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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

EDITORIAL 16.11.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month november 16, edition 000679 , 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. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
  2. NOTHING FOR CHILDREN
  3. A RS 1.76 LAKH CR QUESTION FOR PM - A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. CHINA MENDS STRATEGIC FENCES - B RAMAN
  5. EGYPT FAILS TO CONTAIN HAMAS TERRORISM - WRITES DAN PERRY 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. A RAJA'S DOWNFALL
  2. TIME TO TALK
  3. A FRESH LOOK AT MYANMAR
  4. BHAJJI IS PRIMARILY A BOWLER
  5. HE HAS EVOLVED INTO AN ALL-ROUNDER
  6. EAT, PLAY, LOVE

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. RIGHT PEOPLE FOR THE RIGHT POSTS
  2. A CUT BELOW THE REST
  3. IN CRITICAL CONDITION - MATHURAM SANTOSHAM
  4. A STAR WHO INTERPRETED THE STARS - DEBU CHAUDHURI

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. WHAT NOW?
  2. ALPHABET SOUP
  3. DIAL A SCANDAL
  4. DON'T STOP AT RAJA - SUNIL JAIN 
  5. THE PRICE IS WRONG - YOGINDER K. ALAGH 
  6. THE CHURN IS ON - KALYAN ARUN 
  7. A SWIRL OF MISINFORMATION
  8. ARGUING FOR A BETTER WORLD - B.G. VERGHESE 
  9. HEMMED IN FROM ALL SIDES - NAJEEB JUNG

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. JPC OR PAC?
  2. WHERE'S THE ICT?
  3. WHAT A REAL RAJA HAS TO DO - RISHI RAJ
  4. TALKING TURKEY - MEGHNAD DESAI
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. QUOTACRACY

THE HINDU

  1. HEED THE CALL
  2. TREASURE TROVE
  3. MYANMAR AT THE CROSSROADS, AGAIN  - RAJIV BHATIA
  4. THE RELEVANCE OF TOLERANCE  - PRANAY GUPTE
  5. FULBRIGHT PROGRAMME: FOSTERING INDO-U.S. TIES - ADAM J. GROTSKY
  6. MINING THREAT TO AFGHAN BUDDHIST TREASURES  - JON BOONE
  7. GET HAPPY! U.K. TO MEASURE NATIONAL WELLBEING

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. A CLEANING OF THE SYSTEM?
  2. BURDEN OF PROOF - SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. ECONOMIC NONSENSE AT G-20 - JAYATI GHOSH

DNA

  1. GOOGLE AGAINST FACEBOOK IS THE FIGHT TO WATCH
  2. SM KRISHNA PLAYS THE TIBET CARD WITH CHINA
  3. PUSHING A RAJA OUT IS ONLY THE FIRST STEP
  4. THE ROLE OF BUSINESS IN GOVERNMENTAL CORRUPTION - PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR
  5. PAX INDICA: INDIAN OCEAN RIM IS OUR HINTERLAND
  6. YOUR HOME IS WHERE YOU CAN BE AT PEACE - SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. CURTAINS FOR RAJA
  2. NO LONGER A LONE RANGER 
  3. IPS LOSING ITS CHARM
  4. WORRYING SECURITY SCENARIO - BY AIR MARSHAL R.S.BEDI (RETD)
  5. THE AIDS – BY RAJ KADYAN
  6. MUSLIMS: THE CHANGING VOTING PATTERN - SYED NOORUZZAMAN
  7. VOTE BANKS AND AN ISSUE OF CONVENIENCE - KANWALPREET

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. THE CHOPPER VANISHES

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. TOO MANY RAJAS
  2. SOCIALLY USELESS VEHICLES
  3. THE COST OF US' FREE LUNCH - DANIEL GROS
  4. THE ELEPHANTS ARE MATING - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. FISHING FOR FOOD SECURITY - SURINDER SUD
  6. MAKING 'HAY' WHILE THE SUN SHINES - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. GOOD RIDDANCE
  2. AUNG SAN SUU KYI
  3. CASH FOR VOTES
  4. ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY MATTERS - G VENKATESH, KALA S SRIDHAR & V SRIDHAR
  5. TH RO U G H TH E TH I R D EYE
  6. RETURN GIFT 
  7. DOING BIZ IN INDIA: RETURN OF THE RAJ? - SUDHIR KAPADIA 
  8. NOT BORN FREE AT ALL, IT SEEMS - MUKUL SHARMA 

THE STATESMAN

  1. RAJA GOES
  2. HEADLINES TALLY
  3. GETTING WORSE
  4. PSYCHOTIC PARIVAR - BY AMULYA GANGULI
  5. A VERY EARTHLY REPRESENTATIVE
  6. JUNTA URGED TO FREE ALL PRISONERS
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. A CLEANING OF THE SYSTEM?
  2. BURDEN OF PROOF - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. JUNTA'S SUU KYI RUSE - BY BERTIL LINTNER
  4. ECONOMIC NONSENSE AT G-20 - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  5. TENSE? LET'S FIND OUT WHY - BY AMRIT SADHANA
  6. IT'S TIME TO FLY HIGH AGAIN - GHALIB NE FARMAYA?

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SPECTRUM EDGE
  2. LIGHTWEIGHT SUPERPOWER - ASHOK V. DESAI
  3. TIME TO PASS THE BATON - MALVIKA SINGH
  4. PATHS THROUGH THE MAZE - S.L. RAO
  5. PERFECT BALANCE - OWN GOAL

DECCAN HERALD

  1. RECOVER THE LOOT
  2. ELUDING CONSENSUS
  3. FORGING A NEW BOND - BY B G VERGHESE
  4. THE BHARAT THAT OBAMA IGNORED - BY KAPIL KITCHLU
  5. THE BEGONIA WINDOW - BY DAKSHA HATHI

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. SEARCHING YOUR LAPTOP
  2. MR. RANGEL WALKS OUT
  3. TWO EASY MOVES FOR THE LAME DUCK
  4. HOW TO KILL THE METH MONSTER - BY ROB BOVETT
  5. THE TWO CULTURES - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. THIS RAGING FIRE -  BY BOB HERBERT
  7. LEFT, RIGHT AND WRONG ON TAXES - BY GLENN HUBBARD

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON WAR ON TERROR: YES, THE U.S. CAN SEEK TO KILL AN AMERICAN TERRORIST ABROAD
  2. ANOTHER VIEW ON WAR ON TERROR: FUNDAMENTALLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL - BY JAMEEL JAFFER AND MARIA LAHOOD
  3. MEDICAL MISTAKES PLAGUE MEDICARE PATIENTS - BY DANIEL R. LEVINSON
  4. MCCASKILL, TOOMEY: ERA OF EARMARKS MUST END - BY CLAIRE MCCASKILL AND PAT TOOMEY
  5. EDUCATE BLACK MEN NOW, OR WE'LL ALL PAY LATER - BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. ITCHING FOR A FUTILE FIGHT
  2. FOREIGN ENROLLMENT ON RISE
  3. CORKER VS. BIGGER U.S. DEBT
  4. HONOR TO OUR BROCK FAMILY
  5. HUNGER AND SOCIALIZED MEDICINE
  6. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THIS?

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - MENDING FABRIC OF DEMOCRACY
  2. AN INVITATION TO THE WORLD'S 'STATE OF AFFAIRS' - DAVID JUDSON
  3. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE FOOL - BURAK BEKDİL
  4. IRAQ: A MODEL YOUNG DEMOCRACY - GWYNNE DYER
  5. QUEST OF THE HISTORICAL ABRAHAM - FRANK WHITE
  6. G-20 FANTASIES - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  7. DEALING WITH AQAP - DAVID CLARIDGE
  8. WHO ARE THESE WHITE TURKS? - BİNNAZ TOPRAK
  9. NEW WAY TO PROSPECT AND DISCOVER OIL AND GAS - BRIAN WESTENHAUS

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. HOLBROOKE ULTIMATELY ADMITS FOREIGN FUNDING
  2. FOREIGN LOANS: A NON-STARTER ATTEMPT
  3. GOVERNMENT'S EID GIFT TO NATION
  4. AFTER OBAMA'S VISIT TO INDIA - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. THE ONLY WAY OUT FOR PAKISTAN? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. SIGNIFICANCE OF OBAMA'S INDIA VISIT - AIR MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN (R)
  7. INDIA-US RELATIONS: CHANGING SCENARIO - SAMEER JAFRI
  8. TIME FOR INDIA TO BE A BETTER NEIGHBOUR - MAHA RAFI ATAL

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. LABOR WILL BE HELD TO ACCOUNT
  2. COMBET MAKES THE RIGHT CALL
  3. A GREAT LADY WITH THE COURAGE TO DEFY DICTATORS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. 20 NATIONS SHY ABOUT LEADING
  2. WHEN CITY PLANS GO TO WASTE
  3. PREFERENCES DECISION UNFAIR? NO, JUST POLITICS
  4. AUDIT SOUNDS ALARM ON ABUSE CASES

THE GUARDIAN

  1. PUBLIC SPENDING: BANNED AID
  2. IRELAND: IT'S ALL BAD NEWS
  3. IN PRAISE OF... SUNDERLAND POINT

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. BUILDING A NEW CLASS OF MANAGERS - BY STUART LAWSON
  2. 2 Bloody Weeks of Beatings, Killings and Raids - By Vladimir Ryzhkov

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. HOW FAR IS SUU KYI'S FREEDOM?
  2. HAVE WE SACRIFICED ENOUGH?
  3. THE NEXT 'BIG ONE': NOT TOO LATE FOR INDONESIA TO ACT - ABHAS K. JHA
  4. DES ALWI: THE UNCROWNED KING OF BANDA - NIKOLAOS VAN DAM
  5. REVITALIZING THE 'DAY OF SACRIFICE' - DONNY SYOFYAN
  6. THE FUTURE OF MYANMAR AND ASEAN AFTER THE ELECTIONS - BAMBANG HARTADI NUGROHO
  7. OBAMA URGES INDIA TO LEAD, APPLAUDS RI - SHANTI SHAMDASANI

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

NOW PROSECUTE RAJA FOR LOSS TO NATION


What could have been a graceful exit without losing the last vestige of dignity finally turned out to be a forced departure from office. By last weekend it was more than clear that Mr A Raja staying on as Union Telecom Minister had become both untenable and undesirable, not least because the ridicule it was fetching the UPA Government, more so the Congress which heads the ruling alliance. It could be argued, without resorting to exaggeration, that the Congress is as much to blame as the DMK for not bringing the unsavoury Raja episode to a swift closure. The party need not have waited so long for the proverbial green signal from the DMK, nor did the Prime Minister have any cause to be so timid: He could have exercised his discretion and sacked this wayward Minister long ago. Instead, Mr Manmohan Singh and his party bosses tried to gloss over Mr Raja's sins of omission and commission in the allotment of 2G Spectrum licences which, according to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, led to a whopping, mind-boggling loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in revenue to the public exchequer. The same publicists of the Congress — and the Prime Minister — who are now slyly trying to seize the moral high ground by pretending to be practitioners of rectitude were till Saturday insisting that there was no evidence to suggest wrong-doing on Mr Raja's part. Even the importance of the CAG's damning report was sought to be minimised if not debunked as inconsequential. It's only after the Opposition closed its ranks and went on the offensive, holding up proceedings in Parliament, and the Congress was confronted with mounting popular outrage that the Prime Minister and his party colleagues decided to 'act'. On its part, the DMK came to the conclusion that it couldn't risk walking out of the UPA and contesting next summer's Assembly election in Tamil Nadu without the Congress as its ally. Hence, Mr M Karunanidhi, ever so reluctantly, 'advised' Mr Raja to put in his papers. And so it came about that the man who presided over what could well turn out to be the biggest scam in India's history — Ms J Jayalalithaa insists it is the biggest scam in the "history of humankind" — exited office but not without letting it be known that he had brought about a "revolution" in the country's telecommunication services. The meaning of 'revolution', obviously, has transmogrified under the the joint tutelage of the Congress and the DMK.


It would, however, be a pity if Mr Raja's exit were to result in the 2G Spectrum scandal becoming no more than a footnote in the history of corruption in India. With popular concerns being increasingly moulded by the 24-hour news cycle of today's media, it is more than likely the outrage over Mr Raja's loot will abate in the next few days as media looks for other 'breaking news'. Resignation is not punishment enough. Mr Raja deserves to be prosecuted and punished for doing everything that militates against the very notion of probity in public life without which good governance can never be delivered. The 2G Spectrum scandal offers an excellent opportunity to identify venal politicians, corrupt bureaucrats and lobbyists for whom integrity is a term of abuse; hold them accountable for such mammoth loss to the nation; and, give them exemplary punishment. Anything less than this will only encourage those for whom holding public office is a means to self-aggrandisement.


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THE PIONEER

EDITS

NOTHING FOR CHILDREN

THEY ARE AN IGNORED LOT IN 'RISEN' INDIA


Even as the middle class and politicians are gloating over US President Barack Obama's remark that "India has emerged", it comes as a rude shock that one of the fastest growing economies spends only 4.45 paise, on an average, per child every year. This is not a mere conjecture, but the finding of an analysis of the Union Budget and Budgets of six State Governments conducted over a five-year period. According to the 'Budget for Children' analysis, conducted by Haq: Centre for Child Rights, a non-profit organisation, of every Rs 100 allocated in the Union Budget, education programmes get Rs 2.90, while health and development programmes receive less than one rupee each — this after the Budget allocation for children went up by 40 per cent from Rs 21,033 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 29,518 crore in 2006-07 under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Integrated Child Development Scheme programmes. What is startling to note is that while the Budget allocation has increased, in actual spending, children's share has come down to 4.12 paise per child — clearly bringing to the fore a wide chasm that exists between policy planning and capacity utilisation in India. 


A pertinent question that could be asked is why do children get a raw deal. Guided by reapolitik, one would say because children do not constitute vote-banks. However, in reality the problem lies in the fact that there is a growing gap between public spending and its intended beneficieries. A case in point is the reaction of the Planning Commission to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement regarding the opening of 6,000 Navodaya schools. The Planning Commission decided that 3,500 schools would be in the public sector and 2,500 in the private sector. It is common knowledge that education in the private sector has emerged as a profitable business with little room for philanthropy and hence the 2,500 schools would hardly serve the purpose envisaged in the Right to Education Act. Ideally, providing easy access to quality school education and healthcare should be a responsibility of the Union and State Governments, but the unobliging attitude of a section of politicians and bureaucrats, in effect, reduces the scope of the benefit. Sure, investing in children would augur well for a nation sprinting away to economic prosperity because they are the social capital. Lack of investment in social capital would result in negative outcomes such as early school drop-out, substance abuse, poor labour market entry, and crime and violence, which in turn would lead to substantial economic, social and political costs. In fact, in Latin America and the Caribbean, negative youth behaviours reduce economic growth by up to two per cent annually. If the Government wants to gloss over such facts, it would do so at the country's peril. Definitely, children demand more commitment from policy-makers, in case the Government wants a stable, vibrant India. 


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THE PIONEER

EDITS

A RS 1.76 LAKH CR QUESTION FOR PM

IT'S LAUGHABLE THAT THE CONGRESS SHOULD STAKE CLAIM TO PROBITY IN PUBLIC LIFE. RAJA'S 2G SPECTRUM SCAM EXPOSES THE TRUE FACE OF THE PARTY AND THE PRIME MINISTER

A SURYA PRAKASH


Now that the Comptroller and Auditor-General's opinion on the underselling of 2G Spectrum licences by former Telecom Minister A Raja is in the public domain, we have a better idea of the price Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made us pay just so that he may remain in office. Initially it was assumed that the fraudulent allotments had cheated the public exchequer of Rs 70,000 crore. The revised estimate is that the total loss caused by this Minister could be an unbelievable Rs 1.76 lakh crore.


This figure is truly mind-boggling because, as Ms J Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK leader, said the other day in a television interview, most citizens would find it difficult to imagine the number of zeroes that go to make this number. However, since this could well be the biggest scam indulged in by a Minister or Government official in the 'history of humankind', one must give it a shot. The number in question is Rs 1,7,60,00,00,00,000. That is why the continuance of Mr Raja in the Union Cabinet till last Sunday posed the most brazen challenge to the idea of accountability in our public life.


The 2G Spectrum allotments were made after Mr Raja became the Telecom Minister in 2007. Among the charges levelled against him are that he gave these licences away at throwaway prices; that the allotments were made to companies which did not have the experience and expertise in telecom; that he advanced the cut-off date for applications, possibly to favour some entities; and, that there was evidence of collusion between the Minister's office and some bidders.


The bidding process was so scandalous that the Central Vigilance Commission and the Income Tax Department began investigations because prima facie they saw this as a case of corruption and favouritism. Government agencies taped the Minister's conversations with a lobbyist and found that the entire licencing procedure had been vitiated. They also picked up leads about possible kickbacks being deposited in tax havens and ploughed back into the country.


Strangely, the Prime Minister allowed Mr Raja to remain in office even as Central investigators snooped around the Minister's offices for clues and evidence to nail him. Yet, Mr Singh and the Congress would like us to believe that they are concerned about standards in public life.


The biggest joke of course is the belated attempt by the Congress to play the probity card by taking 'action' against the Maharastra Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Chavan, and the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman, Mr Suresh Kalmadi. The latter was forced to quit as secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party, an inconsequential office that burdens the incumbent with the 'onerous' task of posting invitations to party MPs to attend a few meetings of the CPP annually.


That the party's commitment to clean governance is nothing more than a sham becomes obvious when one recalls the indefensible decision of the United Progressive Alliance Government to appoint Mr PJ Thomas as the Central Viligance Commissioner. Following a judgement of the Supreme Court and consequent amendment of the CVC Act, the CVC is appointed by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Overruling the objections of the Leader of the Opposition, the Government chose Mr Thomas who is named as an accused in the palmolein import scandal in Kerala and whose conduct as Telecom Secretary till recently will warrant scrutiny in the light of the 2G Spectrum revelations.

As Telecom Secretary, he opposed inquiries by the CVC and the CAG into the allotment of 2G Spectrum licences. Such a person is now the CVC and the Prime Minister expects us to believe that Mr Thomas will ensure a credible probe into the role of the Telecom Minister and others, including himself, in the allotment of 2G Spectrum licences.


The audacity displayed by the Government in making this appointment prompted some public spirited citizens, including Mr JM Lyngdoh, former Chief Election Commissioner, to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court with an appeal that it be annulled. The apex court is hearing this petition and as a first step has called for the file.

The court has said that it would like to ascertain whether "proper consultation" was made while appointing Mr Thomas and whether the appointment satisfied the criteria laid down, namely whether the appointee was an "outstanding civil servant" with "impeccable integrity". The 2 G Spectrum licence allotments is also before the court.

It is said that the Prime Minister is a 'clean' politician whose personal conduct in financial matters is above reproach. However, this means nothing so long as he allows members of his Cabinet to merrily swindle the exchequer. Apologists for the Congress say that the compulsions of coalition politics prevented the Prime Minister from proceeding against Mr Raja.


If that be so, we are left with no option but to conclude that Mr Singh's desire to survive in office far outweighs his concern for probity in public life. He seems to have just three priorities: Survival in office, protecting the Congress's interests and ensuring that the United Progressive Alliance remains intact.


Mr Singh has already given us sufficient indication that national interest is not a priority for him when he took that untenable decision to appoint Mr Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. That is why one must turn to the most credible of our institutions — the Supreme Court — to set matters rights. 


Since both these issues are before the Supreme Court, one hopes the petitioners will urge the apex court to direct a credible police agency, if there is one, to probe the 2G Spectrum licence scandal and urge the court, in larger public interest, to oversee the investigation. Let there be no doubt that in the absence of judicial supervision, an inquiry by the CBI, supervised by a CVC named Mr Thomas, will carry no conviction.


In any case, now that we know the extent of damage he has caused to us, we should not settle for mere resignation of the Minister. Resignation is no punishment. Nothing short of a full and proper criminal prosecution of Mr Raja and all those involved will meet the ends of justice and act as a deterrent for other scamsters in the Union Council of Ministers.


Meanwhile, here is a Rs 1,7,60,00,00,00,000 question for the Prime Minister: How much more should the exchequer bleed before he calls it a day?

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHINA MENDS STRATEGIC FENCES

B RAMAN


In an effort to ensure that regional economic disputes do not escalate into ideological confrontations with global ramifications, Beijing has launched strategic negotiations with Japan. The purpose is clear: China wants to nip US's effort to re-assert its role in Asia in the bud. Washington could yet be trumped by Beijing


China befriending the distant while alienating neighbours? That was the question posed by Li Hongmei, the columnist of the Communist Party of China-controlled People's Daily in an article published by it on November 12. The theme of the article was that while China's relations with distant countries such as those in the European Union have been steadily improving, its relations with its Asian neighbours are not cordial.

The article quoted a Chinese saying that "a distant water supply is no good in putting out a nearby fire" and added: "To wit, China will never bend its consistent determination to seek after the good-neighbourly mood in its vicinity."


Concern over the "nearby fire" in China's relations with Japan and with some ASEAN countries, particularly Vietnam, due to lingering disputes over the question of sovereignty over some islands in the East and South China Sea has been increasingly reflected in some articles carried by the Party and Government-controlled media in recent weeks following the exacerbation of tensions with Japan in the wake of the incident of September involving the Japanese Coast Guard and a Chinese fishing trawler near the Senkaku group of islands under the control of Japan, but claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory. This concern has been aggravated by the open interest evinced by the US since a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi in July last in the territorial disputes on the ground that these could affect the freedom of navigation in the area. Chinese perceptions that the US is seeking to exploit the disputes over the islands for driving a wedge between China and these countries and for re-asserting its role in South East and East Asia led to the publication of introspective articles and comments calling for corrective action by Beijing without giving up its territorial claims.

The "People's Daily Online" article cited above was preceded by an editorial in the "Global Times" the previous day titled: "China needs to mitigate external friction". It saidinter alia: "Before China reaches a certain level of industrialisation, it has to spare some efforts to deal with various disputes and conspiracies. In its neighbourhood, China needs to make sure regional disputes over material benefits do not escalate into ideological confrontations." 


In an interview with the Government-controlled "China Daily" on November 12, Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue said that Beijing was dedicated to a peaceful resolution of all maritime disputes — so long as outside parties were not involved in the talks. "The security environment around China is very complicated, with traditional and non-traditional security challenges intertwined. A new security concept should be established with mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination at its core." After rejecting any US role in the matter, he said, "It is important to refrain from expanding, complicating or internationalising the disputes. We believe that disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully through bilateral negotiations between the parties directly involved."


On November 11, the "China Daily" published a written interview given by President Hu Jintao to the South Korean media on the eve of his departure to Seoul to attend the G20 summit. He said in the interview: "China cherishes its relationships with neighbours and will adhere to its traditional Asia policies. China values its traditional friendship with its neighbouring countries and adheres to implementing the policy of building good neighbourly relationships and partnerships. Beijing insists on properly handling problems through consultation. Despite the difficulties, China's relations with its neighbours still show a promising trend. The "China Daily" quoted Pang Zhongying, of the Beijing-based Renmin University, as saying that Mr Jintao's comments are a timely response to reports that China's relations with South East Asian nations are deteriorating over territorial issues and that US involvement is needed and that "the President is assuring the nations, on the eve of the two key international summits, that China's attitude of peacefully handling the problem will never change". It also quoted Shi Yinhong, Pang's colleague at the Renmin University, as saying that "there are diplomatic difficulties in Asia confronting China and that the problems concern different situations. You cannot blame all of them on a certain country. There are also plenty of chances to improve relations given the mutual interests."


After having spurned the Japanese initiative for a bilateral summit between Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in the margins of the recent East Asia summit at Hanoi, China, worried over its negative image, agreed to a summit between Prime Minister Kan and President Jintao in the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit at Yokohama in Japan on November 13.


The Xinhua news agency quoted Mr Jintao as having told the Japanese Prime Minister during the meeting that China and Japan should proceed with determination in the right direction for stronger bilateral ties, pushing for strategic and mutually beneficial relations along a healthy and stable track. A press release issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the meeting made the following points:

 

  The 22-minute meeting took place at the invitation of Mr Kan. 

 

  Mr Jintao said it serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples for the two countries to get along in peace, friendship and cooperation. He urged the two countries to take a strategic and long-term perspective and to observe the principles of the four important political documents: The joint statement in 1972, the Peace and Friendship Treaty in 1978, the joint declaration in 1998 and the joint statement this May. 

 

  Mr Jintao said both sides should work together to conduct human and cultural exchanges and to deepen mutual understanding and friendship. 

 

  China and Japan, as two important trade partners, should also increase dialogue and coordination in global affairs, get committed to the rejuvenation of Asia, and join hands to tackle global challenges, he said. Mr Kan said he completely agreed with the Chinese leader's views on bilateral ties. Mr Kan pledged to strengthen exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in every sector and to push for stronger bilateral ties. 


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

--To be concluded

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

EGYPT FAILS TO CONTAIN HAMAS TERRORISM

THE ISLAMIST RULERS OF GAZA NOW HAVE ROCKETS THAT CAN HIT TEL AVIV AND CAUSE UNTOLD DEATH AND DESTRUCTION,

WRITES DAN PERRY 

 

A senior Israeli intelligence official has warned that Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip have rockets that can travel 80 km — a longer range than previously reported, which would put the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv within range of its launchers. The official blamed Egypt, saying it was not doing enough to stem smuggling through a network of tunnels along the relatively short border between its Sinai desert and the Palestinian territory. An Egyptian security official reached for comment maintained that Egypt was combating the smuggling successfully.

The Israeli intelligence official said that Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, is "making very big efforts to build up their military capabilities ... building up their rocket capabilities in the Gaza Strip, and all this is happening because of one important thing: The smuggling of weapons through Egypt to the Gaza Strip". Egypt, along with Israel, imposed an embargo on Gaza in June 2007 after Hamas militants took control of the area, but the Israelis and the United States have repeatedly urged Egypt to do more to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory.


"Most of the tunnels that are used to smuggle these rockets and explosives and other weapons are in an area of three to four kilometres," said the official, who is privy to high-level intelligence information and briefed foreign correspondents on condition that he not be identified. "We see it in our intelligence. We have photos of this. In many places we can show photos of Egyptian soldiers located less than 20 meters (yards) from the opening of a tunnel, and the tunnel is operating under his eyes, under his control, and nobody is doing anything about it," he said, "Egypt can stop all this smuggling of weapons within 24 hours if they want to do it." "There are enough Egyptian troops and policemen ... located on this border." 


Israeli lawmaker Arieh Eldad, a member of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, who has access to classified material, confirmed the official's assessment. "Egypt is not a country that large quantities of weapons can enter without the authorities knowing," he told this writer, charging that Egypt allows Hamas to acquire arms in exchange for the Islamic militants leaving Egypt alone. "They could easily train police to look for the smugglers and they don't," Mr Eldad said.


A senior Egyptian intelligence official said Egyptian security has been performing its duties successfully at the border with Gaza. He said they have intercepted 50 tons of explosives in the past two years and have been praised by Israeli intelligence for their work. 


The Gaza-Egypt border is only about 13 km long. Egypt strengthened its presence at the border after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in September 2005 and handed it over to Palestinian control. The smugglers responded by digging longer tunnels, penetrating past the immediate border area. The Egyptians have found 675 tunnels since the beginning of this year, the security official said.


The United States has helped Egypt with advanced equipment to find out the tunnels through uncovering the underground movement and several Egyptians were trained in the US to use these equipment. Egypt also built a steel wall along the border to prevent smugglers from penetrating into Egypt, though some smugglers have cut through it.

Although Hamas has largely halted its rocket fire since a fierce Israeli military offensive in early 2009, the Israeli security official said the group's aim remained to strike at Israeli cities. "Today there are rockets which are reaching 70 and 80 km in the Gaza Strip ... so it means that we can sit here and talk and a rocket can fall on our heads within five minutes," the official said. That range would mean that rockets could reach Tel Aviv, Israel's business and cultural hub. About two million people live in the Tel Aviv area, which was targeted by Saddam Hussein's Iraq with Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War.


The assessment indicated that Hamas has improved its capabilities in recent months. Past assessments have said Hamas rocket range was closer to 60 or 70 km. On Sunday Israel's Channel 10 TV showed video of Israel's 'Iron Dome' system knocking down rockets. The system is designed to protect Israel from rocket fire from Gaza and Lebanon. However, deployment has been delayed several times and now appears at least months away.

The official charged that corruption is undermining any efforts to stop the smuggling from Egypt to Gaza. He said Egyptian officers and soldiers are being bribed to look the other way. Mr Eldad confirmed that. "When an arms convoy goes through Egypt, lots of people are bribed along the way," he said. "It's easy to bribe the guards and police on the border."


On the other hand, the official said, intelligence cooperation with Egypt was otherwise effective: "In other aspects we see Egypt, when they have concrete intelligence about terror attacks ... they are reacting most of the time very fast and trying to prevent these attacks."


The Israeli intelligence official also said that Hamas' rival, the Palestinian Authority, was making a genuine and successful effort to maintain security and prevent attacks on Israel in the West Bank. But he warned it was dependent on progress in the currently stalled peace talks with Israel — and on the presence in office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The official added that Israeli intelligence believes that it remains the long-range goal of Hamas to destroy Israel and to establish an Islamic 'caliphate,' not only in the West Asia but in Europe as well. 


--AP

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

A RAJA'S DOWNFALL

 

The belated resignation of IT and communications minister A Raja is the result of a combination of political and administrative reasons. Critical references from the Supreme Court and an adverse report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had made it difficult for the government to defend the minister. The opposition, both in New Delhi and Chennai, upped the ante against the DMK nominee. This made it untenable for the UPA and the DMK to ignore the charges against the minister. 


The Congress itself had raised the bar by asking Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan to quit in the face of the Adarsh Cooperative Society scandal and by removing Suresh Kalmadi from a party post in the light of controversies surrounding the Commonwealth Games. It could not have argued that the standards of probity were different for Congressmen and nominees of allies. After all, Raja was a UPA minister and the prime minister was answerable for his conduct. The compulsions of coalition politics were hardly an excuse when the minister couldn't convincingly explain his decisions, which according to the CAG had resulted in the loss of government revenues to the tune of a staggering Rs 1.76 lakh crore. 


What may have turned the tide against Raja is the signal from AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa that she was open for negotiations with the Congress. With 18 MPs, the DMK holds the key to the survival of the UPA government. But it is dependent on the Congress for a majority in the Tamil Nadu assembly and the party can't afford to lose its main ally ahead of the upcoming assembly elections. An AIADMK-Congress alliance or even the Congress fighting on its own could stymie the DMK's prospects in the state. That, together with the action Congress has taken against some of its own tainted functionaries, should give it leverage with the DMK. 


Communications and IT are vital tools of empowerment and growth, and deserve to be in the hands of a capable minister. Good governance requires that it not be considered the fief of a particular party but goes to the best candidate. The Congress must now make sure the telecom portfolio goes to a deserving candidate. Appeasement of an ally shouldn't be the consideration here, otherwise it could boomerang on the Congress. It is the emergence of corruption as a vital public issue with political repercussions that forced the actors to quit. This augurs well for the future. The point now is to ensure that the bar will remain raised forever.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

TIME TO TALK

 

Nobel Prize-winning democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi's release comes as a welcome development after more than seven years of house arrest. Worse, she has spent 15 of the past 20 years in some form of captivity. It provides an opportunity to resolve the political deadlock in the country, stemming from the refusal to hand over power to her party, the National League for Democracy, after it swept the 1990 elections. The ensuing repression led to international sanctions on Myanmar, but the problem is that ordinary people have been affected by the sanctions far more than the country's military rulers. Suu Kyi's release, her public offer to talk to the government and the signs she has shown of softening on the sanctions - she had supported them for a number of years - provide an opportunity to pursue democratic reform while ending Myanmar's diplomatic isolation and economic stagnation. 


New Delhi must play its part in this by encouraging and facilitating talks between Suu Kyi and the government. It would be unrealistic to expect New Delhi to align with the West against the government as it has been exhorted to do. Both strategic and economic reasons preclude such a course of action. A shared border, Beijing's influence in the region, Myanmar's energy resources and the importance of trade and goods transit through the country mean that constructive engagement with the country's rulers is inevitable. But New Delhi can pursue this while simultaneously nudging them on the path of democratic reform, which would bring in political stability as well as international acceptability. If the sanctions regime against Myanmar needs to be re-evaluated, for reasons made clear in the accompanying article, New Delhi can offer its good offices and play the role of interlocutor.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

A FRESH LOOK AT MYANMAR

 

With the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from prolonged house detention, it is time for the US and its European partners to moderate their sanctions policy against Burma (or Myanmar, as its junta calls it) so as to create incentives for greater political openness. There is no reason why a weak, impoverished Burma should continue to be held to a higher human rights standard than an increasingly assertive China. Why deny Burma the international trade opportunities that have allowed the world's biggest executioner, China, to prosper? 

The defining events that led to the crushing of pro-democracy forces in Burma and 
China occurred around the same time some two decades ago, yet the West responded to the developments in the two countries in very different ways. 


China's spectacular economic rise owes a lot to the western decision not to sustain trade sanctions after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy protesters. The Cold War's end facilitated Washington's pragmatic approach to shun trade sanctions and help integrate China with global institutions through the liberalising influence of foreign investment and trade. That the choice made was wise can be seen from the baneful impact of the opposite decision in favour of sustained sanctions against Burma, which brutally suppressed pro-democracy demonstrators 10 months before Tiananmen Square and subsequently held but refused to honour the outcome of a national election in1990. Had the Burma-type approach centred on escalating sanctions been applied against China, the result would have been a less prosperous and potentially destabilising China today. 


The continuation of sanctions and their subsequent expansion against Burma snuffed out any prospect of that country emulating China's example of blending economic openness with political authoritarianism. Indeed, the military's attempts to open up the Burmese economy in the early 1990s fizzled out quickly in the face of western penal actions. 


Today, the release of Suu Kyi offers an opportunity to recalibrate the sanctions policy by drawing on the lessons of the past two decades. The first lesson is that the economic sanctions, even if justified, have produced the wrong political results. Years of sanctions have left Burma without an entrepreneurial class or civil society but saddled with an all-powerful military as the sole functioning institution. 


A second lesson is that the expansion of sanctions has not only further isolated Burma, but also made that country overly dependent on China to the concern of the nationalistic Burmese military. At a time when the US is courting communist-ruled Vietnam as part of its 'hedge' strategy against a resurgent China, it makes little sense to continue with an approach that is pushing a strategically located Burma into China's strategic lap. Yet another lesson is that the sanctions have hurt not their intended target - the military - but the ordinary Burmese. 

The blunt fact is that after being in power for nearly half a century, the military has become too fat to return to the barracks. In fact, it won't fit in the barracks. With no hope of a "colour revolution" in Burma, demilitarisation of the Burmese polity can at best be a step-by-step process. In that context, the recent elections, although far from being free and fair, have helped revive a long-dormant political process and implicitly created a feeling of empowerment among the people. The process, in turn, has created new space for the democracy movement, as symbolised by Suu Kyi's release. 


Now is the time for the US and its allies to get out of a self-perpetuating cycle of sanctions and help carve out greater international space in Burma. Each step towards greater political openness in Burma ought to be suitably rewarded. 

More broadly, democracy promotion should not become a geopolitical tool wielded only against the weak and the marginalised. Can one principle be applied to the world's largest autocracy, China - that engagement is the way to bring about political change - but an opposite principle centred on sanctions remain in force against Burma? Going after the small kids on the global bloc but courting the most powerful autocrats is hardly the way to build international norms or ensure positive results. As the Nobel Committee bluntly pointed out while awarding the 2010 
Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, "China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights." 

An uncompromisingly penal approach against Burma has had the perverse effect of weakening America's hand while strengthening China's. This was best illustrated during the Bush administration, which, after slapping the harshest sanctions on Burma, turned to 
Beijing as a channel of communication with the Burmese junta. 


President Barack Obama began on the right note by exploring the prospect of a gradual US re-engagement with Burma. Yet, on his recent India visit, Obama attacked Burma three times, reflecting his frustration with the painfully slow progress to open up that nation. But now with Suu Kyi free, he must recognise that the seeds of democracy will not take root in a stunted economy. External pressure without constructive engagement and civil society development in a critically weak country is self-defeating. 


( The writer is professor at Centre for Policy Research.)

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

BHAJJI IS PRIMARILY A BOWLER

 

There is no denying he is exciting with the bat, is quite capable of treating respectable bowlers to lusty blows, and has just become the first No. 8 batsman to score consecutive Test centuries. But calling Harbhajan Singh an all-rounder is a stretch. Contrary to his own tongue-in-cheek comments about his batting prowess, Harbhajan primarily remains a spin bowler. His recent batting form simply isn't enough to qualify him as someone who can bat and bowl in equal measure. A cursory look at his career statistics tells us why. 

With a Test aggregate of 1,785 runs and 369 wickets, Harbhajan's performance pales in comparison to a true all-rounder like 
Jacques Kallis - with 11,126 runs and 266 wickets - and is little better than Muttiah Muralitharan's batting histrionics. Neither has the 'Turbanator' proved himself with the bat on diverse pitches and against varied bowling attacks. It is one thing to score centuries on flat surfaces against a less-than-fearsome New Zealand team, quite another to repeat the feat, say, against Australia in Perth. Nor is his batting commensurate with his bowling capabilities. There would be little controversy in saying that with 369 Test wickets and 242 ODI scalps, Harbhajan is respected far more as a bowler. In that sense, Bhajji doesn't fit the definition of a genuine all-rounder. At best he can be called a bowler who is handy with the bat. 

Though Harbhajan takes his batting quite seriously, to put him in the same category as 
Kapil Dev or Sir Garfield Sobers - people who consistently performed with bat and ball - would be inappropriate. The potential to be an all-rounder is not the same as being an all-rounder. Harbhajan is a long way off from earning that tag. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

HE HAS EVOLVED INTO AN ALL-ROUNDER

 

If there is one thing that the ongoing three-match Test series between India and New Zealand will always be remembered for, it is Harbhajan Singh's emergence as an all-rounder. Cricket pundits may dismiss Bhajji's claims purely on the basis of conventional definitions. And to their delight, Harbhajan modestly refuses to accept that claim even though he has always harboured the ambition. 


If Harbhajan's comparison is with the likes of all-time greats such as Gary Sobers, Ian BothamImran KhanKapil Dev and Jacques Kallis, then maybe he doesn't make the grade as an all-rounder. But as a cricketer in his own right, Harbhajan has done exciting things with the bat. More often than not, he has contributed with a quick-fire 20 or 30 that's needed to turn around a match in its limited over versions. Of late, he came to India's rescue during a nail-biting encounter against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. 


And when you add all this to his spectacular performance with the bat in the ongoing series, he surely deserves the all-rounder billing. He has piled up 295 runs in three innings in the first two Test matches, with an average of 147.5. With two consecutive centuries and a half-century, Bhajji has become the highest run-getter for his team. And let's not forget that these runs were scored in crunch situations. His gutsy half-century in the first innings at the Ahmedabad Test brought some grace to the team's total after a middle order collapse. Further, his maiden Test century in the same Test rescued the team from the jaws of defeat at the hands of a determined New Zealand. Let's not slot cricketers in preconceived boxes, which don't give weight to their recent performances. Bhajji is quite determined about his batting, and cricketers can evolve.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EAT, PLAY, LOVE

 

Kalo Dungar is one of the few topographical contours to press up against the Great Rann of Kutch. Because of this position - a high outpost in the last bit of inhabitable terrain before the Pakistani border - it is an attractive point for authority, both civic and divine. 


Our first day is spent wandering through goat-herding villages, trekking far into the hot, salty alabaster of the Rann, and drinking questionable village well water in an attempt to stave off dehydration brought on by our inadequate provisioning. 


We return early in the evening and sit outside in the dry and starry Kutchi night. A family from Surat comes to speak with us. They are kind, mild-mannered Gujaratis out for a bit of temple tourism. We answer the usual questions that foreigners in India receive in places where one doesn't expect to see foreigners, and are relieved when the temple caretaker comes to tell us that it will be 30 minutes before our unspiced dal-chawal is ready. 


"Excellent", our new friend tells us, "we have some time. Would you like to come play with us?" 


We are confused, but don't want to be rude. The family has two children; perhaps we have just enough time for a spot of cricket. I usually enjoy my attempts at failing to learn the game. 


We follow them towards the guesthouse, but make an unexpected turn. Into the temple. We look at one another, and our realisation is simultaneous. He didn't ask us to play. He asked us to pray. 


I am not a man of faith. Places of worship make me feel uncomfortable, like an intruder. I've learned to put such sentiments aside in order to see the great art and architecture of the world's finest mosques, cathedrals and temples. The Kalo Dungar Mandir does not rate among them. I enter with trepidation. 


As a child on the West Coast of the United States, i attended the sort of hippy kindergarten that was run by Buddhist monks in orange robes. We spent a fair bit of time every day sitting on the floor in meditation. But that was more than two decades ago, and was probably the last time i spent more than five minutes on a hard floor with my legs crossed. This floor is exceedingly hard. 


We sit, and the family launches into song. 


"Okay", i think, "this isn't so bad." 


And then another song. And a third. I switch out of half lotus. Starting in that position was a mistake. 

A fourth song. The bone on the outside of my right ankle is in sharp disagreement with stone floor. There seems to be little i can do to mediate the conflict at this point. 


The first four or five songs come without hesitation. After the sixth, however, the pauses between songs start to get longer. They seem to be dredging their memory for the next song. I am confronted with the distinct impression that their prayers might not usually last this long, rather their devoutness is being trumpeted for my benefit. By this point, both of my legs are asleep. I am desperately hoping that they feel no further need to demonstrate their religious fervour. 


But they do. As we finish the tenth paean to their devotion, it finally ends. The entire family prostrates themselves on the floor in front of the idol. I feel that i ought to follow suit, but i can't quite bring myself to do so. 

Later that night, as we sit under the expansive desert starscape sipping our very non-Gujarati rum, we pour a toast to our new friends - a gesture they may not appreciate - and vow to be more careful the next time we're invited to "play".

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

RIGHT PEOPLE FOR THE RIGHT POSTS

 

In the end, kicking and screaming, telecom minister A Raja's been removed from his ministry. If, as he says, his conscience is clear, he would have done well to step down at the first hint of scandal instead of causing such enormous embarrassment to both the prime minister and the DMK chief M Karunanidhi. The government appears to be in no mood to pander to the DMK's sentiments and has given additional charge of telecom to human resource development minister Kapil Sibal. That Mr Raja gave out licences on prices negotiated earlier is in no doubt, but he hopes that he will be able to get off on the technicality that an auction is not a requirement unless so recommended. Given the sum of money involved, it is in everyone's interest that this matter is resolved. In this context, it makes no sense for the Opposition to disrupt Parliament and demand a Joint Parliamentary Committte probe even before the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is tabled before it. This is a case of jumping the gun. Had Parliament been allowed to proceed, it might have begun the process of unraveling what is alleged to be a mega-scam.

 

Similarly, the public might have been wiser on the moves to bring the guilty to book in the Commonwealth Games scandal. The catalyst for Mr Raja's exit seems to have been the offer from the AIADMK supremo, Ms Jayalalithaa, who offered support should the DMK withdraw from the UPA government. Despite being a notoriously unreliable ally, the message wasn't lost on the DMK that finally acted against the minister. But for a cleaning of the Augean stables, it is not enough for erring ministers or politicians to give up their posts after the deed. The probe — and if need be prosecution — must be seen through to the bitter end. One way of preventing this sort of thing happening so often is to stem the rot from inception. We are in an age of meritocracy. The PM himself is an exemplar of merit and hard work. We oppose needless reservations for jobs in today's competitive world. Therefore, it stands to reasons that our policy makers too should adhere to the principle of the best man or woman for the post.

 

At present, it would seem that certain ministries are the stomping grounds of certain parties, extracted as a price for their support to one or other coalition. There are certain ministers who are all-rounders. But there are also many who are clearly either unsuited to or uninterested in their portfolios. Much greater deliberation has to go into who takes charge of crucial ministries and they should be awarded to those who are not only known for their probity but who will also make a difference to that portfolio. The Raja episode should occasion a rethink on portfolio allocation. This would be one way of ensuring that the political establishment is not furthered diminished in the eyes of the people.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

A CUT BELOW THE REST

 

A trouser ending above the knees and a blazer which pinched, it took this sartorial snafu to show us the sloppy manner in which Indian sports is managed. Vladamir Chertkov, consultant, Indian gymnastics team, left the ongoing Asian Games in a huff, after he wasn't allowed to participate in the opening ceremony. Chertkov refused to wear the Indian team blazer and trousers because they didn't fit him. Angry at how the problem was handled, he lashed out at Indian sports officialdom and said that it's all about the way the sports babudom treats sportsmen and coaches.

 

Chertkov was bang on target. As we have seen many times before, sports officials are the bane of Indian sports. They are the ones who walk away with all the privileges, while our sportsmen learn how to live and perform with whatever little that is left for them. Most Indian contingents to sporting extravaganzas like the Asiad have more than the required number of officials with little interest in sports, and more interest in other extra-curricular activities.

 

So what do we do with these officials who have a habit of creeping their way up in the world of sports administration and not leave unless and until they are forced to? Can someone drill into their heads that these are not all-expenses paid trips for a jolly and a jaunt. Maybe, the government should limit the number of tours these officials can go on every year. In any case, their work is before any international event, not during it. At least, we don't need so many extra hands to coordinate the affairs of the contingent. No medals for that logic.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BEYOND THE BYTE

IN CRITICAL CONDITION

MATHURAM SANTOSHAM

 

India celebrated Children's Day on Sunday. It came two days after World Pneumonia Day. There was a strange appropriateness to that coincidence for it allowed us to stop and ponder over the many health challenges — pneumonia being a salient one among them — that confront India's children. As a paediatrician, I've witnessed firsthand the suffering of the youngest citizens of the world, especially in India.

 

About 26 million children are born in India each year. The present generation is of particular interest to economists and policy makers, as it will grow up to power India's "demographic dividend" — the largest population of young, working people in any single country — in the first half of the 21st century.

 

Yet, this generation of young Indians will be underserved and denied its potential without significant investments in healthcare and childhood disease prevention. Each year, the world loses over eight million children under five years of age. Currently, India accounts for 20% of these deaths. Of these, one in three is caused by diarrhoea or pneumonia, the leading causes of childhood deaths in India. This is far too much to accept from a country like India, which is one of world's fastest growing economies.

 

Each year, pneumonia claims over 1.5 million children under the age of five across the globe — 20% of these deaths occur in India. Recent data show that approximately 120,000 children in India died from diarrhoea caused by rotavirus — the leading cause of diarrhoea across the world. To put it into perspective, China, with a larger population than India, lost only 27,000 children to rotavirus-caused diarrhoea in the same year.

 

India has made unprecedented gains in IT and other technologies in the last decade. It's time for India's economic and social sector progress to be matched by robust action in childhood disease prevention and treatment. In fact, the government has taken note of this and has started to respond. The National Rural Health Mission places emphasis on the health of mothers and their children. This has made pregnancy and childbirth a far less hazardous enterprise. Since the launch of the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) Programme in 2005, safe deliveries, particularly in hospitals, have increased from 48% of births in 2002-2004 to 53% in 2007-2008. Some of the most significant progress has been made in states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

 

Continuing to take these strides forward will require us to focus attention on what happens to these children after they are born. It's not just the first hours of a baby's life that are important; the first five years of life are critical to a child's development. India needs to protect its demographic dividend from ever-present threats to its health and well being. We have the tools and financial resources to achieve this goal. A majority of childhood deaths can be avoided by deploying a combination of available strategies — preventive measures like clean water, oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoea and early treatment of pneumonia with antibiotics and immunisations. Take diarrhoea for example; less than 30% of Indian children who suffer from this disease receive oral rehydration solution (ORS), the simple mixture of salts and sugars proven to prevent deaths if used as soon as diarrhoea occurs.

 

These figures wouldn't be so harrowing if we had adequate prevention. Many families do not have appropriate water supply and sanitation facilities, which are essential to eradicating diarrhoea and a host of other public health concerns. New rotavirus vaccines have been shown to reduce mortality and hospitalisation from diarrhoea in many countries. Similarly, new vaccines have been shown to reduce death and suffering from pneumonia. Currently, these vaccines are available to only a small, largely urban and relatively affluent segment of India's children. We need to ensure universal access to these lifesaving interventions.

There are wider implications of the public health challenge that India's youngest citizens face. India is a signatory to United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which aim to address some of the world's most pressing issues in health, gender, environment and education by 2015. MDG4 aims to reduce childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015. If the poorest children in India are denied access to proven interventions like ORS for treatment of diarrhoea, antibiotic treatment for pneumonia and vaccines, India won't achieve MDG4.

 

The price of our failure won't be theoretical or statistical; it will be paid by our children. In the words of the Chilean Nobel Laureate Gabriel Mistral, "We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children... children cannot [wait]. Now is when their bones are being formed, their blood is being made and their senses are being developed. To them we cannot answer 'tomorrow.' We must answer 'today'." As one of the world's high-profile economies, and as a model for other developing countries, India has to put its will and effort behind the MDGs — and behind a comprehensive childhood health programme. Historically, as countries have become more developed, childhood mortality and disease risk have declined. There is a happy symbiotic relationship between these phenomena. A wealthy country has more resources to invest in public health programmes, which include comprehensive disease prevention or treatment strategies. In turn, it is well-documented that healthy children grow up to be healthier adults and contribute more effectively towards their personal and countries' economic well being.

 

As India takes its rightful place in the premier league of nations, it cannot escape reality. Today's children deserve it, and India's future children deserve it. Most poignantly, the memory of the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who loved India so dearly and in whose honour we celebrate Children's Day, deserves it.

 

Mathuram Santosham is Professor, Departments of International Health and Paediatrics at Johns Hopkins University The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

A STAR WHO INTERPRETED THE STARS

DEBU CHAUDHURI

 

NP Seshadri, my dear friend for 50 years, passed away in New Delhi on November 16, 2009. When his daughter Raji informed me of his death, I was shocked. But I was not surprised because Seshadri, who was an eminent astrologer, had told me many times: "Debu saab, I will not cross November, my time has come". Though Raji kept telling him that a leading astrologer in Chennai had said that Seshadri would live till he was 85, he kept on telling me that his time had come, and for him time was very important.

 

About 30 years ago, my late wife Manjusree had asked Seshadri: "Bhaisaab, why are you getting Raji married so early? She is barely 19". Seshadri replied: "Time has come for Raji's marriage".

 

Seshadri was a great astrologer but besides me, his family and some of his close friends no one knew that all his predictions about national and international events were always correct. Seshadri was such a gifted man that just by looking at a person, he could predict everything about him/her. Raji told me that whenever he used to read a horoscope, no matter whose, he would study it thoroughly and write down each and every small point about it.

 

Whenever there was an important development, we used to marvel to how correct his predictions were. Astrological predictions came naturally to him. He would study them till early in the morning and then send his neatly handwritten predictions to the person concerned. No matter who the person was — a politician, bureaucrat, artist, doctor or even gardener — he would do it with the same affection and sincerity. Men like Seshadri are not born every day, he was indeed a rare phenomenon. Like a true karmayogi, he believed that a dedicated man must do his sadhna with energy and in the process even forget himself.

 

Seshadri never sought any position though he could have easily got something big for himself. He firmly believed that he must devote all his time to ordinary people and that's what he did. In the evenings, his residence would become the centre for cultural and religious meets. People from all walks of life, known and unknown to him, would go to his residence for advice and everyone returned satisfied. He always said that astro-palmistry is sadhna and never made it his profession.

