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Saturday, October 23, 2010

EDITORIAL 23.10.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month october 25, edition 000659, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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























































It's a fallacy to believe that killing street dogs will bring down their numbers. But sterilising them helps in reducing and stabilising their population

According to a report, the Mayor of Delhi has said in an interview to a news channel that the national capital's stray dogs, which had been removed from their habitats for the duration of the Commonwealth Games, should be killed or kept where they had been taken. He, however, has also reportedly said on television that it was inhuman to kill dogs. I have neither heard either statement nor talked to him. I will, therefore, not go into what he did or did not say. Nor will I criticise him on that account. Instead, I would focus on the issues in question.

Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, notified in December 2001 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), prohibits the killing of stray dogs except in special cases, as when they are rabid or terminally ill. In these too, prescribed procedures have to be followed. Besides, the Rules provide that stray dogs can only be removed from their habitats for neutering and immunisation against rabies. Both done, they have to be returned to places from which they had been taken.


The Rules prescribe the only scientific — and also humane — way of controlling stray dog populations. Killing or removal has not helped anywhere. Dr K Vogel, Chief Veterinary, Public Health, Division of Communicable Diseases, World Health Organisation, and Mr John Hoyt, then President, World Society for the Protection of Animals, made this clear in their joint preface to the Guidelines for Dog Population Management, released by the WHO and WSPA in May 1990. They stated, "All too often, authorities confronted by problems caused by these (stray) dogs have turned to mass destruction in the hope of finding a quick solution, only to find that the destruction had to continue year after year, with no end in sight."

In its Eighth Report (WHO Technical Report Series 824), WHO's Expert Committee on Rabies, which met in Geneva from September 24 to 30, stated, "There is no evidence that the removal of dogs has ever had a significant impact on dog population densities and the spread of rabies. The population turnover of dogs may be so high that even the highest recorded removal rates (about 15 per cent of the dog population) are easily compensated by survival rates." This has been conclusively established in Delhi. In his "Dogs and Dog Control in Developing Countries", published in The State of Animals 2005, Dr JF Reese writes, "In Delhi, a concerted effort (pre-Animal Birth Control, or ABC) at dog removal killed a third of the straying dogs with no reduction in dog population."

It has been the same experience everywhere. In his paper, "ABC responsible for decline in human rabies cases", Dr Chinny Krishna, co-founder and chairman of the Blue Cross Society of India, cites the instance of Madras Corporation's catch-and-kill programme that began in 1860. He quotes Mr Theodore Bhaskaran, a retired Post Master-General, as stating in an article, "In the 1970s the number of stray dogs destroyed by the corporation was so high that the Central Leather Institute, Madras, designed products —such as neckties and wallets — from dog skins." Dr Krishna has pointed out elsewhere that the number of dogs killed by the corporation had gone up to 30,000 per year by 1995. Yet the city's stray dog population and the incidence of rabies continued to increase.

Why does killing or removal not help? According to the Guidelines for Dog Population Management, each habitat has "a specific carrying capacity for each species", which "essentially depends on the availability, quality and distribution of the resources (shelter, food, water) for the species concerned. The density of population for higher vertebrates (including dogs) is almost always near the carrying capacity of the environment. Any reduction in the population density through additional mortality is rapidly compensated by better reproduction and survival."

The argument that such a situation will not arise if all stray dogs in a city or country are killed at one go, holds little water. Nowhere has such a venture succeeded. Besides, dogs are territorial. Dogs from one area do not allow those from other areas to enter their areas. Dogs from other areas will occupy any area in which all stray dogs have been massacred. This territorial character of dogs lies at the heart of the ABC programme. With sterilised and vaccinated dogs keeping un-sterilised and un-vaccinated dogs away from their areas, those implementing the programme can concentrate on progressing area by area until a whole city is covered. Otherwise, they will have to keep returning to areas where they had already been with the stray dog population continuing to grow elsewhere.

Significantly, WHO's Expert Consultation on Rabies, held in Geneva from October 5 to 8, 2004, had stated (WHO: Technical Report Series 824), "Since the 1960s, ABC programmes coupled with rabies vaccination have been advocated as a method to control urban street male and female dog populations and ultimately human rabies in Asia The rationale is to reduce the dog population turnover as well as the number of dogs susceptible to rabies in Asia and limit aspects of male dog behaviour (such as dispersal and fighting) that facilitate the spread of rabies."

Delhi has had a reasonably successful ABC programme since 2003. Between 40 and 50 per cent of the dogs removed from the Commonwealth Games sites to the care of NGOs were found neutered. At this rate the target of 70 per cent, required to stabilise and then gradually bring down stray dog populations, should be reached in the next few years. Meanwhile, one needs to congratulate the Government and Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the New Delhi Municipal Council and NGOs like Friendicoes, Cure & Care, Sonadi, PAWS and Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre and SPCA NOIDA for the manner in which they temporarily relocated and looked after around 700 dogs. The glitches that occurred were perhaps inevitable in an exercise of the magnitude undertaken. While Mr Rakesh Mehta, Chief Secretary of Delhi, and Mr KS Mehra, Commissioner of MCD, cut through all bureaucratic red tape to promptly take the big decisions, Dr RBS Tyagi and Dr Alok Agarwal of MCD and Dr Dinesh Yadav of NDMC worked tirelessly, almost round-the-clock. Animal lovers throughout India need to warmly applaud all of them.








Freedom of speech is an empowering right in a democracy and strengthens pluralism which is a defining feature of open societies. But freedom of speech can also become an instrument of subversion, a dangerous weapon in the hands of those out to wreck social amity and national integrity. As much was evident on Thursday during a convention organised in New Delhi by the so-called 'Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners', a Maoist front organisation, on a theme that should have raised hackles in North Block: 'Azadi — The Only Way'. Tellingly, the proceedings at the convention were conducted by SAR Geelani, among the prime accused in the Parliament House attack case who escaped punishment due to poor prosecution; notwithstanding the fact that as a lecturer in Zakir Hussein College he is kept in comfort by India's taxpayers, he misses no opportunity to incite violence and encourage war against the state. The pro-azadi harangue of All-Party Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, whose pro-Pakistan and anti-India views are common knowledge, need not distract attention from the open call to Kashmiris to secede from "bhookey-nangeyHindustan" by author-activist-anarchist Arundhati Roy who incited students of Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University to "fight for the cause of separate Kashmir… a cause that is your future". This is not the first time Arundhati Roy has brazenly indulged in encouraging enemies of the nation and urging terrorists to wage war on the state. In the past she has joined secessionists in Srinagar, most notably during the anti-Amarnath Yatra agitation, and lent her voice to their demand for azadi. She has also portrayed Maoists as 'innocent victims of state terror' and not hesitated to gloat over the killing of security forces by the far-Left insurgents. If secessionists and insurgents pose a serious danger to our internal security, as the Prime Minister has once again reminded us on Friday, then the threat emanates as much from killers with guns as their publicists like Arundhati Roy. The cloak of 'intellectual dissent' is a convenient cover for their treachery.

Thursday's convention that saw the coming together of individuals who qualify to be designated enemies of the state raises two important questions. First, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs owes an explanation as to how such an event, whose proceedings have in no manner contributed to healthy and open debate but allowed secessionists and patrons of terrorists to sneeringly cock a snook at the state, was allowed in the first place. The venue of the convention is a short distance from North Block; the fact that Delhi Police and IB personnel were present proves Government was fully aware of what had been planned. Second, the law is supposed to be equally applicable to all. In that case, why is it that Arundhati Roy has not yet been charged with anti-national activities and prosecuted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act? The same law has been used for arresting and prosecuting individuals who are guilty of far less. Are we then to presume that she enjoys immunity from the law? If yes, then at whose behest?






Misguided socialists would be well advised not to interpret the public sector Coal India Limited's initial public offering success as a referendum for public sector efficiency or for the further proliferation of units controlled by Governments. If the investors have oversubscribed the Rs 15,000 crore offering by as much as 15 times, it is not because they were influenced by the organisation's ownership but due to the realisation that CIL is a well-managed profitable company. It is the world's largest coal mining firm whose revenues in 2008-09 exceeded Rs 45, 5000 crore. CIL's grip on power generation is evident from the fact that the installed base of coal-based thermal power plants in the country is as high as 53 per cent of the total installed capacity of 162,366 MW of power. Given these advantages, coupled with professional management and a committed work force, CIL has perfomed well. Unfortunately, CIL's sterling achievement is not representative of our public sector that has sucked in people's money for decades and given little in return. According to Mr GV Ramakrishna, former chairman of the Disinvestment Commission, almost half the 227 Central PSUs in 2002-03 were in the red, having squandered away public money. Among the well-off ones, only 10 contributed a huge 70 per cent to the total profits, while the rest, comprising more than 100 companies, pitched in with the balance 30 per cent of profits. Such pithy contribution from corporates that have been heavily funded by the public exchequer has remained the norm. And this trend is likely to continue unless harsh — if unpopular — measures are taken to revamp our public sector units. The Indian Oil Corporation, for instance, loses close to Rs 100 crore a day on subsidised sale of its products. Others, such as the heavily controlled fertiliser industry, are also similarly bleeding, largely due to poor management and partly because politics overrides economic sagacity. It is, therefore, not surprising that the public sector is no longer an engine for economic growth, the CIL's success story notwithstanding. In the ongoing 11th Five Year Plan, the share of public sector in the total investments is expected to be not more than 22 per cent. Accordingly, its potential for job creation too has taken a hit. The Economic Survey 2009-10 notes that 10 lakh public sector jobs were lost between 1991 and 2007.

These trends are unlikely to be reversed any time soon. So, the fewer public sector units we have the better they can be managed and the lesser will the losses to the people be. The CIL's success story should not only spur other public sector enterprises to perform but also energise the stock markets. It is a given that once the company's shares are listed on the stock exchanges, they will fetch huge premiums. But they should not flatter to deceive, as had been the unfortunate case with some earlier high-profile listings.








America's short-sighted policies have created a mutant nation-State in South Asia known as Pakistan which today poses a grave threat not only to India but to the entire world. Supported and sustained for often contradictory and misplaced strategic goals by the US and its allies over the decades, Pakistan today is not only home to the largest conglomerate of violent non-State armed groups but also shelters a rogue, nuclear armed military-intelligence cabal which has had no qualms in hoodwinking the West time and again. Pakistan is today a deadly Albatross around Washington's neck. 

But strangely enough, there is no sign in Washington — White House, Pentagon or the State Department — of any lessons learnt from the past follies. Despite evidence mounting daily that its 'strategic ally' is turning its knife on America's back, President Barak Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many of their close aides are rushing headlong into another disaster. They are now busy putting together a massive economic and military aid to Pakistan which, it is claimed, would help the state, wedded to terrorism, stabilise. There cannot be a crueller joke on the people of the region who have been victims of Pakistan's terrorist activities since 1948. 

What is bewildering is the stone silence on the part of ordinary Americans who are being hoodwinked by the Obama administration into believing that funnelling money and weapons to Pakistan's rogue military would help in winning strategic goals. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One need only look at Pakistan's neighbourhood and the desperation on the part of the Obama administration to flee from Afghanistan. 

Successive US military as well as financial assistance have strengthened the military-intelligence cabal responsible for creating the vast, highly networked terrorist infrastructure which today pose a serious threat to most nations in the world. It is quite well known that not only has the military diverted the American taxpayer's money to reward its officers with gifts of prime real estate, but also created a nuclear armed military machine which has the potential to turn against the master. 

Pakistan's deception has often been as outrageous as it has been blatant. Musharraf is on record stating that the US military aid given to him for fighting the al-Qaeda and the Taliban after 2001 was utilised to beef up Pakistan's military capability against India. Several internal investigations in the US showed that Pakistan military had used the American money to buy conventional military equipment like F-16s, aircraft-mounted armaments, anti-ship and anti-missile defense systems, and an air defense radar system costing $200 million. According to a July 2009 study published by the Belfast Center for Science and International Affairs (US Aid to Pakistan — US Tax Payers Have Funded Pakistani Corruption), more than half of the total funds — 54.9 per cent — were spent on fighter aircraft and weapons, over a quarter — 26.62 per cent — on support and other aircraft, and 10 per cent on advanced weapons systems. 

The inventory of weapon systems gifted or sold to Pakistan by the US since 2001 clearly underlines this paradox: AN/TPS-77 Radars (Cost: $100 million), Phalanx CIWS x 6 (Cost: $79.7 million), Tow 2A Missiles x 2014 (Cost: $65.4 million), P-3C Aircraft x 8 (Cost: $295.33 million), Harpoon Missile x 100 (Cost: $297.823 million), AIM-9M Missiles x 300 (Cost: $47.548 million), F-16 C/D Aircraft x 18 (Cost: $1.433 billion), Mid-Life Update (MLU) for F-16 A/B x 60 (Cost: $890.954 mn), F-16 A/B Modification of Excess Defense Article (EDA) Aircraft x 12 ( Cost: $11.084 million), M-109 Howitzers x 115 (Cost: $86.442 million), and AMRAAM x 500, AIM-9M x 200, JDAM x 500, BLU-109 x 700, MK-82/84 x 800 (Cost: $666.507 million).

Not all of Uncle Sam's 'generosity' went to procuring arms, some went to personal accounts of senior military officers. The series of fraud in accounting have not been a secret either. The total money embezzled till 2008 totalled over $2 billion. For instance, investigations by US Government Accounting Office in 2008 discovered that $1.5 million were reimbursed to Pakistan for damage to Navy vehicles which were not used in combat, another $15 million was given to the army to build bunkers which of course were never built, about $30 million were given for roads which exist on paper, a sum of $200 million was paid for radar expenses from January 2004 to February 2007 even though neither al Qaida or the Taliban had any air attack capability, and $55 million dollars for helicopter maintenance which never happened. On top of it, the Pakistan claimed $80 million per month for military operations from the US even for ceasefire periods when troops were in their barracks. 

Another unique way of defrauding the US Treasury was 'double-dipping' — billing for the same item more than once under separate heads. For instance, charges were claimed for "vehicle damage" as well as "cost of vehicles repaired", all of which went to line some General's pockets or bank accounts. 

Besides diversion of funds to buy conventional weapons and gross corruption, three more grave implications of the US funding of the rogue Pakistani military establishment has been — persistent undermining of democratic process, creating and sustaining terrorist groups and a largely illicit nuclear weapons programme. 

Far more extensively documented has been the Army's covert and overt support to terrorist groups after 2001. At least part of the funds came from the US Treasury. New terrorist training camps were set up by ISI when present Army chief Ashfaq Kayani was the ISI chief and trainers were paid a monthly salary amounting at times more than what a Frontier Corps soldier earned. Terrorist leaders like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba chief Hafiz Saeed were paid 'severance' money for temporary laying off during 2001-2002 period when there was intense international scrutiny of Pakistan's dalliance with terrorist groups. A recent report of Punjab government giving a few million rupees every year to Jamaat-ud Dawa, the parent body of LeT, underlines the possibility of American funds given to Pakistan for various educational as well as social welfare measure being diverted to terrorist groups and their activities. 

The grave implications of the American funding of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, largely illicit, should not be lost either. A confidential CIA report in the 80s had documented systematic diversion of US aid to set up the nuclear weapons programme in Pakistan. The rogue nuclear scientist, AQ Khan, who bought and sold nuclear materials and designs, till early 2004, had boasted that the American funds were indeed used in procuring nuclear materials and know-how from the global nuclear underworld. There is no doubt that significant portion of both overt and covert funding provided by the US to Pakistan since 2001 have been diverted to strengthen Pakistan's nuclear programme. Considering President Obama's often stated claim of pursuing a nuke-free world, the decision to pump in billions of dollars to Pakistan could only mean a step closer to Nuclear Armageddon. 

-- Wilson John is Senior Fellow with Observer Research Foundation 








Is it intended to be a sop to Pakistan in lieu of being overlooked for a US presidential visit that takes Barack Obama to its neighbour and arch-rival, India? The fact that Washington chose to convene a third round of US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue less than a fortnight before Obama's India visit and pledge a hefty $2 billion military aid package may be nothing short of a balancing act.

For all the talk of de-hyphenation of America's policy approach towards India and Pakistan, it may still be a zero-sum game that Washington plays in the sub-continent, no matter the delinking of the Presidential visit to the two countries. The stratagem in the US corridors of power may also be aimed at keeping Islamabad in check, just in case Obama decides to unveil some goodies while in New Delhi, such as endorsing or signalling support for India's bid for a permanent seat in UN Security Council and/or easing high-tech export controls. For that very reason, India, too, may mute for the time being its concerns over the substantial military aid to Islamabad.

Whatever the American calculations, Indian worries are set to mount, given the likelihood of Pakistan again diverting much of the new aid to bolster its military machine against India instead of using it to combat terrorism. Defence Minister AK Antony apparently had an inkling of what was coming, so he made it a major talking point when he visited Washington last month and held parleys with three of the big guns of the Obama administration — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James Jones. But Antony's expression of concern appears to have fallen by the wayside. 

At the time of writing, the new military aid plan (or "security assistance", as the American mandarins call it) was yet to be formally unveiled, but US media accounts suggest it is a done deal: That it would be a $2 billion package spread over five years, over and above the $7.5 billion non-military aid plan approved last year. According to the New York Times, the new security pact would have three parts: the sale of American military equipment to Pakistan, a programme to allow Pakistani military officers to study at American war colleges and counterinsurgency assistance to Pakistani troops. 

Between 2001 and 2009, Pakistan had collected about $9 billion in US military assistance, in terms of aid and reimbursement for its operations in aid of the American-led war effort in Afghanistan. Another $3.6 billion funded economic and diplomatic initiatives. "But US officials and journalists' accounts have raised concerns that such funds are not being used as intended, and not just because of the typical concerns about corruption," a Newsweek investigative account said last year. "Will any amount of money produce results?," it posed, noting: "A big part of that answer lies in determining how much bang the United States has gotten for its buck so far — whether or not some of the money was siphoned off along the way to fund Army generals' new houses or Taliban elements."

That may have been about one kind of misuse, but the other misuse by diverting the money for beefing up Pakistan's military might against India has been confirmed by the Pentagon itself. Documents revealed last year how Pakistan had brazenly used billions of dollars meant to fight the war on terror for buying an array of conventional weaponry to develop its offensive capability against India. 

Reports spoke of how Islamabad bought eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and their refurbishment worth $474 million and placed orders for 5,250 TOW anti-armour missiles worth $186 million. Pakistan also used a large portion of funds provided under FMF (Foreign Military Financing) to purchase up to 60 mid-life update kits for F-16 A/B combat aircraft valued at $891 million. Of this, it paid $477 million from the FMF funds given by the United States. 

Such were the revelations about the extent of misuse that former President Pervez Musharraf had to publicly admit that diversions of US military aid did take place during his tenure. A defiant Musharraf went on to say in an interview: "Wherever there is a threat to Pakistan, we will use it (equipment provided by the US) there. If the threat comes from al-Qaeda or Taliban, it will be used there. If the threat comes from India, we will most surely use it there….What we did, we did right. We have to ensure Pakistan's security. From whichever side the threat comes, we will use the entire force there."

Despite this track record, US officials are once again peddling the line that no diversion or misuse would be allowed this time round. The new package would address Pakistan's insistence that it does not have the capability to go after terrorists. To be sure, the Pakistanis can now purchase helicopters, weapon systems and equipment to intercept communications. The package will fall under the US's Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme that allows grants and loans for purchasing weapons and defence equipment produced in the US.

Pakistan is already in the process of acquiring a fleet of 18 F-16 Falcon fighters, the first three of which were delivered in June. At that time, Lockheed Martin indicated the rest of the 15 fighter jets will be delivered by December. The sale of F-16s to Pakistan was halted in the 1990s by Bush Sr in the wake of the Pressler Amendment and greater American scrutiny of Pakistan's nuclear development after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. But Bush Jr. decided to reward Islamabad for its cooperation in his war on terror. In 2004, he designated Pakistan a "Major Non-NATO Ally." Two years later, the contract was signed for revival of F-16 sales. A number of pro-India lawmakers sought to put a spoke in the wheel, but the deal went through.

Now as the Obama administration pushes for the new military aid package, which would still require Congressional nod, the question uppermost in the minds of many doubting Thomases is whether Islamabad will go after the likes of Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban group that has enjoyed Pakistani patronage. 

Zalmay Khalilzad, former US envoy to Afghanistan, Iraq and then the United Nations, argues that it is time to get tough on Pakistan. As all the in the past have only contributed to incremental shifts in Pakistan's policy, he makes the case for issuing Islamabad a stark choice between positive incentives and negative consequences. As he puts it, "The United States should demand that Pakistan shut down all sanctuaries and military support programmes for insurgents or else we will carry out operations against those insurgent havens, with or without Pakistani consent."

-- The writer is The Pioneer's Washington Correspondent 







In Afghanistan meanwhile, it is an intricate situation. There is a war in progress for almost a decade post 9/11, but victory is not in sight for anybody. Now, probably as a last option, the US and NATO leadership and President Hamid Karzai's government have decided to talk to the enemy. Will this process of conflict resolution succeed? Will putting the gun down and engaging Taliban actually help to bring peace in the region? 

As per reports, NATO had already started facilitating safe passage for the Taliban leadership to Kabul for talks with the government. The paradox in this decade-old "Operation Enduring Freedom" is too appalling. The presence of western forces in the South Asian Theater is under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror. The best bet for the United States in this theater in their war against terror is their old friend Pakistan. Interestingly, the Taliban leadership with which the negotiations are to be held would travel to Afghanistan for the talks from their safe havens in Pakistan. 

Normally, in any conflict negotiation exercise, the parties involved ponder on various options. The LTTE usually got into the "talks mode" when they were in a tight corner. They used "talks" as a ploy to slow down the intensity of military action against them and used the lull offered by "peace" to regroup. However, in the case of the Pashtuns, the situation is a bit different. History demonstrates that they negotiate from a position of strength. Today, both the warring sides are making theoretical statements about their achievements in this war but actually the situation on ground appears a bit hazy. In different regions, different parties have the upper hand. 

The Taliban is not a single cohesive unit. The militant organisation identified with the name "Quetta Shura" is believed as one of the main stakeholders in this conflict and is based at Baluchistan in Pakistan. Then there is Haqqani network which has significant support from Pakistan and another strong warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. It is also important to note that a few regional and local commanders are running their own shows and their interests are more monetary in nature. President Hamid Karzai's government would have to do a trapeze act to collectively address the demands of all these sections. 

Conflict resolution is also highly sensitive to culture and he just cannot push any agenda decided by the US and NATO. There is also a possibility that these big fishes may first wait for the Taliban warlords who have localised influence to start the process of negotiations as a water test. 

There is news that the western forces are faring better in the operations in recent days. It appears that the policy of using Drones and special operations raids is working out well. The Taliban have lost a few of their key commanders; and their networks a have also be been dismantled. A few days back the critical phase of the offensive to clean up Kandahar has began. However, there is much more to achieve. As per the Pentagon's recent report, the overall level of violence in the region has risen to 87 per cent between February 2009 and March 2010. The Karzai government controls only 29 out of 121 strategic districts. 

While negotiating it is important for the parties not to get bogged down with maximalist positions. It is likely that the policy of talking only to moderates may not succeed. It is important to separate the Taliban into two groups based on what is at stake for them — more than calling them as good and bad Taliban. There is a need to separate the warlord group and the pro-al-Qaeda Mullah Omar group. Pakistan has to be accommodated somehow. For all these years it is one party which has been helpful and unhelpful at the same time. Their interests are to protect their strategic interests in the region, particularly after the departure of the US forces. 

The Obama administration should understand that leaving the region as per the earlier plan by July 2011 doesn't seems to be viable. They should not hurry up just to save the face. It is difficult for the peace to return to Afghanistan immediately. Taliban is not one cohesive unit with which the negotiations could be carried out. There are different groups and subgroups having varied interests from drugs to Shiites interests to aspirations of people from the Northern Alliance-controlled areas to groups under the al-Qaeda philosophy. 

India may not have any direct role in this process of negotiations but it is important for New Delhi to make sure that its interests are intact. For this there is a need to enter into backchannel diplomacy with Karzai and the US. Only time would tell whether negotiating with the Taliban would be the game changer in Afghanistan.

-- The writer is Research Fellow, IDSA 








Timing is everything. You knew that. A study now suggests you can use that. On condition you ride mood swings, the biorhythmically regulated emotional highs and lows we go through everyday. So, all ye married men, avoid a fight with the missus at 3 p.m. That's when your better half becomes the smarter half, pulverising you in any argument. Which means hubbies out to shirk housework or to stag-party had better not rebel mid-afternoon. Else, with due apologies to singer Gloria Estefan, the wife's biorhythm is gonna get you. 

As for all ye gals out there, wait till evening for your partners to grant your wishes. Want your guy to potty-train your mean mastiff or fund your overpriced tattoo? Hit a sixer after 6 p.m., when he-men become more manipulable. Clearly, the virtue of timing is no clock-and-bull story. Why, this study even tells you when to ask for a promotion. Accost the boss around 1 p.m. to drop the (time) bomb. An explosive 'finding', that. 

There's hope yet for our mahurat-obsessed netas and their political marriages of inconvenience. The UPA will now see that dogged day afternoon is the wrong time to fight Mamatadi over issues like the Maoists or land acquisition reform. The lady too can aim for six o'clock haggles when placing petulant demands in Dilli's haat. If the Centre ever backs her outlandish wish for, say, president's rule in "lawless" Bengal, it'll be during happy hour. 

Now, political timing isn't only about showering pre-poll sops like free colour TVs, or mobikes for schoolkids. It's also about poll dates and allies. So, the NDA must ask if it messed up by calling for early elections in 2004, heeding Andhra's " 
CEO" Chandrababu Naidu instead of the precision planners of the fortune-telling community. Also, was pre-poll courtship of Jayalalithaa inauspicious, making betrayed DMK-wallahs file for divorce? After all, electoral disaster did strike in Tamil Nadu after the NDA said amma chumma de de. 

Maybe politicos should rise above waqt-related fiascos and focus on time's philosophical import. Yes, timing is money. But, in any time-versus-money contest, scientists say thoughts about the former cheer people. In surveys, those focussing on moolah think of joyless work; those pondering time think of socialising! Also, consumers respond better when asked to spend time rather than money trying out a product. For rajneeti's practitioners, the applications are obvious. First, don't count political 'hot money' (read: seat numbers). Rather, contemplate time. Namely, will alliances born of political socialising last? Second, tell voters to spend time assessing the value of electoral wares. Don't just demand votes on face or farce value. Finally, with power, time's of the essence. Are poll-eve promises being delivered on schedule? 

No wonder whenever the next election comes around, politicos fear the electorate's loyalty swings. Once voters get the moody blues, it's bad timing to ask for pardon, probation or promotion. Their bye bye-o-rhythm is gonna get you.







Even without being alarmist, one can't help being seriously concerned about world affairs today. Despite widespread awareness about the impending climate change crisis that threatens our very existence, Copenhagen was a failure. Estimates on how close we are to Earth's tipping point may vary. But the games being played by the rich and powerful the cause of the problem to attempt to curtail development space for the vast majority of humanity are nauseating. Unless greed makes way for trusteeship, and the principle is universally adopted of equitable share of Earth's resources for all on the basis of equal per capita access, a permanent solution will continue to elude us. 

On the energy front, global electricity production would have to be double of what it is today if 85 per cent of the world's population living in non- OECD countries are to be able to access the average 5,000 kWh per capita necessary for a reasonable standard of living, as against the present average of a mere 1,500 kWh per capita (only around 650 kWh in India). This is a reasonable aspiration, considering the OECD average is around 9,000 kWh per capita. Achieving this while at the same time reducing carbon dioxide emission, an urgent necessity, is possible only through recourse to aggressive nuclear energy deployment. 

I say this because nuclear energy is the only commercially viable technology presently available that can cope with the magnitude of the additional electricity requirement in a non-carbon emission mode. All other options would mean either delaying the development of the developing and underdeveloped world or allowing carbon dioxide levels to build up and still hope catastrophe would not occur even though all scientific predictions say otherwise. Unfortunately, in spite of nuclear energy being safe, economical and eco-friendly, there are impediments, raised in a discriminatory manner, that disallow a rational approach to getting over the crisis. 

This is primarily the result of a mindset that seeks to achieve permanent hegemony in contrast to meeting rational security needs. This unsustainable position has brought us to the present stage of a global crisis in terms of security as well as climate change issues. There is an urgent need for a way out. We need a solution that delinks energy and the security dimension of specifically nuclear energy so that all countries can have hassle-free and reliable access to the latter without significant concerns on the security front. 

Several developments have taken place with such an objective in mind. Naturally most such initiatives are evolutions of uranium-based reactors and fuel cycles about which there is significant experience already. Even so, it is likely to be some decades before they are available for commercial deployment. Whether this would be timely or too late from a global perspective is the moot question. I believe the latter to be true. 

Today, we have reached a point where there is much greater consensus on reprocessing and recycle of fissionable materials produced in nuclear reactors simultaneously with production of electricity. Most new developments in nuclear energy anyway incorporate recycle strategies to address both the issue of sustainability and the yet-unresolved issue of permanent disposal of used nuclear fuel that contains uranium and plutonium. These materials are required to be legally safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency as long as they exist. 

Besides, such permanent disposal would lead to creation of plutonium mines once a significant part of radioactivity has decayed. In the absence of sustained security control over a period much longer than the institutional lifespan, this is a potentially serious security issue for future generations. The present generation has no moral right to jeopardise the security of the future generations. 

With recycle becoming inevitable, thorium which also gets converted to fissile uranium in a nuclear reactor becomes an option. Thorium fuel cycle offers far greater inherent resistance to diversion of nuclear materials for weapons purposes. With today's understanding and experience on nuclear fuel technology, one can even use thorium along with low enriched uranium in a 'once-through mode' (as is the case with many power reactors in the world) with comparable utilisation efficiency for mined uranium. This can be done even in existing nuclear reactors. 

Thorium thus offers a way to free the energy dimension of nuclear energy from proliferation concerns while at the same time enlarging the energy resource base. More important, this can be implemented quickly, using an existing fleet of reactors instead of waiting some decades to deploy yet-to-be-developed new reactor systems and associated fuel cycle plants. In 
India, we also have developed a well-tailored thorium-based advanced heavy water reactor, an innovative but simple configuration designed around currently available technologies that can meet next-generation objectives. 

To minimise the development deficit quickly, it is important to rapidly expand deployment of nuclear power and use of viable technologies that offer sufficient security confidence for that purpose wherever necessary. This would perhaps be a good confidence-building measure, creating the right atmosphere for a broader consensus on global issues like climate change and security before it is too late. The logic of the market, security, environment and, most important, development at the global level would need to converge for this to happen.




                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




As inventors and futurists go, they don't get much more reputable than Raymond Kurzweil. So when the man who holds 17 honorary doctorates and has been called the heir to Thomas Edison says that backing up an individual's entire brain and memories through nanobot computer machines in our blood could be feasible within the next two decades, he ought to taken seriously. And if he is indeed correct, it would be a tremendous boon to science and medicine. 

Imagine the life-changing medical benefits. Alzheimer's, for instance, affected over 26 million people worldwide in 2006 and is expected to affect as many as 1 in 85 people by 2050. This disease, thought to be caused by plaques and tangles in the brain, is currently irreversible, degenerative and terminal. 

The potential benefits of being able to have a full back-up of the patient's healthy brain would be immense in treating symptoms such as memory loss and language breakdown, as well as ultimately arresting the disease itself. And this is just one example; there would be any number of other medical applications of such technology. Diseases such as multiple sclerosis, accidents that cause neural damage, and the like would become easier to deal with. The benefits in fields such as psychology and psychotherapy are obvious as well. 

Not only does sharper memory lead to better cognitive functioning, there's an even more fundamental issue at stake. Memory is what holds together the self, to lose memory is to suffer a disintegration of the self. If loss of memory can be arrested, then ageing will be seen as less of a curse than it is now. That would enable us to lead not only healthier but also fuller lives as we grow old. And that can only be a good thing.








Technology has changed our lives in countless ways. It has enabled us to land on the moon, instantaneously communicate with people halfway across the world and explore the building blocks of the material world. However, even though life without technology is unimaginable, there are certain red lines that must not be crossed. A futuristic technology that will enable people to back up their thoughts and memories is one such avoidable invention. Not only does it raise serious ethical issues but security concerns as well. 

With the rapid progress of technology, people have become heavily dependent on machines. This in turn has significantly shrunk the sphere of human activity. Developing nanobots that will be able to record our memories and emotions is tantamount to blurring the line between the human and the mechanical. Depending on the quality of our experiences, certain memories are naturally retained while others degenerate. This is what shapes us as individuals. Intervening in this fundamental human process would turn us into robots. The human mind is the most private of sanctuaries, which should be immune to invasion by artificial processes. Storing someone's thoughts and memory is the severest form of invasion of privacy. From storing them it's only one step to someone else reading them, which opens up the possibility of mind control. 

A system that allows us to peek into people's minds can easily be reverse-engineered to implant thoughts. Declassified documents from the Cold War era reveal that various covert projects, such as the CIA's MKULTRA, were carried out to brainwash unsuspecting individuals. The scope of such human rights violations is bound to increase with the adoption of a memory back-up technology. Considering the side effects, it would be best to shelve research pertaining to such an invasive technology and adhere to the principle of precaution.







Three theories about how the world would evolve after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the implosion of the Soviet empire two years later provoked much debate and controversy well beyond the confines of academia. One, credited to Francis Fukuyama, an American scholar, claimed that with the demise of communism, history itself had come to an end. Non-western nations had no alternative but to emulate the West's system of democratic governance and its commitment to human rights, to aspire to achieve its level of technology, adopt its market-driven economy and succumb to the irresistible lure of its mass culture. 

In sharp contrast to this bubbly optimism about the future, another American academic, Samuel P Huntington, decreed that the end of the Cold War would inexorably lead to a "clash of civilisations" rooted in ethnic, racial and, above all, religious identities. The most explosive fault-line in the emerging international order would pit Islam against other faiths. The 9/11 terror attacks in the US, and the subsequent attacks in other countries, seemed to vindicate Huntington's nightmarish scenario. 

Along came Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, who argued, in substance, that globalisation had made the world flat. Market forces, propelled by smart technologies, would obliterate national borders, diminish the power of governments and help tame the demons of xenophobia. The demand for individual prosperity would outstrip every other demand. By and by, access to goods and services would matter more than religious fervour, nationalist passions and ideological conceits. 

Developments haven't quite turned out that way. Far from coming to an end, history has accelerated in ways that have given a new lease of life to authoritarian political forces, protectionist trade policies and state intervention to rescue ailing economies. (Ironically enough, much of this has happened in the West.) Moreover, more clashes have taken place within "civilisations" than between them. Witness the bloodletting among the Muslims of IraqAfghanistan and Pakistan. Finally, markets and technologies have doubtless undergone a process of integration. But the backlash against globalisation has, if anything, been swift and brutal. The world has by no means become flat. 

These three post-Cold War theories have thus proved to be misleading and, in some instances, outright dangerous. Now, after picking holes in them, Dominique Moisi, a French Harvard-trained expert on international relations, has advanced an innovative approach to understand the twists and turns of global politics. Analysts, he argues, have hitherto regarded international relations as a game of chess. They assume that states and governments act rationally to protect and promote their interests. This was so even after ideology replaced pure nationalist passion following the Russian revolution in 1917 right until the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Now, however, Moisi asserts, ideology, in turn, has yielded place to "quests for identity by peoples uncertain of who they are, their place in the world, and their prospects for a meaningful future". 

The emotion that dominates and divides the West, according to Moisi, is fear: the fear of coping with non-western citizens in their midst and the fear of losing ground to the rising powers of Asia, notably China and India. A culture of humiliation and hatred engulfs Muslims as a whole and Arabs on account of the growing Islamophobia in the West and their own inability to cope with the forces of globalisation. And then, says Moisi, there is Asia where a culture of hope in a better future has overtaken the despair caused by memories of colonial rule and decades of underdevelopment. ( AfricaLatin America and Russia don't fit squarely in any of these categories.) 

Like the other three theories, this one, too, suffers from the fallacy of reductionism. For, in most societies, fear, humiliation and hope jostle to gain the upper hand. Moisi is aware of these constraints. But his overall thesis deserves praise for drawing attention to the fact that in today's world, where the media both reflect and magnify events, perceptions matter more than facts, and emotions rooted in faith, culture, religion and ethnicity, count for more than reason to determine the conduct of nations and peoples. Understanding geopolitics is now more difficult, and more interesting, than the post-Cold War theorists from the US led us to believe.







This may be a bitter pill to swallow but on every front, our public health sector seems to be ailing a little more with every passing day. According to a Lancet report, the death toll from malaria which stands at 2 lakh annually is actually 13 times more than World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates. Of these, 90 per cent deaths were in rural areas, most of which were cases that did not receive medical attention. Then comes news that the health ministry under the former minister, the redoubtable Anbumani Ramadoss, had actually shut down three major vaccine units, pushing the prices of these lifesavers up dramatically. The shambolic state of the public health centres is now too well known to bear reiteration.


If Mr Ramadoss was hyperactive, not always for the right reasons, the current minister, the amiable Ghulam Nabi Azad, is the opposite. He is rarely seen or heard on matters relating to his ministry. The Planning Commission is on record expressing its dismay at the state of public healthcare in India that is grossly under-budgeted, understaffed and lacks the basic minimum facilities for treatment. Then there is the question of access for people who live in rural areas, if at all a functioning health facility exists there. Mr Azad has admitted that rural households often spend up to 80 per cent of their earnings on healthcare. It is little comfort that private players have entered this sector as their prohibitive costs put them out of reach for the majority.


The health budget has remained stuck at a little over one per cent of the GDP for years now, despite chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases showing a sharp increase. Within our poor health parameters, women's health is the poorest given that most of them neither seek nor receive healthcare in time. For the government to expect that qualified doctors and ancillary staff will go to rural areas to work is a pipedream. Even if they were so inclined, it must be asked what infrastructure and therapeutic drugs would be available to them. At a time when we talk of our demographic advantage, it is passing strange that the health of young people is not a priority. The demographic dividend can only be reaped by a healthy, productive population. If the health ministry has a blueprint, we'd like to hear about it. If not, it is perhaps time to seek a second opinion on the treatment that the sector has been getting.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





As time shrinks, dates multi-task. October 2 is not just the Mahatma's birthday but also Lal Bahadur Shastri's. It is the date on which K. Kamaraj died, suddenly, in 1975. October 31 used to be known as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's birthday. It is now also observed with a pang of pain as the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated.


This coming 31st will mark the 135th anniversary of the Sardar's birth while 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of his death.


Not many are around now who remember having seen Patel. Those that do, like Karan Singh, have to be in their late seventies.


Never one to let centenaries slip past, our country permitted the Sardar's, in 1975, to go virtually unnoticed. Intellectual inertia continues to draw a veil of amnesia over the man. Cronyism seeks to edge him out of the arc-lights of gratitude.


In 1947-1950, self-appointed partisans saw the Nehru-Patel duumvirate in terms of a duel. They positioned themselves, cheer-ready, jeer-ready, behind their chosen leaders. Politicians, bureaucrats, diplomats, businessmen, intellectuals were classed in terms of their loyalties to either of them.


C. Rajagopalachari, Abul Kalam Azad, G.B. Pant, K.P.S. Menon, K.M. Panikkar, J.R.D. Tata, P.C. Mahalanobis were seen as 'close to Nehru', while Rajendra Prasad, Purushottamdas Tandon, C.B. Gupta, S.K. Patil, N.V. Gadgil, V.P. Menon, H.M. Patel and G.D. Birla were termed 'Patelite'.


Today, though the two greats belong to history, their magnetic mantles remain in the public arena. One can still hear 'socialist-rightist', 'secular-sectarian', 'modern-traditionalist', 'international-insular' dialectics being employed to settle political scores. These typifications, erroneous as they are, distort current debates, many of which are important to our collective future. If the amnesia about Patel in Left and Centrist discourse is deplorable, the co-opting of Patel in right-wing Hindutva narratives is appalling.


Patel's statesmanship spanned at least four decades, but his 'firm administration' was a four-year affair. And yet, more was done in that narrow slip of time, cartographically and psychologically, than in any four years thereafter.


Let us take the last year of Patel's life, 1950. He holds two portfolios: home and information and broadcasting, the affairs of the princely states more or less finished with the integration of 554 principalities. He is also deputy prime minister.


In his political differences with Nehru, the Sardar has prevailed. His candidate for the Congress presidentship, Purushottamdas Tandon has defeated Nehru's preferred candidate, Acharya Kripalani.


And it is the person he has backed for the office of first President of India, Rajendra Prasad, who has ascended to it. Rajagopalachari , whom Nehru wanted, has withdrawn from the proceedings to Madras.


Politically, the integrator of India is a national hero. Administratively, he is the beloved of the services. They like him for his decisiveness, his readiness to delegate, being spare with words and being a good listener. Mountbatten's press secretary Alan Campbell Johnson quotes the secretary in the information department, G.S. Bozman, saying of the Sardar: "He (is) essentially a practical man with whom business can be done, but if he is left out he is in a position to invoke a veto just as crippling as anything known at UNO."


Personally, he is respected for a single-mindedness of purpose. Consequently, he can take the prospect of imprisonment, of being side-lined and of dying with total unconcern. The deputy prime minister's going down with an aircraft whose engines had failed without a trace of tension or even relief at being unharmed, has become the stuff of legend.


Whether entering Parliament, ascending a podium, arriving at an airport or railway station, he exudes and inspires the confidence of a man of whom one might say 'The nation is safe in his keeping'.


The home minister has brought into operation a preventive detention law in the wake of nearly 2,000

communists released across the country under orders of various high courts. Patel has told Parliament what we

can imagine our home minister saying today in the context of Naxalism: "Our fight is not with Communism or with those who believe in the theory of Communism… The criminal liberties of a few have to be curtailed to preserve the civil liberties of many."


If the prime minister (PM) has a rare sense of history, the deputy PM has a sharp sense of geography. After China's action in Tibet unfolds in the late autumn of 1950, he writes to the PM: "For the first time after centuries, India's defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously…" He calls for, among other things, "… political and administrative steps… to strengthen our northern and north-eastern frontiers; measures of internal security in the border areas and with the frontier outposts; and (a strengthening of the) policing and intelligence of frontier posts…". The call sounds startlingly contemporary.


The two leaders have made no secret of their differing viewpoints. In letters to each other, both have offered to quit. Both have withdrawn their impulsive offers. Both have walked out of crucial cabinet meetings, only to meet up again and resolve the precipitating difference.


Nehru's earlier induction of Gopalaswami Ayyangar, a former dewan of Kashmir, into the cabinet as minister without portfolio to help the PM in Kashmir affairs is done without Patel's prior knowledge. It irks the home minister's sense of propriety. The irking irks the PM's sense of prerogative. Both offer to leave, both stay on. As does Ayyangar.


But there is a certain writing on the wall. The Sardar is getting on to 75. He has already been through a heart attack. At the Nashik session of the All India Congress Committee, Patel tells delegates from Gujarat to "do what Jawaharlal says".


On October 2, 1950, in Indore, laying the foundation stone for Kasturbagram, the deputy PM says: "Jawaharlal is our leader. Bapu appointed him as his successor and had even proclaimed him as such…It is the duty of all Bapu's soldiers to carry out his bequest."


November 14, 1950 is the PM's 61st birthday. Patel sends him a handwritten greeting. On November 23, the PM comes calling. Patel says, "I have a feeling that you are losing confidence in me." Nehru replies, "I have been losing confidence in myself".


On December 5, his daughter Maniben hears him repeating Nazir's line Zindagi ka yah tamasha chand roz… A few days later, doctors tell him he should shift to Bombay where the cold is less severe. His loyal colleague in the cabinet, N.V. Gadgil comes to say goodbye. Taking Gadgil's hand into his own, Patel says, "Whatever your difference with Panditji, do not leave him."


Prasad, who would not have been President but for Patel, Nehru who may well have left the prime ministership but for Patel's offering to vacate office himself, Rajaji who was denied the presidentship  due to Patel's preference for Prasad but retained Patel's affectionate esteem, are all there,sobbing, as the Iron Man's pyre is lit on December 15, 1950.


Those who imagine Nehru and Patel as representing an eternal combat should correct their shallow misimpression. And those co-opting him into plenaries where he does not belong should remember what Bozman said. Sardar Patel is capable of inflicting a crippling veto. Who knows, when, where and through what agency that may be cast?


Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor. The views expressed by the author are personal


.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





I was in Santiniketan when a tidal wave of alms from corporate India crashed onto the shores of American academia. Ratan Tata's $50 million gift to Harvard Business School and Anand Mahindra's $10 million support to the university's Humanities Centre followed Narayana Murthy's $5 million to the Clay Sanskrit library and Nandan and Rohini Nilekani's $5 million to the Yale India Initiative. Imagine the outrage on the kebab and cocktails circuit: so much money, and all for the firangis?


I am not a knowledge nationalist. I believe that knowledge and the means to develop it should cross borders freely. But knowledge is an instrument for the accumulation of power and, to that extent, I am disturbed by one-way traffic at the highest level of education. But then, how people spend their money is their business and legitimate motives are visible here: international brand extension (Harvard will name a building for the Tatas), paying back the alma mater (Mahindra is a Harvard alumnus) and regard for Sanskrit heritage. The Nilekanis are an exception — they are closely associated with the Yale India Initiative and have simply invested in their own project.


But here in Santiniketan, amidst the slumbering memories of Rabindranath Tagore's daring experiment in education, even I can see an argument against the motion. There is much to be salvaged here, not only the Tagoreana with which the Visva Bharati campus is identified. Centres of former excellence need corporate generosity in this university town where modernism and atavism once joined hands to produce intellectual progress. For instance, there's the oldest centre for Sino-Indian studies, established in 1937, whose work has diplomatic importance in our difficult relations with China.


