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Thursday, November 18, 2010

EDITORIAL 18.11.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month november 18, edition 000681 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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










  6. TOWARDS 2014 - C. RAJA MOHAN 




























  2. 7 suggestions for the new Congress - By Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel

















The collapse of an illegally constructed five-storey building at Lakshmi Nagar in east Delhi that has resulted in the tragic loss of at least 66 lives — 20 others still lie buried under the rubble — has once again brought to the fore the rampant corruption in Government agencies, most notably the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, in the national capital city. The disaster also underscores the callous indifference of the Delhi Government whose Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dikshit, is adept at the art of passing the buck and disowning responsibility for anything that goes wrong under her watch. Hence, it surprised nobody when she blamed the MCD for the disaster which has occurred in the parliamentary constituency represented by her son, Mr Sandeep Dikshit. Curiously, Ms Sheila Dikshit finds it perfectly legitimate to promise the 'regularisation' of unauthorised colonies with illegally constructed buildings before every election; the misdeeds of the MCD are then conveniently forgotten. Be that as it may, initial findings have revealed that water-logging in the basement, poor construction and unauthorised additional floors resulted in the building caving in on Monday night. Similar reasons could lead to several other illegally constructed buildings in the area collapsing in the near future. As always, authorities have woken up rather late in the day and ordered a survey of buildings in the Shahdara zone; MCD officials, who are known for being only too willing to have their palms greased, are now busy pasting notices on buildings that are deemed to be unsafe, asking residents to vacate them within 24 hours. It is anybody's guess as to whether the residents will actually vacate these death traps and what action will be taken to dismantle them. For all we know, once the dust settles and the story goes off the front pages of newspapers and prime time bulletins of news channels, it will be business as usual. Human life is at a discount in this country; venal politicians, corrupt babus and avaricious 'builders' are untouched by needless deaths. That the owner of the building which collapsed like a house of cards should feel no remorse tells its own story, as does the ritual lip-service paid by politicians whenever disaster strikes in this wondrous land of ours. 

The doomed building many of whose residents, including infants and children, died a gruesome death was located a short distance from the Commonwealth Games Village showcasing India on the march to super-power status. Monday night's tragedy only goes to prove that the tinsel and glitter of Games facilities built at a whopping price paid by hapless taxpayers is no more than a mask which hides the real face of India's capital city. That face is pock-marked and hideous; it is the face of sprawling urban slums that fetch votes for cynical politicians and keep corrupt officials in comfort. Little or no purpose will be served by declaring some illegally constructed buildings as unsafe. Even if these are demolished, others no more safe than the present structures will mushroom on the spot where they stand today. The rot runs deep and the profits that accrue from turning a blind eye to illegal constructions and unauthorised colonies are shared by lowly clerks and their powerful political bosses. Unless the nexus is smashed and systemic reforms introduced, nothing will change on the ground. 








It would be in order to cheer the remarkable recovery of Satyam, which from a net loss of more than Rs 8,000 crore in 2008-09 has rebounded to net profits in two subsequent quarters in 2010. Although the profit at Rs 23.3 crore for the second quarter of the current financial year is lower than Rs 97. 5 crore in the first quarter — in normal circumstances that would have been some cause for concern — the fact remains any kind of profit is an achievement for Satyam, now renamed Mahindra Satyam after its takeover by the Mahindra Group. The company had been all but destroyed by the greed of its founder and one-time poster boy of the Indian IT industry, Ramalinga Raju. Thankfully, what had remained undamaged was the huge pool of human talent that the company had accumulated over the years of its meteoric (though shambolic) rise. That, along with some prudent management, first under a team of three experts nominated by the Union Government and later the Mahindra team, has ensured the turnaround. It is arguably the most dramatic revival of a business enterprise in recent times, and it has come at a time when, elsewhere, far bigger companies have downed shutters or been forced to downsize. Like Satyam under Raju, these companies too have fallen victim to the greed of owners and managers busy filling their own coffers. And, like Raju, they continued to believe that they would eventually be able to wade through the muck they had accumulated through their misdemeanours.

Mahindra Satyam is a lesson for the country's business community in more ways than one. The most important of the lessons is that one should not endanger a proven entity by diverting its resources to dubious enterprises. One can by all means take risks, but not by risking the health of a robust company and the livelihood of its employees. Had Raju not siphoned away company assets to his personal accounts, and had he not sought to prop up the doomed Maytas Infra with the help of Satyam funds, things would not have gone out of hand and the Satyam founder would have remained the toast of Indian industry. Satyam has been redeemed; Raju will sooner or later be punished by the courts. It is sad that exceptional business brains — Raju indeed belonged to that category before choosing to disgrace himself — should go haywire, grounding to dust reputations painstakingly built over decades. Harshad Mehta, a financial wizard, indulged in the massive stock market scam that brought him huge windfall profits but also proved to be his nemesis. By all accounts, he was among the sharpest and most intelligent stock market experts in the country, revered and feared by the high and mighty. Yet, that is not the legacy he has left behind; in death he is associated with theft and sleaze and not looked up to as the man who made the market rise to dizzying heights.








The Obama visit was a triumphal culmination of what SS Ray strove for as India's Ambassador to the US, recognising business as the bedrock of bilateral relations

President Barack Obama would not have come to India looking for jobs for Americans if it had not been for the particular push Siddhartha Shankar Ray gave to India-US relations. India has sent other distinguished Ambassadors to the US like BK Nehru with his wide range of important contacts and LK Jha who profoundly impressed Mr Henry Kissinger. But Ray was the first to eschew platitudes for the economic issues Mr Manmohan Singh discussed with his guest.

Ray's success lay in mobilising NRIs, American businessmen and members of the US Congress to work for India. When his term was extended by two years in 1994, Congressman Jim McDermott inserted a statement in the Congressional record complimenting PV Narasimha Rao on his "excellent judgement" which would "bring the Indo-US relationship to an even higher plateau". 

Indian assessments were less generous. Some Congress colleagues were jealous of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das's grandson while the mandarins of South Block resented outsiders and looked down on business. A former Ambassador to Thailand was ordered not to talk like a "Dalda salesman" when he proposed a scheme with economic potential. A High Commissioner to Singapore who suggested developing some of India's valuable properties there for commercial use says he was told sharply that the Government of India was not a "rentier". 

According to Mr Kamal Nath, a meeting with the European Union ended in 15 minutes flat because while the Europeans wanted to discuss trade and investment, the Indian side held forth on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Business was equally alien to an upper middle class barrister who had been in politics all his life, holding portfolios at the Centre under Mrs Indira Gandhi and being West Bengal's last Congress Chief Minister before a short gubernatorial stint in Punjab. But public relations was in his blood and having governed Punjab, he knew of Sikh susceptibilities and hosted a reception for Guru Nanak's birthday. Sikhs, who normally stayed away from Embassy functions, attended in force. That led to iftar parties and reaching out to all expatriates.

Ray knew nothing about computers but over a million Indian names were punched in, against the 1990 US Census record of 850,000. Most were professionals. Many were moneyed and had friends in Congress. A few like Mr Kris Kolluri and Mr Atul Gaswande were already in politics. All complained of neglect. When their help was sought and readily given, Embassy officials took the credit. But they helped Ray to get in touch with sympathetic Congressmen and start the India Caucus with Congressman Gary L Ackerman's assistance.

The purpose of the Caucus, which first met in February 1993, was to ensure that all the Democrat and Republican legislators who had a sizeable number of South Asians in their constituencies looked after their welfare. Since it took an interest in equal opportunity and visas, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis also joined to start with. Gradually, it began to focus on bilateral relations to become the only country-specific group on Capitol Hill. In June 1993 the Caucus helped to defeat one of several cut amendments by the anti-Indian Congressman Dan Burton who was in close touch with militant Khalistani groups. Membership increased from 68 to 124.

The India Interest Group started when more than 50 chief executives accepted Ray's invitation to a meeting of the heads of companies with investments in India. He promised them introductions if they lobbied for India in the US. The IIG was described as "an informal gathering of US companies who have a special interest in issues affecting India". With its 20-member committee, it was committed to supporting "further liberalisation of India's trade and investment policies and help raise the visibility of US-India relations with policy and decision makers in Washington". 

All this followed Ray's initial decision to eschew the philosophical issues that political pundits pontificate on. Even before presenting his credentials in flowing dhoti and his father's Kashmiri Jamiawar shawl (prompting Mr George HW Bush to call out, "Hey, you guys! Come and see this, it's the same on both sides!") he decided there was "no point merely repeating the fact of commonness between India's Fundamental Rights and America's Bill of Rights, or that Thomas Jefferson and Jawaharlal Nehru founded the two systems on similar principles". Abandoning the hackneyed clichés of Indo-US diplomacy, he added "Bilateralism is what we need."

His baptism of fire was the Babri Masjid's destruction on December 6, 1992, only a day before the India-US Joint Business Council was due to meet in Los Angeles to discuss "How to do business in India," a theme that has not lost its relevance. Many American members were outraged at the demolition. Many had not attended meetings since 1977 when Mr George Fernandes as the Janata Party Government's Industries Minister threw out Coca-Cola and IBM. Still others claimed that even Indonesia and Malaysia welcomed American business more than India.

But thanks to Ray's intercession at high official levels, the 40-member Indian delegation with Raunaq Singh as alternative leader to LM Thapar was cordially received. The meeting urged the US Administration to lower trade barriers, abandon the Special 301 retaliatory process, continue generalised special preference and not go beyond agreed international norms on intellectual property rights. 

His attractive and accomplished wife, Maya, brought up in London and also trained as a barrister, could not have presented a sharper contrast to the run of Indian political (or diplomatic) wives. Congressman Thomas Manton called her as "a noted barrister and former elected official". Calcutta Bar Library gossip credited Ms Ray with greater legal acuity than her husband. 

Ray's tenure in Washington created or reinforced the four prongs that still implement Indian policy — Interest Groups, Congressional Caucus, NRIs and the Embassy. American investment in India rose from $200 million to $20.7 billion in those five years, and the number of joint collaborations went up from 300 to 1,300.

When he left in 1996, Mr McDermott lamented "the end of an era of dramatic improvement". Congressman Manton complimented Ray on raising the relationship to "a new plateau of strength, friendship and understanding". There were similar compliments from other Americans including Ms Hillary Clinton and the irascible Mr Jesse Helms.

The Obama visit was a triumphal culmination of what Ray strove for in those five years, recognising trade and investnment as the bedrock of international relations. 








The euphoria over Mr Barack Obama's statements during his recent visit to India will remain for some more days to come, as experts gush over his acknowledgement of India's growing international stature. Sooner than later it will have to be replaced by ground realities that will not generate similarly naïve optimism. It is not that the President of the United States of America has delivered fake promises or has no desire of honouring his assurances; it's simply that certain things are easier said than done for a variety of reasons. We shall save ourselves future fits of despair if we appreciate the intention behind his remarks and work in the direction that will assist us achieve what he — and we ourselves as a nation — desire. 

One statement of his drew loud applause in Parliament when he addressed its members on November 8: The endorsement of India's bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. From New Delhi's perspective the remark was solid enough, coming as it did from the US President, and demonstrated Washington's support to India's cause and appreciation of its increasing stature. The question, however, is not what the US will do next to follow up on these statements, but what will we do after being reinforced by Mr Obama's remarks. 

Let's take his 'welcoming' of India's place in the Security Council. While the US is a dominant player in the UN, it alone cannot ensure the entry of a new country to the exclusive club. There are others who will need to back New Delhi. While we can expect Russia, France and Great Britain to throw in their lot with us, we still do not know for sure whether they will do so when push comes to shove. China certainly will put its foot down, and the absence of a consensus could kill India's dreams. It will be difficult for the West to ignore China, especially now when the European Union and the US are battling an economic recession and looking to the huge Chinese market to deliver them out of the crisis. 

If any indication of that is needed, consider the just-concluded G20 summit in Seoul, where the West could do little to persuade Beijing to restructure its currency (Yuan), whose artificially low value has supposedly helped China's exporters and discouraged importers like the US. In fact, such is China's clout that it can today get away with stinging remarks that would have invited strong retribution from the US-led West 10 years ago. For instance, when pushed to reconsider valuing the Yuan higher by heeding to market demands, the Chinese Commerce Minister sniggered that the "patient must not tell others to take medicine". In other words, Beijing told the West that, since the latter had invited the disease it should also find a cure. There was no way it would oblige in a manner that could hurt its own revenue flow.

But it's not just the current members that could be obstacles; aspirants like Japan or Germany are bound to ask: 'Why not me'? and complicate matters. The last thing India needs in its quest for a permanent membership is an open war with nations that it shares a comfortable relationship. So, it will have to tread carefully and not ruffle feathers of friendly birds. 

Then, there is the tricky matter of Pakistan, who will surely up the ante through its friends like China and pressure other members of the UN not to concede India's desire. In normal situations, Islamabad's voice may not have carried much international weight — at least as compared to New Delhi's — but things are not normal. Pakistan is an important partner of the United States in the Afghanistan war, and holds the key to the elimination, or at least decapitation, of extremist forces working out of Afghanistan and within Pakistan. Islamabad could exploit this geopolitical situation to obstruct India's bid in the United Nations. As it is, Islamabad is unhappy with the non-permanent membership that New Delhi gets early 2011 by virtue of rotation. 

The revamp of the Security Council is supported by all, members and others. There is no disputing the fact that the Council must get a new shape to meet the aspirations of growing nations. It must also represent more correctly the new equations, where the axis of influence is shifting, if it has not altogether shifted, away from the West. Countries like India and Brazil have muscled in with their economic might, and have begun seeking a greater role on the global stage. And, it's not economics alone that is playing its part — although it is the dominant cause for now. The end of the Cold War, collapse of the Iron Curtain and the demolition of the Berlin Wall have had a profound impact on the political realignment of nations worldwide. A unified Germany can lay a strong claim, so can Japan as an ideological bulwark against nuclear non-proliferation. Thus, for the managers of the UN, while fundamentally restructuring the Security Council is a necessity, arriving at a majority consensus on who should be in, will prove to be a thankless task. 

So, in the midst of all these complexities, what can India do? India needs to demonstrate leadership skills on issues that it has hedged on for long. A fence-sitter cannot be an effective leader. The leader has to take a clear call on contentious issues and energise his team to back him. Mr Obama may have been a trifle undiplomatic when he suggested that New Delhi should raise its voice against the dictatorial regime of Burma. — whom we are actively engaging given its importance in helping us maintain peace in the North-East — but the fact is that India has been far too diplomatic in avoiding confrontation under the garb of non-alignment. We have been silent on Iran in the fear that any adverse remark could imperil the proposed Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline. Never mind if the pipeline still remains a pipe dream, and that Islamabad will always have an upper hand in relations with Tehran. We continue to tie ourselves up in knots when confronted by reports of China's increasing belligerence, balancing to such extremes that we threaten to topple over! 

These are not the signs of a leader. When a sports icon was once commended for conducting himself like the world champion that he was, he responded, "It's not as if I am behaving like a world champion because I am one. I became a world champion because I always behaved like one." It's this kind of belief in oneself, marked by clarity of thought and action that will make us a Security Council permanent member. No amount of US propping will help if we are determined to remain slumped.

Finally, there is the 'small matter' of our pathetic social indicators that reflect how 'prepared' we are to don the leadership mantle. According to a recent report of the Registrar General of India, nearly 14 lakh infants in the country died of five preventable medical conditions in India during 2005, due to want medical intervention. The study estimated that these infants died of pneumonia, diarrhoea, premature birth and low birth weight, delivery infections and trauma and suffocation during the delivery process. As with health, so is the case with education and sanitation, largely in rural areas. There cannot be a better beginning to preparations for the UNSC than abolishing these dark spots.






US President Barack Obama's visit may have raised many hopes, but not without questions about the actual gains India made. Gains were perceived to have been made more in the political arena: For instance, support for a permanent UN Security Council seat, possibly without a veto power as per the proposal for UN reforms, and a "strong" warning to Pakistan regarding dealing with terrorism. It was also seen as a triumph of the foreign policy that the US President did not do a balancing act between India and Pakistan. 

However, what people seem to have forgotten is that just three days before Mr Obama's visit, the US gave Pakistan three advance F16 fighter planes and promised greater financial support. Mr Obama's criticism of India on Burma and Iran caused more consternation in the South Block. And, Pakistan certainly had the last laugh. Mr Obama remained reticent on outsourcing to India's IT industry forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to retort, "India is not stealing jobs from the US". Mr Obama should have known that Indians drinking coke create more jobs in the US. 

Mr Obama has seemingly shopped a lot — a political compulsion for him in the wake of the drubbing at the hands of the Republicans in the mid-term elections. The promise of 50,000 jobs to his countrymen from not-so-rich India may be seen as a great political achievement for the Democrats as the US struggles to create jobs. Mr Obama's offer is simple: Give the US all the Indian shops, 'open your markets' of all nature — from retail to education — so that the US thrives at the cost of India. He has not promised enough investments in India market. 

The August and September reports from the US industry suggest that it has not been able to create jobs on the home turf since the Lehman Brothers-led severe recession hit it. Hence a rising India, not China, is seen as an easy bait on the promise of technology transfer, most of which possibly the country does not need. That India has the capability of developing technology has been demonstrated during the 30 years of US sanction against its nuclear energy programme. Indian scientists even developed super computers to run the nuclear energy and space programmes. In fact, the Government's investment in research in these areas has taken the country to such a great height that it attracts global attention. 

So, the US promise of a transfer of technology needs to be seen as a strategy to capture the India market and push back hi-tech research. The fallback of the US offer might lead to cut in funding of indigenous research as the Finance Ministry-type cost weighing would prefer import of cheaper ready-made technology to the encouragement of basic research. Our solar energy programme is a victim of this attitude. Countries like Canada, with far less sunshine, have done significant research in this area, while we are lagging behind in developing solar energy here. The Obama-visit would only lead to a state of regression as regards research works and cause heartburn among Indian scientists. India apparently is losing its pride. It needs to learn from Mr Obama's speech that India has always been a leader in the IT sector and invented the zero. It can do much more provided the Government decides to raise its investment on all scientific researches. The US is a technology leader because it has been systematically investing in research works of all kinds. The Government should have taken a promise from Mr Obama for investments in this area and should not have been euphoric at the promise of technology transfer.

The Plannning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia during the Obama-visit pushed for private (foreign) investment in education suggesting the doors could be opened to the US. He forgets that education has become extremely expensive in this country and many even from the so-called middle class are unable to fund their children's education and the poor are getting further marginalised. Mr Ahluwalia only supports Obama's profit motive. But he has not questioned the nature of investment that the US has suggested. In reality, the US Government is not going to invest even a cent. It is to come from India-US joint $10 billion infrastructure debt fund for supposed funding of over trillion dollar needs for 12th Plan to fund creation of physical funds. The exact details are not known, but it is definitely going to burden India, public funds and private sector as the US keeps tight its purse strings. One cannot help but ask why should Government-owned entities like India Infrastructure Finance or public sector banks sponsor funds that would benefit the US more?

That India has not been very happy by the proposals made by Mr Obama is understood from Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's address to the US CEOs. He cautioned against unilateral action by individual countries to deal with post-financial crisis and said that remedies for problems lay in collective approach. Easy money policy — flowing in money to higher-yielding markets, pumping up currencies — of the developed world seeking higher returns is leading to inflation. He said, "The second round of quantitative easing announced by the US will only exacerbate the problem."

In short, Mr Obama has saddled India with fewer solutions. In his suave manners, he behaved more like the big brother. 







The collapse of an unauthorised building in Delhi, killing 67 people as its dismally-constructed floors gave way to seepage, demonstrates how corruption has become a way of life. Recent news has been dominated by one disgrace following another. Barely had the dust from the Commonwealth Gamesexposes settled that the Adarsh housing scam appeared, the nation shocked by the army standing alongside disgraced politicians. Meanwhile, A Raja's resignation following the 2G spectrum scam provides little relief either, with new improprieties unearthed everyday. 

Gaining inappropriately from a range of sectors, cattle fodder to civil aviation, corruption knows no limits. Its width and depth cut across party lines. While the Congress must shoulder shame for the reign of scams it has given the public, the BJP, represented by Karnataka's Yeddyurappa regime, is no better. First accused of shielding the Reddy brothers, infamous for illegal mining deals, Yeddyurappa now stands charged of improper land allotments to family. 

These scams highlight the controls India's government retains on physical resources and contracting processes. Systems of managing them are byzantine in nature, fatiguing citizens with opaqueness and red tape. That offers ample opportunities for rent extraction, as bribery becomes a quick way to get permits. A 'crony' culture also exists, with contracts being awarded to the most fawning of supporters backing a municipal officer, MLA, MP or minister. India is not alone in this. Such tendencies develop where government retains tight-fisted control over land and services. In 2008, an earthquake inChina killed 70,000 people. Around 10,000 children were killed in collapsed schools alone, built with poor materials, developers evading building codes, pandering to other demands. The situation in India, with unaccountable and corrupt authorities persecuting the ordinary while permitting the impermissible, is truly worrying. 

Yet there are ways forward. The Chinese state sentences those guilty of corruption even to death. Our media does a commendable job in unearthing scams. However, it is not enough that the accused resign. They should be arrested, with thorough coverage of probes and sentencing thereafter. Municipal and commercial norms should be simplified, becoming conducive to genuine enterprise, not bribery or cronyism. Using tools like the RTI and PILs, citizens' groups should seek information about officials, offenders, builders and destroyers, demanding to know why streets stay pot-holed, how structures made of sand pop up and who the least and most ethical public officers are. Activism should encompass the poor. The east Delhi building contained units employing child workers, many killed as the structure collapsed. Corruption must be halted as a way of life before it becomes one of death as well.







Are you satisfied? Britain is set to ask its citizens that question in household surveys seeking to measure "emotional prosperity". In fact, the UK could soon be one of the few countries to officially gauge general psychological well-being. The Brits didn't think of it first. Bhutan has long championed the promotion of "gross national happiness" (GNH). France too wants to measure "quality of life". Like laughter, the "science of happiness" bug is infectious. So, it's catching on. Not least because surveys in Europe suggest deeper pockets don't always mean deeper contentment. Even America, described in a John Updike novel as the "happiest" country on earth, isn't immune. A US economist has said rich countries are happier than poor ones, but their north-bound economic growth doesn't cause a corresponding rise in general happiness. 

We endorse wholeheartedly the implied critique of economic reductionism, which equates emotional feel-good with material prosperity alone. But one needs to be a little careful about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. What's problematic is the oft-heard demand to dismantle GDP, which measures economic activity, as a benchmark of national welfare. Like the UN's Human Development Index, GNH should supplement GDP and other statistical measures as a back-up standard, humanising objective and quantifiable bases on which policy making must necessarily stand. Moods and feelings being neither collective nor quantifiable, governments must treat material and psychological welfare as mutually reinforcing. Fuzzy concepts like 'sense of well-being' can be manipulated to avoid delivering inclusive growth. Yes, man doesn't live by bread alone. But try living without bread. Money can't buy happiness. But it sure can buy things that make you happy. 







The media-led telecom investigation into the 2G spectrum scam was wrapped up nice and clean between May 2007 and 2008. Now, after two years of inertia, the CAG's corroboration of facts and the intervention of the courts have ensured that telecom minister A Raja - the poster boy of the spectrum scam and the ugly face of coalition politics - has finally gone. 

Despite Raja's refusal to acknowledge blame, his being edged out of office has lent a sense of public vindication, a reaffirmation of belief in justice. But this is just the first step. Real justice is a few miles away and it remains to be seen whether the government bridges this distance on a cycle rickshaw or a bullet train. 

