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Monday, October 25, 2010

EDITORIAL 25.10.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month october 25, edition 000660, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. THE LOOMING SHADOW - BALBIR K PUNJ
  2. THE SPARK'S STILL THERE
  3. HOMINID TO HUMAN
  4. MUST WE BOW BEFORE OBAMA? - RAJIV DOGRA
  5. OVER THE MOON AFTER FINDING WATER - GWYNNE DYER
  6. REALIGNING THE MATRIX OF DEVELOPMENT - VINAYSHIL GAUTAM

 THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. DOLE INDIA LTD
  2. LANGUAGE MATTERS
  3. SAYING NO TO THE OLYMPICS
  4. BORIA MAJUMDAR
  5. 'WE WANT A SINGLE TEST FOR ADMISSION TO MEDICAL COLLEGES'
  6. A GOLFER'S BEST FRIEND - SATISH KUMAR SHARMA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. AN EASTERLY WIND'S BLOWING
  2. HE'S GOT IT COVERED
  3. BATTLE OF BADALS IS NOT OVER YET - PANKAJ VOHR
  4. THAT FAMILY FEELING - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. SENA EVERYWHERE
  2. FREEDOM TO & FROM
  3. WORK IN PROGRESS
  4. RAISING THE GAME IN ASIA - C. RAJA MOHAN 
  5. THE BUZZ AROUND MALARIA - FABIANTOGEL 
  6. IT DOESN'T SMELL RIGHT
  7. PERHAPS SOME REGULATION - KARTIKDESAI 
  8. WHY BEING AVERAGE ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH
  9. THE STATE OF SUCH A LONG JOURNEY - GIRISH_KUBER 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. OFFSETTING POLICY
  2. PERFECTLY PRICED
  3. LOOK WHO'S GOING NUCLEAR - SUNIL JAIN
  4. THE CRISIS CONTINUES - MEGHNAD DESAI
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. SAVVY TWEETS

THE HINDU

  1. ENDLESS FASCINATION
  2. MERKEL DIVIDES GERMANY
  3. NEW LIVES OUT OF DEATHS
  4. V.K. SUBBURAJ, P.W.C. DAVIDAR, J. AMALORPAVANATHAN AND C.E.  - ARUNAKARAN
  5. ERALA WON'T BE QUITE THE SAME AGAIN - P. SAINATH
  6. CRICKET'S ECSTASY, AND AGONY - V.R. KRISHNA IYER
  7. CANADIAN OIL COMPANY FINED FOR DUCK DEATHS - IAN AUSTEN
  8. MINER GAINS COPYRIGHT ON 'WE'RE ALIVE' NOTE - RORY CARROLL
  9. THE PLIGHT OF DALITS AND THE NEWS MEDIA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. SOME JUSTICE AT LAST AT THE IMF
  2. LET'S HAVE A 'FAIR' DEAL - JAYANTHI NATARAJAN
  3. ANTI-DEFECTION & COALITION POLITICS - M. VEERAPPA MOILY
  4. DILLI KA BABU – DILIP CHERIAN

DNA

  1. EVEN LIBERALISM HAS ITS LIMITS
  2. AMERICA'S FALSE ASSUMPTIONS
  3. OUR JUDGES NEED SENSITIVITY TRAINING
  4. ISRAEL BUYS ITSELF AN EXIT FROM SECULAR IDEALS - GWYNNE DYER

 DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. MAKE IT FAST
  2. WHY UN IS IMPORTANT
  3. IN AND AROUND J&K - BY D. SUBA CHANDRAN
  4. TOUGH TIME A HEAD IN KASHMIR - BY BRIJ BHARDWAJ
  5. GIVE CROSS-SUBSIDY TO KIRANA STORES - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. ARMING PAKISTAN TO THE TEETH
  2. VIP SECURITY IN PUNJAB
  3. A DISGRACED LORD
  4. KASHMIR IN EUROPE - BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA (RETD)
  5. VIVE LA TRADITIONS - BY JUSTICE MAHESH GROVER
  6. AFGHANISTAN: THREATS FROM SAMS - ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
  7. WINDOW ON PAKISTAN - SYED NOORUZZAMAN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. SUCH A LONG DOUBLE-SPEAK

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. COAL CAN FUEL GROWTH
  2. ON A SLIPPERY ROAD
  3. LOOKING EAST AGAIN - SANJAYA BARU
  4. FIX WHAT IS BROKEN - SUNITA NARAIN
  5. DILEMMAS OF THE CURRENCY WARS - A V RAJWADE
  6. MONETARY POLICY: TIME FOR A PAUSE - RAJEEV MALIK

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. G20 RETAINS RELEVANCE
  2. LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, PLEASE
  3. WEATHER OR NOT
  4. POLICY RESPONSE TO RISING CAPITAL INFLOWS - CHETAN AHYA
  5. 'INDIA WILL LEAD LUXURY CAR MARKET' - CHANCHALPALCHAUHAN 
  6. ONE-YEAR MBAS, THE WAY TO GO - R T KRISHNAN & J RAMACHANDRAN 
  7. ESTABLISHED ALWAYS IN YOUR TRUE SELF - K VIJAYARAGHAVAN 

THE STATESMAN

  1. POLICE DISTRICT 
  2. DIRE HONEY
  3. SERVICES' SPORT 
  4. INFORMATION FREEWAY~II
  5. IT IS TIME TO FIX RESPONSIBILITY
  6. A MATTER OF SELF-RESPECT
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. SOME JUSTICE AT LAST AT THE IMF
  2. LET'S HAVE A 'FAIR' DEAL - BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN
  3. REBUILDING AMERICA: THE ELECTION THAT WASN'T - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. ANTI-DEFECTION & COALITION POLITICS - BY M. VEERAPPA MOILY
  5. PRAFUL: IN LIGHTER VEIN
  6. CENTRE ON THE MAT - BY DILIP CHERIAN

DECCAN HERALD

  1. STILL NEED STEEL
  2. FEVER PITCH
  3. SYCOPHANCY IS ETERNAL - M J AKBAR
  4. IN EGYPT POLLS, ENSURING MUBARAK'S RETURN - MICHAEL JANSEN,
  5. TIME FOR QUIET CONTEMPLATION - MIRLE KARTHIK

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. AN INDEFENSIBLE DEFENSE
  2. AFTER THE SPILL
  3. THE LONG RECOVERY FROM 9/11
  4. NEW JERSEY'S GOVERNOR AND THE PUBLIC EDUCATION DEBATE - BY BRENT STAPLES
  5. THE GREAT BAILOUT BACKLASH - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  6. FALLING INTO THE CHASM - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  7. VOTING EARLY, BUT NOT SO OFTEN – BY BARRY C. BURDEN AND KENNETH R. MAYER
  8. THE R.O.T.C. MYTH - BY DIANE H. MAZUR

USA TODAY

  1. FRENCH PROTESTS, BRITISH AUSTERITY GIVE U.S. GLIMPSE OF ITS FUTURE
  2. IN GOD-FEARING USA, WHERE IS THE DECENCY? - BY TOM KRATTENMAKER
  3. OBAMA PROVIDES A HINT OF HOW HE'D FIGHT FUTURE WARS - BY ROBERT ANDREWS

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. A WARNING FOR THE FUTURE
  2. ANOTHER MILITARY BARRIER FALLS
  3. DRIVING DOCTORS TO QUIT
  4. LET CONSUMERS DECIDE
  5. AMTRAK AND THE GREEKS
  6. ENDING CRUISE SHIP WELFARE

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - SEEKING A DISINGENUOUSNESS SHIELD
  2. THE DISMAL SCIENCE FOR A DISMAL SECTOR - EMRE DELİVELİ
  3. IDEOLOGICAL BLINDNESS ON IRAN - BARÇIN YINANÇ
  4. THE NEW GOVERNMENT IN IRAQ AND NOURI AL-MALIKI - CEM OĞUZ
  5. PAPANDREOU'S TROUBLES MAY BLUR ERDOĞAN'S VISIT - ARIANA FERENTINOU
  6. MISSING DEEDS AND EASTERN PROMISES - EMRE DELİVELİ
  7. LEAVE MUSLIMS ALONE? - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY AND HAYRİ ABAZA
  8. FOOD THAT KILLS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE ON YOUR PLATE - ANN WOOLNER
  9. DOES GERMAN-FRENCH AXIS DOMINATE THE EU? - MUSTAFA KUTLAY - QUENTIN BLOMMAERT

THE NEWS

  1. POWER AND PEOPLE
  2. THE POLIO FAILURE
  3. A LOCAL HERO
  4. WHEN AN AMBASSADOR IS 'VICEROY' - ZAFAR HILALY
  5. MANKIND'S LAST BEST HOPE? - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  6. SERVING THE NATION - DR A Q KHAN
  7. ZIONISM: TWO DEFICITS - M SHAHID ALAM
  8. CLUELESS ON KASHMIR - ASIF EZDI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. SATISFIED GILANI COMES OUT WITH HIS FUTURE VISION
  2. ANOTHER POSSIBLE SOURCE OF ENERGY
  3. IRAQI CIVILIANS PAID HEAVIEST PRICE OF WAR
  4. SWEET AND SOUR HAPPENINGS - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. A PRAGMATIC APPROACH BY BANGLADESH - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. OBAMA'S ASIA TOUR: SOME FACTS - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  7. FUSS OVER NAB CHAIRMAN - ASHRAF MALIK
  8. IRAQ WAR LOGS - PRATAPCHATTERJEE

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. MORE OPINION BUT LESS ANALYSIS
  2. BOWEN'S ASYLUM POLICY CHANGE COMES AT A PRICE
  3. LAYING DOWN THE LAW FOR ALL

 THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. US ECONOMIC WOES DERAIL DEMOCRATS' HOPES
  2. US ECONOMIC WOES DERAIL DEMOCRATS' HOPES

THE GUARDIAN

  1. BBC SETTLEMENT HAS INJURED ITS INDEPENDENCE
  2. CITY NEEDS REGIME CHANGE
  3. IN PRAISE OF … THE ENGLISH APPLE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. REASON FOR HOPE IN AFGHANISTAN
  2. HANEDA AIRPORT GOES INTERNATIONAL
  3. KAN FEELING DIET SQUEEZE FROM THREE MAJOR GROUPS
  4. WHITE HOUSE MAGIC AT HALFTIME - BY MICHAEL SPENCE

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. AND THE WINNER IS … THE JUNTA
  2. JUST OPEN IT
  3. REVISITING DECENTRALIZATION OF BASIC EDUCATION - PAHALA NAINGGOLAN
  4. WILL INDONESIA BE THE WORLD'S FIFTH LARGEST ECONOMY? - ARIS ANANTA
  5. NEWMONT NUSA TENGGARA GOING PUBLIC: A NEW STEP FOR FOREIGN MINING CONTRACTOR - KURTUBI

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THE LOOMING SHADOW

BALBIR K PUNJ


It's outrageous that the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board should demand the review of the Ayodhya judgement to make it compliant with sharia'h 


The recent decision of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board to go in appeal against the decision of the Allahabad High Court's judgement in the Ayodhya case does not portend well for the civil society in India The Board's statement says that "any proposal (for settlement) should be in conformity with the Constitution and sharia'h and uphold the dignity of Muslims."


It is strange that the very people who are denouncing the verdict on the ground that it gives prominence to Hindu faith in a 'faith versus law' contest, should be saying that they would accept a settlement only if it is in conformity with Islamic law or sharia'h. This stand has some serious implications. For instance, those pushing this line will not accept anything that is not in conformity with their religious law. From the judgement in the Shah Bano case onwards, this has been the Muslim orthodoxy's stand.


In the Ayodhya case, it means only one thing as far as the Muslim orthodoxy is concerned: What is in their possession cannot be touched as they 'believe' that the Babri Masjid was not built by demolishing an existing mandir. What happens to the evidence placed before the court by the ASI? The ASI's findings show the use of remains of a temple in the construction of the Babri structure and that right below it were the ruins of a temple. According to the Muslim orthodoxy, the ASI report is to be rejected because it lends credence to Hindu faith. In brief, those who hold this view believe that Hindu faith should be rejected by the courts and Muslim belief should be upheld even if it does not conform to the law of the land.


What happens if the Constitution and sharia'h are in conflict over a particular issue? What is to be given prominence? The Constitution or sharia'h? Going by what happened after the judgement in the Shah Bano case, the implication is that what is not in conformity with sharia'h will not be accepted by the Muslim orthodoxy even if it is in consonance with the Constitution. So, in one country there would be two laws: One in keeping with the Constitution and the other that is in conformity with sharia'h. It means one section of our citizens will have the right to flout the Constitution if it is not in conformity with their religious law.


Across many continents the Muslim orthodoxy has posed this same issue in one form or the other. This has caused serious misgivings throughout Europe and the US. It has provoked public reaction, forcing Governments of these countries to reiterate that basic human rights would prevail over all religious injunctions. France has already banned the burqa from public places; Holland has ruled against the hijab though Amsterdam is one of the most liberal capitals in the world. 


It is no secret that there are provisions in sharia'h for penal action that would be condemned by modern law and civilised society. For instance, the sharia'h provides for women to be stoned to death for a variety of 'crimes'. Then there are provisions to amputate the limbs of those accused of theft. These and similar punishments would never be in consonance with the Constitution of India. While it is true that in India the Muslim orthodoxy does not talk of these punishments but when it comes to civil issues, it insists that sharia'h should be followed in toto.

But the same orthodoxy is not prepared to say that the brutal punishments mentioned in their religious law should be removed, however relevant they may have been in the times when they were prescribed. In fact, several Islamist organisations seek to implement these horrific punishments the moment they get an opportunity. As much was witnessed in Kerala where Islamists chopped off the right hand of a college lecturer after accusing him of denigrating Mohammed. The Home Minister of Kerala has subsequently admitted that he has received reports that the Islamist organisation has been secretly administering 'justice' as per sharia'h. He has sought a report from the police; its details are yet to be published. 


Here is another disturbing report from Kerala. The police has confirmed that Vineesh, a Dalit of Kannur district, was brutally tortured to death in a Taliban-style execution by Islamists belonging to the same group whose activists had maimed the professor. Investigating officer P Sadanandan has said, "The accused are Popular Front of India activists, a Muslim radical group."


Meanwhile, the vocal support for the Ayodhya judgement by leaders of the Muslim community has been losing strength and steam. There has been a steady decline in the number of leaders who are willing to publicly welcome the judgement and accept the solution offered by the Allahabad High Court. This is in sharp contrast to the response to the judgement on the day it was delivered and in the following days. This declining endorsement of the judgement coincides with the rising clamour in the 'secularist' camp as self-appointed champions of secularism raise the pitch of their attack on the verdict, obviously with the purpose of provoking the Muslim community to challenge the judgement. There is remarkable similarity between the objections raised by the 'secularists' and what the Muslim orthodoxy is saying: The Hindu faith has been given precedence over Muslim belief.


The Left-liberal intelligentsia is not alone in this mission to discredit the Allahabad High Court's judgement and encourage the Muslim orthodoxy to appeal against a verdict that has been widely welcomed. There are politicians who, eager to pander to the minority vote-bank, have been describing the judgement as a "betrayal of Muslims". They have been interpreting the verdict in a manner that is likely to make Muslims feel aggrieved at justice not having been done to them. This, in turn, will feed the imagined victimhood of the community.


The Muslim orthodoxy's strident response to the Ayodhya verdict and its insistence that a settlement has to be in consonance with sharia'h is more likely the thin end of the proverbial wedge. There are already demands for Islamic banking provisions in secular India and the setting up of separate financial and commercial institutions that will besharia'h compliant and not comply with the laws of the land that regulate banking, finance, trade and commerce. From here to the demand for the full inclusion of, and legitimacy for, sharia'h is only a short distance. Are we then headed towards that direction? This is the question that should bother us in view of the AIMPLB's outrageous demand following the Allahabad High Court's Ayodhya judgement.


-- punjbalbir@gmail.com


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THE SPARK'S STILL THERE

JAIPAL REDDY ACTS BEFORE EVERYBODY ELSE


Union Minister for Urban Development S Jaipal Reddy deserves applause for two reasons. Mr Reddy is the first— and only Minister till now — who has exercised his executive authority to punish those guilty of fetching disrepute to the nation for the shoddy preparations for the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. He has instructed Delhi Development Authority, the Government agency which, along with the private firm Emaar MGF, was responsible for the construction of the Games Village, a public-private partnership project, to initiate immediate action by way of revoking the Rs 183 crore bank guarantee. Emaar MGF, which was supposed to execute the Games Village project, had not only failed to meet extended deadlines but also did not do a thorough job of fulfilling its obligations as was evident from the mess that had to be cleaned up in the week preceding the event. It now transpires that Emaar MGF has also violated FAR rules, built studio apartments and gone beyond the plan that was sanctioned for the Games Village. This was obviously done to maximise profits while selling the apartments after the Games. True, all this could not have happened had DDA been diligent in monitoring the construction of the Games Village and the implementation of the sanctioned plan. Mr Reddy has not hesitated to demand an explanation from DDA as to how this lapse occurred under its watch. This is in sharp contrast to the attempt to pass on the buck by others involved with the preparations for the Games. While it is true that a multi-agency inquiry has been ordered into allegations of corruption and wasteful expenditure, that does not prevent similar executive action as has been initiated by Mr Reddy.


That apart, Mr Reddy has demonstrated exemplary commitment to probity by seconding the Opposition's demand for the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into everything that went wrong with the CWG preparations and allegations of corruption. By supporting a JPC inquiry, Mr Reddy has not only gone against the official position of the Congress and thus risked incurring the displeasure of his party leaders, but also shown that he still retains the spark that made him a formidable member of the Opposition benches in his earlier avatar. Mr Reddy says that since there is nothing to hide and all decisions were taken in a transparent manner, the Government should accept the Opposition's demand for a JPC inquiry. This would not only ensure a fair probe but also prevent needless disruption of parliamentary proceedings during the coming Winter Session. His is a matured response. Sadly, it is unlikely to be accepted by either the Prime Minister or the Congress, not least because the party's experience with JPC inquiries in the past has been far from happy. There is also the other factor: Allowing the Opposition to have its way on allegations of corruption in the organisation of the Games would pave the way for similar demands on financial misdemeanours of the Congress's allies.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

HOMINID TO HUMAN

NEW RESEARCH DEBUNKS OLD THEORIES


Human evolution has been one of the enduring mysteries of our time, and the more it is sought to be understood with the help of cutting edge technology and advanced research, the further surprises it throws up, sometimes forcing us to rewrite earlier assumptions. For instance, we have grown up believing that more the researchers travel backwards in time, the greater confirmatory evidence they will get of our linkage with chimpanzees. Fifteen years ago, scientists were taken back 4.4 million years when they encountered in Ethiopia the fossils of a female hominid, soon named Ardipithecus Ramidus. This female hominid was not only at least one million years older than the famous Lucy skeleton whose discovery had enthralled the world's scientific community for years, it also triggered a new thought process that, perhaps, Ramidus was the direct launch pad for the present day human evolution. According to a report published in a recent issue of the National Geographic, while this veteran hominid had some very primitive traits found in monkeys and some extinct species of apes, she also bore characteristics like a big toe and a short and broad upper pelvis that helps humans to walk erect — unique to our own hominid lineage. Anatomists and others who have been studying her are also excited by another aspect — which confounds our long-held belief of clearly demarcated evolutionary stages — and it is that Ramidus could be that rare hominid who was caught midway, as it were, while evolving to another level. Take just two examples: If its upper pelvis was human-like, its lower pelvis bore all the characteristics of a monkey, and the fingers and palm of its hands were so built that they might have been used both for clambering on trees like monkeys do and walk upright on the ground like present day humans do. The National Geographic report points out that if Ramidus's discoverers are right, it would mean that our ancestors neither knuckle-walked nor were they chimps. Of course, the final verdict is yet to come. In fact, some experts quoted in the National Geographic report have wondered if Ardipithecus Ramidus was indeed a hominid, and if so, was it bipedal? Because if it were not, several of the novel theories that are emerging of our evolution following the Ramidus discovery would crash. 


But what remains uncontested is that barely 200,000 years after Ardipithecus Ramidus made her baffling appearance, the fully bipedal Lucy arrived. She represented the Australopithecus genus, and every hominid that followed her stuck to bipedalism, making it easier for researchers to trace back our evolution. But simply because Lucy came later, it does not automatically follow that her Australopithecus genus evolved from Ardipithecus Ramidus. So, is this wonderful Ramidus woman the last common ancestor we share with the chimpanzee? That's possible. It's equally possible that there was someone else as fascinating as Ardipithicus Ramidus waiting to be discovered. For the moment, we can only consider with amazement the fascinating possibilities of our evolution through the ages.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

MUST WE BOW BEFORE OBAMA?

LET US NOT GET CARRIED AWAY BY AMERICAN SWEET TALK. TRUTH DEMANDS THAT WE ADMIT INDIA IS NO MORE THAN A BLIP ON THE US'S RADAR. NOR DOES NEW DELHI COUNT FOR MORE THAN ISLAMABAD IN WASHINGTON, DC. YET, WE CRAVE FOR ACCEPTANCE BY THE AMERICANS AND A PAT ON THE BACK BY THE US ADMINISTRATION. THAT HARDLY DOES JUSTICE TO OUR BIG POWER AMBITION

RAJIV DOGRA


Before US President Barack Obama arrives in India, it is necessary to revisit some the earliest lessons that we may have learnt in our lives.


As children, many of us played cowboys and (Red) Indians. A large number among us preferred to be cowboys. It is a childhood fascination that we have been unable to cast off. Our inability to do so is a great pity, because we would have otherwise remembered that the cowboys have no place in their hearts for (Red) Indians.


In the frame of the India-US relationship this is a contextual example. Try as we might to wish otherwise, the history of the last 60 years is ample demonstration of the unfortunate reality that India can never hope to be the twinkle in American eyes.


Sure, the US admires us sometimes for our intellectual prowess, for the software wizardry of our youth and for our current economic achievements. There have undoubtedly been moments when some US Presidents like John F Kennedy, Mr Bill Clinton and Mr George W Bush made the extra effort to reach out to India. But they were transient blips on a radar coloured largely in the Pakistani hue.


As in the past, now too, Pakistan continues to overwhelm America's security vision. In the present circumstance particularly, dominated as it is by the US desperation to get out of Afghanistan, the Obama Administration can only be expected to give at best a withering attention to India and its expectations. That measured shower of goodness would last till the visit is over, and to the extent it helps win large orders for the American defence industry and the civilian part of its nuclear industry.


His principal focus in the coming months is going to be his next term. For a man as ambitious as Mr Obama a single term presidency is akin to being a political footnote in history. And the one sure way he can make a rightful claim to re-election is if he can bring the boys back home with some dignity. To do that, he will be critically dependent on Pakistan. And Pakistan is conscious of its hold, that's why it brazenly torched 80 trucks transporting Nato fuel supplies recently. This was not a mindless act by the Pakistani Army, but a calculated move to demonstrate to the US that the Army is the ultimate arbiter in Pakistan, even for Nato, and even for what happens eventually in Afghanistan.


Therein lies the rub; Pakistan is fully aware that Mr Obama cannot afford to mess with it because he is in a tight time trap. By mid-July 2011, the stakes would just be too high for him to afford a misstep in his re-election campaign. And that is the paradox; the uglier it gets in Afghanistan the longer he will have to stay there reducing in direct proportion his chances for re-election. It is precisely for this reason that Pakistan has him and the US by its 'Shah-Rag'. It is just the way they call Kashmir a 'Shah-Rag' of its survival; because in the ultimate analysis it is the collective lust for Jammu & Kashmir that is holding Pakistan together as a nation.

This strange coincidence of two 'Shah-Rags' has brought into motion a curious diplomatic power play in the region. It started as the disastrous Sharm-el Sheikh agreement. A humiliating Foreign Ministers' level meeting followed in Islamabad. Despite these setbacks, our anxiety to please others on Kashmir has not abated. Our willingness to accommodate, even to bend over, keeps us going down the slope one way or the other, in one form or the other.


There is for instance the recent hastily put together, and adversely commented upon, interlocutors team on Kashmir. One of its members declared immediately that talking to the separatists was her top priority — the logical question to such an ill-advised declaration is what about the rest of the population in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh?


But the larger point really is why must we be seen to be doing things at someone's prodding? Why must moves of national importance be made prior to someone's arrival?


Mature nations, especially those desirous of sitting at the Global High Table on equal terms with other Big Powers, do not act under others' prodding. It is not just the independence of action that is important; but the perception as well that yes we are acting independently, and in our own best interests as judged by us. In the end we will do well to remember that the game between the cowboys and (Red) Indians was always gory and mostly one-sided; resulting ultimately in the dispossession of all the lands that once belonged to the (Red) Indians.

We Indians too risk being pushed around by an ambitious Mr Obama.


Mr Obama came into office with lofty expectations. People felt a new messiah had arrived; an answer not just to America's woes, but as someone who could surely provide the healing magic to all the global problems. Mr Obama revelled in the glory; he encouraged it with catchy, albeit borrowed slogans like, 'Yes, we can'. Throughout this wondrous period he did not discourage comparisons with the truly great Presidents of US like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt. It was as if nothing but the best could keep him company on the high pedestal that he had assigned himself.


In the beginning he seemed a truly class act; a voluble President who began to lead America in a great conversation on its future. But the direction he was nudging his nation towards, was radically new, his theories untested and his schemes kept sprouting doubtful warts.


As people are discovering now, Mr Obama is the most Left-leaning President in the history of the US. He seems determined to transform his country to his ideological agenda.


Outside the US, in the wider world, he has huge ambitions of advancing his 'smart power' agenda. In pushing his proposals, Mr Obama and his advisers take a distinctly elitist approach; it is from their ivory tower that they decide on the direction that America and the rest of the world must take.


Mr Obama has completed nearly two years in his job; it is enough time for people to form a definitive opinion about a leader. His elitist presidency is out of touch with its own people. The self-proclaimed transformational President is making America poorer, weaker, more indebted and significantly less free. And people's verdict is far from favourable.


At home he is likely to lead his party into defeat in the mid-term elections, his approval ratings have already sunk from an all time high for a new President to a low 40s. Far from being one of the all time greats, the President he is often compared to now is Mr Jimmy Carter; only a better educated version of him.

Later history's verdict on Mr Obama may well be that here was a soufflé that was unable to rise.

It is not just the domestic failures that plague his path; the world opinion is turning critical too. His desire to cut his losses and quit Afghanistan is being seen as a sign of weakness. People are also beginning to wonder if the biggest borrower of the world can remain its greatest power. The fact is that America today is not a pretty sight on the world stage.


Such a President is unlikely to deal us an even hand. Still we must spread the red mat of welcome for him, as we have done traditionally for our guests. But in doing so is it necessary for us to genuflect? After all those who stoop to please are pushovers; to be used and discarded at whim.


But even as we bow habitually, it will be good to recall that earliest lesson of our lives; because like the cowboy, Mr Obama has no place in his heart for us Indians.


-- The writer is a former Ambassador.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

OVER THE MOON AFTER FINDING WATER

GWYNNE DYER


NASA's confirmation that there is plenty of water available in frozen form in the lunar soil makes Moon a viable base for travelling to other planets. With Russian and US programmes running out of fuel, China and India own the future


The US National Aeronautics and Space Agency has just released the full data on last year's mission to find out whether there are useable amounts of water on the Moon, and the news is good. There is plenty of frozen water on the Moon, plus frozen gases like methane, oxygen and hydrogen that would be useful for making rocket fuel. This will be very helpful to the Chinese and the Indians when they start to build their bases on the Moon.

The US is not going back to the Moon. That plan died when President Barack Obama cancelled the first new American launch vehicles in 25 years, the Ares series of rockets, last February. That put an end to NASA's hopes of returning to the Moon by 2020 and building bases there for further manned exploration of the solar system.

Mr Obama promised to support the development of commercial manned spacecraft instead, but those will only be capable of low-orbit operations for the foreseeable future. Gen Charles Bolden, the current head of NASA, loyally chimed in with blue-sky talk of a glowing future for the agency.


"Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year; people fanning out across the inner solar system, exploring the Moon, asteroids and Mars nearly simultaneously in a steady stream of 'firsts'," burbled the Gen. "That is what the President's plan for NASA will enable, once we develop the new capabilities to make it a reality." Yes, and if we had some ham we could have ham and eggs, if we had some eggs.

In reality, it looks like the US has already passed its Tordesillas moment (and so has Russia). As is so often the case, those who start out ahead in the race fail in the stretch, and others finish first.

The Treaty of Tordesillas, signed in 1494, two years after Christopher Columbus became the first European to land in the Americas, divided the newly discovered lands beyond Europe between Spain and Portugal along a meridian just west of the Cape Verde islands. It was immensely arrogant, of course, but there were no other countries in the business of maritime exploration at the time.


Within a hundred years, the English, the French and the Dutch had piled in too, and Spanish and Portuguese power was falling fast. In the end, England's success in appropriating very large amounts of valuable territory led to English becoming the dominant world language. This is neither a good nor a bad outcome, but it is certainly a significant one, and it has some relevance to the current situation.


Russia (or rather, the old Soviet Union) was the first into space, but the US rapidly overtook it, and for several decades they jointly dominated the exploration of near space. But the US threw its lead away in 1973, cancelling the lunar exploration programme when there were still three Apollo voyages scheduled, and putting nothing that would take Americans back into deep space in its place.


Mr Mike Griffin, NASA's former head, said of Mr Obama's decision early this year: "Only once previously has a US President recommended to the Congress that this nation take a backward step in space. On that occasion, President Nixon cancelled the Apollo programme, a decision which will come to be regarded as one of the most strategically bankrupt decisions in human history. If such a thing is possible, this decision is even worse."

The recent confirmation by NASA that there is plentiful water as well as hydrogen, methane and ammonia available in frozen form in the lunar soil means that lunar bases are a viable option — and lunar bases are essential to any realistic programme that aims to go to the other planets of this system.


You can move beyond traditional rocket fuels and come up with a fancy new system to provide the energy to drive your space ships, but you still have to have reaction mass. That will account for at least 90 per cent of the weight of any vessel that ventures beyond near-Earth space, and as long as you have to haul your reaction mass all the way up from Earth's immensely deep gravity well, space flight is going to remain cripplingly expensive.


If you could get it on the Moon, on the other hand, you would only be dealing with one-sixth of the Earth's gravity. What the recent mission showed that there is not just reaction mass there, but the raw materials with which to make conventional rocket fuels and enough water, the heaviest element in any life-support system, to make human bases there a practical possibility.


But they are not likely to be American bases, nor Russian ones either. Both programmes have run out of fuel, and are now restricted to near-Earth operations so far as manned trips are concerned.


So are Chinese and Indian operations, so far, but the ambition is there and the money will be. Both China and India have already put unmanned space vehicles into lunar orbit, and China has already carried out manned flights in Earth orbit. These are probably the countries that own the future in space.


-- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

REALIGNING THE MATRIX OF DEVELOPMENT

VINAYSHIL GAUTAM


To create a fair and sustainable social order we need to remove the roadblocks for developing nations. Since economic growth may not guarantee development, the answer lies in bringing about inclusive growth worldwide

We are living in an era where finance is merely the front end of a much larger realignment of powers that is taking place globally and indeed internally in India.


The jostling can be seen in the goings-on of the WTO, nuclear energy activities, the satellite and the space related competitiveness — to name a few.


India is well poised to play a key role in the world, if it is able to marshal its resources along with its capabilities in a focussed manner. We are already a member of the exclusive International Thermo Nuclear Experiment Reactor Club, if we can call it so. The use of fusion energy on commercial basis will happen largely in the future. It is likely to take a few years still, but being a part of the select group of seven is an important breakthrough. Being associated with the Galileo Project of the European Union is another important step towards a genuine recognition of our redoubtable competency. If we can couple it up with the demographic advantage, which is increasingly being talked about, we are likely to play a major role in the realignment of global powers.


Essentially this would mean focusing on all the segments of the generation about to touch 30. This requires a major re-examination of the paradigms of education that govern several IITs, IIMs, Indian Institutes of Science & Research, NIITs and Central Universities, not to forget the polytechnics. What is not very clear is the kind of backward linkage that is envisaged to create the knowledge ware or administrative manpower to run these institutions and the creation of the critical mass of faculty to teach. Budgetary allocation is an important pre-requisite, but to deliver it in operational terms is another matter.


One would strongly recommend widening the role of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Research, which already has a deemed University status but needs to replicate itself in many ways. Similarly, a focussed view of the Technical Teachers Training Institutes is called for. There is an equally urgent need to widen its ambit of operation to cover aspects of management education in its entirety. 


The United Nations has to recognise, along with other world bodies such as the IMF and World Bank, that special caution has to be exercised by not creating a regulatory regime that artificially creates barriers in the development of the developing nations.


The landmines are many. Skilfully used, labour welfare, environment, multi-lateral trading systems can all be labels to create roadblocks for developing nations in the name of creating a healthy planet. 


An obvious way of negating the negative impacts of misplaced emphasis on such dimensions is to prevent, if not totally negate, the possibilities of using trade barriers for punitive purposes. There are huge yawning gaps in the WTO system that needs to be plugged. Illustratively, an obsession with trading to the negation of production control is a dangerous situation. Similarly, sustainability of development cannot be a one way street. This is not going to come easy. It requires a sagacity and wisdom, which must have as its touchstone the future of the planet itself. This will happen only with the organised efforts on the part of the developing countries; they need to put their act together and create a network of intensive collaboration. Besides persuasion and collective efforts, a concerted action plan would be required.


Then there is the danger within. It is yet to be universally recognised that economic development, if it is to be sustainable, has to be development for all. Economic growth may not necessarily lead to development. However, the reverse is true. If there are social, technological and other developments for all, the people will definitely contribute to economic growth. A person who is sitting in front of the computer and browsing through, if he comes across a friend on the Internet, he is most unlikely to ask him about his caste, colour or creed. He is more likely to ask him which are the websites he visits, what are his areas of interest and what interesting things he has found when browsing. With development, some of the social evils, such as parochial mindsets, may vanish.


The time to create a fair and sustainable social order is now. That requires an ability to create an environment of equality of opportunity and communication with integrity amongst and within nations. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

DOLE INDIA LTD

 

Last week, the Shiromani Akali Dal expelled Punjab's former finance minister Manpreet Badal, after he courted trouble by proposing that subsidies be eliminated. Last week also, most Coal India employees obeyed an anti-disinvestment diktat of influential labour unions to give their company's IPO a miss. Given the success of the PSU's float, many workers are now said to be regretting sitting out. Far-removed as they seem, both developments have more in common than meets the eye. They epitomise the way vested interests in India can harm the very sections they claim to champion. 


The Punjab imbroglio brings into sharp relief the ruinous politics of subsidies and the resistance to reform once populism gets institutionalised as policy. Debt-strapped Punjab isn't in the pink of fiscal health and its freebies culture including ultra cheap food and free power isn't helping. At the state or national level, any government fiscally hemmed in by subsidy commitments will strain to channel resources to building social goods. It's no secret subsidies are mostly cornered by interest groups such as rich farmers, followed by corrupt middlemen who are part of the system. 


If subsidies cosset a farmers' elite to the poor kisan's detriment, anti-reform unionists coddle a labour aristocracy at the cost of the larger workforce. Ironically, in the case of CIL's IPO designed to make workers stakeholders, unions worked against labour interests in the name of a regressive ideological struggle against "market forces". If anything, in India where reform is usually pushed by stealth, disinvestment makes its strongest selling point when buyers of PSU share sales aren't just big institutional investors but also retail investors and PSU employees. Given wealth creation is democratised in this way, those opposing divestment aren't just anti-reform but, in a fundamental sense, also anti-democratic. Clearly, the necessary project of reforming policies, rules and incentives is all too often stymied citing social welfare. Only, purportedly "pro-people" politics has markedly anti-people results. 


Take the opposition to labour reform. It promotes casualisation of labour, with its negative consequences of job insecurity, lack of training, exploitative wages and poverty. Rigid labour laws and the go-slow on a land acquisition revamp impede mass labour entry into manufacturing, and hence growth of organised factory employment. Meantime, the palliative of subsidies means fiscal pain even while allowing resource misallocation and misappropriation. Waste is also encouraged indeed, made systematic while the environmental impact hits the poor the most. So, instead of focussed spending on education, health, infrastructure and jobs creation, we have a culture of political paternalism treating citizens as wards instead of genuinely empowering them. If India aspires to inclusive growth, how long can we afford this?


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

LANGUAGE MATTERS

 

There is hardly anything objectionable in the apex court ruling delivered by Justice Markandey Katju and T S Thakur trying to confer on unmarried women in long-term relationships some of the legal benefits available to married women. 


But the use of the word 'keep' to refer to women in a Supreme Court judgement, provides a significant reference point for the gender debate in 21st century India


Matters were not helped when in response to Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising's objection to the use of the derogatory term, one of the learned judges asked if using the term 'concubine' instead of 'keep' would resolve the issue. 


Even when the judgement has generally been positive for women's rights, referring to women either as 'keep' or 'concubines' is not only archaic when referring to 21st century relationships, they entrench the notion that women are second-class citizens. 


Emancipation of women cannot solely be achieved through policies and reservations. The social recognition of equality is critical to the process. The participation of women in every sphere of society is creating new definitions of womanhood. 


Our vocabulary needs to reflect contemporary trends. Supreme Court judgements are carefully read and parsed, they convey mindsets and are cited as precedent. Gender-neutral public language would go a long way in countering assumptions about the inferiority of women that is rampant in society. 


A conscious effort needs to be made to change the approach to women's rights from one that is patronising to one that recognises the parity of the fairer sex.


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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

SAYING NO TO THE OLYMPICS

BORIA MAJUMDAR

 

A survey of international media reports in the aftermath of a successful CWG 2010 draws attention to one singular strand of argument that India is finally ready to mount a strong Olympic bid. These arguments are based on the assumption that a successful CWG is a stepping stone towards bidding for the 2020 Olympic Games. 

Put bluntly, however, India is not ready to prepare a serious Olympic bid. The 
Commonwealth Games had come to India prematurely in 2003, a decision that explains all of the problems in the lead-up to the Games and the clean-up act that is currently underway. An Olympic bid, which comes at a serious cost to a nation, would in fact divert attention from the athletic achievement at CWG 2010, which, for the first time ever in our sporting history, has given us hope of becoming a true sporting nation. 


The Olympics, unlike the CWG, is a vastly complex and gargantuan exercise. If the CWG experience is taken as evidence, an Indian bid will only be a waste of time, energy and money. In a scenario where the world's largest democracy has one solitary individual gold medal to show at the Olympics in 88 years of participation, it is imperative we concentrate on creating and nurturing champions, men and women who can do the country proud come London 2012. Trying to prepare an Olympic bid for 2020 amidst competition from Madrid and Tokyo, cities that were in contention for 2016 but eventually lost out to Rio, will only result in huge money spent on non-sporting activities at the cost of our athletes. 


Taking stock of CWG 2010, the foremost gain from the sporting extravaganza is the success of our sporting icons. Coming second in the medal table with 101 medals, beating England to third place, India, finally, can dream of having a sports culture. We have champions not in one sport but across disciplines and gender in events that were hardly spoken about in the run-up to the Games. 

The annals of Indian sports writing have been full of complaints about sporting failures for far too long. Analysts have blamed the system, they have blamed the politicians who run it, they have even questioned Indian genetics. Every four years, it has become a collective national ritual to blame everyone else when found wanting in the global mirror of the Olympics, only to move on and repeat the same catharsis four years later. CWG 2010 is our answer that India too is capable of producing champions and champions by the dozen. 


Moving focus to an Olympic bid will mean these victories do not mark the arrival of a national sports culture. It will once again ensure that Indians clap their hands in glee and return to their daily dose of cricket once the euphoria recedes. That these medals could be the catalyst to help correct years of frustration at India's poor sporting performances and result in the creation of sporting infrastructure for future generations of athletes will get subsumed in the pressures of preparing the Olympic bid. The true legacy of the CWG victories will lie in money now being made available to build training superstructure for future generation of our athletes, not siphoned off for Olympic bid preparation. 


Unless the government, sports administrators, the IOA and, finally, the corporates come forward to embrace Olympic sport, CWG 2010 will remain an aberration. Private efforts such as the Mittal Champions Trust and Olympic Gold Quest, already doing a commendable job, must contribute more towards Indian sport. Tough questions need to be asked. It is time, for instance, to merge the Indian Army's celebrated Mission Olympics with the larger national effort to mainstream sport in India's public imagination. 


While India celebrates CWG 2010 for what it has done to place Olympic sport on the national map, it is time to replicate such achievements across the country. Only if there is a systemic overhaul can India expect more medals in the 2012 Olympic Games. An attempt to prepare a potent Olympic bid at this juncture would only prove counterproductive. As Jacques Rogge had repeatedly emphasised during his recent visit to Delhi when asked about an Indian Olympic bid, "You have great athletes and you have one overriding sport, which is cricket. But we need more gold medals from the second most populous country in the world before you make a pitch for hosting the Olympics." 


Finally, what will be the lasting legacy of CWG 2010? This question is extremely relevant when we pitch CWG 2010 against the legacy of the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. While there's little doubt that Delhi was fundamentally transformed as a result of the event in 1982, it can definitively be asserted that the legacy of the Asian Games remains negative in terms of nurturing an all-pervasive sports culture in India, a drawback that helps explain why India has won one solitary individual gold medal in the Olympics. Against such a backdrop, CWG 2010 needs to stand up and set an example. Only if this is done can Delhi serve as a perfect model of what the Commonwealth Games can do for sport in a host country, its best and most enduring legacy. 

The writer is senior research fellow, 
University of Central Lancashire.


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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'WE WANT A SINGLE TEST FOR ADMISSION TO MEDICAL COLLEGES'

 

Medical education in the country is going in for an overhaul. And the newly-constituted Medical Council of India (MCI) will be instrumental in bringing about many changes. Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, member, board of governors in the MCI and national professor of pharmacology in the National Academy of Medical Sciences, spells out some of the changes to Shobha John: 


MCI was under a cloud after its president Ketan Desai was arrested for corruption. Is it now more stringent in giving registration to new medical colleges? 

MCI has introduced a transparent system for assessing medical colleges. Out of a large database of doctors, three specialists are selected randomly by a computer to assess each college. The date of their visit is kept a secret. Their reports are acted upon immediately. At the moment, only the physical facilities, number of faculty and availability of patients needed to teach medical students are assessed. We also want to assess the quality of teaching and the product coming out of the college. We are also tackling the ridiculous practice of fake doctors and fake patients who, it's alleged, suddenly appear at the time of the assessment. I hope soon it would also become mandatory for every doctor to attend a certain number of accredited Continuing Medical Education (CME) modules before he can be reregistered. The Delhi Medical Council had made 150 hours of CME mandatory in five years. The MCI can now bring this back not only for Delhi but all over India. 


Will the MCI be taken over by a National Council for Human Resource in Health? 

It may be replaced by several bodies the National Commission for Human Resources in Health, with an Education Council, a National Committee for Accreditation and a Medical Council of India. This is the best thing that could happen. 


The health ministry recently gave a green signal for a common entrance examination for admission to medical colleges. Why was this done? 

Today, a student has to go for 17 examinations in different parts of the country to secure admissions to different medical colleges. Sometimes the dates clash. Is it possible for a poor but talented student to travel to all these centres? No. That's why we are proposing a single test on one day. Also, the standard of tests varies. A single test will bring in uniformity and grade students, for example, from 1 to 35,000, for the 32,000 seats available. The state quota can be filled by domiciled successful candidates in order of merit. Private colleges charging capitation fees could continue to do so if they are recognised, but they too will have to choose from the list of 35,000 students who qualified. They cannot allocate a seat to anyone not in this list. 


Scientists recently found a new superbug originating from India. Is this just a scare to hit India's medical tourism or something to be really worried about? 


The conclusions drawn in medical journal Lancet from a small number of people are not justified. Also, to label it as Superbug New Delhi is not fair and asking tourists not to come to India because of this is unscientific. However, we are heading towards a situation when none of our antibiotics will work and new ones are not discovered. We need antibiotic policies and a surveillance system for monitoring resistance. Pharmacies shouldn't be allowed to sell certain antibiotics without a prescription.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

A GOLFER'S BEST FRIEND

SATISH KUMAR SHARMA

 

"A caddie", says the Oxford Dictionary, "is a person who carries a golfer's clubs and provides other assistance during a match." Golf clubs anyone can haul. However, it is the quality of "other assistance" that sets a good caddie apart from the ordinary. 


A golf caddie's sundry services can be broadly classified as technical, personal, social and, ahem, philosophical. Improving the lie of the ball when no one is watching and 'discovering' the ball in the rough when it's apparently gone out of bounds are examples of the technical help that a useful caddie provides. 


But the real technical expertise of a caddie depends on how good he is at 'underwriting'. Its purpose is the same as in capital market to minimise the risk of the client. But what is achieved through complex technical analysis in the world of finance is attained merely by the flourish of a pen here. Golfers would know what one is talking about. The intent is not to cheat, of course, but to lend respectability to the gentleman's card. The best caddie, therefore, is one who can count only to five. 


No space need be wasted here in recounting the array of personal services that a caddie renders. But some are too precious to be overlooked. One, the caddie, while minding the player's mobile phone, knows merely from the ring of the device when it's the 'madam' on the other side and, therefore, presses the silent button. And, two, he takes the blame for the player's bad shot. 


Now, every caddie worth his fee knows that a golfer is basically a social animal. So when the player is playing alone, the caddie fills in by striking up a conversation with, "Saab, aajkal khelne kum aate hain" (Sir, you come to play less often these days). Simplified, it means, "I am ready to listen to all your woes that keep you off the golf course," and woe to you if you take the bait. For,caddies carry not only golf-bags but tales too. 


Ergo, if he senses that you're not the type to talk about your personal affairs, he would begin somewhat like this: "I saw Mr So and So after so many days on the course." "Achha?" you would say, and he would then inform you of the goings on in the life of the said golfer, on the course and off it. 


That doesn't mean you can take liberty with his personal matters. A caddie i came to know was a school dropout. I asked him, "Why don't you resume your studies?" In five minutes, he convinced me that only a fool went to school. And to prove it, he named two unemployed graduates from his locality who, because of their education, were unfit to work as caddies. 


There are times when the game goes out of control despite your best effort, or perhaps because of it. It's then that you need your caddie's philosophical explanation for your miscued shots. Once, i found that none of my shots were going straight. I asked the caddie, "Kya baat hai, aaj ball bahut ghoom rahi hai'' (What is the matter, the ball is curving too much today). His reply: "Gol hai toh ghoomega hi'' (The ball is curved so it is bound to curve). 
Another day, for some reason a series of my putts failed to reach the cup despite my caddie's encouraging, "Maaro, saab, maaro'' (Hit harder, sir). So when yet another putt stopped short within a hair's breadth of the cup, this time i yelled in frustration "Yeh andar kyon nahin jaata!'' (Why is it not going in!). 

My caddie went down on his haunches and examined the ball for close to a minute. Finally, he got up and said, "Sir, ball kuchh bol nahin raha. Lagta hai naraaz hai'' (Sir, the ball is not saying anything; seems it is cross).


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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

AN EASTERLY WIND'S BLOWING

 

India has been struggling with a Look East policy now for three decades. While easy to enunciate, it has been far more difficult for New Delhi to institutionalise and maintain a foreign policy drive that engaged nations along the Pacific Rim, from Japan to China, Singapore to Australia. Such an engagement would have seemed a no-brainer. These countries have been the drivers of the world economy since the 1970s. It is the success of the original Asian tiger economies, let alone the early industrialisation of Japan or the more recent accomplishments of China which are the inspiration for India's post-1991 liberalisation.

 

But the Look East policy was often described by impatient, Asian governments as India's "Look East, Look Away" policy because it proved so difficult for India to sustain its engagement. One of the reasons was economic. India is and remains far more protectionist than its East and Southeast Asian counterparts. Until recently, its tariff and investment barriers made it difficult for New Delhi to contemplate any treaty-based economic integration with other parts of Asia. Another was strategic. The Pacific Rim has been dominated by a balance of power game between a cluster of US-backed allies and China. India was wary of being part of this equation. Other Asian countries were uncertain on which side India stood. Finally, India was seen as not having the wherewithal to play a strategic role beyond the Straits of Malacca. All that has changed, especially after a drifting together of India and the US and a growing friction between India and China.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-nation Asia tour, encompassing Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, is indicative of how Indian interests and role in this part of the world have expanded. In Japan, the prime minister will seek to consolidate a burgeoning economic relationship between India and Asia's second largest economy. India is Japan's number one foreign direct investment destination and Japan's plans for improving India's industrial infrastructure could transform India's lagging manufacturing base. In Malaysia,

 

Dr Singh will inaugurate a relationship almost unrecognisable from what it was even a decade ago. Kuala Lumpur has long been seen as the thorn in the Look East policy. Economics and the image of a new India have turned this around. In Vietnam, India will be part of an East Asian Summit whose roster will now include the US and Australia, countries whose membership India supported as part of a broader policy of constraining Chinese assertiveness. That India is now an Asian power is acknowledged by Asian nations. India should not rest on its laurels. India continues to be alienated from the supply chains that connect the larger Asian economy. It needs to add more military sinews to its strategic vision. But it is clear that the Look East policy today is no longer merely about looking but about doing, influencing and benefiting.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

HE'S GOT IT COVERED

 

David Headley is truly a man of many parts. Not only he has the uncanny ability to befriend those the world loves to hate, we also gather that he is a promising photographer and a passionate traveller, though his interests include only certain strategic installations in this country. To top it all, he has mastered the art of compulsive bragging.

 

From the time he was arrested in Chicago, Headley has been singing like a canary. He told the investigators of the National Investigation Agency that while during his multiple India visits prior to 26/11, he filmed almost all sensitive locations in Maharashtra: the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and its staff colony, Taj President, World Trade Centre, 
naval air station, Siddhivinayak temple, Chabad House, Maharashtra police station, Maharashtra assembly, Bombay Stock Exchange, Air India office and Shiv Sena Bhawan. You name it and our man had it all covered. The information was then passed on to his handlers, the megapixel tourist-turned-terror informant has told his present handlers.