Or, let's not think of sprawling, expensive, derelict universities but rather of compact national institutions crippled by poor financing, graft, politicking or nepotism. And since the donors we are discussing are businessmen, let us discard elevated theories of knowledge in favour of the basic commercial principle of bang for buck.


Just over half of the R270-odd crore that went to Harvard alone from Indian corporate donors could have covered central funding to all the following institutions, picked out of a hat, for one year: The National Film Development Corporation, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Indian Council for Social Science Research, Indian Council for Historical Research, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Bharat Bhavan, Lalit Kala Akademi, Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi. Obviously, as corpus funds, the money would go much further. And if financing inefficient government institutions is a bore, it costs about R20 crore to create a brand new humanities research institution in India — the sum that went to the Clay Library and Yale. 


Something has gone fundamentally wrong with Indian philanthropy. In the 11th century, the peripatetic polymath Alberuni had commented on the culture of alms-giving in India and the opprobrium attached to accumulating wealth beyond reason. Financial uncertainty after the annexation of Awadh destroyed that culture, briefly revived in the phase of nation-building after Independence, and then lost again in modern, disillusioned times.

Yale has launched its India Initiative in acknowledgement of India's importance. On our part, can't we accelerate India's growth by reclaiming our ancient culture of giving to our own?

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine. The views expressed by the author are personal








Democracies do not discourage the questioning of any given, and there's no reason queries on whether electronic voting machines may be mani-pulated should not be answered by those in authority. Yet, recent instances of political parties flinging doubts on the reliability of EVMs have veered to churlishness and, more disturbingly, irresponsibility.


Soon after the 2009 general elections, senior BJP leaders created a din about the security of EVMs, and even recommended a return to ballot papers. Other parties, all less than pleased about the results, joined in the chorus. The situation became rather ludicrous when


an anti-EVM campaigner surfaced with a stolen machine in an attempt to prove that it could be tampered with, and was subsequently arrested. Election officials, to their credit, engaged with the criticism, and pointed out that the case has not been made against the machines, that they are standalone gadgets with a one-time programmable chip and that there's no operating system that can be hacked into.


Indeed, at that time, the Congress derided the campaign as the shenanigans of sore losers, and the accusation carried some weight. Grace in accepting election verdicts has been a much praised feature of our democracy — and all political parties have desisted from levelling baseless allegations. This is why it's so dangerous that the Congress is now clinging to the excuse that its dismal performance in local elections in Gujarat is on account of tampered EVMs. The party has submitted a memorandum to the state election commission, and its spokesperson has endorsed the move. This is a highly dangerous ploy by the party, as it takes the EVM alibi round the political table as a boilerplate response to an electoral loss. Were this to go unchallenged by the party bosses, the consequences for our democracy could be disastrous.







Even as the Supreme Court tried to define the contours of domestic partnerships and give unmarried women in long-term relationships some of the legal benefits of marriage, it found itself embroiled in a nasty spat about words and ends.


The judgment by Justice Markandey Katju and Justice T.S. Thakur sought to clarify the cases in which a woman was entitled to maintenance — when both partners were in an acknowledged consensual relationship for a significant length of time. One night stands and occasional weekends did not count, said the bench, and that "if a man has a 'keep' whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and or as a servant", it would not be akin to marriage. Assistant Solicitor General Indira Jaising strongly objected to the language of the judgment and demanded that words like "keep" be expunged from the Supreme Court ruling. "The expressions are very derogatory and reflect badly on women. Language should reflect our commitment to gender equality," she asserted. At which point Justice Katju told the upset Jaising to confine herself to the case itself, and Justice Thakur wondered whether the word "concubine" might have been preferable?


This is the laughable, tragic bind that women face. In essence, this judgment is a progressive moveto extend rights to relationships outside marriage. And yet, it's expressed in unwittingly sexist terms. A few months back, the Supreme Court observed that a woman's word should be sufficient in cases of rape and sexual assault, but again, worded it in the vocabulary of izzat and victimhood. Words are inseparable from intentions — they betray the patriarchal lens in which women are viewed as passive and acted-upon, rather than rights-bearing agents in reciprocal relationships. Those who deploy words like "keep" and "concubine" are likely to view these partnerships as asymmetric in a particular way and deprive these women of the rights and benefits they deserve. Either way, no matter how avuncular and well-meaning, certain terms should be off-limits, at least for institutions like the Supreme Court. And the searching seen in court this week for a more appropriate voca-bulary should be notice that, in progressive law-making and judgments, language itself is a measure of social change.







The biggest challenge in most large, ambitious government schemes is getting the mechanisms for implementation right. The government of India's flagship scheme to make India slum-free, the Rajiv Awas Yojana — expected to cost the Centre Rs 60,000 crore to Rs 70,000 core in the Twelfth Plan period —still needs to be vetted on that score. There are, of course, different ways to implement slum rehabilitation successfully. Which one will the government choose?


A new set of proposals by the Union housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry to guide the Rajiv Awas Yojana sheds some light on the government's thinking on mechanisms for implementation. As with other infrastructure projects, public-private partnership is the preferred mode. The burden of financing slum rehabilitation schemes will be split three ways among the Centre, the states and private developers. According to the proposals put forward, the Centre will bear the maximum burden of 50 per cent; the states will bear 10-15 per cent through their resources; and the balance


35-40 per cent will be borne by private sector developers. The proposed sharing of the financial burden will, of course, ensure accountability from each of the three parties involved.


The government proposes to give various incentives to private developers to attract interest. State governments will, for example, be required to provide higher Floor Space Index (FSI) to the developers. This will be a radical and welcome shift in policy whose impact could eventually be felt beyond just slum rehabilitation schemes — peculiarly, FSI in most Indian cities, including cramped Mumbai, is well below global standards, and simply leads to housing shortages and inflated real estate prices. In addition to more FSI, the government will also give developers the right to commercially exploit a part of their land, say by selling some flats to the general public in an open sale. The government will also try to ensure the creation of an appropriate market mechanism at the buyers' end. There will be no freebies — the beneficiary will have to pay Rs 70,000-80,000 for a house, the exact price depending on the city. For those in need of funds, an interest subsidy will be provided of 5 per cent on loans up to Rs 1 lakh. Needless to say, it will be a real challenge for the Centre and states to ensure that all this gets implemented on the ground.









On the day of the CWG badminton finals, I ran into Ashwini Nachappa, former track star who was once called, even if sometimes bitchily, the Flo-Jo of India. At least in style and spirit and in her neon track suits, she was truly the Indian track's answer to Florence Griffith-Joyner, even if her timings were mostly second best in the country — her competition, by the way, was P.T. Usha. In the serious, boring, meek, and generally inarticulate world of Indian athletics, she was a welcome change.


Ashwini, who spoke fluent English, could also handle the media, mostly on her little finger. Early morning during the Beijing Asian Games of 1990 she would appear in front of the media hotel, to give members of the Indian press contingent a start for their morning jog. She usually waved and melted away after a few minutes, but the journos huffed on, their ranks swelling as the news of Ashwini's inspirational presence spread. Ashwini was the Indian track's first glamorous star, bagging some endorsements and a Kannada film or two.


Seeing her after exactly two decades since Beijing, I pulled her leg about how she "taught" journalists the running habit, even though the joke was really on us. But I also reminded her of a brilliant, and truly immortal, line she had then spoken. "If Suresh Kalmadi," she said, "could tell the distance between two hurdles, I will stop running." Kalmadi then headed the athletic federation, which he now controls from outside through Lalit Bhanot, lately famous for his theory of differential hygiene standards among India and the West.


Since that is not the kind of line you would forget, I had repeated it to Suresh Kalmadi just a few months back on NDTV's Walk the Talk. So, Suresh, 20 years later, can you now tell Ashwini the distance between two hurdles? No, he said, totally unoffended. Can you tell me the approximate height of the high hurdles? No, he said, again entirely unruffled. He then explained with typical Kalmadi cool: I do not have to be an expert on every part of the game. I should know how to manage the game and its environment.


If you heard that today, your immediate response would be, so what else do you expect from a mere politician

and so typical of the politico-bureaucratic-corporate class of power-people who smash and grab every sport in India. But is that really true? Whenever we do badly in sports, a clamour rises that officials and politicians are destroying our sports and how wonderful it would be if sportsmen were in-charge, instead.


The best thing about sports is that performance is all about clear, established facts. Opinion, interpretation and prejudices come later. It is a straightforward case of rankings, scores, averages, records, and worldwide trends. And when you examine these coldly you find that the picture looks rather different.


All over the democratic world, sports are run by people other than sportsmen, and mostly by politicians and businessmen.


Bureaucrats in sports federations is every much an Indian contribution, because India is a rare democratic country with a permanent civil service.


The most important, and happy, fact about Indian sport,


or rather India's non-cricket, Olympic sports, is the steady rise in our strength in several disciplines, particularly in contact sports. In boxing and wrestling now there are at least ten Indians who would feature among top ten in the world besides, of course, three ranked world number one. Along with boxing and wrestling, shooting, archery and weight-lifting are other disciplines in which we are today world-class, holding a couple


of world records, and several Olympic medal prospects.


Besides these, we also have Olympic medal prospects in lawn tennis and badminton. Both games have produced world-class talent in every decade, but usually it was just one individual: one of the Krishnans, Vijay Amritraj, Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand. But both now have a new depth of talent. Who has been running these sports in India, and rather well, it seems?


It is a risky point to make in today's mood of media mob violence directed at the entire sports establishment, when the two great villains of our entire society seem to be Suresh Kalmadi and Lalit Modi. But, as we said earlier, sports is all about facts. All the sports I have listed above have seen India come into Olympic medal contention for the first time. And who has been running them? Hold your breath, because I am now going to read out a formidable list of usual suspects. Boxing is run, you might say fittingly since most champions come from Haryana, by


Abhay Singh Chautala. But his brother Ajay runs table tennis, another game in which we have been improving. Shooting, our main source of medals, was led by Digvijay Singh (of JD-U, Bihar) until he passed away last year. The wrestling federation has been headed for as long as you can remember by G.S. Mander, a retired IPS officer who held key postings in Delhi Police and the BSF. Assam's MP Biren Baishya is the president of the weightlifting federation, and who else but Yashwant Sinha has run the All India Tennis Association for 10 years now. V.K. Verma, often caught sparring with popular players like Prakash in the past and Jwala Gutta now, is an Air India executive and has run his association for 12 years. But the most interesting, and significant, is the case of archery. You can surely complain about the fact that Vijay Kumar Malhotra has pretty much "owned" that association for 37 years. But you should also be grateful to him for the fact that he has created interest, resources, identity and space for a sport that was not played, or watched, in India except during the Ram Lilas. Archery has also discovered such a wonderful breadth and depth of talent, a lot of it from some of our poorest, tribal areas. Remember Limba Ram, the first archer to become nationally known since Lord Ram and Arjun? And now Deepika Kumari, the daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver from Ranchi with the cutest dimples, the meanest eye and steadiest hand at the archery range, adouble gold-medalist at 16.


The short point here is, it needs the enterprise, networking, ambition, entrepreneurship, and certainly the thick skin and greed of a politician, a businessman or even a bureaucrat in the Indian context (I.S. Bindra built the Mohali cricket stadium while still serving in the IAS) to build, manage and then monetise a sport in India. It is also a global phenomenon. Of course, you might mention Sebastian Coe who heads the London Olympics organising committee. But he also acquired the "requisite" skills as a two-term MP. So question corruption, wrongdoing, incompetence, arrogance and so much filth that you can find in our sports, as in any other establishment, for sure. But it is lazy and silly to think that just former sportsmen, and maybe the government, can run sports better. If you need further evidence, look how brilliantly M.S. Gill's megalomaniac sports ministry is destroying Indian hockey, reducing our national game to our only nationalised game.








 MY favourite heard-on-news-TV CWG-CWG (respectively, Commonwealth Games and corrupt, weak governance) comments:


On NDTV's Left, Right &Centre, a panelist said the guilty will have to be demonstrably punished and only then will a signal go out to the world that "India is not a banana republic". Banana republic: a crazily politically unstable country that's ruled by unelected cliques. That's more or less the definition. And that's India? Parenthetically, let me observe that I agree with every other citizen of this country that (a) there's plenty of corruption in India (b) there was plenty in CWG and (c) it would be wonderful if the CWG corrupt were punished. But do collapsing footbridges legitimise collapsing logic? Perhaps they do, on banana TV.


The same show had Romesh Bhandari saying "the…aspect which comes up like a sore thumb with a big flag is corruption". True, metaphors are mixed in news TV talk in the fashion of a manic barman mixing cocktails. But this was special. This was like the roof collapsing on the English language. So, a big thumbs up to Bhandari. Or perhaps I should say, my appreciation of this aspect of his vocabulary is coming up like a big thumb with a big flag.


On CNN-IBN's 9 pm primetime news broadcast, the anchor asked Jaipal Reddy whether the minister was at all concerned that the country was watching dirty linen being spilt in public. What is happening to this country, this banana republic of ours, where thumbs are coming up with flags attached to them and where dirty linen is being spilt in public? In proper countries, dirty linen is washed in public, you know. Also, I think Bhandari has serious competition in the exhilarating sport of mixing metaphors.


On Headlines Today, the anchor interviewing Suresh Kalmadi started by saying he's in hot pursuit of Kalmadi. This took enormous confidence to say because Kalmadi was sitting right in front of the anchor. Kalmadi, the anchor said, was being literally hounded. I took this to mean big, hunting dogs were chasing Kalmadi. Gosh! But don't blame the dogs. Blame the culture of this banana republic. Kalmadi walked out of that interview (bad form, sure, but consider also that the man's being chased by hounds). The anchor said, o-ho Mr Kalmadi, allow me to finish. I found the o-ho wholly endearing. And I thought now the anchor will be in hot pursuit. But, sadly, no such thing happened.


I now turn to non-CWG-CWG news TV (hopefully, there will be more special CWG-CWG TV moments for me to share with you in subsequent editions of this column). CNN-IBN's Face the Nation examined live-in relationships. In the pre-chat news wrap part of the show, the voice-over referred to a couple who "dared to live in and love". Ah! But that isn't half of it as far as live-in relationships are concerned. For, the same bit of the show had an advocate explaining that live-in relationships are those in which two single persons sleep together in the same house for a considerable length of time. My first thought was if you are sleeping with someone, both of you have to be in the same house, no? I mean, even if your thumbs have flags, you can't manage otherwise. But, seriously, you see the implication? If you are living in with someone but change houses, you are not living in.


Will two people who have dared to live in and love have this conversation? Man: Are you breaking up with me? Woman: No, don't be silly, we are just moving to a nicer apartment. Man: That's what I meant, are you breaking up with me? You know you can't fool me. I heard this on TV.


Or this conversation. Woman: I know I am not your wedded wife. Man: I am sorry I am confused, what's wedded wife? I mean, no one can be an unwedded wife. Woman: Why don't you watch TV carefully, huh? On Face the Nation, a panelist said there must be a distinction between wedded wives and live-in partners.


Man: Yes, yes I saw that show and I heard the anchor say at one point that a man who has had a 14-year relationship with a woman (who's not his wife) can just turn around and say this was a one-night stand. Listen, I agree, men can be horrible. But which man will describe a 14-year-old relationship as a one-night stand? Can you have a one-night stand that lasts 14 years? Woman: I think we are fighting because we are watching too much TV. Man: I agree. Woman: In any case, if couples can't sort things out there are laws in this country. This is not a banana republic. Man: Are you sure, because I heard on TV…









For most of television history, sitcoms have been about families. But over the past several years, things have shifted. Today's shows are often about groups of unrelated friends who have the time to lounge around apartments, coffee shops and workplaces exchanging witticisms about each other and the passing scene.


As Neal Gabler wrote in the Los Angeles Times this week, "Over the last 20 years, beginning with Seinfeld, and moving on through Friends, Sex and the City and more recently Desperate Housewives, Glee, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and at least a half-dozen other shows... television has become a kind of friendship machine dispensing groups of people in constant and intimate contact with one another."


These flock comedies serve an obvious dramatic function. In an age of quick cuts and interlacing, , it helps to have a multitude of characters on hand zooming in and out of scenes. But the change also reflects something deeper about the patterns of friendship in society. With people delaying marriage and childbearing into their 30s, young people now spend long periods of their lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship tribes. These friendship networks are emotionally complicated and deeply satisfying ; ripe ground for a comedy of manners.


Then, when these people do get married, friendship becomes the great challenge. So these flock comedies serve another purpose for the middle-aged. They appeal to people who want to watch fictional characters enjoying the long, uninterrupted bonding experiences that they no longer have time or energy for.


The shows also serve one final purpose. They help people negotiate the transition between dyadic friendships and networked friendships. Throughout history, the most famous friendships were one on one. Most essayistic celebrations of friendship have also been about the deep and total commitment that can exist between one person and another. In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis paints a wonderful picture of such an ideal: "It seems no wonder if our ancestors regarded Friendship as something that raised us almost above humanity. This love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels."


But today's friendships — those represented in the flock comedies and perhaps in real life — are less likely to be one on one. Instead, individual relationships tend to be deeply embedded in a complex web of group relationships.









Among the minor fiascos of the Obama administration's foreign policy, the rapid White House-to-wipe-out course of Middle Eastern diplomacy in recent weeks rates high.


No US president should invest his personal capital by inaugurating talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders when those talks are set to abort weeks later over an issue — Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank— that's long been sitting there like a big truck on the road. Yet that's what President Obama has just done, allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to snub a personal request that a 10-month moratorium on building in the West Bank be extended in the interests of negotiation.


The amateurish air of desperation attending this unseemly sequence has now given way to the outright desperation of American-Israeli horse-trading over what concessions, guarantees, blandishments, military hardware et al the US might offer Israel in exchange for a 60-day extension of said moratorium.


The only positive note is that it seems nobody wants the process to unravel terminally. Arab states have given the US until early November to barter; the Palestinians have pressed pause rather than stop; Israel is eyeing tactical advantage. If talks are to resume, and I expect they will, here are 10 key pointers:


1) The US, in seeking to draw Israel back to the table, needs to be very careful not to give itself the opposite problem by crossing Palestinian red lines. The promise of US support for a long-term Israeli security presence in the strategic Jordan Valley — one idea that's been aired — would do that. As one senior European official said, "You can be incredibly creative about security provided Palestinians don't wake up the day after they have a state and find they still have an occupation."


2) If the Palestinians overplay their hand by opting for unilateralism they will add another big mistake to a long chapter of strategic errors. Abandoning talks in favor of seeking recognition of independence from international bodies like the United Nations for a Palestinian state would take Palestine-in-waiting down a blind alley. Such recognition, if attainable, would not open roads, deliver water, create ports or airports, enhance security, remove Israeli troops or usher Palestinians from unsustainable victimhood to viable sovereignty. It's the "fix" that solves nothing.


3) Netanyahu's push for up-front Palestinian recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" is a non-starter. The Palestine Liberation Organisation has recognised Israel; it's not going to get into the state's nature. In reality the "Jewish state" opening gambit is an attempt to settle the Palestinian refugee issue ahead of discussion of other final-status questions like borders. That can't work. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has said a peace accord would settle all "historical demands" — code for refugees and enough for now.


4) Netanyahu stands at Israel's new political centre, which is to the right of where it was five years ago. An iron-clad Israeli narrative exists: We removed settlements from Gaza and look what we got — Hamas rockets! That's the prism through which withdrawal from the West Bank is viewed. The Palestinians must deal with it. Their thirst for sovereignty is matched only in intensity by Israel's insistence on security. Here lies the hinge of peace.


5) There are the facts on the ground and the political process. The former must buttress the latter. West Bank facts are very encouraging. Palestinians have gotten serious about their security forces and recognised that no state can exist without the rule of law — or with multiple militias. Israel needs to be much more proactive in expanding areas in which Palestinian security forces can operate, freeing movement and facilitating investment. That's how to buttress the Palestine it wants.


6) Authoritarian Arab states have tilted away from seeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a useful steam-releasing distraction toward concern that it feeds a destabilising Iranian-backed "resistance front." They will not make the first move but will support a peace that sees Israel return to its 1967 borders with agreed land swaps.


7) A fuse is burning. All the Palestinian efforts in the West Bank are geared to statehood within about a year. A similar objective has been set by Obama and endorsed by major international powers. If the immense headway made in Palestinian institution-building is seen to be vain, anger could again overflow into self-defeating violence.


8) If there is enough momentum by the second half of next year to suggest Palestinian statehood is a train leaving the station, a majority of Palestinians in Gaza will board it. Then peace becomes a political dilemma for Hamas. Palestinians can resolve their internal differences but not if Israeli shortsightedness strips moderates of leverage.


9) There will be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital. How "East Jerusalem" is defined


remains to be seen.


10) This is the last best chance for peace in the foreseeable future. It demands immense courage and some risk-taking on both sides. So it will almost certainly fail.










As the world prepares for the G-20 meetings in November, the prospect of a currency war is at centre stage. The two protagonists, the nice guys who brought you the Great Global Recession of 2008-9, are now squaring off for another battle royale. In one corner is David, the erstwhile poor country China, which through dint of hard work, frugality, savings and investment has uplifted itself from deep poverty. In the other corner is Goliath, grown fat by over-consumption and one who believes that China is playing unfair with exchange rates. This US stand naturally arouses latent anti-American sentiments around the world. Surely Goliath should be told where to get off. But is that so clear cut?

The question arises — at the G-20 meetings, whose side should India and/or other developing nations take? The answer, for once, is not David. This is not a battle between a fat over-consumer and a slim underdog saver. This is a battle for the rules of the game, and that often misused word, governance.


Is this only a US-China war, and one which India is best advised to stay out of? We have all forgotten about high tariffs and protectionism. And the world is well rid of that beggar-thy-neighbour disease. India took a long time, longer than most, to realise that by imposing tariffs, you may temporarily increase employment, but that it came with huge efficiency losses. Why not, instead of imposing tariffs, depreciate your currency. Now the imports become more expensive, exports cheaper, your production more efficient, an increase in your employment and a decrease in your neighbour's employment (as she buys your goods). A true cold-bloodedly efficient beggar-thy-neighbour policy. Contrast that with traditional protectionism which axes both your own feet and that of the neighbour.


When this policy is practiced to an extreme, it is no different than what our elders called mercantilism. The dictionary defines mercantilism as: "The theory and system of political economy prevailing in Europe after the decline of feudalism, based on national policies of accumulating bullion, establishing colonies and a merchant marine, and developing industry and mining to attain a favorable balance of trade". Bullion: China has the largest level of reserves in the world, today at more than 2.5 trillion dollars, and in 2007 China's reserves were more than 20 per cent of the world's total. In 2009, China's GDP was over 7 per cent of world GDP and its reserves are estimated to have been more than a third of the world's stock of reserves.


So we have the decline of feudalism/communism in China, and accumulation of bullion, far in excess of what the world has ever seen before. Establishing colonies and a merchant marine are a part of the old-fashioned way of practicing mercantilism; but old and new mercantilism requires "developing industry and mining to attain a favorable balance of trade". China's industry/GDP ratio is off the charts, and among the non-oil exporting countries it has the highest share (approximately 50 per cent) of industry in GDP, tied with Botswana (population: 1.8 million) and Swaziland (population: 1.2 million). China's population: more than a 1,000 times larger than these industrial powerhouses.


What is to be done? What can be done in this battle between an extra fat mercantilist and a fat debtor? One attempt at a reduction of global imbalances involves the appreciation of the Chinese currency. Whenever this approach is mentioned, and indeed as is suggested by the lining up of the allies in the inappropriately called US-China war (the numbers above do not involve the US but the whole world, the universe one is talking about in this globalised world), the argument is made that the fury is about China's surpluses and not the surpluses of countries like Germany and Japan. This objection is false, misleading and misguided on at least three counts. First, having surpluses is "normal"; some countries have a higher desire to save (cultural or otherwise) and hence these countries will have surpluses rather than deficits. Second, only when the surplus is greater than "normal" should the country be targeted as an offender. Third, there are differences between a big offender (8 to 10 per cent of GDP — China) and a small offender (1 to 4 per cent of GDP — Germany and Japan, and Japan less than Germany).


But the objections continue. It is alleged, and correctly, that if China were to appreciate its currency as desired by big bad Goliath (and most of the rest of the world) , that such a change is not going to solve all the world's problems. Quite true. Nor is China's exchange rate appreciation going to substantially reduce China's surplus (the Chinese like to save and save and save and accumulate andaccumulate and invest and invest and not consume and not consume — they are unlike the rest of us). This may also be true, albeit under certain very special conditions. The fact remains that one should not confuse necessary and sufficient conditions. No one knows how the world is going to end or what policies are sufficient to get world recovery, and world welfare, back to a normal growth path. But everybody knows that one policy that is absolutely necessary is that the Chinese yuan will have to substantially appreciate over the next few years. To object to that simple economic logic is to deny the reality that we all have red blood, and react similarly to economic incentives.


The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm








The idea of bringing in an anti-defection law in India had been brewing for so long before it was ultimately enacted in the first two months of 1985, soon after Rajiv Gandhi became the prime minister of the country with a massive mandate. All governments that followed did not have a majority of their own and any proposal for enactment of an anti-defection law through an amendment of the Constitution by those governments would presumably have met with the same fate the Women's Reservation Bill is currently facing. Thus, if there had been no Rajiv Gandhi and his government with an unparalleled massive majority, there would not have been any anti-defection law in the country.


The Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act 1985, otherwise known as the anti-defection law, is deeply rooted in history. Since 1967, proposals were being mooted in one form or the other to curb defections. Lok Sabha took formal notice of defections when P. Venkatasubbaiah, a private member, moved a resolution for constituting a committee to study and report on defections. The resolution was moved in the fourth Lok Sabha on August 11, 1967 and discussed on November 11, 1967 and December 8, 1967. The resolution was adopted by Lok Sabha with an amendment for verbal modification moved by Madhu Limaye.


Rajiv Gandhi, speaking in Rajya Sabha on the bill on January 31, 1985, devoted the law to the memory of the Mahatma: "Shri Chairman, sir, yesterday, the 30th January, we had all gone to Gandhiji's Samadhi to pay our respects and homage. On Gandhiji's Samadhi in very large letters are written what Gandhiji called seven social steps. The first step is against politics without principles and it was only appropriate that we took up this bill in the Lok Sabha on the same day."


The political history of the country, particularly in smaller states, bears testimony to the fact that the anti-defection law has brought more instability than stability. Consider the hindrance the anti-defection law had caused to government formation in Bihar thereby compelling another election within six months in 2005.


The biggest tragedy the anti-defection law had caused to the Indian political scenario was that it effectively halted the evolution of a two-party system and in its place brought about the coalition politics. The talk of Third Front strongly started gaining momentum during the eighth Lok Sabha. Instead of Indian polity graduating into a two-party system of the puritan version, it has, over the period of the past two decades, settled for a system of two coalition fronts through the transitory route of the Third Front. Though the slogan of Third Front refuses to die, it appears it will be difficult to resurrect any Third Front in view of the effective positioning of two coalition fronts based on two intensely polarised ideology and programmes, as distinctly identifiable choices before the electorate.


However, there were several loopholes in the act as defections numbering more than one-third of the party's

strength were considered to be legal. It also provided for the disqualification of individual members defecting from the party through which the member was elected. Even here, the law is open to considerable interpretation, and in some state legislatures the bias of the Speaker leads to confusion, often resulting in litigation.


The first challenge to the anti-defection law was made in the Punjab and Haryana high court in Parkash Singh Badal and others vs Union of India and others (AIR 1987 Punjab & Haryana 263). One of the grounds on which the law was challenged was that paragraph 2(b) of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution violated Article 105 of the Constitution, wherein the court held: "So far as the right of a member under Article 105 is concerned, it is not an absolute one and has been made subject to the provisions of the Constitution and the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament. The framers of the Constitution, therefore, never intended to confer any absolute right of freedom of speech on a member of the Parliament and the same can be regulated or curtailed by making any constitutional provision, such as the 52nd Amendment. The provisions of para 2(b) cannot, therefore, be termed as violative of the provisions of Article 105 of the Constitution. (Para 28)."


The Constitution (32nd Amendment) Bill 1973 and the Constitution (48th Amendment) Bill 1978 had provisions for decision-making by the president and governors of states in relation to questions on disqualification on ground of defection.


The Constitution (52nd Amendment) Bill 1985 suddenly introduced the provision that questions of disqualification on ground of defection shall be decided by chairmen and speakers of the legislative bodies. The intention was to have speedier adjudicative processes under the Tenth Schedule. This provision was a subject matter of serious debate in both Houses of Parliament when the bill was being passed.


The 91st Amendment to the Constitution was enacted in 2003 to tighten the anti-defection provisions of the Tenth Schedule, enacted earlier in 1985. This amendment makes it mandatory for all those switching political sides — whether singly or in groups — to resign their legislative membership. They now have to seek re-election if they defect and cannot continue in office by engineering a "split" of one-third of members, or in the guise of a "continuing split of a party". The amendment also bars legislators from holding, post-defection, any office of profit. This amendment has thus made defections virtually impossible and is an important step forward in cleansing politics. Irony of the situation today is that the events have nullified the real intent of the dream of Rajiv Gandhi.


There have been instances wherein after the declaration of election results, winning candidates have resigned from their membership of the House as well as the party from which they got elected. Immediately, they have joined the political party which has formed the government and have again contested from that political party, which appears to be a fraud and goes against the spirit of the democracy and 52nd constitutional amendment. The ingenious human brain invented innovative ideas to obtain resignations and, in effect, made the anti-defection law a cover to hide their heinous crime. Hence, the constitutional pundits need to revisit the issue to combat the menace of corruption and defection which has eroded the values of democracy.


The question whether the presiding officer should or should not decide disqualification has become a matter of debate as appreciating the fact that several chairman and speakers would not be able to extricate themselves from petty political considerations which may colour their exercises under the Tenth Schedule.


The Administrative Reforms Commission, headed by me, in its fifth report ("Ethics in Governance") has recommended: "The issue of disqualification of members on grounds of defection should be decided by the president/governor on the advice of the Election Commission."


The Election Commission has also endorsed this view. Such an amendment to the law seems to be unfortunately necessary in the light of the long delays seen in some recent cases of obvious defection and subversion of the core principle of the philosophy of the anti-defection law.


The writer is Union law minister










After waiting for more than a year to show results, it is fairly obvious the ministry of road transport and highways was not Kamal Nath's preferred choice for a Cabinet berth. The pace of building roads, the primary responsibility of the ministry, has slackened so much, it is fairly justifiable to assume that the minister is not really into it. Sometime ago, he had blamed the Planning Commission for apparently raising objections to the contracts the ministry wanted to sign with road developers. A war of words, ensued. At a meeting with the Express Group early this year, the minister said the pace will improve sharply in the second half of the year, as contracts get awarded and construction begins. But, despite a fairly long period since then, the statistics are still weak. It will be facile to compare the current pace with the last year of the UPA-1 government. That was a particularly unedifying period, with the DMK minister TR Baalu busy with lots of issues, save the roads. In fact, the regular objections the ministry raises on procedural delays are somewhat wearing thin because, in the current decade, the largest set of relaxations on the terms for awarding contracts has been made by successive governments, mainly for the road sector to take off.


The pace of road construction is significant for just about any sector of the economy. As India grows, the efficiency of the road network will determine how fast we can move capital and labour around. A better road network means higher productivity, the key resource to increase GDP, given the same level of deployment of capital and labour. More so, the slack has also showed up in the credit offtake from the banking sector and the tepid demand for steel and cement. A large part of the sustained high velocity GDP growth rate in China for a number of years was attributable to road construction. The target of constructing 25 km of road per day is not a massive one. Given the shortfall in the quality of the roads we have, even at this pace India will develop only about 9,000 km of additional highways per year. Till the summer of 2013, that will add or refurbish just about half the national highway network spanning 66,754 km. The state highways will still remain untouched. Any slippage even from this modest target is just not acceptable.








The insurance regulator, Irda, has suddenly become active in putting its house in order. After coming out with new norms on Ulips last month, it has now banned the sale of universal life products (ULPs), which insurance companies have been selling aggressively for the past six months. The regulator has received several complaints from investors on the sale practices of the insurers, where agents' commission went up to as much as 70% of the total premium in the first year itself. Anecdotal evidence suggests that after the Sebi-Irda tussle on Ulips, agents were only selling ULPs and the ban will leave retail investors in a quandary. Currently, there are no separate regulations for ULPs and the insurance regulator has now asked life insurers to give their comments on the draft guidelines by the end of this month. After the guidelines are finalised, insurers can file such products for approval. But why did the regulator allow life insurance companies to come out with the product in the market when there was no regulatory framework in place? Currently, private insurers like Max New York Life Insurance, Reliance Life Insurance, Bharti Axa Life Insurance and Aviva Life are offering the product. The new guidelines suggest that minimum commission paid for the first year should not exceed 2% of the gross premium, and limits have also been specified for the second year and beyond. The policy will mention the surrender value, which will become payable after the lock-in period.


The universal life product is a mix of unit-linked insurance and traditional policies. It offers flexibility to an investor to change the premium amount, tenure and even the sum assured during the policy period. The timing of premium payments may be fixed or variable and is not related to the timing of the deduction of insurance and expense charges. The flexibility of the plan can also become a liability as it allows the policyholder to pay too little premium without realising the long-term impact on the policy. The investment process is the same as Ulips—where a major part is invested in equities. However, unlike Ulips, there is no unitisation of funds in ULPs, which means an investor has no clue to the fund value. The regulator will have to look into this aspect as well.








As the world prepares for the G20 meetings in November, the prospect of a currency war has taken centrestage. The two protagonists, the nice guys who brought you the Great Global Recession of 2008-09, are now squaring up for another battle royale. In one corner is David, the erstwhile poor country China, which by dint of hard work, frugality, savings and investment has uplifted itself from deep poverty. In the other corner is Goliath, grown fat by over-consumption and one who believes that China is playing unfair with exchange rates. This US stand naturally arouses latent anti-American sentiments around the world. Surely Golaith should be told where to get off. But is that so clear cut?


The question arises—at the G-20 meetings, whose side should India and/or other developing nations take? The answer, for once, is not David. This is not a battle between a fat over-consumer and a slim underdog saver. This is a battle for the rules of the game, and that often misused word, governance.


Is this only a US-China war, and one which India is best advised to stay out of? We have all forgotten about high tariffs and protectionism. And the world is well rid of that beggar-thy-neighbour disease. India took a long time, longer than most, to realise that by imposing tariffs, you may temporarily increase employment, but that it came with huge efficiency losses. Why not, instead of imposing tariffs, depreciate your currency. Now the imports become more expensive, exports cheaper, your production more efficient, an increase in your employment and a decrease in your neighbour's employment (as she buys your goods). A true cold-bloodedly efficient beggar-thy-neighbour policy. Contrast that with traditional protectionism, which axes both your own feet and those of the neighbour.


When this policy is practised to an extreme, it is no different from what our elders called mercantilism. The dictionary defines mercantilism as: "The theory and system of political economy prevailing in Europe after the decline of feudalism, based on national policies of accumulating bullion, establishing colonies and a merchant marine, and developing industry and mining to attain a favourable balance of trade." Bullion: China has the largest level of reserves in the world, today at more than $2.5 trillion, and in 2007 China's reserves were more than 20% of the world's total. In 2009, China's GDP was over 7% of world GDP and its reserves are estimated to have been more than a third of the world's stock of reserves.


So we have the decline of feudalism/communism in China, and accumulation of bullion, far in excess of what the world has ever seen before. Establishing colonies and a merchant marine are a part of the old-fashioned way of practising mercantilism; but old and new mercantilism requires "developing industry and mining to attain a favourable balance of trade". China's industry/GDP ratio is off the charts, and among the non-oil exporting countries it has the highest share (approximately 50%) of industry in GDP—tied with Botswana (population = 1.8 million) and Swaziland (population = 1.2 million). China's population—more than 1,000 times larger than these industrial powerhouses.


What is to be done? What can be done in this battle between an extra fat mercantilist and a fat debtor? One attempt at a reduction of global imbalances involves the appreciation of the Chinese currency. Whenever this approach is mentioned, and indeed as is suggested by the lining up of the allies in the inappropriately called US-China war (the numbers above do not involve the US but the whole world—the universe one is talking about in this globalised world), the argument is made that the fury is about China's surpluses and not the surpluses of countries like Germany and Japan. This objection is false, misleading and misguided on at least three counts. First, having surpluses is "normal"; some countries have a higher desire to save (cultural or otherwise) and hence these countries will have surpluses rather than deficits. Second, only when the surplus is greater than "normal" should the country be targeted as an offender. Third, there are differences between a big offender (8-10% of GDP—China) and a small offender (1-4% of GDP—Germany and Japan, and Japan less than Germany).


But the objections continue. It is alleged, and correctly, that if China were to appreciate its currency as desired by big bad Goliath (and most of the rest of the world), such a change is not going to solve all the world's problems. Quite true. Nor is China's exchange rate appreciation going to substantially reduce China's surplus (the Chinese like to save and save and save and accumulate and accumulate and invest and invest and not consume and not consume—they are unlike the rest of us). This may also be true, albeit under certain very special conditions. The fact remains that one should not confuse necessary and sufficient conditions. No one knows how the world is going to end or what policies are sufficient to get world recovery, and world welfare, back to a normal growth path. But everybody knows that one policy that is absolutely necessary is that the Chinese yuan will have to substantially appreciate over the next few years. To object to that simple economic logic is to deny the reality that we all have red blood, and react similarly to economic incentives.


—The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm









Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati is often a victim of bad press, much of which, to be fair, is due to her own difficult relationship with what she terms the "upper caste bias in the Indian media." Let's face it, she is not telegenic, byte-friendly or at all accessible to the press and people. She also makes most people uneasy in her presence and is not the cosy "aunt" that Sheila Dikshit is, nor articulate about her reforms à la Nitish Kumar.


In fact, the chief minister to whom she can be compared to the most is the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who after the riots in the state in 2002 has had an unmitigatedly bad relationship with the English press, yet has no problems communicating with his core constituency. Even a cursory look at what Mayawati has been up to in the last three years in Uttar Pradesh will also show that she has picked up more than her share of governance tips from Gujarat.


When she first rode to power in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati's rule was characterised by confrontations with upper caste groups and controversies related to collecting funds for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The bitterness of this conflict prevented her from gaining absolute majority and a lack of vision in governance stopped that from being taken seriously. All that changed in 2007. She had the numbers, and the support of a wide caste alliance spanning Brahmins and Dalits, the two ends of the caste spectrum.


Her time in political wilderness also convinced her, it seems, that although having significant caste groups behind her was good enough to win elections, brand Mayawati needed some big ticket development reforms to be considered a serious challenger in Delhi.


Like Modi, Mayawati has cut out her political hangers on from being at all influential in government.

Bureaucrats and policemen are moved around at the orders of the secretariat ruled over by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO). The dabbangi, or influence peddling of party workers and ministers seen in previous regimes in UP, is absent in today's Lucknow.


Things that matter to ordinary voters, like roads and power, are being concentrated upon. Like Modi in his first full term as chief minister, power reforms are huge in UP. Thousands of crores are being spent on these very visible symbols of development. Like Modi, allegations of crony capitalism are routinely laid at her door by the disgruntled Opposition. Ordinary people are just happy that even if money is being made, they do not end up paying out.


Much of the development debate in the country hinges on whether any political traction can be had from it. Caste ridden politics in India has often tilted the argument against development. In the last few years, however, as elections in Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have shown, development coupled with a reasonably clean government, or even a not so clean one, will get you leverage. The reordering of state finances in the last few years has meant that state governments now have a bit left over for developmental populism. Mayawati's Rs 4,000 Mukhyamantri Mahamaya Arthik Mamdad Yojana, a direct cash subsidy of Rs 300 to BPL families is a case in point.


Caste will even now get you elected, but as Lalu Prasad Yadav discovered, at some point it will not be enough to get re-elected. Mayawati, like Modi, seems to have realised this. Modi, after the polarisation of 2002, has been quiet on the communal question. Mayawati has left Raja Bhaiyya strictly alone in this term.


What the English press and People Like Us (PLU) fear from Mayawati is not a lack of vision, but that she seems to be going about her business without paying the least bit of attention to anyone. She is speaking the developmental language made fashionable by the English press, but addressing herself to a completely different audience.


Finally, just like Modi, however, her next set of elections will determine whether all this will propel her to the centrestage Delhi. She's done all that, but will it be enough?








That's our man there

The one industry group that rejoiced the appointment of R Chandrasekhar as the new DoT secretary was the Internet service providers. With a lot more issues competing for the DoT secretary's attention, and from service providers who are a lot more influential, this group felt particularly ignored by the DoT all these years. Since Chandrasekhar was the secretary of the IT department and met them often enough in that job, the Internet providers were convinced they'd get more attention from the DoT. However, much to their dismay, the secretary has met up with almost all other industry groups but the ISPs.


What's this SPV thing?


You'd think that of all the people, the taxman would know what an SPV is. Not quite, or at least that's what the CEO of a big construction firm was told when its office was raided. The taxmen suggested the presence of various SPVs formed by the company was some kind of jiggery pokery, and indicated they could be persuaded to look the other way.


Ride the metro


Talk to any transport 'expert' and chances are you'll be told of how the Delhi Metro is woefully short of the projections it made, by around 50% or so. What puzzles commuters is why, despite this, the Metro remains jampacked not only during the peak hours but also during off-peak hours. So what is it they're missing?








When he chose to shoot his spectacularly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy at home, Peter Jackson put New Zealand on the global film map in a really substantial way. At some point during the elaborate production, he was actually the country's biggest private employer. By the time Return of the King swept the Oscars in 2004, the following tagline had become quite familiar to millions across the world: "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie." New Zealand tourism got a real kick out of the enterprise. On the film front, it wasn't just Jackson who did King Kong post-production at a New Zealand lab, but others' productions such as Vertical Limit also moved to this emerging location. One, therefore, expected that when Jackson finally took the helm of the Hobbit (Bilbo Baggins) series, the New Zealanders would have fallen over themselves to welcome Tolkien and him back. But, in a weird echo of the self-indulgent happenings in France, a bunch of New Zealand actors hooked up with a bunch of Hollywood actors to put out a union call for boycotting the Jackson production. Even PM John Keys has admitted that the actors guild has undermined film producers confidence in New Zealand substantially.


Instead of succumbing, Jackson and his backers have threatened to move the production to UK studio—which has, incidentally, hosted the likes of Golden Eye and The Dark Knight. Union members are now making conciliatory sounds. These may be too little too late. Serve them right?










Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's latest proposals on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) might not quite meet the standards set by the Centre itself six months ago. At that time, a strong case was made out for a single tax rate over a wide base, with very few exemptions and a relatively low tax threshold. However, with a view to reaching a consensus with the States and bringing all of them on board, Mr. Mukherjee has adopted a pragmatic approach. The idea clearly is to embark on this important tax reform even if, in the first instance, it meant moving farther away from the ideal than earlier envisaged. The new proposals reflect the recommendations of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers in its first discussion paper last November. There will be a dual structure: a Central GST and a State GST. However, over a three-year period, the two separate rates will converge in stages into a single GST. The Finance Minister has now proposed three separate rates: 20 per cent for normal goods, 12 per cent for merit goods and 16 per cent for services. The Centre has rejected the States' plea to set a high exemption threshold of Rs.1.5 crore for goods, preferring to have a much lower and uniform exemption limit of Rs.10 lakh for both goods and services.


To assuage the States' concerns over loss of financial autonomy, it is proposed to leave out petro products and electricity from the ambit of the GST. That would provide the States autonomy to levy taxes on these high-yielding items. Besides, the Finance Minister has promised to compensate the States for possible revenue losses on account of the introduction of GST. Even after all the flexibility shown by the Centre on critical issues raised by the States, it is still not clear whether the deadline of April 1, 2011, for introducing this tax will be met. There is very little perceptible movement in respect of almost all the legal and administrative steps that need to be taken before the GST could be put in place. An up-to-date technology platform is a vital prerequisite. There have so far been few concerted attempts at educating the public on the new tax. There ought to be a greater sense of urgency than what has been in evidence so far in taking the necessary legal steps — for instance, getting the Constitution amended to enable the States to levy a service tax and the Centre to tax goods beyond the factory gate. The existing VAT laws and also some others like the Central Excise Act, 1944 and the Finance Act, 1994 have to be repealed or amended. In the circumstances, even the new time frame for the GST seems unrealistic.







The revised national policy that promised the small traders on the roadside and mobile vendors in urban areas better access to space and an end to their harassment by civic authorities appears to be moving all too slowly towards implementation. One year has passed since it was announced and only a handful of cities have taken follow-up action. Even its original version (2004) met with a lukewarm response. This apathy towards street vendors is in sharp contrast to the enthusiasm shown for the cause of the organised segment, which constitutes hardly five per cent of the retail trade. More than 10 million people across Indian cities earn their livelihood through street vending, which is easy to enter and needs very little capital. Despite its useful role, street vending is yet to be legally recognised, often branded by the local bodies as an "encroachment." This makes the vendors vulnerable to frequent eviction and to exploitation by the law enforcers. In order to protect them, the policy recommended a registration system for vendors and demarcation of city spaces for vending, apart from the setting up of town committees with vendor participation. These suggestions when acted upon would put all vending activity on a protective and regulatory legal framework. In implementing the new policy, care must be taken to ensure that the system does not restrict entry and the regulations are not burdensome.


The National Association of Street Vendors of India has pointed out that over 100,000 applications for licences remain unprocessed since 2007. Cities such as Surakarta in Indonesia have shown that co-opting street vendors in urban development could be mutually beneficial. The local government there worked with the vendors, earmarked new places for trading, issued free trade permits and provided tax exemption for the first six months. Soft loans and training were also arranged to improve their business. In the process, the city recovered valuable urban spaces that were encroached upon and the street vendors in turn were able to trade freely. Closer home, Bhubaneswar has taken a few pioneering initiatives. It has created 52 exclusive vending zones near the existing areas frequented by the vendors. More than 2,000 vendors have been rehabilitated in these markets without much dislocation or loss of earnings. Such progressive measures can be easily adopted by other cities and scaled up where necessary. The street vendors are a valuable part of city life and the state must ensure that they are not excluded. Policies conceptualised to support their livelihood must be implemented without any further delay.










