court order is fairly sweeping in its range ~ from Jalangi in Murshidabad to Diamond Harbour via the shores of Kolkata. Aside from the  KMC ~ whose functioning has scarcely improved post-municipal election ~ all the civic bodies that skirt the Ganga's course and the KoPT have been made accountable. In trying to defend the inexcusable, both the Port Trust and the Corporation have traditionally blamed it on funds and the pattern of sharing. Hopefully, the blame-game will now end with the court's directive that the cost of the clean-up will have to be borne by the two entities on a 50:50 basis. It is rather puzzling that the administration never bothered to work out such a ratio. The contrived fiscal hold-up must now cease to be an excuse for inaction. It now devolves on the police to restrict the period of immersion, instead of allowing the puja committees to drag the rituals if only to sustain the celebratory mood. This is as vital as clearing up the river-bed and cleaning its banks. 








IT is shocking that more than 67,000 tonnes of foodgrain were damaged in godowns of the government and FCI in Punjab and Haryana.  Another 17.8 million tonnes are rotting  in the open. The Supreme Court had directed the government to distribute the foodgrain free to the poor instead of  allowing it to rot. The government argued that it wouldn't be possible to distribute the food free to an estimated 372 million living below the poverty line as it would kill farmers' incentive to produce. However, it decided to distribute an additional 25 lakh tonnes of foodgrain among BPL families through the public distribution system. It must be ensured that the damaged grains are not distributed; they may be unfit for consumption.

It is unfortunate that the right to food has not been accorded an overriding priority. There is little or no concern over the extensive hunger, if not starvation deaths. A Re-hydration project report states that around seven million children in India die of hunger every year. It was earlier reported that 63 per cent of the children go to bed hungry and 47 per cent suffer from chronic malnutrition. A  large number of people have died of starvation and malnutrition in the poverty-stricken regions of seven states ~ Orissa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. 

India has been ranked 65th among 84 nations in the Global Hunger Index for 2009. Poverty is crippling in rural India. Palugu Tanda tribals in Andhra Pradesh are considering the drastic option ~ to sell their children as they cannot take care of their families. This suggests that the PDS has been thoroughly misused.

Far from achieving self-sufficiency, India's record on the food front has been distressing in recent years. There has been a sharp decline in productivity. The average farm growth in the first three years of the 11th Plan period is hardly 2.2 per cent, while the target was 4 per cent for the entire period. Our food stock in January 2010 stood at around 46 million tonnes of rice and wheat, which may be sufficient for the year. But during 2009-10, food production declined to 218.2 million tonnes from 234.5 million tonnes in 2008-09 because of rain deficit. 
An estimated 372 million people have been categorised as poor in the proposed National Food Security Act. The number may rise to 405 million by March 2011. The FAO had earlier estimated that India had 221 million hungry people, while China had 142 million. Many government schemes for poverty alleviation exist largely on paper. There is no priority in policy planning to eliminate chronic hunger and rural poverty. 

The number of  hungry in the poor and developing countries has been rising in proportion to the growing population. The world's population crossed 6.75 billion in January 2009. And to feed a population of 8.9 billion by 2030, the world will require twice the quantity of calories consumed today.

The UN agency had reported that more than one billion people are hungry in the  poor countries despite a substantial increase in food production in the last two decades. Endemic poverty is said to be the major factor.  A survey by the US census bureau revealed that one in eight Americans live in poverty and some 37 million Americans are below the poverty line. There were half a million starvation deaths in North Korea in the recent past. In Indonesia, 450 children have been dying of starvation every day. The FAO had projected that the number of undernourished may decline to 575 million by 2015 and to 400 million by 2030.

It had earlier been projected that India would be free of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and would become an environmentally safe country by 2020. Presently, 221 million people are under-nourished and 372 million are languishing below the poverty line. They are vulnerable to diseases and natural disasters. Also, more than 50 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic, and every third child records a low birth weight. Both the child's health and brain development are at risk. A world development report had cautioned that India would not be able to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life by 2015 without socio-economic reforms in respect of better facilities in health, education, water, sanitation and electricity. 

The World Food Summit in Rome had pledged to provide food security and the right to safe and nutritious food. The summit had called for the eradication of hunger in all countries, pledging to reduce the number of under-nourished to half by 2015. However, the FAO report on world agriculture states that the target to reduce the number of hungry to half by 2015 would not even be met by 2030.

Our food output in 2009-10 has declined to 218.19 million tonnes from 234.47 million tonnes in 2008-09 due to deficient monsoon  during 2009.  During 2009-10, our population has risen to 119.8 crore  from 115.4 crore in 2008-09. Therefore, the present food output will not be enough to feed the rising population, if the entire half-fed people are to be fully fed. 

Higher food production will depend largely  on a consistently satisfactory monsoon, an expansion in the area under cultivation, improved cultivation under rainfed and dryland farming. Two-thirds of the net cropped area is under dryland farming, accounting for 42 per cent of  the total food produce. We will either have to wait for the miracle seed from abroad or develop the seed and the package of farming ourselves to meet the needs of the growing population. Another deterrent has been the decline of  cultivable land because of indiscriminate urbanisation and industrialisation. 

The Green Revolution in wheat and rice has now reached a dead end. It has not made an impact on cultivation in the rainfed area, and in respect of coarse grains and pulses.  There has been a qualitative and quantitative degradation of land, water and bio-resources; fertile lands have become uncultivable due to waterlogging and salinity. Post-harvest losses have been substantial.

The yields of the newly developed strains of rice and wheat have almost reached a plateau. The quality of the soil is a problem in Punjab and Haryana. However, there is scope to fully tap the potential of the eastern region stretching from eastern UP to Assam for improving rice productivity. The International Rice Research Institute had cautioned that global warming may be a threat to rice yields.

A second Green Revolution through genetically modified (GM) technology referred to as gene revolution is being advocated to improve productivity. But it has to be ensured that crop bio-technology products are safe; there are fears that GM food can result in physical abnormalities. An independent bio-technology regulatory authority should assess both the bio-safety and the risks involved.

The success of the proposed food security legislation will depend on overhauling the public distribution system to make the delivery mechanism effective. At the same time, storage facilities will have to be improved. The Antyodaya Anna Yojana programme needs to be expanded to cover rural households and create employment opportunities. The task of ensuring food and nutrition in a hunger-free India is challenging, particularly when around one-third of our population is under-nourished.


The writer is Ex-Principal Scientist, IARI, New Delhi.









Days spent by an IPS officer in Kolkata Police, contrary to popular belief, are far from his salad days. For me who was a Deputy Commissioner in Port and Central Divisions and of Detective Department in the sixties and Commissioner of Police in the eighties, the days were very challenging not only because of the very tough problems I had to face almost every day but also because all the time I and my officers worked before the full glare of the media. But occasionally my wife and I attended musical soirees, dramatic performances, sporting events which contributed in no small measure in lifting our spirits.

Another thing which lent great charm to a posting in the Kolkata Police particularly to a person like me, born and brought up in Kolkata, was the prospect of chance encounters with well-known singers, sportsmen and people from the performing arts about whom I had heard since childhood but had no occasion to meet. It is difficult to describe the thrill I felt when I met some of them.

Some days after my joining Kolkata Police as Deputy Commissioner, I was detailed for remaining in charge of police arrangements in Mohan Bagan ground in a match between Mohan Bagan and some other team. On the day of the game, I reached the ground in time and received a report from the Assistant Commissioner that the force had reported in correct numbers. This being my first duty in a football match on the Maidan, the Assistant Commissioner explained the strategic points on the ground where officers and men were to be posted, the places where reserves were to be kept and so on. The arrangements appeared almost like a routine drill. After the force had been put to the ground, I took my seat on the touch line in front of the members' gallery at a point opposite to the passage meant for entry and exit of players and officials. Minutes after the game had started, a gentleman in dhoti and shirt entered the ground through the passage and sat near the touch line a few paces away from me. Much surprised, I looked hard at the inspector on duty at the passage for allowing a person to enter the ground crossing the security barrier but did not find him much concerned. When I was thinking of requesting the gentleman to go inside and sit in the members' gallery, he suddenly rose and coming up to me said, "You probably do not know me. Whenever I come to watch Mohan Bagan play, this is the place where I always sit. I am Dhananjay Bhattacharyya. You must have heard my name and some of my songs."

I almost sprang up and for some time could not find words. He had always been my favourite singer but I had never seen him face to face. After collecting myself, I told him that I had heard his name but could not recognise him and that I had heard many of his songs including his most famous "Jhir jhir jhir baroshai……."


from the film Pasher Bari. I also recited the first lines of half a dozen of his other songs. He was quite pleased. Thereafter we watched the rest of the game. Before leaving he told me that if I wanted to attend his functions, I would only have to contact him over the phone.

I came across many such celebrities during my tenure both as DC Central and DC DD But the chances of meeting them increased when I took over as Commissioner of Police , Kolkata. I met dignitaries as a matter of routine at Writers' Building, Raj Bhavan, the assembly and similar places. But the meetings that have been etched in my memory forever were different.

Once when my wife and I were attending a musical function somewhere in South Kolkata where Hemanta Mukherjee was one of the artistes, he came over and sat down beside us after his performance. My wife and I were thrilled. After some exchange of pleasantries, he said that there had been a big theft in his house and as there had been no development in the case, could I do something? Not having heard anything about such a case, I could guess that he must be living in the West Bengal police area. My guess was correct. He was living in the Regent Park police station area. I told that since his case had taken place in an area which was beyond my jurisdiction and within the jurisdiction of DGP. West Bengal, I would speak to him. I did inform the DGP and some days later learnt from the singer that the CID. had taken over the investigation.

At Lal Bazar, many celebrities who came to the Pass Department and the Arms Act Department and who wanted an immediate order on their cases were sent to me. I remember my interactions with some of them. Once Kartick Bose, the famous cricketer of the thirties and forties who had captained the CAB team in Ranji Trophy, had come to the Pass Department for a licence for sparklers and crackers on the occasion of Diwali. While granting the licence, I told him that I had seen him playing for Bengal on many occasions including once under TC Longfield and also his performance in Dacca in a match held to raise money for the War Fund. I also told him that we all felt that he should have been included in the Indian team against Lord Tennyson's XI as a middle order batsman in place of Komiruddin and Abbas Khan, both of whom failed miserably. He expressed surprise at my knowledge on his cricketing career though he had retired long ago.

I met actor Victor Banerjee when he required a licence for a small arms of a certain calibre which he wanted to purchase from abroad and he was scheduled to fly out the following day. As he came to my room at Lal Bazar, he was accompanied by HA Arms Act Section who put his file on my table. I examined the file and found everything in order and approved the issue of the licence. As it was being prepared, he sat in my room. I told him that I considered him almost a member of a police family since his grandfather was the redoubtable Raghab Banerjee, an SP in the British days, who became an IGP of the newly formed state of Rajasthan after Independence, while the late RN Chatterjee, a former CP, was his uncle. I also complimented him on his portrayal of the character of Nikhilesh in Ghare Baire and said had Rabindranath seen this film, he would have certainly thought that a character created by him had become almost a living individual, possibly surpassing the creator's imagination. 

But the most treasured gift of the Kolkata Police was received by me at Mohammedan Sporting Club ground on their annual sports day when I had been invited to give away the prizes. When my wife and I landed near the gate of the club, the president and secretary welcomed us and said, " Sir, please meet our special guest." I was swept off my feet as I found that the special guest was none other than Syed Mustaq Ali, one of the finest stroke players Indian cricket has produced and a darling of the Kolkata crowd. A whole sea of memories came flooding upon my mind and I could hardly hear what he was telling me. However, collecting myself I shook hands with him and introduced my wife. Thereafter I told him , " Sir, of course I have witnessed many of your glorious innings in Kolkata. In fact the first cricket match I saw in the Eden Gardens while still a boy in shorts is the Third Test probably in 1938 between India and Lord Tennyson's XI where both you and Lala Amarnath scored glorious centuries with India defeating Lord Tennyson's team by 93 runs after having been beaten in both the earlier Tests played in Lahore and Mumbai. Thereafter I had seen you representing India against the First Commonwealth XI playing for Holkar where you not only batted but bowled leg breaks with your left arm." After some time I added, " Sir, you must have known what a darling you were of the Kolkata crowd throughout your career. In 1945 when Australian Services XI led by Hassette was to play here and there was a rumour that you might be dropped from the Indian team, some boys of our area came to the Eden Garden in a procession and shouted, "No Mustaq, no Test."

It is nearly three decades since I demitted the Office of the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata. While the memories come flooding back, I think not only of the bank dacoities, the gruesome murder of Debjani Banik and other victims, the tragedy on the football ground but also of my chance encounters with the celebrities. This gives me a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment, if not pride.

The writer is former DGP, West Bengal, and Commissioner, Kolkata Police 







Secretary General Ban KI-moon has said that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo of China is a recognition of the growing international consensus for improving human rights practices and culture around the world, according to a statement issued by his spokesman Martin Nesirky in New York. 

Mr Nesirky noted that the Secretary-General has consistently emphasised the importance of human rights along with development, peace and security as the three main pillars of the work of the UN. He said that, in the past, China has achieved remarkable economic advances, lifted millions out of poverty, broadened political participation and steadily joined the international mainstream in its adherence to recognised human rights instruments and practices. 

Mr Ban expressed the hope that differences on this decision will not detract from advancement of the human rights agenda globally or the high prestige and inspirational power of the award, the statement added. 

Gender equality: The Secretary-General has in his report called for equal participation by women in post-conflict peace building. He said much remains to be done to ensure that they play their part in shoring up peace 10 years after the adoption of a Security Council resolution."Now is the time for systematic, focused and sustained action, backed by resources and commitments on the part of all stakeholders national and international, public and private, women and men," he wrote. 

Mr Ban laid out a seven-point action plan. These include measures to ensure that women are engaged in all peace talks and post-conflict planning, including donor conferences, that adequate financing is provided to address women's needs and advance gender equality, and that women participate in post-conflict governance as elected representatives or decision makers and also through special measures such as quotas. 

The plan also called for rule-of-law initiatives to encourage women's participation in seeking redress for injustices committed against them and for prioritising women's involvement in economic recovery such as employment-creation schemes, community-development programmes and delivery of front-line services. 

Food for Pakistan: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that UN agencies and partners have delivered  169,000 metric tons of food in Pakistan since the crisis caused by the floods. The OCHA has said in a press release that eight million people are being targeted for food assistance in October, and some 500,000 people received monthly rations this weekThe UN and its partners have also provided medicines to cover health needs of 5.15 million people, and clean water for 3.7 million people, OCHA said. More than 260,000 tents and 413,000 tarpaulins have now been distributed, serving the needs of some 467,000 households, it added.


OCHA added that the province of Sindh remains one of the hardest-hit areas, with one million people in need. A large number of people continue to depend on life-saving assistance. However, access to remote areas is improving.

Iraqi refugees: The world refugee agency in a recent survey has stated that most of the Iraqi refugees living in Syria are reluctant to permanently return to their home country. The agency indicated that half of the refugees surveyed cited political uncertainty as a reason for not wanting to repatriate, while others blamed unstable security conditions, poor educational opportunities and housing shortages. 

Some 500 families took part in the poll carried out on the Al Waleed border crossing between Syria and Iraq between July and August, UNHCR said in a press release. The vast majority of Iraqis crossing the border into Iraq said it was for a short trip only to visit family members, check conditions on the ground, obtain documentation or check on property. 

UNHCR had made a similar survey on the Iraq-Jordan border among 350 families and found that none were returning to Iraq permanently, citing similar reasons. Syria is home to the largest number of Iraqi refugees in the region, with the UNHCR office in the country having registered over 290,000 Iraqis since the war begun. 
According to government figures, there are more than one million Iraqi refugees in Syria, with some 130,000 receiving help from UNHCR and the WFP. Some refugees have officially been resettled and others have departed to third countries by other means. Some have returned to Iraq, in a few cases with limited UNHCR assistance, the survey noted. 

Kala-azar in Sudan: The world health agency has reported that over 6,300 cases of visceral leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease known as kala-azar, have been recorded in south Sudan during the past year. It said it required $700,000 to combat the recurring outbreaks of the illness in the region. 