 

That's not all. The lucky devil also escaped several potential arrests even though his two wives had reportedly informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he was working with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and planning attacks in India. While we are really upset that such lavish helpings of luck never shine on people like us, the question remains: what made Headley so lucky? It truly can't just be lady luck.

 

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

BATTLE OF BADALS IS NOT OVER YET

PANKAJ VOHR

 

The battle for succession within the Shiromani Akali Dal has just begun even though deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal may have won the first round by getting his cousin, Manpreet Badal out of his way for the moment. Manpreet, once the favourite of his uncle and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is unlikely to give up the fight easily and his unceremonious exit could spell trouble for the ruling coalition of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

 

The Akali Dal came to power in 2007 after failing to cross the half way mark in the 117-member Punjab assembly on its own for the first time. Had it not been for the 19 seats won by the BJP, the coalition partners would have been sitting on the opposition benches. The BJP, despite its pivotal role in the formation of the government, did not insist on getting the deputy CM's position but allowed Sukhbir to become his father's number two largely because of the Badals' excellent relations with L.K. Advani.

 

It is obvious that Sukhbir wanted to settle the succession issue during the lifetime of his ageing father who has been the unquestioned leader of the Akali Dal for several decades. However, many within the Akali Dal rated Manpreet Badal and even Adesh Pratap Kairon who is also related to the family as better bets. But leaving nothing to chance, Sukhbir has managed to get Manpreet out of the way.

 

But the ramifications of the decision to get Manpreet out of the Cabinet and the party will be felt when the next round of elections take place in 2012. A divided Akali Dal may not be able to pose a stiff challenge to the Congress which is hoping to make a comeback largely because of a strong anti-incumbency factor working against the ruling coalition. But the key factor in the Congress comeback mission would be who leads their 2012 campaign in the state. Even staunch Akali supporters admit that if the Congress uses Captain Amarinder Singh, former CM, as its spearhead, its chances will certainly brighten. Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the Patiala royal family, has the requisite charisma and guts to take on the Akalis.

 

It is in this context, that many in Punjab are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the new Punjab Congress chief. A section within the Congress, with the blessings of some central leaders, is also toying with the idea of toppling the present Punjab government if circumstances work towards a split within the Akali Dal in view of the latest developments. If that happens, it will be major folly and the Congress may end up with egg on its face.

 

Sukhbir Badal is also not going to sit idle and could probably get himself elevated as the CM with his father's blessings. His elevation is merely a matter of time as the Akalis know that they too will have to project someone younger as their supreme leader during the next round of polls. The Akalis are also conscious that without the support of the BJP, it may not be possible to get the crucial Hindu support in the state. Therefore, if Sukhbir is made the CM some time in the future, the BJP may be accommodated in the number two slot.

 

Manpreet will be a major hurdle when the battle is fought in the Badal's home constituency since the succession will not be complete for Sukhbir till he puts his stamp of authority in their traditional stronghold. Politics in Punjab is likely to see many more developments in the months ahead and if there is a challenge within the Akali Dal, it will show up nearer to the polls. For the Congress, it will be very crucial to project a mass leader like Amarinder Singh for the final battle. It would be folly to depend on the power politics within the Akali Dal to come back to power. But a Sukhbir vs Amarinder fight would certainly be highly billed and decide which way the state will ultimately go. Between us.

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

THAT FAMILY FEELING

RAMACHANDRA GUHA,

 

When, in the year 1974, Indira Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) became bitter political opponents, there was a peculiar poignancy to their rivalry. For JP and Jawaharlal Nehru had been close friends. So, independently, were JP's wife Prabhavati and Nehru's wife Kamala. In fact, before starting an all-India movement against the policies of the PM, JP went to see Mrs Gandhi to gift her the letters that her mother had written to his recently deceased wife.

 

Fortunately, JP did not return the (many fewer) letters Nehru had written to Prabhavati. One hangs on the wall of the home in the Patna locality of Kadam Kuan where Narayan and his spouse both spent their last years. When I visited that house recently, it was to pay tribute to the memory of JP and his self-effacing Gandhian wife. That I found a letter by Nehru that still speaks to us today was an unexpected bonus.

 

The letter was written in 1958, by which time Kamala Nehru had been dead for more than 20 years and her husband had been PM for more than ten. It was handwritten, which was a surprise, since Nehru had a battery of stenographers and typists at his command. And it was written in Hindustani, which was also worthy of comment, since by this time Nehru did not really write very much in his mother tongue.

 

I was not carrying a notebook or pen, so am here summarising the letter's contents from memory. Apparently, Prabhavati had wished to start a school for girls and name it for Kamala Nehru. She had written to Jawaharlal asking whether he would inaugurate it. Nehru, in reply, said that he was delighted that this school was being planned, for he had long been an advocate of education for girls. But, he added, he had taken a vow that in the case of any school, project, or programme started in memory of his father (Motilal Nehru) or his wife, he would not participate in its inauguration. He asked Prabhavati to go ahead and start the school, with another chief guest if required. He added by way of consolation that when the place was up and running, he would come visit it anyway.

 

It is reasonable to speculate that Nehru adopted this policy as a way of discouraging flatterers and intriguers. To be sure, Prabhavati's admiration for Kamala was utterly sincere, and the cause of women's education utterly noble. But if Nehru had come and opened her school, how would he say no to others who sought to attach the name of his father or wife to schemes whose chief intention was to ingratiate the proposer to the most famous man in India?

 

Did Indira Gandhi, I wonder, adopt the same policy when it came to her time as PM? I somehow think not. She certainly encouraged the naming of the capital's best-funded university after her father, and was quite happy to permit other sarkari schemes to adopt his name as well. Rajiv Gandhi, in turn, was an enthusiastic supporter, when he was PM, of programmes funded by the State that took the name of his mother. We know, for example, that he took a keen personal interest in the naming, founding, and inauguration of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi.

 

In this respect, the present president of the Congress has followed the example of Indira and Rajiv rather than Nehru. Thus, she was the chief guest at the inauguration of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad in March 2008 — as well as the chief guest at the inauguration of the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link in Mumbai in June 2009. Would Sonia Gandhi have acted differently had she known Jawaharlal Nehru's views in this regard? One does not know. What we can say, with some certainty, is that she is unaware of the existence of Nehru's letter to Prabhavati where his views on the matter were so clearly and firmly stated. For, while the Congress president has visited Patna several times, each time she would have stayed well clear of the home of a man she knew only as her mother-in-law's most dogged political opponent.

 

At last count, some 400 government initiatives, institutions, projects and programmes were named after either Nehru, Indira or Rajiv. This is a consequence of a symbiotic relationship between the flatterer and the flattered. For Cabinet ministers, chief ministers and heads of public sector undertakings all know that by attaching one or other of these names to a project, they can ensure both that it is well funded and that they, personally, can rise in the esteem of the most powerful family in India.

 

Jawaharlal Nehru would surely have been appalled by this use (or misuse) of public money for furthering ancestor worship. His rectitude and propriety stands in striking contrast to the behaviour of later members of his family. But it stands in contrast to the attitude of most other Indians too. For instance, one of India's best-known scientists actually attended the inauguration of a circle named after himself in Bangalore.

 

The later Nehru-Gandhis may think that the ubiquitous naming of programmes and places after members of their family is not much more than their due. But that distinguished men of science fall prey to such vanity is a sign of how far we have moved from the time of Jawaharlal Nehru. 

 

Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy n ramachandraguha@yahoo.in The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SENA EVERYWHERE

 

It does not take the Shiv Sena — or its offshoot, Raj Thackeray's MNS — much provocation to whip up hysterics over a perceived insult to regional pride. But even by the party's phenomenal capacity for chauvinism, this has been a particularly fertile period. After establishing its muscle strength to get Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey scrapped from the syllabus at Mumbai University, and then demanding a ban on the burqa, the Sena is now channelling the energies of cadres for a signature campaign against Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. They have taken exception to his reported remark about Biharis having contributed to Maharashtra's development.The two Senas' recent history of anti-outsider agitations (primarily targeting low-skilled workers from north India) had been ugly and much publicised. Whether Gandhi made that remark or not is not the issue: the point about the contribution of Biharis is unexceptionable. Maharashtra, like any other part of this country, has obviously benefited from the contributions of people from elsewhere. That is common sense. The worry is that along with small-minded political theatre, the Shiv Sena's signature campaign could once again create an atmosphere of intimidation in the state, especially in Mumbai. It's the kind of campaign that primarily needs to be combated politically. For the Congress, especially, it should serve as a notice on the dangers of its state unit's readiness to fall in line with the Sena's agenda. Look how meekly Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who belongs to the Congress, appeared to echo the Sena scion on Mistry's book. If chauvinism and paranoia about wounded pride are settling over the state's politics, it's not just because of the Sena's exertions. It is, even more dangerously, also because other political parties are not willing to counter the Sena's agenda.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FREEDOM TO & FROM

 

Azadi, the only way" was the title of a contentious seminar organised in Delhi, featuring Kashmiri separatists like Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and their ideological allies. As they denounced the Indian state and vowed to boycott the team of interlocutors appointed by the Centre to address Kashmiri grievance, a group of Kashmiri Pandits stormed the seminar, preventing Geelani from speaking, and heckling the proceedings. The BJP cast the proceedings as "sedition under the nose of the government," which it claimed was a penal offence. "The right to free speech enshrined in the Constitution cannot be used against the country," said Arun Jaitley, as he accused the government of looking the other way. The home minister responded by saying that the entire conference had been recorded, and if laws had indeed been violated, police action would certainly follow.

 

It was a seminar composed of career provocateurs, and unreasonable, polemical views are only to be expected. These are not people searching for sensible, tenable solutions. Why should the Indian government pay them the compliment of rational opposition?

 

Should the home ministry clamp down on the seminar's participants, it would simply give them more attention than is their due. The act of suppression often backfires badly — on the Internet, it's called the Streisand effect, the inadvertent buzz that censorship creates (American singer-actress Barbra Streisand's attempts to block certain photographs ended up publicising them to a much greater extent than if she hadn't tried at all.). That applies to the real world too — if the home ministry tries to take penal action against these speakers, it would endow their words with a greater significance, and the action could end up rallying the disaffected, persuading those who are not yet ideologically hardened. Such confrontations are meant to burble up and subside, as they will. They certainly do not merit the full weight of official power bearing down upon them. India is now too strong and mature to be threatened by mere statements at a seminar. And it would demonstrate New Delhi's largeness of spirit, to let this matter go, and let the real dialogue continue.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WORK IN PROGRESS

 

In its final recommendations on the proposed Food Security Act, the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council finally has acknowledged the twin constraints of the budget and the availability of foodgrains by stopping short of "universalisation" of a government-guaranteed right to subsidised food. Given the NAC's composition and remit, its recommendation is likely to influence the final draft.

 

The NAC still leans in favour of spreading the targeting net too wide, and too indiscriminately. Under the latest recommendations, 75 per cent of India's population will be given the right to access subsidised foodgrains by 2010 — disaggregated, this will include 90 per cent of the rural population and 40 per cent of the urban population. This will be double the number of people classified as below the poverty line by the Tendulkar Committee (and accepted by the government), which had in any case raised the poverty estimate from 26 per cent to 37 per cent. The NAC has, however, chosen not to categorise beneficiaries as BPL or APL. Instead, the beneficiaries are to be divided into two new categories, "priority" and "general". The priority category (46 per cent of rural and 28 per cent of urban), which more or less coincides with the Tendulkar Committee's BPL category estimate, will be entitled to 35 kg of grains a month at the following prices: rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg and millets at Rs 1 per kg. The general category (44 per cent of rural and 22 per cent of

 

urban), which is above the Tendulkar poverty line, will be entitled to 25 kg per month at a price which doesn't exceed half of the minimum support price for these grains.

 

By just redoing nomenclature, the NAC has not come any closer to solving the identification problem — who exactly will fit into which category? Also, if the government begins to procure foodgrain to feed 75 per cent of Indians, very little may remain in the open market, driving up general price levels. What is perhaps most worrying though is that a massive quantity of foodgrain acquired through massive spending by the government will still pass through the very leaky and completely unreformed public distribution system (PDS) to reach the beneficiaries. The NAC has made some suggestions to overhaul the PDS, but these may take longer than the suggested roll-out of the Food Security Act in the next financial year. In the interim, there could be significant leakages, more even than in the present system. This concern needs to be addressed.

 

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

RAISING THE GAME IN ASIA

C. RAJA MOHAN 

 

 As he travels in East Asia this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be tempted to pat himself on the back for dispelling some of the scepticism in the region about India's role in building a new Asia.

 

Despite inviting India to join in the Southeast Asian institutions in the mid-'90s and broader East Asian forums in the last decade, the region has kept its fingers crossed on whether New Delhi can get its regional act together.

 

In his talks with the Asian leaders this week in Japan, Malaysia and the Vietnam, Dr Singh can rightfully claim

to have advanced India's economic integration with Asia.

 

Dr Singh, however, will have to do a lot more to convince his interlocutors that India can help maintain peace and stability in Asia at a moment when the region is facing great strategic turmoil.

 

Although Delhi announced a "Look East" policy in the early '90s, large sections of the Indian establishment — political, commercial and bureaucratic — were not ready for the kind of intensive commitment to regionalism that East Asia would demand.

 

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 saw the then Indian political leadership attributing it to the region going too fast with globalisation and using it to justify its own slow and inconsistent economic reform.

 

The BJP-led NDA was more enthusiastic about the Look East policy, but could not deliver significant Indian advances on Asian regionalism. It really fell upon Dr Singh to inject some economic substance into India's new eastward orientation.

 

In Tokyo today the prime minister will announce the completion of the bilateral negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement with Japan that caps

 

India's recent free trade diplomacy.Despite considerable resistance in his government and the party to free trade arrangements, Dr Singh got India to sign two major FTAs in 2009 — one with the ASEAN as a whole and the other with South

 

Korea. Earlier India had signed bilateral trade liberalisation agreements with Thailand and Singapore.

 

The agreement with Japan marks the coming together of Asia's second and third largest economies. Unlike the other FTAs India has signed, the new one with Japan will cover not only goods but also services.

 

Although India's integration with Asia has moved at a pace that might seem remarkable by Delhi's standards, the Asian expectations of India are rising faster. As the rise of China transforms the economic, political and security landscape of the region, India can no longer persist with its ponderous engagement with East Asia.

 

The East Asian expectations are not about India matching China, measure for measure. The region is aware that Delhi began its reforms much later than Beijing and that the resource gap between the two will remain in China's favour for a long time to come. In any case, unlike

 

India, China is central to the East Asian geography.

The East Asian nations are troubled by the fact that India seems unable live up to the full potential of its own unique possibilities in the region. Delhi has been good at drafting resounding speeches on Asia but rarely delivering on its promise.

 

Take, for example, the Indian talk on a rail link between Delhi and Hanoi that goes back to the early years of the last decade. When he lands in Vietnam this week, Dr Singh can barely report any progress. Equally dismal has been the gap

 

between the statements on building road links to Thailand through Myanmar and the ground reality.

 

]While China has boldly conceived transport corridors and implemented them rapidly to link its economic growth centres with the rest of Asia, India's declarations on transport connectivity to East Asia have amounted to nothing but empty chatter.

 

Dr Singh is aware that Delhi's reliance on government agencies to execute vital projects outside the country has been counterproductive. During his trip, Dr Singh must explore the possibility for joint ventures between Indian private sector and leading Japanese corporations for the development of trans-border infrastructure between the subcontinent and East Asia.

 

Like China, India too recognises that sub-regional cooperation is where the real economic action in East Asia is. Delhi did indeed launch the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation initiative in 2000, but has been unable to make it a success.

 

India has been unable to grasp the growing opportunities for

 

defence and security engagement across East Asia. While the joint exercises conducted by the Indian navy have expanded in scope and frequency, Delhi has not made an impression on other areas of defence cooperation — arms exports, military training and other services, and forward presence.

 

The civilian leadership of our defence ministry is utterly ill-equipped to facilitate, let alone imagine and implement, a strategy for long-term security cooperation with the East Asian countries.

 

Struggling to keep up with Asia's economic dynamism in the last two decades, Delhi has been reluctant to think big and bold in Asia. The project on reviving the Nalanda University, for example, did not originate in Delhi but Singapore, which saw it as a means to highlight India's pivotal position in Asia's intellectual and spiritual history.

 

At a time when the Western economic model is under stress and the brittleness of the Chinese framework under close scrutiny, India has not dared to articulate the prospects of a "Delhi consensus". It was Larry Summers, the outgoing economic adviser to US President Barack Obama, who talked about the wider relevance of India's "democraticdevelopmental state".

 

Dr Singh, then, has no excuse to rest on his laurels. He must, instead, begin to raise India's game in Asia. It is no longer enough for India to merely catch up with East Asia. Delhi must now lead the efforts to rebalance Asia amidst the historic geopolitical change unfolding in the ancient continent.

 

raja.mohan@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE BUZZ AROUND MALARIA

FABIANTOGEL 

 

The reputed medical journal, The Lancet, recently published an article on malaria-related deaths in India, which were estimated to be two lakh per year, and 13 times higher than the estimate of the World Health Organisation. WHO representatives contested these numbers and the methodology behind them, but conceded that their own numbers were too low. Earlier this year, two of the study's authors had derived an estimate for HIV-related deaths in India using a similar methodology ("verbal autopsy") and published in another British journal that markedly differed from the official WHO estimate, except that in this case it was much lower.

 

To the people affected, it hardly matters that disease-related deaths are "overestimated" (in the case of malaria) or "underestimated" (in the case of HIV). Vector-borne disease control programmes, including malaria diagnosis and treatment, should be integrated into the general health system rather than acting as vertical programmes in silos. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) which is meant to do this, is moving in the right direction but at a glacial pace — it was only recently that its army of eight lakh ASHA (accredited social health activist) workers were permitted to be equipped with malaria rapid tests and tablets. In how many districts and areas they will effectively identify and treat malaria, however, is not clear.

 

Involving the private sector is another government initiative, but this is limited to free provision of the same tests and tablets whereas a government subsidy programme — in which Indian generic pharmaceutical companies could offer cheap, effective anti-malarial drugs through chemist outlets with the potential to reach many more patients — is not even being considered. The current reality in small-towns and rural areas is that private providers will ask patients with suspected malaria to return on three consecutive days to get injections of a highly active but also expensive malaria drug called artemisinin when most of them could be treated with tablets containing artemisinin-based compounds along with another anti-malarial drug from a different class, thus preventing the development of drug resistance.

 

To someone who has spent the last 13 years, on and off, in malaria-endemic areas in rural central India (where India's official malaria map places the highest burden), the countrywide number of two lakh malaria deaths does not seem surprising at all. Mosquito plagues, limited access to diagnostic and treatment services, especially during the rainy season (when farmers are reluctant to leave their fields and mud roads become impassable), and recourse to traditional healers and home remedies in case of fever or other ailments, are a familiar picture in rural India.

 

Cerebral malaria, which affects the brain, is potentially fatal, but infection with the malaria parasite can also

lead to life-threatening severe anaemia, since it destroys red blood cells. These febrile conditions may resemble viral encephalitis, meningitis, sepsis and pneumonia, which also claim a large number of lives. The Lancet study quotes that 1.3 million annual deaths in rural India have fever as the main symptom and that therefore 15 per cent of these are attributable to malaria. The WHO suggests that it is less than 4 per cent. A more relevant question may be how many deaths are attributable to diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and how effectively these can be controlled or prevented from transmitting disease through integrated pest management, indoor residual spraying, and insecticide-treated bed nets.

 

This is where the National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme must deliver, especially in hard-to-reach geographies. Those infectious diseases not transmitted by mosquitoes must similarly be detected and treated early at the community level by the aforementioned ASHAs who, according to one UP government tender document for "child survival kits", may administer the potent drug amoxicillin along with a previously used slow acting antibiotic. The NRHM's Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illness strategy has been designed to assess children for and treat malaria, pneumonia and other life-threatening diseases at the village level, but its roll-out has taken years and its implementation has been patchy.

 

Most of these diseases are particularly prevalent during the rainy season during which access to health services is severely limited, hospital wards overflow with patients and the death toll touches the highest point. Planning public health interventions pro-actively by stocking up on commodities at the village level before the monsoon months, raising awareness and training volunteers among the community, may result in the reduction of fever-related mortality. This should be the real focus of research and evaluations rather than debating the absolute numbers of deaths due to a single disease like malaria.

 

The writer is a physician and public health expert at the Clinton Health Access Initiative, New Delhi

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

IT DOESN'T SMELL RIGHT

 

Just days before New York's Republican gubernatorial primary, Carl Paladino mailed out thousands of campaign ads impregnated with the smell of rotting garbage. Emblazoned with the message "Something Stinks in Albany" and photos of scandal-tainted New York Democrats like former Gov Eliot Spitzer and Representative Charles Rangel, the brochure attacked Mr Paladino's rival, former Representative Rick Lazio, for being "liberal" and a part of the state's corrupt political system.

 

At first glance, the revolting scent seemed like another attention-grabbing stunt from Mr Paladino. But recent research on disgust suggests that the odour may have had additional, hidden effects on the 200,000 registered Republicans who received the brochures.

 

The emotion of disgust, many researchers believe, evolved to protect us from contamination. It is easily elicited by faeces, pus, vomit, putrid meat and other substances linked to pathogens. A single picture, a few choice words and, yes, a slight odour can elicit a surprisingly intense reaction.

 

Disgust's origins as a protector against contamination can be seen in its characteristic and universal facial expression: the wrinkling of the nose, curling of the upper lips and protrusion of the tongue. Wrinkling the nose has been shown to prevent pathogens from entering through the nasal cavity, and sticking out the tongue aids the expulsion of tainted food and is a common precursor to vomiting.

 

But disgust does more than just keep us away from poisonous substances. It also exerts a powerful and idiosyncratic influence on judgment. People who are feeling disgust

 

become harsher in their judgments of moral offences and offenders.

 

Consider recent experiments by the psychologist Simone Schnall and her colleagues: people who were sitting in a foul-smelling room or at a desk cluttered with dirty food containers judged acts like lying on a résumé or keeping a wallet found on the street as more immoral than individuals who were asked to make the same judgments in a clean environment. This general finding has been replicated by other psychologists using a variety of disgust elicitors and moral behaviours.

 

In another experiment one of us (Dr Pizarro) was involved in, a foul ambient smell — emitted, unbeknownst to test subjects, by a novelty spray — caused people answering a questionnaire to report more negative attitudes toward gay men than did people who responded in the absence of the stench. Apparently, the slightest signal that germs might be present is enough to shift political attitudes towards the right.

 

Why does a mechanism that originally evolved to protect us from pathogens affect our reactions to people and behaviour? One possibility is that early humans were endangered by contact with outside clans that carried diseases for which they had not developed immunity. Reacting with disgust towards members of groups seen as foreign, strange or norm-violating might have functioned as a behavioural immune system.

 

Moreover, similar effects were demonstrated when

 

researchers increased individuals' perceived vulnerability to disease (for example, by showing them pictures of a woman battling cartoon germs in a kitchen). Participants shown such pictures felt more negatively about, say, Nigerian

 

immigrants than did participants who were shown slides of non-pathogenic dangers, like school bus accidents or electrical appliances teetering above bathtubs.

 

While this avoidance mechanism may have conferred a survival benefit on our ancestors, it can easily overfire,

 

causing us to shun groups and people inappropriately and

 

unfairly. And because it remains tightly linked to the disgust we experience in the presence of oral contaminants (like putrid meat), it makes sense that inducing disgust with a rotten smell could cause a shift in attitudes towards certain individuals or social groups.

 

Mr Paladino, a Tea Party activist, seems no exception to this general pattern. Obviously, the malodorous mailer

alone can't explain how Carl Paladino steamrolled Rick Lazio in the primary, 62 per cent to 38 per cent. Nonetheless, election officials should keep the psychology of disgust in mind — and be wary of Purell dispensers or awful odours mysteriously appearing at polling places this November 2.

 

Liberman is a professor of political science at Queens College and the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York. Pizarro is a professor of psychology at Cornell.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PERHAPS SOME REGULATION

KARTIKDESAI 

 

 Why is microfinance in India facing so much flak? For most honest observers of microfinance, this situation has been in the making for some time as the "social-commercial balance" of the sector has been under stress from the unparalleled commercial success enjoyed by the for-profit NBFC microfinance model, which generates return on assets (ROAs) in excess of 4 per cent and has thus attracted mainstream private equity and now, with the successful IPO of SKS, the public's money as well. While MFIs have scaled up their operations and achieved this commercial success, many of them have indeed drifted away from their social mission — which can be seen in the uneven geographic spread of microfinance across India, with many MFIs choosing to focus on the southern states like Andhra Pradesh (the epicentre of the current problems) rather than venture into underpenetrated markets, and the lack of product diversification, with most MFIs currently offering only a limited basket of highly profitable simple loan products.

 

But it's incorrect to suggest that Indian microfinance does not serve the critical social goal of financial inclusion. Indeed, in just a few years Indian MFIs have brought over 30 million low-income women and their families into the formal financial system and out of the clutches of unregulated moneylenders and unscrupulous relatives, and that's no small achievement. Also, in a global context microfinance in India is one of the most socially conscious and professional, because of the low average ticket size of loans (Rs 10 to 15 thousand), the relatively lower interest rates charged (as high as 50-80 per cent in other markets) and the professional background and social motivation of many MFI promoters active in the sector for the last decade.

 

But financial inclusion is not the same as poverty alleviation, which involves a more holistic intervention beyond providing credit (for example, livelihood support or vocational training). And it's this fundamental mismatch of expectations — often driven by MFIs themselves who claim to be reducing poverty rather than just addressing the inclusion issue — that causes a backlash when people see MFIs and their backers make a lot of money while the clients continue to remain poor or suffer at the hands of MFI's supposedly high interest rates and aggressive collection practices.

 

It is important to understand that even among for-profit NBFC MFIs, which are governed by the RBI and distinct from NGO MFIs or the self-help group system, there are two models of microfinance — high ROA and medium ROA. High ROA MFIs that are focused on the efficient delivery of a limited suite of credit products will have lower operating expense ratios and, despite pricing their loans at relatively lower yields of 25-30 per cent, still be able to generate ROAs in excess of 4 per cent.

 

However MFIs that are more focused on expanding to virgin markets, developing new products needed by customers and improving the level of service — all of which happen at some initial hit to profitability — will tend to have lower ROAs and need to charge interest rates in the range of 30-35 per cent to cover their costs. Thus an interest rate cap as was recently proposed by the finance ministry would have the perverse effect of causing most damage to those MFIs that are doing a better job of achieving social-commercial balance and benefit those MFIs that are following the business-first approach to microfinance. The interest cap becomes even more untenable when one considers the proposal to remove priority-sector lending status to MFIs, which would drive up their borrowing costs and further reduce their profitability and the scope for interest rate reductions.

 

There is plenty the government can and should do to regulate the microfinance sector instead of trying to cap interest rates; for example, by issuing a set of simple requirements for governance, transparency, HR and customer protection and putting in place a microfinance regulator with enough teeth to ensure compliance and punish the guilty. It can enforce much more stringent and regular reporting requirements, on something as basic as the effective interest rate charged to clients, which many MFIs are still reluctant to disclose, as well as on HR issues like disclosing management and employee compensation. Most importantly, it can codify customer protection principles — which already exist and are followed on a voluntary basis — and enforce their implementation through the new regulatory body, which ideally should cover not just for-profit MFIs but all entities engaged in microfinance operations, for it is often the unregulated operators and not the MFIs that give the sector a bad name.

 

Ultimately MFIs themselves need to recognise that they are doing a social business, and thus profit optimisation rather than maximisation ought to be their objective. Even with a 30-40 per cent annual growth in the sector, less than half the scorching growth experienced so far, MFIs can sustainably operate at 3 per cent ROA levels and still generate healthy 25 per cent IRRs for their investors at book multiples of 2-3x. But this requires a tempering of commercial expectations beyond these levels. As they gain scale and profitability, several large MFIs have already embarked on a path of gradual rate reductions. And all the large for-profit MFIs have come together under a newly formed industry association in an attempt to self-regulate, share data on customers to prevent over-lending, and present a unified face to the outside world. It is thus wrong and unfair to paint all MFIs as purely self-serving.

 

Now it's up to the government to also show some maturity and address sceptics' genuine concerns not through populist measures like interest rate controls or withdrawing subsidised funding but by actually defining what it means to be an NBFC MFI and then regulating these companies strictly to ensure good governance, transparency, HR practices and customer protection.

 

The writer is vice president at Lok Capital,a social venture capital fund investing inIndian MFIs. Views expressed are personal.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHY BEING AVERAGE ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH

 

In the past two weeks, I've taken the Amtrak Acela to the Philadelphia and New York stations. In both places there were signs on the train platforms boasting that new construction work there was being paid for by "the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," that is, the $787 billion stimulus. And what was that work? New "lighting" — so now you can see even better just how disgustingly decayed, undersized and outdated are the railplatforms and infrastructure in two of our biggest cities.

 

If we were a serious country, this is what the midterms would be about: How do we generate the jobs needed to sustain our middle class and pay for new infrastructure? It would require a different kind of politics — one that doesn't conform to either party's platform.

 

How we got into this rut is no secret. We compensated for years of stagnating middle-class wages the easy way. Just as baseball players in the '90s injected themselves with steroids to artificially build muscle to hit more home runs — instead of doing real bodybuilding — our two parties injected steroids, cheap credit, into Wall Street so it could go gambling and into Main Street so it could go home-buying. They both started hitting home runs, artificially — until the steroids ran dry. Now we have to rebuild America's muscles the old-fashioned way.

 

How? In the short run, we'll probably need more stimulus to get the economy moving again so people have the confidence to buy and invest. Ultimately, though, good jobs at scale come only when we create more products and services that make people's lives more healthy, more productive, more secure, more comfortable or more entertained — and then sell them to more people around the world. And in a global economy, we have to create those products and services with a work force that is so well trained and productive that it can leverage modern technology so that one American can do the work of 20 Chinese and, therefore, get paid the same as 20 Chinese. There is no other way.

 

Sure, more countries can now compete with us. But that's good. It means they're also spawning new jobs, customers, ideas and industries where well-trained Americans can also compete. Fifteen years ago, there were no industries around Google "search" or "iPhone applications." Today, both are a source of good jobs. More will be invented next year. There is no fixed number of jobs. We just have to make sure there is no fixed number of Americans to fill them — aided by good US infrastructure and smart government incentives to attract these new industries to our shores.

 

But not everyone can write iPhone apps. What about your nurse, barber or waiter? Here I think Lawrence Katz, the Harvard University labour economist, has it right. Everyone today, he says, needs to think of himself as an "artisan" — the term used before mass manufacturing to apply to people who made things or provided

 

services with a distinctive touch in which they took personal pride. Everyone today has to be an artisan and bring something extra to their jobs.

 

For instance, says Katz, the baby boomers are ageing, which will spawn many healthcare jobs. Those jobs can be done in a low-skilled way by cheap foreign workers and less-educated Americans or they can be done by skilled labour that is trained to give the elderly a better physical and psychological quality of life. The first will earn McWages. The second will be in high demand.

 

But just doing your job in an average way — in this integrated and automated global economy — will lead to

below-average wages. Sadly, average is over. We're in the age of "extra," and everyone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work to justify being paid more than a computer, a Chinese worker or a day labourer. "People will always need haircuts and health care," says Katz, "and you can do that with low-wage labour or with people who acquire a lot of skills and pride and bring their imagination to do creative and customised things." Their work will be more meaningful and their customers more satisfied.

 

Government's job is to help inspire, educate, enable and protect that work force.

 

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE STATE OF SUCH A LONG JOURNEY

GIRISH_KUBER 

 

The state of such a long journey : The recent controversy being played out in Maharashtra's political theatre of the absurd over the withdrawal of Rohinton Mistry's book from Mumbai University's syllabus — particularly after chief minister Ashok Chavan's statement toeing the Shiv Sena line over the issue — symbolises a class divide. A case that can fit into the Indian version of the Lexus and the Olive Tree.

 

The script was sounding predictable till the Shiv Sena was the only party involved in the issue.

 

No one expects anything saner from the Sena.

 

What shook the discourse was Congressman Ashok Chavan'sapparently blasphemous act of singing the Sena song. Political watchers, however, were unimpressed. For, the Sena has always had the Congress's backing, though covert. So much so, that it had earned the moniker Vasant Sena, when the state was ruled by late Vasantrao Naik, a veteran Congressman, who helped the Sena spread its tentacles in the early '70s. The Sena has always subsisted on the Congress's politically incorrect — and at times dumb — moves. Ashok Chavan tried to be different. Having seen the Sena's break-away group, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, grow at the Congress's cost in the recent past, Chavan joined issue even at the risk of being seen with the Sena.

 

The Manish Tewaris of the Congress, who are away from the heat and tumble of ground-level politics, were quick to denounce the Maharashtra chief minister and tried to delink the party from the issue. Chavan could hardly afford to do that. Political compulsions blurred the chief minister's secular vision.

 

There are many reasons to believe so. The book, Such a Long Journey, makes certain comments about "Maratha Raj". Perhaps Mistry meant "Marathi Raj". For the world outside Maharashtra, the two terms mean one and the same. But within the state, there's a huge difference between the two. Maratha denotes a politically sensitive and articulate community which enjoys remarkable clout in state politics. Chavan is a Maratha and that should explain his stand over the

 

issue. On the other hand "Marathis" constitute a large swathe of Marathi-speaking people across the state, irrespective of caste and class distinctions.

 

Notwithstanding the long-drawn social movements in Maharshtra, the Marathas have, over the years, refused to shed their conservatism. For this community, that has more or less had uninterrupted rule of the state in the last 50 years, a book replete with expletives was simply not acceptable.

 

Although the community has climbed the socio-political ladder since the formation of the state in 1960, its basic ethos remains steadfastly loyal to tradition. Given

 

this situation, Chavan could have opposed the withdrawal of Mistry's book only at the cost of inviting some wrath.

 

There is another compelling reason for Chavan to support Senaism on this issue. And that is the Nationalist Congress Party, its alliance partner.

 

Led by Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, the NCP has been claiming to be the de facto voice of the Marathas. In fact, Pawar's whole effort has been to take away the Congress's Maratha base. Some NCP leaders have, of late, lent

 

support — both money and muscle — to the Maratha community's demand for reservations. A fringe Maratha group has been active in recent years over what it perceives as an "insult" to the community's "pride". The same group reportedly led an attack in 2008 on Pune's prestigious Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute following a

 

controversy about James Lane's book on Shivaji, the Maratha warrior king. Little wonder then, that the radical Maratha group has much in common with the Shiv Sena. There was every chance of this group taking this issue away from the Congress had Chavan shied away from it.

 

The socio-political complexities of the controversy can be gauged from the protests against the book by

Mumbai's famed dabbawalas. On the one hand, the dabbawalas are symbols of the city's organic capacity for super-efficiency. Yet, as this episode has highlighted, most of them belong to the Maratha community, and are easily roused by phrases like "sweat like pigs" in a text in the college syllabus in the very city where they are lauded for their service. In a way, the debate over Mumbai University's decision to withdraw this book has exposed the stark reality of uneven development.

 

The upper crust of society doesn't need government and can afford to view politics with contempt. But a large section of society perceives politicians and governments as saviours. That is why the discussion on whether to withdraw the book or not is a clash of viewpoints between those espousing "literary, academic freedom" as modernity and a section of society bound by tradition. Academia has taken a classical view. It needs to be evaluated in the current politico-cultural ethos.When friction occurs between these two classes, it always throws up political opportunity. The Sena astutely used it to launch its GenNext. By doing this, it wanted to kill another bird: the Congress. Ashok Chavan, being a die-hard Congressman, took the populist route and stumped the Sena. Inadvertently, he underlined the fact that the Congress speaks in many tongues.

 

The writer is executive editor, Loksatta

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

OFFSETTING POLICY

 

Ten years after the opening up of the defence sector to private sector and foreign direct investments and five years after the formulation of defence offset policy, the participation of Indian and foreign groups in India's defence production still remain limited. Though the demand for defence hardware has exceeded hundred of thousands of crores over the last decade just 144 licences or letters of intent has been issued to 100-odd private companies. Most recent numbers indicate that only five contracts worth over Rs 9,500 crore have materialised through offset by the start of the current fiscal year with just a little over half the amount going to the private sector. And another Rs 45,000 crore of new offsets contracts are in the pipeline. And the potential is much larger as the estimates by KPMG show that the defence purchases of around $112 billion by 2016 will generate new offsets opportunities of $30 billion. The study also points out that the gains so far have been limited as offset contracts worth only $2.7 billion have been awarded since March 2008 of which US companies have secured the highest share of 42%, followed by Russia with a 21% and Israel with a 16% share.

 

But what is more worrying than the limited amount of the offsets contract awarded is the possibility of default of the offsets mainly on account of the rigid stipulations, especially the the foreign direct investment cap of 26% in the defence sector. Major arms suppliers are not too keen to invest in companies where they cannot hold a majority share, especially when it comes to the use of cutting-edge technologies. But despite such serious drawbacks the government has continued to fiddle with the policy by introducing only incremental changes like inserting enabling clauses to permit change of offset partners in special cases to facilitate better discharge of offset obligations. The only major effort to overcome this hurdle was made by the department of industrial policy and promotion, which has brought out a working paper proposing that FDI caps in defence be raised from the current level of 26% to 74% as it would increase flows and help reduce India's excessively large dependence on defence imports, which account for 70% of the total demand, and the excessive obsolescence, of almost half the available equipment. Larger FDI flows into the defence sector would not only improve capabilities but also reduce chance for default of offset obligations.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PERFECTLY PRICED


The tremendous response to the IPO of Coal India Limited (CIL) is a feather in the government's cap. To be sure, there's loads of liquidity lying around in markets overseas desperately seeking returns. So it's not really surprising that the numerous pension funds, asset management firms, and of course the hedge funds, turned up in large numbers not complaining that they needed to put out 100% of the application amount upfront. Indeed, foreign fund managers have been here for the better part of 2010 buying Indian stocks and taking the investments tally to a record $24 billion. India, now the best performing market in its peer group, is clearly the flavour of the season. But to give the government its due, the country's biggest IPO was handled well; the CIL story was not just well told but also well sold. And timed beautifully.

 

Investors aren't looking to own the stock only because CIL's margins are comparable to those of its global peers or because, going ahead, an improving product mix and price hikes will see it earn better realisations. They've bid for it because it was available at a reasonable price; CLSA's one year forward value for the share is Rs 309-324, translating into a market capitalisation of $43-45 billion. Against this, the government has sold the shares in a band of Rs 225-245 apiece, leaving a fair amount on the table. It might appear that government has sold the CIL stock cheaper than it need have; at the upper end of the band of Rs 245, CIL will command a PE multiple of 15.7 times March 2010 earnings, while players like China's Shenhua are trading at about 21 times December 2009 earnings and the US's Peabody Energy trades at 24 times. But the price of Shenhua has moved up sharply in October, by about 20% and the stock has rallied by more than 10% since October 12, 2010, the day on which the price band for CIL was announced.

 

Nevertheless, the pricing seems to have done the trick. Unlike in the past, large cheques from LIC and SBI weren't needed on day one to signal to other investors that they might be missing out on something. Even smaller investors, who often take a cue from the large buyers, were enthused to try their luck early on; by the end more than 16 lakh applications had poured in. Although the number may be smaller than that seen for Reliance Power's IPO, it must be remembered that the mood in the markets at that time was far more upbeat. Indeed the sad part of the stupendous rally in the Indian markets has been the absence of the small investor. Hopefully, he will make decent money when the CIL stock lists and return to the market.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LOOK WHO'S GOING NUCLEAR

SUNIL JAIN

 

Given the few days left before President Barak Obama's visit, it is unlikely India will be able to make much progress, if any, in resolving the impasse over the unlimited liability for nuclear plant suppliers through the 'rules' which are to accompany The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010. Since this means firms like Westinghouse and GE will find it difficult to supply plants, one part of President Obama's visit is pretty much nixed already. While India debates whether it will follow the global rules on nuclear liability or carve its own path, what's interesting to see is the global surge in nuclear power development as well as the kind of people who are getting into the industry.

 

The 8.5-billion euro French nuclear giant Areva, which is awaiting the rules so that it can ink a deal to supply two 1,600 MW reactors to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), going up to an eventual six, estimates 358 new nuclear plants are likely to come up in the next two decades in more than 30 countries, apart from the 190 that will see significant revamps to extend their working life—taking into account the 262 that will be closed after their useful life is over, global nuclear capacity will rise from 373 GW right now to 659 GW in 2030. Given the huge investment that Areva will need to make to satisfy this demand (it has an orderbook of 43.3 billion euro), including that in mining, enrichment and making the fuel, the company has invested around 10 billion euros in the fuels business over the last few years—half of this is in setting up enrichment facilities in the US and France. It has sold off its transmission and distribution business, as well as minority shares in various companies to get around 5 billion euros in revenues and, apart from French electric utility EDF which is likely to invest in its fresh equity, Areva is also looking at selling a 5% stake each to Mitsubishi (which makes nuclear plants) and to two middle eastern oil major countries (Areva doesn't say who) that are looking for good investments in the post-oil world.

 

And that's not all. A good place to visit, to see this first-hand, is the Finnish headquarters at Olkiluoto, of Tvo, to whom Areva is selling its 16-storey high EPR reactor—TVO's two existing reactors supply a sixth of Finland's power and a fourth is also planned on the 1,000 hectare island after the Areva one is completed. Since this is the same reactor that India plans to buy, Areva sponsored a 4-day trip to Paris and Olkiluoto for journalists, including yours truly. The plan was to dispel doubts about EPR, but what emerged was a lot more. But first, a bit about the EPR reactors, 20 of which are in the works across the globe.

 

For one, while the initial two Indian reactors will have a 40% local content, including the plant's erection costs, this will rise to 70% by the fifth and sixth plants. EPR reactors are designed to deliver 10% more plant availability thanks to lower maintenance needs, require 15% less fuel and 20% less O&M costs than other third generation reactors according to Areva. Post 9/11, the plant is designed to withstand an aircraft crashing into the dome; it has a special area to collect the residue in case of a 3-Mile type accident where the core melts; and an extra inner-lining of steel across the reactor to ensure that, in case there is any trouble in the reactor (as in Chernobyl), this does not travel outside.

 

As for the controversy over it being 100% over cost and time estimates, Areva has an arbitration case against TVO asking it to pay for the delays it caused. While Areva doesn't envisage this with NPCIL, which is an experienced nuclear company and will be able to make its case before the regulator better than TVO did, it points out the time taken in EPRs after TVO have come down dramatically—while the steam generators for Olkilouto 3 took four years to make, those for Flamville 3 in France took 30% less and Taishan in China took just two years. Careful contracting to avoid any TVO-type mishaps, whether Areva was to blame or not, is something NPCIL is looking at closely.

 

As per the schedule, the NPCIL plant is to come up in 55 months after the deal is inked, planned to coincide with President Sarkozy's visit in December. But since the plant has not even been submitted to the atomic energy regulator, it is likely what will be signed during the Sarkozy visit is some sort of a framework agreement. While Areva does not categorically state what happens to fuel supplies in case India decides to test again as the decision will then be at the government level, what helps is that 35-40% of the company's revenues come from the fuel business, so the company has a big reason to want to continue supplies—it has also proposed a JV with NPCIL for the fuels business.

 

So who is TVO? For one, it is not a Finnish government entity. It is owned by a combination of industry giants (paper mills, for instance, who are looking for the kind of steady electricity prices only nuclear can provide and which are comparable with the price of power from clean coal), various municipalities in Finland, and even private equity investors! Nor is this restricted to TVO. Another nuclear plant, Fennovoima in Finland is 34% owned by a German power utility and the rest by 48 regional and local energy companies and 15 industrial firms. Several of the plants in the 30 new countries setting up capacity are likely to be structured the same way.

 

Keep that in mind while India comes up with the rules that determine whether the Arevas, GEs or Westinghouses come in to set up power plants.

 

—sunil.jain@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE CRISIS CONTINUES

MEGHNAD DESAI

 

The UK economy has just had a strong purgative delivered to it by Chancellor George Osborne. He has put forward a plan to cut the budget deficit, around 11% of GDP down to zero within one parliament. This is a bold step and indeed many economists think it is a wide gamble. Both the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve are aggressively expanding money supply via quantitative easing. But in fiscal policy there is a contrast. The White House would like to reflate more via fiscal policy if Congress would allow it, while the UK has set its face against fiscal expansion.

 

When the G20 met in London in April 2009 there was unanimity that what was needed was a co-ordinated reflation by all the countries. As we approach the G20 in Seoul, the consensus has completely broken down. Among the OECD countries, where the financial crisis was most severe, Europeans are deflating while the US is still reflating. The Chinese had an aggressive reflation package that helped its economy get back to double-digit growth while India also managed to revive growth by a milder reflation.

 

We still have the situation that there are global imbalances, as between the emerging countries that are in surplus and the western countries (Germany excepted) that are in deficit. This is usual in any national economy since there are savers and investors, lenders and borrowers. But the global economy is not unified in any sense. There is not only no single currency or even a single standard (as gold used to be in the 19th century) against which one can define the exchange value of a currency. There is no central bank that can regulate the lender-borrower relationship. The IMF was supposed to be in charge of the exchange rate system but since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, it has stopped performing that function.

 

The London Summit of the G20 had hoped that the IMF would fill the gap in global economic governance. It was granted the ability to expand its credit base. There was hope that a super-SDR would be created so that nations with surpluses can bank them with the IMF in return for internationally acceptable means of payment and store of value. But that hope remains unfulfilled.

 

In the vacuum, thus far only the dollar has played the part of an internationally acceptable money. This is why the Chinese have stashed billions of dollars of their surplus in US government paper. On top of that, the quantitative easing has put more dollars into circulation. Much of this is being brought into the fast growing emerging economies and is playing havoc with their exchange rates.

 

This is why an exchange rate war has broken out. The Americans are hectoring China to revalue its RMB, which the Chinese resist, since it may price their exports out of the market and lead to unemployment in coastal areas. QE is depreciating the dollar (and the pound as well) but the RMB is tied to the dollar and can only break free if the Chinese policymakers so decide. Brazil and Thailand have imposed controls and taxes on capital inflows. India has so far not restricted the rupee appreciation and Pranab Mukherjee welcomed the capital inflows a fortnight ago. This may yet be the sound tactic since India needs to finance its infrastructure programme. Yet the divergence between different economies is remarkable.

 

There are two sorts of differences here. As between the US and Europe there is a divergence of policy about fiscal reflation or fiscal downsizing. Europeans are much more worried about sovereign debt than the US seems to be. This is a disagreement about economic theory of recovery. The US is Keynesian and Europe is Classical. But across the globe, the emerging economies (India excepted) insist on going on saving and exporting while the West would like them to consume and the West should consume less and save more but as of now it is saving more but with slower income growth which makes the extra saving more deflationary.

 

There is a gaping hole in global economic governance and it is obvious that the G20, which was much hyped as the new forum for global governance, is failing to deliver on its promise. Obama cannot lead as his hands are tied at home and he cannot be seen to be co-operative with China. Nor can the Chinese be seen to be accommodative with the Americans since they have their own internal compulsions. Brazil is unhappy about the exchange rate wars. South Korea can host the G20 but it cannot provide leadership. If someone else, perhaps India, does not offer a bold vision for international exchange rate truce, the world is likely to be in trouble for much longer than we need.

 

—The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

Brand ambassador

Arun Jaitley is fond of cars and his favourite is the red Hyundai SUV Tucson, so much so that his official car, the Ambassador, is used by staffers. So, when a meeting was called at LK Advani's residence during the Commonwealth Games and Jaitley's Ambassador drew up, no one paid any attention to it. Except, Jaitley emerged from it, explaining that the only way to get there quickly was to use the CWG lane, and that required the car to have an official sticker.

 

Not quite hotels

 

Many tony 'boutique hotels' lining the upmarket streets of metro cities are actually not hotels, if you go by the law. These are guest-houses masquerading as hotels. Many realtors and small hotel companies are seeking guest house licences and operating like a hotel. The reason? Well, it's an ordeal to get a hotel licence and more than 40 approvals are needed to build a hotel. Getting a guesthouse licence is easier and faster. After all, everyone wants to cash in on the travel boom and want to do it fast. To the customer it doesn't really matter if on paper it's a guest house or a hotel, as long as he gets a decent room to check in.

 

Tax sops, not tourists

 

Since the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi failed to attract enough tourists, hotel associations have started lobbying with the government for tax sops. Hotels have started pushing their demand for an infrastructure status and tax incentives, especially in the Delhi National Capital Region where they claim they made huge investments in order to make sure that there were no room shortages during the mega sporting event.

 

And although the tourists never arrived in great numbers, the industry now wants its medals in the form of tax incentives.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SAVVY TWEETS

 

As if you needed a reason to follow your favourite celebrity on Twitter, but here's one anyway: it might turn you into a savvy investor. Now that the random-walk theory and efficient market hypothesis have outlived their usefulness, Twitter is being called upon to work its magic in predicting stock market fluctuations. Researchers Bollen, Mao and Zeng, using behavioural economics, found that they were able to predict the daily up and down movements of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during a period in 2008 with 87% accuracy. They analysed 9.8 million tweets to develop an algorithm that categorises the mood of the twitterers. This allowed them to predict ups and downs by signalling sentiment.

 

But before we get swept away with excitement about finally having found a way to predict the whims and vagaries of the market, it's worth remembering that such links have been made before—the Super Bowl, the Mets winning the play-offs and gains/losses in the month of January. Here too, there is the possibility that sentiments on Twitter are caused by the same factors that impact the stock market or it could just be a outlandish correlation. Regardless of whether Twitter will ever be used to cheat the market, the study does show that social media is emerging as an extensive yet cheap mining ground for data that may serve as a useful basis for scientific exploration.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

ENDLESS FASCINATION

 

Humankind has long been fascinated by the moon. With the dawn of the space age, scientists were in a position to try and wrest secrets that our celestial neighbour might hold. Although the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was primarily about demonstrating their strategic superiority, the samples of lunar rock and soil brought back by American astronauts and subsequently by the Soviet unmanned spacecraft were invaluable. Scientists had conjectured that the moon might hold water. But the lunar samples, when analysed on earth, suggested otherwise. However, two U.S. spacecraft that travelled to the moon in the 1990s found indications that water in the form of ice lay trapped in the icy cold depths of permanently shadowed lunar craters. These findings were contested and it was India's Chandrayaan-1, the country's first space probe launched two years ago, that finally provided a persuasive case for water on the moon. The matter has now been decisively settled by the U.S. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. The latter mission sent a spent rocket upper stage crashing into a crater on the moon's South Pole a year ago, while a spacecraft that came right behind made observations of the debris that was thrown up. In papers that have just been published in the journal Science, scientists involved in the mission say that the plume of debris contained as much as five per cent of its weight, possibly more, in the form of water-ice. A number of other molecules and elements were also detected in the dust kicked up by the crash.