Something that cannot work, will not work. This is a tautology applicable to the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which cannot meet the objectives for which it was enacted. There are several reasons for this.


First, the Act does not rule out educational institutions set up for profit (Section 2.n.(iv)). The protagonists of such institutions cite Article 19.1.g ("All citizens shall have the right to practise any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business"). However, they fail to realise that the Article is regulated by Article 19.6: it is because of the provisions in Article 19.6 that no one in the country can set up a nuclear energy plant, or grow narcotic plants, or build satellites, unless approved by the government.


P.N. Bakshi, a member of the Law Commission, in his book on the Constitution of India says: "Education per se has so far not been regarded as a trade or business where profit is a motive." Yet, the TMA Pai Foundation vs Government of Karnataka judgment of the Supreme Court in 2003 said it is difficult to comprehend that education per se will not fall under any of the four expressions in Article 19.1.g. Therefore, appropriately, the model Rules and Regulations (R&R) for the RTE Act say in Section 11.1.b that a school run for profit by any individual, group or association of individuals or any other persons, shall not receive recognition from the government. However, this Section will not be binding on the States as it is not a part of the Act. If the Government of India were serious about the issue, it should have made this a part of the RTE Act.


The common-sense resolution of the discrepancy between the TMA Pai Foundation judgment and the model R&R for the RTE Act could lie in the fact that education is a generic term. We need to distinguish between the minimum quantum of education that a citizen should have in order to be able to discharge his or her responsibilities and claim rights, and the subsequent education geared to train him or her for a profession such as medicine or engineering.


As regards the first category, it is now virtually universally recognised that 12 years of school education beginning at the age of six, preceded by appropriate pre-school education, is a minimum requirement. Therefore, in virtually all developed countries, a vast majority of children including those of the rich and powerful go to government schools for 12 years of totally free education. The RTE Act is unconcerned about the four most important years of school education – that is, from Class IX to Class XII.


The second category would include three sub-categories: (a) higher education that could lead to a technical diploma, a first university degree in broad areas such as the liberal arts, science or commerce, or post-graduate education in these areas; (b) education leading to a university degree, in a common profession of prime public interest that would cater to the basic needs of society, such as medicine, engineering, law, or management; and (c) education leading to training in specialised areas (which could vary with time), such as flying, catering or hotel management, which does not lead to a degree but is a prerequisite to join the profession at an appropriate level.


It stands to common sense that the first category should be totally free with no hidden costs whatsoever. In the second category, in the public interest and to ensure that quality is maintained, education in sub-categories (a) and (b) must be in a non-profit organisation. The selections should be made on merit in a means-independent way which would imply that appropriate fees could be charged from those who can pay. Those who cannot pay must be able to continue their education through freeships or scholarships, or bank loans arranged by the institution.


There is no argument against education in sub-category (c) of the second category being provided for profit, for the employers will ensure quality in the institutions providing such education.


The judgment in TMA Pai Foundation would appropriately apply to sub-category (c). There is, therefore, a strong case to ensure that Section 11.1.b of the model R&R of the RTE Act is made mandatory for all schools without exception, through an amendment of the Act.


There is the argument that if people can pay for the education of their children they should have a right to have their own schools where the fee charged would be determined by them or the authorities of the school they set up. Indeed, according to the Constitution we cannot ban such schools, which will essentially be the de facto profit-making schools of today where almost exclusively the children of the rich and powerful go. However, the government will be within its rights to say that such schools would not be recognised as they would violate the principle of equity in regard to the minimum education that every Indian citizen should have.


The RTE Act and its R&R fail on many other counts. These are some of them:


•Experience tells us that no government school is likely to function well (or as well as the government schools

did till about 1970) unless children of the rich and powerful also attend such schools. Further, it is a myth that private – de facto commercial – schools provide better training than, say a Central School of the Government of India or trust-run schools which are truly not-for-profit.


•The Act places no restriction on the fees that may be charged by unaided private schools ostensibly set up as a Society or Trust but, de facto set up to make money for the investors, just like a corporate company. If they are truly set up not to make any profit they should not be charging any fees, and the fees paid by the children should be reimbursed by the government. They could then function as a part of the common school system in which children of the neighbourhood would have to go irrespective of their class or status.


•Why should unaided private schools have a system of management with no obligatory participation of parents, unlike other schools that require the formation of a school management committee in which parents will constitute three-fourth of its membership?


•Why do we have only 25 per cent poor children in private unaided schools? Why not 10, 20, 40, 60 or 80 per cent? Would it not create a divide amongst the children of the poor, leave aside a greater divide between the children of the rich and the poor?


•No method is prescribed for selecting the 25 per cent poor students for admission into unaided private schools. Selection by lottery would be ridiculous. In the absence of a viable provision, the private unaided (de facto commercial) schools can choose the 25 per cent poor children in a way that the choice would benefit the school.


•There is nothing in the Act or its R&R that will prevent unaided private schools from charging students for

activities that are not mentioned in the Act or its R&R. Examples would be laboratory fee, computer fee, building fee, sports fee, fee for stationery, fee for school uniform, fee for extra-curricular activities such as music, painting, pottery, and so on.


•Norms for buildings, the number of working days, teacher workload, equipment, library and extra-curricular activities are prescribed only for unaided schools, and not for other schools including government schools. Only an obligatory teacher-student ratio is prescribed both for government and unaided schools. This means that as long as the teacher-pupil ratio is maintained, the school would be considered as fit. Thus, even if a government school has 12 students in each class from I to V, it will have only two teachers.


•Two arguments often given for continuing to have, or even encouraging, private unaided schools is that the government has no money to set up the needed schools, and that government schools cannot be run as well as private schools. Both these are deliberate lies. There have been excellent studies and reports that show that the government can find money to adopt a common school system with a provision of compulsory and totally free education up to Class XII in the country over the next 10 years. Further, even today the best system of school education in the country is the Central School (Kendriya Vidyalaya) system run by the government. The country needs 400,000 such schools, and India can afford it.


The RTE Act and its R&R are destined not to work. We should recognise that if we do not take appropriate care of school education, agriculture and left-wing extremism – and all the three are related – we may be creating conditions that would encourage internal turmoil.


( The writer is former vice-chairman, National Knowledge Commission.)










The struggle for an effective and equitable Food Security Bill (FSB) has received a setback with the disappointing proposals put forward by the National Advisory Council. There is a disturbing disjuncture between what is being claimed and the actual implications of the proposals. Indeed it may be said that the NAC proposals create new discriminations.


The most basic requirement for a legal guarantee for food security is the replacement of the present targeted system by a universal system of public distribution. India had such a system till the advent of neo-liberal policies in the 1990s when targeting started. The NAC proposal actually expands the sphere of targeting in at least four ways.


Geographical targeting: According to the proposal, "…initial universalisation in one-fourth of the most disadvantaged districts or blocks in the first year is recommended, where every household is entitled to receive 35 kg per month of foodgrains at Rs. 3 a kg." This will translate into around 150 districts out of 640. This proposal actually introduces a new discrimination among those who are equally poor, on the basis of where they were born and where they live. For example, an unorganised worker in the construction industry who does not possess a BPL (below poverty line) card, would in the 150 districts selected be eligible for the entitlement. But if she lives in a village outside these selected districts, even though she may be in the same economic category she will not be eligible. This is legally sanctioned discrimination based on geographical location, and can be challenged in a court of law.


Also, who will determine the list of districts? Will it mean that some States, for example Kerala, may be left out in the first year altogether as was done in the case of the National Rural Health Mission, in this case because they do not fit the definition of "most disadvantaged"? Thus the question of identification of the "most disadvantaged" may itself be discriminatory against States. The NAC is overlooking the fact that the "most disadvantaged people" often live in the "least disadvantaged districts."


New category of socially vulnerable groups: What happens in the remaining districts? Will the "initial universalisation" be extended to them over time?


The proposal says: "In the remaining districts/blocks… there shall be a guarantee of 35 kg of foodgrains per household at Rs. 3 a kg for all socially vulnerable groups including SC/STs…" This means that unlike in the 150 districts where all households will have access, in the rest of the districts, which form the majority of rural India, it will not be universal but targeted for socially vulnerable groups. Who will be included, apart from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes? What about the minorities and the most backward castes? Will occupation be a criterion for inclusion in the category of socially vulnerable groups? Will the 77 per cent of the workforce in the unorganised sector with a spending power of less than Rs. 20 and who are plagued by fluctuating incomes, be included? In any case, by differentiating between the 150 districts and the rest of India, by introducing the category of socially vulnerable groups, the NAC has retained the APL/BPL divide, albeit with a different name and different criteria.


Targeting out others: The proposal says that for all others (other than the category of socially vulnerable groups) the guarantee will be 25 kg "at an appropriate price." This is the crux of the issue — lower entitlement at a higher price. In fact, the issue of differentiated allocations and higher prices for the APL sections is what the Planning Commission has been pushing for — except that the Commission has been more forthright about its aims than the NAC. In a discussion paper for the Empowered Group of Ministers looking into the food security legislation, the Commission said: "We can give the APL sections a legal entitlement [later it was specifically mentioned as 25 kg] but at a non-subsidised price. We should calibrate an APL price linked to MSP [minimum support price given to farmers for foodgrain] in such a way that the annual APL offtake is around 10 million tonnes or so. If there is excess grain availability, as at present, there can be a discount from this price to encourage a larger offtake. If not, the discount should be withdrawn." It is precisely this utterly cynical manipulation by the Planning Commission of a popular demand to suit government requirements that the NAC wants to project as universalisation. This is unfortunate, to say the least.


Category to be excluded: The proposed law will legally exclude certain categories, the details of which are yet to be worked out. If this means the income-tax paying category, there can be no objection to it. But more details are required.




The NAC has not suggested any time-frame for implementation except for the 150 districts. The proposal says that the "differentiated entitlements… would progressively be expanded to all rural areas in the country over a reasonable period of time." Who will define "reasonable"? It has been reported that the NAC's thinking is guided by the pattern set by the staggered implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This is a misplaced comparison. First, for the NREGS the Left parties had ensured that there was a fixed time-frame of five years with no switch-off clause. Equally important, the NREGS was a new work-based right that required a certain amount of experience in implementation. The PDS not only exists but the infirmities in the targeted system in different States have had a negative impact on food security rights. People all over the country are affected by food inflation and the consequent food insecurity. Thus there is no basis for any staggered implementation as far as an urgent issue such as food is concerned, more so since India has huge buffer stocks.




There is no mention of the Antyodaya category. Elimination of this category would mean 2.5 crore families being deprived of their existing entitlement of wheat at Rs. 2 a kg and having to pay Re. 1 more. This is unacceptable. In States such as West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand, BPL card-holders get rice at Rs. 2 a kg, and in some States at Re. 1 a kg. These States have also expanded the numbers of the BPL population. Surely a Central Act must expand on existing entitlements and not detract from them. If the State governments implement the pricing suggested by the NAC of Rs. 3 a kg, crores of families will find that the Central Food Security Act actually increases their foodgrain costs. State governments are already facing a severe resources crunch. This will make it more difficult for them.


Urban poor


As far as the identification and categorisation of the urban population is concerned, it is clear that targeting is going to be the basis. Households eligible for 35 kg at Rs. 3 are to be identified on the basis of criteria developed by the Hashim Committee. Oddly, the NAC has accepted the recommendations of the Hashim Committee even before the Report has been written. Usually one would like to examine recommendations before accepting them — for which they have to be written in the first place.


The urban poor have been neglected in the proposals. There are no recommendations to give a legal backup to nutrition schemes such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and midday meal programmes, nor are any other essential commodities included in the ambit of the food security system.


The NAC has compromised on the basic issue of universalisation. What it is suggesting is a differently targeted system. An opportunity to take the struggle forward into official institutions such as the NAC has been lost. The NAC should have held out in the knowledge that in any case what it is suggesting may be further whittled down.


( Brinda Karat, MP, is a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).)








Where have all the social networks gone? Of course, this is exactly the right time to be asking this question. Haven't I noticed that Facebook is now claiming 500 million users, in the manner of Doctor Evil in Mike Myers's Austin Powers movies? Haven't I noticed that Twitter is getting its very own data centre, all the better to spread "unimportant trivia" (Copyright all tabloid papers)?


Well, yes, I have. But my question is actually about the broader subject.


What I'm really asking is where all the new social networks have gone. In the past two years, especially as Twitter has risen over the media horizon like a sunrise, barely a week has passed without a new network culled from the web 2.0 name generator - take a verb ending in -er and remove the "e" - being announced, often with a press release smelling ever so slightly of desperation that another "me-too" product could become the "us-instead" replacement.


To which the response is always: that hardly ever happens. Despite the insistence of web executives everywhere that rivals online are "only a click away", you actually have to screw up royally to turn a successful service into one that people leave in droves. (So congratulations to the former managers at MySpace and Bebo: you deserve your place in those MBA case studies of the future.)


Look around, though, and sites such as haven't taken off. True, services such as FourSquare and Gowalla seem to be on the rise — although people haven't quite grasped the threat that they can pose to users. So we're back at the original questions: where are all the new social networks? I think they're gone. Done, dusted, over. I don't think anyone is going to build a social network from scratch whose only purpose is to connect people. We've got Facebook (personal), LinkedIn (business) and Twitter (SMS-length for mobile).


Today the technology scene has echoes of the post-dotcom boom exhaustion of 2002-4. Then, the ideas which sank on the reefs of too-slow internet connections and too-few internet users had to wait for computers to catch up. Digg in 2004 and Google Maps in 2005 heralded much of the expansion, showing how a mashup of information meant new possibilities, and the whole "Web 2.0" concept began to germinate.


Now we're waiting again for mobiles, and especially smartphones allied to mobile networks, to catch up with what ambitious startup companies want to do. Apple's insistence in 2007 that iPhone users should have unlimited data plans yanked the entire mobile business forward about 10 years, and briefly showed us how everything should be working by 2012. No surprise that in recent months the mobile networks, unable to invest fast enough, have been rowing back on the "unlimited data" commitment, taking us back to 2007.


The next big sites won't be social networks. Of course they'll have social networking built into them; they'll come with an understanding of their importance, just as Facebook and Twitter know that search (an idea Google refined) and breaking news (Yahoo's remaining specialist metier) are de rigueur. Nor will they be existing sites retrofitted to do social networking, despite the efforts of Digg and Spotify.


So what will they be? No idea, I'm afraid. If I knew that, would I be here writing? Hell, no — I'd be off making elevator pitches and vacuuming up venture capital. Which brings us to business models. Facebook makes its money not just by sucking up ad impressions from the rest of the internet, using its remarkably detailed targeting ability; it also gets a cut from virtual transactions using its own virtual currency. LinkedIn, similarly, can precisely target its executive base. Twitter is different again, selling its user-generated content for big money to Google and Microsoft's Bing, as well as experimenting with direct payment for its EarlyBird sales system and "promoted tweets". The point being that "ad-supported" isn't the only game for startup revenue. The big sites of the future won't necessarily be about ads as a way to make money, and they won't be about social networks. Now, hunker down and wait. Or get out there and build it.


— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






The Open Page, a longstanding weekly feature of TheHindu, is meant to give its readers opportunities to write on a variety of subjects of their choice. It has proved extremely popular, particularly after it went full page on March 14, 2010, on a suggestion made in this column. The suggestion came in response to the expressed wishes of a number of enthusiastic readers. They wrote on an impressive range of subjects relating to the social, political, economic, and cultural lives of the people. Many of these contributions addressed the issues with fresh insight and a progressive outlook. The number of letters to the editor that have come in testifies to the spontaneity, the liveliness, and the élan of the Open Page.

Way back in 1978, when TheHindu introduced the 'Open Page' as one of three special features, along with 'Outlook' and 'Special Report,' to commemorate the newspaper's birth centenary, the one-page feature was also termed the reader's page. The first Open Page was published with a four-line highlight at the top, which read: "How do people react to events, ideas, developments? TheHindu seeks, in this monthly feature, to provoke public discussion on key topics of current interest, to promote purposeful thinking. This page is open to you" (quoted in Rangaswami Parthasarathy's educative A Hundred Years of The Hindu: The Epic Story of Indian Nationalism, Kasturi & Sons Ltd. 1978, Madras).

These terms of reference remain relevant today. Given the lively response from readers to the contents of the Open Page over the past four months, the feature is clearly living up to its claim "to provoke public discussion ... [and] promote purposeful thinking" among tens of thousands of readers.


A variety


Of the approximately 80 articles (many of them have been accompanied by illustrations, photographs, and cartoons) published in this page up to July 18, 15 probed issues relating to women and children. Eight dealt with problems relating to the environment and wildlife. Issues relating to education and linguistic chauvinism accounted for five articles each. There were four articles on the plight of senior citizens and the same number on Bt. Brinjal. A few articles highlighted problems ranging from the quality of TV serials to the justness or otherwise of capital punishment, from understanding Mahatma Gandhi to confronting Maoists, from eulogising Super Moms and Super Grandmas to ensuring communal harmony in a pluralist society. Most of the articles were eminently readable because they touched upon the contemporary concerns of large sections of the people. The mix included some light articles, human interest stories, humour pieces, and interesting tales that people like to read in addition to the heavy stuff. Some writers wrote sensitively on people who suffer deprivations, such as housemaids and Dalits. Recent incidents of barbaric 'honour killings' and corporal punishment inflicted on schoolchildren were taken up for earnest discussion.


Interestingly, not just the articles on serious subjects, but also those written in a lighter vein won the appreciation of readers who wrote letters to the editor or to the Readers' Editor. Thus recent Open Page articles have generated discussion on everything that serious newspapers write editorials about.


The subjects covered included the entry of foreign universities, 'honour killings' of young couples, the flourishing of khap panchayats, which nullified weddings between consenting adults, the continuing practice of corporal punishment in schools and the resultant tragedies, gender discrimination in fixing wages, the ill-treatment of house maids, child abuse, linguistic chauvinism, communalism, casteism, and terrorism. The theme of changing social values in relation to the indiscriminate use or abuse of modern gadgets such as mobile phones, the 'cultural shocks' that modern society has often to face, and the increasing isolation of senior citizens from the rest of the society have also provoked thoughtful discussion.


They suggest solutions


Many contributors to the Open Page do not stop with highlighting the problems. They propose solutions as well. This suggests that readers are not less committed than media pundits to resolving troubling issues through a process of social change and reform that has been delayed for too long in India. For instance, Anandita Gupta ("Employing women: going beyond quota," Open Page, March 14, 2010) writes "… the question is not which class of women will benefit from a higher number of women representatives." The question is: will it really empower women. In her opinion, a seat in the legislature does not automatically ensure that the interests of the group/section/community of that person are made safe. The article refers to the continued oppression of women and instances of gang rape of Dalit women. Ms Gupta's clear-sighted formulation is that women's empowerment means "giving the power to women to say no to what she does not agree to and giving her the freedom to exercise her fundamental rights as a citizen of India." She then spells out measures that, "if implemented in their true spirit, would empower women the way we would like them to."


The measures include the sensitisation of judges towards cases involving women, the formation of a separate cell to investigate cases involving women, the enactment of stronger laws to deal with atrocities against women, and steps to sensitise the police to woman-specific problems. Although Ms Gupta's stand on reservation for women in legislatures may sound cynical, her article displays a practical approach to the real, long-pending problems ordinary women face in their day-to-day life.


Issues before society


Another subject that has caught the attention of discerning readers is premarital sex and live-in relationships. There have been three Open Page articles on the subject in the last four months. Dr. Meena Chintapalli, a Texas-based paediatrician, offers this surprising generalisation in "Ever thought about the child caught in crossfire?" (Open Page, April 18, 2010): "Encouraging sexual relationships with the co-living prior to marriage leads to what the western society is now regretting. The guy loses interest in the girl he has a relationship with, as another girl attracts his attraction for whatever reason. The girl tries to save the relationship by getting pregnant. The guy walks out of the life of the child and the mother. The mother looks for another support and that man will not accept this child and this child will not accept the new guy. Anger builds up and this leads to emotional and physical abuse as well. The child grows up with insecurity and the mother loses interest in the child as a result of the failures and depression." Noting that the affected children suffered from abnormalities of different kinds, Dr Chintapalli cautions Indians against similar occurrences.


"People of the same gotra do not necessarily have the same origin" (Open Page, July 4, 2010) by M.V. Anjaneyalu challenges the contention of the khaps that same-gotra marriages cannot be validated on the ground that the man and the woman involved have the same origin. The writer punches holes through this pseudo-theory by pointing out that people of a gotra are descended from families of different origin. "Moreover," he writes, "the genes undergo change in course of time as the spouses come from different parents."


Another article that has triggered reader interest is by K. Alagesan. "We are casteless, give us our due" (Open Page, July 4, 2010) looks at the couples "who have chosen to lead a life away from the casteist social order" to make out a case for doing a census of inter-caste couples. Referring to the contradiction between the Constitution envisaging a casteless society and the social order remaining caste-ridden, he asserts that inter-caste marriage is the only remedy. "Crores of people," he claims, have married across castes and discarded the oppressive caste system, but intolerant of this, caste forces have ostracised such couples. Mr. Alagesan presses for a separate reservation of 0.5 per cent for the sons and daughters of inter-caste couples, as recommended by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, headed by Justice M. Venkatachalaiah, in 2000.


Strengthening the bond


The Open Page is a vital, increasingly important part of the newspaper. Making it a full page has attracted a big response. It strengthens the bond of trust between the newspaper and its readers. It helps the newspaper learn from its readers, many of whom bring to the table fresh insights and ideas. TheHindu's Chief News Editor, P.K. Subramanian, who selects the articles from a large inflow and edits them on his own time, mostly at home, and a small team that helps him put together the Open Page, as well as thousands of the newspaper's readers deserve the credit for this enthusing work in progress.










Thursday's Supreme Court ruling that allows for a financial settlement to be made to a live-in partner of the opposite sex under specified circumstances is a development of far-reaching impact. It has been criticised by some women activists, but its innovative nature and the social effect it might produce even in the short and medium term is hard to overlook. The notion of something akin to alimony to be paid to a regular live-in partner in the event of a breakup can be traced to the social upheavals in America some 50 years ago. The revolutionising of social mores in the United States in the 1960s, and in the West more generally, radicalised the understanding of the institution of marriage in key respects, and raised questions that had never been asked at the common level before. It also allowed for the developing and evolution of what is today known as live-in relationships. These came to be regarded as being as "normal" as being in wedlock. The underlying overhaul of sexual mores and the wide social acceptance of these new attitudes could not but have their impact on the judicial system, especially in America. Thus, although in slow stages, came into the picture the notion of "palimony", the financial settlement to be made to a "pal", a live-in friend over a recognisable length of time, in the event of partners moving away. Even in this liberated setting, however, the law continued to recognise a difference between a marriage and a live-in-relationship, clearly according the former higher status. The most celebrated case was that of Hollywood actor Lee Marvin and his live-in partner of seven years, Michelle Triola. In 1979, a US court refused Triola's plea for "palimony" (it is from this case that the word came into currency: while alimony payments were the norm, "palimony" had to be fought for) on the ground that the live-in relationship did not commence with a contract. (Such insistence is not relevant to marriages.)
Broadly, this is the key parameter that guides judicial action in the West. However, it is not usually required in the West that live-in partners be single. Changes in social values are also proceeding in the direction of awarding palimony to same-sex live-in partners. Our recent Supreme Court ruling certainly marks a departure, but it differs from the US concept of "palimony" in that it permits a financial award to a live-in partner on separation only if the marital status of both parties is "single". Also, gay live-in partnerships are not recognised as such. The court's ruling is likely to be viewed as being libertarian by many in India, and not just orthodox sections. It could be argued that it will encourage "sinful" cohabitation and detract from the notion of matrimony. Religious points might also be made. This group is likely to be bolstered by the fact that there are no statistics that tell us how common live-in relationships actually are in this country (while there is a plethora of data in the West), and whether judicial pronouncements are being made when there is no properly established social demand. Many progressive elements, particularly women, are likely to be critical as the verdict does not extend the notion of "palimony" to all women regardless of the length of their live-in status and regardless of whether the male partner is already married or not.

These are all very interesting issues which attest to the fact that significant sociological change in India has occurred over a relatively short time, and that the new and the old exist with vociferous support bases of their own. An issue that will perhaps need to be resolved is whether "palimony" is to be paid only by men to women. In the West, the disbursement can be either way, depending on which party brings in the meat.








"The past leaves its infections,

We convalesce and yet

Some make love to remember

Some make love to forget..."

From Elegiac Trash


by Bachchoo

Last year a newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, got hold of documents detailing the expenses claims that members of the British Parliament had filed. The claims had been processed and the money paid out to members of Parliament (MPs) from the public purse. One of the things that the MPs and members of the upper chamber, the House of Lords, could legitimately claim for were their "second homes" as most of them had constituencies outside London and needed to live in London to attend Parliament. Fair enough.

The expenses for the rent of a room or a small flat in London would be deemed, by any standards, the appropriate expense for an MP whose constituency was in Glasgow. The principle was, not unreasonably, stretched to include some of the expenses incurred by living in such accommodation — getting a bed to sleep on if it was unfurnished, etc.

However, the Telegraph's revelations, painfully eked out day after day with different MPs targeted, caused a very deep dent in the prestige of parliament. The revelations demonstrated that very many MPs were very willing to twist, extend and interpret the rules to make a fast buck, sometimes even a very trivial and small one.
There were ridiculous items — someone charging for chewing gum or a packet of biscuits and then there were very dubious ones with one grandee having a moat around his country estate repaired at huge public cost. The female home secretary of the time charged the public purse for pornographic films that her husband had hired while living in her constituency in what she designated as her "second home".

The main device for cheating was something known as "swapping". If an MP had an expensive home somewhere in the country, in or around their constituency perhaps, they would designate that as their second home and say that their "primarily home" was in London, despite the fact that this was a room rented from their sister, boyfriend or even their daughter.

This enabled the cheats to claim the full mortgage on the homes where they lived with their families. Some charged for mortgages which had long been paid off.

The Telegraph's revelations caused the biggest parliamentary scandal of the decade or perhaps since the Sixties when ministers shared the favours of prostitutes with Russian spies. The scandal spread through all parties and from revelations about Commons moved to revelations about Lords.

This week the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee has, after a lengthy inquiry, submitted a report to the House condemning three peers for wrongfully claiming tens of thousands of pounds in expenses.
The judgment recommends punishments and that the three repay £200,000 to the exchequer in reparation. The three peers are: Lord Paul (Swaraj Pal as he was known to Indians), Lord Bhatia and Baroness Uddin.
Read those names again — no Dalhousie, no Canning, no Curzon, no Linlithgow — Paul, Bhatia and Uddin.
(The latter's title and assumption of the name Baroness Uddin is somewhat puzzling as surely "Uddin" simply means "of the faith" and isn't really her name — but Kher!)
The leader of the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, has said he is shocked and appalled by the cases and has promised that the "penalties would be the strongest handed out by the House of Lords". The three must be thanking Ishwar and Allah that the days of The Tower and Jacobite justice are long gone. Today's severe penalties will mean that Lady Uddin will be suspended from the Upper Chamber till 2012 and will have to return £125,349 to the public purse. Lord Bhatia faces being suspended for eight months and has already repaid £27,000.

Lord Paul's case is somewhat different as the committee accepted that rather than acting dishonestly he had been negligent and allowed these claims to be forwarded on his behalf. He has already paid back £41,982 which his office erroneously claimed. It is known that he runs businesses, contributes to charities and can very plausibly plead that his busy schedule caused the claims to slip his attention.

Ever since the late '50s, '60s and '70s and the settlement of South Asians, Caribbean and African people from the former colonies in Britain there has been a movement, sometimes vociferous and militant, to advance the cause of immigrants.

Though there has never been a concerted or effective national policy specifically aimed at integrating this immigrant community, there have been various social and governmental initiatives towards fairness and the genesis of "multiculturalism".

One such move was the attempt to recruit "ethnic" people to positions of some significance in the political parties. Members of the ethnic communities were, in this concessional mode and to demonstrate that there was no conscious or sub-conscious apartheid in British society, given titles and peerages. These were, to be fair, handed out on the same basis as they would be for the native population — prosperity in business and donations to a political party could and did bring a peerage. Distinction in the arts — Sir V.S. Naipaul and Sir Salman Rushdie — could fetch a knighthood. Charitable works and public service could also be used as criteria to make up the numbers.

Deserving as the individuals might be, they were always deemed to be "role models" whose status and achievements their communities could look up to. (My personal feeling is that the role model theory is a bit flawed. However distinguished she is, I would give my left arm not to look or be like Baroness Uddin.)
This representative function makes it somewhat shameful that the only three peers picked out for criticism are of ethnic stock. So far no one has cried "racism" but my experience of ambulance chasers in this country tells me that someone will. On evidence the Lords Privileges Committee has been just and judicious. So why out of hundreds of peers have these three behaved in this particular way? Are they carrying into British institutions the tradition of corruption associated with subcontinental politics? Do they feel a peerage, like some Maharaja's title, puts them beyond normal legal scrutiny?

An examination of the behaviour of politicians from the ethnic communities in local councils, for example in Tower Hamlets where the Bangladeshi settlers elect Bangladeshi councillors, would suggest exactly that. But that's another, more woeful story.








Surprises start at the Male airport itself! I was in the Republic of Maldives last week to attend the first ever Hay Literature Festival, which in the words of festival director Andy Fryers, was to "celebrate the archipelago both as a global treasure and as a rich and diverse heritage drawing on 2,000 years of poetry, music and art". The lovely lady who met me at the flight looked like a model (she blushed when I asked, and confessed she did indeed model as a teenager). Now her sights were set slightly higher — she was looking at a career in politics, while working closely with the 42-year-old President Mohammed Nasheed. As we waited in the VIP lounge for other writers from Britain (Atonement author Ian McEwan, and Peter Godwin), she filled me in on what was going on in this unique nation made up of over a thousand islands that dot the vast, startlingly blue (14 shades — I counted!) Indian Ocean.

The current President is hugely popular, she said (others beg to differ), and is savvy enough to attract world attention to the plight of his nation that just may disappear from the face of this earth due to global warming and rising water levels. Yup. He's the same bloke who had scheduled an underwater cabinet meeting during the Copenhagen Convention in order to underline the gravity of the situation. Oh dear, I thought to myself as I stepped out of the airport and straight into a waiting speedboat at the jetty which was less than 20 metres away. What if the airport sank while the LitFest was on? What if the island where the swish Soneva Gili Resort (an eco-friendly, but pocket unfriendly at $1,000 a night) is located, went under during my short stay? Shudder, shudder. Durga! Durga! I prayed as the speedboat's dashing captain (surely a can of gel went into spiking his hair into those impressive peaks?), took off jauntily, hitting top speed in under a few seconds. Soon we were in the middle of the choppy waters and I could swear the levels were rising even as we slapped the surf hard and my spine felt like it would snap into several pieces if this insanely rough ride carried on much longer.
That was some introduction to these mysterious and magical isles, where locals sound like they are conversing in Tamil, look Malayali, but insist they are Indo-Aryan. At the world famous resort, with its "Robinson Crusoe Villas" (built on stilts over azure lagoons and only accessible by boats), my Man Friday Nawaz pointed helpfully to a cycle balancing against the bleached wooden door and said, "Remember — no news, no shoes. That's the rule here". The cycle stared back, cheekily challenging me to give those stiff calf muscles an instant workout. I definitely needed a drink. A gallon of champagne. My nerves were seriously on edge. I looked towards the horizon and saw storm clouds gathering. An ominous sign. The tsunami had claimed 86 lives, and 26 more are still missing. Tidal waves were not unheard of in this part of the ocean. There were sharks in dem waters… and I don't swim. Nawaz grinned wickedly and said, "Relax… you are perfectly safe here". Oh yeah? Then why was the cabinet meeting held underwater? Big fat raindrops fell over my head as I tried to follow Nawaz's advice and relax. In this scrupulously eco-friendly resort — the brain child of Sonu and Eva Shivdasani — the emphasis is on nature and open air living. The shower area is a small walk away over wooden boards and you can technically wave out to passing fishermen as they haul the tuna into the nets. I can see why this resort is so popular with Europeans in search of strong sun and complete privacy. Imagine my distress — the only other guests besides the pale Europeans were paler Japanese honeymooners canoodling in shady corners. India's "official" honeymooners (Shashi T and Sunanda P) were expected but backed out at the last minute. So… there I was, rattling around in this vast space all by myself… and sorry to say, I wasn't thinking about global warming. I was looking at those menacing clouds and wondering how I'd survive the night with the wind howling through that thatched roof (what if it blew away?). As it turned out, after a splendid solo dinner at the main restaurant (a couple of glasses of New Zealand White, and I was ready to swim with the sharks) my nerves had settled sufficiently to handle a crowded day at the LitFest… then on Male. But first there was the time difference to figure out. For some really odd reason, most islands operated on their own sweet time which varied from an hour to two hours from Male time. Visitors have to adjust and re-adjust their watches three times a day if they do go island hopping.

I decided to hop on to my guide Yasser's bike in what is considered one of the densest cities in the world. With a population of 120,000 on a tiny island that can be covered at a leisurely pace in under an hour, the natives are getting restless. Very restless. Democracy is alien to this 900-year-old Islamic Republic which has actually been built by several friendly countries over the years. The Chinese have donated a spacious mosque next to the main square that accommodates 5,000 believers, the Japanese have built the schools, the Germans have contributed a stadium, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others have done their bit, while India has given them the Indira Gandhi Hospital. We have also trained their Coast Guard and Army, and will be building two out of the three new airports. Lucky guys, these Maldivians. Sab kuch moofat! Yasser told me proudly that there were no "poor people" in his country. No dogs, either, I commented. He shook his head and stated emphatically, "Dogs have never existed on these islands. We don't allow dogs… they are un-Islamic. But people can keep cats".
By the time I reached the residence of our man in the Maldives, Dnyaneshwar Mulay (High Commissioner), I was dehydrated and ready to head home to Mumbai. Mr Mulay is a Sanskrit scholar and the youngest ambassador in South Asia. This bright Indian Foreign Service guy from Kolhapur is obviously doing an efficient job of keeping the Maldivians in good humour while safeguarding India's interests in the region. He has big plans. One of those involves making sure all three new airports are built by Indian companies. He also spearheads inspiring programmes (Project DynanDeep and Gram Parivartan) to provide quality education to underprivileged kids and an ideal village, back in his hometown. After a quick coffee and chivda at his home, I had to rush back to my Robinson Crusoe existence. But at least my Man Friday was around to make sure I didn't fall off the jetty and end up in those amazing waters as a pre-dinner appetiser for those hungry sharks.

— Readers can send feedback to








It was a week in which philanthropy, optimism and power couples were the preferred flavour. To begin with, delivering a guest lecture at the London School of Economics, industrialist Mukesh Ambani's wife, Nita Ambani, spoke about the resurgence and renaissance of India and in the process revealed her real passion: education, both academic and cultural. Her strong belief is that it is India's soft power and demographic advantage which will give it a growing international clout.

She addressed students and guests with surprising confidence and empathy, convincing us all that she is a rare package: intelligent, articulate and good looking — very different from most of the other spokespersons for the country. She spoke convincingly as a very proud Indian — and I must say after the (usually) gloomy speeches one hears about corruption and poverty in India — this was a rather refreshing change.
There was hardly a negative word — in fact, it was a celebration of what India was capable of achieving, if its youth could be mobilised positively. In an immensely personalised speech, she wove in her own experiences, as a teacher and as a founder of schools where over 15,000 children study today all over the country. She spoke of how the Reliance Group supports not only the setting up of schools, but also a liberal arts college, as well as a state-of-the-art hospital in Mumbai — for which she hopes to attract, back to India, doctors who are now working abroad.

Punctuating her talk with visuals (including a rather nice one of her performing Bharatnatyam!), much to the delight of the cricket fans in the auditorium, she even wove in the Indian Premier League story, since she is the owner of the Mumbai team. Later, she revealed how deeply and closely she has to interact with the 40 men who comprise it, even occasionally giving them advice for their personal problems! Obviously, she had to learn about cricket and understand the performance parameters but Mrs Nita Ambani admits she was taught about "excellence" by her father-in-law, Dhirubhai Ambani. She acknowledged that both Dhirubhai Ambani and her husband have been key to her personal growth often giving her challenging assignments. One such was the setting up a green belt in the desert around their oil refinery at Jamnagar, which she now says even attracts migratory birds and yields a fabulous mango crop!

Of course, cynics can point out that everything is easy if you are married to one of the world's richest men. However, let's look around and see how many women are willing to stick their necks out and actually take a public stance on disparate issues. Let's not forget that Indian women also need good role models — outside of Bollywood and politics. Modern female figures in the public space are important to showcase India as a young country, where women are articulate, confident and stylish — something which (with apologies to our President, Pratibha Patil who is usually bundled up from head to toe) — does not happen too often.
For once, Mr Mukesh Ambani had to sit back and watch his wife take the accolades — but to his credit, he looked like a very happy husband.
The other power couple whom we heard a few days later, was Bill and Melinda Gates. They were in London. Like Mrs Nita Ambani — they too struck a cheery note saying they wanted to promote the "good news" about the impact of targeted welfare policies for the very poor around the world. (Is there a new happiness bug in the air? Why does everyone want to sound so positive?)
It was an extremely well-rehearsed, very American, flawless, hour-long double act, called "Living Proof", launched in partnership with the One Foundation.
It began dramatically, when the Gates bounced up the stairs of the Science Museum auditorium, and took turns to let us know about the various initiatives they — and others — had supported and the valuable difference the programmes had made. In a packed room which included the singer Bono who is a very vocal supporter of anti-poverty campaigns, and many other chiefs of various aid agencies — the Gates demonstrated to us with statistics and film clips how well certain campaigns were doing, particularly in African countries.
Their suggestion was that very rarely do we see this side of the picture: that campaigns are working and that philanthropy is actually making the world a better place. Perhaps the most thrilling data that evening was how dramatically child mortality has fallen all over the world.

The eradication of diseases such as small pox, thanks to the increase in childhood vaccinations, the Gates' own effort to distribute mosquito nets to fight against malaria, and the success against maternal deaths in countries like Rwanda — were also referred to.
Instead of looking at the glass half empty — they urged us to look at the glass half full, and how much had been achieved. "Development aid, when spent wisely, is the most effective investment that governments can make for saving lives, improving livelihoods, and building prosperous societies", Mr Gates pointed out. The sentiment was echoed by his wife; and both of them thanked the British government for continuing aid in poorer countries, rather than cutting it in these very straitened economic times.
As a couple who have decided to donate 95 per cent of their earnings to philanthropic pursuits, it was elevating to meet them at the wine and canapé reception later on, and shake their hand. After all, how many of us even think of donating one per cent of our income so happily?
Coming back to the question of UK overseas aid — it is, no doubt, going to become a contentious issue. Over and over again people are discussing the fact that even though the UK has cut its aid to countries such as China and Russia — it will probably continue to send aid to India. After all, the critics are quick to point that the UK is barely registering growth and there are going to be many victims of the reduction in welfare spending as advocated in the Comprehensive Spending Review by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, this week. So instead of the money remaining at home — is it fair to support a country like India which is growing at nine per cent every year?
Perhaps, if indeed aid is offered, the Indian government should do the beleagured British government a huge favour and refuse the money — don't you think? Sometimes refusing aid itself could be considered a philanthropic act…

The writer can be contacted at










Insurance is gloomy business. One, or rather one's survivors, benefit only when one dies. But the fact is that if you are reaching out to your target insurers, does it matter whether yourcommunication refers to the consequences of the insurer's death at the end of 5 or 10 years as opposed to him survivinganother 5 or 10 years?


Consider a choice situation from Kahneman and Tversky. A group of doctors is told that an epidemic is expected to kill about 600 people in the city. If drug A is used, 200 people will be saved, while if drug B is used, there is a one-third probability that 600 people will be saved, and two-thirds probability that nobody will be saved. Typically it is found that the majority opt for drug A.


Another group of doctors is presented a similar choice with a slight twist. If drug C is used, 400people will be killed, while if drug D is used, there is a two-third probability that nobody will be killed, and one-third probability that all 600 will be killed. And this time, it is found that typically, the majority opts for drug D.


When juxtaposed together, it is easy to see that drugs A and C are identical, and so are B and D, except that the two problems are framed differently in the two cases. So clearly, how a problem is framed in one's mind influences one's decision-making.


Imagine a messy divorce case, involving child custody.


One set of respondents is told that one of the parents has average income, health and working hours, reasonably good rapport with the child and a reasonably stable social life, while the second parent has above-average income, minor health problems, lots of work-related travel, a very close bonding with the child and an active social life.


The respondents are asked which of the two parents would they like to award the custody to. In the work done by Shafir,


Simonson and Tversky, a majority (64%) prefer awarding custody to the second parent. When asked about the reason for their decision, they typically point to the higher income and close bonding with the child as the reasons.


A second group of respondents, similar in character to the first group, is provided exactly the same information and is asked to indicate which of the two parentswould they like to deny custody to. Now, a majority (55%) prefer to deny custody to the second parent on account of excessive travel, hectic social life and health problems. What if these two groups represented a jury?


So what's going on? Clearly, when the problem is framed in terms of awarding custody to one of the parents, our mind begins to look for reasons that support the decision. This favours the parent with the higher income and the closer bonding. On the other hand, when the problem is framed in terms of denying custody, one begins to look for reasons to deny custody, such as excessive travel, hectic social life and health problems.


The above tendency in human nature takes slippery, and at times, even erroneous forms. The other day, I was listening to a CEO who was not so gung-ho about the growth of the Indian economy.


He said the Indian economy may not be growing at 8-9%. We need to knock about 1.5% off that figure to account for population growth. With China not letting its currency float, it may further impact the India growth story, so that the real growth rate of the Indian economy may well be 6% or thereabouts.


Another CEO was clearly very bullish. He said not only was the Indian economy growing at 8-9%, but that this

figure may be understated. Why? Because the economy has a huge element of black economy which could be adding another 4-5% to growth. Clearly, the two CEOs were using other factors best suited to their respective beliefs.


In short, how a problem is framed is important. It could


reverse results. It could make or mar an expensive advertisement campaign for an insurance company. It could give rise to much heat in most meetings.








Earlier this week, a secret meeting of the Chinese Communist Party appointed vice-president Xi Jinping to a senior military post. To analysts accustomed to reading the tea leaves to understand the power balance within what is arguably one of the world's mostinfluential and powerful parties, it signalled the passing of the leadership baton in 2012 to a new generation at a time when China is casting a long shadow on global and regional affairs. In an interview to DNA, veteran Sinologist Willy Wo-Lap Lam explains the likely impact of the leadership change within China and for its standing on the world stage.


What do we know of Xi Jinping, who has been 'anointed' China's next leader?


In China, the younger the leadership gets, the more colourless they become. Xi was chosen heir apparent in 2007 because he was a 'compromise' candidate acceptable to most factions: given his revolution-based bloodline, which makes him a 'princeling', he's regarded a 'safe' choice who will continue the Communist Party's domination as the "perennial ruling party".


He's not a visionary in the mould of Deng Xiaoping, but he's just being entrusted the kingdom, as it were, to ensure the party will remain in control of China when he himself passes the baton to the sixth generation of leaders.


Is Xi an economic reformer? Is he a liberal or a conservative?


On economic reforms, Xi deserves some credit for making Zhejiang a 'poster province' for private enterprise when he ran it from 2002 to 2007. He enhanced the profile of some private enterprises — like automotive giant Geely Motors, which took over Volvo last year. But that apart, his track record in Fujian province, where he spent a much longer time, was lacklustre.


Ideologically, despite his speeches last year — in which he riled against "foreigners" who criticised China — he is no more 'nationalist' than the average cadre with a similar background.


Certain characteristics are common to Chinese leaders across factions: Xi will espouse a traditionally nationalist line, and continue to push China forward to becoming a superpower.


Xi and (vice-premier) Li Keqiang will be the first Chinese leaders in over 30 years who were not handpicked by Deng Xiaoping; they also lack a strong power base and charisma. Will these hamper them?


Between the two of them, Xi actually has a smaller power base. Li worked his way up from the Communist Youth League, now the largest faction in the Communist Party and has held many top positions. But Xi has greater influence in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). It's worth watching whether under Xi, PLA generals will have a bigger say, particularly in foreign policy and security affairs — even beyond what we've seen in recent times.


If the PLA's influence on policy increases, will tensions with China's maritime and land neighbours, including India, escalate?


It's possible. But the Chinese leadership already senses it may have overplayed its hand in recent months. We're now seeing some 'damage control' from them, after the pushback they received over China's claims in the South China Sea, their support for North Korea in the incident involving the sinking of a South Korean navy ship. The Nobel prize for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo showed what's coming for China, so they will beat a temporary retreat.


Premier Wen Jiabao has recently been speaking of political reforms, and there's speculation of a rift in the Communist Party leadership. What's happening?


Premier Wen has no power to influence ideological and political factors: that's the arena of president Hu Jintao and others. My reading is that Wen knows there's no possibility of political reforms or of his words being translated into action; he's just trying to secure his place in the history books as someone who spoke up for political reforms... For sure, Hu Jintao and others, including the propaganda chief, won't appreciate Wen's posturing. To that extent, there is a division in the leadership. But even Wen won't put up a fight on this issue.


How will history judge the Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao leadership?


Under their watch, China's international standing has risen tremendously, and it's become a quasi-superpower. In terms of power projection, they've done a good job: they've boosted China's diplomatic clout and its military capacity, even though it's antagonised a lot of China's neighbours. The leadership also did well to exploit US weaknesses, particularly under George W Bush, and filled the vacuum created by US preoccupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.


But domestically, they've done nothing to redistribute wealth; the gap between the rich and the poor, the East and the West (within China) and between city and village, has widened. Domestic discontent has become more widespread, and we're even seeing the outward migration of well-educated professionals because they're fed up.