Simply put, investigations must be effectively and swiftly concluded and the culprits brought to book by those who have an impeccable track record - perhaps a special investigative team (SIT) under the Supreme Court's oversight. This could require special effort considering there is sufficient correspondence between Raja and the prime minister, which requires the PM to explain his position. At least five letters between the two were made public between November and December 2007. From these, it is fairly clear the PM was well aware of both the problem with Raja's first-come-first-served (FCFS) policy of allocating spectrum as well as the solution (auction), but did not stop Raja. Raja has further claimed in DoT's affidavit that the telecom ministry never received any legal opinion before proceeding with licence/spectrum allocation, although there is evidence of the law ministry recommending that he consult an eGoM. The PM still failed to restrain Raja. 

The role of law officers in the scam is also highly questionable. Several existing procedures were circumvented such as changing the definition of FCFS and advancing the cut-off date of 2G licence applications to benefit private interests. The CAG documents serious allegations of procedural violations, including providing advanced insider information to companies and processing of a large number of applications that failed the eligibility criteria. None of this could have happened without explicit directions from Raja backed by supporting legal opinion. Who gave those opinions if the law ministry did not? This requires vigorous questioning of senior DoT officials at the rank of joint secretaries and above. 

Lastly, powerful corporates which, according to the CBI's FIR, entered into criminal conspiracy and collusion that resulted in a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the public purse could be liable for criminal prosecution. The Delhi high court ruling of July 1999 confirms legal violation and this judgment has not been set aside by the SC in spite of all DoT attempts. In most cases, the promoters of these beneficiary companies could be involved. These investigations are likely to uncover serious violations that go beyond procedure and precedent and require special handling that is way above the CBI's expertise. 

The collusion between government officials and businesses will be fortified further as the fire starts to spread beyond the telecom ministry. It is reasonable to expect that investigating agencies will find it hard to delve deep and pierce through the battalions of lawyers these firms will throw at them. 

While the size of the scam - and therefore the scope for derailment of investigations - is mind-numbing, the good news is that the investigation is simplified by the fact that all documents are limited to a dozen or so files, seven or eight officials in Sanchar Bhavan, and three to four senior politicians. With a few exceptions, most documents are available for the asking. Given the relative lack of experience of Raja and his beneficiaries - mostly non-telecom companies - it is clear that many smoking guns would have been left along the way. In addition, the CAG report and the PIL in the SC are fairly watertight evidence to establish the allegations of illegality and compelling culpability of several powerful stakeholders. 

Considering these wins, the opposition parties would do well to shift tack from aggression to cool, calculated debate on the findings of the CAG report. Meaningless shouting going forward could undermine the gains of the last five days. A serious debate in Parliament this week, followed by a well thought out strategy for an effective investigation, is likely to deliver far better results than blocking Parliament. 

A public debate will force the government to defend the indefensible, which will only confirm the allegations of the BJP and the Left parties. The opposition has on its side, facts, figures, the government auditor's report indicting Raja, the scalp of a tainted minister, a PIL being heard in the SC and, most importantly, growing public outrage backed by media support for bringing the guilty to book. It will do well to convert this to serious political advantage by ripping open the mystery of the scam and informing the public how this affects their lives. Since the Congress and DMK have no explanations to offer, the opposition is best advised to leave meaningless shouting to them by offering them ample opportunity to expose themselves. 

So far, the media and the CAG have overcome all hurdles to emerge powerful catalysts in the 2G scam relay race. Is the opposition ready to take up the baton and play a meaningful role in taking the investigation to its logical conclusion? Well-informed debate is critical to pin the blame - and that can only happen in Parliament.






Our irrepressible environment and forests minister has struck again. This time, it's the turn of all those who dare drive sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and diesel vehicles to face his wrath. Jairam Ramesh seems to have been bitten by the Congress bug of conspicuous austerity. His criticism has more than a whiff of moral preaching to it. And he has caught the wrong end of the stick entirely. True, driving a large vehicle like an SUV would be problematic in many cities and towns in India - including some of our metros - because of congestion and narrow roads. But is the way to deal with this getting rid of SUVs entirely, or improving our road and transport infrastructure as well as fuel policy? 

As long as diesel is cheap, that will incentivise people to prefer diesel over petrol vehicles. If Ramesh wants to discourage the use of diesel vehicles, he should influence the government that he is part of to stop its subsidy on diesel, instead of putting the onus on the owners of diesel vehicles. In terms of the environment, it's not clear that an SUV ferrying, let us say, six passengers has greater environmental impact per passenger than a sedan whose sole occupant is its driver. Why single out SUVs in that case?

Ramesh's moralising approach, unfortunately, seems to be the default approach of too many of our political class who target the socio-economically well-off. Given the large number of people living in poverty in this country - and their justified resentment - the rich make for easy targets. By sniping at the latter, politicians might be able to score easy points - but what they are doing in fact is deflecting attention from their own shortcomings. What prevents them, for example, from decontrolling the price of diesel, or building better public transport that would incentivise people to move away from cars, whether SUVs or any other variety? 







Environment minister Jairam Ramesh's assessment that driving SUVs in a country like India is "criminal" could not be more accurate. Notwithstanding innovations in engine technology and increased efficiency in emission norms, SUVs still guzzle more fuel and emit a far greater volume of carbon dioxide than smaller cars. Besides, the amount of road space these cars hog in congested metropolises is simply unacceptable. If SUVs were to become the future of personal mobility, they would certainly create an urban nightmare. 

The recent rise in sales of SUVs in the country directly corresponds to the growing income of the middle and upper-middle classes. The allure of the SUV lies in its value as status symbol. It evokes allusions of power, of being on top of the world and, given the hefty price tag, is a pretty good advertisement of the owner's bank balance. It is this mine-is-bigger mentality that must be demolished to nudge future generations of car owners towards conscious, environment-friendly choices. Disincentivising ownership of SUVs by removing diesel subsidies is a problem if it's done across the board. Rise in price of diesel would cause the price of essential commodities to go up, adding to inflation. While the use of diesel should be encouraged for transport of goods, it needs to be discouraged for private transport. And for that moral exhortations, such as Ramesh's, are necessary. 

With governments around the world grappling with the problems of global warming and depleting non-renewable sources of energy, it is imperative that India sets the trend for developing nations. At the end of the day, the answer to climate change lies in the conscientious efforts of ordinary citizens to reduce their carbon footprint. Projecting the ownership of SUVs as clashing with the larger social interest is congruent with this strategy. 






The timorous promise of the night bloomed to reality with the dawn. The 10 o'clock news bulletin was confirmed by the morning's headlines, and the rush of relief was matched only by that of joyous disbelief. It had actually happened, and hopefully this time the freedom would not be summarily withdrawn. Few cruelties can match that of a home turning into house arrest.


Aung San Suu Kyi is arguably the most totemic, inspiring, disturbing figures for a generation which had watched revolutionary movements stir, loom, erupt, peter out -- and had then succumbed to the seductions of a path strewn with machine-washable cushions. Suu Kyi is both the glow and the blush of our generation which was weaned on idealistic isms, and which has now mallified its conscience. Her wraith-like figure shimmered periodically into view, hoisting herself over the wall  to address her loyal followers, a symbol of the victory of human will -- and of our own loss of innocence.


'The Lady' has always appeared with colourful blossoms in her hair, an adornment not normally associated with the prisoner. The flowers were incongruous but significant. Yes, they are an integral part of her culture, but she wore them like a banner. They said it all. Fragile, yet determined to keep blooming. Like democracy, like hope. The orchid pitted against the tanks. The symbol of the Burmese janata holding out against its junta. 


She was among the four jaw-socking women in Asia's politics in the last quarter of the past century, all daughters of destiny. Four years after Indira Gandhi's assassination, she took on her parents' mantle and led her people from the start of  the pro-democracy movement which burst forth on Buddhism's auspicious '8-8-88', when General Ne Win finally stepped down. She came just after Manila swept away Lady Imelda Macbeth in 1986, and swept in Corazon Aquino on a wave of people power, also incidentally strewn with flowers. And she was there well before Benazir ended her fated trajectory.


Suu Kyi's myth alone remained uncorrupted. Instead it was burnished by the punishments thrust upon her and by the tragedies not of the junta's making, but certainly aggravated by it. She was this heroic figure who in 1997 refused to leave Myanmar and be with her dying husband in Britain -or see her young sons for years --because she knew she would never be allowed to return to her country, her politics and her people. 


When Myanmar was devastated by Cyclone Nargis (another flower), she was forced to manage in the roofless darkness of her dilapidated lakeside bungalow which had been her prison off and on for more than 15 of the past 21 years. Yes, the legend has been powered by a series of compelling images, not the least being the defiant tinkle of her piano resounding through the long night of isolation.  


Suu Kyi also means so much to women who went through a transition, quite different from that of revolution to globalization. By the time she seized her destiny, the once militant feminism had began to wax its legs and acknowledge the role of femininity. But this steel rod in a silken sarong has always been apart from as much as being a huge part of woman power as defined post 1975. She hasn't abandoned the outward trappings of tradition; instead she has reinforced them to subvert oppression. In this lies a metaphor, and a lesson, that reverberates far beyond the bamboo curtain. 


The next test of all that she has stood for could well be the most challenging. Will the myth survive in her freedom? 








In the maelstrom of scams whirling around us, it has become difficult to ascertain who is less culpable than the other.


The malaise seems to have taken a grip on parties across the spectrum, to use that unfortunate word. Even as new Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan rolls up his sleeves to tackle the Adarsh scam, the once genteel world of southern politics seems to have gone overboard in the corruption stakes. If the DMK did not have enough trouble with the errant telecom minister, it now finds itself in the midst of a gigantic land scam. The plot never varies. The land that chief minister M Karunanidhi had sanctioned for landless labourers has predictably gone to the undeserving and powerful.


The DMK chief is a veteran politician. So it cannot have been an accident that even as his government is being sucked into the quicksands of corruption charges, he chose to give former telecom minister A Raja a hero's welcome. The message is that whatever action is taken upon the Comptroller and Auditor General's report or which way things will go in the apex court, he is not willing to believe that his protégé has erred. This is not a healthy sign for democracy. There is no martrydom in giving up a cabinet berth pending the outcome of an inquiry into impropriety. To say so is to cock a snook at the institutionalised checks and balances that guard democracy. In nearby Karnataka, the less than transparent manner in which the BJP chief minister BS Yeddyurappa has subverted norms to allot land to his sons has given the opposition enough fodder for the moment.


The issue of illegal mining by the Bellary brothers has already blotted the chief minister's copybook. Naturally, the Congress has used this to ask what moral right the BJP has to question the government at the Centre over allegations of financial wrongdoing. But this is no answer to the gridlock that we find ourselves in. It is simply not good enough for any elected political body to justify its lapses on the grounds that the opponent is no different. The upcoming mega wedding of chemical and fertilisers minister and the DMK chief's son MK Alagiri's son is indication that these elected representatives are simply impervious to public outrage over their association with improprieties. Such ostentation and in-your-face politics was once unheard of in the south but then politics seems to follow the lowest common denominator.


This is a dangerous trend given the enormous disillusionment that people already feel about the democratic process. The greed of a few individuals cannot be allowed to undermine a system that has given India a pre-eminent position in our region, and indeed the world.







Finally, the finishing line is visible for Waity Katie. And just in case you failed to spot the person (or the event) behind that burdensome nickname, Kate Middleton, of stolid middle-class stock, is set to wed a slightly younger Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, the second in line to the British throne, sometime in 2011. The British royalty is jubilant (a slightly arched smile, in the event, would be in keeping with the 'stiff upper lip' coda), the wine makers and souvenir sellers are gearing up to make a fast buck, Kate must be patting herself on the back for surviving the eight-year-long haul while the British economy is expected to be richer by a billion dollars.


The run-up to the marriage of the royal heir with the attractive daughter of a couple selling paper bags online will no doubt generate enough fodder for the racy British tabloids. To sustain that interest, however, William and Kate must jazz up the script from the current vapid 'we are not party animals and only devoted to each other' line. Cannabis-smoking, paparazzi-bashing Harry might offer valuable inputs.


What, you may ask, is in it for us? Surely, we have more than our adequate share of maharajas. We are also the global destination for regal weddings, and our majestic palaces, replete with horses, elephants and people in blindingly resplendent attire is enough to lure any blueblood wannabe from anywhere in the world. But we do not grudge the Britishers their little cheer, coming in the midst of much economic gloom, and almost suspect that it is a feel-good missive from the future monarch to his harried subjects. As the British papers would say, it is all "flim, flam and speculation" now.








Time magazine picked him as one of 100 people shaping our world. Today, he's held responsible for bringing an exciting, inspirational business into disrepute. Oh, and his wife says he beat her and snatched their son.   


There could not be a more controversial torchbearer than Vikram Akula for an industry as quintessentially Indian as microfinance, the business of providing the poor with loans, as small as R5,000, secured not with physical assets but trust.


In 2004, Akula — modifying the idea of a grassroots non-profit, microcredit revolution started by Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus — had just submitted to the University of Chicago his doctoral thesis on the impact of microfinance. Two years later, he was hailed as one of the world's radical thinkers. Today, his personal wealth is about $60 million. His company, SKS Microfinance, is now one of the world's largest in the sector. It is backed by, among others, financier and philanthropist George Soros and Indian tech icon NR Narayana Murthy. The sector Akula spurred into action has more than 300 companies, attracted international capital and handed out $7 billion in loans to some 40 million poor Indians.


Today's poor, as emerging India knows, are tomorrow's middle class. Today's middle class is tomorrow's rich, who are at the top of life's pyramid, a good place to start our story.


There's a nice view of India from up here, all those happy, shiny people, trading in their Honda Citys for Porsche SUVs. This is first-world India, where the view of the world and its horizons stretches forever. For the most part, it's seceded from the grimy republic beyond. Its people live in penthouses, vacation in Paris or Antarctica, and mostly fly first class. What's that? Oh, I'm sorry. Many actually don't fly first — they take their Gulfstream.


Aspiration is a wonderful thing.


Let's go now to the bottom of the pyramid. It's hard to see the world from down here. This is third-world India, mired in the old country and the struggles of today. The people here may not be shiny, but they work for a brighter tomorrow. They trade their cycles for Hero Honda motorcycles, their postcards for cell-phones.


Aspiration is indeed a wonderful thing.


How many Indians live at the bottom? In his seminal 2004 book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, management guru CK Prahlad said anyone living on less than $2 a day (less than R100) qualifies. By this count, there are 900 million Indians down there. Prahlad's main point is contentious, that the poor must be seen as consumers and entrepreneurs. But no one disputes that they must not be regarded as victims.


Akula and his industry tapped into Prahlad's thesis to create a sector that proves you can do business with the poor. In doing so, the sector threatened an ancient rural power centre, the moneylender, and his modern-day benefactor, the politician. Unlike infotech, the microfinance sector, which provides livelihood to many more people, works directly in the politician's main arena, rural India. Micro-financiers like SKS are now criticised for interest rates that range from 24% to 40% . They say it's expensive to monitor and collect so many loans in remote areas. It's also the rate most credit cards charge you, and it doesn't compare with the usurious 100% that moneylenders force on the poor.


Akula's personal profits queered the pitch for an enterprise that Yunus once said could be a "social-consciousness-driven private sector to take over government functions". This year, Akula made some $10 million from selling some of his shares when SKS sold stock valued at $350 million last month. Akula holds an additional $50 million in SKS stock. Shortly after, Akula sacked his CEO Suresh Gurumani.


While la affaire Akula unfolded, Andhra Pradesh (AP) — where nearly one in four Indian micro loans is handed out — reported a string of suicides, at least 30, among micro-borrowers. Some 17 of these were SKS customers; Akula says none of them were in default. 


Last month, the AP government arrested some lending agents for coercing defaulters. AP politicians then urged borrowers not to repay loans. The result: major lenders are watching their 2% default rate soaring. The state does not know if landlords or traditional moneylenders were also involved, a distinct possibility. Many families tend to take multiple loans: The industry's own 2009 report reveals 823% of all poor AP households took micro-loans, sparking fears of a credit bubble.


Clearly, microfinance needs scrutiny. So, AP's effort to create a database of all borrowers and stop multiple loans is good. What isn't is the creation of a regulator in the rural development ministry, which is also a competitor: through state-lending agencies it hands out highly subsidised loans to women's self-help groups, which also offer micro-loans at rates as low as 3% but still see borrowers flocking to quick, efficient private companies. This is like State-owned telecom giant BSNL regulating competitor Airtel, licence-raj style. Scared Indian banks, which provide micro-lenders with 80% of their funds, have frozen lending, fearing a crash might cause a larger system collapse, as the US sub-prime crisis nearly did by freely giving housing loans to low-income families.  In Delhi, the finance ministry is working on a national law that hopes to better supervise micro lenders — without stifling them.


There is no specific evidence that microcredit reduces poverty, and Akula is being foolish when he says that without micro-financiers rural India would be a "country of goat keepers". But his sector does relieve the pressure of poverty: microcredit works because the government fails. Its bottom-up success could slow the top-down, inefficient splurge of public funds. India will spend more than $20 billion this year on inclusive growth — a third of this money will be wasted or stolen.


The business of ethically finding profits at the bottom of the pyramid is in its infancy. Some microfinance companies are trying to develop new business models, adding on micro-insurance, veterinary services, fertiliser advice and much more. The possibilities are immense. The government must help these emerge.







Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi met me on recently in Kochi. He was on his way to Trichur to attend the wedding of his secretary's daughter. I was the only person he met in Kochi. Why? I am neither a politician nor do I have any judicial power. He came out of respect for me. I told him we won't talk about politics and that there will be no closed-door discussions — everything will be in the public domain. He agreed. We talked about a range of public issues.


I appreciate Modi's prohibition policy. I spoke to him about Gandhiji, who was born in Gujarat and made its soil sacred. He responded warmly and welcomed my idea of Gram Swaraj and village growth. I was impressed by his enthusiasm on the development of villages in his state. In Gujarat, agriculture has advanced, but not at the cost of industrial growth, he told me. Modi said he plans to do two things. First, to get a Mahatma Mandir built. This, he hopes, would be the starting point of all non-violent movements in the future. Second, he expressed his desire to erect the tallest statue of Sardar Patel, who performed the great task of unifying this country. I think both are great ideas.


Jawaharlal Nehru was a great visionary who struggled for socialist liberty, a creative dynamic swaraj that was aimed at eliminating poverty, generation of a socialist industrial employment potential, a healthy relationship between agriculture and industry, for Panchsheel foreign policy, for peace in the world, which would look up to Gandhiji's ideals and vision. The chief minister of Gujarat echoed similar sentiments.


He, however, brightened while referring to Sardar Patel, who prevented the division of India and brought together all the 600 princely kingdoms under the British suzerainty. He understood the political dimension of advaita — the union of states into a single sovereign Republic, making it a political and geographical reality. Patel was the tallest patriot of India and hence Modi's tribute to him by getting his statue built in Gujarat is a grand idea. Patel was indeed a great statesman. He was more than just a political strategist. Nehru was also a statesman of national stature and inspired many like me with his socialist ideology and vision of democracy. This was the fundamental difference between Patel and Nehru. A tall statue of Patel would be symbolic of the tallest patriot, who creatively evolved the supreme strategy of a Brave New Bharat with a vision, mission and passion that has inspired many generations and gave them a reason to be proud of India's socialist, secular and democratic traditions.


VR Krishna Iyer is a former Supreme Court judge The views expressed by the author are personal








The two "Eyes Only" letters from Jawarharlal Nehru to John F. Kennedy — requesting US assistance in the 1962 war with China — published in this newspaper on Wednesday had been declassified by Boston's JFK Library some years ago. Access to their copies had been denied by all relevant US institutions since the '80s "at the request of the Government of India". In the public domain now, what threat to national security do these letters pose? Haven't they rather just added a missing dimension to our patchwork, vacuum-filled narratives of 1962? Neither national security nor the fear of damaging reputations excuses the institutional lethargy in automatically, unthinkingly taking recourse to the "official secrets" clamp on documents that should have been public long ago. The Henderson-Brooks (Brooks-Bhagat) report on the 1962 war, the classified bits of the Nehru papers, the P.N. Haksar papers have been highlighted again and again among documents that need to be accessible for understanding the recent past. While the Henderson-Brooks account continues to wither in South Block, selective access has sometimes been permitted, as with the Haksar papers. But strictly selective — who gets to see and how much — access is only a tad better than altogether depriving historians and the public of key resources. Denial of access keeps us from learning from the past, it also perpetuates our assumptions — as with 1962 — that need scrutiny. Light-years behind best international practice, our Official Secrets Act 1923 would be a curiosity, if not for its power. The Public Records Act 1993 was sought to be modified to ensure ministries appraised and released papers to the National Archives within a 20-25-year timeframe. Yet a basic declassification mechanism, such as the 30-year rule, is absent; and the RTI Act's potential to access the archives is untested. Governments around the world have eased declassification, without compromising their national interest. Even China is opening up on the 1962 war. How long can we afford to avoid informed debates about our own past for lack access to extant resources?







Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa is going to find it difficult to argue his way out of this one. The state's opposition parties have now accessed and released documents which they say show that the CM used his discretionary powers to release from government use —"denotify" — plots of land near Bangalore. The ultimate beneficiaries of his decision are his own immediate family — his sons, his daughters-in-law, his son-in-law. Indeed, Yeddyurappa hasn't tried very hard to argue that the accusations are baseless; he's just said that denotification of this sort is completely within his powers as CM, and that everyone does it. His press secretary has said, on his behalf, that his party president — Nitin Gadkari of the BJP — is satisfied, and that therefore he doesn't intend to "react further". If the BJP is indeed satisfied, if Yeddyurappa's explanation that "all CMs do it", is considered sufficient, then Karnataka politics is in a deep, deep hole. This is the state and local party, after all, that is the home base of the Reddys of Bellary, the brothers, as this newspaper has detailed, who have used their political power to suborn local administration to help their mining business — and used the extraordinary profits that the state-supervised business provides to prop up their political power. The sinkhole that Karnataka politics has become is the most persuasive of arguments that real estate and mining desperately need depoliticisation and reform unless they are to poison politics across this country. But, even if more stringent mining regulation is passed this session, and even if we finally wake up, post-Adarsh, to the need to reduce the state government's arbitrary power to notify and denotify — and consequently change land values overnight — we are still left with the problem of Karnataka. Bangalore, for so long a beacon of progress, is being held hostage to the extractive politics these exemplify. For Karnataka's sake, Yeddyurappa's attempt to brazen out these revelations must not be allowed. He and his government have shown themselves to be mired in the worst sort of crony capitalism. He must go — and if he refuses, he must be asked to go.







Parliamentary work is still frozen, as the opposition parties unitedly demand a joint parliamentary committee to probe the telecom scandal. It might give them a sense of power and provide a satisfying theatre, but the JPC has proven to be a particularly ineffectual instrument for detective-work, and for issues that demand urgent answers. As the former telecom minister Arun Shourie points out, for the government, the JPC has become a muffling mechanism of sorts. It lets them sit back and claim their lips are sealed for as long as the investigation is on. The investigation inevitably drags on behind the scenes, through scores of sittings, and the report, which is purely recommendatory in nature, is rarely actionable. There have been only four investigative JPCs in India so far — the first, set up in 1987 by the then defence minister, K.C. Pant, was meant to look into the Bofors contract. Whatever the JPC's report, the Bofors case has not been resolved as much as whited out from public consciousness. The next one was meant to investigate the securities and banking scandal in the early '90s, the third one to look into the market scam in 2002 and, finally, one in 2004 to probe pesticide traces in colas. None of these investigations have resulted in concrete answers, or provided the sense of an ending for the public. But that doesn't stop the opposition from demanding a JPC at every contentious turn of events, whether it was the phone-tapping controversy (that seems so far away now) or the alleged IPL skulduggery. There is, in any case, a public accounts committee, with cross-party representation, that will investigate the spectrum swindle — what will a JPC do that it cannot? The point is to get to the roots of the issue, the degree of collusion, the precise ways in which various actors are implicated. Rules were patently subverted, and we are entitled to an investigation that provides clear answers. The CBI, our premier investigating agency, is amply equipped to take on the probe, and is meant to. Certainly, it has a sorry record of political pliability, but that should not let it off the hook. Other clumsy tools, like JPCs, cannot substitute for it. If the CBI cannot provide the answers, it should be answerable.