 

Water is a valuable resource that can help sustain any future lunar base. The hope is that water extracted from the moon can be used for human consumption and possibly as a source of rocket fuel. The last humans who walked on the moon returned home almost 40 years ago and many more years could pass before humans go back again. The current U.S. Administration has cancelled much of the Constellation programme, which aimed to send humans again by 2020. China, on the other hand, is embarking on an ambitious programme of lunar exploration. Its second lunar probe, the Chang'e-2, has begun orbiting the moon. This spacecraft will set the stage for a mission to land a robotic rover in 2013. The country also plans to send an automated sample-return mission four years later. China, which has successfully sent six astronauts into space, could attempt a manned moon landing in 2025, according to one of its senior space scientists. India, for its part, intends to launch the Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2013; it will have an orbiter studying the moon from space while a Russian-built lander puts a rover on the ground below. Thus humanity's quest to understand the moon goes on.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MERKEL DIVIDES GERMANY

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has exacerbated an already fraught debate by saying German multiculturalism has failed and German workers cannot live "happily side by side" with foreign workers. Yet she said in the same speech to the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party that Islam is now part of Germany and that immigrants are welcome there. Ms Merkel's intriguing comments are in keeping with remarks by Horst Seehofer, the Christian Social Union (CSU) premier of Bavaria, that immigrants from Turkey and Arabic countries have more difficulty integrating than other settlers and that Germany must end immigration from other cultures. These statements follow a book by the ex-central banker Thilo Sarrazin, which, among other things, accuses Turkish and Arabic communities in Germany of widespread criminality and of dumbing down the German education system. The arguments have grown so heated that German president Christian Wulff and Turkish president Abdullah Gül have intervened, the former saying that Turkish immigrants belong to Germany and the latter that they must attempt to integrate.

 

Centre-right German politicians may be responding to a sense of disquiet about immigration among sections of the public but it is clear they are pushing a bigoted agenda with racist overtones, which itself is undermined by key facts. First, there is no significant current immigration by Muslims, no thank you, into Germany. In 2009, 721,000 foreigners migrated and 734,000 people moved out; 20,000 Turks arrived and a similar number left, in a pattern that has held for some years. Secondly, after Turkey, the greatest number of immigrants came from Poland, Romania, the United States, and Bulgaria. Thirdly, unemployment is proportionately higher among central and eastern European immigrants, including ethnic Germans — although Turkish-Germans struggle to get jobs because Germany does not accept many Turkish qualifications. Furthermore, even conservative analysts call for more immigration, particularly of skilled workers. Yet the fact that polls reveal that 20 per cent of Germans are willing to support parties even further to the Right provides further confirmation of a shamelessly populist CDU and CSU strategy. No culture is a sealed bubble; as the political theorist Bhikhu Parekh observes, cultures engage in continuing conversations within themselves and with others. With her divisive and undermining comments, Chancellor Merkel has worsened a climate of insecurity for Germany's ethnic minorities and diminis

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

NEW LIVES OUT OF DEATHS

TAMIL NADU SHOWS THE WAY IN ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION.

V.K. SUBBURAJ, P.W.C. DAVIDAR, J. AMALORPAVANATHAN AND C.E. KARUNAKARAn


If your liver has failed and you need a functioning organ to be transplanted for you to survive, and you do not have a close relative who matches your blood group and can give you a part of her liver, then go to Chennai: this is the buzz among liver-failure patients across India. In Chennai a patient stands a much better chance than anywhere else in the country of getting a liver offer from a brain-dead person, donated altruistically.

 

It is not as if brain-deaths do not occur elsewhere, or relatives there are not willing to donate. When the brain of a person irreversibly dies before the heart does, the heart function can be maintained for some hours through artificial breathing support; this gives a time window to obtain family consent for organ donation, decide on whom the organ should go to and get that person ready for urgent surgery. Major organs such as heart, liver and kidney have to be transplanted within a few hours of removal. Worldwide, such deaths account for roughly five per cent of all Intensive Care Unit (ICU) deaths in hospitals. Such brain-deaths occur all over India every day. Meanwhile organ failure patients too die every day, with the former's organs not reaching the latter.

 

But some of them are not lost in Tamil Nadu, where the myriad and complex issues involved in converting a brain-death situation into an organ donation and transplantation situation have been addressed to a considerable extent, thanks to a combination of circumstances. The State has done 110 deceased donor liver transplantations in a period of less than two years. All other States put together have not done even half this number. Apart from liver, close to 240 kidneys and 25 hearts were transplanted from more than 120 donors. This is a donor rate of one per million population a year, which exceeds by 10 times the national average.

 

Tamil Nadu's Cadaver Transplant Programme completed two years by the end of September 2010. It was started as a State-wide programme in October 2008. The second year saw a near doubling of donors, to 82, compared to the first year. There was a peak of 14 donors during July 2010.

 

How did this come about? Is there a lesson from this that other States can learn from? Is this the most that can be achieved? These are questions that need answers in a country where medical skills for organ transplantation are fully available, but the potential for deceased donor organ donation remains untapped. In India, the demand for such organs, especially kidneys, far exceeds availability and consequently spurs illegal organ trade — the sale of a spare kidney from desperately poor live-donors.

 

It is primarily to prevent those from the economically weaker sections getting trapped into selling their kidneys as live 'donations' and to comply with the World Health Organisation guidelines, that India passed the Transplantation of Human Organs Act in 1994. The law was also meant to pave the way for deceased donor (or cadaveric) organ donation from brain-dead persons. Such deaths result largely from road accident head injuries or internal bleeding in the head. However, this law provided only an enabling provision for this purpose and needed to be supplemented with a comprehensive regulatory framework to make organ distribution possible in a fair manner. Countries that have a vibrant deceased-donor programme have a well-laid-out hospital coordination arrangement that makes possible the transfer of organs among hospitals — because a deceased organ donation may occur in one hospital and a patient in need of that organ may be in another.

 

Plagued as it was by repeated "kidney scandals", Tamil Nadu took a decisive step some three years ago to set up such a coordination arrangement and to remove glitches in the way of a successful deceased-donor programme. A crucial element of this was a wide consultation process involving transplant hospitals at a workshop and rounds of discussion with smaller groups of medical professionals and voluntary organisations. This active involvement of stakeholders made possible the release of a series of government orders over a period of six months. These culminated in the appointment of a convener for the State's Cadaver Transplant Programme and the setting up of an advisory committee to oversee and support him.

 

In establishing such a framework, Tamil Nadu had advanced-country models as reference points. But it had to evolve its own model to suit the infrastructure, the social system and the learning curve differences. When a brain-dead person's organs get donated out of humanitarian concern, the issue of who among those waiting to get transplants should be given the organs raises ethical and practical questions that have been debated in many countries. There is always a balance that needs to be established between different considerations such as how long a person has been waiting, how sick and in what dire need he/she is, and how long that organ will survive in that person if transplanted. There are also questions of how to motivate hospitals to sustain brain-dead donors, and logistics issues like the time involved in transporting the organ. Through a process of wide consultation, Tamil Nadu has been able to set up an acceptable framework that is still evolving as more experience is gained.

 

Organs donated altruistically by the family of the deceased really belong to society as a whole. These need to be distributed based on values that are generally acceptable to society at large if the framework established has to have long-term traction. One important result of this exercise is that despite the many complex and unforeseen issues that arise in the matter of actual coordination between hospitals, a basic trust now exists that the operation of the programme is authentic and fair and hospitals can participate freely without having to worry about the decisions taken. A contributing feature is the high level of transparency in the operation of the programme, with a website providing data to hospitals and members of the public (www.dmrhs.org).

 

Healthcare availability in India is skewed because of the substantial level of privatisation that has occurred over the years, and the skew is even more in the field of organ transplantation, as only a small segment of the population can afford the cost of transplant procedures in private hospitals. Tamil Nadu has taken some steps to restore the balance, with a framework that favours organ allocation to public hospitals. A third of all kidney transplantations done under the programme were by two government hospitals, out of a total of 26 hospitals that did them.

 

A total of 27 hospitals participated in cadaver transplantation during the last two years, 26 of them in kidney, six in liver, four in heart and one in lung transplantation. The percentage utilisation of organs is 95 per cent for kidneys, 85 per cent for liver and 19 per cent for heart. The underutilisation of kidney and liver is due to medical unsuitability of the organ, while heart is largely unutilised for want of recipients. This is in spite of the fact that the number of hospitals doing heart transplantation increased from one to four during the two years.

 

The second year's performance shows the donor numbers by hospital to be skewed. Out of a total of 48 approved transplant centres in the State, just three accounted for more than three-quarters of the donors and five accounted for almost 90 per cent. Of the 48 hospitals, 38 did not have a single donor. The sex ratio among the donors too has been skewed. Only 18 per cent were female, while 82 per cent were male. This probably reflects the fact that most brain-dead donors in the State were road traffic accident victims, and it is mostly men of working age that get involved in such accidents. Donor age distribution shows that most were in the active age group of 21-50.

 

Tamil Nadu is unique in another respect as well. This is the only State where government hospitals do liver and heart transplants free of cost, and immunosuppressant medication — a costly burden for transplant receivers — is provided free for life.

 

But, the State has to go a long way still. Experience shows that Tamil Nadu currently taps only 10 to 20 per cent of the realisable potential that exists for such organ donations. More than two-thirds of donors have come from just four hospitals, including a government hospital. A key limiting factor appears to be lack of awareness and motivation within the hospital itself — among the management and staff. Added to it is the lack of soft infrastructure in hospitals — adequate skills and training in certifying brain-death according to procedure, maintaining the cadaver without medical complications until the time of organ retrieval and following regulatory procedures. Some hospitals in the State need help to tackle the dilemmas relating to allocation of scarce resources — ICU beds and costly equipment such as ventilators. Public and charitable hospitals face the dilemma on what to prioritise — whether a critically ill person whose immediate life-saving demands these resources, or whether a brain-dead cadaver should be preserved so that two to three organ-failed persons can be saved from future mortality.

 

All over India brain-deaths occur on the one side and organ failure patients die on the other. It is in the hands of governments and civil society to make the connection. Tamil Nadu has begun making that connection.

 

(V.K. Subburaj is Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, and P.W.C. Davidar is Principal Secretary, Information Technology, with the Tamil Nadu government. J. Amalorpavanathan is the convener of Tamil Nadu's Cadaver Transplant Programme. C.E. Karunakaran is the trustee of the National Network for Organ Sharing, based in Chennai.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS  ANYLYSIS

ERALA WON'T BE QUITE THE SAME AGAIN

WOMEN HAVE RARELY HELD POSTS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN KERALA. THERE ARE, THOUGH, PROCESSES AT PLAY THAT COULD ALTER SOME THINGS, A SENSE THAT BIG CHANGES ARE UNDER WAY.

P. SAINATH

 

A single issue dogs all candidates in the local polls in Guruvayoor municipality of Kerala's Thrissur district. Any of the temple town's 80,000 voters, regardless of party affiliation, will brief you on the problem. Which has devastated the backwaters, rendered local fishermen jobless, poses massive health hazards and left residents helpless.

 

That issue is, say three people (including two candidates) at the same time: "The hotel lobby is too powerful. There are 150-200 lodges and hotels here, big and small, and most do no waste treatment at all. They have no septic tanks, will not install them and simply ignore orders to do so. With lakhs of tourists coming each year to the temple in this small place, the mess gets worse."

 

"Human waste now clogs two of 14 km of backwaters in our stretch," says C.F. George, a teacher and independent activist. "It is pumped through an open canal which merges into the backwater, completely polluting it. The tourists who come here are unaware of what the locals face. But this tourism is also Guruvayoor's only industry and main source of revenue. It has become unliveable along the backwaters. The fishermen are finished and no one there buys fish anymore."

 

K.A. Sreedharan of the UDF (Congress) sounds helpless: "I am convinced change is needed, just not sure it will happen. Both the UDF and the LDF say hotels must dispose of the waste. They never do. The hotel crowd are too powerful at higher levels." The "local bodies ombudsman says Guruvayoor needs a new master plan," says George. "But the parties only talk of a waste treatment plant which is not enough to tackle this."

 

Activism has sprung up around such issues, though. And against the backdrop of polls that will bring thousands of new candidates to office. Including women who will account for over 50 per cent of all 21, 682 wards in the 1,209 local bodies going to the polls. This will change the face of Kerala's pollscape. "It will bring an element of freshness," says T.A. Usha Kumari, writer and trade union activist in Thrissur. "Without reservations, there would be no large induction of women. Even though they have proved their abilities already in the local bodies."

 

In Guruvayoor, candidates like Latha Radhakrishnan, Dhanya Biju, Suma Narayanan and Geeta Sashidharan of the LDF agree, saying they have little to prove. "We have all been in women's organisations for years and also with 'Kudumbashree' (Kerala's anti-poverty programme). Women voters identify with us. We walk into their kitchens and families." Their confidence is high. However, Guruvayoor's problem is a harder one for women or men alike. This will not be a 'clean-the-mess' task that 'Kudumbashree'-background women often face, but a nasty minefield. Even more complex are the larger, new political challenges facing women.

 

The authors of a paper on "Empowerment or politicisation?" argue that "women's entry into local governance cannot be equated with their becoming full agents in the domain of politics." J. Devika and Binitha V. Thampi of the Centre for Development Studies, Kerala, say women's chances of entry into politics, "are a distinct issue not to be lumped with their presence in local government."

 

One concern is that women may be (and see themselves as) a service-oriented force within panchayats. As "fair distributors of welfare benefits" rather than as political actors in their own right. They show that (prior to these polls) the percentage of women in senior posts (such as chairpersons of standing committees) fell as you moved from village to district-level panchayats. And that many women panchayat members gained entry in ways that were themselves limiting in political terms.

 

Will the reservations, which now cover senior posts, change this? In numbers, in governance, certainly. In other dimensions, the 'Kudumbashree' process has achieved much. In politics, the question is, as the authors argue, far more complex. Even where women have been unionised or taken part in political protests and action in large numbers, they have rarely held posts of political authority in Kerala. In fact, at the top, they've been mostly excluded.

 

'Sensitisation' training

 

There are, though, processes at play that could alter some things. A sense that big changes are under way. The Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) is gearing itself up for unusual post-poll training exercises. With the Left having said 'no' to candidates with more than two terms in local bodies and the Congress also pushing youngsters, there will be thousands of new entrants this time. Yet, KILA's training is aimed at many besides them. For the first time: "Sensitisation training will cover spouses and male heads of the family," says KILA Director N. Ramakantan. "With the 'double burden' most of the women carry into office, there is a real need to build up support for them, including from their families. So while the elected women get vital training, there will also be a need to sensitise spouses, fathers and brothers on their responsibilities as well." (There have also been instances where corruption by a husband or father has damaged an honest panchayat member.)

 

The acknowledgment of this need is in itself a step forward. A look at the campaign rubbed that home. In more than one place we visited, the way male campaign managers or activists organised the new women candidates was bad, their attitudes appalling. Male candidates are treated with far greater respect.

 

From political families

 

Some things might have changed forever. Most, if not all the thousands of women in the poll fray are from hard core political families whether CPI-M or Congress. Hundreds of them will soon also be presidents or vice presidents of their panchayats. It will be impossible for any major political party to continue having less than 15-20 per cent of women candidates in the assembly polls as they have for decades. So whoever loses, Kerala wins.

 

It's no accident that the only women MLAs today — just seven, all LDF — have all come out of local body backgrounds. When 10,000 women get elected at that level, the floodgates of aspiration are open. Also, the demand for 'tickets' will be coming from the bedrock base of all major parties, from families who make up their core support at the village level. Alienating them could prove costly. More so when the process has altered elections in the state forever. So a lot could depend on who shows better judgment on this in coming years — the LDF or the UDF.

 

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THE HINDU

CRICKET'S ECSTASY, AND AGONY

THIS GAME IS INDEED LIFE WITH ITS PATHOS AND BATHOS. LOOK AT THE HAVOC WEATHER COULD PLAY.

V.R. KRISHNA IYER

 

A.G. Gardiner, through his felicitous essays, can be said to have made cricket a glorious game. And he portrayed cricketers as the true heroes and the finest of gentlemen. He made K.S. Ranjitsinhji, the Jam Saheb of Nawnagar, and other princes with the bat and the ball, immortal. With his matchless pen he made this essentially British game, and the Lord's cricket ground, a greater empire of sports than the political Commonwealth.

 

The princes of the game are worshipped with affection, not out of any authority that they wield but from sheer idolatry. Where they play is hallowed ground. The pitch, the stumps, the fateful wickets. The bowlers with their killer-balls are sacred, and the players look regal in their attire.

 

The bat and the ball meet, and then a boundary or a no-ball, a catch and an 'out', with expectations suddenly darkening into dismal doom. A million faces brighten with a sixer in the sky. When centuries soar with each ball or stroke of the bat, every cell of the excited spectator throbs. Vibrant bodies turn into a marvel of wonder when the last batsman is bowled out of what was once a hallowed pitch. The game is over and your pocket is poorer, but your heart is warmer. Your 'eleven' has won or lost, depending on a hundred factors, the most unpredictable of them being the weather — as happened in Kochi in mid-October. Sections of the media had even appealed to the rain god to be kind to the players, and to the eager thousands who had parted with their money for a glimpse of the great game.

 

Excellence in action on the turf. Missing a fine catch, but sixes and boundaries and ducks and run-out in a second by a slip and sometimes your wicket by your own bat. Glory and gloom. Double centuries and suddenly a duck, depending on the luckless leg before the wicket. The lovely googly when the ball deceives the batsmen into a disaster. The exquisite uncertainty of rain and sun. All this is cricket, as in life.

 

Cricket is a royal game among other pedestrian games. A Don Bradman is the rarest of the rare who with a turn of the willow banishes the ball off the earth to find it fall beyond the boundary. Gardiner wrote: "The greatness of an artist lies in the economy of his effort. Schiller burns a whole city to produce an effect of terror and Shakespeare drops a handkerchief and freezes our blood."

 

Ranjitsinhji turns the willow as the bowler puffs, breathes fire and spins the ball. The next moment the ball is at the boundary and the great batsman has not even moved a bit. He was a prince of a little state but the King of a great game.

 

Look at the magic of Little Master Sachin Tendulkar, lionised by the world not only for the magic of his batting but his culture. He is still a wizard with the bat and the ball. He opens his chest not only to face the fastest bowlers but also to offer all he can to alleviate distress among every one of the deprived and the lost.

 

Yet, cricket is indeed life with its pathos and bathos. Often cricket has villains to encounter. The penniless poverty of the little Indian in his hundreds of thousands, but with the passion to buy pleasure out of his home in the open, to escape from the slums, huts and hovels, and the concrete holes that rise high, apartments that are sometimes elegant only in appearance.

 

But, for Kochi, the Queen of the Arabian Sea, it was a day of dismal despair, for the match was off. Some triumphs, some tragedies.

 

A couple of crores of cricket-lovers, sans caste, gender, race and religion, gather in a fraternity. All eyes are focussed on the ground, the wicket, the bat and the ball. Each is praying for fine weather and victory for his or her XI. If the weather is bright, the bosoms of the masses would sing, otherwise it would sink.

 

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THE HINDU

CANADIAN OIL COMPANY FINED FOR DUCK DEATHS

IAN AUSTEN

 

Ontario Syncrude, the largest operator of oil sands projects in Canada, was ordered to pay $2.92 million on October 22 for causing the deaths of 1,603 ducks.

 

The company was convicted in June by an Alberta court for failing to deploy scarecrows and loud cannons in April 2008 to prevent the migratory birds from landing on a tailings pond containing oily residue from one of its operations.

 

The company said that bad weather had delayed its annual efforts to deter the birds. But evidence at the trial showed that Syncrude had been reducing the number of people and the amount of equipment it devoted to keeping birds from its tailings ponds.

 

Syncrude's penalty is higher than prescribed under federal and provincial law. It was developed through negotiations under a system known as "creative sentencing," which is found in a few Canadian provinces, including Alberta.

 

About $1.95 million of the total will go to various environmental and wildlife projects.

 

"We've learned a lot from the incident," said Cheryl Robb, a spokeswoman for the company. "It's haunted us."

 

Reactions

 

Some environmental groups, however, found the penalty insufficient.

 

Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace, said the fine was "no more than a slap on the wrist" considering the size of Syncrude, which is owned by several oil and gas companies. He acknowledged, however, that Syncrude had now been forced to improve its bird deterrence and monitoring.

 

In a statement, the Sierra Club of Canada said that the two governments should also have ordered an end to the use of ponds to hold waste from the oil sands. — © New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

MINER GAINS COPYRIGHT ON 'WE'RE ALIVE' NOTE

RORY CARROLL

 

The red-ink note that confirmed the 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine beneath Chile's Atacama desert were alive has been made the copyright of the miner who wrote it.

 

The message ("We are OK in the refuge, the 33") triggered jubilation and a rescue that captivated the world.

 

The note was added to Chile's intellectual property registry this week in the name of its writer, the miner Jose Ojeda, 46, who has now seen his words adorn mugs, T-shirts, flags and bags. Pablo Huneeus, a Chilean academic and writer, registered the phrase in Santiago for Ojeda after seeing the country's President, Sebastian Pinera, triumphantly display the note on a European tour. "I thought, this can't be, that sentence is literature and must be copyrighted," Huneeus told the newspaper El Mercurio.

 

The phrase in English and how it was written, in Spanish ("Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33"), has appeared all over the world.

 

The miners' story has sparked a scramble for books, film rights and exclusives. There have been at least seven applications to copyright phrases including the words "33 miners" or "the 33", and bids to register web domain names. Francisco Leal Diaz's "Underground: 33 Miners Who Shook The World", is tipped to be the first book.

 

The miners have pledged a pact of silence over certain events. It emerged on October 22 that they shot at least 60 hours of video footage before their rescue. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

 

THE PLIGHT OF DALITS AND THE NEWS MEDIA

 

The new chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), P.J. Punia, has begun his tenure by making a spirited appeal to the Central government to provide job reservation for Dalits in the private sector. He did not agree that reservation in private sector was a "misnomer." He argued that the "private sector depends on the government, nationalised banks and state-owned financial institutions for its survival and thus cannot insulate itself from reservation." Besides, he contended during a recent meeting with journalists in Hyderabad that the private sector also had a "social responsibility" to uplift the weaker sections of the people.

 

The next item on the NCSC chief's agenda is to streamline the implementation of the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (earlier known as the "Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes") in respect of budget allocations and put an end to the diversion of funds allotted to the plan. The Commission has prioritised its tasks: ensuring reservation for Dalits in the private sector and maximising the benefits of sub plans to Dalits.

 

Major concern

 

It is not surprising that in a country in which a substantial section of the people, accounting for one-fifth of the population and segregated for centuries, remain poor, ill-treated, humiliated, and discriminated against, state intervention is the only antidote even after six decades of democratic governance under a republican Constitution. A major concern for the state is how to address the alarmingly rising unemployment among this section of society.

 

The Constitution provided for reservation in education and government employment for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their share in the population. This provision was made as part of the social strategy of affirmative action (or positive discrimination) to offset extreme historical discrimination and social oppression. If reservation, despite its existence for over 60 years, has failed to improve the lot of Dalits, the fault is to be seen not in the reservation system, but in the tardy way it has been implemented by the state. Disturbingly, there has been no concerted effort to take quality education to this section of the people.

 

The state's failure in this respect along with a flawed reservation system restricted to the entry point only helped ' caste-Hindu' bureaucrats to fill most of the higher posts on the ground that "qualified, eligible and fit" persons were not available among the Dalit claimants. Yet, if the establishment claims that Dalits have been appointed in government service in greater proportion than their share in population, it is because vacancies at the lowest levels are filled with Dalits, because, perhaps, no one else might be willing to offer himself for such jobs. It is surely a scandal that despite developments in technology, and in violation of a Supreme Court order, the central and State governments have failed to bring to an end the practice of manual scavenging and to rehabilitate those engaged in it in decent alternative employment.

 

While reservation has benefitted Dalits in general, it has not done much to elevate the majority of them to any higher position in society, mostly because of the state's failure on other fronts such as education and public health. And it must be remembered that a considerable number of these people remain outside this safety net. Over 70 per cent of Dalits live in villages and are dependant on agricultural activities.

 

Government policies have put severe pressure on employment in scores of public sector undertakings. Disinvestment, dismantling of public sector units and steadily falling state investment in employment-generating industries are posing serious challenges to the system developed after Independence. The policy trend of stopping or delaying recruitments has made matters worse. The policies of the governments welcoming foreign corporate bodies, very often on the investors' terms, have also contributed to the diminishing of job opportunities.

 

Time for another initiative

 

It is in this context the NCSC Chairman's decision to press for extending reservation for Dalits to the private sector needs to be viewed. A few years ago, when a demand to that effect was raised, there was a positive response from at least some industrialists, but the global economic slowdown put an end to that. Now that the position has improved in many industrial and service sectors, it is time for another initiative by the government. It needs to remind private entrepreneurs, domestic and foreign, that they have a historic responsibility to help the state implement its social commitments. The question raised by the NCSC chairman is relevant: "When the deprived sections are taken care of, even in developed countries like the United States, why can't we have the same provisions here?"

 

The second item on the agenda of the NCSC is to get the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan, which provides for each Ministry to allot special funds from its annual budget allocation for the benefit of Dalists, in proportion to their share in the population. The scheme, introduced in the early 1980s, has not been properly implemented for three decades. The Ministries are often charged with diverting funds under this head to other purposes.

 

The news media, which have recently been giving serious coverage to major Dalit problems and related issues in a complex situation, can make a real difference by bringing a new focus on the issues of reservation and the Sub-Plan. In addition to exposing atrocities against Dalits, the press, television, and radio should investigate systemic oppression, exploitation, and discrimination in greater depth.

 

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

 

SOME JUSTICE AT LAST AT THE IMF

 

The rich among the G-20 nations finally saw the light at the end of their tunnelled vision and relented to the demands of emerging countries, agreeing to give India, China and Brazil slightly greater representation on the board of the International Monetary Fund at the just-concluded G-20 finance ministers' meeting. The other major development signalled at that meeting, held at Gyeongju in South Korea, was putting the international "currency war" on freeze for the moment. It will probably be thrashed out at the G-20 summit in Seoul on November 11-12. As India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee noted with some satisfaction, for now at least the IMF has gained real legitimacy, and so has the G-20 grouping. The IMF had of late suffered a lack of credibility with the developing world, which forms the bulk of its 187-nation membership. Its representation on the IMF board has increased by six per cent — though a seven per cent increase appears justified. Developing countries contribute 47.5 per cent of global GDP, which over the years will go up further, while the share of the developed countries is set to decline with these economies struggling with growth rates ranging between one and two per cent. Till now, however, the developing countries had a 39.5 per cent share of the IMF board, which will now go up slightly to 45.5 per cent.


Some other reforms are badly needed in the IMF's functioning and governance, which the resolution at the end of the G-20 finance ministers' meeting duly noted. For instance, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India has proposed a global exchange rate management system, such as the one that existed in the 1940s when the IMF was given the task of surveillance of exchange rates. He suggested that the G-20 should think in terms of a Bretton Woods-II — with all the leading economies of the world working out a new mechanism on exchange rates. Such a system has worked whenever there has been a currency crisis — whether it was Bretton Woods-I or the Plaza Accord of the 1980s. The current crisis is unprecedented — with the United States and China ranged against each other. Germany, interestingly, openly spoke out against the US at the G-20 finance ministers' meeting — fuming over Washington's "super-loose" monetary policy, with its lavish stimulus packages which has only flooded the banking system and pumped up assets and exchange rates. US government policies are in fact pricing its manufacturers out of world export markets, given that the exploitative era of the past — in which developing countries were forced to buy high-cost American goods and sell their exports cheap — no longer exists. This era, when the developing nations did not have much of a voice internationally, also saw great transfer of wealth from the developing to developed nations. And now, with their increased IMF representation, the developing countries should be able to restore some justice and balance in the global redistribution of wealth.


The dispute over currency rates is a nagging global problem. The Southeast Asian countries in particular, which are largely export-dependent, are quite vulnerable, while the emerging economies face another major problem-in-the-making with huge inflows of dollars from the developed world, primarily the United States. With the emerging economies providing attractive rates of return at a time when US interest rates are near zero, billions of dollars are flowing into these emerging markets. This leads to the fear that these billions will stoke the fires of inflation as well as pump up the currencies of these countries as they sanitise the excess dollars.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

LET'S HAVE A 'FAIR' DEAL

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

The Supreme Court of India has delivered a recent judgment regarding the application of the Prevention of Domestic Violence to women in live-in relationships. With all due respect to the court, the judgment which appears to be pro-woman, actually reveals the general mindset of society, particularly men, towards women and women's issues. The judges extended the protection of the law against violence to women who were in live-in relationships, which were not marriage, but laid down so many riders that the protection would only become available if the live-in relationship was almost a marriage. The court did not — perhaps did not want to take into account — the plight of hundreds of exploited women who suffer great abuse at the hands of male partners who are not married to them. The court has laid down conditions which include the rider that the woman in a live-in relationship would only be eligible for the protection of the law if both her partner and she were unmarried, and if they had lived together in a way that society had recognised them as partners as in marriage. Their lordships decided that "keeps" or "concubines" would not be entitled to the protection of the law.
The Additional Solicitor General of India Indira Jaisingh justifiably expressed strong opposition to the language used by the court, which was highly derogatory to women. It is insulting and humiliating to call women "keeps". It is not my intention to pronounce a value judgment on extra marital relationships. Obviously the suffering and humiliation of a wife with an adulterous husband is something, which is very unacceptable, and any right thinking society cannot condone the behaviour of cheating spouses. However, to call someone a "kept" woman, because she is in a relationship with a man who is not her husband, is to objectify and diminish her status as a human being. While not condoning the ethics of extra marital relationships, the fact remains that the woman in that relationship cannot be dismissed like a piece of furniture or a chattel which is bought and paid for. It would be unwise in the extreme to lump perceived "morals" as interpreted by a patriarchical society to blame a woman alone for an extra marital relationship or to presume that she does not have feelings or emotions, does not contribute to the relationship, or is not entitled to the protection of law.
Property and financial rights of those in live-in relationships, and their children would be, and indeed has been the subject of intense legal and jurisprudential scrutiny. It has often been observed that children are never illegitimate, only their parent's relationship could be termed as illegitimate. This is something that is natural and certainly worthy of debate. After all, if women and men in extra marital relationships enjoy the same property rights as legally wedded spouse, it would create anarchy in our society besides being grossly unfair to the spouse who remains legally wedded to the erring partner. However, domestic violence is an entirely different concept, and needs to be viewed in a different light.
Often women in such live-in relationships are badly exploited by their partners and frequently beaten and abused. The law against domestic violence should certainly be extended to protect them. It is simply wrong to refuse to extend the protection of a law, which prohibits physical violence against a woman, for the reason alone that her relationship with the man is not legal or morally right. Violence, particularly inside the home is abhorrent and should not be condoned in any society, and the legality of the relationship, is quite simply not any consideration at all in this case. This attitude of the court reflects the patriarchical mindset of male judges, who have unfortunately tied up their concept of morality with human rights. It is the duty of the law and the court to protect every citizen from physical violence and to punish those who perpetrate it, and it would be a violation of a woman's human rights if the law is not extended to her, for the reason alone that her relationship is not sanctified by law.
A similar patriarchical mindset of the court was evident when female flight attendants then called airhostesses, approached the Supreme Court with the complaint that their constitutional right of protection against discrimination on the ground of gender was violated by an order of the management of Air India, which had decreed that while airhostesses had to be grounded when the attained the age of 40 years, male flight attendants could continue to fly until retirement. The Supreme Court stunned all women by asking the lawyer for the airhostesses how he would like to be served by an "old woman". Presumably for the court old men were perfectly fine. The legitimate grievance of the women was that there should be uniform standards for men and women. While the women's weight was strictly monitored, and they were made to undergo annual medical examination, such rules were not applicable to men. Outraged activists campaigning for women's rights demanded to know whether such ugly discrimination was permissible in a civilised society, and if such an enlightened place as the highest court in the land could go so far as to say that only women flight attendants had to be young and attractive. Despite the outcry, the court remained adamant, and it took considerable campaigning by women members of Parliament before Air India amended the internal order to remove gender discrimination.
The Supreme Court is the last court of appeal, a place that every citizen looks up to enforce his/her constitutional rights. Unfortunately the distinguished array of Supreme Court judges contain very few women. Even more unfortunate is the fact that male chauvinist and patriarchical values, which portray woman in a very demeaning light, are reflected in the judgments and utterances of the highest echelons of our legal system. The women of India deserve a better deal than this.

 

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.


The views expressed in this column are her own.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

ANTI-DEFECTION & COALITION POLITICS

M. VEERAPPA MOILY

 

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 the year 1985 — the year in which 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. The 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 coalition politics. The talk of a Third Front strongly started gaining momentum during the Eighth Lok Sabha. Instead of the 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 the 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 ideologies 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 Prakash 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 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 the 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. The 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, a few of the 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 democracy and the 52nd Amendment. The ingenious human brain invented innovative ideas to obtain resignations and, in effect, made the anti-defection law as 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.


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 defections.

 

M. Veerappa Moily is the Union law minister

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

DILLI KA BABU

DILIP CHERIAN

 

Govt on the mat

The State was at the receiving end recently when the judiciary intervened in two cases involving senior babus. In the first instance, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Tamil Nadu got egg on its face when the Chennai high court set aside the appointment of Letika Saran, director general of police, made earlier this year. The court slammed the state government for ignoring the Supreme Court's guidelines on appointment of the top cop in a state. Indian Police Service officer Ms Saran, according to observers, was apparently appointed without considering her seniors for the position. The judgment, it is felt, will likely have repercussions in other states since politicians routinely skip due process to appoint their favoured babus to plum positions.
In the other instance, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to list Prashant Mehta, a 1975 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, for promotion to the rank of additional secretary. Mr Mehta had approached the state high court after he was denied empanelment despite an order from the Central Administrative Tribunal. The high court too upheld the order but the Centre decided to take it to the highest court, but now it may well be wishing that it hadn't.


But despite these damning judgments, observers do not expect our thick-skinned netas to start playing by the rules.

 

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Mamata factor

The babu stampede from the Left's fast crumbling bastion in West Bengal continues unabated. In fact senior Indian Administrative Service officers have now been joined in flight by Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. The anxiety of the men in khaki is obviously driven by a healthy sense of self-preservation, ever since Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee began to blame senior state police officials for attacks on her party by the rival Left. Since Ms Banerjee is smelling victory in the next year's Assembly elections in the state, the prudent among the cops are trying to look for postings outside the state to avoid coming under fire.


According to sources more than 20 IPS officers have departed the state and many others are awaiting release. Apparently, six positions of additional director generals are vacant as are several DIG-level positions. Those in the know say that following the elevation of Naparajit Mukherjee as DGP, the position of director general (IB) has no takers. Similarly, it is pointed out, there are no officers vying for the position of ADG (training) after Vageesh Mishra was made DG (training). And the mood has infected even the ranks, including SPs. With Ms Banerjee seemingly on the path to victory and the Left a pale shadow of its former self, why blame babus for seeking cover?

 

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DNA

            EDITORIAL

EVEN LIBERALISM HAS ITS LIMITS

 

A row has broken out ever since Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani spoke about azaadi at a seminar in New Delhi. The BJP has flayed the government for allowing a seditious speech to be delivered in the national capital, while the government, clearly rattled by the outcry, has promised to take appropriate action.

 

On the other hand, some have argued that freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution of India and that, as a mature democracy, we should have the capacity to hear even what is unpalatable. As is usually the case, the truth tends to lie somewhere in-between. It is true that freedom of speech is mandated by Article 19 of the Constitution of India. But in any country, even in that beacon of liberty, the United States of America, all freedoms come with certain limitations. Sedition or calls for sedition are invariably not allowed by any nation, and India is no exception.

 

That Geelani spoke for azaadi is not surprising; that he was given a platform by some extremist liberals is the cause for concern. It is no one's case that Kashmiris have nothing to be aggrieved about, but it is also clear that if their case is heard louder than that of, say, Nagaland, it is because Pakistan keeps raising the issue, and the spectre of Islam, currently in the limelight for various reasons.

 

Ironically, Geelani, as has been pointed out by discerning writers, is perhaps the worst man to talk about 'azaadi'. He has advocated merger with Pakistan and wants imposition of the Sharia (which means limited rights for women and no role for minorities) in Kashmir. It speaks volumes for the hypocrisy of the extremist liberal class that they should back such a man who is against freedom of people.

 

The contrast is even greater when compared with the call made by Bal Thackeray a few days ago, when he demanded a ban on the burkha. It is a call that not many would agree with, and his motive, given his anti-Muslim stance, is clearly suspect. But instead of arguing that he has a right to his views even if we don't agree, the liberal class castigated Thackeray for his statements, while Geelani's speech is sought to be allowed by taking refuge under the Constitution. India's real tragedy is that it is such hypocrisy by those who advocate free speech that is the worst enemy of the country's liberalism.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

AMERICA'S FALSE ASSUMPTIONS

 

The announcement of a two billion-dollar US military aid to Pakistan in Washington on Friday at the end of a US-Pakistan strategic dialogue has nothing much to do with president Barack Obama's visit to India in November. It is not a sop to mollify Islamabad that the American president is not visiting the country this time.

 

Obama will be making an official trip to Islamabad in 2011. The military package is specifically intended to contain Islamic extremist groups. It would not be out of place, of course, if New Delhi were to express concerns about the arming of Pakistan army because it does have an implication for India-Pakistan relations but that cannot be the basic criterion for assessing the American decision.

 

The US wants, and Pakistan is willing to be the frontline state for the Western powers on the geo-political stage. Pakistan prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, speaking to diplomatic correspondents in Islamabad, bewailed the fact that Pakistan since its birth has been caught in world power games and that it had had to pay a price in terms of internal stability. But it is a view not backed by history.

 

Pakistan has always pitted itself against its bigger neighbour India, and it sought ways of building alliances to meet its perceived security needs. So, being an American frontline, or a client, state is not such a distasteful thing for Pakistan's political and army leaders.

 

Pakistan's dalliance with Islamic extremist groups is part of its general strategy of countering Indian influence in the region. That is why, the American belief and perception that Pakistan is a reliable and effective ally in the war against Islamic terrorism is false and the decisions made based on this are going to be counter-productive and even wasteful.

 

The conceptual flaw in American thinking will turn out to be fatal for the Americans as well as Pakistan's neighbours, India and Afghanistan. The generous military aid that is being doled out to Pakistan could be used more effectively by arming and strengthening Afghanistan. This would require a radical revision of American assumptions about south Asia. Meanwhile, India has no option but to but to meet the challenge of a beefed up Pakistan army.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

OUR JUDGES NEED SENSITIVITY TRAINING

 

The Supreme Court in recent times has often been at the forefront of social change in India. It has stood up for liberty, individual rights and gender equality and been much praised for its forward-looking judgments. But its use of language in a recent judgment has been severely criticised by no less than the additional solicitor-general (ASG), Indira Jaising. The court referred to a woman in a live-in relationship as a "keep", much to Jaising's chagrin.

 

"How can the Supreme Court of India use the word 'kept' in the 21st century against a woman. Can a woman say that she has kept a man", she asked in court. The court was apparently stunned, perhaps unaware that it had crossed the bounds set by current politically correct practices.

 

To refer to a woman as a "keep" is not just old-fashioned, it is also derogatory.The ASG wants the word expunged from the record. Is this all sound and fury signifying nothing? It might appear so at first glance, but it is also true that words are often used as a weapon when it comes to stigma and discrimination. But rather than feminists throwing tantrums, all we need is for our judges to undergo a little sensitivity training. This is after all the 21st century and why should judges be shielded from the zeitgeist of our times?

 

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DNA

COLUMN

ISRAEL BUYS ITSELF AN EXIT FROM SECULAR IDEALS

GWYNNE DYER

 

With this law Israel buys an exit ticket from the family of nations", wrote Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea recently in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

 

"The proposed loyalty law...is really racist. It obliges non-Jews to declare that they would be loyal to the Jewish state but exempts Jews from this obligation". But Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's proposed new law is not racist, just short-sighted and nasty.

 

It is really about foreign policy: Netanyahu has also demanded that the Palestinian Authority recognise Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state". Back in 1977, prime minister Menachem Begin said exactly the opposite: "We do not (demand that) our right to exist in the land of our fathers be recognised". "It is a different recognition which is required," Begin continued: "Recognition of sovereignty and of the mutual need for a life of peace and understanding". In other words, take the concrete steps that Israel needs for a peaceful and secure future, and don't demand that everybody else subscribes to your own philosophical self-description.

 

Defining a country in ethnic and/or religious terms sounds racist to people who live in multi-cultural societies like the US or India, but it is quite common. Few people object to the "blood and soil" definitions of nationality that prevail in Germany or Japan or states that proclaim themselves to be Islamic Republics. On one condition: that they don't treat their ethnic or religious minorities as second-class citizens.

 

Israel's constitution declared it to be a "Jewish state" way back in 1948, but in theory its laws apply equally to all its citizens, including the 20% Arab minority. (In practice, Israeli citizens of Arab descent have a hard time, but Israeli governments use the shield of sovereignty and say that it is a purely domestic issue.)

 

Netanyahu's predecessors avoided any mention of Israel's "right to exist" or its Jewish character when they made peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, because real sovereign states do not negotiate these matters with other governments. A different approach was needed for the Palestinians in the occupied territories, because they didn't have a state yet.

 

When Israel finally began talking to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the early 1990s, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin demanded that the PLO publicly recognise Israel's right to exist. (It complied in 1993.) However, Rabin never asked the Palestinians to acknowledge the "Jewishness" of the Israeli state, because that would be a deal-breaker.

 

You can't ask Palestinians whose parents or grandparents were driven from their homes during the 1948 war, and were not allowed to go home after the fighting ended because that would undermine the "Jewishness" of the new state, to accept that definition as legitimate. All you can ask, if you really want peace, is that they accept the reality of the Israeli state and recognise its borders.

 

So when Binyamin Netanyahu raised the ante by demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel specifically as a Jewish state (and not just a sovereign state), Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas replied: "Name yourself the Hebrew Socialist Republic — it is none of my business".

 

Israel can define itself however it likes, but it cannot demand that other states accept those definitions. So why would Netanyahu make such a demand if he wants the peace talks to succeed? He doesn't. He is unwilling to face the political crisis that would erupt if he agreed to withdraw all or even many of the half-million Jewish settlers who have colonised large parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (the land that the Palestinians still controlled after 1948). Since that would necessarily be part of any peace deal, he doesn't actually want one. But he can't say that, because it would infuriate Washington.

 

The US is Israel's vital ally, and president Barack Obama really wants a peace deal, so Netanyahu must wreck it without making it look like Israel's fault. Step one was refusal to extend the partial moratorium on new construction in the Jewish settlements that he agreed to last year.

 

The Palestinians had already said publicly that they would end the talks if he did that. How can they be expected to negotiate while the Israelis were still expanding the Jewish settlements on their territory? But something else was needed to shift the blame for the collapse of the talks onto the shoulders of the Palestinians.

 

That something was Netanyahu's declaration that he will renew the settlement freeze only if the Palestinians acknowledge Israel as a Jewish democratic state. He knew they couldn't accept that offer, which is why he made it.

 

The proposed law requiring new citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" is just window-dressing to divert the attention of foreigners, especially Americans, from his real strategy. It will badly hurt Israel's image overseas, but it is not racist. It is just ugly and self-serving.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

MAKE IT FAST

 

Who says that we can't have fun in hell? What else are we doing presently in the old historic city? All the roads are messily dug up. From the Panjtirthi end of Upper Mohalla to Link Road on the one hand and Pucca Danga on the other there are only potholes. To make matters worse even the small lanes and by-lanes have not been spared. Anyone who can walk through safely deserves an award. The scene is the same as it had prevailed, just to cite an example, in and around Ambphalla not very long ago. One good spell of rain is enough to further spoil the show. If there is a method in madness it is not visible here. Why can't the authorities carry out their assigned task in parts? Why do they have to first undo the entire thing before redoing it in bits and pieces? It should be other way round whether it is laying new pipes or improvement of surface. As it is, with the passage of time, the older parts of our habitat have become chaotic in a bid to keep pace with the time. The number of personal vehicles has shot up but there is no parking space. Two-wheelers shriek through narrow passages. These small machines look all the more dangerous in the current grotesque milieu. There is no control on their speed even though there are no roads at the moment. It is just a coincidence that one has not heard of a serious road mishap involving them these days. They threaten to run over children or elderly persons stepping out of their homes in the belief that they will come to no harm. With this background in view it is some relief that the Secretariat and judicial courts have moved out of their decades' old premises in the Mubarak Mandi complex of palaces.

 

Otherwise with the Durbar move around the corner we would have been in bigger trouble. One can simply derive vicarious pleasure from the thought that the Divisional Commissioner of the Jammu division is having a taste of bitter medicine his administration has inflicted on us. His is the only office that has yet to move to the new premises. At least twice on a working day he has to undergo the sort of nuisance that we have to live with every second. This does not solve either his or our problems. What is expected is that the officials act swiftly to restore the roads by ensuring that they are better than what they were in the past. This is not our intention to have doubts about their intent. But they ought to remember that at times even the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 

Their aim may be laudatory but they are unlikely to get the desired result if there is laziness or procrastination or some other such reason. In the instant case it is obvious that they have been carried away by an overzealous approach. The whole existing structure has been demolished in one go. This has added to the already prevailing disorder making confusion worse confounded. The solitary remedy ironically is to act likewise and complete the task on hand without delay. On the present reckoning it appears to be easier said than done.

 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

WHY UN IS IMPORTANT

 

October 24 has come and gone. Like every year it is a day which gives us much food for thought. For the sake of record it is celebrated to mark the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter on October 24, 1945. One and all will hail the preamble to the UN Charter which seeks: "(a) to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind; (b) to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small; (c) to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained; and (d) to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." Whether or not the UN has been able to live up to it has been often a matter of debate. There are many who feel that as long as some members of the global body are more equal (possessing veto power) than the others it would not be able to function effectively. It can't be denied, however, that its presence in midst is a big boon. Very rightly UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has observed on this October 24: "UN Day is a day on which we resolve to do more. More to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe; more to expand opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice and impunity; more to meet the Millennium Development Goals." He has left little doubt that it is a continuous struggle to match conflicting interests. This year's UN Day has focused on the eight Millennium Development Goals. To that end it follows on the high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly held from September 20 to 22 which adopted a global action plan to achieve the eight goals by their target date of 2015. The summit had announced major new commitments for women's and children's health and other initiatives against poverty, hunger and disease. The eight goals are to: "(1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; (2) achieve universal primary education; (3) promote gender equality and empower women; (4) reduce mortality rate; (5) improve maternal health; (6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; (7) ensure environmental sustainability; and (8) develop a global partnership for development."

 

Who will underestimate the significance of any of these objectives? Some headway has been made in the direction of achieving them. There has been a big leap towards cutting the rate of extreme poverty, getting children into primary schools, addressing AIDS, malaria and child health, and a good chance to reach the target for access to clean drinking water. But a lot more is required to be done. It is admitted that "improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, and some hard-won gains are being eroded by the climate, food and economic crises." We in this State often talk about the UN for our own reason. If we pause for a while we will realise that the world forum stands for a lot more and not just politics.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

IN AND AROUND J&K

BY D. SUBA CHANDRAN

 

Talking to the Taliban

The much anticipated negotiations with the Taliban, finally has begun in Afghanistan. During September 2010, Karzai announced the formation of a "Peace Council" primarily for the purpose of negotiating with the Taliban. There is a tacit American support and overt Pakistani pressure to such a move, besides Karzai's own calculation. Now the most important question is, will the Taliban be willing to engage in a sustained dialogue, ultimately resulting in reaching a kind of stability, if not peace in Afghanistan? Second, is Taliban a monolithic organization, and that the negotiation is with Mullah Omar directly? Finally, what is being neogitated?

 

Ever since the Loya Jirga during July 2010, everyone was expecting that the formation of an exclusive institution to officially kick start the negotiations with the Taliban were due. According to a Washington Post report, the 70 members council, , includes "jihadi leaders, about a half-dozen former Taliban, former members of the communist regime, at least six women and leaders from civil, religious and ethnic groups from across the nation." The composition of the Peace Council and the members of it will highlight internal divide within Afghanistan in terms of negotiating with the Taliban.

 

Not every Afghan is interested in negotiating with the Taliban. In fact, some of them are fierce opponents of any such negotiations. This opposition includes the ethnic minorities of Afghanistan outside the pashtun belt. The Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras have fought the Taliban in the 1990s, and have suffered enormously at their hands. The Afghan women, irrespective of whether they belong to the minorities or the pashtun community, majority of them also are hesitant in reaching out to the Taliban. Even within the pashtun community, there is no unanimity in terms of negotiating with the Taliban, leading to any kind of power sharing. Gulbudin Hekmetyar, for example, is a pashtun leader; he fought the Soviet Union in the 1980s and one of the dreaded Mujahideen commanders. He and his Hizb-e-Islami has considerable support even today at the grass roots level, especially in the eastern provinces. Currently, it is believed, he is under the patronage of Iran.