WHO said it is supporting the health authorities and other health sector partners by providing and distributing medicines and laboratory diagnosis materials to five health facilities in Jonglei and Upper Nile states where those infected are being treated. The agency is helping train health personnel on case management, laboratory diagnosis, and conducting active case searching and surveillance. 

WHO said that more than 300 people have died in the latest outbreak of kala-azar. It has put the case fatality rate at 4.7 per cent, adding that the number of cases is over six times higher compared to 2007 when 758 cases were recorded, and 2008 when there were 582 cases. 

War crimes: The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda president, Judge Dennis Byron, has stressed that the court is making good progress in completing their work, but their efforts are being hampered by a lack of resources and the departure of its experienced staff. "In all our efforts, we are facing one main stumbling block: the staffing situation," Judge Dennis Byron told the General Assembly, as he presented the annual report of the court. 

"We continue to lose many of our best and most experienced staff members, often to other institutions in the same field where they can obtain longer-term contracts," he said. He noted that 167 staff members left the tribunal between July 2009 and June 2010. 

Judge Byron stressed that the tribunal's staff is an indispensable element of completing the work. The tribunal was created in November 1994 to prosecute people responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda that year. Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered, mostly by machete, in 100 days. 

Judge Byron added that judgment delivery in all  the cases at trial level is expected before the end of 2011. 

anjali Sharma







Under the sanction of Mr Dundas, Officiating Commissioner of Police, Mr Aldridge Superintendent of Police, Second Division, on Tuesday put in a practical test a plea raised on behalf of a woman, named Balasia, and Mahabir Kulwar, who were arrested for keeping a cocaine den in Machua Bazar Street. The female defendant has been on two previous occasions prosecuted for cocaine smuggling. Acting on information, Police Inspectors Hyder and Rigby, of the Colootollah Police Station, accompanied by a posse of constables, on Sunday night suddenly raided the woman's cocaine den which is situated on a two storeyed house at Machua Bazar Street. After surrounding the house so as to prevent escape, the officers proceeded to the upper floor of the premises. The female accused on their approach ran to the verandah. The second accused held on to Inspector Rigby to prevent him following, so as to give the woman an opportunity of throwing away a bottle of cocaine. A few minutes later the woman was arrested and as anticipated no cocaine was found in her possession. It was, however, discovered that she had thrown a phial of cocaine on the tiled roof of an adjoining house, and this was secured.In the course of a search which followed the police recovered no fewer than eighty packets of cocaine which were concealed in a room hired by the female defendant on the ground flood. The two accused wee produced before Mr Dundas on Monday.

In narrating the story of the raid the police stated that a constable had climbed to the roof of the tiled hut and secured the phial of cocaine intact.

Mr D'Silva for the defence in submitting that the phial of cocaine had never been in the possession of the female defendant, contended that the story of the police in recovering the phial of cocaine from the tiled roof on which it was alleged to have been thrown was altogether unsustainable, as a glass phial must necessarily have been broken if thrown in such a manner.

During the year 1909 the number of matrimonial suits in the Punjab fell from 3502 to 3194. The decrease is said to be due to the following causes ~ to realisation of the uselessness of bringing preemptive suits for possession of wives; to the fact that suits for the custody of wives have been abolished under the new Civil Procedure Code; to the enhancement of Court fees coupled with the wider discretion given to Courts in the use of coercive measures to execute decrees for the restitution of conjugal rights; and to the difficulty experienced in proving marriages. In Mianwali, however, there was a considerable increase in matrimonial cases, and the District Judge ascribes it to the fact that in that district a woman is as much an article of trade as a goat or a sheep.











When Moscow catches a cold, an old joke about Indian communists goes, Calcutta sneezes. With the former Soviet Union and its communist empire now a lost world, Beijing beckons Indian comrades. But communist internationalism can have its moments of embarrassment. Indian comrades face one such moment in the Swedish Academy's decision to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to the jailed Chinese human-rights activist, Liu Xiaobo. While they are quick to condemn the "politicization" of the Nobel award, they seem to be wary of going the Chinese way in order to denounce Mr Liu. Echoing China in this case would expose them to the charge of being undemocratic. Denouncing the land of the Great Helmsman would be an act of sacrilege. But the Indian leftists' uneasiness and prevarication can barely hide the true nature of their ideological preference. They would rather have a one-party dictatorship than human rights and other basic freedoms. Their Chinese dilemma can only make their alleged commitment to democracy and the multi-party system a suspicious affair. From the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and of former Czechoslovakia in 1968 to the crackdown on pro-democracy agitators in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Indian communists have repeatedly sought to defend indefensible acts of communist regimes. The Indian communists' criticism of the Nobel committee, rather than of the Chinese authorities, shows how little they have changed.


However, the free world sees a new hope in the Swedish Academy's decision to honour Mr Liu. It also is a warning to the international community that China's economic rise does not make its authoritarian regime any less dangerous. If anything, the free world should have higher stakes than ever before in pushing political reform in China. It is time other countries stopped bartering trade for liberty in their dealings with China. Mr Liu is not alone in his fight against Beijing's ruthless suppression of its critics. By awarding the Nobel Prize to him, the academy has not only recognized the work of his fellow-travellers but also raised hopes for more such voices in China. Beijing has alleged that the Nobel award to Mr Liu is part of the West's "plot to contain a rising China". The truth is that the rise of a ruthlessly undemocratic power can be a danger for the free world. China's rise is not a matter of economics alone.








The B.S. Yeddyurappa government ultimately won the trust vote in the Karnataka assembly, but its feat plunged the state into a deeper political crisis. In fact, the proceedings in the House raised serious constitutional questions which resonated beyond the confines of the Vidhan Soudha. The first, of course, dealt with the validity of the action of the Speaker, whose controversial use of the anti-defection law kept out as many as 16 of the dissenting members of the legislative assembly during the trust motion. The disqualification of the MLAs, hours before the voice vote and in apparent contravention of the basic guidelines of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution — which allows the use of the law only against MLAs who resign from the party or who disregard the party whip during a confidence vote — threw the entire procedure under a pale of doubt. Mr Yeddyurappa, naturally, cannot completely escape the charge of using undemocratic means to hold on to power that was levelled against him by the Opposition. The disqualified MLAs have challenged the Speaker's move in court and the Opposition approached the governor, who has recommended President's Rule for the state.


The other serious constitutional question that has been raised by the crisis is about the role of the governor. In Karnataka, a proactive gubernatorial office has often complicated the political situation. The governor of the state has spoken out more often than expected — on corrupt ministers, on the justifiability of the cow slaughter legislation, and now on the validity of the use of the anti-defection law. The office of the governor is apolitical and cannot be seen, under any circumstances, to be playing a political role. The Karnataka governor, H.R. Bhardwaj, could have reserved his opinion on the impending complications that the perceived misuse of anti-defection law would lead to till the time he was actually approached by the elected representatives of the people. They have done so now, and Mr Bhardwaj has acted as required by his constitutional position. But by acting out of cue, the governor did harm the image of impartiality that his office is supposed to bear. In the end, however, none of the actors in the ongoing drama in Karnataka may be said to have played the roles the Constitution and the people want them to. Shameless politicking has undermined the electoral verdict in the state.









There are three obvious problems with the Allahabad High Court judgment on the Babri Masjid issue. Each of them in isolation is potentially damaging for the constitutional fabric of the country; together they can cause irreparable harm.


The first is the obliteration of the distinction between "fact" and "faith", which represents a serious retrogression to pre-modernity. In medieval times, witches were burned because people believed that they engaged in evil deeds. A premise of modernity is that this and other such "beliefs" cannot be accepted as "facts", that there has to be independent and credible evidence on the basis of which alone a "fact" can be established. Hence the verdict of the Lucknow bench that Ram was born at the very spot which was the sanctum sanctorumof the Babri Masjid, because "people" believed this to be the case, is as mystifying as it is retrograde.


There are, to start with, the obvious, but weighty, questions of who these "people" are, how many such "people" must be there to qualify being called "the people", and what evidence the Lucknow bench had, even regarding the views of the "people", other than what it might have gathered as a result of the activities, claims and mobilizations of a few Hindu organizations which professed to speak in the name of the "people". To take the word of organizations that claim to speak in the name of the "people" as the voice of the "people" is dangerous enough. But to take the "beliefs" of the "people", even assuming these are indeed the well-established "beliefs" of a very large number of people, as synonymous with "facts" strikes at the very root of the rationality that must underlie a modern society.


The second disturbing aspect of the judgment is the obliteration of the distinction between "negotiation" and adjudication. The outcome of negotiations always depends upon the relative strengths of the protagonists. Hence in any situation of conflict, especially of the "either-or" sort, where the relatively stronger protagonist is absolutely intransigent over its claim, negotiations necessarily work to the detriment of the relatively weaker protagonist. In the present context, where the Hindu organizations were intransigent, any process of settlement through negotiations would necessarily have worked against the organizations belonging to the minority community. Since the latter considered this unfair, it went to the court of law. The basic reason for its going to the court therefore, or even for the matter being referred to the court, is that the outcome arrived at on the basis of relative strengths is not universally accepted as "fair". The court is supposed to be fair because it does not settle issues on the basis of relative strengths but entirely on the basis of evidence, facts and legal provisions. The picture of justice, depicted as a maiden, typically has her eyes covered for this very reason, namely that justice is blind to the relative strengths, positions, powers, and pulls of the protagonists. The rationale of adjudication lies in the fact that its outcome is decided on principles entirely different from those underlying negotiations.


This is why the judiciary is different from societal (as opposed to State) institutions likekhap panchayats. The latter are pre-modern, and hence anti-democratic, for two distinct reasons: first, the attitudes of such panchayats are pre-modern, based, as mentioned earlier, on "faith", "beliefs", "customs" and practices rather than "facts"; second, the decisions of these societal organizations necessarily and directly reflect the relative strengths of the protagonists and the power relations existing among them. The judiciary, by contrast, being a part of the State, and hence based on a Constitution that guarantees equality before the law for everyone, is supposed to function with its eyes closed, uninfluenced by the relative strengths of the protagonists.


But when the outcome of adjudication itself becomes de jure dependent upon the relative strengths of the protagonists, then that represents a dangerous trend, a retrogression from modernity and democracy. And this is exactly what the Allahabad High Court judgment has done: it has based itself not on "facts" and law but on considerations of what might be acceptable. Since what might be acceptable depends upon the relative strengths of the protagonists, adjudication in this case has ceased to remain adjudication; it has got influenced by the relative strengths of the protagonists.


It is not surprising that after the verdict the Hindutva forces are talking aboutrapprochement, about peaceful settlement, about negotiated solutions. This is because their "reservation outcome", that is, the "worst case scenario" possible from their point of view, as expressed by the Allahabad High Court verdict, is already favourable enough for them; they can only improve upon their position, by buying up the one-third share that the high court has given to the waqf board, and hence getting exclusive rights over the entire disputed land.


The third problem with the judgment is that it has accepted the demolition of the Babri Masjid, an act that was a direct violation of the law of the land, as a fait accompli; and by remaining silent on this fait accompli while giving a verdict that echoes in essence what those who undertook the demolition were claiming, it has implicitly rationalized post facto that horrendous and unlawful act of demolition.


True, this court was not supposed to pronounce any verdict on the demolition; it was concerned with a property dispute. But, the obvious question arises: would it have given the land under the central dome of the Babri Masjid to "the Hindus" if the mosque were still standing? If it had done so, then it would have had to implicitly condone an act of demolition since the Hindu outfits then would have been legally entitled to do what they wish, with the land over which they had been given legal rights. And if it had not done so, then it means that the demolition has affected their verdict, that is, that the legal outcome of a property dispute has been affected by an act of illegal demolition: the Hindu outfits have benefited from their illegal action of demolishing a 500-year-old mosque.


The fact that the high court verdict has been taken in a calm manner by the people of the country is gratifying. It is symptomatic of the maturity of the people and also of the fact that communal issues are being pushed into the background as more basic issues of material life claim the people's attention. In this context, many have welcomed the Allahabad High Court judgment as putting an end to the longstanding controversy so that the country can move on. They feel that keeping the issue alive by going to the Supreme Court should be avoided, and are therefore unhappy with criticisms of the high court judgment.


This position is understandable; but it is erroneous for two reasons. First, any retreat to pre-modernity of the sort that the verdict has displayed is fraught with serious consequences that go beyond the specific issue under consideration, that is, the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue. If "fact" and "faith" are not distinguished, if adjudication is influenced by the relative bargaining strengths of the protagonists, and if a patently unlawful act brings legal dividends to those who perpetrated it, then it augurs ill for democracy in the country.


Secondly, issues like this leave behind wounds that fester and can cause damage later even if there is no immediate cause for concern. Justice needs to be done, in a manner that is in conformity with the blindness of the maiden. That is the only firm basis on which a modern State can be built; and the resolution of even specific issues like this lies ultimately in the building of such a modern State. Hopefully, the Supreme Court to which the matter will be referred will be mindful of the pitfalls of quick fixes and will uphold scrupulously the cause of law.


The author is professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi







The National Museum in New Delhi has an ongoing special exhibition of art and objects related to national sport through the ages. It is interesting to find that all the gold medals that have been won at the Commonwealth Games are in wrestling, archery and shooting, the great indigenous sports of India. This is quite extraordinary, and deserves acknowledgement and celebration. The miniature paintings displayed were delightful, as were some of the objects. Sadly, because of the non-existent 'guiding' and appalling signage, a few visitors bumped into the exhibits. As for the city of Delhi, it looks clean and sparkling, with disciplined traffic sticking religiously to the demarcated lanes, the otherwise unruly killer buses plying with dignity as buses do elsewhere on this planet, and policemen doing their job instead of being lackadaisical. There is a bright energy in the atmosphere. We Dilliwallahs are savouring this fortnight of civility and order.


Mani Shankar Aiyar, who declaimed about getting out of Delhi during the Games, has missed out on the best moments this city has seen in years. Those who did not have the privilege to scoot on a whim got a taste of a beautiful, and rather happy, Delhi — that is the irony. Will the government of India reconstruct the management norms and hand over the tools of governance to the chief minister and make the state government both responsible and accountable? Or will it continue to endorse the usual malfunction?


Mumbai morose


In contrast, Mumbai is in a shoddy condition, falling apart, with garbage piled high even outside the Willingdon Sports Club, not just around its slums. With the richest Indians having lived and grown richer in that metropolis, a visitor sees no attempt by the powerful to participate in stalling the degradation of Bombay, the once-upon-a-time City of Dreams.


That Bombay of yore had a soul, a racing, overactive pulse that was exciting, and attracted people who aspired to make good their out-of-the-box ideas. It was home to all regardless of differences. It was, in fact, 'the gateway to India'. Today, Mumbai is in a rapid decline, unkempt and exploited, with a fast-disappearing soul.


A fresh victim


Cut to Delhi. The media that were abusing the Games are now thrilling over them. Before we know it, they will be bursting forth with accolades for all those they have been digging into the ground. The swing-around has been one of the funniest comic operas we have witnessed in a long time. Soon, they will have to think of a new story, a fresh victim. But there is one lesson for all: the next bid for a 'Games' must be at a location that needs to be upgraded — a smaller city or a town. It will ensure a cutting-edge infrastructure that will revive the place for decades. Delhi gets a regular injection of what is required to keep it at an acceptable international level of quality. Now, it is time other cities get their place in the sun.


The CWG could have been organized in a manner that would have done India proud. We have the capability and the discipline to deliver the best. However, governments have a tendency these days to hand over the organization to lobbyists, not to professional 'best bidders'. The CWG organizing committee has proved this with the delays, the slipshod completion of the Games Village, the shoddy construction works and suchlike. These have demeaned us in the eyes of our own people as well as those of the world. The organizers are seen as racketeers — which does not augur well for an emerging economic power. Heads must roll. Accountability must kick in. A new operating manual must come into play for the future. Let us learn from our errors of judgment.







A considerable amount of thought is being directed at management and the way it is being taught. Recently,The Economist expressed the global concern about business schools by bemoaning their proliferation. It suggested that the only way for students to distinguish themselves is to aim for the most prestigious schools. Spurred by the dearth of jobs in the finance sectors, careers advisers have been steering graduates into unfamiliar terrains, such as the government and the non-profit world.