And where will president Hu stand in history, given his record in office?


The single biggest surprise of the Hu Jintao era has been that he has proved to be more conservative than Jiang Zemin. Under Hu's watch, the leadership has also rolled back reforms; he has proved to be more intolerant of liberal dissent. On that front, the scorecard is mostly negative.


Will his place in party history be assessed negatively?


Perhaps after his departure, but for now his power and position remain secure because the liberal faction in the

party has been marginalised. Given realpolitik considerations, the minority liberals are in no position to make trouble for him.


The only question is whether he will remain chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) even after he steps down as president and party leader. Many leaders, including perhaps Wen Jiabao, don't want to see Hu Jintao hang on, and that's his next big challenge.


How will Chinese policy under the Xi-Li leadership be different from the Hu-Wen era?


For the first five years, there will be no change, particularly if Hu Jintao remains CMC chairman for one or two years. In any case, Chinese leaders don't make too much of a policy departure in their first term. That's more true in Xi Jinping's case, since he's not an 'ideas' person.


The peaceful, orderly power transition in China, with a leader being 'groomed' into the top job three years ahead of time, contrasts with the increasingly rancorous elections in the US.


Does the China model of governance come out looking better?


Not really. China is an anachronism; it still follows the Leninist system in many aspects. The stability has been achieved at a huge price — the voice of the majority of the population has been silenced. In terms of political reform, even Vietnam has gone farther than China. To that extent, the 'China model' has been oversold.








The timing of US president Barack Obama's India swing around November 5 is getting a lot of negative attention. Many Americans feel Obama shouldn't jet-off to India when his Democratic Party gets hit by "a category-four hurricane".


Obama will travel to Mumbai four days after the November 2 US mid-term elections where the Republicans are poised to win back the majority in the House of Representatives and gain control of the Senate.


"The president is tempted to make his mark abroad because things are glum for him in Washington," remarked a Republican senator in mild satisfaction at a book launch in New York.


bama will find India a lovely distraction from America's depressing economic woes. Some of his predecessors have also pivoted to foreign policy to stay more relevant when stymied by a hostile Congress.


India's jolly embrace (that too on Diwali) after the stressful US elections may make Obama love India a little more like George! At the peak of the 2008 financial Armageddon, Bush found time to arm-twist Congress into enacting the US-India civil nuclear deal. Now Obama is trying to put his own stamp on the dramatic geopolitical realignment. "The longer Mr Obama is in office, the more his administration realises how much it desperately needs India," quipped one White House adviser.


Pakistan is already pouting that Obama's whirl through Mumbai, Amritsar and Delhi will be his longest foreign sojourn. He will take a leaf out of Hillary Clinton's book and stay at the terror-targeted Taj in Mumbai. After playing the anti-outsourcing card, Obama will do a volte-face by singing psalms to Indian business at the US-India entrepreneurship summit in Mumbai on November 6. A US delegation of 210 CEOs and top executives eyeing Indian investments will trail Obama from Mumbai to Delhi for round-table sessions with Indian ministers.


During the visit, Obama hopes to sign a Letter of Agreement with India for a major arms deal. Officials from both sides have met or talked by telephone 14 times to hash through negotiations to try and complete a $3.5-billion deal that includes the purchase of 10 Boeing C-17s. The purchase of planes by India could keep Boeing's Long Beach plant open a year beyond the scheduled closing in 2013.


There is no free lunch, India wants the US to relax export controls. Indian firms still find themselves on America's 'Entity List', which means they need specific export licenses for the transfer of items. India says it defies logic that the Indian Space Research Organisation which collaborates heavily with NASA is on still on the bally list!


Despite Obama's courtship, India will play the field. The Russians are trying to sell 150 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters to India. Delhi expects to sign defense deals with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev when he romances India in December.









If there is anything surprising about the Congress's victory in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) elections it is its resounding margin. The party has won 21 out of 26 seats (the House has a total strength of 30 with four nominated members). There can be an impression thus that it has benefited from an anti-incumbency factor. This is not wholly true. For, by and large the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) -led Council had done a good job during the last five years. No less a leader than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had lauded its efforts in the wake of disaster caused by cloud burst in August. As it turns out even its Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor (CEC) Chering Dorjay has fallen by the wayside in a stunning setback. His hard and dedicated work during the crisis has not paid him any dividend as electoral politics clearly has its own dynamics. He contested from the Phyang constituency which incidentally had suffered immensely following the natural calamity. What have tilted the scales heavily in favour of the Congress are its eager participation, focussed approach and superior organisational network. All this was laced with the positive signal it was able to send by virtue of sharing power in the State and leading the ruling alliance in New Delhi. State Tourism Minister Rigzin Jora, who is legislator from Leh, had taken upon himself the challenge of settling an old score. He has proved a point. His party had suffered a humiliating defeat in the last Council polls in 2005. Since then it has worked in a systematic fashion and harvested a rich crop now. On the other hand, the LUTF has suffered from organisational deficiencies. Although a band of committed persons, it could not exactly project a unified picture especially after its defeat in the 2008 Assembly polls.


It also suffered from a distinct lack of resources --- something which led to its decision to jump on the bandwagon of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) just before the elections. It actually fought the elections as the BJP. In retrospect there is no reason to believe that it has proved a good strategy. The BJP has never been a force in the trans-Himalayan district which till the surfacing of the LUTF on the scene in 2002 has been a traditional Congress bastion all along. Again, it is something for which the LUTF alone has to bear the responsibility. For its part the BJP's calculation that it may make a big dent has misfired. It is, however, a gainer in some measure as its name must now be familiar to a small but scattered population in an enormous area.


Now that the results are out, one looks forward to a harmonious atmosphere in Leh. The Congress-LUTF tussle has created a sort of bitterness among people. It should be overcome for the sake of greater good of all of us. Political considerations should not be allowed to influence human ties. We can ill afford perpetual tensions in a sensitive border region being eyed by two "friendly" neighbours. The people of Leh regardless of their political affiliations have been intensely patriotic. It will be a pity, therefore, if anyone tends to think that the waters of the Indus are troubled and can come in handy for fishing.







Whither the historic port city of Karachi? Or, whither Pakistan of which it is the commercial capital? Would not that be better to say? Our neighbouring country is fraying at its fringes. It is paying a heavy price for patronising terrorist organisations which have become an albatross around its neck. Its battle on the border along with Afghanistan seems to be unending. It faces a challenge from its own creation, Taliban. Despite becoming an ally of the United States in the war against terrorism its task has not become easy. Instead, it is exposed to the charge of having compromised its sovereignty. In pursuit of its goal the US has launched repeated drone attacks inside its territory. Not that Uncle Sam has made much headway. Almost a decade has passed after it was rocked by 9/11, 2001. The failure so far to achieve its mission of smoking out Osama bin Laden has made the seat hot for its elected rulers back home regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans. This does not mean that what the US and Pakistan are doing presently is wrong. In fact, they are on the right course. The world must be exorcised of the evil of terrorism no matter what may have happened in the past. The US would overcome its internal problems once it achieves success. A democratic environment has an inbuilt capacity to take into stride everything --- positive or negative --- for the collective good in the long run. One wishes that the same could be said about Pakistan. It is not possible to do so. For one thing our neighbour has what can only be described as fragile democracy --- just a semblance of it. Then, it is adopting a half-hearted approach in dealing with the extremist organisations. It is not able to substantially address the charge that it actually wants to use them as a hedge just in case the US suddenly pulls out of the region. The worst of all it is that it is in the grip of sectarian and ethnic violence. There is free availability of weapons which has strengthened a violent mindset --- a tit-for-tat mentality ---- that is worrying the concerned sections of its society.


There are public murders, Shia-Sunni clashes and honour killings. The latest in a series of such ghastly incidents is the ethnic conflict in Karachi. The native Pashtun community and Mohajirs, as the Muslim settlers from this country in Pakistan are known, have been targeting each other ever since the assassination of Syed Raza Haider, an MP belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), in August. A blame game is on. The MQM, which largely comprises Urdu-speaking migrants from India, has accused the Awami National Party (ANP) of having engineered the crime. The ANP speaks for Pashto-speaking Pathan population of which Karachi is the biggest home in the world. The federal government instead has shifted the responsibility on the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Tehrik-i-Taliban. It obviously wants to play safe because it has both the MQM and the ANP as its allies. More than 50 persons have already been killed in their tussle in about three months. They just come and randomly shoot people. It has happened this week. It can happen tomorrow.











The success of the lawyers' agitation in Pakistan which brought Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry back to the country's apex court may after all not have been such a good thing to happen to that country. The Chief Justice had been sacked along with several other members of the higher judiciary by the ousted military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf, kicking off an unprecedented agitation by the lawyers and the civil society at large.
When Iftikhar Chaudhury finally made it back to his chamber in Islamabad many saw it as a triumph for democracy. Celebrations carried on for days as Chaudhury set about reinstating the judges dismissed by Musharraf. And given that the lawyers and the civil society had made the point sternly one would have expected the Chief Justice to show magnanimity and restraint. Unfortunately the Chief Justice in his subsequent conduct has given enough indications that he is there for more than having his pound of flesh.
It is perfectly in order to restore dismissed judges though some may still question its merit. For one, Musharraf himself, while dismissing Chaudhury, had accused the latter of gross misconduct, of having misused his position. It would have been in keeping with the highest standards of judiciary had the Chief Justice himself chosen not to be vindictive, particularly when his bête noire, Gen. Musharraf had already lost office by then. Musharraf himself was no angel. He was the one to encourage Benazir Bhutto to return home to participate in the general elections and simultaneously advising her that the time was not propitious for a return just then. In the event Benazir, ignoring the latter half of the Musharraf advice, managed to reach Karachi, to a brutal welcome followed by her assassination in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi when she made another attempt to return. He has continued to be accused of having masterminded the murder.
Prior to relinquishing office, Musharraf, exercising his presidential powers, issued a National Reconciliation Ordinance granting pardon to some 8,000 people including Benazir's husband Asif Ali Zardari. Under enormous Saudi pressure he had earlier agreed to let the man whom he had ousted in a coup, Nawaz Sharif, to return home-but not before humiliating him the first time he reached Islamabad from Riyadh, refusing him permission to land.
Sharif eventually did join Zardari in contesting the election, in the oddest of coalitions which never worked. All this was preceded by the General's ouster and the restoration of the Chief Justice. Normally one would have expected the Chief Justice to show magnanimity and act with grace associated with his office. But Chaudhury has had other ideas eversince his return.
Predictably, he did not act against Nawaz Sharif whose family is involved in serious corruption cases. Instead he sharpened his knives to get at Zardari whom he has perceived as someone who has had private a deal with Musharraf. One of the major decisions he too after his return was to abolish the National Reconciliation Order bringing the President in direct line of fire. And things obviously did come to a head last week when the war of nerves between the judiciary and the executive reached a shrill pitch with Chaudhury;s court, during an unprecedented midnight session, took suo motu notice of an alleged bid by the government to dismiss the higher judiciary. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, bleary eyed with sleep woke up to deny the charge as pure speculation - and baseless at that.
It speaks very poorly of Chief Justice Chaudhury and his colleagues to demand a written explanation from the Prime Minister, observing that toppling of judiciary will be a subversion of the Constitution and therefore an act or high treason. Chaudhury didn't stop at that. Acting like politicians normally do he constituted a 17-member full bench of the court to meet on the next working day to ask the government to furnish a written statement.
Poor Prime Minister Gilani was running from pillar to post from print to electronic media telling anyone who cared to listen to him that the allegation made by the Chief Justice were not correct. Chaudhry, on his part, was convinced that Gilani, a PPP leader from Multan, was clearing the decks to save his President, Asif Ali Zardari from facing the consequences of withdrawal of the NRO. The Government had on an earlier occasion though made it known that a sitting President could not be tried / dismissed while he held the Chief Executive's office.
It it is true that the Chief Justice of Pakistan was worried that the Gilani-led government might withdraw the March 16, 2009 order restoring the Chief Justice and the superior judiciary and as a caution initiated his counter it shows the CJ and his 17-member bench in poor light. According to a news report describing the incident, the fear of the move by the Government, prompted him to convene a late night meeting of all the Supreme Court Judges after which it was decided that a 17-member bench would look into the alleged move by the government.
The hearing was posted for early Friday morning (a holiday) and notice was issued to the Attorney General past midnight. The Prime Minister alerted by the Attorney General issued a statement saying "certain elements are trying to create bad taste among the institutions but these conspiracies will fail. We respect the judiciary. The Government will take every possible step to strengthening of institutions of the State. The Pakistan People's Party has sacrificed their (SIC) lives for the independence of judiciary".
A Pakistani friend tells me while it is possible that a lunatic fringe in the PPP may have been toying with the idea of doing a Musharraf (dismissal of the CJ and senior judiciary) Zardari is in no position to take the risk. On the contrary the friend told me it is quite likely that some legal eagles and mischief-mongers within Mian Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) may have set the ball rolling, to the waters as it were. Yet the view persists that the removal of the Chief Justice and higher court judges by Gen. Muhsarraf in November, 2007 which triggered the political turmoil in the country and led ultimately to Musharraf's ouster. The uneasy relationship between the President and the Chief Justice in any case is a loaded one which may plunge Pakistan, still struggling to overcome the recent devastation caused by floods etc, into a much graver crisis. Remember terrorists of all shade are still very much a part of the Pakistan scene and the stench of the floods pervades the air so much so that serious efforts at the international level is contemplated many weeks after the disaster, to offer relief to millions of still suffering victims.








The Lok Pal bill has come to the fore once again with the government declaring its intention to introduce it in the winter session of Parliament. It will be the tenth time the bill will go to Parliament and one can only hope that this time it may be passed. With corruption becoming a big issue after the Commonwealth Games it is high time that the Lok Pal comes into existence. But going by the previous experience it looks quite a Herculean task and unless there is political will, the bill may fall once again. 
Old timers point out how the bill was first recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Morarji Desai in 1966. He suggested a two- tier system with a Lok Pal at the centre and Lokyukhtas at the state level independent of each other. 
The initial response to the bill was encouraging and the Lok Sabha first passed it in 1969 but the Rajya Sabha could not do so because the elections were called and the bill lapsed. Since then several attempts had been made by various governments in 1971, 1975, 1985, 1989,1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008. But the bill was jinxed just like the women reservation bill. Except in 1985 when the bill was withdrawn, all other times the Lok Sabha was dissolved. The main reason for this is the lack of political will. 
As for the second tier, 17 states had constituted Lokayukthas but Orissa was the first to institute a Lokayukta in 1971 and it also abolished it in 1993. The states had varying degrees of powers vested in the institution. While some had included chief ministers under the purview of the Lokayukhta, others did not even include the legislators. Most of these states have their own story to tell. 
Interestingly it is nobody's case that just because the Lokayukhtas were appointed, corruption was checked in these states. Karnataka is a classic example. Only recently Lokayuktha Justice Santosh Hegde had threatened to resign, as he was powerless to deal with the influential Reddy brothers of Bellary, who control the mines in the district. It took the intervention of BJP leader L.K. Advani to persuade him to remain in his post. Even in the case of UP Justice Narendra Kumar Mehrotra of Supreme Court had to step in to check UP chief minister Mayawati from installing large-scale statues. Politics is today ruled by money power and muscle power. 
It is indeed a welcome step that the Lok Pal bill may be introduced in the winter session. The main bone of contention whether the prime minister should be included under the purview of Lok Pal has now been resolved. Both Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh ha had supported it. The proposed Lok Pal bill includes the prime minister and his ministerial colleagues and MPs under its purview. Naturally the Lok Pal will not be able to look into complaints against the President of India, Vice President. Lok Sabha Speaker, Deputy Speaker. Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, High Court judges and Supreme Court judges. Attorney General, Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners as well as the Chairman and member of the Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribes Commission also do not come under its purview These are constitutional bodies and they could be impeached.
The bill proposes a three member body headed by a sitting or retired chief justice of India selected by a collegiums headed by the Vice President of India including Prime Minister. However, there are critics who feel that this highly political body may not be effective as no one can expect these collegiums to move against politicians. 
Why do we need a Lok Pal? With increasing instances of corruption in high places and misuse of pubic money, Lok Pal is seen as necessary to instill confidence among the public. The image of the politicians is sliding rapidly and the public is getting disenchanted with the corrupt politicians. The kind of scams like the 2G scam or the Common wealth Games make it imperative on the part of the government to look transparent. 
Secondly, there is increasing concern among eminent citizens about the scale of corruption. It is significant to note how a group of eminent persons including a former CVC P. Shankar, Karnataka Lokayukhta Justice Hegde and former Election Commissioner Lyndogh had written to Prime Minister urging him to pass the bill urgently. All of them had headed anti corruption agencies and had a first hand experience of checking corruption and the loopholes in the system. 
Thirdly, there is a need for setting up independent impartial institutions like the Lok Pal with the powers to investigate and prosecute politicians and corrupt bureaucrats. Right now the CVC, CBI and other investigative bodies do not have that kind of powers in the existing anti corruption architecture. Moreover, they have also lost credibility. The existing institutions like the CVC is meant for only officials while the CBI is seen as a handmaid of the ruling government. 
Fourthly, an ordinary citizen gets access to Lok Pal. At a time when it is difficult even to have access to an MLA or an MP, this will be a great advantage to a citizen. It may also prevent a case of delayed justice, as the Lok Pal has to decide within a time frame. The citizen does not have to spend money by way of high legal fee. 
There are many ifs and buts before the Lok Pal bill is passed. Unless all the political parties come together on this issue, it cannot see the daylight. It is not enough just to make accusations of corruption against the ruling party and not seriously concerned about the solutions. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. MPs should be as serious about passing this bill just as they are unanimous in voting for pay hike for themselves. Lok Pal, when it is setup, should be made powerful enough to deal with the kind of corruption in high places. 
The RTI act and its use by the citizens is a shining example of how a common man can use this power to get justice. Who believed that the RTI would be so successful? If the RTI could work why not Lok Pal with full powers to tackle corruption? 
No doubt corruption is an issue not only in India but also in other countries including China and Japan. If it is not checked, there will soon be a day when the public will have no faith in the political system and democracy. (IPA)








The Official Secret Act (OSA) is a legacy of the British rule handed to independent India in 1947. Drafted in 1923, the OSA was essentially implemented to render British governance opaque and unaccountable to commoners, apart from silencing any form of dissent by freedom fighters. It empowered the Government to crack down on any person suspected of espionage or passing on information or "secrets" that could prove hazardous to the system of governance. Going by its words, when someone is arrested "it shall not be necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of any particular act". The maximum punishment that can be handed out in such cases is a jail term of 14-years.
But if these are indeed the problems with the OSA, why are no steps being taken to rectify them? Well, experts point out that there have been attempts in recent times to set the law right. After the UPA Government came to power, an Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) was set up to review-among other laws-the OSA. In its report dated June 2006, the ARC had recommended that the OSA "should be repealed, and substituted by a chapter in the National Security Act, containing provisions related to official secrets".
Not much, however, has happened since then. "We have submitted our report to the government, and it is up to them to take up the issue," says an ARC official, declining to comment any further. Further to the ARC report, an inter-ministerial committee did suggest amending the Act, a recommendation far milder than the ARC's. But no substantial progress has been made in that direction since and critics are not smiling. The very fact that the government decided to amend the Act rather than repeal it proves that they aren't interested in doing away with it altogether.
What makes things worse after 2005, moreover, is the contradiction that the OSA poses in context to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which is aimed at making governance more transparent. While the ARC report mentions that the RTI includes a clause which guarantees its efficiency "notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in the Official Secrets Act", it maintains that the OSA, along with other rules, "may impinge on the regime of freedom of information as they historically nurtured a culture of secrecy and non-disclosure".
The state will always have secrets to keep, but one needs to realise that communication channels, technology and the times in general have changed and some things don't make sense in today's context anymore. What is needed today is a concrete definition of the word 'secret', followed by deciding exactly what qualifies as a secret and what doesn't. That way, a perfect balance could be struck between the two laws.
Whether or not the lawmakers go on to share such views however, is still a secret.
Let us take the case of Mr. V.K. Singh. Barely days after his book India's External Intelligence: Secrets of the Research and Analysis Wing was published two years back, he was in for the shock of his life. A retired army officer and former RAW staffer, Singh woke up on September 21 to a CBI raid, when sleuths barged into his Delhi home to confiscate his computer, passport, diaries and two files of research material. A few days later, Singh was produced in court and charged under the OSA for having supposedly revealed in his book critical secrets that could potentially harm national security.
Mr. Singh was not informed why he was arrested. He sought anticipatory bail in the case, which drags on even today. Surprisingly, during the hearing, CBI said they hadn't read the book, so they couldn't tell the court exactly what information he had given away. Mere hypothesis was enough to land him in trouble.
While Singh didn't have to go to jail courtesy the bail, others have not been as lucky. In 2002, Delhi-based journalist Iftikhar Gilani was arrested under the OSA for allegedly possessing confidential information about deployment of Indian troops in Kashmir. He was imprisoned for seven months, and was acquitted only after it was proved in court that the documents were obsolete and freely available on the Internet. In 1988, B.K. Subbarao, a scientist monitoring India's nuclear submarine project, was arrested for possession of his thesis and was put away in jail for 20 months. The list of so-called offenders under the OSA just rolls on and on.
As these instances indicate, several arrests made under the OSA are indeed baseless, uncorroborated and whimsical. It's one of the draconian laws to exist within Indian legislation today, and the sad truth is that no one seems to be doing anything about it.
The problem, however, is that while the Act seeks to safeguard sensitive information, it doesn't lay down a concrete definition of 'secrets'. Hence anything can be passed off by the Government as a secret, as innocent people are rounded up for no apparent fault.
From possession of maps (in the age of Google Earth) to documents already available in the public domain-the reasons for which people are arrested are countless. Critics of the OSA in legal circles say that it gives those in the Government a chance to abuse the law to harass others, if not to pass the buck for any serious lapse. (INAV)









BY announcing a raise of just Rs 20 in the minimum support price of wheat the Centre has annoyed the growers in Punjab and Haryana. Since the cost of living is rising and government employees have just got hefty hikes in their salaries from back dates, farmers have a reason to feel let down. However, noted farm scientist M.S. Swaminathan opines that the wheat MSP at Rs 1,120 a quintal is justified since it is 25 per cent higher than the actual cost of production. Earlier, the MSP used to be only 15 per cent higher than the production cost. His own recommendation to the government is that farmers should ideally get 50 per cent more than the cost of production.


The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) calculates the MSP based on the actual input costs. Since farmers get power and water at subsidised rates, the actual cost of these inputs is not factored in the MSP. Therefore, wheat and paddy MSPs are often below farmers' expectations. If farmers pay the user-charges for power and water they would get a higher MSP for their produce. The Punjab government actually subsidises consumers of other states while the state's natural resources like soil and water get depleted. Farmers do need state help. Therefore, other ways will have to be found to provide subsidies.


The Centre has sent a clear signal that it does not want farmers to stick to wheat. The godowns overflow with grains and the government is getting flak from various quarters, including the Supreme Court, for the massive waste. The global wheat prices too are not high enough to warrant a hefty rise in the MSP. The 20 per cent hike in the MSP for pulses is understandable as the government pays a heavy price for the country's over-dependence on imports. The production of pulses has lagged far behind demand. The setting up of a technology mission for pulses has also not shown the desired results. In fixing farm prices the government has to keep in mind demand and supply as well as balance the interests of growers and consumers.








THE Supreme Court ruling that a woman in a live-in relationship is not entitled to maintenance unless she fulfills certain parameters needs a close look. A Bench consisting of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice T.S. Thakur has observed that a woman cannot claim maintenance from a man by merely spending a night or a few weekends with him. It ruled that even if not married, she could claim maintenance only if she fulfills four essential requirements. These are: the couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses; both must be of legal age to marry; both must be qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried; and both must have voluntarily cohabited for a longer time in a "shared household". Interestingly, these parameters are not the apex court's creation but principles followed under common law marriages.


The apex court had passed the judgment while setting aside the concurrent orders passed by a family court and the Madras High Court awarding Rs 500 maintenance to a woman who claimed to have married the appellant. The Bench's task was to interpret the phrase "relationship in the nature of marriage" as mentioned in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which expanded the scope of maintenance, till then the exclusive right of a man's legally wedded wife, children and dependent parents. According to the Bench, the expression, "any relationship in the nature of marriage", which has not been defined in the 2005 Act, represented a new social phenomenon of live-in relationships recognised by Parliament.


Though the trend of live-in relationships is gradually catching on in India, it is common in the US, especially North America and Europe. In India (as also in the US), we have the system of alimony providing for maintenance to a woman by her husband. In the US, there is "palimony" which means grant of maintenance to a woman who has lived for a "substantial period of time" with a man without marrying him and is then deserted by him. Though palimony has no statutory sanction in the US, the courts there grant it on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, while some US courts have insisted on a written or oral agreement between a man and a woman for grant of palimony, others have held that the couple must have cohabited together for longer periods for grant of this benefit. Obviously, the Supreme Court of India has examined these provisions minutely while passing Thursday's order.









FOR some time now, India has been living in the smug belief that there is no cause for alarm on malaria control. Now, that belief has been punctured by a study published in the Lancet that puts the deaths due to malaria at a whopping two lakhs annually . More cause for concern is that it includes 55,000 children below five years and 30,000 from five to 14 years. If the new figures according to which one Indian dies every three minutes from malaria are correct, India needs to re-look at its malaria control programmes.


Over the years, India has patted itself for its efforts to control malaria, which was once a killer disease, responsible for 10 per cent deaths of working age adults. In 1953 eight lakh deaths were attributed to malaria. With the launch of national eradication programme, both the incidence of the disease and the number of deaths came down dramatically. But the Lancet figures challenge not only the government claim of 1,000 deaths but also are much higher than WHO estimates that put malaria deaths in India at 15,000.


While WHO may have refuted the new figures, the government has done well to accept the report and draw lessons from it. Calculating the true burden of the disease is essential if malaria has to be tackled and eliminated. The vaccine against malaria might still be away, the disease is by no means incurable and turns fatal only if untreated. That in the day of scientific advancements, people should be dying of an easily treatable disease is totally unacceptable. Perhaps, the solutions lie in the finding that majority of the people who died were from rural areas and did not have adequate health care facility. Indeed, even in this day and age many in India die undiagnosed. There is an urgent need for health services and disease control programmes to reach out to rural and remote areas. Besides, mosquito control must involve local communities.

















SOME decades ago, massive energy released by splitting the uranium atom frightened the world. It appeared to endanger modern civilization — the power of the atom was being diverted to make atomic bombs. Hiroshima and Nagasaki served as a dire warning to mankind. But past this span, the power of the atom is lighting up homes and driving the wheels of industry.


There is today an air of global nuclear renaissance, and India is among the leading beneficiaries of nuclear power. A whiff of nuclear renaissance is being felt in India too. Projects set up by using indigenous nuclear technology — pressurised heavy water reactors — are moving fast forward. By November-end, Kaiga 4 will be commissioned and linked to the grid. This will be the 20th reactor operating in India, under the charge of the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL), bringing nuclear power capacity to approximately 4800 MWe.


The NPCIL has, meanwhile, launched the next stage of building nuclear power capacity by the indigenous PHW reactor design. Upgrading PHWR design to 700 MWe, construction of four indigenous technology reactors is in full swing - two at Kakrapar in Gujarat (Kakrapar 3 and 4) and two at Rawatbhatta - Rajasthan 7 and 8. Together, these reactors will give an additional nuclear power capacity of 2800 MWe by the year 2015, possibly ahead of schedule.


Six more 700 MWe PHWRs are in process of being launched - four at Kumharia in Haryana and two at a site in Madhya Pradesh, both having got environment clearance. They are expected to reinforce the electricity grid by 2016.


Alongside is taking shape the fast breeder programme under the aegis of BHAVINI. The 500 MW prototype FBR construction is proceeding satisfactorily, and is expected to be commissioned by December next year. The Kalpakkam prototype FBR is of key import in the second phase of the Indian nuclear programme. It is expected to be the forerunner of a chain of FBRs in the next two decades.


The Planning Commission has set nuclear power capacity target at a formidable 63,000 MWe by 2032. This will pitch nuclear power to a sizeable portion of India's total electricity generation, and will ensure power self-sufficiency. How is this to be achieved?


There are two layers of nuclear power plant construction planned. One stream of nuclear power will be provided by indigenous technology — PHWRs and fast breeders following the prototype 500 MW FBR, now under construction at Kalpakkam. The second layer of nuclear power will come from advanced light water reactors, imported from leading nuclear suppliers. Light water reactor imports during the two decades ahead is planned to be of the order of 40,000 MWe.


Beyond 2032, nuclear power construction will be led by thorium-fuelled third generation FBRs. Nuclear power is expected to meet the bulk of the power shortfall in the decades after the thirties.


At the present stage, it is the imported advanced light water reactors that hold the key. The three leading nuclear suppliers — Russia, France and the United States — are in the forefront. Two Russian advanced VVER design reactors, each of 1000 MWe capacity, are already in an advanced stage of construction at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. The first Kudankulam reactor is expected to go critical in January next year and the second is expected to be linked to the southern power grid by May 2011. An agreement with the Russians for two more 1000 MWe capacity VVERs is expected to be finalised by December this year, coinciding with the visit of the Russian President. There is scope for Kudankulam 5 and 6 VVERs as and when construction of the next two VVERs proceeds.


There is, however, an important difference in the terms and pattern of construction of Kudankulam 1 and 2 and the Russian-aided VVER reactors that follow, such as the two VVER reactors regarding whom an agreement is about to be clinched. While Kudankulam 1 and 2 are almost turnkey projects, the Indian nuclear establishment has insisted that in Kudankulam 3 and 4 about 60 per cent of the construction will use indigenous equipment that Indian nuclear industries provide. This is essential not only for the growth of the indigenous nuclear industry but also for keeping prices low.


This principle will also apply to the light water reactors that France and the US provide. The Indian industry will have a major role to play. This means that advanced foreign technology will be tied to low-cost Indian manufacture - the bulk of it. This approach is dictated not just by nationalism but rather by economics. Quality of technology plus the price — these are the two decisive factors in finalising the contracts for French and American light water reactor imports.


"We have told them that if you want to sell (the reactors) at European prices, thank you very much," says Mr S.K.Jain, the NPCIL chief. The NPCIL, he says, is a commercial body and its product has to match market prices. That means that the per unit cost of electricity generated by these imported reactors must meet the market requirements just as the indigenous reactors are doing.


Negotiations are on with the French nuclear company AREVA for the supply of its advanced light water reactor - European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) - each of 1650 MWe capacity. The French reactors are to be installed at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, where a nuclear park, approved on environment considerations, has been set up by the NPCIL. The Jaitapur site is capable of maintaining 10,000 MWe capacity reactors.


Talks are in progress with AREVA initially for installing two EPRs of 3200 MWe capacity. These can be followed by two more EPR projects - depending on the experience of the first EPR project. Eventually, AREVA is offering approximately 10,000 MWe capacity EPR reactors. An initial agreement is likely by December. The negotiations are complex — not only because of the price factor but even more on account of the technology offered. The EPR technology has yet to be proven, although it joins two advanced and tested reactor technologies — French reactor experience of three decades as well as German reactor technology. EPRs are already under construction in France, Finland and China, and Britain is to begin their construction.


As for the Americans, GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse are in the forefront, both offering advanced tested technologies, although the price factor will be tough to negotiate. Here, too, the same formula will apply to keep the cost low — foreign reactor technology tied to low-cost Indian manufactures. Together, the two companies may provide reactors of 10,000 MWe capacity and upwards. The GE-Hitachi reactors may be constructed at a site in Andhra Pradesh - cleared for environment — while the Westinghouse reactors may be installed in Gujarat. Japanese companies are major stakeholders in the two US-incorporated companies — Toshiba, in fact, owns as much as a 65 per cent stake in Westinghouse while Hitachi has a 40 per cent stake in GE-Hitachi tie-up.








MY friend Vasant Karmakar (not his real name, of course) has always been a worldly wise, upwardly mobile, ever-smiling politician. Not any longer. Nowadays, he has a permanent scowl on his face, as if he has lost the security deposit in an election. That was intriguing for me, because actually he had not only become an MLA for the third time but had also been elected the Assembly Speaker.


When I asked him the reason for his sorrow, he almost started crying: "You just cannot understand how difficult it is to conduct the proceedings of the House. At times I feel as if I am a helpless referee in a no-holds-barred wrestling arena".


"Think out of the box, Vasant," I said, "you can surely come on top of the situation. You have been through worse. Remember the time when you had won a corruption case against you by bribing the inquiry officer?"



"That was a different scenario altogether. How do I curb the unabashed use of unparliamentary language by many of them? It's a shame, indeed."


"Simple. You out-abuse them. Listen, I can give you a crash course in choice Punjabi gaalis right away, which will come in very handy in your state."


"Come on. How can a Speaker use foul language in public?"


"If some Speakers can act as paid agents of the ruling party, what is wrong in using colourful words? It is all for the sake of proper conduct of the proceedings, after all."


"But they can also out-shout me."


"My dear Speaker, learn to be a Loudspeaker. In fact, you should be the only one to have the right to use a mike. That will also solve the problem of some unruly members throwing mikes and other stuff at each other".


"They rush to the well of the House every now and then."


"Dig a real well there and see what happens. Either the members will mend their ways or the public will be

grateful to you for this innovative method of getting rid of some of those johnies. You can do it, honest. You are the lord and master of the House and your predecessors have gotten away with even more outlandish acts, like expelling members for no rhyme or reason."


"Quite a few of them stage a walkout at the drop of a hat."


"You are so close to the government. Use your connections to bring in an ordinance that anybody who walks out of the House will also have to walk out of the official house allotted to him. Mark my words. Not one of them will stir out then."


"Can you imagine, some of them take money from vested interests for asking questions in the House!"


"How very innovative of them! Why don't you start charging them money for asking questions? That will be the ideal way to take care of the budgetary deficit — of the government and your household."


"And what to do with those who pick up chairs, tables, paperweights, mikes and wastepaper baskets and throw them at their rivals and me?"


"Dismantle the benches. Install cages instead. Till that futuristic seating arrangement is in place, make sure that the TV cameras are switched off when they are up to their usual antics. Some of them turn violent only to impress their Bahubali mentors back home."


"You do not know how many criminals themselves get elected these days."



"So what? Move with the times. Start employing surrendered dacoits and terrorists as marshals."









THE Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, passed by the Lok Sabha on May 6, 2010, has been sent to the Select Committee by the Rajya Sabha for further scrutiny. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill indicates that India wants to ratify the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on October 9, 1975. Though India signed the Convention in 1997, it had not so far ratified it. Ratification of the Convention requires an enabling legislation to reflect the definition and punishment for torture.

Torture is a crime under international law. International standards such as the Geneva Convention, the UN Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ban torture or any kind of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment even in times of war. The ban is absolute. The UN Convention against torture provides that each state shall take effective legal, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture and no exceptional circumstances, whether a state of war, internal political instability or any public emergency may be invoked as justification of torture.


Though India signed the Convention Against Torture, it has not so far ratified it, despite repeated reminders of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other human rights groups. India thus has been in the distinguished company of countries like Sudan, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Myanmar that have not so far ratified the Convention.


Many enlightened persons and human rights groups have viewed the Prevention of Torture Bill in its present form as a disappointment. They feel that the present provisions of the Bill are inadequate and insufficient to address the problem of torture and adequately punish its perpetrators. The Bill, according to them, dilutes some of the important provisions of UNCAT and betrays lack of earnestness in tackling the problem.


The definition of torture under Section 3 of the Bill is narrow and restrictive. There is no reference to other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment any where in the Bill. The definition in the Bill also excludes purely mental torture which is included in the UNCAT definition.


Section 2(a) of the Bill provides that words and expression used in the Act shall have the same meaning as in the Indian Penal Code. Section 3 defines "torture" as an intentional act which causes grievous hurt danger to life, limb and health. According to Section 320 IPC, "grievous hurt" is limited to permanent disability and disfigurement, fracture or dislocation of bones and severe physical pain. This test is much stricter and narrower than that of the UNCAT.


Some practices, for example, water boarding, beating, making a threat to torture may not in all cases endanger life, limb, or health. Clause 4 of the Bill does not lay down any minimum sentence for a person found guilty of torture. This may result in imposition of light sentences vitiating the spirit of legislation. To firmly discourage torture, an absolute minimum punishment is crucial. This will indicate strong governmental disapproval and send the signal that certain types of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.


Section 5 of the Bill provides that no court shall take cognisance of an offence punishable under the Act unless the complaint is made within six months from the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed. The limitation of six months has been criticised because it is less than for other crimes under India's Criminal Procedure Code. Critics say, the time-limit provides an unjustifiable layer of protection for the perpetrators.


Sometimes the victims of torture are physically and psychologically traumatised and are unable to lodge complaints. The obligation of state parties to the UNCAT to apply criminal law to all acts of torture is unlimited in time and so no limitation period should apply to the serious crime of torture. However, the fact remains that investigation of cases of torture becomes difficult unless complaints are lodged quickly, and an unlimited period of time will encourage flow of motivated complaints. The limitation period can be extended to one year as is the practice in respect of complaints before the NHRC. But some limitation period is necessary.


Section 6 of the Bill prohibits prosecution of a public servant without explicit sanction from the government or authority that employees him. Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides public servants with protection against prosecution in the form of executive sanction. The Supreme Court of India has laid down that the sanction of discretion is a limited power of the government and can be invoked only when an act has been done in the course of legitimate performance of duties of a public servant.


The NGOs' plea to delete the provision for sanction for public servants who have allegedly committed acts of torture is somewhat impractical in the prevailing circumstances in the country. Interested groups and criminal elements will expose police officers and public servants to many frivolous and vexatious prosecutions and demoralise them. Allegations of torture can be easily and mischievously made against public servants and they can be dragged in courts of law.


The Bill also does not incorporate offences like custodial violence and torture by public servants. The NHRC, in its reports, has highlighted the alarming dimensions of violence in police custody. The incidence of custodial deaths has not diminished. Annually, about 180 deaths take place in police custody despite the NHRC's frequent admonitions and stern rulings of the apex court (D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal). Condign punishment of the guilty officers and men will have a salutary and cathartic impact.


Article 14 of the UNCAT provides that "each state party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible". The Bill in question fails to include any such provision. It provides for an enforceable right to reparations for the victims.


At present the NHRC as well as the courts provide interim relief in the form of compensation to victims of torture. But for elimination of torture mere legal ban will be insufficient. Torture flourishes because authorities in many countries have not taken a tough and unambiguous stand against it. Besides extraction of information, torture is also motivated, as Canadian author Michael Ignatief, says by baser instincts of inflicting pain, and exacting revenge and even for fun. This seems to be happening in many prisons and torture camps.


The writer is Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. He is a former Director-General, National Human Rights Commission, and Director, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad








FOOD deprivation or forcible feeding with spoiled food, animal or human excreta or other food not normally eaten by the victim...burning by electrically heated rods, hot oil, acid, by the rubbing of pepper or other chemical substances on mucous membranes, or acids or spices directly on the wounds...submersion of the victim's head in water or water polluted with excrement, urine, vomit and/or blood..."


Be assured, gentle reader: the quote is not aimed at ruining your breakfast. It is a small excerpt from Schedule I of the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, sent to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha on August 31. The Schedule lists actions by official investigative agencies that "torture" includes for purposes of this Act.


The quote only serves to throw light on the mindset of a section of the legislation's strong critics. To those who see such an enactment as wanton encouragement of "terrorism", the Schedule would only seem to enumerate effective and essential anti-terrorist techniques. To these critics, the legislation only marks yet another attempt to reduce India to a ludicrously soft state.


There is nothing in the text of the Bill to suggest its connection to the subject of terrorism. Its provisions deal with widely prevalent and known practices of "investigation" in police stations across the country, with the very poor as mostly the victims. None of the monstrous "investigative" methods has been employed only against alleged enemies of the nation.


No such purpose can be claimed for putatively investigative perversions including, to cite the Schedule again, "rape and sexual abuse, including the insertion of foreign bodies into the sex organs or rectum or electrical torture of the genitals" and "mutilation, such as amputation of the essential parts of the body such as the genitalia, ears, tongue, etc."


A connection of sorts to "terrorism", however, can be seen in the Bill's recognition of "other forms of aggravated and deliberate cruel, inhuman or degrading physical treatment or punishment such as forcing him or her (the person under investigation) to strip or to engage in acts reprehensible to his or her religion or belief system."


The allusion, obviously, is not to investigation of anyone associated with what Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has characterised so controversially as "saffron terror".


The Bill also contains a cruel joke in its provision giving a torture victim just six months to file his complaint. This flies in the face of a mountain of evidence about the illegal detention of such victims for alleged investigation for indefinite periods running into many years.


Way back in the nineties, we heard very few apologias for torture in the name of fighting terrorism. What assailed our ears after the Bill was introduced in Parliament was an echo of what the world heard from the George W. Bush Administration of the US and its allies for eight long years.


Soon after 9/11 and the launch of the Global War on Terror, the Administration's Departments of Justice and Defence came out with a number of reports, arguing that "aggressive detainee interrogation" practices were justified in the new context. Suspension of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, prohibiting torture of prisoners of war, was specifically advocated.


The grisly investigation procedures at the Guantanamo Bay, as reported in those days, bear a striking resemblance to those listed in Schedule I of India's Bill. Captives there, for one example, were "chained hand and foot in a foetal position to the floor for 18 hours or more, urinating and defecating on themselves", according to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).


We are also told that "female interrogators would sometimes wet their hands and touch detainees' faces to disrupt their prayers" — an example of what the Schedule calls "acts reprehensible to ...the religious faith" of the victim.


Torture became an explosive issue again in 2004, when reports and pictures of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq caused worldwide revulsion. The reactions from the "anti-terrorist" quarters in the US were revealing — and resembled the response from their Indian counterparts to the anti-torture Bill.


US radio host Rush Limbaugh sneered: "...we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, ever heard of emotional release?"


A talk show host, Michael Savage, said: "Instead of putting joysticks, I would have liked to have seen dynamite put in their orifices...We need more of the humiliation tactics, not less."


The "anti-terrorist" critics of the Bill, keeping the Bush legacy alive in India, are not squeamish about opposing a law to prevent and punish torture of even common people.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Chennai









There has been a miracle brewing in the state of Bihar. Economic growth in the past five years has been among the highest in the country. This was first publicly proclaimed by Swaminathan Aiyar back in January. In his inimitable provocative style, he also said that sustaining the economic boom of Bihar requires that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar gets re-elected in the Assembly elections during October and November. 


Now the World Bank has also corroborated that Bihar's economic growth was an average of 10.7 per cent for four years in a row till 2009, compared to only 4.5 per cent in the previous four years. 


The elections have already started on October 21 and will be held over six phases till November 20. The state will elect 243 MLAs from a total of more than 2,000 candidates. 


If the electorate gives a decisive majority to Nitish Kumar, it would be a repeat of a pattern seen in modern India, that of rewarding incumbents who deliver. In the past few years, several state assembly elections have voted back performers. 


We have seen this phenomenon of re-electing incumbents in Gujarat, Orissa and Delhi. Of course the incumbents won in the state of Maharashtra too, but the story here is more complicated. Caste is supposed to be a big factor in Bihar's elections, but a Nitish victory will force us to reconsider the importance of caste. 


In Bihar the improvement in governance is very visible, not just because economic growth is up dramatically. Crime statistics have declined. Kidnapping for ransom had become a lucrative and low risk cottage industry. The number of kindap cases have gone down from 411 in 2004 to 55 this year. Even the murder rate is down significantly. Poverty, illiteracy, ill health indicators have all improved, although still well below national average. People actually have begun venturing out "after sunset", as if that was a reckless thing to do in the past. 


What has however not changed in Bihar, and indeed in most states of India is the increasing influence of money power and muscle power in elections. Most of the candidates continue to be crorepatis, and data from the first three phase candidates reveal at least 100 candidates who have declared assets of more than one crore rupees. 


Of course, nothing is known about the source of income of these candidates, and quite often even the PAN number is missing, since probably the candidates do not even pay taxes. 


More troubling is the fact that of the 962 candidates who are in the fray so far (the first three out of six phases) as many as 379 have pending criminal cases. All the major parties including the JD(U) of Nitish Kumar, the BJP, Congress, the RJD, BSP and LJP havebetween 30 to 70 per cent candidates with criminal record. A large number of these have serious cases like murder, rape, kidnapping and assault against them. 


Most politicians grudgingly declare their criminal cases since it is required by election law, but then complain that most cases are either frivolous or politically motivated. Or else, they say that those charges were framed against them for taking a morcha against rising prices. 


To the credit of Nitish Kumar, he kept his promise of not allowing any tainted MLA to become a member of his cabinet of ministers. In November 2005, within hours of taking oath as CM, he had dropped a prominent member from his Council of Ministers, after it was pointed out that the member had a pending criminal case. So Bihar has not had any tainted minister for the past five years. Perhaps it was this gesture which established early the credibility of the CM. 

If re-elected, the CM will find that sustaining Bihar's miracle growth will need continuing the tradition of a spotless cabinet.


To the credit of Nitish Kumar, he kept his promise of not allowing any tainted MLA to become a member of his Cabinet of ministers





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China is not only on the path to Great Power status, it also means to exercise its newfound muscle. What is difficult to understand is why it wants to behave like a rogue power when the world would want it to be a responsible force in global affairs. Consider the evidence, starting with its choice of friends — including two countries whom you would consider as a part of the "axis of evil", Pakistan and North Korea. China has not only ignored its own treaty obligations and nuclear-enabled a known proliferator like Pakistan, it has also lent its tacit support to North Korea even as that country has been busy violating its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which China is a signatory.