 

If there is no unanimity within Afghanistan, why is Karzai insisting the same? Three clear reasons. First, Karzai is clearly afraid of his personal safety, once the American troops leave. Neither his administrative structure and institutions are strong, nor are the Afghan security forces adequately prepared to deal with an insurgency led by the Taliban. Afghan bureaucracy is considered to be one of the most corrupt among the Third World countries; starting from Karzai himself, down to the village level, corruption runs very deep in the Afghan bureaucracy. The Afghan security forces - the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Police are ill prepared. Until today, there is no single battle that they have won against on their own, against the Taliban.

 

Second, there is an enormous pressure from the US, The search for a moderate/good Taliban, who could be engaged, begun years ago, not by Karzai, but by the American administration. The predominant belief amongst this section, within the Taliban, there is a section, which is reasonable and logical, which is willing to negotiate with the US. After exiting from Iraq, Obama and his administration are anxious to leave Afghanistan as early as possible; like they have done in Iraq, they would like to leave Afghanistan with an administration relatively stable and does not provide the space for any future threats.

 

Third, for Karzai, there is enormous pressure from Pakistan. Islamabad has been wanting to gain back its strategic depth in Afghanistan. For various reasons, Islamabad, Pakistan's military and its ISI strongly believe, that a friendly regime in Kabul, pliable to Pakistan's interests will keep them safe on their western front, and give strategic depth on their eastern front. If Karzai has to remain independent, Islamabad is afraid, that there will be no space for Pakistan; hence for Pakistan, it is imperative that Karzai engages with the Taliban, so that they have access to Kabul in a post-American exit environment in Afghanistan.

 

According to news reports appeared in Pakistani media, there were more than two meetings taken place between the military (and ISI) leaderships in Pakistan, Haqqani group and Karzai. The sacking of Amrullah Saleh, his Intelligence Chief and Hanif Atmar, his Interior Minister, by Karzai was done at the behest of the ISI, because they were totally against any rapprochement with the Taliban and also against Pakistan. Clearly, Pakistan has a road map, and is pressuring Karzai and Obama to play to their tunes. And it seems, they are even winning this objective.

 

Now the most important question is, will the Taliban negotiate. It is imperative to understand, that the Taliban is not a monolithic organization today. There are at least three distinct Taliban entities led by Mulla Omar, the Huqqanis and the TTP. Mullah Omar and his group primarily from Kandhahar formed the nucleus of the Taliban in the 1990s, while other entities among the pashtun community belonging to erstwhile Mujahideens joined the Taliban to further their interests. Many of the former Mujahideen commanders, who fought the erstehwile Soviet Union, during the early 1990s became war lords in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan; when the Taliban swept regions after regions, these former commanders and war lords, joined Mullah Omar.

 

Today, with American inducements, especially monetary rewards and a promise to provide a pie in the future Afghan administration, those groups that joined Mullah Omar at a later stage, are willing to pursue their own interests. Many of them were supported by the ISI, which continued over the years irrespective of 9/11 and developments later in Afghanistan. For example, the Huqqanis are always considered to be closer to the Pakistan military and its ISI. Today, the Huqqanis are engaged in a negotiation with Karzai. There have been numerous reports in Pakistani media over the last few months, regarding secret meetings between Karzai and the Huqqanis brokered by Gen Kayani and his ISI Chief.

 

While the Huqqani network is likely to engage in the dialogue, the most crucial question is, will Mullah Omar

and his Quetta Shura engage in the negotiation? It seems unlikely; for they would prefer to play a waiting game.

Why should they negotiate, if they know well, that the Americans are leaving and that the security forces of Karzai government is not strong enough to take on them?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TOUGH TIME A HEAD IN KASHMIR

BY BRIJ BHARDWAJ

 

There may not be many takers for suggestions by hard line separatists leaders for intervention by USA or other international agencies for resolution of Kashmir problem, but there is no doubt that normalcy is not likely to return to the Valley in near future. The encounter between the security forces and Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists on Thursday morning in outskirts of Srinagar clearly indicate that pot will be kept boiling. There may have been some reduction in the stone pelting in the streets and lifting of curfew restrictions, but the militants have used this opportunity to regroup themselves and were able to strike close to Srinagar in a crowded area.

 

There are many indications that infiltration is on rise again and militants are trying to cross line of control at many points as indicated by frequent clashes between security forces and Pakistan Army. The number of such clashes always go up as Pakistan forces always try to create diversions to help the infiltrators and make border crossing easy. The rhetoric from Pakistan side has been on the rise and the dialogue between the two countries has been stalled with Pakistan Foreign Minister adopting hard line under pressure from Army which is not keen on normalising relations with India.

 

The appointment of interlocutors by the Government to interact with political parties and non-Governmental organisations has not made any impact on the situation as it is felt that in the absence of any senior politician in the group it will not inspire any confidence and most of the political parties and separatist leaders have reacted adversely to its appointment. Two of the intrerlocutors Dileep Padgaonkar and Professor Radha Kumar have been associated with developments in Kashmir while Prof. M.M Ansari, a member of the Information Commission will be involved in Kashmir for the first time.

 

More complications have been caused by the stand taken by State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah when he declared that state of Jammu and Kashmir has acceded with India, but not merged, a distinction which has not been received well by the Government of India as well as Congress party which is a part of he coalition running State Government in Jammu and Kashmir. At the moment both the parties are not fighting publicly or airing their differences but tensions exists because both have to look after their respective constituencies that is Kashmir Valley in case of National Conference and Jammu province in case of Congress party.

 

The tussle between the State Government and hard line faction led by Sayeed Ali Shah Gillani is also continuing. Gillani continues to issue protest Calenders giving calls for hartals and protests while State administration is fighting the same by imposing curfew restrictions. The level of violence has come down and fatigue factor is also setting in because people are tired of continue confrontation which has dislocated normal life. Will this situation change with onset of winter is not easy to answer as the grip of the State Government on the situation remains loose.

 

The other factor which will make a difference is how far militants are able to challenge security forces by undertaking operations in highly populated areas of the Valley or major cities like Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla. Before the present agitation started the presence of the militants had become confined to border districts only The recent strikes by militants in Srinagar city and in other towns is an indication that militants have used long period of civilian unrest which saw protest in different parts of Valley for many months to regroup and re-equip and increase their ability to strike.

 

The group of interlocutors have declared that they would be visiting Valley every month and hope to carry out a dialogue on sustained basis. But one wonders how much they will be able to achieve as most of the groups who can make difference to the situation on ground or help in finding a solution have not shown any enthusiasm for interaction with them. The group is going to Kashmir with open mind, but how open are the minds of people with whom they have to interact remains a question mark.

 

In nutshell one can not help but conclude coming winter in Kashmir Valley or a clouds cover may not help in cooling down tempers. The days will certainly become shorter and there will be long and cool nights, but tempers remain on edge and wounds inflicted during months of agitation remain fresh. The task of applying balm remains difficult and formidable. One hopes all actors in this drama will keep cool heads and work for solution and give up confrontation. (NPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

GIVE CROSS-SUBSIDY TO KIRANA STORES

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

The Government is considering allowing entry of Foreign Companies in multi-brand retail stores. Single-brand retail stores such as those of Nike or other brands are already allowed. But multi-brand retailers like Wal Mart of America, Tesco of UK and Carrefour of France are not permitted to open stores in India at present. Indian companies like Reliance, Spencers and Shoppers Stop are, however, allowed to engage in multi-brand retailing in the country. There is a fundamental difference between single- and multi-brand retailing. Single brand retailers have a limited reach in the market. They scarcely impact the kirana stores that provide many items of day-to-day use. Multi-brand retailing, however, competes directly with the kirana stores. The question at hand is whether to allow foreign companies to enter multi-brand retailing which is already being done by domestic companies.

 

Organized retailing by big companies-domestic as well as foreign-has two opposing impacts on the country. On the plus side, cheap and good quality goods become available to the consumer. Organized retailers procure goods directly from manufacturers and supply to consumers. They bye pass the chain of suppliers, agents and wholesalers. Commissions being charged by these intermediaries is eliminated leading to reduction in price of goods. They have wide procurement networks. They can quickly compare the price offered for a product in China, Thailand and Mexico. They also have knowledge of global trends of consumption. They can more reliably predict goods which will sell in the coming season. In this way they can provide better services to the consumers. On the minus side, organized retailers provide jobs to a handful of workers while large numbers involved in kirana stores lose their livelihood. Economist Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute sums up the problem as follows: "If people were only consumers, buying things at lower prices would be just good. But people also are workers who need to earn a decent standard of living. The dynamics that create lower prices at Wal-Mart and other places are also undercutting the ability of many, many workers to earn decent wages and benefits and have a stable life." Briefly, of what use are cheap goods lying in the shopping windows when there is no money in the pocket to buy them?

 

The negative impact of organized retail on kirana shops has already been verified in other countries. The share of organized retail increased from 10 to 40 percent between 1995 and 2005. The share in China increased from 10 to 20 percent in the same period. British MP David Amess says that one in six street corner retail shops have shut down in England in the last 10 years after the entry of organized retailer Tesco. Such impact does not appear to have occurred in India yet because only domestic companies are allowed to engage in this business. Such an impact is likely to take place with the entry of foreign retailers. No wonder the Standing Committee of the Parliament under the Chair of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi has recommended complete ban on entry of foreign companies in multi-brand retailing.

 

Question before us is whether the entry of foreign organized retailers should be permitted when domestic organized retailers have not had much negative impact? We have to examine the additional impact of foreign players in order to unravel this question. First benefit of entry of foreign players is that of capital investment. Big companies like Wal Mart can plough in billions of dollars in establishing stores in prime location and establishing international supply chains. Domestic players like Reliance have not been able to do this. Second benefit is access to the retail technologies and efficiency. Foreign players know how to procure goods from factories located in distant locations in China and reach the goods to equally distant locations in Brazil. They know how to assess the preferences of customers in a particular town and have goods made to their liking. Indian companies appear far behind in this. Third benefit is of global supply chains. Toys from China, scents from France, cameras from Taiwan and computers from America could become easily available in a Wal Mart shop in India. There may be some benefit to our exports as foreign players become accustomed to the Indian market though this benefit is likely to be small because they already have sourcing facilities in India. Fourth benefit will be that of quality. The quality of cars available in India has improved much after the entry of foreign players. The quality of other consumer goods may similarly improve with the entry of foreign retailers. These benefits of foreign retailers appear to be genuine and cannot be ignored.

 

Problem is that the negative impact of foreign retailers is likely to take place in same measure as they make available cheap goods to our consumers. Indian organized retailers have not been successful because they did not have adequate capital, technology and global linkages. Accordingly, negative impact of their entry has also been less. We are thus caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Entry of foreign players means loss of livelihood for crores of our people engaged in retailing. Not allowing entry to them means that Indian consumers will not get goods of international quality at lowest prices.

 

The solution to this predicament may lie in taxing the foreign players and providing cross-subsidy to kirana shops. Say the rate of VAT on toys is at present 12 percent payable both by organized retailers and kirana shops. It can be arranged that organized retailers pay 16 percent while kirana shops pay only 8 percent. This will push up the retail prices for the organized retailers and make it possible for kirana shops to face competition from them. An alternative would be to impose a hefty tax on foreign retailers on the basis of floor area or turnover. If foreign retailers can succeed in the country despite paying such high taxes, then they should be allowed because it means that the improvement in quality of good supplied by them is real and significant. Only then consumers will be willing to pay higher prices. The organized retailers will only be able to sell items where they have a significant price- and quality advantage. Similar cross-subsidy is already in place in the telecom sector. Companies that do not provide services in rural areas have to pay 'Access Deficit Charges' and this money is given to state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited as subsidy for the provision of services in rural areas. The railways similarly increase the fares of upper classes and use the money to cross-subsidize the fares in lower classes. A similar cross subsidy in the retail sector will provide us with the benefits of foreign players while protecting the livelihood of our kirana stores.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ARMING PAKISTAN TO THE TEETH

US MUST HEED INDIA'S WORD OF CAUTION

 

WITH US President Obama's visit to India just a few days away, the Obama Administration has ridden roughshod on Indian sensibilities by announcing a whopping $2.9 billion in fresh military aid to Pakistan. India's concerns that Islamabad has been diverting a portion of such assistance against it has indeed fallen on deaf ears once again. There is silence even on India's suggestion that there be a monitoring mechanism to ensure that this aid is used only for the purpose for which it is being given — fighting terror. At the US-Pak Strategic Dialogue where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement, she said the US had no stronger partner than Pakistan when it came to counter-terrorism efforts against the extremists. It is not for India to grudge a cozy relationship between the US and Pakistan, but this does not mean that it should ignore all of Pakistan's sins in fomenting cross-border terrorism in India, diverting military aid to building its arsenal against this country and providing sanctuary to 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and his close associates who contribute to terror even in India.

 

It is indeed American double standards that come out of all this in sharp focus. Only last week, the Americans were waxing eloquent on how the US Government planned to cut military aid to several Pakistani military units as punishment for human rights abuses, including torture and extra-judicial executions. Even as the new military aid package was announced, the US Secretary of State indicated that military aid to one of the army units had been withheld. Predictably, the Pakistani Army will make good that unit's purported loss and the Americans, if they do get to know, will look the other way. The Americans have also just about woken up to Pakistan's civilian nuclear deal with Beijing and are seeking answers but how doggedly they will pursue the issue is anybody's guess.

 

When President Obama is in New Delhi, India must convey its displeasure to him about the US treating Pakistan with kid gloves. Pakistan is the world's epicentre of terror and caution must be exercised in arming it to the teeth.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

VIP SECURITY IN PUNJAB

THE THREAT PERCEPTION IS 'BOGUS'

 

THE Union Home Ministry first removed and then restored the NSG security cover for Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal recently. The CISF cover for Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has been withdrawn. The Central agencies and the state police differ on threat perceptions to the top politicians. Though militancy in Punjab ended in 1995 and no politician has been attacked by militants since then, VIP security for politicians, police officers, bureaucrats and sundry citizens continues. One of the reasons given by the state for seeking the continuation of the NSG and CISF security for the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister was that the Punjab Police was not up to the job.

 

Ideally, Mr Badal should have set an example by accepting the Home Ministry's decision and paved the way for curtailing the elaborate security down the line. Mr P. Chidambaram had voluntarily reduced his security when he took over as the Home Minister. One major reason for the popularity of former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal is that he was the only minister in Punjab driving his own car without a cavalcade of vehicles loaded with gunmen on his trail. If he feels safe in Punjab, why should the other two Badals and the rest of the VIP lot be so insecure?

 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has slammed the wastage of the taxpayers' money on VIP security. Hearing a petition on July 20 this year Justice Surya Kant said: "This threat perception is bogus and security a status symbol. Why have you created a new generation of Maharajas? If they (the protectees) are so terrified to come out of their houses, let them lock themselves in…. Show me a single instance where a single bullet has been wasted on these people". According to media reports, the cash-strapped Punjab government spends Rs 18 crore annually on providing security to the Chief Minister and his immediate family alone. Their concern for the state's economic decline should be seen in this context.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A DISGRACED LORD

SWRAJ PAUL SUFFERS IMAGE LOSS

 

JALANDHAR-BORN UK entrepreneur Swaraj Paul, one of the richest persons in Britain, his adopted country, could have never thought that one day he would have to leave the Labour Party. He has resigned from the party after being suspended from the British House of Lords owing to being "utterly unreasonable" in claiming expenses running into thousands of pounds for performing his duties as one of the Lords. The 78-year-old industrialist of the Caparo group was punished by the House for showing in the records that his main home was a small flat in a three-star hotel in Oxfordshire owned by his own family whereas he lived elsewhere. In fact, he never lived in that flat, which was mainly occupied by his employees. Yet he received from the House of Lords nearly 20,000 pounds as allowances for maintaining the flat as his residence between 2004 and 2006.

 

The money that he has unjustifiably got as allowances is peanuts for him, yet he says that he has done no wrong. His plea is that he could have lived in the flat anytime he wanted to stay there. However, the committee appointed by the Upper House to go into the conduct of Lord Paul and two other members of the Labour Party has refused to buy his argument. He has been suspended for four months, which is the minimum punishment compared to that given to the two other guilty leaders. But that is not the point. What is significant is that Lord Paul remains as disgraced as the other two.

 

The conduct of Lord Paul and his other disgraced colleagues has caused a major dent in the image of the Labour Party. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is upset with what has happened, as Lord Paul has been known to be very close to him. Swraj Paul, who got his higher education in engineering in the US, became the Labour Party's life peer in 1996. He created history last year when he became the first Deputy Speaker of Asian origin in the House of Lords. But today he no longer enjoys the respect he did earlier. It is, indeed, a sad development for India too.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

KASHMIR IN EUROPE

HAVING A LOOK AT THE 'FULL TRUTH'

BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA (RETD)

 

NOT surprisingly, Pakistan has raised the ante on Kashmir, taking full advantage of the stone-pelting campaign in the valley since June this year. Not only was Kashmir vociferously mentioned by Islamabad in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) last month after a gap of six years, but also a few days back at a hearing on Kashmir organized in European Parliament by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in Brussels.

 

The public hearing, originally titled "Kashmir: The Unbiased Truth" (later "The Full Truth"), was attended by members from European Parliament (MEPs), Kashmiris from both sides of the LoC settled in Belgium and foreign and Kashmiri media representatives. On the panel chaired by an MEP from the ALDE was a serving Pakistani diplomat, an Islamabad-based journalist, the Prime Minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the chairman of the Kashmir Centre in Brussels, and an Indian. The resident Indian diplomat was invited, but he could not — or, as the chair said, "did not" — attend, making the hearing representatively highly asymmetrical.

 

Perhaps the two events — the verbal diatribe at UNGA and the hearing in Brussels — were connected in order to make a splash on both sides of the Atlantic. European Parliament has been active with its reports on Kashmir in 2007 and 2008, even upholding through the May 24, 2007, report the right to self-determination.

 

Surprisingly, at the Brussels' hearing only two among the four Pakistanis and Kashmiris expressed with determination the Kashmiris' right to a plebiscite. In fact, the Pakistanis were divided about the third choice — independence — for the Kashmiris. The issues that dominated the discourse were self-serving interpretations of historical facts, supporting the right to self-determination, Kashmir being on the dispute listed in the UN Security Council resolutions and, therefore, meriting international intervention, especially after the latest peaceful protest campaign.

 

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's passionate argument that J&K's accession was conditional and not a merger helped challenge India's contention that J&K was an integral part of India. Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq's suggestion that the National Conference and the PDP jointly pass a resolution in the legislature for self-determination resonated in Brussels.

 

This was music to Pakistani ears and ammunition to question the validity of the accession document. In their eyes, accession was illegal as Maharaja Hari Singh had fled to Jammu and was, therefore, not entitled to sign it. Further, while Pakistan had accepted the standstill agreement with the ruler of Kashmir, India had not done so. But it had accepted a similar standstill agreement with Hyderabad. Why the double standard? Also questioned was India's rationale for taking Kashmir to the UN under Chapter 6 and not under Chapter 7.

 

Pakistan's case was pressed mainly over the commitments made by Gandhi and Nehru that the people of J&K would be allowed to determine their own future. Translated into UNSC resolutions, these undertakings were "not implemented by India", it was argued. Further, Pakistanis drummed up the highly emotive subject of human rights violations in J&K and killings of youths.

 

The other issue highlighted was the urgent need to convert the bilateral India-Pakistan dialogue on Kashmir into a trialogue to include the Kashmiris. The final point made was that the spontaneous uprising in J&K should not be attributed to Pakistan as it was a manifestation of the indigenous struggle of the Kashmiris for self-determination.

 

The Indian response to issues raised was unambiguous. On accession, J&K became an integral part of the Indian Union on October 26, 1947, in accordance with different Acts of British and Indian Parliament as permissible by international law and was total and, therefore, irrevocable. Maharaja Hari Singh fled Srinagar only after tribal raiders from Pakistan had invaded J&K on October 20, 1947 — this fact was supported by a tribal chief in the audience.

 

As for plebiscite, India went to the UNSC as a complainant against Pakistan's armed aggression and illegal occupation of Indian territory in the state of J&K. The UN Commission's India-Pakistan (UNCIP) Resolution was in three parts: first, a ceasefire; then Pakistan's withdrawal of its nationals and tribesmen and vacation of territory occupied by it. Only after these two conditions were fulfilled was there to be a referendum with India permitted to retain enough troops to maintain law and order, a clear indication that the UN believed that J&K was part of India.

 

Indian acceptance of the UNCIP resolutions was subject to several conditions and assurances given by the UNCIP which Pakistan never fulfilled. The conditions for plebiscite were not met by Pakistan for reconstitution of the status quo for 1947/48. The offer made by India was time-and-context-specific. Sixtythree years after Partition, the ground situation has changed considerably with Pakistan ceding territory to China and incorporating Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan, thereby altering the original status of undivided J&K. In the UN in 1964, India categorically rejected a plebiscite.

 

Mr Hans Kochler, an international expert on self-determination, has said that people who can elect their own representatives already enjoy the right of self-determination. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in March 2001 that UN resolutions on Kashmir did not come under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and, therefore, were not self-enforcing unlike that on East Timor. Later, on a visit to India, he said that the resolutions were unimplementable.

 

Pakistan had not ceased direct and indirect use of force or intervention to wrest J&K since 1947. Cross-border terrorism had become an instrument of state policy and, despite several assurances by Pakistani leaders not to permit the use of territory under Pakistan's control to support terrorism, Mumbai had happened. The Indian delegate said that if Pakistan stopped cross-border activities, 80 per cent of J&K's problems would be over.

 

Between 2004 and 2007, India-Pakistan relations improved dramatically, and good progress made back-channel discussions on Kashmir possible. Unfortunately, the new military and ISI regime in Pakistan has rolled back the gains of the Musharraf era.

 

Now Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has revived the practice of making thorny statements like "Kashmiri people live in our hearts" and "Kashmir is part of our national agenda". He has promised "good news" on Kashmir! Having failed to drum up support from the US for third-party mediation, Islamabad is trying to work through European Parliament, which appears quite sympathetic to its cause.

 

Next year, while the European Union plans to hold a global discussion on Kashmir and organise European Parliament hearings from both sides of Kashmir, privately it is telling Pakistan to pick up the threads of the four-point Kashmir formula, agreed upon during the back channel discussions by Indian and Pakistani interlocutors in 2007. Alternating between Brussels and Strasbourg, the MEPs have a better feel of the ground reality in Kashmir than Pakistan does. Islamabad must get real.

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

VIVE LA TRADITIONS

BY JUSTICE MAHESH GROVER

 

WE Indians nurture traditions as no one else in the world, but modernity has made it ritualistic, hypocritical and often absurd. One of the common traditions is the practice of touching the feet of elders (implying reverence), with blessings as a quid pro quo.

 

Hark back to the days when mega tele-serials like Ramayan and Mahabharata were played out on televisions. Each one of us watched misty eyed, the celluloid princes and princesses reverentially touching the feet of elders in return for the blessings "Ayushman Bhawa", "Putravati Bhawa", "Saubhagyawati Bhawa" etc.

 

The impact was vigorous reinforcement of this practice and tinytots mandatorily touched the feet of all and sundry under the gaze of doting parents and the recipient of such reverence conferred blessings galore while muttering "Sanskar, Behnji, family de sanskar ethon pata lagde ne" (The family values are discernible from such acts).

 

This ostensibly pristine form of reverence, invoking an equally pure response, has now become as hard nosed as any professional promotional gimmick, to ensure a fast track in careers. Diving to touch the feet of everybody or anybody who is in a position to do a favour is an oft-practised norm betraying a crass attempt at currying favours and unabashed subjugation — a perpetuation of a culture prevalent in the Moghul Darbar. Remember the sight of powerful octogenarians touching the feet of individuals half their age!

 

This syndrome of "paying respects" can often endanger the benefactor. It happened to me when one day in the morning, bleary eyed, I prepared to descend the stairs and a peon dived to touch my feet and nearly made me take the aerial route to the ground floor.

 

Exasperated, I almost shouted at him, but then realised that I, as his benevolent benefactor, was supposed to let the milk of human kindness overflow at such a gesture and bestow my blessings upon the poor soul rather than losing my head even if my neck was at stake.

 

I have a lurking suspicion that Humayun, the great Moghul, must have died while undertaking a descent from the stairs of his fort as a result of a similar attempt by an over-zealous 'khidmatgar' and in the process, the world literally got pulled from under his feet hurtling him prematurely to jannat.

 

In social lives, it has degenerated into a meaningless gesture. It is common to see a young 'yuppie' breezing in with a drink in hand and displaying reverential bonhomie wishing his elder "Pairie Paina Daarji!" (Touch your feet father!). The response is "Cheers! Puttar, Jeoonda Rai!" (Cheers, son, live long); all this when tradition expects you to maintain a dignified distance from the elders.

 

We are traditional, of course, but we kill our young children venturing to marry outside our wishes and unhesitatingly brush under the carpet an unfortunate incest to uphold the honour of the family.

 

Well! One can only say "Vive La Traditions."

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

AFGHANISTAN: THREATS FROM SAMS

MAN-PORTABLE SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILES (SAMS) CONTINUE TO BE POTENTIALLY LETHAL WEAPONS IN AMERICA'S AFGHAN WAR AS THESE WERE DURING THE WAR IN THE 1980S WHEN AFGHANISTAN WAS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE THEN SOVIET UNION. 
ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

 

THE death of nine US/NATO soldiers in a helicopter crash in Daychopan district of Zabul province, Afghanistan, last month once again raised the plight of Western troops facing the lurking danger from the man-portable surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). This had been happening since long even in commercial aviation as it was noticed on November 22, 2003, when an Airbus-300 cargo flight on takeoff from Baghdad (to Bahrain) was reportedly hit by a SAM-7.

According to a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report of November 3, 2003, "attacks using the portable SAM/anti-aircraft missile" (operated by a single person) have been attempted "several times" since at least 1979. And there were at least five serious incidents during this period, resulting in two fatal crashes (with all dead).

 

In 2005 a study released by the Rand Corporation accepted that shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as the man-portable air defence system (MANPADS), constitute a real terrorist threat to civilian aircraft all across the globe. It was indeed felt what will happen if Al-Qaida and various associated outfits, instead of trying to hijack a passenger aircraft, find the option of using man-portable SAMs to destroy it on their landing or take-off flight path!

 

Obviously, one success, killing 200 passengers and destroying one aircraft, would result in devastating economics. Flights would be cancelled, passenger numbers will drop, airport business will fall and, above all, fear will grip the administration also, thereby resulting in an all-round turbulence in the world market. According to a Rand estimate, "a single successful missile attack against a commercial airliner could inflict economic losses from US $1.4 billion, if there was a total shutdown of airline traffic for just one day, to US $70.7 billion if the shutdown stretched out to a month."

 

Ironically, although we are seriously discussing the threat to civil aviation owing to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the legacy of the subject goes back several decades with successful missions in the military arena.

 

The recently leaked WikiLeaks documents had it that on May 30, 2007, Afghan insurgents shot down a twin rotor Chinook helicopter over Helmand with a portable SAM. The documents also maintain that the "most insurgent usages of portable SAM/anti-aircraft operations were unsuccessful". The use of the word "most", however, implies a confession of success of the insurgents. But the Americans need not be surprised that Afghans use those missiles. After all, the earlier generation of Afghans too got a huge quantity of US-made Stinger missiles to hit the Soviet choppers in the 1980s through the Pakistani, Saudi and US intelligence services. Reportedly, lots of those weapons are still available.

 

A lot more can be had in future also owing to the fact that at least half a million portable SAMs have already been produced worldwide and will continue to be produced in the future. And at least two dozen non-state actor organisations (including Al-Qaida) are believed to be in possession of various types of weapons. Thus, from the Soviet SA-7 missiles to American Stingers, different kinds of such weapons are available in the black market, and it seems that militants are still using their fathers' and uncles' missile technology.

 

Thus, in October 2007 was discovered a cache of Chinese-made HN-5 missiles (a very early MANPAD) in Farah province of Afghanistan. In January 2008, an explosive ordnance team unearthed two HN-5 missiles at Kandahar. In July 2008 insurgents tried in vain to shoot an F/A-18 Hornet with an early generation MANPAD at night.

 

Today, proliferation of MANPADS in Afghanistan continues unabated, making the country one of test centres, as once again, like the USSR in the 1980s, the US is heavily dependent on helicopters to get around the uneven and often-unpaved terrain of countryside.

 

It is, however, common knowledge that insurgents so far have fired only early versions of MANPADS against the US in Afghanistan. Although their exact number is not known, it is believed that that most of these were Redeyes of the General Dynamics origin of the 1960s. Understandably, therefore, all these MANPADS have become obsolete and do not necessarily have the modern-day tracking technology. Still, it is quite scary that so many of these obsolete MANPADS are still working.

 

Observers may wonder as to where from these MANPADS have come! Answer: From the inventory of the 24 manufacturing countries. However, all of these countries are not major players today.

 

The Chinese, however, have emerged as a major producer, seller and user of these MANPADS. Beijing began with the Soviet-era Strela-2 systems, which were supplied by Egypt in 1974 as a "technology gift" owing to Chinese assistance in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. China took off and soon transferred the HN-5 technology to Pakistan for use in the production of Anza Mk I man-portable SAM system at the Institute of Industrial Control Systems (IICS), earlier called the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories. It is in service in China, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan and Thailand. Another MANPADS, FN-6, "specifically designed for use against low and very low altitude targets such as fighters, fighter-bombers and helicopters", have been offered to Malaysia.

 

China also has another type, Qian Wei-1 (QW-1) MANPADS, reportedly "in many respects the technology involved is similar to that used in the (US) Raytheon Missile Systems FIM-92 Stinger and (USSR/Russia) Igla systems". And expectedly, Pakistan has been the beneficiary, being the "all-weather friend"; it has built a similar missile in appearance and performance to the QW-1 Vanguard, known as Anza Mark II.

 

In Europe, France has made spectacular progress in man-portable SAM's development and exporting to foreign customers. In the Middle-East, the Gaza and West Bank "military wing of the Al-Quds Martyr's Brigade is attempting to develop SAMs, according to Jane's.

 

There are many other countries engaged in the production of MANPADS —— Germany, Iran, Israel, Japan, North and South Korea, Poland, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, UK and Ukraine. However, the most widely used MANPADS still originate from Moscow and Washington. The Russian made Strela-2/ SA-7 systems were "widely deployed to the various wars between Arabs and Israelis".

 

Of all the available MANPADS, the US-made Stinger, perhaps, has the maximum variants. Little wonder, therefore, that Stinger continues to be operated by all and sundry.

 

In South Asia, however, Pakistan seems to have gone ahead of India in the manufacture of MANPADS. Islamabad's Anza Mark-I and II systems have been used in the Kargil war in 1999. The weapon has also been exported to Malaysia.

 

In brief, man-portable SAM missiles continues to be a potentially lethal weapon in America's Afghan war as these were during the war in the 1980s when Afghanistan was under the control of the then Soviet Union.

 

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India, Delhi, and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WINDOW ON PAKISTAN

KARACHI'S POLITICS OF VIOLENCE

SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

PAKISTAN'S financial capital and "Jinnah's city", Karachi, has rarely been in the news for right reasons for a long time. It has been jolted by "target" killings, resulting in the death of over 80 persons between October 14 and 19. The authorities are, however, finding it difficult to take action against those involved in these cold-blooded murders in the name of ethnicity owing to the perceived involvement of political parties.

 

According to Daily Times, "Those arrested on charges of target killings claim affiliations with one political party or the other, but the Interior Minister says that regardless of which party they belong to — be it the PPP, the ANP or the MQM — they would be punished. Some of those arrested are not actually affiliated with any party, but use the party name as a cover."

 

The sudden eruption of violence is believed to be the handiwork of gangs belonging to mainly the MQM (representing the migrants or Mohajirs from India) and the ANP, which has a large following among the Pashtu-speaking tribal Pathans.

 

Reports do not indicate the involvement of the PPP, but MQM supremo Altaf Husain is unhappy with its role because the party headed by President Asif Zardari, which leads the coalition governments in Islamabad as well as in Karachi, has not been able to control the situation effectively. The MQM has blamed the People's Aman Committees for the killing of its cadres, though these were formed to help maintain peace. The MQM has accused the committee members of indulging in the massacre of Mohajirs with the support of different agencies of the provincial government. That is why at one stage it appeared that the MQM might leave the coalition ministry in Sindh, which would have made the situation worse.

 

Karachi, whose contribution to the government's revenue is as high as 68 per cent, has become "a hell on earth". This is how one letter writer in The News described the situation, quoting well-known thinker S. Akbar Ahmad. The letter writer then asked, "Does this city know another way of life?"

 

Punishing the culprits for the large-scale violence in the biggest city of Pakistan, as The Nation points out, "might not be very easy for a party (the PPP, which heads the government) which has not only disobeyed the Supreme Court but is also engaged in a confrontation with it…"

 

Nadeem S. Paracha says in an article in Dawn, "This may sound surprising, but the truth is that the recent spat of violence in Karachi is quite unprecedented." The reason being the involvement of gangs patronised by the ANP and the MQM.

 

The population complexion of Karachi has undergone a sea-change during the past few years owing to the influx of refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas bordering that country. According to the 1981 census, the Urdu-speaking Mohajir population of the mega-city stood at 58 per cent, but this is not the situation today. The 1998 census brought out the fact that the Mohajirs constituted only 48 per cent of Karachi's population. Paracha says, "Many believe this has further dropped to about 41 per cent".

 

There is another noticeable factor. "The sectarian and religious make-up of the city has changed a little as well. Experts believe that although Karachi still has the largest number of what are called 'liberal Muslims,' and the majority of the Muslims in the city come from the moderate sects of the faith, the last 10 years have seen a growth in people shifting towards the more radical brands of Islam", Paracha points out. In this complex situation, militant outfits are bound to have a field day.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

SUCH A LONG DOUBLE-SPEAK

THE RESPONSE OF THE CONGRESS IN DELHI AND MUMBAI TO THE CONTROVERSY OVER ROHINTON MISTRY'S BOOK HAS BEEN DISAPPOINTING


Talking about the wrong turn on Rohinton Mistry's book this week, India's most irreverent sociologist had this gem to offer: "The quality of Vice-Chancellors in this country can be written on the back of a postage stamp, with space to spare," snorts Ashis Nandy. This paper has spearheaded the pushback against the Mumbai Vice Chancellor's decision to remove Such a Long Journey from the syllabus and enough has already been written about the fight for intellectual freedom in what was once India's most cosmopolitan city but what is particularly disappointing is the response of the Congress this week, in Delhi and in Mumbai.

 

We expect the usual arguments from the Sena but the hypocrisy on display by the Congress, as a party that purports to stand for liberal India, is particularly disappointing. On the one hand, the Congress in Delhi insists that it can never be on the same side as the Sena and party spokesperson Manish Tewari has waxed eloquent on Article 19's guarantees for the freedom of expression. In the same breath, Mr Tiwari has fallen between two stools in justifying what he calls Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's "personal objections to the language used in the book" and the need to keep public order. 

 

The party has been virtually defending the indefensible, while trying very hard not to sound like it is. It has insisted at various times that the education portfolio in the state is with the NCP, that the University is an autonomous institution and that if anyone has a problem they can take it up through the University's usual channels. This is a bureaucrat's legal response, designed to have your cake and eat it too, not one of principle. 

 

When central command should have been admonishing Ashok Chavan, it has chosen to sit by the sidelines, dismissing the controversy as a "local" issue. This inexplicable double-speak completely misses the point. The local is the national and by not defending a basic ideal, the Congress has willy-nilly justified the Sena's bullying tactics. 

 

It is a cynically political calculation. Ashok Chavan's "personal objections" were not off-the cuff. When first confronted with the issue, he took time-out to look into it further but indicated that "if any writing is based on fact, we cannot change it." His personal objections only came later after considered deliberation. We can only speculate here but the line of thinking might have gone something like this: We won't gain too many votes on the Mistry issue (the people who shout about this sort of thing don't vote anyway) but we may lose a few. So, why take on the Sena?. Let's sit this one out. 

 

The political wisdom of such a strategy is, of course, questionable. But even if we give the Chief Minister the benefit of the doubt and accept that his personal objections are indeed heart-felt, then what of Congress HQ in Delhi? Political leaders are entitled to have their personal opinions but political parties and governments must act on principles. 

 

Nehru provided an example in the 1950s when his cabinet minister KM Munshi led the drive to rebuild the Somnath temple. Nehru insisted that the government could not be involved in a religious initiative and that this must remain a personal endeavour. When Rajendra Prasad as President insisted on going for the temple's inauguration in his personal capacity, the Prime Minister made it clear that he was unhappy, that the visit must remain personal and that this was not an institutional position of the government he headed. Could the Congress in Delhi not have taken a leaf out of that book and sent out a strong and unmistakable signal? Instead, it has chosen to be pusillanimous, forgetting that it never pays to be the B-team in a race to the bottom. 

 

All the finer ideas about literature and its crucial role in offering a mirror to society seem lost in the political discourse as it is unfolding but someone should have at least reminded the Chief Minister that even legally, in the matter of books, they should be read as a whole. This is exactly what the Supreme Court ruled in the James Laine case, arguing that "one cannot rely on strongly worded and isolated passages for proving the charge." 

 

The Congress had an opportunity here to portray itself as the party that wants to rejuvenate Mumbai's traditional cultures of tolerance and cosmopolitanism. Instead, by buckling under at the slightest hint of a meow from the Sena, it has only ended up adding to its stripes. 

 

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

EDITORIAL

COAL CAN FUEL GROWTH

MORE DISINVESTMENT CAN REDUCE DEFICIT, SPUR MARKETS

 

The unexpectedly good response to the initial public offer (IPO) from Coal India, with a 15 times subscription, has naturally enthused the market and warmed the cockles of the government's fiscal managers, who hoped to raise Rs 15,000 crore from this one IPO. It is now clear that after the 3G auction and Coal India proceeds, and following the revival of economic growth with forecasts in the range of 8-9 per cent, the Union finance minister finds himself comfortably placed in meeting his fiscal deficit targets. Indeed, it would be a good idea for the finance minister to announce, during his mid-year review of the economy, a more conservative target for fiscal correction than was earlier planned. This is the year for fiscal correction. With Bihar elections out of the way this month, and no major elections scheduled until mid-2011, the next six months offer a good time for fiscal stabilisation. If economic growth can be sustained at levels above 8 per cent, the task of fiscal stabilisation will only become that much easier. Having allowed fiscal parameters to slip in the period 2008-2010, the government must use 2010-11 to recover lost ground and, in fact, move forward. This will also empower the government to act when necessary in case growth slows down for any reason in the future.

 

It is unfortunate that both retail investors and public sector employees, including Coal India employees, did not take full advantage of the IPO. Perhaps the IPO's success will encourage some of them to take a less conservative view when other public sector companies enter the market with IPOs. It is, of course, clear that the oversubscription of the Coal India IPO was largely due to the enthusiasm of FIIs and HNIs, both of whom are bullish on India. India's growth story has made the energy sector an attractive proposition for investment and everyone sees coal remaining an important part of the equation. Equally important is the new sense of confidence in the ability of Indian public sector companies, especially in the energy and infrastructure sector, to deliver good results for investors. A combination of improved PSU management, better performance and robust prospects for growth makes public sector stocks very attractive. This, therefore, is the time for more public sector IPOs. Needless to add, the effectiveness of this strategy of revenue mobilisation depends on the economic and efficient use of the funds mobilised. The government would be well-advised to erect Chinese walls between PSU divestment funds and non-productive public expenditure. With fiscal deficit set to go down, politicians would be tempted to splurge and spend on economically and socially questionable schemes. The prime minister and the finance minister must guard against such populism and use the present opportunity to improve the government's fiscal health, thereby laying the foundation for sustained growth of over 8-9 per cent in the next decade. The Coal India IPO opens the doors to more sensible fiscal management and more sustainable economic growth. Handled well, this opportunity can fuel growth, keep the capital market buoyant and once again enthuse private retail investors. Admittedly, one swallow does not a summer make. Only sustained good economic management, both at the macro level and in public enterprises, can help gain the confidence of investors.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ON A SLIPPERY ROAD

TIME FOR REMEDIAL ACTION

 

Soon after taking charge of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, its minister, Kamal Nath, had announced that his target was to build 20 km of highways every day. Given the glacial pace of road-building in the previous five years (the first term of the UPA government between 2004 and 2009 saw an average construction pace of 4 km a day), the new target was ambitious. That it was unrealistic and unachievable is now beyond dispute. The first evidence of that came when almost without anyone noticing it, the ministry scaled down last year's target to 3,166 km or about 9 km a day. Actual performance last year was worse. Highways construction during 2009-10 was estimated at 2,672 km or about 7 km a day. This may be an improvement over the performance in the previous five years, but there was no solace in the figures for the first six months of 2010-11 when the road-building pace almost halved to 3.7 km a day. Meeting the scaled down target of building 2,500 km of highways (about 7 km a day) in the entire current year is almost impossible and the country's infrastructure deficit in road transportation is set to widen.

 

Prospects of an improvement in the pace of construction of highways in the coming months are perhaps better as the government has succeeded in expediting the award of contracts for new road projects. In 2009-10, contracts for only 3,359 km of highways were awarded against a target of 9,806 km. In the first six months of the current financial year, however, the government awarded contracts for 3,051 km of highway projects. This is about one-third of the annual target, but certainly better than last year. This is also creditable because most of these contracts were for public-private partnership projects and, therefore, they had to cross major procedural hurdles, including those that arose out of the complex and time-consuming nature of negotiations. If indeed the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways can come close to awarding the targeted contracts for 9,000 km of roads by March 2011, the pace of construction of new highways during the next financial year may see a significant improvement.

 

 The ministry, however, must exercise caution in awarding these contracts so that there is no compromise with prudential norms of project execution, quality standards and delivery schedules. It need not cite the Planning Commission's advice on the need to follow transparent and prudent norms for selecting contractors as the reason for delays in decision-making. Instead, it should work towards evolving an efficient and transparent system that addresses the Planning Commission's concerns. Several other administrative issues come in the way of timely execution of road projects and these need to be addressed as well. There are also regulatory issues that the ministry must come to grips with without any further delay. An independent regulator for highways is certainly as desirable a goal as an early decision on appointing a full-time chairman of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). While the regulator can help resolve the many land-related disputes that have stalled many road projects in different parts of the country, filling the leadership void in the NHAI can re-energise an organisation that once played a commendable role in the country's highway development.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

COLUMN

LOOKING EAST AGAIN

INDIA'S LOOK-EAST POLICY MUST GRADUATE FROM JUST POLICY TO POPULAR SENTIMENT

SANJAYA BARU

 

Say "neighbouring country" in New Delhi and most think of Pakistan. Down the western coast, many think of Oman, Qatar, Abu Dabhi, Bahrain, even Kenya. When a relative of mine down south chose to run away from home in search of opportunity, he landed up in Penang, naturally! In Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, "baru" means new!

 

 As for a European, for an Indian "neighbourhood" conjures up different geographies. But, despite his roots in western Punjab, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh takes a more catholic and expansive view of the idea of India's neighbourhood.

 

Coming out of a summit meeting with leaders of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), Dr Singh once confessed that of all the regional and other summit meetings he usually attends around the world, this was the one group he felt most at home with. He felt at ease sitting with a group of like-minded leaders, modern in their intellectual orientation, focused on development, committed to building knowledge-based societies and economies, self-confident and relaxed in their approach to India.

 

This week he has the opportunity to once again re-engage the region at an official level and revitalise the business-to-business and people-to-people linkages. Each of the countries that Dr Singh will travel to over the next few weeks — Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam — is an important nation, "neighbour" in a civilisational sense, with whom India ought to have deeper and wider social, economic and strategic relations.

 

India's "Look-East Policy" was launched by Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao against the background of two major historical factors — the end of the Cold War and the new opportunity to re-engage with countries in the region; and, the new turn in India's economic policies that enabled this re-engagement. But it has deeper roots, as we know from Jawaharlal Nehru's Glimpses of World History and his initial outreach to South-east Asia. The Cold War disrupted a nascent re-engagement that was renewed with its end.

 

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 disrupted the process of re-engagement for a few years. India's decision to fast-track closer relations with Asean and to launch a free trade agreement helped restore momentum to the relationship. India's participation in the East Asian Summit further increased high-level interaction with countries of the region.

 

Yet, after all these years, the process of engagement has moved only in fits and starts, and remains highly skewed. Despite an impressive rise in trade flows in the 1990s, and the signing of a free trade agreement more recently, the past decade has seen stagnation in the overall level of economic intercourse between India and East and South-east Asia.

 

For regional trade flows to rise, it is imperative that regional investment flows must rise. As two recent Asian Development Bank studies on "Emerging Asian Regionalism" and "Institutions for Regionalism in Asia" (Available at: www.aric.adb.org) show, India is inadequately integrated into Asian production networks and value chains. India's institutional and economic engagement of Asia is still very limited.

 

Till this underlying fact changes, mere reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers is not going to make too much of a difference. India was also slow to participate in regional financial integration, having remained outside the Chiang Mai Initiative and its subsequent multilateralisation.

 

The weakness of these trade and investment flows brings into sharper relief the power imbalance in the region and India's handicap against the speed of China's rise and the range of its engagement of Asia. Ironically, however, while China's speedy rise initially placed India on the back foot, China's new assertiveness has encouraged countries in the region, from Japan and South Korea in the north-east to Malaysia and Indonesia, all plural democracies, to view India more favourably.

 

Consequently, in the past two years we have seen an acceleration of India's political and strategic engagement with Japan, Korea and the Asean nations. If the South Korean president was the chief guest at the 2010 Republic Day parade, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be the chief guest in January 2011. India's defence cooperation with Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and even Malaysia has been stepped up in recent months, adding political and strategic ballast to the economic relationship.

 

All this, however, is not enough. India has to increase its share of the mind space of thinking people in Asia to its east. A much greater diplomatic and people-to-people effort has to be launched to strengthen the foundations of the new edifice. It is a shame, for example, that India has more diplomats in Europe and more scholars and businessmen travelling West, than in East and South-east Asian Capitals. India does not have a full time ambassador to Asean, the job still being done on a part-time basis.

 

What is distressing is that the nascent interest in India in the think tanks and academic institutions of East and South-east Asia is beginning to wear thin. This must be reversed.

 

India's Look-East Policy must get out of official speeches and research papers and take root in corporate boardrooms and educational institutions. India's prosperous middle class has to yet rediscover the ancient ties that bind it to countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Equally, young people in East and South-east Asia, mesmerised by China's spectacular rise, are yet to be enthused by today's India.

 

For this to happen, the Look-East Policy must cease to be just official policy and transform into a popular movement, touching public sentiment. Prime Minister Singh must strike that chord in his travels to the East this month and return home to strengthen the sinews of a civilisational relationship.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

FIX WHAT IS BROKEN

THE BUSINESS OF PRETEND-GOVERNMENT MUST GO

SUNITA NARAIN

 

The high corridors of the nation are abuzz with talk about how much food should be given to the country's poor as a right. Should it be 25 kg of rice or 35 kg of wheat a month per person at highly subsidised rates? Then they worry who should get this right to food: All who are poor, the very poor or the poor but not so very poor? This haggle over the below poverty line (BPL) and above poverty line (APL) seems to miss two crucial points. One, that the government does not know how to enumerate its people in terms of poverty. Two, there is no fixed and absolute line dividing the poor and not poor. Subsistence economy of the poor is such that they are always at the risk of slipping down the poverty curve. One failed monsoon or crop, or one episode of illness in the family could dictate the difference between APL and BPL.

 

 Even as economists and policy wonks are busy haggling, a huge amount of food is rotting in the country. Some 18 million tonnes of foodgrains are lying in the open or kept without adequate protection just because the government does not have storage facilities. Worse, a large number of people are going to bed hungry because the food, which is in the hands of their government, is not reaching their homes. Everybody agrees that the public distribution system is not working. It is badly broken.

 

But the policy discussion is not about how this system should be made to work. Instead, there is simple belief that the system will work tomorrow through newfangled technologies — GPS to track the trucks that deliver food; electronic biometric cards to track delivery in the hands of the poor.

 

I have nothing against smart solutions, but these miss the point. Technologies work in the hands of people. The system of delivery is broken because we have neglected the repair of our administrative system that has to make any programme work. The challenge lies in ensuring accountability at the very bottom and top of our delivery operations, addressing the personnel requirements, and in making sure that what has to be done is done. This is the old-fashioned governance route that nobody wants to take. Technology cannot be a silver bullet if there is no working gun to fire from.

 

This is what my colleagues learnt when they investigated the working of the public distribution system in Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu. The states have introduced many reforms — from cleaning up and computerising the ration card list to computerising the procurement of grain and its transport to the fair price shops. But most importantly, they have invested in systems that make officials accountable for delivery and make people aware of their rights. The bottom line is that there is political will at the highest level to make the system function. And there is obsession at all levels to make sure it does.

 

Fix what is broken, not just shop for something new. We forget this simple rule as we make new plans and new programmes and even set up agencies to sidestep the basic problem.

 

Take the matter of pollution control. We know that the institutions that manage pollution — the pollution control boards — desperately need more staff, better technology and facilities, and personnel and administrative reform. But fixing this system of administrative governance is time-consuming, and it brings no accolades to the political reformer. So, instead of fixing what is broken, the talk now is to build a new institution — the National Environment Protection Agency. The other option is to simply bypass the need for regulation by suggesting technology solutions to polluters.

 

The system is so out of shape that it cannot be repaired is the belief. But any new institution will also need the same improvements and same investment of funds and facilities that will make the old one work. Sophisticated technology for self-monitoring will need even more sophisticated and well-informed regulators for its management.

 

The other dream reform is to invent new institutions — called authorities — to sweep the mess under some mythical carpet. But there is no effort to check if the structure of the new creature permits management or accountability. Then we rue that they don't deliver. Take the Food Safety and Standards Authority. It was set up, through legislative order, to fix the food regulatory system in the country. But it has no head; nobody can hold it accountable because it reports fictionally to Parliament, where no clear structure for management has been created. It has little technical competence. Existing agencies involved in the business of food standards, like the Bureau of Indian Standards, have been left out of the new authority. But it does have a swanky new building and powerful new friends in the food business.