 

He felt that it is possible to guide a person to a major extent about his good or bad days. An ardent devotee of Lord Venkateshwara and Punniainallur Sri Mariamman, Thanjavur, he often used to tell me that life is anitya and there is no use of hankering for power and material prosperity. Above all, there is something called unison, which could be attained by leading a dharmic life.

 

On the advice of Jawaharlal Nehru, Seshadri founded the National Cultural Organisation (NCO) for the promotion of Indian culture and national integration in 1950. Since then, the NCO has been organising cultural festivals including the prestigious Tansen festival, which was always inaugurated with a shehnai recital by Ustad Bismillah Khan.

 

I remember an incident in 1967. Seshadri had organised the festival and as always it was open to the public. After Ustad Bismillah Khan's performance, an old gentleman went up to Seshadri and said: "Main to ek chhota sa pan ki dukaan wala hun, magar bahut din se Khan sahab ki Shehnai sunne ki chahat thi. Usse aaj apne pura kar diya. Allah aapko lambi umar dein."

 

Seshadri's one singular achievement was that he brought the south and north culturally closer and created mechanisms so that they could benefit from each other and retain their distinctive colour and tradition in the purest form. It was to Seshadri's credit that he could make Hindustani music and dance popular among south Indians and south Indian classical dance forms and Carnatic music popular among north Indians. He was also the organising secretary of the Akhila Bhartiya Veda Vidwat Sammelan. As the organising secretary of the sammelan, he was not only responsible for conducting it but also for publicising the secular aspects of the Vedas.

 

Seshadri held several important positions in the Government of India. As handloom commissioner, he added a new dimensions to the marketing and publicity of handloom products. He also popularised handloom expos and fairs throughout India and abroad. It is to his credit that today handloom products are so popular.

His death is a great personal loss to me and his contribution to cultural and other fields cannot be described in words. Seshadri's majestic personality, sonorous voice, eloquence, helpful nature and humility will always be remembered by everyone.

 

He was a man of action who moved with the present and envisioned the future. I hope and pray that his children and admirers would carry forward the rich cultural legacy that he has left behind.

 

Debu Chaudhuri is an internationally renowned sitar maestro The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WHAT NOW?

 

After submitting his resignation as telecom minister, A. Raja was perhaps being too glib when he said the move was solely intended to get Parliament to function, by taking away from the opposition a cause for disruption. Accountability hopefully runs deeper in government. However, by continuing to disrupt Parliament on the issue, the opposition too is being too clever by half. The BJP, for instance, vowed to not relent till a joint parliamentary committee on 2G licences, the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh allocations is set up. While the utility of a JPC is always uncertain, it's the opposition's call to root for the instruments it values. Yet, by using that demand to prevent the two Houses from transacting business and debate, those parties betray a lack of imagination. They abdicate their responsibility to find articulate ways to hold the government to account by the normal procedures of Parliament.

 

It is indicative of a trend, of MPs finding ways of staying only with the issue/ controversy of the day. And its fallout can be seen not just in the insistence of opposition MPs to hold other business of the House and keep the focus on just the big story. It can been gauged from the paltry attendance of ruling party MPs in the two Houses for scheduled interactions like Question Hour, discussions after lunch on sundry subjects and private members' bills.

 

The previous Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, sought live telecast of proceedings as a way of holding MPs to account. Vice President Hamid Ansari, as chairperson of Rajya Sabha, has recommended changes in the anti-defection law to allow freer discussion by MPs without the constraints of the party whip. Question Hour has been sought to be rescued from absentee questioners. None of this, however, will entirely get Parliament back to its old robust self as long as the party leaderships do not take the business of the two Houses as a priority in and of itself.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ALPHABET SOUP

 

The opposition forced an adjournment of Parliament on Monday, shouting "We want a JPC". A joint parliamentary committee has been used effectively in some cases in the past — true, but for issues where our political system needed cross-party clarity on something. It's not a mechanism suited for criminal investigation, nor should it be expected to conduct one. Equally, the problem is our investigative agencies have, time and again, helped create the perception that, in cases similar to the 2G spectrum under-pricing, they are incapable or unwilling to do the job.

 

This is more than simple ineptitude. Ferreting out corruption today requires more than a simple interrogation of a couple of witnesses, or detailing disproportionate assets. You need to be able to estimate possible revenue streams, for example, or determine real estate prices. It might be reasonable to assume that the concern is the state's institutions, here as elsewhere, simply don't have the manpower or expertise. Yet the CBI, for one, has wide-ranging powers — including the co-opting of experts to help them. So it isn't a lack of capacity that's the constraint, causing our investigating agencies to bumble about like the Keystone Kops. It is, instead, a steady politicisation of their role, and their consistent inability to assert their independence, or the absence of the political will to allow it.

 

The simple fact is this: the institutions exist to investigate and indict those with political power and connections. It's possible to imagine murder cases, for example, or even riot cases, coming to a conclusion, however delayed. But not so corruption cases. Resignations are necessary for political fire-fighting, but accountability cannot stop there. An accountable system, and natural justice, requires that the normal mechanisms of the law are permitted to operate. That would require the independence of the CBI, in particular, to be strengthened, and the agency also being seen to be accountable. Yet, as long as the political will to do so is missing — and using the CBI to file and withdraw cases is merely one of the perks of being in power at the Centre — closure will elude us when dealing with high-profile accusations of corruption.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DIAL A SCANDAL

 

As Kapil Sibal was given additional charge of the telecom ministry, the DMK was quick to underscore the fact that this was a temporary appointment. In doing so, the party was staking a claim to what it considers its turf, despite A. Raja's disgrace. The prime minister must rebuff that assumption.

 

Over the years, the DMK, once a bracing force of revolution, has become the ultimate party of power. Barring a break of a year (1998-99), the party has been part of the ruling coalition at the Centre since 1996 — or through five Lok Sabhas. It has fought for and won ministries that are most obviously lucrative, from highways to communications, and proceeded to use these in a purely instrumental way. Once a party of rationalist, progressive ideals, it's now hard to find any consistent principle in its choices apart from power-mongering. Once a party of movement, run by committed cadres, it has become a family huddle, an organisation that turns to the dear leader at every step. And while there might be persuasive reasons for the DMK's tumult, and Karunanidhi is certainly under pressure to manage the different power centres in his party, their private familial transactions cannot hold up the rest of the country. The Congress, of course, has had an odd relationship with the DMK. The last great rupture was when the Jain Commission implicated the DMK in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination; the Congress, led by Sitaram Kesri, withdrew support and broke up the United Front government. After the 2009 elections, the prime minister might have left out some of the DMK's worst offenders, but retaining the already suspect Raja has clearly blown up in the government's face.

 

The last UPA government was also turbulent, but at least the issues that rocked them were matters of policy, whether it was NREGA or the Indo-US nuclear agreement, not allegations of brazen corruption. The Congress cannot afford this conveniently amoral calculus when it comes to distancing itself from ministers in the government it leads. The PM cannot pretend that what happened with Raja happened in a faraway corner — it happened on his watch, and it taints the entire government. This is a crucial time for the UPA, and we cannot afford to have enormously important matters of governance held up because the ruling coalition's energies are focused on dousing the fires of impropriety and scandal. For starters, the prime minister could tell the DMK where it gets off.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

DON'T STOP AT RAJA

SUNIL JAIN 

 

Now that the government has finally done the right thing, and the opposition has won a major victory, it is important for both to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion, to get the licences back (how else will the government recover the lost

 

Rs 1.76 lakh crore?) and to get the bureaucrats who colluded with Raja. It's interesting how, in most cases, it is the politicians who get caught, not the bureaucrats who help them do the dirty.

 

A good first indicator of where things are going would be a PIL in the Supreme Court asking for the CBI to renew its investigation. The government's affidavit, given last week, defended Raja and made all the arguments he's been making so far — he was only following existing policy, and so on. So, if the government is serious about following things to their logical conclusion, it should ask for more time and present

 

another affidavit. The affidavit, incidentally, the telecom secretary had confirmed, was cleared by either the solicitor general or the attorney general — among other things, the affidavit says the courts have, at best, a limited role in looking at "policy matters".

 

What's worse is that the officers who helped Raja are still around. The deputy director-general,

 

access services, A.K. Srivastava, who was interrogated by the CBI for his role in issuing the licences, continues to remain in the same office. He is the person who formulated the note that the telecom ministry's law officer and finally the law ministry cleared, to tell the CAG that it had no locus standi in investigating the case.

 

There is the far bigger scandal indicated by the CAG, that has little to do with the Raja protestations about following existing policy or about what's called the first-come-first-served policy. The CAG has pointed out that 85 of the 122 licences issued were to firms that never even met the criterion specified by Raja's own ministry. All companies submitted their applications by Octo-ber 1, 2007. Over 100 of them were knocked out on technical grounds, that is, their net worth was below what was required, their articles of association did not allow them to be in telecom, their shareholding pattern did not meet the requisite norms, and so on. Yet, 85 licences, including to companies like Unitech and Swan, were given despite this — clearly someone in the licensing division must have been in cahoots with Raja. In the case of Loop Telecom, the CAG says, an investigation would have revealed whether its shareholding pattern violated the law. The reason why these companies were allowed to get away with this, it is clear, had to do with the first-come-first-served policy — if they had taken, say two weeks, to get the paperwork in order, they would have lost their place in the queue for the spectrum.

 

It's been almost three years, and a very large number of these firms have not rolled out their networks. Under the licence, they were supposed to do 10 per cent in the first year and all of it by the end of the third year. This is something the licensing division of the DoT should have been keeping tabs on, on a regular basis, to levy penalties going up to Rs 20 lakh per week for a delay of more than 26 weeks — in case of no roll-out, or big delays, the licenses were to be cancelled. So how come the paperwork never got done? Removing Raja is no solution, even if another DMK MP doesn't come to warm the same seat, the concerned officials have to be removed.

 

Indeed, the CAG report on the fact that so many applications never met the minimum criterion, and the fact that there have been huge delays in rolling out the networks, is enough ground for the government to cancel these licences. Frankly, if the government does not get back the licences, it doesn't stand any chance of being able to recover the Rs 1.76 lakh crore the CAG says it lost thanks to Raja's actions. It has to get back the licences and auction them to telecom players and, depending upon how the market conditions are, either get back all the money it has lost or at least some part of it. Keep in mind that when Arun Shourie legalised Reliance

 

Infocomm's wireless in local loop mobile phone and made them full-fledged mobile phones, he did so after charging the company around Rs 2,000 crore by way of additional licence fees and penalties.

 

Perhaps it's time to do what the Planning Commission has been recommending for some time now: clean up the entire licensing system, not just for telecom, and hand it over to independent regulators who report directly to Parliament. Had this been done, for instance, any licence issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India could automatically be reviewed by the courts (which does not happen when licences are issued by the ministry, unless as now, some serious corruption is alleged and, as the government affidavit says, the courts have limited jurisdiction in the matter). Had this been done, TRAI would also have levied penalties and even cancelled licences — right now, all it can do is to recommend this, leaving the final decision to the government.

 

Given the CBI's complete lack of progress in the case for over a year, perhaps another good idea is to either get the CBI to report to the court or to set up an independent prosecutor's office as in various countries in the West. Too many cases, and this could well be another one, fall by the wayside once the CBI gets involved.

 

For all journalists, PIL-types and the honourable few like former Telecom Secretary D.S. Mathur and Member-Finance Manju Madhavan (their stories were front-paged in this news-paper on November 13 and 15, respectively) who chose to stick to their guns, the message is: Keep it up!

 

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

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE PRICE IS WRONG

YOGINDER K. ALAGH 

 

For an energy-short country that has decided to play a leading role in climate adjustment policies, we are very uncoordinated on fuel policy, particularly in our approach to fuel pricing. This is particularly distressing since we actually have a very good tradition of studying fuel pricing policy. In the first energy crisis, in the '70s, a policy of savage taxation of petroleum, oils and lubricants, a large expansion of coal supplies after nationalisation, and back-up pricing led to a rapid control of energy-led inflation, and a reduction of energy import growth rates, even as the economy was growing fast. Wags said that Britain fought the energy crisis with the discovery of North Sea gas, and India with a fuel policy report.

 

We now, again, have a new fairly good fuel policy report — but we should not be too sanguine about the outcome. Distribution reform in cities like Agra and Bhiwandi, now privatised, followed the Delhi model, and together with the technological investments in grids, metering and so on has led to immense possibilities for the electricity sector turning the corner. But political support at the highest level is not there, nor has pricing reform taken place to hasten the process. In fact, more often than not, pricing issues go to the appellate machinery delaying the impact of the reform.

 

What this means is that we are left with a situation in which grid codes are in place, and so is the wheeling hardware — but the pricing signals are haywire. The only sensible pricing document was the first electricity regulator's consultation paper on fixing electricity tariffs, but after he remitted office it sank like a stone. And with it did some very useful concepts: long-range marginal cost pricing, and efficiency principles in transmission and distribution pricing. Badly qualified regulators use systems designed around cost-plus pricing, with ad hoc norms thrown in for efficiency, even though they know full well that those norms will not be followed. Power trading in India still follows command economy routines rather than the long-run efficiency criterion.

 

And as if that is not bad enough. When you move away from electricity, fuel pricing in India gets even more chaotic. Gas pricing, which was to follow the principles of sovereign rights, is now in some no-man's land. The policy of following, to an extent, "prices at the border", which had raised hopes that Kelkar's guidelines may eventually be followed, was short-lived. And, since then, no clear criteria have emerged for pricing the sovereign's monopoly well.

 

Meanwhile, the signal that energy-intensive industries like nitrogenous fertilisers would have a market regime in which to work gave way soon enough to the rules of the jungle — leading to a considerable dampening in the enthusiasm of various possible investors. India's dependence on imported nutrients, at considerable cost, is now almost ensured. This dependence has, in the last few years, gone up and up at a considerable cost to the nation — since imports are far more expensive than the average price given to domestic suppliers. It was expected to fall as we introduced a policy of domestic investment in expansion and balancing, and supplemented it with a collar and cap for expansion — but it is now in jeopardy again, with increased uncertainty in gas supplies.

 

Bits of the Kirit Parikh long-term fuel policy report are with the angels now. This costs us precision in our signals on fuel price policy. At a general level, the report follows the laws of the market — which in an energy-importing economy means border pricing. Parikh, however, makes an exception for sustainability principles where he follows tax subsidy formulas somewhat grudgingly — for, even though he is an engineer, he is also an economist. So the exceptions to the market are frugal, as in the case of environmental costs or equity compulsions.

Take an example. Ensuring direct cheap supplies of LPG for clean energy in the hills or adjoining forest areas, if necessary, is not objectionable, for trees must not be cut for fuel. But the idea that in cities poor households use kerosene for cooking is pointless — because they don't, and it goes to adulterate diesel, with all the attendant environmental costs. It is time to get the dust removed from the long-term fuel policy report, and get it back in the policy-maker's file.

 

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

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE CHURN IS ON

KALYAN ARUN 

 

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam has finally buckled under pressure. Scandal-tainted Union Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja has resigned, saving the UPA further embarrassment. His image is at rock bottom, and despite all the feeble explanations put forward by DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the DMK cannot deflect the consequences of the events of the past few days.

 

With elections to the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly less than six months away, the DMK cannot afford the 2G spectrum scandal and its reverberations. And what's more, arch rival Jayalalithaa's AIADMK has offered the Congress an option in the event that the DMK peevishly pulls out the rug from under the UPA's feet.

 

Though Jayalalithaa's attack on Raja and the DMK may have been only one of the reasons for the Congress to pressure Karunanidhi and force Raja out, she is set to appropriate full credit and project herself as the crusader who brought to book a DMK minister who cost the government Rs. 1.76 lakh crore.

 

Whether Jayalalithaa could really have mustered the missing numbers for the UPA if the DMK had withdrawn support over over Raja is now only a matter of conjecture, as the Congress seems willing to continue with its alliance with the DMK.

 

But with the Tamil Nadu state assembly elections around the corner, the big question is: will the Congress consider it prudent to be with the DMK in 2011 or will it risk having to cobble together a majority in the Lok Sabha by changing horses midstream in Tamil Nadu?

 

In the first flush of the 2009 Lok Sabha victory, Karunanidhi insisted on a second term for Raja in the same IT and Communications portfolio — and ever since, the Congress has been put on the backfoot trying to defend the spectrum deal. Also, at the grassroots level in Tamil Nadu, Congress cadres have drifted further and further away from the DMK, with more than one factional boss severely criticising the DMK government in the state and calling for a reconsideration of the alliance.

 

Now, Jayalalithaa's offer has caught the imagination of several of these Tamil Nadu Congress leaders chafing under the DMK alliance. Some of these factions are convinced that during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the chances of some Congress candidates who were being cool towards the DMK, were actually sabotaged by the DMK. Cocky thus far, the DMK has started feeling the heat in the last few weeks.

 

The DMK's senior leadership had thus far dismissed Sonia Gandhi's call to her party to retain its identity and space in Tamil Nadu as mere rhetoric. But now some DMK leaders see a subtle and potentially sinister pattern. Questions are being raised about the sequence of events leading up to the present crisis, including Rahul Gandhi's assertion at the recent AICC session that the Congress was not finished in Tamil Nadu. Some of them even suspect a Congress hand in the leak of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) which has apparently indicted Raja.

 

At the same time, a section of the DMK's second-line leadership is worried about the lengths to which Karunanidhi has gone to support Raja, merely because he had the backing of a few individuals in Karunanidhi's family. This decision might cost the party dearly, and the DMK might have been able to salvage the situation by letting Raja go earlier.

However, the fact remains that the mood in the Congress state unit is, more often than not, ignored by the party high command. After all, Jayalalithaa had carried on a blistering campaign against Sonia Gandhi, bordering on slander, during the 2004 elections. The DMK and some in the Congress insist that the personal animosity between Jayalalithaa and Sonia keeps them apart.

 

But then again, in the past, the Congress has displayed its capacity for selective amnesia. How else can one explain the 1980 alliance between Indira Gandhi and Karunanidhi (they had been allies in 1971 but had turned bitter foes during the Emergency), or the 2004 alliance between Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi barely five years after her party had accused Karunanidhi and the DMK of complicity in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination? The Dravidian parties have also executed U-turns with agility.

 

And so, the Congress is being courted by two forces, both of which it has allied with in the past. Some believe the alliance with the DMK will stand the Congress in better stead, as it is now better placed to negotiate for more seats and perhaps even a share in power in the event of a victory in the 2011 elections. The post-Karunanidhi era, they think, will be even more promising for the Congress's chances.

 

But for now, most in the Congress are unwilling to take a chance, convinced that the Raja smear will stick to them. They would prefer that the party distance itself from the DMK. But will Sonia Gandhi opt for what could turn out to be an assortment of undependable allies (Jayalalithaa may have to bring in the likes of Deve Gowda's JD(S) and others into the fold) or will she choose to maintain the status quo at the Centre and risk the party's future in Tamil Nadu?

 

The writer is a senior journalist based in Chennai

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A SWIRL OF MISINFORMATION

 

Frank Sinatra, exuding crisp sophistication, a squared pocket handkerchief peeking out of his suit jacket, a fedora tilted back from his forehead, eased into the opening words of 'I Get a Kick Out of You'.

 

Behind him, in this 1950s black-and-white television appearance, was a giant blowup of what looks like an album cover, with the title 'Music for Smokers Only'.

 

And Sinatra was smoking, all right, even as he sang. He took deep puffs between phrases; inhaling, exhaling a thick plume of smoke, then: "I get no kick from champagne ... ." He held the cigarette between his first and second fingers throughout the song, sometimes flicking the ash as percussive punctuation; at moments, he was absolutely encased in white smoke. Once he had to briefly turn his head to clear his throat, but then, cigarette aloft, he sang on.

 

This presentation, included in a new boxed DVD set of vintage Sinatra performances, must have been an unremarkable sight half a century ago: America's most revered singer, a man who set the tone for how other men wanted to behave, puffing away on national TV even as he worked at his craft. It was a reflection of what life in the United States looked like, what the culture expected.

 

What might the Sinatra of the 1950s — and the men and women who watched and listened to him — have made of the pictures that federal regulators now plan to require on every cigarette pack sold in the United States, beginning in 2012? The images, meant to cover fully half the pack's surface area, are purposely grim and gruesome: smoke billowing from a tracheotomy hole in a man's neck; a woman blowing smoke in an infant's face; a toe tag attached to a corpse; a colourful rendering of a diseased lung; a cancerous lip; a man stricken with an apparent heart attack; another man in a coffin; tombstones in a cemetery.

 

Because this strategy for discouraging smoking has been building for decades, beginning with the first tepid warning labels in 1966, it is easy to forget the blithesome way cigarettes used to be presented to the public. But a look back at old magazine ads demonstrates how the tobacco industry once could dismiss any suggestion that cigarettes might pose harm. In one ad from 1950, a woman's dancing legs protrude from the bottom of an oversized Old Gold pack, which covers her head and torso. "No song and dance about medical claims ... Old Gold's specialty is to give you a treat instead of a treatment!"

 

In another ad, from 1946, a beaming mother and daughter are shown with their family doctor. The text below declares that "113,597 doctors from coast to coast" had been asked to name the brand they preferred to smoke. Thousands of responses "from general physicians, diagnosticians, surgeons — yes, and nose and throat specialists too" determined that "the most-named brand was Camel."

 

A 1938 Lucky Strike ad features a testimonial from the movie actress Dolores Del Rio, whose throat was purported to be insured for $50,000. "I take no chances on an irritated throat," Del Rio says. "No matter how much I use my voice in acting, I always find Luckies gentle."

 

Smokers were portrayed as willing to do battle for their brands. "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!" says a woman holding a cigarette in a 1964 ad, smiling under a black eye. The tagline: "The taste that makes Tareyton smokers so aggressively loyal." Cigarettes were promoted as being calming for family life. A 1950 ad shows a pensive-looking baby below the words, "Before you scold me, Mom ... maybe you'd better light up a Marlboro."

 

Who, back then, could have foreseen that one day cigarette makers would be required to wrap their own packages in images of suffering and death?

 

In that long-ago TV appearance, after he had sung the final words — "you give me a boot, I get a kick out of you" — Sinatra seemed just about to exit. But first he reached back toward the table — and snatched up his pack of smokes.

 

-Bob Greene

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ARGUING FOR A BETTER WORLD

B.G. VERGHESE 

 

Some people live on by their works and example. Lakshmi Chand Jain, who passed away last Sunday at 85, was one such. He was a man of many parts who spent his life striving to serve and live up to the Gandhian ideal that true swaraj would be won only if and when we wiped the tear from every eye. His idea of India was constructed bottom-up, and he strove, till the last, to promote that ideal.

 

Born to a Delhi family of freedom fighters, young Lakshmi answered that call. He participated in the Quit India Movement while a student at Delhi University and like many young people of his time won his spurs following the Gandhian path. He fell under the spell of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, that indomitable fighter for social uplift, and was inducted into the Indian Cooperative Union she founded to take on the task of post-Partition refugee rehabilitation.

 

Under her guidance and with the inspirational leadership of Sudhir Ghosh ("Gandhi's messenger"), Lakshmi launched on the revolutionary project to get 50,000 urban Hindu refugees from the North West Frontier Province huddled around Delhi's Purana Qila to rehabilitate themselves by learning to become masons, carpenters and handymen and build the new township of Faridabad with their own hands. He was to write about this later in his book, City of Hope. The experiment was a grand success, and with Albert Mayer's Etawah Project, an experiment in improved rural living, was to become the basis for the community development movement and national extension service that was at the core of the country's first five year plan.

 

Under the continuing influence of Kamaladevi, Lakshmi commenced his life's mission of decentralised, participative development through the promotion of the country's handicrafts and handlooms. He was among those who built the Cottage Industries Emporium that restored pride in and marketability to India's wonderful crafts and, later, the Handicrafts and Handlooms Export Corporation, the All-India Crafts Council and much else that reinvigorated the variegated crafts culture of India. He was also instrumental in resuscitating the crafts of the Northeast as a vehicle of cultural revival and employment generation.

 

He was a staunch Gandhian and believed that "small is beautiful". He worked closely with the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi and was a pillar of the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development founded by Jayaprakash Narayan, both institutions that felt the heat of the Emergency and were all but destroyed by a subsequent witch-hunt through the Kudal Commission. Lakshmi was indefatigable in defending these institutions through that inquisition and the whole episode pained him deeply. Earlier, during the great Bihar famine in 1966-67 he was instrumental in setting up Super Bazar in Delhi as a means of eliminating the middleman and holding the price line with regard to a range of daily household needs and basic articles of consumption. This worked well for some time but gradually faded away.

 

Like millions, he supported the Janata government and played a notable part in pioneering a resurrected panchayati raj with decentralised district planning under Ramkrishana Hegde in Karnataka. He became a member of the Planning Commission and pursued these ideas from that vantage point. But the failure of the panchayati experiment to progress beyond a point led to another book, Grass Without Roots, in 1985.

 

Lakshmi was next drawn to issues of equity and the environment associated with large dams and was critical of the Narmada project. His views found expression in a book called Dams and Drinking Water: Explaining the Narmada Judgement. After this came membership of the IUCN-World Bank-sponsored World Commission on Dams, of which he was vice chairman. The Magsaysay Award for Public Service followed in 1989.

Lakshmi Jain worked tirelessly till the end. He exemplified Gandhi's maxim: "be the change you want to see". He spent some of his later life in Bangalore but never retired, being actively engaged with ideas, NGOs, institutions and countless friends.

 

At a personal level, I fondly recall our deep and lasting bonds of friendship. He always spoke in the plural when addressing another's problems. It was he who published Beyond the Famine, my account of Bihar's ordeal and the lessons from it, through Super Bazar in 1967. When I stood for election in 1977 as an independent candidate from Kerala supported by the Combined Opposition, Lakshmi and his wife, Devaki, spontaneously took on the task, with some others, to raise funds for my campaign. And later, when with the residual amount, the Media Foundation was established to support press freedom and independence, he helped endow the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding women in the media, in memory of his mother and the Gandhian values she espoused.

 

Lakshmi Jain will not be forgotten.His works and ideals will endure.

 

The writer is a former editor of 'The Indian Express'

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HEMMED IN FROM ALL SIDES

NAJEEB JUNG

 

Monsters with abilities to overcome physical destruction mutate and return with greater strength and venom. This is happening in Afghanistan and on the Af-Pak border, where a robust and rejuvenated Al-Qaeda and Taliban comprehensively expose the US's 10-year endeavour to contain them and re-establish a credible Afghan government and restore sanity along the wild Durand Line. Within three years of the Taliban's defeat in 2001, the Pakistan establishment helped retrain and rebuild the Taliban, so that they are once again more than a handful for the American forces. With President Obama's visit behind us, it is time to reassess the extent to which the Af-Pak region exposes the confusion in American policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan, America's dependence on Pakistan, and the latter's critical significance for the US' fight against so-called "Islamic" terror.

 

Afghanistan shares 2640 kilometres of border with Pakistan with a close kinship among tribes born of centuries of inter-marriages. This is why the Durand Line has never been accepted by people of the two countries living on either side of the border who demand an independent Pashtun homeland. Pakistan, on the other hand, remains a feeder state for terror, its military not just sustaining the Lashkar-e-Toiba, but its territories being havens for equally dreaded outfits like the Quetta Shura, the Haqqani network, the Jaish-e-Muhammed, and so on. It is abundantly clear that the Americans cannot succeed in Afghanistan, nor succeed in their effort to fight terror without the active help of the Pakistan establishment. The Pakistanis obviously understand this and extract the maximum from this US predicament.

 

Despite the best intentions and investment in time, resources and equipment, the US has not got a hold either on the ground or at the policy level. Top echelons in the Obama administration seem unclear on the road ahead but it is evident that the US is working on an exit strategy. The lack of clarity is on the path to drawdown of troops and the timeline for the drawdown. But as and when the US does withdraw the bulk of its forces, with circumstances remaining much the same as they are today, where would this leave Afghanistan, Pakistan, and indeed India? While it is impossible to make any accurate forecast, several scenarios are possible.

 

The first is the status quo, with President Karzai, like Najibullah before him, muddling along for some time. On the other hand, given his lackadaisical administration, if Karzai loses the loyalty of the Afghan National Army his regime will give way. The hawks in the form of the Ismail Khans, the Dostums and the Fahim Khans will strike. Each possible successor is worse than the other. Second, there is a distinct possibility of Kabul falling to the Taliban, reverting Afghanistan to the pre-9/11 period. This poses a further ethnic problem for the country, with the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras offering resistance and throwing the country into a fierce civil war. But a truly nightmarish scenario is the emergence of a fundamentalist Islamic state comprising the Pashtun territories of southern Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. This could be disastrous for Pakistan. The Pakistan army contains some who sympathise with fundamentalist Islam, and any ideological split within its officer class is bound to put heavy pressure on the federal government — which would indeed destabilise an already fragile Pakistan. Moreover, a premature US pullout will be viewed as a victory for the mujahideen giving a fillip to Islamic radical movements across the globe.

 

So to the question: where would all this leave India? The Afghans have always had a feeling of great warmth towards India and Indians. And they have no love lost for the Pakistanis, owing to Pakistan's support and sustenance to the Taliban. Let us never forget that the average Afghan hated the Taliban for their rigid laws, views and brutality. But now, despite India having spent millions of dollars in developing roads, power generation and supply lines, technical assistance of various kinds, its geographical disconnect with Afghanistan, Pakistan's geographical proximity and the latter's ability to sustain terror groups in its territories, ironically puts Pakistan in pole position vis-a-vis the US and its challenge to organised terror. The truth is that Pakistanis have a deep distrust for the Americans. Despite this, the US is in a bind and continues to provide arms and monies to the Pakistan government. The US will continue with this process not just to equip and prop up Pakistan but with the understanding that if its own position in Pakistan weakens, the space is most likely to be taken by China, which has consistently supported Pakistan and eyes the Gwadar port as its exit point to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. It is also a fact that India cannot pull out a rabbit from its hat that can make the US change its stand.

 

The only real choice left before India is to work with the United States to manage governance issues in Afghanistan, in the hope that with better governance, a natural resistance will develop for the re-emergence of a Taliban-type government. As of now, this is not a scenario one can bet on.

 

The writer is vice-chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

JPC OR PAC?

 

The way home minister P Chidambaram explained it, the Opposition was being a bit churlish in insisting there be a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Raja scandal since what the government was suggesting—let the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) examine the CAG report—was just as good. The Opposition clearly believes a JPC has more powers than the PAC, which is an ongoing process anyway and routinely examines all government accounts and all CAG reports. The point, however, is a simple one, and one on which the government agrees—we need to get to the bottom of the Raja scam. That's why, after all, the Prime Minister took the stand he did, even at the risk of alienating a major ally. Raja, it should be clear, didn't do whatever he's accused of without a succession of bureaucrats colluding with him; some like ex-secretary S Behura said they had no option ("I had no option but to implement the minister's decision … but my record is clean", he told FE), others were less embarrassed about what they did, and this is the lot that needs to be prosecuted. So when the CAG points out that 85 of the 122 licences issued were to firms that did not qualify for them, why did the ministry's licensing wing not figure this out? The ministry's argument, that it just took everyone at face value isn't worth much since over 100 potential licensees were rejected on various grounds. Who was the official that allowed this to happen? Similarly, when the definition of 'first-come first-served' was changed to mean the time-of-payment instead of the existing time-of-application, there must have been a note on this, who signed on it? If the PAC can help figure this out, then a PAC is good enough. But if, as the Opposition argues, the PAC has no power to really investigate unlike the JPC, the government would do well to agree to a JPC.

 

Apart from working to cancel the licences handed out by Raja at a fraction of their real worth, the other area the government needs to work on is how to ensure ministers like Raja don't get away with that they do. As this paper has documented, Raja found it easy to circumvent the system. When the then telecom secretary DS Mathur refused to do his bidding, Raja just got someone else to clear the file when Mathur was travelling. In the case of Manju Madhavan, Raja just hounded her out. Some like Behura meekly surrendered. It would be interesting to know what system has been put in place to ensure this doesn't happen—secretaries are supposed to have the power to recirculate a file when they don't agree with a minister, but this never happened. We need to figure out why.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WHERE'S THE ICT?


ICT services in India has had an exemplary decade, with its share in the services sector soaring from 6% in 2000-01 to 10% in 2007-08, and its total share of GDP doubling from 3% to 6% during the period. Despite the gains, India continues to lag behind in tapping the full potential of the ICT sector, as penetration remains extremely low by international standards, says a report presented at the World Economic Forum. But what is more disturbing is that the poor spread is visible at all levels, namely that of the citizens, business and government. Nowhere is the failure to use ICT more visible than in the large gap between ICT services, which account for 90% of ICT GDP, and ICT manufacturing, which accounts for just the remaining 10%. Consequently, India's high level of network readiness has not been translated into higher levels of usage and the national policy environment is yet to be molded to facilitate the development of new technologies. The gains have been uneven. Trends between 2002 and 2009 show that gains have been made in individual readiness and business usage, and the infrastructure environment and business readiness to a more limited extent.

 

]But the real setback has been in government usage and the quality of the regulatory environment. This is surprising as the national e-governance plan was rolled out as early as 1996, with different mission mode projects that were to be implemented at central and state levels, affecting almost all sectors and procedures. The progress has been erratic, given the novelty and complexity of the projects. The major challenges have been in raising resources for setting up the grassroots linkages at the local level and the possibilities of the emergence of a regional divide because of the uneven growth of infrastructure facilities. The report notes that while the policies have been relatively successful in promoting extensive competition in a host of areas and legislating a host of laws relating to the use of ICT, the country ranks low in this regard when compared to other nations. Overcoming these drawbacks will go a long way in removing the major hurdles that stand in the way of tapping the full potential of ICT.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT A REAL RAJA HAS TO DO

RISHI RAJ


Finally the controversial telecom minister, A Raja, has been shown the door. For a newspaper like The Financial Express, which consistently and painstakingly brought to light, much ahead of other publications, his various misdeeds (generally referred to as the '2G spectrum scam'), it's surely a moment of some satisfaction. One is sure that the mood in the telecom industry is also celebratory, though propriety demands that such celebrations are held behind the curtains. The officials who either worked with him in the past or are currently working with him (with some exceptions, of course) may also be heaving a sigh of relief, for Raja was known to be vindictive to the ones who did not toe his line or upset him. And one is also sure that after its various flip-flops for more than three years, the Congress party may also be finally feeling a sense of relief.

 

However, this din of celebration should not make us feel that with the minister's exit the telecom sector has returned to normal. That another minister would come and it's business as usual. It's true that Raja has inflicted much damage on the sector, which otherwise is one of the country's showpieces of success of reforms. India is the world's second largest and fastest growing telecom market with more than 700 million subscribers, adding 15-20 million users every month; the tariffs are the lowest in the world and the world's best telecom companies operate here. Although the growth has largely come from the vibrant private sector operators, the government and the regulator have mostly provided the right enabling conditions. While the stints of BJP's Pramod Mahajan and Arun Shourie in Sanchar Bhavan brought policies that led to more competition and fall in tariffs, and the mobile becoming an aam aadmi's phone (though controversies were attached to them also), the UPA's first telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran tried to consolidate the gains further. Maran would be best remembered for removing the divide between local and STD calls by the BSNL's OneIndia plan. He also worked on making broadband a success and bringing forth the idea of sharing towers.

 

Sadly, the telecom reform lost momentum with Raja assuming charge in May 2007. The period was otherwise good for the telecom industry, with one of the big-ticket M&As having taken place a couple of months earlier (Vodafone acquiring Hutch's 67% stake for $12 billion). However, a couple of months later, Raja's move to allocate licences to several companies, most of them with no prior experience in telecom, in the most non-transparent manner, threw a major spanner in any work that needed to be done to take the sector to its next level of growth. The controversy was of such magnitude that the only thing Raja did during his entire term was to keep providing a feeble defence of his moves. Though he tries to take credit for breaking a supposed cartel of existing operators by bringing more operators, which led to decline in tariffs, thus benefiting consumers, such claims are laughable. The operators whom Raja gave licences are inconsequential players, with either no or skeletal services, and tariffs have dropped further only because of the competition amongst the incumbent operators.

 

The larger point is that the telecom sector today is slowly haemorrhaging. Valuations have dropped. Top line and bottom line of all companies have thinned, the market has become crowded and there are analysts who maintain that the country's telecom story is over. While the picture isn't that gloomy, it isn't very bright either. Just replacing Raja with any other minister would not do at this point in time. One needs a minister who is dynamic, reform-friendly, honest and has the trust of the industry. The country's telecom sector needs to move to a different trajectory altogether and that's where the next level of growth would come from. Here are some of the tasks the new telecom minister must do on a priority basis to make the sector return to some semblance of growth.

 

Clean up the 2G spectrum mess: The allocation of 2G spectrum has come to a near halt for more than two years now. While it's true that Trai submitted a set of recommendations to the government in May, it is fractious and lacks industry support. The first and foremost task for the new minister would be to sit with all the stakeholders, sort out issues and take decisions fast. Any such exercise should also accompany a thorough audit of how much spectrum we have, what is required to ensure future growth of the operators and whether the existing allocations are being optimally utilised by the operators.

 

Clear up all pending policy issues like mobile number portability, mobile virtual network operators, Internet telephony, etc: These are the issues on which recommendations have been with DoT for long and are stuck only because Raja had no interest in them. Frankly speaking, these issues are much simpler than conducting 3G auctions, but either the minister's disinterest or the government's has made them gather dust, because there's no scope for huge revenue gains. Technology-related issues should be expedited or else they lose relevance.

 

Reforming BSNL and MTNL: It is ironic that while the private sector operators are doing good business, even with rock-bottom tariffs, the performance of the two PSUs is deteriorating. There's enough potential in these two companies but what is needed is a political will to reform them. Disinvest or not but put in place a mechanism that ensures their smooth running.

 

Pull the sector out of the ad-hocism it is subjected to now: Brainstorm fast and put in place a new vision, some kind of telecom policy that catches up with the changes the sector has undergone in the last few years and spell out an agenda for the future. Dayanidhi Maran had set out to draft a new telecom policy but abandoned it mid-way. DoT needs to be empowered once again, taking all decisions through eGoMs is good but is often time-consuming.

 

rishi.raj@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

TALKING TURKEY

MEGHNAD DESAI


The G20 circus has become an item (in the non-Bollywood sense) of the global furniture. But we now know not to expect too much of it. What is more important is that the various fora—IMF meetings, G7 and G20 finance ministers meetings, G20 heads of government meetings—now afford a timetable to thrash out an issue that is troublesome.

 

Once the Brazilian finance minister aired his complaint about exchange rate wars in the summer, it was clear that the RMB was of concern not only to the Americans. The Japanese began intervening heavily in their own currency to prevent its appreciation against the dollar, it became a G20 issue. The IMF meetings are too formal so the debate has rumbled on since early October.

 

The American elections have made it clear that we can kiss fiscal activism goodbye. Anti-China rhetoric fuelled much of the election on both sides as Obama competed against China as the most hated topic. Now with the Republican majority in the House, anti-China rhetoric will continue.

 

Of course, it is all economic nonsense. Americans cannot see their own fiscal diarrhoea and the damage it causes to the global economy. It must all be blamed on China's RMB. But the real exchange rate for RMB has appreciated much faster than the nominal rate and so China has a perfect alibi. And then the day after the American elections, the Fed started another bout of QE. This guarantees a weaker dollar. So are we looking at a dollar depreciation or an RMB non-appreciation?

 

The problem is that there is no constant standard against which one can measure depreciation or appreciation. In the nineteenth century, we had the Gold Standard when for the three hundred years previously the price of an ounce of gold had been fixed by Isaac Newton at £3. 17s. 9d. This provided a solid standard against which currencies had to define themselves. The Bank of England was ready to buy and sell gold at that price. Gold was a standard of value and a means of payment as well as a store of value.

 

In the aftermath of the First World War and the breakdown of the Gold Standard in the inter-War period, Bretton Woods re-established a new standard at $35 per ounce of gold and the American Treasury stood ready to do what the Bank of England had done. Alas, the Americans reneged on that promise on August 15, 1971 (a day that will live in infamy). Since then, the Americans have let the dollar be the world's problem and their currency. The European Monetary System has been a long struggle for a fixed exchange rate system to be revived and the Euro I its latest avatar.

 

Now we are all at sea again. The financial imbalances have persisted and as the developed debtor countries try to reflate themselves in the short run and become savers in the medium run, the developing countries need to do the opposite. But there is no neutral umpire who can adjudicate. The IMF should have been such an umpire but with the end of the Bretton Woods exchange rate regime, it lost its authority. The G20 in London resolved to make the IMF powerful again by increasing its lending capacity by $500 billion but all the money has not yet all been got.

 

One way to deal with the financial imbalances would be to boost the SDR as a super currency in which countries could park their reserves. The IMF could swap SDRs for financial surpluses and then lend them out. But for this to happen, SDRs have to be means of payment and store of value, not just units of account. For the moment, the dollar, as bad as it is, is the currency of choice for the surplus countries to park their balances in. The euro is a mild alternative but not a close substitute.

 

This is why we hear talk of a super SDR. It has been obvious to me for two years now that we need a gold-plated SDR. The SDR should be a mix not just of the main currencies, which madly fluctuate against each other, but also of commodities, including gold. A currency and commodity portfolio for an international reserve currency is an idea that has been around ever since the Bretton Woods system collapsed. Nicholas Kaldor and Albert Hart worked on these proposals in the 1970s. Time has now come to revive those ideas. This is why Zoellick endorsing a gold-lined SDR is so important. We have in gold not an invariant but a slowly fluctuating standard against which all the currencies can be measured.

 

The time has come to get serious about a gold-plated SDR if we are to stop the Americans and Chinese from behaving like fishwives.

 

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

Wedding ring

Will UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend Fertiliser Minister and DMK chief Karunanidhi's son Azhagiri's son's wedding ceremony in Madurai on Thursday? Both were invited by the minister and at least one was expected to attend the wedding. With the Raja episode just behind them, it is not certain either Gandhi or Singh would like to be seen in public with him. Yet, the DMK is an important ally, so presumably an important emissary could be sent instead.

 

When Cag was about to gag

The CAG has been saved a major embarrassment on Tuesday. To celebrate the 150th year of the founding of the institution, it had laid out a big event where the President would be the chief guest. But the media attraction was that telecom minister A Raja was also supposed to be there on the dais, as a stamp on the CAG is to be released by him. There was, of course, intense debate if the proposed handshake between Raja and the CAG would have made it as the top news photo of the year. Luckily, the resignation of "spectrum Raja" has saved Vinod Rai from having to receive the subject of his most celebrated audit report.

 

Khare khare shot

At 8 pm on the 11th, at an official dinner, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's media advisor, Harish Khare offered excerpts of what the Prime Minister said to the Indian media with an embargo of 6:30 am the next day. Turned out, however, news agency Reuters put the story out at 11:00 pm the same evening. Khare then said it was a draft speech that Reuters put out, not the actual one. Later, he said, it was a draft that stood mostly unchanged till the time of delivery. In cricketing parlance, the lack of footwork displayed would be called a khare khare shot.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

QUOTACRACY

CAT says OBC quota policy is not applicable to promotions. May good sense prevail elsewhere too

 

When the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal released a seniority list of its members for the purpose of appointments of nine vice-presidents, one Sunil Kumar Yadav was happy. He had the 17th rank but was the only OBC in the list. Going by the 27% OBC quota rule, he would surely be among those selected. He wasn't. He approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), alleging that the Centre had appointed general category candidates on seats reserved for OBCs. CAT has, however, rained on Yadav's parade, declaring that the OBC quota policy is applicable for fresh appointments only. Its benefits cannot be claimed for posts that are filled by promotion.

 

As the idea of reservation for creating equal opportunity gathers momentum instead of abating, the demand for quotas within quotas also keeps rising. The Women's Reservation Bill that is lined to roll out this Parliament session seeks to reserve 33% seats for female lawmakers. Some are demanding an OBC quota within this Bill. Others are demanding job reservation for backward class Muslims within the 27% OBC quota. Note that quotas were originally envisaged as intermittent and temporary props towards social equity. Over a period of time, however, even the courts ruled in favour of quotas for promotions and even for quotas in superspecialities. The CAT's ruling won't stop all this, but it is a step in the right direction. Somewhere, there has to be a laxman rehka or else utopia may mutate into dystopia.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

HEED THE CALL

 

There are many questions that demand clear and truthful answers in the 2G spectrum allocation controversy. With one political storm following another, and the opposition parties making Parliament dysfunctional on this issue, A. Raja, the man at the centre of it all, did the right thing in resigning as Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology. While denying any wrongdoing, he has insisted that he was persisting with a well-established policy in handing out 2G spectrum on a first-come first-served basis, instead of taking the auction route. This is no doubt true but serious questions relating to procedural irregularities and revenue losses remain. The size of the amount estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General to be the loss to the government — Rs.177,000 crore — and the implications of the procedural violations alleged — ignoring the advice of the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Law and Finance, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India — require that the United Progressive Alliance government allow a thorough probe that will protect no one, however high or powerful, involved in wrongdoing. Companies that won telecom licences and spectrum for Rs.1,651 crore in the first quarter of 2008 managed to attract investment indicating valuations of several times that amount from international telecom companies within a few weeks. Unitech Wireless Ltd., brought in the Norway-based Telenor Group and formed Uninor. Swan Telecom, promoted by the Dynamix Balwas Group, chose United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat as its international partner and formed Etisalat DB Telecom India. Unsurprisingly, these transactions, which took advantage of legal loopholes and bypassed the stipulation of the Department of Telecomunications that operators should not sell promoter equity within the first three years, immediately raised suspicion.

 

In the face of growing evidence that the first-come, first-served policy was depriving the exchequer of huge revenue, the auction route should have suggested itself to the government. The Manmohan Singh government must heed the call of public opinion and political India and consent to a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee into the entire controversy, beginning with the formulation of the National Telecom Policy 1994. JPCs might not be a politically impartial way of getting to the truth, and the JPC constituted in the Bofors case, which was boycotted by the main opposition parties and was packed with members of the Congress and its allies, was nothing but a cover-up device. The situation is quite different now — in the era of coalition governments. The constitution of a JPC must not be allowed to hamper the investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission, and the Registrar of Companies. Nor should Mr. Raja's resignation be used as a ruse to pretend that with him gone, all is well with national telecom policy.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

TREASURE TROVE

 

Drifting at a rate of 20 cm a year for 100 million years after splitting from Gondwana, the Indian subcontinent was separated geographically from the rest of the landmass till it collided with Asia 50 million years ago. Any landmass that is geographically isolated for millions of years tends to produce species that are unique and endemic to that region.However, an online paper published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ("Biogeographic and evolutionary implications of a diverse paleobiota in amber from the early Eocene of India," by Jes Rust et al.,) describes a surprising find. Despite isolation for millions of years, the Indian subcontinent had only a limited number of endemic species 50 million years ago. The 150 kg amber deposit found in the Cambay Shale Formation at Vastan village near Surat has excellently preserved specimens of nearly 100 new species of arthopods, including social insects such as ants, bees, and termites. These specimens show evolutionary relatedness to species found in Asia, Europe, Australia, and South America. Such relatedness is possible only if the Indian paleospecies had mixed with their counterparts in other countries.

 

If a land bridge link between the drifting Indian landmass and Africa and Asia was once proposed to explain the mammal movement, insects preserved in the amber strengthen that argument. A chain of islands or any such land connection must have existed between India and Asia before their collision. The alternative explanation of a much earlier collision can be ruled out; there is overwhelming geological evidence that India collided with Asia 50 million to 55 million years ago. The lignite deposits of Cambay, apart from preserving the amber, provide insight into the paleoenvironment of the region. The amber secreted by dipterocarpaceae — a family of hardwood trees that accounts for nearly 80 per cent of tropical canopy in South-East Asia — and fossil remains of this family provide unequivocal evidence of broad-leaved trees typical of tropical forests. Once believed to have developed 5 million-24 million years ago (Miocene) in South-East Asia, the fossil remains and amber deposits from dipterocarpaceae push back the tropical forest record to 38 million-54 million years ago (Eocene). It should come as no surprise if the Cambay Shale Formation, a fossil museum of Eocene age, overturns other notions and helps set many a record straight.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

MYANMAR AT THE CROSSROADS, AGAIN

MYANMAR NEEDS COOPERATION, NOT CONFRONTATION, BETWEEN THE MILITARY AND POLITICAL FORCES REPRESENTED BY AUNG SAN SUU KYI. IT MAY NOT ENTIRELY BE A COINCIDENCE THAT HER RELEASE HAS COME BETWEEN THE END OF POLLING AND THE FORTHCOMING ANNOUNCEMENT OF RESULTS.

RAJIV BHATIA

 

Jawaharlal Nehru was 57 years old when he chose to compromise, accepting Independence along with the partition of India. He and other Congress leaders persuaded Mahatma Gandhi to acquiesce, who did so reluctantly and with anguish. Nelson Mandela was 70 when he initiated "talks about talks" with the apartheid regime and prevailed upon the African National Congress to climb down from its rigid positions.

 

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), now 65, faces a similar though more difficult choice: whether to carry on with her generation-long struggle, knowing that the adversary holds the most cards in his hands, or to follow the path of resilience and compromise without abandoning her convictions. Her decision will determine, in a large measure, as to how Myanmar strives to resolve its problems.

 

A fundamental clash of ideologies has been at the root of politics in Myanmar. Although daughter of an army officer who emerged as the 'Father of the Nation', ASSK, educated in India and exposed to the functioning of western democracies, has always believed in the supremacy of the people — that is, in the notion that power vests in the people and their elected representatives alone have the right to govern. Tatmadaw (i.e. the military), on the other hand, has this (strange) belief that it knows better than its children — the people. It claims to have brought freedom — most leaders of the struggle were army officers; to have safeguarded the unity, territorial integrity and stability of the nation (when it came under huge stress during the era of democracy from 1948-62); and to have brought considerable economic development in the past two decades. Now, it also claims to have bestowed "discipline-flourishing democracy" on the people through its "7-stage Road map", which took seven years to unfold.

 

The military still has its hand on all levers of State power. ASSK, on the other hand, retains her massive popularity and charisma, but her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is in a precarious condition today. Besides, the fait accompli of the recent general elections stares in her face. Would she reject them altogether and face the consequences, or would she find a way, this time to work with the military without alienating her constituency?

 

Her general remarks upon release and the day after (November 14) may provide a few indicators of her thinking. She called on her followers to work together for national unity. She urged the people that if they wanted change, they would have to achieve it in the right way. Referring to the authorities, she stated, "They treated me well. I wish they would treat the people the same." It is, however, evident that she would require more time to craft her strategy.

 

Perhaps the tale of two elections — one held in May 1990 and the other in November 2010 — seems to contain some pointers. Twenty years back the NLD had won a decisive victory as people, tired of tyranny, flocked to vote for ASSK and against the military. The latter just ignored and overturned the results and went on to rule the country with an iron hand. Results of the recent elections are yet to be announced by the Election Commission. Despite this, the military's political front, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), claims to have won about 80 per cent seats in the national parliament and 14 regional assemblies. Besides, the constitution's stipulation giving 25 per cent of seats in all legislatures to the military is an ironclad guarantee that nothing of political consequence can happen without the generals' approval.