In India, there has been an unbelievable proliferation of B-schools. Just drive up any of the highways leaving Delhi and you will see huge edifices proclaiming "Institutes of Management and Technology". Even as one leaves Santiniketan, one comes across the building of the Bengal Institute of Technology and Management. Reportedly, there are 2,500 B-schools in India, of which 1,999 are registered with the All India Council for Technical Education. The large number of B-Schools raises doubts about their standards and makes one fear that they may suffer the same fate as the one that befell the medical colleges registered under the superseded regulatory body. With their record of placements and the diminishing intake of students in the last two years, the promoters must be worried about the servicing of their capitals.


At first, one used to marvel at the aspirants' ability to pay two lakh rupees every year as tuition fee. In 'shining India', ample bank loans seem to have fixed this problem. But the truly amazing question, for which there has been no answer yet, is this: from where do the institutes —other than the top schools — get their faculty? Management educators are supposed to provide a mix of theory and practice. From personal knowledge, I know that the right combination does not exist. Most teachers spout theories, and students memorize them before examinations. It is often forgotten that the 'A' in 'MBA' stands for 'administration'.


Perhaps one must seriously examine the possibility of diverting the investments made in the B-schools that are going to face closure into the setting up of effective teachers' training colleges in management with two-year programmes, alternating periods of work with classroom teaching. This should be the prime task of the AICTE and its likely successor under the guidance of the All India Management Association. Courses should also be designed for those who are already employed. At present, there is much more emphasis on the knowledge to be acquired than on the pupil who has to do the learning.What the country needs is a single national objective rating of all B-schools, covering their quality and specific strengths. The admission to all registered B-schools should be routed through a national test. Only then can B-schools become agents of change.









On March 26, 2010, the South Korean navy's corvette, Cheonan, sank off the country's west coast on the Yellow Sea. The incident, which resulted in the death of 46 South Korean seamen, plunged the Korean peninsula into a serious crisis, one that continues to rage five months on. The South Korean government constituted and led an international team of investigators, comprising experts from the United States of America, Britain, Canada, Australia and Sweden. The investigation, completed by mid-May, concluded that the ship had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo.


Pyongyang, of course, hotly denied any involvement in the matter. Visiting Beijing in early May, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, told his Chinese interlocutors that his country was innocent of the charges being hurled at it. It suited the Chinese to accept Kim's disavowals; for they believed that pushing North Korea into a corner would only aggravate the crisis, with incalculable consequences for all concerned including China. Owing to China's refusal to take a tough line with North Korea, the United Nations security council restricted itself to a presidential statement, which condemned the attack without naming the perpetrator.


In a bid to assuage the concerns of South Korea, the US announced a major joint naval exercise. As so often in international crises, this step aimed at reassuring an ally ended up unnerving an adversary. The Chinese military vociferously opposed the proposed exercise. As a concession to Beijing, the exercise was held in the Sea of Japan and not in the Yellow Sea. But Seoul decided to conduct a follow-on anti-submarine exercise in the Yellow Sea near the border with North Korea. Throughout Pyongyang has warned of retaliation to 'aggressive' steps by South Korea and the US. Nevertheless, Seoul and Washington are disinclined to take any step that would convey a weakening of their resolve to resist further aggressive action by Pyongyang.


The situation, in short, has all the makings of a grave international crisis. Interestingly, these developments occurred against the backdrop of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. That conflict broke out on June 25, 1950, and has never really ended. After all, there is no official peace between the two Koreas — only an armistice that came into place when the fighting ended in 1953. Juxtaposing the current crisis with that tumultuous war throws up an important observation. It is striking to note that whilst India played a significant role during the Korean War, it is entirely absent in the deliberations surrounding the ongoing crisis. This is something of a paradox. Although India was then a much weaker player in the international system compared to its position today, it had a rather more influential presence. This paradox can only be resolved if we recognize the adroitness with which Jawaharlal Nehru used the idea of non-alignment to bolster India's standing on the international stage.


Central to Nehru's conception of non-alignment was the notion that India should take a considered stance on key international issues and problems, untrammelled by the views and concerns of the great powers. The Korean War was the first major test of this idea. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, India went along with the UN resolutions blaming North Korea for the attack and demanding the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of status quo ante. Nehru was convinced that the North had embarked on well-planned aggression. Unless it was resisted the entire fabric of the UN would begin to unravel. At the same time, he declined to send troops to fight as part of the UN Command. He also sent messages to Stalin and the American secretary of state, Dean Acheson, stressing the need to take into account the role and interests of China in the evolving conflict by bringing it into the UN system. Although the Americans were not entirely pleased with India's stance, they relied on Nehru to urge China to eschew involvement in the conflict.


As the American-led forces seized the initiative and began to pursue the North Koreans into their own territory, Beijing grew concerned. On September 21, 1950, the Chinese premier, Zhou Enlai, warned the Indian ambassador, K.M. Panikkar, that "if America extends her aggression China will have to resist", for it would endanger China's security. Nehru took this seriously. He at once requested Zhou to remain patient and asked the Western powers to conduct their operations with restraint. But the Americans, goaded by their supreme military commander in Korea, General Douglas MacArthur, lampooned India's concerns — Panikkar was branded "panicky" — and drove right up to the North Korean border with China. Sure enough, Chinese forces moved south of their borders, joined battle with the Western coalition, and threw back MacArthur's advancing armies.


Nehru now focused his diplomatic energies on preventing further escalation. Along with ten other Asian states, India requested China and North Korea to declare their intention not to enter South Korea again. Simultaneously, Nehru asked the British prime minister, Clement Attlee, to secure Washington's agreement to work for a ceasefire and demilitarization, to be followed by multi-party negotiations on the future of Korea. The same proposal was also advanced to Beijing. Although China expressed some interest, President Harry Truman spurned the idea. Subsequently, Nehru suggested a four-power conference, involving the US, China, Britain and the Soviet Union, to consider all outstanding issues in the Far East. Zhou suggested enlarging this to include India, France and Egypt as well. But the US continued to sneer at Indian proposals. The mood in the West was reflected in The Economist, which wrote that Nehru was "as much an appeaser as Chamberlain", if anything "more dangerous". The military stalemate persisted and diplomatic efforts ran aground.


Over a year later, India played an important role in breaking the diplomatic deadlock. The armistice negotiations were stuck on the question of repatriating prisoners of war. China and North Korea wanted a wholesale swap of PoW; but the Americans demurred. The number of prisoners in American and South Korean custody was much larger than those with China and North Korea. A complete exchange would only end up strengthening the latter in a fresh round of fighting. Besides, the Americans claimed that several PoW had been press-ganged for the war and did not want to go back to their countries. Nehru suggested that all prisoners be interviewed by an independent body and only those that wished to return be repatriated. The Chinese were initially hostile to this idea, branding it a concession to the West. But Nehru stuck to his stance, and eventually Beijing came around to it. In the ensuing Korean settlement, India was made the chairman of the repatriation commission, a role which proved rather more difficult than envisaged by Nehru but was pulled off by India with dignity and assurance.


The point of comparing India's role in the Korean War with its absence in the current crisis is not to suggest that New Delhi should seek to be a mediator in every international conflict. Rather, it is to underline the fact that India's standing on the world stage is closely connected with its ability to set the agenda of international politics. That India is nowhere to be seen when a serious crisis is brewing in Asia tells us something about New Delhi's position in the emerging Asian security architecture. The Nehruvian idea of non-alignment is all too often dismissed today as windy vapourings. In so doing, we risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The power of argument will be as important as the argument of power in securing India's position as a major international player. The Korean War of 1950 shows some ways in which this power can be harnessed by a rising India.





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





The riotous scenes witnessed in the Karnataka Assembly and outside on Monday have taken the politics in the state to a new low, if that were possible. The rowdy behaviour of the legislators was shameful enough, but two Constitutionally-mandated personalities who failed in their duties, the incompetent, bumbling Speaker and the partisan governor who has not been able to rise above party politics, have contributed to the mess. The claim of the government to have won the trust vote stands devalued by the circumstances under which the Speaker conducted the voice vote. Yeddyurappa lost a great opportunity to puncture the claims of the rebels and their backers in the opposition parties that the government had lost the majority. If only the confidence vote had been conducted impartially and transparently, the state would have known the veracity of the conflicting claims of the opposition, the government, and of course, the governor. Now, we will never know.

For once, Yeddyurappa forgot a lesson of the recent history. The BJP stormed into power in the state on the strength of popular sympathy for him in the aftermath of the JD(S) denying him a shot at chief ministership. Such was the power of a tsunami of sympathy that the BJP was able to smash Congress bastions. But in its 28-month regime, the BJP has done everything to lose that goodwill. An inept and callous government machinery, fratricidal warfare for power and pelf, rampant corruption and unbridled casteism, all these have destroyed the government's image. The electorate, by now inure to the shenanigans of the ruling party was tending to become apathetic and cynical. A cleverer politician than Yeddyurappa would have used the trust vote to manipulate the public emotions. A clean victory in the trust vote would have silenced critics and raised the government's credibility. A defeat would have secured it public sympathy. But Monday's events have sullied the government even more. Its credibility is at an all time low.

In that backdrop, the governor's alacrity in recommending President's rule may not net him many plaudits, but it is a move that needs to be considered than dismissed out of hand as partisan. The sullied trust vote, the likelihood of increase in horse-trading in the coming days and the erosion of the government's moral authority call for only one way out the current political imbroglio — dissolution of the Assembly followed by a fresh election to the Assembly at the earliest, however much the frequent elections are undesirable.







Reports indicate that secret talks are underway between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban. It does seem that Taliban chief Mullah Omar is part of the effort to find a negotiated settlement to the ongoing war in the country. Afghan officials have, however, sought to downplay the seriousness of the talks. While dismissing reports that formal negotiations have begun, they have admitted to 'intensification of contacts.' If Mullah Omar has indeed been drawn into the talks process, then an important milestone has been reached in the quest for a negotiated solution to the Afghan conflict. Hitherto, the Taliban chief was reported to be opposed to engaging in talks until the US-led international forces left the country. His involvement in negotiations, if true marks a new flexibility in the Taliban's approach. This is welcome.

Many countries, including India, are alarmed with the Karzai government's overtures to the Taliban. However, they must realise that the Taliban, whether we like it or not, is a part of Afghan society and does represent a section of Afghans, however despicable their policies might be. The past nine years of military campaigns by the international forces to defeat the Taliban have failed. Trying to build peace through defeating the Taliban has not worked. Critics of talking to the Taliban have argued that there is no 'moderate Taliban'; hence there was no point in talking to them. This is an absurd position to take especially when seeking a resolution to a conflict.

It is important that the Afghan government reaches out to all sections, including the Taliban. This is aimed at reconciliation and will entail granting amnesty to Taliban fighters, an issue that has implications for justice. Still, sometimes it is necessary to put in place a peace, even one that is flawed and seems unjust, to begin working towards an inclusive, hopefully more lasting peace. India is understandably concerned about the likely inclusion of the Taliban, given the latter's links to Pakistan. Delhi will have to work harder on reaching out to the Pashtuns, even wooing the Taliban. Instead of criticising the Taliban's inclusion, India should stress its support for any solution that is made in Afghanistan, and provides for a government that will bring peace to the Afghan people and the region.







Where is the national leader of stature who can distil the message from the treaty of Hudaibiya and from Iqbal to the Muslims?


What should the Muslim attitude be to the Ayodhya verdict? He had, at the very outset, agreed that he would accept a court verdict. The verdict is out. And now?

Bahut khamosh, bahut pursukoon samandar hai,

Magar woh shor jo paani ki teh ke andar hai!

(The sea is silent, peaceful. But, oh, the turbulence beneath the surface!)

Justice Sibqat Ullah Khan in his 285 page judgment has given the example of the Treaty of Hudaibiya which Prophet Mohammad signed with the hostile tribe of Quraish in 628, barely four years before his death. It had been six years since the prophet and his followers left Mecca for Madina.

After these years, the prophet with a caravan of 1,000 men on his way to Mecca for Haj reached Hudaibiya. Quraish had made it known that they would block Muslim entry to Mecca. The prophet consulted his companions: should the caravan return to Madina or proceed, risking a battle. Intermediaries carried messages both ways. All that the Muslims wanted was to perform Haj at Mecca. This the Quraish were adamant to prevent. Eventually a truce was agreed upon.

Ali, the prophet's cousin, drafted a treaty. The prophet dictated that it was a treaty between "Mohammad, the Prophet of Allah, and Quraish." Interlocutors for Quraish objected. They did not recognise him as God's prophet. Ali, his cousin, refused to drop the preamble. The prophet intervened and himself deleted the phrase, thus paving the way for a treaty which declared a truce between the two sides.

The terms of the treaty were obviously insulting to the Muslim. For instance, despite the compromise, they would not be allowed to perform Haj that year. Next year they could, provided they stayed in Mecca for only three days. There were other apparently demeaning clauses. The pact was loaded in favour of the Quraish. Many described it as abject surrender.

In modern military terms, the treaty turned out to be a sort of tactical retreat, because in a matter of a few years Muslims had conquered Mecca.

What 'conquest' is recommended in Justice Khan's sermon, for that partly is what it is? If you study the parable of Hudaibiya alongside Iqbal's couplets Justice Khan so aptly quotes, his message is clear: communal disharmony has to be conquered. What tactical surrender must Muslims make towards this end?

Where is the national leader of sufficient stature who can distil the message from the treaty of Hudaibiya and from Iqbal, and give it contemporary relevance? Or, in a more narrow focus: where is the Muslim leader to manage the post verdict mood? I believe the Congress has two or three but the nation has not seen them in the past week.

Bear with dignity

Of course, the judgment is faith, folklore, mythology superseding facts. How should the Muslims cope with the verdict? Bear the judgment with dignity. Go in appeal to the supreme court, but let the secular Hindu occupy the foreground. See how many there are willing to take up cudgels for the rule of law. It is not only a Muslim battle after all.

There is a great deal in Justice Khan's judgment which makes for fascinating reading. For instance, Tulsi Das (1532-1623) wrote Ram Charit Manas from 1574 to 1577 less than 50 years from the date of the building of the mosque after the alleged destruction of the Ram temple. Would a Ram Bhakt like Tulsi not have been aware that a temple to the Lord of his adoration been destroyed five decades ago? And if he knew why would he not write about it?

The judgment records: "Several learned counsels appearing for different Hindu parties tried to explain this vital omission on the ground that Tulsi Das was afraid that in case he mentioned it, the Moghul emperor of the time would not like it and he would be harmed."

In other words, cowardice has been attributed to Tulsi Das by the defenders of Ram before the Allahabad bench. If they only knew that Tulsi Das was one of the most respected names in the Moghul court. Surely the considerable rapport between Tulsi Das and Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, possibly the most influential nobleman in the Moghul court, is proof enough. The greatest Sanskrit poetry in praise of Ram in the medieval period was written by Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, Tulsi's contemporary.

So, what should the Muslim do? Take a back seat in the Babari Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi arena. Why? Because while you remain embroiled, the communalist will use you as a fulcrum for his politics. And the secular Hindu?... well, let him stand out and be counted. Rule of Law is very much his business too.

When the monsoon session of parliament opened, the prime minister invited opposition leaders for dinner. The BJP declined because of action against Gujarat home minister, Amit Shah. Result: not once was Amit Shah mentioned throughout the session by the ruling party. Also, remember the Ayodhya related dates: 1949, 1986, 1992 and now 2010 — surely you know which party was in power on these dates, just as you know the Rath Yatris.

Step out of the Ayodhya arena. Justice Khan suggests, remember your prophet at Hudaibiya. Then watch the intra-Hindu dynamics without anyone blaming you for communalism. Watchfully, take stock of friends and foes and respond electorally, in the most democratic manner available.

Ghalib said:

Laag ho to usko hum samjhein lagao.

Jab na ho kuch bhi to dhoka khaaen kya.

(If there was even an inclination, I would have accepted it as affection. When there is neither, why should I fool myself.)







The United Nations' credibility is now at stake because the countries do not live by their stated values.