 

A new programme, some promised (repackaged from old schemes) money, a new authority and new buildings, all add to the grand illusion that the problem has been solved. And that government is busy at work. Let us only hope that more people see through the hoax. The business of pretend-government must go. Let it be said.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

DILEMMAS OF THE CURRENCY WARS

INDEPENDENT MONETARY POLICY, LIBERAL CAPITAL ACCOUNTS, MANAGED EXCHANGE RATES ... CENTRAL BANKS STRUGGLE TO BALANCE COMPETING IMPERATIVES.

A V RAJWADE

 

As the date of the G20 Summit nears, the rhetoric on the issue of exchange rates is occupying more and more media space. And there is agreement on only one point: trade restrictions and competitive devaluations will only damage the already fragile global economy. The apprehensions about trade restrictions and tariff and non-tariff barriers are not fanciful: apart from the enactment of a provision for the imposition of a 20 per cent duty on Chinese imports by the US Congress, recently more than half the respondents to a poll in that country voted in favour of the proposition that free trade was hurting the US (Wall Street Journal, October 5). The problem is not the desirability of free trade per se, but the exchange rate. Successive US treasury secretaries have claimed that the US has a "strong dollar" policy, without ever defining what a "strong dollar" means. But the trade numbers and declining manufacturing jobs clearly suggest an overvalued currency: is it part of a deliberate plan to ensure that the huge mass of people whose real wages have remained stagnant since the "Reagan Revolution" can increase consumption through cheap imports and a housing bubble facilitating "home equity" loans? The cost of the first is the loss of manufacturing jobs. And the cost of the second is now too well known.

 

The US has deficits with other countries too: Europe, Japan and so on. But the currency war, now postponed until the next month's G20 Summit, has China as the principal opponent. The reasons are:

 

 One, both the euro and the yen have appreciated against the dollar in recent months.

 

Two, the exchange rates between the euro, the dollar and the yen are, broadly speaking, market-determined and, therefore, beyond criticism. After all, how can any market-determined price be wrong?

 

On market-determined exchange rates, it is worth recalling that freely floating exchange rates did not come into being as a deliberate policy. The fixed exchange rate system collapsed in August 1971 because of the uncertainties following the US' withdrawal of the gold convertibility of the dollar. The attempt to bring back fixed rates, notably the Smithsonian Agreement of December 1971, could not be sustained because of free capital movements, and the inflation differentials and global imbalances following the sharp rise in oil prices in 1973.

 

Many analysts and commentators both in India and abroad have attributed the recent fall of the dollar against the euro and the yen to the loose US monetary policy. This does not stand to reason — surely the Japanese monetary policy is, if anything, looser and the European Central Bank is not far behind. The theory that money supply determines exchange rates through inflation, also called the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) theory, was first advanced in the 1970s by Rudiger Dornbusch. As Kenneth Rogoff has pointed out, however, "Whereas the over-shooting model is a landmark theoretical achievement, it is an empirical bust, at least as far as it concerns exchange rates among the United States, Japan and Europe." The reason the Dornbusch theory did not work was simple: with liberal capital accounts, capital flows, not trade flows, became the major determinant of the exchange market's demand-supply dynamics. According to the latest survey of the Bank for International Settlements, the global currency markets currently trade $4 trillion of currencies every day, i.e. $1,000 trillion a year. Just compare that to the global trade of $15 trillion in 2009 as per the World Trade Organisation. In short, the PPP theory, based on trade flows determining demand and supply of currencies to be exchanged, doesn't matter any more.

 

Nobel laureate Robert Mundell has correctly identified the impossible trinity: an independent monetary policy, a liberal capital account and managed exchange rates. The favoured fashion of the last three decades has been to give up the third. The problem is that this has a cost that the real economy has to bear, through lost output and jobs, or consumption. On the other hand, the better off and the financial sector benefit through trading profits in volatile currency markets, and short-term capital movements chasing speculative profits.

 

No wonder in the US (and the UK) the manufacturing sector and jobs occupy an increasingly smaller portion of the pie, which itself is not growing very fast. No wonder, again, that though until the beginning of the 1980s, the financial sector's share in corporate profits was around 15 per cent, it had gone up to 40 per cent just before the crisis, even as the manufacturing sector's share in GDP has fallen sharply. And the 40 per cent share of the financial sector still does not include profits made by hedge funds, private equity, trader bonuses (which are often up to 50 per cent of trading profits) and other beneficiaries of financial sector profits outside the corporate sector.

 

Tailpiece: As for the US-China currency war, Martin Wolf says, "America is going to win the global currency battle" (Financial Times, October 13) while Yiping Huang says, "The US will lose a currency war" (Wall Street Journal, October 14). Toss a coin!

 

avrajwade@gmail.com

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

 

MONETARY POLICY: TIME FOR A PAUSE

RBI IS BETTER OFF TAKING A BREATHER ON POLICY RATES WHILE MAINTAINING ITS HAWKISH TONE.

RAJEEV MALIK

 

The upcoming policy review of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on November 2 is the first time since the central bank began its exit late last year that there is a strong case for it to pause. At the very outset, a pause does not mean the end of the tightening cycle or that the central bank is taking its eyes off inflation. It essentially offers a breather to take stock of the emerging domestic and external trends, as the incoming data are becoming more two-directional after being unidirectional over the last year or so. A pause also allows the RBI to buy time for its recent aggressive moves to be effective, and to avoid accidental over-tightening relative to the incoming indications about economic activity.

 

 In its last policy statement, the RBI indicated that it was near the neutral rate and that future actions will be affected less by the need to normalise and more by the evolving growth-inflation trade-off. Given the lack of consensus or clarity on what the correct — or even an appropriate — level of the neutral rate is for India, the RBI could be either at the neutral rate now (with the repo rate at six per cent) or 25-50 basis points away from it. Given that the RBI now announces monetary policy approximately every six weeks, it surely cannot be raising rates at each review.

 

More important for the upcoming policy are issues such as the outlook for inflation and growth and whether the monetary actions so far are already beginning to pay dividend. Monetary policy changes deliver results with lags, hence central banks have to be mindful of not overdoing the tightening.

 

The RBI has cumulatively raised policy rates 275 basis points beginning with the first increase in March, as it moved to normalise the monetary setting following a successful and aggressive easing to soften the hit from the global credit crisis. With the exception of a 25 basis point increase each in March and April, the remaining increase in rates was packed in the July-September quarter, as the RBI also shifted its operational policy rate to the repo rate from the reverse repo rate.(Click for graph)

 

The change in the operational policy rate is an aggressive tightening by "stealth". Also, the recent rate hikes were complemented with a sizeable deficit in the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF), and with currency appreciation. The bottom line is that monetary conditions tightened significantly in the July-September quarter, and the full effect of these moves has not yet played out.

 

But real economic activity is already rolling over, even if the industrial production data exaggerate that moderation. Also, the strength of the upturn in private investment is not yet what it should be. In any case, banks are poised to raise their rates further after Diwali, which will in turn affect economic activity, as it is expected to. Indeed, banks have yet to fully transmit the effect of the RBI's moves, but it is coming. However, the RBI should focus more on the worrying speculative trend in the real estate market that is partly being fuelled by innovative borrowing plans.

 

The RBI's monetary tightening is yielding positive result in fighting inflation. Indeed, seasonally-adjusted data unambiguously show that inflation, including that in non-food manufactured goods (or core, which is what the RBI can really affect), is coming off. This trend will begin to be captured to a bigger degree in the year-over-year (YoY) comparison in the coming months.

 

The seasonally-adjusted pattern is remarkable enough that the RBI should not ignore it. Also, the rolling over in economic activity already visible will further ease demand pressures at the margin. Admittedly, the YoY WPI inflation rate remains high at 8.6 per cent, but even this has eased from 11 per cent in April. The core WPI inflation has eased to five per cent YoY from close to six per cent in April, and the RBI appears on track to meet its WPI inflation forecast of six per cent for March 2011. While the current level of inflation rate is relevant, the expected inflation trajectory should be an important input in deciding the next step.

 

India's food inflation has two different dynamics at play. One, an increase in food items rich in protein (such as meat, fish, eggs) that has partly been driven by the government's own active policy of improving the disposable income of the poor. There is little monetary policy can do to correct this structural increase. In fact, it would be counter-productive for the RBI to target this as it is an intended result of the government's policy. The correct approach would be for the government to enhance supplies.

 

Two, the rise in the prices of food items that is dependent on the monsoon. Given that the monsoon rainfall has been good, the prices of many of these items should ease as the harvests hit the markets. In the final tally, the food inflation rate, which has already halved, is likely to ease more meaningfully over the next two months.

 

What about the impact on inflation of rising global commodity prices? This is a legitimate risk. However, these prices are rising not because of improving global growth but because of the same reason that is causing a surge in capital inflows in emerging economies: the weakening US dollar and easy global liquidity. Several emerging economies are talking about restricting capital inflows, but seem unclear about how to deal with rising commodity prices. In the current setting, they are more effectively tackled by currency appreciation rather than by interest rate increases, as the latter will hurt domestic-driven growth and attract even more capital inflows. Currency realignment (read appreciation) in emerging economies is an important part of fixing the broader global imbalance. Restricting capital inflows does not do anything to the transmission of that rebalancing via higher commodity prices.

 

Unfortunately, there continues to be a severe lack of full appreciation about the fact that the actual monetary conditions now are much tighter than what the repo rate of six per cent indicates. Market rates are much higher than what would normally be hinted by the current level of repo rate. The current combination of the repo rate and the LAF deficit makes for a much more aggressive policy setting than was the case when the repo rate was at six per cent, say, in early 2005. Further, raising rates a day after Bernanke formally begins QE2 only increases the risk of attracting even more volatile foreign capital into India.

 

Thus, there is a strong case for the RBI to pause now but maintain a hawkish stance rather than raise rates by another 25 basis points and then go on hold. There is little to gain from another rate hike at this point but potentially more to lose. Remember that winning the inflation battle by crippling growth is not on the agenda.

 

The author is senior economist at CLSA, Singapore. The views expressed are personal

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

G20 RETAINS RELEVANCE

AGREEMENT ON NORMS AND ASSESSMENT

 

THE G20 meeting of finance ministers at Gyeongju, South Korea, has produced small but positive advances in the global coordination of economic policy and regulation to sustain interdependent growth in today's globalised world. While the formal commitment to abjure competitive currency devaluations and to pursue policies that would promote reasonable external balances sets norms, these do not immediately lead on to specific policy action. The fact that US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner left for Beijing from Korea, to persist with diplomatic efforts to revalue the yuan, shows that G20 summitry, while successful in not ruffling flared feathers further, has not quite eased all tensions on the currency front. But this is not really disappointing. The real gain is that, after having agreed to these norms, the 20 largest economies have also agreed to a process of mutual assessment of their policies, effectively to be carried out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Such assessment will bring out deviant behaviour by all the big players, bringing pressure on them to take corrective action. Ultimately, when it comes to sovereign nations, there is little that can make countries modify their conduct other than the pressure to live up to norms they themselves champion. The IMF has gained salience as the G20's working secretariat. And it is reassuring that the Fund will finally give greater representation to emerging economies. The Gyeognju meet saw Europe cede two seats on the 24-member IMF board to emerging economies and the Bric four of Brazil, Russia, India and China all join the ranks of the countries with the 10 largest quotas in the Fund, with transfer of 6% of quotas from developed to developing countries. 

 

India has reason to be happy with the outcome. It must now join other countries in pointing out to Washington that printing dollars to keep the interest rate low (the socalled policy of quantitative easing) is an example of letting the exchange rate be determined by policy rather than by the market. Further, it must decontrol diesel prices before the PM heads to Seoul in the second week of November, where the leaders will review progress in phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, PLEASE

DON'T DISCRIMINATE FOR OR AGAINST IMPORTS


ON RATHER dubious grounds, the finance ministry has opposed the proposals of the Maira Committee and Committee of Secretaries to levy duties on imports of power equipment, which are overwhelmingly from China. The government has been allowing duty-free imports of power equipment for ultra mega power plants and large hydel projects. This amounts to reverse protection for the domestic industry, which pays significant import duty on inputs, excise duty and various hidden taxes like octroi. Plain economic sense mandates that imported and domestic equipment should compete on a level playing field. The import duty on power equipment should be the same as the general rate for all capital goods so that there is horizontal equity across equipment imports. Countervailing duty should be equal to excise duty paid by domestic manufacturers, and special additional duty (SAD) is a legitimate counterpart of hidden, irrecoverable indirect taxes including octroi and central sales tax. However, there is no case for taxing Chinese imports on the ground that China's interest rates are lower than India's: that is a genuine comparative advantage of China, arising from abundant domestic savings. There is logic in the recommendation of the Committee of Secretaries to impose 5% import duty (which is actually lower than the average rate on manufactures), 10% countervailing duty and 4% SAD. 

 

Indian manufacturers like Bhel and L&T say it is impossible to compete with Chinese imports in the current regime. While protectionism is bad policy, so is giving a financial advantage to imports. The finance ministry argues that domestic suppliers already have full order books and cannot meet the huge demand for equipment. That is a case for liberal imports, but not for duty-free imports. The ministry also complains that the proposed import duty could raise generating costs by 15-20 paise/unit and drive many state electricity boards deeper into the red. This logic is plain wrong: there is absolutely no case for waiving import duties just to subsidise power generation or the state electricity boards. A separate issue is the proposal to oblige foreign suppliers to progressively indigenise production. This is a policy China itself follows, and it can scarcely object to India following suit.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WEATHER OR NOT

OBSESSION TO PROFESSION?


WEATHER has famously been a preoccupation of the British, who invariably use it as a conversation starter or filler, but the world may not realise how deep their attachment is to the ephemeral conjunctions of wind and water. A recent study has revealed that more than half of them cannot resist talking about it every few hours or so, and over two-thirds actually check the weather reports at least once a day. This interest could legitimately stem from a deep cultural abhorrence of the idea of stepping out inappropriately dressed — which would explain why 80% of older Britons check the weather. But fear of such sartorial infractions should not normally bother insouciant 18 to 24-year olds; so why should 42% of them also be preoccupied by cloud patterns and pressure systems as well? The clue lies in the fact that 20% of Britons surveyed agreed that the weather is the safest topic with which to strike up a conversation with a stranger or make a friendly gesture. So, the innocuous observation, "Balmy weather isn't it?" could be the secret British variant of the classic pick up line, 'Haven't we met before?" 

 

Sadly, most people who are uninitiated into the intricacies of the British psyche would not understand the subtlety of such an overture, and may instead launch into a diatribe on the fickleness of weather in the isles. That in turn, is sure to irk Britons, a quarter of whom do not like their favourite topic being ridiculed. The chip brand that conducted this survey also had a contest offering cash prizes to customers who could accurately predict rain. The extent of their payout would show whether British interest in the weather can be leveraged into a lucrative national talent now that budget cuts have shrivelled up their job market. Weather channels worldwide await the verdict.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

POLICY RESPONSE TO RISING CAPITAL INFLOWS

THE GOVERNMENT MUST TIGHTEN THE FISCAL POLICY SWIFTLY TO MANAGE AGGREGATE DEMAND. OTHERWISE, INFLATION AND CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT COULD ONLY RISE IF CAPITAL INFLOWS SPIKE UP, SAYS CHETAN AHYA


LOW rates in the developed world and quantitative easing increase the possibility of spike in capital inflows to India. Morgan Stanley's global economics team expects interest rates in the G3 to remain low for a longer period. Indeed, our team expects average policy rates in G3 — comprising the US, eurozone and Japan — to remain close to 0.6% until end-2011. Moreover, the team thinks the Fed could announce additional quantitative easing, which would involve about $1.2 trillion of asset purchases. Over the last few weeks, there has been a significant increase in capital inflows into the region, and this has raised the debate on managing capital inflows to ensure that it does not add to inflation and asset bubble risks. 

 

So far, capital inflows have not been a concern. Capital inflows into India have been well below the peak in F2008. In the previous cycle, 12-month trailing sum of capital inflows had reached a peak of $106 billion as of March 2008. Based on trends in forex reserves and our estimate of current account deficit and revaluation in non-dollar currencies in forex reserves, we believe that during the last 12 months, capital inflows would have been about $65-70 billion. Moreover, high current account deficit is absorbing bulk of the capital inflows. We believe that during the 12 months ending September 2010, the current account deficit would have been about $50 billion, largely offsetting the capital inflows. We believe that the recent appreciation of the rupee against the dollar seems to be creating a notion that the balance of payment surplus has risen sharply. We believe this trend was a reflection of the weakening of the dollar rather than an appreciation of rupee. On tradeweighted basis, the rupee has not appreciated much during this period. For example, since July 1, while the rupee has appreciated against the US dollar by 4.8%, it has depreciated against the euro by 6.1%. 

 

While so far capital inflows have been manageable, there is a risk that capital inflows into India may rise further from the current levels if US Fed implements additional quantitative easing in early November. If capital inflows do rise sharply toward $100 billion or more, the complexities of policy management will increase in the context of current macro environment with strong GDP, high inflation and rising current account deficit. 
    What will be the policy response going forward if capital inflows rise sharply? 
The RBI will hesitate in allowing currency appreciation:On the real effective exchange rate (REER, trade-weighted basis adjusted for inflation differentials) basis, the currency is already close to the 2007 peak. Considering that the current account deficit is already high, the RBI may hesitate in allowing a major appreciation in nominal trade-weighted exchange rate. If capital inflows rise sharply in the first stage, the RBI may intervene more in the forex market. 

 

Currently, interbank liquidity is already tight and the RBI has been injecting funds on a daily basis. Hence, initially the RBI may not even need to sterilise the liquidity arising on account of forex intervention. In case the magnitude of capital inflows is large, the central bank can start issuing market stabilisation scheme bonds and reverse repos to sterilise the increase in liquidity arising from forex intervention (buying dollars, selling rupees). In the second stage, as capital inflows continue to rise above $100 billion, there is a chance the government may initiate some soft measures to discourage debt-related inflows. 

 

AGGRESSIVE tightening in monetary policy will be a challenge: Although inflation has been moderating, it remains high. So far, the burden of managing inflation risks has been on monetary policy. After cutting the repo rate by 425 bps from the peak of 9% between September 2008 and April 2009, the RBI has lifted it up by 125 bps. Short-term markets rate has risen by 225 bps. However, real interest rates still remain negative and will likely remain very low even as the short-term rates rise further and inflation moderates over the next six months. Although so far the debt-related capital inflows have been manageable, there is an increased risk that these inflows may start rising if the RBI tightens monetary policy aggressively. Moreover, as the corporate sector is able to fund itself more easily from the capital market, the ability of the monetary policy to influence aggregate demand will be limited. 

 

Fiscal policy needs to play more active role, going forward:We believe that fiscal stimulus has probably played a bigger role in growth recovery since the credit crisis compared to monetary policy. In F2008, the consolidated fiscal deficit (including off-Budget expenditure) stood at 5.8% of GDP, the lowest since F1983. However, pre-election spending, a wage hike for government employees and stimulus related to the credit crisis meant that consolidated national expenditure to GDP shot up by close to 4 percentage points between F2008 and F2010. Moreover, the government had also provided support through a cut in indirect taxes, which has not been fully reversed as yet. The consolidated fiscal deficit (including off-Budget expenditure) increased to 10.8% of GDP in F2009 and remained high at 10.3% of GDP in F2010 compared to 5.8% of GDP in F2008. 

 

Although the central government will report a reduction in fiscal deficit in F2011, this has been largely supported by one-off items like collection in 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) licence fees and higher collections from divestment in SOEs. The expenditure to GDP (including off-Budget oil subsidy) will remain closer to the peak in F2011 and the aggregate demand push remains intact. Indeed, in the first five months of the current financial year, the central government's expenditure has increased by 30% year-on-year. 
    We believe the time has come for the government to tighten the fiscal policy swiftly to manage the aggregate demand as the private sector spending is rising quickly. In the absence of this move from the government, we believe inflation and current account deficit could only rise if capital inflows spike up. 


    (The author is Asia-Pacific economist     and managing director with     Morgan Stanley in Singapore)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V EANDREAS SCHAAF

'INDIA WILL LEAD LUXURY CAR MARKET'

CHANCHALPALCHAUHAN 


ANDREAS Schaaf, the new president of BMW India, is busy understanding the dynamics of doing highend business in India to fine-tune the German auto company's strategy to sell its luxury cars in the country's booming market. The motoring enthusiast had some exposure to the Indian market since 2006 when he was involved in the selection of BMW dealers for India as head of market development for Asia, Pacific, Africa and Eastern Europe. 

 

Schaaf, who has spent 14 years in the company, claims that the world's largest luxury carmaker is on a strong footing both globally and in India. BMW, like all other carmakers, faced turbulence during the global financial meltdown. Sales dropped by 10.4% in 2009 as the world struggled to cope with the economic slowdown. Sales have since looked up this year, with demand picking up in emerging markets like India. BMW's global sales grew by 12.5% to 9.19 lakh vehicles in the first eight months of 2010. The company now plans to sell 1.4 million vehicles by the year-end. 

 

BMW's Indian subsidiary, which started operations in 2007, proved to be its jewel in the crown. Sales in India grew by a robust 43% to touch 3,301 units during the first eight months of this year. Last year, the company sold more cars here than its rival Mercedes-Benz India. German carmakers — BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi — have, in fact, dominated the luxury car market in India. 

 

The company has been able to cash in on the India growth story, despite being a late entrant. It has narrowed down India as a niche market globally for growth, based on its performance over the last two years. "India may not be a large market in terms of units sold, but it remains the strongest potential market globally and will outgrow all other markets in future," says Schaaf. 

 

However, BMW is also cautious about its product launches. The company is not planning to launch one of its most wellknown brands, the Mini small car, in near future even if Indians prefer compact cars. "Despite Mini's quintessential brand heritage, we have not gone the Volkswagen's way when it introduced the Beetle just to leverage on the brand. We are looking at building a critical mass. India may not be ready for a luxury small car like Mini now," says Schaaf. The company is also yet to take a call on launching its legendary mobikes, BMW Motorrad and Husqvarna, in India. 

 

Last year, though, BMW took its rivals by surprise, launching one of its most expensive and super-luxury handcrafted marquees, Rolls Royce cars, in India at prices ranging from . 3.5 crore to over . 6 crore depending on the customisation level. The handmade Rolls Royce has been sold out for this year and the huge interest shown by potential buyers has meant sellout of the allocations for 2011. "Our basic ideology of making cars that are both practical and contemporary for customers has worked in our favour," claims Schaaf. 
    He reckons that BMW's strength as a pioneer in technologies globally has helped its growth in the Indian market. "Our all-new 5 Series 320d efficient dynamics edition offers a fuel efficiency of over 20 km a litre, the highest in the entire BMW stable. Such improvement in technology in our new cars has made the 5 Series so popular that customers are ready to wait for over four months for delivery," says Schaaf. To push sales in markets such as China, Russia and India, BMW is changing the business concept of premium to mobility, and making more fuel-efficient vehicles. The efficient dynamics concept will drastically reduce fuel consumption and reduce carbon dioxide emissions across its entire fleet, making them an environment-friendly brand, says Schaaf. 
    However, all has not gone well with its contemporary technologies. The run-flat tyre (RFT), another piece of hi-tech technology that comes standard in all its cars, has not worked on the rough Indian roads. Unlike the tubeless radials offered by its rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi, BMW is sticking to RFTs despite rising complaints from Indian customers. "RFT is best for our high-speed cars. It's a fitment on all our BMW cars globally," says Schaaf. As competition intensifies and Indian customers crave for newer models, BMW plans to launch its globally-successful X-1 SUV in the Indian market.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

ONE-YEAR MBAS, THE WAY TO GO

R T KRISHNAN & J RAMACHANDRAN 


WITH the costs of higher education in the US rising at a rapid pace, their model has recently been subjected to severe criticism. In a stinging critique, recent articles in The Economist and the The Washington Post ask whether US higher education, currently the toast of the world, will suffer the same fate as the US automobile industry — i.e., become too bloated and expensive to survive. We know that the only way to attain developed country standards in health or education is to adopt resource-light strategies that don't emulate the resource-intensive models of the West. Yet, in higher education at least, India is imitating the developed world. 

 

An egregious example of resource wastage is the two-year MBA programme. In schools like the IIMs, more than 90% of the MBA students are engineers, often from the country's top engineering colleges. They are trained to be quick, adaptable learners. How long ought it take to provide such a highly skilled crew with the management arsenal they need to succeed? 

 

Surely, not two years. Already, business schools across the world provide the core of the MBA programme in about 45-50 classroom days in their executive education programmes. So, it seems reasonable to cut down the duration of the programme substantially. Unlike North American business schools, the majority of European business schools (including leading schools like INSEAD) have favoured the one-year model. There is no sign that the market finds their graduates any less competitive than the products of two-year programmes. The impact of the one-year programme is also being felt in North America with Canada's top b-school, the Ivey School at the University of Western Ontario, adopting the one-year model. 

 

For Indian business schools, it may be wiser to follow the European model. Predominantly publicly-funded, like the IIMs, European business schools have had far and weaker resource bases as compared to most US ones. The one-year MBA enables better utilisation of scarce resources while meeting growing demand for business education. Second, it is no secret that most MBA students at the top institutions slack off after the completion of the first year. By that time, they have completed the core curriculum that gives them the vocabulary and basic knowledge and techniques they will need in their managerial career. More importantly, the range of their grades is established by that time. This is important as companies typically use grades for shortlisting candidates for job interviews. 

 

The growing trend among companies to offer 'pre-placement offers' to students based on their summer internships has only exacerbated the observed slacking. Moreover, as Prof Datar and others have stressed in Rethinking the MBA, the second year of the programme "consists of a potpourri of electives, driven largely by the academic interests of individual faculty or departments, from which students choose as if they are facing a smorgasbord or a buffet table. This is hardly a prescription for effective design or an approach that maximises learning or educational impact". 

 

What about the summer internships, often mentioned as one of the main justifications for the two-year duration? While internships give students who lack prior work experience exposure to business organisations, the purpose they really serve is providing cheap labour to companies and allowing a low-cost trial of potential employees. Why should MBA students be indirectly subsidising companies through the high fees they pay? And more fundamentally in our context, why should scarce public resources be used to subsidise the companies? Besides, today there are many alternatives to summer internships. Practice courses, 'real-time projects' and opportunities for consulting can be dovetailed with regular course work to provide organisational experience. 

 

An 11-month MBA programme would be more resource-efficient for the students, the educational institutions as well as the country. It is possible to provide a comprehensive core and a limited set of electives to students during this timeframe. The advantages are obvious: less infrastructure investment; a smaller number of faculty needed by the business school; lower opportunity costs and quicker earning opportunities for students. This will solve the acute faculty shortages that we will otherwise face in the years ahead. We can immediately double the capacity of the MBA programmes at the IIMs that today admit just about 2,000 students every year. 

 

Companies the world over have proved that high returns on investment can be generated by leveraging assets and turning over inventory rapidly. Why not do the same with our management education? Let's leverage our country's brightest better. Let society have access to their talent faster. Let us reinvent our management education and make the one-year MBA programme the standard model! 

 

(The authors are professors at     IIM Bangalore)

One-year MBA enables better utilisation of resources while meeting the growing demand for business education 


It is possible to provide a comprehensive core and a limited set of electives to students during this timeframe 
Introducing 11-month MBA programme will also solve the acute faculty shortages that India would face in the years ahead

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

ESTABLISHED ALWAYS IN YOUR TRUE SELF

K VIJAYARAGHAVAN 


BEING in harmony brings about fulfilment. The converse is also true because both these acquisitions are the two sides of the same coin. 

 

This spiritual accomplishment is, thus, in essence that "victory over oneself", where the person is not affected ever by the vagaries or imperfections of a disturbed mind and hence is not reactive or needlessly disturbed. These tendencies (chittavritihi), when overcome, lead to what Patanjali also conceives (Sutra: 1,3) of as, discovery of one's true self or nature (swaroopa). This also is, cleansing oneself of inner contradictions and conflicts, conceived of by the Bible too aspurity of heart (Mathew: 5,8) and the "kingdom of God" (Luke: 17,21). 

 

 

The aspirant who discovers this state is also described as sthiradeehimunih (sage of consistent wisdom) by Bhagavad Gita (2,56), which also likens this stable state to a "lamp that does not flicker in the wind" (6,19). 

 

The Bible also exhorts on the need to attain the stable state and contrasts this with a "double minded" and "unstable" mind, which is like "a wave of sea driven with the wind and tossed" (James: 1,6 and 8). 

 

Concepts and visualisations, as above, in this manner, underline the need to not merely work towards acquiring harmony, fulfilment and inner control (that is, 'victory over oneself') but also to traverse this path in a steady manner, without any deviations or allowing the old weeds of the 'dreary desert sand of dead habit' to enter. One is then not affected by any 'single slip' that may undo all assiduous efforts put in. In short, the journey should not merely be endearing but that the assets obtained be enduring, too. 

 

This verily is the message of the usage, samatvam in the Gita (2,48). This virtue, termed by the epic as yoga itself, implies not merely equanimity but also obtaining enduring and dependable stability and consistency. 

 

Establishing oneself in this state is also being established in that swaroopa, conceived of by Patanjali. The Gita also exhorts the seeker (2,48) to first stabilise in this state and thereafter to involve in all actions, thoughts and feelings (yogastah kuru karmani). It is only then that one becomes truly skilful (karmasu koushalam) in all that he issues forth. 

 

This also is pre-empting needless problems and suffering (dukah samyogah viyoga). In short, this is the true art of artful living!

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

POLICE DISTRICT 

A RATIONAL PROPOSAL HITS THE FISCAL BUMP  


THE decision to carve out a police district in Jhargram, the hotbed of Maoist activity in West Bengal, is eminently rational on the face of it. However, in the manner of the token rehabilitation package, the plan may yet flounder on the rock set up by the finance department. The Home department's proposal seems very unlikely to materialise as Finance has returned the file with the noting that it is unable to sanction the extra posts. Given the compulsion, this is an unconvincing plea just as the touted rehabilitation package devised by the backward classes department was turned down on the ground of fiscal constraints. Both developments illustrate the lack of inter-department coordination amidst the government's existential dilemma. The creation of a separate police district within volatile West Midnapore may well be an administrative necessity. And there ought to be no two opinions on that within government. It is a vast and problematic district even after the bifurcation of undivided Midnapore, which in terms of size was second only to Bastar. The extremist challenge ~ ever so forbidding despite the paramilitary presence ~ direly needs a sharper focus. Hence the imperative to carve out a police district, if not a sub-district with jurisdiction over general administration as well. Considering the relentless fury in Junglemahal, Jhargram needs to be upgraded from the present status of a sub-division. This will entail a drastic overhaul of the police administration, with suitably beefed up personnel at the officer level as well as other ranks. The Finance department's refusal to sanction more than 50 per cent of the required strength is bound to render the proposal a dead letter; not  a single post of office staff has been sanctioned.  
This is bad economics, worse in terms of administration. It is the police that has to be in the vanguard of the operations; in keeping with the terms of engagement, the paramilitary operates as a back-up force. On the whole, the government cuts a sorry figure as critical initiatives to counter or rehabilitate the Maoists get stalled on the fiscal bump. This is yet another instance of files being moved without assessing the fiscal implications. It bears recall that Siliguri was upgraded to a police district and Darjeeling made a police range under a DIG during the height of the GNLF movement in the mid-eighties. Twenty-five years later, Jhargram calls for a similar sense of urgency. 


DIRE HONEY

ANTIBIOTICS AND OFFICIAL NEGLIGENCE

When honey turns sour, so to speak, the effect on public health can be pretty harmful. Its traditional tonic, even curative, effect must now be open to question. The Centre for Science  and Environment, a watchdog entity, has detected "unacceptable" levels of antibiotics in as many as ten branded samples of honey sold in the market. The antibiotics, that include oxytetracycline, ampicillin and erythromycin, were said to have been administered to honeybees by the bee-keeping industry. No less alarming is the conclusion that the antibiotics might render the human system resistant to drugs. The CSE findings point to the virtual absence of quality control. While a food safety mechanism is technically in place, the regulating authorities have done little or nothing to stop the flow of the antibiotic-affected honey to the market. Indeed, the contradiction in official policy has been blatant. There appears to be far greater concern for consumers abroad as the export of honey, even remotely suspected to have been contaminated with antibiotics, has been stopped. So far, so rational. But it ought to have been matched with equally assertive action in the domestic sector.


Negligence has created a two-pronged problem ~ first, the callous indifference towards evaluation of quality.

Had that been monitored, as every food item must be, the antibiotic content would have been nipped in the bud. The second issue is the impervious attitude of the government despite the CSE alert. In the net, the antibiotic-tainted honey continues to be bought and sold off the shelf from the local bazars to the shopping malls.  And considering that the CSE has identified no fewer that ten companies, a fairly wide range of the product deserves to be put under the scanner. It devolves on the Union health ministry to assess the impact of the antibiotics. It is yet to react to warnings by the medical fraternity that once the antibiotics settle in the human "gut bacteria", the system becomes resistant to drugs even when medically prescribed. At the governmental level, there ought to be a systemic resistance to the tainted honey as well. 


SERVICES' SPORT 

CWG MUST TRIGGER A REVIVAL

FITTINGLY are the defence services lauding their CWG medal winners. The 50 defence personnel who represented the country in 10 disciplines earned a rich haul of 25 medals ~ 10 gold, seven silver and eight bronze. While in no other walk of life does a "gong" ring so true, the defence minister has done well to announce cash awards too: Rs 12 lakh for a gold, seven for a silver and five for a bronze. Hopefully the winners will be considered for accelerated promotions, maybe enhanced pension benefits. For unlike other medal winners, the strict code of conduct to which uniformed personnel must adhere will prevent them from "commercial exploitation" of their success. Regardless of lofty platitudes about the glory of sport, contemporary reality dictates that financial rewards are what matter most. And, pardon the sarcasm, there is little hanky-panky to the winning of these awards. Tradition is the lifeblood of the Indian military and it would be worth recalling that legends like Milkha Singh, Sriram Singh and Padam Bahadhur Mall also wore the uniform. The very "basics" of soldiering ~ physical fitness, discipline, arduous training and the desire for victory ~ are also essential to quality-sportspersons. Not surprisingly, sport has always been part of the military system. 


Yet while recognising the superb CWG showing it would be unrealistic not to note the overall decline in Services' sport over the last decade or so. Time was when more than one regimental side reached the latter stages of every major hockey or football tournament, and a genuine rarity was a national boxing champion from another team. That is no longer the case, now an Army XI is not the norm in hockey/football competitions. The malaise is not new: after the 1982 Asian Games a revival of the Boys' Battalions was promised but never materialized, even the Mission Olympics prior to Beijing fizzled out. Only partially valid is the explanation that heavy deployment in J&K and the North-east leaves little time for sport. Maybe the 25 medals at New Delhi will spark a revival. But success will depend on luring regimental officers back to the playfield to assume a lead role. Today golf is about all that officers play, and they have been in "mission mode" to lay out courses etc. No crime in that ~ but when did the Services last boast a national amateur golf champion? 

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

INFORMATION FREEWAY~II

ATTEND TO THE GENUINE, PENALISE THE FRIVOLOUS 

 

THE massive work involved in voluntary disclosure of information can be better executed by professional agencies. However, care must be taken to ensure that the information provided is easy to comprehend and is provided through suitable linguistic media. 


Although we have come a long way towards implementing the RTI Act, there is considerable lack of awareness both among public and public servants regarding various aspects and provisions of the legislation. The ignorance is reflected in the type of petitions filed and the response of the public authorities. 


Many of the petitions filed have been found to be motivated. The political parties, as one could say with  experience, often use it to literally annoy the local administration. Loads of RTI petitions are submitted if you  don't listen to them or accede to one or the other of  their demands. While the brief of the Act is to supply the information available in the public domain, people have actually been seeking action and justice. This is not within the Act's remit. Often, petitions are filed without any purpose or locus standi. The manner in which they are filed or the way information is sought  occasionally confuses the information officers who themselves are not clear as to how to deal with such petitions. 


Though anyone and everyone can seek any and every information in the public domain, the information that is not readily available and or involves disproportionate diversion of public resources need not be provided, as per Section 7, sub-section 9 of the Act. However, such petitioners could seek the benefit of  "record inspection", subject to the payment of requisite charges. Again, many public authorities provide information free of cost even to those who are not in the BPL category. This is not advisable as it encourages frivolous and motivated petitions. The information officers should insist on the payment of fees along with the petition. The petitioners should also be asked to pay for the inspection charges, photo-copies and CDs.  


Sometimes, sending the estimated cost of provisioning information, including photo-copy charges, should be sufficient to discourage the frivolous petitioners who simply waste time. In fact, the public authorities could save a lot of their time and energy dealing with such petitions if only they could comply with the provisions of  Section 4, relating to voluntary disclosure. A good website or kiosk can be expected to do the needful. The petitioner could just be informed about the website to access the information sought.  For those who are not computer savvy, the hard copies of such information should be made available in the local libraries. 
Many information officers still wait for the approval of their superiors or appellate authorities to pass on the information to petitioners. This delay is avoidable; it delays the sharing of information. The information officers can provide the information without referring the petitions to their superiors  unless there is confusion over the issue or it is a policy matter. Queries involving considerable paperwork can be dealt with by requesting the petitioners to visit the office and inspect the records on payment of the requisite charges. The genuine petitioner will come forward, but the frivolous type will stay away. 


As the onus of providing information within the stipulated time is on the information officers, they should always be willing to share the information sought.  


There are still many grey areas regarding the implementation of this Act. It is not clear to many as to which information is in the public domain and which is not. The stipulation of provisioning information within 30 days is rather vague as it has been interpreted variously both by the public and the public authorities. Those below the poverty line (BPL) are exempted from paying charges for information sought. However, many petitioners have been filing proxy petitions to avoid paying the fees. 


Many vague or abstract petitions are often left undisposed for quite some time, even at the expense of incurring penalties from the last appellate authority. It would be more advisable to dispose off these petitions early by scheduling a quick hearing or by inviting a written clarification from the petitioner. In fact, one needs to be doubly sure before providing information involving  costs. It is, therefore, advisable to hear the petitioner in person in such cases before supplying the data. 


Information relating to the judiciary and its functions is out of bounds. The issue is still mired in controversy. When we are talking of democracy, people's rights, and the fact that no one is above the law, there is no reason why the judiciary should be kept out of  the RTI's ambit.  The issue needs to be resolved early to make the Act  more effective. 


There is confusion over whether foreigners can be provided information under the Act. The answer is 'yes'. They are entitled to seek information that is in the public domain.  Certain data, such as those relating to personal matters, cannot be shared. However, property returns or IT returns of public servants are supposed to be in the public domain and can be demanded under the RTI Act.  


The awareness about various aspects of the Act among the public and public authorities needs to be increased with the strengthening of the RTI set-up with adequate resources and manpower. Given the massive expansion in the activities of the welfare state, the network is in urgent need of dedicated officers and staff members to attend to various queries and requests for information. This will definitely make the delivery mechanism more efficient and effective. Those reluctant to share information should be suitably penalised. Action must also be taken against motivated petitioners. However,  penalties should be imposed with discretion and not in an arbitrary manner. While there is need to clarify and define the role of the authorities, some observers feel that information officers and appellate authorities should be given more discretionary powers.


(Concluded) 

 

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THE SATESMAN

IT IS TIME TO FIX RESPONSIBILITY

 

Suresh Kalmadi, the controversial and beleaguered chairman of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games, should have stepped down immediately after the 12-day extravaganza to pave the way for an impartial probe into the allegations of  financial irregularities and other forms of corruption. If he does not resign, the government should have the liberty to remove him from the post and keep him away from CWG activities so that he cannot influence the inquiry. The multi-crore scam started with transport contracts during the Queen Baton's travel from England to India followed by the tampering with the e-mail of the Indian High Commission in London. All this was done in a calculated manner. 


Mr Kalmadi should have sensed the mood of sports lovers who jeered him both at the opening and closing ceremonies. He has become a great embarrassment to the government and the country. In a clear case of a nexus between government agencies and contractors engaged for Games-related projects, a  preliminary probe by the CAG has established that the CWG has generously paid a contractor twice for the same work at Talkatora swimming pool complex. This confirms what has always been suspected - that the "loot feast" was not limited to the OC, headed by Mr Kalmadi, but involved Central and Delhi government agencies which were entrusted with Games work.


The cold-shouldering of Kalmadi by Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi at their respective receptions for the Indian medalists are clear signals that he cannot escape from the investigative agencies. Now that the Prime Minister has appointed a high-level committee headed by former Comptroller and Auditor-General VK Shunglu to "look into all matters relating to organising and conduct of the CWG", questions have been raised on whether the inquiry is an eyewash. The CVC, CAG and the Shunglu Committee have no judicial powers and cannot recommend prosecution of the guilty. The only agency which is capable of handling the case would have been the CBI since it has national and international ramifications. If the Centre could swing into action in the case of IPL and Lalit Modi by pressing into service the CBI, the income-tax department, the Enforcement Directorate and Revenue Intelligence, why wasn't such a probe ordered in this case? Is it because Mr Kalmadi is a Congress MP and the party's image will be tarnished by the findings although a lot of damage has already been done?. It is time to fix responsibility. The corrupt must be nailed. 
jugunauth pundit, 

18 october, kolkata.

Nation's pride 

Delay, insincerity, allegations, corruptions and many such words come to mind when we talk about the Commonwealth Games. The irregularities involving the committee chairman and other members cannot be ignored. The harm done to the nation's pride can never be undone. The people responsible need to be penalised. Whether it is Mr Suresh Kalmadi or any other officer, no one should go scot-free. 


priya priyadarshini, 

18 october, berhampur

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THE SATESMAN

A MATTER OF SELF-RESPECT

 

Age is no barrier in politics and there are quite a number of politicians in this country who are over 75 years of age and are still in active politics. In Russia and China, there are leaders of the age of even 80, who are functioning efficiently. The case of Mao Zhedong is worth recalling. Deng Xiaoping, who removed the Gang of Four after the death of Mao, was over 80 years. Nearer home, the Marxist patriarch, Jyoti Basu served as chief minister of West Bengal even after he had completed 75 and was in politics till his last days. Hence, this is a poor excuse because he has made up his mind to retire gracefully after Dr Manmohan Singh completes his present term or lays down his office and a new dispensation takes over. 


Everyone nurses the desire to go up the ladder and Mr Mukherjee is no exception after having served the country so efficiently. This led him to be described as a "trouble-shooter" to deal with problems created by the Opposition and also within the Congress. 


Mr Mukherjee received a jolt after the assassination of Indira Gandhi when he had reportedly talked about ascending the throne when he and the late Rajiv Gandhi were rushing to New Delhi in an IAF plane from Kalaikunda in West Bengal. He did not realise that the Gandhi family had decided to continue the rule by the dynasty and any intrusion by any outsider, howsoever efficient he or she may be, was not welcome. He was also not aware that the pilot-turned-politician was nursing the desire to become Prime Minister. The pro-Gandhi family coterie in the Congress wanted to make Rajiv the Prime Minister before bickering started and Pranab was sent into political hibernation. But by dint of his foresight, he was able to stage a comeback. 
His observation that "there is a limit beyond which you cannot go" is significant and has a double meaning. This is not a question of age but of self-respect. A person who has worked as the right-hand man of the late Indira Gandhi cannot be expected to continue to serve her grandson. It is better to move out with his head high
dipak bysack, 


kolkata, 18 october. 

Trouble-shooter
Pranab Mukherjee is regarded as a trouble-shooter in the party. But he has been bearing a deep wound since the assassination of Indira Gandhi. In 1984 he was finance minister and the second man in the cabinet. He was rated the best finance minister of the world, according to survey by Euromoney Magazine. His term was notable because India did not withdraw the last US 1.1 billion dollar instalment of an IMF loan. He was very close to Indira Gandhi because of his honesty and efficiency. Above all, he showed his loyalty to Indira Gandhi. But Rajiv Gandhi was selected PM at that moment. More insult awaited him. He was thrown out of the cabinet and also the Congress party after the Lok Sabha election. He formed the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress but later merged it with Congress in 1989. 
Although his political career was revived, the pain did not go away. Apparently he is happy with Dr Manmohan Singh who is  a symbol of courtesy and politeness and also an extraordinary talent as an  economist. But he is sure that the stage is almost ready for the coronation of Rahul and is averse to remaining in the Cabinet on the plea of age along with blood sugar and hypertension. This is nothing but pre-emptive action before an honourable exit. 

prasanta basu roy,
19 october, chandannagar. 


 
Long experience
Though Mr Pranab Mukherjee says that he is 75 and "there is a limit beyond which you can not go", I think he can give much to a new generation of leaders of his party because of  his political wisdom and long experience as a parliamentarian. Most politicians continue even beyond 75. Jyoti Basu continued his chief ministership even beyond 85. 
Mr Mukherjee was debarred from becoming PM after Indira Gandhi. Even now he has realised that there is no chance of becoming Prime Minister when Rahul Gandhi is emerging  as a popular leader. Even the office of President will not be offered to him as he is not acceptable to many leaders of his party. But he has been rewarded enough. He had managed one responsibility after another as external affair minister, defence minister, finance minister. 
dilip kumar dutta,

18 october, midnapore (w).

 

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THE SATESMAN

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE PARTITION AND SWADESHI

 

To The Editor 

SIR, ~ The people may have been aggrieved over the action of the Government in dividing the two Bengals. When I speak of the people I think I should speak with a little reservation, because there are some people who have really profited by the Partition of Bengal and they are not a small section of the community. In 1874 Sylhet and Cachar were separated from Dacca and included within a Chief Commissionership then formed of the Brahmaputra and the Surma Valley Districts. Was the uproar and the agitation then so serious as it has recently been? In 1905 the same Chief Commissionership with the addition of the districts of the Dacca, Chittagong, and Rajshahye Division became the Lieutenant-Governorship of Eastern Bengal and Assam ~ so that the wrong (if it was a wrong at all) done to Sylhet and Cachar in 1874 was rectified in 1905 by restoring the two Districts, not to the Dacca division as its integral parts, but by raising the Province to a Lieutenant-Governorship with Dacca as its headquarters or capital. The agitation for the repeal or annulment of the Partition assumed various characters. In the first place it was taken for granted that Assam was a backward Province and if the Dacca, Rajshahye, and Chittagong Division were added thereto the inhabitants of the latter would suffer because of the backwardness of the administration. Much stress was laid on the importance of the feelings and sentiments of the people, which, it was pointed out, would be hurt if the Partition were carried out. Vox populi vox Dei ~ the voice of the people is the voice of God, is a favourite phrase with a certain class of gentlemen. But was the voice of the people really manifested in the agitation that was set up and has been continued hitherto? Our country is very poor and one would expect to find the financial argument first of all. But if one were to go through the anti-Partition literature one would be struck with the absence of the financial argument. It was only very, very late that Babu Ambika Charan published a statement showing how financially difficult it would be to maintain one local Government for Bengal and another for Eastern Bengal and Assam.... 
~ VILLAGER.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SOME JUSTICE AT LAST AT THE IMF

 

The rich among the G-20 nations finally saw the light at the end of their tunnelled vision and relented to the demands of emerging countries, agreeing to give India, China and Brazil slightly greater representation on the board of the International Monetary Fund at the just-concluded G-20 finance ministers' meeting. The other major development signalled at that meeting, held at Gyeongju in South Korea, was putting the international "currency war" on freeze for the moment. It will probably be thrashed out at the G-20 summit in Seoul on November 11-12. As India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee noted with some satisfaction, for now at least the IMF has gained real legitimacy, and so has the G-20 grouping. The IMF had of late suffered a lack of credibility with the developing world, which forms the bulk of its 187-nation membership. Its representation on the IMF board has increased by six per cent — though a seven per cent increase appears justified. Developing countries contribute 47.5 per cent of global GDP, which over the years will go up further, while the share of the developed countries is set to decline with these economies struggling with growth rates ranging between one and two per cent. Till now, however, the developing countries had a 39.5 per cent share of the IMF board, which will now go up slightly to 45.5 per cent. Some other reforms are badly needed in the IMF's functioning and governance, which the resolution at the end of the G-20 finance ministers' meeting duly noted. For instance, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India has proposed a global exchange rate management system, such as the one that existed in the 1940s when the IMF was given the task of surveillance of exchange rates. He suggested that the G-20 should think in terms of a Bretton Woods-II — with all the leading economies of the world working out a new mechanism on exchange rates. Such a system has worked whenever there has been a currency crisis — whether it was Bretton Woods-I or the Plaza Accord of the 1980s. The current crisis is unprecedented — with the United States and China ranged against each other. Germany, interestingly, openly spoke out against the US at the G-20 finance ministers' meeting — fuming over Washington's "super-loose" monetary policy, with its lavish stimulus packages which has only flooded the banking system and pumped up assets and exchange rates. US government policies are in fact pricing its manufacturers out of world export markets, given that the exploitative era of the past — in which developing countries were forced to buy high-cost American goods and sell their exports cheap — no longer exists. This era, when the developing nations did not have much of a voice internationally, also saw great transfer of wealth from the developing to developed nations. And now, with their increased IMF representation, the developing countries should be able to restore some justice and balance in the global redistribution of wealth.

 

The dispute over currency rates is a nagging global problem. The Southeast Asian countries in particular, which are largely export-dependent, are quite vulnerable, while the emerging economies face another major problem-in-the-making with huge inflows of dollars from the developed world, primarily the United States. With the emerging economies providing attractive rates of return at a time when US interest rates are near zero, billions of dollars are flowing into these emerging markets. This leads to the fear that these billions will stoke the fires of inflation as well as pump up the currencies of these countries as they sanitise the excess dollars.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

LET'S HAVE A 'FAIR' DEAL

BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

The Supreme Court of India has delivered a recent judgment regarding the application of the Prevention of Domestic Violence to women in live-in relationships. With all due respect to the court, the judgment which appears to be pro-woman, actually reveals the general mindset of society, particularly men, towards women and women's issues. The judges extended the protection of the law against violence to women who were in live-in relationships, which were not marriage, but laid down so many riders that the protection would only become available if the live-in relationship was almost a marriage. The court did not — perhaps did not want to take into account — the plight of hundreds of exploited women who suffer great abuse at the hands of male partners who are not married to them. The court has laid down conditions which include the rider that the woman in a live-in relationship would only be eligible for the protection of the law if both her partner and she were unmarried, and if they had lived together in a way that society had recognised them as partners as in marriage. Their lordships decided that "keeps" or "concubines" would not be entitled to the protection of the law.