 

Probably Myanmar's strong man Senior General Than Shwe would be the most surprised person in the world, having heard about President Barack Obama's comment on the country's latest elections. The U.S. President aptly depicted them as "neither free nor fair." Than Shwe could justifiably exclaim: "But we did not promise that, did we?" In fact, his Prime Minister Thein Sein did, saying before the polls, that the Government was "determined to do its utmost for the successful conclusion of free and fair general elections …" Where Mr. Obama and the western media have erred is in ignoring the fine print, i.e. a few additional words uttered by Thein Sein in the same sentence: "… based on past experiences and lessons learned in the best interests of the country and its people." In plain language, Myanmar's military rulers promised only a highly limited democracy under their guidance, to be ushered in through an electoral process tailor-made for the purpose. That is what they have delivered. "Why the fuss?" the generals might ask their critics.

 

Pro-democracy forces have answered the question. According to them, elections are "a travesty", "a sham" and "a poisoned feast", which were held so that the military could attain legitimacy. Further, they point out that ASSK has been released to blunt international criticism of the regime. This may be so, but the military does not seem to think so. It considers itself not only the legitimate authority, but also the true saviour of the nation.

 

This analysis underlines that Myanmar needs cooperation, not confrontation, between the military and political forces represented by ASSK. Innumerable attempts to promote it have failed in the past. If they have the flexibility and wisdom, both camps might realise that each needs the other; that each needs to reduce its antagonism to the other; that each can contribute to moving Myanmar on the road to progress; and, most importantly, that neither can secure this goal without the engagement of the other. In short, inclusiveness may be the key to the least unacceptable solution. It may not entirely be a coincidence that Suu Kyi's release has come between the end of polling and the forthcoming announcement of results.

 

International actors have a role to play, albeit a secondary one. They will act in accordance with their own beliefs and interests. They too need to accord the highest priority to encourage reconciliation between the military and ASSK. This would not come easily or naturally to two key players, namely China which backs the generals wholeheartedly and the West which fully supports ASSK.

 

Hence, those who tend to follow broadly the middle course — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India — have a special responsibility, particularly as the Myanmar political drama hangs in balance today. Instead of leaving matters in the hands of the U.N. Secretary General who has tried and failed many times in the past, ASEAN should consider adopting a new, innovative approach. Let it designate two of its key members, possibly Indonesia and Singapore, and ask them to work closely with India in offering their good offices for facilitating a fresh dialogue for national reconciliation. Sensitivity, speed and transparency should be the principal elements of the suggested approach.

 

Eventually everything depends, as before, on the will and wisdom of the military leaders and the ASSK camp,

particularly Senior General Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi. Standing at the crossroads, the people of

Myanmar are perhaps counting on their leaders to take the "less travelled" road in order to pull them out of the impasse that has continued for far too long. As good Buddhists, they are aware that, in the end, salvation lies within.

 

( The author served as Ambassador of India to Myanmar from 2002-05.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

THE RELEVANCE OF TOLERANCE

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY NEEDS TO PRODUCE CULTURALLY VIABLE SOLUTIONS TO THE INSIDIOUS PROBLEM OF INTOLERANCE.

PRANAY GUPTE

 

November 16 marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the International Day of Tolerance. Spawned by Unesco, the occasion is supposed to be dedicated to a universal value, one that has been an ideal of the community of nations for centuries. But, like many ideals, "tolerance" is often just that; a reality check suggests that many world leaders — particularly in West Asia and in other developing countries — have generally failed to sufficiently adhere to that value in daily governance.

 

On this anniversary, there needs to be a fresh appraisal of what "tolerance" means, and how societies could draw from its core meaning, especially at a time when globalisation has brought us economically closer to one another. Notwithstanding globalisation that's intended to be economically salutary, many nations are torn by social and cultural tensions that bespeak of intolerance.

 

I do not say this lightly. I do not say this merely because Dubai, my home for the last four years, has different nationalities that have traditionally lived in harmony in a city-state that has a benign, people-focused government system, even if it isn't along the conventional lines of Washington or Westminster. And I do not say this because I was brought up in a family in Mumbai that always emphasised reaching out to people of other cultures. When Tom Cruise recently filmed significant portions of the next Mission Impossible movie in Dubai, some of his crew seemed surprised at the openness they encountered here: they shouldn't have been.

 

I want to highlight the need for tolerance globally because, for the first time in my life, I fear that the world community is careening toward catastrophe. In my own backyard, the Arab-Israeli dispute over the status of Palestinians remains at an impasse. Militant Israelis show no sign of easing off on their dubious claims to territory that rightfully belongs to Palestinians; militant Arabs seem bent on inviting Israeli force, thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle of violence.

 

Moreover, accelerated military spending in this region has eaten into a far more important priority — the creation of educational and employment opportunities for the young. Such spending in this region is expected to rise to more than $100 billion annually by 2014, according to Frost & Sullivan, an analytics company. Saudi Arabia, with $40 billion each year, is the biggest defence spender in West Asia; Israel, the second largest, allocates nearly $15 billion.

 

Whatever the arguments supporting such mammoth military outlays, these expenditures greatly reduce the ability of Arab states to spend on their social sectors. The World Bank estimates that of 330 million Arabs, some 80 million are in need of jobs now. And that's not counting the cohort of young men and women who are increasingly coming into the job market. Little wonder that this disadvantaged group seethes with resentment. Little wonder that just speechifying to them about tolerance is scarcely likely to yield dividends.

 

But speak to these young people about tolerance we must. Islam, the predominant religion of the region, is a faith that emphasises tolerance and understanding. It is an inclusive faith, and it believes, above all, in the idea that we are created by one God; that we owe it to God to be tolerant of one another's aspirations, and accepting of one another's sovereignties.

 

I don't see that kind of faith resonating in many of the region's countries, where violence erupts hourly, and where foreigners armed with sophisticated weapons engage in brutal practices that they would condemn at home. Where's the tolerance in driving tens of thousands of innocent people out of their homes and into refugee camps? Where's the tolerance in depriving their young of hope for a progressive and prosperous future? And where's the tolerance in trying to impose alien forms of governance on social systems that have historically done well by their own special cultural compacts?

 

My concern extends beyond this region. When I hear of incidents where Muslims — or "Muslim looking" people — are attacked in the United States, I wonder whatever happened to the concept of tolerance that has long animated the world's most powerful democracy. When I read about assaults on minority Muslims in predominantly Hindu India — my Motherland — I worry that the notion of secularism enshrined in the Constitution of the world's largest democracy is being rapidly undermined.

 

When I learn about Algerian and Turkish immigrants being targeted by communalistic thugs in Europe, I question the willingness of local leaders to stand steadfast by the values of tolerance and cultural harmony. When I find out that suspicion about Muslim immigrants is rising in Britain, that some of them are being economically discriminated against, I am alarmed that a multicultural western nation is jettisoning the prime underpinning of its ethos — tolerance.

 

It's not enough to only celebrate an annual International Day of Tolerance. It's no longer enough for privileged leaders to confine our concerns to just speaking or writing about them. That is why, at this parlous time, the international community needs to convene a global conference on producing culturally viable solutions to the insidious problem of intolerance.

 

The international community needs a new and binding covenant aimed specifically at promoting tolerance, a codicil that also penalises violators of that fundamental human value. Will world leaders respond?

 

(Pranay Gupte's next book, on India and Dubai, will be published by Penguin-Viking in 2011. He is currently working on his memoirs of more than four decades in international journalism.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

FULBRIGHT PROGRAMME: FOSTERING INDO-U.S. TIES

BY THE EXCHANGE OF STUDENTS AND SCHOLARS, THE FULBRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME CREATES VITAL LINKS BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.

ADAM J. GROTSKY

 

At last week's state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in honour of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Shillong Chamber Choir sang the famous 1970's Bollywood hit " Yeh dosti…", "this friendship". It was an appropriate choice for an evening celebrating the close bonds now shared by the United States and India. Arguably, the Indo-U.S. relationship has been sustained and enhanced over the years by the exchange of students and scholars through initiatives like the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Programme.

 

Today, the Fulbright Programme forms vital links — academic, professional and personal — between the United States and more than 155 countries. Created in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Programme has grown into the premier U.S. international educational exchange programme with some 300,000 alumni among American and international scholars and students.

 

The United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) was one of the first bi-national commissions established to run the Fulbright Programme. On February 2, 1950, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and U.S. Ambassador to India Loy Henderson signed the agreement to implement and administer a country Fulbright Programme on behalf of the partner governments.

 

Since its inception 60 years ago, USIEF has given out over 17,000 Fulbright awards in a wide range of academic disciplines.

 

On July 4, 2008, the U.S. and India signed a historic new Fulbright agreement making India a full partner with the United States in the governance and funding of the Fulbright Programme. To reflect this new partnership, USIEF now awards Fulbright-Nehru scholarships. The new agreement also permits private sector support for the programme, which offers great potential for future growth. With an eye on the needs of the 21st century, USIEF is developing innovative new programmes such as the Fulbright-Nehru English Language Teaching Assistant Programme for recent American college graduates, the Fulbright-Nehru International Education Administrators Programme for Indian and American higher education professionals, and the Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair for full professors with a prominent record of scholarly accomplishment and substantial teaching experience.

 

In just two years, the Fulbright-Nehru Programme has tripled in funding and number of grantees.

 

USIEF offers grants for leadership development in three main sectors:

 

— Research, both at the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral level, in wide-ranging disciplines significant to India and the U.S.

 

— Lecturing to promote mutual understanding in area studies (both American and Indian) as well as on contemporary issues relevant to the U.S. and India.

 

— Professional development training in emerging areas of importance to India such as environmental studies and management.

 

In addition to administering the Fulbright-Nehru and other prestigious fellowship programmes, USIEF also oversees EducationUSA Advising Centres around the country. EducationUSA is a global network of more than 400 advising centres supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. EducationUSA centres actively promote U.S. higher education around the world by offering accurate, unbiased, comprehensive, objective and timely information about educational institutions in the United States and guidance to qualified individuals on how best to access those opportunities.

 

This week, the Institute of International Education released its Open Doors 2010 report showing that Indian students continue to make U.S. colleges and universities their number one choice for higher education. During the 2009-2010 academic year, the number of Indian students studying in the U.S. reached 104,897 — a two-per-cent increase over the previous year.

 

At USIEF, we believe our efforts have played an important role in increasing the number of Indian students pursuing higher studies in the U.S., and we continue to look for new and innovative ways to reach the non-metro and underserved regions of India. In 2011, USIEF will launch a new virtual advising hub at its EducationUSA centre in New Delhi. This hub will have a nation-wide, toll-free advice hotline and will offer web-based advising services and regular webinars. USIEF will also hire 10 new advisers to engage in outreach efforts throughout India.

 

USIEF is also working closely with U.S. study abroad programme providers and Indian colleges and universities to attract more American students to India. USIEF looks to support long-term (at least a semester) programmes which have foreign language components and opportunities to engage in field based research, service learning projects and other meaningful ways to interact with the Indian host community.

 

Over the past couple of years, hundreds of U.S. universities have visited USIEF's offices in India and have expressed interest in partnering and collaborating with Indian institutions of higher education. In recognition of this interest, USIEF launched a new office of U.S.-India Higher Education Cooperation (USIHEC) in November 2009, which will help to facilitate higher education linkages and partnerships at the institutional level. USIEF is eager to support the growing interest in collaborations in all areas of higher education, including support to community college initiatives.

 

One of the founding principals of the USIEF is that when Indians and Americans study together, conduct joint research and engage in educational exchange activities, they are laying the foundation for better relations between the U.S. and India.

 

This belief in the power of people-to-people exchanges is shared by both governments, who continue to invest in their long-term relationship by supporting programmes like the Fulbright-Nehru scholarships and the Obama Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. As long these efforts continue, "y eh dosti hum nahin todenge", we will not break this friendship.

 

(Adam J. Grotsky is the Executive Director of the United States-India Educational Foundation. He first came to India in 1988 as a student on the University of Wisconsin's College Year in India Programme in Varanasi. For more information about the United States-India Educational Foundation and Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship opportunities, please visit www.usief.org.in)

 

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THE HINDU

MINING THREAT TO AFGHAN BUDDHIST TREASURES

JON BOONE

 

For almost 2,000 years a monastery has perched on a rocky outcrop amid the khaki moonscape of Aynak in Afghanistan. In its heyday a pair of mighty turrets towered over an affluent community of monks who exploited local copper deposits and built beautiful places of worship. Archaeologists describe it as a site of global historic importance and have in recent months been uncovering intricately constructed mound-like structures called stupas — with vaulted corridor and painted statues, including a magnificent reclining Buddha.

 

But the monastery, which is about 30km from Kabul, is under threat from the land on which it stands. Directly underneath runs a rich vein of copper for which a Chinese state-owned mining company has agreed to pay $3 billion for the extraction rights.

 

From what was once a courtyard of stupas on top of the monastery, Afghan archaeologists have a clear view of a modern fortified camp of prefabricated buildings with bright blue roofs and housing Chinese workers and technical experts charged with creating the world's biggest opencast copper mine.

 

The project, and several others like it, will bring significant revenue to one of the world's poorest countries. But the mine will also threatens to destroy yet more rich archaeological history, which has already been ravaged by years of civil conflict, puritanical leaders and antiquities hunters. "It is very shameful for the Afghan government to let the Chinese come here and destroy our history," said Abdul Khalid, one of the archaeologists. "People around the world only hear of the war in Afghanistan but they do not know that we have the best of things from our forefathers." For him what the Chinese have to offer is beside the point: "It will all just be wasted any way. Much more money comes from foreign countries now than will come from this mine but nothing has improved."

 

The argument is unlikely to impress an Afghan government eager for a copper bounty. When production starts in six years, the government should receive about £250 million a year in direct payments; the total benefit to the Afghan economy is estimated at £745 million, or 10 per cent of current GDP. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

GET HAPPY! U.K. TO MEASURE NATIONAL WELLBEING

 

Cheer up Britain! The weather isn't that bad.

 

British officials said on Monday they will start measuring national wellbeing in addition to gauging more traditional data like income levels and fear of crime.

 

The new plan is part of an attempt to measure national happiness levels that had been proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron during the general election campaign earlier this year. It is part of a "science of happiness" movement that has taken root in several other countries, including France and Canada, as officials and academics study the failure of rising living standards in recent decades to be accompanied by a similar rise in personal contentment.

 

National Statistician Jil Matheson said she is "pleased to be taking forward work on the measurement of national wellbeing" as part of the move beyond surveys based only on numerical economic data.

 

Downing Street said on Monday that an announcement on the timing of the national survey can be expected soon. The questions are expected to be formulated by Ms Matheson in the coming weeks for inclusion in a planned national survey to be held early next year. — AP

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

A CLEANING OF THE SYSTEM?

 

The resignation of communications and information technology minister A. Raja of the DMK places before us circumstances in which a coalition partner in the ruling dispensation at the Centre can be made to withdraw a particular minister if the Prime Minister is keen to secure the resignation of the minister in question.

 

Simultaneously, the Raja episode shows that if the party — in this case the Congress — around which the coalition revolves is determined to oust a minister of a party other than its own, the doors are not closed on such a possibility. Since coalition governments at the Centre came to be a regular feature of our system, this is the first time that a constituent unit of the ruling coalition has been successfully pressured by the principal party of the governing enterprise. It is because such an outcome once appeared impossible that in his day Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had justified any compromise thrust on the main party of the ruling group, coining the expression "coalition dharma" in the process.


It is clear that the Congress was helped by the fact that the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu crucially depends on it for numbers in the state Assembly. Thus, the DMK was not in a position to threaten the collapse of the UPA-II government, even if it had so desired. It seems, however, that in the present context the more important consideration lending the Congress decisive leverage in negotiations with the DMK is that the party has sacrificed its chief minister in Maharashtra on the Adarsh apartments issue, a prominent member of its parliamentary party in the Commonwealth Games investigation, and a high-profile Union minister from its own ranks on an issue concerning IPL cricket franchising although no one believed the minister had pocketed money that wasn't his. These events appear to flow from the apparent eagerness of the party leadership (Sonia Gandhi) and the government leadership (Dr Manmohan Singh) to steer clear of any public perception that the UPA-II dispensation can be obliged by circumstances to go soft on financial scandals. This second consideration is more germane in the present instance because even if the Congress holds a deciding hand in the Tamil Nadu legislature, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi could, in the final analysis, countenance the thought of a mid-term poll in his state if push came to shove.


Undoubtedly there was immense pressure on the Congress to  jettison Mr Raja. The year-long buzz against his handling of the 2G spectrum case intensified with the Opposition jamming the work of Parliament following negative observations of the Supreme Court (in a PIL being heard) and the CAG. But let us be clear that none of this establishes guilt, as the DMK has rightly noted even after it agreed for Mr Raja to be ejected from the Union Council of Ministers. Besides, even if Mr Raja was criminally minded, the staggering sums being tossed around by his opponents can only be in the category of a post-facto revelation. At the time that the 2G spectrum was being allotted, it was impossible to determine what the 3G spectrum would later fetch under an altogether different scheme of allotment. Only a proper investigation will reveal what really went on. But the principle of accountability, especially when questions are raised, is a valid one. Respecting this, Mr Raja should have quit much earlier instead of being pushed and pushed. The Opposition should now stop barracking Parliament. The CAG report will be examined by the powerful Public Accounts Committee of Parliament headed by Dr Murli Manohar Joshi of the BJP. A probe by a joint parliamentary committee, which Opposition parties demand, is likely to yield little, as the exertions of similar committees in India and the UK amply show.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

BURDEN OF PROOF

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

As the story of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society unfolds byte by byte in the media, a torrent of public criticism regarding misuse of defence land, and gross violations of building and environmental norms has indicted the Army as the sole perpetrator, causing it to retreat shell shocked into its bunker. But even worse perhaps

 

are aspersions insinuated on the integrity of those in uniform, present and past, some from the very topmost echelons of command. Is the Army an involved participant? Or an injured innocent? Or maybe something of both? No answers can be proffered until a basic question is answered — what are the facts of the case? Does anyone know? At the present stage of debate this does not appear to be so.


So first, a few basic facts to set the stage. The public should know that all land under current or future military use are designated "defence lands", and are the property of the Government of India acting through the ministry of defence (MoD), staffed by civil servants not even remotely connected with the defence hierarchy. The defence services, wherever located — Army, Navy or Air Force — do not "own" any land at all in the proprietary sense, but are purely in a watch and ward role, to prevent illegal encroachments.


Secondly, no military authorities at any level can independently execute any transactions involving defence land. That is the exclusive purview of the MoD, through its Defence Lands and Estates department and the Defence Estates Office (DEO) which handles all matters of estate.


There are conflicting reports at this stage regarding the provenance of the land over which both MoD and state government claim ownership, but suffice to say that if the building plot had indeed originally been defence land, the primary agent in the "land transfer scam" (if any) had to be the DEO, and not the "Army" as is generally perceived and misreported.


The controversy around the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society can be neatly divided into two clearly demarcated components — defence (not "military") and civil. The defence aspect concerns the land and the DEO (not the Army), while the civil aspect pertains to the major political and civil administrative collusion in procedural and environmental irregularities and nepotism in allotment.


There are strong indications of subterranean linkages between the society and the DEO hierarchy, in which the executive chairman is reportedly a retired functionary of that organisation, who is already under previous CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) investigation for fraudulently allowing civilian construction on defence land in Nagpur in 1998 (reward — two flats!), while the first list of 40 proposed members of the Adarsh Society includes eight serving and retired officials from the Defence Estates. There has been so far been no speculation regarding involvement of the military staff at Headquarters Maharashtra and Gujarat Area (M&G Area), the local headquarters who are the initiating authority in the region for the all-important "No Objection Certificate" on matters of land transactions. Instead, media reports have focused on a subordinate functionary in the Defence Estates establishment in Mumbai as the person who issued an NOC for the plot on March 30, 2000, to the effect that "the plot was located outside defence limits and there was no objection from his office to it being used for the welfare of defence personnel and war widows". (Note — no mention of "Kargil martyrs"!) The Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society expeditiously forwarded this "NOC" to the office of the city collector Mumbai, on April 5, 2000, who by ignorance or deliberate culpability treated this as an official "no objection certificate" from defence authorities and transferred the plot to the Adarsh Society.

Events followed a well traversed trail thereafter — building sanctions expedited by wheeler-dealers in the Maharashtra government in the name of "Kargil martyrs" and "war widows", cynically exploiting the sentiment the theme still evokes in the nation, followed by quick allotments of flats to its own politicians, officials and their relatives. Some personnel of the defence forces, including three former service chiefs, were also inveigled into the spiders web, as camouflage to provide a fig leaf of respectability.


Their alleged involvement in a housing society ostensibly for "war widows and Kargil martyrs" has (not unnaturally) outraged public opinion. Everybody loves a good scandal, and the nation was aghast at an apparent act of such gross impropriety allegedly committed by these very senior officers, and their rather elementary explanation that they just did not know about the provisions for Kargil widows was literally hooted off the stage. But it should have struck at least the veterans community that it was equally inconceivable that former heads of services should be stating a blatant untruth — the very idea is totally preposterous. The veterans community, like the rest of the public, was itself unaware of the true state of affairs and it should have occurred to them that the stated ignorance of the three former service chiefs could indeed have been the truth.
It also raises another issue — is it by implication, therefore, a cause for automatic suspicion if any defence service person, regardless of rank, receives membership of a cooperative housing society in a metropolitan location like Mumbai (or Delhi or Bengaluru)? Is there some kind of a "glass partition" discouraging them from hoping to acquire dwelling houses there?


In the meanwhile, four inquiries have been ordered into the affairs of the housing society, one each by the Navy, Army and the CBI, while a team of two very prominent "private detectives" of a major political party are attempting to ascertain the very substantial role played in the scandal by their own party persona.
The Navy has completed its inquiry and come out with a clear denial regarding issue of any No Objection Certificate to the housing society, while the Army has handed the matter over to the CBI.
The politicians decided not to rock the boat until the visit of the US President to Mumbai was over, but forced the chief minister of the state to resign immediately thereafter, "pending results of the inquiry".
So let the results come in, and if justice is required to be delivered in its aftermath, rest assured it will be only in the Army. Remember Tehelka!

 

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

ECONOMIC NONSENSE AT G-20

JAYATI GHOSH

 

What exactly do the leaders of the world want for the global economy? The official communiqué released by the Group of Twenty (G-20) Seoul Summit suggests that they have very little idea. The sense that document conveys is of complete confusion, not just in terms of contradictions across the positions held by governments of different countries, but contradictions within positions, in terms of stated goals and the means to achieve them.

 

There has been a lot of talk about the apparently "irreconcilable differences" between surplus and deficit countries, for example, or between countries that are trying to engineer lower values of their currencies through monetary policies and other measures and other countries which are trying to prevent appreciation created by the inflow of hot money. There is no doubt that these issues have emerged as significant areas of friction between some major economies. There are growing fears of currency wars and trade wars, and these fears can at best be only partly alleviated by the platitudes coming out of summit documents.


But the obsession with imbalances obscures the lack of coherence on what should be the more significant question: what are to be the major drivers of growth for the world economy? It is remarkable that the countries that ought to be the most concerned about this within the developed world seem to be the most confused, particularly from a developing country perspective.


The United States government, for example, mooted the extraordinary idea of capping the external deficits or surpluses (as proportion of gross domestic product) of major countries — as if such a thing could be done realistically, or indeed as if the global economy has ever really required such a false notion of balance. The idea clearly got no traction at the summit, but in any case simply trying to enforce balance is hardly likely to resolve the problem of revival of growth and employment. If anything, it will exacerbate them.


The German position is even more remarkable and self-contradictory. On the one hand, the Germans want the US to reduce their external imbalance, which they have decided is a cause of many problems. Yet when the US Federal Reserve announces a policy of buying long-term bonds in order to provide more liquidity in the market, they rail against this strategy of bringing down the external value of the dollar. But surely such depreciation is one of the routes to greater "competitiveness" and achieving the trade balance that the Germans supposedly value?


Similarly, the Germans want the US to get into fiscal consolidation quickly, on the (wrong) presumption that this will not affect growth prospects. But if the private sector has to continue to wind down its excessive debt, which it is already doing, then the slack has got be taken up by the government or exports. If this does not happen, then the US economy will not grow, and this will also affect demand for German exports. The same wrongheaded argument is also being applied by Germany on the peripheral European economies, without adequate consideration of the obvious negative implications for the German growth model.


It seems bizarre that global leaders have to be reminded that all countries cannot use net export growth as the route to expansion. But clearly this message has not yet struck home. How else can one explain the almost complete absence of any meaningful measures to enable sustained expansion of demand from low income countries, which is really the only sustainable and equitable way out of this global dilemma?


Consider what has come out of this summit for most developing countries. The much-delayed reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is to proceed very gently along, and at most will enable a minor shift in voting power at that institution in the next three years. Since there was no clear mandate against imposing procyclical conditions on countries in distress, the IMF will continue to impose austerity upon economies that are already experiencing downswing, rising unemployment and falling wage incomes.


Meanwhile, the "Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth" is so general as to be mostly meaningless. It continues to valorise the role of the private sector despite all the unfortunate experiences of the past three years, and continues to place importance on the need to "stimulate the flows of private capital for development" and "improving the investment climate". The fact that most developing economies have been trying to do this for two decades without much benefit in terms of improved living standards for the bulk of their people is simply not noticed.


The list of important omissions in the Seoul G-20 documents is long, but one of the more significant ones for developing countries relates to financial regulation. The focus is all on monitoring and regulating the problem of "Sifis", or systemically important financial institutions, that are too big to fail. This is doubtless important, but in the developing world the bigger problem today is that of financial activity in the futures markets for primary commodities, which is once again driving up prices of goods like oil and wheat. Here the discussion was anodyne at best, asking for more study of the problem rather than financial regulation to control speculative activity that has damaging effects on food security in the developing world.


Clearly, this latest G-20 Summit displayed lack of cohesion among its members as well as lack of imagination. But what is more startling is the extent of which it displayed the paucity of ordinary economic sense among those who currently control the world's destiny.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

GOOGLE AGAINST FACEBOOK IS THE FIGHT TO WATCH

 

Just when you thought the virtual world was reaching some sort of stability, news comes that Facebook is launching its own email to challenge Google's Gmail. The challenge was inevitable.

 

Facebook, a social networking site frequented largely by theyoung, overtook Google as the most visited website earlier this year. It was natural that it would counter Google in other areas, and email is the obvious battlefield. A while back, Google began blocking Facebook's ability to automatically access Gmail contact data. Reason: Facebook does not give Google equal access.

 

Internet technology is perhaps the world's most level playing field, and what matters here is not your pedigree or aristocracy but ideas and execution. The success of Google and Gmail are testimony to that. Yet, Google's own net browser Chrome has had little success since it lacks a unique idea to lure people. We are still awaiting Facebook's USP on email.

 

The technology world is never going to have one all-time champ. Once upon a time, IBM was the topdog. Then Microsoft took over. In the early years of the internet, Oracle looked like it was a threat to Microsoft, but it was Google that became No 1. Now we have Facebook throwing the gauntlet. Meanwhile, Apple is making a comeback of sorts with music, phones and tablet PCs. We live in interesting times.

 

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DNA

SM KRISHNA PLAYS THE TIBET CARD WITH CHINA

Abandoning customary diplomatic circumlocution, minister for external affairs SM Krishna did some plain speaking with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

 

Krishna told Yang that Indian sensitivity over Kashmir is similar to China's over Tibet and Taiwan. It is the kind of language the Chinese should understand. It is also significant that foreign secretary Nirupama Rao shared this exchange with the media. It is thus a calculated move to let everyone know that India will not hide behind foreign office gobbledygook anymore when it comes to Kashmir.

 

To be sure, China is not about to back off anytime soon. Yang's response was significant. He said that China recognises that Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan, which is to be settled bilaterally. That is not exactly music to Indian ears. India is clear that Pakistan is the prime aggressor in Kashmir and that it is clearly in the wrong — a view that the rest of the world is not willing to concede.

 

All that New Delhi has been able to achieve is to compel others to accept that this is a bilateral issue and there can be no role for third parties.

 

The problem is one of our own making. As long as India claims that Kashmir is a part of the India-Pakistan composite dialogue, China, the US and the European Union will continue to comment on it. To draw a line, India will have to close the chapter by declaring that the part of Jammu & Kashmir that is with India is its own and that there is nothing else to discuss with Pakistan. It is a unilateral way of ending the dispute and shutting up the curiosity of the world.

 

India will have to be much more forthright on Tibet and Taiwan. The unstated Indian assumptions will have to be spelt out. While India accepts both the regions to be integral parts of China, it should favour a fair deal to Tibetans and Taiwanese in terms of cultural and political rights. In turn, India should not be afraid of Chinese and Americans urgings on dealing fairly with Kashmiris.

 

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DNA

MAIL ARTICLE

PUSHING A RAJA OUT IS ONLY THE FIRST STEP

 

With the resignation of A Raja as Union telecom minister, the Congress might feel that it has redeemed itself as far as taking a stand against corruption is concerned. However, any celebrations would be premature.

 

The amount of time which the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its supreme leader, M Karunanidhi, took to agree to Raja's departure demonstrates how arrogant India's politicians have become when it comes to looking out for their vested interests. Since the DMK is an integral part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and is a major regional force, it bears as much responsibility to the nation as it does to its immediate constituents.

 

The mistake is to believe that the exit of Raja somehow ranks as a victory in the war against corruption. Just as the removal of Suresh Kalmadi and Ashok Chavan from their respective party and governmental posts is hardly enough, the same goes for Raja.

 

Mere acceptance that something has gone wrong is no good. The actual work starts now. The investigations into the 2G spectrum allocations, the money made in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games and the complications of the Adarsh Society scam have to continue and some people must end up in jail. Not only that, there has to be a timeframe to catch the crooks and prosecute them if the message is to be sent that the corrupt cannot get away.

 

It is imperative that the Congress and the UPA are not made to feel as if they have achieved something merely by changing the faces at the helm. This is often a quick response to end public anger and then it's back to business as usual. But the extent of money, greed, culpability and arrogance involved in these three scams are so horrific and the network of people so widespread that three heads will hardly suffice.

 

It is often claimed that the people of India are not really bothered about corruption— and this is largely a middle class concern. This is a myth and even if people are not always concerned that hardly justifies government corruption. When officials and politicians are shameless enough to skim money off the national rural employment guarantee scheme, then you know that the problems of corruption reach down to the poorest.

 

These three major scams have given the nation an opportunity to hold the government and all our politicians to account. Public pressure and opprobrium, if consistent and strong enough, can make a difference.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

THE ROLE OF BUSINESS IN GOVERNMENTAL CORRUPTION

PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

The great hope of economic liberalisation was that government will be less intrusive and dominant and that this would end not just the vice-like grip of politicians and bureaucrats over the lives of people but also mean less corruption.

 

But this is one great hope that has been betrayed. It looks like that politicians and bureaucrats are still enjoying their power to dole out favours, whether it is mining or telecom licences, and that business folk find it useful and even profitable to cultivate the politicians and their minions in the government. Right from the Enron episode in the 1990s to the 2G spectrum allotment just goes to show that business is deeply involved in the corrupt system.

 

The captains of industry and their spokespersons are sure to argue that they are caught in a vicious circle and that they have no other option but to play along. The business stakes are a little too high to take unrealistic ethical positions.

 

That is an argument of expediency, plausible but not convincing enough. It is not necessary to pinpoint Indian businesses — and here we are not speaking about the honourable exceptions but about the majority who follow corrupt practices out of necessity, if not out of sheer villainy and cynicism — as the only culprits. It is quite evident from the time of Enron, that multinational corporations learned only too quickly the bad ways of doing business in developing countries including China, Indonesia, Nigeria and of course India.

 

While it is necessary to nail politicians and officials, is there some way of pinpointing the culpability of private businesses? After the Volcker report on Iraq's oil-for-food scam, Congress politician and then minister for external affairs Natwar Singh was forced to step down. But the Volcker report cited many Indian business houses which paid their way to get at the oil barrels. Similarly, while DMK's A Raja is being rightly cornered for his brazen indiscretions, the business houses which got special favours are not even mentioned.

 

Someone has to pick up enough courage to look squarely at the issue of complicity of businesses in the great public corruption system. While there are laws to punish businesses for violating the law in their business dealings, there are no explicit ones for penalising them in trying to win favours from the government. The issue should not be seen in ideological terms or as a socialist attack on the free market system. Even an ardent free market advocate cannot deny that private business is not above the temptation of giving bribes and soliciting privileges.

 

The private sector has kept out of the political debate on corruption under the mistaken assumption that that is an issue to be settled by the people and the politicians and there is not much that they can do about it. The truth is that politicians are indeed dependent on businesses to fill the coffers of their respective parties as well as their personal war chests. If business can bring itself to say no to the politician because it has sufficient clout to do so then it could be contributing to curbing corruption in the Indian public sphere.

 

As a matter of fact, the demand for best corporate practices should include provisions of not bribing public representatives and officials. This will place greater pressure on governments to be fair and impartial and for a transparent rule-based system, so essential for the functioning of an efficient free market system, to emerge.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

PAX INDICA: INDIAN OCEAN RIM IS OUR HINTERLAND

 

While US president Barack Obama's visit occupied the mind-space of the Indian media, it seems life did not exactly come to a halt elsewhere. Indians didn't hear much about the volcano in Indonesia that blew up, for instance, but they should pay more attention to Indonesia and its region.

 

Southern Java's Yogyakarata, the old cultural capital of Indonesia, is close to the remarkable monuments at Borobudur and Prambanan. Yogya has an ominous presence in the background — just 30km away lies the dangerous Mount Merapi ('meru' + 'api' = mount of fire).

 

Indeed, Merapi's most recent eruptions in late October and early November created a death toll of several hundred people, some buried in fine volcanic ash — with scenes reminiscent of Pompeii — and others killed by fast-moving pyroclastic flows. They had to shut down the airports in Yogya and nearby Solo.

 

Merapi is within 40kms of Borobudur and Prambanan. Borobudur, the massive Buddhist monument from the 9th century, is the largest man-made structure in the southern hemisphere: a giant stupa, a sculptured hill covered with hundreds of seated Buddhas with enigmatic smiles and mudras of blessings. The structure represents various levels of the Buddhist universe.

 

Prambanan, less well-known, is the Hindu equivalent of Borobudur, and from roughly the same time period. They are stylistically polar opposites: Borobudur is powerful and muscular, whereas Prambanan (a suggested etymology is 'brahma-vana') is tall, slender and ethereal. Indeed, another name for Prambanan is 'slender maiden'.

 

It consists of three temples, one each to Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The Siva temple is the tallest and the best preserved. In an earthquake in 2006, Prambanan was severely damaged. A big eruption of Merapi may doom it.

 

Indonesia shows the power of Indic ideas — as Tagore remarked, wherever you go in the country, you are reminded of India, because of familiar cultural signals. Even the languages — the old Javanese and Balinese — look much like Indian scripts, and children still chant "a, aa, e, ee". A large number of cultural memes in Indonesia are imported from India, including in traditional dance, puppetry, music, even in the name of their national airline, Garuda.

 

In the middle of a square in Jakarta, there is a giant sculpture of the Gitopadesa. On a full moon night, I have watched Javanese Muslim dancers perform the Ramayana Ballet outside Prambanan . There is the Hindu island of Bali, where the Hindus fled when a Javanese king of the Majapahit dynasty converted to Islam.

 

Hindu and Buddhist ideas from India made their way to the Indonesian archipelago around the second to fourth century; they thrived for a thousand years, not through conquest but because the ideas themselves were useful and good.

 

There was in fact an Indian military invasion — although that was later. Circa 1017, Rajendra Chola sent a huge expeditionary force to defeat the Srivijaya empire in Sumatra. It was possibly the largest naval fleet ever assembled before the advent of steamships in the 19th century, quite likely bigger, and certainly more successful, than the Spanish Armada.

 

Unfortunately, unlike the big claims the Chinese are making — and these grow with every retelling — of their Admiral Zheng He and his alleged naval adventures, India has been noticeably reticent about the glorious maritime exploits of the Cholas. This needs to change, purely out of necessity: India needs to provide a counterweight to China.

 

An intriguing article in the New York Times of November 12 by Robert Kaplan ("Obama takes Asia by sea") applies Spykman's ideas about "rimland" and "heartland", suggesting that rimland India and Indonesia will influence the strategic future of Asia, whereas the interior powers of Russia and China are handicapped by being landlocked. The Great Game was about Russia's desired access to warm water ports, and now China, with its 'string of pearls' is trying to build a network of friendly naval bases.

 

The US is now exhorting India to no longer just "look east", but become a presence in east Asia. With China's increasing aggressiveness in the South China Sea, in Tibet and Kashmir, it is necessary to 'contain' China with a web of relationships, such as with Vietnam and Japan.

 

India has so far fumbled its connections with south-east Asia, which was traditionally known as Greater India. Invited to join Asean at its founding, India haughtily declined — yet another Himalayan blunder. The cultural legacy is a link that India should use to engage increasingly with south-east Asia. Going by the rapid rise of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, this region is where the future is. It may yet be the century not of the Pacific, but of the Indian Ocean. A Pax Indica or an Indian Ocean Rim Community is a possible dream.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

YOUR HOME IS WHERE YOU CAN BE AT PEACE

SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

 

What is home? Home is a place where you are at rest, you feel comfortable. For me, the entire world is my home. Wherever I go, I feel the same belongingness with the people.

 

I want every home to be like an ashram. Ashram means where there is no shram (effort); where all the efforts of the mind, heart and body drop. All the fears, insecurities, stress, everything drops and you experience deep rest. Every home should be like an ashram.

 

People dream of beautiful homes. They spend so much time, money and energy decorating and designing their houses; or they keep changing homes. Yet they are not at rest. You can be at rest only when you are comfortable within yourself.

 

The first step is to relax and the last step is to relax as well! The most relaxing or comfortable place is right within you. Repose in that peaceful, cool, calm, serene depth of your being — this is immensely valuable and precious. When you are unhappy or tired, even sweet things are nauseating, music is disturbing, and the moon is irritating.

 

When you are calm and centred, clouds are magical, rain is liquid sunshine and even noise is music. So it is important to take proper rest. But when can you rest? Rest is possible only when you have stopped all other activities. When the mind settles down, it has come back home. That is when one gets deep rest and this happens in meditation.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CURTAINS FOR RAJA

NOW ALLOW THE LAW TO TAKE ITS COURSE

 

THE resignation of A. Raja as Union Telecom Minister has come not a day too soon. After the Supreme Court expressed its unhappiness over his continuance despite serious allegations about his role in the 2G spectrum scam and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India's leaked report blamed Raja for causing a loss of a whopping Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the central exchequer, the Minister's position had become untenable. Raja tried to stall his ouster by his misplaced bravado and his mentor DMK supremo Karunanidhi's solid support to him but the inevitable could not be prevented. On top of the fast-growing evidence of misdemeanours was the damning statement of the Secretary in the Ministry at the time of spectrum allocation, D.S. Mathur, that his advice on auction of spectrum was ignored. That filled Raja's cup of woes to the brim.

 

If the Congress-led UPA was looking for a way out considering that the DMK's 18 Lok Sabha members were crucial to its survival, AIADMK leader J.Jayalalithaa's statement that her party's nine MPs and some others mobilized by her would together make good the shortfall if DMK withdrew support to the UPA, helped the Congress to decide to confront Karunanidhi. Seeing that the Opposition was capitalizing on the delay in removal of Raja and that the defence of Raja was not going down well with people at large, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, her political aide Ahmed Patel and Union Minister Pranab Mukherjee met behind closed doors and decided to press the DMK for replacing Raja.

 

While the removal of Raja is a welcome move close on the heels of the jettisoning of two other Congress bigwigs involved in scams — Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi — it is imperative that action against all three not be confined to their removal from key positions. Comprehensive and impartial investigations must be done to fix responsibility for the scams and to punish the scamsters. Besides, the Congress would do well not to succumb to DMK pressure to appoint a nominee from that party as new Telecom Minister. If the new incumbent is from the DMK there would be a nagging suspicion that there would be an attempt to cover Raja's tracks. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NO LONGER A LONE RANGER 

MANPREET CARAVAN ROLLS ON

 

DESPITE a hostile government putting hurdles in his way to Amritsar on Sunday Manpreet Singh Badal pulled a mammoth crowd that testifies to his growing appeal after quitting the government and the Shiromani Akali Dal. Fearing reprisals from a vindictive state government, private bus owners refused vehicles to supporters of the former Finance Minister, who had to turn to transporters in Haryana and Rajasthan. Wearing the saffron band on their turbans and rekindling Shaheed Bhagat Singh's "Rang de Basanti" spirit, he and his supporters took a symbolic vow at Jallianwala Bagh to fight for the "second freedom struggle".

 

Manpreet's recent tours of Punjab have yielded the desired results. He has decided to re-launch the "yatra" on November 24 to spread awareness about Punjab's sinking economy, unemployment, indebtedness, drug addiction and illiteracy — the issues few can dispute deserve attention. Rising above Punjab politicians' general tendency to hurl unsubstantiated allegations at one another, Manpreet Badal focussed on issues, refraining from personal attacks and disappointing the media, which had been speculating in the past few weeks about the formation of a separate political party.

 

His political agenda is unassailable. Small-minded politicians with oversized egos flaunt cheap trappings of power like travelling in a helicopter or a red-beaconed vehicle trailed by a heavy posse of gunmen. Manpreet wants to end such "VIP culture". Reserving half the assembly seats for youth and women is laudable but may not be practical and so is confining a minister to two terms. The most important piece of political reform – "no blood relatives in the same Cabinet" – is obviously directed at the other Badals. But the big question is: Can he deliver without a statewide political outfit of his own or support from one of the two major political parties? Will public goodwill translate into votes? Or will he smoothen the Congress way to power? He lacks the resources to build a party and has yet to prove his mass base in elections without the ruling Badals' support. Manpreet's future, at the moment, certainly looks hazy.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IPS LOSING ITS CHARM

CENTRE MUST FILL VACANCIES URGENTLY 

 

THE Tribune report (November 14) that there are as many as 630 vacancies of IPS officers at the Centre and in the states is cause for serious concern. The Indian Police Service officers play an important role in maintaining law and order and ensuring peace and security across the length and breadth of the country. Thus, the Centre cannot afford to overlook the problem. As the instrument for maintaining the rule of law, an efficient, effective and accountable police administration is the most essential institution of the state. And if there are not enough IPS officers to lead the police administration in the sub-divisions, districts, ranges and zones, who will enforce the rule of law, maintain law and order and safeguard the life and property of citizens? Certainly, at a time of mounting challenges to internal security, there is need for adequate number of competent and well trained IPS officers to effectively lead the police force.

 

Clearly, the problem of shortage is not confined to states. It is acute even in the CBI (100 posts), the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing (150 posts). The picture is no different in the paramilitary forces like the CRPF, BSF and CISF. There is no point in blaming the NDA government (1999-2004) for reducing the IPS cadre strength drastically and subsequent accumulative neglect. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, known for his professional approach to issues relating to security and law and order, would do well to get to the root of the problem and grasp the nettle.

 

If lack of motivation, stagnation, arbitrary cadre postings and greener pastures in the private sector are driving the officers out, the Centre must make the IPS more attractive. Similarly, those posted in the North-east, terrorist and Naxalite-infested states should be given additional emoluments, perks and privileges. If there are many vacancies at the Deputy Inspector-General of Police level, the Centre should relax the norm of 14 years of service for direct recruit IPS officers to become DIGs. The Union Cabinet should promptly implement the Kamal Kumar Committee's recommendation for recruiting IPS officers through a "limited examination", detached from the regular Civil Services examination, for existing government servants mainly from the armed forces, paramilitary and state police forces. Above all, the problem of shortage can be resolved by effective and judicious cadre management for IPS officers. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

WORRYING SECURITY SCENARIO

INDIA SHOULD LEARN FROM US SUCCESS

BY AIR MARSHAL R.S.BEDI (RETD)

 

MONTHS after the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, can we say that we are any safer now? The answer is, perhaps, "No". This attack on the financial hub of India was the handiwork of Pakistan's ISI, as has been revealed recently by WikiLeaks. Understandably, it was well planned and well executed. The destruction and the commotion that followed resulted in a massive shock to the Indian psyche. It also exposed the hollowness of the Indian security system. Can it be said that Pakistan or its so-called non-state actors are not plotting against India again? No attempt has been made by Pakistan to curb the activities of the elements involved in terrorist activities against India.

 

Despite some ad hoc reconfiguration of internal security infrastructure and other steps initiated by the Home Ministry in taking on extremists, terrorists, insurgents and the Maoists, one is not too sure how far we have been able to insulate the nation against these elements. Threats lying dormant within the country continue to keep the nation on tenterhooks. Constant apprehensions of the lurking danger and also the anger on account of the government's inability to counter the evil intentions of our adversary are all pervasive.

 

India has been at the receiving end since 1989 when Pakistan embarked upon its strategy of infiltrating jihadis across the LoC. They gradually began to spread their tentacles all over the country with a view to disrupting the administration and terrorising the population. The country was already mired in insurgency in the Northeast, Punjab and parts of central India. It was a hard task for the paramilitary and the Central police organisations to meet this progressively mounting security challenge. Even Army support had to be sought in certain states. The bureaucracies responsible for internal security thus began to expand fast in keeping with the evolving security scenario. It was, perhaps, the need of the hour then.

 

This led to having one of the most top heavy administrative and police hierarchies at the Centre and in the states. Bureaucraticratic tiers increased manifold from the earlier just four — secretary, joint secretary, deputy secretary and undersecretary — to six or perhaps seven that includes a super secretary called principal secretary, additional secretary, director, etc.

 

The police bureaucracy too went overboard expanding its rank structure from the original three tiers to about the same number. Besides this, a large number of paramilitary forces meant for internal security are not necessarily employed for their primary roles. No wonder, the security environment as well as the law and order situation have been deteriorating by the day.

 

The national leadership, too, has failed to work out political solutions of long- pending issues that perhaps have their origin in socio-economic deprivation, allowing these to gradually assume security connotations. The threat of another carnage engineered from outside or from within the country thus continues to loom large.

 

The management of internal security needs to be reviewed holistically. There is an urgent requirement for homeland security to be under an independent minister or at least under a minister of state within the Home Ministry. There is also need to review the plans and policies, if there are any. It's time for the higher echelons of civil and police bureaucracies to assess the gains made or not made in the management of internal security during these recent years. Why we have not been able to properly take care of the emerging security scenario has to be ascertained and factored in the future line of action.

 

It is generally felt that the paramilitary forces and the Central police organisations lack proper training and motivation. They also do not possess the requisite wherewithal to neutralise or minimise the threats as these emerge from time to time.

 

Those at the higher level have to lead from the front. This is the only way to motivate the middle-level leadership and the jawans in the field? The way the CRPF and the J&K police were seen combating the stone-pelting Kashmiri youths and killing them instead of deterring them by using non-lethal weapons exposed the weaknesses in the functioning of our security forces. The internal security forces are not supposed to kill their own citizens however aggressive or wayward they may be. This could have been avoided only if the troops had the requisite equipment to subdue the rioters instead of injuring them fatally

 

Maybe, we can learn a lesson or two from the Americans. They have well-articulated policies and plans which they implement with ruthless purposefulness. They take no chances and make no exceptions. Frisking of our former President and detention of one of our Cabinet ministers at US airports are mere two examples of how serious they are about their homeland security. Up in the air, the cockpit doors are sealed, making it impossible for anyone to intrude and take charge in the cockpit. Al-Quaida has not been able to execute any dramatic attacks akin to 9/11.

 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's blunt warning to Pakistan earlier this year of severe consequences if 9/11 ever got repeated had sobering effect on Islamabad.

 

In the case of the Indo-Pak scenario with nuclear overhang, there is need for caution. Conventionally, India is far superior to Pakistan. But that is not enough. We have to keep Pakistan's "low nuclear threshold" in mind and avoid breaching it under all circumstances. We have somehow become the victims of Pakistan's nuclear blackmail, particularly after the Indian Army's tame withdrawal from the international border after threatening to march across. This led to reinforcing of Pakistan's nuclear deterrence and its proclivity to flaunt its nuclear weapons on the slightest pretext. India has to undo it by impressing upon Pakistan unequivocally that its punitive capabilities and the "political will" to respond appropriately will lead to unacceptable damage if it does not stop aggression against India.

 

Can Pakistan really afford to escalate the engagement to the nuclear level merely because India has struck its terrorist training camps that are just across the LoC? We have to call Pakistan's bluff at some stage. Pakistan must be made to realise that it is crossing India's threshold of patience and forbearance. For effective deterrence, the capabilities as well as the will of the nation must to be constantly articulated for the adversary to take note of the likely consequences of its actions. The political leadership, the burgeoning civil bureaucracy and paramilitary forces must comprehend the nuances of deterrence. Security management has become the biggest casualty in our system.

 

After 9/11 the US went on to reconfigure its security organisations, spending billions of dollars on intelligence bureaucracies and intelligence gathering. It also built up a 2.5 lakh work force in the Department of Homeland Security. A security infrastructure bigger than the famously known Pentagon was created. However, they soon realised that mere 400-odd Al-Quaida cadres have led them to spend billions of dollars on the vast expansion of bureaucracies and that there was need to review the scenario comprehensively. The decision to demobilise its reconfigured security apparatus to more logical dimensions now that the extent and degree of the danger have been re-assessed realistically has been taken. Can we do the same sooner or later and have a more realistic and logical internal security apparatus?

The writer is a former Director-General, Defence Planning Staff.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

MIDDLE

 

THE AIDS

BY RAJ KADYAN

 

I suffered from AIDS on Diwali. Lest my wellwishers gloom and my detractors grin, I am referring to Air India Disconnect Service.

 

A house guest arrived from Mumbai to be with us for Diwali. He flew Air India, our national pride, and they landed at Palam Terminal 3. He telephoned his impressions from the baggage claim area — very sleek and shining. He waited two hours for the baggage. It never arrived. They filled up a Property Irregularity Report form and handed him a carbon copy. It had some 34 two-letter acronyms that can fox even an IIM graduate.

 

On the next (Diwali) morning I tried calling the four landline numbers given on the form. After several attempts, one responded. The official promised home delivery of the lost bags. In late afternoon, one of the two packages arrived, with no news of the other. Another round of calls followed.

 

After 30 minutes of non-stop calling, at 4:30 pm one of the numbers responded and the lady gave me "good morning". Admittedly, she made me feel a few hours younger, but any positive ended there. When I announced the subject of lost baggage, she said "hold on" - her tone betraying not the least hint of sympathy — and disconnected. It took me another ten minutes to get her on the line. The same 'hold on' and disconnect ritual was repeated six times over the next forty minutes. I silently wondered whether they had a tie-up with my phone company.

 

Finally, when I got a response, "They have all gone to collect baggage" I was told and if I could call an hour later. I recalled what a friend who had held a high post in a PSU had once said: "We stand for 'please shun us'." I Now realised he hadn't been joking.

 

I tried an hour later, or shall I say started trying. After some quarter hour of effort I got her on the line. This time she told me that they (at Terminal 2) handled the subject only till 5:30 pm and that I should call Terminal 3 at a number she gave me. I tried non-stop for 20 minutes but no response. I tried calling Terminal 2 again. Got through luckily in only the seventh attempt and having explained the predicament asked if she could give me another number. She was kind enough to give me the duty manager's number — though in a hushed tone, the type adopted by officials when disclosing State secrets.

 

I thanked her for the favour and resumed calling. I was still punching figures when some 30 minutes later the wife summoned me; it was time to observe the festival rituals. Late into the night as I type this, the house guest is fast asleep — in borrowed pyjamas.

 

I am a frequent flier with Air India and have accumulated good many miles. I was planning to use up some when the wife travels to Mumbai later this month. Now I am not so sure; they might land her elsewhere.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

MUSLIMS: THE CHANGING VOTING PATTERN

OVER THE YEARS, THERE HAS BEEN AN INTERESTING CHANGE IN THE MUSLIM VOTING BEHAVIOUR. ONCE CONSIDERED AS THE VOTE BANK OF THE CONGRESS, THEY ARE NOW EXERCISING THEIR RIGHT OF FRANCHISE IN FAVOUR OF THE BJP TOO, BESIDES SOME OTHER POLITICAL PARTIES. 

SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

DURING its recent annual national conference in Delhi, the Congress attacked the RSS for its alleged involvement in terrorism, though wherever such incidents occur, suspicion invariably falls on Muslims or their organisations. The fact that the Congress chose to highlight a subject having a bearing on the minority community, instead of widespread corruption that threatened to undermine the nation's image before the Delhi Commonwealth Games were held, showed that the party was more worried about recapturing its Muslim vote bank than anything else.

 

However, the Congress, which heads the ruling UPA at the Centre, alone is not to blame for playing vote bank politics. In the Bihar Assembly elections, Muslim votes figured prominently in the calculations of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) and his principal challenger and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav. Though the JD (U) leader's main plank was development, he did all he could to appease the minority voters in Bihar.

 

In UP, the most populous state of the country where the assembly elections are due in 2012, almost every party hoping to capture power has been devising schemes for getting the support of Muslims. Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has allowed Azam Khan to rejoin the SP he had left some time ago only to consolidate the party's Muslim following. Khan, who comes from Rampur and has his base in Western UP, had deserted the SP, which he had founded along with Mulayam Singh, in protest against the induction of former BJP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh into the SP fold. Many Muslims dislike Kalyan Singh because he was the head of government in UP when the Babri Masjid was demolished by agitated "kar sevaks" in December 1992.

 

Mulayam Singh's decision has led to uneasiness among other Muslim leaders in the SP, who feel their importance may get undermined with Azam Khan's presence in the party. But the SP chief is unfazed. He knows that the outspoken Muslim leader is the darling of minority voters, whose support is crucial for the party's electoral performance. As is well known, behind the SP's success in the past was the Muslim-Yadav combination formed by Mulayam Singh with years of hard work.

 

Mulayam Singh's earlier decision to work with Kalyan Singh for increasing the SP's following among the backward classes and OBCs had led to a large number of Muslims shifting their loyalty to either Chief Minister Mayawati's BSP or the Congress. The spectacular performance of the Congress in UP in the 2009 parliamentary elections was mainly because of the party having recaptured a large portion of its previous Muslim vote bank, though it also got considerable support from Dalits and other backward classes. Much of the credit went to youth leader Rahul Gandhi, but the fact remains that the Congress also benefited owing to Muslims' disenchantment with the SP.

 

The SP suffered in the 2007 assembly elections also due to Muslims having turned their back on the party once preferred by them. During the assembly polls the SP's loss was the BSP's gain, which won enough seats to form the government in UP on its own.

 

The Congress and the caste-based parties in the Hindi heartland are not the only political formations which have been sharpening their strategy for some time to win over the Muslims. The BJP, the Left parties in West Bengal and Kerala and the Dravidian formations in Tamil Nadu, too, have been eyeing Muslim votes in their effort to improve their electoral performance. In the recently held polls for the local self-government bodies in Gujarat, Muslims openly sided with the BJP in many areas. The BJP is reportedly working on a well-thought-out programme to make inroads into the Muslim vote bank to change its image of being a party feeding itself on promoting hatred against the minorities, mainly the Muslims. Moreover, it has realised that stressing too much on the need for a strong POTA-type anti-terrorism law has lost its appeal among the voters.

 

All this, however, does not mean that the Muslims are a monolith and face the same problems wherever they live, whether it is Azamgarh or Nandigram. Their problems vary, yet they have certain common issues. The Sachar Committee report highlighted their pitiable position in various walks of life, including education and government jobs. But one factor that came up prominently was that most of their ills are mainly because of their educational backwardness. Once they start doing well on the education front, they will be much better off in almost every field.

 

Politicians prefer to highlight mainly the emotional problems of Muslims because of their greater pull. Among such issues are the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, the US attack on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the harassment of Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism.

 

Despite their unjustifiable treatment as a monolith, the Muslim voting pattern has never been the same in all parts of the country. Though they constitute between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of the population in 182 of the 593 districts in the country, as per the 2001 census, they lack sincere leaders who can guide them properly to the road to growth. The situation that emerged after the country's partition demoralised them so much that they could not think of aligning themselves with any party other than the Congress. Their feeling of insecurity was exploited by the Congress till the emergence of the Janata Party in the wake of the 1975 Emergency. This can be described as the turning point in the history of Muslims in India. They openly extended their support to the Janata experiment in most parts of the country in the elections held after the Emergency ended in 1977.

 

Later on they began to patronise other parties like those based on caste and community calculations — the SP, the BSP and the RJD. But the beneficiary of Muslim votes has not been any single party in the post-Emergency era like the Congress in the past. They have been using their right of franchise in most constituencies in a manner so that their support leads to the defeat of the BJP. This may become a thing of the past if the BJP changes its approach towards the community to acquire a new image. That will be the end of divisive politics the country needs so badly. 

 

FACT FILE

 

Muslims constitute between 10 and 25 per cent of the total population spread over 182 districts.

 

There has been a change in the Muslims' voting pattern after the Emergency (1975-77).

 

After the Emergency, the Congress lost its Muslim vote bank, mainly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

 

In many constituencies, the Muslims have been resorting to strategic voting to defeat the BJP.

 

There is a change in the thinking of Muslim voters. In some constituencies, Muslims now support the BJP.

 

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TRIBUNE

VOTE BANKS AND AN ISSUE OF CONVENIENCE

KANWALPREET

 

HUMAN rights add respect to our lives because they make life worth living. They are based on the principle that all persons have a right to lead a life of dignity, free from fear and deprivation. Yet, these rights are violated.

 

In India, we have Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Buddhists as minorities among others. India's partition in 1947 evokes bad memories. Though the Indian Constitution assures the minorities that they and their identity would be secure (Articles 25-28 and 29-30), the minorities feel insecure. Do they really feel some fear or is this insecurity a result of other reflections?

 

The undercurrent is that the minorities feel that the majority is waiting to gobble them while the latter feel that too many concessions have been doled to the minorities. What is the real situation? There is a general impression that the issue of minorities has become an issue of convenience politically, socially and economically. It is a guaranteed vote bank for many leaders who become minorities' champions just before elections.

 

The leaders hail from their respective communities who incite the community members to vote for them in the name of religion. The promises are soon forgotten, rather brushed under the carpet to be dusted and used in the next elections. Meanwhile, the common man, irrespective of being a Muslim, Sikh or Christian, continues with the day-to-day business of living. The political leaders make various combinations and permutations to attain power. Vote bank politics does not allow assimilation of the minorities into the national mainstream.

 

The Shah Bano case is an example of minorities' appeasement. In this case, though the Supreme Court came forward to help the Muslim women, Parliament backed off. Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was enlightened by veteran Congressmen as how his support to Shah Bano would make the Congress wash its hands off the Muslims' big vote bank in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere in India.

 

Why do we not have an identity crisis in Canada or the US? We take pains to be Americans, Britons, Canadians and try to fit in their culture, adapting to their norms and way of life. The minorities or the majority have no qualms there. Why this insecurity in India, which is our own land? The question of minorities' insecurity has got a lot to do with development.

 

There is nothing in India to hold back the minorities. They have ample opportunities to develop. A good education can do wonders for anyone as it can for the minorities. English is an international language. Every person who wants to move ahead in life needs to be fluent in it. But many among the minorities fail to understand its importance.

 

Talking about the Sikhs and Muslims, why is English education not imparted in a big way in the educational institutions run by the respective religious bodies? People from Punjab go abroad, realise the importance of the language as lingua franca. They learn it when they realise that they cannot do without it. But the people in the villages don't understand this. There is nobody to enlighten them on this though there are plenty of saints and deras in the rural areas. Many bright students of these communities suffer in life because they don't know English.

 

Why can't English be taught in the madrasas or in the SGPC-run institutions at the school level? A handsome salary to the teachers would draw the best of talent to the villages. It would also solve the problem of unemployment and migration to foreign lands. In such schools, English, scientific study and curiosity should form the crux of the education.

 

Yes, our culture needs to be preserved but by taking the required steps so that our children move positively towards the future. These religious institutions should spend less on marble floors in the temples, gurudwaras or mosques and more on establishing internationally acclaimed schools which would churn out world-class students as well as citizens.

 

In Punjab's border areas, I have seen the youth steeped into drugs and other vices. There are no good schools, colleges or employing agencies. What would we do with an ostentatious display of our wealth in our religious places when we are losing generations? The minorities should first put their house in order. With ample funds in our basket, the minorities need to work on development. I, for one, feel guilty when I see money spent lavishly on a religious place in a village with no good school for the children.

 

The writer is Asst Professor, Dept of Political Science, DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEWS

THE CHOPPER VANISHES

WHO IS THIS MAN, AND WHAT HAS HE DONE WITH THE REAL HARBHAJAN SINGH?


With a bat in his hands, right from his debut Test against Australia 12 years ago, Harbhajan Singh has reminded me of a helicopter whirling into a sideways free-fall. The imagery, with the lack of any combat experience, can perhaps be blamed on his arrival closely following Hollywood films Broken Arrow and Mission Impossible, both famous for scenes in which choppers first spiralled out of control and then exploded spectacularly. 

The analogy, I realised later, was because of his rotor-like arms – freer than usual, they made strangely elliptical arcs while attempting strokes that other arms managed to hit with less elaborate loops. Over the years, his motor-mouth, his swift but awkward feet, and his failure to put together a big innings, completed the metaphor of a noisy, unstable, flying machine that could pull off the occasional rescue act but not cover long distances. 

In the last seven days, while the movement of the arms is still not free of its customary embellishment, Harbhajan has forever dismissed my one painstakingly original analogy. While a Test century in a difficult situation in Ahmedabad was unbelievable, crazier things had happened on days when everything fell into place for a tail-ender. But the back-to-back tons, so late in his career, have a strange sense of permanence attached to them – like when you learn how to time the through ball in FIFA 2010 on your PlayStation 3, and know you can score goals at will from then on. 


As a result, Harbhajan is now only part-helicopter, and since that's no fun, I hereby withdraw my metaphor. A better man will have to draw a better parallel for him now. Rahul Dravid has started by joking that Harbhajan is the next Garry Sobers. Others are invited to e-mail me similar comparisons, to animate or inanimate objects as they deem fit. 

 

The most interesting point about Harbhajan's two centuries was that he was backing himself to get them. You may learn how to hit a cover drive, a pull, an old-fashioned slog-sweep, but the most important weapon in a quality batsman's arsenal is self-belief. 

 

When you dance down the track against a spinner, for example, you have to feel that you can hit the ball into the stands, not wing it and see how it goes. Watching players who thrived despite flouting the coaching manual – Ijaz Ahmed, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, even Virender Sehwag and M S Dhoni – you realise that technique is secondary. At the highest level, truly believing you can get runs is the biggest difference between genuine batsmen and baseballstyle pinch-hitters, between good batting and good luck, and this past week, Harbhajan switched from mode B to mode A. 

 

He credits this new avatar to the Sydney Test of 2008 – the same match in which he allegedly racially abused Andrew Symonds, a few weeks before he definitely physically abused Sreesanth – a year in which he officially went rogue, fulfilling every inequitable caricature of an out-of-control Sardar. 

 

"I batted with Sachin (Tendulkar) that day in Sydney, and he told me I'm too good a batsman to just slog. I started playing each ball on its merit and went on to score 60-odd. That was probably the turnaround," he says. 

But despite the occasional contribution since then, and the century last week, it was strange watching him run out of partners on Sunday at Hyderabad, holding up one end as batsmen came and went. He was left stranded on cricket's most celebrated number, 111, when the Indian innings ended, his four partners – starting with Dhoni

and ending with Sreesanth – unable to keep up. 

 

The only way Harbhajan has let Indian cricket down over the years is with his inability to embrace the mantle of 'senior' player. His obsession with himself has prevented a change of image, an improvement in stature as he's grown older, unlike Zaheer Khan, for example, who's now an elder statesman for all upcoming fast bowlers. 
 

Things had reached a point when we'd given up on Harbhajan ever graduating to the next level. But perhaps he deserves another chance. For, if Harbhajan can one fine day shed his helicopter blades, who knows what else he's capable of. 

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EDITORIAL

TOO MANY RAJAS

EMPOWER ANTI-CORRUPTION SYSTEMS AND INSTITUTIONS

 

The decision of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to ask its minister in the government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), A Raja, to step down should be welcomed. The UPA and the DMK may not have come to this pass if in May 2009 they had respected the opinion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and kept Mr Raja out of the Union Council of Ministers. The very fact that the prime minister did not want T R Baalu and Mr Raja in his reconstituted Council of ministers in May 2009 should have been warning enough both to the DMK and the UPA that the PM knew a thing or two about their record in office in the first UPA government. By blackmailing the UPA with the threat of remaining outside the government, the DMK managed to exert enough pressure on the prime minister, directly and indirectly, to get him to soften his stance and admit Mr Raja in. By refusing to use its political levers in Tamil Nadu, where a minority DMK government rules at the sufferance of the Congress party, the latter either weakened itself or may well have enriched itself. To imagine that Mr Raja's ignominious exit would be the end of high-level corruption in government would be more than naïve. But his exit should help chasten the other "Rajas" in office, not just at the Centre but also in states across the country.

 

Political parties must recognise that middle class anger against high-level corruption is on the rise. It is easy to be cynical about the pervasiveness of corruption in public life, but it is important to recognise that there are, in fact, some very honourable exceptions to the rule and these exceptions must be celebrated and empowered, so that the reign of those who represent the "rule" ends. For every Raja in public life, there is a counterpoise. Indeed, within the Union council of ministers, there are honest ministers who do an honest day's job. Among India's chief ministers too, there are some honourable men, though sadly not too many honourable women! A coalition of the honourable must come together and alter the country's political language. Institutions that deal with corruption in public life must be strengthened. Regulatory institutions must be properly manned and allowed to function professionally. There is no short cut in the fight against organised corruption. It is such initiatives that will ring truer rather than the meaningless demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC). While the principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, does have a marginally better record in dealing with political corruption than the Congress, and many of its chief ministers have a better track record, the fact is that all political parties have been tarred with the same brush. A JPC cannot inspire public confidence. Rather, strengthening institutions like the central vigilance commission, the comptroller and auditor general of India, the central bureau of investigation and such like would go a longer way in restoring people's faith in government. Hopefully, the country will see more of such initiatives from the prime minister.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SOCIALLY USELESS VEHICLES

ALL ENERGY SUBSIDIES ARE A BAD IDEA ANYWAY

 

Indian automobile makers predictably, and the German ambassador somewhat unpredictably, have taken exception to environment minister Jairam Ramesh's objection to the owners of costly, large and heavy private cars, called SUVs (sport utility vehicles), benefiting from the subsidy given to diesel. German sentiments need to be placated first. Mr Ramesh is unlikely to have sought to criticise German automobile technology per se as polluting. In all likelihood, he mentioned brands like Mercedes and BMW because they have become synonymous with luxury cars, a space in which not only have the US auto majors lost out, but even fine names like Volvo and Jaguar are not top of the mind. In fact, Mr Ramesh should use another occasion soon to acknowledge what European and Japanese auto makers have done for compact, fuel-efficient cars — a segment that excludes SUVs.

 

Mr Ramesh's point is simple and irrefutable. A subsidy meant to help the poor who use public transport, farmers who grow food to ensure national food security and goods transport is obviously not efficiently designed if it benefits rich people who own big, posh cars, deliberately styled heavily to convey a sense of power as an SUV is. Neither should it benefit rich farmers — they don't even pay any income tax — who profit by selling groundwater, raised by using subsidised diesel, to neighbouring farmers. SUVs in particular, sporting pointless heavy, shiny fenders, have legitimately been pilloried for being over-designed ever since global warming became an issue. There is no need, in the present context, to go into the controversy over whether diesel is more polluting than petrol because petrol is not subsidised. It is also a bit self-serving for Indian auto makers to argue for a "cash for clunkers" scheme, which will boost sales through subsidies, when the specific issue is large cars which are inherent gas guzzlers. A subsidy for scrapping old cars that are energy-inefficient makes some sense, though not much. The top priority in this regard should be to go after car and truck owners who do not meet emission norms. When were you last stopped and asked to produce a valid emission test certificate? The entirely sensible import of Mr Ramesh's comment is that the diesel subsidy needs to be properly designed. The government has moved in the right direction by raising the tax on bigger cars but as the Centre for Science and Environment has pointed out, this is peanuts compared to what owners of such cars get back via diesel subsidy. So, what more can be done? One way is to simply reduce the subsidy since it is significantly misdirected. Another can be to levy a lower tax rate on the profits of companies specifically engaged in public transport, like the owners of bus and truck fleets. This leaves out the many who own just one truck or a few. Since such trucks are also mostly older and more polluting, subsidy for scrapping "clunkers" can begin with them. This can go some way in pacifying this particularly obstreperous group of small businessmen who will be up in arms as soon as subsidy goes down and diesel prices go up.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE COST OF US' FREE LUNCH

AMERICA MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN JOB CREATION AND CHEAP FINANCING OF ITS EXTERNAL AND FISCAL DEFICITS

DANIEL GROS

 

For decades, the world has complained that the dollar's role as global reserve currency has given the United States, in a term usually attributed to Charles de Gaulle but actually coined by his finance minister Valery Giscard d'Estaing, an "exorbitant privilege". As long as exchange rates were fixed under the Bretton Woods system, the nature of that privilege was clear: the US was the only country that could freely determine its own monetary policy. All others had to adapt to the policy dictated by the US.

 

This changed with the advent of floating exchange rates in the early 1970s, which allowed more stability-conscious countries, such as Germany, to decouple from a US monetary policy that they considered too inflationary. But, even under floating exchange rates, the US retained an advantage: given that the dollar remained the key global reserve currency, the US could finance large external deficits at very favourable rates.

 

 Today, the US Treasury can still borrow unlimited amounts at rock-bottom interest rates. Indeed, the interest rate on inflation-protected bonds has now become -0.5 per cent, even for a five-year maturity! The US government is thus essentially being paid in real terms to take investors' money — a generous offer that it is accepting on a huge scale, in the hope that channelling these resources to American consumers will boost household spending and thus generate more jobs.

 

The US seems to have come as close as one can imagine to getting the proverbial "free lunch" — except that, as economists are fond of pointing out, there is no such thing. And that is true here as well: performing the role of reserve currency enables the US to borrow on the cheap, but at the cost of any significant influence over the exchange rate, which is determined by the rest of the world's demand for dollar assets.

 

Germany discovered this during the 1960s and 1970s, and resisted the Deutsche mark's (DM's) trend toward becoming an international reserve currency. The German authorities feared that the country's export-oriented economy would suffer from the wide exchange-rate swings that are the norm for global reserve currencies. Given the weakness of other European currencies, however, and Germany's desire to keep markets open, there was very little that its officials could do.

 

As the DM became a major international reserve currency during the 1980s and 1990s, large gyrations in the dollar exchange rate did, indeed, have at times a dramatic impact on the German economy. One reason why Germany agreed to merge the DM into the euro was the hope that a monetary union would distribute the burden of the reserve-currency role over a wider area.

 

The US economy is still rather closed (imports and exports account on average for only about 15 per cent of GDP), and historically exports have never been the main engine of its growth. This is why the traditional US stance has been: "It is our exchange rate, but your problem."

 

So, why is the US now singing a different tune? The answer is obvious: America's high unemployment rate, which hovers between 9 per cent and 10 per cent. This is the price that the US must pay for its lunch: Americans can continue to consume a lot, but the jobs are elsewhere.

 

Today, China has replaced Germany (and Japan) as the world's top exporter — but with one difference: it manages its exchange rate tightly, using capital controls and massive intervention in currency markets. As the only major economy with capital controls, China has created its own "exorbitant privilege": it can determine its exchange rate because no other big countries impose capital controls.

 

The two global economic superpowers resent each other's "exorbitant privilege". The US would like to have the Chinese jobs, and the Chinese would like to have better investment opportunities. Neither side is budging, although either could easily break the impasse.

 

The Chinese could abolish capital controls and let the renminbi's exchange rate float. But the US could easily end China's privilege by restricting sales of Treasury (and other US) debt to Chinese monetary authorities. In doing so, the US would break no international commitments and would not start a trade war. Such a move is likely to be effective, given the sheer size of Chinese interventions (hundreds of billions of US dollars annually), which could not easily be recycled through offshore banks without exposing China's central bank to many other risks.

 

Prohibiting the Chinese authorities from buying US debt would, of course, be tantamount to imposing capital controls, thereby breaking China's monopoly on such instruments. But it might also mean an end to America's position at the centre of the world's financial system — and thus an end to its own "exorbitant privilege".

 

There really is no free lunch. The US must choose between job creation, which requires a more competitive exchange rate, and cheap financing of its external and fiscal deficits.

 

While China and the US battle it out, each trying to retain its own "exorbitant privilege", Europe seems to be stuck in the middle, suffering from the same disadvantages of the US position, but enjoying none of its privileges. The euro is also a global reserve currency (albeit of secondary importance), but most eurozone governments' financing costs are much higher than what the US Treasury pays. This is one of the costs of the incomplete nature of financial integration in Europe.

 

The author is director of the Centre for European Policy Studies

© Project Syndicate, 2010www.project-syndicate.org 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE ELEPHANTS ARE MATING

THE ARDOUR AND PACE OF THE US-INDIA COURTSHIP HAVE BEEN APPARENTLY MASKED BY THE FRICTION THAT HAS ACCOMPANIED THEM

AJAI SHUKLA

 

Sceptics of the US-India engagement, who had contemplated President Obama's recent state visit to India with noisy lip-smacking in the gleeful anticipation of failure, have been left bemused by the outcome. On the one hand, there was friction and public jostling, including American-style homilies on free trade and the duty to foster democracy in Myanmar; and Indian-style obstinacy on the nuclear liability Bill. On the other hand, Obama greatly pleased India by linking Pakistan with terrorism, and by backing an Indian permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

 

 Welcome to elephant mating, the coming together of fractious democracies. The grass gets trampled, but there are tangible, positive outcomes. A polarised Indian intelligentsia, and a trivialising media, which have made an easy living from milking positional divergences to predict doom for the US-India relationship, must learn to abandon such simplistic linkages. Trampled grass could also indicate a great communion.

 

The ardour and pace of the US-India courtship have been apparently masked by the friction that has accompanied them. Compare the relationship of a decade ago — the blink of an eye in strategic time — with where we are today. In 1999, reacting to India's nuclear weapon tests, Republican Senator Jesse Helms, the influential chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declared that "The Indian government has not shot itself in the foot. Most likely it has shot itself in the head." That quixotic statement was positively respectful compared to America's Cold War view of India. On November 5, 1971, as India readied for war with Pakistan, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger heartily agreed that Indians were "a slippery treacherous people" and "the most aggressive goddam people around". Kissinger referred to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as "a bitch"; Nixon termed her "an old witch".

 

All that ice is turning rapidly into steam. From Jaswant Singh's dialogue with Strobe Talbott, through the Clinton and Bush visits, the July 18, 2005 declaration; the defence pact of that same year, the nuclear deal of 2008, and now Obama's cool-but-enthusiastic embrace of India, US-India relations have hurtled along dizzyingly. But India's strateratti has been so fixated on the inevitable differences, while Washington and New Delhi try to harmonise issues like (a) commercial and trade relations; (b) civil nuclear commerce; (c) intelligence-sharing and homeland security; (d) defence trade and partnership; and (e) technology-sharing; that analysts have overlooked the convergence on the really big issues: counter-terrorism, intelligence-sharing, a rising China, India's ambitions in the Indian Ocean and East Asia, and — in private discussions — even on the future of Pakistan.

 

The US-India relationship will continue to be misread until India recognises that relations with a democratic superpower — tossed about by the expectations of two separate electorates — will be inevitably more complex than the stolid handshake of the Soviet Union, or the posturing and sloganeering of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

 

India's expectations from the American partnership remain coloured by the India-Soviet Union experience, where superpower partnership was essentially a free ride. During the Cold War, India had only to provide the Soviet Union with the badge of political support from a third world leader, to reap rich dividends of development, technological and military aid. This was often politically embarrassing, especially when the Soviet Union indulged its proclivity for invading neighbouring countries, but New Delhi held its nose and shut its eyes, and was repaid by unwavering Soviet support at crucial periods, such as the 1971 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, Article IX which invoked Soviet intervention if a foreign power — China and the US were key concerns then — intervened militarily during India's liberation of Bangladesh.

 

Today, with India's foreign policy based on simultaneous, and synergistic, engagement with every global power centre — call it multi-alignment — New Delhi's careful engagement of Washington is radically different from its old, no-questions-asked support to Moscow. Not even the staunchest enthusiast of US-India partnership advocates that New Delhi hitches its wagon — poodle style — to Washington, backing its foreign policy follies and participating in its military adventures. But Indian expectations are asymmetric: many Indians expect that New Delhi can legitimately choose where it will support Washington, but the US must support India everywhere.

 

While this is clearly unrealistic, America's image in this country is challenged by the fact that Washington's imperatives in AfPak — an emotive symbol in much of India and, especially in policy and media circles — are damaging to Indian interests. Diplomats contrast this with the Soviet Union, recalling its hands-off policy towards South Asia, and correctly pointing out that Moscow never imposed political costs on India by its actions in our region. But the world has changed, our backyard is a key battleground against terrorism, and so pragmatism, not petulance, will bring Washington around.

 

Given Pakistan's control over land routes into Afghanistan, there is a practical logic behind Washington's tolerance for Islamabad, even knowing that it is being backstabbed. That contradiction between America's imperatives in Afghanistan and its frustration at Islamabad's double-dealing will work to India's advantage after a US military pullout. But India has its own contradictions: New Delhi wants US troops to remain in Afghanistan, knowing well the dependence this creates on Pakistan. These complexities make AfPak the most challenging of diplomatic tightropes for Washington and New Delhi. That Obama publicly linked Pakistan with terrorism may have gratified his hosts, but that statement says less about any willingness to block India-directed terror, than it does about Washington's intense desire to place the India relationship on a firmer footing. Post-Obama, the partnership is in cruise mode, being carried along by the sheer breadth of the engagement, especially the people-to-people dynamic. All that can derail this momentum is another major blunder like Obama's ill-considered G2 offer to China, essentially offering it the role of assistant superpower, which would presumably lord it over India. But Obama, it seems, is learning on the job.

 

ajaishukla.blogspot.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

FISHING FOR FOOD SECURITY

BOOSTING FISH PRODUCTION CAN HELP INDIA ALLEVIATE NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY IN A BIG WAY

SURINDER SUD

 

The green revolution has largely mitigated food security concerns even though flawed distribution and food inflation keep a section of the population underfed. However, nutritional security still eludes most people, including many of those who eat enough cereal.

 

Much of this nutritional deficiency is the result of an insufficient intake or the consumption of poor-quality protein. Food scientists believe that promoting fish consumption can play a key role in alleviating protein deficiency and consolidating nutritional security. It is worth noting that fishery production has, in any case, been growing much faster than foodgrain output. Most of the increase has come from inland fisheries, aquaculture or farmed fisheries, with an output (around 4.3 million tonnes) that exceeds that of marine fisheries (3 million tonnes). Equally significantly, the overall fish catch from the seas has almost stopped growing, but inland fisheries maintain a healthy annual growth of nearly 6 per cent.

 

According to Dr B Meenakumari, deputy director-general (fisheries) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the stagnation of marine fishing is the result of irresponsible fishing and over-exploitation of coastal marine resources. Even tiny and underdeveloped fish, which ought not to be caught, are not spared. There are no restrictions on the number of fishing vessels that can operate in the oceans. As a result, too many fishing boats scout for increasingly meagre resources.

 

Wild catch from the rivers and other inland water bodies are also declining largely because of mismanagement, poor upkeep of ponds and degradation in the quality of water in river systems from pollutants. The silver lining, however, is that cultured fish farming is growing fast thanks to the availability of better aquaculture technology. If the current trend of aquaculture production is sustained, the country's projected fish demand of 12 million tonnes in ten years will be met.

 

Nutritionally, fish is far superior to other vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. Meenakumari reckons fish protein as unique because of its excellent nutritive value, high digestibility and the presence of all essential amino acids in the desired proportion.

 

Plants-based foodstuffs do not offer all essential amino acids in a single source. Legumes (pulses) lack methionine, a crucial amino acid, and cereals generally do not have enough lysine, another key amino acid. Besides, the digestibility of the protein of most species of fish is more than 90 per cent, far higher than that of the proteins from other sources.

 

For those facing the risk of heart ailments from high cholesterol or blood pressure, fish and its products are of immense value. Research studies worldwide have endorsed the benefits of fish oils in case of heart diseases. It has been found that the fish oils do not have any impact on the low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol), but they do enhance the high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good cholesterol). This increase could be up to 10 per cent.

 

Besides, fish fats are known also to prevent the aggregation of platelets in the blood, lessening the risk of heart problems. This apart, global studies have also indicated a modest drop in blood pressure following the intake of fish oil from people suffering from high blood pressure.

 

Fish consumption also reduces the risk of Alzheimer's among the elderly. Those who eat fish at least once a week have a 50 per cent lower chances of suffering from this disease.

 

Given such far-reaching health benefits of fish and its products, promoting fisheries should be a vital part of the overall strategy to improve nutritional security. The increased availability of fish and fish products, moreover, will help stabilise their prices, making them affordable for common people.

 

Luckily, a good deal of indigenous technology for boosting productivity of fresh and brackish water fisheries has already been generated by the country's scientists. The need is to capitalise on this technology to bring about a fisheries revolution.

 

surinder.sud@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MAKING 'HAY' WHILE THE SUN SHINES

NILANJANA S ROY

 

On the second day of the Hay-on-Thiru festival in Kerala, there's a quiet moment that sums up something of the extraordinary spirit that drives the intellectual franchise known as the Hay festivals, wherever they are in the world.

 

The day's events, readings and debates are done, a brief spell of Kerala rain has provided relief from the afternoon's muggy heat, and out at Kovalam beach, the fellowship of writers are settling down to dinner. That's when Peter Florence, director and founder of the Hay festivals, asks us all to raise a glass, and salute the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese dissident leader, from her 15 years of house arrest. There's a brief moment of silence and celebration, a small space in the hectic whirl of the festival, as we contemplate the price one woman has paid for expressing dissent and for staying true to her values.

 

 Over the three days of Hay-on-Thiru, small moments like this will recur. It happens when the fiery Tamil writer Charu Nivedita questions the way politicians operate in his part of the world, when Basharat Peer patiently explains to an audience on the other side of India how growing up in the besieged world of Kashmir might radicalise a teenager's perspective, when the historian Simon Schama urges Barack Obama to hold to his ideals, when Tarun Tejpal, Meghnad Desai and others debate the harsh realities behind the India Shining myth.

"Do we really need two circus acts," a somewhat jaded journalist asks at the start of Hay-on-Thiru. She's referring to the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which has spawned a host of smaller literary festivals in its wake, from Kovalam to the recent Bombay Lavasa festival. The similarities between Hay-on-Thiru and the JLF are obvious, heightened by the fact that they share a production team, and that one of the JLF directors, Namita Gokhale, is also an adviser for Hay. And while Jaipur is currently the larger "circus", the Hay and Jaipur programmes have resonances: both festivals aim to be festivals of ideas as much as celebrations of literature, and both have a judicious mix of international and local Indian writers.

 

The local flavour is apparent at the Kannakkakunnu Palace, a sprawling, sleepy, chandelier-heavy mansion perched on top of a gentle hill. Sister Jesme, the nun whose autobiography rocked the Catholic world in Kerala, is thrilled to be photographed alongside the film star Mammooty; Shashi Tharoor and his wife Sunanda add their particular brand of glamour to the proceedings; and writers like Paul Zachariah and N S Madhavan draw large, and deeply engaged, audiences. But despite the bonhomie on the lawns, the appams-and-seer fish curry at lunch, and the Bob Geldof concert on the last evening where Sting makes a surprise appearance, Hay-on-Thiru has a more solemn feel to it than Jaipur's garden-party atmosphere. Literature is serious business in Kerala, and Thiruvananthapuram likes a certain formality. Which doesn't prevent Vikram Seth from delighting his audience with impromptu couplets and an instant haiku in honour of A Suitable Boy: "It is sixteen years on/ from that rather fat book/ I wrote." Or Simon Schama from running elegantly through a historian's alphabet (A for Afghanistan, B for Boston Red Sox, D for Decline and Fall) in a bravura performance. Globalisation and GM foods find a place alongside poetry readings; Bob Geldof makes an impassioned, articulate and relatively profanity-free argument for the necessity of development aid; and from Mexico and the Philippines, Jorge Volpi and Miguel Syjuco conduct a kind of jugalbandhi on post-colonialism.

 

There is, as there was in the first few years of Jaipur, ample room for conversation, and some of the best ones happen as writers find common ground in the quiet spaces in between sessions. The best part of the festival is the students, and the families who trail in from the DC Book Fair next door (where the chili pakoras and the kappa biryani were selling as briskly as the Che Guevara biographies). It is their curiosity and their intense questions that really make the sessions.

Hay-on-Thiru will find its identity and its audience over the next few years, and that may well yield, given the cultural differences between the North and the South of India, a slightly more formal festival — a gathering of writer's clans rather than the dazzling circus of Jaipur. And if it does turn into a circus, I'm reminded of the young student who said: "We are hungry not just for books and reading, but for discussion. Here, we feel that we can listen, and we can also share what is on our minds." That space deserves any number of circus tents, pitched anywhere in India.

 

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com

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GOOD RIDDANCE

NOW MOVE ON TO EFFICIENT TELECOM


IT IS wholly welcome that the political process has obtained the ouster of A Raja as telecom minister. The Opposition can take legitimate credit for this achievement but should now allow Parliament to do its work, instead of stalling it to get a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) formed on the subject. The government has logic on its side when it questions the need for a JPC, as the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which has catalysed Mr Raja's exit, will, in any case, be examined by a committee of Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The PAC is headed by seasoned Opposition leader Murli Manohar Joshi. Why the presumptions, one, that the PAC will fail to investigate the matter adequately, and two, that a JPC would succeed where the PAC is bound to fail? Mr Raja's record of arbitrary and opaque functioning and unduly benefiting certain parties had elicited widespread condemnation, an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation and refusal by the Prime Minister to publicly defend his minister's integrity. He deserved to go. That said, it would be a big mistake to take for granted the policy matrix underlying the estimated loss to the exchequer of . 1,76,000 crore arising from Mr Raja's policies. It is possible to argue that a policy of jacking up spectrum costs, so as to maximise short-term government revenue, would depress economic growth and tax collections below their peak potential, achievable only by fast spread of low-cost telecom services riding on low-cost spectrum. The impact of high spectrum fees on the profits and market valuations of widely-held telecom companies would need to be factored in. Arbitrary allocation of licences is enough to nail Mr Raja, without committing the Opposition to a policy paradigm that is antigrowth and, therefore, anti-people, just to give gloss to a corruption charge against the government.

 

Parliament should spend its energies on devising a pro-growth spectrum policy while the CBI and the courts, besides the PAC, deal with Mr Raja. India needs to move away from inefficient granting of dedicated spectrum to each telecom player and invest in technology that grants all telecom players dynamic, non-exclusive, pay-as-you-go access to all the available spectrum, to minimise the cost of communication services. Such a model is technologically viable but has been hostage to commercial interests so far.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

AUNG SAN SUU KYI

A LITTLE SUNSHINE IN MYANMAR


MYANMAR'S pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally walks free. She is entirely right to talk of dialogue with the military junta but the release of this political prisoner, who has spent 15 of the last 21 years in jail, does not legitimise the junta's token obeisance to democracy. Last Sunday's elections showed the biggest military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) secure a majority in both houses of parliament. Though the junta projected the elections, the first in 20 years, as a transition from military rule to civilian democracy, the opposition and many western governments and human rights groups allege they were neither free nor fair. In fact, they were boycotted by Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). Though there is no official word on whether her release comes with strings attached, the daughter of Burma's independence hero, General Aung San, is not expected to accept a conditional release that excludes her from political activity. The NLD had won a landslide victory in the elections in 1990, but was not allowed to take over. The new Constitution reserves a quarter of seats in the two new chambers of parliament for the military. A constitutional change will require a majority of more than 75%, which means the military will retain a casting vote. Nonetheless, the junta's decision reveals a small, but welcome, chink in its armour. 

 

A long and porous border in a region where insurgent groups abound and China's determination to gain a strategic foothold in every one of India's neighbours rule out democracy serving as the sole determinant of India's policy towards Myanmar. However, Ms Suu Kyi's release, with its potential to lead on to a regime change, means that even realpolitik dictates a more guarded engagement with the junta ruling Myanmar.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CASH FOR VOTES

WELL WITHIN THE POLITICIANS' REMIT


 INDIANS may get an idea or two from the coming presidential election in Haiti that has seen clever candidates hoofing it across the seas to the US as part of their campaign. Indian parliamentarians find all sorts of reasons to go to various corners of the world, 'fact-finding missions' being the most commonly-proffered reason. Haitians have, however, added a new objective for these foreign expeditions: to garner votes from influential non-residents, even if they are not voters. With the hue and cry growing louder about the funding of elections here, and with the Election Commission cracking down on shady practices such as the movement of large amounts of cash during campaigns, Haiti has offered harried but well-heeled Indian political hopefuls a novel solution: get non-residents to do the persuading. It is estimated that the million or so Haitians living in the US send around $1 billion back home every year, and their goal has been to get them to send a canvassing caveat for their favoured candidate along with their cash remittances. It has been estimated that a single non-resident Haitian (NRH) can 'influence' around 10 other family members, friends and associates back home, which would pretty much cover the entire 10 million population of the country. That makes every foreign 'election meeting' of even 200 NRHs a very profitable and worthwhile proposition indeed. 

 

Though non-resident Indians do not have the same kind of power over their resident brethren after the country's post-reform prosperity and heightened sense of self-worth, it could still be an option that some bright politicians — especially ones with fungible funds — may consider. The Election Commission may, therefore, be well advised to keep an eye on this contingency as well, in its drive to keep polls on the straight and narrow.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY MATTERS

THE RANKING OF STATES ALTERS DRAMATICALLY WHEN VIEWED BY GDP DENSITY, OR GDP PER SQ KM, AND THIS MEASURE OF A STATE'S REVENUE POTENTIAL IS OFTEN IGNORED, SAY G VENKATESH, KALA S SRIDHAR & V SRIDHAR


 THE recent controversy with regard to computation of the GDP raises some issues. Is GDP always the appropriate indicator to measure the economic activity of a country or a region? Why is it important for us to have a geographical perspective on this aggregate measure of economic activity? Economic activity clearly is much more intense near oceans, or, if inland, along navigable rivers where transportation by ship is feasible. The best example of capitalising on the geography of a place for furthering economic activity is China's special economic zones, which India is now trying to emulate. The 2009 World Development Report highlights the fact that since the 1990s, millions of Chinese workers have migrated to get closer to economic opportunity concentrated along the coast. 

 

 John Gallup, Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Mellinger in 1999 introduced the concept of 'GDP density', calculated by multiplying GDP per capita by the number of people per square kilometre. Defined in this way, GDP density is a measure of economic activity by area. One of the original purposes for deriving this measure was to study the role of geography in economic development. As described by Sachs, et al, one finding is that the great majority of the poorest countries lie in the geographical tropics, the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. In contrast, most of the richest countries lie in the temperate zones as well as along coastal areas. Reasons for these differences are discussed by the authors. 

 

Taking this geographical measure, we find that the GDP density in China presents a declining trend from the southeast to the northwest of China. In fact, China is divided into five grades of GDP density. While the GDP density for India, based on 1999 data, was roughly $117.204 (based on an exchange rate of $1= . 46.37), we found that there are no recent estimates of GDP density at the subnational level for Indian states. 

 

Based on data from the Central Statistical Organisation, we computed and examined GDP density for all Indian states in constant 1999-00 prices from 1999-00 to 2009-10, and compared this with GDP per capita for the states over the same period. The findings are interesting. If we were to take GDP per capita, the bottom states were Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (both in 1999-00 and 2006-07). 

 

 Also, West Bengal is at 16 and 17 respectively (based on 1999-00 and 2006-07 GDP per capita). However, if we were to take our new geographical measure, GDP density, into account, MP,UPandBiharareinthetop15states (their ranking being eight, 12 and 14, respectively). West Bengal's rank moves up to six (both in terms of its 1999-00 and 2006-07 GDP density). Madhya Pradesh's GDP density is higher than India's national average, being $310.402 (in 1999, in 1999-00 constant prices). So is Uttar Pradesh's ($156.186 in 1999 in 1999-00 constant prices) when compared with the national average for that year (Bihar's is slightly lower than the national average for that year, being $114.911). 

 

This implies that these states have a smaller area in relation to their economic activity. While Goa and Delhi are the top ones in terms of GDP per capita, Delhi, Chandigarh and Puducherry are the richest in terms of GDP per square kilometre (GDP density). Thus, Goa moves out of the top three league when GDP density is taken into account. 

 

THE above implies that GDP density is a much more important measure of economic activity for the poorer states. This is so because the data shows that while the areas are relatively poor, economic activity in these states is quite high in relation to their geographical area. This is important to know because of the implications for service provision, along with others. Given density varies across regions much more than GDP per capita, it tends to have a larger effect on income per unit area — the most important variable in determining the feasibility of public network access. 

 

Take the example of telecom. Economies of density are an important characteristic that defines cost per line in the provision of telecom. 'Cherry-picking' high average revenue per user (ARPU) in select high density locations is a strategy successfully adopted by private competitive fixed-line telecom service providers in the country to reduce breakeven time from six-seven years down to one-two years. The current categories of telecom circles of A, B and C in India are based on revenue potential for telecom services (with circle A having the most revenue potential and circle C, the least). This classification is the basis of varying licence rates (10%, 8% and 6% of adjusted gross revenue) and varying reserve prices (. 320, . 120 and . 30 crore, respectively) for the recently concluded 3G auction. 

 

However, a look at the GDP density for these states shows some surprising findings. The category B circles of Haryana, Kerala and Punjab lead in GDP density over all the category A circles of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra (including Mumbai) and Tamil Nadu. This implies that the potential for recovering the cost of service provision in these 'poor revenue potential' states is better than what is perceived to be the case. Based on this, a relook at the categorisation of circles as envisioned in the basic, cellular and unified access service licence guidelines, might be needed. 

 

Thus far, cross-country econometric models of growth have focused only on GDP per capita as a variable to be explained. But we believe that geography continues to matter importantly for economic development along with economic and political institutions. From an analytical point of view, we believe that geographical considerations should be reintroduced into econometric and theoretical studies of cross-country economic growth, which so far have almost completely neglected geographical themes. 

 

(G Venkatesh and V Sridhar are with     Sasken Communication Technologies and     Kala S Sridhar is with Public Affairs   Centre. Views are personal.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

TH RO U G H TH E TH I R D EYE

RETURN GIFT 

 

THE Congress managers making use of the DMK-AIADMK competitive bidding for grand-old party (GOP) support to trip spectrum-hit Raja also marked a role-reversal. Congress insiders recall how Karunanidhi had been 'indulging in blackmail' to spike the Congress demand for Raja's scalp. Just six weeks ago, a top Congress leader met the DMK chief somewhere in Tamil Nadu and suggested that Karunanidhi 'withdraw' Raja from the Union Cabinet. The octogenarian CM replied he would 'rather withdraw all the seven DMK ministers' from Team Manmohan. Knowing the CM was hinting at a DMK pullout from the UPA, the seasoned Congress leader chose not to press the topic. But as Jayalalithaa turned the poll heat on DMK, Congress managers knew it was time to return the compliment to Karunanidhi. Ironically, it was the same Congress leader who delivered the 'choose between Raja and Congress support' message to the cornered DMK chief. 

 

INVISIBLE TROUBLES 

 THE audacious Jayalalithaa move to give a televised political partner-swapping offer to the Congress has left many GOP leaders coy, given their cultivated taste for deal-making in the silence of political cellars. Though enjoying the spectacle of two Dravidian parties doing a musical chairs act around it, the Congress is in no hurry to tango with Jaya. Yet, tension is mounting in the Opposition camps, busy 'mobilising forces' against the 'scam-hit UPA regime'. After all, what is the fun of this 'all-out anti-corruption crusade' if it could only inspire the likes of Jaya to flirt with the UPA! Worse, there is total confusion after Jaya claimed her nine-member AIADMK altogether has 18 MPs ready to back the Congress! Some opposition leaders are now trying to figure out who these 'invisible Congress friends' in their court are. The inbuilt burden of an anti-scam crusade? 

 

Patent matters 

SAM Pitroda, at the India innovation awards function, recounted how a patent of his helped him restart afresh. In 1974, Pitroda had fixed up a dinner meet and made a note of it in his diary, but forgot about it till the guest showed up. That made him think about an electronic diary that could alert one about appointments. Pitroda also got a patent registered for his idea. When he returned to the US in the late 1980s after a stint with Rajiv Gandhi, he found there were at least six brands of electronic diaries in the market. So, he wrote to the manufacturers about his patent but none of them replied. Pitroda then sued them — Casio, Toshiba and others — in a Chicago court. On receiving the legal notice, they sought an out-of-court settlement with Pitroda, who received a 'little money', enough to start his business operations again. 

 

Fencing around 

LYRICIST and Rajya Sabha member Javed Akhtar and his wife Shabana Azmi reached the Central Hall a good two hours ahead of the Obama's address. Incidentally, the Akhtar-Azmi liking for Obama coincides with the rising Left confusion about which side of the fence the duo are now. The Left always behaved as if Azmi (nominated to RS during UPA-1, supposedly on the Left's prompting) and Akhtar, were their very own fellow-travellers, more so given the ideological affiliations of Kaifi Azmi and Jan Nisar Akhtar. The Left got the first jab when Akhtar got nominated to RS with Congress patronage just when the comrades were busy licking their 'nuclear wounds'. The couple were also part of Manmohan Singh's select guest list for the Obama dinner, at which the Left was left out. If the latter still doesn't get the hint, one can ask if anyone spotted an 'Akhtar-Azmi solidarity show' at the Left demo against 'imperialist Obama'?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

DOING BIZ IN INDIA: RETURN OF THE RAJ?

SUDHIR KAPADIA 

 

POST liberalisation, the time has come for India's policymakers to reflect on what should be the next level to aim for and achieve in terms of ease of doing business in India. It is here that the landscape seems to get grey with dismal indicators like the Ease of Doing Business Survey ranking India at 133rd place out of 183 countries (IFC World Bank Survey, 2010) and Transparency International Survey ranking India at 87th place out of 187 countries in the corruption index. While it has become easier to embark upon an enterprise in India without waiting for a licence from the central government, when it comes to actual setting up and operating it at a ground level, there are significant challenges that businesses in India have to overcome to survive and thrive. It is significant to note that Singapore stands at top of the heap at ranking number 1 for ease of doing business and China stands at 89th place, which is still way ahead of India.Regulatory framework:Governments of countries across the world have recognised the need to put in place and enforce a system of strict regulations to monitor and 'tame' unscrupulous business practices to ensure that the average citizen's faith in the business and financial community remains intact (which is so critical to the efficient functioning of the capital markets and the banking and financial systems of a country). The perils of a light touch regulatory environment have again been well-chronicled in the light of financial markets tsunami witnessed in the last two years. Having said this, mature and progressive countries recognise that regulations should be firm in their intent, transparent and clear in what is sought to be enforced, while at the same time providing an enabling environment for legitimate businesses to operate with relative ease and flexibility. 

 

Recent regulatory developments in the Indian scenario, while well-intentioned, do seem to border dangerously on the interventionist side. The Companies Bill, 2009, for instance, has several provisions that seem to restrict flexibility of India Inc to organise its businesses. There is a proposal to restrict the formation of step down subsidiaries and investment companies severely impairing the flexibility of business operations of Indian companies. Similarly, it proposes a panel of independent directors to be maintained by the ministry of corporate affairs out of which companies may choose their requirement of independent directors. 

 

This again appears to be a case of legal activism and a suspicion in the minds of India Inc that it's a ploy to bring government nominees in companies in the private sector. The Bill also contains restrictions on the number of independent directors, their remuneration and tenure, etc, rather than leaving these matters to be decided by the shareholders and board of a company. 

 

There are other regulatory developments like certain provisions in the Competition Act and the General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) in the proposed Direct Taxes Code (DTC) which would severely constrain business decision-making and lead to unavoidable delays in critical cases. As is well-known, the speed of execution in decisions is a fundamental need for success in business whether in India or abroad and everything should be done to remove any fetters coming in the way of India Inc in this regard. 

 

Administration: Whilst the liberalisation of policy has proceeded fairly progressively, commensurate reforms and liberalisation of the administration have not happened. As the surveys mentioned above indicate, both the perceptions of the business community at large and the actual on the ground experiences play an important role in judging the quality of business environment in a country. One consistent feedback that emerges here is the worry of indiscriminate application of increasing stringent laws and regulations causing unintended hardships even in genuine cases of bona fide business behaviour. For instance, GAAR provisions under DTC ought to be applied selectively in cases where there is a clear attempt to avoid tax on transactions entered without any commercial motive, rather than indiscriminately. 

 Similarly there is an urgent and pressing need for judicial reforms to be accelerated to ensure speedy resolution of disputes both under commercial as well as tax laws. Businesses hate uncertainty and inordinate delays. As a corollary, businesses love certainty and knowing what works and what does not work while engaging in business in a country. It is not surprising in this regard that a country like Singapore has emerged as number 1 country for ease of doing business. 

 

Conclusion: We have an unparalleled opportunity to maximise the positivity surrounding India as an attractive destination in which to do business by taking firm initiatives in removing some of these hurdles and signalling strongly to the business community that the government means business and is committed and determined to removing obstacles for legitimate business to thrive and prosper in the Indian economy.

 

Some recent regulatory legislations in the country do seem to border on the interventionist side 
Reforms and liberalisation of the administration have not happened in tandem with liberalisation in policy 
Judicial reforms have also not kept pace to ensure the speedy resolution of commercial as well as tax disputes

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

NOT BORN FREE AT ALL, IT SEEMS

MUKUL SHARMA 

 

DOCTRINAL reincarnation raises a problem when it says that depending on one's misdeeds and bad karma, a soul may be reborn either in a human body or as an animal. The reason is, a human reincarnate still has the opportunity to nullify its flawed nature by better behaviour and by dint of possessing awareness, judgement and reasoning whereas an animal has no such options.So, when the doctrine asserts that being reborn as an animal is a serious spiritual setback, it's actually understating the argument because being an animal means remaining and rebirthing as an animal for all eternity. 

 

Not much is spoken about this, although it's still tacitly acknowledged as a dilemma. For instance, because animals are not able to engage in conscious acts of self-improvement and, therefore, can't advance their karmic status, Buddhists in the past tended to believe that they were somehow inferior to human beings and so were entitled to fewer rights. Also, according to them, the best an animal could hope for was to continue to be reborn as an animal until all its bad karma was exhausted since only when it was finally reborn as a human could it resume the quest for nirvana. 

 

This, however, still doesn't explain how bad karma can 'exhaust' itself on its own. Yet, Swami B V Tripurari, a leading practitioner of Bhaktiyoga, says something similar: "Animals cannot create new karma because they are completely controlled by their nature. Similar to criminals incarcerated by the state, souls wearing animal bodies serve out their karmic sentences until they again are eligible for a human form of life." In thatcase, why can't we simply 'serve out' incarceration in human bodies too? 