The dismal picture of the world is one of hunger, disease, and pollution. Climate change leading to floods, droughts and famines. Food-, financial-, economic- and energy crises. Increased communal conflict, violence against women. Child labour and other forms of modern slavery, and trafficking. A majority of the labour force in developing countries imprisoned in informal and unprotected work. Increased crime and corruption. Human rights atrocities and daily injustices of many other types.

The cheerful picture of the world is that we actually do know how to solve these problems. We know that investment in education, health, local agriculture and local trade will release a huge amount of potential and local wealth. We know that particularly women, when given half a chance, will work hard for the future of their children: creating economic and social progress and stability. Increased economic activity in an inclusive green economy is possible.

Yet we are not doing these things, we are not achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We have enough food, but one in six people in the world suffer hunger due to inequitable distribution and speculation. Half a million women die each year of preventable pregnancy-related causes. With education girls can negotiate and control their lives better: and choose to have fewer and healthier children. So, where is 'Education for All'?

Tremendous loss

Domestic and communal violence against women is both an indicator of a culture of impunity and a cause of tremendous loss of women's active participation in economic and political processes. Why don't we change this?

It doesn't matter anymore from which angle we want to approach the poverty problem: it is about justice, gender, climate change, economic development, peace and security.

Bringing the potential of people living in poverty into rule-based inclusive green economies and societies benefits us all. Not doing so will lead to increased global conflict and climate degradation. Then we all become losers.

So why don't our leaders keep their promises? Because they don't care? Because the poorest are mostly women? Because they do not see 'the others' as full humans or as full citizens?

Perhaps that is part of the story. More important are the short-term political and economic vested interests profiting from the status quo: 

* Shareholders of companies who profit from child labour and want quick capital gains;

* Traders who do not want to check under what conditions their products are made; 

* Arms manufacturers and private security forces who have a vested interest in conflict;

* and multinationals who do not have to pay for the environmental destruction they cause.

Should we begin to speak of 'corporate politicians and diplomats' as well as corporate media? With money playing an increasing role in election campaigns this is a logical conclusion. Some politicians increase their short-term power base by pitching peoples and religions against each other.

The best proofs of these connections are the huge bailout packages which saved the banks and companies that caused the financial crisis recently. This is the biggest financial magic trick of the last few years, public tax money spent to save the private sector and their shareholders.

What are 'We the People' going to do about it? We the people, we the citizens of the world, can increase our influence through our own direct behaviour as consumers and as citizens. Individually and by organising ourselves, within as well as across countries and issues.

The UN began 65 years ago and its 192 countries underwrite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN's credibility is now at stake because they do not live by their stated values, nor keep the promises of the Millennium Declaration.

We the people can and must make our leaders as well as our fellow citizens and local as well as international businesses truly accountable. We can invoke the 'do no harm' principle in matters of environment and security (eg: Shell in the Delta, Nigeria). We can increase our 'publish what you pay' vigilance in trade deals (eg: EU and Free Trade Agreements with African countries). We can do national gender budget tracking (spending on arms compared to spending on education and health). We can invoke Security Council Resolution 1325 to get women into peace process (eg: West Asia).

We can and will increase our local-to-global citizens' movement, working in partnership with responsible business and political leaders in order to transform our economic and social landscape from 'winner takes all' to 'justice for all'. One hungry mouth in the world shames us all.








They scamper, then suddenly freeze still and then spring off their haunches.


I am sitting on my balcony. Branches of trees overhang almost onto the parapet. I am waiting for the crow that sometimes comes into my house: of late he has obviously found better pastures. The biscuit I have kept out for him has been untouched. I am suddenly aware of someone watching me. I try to swivel only my eyes and see two beady eyes, beautifully almond shaped. His whiskers are twitching. He is poised to flee at the slightest whiff of danger. Every muscle and nerve speaks of tension. I do not move and try to smile with my eyes. He relaxes. We look at each other and I wonder if he nods. He jumps on to the parapet wall, cautious and alert. I do not move. He edges nearer, grabs part of the biscuit and takes a flying leap onto the nearest branch. Still suspicious, he sits up with the piece between its forepaws. One tooth appears, the characteristic that makes it belong to the rodent family: from 'rodere' meaning to gnaw.

Squirrel cheeps, along with the koels' melodious trill are among my earliest memories of rural and small town India. Here in my flat in Bangalore, they are still the first sounds that glide into my half conscious half drowsy lovely morning mood every day. Later, when I sit on my balcony, I see them run across the tree branches, using their tails to balance like tightrope walkers. They scamper, then suddenly freeze still, then spring off their haunches, leaping into the air onto the next tree, and run down its trunk with gravity defying sprints. I have seen them chase each other in a whirlwind of tails and marathon runs, sometimes using the tree trunks as springboard before jumping onto another trunk.

I love their question mark tails: I am told that the name 'squirrel' comes from a Greek word meaning 'shadow tail.' Also that a squirrel will cover its head with its tail during heavy rain. One interesting fact about the tail is that it radiates heat when it confronts a rattlesnake and that heat along with the flicking often scares the snakes away. We in India consider it a blessed animal, having helped Rama build the bridge under contention today, by rolling in the sand and then shaking it off his back for the construction material. He rewarded the squirrel by running his fingers down its back, giving it its stripe. For me, it's therapeutic to watch this animal so full of verve and vigour. Better than a vitamin pill.








Arab Israelis are entitled to the same security and protection from crime as Jews and should not be made to feel like second-class citizens.


Last Monday, just one day after 41-year-old Lod resident Sami Hijazi was shot to death while sitting in his car outside Lod City Hall, 27-year-old Emil Halili met the same fate while waiting for a train to pass. Neither of the victims had criminal records.

In response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that together with police and security officials he would take steps "to return the sense of security" to the residents of Lod, a city with a long history of conspicuous criminal activity, especially in the Arab community. Undoubtedly, more needs to be done to improve the personal security of Arab Israelis.

In the wake of the Lod killings, Arab citizens expressed feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement from government authorities. Only a few of the dozens of Arab representatives invited by Lod Mayor Ilan Hariri to an emergency meeting to discuss the deteriorating situation agreed to attend.

Instead, they held a meeting of their own, at which they resolved to complain to the national ombudsman and the attorney-general about the police force's lax enforcement in their city. A mass demonstration is scheduled for Thursday.

In interviews with this paper's reporter, Ben Hartman, Lod's Arab citizens have described a police force that takes the murders of Arabs by Arabs too lightly. "Honor" killings or casualties as a result of infighting among vying crime families are barely investigated, they claim.

Also, Lod Police give the Arab residents the impression that they are not attuned to their cultural and religious sensibilities. Police insisted, for instance, that Halili's murder was an "honor" killing, even after the family set up a mourning tent, which is not done in Muslim culture after such killings.

The feeling of alienation is not restricted to Lod.

A study released at the beginning of the year by the Abraham Fund Initiative found that among some 1,000 Arab Israelis surveyed, 77 percent said the police gave preferential treatment to Jews.

Sixty-two percent wanted more police in their community. Respondents said lack of police response to crime in Arab towns contrasted with "over-policing" of Arab citizens in Jewish or mixed towns.

Although the relationship between the Israel Police and the Arab minority in Israel has always been complex and sensitive, the Arab rioting of October 2000, in which 13 Arab Israelis were killed by police, bolstered mutual antagonism and suspicion.

ARAB ISRAELIS have every reason to be concerned about deteriorating relations with police. They make up 60% of murder victims although they are just 20% of the population, according to a Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee report released in February.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has already launched a crackdown in Lod on illegal arms smuggled in from Egypt and Jordan or stolen from the IDF. Dozens of rifles, handguns and grenades have been discovered in graves, mattresses and other hiding places, and hundreds more are thought to be hidden.

But more needs to be done to build trust. Police officers should create ties with Arab community leaders. They should familiarize themselves with Arab culture and learn some Arabic. And Arab communities should be encouraged to set up their own neighborhood patrols in conjunction with police.

But perhaps the single most important step that can be taken is to actively recruit more Arabs into the police force to work in Arab communities.

According to the above-mentioned Knesset report, there are only 382 Arab Muslims in a police force of 21,242, or just 1.8% of the force.

Aharonovitch has said that he plans to enlist another 400 Arab police officers this year through a special affirmative action program. Integrating more Arabs into police ranks would help combat the community's strong feelings of disenfranchisement.

Arab police officers would also serve as positive role models.

Arab Israelis are entitled to the same level of security and protection from crime as Jews. They should not be made to feel like second-class citizens.








Bill Clinton is right: Israelis from the FSU are not really interested in a peace agreement. Certainly not the kind of deal he helped impose on Serbs in Kosovo.


Talkbacks (5)

Former US president Bill Clinton's claims last month that Russian-speaking Israelis are an obstacle to peace can be understood in different ways. But excluding their emotional component, it is necessary to recognize that the immigrants from the former Soviet Union are mostly opposed to the peace process (or what is implied by this term). Let's look at the root of this phenomenon.

The rose-colored glasses of "multiculturalism" hide the fact that there are three civilizations in this world: postmodern liberal democracies, states of classical political culture and traditional patriarchal communities.


As Western civilization passionately abandons its national religious idea, so fervently the other two cultivate their values and originality.

In Europe, the ideological divide between these two cultures passes along the border of the former Eastern Bloc. Eastern European countries, irrespective of their economic successes or level of democratic development, are strikingly different from their neighbors in the West. Because of Nazism and communism, repressions and totalitarian ideology, they are hardened to senseless slogans, illusions and idealistic dogmatism.

Eastern Europe, Russia and the Far East countries derive vital strength from their history, mythology and tradition. They are developed communities but also inseparably tied to their past, and it is not so important whether this connection gets a religious or cultural frame.

THE MAIN issue is not politics. It is the cult of national dignity, mistrust of universalist theories and resistance to any trespassing on their living space, both geographical and spiritual.

It is impossible to imagine a Ukrainian leader bowing to a Middle Eastern sheikh, or a Polish prime minister kissing the hand of an African despot.

Hindus will not build a mosque near the site of one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks; Serbs don't feel guilty toward the Albanians of Kosovo who deprived them of their heritage; Russian intellectuals, actors and academics don't wish to "understand" the Chechen insurgents, who carried out terrible acts of terrorism in their country.

Have you ever heard about Czechs regretting the transfer of the Sudeten Germans? Are Bulgarians sorry for the exile of 250,000 Turks in the 1950s? AND, FINALLY, there is the third group of people in the world still living in the dynamics of patriarchal-feudal relations.

Take away all the trappings of Western civilization (cellphones, Internet, laptops, grandiose glass and concrete buildings, Mercedes cars) from much Arabian and African life, and you will largely see a gloomy and cruel world. This is a world where clan norms and blood feud laws rule, where, largely, women are considered inferior to men. It is here that adultery is punished by stoning, and rivals eliminated with explosives, "road accidents" and poisons.

Everything considered different, from sexual orientation to critical discourse onFacebook and Twitter is met with censure.

Remove all the paraphernalia of modern life, and you will see the world of a patriarchal economy concentrated in the hands of few, the horrible gap between rich and poor, and some terrifying traditions and beliefs like female genital mutilation.

SOME IN the West voluntarily make themselves hostages to the patriarchal world, but classical culture resists to this selfdestructive tendency.

Israel is a state with a mosaic society. It consists of different groups of populations, from postmodernists to natives of patriarchal countries of Asia and Africa, to "Russians." For postmodernists, Israel is no more than a hindrance on their way to utopia, and the word "peace" has sacral sense. For "Russians" in Israel, peace with feudal-patriarchal societies has no value because they don't trust them. They put their own survival above illusions and doubtful experiments.

They know the price of the "peace" which Clinton has established in Kosovo.

According to such "peace" the Serbs of Kosovo had a choice between exile and death.

The writer is a reporter at the Russian-language weekly Novosty Nedely. He came to Israel from Moscow in 1988 and is the author of Ways of God and coauthor of Jewish Atlantida (in Russian).








The stars seemed better aligned now to move peace forward than at any time over the past decade. What is lacking is any real call from the people of Israel and Palestine demanding it.


The Arab League rescued Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama from being boxed into a corner. The onemonth extension granted to the peace process during which they have to find a way back to negotiations provides a little room to breathe and avoids having Obama take the direct fallout from a foreign policy failure prior to the crucial midterm elections on November 2.

The truth is that neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have a strategic alternative to negotiations. Neither side is doing the other side a favor by agreeing to negotiate an end to the conflict. Time is working against the interests of both and neither leadership has the luxury of waiting for a miracle.

Neither side is interested in another round of violence nor wishes to see the economic growth of the past two years erased by confrontations, closures, bombings, death, destruction and despair. There is too much to lose to allow the chance of peace to evade us once again. Netanyahu and Abbas must face the tough task of making tough decisions. This very well may be the last opportunity for achieving a workable, equitable partition of the land that would be the best chance of reaching peace.

The US will continue to try to entice Netanyahu to agree to a settlement freeze extension for another few months and to pressure the Palestinians to stay at the table even without a full freeze.

Netanyahu himself may be convinced by the sweet offers given to him as Abbas also may be, but on both sides, domestic political constraints are far more limiting than one may expect.

IT SEEMS clear that both publics live under the illusion that there is a strategic alternative to negotiations. Both would prefer to flex their muscles than appear to be giving in to pressure or, in this case, agreeing to American enticements that would lead them to compromise on tactical minutia they raised to the level of consequence and principles.

In all honesty, the political behavior of both sides is shameful and the political handling of the issue by the Americans has been riddled with mistakes and miscalculations.

Neither Abbas nor Netanyahu is worthy of being called a leader, nor are the Americans worthy of being called effective mediators.

The Americans, the Quartet and the parties may have to come up with some real alternative to direct negotiations at this point, until they are politically mature enough, or until they manage to come a lot closer to a real agreement on issues of substance. Both sides are certainly considering unilateral options.

There is no doubt that both sides can take steps unilaterally that could either have a positive outcome and lead us closer to peace or alternatively could provoke the next round of violence. Of course, the options being considered are those which will be considered provocations rather than unilateral steps toward peace.

Israel could unilaterally annex settlement blocs. The Palestinians could unilaterally turn to Western states or to the UN to recognize a state in the 1967 borders.

Israel could reestablish checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the territories and Palestinians could once again take up the gun and challenge the authority of the IDF throughout the West Bank.

Unilaterally leading us back onto the road of death and destruction is actually quite easy. It is politically expedient to have someone to blame for all of the problems.

It is easy to restir the pot of violence and extremism. Rebuilding a culture of hate is so much easier than building a culture of peace.

TEN YEARS after the second intifada that took the lives of thousands and left destruction and despair without a single political achievement, we should understand that we must do everything possible to advance what is believed by most of the world to be a real chance for peace. But it seems that neither side will be wise enough to do the right thing.

A popular right-wing Israeli leader who appears to be taking a pragmatic path and the last of the founding fathers of Palestinian nationalism have emerged on the world stage at a the same time. There is an American president committed to peace and willing to devote his political collateral in the process. There is an international community backing a solution which has been proposed and whose price tag is known. The Arab world is anxious to put this conflict into the history books.

There is an economic reality that would bring great benefits to the people of both states and to all of the peoples of the region. There is a shared threat from an emerging regional state aiming to become a nuclear power. The stars seemed better aligned now to move peace forward than at any time in the past decade.

What is absent is any real call from the people of Israel and Palestine demanding their leaders become serious about peace.

We have become so skeptical about the possibility of peace that outside observers cannot understand why the rest of the world seems to want it so much more than those who suffer directly from the lack of it. It seems quite abnormal that the overwhelmingly silent majority of Israelis and Palestinians don't even seem to care whether or not there will be peace negotiations.

The vocal minorities on both sides clearly support nationalistic options that "feel good" but are dangerous and counterproductive to their real strategic interests.

Real leaders make real hard decisions.

Historic leaders make hard decisions, even if at their time unpopular, because they can see beyond the moment of necessary national ego massage that feels so good but ignores the pain that really needs to be treated.

Netanyahu and Abbas view themselves as historic leaders. Obama has already received his Nobel Peace Prize in advance of making peace. This trio will either prove to be tragic figures of historical insignificance or the masters of their own fate and the heroes of their peoples. We who observe from the sidelines will soon be able to write their epitaphs.