 

The Additional Solicitor General of India Indira Jaisingh justifiably expressed strong opposition to the language used by the court, which was highly derogatory to women. It is insulting and humiliating to call women "keeps". It is not my intention to pronounce a value judgment on extra marital relationships. Obviously the suffering and humiliation of a wife with an adulterous husband is something, which is very unacceptable, and any right thinking society cannot condone the behaviour of cheating spouses. However, to call someone a "kept" woman, because she is in a relationship with a man who is not her husband, is to objectify and diminish her status as a human being. While not condoning the ethics of extra marital relationships, the fact remains that the woman in that relationship cannot be dismissed like a piece of furniture or a chattel which is bought and paid for. It would be unwise in the extreme to lump perceived "morals" as interpreted by a patriarchical society to blame a woman alone for an extra marital relationship or to presume that she does not have feelings or emotions, does not contribute to the relationship, or is not entitled to the protection of law.

 

Property and financial rights of those in live-in relationships, and their children would be, and indeed has been the subject of intense legal and jurisprudential scrutiny. It has often been observed that children are never illegitimate, only their parent's relationship could be termed as illegitimate. This is something that is natural and certainly worthy of debate. After all, if women and men in extra marital relationships enjoy the same property rights as legally wedded spouse, it would create anarchy in our society besides being grossly unfair to the spouse who remains legally wedded to the erring partner. However, domestic violence is an entirely different concept, and needs to be viewed in a different light.

 

Often women in such live-in relationships are badly exploited by their partners and frequently beaten and abused. The law against domestic violence should certainly be extended to protect them. It is simply wrong to refuse to extend the protection of a law, which prohibits physical violence against a woman, for the reason alone that her relationship with the man is not legal or morally right. Violence, particularly inside the home is abhorrent and should not be condoned in any society, and the legality of the relationship, is quite simply not any consideration at all in this case. This attitude of the court reflects the patriarchical mindset of male judges, who have unfortunately tied up their concept of morality with human rights. It is the duty of the law and the court to protect every citizen from physical violence and to punish those who perpetrate it, and it would be a violation of a woman's human rights if the law is not extended to her, for the reason alone that her relationship is not sanctified by law.

 

A similar patriarchical mindset of the court was evident when female flight attendants then called airhostesses, approached the Supreme Court with the complaint that their constitutional right of protection against discrimination on the ground of gender was violated by an order of the management of Air India, which had decreed that while airhostesses had to be grounded when the attained the age of 40 years, male flight attendants could continue to fly until retirement. The Supreme Court stunned all women by asking the lawyer for the airhostesses how he would like to be served by an "old woman". Presumably for the court old men were perfectly fine. The legitimate grievance of the women was that there should be uniform standards for men and women. While the women's weight was strictly monitored, and they were made to undergo annual medical examination, such rules were not applicable to men. Outraged activists campaigning for women's rights demanded to know whether such ugly discrimination was permissible in a civilised society, and if such an enlightened place as the highest court in the land could go so far as to say that only women flight attendants had to be young and attractive. Despite the outcry, the court remained adamant, and it took considerable campaigning by women members of Parliament before Air India amended the internal order to remove gender discrimination.
The Supreme Court is the last court of appeal, a place that every citizen looks up to enforce his/her constitutional rights. Unfortunately the distinguished array of Supreme Court judges contain very few women. Even more unfortunate is the fact that male chauvinist and patriarchical values, which portray woman in a very demeaning light, are reflected in the judgments and utterances of the highest echelons of our legal system. The women of India deserve a better deal than this.

 

n Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.
The views expressed in this

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

REBUILDING AMERICA: THE ELECTION THAT WASN'T

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

In the past two weeks, I've taken the Amtrak Acela to the Philadelphia and New York stations. In both places there were signs on the train platforms boasting that new construction work there was being paid for by "the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009", that is, the $787 billion stimulus. And what was that work? New "lighting" — so now you can see even better just how disgustingly decayed, undersized and outdated are the rail platforms and infrastructure in two of our biggest cities.

 

If we were a serious country, this is what the midterms would be about: How do we generate the jobs needed to sustain our middle class and pay for new infrastructure? It would require a different kind of politics — one that doesn't conform to either party's platform. We will have to raise some taxes to generate revenue, like on energy or maybe a value-added tax, and lower others, on payrolls to stimulate work, and on multinational corporations to get them to bring the trillion dollars they have offshore back to the US for investment. We will have to adjust some services, like Social Security, while we invest in new infrastructure, like high-speed rail and Internet bandwidth; the US ranks 22nd in the world in average connection speed. And, most of all, we will have to have an honest discussion about how we got in this rut.

 

How we got into this rut is no secret. We compensated for years of stagnating middle class wages the easy way. Just as baseball players in the '90s injected themselves with steroids to artificially build muscle to hit more home runs — instead of doing real bodybuilding — our two parties injected steroids, cheap credit, into Wall Street so it could go gambling and into Main Street so it could go home-buying. They both started hitting home runs, artificially — until the steroids ran dry. Now we have to rebuild America's muscles the old-fashioned way.

 

How? In the short run, we'll probably need more stimulus to get the economy moving again so people have the confidence to buy and invest. Ultimately, though, good jobs at scale come only when we create more products and services that make people's lives more healthy, more productive, more secure, more comfortable or more entertained — and then sell them to more people around the world. And in a global economy, we have to create those products and services with a workforce that is so well trained and productive that it can leverage modern technology so that one American can do the work of 20 Chinese and, therefore, get paid the same as 20 Chinese. There is no other way.

 

Sure, more countries can now compete with us. But that's good. It means they're also spawning new jobs, customers, ideas and industries where well-trained Americans can also compete. Fifteen years ago, there were no industries around Google "search" or "iPhone applications". Today, both are a source of good jobs. More will be invented next year. There is no fixed number of jobs. We just have to make sure there is no fixed number of Americans to fill them — aided by good US infrastructure and smart government incentives to attract these new industries to our shores.

 

But not everyone can write iPhone apps. What about your nurse, barber or waiter? Here I think Lawrence Katz, the Harvard University labour economist, has it right. Everyone today, he says, needs to think of himself as an "artisan" — the term used before mass manufacturing to apply to people who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch in which they took personal pride. Everyone today has to be an artisan and bring something extra to their jobs.

 

For instance, says Katz, the baby boomers are ageing, which will spawn many healthcare jobs. Those jobs can be done in a low-skilled way by cheap foreign workers and less-educated Americans or they can be done by skilled labour that is trained to give the
elderly a better physical and psychological quality of life. The first will earn McWages.

 

The second will be in high demand. The same is true for the salesperson who combines passion with a deep knowledge of fashion trends, the photo-store clerk who can teach you new tricks with your digital camera while the machine prints your film, and the pharmacist who doesn't just sell pills but learns to relate to customer health needs in more compassionate and informative ways. They will all do fine.

 

But just doing your job in an average way — in this integrated and automated global economy — will lead to below-average wages. Sadly, average is over. We're in the age of "extra", and everyone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work to justify being paid more than a computer, a Chinese worker or a day labourer. "People will always need haircuts and healthcare", says Katz, "and you can do that with low-wage labour or with people who acquire a lot of skills and pride and bring their imagination to do creative and customised things". Their work will be more meaningful and their customers more satisfied.

 

Government's job is to help inspire, educate, enable and protect that workforce. This election should have been about how.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ANTI-DEFECTION & COALITION POLITICS

BY M. VEERAPPA MOILY

 

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 the year 1985 — the year in which 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. The 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 coalition politics. The talk of a Third Front strongly started gaining momentum during the Eighth Lok Sabha. Instead of the 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 the 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 ideologies 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 Prakash 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 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 the 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. The 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, a few of the 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 democracy and the 52nd Amendment. The ingenious human brain invented innovative ideas to obtain resignations and, in effect, made the anti-defection law as 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.

 

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 defections.

 

- M. Veerappa Moily is the Union law minister

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

PRAFUL: IN LIGHTER VEIN

 

Sweeping Bihar

Being optimistic is one thing, but being unrealistically optimistic is quite another. In the AICC headquarters the other day, a senior Congress functionary was holding forth on the party's prospects before a group of mediapersons. He was painting a rosy picture and claiming that the party would not only do well by grabbing more than 70 seats in Bihar but would also play a key role in the formation of the next state government.
Though several journalists informed him that the grand old party of India could expect not more than 25-odd seats, the Congress leader rejected such analyses with contempt.
Then another reporter, visibly irritated over the leader's gung-ho speech, sarcastically said that the Congress may even sweep the Bihar election. Provoked by this jibe, the AICC leader walked out of the discussion in a huff. That was perhaps too optimistic even for him.

 

A lucky mascot retires

 

The decision of the octogenarian leader and minister, Dr Bhumidhar Barman, to retire from politics and vacate his seat for his son has put the Congress in a fix in Assam.
Strange as it may seem, the party has been treating Dr Barman as its lucky mascot in the Assembly elections. The party feels that whenever he wins the polls, the party also wins.

 

Dr Barman lost the elections in 1985 and 1996 and there were the only two occasions in the recent past when Congress was out of power.
The leader, who has escaped more than three bids on his life, is the oldest MLA in the state Assembly but has never sat in Opposition.

 

"In the old days of counting of votes everyone would keep a close watch on the result of Dr Barman's constituency to predict the performance of the party", said a Congress leader.

 

The search is now on for a new lucky mascot. Someone wish them luck.

 

Defending dynasties
Media interactions with foreign dignitaries are often staid but the erudite and articulate Prof. Gamini Lakshman Peiris, minister of external affairs of Sri Lanka, made the audience break into laughter with his repartee.

 

Asked what he thought about the criticism that the government of Sri Lanka today has become a family affair, Prof. Peiris said: "Human nature does not vary that much from country to country… there are political dynasties everywhere, so why are you zeroing in on Sri Lanka?" Touche!

 

President Mahinda Rajapakse's brothers Basil and Chamal are minister for economic development and Speaker of Parliament respectively. Another brother, Gotabhaya, is the defence secretary, while the President's son Namal is an MP.

 

"Who are we to tell the people who they should elect and who they should not elect?" he asked. "A close relationship to the head of state is not and should not be a qualification. At the same time it is not and it should not be a disqualification either." A nice way to put it.

 

Patil: Marathi manoos
Non-Marathi IPS officers are usually kept on their toes by Maharashtra's home minister, R.R. Patil, alias Aaba, who asks them tricky questions in chaste Marathi.

 

"RR boltoy! Shivaji Park case che kay zhale (It's me RR, what's happening in the Shivaji Park case)?" he shouted over the phone the other day.

 

It is not possible to know what Rajnish Seth, joint commissioner of police (law and order), said from the other side of the line on the day of the Shiv Sena's controversial Dussehra meet where the noise levels apparently exceeded the 50-decibel limit set by the high court.

 

But Aaba's next question was, "Talya wajawnaryanwar karwai karnar ki partiwar (Are you taking action against those who clapped for the party (Shiv Sena)? "Mala sanga (Let me know)."

 

The minister then told reporters that the police will take at least a week or 10 days to complete the investigation.

 

It appears that to be a competent IPS officer in Maharashtra, one not only has to be adept in Marathi but should also be clever enough to survive the regular grillings by RR, which are tougher than the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) interviews they might have given to get selected to the IPS.

 

Hideouts in hotels

 

While a desperate-for-survival B.S. Yeddyurappa is threatening to swallow the Opposition MLA-by-MLA, the Congress is hiding its flock in a city hotel, feeding them raagi mudde, and hoping to keep them. But it doesn't seem to be working very well. One legislator after another appears to be sneaking away from its fold.

 

S.V. Ramachandra, an MLA from Jagalur, Chitradurga, said to be deep in debt, disappeared one day saying he had to attend to personal work. Soon, he switched off his mobile. The next he was heard of was a day later, after he had submitted his resignation to the Speaker.

 

Kunigal MLA Ramaswamy Gowda was desperate to see his loving family. Or so he told Congress leaders when he left the hotel hideout. He did come back to it, but when he did so wearing a big smile on his face, his party colleagues started to think something didn't seem quite right.

 

Narayanswamy from Bangarpet had a more genuine reason to leave the hideout: to get treated for his stomach ailment. No, said the Congress leaders. They wouldn't let him go.

 

"Those who sneak out and return seem to be coming back grinning like a Cheshire cat, as if they have just had a very satisfying meal," one Congress leader said.

 

Meanwhile, chief minister-aspirant Siddaramaiah, the Opposition leader, has for himself a deluxe suite in the hotel, and continues to walk about with his dhoti, nay head, held high. But not many seem to have noticed the twitch on his face, an involuntary muscular response that he seems to have developed after moving into the hotel.

 

Tickling the funny bone

 

At a recent conference of air traffic controllers (ATCs) in New Delhi, civil aviation minister Praful Patel was at his humorous best, much to the delight of the audience. Referring to the highly technical nature of the work of the ATCs, the minister asserted that all he could say in support of the ATCs was, "We are with you", before adding, "We are politicians after all". The audience roared with laughter.

 

But that was not all. In the backdrop of a possible Cabinet reshuffle, the minister asserted that this was his fourth visit to the annual event and added, "That shows I've been here long enough. Maybe, it's time to move on". That led to another round of laughter. Later, reporters couldn't resist chasing the minister and asking him about it even as he was getting into his car after the function. When told that the timing of the comment was very significant, the minister merely chuckled and said, "Don't take it that way. I just said it in jest".

 

But there were many at the function venue who couldn't stop enquiring, "Will the minister really be given another portfolio? Is there more to what he said?"

 

Nevertheless, the presence of Mr Patel cheered up the ATCs, many of whom were disappointed by the absence of top Airports Authority of India officials who were away in Mumbai for a board meeting on the inaugural day of the conference.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

CENTRE ON THE MAT

BY DILIP CHERIAN

 

The State was at the receiving end recently when the judiciary intervened in two cases involving senior babus. In the first instance, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Tamil Nadu got egg on its face when the Chennai high court set aside the appointment of Letika Saran, director general of police, made earlier this year. The court slammed the state government for ignoring the Supreme Court's guidelines on appointment of the top cop in a state. Indian Police Service officer Ms Saran, according to observers, was apparently appointed without considering her seniors for the position. The judgment, it is felt, will likely have repercussions in other states since politicians routinely skip due process to appoint their favoured babus to plum positions.


In the other instance, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to list Prashant Mehta, a 1975 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, for promotion to the rank of additional secretary. Mr Mehta had approached the state high court after he was denied empanelment despite an order from the Central Administrative Tribunal. The high court too upheld the order but the Centre decided to take it to the highest court, but now it may well be wishing that it hadn't.


But despite these damning judgments, observers do not expect our thick-skinned netas to start playing by the rules.

 

Mamata factor

 

The babu stampede from the Left's fast crumbling bastion in West Bengal continues unabated. In fact senior Indian Administrative Service officers have now been joined in flight by Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. The anxiety of the men in khaki is obviously driven by a healthy sense of self-preservation, ever since Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee began to blame senior state police officials for attacks on her party by the rival Left. Since Ms Banerjee is smelling victory in the next year's Assembly elections in the state, the prudent among the cops are trying to look for postings outside the state to avoid coming under fire.


According to sources more than 20 IPS officers have departed the state and many others are awaiting release. Apparently, six positions of additional director generals are vacant as are several DIG-level positions. Those in the know say that following the elevation of Naparajit Mukherjee as DGP, the position of director general (IB) has no takers. Similarly, it is pointed out, there are no officers vying for the position of ADG (training) after Vageesh Mishra was made DG (training). And the mood has infected even the ranks, including SPs. With Ms Banerjee seemingly on the path to victory and the Left a pale shadow of its former self, why blame babus for seeking cover?

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

EDITORIAL

STILL NEED STEEL

''MINISTRY'S CALL FOR FRESH IMPACT STUDY REASONABLE.''

 

The environmental clearances South Korean steel major Posco got in have been found faulty and it has cast a shadow on the future of the giant project. A four-member panel set up by environment ministry has recommended by a majority that all clearances should be scrapped and the ministry has ordered a review. Vedanta's bauxite mining project at Niyamagiri had run into trouble some weeks ago. The ministry has ordered a review of a number of other smaller projects also. In most of these cases the issue is the same. 


Mandatory environmental clearances were given to projects casually on political or other considerations. There are many violations of laws and environmental guidelines. It is also possible that some of the clearances were issued by those who did not understand the implications of their action. The importance of environment is only being realised now. 


The violation of laws in the Posco project should certainly be rectified. The minority view in the committee, given by a former Union environment secretary, calling for a fresh impact study seems to be more reasonable. This view also called for additional conditionalities and compliance on the part of the company. This line of thinking can be pursued in the best interests of both environment and the industry. The over Rs 50,000 crore project, the single-largest foreign investment proposal in the country, should not be stalled. Various controversies have attended it in the last five years.  It should be possible to find a compromise involving the state government, Posco and others who have a stake. It has been observed that information was suppressed, evidence was cooked up and records altered to give clearances. These are serious issues. But the answer is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.


Much of the land required for the project is government-owned. Acquisition may not therefore be a major problem. It can be ensured that the forest-dwellers, who will be affected, are adequately compensated and rehabilitated. Compensatory afforestation can be done to make good the loss of wooded areas. The company should be made to undertake these responsibilities as part of the project cost. An either-or policy in the matter is counter-productive. The environment needs to be protected and demands for industrialisation should be given importance. Unfortunately there is a fundamentalist stance developing on environmental issues. This is unfortunate.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

FEVER PITCH

''IF NEW FIGURES ARE CORRECT, THERE IS REASON FOR CONCERN.''

 

India's malaria problem seems far more acute than hitherto feared. New research published in 'The Lancet' indicates that around 205,000 deaths per year are caused by malaria. This number is 13 times that estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO has rejected the new figures as "implausibly high". WHO's lower figures could be on account of the fact that it takes into consideration only confirmed cases and those seeking medical intervention at healthcare facilities. Besides, its figures are restricted to only a few states in India like Orissa and Chhattisgarh, where malaria is widely prevalent. However, only a small number of people in India go to healthcare centres for treatment for fever. Thus, many who self-medicate or go to traditional doctors in villages, whose death is not medically certified, slip through the cracks and go uncounted.

Coming up with accurate figures for the number of malaria deaths is of course difficult. High fever, one of the warning signs of malaria, is a symptom of an array of other illnesses as well. In malaria-infested areas, people are known to over-diagnose malaria without blood tests. However, rather than dismissing the new figures off hand, WHO should look into its counting procedures and accordingly re-frame its strategies.

If the new figures are correct, there is reason for concern. It means that the threat from treatment-resistant strains of malaria is far greater than believed. Furthermore, it is clear that healthcare facilities in rural India, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of malarial deaths, are far from adequate. Early diagnosis is important in the fight against malaria and the presence of and access to trained healthcare workers is essential. 

An important way of preventing malaria that India has ignored for decades is that of denying mosquitoes breeding grounds. If sanitation and drainage are improved, the problem of stagnant water will be effectively tackled. While focusing on fogging and distribution of medicines is vital, public health authorities are overlooking the role better drainage can play in reducing malaria deaths but also other water-borne diseases. The new figures are a reminder that the government must remain committed to public health problems that devastate the poorest of our population, rather than focus on devising strategies to boost medical tourism

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

SYCOPHANCY IS ETERNAL

M J AKBAR, OCTOBER 24 :


The question begs to be asked. Has the Congress changed its view of Jaya Prakash Narayan after 35 years, or has the Congress changed its view of Rahul Gandhi after 35 months?

 

An official spokesman of the party has, after all, compared Manmohan Singh's to a national hero, a veteran of the Congress Socialist Party, the leftist group that became a power within the party in the 1930s, and a freedom fighter whose last fight for freedom was to liberate India from the censorship, suspension of democracy and Emergency which Indira Gandhi imposed in 1975 upon the country in order to save her prime minister's chair.

The Congress line on JP, as he was popularly known, was unambiguous: the khadi-clad Gandhian was alternatively a 'fascist', 'anarchist', 'anti-national', and whatever else came into the mind of the Congress leaders after they had read yet another polemical tract written by forgotten Bolsheviks. The Seventies were a decade when it was still fashionable to be of the leftist persuasion. Mani Shankar Aiyar, one of the brightest minds in Congress, would not have been consigned to the doldrums: he would have been an intellectually vigorous colleague of Mohan Kumaramangalam and D P Dhar, rather than a mere nominated Rajya Sabha MP. That was a time when "CIA" was a dread acronym, an organisation accused of assassinating unfriendly world leaders, not a building block of an allied security system whose chief could get an appointment with the Indian prime minister whenever he sought it. It was an age when Palestine was an ally of India, rather than Israel. Anyone who opposed this "politically correct" left was therefore ipso facto a 'fascist' et al. The 'anti-national' bit was added not only because JP had the temerity to challenge the rule of a woman who had been equated with India (the Congress president in 1975 famously said "Indira is India") but because JP in a public speech had come close to asking Indian soldiers to reconsider their oath of loyalty to a government that had become venal. As you can see, that was a tempestuous era.

 

One presumes that Rahul Gandhi has none of these JP-type political characteristics, at least in Congress eyes. No Congress spokesman would even dare to think of Rahul as a fascist, and even if his political views are a trifle fuzzy they are hardly authoritarian. There will of course come a time when a Congressman will claim that "Rahul is India and India is Rahul" without getting sacked, since sycophancy is eternal, but that is still into the future. So the spokesman must have been, at some internal level, comparing Rahul's popularity to JP's. But that too is a radical departure, since JP's appeal was always dismissed as false.


The spokesman's enthusiasm for historic parallels has, apparently, been snubbed into silence since it was clear to the high command, a single-person unit consisting solely of Rahul's mother Sonia Gandhi, that the hyperbole had opened Rahul up to ridicule. But while this is sensible (it always make sense to cut your losses while the balance sheet is still manageable), the corrective is missing the point. JP's place in the history of Indian democracy is not going to be determined by political social-climbers. The problem is not what the spokesman said but the impulse that made him say what he did. He was indulging in public sycophancy because he believes that this was the shortest route to promotion.


This disease is not limited to the Congress; most parties have created supra-human icons out of their leaders. This is because the life of the party is about as long as the life of the leader; one-man, or one-woman parties do not cross the lifetime of their creator. But the Congress is 135 years old. It was the torchbearer not only of the freedom movement but also of the values that have become enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Those values eroded, inevitably, and it is no longer the "central fact" of Indian politics, to use a phrase coined by Jawaharlal Nehru. But it remains a dominant force, and its implosion will leave vacant space that will not be easy to fill.

The paradox is that its opponents might do less damage to the Congress than its  sycophants. The culture of obedience aborts proper discussion, for everyone around the table is eager to do just one thing: discover what the leader thinks, or wants, and then find a rationale that takes the participant to the same conclusion. This is not a meeting of minds. This is decision-making in a hall of echoes. Rahul Gandhi has some way to go before he finds a working strategy: philosophy is passe these days, so it is unfair to ask him to get one. A good way to initiate the process is to use the door. A door is not only an entrance but also an exit. He should keep  it open for independent thought, and show the door to sycophants.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

IN EGYPT POLLS, ENSURING MUBARAK'S RETURN

MICHAEL JANSEN,


The crack-down is designed to ensure NDP wins at least 70 per cent seats in the national assembly .

 

Egyptians go to the polls next month to elect a new parliament. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and two coalitions of opposition parties will field candidates for the assembly's 508 elected seats. The NDP is set to put forward one official nominee for each seat while the opposition coalitions plan to field a combined total of 750.


The outlawed and constantly persecuted Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition faction, is, paradoxically, permitted to back independents who are expected to run under the slogan, "Islam is the Solution," making it all too clear who is behind them. While the Brotherhood expects to support 130-150 candidates, there could be as many as 2,500-3,000 more independents, the majority belonging to the NDP. 


Although the winner, the NDP, is foreordained, opposition parties take part in polls with the aim of maintaining their status as contenders on the political scene. The NDP tolerates a weak opposition in order to project the notion that Egypt has a consultative system even if it is not a democracy. Even before the campaign was launched, the government began cracking down on the media, mobile phone texting, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Pro-government commentators are calling for restricted access to Facebook. The crack-down, routine during Egyptian election campaigns, is one of a collection of measures designed to ensure that the NDP will win at least 70 per cent of the seats in the national assembly. The other means the government is using are police intimidation of candidates and supporters and limiting the activities of the opposition. 


So far, Egypt's official satellite provider, Nilesat, has closed four satellite broadcasters and 17 private television channels for violating regulations and another 20 channels are threatened with suspension of their licenses. The television regulatory authority has warned private channels against taking live material from satellite broadcasters other than Nilesat. Hardest hit by this restriction are channels which have booked live broadcasts from al-Jazeera which often angers autocratic Arab rulers.


The ministry of communications has also imposed restrictions on the use of mobile phone texting for disseminating news alerts. Permission will be granted to news agencies and registered parties but factions not approved by the government will be barred from texting political material. These entities include the Brotherhood and the National Association for Change established by Muhammmad Elbaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel peace prize laureate.


Elbaradei called on all opposition parties to boycott the poll, thereby denying it legitimacy. But the Brotherhood, which was closely allied to Elbaradei, broke ranks and argued that the best way to expose the government's misdeeds is by campaigning against the NDP.


The press has also been targeted. The editor of an independent daily, al-Destour, Ibrahim Essa, was recently dismissed by the paper's pro-government owners, only hours after being told not to publish an article by Elbaradei who is highly critical of governmental mismanagement and corruption. 


Eissa predicted 48 hours before his dismissal, "Perhaps soon we'll see urgent legislation to snuff out Egyptians' freedom of expression on the internet." Since then, leading loyalist commentators have suggested restrictions on Facebook, which has been widely used by the opposition to get out the anti-NDP message. The government is clearly concerned that a quarter of a million people have accessed Elbaradei's Facebook page. 


Muhammad Habib, a senior Brotherhood figure, said: "Independent journalism has a crucial role in keeping watch over the regime and exposing fraud or abuse of power, particularly during elections." At least 164 of the movement's members, the majority of them election workers, have been detained by the police. Brotherhood spokesman, Essam el-Arian said the arrests were intended to "intimidate" the movement following its decision to contest the election. In 2005, the Brotherhood alarmed the NDP and the government by taking 88 seats in the then 444-member assembly. Since then thousands of senior Brotherhood figures, financiers and activists have been imprisoned. 


The government is determined that the NDP will win the election by a landslide since the poll results could have an impact on the deliberations over who will succeed octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak who has reigned since 1981. While he has never named a vice president or an heir, he has groomed his younger son Gamal, to take over. But there is opposition to him in the NDP and the powerful military as well as among the people who say they do not want Egypt to become a hereditary republic.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

TIME FOR QUIET CONTEMPLATION

MIRLE KARTHIK


We live in a nation where the scale of corruption beggars description.

 

All of us know that a brisk walk early in the morning is good for health. The cool and fresh air, as yet unsullied by vehicle exhausts rejuvenates us while the stillness of the morn, broken only by the chirpings of the birds soothes our noise battered eardrums. It's a time for quiet contemplation. On the ways of our mad, mad world. 

The mind drifts towards a recently received e-mail. "We live in a nation where pizzas reach homes faster than ambulance and police. Where you get a car loan at five per cent and where rice is sold at more than Rs 40 a kilogram, but where a SIM card is free. Where our footwear is sold in air-conditioned showrooms, but the vegetables we eat are sold on the footpath." 


Haven't we all seen those pizza delivery boys driving like mad, endangering not only their lives, but also that of other people on the roads, in their race against time, because a delayed delivery means the pizza is free for the customer while the amount is deducted from the delivery boy's salary? Customer satisfaction, yes, but at the cost of a human life? 


Whereas, in a truly life and death situation, the ambulance with a seriously ill patient could not reach the hospital in time because of a traffic jam or because traffic was stopped to enable a VIP convoy to pass. VIP time and life is more important than a human life! 


Poverty may deny a man of his food, but seems to be no deterrent when it comes to possessing a cell phone. Even beggars flaunt their handsets in their outstretched hands.


Talking of beggars, one is tempted to come up with some more one-liners. "We live in a nation where the scale of corruption beggars description" –– where even beggars' rehabilitation centres are swept clean by greedy, inhuman officials; where an event of international importance like the commonwealth games provides fertile ground for corrupt hounds to loot millions; where elected representatives are traded like cattle and rounded up in pens (resorts) to prevent them from "straying"; where the lust for power overrides all norms of civilised conduct; where billionaire industrialists build homes that reach out to the heavens, in cost and height, while the worlds largest slums lie sprawled at their feet. 

Quite literally, the heights of obscenity. Jai ho India!

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN INDEFENSIBLE DEFENSE

 

It can be hard to distinguish between the Bush administration and the Obama administration when it comes to detainee policy. A case the Supreme Court agreed last week to hear, Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, is one of those occasions.

 

It turns on a principle held sacrosanct since the country's early days: the government cannot arrest you without evidence that you committed a crime. An exception is the material witness law, which allows the government to keep a witness from fleeing before testifying about an alleged crime by somebody else.

 

These principles were horribly twisted when John Ashcroft was President George W. Bush's attorney general. The Justice Department held a former college football player in brutal conditions on the pretext that he was a material witness in a case in which he was never called to testify and which fell apart at trial.

 

The Bush administration's behavior was disturbing, and so is the Obama administration's forceful defense of this outrageous practice of using a statute intended for one purpose for something very different. Judge Milan Smith Jr. of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called it "repugnant to the Constitution."

 

The Justice Department arrested Abdullah al-Kidd, known as Lavoni Kidd when he was a star football player at the University of Idaho, at Dulles airport in March 2003 before he boarded a plane to Saudi Arabia, where he was going to work on his doctorate in Islamic studies. For over two weeks, he was treated like an enemy of the state — shackled, held in high-security cells lit 24 hours a day, and sometimes humiliated by strip searches. When Mr. Kidd was released, he was ordered to live with his wife and in-laws, restrict his travels and report to a probation officer. The restrictions lasted 15 months.

 

The government said Mr. Kidd was a material witness against Sami Omar Hussayen, who was tried for supporting an Islamic group that the government said "sought to recruit others to engage in acts of violence and terrorism." A jury acquitted Mr. Hussayen on some charges and didn't reach a verdict on others. Mr. Kidd was not called to testify. Nor was he ever charged with a crime.

 

Mr. Kidd sued Mr. Ashcroft personally, saying he unlawfully used the material witness statute as a pretext. The former attorney general asserted that he had immunity. In the ruling now being reviewed by the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit found that he did not.

 

To qualify for absolute immunity, the appeals court said, Mr. Ashcroft had to be prosecuting Mr. Kidd, not investigating him. When the purpose is "to investigate or pre-emptively detain a suspect," at most a prosecutor is entitled to qualified immunity. Mr. Ashcroft didn't qualify even for that because Mr. Kidd made a plausible case that it was the attorney general's own strategy that led to misuse of the material witness statute.

 

The word "plausible" is key. In 2009, by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court sided with Mr. Ashcroft and others in a lawsuit, because the complaint against them was too vague and the allegations were not plausible. The government hasn't challenged the plausibility of the core allegations in the current case.

 

Prosecutorial immunity is intended to let prosecutors enforce the law without fear of being held personally liable. Protecting that legitimate aim did not require the administration to defend the indefensible. In forcefully defending the material witness statute on grounds that curtailing it would severely limit its usefulness, it is defending the law as a basis for detention. That leaves the disturbing impression that the administration is trying to preserve the option of abusing the statute again.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AFTER THE SPILL

 

The six-month anniversary of the BP oil spill passed quietly last week. The well has been capped, and commerce in the Gulf of Mexico is slowly reviving. Much important work still lies ahead — figuring out how much oil is still out there, cleaning it up, measuring the damage to marine life, compensating victims. And Congress needs to pass an oil-spill bill that will reduce the chances of another drilling debacle.

 

The House has passed a bill that would tighten environmental safeguards, require companies to furnish detailed response plans before receiving drilling permits, and reorganize the government to prevent the conflicts of interest that helped lead to the BP spill. When it returns after the election, the Senate must do the same.

 

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has already issued useful new rules. But these are administrative changes that could be rolled back by another administration. Congress can provide the force of law. The Senate could also improve on the House bill in one important respect by ensuring a robust source of funds to rebuild an ecosystem that was already in deep trouble before the spill.

 

The White House recommended earmarking a big chunk of BP's civil and criminal penalties under the Clean Water Act — which could be as much as $20 billion — for restoration of coastal wetlands and barrier islands eroded by industrial development and the leveeing of the Mississippi River. Under current law penalties would go to a cleanup fund for future spills and general revenue.

 

Senate action has been held up by a dispute over whether to eliminate the $75 million liability cap for economic damages. (BP has agreed to pay all damage claims.) Some senators argue that lifting the cap would drive smaller companies out of the drilling business. Others say the potential costs of another spill are so large that only deep-pocketed companies should be allowed to drill.

 

Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, suggests the creation of an insurance fund, underwritten by all companies, to pay costs up to $10 billion, with companies large or small responsible for anything above that. The bottom line must be that industry, not the public, pays for its mistakes. The Senate has done virtually nothing on climate change. If it fails to act on the spill, it will only compound that shame — and the damage to the country.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE LONG RECOVERY FROM 9/11

 

Nine years after the attack on the World Trade Center, a crucial deadline is approaching for helping thousands of first responders, cleanup workers and volunteers suffering long-term medical and economic losses.

 

By Nov. 8, 95 percent of 9,055 plaintiffs who sued the city and its contractors for hazardous neglect in the cleanup effort must accept a settlement of more than $700 million worked out in six years of mass litigation. Rejection would mean years more of individual suits. The judge who fought hard for the plaintiffs has wisely counseled acceptance.

 

The Senate also needs to act, quickly, and approve legislation that would help tens of thousands of additional emergency responders and cleanup workers struggling with the aftereffects of 9/11. These citizens selflessly emerged from the city and across the nation to pitch in for weeks at ground zero. It's now clear that they require medical monitoring and care for years to come for illnesses from inhaling the toxic fumes, dust and smoke.

 

The House has already passed a bill that provides $3.2 billion over the next eight years for nearly 60,000 people already in monitoring and treatment, financed now on a piecemeal basis. It also would provide $4.2 billion to reopen the 9/11 victims fund for economic losses — compensation that was closed out before additional cases developed. Plaintiffs in the city lawsuits could file claims under the House measure, but additional compensation would be offset by any court award.

 

Republican leaders tried to scuttle the House measure — wrongly predicting "slush fund" abuses and deficit run-ups. They failed. The bill provides safeguards and is paid for by closing tax loopholes exploited by off-shore corporations. Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it a priority measure, and won the support of 17 Republicans.

 

Ground zero veterans who came from far away to help are reminding their senators that 9/11 was a national tragedy. Is it too much to ask Senate Republicans to show bipartisanship and responsibility?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

NEW JERSEY'S GOVERNOR AND THE PUBLIC EDUCATION DEBATE

BY BRENT STAPLES

 

New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, has been bludgeoning the state's teachers and their unions since he took office earlier this year. The name-calling has raised his profile nationally, and made him a darling of the right. It has also made rational conversation on school reform nearly impossible.

 

Last month, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, seemed to address this problem when he announced that he was pouring $100 million into a school reform plan in troubled Newark, whose schools are controlled by the state. He said from the start that the plan would be a joint project of politicians, civic groups and the very teachers' unions that Mr. Christie has been demonizing since Day 1.

 

The deal as it was originally announced called for Mr. Christie to cede some control of Newark's schools to Cory Booker, the city's well-liked mayor. But it became clear just days later that state law allowed for no such transfer of power. This meant the governor would remain very much at the center of a delicate situation.

 

Newark residents who have been put off by his bullying found more reasons to be suspicious at a legislative hearing earlier this month, where Bret Schundler, the former state education commissioner, provided an eye-opening account of how the state had failed to win a $400 million education grant from the Race to the Top program.

 

The governor fired Mr. Schundler, saying that he had lied about what went wrong. But in Mr. Schundler's version of the facts, it was the governor who sabotaged the grant application — in the very depths of a recession — to protect his carefully cultivated image as the scourge of the teachers' unions.

 

The federal scoring system for the Race to the Top competition allotted a significant number of points to states that got local and union support for their reform plans. Mr. Schundler succeeded in winning that support, while protecting the state's reform agenda and getting virtually all of the concessions the state wanted from the unions.

 

By Mr. Schundler's account, Governor Christie angrily rejected the compromise because a popular radio program accused him of buckling to union pressure. Mr. Schundler countered with reason, pointing out that the federal grant would cement the state's reform project and help local districts financially for years to come.

 

But the governor, he said, was "emphatic that the money didn't matter to him" and found it intolerable that he would be viewed as having given in to the unions.

 

This portrayal is consistent with the style for which the Christie administration is well known. It was painfully evident earlier this spring in the administration's response to what should have been seen as wonderful news for New Jersey's schools.

 

The state had just finished near the top nationally in math and reading as measured by the rigorous, federally backed test known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The Christie Education Department dismissed the results as "irrelevant" and described public education generally as "wretched."

 

Earlier this year, Mr. Christie accused teachers of "using students like drug mules" with the intent of subverting the political views of their families. During the campaign, he referred to the state's nationally admired preschool program as baby-sitting.

 

Mr. Christie raises the right subjects — merit pay, tenure, evaluation — but nearly always in an inflammatory fashion.

 

None of this will play well in Newark, a city that is famously wary of outsiders. Some Newarkers already see Mr. Booker as the governor's cat's paw. Others wager that Mr. Christie will hang him out to dry, as he did Mr. Schundler, if it becomes politically convenient to do so. Even if the school reform effort succeeds, the Christie style will have made it that much harder to pull off.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE GREAT BAILOUT BACKLASH

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

 

Nothing in this election season, no program or party or politician, is less popular than the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008 — a k a the Wall Street bailout. No policy has fewer public figures willing to defend it, and fewer Americans who believe it worked. No issue has done more to stoke the fires of populist backlash, and the rage against elites.

 

It was TARP that first turned Tea Partiers against Republican incumbents, and independents against Washington. It was TARP that steadily undermined Barack Obama's agenda, by making activist government seem like a game rigged to benefit privileged insiders. And it is TARP that's spurred this campaign cycle's only outbreak of bipartisanship: as of September, Politico's Ben Smith noted recently, the two parties had combined to spend about $80 million on attack ads that invoke the bailout, with the Democrats alone accounting for $53 million of that spending.

 

The question is whether the program's extraordinary unpopularity is justified. Few elected officials may be willing to argue for the bailout, but plenty of policy wonks will make the case (from the safety of their think tanks) that the Wall Street rescue package is actually "one of the most unfairly maligned policy initiatives of all time," as the Center for American Progress's Matthew Yglesias recently put it.

 

This case was strengthened by the news that the bailout might actually end up costing the taxpayer less than $50 billion over all, rather than the $700 billion originally set aside to pay for it. Moreover, it's the auto bailout, which the TARP funds eventually underwrote as well, that's likely to end up being responsible for the bulk of these losses. As it stands, the federal government may actually end up turning a modest profit on the money injected into Wall Street's failing banks.

 

Given what seemed to be at stake in the fall of '08, TARP's defenders argue, that doesn't seem like such a bad bargain: the bailout may have averted a Great Depression, and it didn't end up costing very much at all.

 

Or at least it didn't cost much if you accept that the ends of public policy justify the means. But of course it was the means of TARP, not its final impact on the country's balance sheet, that made it so unpopular.

 

The bailout became law because the legislative branch was stampeded with the threats of certain doom. It vested unprecedented economic authority in a single unelected official, the secretary of the Treasury. And it used public funds to insulate well-connected private actors from the consequences of their recklessness. Its creation short-circuited republican self-government, and its execution created moral hazard on an epic scale. It may have been an economic necessity, but it felt like a travesty nonetheless.

 

This is why it should be possible to both sympathize with the politicians who voted for the bailout and welcome their rebuke at the ballot box. Faced with extraordinary circumstances — wars, natural disasters, economic crises — political leaders will always incline toward a blunt utilitarianism, in which the need for stability trumps more high-minded ideals. But after a crisis has passed, it's immensely important that the ideals reassert themselves, so that the moral compromises made amid extraordinary times aren't repeated in ordinary ones as well.

 

This point is starkly obvious in wartime. It was understandable, if not necessarily laudable, that Harry Truman used the atomic bomb against Japanese population centers to end years of global total war. But it would have been appalling if the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hadn't created a taboo around the use of nuclear weapons that endures unviolated to the present day. Likewise, the Bush administration's decision to waterboard Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in the wake of 9/11 was far more defensible than the attempt, by many administration apologists, to insist that waterboarding raised no moral or legal difficulties at all, and should be a routine part of our interrogation repertoire going forward.

 

What's true in wartime can be true in economic policy as well, even if the stakes aren't life and death. TARP may have saved the United States from 15 percent unemployment, but it also implicated our government in the kind of crony capitalism you'd expect from a banana republic. If it was necessary, it was also un-American. If it worked, it did so while doing grievous damage to the credibility of Wall Street and Washington alike.

 

So it's a healthy and necessary thing that our first post-crisis election has been defined by a groundswell of anti-bailout outrage. This no doubt seems unfair to the politicians who may lose their jobs (or have already lost them) for doing what they felt they had to do. But it would be an infinitely worse sign for America if the present backlash hadn't materialized at all.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

FALLING INTO THE CHASM

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

This is what happens when you need to leap over an economic chasm — but either can't or won't jump far enough, so that you only get part of the way across.

 

If Democrats do as badly as expected in next week's elections, pundits will rush to interpret the results as a referendum on ideology. President Obama moved too far to the left, most will say, even though his actual program — a health care plan very similar to past Republican proposals, a fiscal stimulus that consisted mainly of tax cuts, help for the unemployed and aid to hard-pressed states — was more conservative than his election platform.

 

A few commentators will point out, with much more justice, that Mr. Obama never made a full-throated case for progressive policies, that he consistently stepped on his own message, that he was so worried about making bankers nervous that he ended up ceding populist anger to the right.

 

But the truth is that if the economic situation were better — if unemployment had fallen substantially over the past year — we wouldn't be having this discussion. We would, instead, be talking about modest Democratic losses, no more than is usual in midterm elections.

 

The real story of this election, then, is that of an economic policy that failed to deliver. Why? Because it was greatly inadequate to the task.

 

When Mr. Obama took office, he inherited an economy in dire straits — more dire, it seems, than he or his top economic advisers realized. They knew that America was in the midst of a severe financial crisis. But they don't seem to have taken on board the lesson of history, which is that major financial crises are normally followed by a protracted period of very high unemployment.

 

If you look back now at the economic forecast originally used to justify the Obama economic plan, what's striking is that forecast's optimism about the economy's ability to heal itself. Even without their plan, Obama economists predicted, the unemployment rate would peak at 9 percent, then fall rapidly. Fiscal stimulus was needed only to mitigate the worst — as an "insurance package against catastrophic failure," as Lawrence Summers, later the administration's top economist, reportedly said in a memo to the president-elect.

 

But economies that have experienced a severe financial crisis generally don't heal quickly. From the Panic of 1893, to the Swedish crisis of 1992, to Japan's lost decade, financial crises have consistently been followed by long periods of economic distress. And that has been true even when, as in the case of Sweden, the government moved quickly and decisively to fix the banking system.

 

To avoid this fate, America needed a much stronger program than what it actually got — a modest rise in federal spending that was barely enough to offset cutbacks at the state and local level. This isn't 20-20 hindsight: the inadequacy of the stimulus was obvious from the beginning.

 

Could the administration have gotten a bigger stimulus through Congress? Even if it couldn't, would it have been better off making the case for a bigger plan, rather than pretending that what it got was just right? We'll never know.

 

What we do know is that the inadequacy of the stimulus has been a political catastrophe. Yes, things are better than they would have been without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: the unemployment rate would probably be close to 12 percent right now if the administration hadn't passed its plan. But voters respond to facts, not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration's policies have failed.

 

The tragedy here is that if voters do turn on Democrats, they will in effect be voting to make things even worse.

 

The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy. Tax cuts and deregulation are still the alpha and omega of their economic vision.

 

And if they take one or both houses of Congress, complete policy paralysis — which will mean, among other things, a cutoff of desperately needed aid to the unemployed and a freeze on further help for state and local governments — is a given. The only question is whether we'll have political chaos as well, with Republicans' shutting down the government at some point over the next two years. And the odds are that we will.

 

Is there any hope for a better outcome? Maybe, just maybe, voters will have second thoughts about handing power back to the people who got us into this mess, and a weaker-than-expected Republican showing at the polls will give Mr. Obama a second chance to turn the economy around.

 

But right now it looks as if the too-cautious attempt to jump across that economic chasm has fallen short — and we're about to hit rock bottom.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

VOTING EARLY, BUT NOT SO OFTEN

BY BARRY C. BURDEN AND KENNETH R. MAYER

 

Madison, Wis.

 

ELECTION Day is nearly upon us, but for many voters it has already come and gone. States have aggressively expanded the use of early voting, allowing people to submit their ballots before Election Day in person, by mail and in voting centers set up in shopping malls and other public places. More than 30 percent of votes cast in the 2008 presidential race arrived before Election Day itself, double the amount in 2000. In 10 states, more than half of all votes were cast early, with some coming in more than a month before the election. Election Day as we know it is quickly becoming an endangered species.

 

Early voting offers convenience and additional opportunities to cast a ballot. Common sense tells us that this should mean higher turnout. But a thorough look at the data shows that the opposite is true: early voting depresses turnout by several percentage points.

 

Our research, conducted with our colleagues David Canon and Donald Moynihan at the University of Wisconsin, is based on a three-part statistical analysis of the 2008 presidential election. First, we analyzed voting patterns in each of the nation's 3,100 counties to estimate the effect of early voting laws on turnout. We controlled for a wide range of demographic, geographic and political variables, like whether a county was in a battleground state.

 

Controlling for all of the other factors thought to shape voter participation, our model showed that the availability of early voting reduced turnout in the typical county by three percentage points,. Consider, as an example, a county in Kentucky, which lacks early voting. If we compared this to a similar county in neighboring Tennessee, which permits early voting, we would observe, other things being equal, turnout that was 3 points lower.

 

Next, we studied the data on more than 70,000 voters and nonvoters from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, which asks respondents whether they voted. Once again, we employed a statistical model to control for demographic variables like education and race as well as geographic and political factors. The model showed that an individual living in a state with early voting had a probability of voting that was four points lower than a comparable voter in a state without early voting.

 

Third, we took advantage of a useful feature of the census survey, which asks individuals whether they voted early or on Election Day. We examined the characteristics of voters and nonvoters, and found that the profiles of early voters and election day voters were mostly similar.

 

With one big exception: our model forecast that early voters had profiles that made them two percentage points more likely to vote than Election Day voters, whether there was an early option or not. Early voters were more educated and older and had higher incomes, all traits associated with a higher probability of voting. A probability difference of 2 percentage points may seem like a trivial figure, but when applied to populations of millions, it can shift national and state elections.

 

Even with all of the added convenience and easier opportunities to cast ballots, turnout not only doesn't increase with early voting, it actually falls. How can this be? The answer lies in the nature of voter registration laws, and the impact of early voting on mobilization efforts conducted by parties and other groups on Election Day.

 

In most states, registration and voting take place in two separate steps. A voter must first register, sometimes a month before the election, and then return another time to cast a ballot. Early voting by itself does not eliminate this two-step requirement. For voters who missed their registration deadline, the convenience of early voting is irrelevant.

 

Early voting also dilutes the intensity of Election Day. When a large share of votes is cast well in advance of the first Tuesday in November, campaigns begin to scale back their late efforts. The parties run fewer ads and shift workers to more competitive states. Get-out-the-vote efforts in particular become much less efficient when so many people have already voted.

 

When Election Day is merely the end of a long voting period, it lacks the sort of civic stimulation that used to be provided by local news media coverage and discussion around the water cooler. Fewer co-workers will be sporting "I voted" stickers on their lapels on Election Day. Studies have shown that these informal interactions have a strong effect on turnout, as they generate social pressure. With significant early voting, Election Day can become a kind of afterthought, simply the last day of a drawn-out slog.

 

Fortunately, there is a way to improve turnout and keep the convenience of early voting. Our research shows that when early voting is combined with same-day registration — that is, you can register to vote and cast an early ballot on the same day — the depressive effect of early voting disappears. North Carolina and Vermont, two otherwise very different states that combined early voting with same-day registration, had turnout levels in 2008 that were much higher than the overall national figure of 58 percent of the voting-age population. Turnouts in Vermont and North Carolina were, respectively, 63 percent and 64 percent. Allowing Election-Day registration, in which voters can register at the polling place, has the same effect. Our models show that the simple presence of Election-Day registration in states like Minnesota and New Hampshire increases turnout by more than six points.

 

By removing barriers that require potential voters to register weeks before a campaign reaches its height, less-engaged citizens can enter the voting process late — and political campaigns can respond by maintaining the intensity of their efforts through Election Day.

 

The implications for policymakers are obvious. Adopting a form of "one-stop shopping" facilitates a larger and more representative set of voters. Early voting may be the most popular reform sweeping across the states, but it alone is not the key to raising voter turnout.

 

Barry C. Burden and Kenneth R. Mayer are professors of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE R.O.T.C. MYTH

BY DIANE H. MAZUR

 

Gainesville, Fla.

EVERYONE knows that Ivy League universities banned the Reserve Officer Training Corps from their campuses during the Vietnam War. Forty years later, the bans continue, though the reason has shifted from war protest to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay men and women in the military.

 

That's what everyone thinks. But it's not true. Instead, the bans are a convenient fiction, one that lets the military (and to some extent, universities) off the hook when it comes to the growing distance between civil and military America.

 

In September, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech imploring universities to end their bans and let the military back on campus. Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts was more pointedly critical, asking how Harvard can support the Dream Act, which would open a path to legal status for undocumented students, yet close the door on "young people who want to serve their country."

 

Some argue that there ought to be a law holding colleges accountable if they refuse to support the military.

 

It turns out there is such a law. The Solomon Amendment, passed in 1994, withdraws federal financing from any college with a "policy or practice" preventing the military from "maintaining, establishing or operating" R.O.T.C. on its campus. The law also takes financing away from colleges that bar military recruiting. The Defense Department hasn't been shy about enforcing its right to recruit, going all the way to the Supreme Court and winning in Rumsfeld v. FAIR.