 I am perhaps one of the very few surviving people who came to know about Jawaharlal Nehru's appeal to John F. Kennedy on the night of November 19, 1962. I have already written about it in the Centenary History of The Indian National Congress (Volume IV, 1990, co-published by All India Congress Committee). I wrote the chapter on the "evolution of Indian defence policy" in 1984-85 at the request of R. Venkataraman, at that time defence minister, and P.V. Narasimha Rao, at that time minister of external affairs and president of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, of which I was then the director. They told me no official, classified documents would be available and I had to rely entirely on published literature. However, subsequently Rao based many of his perspectives in Chapter 33 of his novel The Insider on the above chapter and acknowledged it in a footnote. On page 516 of the volume, commenting on Nehru's failures in 1962, I had written: "At the highest level Jawaharlal Nehru chose to appeal to the US president for aerial support without first ordering the Indian Air Force into battle." The footnote explains, "That the Prime Minister made such an appeal was within the knowledge of the author who was then a Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Defence. That the US Ambassador played a role in influencing the Indian decision not to use the Indian Air Force may be inferred from Galbraith, Amba-ssador's Journal."In November 1962, I shared a room with my senior colleague S. Soundararajan (happily with us, settled in Chennai), from whom I had taken over as deputy secretary (JIO) to enable him to concentrate whole time on coordinating foreign military aid. He was a member of a three-member committee comprising Vincent Coelho, joint secretary (Americas) in the external affairs ministry, and Major General Satarawala. It was 9 pm on Nov-ember 19, and a visibly shaken Soundararajan came and told me of this telegram which he had seen with Coelho. According to the information he gave me at that time the main adviser on the move was M.J. Desai, the foreign secretary. We never spoke about it later. Soundararajan would perhaps not have shared the secret with me but for the shock he received and his compulsion to share it with someone. I was the first person he met, his college mate, friend and colleague.I did not see the text of the telegram and what Soundararajan told me at that time confirms Inder Malhotra's ('Letters from the darkest hour', IE, November 17) rather than Sudhir Ghosh's account. Nehru did not ask for an aircraft carrier. But the Americans did have an aircraft carrier (USS Enterprise) in the Indian Ocean and it did move into the Bay of Bengal. This particular incident and what happened subsequently have very valuable lessons to non-alignment cultists on Nehru's use of the concept as a strategy to safeguard India's security and not as a third-worldist ideology. Since the Chinese declared a unilateral ceasefire on November 20 and withdrew — they could not have stayed on with the passes blocked by snow — the immediate crisis passed. The US came up with some help especially for supply dropping for our troops. US Hercules aircraft operated from Palam with US pilots and Indian supplementary crew for those supply missions. By December 18-21, President Kennedy and Prime Minister Macmillan had met in the Bahamas and finalised a joint military aid package of $120 million for India, to be shared equally between the US and the Commonwealth. The Americans argued that since our forces were more familiar with British weapons and equipment India should rely more on the UK and Commonwealth for combat equipment while the US would supply non-combat, communication, engineering and other equipment.The politics of aid in that era and the triangular relationship among the US, India and Pakistan is a different story. What should be of interest here is the triangle of India, the US and the USSR. At that time, Kennedy is reported to have told one of his aides that India should be encouraged to get as much military equipment as possible from the Soviet Union for its military preparedness against China. The Soviet Union could not take a pro-India stand in October 1962 as the Chinese timed their attack to coincide with the Cuban missile crisis — on this aspect we did not have a clue in India — and came out in support of the Indian stand by mid-December. From 1963 to 1965, India was concluding major defence agreements with both the US and the USSR, with neither party objecting to our dealings with the other. Z.A. Bhutto used to say that India was bi-aligned and not non-aligned. The crux of non-alignment is that this country does not get involved in some other power's antagonism and it does not mean that we sacrifice our national security by keeping away from other powers when our national security interest necessitates our dealing with them.A word about the Chinese air-threat in 1962. In 1965, a Chinese deserter came away with a significant amount of documentation and, offering it to us, sought asylum. For inexplicable reasons, we did not accept him and his documents, but the Americans did. Subsequently they ended up in the Hoover Institute and were published as PLA's Work-Bullettins of the period, to the best of my recollection, 1960-62. According to those bulletins, because of total suspension of supply of spares by the Soviet Union, the PLA air force was very nearly totally incapacitated and grounded, even in the mainland, let alone in Tibet. Ambassador Galbraith's advice was based not on any intelligence but on his personal hunch. For our part, at that time we were reliant on British and US intelligence given to us at their discretion. Obviously they too did not have adequate intelligence on the status of Sino-Soviet relations. The first air-defence missiles SA-2 came from the Soviet Union in 1963.Another reminiscence of those days. Just as there are senior defence services and foreign service officers exhorting the country not to trust the Americans now for equipment, there was a large number of people arguing against our dealings with the Soviet Union. They asserted communists and communists would always get together and let us down, and that our officers and personnel undergoing training in the USSR would be brainwashed and subverted. History is witness that the procedures we implemented guarded against such risks, and democratic officers and men were sufficiently immune to communism. But how do we learn from the past when we do not throw open our archives to scholars?


The writer is a senior defence analyst








I don't think I am threatening, do you?" asked a free Aung San Suu Kyi of a crowd gathered in Rangoon on Sunday. This was her first public speech in seven years. From the streets of Rangoon to Lutyens' Delhi, from the private residence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Bono's estate, a sense of optimism circles the air. The Lady is now free, again. Free after spending 15 of the past 21 years in detention, mostly in her house along the Inya Lake in Rangoon. The anticipation in the air was predictable. Would Suu Kyi challenge the results of the November 7 elections, widely discredited as a sham by analysts and challenge the constitution? In the event, she dodged questions on her political ambitions. The rhetoric was lowered a notch, her tone tangibly conciliatory. Suu Kyi now says she wants to "speak directly and honestly" with the generals, claiming progress will only be made "if forces work together". She has called for national reconciliation with those who jailed her. Rather than criticising China for plundering Burma's national resources she merely expressed disapproval. The junta too has been uncharacteristic. Rather than speaking out against Suu Kyi, as they have done in the past, the generals maintained silence from the reclusive capital Naypyidaw, 320 km from Rangoon. The junta, normally prone to squashing gatherings and political assemblies, allowed the massive congregation. Absent were the police forces and the security apparatus. So lenient it seems is the hand of the junta that they have allowed Suu Kyi access through all of Burma. One is therefore justified in asking: is Burma undergoing structural change? Much has changed in the political landscape during Suu Kyi's detention. In the November 7 elections, 37 political parties stood for more than 1,100 seats across the two houses of parliament and 14 local legislative assemblies. Amongst them were the military backed USDP and the NUP that represented the regime between 1962 and 1988. It is claimed by the junta that USDP won with an 80 per cent mandate. But there were other victors too, among them smaller parties like the National Democratic Force (NDF).It is these parties that are slowly ushering in the potential of democratic change in Burma. Collectively known as the "Third Force" they have gained popular support in Burma. According to Burma expert Marie Lall at the Chatham House, Suu Kyi will need to tread carefully: "While it can be expected that she will draw a hard line in opposition with the regime... it would be wise to take into account the fact that the NLD is no longer the sole voice of the opposition."Thus Suu Kyi's NLD is no longer the party of yesteryears: the sole opposition to the generals. In fact, according to the constitution the party does not exist as a legal entity! Will Suu Kyi's energies now be focused on ensuring the NLD's revival? But the NLD itself is divided. The promise of election led to a fracture between members of the NLD. Twenty-five senior members broke ranks with the NLD to create the NDF. The decision came following Suu Kyi's decision to boycott the elections — NLD loyalists saw this as tantamount to betrayal. But the NDF believes political participation is necessary for furthering democracy, with or without Suu Kyi. The main point of departure between the splinter groups is the constitution. According to the constitution, and thus the junta, there is a prerequisite to NLD's existence: Suu Kyi's departure. The challenge for Suu Kyi will be to bridge the gap between the two parties that are attempting to tap the same network of supporters. Suu Kyi's bargaining chip is her global stature and the possibility of softening the sanctions regime. Suu Kyi and the NLD have supported the sanctions policy since 1993; she had even called for a tourism boycott. But there are indications that she might soften her tone. In fact, in her speech at the NLD headquarters she indicated a softening of the sanctions regime.Suu Kyi has in the past used sanctions as a manoeuvring tool to sway the generals. In April 2009 she used sanctions to enter into talks with the junta for the first time in two years and to meet diplomats from the US, the UK and Australia for the first time in six years. The junta is at present seen to be keen on promoting its new "democratic image". It is in this changed context that one should be careful of jumping to preconceived notions about what could come next in Burma.








Towards 2014


In any retreat, the biggest challenge is to hold one's own forces together. As US President Barack Obama sets a new date for ending American combat operations in Afghanistan, he might have a big problem maintaining unity of purpose at home and abroad. The indications are that Obama will announce at the NATO summit later this week that the United States will complete the handing over of security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014. When Obama announced his revised strategy towards Afghanistan, he did mention the beginning of a transition in July 2011. But he did not set a deadline for when the transition might be complete. If Obama's reference to 2011 provoked a political controversy, his identification of 2014 as the year to end combat operations would only sharpen it.


Until now the Obama administration had fudged what would happen in 2011. Some senior figures insisted the July 2011 deadline will mark the "significant" withdrawal of US troops; others had insisted that the pace and scope of US force reductions would depend on the ground situation. While there might be some flexibility on how the withdrawal might proceed from July 2011, Obama is now putting down a specific timeline.


Obama may or may not be president in 2014, but the deadline will please his liberal base in the Democratic Party, which is not ready to support a war without end in Afghanistan. The 2014 deadline has drawn criticism from the Republicans. They are convinced that Obama is playing politics with the Afghan war. The US military leadership too thinks it is a bad idea to define timelines and that will only embolden the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Obama hopes that the 2014 deadline will persuade its European allies in NATO to step up their contributions to the training and equipping of the Afghan army in the next four years. Most NATO allies, who got into Afghanistan when the situation was relatively benign, will be happy to endorse the deadline of 2014.


Since the commitment of most Europeans was never deep, there might be no incentive for them to deepen their involvement in Afghanistan in the next few years, given the US plans to end its own combat role by 2014.


Karzai's autonomy


When Obama began to review Afghan policy after he took charge of the White House in 2009, Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, declared that Afghanistan needs the American presence at least until 2014.


At first glance, the convergence between Obama and Karzai on 2014 might seem to be a happy augury and the basis for a more coordinated policy between Washington and Kabul. But the reality is somewhat different. If the Americans are downsizing their role by 2014, it is logical to expect that Karzai would want to define his profile independent of the United States.

No wonder that Karzai called for a scaling down of American military activity that has taken such a toll on the civilian life in Afghanistan. In an interview to The Washington Post, Karzai said, "I think 10 years is a long time to continue to have military operations. The time has come to reduce military operations. The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan." According to Karzai, the US military operations should focus more sensibly along and across the border with Pakistan, from where the threats to Afghanistan are based.


Kayani's strategy

If it is certain that US combat operations are coming to an end in 2014, there might be less of an incentive for the Taliban to negotiate with the international community. The same would apply to the Pakistan army. General Ashfaq Kayani will now be even more determined to fend off American pressure in the next few years and make sure that he can define the terms of a new political arrangement in Kabul.


On the face of it, then, the deadline of 2014 might make India's prospects in Afghanistan rather tenuous. India, however, should bet that events in Afghanistan are unlikely to be scripted by any one party. If fluidity is the defining element of the new political situation across the Durand Line, India's emphasis should be on engaging all the parties in Afghanistan. Keeping an open mind, maintaining flexibility, and seizing the moments of opportunity should be India's new themes in Afghanistan.







US president Barack Obama's visit to India has already been analysed threadbare. Now the RSS has added a new angle, saying that the handling of the visit has set yet another black milestone in the UPA's undermining of the Hindu ethos. An article in RSS mouthpiece Organiser by its editor R. Balashankar says the government "selectively showcased places and people that had no touch of Hindu" starting with his first stop in Delhi, Humayun's Tomb.

"Can there be a more inappropriate beginning to a trip? And that mausoleum happened to be that of an invader ruler who laid the foundations of Islamic rule in this country. Was that the reason that spot was chosen? So far we had not heard that Humayun Tomb was such an architectural splendour," he asks.


The minister in waiting was Salman Khurshid. "Again the question why? The answer seems to be that he is a Muslim, more importantly not a Hindu," he argues. The list of people who were invited to the official dinner also was queer — Shabana Azmi and her husband Javed Akhtar, A.R. Rahman, Aamir Khan and the list goes on in these lines."


"It was as though the government, led by a selected Sikh PM and controlled by a Catholic Christian wanted to give a message to the US president, that India today is dominated in all spheres by non-Hindus," he says. Obama and his wife were introduced to Indian music, only it turned out to be the Christian choir from Meghalaya. Since Obama arrived a day after Deepawali, he says the government could have shown him how the festival lights up the city, taken him to Jantar Mantar or the Akshardam temple, or to Chandni Chowk where Guru Teg Bahadur laid his life down for the Hindu cause. "It would have sent the message of our courage and zero-tolerance to terror," he argues.


Smear and spite


The RSS — which disapproved of its former chief K.S. Sudarshan's vitriol against Sonia Gandhi — launched a direct attack on the Congress chief over the issue of corruption. Claiming that scamsters have never had it so good, the lead editorial in Organiser says: "The Congress is so depleted of relatively clean leaders — there is nobody absolutely clean in that party anymore — that it had to run through a list and finally land on a minister in the Union cabinet."


Coming out in support of BJP chief Nitin Gadkari — who has been accused by the Congress of owning a flat in the Adarsh Housing Cooperative Society through proxy — it says the ruling party cannot prove itself clean so it is trying to tarnish those who appear clean in the public eye.


Manufacturing consent


In a piece of news analysis, headlined 'Bring Setalvad to justice for perjury', Shyam Khosla talks about the complaint filed by one of the activist's former colleagues alleging that witnesses in the Gujarat riots cases had been tutored by Teesta. Taking note of the recent order of the special trial court hearing the Gulbarg Society riots, which has asked the special investigation team to probe the charges against Setalvad, the article says that she has "at long last been trapped in the web she relentlessly spun to malign the Hindu society and the popular Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi. Her cash-rich NGO 'Citizens for Justice and Peace', had manufactured countless affidavits on behalf of victims and 'witnesses' of the post-Godhra riots to carry forwards its vicious campaign that demonised Gujarat, insulted the state judiciary and persuaded higher courts to transfer riots-related cases outside Gujarat," Khosla said.


"She should be brought to justice for perjury without further delay. Further, all riot-related cases be suspended till the perjury case against Setalvad is settled," he writes.


Compiled by Manoj C.G.








Last week clearly belonged to A. Raja and his fall from grace but the collapse of a Delhi building was far more compelling television. And even as the "sizzling and stunning" Pamela Anderson (as Colors described her) arrived to surprise the Great Khali & Co, she had competition: Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, a future queen of England, no less, was ruling the airwaves even before Anderson could make her grand entry into Bigg Boss (Colors). This story, however, must begin with another stunner: the opening ceremony of the Asian Games. If you thought the CWG ceremonies were "sensational", you'd be at a loss for superlatives to describe what the Chinese created. Watching the spectacle, you were speechless because your mouth was frozen in a permanent "O" of wonderment: the majesty on the river, the human spirit soaring with the performers that were seemingly suspended from nothing in mid-air, the human stars on the river's surface rising like petals... "O" is right.To descend from such heights to Rakhi Sawant is injurious to one's health. The weekend saw endless coverage on Hindi news of the alleged suicide by a participant on Rakhi Ka Insaaf (Imagine) after being humiliated by the self-proclaimed judge and jury of our morals. By Tuesday, new reports (Aaj Tak) said participants are "paid" to appear on the show and say what they do. Well of course, they are paid: why expose yourself on TV for nothing? And the "reality" of these live encounters has always beggared belief.If there is any linkage between Lakshman's death and the show, then Rakhi has much to answer for. Our advice? News channels should ignore Rakhi (she receives far too much gratuitous publicity) and the channel should either temper her language/behaviour (both of which are outrageous and crude) or cancel the show.Television captured the tragic human loss after the building collapse in New Delhi's Laxmi Nagar with poignancy, once they went beyond the immediate disaster. One example: India TV showed four children crawling out from beneath the rubble with the help of bystanders. It was not exactly a Chilean miners' rescue moment, but you still held your breath as the bloodied faces of the children emerged, suddenly, from the dust.Of course, all the coverage was exclusive to all channels! So it was great to watch a genuine "exclusive" on CNN-IBN, Tuesday, when the channel, containing its enthusiasm for Raja's telecom scam, revealed the findings of the report on the Mangalore Air India plane crash. By the time you read this, Pamela Anderson will be inside that den of distressingly unhappy inmates. She is sure to add something to the show — what, remains unclear. Headlines Today gave us a hint of things to come: it played footage of her entry into Big Brother (Australia). A preponderance of young white males with raging hormones greeted her somewhat physically: hugging her and having their picture taken, holding onto her. As one of them said, "Oh, my God!" Not God but close to heaven, maybe? Finally, the royal engagement between Prince William and Kate Middleton. BBC gushed like a water jet, not over Middleton but the ring. "That's the ring!" exclaimed an awestruck and normally understated reporter. "It was beautiful!" swooned another BBC royals' watcher, referring to Prince William giving Middleton the same ring Princess Diana had received from Prince Charles.The class consciousness was there: "She (Middleton) is a commoner; that is not to criticise her (of course not!) but she is not of royal lineage." Dearie me. And this rather inexplicable, grandiose conclusion: This wedding, asked Tim Wilcox of a "delighted" Suhel Seth, will fortify the sense of the Commonwealth, won't it? Huh? So that's why they're doing it!During an interview, you noticed how the happy couple constantly looked at each other, how she carefully folded her hands on her lap so that "the ring" was always visible. You thought back to the bubbling Princess Diana, some 30 years ago, seated by Prince Charles on a similar occasion. Middleton, older, was far more composed.


Perhaps that will help fortify the Commonwealth, too?








 Poachers are hunting down tigers across Asia and Russia for their skin, bones, and even private parts to sell on the lucrative wildlife black market. With populations dwindling, the world's remaining 3200 wild tigers could use some help - and fast. And certainly, it looks like people from around the world are uniting to save the tiger - by declaring their intention, over and over.


Next week, 400 participants from around the world will gather in Russia for the seventh meeting in two years on how to save the tiger — if they raise a tonne of money.


One could argue that next week's meeting is not your typical gathering of wildlife advocates. The International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, will be hosted by Vladimir Putin. World Bank President Robert Zoellick and environment ministers from all tiger range countries will attend, along with hundreds of government and non-government officers from 25 countries. Participants will review a bold new 57-page Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP), spearheaded by the Bank and its Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), which calls on governments to reverse the decline of the tiger and double its numbers by 2022. With the promise of the Bank's global convening power, GTI's recovery plan is being hailed as the tiger's "last great hope".


Meanwhile, during this week-long, $1.4 million meeting, poachers and traffickers will kill and smuggle more tigers across borders, while enforcement teams try their best to stop them with minuscule resources and weak laws.


This never-ending conversation needs to stop. Hold off on the long stream of PowerPoints. Any meeting which spends another minute or dollar in the name of tiger conservation should find a quick way to support and expand frontline wildlife enforcement, and strengthen laws against wildlife crooks.


To give the GTRP its due, it is an impressive document. It articulates, for example, how securing tigers lends protection to other wildlife, habitats and watersheds, and helps mitigate global warming. But it has two problems: first, a huge price tag ($350 million), which is unlikely to attract donors before the wild tiger disappears; and second, it ignores an important lesson from the past.


That lesson lives in Russia. In the mid 1990s in the Russian far east, a small group of people, including myself, helped launch a local anti-poaching brigade. Code-named Inspection Tiger, the brigade took on organised poaching and trafficking gangs that were wiping out Siberian tigers, bears and other wild animals and slipping them under the recently lifted Iron Curtain to China and other consumer countries. Our coalition sponsored Inspection Tiger's salaries, vehicles, fuel and training. In four years, and for $700,000 (about half the cost of next week's meeting), poaching was brought under control across an area the size of Sweden. The Siberian tiger population was stabilised (until Inspection Tiger's legal claws were clipped by national authorities).


There are more examples of low cost, fast-results species recovery programmes, including from India. But they did not result from expensive meetings held far from the animal's habitat. The GTI Secretariat is based in Washington, DC, nine time zones away from the closest wild tiger. GTI promotes big-brand "wildlife and law enforcement monitoring" programmes, which will simply document the tiger's demise if there is inadequate local enforcement. It calls on the United Nations and Interpol to help range states, including India, rescue the tiger from traffickers.


]Such big helping hands won't hurt — so long as they don't grab funds or attention from field enforcement teams. But as currently drafted, the GTRP is doomed. Like other large foreign-based conservation programmes, it is costly; it lacks innovation; it will become bureaucratic, slow, and lose sight of the goal. The writing is on the wall: smaller, efficient government organisations and NGOs will eventually be sub-contracted to improve performance, but they will be given scraps and brought in too late. The big players will focus more on ticking off donor reporting boxes, while the poacher slips away.


Leaders at the forum need to recognise the existing will in the field — where enforcement teams are taking up the fight and can save the big cat with modest and consistent support. And let's not forget the tiger vacuum. China and Vietnam need to shut down all forms of tiger trade within their borders — with no further discussion. Let's not turn conservation into conversation.


The writer is director of FREELAND Foundation, an international, Bangkok-based environmental group








On November 4, Anderson Cooper did the country a favour. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumour that President Obama's trip to Asia would cost $200 million a day. This was an important "story." It underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said a century before the Internet, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." But it also showed that there is an antidote to malicious journalism — and that's good journalism.In case you missed it, a story circulated around the Web on the eve of President Obama's trip that it would cost US taxpayers $200 million a day — about $2 billion for the entire trip. Cooper said he felt impelled to check it out because the evening before he had had Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican and Tea Party favourite, on his show and had asked her where exactly Republicans will cut the budget. Instead of giving specifics, Bachmann used her airtime to inject a phony story into the mainstream. She answered: "I think we know that just within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him. He'll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending."The next night, Cooper explained that he felt compelled to trace that story back to its source. His research found that it had originated from a quote by "an alleged Indian provincial official," from the Indian state of Maharashtra, "reported by India's Press Trust, their equivalent of our AP or Reuters. I say 'alleged,' provincial official," Cooper added, "because we have no idea who this person is, no name was given."It is hard to get any more flimsy than a senior unnamed Indian official from Maharashtra talking about the cost of an Asian trip by the American president."It was an anonymous quote," said Cooper. "Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it. No proof was given; no follow-up reporting was done. Now you'd think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right? But there hasn't been any follow-up reporting on this Indian story. The Indian article was picked up by The Drudge Report and other sites online, and it quickly made its way into conservative talk radio."Cooper then showed the following snippets: Rush Limbaugh talking about Obama's trip: "In two days from now, he'll be in India at $200 million a day." Then Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: "Have you ever seen the president, ever seen the president go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion — $2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending — he's travelling with 3,000 people." In Beck's rendition, the president's official state visit to India became "a vacation" accompanied by one-tenth of the US navy. Ditto the conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage. He said, "$200 million? $200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents."Cooper then added: "Again, no one really seemed to care to check the facts. For security reasons, the White House doesn't comment on logistics of presidential trips, but they have made an exception this time. He then quoted Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, as saying, "I am not going to go into how much it costs to protect the president, [but this trip] is comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush travelled abroad. This trip doesn't cost $200 million a day." Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said: "I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd, this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 per cent of the navy and some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier in support of the president's trip to Asia. That's just comical. Nothing close to that is being done."Cooper also pointed out that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the entire war effort in Afghanistan was costing about $190 million a day and that President Bill Clinton's 1998 trip to Africa — with 1,300 people and of roughly similar duration, cost, according to the Government Accountability Office and adjusted for inflation, "about $5.2 million a day." When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem. It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues — deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate — let alone act on them. Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together. But the carnival barkers that so dominate our public debate today are not going away — and neither is the Internet. All you can hope is that more people will do what Cooper did — so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people's first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it.