 

Tibetan Buddhist Thubten Chodron, though, seems to offer a solution. "Animals can be reborn as humans," she says. "Although it's difficult for most animals to do many positive actions — it's hard to teach a dog to meditate or to offer community service — it is possible. For this reason, Tibetans take their animals when they circumambulate holy monuments in order to put good imprints on the animals' minds. Many people enjoy saying their prayers or mantras out loud so their pets can hear them and be exposed to such soothing sounds, even though the animals do not understand the meaning." Does this mean only domestic animals can hope for salvation whereas Nile crocodiles or underground earthworms are doomed forever?

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A CLEANING OF THE SYSTEM?

 

The resignation of communications and information technology minister A. Raja of the DMK places before us circumstances in which a coalition partner in the ruling dispensation at the Centre can be made to withdraw a particular minister if the Prime Minister is keen to secure the resignation of the minister in question. Simultaneously, the Raja episode shows that if the party — in this case the Congress — around which the coalition revolves is determined to oust a minister of a party other than its own, the doors are not closed on such a possibility. Since coalition governments at the Centre came to be a regular feature of our system, this is the first time that a constituent unit of the ruling coalition has been successfully pressured by the principal party of the governing enterprise. It is because such an outcome once appeared impossible that in his day Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had justified any compromise thrust on the main party of the ruling group, coining the expression "coalition dharma" in the process. It is clear that the Congress was helped by the fact that the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu crucially depends on it for numbers in the state Assembly. Thus, the DMK was not in a position to threaten the collapse of the UPA-II government, even if it had so desired. It seems, however, that in the present context the more important consideration lending the Congress decisive leverage in negotiations with the DMK is that the party has sacrificed its chief minister in Maharashtra on the Adarsh apartments issue, a prominent member of its parliamentary party in the Commonwealth Games investigation, and a high-profile Union minister from its own ranks on an issue concerning IPL cricket franchising although no one believed the minister had pocketed money that wasn't his. These events appear to flow from the apparent eagerness of the party leadership (Sonia Gandhi) and the government leadership (Dr Manmohan Singh) to steer clear of any public perception that the UPA-II dispensation can be obliged by circumstances to go soft on financial scandals. This second consideration is more germane in the present instance because even if the Congress holds a deciding hand in the Tamil Nadu legislature, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi could, in the final analysis, countenance the thought of a mid-term poll in his state if push came to shove. Undoubtedly there was immense pressure on the Congress to  jettison Mr Raja. The year-long buzz against his handling of the 2G spectrum case intensified with the Opposition jamming the work of Parliament following negative observations of the Supreme Court (in a PIL being heard) and the CAG. But let us be clear that none of this establishes guilt, as the DMK has rightly noted even after it agreed for Mr Raja to be ejected from the Union Council of Ministers. Besides, even if Mr Raja was criminally minded, the staggering sums being tossed around by his opponents can only be in the category of a post-facto revelation. At the time that the 2G spectrum was being allotted, it was impossible to determine what the 3G spectrum would later fetch under an altogether different scheme of allotment. Only a proper investigation will reveal what really went on.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BURDEN OF PROOF

BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

As the story of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society unfolds byte by byte in the media, a torrent of public criticism regarding misuse of defence land, and gross violations of building and environmental norms has indicted the Army as the sole perpetrator, causing it to retreat shell shocked into its bunker. But even worse perhaps are aspersions insinuated on the integrity of those in uniform, present and past, some from the very topmost echelons of command. Is the Army an involved participant? Or an injured innocent? Or maybe something of both? No answers can be proffered until a basic question is answered — what are the facts of the case? Does anyone know? At the present stage of debate this does not appear to be so.

 

So first, a few basic facts to set the stage. The public should know that all land under current or future military use are designated "defence lands", and are the property of the Government of India acting through the ministry of defence (MoD), staffed by civil servants not even remotely connected with the defence hierarchy. The defence services, wherever located — Army, Navy or Air Force — do not "own" any land at all in the proprietary sense, but are purely in a watch and ward role, to prevent illegal encroachments.

 

Secondly, no military authorities at any level can independently execute any transactions involving defence land. That is the exclusive purview of the MoD, through its Defence Lands and Estates department and the Defence Estates Office (DEO) which handles all matters of estate.

 

There are conflicting reports at this stage regarding the provenance of the land over which both MoD and state government claim ownership, but suffice to say that if the building plot had indeed originally been defence land, the primary agent in the "land transfer scam" (if any) had to be the DEO, and not the "Army" as is generally perceived and misreported.

 

The controversy around the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society can be neatly divided into two clearly demarcated components — defence (not "military") and civil. The defence aspect concerns the land and the DEO (not the Army), while the civil aspect pertains to the major political and civil administrative collusion in procedural and environmental irregularities and nepotism in allotment.

 

There are strong indications of subterranean linkages between the society and the DEO hierarchy, in which the executive chairman is reportedly a retired functionary of that organisation, who is already under previous CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) investigation for fraudulently allowing civilian construction on defence land in Nagpur in 1998 (reward — two flats!), while the first list of 40 proposed members of the Adarsh Society includes eight serving and retired officials from the Defence Estates. There has been so far been no speculation regarding involvement of the military staff at Headquarters Maharashtra and Gujarat Area (M&G Area), the local headquarters who are the initiating authority in the region for the all-important "No Objection Certificate" on matters of land transactions. Instead, media reports have focused on a subordinate functionary in the Defence Estates establishment in Mumbai as the person who issued an NOC for the plot on March 30, 2000, to the effect that "the plot was located outside defence limits and there was no objection from his office to it being used for the welfare of defence personnel and war widows". (Note — no mention of "Kargil martyrs"!) The Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society expeditiously forwarded this "NOC" to the office of the city collector Mumbai, on April 5, 2000, who by ignorance or deliberate culpability treated this as an official "no objection certificate" from defence authorities and transferred the plot to the Adarsh Society.

 

Events followed a well traversed trail thereafter — building sanctions expedited by wheeler-dealers in the Maharashtra government in the name of "Kargil martyrs" and "war widows", cynically exploiting the sentiment the theme still evokes in the nation, followed by quick allotments of flats to its own politicians, officials and their relatives. Some personnel of the defence forces, including three former service chiefs, were also inveigled into the spiders web, as camouflage to provide a fig leaf of respectability.

 

Their alleged involvement in a housing society ostensibly for "war widows and Kargil martyrs" has (not unnaturally) outraged public opinion. Everybody loves a good scandal, and the nation was aghast at an apparent act of such gross impropriety allegedly committed by these very senior officers, and their rather elementary explanation that they just did not know about the provisions for Kargil widows was literally hooted off the stage. But it should have struck at least the veterans community that it was equally inconceivable that former heads of services should be stating a blatant untruth — the very idea is totally preposterous. The veterans community, like the rest of the public, was itself unaware of the true state of affairs and it should have occurred to them that the stated ignorance of the three former service chiefs could indeed have been the truth.

 

It also raises another issue — is it by implication, therefore, a cause for automatic suspicion if any defence service person, regardless of rank, receives membership of a cooperative housing society in a metropolitan location like Mumbai (or Delhi or Bengaluru)? Is there some kind of a "glass partition" discouraging them from hoping to acquire dwelling houses there?

 

In the meanwhile, four inquiries have been ordered into the affairs of the housing society, one each by the Navy, Army and the CBI, while a team of two very prominent "private detectives" of a major political party are attempting to ascertain the very substantial role played in the scandal by their own party persona.

 

The Navy has completed its inquiry and come out with a clear denial regarding issue of any No Objection Certificate to the housing society, while the Army has handed the matter over to the CBI.

 

The politicians decided not to rock the boat until the visit of the US President to Mumbai was over, but forced the chief minister of the state to resign immediately thereafter, "pending results of the inquiry".

 

So let the results come in, and if justice is required to be delivered in its aftermath, rest assured it will be only in the Army. Remember Tehelka!

 

- Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

JUNTA'S SUU KYI RUSE

BY BERTIL LINTNER

 

Aung San Suu Kyi has been called Asia's Nelson Mandela and, like him, is widely respected as a symbol of hope and change. Now many foreign observers are wondering whether her release will bring Burma's "Mandela moment" — the beginning of the end of repression and the first, tangible step toward national reconciliation. But this is a skewed analogy. There are fundamental differences between the transition to majority rule in South Africa and Burma's struggle for democracy.

 

Mr Mandela's release in February 1990 came as part of a political reform process that began when he first met representatives of the apartheid regime in 1985, thus paving the way for a dialogue that eventually led to a general election in April 1994. The African National Congress won that election and, in May of that year, Mr Mandela became South Africa's first majority-supported President.

 

In Burma there is no such reform process, and no willingness by those in power to engage in any real dialogue with the opposition. Over the years, a few highly publicised meetings — often involving foreign visitors — have taken place between Ms Suu Kyi and some of the country's ruling generals. But those have been for PR purposes only — and so was her release from house arrest on Saturday.

 

The Burmese military is notorious for its own interpretations of the law — the generals could have held her in detention as long as they wanted. But they chose to schedule her release a week after the country had held a highly controversial election. They probably had anticipated what the international reaction to that vote would be: condemnation and lack of recognition.

 

Only China and Burma's partners in Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have hailed the election as a significant, positive step forward.

 

Not surprisingly, however, several Opposition parties and organisations representing the country's many ethnic minorities are now calling for meetings with Ms Suu Kyi to map out a common strategy for Burma's future. Political parties in several ethnic minority areas were not allowed to contest the November 7 election, and the parties that did are complaining about fraud and vote-rigging. But even if the Opposition manages to establish a united front of sorts, it would have to confront a military with its own, uncompromising agenda.

 

For the regime to make any significant concessions to the democratic and ethnic opposition, it would have to change fundamental principles in the country's Constitution, which was "approved" by a Stalinesque 92 per cent of the electorate. Article 121 in effect bars Ms Suu Kyi from holding any political office because of her marriage to a foreigner, the fact that her two sons are "citizens of a foreign country" — and because she has, as the clause says, "been convicted... for having committed an offence".

 

Apart from giving a quarter of all seats in the bicameral legislature to the military, Article 396 of the new Constitution ensures that MPs-elect can be dismissed for "misbehaviour" by the Union Election Commission, which will remain indirectly controlled by the military. And, if the "democratic" situation gets really out of hand, Article 413 gives the President the right to hand over executive powers to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

 

Weeks before the election, observers were reporting that the military wanted to make the election credible by producing official results that showed 70 per cent voter turnout with 80 per cent support for its own party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party. That was exactly the announced outcome. Why then would the military, or the new "civilian" government that is expected to be formed shortly, be willing to call a new, free and fair election that would satisfy domestic and international opinion?

 

It should also be remembered that this is not the first time Ms Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest amid high expectations for change and democratic progress. She was first placed under house arrest in July 1989 and released six years later, in July 1995. After an initial period of relative freedom, she was prevented by the military from travelling around the country, and, in September 2000, was back under house arrest. She was released again in May 2002, and, in May 2003, placed under house arrest for "her own protection" after her entourage was attacked by a government-sponsored mob in Depayin in northern Burma and scores of her supporters were killed.

 

Meanwhile, one UN emissary after another has visited Burma to encourage a "dialogue" that has never materialised and never will. Ms Suu Kyi made her first appeal for a dialogue in August 1988, but there is nothing to indicate that the military has ever contemplated serious discussions.

 

So why would anything be different this time? Has the international community learned nothing from recent Burmese history? The November 7 election was designed to institutionalise the present order. The release of Ms Suu Kyi has diverted all attention from that fraudulent election. Change will come only when someone within the ruling elite turns against the top leadership — as happened in the Philippines in 1986, when Ferdinand Marcos lost the support of his military, or in Indonesia in 1998, when General Wiranto refused to storm the parliamentary buildings in Jakarta that had been occupied by pro-democracy activists, or in South Korea in 1979, when the democratic transition was set in motion by the assassination of President Park Chung-hee.

 

It remains to be seen what Ms Suu Kyi is going to do — and how the authorities are going to react to, for instance, her pledge to investigate election fraud. But she will not be able to push a pro-democracy agenda without the support of at least some elements within the armed forces. This is the bitter reality that will have to be faced once the euphoria over her release has settled.

 

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the FarEastern Economic Review and author of seven books on Burma.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ECONOMIC NONSENSE AT G-20

BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

What exactly do the leaders of the world want for the global economy? The official communiqué released by the Group of Twenty (G-20) Seoul Summit suggests that they have very little idea. The sense that document conveys is of complete confusion, not just in terms of contradictions across the positions held by governments of different countries, but contradictions within positions, in terms of stated goals and the means to achieve them.

 

There has been a lot of talk about the apparently "irreconcilable differences" between surplus and deficit countries, for example, or between countries that are trying to engineer lower values of their currencies through monetary policies and other measures and other countries which are trying to prevent appreciation created by the inflow of hot money. There is no doubt that these issues have emerged as significant areas of friction between some major economies. There are growing fears of currency wars and trade wars, and these fears can at best be only partly alleviated by the platitudes coming out of summit documents.

 

But the obsession with imbalances obscures the lack of coherence on what should be the more significant question: what are to be the major drivers of growth for the world economy? It is remarkable that the countries that ought to be the most concerned about this within the developed world seem to be the most confused, particularly from a developing country perspective.

 

The United States government, for example, mooted the extraordinary idea of capping the external deficits or surpluses (as proportion of gross domestic product) of major countries — as if such a thing could be done realistically, or indeed as if the global economy has ever really required such a false notion of balance. The idea clearly got no traction at the summit, but in any case simply trying to enforce balance is hardly likely to resolve the problem of revival of growth and employment. If anything, it will exacerbate them.

 

The German position is even more remarkable and self-contradictory. On the one hand, the Germans want the US to reduce their external imbalance, which they have decided is a cause of many problems. Yet when the US Federal Reserve announces a policy of buying long-term bonds in order to provide more liquidity in the market, they rail against this strategy of bringing down the external value of the dollar. But surely such depreciation is one of the routes to greater "competitiveness" and achieving the trade balance that the Germans supposedly value?

 

Similarly, the Germans want the US to get into fiscal consolidation quickly, on the (wrong) presumption that this will not affect growth prospects. But if the private sector has to continue to wind down its excessive debt, which it is already doing, then the slack has got be taken up by the government or exports. If this does not happen, then the US economy will not grow, and this will also affect demand for German exports. The same wrongheaded argument is also being applied by Germany on the peripheral European economies, without adequate consideration of the obvious negative implications for the German growth model.

 

It seems bizarre that global leaders have to be reminded that all countries cannot use net export growth as the route to expansion. But clearly this message has not yet struck home. How else can one explain the almost complete absence of any meaningful measures to enable sustained expansion of demand from low income countries, which is really the only sustainable and equitable way out of this global dilemma?

 

Consider what has come out of this summit for most developing countries. The much-delayed reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is to proceed very gently along, and at most will enable a minor shift in voting power at that institution in the next three years. Since there was no clear mandate against imposing procyclical conditions on countries in distress, the IMF will continue to impose austerity upon economies that are already experiencing downswing, rising unemployment and falling wage incomes.

 

Meanwhile, the "Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth" is so general as to be mostly meaningless. It continues to valorise the role of the private sector despite all the unfortunate experiences of the past three years, and continues to place importance on the need to "stimulate the flows of private capital for development" and "improving the investment climate". The fact that most developing economies have been trying to do this for two decades without much benefit in terms of improved living standards for the bulk of their people is simply not noticed.

 

The list of important omissions in the Seoul G-20 documents is long, but one of the more significant ones for developing countries relates to financial regulation. The focus is all on monitoring and regulating the problem of "Sifis", or systemically important financial institutions, that are too big to fail. This is doubtless important, but in the developing world the bigger problem today is that of financial activity in the futures markets for primary commodities, which is once again driving up prices of goods like oil and wheat. Here the discussion was anodyne at best, asking for more study of the problem rather than financial regulation to control speculative activity that has damaging effects on food security in the developing world.

 

Clearly, this latest G-20 Summit displayed lack of cohesion among its members as well as lack of imagination. But what is more startling is the extent of which it displayed the paucity of ordinary economic sense among those who currently control the world's destiny.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TENSE? LET'S FIND OUT WHY

BY AMRIT SADHANA

 

You've had a hard day at work and you're getting ready for bed. The brain is still clinging to your work in office or maybe in the household job, and it's creating mental tension. Constant chatter in the head is the mind's way of manifesting that tension.

 

The word tension has suddenly gathered a negative connotation because modern human beings continuously live under a tense state of mind. They do not let the physical or emotional energy flow, so it is locked in tight muscles.

 

Ask a physicist and you'll find that this universe cannot exist without tension which is basically a stretching or pulling force; a balance between and interplay of opposing elements or tendencies. But tension which is on the blacklist of the modern man is in essence a mental or psychological stress or pressure. Since the issue is created by the mind, the remedy can also be found only by the mind.

 

Tension has nothing to do with anything outside you, it is to do with what is happening within you. You will always find an external excuse to rationalise your tension simply because it looks so weird to be tense without any reason. But tension is essentially incorrect lifestyle.

 

Osho says, each situation is an opportunity to be meditative. Instead of condemning it, use some creative ways of dealing with it. Osho has introduced catharsis as the step towards meditation. It really helps a person to get rid of the stress and become more watchful and calm.

 

ere are some Osho tips that can help everybody get over these mental tension.

 

Each situation can become an opportunity to be aware: What is happening to you when you feel insulted? Meditate over it; this is changing the whole gestalt. When somebody insults you, you concentrate on the person — "Why is s/he insulting me? Who does s/he think s/he is? How can I take revenge?" If s/he is very powerful, you surrender. If s/he is not very powerful and you see that s/he is weak, you pounce on him/her. But you forget yourself completely in all this; the other becomes the focus. This is missing an opportunity for meditation. When somebody insults you, look at what is happening inside.

 

Talk to the wall: If you are bursting with stress, just sit in your room and talk alone. There is no need for somebody else to listen to you. You can talk to the wall and it will be more human, because you will not be creating suffering for anybody.
But don't repress it. Repressed, it will become a burden on you. In the beginning you will feel a little crazy, but the more you do it, the more you will see the beauty of it. It is less violent. It does not waste somebody else's time, and you are relieved. After a good talk with the wall you will feel very, very relaxed. The world would be better and more silent if people started talking to walls.

 

Absorb the attack: The Judo teacher teaches pupils not to attack but to await an attack. And when the attack comes, remember only one thing — to absorb the attack! If someone abuses you and you take in his/her abuse, the aggressor becomes weak. Try this out! He who drinks in the abuse — not suppresses it — as if it is a loving gift; s/he who absorbs it within his whole being, becomes a pool. And this pool is filled with the energy that flows out of the one who abuses, and s/he who absorbs it becomes that much stronger.
Also, when the aggressor finds that no abuse is coming forth from the other, he becomes very uneasy.
You can try this technique in board meetings, too.

 

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

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

IT'S TIME TO FLY HIGH AGAIN

GHALIB NE FARMAYA?

 

Doordarshan, our national broadcaster, is often in the news for the wrong reasons — most recently for allegations of corruption in the Commonwealth Games telecast rights allocation deal. One would think that DD, which has been facing a severe crisis of credibility over the past several years, must be trying to set its house in order. But that story, sadly, is just a wishful figment.


Forget repairing the big stuff. The bosses at this sarkari channel are not even able to fix the silly little things.

Their presenters, for example. DD presenters are embarrassing. They repeatedly, nationally, showcase their ignorance, terrible diction and the ability to make even the most exciting match/event an excruciating watch.

Yet there always was one thing they seemed to know, the past — India's history, culture and heritage. But that seems to be changing.

 

During the live telecast of US President Barack Obama's visit to Delhi, a DD presenter attributed the famous couplet "Kaun jaye Zauq par Dilli ki galiyan chhod kar" to Ghalib. That's shocking, not just because DD was giving the American President wrong information, but also because Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq even added his name to this couplet to avoid any confusion!

 

Mamata seeking an upgrade

 

With the scent of a Cabinet reshuffle in the air, the race for coveted berths has begun in earnest in the corridors of power. Sensing that the civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, wants to move out of the ministry to a greener pasture, other regional players have begun eyeing his job. Leading the race to grab the civil aviation ministry is the Trinamul Congress minister of state for health, Dinesh Trivedi.

 

These days Mr Trivedi keeps reminding people that he is "a pilot" and then goes on talking about the "ills plaguing Air India". To make his claim for the post politically convincing, he has also been shooting off letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Of course, his efforts to bag the post are being supplemented by his leader, railway minister Mamata Banerjee.

 

There are times when "Didi" summons Mr Trivedi to tell the media about the "pathetic plight" of Air India and how "dangerous it is to fly the national carrier these days". Didi was recently stranded at the Delhi airport for 90 minutes makes her, and his, gripe a tad legitimate. But, of course, neither Didi nor Mr Trivedi encourage any talk of the series of rail accidents and mishaps that have taken place since Trinamul took charge of the ministry of railways.

 

Missing Atalji

 

One Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader who seems to be really missing party patriarch and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, especially during the ongoing election campaign in Bihar, is former Union minister and party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain. Recently, Mr Hussain was seen purchasing Meri Sansadiya Yatra, authored by the former Prime Minister, from the bookshop at BJP headquarters. Not just one, Mr Hussain bought all the four bulky volumes of the book. When asked what made him buy all the four volumes, he replied, "Bihar is missing Atalji. Therefore, I decided to buy these books so that I can add Atalji's chaashni to my
speech."

 

A remarkable orator, Mr Vajpayee was the star campaigner of the party. His public rallies are remembered for drawing the largest crowds, without the party cadres having to make much effort.

 

Catch a falling hair

 

Big, rich men have issues too. And often these are hairy.
Bharti Enterprises' vice-chairman and managing director Rajan Bharti Mittal, who is also the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) president, may be sitting in the company of the world's richest and most powerful, discussing takeovers and mergers, but there's one thing he just can't take his mind off, his falling hair.

 

During serious business conferences, Mr Mittal is often seen religiously rubbing his fingernails against each other. Rubbing of nails is believed by some to cure hairfall and increase hair growth.

 

Recently, at a meeting of the US and Indian commerce ministers at Ficci, where both the sides were busy putting across their divergent views on whether India's foreign direct investment policy is transparent or not, Mr Mittal was listening, talking, but his hands were busy, imploring his hair to come back.

 

The joke's on Maya

 

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's stars are not shining as brightly as they were a few months ago.
A set of cruel jokes is doing the rounds in Lucknow, targeting the chief minister. These jokes, some starring US President Barack Obama and Suresh Kalmadi along with Ms Mayawati, are more popular than the Santa-Banta ones, especially in the state's bureaucratic circles. In fact, a large number of government officers spend most of their time forwarding these jokes from their cellphones.

 

Not one to let a slight go unpunished, Ms Mayawati tasked intelligence sleuths to find out who started these jokes. But no culprit has been discovered yet. It seems that most of these unprintable jokes are arriving from the free SMS services offered by various websites.

 

When asked about the laughing matter, a senior Indian Administrative Service officer quipped, "What is wrong if people are joking about the Chief Minister? At least, there is something that brings a smile to the faces of the people in Maya Raj."

 

Naveen turns religious under adversity

 

Orissa chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik, who has rarely ever been seen visiting temples or shrines, now appears to have turned into a deeply religious person. During this year's Dasara celebrations, Mr Patnaik was busy hopping from one pandal to the other in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. This was followed by hectic religious trips during the recent Lakshmi Puja. Along with Bhubaneswar mayor A.N. Jena and three local legislators, Mr Patnaik went to several Lakshmi Puja pandals and offered prayers.

 

The grapevine has it that the bachelor chief minister, who is facing intense internal bickering in the party and is battling reverses in his pet industrialisation programme, has been advised to seek the mother goddesses' blessings for a smooth journey ahead.

 

The denial of forest clearances by the Centre to the `54,000-crore Posco steel project and the `10,000-crore Vedanta refinery project has hurt Mr Patnaik the most. So keen is he to see through these two projects that he has even suggested to his loyalists that they too worship Goddess Durga to ward off all evil designs of their opponents and then turn to Lakshmi for some moolah.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RAJA GOES

THE JOKE ONCE AGAIN IS ON US


IF the purpose of extracting resignations from Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi a few days ago and from A Raja on Sunday night was to shore up the image of a government that has emerged as the most corrupt in the history of independent India, the effort seems both inadequate and desperate. The news of Raja's departure is accompanied by speculation on which of several nominees of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will occupy Sanchar Bhavan and if this happens, as seems likely, the resignation will truly be an insult to the intelligence of India's people. The Comptroller and Auditor General is reported to have held that Raja's actions caused the loss of a huge sum of money to the government, and therefore to the people. If, as is alleged, this loss was caused because of a consideration received by the minister, it would be naïve to think that Raja pocketed all the loot. And if bribes were paid, the spirited, often furious defence of Raja's actions by his party boss would indicate that a substantial part reached Chennai. In these circumstances, and with the allegations under probe, it would be ridiculous to believe that the appointment of another DMK nominee as Telecom minister would assist investigation into a loss to the exchequer, which is and must be the core issue.


It is important for the leader of the ruling party and her nominee Prime Minister to introspect. It is not enough to secure resignations of politicians alleged to be involved in corruption scandals. A resignation isn't even a punishment; it is in the Indian context merely a means to post-date a current-dated cheque, with the amendment initialled by the issuer. Failures in governance that caused the 26/11 fiasco led to a chief minister being accommodated as a Cabinet minister, a home minister being settled as a Governor and the security adviser getting another quango. Some punishment that was! There is nothing to suggest that Messrs. Kalmadi, Chavan and Raja will suffer more than discomfiture; and nothing at all to convince us that there will be an effort to reclaim the CWG, Adarsh Housing or telecom loot.


Our ruling classes seem to believe Indians no longer care about corruption. Or perhaps they believe that the process of globalization has brought corruption within the reach of increasing numbers of Indians, and that there may now be safety in numbers. It is up to us to show them they are wrong. Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh must be presumed to be individuals with a degree of sensitivity; they, on their part, must ask themselves if the end justifies these means. For we the people aren't just being taken for granted; it seems we are being laughed at by our leaders. Surely the joke can't always be on us.

 

HEADLINES TALLY

INDEX OF MINISTERIAL SKILL?

EVER since Shashi Tharoor was ejected from the council of ministers, making super-smart comments that guarantee media attention has become a one-horse race for Jairam Ramesh. It matters little that the accuracy of his accusations against SUVs has been queried by the automotive industry, the German ambassador has taken exception to his reference to "BMWs, Benzs and Hondas" (was he batting for producers of similar vehicles he chose not to identify?), and only the extremist fringe of the "green" lobby seems appreciative. What matters is that Ramesh has remained in the news. Does that serve as a yardstick of his ministerial competence? The rape of the forest continues, wildlife remains under grave threat, and only when NGOs and then the media raise a stink about blatant violation of environment-protection regulation does the government get into the act. It is conceded that much of the direct action, preventive or punitive, is to be taken by the states: sadly, several union ministers do not accept that their responsibilities include guiding or inspiring lower-level authorities into performing their duties diligently. It may be ego-inflating that they are seen as a court of last resort, matters having reached that stage reflects poorly on the leadership they provided.


Rather than talk about SUVs guzzling subsidised diesel ~ which makes him "angry" ~ the minister ought to have formally recommended remedial action by way of a revamped, comprehensive pricing policy to the petroleum ministry. It is, however, doubtful if owners of SUVs would be deterred by having to pay more: had they been short of funds they would not have bought what has replaced the elegant limousine as a status symbol. Remember the joke about a Rolls-Royce salesman rebuffing a prospective buyer who inquired about its fuel-efficiency: "people who bother about that don't deserve a Rolls…" And, for starters, he might have advised the top national leadership against setting a bad example by using SUVs. The three brands Ramesh selected for "the treatment" are at the forefront of automotive technology and meet the highest of fuel-efficiency and emission standards. Subsidies are not his direct concern, reducing pollution is. A few minutes on any national highway would tell even a novice a disturbing story. But lambasting a smoke-belching truck would not be as "catchy" as slamming SUVs!

 

GETTING WORSE

WHEN WILL NEPAL OVERCOME?

NEPALI Congress prime ministerial candidate Ram Chandra Poudel is making full use of the country's parliamentary procedure that the election process must continue even if there is a single aspirant and until he gets elected. Since July he has been defeated 16 times but is undeterred and is bracing for more even as the issue appears to be no longer uppermost in the minds of the lawmakers and public. Poudel is prepared to withdraw only after ensuring that all parties agree on a national government based on consensus. Communist Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal stepped down on 30 June under pressure from the Maoists to pave the way for a  government by consensus. But this was not to be, with each party putting forward its own proposals and preconditions for support. A consensus government is still the best bet to pull the country out of the morass.
At a recent meeting of three big parties former Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal suggested that if the Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) agree to his leadership he would, within a time-frame, complete the process of rehabilitation of Maoist combatants. But that is not the only issue. Maoists have to agree to disband their troublesome youth league and also persuade those who have grabbed land and property during the rebel days to return these to the rightful owners. There is also a suggestion that if all 27 parties agree, the caretaker Prime Minister can hand over power to the President. Dahal is said to have spoken in favour of having a Prime Minister on a rotational basis. This was suggested in these columns recently, but the advice must be tempered with the thought that the Maoists cannot be trusted. The Constituent Assembly has been given a year's breather, so something needs to be done fast to meet the fresh deadline of May 2011 to give the country a new Constitution. In this state of uncertainty, Nepal is fast losing its credibility as the recipient of funds from donor countries.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PSYCHOTIC PARIVAR

SUDARSHAN'S WORLD OF DELUSIONS

BY AMULYA GANGULI


THE former RSS chief, KS Sudarshan's outrageous comments on Sonia Gandhi are not a first for the saffron brotherhood. During the 2007 UP elections, the BJP had issued an anti-Muslim CD only to withdraw it after the Election Commission took note of its poisonous content. At about the same time, Varun Gandhi made his by now infamous speech against the minorities to earn a spell of detention under the National Security Act.
But if the vitriolic CD and Varun's speeches were part of an effort by the BJP to woo the communal-minded Hindus by its usual tactic of whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments, Sudarshan's speech denoted another aspect of saffron politics. It relates to rewriting  history by trashing the present version which, it believes, is the handiwork of the deracinated Macaulay's children ~ in essence, the liberal urbanites who have long been in charge of the academic world.


Since, in the Hindutva lobby's view, the Nehru-Gandhi family is the most deracinated of all, it is not surprising that its votaries go to great lengths to conjure up Sudarshan-style canards about it. An item circulating in cyberspace claims to know the family's secret and seemingly dubious history. Starting with unsavoury slurs about Motilal Nehru, it says that Indira Gandhi became a Muslim before her marriage to Feroz Khan (not the dead film star), who changed his surname to Gandhi after the wedding.


Continuing with this "tale told by an idiot" inspired by Sudarshan and his ilk in the sepulchral catacombs of the RSS, the "eminent historians" of the paterfamilias of the Sangh Parivar have discovered that Rajiv converted to Roman Catholicism before his marriage to Sonia and that the real names of their children are Raul (Rahul) and Bianca (Priyanka). It is possible to get some idea of the shadowy world in which the saffron crowd lives from these weird flights of fancy. As they squat on the floor around their vegetarian meals, it is possible that each one of them tries to outdo the other in conjuring up more and more strange factoids of history.


Since faith drives the Parivar, as the claim about Ram's birthplace shows, the saffronites do not allow verifiable facts to get into the way of their theories. Hence, Sudarshan's flights of fancy were not only about Sonia's conspiracy to murder Indira and Rajiv, but also about Nehru's conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi! Mercifully, none of this found their way into standard texts when the BJP was in power, but if Murli Manohar Joshi had remained the education minister for more than one term, it could not be said with certainty that a modified version of these fabrications would not have wormed their way into history books.


It has to be remembered that history is a prime obsession with the RSS. Unless the mind of the youth is corrupted by the inculcation of absurd theories, the saffron brotherhood will not be able to make much headway in weaning away the students and teachers from the prescribed texts of today. As its theses on the Nehru-Gandhi family and on the Taj Mahal, which is supposed to be a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva ~ Tejo Mahalaya or the abode of Shiva ~ show, fatuity is the basis of their assertions. Or, to use an Orwellian phrase, lies are truth.


The first falsehood is, of course, the claim that India is the home of Aryans. This is the cornerstone of the RSS worldview because if the Hindus are seen to have come to India from outside, then the stick which the saffronites use to beat the Muslims ~ that they are aliens ~ loses its sting. The slight inconvenience of the existence of the pre-Aryan Indus Valley Civilisation has been overcome by the Hindutva lobby by incorporating it within the Aryan parameters by calling it a Vedic or Saraswati civilisation. Again, history and archaeology have not been allowed to negate the theory.

Not only that, publications of the saffron Vidya Bharati describe India as "the most ancient country in the world". They claim that "when civilisation had not developed in many countries, where people lived in jungles naked or covering their bodies with the bark of trees or hides of animals, Bharat's Rishis-Munis brought the light of culture and civilisation to all those countries".


Giving examples, the booklets say that the "credit for lighting the lamp of culture in China goes to ancient Indians … the first people who began to inhabit China were Indians, the first people to settle in Iran were Indians (Aryans), the popularity of the great work of the Aryans ~ Valmiki's Ramayana ~ influenced Yunan (Greece) and there also the great poet Homer composed a version of the Ramayana. The languages of the indigenous people (Red Indians) of the northern part of America were derived from ancient Indian languages".


Side by side with the glorification of the motherland goes the demonisation of the Muslims. It begins with the castigation of Emperor Asoka for promoting ahimsa, which was said to have turned the Hindus into cowards and, therefore, unable to counter the invading Muslims. The train of thought leading to Gandhi's assassination is obvious. Much of this propaganda vitiating the minds of the youth is part and parcel of the RSS schools, which are clearly a carbon-copy of the madrasas which also have a similar restrictive and erroneous outlook. The outside world does not seem to take much note of the curriculum of either presumably because of the belief that they are too outlandish to be taken seriously. Sudarshan's outburst has been useful, therefore, for throwing light on the warped mindset of the RSS and creating awareness of the psychotic nature of the Parivar.


The writer is a former Assistant Editor,  The Statesman

 

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THE STATESMAN

 

A VERY EARTHLY REPRESENTATIVE

 

He is, without any doubt, the only incarnation of the Buddha who has ever guest-edited Vogue Paris. He's the only spiritual leader of millions who has ever flogged a 1966 Land Rover on eBay and appeared in an advertisement for Apple. He is probably the only Nobel Prize winner on the planet who has Sharon Stone and Richard Gere on speed-dial. He must be the only "simple Buddhist monk" (his description) who sends daily bromides to a million followers on Twitter. Nobody in the world so bizarrely conjoins the spiritual and the material, the sublime and the ridiculous, dangerous politics and trivial celebrity, as the 14th Dalai Lama. 
Wednesday is the 60th anniversary of his accession to the title, which means "Ocean of Wisdom" (the full version is Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, which translates as "Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom"). To almost all Tibetans, even those who criticise his stance over China, he is an object of reverence. But to many in the West he is a sneaky diplomatic strategist, a star-struck terrestrial and a turncoat Buddhist. To Rupert Murdoch, he could be "a very political old monk, shuffling about in Gucci shoes". As we shall see, there's a considerable list of complaints levelled against him. But after 60 years as a human bridge between East and West, do his virtues outweigh his shortcomings? 


He was born Lhamo Dondrub in 1935, to a farmer and horse trader called Choekyong Tsering in the Chinese village of Taktser. When he was two, he was discovered, by a method that may not impress the sceptical, to be the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. A search party was sent out, headed by a Tibetan "regent" or senior holy man. All they had to go on was the fact that the head of the recently embalmed Dalai had mysteriously turned north-east, so that's where they went. At a sacred lake, Lhamo La-tso, the regent had a vision of a one-storey house with distinctive tiling and guttering in the district of Amdo. They found the mud-and-stone house, and the child inside it. To settle any doubt about his identity, they'd brought some of the 13th Dalai Lama's old toys, and some toys that had no connection with him. Young Lhamo confidently picked out all the Lama's belongings, shouting: "That's mine!" 


He was brought to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, allowed to wander anywhere in its 1,000 rooms and perched on a golden throne. As a child, he was keen on war films – he watched them on his predecessor's movie projector – and driving. In the early 1940s, there were only three cars in Tibet and he drove (and crashed) them all. From an early age, he knew trouble was brewing between small, isolated Tibet and its large neighbours. He taught himself to write by copying out the 13th Dalai Lama's will – a prophetic document, written in 1932, when civil war was raging in China. Warning against "barbaric red Communists", it warned that: "Our spiritual and cultural traditions will be completely eradicated. Even the names of the Panchen and Dalai Lamas will be erased. The Monasteries will be looted and destroyed, and the monks and nuns killed or chased away... We will become like slaves to our conquerors... and the days and nights will pass slowly and with great suffering and terror." 


The real power in Tibet then lay in the hands of a corrupt sect of monks who lived off the taxes of peasants. When he was 11, the Dalai Lama-elect watched through a telescope as monks opened fire on the army, following the arrest of one of their own. And when in 1950, aged 15, he officially took on the mantle of Dalai Lama, it coincided with the Chinese People's Liberation Army invading east Tibet. Nine years later, he was forced into exile. He and scores of thousands of Tibetans fled to the Himalayan city of Dharamsala. 
For 51 of his 60 years as spiritual leader to six million people, he has been an emblem of dispossession. He has travelled the world speaking out passionately for the return of Tibetan independence – but since 1988, he's scaled down his demands to wanting "autonomy" for Tibet within China, arguing that Tibet could, realistically, grow as a modern nation only if it stays part of China. He has consistently urged that only non-violent means should be used. Many of his countrymen wish he would encourage a less supine response to his country's colonists. 


Things came to a head in March 2008, when riots broke out in Lhasa, directed at Chinese civilians by Tibetan mobs. Across Europe and America there were outbreaks of protest in favour of Tibet, and 18 Chinese embassies and consulates were attacked. The Chinese claimed that the riots were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama. In fact, they were more probably the result of years of social discrimination against Tibetans, unequal pay, and the rumour that several Tibetan monks had been arrested and killed. The Dalai Lama denied having anything to do with the uprising, but agreed to talk to the Chinese authorities – who said they'd communicate only if he agreed to renounce Tibetan independence altogether and recognised that Tibet was an inalienable part of Chinese territory. 


If he is regarded as politically ineffectual, his role as a religious leader has also been called into question. Although he possesses a geshe degree, the equivalent of a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy, he has gone out of his way to simplify and secularise Buddhism for a modern audience. He steers clear of the word "Nirvana" – meaning nowhere, freedom from the great wheel of being and reincarnation – preferring to speak of "global ethics". He says that if modern science disproves Buddhist teachings, they must be abandoned. He even advises Western audiences not to embrace Buddhism.


When asked for his views, he employs a curious mix of ancient wisdom and modern liberal pragmatism. He takes the view, universally held in Tibet, that abortion is an act of killing – but goes on to qualify it with, "except if the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent". Asked by a Seattle schoolgirl if it's ever right to fire a gun at anyone – a question that few Buddhists have ever answered in the affirmative – he replied that yes, it's permissible, if the person is trying to kill you (but you shouldn't shoot to kill them). 


He has also incurred the wrath of Christopher Hitchens for accepting money from the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was later to release lethal sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system. But the Dalai Lama has always criticised himself for endorsing the man and his organisation – even saying that it showed he wasn't infallible or divine after all. 


All of which must make us ask: is the Dalai Lama a bad guy? Or is he merely a disappointment to many people who wish he were something he isn't? Pico Iyer, in his 2008 biography, The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, writes that his subject is the victim of Western preconceptions about Tibet as the heavenly Shangri-La depicted in James Hilton's 1930s novel Lost Horizon. The West would like Tibet to remain a pre-modern place of innocent happiness, and the Dalai Lama to be the kind of divine princeling depicted in the films Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet. They would rather not hear the princeling criticise the barbaric feudal system in which he grew up, or listen to his conviction that a modern Tibet needs to be grafted to a modern China to become a strong economic unit, rather than a Black Narcissus fantasy. To the Chinese he is a "separatist", a "splitter", a troublesome demagogue to whom Mao once bluntly said: "Religion is a poison".
To Tibetans he is a beloved leader, but one who sucks up to the West and is seen as weak by the Chinese. To Buddhists, he is a bringer of confusion rather than enlightenment, and an intimate of Hollywood nincompoops such as Steven Seagal. "In Tibet," writes Pico Iyer, "the Dalai Lama was an embodiment of an old culture that, cut off from the world, spoke for an ancient, even lost, traditionalism''.


the independent

 

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THE STATESMAN

 

JUNTA URGED TO FREE ALL PRISONERS

 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Saturday welcomed the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and urged the junta authorities in Myanmar to release remaining political prisoners. A statement issued in New York noted that Suu Kyi, head of the National League for Democracy and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had been under house arrest for the past two decades. 
"Her dignity and courage in the face of injustice have been an inspiration to many people around the world, including the Secretary-General, who has long advocated her freedom," spokesperson Martin Nesirky said. "The Secretary-General expects that no further restrictions will be placed and urges the Myanmar authorities to build on today's action by releasing all remaining political prisoners". 


The statement also noted that it was "deeply regrettable" that Suu Kyi was effectively excluded from participating in the recent elections. "Democracy and national reconciliation require that all citizens of Myanmar are free to participate as they wish in the political life of their country," Mr Ban added. 
Ms Pillay also called Suu Kyi's release a "positive signal" that the Myanmar authorities are willing to move forward with the serious challenge of democratic transition. "Clearly, Aung San Suu Kyi can make a major contribution to this process". She added that she remained "extremely disappointed" that the pro-democracy leader was not released before the elections and urged the authorities to now release the other 2,200 political prisoners as "a clear sign that the new government intends to respect human rights and forge a new future for the country."


Diabetes Day: The Secretary-General on Sunday stressed that early diagnosis and effective treatment are critical to the management of diabetes. He said it was "unacceptable" that people die due to lack of information, treatment or access to life-saving medicines. 


"Governments must do everything possible to close all gaps so people with diabetes can recover and avoid the damage to their heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves that is caused by the disease," he said in a message on World Diabetes Day. 


According to WHO, diabetes deaths could double between 2005 and 2030, with poorer countries bearing the brunt. Eighty per cent of the projected new cases could occur in low- and middle-income countries. The agency said that diabetes affects over 220 million people worldwide. In 2005, diabetes killed 1.1 million people across the world, more than half of them women, it stated. 


"It is crucial to educate people at risk or those who are suffering from the disease so they can avoid complicating factors such as smoking, and understand how to manage their condition. This will prevent long-term complications which take a heavy toll in human suffering and financial cost," Mr Ban said. 
Diabetes is a chronic disease, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. This leads to an increased concentration of glucose in the blood, WHO said in a press release. The General Assembly will convene a high-level meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in 2011. 


Sudan referenda: The UN panel to monitor Sudan referenda has arrived in the country ahead of the voter registration on the status of Southern Sudan. "Voter registration represents a critical phase in the referenda process, and we will be watching very closely while we are here in Sudan to see how it is carried out," said Benjamin Mkapa, chairman of the panel and former president of Tanzania. 

"We hope that all Southern Sudanese, wherever they live, will be able to turn out in peace and register for the referendum. We know that organising voter registration has not been easy, given the country's size and the scale of the process, but we remain confident that it can be completed successfully." 
Voter registration will take place till 1 December  at 3,000 sites across the north and south of Sudan, and in Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Britain and the US. The inhabitants of Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country, as part of the final phase in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended two decades of war between the northern-based government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in the south on 9 January. 
The Secretary General had set up a panel at the request by the Sudanese government to help enhance the credibility of the referenda and ensure the acceptance of the results by constituencies and the international community. 
 
Displaced people: The world refugee agency has said that it is preparing to help internally displaced persons in Pakistan who fled military operations in South Waziristan to return to their villages after some expressed their desire to go back home.


UNHCR and its partners carried out a survey of over 2,000 families who sought shelter in the Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of Khyber Pakhtunkwa province. It showed that 85 per cent of the people wanted to return to 13 villages in South Waziristan, the agency's spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, said in a press release. He said that the voluntary returns will begin next month.


He added that those who wanted to go back represent a quarter of the total number of the IDPs from South Waziristan ~ 8,000 families or 56,000 individuals. 


The main reasons given for return were improved security, the desire to restart farming activities and children going back to school. The main reasons given by those not ready to return were uncertainty about the security situation, damaged homes and the lack of livelihood opportunities, electricity, food and education facilities. 
UNHCR will provide transport, tents, building material and household items for those going back, Mr Edwards said. "We are also providing basic construction material to help those with damaged houses to rebuild. UNHCR will also support 'go and see visits' for those people who have not yet been home to see the situation first hand so they can make an informed decision about whether to return," he said. 


Some 700,000 people from the tribal areas remain displaced. They had fled waves of conflict since August 2008 across north-western Pakistan, the agency added. 


anjali Sharma

 

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THE STATESMAN

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

ALLEGED BOGUS CHEQUES 


Charges Against A Mahomedan Youth 

Shahebjada Biroje Shah, said to be a descendant of the ancient Mysore Nawab Family, has again been arrested by the Colootolah police in connection with a fresh case of alleged cheating in which Messrs Macropolo and Co., tobacconists, are the complainants. It was stated that Biroje Shah had been to the shop in Government Place, and purchased cigars, cigarettes, and a silver case for Rs 99-10-0. He wished to take away the things home with a coolie of the firm, saying he would give the amount to him, and was permitted to do so. He then handed over a post-dated cheque, to be cashed a month hence, for the amount in question, to the coolie, drawing it on a certain bank, but on inquiries it transpired that he had no money thee. After this transaction, it is alleged that he called at the firm of Dass and Co., and bought a harmonium for Rs 250, and gave a similar cheque with the same result. In both the cases, the youth has been charged with cheating. The police recovered from his possession a greater portion of the tobacco. The harmonium, which was mortgaged to a woman for Rs 90, shortly after purchase, was also seized. 

 

The other cases of cheating under similar circumstances are already pending against the same accused at the Calcutta Police Court. He is now on bail. 


Our Poona correspondent says:- Following a cold snap during the greater part of last week the weather here changed on Sunday, becoming much warmer. On Monday clouds gathered and towards evening it rained fairly heavily. On Tuesday it rained again at intervals and heavily at sunset. For this time of year this is exceptional.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

 

SPECTRUM EDGE

 

The whole point about a tide, even in the affairs of men, is that it ebbs. The recently resigned Union telecommunications minister, A. Raja, evidently had not realized till the last minute that he had been caught in the ebb. The charge of corruption against him, relating to the allocation of 2G spectrum licences, has been around for quite a while. But firmly and vocally backed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief, M. Karunanidhi, and comfortable in the knowledge that the Congress would hesitate to upset the DMK, a substantial partner in the United Progressive Alliance, Mr Raja continued with his aggressive defence of honesty in spite of the comptroller and auditor general's damning report and the Supreme Court's displeasure with the Central Bureau of Investigation for dragging its feet.

 

The prime minister, however, was obviously determined to carry on with the clean-up operation the UPA has started. Reportedly concerned about the Congress's image that was lending substance to the continuous Opposition protests and consequently becoming the cause of disruptions of Parliament, Manmohan Singh's hand was strengthened by the offer of "unconditional" support from J. Jayalalithaa. The All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief offered 18 members of parliament in support of the UPA (the AIADMK has nine, the others she would persuade) should the DMK leave the coalition in the wake of Mr Raja's dismissal. That is, an implacable rivalry in state politics provided a crucial twist to politics at the Centre. Besides, the Supreme Court's displeasure lowered in the background. This convergence of circumstances helped, but Mr Singh's firmness also suggests that the momentum he has given to anti-corruption moves, as a leader should, has gathered steam. While the AIADMK's offer may have made some Congress leaders stop dithering, it was politely refused. By claiming the DMK as an old ally, who would surely "understand" the pressing need for Mr Raja's exit, the Congress was able to keep it on its side. The DMK has its own compulsions, anxious as it is about the forthcoming assembly elections. It would rather that the Raja scandal was put well behind it and that the AIADMK did not gain an upper hand with the UPA. Whatever Mr Raja might have been able to achieve when he caught the tide at its full, the sudden ebb runs deep.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LIGHTWEIGHT SUPERPOWER

WHY THE US MIGHT CONCLUDE THAT INDIA IS A RUBBER SWORD

WRITING ON THE WALL

ASHOK V. DESAI

 

Barack Obama came with a message. It was mostly about broadening relationships. But behind it was an important thread: that India was a superpower already, "emerging" no doubt, but a superpower nevertheless. "Emerging" as in emerging market economy, which is a market economy though poor. And that India had to get used to being a superpower, and start behaving like one. Non-powers use their power within their own borders; superpowers project it outside. It was in this sense that Britain was a superpower till World War I, and the US a superpower since then. The Soviet Union was a superpower, but failed. The European Union is a superpower, though it lacks an effective central decision-making mechanism to project its power. China is a superpower, though it is being extremely cautious about projecting power beyond its borders. Obama wanted India to join the US in doing things outside their borders. He avoided being too specific in public; but his basic message was that India should realize that it had grown up, and begin to project its power outside its borders.

 

This message was implicit in Obama's list of the tasks in which he wanted India to join the US outside their borders — for instance, in ensuring that Iran does not join the oligarchy of nuclear powers, and in helping Burma's return to democracy. These were on his wish list, which articulate Indians, otherwise known as chatterati, took a look at and rejected. But I think we should not throw out the baby with the bath water or continue to be a superpower with a small mind.

 

In his speech, Obama showed familiarity with many things Indian like Chandni Chowk and Vivekananda. He cannot have known of these things; although he is well educated, such minutiae would not have been part of his education. He was briefed. And I would not be surprised if Stephen Cohen was one of the people who briefed him. Cohen and I were neighbours and friends when he first came to India in the 1960s to study Indian military affairs. Soon afterwards, Indira Gandhi and Richard Nixon quarrelled over the drubbing she gave Pakistan, and India refused Cohen a visa. So he went to Pakistan and became an expert on its army, and then on to China. After Manmohan Singh showered Indians' love on George W. Bush, Cohen could visit India again. After 40 years, he has written another book on India's military affairs (this time with Sunil Dasgupta), which was launched in Washington in September. It raises precisely the issue I have mentioned — that India does not project military power.

 

What is this power India does not project? According to globalfirepower.com, India was the fourth military power in the world in 2004, with 1.3 million men in arms, another 1.2 million in reserve, a further 1.3 million in paramilitary forces, 3,898 tanks, 1,007 aircraft, 143 ships, 9 deepwater ports and 346 serviceable airports. The United States was the leading military power; China and Russia came next, roughly neck-and-neck. China had 2.3 million men in arms, 800,000 in reserve, 4 million in paramilitary forces, 8,200 tanks, 1,900 aircraft, 760 ships, 8 ports and 467 airports. Russia had both more men under arms and more hardware than India; Britain, France and Germany had more hardware, but much smaller armies than India. Altogether, India's equipment was not very modern or advanced, but it had very large forces by world standards.