 

So if there are colleges that ban R.O.T.C., why aren't they being punished?

 

The answer is that in all my research on the subject, I have found no universities that ban R.O.T.C., nor has the military initiated action against any institution for banning the program. We have grown accustomed to saying there are bans only because it fits with the assumption that certain colleges are unfriendly to the military.

 

It is true that many Ivy League colleges do not have R.O.T.C. detachments today. Forty years ago, the military started to close detachments in the Northeast and establish programs in the West and South.

 

This shift stems from a disagreement in the late 1960s between the Ivy League colleges and the military. Should R.O.T.C. have to comply with the host college's rules for academic course content and professor qualifications? R.O.T.C. said no, colleges said yes, and the two had to agree to disagree. R.O.T.C. then walked away from Northeastern campuses.

 

While Harvard is often described as "expelling" R.O.T.C. in 1969, the story is more nuanced. After the military refused to meet Harvard's standards on academic coursework, the faculty voted to relegate the program to an extracurricular activity, and the military decided to leave. But Harvard did not abolish the program, and it was only much later that people began to talk of a ban.

 

On occasion, some faculties have approved resolutions recommending that R.O.T.C. not be reinstated at their campuses. Those are not bans. On occasion, students have protested against R.O.T.C. Those also are not bans.

 

Secretary Gates is being disingenuous when he says he is disappointed that elite colleges no longer play an important role in attracting the best and the brightest to military service. Before he criticizes universities, he needs to ask why the military seemingly has no interest in being there.

 

The military may be more comfortable when it retreats to parts of the country with a disproportionate number of military installations — and where universities don't ask a lot of questions. That sense of comfort, however, works against a military with a desperate need for a more diverse officer base and a wider variety of language and cultural skills.

 

For their part, colleges may also be more comfortable when they go along with the fiction of banning R.O.T.C., because then they don't have to answer to people upset about "don't ask, don't tell."

 

Everyone buys into the myth, but at the expense of military readiness. The military needs to return to the colleges it walked away from, and everyone needs to stop pretending that R.O.T.C. programs ended because of a ban.

 

Diane H. Mazur, a professor of law at the University of Florida and a former Air Force officer, is the legal co-director of the Palm Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the author of "A More Perfect Military."

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

FRENCH PROTESTS, BRITISH AUSTERITY GIVE U.S. GLIMPSE OF ITS FUTURE

 

From this side of the Atlantic, the furious protests in France over raising the retirement age have seemed —

well, petulant. After all, Americans already have to work to age 62 to qualify for early Social Security benefits and to 66 (eventually to 67) to get full benefits. Germany is also moving to 67. So the French government raising the age for a minimum pension to 62 and to 67 for a full one hardly seems cruel.

 

And France has no choice but to do something. Its pension system already has to borrow to pay retirees, an imbalance that will steadily deepen as Baby Boomers age. The French protesters who took to the streets in violent strikes apparently think denial can make that reality go away.

 

Oh, those irresponsible French, right? Americans might not want to be too smug. The U.S. retirement system isn't quite as rickety as France's, but it's not far behind. Social Security is in the red this year, too, forcing the Treasury to borrow to pay benefits, just as France is.

 

Social Security is projected to get better once the economy recovers, but only temporarily. The system is forecast to go into the red again in 2015 and then get steadily worse. That means more borrowing until U.S. politicians acquire the courage — so far lacking — to make benefits match payroll tax revenues at the risk of French-like protests. The argument that the system can simply spend its huge trust fund is nonsense, unfortunately. The trust fund's cash was spent long ago. It is a moral and political obligation, but the money still has to come from somewhere else.

 

Social Security is hardly the USA's only budget problem. Massive borrowing is driving the national debt to unsustainable levels. Running such deficits is inevitable — even smart — during a recession, when government revenues fall. Increased spending for things such as unemployment benefits hastens economic recovery. But neither party has a credible plan to restore balance after the economy gets better. The best President Obama could do was to punt the problem to a deficit commission that's due to report a plan by Dec. 1.

 

Britain's government, by contrast, decided to act. Faced withbudget deficits just a little bigger in relative terms than the ones in the U.S., Britain has just announced its most far-reaching deficit reduction in 60 years. Most government departments will be cut by an average of 20%, almost half a million government workers will lose their jobs and many taxes will go up.

 

The plan is so tough that economists worry it will wreck Britain's fragile economic recovery, a valid fear. Many economists believe it was a well-intended but premature bout of deficit reduction that halted the steady recovery from theGreat Depression in 1937.

 

But deficit reduction doesn't have to be done this abruptly. Changes that start out modestly can grow over time. But there's no getting around the need to get started and to range widely. The sheer scope of Britain's spending cuts and tax increases is a pretty good road map for where U.S. politicians will have to go if they're serious about getting the budget near balance.

 

The hitch is that it took remarkable political compromise by Britain's coalition government to do this. Conservatives agreed to increase taxes and cut defense, while liberals agreed to slash government and cut entitlements.

 

It's almost impossible to imagine compromise like that here, where Republicans and Democrats keep digging themselves deeper into no-compromise positions. For example, it's hard to find any GOP member of Congress who hasn't signed a pledge never to raise taxes, and more than half of House Democrats have signed a letter to President Obama warning that they "oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits."

 

They are equally dug in on addressing spiraling health care costs in both the public and private sectors. Obama's health care plan didn't tackle them, and neither did his Republican critics. But the scale of the problem dwarfs Social Security's.

 

If only the current political campaign offered hope for a change after next week's elections. It does not. With only the rarest exceptions, candidates have refused to spell out serious spending cuts and are competing to see how much worse they can make the revenue side. Republicans would keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone, which would dig the deficit hole another $4 trillion deeper over the next 10 years. President Obama wants to end the cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Wow. That would only make the deficit problem $3 trillion worse.

 

It wasn't so long ago that Congress and presidents produced serious deficit-reduction plans that helped balance the budget from 1998-2001. That took courage and serious leadership, both of which appear utterly absent today. Before making fun of the French, Americans ought to take a hard look in the mirror.

 

The French are addressing their problems. So are the British. American leaders are not.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

IN GOD-FEARING USA, WHERE IS THE DECENCY?

BY TOM KRATTENMAKER

 

If there's anything about politics on which Americans might agree, it's probably that our pitched battles over elections, policy and power are not summoning our better angels. Truth-telling? Be serious. Humility? Hah! Civility? Don't be a fool.

 

If only the extreme unpleasantness were the extent of the fallout. Sadly, the vitriol and meanness are making it virtually impossible for those we elect to do their job and govern. When the two sides of the aisle seem mainly interested in scoring political points and landing rhetorical punches, it's no wonder we have what pundit Thomas Friedman calls our national power failure — "the failure of our political system to unite, even in a crisis, to produce the policy responses America needs to thrive in the 21st century."

 

A curious element of this is the religiosity that permeates American public life, to a degree unmatched in other Western countries. Shouldn't a public square teeming with so many religious people and religiously derived principles display a little more decency?

 

We should expect something better from a political arena animated by so much faith — something more principled, good-hearted and dedicated to the common and higher ground that is so desperately needed. We should, at the very least, expect the religion in our politics to stay out of the mire in which the latter seems ever more stuck.

 

America's 'blood sport'

 

Given the direction things are headed, disentanglement from politics-as-usual would be a smart first step for Christianity and other faiths that influence civic life. Back in the 1990s, author James B. Stewart used the term "blood sport" to describe American politics. These days, "gutter sport" seems more apt.

 

Watch the non-stop political ads on local television this election season for Exhibits A through Z. One "highlight" comes courtesy of U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, who ran commercials dubbing opponent Daniel Webster"Taliban Dan" — a reference to the Republican's supposed religious fanaticism. From Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana came a sterling case study in below-the-belt punching: An ad accusing his Democraticopponent, Charlie Melancon, of supporting taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants — depicted in the spot as dark-skinned Mexicans pouring through a hole in a fence.

 

What's especially sad about Vitter's dishonorable ad, and his well-publicized affair with a prostitute, is that he's all about traditional Christian morality when it comes to his rhetoric and policy positions. You'd think the misbehavior of pious politicians of this ilk — and Vitter has plenty of company — would have decent religious folk running for the political-arena exits. But all too often, religious leaders themselves end up playing by the same hard-ball rules.

 

Apparently, one of those rules states: "Thou shalt not consort with the other side, even for a good cause." An example of this played out this year after a top official of the Assemblies of God, George Wood, signed a Covenant for Civility that was making the rounds in Christian circles. Upon discovering that he was keeping company on the rolls with persons who "reject the moral teachings of Scripture" (liberals, evidently) Wood asked that his name be removed.

 

Some approach to civility: Sure, I'm willing to be civil — so long as you agree with me!

 

As that civility covenant attests, there are some who are trying valiantly to curb the escalating ugliness. One of the more noble efforts was launched in 2009 by Atlanta-based public relations executive Mark DeMoss and former Clinton administration attorney Lanny Davis. DeMoss, an evangelical Christian with conservative political leanings, teamed up with Davis, who is Jewish and liberal, to create the Civility Project.

 

How has the project gone? "In all honesty, not very well," DeMoss told me this month. The biggest disappointment was the almost complete non-response to the mailing DeMoss and Davis sent to every member of Congress and every sitting governor asking them to sign and return a civility pledge. DeMoss figured they'd easily net 100 signed pledges. They got two — from Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

 

Speaking of those hard-ball rules, another seems to require that thou shalt not acknowledge anything good about anyone, or anything, on the other side of the figurative aisle. Neither shalt thou say anything negative about one's own team.

 

Karl Rove, of all people, experienced a public slap-down from radio host Rush Limbaugh and many other top conservatives for violating that latter precept. Rove's offense? Acknowledging the undeniable problems with the candidacy of Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party favorite who beat the more electable Mike Castle in the Delaware Senate primary. Such candor simply will not do.

 

Civility and a higher calling

 

Thank goodness we have the DeMoss-Davis duo and people like Jim Wallis, leader of the progressive evangelical group Sojourners, to remind us that politics should be dedicated to the common good, not one's own party, and that civility lines the path to a higher place.

 

Wallis, in announcing Sojourners' civility campaign this month, laced his declaration with biblical references that show how civility should be a special calling of Christians active in the public square. Among them: James 1:19 ("Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry"), Ephesians 4:31 ("Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice"), and Ephesians 4:25 ("Put off falsehood and speak truthfully"). Wallis also invoked the Sojourners motto: "No permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent issues."

 

To say the idea has deep historic roots and an eminent source would be an understatement. In his farewell address to the nation in 1796, George Washington spoke of the perils of "inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others," which could, Washington warned, make the nation a "slave to its animosity or to its affection."

 

Washington was talking about America's relationship with other countries, but his words have profound relevance to religion and politics. For when Christianity (or any faith) becomes permanently allied with politicians or parties, when religious leaders dedicate themselves, first and foremost, to political victory, then religion surrenders its ability to lift our politics, not to mention the people in the pews.

 

The wise course is not withdrawal from public life. The task is to find and hold an appropriate distance, a place from which faith can exert principled influence and inspire the body politic's best instincts and intentions.

 

Especially these days, politics as usual seems to drag all who play right into the gutter. That's no place for religion.

 

Tom Krattenmaker, a Portland-based writer specializing in religion in public life, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. His book Onward Christian Athletes was published last year.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OBAMA PROVIDES A HINT OF HOW HE'D FIGHT FUTURE WARS

BY ROBERT ANDREWS

 

In Obama's Wars, Bob Woodwardmasterfully recounts how President Obama came to grips with Iraq and Afghanistan. But how might this president fight his next wars?

 

Obama hints at that in his speech to the United Nations last month. "And from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach — one that strengthens our partners and dismantles terrorist networks without deploying large American armies."

 

The president's way of war would radically restructure our battlefield forces, shift defense spending and profoundly change America's national security structure. Partisan politics might have prompted this "more targeted approach," but it is also likely that the president has learned two strategic lessons:

 

1) We are in a generational struggle. Our national strategies aim to temper ideological calls for violence. But it is unlikely we can bring about a significant shift in fundamental religious beliefs in our generation, or our children's. For years, theUnited States will have to deal with inflamed violent religious extremism, not only in Islamic nations but also from within Muslim communities in the West.

 

2) Conventional U.S. forces aren't effective in changing cultures. This is a lesson we learned in Vietnam but chose to ignore. In the 1970s, the Army envisioned future battles that didn't have to deal with local populations and their cultures. Add to this that senior military leaders have been making the case that years of irregular warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan have kept conventional forces from training to prevail over emerging competitors such as China. Our soldiers andMarines are paying a heartbreaking human price.

 

Army leadership at every level is fighting shockingly high suicide rates. Nearly 10 years into relentless combat, "reset" might be needed more for rest and healing than for training and equipping.

 

And so, whoever is president for the next decades, Iraq and Afghanistan will be the last battlefields to which we deploy conventional land forces to confront violent Islamic extremism. In their stead, a broad array of U.S. government agencies and departments will have to accomplish two strategic missions:

 

•Keep terrorist networks off balance.

 

•Support Muslims in making their culture inhospitable to those who distort Islam to raise a battle cry for global terrorism.

 

The president will have to forge an integrated national security team. Special forces — Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Air Force Special Operations squadrons — must work closely with the departments of State, Justice, Treasury and Homeland Security, and the CIA.

 

Obama's leadership will meet its challenges in his Cabinet room. In the field, Americans have always found ways to get around organizational boundaries. It is in Washington where — witness the finger-pointing and backbiting in the Hurricane Katrina and Gulf Coast oil spill disasters — departmental egos prove to be as stubbornly entrenched as extremist beliefs in Islam.

 

In the Pentagon, the coming budget austerity, coupled with the contrasting images of special operations forces in combat around the world vs. conventional forces training in the U.S., will dramatically change Defense spending patterns. "Resetting" conventional forces will call for large, expensive weapons such as theExpeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Joint Strike Fighter and a yet-to-be-designed armored troop carrier. At a time when Pentagon budgets will be in free fall, money for forces not in combat will be hard to come by.

 

But special forces will not come cheap. On an average day, more than 12,000 special operations forces and their support personnel are deployed in more than 75 countries. While self-reliant, the squadrons have depended on conventional forces for communications, aviation help, medical evacuation, and items such as food service and building materials. That support will have to be reorganized to operate globally from mobile bases.

 

To logistics, add the costs of intelligence needed for what essentially will be a global manhunt. Special operations teams tracking elusive targets will need exquisite intelligence. Operating deep in the Philippine jungles or on the jagged Yemeni frontier, the intelligence needs of a 12-man Special Forces A-detachment could be more complex and costly than for those of a 4,000-man brigade.

 

In the near future, special operations and conventional forces will compete for slices of the budget. A hint at how the resource pie will be cut up lies in Secretary Robert Gates' recent warning about the dangers of building for the "maybe-war" while skimping spending on the "now-war."

 

The more relevant gap we risk creating is one between capabilities we are pursuing and those that are actually needed in the real world of tomorrow.

 

Conventional troops will be forced to deal with fewer resources than which they are accustomed, while they see scarce dollars go for special operations forces. Look for this to fuel ferocious debates at the Pentagon and in Congress — material for Bob Woodward's next saga of intrigue and infighting.

 

Robert Andrews, a former Green Beret and CIA officer, served in the Department of Defense in senior positions in intelligence and special operations since July 2001. Until November 2009, he was the special assistant to the secretary of the Army.

 

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

A WARNING FOR THE FUTURE

 

A federal report on obesity and diabetes and their likely impact on U.S. health care costs in the future is cause for considerable worry. The analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, suggests that as many as one 1 of 3 American adults could have diabetes by 2050. Since people with diabetes have medical costs twice that of those without the disease, the economic shock of such an epidemic, if it should occur, could be catastrophic to a nation already struggling to cope with soaring medical costs.

 

Currently, the CDC reports, about one in 10 American adults has diabetes and about 23.6 million people of all ages in the country are living with the disease. Another 6 million are unaware they have the disease and about 57 million people are pre-diabetic, which means they are candidates to develop the disease. The country currently spends about $174 billion yearly to treat and manage diabetes. What the ultimate cost would be to treat the disease if the diabetic population triples over the next four decades is hard to predict with precision. Whatever the number, it will be a significant drain on both personal and public finances.

 

The purpose of the new report is twofold. Clearly, the agency wants to raise awareness about an ominous health care trend. Obesity-fueled diabetes already is a leading cause of blindness, lower limb amputations, heart attacks, strokes and dementia in the United States, according to a CDC official. That toll will rise as the number of people with diabetes increases. The warning is timely.

 

It is useful because many cases of diabetes are preventable. About 5 to 10 percent of people are born with type 1 diabetes, a condition which makes it impossible for them to produce insulin. Most other cases of diabetes are type 2, in which the body loses the ability to produce adequate insulin to control blood sugar levels. There is, physicians say, a strong and direct relationship between the development of type 2 diabetes and poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise. The CDC report forcefully reminds Americans that those three conditions are reversible.

 

Changes in the current U.S. lifestyle could significantly slow the predicted increase in diabetes, especially among population groups — blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska native adults — that are up to twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes. It is easy, of course, to recommend and to promote such changes. It is something altogether different to make that change occur.

 

Physicians and public health officials have been telling Americans for years to watch their diet and exercise more to maintain a healthy weight and to reduce the chance of developing diabetes and other preventable but debilitating illnesses. Some people have complied, but the rapid increase in the number of Americans who are overweight or obese and the rising incidence of diabetes — especially among the young — indicates that most have not. The physical and fiscal price the nation pays for that failure already is high. It will be far more alarming by 2050 if individuals fail to take steps necessary to promote good health.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER MILITARY BARRIER FALLS

 

Another obstacle faced by women in U.S. military service is on the way down. The Navy announced earlier this year that it would allow women to serve on submarines — the last class of military vessels off-limits to women. That announcement was welcome, but incomplete. It did not name the subs on which women would serve, prompting some to worry that assignments would be put off for a long time. The Navy ended such concern late last week, announcing the four subs on which the initial complement of 24 female officers will serve. They'll begin their assignments in December 2011.

 

It's about time the Navy allowed women to serve on the boats. The service banned women from subs on the questionable theory that the long deployments and the tight quarters common to subs were not conducive to a coed crew. What nonsense. Men and women have served together in the Navy and other branches of the service for years in difficult and dangerous circumstances for years. There's no reason to exclude them from subs.

 

The women, all officers and currently in training for submarine service, initially will be assigned to the USS Wyoming and USS Georgia, based in Kings Bay, Ga., and the USS Maine and USS Ohio, based in Bangor, Wash. All are big boats, larger than the average submarine. The women will serve in rotating teams of three and will share a stateroom. They will share the only officers' bathroom. A reversible sign will let everyone know whether it is occupied by females or males. Those arrangements are satisfactory for the moment.

 

In the long term, the Navy will have to find a way to allow enlisted women as well as officers to serve aboard subs. That's only fair. Enlisted men and women make up about 90 percent of the typical sub's 160-person crew. To arbitrarily ban women from the boats because of living conditions is unfair, especially since women have proved they can adapt. After all, they live in close quarters with their male counterparts in Iran, Afghanistan and wherever the military is deployed. The Navy, to its credit, recognizes that.

 

It reportedly is working on ways to modify enlisted quarters and bathrooms to serve both men and women. That, understandably, will take time, but the Navy should not use the problem as reason to delay the full integration of women into the submarines.

 

Women in the Navy, regardless of rank, who want to serve aboard the vessels should be able to do so as long as they meet the demanding standards of the submarine service. It's a matter of equity, particularly since duty on submarines, thought by many to be the elite branch of the service, is viewed as an assignment favorable to future promotions and choice assignments.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

DRIVING DOCTORS TO QUIT

 

One of the worst things about government trying to do too much is that it often does not consider the unintended effects of its rules and regulations.

 

Here is just one example.

 

By 2015, under federal rules, physicians have to adopt certain computerized record-keeping practices. Those who do so will get some extra money from the government. Those who do not will get lower government reimbursement for the care they provide patients through Medicaid and Medicare.

 

There is just one problem that Washington did not consider when it was putting those record-keeping rules together: Many physicians might not want to invest the significant time and expense that transferring records to computers will require.

 

This is how The Orlando Sentinel reported on the serious problems that the regulations may cause:

 

"Some experts fear older primary care physicians, already in short supply in the U.S., will close their practices rather than buy expensive software and train their staffs in new technology. Twenty percent to 30 percent of primary care doctors are now considering early retirement because of the guidelines, estimates John Littell, a family-practice physician in Kissimmee, Fla., and president of the Osceola County Medical Society."

 

That could lead to a crisis in access to medical care because there are already too few primary-care physicians in many parts of the country. That shortage would get even worse if ObamaCare adds tens of millions of people to government-run care.

 

Can our nation afford to be adding rules that encourage physicians to leave their practices earlier and earlier? After all, how much good will it do a person who is newly "covered" under Obama-Care if he cannot get a doctor's appointment because there are too few doctors to go around?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

LET CONSUMERS DECIDE

 

What do you look for when you buy a car, truck or other vehicle?

 

If you're like most people, you want it to be affordable and reliable. Of course, you also want it to meet your needs, whether it be transporting a family or hauling materials. And you may want it to have a certain "style." You likely would consider the gas mileage the vehicle gets, and some who are concerned about "global warming" might consider its "greenhouse gas" emissions.

 

That's all fine, and it's reasonable to expect a car dealer to provide ample, clear disclosure on price, mileage, emissions and so forth so consumers can make informed choices.

 

But the federal government is trying to go further than that. The Obama administration has proposed a plan that would slap potentially very negative letter grades on many of the new vehicles sold in the United States, based on the vehicles' gas mileage and "greenhouse gas" emissions.

 

The highest grade, A-plus, would go to electric cars getting 117 miles per gallon or higher. Plug-in hybrids would get an A. But the grades would be much lower for many vehicles that are far more popular with American consumers. Not a single minivan would get any grade higher than C-plus, and SUV ratings would be roughly similar. Many pickup trucks would get abysmal ratings, too.

 

But the government should not force car dealers to undermine their own products by telling buyers that certain cars are "bad" based on emissions, mileage or other factors. Those are not the only qualities consumers consider when buying a vehicle. Some people need larger cars, trucks, SUVs or minivans to transport their families or work-related materials.

 

Mileage and emissions numbers should be spelled out accurately and clearly so consumers can compare and contrast. But buyers should be able to determine which vehicles are "good" and which are "bad" based on their own needs and priorities, not government's. Government certainly should not force car dealers to poor-mouth their own products.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

AMTRAK AND THE GREEKS

 

See whether this scenario sounds familiar: A nation pumps huge amounts of taxes into its government-run passenger rail service for years. Yet the rail service regularly loses money. Even though the country has enormous debt, it continues subsidizing the railroad — and the railroad continues losing money.

 

We are talking about Greece's government-controlled railroad, but if you have read much about America's Amtrak passenger rail service, you realize we could just as easily be describing Amtrak.

 

In nearly four decades of existence, Amtrak has never broken even. Most Americans never step foot on an Amtrak train and appear to have little interest in doing so. Yet, like Greece, our government continues to shower Amtrak with generous, multibillion-dollar subsidies. In other words, Congress rewards Amtrak's failure and punishes the vast majority of Americans who do not ride Amtrak, by forcing them to subsidize ticket prices for the few who do.

 

But unlike our Congress, Greece's government is fed up with its money-losing railroad and plans to do something about it. Greece's collapsing, debt-heavy economy recently had to be bailed out with enormous loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. So among other remedial actions, Greece's government plans to overhaul the railroad in radical ways, saying it needs to cut 2,500 jobs and reduce the railroad's more than $10 billion debt.

 

"For years [the state railway] operated as an organization that unfortunately multiplied the country's deficits while providing a very poor quality of services," Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou recently told his Cabinet, as he announced reform plans.

 

Why doesn't the U.S. government take a cue from Greece and reform Amtrak? Why should taxpayers have to keep subsidizing a service that is extremely unpopular and that has cost us tens of billions of dollars? Amtrak is also unconstitutional, as the Constitution makes no provision for the federal government to be in the passenger rail business.

 

Those considerations, plus our country's staggering debt, should be all the reason we need to sell off Amtrak's few profitable lines to the highest free-market bidders and shut down the rest.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

ENDING CRUISE SHIP WELFARE

 

A not-so-funny thing happened when California started looking around at where its state-issued welfare debit cards were being used.

 

Millions of dollars' worth of withdrawals were taking place at strip clubs and casinos in California — and on cruise ships around the world. The U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam were among the exciting vacation destinations where the cards were used for withdrawals or even accepted as payment for "services."

 

Well, California has now halted those abuses of its welfare cards.

 

We're glad to hear it.

 

But with apparently nobody in California government "minding the store," we admit we are not terribly surprised that such brazen misuse of funds meant for "the poor" was taking place. And we are not the least bit surprised that California is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - SEEKING A DISINGENUOUSNESS SHIELD

 

Psychologists call it "suspended disbelief." It is the process whereby the mind refuses to accept or process the

information being sent to it by the eye; witnesses to earthquakes on an otherwise placid day, for example, will exhibit the phenomenon: "I could not believe my eyes."

 

Which is kind of where we are coming down to on the slow rumbling of a new diplomatic crisis expected to hit a crescendo on Nov. 19-20, when ministers meet for a NATO summit in Lisbon. NATO's "if you love me, prove it" demand to Turkey is the proposal to deploy a missile defense shield in Turkey.

 

It boils down to two questions: One, is Turkey willing to do so? Second, can Turkey convince NATO to package what is clearly a proposal with in Iran in mind to somehow fudge that inconvenient truth by avoiding specific mention of a "threat" from Tehran?

 

It is all, frankly, a little bizarre.

 

First is the disingenuousness from the Turkish side. It is as if this comes as a surprise. On Sept. 1, 2009, we reported that Turkey was the new choice to host a missile defense shield. The front page story by contributor İpek Yezdani quoted a Polish newspaper and a prominent U.S. defense lobbyist saying that Turkey was the clear choice after the new U.S. Barack Obama administration decided a Polish location would be too troubling for Russia. The Turkish foreign minister claimed to have no knowledge of the plan. Well, so much for that.

 

Our second concern turns on what we reported Friday. This was Barçın Yinanç's story that among the bits of leverage the United States is deploying in this round of horse-trading is a threat to pull the stops off of the U.S. Congress in its annual toying with a symbolic resolution to formally recognize the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as "genocide."

 

Turkey and America may reasonably disagree on policy toward Iran. But we continue to view the latest row, when Turkey and Brazil brokered the now-famous, last-minute deal to avoid sanctions on Iran's nuclear program, as bungling in Washington, not Ankara. Turkey played fairly on this one, as subsequent revelations of correspondence with Obama make clear. So, wheeling in a weapon of diplomatic mass destruction in the form of this perennial resolution is offensive. Deeply so.

 

Lastly, multi-billion dollar missile defense systems may be much loved by military planners, engineers and defense contractors. They may even have value as an externality for diplomats to make deals on unrelated issues. But as a defense in the age of terrorism, these technologically dubious designs are worthless.

 

Osama bin Laden proved this in 2001 when he simply engineered the hijacking of just three of the 400 or so commercial jets that are above the Boston-Washington air corridor at any moment, converting them into the poor man's version of ballistic missiles.

 

We need a believable defense against 21st-century threats.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

THE DISMAL SCIENCE FOR A DISMAL SECTOR

EMRE DELİVELİ

 

emre.deliveli@gmail.com

I have been seeing quite a few glowing articles on the tourism sector of late. As a disciple of the dismal science, it is my duty to relay my observations from working part-time at our family-run hotel in Marmaris, using the tools of Economics where possible.

 

First, as I argued in my first editorial for the South Weekly, the all-inclusive system, a direct result of the unplanned expansion of the last decade, has squeezed margins to such a point that it is only possible to make ends meet via economies of scale. As a result, especially smaller hotels have no choice but to bring down expenses, resulting in a services sector without decent service.

 

To add insult to injury, not only is it difficult to attract decent staff at the meager wages, hotels in seasonal resort towns are usually stuck with lower-quality workers, as the skilled are picked by hotels open year-around. This is what economists call theadverse selection effect, and there is no easy fix. The simplest solution of paying higher wages to prevent workers from shirking, referred to in the economics literature asefficiency wage theory, is unfortunately not possible.

 

Global developments in the sector have been working against resort hotels as well. Although tour operators have always been stronger on the bargaining table than hotels,recent bankruptcies of several operators as well as mergers and acquisitions in others have turned an oligopolistic sector into one of near-monopoly.

 

In fact, there are now only a couple of British and Russian operators serving Marmaris. On the other side of the table are hotels operating under almost perfect competition. You don't need an economics Ph.D. to figure out that the tour operators will be able to dictate their prices under this set-up.

Finally, macro developments have been very unfavorable of late as well. First, the global crisis hit some markets, notably Russia, hard, although lower prices did induce some tochoose Turkey over the competition, causing an artificial inflation of tourist arrivals figures.

Moreover, the strong Turkish Lira has been working against the sector as well, as costs are in liras and revenues mainly in euros or pounds. As a result, although hotel costs'were up only 6.5 percent yearly in August, once you adjust for the exchange rate, the "effective inflation" becomes 16 percent.

In this respect, Fed's Quantitative Easing II will only make things more difficult, as a fresh round of capital inflows will keep appreciation pressures on the lira. This is definitely not good news for hotels.

I am probably the last economist in Turkey to advocate currency manipulation by theCentral Bank of Turkey, or CBT. But I have also got my hands dirty enough to know that CBT President Durmuş Yılmaz's advice to exporters of hedging against currency risk does not work for the tourism sector: Revenue flow is way too uncertain and balancing the books just too tight.

But Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertuğrul Günay is getting ready to celebrate the country hitting the 30-million-tourists mark. Surely he'd know better than me, so you might as well join the party.

* Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at http://emredeliveli.blogspot.com.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IDEOLOGICAL BLINDNESS ON IRAN

BARÇIN YINANÇ

 

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently said, "We do not perceive any threat from any neighboring countries and we do not think our neighbors form a threat to NATO."

 

But how can he explain the tender opened by his government a few years ago to purchase anti-missile defense systems? Is there a threat perception from Pakistan? Or North Korea?

 

According to military experts, the government shelved the plans to purchase the anti-missile system due to its high cost. But let's assume that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, decided to suspend these plans because it sees no ballistic missile threat. The government does not say that Iran does not possess deadly weapons, it says Iran has no intention of attacking Turkey and that it poses no threat to the alliance.

 

But the alliance does not function with that kind of reasoning.

 

Neither NATO nor any individual country makes their plans according to intentions. "The Russians used to tell us, 'We don't have the intention of attacking you.' We as NATO always answered, 'We don't look at intentions, we look at capabilities,'" say former diplomats that are familiar with NATO.

 

It is perfectly understandable for Turkey to ask NATO not to highlight Iran as the sole threat. But this seems to be an issue that might relatively be easy to overcome. The Turkish officials told me they made progress explaining their reasoning to NATO allies. Ümit Pamir, one of the 12 wise men tasked by NATO Secretary General with preparing a report on strategic concepts that will be endorsed by the alliance in its summit in November, said the report named Iran as a rising threat. Yet he also told me that their report was not binding and that Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen did not have to endorse all the views in the report. Actually, Rasmussen did not name Iran in a recent article published in the International Herald Tribune while making his point on the need for an anti-missile defense mechanism.

 

"Missiles pose an increasing threat to our populations, territory and deployed forces. Over 30 countries have or are acquiring missiles that could be used to carry not just conventional warheads, but also weapons of mass destruction," he wrote.

 

I believe Turkey's allies will understand Turkey's rational behind its wish not to single out Iran in NATO documents.

 

That will leave us with the technical issues. Again, it is perfectly understandable for Turkey to seek clarification as to the modalities of the system. We understand that the U.S. wants to deploy the radar system in Turkey. Obviously this will make Turkey a target. In this case it is perfectly understandable that Turkey will ask guarantees that all of its territories are covered against a potential attack. It is also understandable for Turkey to get the necessary guarantees for the efficient functioning of the system. Let's not forget that there is a lack of confidence in the Turkish side. NATO countries' unwillingness to provide Turkey with anti-missile defense mechanism during the first Gulf War left a bitter taste in Turks.

 

But suppose these fears are alleviated as well. Then, it will be very difficult to explain the rationale of the government to block NATO plans. Saying no to NATO will mean saying, "Sorry guys, my interests of maintaining good relations with Iran overweighs my commitments to NATO."

 

But this stance can't be explained by a healthy evaluation based on Turkey's political and economic interests, but with pure ideological reasons. As I said previously, basing Turkey's policy on the fact that Iran does not have the intention of attacking does not provide for a reasonable argument.

 

The ruling AKP also says it does not want to jeopardize its relations with Iran. But I have trouble seeing what Turkey has gained so far from its relations with Iran that makes it so invaluable. On the economic side, Iran still remains difficult to penetrate. No need to recall how big tenders won by Turkish companies were later cancelled. As Turkey has been struggling to get oil and natural gas exploration rights Iran has not changed its rigid conditions. On the political side, Iran is showing no signs of cooperation with Turkey, in Iraq for instance, and the two countries pursue competing interests in Iraq. It therefore remains a mystery to me what Turkey has gained from its relations with Iran for siding with the Tehran regime on its controversial nuclear program at the expense of alienating its allies.

 

And how exactly will Iran retaliate if Turkey endorses NATO plans?

 

Will it start supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK? Will it stop selling natural gas to Turkey? Will it stop Turkish trucks headed to Central Asia? Can it dare to alienate the only country in the Western bloc that has been supportive of its stance?

 

Why can't Turkey turn around to Iran and say, "I am a NATO member and I have to be loyal to my commitments. This mechanism is purely to defend NATO from any ballistic missile threat."

 

The only way I can explain the AKP's stance is its ideological affinity with Iran and its dislike of the West.

 

Obviously Turkey needs to strike a careful balance between its Western allies and its northern and eastern neighbors. This is not an easy task. But it is not impossible to strike that balance basing policies on strategic, political and economic interests rather than ideology. The AKP's ideological blindness on Iran is working to the detriment of short-, mid- and long-term interests of Turkey.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE NEW GOVERNMENT IN IRAQ AND NOURI AL-MALIKI

CEM OĞUZ

 

Following the January 2005 elections, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, one of the two vice presidents of Iraq under the interim government, was designated as prime minister in the transitional government.

 

Right from the beginning, however, the U.S. and Britain did not like the role Iran played in Jaafari's nomination. His relationship with American authorities in Iraq thus would never improve and the George W. Bush administration would increasingly rely on the Iraqi Kurds to counterbalance Jaafari's government (and thus Iran).

 

Jaafari was eventually forced to withdraw his nomination for premiership for the Iraqi permanent government. The American authorities accused him of showing weak leadership in an environment of growing insurgency. Bush personally believed Jaafari would not be willing to confront Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

 

After it became obvious that he had no chances at all, Jaafari proposed two names to be tipped by the United Iraqi Alliance for the post of prime minister: Ali al-Adeeb and Nuri al-Maliki.

 

Adeeb's father was an Iranian. More importantly, he had a very close relationship with Iran. Maliki, in turn, was a completely unknown figure to the U.S government, although he had served as the deputy leader of the Supreme National Debaathification Commission of the interim government formed to purge Baath Party officials from the Iraqi state. Prominent American journalist Bob Woodward, in his "State of Denial," claims that the U.S. intelligence apparatus had no information at all concerning his personality, Weltanschauung or political stance.

 

In the meantime, the Kurds and Sunnis, believing Maliki would become a strong leader hardly to be controlled by them, were disseminating disinformation with regard to Maliki's ties with Iran. He was deliberately portrayed as "a man of Iranian mullahs."

 

Maliki, however, had no sympathy at all for the Iranian regime. He was first and foremost an ardent Arab nationalist. He first took exile in Iran, but stayed there only for three months and then moved to Syria. While in Iran, he even did not dare to learn Persian.

 

Maliki eventually managed to obtain the prime ministry. During his first months in office, he was very inexperienced indeed. Although he was the prime minister of Iraq, he could only obtain the computers for his office or even permission to enter the Green Zone with the help of his American assistant.

 

Over time, nevertheless, he proved his competence. He showed a great leadership. He was extremely skillful in

political maneuvers. For instance, his attempt to re-employ 46,800 Sunni members of the Saddam Hussein-era army, 270 of which were high-ranking generals, helped him to get the approval and sympathy of the Sunnis as well. He also played a substantial role, in close cooperation with Gen. David Petraeus, in confronting the insurgency.

 

He eventually became so strong that the Iraqi Kurds suggested to the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, to remove him from power. He would be replaced by Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Iraq's another Shia politician. Massoud Barzani, in particular, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, never liked Maliki. In those days, Bush himself seemed to encourage Maliki's overthrow. But the coup never materialized. Crocker strongly opposed that plan.

 

Nowadays, this Maliki is being accused by the Americans of being too friendly with Iran. The Obama White House seems to be willing to back Ayad Allawi over Maliki. Allawi, as you know, is another Shia politician in Iraq, as well as an old friend of the U.S., with particularly close ties to the CIA.

 

This situation reminds me of the accusations directed by certain U.S. political circles to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in Turkey. It has become fashionable nowadays to accuse someone of being "Iran's man," if he follows an independent political course.

 

What do you think, isn't politics interesting indeed?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PAPANDREOU'S TROUBLES MAY BLUR ERDOĞAN'S VISIT

ARIANA FERENTINOU

 

The important trip of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Greece last week may not have produced immediate impressive results, at least on first sight. However, if one judges from the overall high pitched tone of the Turkish media, the Turkish delegation went to Greece determined to show that the relations with its neighbor are now one step ahead in earnest. Fresh after the success of the "referendum for more democracy," the Erdoğan government is now on a more sure footing to give new impetus to its relations with Greece without any fear either of a nationalist opposition or an opposing army. And it can escape nobody's attention that the message from Ankara since the election of George Papandreou just over a year ago has been that this is a government with which they can do much better business than before.

 

The trip to Athens should be included in this context of an increased impetus aiming at concrete results. Behind the photo-ops and the exaggerated coverage of the meeting, especially among the pro-government Turkish media, one could detect that the two sides are actually talking seriously this time in order to reach some kind of solution over their disputes. Behind the concrete progress made so far on issues like the return of the Prinkipo Orphanage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, or a "joint Greek-Turkish initiative to curb illegal immigration to the EU," there seem to be serious secret discussions in the background between the two sides where, according to the Turkish prime minister, a "productive" dialogue is taking place. However a productive dialogue with the Turks may ring alarm bells to many circles in Greece which would interpret it -- and they do -- as an indication of Greece losing diplomatic ground in the Aegean, or even in Greek Thrace.

 

However, the time for a full discussion of all the issues between Turks and Greeks may be convenient or even pressing for the Turks, who are eager to get some kind of favorable progress report from the EU next month. But this cannot be said for the Greek side. To start with, the Papandreou government prefers to shroud the content of the bilateral discussions of the committee of experts – who have been meeting over the last year with a renewed agenda -- with enough vagueness. Do the two sides discuss a series of bilateral issues or just the issue of the delineation of the continental shelf? Will they agree on a draft text in order to go to The Hague or not? The opposition is arguing that the present Greek government is giving in to Turkish demands and that Erdoğan is enjoying not only the victory of the referendum which secured his electoral victory in the coming general elections but also a free hand in foreign policy.

 

On the other hand, the visit of the Turkish official delegation to Athens took place at a highly crucial time for the Papandreou government. With local elections only days away -- Nov. 7 -- these elections, which will also introduce a radical reorganization of the system of local government in Greece, are proving a major headache for the government.

 

After a year in power the Papandreou government is now about to face the first major test of its popularity. The unprecedented financial crisis which has placed Greece under the tightest straightjacket of an austerity program has created scores of unemployed, especially among the young. According to the latest figures published in the Greek press, 25 percent of the population cannot pay their telephone bills and 12 percent their electricity bills. All the polls are pointing to a trend of total disillusionment from politics which may keep Greeks away from the ballot box. But there is an even worse trend that is worrying the Greek government: that they may face a protest vote against their own candidates by an enraged electorate.

 

If the coming local elections prove a major defeat for the Papandreou government, then it may be difficult for them to push ahead with a Greek-Turkish agenda which may involve even the slightest concessional step from the part of the Greeks. In an atmosphere of recession the sentiment which discredits all politicians increases as well as nationalism.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MISSING DEEDS AND EASTERN PROMISES

EMRE DELİVELİ

 

emre.deliveli@gmail.com

The life of a Turkish economist never gets boring.

 

First, the government started working on a fiscal rule, which, despite the enthusiasm from the academedia (my acronym for academics and the media) and analysts, your friendly neighborhood economist did not find conservative enough.

 

But even in its current form, and disregarding weaknesses in its institutional set-up such as the lack of an independent monitor, the fiscal rule meant that the government would have to enact some fiscal restraint in an election year. Then, it was only natural that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shelved it in September, settling once and for all that he had the last say in these matters.

 

So imagine the surprise when the deficit figure for next year, which was announced in theMedium Term Program, or MTP, a couple of weeks ago, was around 5 billion Turkish Liras (roughly 0.4 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP) lower than what would have been implied by the fiscal rule.

 

Unsurprisingly, the market reaction was very positive, supported by emerging market euphoria on the back of the Fed's imminent new round of quantitative easing. Equally ecstatic were analysts, all racing to be the first to praise the government's commitment to fiscal discipline.

 

But as Murat Üçer of GlobalSource Partners and Turkey Data Monitor, one of the more cautious economists out there, put it, most analysts are ignoring the deeds and focusing on the words. What he means is that the government is more than 15 billion liras over the primary expenditure target in the original budget for this year. It is able to get away with this because the higher-than-projected GDP this year makes budget ratios look better.

 

In short, the market, analysts and academedia alike are selectively choosing to jubilate over the promise to rein in expenditures next year rather than worry about this year's overrun. Such cherry-picking is perhaps fine, especially since fiscal restraint in an election year would be a first for Turkey.

 

The only problem is that the government's track record at attaining announced fiscal targets is very poor. Maybe it's just me, but I find it difficult to see why this time would be different, especially as the government is envisioning almost no real increase in non-interest expenditures.

 

Note that curbing such doubts was the whole point of the fiscal rule: It would have been a commitment device. The government would have solved the dreaded time inconsistencyproblem by tying itself to the mast in the spirit of Odysseus. So when the sirens sang the tunes of fiscal splurge before the elections, it would not have been able to pork-barreleven if it wanted to.

 

Then, tactless analysts like your friendly neighborhood economist, who are paid by the anti-government media to write in international outfits like Forbes and Roubini Global Economics to scare the foreign investors away, would have sulked and quieted down.

 

But not everything about the MTP is so grey. Although Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek went short of saying read my lips, he was clear that there would be no new taxes in 2011. I was pleasantly surprised, as such knockoff measures are the most common temporary patches to the budget in Turkey, although they do more harm than good in the long-run: Not only ad-hoc tax hikes would be disrupting inflation expectations further, they would also create a false sense of fiscal responsibility.

 

Then, given the Minister's excellent forecasting track record when he was a market economist, I can only deduce one thing from the expected increase of 33 percent from alcoholic beverage tax revenues:

 

Beşiktaş will win the Europa League and Super Cup titles, with beer and rakı flowing during the ensuing celebrations!

 

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at http://emredeliveli.blogspot.com.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LEAVE MUSLIMS ALONE?

SONER ÇAĞAPTAY AND HAYRİ ABAZA

 

Now that even the tolerant, liberal Swedes have elected an anti-Islam party to their parliament, it's pretty clear that such controversies are mounting because both the left and the right are confused over the politics of Islam. The left is wrongly defending Islamism — an extremist and at times violent ideology — which it confuses with the common person's Islam, while the right is often wrongly attacking the Muslim faith, which it confuses with Islamism. Western thinkers must begin to recognize the difference between Islamism and Islam, or we are headed toward an ideologically defined battle with one quarter of humanity.

 

At least a few on the left are defending Islamism because they think that they are defending Islam. Recently, a European policymaker told us that she had become sympathetic to Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, because "in the post-Sept. 11 world, I wanted to defend Islam." Well, the AKP, and other Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, do not represent Islam. These Islamist parties, even when not using violence, stand for an ideology that is illiberal to its core — for instance, its refusal to recognize gender equality. In the same way that communism once claimed to speak for the working class, Islamism claims to represent Muslims. By defending radical Islamist movements, the left is helping only to give Muslims a bad name. The left ought to side not with so-called moderate Islamist parties, but rather with liberal Muslim movements, such as the Republican People's Party, or CHP, in Turkey and the pro-democracy movement in Egypt, which support gender equality.

 

The right, on the other hand, often targets Islam while thinking that it is attacking Islamism. Banning the building of minarets, as Switzerland did, is exactly the wrong thing to do. The problem is not a mosque; the problem is a mosque used to promote violence, jihadism and illiberal Islamism. The crimes of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and other groups are rooted in jihadist Islamism, which advocates violence to impose extremist dogma on Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In response, right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders and other nativist politicians in Europe have suggested a ban on Islam itself by criminalizing the Islamic holy book, the Quran. Wilders should take note that not even Stalin was able to ban religion. It's hard to believe that a politician in liberal Europe can suggest outlawing a faith, but that is what the confusion over Islam has come to. What is more shocking is that Wilders' anti-Islam party emerged as the third-largest political force in the latest Dutch elections. The group has proposed responding to acts of Islamist terror by taxing Muslim women's headscarves. What a shame for the right, which is supposed to stand for religious freedom and should stand for freedom of Islam, even while targeting jihadist Islamist groups.

 

The confusion over Islam has real consequences. When was the last time you read a piece by a leftist intellectual criticizing how the AKP is trampling media freedoms in Turkey? Or the Muslim Brotherhood's refusal to recognize equal rights for women and Christians in Egypt? By defending Islamism, liberals are strengthening one of the biggest threats facing Muslims and Western liberalism alike. Meanwhile, by targeting the Muslim faith, the right is alienating potential allies in the Muslim community: conservative Muslims who want to practice their faith and despise al-Qaeda's vision. As they try to promote religious values in the secularized and quite often atheistic or agnostic West, right-wing politicians will find natural allies in conservative Muslims.

 

If Western intellectuals do not get rid of this confusion now, we are headed down a dangerous path. Common people in the West will start to bundle all Muslims with Islamists, picking a potentially losing battle with one quarter of humanity. This clash of civilizations is what al-Qaeda wanted to trigger with the attacks on Sept. 11. The West and its intellectuals should be smarter than al-Qaeda.

 

*Hayri Abaza is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. This column originally appeared in Newsweek.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FOOD THAT KILLS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE ON YOUR PLATE

ANN WOOLNER

 

Maybe the egg-borne outbreak of salmonella last month didn't rattle you, nor the death-inducing peanut butter last year or the spinach-linked E. coli sickness in 2006. But if you are reading this while eating, you might want to lay down the fork. A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists and Iowa State University could ruin your appetite.

 

 Hundreds of U.S. inspectors and scientists whose job it is to check the safety of food say that, within the past year alone, political or corporate interests interfered with their work. Unpleasant findings are glossed over, edited out or changed to make food seem safer than it is, they say.

 

 "Once a member of Congress gets involved the agency does whatever it can to make the situation go away rather than address food safety issues," an unnamed U.S. Department of Agriculture employee said when answering the survey.

 

 Of the 1,700 people at the department and the Food and Drug Administration who answered the survey, 507 said they had personally experienced political interference in their work. Specifically, 266 said that they had been involved in situations in which a member of Congress forced the agency to back off an action intended to protect the public. And 301 said they had witnessed corporate interests force such a change. (It isn't clear whether those two groups overlapped.)

 

 Not only that, but 330 said they had seen businesses withhold food safety information in situations that harmed the public health.  Still hungry?

 

 Sense of Urgency

 

 You might think the new survey would inject a sense of urgency into the Senate, where a food safety bill has stalled. Passed last year in the House with two-thirds in favor, the bill is treading water in the face of bipartisan support and backing by consumer and mainstream food industry groups alike. A Senate committee gave it unanimous approval.

 

 The legislation would require regular inspections of food processing plants, give the FDA authority to order recalls, boost the number of inspectors, require companies to scientifically analyze their products for safety and keep beter records.

 

 Not everyone wants this law. Smaller producers, who say their food is safer anyway, worry about being strangled by more regulation. Amendments are possible. But the bigger industry players, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have been pushing for passage. They like tighter regulation, in part because spinach growers learned that, even when they keep their operations in top shape, they can be shut down while authorities hunt for the culprit, according to the New York Times.

 

Blocked by Coburn

 

 The chief Senate critic, the man preventing a vote, is Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma. He complains about the cost and the law's inability to correct long-running problems at the agencies, such as duplication of efforts. So he objected to Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to put the bill up for a vote with limited debate on a crowded calendar before the October recess, an objection Reid calls "unconscionable."

 

 In the 13 months since the House passed the FDA overhaul, there have been 85 food recalls, involving products that have sickened at least 1,850 people, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. We are talking about salad dressings and soup mixes, alfalfa sprouts and lettuce, to name a few contaminated items.

 

 Food Fatalities

 

 The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 76 million people get sick from food-borne illnesses annually, 325,000 of whom wind up hospitalized, and 5,000 die. Under the best of circumstances, government inspectors can't be everywhere all the time. That's why the bill contains protections for company whistleblowers. These are the insiders who take their responsibilities seriously. They refuse to give up when a boss tells them not to worry their pretty little heads if they find rat feces in a peanut processing plant, for example.

 

 In food safety as in other areas, whistleblowers find themselves reassigned, punished and harassed. They risk their jobs and their emotional health when they refuse to go along with glossing over dangers lurking in the nation's food supply. The stalled safety law would shield from retaliation employees of food-related companies who report violations.

 

 The pressure is on for the Senate to pass the law and soon. If they miss the chance to do it before the October recess, there is always the lame duck session. But that's pushing it. And that's a long time to wait before picking up the fork.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

DOES GERMAN-FRENCH AXIS DOMINATE THE EU?