In the economic sphere, few will quibble with the argument that China's skewed (export-oriented) growth pattern has added to a global payments imbalance that is exacerbated by its mercantilist currency policy. In the technical field, it repeatedly tries to hack into other countries' government and strategic computer systems. And in the commodities sphere, it has only recently been reported that it forced Japan to back down in the two countries' most recent confrontation by signalling an informal blacklisting of Japan in the supply of rare metals (in which China has a virtual monopoly, and rare metals are crucial to many industries). Finally, in the geographic sphere, its claim to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as a "core interest" is about as unilateralist as it gets. It is, of course, inherent in the nature of power that you want to use it to either change the rules, or break them when convenient. Nor can it be argued that other great powers have not behaved in exactly the same way in the past. China itself has bitter memories of gunboat "diplomacy", the opium wars, the Boxer uprising, and unequal treaties being forced on it by the great powers of the 19th century. The United States, as the pre-eminent power of the past century, was not particularly choosy about the rogue rulers whom it supported when it found that convenient (remember Pol Pot, and sundry puppet regimes in three continents). Indeed, President Bush's unprovoked war on Iraq could be cited as a good example of power gone rogue. So, China is not charting untrodden paths.


Still, Beijing must ask itself whether it serves its own interest well by creating hostility or wariness in its spread-out neighbourhood, taking in countries all the way from Japan to India, with South Korea in between and Australia off on the side, and not to mention at least some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (notably Vietnam). Of course, if you really have power on your side, you don't have to spare too much concern for those whom you are shoving aside, but even in international affairs what goes round does come round.


It is not that there is no alternative course available. For all the unilateralist action that can and should be laid at Washington's door, the US as a superpower has frequently worked in the interest of protecting the global commons — defending free trade, protecting open sea lanes, acting as a global policeman when no one else was willing to take on the role (Serbia, Somalia, etc.), and working even if selectively to protect human rights. Such stances create a soft power that is a useful corollary to hard power, because it encourages willing compliance by other countries and helps create and sustain alliances. And it cannot be that China, with its strong civilisational strengths, would not see any self-interest in exercising some soft power.







There is s quiet revolution happening in the Indian higher education system. It started in the South many years ago, with the mushrooming of private engineering, medical and business schools. The profits made by these institutions encouraged others in the rest of the country to do the same. However, the real revolution is happening now with established business houses planning "world-class" universities in various parts of the country. While the success of ISB encouraged the growth of business schools in the country, the spectacular success of Manipal University has shown how private universities can be good business as well as serve an important social cause.


Indeed, if we have any hopes of becoming a knowledge-based economy, it is imperative that we invest in higher education, and we do it now. There are two factors working to our advantage. First, an increasing number of students are leaving India after finishing high school to go and study in colleges abroad. While some of them may be getting financial assistance, most have to spend their own money and, the cost is certainly not cheap. This means that if reputed private institutions offer degree courses in India, people will be willing to attend them even if they are costly. The problem, however, is one of reputation.


 This brings me to the second advantage that India faces. Up until now, much of Europe has been providing free education to all those who made it to their system. Starting a year from now, free education will be available to European students alone, which means Indian students will have to pay hefty fees, much like what they have been doing to study in US colleges. In addition, universities are now being encouraged to add to their resources in whatever way they can — attracting paying students, selling patents and consulting for private companies. If these universities open up overseas training centres in India, they will reduce the costs of studying in Europe without, necessarily, diluting the quality of the training.


In other words, there is enough of a demand for good higher education in India and there are enough reputed foreign universities that will gladly set up shop in India.


A famous scientist on his retirement from an undergraduate college recounted the following story. After he finished his doctoral studies, he applied for a job at the local university. In the interview, he was asked why he would want to give up a promising research career and join a teaching institution. He promptly decided against joining the university and, instead, took up a position at a highly reputed undergraduate college. He remained there throughout his professional career and became one of the city's most respected teachers and a highly regarded researcher. The moral of the story is that one cannot be a good researcher without having a bunch of good students to teach. A good researcher seldom makes a bad teacher, while it is unusual for a non-researcher to be an excellent teacher at higher levels.


Unfortunately, we have followed the principle of separating teaching from research and set up institutes all over the place, away from universities and without undergraduate and postgraduate students. Some of these institutes do give higher level degrees but their student intakes are minimal and they seldom take in undergraduates. To counter this, private institutes of higher education have set themselves up as pure teaching shops with little or no research activity. It is time to change this and the best way is to set up integrated universities, with undergraduate and postgraduate teaching along with an active research base.


Also, a university must nurture all disciplines. MIT and Harvard are not known because they specialise in certain disciplines but because they are at the frontiers of all disciplines. In India, we have not only segregated teaching and research activity; we have also separated out the disciplines — basic sciences from the engineering courses and the sciences from the humanities. We thus have the IITs and the IIMs as well as institutes of mathematics and physics and, of course, we have the social science research institutes. Teaching and research activities are carried out in disciplinary silos, their geographical separation ensuring that there is no scope for lateral inflow of ideas into one set of disciplines from another. A university set-up where students can and do learn more than one discipline, and can constantly interact with young minds from various departments, is necessary for our education system to flourish.


What makes this approach difficult is that while there is high market demand for some disciplines, like engineering, medicine, business, economics and finance, there is little immediate demand for humanities and other social sciences. This means that there has to be some cross-subsidisation across disciplines. Both student fees and teacher salaries have to reflect the market opportunities of each discipline. In a government-funded institution, this is difficult; in privately run universities, this is more feasible. Private universities being set up must ensure that they go beyond the so-called professional courses.


This is where tying up with reputed foreign universities can be of immense help provided the collaboration goes beyond teaching. A university is successful not only because it has good teaching, but also because it produces internationally acclaimed research. However, research and teaching has to be based in the Indian context. While much of the theoretical and methodological training is independent of the country where it is being imparted — there is no American physics, British chemistry or, economics for a country like India — the problems or applications being discussed have to be set in the Indian context. Only then we will develop research that gives us solutions to problems faced by India and, hence, move us towards a knowledge-based economy.


The author is research director, India Development Foundation









Indian women are being celebrated in the country as a result of the mark they have made at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. Of the 101 medals that the country won, it was the ladies who brought home 22 scoring wins in almost all of the disciplines in the competition.


Yet the same cannot be said of the state of Indian women as a whole as was recently demonstrated by India's performance in another competition of sorts: The Global Gender Gap Report released this month by the World Economic Forum (WEF). India ranked a dismal 112 out of 134 countries, repeating the poor run of last year when it scored 114. India scored the lowest among the BRIC nations and its gender equality performance was among the worst in the region with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh coming in 16th and 82nd, respectively (see table).
 In a speech she delivered at the inauguration of the All-India Women's Conference in March 1980, Indira Gandhi said, "I have often said that I am not a feminist. Yet, in my concern for the underprivileged, how can I ignore women who, since the beginning of history, have been dominated over and discriminated against in social customs and in laws?" Three decades on, her thoughts on the status of Indian women read like she had made the speech today.


India's growth is undeniable. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates, the country is poised to grow at 8.4 per cent in 2011. In fact, with the exception of China, India is growing faster than pretty much every other country in the world. The trouble is that this exponential growth and India's rising importance in the world act as a smokescreen to the beleaguered status of women in the country.


The WEF's Gender Gap Index is created on the basis of four criterion: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. India scores dismally on all fronts apart from political empowerment of women, in which it scores above average. These gender parity gaps are capable of dragging India's growth rate down dramatically if they are not filled, as Indira Gandhi noted in her 1980 speech, "By excluding women, men are depriving themselves of a fuller emancipation or growth for themselves."


It is disturbing to note that though India has the highest female-to-male sex ratio at birth, it has the lowest percentage of females in its population in the Asia-Pacific, ranking lower than Pakistan, the Maldives and Bangladesh, according to a United Nations Development Programme report. It also noted that India had more missing women in 2007 than Pakistan and Bangladesh.


The WEF report points to areas in which there is an overlap between gender equality and country's growth. These include education of girls, women's labour force participation and the power of women as consumers. For example, it cites a research linking an increase in women's participation in the workforce in Europe as a crucial instigator of economic growth over the past decade. It also suggests that an increase in women's participation in the workforce can help ease the increasing burdens of ageing economies with the growing threat of pension payments.


According to a Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute report titled "The Power of the Purse", increasing gender parity juxtaposed with a burgeoning middle class can positively impact the manner in which households spend and save, increasing consumption in sectors such as education, health care and food. Speaking specifically about the situation in India, the report predicts that because of the low status of women, these desirable shifts in spending will not be witnessed for the next 15 to 20 years.


Predictably, the Nordic countries, Iceland, Norway and Finland, topped the list with their high levels of female participation in politics and an enviable female labour force participation. It should be noted that no country in the world has yet achieved gender parity, but the Nordic countries have managed to close their gender gaps by 80 per cent.


The Global Gender Index exposes the clear link between the gender gap prevalent in a country and its national competitiveness; which is most strongly defined by the availability of human capital. The United Nations predicts that there will be 615 million women in India by 2016, up from 496 million in the 2001 census. India's growth and development will depend heavily on the manner in which it educates and uses this huge potential base of talent.


India's former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women." By that measure, it seems India is falling into a gender gap.










In eternal India, as much today, good rains bring bountiful crops and good cheer. If to that you add the surge forward of an emerging market, then few corners of the earth should be able to offer a more exciting life. Well, yes and no.


It has never rained as much in Bangalore during the decade I have lived there as this year. And the cool clime has often turned almost chilly. So, occasionally, when the sun has managed to escape the clouds and show its face, it has been pleasant to bask in its light the way you would do in a hill station, reminding you that the city used to be considered as one not so long ago.


 The endless rain has changed the landscape. The parks are more green than I have ever seen them. The trees seem to have sprouted additional foliage so that the canopy they extend over the walkways in the park is now virtually continuous. The birds have been affected too. Earlier they would dutifully turn up their song with the coming of the rains and go back to low key when they were gone. But this year, as the rains have lingered, the birds, following the primeval signal, feel duty-bound to continue their full-throated song.


The greatest gift of the endless rain has been a new munificence from the water-supply people. Gone are the days when you had to ration water the way you would normally measure in careful drops the liquid that cheers as well as inebriates. Unbelievably, water comes almost every day and in generous measure.


But nature's bounty has come at a price. Doctors confirm that the city of salubrious weather, which is also the city of aches and pains in rainy season, has these last few months made them work overtime. There has also been a deluge of fevers of all kind. The burst of life for nature has manifested itself not just through the greenery but through a strong army of viruses and sundry germs.


If this was all that the downside of rains held, then it would have been bearable. But they have played havoc with the roads too. If earlier traffic moved slowly because of too many cars, now it moves slower still because of potholes that get deepened with every downpour. Once they get threateningly large, plain good earth and rubble are dumped to fill things up without any bituminous topping. Then when it rains again the next day, the potholes become soggy, spongy traps for cars.


The cycle is complete when in the middle of the season of rain-induced potholes, the ancient water mains spring leaks (maybe because of the extra pressure to pump out more water) which create their own little puddles that hide new emerging potholes. Ulsoor Road in the heart of town, a milestone in the country's technological journey (it housed the first main automatic telephone exchange that Sam Pitroda and his boys built), has created a record of sorts.


The water mains running below it have sprung a record number of leaks this year. When these became unbearable, the authorities decided to uproot the crumbling mains and relay fresh ones. The road for a time looked more like a First World War trench while a single row of cars precariously negotiated the rest of the potholes. The work now seems to be mostly over and stretches have been filled up with good earth (again sans bituminous topping), inviting cars doing the stretch to fall into minefields of another kind.


How life is for those who work in the swanky offices of IT firms that line the road I do not know. They cannot be worse off than those who rue their decision to set up temporary base in the service apartment that also graces the street. And there is no need to ask whether the elegant new patisserie with a name like French Loaf gets any customers other than those who are within walking distance.


Just when I was thinking someone ought to use technology, which the city has in plenty, to reduce its misery, I spotted the large electronic sign one day in peak hours as I approached Richmond Road saying that traffic ahead "is moving slow". Well tried but which fool will not know, and so needs to be told, that traffic crawls along that road during peak hours.


Crumbling water mains and road tops are bad enough but to these have been added the other worsening feature of life in the garden city — more and more informal garbage dumps sprouting here and there as the collection mechanism slowly runs down. Contract labour, women in green overalls, periodically sweep the streets, tempos collecting garbage in neighbourhoods do their rounds every other or third day, but the unauthorised dumps keep festering in the rain, reminding me of the bad old days in Kolkata when it was more a city of garbage until a determined municipal commissioner cleaned things up for a while.


When I drop the wife off to work on Dickinson Road near the shopping heart of town on Commercial Street, I keep seeing an impromptu garbage dump at the head of a lane that houses posh shops hawking designer ware. Same is the determined dump in my neighbourhood opposite a new house that must have cost the doctor couple with roaring practices a fortune to build. So, life goes on — the rains, greenery, technology, high spending, potholes and garbage all living happily together.  








When a distinguished but elderly scientist states something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states something is impossible, he is probably wrong.


The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

— Arthur C Clarke

Hazards of Prophesy: The Failure of Imagination (1962)


Clarke (1917-2008) worked most of his life in a genre known as "hard science fiction". Hard SF is pretty well-defined by the "Second Law of Prediction" cited above. Its exponents conceptualise stuff that is somewhat beyond the limits of the possible and speculate as to how and why those things may become possible.


In their time, hard SF practitioners have conceptualised colonies on the moon and beyond, genetically engineered test-tube babies, sentient computers, cellphones, nano-technology and other bits of magic (vide the Third Law). Well within Clarke's lifetime, the global satellite communications network he dreamt of came to pass. So did a lot of other hard SF magic. Clarke's space elevator may become a reality once new materials like graphene go into industrial production.


The barrier of the imagination is also obvious when we look at sports and endurance records. When Captain Webb swam 34 km across the English Channel in 1883, it was considered to be an impossible feat. There have since been many two-way crossings.


It took three decades and a multitude of fatalities before Hillary and Tenzing made it to the top of Everest. Over 2,000 people have "summit-ed" since — some like Meissner, without bottled oxygen. Once Roger Bannister broke the barrier of the four-minute mile, a multitude of runners followed in his wake. Ditto for so many other records.


Once some pioneer busts the psychological barrier, others follow. If people realise something is possible, they can put a great deal of effort and ingenuity into making it happen. There may be daunting barriers to be overcome. But once people knew it can be done, whatever "it" may be, they find ways to do it and to do it better.


The same principle works in business. The pattern is always similar. All it takes is one big breakthrough by one individual, who doesn't suffer a failure of the imagination. It takes a pioneering entrepreneur to prove a business case for something.


After that, others will analyse the business model, tweak it to meet specifics and improve upon it. That was the case with the Model T Ford; the PC, the iPhone, discount airlines, Walmart, and cheap mobile telephony, to pick a few examples at random.


But one place where this doesn't seem to work appears to be governance and policy formulation. Examples of excellent governance, and good policy-making abound. So, of course, do examples of bad governance and malign policy-making.


Given widespread access to information and reams of analysis, the good governance models should be relatively easy to adapt and tweak. And, if the same rules that worked in other spheres of life worked in this one, eventually the good governance models would supersede the bad ones. This does happen sometimes, but all too rarely.


One stumbling block in this respect is, of course, vested interests — poor governance creates rents for the undeserving and they fight to retain them. However, with every business or scientific breakthrough, as creative destruction occurs, vested interests are placed at risk. Eventually the breakthrough wins out.


The difference is that good governance requires mass support to be implemented. Until and unless the governed believe that positive change will occur, it cannot occur. Unfortunately, one inevitable effect of poor governance is that it leads to mass failure of the imagination. How does one get around that?












The translator, who proposes to render each word literally and adhere slavishly to the order of the words and sentences in the original, will meet much difficulty and the result will be doubtful and corrupt. This is not the right method. The translator should first grasp the sense of the subject thoroughly, and then state the theme with perfect clarity in the other language. This, however, cannot be done without changing the order of the words, putting many words for one word, or vice versa, and adding or taking away words, so that the subject be perfectly intelligible in the language in which he translates.

— Letters of Maimonides, Jewish philosopher and jurist, 1135-1204


An old sexist Italian adage puts it another way, that a translation is like a woman who cannot be both beautiful and faithful! Edith Grossman, who has translated Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes and others of the Latin American Boom for English readers (above all, Miquel Cervantes' Don Quixote), says in her lecture, Why Translation Matters (Yale University Press, to be reprinted by Orient Blackswan in November), that "while fidelity is our noble purpose, it does not have much, if anything, to do with what is called literal meaning. A translation can be faithful to tone and intention; it can rarely be faithful to words or syntax, for these are specific to specific languages and are not transferable".

 For instance, the translator of Francophone African literature has to go beyond the French expression to the other culture, the other psychology that lie beneath it, that is to reach the African context which is its focus. And when all else has failed, the translator has to be guided by the ear, which is the music of contemporary African literature. Much the same can be said for all translations from one language to another: the cultural context that would promote understanding and insight has to be emphasised and this can only be done as an interpreter of the original text.


Grossman begins by arguing for the cultural importance of translation and for a more encompassing and nuanced appreciation of the translator's role. As she says in her introduction, "My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented."


In chapter two, Grossman goes on to tell us about the two years she took to translate Don Quixote, the things she had to consider and the things she had to do. Should she read all the earlier English translations, should she consider the scholarly literature about the book with all the footnotes and paraphernalia of scholarly works like she did for the modern Latin writers she usually translated? The essential point is that a great deal of reading has to be done before you begin to translate a passage and this study must concentrate on the cultural differences (and similarities) of one language group with another.


In chapter three, Grossman discusses how she and others have handled poetry with numerous examples. How does a translator capture the rhyme and rhythm of the original, its emotions, and its images, images from another country and possibly also from another time? It isn't the easiest thing to do and it requires a poetic imagination of the highest order to get anywhere close to the original. And even then, the music would invariably be missing.


Grossman is right. Good translations that make significant contributions to every book really amount to a musical duet between the original author and her translator. And the duet cannot be a one-sided affair because the translator, as Grossman puts it, is "the second writer". Again, Grossman falls back on Moses Maimonides who spent a decade composing his Guide of the Perplexed from the original Arabic to Hebrew because he selected every word and phrase to suit the text.


Grossman has focused primarily on novels and poetry, and not on philosophy, but her lectures apply to all literature. And especially to the Bible.


Millions who read the Bible forget that it is a translation from Aramaic to Greek to English — probably because the translation is so close to the music of the original. And which was made possible because the translators had the courage to make changes to make it more readable. For example, the noun "Lord" as another word for God is not in the original when it was translated from Hebrew into Greek because it was felt that it was "inappropriate to render God's name in Greek; so they substituted the word, 'Lord'". All future translations have continued this practice.


For a multi-lingual society like ours that desperately needs translations from English into the regional languages, and vice versa, this little book is of considerable importance. Our Sahitya Akademis that should have taken the lead in a much more rigorous way have done precious little to close the gaps that exist today. Is it because of lack of resources or because we do not have the required expertise in two or three languages that are required to put it across? Or because our translators have been too timid and hide-bound to stick to the language and idiom of the original rather than to its underlying philosophy? If Grossman and others have brought Latin American and European classics for a world-wide readership, surely we could have done the same for some of ours also.









It seemed as if the London taxi driver was eyeing me suspiciously in the mirror. He had good reason to, I felt, with the spotlight focused on three prominent Indians.


Since it was dinned into us in the fifties that Jawaharlal Nehru expected every Indian abroad to look on himself (or herself) as an ambassador of India, I cannot help but wonder what Swraj Paul (pictured) and Amirali Bhatia feel they have done to the old country's reputation. They and Bangladesh-born Pola Uddin are the only three members of the House of Lords to face lengthy suspensions from Parliament.


 Lord Strathclyde, one of 90 hereditary peers elected to the upper chamber where he is the leader, says he is shocked and appalled by the trio. "The penalties recommended would be the toughest handed out," he warns.


Their case has been somewhat overshadowed lately by what is called Axe Wednesday, the unprecedented savage spending cuts across the board that George Osborne, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced this week. But economic distress and the threatened loss of jobs, pensions and other welfare facilities make it seem even more outrageous that leaders of society, themselves worth millions of pounds, should be economical with the truth to make a few pounds at the taxpayer's expense.


The particular shame for Indians in Britain is that these three peers who have been castigated are from South Asia, to use the new-fangled politically correct term for geographical India. We are proud when an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi is honoured in the West. Similarly, we must hang our heads in shame when one of us is disgraced by foreigners.


It's a question of izzat, as in the revelations that preceded the Commonwealth Games and which permitted all and sundry, every Canadian runner or Nigerian swimmer, publicly to discuss whether Indians have the same sense of punctuality and cleanliness as others. Now, thanks to Lords Paul and Bhatia and Baroness Uddin, the world might wonder if honesty means the same thing in India as in Europe and America.


In "damning judgments", to quote The Times, the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee ruled that the three peers should pay back nearly £200,000. Lord Paul comes off slightly better than the others. Though an initial investigation decided he, too, had acted "not in good faith", that slur was removed on appeal. He had been negligent but not dishonest and has already returned £41,982. Lord Bhatia, an Ismaili Muslim with business connections in Tanzania whom Tony Blair ennobled in 2001, has also repaid £27,446.


However, these repayments were made only after Paul and Bhatia were caught out designating unused or little used properties outside London as their "main homes" to claim travel and overnight allowances. Lady Uddin, who also claimed a fictitious home outside London, reportedly owes £125,349 and faces the most stringent punishment, is also one of us. How can an Indian shrug off responsibility for a Sylheti woman when Bangladeshis in Singapore cheerfully celebrate Durga Puja?


Perhaps, being accustomed to India's sectarian nomenclature, I am being over-sensitive to the South Asian origin of these culprits. I wonder if Lord Strathclyde sees a race link between them and also connects them with Aden-born Goan Keith Vaz, Britain's first elected Asian minister, whose career has been dogged by accusations of financial wrongdoing and who was suspended from Parliament for a month. Some of my English friends say there are so many people of so many ethnicities in Britain that it's impossible to think of them as anything other than just people. A British diplomat with a Malaysian Chinese wife says his grown-up children don't think of themselves as English, Malaysian or Chinese but as Londoners, which is a composite identity transcending colour and creed.


But there's too much evidence of individuals being targeted for discrimination for this inclusiveness to be universal. Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians are all "Pakis" for some Brits. Indeed, one commentator sees significance in these three South Asians being singled out for blame. They are by no means the most greedy and grasping of the 1,394 members of two Houses of Parliament, he says. They may not even be the most venal of the 744 peers of the realm.


But they fibbed and despite their British passports, are Indians in all but name. The disgrace they have brought on themselves disgraces the rest of us in the subcontinent.


My cabbie is probably wondering whether I'll open the door at the next traffic lights and leap out to disappear in the crowd without paying his fare. 







There has been a fair amount of discussion in the media on whether India needs to control, tax or otherwise discourage excessive foreign capital inflows. The policy dilemmas on whether such flows need to be reduced and, if so, how to do so without affecting growth have become more intense in view of high inflation. If the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) intervenes in the market to buy excess dollars, rupee liquidity increases, which, in turn, contributes to inflationary pressures. If the RBI does not intervene, the rupee appreciates making exports uncompetitive.


There is no easy answer to what has come to be known as the impossible trinity, i.e. it is simply not feasible to have capital mobility, exchange rate stability, and an independent monetary policy to check liquidity or reduce credit growth.


So far as India is concerned, different views have been expressed by experts and policy makers on the policy objective that should be given priority. Some assign the highest priority to growth and capital inflows, some to inflation and liquidity control, and some to a competitive exchange rate to promote exports.


Interestingly, the government's policy for capital flows also came up for discussion in the media's "in-flight" interaction with the prime minister when he was returning from Toronto after the last G20 meeting. As reported by this newspaper on June 30, the prime minister then pointed out, "As far as India is concerned, we have not reached a stage where capital flows have become a problem."


Whether capital flows into India are "excessive" or not is, of course, a matter of judgement. And so is the choice of instruments to control capital flows even if they are considered excessive. However, what is beyond dispute is that India was saved from the full impact of the global financial and economic crisis in 2008 because it did not make its capital account fully convertible or its exchange rate fully flexible.


The relative insulation of India, China and some other emerging markets from the global crisis has also had a profound effect on academic thinking as well as the policy stance of international financial institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As is well known, over the past several decades, the IMF was strongly in favour of full capital account convertibility. However, in a well-publicised Staff Position Note on February 10, 2010, the IMF declared that there are "circumstances in which capital controls can be a legitimate component of the policy response to surges in capital flows".


So far as capital flows into India are concerned, we certainly do not need additional quantitative controls or taxes on inflows. India already has far-reaching controls on certain types of inflows, particularly foreign direct investment, short-term debt and external commercial borrowings. India also has a substantial current account deficit in its balance of payments, and capital inflows are important sources of bridging this deficit.


At the same time, from a policy point of view, it needs to be recognised that certain types of capital flows, particularly portfolio or foreign institutional investments in financial markets, can be highly volatile and reversible. When times are good and the country is growing fast with high rates of return on investments, such inflows can multiply within a short period. However, these can also be reversed sharply if the global environment and country's prospects change or if an "asset bubble" emerges in the capital markets. Sudden reversals like this can lead to a crisis of confidence and destabilise the economy.


This is precisely what happened in a number of emerging market countries in recent years — Malaysia in 1997, Thailand in 2006, Columbia in 2007 and Brazil in 2009. Faced with a financial crisis, these countries had to reverse their policies and introduce either direct controls or impose taxes on transactions. The impact of such measures on financial stability and growth was highly adverse, and could have been prevented if "over-exuberance" was avoided and timely measures taken.


India, too, has faced volatility in capital flows in the past three years. Total capital flows were $108 billion in 2007-08, falling to a mere $8 billion in 2008-09 and increasing to $54 billion in 2009-10. It is also significant that the sharpest volatility was recorded in portfolio investments. These were +$27 billion in 2007-08, -$14 billion in 2008-09 and rising to +$25 billion in 2009-10. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, on the other hand, were generally stable and fluctuated in the range of $15 billion to $20 billion during this period. High volatility in portfolio flows was also reflected in India's stock market indices. The Nifty recorded a sharp increase of 55 per cent in 2007; fell to -52 per cent in 2008 and again increased to +76 per cent in 2009.


Paradoxically, at present India's policy for foreign direct investment. which contributes to manufacturing or services output, is subject to widespread and diversified controls. It varies from sector to sector and there are as many as five overlapping — and sometimes confusing — press notes on the subject. However, portfolio investments are entirely free, fully reversible, and also relatively tax free.


I leave it to readers to judge, and our policy makers to decide, whether something should be done to regulate tax-free portfolio investments and at the same time, simplify rules for foreign direct investment when economy is doing well and aggregate capital flows are not considered "excessive". Or should we wait until these become excessive and unmanageable, resulting in financial instability or, worse, a crisis?


Bimal Jalan is former RBI Governor and author of The Future of India — Politics, Economics and Governance










THE response to the Coal India (CIL) initial public offering (IPO) that finally closed early Friday morning, after lead managers were forced to extend the time limit to deal with a deluge of applications, has been phenomenal. Against the issue amount of . 15,000 crore, bids came in for . 2.54 lakh crore (the final tally could be higher). While retail investors seem to have been relatively circumspect — the retail portion was oversubscribed only 2.32 times — and employees even more so — the employee portion was not fully subscribed — both institutional and highnet-worth buyers seem to have participated with gusto. It might be tempting to interpret the response as a vote of confidence in CIL. But that would not be correct. In truth, it is more a reflection of the huge amount of global liquidity in search of attractive returns and the fact that India, along with some of the other emerging markets such as Brazil and China, offers returns of a kind the western world can only dream of today. 

The success of the issue makes the government's disinvestment target of . 40,000 crore more than eminently achievable. With another seven public sector undertakings waiting in line to tap the market, the exchequer is heading for an unexpected bonanza similar to the kind it realised from the 3G spectrum auction earlier. As a result, the fiscal deficit target of 5.5% to GDP that once looked difficult seems realistic, despite the distinct possibility of expenditure over-runs! But there are two caveats. First, funds should be used to create lasting assets, physical or social. That the government has got more money than it ever anticipated is no reason to splurge. Second, while portfolio flows supplement domestic resources, they are not without their downside — appreciation in the exchange rate of the rupee with all its attendant problems for the real economy (read exports). To the extent such flows are both fickle and volatile, they also make the economy that much more vulnerable. All the more reason then to put the money to best possible use, ideally in infrastructure development!








THE open-ended fertiliser subsidy regime, now costing the exchequer over . 50,000 crore and rising, calls for root-and-branch reform. Earlier this year, the Centre did tweak the rules by changing over to a nutrient-based subsidy formula for decontrolled phosphatic (P) and potassic (K) fertilisers. It has reportedly pruned the subsidy bill by about . 2,000 crore, with the provision of region- and soilspecific nutrients in P and K fertilisers. However, the key reform required is decontrol of nitrogenous (N) fertiliser (read urea) prices, and extension of the nutrient-based scheme to the latter. The Union Budget increased the retail price of urea by 10%, the revision coming after a decade or so. But it is plain that the artificially-low, generallyunrevised urea prices thoroughly distort demand, wrongly incentivise excessive usage and negatively affect soil quality as well as investment in the industry. It is precisely due to our unimaginative urea policy that there is a sharp imbalance in the NPK ratio pan-India, which only seems to be deteriotating further. 


The Centre needs to promptly decontrol urea and provide assured natural gas linkage from the Krishna-Godavari finds. Gas is the preferred feedstock for fertiliser the world over and would cut costs. The policy objective must be to rationalise urea consumption, and discourage excessive use. Hence the pressing need to limit subventions and better-allocate resources. Besides, fertiliser costs would add up to only a fraction of overall cultivation costs, institutionally covered through support prices. Minimum support prices have been substantially raised in the past decade. Which is another reason to change tack and shift policy emphasis to investments and extension services, rather than reckless ramp-up of subsidies. The supply of nutrient-based urea, with additives such as sulphur, boron and zinc provided as per soil needs — rather than allinclusive — should trim costs. But urea decontrol can no longer remain on the backburner. Delay would be fiscally damaging and disrupt . 45,000 crore of investments in fertiliser capacity reportedly in the offing after two whole decades of the status quo.







ARECENTLY-released collection of essays called The Thief of Time elevates dilly-dallying to a basic human instinct, and even implies that the bewildering array of choices and shades of grey that crowd modern life actually exacerbate our tendency to put off decisions. Indians would contest that. We drag our feet in anticipation of the procrastination that we would have to face from the others with whom we have to interact more if we rouse ourselves into action. Ponderous official procedures and tortuous transactions have made us realise that doing nothing till the last moment is often the fastest way to do anything. Nor are some of the book's worthy thinkers right when they posit that procrastination does not pay, as delays inevitably lead to losses all round. They were obviously thinking of the ill-effects of being lackadaisical in matters such as meeting tax deadlines and going for medical check-ups. They should have looked at the bigger picture. If the subprime crisis in the west did not disprove the denigration of procrastination as a tool, then a look at the bandobast for the 2010 Commonwealth Games should dismiss any ambivalence. There is ample evidence in these two occurrences to demonstrate that deliberate dithering can yield rich dividends in the form of last-minute bypassing of norms and generous bailout packages. 


The 'planning fallacy' that theoretically prompts procrastination — as people usually never factor in the effect of unforeseen delays when scheduling activity — is constantly belied by the Indian experience, where well-timed stalling tactics lead to speedier conclusions. Take a look at how many passengers linger in the airport cafe till the last call for a flight so that they can jump security check queues. They display none of the qualms about their action's moral implications that the book alludes to when asserting that procrastinators know dawdling is not good. Procrastination, India's redefiniton of laissez faire, has tremendous personal, professional and political benefits.







AS MOBILE penetration increases in India, it's inevitable that it spreads economic wellbeing. Now that money transfers, payments and banking can take place over the device, financial services are available to anyone with a mobile. Telecom operators, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Mobile Payment Forum of India and the Unique Identification Authority of India have taken several initiatives to expand financial inclusion. 


The World Bank estimates that banking penetration among middle and highincome groups is 45% and less than 5% among the low-income segment in emerging markets. A significant section of the target customer base in these markets earns less than $2 a day and can illafford banking services due to minimum deposit requirements and withdrawal rules. As a result, financial institutions have confined services to a small group of high and middle-income users. 


Mobile remittances have the potential to act as gateways to the banking system for the underbaked and unbanked segments, which make up a huge 70% of the world's population. Remittance services via mobiles, banks and other financial institutions can attract new customers to related financial products — such as deposits, loans and insurance — thereby deepening the financial access in an economy. For economies, this creates a powerful engine for growth, drawing cash into bank accounts where it can provide low-cost funds for lending and investment. For instance, mBanking solution in Kenya, which has a low penetration of banking services, paved the way to a staggering 21% of its GDP getting transferred through mobile services. 


Mobile financial services in an emerging market context such as India encompass areas such as mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile money, where the user has a mobile wallet holding an electronic 'stored value'. The services value chain is complex, incorporating wholesale arrangements between mobile operators and financial service providers on the one side and the retail distribution network that serves customers, on the other. A critical area of mobile financial services is remittances. Driven by regulatory and competitive pressures, several business models for mobile remittances have emerged in the world. The three prevalent business models are: 


The remittance services provider (RSP) dominated model: Many RSPs (a bank or a money transfer operator) can adopt a direct-to-consumer model, using the telecom operator's network for transport. The remittance service extends a mobile money account facility to consumers, which is used to transact remittances over the phone. While banked consumers benefit from more convenient access points, the mobile phone here becomes a channel for the hitherto unbanked users to gain and use a bank account. 


The operator-dominated model: In the operator-led model, customers do not deal with a bank. Rather than deposit and withdraw money from a bank account, customers exchange their cash for money stored in a mobile money account on the telecom operator's server, which is not linked to any bank account in the individual's name. Customers can send the money to others or use it to store funds for future use. They can also convert it back to cash at any participating retail agent. The network operator performs a role similar to a bank in the bankled model — designing remittance products, contracting retail agents directly or through intermediaries, and maintaining customers' virtual accounts. 


The partnership model: Mobile network operators forge partnerships with banks or RSPs to efficiently handle cash management and disbursement. Banks exploit the distribution reach of mobile networks to market services among underpenetrated customer segments while mobile network operators benefit from the banks' domain expertise. 


IN India, the scene changed dramatically with the RBI announcing the mBanking guidelines in October 2008. It permitted remittance of funds for disbursement in cash. Banks were allowed to provide fund transfer services that facilitate the transfer of funds from the accounts of their customers for delivery in cash to intended recipients. The disbursal of funds to recipients can be facilitated at ATMs or through an agent appointed by the bank. In August 2009, the RBI went on to allow non-bank entities to issue prepaid cards, which can be used to purchase all types of goods and services at an identified network of establishments. It meant that service providers, apart from banks, can enter the market for mobile financial services, giving a big push to the target of achieving the vision 100% financial inclusion. 


Some key prerequisites for expanding mobile financial services are a broad regulatory an environment that supports their use, enforceable financial contracts and fostering widespread access to telecom policies, In addition, privacy and data security must be ensured. Telcos also need to be better equipped to handle cash management and disbursement and must forge partnerships with banks to efficiently handle these areas of operations. Similarly, banks must exploit the distribution reach of mobile networks to penetrate unbanked areas. 


Security, reliability and performance are also critical factors in ensuring the successful expansion of mobile financial services. The mobile channel must provide an efficient and timely response to transactions, have adequate capacity to support acceptable performance and be able to recover quickly from disruptions. It must be able to authenticate the identity of customers, ensure transactions are legitimate and appropriately protect the confidentiality and integrity of all financial transactions. 


The foundation for enabling a world where many millions of low-income mobile users can enjoy the benefits of mobile financial services are being laid now. Based on these bold experiments, we will see a world where mobile financial services become an everyday reality for all individuals. With access to affordable financial services from their mobile phones, the lives of the currently unbanked and underbanked population will be enriched significantly, enabling economic independence and supporting improved economic well-being. 
    (The author is CEO of Comviva)









REFORMS in cooperative law are back on the radar, with the growing recognition that much more needs to be done to encourage the emergence of self-reliant farmer organisations. Early this year, an expert panel proposed many initiatives, including changes in the moneylending law to reduce the debt burden of farmers and providing them better access to institutional credit. Shashi Rajagopalan, member of the Nabard and RBI boards, gained handson experience in promoting credit cooperatives and farmers' agri-processing units during her two-decade stint with an NGO. She reckons cooperatives need more autonomy to deliver and this can happen only with radical reforms in the cooperative laws. A critic of the halo surrounding microfinance institutions (MFIs), Ms Rajagopalan has also been co-opted in the RBI panel that is looking into loan practices of MFIs. 


"When I worked for the revival of Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies, I discovered that no amount of member education helped. What really mattered was raising the members' financial stake. Once their stake in the cooperative was significant, they almost always chose the right person as president. Without financial stake, members tended to choose flamboyant persons who were good at accessing dole or credit. With high stakes, they opted for strict disciplinarians and financiallyprudent persons as leaders." 


Today, financial inclusion is about thirdparty institutions, including banks, reaching out to the poor. However, experience across the world, especially in the more advanced countries, tells us that sustainable financial inclusion is possible only through memberowned savings and credit cooperatives. "When members save, you have a stronger cooperative along with wealth retention at the local level. Both profits of the cooperatives and the members' savings stay at the local level, and get invested locally," she said. 


Also, the fact that a large number of people in alarge, contiguous area have access to credit on a regular basis means there is ever-increasing purchasing power. "You automatically have a service sector emerging that is sustainable because it is not propped from outside. Wherever you have good cooperatives, we almost always see flour mills, tea shops, workshops, masons and transport coming in first into the village. Sooner or later, you see the housing improve." 


This trend is a story by itself. According to Ms Rajagopalan, during field studies of the panel chaired by U C Sarangi on credit-related issues of farmers, the (committee) members met tenant farmers who accessed as much as .20,000 by way of agricultural loans from these thrift cooperatives, without documentation. 


"Which third party can afford to do that, or have the confidence of collecting such loans? Intimate knowledge of members and, more important, the knowledge in each member that his/her loan came from the savings of neighbours, is what gives strength to these institutions, Further, as these are not closely-held institutions, and as they present their audited statements and annual reports with memberwise details, their figures can be trusted. The fact is that thrift and credit coops have shown that from day one, they are profitable. That, within a decade or two, these institutions were offering .10,000-20,000 loans to tenant farmers, marginal farmers and oral lessees — people others won't even be willing to lend to. What are we waiting for? We need to get into a mission mode on promoting cooperatives," she says. 


According to her, cooperatives need functional autonomy to come out from the stranglehold of political parties. "In the name of promoting cooperatives, politicians played havoc with their funds. Those who did not get tickets to contest the assembly polls or defeated legislators were all accommodated as nominees on the boards of cooperatives, given that elections had been withheld. Over time, the members ceased to see the cooperatives as their own. Therefore, unless cooperative laws change for the better, they cannot flourish." 


Indeed, over the past 15 years, nine states have introduced liberal cooperative laws, but appear to be working overtime now to disband them now. Andhra Pradesh has drafted a new cooperative law that yet again takes away the autonomy of self-reliant cooperatives. There is also a proposed constitutional amendment on cooperatives that says the conduct of elections shall vest in such an authority as may be provided for by the legislature of the state. Would you do that for companies? Cooperatives, even if large, are private institutions. The question of third parties conducting elections for them, or a part in the constitution being dedicated to their governance issues, simply doesn't arise.








THIS week, Britain's coalition government announced its spending plans for the next four years. We are taking urgent steps to reduce the national debt and deal with the fiscal legacy we inherited. We have shown that we have the resolve and determination to live within our means. And we have set out to reinvigorate Britain's diplomatic engagement with the world, elevating our links with the fastest growing economies and championing Britain as a home for business and investment. We understand that economic recovery starts at home, but that we have to look beyond our shores for new opportunities. 


The scale of the economic challenge is formidable. We inherited one of the largest budget deficits in Europe and the G20. But we have a clear vision for the future of our country. We have chosen to spend on the country's most important priorities — the healthcare of our people, the education of our young, our nation's security and the infrastructure that supports our economic growth. We are building a fairer and more responsible society, with more opportunity for people to lift themselves out of poverty, and with state support focused on those who need it most. We are reforming public services — improving transparency and accountability, giving more power and responsibility to citizens and enabling sustainable long-term improvements in services. And we are building a stronger economy, with more jobs, investment and growth for a private sector-led recovery. We have protected as far as possible those areas of public spending which matter for economic growth and pursued reforms to make these more cost-effective. 


We know that we cannot have sustainable growth in the economy without healthy public finances. We have created a new independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility so that the power to determine the growth and fiscal forecasts now resides with an independent body immune to the temptations of the political cycle. And we have pledged to eliminate the UK's structural deficit by the end of this Parliament, which has been welcomed by the International Monetary Fund as necessary to ensuring fiscal sustainability and a balanced recovery. 


Our Spending Review is part of an ambitious plan to create a business environment that is one of the most competitive anywhere in the world. We understand that the British economy of the future must be one that is built on investment, saving and exports. We are determined to use our tough plans for fiscal consolidation as a springboard for growth and recovery through the private sector. From 2011, we will gradually reduce corporation tax to 24%, giving Britain the lowest in the G7 and one of the lowest in the G20. We will lower capital gains tax for entrepreneurs. And we will cut National Insurance contributions for employers, extend help to small businesses needing to access credit and make Britain the easiest place in the world to start a business. 


But let us not forget that throughout the recession, the UK has remained the sixth largest economy in the world and is in the top 10 of the world's largest manufacturing countries. The UK has the most open and business-oriented economy in Europe, with a flexible labour market and, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the least number of barriers to entrepreneurship in the world. Our unrivalled financial services industry, our strong skills base, our global outlook and orientation, our creative talents, our world-class universities and our position between Asian and American time zones are all testament to our open economy. That is why 700 Indian businesses successfully operate in the UK; we want to see more. We are open for business. 


So, we have a strong base on which to build. This British government's commitment to an enhanced partnership with India across the board, but particularly our commercial ties, is ever stronger after our successful visit in July, led by David Cameron. We agreed with our Indian counterparts that "we should be ambitious in seeking to substantially increase trade in five years and significantly increase investment between the UK and India".


We also agreed to set up a UK-India CEO Forum, co-chaired by Ratan Tata, which will advise both our governments on how best to remove barriers to trade and investment. These are concrete steps to building the sort of relationship between India and the UK which, to use Prime Minister Cameron's words, "gives us the ability to achieve what we all want — strong economic growth, so we provide well-paid jobs and better livelihood for our people". 


To recap, we are confident that we are taking the right steps at home and abroad to help economic recovery in our own countries, and to contribute to a stable and prosperous global economy. 


(The author is UK foreign minister)


Britain believes that though economic recovery starts at home, it has to look beyond its shores for new opportunities 

The British economy of the future must be one that is built on investment, savings and exports 
In this context, the British government's commitment to enhanced commercial ties with India is ever stronger








IN OUR daily activities, whenever we are faced with any complex problem, our finger automatically moves to a midpoint of the forehead. Here, according to sages or yogic beliefs, the soul and mind are knotted together. The hidden astral knot is the spot from where mind receives power from the soul. The more the focus of power of soul on the concentrated mind, the simpler becomes the understanding of any complexity. The Tilak, the Bindi, the 'Saffron mark' — all on forehead — are symbolic of that power point. 


Jesus said, "if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." He is referring to third invisible 'single'point between the two eyes. Two eyes represent duality. Activation of 'singleness' is a condition precedent for celestial consciousness. Single eye is also termed as Divya Chakshu — the eye that can see intrinsic reality. 


Normally opening of Shiv-Netra (third eye) of Lord Shiva (depicted on the forehead between the two eyes) connotes cosmic destruction. Since that opening is mythological, it is a belief based upon faith as destruction and regeneration are complimentary. Shiva literally means auspicious, propitious, benevolent and gracious. The logical derivative — opening of Shiv-Netra signifies destruction of illusion (Maya) and dawn of enlightenment. 


The index of spiritual progress is the 'change' felt within 'self' rather than any external mutation. "When will the time come?" is the natural question. An example — when a long tunnel is drilled in a mountain range, no light can be seen from other side. It will be wrong to conclude that no progress has been made in piercing the hill. When an aspirant puts in meditative efforts at the third eye the drilling in the mountain of karmic illusion commences. 


But the moot question is — can personal endeavours of disciple/ seeker be ever sufficient for spiritual results? Human efforts are just a drop in the ocean. It is only through the will of the Lord that divine grace is blessed. 


Meditation is the prayer of remembrance to the Lord, and this brings physical, mental and spiritual vitality with in us. Despite faltering, an infant never abandons attempts for sitting, standing and walking, though he is consistently encouraged by parents and others closer to him. The same applies to the disciple. When the seeker is sincere in efforts, 'grace' marks are given by the Lord; the third eye opens, delusions disappear and the reality is realised.









INDIGNATION ran rife in the babu section of South Block a little over a decade ago when the defence minister of the day ordered that a couple of bureaucrats spend a few days at the Siachen Base Camp to understand their folly in objecting to the replacement of unserviceable snow-scooters. The much-maligned George Fernandes now stands vindicated. The apex court has just done something very similar, though it remains unclear whether it issued a formal order or directive, or was doing some very loud thinking. Still, there is significant punch to the comment from the bench (coram: Katju and Thakur, JJ): "Sitting somewhere in a plush office in Delhi and finding fault in each proposal is easy. The defence secretary must be sent for 10 days to the high-altitude posts. He will at least see first hand the conditions in which these people serve the country". What irked their Lordships was the defence ministry's tepid response to a proposal to set up a dedicated tribunal to deal with issues of pay and pension. While they did grant the solicitor-general's plea for more time to formulate a response, the senior law officer was sharply reminded that on two previous occasions the ministry had made similar pleas. Without indulging in the self-praise so rampant in media circles these days, it is worth noting that earlier this month these columns had advocated a comprehensive reform of defence pension policy and its administrative apparatus.