 

Cohen says that the Indian armed forces have concentrated on three things — defence in the Himalayas, COIN (coordination, organization, institutions and norms in multi-agent systems), and a cold-start strategy against Pakistan (a military doctrine developed by the Indian army after Pakistan's incursion in Kargil; it involves dispersal of a large number of small formations with offensive capability along the border, which would rapidly make incursions into the enemy's territory and force him to disperse his forces). Although cold-start strategy is innovative, the army has implemented few of the organizational and logistic changes that it requires. The Indian government's energies have been absorbed by internal threats to security in Kashmir, the Northeast and now, Jharkhand. The Indian navy is much better prepared for blue-water operations. But the air force is unwilling to let the army take leadership, which it would have to in a land war, and does not have the planes it would need to exercise air power on its own. The civil government has too many bodies involved, including the Prime Minister's office, national security council, and the ministries of defence, finance and external affairs, to provide decisive, agile leadership in war; its relationship with the armed forces is marked by suspicion and lack of strategic understanding. All military production is concentrated in inefficient public enterprises; despite declarations of intention, the government has not significantly involved private enterprises. The result is that India is dependent on a small number of countries — Russia, the US and Israel — for its hardware requirements. The priority given to "developmental requirements" — expenditure with social and political dividends — keeps the army starved. The states have been getting stronger vis-à-vis the Centre; they give no priority to defence. In sum, India is organizationally unequipped to be a strong, decisive military power. I have not read Cohen and Dasgupta's book, so my summary above may not have got all the nuances right. But if the US government adopted their view, what would its approach to India be? It would conclude that India is a rubber sword, and that it would be a mistake to make it a strategic partner or support it against Pakistan.

 

Cohen and Dasgupta's picture of India's military preparedness is not flattering. People in the government will want to contest it vehemently, and our political and military "experts" outside will equally want to pick holes in it. But one does not have to agree with all of it. One only has to draw two conclusions from the experience of our past wars: first, that the Indian armed forces do not have the unified command required for quick, coordinated response in war, and that our civilian government has no knowledge of the combination of leadership and delegation that is required to enable the armed forces to fight a war effectively according to the rules of modern warfare. These two propositions are enough to conclude that India cannot win a war. The proof lies in the one war that India won by breaking both rules — the 1971 war. Indira Gandhi was the sole civilian decision-maker in that war. She spent a whole year warning the world that the influx of refugees from East Pakistan was intolerable. She exhausted diplomatic means, and overcame the resistance of the entire world except that of the US. She went and signed a treaty with the Soviet Union, and replenished the arsenal. And when she asked the army to attack, she left the strategy entirely to the generals. In contrast, her father stopped his troops in Kashmir as soon as they had defeated the invaders, and refused to use the military advantage they had won for him. What prevents India from becoming a superpower is not resources, but quality of leadership, both political and military.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

TIME TO PASS THE BATON

MALVIKA SINGH

 

Finally, we have a chief minister of Maharashtra who was among the 'unpredictable' candidates. And thank god for the change. The appointment can, if carefully calibrated, alter the downward trajectory of a state that was once the nerve centre of an emerging nation. The frightening nexus of business, government and politics — operating as one overpowering machine — generated corruption on a scale that continues to destroy all semblance of morality and probity, civil society and humanity. Mumbai symbolizes this degradation. The political-administrative land grab and an aggressive builders' lobby have together consolidated corruption and actively nurtured the deviations from the law of the land. Will Prithviraj Chavan have the strength to take on the mafiosi and change course?

 

I have often wondered why our Central leadership does not address the nation on the State-controlled national television channel and talk about the need to cleanse the body politic. We have a clean prime minister and some very corrupt cabinet ministers. The perception among the citizens is that misgovernance, incompetence and corruption have sunk the country to unimaginable depths.

 

Surely, we need some proactive intervention from within the government that would include members of civil society and lead the process of correction. In order to renew their trust in government, the people must be allowed to participate in the exercise of governance.

 

But no easy solution is in sight. This energy of an emerging economic power could easily become 'lumpen' and destroy India further. Sane and civil infrastructure is imperative to nurture this extraordinary vitality. India has become obsessed with its foreign policy for the last few years at the cost of a plethora of dangerous internal realities. The reform of the moribund administration is consciously ignored. Maybe the National Advisory Council needs to push this critical agenda and compel the government to set in motion a radical change.

 

Long sprint

The abject neglect of the overwhelming internal problems is bound to have a negative effect on development. Why is one accelerated at the cost of the other? Is the political leadership being held captive by a corrupt bureaucracy that has turned rogue? Is India becoming a banana republic at the hands of men and women who neither have the vision nor the intellectual wherewithal that their predecessors had? Is the education system so deeply flawed that it is merely churning out superficial 'file pushers' and 'file stallers'? Why has politicking and devious manipulation been permitted to run amok? And finally, does the prime minister and his cabinet members see this truth or have they been so isolated from India and its people that they live in an ivory tower?

Sonia Gandhi feels the pulse and has been able to rebuild the Congress Party. Rahul Gandhi appears to have a clear idea of what he wants to do to restructure the mess. The sense one gets is that the wheeler-dealers have not managed to get a grip on Rahul Gandhi and his operating system, and have been unable, thus far, to access and corrupt him. Many are hanging fire, not knowing how to enter the realm of the young man in an effort to 'survive' the future.

 

To rebuild, renew and then reinvent the party, it is the long sprint that is important, not the 100-metre dash to the goal for one term. Those in power strive for the short-term 'we must stay in power' policy and, with money and blackmail, often manage to deliver that by the skin of their teeth. The result — India is being steadily brutalized. Maybe we need to pass the baton and discard the baggage we are carrying.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PATHS THROUGH THE MAZE

COMMENTARAO

S.L. RAO

 

Ashok Mitra's article in the November 5 issue makes telling points. After decades of world economic dominance, the United States of America is in deep economic crisis. As President Barack Obama said in Mumbai, the US is no longer the overwhelming dominant economic power and must defer to others, like the Bric countries, particularly China.

 

The US's current account deficit in the balance of payments is 3.3 per cent, the latest 12-month deficit on trade is over $600 billion, and unemployment is at 9.6 per cent. But the economy appears to have emerged out of recession, with industrial production rising by 6.2 per cent in August and the gross domestic product by three per cent, inflation at a low of around one per cent, though three-month interest rates at 0.26 per cent suggest that the economy is still in need of artificial stimulation. Personal savings declined precipitously over the last three decades, from 12.55 per cent of the GDP in 1980 to one per cent, though post-2008 recession it has risen to six per cent, reflecting the fear of the future among many. With the budget deficit running at nine per cent of the GDP, the US at the individual and national level is running on the savings of other countries.

 

In the US, large government deficits of the last decade created substantial surplus liquidity that was used by banks to create bubbles in real estate and consumer credit. When the bubbles were pricked, recession occurred and spread. The US economy is overextended, with relative wages outstripping productivity in relation to economies like China and, with the economy depending hugely on overseas savings, it has become heavily indebted to China and other countries. For this, I would blame lax regulation of financial markets and institutions and the complacency of top management at the heart of American industry, such as General Motors.

The US must raise personal savings, and cut budget deficits. But continuing high unemployment has led the Federal Reserve to release vast extra liquidity which will lead to easier lending, greater consumer expenditures, especially on cheap imported goods, and send money to countries like India where returns are better, further increasing US deficits. There is a case for the US reverting to protectionism and implementing the US Congress legislation imposing import duties on Chinese goods that have the advantage of a devalued currency. To cut the import deficit, the US could 'manage' the dollar value. Both run counter to the decades-old American policy of an open economy.

 

China has far better figures — GDP growth of 10.3 per cent to date, 13.9 per cent growth in industrial production, surplus on current account of 4.9 per cent, surplus trade balance in September of 4182.9 billion, 2.2 per cent budget deficit and foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) in June 2010 of almost $2.5 billion. The unemployment rate is 9.6 per cent, inflation 3.5 per cent (in August), and three-month interest rates 2.64 per cent. With much of its industry State-owned or controlled, it also has many hidden subsidies which, with low wages and relatively higher productivity in relation to wages, help its goods remain internationally competitive. China's openness to imported technology, collaborations and a weak enforcement of intellectual property rights have helped it move up to exporting sophisticated engineered products of high quality and become the world's largest exporter.

 

China is hostile to pressures to upvalue its currency and to any barriers to its exports. But some American action is inevitable that will reduce American imports. India's software exports will be hurt by the higher costs of H1-B visas and impending taxes on American companies that outsource. But China has its own problems of high inequalities, urban-rural disparities, high unemployment and so on, and must take urgent steps to stimulate its domestic economy while reducing dependence on exports. China's militant (but not military) posture on all issues (borders, the South China sea, the Dalai Lama and so on) suggests that it will make aggressive noises but meekly take the actions necessary to protect the value of its huge dollar holdings and to stimulate its economy.

What does all this augur for India? India's macroeconomic numbers are almost as unsatisfactory as those of the US (except GDP growth, chiefly in services). But India is not as large, as diversified, and the rupee is not the international reserve currency. India's GDP growth this year will be better since agriculture will make a larger contribution. Industrial production is growing (5.6 per cent in August). But shares of both agriculture and industry are low. Inflation is a serious worry and though there has been some moderation recently, India is not out of the woods. The combined budget and fiscal deficits are high. Recent sales of shares in public sector enterprises and telecoms auctions have brought down the deficits. But inefficiencies in spending and large-scale corruption make government expenditures boost the black economy and not the real economy. More efficient investment in physical and social infrastructures is necessary.

 

The trade balance is in substantial deficit and has been so for some years ($121.8 billion in August). The current account deficit at present is at a reasonable 1.7 per cent but might rise with crude oil prices. Low interest rates in the developed countries and the release of liquidity in the US have led to substantial capital inflows into Indian shares and debts. These volatile inflows (and soon, outflows) lead to sharp rises and falls in stock market indices as well as in the external value of the rupee, aggravating deficits, inflation and trade imbalances. Now stock markets are at record highs, driven almost wholly by these volatile inflows. While foreign direct investments have also shown an upward trend, they are still a small proportion of institutional inflows. They need stimulation by reducing 'no-go' areas and cutting approval times. India must begin a calibrated reduction of these volatile inflows while enabling greater direct investments. There is a good case for a graduated tax on foreign portfolio investments so that they stay invested for a minimum period. Also, administrative procedures must be made more flexible to enable faster flows of direct investments.

 

The American (and other developed countries') thrust on Indian markets will increase. Declines in the external value of the dollar will upvalue the rupee and adversely affect exports. Inflation needs to be controlled. The efficiency of government expenditures must improve quickly.

 

India has to make major policy choices. They are accentuated by the need for larger defence expenditure, as China heats up our borders with Pakistan, gearing up for a larger role in Afghanistan. India has to pick its way through this maze while staying focused on inclusive growth.

 

The author is former director- general, National Council for Applied Economic Research

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

PERFECT BALANCE

ALTERNATIVE MODEL

BHUTAN EXEMPLIFIES THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN IDEALISM AND REALISM

 

With the ascent of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary king of Bhutan, the land of the hidden treasure finally began to yield its most precious jewels. The Shabdrung era had succeeded in uniting Bhutan culturally, but it failed to bring about political harmony. To make matters worse, the lurking presence of the British on the southern borders created further political instability. The Wangchuck dynasty faced ethnic violence, terrorism and political conflicts. Yet, as Bhutan gradually emerged from its self-imposed isolation and began to modernize, its political institutions started to evolve without disturbing its traditional culture.

 

On May 8, 2008, the first democratically elected parliament of Bhutan was brought to session. The 47 members of the national assembly and the 25 members of the national council gathered before the king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, to celebrate Bhutan's transition from a monarchy to a parliamentary form of government.

Bhutan — in the middle of its tenth five-year plan — is moving towards planned economic growth through industrialization, ushering in foreign investment from neighbouring countries and focusing on private sector development. Planned development has brought about significant structural changes in the economy. The economic development policy encompasses major reforms, such as the restructuring of the macro-economic base that includes hydropower, service industry, organic farming and IT-enabled knowledge society. The specific areas include finance, foreign direct investment, trade, industry, agriculture, transport, education, health, tourism and the public sector. The economic development programme further reinforces an appropriate policy framework to allow public-private partnership in infrastructure projects. The framework will provide adequate security to private sector investment and, at the same time, ensure that checks and balances are maintained through transparency, competition and regulation.

 

What is most striking about Bhutan is that it seeks to balance the need for economic progress with inter-generational equity and sustainable development. This alternative model places human happiness and holistic well-being at the centre of development.

 

India's relations with Bhutan pervades political, social, economic and cultural spheres. According to the prime minister of Bhutan, Jigme Y. Thinley, "... this relationship has blossomed into a model of inter-state relations between two neighbouring countries.... The partnership in the hydropower sector, in particular, is changing the nature of our bilateral cooperation from a purely donor-recipient relationship to one of collaboration for mutual benefit." In addition to mega hydel projects such as Chhukha, Kurichhu and Tala — all financed by India — three more hydro-power projects have already been commissioned with Indian assistance.

 

Bhutan is an ideal example of the interplay between realism and idealism on the edifice of globalization. Most globalized nation states complain that political realism compelled them to give up on their ideology. In Bhutan's case, political realism is never synonymous with power politics, but with national interests.

 

Idealism in Bhutan refers to a tradition that prioritizes ethics, morality, aesthetics and values. Hence Bhutan's model of political realism implies national interest and security, together with ideology, moral concerns, social reconstruction and trust for long-term cooperation and alliances.

DEBAMITRA MITRA

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

OWN GOAL

 

The West Bengal government's financial bankruptcy has a long history, stretching back to the time when Jyoti Basu was the chief minister of the state. This is so obvious that even grandmothers in West Bengal, without any knowledge of the intricacies of public finance, can work it out. The West Bengal government has been spending money without adequate sources of revenue. This overspending is an essential part of the history of Basu's tenure as chief minister. His successor has done precious little to remedy the problem. The situation has gone from bad to worse and today it is untenable with a debt burden estimated at Rs 1.69 lakh crore. The excess of expenditure over revenue is the direct result of policies pursued by the Left Front government for over three decades. These policies pampered the electorate rather than following the path of financial prudence. This enabled the Left to win elections but reality has finally caught up with Asim Dasgupta, the state's finance minister. The Left today stands hoist by its own petard.

 

There are three elements to the present crisis that need to be highlighted. The most simple of these is the low level of excise collection in West Bengal — only Rs 1,500 crore, whereas states like Andhra Pradesh collect many times more than this as excise duty. West Bengal has very few liquor shops compared to Andhra Pradesh. One result of this is the proliferation of illicit liquor. Mr Dasgupta now wants to call an all-party meeting to resolve the moral issues involved in opening more liquor shops. Why did he not open more such shops in the high noon of Left power when no opposition existed? The other issue concerns the huge salary bill of the government, a large part of which is devoted to paying the salaries of teachers. The Left Front government has steadfastly followed the policy of wooing teachers to convert them into a solid vote bank. Finally, there is the Left's championing of small savings through post offices offering interest rates that are higher than those prevailing in the market. A part of these savings comes back to the state as a loan, thus increasing the debt burden. The Left Front government has never objected to this process; in fact, it has connived in it in the name of favouring the poor. For its parlous plight the Left has no one to blame save itself and the irresponsibility of its erstwhile leader, Jyoti Basu.

 

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

FIRST EDIT

RECOVER THE LOOT

''THOSE RESPONSIBLE SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO BOOK.''

 

 

The resignation of Union communications minister A Raja should not be considered the end of the controversy surrounding the ministry's dubious decision to allocate 2G spectrum and licences to selected companies in 2008. As pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) and others, the decision caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the national exchequer. Raja's resignation does not make good the loss, though he had to go in view of the overwhelming evidence of  his role in the affair.


The matter is not just a political issue between the UPA leadership and the DMK to which the minister belongs. Since the country has suffered a huge loss, the money should be recovered and those responsible should be brought to book. The loss is about 3 per cent of the country's GDP and half of the estimated fiscal deficit of the country for the current year.


The loss is too big to be the price of the Congress party's alliance with the DMK. The prime minister risked the survival of the UPA-I government for a lesser issue when he defied the Left parties on the civil nuclear deal last year. The nation is also entitled to know all the details of the decision-making process which resulted in the loss.

This is specially so because the telecom ministry has submitted to the supreme court that the prime minister was 'kept fully informed of all decisions,' he supported them and there was 'no difference of opinion' on the matter. Raja has also maintained that he was only following the NDA government's policy, but without accepting that allocation of spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices is patently absurd.


It is also now known that senior officials of the ministry were not in agreement with the minister on his decisions. Since there is a lot of obfuscation and unconvincing arguments, the matter needs to fully investigated and the blame should be fully fixed. The unwillingness of the CBI, which has already registered an FIR in the case to expedite the investigation, as noted by the supreme court, is a also a matter of concern.


Whatever be the kind of investigation that is needed to unravel the irregularities, it should lead to the recovery of the money lost to the exchequer, if necessary through re-auctioning of the licences. The prime minister also has a personal responsibility to clear himself, as his name has been dragged into it by the ministry.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

ELUDING CONSENSUS

''THE RECOVERY FROM RECESS-ION IS QUITE UNEVEN.''

 

The G20 summit which recently concluded in Seoul has not produced any concrete and immediate solutions to the contentious issues that mark a delicate and difficult stage in the world's economic relations. The main reason is that the recovery from recession is uneven and different countries have different perspectives on their present situation and on ways to move forward.


There was a consensus that the currency wars between countries which has  become a possibility should be avoided. But the finance ministers who had met before the summit had already agreed on this. Currency wars could result from trade imbalances and the focus of the deliberations was about how to avoid them. 


The US, which has a high trade deficit, and China, which has a huge surplus, have the highest say on the matter and there was no meeting point between the two on the matter.


There was concern that both China and Germany have not done enough to slow down their exports and to stimulate domestic demand so that global recovery becomes more balanced. The US wants China to revalue its currency for this, but China has not given any assurance except that it will move towards market-determined rates in due course. 


The US too has faced criticism for its quantitative easing policy which results in devaluation of the dollar. The resulting flow of funds to emerging countries can harm their currencies and affect their exports adversely. India may not be seriously affected because its growth is not dependent on exports and there is good domestic demand growth. But prime minister Manmohan Singh did well to warn against competitive devaluation and recourse to protectionist measures which can distort the global recovery.


The international  consensus to avoid protectionism, as seen in the earlier summits, seems to be fraying now. The prime minister's call to the developed countries to reduce debt also made sense at a time of trade imbalances.

Some of these prime concerns have been postponed for corrective action till the summit to be held next year. Some guidelines have been envisaged but actual action will necessarily have to wait. The US proposal to set a binding cap on trade deficits and surpluses has not been accepted and was not seriously discussed either. without a clear consensus, fault lines in the world economy are likely to continue.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

FORGING A NEW BOND

BY B G VERGHESE


Hurdles remain, as they will among friends and democracies. But they do not undermine the basic bonds that are strengthening.

 

Now that the dust has settled, Obama's visit can be properly adjudged a success. As usual, a section of the press and commentators, the BJP and Left came to dire conclusions before the event and made a strategic retreat as events unfolded. It is astonishing how gullible and chauvinistic some channels and opinion makers can be but remain unabashed despite getting it wrong every time.


India has not sold out to anybody and a new and constructive Indo-US engagement is in the process of being forged. Hurdles remain, as they will among friends and democracies. But they do not undermine the basic bonds that are strengthening.


The economic and technological relationships now evolving between the two countries are mutually beneficial and no strategic relationship will be to India's disadvantage. One message that has come through clearly is that both sides know they need each other and should not permit ancient divides to cloud their future partnership, though tough bargaining remains on the cards.


It is disconcerting that Indian commentators made so much of what Obama said or did not say about Pakistan and its being a safe haven for terrorism. The very fact that he stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, laid flowers at the 26/11 memorial with families of some of its victims gathered around and said that those responsible for the carnage must be brought to justice and their safe havens in Pakistan denied, was eloquent enough.

It is demeaning that India looks for a US gift of a permanent seat in the Security Council. Obama endorsed that but suggested that India speak up on human rights violations in Myanmar, where fake elections have just been held, and on Iran. The snub was misplaced. Washington has been pusillanimous where its own geo-political interests are involved. Cheveron has stakes in Myanmar's Yadana offshore gasfield despite sanctions.


The main thrust of Obama's discovery of India was his acclamation of its unique democratic roots. He saw this for what it is, a truly incredible example, warts and all, of freedom with unity in diversity for a fifth of mankind, at a time when France has banned the burqa and Switzerland minarets, and Angel Merkel says multiculturalism has failed in Germany. He spoke of partnering India in rebuilding Afghanistan and of strategic consultations with India on East Asia, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.


On J&K, Obama made the obvious point that a stable and prosperous Pakistan is in India's interest, and that the US will only intervene if asked by both the sides. However, some Indians constantly re-hyphenate India with Pakistan.

The real damage to national interest comes from the government's extraordinary inability to state the Indian case factually and forcefully rather than merely responding to Pakistan's negative founding ideology of being India's the 'other'. Its consequent compulsion to 'defend' Islam against perceived 'Hindu imperialism' (read Kashmir) has created and sustained the military-mullah complex that holds its people in thrall.

Use of terror and jihad

The US has for 60 years armed Pakistan to the teeth, underwritten its economy and allowed it to acquire nuclear weapons and blackmail the world, mistakenly upholding it as its frontline ally — currently to secure Afghanistan and fight terror — though aware of its devious conduct in using terror and jihad as instruments of state policy.


American policy has underwritten state power in Pakistan's military and enabled it to suppress democracy. This is a grim irony. The Kerry-Lugar Act, designed to hold Islamabad to its pledge to devote the many billion of dollars of military assistance it is giving to fight al-Qaeda and Taliban terror, has been a dead letter. But Washington is up a gum tree and refuses to get down while Islamabad waits for the Americans to quit before taking over a client Afghanistan.


US militarisation of Pakistan has dried the roots of incipient democracy in that unhappy country. Its misguided and muddled AfPak policy, of which Bob Woodward writes, has become part of the problem rather than the solution. Washington's fear is that if it stops supporting the Pakistan military's extra-curricular activities, the al-Qaeda-Taliban and other jihadis will take over a failing state and access its nuclear wherewithal.

The answer is to make a sufficiency of US economic and military aid strictly conditional on monitored performance and to support policies that regionalise the war on terror in AfPak. If Pakistan walks away, the threat of imminent economic collapse will bring the military to heel despite Chinese and Saudi assistance even as it institutionally strengthens the civil regime.


Pakistan has a stake in Afghanistan and needs a secure though soft border along the Durand Line. But Afghanistan must be enabled to remain neutral and not pressured to submit to Islamabad's hegemony. India has no designs on Afghanistan and would readily support such a regime in cooperation with Pakistan and Iran.

Regionalisation of the AfPak war has hitherto failed because of Washington's visceral hostility towards Iran and its consistent bias against the Arabs in Palestine despite Obama's latest broadside against Israel's West Bank-East Jerusalem settlement policy even amidst peace talks. Despite Obama's reaching out to the Islamic world, Washington remains mired in a flawed West Asia policy with few knowing what to expect in Iraq.

These are the holes of its own making from which the US must dig itself out. The new Indo-US partnership lays a basis for mutual cooperation between Delhi and Washington to achieve peace and stability in this critical region and allow a democratic Pakistan to come into its own.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

THE BHARAT THAT OBAMA IGNORED

BY KAPIL KITCHLU


The US president recognised that the spending class in India is in size equal to his country's.

 

The visit of US President Barack Obama was memorable more for what it yet again told us about the state of the nation, more specifically its influential classes. It began with the electronic media gurgling and apoplectic that the president did not excoriate Pakistan at a memorial event, mere minutes after he arrived on Indian soil, when the most ordinary common sense should have told anyone that he could not and would not do that in public at such an event.


Frenzy then moved to whether he will endorse us for a UN Security Council seat as permanent member, when it requires no special insight to know the reform of the UN is a good decade or two away and Obama will have long gone when action on this support is actually called for.


Obama then proceeded to say that India had emerged as a major power, and the aspirational class went into an uncontrolled jig, dancing in the studios and in their TV rooms at home.


Defence equipment

But what did Obama actually say and do? Well, he came here to put India on a trajectory of high expenditure on defence equipment, so that the US has a partner in this part of the world with aircraft carriers and submarines and stealth planes and the other wizardry of modern warfare, ready and willing to use them on America's behalf to quell a problem in the region, while simultaneously swelling the breast of our elite that India is tangoing with a superpower.


He seemed ready to help India grow, so that he would have people thousands of miles away, aglow with pat on back from pre-eminent US, so they may return the favour by becoming a sphere of influence a la American, and especially as counterweight to our great-power neighbour.


He gave recognition to the reality that the spending class in India is in size equal to the US, and so the market is hugely important for America. Both he and his wife spent some time with the ordinary middle class at different events, revealing a touch for simplicity, foreign to India's political class, but hardly glimpsed Bharat, where live and toil the other 80 per cent.


Of course, what he could not say was that this other 80 per cent of India which lives on Rs 20 per day, and which will ensure that per capita income in India will remain a tenth of the US for decades to come, to give two nations living cheek by jowl in one space, seething and glowering, was not why he came calling.


He also could not tell us that we are the most corrupt, and unequal by birth, democracy on this planet, with human development indices that would shame any civilised people, but which did not even figure in the wall-to-wall uninterrupted TV coverage over the nearly 72 hours that Obama spent here, with scores upon scores of the chatterati throwing in their two pennies worth, as they dissected and sectioned every word and syllable and gesture, even to the point of now anointing the super robot in blue turban with statesmanlike qualities, because Dr Singh actually uttered a couple of phrases that were not anodyne.


Oneness

What also went unsaid is that a superpower cannot embody two nations, one existing at the margins of civilisation, the other drowning in excess, unconnected, except as masters and serfs, and that democracy also holds at its very centre oneness of humans and equal opportunity for all, dignity, justice and freedom to show dissent, all of which are fully unavailable to the 80 per cent and for most of the time to much of the remaining 20 per cent as well.


Elsewhere, Michelle Obama turned out to be a human being, doing things that humans do, catching the elite totally off guard, to gush and drool, wistfully wondering when Pratibha Patil and Gursharan Kaur might emulate her, the mere imagining of which brings forth amusement and incredulity.


So, all in all, a good three days, to clearly and unambiguously assert from the ramparts that India and Bharat are here and real, and never the twain shall meet.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

THE BEGONIA WINDOW

BY DAKSHA HATHI


The nights were sheer terror when the patient seemed to be in contact with death.

 

 

The most winsome window in my house is the begonia window under the skylight in the west wing, where seven silver dappled Rex Begonias make a permanent rainbow, with their ruby, purple, orange, peacock, chocolate and tomato red leaves. But how dreadfully that window-garden was won, with such hopelessness and despair when I saw a smoker slowly dying before my eyes again and again for four loathsome months in a Bombay hospital.


The friend had packed off her lungs very far away, with 20 years of tasting every foreign brand she could get. The nights were sheer terror when the patient seemed to be in close contact with death leering at us, and an army of nurses and doctors mourned because cigarettes had won the war.


I was dismissed from the room of death in attendance from four to six every morning while steroids and incubators worked madly. I wandered into the hospital's lovely garden where the scent of jasmine and a stray dog gave me innocent comforting company. As I waited greedily for a perky little man to arrive with coffee, I egan to steal one cutting of a gorgeous begonia daily to believe in life again.


I would greedily drink up five or six thimbles of the tiniest coffee mugs I have ever seen, to face that horrid blizzard of death — as it waited for its traveller. When it mercifully collected her, I came back begonia-burnished, Rs 600 odd saved from the most sorrowful begonia steal, but paid up with the loss of the best three-layered trifle maker in my world, (delicious pineapple, creamy iced, sugared and buttered temptation) the only person who could tell me the name of every new plant I discovered in England. Death pocketed that gold as well, greedily.


The patient's iPod came out with me (having lost her speech she would touch her eye to remind me to keep it safe!) into those frozen nights where I guiltily discarded my favourite Manna De and S D Burman after falling into the awesome new heaven of Mozart  and Verdi whose Requiem (surely the most heartrending, haunting music ever) warmed my soul.


I will never forget how cigarettes can murder smokers so viciously. And every smoker appears to me as pitiful and pathetic, the saddest moron in the world! But now I know that in the loneliest hour of being stamped under death's claws, when music begins to weep for us, we will finally somehow be safe! Even from the most bitter poison from your life's creepiest ghouls and stealers, you will survive with the mystifying golden goblet of music.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

SEARCHING YOUR LAPTOP

 

Federal courts have long agreed that federal agents guarding the borders do not need a warrant or probable cause to search a traveler's belongings. That exception to the Fourth Amendment needs updating and tightening to reflect the realities of the digital age.

 

The government has a sovereign right and responsibility to secure the borders. The recent discovery of two powerful package bombs being shipped to the United States is a reminder of the many dangers out there.

 

There is also a big difference between government agents scanning items for explosives or looking through a suitcase full of clothing, and searching through the hard drive of a laptop computer containing work papers, financial records, e-mail messages and Web site visits.

 

Although the number of travelers whose devices are searched is small compared with the many millions who cross American borders each year, the problem is real. Between October 2008 and June 2010, more than 6,600 travelers — nearly 3,000 of them American — were subjected to such searches, according to government records released in response to a Freedom of Information request.

 

The George W. Bush administration first authorized border agents to seize and view the contents of laptops, smartphones, and other devices and copy and share data with other government agencies without need for any individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.

 

The Obama administration has tweaked the policy, requiring approval from supervisors to hold a seized device for more than five days, for example. The fundamental flaw remains: it permits the government to engage in indiscriminate and invasive fishing expeditions.

 

The Supreme Court has yet to confront the issue. But in a disappointing ruling in 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco said that agents at a border need not meet even the low threshold of reasonable suspicion to justify a warrantless laptop search. The ruling reversed a lower court's finding that laptops are "an extension of our own memory" and too personal to allow government searches without some reasonable and articulable suspicion.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union has now filed a lawsuit challenging the policy on behalf of press photographers, criminal defense attorneys and a doctoral student in Islamic studies whose laptop was searched and confiscated this spring.

 

Congress should not wait for resolution of the case. It should approve legislation along the lines of the Travelers' Privacy Protection Act proposed two years ago in the Senate.

 

It would have confined border laptop searches involving American citizens and residents to situations where agents have a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity and require a higher standard of probable cause and a warrant or court order when a laptop is held for more than 24 hours. The measure also set strict limits on disclosure and sharing of information from devices seized at the border and requires the Department of Homeland Security to report regularly to Congress and the public on its search policies and practices.

 

The Senate bill's leading sponsor, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, was defeated in this month's election. His three Democratic co-sponsors — Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Maria Cantwell of Washington — should press the issue in the new Senate.

 

The challenge, as ever, is to strike a balance that grants sufficient leeway to protect the nation's borders without allowing the intimate details of people's lives and work to be searched, seized and copied on a whim.

 

 

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]
THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MR. RANGEL WALKS OUT

 

The investigation of Representative Charles Rangel for violation of Congressional fund-raising rules has been going on for two years. The hearing before the House ethics committee — which Mr. Rangel insisted would exonerate him — has been scheduled for weeks. Yet on Monday, the day the hearing began, Mr. Rangel demanded a delay, claiming he needed to raise money for a new lawyer. When the committee refused, he walked out the door and into a new embarrassment.

 

There is no reason why the New York Democrat should have been unprepared to mount a defense. He said his defense team, from the firm of Zuckerman Spaeder, dropped him a month ago when he warned he might not be able to find enough money in his campaign fund to pay them for the hearing. But as the committee chairwoman, Zoe Lofgren, pointed out, the committee has repeatedly advised Mr. Rangel since 2008 that he could set up a defense fund to raise the money, which he has not done.

 

Instead, Mr. Rangel chose to grandstand. In remarks drenched in self-pity, he cited his 50 years of public service, his military record, his love of country. In a bid to discredit the proceedings, and likely verdict, he actually suggested that the committee was trying to deny him a lawyer, as if its members had anything to do with his predicament.

 

He certainly should know that House rules prohibit pro bono lawyers in such circumstances to avoid the appearance of legal favoritism, and that anyone who faces the committee had better find a way to pay for a good defense. The committee was right to proceed without him. By the end of the day, it had agreed that the facts presented about his violations were not in dispute.

 

Mr. Rangel is not facing expulsion or criminal charges. About the worst that can happen to him is a reprimand. The lawyer acting as the committee's "prosecutor" said Monday that Mr. Rangel had been sloppy in his finances and in following reporting rules, not corrupt.

 

We think that the 13 ethics charges against the congressman — including the acceptance of four rent-stabilized apartments and the failure to pay taxes on a chunk of his income — are more serious than simple sloppiness. But if he had apologized to the House and accepted his knuckle-rap, he would have been spared the hearing. Now he has raised even more questions about his fitness to represent his district.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

TWO EASY MOVES FOR THE LAME DUCK

 

The lame-duck Congress has a lot of work to do, including wrestling with the Bush-era tax cuts, repealing the Pentagon's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and ratifying the New Start arms reduction treaty. It also needs to approve two food-related measures that are badly needed to protect the nation's health. The good news is that a version of each has already passed one chamber, and both have strong bipartisan support.

 

The Senate unanimously approved a bill that would reduce childhood obesity by getting junk foods out of the schools and providing an additional $4.5 billion over the next decade for child nutrition, including healthier school meals. Before the election, more than 100 House Democrats objected to paying for that progress partly by cutting a future rise in food stamp benefits.

 

We understand their concern. But President Obama has pledged to try to find replacement food stamp financing before the cutbacks go into effect in 2013. This is good legislation, and the House needs to act.

 

The Senate needs to approve a House food safety bill that would significantly strengthen the Food and Drug Administration's ability to combat food-borne illnesses, including giving it the authority to recall contaminated products and other tools to prevent contaminated foods from reaching the marketplace in the first place.

 

This bill has strong bipartisan support. But a few senators, led by Jon Tester, a Democrat of Montana, appear determined to tack on an amendment exempting from safety standards a significant number of produce items and processed foods. That would weaken the F.D.A.'s ability to protect Americans' health. The Senate needs to approve the bill without this amendment.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

HOW TO KILL THE METH MONSTER

BY ROB BOVETT

 

Newport, Ore.

THE latest bad news from the world of methamphetamine is that makers of the drug have perfected a one-pot recipe that enables them to manufacture their highly addictive product while on the move, often in their car. The materials they need — a two-liter soda bottle, a few cold pills and some household chemicals — are easily obtained and easily discarded, often in a trash bag dumped along the highway.

 

There is, however, a simple way to end this mobile industry — and, indeed, most methamphetamine production. We've tried it in Oregon, and have seen how well it works. Just keep a key ingredient, pseudoephedrine, out of the hands of meth producers.

 

Pseudoephedrine is a nasal decongestant found in some cold and allergy medicines. In 1976, the Food and Drug Administration allowed it to be sold over the counter, inadvertently letting the genie out of the bottle. Afterward, the meth epidemic spread across the nation, leaving destroyed lives and families in its wake.

 

Sales of products containing pseudoephedrine in the United States now amount to nearly $600 million a year. Yet, according to the pharmaceutical industry, only 15 million Americans use the drug to treat their stuffed-up noses, and these people typically buy no more than a package or two ($10 to $20 worth) a year.

 

Over the years, Congress and state legislatures have passed laws meant to prevent the diversion of pseudoephedrine to meth production. But such efforts have amounted to only temporary Band-Aids.

 

In 2006, Congress required pseudoephedrine products to be moved behind the counter, set daily and monthly limits on the amount that can be sold to any one customer and required retailers to keep a log of sales. But meth users quickly learned to evade these controls by making purchases in several different stores — a practice known as "smurfing."

 

In an effort to avoid having more stringent controls placed on the drug, the pharmaceutical industry is lobbying Congress to require electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine sales, as some states already do. This makes it harder for an individual smurfer to collect large quantities of the drug. But meth users get around the tracking system by banding together in cooperatives, with each member buying pseudoephedrine products in amounts small enough to evade detection. These group smurfers then contribute their portion to the pot in exchange for cash or a share of the cooked-up meth. Or, in the West, they feed the "super labs" run by drug trafficking organizations in Central California.

 

In Kentucky, an electronic tracking law that went into effect in 2008 has had no effect on the number of meth labs there, and only 10 percent of them are found by electronic tracking. The number of police incidents involving meth labs has actually increased by more than 40 percent.

 

The only effective solution is to put the genie back in the bottle by returning pseudoephedrine to prescription-drug status. That's what Oregon did more than four years ago, enabling the state to eliminate smurfing and nearly eradicate meth labs. This is part of the reason that Oregon recently experienced the steepest decline in crime rates in the 50 states.

 

Earlier this year, Mississippi also passed a law requiring a prescription to get pseudoephedrine. Since July, the number of meth labs in that state has fallen by 65 percent.

 

In 2009, Mexico, which had been the source of most of the methamphetamine on the streets of the United States, went further, banning pseudoephedrine entirely. The potency of meth from Mexico has since plummeted. This is great news. But now the ball is back in our court.

 

These pseudoephedrine prescription requirements apply to only 15 pharmaceutical products and their generic equivalents — medicines like Sudafed 12 Hour, Aleve D and Advil Cold and Sinus. Most cold and allergy medicines on store shelves are not affected, because they contain no pseudoephedrine.

 

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has proposed legislation to require prescriptions for products with

pseudoephedrine nationwide, and Congress should enact it without delay. American families, too many already devastated by the meth epidemic, deserve no less.

 

Rob Bovett, the district attorney for Lincoln County, Ore., was the primary author of Oregon's anti-methamphetamine laws.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE TWO CULTURES

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Many of the psychologists, artists and moral philosophers I know are liberal, so it seems strange that American liberalism should adopt an economic philosophy that excludes psychology, emotion and morality.

 

Yet that is what has happened. The economic approach embraced by the most prominent liberals over the past few years is mostly mechanical. The economy is treated like a big machine; the people in it like rational, utility maximizing cogs. The performance of the economic machine can be predicted with quantitative macroeconomic models.

 

These models can be used to make highly specific projections. If the government borrows $1 and then spends it, it will produce $1.50 worth of economic activity. If the government spends $800 billion on a stimulus package, that will produce 3.5 million in new jobs.

 

Everything is rigorous. Everything is science.

 

Conservatives, who are usually stereotyped as narrow-eyed business-school types, have gone all Oprah-esque in trying to argue against these liberals. If the government borrows trillions of dollars, this will increase public anxiety and uncertainty, the conservatives worry. The liberal technicians brush aside this soft-headed mush. These psychological concerns are mythological, they say. That's gaseous blathering from those who lack quantitative rigor.

 

Other people get moralistic. This country is already too profligate, they cry. It already shops too much and borrows too much. How can we solve our problems by borrowing and spending more? The liberal technicians brush this away, too. Economics is a rational activity detached from morality. Hardheaded policy makers have to have the courage to flout conventional morality — to borrow even when the country is sick of borrowing.

 

The liberal technicians have an impressive certainty about them. They have amputated those things that can't be contained in models, like emotional contagions, cultural particularities and webs of relationships. As a result, everything is explainable and predictable. They can stand on the platform of science and dismiss the poor souls down below.

 

Yet over the past 21 months, it has been harder to groove to their certainty. To start with, the economy has not responded as the modelers projected, either in the months after the stimulus was passed or this summer, when it was supposed to be producing hundreds of thousands of jobs. It has become harder to define how much good the stimulus package is doing. An $800 billion measure must leave a large footprint, but it is hard to find in a $70 trillion global economy.

 

Moreover, it has been harder to accept that psychological factors like uncertainty and anxiety really are a mirage. The first time a business leader tells you she is holding off on investing because she is scared about the future, you dismiss it as anecdote. But over the past few years, I've had hundreds of such conversations.

 

It's been harder to dismiss morality as a phantom concern, too. Maybe in a nation of robots the government can run a policy that offends the morality of the citizenry, but not in a nation of human beings, as the recent elections showed.

 

Nor has the world come to look simpler and easier to manipulate since the stimulus passed. It now looks more complicated. It's one thing to hatch an ideal policy in an academic lab, but in the real world, context is everything.

 

Ethan Ilzetzki of the London School of Economics and Enrique G. Mendoza and Carlos A. Vegh of the University of Maryland examined stimulus efforts in 44 countries. In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper, they argued that fiscal stimulus can be quite effective in low-debt countries with fixed exchange rates and closed economies.

 

Stimulus measures are generally not as effective, on the other hand, in countries like the U.S. with high debt and floating exchange rates. The authors of the paper pointed to a series of specific circumstances that complicate, to say the least, the effectiveness of increasing public spending: How much stimulus money ends up flowing abroad? What is the relationship between fiscal policy and monetary policy? How do investors respond to fear of future interest rate increases?

 

One could go on. It's become harder to have confidence that legislators can successfully enact the brilliant policies that liberal technicians come up with. Far from entering the age of macroeconomic mastery and social science triumph, we seem to be entering an age in which statecraft is, once again, an art, not a science. When you look around the world at the countries that have come through the recession best, it's not the countries with the brilliant and aggressive stimulus models. It's the ones like Germany that had the best economic fundamentals beforehand.

 

It all makes one doubt the wizardry of the economic surgeons and appreciate the old wisdom of common sense: simple regulations, low debt, high savings, hard work, few distortions. You don't have to be a genius to come up with an economic policy like that.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THIS RAGING FIRE

BY BOB HERBERT

 

When I was a kid my Uncle Robert, for whom I was named, used to say that blacks needed to "fight on all fronts, at home and abroad."

 

By that he meant that while it was critically important to fight against racial injustice and oppression, it was just as important to support, nurture and fight on behalf of one's family and community.

 

Uncle Robert (my father always called him Jim — don't ask) died many years ago, but he came to mind as I was going over the dismal information in a new report about the tragic conditions confronting a large portion of America's black population, especially black males.

 

We know by now, of course, that the situation is grave. We know that more than a third of black children live in poverty; that more than 70 percent are born to unwed mothers; that by the time they reach their mid-30s, a majority of black men without a high school diploma has spent time in prison. We know all this, but no one seems to know how to turn things around. No one has been able to stop this steady plunge of young black Americans into a socioeconomic abyss.

 

Now comes a report from the Council of the Great City Schools that ought to grab the attention of anyone who cares about black youngsters, starting with those parents who have shortchanged their children on a scale so monstrous that it is difficult to fully grasp.

 

The report, titled "A Call for Change," begins by saying that "the nation's young black males are in a state of crisis" and describes their condition as "a national catastrophe." It tells us that black males remain far behind their schoolmates in academic achievement and that they drop out of school at nearly twice the rate of whites.

 

Black children — boys and girls — are three times more likely to live in single-parent households than white children and twice as likely to live in a home where no parent has full-time or year-round employment.

 

In 2008, black males were imprisoned at a rate six-and-a-half times higher than white males.

 

The terrible economic downturn has made it more difficult than ever to douse this raging fire that is consuming

the life prospects of so many young blacks, and the growing sentiment in Washington is to do even less to help any Americans in need. It is inconceivable in this atmosphere that blacks themselves will not mobilize in a major way to save these young people. I see no other alternative.

 

The first and most important step would be a major effort to begin knitting the black family back together. There is no way to overstate the myriad risks faced by children whose parents have effectively abandoned them. It's the family that protects the child against ignorance and physical harm, that offers emotional security and the foundation for a strong sense of self, that enables a child to believe — truly — that wonderful things are possible.

 

All of that is missing in the lives of too many black children.

 

I wouldn't for a moment discount the terrible toll that racial and economic injustice have taken, decade after decade, on the lives of millions of black Americans. But that is no reason to abandon one's children or give in to the continued onslaught of those who would do you ill. One has to fight on all fronts, as my Uncle Robert said.

 

Black men need to be in the home, providing for their children. The community at large — including the many who have done well, who have secured a place in the middle or upper classes — needs to coalesce to provide support and assistance to those still struggling.

 

Dorothy Height, the longtime president of the National Council of Negro Women, who died in April at the age of 98, always insisted that blacks "have survived because of family." And she counseled: "No one will do for you what you need to do for yourself."

 

There are many people already hard at work on these matters, but leadership is needed to vastly expand and maximize those efforts. Cultural change comes hard, and takes a long time, but nothing short of a profound cultural change is essential. Let the message go out that walking down the aisle carries with it great responsibilities but can also be great fun, and watching your kid graduate with honors is a blast.

 

Black children can't wait for Washington to get its act together. They don't have time to wait for the economy to improve. They need mom and dad and the larger community to act now, to do the right thing without delay.

 

This is not a fight only for blacks. All allies are welcome. But the cultural imperative lies overwhelmingly with the black community itself.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

LEFT, RIGHT AND WRONG ON TAXES

BY GLENN HUBBARD

 

GIVEN the furor from both the left and the right, one would be tempted to think that the initial proposal from the co-chairmen of President Obama's fiscal commission, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, must offer an excellent starting point for a discussion of deficit reduction.

 

Indeed, it does — particularly when it comes to tax policy. America's fiscal mess is real. As Messrs. Bowles and Simpson aptly demonstrate, we are in a difficult situation in large part because we have designed entitlements for a welfare state we cannot afford. And, perhaps less obviously, they show how we have used the tax code as a vehicle for special-purpose spending that weakens both the efficiency and fairness of our tax system.

 

When I left my job as the deputy assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy in 1993, I left a message on my office blackboard for my successor. I wrote, "Broaden the base, lower the rates" repeatedly until I filled the entire space. I then had it covered with wax so it could not be erased. (Yes, the government charged me for my bit of vandalism. But it was worth it.)

 

The Bowles-Simpson report seems to have taken that message to heart, recognizing that when we provide tax advantages to spur certain types of spending — with, say, a deduction for interest payments on home mortgages — we in turn require higher marginal tax rates to raise offsetting revenue. Not only are those higher rates a drag on overall growth, but because the tax preferences are often more valuable to affluent households than to poorer ones, they also make the tax code less fair.

 

This is why the two chairmen suggested that the government reduce marginal tax rates for households to a range from 8 percent to 23 percent, based on income (as opposed to 10 percent to 35 percent now). This cut in rates — which should promote job creation, entrepreneurship, saving and investment — would be made possible by limiting many of the deductions that make the tax code so complicated and often inequitable.

 

The loopholes proposed for elimination or at least reduction include not just the mortgage-interest deduction, but also exemptions for charitable contributions and for employer-provided health care subsidies, as well as the earned-income tax credit. (It's worth noting that the Bowles-Simpson plan does allow for some flexibility: Congress could add back deductions and exclusions it feels are vital, but at the expense of higher marginal rates.)

 

The co-chairmen also wisely propose a cut in the corporate income tax, which holds back both investment and wages, reducing it to 26 percent from 35 percent. This cut shouldn't actually require much in terms of offsetting revenue, as research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development suggests that the new level would not be far from the "revenue-maximizing" rate.

 

This is not to say the commission's proposal is ideal. For one, it missed a chance to make better, more radical changes to the revenue system — like a shift to a consumption tax rather than taxing incomes. My greatest concern, however, is that the plan is more about "principal" (cutting federal debt) than about "principle" (what we want taxes and spending to accomplish).

 

To meet the nation's fiscal challenges, we need to refocus our economic activity — primarily with less reliance on consumption and more on investment and exports. The Bowles-Simpson plan to cut marginal tax rates and the corporate tax would help. But their proposal to treat capital gains and dividends, which are now taxed at favorable rates, as ordinary income would not; in fact, it would hamper saving and investment. And the proposed increase in gasoline taxes seems designed simply to plug a budget hole, not to spur energy innovation.

 

What of the critics on the left and right? I understand the complaints of liberals. The proposal essentially claims that maintaining a broad welfare state is inconsistent with planning for a long-run fiscal trajectory that includes economic growth and social insurance. This idea is anathema to Democratic Congressional leaders. The proposal also lays bare the fallacy on the left that any lowering of marginal tax rates is necessarily "tax cuts for the rich." The plan's limits on tax deductions and cutbacks in the generosity of entitlement benefits for upper-income households render the plan a progressive reform.

 

The right's criticisms are more puzzling. Groups like Americans for Tax Reform insist that any member of Congress who supported the proposal would be voting for a tax increase. It is hard to share the view that no tax increase of any sort can figure in a fiscal solution. The proposal calls for taxes and spending to be capped at 21 percent of gross domestic product, which, while higher than I might design, is a serious suggestion worthy of debate.

 

Second, it is not reasonable to argue that there is no single activity that can face higher taxation. If the economy must pivot toward investment and exports, tax policies must be changed to encourage productive investment over consumption.

 

Two cheers for this first draft of our economic future. If President Obama embraces its structure and Republicans embrace the tradeoffs it presents, the proposal will begin a discussion that, one hopes, will end in fiscal sanity and economic growth.

 

Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia Business School and the co-author of "Seeds of Destruction," was a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON WAR ON TERROR: YES, THE U.S. CAN SEEK TO KILL AN AMERICAN TERRORIST ABROAD

 

Anwar al-Awlaki's father may love his son, but the U.S. government clearly does not. The younger al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic cleric who was born in the USA and regularly urges Muslims to murder Americans, is on the Obama administration's target list to be captured or, more likely, killed.

Last week, his father went to federal court to try to block the government from targeting his son, who is believed to be living in Yemen, for assassination. The case — which awaits the judge's decision on whether to let it go forward or, as the government prefers, throw it out — raises yet another one of those complex, post-9/11 moral and legal questions: Can the U.S. president order the death of a citizen who has joined forces with a foreign terrorist movement?

 

We think yes, but only if certain criteria are met, and with judicial review. Here's why.

 

Al-Awlaki, 39, who was born in New Mexico and attended Colorado State and George Washington University, is unquestionably a very bad guy who has been linked to most of the recent high-profile terror plots against Americans. Just last week, on the same day attorneys were arguing his father's case in federal court, al-Awlaki released a new video that said of killing Americans that it was "either us or them," and that Muslims needed no special permission.

 

Authorities allege that al-Awlaki has an operational role in the group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and was directly involved in helping accused underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempt to blow up an airliner in Detroit last Christmas. Al-Awlaki exchanged encouraging e-mails with Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, charged with killing 13 people in last year's Fort Hood shooting spree. Al-Awlaki's sermons are said to have inspired would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. And authorities were investigating whether al-Awlaki was connected to the recent plot to blow up planes with toner cartridges packed with explosives.

 

The Constitution provides robust due-process protections for U.S. citizens, but the nation cannot be powerless in the face of repeated attempts by one of its citizens to cause the murder of Americans. Through his words and deeds, al-Awlaki has in effect renounced his American citizenship and joined the enemy abroad.

 

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights argue that the rules of war don't apply here because Yemen is not a recognized battlefield. This ignores the fact that the loosely governed country is functionally a war zone.

 

The USS Cole was attacked from the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000, killing 17 U.S. sailors, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is launching strikes against this country from Yemen.

 

Although the public evidence against al-Awlaki seems overwhelming, allowing the White House unchecked power to target a citizen for death should make all Americans deeply uneasy. Just as the Bush administration did, the Obama administration insists its decisions in these matters should not be subject to judicial review.

 

The federal judge hearing al-Awlaki's case wondered why U.S. authorities must get a warrant to wiretap an American abroad but claim the right to kill one with no judicial review. The judge has a point. Judicial review, of the sort provided by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for eavesdropping requests, would provide an important safeguard by requiring the government to show what criteria makes someone a target, how a person meets those criteria and whether assassination is warranted.

 

For Anwar al-Awlaki, a terrorist who has declared war on the U.S., it shouldn't be a tough call.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER VIEW ON WAR ON TERROR: FUNDAMENTALLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL

BY JAMEEL JAFFER AND MARIA LAHOOD

 

The Obama administration is making the unprecedented claim that it has the unilateral authority to kill any American it deems to pose a threat to the country. If the administration is correct, then the president can compile secret kill lists that include Americans who have never set foot on any actual battlefield, and no court will ever review the evidence on which the lists are based.

 

There is no doubt the president has both the authority and the responsibility to protect the country. But the president also has a duty to protect the Constitution, as his oath of office makes clear. A program that allows the president to impose the death penalty without charge or trial is fundamentally unconstitutional.

 

Our organizations recently filed a lawsuit to press this point. While the lawsuit does not challenge the government's power to use lethal force on actual battlefields, we argue that the government can carry out targeted killings away from the battlefield only as a last resort to address imminent threats to life. We also argue that the courts have a role to play in setting the standards under which the government can use lethal force outside war zones, and in ensuring that these standards are honored.