The New York Times








Another Indian investment banking business has been sold. After Nimesh Kampani and Hemendra Kothari, who gave in to the clout of foreign investment bankers, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, respectively, Vallabh Bhansali too has decided not to go it alone any longer. In a deal that's slightly different from the ones that his predecessors on Dalal Street did, Bhansali's equity capital markets (ECM) and investment banking franchises will be merged with Axis Bank. Unlike his peers, Bhansali and the Enam team will remain very much a part of the business. The deal underscores the importance of a balance sheet; clearly, the ability to write out a cheque for an M&A deal is becoming important. In that context, it's not hard to understand why Bhansali and his co-promoters have decided to cash out. While there may be enough M&A activity in the home market, there's enough competition and, more often than not, the bigger deals have been clinched by investment bankers that had a global parentage and a bank backing them. Boutique investment banking firms could soon become a rare species. Of course, Uday Kotak has done well in the investment banking business despite not having the balance sheet to fund large deals nor a foreign partner but there again, it has not been a very big player in the M&A space. So, Bhansali's decision to team up with Axis Bank is probably a good decision; profits can be hard to come by in a downturn as was the case in 2009.


From Axis Bank's point of view, there's little point in re-inventing the wheel. In today's dog eat dog world, it makes sense to pool together resources and leverage existing relationships and skill-sets. By taking over Enam's ECM franchise and the investment banking business, the country's third largest private sector lender saves on time to market. And it will now be a full-service bank offering corporates many more products. Indeed, together the two will be servicing quite a corporate clientele. At a later stage, it may be possible for the bank to also tap Enam's retail franchise, perhaps cross-selling products. The deal may not have come cheap for Axis Bank because, at a consideration of Rs 2,100 crore, it is paying a multiple of close to 20 times Enam's profits for 2010-11. But then, there is a price to be paid for the brand equity of the franchise and, all said and done, Enam has a strong track record. Also, the beauty of this deal for Axis Bank is that there is no immediate cash outflow since it's an all-stock affair; the bank has cashed in on its market capitalisation, the result of a tremendous performance over the last few years. But Axis had paid for people; it must ensure that these people stay with it.







Email will be to the coming generations what typewriters are to today's. This is what Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg suggested at this week's Web 2.0 Summit. Google CEO Eric Schmidt was sharing the stage. The world's most powerful social company was standing alongside the world's most powerful search company. The moderators tried their darnest to get Zuckerberg and Schmidt to make up, but didn't succeed. What Facebook was announcing—a Social Inbox that would collapse together mediums ranging from emails to text messages and chat services—is a direct threat to Google. If this Inbox delivers to its ambitions, it will chip away at the space of not just Google, but also of Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, etc. AOL, let's remember, purveyed the tagline You've got email long before Tom Hanks laid claim to the same. But AOL has since lost the lead bigtime. Facebook's tagline, It's free (and always will be), has powered ahead instead. The bottom line is that innovations are super-charging the web in such a way that it's hard to forecast the future. As unlikely as it seems, therefore, Zuckerberg may be right in projecting that email will soon be history.


Let's also underline the other Facebook tagline, the one that a recent Hollywood flick has popularised: You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. But the business of making enemies is mutual in the online universe. If Facebook is sending heat in Google's direction, Google is sending plenty back. For example, Google has recently paid up about $200m to grab Slide, which is a major developer of Facebook applications. Basically, there is a substantive talent war going on between Facebook and Google. Whatever be the future of these gargantuan portals, there is reason for users to rest on their laurels. Each is going out of its way to pump in more services. If this means more privacy invasions being pumped into the Web bloodstream, note that there is no zero sum endgame here. Rather the reverse. As Facebook and Google become more belligerent about how the other is exploiting private communications, the backlash could actually empower users. Note that the US is considering setting up a Do Not Track registry for the Internet along the lines of the popular Do Not Call one for phones. This could take consumer protection to a new level, as unimaginable today as an email-free universe.









The unprecedented telecom scam must be examined in the context of how corruption and its anatomy has changed in India during the economic boom of the last decade, fuelled as it were by a surge of western capital seeking higher returns from the land of the "barbarians". There used to be a certain innocence about the manner of corruption adopted by the political class in the pre-finance capital era. For instance, the 1990s images of a large suitcase packed with a crore rupees would appear somewhat primitive today. Post-finance capital, corruption or unlawful gains are at once notional and real, embedded in the ever-inflating values of companies that appropriate scarce resources like spectrum, energy, iron ore mines, coal, rare earths, etc.


The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has therefore calculated the real/notional value of the 2G spectrum given away very cheap to some operators by the telecom minister, who resigned on Sunday protesting his innocence. Interestingly, immediately after resigning, the telecom minister A Raja claimed that during his tenure the teledensity had grown from 300 million to 650 million subscribers. Raja offered this piece of statistic as a measure of how his policies were successful. However, what was totally lost on the DMK minister was the fact that such massive growth in telecom over the past six years should have naturally entailed discovering the true value of spectrum through an auction periodically! But still he chose to give away spectrum in 2008 at prices discovered by auction seven years earlier.


The notional value of the loss calculated by the CAG by various methods goes up to Rs 1,70,000 crore. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament is examining the CAG report. The Opposition has demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which must investigate in every detail the circumstances under which Raja gave away 2G spectrum so cheap.


Meanwhile, the Supreme Court too has got into the act by demanding an explanation from the Prime Minister's Office as to why the CBI is delaying its investigation report on the spectrum scam. In an unprecedented act, the CBI had raided the department of telecommunication offices last year and seized a large number of documents relating to the spectrum allocation. Many key officials who had not cooperated with the telecom minister, and had even quit the government, have now spoken to the CBI and given evidence of what they thought was a highly irregular manner in which to allocate the precious resource for telecom connectivity. Some of those officials have even spoken openly to this newspaper about the whimsicality of the telecom minister.


So, as far as arbitrariness of policy is concerned, there is indeed an open and shut case against Raja. Therefore, there is no need for proof that Raja has indeed caused massive loss to the public exchequer by giving away spectrum so cheap to a few favoured firms, most of whom don't even qualify as per the laid down entry criteria.


However, what needs to be proved by the CBI is criminal misconduct and receipt of bribes for favouring a few firms. This indeed is the hardest part of the ongoing investigation. No wonder the CBI, before raiding Raja's offices, had registered the case against some "unknown persons". The CBI and other agencies have to track down the money trail, which historically is seen as the most difficult part of any investigation.


Global financial architecture and its offshoots such as tax havens make it well nigh impossible to track down the circuitous manner in which bribes are paid. In a startling revelation, the BJP leader Arun Shourie has claimed the CBI knows the "identity" of the critical person who might have handled the bribe money.


One doesn't know how seriously the CBI is pursuing the "unknown persons" named in the first information report, but there are many leads waiting to be pursued by the investigating agency. One obvious trail that the agency needs to look at is how a company called Genex Exim Ventures quietly acquired shares worth Rs 380 crore in Swan Telecom, a major beneficiary of Raja's spectrum largesse, just two months after Genex was incorporated with a paid-up capital of Rs 1 lakh. So Genex was a shell company created to be a shareholder of Swan.


Swan Telecom is now called Etisalat DB, which has links with Dubai firms whose promoters are reportedly close to the Karunanidhi family. Another partner in the Swan telecom project goes by the name of DB group, which has major real estate interests in Mumbai and other parts of western India. This group, too, is known to have major links with important politicians from Maharashtra.


The larger point, however, is A Raja is a mere symptom of a bigger disease that is grabbing a rapidly globalising India. Finance capitalism based on rising value of resources is creating easy money and unprecedented greed. It is the biggest challenge to India's democratic institutions. Capitalism can prosper only if it is rule based and operates within a strong regulatory framework. If businesses start looking for quick money based on higher valuations and use the greed of the political class to achieve that end, the result is crony capitalism of the worst kind that will threaten every institution nurtured over the decades. The telecom episode is a timely reminder.









There were severe critiques of Nehru's economic thinking in policymakers documents in the 1992-97 period and in 2004-05. There has been now an appreciative stance on his emphasis on knowledge creation and basic industrialisation. But most of the discussion is by the discussants based on bees in their bonnets and has little to do with what Nehru actually wrote. Since this is his birth-month, I decided to look at what he really said. Before Independence there was considerable thinking on the nature of the economic policies that would be followed after the country was free from colonial rule. The Congress Party's National Planning Committee, under Nehru, the Bombay Plan produced by industrialists, a Gandhian Plan by SN Aggarwal and a People's Plan by the radical humanist leader MN Roy, all contained first ideas on principles of economic organisation, embellished with some statistical details and targetery. Nehru's work was the most detailed.


In this medley, a core of interrelated economic ideas underlies Nehru's economic thinking through a long period. This comes out very strikingly if one compares sections of the Discovery of India (Ch VIII and X) and one of his last overall analysis of his own policies and views contained in the article on Changing India, published after the Chinese invasion in Foreign Affairs (April 1963).


To Nehru the harnessing of modern technology to economic development was very important. There were two implications of this. The first was an acceptance of the emphasis on heavy industries in the process of industrialisation. While there has been considerable controversy in India on large scale vs small scale industrialisation, Nehru himself had clinched the issue in his own mind even in his early economic thinking. This was perhaps one of the few economic choices he really made. Discussing the issue of the big machine vs cottage industries, he stated emphatically that "it is not a mere question if adjustment of the two forms of production and economy. One must be dominating and paramount, with the other as complementary to it, fitting in where it can. The economy bases on the latest technical achievements of the day must necessarily be the dominating one." The second, wider implication of this approach was his emphasis on scientific education and research. He seems to have a particular fascination for the idea that under "proper" social conditions, experimentation with the machine would inculcate the "scientific temper" and widen the experience and outlook of men. Formal economics is now accepting this idea in the shape of the productivity implications of "learning theory approach".


The economic implication of this to him was the emphasis on basic minimum needs. His earlier emphasis on rural development was argued with this end in view. (Later speeches accept the role of agricultural production as a constraint in the process of economic development). The role of cottage industries, albeit a secondary one, was argued from this objective, as also the long-term employment potential of heavy industrialisation.


Another basic economic idea for Nehru seems to be a concept of "national self-sufficiency", with a strong autarchic element in it. Heavy industrialisation and a scientific research policy were argued partly with this end in view. The emphasis was conditioned by early experience. ("We were anxious to avoid being drawn into the whirlpool of economic imperialism.")


There was in Nehru a genuine concern about the need for a peaceful transition through consensus in the developmental phase. There is frequent emphasis on the "social" implications of economic ideas and programmes. The late Prime Minister was liable to discuss it sometimes along "wider" national, international or even philosophical lines. The earlier method of "democratic collectivism" remains later in the shape of "democratic socialism" and the "mixed economy". Equality of opportunity for all remains a basic theme.


This concern for a consensus comes out strikingly in his own words when he was writing about the work of the National Planning Committee set up by the Congress Party before Independence under his direction: constituted as we were, it was not easy for all of us to agree to any basic social policy or principles underlying social organisation. Any attempt to discuss these principles in the abstract was bound to lead to fundamental differences of approach at the outset and possibly to a splitting up the Committee. Not to have such a guiding policy was a serious drawback yet there was no help for it. We decided to consider the general problem of planning as well as each individual problem concretely and not in the abstract, and allow principles to develop out such consideration." Those who mangle him need to read the man.


—The author is a former Union minister









Your father-in-law got it …


Several MPs, among them Jairam Ramesh, were waiting for their cars to arrive after Parliament adjourned once again. As several SUVs pulled up, some journalists egged on Ramesh, saying it was his colleagues who were using the heavy polluters he had railed against just a few days ago. Jairam smiled and, as he saw BJP MP Ananth Kumar walk towards his SUV, made a comment about how he shouldn't be using an SUV. Kumar gave a weak grin, but Ramesh wasn't over and continued, "... you must have got this from the Reddys". This got Kumar wild, and he turned around and, pointing his finger at Ramesh, said "Your father-in-law got it from the Reddys, not me!"


Mamata for Maharashtra?


As the Congress high command was deliberating on who the new Maharashtra chief minister would be, a journalist called up Pranab Mukherjee and asked him how a lightweight like Prithviraj Chavan could possibly become CM. Though a decision hadn't been announced, this got Mukherjee riled enough to shout, "Prithviraj is a Maratha, who else do you think will become chief minister? Mamata Banerjee?"


Raja goes from one PM to another


Guess who the first person A Raja met after he submitted his resignation as telecom minister to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? Pranab Mukherjee, that's who. Mukherjee was the minister who had been coordinating with the DMK and even met DMK MP Kanimozhi a few days before Raja was asked to go.






Sixteen months after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, General Motors is all set to launch the second largest IPO in the US's history, valued at over $22 billion. Not only this, to accommodate the demand from investors, the Detroit car-maker is expanding the size of its common stock offering by over 30% and it's preferred stock from $3 billion to $4 billion. This sounds like a true turnaround story, if there ever was one. After making $82 billion in losses between 2005 and 2008, GM is showing signs of growth—it has posted three straight quarters of profit this year, with a net income of $2 billion in the third quarter, its highest quarterly profit since 1999. GM's strategy, which includes downsizing by 50,000 workers, appears to have worked—the car-maker sold more vehicles with four brands in 2010 than they did with eight in 2009, giving it number one market share for the BRIC countries. The effort of the 'Big Three' (GM, Ford and Chrysler), in trying to match production more closely to demand, is reflected in higher prices for their vehicles—fewer overflowing warehouses means a decrease in the number of discounts and freebies.


The upswing in auto sales is representative of the larger market sentiment in the US, with consumers willing to pay $1,200 more, on average, for a new car in October than in July. It appears that this IPO has also roused interest in the automotive sector, measured by trading activity on the bourses. Despite the major strides, it is not yet time to celebrate; the GM ticker on NYSE has a long journey ahead before the US taxpayers will recover their $50 billion investment.








Even though groups spanning multiple geographic and economic vectors like the East Asia Summit, the Brazil-Russia-India-China forum, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation have begun emerging and consolidating themselves, it would be a mistake to assume any of these could be a substitute for the Russia, India, China trilateral (RIC). What makes the trilateral unique — and important — is the convergence of geography, foreign policy philosophy, and economic ascent within the group. All three countries are world powers with significant interests in the Eurasian and Asia-Pacific strategic spaces. Unlike economic powers like Japan or the countries of the European Union, their foreign policy is independent. Each is committed to the creation of a multi-polar world order based on respect for international law, multilateralism, and collective decision-making. The three also have strong ties binding them, though these are somewhat uneven. India, for example, has close political relations with Russia but little to show by way of bilateral trade or investment. By contrast, India-China trade is booming, but the bilateral political relationship could be better. Another mismatch within the trilateral stems from the way each relates to the United States. Russia and China would like to use the trilateral to send a signal to Washington that they are unhappy with its bloc-like approach to the Asia-Pacific. India, on the other hand, is decidedly wary of alienating the U.S., at this juncture. Finally, there is an imbalance stemming from the fact that only Russia and China are permanent members of U.N. Security Council. What this means is that Moscow and Beijing are content to involve India in discussions on global issues at the RIC level only to the extent necessary to buttress their own arguments with Washington at the UNSC.


As a result of all these factors, a grouping whose strongest binding factor is political and strategic has tended to adopt a hands-off approach to key regional problems like the Iran nuclear issue and Afghanistan. At the recent meeting of RIC foreign ministers at Wuhan, for example, a common position expressing unhappiness with the current U.S.-led approach on these questions was articulated but there was no attempt to carve out a role for the trilateral as a group in pushing for better outcomes. That said, the three still set for themselves an ambitious agenda of practical cooperation. Agriculture, health and medicine, and disaster management are already focus areas. To this, the foreign ministers have added energy and joint work on innovation as priority areas. Business-to-business cooperation is also being emphasised. If links at the corporate level get stronger, it is possible that the trilateral will feel less coy about taking on a political agenda.







The collapse of a 2000-year-old heritage structure, identified as the gladiator house, is the latest crisis to hit the world heritage site of Pompeii, the historic Roman city that attracts 2.5 million visitors a year. A few structures were lost in the recent past and until 2008, about 150 sqm of frescoes and 3,000 pieces of stone disappeared every year. Despite repeated warnings by experts and even a declaration of emergency two years ago, not much has been done on the conservation front. Unfortunately, informed criticism is giving way to irrational shrill calls for privatisation of the monuments for better protection. Shortage of funds and poorly managed government institutions are universal problems. It would be a fallacy to reduce the options of heritage management to privatisation. Instead of alienating heritage properties or allowing advertisements on historic structures to raise money, as proposed for the Colosseum in Rome, government can turn to successful alternative models such as the National Trust in the United Kingdom, which prioritises heritage as a public good.


A registered charitable institution, the National Trust has successfully served heritage protection for more than 100 years. This body that manages seven world heritage sites and more than 400 historic structures has, despite the recession, increased funding, widened activities, and registered a 22.5 per cent net gain (2009-10). Sustained efforts to enlarge public participation and decentralise management have contributed to its success. Last year alone, the Trust attracted about 595,000 new members, raising the total membership to 3.7 million assuring a revenue of £125 million a year. France too encourages formation of heritage foundations to support conservation and it has set up 26 regional directorates to implement national policies in close coordination with local bodies. From all this, what must be clear to the policymakers in India is that, while private partnerships can be explored, turning monuments into commercial ventures is not the way forward. The Archaeological Survey of India, the premier government institution in charge of monuments, must be thoroughly redefined and strengthened. Simultaneously, institutional and legal frameworks have to be reviewed to create spaces for imaginative autonomous organisations that will attract public participation, liaise better with local bodies, and improve public outreach.










Tripura, which shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh, is building a huge war memorial and friendship park to memorialise the heroes of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Work on the Bharat-Bangladesh Moitree Udyan in a border hamlet in southern Tripura was inaugurated by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on November 11.


The "friendship park" in Chottakhola has been planned in memory of the freedom fighters and Indian soldiers who died 39 years ago in the course of the struggle for Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. The freedom fighters had their fortified base camps and launched guerrilla attacks on the Pakistan Army from Chottakhola.


The memorial project, for which the Tripura government deserves full marks, will cost an estimated Rs. 2.3 crore. Situated about 130 km from the State capital of Agartala, it will have a statue of Bangladesh's Founding Father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Set in a verdant 20-hectare area dotted by seven hillocks and a serpentine lake, the Moitree Udayan will have a 52-foot-tall tower that will be visible from some parts of Bangladesh. It will have a museum and a library to preserve documents from those historic days when Bangladesh and India stood in unison to defend a just cause.


In many ways, the Foreign Minister's visit marked a unique occasion. The maiden trip by Ms Moni to the State was meant not only to recall the historic events but also to try and boost cross-border trade with the northeastern States.


Picturesque Agartala served as the virtual 'war headquarters' of the 1971 Liberation War that led to the birth of independent Bangladesh, the former East Pakistan. For over 1.5 million refugees, Tripura was a dear sanctuary during that phase. Ms Moni's visit to Agartala, where Bangladesh's government-in-exile was formed on April 10, 1971, came some 39 years after the war. The Mujibnagar government led the war. The government-in-exile was formally sworn in at Meherpur on April 17, 1971.


Tripura was then the desperate destination of thousands of men, women and children, all of whom fled their homes as genocidal elements of the Pakistan Army and local goons carried out mass rape, large-scale murder and arson. Tripura sheltered over 1.5 million Bangladesh refugees, a number that exceeded its own population. Tripura, therefore, occupies a special place for Bangladesh.


Bangladeshi refugees entered West Bengal, Meghalaya and Assam in thousands throughout the nine-month-long war. The hapless people who wanted their lives saved and their women and girls protected from the marauders, were all over Tripura in particular, straining the State's infrastructure and resources. From Belonia to Sabroom to Dharmanagar, it was a sea of distressed humanity. This writer was a witness to it: there was not a single school, college or government or semi-government office which was not filled with refugees.


The 1971 war for Independence was essentially a national war. Relentless lightning actions of the guerrilla fighters eroded the moral and physical strength of the Pakistani Army. While India played a significant role in supporting the war, the Indian Army directly intervened only after an India-Bangladesh Joint Command was formed in the first week of December 1971 as Pakistan launched an attack on the western front. India lost an estimated 17,000 servicemen.


The war culminated in a shared war against a common enemy that had disregarded democratic ideals, perpetrated mass murder and indiscriminate violations upon unarmed civilians.


The "friendship park" in Chottakhola should be seen as a testament of historic ties. It will tell future generations the truth: that the two countries stood in unison in the time of need to defend justice and humanity. The Tripura government led by Chief Minister Manik Sarkar deserves laurels for making the unique project a reality. It is going to be a gift to the future generations of both the countries.


Ms Moni's trip to Tripura served also to further Bangladesh's trade and commerce with the northeastern States, many of which share borders with Bangladesh. Bangladesh and the northeastern Indian region are contiguous geographically, but the potential for trans-border trade remains under-utilised.


During some phases, India-Bangladesh relations have not been as smooth as would have been logically expected. Colonial mindsets and the ghosts of 1947 continued to bedevil the growth. Only recently has a major change occurred: the two neighbours have agreed to cooperate on many vital issues, and taken up major initiatives.


In March 2010, Dhaka and New Delhi reached a deal to allow Indian goods to be transshipped to Tripura and other northeastern States. Dhaka has allowed India to use the Chittagong port. It has granted access to its Mongla and Ashuganj ports also to ferry heavy machinery and other goods from the rest of India to the northeastern States.


Transit is an issue that has been debated over the years. However, given the political dimensions involved, a breakthrough remained elusive until recently. Taking a bold step, the Sheikh Hasina government acted in a positive manner. Dhaka took into account some basic factors in making up its mind. Bangladesh cannot remain an island, and it stands to benefit immensely from extending facilities to India. According to the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), an independent think-tank, Bangladesh will stand to gain $2.3 billion over a period of 30 years by extending transit facilities to India, Nepal and Bhutan.


The two countries have some longstanding issues that deserve early solutions. It is to be hoped that Dhaka and New Delhi will utilise the prevailing goodwill to carry the spirit of mutual trust forward.


The two countries recently agreed to exchange their enclaves and territories that are in adverse possession. This was a longstanding irritant. People in the 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India have suffered much since 1947. There is also a need to mend differences over sharing of river waters and to demarcate the entire land boundary.


For the Sheikh Hasina government, any greater level of cooperation and connect with India, particularly in the matter of transit facilities, is a politically sensitive issue. There are formidable opponents waiting to cash in on such issues politically. The main Opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and its allies, including the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, have demanded the scrapping of all deals signed recently with India, including those relating to transit facilities. They allege that the government is only serving India's interests. The vociferous reactions from Khaleda Zia, the Opposition boss, against the transit deals reflect an old political mindset.