Moving on to the bigger picture: is it not a very poor reflection of national governance that 63 years after independence the mental gap between the civil and military is so wide as to invite judicial derision? The armed forces lament that at every stage, and in every sphere, the bureaucrats seek the cake and leave the soldier only the crumbs. After much resistance, and in the wake of near-agitation, it has been agreed to have a separate pay commission for the forces ~ but only when the next general commission is appointed. The process of acquiring weapons and systems is so cumbersome that programmes of modernisation and re-equipment are dangerously behind schedule. In theory the defence minister is fully empowered to take remedial action, but since most of them are administratively inept they back off from upsetting the babus upon whom they are so dependent for processing files etc. The rot persists. No need to iterate from where fish rots first.



THE United Nations has put the world on notice over the wanton desecration of the environment. Not that the findings of the latest study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) ~ released on Wednesday ~ are entirely novel; but the report has made the profound statement that the annual value of Nature and its services is worth trillions of dollars.  This ought to make the comity of nations sit up, if not adopt a consensual strategy at the upcoming environment conference in Mexico. There are two facets of the economic and political policies that are pursued by the developed, the developing as also the under-developed world. And governmental policy must take into account the enormous value of the world's natural resources ~ pre-eminently forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs ~ as much as the cost of their destruction in socio-economic terms. This is the unmistakable subtext of the report. Perhaps for the first time, the UN has put a value on the natural resources. The value of  coral reefs has been estimated at between $ 30 billion and $ 172 billion. Its destruction can harm marine life and also damage the reef-based resource for food production. The value of the damage to natural resources has been placed at between $2 trillion and $ 4.5 trillion annually.  Regrettably, however, this isn't taken into account by countries while computing the Gross Domestic Product.
The report's content and its timing are particularly relevant in the context of India's Niyamgiri Hills, Noida, Nayachar and most recently the Posco plant in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur. It is a sobering thought that preservation of the environment, for now, has gained the upper hand over degradation in this part of the world. Countries across the world ~ and not least India ~ must reflect on this report. Beyond academic interest, it ought to lead to a dramatic change in the global approach towards tackling the biodiversity crisis, notably the dwindling wild life and ecosystems.




THE Centre is yet to confirm the reported arrest by Bangladesh police of RK Meghen, popularly known as Sanayaima, leader of the Manipur rebel outfit United National Liberation Front, and his being taken to Delhi by a special plane. If true, this will amount to a big catch because he has all along refused to talk to the Centre let alone accept any ceasefire deal. The oldest rebel outfit in the state, the UNLF was formed in 1964 by Meghen and N Okendra, but the two soon parted ways. What comes as something of a surprise, though, is that Sanayaima was in Bangladesh when he knew full well that Dhaka was in the process of flushing out rebels from India and that most rebel leaders were reportedly shifting their bases to Myanmar. Or was this a calculated move to do what Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa did ~ get arrested, be deported to India and wriggle his way back into public sympathy? The arrest earlier this month of two UNLF cadres by the Assam police in Guwahati and that of another 11 a month earlier suggests the outfit is desperately trying to raise funds to procure arms. Unlike the others, the UNLF maintains a well-fortified camp somewhere along Manipur's Chandel-Myanmar border. The authorities are well aware of its existence but have made no attempt so far to dismantle it.The UNLF accuses India of denying Manipur's "democratic, economic and cultural rights" and wants the Centre to conduct a plebiscite under UN supervision to confirm the willingness of the state's people to be a part of India. On the unending influx from outside, it maintains it has nothing to do with the serial killings of floating migrant labourers but wants them to leave Manipur for their own safety. It is too early to speculate on Sanayaima's future course of action, but if  he is to be confined to jail for too long Manipur should brace for a fresh upsurge.








ON Sunday, 3 October, the day India was set  to salvage a degree of national pride in the Commonwealth Games, newspapers reported the "shunting" of the CRPF Director-General, Vikram Srivastava, to the Bureau of Police Research and Development. He has been transferred to the only institution of its kind that is dedicated to research on internal security because of the CRPF's serial failures in countering the Maoists. 

K Vijay Kumar, the hero of the successful operations against Veerappan, the sandalwood brigand, is the new Director-General of CRPF.  Incidentally, the reports had also mentioned that Mr Kumar had been sidelined in the appointment to the post of DGP, Tamil Nadu. He was posted ~ or was he also shunted? ~ as Director of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy. 

Three years ago in July 2007, the issue of 'supersession' and 'shunting' had hit the  headlines when YS  Dadwal was appointed as Delhi's Police Commissioner. He had superseded Kiran Bedi, the first woman to enter the IPS and one of the country's finest police officers. As DG of BPR&D, she had raised a controversy by going public with her grouse that she was 'superseded'.  She asserted that as the most senior IPS officer in the Delhi cadre she deserved to be appointed as the Capital's Police Commissioner.  

This controversy was nipped in the bud. Ms  Bedi was cautioned by the Home Minister that her indiscretion went against government service conduct rules. This had a larger implication for the politicised administrative structure both at the Centre and in the states. Ms Bedi sought voluntary retirement four months later, citing academic commitments, but the message was clear. She was disappointed over being 'superseded' and denied what she thought was due to her. Indeed, Ms Bedi is among the very few officers who have publicly protested. Hers was certainly not the first case in which the transfer-cum-posting mechanism was used by the government to shunt or move out officers. 

 'Supersession' in the appointment to the top post in government service, including the police, has been a major issue since the Seventies. The end of Congress hegemony in the 1967 general election led to pronounced  partisanship in such appointments. The trend  intensified as the political complexion changed both in Delhi and in the states.  Some officers ~ the "smart" set as they are called ~ took advantage of the situation and tried to be close to the political authority.  There was also a "smarter" group which changed its loyalties in keeping with the political weather-cock. Of late, promotions are said to be based on merit and not only on the principle of seniority. 

The change in the benchmark has led to  three significant alterations in service conditions. First, the rank promotion has virtually been delinked from the higher/apex positions available. Second, parallel posts have been created through cadre review to facilitate promotions. Third, those who still can't make it are allotted equivalent positions in other departments.  Not surprisingly, the police administration in the states is becoming top-heavy, with cutting edge level positions lying vacant. On the one hand, this has enabled the political executive to play around with the IPS cadre; on the other,  competitive ambitions have intensified  politicisation. 

No wonder, Latika Saran's appointment as DGP, Tamil Nadu, in  January 2010 raised a controversy. She had superseded five officers, including Mr Vijay Kumar, then Director of the National Police Academy.  The other four moved Madras High Court, where the state government argued that "as per the directions of the Supreme Court, the DGP of the state is a selection post. As the DGP of the state is selected from among the DGPs, it is not a promotional post."  

The Tamil Nadu government also argued that Mr Kumar had expressed his unwillingness to hold this post. He is the only IPS officer from Tamil Nadu who has received the President's police medal for gallantry. In his petition, he expressed shock at the state government's presumption that he was not willing to accept the post of DGP. He claimed that he had never expressed his "unwillingness" to be appointed as DGP. He asserted that though he had accepted the central deputation on his own volition, he had not foregone his option for the state DGP's chair.  Even as this controversy over 'supersession' in Tamil Nadu remains unresolved, Mr Kumar moves from Hyderabad to New Delhi, this time to handle a more coveted and more challenging assignment. 

Two questions can be raised in the context of the Kiran Bedi case. If an officer is overlooked for a parallel rank, can it be considered as supersession? In what way is the rank of  R&D chief lower than that of any other police chief in the country? The word 'shunt' has often been misused. It is somewhat humiliating. 
The Government of India needs to clarify the issue and not only in the interest of Vikram Srivastava. He ought not to be regarded as another IPS officer, heading the BPR&D. The importance of this entity needs to be spelt out. It is an institution of consequence. Kiran Bedi tried to make the BPR&D as effective as she could. Srivastava must now take up the challenge both to prove a point personally and to revamp a neglected institution which finds mention in the former DG, NK Singh's  autobiographical book, The Politics of Crime and Corruption: A former CBI Officer speaks  (HarperCollins, 1999).

The writer is Director (honorary), Centre for Public Affairs, Noida.






Since 2007, Hideaki Domici has served as Japan's Ambassador to India. Prior to this, he was Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a diplomat, he has also served in Egypt, Indonesia and the United States, among other countries. He joined the ministry of foreign affairs in 1972 and holds a degree in law from Tokyo University. On the eve of Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Tokyo, the Ambassador spoke to SIMRAN SODHI about India-Japan relations. 

What do you think will be the highlight of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Tokyo later this month?
India and Japan have a global strategic partnership and under this partnership our relationship has been expanding quite rapidly. We have a commitment with the government of India that every year, our leaders will have reciprocal visits. Under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh our relationship has expanded quite rapidly. This is the first time our Prime Minister, Mr Kan will meet Dr Singh. It will certainly reaffirm the significance of this partnership. 

Can you give us details on the Indo-Japanese nuclear deal and when we can expect it to be signed?
It will take a little more time. Japan had joined the consensus in the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 which in itself was not an easy decision for Japan as a country that suffered from atomic bombs. India has also not signed the NPT. Nonetheless, we had joined the consensus and there was some criticism within our own country. We recognise that India needs civil nuclear power in order to address environmental issues. Japan has an advantage of nuclear technology and if the nuclear cooperation is concluded with India, we will be able to provide the most secure technology. 

How do you think the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between India and Japan will prove to be mutually beneficial?

For India, the agreement with Japan will be the first with a developed country. Both India and Japan have tried to enhance the economic relationship. There is a huge potential and, though India and Japan have enjoyed a long friendship, the economic relationship has not been so active in the past. This has changed from the year 2000 or so and development in India provides opportunities for business from the Japanese side. Therefore, this agreement will enhance the opportunities in the future. 

How does Japan view the rise of China as a global power?

There is no doubt that China is rising and it's a country of 1.3 billion. In the same way, India is rising. The rise of China is quite welcome, broadly speaking. Hopefully we can establish a peaceful and constructive relationship with China in the same way that we are doing with India. But with China, if there is any concern, which I think is shared by India, it is that the Chinese military expenditure has been growing over the last 20 years at the rate of 10 per cent. China will rise but I hope that it will also make contributions in addressing various global problems. China is also the largest trade partner with Japan and the US. 

Can you give details on the Japan-China dispute regarding the Senkaku islands and the recent collision incident?

Some newspapers in India have reported this as if this is a territorial dispute but we don't recognise this as so because the islands belong to Japan. Historically, we annexed the islands in 1895. After World War II and after the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951, we reverted some of the islands we gained from China during the Qing dynasty rule, including Taiwan. But Okinawa and other small islands were not reverted. These islands were under US occupation and were reverted to Japan in 1972. China started these claims in 1971 when it was reported that there were some natural resources in the area. When we found Chinese vessels in these areas, which collided with our patrol boat, we arrested the captain for the crime committed in accordance with the Japanese law. 

With regard to the recent visit to Japan by India's Air Chief, what is the state of defence cooperation between India and Japan?

This is part of the global and strategic partnership. When your prime minister visited Japan in 2008, we had issued a joint statement on security. Apart from our alliance with the United States, India is the only country, apart from Australia, with whom we have an agreement on security. We want to further promote our cooperation in the security area. It started from the navy to navy because of the piracy problem. The cooperation with India in this regard is quite significant. For example, some of the Japanese ships hijacked by pirates were found by the Indian navy. It has now moved to military to military and air force to air force cooperation. 

How does Japan view India's recent election to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member?

We supported India and are confident that India will play a very significant role in the UNSC. Both India and Japan feel that there ought to be reform in the governance of the UN and the Security Council. We have formed an alliance called the G4 of India, Japan, Brazil and Germany. We would like to promote our collaboration among the G4 to achieve reform of the UNSC.






YOU may have heard of the Asean Charter. It is a treaty signed by all the members of Asean and it formally confirms that Asean is an international entity.

This means that Asean as an organisation now has legal "personality" on the international stage. It can make treaties with nations and other international bodies. It has international rights and obligations and it is bound by international laws and principles.

All this time, Asean has never been officially an international entity in its own right. It was a loose coalition of various countries with no legal personality of its own. You can imagine it like an informal club. A group of buddies get together and form a club. They have rules and they do things according to those rules. However, the club was never registered with the Registrar of Societies, so the club itself did not have any legal personality.
Thus, if a member of the club does something wrong to you, you can sue the member but you can't sue the club because legally, the club does not exist as an entity which has rights and obligations.
This was what Asean was before the Charter was signed. Alright, this may be really exciting to students of international law, but I guess that if you are not, and if you are still reading at this point, you are probably thinking of turning the page to see how Spiderman and Iron Man are faring in their fight with the Puppet Master.

Before you do, let me explain that the Charter may well have a profound impact on our lives. The Charter has a set of principles and Asean and its members are obliged to act in accordance with those principles. Two of those principles are: (i) adherence to the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional governance; (ii) respect for fundamental freedom, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice.

This means that our government has agreed to live according to these principles. Now, those with any knowledge of Asean would probably dismiss this document with a contemptuous wave of the hand, saying "Asean is weak and toothless and nothing will be done".

There is plenty of justification in that cynicism for amongst the principles of the charter is also an emphatic confirmation that there will be no interference in the internal affairs of Asean members. This is the famous "Asean way" in which they try hard not to step on each other's toes, no matter how appalling the behaviour of their members.

But I am not thinking of Asean taking the initiative to make sure that the Malaysian government lives up to its principles. I am talking about we citizens using this document as one of our tools in the fight for human rights, rule of law and democracy.

It is not interfering if we are campaigning within our countries. And campaign we must. We must remind our government, no matter who they may be, that an international agreement has been signed, an international law has been agreed to, and it says that this government will abide to the principles of human rights, rule of law and democracy.

You can't agree to such things and then pretend it does not exist. Well, they may want to, but we can remind them that it does exist and we will push them to live up to those promises for they affect us the citizens.
Last week, there was an International Conference on Human Rights in South-east Asia, held by the South East Asian Human Rights Scholars Network in Bangkok. Dr Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of Asean, gave the opening keynote address and in it he said, "Those who toy with the rhetoric of human rights and democracy will have to live up to the standards of human rights and democracy in the end".

Well, our government has been talking about it, let's make sure that they don't forget it and press them into turning the talk into something real.

the star/ann





The conditions which obtain in rural Bengal are a closed book to many residents in the towns, but a good deal of light is thrown on village life by the official publications that are issued from time to time. The annual report on Revenue Administration is a notable instance, and there is much in this document which gives rise to profound satisfaction. It is regrettable, however, to find that a considerable number of zemindars still display dishonest tendencies in dealing with their tenants. Not only are illegal enhancements of rent made, but there are many landlords who fail to comply with the provisions of the law regarding the issue of rent receipts. The grant of a receipt is admitted by every experienced revenue officer to be the cardinal safeguard of the tenants of agricultural land, and regret is expressed in the report that so little is done by officials to see that the law is not evaded. When education spreads among the rural population they will be better able to stand up for themselves against the oppression of zemindars; in the meantime we trust the Government will insist that its representatives shall use their influence to the utmost for the protection of a class which is peculiarly liable to extortion. It is gratifying to learn that the outstanding feature of the year was the general improvement in the material condition of the people, owing to the excellence of the crops and the consequent fall in prices. In various districts in the Presidency Division the labouring classes enjoyed a sufficiency of work accompanied by good wages. Visible proof of the improved condition of the humble classes is found in the use of umbrellas, shoes, and shirts among them. Unfortunately, however, a similar improvement is not found among the middle classes with small fixed incomes, and the opinion is expressed that no great amelioration of their lot is to be expected so long as they are mainly dependent on clerical employment for their livelihood. The hope for this class obviously lies in the development of industrial enterprise. This has been found to be a remedy in England for a somewhat similar difficulty. A generation back the tendency for English parents to educate their sons for office work caused a plethora of clerical labour, with its concomitants of low salaries and "genteel misery," but in recent years there has been an increasing disposition for youths of the middle class to engage in the higher industries, which offer greater opportunities of advancement than are to be found in more clerical employment.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Thursday's Supreme Court ruling that allows for a financial settlement to be made to a live-in partner of the opposite sex under specified circumstances is a development of far-reaching impact. It has been criticised by some women activists, but its innovative nature and the social effect it might produce even in the short and medium term is hard to overlook. The notion of something akin to alimony to be paid to a regular live-in partner in the event of a breakup can be traced to the social upheavals in America some 50 years ago. The revolutionising of social mores in the United States in the 1960s, and in the West more generally, radicalised the understanding of the institution of marriage in key respects, and raised questions that had never been asked at the common level before. It also allowed for the developing and evolution of what is today known as live-in relationships. These came to be regarded as being as "normal" as being in wedlock. The underlying overhaul of sexual mores and the wide social acceptance of these new attitudes could not but have their impact on the judicial system, especially in America. Thus, although in slow stages, came into the picture the notion of "palimony", the financial settlement to be made to a "pal", a live-in friend over a recognisable length of time, in the event of partners moving away. Even in this liberated setting, however, the law continued to recognise a difference between a marriage and a live-in-relationship, clearly according the former higher status. The most celebrated case was that of Hollywood actor Lee Marvin and his live-in partner of seven years, Michelle Triola. In 1979, a US court refused Triola's plea for "palimony" (it is from this case that the word came into currency: while alimony payments were the norm, "palimony" had to be fought for) on the ground that the live-in relationship did not commence with a contract. (Such insistence is not relevant to marriages.) Broadly, this is the key parameter that guides judicial action in the West. However, it is not usually required in the West that live-in partners be single. Changes in social values are also proceeding in the direction of awarding palimony to same-sex live-in partners. Our recent Supreme Court ruling certainly marks a departure, but it differs from the US concept of "palimony" in that it permits a financial award to a live-in partner on separation only if the marital status of both parties is "single". Also, gay live-in partnerships are not recognised as such. The court's ruling is likely to be viewed as being libertarian by many in India, and not just orthodox sections. It could be argued that it will encourage "sinful" cohabitation and detract from the notion of matrimony. Religious points might also be made. Many progressive elements, particularly women, are likely to be critical as the verdict does not extend the notion of "palimony" to all women regardless of the length of their live-in status and regardless of whether the male partner is already married or not. These are all very interesting issues which attest to the fact that significant sociological change in India has occurred over a relatively short time , and that the new and the old exist with vociferous support bases of their own.







 "The past leaves its infections,

We convalesce and yet

Some make love to remember

Some make love to forget..."

From Elegiac Trash

by Bachchoo


Last year a newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, got hold of documents detailing the expenses claims that members of the British Parliament had filed. The claims had been processed and the money paid out to members of Parliament (MPs) from the public purse. One of the things that the MPs and members of the upper chamber, the House of Lords, could legitimately claim for were their "second homes" as most of them had constituencies outside London and needed to live in London to attend Parliament. Fair enough.


The expenses for the rent of a room or a small flat in London would be deemed, by any standards, the appropriate expense for an MP whose constituency was in Glasgow. The principle was, not unreasonably, stretched to include some of the expenses incurred by living in such accommodation — getting a bed to sleep on if it was unfurnished, etc.


However, the Telegraph's revelations, painfully eked out day after day with different MPs targeted, caused a very deep dent in the prestige of parliament. The revelations demonstrated that very many MPs were very willing to twist, extend and interpret the rules to make a fast buck, sometimes even a very trivial and small one.


There were ridiculous items — someone charging for chewing gum or a packet of biscuits and then there were very dubious ones with one grandee having a moat around his country estate repaired at huge public cost. The female home secretary of the time charged the public purse for pornographic films that her husband had hired while living in her constituency in what she designated as her "second home".


The main device for cheating was something known as "swapping". If an MP had an expensive home somewhere in the country, in or around their constituency perhaps, they would designate that as their second home and say that their "primarily home" was in London, despite the fact that this was a room rented from their sister, boyfriend or even their daughter.


This enabled the cheats to claim the full mortgage on the homes where they lived with their families. Some charged for mortgages which had long been paid off.


The Telegraph's revelations caused the biggest parliamentary scandal of the decade or perhaps since the Sixties when ministers shared the favours of prostitutes with Russian spies. The scandal spread through all parties and from revelations about Commons moved to revelations about Lords.


This week the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee has, after a lengthy inquiry, submitted a report to the House condemning three peers for wrongfully claiming tens of thousands of pounds in expenses.


The judgment recommends punishments and that the three repay £200,000 to the exchequer in reparation. The three peers are: Lord Paul (Swaraj Pal as he was known to Indians), Lord Bhatia and Baroness Uddin.


Read those names again — no Dalhousie, no Canning, no Curzon, no Linlithgow — Paul, Bhatia and Uddin.

(The latter's title and assumption of the name Baroness Uddin is somewhat puzzling as surely "Uddin" simply means "of the faith" and isn't really her name — but Kher!)


The leader of the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, has said he is shocked and appalled by the cases and has promised that the "penalties would be the strongest handed out by the House of Lords". The three must be thanking Ishwar and Allah that the days of The Tower and Jacobite justice are long gone. Today's severe penalties will mean that Lady Uddin will be suspended from the Upper Chamber till 2012 and will have to return £125,349 to the public purse. Lord Bhatia faces being suspended for eight months and has already repaid £27,000.


Lord Paul's case is somewhat different as the committee accepted that rather than acting dishonestly he had been negligent and allowed these claims to be forwarded on his behalf. He has already paid back £41,982 which his office erroneously claimed. It is known that he runs businesses, contributes to charities and can very plausibly plead that his busy schedule caused the claims to slip his attention.


Ever since the late '50s, '60s and '70s and the settlement of South Asians, Caribbean and African people from the former colonies in Britain there has been a movement, sometimes vociferous and militant, to advance the cause of immigrants.


Though there has never been a concerted or effective national policy specifically aimed at integrating this immigrant community, there have been various social and governmental initiatives towards fairness and the genesis of "multiculturalism".


One such move was the attempt to recruit "ethnic" people to positions of some significance in the political parties. Members of the ethnic communities were, in this concessional mode and to demonstrate that there was no conscious or sub-conscious apartheid in British society, given titles and peerages. These were, to be fair, handed out on the same basis as they would be for the native population — prosperity in business and donations to a political party could and did bring a peerage. Distinction in the arts — Sir V.S. Naipaul and Sir Salman Rushdie — could fetch a knighthood. Charitable works and public service could also be used as criteria to make up the numbers.


Deserving as the individuals might be, they were always deemed to be "role models" whose status and achievements their communities could look up to. (My personal feeling is that the role model theory is a bit flawed. However distinguished she is, I would give my left arm not to look or be like Baroness Uddin.)


This representative function makes it somewhat shameful that the only three peers picked out for criticism are of ethnic stock. So far no one has cried "racism" but my experience of ambulance chasers in this country tells me that someone will. On evidence the Lords Privileges Committee has been just and judicious. So why out of hundreds of peers have these three behaved in this particular way? Are they carrying into British institutions the tradition of corruption associated with subcontinental politics? Do they feel a peerage, like some Maharaja's title, puts them beyond normal legal scrutiny?


An examination of the behaviour of politicians from the ethnic communities in local councils, for example in Tower Hamlets where the Bangladeshi settlers elect Bangladeshi councillors, would suggest exactly that. But that's another, more woeful story.








Dilma Rousseff may have failed to secure the widely expected absolute majority in the first turn, yet she seems certain to beat her rival, José Serra, in the run-off on October 31 and become Brazil's first female President. She will lead a nation that never before in history has been as powerful as it is today. Yet, unlike Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, her charismatic predecessor who made relations with emerging powers like India a priority, Ms Rousseff's agenda is likely to be filled with domestic issues, and she is unlikely to appreciate the great potential the ties between Brazil and India hold. Indian policymakers must, therefore, reach out to Brazil's new President and actively promote ties to preserve the gains made over the past decade.


Yet, who is Dilma Rousseff, and what can the world expect of her?


Born in 1947 into a well-to-do family in Belo Horizonte, an industrial hub in the interior, she received a top-notch education. Yet, since Ms Rousseff's father was a Bulgarian immigrant, the Rousseff family was never part of the Establishment. At the age of 20, Ms Rousseff engaged in one of the countless Leftist student organisations created as a reaction to the military coup in 1964. She helped coordinate armed operations, administered money obtained from bank raids, and was captured in 1970, tortured for 22 days, and released only two years later.


Despite this horrific experience, Ms Rousseff returned to politics, this time within the legal framework. Aged 38, shortly before the end of the military dictatorship, she became secretary of finance in Porto Alegre, a large city in the south. Always known for her pragmatic hands-on approach, she developed the reputation of a skilled technocrat, and in 2001, Mr Lula, then a presidential candidate, named her junior adviser on energy issues. Surrounded by Leftist ideologists, Mr Lula soon identified her as a no-nonsense problem solver who, at times in a highly undiplomatic, never backed away from confrontations.


When asked about her rough demeanor, Ms Rousseff retorts that women still face prejudice in Brazilian politics. "When women are in a position of authority", she has said, "they are always called overly hard and cold". If she were a man, the single mother of one daughter claims, her style would not be an issue.


Her message during the campaign was simple: Ms Rousseff would continue Mr Lula's policies, and represent the man who enjoys approval ratings of over 70 per cent in his eight year in office. Despite their different styles — Mr Lula is folksy and charismatic, Ms Rousseff is uninspiring and methodical — Mr Lula has been able to transfer his popularity to his protégé, who has never held an elected office before.


What would a President Rousseff mean for Brazil and the world? On the domestic level, more of the same. She is less populist and more pragmatic than her predecessor, and while Mr Lula hopes to pull the strings in the background, he most likely underestimates Ms Rousseff's ability to claim power. Despite her leadership abilities, party ideology may become a hindrance during her presidency. She may face insurmountable political obstacles that keep her from cutting government spending, reforming social security, modernising labour and tax laws, which are Brazil's most urgent problems that keep it from growing as fast as China and India.


Yet, similar to Uruguay and Chile, Brazil's political system is so mature that no candidate can truly rock the boat, and even a mediocre President is unlikely to get Brazil's growth story off track.


With regards to foreign policy, Ms Rousseff will attempt to continue Mr Lula's foreign policy, although she can't possibly fill the shoes of her predecessor, who has become a darling of leaders across the globe. Brazil's foreign policy is currently highly personalised, and it is unlikely that a technocrat like Ms Rousseff will be able to emulate Mr Lula's approach. Indian policymakers must, therefore, use the transition of power to fortify ties, which have provided mutual benefits and have significant upward potential.


IBSA, a trilateral alliance between India, Brazil and South Africa, established in 2003, is a good start which helps members exchange knowledge on technical issues such as education, public health and agricultural productivity, an area where Brazil can be particularly helpful to India, which struggles to modernise its agricultural sector.


Finally, both countries seek to democratise global governance and hope to enter the UN Security Council as permanent members. Collaboration in these projects seems indispensable to assure success. With Mr Lula gone, India needs to assume leadership and strengthen the Brazilian-Indian friendship.


- Oliver Stuenkel is a visiting professorof International Relations at theUniversity of São Paulo and Fellow at theGlobal Public Policy Institute in Berlin.







The TD chief, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, who turned 60 recently, is almost obsessively fond of reminding people about 9/30. No, that's not the date when terrorists struck anywhere; it commemorates Mr N's 9 years as chief minister and his 30 years of experience in politics! Mr Naidu reminds anyone who questions him or who differs with him on issues, about '9/30'. The most recent occasion on which Mr Naidu trotted out his 9/30 experience was when he and other Opposition leaders were denied an audience with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Unfortunately, it didn't cut much ice with the Prime Minister either. Clearly, Mr Naidu needs a catchier slogan. Maybe his IT friends can help him come up with one.







The state government's publicity department recently announced VVIP movements in unusual detail. It has become a practice for ministers and other politicians not to divulge the main purpose of their visit, which is usually to attend marriages and other functions of friends and relatives, but always to cite some official function as a reason for the visit. The state publicity department recently deviated from this practice when it issued a press release stating that the minister of state for railways, Mr K.H. Muniappa, would arrive in Hyderabad on October 21 and attend the marriage function of the daughter of Rajya Sabha member, Mr Nandi Yellaiah. After attending the function the minister will hold discussions with SCR officials and leave for Bengaluru, the release said. So, dear taxpayer, now you know. Ministers jaunts across India at your expense are perfectly legit — he's a minister after all, not an employee like the rest of us.







We all have our weaknesses and Mr A. Babu, architect of the Rajiv Arogyasri trust, and its CEO, is no exception. No one doubts Mr Babu's abilities in building the mammoth trust that provides health insurance for the poor who get treatment in corporate hospitals free of cost. The scheme got national and international accolades and awards and Mr Babu received them personally. But perhaps his appetite for awards is a bit voracious. Recently, some organisation came out with the proposal to award "spoorthi pradada" to Mr Babu, who in turn sought the government's permission to accept the award. The Chief Secretary, Mr S.V. Prasad, made it mandatory for babus to seek permission before receiving such awards. Interestingly, in his eagerness to receive the award, Mr Babu projected the commercial website that offered the award as a NGO!




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





In a time of rapid social change, the language used in a supreme court judgment, that a married man's 'keep' is not entitled to alimony, is not just retrograde but downright preposterous. It is common knowledge that the quality of English used in the higher judiciary generally is not of a high standard. But that cannot be an excuse for employing expressions that were abandoned decades ago. The supreme court's use of the word 'keep' and 'servant' for a woman cohabiting with a married man offers legitimacy to a feudal practice and bespeaks masculine domination. This social construction of women, but not of men, is centred on the sexual objectification of a woman who can be taken as a keep.

By identifying 'sexual purpose' or servility as the basis of a 'keep's' live-in relationship with a married man, the supreme court has sought to traverse that familiar trope of immorality in which cohabitation becomes a secret and furtive sexual activity and nothing else. There is not only a preconceived notion that the central elements of live-in relationships are sensuality and sexuality, but that trial co-residential unions are devoid of other human actions, decisions and sentiments like trust, personal investment, pragmatic compromise, mutual satisfaction and respect, emotional and economic interdependence, and communication. Whether A has a legal right over B is in principle, if not always in practice, a straightforward matter. The answer lies in the legal texts and legal practice. The apex court's unilinear model of a live-in relationship, in which an unmarried woman has lived long enough in an intimate condition with a married man, fails to take into account obligations and commitments that close human associations entail.

The sanctity of a legal marriage and the rights and obligations that come with it are many and obvious. But it must not be lost on us that live-in coexistence is made possible through negotiation which is not equivalent to conscious bargaining but is a shared understanding that emerges over time. There are certain things which a co-habiting couple would do for each other if necessary and these decisions reflect or reinforce commitment levels. The Indian judiciary has — rightfully — recognised the social changes that India is experiencing and is taking giant steps to configure its laws in accordance with what even liberals and contrarians would describe as acceptable social behaviour. This liberal acceptance of the social transformation is welcome and laudable. But it is unbecoming of the country's highest court to construct myths and stereotypes.








The tremendous success of the Initial Public Offer (IPO) of Coal India Ltd (CIL) has many implications beyond just the big numbers. The state-run coal company's IPO that intended to raise Rs 15,450 crore by issuing shares, highest for any IPO in India, was oversubscribed more than 15 times and it ended up garnering a record amount of demand for Rs 2,40,000 crore worth of shares. There were many positives that worked for the company. First of all CIL has strong fundamentals and potential for a huge upside. It is a monopoly producer and seller of coal with the ability to dictate price without the interference of the government. Secondly, there is an ever-increasing demand for coal to meet the demand for thermal power plants being planned in the country to meet the huge shortfall in power supply. And  most importantly, the pricing of the issue was right because it is expected to offer fairly handsome gain on listing as it has 'left enough for investors on the table.'

A much bigger implication of the success of CIL issue is that the government now seems to be more confident of unlocking the value of premier public sector companies through disinvestment. There are seven PSU companies like Sail, Power Grid Corp, ONGC, Shipping Corporation, etc, planning to raise funds either through IPO or follow up issue. The success also indicates that the government now is expected to raise close to Rs 58,000 crore in the current financial year from disinvestment against its original estimate of Rs 40,000 crore.

This is quite encouraging especially on the back of the fact that the government has already made a huge fortune during the 3G spectrum and BWA (broadband wireless access) auction earlier this year. During that sale, the government has made about Rs 1,06,000 crore, as against the target of about Rs 35,000 crore. This in turn will help lower the overall fiscal deficit in 2010-11 originally budgeted at 5.5 per cent of the GDP. There is a good chance that the government would be able to achieve the target and may even better it. In a situation when most governments in the world are far exceeding their budget deficit limits thanks to large stimulus packages to beat the recession, India's success can be considered a big achievement.







The BJP high command has done precious little to help chief minister Yeddyurappa to deliver and save the party's image.


Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar is credited with turning the once rowdy state's dubious image on its head and infusing a new sense of pride and belonging in Biharis. Through good governance and his unwillingness to compromise with criminalisation of politics, he has successfully proved that even a coalition government, that too in alliance with the BJP, which stands much discredited in Karnataka, can deliver on the electoral mandate of the people.

According to one estimate, the young and upwardly mobile professional classes, who would earlier migrate out of Bihar in search of greener and safer pastures, are now showing an increasingly strong homing instinct and returning to base to pursue their careers and fulfil filial duties.

In Gujarat, another BJP-ruled state, chief minister Narendra Modi, despite his communal and bloody Godhra taint, has scripted a runaway success story. He is hailed for having changed the way the state is looked at outside and reinforcing the self-esteem of the always proud and self-made Gujaratis.

But down south, a peaceful, politically stable Karnataka state has turned into a hotbed of political chicanery and corruption of the lowest kind. It is no use trying to fix the blame on any of the bickering parties — the ruling BJP, the Opposition Janata Dal-Congress combine or the independently elected MLAs — as all of them are in some way equal parties to the crime, and potential beneficiaries as well.

Chief minister B S Yeddyurappa's failure to keep the BJP flock together may have earned him the distrust of a section of his party MLAs and ministers, who turned to the opposition camp for succour. But the main opposition Congress and the JD(S), which have made common cause with the disgruntled BJP legislators to try and topple the government, are no better.

In the May 2008 state Assembly election, when all the three major political parties failed to muster a simple majority of 113 in the 225-member House, only the BJP took the initiative of seeking the support of independent MLAs and forming the government.

The Congress and the JD(S), who are now willingly lending their shoulder to the disgruntled BJP group, in the hope of at least a brief tryst with power, could have done so soon after the election verdict. Such a move would not have put an elected, functioning government in jeopardy midway. Instead, they frittered away the opportunity on the moral ground that they would rather abide by people's mandate and sit in the opposition. Wither that morality now? Wither the empathy with voter sentiment? Power is an aphrodisiac, they say.

Tumultuous tenure

As for Yeddyurappa, in spite of all his obsessive preoccupation with gods and seers, his political star chart never seemed to favour him throughout his tumultuous two-and-a-half-year tenure. Even after he succeeded in forming the government, he could not rest on his laurels as he was faced with the task of making it topple-proof by poaching opposition MLAs through his infamous Operation Lotus. And when he tried to barter ministerial berths for the loyalty of these MLAs, it set off intra-party rebellion. In fact, dissidence has been Yeddyurappa's constant companion.
Elections were the second time guzzler. Apart from the byelections caused by Operation Lotus, there were polls to fill up vacant MP seats from Karnataka, civic elections and then the gram panchayat polls. That apart, one of the worst floods hit the state and the mismanagement of relief operations by the government brought more disrepute to the dispensation.

Scams, especially involving government land, and money-grubbing are the latest taints of the already beleaguered BJP government. As if all these troubles were not enough, the recent disqualification of 11 disgruntled BJP MLAs, besides some independents, has put the first BJP government in the south in an unenviable predicament. With the disqualified lot moving court, a verdict favouring the BJP would necessitate holding of byelections to fill the vacancies arising, within the next six months.

If the single judge, who has reserved his decision, upholds the contention of the litigant legislators and sets aside their disqualification, the BJP will still have to break the opposition ranks and further reduce their strength to safeguard its own majority status.

Throughout this two-and-a-half-year troubled saga of the Yeddyurappa government, the BJP's central leadership has at best played the role of a party spoiler. Barring periodic declarations that there will be no change in leadership, the party high command has done precious little to help the chief minister deliver and save the party government's image.

With political horsetrading, stings and 'doctored' tapes being the order of the current BJP regime and an equally ramshackle opposition, an academic debate is hotting up: Do, we the people, deserve a peace-loving, relatively clean and stable Karnataka being turned into a rogue state?








Now that the Commonwealth Games are over Mani Shankar Aiyar and others who fled the city have returned to Delhi to resume their tirade against those who organised them.


 I am in agreement with Mani Shankar as far as believing that a country which can't afford feeding its people and providing them shelter had no business to squander thousands of crores on such a grand scale. However, I am happy to see our boys and girls made quite a haul of gold, silver and bronze medals. Apparently, our guests enjoyed our hospitality. According to a banner front-page headline news of the 'Mail Today', sewage pipes in the Games villages were clogged with used condoms and had to be opened up to let the water flow. Foreign and indigenous ladies of leisure did flourishing business. But what impressed everyone were the opening and closing ceremonies. I have never seen spectacles on so grand a scale, so artistically conceived and skillfully executed. I hope they are shown on TV for times to come. And those who planned and executed them be given gold medals studded with diamonds.

By sheer chance I got to know one who designed the costumes of the dancers and tribals who took part in them. It was Seerat Narindra, cousin of the actor Kabir Bedi. She was born in Milan in 1977 and spent many years in Italy. She enrolled in the University of Milan, and apart from other subjects got a diploma in dress designing. She put in skills she had acquired in Italy and India to make costumes authentic. I first met her when her uncle BPL Bedi (Kabir's father) was on his visit to Delhi. He wanted to hear Qawallis before he returned to Italy and asked her to invite Gyani Zail Singh and me to the function. I was very taken by Seerat's looks: tall, fair and well-proportioned. At our last meeting I asked her why with all her assets she had not got married. She gave me a withering look and replied tersely: "I'm married to my job."
I construed it as telling me to mind my own bloody business and not to stick my dirty nose into her private life.

Sharing birthdays

My neighbour Reeta Devi Varma is very birthday conscious. She told me, "I was born the same day and year as Amitabh Bachchan — October 11, 1942. We are Libras represented by Scales of Justice. But see where he has gone — right on the top — and where I am — at the very bottom." It is true the careers of the two are poles apart. He is an Uttarpradeshi of Hindi-Sikh lineage. She is Assamese Bengali and describes her religion as Hindu-Buddhist -Osho. He celebrates his birthdays lavishly, entertaining his friends and relations. Millions of his fans throughout the country also celebrate the occasion. He earns crores of rupees everyday. She earns nothing but goodwill. He is amongst the richest of the rich. She is a beggar ever asking for money from anyone she meets. She does not throw any birthday parties. Instead she drops in my home with a couple of stray dogs (she has picked up seven abandoned from the streets). She takes a sip of my Single Mart. I have kababs specially made for her dogs. I give her a birthday present which she accepts as her due.

Why do I take notice of Reeta Devi? She was a stunning beauty when I first set my eyes on her over 20 years ago. I did not know she lived in the neighbouring block. Her husband Bheem Varma (nephew of Maharani Gayatri Devi) had given up his job and spent most of his time feeding stray dogs and taking those sick to the vet. After he died, she took up the task. She received government allowance from Maneka Gandhi, who was then minister in the Central Cabinet. She found another patron — Kapil Sibal. He gave her a mobile clinic and money to hire doctors and nurses and buy medicines. Likewise, Sir Elton John gave her a second mobile clinic. So she is out from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm treating the poor in Delhi slums. Occasionally, she drops in on me in the evening and tells me triumphantly: "Today we treated 560 patients." She has been promised a third mobile clinic by the Ansals and money to hire doctors, nurses and buy medicines. By the end of the year she hopes to heal over 1,000 sick men, women and children everyday.

I am sure there are thousands of men and women in our country who spend most of their time, energy and money looking after other people. I happened to know only one Reeta Devi Varma. That is why I look forward to celebrating her birthdays in my home.

Love makes mad

 lady who was not keeping too well asked her husband, "How much do you love me?"
Man: So much that after your death I will go mad.

Wife: Will you remarry?

Man: What can one say! A mad man can do anything."

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)







Why this promulgation of love on the currency notes, you wonder.


Often you hear people proclaim, "I bought this 'brand new' vehicle recently"; "This is my 'spanking new' apparel." One can't fail to notice the extra emphasis on adjectives. Maybe it's an induction effect. Somehow, subliminally we too have imbued from others, this fascination for 'new' things.

Interestingly, this admiration to new-looking things is extended towards currency notes too. Be it at any place, your face instantly brightens upon receiving crisp currency notes in mint condition. At the same time, the face screws up too with disdain, on beholding the scruffy and tattered ones. More often than not, the currency notes don that soiled look, not owing to its over-circulation, but because of umpteen asinine stuffs scrawled on that. (Maybe the 'scrawling inspiration' is elicited from the unsightly graffiti, adorning some of city's building walls).

On one currency note, was written, 'Ajit loves Anu.' Indeed it lets your creative mind go berserk. Is this Ajit, a reticent natured? Was he a tad hesitant in advertising his amorous feelings before his lady-love? Maybe on that particular day, this young dude, who all along dissembled his dark secret love in his heart's deep interiors, must have decided to declare before her, all his bottled-up love. But of all places, why this love promulgation on the currency notes, you wonder.

On another currency note was scribbled, 'Vijay, you're a rat'! Again you wonder why this anonymous message writer, feeling so ratty about this rat? And whether this writer is a male or female? If it's a female, was she jilted by her inamorato, who apparently happens to be this Vijay? In case it is male, what had this Vijay chap done to incur animosity of this message scribbler? In the first place, why the heck had Vijay antagonised him?

On currency notes, you also find at times, display of strong bonds and bonhomie, with half a dozen persons' names, jotted one below other. (Maybe of those, who would have aligned themselves into a coterie of close friends). Not to discount, the innumerous additions and subtractions too that find place on notes. Indeed you are at a loss, thinking whether this maths wizard, wants to exhibit his arithmetic acumen or celerity of mind in calculations.

And then there are people, who are dab hands at drawings and their artistic work gets showcased on, yes, currency notes! Right from cartoons/caricatures to indecipherable modern art, you have it all. Sometimes there are even some words of other languages, crabbedly transliterated in some other language, which may all sound gobbledygook to you.

Truly, now I understand why money is humourously termed as 'filthy lucre.' Not figuratively but literally too! Obviously going by the way it's made filthy, by all these trashy tosh scribbled on that!










It has been many years since New York State had a governor with the vision, judgment and authority that it needs now to turn Albany's budget from obesity, to resist powerful interests, to plot a course out of an ethical netherworld in which state the government has become a national embarrassment. For the state's fed-up voters, the choices are Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic state attorney general, and Carl Paladino, the Republican businessman from Buffalo.


Mr. Paladino has cheapened the campaign with bigotry and aimless swagger. Even if Mr. Paladino had chosen to be a serious candidate, his "platform" is little more than sputtering threats to cut and close and freeze.


Despite several position books, Mr. Cuomo's candidacy has been more skeletal than it should have been, and there have been times when he failed to stand up forcefully for his stated principles. But he has a strong record in office over the last four years and has proposed serious solutions for some of the state's problems.


We endorse him with the hope that he would be a bolder and more forthright governor than he has been a candidate. New York cannot afford anything like the scandal, gamesmanship and weakness that have marked the governor's office in the past four years.


Our endorsement is not merely a process of elimination. Mr. Cuomo has proposed serious ethics and redistricting reform. His blueprints for reasserting fiscal control lack many important details but generally seem to set a proper course. He knows about the sinkholes and mudslides of Albany from the experience of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. As the state's chief lawyer, he successfully prosecuted Democrats and kept pressure on Wall Street while actively defending consumers. He needs to be no less assertive if he becomes governor.


Mr. Cuomo acknowledges that his foremost task is restoring trust and transparency to Albany, and the sections on ethics reform are the most impressive in his briefing books. To outlaw the pay-to-play nature of state contracting, he proposes low campaign contribution limits for contractors and lobbyists. Lawmakers would have to disclose their earnings from outside jobs. He would limit soft money in campaigns, tighten disclosure and prohibit personal use of campaign funds. Getting even a few of these vital reforms through a recalcitrant Legislature will be the first test of Mr. Cuomo's leadership.


But the next task may be even harder: There is a $30 billion gap over the next three years, and his path to closing it is much less clearly defined. He has vowed to freeze state salaries and pensions, but his plans for cutting spending while capping property taxes are ill defined, and it does no service to voters to withhold the details. Consolidating multiple layers of government and reducing waste and fraud are unlikely to go far enough.


Medicaid, the state's largest and most out-of-control program, has the best potential for significant reform and reduction, and Mr. Cuomo now says he is open to cutting services — an unexpected but needed vow, given how wildly generous New York's program is compared with other states. Instead of asking the big players in the program to propose cuts, as he says he would, he should begin the conversation with ideas of his own — starting with prescription drugs, nursing homes, home health care and medical transportation.


Each of those items has a powerful constituency behind it, however, capable of big-money pressure to which the Legislature and previous governors have long succumbed. Mr. Cuomo has said he would stand up to traditional Democratic supporters, like Local 1199 of the service workers union, which have bitterly fought other proposals to impose rationality on Medicaid. He said he hopes the fiscal crisis will inspire 1199 and other unions to negotiate real savings, just as municipal unions agreed to big givebacks that helped save New York City during the 1970s fiscal crisis. There is no indication that the present-day union leaders will be that farsighted.


Negotiation and real leadership require different skills than filing lawsuits. Mr. Cuomo has too often played it safe within an insular cocoon of aides, shielding himself from news inquiries, waiting too long to endorse same-sex marriage, citing convoluted reasons to avoid having a one-on-one debate with Mr. Paladino. Albany's crisis is too grave for closed-door political calculation.







There is a time and a place for aggressive deficit reduction. Now is not the time, especially not in Britain. The deep spending cuts announcedby Prime Minister David Cameron's government will hobble public services, strain poor families' budgets and weaken Britain's influence abroad. They could suffocate a feeble recovery.