 

When individual liberties are at stake, the courts' role is crucial. Judicial oversight is required when the government wiretaps an American's phone or searches his office. Shouldn't we require judicial oversight when it orders his killing?

 

The danger of investing the president with unchecked power to kill any American deemed to present a threat should be obvious. Even a president who acts in good faith will make mistakes, and not every president will act in good faith. Whatever authority we invest in President Obama will be available to every future president as well. That's why we need checks and balances. No president should have the authority to deprive individuals of life or liberty without ever having to account for that conduct to a court.

 

Jameel Jaffer is a deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, and Maria LaHood is a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

MEDICAL MISTAKES PLAGUE MEDICARE PATIENTS

BY DANIEL R. LEVINSON

 

Today's hospitals are modern-day marvels of healing, and we expect them to be models of patient safety as well. But a just-released report from my office shows that medical care is falling short for too many hospitalized Medicare patients. A decade after an Institute of Medicine study placed preventable medical errors among the leading causes of death in the United States, our latest study found that a disturbing number of hospitalized patients still endure harmful consequences from medical care, 44% of them preventable. These instances, which the report calls "adverse events," include infections, surgical complications and medication errors.

 

Such occurrences are not always preventable, particularly since many Medicare patients are elderly and have complicated health problems. But enough patient harm is avoidable to make a strong case for action. Hospitals must improve, but they need the help of lawmakers, medical professionals and patients to do so.

 

Errors prolonged hospital stays

 

This study began in response to a congressional mandate to determine the number of harmful medical events Medicare patients experienced, and the cost to taxpayers. My office arranged for physician reviewers to examine a random sample of 780 Medicare patients discharged from hospitals around the country during the month of October 2008.

 

Physicians determined that about one in seven patients (13.5%) experienced at least one serious instance of harm from medical care that prolonged their hospital stay, caused permanent harm, required life-sustaining intervention, or contributed to their deaths. Projected to the entire Medicare population, this rate means an estimated 134,000 hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experienced harm from medical care in one month, with the event contributing to death for 1.5%, or approximately 15,000 patients.

 

Strikingly, medication errors factored in more than half the patient fatalities in our sample, including use of the wrong drug, giving the wrong dosage, or inadequately treating known side effects. Such events were commonly caused by hospital staff diagnosing patients incorrectly or failing to closely monitor their conditions.

 

Less serious harm also occurred. An additional one in seven hospitalized Medicare patients experienced temporary problems, such as allergic reactions or injuries from falls. And many experienced multiple events, including an elderly heart patient who had six separate events during a single hospital stay. Obviously, this situation is unacceptable — and expensive, costing taxpayers more than $4 billion a year due to the need for additional treatment or longer hospitalizations (and even more if you add costs for follow-up care).

 

Hospitals clearly want to excel in patient care — and often do. Still, improvements can and must take place. Fully addressing the far-reaching implications of our study requires both an official response and a personal one.

 

The report made recommendations for improvement to agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services that monitor medical care. Those agencies are committed to increasing medical effectiveness and have embraced the recommendations. Among them are the following:

 

•Too many patient safety efforts concentrate on a narrow list of egregious medical problems that thankfully occur rarely, such as surgery performed on the wrong body part. This focus overlooks the need to also concentrate on far more common harmful incidents, such as blood clots and poor diabetes control.

 

•Government, which pays for a large portion of the nation's medical care, must hold hospitals accountable for better care. New authorities granted by Congress further enable the Medicare program to use hospital performance as a basis for payment. Private insurers can join Medicare in finding effective ways to tie payment to quality.

 

Government commitment is important, yet hospitals bear much of the responsibility. Although hospitals have broadly embraced safety initiatives, the still-high rate of adverse events indicates that far more needs to be done. Hospitals must work faster to adopt evidence-based practices that reduce medical errors. Hospitals can also learn together by volunteering to join patient safety organizations, which collect confidential information about instances of harm that occur from medical care to assess what went wrong and improve patient safety. Further, hospitals can continue to improve patient care systems, including effective use of electronic health records, to help staff avoid mistakes and to alert them to problems.

 

What you can do

 

Vigilance saves lives. Family members with hospitalized loved ones should educate themselves regarding medical treatment and expected outcomes and speak up when things go awry. Hospital staff should treat patients and their families as partners, welcoming family monitoring of patients as an additional safeguard against poor medical outcomes.

 

Sooner or later, most of us will need the help of hospitals. They have earned their current, central place in saving lives and curing disease. We owe it to these critical institutions to help them increase quality of care for the continued health of us all.

 

Daniel R. Levinson is the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

MCCASKILL, TOOMEY: ERA OF EARMARKS MUST END

BY CLAIRE MCCASKILL AND PAT TOOMEY

 

In the sharply divided political environment that is Washington, it is rare to find an issue that cuts across party lines the way earmarks do. Over the years, some of the most fervent opponents of the earmark system have made for some of the most curious partnerships.

 

That is exactly what some might call us — aDemocratic senator from Missouri and theRepublican senator-elect from Pennsylvania. Sure, we probably disagree on more things than we agree, but when it comes to the important issue of cutting wasteful federal spending and changing "business as usual" in Washington, we could not be more in sync.

 

Unfortunately, opposition to reforming the earmark system is just as bipartisan.

 

This week, as Republicans consider an intra-party ban on earmarks, we have heard many passionate arguments in favor of the earmark system from both sides of the aisle.

 

Some have argued that that these earmarked projects slipped into spending bills are worthwhile — and some of them are. But the very process is designed and exists for the purpose of avoiding the appropriate scrutiny of federal spending. The purpose of the earmark is to empower an individual politician with the opportunity to spend money at his sole discretion, without subjecting the project to the normal scrutiny or any type of competitive process. And this lack of scrutiny and competition is the reason taxpayers are forced to fund such ridiculous and wasteful projects ranging from Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" to what amounted to a politician's monument to himself.

 

Some have argued that abolishing earmarks won't save any money — the money currently spent on earmarks will simply be spent by bureaucrats or the administration. But the executive branch can't spend a dime that isn't authorized by Congress. So the money spent on earmarks can be saved at Congress' discretion.

 

We have to start somewhere

 

Still, others have argued that these savings don't amount to much money — only a few billion dollars at most. But that argument reveals a mentality that lies at the heart of our spending problem. Washington must be the only place in America where people talk about billions of dollars like they are talking about pennies.

 

There is only one way to start reining in federal spending and getting our fiscal house in order and that is to start somewhere. In fiscal year 2010, earmarks totaled almost $16 billion. That is $16 billion of taxpayer money we could have saved.

 

Worse, earmarks are used as political currency. There is an unwritten rule in Washington: If you get your piece of pork in a spending bill, you are obligated to vote for the entire bill regardless of how wasteful, bloated and unaffordable that bill might be. Every member of Congress knows that a "no" vote will threaten his or her tiny piece of the earmark pie.

 

It is this "I scratch your back — you scratch mine" mentality that has contributed to our country's runaway spending problem. And it is precisely this process that has angered Americans.

 

How many times do voters have to send a message in order for politicians in Washington — Republicans and Democrats alike — to finally start listening?

 

A bipartisan plea: Pass the ban

 

Tuesday, Republicans will vote on a conference rule banning earmarks for the coming year, but we believe that this new discussion presents an opportunity for both parties to demonstrate that they have heard the voters' message and are taking it to heart. President Obama has already signaled his support for a ban on earmarks, and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has thrown his support behind the measure as well. We hope the Republicans will pass the ban in their caucus Tuesday, and that the Democratic caucus follows suit. Ending the practice of earmarking should mark a first, common-sense critical step in changing the ways of Washington, cutting wasteful spending and proving Washington has gotten the message Americans have delivered.

 

This issue need not be a partisan one, and we are encouraged that Republicans and Democrats have joined together, both in the past and now, in opposing the earmark system. Cross-party alliances often make for the most effective partnerships, and we are confident we can make real progress if we focus on what is best for taxpayers, not what is best for the politicians in Washington.

 

Sen. Claire McCaskill is a Democrat from Missouri. Sen.-elect Pat Toomey is a Republican from Pennsylvania.

 

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USA TODAY

COLUMNISTS' VOICES

EDUCATE BLACK MEN NOW, OR WE'LL ALL PAY LATER

BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

 

As I read the Council of the Great City Schools report on the problems of black males in urban schools, my mind raced back to a day in the fall of 2006 when I took my then-13-year-old daughter to her piano lesson.

 

Arriving early, we stopped at a Friendly's restaurant to get ice cream. When the young black male who waited on us said the cones cost $3.32, I handed him a $5 bill. But as he tried to input this payment, his cash register malfunctioned and wouldn't tell him the correct change.

 

The young man's eyes glistened as he mumbled barely audible sounds of his struggle to manually compute the difference. Then, as customers in line behind us began to voice their frustration, my daughter threw him a lifeline. "You owe us $1.68," she said softly.

 

Outside the store she asked quizzically: "What school does he go to? He's a lot older than I am, and he couldn't figure that out."

 

He could have gone to just about any school.

 

What's needed

 

"Black males continue to perform lower than their peers throughout the country on almost every indicator," the Washington-based Council of the Great Schools, which represents the nation's 66 largest urban public school systems, said in a recent report.

 

While much of the news coverage of the council's gut-wrenching report has focused on the failure of nearly all fourth- and eighth-grade black males to read and do math at proficiency levels, less attention has been paid to its conclusion that educational improvements alone won't fix this problem. What's needed, the council said, is a "concerted national effort to improve the education, social and employment outcomes of African-American males."

 

If you think that's just a warmed-over pitch for more funding of a liberal agenda, you're being shortsighted. In 13 years, minorities will be a majority of this nation's children younger than 18. In just 29 years, most working-age Americans will be black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American. This nation will be hard-pressed to remain the world's leading economy if a sizeable — and growing — share of its potential workforce is slipping through the gaping holes in our education system.

 

'The whole ship' suffers

 

"It has not become apparent to America yet that we are all in this boat together. In the past it was easier for people to think if something happened in that part of the boat occupied by blacks, it wouldn't impact the whole ship," Nat Irvin, a futurist at the University of Louisville, said of the council's report.

 

"If people think the nation can continue to do well economically in about 30 years when minorities become the largest population group," and nothing is done to address the black male education problem, "they're kidding themselves," he said.

 

A comprehensive plan is needed — one that recognizes the connection between the social and economic environment from which these underachieving students come and the educational setting into which they are sent.

 

The council wants a White House conference to address this crisis. People need to recognize this is a problem that can't be solved with generalized education reform. It demands a targeted effort to help black males.

 

If the nation continues this neglect, underachieving black males will produce enough dead weight to sink the American ship of state.

 

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

ITCHING FOR A FUTILE FIGHT

 

It would seem logical that tea party advocates, responsible for some of the success that Republicans exploited to retake the House in the November elections, would be anxious to prove that they can do more than Democrats to revive sluggish economic and job growth. That is, after all, the chief concern of most of the independents who paved Republicans' way back to power.

 

Unfortunately, too many of the tea party and Republicans leaders seem focused mainly on vengeance against President Obama and Democrats for, well, not being extremely conservative Republicans. That's bad enough. It's even worse that so many seem virtually void of concern or real knowledge about what it will take to reverse the unemployment dilemma and restore a robust economy.

 

As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the incorrigibly cranky Kentucky Republican asserted a few days ago, "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

 

California Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican set to take the chairmanship of the House government oversight committee, laid out his agenda this way: "I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks," he declared, promising to focus on the Obama administration's alleged "corruption" in political "paybacks" for members' votes.

 

Closer to home, some state tea party leaders said they would be closely monitoring Sen. Bob Corker, who has rapidly become a key Republican leader in the Senate, for any sign of "compromising" with Democrats in pursuit of legislation to actually get anything done.

 

Mark Skoda, Memphis' tea party chairman, said tea party members were upset that Corker supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program and served as the Republicans' main negotiator on the financial reform bill and the bailout of the auto industry (which he ended up voting against).

 

"Should he not evidence his conservative bona fides in the new year," said Skoda, "it is highly likely that the tea party movement in Tennessee will look for a candidate who will contend for his job in 2012. It's that simple."

 

Such threatening comments seem to leave reason and pursuit of productive action in Congress behind. Indeed, it could well be that Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot by being extremely uncooperative and unproductive.

 

In fact, they can't get anything done alone. They will control just one of the two chambers of Congress. Democrats still control the Senate, and Obama remains president. Without a willingness to engage in bipartisan action, the extremists' belligerence and unvarnished hostility will only produce more gridlock. What's the point? American voters want Washington to work, not sink further in the argumentative morass.

 

What seems to be the point is that Republican and tea party extremists want mainly just to flout their intransigence on their immovable goals, which depending on the goal (a balanced budget, full employment, sealed borders, a stripped-down government, ungoverned health care and financial markets, and freedom from consumer safety standards and environmental regulation) are either undoable in the near term, or unthinkable in a complex society where unvarnished power would grind the average American worker into the dust.

 

The nation needs much more than that. Employment trends already indicate that the country is in the midst of a long-term hollowing out of the middle class due to the increasing loss of the sort of white-collar professional jobs and technically oriented manufacturing jobs. Simply put, the outsourcing of jobs is inexorably moving up the food chain. This trend began reaching critical mass a few years ago, and will remain unstoppable without full-scale pursuit of a remedy. That's the core problem and challenge behind public angst about the economy.

 

Conservatives can't shine in Washington, any more than Democrats, until they address this fast-moving fundamental issue with a deep focus on a competitive job strategy. Arguing, wrongly, that Washington should have let the banks, the auto industry and state governments crumble the past two years for lack of Washington aid when the global financial implosion occurred is not going to be a salable campaign argument two years from now if the job market hasn't sharply improved, no matter how many hearings the tea party provokes.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

FOREIGN ENROLLMENT ON RISE

 

Americans can be forgiven if they've come to think that the United States' international standing is in decline. After all, various pundits already are questioning the value of President Barack Obama's just-concluded overseas trip. The president, they say, failed to convince other nations to agree with him on several issues, a sure sign that U.S. prestige and power are waning. That conclusion is debatable, and it will take time to determine its validity. There is at least one area, however, where U.S. stature remains almost unassailable: Higher education.

 

U.S. colleges and universities remain a powerful attraction for international undergraduate and graduate students. The number at U.S. institutions of higher learning increased by 3 percent — to a record 690,293 — in the 2009-10 academic year, according to the annual Open Doors report released by the respected and objective Institute of International Education. By any measure, that's a tribute to America's system of higher education.

 

Clearly, the opportunity to learn in an environment where pursuit of knowledge in academic settings free of state influence or control finds resonance around the globe. Also telling are the fields of academic concentration favored by the international students. Business and management, engineering, physical and life sciences and math, widely viewed as areas of U.S. expertise and keys to success in a global economy, are the most popular.

 

It's interesting to note, too, the recent change in the mix of international students here. For the first time, China, a rising world power, sent more students — about 128,000 — than any other nation. India, long the leader in number of students sent, was second with about 105,000. South Korea, Canada, Taiwan, Japan and Saudi Arabia round out the top seven. The number of students from the latter, where the government heavily subsidizes foreign study, increased 25 percent in 2009-10. Whatever their home, foreign students are a boon to educational institutions here.

 

They contribute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates, about $20 billion annually to the U.S. economy, primarily through tuition, living expenses, books and supplies and transportation. The financial impact is considerable, especially in California, New York and Texas, states with the largest populations of foreign students.

 

At a time when public and private colleges and universities face considerable and still growing economic pressures, the infusion of foreign funds is certainly a godsend.

 

Still, the influx of foreign students engenders some concern. The value those students assign to U.S. higher education is welcome. What is disconcerting is that a lot of home-grown students fail to share that appreciation. Consequently, many of the best and brightest that U.S. colleges and universities now produce might use their knowledge and skill in their native countries, either in jobs outsourced there by U.S. companies, or in jobs in companies that compete head-to-head with American companies. That's a worrisome prospect in a global marketplace.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

CORKER VS. BIGGER U.S. DEBT

 

Our outstanding U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., commendably is calling for a "fundamental change" in federal government spending to curb the growing national debt problem.

 

Since sound solution will involve cutting irresponsible spending, ending too much borrowing and avoiding too-high taxing, doing the right thing will be hard. But it will be worse if we don't start.

 

Not many people want to face harsh facts, especially when they involve "me," and cutting popular programs from which we want to "get" but for which we don't want to "pay."

 

Corker surely will face much opposition for trying to "do the right thing" that many people will not want to do.

 

"Our debt is getting out of control and, as a result, we are having to borrow a growing share of our money from foreign sources that may have different interests than ours," he said.

 

Almost everyone would agree with that. The difficulty is in dealing with the details to solve, or even alleviate, the problem.

 

Who wants to spend less on "entitlements," the things we want government to "give" us?

 

Who is comfortable even talking about slowing Social Security payouts, or cutting domestic programs — even unnecessary ones?

 

Who wants to reduce Pentagon contract spending?

 

Many people may applaud cutting "earmarks" — spending for pet projects for certain areas — until "we" are the ones whose earmarks would be cut.

 

With current deficits well over $1 trillion per year and the national debt $13.7 trillion, a bipartisan deficit commission has suggested cutting the national debt by $4 trillion over the next decade. It proposes reducing federal spending from 24 percent of our 2010 "gross domestic product" — everything we produce — to "just" 21 percent of GDP, by 2037.

 

Would that be "in time" and "enough"? It would be very difficult to do — with a lot of people in Congress and throughout our country "kicking and screaming" against putting brakes on excessive spending.

 

Corker wants a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Should any sensible person want less? But achieving that goal could require Congress to spend $6.7 trillion less over the next decade.

 

Corker correctly does not want higher taxes. With our economy in crisis, he says that "this is no time to be raising taxes."

 

He insists that Social Security recipients not be hurt. He wants to cure the program's ills beginning now, however, "to make sure the program is solvent and protected for our children and grandchildren."

 

In short, he is trying to do exactly what a good and responsible senator should do.

 

Addressing the problems of excessive spending and taxing is painful. But not addressing them can be catastrophic.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

HONOR TO OUR BROCK FAMILY

 

Over several decades, the people of our Chattanooga community and our nation have been excellently served in many constructive ways by members of the Brock family. So now it is highly appropriate that three members of the Brock family will be honored Wednesday by the Chattanooga History Center.

 

Brock brothers Bill, Pat and Frank will be honorees at the presentation Wednesday of the fifth annual History Makers Award at The Chattanoogan.

 

Bill Brock was an outstanding member of the United States House of Representatives, then was elected to the

U.S. Senate, and later served as a member of President Ronald Reagan's Cabinet.

 

Pat Brock, who ran Bill's first campaign for the House, was a most constructive member of our Chattanooga business and civic community, serving as president and chief executive officer of the family Brock Candy Co., which was purchased in 1994 by the E.J. Brach Corp.

 

Frank Brock was president of our fine Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, and currently is president of the Covenant College Foundation. He has been active in many civic causes. Before leading Covenant College, he also was a leader in the Brock Candy Co.

 

Bill, Pat and Frank have followed the examples of several other Brocks as outstanding civic leaders in many capacities. For example, their grandfather, William E. Brock, who founded the Brock Candy Co., also served as a United States senator.

 

Later, his son, W.E. Brock Jr. — father of Bill, Pat and Frank — served as chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Chattanooga. He led in its becoming a part of our state university system as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also was instrumental in founding what later became the United Way of Greater Chattanooga. And in a difficult time, he helped ease our community's adjustment in the desegregation of local public schools in accordance with the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

These are by no means the only members of the Brock family who have been outstanding in our community. Over several generations of the Brock family, others have served constructively in a wide variety of ways in our community.

 

It is a pleasure for Chattanoogans to recognize "all of the Brocks" for their outstanding citizenship over multiple generations in so many ways.

 

Academy alum raises the bar at Carson-Newman***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

HUNGER AND SOCIALIZED MEDICINE

 

It's a mystery why the United States' Congress enacted ObamaCare socialized medicine despite evidence that government-controlled medicine endangers patients and is expensive.

 

Just look at the heartbreaking news from Britain's horribly run "National Health Service."

 

Roughly 10,000 patients per year in British hospitals are going malnourished, according to a recent report. In many cases, patients who can eat only pureed food are given solids instead. Or patients who have arthritis or broken wrists or who are extremely feeble are not given the help they need to eat, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported.

 

Hundreds of deaths by malnutrition in British hospitals have been confirmed. Incredibly, two-thirds of nurses surveyed in the report acknowledged that hospitals do not make sure that patients who struggle to eat normally get the help they need to eat.

 

"Relatives routinely have to come in to [the] hospital to ensure their loved ones are being fed — while others bring in their own food to replace the inedible offerings of the Health Service," the Daily Mail reported.

 

One grieving man whose mother was severely malnourished before her death in a hospital told the newspaper, "Her only fault apparently was that she was too old to be a matter of concern ... . She was a bed blocker and her death cleared a space."

 

That is one of the awful realities of bureaucratic, government-run, socialized medicine. It is a system to shun, not to imitate.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THIS?

 

Do you realize that, because our country is borrowing so much throughout the world, $868 billion of the United States' publicly held debt is now owned by Communist China?

 

That's nearly 10 percent of America's total publicly held debt.

 

And our federal debt is going up by billions of dollars per day!

 

Does that make you uncomfortable about our country's financial situation?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - MENDING FABRIC OF DEMOCRACY

 

The nature of our job as editorialist frequently includes praise or criticism for the policies and actions of

 

Turkey's political parties. Not a one has escaped our criticism at one time or another; the same is true of those deserving our words of support. We make it a point to stay out of the kitchen however. It is our role to comment on the political meal once it is served.

 

That said, we do think it appropriate to take a step back and look at the party system in Turkey in a general way. We have lamented the lack of internal party democracy, the way legislative candidates are paired with local constituencies and the lack of transparency in the way parties are financed.

 

We have also long shared the concern of many observers that there is a mismatch between party machinery and the sentiments of the larger public. Recent decades have seen Turkey largely governed from the center-right, including the eight years under the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Perhaps it is the success of these parties that explains the shift by the supposed standard-bearer of social democratic values, the Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP, toward more nationalist themes.

 

Parties should not be static, of course. But their evolution must reflect that in the larger polity or the result is alienation, stagnation and lifelessness in the social contract between ruler and ruled.

 

In the absence of a party committed to the values of a large segment of the electorate, it is this stifling of political aspiration that was the result of the recent years' drift by the CHP to a statist, nationalist path. Opposition to amendments to the barriers to free speech in the Turkish penal code, attitudes toward minorities in Turkey, an absence of ideas in the face of Kurdish aspirations and a status quo attitude toward the Cyprus question have come to define the CHP under its previous leader, Deniz Baykal.

 

So we believe the presence of the CHP's new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, at the meetings of the Socialist International that ends today in Paris, will provide oxygen to Turkish political life. 

 

Kılıçdaroğlu will join the organization's current president, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in Paris. He is also to meet with a who's who of social democratic European leaders. He was to give a speech to the same audience on the global economy. Symbolically, he was also to visit the graves of two Turkish exiles, the late filmmaker Yılmaz Güney and composer Ahmet Kaya. Both Güney and Kaya were of Kurdish origin.

 

Whether this will lead to a transformation of the CHP remains to be seen. Just how we might reflect upon policies that emanate from a "new CHP" is also a matter for another day. But we do believe there is now a hole in the fabric of Turkey's party-based democracy. That Kılıçdaroğlu is seeking to mend this fissure is important progress. 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

AN INVITATION TO THE WORLD'S 'STATE OF AFFAIRS'

DAVID JUDSON

 

Fairly well into my fourth decade in the newspaper business, I have one certain conclusion about the craft. It is that the stories we journalists are working "on" are of minor importance. More critical are the stories we are working "from."

 

I realize this is an abstract assertion. But if you are stuck in Istanbul during this Bayram holiday, this is my invitation to come Thursday evening at 6.30 p.m. to the Cezayir Gallery and Restaurant near Beyoğlu's Galatasaray high school. The exhibition "A State of Affairs," by the Portuguese news photographers' cooperative [KameraPhoto], explains my lament concretely.

 

The conundrum is that while we may map reality in novel and accurate ways with the story we are working "on," readers (or editors) demand we explain the geography of news "from" the equivalent of Mercator's Projection, a map that cartographers have known since the 16th century is flat wrong.

 

Regular readers of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review are perhaps familiar with my musings about shallow narratives as the template of today's journalism, the poverty of these "meta-narratives" and the subsequent impoverishment of global discourse. As a tiny newspaper, we can challenge the narrative orthodoxy. We frequently do. Further up the food chain, it becomes more difficult to play Don Quixote.

 

A friend who writes for a well-known American daily recently brought the point home. "They butchered my story," she explained of her editors, the day after Turkey's Sept. 12 referendum. Her analysis of "yes" and "no" divisions on the right as well the left of the political spectrum simply wouldn't do. To make the vote understandable, editors a continent away recast the story in the familiar narrative, "Turkey polarized between Islamists and secularists – again."

 

Too much complexity just makes things confusing. Better to have a kind of "anti-cacophony" if I can coin a new phrase. In place of confusing but robust truth, better to have easy-to-understand nonsense.

 

It's a windmill upon which many would-be journalistic Don Quixotes have blunted their lances. We do so regularly. And so we are delighted to have some help from elsewhere on the Iberian Peninsula. This time from Lisbon with the support of the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency. 

 

For me, this project began in the spring of 2009. An e-mail from Lisbon photographer Pauliana Pimentel explained the concept. The 13 photographers of [KameraPhoto] were apparently thinking along similar lines. They had surveyed the sum of mainstream international news and established the 13 countries that produce the bulk of it. Along with the usual suspects, Russia, America, China and Japan, Turkey was on the list. Her request was simply to come to Istanbul for a week in July and imbed herself among our reporters. Her 12 colleagues would be at similar posts around the world at the same time. The result would be what we call in trade jargon a "tick-tock:" a chronological photographic essay to contrast what local reporters are working on with the more dominant narratives framed by our international peers.

 

As I wrote in our cultural supplement last week, the series of images connects 13 points on the globe. In rapid fire, the events on one symbolic day open at 8.04 a.m. with a rally in New Delhi in support of urban renewal. The viewer then moves 26 minutes later to a sober meeting of psychologists in Istanbul seeking treatment strategies for those traumatized by the global economic crisis. At 9.36 a.m. the visitor to "State of Affairs" is transported to Johannesburg to a demonstration for better public services and then onto a 9.51 a.m. cooking festival in Moscow. On to a politician campaigning in a butcher's stall in the Chinese territory of Macao, to a football coach in Mexico City returning to lead his team after 25 years. One closes out the night with partiers at a Beirut hot spot called "Denny's Pub."

 

"This was the first time I had ever gone on an assignment without figuring out the story before I arrived," Guillame Pazat, the project's creator told me last year in Lisbon. "I go to Afghanistan, I have the photo of the Taliban in my mind before I arrive. I go to Moscow, I intend to come back with an image of an oligarch. But in this case, the stories we witnessed were the stories of local journalists."

 

If you'll carry my metaphor, what Pazat and his colleagues have done is reshape journalism's distortive Mercator Projection to offer us a glimpse of what a better portrayal of international news might look like. It is a project of working "from" a new narrative. After the exhibition opened late last year in Lisbon, it traveled on to the United Kingdom, the United States and Brazil. Thanks to the efforts of the Capital of Culture 2010 Agency, the Anadolu Kültür Foundation, and a dozen volunteers within our newspaper and the larger Hürriyet organization, the exhibition is now in Istanbul and will be here through December.

 

If your calendar is open Thursday from 6.30 p.m. onward, stop by and meet the photographers as they unveil their work. All readers of the Daily News are invited. The wine and cheese is on us. The world's "State of Affairs" is on [KameraPhoto].

 

*David Judson is the editor-in-chief of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE FOOL

BURAK BEKDİL

 

The good news is that the first Turkish-made warship is now on a successful test cruise. The bad news is that there is hardly anything on it – apart from the body – that is Turkish. The good news was in the press last week, as always, and mostly on front pages. The bad news was nowhere to be seen.

 

It is true that the TCG Heybeliada is a corvette. It is also true that it is on a test cruise, so far still on the surface of the water, God be praised... But the big news that "Turkey has put to water its first national warship" is a Turk's propaganda to the Turks.

 

What makes a complex weapons system like a warship is not its naked platform, but its integrated sub-systems like the engine, navigation, radars and electronics applications. And we would certainly have heard if the Turkish industry managed to produce any of these.

 

Take, for example, our "national" battle tank, fancily christened the Altay, a not-so-veiled reference to the ancient Turkish lands that are too distant to what is today Turkey. In the past, the government ambitiously pursued the project, investing a generous $500 million for the design and development of four tank prototypes one of which would eventually become the Altay.

 

Of that money, a good $350 million went to foreign technology suppliers. But that's so very Turkish! No, not the tank. Pretending that the tank is Turkish! Ironically, in 2008, the government ordered a $700,000 armored car for the retirement days of then chief of General Staff, Yaşar Büyükanıt.

 

Politically speaking, the armored Audi was a nice retirement gift from the government to a general who had penned a powerful military memorandum to the same government. Technically speaking, the piercing question was: How could a country build its own tank when it must import an armored car for its military chief?

 

More amusingly, there are some "indigenous" Turkish systems that are, quite by chance, merely exact replicas of foreign systems, including a "Turkish" armored vehicle that has a twin in a country Mr. Gönül's boss deeply dislikes. I better not talk about the "Turkish" unmanned aerial vehicles, "Turkish" submarines and "Turkish" helicopters. But my all-time favorite would be "Turkish" fighter aircraft that may come into the spotlight soon.

 

All of that came to my mind when I recently read other fancy things about Turkish defense contracts.

 

Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül last week proudly announced that a massive bribery mechanism surrounding defense contracts had been successfully wiped out. The system, according to Mr. Gönül, worked in the past largely via agents who employed retired generals and colonels. The (foreign) arms suppliers added their commissions and bribes to the price tag for the systems they sold to Turkey, and that made acquisitions extra expensive for the Turkish vaults.

 

Mr. Gönül is right and wrong. It is true that "the system" worked as Mr. Gönül described it. But the "we've-wiped-it-out" assertion can only cause shy smiles on the faces of insiders.

 

If Mr. Gönül is curious, I can send him a list of agents operating in town, which contracts they are vying for, which foreign companies they officially or unofficially represent, what are the current commission rates, how do these agents meet with civilian and military procurement officials (since they are barred from military buildings), which non-defense companies get involved on behalf of foreign defense companies "because they are close to the government," which agents employ retired procurement personnel and which agents employ relatives of active procurement personnel.

 

What has happened over the past years is not "bribery-prevention" but is "bribery-diversion." It would have

been much nicer if our prosecutors and judges put behind bars corrupt military officers and their civilian partners who may also include businessmen "with excellent relations with Mr Gönül's government" instead of jailing officers who merely attended seminars on orders from their superiors.

 

Minister Gönül, I am sure if the Turkish auditors had a quick look at the financial dealings of local arms dealers and agents they could find out too much about the "dark side of the moon." As for the "contact ban," i.e. the ban on dealers visiting military premises and personnel, that may have merely increased business for posh hotels and restaurants in Ankara.

 

And, Minister Gönül, what about indirect bribing? Has that, too, been wiped out? No more inviting officials to

exotic countries, hosting them, wining and dining them, safaris and hunting parties, even some "social affairs" I must avoid mentioning?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

IRAQ: A MODEL YOUNG DEMOCRACY

GWYNNE DYER

 

"There are things we got wrong in Iraq, but the cause is eternally right," wrote George W. Bush in his recent memoir. "The region is more hopeful with a young democracy setting an example for others to follow."

 

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the "young democracy" has finally got a new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. He's the same one who led the last government, although every party (including much of his own) wanted to get rid of him after the election last March. Iraq's ethnic and religious rivalries have become so fierce that no new and more inclusive coalition of parties could be agreed on.

 

It's taken eight months of tortuous negotiations to get this far, a world record for the length of time taken after an election to create a new government. And the job's not actually done yet. Maliki now has a month to form a cabinet, which means fierce rivalry between and within the parties for control of the ministries that are the main source of wealth and power in Iraq. Even now, the deal could still fall apart.

 

And what about the al-Qaeda terrorists, whose supposed links with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein were one of Bush's pretexts for the United States' invasion of the country in 2003? (The other pretext was Saddam's alleged "weapons of mass destruction," but the less said about that the better.)

 

Osama bin Laden's Islamist extremists actually had no links at all with Saddam Hussein, nor any presence in Iraq until 2003; it was the invasion that gave them a role there. And although al-Qaeda's fanatical desire to kill Shia Muslims and Christians, rather than concentrate on the American occupation forces, eventually alienated even the Sunni minority from them during the "surge" period in 2007-08, that has changed too.

 

"Now they're back," said General Hussein Kamal, the head of the intelligence division at Iraq's Interior Ministry, in an interview with The Guardian. "It's like 2004 again....They are pure al-Qaeda, not a mixture of groups like before."

 

2004 was the year Iraq began its descent into hell. The invasion killed a lot of people, but the resistance really only got underway in the following year, when Sunni Muslims started attacking U.S. troops – and the al-Qaeda volunteers among them also began murdering Shia Muslims in industrial quantities.

 

That triggered the Sunni-Shia civil war of 2005-2007, which the Sunnis decisively lost. So the Sunni community turned against the al-Qaeda fighters who had brought this disaster upon them, and that in turn enabled the U.S. "surge" to succeed for a while. But the subsequent years have seen Sunnis systematically excluded from any meaningful share of power, and the clock is turning back to 2004.

 

At no time in the past few years has the killing stopped in Iraq, but now it is ramping up again, fast. On Oct. 31, al-Qaeda gunmen stormed a Christian church in Baghdad, killing 58 worshippers and security officers. On Nov. 2 there were fifteen near-simultaneous bombs in Shia districts of the capital that killed scores of people and injured hundreds.

 

On Nov. 10 there were eleven more bombs, this time targeting Christians in their homes. Half of Iraq's million-strong Christian minority has already fled the country, and the rest are thinking seriously about following suit. And Iyad al-Allawi, whose party got most of the Sunni vote in the election and actually won the largest number of seats, has effectively been frozen out of power by a Shia-Kurdish alliance. Just like after the previous election.

 

Under huge U.S. pressure, Allawi has been persuaded to become "chairman of the National Council for Strategic Policy," a new body that has been created precisely to give him a job. But it is a pretty poor consolation prize, and may turn out to mean nothing at all. The United States has lost almost all influence in Baghdad (although there are still 50,000 U.S. troops in the country), and Iran rules the roost.

From the moment George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, it was certain that Iran would be the big winner. Almost two-thirds of the Iraqi population, although Arab, belongs to the Shia sect of Islam, and Iran is the one great Shia power. When the post-invasion scramble for power began in Iraq, it was perfectly natural for Iraqi Shias to turn to Tehran for support against Sunnis in their own country.

 

During the eight months of haggling and stonewalling that preceded the deal on Nov. 11, both Maliki and Allawi spent more time seeking support in Tehran and the capitals of Iraq's Sunni neighbors to the south than negotiating with their rivals in Baghdad itself. The country has become a pawn in the confrontation between Iran and the Arab countries, but Iran has emerged as the clear winner.

 

Meanwhile, Iraq may be sliding into another mini civil war, and there is no reason to think that the quite astonishing level of corruption in the ministries is going to decline. There are not many countries in the region that want to follow the example set by this "young democracy." They are just hoping the bloodshed and the hatred do not spread.

 

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. His new book, "Climate Wars", is distributed in most of the world by Oneworld.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

QUEST OF THE HISTORICAL ABRAHAM

FRANK WHITE

 

Turkey has a claim on Abraham. Islam, Judaism and Christianity hold him in reverence as an intermediary of divine blessing. But the time has come when the entire secular world can realize its indebtedness to Abraham as a hero of humanity's wrestling with the meaning of history.

 

In the Turkish setting, Abraham (İbrahim in Turkish, still in use as a man's name) resided at Harran (Altınbaşak in Southeast Anatolia: beehive adobe houses, ruins of a very early Muslim complex) between his start at Ur in Iraq and his finish at Hebron south of Jerusalem. This was about 1800 BCE. Turkey's Şanlıurfa (ancient Edessa) also claims him, but that is a much later Muslim tradition that depends on the confusion of Urfa with Ur. Similar folk identification was made with Uruk/Erech, north of Ur.

 

The historical Abraham would have plausibly sojourned at Harran ("crossroads" in Sumerian; Carrhae to the later Romans, who suffered three defeats there), when his family set out from Ur (where Gilgamesh had been king, hero of the great Sumerian epic) toward the land of Canaan on the eastern Mediterranean: due west would be direct but crossed desert terrain, thus traffic followed the Euphrates (Fırat) River northwest for 350 miles to Harran, already a trading outpost of the lower-Euphrates city-states: Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, Nineveh, Nippur, Ur. Thence travelers like Abraham would turn south into Syria and Canaan not north to Urfa.

 

Similar conventional co-optations of Abraham as "friend of God" (missing his scheming and contentious challenging of the Lord) or as "the world's first monotheist" (an anachronism; that distinction belongs to a Hebrew prophet a thousand years later) rob him of his distinctive historical context and his daring engagement with its cultures and cults. Kierkegaard's dialectical fantasia on Abraham in his Fear and Trembling (1843) is also an ahistorical appropriation of Abraham, but at the opposite end of the sophistication spectrum. But pious legend and existentialist legerdemain have their own persuasion, impervious to historical logic.

 

For those who thrive, though, on history and its input into our self-understanding, there is now rich material with respect to the Abraham enterprise. David Rosenberg's "Abraham: The First Historical Biography" (New York: Basic Books, 2006) is foremost in this venture. Abraham's route is roughly the arc of the Fertile Crescent, a migration that many Semitic-speakers made both before and after him. But he is the one the Hebrew authors fixed on as their progenitor and the pioneer of their distinctive relations with the Lord of creation who is also—astonishingly—mysteriously active in the history of the nations—and decisively of Israel—as judge and bringer of justice universally. Abraham leaves not only the city gods of Ur but also, when his father Terah dies at Harran, their clan's deities, going toward Canaan guided only by his personal divinity, whom he later identifies with a Canaanite creator god whose name will be Yahweh (YHWH) by the time of Moses and the burning bush (1200 BCE).

 

A hero for our time?

 

A vast trove—hundreds of thousands—of wedge-shaped cuneiform (Latin: cuneus, wedge) inscriptions from Sumerian and related civilizations have been coming into comprehension since the first decipherments by Rawlinson and others in the mid-19th century, making possible an approach to Abraham that was unavailable for 3,000 years. Scholars are still coping with them at centers such as Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.

 

These texts (at least from the fourth millennium BCE), mostly on clay tablets or stone monuments, record not only economic transactions and dynastic chronicles typical of the world's earliest writings, but also mythic poetry, wisdom dialogues and imaginative narratives (even schoolboys' slates for learning their ABC's), from a literary elite of priests and scribes in the world's first cities of high culture. The cults of their gods and goddesses entailed statues and rituals in temples enacting cosmic dramas of nature and human existence. Images of wide-eyed noble human donors also have emerged from the archaeological excavations, speaking silently to us across the millennia.

 

The intimate terms on which Abraham and Yahweh his Lord contend with each other derive from this Sumerian religious theater in which gods were daily bathed, dressed, paraded and invoked as manifestations of the holy power dwelling among and within their human associates. Even more familiar representations of the family's personal gods were enshrined at home. The stories on which Abraham would have been educated now can be explored, including creation poems, the Garden of Eden ('Eden' and 'abyss' are two Sumerian words that survive in modern English), the Tower of Babel (Babylon), the first fratricide (Cain and Abel in the subsequent Hebrew telling), the Great Flood (with Utanapishtim as the Noah/Nuh survivor), and tales of long-lived mighty men of old (topped finally by Hebrew Methuselah at 969 years)—all of which find their later versions and adaptations in the Hebrew scriptures.

 

None of the Sumerian and Akkadian writings mention Abraham by name (his Sumerian name, Avram, from ab meaning father or author, and his wife's Sumerian name, Sarai, princess, are given in the Bible), but the Hebrew court writers, after King David had established the first independent kingdom of Israel about 1000 BCE, who composed and collated the epic of their people in what became Genesis and the other sacred books, may have had texts about Abraham, now lost, as well as oral traditions. In any case, they picked him out, and other figures such as Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, as founders of their nation and faith, weaving their various tribal memories into one saga of one family who became one people in interaction with one God of one holy unity of creative power, justice and covenantal love, withstanding and partly healing the tragedies of existence.

 

Abraham is the first individualized personality in this stream, who struggles with the need to survive as head of a family and clan, without succumbing to the fate of a land-defined city-state or kingdom that will sooner or later disappear in the wars of conquest that seem to be the rule of history. He is thus not only the seminal patriarch of Israel but also one of the key links with Judaism's daughter religions, Christianity and Islam, which try to universalize his vision and initiate its fulfillment.

 

Abraham is also an emblem of the world's first truly literate civilizations—but who transcends them in seeking beyond their tragic mutual destruction for that in human life and spirit and history that meets what is eternal on the venturing roads of the finite. No Utopia, but a leaven in the loaf of the human. In some such shared quest for justice and peace among the nations and within them we can now reconfigure Abraham as an explorer of human existence and as at last coming into his promise as one in whom "all the peoples of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3 and 18:18). 

 

* Frank White is a professor emeritus at City University of New York and lives part of the year in Alanya, Turkey. He can be reached at fwhitetr35@yahoo.com.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

G-20 FANTASIES

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

 

Leaders of the Group of 20 member countries decided that they will not devaluate their national currencies for the sake of increasing exports. It is a proper intention if they obey this rule they themselves set. When remembering several declarations announced at the end of similar meetings in the past and the acts contrary to what was promised by the same leaders that subsequently followed it is difficult to believe in what they say today.

 

The dollar, the euro, the yen and the pound have, from time to time, fluctuated widely. This has created serious difficulties for some governments, central banks and businesses – especially exporters.

 

The possibility of establishing a sound international currency, instead of using national or regional currencies for international transactions, although it seems quite unrealistic, is an attractive idea. Would a widely accepted, new international currency be possible?

 

What are the indispensable main characteristics of an international currency? First of all it must be accepted by all countries as a common medium of exchange, a unit of account, an instrument to settle debts and as a unit of standard value. Moreover, it would need a mechanism to automatically balance current accounts and impose some kind of sanctions on the misuse of a new monetary system.

 

Before the 1929 crisis, gold easily played that role, carrying all characteristics of an international medium of exchange. The great depression destroyed that system and after World War II, the United States dollar – in a way – took on the role of an international currency.

 

When the value of the dollar began to fluctuate, this system also collapsed and a freely floating exchange rate policy was introduced to rebalance foreign exchange markets. However, after a short time, it was understood that this new system was also incapable of helping tame violent fluctuations in exchange rates.

 

As has been discussed several times in this column, the main problem in establishing an internationally accepted monetary system is the discrepancy among national economic policies. Even if the harmonization of national economic policies as a common package were realized, to control implementation it would be necessary to establish some new international institutions which would have to have supranational authority. This the most unrealistic point of establishing an international monetary system.

 

Today, it must be accepted that it is necessary to establish a new international economic system dependant on common monetary and fiscal policy in order to prevent worldwide crises, or at least to stop the spread of single countries' crises to other regions. Easy to say, difficult to implement.

 

The main difficulty in creating such a system would be first convincing rich countries of the virtues of international economic cooperation. As a positive step, Eurozone governments decided to control the size of budgetary spending of member countries to prevent the spread of financial problems and to protect the value of the euro. It will be a positive first step, if implemented properly.

 

Is it realistic to wait for other positive steps to come out of the recent G-20 meeting? A significant proportion of G-20 members are also members of the European Union. They might show their goodwill not only in the regional but also international sense this time.

 

However, implementation is much more important than good intentions, especially when most of these

governments have domestic political problems. We will wait and see.

 

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

DEALING WITH AQAP

DAVID CLARIDGE

 

The involvement of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, in the recent failed Yemen mail bomb plot seems almost certain: the origination in Yemen, the use of pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, the similarities with the Christmas Day attack and the source of the intelligence are the strongest possible indicators of a connection. But who exactly are AQAP?

 

AQAP has become the most active operational arm of al-Qaeda outside of Pakistan. In recent months, AQAP communiqués and the al-Qaeda on-line publication "Inspire" have called for low-risk, low-cost and high-paying attacks against Western targets and other targets in Saudi Arabia.

 

The group has developed a reputation for innovation. On Aug. 28, 2009, Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef survived an AQAP assassination attempt by a suicide bomber with a device concealed in his underwear. The bomb was made from PETN. In the case of the Christmas Day plot, the same method of concealment was used to carry 80 grams of PETN aboard a transatlantic flight. The bomber carried a syringe with a chemical initiator designed to trigger the explosions.

 

United States intelligence officials believe that Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri, a Saudi-born-member of AQAP was responsible for making both bombs and is the likely author of the latest incident. He is described as a highly trained bomb maker and the brother of the suicide bomber that attempted to kill Prince Mohammed. He remains at large.

 

Cargo security failings

 

Recent events appear to demonstrate AQAP's ability to identify and target security vulnerabilities. Having failed to execute an attack using a passenger-borne device at the end of 2009, the group seems to have switched to a more exposed target.

 

Weaknesses in air freight security have been highlighted repeatedly by security experts and academics since 9/11 without achieving significant change to international standards. The volume and scale of air cargo worldwide is so vast that there is significant resistance from carriers and end users to screening every package at every airport.

 

By comparison, security checks for passenger aircraft and luggage are much stricter. There is no universal mechanism for screening freight cargo, with some countries relying purely on sniffer dogs. The fact the packages were sent from Yemen to a Jewish organization indicates that very little scrutiny is given to individual packages, and that the 'risk-based approach' favored in the Chicago Convention is not evenly applied.

 

A continued threat from Yemen

 

In the coming days, Western governments will enact further security measures in an attempt to contain the threat to aviation from al-Qaeda affiliates. But AQAP's relatively unfettered existence in Yemen continues to pose an international threat. It seems that the group currently lacks the resources to maintain any significant tempo for international operations. It has carried out two attacks in 10 months, both of which are sophisticated and ambitious, but relatively small scale in their execution. It is improbably that it will rapidly develop the capabilities to increase the frequency of attacks of this sort. But AQAP evidently does have the means to be creative and to seek out weak links in security measures in pursuit of a spectacular attack.

 

For now, intelligence has succeeded where security failed. That will not always be the case. It is certain that AQAP will continue to push at the door while it seeks to build capability inside Western nations. It is likely the group's innovations will eventually produce a successful large attack against a Western target. That will probably occur in the Gulf region than elsewhere, but the group's proven preoccupation with aviation, and its developing expertise in deploying concealed high explosives, suggests that its horizons remain firmly international.

 

David Claridge is managing director of Janusian Security Risk Management (www.janusian.com). This piece was provided by the Global Expert Finder at www.globalexpertfinder.org, a project of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

WHO ARE THESE WHITE TURKS?

BİNNAZ TOPRAK

 

The expression "White Turk" was first introduced by the pious. Referring to race discrimination in the United States, they said: "We are the blacks of this country." They meant the exclusion of "others" by Republican elitists. They were right.

 

Marx and Weber

 

They were kept out of politics, social status group and the intellectual world; they were marginalized and caricaturized. For instance, look at the cartoons by Ramiz or Cemal Nadir in the 1940s. You see a "fanatic" figure with a long beard, wearing a cap and a pair of sabot and holding a bead over his belly and a woman in a black chador following him three steps behind.

 

The expression, however, started to be adopted by others. But who are these "White Turks" talked by everyone and allegedly dominating majority of people today? Is this a description of a social class? Is it about status and political power? Are the "White Turks" those who do not live in rural areas? Are they representatives of a certain aesthetic attitude? Are they families in which females do not use headscarf? Are they looking down on Islamic way of living? Or as mentioned in the media, are they fluent in a few languages, interested in history, culture, archeology, sharing European values, believing in gender equality and inter-family democracy, and are they legatees? Who are they? Does the description refer to any sociological fact?

 

If you had asked this to two leading theorists, Karl Marx and Max Weber, you would have two different answers: Marx could have described "White Turks" as: They are bourgeois who own means of production, exploit the state instrument as a whole including its military, police, schools, and judicial system, and use communication channels to reinforce power.

 

Weber, on the other hand, could have given the description: "White Turks are upper class status groups." Status groups, however, are about style of living depending on consumption trends: Dialectic of a person's mother tongue, schools s/he attends, her/his dressing style, taste, table manners, entertainment and vacationing habits etc. create a difference in social status groups. Upper status is not always about money or power.

 

In processes of change upper status groups might not be in government, they might not even have capital. What make them different is specifics of their living style.

 

Which is valid?

 

Which of these "White Turk" descriptions will we adopt? If we agree with Marx, it seems odd at one point: Those who control the state instrument in Turkey are "Non-White Turks". If we presume Weber is right, it cannot be said an upper status group that is not in power dominates majority. In ever-changing Turkey who is white, who is black is uncertain. For instance, according to a description of class, "Muslim entrepreneurs" in Anatolia should have been white, but no one refers them as white. According to a description of status, a part of retired people who barely survive with their salaries are white but they are being treated as blacks when they wait in line in front of banks. By keeping social categories in mind, ask this question to yourself and check if you can be all at sea.

 

Binnaz Toprak is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece first appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

NEW WAY TO PROSPECT AND DISCOVER OIL AND GAS

BRIAN WESTENHAUS

 

Scientists from Royal Holloway at the University of London and The Spanish Research Council have revealed a new model that explains what happens as the continents thin as well as helping to more accurately predict the location of hydrocarbons such as oil and gas. The scientists offer a new way to prospect and discover oil and gas.

 

Early, as the crust comes apart, the cold continental lithosphere thins and subsides or sinks deeper into the earth, creating rift basins. If the crust's thinning continues to final break-up, the split and greatly thinned plates subside deep below sea level to form a conjugate pair of rifted margins.

 

The pair of scientists used depth-migrated seismic images to accurately measure fault extension, the coming apart of the crust, and compare it with the crusts thinning. The observations are used to create a balanced kinematic model of rifting that resolves the extension discrepancy by producing both fault-controlled crustal thinning which progresses from a rift basin to the asymmetric structure, and extreme thinning of conjugate rifted margins.

 

Now for oil to be formed, sediments need to be deposited under the right temperatures. "When continents extend, the top of the crust subsides and deepens, creating a space for sediments which may convert into oil," explained Dr Marta Pérez-Gussinyé from Royal Holloway. "Our model presents a conceptual framework to predict more accurately the temperature conditions through which sediments go, therefore helping in the search for oil and gas."

 

Geologists have long debated the paradoxes arising from their various understandings of how continents break

apart and drift forming new oceans. Many continents, such as Africa, parts of South and North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, are surrounded by rifted margins, which are the stretched areas where the geological processes of rifting and break-up are recorded.

 

Here's the important part: It was previously believed that as the Earth's plates drifted away from each other the rocks in the stretched area broke up by faulting all at the same time. The new concept is that, in fact, the faults form one after another in this region as the crust thins. As the faults are forming, sediments are deposited and the youngest ones are found closest to the new oceans that eventually form.

 

The new model is based on high-resolution images of the tectonic structure of the crust at such margins. These images are obtained using elaborate seismic methods, which give a picture of the crust below the oceans, showing where faults and sediments are.

 

The new model has important implications for the formation of hydrocarbon resources, plus it offers a new view of the style of faulting during continental thinning, sediment deposition and potentially for the opening of oceanic gateways and oceanic circulation. The scientists' paper appears in the Nov. 3 edition of Nature.