Ms Zia's insistence on scrapping the deals with India might have amply reflected her party's own agenda, but it will do little to promote bilateral cooperation. And many people believe that linking the country's sovereignty and independence with the issue of transit is to stretch the political rhetoric to an unacceptable degree.


Street politics is on the boil again. Bangladesh witnessed a violence-marred, nationwide hartal sponsored by the Opposition parties on November 14. The BNP called the hartal after Ms Zia was made to vacate her house in Dhaka's cantonment area on November 13 following a court order. She alleged that she was evicted forcibly by the government. However, the authorities have strongly refuted the charge. The house was leased to her by the military authorities, in addition to another government house in a posh area, in Gulshan, after her husband, General Ziaur Rahman, was killed in 1981.


However, the ruling party, which has a massive parliamentary strength, believes that the street agitation is a motivated one mainly aimed to achieve three objectives: to destabilise the government, frustrate the ongoing trial of the war criminals, and create obstacles to the deals signed with India recently. And it is bracing to cope with the challenge.


(The writer, based in Dhaka, can be reached at









India is losing nearly Rs.240 crore every 24 hours, on average, in illegal financial flows out of the country. The nation lost $213 billion (roughly Rs.9.7 lakh crore) in illegal capital flight between 1948 and 2008. However, over $125 billion (Rs.5.7 lakh crore) of that was lost in just this decade between 2000-2008, according to a study by Global Financial Integrity (GFI). These "illicit financial flows," says GFI, "were generally the product of corruption, bribery and kickbacks, criminal activities and efforts to shelter wealth from a country's tax authorities." GFI is a programme of the Center for International Policy, Washington D.C. It is a non-profit research and advocacy body that "promotes national and multilateral policies, safeguards, and agreements aimed at curtailing the cross-border flow of illegal money."


In just five years from 2004-08 alone, the country lost roughly Rs.4.3 lakh crore to such outflows. That is — nearly two and a half times the value of the 2G telecom scam now exercising Parliament and the media. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) pegs the 2G scam at almost Rs.1.8 lakh crore.


Accounting for the rate of return on those illegal outflows, the present value of that $ 213 billion reaches $ 462 billion (Rs.21 lakh crore) says GFI. Astonishingly, over $96 billion of that amount left the country between 2004 and 2008. As the report's author, Dev Kar, told The Hindu: "India is losing capital at an average rate of $19.3 billion per annum ... India can ill afford to ignore such a loss of capital."


As the report puts it: "Had India managed to avoid this staggering loss of capital, the country could have paid off its outstanding external debt of $230.6 billion (as of end-2008) and have another half left over for poverty alleviation and economic development."


At the 2004-08 pace (if it has not gone up), the economy is haemorrhaging at a rate of nearly Rs.240 crore every day on average. And even the total $462 billion, says GFI Director Raymond W. Baker in a letter prefacing the report, is "a conservative estimate. It does not include smuggling, certain forms of trade mispricing and gaps in available statistics." Factor these in, and "it is entirely reasonable to estimate that more than a half-trillion dollars have drained from India since independence."


The study


The GFI study is titled "The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India: 1948-2008." Authored by Dr. Kar, formerly a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and now Lead Economist at the GFI, it defines 'illicit flows' as "comprised of funds that are illegally earned, transferred, or utilised — if laws were broken in the origin, movement, or use of the funds then they are illicit." Such fund transfers are not recorded in the country of origin for they typically violate that nation's laws and banking regulations.


So massive are these illegal outflows, says the study, that the "total capital flight represents approximately 16.6 per cent of India's GDP as of year-end 2008." Its estimate falls far short of the $1.4 trillion figure cited in the India media prior to the 2009 general elections. But, says the report, "the figure still represents a staggering loss of capital." Illegal flight of capital, it says, "worsens income distribution, reduces the effectiveness of external aid, and hampers economic development."


That does seem an obvious outcome in a country where according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS), 836 million human beings live spending Rs.20 a day or less.


The illegal outflows also account for most of India's parallel economy. "The total value of (such) illicit assets held abroad represents about 72 per cent of the size of India's underground economy which has been estimated at 50 per cent of India's GDP (or about $640 billion at end-2008) by several researchers. This implies that only about 28 per cent of illicit assets of India's underground economy are held domestically." It also strengthens arguments that "the desire to amass wealth without attracting government attention is one of the primary motivations behind the cross-border transfer of illicit capital."


The GFI study makes two vital points amongst others that will surely stoke ongoing debates in the country. One: the drain bloated massively in the era of economic liberalisation and reforms starting with 1991. Two: "High net-worth individuals and private companies were found to be the primary drivers of illicit flows out of India's private sector." Conversely, "India's underground economy is also a significant driver of illicit financial flows."


Tax havens


As Mr. Baker says: "What is clear is that, during the post-reform period of 1991-2008, deregulation and trade liberalisation have accelerated the outflow of illicit money from the Indian economy. The opportunities for trade mispricing have grown, and expansion of the global shadow financial system accommodates hot money, particularly in island tax havens. Disguised corporations situated in secrecy jurisdictions enable billions of dollars shifting out of India to "round trip," coming back into short and long-term investments, often with the intention of generating unrecorded transfers again in a self-reinforcing cycle." Interestingly, the points about high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and corporates and 'mispricing' take the debate way beyond the clichéd 'corrupt politician' explanation.


Lauds reform


The report, while stressing these factors, says that given the limitations of available data, it found "scant evidence that imprudent macroeconomic policies drove illicit flows from the country." It lauds the post 1991-reform era. And praises Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for launching "India's free market reforms that saved the country," in its view, "from financial ruin and placed it on a path to sustained economic growth." On the role of macroeconomic policies in the outflows, it says there is yet work to be done, data to be generated.


But its own evidence on how the outflows escalated post-1991 is pretty damning. And India's liberalisation itself — in which period the GFI study records the greatest drain — was about a sea change in macroeconomic policies. The study notes a rise in inequality in the reform period. And acknowledges, in its summary, that "A more skewed distribution of income implies that there are many more HNWIs in India now than ever before." It implies that governance issues, deregulation without new oversight and a complex web of other factors were more to blame.


GFI calls for measures that would require country-by-country reporting of sales, profits and taxes paid by multinational corporations. It recommends India should curb 'trade mispricing.' Because "transfers of illicit capital through trade mispricing account for 77.6 per cent of total outflows from India over the period 1948-2008." It advises steps that would require automatic cross-border exchange of tax information on personal and business accounts. And actions that would harmonise vital matters under anti-money laundering laws across nations.








A history of the humanities in the 20th century could be chronicled in "isms" — formalism, Freudianism, structuralism, postcolonialism — grand intellectual cathedrals from which assorted interpretations of literature, politics and culture spread.


The next big idea in language, history and the arts? Data.


Members of a new generation of digitally savvy humanists argue it is time to stop looking for inspiration in the next political or philosophical "ism" and start exploring how technology is changing our understanding of the liberal arts. This latest frontier is about method, they say, using powerful technologies and vast stores of digitised materials that previous humanities scholars did not have.


Looking at war, jazz, texts


These researchers are digitally mapping Civil War battlefields to understand what role topography played in victory, using databases of thousands of jam sessions to track how musical collaborations influenced jazz, searching through large numbers of scientific texts and books to track where concepts first appeared and how they spread, and combining animation, charts and primary documents about Thomas Jefferson's travels to create new ways to teach history.


This alliance of geeks and poets has generated exhilaration and also anxiety. The humanities, after all, deal with elusive questions of aesthetics, existence and meaning, the words that bring tears or the melody that raises goose bumps. Are these elements that can be measured?


"The digital humanities do fantastic things," said the eminent Princeton historian Anthony Grafton. "I'm a believer in quantification. But I don't believe quantification can do everything. So much of humanistic scholarship is about interpretation."


"It's easy to forget the digital media are means and not ends," he added.


Digital humanities scholars also face a more practical test: What knowledge can they produce that their predecessors could not? "I call it the 'Where's the beef?' question," said Tom Scheinfeldt, managing director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.


New grant programme


Hoping to find the "beef," the National Endowment for the Humanities teamed up with the National Science Foundation and institutions in Canada and Britain last year to create the Digging Into Data Challenge, a grant programme designed to push research in new directions.


As Brett Bobley, director of the endowment's office of digital humanities, explained, analysing unprecedented amounts of data can reveal patterns and trends and raise unexpected questions for study. He offered the human genome project as an example of how an area of study can be transformed: "Technology hasn't just made astronomy, biology and physics more efficient. It has let scientists do research they simply couldn't do before."


Mr. Bobley said the emerging field of digital humanities is probably best understood as an umbrella term covering a wide range of activities, from online preservation and digital mapping to data mining and the use of geographic information systems.


Most humanities professors remain unaware, uninterested or unconvinced that digital humanities has much to offer. Even historians, who have used databases before, have been slow to embrace the trend. Just one of the nearly 300 main panels scheduled for next year's annual meeting of the American Historical Association covers digital matters. Still, universities, professional associations and private institutions are increasingly devoting a larger slice of the pie to the field.


"The humanities and social sciences are the emerging domains for using high-performance computers," said Peter Bajcsy, a research scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


In Europe


In Europe 10 nations have embarked on a large-scale project, beginning in March, that plans to digitise arts and humanities data. Last summer Google awarded $1 million to professors doing digital humanities research, and last year the National Endowment for the Humanities spent $2 million on digital projects.


One of the endowment's grantees is Dan Edelstein, an associate professor of French and Italian at Stanford University who is charting the flow of ideas during the Enlightenment. The era's great thinkers — Locke, Newton, Voltaire — exchanged tens of thousands of letters; Voltaire alone wrote more than 18,000.


"You could form an impressionistic sense of the shape and content of a correspondence, but no one could really know the whole picture," said Mr. Edelstein, who, along with collaborators at Stanford and Oxford University in England, is using a geographic information system to trace the letters' journeys.


He continued: "Where were these networks going? Did they actually have the breadth that people would often boast about, or were they functioning in a different way? We're able to ask new questions."


One surprising revelation of the Mapping the Republic of Letters project was the paucity of exchanges between Paris and London, Mr. Edelstein said. The common narrative is that the Enlightenment started in England and spread to the rest of Europe. "You would think if England was this fountainhead of freedom and religious tolerance," he said, "there would have been greater continuing interest there than what our correspondence map shows us."


Bayeux Tapestry project


Mr. Edelstein said that many of his senior colleagues view his work as whimsical, the result of playing with technological toys. But he argues such play can lead to discoveries. Figuring out how to collect, house and connect more than 350 years of scholarship motivated Martin K. Foys, a medievalist at Drew University in Madison, N.J., to create a digital map of the Bayeux Tapestry, a gargantuan 11th-century embroidery displayed in a museum in Bayeux, France, that depicts the Battle of Hastings, when the Normans conquered England. At 224 feet long, about two-thirds the length of a football field, this tapestry is both a work of art and a historical document that mingles text and image.


"It is almost impossible to study traditionally," Mr. Foys said. No single person could possibly digest the work's enormous amount of material, and no single printing could render it accurately, so Mr. Foys created a prize-winning digital version with commentary that scholars could scroll through. Such digital mapping has the potential to transform medieval studies, Mr. Foys said.


Online network of maps


His latest project, which he directs with Shannon Bradshaw, a computer scientist at Drew, and Asa Simon Mittman, an art historian from California State University, Chico, is an online network of medieval maps and texts that scholars can work on simultaneously. Once specific areas of maps are identified and tagged with information, it becomes possible to analyse and compare quantifiable data about images and sources, he explained, adding, "We have a whole new set of tools not dominated by the written word."


The online network of maps is distinct from most scholarly endeavours in another respect: It is communal. The traditional model of the solitary humanities professor, toiling away in an archive or spending years composing a philosophical treatise or historical opus is replaced in this project with contributions from a global community of experts.


"The ease with which a community can collaborate on the production of scholarship is something that is fundamentally changing the way we do our work," said Foys, whose 2007 book, "Virtually Anglo-Saxon," discusses the influence of technology on scholarship.


Digital humanities is so new that its practitioners are frequently surprised by what develops.


When the collected published works of Abraham Lincoln were posted online a few years ago, the director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Daniel W. Stowell, said he expected historians to be the most frequent visitors to his project's site. But he was surprised to discover that the heaviest users were connected to Oxford University Press; editors of the Oxford English Dictionary had been searching the papers to track down the first appearance of particular words.


"People will use this data in ways we can't even imagine yet," Stowell said, "and I think that is one of the most exciting developments in the humanities."— © New York Times News Service








Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), travelled to Silicon Valley on November 16 to meet with top executives of several technology firms about a proposal to make it easier to wiretap Internet users.


Mr. Mueller and the FBI's general counsel, Valerie Caproni, were scheduled to meet with senior managers of several major companies, including Google and Facebook, according to several people familiar with the discussions. How Mr. Mueller's proposal was received was not clear.


"I can confirm that FBI Director Robert Mueller is visiting Facebook during his trip to Silicon Valley," said Andrew Noyes, Facebook's public policy manager.


Michael Kortan, an FBI spokesman, acknowledged the meetings but did not elaborate.


Mr. Mueller wants to expand a 1994 law, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, to impose regulations on Internet companies.


The law requires phone and broadband network access providers like Verizon and Comcast to make sure they can immediately comply when presented with a court wiretapping order.


Law enforcement officials want the 1994 law to also cover Internet companies because people increasingly communicate online. An interagency task force consisting of officials within the Obama administration is trying to develop legislation for the plan, and submit it to Congress early next year.


The Commerce Department and State Department have questioned whether it would inhibit innovation, as well as whether repressive regimes might harness the same capabilities to identify political dissidents, according to officials familiar with the discussions.


Services overseas


Under the proposal, firms would have to design systems to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages. Services based overseas would have to route communications through a server on U.S. soil where they could be wiretapped.


A Google official declined to comment. Mr. Noyes said it would be premature for Facebook to take a position.— © New York Times News Service







Medical authorities in Haiti defended their decision on November 16 not to focus on finding the origins of a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people and stoked violent demonstrations against United Nations peacekeepers, whom many people blame for introducing the disease.


Protests that began late on November 15 in Cap Haitien and other cities and carried on into the next day left two people dead as demonstrators directed their ire at the peacekeepers, a 12,000-strong, multinational force that arrived in Haiti in 2004 in response to political conflict.


A spokesman for the U.N. force said the protesters were using the escalating cholera epidemic as an excuse to push the troops out and destabilise the country before the November 28 presidential election.


"These are not genuine demonstrations," said the spokesman, Vincenzo Pugliese. "They are using spoilers paid to create chaos." U.N. health workers said the demonstrations were hampering the treatment of victims in Cap Haitien, where supplies are running low and the death rate is high.


Some Haitians see the peacekeepers as hard-line occupiers while others support them out of concern that the national police are unable to maintain order.


Cholera strain 'identified'


Tensions around the force have increased after health officials identified the cholera strain as coming from South Asia and found that the bacteria, which live in faeces, had contaminated a river where Nepalese troops had arrived in October shortly before the outbreak began.


Reporters in Haiti found signs of poor sanitation at the camp, but the U.N. mission has steadfastly denied that the troops are to blame, and has said repeated tests have failed to link the cholera to them. South Asia is home to many cholera strains.


Scientists have said that based on initial testing of its genetic traits, the cholera strain appears to have been brought to Haiti in contaminated food, water or carried in an individual.


Before this outbreak, cholera had not been documented in Haiti at least in the past century.


And while the testing has not linked the disease to the troops, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, it could not be ruled out. "We are focussed on treating people, getting a handle on this and saving lives," said Daniel Epstein, a spokesman for the Pan American Health Organisation, the branch of the WHO operating in Haiti.


Dr. Jordan Tappero, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is leading medical investigators in Haiti, said by telephone that it was unlikely that scientists would pinpoint where the outbreak began, and that he did not think mounting an all-out effort to find the answer "is a good use of resources."


Outside epidemiologists said it was important to study the bacteria and where it came from to expand understanding of how the disease travels and mutates, but they generally agreed that treating victims was more important.


Studying the genetics of the strain "would give a better idea where it came from," said Dr. David Sack, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies cholera outbreaks, "But I agree it is more important to prevent the disease and control it. It should not be killing people."


The Haitian government said on November 16 that the death toll had reached 1,034, with 16,799 people treated for cholera or symptoms of the disease. Health officials in the Dominican Republic said on November 16 they had found the first confirmed case of cholera, in a Haitian citizen who recently returned from his home country, said The Associated Press. — © New York Times News Service









The Union home ministry has shown purposefulness in asking the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for a report on the sudden collapse of a five-storeyed building in a slum area in East Delhi's Laxmi Nagar earlier this week, which caused the death of about 70 labourers who lived in that hellhole. Many are still trapped in the debris and

the fatalities could be higher. An unconscionably large number of poor families have also been seriously injured. This could mean the impairment for life, in a single incident which is neither an industrial accident nor a natural calamity, of a significant number of daily wage earners. So massive has been the tragedy that the National Disaster Management Authority has had to step in. In some ways this makes the episode unique.
The home ministry's action suggests that the Centre is alive to the sorry reality that the rampant corruption in civic governance, which allowed such a building to be in existence in the first place, is likely to be an all-India phenomenon. The home ministry's directive, one hopes, is also indicative of the fact that the Centre will take the further step to alert all state governments to look into the question of hurriedly constructed buildings in major urban centres within their jurisdiction, especially those that house the migrant poor who flock to big cities in search of employment in construction, road building and other largescale civil works (as was evident during the recent Commonwealth Games). Followup measures by the Centre that might be of practical value to the state governments in dealing with the problem are also called for.

A large number of the daily-wage earners killed in the Laxmi Nagar tragedy happened to be from West Bengal. But they could just as well have been from other places. Cross-country livelihood-seeking migration of the poorest (since core agriculture cannot sustain a rising rural population, and agro-industries are generally absent) has been a reality for long. With the expansion of urbanisation as the economy expands, provision must be made to house the poor in a hygienic and safe environment, and not throw them into the embrace of real estate sharks — whose numbers are rising in direct proportion to housing shortages in cities — that was evidently the case at Laxmi Nagar. This is a pressing need. So is the decongestion of major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru so that better amenities for all, not excluding the poor, can be supplied. In this respect we have fallen behind many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Not for a moment should we lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming bulk of employment in India is in the unorganised sector which receives the least funding for the provision of the basic necessities of life — health, housing, schooling, even when ill-paid jobs can be had.

The Union home ministry might have done well to ask the MCD and the Delhi government for an action taken report on the arrests made. While never before have so many people been killed in a single incident of this nature in the nation's capital, illegal structures in Delhi — mostly of faulty design and resting on shaky foundations — could run into lakhs, and many of these can cave in without warning. This points to the flouting of land-use and building regulations by the land mafia on a gigantic scale in collusion with officials. Shockingly, the Laxmi Nagar building housed residential tenements, factories and workshops. Even as its basement remained submerged for weeks, its owner — who has now been arrested — received permission to build a fifth floor. Let not the MCD fool anyone that only buildings near the Yamuna riverbed are at risk and should be inspected for repair or demolition.








The release of Aung San Suu Kyi comes at an important juncture in India's relations with Burma. During the visit of General Than Shwe — leader of the junta and Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council — to India earlier this year, the two sides concluded a raft of economic and security deals and agreements. The

lengthy joint statement issued at the end of the visit made no reference to the political situation within Burma, let alone anything about the internment of Ms Suu Kyi. This was particularly problematic in the context of political developments in the country: the adoption of undemocratic election laws; the disqualification of Ms Suu Kyi and the dissolution of her party, the National League for Democracy.

India's stance has been criticised by Western democracies. US President Barack Obama's pointed observations in his speech to the Indian parliament captured the prevailing views on this subject. India, he noted, had "often shied away" from condemning gross violations of human rights. When the Burma junta openly suppressed democratic aspirations of its people, "democracies of the world cannot remain silent". India's concerns, he suggested, stemmed from a misplaced concern about violating the principle of state sovereignty.

In fact, concerns about state sovereignty have seldom inhibited India from speaking its mind. Think of India's consistent and vocal criticism of apartheid in South Africa — not least when Western democracies were mealy-mouthed on the issue. Rather, India's stance on Burma reflects both its better understanding of the problem and its realpolitik calculations. The latter, however, seem to be based on questionable assumptions. And there is scope to finetune and bring them in sync with our democratic identity and values.

The dominant Western narrative about Burma is of a struggle dating back to the 1980s between forces of democracy led by Ms Suu Kyi and the repressive junta. This captures an important facet of the political context in Burma, but it is too simplistic and myopic. Any meaningful attempt towards a democratic transition will have to address a larger set of problems — issues that played a critical role in weakening democracy and tightening the junta's grip in the first place. The country's debilitating problems date back to World War ii. Some of the most difficult and brutal battles of the war were fought in Burma. The British decided that a war-ravaged Burma was not worth holding on to. By the end of 1946, they began to parley with the leader of the Burmese resistance forces, Aung San (father of Ms Suu Kyi). The following year tragedy struck, as Aung San and several members of his cabinet were murdered under circumstances that still remain obscure. Worse, by 1948 the situation in Burma had spiralled into a civil war.

The communist party was the first group to take up arms against the government. Soon, an Islamist insurgency erupted in the north of Arakan. Shortly thereafter, the Karens and Kachins of the highlands turned against the Rangoon government. A couple of years later, the Shans joined the ranks of rebelling tribes. These groups had enjoyed considerable autonomy under the British and feared that their standing would be eroded in a self-proclaimed Buddhist Burma. Some of the groups were rather well armed, having played a major role in the anti-Japanese resistance during World War ii. Others benefited from covert support by China and Thailand.
This anarchical situation resulted in gradual militarisation of the Burmese state. The military began to consume the largest slice of the financial pie and became by far the most powerful actor. Only in 1989 did the government begin to negotiate ceasefire accords. These have been concluded with 16 groups so far. But the underlying disputes are yet to be resolved. A broad attempt at national reconciliation will have to focus on these disputes as well as the demands of Ms Suu Kyi. Reacting to her release, foreign minister S.M. Krishna expressed hope that this would be "the beginning of the process of reconciliation in Burma". But New Delhi can do more than simply hope for "an inclusive approach to political change". It can certainly nudge the junta to move further and faster.

Part of the reason why India is unwilling to do so is its concern about China's influence in Burma. China is its largest trading partner, supplying everything from military equipment to foodgrain. China's involvement in a range of infrastructure projects has also been a matter of concern for India. These are seen as facilitating China's access to the Indian Ocean. Yet New Delhi should not over-estimate China's clout nor regard every Chinese move as detrimental to Indian interests. Historically, Burma's relationship with China was rarely smooth. Although the two sides managed to resolve the boundary dispute, China continued to assist Burmese communists and insurgents. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, anti-Chinese riots erupted in Rangoon. It was only after 1989 that China and Burma grew closer, united by the international criticism of their human rights record.

Nevertheless, in the past few years the Sino-Burma honeymoon appears to have ended. The junta purge of 2004 and the dismantling of military intelligence network removed key Chinese contacts. The decision in November 2005 to relocate the capital to Naypyidaw took the Chinese by surprise. Beijing made its displeasure clear in January 2007, when its envoy told the UN Security Council that the problems in Burma were "quite serious". Later that year, Beijing allowed the Security Council to issue a presidential statement critical of the junta. In the wake of Cyclone Nargis the following year, the Chinese urged the junta to cooperate with the UN.
New Delhi need not assume that a more forthright stance towards the junta will necessarily redound to Beijing's advantage. Our Burma policy has to remain ahead of the trajectory of political developments inside that country. Let's not forget the central feature of recent democratic transitions: before it happens every revolution seems impossible, but after it happens it seems inevitable. The challenge is to avoid being caught out by history.

Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi








In the heat generated by the various scams and allegations of corruption at high levels, many other issues have not got the attention they deserve. One such is the rising criticism of reality shows like Rakhi ka Insaaf and Bigg Boss. Many are getting concerned at the shocking content of such programmes — the former, which is aboutsummary justice doled out by a loud Rakhi Sawant has even been blamed for causing the suicide of a participant. On the latter, a motley group of almost famous and notorious characters, including a former dacoit (Seema Parihar), a petty thief who was asked to leave the show in the first week itself (Bunty), and a loudmouth woman whose vocabulary seems to consist of only bad language (Dolly Bindra), are in their element as they try to make themselves interesting. How low can these channels go in their bid to attract TRPs, is the question that is being asked.

We have been here before. In 1991, soon after the first Gulf War brought satellite television into our homes, thus breaking the monopoly of Doordarshan, Star TV of Hong Kong launched its service with a whole bouquet of entertainment programmes. There was music, there was dance and there were the soaps. Music videos became the rage on Channel V. Star Plus gave us sitcoms and soaps, usually a few years old in the US but still fresh and dazzlingly new for us.

One of the shows was The Bold and the Beautiful, a daytime soap opera about the goings on in a California family, the Forresters, who were in the fashion business. The stars were uniformly good looking, the sets were opulent and stylish and the storylines were, well, complicated. There were love affairs, break ups, jealousies and intrigue galore. And there was… kissing. For the first time, audiences saw kissing scenes on the small screen, beamed right there in their living rooms.

The government was already concerned about the attack on DD's monopoly by satellite broadcasters; when some people began complaining about this attack on Indian culture, it was forced to sit up and take notice. All kinds of proposals were discussed, including investing in equipment to jam the signals. The moralists were outraged and housewives were quoted as saying they could no longer watch television along with their families.
How quaint those days seem. Kissing on television is hardly noticed now; much worse (in a manner of speaking) is now available on the box, to say nothing of the Internet. Parents can't, even if they want to, stop their kids from watching adult films; they are so freely available.

The interesting point is that much of the muck on television today is not from abroad; it is by Indian producers made for Indian audiences. Each passing day brings a new abomination which touches a new low.

Take Rakhi ka Insaaf. The show is a cross between two American concepts, Judge Judy and the Jerry Springer Show. The first has a genuine judge who arbitrates on petty matters between two people. Her style is usually that of a strict law officer with dollops of common sense and grandmotherly strictures. Her verdict is final. The ambience and mood is almost like a real court, with all the attendant formalities.

The Jerry Springer Show is much more raucous. Issues such as homophobia, illicit affairs, incest are freely discussed; no perversity is too shocking to be aired. The participants come from the lower strata of society — commonly called trailer trash — and are seemingly chosen for their sheer vulgarity, in looks, appearance and language. Half way through the show it usually gets into the two sides hitting each other (literally) and then someone or the other takes off their clothes. It has been called the worst show in the world, and it is a badge the producers wear with honour.

By comparison Rakhi ka Insaaf is much milder, but for how long? We have already seen people hitting each other. Fights break out on Bigg Boss all the time. The objective is clear — make it loud, make it nasty and the TRPs will follow.

Should we be concerned? Taste is in the eyes of the beholder, so setting objective standards is never going to be easy and certainly not by the government. Plus, nobody wants censorship. In the simpler 1990s too the proposal to somehow jam the shows was discarded, not the least because government censorship is anathema in a free society. But then what can be done to prevent such cheap programming?

Any change can only come about when the two most important components in the television equation — the viewers and the advertisers — show their disapproval, the first by tuning off from such shows and the latter by withdrawing sponsorship. When marketers see that TRPs are falling (and they will, once every cheap trick in the book has been utilised), they will pull out which, in turn, will force producers to try other types of programming. That may not happen for a long time, so brace yourself for even more schlock and sleaze on your television sets.


The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai









The family seemed to be dying a slow death in Europe, especially in that radical corner of Scandinavia where divorces soared, pornography flourished and experiments in social and personal relations were tried out.


Now it seems people are flocking back to some of the older norms and certainties, according to a study by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The heterosexual nuclear family is still the dominant norm — about 70% — though other forms like homosexual families and something called the international mobile family have also emerged.


What is interesting is that people are now flocking to the institution of family more out of rational, rather than romantic and traditional considerations. That is, individuals are calculating the economic, social and emotional advantages of the family. This is something that should warm the hearts of social conservatives and even ordinary folk who are a little tired and disoriented by the social posturing of the ultra-radicals.


People are hungering for a normal social life, and this desire and need is reflected in the new social contours. It is not exactly a triumph of old values, because the institution of family has mutated. But what seems clear is that people long for family bonding and that is good news.






US president Barack Obama announced to the world that his country will back India for a permanent seat in a reformed UN Security Council (UNSC). But he had also cautioned that it would not happen any time soon. It seems Indian diplomats and bureaucrats have missed that last point.


Ever since Obama's announcement, the ministry of external affairs has gone into overdrive to seek support from every other nation, including Russia and China, for a declaration of support for a reformed UNSC soon. So much so that Washington DC was forced to issue a note saying that reforming the UNSC will take time.


India would do well to heed that advice. Reforming the UNSC has been on the cards ever since the Cold War ended and that it took nearly two decades to even get the US to say that India deserved a permanent seat only shows how complicated and slow-moving the process is. Given that any change will meet with lots of resistance — not least from China and Pakistan — it might well be another decade by the time a reformed UNSC is born.


Moreover, reforming the UNSC is not just about giving India a permanent seat. We need to go back to basics: what will the reformed UN do beyond giving representation to under-represented constituencies and recognising changes in the power structure since World War II? What should be the criteria for choosing a new member? Should there be additional members or should some existing permanent members make way? Should the veto power continue to exist? Each of these queries is a landmine of politics, diplomacy, and national pride; none of them will be answered in a hurry.


India would do well to hasten slowly, even though our case is probably the strongest, as The Economist acknowledged in a recent editorial. The best way to reform the UN is to build a broad constituency of support among the big powers and the emerging ones. This will take time, tact and deal-making capabilities. It works best behind-the-scenes.






Where does the buck stop in our Constitutional democracy? Presumably, with the prime minister. This is the context in which the Supreme Court asked Manmohan Singh why it took him so long to reply to a complaint filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy about the 2G spectrum allocation in 2007-08.


Swamy sought the removal of A Raja from the council of ministers and wanted permission to prosecute him. He had made his complaint in November 2008, but received a reply from the PM's office only in October 2010. This contrasts with the apex court's deadline of three months for the sanction for prosecution in such cases, which have to do with free and fair governance.


There are a couple of issues that need to be discussed. The first arises from the apex court's question about the rights of a private citizen in a democracy to prosecute a tainted civil servant or minister. The past 60-and-odd years have demonstrated that we are still a democracy in the making.


The rights of the citizen as far as governance is concerned have not been fully understood — or even acknowledged in passing. But as recent elections have shown, the old caste and ideology equations no longer yield the same bang for the buck. The electorate wants governance and that means it must be given proper answers to the questions exercising its mind.


The Congress has prided itself on the fact that the prime minister's personal reputation is spotless. While it got rid of two party members accused of corruption, its hands were tied as far as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and A Raja were concerned. This last argument is specious. The DMK is part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and cannot, therefore, be held to some other yardstick on probity.


Despite the exigencies of coalition politics, the Congress and other parties within the UPA should have acted much faster in the 2G spectrum allocation scam — at least once the Comptroller and Auditor General made its first allegations. The amount of money involved here far exceeds the excesses of the Commonwealth Games and the loss to the exchequer is nothing short of criminal.


Even a man with a spotless personal record would not like to be accused of political pusillanimity and that, unfortunately, is what the prime minister has shown here. The country's is waiting to see some prime ministerial spine soon. Or is LK Advani right, that Singh is the weakest PM we've had so far?







Every morning at a park at Patna's Patliputra colony, I saw this gentleman with his kid who pedalled on his tricycle. Every time the father said it was time to go, the kid mumbled, "Five more minutes, Dad". The father loved to be nudged to stay on. I was witness to this scene for more than a month until we got acquainted.


Rhishab Goenka was the chairman of Goenka Steel Factory Ltd. "You seem to love spending time with your son," I said. "Precisely," he replied. "Rounak, who is 3, is all I have left now. In him lies my mortal felicity ever since I lost my wife and daughter a year ago".


For the businessman in Goenka, family was always a distant second. Rohini, 7 and Rounak, 2 yearned for their papa's attention and Dipika for her husband's love. But he didn't have the time. The dazzle of lucre was far too blinding. Then it happened. On a trip to Gaya with her children, Dipika's car had an accident. Rohini and she died instantly. Rounak survived, miraculously, albeit with a prosthetic foot. Today, every extra moment spent with Rounak is a lifetime lived for Goenka.


Family, warned American businessman Lee Iacocca, is a fading institution in a materialistic world; its importance sometimes appreciated when it's too late. Goenka is a stark reminder of how we, in the hustle and din to add to our purse, often ignore our family.








Almost 70 people died in Delhi on Monday, as the house they lived in came crashing down on them. It was a shoddily constructed five-story building in a lower middle class area, dedicated to squeezing money out of poor labourers and other migrants in need of shelter. Years ago, that neighbourhood had taught me the term 'unauthorised regularised'. In short, legalised illegal houses.


The dead were people in their prime who had travelled far from home, leaving their villages in distant Bihar or Bengal in search of a better life. They had fled long-neglected villages deprived of basic opportunities and fallen straight into the hell-hole that migrants in big cities live in. Scores of them had moved to this house built of sand and greed after their slums were demolished to beautify Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. These were lesser Indians, labour used to build our shining India, not people we need to grieve for.


The person who would have grieved for them had died the day before, in another part of Delhi. L.C. Jain, distinguished Gandhian activist and economist, was an unwavering critic of government policies divorced from the masses, that focused blindly on industrial progress, withered village economies and led to premature urbanisation as desperate villagers migrated in search of work. "The stomach is a biological tyrant," he said.


Jain, Magsaysay awardee, former High Commissioner to South Africa and member of the Planning Commission, passed away on November 14th, Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday. He had worked closely with Nehru on many of his people-centric projects in newly Independent India, and later grown disillusioned with Nehru's priorities. As a firm believer of Gandhian principles, Jain was a fervent advocate of decentralisation of power and strongly opposed the government's over-reliance on the bureaucracy and centralised production processes.


As a Gandhian, he believed that social and economic freedoms were prerequisites of political freedom. That the equality of all citizens – exemplified by 'one person one vote' – would be secured only when everyone had access to food and employment that gave them purchasing power, and this was possible by focusing on local produce and local self government, not on national or global production that steadily disempowered the majority.


He believed that higher education was all very well, but till every citizen had basic education, we had failed to free ourselves. In short, he believed that for real progress, India needs to strengthen its grassroots. An early critic of top-down development, Jain insisted that participatory development was in the interest of the government. For government programmes to succeed, the people need to have a sense of ownership, he said.


Following Partition, when refugees from the North West Frontier Province flooded Delhi, Jain, working closely with Nehru, helped them build their own city next door, Faridabad, entirely through labour cooperatives, where workers owned industries and set up community health and education systems. With Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay he organised the Indian Cooperative Union and set up the Cottage Industries Emporium which brought craft centrestage and gave artisans independence, dignity and access to a wider market. He also created the government-run Super Bazaar, India's first people's supermarket.


With Jain we lost perhaps the last pillar of the original dream of India. Like hundreds who were privileged to know him, I will miss this deeply affectionate, soft-spoken idealist with a deceptively fragile look, gentle eyes and a mischievous smile.







The Supreme Court (SC) asked the right question of Manmohan Singh. Why did you sit for so long on Subramanian Swamy's request to prosecute A Raja, the now-disgraced former telecom minister? The key to unravelling the spectrum mess lies in the answer to this. That Raja has resigned is neither here nor there. It's obvious he quit to save his boss, M Karunanidhi, the blushes.


The media is barking up the wrong tree because it has put three people — the PM, Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi — in the "beyond reproach" category. Going after them, and the businessmen involved, has consequences for journalists and the media — loss of access to the dynasty, harassment of Tamil Nadu-based journalists, etc. This is why the focus is on Raja and some faceless bureaucrats.


Raja is the symptom of the underlying rot. The disease is something else. The prime minister knows the answer to the Supreme Court's question, but he cannot utter it. Sonia Gandhi also knows the answer, but she is completely unaccountable to anyone. Raja knows the answer, but he cannot speak ill of his mentor and master. Karunanidhi knows the answer, but why will he say anything to incriminate himself?


What one can be absolutely certain of is: after a tense few months of finger-pointing, after a few thousand hours of questioning and maybe some arrests, nothing will be heard of the spectrum scam. Reason: the nexus between the guilty — from businessmen to politicians and bureaucrats — is too strong for anyone to let the other go under. They are all guilty, and that is the reason why they will hang together.


Let's start again with the SC's question: why did it take the PM so long to reply to Swamy? The answer: the division of responsibilities between Singh and Sonia is such that the former manages the government and the latter, the coalition. Since Spectrum Raja was a protected species in coalition politics, only Sonia could take a call on him.


This may be a complete travesty of Constitutional arrangements and the system of collective ministerial accountability, but that's what Sonia and Manmohan have agreed.Bringing Raja to heel needed Sonia to tackle Karunanidhi — which she didn't. Hers is the first culpability.


Meanwhile, Manmohan did what he could. He bleated on about transparency, but could do zilch about reining in Raja. In 2009 he even tried to keep Raja out of the ministry, but failed when Sonia buckled under Karunanidhi's pressure tactics. The reason why Singh could not reply to Swamy's request was that he could not cross Sonia's advice. If he had said go ahead, Karunanidhi would have rocked the boat. If he had done nothing, Singh would have been complicit in Raja's crimes.


He did the next best thing. He played for time, and sent the CBI in to probe in the hope that when things got really hot, Raja will quit. When the time was ripe, the Congress ensured a few strategic leaks, and the CAG report was used to raise the level of pressure on Raja.


Now let's look at the crime from the side of the likely guilty parties: Raja and his party boss. It is foolish to presume that Raja perpetrated a scam just to feather his own nest. Remember, the main reason why the previous DMK minister in charge of telecom, Dayanidhi Maran, was removed was because he fell out with Karunanidhi. The whispered reason was that there was some dispute about resources.


Raja took his place because he was someone Karunanidhi trusted. It is thus reasonable to assume that Raja's tenure was used to serve Karunanidhi's interests.


What next? With Raja out, will the truth finally emerge? Will the CBI go after the culprits? Most unlikely. For one, the Congress is gaining the upper hand with DMK. It has no reason to let go of it. Two, the nexus between businessmen and politics is so strong, that any hasty prosecution will have huge political and economic ramifications. Three, the business rivalries that allowed the telecom scam to surface in the first place cannot be allowed to go too far.


With the DMK now on tenterhooks about how far the Congress will allow the CBI to proceed against them, Karunanidhi will not be eager to rock the boat. With Jayalalithaa dangling the bait of support to the Congress, he is on the back foot, especially with state assembly elections round the corner. The Congress, if it does not overplay its hand, will probably promise to save him from CBI inquiries as long as he allows the party to put telecom back on the right path.


Businessmen will also be pressuring the Congress to go slow. Reason: the CAG report has already identified the links between Anil Ambani and Raja. This may suit Mukesh Ambani, but the scores of other licensees who are similarly threatened will want to do a deal with the government. Congress will thus be in the happy position of being wooed by business and the DMK for favours. It can have its cake and eat it too. It is unlikely to go after Raja beyond a point.









LE CORBUSIER will turn in his grave if he were to see the grotesque and wholesale changes made over the years in the master plan of Chandigarh, a city which he so lovingly conceptualised. He was adamant that no other city should come up anywhere near its vicinity. Yet, we have SAS Nagar and Panchkula, which are only metres away from it. Many rue that the basic character of the planned city is as good as gone, all in the name of making "need-based adjustments". Still, a firm line has to be drawn somewhere, and the sooner it is done the better. Things are destined to turn a lot uglier if a high-rise housing project comes up at Kansal village and blocks the uninterrupted view of the Shivaliks which is the hallmark of the city.


The project, while being a big boon for the developer, is a windfall for about 130 politicians of Punjab who are too powerful to be bothered about the edict of Chandigarh that there should be no development to the north of the Capitol Complex. Since they are the movers and shakers in Punjab, the project has been on a fast track, rules be damned. On paper, the 1,734 apartments in the 19 multi-storey towers (each having 12 to 35 storeys) will be in Punjab but in practice they will all be thriving on the already overstretched infrastructure of City Beautiful. This is one violation which needs to be nipped in the bud if the pristine beauty of the area is to be preserved.


Punjab stakes a vociferous claim on Chandigarh. That is all the more reason for it to make sure that nothing is done to mar the beauty of the capital city which is the pride of the country. Many other beautiful cities like Bengaluru have been done in by similar mindless mushrooming of high-rises. There is no denying the fact that there is pressure on land because of the increasing population, but at least the number of storeys should be firmly controlled. That is all the more necessary in view of the fact that Chandigarh is very much in the seismic zone. 








WHENEVER fake currency notes are seized in the country the needle of suspicion turns towards Pakistan. However, the latest arrests of seven persons from Delhi, Haryana, West Bengal and Bihar carrying counterfeit currency of the face value of Rs 1 crore have provided some hard evidence of Pakistan's involvement in circulating fake notes with a view to destabilising the Indian economy. The quality of paper, printing and security features is so high that the seized fake notes could not have been produced by "non-state actors". Only very high-tech, costly printing machines available with governments could print such notes.


Armed with the evidence, the Indian authorities have decided to approach an international agency, the Financial Action Task Force, which has been set up to curb terror financing and money laundering. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be contacted for getting Pakistan blacklisted. Quite sensibly, the government has refused to take up the issue with the Pakistan government, which always denies its role in such disruptive activities. The ISI game of funding and spreading terror has to be exposed at global forums. There is a not-so-hidden nexus of players involved in drugs, counterfeit currency and terrorism with the blessings of the ISI.


Though there are no latest official figures of the fake currency in circulation in the country, the Naik committee had made the startling revelation a few years ago that illegal currency amounting to about Rs 1,69,000 crore had been in circulation until the year 2000. The figure could be much higher a decade later now. While it makes sense to haul up Pakistan for encouraging economic terrorism, the government should realise that there is no alternative to effectively sealing the international borders and taking precautionary steps like frequently changing the security features of Indian notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations. These features have not been updated since 2005.









MORE than a year ago an indignant nation woke up to the hideous face of ragging, in the wake of Aman Kachroo's death due to ragging. Sadly, today even as the quantum of punishment given to Aman's killers is being debated, the apathy towards the menace of ragging show little signs of diminishing. The laxity in the implementation of anti-ragging measures speaks volumes about the insensitivity of the authorities concerned, both of the educational institutions and of the regulatory bodies like the UGC. The much-hyped anti-ragging hotline that came into operation to check the ragging menace has proved to be of little use. What is even more appalling is that no follow- up action has been taken on complaints involving sexual abuse and death threats.


Clearly, as in Aman's case, the educational institutions are not waking up to enormity of the ragging menace and once again are bucking their responsibility and refusing to protect students from the sadist practice of ragging which is more rampant in professional colleges. Not surprising then despite the nation-wide outcry against ragging the last academic session saw 19 ragging related deaths. While death of the victim is the most virulent form of ragging, even otherwise ragging leads to severe psychological trauma, which is impossibility to quantify. As the details of the complaints have revealed, ragging is no more an innocuous rite to passage but a heinous act bordering on crime. In fact, more than three years ago the apex court had said that no mercy should be shown to those indulging in ragging. Since then it has made many stringent recommendations. Yet even today, the perpetrators neither fear the law nor the education authorities.


Curbing ragging has to be a collective responsibility of educational institutions, the regulatory bodies, parents and teachers. A psychological approach, combined with deterrent action. as recommended by RK Raghavan of the Raghavan committee, who has made many significant observations is a must. Instead of letting good initiatives like the anti-ragging hotline turn into a failure, there is an urgent need to use all possible measures to deal with the problem which has serious ramifications for the 40 million plus student community of India. 

















THERE is a famous saying that "the law is an ass". There may be some truth in it as technicalities, strict interpretation of the law and the police preparing incomplete cases, intentionally or unintentionally, have resulted in even hardened criminals getting away. So far the media has not earned this dubious distinction of being an ass, but if it continues the way it has been acting, it may still earn it. I am not taking up cudgels on behalf of those in the limelight for allegedly behaving in a non-soldierly manner. My aim is to bring the much-needed balance in this one-sided army bashing concerning the Adarsh Housing Society scam for this constant diatribe against the army has little meaning and has now become counter-productive, to say the least. Various inquiries have already been instituted and those who have transgressed the law, irrespective of their status, would undoubtedly be brought to book. This has been explicitly stated by many functionaries of the government as well as by the Army Chief himself.


In recent years the media, especially the electronic variety, has been showing the defence forces in poor light, while reporting on the misdemeanours of a selected few. They do so with impunity. The government and the Press Council watch helplessly from the sidelines as young reporters, some still wet behind the ears, as well as a few anchors go hammer and tongs, repeating the same news over and over again, without any new genuine inputs.


It would seem that for our electronic media, the TRP god is "Breaking News", while the print media at least reports events somewhat calmly without sensationalising or lampooning. Perhaps they do not realise that when a character assassination of the defence leadership takes place in public, it does incalculable harm to the only instrument of the nation that works and works efficiently and with alacrity. Both serving personnel and veterans do want factual news, but are really sickened by sensationalism, innuendos and imaginary news. Unfortunately, all three have been used with impunity and what emerges is a wilful and mischievous maligning of the defence forces. Is the media trying to convey that the entire military of the nation consists of criminals who are scheming to line their pockets? It would seem so, the way a few channels are handling this issue. They seem to forget that, notwithstanding a few black sheep, they are talking about an institution that is known for its honesty, probity and discipline, and which has secured the nation externally and internally and even has been called for tasks which directly fall in the ambit of other instruments of the state.


Let me again state that such sensational reporting does more harm than good to the polity of the nation and people's confidence in the defence forces as well as to the morale of the forces. The number of defence personnel in this so-called scam is minuscule when we consider the vast number of officers in the defence forces. If they think this is part of that much-abused phrase, "freedom of the press", than I suggest they go back to school and re-learn about "responsible reporting". I sometimes wonder whether some in the media work overtime at the behest of a powerful group of individuals who want the defence forces to be wilfully and mischievously maligned for their own agenda like deflecting the heat from bureaucrats of Maharashtra, or others who wish to divert attention from bigger scams like the CWG scam, which seems to have gone off the radar screens of the media.


I have no intention of adding more facts to this sordid affair. However, I must say that the media has "missed the woods for the trees". This happens when the aim is to sensationalise by picking up bits and pieces and then filling the blanks with half-truths and a fertile imagination. In their zeal in showing the defence forces in bad light by concentrating on selected officers of the army and the navy, they have ignored the kingpin and the fountainhead of this entire conspiracy, viz the promoter of the society, R C Thakur, an erstwhile official of the Directorate General of Defence Estates, with a history of underhand dealings in defence lands. It is not Thakur alone but the whole organisation that has done much harm to defence lands throughout the country. The Directorate General of Defence Estates, which is the apex body of the Defence Estates Organisation, has its subordinate offices in all parts of the country. As per its website, "It is entrusted with the task of management of defence lands inside and outside cantonments; and acquisition/hiring of immovable properties for defence purposes". What is not well known and something missed out by the media is that defence land is divided in to many types, like A1, A2, B1 and so on. The army is directly responsible only for A1 land.