Mr. Cameron and his team appear to be driven solely by Conservative Party articles of faith. They are gambling on the improbable theory that in a period of weak consumer demand, the private sector will generate enough business activity to replace the $130 billion the government will be withdrawing from the economy over the next four and half years. We are not sure why the Liberal Democrats, the coalition's junior partners, are going along.


On average, government departments will have to slash their spending by an average of nearly 20 percent. The National Health Service was shielded from cuts, and after a last-minute intervention by Mr. Cameron at Washington's behest, the military budget will be cut by only 8 percent.


Most military reductions will come through sensible retrenchments like delaying the replacement of Britain's nuclear missile submarines and drawing down British forces stationed in Germany. But they will still require significant reductions in the number of British troops available for any new major NATO operations.


Shielding the military and the health service, while essential, required cutting more recklessly elsewhere. Nearly 500,000 public jobs (out of 6 million) will be eliminated. Long-term unemployment benefits will be cut off after 12 months. Public housing tenants will pay higher rents. School construction will be cut by 60 percent.


Recession, bank rescues and short-term stimulus spending pushed Britain's deficit up to 11.5 percent of total economic output, even higher than the United States' 10.7 percent. Both countries will have to bring those numbers down over time. But otherwise healthy economies can afford to run fiscal deficits in times of weak private sector growth. In fact, they cannot afford not to.


Britain's deficits did not spawn bond market panics. Interest rates remained low. That left room for a nuanced policy that relied on a reviving economy to boost tax receipts and deferred major spending cuts until a solid recovery was under way. Unfortunately, Britain's leaders chose posture over sound economics.








Bare-knuckled political machines masquerading as nonprofit social advocacy organizations are romping through the tax code on the strength of their own avowals that their blind attack ads serve the public interest.


The social advocacy cover allows them to ludicrously claim a nonpartisan's status under tax law and avoid disclosing bankrollers the way formal political committees must. Karl Rove's Crossroads vehicles are aiming to spend about $52 million this year for Republican causes — and is using this dodge to mask the donors of more than half of that money.


Democrats, who first pioneered this tax code abuse six years ago, are racing to catch up. Some of their misleadingly named groups paid $1.3 million in fines as the cost of doing $150 million in campaign monkey business. The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which ended decades of limitations on corporate and union political advertising, is further encouraging the scofflaws and the frenzy. (One big spender of the campaign cycle is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employees' union, but its money sources at least are clear and accounted for.)


It will take months to fathom the record amounts of phantom money raised in this campaign. The United States Chamber of Commerce is spending up to $75 million for mostly Republicans, while labor unions are vowing to keep pace for Democrats. This should settle any doubts about why Congress needs to pass the campaign finance bill known as the Disclose Act — so voters can at least know which donors are behind the attack ads.


Meanwhile, the regulators are clearly not up to the task. The Federal Election Commission is an embarrassment, with Republican members blocking enforcement recommendations from the commission's own investigators. The Internal Revenue Service is spread too thin.


"It's a farce," Marcus Owens, a former I.R.S. official, told Stephanie Strom and Michael Luo of The Times. "These groups are popping up like mushrooms after a rain right now," he added.


The I.R.S. needs to investigate shady groups now. If the tax code is buckling under the strain, Congress should strengthen it. Lawmakers should also replace the hack-infested election commission with something that favors voters over politicians.







It's almost impossible for a modern American to imagine what an outbreak of rinderpest, a viral cattle disease, would have looked like. But when the disease was at its worst — in Britain in the mid-1860s and South Africa in the 1890s — the spectacle must have been horrifying. Rinderpest spreads rapidly and kills nearly every animals it infects.


It is well worth celebrating the extinction of this disease in the wild. The last known case occurred in Kenya in 2001, and this past week the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared it eradicated globally.


Rinderpest is only the second infectious disease in history to be wiped out, after smallpox, which was declared eradicated in 1980. They share a similar history, since both diseases were among the first to be treated by inoculation in the 18th century. Eradication was also made possible by the fact that neither diseases mutated rapidly, which would have made the task that much harder.


There is, of course, a long list of infectious diseases humanity would like to see eliminated. The next likely virus to be eradicated is polio, a possibility that seems almost incredible to anyone old enough to remember the polio outbreak in the United States in the early 1950s. But part of that memory is the discovery, soon after, of the Salk vaccine and its successor, the Sabin oral vaccine.


In the past decade alone, hundreds of millions of children around the world have been vaccinated. Only a few remaining cases of polio have been found in Nigeria and Tajikistan. With continued effort, this disease may also vanish from the planet in the very near future.








You can only hope that the very preliminary peace efforts in Afghanistan bear fruit before long. But for evidence that the United States is letting its claim to greatness, and even common decency, slip through its fingers, all you need to do is look at the way we treat our own troops.


The idea that the United States is at war and hardly any of its citizens are paying attention to the terrible burden being shouldered by its men and women in uniform is beyond appalling.


We can get fired up about Lady Gaga and the Tea Party crackpots. We're into fantasy football, the baseball playoffs and our obsessively narcissistic tweets. But American soldiers fighting and dying in a foreign land? That is such a yawn.


I would bring back the draft in a heartbeat. Then you wouldn't have these wars that last a lifetime. And you wouldn't get mind-bending tragedies like the death of Sgt. First Class Lance Vogeler, a 29-year-old who was killed a few weeks ago while serving in the Army in his 12th combat tour. That's right, his 12th — four in Iraq and eight in Afghanistan.


Twelve tours may be unusual, but multiple tours — three, four, five — are absolutely normal. We don't have enough volunteers to fight these endless wars. Americans are big on bumper stickers, and they like to go to sports events and demonstrate their patriotism by chanting, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" But actually putting on a uniform and going into harm's way? No thanks.


Sergeant Vogeler was married and the father of two children, and his wife was expecting their third.


It's a quaint notion, but true: with wars come responsibilities. The meat grinder of war takes its toll in so many ways, and we should be paying close attention to all aspects of it. Instead, we send our service members off to war, and once they're gone, it's out of sight, out of mind.


If we were interested, we might notice that record numbers of soldiers are killing themselves. At least 125 committed suicide through August of this year, an awful pace that if continued would surpass last year's all-time high of 162.


Stressed-out, depressed and despondent soldiers are seeking help for their mental difficulties at a rate that is overwhelming the capacity of available professionals. And you can bet that there are even higher numbers of troubled service members who are not seeking help.


In the war zones, we medicate the troubled troops and send them right back into action, loading them up with antidepressants, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs and lord knows what other kinds of medication.


One of the things we have long known about warfare is that the trouble follows the troops home. The Times published an article this week by Aaron Glantz, a reporter with The Bay Citizen news organization in San Francisco, that focused on the extraordinary surge of fatalities among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. These young people died, wrote Mr. Glantz, "not just as a result of suicide, but also of vehicle accidents, motorcycle crashes, drug overdoses or other causes after being discharged from the military."


An analysis of official death certificates showed that, from 2005 through 2008, more than 1,000 California veterans under the age of 35 had died. That's three times the number of service members from California who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq during the same period.


Veterans of the two wars were two-and-a-half times as likely to commit suicide as people the same age with no military service. "They were twice as likely," Mr. Glantz reported, "to die in a vehicle accident, and five-and-a-half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident."


The torment that wars put people through is not something that can be turned on and off like a switch. It's a potentially deadly burden that demands attention and care. People shouldn't be exposed to it if there is any possible alternative.


The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been world-class fiascos. To continue them without taking serious account of the horrors being endured by our troops and their families is just wrong.


The war in Afghanistan, the longest in our history, began on Oct. 7, 2001. It's now in its 10th year. After all this time and all the blood shed and lives lost, it's still not clear what we're doing. Osama bin Laden hasn't been found. The Afghan Army can't stand on its own. Our ally in Pakistan can't be trusted, and our man in Kabul is, at best, flaky. A good and humane society would not keep sending its young people into that caldron.


Shakespeare tells us to "be not afraid of greatness." At the moment, we are acting like we're terrified.








Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.'s recent chest-thumping against the California ballot initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana underscores how the war on drugs in this country has become a war focused on marijuana, one being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.


According to a report released Friday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project for the Drug Policy Alliance and the N.A.A.C.P. and led by Prof. Harry Levine, a sociologist at the City University of New York: "In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half-a-million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially men."


For instance, the report says that the City of Los Angeles "arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites."


This imbalance is not specific to California; it exists across the country.


One could justify this on some level if, in fact, young blacks and Hispanics were using marijuana more than young whites, but that isn't the case. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young white people consistently report higher marijuana use than blacks or Hispanics.


How can such a grotesquely race-biased pattern of arrests exist? Professor Levine paints a sordid picture: young police officers are funneled into low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods where they are encouraged to aggressively stop and frisk young men. And if you look for something, you'll find it. So they find some of these young people with small amounts of drugs. Then these young people are arrested. The officers will get experience processing arrests and will likely get to file overtime, he says, and the police chiefs will get a measure of productivity from their officers. The young men who were arrested are simply pawns.


Professor Levine has documented an even more devious practice in New York City, where possessing a small amount of marijuana is just a civil violation (so is a speeding ticket), but having it "open to public view" is a misdemeanor.


According to a report he issued in September 2009: "Police typically discovered the marijuana by stopping and searching people, often by tricking and intimidating them into revealing it. When people then took out the marijuana and handed it over, they were arrested and charged with the crime of having marijuana 'open to public view.' "


And these arrests are no minor matter. They can have very serious, lifelong consequences.


For instance, in 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a provision that made people temporarily or permanently ineligible for federal financial aid depending on how many times they had been arrested and convicted of a drug offense. The law took effect in 2000, and since 2006 lawmakers have been working to soften it. But the effect was real and devastating: the people most in need of financial aid were also being the most targeted for marijuana arrests and were therefore the most at risk of being frozen out of higher education. Remember that the next time someone starts spouting statistics comparing the number of black men in prison with the number in college.


The arrests also have consequences for things like housing and employment. In fact, in her fascinating new book, "The New Jim Crow," Michelle Alexander argues that the American justice system is being used to create a permanent "undercaste — a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society" and to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics in the same way that Jim Crow laws were once used to discriminate against blacks.


This wave of arrests is partially financed, either directly or indirectly, by federal programs like the Byrne Formula Grant Program, which was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to rev up the war on drugs. Surprisingly, this program has become the pet project of Democrats, not Republicans.


Whatever his motives, President George W. Bush sought to eliminate the program. Conservative groups backed his proposal, saying the program "has proved to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources."


But Democrats would have none of it. In the last year of the Bush administration, financing had been reduced to $170 million. In March of that year, 56 senators signed onto a "bipartisan" letter to ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to restore nearly $500 million to the program. Only 15 Republicans signed the letter.


Even candidate Obama promised that he would restore funding to the program.


The 2009 stimulus package presented these Democrats with the opportunity, and they seized it. The legislation, designed by Democrats and signed by President Obama, included $2 billion for Byrne Grants to be awarded by the end of September 2010. That was nearly a 12-fold increase in financing. Whatever the merits of these programs, they are outweighed by the damage being done. Financing prevention is fine. Financing a race-based arrest epidemic is not.


Why would Democrats support a program that has such a deleterious effect on their most loyal constituencies? It is, in part, callous political calculus. It's an easy and relatively cheap way for them to buy a tough-on-crime badge while simultaneously pleasing police unions. The fact that they are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men and, by extension, the communities they belong to barely seems to register.


This is outrageous and immoral and the Democrat's complicity is unconscionable, particularly for a party that likes to promote its social justice bona fides.


No one knows all the repercussions of legalizing marijuana, but it is clear that criminalizing it has made it a life-ruining racial weapon. As Ms. Alexander told me, "Our failed war on drugs has done incalculable damage."


When will politicians have the courage to stand up, acknowledge this fact and stop allowing young minority men to be collateral damage?








"I'm in Sheboygan!" said Senator Russ Feingold over the phone. "It's the bratwurst capital of the world!"


Truly, I am learning something new every day in this long campaign season. People, did you know that the official state bird of Alaska is the willow ptarmigan? Or that Alexandria, Ind., is home to the world's largest ball of paint? Well, you do now.


But about Russ Feingold. He is running for a fourth term, in a very tough race against Ron Johnson, a plastics manufacturer and one of those rich political virgins who have been popping up in races across the country, waving a checkbook and a copy of "Atlas Shrugged."


It's ironic that Feingold, who is possibly the most independent member of the Senate, a Mr. Clean who votes against his party regularly, is among the incumbents in the most danger from an anti-Washington voter rebellion. Especially since Johnson is not all that impressive. Unless you like Ayn Rand and are yearning to see the country run just like a plastics business.


"My opponent never even refers to Wisconsin," said Feingold, 57, a twice-divorced policy wonk who thinks the election is being hijacked by big money conservative forces outside the state. He loves to talk about Wisconsin's "great progressive tradition," as well as "the rich tradition of clean government." Still, you have to acknowledge that the state that gave America Fighting Bob LaFollette also created Senator Joe McCarthy.


"Well, there are other traditions," Feingold conceded.


I've gotten sort of tired of independent spirits in the U.S. Senate, and when Feingold decided to vote against the financial reform bill because he just felt it should have been better, I felt an unexpected surge of sympathy for the majority leader, Harry Reid. But there are two things about Feingold's campaign that won my heart.


First, unlike the majority of Democrats running for re-election in Middle America, he is not trying to pretend that he didn't vote for the health care bill, or that he voted for it with his fingers crossed, planning to completely overhaul it in 2011. "You bet I voted for that bill! I'm proud I did it!" he hollered during a campaign stop with Michelle Obama. He keeps pointing out all the good and popular things the law contains. In debates, he asks Johnson — who's promising to repeal Obamacare — if he really wants to reopen the hated "doughnut hole" in the Medicare prescription drug program or go back to allowing insurers to refuse to cover children with pre-existing medical conditions.


Second, Feingold is actually sticking to his principles even though it could cost him the race.


This is the Lone Ranger year in American politics, when big money donors have been able to buy campaign TV ads without revealing their identities, laundering the money through groups like the United States Chamber of Commerce or blandly named newbies like the American Action Network. The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group for government transparency, says there's been more than $2.7 million spent by these outside groups in the Senate race in Wisconsin. About $2.67 million of that went for ads to praise Johnson or attack Feingold. Less than $40,000 was spent on Feingold's behalf. This is because the senator told outside groups, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to stay away.


"He lives by his rules," said Fred Wertheimer, the guru of campaign finance reform and chief of Democracy 21, a nonprofit organization. "He's true to his school, which makes him a freak of nature in Washington."


This is not the first time Feingold has risked his seat to hang onto his convictions about the proper way to finance political campaigns. In 1998, in a race he ultimately won by a whisker, he told outside groups not to come into Wisconsin with unregulated "soft money" ads on his behalf. "No career, including mine, is as important as breaking the hold of this system of legalized bribery," he told R.W. Apple of The Times.


Then he and John McCain managed to push a bill through Congress to control soft money. But it was upended this year by the Supreme Court. In response, the House passed a bill requiring the liberated attack-ad machines to at least reveal the names of their major donors. It was killed by Republicans in the Senate, with McCain's help.


"I think John will be back," said Feingold. "He had a tough primary."


Which is sort of the point. There is a law in Washington, followed by politicians great and small from both sides of the aisle, that principles are fine, but not something you'd want to lose your seat over.


Feingold disagrees. And Wisconsonites, if you decide to re-elect this guy I will be so happy I will personally lead a movement to make the rest of the country stop calling you Cheeseheads.


Unless that's something you like. Really, whatever you want is fine.









THE Chinese authorities' condemnation of the Nobel committee's selection of Liu Xiaobo, the jailed political activist, as the winner of the 2010 Peace Prize inadvertently illustrates why human rights are worth defending.


The authorities assert that no one has the right to interfere in China's internal affairs. But they are wrong: international human rights law and standards are above the nation-state, and the world community has a duty to ensure they are respected.


The modern state system evolved from the idea of national sovereignty established by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. At the time, sovereignty was assumed to be embodied in an autocratic ruler.


But ideas about sovereignty have changed over time. The American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen replaced the control of the autocrat with the sovereignty of the people as the source of national power and legitimacy.


The idea of sovereignty changed again during the last century, as the world moved from nationalism to internationalism. The United Nations, founded in the wake of two disastrous world wars, committed member states to resolve disputes by peaceful means and defined the fundamental rights of all people in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The nation-state, the declaration said, would no longer have ultimate, unlimited power.


Today, universal human rights provide a check on arbitrary majorities around the world, whether they are democracies or not. A majority in a parliament cannot decide to harm the rights of a minority, nor vote for laws that undermine human rights. And even though China is not a constitutional democracy, it is a member of the United Nations, and it has amended its Constitution to comply with the Declaration of Human Rights.


However, Mr. Liu's imprisonment is clear proof that China's criminal law is not in line with its Constitution. He was convicted of "spreading rumors or slander or any other means to subvert the state power or overthrow the socialist system." But in a world community based on universal human rights, it is not a government's task to stamp out opinions and rumors. Governments are obliged to ensure the right to free expression — even if the speaker advocates a different social system.


These are rights that the Nobel committee has long upheld by honoring those who struggle to protect them with the Peace Prize, including Andrei Sakharov for his struggle against human rights abuses in the Soviet Union, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his fight for civil rights in the United States.


Not surprisingly, the Chinese government has harshly criticized the award, claiming that the Nobel committee unlawfully interfered with its internal affairs and humiliated it in the eyes of the international public. On the contrary, China should be proud that it has become powerful enough to be the subject of debate and criticism.


Interestingly, the Chinese government is not the only one to criticize the Nobel committee. Some people have said that giving the prize to Mr. Liu may actually worsen conditions for human-rights advocates in China.


But this argument is illogical: it leads to the conclusion that we best promote human rights by keeping quiet. If we keep quiet about China, who will be the next country to claim its right to silence and non-interference? This approach would put us on a path toward undermining the Universal Declaration and the basic tenets of human rights. We must not and cannot keep quiet. No country has a right to ignore its international obligations.


China has every reason to be proud of what it has achieved in the last 20 years. We want to see that progress continue, and that is why we awarded the Peace Prize to Mr. Liu. If China is to advance in harmony with other countries and become a key partner in upholding the values of the world community, it must first grant freedom of expression to all its citizens.


It is a tragedy that a man is being imprisoned for 11 years merely because he expressed his opinion. If we are to move toward the fraternity of nations of which Alfred Nobel spoke, then universal human rights must be our touchstone.


Thorbjorn Jagland is the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.








REPORTS emanating from Karachi clearly suggest that a stage is set for an operation there and perhaps there is no other way out in view of the fast deteriorating security situation. After a series of meetings of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Provincial Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza with all the stakeholders, it has reportedly been agreed to launch a crackdown on criminals, terrorists and drug, land and extortionist mafias without discrimination. 

There are no two opinions that the situation in Karachi was precarious and nothing short of a comprehensive operation could help restore peace of the city. However, the details of how the authorities intend to proceed ahead do not inspire confidence about its efficacy and it may ultimately prove to be a non-starter. To begin with, an operation can only be result-oriented if it is sudden and dramatic leading to recovery of illegal arms and ammunition and arrest of majority of culprits, if not all. However, in this case, the decision-makers have been wavering since long whether or not to undertake such a step, giving enough time to criminals to go underground and hide weapons. The outcome would, therefore, be not different from the infamous Sohrab Goth operation when law-breakers had advance knowledge of the action and scuttled its spirit. Secondly, it is being said that Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah would be overall incharge of the operation, which also makes it success doubtful. This is because in the first instance why the situation should have deteriorated to such an extent if the Chief Minister was capable and competent enough to comprehend the problem and take measures to address it. He is a leader totally detached from what is happening and a lacklustre personality, who can hardly deliver in a complex environment that prevails in Karachi. Again, as the Chief Minister hails from a component of the ruling coalition in the province, he is not expected to be a neutral player and accusing fingers might be raised against him if there is an impression of partisan approach during the operation. We need a visionary, versatile, undisputed and neutral personality or professional to handle the situation with necessary care without jeopardizing the core objective of the operation. Therefore, we think Shoaib Suddle, who earned respect and recognition because of his impeccable integrity during his tenure as IG Police in Karachi, be entrusted with the task of supervising the operation to ensure that it is effective and result-oriented. Suddle, currently working as Federal Tax Ombudsman, has very even handed approach, his conduct has been above board, has no personal stake or inclination towards anyone and above all (during his posting as IGP) he gave a message to all that enough is enough. If he is not to be the choice for any reason, then it should be any other Shoaib Suddle, because failure of the operation would leave us with no choice but to hand over the city to Army and then that would also be too late.







IT is almost on a daily basis that reports about possible launching of military operation in North Waziristan Agency of FATA trickle down either from Washington or from Islamabad. On every such occasion, there is rhetoric statement from spokesmen of the Government that the country will not succumb to the American pressure on the issue and that a decision would be taken keeping in view our national interests. 

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit resorted to this approach again on Thursday during his weekly news briefing but the choice of words this time clearly showed that something ominous was cooking up. He asserted that there was no lack of commitment on the part of Pakistan to go after terrorists anywhere and that an operation in NWA would be carried out, if required. The question arises as to who will determine whether or not an operation is needed. As far as Pakistan is concerned, till now, it has been maintaining that it has enough forces in the agency to take care of the situation and that it cannot afford to launch a full-scale operation as Army is already entangled on several other fronts. As against this, Americans have been insisting that the agency has become the nerve centre of terrorism as terrorists from other areas have also taken shelter there and, therefore, Pakistani forces must move to wipe them out. The established pattern suggests that it is Americans whose viewpoint prevails ultimately and in this case too Pakistan will be forced to launch an operation whether or not it is in its national interests. We believe that a ground is being prepared for a large-scale operation in North Waziristan and should that happen it would be suicidal for the country. There are also reports that the issue dominated discussions at the third round of Strategic Dialogue in Washington and the next few months would be crucial in this regard. We would, however, urge Pakistani leadership not to take a hasty decision under duress and that too at a time when the United States and NATO were wooing Taliban for talks in neighbouring Afghanistan.






BASED on proceedings of the case and remarks made by the honourable judges sitting on the bench that heard petitions against 18th Constitutional Amendment, it was widely believed that the judgement could trigger an institutional clash. However, this dreaded possibility has effectively been averted, thanks to the wisdom and sagacity of the members of the bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary.

Some legal circles and Judiciary had some reservations about the procedure given in the 18th Amendment regarding appointment of judges to the superior courts but there was unanimity of views among law-makers that the provision cannot be struck down even if it is not liked by the Judiciary as it is the domain of Parliament to legislate and its supremacy cannot be challenged. There were many other explanations and arguments for and against but it is heartening that the verdict has disappointed all those who wanted confrontation between Parliament and the judiciary. The court has not interfered with the right of Parliament to legislate and referred the matter back to the parliament with certain recommendations and the issue would most likely be settled amicably as all the stakeholders have hailed the judgement. The Prime Minister was first one in pronouncing that the verdict would enhance the dignity of Parliament while others have described it as a wise and judicious decision. It is gratifying that the apex court has pulled the country out of another crisis that could have caused irreparable damage to the entire system.









Richard Holbrook has ruled out possibility of mediation on Kashmir between India and Pakistan. In February 2010 also he had categorically stated that America would not negotiate or mediate on that issue, adding that "I am not talking about myself but setting out the US position". Yet our Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi beseeches that America should help resolve Kashmir issue in order to ensure peace in the region. The US has always skirted the issue by taking the position that it would help in this regard provided both sides request for such a role. But India has always rejected any third-party mediation, and insisted that all issues would be resolved through bilateral negotiations. All those who wish the conflict to be justly resolved should remember that it was India that had taken the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations and was committed to implement UNSC resolutions. The United States had then taken the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be ascertained in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the territory. In 1948 and 1949, America had played its role in adoption of the resolutions in the United Nations Security Council that gave Kashmirs the right to decide about joining India and Pakistan through a plebiscite. 

During the Cold War era, the US had tried to woo India to bring it in its sphere of influence but India opted to remain non-aligned. However, India had a special relationship with the USSR and supported each other on various forums and issues. After disintegration of the former USSR the world became unipolar world, and India deemed it appropriate to be on the 'right side'. America on the other hand wanted to use India for advancing American interests in this region including containing China. In fact, the die of strategic relationship with India was cast during President Clinton's visit to India, when he promised that India could become not only a regional power but a world power. India thus took full advantage of its size and façade of secularism, and let loose the rein of terror on Kashmiris for demanding the right of self-determination. Whenever India felt the heat of resistance movement in Kashmir, it started dialogue with Pakistan, and Composite Dialogue that started in 2994 was a case in point. 

Anyhow, after realizing the infecundity of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan over a period of six decades, and ahead of United States president Barrack Obama's proposed visit to New Delhi in November 2009, the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq started a signature campaign across the State to seek Washington's intervention for impressing upon India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute. "As India and Pakistan have kept the dispute lingering for the past over six decades at the cost of Kashmiris, we have unanimously decided to seek third party intervention of the United States for impressing the two countries to resolve the dispute according to aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Mirwaiz told the media. "We want to impress upon Obama that another war between the nuclear powers - India and Pakistan - can be catastrophic for the World and it is high time for resolution of the dispute," Mirwaiz said. 

Earlier, during his visit to Saudi Arabia for performing umra, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had urged Saudi Arabia to use its influence and bring India and Pakistan closer to solve the decades-long conflict over the disputed Himalayan region. He said that Saudi Arabia has old and close ties with Pakistan and has also been mentioned as a possible mediator in any political settlement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, where India and Pakistan have been battling for influence since long. But the problem is that those countries that had supported the cause of Kashmiris and Pakistan's principle stance on Kashmir are now giving sermons to Pakistan that it should resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally with India. Even the OIC now feels shy of even condemning the atrocities perpetrated on Kashmiris by the Indian security forces. In fact, India has gone back on its commitment given to the UNSC by India and not less than first prime minister of India who had declared in the Lok Sabha that UNSC resolutions would be implemented in letter and spirit. Though, there have been many rounds of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve all outstanding issues including the core issue of Kashmir, yet all of his successors considered Kashmir as part of India.

Even soft spoken Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is reported to have said that "Kashmir is an integral part of India", which is tantamount to showing disregard to UNSC resolutions. The UN Security Council had adopted a resolution on 21 April 1948, which was to be implemented under the aegis of the UN. So the idea that 'Kashmir is an integral part of India' is in contravention of India's international obligations. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, one of the members of the governing council of World Kashmir Freedom Movement had said: "Any such suggestion is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Kashmir. The people revolted against the status quo, and status quo cannot be an answer". But such demands create confusion and complicate the Kashmir issue. Some members of World Kashmir Freedom Movement took the position that their land is not a real estate which can be parceled out between two disputants but the home of a nation with a history far more compact and coherent than India's, and far longer than Pakistan's. They observe that no settlement of their status will hold unless it is explicitly based on the principles of self-determination.

It appears that World Kashmir Freedom Movement after being fed up with the Indian attitude has gone beyond the UNSC resolution, and talks about their right of self-determination, which means independence. The new generation of young boys that were born under the shadow of Indian bayonets since 1989, and witnessed murder, rape and killings of their kith and kin in fake encounters, are burning with rage and revenge. Upset with the new uprising, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasized the need for dialogue with Kashmiri leaders. Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Syed Ali Geelani, however, rejected with disdain stating that talks can be fruitful and acceptable only after India accepts the three points - right to self-determination, complete troops withdrawal and talks within the ambit of United Nations resolutions vis-à-vis Kashmir dispute. The All Parties Conference on Kashmir called by the government could not reach consensus and ended in a deadlock. 

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had also made an impassioned appeal to the participants for creating space for reconciliation that could end turmoil and conflict in trouble-torn state. She said: "The legitimate aspirations of those young people in the Kashmir Valley who have grown up in the embrace of violence, of conflict and brutality must be understood and respected". But such rhetoric cannot pacify those who have faced death and destruction unparalleled in the history. India's illegal occupation of Kashmir is a dark chapter in the history of human rights. And denial to the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri people is morally unacceptable, economically unsustainable and politically inadmissible with regard to any scheme aimed at ensuring global and regional peace, stability and security. As regards the question whether America will help resolve the Kashmir issue, only incorrigible optimist could hope so, because America and the West have infatuation with the so-called democracy of the world. Secondly, commercial interests are given over-riding consideration over principles and justice, especially when it is a matter of plus one-billion market.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.








Of late newspapers of the world are splashing stories about the possibility of Mumbai-style group attacks in major cites of Europe. A week has passed, but this threat is still in the news. This undue hype is giving rise to several queries. It is being asked, why don't the world intelligence agencies get alerted when every now and then such alarm bells are sounded in Pakistan, many of which proved correct? Why no concern was expressed when several Mumbai-style attacks were launched in Pakistan in 2009? 

They say that what is so new and startling about hazy news of possible Mumbai-type attacks in Europe when the US and its western partners have deliberately spread flames of terrorism all over the world because of barbaric acts against Afghanistan and Iraq on unproven and fake charges? They ask that having massacred over 1.6 million mostly innocent Muslims, destroyed their homes rendered them homeless and stateless and provocatively mocked and undermined Islam, why should the west still expect that they should be respected and obeyed by the aggrieved? Many view illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and killing its people as the biggest form of terrorism. They inquire as to why to pretend innocent when hands of the US-NATO military are drenched in blood; why fear retaliation when they have incessantly stoked flames of terrorism for the last nine years despite advises and admonishments by many from all quarters of the world to put an end to this madness? 

It is argued that the victims of aggression hounded day and night, and none prepared to address their genuine grievances are in a way justified to hit back at their oppressors whenever and wherever opportunity comes their way rather then getting quietly slaughtered like lambs. Why shouldn't the militants have the right to strike back in defence? In this battle between terrorists and counter terrorists both view the other guilty and are drawing blood. Both are acting savagely. So the big question posed is that what is the difference between the two when both are merciless and unforgiving? The situation becomes all the more complex when no plausible definition of terrorism has so far been given. A so-called terrorist may be a hero for the other. All terrorists of today were heroes of yester-years. This complexity has been compounded when thin line between a freedom fighter and a terrorist was obliterated and former declared as a terrorist. Is it very wrong to say that two terrorist outfits are battling with each other? 

The security forces and intelligence agencies of the world are operating in unison to defeat terrorism and are enjoying huge advantage over the terrorists. So why the crib if terrorist outfits do the same act of marrying up? In a fair contest, each side has the right to chalk out its own strategy and make changes in fighting tactics to gain an edge over the other. So what is so new and innovative about group attacks in urban centres? In Mumbai, ten terrorists had taken the cosmopolitan city hostage for 72 hours and had paralyzed the whole state machinery. In contrast, several group attacks of similar nature were tackled within no time by Pakistan security forces. 

Judging from response actions of India and Pakistan, it can be concluded that there is nothing spectacular or fearsome about group attacks by a bunch of terrorists, but it was the pathetic response of Indian security forces which made Mumbai-style attacks so dreadful. Western patrons of India admit that latter's response was painfully slow. Pakistan having effectively dealt with series of Mumbai-style group attacks in Lahore and Rawalpindi including an attack on GHQ has forgotten them and is fully poised to take on future threats with fortitude without bawling. Pakistan knows that all attacks were masterminded by RAW but it has not made any hue and cry nor has asked the world to help save Pakistan from future RAW sponsored attacks. 

If India has not got out of fear psychosis after lapse of two years, it doesn't mean that Mumbai-style attacks should be sensationalized and quoted out of context that something extraordinary had happened. Indian leaders are imagining frightful scenarios based on illusions and in their bid to suppress their fear they are warning Pakistan that any repeat action of Mumbai attacks in future will evoke very strong retaliatory action against Pakistan. Similar threat was hurled by US leaders in the wake of Times Square failed attempt. Both seem to have exchanged notes and are on the same page in this regard. The scare story is now being spread to Europe.

While Al-Qaeda is actively operating from several bases against US imperialism and has its main base in Arabian Peninsula as reported by US-western media, Al-Qaeda allegedly stationed in North Waziristan (NW) is being accused of planning to conduct Mumbai-style attacks in major cities of France, Britain and Germany. One is tempted to ask as to why Al-Qaeda based in Arabian Peninsula being next door not planning to attack European targets rather than traversing such a long distance from remote NW? Obviously, the real target is Pakistan and not Al-Qaeda. All these concoctions are being cooked up to maximize pressure on Pakistan and force it to launch a full-fledged operation in NW. 

Gen David Petraeus is not picking up courage to mount an offensive in Kandahar since he doesn't want to face another failure after Helmand fiasco. Now that the whole responsibility has come on his shoulders, he doesn't want to be booted out unceremoniously as in the case of Gen McChrystal. As a cover up, he has convinced higher military and civilian leadership in Washington that neutralization of NW in a preliminary operation is vital for the success of Kandahar operation. In the face of Gen Kayani's defiance, he threatened that in case Pak troops failed to take action, his troops will be constrained to step into FATA. When an ally starts threatening an ally, it implies things have gone real bad. Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of surge in Iraq in 2007 is now concentrating on Pakistan for dismantlement of al-Qaeda network. Hersh Symov alerted Pakistan about US designs.

The US is caught up in a catch-22 situation. Its pressure is not working on Pakistan to open another front in NW. Low state of morale of coalition troops and ANA is not conducive for colliding with Taliban in their heartland in Kandahar. Without wresting the initiative from Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan, there is no way that the Taliban would agree to come to the negotiating table on US terms. In sheer frustration, the US military has intensified drone attacks on NW. Since start of September, hardly a day has passed without a drone strike on suspected targets, hoping that it would trigger people's revolt and thus force Pak Army to use excessive force recklessly against all militant groups including pro-Pakistan groups' like Gul Bahadar and Haqqani networks. 

The US has once again restarted playing its old tunes that Pak Army is unable or unwilling to confront Al-Qaeda. The US may have been justified in passing this judgment had the performance of its military in Afghanistan been above average. Making an objective comparative assessment of the two sides, all fingers are pointing at USA and not at Pakistan. The US must first put its own house in order before commenting upon others.

—The writer is a defence and security analyst.








It is a trifle odd that in this topsy turvy world of ours in which human values – what to talk of human life – have lost all sanctity; there still exist people who fret about such causes as 'global warming'. It tends to restore whatever little faith one had in human nature – but only just. Global warming is a disaster waiting to happen. The mere fact that it creeps on gradually rather than descend as a bolt from the blue does not make it any the less calamitous. The positive aspect is that the world has plenty of warning to prepare itself or to make amends before the disaster unfolds. Thanks to the pressure exerted by the agitating minority, some progress has been registered in this field. 


For one thing, the Kyoto agreement belatedly came into effect after a hiatus of some seven years. Despite the fact that the two biggest offender countries chose to stay out, even the mere fact of the Protocol having become a reality is something to crow about. But the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. So long as the Protocol's essential ingredients are not put into effect as early as possible by all concerned the effort that went into its drafting will have gone in vain. A bit of introspection at this juncture may not be out of place. In the course of several multilateral Conferences where the subject of global warming came up, it was brushed aside by the developed world as a Third World worry. From their jaundiced point of view, this matter was hardly worth sacrificing the First World's prerogative to burn fossil fuel to its heart's content! They also found it expedient to fob off the ultimate responsibility on those Third World states that were eking out a measly living through the clandestine sale of their rain-forest timber. The North felt secure in the belief that states of the developed world would never ever be on the receiving end of things. Nature is a great leveler, though. Man-made disasters may be designed to be partial against the poor and the deprived, but nature shows no such bias. One found it both interesting and somewhat edifying to come across, some years back, a series of articles on the subject by Barry James published in the International Herald Tribune. 

Under the chapeau title of "Four Battlefronts in the War against Effects of Climate Change", the author had identified four locales, all in the Developed World that had the potentiality of becoming casualties in the battle against 'climate change'. This came as something of a revelation in that for the first time it was revealed that global warming was more than just a Third World problem. No doubt the powers that be in the developed world got the message. But the responsible leaderships in the developing world have yet to take measure of the ecological catastrophe waiting to happen. Regrettably, little or no sense of urgency has been visible in the Third World countries, even those that are projected to be on the "hit list" of the global warming phenomenon. 

Tens of millions of hapless people, mainly in South and Southeast Asia, face serious or permanent flooding of their lands if the climate change predictions associated with global warming become a reality. Would it be at all realistic to nurture the hope that someone from the developing world will take it upon himself to study and report upon this problem from the point of view of the poor and deprived lands? Given the past record, though, this appears destined to remain one of those idealistic but unfulfilled dreams. It is high time that those in the Third World who know better raised their voice in favour of reason. The World Metrological Organization (WMO) had termed the past decade as the warmest since accurate records began in the mid-nineteenth century. The collapse of a huge ice shelf in the eastern Antarctic was reported some years ago. 

This was apparently due to the gradual rise in the temperatures in the region. Scientists have surmised that - if the present trends continue unabated - the Arctic could well turn into a navigable ocean by the middle of this century. This is a prospect hardly to be taken lightly. The ecological disaster that such a phenomenon could bring in its wake is horrible to contemplate. 

Nearer home, there are substantiated fears now that global warming could well lead to the melting of the Siachin glacier. Such an eventuality could lead to an ecological disaster of immense proportions. While the two bickering neighbours play a never-ending game of going round and round the mulberry bush, Mother Nature has other and more venomous plans for the region. On a wider canvas, one can see that the powers-that-be have - in their mighty wisdom - opted to defy the fury of nature. This is their wont, but they will do so at their own peril! 

While on the subject of natural disasters it may not be out of place to give a thought to why such disasters are proliferating and in some designated regions in particular. Why, for instance most of these are concentrated in the poorer regions of the world. Could it be possibly due to the indiscriminate 'live-testing' by big powers of newer and more devastating weapons of destruction in these areas? 

Indiscriminate use of such weapons, in addition to resulting in what has euphemistically been called 'collateral damage', could also cause irreversible damage to the sub-strata of the regions in question. Be that as it may, humankind should understand that it never pays to play ducks and drakes with the laws of nature. And those that think that they can get away with wreaking havoc away from their shores may well discover that they would do so at their own peril. If nothing else Nature has the habit of being a great leveler. 








Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan is in the grip of an unremitting carnage. Residents are being killed indiscriminately. The brazen killers and trigger-happy shooters roam with abandon, kill point blank, and move away blithely. The law and order is shattered and social life is virtually paralyzed. People are as frightened as the Jews were during the 12 years (1933-1945) of Nazis' ethnic cleansing spree before the Second World War in Germany. In Karachi, the movement of the public is strictly hampered and compounded. The city looks like what Delhi presented the gory spectacle after British soldiers ransacked Delhi, killed wantonly, and hanged 35000 residents alone in Delhi. So one can make a comparison of this spine-chilling situation between Delhi of 1857 and Karachi of 2010. The political players and the government functionaries and even public knows who are responsible for this orgy of human blood. The Defense minister of Sindh audaciously claims that he was the biggest ruffian in the whole of province. He is the first one to be arraigned for his questionable conduct. Since he is the chum of president Zardari he is as safe as moon. 

I have seen in the TV footage, corpses of innocent young bystanders and ordinary peddlers and stallholders strewn on the pavements and roadside reminiscent of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. These young boys and old men who were the bread earners of their families became the target of revenge killing. 

Karachi as we know has several ethnic groups. These are Mohajars, the Pathans the Afghanis, the local Sindhis besides the minority Balochis, and Makranis. Additionally, there are unaccounted number of foreign immigrants (both legal and illegal) from Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. This roughly is the demographic complexion of the Karachi's 20 million population. 

Although the three parties namely, MQM, PPP, and ANP are coalition partners in the Sindh government, yet mentally and intrinsically they are hostile towards each other. The MQM considers Karachi as its citadel where bulk of them settled after migrating from India. The ethnic Pathans later joined by Afghans and even Taliban over several decades have been coming to Karachi for economic reasons and have become permanent residents here. Although most of them do small jobs but there are among them who have turned fabulously rich. The Pathan community has also gained political leverage and their candidates are elected in the local or federal elections. The Sindhis are dominant in the sense of being the sons of the soil and lay first claim to power sharing and economic bounties. 

As such a simmering tussle and smoldering competition for power, pelf, and over-lordship is always running overtly and overtly between these groups. This cutthroat race spills over to physical elimination of the rivals as we can witness in Mexico where drug mafias and street gangs war against each round the year. Karachi's extremely fragile, paralyzed breakdown of law and order and perpetual warring can be equated to some extent with Mexico's border areas, although for different reasons. 

Now how can this appalling situation be drastically curbed? The government both at the centre and at province is wary and opposed to handing Karachi over to the army control. The underlying fear is that this army control could be extended to the rest of the country and thus vacating the usefulness of a civilian government. On the other hand, there can be political reasons for keeping the Karachi caldron of violence and target killings boiling. However, the ominous possibility or sinister consequences can be that this unremitting disorder and mayhem may finally burst open into a civil war and there is free for all situation: everyone killing everyone. 

I am not convinced that the federal government is either sincere or possesses the necessary muscle to deal with this snowballing trend of violence and lawlessness. So finally it devolves upon the army to step forward and take control of the fast worsening situation. If army moves in, it should first of all clamp curfew and arrest all the ministers and top bureaucrats in the provincial government. Those found involved clandestinely should be summarily prosecuted and awarded deserving punishments. The army should issue an ultimatum for surrender of weapons of every make and brand within a time frame, let us say 48 hours. 

After that a house-to-house search should be mounted and those not complying with the orders to surrender the weapons should be summarily sentenced for long jail terms handed out by the military field courts. The people should be asked to pinpoint and report the names of the thugs and bandits, land grabbers and outlaws that are known to the residents. The army should swoop upon all the lawbreakers and criminals in every street and locality and put all of them behind bars or shoot them by the firing squads, depending upon the nature and degree of their crimes. 

A list of all the foreigners should be compiled and those staying without any legal documents should be deported within a certain specified period. The religious militants, foreign agents, and clandestine saboteurs hiding in various safe havens of the city should be hunted down along with their protectors and abettors and sentenced, depending upon the intensity of their crimes. Any political figure and party member behind this unrelenting and diabolic yet undetected manslaughter should be shown no mercy. 

The only obstacle in this whole projected plan is that the army moves on the order of a sitting political government, which for all indications, the PPPP coalition is not going to do. The alternate is that the army either moves in on its own volition or else is asked by the superior judiciary to do the job. The army should keep this operation for at least a year till harmony and normal peaceful life returns to Karachi. 

Besides, the exploding civic problems should be resolved on a war footing. From improving the public transport system, to provision of running tap water to an uninterrupted supply of electricity, to environmental cleanliness, to expansion of roads, to removal of encroachments on roads and other similar civic reforms should be put in place within the shortest possible time. 

—The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist.







American combat troops have officially left Iraq, but religious factions there continue to jostle for power in the still-unformed government seven months after the March election failed to elect new leaders. Amid sectarian violence and competing foreign influences, Sunni, Shiite, Sadrist, and Kurdish political leaders are struggling to negotiate a coalition government. Only by engaging fully with Iraq's rival religious leaders can an authentic coalition government – and the security that it can provide – be achieved. I know, because I've spent years forging relationships among religious factions here in Iraq, and I've seen the problem, and the possibilities for peace.

On September 11, 2001, I was preparing to go to Iraq. I watched, horrified, as the magnitude of that day's great tragedy unfolded. It was immediately clear that the world was never going to be the same again. When people slaughter the innocent believing that they are doing it in God's name, the effects are catastrophic. A week later, as I walked into Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz' Baghdad office, he shouted at me, "Tell them we had nothing to do with it." Without thinking I replied, "It doesn't matter if you did or didn't; they're still coming to get you." By April 2003 my prediction proved correct. The heart of the problem and the solution. If 9/11 showed us the power of religion to cause tragedy on an epic scale, the aftermath should teach us something else. When religion is at the heart of the problems in a country, religion also needs to be at the heart of the solution.

After the invasion, I emphasized the necessity of addressing the role of religion to those in charge of the US-led Coalition Provincial Authority, which was responsible for rebuilding Iraq. They told me that their first priority was to restore water and electricity supplies. Religion would have to wait. Some months later they admitted that their failure to engage actively with the religious leadership had left their mission to restore basic utilities doomed to failure. Writing this in Baghdad seven years later, the electricity supply is still sporadic at best, coming on for only a few hours each day. I first visited as a peace negotiator in 1998. My commitment to Iraq over such a long period has enabled me to develop relationships of trust with nearly all of the most senior religious leaders. This includes those willing to work with Western officials and also those who would never do so. These men (and they are all men) have enormous influence in Iraq – influence to promote either peace or significant violence.Since 2003, we have been mediating among the leaders of opposing sectarian factions, bringing them together to counter the dangerous spiral of tit-for-tat sectarian violence. Through religious leader engagement, we have been able to negotiate the release of many hostages, both expat and Iraqi. This work has been difficult. I have been detained at gun-point, threatened with torture, and have had my picture posted on walls around Baghdad with a notice saying, "Wanted, dead or alive." Members of my church have been kidnapped or killed. I have lost many friends. But if you want to work for peace, you need to be willing to work with people who make war. Nice people don't cause conflict. To achieve lasting peace, the warmakers need to be encouraged to become peacemakers.

Peacebuilding requires relationships. In the Middle East there is a strong tradition of "honest brokers" – impartial third parties trusted by all sides. As a Christian clergyman, I am neither Sunni nor Shiite, and have had a unique opportunity to build relationships of trust with all sides. On the strength of these relationships we have been able to facilitate reconciliation conferences between opposing groups. These create a forum where former enemies can begin to forge relationships of trust. This has been essential in our brokering the first ever joint Sunni/Shiite fatwa against violence in Iraq in August 2008. At a series of seven conferences from 2007 to 2009, we met with as many as 12 key Iraqi religious leaders outside of Iraq for security reasons in Beirut, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan; and Cairo, Eqypt. Through their theological discussions, these Sunni and Shiite leaders ruled in broad agreement that killing other Muslims is forbidden in the Quran, and that suicide – even in the name of martyrdom – blocks a Muslim's entrance to paradise.