The writer is the co-CEO of IPCRI ( and an elected member of the leadership of the Green Movement political party.








Since 2000, there has been escalating cooperation between Israeli leftist organizations with foreign pro-jihad groups and Palestinian terror and political warfare outfits at demonstrations.

Talkbacks (5)


David Be'eri is either much admired or much hated, depending on how you feel about Israel and Jewish heritage. Be'eri is the founder and head of the Ir David Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to excavating, preserving and developing biblical Jerusalem, the City of David.

When Be'eri began his project in 1986, the City of David, located just opposite the Old City, was in shambles. Former excavations were hidden beneath heaps of garbage and debris.

Owing to his efforts, today the City of David is one of Israel's most beloved tourist attractions. Some 500,000 tourists visit the site each year. Seventeen archaeological excavations have been undertaken there or are currently ongoing. Annual archaeological conferences at the site attract leading scholars from all over the world.

One of the keys to Be'eri's success has been the close relations he has cultivated with the local Arabs. Hundreds of local Arabs have worked in the City of David on the various excavations.

But in the past few months, and particularly since the Obama administration began pressuring Israel to curb its sovereignty in Jerusalem, things have begun to change. Leftist groups including Peace Now, Ir Amim, B'Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Emek Shaveh have begun organizing frequent protests.

According to Udi Ragones, the spokesman for Ir David, the various leftist groups collaborate openly with two Arab groups that have been formed over the past year: Silwannet and the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. Peace Now's Hagit Ofran is often seen working with Jawad Sayam from the information center.

One of the information center's employees also works for Emek Shaveh, an organization of anti-Zionist archaeologists.

OVER THE past month, what began as non-violent protests against Ir David turned violent. A month ago, anti-Israel activists set several cars ablaze. Local Arabs who work with the Ir David Foundation began receiving threats. The car of one such Arab was set on fire.

Two weeks ago, the demonstrations morphed into suicide protests as activists set up a roadblock in the middle of the street, ambushed an Ir David security guard and began violently attacking him. In order to fend off his attackers, the guard shot his pistol and killed one of them. Using faux footage, the protesters accused the guard of murder in cold blood. The police rejected the accusation. Channel 2 initially backed up the protesters' claim, but later its reporter recognized he had been used.

Last Friday, the violence was ratcheted up several notches when Be'eri was targeted by an ambush. As he drove to his home in Ir David with his 13-year-old son, the car in front of him suddenly hit the breaks.

Be'eri drove around the car and was greeted by an ambush of demonstrators who attacked him with stones.

Blocked from backing away by a car that had suddenly stopped, Be'eri had to decide between opening fire and driving through the protest. He drove through, hitting two of his attackers. Both were minors. Neither sustained serious injuries and were out and about within hours of the event.

The stone throwers were not the only people who participated in the ambush. Six or seven photographers and at least one employee of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center were also on the scene. The photographers hailed from the far Left Hebrew-language Walla web portal and from several European media outlets. They filmed Be'eri running over his attackers from multiple angles. They then quickly sold the story to the world as a tale of a vicious "settler" who ran over two innocent children on their way home from the mosque, just because he is an evil settler.

But as Ragones notes, "We were actually lucky that the media were there. The photos that were supposed to frame Be'eri showed clearly that the whole thing was a setup."

Not only does the footage show that Be'eri was ambushed, it shows that the photographers were integral members of the ambush team. The children's role was to provoke Be'eri into killing or injuring them by attacking him with rocks. The photographers' role was to photograph the children getting killed or hurt.

The Ir David Foundation accuses the Wadi Hilweh Information Center of organizing the incident. The presence of the center's employees on the scene in the footage lends credence to the allegation. Ir David also argues that the entire episode was the product of close coordination between the information center and the leftist groups that work with it to demonize, discredit and otherwise harm Ir David specifically and Israeli control over unified Jerusalem generally.


WHAT IS new about Friday's incident is not its nature, but its location. As Marc Prowissor, the director of security projects for the One Israel Fund, a non-profit that supports stressed Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, the Galilee and the Negev notes, these sorts of suicide protests have been going on for at least a decade.

Early incidents that had strategic impact on Israel's international standing were the Muhammad al-Dura affair in October 2000 and the Rachel Corrie incident in 2003. In the former, Palestinian security forces worked with a Palestinian cameraman and France 2 to cook up the libel accusing IDF forces of killing the Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura. A French court ruled last year that the footage, which shows al Dura moving after he allegedly died, was falsified.

In the second incident, Corrie was brought to Gaza by the non-Israeli International Solidarity Movement and deployed to block IDF forces from carrying out counterterror operations. Corrie became the poster girl for suicide protesters when an IDF bulldozer operator, who could not see her, ran Corrie over as she sought to block his operations.

Since 2000, there has been escalating cooperation between Israeli leftist organizations with foreign projihad groups like ISM and Palestinian terror and political warfare outfits. This new cooperation first gained prominence as the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall began participating in the weekly Palestinian/ ISM riots against IDF units at Bi'ilin and Na'alin in 2003.

Prowissor notes that throughout Judea and Samaria, especially around olive harvest season, Rabbis for Human Rights and likeminded radical groups bus Arab protesters into areas where they do not live to stir up and participate in protests.

"Their modus operandi is always the same," Prowissor explains. "They stage violent attacks in front of their own cameras with the aim of provoking local Israelis to defend themselves. For instance, they stone Jewish cars and if a Jewish driver gets out and tries to fend off his attackers, they film him and accuse him of attacking them for no reason."

The weekly protests at Bi'ilin and Na'alin involve Palestinian, Western and Israeli rioters attacking IDF forces and Border Police units with stones and Molotov cocktails.

Five months ago, the protesters began using the same tactics against Israeli civilians at Neveh Tzuf in the Binyamin region. A few weeks ago they added the Carmei Tzur community in Gush Etzion to their list of targets.

As for Jerusalem, the riots in Sheikh Jarrah every Friday have been going on for several months. They spread to Ir David on Friday.

The reason for this is clear enough. Suicide protests are an effective means of harming Israel. Just look at the Turkish terror shop Mavi Marmara. The nine suicide protesters onboard who were killed while attacking IDF naval commandos with knives, guns and bats are a bonanza for Israel's enemies. They are being used to drag Israel before the international hanging jury at the UN, the Hague, in US university campuses and throughout Europe.

What can be done about this growing menace? How can Israel defend itself against it? SUICIDE PROTESTS work on three levels simultaneously.

To neutralize their impact, Israeli citizens and officials have to develop strategies to contend with them on all three levels.

The most basic level is the criminal level. It is criminal to solicit violence. It is criminal to foment violence against citizens and security and police forces. It is criminal to conspire to carry out violence or impede soldiers, police and other security forces in the lawful dispatch of their duties.

Bearing this in mind, the police and the IDF should be directed to investigate all organizations suspected of planning, directing or participating in violent protests. When they get advance notice of protests, they can and should be preempted. It is legal for the police to arrest the protesters en route to illegal demonstrations.

Then too, cases should be built against sponsoring organizations. Groups instigating violence should be banned.

Suicide protests, like suicide bombs, use violence to advance political goals. In Israel's case, they are used to demonize the state and its citizens in a bid to coerce the government into acting in a manner that endangers it.

Bureaucratic and political tools should be employed to scuttle these efforts. For instance, in the aftermath of Friday's ambush in Ir David, the media watch group Tadmit sent a letter to the Government Press Office requesting that it withdraw the press credentials from the photographers present at the scene. The GPO should act on Tadmit's request and deny or remove press credentials from any self-proclaimed reporter or photographer that participates in violent, illegal activities aimed against the state.

Beyond that, Israeli citizens' groups and the government should actively discredit groups involved in suicide protests. Data should be gathered against participating organizations and should be rapidly released every time an event like last Friday's ambush takes place.

Finally, there is the legal aspect of the suicide protest strategy. The alliance of Arab, Israeli and Western anti- Israel groups use suicide protests as a means of attacking Israel in foreign and international legal areas, like British courts and the Hague. Both private citizens and the government should sue local groups who collaborate with such initiatives for damages. To the extent that enabling legislation is required to bring such suits, the Knesset should pass such legislation.

The local media initially ran the story of Be'eri's ambush just as the leftist-Arab coalition wanted them too. Be'eri was portrayed as an aggressive, violent settler who ran over two innocent Palestinian children for no reason. But then the suicide protesters overreached.

On Sunday they ambushed and stoned a Channel 2 camera crew. Sunday night the truth was out.

But next time they will probably be more careful.

Suicide protests are the newest and, so far, most effective weapon in the political war against Israel. It is the task of the government and citizens alike to develop and implement strategies to blunt its effectiveness.







Original universities were founded around 3 main areas: theology, law and philosophy. Without these, an institution can never be a full-fledged university.


The academic year starts this week. Hundreds of thousands of students will return to their studies at the country's universities and colleges. For tens of thousands, this will be their first week of studies, following years of service in the army. It will take time for them to open their minds to the diversity of ideas and opinions.

Their education will not only be the formal lectures and examinations, but also, perhaps more importantly, the way they will become part of an opinionated civil society, and the way in which they will learn to become involved and concerned citizens, taking part in debates, discussions, social activities and even demonstrations.

Israel's institutes of higher education are of a high quality. But, unfortunately, they are falling behind and do not have the same international status that they enjoyed 10 and 20 years ago.

The recent publication of the international gradings of the world's universities show that not a single local institution remains in the top 200, as compared to a few years ago when three – the Hebrew University, the Technion and the Weizmann Institute – were part of this elite club, while another two, Ben-Gurion and Tel Aviv universities, were not that far off.

True, the way that these tables are composed, the criterion used, are often questionable, but this is no different for our universities than it is for similar institutions elsewhere.

A Nobel Prize here and there cannot hide the fact that the reputation and status of our foremost institutes of learning and research are slipping behind, and we need to do our utmost to ensure that they return to their former glory, and even improve upon it.

A LOT of it has to do with money. Universities here are not funded today as generously as in the past. The opening of the regional colleges has made the demands on the public purse much greater, while over the years successive governments have gradually reduced the percentage of resources they provide for universities.

The missing parts of the budgets are meant to be made up through tuition fees and private donations. But while student numbers have increased, tuition has remained at its previous level, with student representatives vehemently opposing any rise. Whenever such a move is suggested, there are always politicians who immediately curry favor with the angry students to ensure that the fees remain the same.

As for donations, universities here compete strongly with each other, and with a host of other Israeli and Jewish institutions, for foreign donations.

But as the number of institutions – hospitals, yeshivot and others – increases, the global economic recession has made it even more difficult to attract the large donors. Given a greater demand, decreasing supply, and a younger generation of potential donors who are less interested in Israeli and Jewish causes, the budget becomes tighter and tighter.

AND HEREIN lies the structural problem facing our universities today. As money becomes tighter, so does the way in which universities are managed and the way in which they determine their priorities. To a great extent, universities here have been taken over by administrators and managers for whom a balanced budget is far more important than academic standards or excellence in research.

Where research projects, especially in the hard sciences, can bring in major international funding, this is seen as positive, especially given the percentage of overhead which the university can take for itself to help in daily administration costs. But where research is only measured in terms of ideas, where the researcher requires a good library, a place for reflection and silence, this is no longer seen as contributing to the status of the institution and is often pushed aside in the constant checking of the balance sheet.

In recent years this approach has become institutionalized with the adoption of a national budgeting system known as the Vatat Model (Vatat being the Hebrew acronym for the committee that funds the country's universities).

The ability to raise major research funding is a key factor, while insufficient attention is paid to the ability to publish in top journals or to attain international recognition for ideas and inventions if there isn't money attached.

This is particularly harmful to the humanities and much of the social sciences, whose models of research and publication differ greatly from their colleagues in the hard sciences.

The original universities were founded around three main areas: theology, law and philosophy. Without these basic components, an institution can have the best medical school or nanotechnology laboratory in the world, but it can never be a full-fledged university.

Times change, and new disciplines appear on the scene. Schools of administration and business schools have been the rage for the past decade, often taking the place of some of the more traditional disciplines, some of which are in danger of disappearing altogether.


A GOOD indication of these trends is the fact that in my son's class year in the Law Faculty at the Hebrew University, only three out of 120 have chosen to combine their law studies with philosophy, while almost 30 have combined law with business administration.

This says a great deal about the career orientations of students (which is absolutely fine) as compared with those who understand the need to develop ideas and contribute to the way that we, as a society, think, and the way in which we express our collective and individual values – even if, and precisely because, there is no profit margin at the end of the day.

That said, there is a belated recognition that the humanities are facing a crisis – not just here, but globally. To that effect, the country's (overly) centralized higher education authorities have began to investigate ways of strengthening them, not only as a means of increasing student numbers, but also to reinvigorate high-level scholarship among the next generation of researchers and teachers.

One important new initiative has been the jointly funded project of Malag (an acronym for the Council of Higher Education) and Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild Foundation) to encourage inter-university cooperation through joint teaching projects in specific areas of the humanities. The pilot project, which will be starting this week, involves the cooperation of four of the country's universities in the joint teaching of African studies.

The renewed concern about the state of the humanities is part of a realization that profit should not only be measured in monetary terms, but that society as a whole profits from the development of ideas, moral thinking and the general diffusion of knowledge, even within the realms of abstract thinking.

It is to be hoped that the Malag will succeed in creating the infrastructure for the next generation of philosophers, literary scholars and thinkers who will achieve the international status and global recognition enjoyed by so many of their illustrious predecessors.

The writer is dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University.








The consequences of the second intifada were disastrous for the Palestinian people and national movement. A third is likely to be even worse.

Talkbacks (1)


Whether or not a solution to the crisis over settlements is achieved in the coming weeks, it's becoming increasingly clear that the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are in serious trouble.

Haaretz quoted unnamed Western officials as saying the talks are "going nowhere." And the most cautious, sober and measured member of the senior PLO leadership, Yasser Abed Rabbo, who is a member of the negotiating team, has been moved to declare that "there will be no serious political process with Netanyahu's government."

Most reports strongly suggest that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been unforthcoming on permanent status issues. According to these sources, he refuses to meaningfully discuss core questions such as borders and insists that security must be the main issue at this stage. This has led to frustration not only among the Palestinians and other Arabs, but in many circles in the West and the US.

This frustration is amplified by Netanyahu's refusal thus far to accept an exceptionally generous American inducement package in exchange for a 60-day extension to the partial settlement moratorium that expired in September.

The New York Times called the package "overly generous."

Moreover, it is unclear what the Obama administration expects to be different in two months, when the parties are likely to find themselves in precisely the same situation. If the Americans have a game-changing approach to unveil over the course of eight weeks, it's the bestkept secret in Washington.

The American hope may be that borders can be agreed in short order, rendering the settlement issue largely moot, but the parties themselves show little sign of believing that. We therefore have to face the fact that negotiations would appear to be both stalled in substance and threatened with a political crisis that may produce a breakdown. It might be possible to keep the ball in the air by returning to indirect negotiations or finding some other temporary stopgaps. But the experience of the past few weeks does not augur well for prospects of any kind of significant success in the foreseeable future.

THE PROSPECT of a breakdown again raises the specter of another intifada, since many Palestinians may conclude that the occupation is either permanent or that diplomacy is simply an ineffective tool in resolving it and that a new uprising is the only remaining way to pressure Israel.

The flashpoints are obvious. Especially in Arab neighborhoods of occupied east Jerusalem, tensions are running high. Recently, a Palestinian man was shot under extremely questionable circumstances by a settler guard, and a 14-month-old baby was killed by tear gas fired by security forces. Numerous buildings and even neighborhoods are under fierce contention between aggressive settlers supported by both the national and municipal authorities and Palestinians struggling to cling onto their homes. If another intifada erupts, it may very well begin there.

But it is essential that Palestinians do not turn to, or allow themselves to be sucked into, another round of violence. A third intifada would undoubtedly follow the pattern established by the relationship of the end of the first intifada to its beginning, and of the second intifada to the first; a process has entailed ever-increasing levels of violence, death and religious fanaticism on both sides. Because of this pattern, the consequences of the second intifada were disastrous for the Palestinian people and national movement. A third is likely to be even worse.