 

For those worried on the peak oil front the new way to understand the deep underground formations is going to be a salve, well, a little anyway. The scientists don't directly say so, but there is oil and gas formation occurring all the time, albeit very slowly. The new work offers a view on where to drill and have a look.

 

What might be of the greatest significance, assuming that the political climate for petroleum research and discovery gets healthier, is the new technology would offer mankind a new way to get an inventory of where the oil and gas might be found. Practice; with information from already drilled resources now might bring considerable surprise to the amount of undiscovered petroleum reserves.

 

This is but just a new first level of the deepening understanding of the formation of petroleum. One other addition among many would be to identify where the sediment deposition was best in organic flows such as an ancient river depositing as the Mississippi does now.

 

Maybe modern man has found all the petroleum – an idea popular with the oil doomers. But realistically, lots of petroleum is in the inventory now, and there has to be much more yet to find. The earth is such a carbon rich place – there must be more – it's just a matter of finding it.

 

This article was published at Oil.price.com on Nov. 12.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

HOLBROOKE ULTIMATELY ADMITS FOREIGN FUNDING

 

THEY say truth speaks for itself and that is what happened on Sunday when, for the first time in many years, the United States acknowledged the ground realities with regard to the issue of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, in a roundtable discussion over Radio Pakistan, categorically stated that militants and terrorists receive funds from outside Pakistan. 


He, however, did not specify the foreign sources for understandable reasons. It is, indeed, a pleasant surprise that the dominant power in the war against terror has started acknowledging the truth and speaking it publicly too, which can be described as a step in the right direction. This is what Pakistan has been saying from day one that the militants are not only being funded but also trained and equipped by some foreign powers and their objective is to keep Pakistan destabilized. This became evident during Army operation in Swat and Malakand where huge quantities of sophisticated arms and ammunition and latest communication system and gadgets were found. Otherwise too, the way the Pakistani Taliban have been putting organized resistance to the highly professional troops is indicative of the fact that they are being funded and trained for the purpose in a planned manner. It is beyond the capacity of the militants to put up resistance of such a nature without supply of money and equipment and there are reports of truck-loads of dollars being distributed in FATA by some outside powers. In our view, Holbrooke deliberately fell short of naming the country or countries that could be behind the conspiracy to destabilize Pakistan but there are reports that several countries including India were playing a dirty game in the country. It has repeatedly been pointed out by strategists and well-informed sources that secret agencies of some countries have turned Pakistan into a battle-ground for advancing their respective regional and global agenda. We would, therefore, urge Pakistani leadership to take up the issue with Holbrooke and other leaders of the United States and NATO so that all those behind the conspiracy are exposed. It is also the duty of our intelligence agencies to focus on the issue and make strenuous efforts to cut the sources of financial and military assistance to militants. 


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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

FOREIGN LOANS: A NON-STARTER ATTEMPT

 

IN the backdrop of popular demands in the country that the Government should seek loan write-off from donor countries and institutions as part of the strategy to resolve problems of the country on a long-term and sustainable basis, Interior Minister Rehman Malik made a plea before donors, who attended two-day Pakistan Development Forum (PDF) meeting in Islamabad, for waiving the $50 billion foreign debt to help Pakistan move ahead with the war against terrorism.


However, the manner the Government raised the issue before the international community conveyed a vivid impression that it was absolutely not serious in pursuing the matter. In the first place, at a news briefing before meeting of the PDF, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, who is the most relevant and person concerned, came out with a strange logic that Pakistan would not seek loan write-off or rescheduling of debt as this would convey wrong message to the donors. Secondly, it was left to Interior Minister, who has nothing to do with economy and finance to take up the issue at the Forum, conveying an impression that Pakistan itself was not serious on the issue. No doubt, the points raised by the Interior Minister were convincing and deserve serious consideration by donors but the impact would have been greater if the issue was raised either by the President, the Prime Minister or at least Minister for Finance and that too in a well-calculated and comprehensive manner. We have been emphasizing in these columns that Pakistan's economy has virtually been destroyed because of war on terror in which the country was playing the lead role for the sake of regional and global peace and security. Not to speak of the loss of life and property, damages to infrastructure, lost economic opportunities and closure of business and industrial activities, the United States is even not ready to reimburse timely the actual expenditure incurred by Pakistan in the fight against terror. The already delicate situation has further been aggravated by the unprecedented floods and this is being acknowledged the world over that Pakistan alone cannot cope with the consequences for years to come. Under these circumstances, Pakistan has a genuine case to seek loan write-off but regrettably the thinking and priorities of our economic managers and policy-makers are insensitive to the ground situation.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

GOVERNMENT'S EID GIFT TO NATION

 

TRUE to its tradition, the PPP Government has given gift of the price-hike to the nation on this Eid too. As was done on the eve of Eidul Fitr, this time again the price of the LPG has been raised by Rs 8 per kilogram as a result of which the price of the domestic cylinder has gone up by Rs 100 and commercial cylinder Rs 400. The world over, the prices of commodities are determined by the principle of demand and supply but in the absence of effective governance this principle is widely exploited by powerful and influential cartels at the cost of miseries of the common man. 


Prices of items of daily use are jacked up every now and then, creating artificial shortages but neither Federal nor Provincial Governments take any action against hoarders and profiteers. Sugar crisis, which refused to subside, is classic example of collusion of the rulers with those who are fleecing the general public for the last three years. Similarly, the Government has been increasing rates of electricity and gas without any justification and as a result making Pakistani products uncompetitive in the international market. It is regrettable that the price of the LPG has been increased for the fifth time during the last few months and the overall increase during the period is almost hundred per cent. It is all the more ironic that the latest hike has come at a time when the common man was already hard pressed because of significant increase in prices of petroleum products that have kicked off another vicious cycle of price-hike. Caring Governments all over the world devise ways and means to provide meaningful relief to the people during periods of crises as has been done by India in the case of subsidy on gas with the onset of winter. But in Pakistan, the Government has adopted a callous attitude towards difficulties and problems of the people and we would warn that this policy is not without any cost. 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AFTER OBAMA'S VISIT TO INDIA

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

President Barack Obama is back home after his tour of India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. With good harvest of orders that will help revive American economy and create jobs for hundreds of thousands Americans, it can be considered a damage-limitation exercise after Democrats lost mid-term elections for House of Representatives. In Pakistan, there is a lot of hue and cry for Obama's comments against Pakistan. But keeping in view the super power interests and the past, Pakistan should not feel any frustration or disappointment over business deals between India and the US, but should work out plans to counter the impact of Obama's visit. If one dispassionately examines Obama's visit, it is not difficult to conclude that he resisted Indian leadership's pressure to denigrate Pakistan. During his address to students he insisted New Delhi had the most to gain from a stable Pakistan. "I am absolutely convinced that the country that has the biggest stake in Pakistan is India," he told students at the prestigious St Xavier's College in south Mumbai. "If Pakistan is stable and prosperous, that's best for India," he added. In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Obama said that Kashmir was a long-standing dispute, and it was in the interest of India and Pakistan to reduce tensions between them. 


He had in fact repeated what he and members of his administration have been saying about Pakistan ie "terrorist safe havens in Pakistan are not acceptable, and that terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks must be brought to justice". To balance this statement, he praised Pakistan's role in war on terror and acknowledged that Pakistan was victim of the terror more than any other country in the world. Though President Barack Obama vowed to back India for a permanent UN Security Council seat, yet in the same breath he warned that with growing power came increased responsibility in an apparent reference to human rights abuses in India. He, however, pointedly criticized India for failing to condemn human rights abuses in neighbouring Myanmar. Anyway, America cannot give any guarantee to India for inducting it as permanent member of the UNSC with veto-power, as China has the right to veto any such effort. Therefore, Obama's flirtation with India should not be a cause of alarm for Pakistan. According to reports, BJP leaders and Indian media had raised hell that President Obama did not comment on Pakistan's involvement in Mumbai attacks. Despite Indian government's planning and efforts Obama did not accuse Pakistan for its involvement in 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and only reiterated America's usual stance that Pakistan should indict those involved in Mumbai carnage. As regards expansion of United Nations Security Council, it is true that in view of changed realities and increase in the UN membership, the UN reforms are imperative with a view to revitalizing the organization. But it should not result in adding to the present 'islands of power' to the chagrin of the weaker and smaller countries. There is no denying that the veto power negates the very concept of democratic approach, and contradicts the principal of equality amongst the members of the United Nations. The world is aware of the fact that Israel and India have ignominious record of showing utter disregard to the UNSC resolutions. Apart from India's violation of human rights, Pakistan and other South Asian countries would not feel comfortable to see India - a hegemonic state and an aspirant of a regional and world power - be provided an opportunity to further its interests. India should rather be asked to improve its record, and ensure that it will neither use brute force against its neighbors nor will it try to destabilize any of the neighbouring countries. But US and western countries would not do it because they are infatuated by plus one-billion market and also by India's façade of the largest democracy in the world.

Anyhow, during debates over this issue in the United Nations General Assembly and between the groups in 2005 and 2007, majority of the UN members were in favour of making the UNSC a more representative body by inducting members on the basis of regional groupings. In this backdrop, India's desire to become a permanent member of the UNSC is likely to remain unfulfilled. There is a perception that prospects of world peace would be further obscured if veto power was given to the new permanent members of the Security Council, as the misuse of the veto power in the past by permanent members has been the reason for the Security Council's inability to maintain international peace. The glaring examples could be found in the use of veto-power on various resolutions on Kashmir and Palestine by former Soviet Russia and the US respectively. During the Cold War era, the veto power was used for advancing the interest of one super-power to the detriment of a nation like Pakistan. And the resolutions passed by the Security Council vis-à-vis Palestine and Kashmir could not be implemented during the last six decades because super powers were not serious enough to help the aggrieved party. 


Therefore, even if the permanent membership of the Security Council is increased, no country should be given the veto power; rather the existing permanent members should also be stripped off this symbol of absolutism. Secondly, the veto power negates the very concept of democratic approach, and contradicts the principal of equality amongst the members of the United Nations. It has to be mentioned that President Obama's visit to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan was a business tour, which was meant to revive American economy and create jobs for the unemployed. After Republicans majority in the House of Representatives in mid-term elections, Obama's deadline to start withdrawal from July 2011 is likely to be revised. Even General David Petraeus, Commander of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, has already expressed his inability about meeting the deadline. Meanwhile, he has drawn a plan and labeled areas as red, yellow and green, the last one signifying that the area is ready to be handed over to Afghan forces. After Democrats lost in mid-term elections, the only hope for Obama to turn around his presidency is revival of American economy. And his visit to India and other Asian countries has been fructuous in this regard. But the trust-deficit between the US and the Muslim world can only be bridged if America helps resolve Kashmir and Palestine issues. 


Nevertheless, President Obama's commendable remarks about Islam would contribute to reduce the trust-deficit to some extent; but his noble sentiments should be translated into action. President Obama eulogized Islam as a great religion adding that it is a religion of peace and tolerance. It was a message to the Muslims in India, Pakistan and the world over, showing an apparent shift in American policy because after 9/11, Muslims throughout the world were considered as terrorists. Indian media, however, have downplayed Obama's remarks about Islam as religion of peace, and that stability and integrity of Pakistan is in the best interest of India itself. The US President did not mince his words when he urged India and Pakistan to talk to resolve their differences including Kashmir dispute as he stressed the need for peace between the neighbours, who are vital for his plans in Afghanistan. We have to bear in mind that America is trying to boost economic relations with India, and wishes to build up India as a countervailing force to China. Since Pakistan would not venture into such an arrangement, American would like to have relations with Pakistan not at strategic level but tactical level only, as has been the case in the past. However, Pakistani leadership should take measures to make Pakistan economically strong and self-reliant, because it was due to dependency syndrome that Pakistan was coerced into joining the war on terror. 

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE ONLY WAY OUT FOR PAKISTAN?

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

Enough is Enough only in the month of September 22 drone attacks followed by 4 attacks upto 3rd October have killed an unnamed number of innocent women, children and men in the tribal areas of Pakistan, all of whom have been promoted to the status of "militants" in order to keep the public quiet and the US happy. After having faced the devastation of the monsoon rains and floods which brought the anyway vulnerable economy of Khyber Pakhtonkhwa to a standstill the ongoing and up-stepped attacks from across the Durand Line is another factor in the break-down of civilian live, of economic activities and of internal displacement for an additional number of people. The legal status in international law of the drone attacks has always been questionable and finally even in the US an investigation has been announced into this matter. That should not be a cause for optimism, the status of the US justice system has just been proven as totally unjust during the handling of the case of Dr. Afia Siddiqi. But at least it shows that even in the US some people are recognizing the fact that Pakistan's sovereignty and drone attacks are not compatible. But that is not all about it. While Bob Woodward's recent book documented that the CIA is operating an Afghan security force on Pakistani territory for 'hot pursuit' purposes and unfortunately this has not aroused much noise in our country a sign that the army and the government must be part of a undercover agreement with the US regarding the drone attacks as well as the Afghan "boots on Pakistani ground". 


There is a latest follow-up to this also. The attack of two NATO helicopters on Pakistani territory during last weekend is reported to have killed 30 insurgents during a manned pursuit across the border from Afghanistan. This has been protested against by the army and the government though that might not change anything, because the US and NATO have proven that they do not think that Pakistan was a sovereign country or at least that the idea of sovereignty applies to the West but not to eastern countries like Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Unfortunately, the outcry of the Pakistani people was missing or it was more of a very negligible sigh which shows that singing patriotic songs on the 14th August or 23rd March is not enough to educate patriotic citizens and their patriotic leaders. 


Public opinion on the issue is not in line with that of our leaders vis-a -vis US, the out burst of President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani that they have conveyed Pakistan's resentment over intrusion of NATO helicopters and attack on Pakistani villages in Kurram Agency were conveyed under protest to the visiting functionaries of US, but this is nothing more then for domestic consumption, while many think that inside the room they must have again endorsed these attacks inside Pakistani territory as is claimed by US officials. But even these attacks are not going to satisfy their lust for control over the region. Now the news is reported by an American newspaper that General David Petraeus, the commander of the US forces stationed in Afghanistan, issued a veiled warning to Pakistan that his country could launch ground offensives in Fata, if Islamabad refused to dismantle the militant network in North Waziristan. "We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan": President Obama reportedly said as published in a Pakistani English daily of 29th September 2010. With this task in mind President Obama dispatched again his national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, and CIA Director Leon Panetta and others to Pakistan for a series of urgent, secret meetings and to ask for concrete results. While their own performance in Afghanistan has been zero and it appears their commanders are trying to find an escape goat, according to a US study group American annual expenditure in Afghanistan is more then $ 100 billion. 

 

To our utter surprise one of the visiting functionary had the sagacity to say that "We're living on borrowed time," Jones told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari while meeting in Islamabad. "We consider the Times Square attempt by Faisal Shehzad was a successful plot because neither the American nor the Pakistani intelligence agencies could intercept or stop it." Jones thought that Pakistan - a U.S. ally will seriously attempt our request for going after some terrorist groups instead of going on half hearted effort in this regard and supporting some others, this was playing Russian roulette with Americans.


If one remembers, President Obama had said towards the start of his fall 2009 Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review that the more pressing U.S. interests were located in Pakistan, a nuclear power with a fragile civilian government, a dominant military and an intelligence service that sponsored terrorist groups. Not only did al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban operate from safe havens within Pakistan, but - as U.S. intelligence officials had repeatedly warned Obama these terrorist groups were also recruiting Westerners whose passports would allow them to move freely in Europe and North America. Safe havens would no longer be tolerated, President Obama had decided. "We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan," he declared during an Oval Office meeting, near the end of the strategy review. The reason to create a secure, self-governing Afghanistan, he said, was "so that the cancer doesn't spread there." Jones and Panetta had gone to Pakistan to tell Zardari that Obama wanted four things to help prevent a terrorist attack on U.S. soil: full intelligence sharing, more reliable cooperation on counter terrorism, faster approval of visas for U.S. personnel traveling to Pakistan and, despite past refusals, access to airline passenger data. If, God forbid, if Faisal Shahzad action had blown up in Times Square, Jones told Zardari, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Should a future attempt be successful, Obama would be forced to do things that Pakistan would not like. "No one will be able to stop the response and consequences," the security adviser said. 


Pakistani leadership in this scenario are ignoring the India-Israel-US nexus, the US officials made it clear to our leaders that in case another attack like Mumbai attack is struck again then India would be fully justified to apply the same logic to attack on Lashker-e-Tayyaba operation inside Pakistan, because then India would not be able to show any kind of restraint that was shown earlier at the cost of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh losing his premiership, but this time he will have to respond as India has started leveling allegations on Pakistani support to armed insurgents operating in Indian held Kashmir.


In this background if events are analyzed properly this appears to be even more dangerous threat against Pakistan which the head of the US forces in Afghanistan is launching against our country. This would mean waging war on Pakistan as they have waged war on Iraq and Afghanistan before. If we don't listen to them now, Americans will go ahead and will later blame Pakistan for not having done anything to voice their disagreement. Now what should be done? We have seen that American or western aid and help as in the case of flood relief and others has always come with a price tag on it. The result is that Pakistani economy is in disarray, our national debt is mounting and the IMF and WB are dictating our economic policy. In such a desperate situation Pakistan should free itself from the domination and dependence of the US and the West. The least what should be done is to take our case in the UN Security council for violating Pakistani territorial sovereignty. 

The ambassadors of the NATO countries have to be summoned and a demarche has to be given. The alliance of Pakistan with the US and NATO in the so-called "war against terror" which has destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan and is about to destroy Pakistan has to be revised drastically. Closure of transportation facility of logistics to NATO should not be re-opened again. The events mentioned above have not only shaken the confidence of people in Pakistan but it also shows that the very existence of Pakistan is under threat and apart from all other calamities which we are facing war will be waged on us if we don't act now according to the whim and caprices of super power, the requirement of time is that instead of compromising our vital interest in political and personal expediency, we should try to build confidence of our nation by giving a clarion call to adopt austerity to stand on our own two legs, I am sure the nation will respond positively by giving up all luxuries and extravaganzas. Only an honest and truthful Messiah is required to lead the nation in this hour of trial and tribulation. God blesses Pakistan. 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SIGNIFICANCE OF OBAMA'S INDIA VISIT

AIR MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN (R)

 

The negative comments about President Barrack Obama's three day visit to India reflects lack of understanding about the significance of this important visit. The prejudice of Pakistani daily newspapers against India borders insanity. Media pundits should not mislead the readers by distorting facts. There is no need for slanted news analysis, and emotionally charged editorials to increase Bharat phobia. Facts should be presented truthfully and comments made rationally. 

 

The truth is that having suffered at the midterm polls, President Obama's India visit aimed at repairing the damage from the biggest election reverse for the Democrats in 72 years. The motive of the Obama administration is to befriend the 65 Indian billionaires and use Indian booming economy, to salvage the near sick American economy. Washington has realized that India has damaged US economy, by sucking half a million jobs by outsourcing US businesses to India. Attracted by lower labor costs, US big business has been investing in India and China at the cost of jobs and industrial growth at home. 


India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but so far the US has gained little from its "strategic relationship" with India, except loss of jobs to India from outsourcing. Soaring unemployment has rocked the Obama administration and caused erosion of his popularity. Jobs outsourcing has increasingly made US dependant on India and China. American public is angry, because this has meant millions of jobless Americans unable to pay bank mortgages, house loans, and thus loosing homes. 


Obama has failed to bring about the much trumpeted change. Though there is marginal economic recovery from zero GDP growth to 2 percent, unemployment is soaring, and house fore-closures, and alienation of big business has caused Democrat nose dive at the mid-term polls. Barrack Obama is now a lame duck President, and unless he turns around the economy, his election for a second term is unlikely. Befriending Indian big business is in American interest. Strategic partnership with India is being formatted in US favor so that it is not a drain on the US economy. Obama hopes to reverse the damaging relationship by US-India business dialogue. Half a million lost jobs was creating a backlash against India. It was thought that "Obama will give India a hard time on out sourcing", but his tone and tenor remained conciliatory, to encourage Indian officials and businesses into a productive long term business relationship. 


India outsourced America by thousands of call centers and back offices in small rooms. This has cost America hundreds of thousands of jobs. The three thousands I. T companies in the Silicon Valley had employed thousands of Indian IT specialists and technicians, who quickly pulled out and moved to India, during the Silicon Valley bubble burst. Bangalore, Hyderabad and New Delhi became global call centers for information technology required by most US institutions and American businesses. President Barrack Obama has made it clear that America cannot afford job loss to India any more. The US President is emphatic that "In 2010 trade between our two countries is not a one way street of American jobs and companies moving to India. It will be a dynamic two way relationship that is beneficial to both the countries". Hundreds of American businessmen had accompanied President Obama and have negotiated several big deals. Boeing aircraft company has sold ten C-17 Globe Master cargo aircraft to the Indian Air force with the price tag of 5.8 billion dollars. Indian Air Force has expressed an option for another six C-17 heavy troop and cargo aircraft. This single deal will fetch America ten billion dollars and 54000 jobs. Spice Jet a Indian domestic airline will pay 2.7 billion dollars for the purchase of 30 Boeing 737's airliners. This will sustain 2500 jobs. Indian Aeronautical Development Agency is ordering the purchase of 107 F-414 General Electric engines for the Teja fighters for the Indian Air Force at a cost of 850 million dollars. Secret negotiations for the purchase of 126 F-18 Hornet fighters with a price tag of 20 billion dollars was not disclosed. It will bring huge benefit to the US economy when signed. 

The government of India has placed an order for one thousand locomotives for Indian Railways, worth one billion dollars. India's wealthiest man Anil Ambani placed an order for six heavy duty gas turbines and three steam turbines worth 750 million dollars from General Electric for Reliance Power, his electric power company. This deal will support 2650 American jobs at home. Reliance Power is negotiating an additional deal to buy mining equipment worth $ 641 million from Bacyrus International. The deal supports 3460 American jobs. US Exim Bank signed an M.O.U with Anil Ambani's Reliance Power to finance $ 5 billion for the purchase of US machinery, industrial products and services for installing gas fired electricity plants, and solar and wind energy facilities across India. This will create 27000 jobs in the US.


Harley David Motorcycle Company is setting up a plant in India to create jobs in the US and in India. Caterpillar has signed a deal with the Indian Coast Guard for the supply of marine engines worth fifty million dollars. Several other small and medium business contracts were signed between American and Indian businessmen in Bombay. Obama was euphoric with the fifteen billion dollars worth business deals negotiated during his three day Indian visit. It means over seventy five thousand new jobs in the United States. This should not be down played by the Pakistani press. Bad mouthing India, because its economy is booming is in bad taste. We need to get down to serious work, and put own economy back on the rails. In New Delhi during his one to one talk with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, business strategy and India's UN Security Council membership was discussed. Sardar Sahib seemingly convinced President Obama that India could be a golden goose for America. No wonder Obama readily agreed to support Indian membership of UN Security Council regardless of Indian record of the continuing massive human right violations in Jammu and Kashmir. America the flag bearer of human rights, and must not appease India and shut its eyes at India's poor human rights record. 

Obama's statement to support Indian seat on the Security Council is an unwise decision, which will tarnish American credentials.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDIA-US RELATIONS: CHANGING SCENARIO

SAMEER JAFRI

 

The US President Barack Hussein Obama recent Indian visit was significant in many aspects. Unlike the earlier visits of American Presidents to India, Obama's visit has come on the heels of biggest economic recession facing the US since 1930s Great Depression and a losing war in Afghanistan. Just before his visit, Obama faced the wrath of American people in the mid-terms on account of mismanagement of economy and increasing unemployment. Thus creation of jobs in the US is his objective for the time being. The US economy is in dire straits. American businesses desperately need markets to sell their products. They are looking towards the developing world with great optimism. India, being the second fastest growing economy after China, is a major consumer of everything ranging from sports bikes to aircraft, nuclear power to defence equipment. 

Besides, Obama also declared to lift the ban of high-tech and dual-use exports to the Indian agencies- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). Moreover, Obama administration has supported India's full membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australian Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. It is being said that these concessions will help India to develop its space technology and defence industry. So far so good. All this might seem to be the generosity of Obama administration towards India, but the reality is different. Apart from eyeing economic gains by the sale of high-tech and dual use products, the US also wants to make geo-political impact in Asia. It is well known fact that worried by the rapid rise of China, America wants to create a counterbalance in Asia by allying India with itself. 


On the last day of his visit, Obama addressed the Indian Parliament. He said many things which India wanted to hear and many which India doesn't necessarily share. The most important was Obama's vocal support for a permanent seat to India in the reformed U.N. Security Council. Since nothing from USA comes without conditions attached, he asked India to play an active role in passing and enforcing sanctions resolutions during its 2-year stint as a non-permanent member. By this, he wanted India to change its consistent stance on Iran. This was also reflected in the joint statement issued by both the countries. On Iran, it said both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to diplomacy and discussed the need for India to meet its obligations towards the IAEA and the UNSC.


On Pakistan, in line with the Indian expectations, Obama said that terrorist safe-havens within Pak borders are unacceptable and also called on Pakistan to punish the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks. This was the most an American President could do notwithstanding the lack of strategic convergence between India and the US on Pakistan. While for America, Pakistan is a 'part' of the solution, for India, it is the 'heart' of the problem. America badly needs Pakistan in its war against Al Qaeda and Taliban in AfPak region. On the controversial issue of Kashmir, repeating his earlier stance, the US President said Washington couldn't impose a solution and it is on both sides to resolve the issue bilaterally. His silence on Kashmir was ensured by the above aircraft and defence deals.


Stressing on the term "two largest democracies", Obama sought to send indirect message to China that development can be achieved by following democratic norms and values. This was in contrast to his visit to China where he talked about "G-2" leading the world. It clearly shows that the US seeks to "contain" China in Asia by supporting India. In reality, India and China cannot be compared. China has more than $2.6 trillion of investment in American securities. Moreover, the annual bilateral trade between the US and China is over $500 billion with balance of trade in favour of China. So, China has leverage over USA and this haunts Uncle Sam. Also, in his speech, Obama questioned the silence of India on human rights violations in Myanmar and maintained that being upfront on such issues did not mean interference in the affairs of other country. Well Mr. Obama, the same applies to the US policy towards Saudi Arabia and other West Asian allies, where citizens even don't know the meaning of Human Rights. Moreover, no sane person can condone the worst Human Rights violations by the US in Abu Gharib & Guantanamo Bay jails.


This visit was different in the sense that it was a give and take event unlike earlier visits of the US Presidents in which they only used to extract out of India, as much as they could. Obama apparently gave many concessions and assurances to India. Still, there are many such issues on which both countries do not share a common view. India, being a sovereign nation, has always followed an independent foreign policy. Our defined principles determine our relations with the neighbouring countries and the world. 


—The writer is India based political analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

TIME FOR INDIA TO BE A BETTER NEIGHBOUR

MAHA RAFI ATAL

 

On Sunday last, President Obama met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. They discussed opportunities for expanded Indo-American trade, and both leaders highlighted the strategic importance of a strong and prosperous India in the face of Chinese expansion. But Prime Minister Singh did not acknowledge, and President Obama did not bring up, the most important obstacle to India's success: its poor regional relationships.

From the outset, India's promise as a rival to China has been that it is a power apart. It could not beat Beijing in a race for pure growth or military might. But in a contest over principles, India's democratic progress offers the region a model that China cannot match. India should be a partner for countries seeking a fair alternative to alliance with its authoritarian neighbour. But India is losing this contest, and it is losing it close to home. Now, as President Obama left India, it is worth asking: Why isn't South Asia's richest country leading more effectively in South Asia?


China is certainly flexing its muscle. Last month, it sought to restrict exports of rare earth minerals to Japan, made overtures to a secession movement in southern Sudan, and wrestled with the G20 over its currency and trade imbalance. Nowhere has China been more assertive than in South Asia. In a strategy it calls the "string of pearls," China is building ports and infrastructure in Bangladesh and Pakistan; digging up minerals in Pakistan and Afghanistan; and refining hydropower in Nepal and Afghanistan. According to the International Monetary Fund, China's trade with India's neighbours totalled $16 billion in 2008, growing at 14 percent annually. India's regional trade was barely holding steady at $11 billion, yet China's success in the Subcontinent reflects India's own foreign policy blunders.


First, India has been overconfident, assuming that regional neighbours would naturally choose it over Beijing without providing them with positive incentives to do so. That is the case in Bangladesh, a desperately poor country created with the assistance of Indian forces, whose multiple requests for economic aid and greater bilateral trade India has rebuffed. While Bangladeshis wonder why India does not do more, India wonders why Bangladesh is not more appreciative.


In Nepal, India backed a feudal aristocracy for four decades, reinstating the monarchy by force after repeated popular revolts. It trained the Nepalese military, and orchestrated political marriages between Nepalese aristocrats and wealthy Indian families. Pushing India out became the top priority of the Maoist guerrilla movement that has majority support and an informal alliance with China.


As the UN peace mission holding Nepal together prepares to close in January, India is pitted against China to control the post-war settlement, with Nepal's critical water resources (about 83,000 megawatts of hydropower) at stake. The confrontation is reminiscent of the situation in Burma (Myanmar), where China and India spent $10 billion last year to secure the support of a military junta guilty of abusing its own subjects. Earlier this year, the government announced an immigration regime that will restrict multiple entry visas. Multinationals have protested the move as a blow to business travellers from the West and the Persian Gulf, but its greatest victims are migrant labourers from Bangladesh and Nepal. Many will turn to China for employment instead; others will enter illegally, bringing crime with them.

Nowhere has suspicion been more crippling to Indian policy than in the case of Pakistan. So long as Kashmiri militants – with historic ties to Pakistan – continue to operate inside India, India maintains it cannot meet with Pakistan over the disputed border, or over critical resources like water and gas. But it is the ongoing dispute that creates the very basis for this militancy. In a country with porous mountain borders, such threats are virtually impossible to block out by force. Unfortunately, the United States has been an accomplice to India's regional isolationism.

In 2008, pressure from Washington shut down a natural gas project involving India, Pakistan, and Iran. Last year, Present Obama briefly considered appointing Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as a regional envoy, with the authority to conduct dialogue between India and Pakistan, but narrowed his brief to Afghanistan and Pakistan over Indian opposition. Asked about Pakistan at a town hall meeting in New Delhi on Sunday last, the president reiterated that the United States would not intervene in the Kashmir dispute. Yet without an Indo-Pak peace, no strategy for Afghanistan can move forward. The West has lavished India with the trappings of global status: a seat at the G20, a temporary seat at the UN Security Council that may open the door to a permanent one, a controversial US-India nuclear deal, and two pending defence trades worth more than $15 billion dollars. To read Indian newspapers or speak to diplomats is to believe that these gestures represent global influence. But in fact, they signal the rise of a Potemkin hegemon. If India is encircled by China's string of pearls, and if migrants and militants compromise its borders, then it will be forced to waste its economic resources putting out local fires, unable to project power further afield.


Moreover, as they watch this regional saga, potential partners in Africa, the Middle East, or Central Asia see India as a country that treats its neighbours with contempt. Indian leaders can argue that other great powers have done the same, but the argument misunderstands the very nature and purpose of India's rise, the unique role that ideals must play in India's success.


To be sure there are steps India can take to reverse this course. If it accepts international mediation in Kashmir, if it becomes a neutral partner for peace in Burma and Nepal, and if it opens its markets to greater regional trade, it may yet salvage its position as the democratic counter-power to China. But these are long-term solutions, and the window to pursue them is shrinking. The writer is a journalist in New York, recently returned from India, Pakistan, and Nepal where she was a correspondent for the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting. —The Christian Science Monitor

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

LABOR WILL BE HELD TO ACCOUNT

 

WAYNE Swan's shameless spin on the OECD's report into the National Broadband Network will not save him from judgment over his part in this wasteful project.

 

Nor will ridicule of the Paris-based body redeem Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. The Treasurer all but verballed the OECD yesterday as he rejected its criticism of the $43 billion scheme. On the ABC's AM program, Mr Swan claimed the OECD had delivered "a very strong endorsement of the NBN overall"; that it had "made the case to roll out the NBN because we are way behind in Australia"; and that it had said the NBN would "promote further competition". The OECD, he suggested, was "overwhelmingly positive" about the idea. Not true. The OECD said there were "substantial financial uncertainties" about a project worth 3.25 per cent of GDP. It warned that shutting down the existing copper network and main cable network would create a monopoly that "may not be optimal for cost efficiency and innovation". It urged "competition between technologies in the broadband sector and, within each technology, between internet service providers". If that's a ringing endorsement, we'd hate to see a rejection. At least Mr Swan did not attempt to demolish the OECD's bona fides, as did Senator Conroy.

 

A de-skilled media means politicians are increasingly confident of avoiding close questioning of their statements. When the Orgill report into the Building the Education Revolution was released earlier this year, most media swallowed the government spin rather than reading the report. But Mr Swan will be held accountable for his government's determination to press ahead with the NBN despite Labor's disastrous history of intervention in the market. So will Senator Conroy, who, as a Victorian, should know how much taxpayers' money was wasted more than 20 years ago in Tricontinental and the Victorian Economic Development Corporation, for example. Mr Swan as a former Labor state secretary should not need reminding of the risks when governments try to pick winners.

 

The OECD has joined Finance and Treasury to warn of the dangers of the NBN. Rather than resorting to spin, the Treasurer should listen. In the meantime, readers can make up their own minds about the report by reading it at www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

COMBET MAKES THE RIGHT CALL

 

GREG Combet's request to the Productivity Commission to compare the effective carbon price across several countries is a sensible way to get some facts into the debate about climate change policies.

 

The commission can be relied upon to deliver a rigorous analysis of just how far countries such as Britain, the US, Germany, New Zealand, China, India and Japan are moving on carbon at a time when the global picture is increasingly shambolic. The inquiry -- along with the reports commissioned from economist Ross Garnaut -- will take the emotion out of carbon politics as Labor battles to decide a direction. The commission has the job of separating the inflated claims that nations make about pollution reduction from the reality. Its report, due next May, should provide Australia with a benchmark against which to determine action.

 

The Australian has long argued the need to stay in step with the rest of the globe and US President Barack Obama's virtual admission he has no hope of getting a cap-and-trade system through congress and will look for other measures to cut emissions makes it doubly important Australia takes a rational approach. The reference to the commission means we will have the most up-to-date and objective data on what the rest of the world is up to as Canberra grapples with climate change policy. The test for the Gillard government will be accepting the commission's verdict. Equally, the commission should be given a chance to run its eye over any national policy when that is formulated.

 

The Climate Change Minister deserves full marks for seeking analysis from a body that has proved fearless in its advice. So rigorous has it been in the past that governments do their best to keep dodgy projects away from it. A case in point is the National Broadband Network, which is crying out for scrutiny but has not been submitted to the commission.

 

A former boss of the ACTU, Mr Combet has a keen appreciation of economic reality and is proving a steady manager of carbon politics. His performance underlines the mistake of leaving him out of the Rudd cabinet. Julia Gillard did well to pull him into her inner circle. She should learn from his approach and divorce her administration from some of the Rudd baggage. What is the point of arguing that Labor lost its way under the former prime minister, yet sticking with his mistakes?

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

A GREAT LADY WITH THE COURAGE TO DEFY DICTATORS

 

THE release of Aung San Suu Kyi, unjustly detained under house arrest by the Burmese military dictatorship for 15 of the 20 years since 1990, is a rare piece of good news from that long-suffering state.

 

The reasons for her detention demonstrate a great deal about her character and that of the regime she defies. Ms Suu Kyi was locked up in 2000, for the high crime of winning an election. Released in 2002, she was detained the following year with a promise of release in 2009. However, her house arrest was extended for the nonsensical reason that an eccentric American had swum the lake outside her home to meet her. But now she is free, conveniently for the generals just days after an election she urged her supporters to boycott.

 

That the military are so frightened of this slight 65-year-old woman is a testament to Ms Suu Kyi's unswerving belief that Burma deserves democracy. Like her fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela, Ms Suu Kyi is a living symbol that oppressive regimes are never secure while men and women of courage stand firm for freedom. Like Mr Mandela, she has placed her commitment to country above all, refusing to leave Burma to visit her children and dying husband in the 1990s for fear the junta would stop her returning. While detention under house arrest may be more comfortable than Mr Mandela's notorious first prison cell, Ms Suu Ki has been imprisoned nonetheless. But unlike Mr Mandela, she is a long way from seeing any reward for her sacrifices. For most Burmese, life is worse than it was for the black South Africans at the end of apartheid. Burma should be relatively rich, China is investing in its gas and hydro-electricity resources. But the generals look after their own. It is all but impossible to believe that officials do not profit from heroin exports, the country is the second biggest supplier in the world, and in 2005 the junta decided to create a new capital from scratch, saying its inland location made it more secure from foreign attack. But the absence of a large urban population probably figured in the military's mind. In 2007, increases in fuel prices led to mass urban protests and life for ordinary people is tough. The electricity grid functions intermittently, child mortality is second only to Afghanistan in Asia -- 10 per cent of Burmese children die before they are five. And the regime shows little sign of caring. Cyclone Nargis in May 2008 killed 140,000 people and left a further 2.4 million without homes and access to basic services. But the UN was forced to suspend aid flights because the generals did not want to admit they could not deal with the crisis.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

20 NATIONS SHY ABOUT LEADING

 

DAVID CAMERON, the British Prime Minister, was putting it mildly, but accurately enough, at the end of last week in his summing up of the G20 nations meeting in Seoul: ''I'm not saying the G20 is in its heroic phase.'' The more valiant moments in the grouping's short history, when it grappled boldly with the global financial crisis, have receded, along with some of its tribunes, notably the then prime ministers of Britain and Australia, Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd.

 

What we witnessed was a leaderless world (given that the G20 encompasses two-thirds of the world's population and 85 per cent of its aggregate gross domestic product). The US President, Barack Obama, came at the tail-end of an around-the-world tour where he had won hearts in India and Indonesia, but without a consensus even among America's best friends on his administration's idea of setting numerical targets for trade surpluses and deficits. The US Federal Reserve's latest round of printing money undercuts charges of ''currency manipulation'' against Beijing. Even an expected bilateral free-trade agreement with the South Korean hosts failed to materialise. It signalled a Washington that failed to convince, and after the congressional midterm elections could not deliver.

 

Meanwhile, behind the flag-waving expedition around Asia by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is growing awareness that US defence spending is in for a massive cut. The legions are being withdrawn. If the respect and delight Obama showed with Indians and Indonesians could be seen as reflecting the American mood, Washington could count on a lot more friends and support to make up for that. But the rancorous rise of the Tea Party has not helped.

 

China's main enemy in its climb towards ascendancy, it seems, is its own impatience. Its recent burst of assertiveness in territorial disputes produced a swing to Washington around the region. The meeting of the President of China, Hu Jintao, and the Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, suggests a recognition of that. Time and money are on China's side.

 

Which is not to say the Seoul meeting was a total failure. The G20 finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund (with more emerging economic representation) are to work out how to identify the chronic financial and trade imbalances that need correction. This will require as much from Washington, to reduce excessive consumption funded by parked foreign export surpluses, as from China to boost domestic demand. There was the usual call to expedite the failing Doha trade round - but what to make of so many G20 leaders then rushing, at APEC in Yokohama, to embrace a trade pact between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore as the alternative?

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

WHEN CITY PLANS GO TO WASTE

 

THE Roads Minister, David Borger, has been unusually candid about the quality of some recent urban design projects. Borger told a forum in Sydney recently that the city should beware of repeating past planning mistakes. His list of what not to repeat was a revelation: Woolloomooloo, Darling Harbour, Sydney Olympic Park, the Church Street Mall in Parramatta, High Street in Penrith and Newcastle's Honeysuckle waterfront district. Barangaroo may well join them, he suggested.

 

Borger was playing devil's advocate to the City of Sydney council's plan to turn George Street into a mostly pedestrian area and light-rail corridor between Central railway and Circular Quay. The nature of the project means one should be careful when assessing the value of this candour: as the Roads Minister, Borger is likely to be backing the agenda of the powerful Roads and Traffic Authority, which takes a dim view of planning measures which restrict the movement of cars and trucks.

 

Even so, his list of duds is thoughtful and instructive - and ought to provoke debate. Darling Harbour, despite the value of its main attractions - the Maritime Museum and aquarium among them - has never lived up to the hype from when it was opened for the 1988 bicentennial. Even though it can attract crowds, its shops tend to struggle. It is close to the city yet, thanks to the strangling presence of gigantic road viaducts around and above, cut off from it. Isolated by their cold and indifferent mass, it lacks the city's energy. Something similar can be said of Church Street in Parramatta. It, too, is dominated by a viaduct - rail, this time - which similarly chills an area which also lacks many attractions.

 

Olympic Park is another urban failure, as Borger puts it, though it can hardly be the absence, as he argues, of

''natural movement corridors'' since it is one big movement corridor. Yet the area often feels cold and forbidding. The gigantic scale of its main features, and the relative absence of development on a human scale, explain why.

 

Yet these failures suggest why the council's plans for George Street may work. A light-rail corridor will bring pedestrians and cyclists at street level to an already active consumer strip. The changes are on a human scale, reclaiming the street from car traffic with its deadening indifference to the environment through which it travels. Barangaroo, with its oversized citadels of commerce, is another matter - but light rail might help humanise it, too.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

PREFERENCES DECISION UNFAIR? NO, JUST POLITICS

 

EITHER Greens MLC Greg Barber has a poor memory or he does not know his party's history as well as he thinks he does. Yesterday, in response to the Liberal Party's decision to place Greens candidates last on how-to-vote cards for the Legislative Assembly, Mr Barber said: ''In the inner city voters mostly ignore how-to-vote cards.'' There is certainly evidence for the claim that inner-city voters are much less likely to follow how-to-vote cards, but it does not mean that preference flows don't matter. If Mr Barber casts his mind back to the federal election, in which Adam Bandt claimed the seat of Melbourne for the Greens, he will see why. Mr Bandt's victory depended on Liberal preferences, and the prospect of the Greens winning state lower-house seats within the boundaries of his electorate was based on expectations that the distribution of Liberal preferences would again propel second-placed Greens candidates past their Labor rivals.

 

Yes, Labor's inability to stem the flow of its left-leaning middle-class voters to the Greens has meant that in some seats the Greens' primary vote is at levels that other minor parties such as the Australian Democrats and the DLP only ever dreamed about. And yes, the fact that Greens voters tend to be concentrated in gentrified, inner-city electorates has given the party the potential to be a player in the house that decides who governs. These changes may be transforming Australia's political landscape through a permanent realignment of forces on the left. None of that, however, changes the reality of electioneering everywhere except Tasmania, which is the only state to use proportional representation in lower-house elections. Federally and in the mainland states the system used is preferential voting, which means that contests between three or more candidates are decided on the allocation of preferences. In lower-house seats it matters whether or not there is a disciplined flow of preferences from losing candidates, a fact of political life some starry-eyed Greens seem to have forgotten. The first merit in the Liberals' preference decisions is that it has given them a timely reminder.

 

The Liberals owe the Greens nothing, and are under no obligation to help them win enough seats to force a minority Labor government to rely on Greens support for survival. That is why another stock response from the Greens yesterday - that the Liberals' preference decision indicates the blurring of the major parties - can only be regarded as a wilful misunderstanding. ''The Labor-Liberal old order has run into each others' arms,'' Mr Barber said, ''and if you want to get change to their old failed policies you can't vote for either of them.''

 

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On the contrary, the effect of the preferences decision has been to sharpen the choice for voters. When Victorians cast their votes on November 27 they will not only be electing a Parliament, they will be deciding who governs, because the possibility of an inconclusive result has now diminished. Far from rushing into the arms of the Brumby Labor government, Liberal leader Ted Baillieu and his colleagues have effectively declared: ''If you want a change of government, vote for us.'' They will run on their policies, which, despite Mr Barber's assertion, are not identical to the government's. Unlike Labor and the Greens, they will not run as the bearers of a preference deal. How can this clarity of choice be said to serve voters badly?

 

The preferences decision certainly makes the Greens' dream of winning lower-house seats much harder to realise. It does not, however, make it impossible. What it means is that, in the absence of proportional representation and the balance-of-power politics that system delivers, the Greens will have to concentrate on building their primary vote, just like other parties. It is as simple, as arduous, and as democratic as that.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

AUDIT SOUNDS ALARM ON ABUSE CASES

 

THE crisis in Child Protection shows up in many ways. A year ago, the State Ombudsman described horrifying case studies to illustrate the human toll. His report found ''many allegations of child abuse and neglect do not receive a timely response'' and cited sworn statements that figures were manipulated. Response targets were ''often recorded as met despite the child not being sighted''. That triggered an audit of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data in all regions. Unlike Ombudsman George Brouwer's report, the KPMG report is written in dry bureaucratese, which barely hints at the human side of the story. It does not identify intentional manipulation, but finds serious inconsistencies in KPI data, which are meant to measure responsiveness to reports of children at risk.

 

These measures are meant to ensure that cases classed as urgent trigger a visit within two days and non-urgent cases within 14 days. One might think a first visit means workers see the child at risk. Not so, the audit found. The first visit could be any one of: when the child was first seen and interviewed; when an attempt was made to sight the child; when the worker visited the child's parents or siblings; or when a phone call was made to arrange an interview. In only three out of four urgent cases and about one in two non-urgent cases did the first visit date describe a visit when the child was seen, as is required.

 

How could this happen? The report considers multiple procedural matters. Only once, in a single sentence, does it allude to why child protection workers, of whom Mr Brouwer said most were ''highly committed'', could be so sloppy with their records. ''In six of the eight regions visited, child protection teams were below budgeted FTEs, leading to a prioritisation of addressing child concerns over administrative data recording.'' In plain English, something has to give so understaffed teams can cope with their caseload.

 

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Last year, nearly one in four workers left, a churn rate that defies consistent record keeping and reporting. Too much is asked of too few; to demand better performance monitoring is to miss the bigger point about the need for resources to match demands on workers.

 

The Coalition has promised a judicial inquiry into child protection. If the narrowly focused remedies of the government-commissioned audit are any guide, that may be necessary. Performance is not a matter of ticking boxes; in child protection it depends on having enough staff to intervene in time to prevent harm to all children at risk. The staffing crisis is the root cause of ''underperformance''.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

PUBLIC SPENDING: BANNED AID

KEN CLARKE'S PLANS ARE AN EXERCISE IN CUTTING A BUDGET, NOT REBALANCING THE WAY THE STATE SUPPORTS ACCESS TO JUSTICE

 

The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, is a class political act. He proved it again yesterday when he unveiled his plans for how to cut £350m from the legal aid bill, the principles of which Labour was unable to oppose, since – as Mr Clarke pointed out – they had spent most of the past 13 years trying to achieve the same thing. At £2bn, the legal aid bill in England and Wales has grown too big. It is one of the most expensive in the world. It covers far more activities than was originally envisaged, including tribunals that were introduced to simplify the process. But it does not take long to work beyond the points of agreement, and Mr Clarke's sensible decision to continue to give legal aid in inquests, in asylum cases and in judicial reviews, to discover that the speed and severity of the cuts announced yesterday will once again disproportionately hurt the poorest and most vulnerable. This was an exercise in cutting a budget, not rebalancing the way the state supports access to justice.

 

The axe falls most heavily on family cases, that small percentage of cases where arguments about access and finance end up in court. On the face of it, mediation rather than an adversarial court process makes sense and should speed agreements that are accepted by both sides. In fact, the costly cases that take up court time do so because they are serious and difficult. A lot of effort has already gone into making sure legal aid is not available unless that is the case. Yesterday's proposals –as the green paper acknowledges – are likely to damage the small law firms that are increasingly the only ones to accept legal aid cases. Meanwhile, earlier this year the contract-awarding process for family lawyers was bungled. As a result, none are under contract. The government can slash budgets at will.

 

By comparison, the savings that will come from excluding most employment, housing and welfare cases from legal aid are chicken feed. Mr Clarke promises that those under immediate threat of homelessness will still get support. But otherwise anyone who is in a landlord and tenant dispute, or who believes they have been unfairly dismissed, or who needs help to claim for, say, disability benefit, will have to look elsewhere. On Friday, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, warned that in the past year alone 300 specialist advisers in these areas, funded by legal aid, had dealt with more than 110,000 cases. She talked of the most vulnerable being left "with nowhere to turn". As cuts in other budgets begin to take effect, the number of people needing advice is bound to rise. On the government's figures, the cost of withdrawing this support is just £40m. It used to be said of Ken Clarke that he would cross the road for a fight. This time he should step back.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IRELAND: IT'S ALL BAD NEWS

 

Irish ministers are fighting to retain something they have already lost: sovereignty over the economy

 

A man gets a call from his doctor, who asks whether he wants to hear the good or the bad news first: "The good news is that you have 24 hours to live." "Jeez, doc, what's the bad news?" "I should have called you 24 hours ago." The doc, in the case of the critically ill Irish economy, is not the financial media that have been reporting that it is only a matter of time before an EU bailout. Irish ministers called these reports "dangerous fiction". Brian Cowen, the prime minister, let it be known that he was furious. The cabinet stuck to the line yesterday that they can get through on financial aspirins until next June. But media reports are not the problem, and certainly not the reason why the credibility of ministerial statements on this issue is now so low.

 

The doc is the European Central Bank, which has already spent €90bn keeping Irish financial institutions afloat. The ECB vice-president, Vitor Constâncio, clearly wants Ireland to use the fund set up after the Greek collapse, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), sooner rather than later. The governor of the Bank of Spain piled more pressure on Ireland yesterday. Nor was he a disinterested spectator. Though Ireland is out of the bond markets and does not have to go back until it runs out of cash next year, Spain and Portugal both need those markets to fund their debts. While Greece and Ireland are the first victims of the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone, the deeper fear of the ECB is that an economy the size of Spain or Italy will follow. That would really test their ability to underwrite banking failure.

 

The response of Brian Lenihan, the Irish finance minister, to the growing number of flashing blue lights outside was to make a distinction between the state, which was insolvent but liquid, and the banks, which were both broke and cashless. It may look like good politics to call this a banking crisis rather than a national one. But there is a problem with this logic. Having underwritten the banks two years ago with a deal that guaranteed virtually all the bondholders' risk, the Irish taxpayer has seen the cost of the bank bailout rise to between a quarter and a half of GDP. As Morgan Kelly, the economist who predicted the banking crash, wrote recently, this open-ended commitment to cover bank losses plainly exceeds the fiscal capacity of the state. The banks' problems in determining how much further they have to fall are now plainly Ireland's too.

 

Ireland has resisted pressure to ask for help because the terms of the bailout from the EFSF or the IMF would be punitive and the state would be forced to surrender some sovereignty over the budget. It would almost certainly have to increase taxes, particularly its low corporation tax rate of 12.5%, which was credited with attracting Google and its like to Ireland. No relatives at a funeral are mere bystanders. David Cameron certainly would not be if Irish collapse meant lots of that business returning to Britain. But the fact of the matter is that Irish ministers are fighting to retain something they have already lost – sovereignty over the economy. What Iceland went through could be mild in comparison if what follows is a full-scale mortgage default crisis, compounded by a further collapse of property prices.

 

No government ever wants to go cap in hand to the IMF or the EFSF. It is humiliating, and in Ireland's case has painful historical resonances. Entry both to the EU and to the eurozone represented a welcome release from the dependency on the much larger economy across the water. The Tiger economy was not just a neoliberal dream. It represented a quick breakout from an old problem. It was a national aspiration, which is now dying as another generation of young Ireland seeks work abroad. The Irish people need to hold to account those who took the decisions that led to this crisis, and draw the right conclusions – never again to allow their economy to be built on dreams and air.

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