There has been speculation whether the building under discussion stands on defence land or not. No one has thought it fit to enquire the true status and type of this piece of land. The Maharashtra Government says the land belongs to them. The promoter says the same. In this distressing episode unless one is clear about the ownership and type of land, there is no point in publicly castigating individuals for their acts of omission and commission.


Lastly, I come to the question of propriety, made much of by at least one channel, especially of senior officers and certainly of those who in the past had steered the forces as chiefs of their service. The point made by the media repeatedly is that they should have known whether the Adarsh Housing Society was an approved society (according to all commentators, it was) and whether it was meant for allotment to Kargil heroes (according to the Maharashtra Government as well as the local defence formations, it was not, except that defence personnel would be eligible to become members). In addition, they should not have used their position to force an allotment for themselves. This of course is treading on thin ice, as the answer could be either way. However, the more important point is that the Maharashtra government officials were the final arbiters of who should be given a flat. It is little wonder that out of the 103 flats in the dubious building the majority have been allotted to political leaders and civil officials of the Maharashtra government or their kin. A perusal of the list of allottees indicates that 33 allottees are from the defence forces (12 flag level and 21 junior officers) and a whopping 70 from the civil society, all of whom are or have been political leaders and officials of the Maharashtra government!


The writer is a former Vice Chief of the Army








It was an auspicious day with solemn significance. This day, some four decades back, the Red Shield Division was raised. Traditional Army style celebrations were unthinkable as the formation was in the thick of counter-insurgency operations, amidst the most inhospitable jungles of Manipur, against militants who had been well entrenched over the years. Literally, the hands were in a hornet's nest.


Innovation is the acme of warfare, as fight is always to the finish, So, to mark this day, most of the units had planned bold operations with great deal of ingenuity. I was particularly edgy about one such action, by a Rajput battalion. It was a complicated mission; raid on a formidable militant base, atop a hill, astride an incognito village — Tulaimazang.


Arduous cross country-move, through a harsh terrain in small bodies, was the only option. The officiating Commanding Officer was personally leading the mission, with four of his plucky officers as team leaders. Interestingly, although this unit had been inducted into operational areas on numerous occasions, it never got the taste of a real fight, as wherever they took the field, the area turned dormant.


It was now past 10 am. Positive inputs had begun to pour in from the units, but the battalion in question was stoically silent. I was beginning to feel concerned. Well, by the midday, the suspense was over. There was a frantic call from the Tulaimazang area about the fierce encounter and request for helicopters to evacuate the casualties. The Operations Room swung into action. Four helicopters were airborne in minutes.


After initial haziness, clearer picture began to emerge. Due to slow cross-country movement, some of the teams converged onto the road to close up with the objective, thus offering a lucrative target. The militants obliged, by springing a hasty ambush. Engagement was at close quarter, with a hand-to-hand fight. All five officers took the hits. They led up front with élan. Despite tactical blunder, due to resilient fightback, the damage was minimised and mission accomplished, though at a price.


At the Military Hospital, I was overwhelmed, seeing officers and men in high spirits. Their camaraderie and fortitude left me stumped. Realisation, that I was worthy of trust of these brave men resonated deep within me. The Red Shield Division couldn't have sought a better deed to re-dedicate itself on its anniversary. Within weeks, these brave young officers were back to their unit, once again undauntedly leading their teams.


Such acts of valour are oft repeated in one sector or the other; be it J&K or the North East. These actions vindicate that structurally, the Army is in excellent shape at the lower end of the pyramid, despite certain inadequacies in the wherewithal. However, when it comes to the apex of the structure, some aspersions are being cast. Incidents involving the hierarchy which have made the news in the recent past, do not augur well. The call for an internal diagnosis, by no less than the Chief of Army Staff, is timely.


An organisation can not be benchmarked in dual shades. After all, isn't it the texture of the canopy, which in ample measure, reflects the real state of health of a 'legendry tree'?









MOB violence has been occurring too frequently in the country. It can result after a pre-meditated programme after a call is given for some agitation. There are mobs that form into one, taking up some specifically perceived denial of rights or justice or committed atrocity. A local issue erupting suddenly may also trigger mob violence.


A mob is largely made up of sympathisers being around and available, not even directly connected with the issue. But they join hands in resorting to means that are violent, to question the perceived impropriety, exploitation, insinuation, accusation, insult, aberration, oppression, persecution, atrocity and so on.


Vigilante is yet another form of resorting to violent acts when the agitators perceive it as the only alternative left with them, since the authorities 'choose to turn a blind eye' to their grievances. Such actions give no time to law enforcement agencies to contain them since the violent plans are executed with an element of surprise.


Unforeseen situations that develop, i.e. after assassination of popular leaders, stir up violence with large-scale mobbing of protesters in a wide demographic chunk. Then, even the paramilitary forces or the police may be equally empathising themselves with the agitators; hence the loose rope.


These uncontrollable scenarios result in total chaos and anarchy. Recent instances in Mayyar and Mirchpur in Haryana confirm the disgust the agitators and arsonists had towards the authorities' 'failure' to come to their rescue and assuage their feelings. Caste-related mob violence is still worse. In such scenarios, peace committees and moderate elements on either side should invariably be addressed.


The Indian Penal Code Sections 147, 148, 149 (Rioting); 332, 353 (Assaulting public servant performing duties); 124 A (Sedition); 120 B (Criminal Conspiracy); 107 (Abetment); 144 (Joining unlawful assembly with deadly weapons); 153 A (Promoting enmity); 426 (Mischief); 436 (Mischief by a fire); 295-298 (Relating to Religion) etc., clearly spell out the judicial process of prosecuting persons who indulge in crimes as these are in a way related to mob violence.


Though the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984 takes care of mischief causing damage to public property (Section 3), by fire or explosive substance (Section 4) and special provisions like bail (Section 5) etc., are available, there is a grey area: how to attribute the damage caused by an individual, qua his individual conduct as the criminal liability to be shared is equal for all.


Mob violence warrants newer trends in tackling keeping in view the human rights and internationally accepted norms. There are areas where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is in vogue. The Army, for crowd dispersal and containing mob violence, resorts to stringent ways and means. The Army 'shoots to kill' but in situations at peace stations, 'shoot to kill' orders are generally not given.


The law enforcement agencies should contain violence using minimum possible force. This is ticklish though since "how much of the force to be used" may not be instantaneously gauged to assess the quantum of violence indulged in by an unruly mob.


The standard drill of containment is to assess and declare a mob as "unlawful assembly" (Sec 141 IPC) which indulges in picketing, arson, rioting, murderous assault, road blocking, stopping trains, stopping supply of essential goods and services, and assaulting public servants etc. A magistrate has to be present on the spot to warn and issue orders and method of dealing.


If sterner measures are required to contain violence, it is mandatory to announce the use of water cannons, teargas, lathi etc. To resort to firing again, a warning has to be issued by either sign language, gestures or word of mouth. If that too fails, firing in air is done, followed by, if necessary, use of rubber bullets. With the killer-bullet-firing, caution needs to be exercised in injuring the agitators in a way that only the lower extremities below the groins are targeted.


Standardised drills in a surcharged atmosphere take a back seat and invite magisterial or judicial inquiries which generally bring down the morale of the police and paramilitary forces since the latter perceive their act in the "larger public interest" protected as part of their duty (Sec 132 Cr PC).


A magistrate's 'written order' asking the police to use force is generally the big issue. Police insists on the written order while the magistrate hesitates. Sometimes, the police reportedly make the magistrate sign it even forcibly. Magistrates also sometimes flee from the scene.


A violent mob containment scenario may be grim. Yet, hope is not lost. While mobs do not listen to reasoning, they do react in a favourable manner, if the handler indulges in some kind of gimmickry, histrionics, drama, popular appeal, and by partly conceding to the agitators' viewpoint as a tactical ploy to buy time. Commitments should register themselves instantaneously. As rhetoric may or may not work, use it with caution.


Showing the fear of law to the mob will always be counter-productive. An "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" approach in a democratic set up is not the answer. Human rights will be thrown to the wind and more sober means of reconciliation, meditation, moderation, rehabilitation and reconstruction available with the state are discarded.


Policemen need to be trained in lawful dispersal of unlawful assemblies involving psychological techniques of empathy and commitment besides having an unbiased and unequivocal stance on group rivalries.


The writer is Inspector-General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Haryana




A mob represents a large group of people that is difficult to control. It has no mind; doesn't listen to reasoning and has self-acquired immunity from violent acts.


It takes advantage of unforeseen situations to trigger violence. It resorts to gimmickry, histrionics, drama, popular appeal, etc.


It questions perceived impropriety, exploitation, insinuation, accusation, insult, aberration, oppression, persecution and atrocities, etc.


Rioting, assaulting, abetment, unlawful assembly promoting enmity, mischief are all covered under the Indian Penal Code.


The Army 'shoots to kill' but the police, if required, 'shoot to injure'. The police should use "as much force as is required."


For any method of violence containment, standard drills should be followed. For mob dispersal or containment, the Magistrate should issue written orders.


Inquiries into alleged police high-handedness bring down the morale of the police. 








IN the Sixties, Bihar, notorious for mob violence, had reported incidence of rioting 10 times more than anywhere else. I handled three law and order sensitive districts of Shahabad, Dhanbad and Ranchi tactfully without causing any loss of life.


As the District Magistrate for seven years, it was my settled policy to personally handle and resolve all tense situations. Most conflicts can be resolved without force and if unavoidable, police should not go beyond lathi-charge and teargas.


In Bihar, the Congress had won all elections till 1962 to the chagrin of the Opposition parties, particularly the Lohia Socialists, communists and others. As the 1967 elections approached, the Opposition parties roped in the students in their protest movement. They organised a statewide general strike to provoke authorities to use force against the students.


My settled policy was to use force and disperse unlawful assemblies at the very initial stage by canes and batons. All magistrates and police officers were given clear-cut guidelines to use force as the situation warranted but not to resort to firing save for protection of life and property and, that too, if they could not communicate with me.


We succeeded in dispersing student mobs during the strike and timely round up of the suspected miscreants whereas in the rest of Bihar the police had to resort to firing to disperse student mobs, especially in cities with university headquarters.


The late General Bhagat, Army Division Commander, Ranchi, had ordered a route march of his unit through Ranchi town. A city like Ranchi remaining peaceful was unacceptable to the Opposition leaders. We got an intelligence report that some leaders had addressed students in the night and taunted Ranchi students to take out processions. Students had barricaded themselves inside the university campus with a stockpile of brickbats and stones and started attacking the police pickets outside.


When the executive magistrate told me that many of his policemen had been injured and sought my permission to open fire, I rushed to the spot and found the police party and the magistrate hiding behind a wall with many policemen lying injured. They were not prepared to try a fresh lathi-charge and instead sought my orders for firing.


I took a police baton and asked the police to follow me. The rioters started to flee, but soon regrouped. I boarded the jeep and drove fast onto the irate group, catching a few of them. Soon other rowdies melted away and took positions inside the university campus.


When the Vice-Chancellor refused to intercede, I ordered lobbing teargas shells, asked the police to enter the campus and arrest the miscreants. Many students ran away on seeing the police while others were rounded up. Peace was restored in the town within three hours. We screened the arrested students and released most of them barring the ring leaders.


The student disturbance paid the expected dividend to the politicians and for the first time in Bihar we had a non-Congress state government. The new Chief Minister, Mahamaya Prasad Sinha, admitted in his speeches that he owed the exalted position to Bihar's students whom he described as his jigar ke tukre. He appointed commissions of inquiry for all places where police firings were ordered including Ranchi where peace was restored without any firing. Despite indifferent legal assistance, we had the satisfaction of getting the Justice S.P. Singh Commission to observe that commendable restraint was displayed by the magistrates and the police in dealing with the disturbances.


This was perhaps the only Commission of Inquiry that ever made such an observation. The Commission's observation was honoured by the government. All officials involved got a formal commendation recorded in their permanent character rolls.


In the strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir, it has become imperative for the law and order authorities to empathise with the sentiments and aspirations of the people. At the same time, the visibility and salience of the armed personnel, particularly in the urban areas, needed to be brought to the minimum.


Owing to the threat from the armed militants, the armed forces will have to be strategically placed so that they could swiftly and decisively respond to such attacks. The police, which have interface with the common people, should not carry firearms. They must have mobility through vehicles protected from brickbats. They deserve taser guns. The taser bullets, generally non-lethal, temporarily stun the targets. The Canadian police have been using taser guns effectively.


The writer is a former Chief Secretary of Punjab








Describing the recently concluded writing festival in Mussorie, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, one of the participants said, "I've only the Jaipur Lit Fest to compare it to. If Jaipur is the Kumbh Mela of lit fests, crawling with the famous literary sadhus of our time, Mussorie felt like a village fair, and therefore so much nicer. Or like a family get together though it may be likely that one has not met any member of this particular family before. It is as full of surprises in its choice of invited writers as Jaipur is predictable. The audience consists of a few locals, which includes retired Dehradun folk, and people who have come over from Delhi but may have Woodstock connections." 


When I read that the theme of this year's festival was "Mountain Books", I thought about stories such as Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro. But no. Arvind mentioned a Canadian woman Bernadette McDonald who specialises in biographies of mountaineers, and is on the international advisory committee for National Geographic's Expedition Council. Prerna Singh Bindra has written extensively on the Terai, and edits the journal Tigerlink. Jim Curran is a freelance cameraman, writer, lecturer, climber and artist, and has climbed with some of the great British climbers such as Chris Bonington. Among the more familiar names was Harish Kapadia who has written extensively on exploratory work in the Himalayas, led expeditions, and climbed at least thirty peaks. 


There were many more participants, but even mentioning a few gives us some idea of how very different the festival is. Gieve Patel, who participated a year or so ago was equally enthusiastic. "I loved it," he said. "It's a beautiful location. The school is on the slopes of the mountain, and is built in very good taste. That year the theme was the way science and literature come together. There were many participants who specialised in using their scientific background writing about their experiences with the intention of reaching a lay public. There was an American woman, Gretel Ehrlich who has written a wonderful book on the future of ice. She has spent a lot of time with Eskimos, and in the Arctic. The book is a work of literature, the language very expressive." 
    It was the writer Stephen Alter (b 1956) who started the festival. He grew up in Mussorie and attended Woodstock School where both his father and grandfather were principal for many years. One of his reasons for starting the festival is that he thinks of Mussorie as a natural magnet for writers, he says in an online interview. He mentions that at least one of the writers invited to participate came back in three weeks to complete her novel. Woodstock, in an enclosed forest area near Mussorie, certainly seems idyllic. It's one of the oldest international schools in India and was founded in 1854 (incidentally, Stephen Alter is first cousin to Tom Alter, our Bollywood actor). Stephen spends part of his time in India and part in the US where he was for a while Writer in Residence at MIT. 


I have no idea whether Nigel Calder's book The Restless Earth was mentioned at all, but it contains a wonderful paragraph on the formation of the Himalayas: "Much more remarkable was India's long journey across the Tethys Ocean. It helped to destroy the old floor of Tethys and opened the Indian Ocean behind it. Then India came into violent collision with Asia at about-50MY. The results are plain to see, in the mountains made by that encounter, the world's greatest, the Himalayas. The collision is still in progress, because India has not quite come to rest."


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The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India could not have timed the celebration of its 150th anniversary better. On the day the president and the prime minister of India paid tributes to CAG's long record of service to the country, Parliament and the nation were pouring over every line and para of a report that has clearly indicted former Union Minister for Telecommunications A Raja. If there was any doubt in anyone's mind regarding the fairness of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's demand for Mr Raja's resignation, then all such lingering doubts were rubbished by the CAG report. It is a pity that the prime minister was unable to take this action earlier. The earlier plea of some in the ruling coalition, including in the Congress party, that dismissing Mr Raja would destabilise the government was a spurious argument. The Karunanidhi government remains in office in Chennai at the sufferance of the Congress party. The Congress party was remiss in not using its leverage to seek Mr Raja's ouster when it came to be known that he had misused his powers to favour some companies over others in the sale of telecom spectrum. Finally when forced to act, the DMK has fallen in line. The CAG has, of course, cleared the prime minister of any wrongdoing by drawing attention to the fact that he had sought to restrain Mr Raja, even though to no avail. The prime minister is at worst guilty of an error of omission. Even this delay could have been averted if he had gone by his instincts as revealed by his decision in May 2009 not to allow Mr Raja to return to his ministry.


On the same day that the CAG report was made public, the Supreme Court (SC) made some observations about the slowness of the prime minister's response to petitions seeking action against Mr Raja. These observations are well-intentioned and the Prime Minister's Office should have been more efficient and alert than it has been wont to. However, even as the higher judiciary demands a more efficient government, it should exert more of its energy in seeking a more efficient judiciary as well. The efficiency of India's courts is pathetic, with litigants waiting for years before their cases are taken up. The Supreme Court's admonishment of the prime minister on grounds of delay in action is very much like the pot calling the kettle black!


 Now that the CAG report has been presented to Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee should take stock of the report and its comments, and direct the government as to what action ought to be taken to punish the guilty. At the same time, the relevant investigating agencies of the government must address the questions raised by the CAG on a range of questionable decisions taken by the ministry of telecommunications. There is no reason whatsoever why there should be a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the issue. None of the three important JPCs set up in the past quarter century — Bofors (1987), securities scam (1992) and stock market scam (2001) — has nailed a single politician. Rather, each of the JPCs managed to nail just a couple of businessmen, letting politicians go scot free. There is no substitute for transparent investigation and that ought to be the demand of all those interested in the truth being out.








The Food Corporation of India (FCI) should feel relieved that the private sector has stepped in to create additional foodgrain storage capacity, bridging the extant gap. However, it is difficult to fathom why much of the new warehousing capacity is sought to be put in place in grain-surplus states (production centres) — notably Punjab and Haryana, besides some others like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra — rather than in grain-deficit states (consumption centres) where the procured grains are actually meant to be distributed. Though it can be argued that most of the grain-starved areas lack grain distribution networks, obviating the need for keeping large stocks there, this plea is not well-founded. For, if the proposed food security law comes through, which it probably will in some form or another, the government would be obliged to expand and revamp the grain distribution infrastructure in the backward areas where this measure is most likely to be implemented in the beginning. Such states may soon need more grain-holding capacity. Unless adequate quantity and timely availability of foodgrain are ensured in the targeted food security areas, the success of the new social programme may be doubtful.


The government's objective should be to move as much of the accumulated stock as possible out of grain-surplus states and closer to the deficit ones. Unfortunately, this is not happening, not at least in the case of Punjab and Haryana which together contribute nearly 80 per cent to the total annual foodgrain procurement. As a result, inventories are accumulating in these states, straining storage capacity. A long-term solution lies, therefore, in augmenting capacity in regions closer to the consumption centres.


 The real reason why the FCI faces a huge storage problem is that the government has procured and stored foodgrain far in excess of the needs of the public distribution system (PDS) and far in excess of buffer stocking norms. The government is currently holding nearly 58 million tones of foodgrain, close to twice the buffer stocking norm of 30 million tonnes and much higher than the expected PDS requirement of around 43.8 million tonnes, assuming that the PDS offtake remains at the last year's peak level. The average annual procurement in the last few years has been above 55 million tonnes; last year's mop-up being record 57.4 million tonnes. Thus, leaving alone the inventory carrying costs and the impact of such an ill-conceived policy on the foodgrain trade and market availability, the question that the government needs to answer is what will it do with the surplus stocks which, predictably, cannot remain unspoiled for long? In agriculturally and economically backward areas, foodgrain can at least be utilised for social welfare programmes. It would, therefore, be wise for the government to reflect on all aspects of foodgrain management — including procurement, translocation, storage and distribution — together and not formulate policy in silos.








About 10 days from today, the parties to the UN climate convention will have another bash at hammering out an agreement to avert what they all agree is one of the gravest threats that the world faces in the decades ahead. Is there any chance that they will do better there than at Copenhagen about a year go?

The elements of an international agreement needed to address the threat of climate change are basically as follows:


The acceptable limit for the likely temperature increase.


The implied time profile of global carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions.


The distribution of allowable global emissions among countries.


The commitments to programmes and policies that contain emissions to the agreed level.


The mechanisms that would allow flexibility in fulfilling commitments.


The mechanisms that would support adaptation actions.


The financial and technology transfer arrangements for compensating countries which take on more than their fair share of obligations. The Copenhagen Accord includes a commitment to the goal of containing the likely average global temperature increase to 2º C. The time profile of global emissions needed to meet this goal is not uniquely defined as what matters are cumulative emissions. A path where emission reductions are low initially but accelerate later may have the same cumulative impact over decades as a path that paces the emission reductions more evenly. Be that as it may, a rough summary of the results of a variety of modelling studies is that:


Global emissions must peak sometime between 2015 and 2021.


Global emissions in 2020 should be approximately 40.0 to 48.3 Gt CO2 eq/yr.


By 2050 global emissions should decrease by 48 to 72 per cent relative to 2000.


Moving from these global goals to national action is the core of the negotiating agenda and we are nowhere near an agreement on this. The pledges and commitments associated with the Copenhagen Accord add up to emissions of 48.8 to 51.2 Gt CO2 eq/yr in 2020 and in the words of a UNEP brief, "there is low confidence that the two-degree limit will be met"*. The US pledge is a little up in the air as the Bill to give effect to it has not been passed. The main plus point is that the process has led to the announcement of goals for emission containment in the form of carbon intensity reductions by countries like China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico. There are a whole slew of issues like the legal form of the commitments and the monitoring, reporting and verification requirements that complicate the negotiations even further.


The central issue is that of equity in the sharing of scarce environmental space. Unfortunately, there is no agreed interpretation of fairness. The UNFCCC recognises the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility", the historical culpability of industrial countries which account for the bulk of the increase in ambient GHGs since the industrial revolution and the primacy of development for developing countries. But all this needs to be spelt out in terms of emission goals for countries. One concept under discussion in seminars, if not in the negotiations, is convergence to equal per capita emissions by a target date, say 2050, at a level consistent with containing emissions to ensure a 50 per cent chance of keeping the average global temperature increase to 2º C. India has already offered that it would ensure that its per capita emissions never exceeded the average for the developed countries, so that any action by them to reduce their emissions very substantially would act as a brake on India's emission growth. Another concept that has received some attention lately is that of carbon budgeting where the available room for carbon emissions, given agreed goals on temperature increase risks, would be shared as a stock on the basis of population. A more contentious proposal would do this but also take account of cumulative use from past emissions.


Announced goals for emission reduction or containment are just aspirations and what matters is the translation of these into action. In the next decade, the main source of reductions will be energy efficiency and carbon sequestration through forest protection and reforestation. On forestry, the negotiations seem to be making good progress and there is also some real money in sight from Norway and others. If this is pursued separately and if an agreement on energy efficiency is stitched together at Cancun as part of some advance action even before a full agreement is reached, then we may well be back on the two-degree track.


Flexibility mechanisms that allow companies and countries to "buy compliance" by financing carbon saving actions by others are an attempt that purists frown upon and Pareto optimising economists love. At present, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the main such avenue and its future beyond 2012 is in doubt because of the failure to agree on the next phase of commitments under the protocol. But the carbon market in a broader sense may still survive as long as there is some quantitative compliance obligation, even if it is nationally determined, that can be met by buying carbon credits.


On adaptation, financing of mitigation actions by developing countries and technology transfer, the Copenhagen Accord signalled some advance. But the subsequent processes, including the high level panel set up by the UN secretary general, have not brought us any closer to an agreement.


The prospects for closure at Cancun are not at all bright and everyone assumes that the game will go on at least for another year if not more. The world has become a victim of the normal framework of reciprocal concessions that dominates international negotiations and the "nothing is agreed till everything is agreed" rule. A mindset that starts from the ethical premise that national interest trumps all other considerations can never deliver an effective environmental agreement. We need sovereignty bargains in which each state surrenders some autonomy of action in order to acquire some influence on the policies of other states.