FOR ISRAEL, a third intifada could well signal the squandering of the last opportunity to divest itself of the occupation in a rational, workable manner, rendering what will become the de facto 
Israeli state as neither Jewish nor democratic in any meaningful sense and developing and entrenching an apartheid character, especially in the occupied territories.

It is imperative that some way is found to keep diplomacy alive, even if it means a return to lessthan- optimal indirect negotiations.

In the end, both parties have no option but to work toward a negotiated two-state peace agreement or continue with an ever-deteriorating conflict. It is essential that international actors such as the US, the European Union and the Arab League help find a formula to allow Israel to make restrained settlement expansion, and the Palestinians to make continued negotiations, politically plausible among both of their domestic constituencies.

The writer is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and blogs at This article is published in conjunction with the Common Ground News Service.








When several NGOs testify before Turkel Commission later this week, we should listen with healthy skepticism that is employed concerning testimony of politicians, defense officials.


Inquiries following international "incidents" are ingrained in the Israeli political culture. When politicians are called to testify, the public listens with a certain healthy suspicion. Allegations about the behavior of rivals are taken with a large grain of salt.

Unfortunately, the UN, international community and respected experts who are chosen to head investigations show no such skepticism when political groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) make allegations against Israel. NGOs, particularly those claiming to protect human rights, enjoy a "halo effect" that masks their own political ideologies and motives.


THE TURKEL Commission, established to investigate the May 31 "Free Gaza Flotilla" violence, has invited three NGOs to provide information on the "humanitarian situation in theGaza Strip, the Strip's economy and the delivery of goods into Gaza." The NGOs, -B'Tselem, Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) – have consistent records of biased and unsubstantiated allegations against Israel.

Nevertheless, they enjoy this "halo effect," and thus the testimony of these groups is likely to be taken at face value by some members of the commission and international community.

Based on previous examples, little attention will be paid to the political ideologies of these NGOs, as well as the funders to which they answer.

The political role of the NGO network was evident during and immediately after the flotilla incident, and continues to be highlighted in ongoing delegitimization campaigns.

Regarding the attacks on soldiers upon boarding the flotilla, B'Tselem claimed that this "information is based solely on statements of soldiers." In actuality, the video evidence of violent extremists attacking soldiers with knives and clubs clearly supports the soldiers' claims.

PHR-I also issued a statement referring to passengers on the flotilla as "human rights and peace activists, journalists and members of parliament." Nowhere in the statement did it reference the connection to IHH, the main flotilla organizer and a member of Union of the Good, an umbrella of 50+ Islamic organizations that was designated by the US government as "an organization created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization."

And Gisha used the flotilla incident as an opportunity to claim that "this incident is proof that despite claims to the contrary, Israel never 'disengaged' from the Gaza Strip but rather continues to control its borders – land, air and sea," ignoring the mass weapons smuggling from Iran and Syria that necessitate such policing.

Should we be surprised by these biased and unsubstantiated statements? No.

Political advocacy NGOs often exploit human rights and legal terminology, including accusations of "apartheid" to attack Israel. PHR-I has referred to the IDF as the "Israeli Occupation Forces" and simply recycles statistics from the UN and the Palestinian NGOAl Mezan in its reports about Gaza.

The UN data is usually based on Palestinian claims that no one can verify.

And Al Mezan's claims are entirely political and lack credibility, including the practice of labeling hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad combatants as "civilians."

The group also has accused Israel of "genocide" and employs Nazi terminology to attack Israel. Hamas's illegal rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are called "resistance."

By relying on these sources and repeating Al Mezan's claims, PHR-I has become an echo for Al Mezan's agenda.

So, when these groups give their testimony before the commission, including condemnations against Israeli policy, and discuss the humanitarian "crisis" in Gaza, we should listen with that healthy skepticism that was employed concerning the testimony of politicians and defense officials.

IN THE democratic process, all voices and opinion should be heard – including the views of these and other NGOs with different perspectives and analyses. As part of a wide inquiry, the statements by NGOs, whose allegations have played a major role in impacting international reactions to the flotilla, should be rigorously evaluated, and vigorously cross-examined.

Their claims should certainly not be taken at face value.

It is also important to recognize the role of this group of NGOs in the demonization campaigns against Israel. It is important to recognize that PHR-I may claim to be part of Israeli civil society, but this political organization receives funding from the EU, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Ford Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It files reports and makes claims that are then referenced by many of these same entities as credible and factual. Because they are doctors, their "halo" is amplified.

The Turkel Commission's invitation to these NGOs highlights the questions regarding what should be done to counteract this "halo effect." To that end, we need greater transparency of NGO funding and increased accountability for their actions and reports. In the history of Israeli inquiries, politicians are held accountable when they lie or have been found to take money dishonestly. The Turkel Commission should apply similar standards to political advocacy NGOs, as well.

The writer is communications director for NGO Monitor.










The decision to appoint Lieberman as foreign minister is repeatedly proven to be one of Netanyahu's most damaging mistakes.


Even before the echoes of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's scandalous speech at the United Nations had died down, Lieberman was back showing the world the ugly face of Israel.


Israel's number one diplomat did not make do with rudely preaching to his high ranking guests from Europe, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner. In a rude violation of the rules of diplomatic conduct, his bureau was quick to share with the public the unpleasant things he told the ministers.


It was reported yesterday that the two called Lieberman to protest the release of the content of their talk and to stress that the foreign minister had breached their trust. Lieberman was quick to announce that he only "made it clear that he had no intention that his words appear to be a reprimand," but stressed that he did not apologize to the two ministers.


Lieberman's flawed behavior, which repeats itself, raises suspicion that the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu has transformed the foreign service of Israel into a springboard for advancing his lot in the right wing. At a time when the prime minister, ministers, ambassadors and even the president are trying to explain to leaders throughout the world that Israel seeks an agreement quickly with the Palestinians, the foreign minister does not miss a chance to present them as delusional.


It has reached the point that shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu told the two European ministers that he believes it is possible to reach agreement within a year, Lieberman told them that whoever says so is naive.


The decision to appoint Lieberman as foreign minister is repeatedly proven to be one of Netanyahu's most damaging mistakes.


Every additional day that the prime minister allows Lieberman to hold the post of foreign minister and represent Israel in the world's capitals, he makes this error more evident.


]The prime minister cannot evade his responsibility with the unconvincing excuse that his foreign minister did not show him his UN speech ahead of time, or with the political argument that Lieberman's party is an essential component of the coalition.


The prime minister bears the ultimate responsibility for the foreign relations of the State of Israel, which were nurtured with a great deal of work over many years. He will have to answer for their demise.









The state's 7.5 million citizens swelled with pride on Sunday after they learned that Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer was declared central bank governor of the year by Euromoney magazine. There was, however, one citizen left smarting. He couldn't understand how the writers of such a respected journal could err to such an extent as to hand an award that he deserves to somebody else. After all, who but Yuval Steinitz is responsible for extricating Israel from the financial crisis and leading it on a path of substantial growth?


Yes, the governor was magnanimous, saying that the economy was handled by two doctors (him and the finance minister ) who were treating one patient (the economy ). But it turns out that the two doctors loathe one another. Once they enter the patient's room they begin arguing loudly over the proper treatment while blaming each other for any mishaps. Meanwhile, the sick patient is overcome with fear.


The ailment that both doctors are trying to treat is a disease of the rich. It is an illness that was brought on after the Israeli economy grew faster than that of Europe and the United States. Exports are up while unemployment is down, the budget deficit is at tolerable levels and the public debt is on the decline. Such good fortune should also trigger the weakening of the dollar against the shekel. It is this weakening that hurts exporters. If there is a drop in exports, factories are likely to feel the pinch and economic growth would slow down -it is this disease that the two doctors are trying to treat.


The weakening of the dollar is not an ailment that affects Israel exclusively. It is a global problem that affects every individual on the planet. Thus it's no wonder that "the currency wars" was the main topic of conversation when finance ministers and central bank governors met at the International Monetary Fund's annual conference which wrapped up its deliberations on Sunday in Washington.


]The issue has become particularly critical because President Barack Obama is quite disturbed by the high unemployment rate in the U.S. on the eve of Congressional elections. Thus he must find a scapegoat, and China is always a good candidate for that role.


Indeed, China is part of the problem because its government is keeping its currency, the yuan, pegged at an artificial rate lower than its market value. The result of this policy is that Chinese exports sell for cheap in the U.S. while American exports to China are more expensive. This allows the Chinese to maintain high employment rates, while unemployment in the U.S. has reached 10 percent.


The Chinese are refusing to yield to American pressure to revalue the yuan. The Chinese finance minister told the IMF conference in Washington that floating the currency would cause major fluctuations vis-a-vis the dollar, resulting in a collapse of China's export sector. The ramifications of such a development would be higher unemployment and civic unrest. To put it more succinctly, it would endanger the stability of the Communist regime in Beijing. So China continues to buy up enormous sums of dollars in hopes of artificially maintaining the weak value of the yuan. For all intents and purposes, this is the government's circuitous way of subsidizing its export market.


Astoundingly, we have adopted a similar modus operandi. Fischer is also subsidizing Israel's exports by purchasing large amounts of dollars in an attempt to prevent a drop in the greenback's value. It is also true, however, that Fischer is doing so in a manner that is far more gentle and subtle than the Chinese.


Israel and China are not alone in this regard. A number of countries have begun to intervene in the currency market, whether directly or by lowering interest rates, or even taxing short-term capital movement. The list of countries includes Japan, Brazil, Indonesia and Colombia. Others, like Switzerland, South Korea, Thailand and Chile are threatening to similarly intervene. There is concern that other countries will join the "currency wars" in order to try and claim a bigger piece of a shrinking global pie. The next step could be levying protective tariffs on imports (a threat that the U.S. has made toward China ). Such a move would deal a blow to world trade, and the global economy would enter a recession the likes of which has not been seen since the 1920s and 1930s.


This nightmare scenario is keeping major world leaders awake at night. Fortunately for us, they couldn't care less about Israel, and are not pressuring Fischer to stop intervening in the currency market. Our country is simply too small, and when there is no international pressure, Fischer and Steinitz can find time to quarrel over who receives the credit for leading the economy out of the global crisis and putting it on the road to quick growth and shrinking unemployment. After all, everything is personal. Everything is visceral. Everyone is looking for some recognition and love.









The day will come when, at the end of a piano lesson in the luxurious apartment in Gindi Towers, after the youngest son has finished practicing a Chopin prelude and the private teacher has taken her under-the-table payment, the successful father will tell her loudly, as though speaking in an Israeli coffee house: "I bought this apartment in the Mann Auditorium just as the Russian pianist - or Polish, I don't remember which - was rehearsing on the stage below."


Then the daughter will return from the army, and her father, trying to act cool, will ask her how many terrorists she managed to capture. And she will curse the Arabs a little bit, then race to the shower before going out in the jeep her father gave her after her high school matriculation exams and proceed to paint the town red.


The teacher will travel to her home in Neveh Sharett by bus (her husband works as a guard at a fancy restaurant ), and after dinner she and her son, who studies at a computer club in the local community center, will watch a program on Channel 9 television where Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is being interviewed in blunt Russian about "our rights." His crudeness rouses some discomfort, particularly in the grandfather, who is less troubled by the Arabs than by his newly religious neighbors, Jews of Middle Eastern descent.


Generally, however, there is a pretty good feeling in the small apartment when Lieberman talks about "our rights." Moreover, Interior Minister Eli Yishai will also be talking about "our rights" on Channel 10, while Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar will discuss "our rights" on Channel 2, and all that will remain for the state-owned Channel 1 is Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who will also discuss "our rights," along with his fond memories of the vegetable garden at Kibbutz Grofit.


When a person hears about "our rights," all the travails of the day just past disappear. Even the revocation of the rights of the sister-in-law from Kharkov - not a Jew, heaven forbid - is forgotten for a moment. When a person hears talk about "our rights," he becomes, at one fell swoop, a homeowner, even if he pays exorbitant rent for his apartment. Or at least, he does until the next private lesson, at the luxurious Akirov Towers.


At Akirov, too - like at Channel 9, and Channel 2, and Channel 10, and Gindi Towers, and Kibbutz Grofit - they love the Mann Auditorium, the Cameri Theater and the Jewish-democratic state with "our rights."


This inane declaration about our rights that Israel's government is promoting has no foundation except the utter emptiness of Israeli life. The craving to find all sorts of "Israeli" things - in trips overseas, or in television programs, or in book stores - and to market the "Israeli" character of every bit of nonsense is just another part of this huge vacuum of a state that has never managed to foster normalcy in any shape or form other than an ongoing state of war.


The state of Israel is not a state of all its citizens. That is well known. But when they say it is a state of all its Jews, nobody has a clue as to what "all its Jews" would mean without its ongoing provocations against those who are not Jewish.


In the past, this provocation had the character of denial. They talked about making the desert bloom and destroyed villages; they sang rousing songs in Hebrew that included nauseating lines like "we will bring destruction to the enemy village."


But all these had a common denominator of "behavior," of action, of enlisting others and being enlisted. The new racism liberates Israelis from any obligation to act while still leaving them the right to humiliate anyone who is not Jewish.


It's not just that you are not a majority, the proposed new law tells Arabs. It's not just that we took the land from you. Now, you should know that you don't have any chance of changing the situation, of realizing your citizenship. Your future is closing in on you: slavery or emigration.











A question: Which government functions better, that of Salam Fayyad in the West Bank or that of Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Answer: The Hamas government. Another question: Which of the two governments would stop functioning without foreign aid? Answer: The West Bank one.


Ismail Haniyeh's government functions well, despite the blockade of Gaza, the diplomatic boycott and the lack of assistance from large international organizations. Fayyad's considerable personal abilities, the success of his technocratic government in improving living conditions in the West Bank, the excellent foreign relations maintained by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the extensive aid Fayyad's government receives have not created a more effective government than the one run by Hamas. These are the conclusions of a new study by Dr. Yezid Sayigh from King's College, London.


Furthermore, the popular belief that the Hamas regime is brutal while the Abbas-Fayyad government is democratic is also mistaken. Hamas came to power in real, democratic, internationally-monitored elections - a process unprecedented in the Arab world. By contrast, President Abbas' legal term of office ended long ago, yet he has not left office.


Abbas' government operates through presidential decrees, without parliamentary legitimacy. Parliamentary and democratic life in the West Bank are paralyzed, while the security services are gaining clout and intervening in the work of civilian institutions. In that sense, there's little difference between Gaza and the West Bank, except that the West Bank appears to better at public relations.


But there is one crucial difference between the two areas. Hamas' security services enforce their will over the entire territory without any intervention from outside powers. The Fayyad government can only envy its rival: The work of the West Bank security services depends on cooperation with Israel. The Palestinian government has power over less than half of the West Bank, and even in that territory it can only operate within parameters set by Israel.


In other words, the combination of security and settlements has led to an increased Israeli presence on the ground even as diplomatic negotiations proceed, and to no small degree because of these negotiations. To date, instead of removing this dual presence from the West Bank, the diplomatic channel has only inserted it more deeply. What removed Israel from most of the Gaza Strip were alternatives to negotiation: the violent conflict waged by Hamas, and Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement.


Which of the governments is ready for independence? Neither one. Israel controls the external borders, air space, population census, electromagnetic spectrum and most of the roads, water sources and electricity of both territories. Therefore, an obvious question is where the greater change is needed to bring Palestinians closer to independence.


This analysis suggests that the greater change is needed in the West Bank. But the greater the change that is needed, the smaller the chance that it will take place during the current negotiations: As noted above, the negotiations are tightening the settler-security complex's grip on the West Bank rather than removing it.


A complete evacuation of this complex is thus not only a necessary condition, but a precondition for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.


The writer teaches political science at Bar-Ilan University











Donor nations and the Middle East Quartet met in New York last week to renew commitments to the beleaguered Palestinian economy and budget support to the insolvent Palestinian Authority. Paving the way, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad presented a midterm report on his government's program.


He has coined the forthcoming second and final year of the program as the "Homestretch to Freedom." In tune with Fayyad, the Quartet reaffirmed support for the PA's plan and commended its significant progress toward the statehood goal.