Of course, relationships are only possible if words are backed up with action and long-term commitment. Conflict causes poverty and, in turn, poverty can be a significant driver of conflict. Health care, feeding programs, and social care are essential supports to the gains made through religious reconciliation. For example, at the climic in our church, medical staff from across the sectarian divides work side by side to deliver humanitarian relief to their neighbors, regardless of patients' religious or ethnic background. This is religious reconciliation at a grassroots level, and gives standing to negotiate at the highest level. Iraq needs this religious reconciliation if it is to survive. And so we remain committed to a long term, relational program of religious leader engagement. We know that peace in Iraq depends on this engagement. We have seen the evidence of progress. And we still pray for peace. The writer is president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. — The Christian Science Monitor










So instead of trying to explain his pet project, the National Broadband Network, and answering legitimate questions about its cost, chosen technology, purpose and popularity, the senator sailed into this newspaper on ABC TV on Wednesday night, falsely accusing The Australian of reporting that it will cost $6000 to rewire homes to connect to the NBN. That we never said it matters less than the way Senator Conroy is ducking for cover on practical questions about the NBN -- who will want it, what they will pay and whether it is the best use of the $43 billion it is expected to cost.


Since the minister disregards The Australian's advice on these matters, we refer him to the warnings from Treasury, which had this to say in its Red Book guide for the incoming Gillard government: "The implementation of the NBN also carries significant risks including financial risks for the public balance sheet and risks around competition and efficiency in telecommunications and related markets. The government's response to the NBN implementation study will set the parameters for the outcomes in these areas for decades to come . . . It therefore warrants very careful consideration." And then there is the advice of the Department of Finance, which warned in its Red Book: "The response will need to address significant competition policy, future industry structure and commercial issues, including pricing, the network design, structural separation and the level of government funding required to support the network rollout, taking account of the government's agreement with the rural independents on uniform wholesale pricing and priority rollout in regional areas."


Senator Conroy bills the NBN as an essential nation-building program that only government can create, the Snowy Mountains Scheme of our age. According to the senator, high-speed internet in all but every home is the key to improving education, healthcare-delivery, business and commerce. It will, we are told, raise productivity, end the tyranny of distance. In short, it would be an act of treachery to put anything in the path of the trench-diggers. It is all so obvious to Senator Conroy that he assumes ideological bastardry, fuelled by base corporate interest, is the reason we query his inspirational plan, (News Corporation, owner of The Weekend Australian, has pay-TV interests).


He is wrong. This newspaper is embracing the digital age and is at the forefront of developing new platforms for journalism. We have long supported the structural separation of Telstra and recognise that high-speed internet has the potential to lift productivity. But we wonder whether the immense investment to connect fibre to every dwelling is essential, or whether wireless can handle the short journey from street-side network to in-home connection, at a drop in download speed most people will not notice. As economist Henry Ergas points out, if the NBN model is so good why is the Gillard government protecting it by paying Telstra not to market high-speed wireless in the future? And we wonder whether everybody actually wants high-speed internet at home. Many Tasmanians don't. The NBN is rolling out in their state but only 11 per cent of home owners are taking it up, and the government will not reveal the proportion of this minority interested in the full-speed 100-megabits-per-second option, which costs about $100 a month, three times the price of a base package. That the state government, the NBN's partner, requires consumers to opt out or have the network automatically installed, says a lot about its confidence in the popularity of the product. After all, people who want to watch new movies already have a price-competitive alternative -- it's called pay-TV. And anybody who remembers the way having that installed was expensive and inconvenient will wonder whether everybody will want technicians drilling holes in their walls, which will inevitably cost consumers up to $3000, according to independent experts. This is a figure that will terrify body corporates contemplating paying to connect all the residents of a 20-storey apartment block.


In the 1990s Telstra and Optus spent like there was no tomorrow cabling the country for pay-TV, a duplicate investment that provided poor returns. It is a warning of what can happen when big-picture-painters like Senator Conroy don't draw in the detail. Telstra wrote off $960 million of its investment in 1996. Six years later, Optus wrote down the value of its network by almost $1.4bn. That is small change compared with the investment Senator Conroy wants to make to extend fibre to the home, instead of to the node, the proposal Labor took to the 2007 election at a tenth of the price. The Obama administration proposes to connect an anchor institution in every US community to super-fast broadband, a school, library or hospital, to serve people who do not want to pay for home connection. This makes more sense than the present practice in Tasmania of "opt-out" inertia marketing.


It is fashionable for Labor leaders to turn to Ben Chifley's "Light on the Hill" speech and his promise to deliver a decent standard of living for a working population still traumatised by the folk-memory of the Great Depression. But six decades of accumulated evidence of the perils of central planning and government overreach eradicate the economic appeal of images that resonate with the Labor faithful, Chifley funding Holden to build a local car, launching the Snowy Mountains Scheme, creating government-owned airlines and trying to nationalise the banks. Certainly, the NBN will be a big employer, one in which Senator Conroy's comrades in the union movement will undoubtedly have an influential role. But a return to Labor's long-lost glory days of projects that employed industrial armies are irrelevant now -- the internet has empowered independent contractors working in knowledge industries ahead of people working to union rule.


None of this appears to upset Senator Conroy, who clearly thinks he can pick winners. Others would disagree, given his recent misdiagnosis of the health of free-to-air TV which prompted him to cut the network's licence fees and grant them a windfall of $250m to compensate them for what he said were tough times. James Packer's interest in the profitable Ten Network this week makes his judgment look very poor indeed.The $43bn price-tag of the NBN will build assets -- roads and railways, power stations and ports -- which everybody knows will improve national productivity, while the NBN is all about optimism. Senator Conroy's response to legitimate requests for greater prudential assessment is unconvincing. He invites a degree of trust in the government's ability to implement grand policy proposals at breakneck speed that demands we forget the pink batts fiasco and the school building program of the Rudd era. Now Mr Rudd is out of harm's way minding the foreign affairs portfolio, we are supposed to breathe easy. But we can't. This is not personal with regard to Senator Conroy, it is just not in The Weekend Australian's DNA to take vastly expensive public-sector schemes on trust. We need a convincing commercial case that assures us what is happening in Tasmania will not be typical, that the program is value for money and that wireless offers no alternative. Build the cost-benefit analysis and explain it in detail, senator, and the community support will come.








No biographer is kinder than an autobiographer. Bob Hawke trusted his partner to write his two-volume life story and Paul Keating has yet to commit himself to print, to the regret of lovers of the Australian vernacular. No former leader, however, has chronicled the years in office as assiduously as John Howard has in Lazarus Rising, which is published next week.


It is doubtful we will ever see a work like this again. Readers will bring their own prejudices as they search for either sagacity or mendacity in its 712 pages. But in this attention-deficient era, in which a 140-character tweet passes for a considered political statement, it is unlikely a future ex-prime minister will have the patience or skill to deliver such a weighty, coherent and readable book. Mr Howard's use of the personal singular pronoun tells its own story, but Lazarus Rising rises above the self-serving to deliver a political account that will serve historians well. The Howard legacy is contested, but it is hard not to admire the dignity with which he has taken to the role of retired prime minister. He is a creature of the pre-blogging age and while there are plenty of strategically placed barbs, petulance and the pursuit of revenge is simply not his style. He prefers to do everything by the book.







BRITISH upper lips are slightly less stiff as the details of the coalition government's emergency budget are digested.


Value-added tax, the equivalent of the GST, rises to 20 per cent, twice the Australian rate. Some family benefits and housing assistance are frozen as part of pound stg. 11 billion worth of welfare cuts. Only the lowest-paid public servants will receive wage rises and, thanks to sackings to come, close to half a million of them will not be paid at all. In total, Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to save pound stg. 80bn in an attempt to reduce debt and bring Britain back to matching outlays to income.


The Cameron cuts are savage, but the shortfall in government income that exists even in good times when tax income increases, meant they were inevitable. And the British know it. The howls in the House of Commons from the Labour benches rang hollow yesterday, because this is a crisis born of unsustainable public sector spending by the Blair and Brown governments, which primed the debt bomb before the global financial crisis. Long-growing government debt in Britain reached 70 per cent of GDP in March. Of course, spending cuts larger than those Margaret Thatcher pushed through in similar circumstances a generation ago are easier announced than introduced. But the British electorate appears to understand a welfare state that had long stopped being the contribution-based insurance system envisaged in World War II, could not expand indefinitely. While the French protest at the prospect of a two-year increase in the legal retirement age to 62, as opposed to 66 across the channel, the British will grumble and get on with it.


With the Gillard government promising a return to surplus in 2012-2013, the British crisis may seem remote. But boomtime complacency and a nonchalance towards growing recurrent expenditure are not vices peculiar to Britain. Australia, too, has a structural deficit, disguised by the profits of the minerals boom and neither side of politics has any interest in shrinking government. The challenge for Canberra is to end our dependence on temporary good fortune by reducing the state's share of the economy and encouraging the private sector to expand. Alternatively, we can keep spending and hope for the best -- but that is what the British did and look where it got them.








OUR politicians have spoken about Afghanistan. Are we any wiser about the rationale for what we are doing there? Somewhere between two schools of thought – "stay the course" and "cut and run" – are we groping towards a more realistic approach to a situation where no one thinks there will be a clearly defined moment of victory or success?


The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader have advanced two principal reasons for being there. One is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming again what Julia Gillard calls a "safe haven" for al-Qaeda or Tony Abbott calls "terror central". The other is to give tangible support to our main ally, the United States. There is the other objective, helping Afghanistan become a more secure, progressive state, which would assist the first main goal, but which is not our job, Gillard declares: nation-building is for the Afghans themselves.


Yet there are arguments with all three justifications. Some of these argue for cutting losses and pulling out, others for staying longer, and altogether perhaps a different mix of policies. It is by no means clear that the current military surge in the south of Afghanistan is having any permanent effect. American and allied commanders can claim some tactical successes, but signs of being able to "clear, hold, build and transfer" insurgent-dominated areas are tentative at best.


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It is a reasonable question whether aggressive campaigns by foreign troops, with inevitable mistaken targets and civilian casualties, are not simply stirring up more resistance among tribal Pushtuns, who have a tradition of taking up a rifle and sniping at invaders.


And transfer to what? The Afghan National Army is improving but remains beset by poor morale, irregular pay and a consequent high desertion rate, and its ranks are dominated by recruits and officers from the ethnic groups of the former Northern Alliance which opposed the Pushtun-based Taliban and associated militias. The new Afghan police are an even more unreliable factor, with serious problems of corruption, criminality and drug addiction.


And as analysts such as the former deputy defence secretary Hugh White ask, can an army be better than the government it serves? If it is, it will take over, as has happened in Egypt and Pakistan. If not, it will struggle to win hearts and minds against an insurgency that follows a simple code of justice and honesty that might be all a traditional Pushtun villager might expect from authority.


Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden is said to be living comfortably in Pakistan, al-Qaeda cells have been popping up in impoverished, remote regions from Yemen to Mauretania, and home-grown terrorist recruits remain a worry across the West. There are no foreign troops chasing them. The response, properly, is painstaking intelligence and police work, and co-operation with governments concerned – producing more successes, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, has hinted, than we will ever know.


And yet the third add-on argument is one that tugs at the conscience and suggests staying on. It may never be clear when al-Qaeda is beaten; perhaps it is already. We've been reluctantly paying our dues to the US alliance in blood. But helping the Afghans out of their mediaeval conditions – that might be the greatest comfort for families of our 21 dead soldiers and the others to come.


Yet compared with our military budget, our aid effort is pathetically small and belated. We have been given only a small amount of information about the progress of Afghanistan since we helped oust the Taliban at the end of 2001 and installed the Hamid Karzai-led coalition. Notably, some 6 million children (one third of them girls) are attending primary school, up from just 1 million in 2001. Yet it's a fair guess that the bulk are in Kabul, northern or western areas away from the main insurgency and its ethnic pool of support. In Oruzgan, literacy is zero for women and 10 per cent among men, some 37 per cent of children die before the age of five, and fewer than 20 per cent of primary-age children attend school.


Gillard has given us a roadmap, stretching out a decade. But beyond late 2014, when it is hoped security duty in Oruzgan can be handed to the Afghan Army and police, it is very fuzzy. The fuzziness might set in earlier, of course, if the Americans do begin their pull-out next year. If she and Abbott really mean what they say about staying the course, a much better resourced aid program is needed in Oruzgan. A closer engagement is required with Kabul, too. We've embraced much worse regimes.










OTHER countries build ridiculously tall buildings to prove they have come of age: Malaysia has the Petronas Towers, Dubai  the Burj Khalifa. China has several enormous financial towers, chock-full of accountants and extremely rich offspring of members of its Central Committee. In Australia, rather more usefully, we have been channelling our energy for nationalistic showing-off into .. pianos. The Australian firm Stuart & Sons has built a piano which is a whole 14 keys bigger than the standard model, creating a richer, warmer timbre, but more importantly setting a record for piano size at a gratifyingly enormous 1.75 metres wide by three metres. We should expect rivals to emerge, of course. No doubt even now makers in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Dubai are crafting pianos even more gigantic, with a timbre even richer and warmer than ours, and an upper register audible only to dogs. National pride is at stake. The government must invest more in this crucial national infrastructure before Australia loses its hard-won advantage to foreign competitors. 










There is at least one difference between May '68 and what has been happening in France for the last 11 days. In '68 the protest by workers and students erupted after a prolonged period of unprecedented economic growth. Today mass protest follows decades of high unemployment – particularly for the young. In the last two years it has risen by 17% for the under-25s. The social ladder in France is broken. Little wonder that among the millions of demonstrators who have turned out against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reforms – at one point one in 20 of all the people in France – tens of thousands are sixth-formers. Behind the pensions revolt is a deep fear of unemployment which will only be worsened by workers delaying retirement.


Before we in Britain scoff too quickly at the French for racing to the barricades to preserve a pension system which, to our eyes, looks generous, it is worth being clear about what is being fought over and what is not. There is a broad consensus, and has been for at least seven years, that the French pension system is bust. In a pay-as-you-go system, too few active workers are paying for too many pensioners. As the number of pensioners is set to increase from 15 million in 2008 to nearly 23 million in 2050, the ratio of active workers to pensioners will reduce still further. Depending on both the rate of long-term unemployment and labour productivity, the deficit in the state pension system, currently running at €32bn or 1.7% of GDP, could explode in the next decade to reach something more like 3% of GDP. That is a lot for any state to pay on pensions.


The issue is not whether this system should be reformed but how. Who is to share the pension burden? Do low-paid manual workers, women, and the disabled take an extra hit as they would under Sarkozy's formula, or should employers and big business pay more? Why does someone who starts work at 18 have to work for longer – 44 years – before reaching the full entitlement than someone who enters the labour market at 22 with higher qualifications? The age that matters is not 62, when retirees can start drawing their pensions, but 67, when the benefit reaches its maximum. Why should poorer workers, who have shorter life expectancies, lose a higher proportion of their retirement years? Whether you are a refinery worker from Grandpuit or a dinner lady in a Marseille primary school, this is an issue worth coming out on to the streets for. Nor should this debate be wholly alien to anyone who has been following events in Britain this week. It, too, is about fairness and social justice.


President Sarkozy is hoping that a combination of a swift vote in the senate and the forthcoming All Saints' Day national holiday will douse passions more effectively than the water cannons of his riot police. But thus far he is losing the battle for public opinion. Public support has curiously risen after a week in which fuel refineries and ports were blockaded, with 70% backing industrial action. Unions who have resisted calls for a general strike have vowed that there will be two more days of national action. And their chief demand, that the government must negotiate the reform rather than ram it through on to the statute books, is a reasonable one. With riot police yesterday behaving ever more violently with union pickets, the risk of death or serious injury on the picket lines rises by the day. Both sides could lose control, which would both weaken the unions' case and be catastrophic for the government.


The French are not just being French. France has a lower level of inequality than most OECD countries, and is one out of only five which saw inequality decrease over the two decades to the mid-2000s. As the basic provisions of the welfare state are being rolled back all over Europe, in the name of protecting triple-A credit ratings, a cause is being fought in France which we in Britain would do well to watch carefully. The same fight could be coming here soon.







To start off a marriage by planning for failure is to erode the basis of that relationship at the outset. Practical? Maybe. Regrettable? Certainly


You probably know the story. This week the supreme court told Nicolas Granatino that a "marriage contract" he signed in 1998 before marrying Katrin Radmacher, and then challenged after their divorce, had "decisive weight". The German heiress gets to hang on to the bulk of a £100m fortune. Step back from the specific details of this case, though, and it is hard not to feel some regret at the new status given to prenuptial agreements. Doubtless there are matrimonial lawyers in well-furnished offices in enviable postcodes who are celebrating this ruling. Before them lies the handsome prospect of a booming business to be made out of negotiating and arranging prenups and then enforcing them in court. But others will not be celebrating. Among them will be Lady Brenda Hale. She was the only supreme court judge to oppose the ruling, arguing that it was "inconsistent with the continued importance attached to the status of marriage". And she is right, because while marriage is at one level a contract, it is meant to be much more than that. Marriages are forms of social commitment, too, and also expressions of faith that they will endure for decades. From the donation of blood to friendships to marriages, people seek out relationships for something far bigger than small print. To start off any marriage by planning for its failure – and the material consequences of that breakup – is to erode the basis of that relationship at the outset. Practical? Maybe. Regrettable? Certainly.







Better services are all well and good, but democratic delegation also requires response to pressure meted out at the ballot box


There is no longer any serious disputing that the spending review has sold out on many of the coalition's proclaimed progressive virtues. Many, but not quite all. Running through Wednesday's dismal pageant was a drive to delegate decisions from Whitehall – a drive easily enough derided as a wheeze to pass the buck for closing youth clubs and swimming pools, but a drive which nonetheless represents decentralisation. One passage in Mr Osborne's speech, which admittedly followed immediately on from news that town halls could expect to lose around a quarter of their income, untied the multiple financial binds with which the centre has long tied local hands.


In other circumstances this would have been seen as an extraordinary moment, the point where SW1 kicked the habit of a generation and finally let go. As things stand, the picture is more mixed, and not just because of the bleak financial climate. The coalition displays a decidedly ambivalent attitude towards councils – this week's freeing up comes in tandem with policies which will work to undermine them. Where the Liberal Democrat manifesto proposed democratising local healthcare trusts, the coalition is abolishing them. And where the Lib Dems used to speak up for the co-ordinating role of the local education authority, the coalition's programme of free schools could eventually see that role wither away.


The coalition argues that such detailed quibbles miss the real point. They suggest that the decision of principle is to devolve power from the centre, and that the question of who to devolve that power to is a secondary matter to be settled by pragmatic means. It might be right, for instance, to hand all powers over schools to headteachers, all power over social work to local councils, and all power over public parks to community groups. The important point is that power is being given away.


Well, maybe. The public still needs to know where to go when things are not run as they should be. Britain's notorious fiscal centralism – which lands councils with responsibilities for cuts which they have no power to avert – clouds the picture. The suggestion of placing the hurdle of local referendums in the way of council tax rises would only aggravate this. And yesterday's news that a clutch of Conservative London councils are proposing to pool all their service operations creates a mismatch between the political map and the map for local services.


Who knows what will happen if and when one of those councils changes political hands. Services that respond to consumers, patients and parents are all well and good, but true democratic delegation also requires a clear response to pressure meted out at the local ballot box.




            THE JAPAN TIMES




Following the Oct. 11 indictment of Mr. Tsunehiko Maeda, a former prosecutor with the Osaka District Public Prosecutors' special investigation squad, on a charge of tampering with data on a floppy disk confiscated in a case of alleged abuse of the postage discount system for the disabled, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office on Oct. 21 indicted his two former bosses Mr. Hiromichi Otsubo and Mr. Motoaki Saga, the former chief and vice chief of the squad. In the case, Ms. Atsuko Muraki, a former welfare ministry bureau chief, was acquitted on Sept. 10.


Although the trials of the three prosecutors have not started yet, the top prosecution office dismissed them as a disciplinary measure on the same days that they were indicted.


Mr. Otsubo and Mr. Saga are charged with having told Mr. Maeda in early February 2010 to explain to others that he had changed the floppy disk content by mistake although they knew he deliberately altered it. The charge says they told him to stress that the floppy disk content alteration was done by mistake when he wrote a report about the change. The two are also charged with having told another prosecutor, who knew about the tampering, not to tell it to others and with having reported to the Osaka prosecution office head and others that Mr. Maeda did nothing wrong.


Just indicting Mr. Maeda and his two former superiors will not lead to providing a total picture of the irregularities. The top prosecution office and a third-party panel to be set up at the Justice Ministry must thoroughly examine the irregularities to get the total picture. Real reform of Japan's prosecution system will be impossible without this total picture being shared by the public.


First and foremost the top prosecution office must explain why it agreed to the Osaka office's proposal to indict Ms. Muraki. It must make clear whether there was enough evidence to indict her when it approved the proposal. She was indicted on July 4, 2009. If the prosecution decided to indict her without sufficient evidence, the prosecutors involved should be indicted on a charge of malfeasance.


On July 13, 2009, Mr. Maeda allegedly changed the data on the floppy disk. He told one of his colleagues about the alteration within that month. This colleague spoke of the data alteration to the investigation squad vice chief Mr. Saga on Jan. 30, 2010. On Feb. 1, Mr. Saga reported it to the squad chief Mr. Otsubo. On Feb. 2, Mr. Otsubo allegedly told Mr. Saga to treat the alteration of the floppy disk content by Mr. Maeda as having resulted from his mistake.


On Feb. 2 or 3, Mr. Otsubo and Mr. Saga allegedly told Mr. Takashi Kobayashi, head of the Osaka district prosecutors' office, and other superiors that although the colleague of Mr. Maeda was making an allegation that Mr. Maeda altered the floppy disk content, there were no problems.


One wonders why this colleague waited until late January to report the alteration of the data by Mr. Maeda to Mr. Saga. The top prosecution office must find out whether the superiors of Mr. Otsubo and Mr. Saga did not notice the data change. Mr. Otsubo and Mr. Saga at least should tell the public why they decided to pursue the trial of Ms. Muraki even after they came to know about the data alteration.


It is reported that although a high-ranking official of the Osaka district prosecution office's trial section was aware of the possibility of the data alteration, the official let the special investigation squad handle the matter internally. This shows that compliance with rules and procedures had slackened in the office.


During the trial of Ms. Muraki, the Osaka District Court on May 26 adopted only nine out of 43 depositions presented by the prosecution. This indicates the court's doubts about their credibility. It dismissed 15 depositions that were the core evidence against Ms. Muraki. Six prosecutors testified to the court that the depositions were reliable. But it surfaced that they all had disposed of interrogation memos recording questions and answers during interrogations.


This is a highly unusual development. The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office must make clear whether it did not ask the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office what it thought about this situation or about the trial's prospect. If the top prosecution office made such an inquiry and received a reply from the Osaka office, it must make them public.


As immediate remedies to Japan's prosecution system, the long-dormant 11-member Public Prosecutors' Qualification Examination Committee at the Justice Ministry must be activated. The committee, which includes six Diet members, the head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and a Supreme Court justice, must seriously examine complaints about prosecutors and recommend disciplinary action against or dismiss a prosecutor if his or her conduct is found inappropriate. A relevant law should be revised so that prosecutors who do not disclose all the evidence to a defense counsel will be punished. The whole interrogation process should be electronically recorded.








WASHINGTON — South Asia presents a depressing paradox. It is among the fastest growing regions in the world, but it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in debilitating poverty, conflict and human misery. While South Asia is far more developed than Sub-Saharan Africa, and India (the largest country in the region) has achieved lower middle-income status, South Asia has many more poor people than Sub-Saharan Africa.


This raises the big question of whether the best escape from poverty comes from general economic growth or from a direct attack on poverty. The answer depends on where one looks. Stupendous growth hides deep pockets of poverty. For the countries of South Asia, poverty has morphed from a national to a subnational problem.


Although economic growth has reduced South Asia's poverty rate, it has not fallen fast enough to reduce the total number of poor people. The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day increased from 549 million in 1981 to 595 million in 2005. In India, which accounts for almost three-quarters of this population, the numbers increased from 420 million to 455 million during this period. Besides the slow pace of poverty reduction, human development has not kept up with the pace of income growth, either.


There are more than 250 million children in South Asia who are undernourished, and more than 30 million children who do not go to school. Over one-third of adult women are anemic. The share of female employment in total employment is among the lowest in the world.


Indeed, South Asia, with deeper regional disparities than the rest of the world, is really two South Asias. A lot of attention has been given to the "Shining Asia," while the "Suffering Asia" has been forgotten. The gap between them is so wide that they seem to be anchored in two different centuries. Worse still, it continues to increase.


The leading regions have experienced rapid growth. They have acted as gateways connecting South Asia to the developed world, and have benefited from globalization, education, capital accumulation, and technological advancement. This is sustainable as there is huge room for South Asia to catch up to rich countries' productivity levels.


This transformation has become a virtuous circle where initial growth has spiraled into greater growth, leading to more growth. Some leading regions in India are now the envy of other middle income countries. Indeed growth can eliminate poverty in leading regions in a generation. But the lagging regions are doing no better than many Sub-Saharan African countries. Indeed, their social and human development indicators are worse than in Sub-Saharan Africa.


South Asia's worst problems — poverty, conflict, hunger, and gender inequalities — are largely concentrated in its lagging regions, where there are limits to growth, because geography, institutions, and globalization will continue to favor the concentration of economic activity in the leading regions. With migration to leading regions low, poverty remains concentrated in the lagging regions.


What can be done? There is no universal "fix" in economic development, and pluralism of approaches has great value. The challenge is to find what works best in which setting.


While economic growth is critical for poverty reduction, reviving growth in lagging regions will take time. Rather than wait for a rising tide to lift all boats, policymakers should consider direct policy interventions to reduce poverty. A direct attack on poverty can yield a double dividend: in reducing human misery, it could spark growth, thereby creating more political space for direct poverty reduction.


A high priority should be given to increasing pro-poor fiscal transfers. Lagging states spend considerably less than leading states on social services, including education and health care. Poor regions have a low base of economic activity to tax, which prevents them from investing in human and physical capital. Achieving equity through fiscal transfers can ensure a level playing field.


But simply directing financial resources to lagging regions will not be enough to solve their problems. For example, the gains from labor mobility have not been equally shared between educated and uneducated migrants. The gains are much higher for skilled workers, so the mobility rate increases with education. The mobility of university graduates is much higher than the mobility of unskilled workers.


Removing barriers to human mobility — labor laws, state-specific social-welfare programs and housing market distortions — should be an integral part of development. Human mobility promotes growth and reduces poverty. It also empowers traditionally disadvantaged groups, particularly women.


Likewise, slow agricultural growth has constrained economic opportunities for the vast majority of poor people in lagging regions. Policymakers should recast agriculture in the new environment of globalization, supply chains, and growing domestic demand. The food-price crisis of two years ago served as a wakeup call, and has created an opportunity to revisit existing agricultural policies.


Regional development policies to promote so-called equitable growth are not a solution, for two reasons. First, empirical evidence shows that convergence of per capita income between lagging and leading regions is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for achieving poverty reduction and social convergence. Second, regional policies that promote "balanced" growth could lower overall growth, thereby impeding poverty reduction.


South Asia is at a critical stage in its historical transformation, when deepening economic disparities could stifle growth itself. If not addressed through direct measures, all of Asia will suffer.


Ejaz Ghani is economic adviser on South Asia Poverty Reduction and Economic Management at the World Bank and editor of "The Poor Half Billion in South Asia — What is Holding Back Lagging Regions?" © 2010 Project Syndicate








The lack of open, green space has long been a source of problems for Jakartans, from the thickly polluted air they breathe every day to the floods that get worse each year — and for their children who must play on the roads or in what little space there is at home because there are no longer many parks around.


Unfortunately, the ongoing revision of Jakarta's official spatial plan looks unlikely to change this situation, since the Jakarta administration seems to have already given up on developing adequate open and green spaces for the city. Now, of the 650 square kilometers Jakarta occupies, less than 10 percent is green space — a far cry from the ideal 30 percent.


This situation is perhaps a result of greedy land use and rampant violations of previous spatial plans. In countless cases, city officials issued development permits carelessly in areas that were supposed to be preserved as green space.


However, in the draft of the Jakarta Spatial Plan 2030 that is being deliberated by the Jakarta Legislative Council, the city administration has proposed to further reduce the green space allocation that was stipulated in the Jakarta Spatial Bylaw 2010 (which it will replace). The new target is to dedicate only 13.7 percent of the total Jakarta area to green space, compared to 13.94 percent under the existing bylaw.


This is really bad news for Jakarta residents, particularly if the draft spatial plan is approved by the City Council. Jakartans will suffer not only from a lack of space for outdoor activities, but also because such spaces (according to experts) function as the lungs of the city, absorbing air pollution and rainwater.


Jakartans still have time to change this unfortunate trend. Jakartans, particularly environmental activists, can voice their concerns about the meager green space allocation while the draft of the spatial plan is being deliberated by city legislators.


According to the spatial planning draft, the city still has room to expand its green space target by acquiring private land, which currently accounts for 16.34 percent of Jakarta's area. It would be fair enough for the city to demand, for example, that the administration raise the green space target to at least 20 percent.


We demand a strong commitment from Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo as well as city legislators to provide Jakarta with adequate green space to make the city more livable. They must not sacrifice the comfort and lives of citizens for the sake of "development".


Also, most importantly, once the spatial plan is ap-proved, the city authorities must not repeat the mistakes committed by their predecessors and allow greedy businesses to occupy and convert green spaces into commercial facilities.


Jakartans can also help their city become more livable by, among others things, abiding by its spatial zoning regulations and planting as many trees as possible.









Recently Indonesian people just enjoyed the Sang Pencerah (The Englightener) film, directed by Hanung Bramantyo. The story was about the founder of Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, Ahmad Dahlan (1868-1923). The plot is based on the dynamic of Dahlan's efforts to establish the country' second largest religious organization.


The film described the spirit, passion and persistence of Ahmad Dahlan to make better understanding of and beautiful practices of Islam. He got strong resistances from many Muslims, who even described him as infidel.


Other lessons from the story are Dahlan's moderation, his wide range of interaction, and his willingness to learn from others that are considered as "un-Islamic". For Dahlan, differences are not some thing to be shunned. He did not reluctant to take something better than his own from others. He, for example, created classroom with tables, chairs and blackboard as that did in Dutch and Christian schools for his Madrasah where public considered it as the alien and infidel system.


To learn about the organization, he also joined Budi Utomo, an organization of mostly Javanese aristocrats from which he blamed Kyai Kejawen (Javanese Kyai). The close relation between Ahmad Dahlan and Budi Utomo is interesting. It reflects his nationalist sense and asserts, as Ahmad Najib Burhani (2004) already noted, that Muhammadiyah was more appreciated to Javanese culture and identities in its early period than that thereafter.


Although, Dutch colonial archives also recorded a number of Javanese aristocrats, the priyayi, involved in Muhammadiyah activities. As if they want to combine "modernity" with local identity, Dahlan preferred to wear a formal suit with jarit or sarung and a batik turban for his head rather than Arabian robe as usually wore by Kyais in the era.


On Muslim-Christian relation, a sensitive issue frequently causes tension and conflict in contemporary Indonesia, Dahlan's opposition to Christianity was not implemented in physical clash. He of course worried to massive activity of Christian mission.


Nevertheless, instead of running mass mobilization to burn churches, Dahlan built Islamic schools, orphanages, and hospitals — the methods he took from Christian missionaries — as a tool for restrain penetration of the mission.


Historical documents reported that Dahlan visited churches and made dialogues and debates with pastors a number of times. He can be accredited, therefore, as a pioneer of interreligious dialogue for this matter.


So far Muhammadyah is categorized as a Muslim modernist and to some extent puritan. In the sociology of religion discourse, it was commonly assumed that the puritan movement was religiously orthodox and less tolerant. But, the Sang Pencerah shows otherwise, presenting Dahlan's and Muhammadiyah's moderation, openness and progressiveness.


Nowadays, Muhammadiyah has grown up and developed as a giant civil Muslim society representing the "pseudo state" of the country. It manages thousands of mosques and religious gatherings, thousands of schools, hundred of universities, more than five hundreds hospitals and clinics, hundreds of orphanages, disaster management units and other microfinance institutions.


Structurally, Muhammadiyah has various departments and chambers in every province as well as representative offices almost in every district, subdistrict and even villages.


But these organizational bodies are now overwhelming Muhammadiyah's missions. Critics said its routine programs' lack of innovations now trap the Muhammadiyah. The trend of the growing rigidity in religion among its members criticizing to progressive and a pluralist point of view have restrained the dynamic of an intellectual journey among its members.


Learning from the spirits of the Sang Pencerah, my query is therefore, where are all Dahlan's openness, progressive, and moderation legacies gone?


The movie is a actually a big critique of leaders, members and constituents of the Muhammadiyah who are now narrow minded, intolerant, have poor social respect, are rigid and allergic to progress. The movie is questioning Muhammadiyah's readiness to enter in its second century.


The movie would say: "The first century Muhammadiyah was initiated by Dahlan's reform trough openness, progress and moderation. In this second century, to be a pioneer of the reform, Muhammadiyah needs more than that because the locus and tempus as well as socio-cultural challenges are more complex than that of a century ago."  


In a broader landscape, the moderation and openness legacies of Dahlan are also applicable to quest current hatreds and violence affiliated to religion that currently frequently appear. The destroying of Ahmadiyah mosque, for example, just reminds me of the bitter experience when Dahlan's first langgar was overthrown. The blame to progressive Muslim figures as sesat (astray) reminds me accusations and derision against Dahlan as Kyai Kafir.


The Sang Pencerah has provided valuable lessons: A figure with a progressive vision but moderate and tolerant of any differences, who was patient and humble to any critics.

The writer is a lecturer at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University's Department of Comparative Religion, Yogyakarta. Currently he is fellow at the Training Indonesian Young Leader Program, Leiden University, the Netherlands.








Character education has recently become an important issue in the Indonesian education system. After President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke on the importance of character education, many Indonesian schools immediately incorporated it as new subject in the curriculum. Some schools developed special programs called character education.


Once a week, students must learn about values in character education sessions. Other schools have no sessions but teach the values in every subject, such as mathematics, physics, biology, Pancasila, Indonesian language or English language.


Every teacher should teach about the values in their own subjects. Other schools provide character education through school-wide activities and rules. With these models, all teachers and staff members are responsible for student character building.


Deputy education minister Fasli Jalalaid said that every school has the freedom to manage and choose how character education was taught to its students and therefore will have an opportunity to emphasize the school's special character.


For example, a school with a religious focus can teach piety as a special character-building value. Other schools might emphasize discipline. Honest schools will emphasize the honesty as special character value. Through special values, people will know the unique characteristic of a school, which might make the school more attractive to young people and parents.


Even though each school has the freedom to choose the kind of values it emphasizes, for nation building there must be several values taught at every Indonesian school. Those values should be the most important values for supporting the Indonesian nation building project, and include the following.


First, multicultural values. Indonesia is comprised of many ethnicities, religions, and cultures. If the nation wants to be strong in the future, we have to accept the differences among us. Without accepting the differences, we will easily slide into fights and conflicts.


We have to realize that every Indonesian person has a right to live in this country. Without realizing and accepting that right, we will be weak as nation. The spirit of multiculturalism and religious diversity will encourage all people to accept others as members of the Indonesian nation.


This is the spirit of Bhineka Tunggal Ika: we are many, but one.


We sometimes lack that spirit. Some of us want to force our ideas on others


Second, honesty. One important reason why corruption is very difficult to eradicate in Indonesia is the lack of honesty. Most of us are not honest anymore. The spirit of honesty should be inculcated at school. Students should learn about the value of honesty and practice it.


They should learn to be honest in schools, honest with themselves, honest with other people, honest with their life and honest about what they are doing. They have to be honest when taking tests and national examinations.


Third, learning to obey the law. Our country has many problems since many people don't obey the law. We have many laws or rules. But some people don't like to follow the laws. We know the laws, but sometimes we break the laws.


Even people, who know the laws try to evade the law. Young people have to be taught how to behave according to the rule of law. In every school they have rules. Students should learn how to obey the rules. Doing something according to the law is very important, especially when most people have no moral values anymore.


Fourth is justice. Another important value for nation building is justice. Our nation and our country will be strong if there is justice for all people in this country. It means if there is no discrimination by the people who are serving as officials and that the government pays attention to poor people when making decisions and development plans. To learn of the importance of justice, students should be trained about justice and how be just to other people.


Fifth is empathy for other people, especially for the poor. The current era has led some people to live individualistically. Some people think only about their lives and families and don't think about other people, especially the poor.


The nation will become strong when all Indonesians care about each other as one family. A spirit of empathy and caring should be introduced to young people. By doing so, we hope that the next generation would be more caring and have attention to the others' life.


Sixth is the spirit for struggle. In the future we will have more challenges, either as individual or as nation. We need to struggle if we want to live better. The spirit to keep struggling should inculcated in students. Schools should help students to be creative and disciplined in their lives.  


The process and the method of teaching those values are free. Each school is free to choose and to build its own method. But, according to my opinion, the values should be taught holistically.


It means that all schools, the learning environments, the rules, the teachers, the staff members and students share the same values.


Teachers will teach this value through their classes and schools will be managed according those values. Most importantly, students will have an opportunity to try and to use these values in real situations.


The writer is a lecturer at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta.








Jakarta is a safe city, crime statistics bear witness to that. Jakarta reported 78 murders in 2008.


Murder rates in most of other big cities in the world were far higher. Gauteng province of South Africa which hosts the city of Johannesburg and Pretoria, reported close to 4,000 murders in one year between April 2008 and March 2009.


In 2009 New York City reported 471 murders, London 126, while New Delhi 554 in 2008. Jakarta reported just 114 cases of rape in 2008. The corresponding figure for Gauteng was 18,176 sexual crimes. Meanwhile, there were 3.120 rapes in London, 832 in New York City and 466 in New Delhi.


Despite the low crime figures, I would not opine that everything is fine with the security scenario of Jakarta. There are serious matters of concern for Jakarta which I elaborate below and needs to be addressed in order to keep the city safe.


First is anger and frustration. One can perceive the lack of connection between the government of the metropolis and the city police with the people. In many ways the people are harassed by the poor civic services, the persistent traffic problems, inadequate public transportation, long commute time, lack of common public spaces and rampant corruption among street cops.


Above this, there is the growing number of slum dwellers in Jakarta accentuating the problem of urban divide and exclusion. Behind the smiling faces of the public, conditioned by centuries of culture steeped in rich traditions of politeness and respect and love for fellow humans, there is anger. Anger which reaches boiling point from time to time and runs amuck; shocking the world. The 1998 riots, 1965-1966 political violence bear witness to this.


Second is terrorism. Jakarta of late has seen some massive terrorist attacks. The hotel bombings combined with similar incidents in Bali have somehow given the perception to foreigners that, Jakarta is an unsafe city. While this perception may be wrong, the fact remains that terrorists have targeted Jakarta successfully and may do so in the future.


Law enforcement has responded efficiently with high success rates in operations by the Police's special anti-terrorist unit, Detachment 88 and the successful convictions secured by the prosecution in prominent cases. Terrorism will remain a threat to Jakarta and countering it needs to be priority number one.


Third is the matter of faith and tolerance. More recently, Jakarta has also seen clashes of religious ideology between extremists and moderates, between religious factions and between the adherents of majority and minority religions. This is one area, which though highly political, law enforcement must adopt a neutral but firm stand or else a flare up could be quick and devastating.


The Metropolitan Police of London publishes figures on racist and religious hate crimes. The Police in Jakarta could also come out with such statistics.


Fourth is invisible crime. Jakarta, like many other big cities, has widespread invisible crime. By invisible I mean crimes that most people do not notice or do not care about. These crimes like drug trafficking, child labor, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, gambling, prostitution and copyright and trade mark violations goes on with impunity in the city.


Opinion also is that, law enforcement sometimes benefits from them and therefore protects it. Such crimes may not affect ordinary citizens directly but they have roots in transnational crimes and mafia groups that can and do assist terrorists and also constitute mobs and other lumpen elements during riots. If law enforcement does not address these invisible crimes, it cannot be as successful in addressing the other more serious ones.


Fifth is criminal justice response. Crime rate for historical reasons has been minimal in Jakarta. Full credit for the peace cannot be claimed by the government agencies. As with many cities, the people today depend on paid private security. Whether it is apartments, offices, banks or hotels, private security is ever visible. People are now moving into gated communities, safe enclaves and access controlled facilities within cities. The more the money, the more security people are able to purchase.


The performance of criminal justice institutions like the Police, the Attorney General's Office and the courts have not been too good. Lack of public trust owing to poor integrity and accountability surrounds these institutions. Impunity for misconduct, corruption and highhandedness has contributed to the poor reputation and effectiveness of these agencies.


Inherently, they are causes for increases in crime and insecurity. Weak criminal justice responses beget crime. "Policing the police" in order to ensure peace security and democracy, needs to be a matter of priority.


Problems of cities especially regarding crime cannot be addressed by law enforcement alone. A multiagency response is necessary and has been successful in many cities. Municipal authorities and the various sectors of government, civil society and people need to work together.


Simple things like proper lighting in dark neighborhoods, better public transport in certain places, a citizen watch in some areas, community and neighborhood policing, better mapping of crime, consequent public and government responses, etc. have helped several cities. Jakarta must develop its own strategy, in partnership, to counter the urban crimes and ensure security in the future.


The writer is country manager, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Indonesia. Views expressed in this article are the author's own.








While the global recovery has slowed, Asia continues to lead the economic rebound. Almost all economies in Asia grew well above trend in the first half of 2010, fueled by exports and investment.


Indonesia was one of the world's best performing economies during the 2008−2009 global financial crisis, and the only G20 economy to lower its public debt-to-GDP ratio in 2009.


The IMF recently concluded its annual consultation on Indonesia's economic policies and outlook (reports are available at That review admired and applauded the way that Indonesia steered the economy through the global financial crisis with the support of strong macroeconomic fundamentals and robust domestic demand.


In our recently-released Asia-Pacific Regional Economic Outlook, we envisage that, in Asia as a whole, GDP will grow by 8 percent in 2010 and 7 percent in 2011. In contrast, we expect growth in advanced economies in 2010−2011 to be relatively sluggish. This performance will provide less export demand to Asian countries than occurred in late 2009 and early 2010.


Earlier in the recovery, Asia had benefited from a restocking of inventories, which boosted production and exports. The current moderation in growth in part reflects a normal turn in the global and regional inventory cycle, particularly for information technology products, which are important exports for many Asian economies.


What will underpin Asia's growth? Although export demand from advanced economies will moderate, we see improvements in employment and wages supporting domestic demand in Asia.


In addition, the monetary policy easing that occurred during the crisis, and is just now being gradually withdrawn, is supporting credit growth.


Low interest rates in advanced countries, and Asia's higher expected rates of return and low debt levels are likely to continue to draw capital flows to the region.


The main risk for Asia remains the global environment. While international financial conditions have improved in the last six months, underlying sovereign and banking vulnerabilities in several advanced economies have not been solved. Asia has important trade and financial links with these countries, and a deterioration in financial conditions or a slowdown in the recovery in advanced economies would have repercussions for Asia.


In addition, recent capital inflows to the region are supporting growth, but carry risks. These inflows can contribute to overheating, inflation, and asset price bubbles. A reversal of capital inflows could spur asset market volatility and hurt growth in the region by lowering consumer and business confidence and increasing the cost of capital. Several countries have taken macro prudential measures to minimize these risks, but a tightening of monetary conditions may be needed, including through exchange rate appreciation.


In view of the strong economic expansion, and emerging signs of inflation pressures, the time has come to normalize policy stances across the region. The significant policy easing that occurred during the crisis was necessary. Several economies in Asia have started to take steps to gradually normalize policy, but monetary and fiscal policies are still accommodative.


With output gaps closing rapidly, inflation pressures could intensify next year. In particular, tight capacity constraints could exacerbate the effect of supply shocks on inflation.


In Indonesia, growth is expected to remain strong at 6−6.2 percent in 2010−2011. However, the issue of emerging inflation pressures is already evident. Bank Indonesia's recent decision to raise reserve requirements is a step in the right direction. Indonesia still has somewhat higher and more volatile inflation than its trading partners and other emerging markets.


A more proactive monetary policy along with continued improvements in public communication regarding inflation objectives could lower inflation and its associated risk premium, reduce interest rates, and create a much more conducive climate for higher investment and sustainable credit growth.


Over the medium term, sustaining robust growth in Asia will require continued progress with rebalancing growth toward domestic demand. For Asia as a whole, only limited progress has been made toward reducing external imbalances. With external demand from advanced economies unlikely to return to pre-crisis trends, Asia will need to rely more on domestic demand to support its growth.


The normalization of cyclical policy conditions in Asia needs to be accompanied by continued measures to support consumer spending and investment. In our current Asia-Pacific Regional Economic Outlook, we focus on the challenge of raising investment and investigate measures that facilitate access to credit and support private sector investment.


Supportive policies for investment will be key to achieving long-term growth potential in Indonesia.


Economic growth is targeted by the government to accelerate from 6 percent this year to 7−8 percent over the medium term. For Indonesia to achieve these levels, it will need to address long-standing constraints on growth. Public investment has been low by international standards.


Roads and ports in particular need improvement. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently made infrastructure projects a key priority in his Independence Day speech and recent developments show policies are moving in the right direction. Several power projects appear to be progressing and the Investment Advisory Board has become a one stop shop focusing on key priority projects.


The IMF remains closely engaged with Asia, and with Indonesia in particular. Our policy dialogue with Asian authorities is being deepened through initiatives like a Regional Advisory Group which draws senior figures from Asia to advise us in our work in the region.


In addition, in July we held a large conference on Asia's prospects in South Korea, and in October we will hold an important conference in Shanghai to bring together senior figures to discuss financial sector management and global initiatives. Through these and other efforts we are committed to supporting a bigger role and larger voice for Asia in global economic policy discussions.

The writer is director of the IMF's Asia & Pacific Department.




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