MUSTAFA KUTLAY - QUENTIN BLOMMAERT

 

One of the central matters in the Turkey-EU relations is obviously the question concerning the hypothetical accession of Turkey to the EU. In that respect, two of the main EU players, namely France and Germany, have expressed negative stances, preferring a privileged partnership over the last couple of years. Even though the French-German axis does not mirror the manner in which the Turkish issue is perceived in Europe as a whole, the two countries still represent a heavy weight at the EU policy-making circles. Accordingly, it appears interesting to scrutinize the argumentation provided by the French-German couple as to their negative stance towards Turkey. The purpose is the following: It provides one with clues as to the stumbling blocks that are, according to France and Germany, preventing Turkey from an EU perspective. It thus unveils areas Ankara still has to remedy, if possible, in order to increase its chances to become a full EU member. The following lines propose thus a short glimpse of French-German positions in the Turkey-EU relations with special reference to post-2005 period.

 

Germany: A fragmented 'no'

 

More than 3.5 million people from a Turkish background live in Germany today, triggering a sort of Turkish reality inside German borders, which in turn also impregnates domestic politics. The presence on German soil of so many people with a Turkish background is mirrored in all facets of everyday life: from politics to literature but also cinema. In such a context, German politicians must deal, in the Turkey-EU issue, with two fronts at the same time, namely the domestic and the foreign policy area. Next, Turkey is also of strong interests for the German economy, with notably more than 4,000 German companies in its territories; likewise bilateral trade exceeds $23 billion despite the devastating global financial crisis. However, the stance that is adopted by the ruling party towards Turkey's EU bid is that of a refusal, reasons tackling, among others: the overburden a Turkish accession may represent, politically, socially and economically, the necessary pause linked to a consolidation period, the Cyprus issue but also the endangerment for the European integration's process. Nonetheless, one notices that party politics in Germany do not show a consensual position as to the Turkey issue, the CDU-CSU being a strong opponent, a stance that contrasts with the other parties (SPD, Greens, FDP, die Linke) that expressed a favorable opinion for Turkey's accession. During the SPD-Greens coalition, Chancellor Schroeder clearly stated that his stance was in favor of Turkey becoming an EU member. However, with the coming into power of the CDU/CSU in the two ensuing coalitions, Angela Merkel expressed an opposing stance, repeating she was for a "privileged partnership" with Turkey. Positions diverge between the different parties, though Merkel's stance has been fixed, however underscoring more often than not her "pacta sunt servanda" and never making use of her veto that would bring negotiations to an end (as wished by the CSU).

 

France: A monolithic 'no'?

 

Regarding France, the Turkish parameter inside the country is of less importance due to the smaller number of migrants with a Turkish background. Nevertheless, relations between the two countries at the economic but also cultural levels are also well developed. Low points have been reached between the two partners: among them, for instance, the recognition of the "Armenian genocide" and the penalization of its negation by the French parliament; but also a speech uttered by former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing stating that Turkey was neither geographically nor historically European. During his presidency, Jacques Chirac made clear that he was strongly in favor of Turkey becoming an EU member. Contrary to that stance, Nicolas Sarkozy, taking office in 2007, repeated that he was strongly against Turkey's EU bid, uttering at times that "it was not Europe." The Cyprus issue, the geography parameter and also the size of the country, which would bring balances in the EU into trouble are some of the reasons quoted by Sarkozy and his party. Voices from the left side of the political spectrum are heard, though not as loud as in Germany. While being a proponent, it is Chirac that brought the Cyprus issue to the discussion table, adding a second stumbling block after the referendum proposed for any further enlargement of the EU after Croatia. Sarkozy, faithful to his words, on his part strengthened the proposed referendum. Moreover, France vetoes five negotiation chapters on the ground that "they may pave the way for full membership."

 

Refusal in both cases is expressed at the domestic level and repeated at the European one, such as during the 2009 European parliamentary elections. In the existing conjuncture Germany and France completely hold that Turkey should be kept away from the membership track and it poisons Turkey's relations with the EU. However, France and Germany diverge from one another in the manner in which the Turkey-EU issue is dealt with: In France, one is rather confronted with a proxy, utilized for political aims and situated in the foreign policy area. Contrary to that, Germany tried not to make a populist theme of the issue, underscoring the announced stance, though keeping in mind that the Turkey-EU matter is intricately linked to its domestic as well as foreign policy. Among the reasons expressed speaking for a refusal, one may say that there is a dichotomy between those being remediable and those that are not. If in the German case, the reasons stated can be improved and sorted out in a foreseeable future, concerning the French stance one may say that it is not of technical nature and thus do not lie in Turkey's hands; rather, these reasons such as history or geography lie outside Turkey's reach. Eventually, it is crucial to keep in mind that the French-German axis, and their stance, is not shared by all EU members. The weight Germany and France possess at the EU level does not transform the Turkey-EU bid into a stilted matter; contrary to that, diverging stances are expressed in manifold countries, but also at the respective domestic level in France and Germany.

 

*Mustafa Kutlay is political economy researcher at the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK, Center for EU Studies. Quentin Blommaert is a visiting researcher at USAK Center for EU Studies.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

POWER AND PEOPLE

 

 The Supreme Court has given people some hope that the unrelenting rise in power bills that they have faced for months may stop. A three-member bench, hearing petitions related to the Rental Power Projects and allegations of corruption, has warned NEPRA that it must either justify the power tariff rise or face the prospect of jail for some individuals. The sense that an institution is keeping an eye on matters that place huge strains on common citizens is reassuring. People have been burdened beyond what they can bear – with the proposal from donors that subsidies be removed from utilities being one that will leave many households even less able to manage than before. Already, many in the country simply cannot not meet the soaring costs of life. Their predicament is grave, but even graver is the failure of the government to address their needs. Indeed, some evidence on the RPPs presented before the court indicates that corruption and mismanagement have been adding to people's miseries. The report by the Asian Development Bank raising concerns about the RPPs was discussed as were other accounts of nepotism and corruption. The court has many questions about the RPPs, the amount paid out for them and the volume of power to be generated in exchange. More facts will undoubtedly come to light as the matter continues and power-sector officials – served notices by the court – appear before it to present their accounts and answer questions.


The matter taken up by the apex court raises key issues. Among these is one of the role of institutions and whether the highest court in the land should be taking up issues linked in many ways to the nitty-gritty of governance. There are many arguments concerning this. But the fact is that we face a situation where the government has become increasingly dysfunctional, where accounts of wrongdoing come in everyday and where people's needs are increasingly neglected. In such a state of affairs it is vital that action be taken, and that someone move in to ask and demand answers to key questions. Today the issue of power and its costs is among these, with the shortages we have faced forcing factory units and workshops everywhere to close down. We need to do everything possible to prevent the crisis from worsening –- and to review policies that many fear would add to the bank accounts of some but do nothing to mitigate the difficulties faced by millions.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE POLIO FAILURE

 Three years ago Pakistan reported a handful of cases of polio, and there was real hope that this dreadful and entirely preventable disease would finally be eradicated from our land. But it was not to be, and the report that 26,000 families have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated in Kyhber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is a devastating blow to those battling the disease. The consequences of the refusal are painfully obvious; 57 cases of polio have been reported from KP and FATA this year. Pakistan as a whole has reported 82 cases and is almost certain to pass the 87 reported last year. This is a catastrophe that need never have happened, and is happening at a time when Afghanistan (a bastion of social conservatism) has reported 18 cases this year against 75 last year, India is reporting 31 compared to 385 and Nigeria eight as against 400 in 2009. These three countries now have eradication within their grasp, and if they do eradicate then it will leave us as the only country in the world where polio remains endemic. 


The vaccination teams were refused because the populations they were trying to immunise had had their minds poisoned with tales that the polio vaccine would make their male children impotent and the females infertile. Ill-educated and poorly developed populations are prey to all sorts of misapprehensions and the way, in this case, to realign their thinking is through the help and support of religious scholars and teachers. They can shape local opinion and behaviours in respect of health issues, but they have to want to do it and there has to be support for them from the government. It is sadly instructive that last year there was just one meeting between federal polio officials and the chief minister of KPK – who anyway has no jurisdiction in tribal areas. We very nearly eradicated polio three years ago. Today we stand in the middle of an expanding pool of cases, with a population containing millions of people displaced by war and floods. A lot more effort needs to go into changing toxic and dangerous mindsets, and there can be no excuse for not making that effort.

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I.THE NEWS

A LOCAL HERO

 

 One of a dwindling band of men and women who have served Pakistan for much of their lives was honoured last week. Major(r) Geoffrey Langlands was awarded the CMG (Companion of St Michael and St George, an award given to Britishers who have given exemplary service overseas) at an informal reception at the British High Commission in Islamabad. He is 93 and has served here since Partition, mostly in education. On the occasion, Mr Langlands spoke of his affection for his adopted country and the importance of education in the development of any country. In the audience were men, some of them now quite old, who were his past pupils; he has taught many who have risen to high office in this country. He will now live out his days at Aitchison College there to be visited by those who remember him fondly; and perhaps a few whose memories are less fond as he was a stickler for discipline.


Geoffrey Langlands is the most high-profile of those foreigners who have served here. They sought neither fame nor fortune, only the betterment of their fellow men and women. Until recently there was a Scottish lady doctor at Khapalu, another still works at Multan. An Irish nun lives in quiet retirement in Bahawalpur having taught girls for over thirty years. An English couple work with poor nomadic Hindus in southren Punjab and another woman champions the cause of the Kalash people deep in the mountains of Chitral. There have been others, forgotten now except by those whose lives they touched. They have all given a significant part of their lives, and often made considerable personal sacrifices, to share their skills with us and reach out usually to the poorest and most underprivileged. Geoffrey Langlands will go into a well-earned retirement, but he will leave a legacy that lasts long beyond him. He may be British but he is truly – a local hero.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHEN AN AMBASSADOR IS 'VICEROY'

ZAFAR HILALY

 

 When the Cold War at its peak, states were offering themselves for sale to the highest bidder. Pakistan was one of them. In our case the winning bid was by the United States of America. The Soviet Union somehow did not get a chance to put in a serious bid. Ever since then, the United States has developed a morbid interest in what transpires in Pakistan. 


American ambassadors to Pakistan are so intrusive that, if tasked, they could probably discover the state of the digestive track of the president. Although, more often than not, they wouldn't have to ask: the information would be volunteered to them anyway by the incumbent himself, so often do they meet. Alternatively, they could tap any number of sources, considering our proclivity to blab. Pakistan leaks like a sieve. A secret hardly ever remain one, although, frankly, nothing except the disposition of troops in battle calls for much secrecy.
Some US ambassadors handled their assignments with a modicum of tact. Others preened themselves and strutted about as if they owned the place. One US ambassador relished being called "the Viceroy." A good word from him could earn one a promotion. This state of affairs has never really ceased. US ambassadors continue to take liberties that no other envoy could dream of, unless it is the Indian ambassador to Bhutan. 


They think they have a veto on government decisions and often exercise this right, and get away with it. However, now and then, they became insufferable, and I am witness to an occasion when the worm turned, so to speak, and, threatened to his face with being declared persona non grata, the US ambassador returned to his senses, with fulsome and bumbling apologies. Bullies generally tend to be cowards.


As US ambassadors go, Anne Patterson, who has just departed, was not obtrusive but focused and businesslike. She seemed to make it a point not to tread on toes. Indeed, if there was anything which stood out about her, it was her modesty, which she seemed to have assiduously cultivated. It was interesting, therefore, to read that in an interview with Dr Moid Pirzada on the eve of her departure, Ambassador Patterson claimed that, among her accomplishments during her sojourn in Pakistan, was the restoration of democracy and the return of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan. 


She said the US goal was not to support the NRO. "Our goal was to return to democratic government and get former PM Benazir Bhutto to return and then get Sharif to return." Further explaining her stance, she said: "The US did not support, or did not work against, the NRO. I don't know if it was a mistake at the time. In the context of the negotiations at the time, it was important in removing Musharraf and getting BB back." 


However much Ambassador Patterson may wish to skirt the issue today, the fact is that the NRO was elemental to the deal reached between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, brokered by the US, and Patterson knew and supported the concept. 


However, what she did say confirms what one had always sadly known, that who governs Pakistan is decided as much as, though many would say more, by the US as by the electorate or the establishment. That we should have received confirmation of this fact from the usually reticent Patterson is ironical. However, just as she has revealed what many suspected, she would be interested to know what many of us believe, which is that, were it not for Patterson's amazingly insensitive handling of the situation following BB's return, BB may still have been with us today, and not only in spirit.


I was present when Ambassador Patterson called on BB a few days after the Karsaz bombing of Oct 18, 2007, to congratulate her on her providential escape. Prior to the meeting there had been intense discussions amongst BB's entourage as to what had happened and who could have been responsible. Each of us had our own theory and looked forward to learning what the US ambassador had to say. 


After the usual courtesies, BB, very deliberately, went through the long list of security lapses committed by Musharraf with regard to the protection of her procession. Some were so blatant, BB pointed out, that they could have only been deliberate. BB also recalled that her desire to have foreigners guard her had been turned down by Musharraf. In other words, BB concluded, not only was Musharraf in breach of his agreement to provide her with adequate security on her return but had gone out of his way to ensure that no one else did.
Ambassador Patterson, in response, muttered something about "seeing what could be done," and then, without batting an eyelid, went on to say that if such were the suspicions that BB harboured of Musharraf "what would happen to your agreement to cooperate?" 


It was an insensitive remark, one which suggested that, rather than address BB's feelings of being been badly letdown – nay, betrayed – by Musharraf, all Patterson was interested in was the fate of the agreement that she had helped to cobble between them. And, furthermore, that she cared little for the 150 dead, the maimed, the injured, and the suffering of their kin. It was typically American. The least setback to American interests seemed to be of greater concern than the destruction of the lives of hundreds. In that one moment all of that was on naked display. And so was BB's fury, "So you want me to cooperate with a man who tried to kill me?" she thundered. 


Even if Patterson did not get it, which she did not – actually she could not, given how consumed Americans are with their own interests – those present knew that, for all practical purposes, the "deal" was over. BB had decided to cut loose. Musharraf and the Americans had failed to live up to their side of the bargain and now she was free to chart her own course. Subsequent conversations with her confirmed this impression. 
A different reaction from Patterson – like, for example, a promise to go immediately to Musharraf and tell him in no uncertain terms that the Americans too would hold him responsible for further security lapses – would have elicited a different reaction from BB, if not Musharraf, who obviously, if for no other reason than to save his own hide, may well have boosted security arrangements. And that may have made all the difference. 
Clearly, along with the influence that US ambassadors wield in Pakistan comes the responsibility to use it wisely and discerningly, and for them to be sensitive to the moment as much as to their interlocutor's thinking. On all these counts, Ambassador Patterson failed, to our everlasting regret. 


Postscript.
As for the NRO, it was indeed instrumental for BB's return; however, not in the way that it has been made out. For BB the NRO was initially irrelevant because Musharraf had earlier agreed to drop all charges against her personally and those against her husband. He had done so because the cases were getting nowhere and a conviction was impossible, given the quality of the evidence required. In the circumstances it was no big deal. However, dropping cases against BB would have left the others, like the Farooqis and Rahman Maliks who accompanied her in exile, still very much on the hook, and BB did not want to be seen as abandoning her supporters, although God knows why? She also wanted to be spared the bother of interminable court hearings all over the country. There was never any doubt in her mind that the Pakistani cases were all contrived by her political opponents. She wanted a new beginning and the NRO seemed to promise that.


The writer is a former ambassador. Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

MANKIND'S LAST BEST HOPE?

SHAMSHAD AHMAD

 

Two historical anniversaries take place within three months every year. The first commemorates the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 and the second marks the founding of the United Nations in October, 1945, as a world body established to save humanity from the scourge of war. 
Fifty million people were killed in the Second World War, including the hundreds of thousands who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki alone. However, the conduct of states has not gone beyond the ringing of bells and solemn prayers on these anniversaries. 


Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain in the world. At least nine states, including the five NPT-declared nuclear-weapon states, are known to be in possession of roughly 27,000 nuclear warheads, and they continue to produce weapons-grade fissile materials. The US and Russia together possess more than 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.


As for the United Nations, which only serves as a venue for conferences, it regularly celebrates its anniversaries. This year's anniversary notice at a UN-related website made an attractive appeal: "Fed Up With Hunger? Combat Starvation & Poverty! Join Us At This Year's UN 65th Anniversary Celebration and Banquet. Participation Fee Only $35 Per Person." What a joke!


What happened to the vision that hailed the UN at its inception in 1945, as "mankind's last best hope"? The world body stands totally incapacitated in the face of the myriad challenges facing mankind. It has no relevance to its twin goals of peace and prosperity. 


The post-9/11 world has witnessed unprecedented erosion in the role, authority and credibility of the UN, which is no longer the sole meaningful arbiter on issues of global importance. Washington, not the UN Headquarters in New York, is the focus of world attention where actual decision-making on major global issues is concerned. The UN has prevented no war, and has resolved no major dispute. Palestine and Kashmir, the world's two longest-running major disputes, are a glaring example of this hopeless situation.


The UN was meant to provide a moral edifice in the reordering of the global system, which was to be based on justice and equity and governed by rules, laws, values and cooperation. The world is neither just nor equal, and remains afflicted with undiminished poverty, hunger and disease. Economic disparities are only widening, while global peace remains as elusive as ever. 


Functionally, the UN today is no more than a debating forum, annually producing voluminous and repetitive resolutions without tangible results or follow-up action. The UN system is not only the world's largest consumer of paper but also its largest producer of waste paper. No wonder it is dubbed as "dustbin of history."
The UN Security Council, responsible under the Charter for maintenance of international peace and security, is left with no role in preventing conflicts or resolving disputes. The overriding vested interests of the more influential and powerful players limit its role in conflict prevention and dispute resolution. Its deliberations are conducted in a theatrical manner through stage-managed debates and choreographed scenarios. There is no transparency in its proceedings. Its decisions on critical issues are reached behind closed doors in the anterooms of the Council's Chamber. 


"They come, they speak, and they leave." This is what happens in September every year, when government leaders from across the globe assemble in New York to participate in the general debate at the annual session of the General Assembly. At the beginning of each regular session, the General Assembly holds a general debate, often addressed by heads of state and government, in which member-states express their views on the most pressing international issues.


For nearly two weeks at this time of the year, the "Big Apple," as New Yorkers fondly call their city, is paralysed with extraordinary traffic jams and security gridlocks. It also becomes a global carnival with a lot of fun and frolic in the name of the world's poor and global peace. The programme normally kicks off with a breakfast hosted by the UN secretary-general at UN Headquarters, with a lavish global menu. A series of luncheons, receptions and banquets, and "bilaterals" then keep them busy with each other. 


The only UN-related official engagement of the world's leaders at the annual session is the 10- to 15-minute statements that they deliver from the podium of the General Assembly. The statements so made are only a rehash of the words of wisdom that world leaders have been delivering at this forum for years on major issues. Some even dramatise their presence at the podium by self-serving antics.


We hear a lot of good things about our future in terms of peace and prosperity, and about mankind's freedom from all evils and menaces. Our leaders also reiterate their resolve to reshape the UN in conformity with the realities of the changed world. The promised change is nowhere to be seen. Neither the world nor the UN shows any change for the better. Neither is different from what it has been since the Second World War.
The world remains afflicted with the same old problems, perhaps in their acutest forms now. Injustice and oppression continue unabated. Historical grievances and outstanding disputes remain unaddressed. Wars of aggression and attrition, invasions in the name of self-defence, military occupations, massacres and genocides, human tragedies and a culture of extremism and violence continue to define the "new world disorder." Global peace remains as elusive as ever. There is no letup in violence and the causes that breed violence and vengeance. 


What aggravates this bleak scenario is the growing inability of the international community to respond to these challenges. The events of the last nine years have immeasurably shaken the international system, which is no longer governed by norms and principles governing inter-state relations. There is no global balance of power, nor consensus on major peace and security issues or on how to address them. The complacent world has never been so indifferent and so chaotic.


If the UN of the 21st century has to be prevented from meeting the fate of its predecessor, the League of Nations, its structure and culture will have to be adapted to the realities and challenges of today's changed world. This would require restoration of the primacy of the General Assembly as the UN's chief policy-making organ and restructuring of the Security Council to make it more representative and more effective. 
The UN must shed its vestiges of power and privilege, the remnants of World War II Realpolitik. The democratic principle of sovereign equality must now be the basis of its strength and participatory character.
The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email:
shamshad1941@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SERVING THE NATION

DR A Q KHAN

 

 Recently we heard Pervez Musharraf on TV apologising to the Pakistani nation for past mistakes, but at the same time proclaiming, yet again, that he was the saviour of the country. It was disturbing to listen to his irrational, rude outbursts against former prime minister Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, calling them (and many others) liars. But look at his own track record. He went on to call Nawaz Sharif "brainless."


Rather than blaming others, the person at the helm of affairs has to take responsibility for his decisions – be they good or bad. Musharraf surrounded himself with ignorant, selfish advisors. Has one ever heard of boozers and gamblers making good advisors? Such people are quick to switch loyalties as soon as their benefactor is in trouble, and soon the same round of drinking and merry-making continues. 


Musharraf, who came from a lower-middle-class family, a usurper and dictator who handed the country over to his US masters, is still begging to rule. Were most of us not shocked to hear him say that he should have ruled as chief of the army staff for at least five more years? 


The desire to serve a nation is commendable, but it should be free of selfishness, greed, nepotism and favouritism. The question is: need one be a politician or a ruler to serve the nation? There are many people who need help and support and there are many issues that need to be resolved. It is not necessary to be a president or a prime minister to serve the people. The idea that only rulers can solve problems more often than not leads to the people being cheated and the country being looted. There are already many people who, without holding any public office and without any fanfare, are doing great social work. 


The future of the present rulers, like that of the past, is bleak. All are involved in looting the country, through corruption, etc., while millions are starving without even one square meal a day being guaranteed to them. This is to say nothing of those affected by the floods. Many of those affected by the earthquake five years ago are still without homes and proper amenities.


Let us compare the actions of a politician of our neighbour, India. Jai Prakash Narain first distributed land (from feudal landlords) to landless peasants and then did an excellent welfare job. After the abolition of the feudal system and the small states, there were a large number of jobless people who resorted to murder, theft, dacoity and highway robbery. They were most active in the forests of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Because of dense forests, the law enforcing agencies were not successful in eradicating the menace. Jai Prakash Narain then initiated a campaign to persuade the outlaws to lay down their arms and surrender. The government pardoned them and helped them with land and money to enable them to lead respectable lives. Within a short span of time the menace was eradicated, as a result of a wise policy by a wise person.


In our country the Taliban (or resistance fighters against US presence) and the government forces have created a situation of virtual civil war in which millions of people are suffering and thousands have been killed. This situation needs immediate remedial action, which is, unfortunately, nowhere in sight. There are no organisations or groups to address the problem, as none dare to come forward for fear of being branded as terrorists by their own government. The whole country is in a mess due to the free-for-all attitude of past and present governments. Every curse imaginable is present in our "land of the pure." Our elected representatives fight amongst themselves, all the while minting money. 

Just recently, the World Justice Project (International) published a report on corruption, lawlessness, lack of provision of justice, etc., in a large number of countries. It was a slap (or, rather, a shoe) in the face of the present rulers. It pointed out an increase in wide-scale corruption (despite the heralded anti-corruption campaign), violation of human rights and absence of justice in the last three years.
This should not surprise us if we consider the reputations of those at the helm of affairs. There is documentary proof of the existence of excessive properties abroad and foreign accounts. Nobody is willing to give details about how these were acquired. If a journalist or anchorperson raises such questions, the fury of the party is unleashed and discussions turn into a verbal free for all. The people have a right to know about the wealth of their rulers. Did not an ordinary Bedouin challenge Caliph Hazrat Umar (RA) to justify the long abaya he was wearing? It was not a herdsman or woodcutter who was being challenged, but the Amir ul Mominin. The Bedouin was satisfied with the reply given by Hazrat Umar (RA) that it was made from cloth given to him by his son.
We are all fed up of hearing yet more stories of corruption, violations of human rights, etc. Worse still is the feeling of the general public that there is no quick, fair justice. Continuous postponement of hearings and delays in the dispensing of justice by the courts is casting a shadow of gloom and despair. People have started mumbling about the "compromising" attitude of the courts. In one of my earlier columns I had pointed out that most, if not all, the curses afflicting our country are due to the non-availability and non-enforcement of quick and fair justice. For 11 months now the NRO case has paralysed the country and the 17 topmost judges are unable to pass judgment. Before the hearing of Oct 13, Prime Minister Gilani had openly stated that the date would come and go without anything changing. Now the case of the NAB chairman is going in the same way. Meanwhile, attention will be drawn to some suo moto notices. The present rulers have shaken the very foundation of this country. Never before have we had such a corrupt and inefficient clique ruling the country. 


Unfortunately, even though the dictatorial regime of Gen Musharraf has been gone for more than two years, I am still knocking at judicial doors for my freedom and the right to live a normal life. I was told that the interests of the state supersede the rights of an individual. Did not this particular individual turn this underdeveloped country into a nuclear power, thus allowing everyone to live peacefully in an independent state? Was that not in the interest of the state? This is happening while those who have done real harm to the country are considered respectable citizens beyond the reach of the law. Is that justice? 


Here I would like to remind the readers that to delay or deny justice and to tell the truth in an apologetic manner is worse than hypocrisy.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ZIONISM: TWO DEFICITS

M SHAHID ALAM

 

 "We do not fit the general pattern of humanity..."

David Ben-Gurion 

"...only God could have created a people so special as the Jewish people."

 

Gideon Levy 

The fecundity of the Zionist project in producing claims of exceptionalism is not in doubt. Anyone who scans the voluminous Zionist literature will be suitably impressed by its repeated resort to claims of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism. There is scarcely any aspect of Israeli or Jewish history that has not been embellished with some claim to uniqueness.


Israeli exceptionalism has many uses. It defends, obscures, explains away the 'abnormal' character of the Zionist nationalist project. When the Irish sought national liberation, their goal was straightforward. They wanted to regain national control over their lives and their country from a foreign power. No one had to convince the Irish that they are descended from the gods; that they possess a unique essence which sets them apart from all other peoples; or that their history, religion, race, language, morality or culture sets them above their colonial masters. Occasionally, driven by exuberance or hubris, nationalists have advanced exceptionalist claims, but the success of their movement has not depended on their acceptance. The Irish claimed sovereignty because they knew that they are a nation with their own territory. In order to create their own state, they did not have to establish that they are exceptional.


The Zionists confronted two handicaps that Irish nationalists did not face. The diverse and scattered Jewish communities of Europe – and even more so, the world - did not constitute a single people. Instead, the Jews of the world were loosely united by their religious heritage, but they shared their languages, cultures and genes with their neighboring communities. Moreover, no Jewish community had its own country, a substantial and contiguous territory where it formed a majority of the population. Despite these twin Jewish deficits – the absence of a nation and a national territory – the Zionists were determined to 'liberate' the Jews of Europe and endow them with their own state.


The Zionists would remedy the first deficit by denying its existence. They knew that the Jews were not a nation, but it would be unwise to begin their 'nationalist' movement with the admission that a Jewish nation did not yet exist. They also did not think that this deficit was a serious hindrance to their movement. With help from anti-Semites, whose attacks had been growing in recent decades, the Zionists were convinced that they could quickly convince enough frightened Jews that they are a nation. Instead of constructing a nationalism based on a common religion, however, the Zionists chose to cultivate a racial basis for Jewish nationalism. They embraced the anti-Semitic accusation that the Jews of Europe are an alien race, not Germans or Russians, descended from the ancient Hebrews.


A racial identity offered the best hope of inculcating nationalism in culturally diverse Jewish communities. Only an identity, based on the myth of a common descent, could unite peoples who were as different ethnically and culturally as the Jews of Portugal, Britain, Germany, Greece and Russia. Only the myth of racial unity, only the conviction that they are a single family, descended from Abraham and Jacob, could unite orthodox, conservative and reform Jews into a nation. Once the Jews were convinced of their racial identity, preserved over hundreds of generations in exile, this would also endow them with pride in their ancient pedigree and their unique ability to survive and preserve their racial purity through difficult conditions. This was sure to engender a strong sense of their distinctiveness, superiority and destiny, rooted in Jewish traditions and the Jewish Bible. With confidence, the Jews could see themselves as a unique nation, both ancient and divinely blessed. 
The Zionists were more candid about their 'land deficit'; this was not something they could fudge. Indeed, their land deficit defined the 'abnormal' condition of Jews; they were an abnormal people because they did not have a country they could call their own. Conceptually, the land deficit was easier to fix. The Jews only had to stake a claim to Palestine as their country: there were two ways of doing this. Jews of secular persuasion could claim that they had a historical right to Palestine, since they were descended from the ancient Israelites. In addition, it would be easy to reclaim this land because – according to early Zionist rhetoric - 'this was a land without a people.' No one had claimed Palestine during their absence. The religious Jews had a simpler and - for them - more irrefutable claim. Their God had promised the land to their ancestors for keeps. All they had to do was invoke their divine right to this Promised Land.


It turns out, after all, that the Jews are a people with their own land. Once the Zionists had made their case, there would be nothing abnormal about their national project. This was the official rhetoric of the Zionist project of national liberation for the Jewish people. On the back of this rhetoric, the Zionists would succeed in convincing the Western world to support their exclusionary colonial project in the Middle East. 


(excerpted from the author's book Israeli Exceptionalism) 


M Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. Email: alqalam02760 @yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CLUELESS ON KASHMIR

ASIF EZDI

 

 The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.


In his address to the nation on October 17, which was largely devoted to the institutional relationship between the executive and the judiciary, Gilani also sought to enlighten the nation on some of the feats accomplished by the PPP-led government in different fields. One such area where he claimed kudos was its Kashmir policy, which Gilani credited with no less than four achievements. 


First, Gilani asserted, the world community was for the first time beginning to acknowledge, "due to our efforts", that Kashmir is a disputed territory. Second, it was a "big success for us" that the European Parliament had organised "tripartite talks" on the Kashmir issue. Third, the Indian delegate at this "world forum" had acknowledged that the people of Occupied Kashmir had been targeted by the Indian army. Fourth, "our proposal" to the European Parliament to find a solution to this dispute with the participation of the UN and OIC had been accepted. 


The fact is that none of the claims made by Gilani has even a remote relationship with reality. First, it is not the "first time" that Kashmir has been recognised internationally as a disputed territory. That has always been the case. If it had not been so, Delhi would not be screaming day in and day out that it is an inalienable part of India. Second, the recent reactivation of the freedom movement is in no way owed to anything done by Pakistan but to the Kashmiris themselves. 


Third, the "tripartite talks" on Kashmir organised by the European Parliament were no more than a free-wheeling discussion (a "hearing") in which a few MEPs, some Kashmiri representatives and a couple of political analysts from Pakistan and India took part. There were no "delegates" at this meeting, simply speakers expressing their own views. The Indian case was presented by a retired Indian general, who denied "reports" of deaths or human rights violations by the Indian army, though he conceded that "fake encounters" were staged to kill Kashmiris. Fourth, the claim made by Gilani that "our proposal" to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute with the participation of the UN and OIC had been accepted by the European Parliament, mainly a self-important talking shop with little international influence, is bizarre beyond belief. No such proposal has ever been made by Pakistan and its "acceptance" by a couple of MEPs will not bring a solution any nearer, contrary to what Gilani seems to think. 


All this would be laughable, were it not about as serious a matter as Kashmir. It shows how totally clueless Gilani is on this issue. It is also shocking that a statement on Pakistan's Kashmir policy should have been included by the Prime Minister in his speech simply on the basis of a briefing given verbally by the AJK prime minister on his meetings at the European Parliament, without obtaining inputs from the Foreign Ministry. 
Sardar Attique had reportedly told Gilani a day earlier that "the adoption of the Kashmir dispute as an international issue by the European Parliament after 63 years was the greatest achievement of the Pakistan government on the foreign affairs front." Fortunately, this is not true. Pakistan has had some real foreign policy successes in the past. What Attique should have said is that the European Parliament's hearing on Kashmir was his biggest achievement. Few would quarrel with that. 


Attique also reportedly expressed his gratitude to Gilani for highlighting Indian atrocities against the Kashmiris before the international community. The AJK prime minister evidently knows something about what the public has been kept in the dark by this government. He should share this information with the nation. As far as ordinary Pakistanis know, the government has done very little to generate international pressure on India to stop its brutalities in Kashmir. 


The government is right in emphasising that the "Quit Jammu and Kashmir" movement is purely indigenous in nature and has not been instigated externally. But that should not stop it from raising the issue more vigorously in international fora and bilaterally with key countries. The governments of the leading western countries, which are otherwise quick to denounce perceived human rights abuse, have chosen to close their eyes to the Indian atrocities, because they think it suits their strategic and economic interests. Pakistan must do more to open their eyes. 


On Kashmir, as on so much else, the government lacks a clear vision or goal. The result is a policy muddle. Gilani claimed in his speech that the PPP is the heir to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's legacy on Kashmir. Actually, it is largely following in Musharraf's footsteps. Bhutto maintained Pakistan's stand even after the country's military defeat in 1971. But in 2004, Musharraf diluted that when he announced his decision to pursue a Kashmir settlement "setting aside" the UN Security Council resolutions. 


From that year, Pakistan also stopped making any reference in the UN and other international fora to these resolutions and to a UN-mandated plebiscite in Kashmir. Even the reference to the right to self-determination was dropped in the annual statement in the general debate in the UN after 2005, while Musharraf pursued his "out-of-the-box" solution through a back-channel dialogue with India. In his two statements in the UN General Assembly in 2008 and 2009, Zardari went even further than Musharraf in playing down the Kashmir issue. 
Against this background, it is to be welcomed that in his statement at the UN general assembly last month the foreign minister recalled the commitment under the UN security council resolutions to resolve the Kashmir issue through a plebiscite under UN auspices. The Indian foreign minister responded by calling off an "almost-scheduled" meeting with Qureshi. Delhi has since then also conveyed to Pakistan that Qureshi's visit to India, which was earlier expected to take place towards the end of the year, would now have to be rescheduled for the first quarter of 2011. I am confident that the Pakistani nation will survive these terrible shocks. 
The present government has been repeatedly urging Washington to facilitate or even mediate a Kashmir settlement. This request was repeated by Qureshi at last week's strategic dialogue with Washington and by Gilani in a meeting with the press last Friday. These pleas have been publicly rejected by Washington. Privately, the US has been suggesting discreetly that Pakistan should return to the back channel negotiations started under Musharraf. 


Our government does not seem to realise that if there were ever to be a Camp David or Dayton on Kashmir, an eventual settlement would look very much like the deal that Musharraf and Manmohan were negotiating, not the azadi that the people of Kashmir are struggling for. Therefore, instead of calling for US mediation, Pakistan should be focusing its efforts presently on generating international pressure on India to end its repression in Occupied Kashmir, so as to create more space for the azadi movement. 


Washington has so far scrupulously avoided any comment on Indian brutalities in Kashmir that could displease Delhi. The US lead has been followed by other Western countries. What is more, US officials have now started referring to Kashmir as an internal matter of India. Under Secretary of State Burns said so in an interview with an Indian newspaper on September 25. US Ambassador to India Roemer said the same thing in a TV interview on October 21. But curiously, there has been no official reaction from Pakistan to these outrageous statements. 
The Indians would now expect Obama to say something similar on his visit to India next week. Pakistan must therefore move quickly to convey its concerns. This should be done in a letter from Gilani to Obama reminding him of his remarks on Kashmir in October 2008 on the importance of resolving the Kashmir issue and urging him to press Manmohan to stop human rights abuses in the occupied territory. But please, no request for US mediation. Washington is not a neutral party and has in any case made it clear that it does not wish to play such a role. 


Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SATISFIED GILANI COMES OUT WITH HIS FUTURE VISION

 

PRIME Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani appears to be relaxed now and looking at the future with vision to resolve the complex issues and win the next elections. With speculations of dooms day scenario dying down, the Prime Minister seems to be satisfied and looking at his future course of action after doing necessary homework.

Addressing the PPP' Punjab Parliamentary Party meeting in Lahore on Saturday, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani came out with a categorical assurance to end loadshedding before the next general elections which he hoped his party would win on the basis of its performance. His painstaking efforts to keep working relationship with all the State institutions, despite difficult environment have paid back and he reiterated his commitment to foil any attempts aimed at creating differences between the judiciary and the executive in the future. Pakistan has indeed passed through lot of tribulations and uncertainties, which generated lot of rumours and some political pundits who traditionally depicted pessimistic views felt frustrated due to smart moves by a genuine politician Chief Executive. The Prime Minister also talked of reconciliation with all stake holders particularly the PML-N and referred to the implementation of Charter of Democracy. Though about a year has passed since the dissolution of the Local Government yet it was satisfying that the Prime Minister announced that these would be held next year and asked the leaders and workers to prepare for them. The local government elections would give political stability to the country and bring development at the local level alongwith creation of job opportunities. His direction to the Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman for initiating a five marla housing scheme for the poor is a welcome move and we hope that this would be implemented on a fast track basis and in a transparent manner. While the Prime Minister is now relaxed after two and a half years of difficult period and looking at the future, we would suggest that he should pay greater attention to stimulate the economy so as to achieve high rates of economic growth that could be sustained over a period long enough to make a real difference to the people at the lower end of the income-distribution scale. Improved productivity and competitiveness are the only way of increasing the growth for which enabling environment must be provided. We also need to increase the revenue base of the economy – to take it beyond the current nine per cent of GDP which will reduce Government's dependence on domestic and foreign borrowing. At the same time there must be a careful review of government expenditure at all levels with a view to eliminating wastage. We would therefore impress upon the Prime Minister to give a serious consideration to these suggestions as economic stability is key to successful implementation of his future vision for the country and its down trodden people.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER POSSIBLE SOURCE OF ENERGY

 

AT a quadrilateral meeting on trade and economics in Moscow, Tajikistan has expressed its willingness to provide power to energy deficient Pakistan. This is a welcome offer as power shortages are having a crippling affect on our economy and the country needs to explore all the options to meet its future needs.


Pakistan is currently facing a daily shortfall of over 400 mmcfd of gas, which is projected to increase to four billion cubic feet by 2025. To meet the shortfall and also to cater to the future energy needs, the country has been considering and probing, since mid-1990s, various options for the import of natural gas through pipelines. Amongst these options, the notable ones included: Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline, Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline and Qatar-Pakistan under-sea pipeline. Islamabad has also been contemplating on importing 3.5 million cubic feet of Liquified Petroleum Gas per day from Qatar. According to conservative estimates, the country is presently suffering a loss of Rs 45 billion annually due to the continuing energy crunch. The natural gas sector has seen rapid growth in Pakistan and has become one of the major source of energy for industry, power generation and transport sector. Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project has entered the implementation phase following finalisation of US $7.5 billion gas project, on June 13, 2010. The use of Iranian gas for thermal power generation would provide the solace of US $1.5 billion when it replaces the competitive fuel (LSFO, HFSO) being used in power generation. However, the imported gas would not be economically viable for domestic use because of its higher price. The offer by energy rich Tajikistan is timely and must be considered alongwith Turkmenistan gas pipeline which is moving ahead though at a snail's pace. Now that the country is facing electricity and gas loadshedding, there is dire need to expedite work on all possible sources of energy and ensure their timely execution to secure our future energy needs.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

IRAQI CIVILIANS PAID HEAVIEST PRICE OF WAR

 

THE whistle blower site Wikileaks has made startling disclosures that more than 100,000 people were killed in Iraq following the US-led invasion. According to details published in the media, a total of 109,032 violent deaths took place between 2004 and 2009. It is claimed that 66,081 of these were civilians. A further 23,984 deaths are classed as "enemy" and 15,196 as members of the Iraqi security forces.


The other major recorded cause of death is the civil war that broke out during the US military occupation. There are 34,814 victims of sectarian killings recorded as murders. The more condemnable act was that almost 700 civilians, including pregnant women and the mentally ill were killed for coming too close to checkpoints. The documents offer a grim snapshot of the Iraq war, including abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces and the US military turning a blind eye to evidence of torture by the US authorities. It is now a known fact that prisoners held in Abu Ghraib prison were tortured and abused by the military police personnel of the US army together with additional governmental agencies. For those with no direct experience of the bloody mayhem which has characterized much of Iraq for long periods since the US invasion, daily accounts of mass-casualty incidents overwhelm the capacity to grasp or to feel the gruesome happenings. Many members of the Iraqi public say the leaked documents reflect what they had long suspected was the truth. The death toll of Iraqis in the wake of invasion by the US and allied forces is the highest ever after the second world war meaning that the civilians paid the heaviest price of war.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

SWEET AND SOUR HAPPENINGS

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

 

The sweetest thing that happened in the last few days was the Supreme Court Judgment, giving the Government an opportunity to do rethinking on the question of appointment of Judges by the proposed Judicial Commission. Although it is said where appropriate "Justice must be done even if heavens will fall" but that is where the matter cannot wait. The country heaved a sigh of relief that the confrontation on which the rulers were bent upon creating was averted- one hopes not for the time being. Our Judiciary, particularly the Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry is to be complimented for doing justice with sagacity. 


But the sourest thing was the most undemocratic most authoritarian attempt to paint the yeoman of journalism as foreign agents, namely Kamran Khan, Ansar Abbasi of Geo and Hamid Mir and the Geo and the News themselves . It is well know that who ever takes up the cause of truth is choosing to walk the path littered with gravest dangers. That is why there is that Tradition that the greatest good is to speak the truth before an oppressive ruler. History is full of examples of such great pioneers of truth new era of liberty and new values who made human progress possible. Not every Tom Dick and Harry can have the courage to walk this path. It was a sorry spectacle when the big wigs of the ruling party in Punjab started the mud slinging (abortive) attempt to call them Indian and foreign agents, and attributed to them the money making motive through journalism when they talked of the houses and cars they own. It seemed they were talking not of these investigating journalists but of some stalwarts of their own party. But Kamran Khan came out with a knock out statement against these allegations. He cited specific- and a long list – of specific revelations the investigating journalism of Geo and the News had made none of which were refuted with convincing facts. Abusive charges are no contradiction. The people, who are supposed to matter in any true democracy, think this new style of investigative journalism to be a gift to democracy. Gentlemanly PM Gilani did well to disassociate himself from this campaign against Geo and these stalwarts of freedom of speech. 


But this is a sun shine in the dark totalitarian thinking of a power group who continued their tirade against freedom of information by canceling Sherry Rehman's membership of PPP and cancelled Safdar Abbasi's membership of the PPP's Central Executive Committee. Both these personalities are held in esteem for their rectitude. They are among the few persons who enjoy respect and considerable credibility in the country across the board. Worst still a nasty demonstration was stage-managed against Sherry Rehman in Karachi. What does it indicate – a totalitarian politics. It is not known why in the most educated city Karachi such anti-diluvium manifestations take place against Geo from time to time. Karachi deserves better performance than all kinds of despicable outburst of target killings, massacres and hatred against freedom of press. 


Let it be reminded that democracy is not just getting into power by votes, but adhering to certain values of freedom thereafter and good governance. Hitler, Massolini an Stalin came into power through total support of their peoples and through elections only were these to be the only criterion of democracy They were mostly real votes but it was only the way they governed that was fascist. That litany of "sacrifices" the ruling party made for democracy is played too much not only with exaggeration of facts and the magnitude of so-called sacrifices but this will be examined some other time. This is not to be counted as an excuse to misgovern and deny basic rights in democracy. 


Another sour happening is the continuation of the farce of verification of "degrees" of the so called members of the Assemblies. Obviously, those who have no proof of their claim to be even modestly educated- a B.A or equivalent degree is the least title to be counted modestly educated- absent themselves repeatedly from appearance before the Commission. One should not wait for their appearance till hell will freeze. Sufficient opportunity has been given to them to prove their claim. Now their absence from the hearing at the Commission should be taken as their silent acknowledgment of lack of proof to substantiate their claim and declared as having fake degrees. Every one knows that a person with weak claim wants to avoid appearance before trails and asks for postponements ad infinitum. Accepting his pleas for another date is an act of denial of justice or to sabotage justice. Or misuse of the previlige to be given a hearing at a date of his choice which is a chase of the phantom. Chasing phantoms should be stopped in proceedings.


It was for once a pleasant statement Hillary Clinton made asking the rich in Pakistan to be brought in the tax net- or compelled to pay income tax. Glad to know that the world takes notice of the fatties of this country fleecing the country and not sharing the burden of the taxes. The only persons who pay honest taxes are the salaried people and white color workers. The richer the more he knows how to evade payment of taxes. They have the income tax practioners who tell the rich assesses how to doge payment of taxes. What a pity. 


Thank God she did not demand that the written off loans of billions to these vary fatty rich be recovered and American loans be returned. These super rich are all American cronies. Then they would have heeded the public demand that the so-called loan defaulterts who got their billions written off return the billions lost to the public exchequer. We the middle class are the milch cows for all sorts of government taxes. 


One should not omit to assess the results of the Second US-Pak Strategic Dialogue Meeting almost just concluded. What was the purpose? Here I may recall a lesson I learnt during my Foreign Service Training In 1950 I was attached to Pak Mission to the UN in New York when Patras Bokhari was our Representative to the UN and then worked as an internee with Ralph Bunch Nobel prize winner then Under Secretary UN Trusteeship. Both wanted just in a few words the main idea of a proposition instead of a long bla bla thesis. Patras Bukhari told me that when the idea of opening the second front in WW II was under construction, Churchill ruled out all proposition where the Second Front should be opened. He put on the map a pencil and chose Normandy in France as ideal for landing of the Allied Forces. This is the straight line to open the Second Front he said. 


Let me say that the real purpose of the Dialogue was to pressurize Pakistan to launch military operations in North Waziristan and for that purpose $ 2 billion "Military Aid" was offered . The talks on civil items were mere additives like a chocolate, to sweeten the mood. How far Americans succeeded cannot be said but possibly not much because General Kiyani was alive to the game. As was Shah Mahmood Qureshi . Nonetheless Pakistan's standing has gone down so low that it must have been a difficult position for Pakistan not to submit to some extent to US terms. Two points need be made: What were the terms of the "$ 2 billion Aid" It should be. US contribution to the Pak Army to remain in War on Terror" and not " Aid" but its contribution in that war. Another point why such a large delegation was sent? Was it necessary ?.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

A PRAGMATIC APPROACH BY BANGLADESH

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

The United States had urged Bangladesh to send combat troops to Afghanistan to help the multinational effort bring stability to that country. This request was made during a meetings held between Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, on the sidelines of 65th session of UNGA. Bangladesh is a major contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world, but has no military contribution towards ISAF war effort in Afghanistan. According to a government statement released in Dhaka, Holbrooke had conveyed that the US needed the "help of friends like Bangladesh" to ensure security in Afghanistan, "he sought for any kind of help like deploying combat troops, providing economic and development assistance or giving training among the law enforcement agencies." 


On the heels of this American request, the Afghan Taliban called upon the government and people of Bangladesh to reject the US request for sending troops to assist coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan. Afghan Taliban also posted messages in Arabic and Pushto on their website and other forums calling on Dhaka to rebuff the US request. The message said, "{We} believe that the leader of Bangladesh has enough Islamic knowledge and political wit not to involve his people in the fight against Islam and against the Afghan people by sending a few hundred soldiers to Afghanistan….,"


Assuming that the leader would commit such a historic mistake, the religious Muslim people of Bangladesh will not allow their leaders to assist the eternal enemy of Islam against an Islamic neighbouring country." 


In its response, Bangladesh has made it clear that it will not send its troops to Afghanistan. "Bangladesh will not send soldiers to Afghanistan," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a meeting of ruling Awami League's advisory council in Dhaka. Hasina indeed conveyed her government's 'precise stand' on sending soldiers to Afghanistan. Several members of the council, comprising senior party leaders, opposed the idea of sending combat forces to the war ravaged nation citing 'public sentiments'. Prime Minister agreed with the advisory council that Bangladeshis had a reservation regarding the US military intervention in Afghanistan. 


A foreign office statement said that the US envoy had asked for Bangladesh's cooperation in Afghanistan's rebuilding and Bangladesh had shown willingness to contribute towards "national development of Afghanistan through providing training to officials in administration, police, education and some other sectors." Bangladesh also conveyed that as it contributes troops to different United Nations blue helmet missions 'as peacekeepers' under the UN supervision, it will think over the issue if the UN took any such projects in Afghanistan. Several foreign policy experts of Bangladesh expressed their reservations against sending combat forces to Afghanistan. Most of them thought that it would be contrary to Bangladesh's foreign policy while both the countries, were members of the South Asian regional grouping of SAARC and had an historic link since the medieval age. An overwhelming opinion has that it will be a suicidal decision because the Afghan issue was made a military issue in someone's interest and Bangladesh did not have any reason to be a party to it.


This decision by the leadership of Bangladesh would go down very well in the annals of history. Saner voices have since long been suggesting substitution of ISAF by a suitably mandated UN peace keeping mission. Such mission could be composed of troops from Muslim countries excluding those belonging to this region. Suitably composed UN peace mission would have greater acceptance amongst the people of Afghanistan. Countries contributing towards ISAF have already lost the will to contribute troops for an indefinite period. The Dutch contingent has already called it a day, and at least three other countries have indicated their tentative schedule to recall their troops. Once a coalition of the willing, ISAF is now a conglomerate of the reluctant. Had Bangladesh taken a decision otherwise, there would have been a sever backlash by its own people. Moreover, in all probability, the Taliban would have taken their fight to Bangladesh.


Afghan war by any count is a lost cause, at least militarily. At the operational level two many cooks have spoiled the pie beyond redemption. Pakistan's recent air and ground space violations indicate that if prudent rules of engagement are not implemented, the filed commanders have the potential to proliferate the conflict beyond control. ISAF, NATO, American forces and CIA, all have their own purpose and concept of this war. Also there are regional actors, each vying for own pound of flesh. Replacement of ISAF by UN peace mission is indeed long overdue. Rest of the entities have dubious legal status; it is time for them to return to pavilion.

UNSC needs to rise to the occasion and intervene constructively. Afghanistan should be declared a neutral country, militarily and politically for at least next 20-25 years. Territorial integrity of Afghanistan should be underwritten by UNSC, by deploying a potent peace mission. Afghanistan should raise its purpose built sec