Focused on imposing security, predictable public finances and enhanced public service delivery, the Fayyad plan is underwritten by a donor transfer to PA coffers of some $1.5 billion annually. Strong internal security and "creating institutional facts on the ground" are intended to build a wave of public confidence that would trickle up to allow for a Palestinian state by 2011.


Fayyad forges ahead in the belief that a state can be built as a precursor to national liberation. The logic of the program, rooted in the Washington Consensus on economic governance, implies that good institutions are necessary and sufficient for statehood. PA reforms since the death of Yasser Arafat are said to have created institutions that can manage a modern state, generating wide endorsement for what one pundit has called Fayyadism.


But a close reading of the PA's midterm scorecard for itself suggests that few new economic institutions have taken shape. And any state-like institutions that might still emerge are incapable of shepherding the Palestinian economy from its distorted and dependent status under prolonged Israeli occupation.


The IMF, where Fayyad spent much of his career, has highlighted PA financial transparency since 2005 as a model of good governance among developing countries. The economic growth of over 8 percent that the West Bank has witnessed since 2008 is heralded as a green shoot of the PA's reform strategy. An urban construction boom, car shows, prepaid electricity meters, fashionable restaurants, virtual stock trading systems and e-government are seen as evidence of a vibrant market economy.


The CEO of the Palestinian Investment Fund imagines that a peace agreement would deliver 20 percent annual growth, a rate the most successful developing countries in Asia can only dream of. This economic miracle-in-the-making has prompted two Fayyad supporters to suggest in the Wall Street Journal that the sine qua non for economic expansion has been the creation of the new Palestinian security services, which are a model for the state-building program in general. That would be a first in economic development history!


Yet according to a recent UNCTAD report, since 2000, one-third of the economy's capital base has been ravaged by war, while Gaza remains deprived of the reconstruction it desperately needs. The PA budget deficit, at 27% of GDP in 2009, is twice that of the Arafat era. Good governance and strong-arm security cannot replace destroyed factories and homes, bulldozed olive groves and airports or bombed electricity generation stations.


The new conventional wisdom about Palestinian eligibility for statehood was challenged recently by Carnegie scholar Nathan Brown, whose research revealed that in the security, constitutional and judicial domains, PA institution-building has been more authoritarian than democratic and more cosmetic than transformational.


A former PA economy minister wrote in Foreign Policy that the growth spurt is simply a natural response of West Bank aggregate demand to massive donor aid, already seen in past episodes of calm. As for the catastrophe that is Gaza, recent renewed growth is due above all to an illicit tunnel economy.


Some critics conclude that the Fayyad plan amounts to a Palestinian mirror of the economic peace advocated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Indeed, the dominant narrative of the PA and its backers focuses on improving Palestinian quality of life regardless of political progress. But such Israeli pacification strategies, offering "economic peace" rather than "land for peace," have repeatedly failed since 1967.


Fayyad's "Homestretch" is actually a matrix of projects, many of them pending for years. A few represent concrete plans to assume sovereign economic functions. But overall, PA economic institution building is not geared to ensuring Palestinian sovereignty on the ground, which necessarily implies a retraction of Israeli sovereignty.


On paper, it may look as though the PA is planning for a model state and a modern market economy. But bereft of the necessary condition for their success, they would be unviable and fragile structures.


The project of laying the foundations for a state through institution building devoid of sovereignty amounts to liberalization without structural transformation, a recipe for economic disaster. Unless it goes further and explicitly addresses such weaknesses, Fayyad's statehood-by-2011 plan risks going down in history as simply one more episode of failed economic peace-making.


The author is a senior economist with the United Nations in Geneva who has researched Palestinian development issues extensively. The views expressed are his alone









Another crisis is roiling American-Pakistani relations after NATO helicopters mistakenly fired on a border post and killed Pakistani soldiers last month. Islamabad then closed a major supply line for NATO troops in Afghanistan; last week, extremists torched fuel trucks waiting at the border crossing. A new White House report said that Pakistan's Army is refusing to go after Taliban groups targeting American forces.


After a joint Pakistan-NATO inquiry concluded last week that the Pakistani troops were "simply firing warning shots" when the Afghan-based helicopters crossed the border, the United States apologized. Pakistan has since reopened the crossing.


Still, making this alliance work is essential. Pakistan's government is unraveling in the wake of its incompetent response to devastating floods. The United States needs to do more to help — and Pakistan's military and civilian leaders finally need to admit that winning the battle against extremists, on both sides of the border, is essential to Pakistan's security. The agenda is daunting:


RELIEF The government's incompetence after the floods has stoked public outrage. Even the Army — Pakistan's best-functioning institution — has been overwhelmed. The United States is the largest donor of emergency aid, more than $450 million so far, and American troops rescued at least 21,000 Pakistanis. Millions of people are still at risk. If Pakistan's Army needs more help, it should ask — and publicize American cooperation.


RECONSTRUCTION Devastation is vast: twenty million people were displaced and countless bridges, roads, schools and farms were swept away. It will take decades and billions of dollars to rebuild. Donor nations were already tired after Haiti, but there is an antipathy toward Pakistan that should give its government serious pause.


Many donors — starting with China, Pakistan's longtime ally — must do more. The Obama administration is rightly telling Pakistan that it must invest in its recovery by finally taxing wealthy citizens. Pakistan could also shift funds from its nuclear program. A transparent commission to receive and manage contributions would help rally donors, as would working closely with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.


AMERICAN AID In addition to billions of dollars in military aid, Congress last year approved a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for schools, hospitals and energy plants. Since the floods, Washington has shifted some of that money to recovery efforts. It will have to shift more. Washington needs to move quickly on some high-visibility projects so Pakistanis can see that they are not alone.


GOVERNMENT REFORM Pakistan's Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, last month reportedly warned President Asif Ali Zardari that the country is on the verge of economic collapse and insisted on a government shakeup. So far, the generals say they don't want to take over — and a coup would be disastrous. But the argument for reform is undeniable. Washington can, quietly, help the Pakistanis think it through. Any changes must be done transparently and within the Constitution.


]DRONE STRIKES In recent weeks, the C.I.A. has stepped up its bombing campaign against Taliban strongholds on Pakistan's border. The American oversight system for these attacks is deeply inadequate, but Pakistan's leadership needs to understand that if they won't go after insurgents targeting American troops, then the United States military will.


When President Obama visits India next month, he must quietly urge its government to revive peace talks with Pakistan. That may be the best hope of getting Pakistan's military to focus on fighting the insurgency. Next week, senior Pakistani and American officials will hold the latest in a series of "strategic dialogues." They have a lot to talk about.







Carl Paladino's bigoted remarks about gay people were bad enough by themselves — another dip in his low-road campaign for governor of New York. But when you consider his timing, they were shockingly irresponsible.


Mr. Paladino, the Republican nominee for governor, told a gathering in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday that children should not be "brainwashed" into thinking that homosexuality is acceptable. He criticized his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade earlier this year.


A week before Mr. Paladino's comments, police say three men in the Bronx were tortured by a group of attackers who believed they were gay. On Oct. 1, Rutgers University held a memorial service for a student who killed himself after police said his sexual encounter with a man was broadcast over the Internet by two classmates.


For Mr. Paladino to choose this moment to make his utterly gratuitous remarks suggests at the very least an extraordinary level of insensitivity. On Monday, he tried to dig himself out of the mess he had created but succeeded only in looking more small-minded.


There is a debate over same-sex marriage, and animus does not driveeveryone who wants to deny marriage to gay men and lesbians. Mr. Paladino's remarks were nothing but gay-bashing.


Mr. Paladino denies that he is a bigot, pointing to a sentence he cut from his text that called gay people "dysfunctional." He should have omitted the entire speech.


Perhaps Mr. Paladino drew the message from this hate-filled campaign season that it is all right to voice any view, no matter how intolerant. After all, this is the year when some political leaders cheered on a preacher who wanted to burn Korans on Sept. 11.


In Ohio, a Republican candidate for Congress, Rich Iott, is flailing around trying to explain his membership in a group dedicated to celebrating the military record and "lifestyle" of an SS Panzer division that counted Josef Mengele among its veterans.


Mr. Iott says he is not a Nazi sympathizer. He just likes to dress up like a Nazi soldier and re-enact World War II battles. Mr. Paladino says he is not intolerant. He just thought it was funny to e-mail around racist jokes. Now he seems to think gay-bashing is good politics.


These messages are an insult to all Americans.








Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, is the founder and chief executive of Liberty Central, a nonprofit organization set up to "restore the greatness of America," in part by opposing the leftist "tyranny" of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Its first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors. The size of those gifts, their anonymity and their importance to the organization raise a serious issue of ethics for Justice Thomas.


Sarah Field, an executive of Liberty Central, told The Times that the organization pays Mrs. Thomas. Justice Thomas is a beneficiary of that pay and has a responsibility under federal law to "inform himself" about who the donors are because they have an impact on Mrs. Thomas's personal financial interests.


Mrs. Thomas is not legally required to disclose the donors. That is unfortunate, but she does have a duty to do so, just as former President Bill Clinton had a duty to disclose the donors to his library and charitable ventures when his wife became secretary of state.


Justice Thomas needs disclosure to know if either of those donors is a party in a case before the Supreme Court or has an interest in a party. That is the only way he can comply with a fundamental ethical and legal requirement to "disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."


Even if his wife weren't paid by the organization, Justice Thomas would have a duty to obtain the donors' names. The principle of a Supreme Court holding requires that. As former Justice John Paul Stevens once wrote for the court, "The very purpose" of the impartiality standard "is to promote confidence in the judiciary by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety whenever possible."


Justice Thomas could claim that he does not know who the donors are and, therefore, could not be biased on their behalf, but people would doubt him. Mrs. Thomas's activities must be above suspicion so Justice Thomas can be as well. Take his partial dissent in the Citizens United case, in which he joined the conservatives to give corporations an unlimited right to spend money in politics. Alone among his colleagues, he also took the radical position that the disclosure requirements still in federal campaign law are unconstitutional.


That is an obvious trigger of the sort of "suspicions and doubts" the Stevens opinion was intended to quell. The Thomases can easily dispel the doubts.







It has been a big year for Peter Diamond, 70, the renowned professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In April, Mr. Diamond was nominated by President Obama to serve on the seven-member board of governors of the Federal Reserve. On Monday, he became one of three recipients of this year's Nobel in economic science.


In between — on Aug. 5, the day the Senate adjourned for its summer recess — Republican senators used an obscure procedural rule to obstruct Mr. Diamond's nomination to the Fed. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, said, at the time, that Mr. Diamond lacked sufficiently broad macroeconomic experience.


Mr. Shelby responded to Mr. Diamond's Nobel by saying that the Royal Swedish Academy "does not determine who is qualified to serve" on the Fed board. True enough. But it's quite a third-party endorsement.


It was absurd from the start to suggest that Mr. Diamond was unqualified. By law, the Fed's mandate is to promote low inflation and full employment. Mr. Diamond and his fellow laureates are being recognized precisely for their groundbreaking work into the ways in which joblessness, job vacancies and wages are affected by regulation and economic policy.


The work bears directly on whether today's unemployment is a cyclical result of recession or a structural mismatch between workers' skills and employers' needs. It is also relevant to supply-and-demand issues in housing, another important challenge facing the Fed as it tries to steward the weak economy.


Last month, President Obama renominated Mr. Diamond for the Fed board. It is believed that Republicans will not try to obstruct his nomination a second time. To do so would be to deprive the Fed of one of the best minds in economics.









You have to believe that somebody really had it in for the Scott sisters, Jamie and Gladys. They have always insisted that they had nothing to do with a robbery that occurred near the small town of Forest, Miss., on Christmas Eve in 1993. It was not the kind of crime to cause a stir. No one was hurt and perhaps $11 was taken.


Jamie was 21 at the time and Gladys just 19. But what has happened to them takes your breath away.


They were convicted by a jury and handed the most draconian sentences imaginable — short of the death penalty. Each was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in state prison, and they have been imprisoned ever since. Jamie is now 38 and seriously ill. Both of her kidneys have failed. Gladys is 36.


This is Mississippi we're talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages.


The authorities did not even argue that the Scott sisters had committed the robbery. They were accused of luring two men into a trap, in which the men had their wallets taken by acquaintances of the sisters, one of whom had a shotgun.


It was a serious crime. But the case against the sisters was extremely shaky. In any event, even if they were guilty, the punishment is so wildly out of proportion to the offense that it should not be allowed to stand.


Three teenagers pleaded guilty to robbing the men. They ranged in age from 14 to 18. And in their initial statements to investigators, they did not implicate the Scott sisters.


But a plea deal was arranged in which the teens were required to swear that the women were involved, and two of the teens were obliged, as part of the deal, to testify against the sisters in court.


Howard Patrick, who was 14 at the time of the robbery, said that the pressure from the authorities to implicate the sisters began almost immediately. He testified, "They said if I didn't participate with them, they would send me to Parchman and make me out a female."


He was referring to Mississippi State Prison, which was once the notoriously violent Parchman prison farm. The lawyer questioning the boy said, "In other words, they would send you to Parchman and you would get raped, right?"


"Yes, sir," the boy said.


The teens were sentenced to eight years in prison each, and they were released after serving just two years.


This is a case that should be repugnant to anyone with the slightest interest in justice. The right thing to do at this point is to get the sisters out of prison as quickly as possible and ensure that Jamie gets proper medical treatment.


A number of people have taken up the sisters' cause, including Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who is trying to help secure a pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. "It makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen," he said. "That these women should be kept in prison until they die — well, that's just so utterly inhumane."


I have no idea why the authorities were so dead set on implicating the Scott sisters in the crime and sending them away for life, while letting the teens who unquestionably committed the robbery get off with much lighter sentences.


Life sentences for robbery can only be imposed by juries in Mississippi, but it is extremely rare for that sentencing option to even be included in the instructions given to jurors. It's fair to think, in other words, that there would have to be some extraordinary reason for prosecutors and the court to offer such a draconian possibility to a jury.


Chokwe Lumumba, a lawyer representing the sisters, captured the prevailing legal sentiment when he said: "I don't think Mississippi law anticipates that you're going to be giving this instruction in a case where nobody gets hurt and $11 is allegedly stolen. In the majority of robbery cases, even the ones that are somewhat nasty, they don't read that instruction."


The reason for giving the jury the option of imposing life sentences in this case escapes me. Even the original prosecutor, Ken Turner, who is now retired and who believes the sisters were guilty, has said that he thinks it would be "appropriate" to offer them relief from their extreme sentences. He told The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., "It was not a particularly egregious case."


The appeals process for the women has long since been exhausted. It is up to Governor Barbour, who is considering petitions on the sisters' behalf, to do the humane thing.


A pardon or commutation of sentence — some form of relief that would release Jamie and Gladys Scott from the hideous shackles of a lifetime in prison — is not just desirable, it's absolutely essential.








Sometimes a local issue perfectly illuminates a larger national problem. Such is the case with the opposition of the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, to construction of a new tunnel between his state and New York.


Christie argues that a state that is currently facing multibillion-dollar annual deficits cannot afford a huge new spending project that is already looking to be $5 billion overbudget. His critics argue that this tunnel is exactly the sort of infrastructure project that New Jersey needs if it's to prosper in the decades ahead.


Both sides are right. But what nobody seems to be asking is: Why are important projects now unaffordable? Decades ago, when the federal and state governments were much smaller, they had the means to undertake gigantic new projects, like the Interstate Highway System and the space program. But now, when governments are bigger, they don't.


The answer is what Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal once called demosclerosis. Over the past few decades, governments have become entwined in a series of arrangements that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones.


New Jersey can't afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state's employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.


New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before age 50.


California can't afford new water projects, but state cops often receive 90 percent of their salaries when they retire at 50. The average corrections officer there makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime (California spends more on its prison system than on its schools).


States across the nation will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives because they face unfunded pension obligations that, if counted accurately, amount to $2 trillion — or $87,000 per plan participant.


All in all, governments can't promote future prosperity because they are strangling on their own self-indulgence.


Daniel DiSalvo, a political scientist at the City College of New York, has a superb survey of the problem in the new issue of National Affairs. DiSalvo notes that nationally, state and local workers earn on average $14 more per hour in wages and benefits than their private sector counterparts. A city like Buffalo has as many public workers as it did in 1950, even though it has lost half its population.


These arrangements grew gradually. Through much of the 20th century, staunch liberals like Franklin Roosevelt opposed public sector unions. George Meany of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. argued that it is "impossible to bargain collectively with government."


Private sector managers have to compete in the marketplace, so they have an incentive to push back against union requests. Ideally, some balance is found between the needs of workers and companies. Government managers possess a monopoly on their services and have little incentive to resist union demands. It would only make them unpopular.


In addition, public sector unions can use political power to increase demand for their product. DiSalvo notes that between 1989 ad 2004, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was the biggest spender in American politics, giving $40 million to federal candidates. The largest impact is on low-turnout local elections. The California prison guard union recently sent a signal by spending $200,000 to defeat a state assemblyman who had tried to reduce costs.


In states across the country, elected leaders raise state employee salaries in the fat years and then are careful to placate the unions by raising future pension benefits in the lean ones. Even if cost-conscious leaders are elected, they find their hands tied by pension commitments and employee contracts.


The end result is sclerotic government. Many of us would be happy to live with a bigger version of 1950s government: one that ran surpluses and was dexterous enough to tackle long-term problems as they arose. But we don't have that government. We have an immobile government that is desperately overcommitted in all the wrong ways.


This situation, if you'll forgive me for saying so, has been the Democratic Party's epic failure. The party believes in the positive uses of government. But if you want the country to share that belief, you have to provide a government that is nimble, tough-minded and effective. That means occasionally standing up to the excessive demands of public employee unions. Instead of standing up to those demands, the party has become captured by the unions. Liberal activism has become paralyzed by its own special interests.


The antigovernment-types perpetually cry less, less, less. The loudest liberals cry more, more, more. Someday there will be a political movement that is willing to make choices, that is willing to say "this but not that."









TEN years ago, Qaeda terrorists blew a hole in the side of the Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen, killing 17 sailors. Yet the attack's mastermind still hasn't been prosecuted, and many of the men tried and imprisoned for the bombing are again free.


As Washington debates whether to increase aid to Yemen, it should first remember its duty to seek justice for those sailors — and to heed the broader national-security lessons from the attack.


As soon as the F.B.I. received news of the Oct. 12 bombing, I flew to Yemen with a team to investigate. The bodies of sailors draped in flags on a blood-stained deck, guarded by teary-eyed survivors, formed a heartbreaking image that motivated us during the following months.


Our investigation faced difficulties from the beginning. Yemen's weak central government's on-again, off-again relationship with extremists meant that Al Qaeda had influential sympathizers in positions of authority, as well as among powerful tribes in the country's vast desert. As a consequence, we regularly faced death threats, smokescreens and bureaucratic obstructions.


While such obstacles were not unexpected, what surprised us was the lack of support from home. No one in the Clinton White House seemed to care about the case. We had hoped that the George W. Bush administration would be better, but except for Robert Mueller, the director of the F.B.I., its top officials soon sidelined the case; they considered it, according to Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, "stale." Even the families of the sailors were denied meetings with the White House, a disgrace that ended only when President Obama took office — and a precedent I hope the administration maintains.


Still, our team pressed ahead and, together with agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, we tracked down many of the Qaeda members responsible for the attack, secured confessions from them and prosecuted them. We were aided by courageous Yemenis from the country's security, law enforcement and judicial services who shared a commitment to justice and an understanding that ignoring Al Qaeda would only embolden it. We left Yemen with most of the terrorists locked up.


After we were gone, however, Yemen began releasing terrorists under presidential pardons and through a questionable "rehabilitation" program. Many of the men we helped convict went free.


For example, Fahd al-Quso, who had confessed to his role in the Cole attack and was sent to prison, is now out; earlier this year he gave press interviews and was featured in a Qaeda video threatening the United States. Jamal al-Badawi, who confessed to being Mr. Quso's boss and received a death sentence, has gone through a cycle of "escaping" from prison, receiving clemency and allegedly being rearrested.


Meanwhile, the security situation in Yemen has deteriorated. Freed operatives and the availability of safe havens arguably make Yemen an even better base for Al Qaeda than Afghanistan or Pakistan, as does the fact that the government is distracted by a rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south. Not surprisingly, Al Qaeda's Saudi branch recently moved to Yemen and merged with the local faction to form Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


In response, Washington is considering increasing military aid to Yemen, to as much as $1.2 billion over six years, up from $155 million in 2010. But it should do so only if it wins from Yemen a guarantee that it will be consistent in its fight against Al Qaeda.


An important test of that commitment should be how Yemen responds to a long-overdue request that Mr. Badawi and Mr. Quso be handed over to American officials to be properly prosecuted. Extraditing the two men would also help with another problem connected to the Cole attack: the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the plot's alleged mastermind, who has been in American custody for almost eight years.


Mr. Nashiri has yet to be tried because he was subjected to waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, rendering his statements legally problematic, even those given after interrogators stopped using the counterproductive measures.


Fortunately, there is enough evidence to convict Mr. Nashiri based on confessions we gained legally from Mr. Badawi and Mr. Quso — we even read them the Miranda warning — and from other physical evidence we found during the investigation. Their presence in court would enable us to use their confessions.


It is not merely an insult to the 17 dead sailors, their families and our national honor that Washington does nothing while convicted terrorists walk free and Mr. Nashiri sits unprosecuted. It also harms our national security. We long ago realized that if the American government had not let the Cole attack go unanswered, and if our investigation had not been so constrained, we could have undermined Al Qaeda and perhaps even averted the 9/11 attack. After 10 years, we need to finally put that lesson to use.


Ali H. Soufan was an F.B.I. special agent from 1997 to 2005.










Considering that banks handed out mortgages like pizza delivery fliers during the height of the real estate bubble, the latest housing news is entirely predictable: Several major home lenders, including JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, have suspended foreclosures in parts or all of the country because of sloppy paperwork and improper oversight of the avalanche of loans that went bad.


So, for now, some beleaguered homeowners will be spared the misery of losing their homes. Further, banks will be forced to comply with the law and follow their own procedures, as they should be. People will get due process. But despite the revenge-of-the-downtrodden theme, the latest home loan fiasco seems destined only to make the nation's housing problems worse. That will be especially true if lawsuits, investigations and calls for a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures cause the entire process to grind to a halt.


For all the uproar, there is precious little evidence so far that people who are current in their payments are being mistakenly targeted for eviction. In the end, those who cannot afford their houses will probably still lose them — only the process will now be dragged out, preventing the real estate market from arriving at two things necessary for a recovery: a bottom in prices, and a sense of certainty that the market is functioning properly. Some previous buyers of foreclosed homes might even face title claims.


Even buyers and sellers of properties that have never been in foreclosure have an interest in seeing the process start working again. Absent a functioning foreclosure system, mortgage lending will continue to be sluggish, and so will the overall economy.


To be sure, these problems are entirely of the lenders' making — the latest example of banks trying to cut corners at their customers' expense. They created foreclosure procedures without investing in people and systems to swiftly and efficiently usher the process through the courts. When the system got swamped, they just ignored their own rules.


But except in cases where someone can show that the sloppiness in processing — including "robo-signers" pushing through unread documents — is causing injustices to innocent homeowners, foreclosures should continue. Rather than push for nationwide gridlock, as several Democratic officeholders and consumer groups are doing, lawmakers and state attorneys general should be focusing on how to get the system working again.


In a best-case scenario, the moratoriums of individual banks would be lifted in the coming weeks and the process of working through hundreds of thousands of soured loans in a more equitable way would get on track. The worst-case scenario would be that the system by which banks have electronically registered the transfer of mortgages among themselves would be called into legal question, throwing millions of pending and completed real estate transactions into an extended state of uncertainty that will prolong the housing downturn.


Should the banks be punished for their latest irresponsibility? To some degree, that's happening. Having to hold onto non-performing loans hurts their profits. But, as usual, the public pays a bigger price as the foreclosure glutslows lending and keeps houses off the market, where buyers who were prudent enough not to take on bad loans are waiting.


More sluggishness and uncertainty are the last things the shaky economy needs right now.








For years, mortgage loan servicing companies have engaged in shoddy business practices, ranging from misapplied payments to evicting homeowners who have never missed a payment. Now employees of these companies have admitted to falsifying thousands upon thousands of affidavits used to toss families out of their homes.


The fraudulent documents indicate a problem well beyond the "technical glitches" the industry describes. If servicers had accurate records, there would be no need to invent paperwork. The entire system is rife with unfairness, and the mistakes and omissions have serious consequences in terms of unnecessary or even mistaken foreclosures.


Foreclosures devastate families who lose their homes, but they also decrease the value of nearby homes, harm neighborhoods through vacant homes and increased crime, and reduce the local tax base.


What's more, with more than 2 million homes already in the foreclosure process and almost 4 million more mortgages in trouble, too many foreclosures could hinder or even reverse our national economic recovery.


Not every foreclosure can be avoided, but many evictions aren't inevitable or necessary. No homeowner should have private property taken from him wrongfully. No family should lose a home before having a chance to be considered for a plan that would allow them to keep paying on their mortgage.


To avoid chilling the housing market through uncertainty about whether foreclosures have proceeded legally, lenders should temporarily suspend foreclosures until they can ensure a fair and honest process. Then, judges should approve only those foreclosures where the proper steps have been taken and alternatives considered.


Now that the curtain has been pulled back to reveal a fundamentally flawed foreclosure system, we cannot avert our eyes and return to business as usual. There is no reason to believe that these problems are limited to just some states, or to just a few lenders and servicers. It's time to make sure mortgage servicers do right by America's homeowners, neighborhoods and housing market.


Julia Gordon is senior policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending.









Since the publication of Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars, criticism has grown of an administration that is supposedly mired in controversy and backbiting over the conduct of the conflict in Afghanistan. The president, too, has been seen as lacking in conviction. To paraphrase one adviser, it sometimes seems the president is going through the motions, perhaps approving Gen. Stanley McChrystal's troop buildup plan last fall only to be able to say that he gave it the old college try come July 2011. That's the date when Obama has promised a major strategy review as well as the beginning of the troop drawdown.


Obama has conveyed mixed messages on the war. As a result, key constituencies — such as elements of the Pakistaniintelligence services — anticipate a rapid American departure next summer, and it can hurt us on the battlefield. But otherwise, critics are missing the central reality, that the president has been quite solid in his conduct of this important war.


We must not lose sight of this core fact: Obama has tripled U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. governmentcivilian presence there has also tripled on Obama's watch, and total foreign aid is now $4 billion a year, the largest such American program in the world. The intended length of the troop buildup, while possibly too short, nonetheless would be comparable to the length of time that the Iraqi surge endured under President Bush. The administration's overall messaging about its plans for 2011, while perhaps transfixed on the July drawdown, has studiously avoided any promises about how rapidly forces would leave.


Three assurances


As Woodward's book reveals, Obama was dubious about McChrystal's proposal for more troops in the major policy review last fall, and ultimately granted the Pentagon fewer than requested. But there are three good reasons to be reassured by what Woodward reports:


•Obama did approve most of McChrystal's request, and we now have 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as a result. He did so despite objections from retired military officers serving in his White House, including, it appears, the outgoing national security adviser.


•Since the Pentagon had only a few months before suggested that a 68,000 U.S. troop level would be adequate, Obama could be forgiven for a bit of skepticism and a desire to be sure his policies toward Afghanistan were not beginning to echo those of President Johnson over the Vietnam War. As such, the three-month delay in decision-making was reasonable.


•There was a legitimate logic for shortchanging the full McChrystal request in the interest of eliciting greater allied help — which has, to some extent, subsequently been obtained.


We also need to understand Woodward's books for what they are — essentially well informed high-level political soap opera. The fact that some unflattering images of various administration officials might have emerged is hardly a damning indictment. After all, administration officials were debating policy options in a war that was already eight years old and going south. Asking the occasional tough question is part of the job. And fallible humans in high-pressure situations often say unflattering things about each other — especially to Woodward.


All that said, the administration does have a challenge of perceptions. Much of the world does not see a studious and solid wartime leader in Obama. That's hurting him. As American critics grow increasingly convinced that we need a Plan B — with the most popular fallback option consisting of major and rapid U.S. troop withdrawals, a pullback of remaining forces to Kabul and points north, and nothing more than standoff counterterrorism strikes against targets in the country's vast south and east — many players in this conflict believe that the U.S. will rapidly minimize its commitment next summer, which leads them to hedge bets harmfully on the battlefield.


What would a quick pullback leavebehind? A Taliban takeover of at least the Pashtun south would likely result, creating threats to Kabul as well as possible sanctuaries for everyone from al-Qaeda to the Pakistani Taliban. Attacks by drones as well as commando raids by U.S. special forces could hardly hope to prevent these consequences, especially with the ensuing loss of human intelligence in the region. (Because our friends would be largely killed off or otherwise silenced after we left.)


A need for clarity


Obama showed no sympathy for such a Plan B in his policy review last fall, and he should say so today. He also should clarify two things: One, that he is more committed to Plan A than his critics seem to understand. The best proof of this is the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. And two, that any fallback plan would not be the minimalist version commonly promoted today. It would be a Plan A-minus rather than a Plan B, carefully phasing down NATO troops as Afghan forces improve in the coming years, implying a two-to-four year transition. My recent trip to Afghanistan provided good reason to believe that our training and partnering program for those Afghan forces is starting to work, so this is a serious alternative.


Going forward, President Obama's actions in the Afghanistan war will speak much louder than any words — even if the words come from a source as revered as Bob Woodward.


Michael O'Hanlon is co-author of Toughing It Out in Afghanistan and of the Brookings Afghanistan Index.








I don't know what, if any, advice James Jones, the White House's outgoing national security adviser, will give his successor. But the retired Marine Corps general ought to tell Tom Donilon that the United States needs to end its Cold War rift with Cuba.


More than a diplomatic annoyance, this nation's nearly half-century-old effort to strangle the life out of Cuba's communist government infects its relationship with much of the rest of the world. In 2009, for the 18th consecutive year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.


The measure was backed by 187 countries, including all of America's European allies. Iraq and Afghanistan, two governments that owe their very existence to the U.S., also voted for it. Only three countries (the U.S., Israel and Palau) voted against the resolution. Two others abstained.


And the Organization of American States (OAS) voted last year to rescind its 1962 ban on Cuba's membership in the hemispheric group.


Schizophrenic policy


Moments after the vote was taken, then-Honduran PresidentManuel Zelaya proclaimed: "The Cold War has ended." Of course, it actually ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. That ideological tug-of-war lasted 46 years. What Zelaya was talking about is this nation's schizophrenic attempt to isolate and topple Cuba's communist government. That has gone on for 50 years.


The OAS vote was a further decline of American influence in a region of the world over which it once held sway. And while this waning influence can be attributed to a lot more than this country's frayed relations with Cuba, America's obsession with the Caribbean island nation of 11 million people chips away at this country's standing in the world.


Obama is the 11th American president to manage this effort, which seeks to squeeze the life out of Cuba's government through an economic embargo that has no chance of succeeding. That's because while Cuban-American politicians and interest groups clamor for the continuation of the ban on travel and money transfers to Cuba, Cuban Americans are exempt. They can go to Cuba as often as they like and take as much money to their relatives there as they want.


So for all practical purposes, the embargo exists for domestic political purposes only. It is what a long line of politicians —Democrats and Republicans — have used to pander to Cuban-American voters.


Lift travel ban


Donilon should tell Obama that the damage done to America's standing in the world outweighs the political benefit he gets in south Florida for keeping the embargo in place. He should urge the president to test the resiliency of Cuba's communist system by allowing all Americans to travel freely to that country. He should remind Obama of what I'm sure he already knows: When it comes to freedom, the world pays more attention to what America does than what it says.


Cuba's communist system is undergoing change. The government has created the opportunity for private operation of small restaurants, barber and beauty shops, taxis and farms. The list of privately run businesses will likely increase after the Cuban government's announcement that it will lay off 500,000 workers who must now find work in the country's embryonic private sector.


A surge of American tourists will strengthen this movement. A continuation of the U.S. embargo will slow it down — and whittle away at America's position on the world stage.


DeWayne Wickham writes weekly for USA TODAY.