In the final analysis, the worst risks of climate change can only be avoided by the acceptance that we are in one lifeboat and that steering it to safety requires that those who are most able put in a greater effort and those who are less able do what they can to avoid destabilising the boat.

*UNEP, How close are we to the two-degree limit?, Information Note, UNEP, Nairobi, February 2010








In recent years, one of many new phrases that have been added to the political and business lexicon include "coalition dharma". Self-righteous, extraordinarily thick-skinned spokespersons across all major national parties have used this phrase at different times in an attempt to justify inaction or gloss over some of the biggest scandals and scams that India has seen since its Independence.


 Unfortunately, beyond the realm of politics, dharma is being given new interpretations there too. In the garb of protecting and maximising the shareholder's return as the new interpretation of "corporate dharma", sector after sector is seeing unfettered rise of malpractices, be it in health care, education, or business at large.


In the garb of following the "dharma of socialism", public-private partnerships are being given a new definition: "public (assets) for private parties".


The new definition of the "dharma of democracy" includes letting in criminals, unqualified or less qualified kith and kin, and wheeler-dealers as party candidates, citing "winnability" of such candidates as the prime criterion for selection.


Can dharma be redefined and reinterpreted as conveniently as is being done in recent years, or is it merely a cover for political and business expediency, avarice, weakness of leadership, and lack of concern for society at large? Can India afford to let multiple cancers that include corruption, nepotism and lack of enlightened political and business leadership gnaw away its very innards?


Dharma, since time immemorial, has implied acknowledging one's righteous duty and acting resolutely accordingly. The interpretation of right and wrong, across millennia, does not really change though actions may. Hence, even "law" per se cannot be interpreted as per political expedience since it has to be accepted both in sprit as in letter. Yet, political party after party has been using subterfuges in the garb of law by merely citing either "precedents" of moral and behavioural turpitude by previous governments or side-stepping issues claiming that they are subjudice. More recently, the "model code of conduct" as prescribed in the context of state or general elections, and "Parliament being in session" are also increasingly being used to justify inaction or turn a blind eye to tsunamis ofadharmic activity.


Across the very rich and diverse religious and philosophical history of India through millennia, dharma has been interpreted more or less as an immutable way of life. Likewise, there is enough for political and business leaders to learn from ancient treatises, such as Kautilya's Arthashastra, that have as much relevance today as it would have been 2,000 years ago.


How the political landscape will evolve in the coming years is to be seen. However, it seems that the rampaging corruption and the rapidly increasing shock and anger of the aam admi, as new, bigger and more audacious scams get unearthed almost on a daily basis, now could catalyse a transformational change in the very near future.


The message for private business is not very different too. The time-honoured dharma for business is to be customer-driven, taking care of the customer and her needs and interests in the same spirit as atithi devo bhavah. Yet, in sector after sector, disturbing trends are emerging that are in total divergence with this dharma. There is already growing outrage against the increasing malpractice in the healthcare sector with blatant disregard of the Hippocratic Oath by some, if not many, professionals. Many have entered private education with the primary objective of taking advantage of the lack of quality primary, secondary and higher education capacity in the country and thereby raking in very large financial returns while sacrificing quality and indulging in misleading advertising with practically no regulatory checks. Food and food products are being sold with blatant (and most of the times, with very dangerous long-term effects on the health of the consumer) adulteration, with the exception of just a handful of organised, large players, and the trend is on the rise. By actually following the "dharma of the businesses" in its true spirit, interests of shareholders and society can be served very well without any conflict, as many businesses and business houses in India have already demonstrated and continue to demonstrate.


Let us not try to redefine dharma to suit nefarious needs, and let our leaders, whether they sit in Parliament or state legislatures, or in the boardrooms and chambers of commerce, not misinterpret what their dharma is.  








Every weekday, ADB Institute, Asian Development Bank's Tokyo-based research outfit, sends out a bulletin of e-news on Asia-Pacific, gleaned mainly from media reports, free to interested subscribers. It's like a worm's eye view of Asia, a continuous reality check meant to reflect and monitor a continent in change, identify problem areas, and expose the challenges and blemishes that still hide behind its gloss. Here's a collage of Asia based on a sampling of the institute's recent e-news bulletins:


 North and Southeast Asia: Some 400 million people in China are set to move from rural areas to cities over the next 15 years. Nearly 36 million rural residents in China, or 3.8 per cent of its total rural population, lived below the poverty line at end-2009, while rural residents' per capita net income rose to 5,153 yuan, up 8.5 per cent from a year ago. As much as 90 per cent of groundwater in the country is variously contaminated, of which 60 per cent could be seriously polluted. China has a new high-speed railway in operation, between Shanghai and Hangzhou, running at 350 km per hour. Last year, the country spent over $7 billion on smart electricity grid development, focused on transmission and distribution. China is working on new-energy vehicles and hopes to put 200 million of them on the road by 2020.


Some 700,000 new cars are expected to be sold in Indonesia this year at a time when traffic gridlock in Jakarta costs at least $1.43 billion every year. Some 42 per cent of Indonesians suffer from diarrhoea, up from 28 per cent in 1996. Minimum monthly salaries at local and foreign firms in Vietnam will go up by $5 to $15 next year. During the period from 2006 to 2010, the growth rate of residential electricity purchase in Vietnam averaged 13.7 per cent, double its GDP growth rate. In the same period, $10.4 billion was invested in new power plants. Between now and 2025, Vietnam expects to produce 1.8 million tons of ethanol and vegetable oils annually, meeting 5 per cent of the annual domestic demand for petrol and diesel. The biggest wharf in the Mekong Delta has started functioning at the Cai Cui seaport in Can Tho City.


Thailand is one of 22 high-TB-burden countries in the world, with a case detection rate of 72 per cent (2007 estimate) and a treatment success rate of 77 per cent. The Thai automobile industry will need 250,000 more workers in the next three years to meet the national target of 2 million units annually against 1.2 million in 2010. In Cambodia, tourism now ranks with the textile industry and agriculture as its top economic activities, but the hottest new sector is real estate. Some 35 per cent of Cambodia's 14 million people live below the poverty line. The government has launched a five-year plan to fight corruption and attract foreign investment. One in five Filipino children never gets to primary school becaause of financial constraints, while three out of ten drop out before finishing elementary education.


Central Asia: In an ease-of-business survey of 183 countries, Kazakhstan ranks 58th and tops other Central Asian nations. That means it's the most business-friendly country in the whole of Central Asia. Azerbaijan, one of the fastest growing economies in Central Asia, holds more than $20 billion in currency reserves and has committed to use that wealth to diversify the economy and improve infrastructure. More than 40 per cent of children in the Kyrgyz Republic are working, though the Kyrgyz constitution bans the use of child labour.


South Asia: Maternal deaths in Afghanistan are still the second highest in the world, though the rate has declined marginally from 1,600 per one lakh live births in 2001 to 1,400 this year. A third of Nepal's 12 million children live below the poverty line and half of all children under five suffer from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition. More than 4.5 million women in Nepal can't read and write. About 77 million people in Pakistan go hungry due to rising prices of basic commodities. China will provide Pakistan with two nuclear power plants of 300 Mw each, adding to the existing Chinese-built nuclear power capacity in the country.


Some 43 per cent of Indian children are underweight, the highest level in the world and a figure that hasn't changed in at least 20 years. In China, the figure is 7 per cent. As a whole, South Asia is the most malnourished region in the world with over 80 million suffering from malnutrition. Preventable diseases kill some 3.2 million children in India every year. Bangladesh has announced a plan to link all its 4,500 rural union councils by optical fibre by the end of 2012, to make high-speed Internet available to villagers. About a third of Dhaka's 14 million people are considered "floating" or shanty and pavement dwellers.


Postscript: Nearly 60 per cent of software programs installed on personal computers around Asia in 2009 were unlicensed.








Far more Indians have access to cell phones than to basic sanitation


According to Millennium Development Goals India Country Report 2009, "India, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, has the lowest sanitation coverage." The target is to reduce the proportion of households without access to improved sanitation to 38 per cent by 2015; the proportion of households without any toilet facility declined from about 70 per cent in 1992-93 to about 51 per cent in 2007-08. There is very high disparity between urban and rural areas when it comes to access to toilet facilities — 66 per cent of rural households do not have toilet facilities against 19 per cent of urban households, according to DLHS-3 (District-Level Household and Facility Survey) data for 2007-08. Among the states with lowest access to toilet facilities are Bihar (17 per cent), Chhattisgarh (17.9 per cent), Jharkhand (14.5 per cent), Rajasthan (25.1 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (26.4 per cent), while the states where households have highest access to toilet facilities include Delhi (94.3 per cent), Kerala (96.7 per cent), Lakshadweep (98.8 per cent) and Mizoram (98.2 per cent). This is one indicator where the north-eastern states perform better than the rest.


 Besides, access to toilet facilities in other buildings like health centres, schools and public spaces is lacking all across the country. For girls in particular, the lack of separate toilet facilities in schools has been one of the factors causing dropouts. Though the share of schools with girls toilets has been increasing over the years, the progress is still quite slow. DISE (District Information System for Education) data for 2008-09 show that just a little over half of all schools in India had girls' toilets; the situation in states like Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh, which also lag behind on education indicators, is quite grim. According to ASER 2009 (or Assessment, Survey, Evaluation, Research), the percentage of schools with no water or toilet provision has been declining over time, so there has been some progress. However, four in ten government primary schools do not have separate toilets for girls; and while about 12-15 per cent girls' toilets are locked, less than half are useable. (See chart)


Percentage of schools with girls' toilet (2008-09)

Top five large states

Bottom five large states





Uttar Pradesh










Jammu & Kashmir






Source: District Information System for Education Flash Statistics 2008-09


Share of households with no access to toilet facility, using open spaces (%)





DLHS-2: 2002-04




DLHS-3: 2007-08




Source: District-Level Household and Facility Survey


The government's Total Sanitation Campaign was launched in 1999, restructuring the Central Rural Sanitation Programme to make it demand-driven and people-centred. Under this, a nominal subsidy is given to rural poor households for construction of toilets and the emphasis is on "information, education and communication, capacity building, and hygiene education for effective behaviour change". Involving the communities through the panchayats, NGOs and so on, the campaign works to cover many areas — individual household latrines, school sanitation and hygiene education, community sanitary complexes and anganwadi toilets supported by Rural Sanitary Marts and Production Centres.


Despite all the policy moves, the results on the ground so far leave much to be desired and a United Nations Report in April this year highlighted the fact that far more Indians have access to cell phones than to basic sanitation. The government has missed its target of eradicating the practice of open defecation by 2010 and is looking at reworking its strategy. What is needed is a veritable sanitation revolution to raise hygiene, and, consequently, health levels all across the country.


Indian States Development Scorecard, a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics, focuses on the progress in India and across the states across various socio-economic parameters


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THE building collapse in east Delhi on Monday, which killed 67 and injured 80, is just the latest in the series of such incidents that regularly maim life in urban India. These point to multiple, systemic failures in governance, regulation and planning. We need to urgently reform the urban housing market pan-India, step up the supply of real estate and operationalise a system that shows zero tolerance for disregard of building and structural specifications. The way ahead is sustained, proactive reform on the ground so that illegal structures are not allowed to come up, especially in the inner lanes and periphery of our fast-growing urban centres and towns. This calls for transparency in planning and approvals, with the avowed objective of stepping up funds flow in a key sector where there is a massive investment backlog. What's required is structural audit and follow-through of building safety, on an ongoing basis. Also warranted is a proactive policy for new and additional construction, and specific mandate for prudential norms, complete with clear-cut penalties if followed in the breach. In tandem, we need forward-looking planning that envisages integrated townships and housing colonies so that residents need to commute short distances or preferably even walk to work, entertainment and recreation. In parallel, we need to revamp the market for urban real estate so as to shore up the supply of affordable housing. The bottom line is that responsible housing also necessitates people-centred town planning and participatory local governance. 


It has emerged that the seven-storey structure, which was overcrowded with migrant tenants, had been constructed in flagrant violation of building and municipal norms, regulatory negligence probably purchased for a price. Such laxity is a recipe for disaster in the country's fast-urbanising scenario and cannot be allowed to continue. The solution lies in reform of politics and governance, as with most other ills that plague our society. The challenge must be taken up. Fast-growing India cannot afford to continue with the politics of esterday.







THE Supreme Court's interim order directing Vodafone to deposit a slice of the disputed tax amount of . 11,000 crore and provide a bank guarantee for the balance signals that India's tax authorities have a strong case, having won the first round in a lower court. This might well upset the financial calculus that justified Vodafone's acquisition of Hutch. That is not conducive to future flow of direct investment to India. But the solution is for would-be acquirers to obtain certainty about their deals' tax implications, not for India to forego legitimate tax dues. Sure, the SC will examine the merits of the key issue of jurisdiction when it resumes hearing the case in February next year. However, the interim order puts pressure on Vodafone. It has financial implications for the company that has to deposit the tax and make a provision in its books for the disputed tax liability. Litigation increases the cost of doing business in India. Foreign companies entering into cross-border deals in future must have a clear idea of their tax dues. They should seek an advance ruling on their transaction to avoid disputes. Sure, the ruling is binding on the taxpayer, but it lends certainty to their tax outgo. 


In the Vodafone-Hutch case, the deal involved transfer of assets that derive their value from economic activity in India and, therefore, should logically be taxed here. After the Vodafone case, over 400 cross-border deals have come under scrutiny on the same principle. The number of such scrutinised deals will rise as mergers and acquisitions, of Indian and foreign companies, proliferate. Clearly, MNCs cannot get away with clever structuring of their deals in tax havens to escape taxes. The income-tax law should incorporate deterrents such as the general anti-avoidance rule (Gaar) against questionable tax practices. The Bill on the Direct Taxes Code has proposed the introduction of Gaar that gives powers to taxmen to lift the corporate veil and ascertain if a transaction lacks commercial substance. The government should ensure passage of the Bill if it wants to get a fair share of the pie in cross-border deals.







PUSILLANIMOUS Prince Charles deviated from the royal fold only so much as to wed the daughter of an earl — as indeed his grandfather had done before him — before making an honest woman of an untitled old flame decades later. But it's a sign of the times that his son, Prince William of Wales, has announced his intention to make a future queen of a true commoner, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, without recourse to royal deviations. Moreover, his prospective Queen Kate is not only totally different from previous royal consorts of the same name — the fickle King Henry VIII wedded three, and Henry V and Charles II one each — she is also curiously apt for New Britain. She comes from solid working class stock worthy of a policeman, rapper or politician, she actually has a creditable academic record in school and college — unlike her late mother-in-law to be, who was famously quoted as describing herself to be as thick as two planks — and her family money does not derive from landed wealth or the tainted pennies of colonial exploitation but a very au courant IT-enabled business. The now-middle class Middletons unashamedly live in a new money house in an old money enclave, and live lives that their ancestors would never have dreamt of. What could be more satisfying for even the most curmudgeonly of her future subjects than a descendant of a coal miner queening it at Buckingham Palace? 
    While snobbish acolytes may baulk at the very thought of a non-aristocrat in their midst, she will bring the Windsors more in line with royals elsewhere, who have made bold to marry far and wide, from journalists to executives, personal trainers to diplomats. In fact, the William-Kate nuptials will have to keep in mind the dates of another modern wedding that will echo a previous 'fairytale' match: Prince Albert of Monaco's marriage to former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock.







FREQUENT and unrelenting protests against land acquisition seem to have compelled political parties to take the issue seriously. The Centre has promised to introduce a redrafted land acquisition Bill during the winter session of Parliament. As per official pronouncements, the Bill will provide for higher compensation to the affected parties. Besides, acquisition for private companies will be restricted to less than 30% of the total land required for the project. 


However, it will be naive to expect the above measures to solve many of the problems resulting from misuse of the acquisition law. In the past, state governments have been highly innovative in devising newer ways ever to subvert the law for political and private gains. The prospective legislation must provide safeguards against misuses. Here, an enquiry into the actual abuses can be helpful. 


Excessive acquisitions for private companies and inadequate compensation have been the primary causes behind the past protests against compulsory acquisition. However, courts have been rectifying the latter problem to an extent. In most instances, the affected parties have been resorting to litigation to seek higher compensation. On this count the judiciary has been very sympathetic; generally, it has been increasing the compensation amount. But, as far as the legitimacy of the acquisition per se is concerned, exceptions apart, the judiciary has left the issue to the prudence of the executive. Left unrestrained, states have ruthlessly violated not only the spirit but also the letter of the law, especially when it came to acquiring land for companies. 


Part VII of the existing Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984, provides rules for acquisition for private companies. The company gets to own the acquired land. However, sections 38-44 of this part impose several restrictions. For instance, there is no provision for emergency acquisition. Besides, the company and the state government are required to sign an agreement stating the purpose of acquisition. The agreement must specify the terms on which general public will be entitled to use the company-provided services. The objective behind these riders is to restrict the compulsory acquisition to limited activities of companies from which public can benefit directly, such as school, hospitals, etc. These stringent requirements notwithstanding, the states have acquired land for all sorts of activities of companies, including ones that cannot even remotely serve any public purpose. Moreover, in numerous instances, acquisition has been done using the emergency clause. How have these blatant violations of the law been possible? 


Generally, acquisitions for companies have been undertaken under Part II of the Act. This part concerns acquisitions by government entities for public purpose. It does not impose the above restrictions on acquisition for companies, but requires the compensation to be paid out of public funds. In order to justify acquisition for companies under this part, states have been contributing nominal amounts toward the cost of acquisition. Some governments have gone to the extent of contributing just . 100! Due to such legal ambiguities, states have been able to violate the law with impunity. 


Companies clearly find it profitable to use the state machinery to acquire land at subsidised rates; direct purchases from the owners, in contrast, are costlier and timeconsuming. Indeed, the acquisition process stands captured by private interests of companies and the decision-makers. 


EVEN if the compensation rate is increased and acquisition for companies is restricted to less than 30%, the law will remain vulnerable to several abuses. For instance, a state will still be able to justify acquisition for company simply by declaring the project at hand to be its joint venture with the company. Moreover, it can subsidise the company by acquiring parcels that are costlier to buy through voluntary transactions. 


Public-private partnerships have emerged as a new tool for misusing the law. Under these partnerships, the government acquires land and retains de jure ownership rights over it. The cost of acquisition is also borne out of the state exchequer. Nonetheless, de facto control rights over land are passed on to the project company on the basis of long-term and renewable lease. Ostensibly, partnerships are formed to provide infrastructure and public services such as education and health. In reality, however, excess land is acquired and the company is allowed to use a part of it for real estate projects — partnerships for Delhi airport, and Yamuna and Ganga expressways are a few of the many cases in point. So, the company gets the land it needs and that too without any cost! 


Since the legal ownership of the land rests with the state, the acquisition, technically speaking, is not for the company. Therefore, the above-mentioned limit on acquisition for private companies, howsoever small, is irrelevant. An increase in compensation rate is also of no avail here, since the cost of acquisition is borne not by the beneficiary company, but by the taxpayer! 


The new law must create strong incentives for companies to buy land directly from owners. The following measures will be helpful. First, apart from enhancing compensation, wherever possible, the affected people should be made stakeholders in the project. Depending on the context, there are several ways of doing it. Second, whenever a company is going to use the acquired land, the acquisition should be treated as 'acquisition for company', regardless of whether ownership of the land is to be transferred to the company or not; whether the cost of acquisition is to be paid partly or fully using public funds or not. Third, before acquiring land for a company, the government should be required to publish project details such as details of total area to be acquired, who will bear the cost of acquisition, how public will benefit from the project, etc. 


Finally, there is a need to set up an independent and representative land acquisition regulatory authority. Approval from this authority should be a prerequisite for acquisitions for companies as defined above. Any change in land use after acquisition should also require its permission. Bestowed with suitable powers, along with checks and balances, the authority should be able to enforce the letter and intent of the law. 


(The author teaches at the Delhi     School of Economics)







THE people who live in the past must yield to the people who live in the future, it has long been noted. Otherwise, the world would begin to turn the other way round, it's been well surmised when purposefully looking ahead. And yet, just days after the engaging oratory, ostentation and sheer prose poetry of an Obama visit, New Delhi unfortunately seems rife with corruption scandals in high places, ministerial scams and horrendous loss of life in a building collapse, pointing at clear laxity. It all seem unbecoming of a nation seeking a seat at the global high table, the aspiration to which Obama did endorse, the first head of state of the US to take such a the stand. 


The way ahead is to fast-forward governance reforms at home, even as we rightly seek a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, the high table for global decision-making. By the 2020s, which is only a short interlude in the timescale of nations, India anyway is likely to be the most populous nation and among three or four of the largest economies. And it would then, still have enormous potential for growth, enterprise and wellbeing. Actually, the challenge for Indian diplomacy is to convenience the world community that apart the existing permanent members of the UNSC, the US, China, Russia, France and the UK, India alone deserves a place both in the foreseeable future and well beyond. The other aspirant nations, such as Japan, Germany, Brazil and perhaps South Africa and Nigeria certainly do need to participate in Security Council deliberations on a permanent, long-term basis. But to be effective and not lapse into large, unwieldiness, the apex UN body really needs to be 5+1; in time, it might even be possible to persuade both France and the UK to collaborate and jointly represent the European Union in the top council. Because, it is entirely likely that in just about a decade or so, the relatively small economies of Europe would find their geopolitical weight and influence steadily decline. 


So, going forward, it would be increasingly logical that just as the Indo-US nuclear 
deal made a one-time exception for India to officially join both the civil and strategic nuclear club — limited hitherto to the permanent five — a similar extraordinary deviance would be warranted to actualise India's UNSC intentions. It would also be well justified for the sake of global representation, balance and to reflect the ground realities of present-day geopolitics. 


However, triumphalism and growing hubris on the part of either the Indian state or civil society would surely be counterproductive. We do need to proactively engage our neighbours, improve relations with our two main adversaries across the border and systematically improve governance structures domestically. 


Actually, the way we develop and grow economically in the years ahead would be crucially dependent on transparency and gainful reforms. With proactive policy, it would be eminently possible to shore up knowledge creation, enterprise and keep up the growth momentum. The way ahead is to boost innovation, both social and otherwise, to tackle a panoply of challenges, be it poverty eradication, the lack of sufficient requisite knowledge creation or the stubborn presence of glaring distortions and shortcomings economy-wide. 


What's required is creative solutions and perseverance to gain the upper hand over various types of resistance and hindrances pulling us behind. There may be no easy, off-the-shelf solutions for persistent societal problems. But we do need transitions across the board, and attendant research on knowledge and experience from a multidisciplinary perspective, including systems analysis, innovation science and social administration. Transition management is about tackling persistent problems by a cyclical process of putting issues on the agenda, learning, implementing and experimenting. It's not based on old-style management and control, but involves subtle changes and adjustments at several levels concurrently. In this ancient land, where wealth is divine, profits sacred and where the Truth is one but the wise interpret it in many ways, we do need effective transition management to rise and thrive as a nation.majority of them are not democratic. With what justification would we pursue our national interest in China, Vietnam and most of the Arab world and Africa? Around us, we have dealt with whichever government has been in power. If we could deal with hostile or unfriendly military regimes in Pakistan and Bangladesh, then what principle dictates that we spurn a military regime in Myanmar friendly to us? Have we ever made the spread of democracy a declared principle of our foreign policy? Should we join those who crusade for democracy in the world selectively? President Obama's finger-pointing at India on our Myanmar policy on the floor of the Indian Parliament was regrettable. Why can the US arm Pakistan's military regimes, but India must not do business with the Myanmar junta?



Human Rights Activist 

Democratic values should dictate our policy 


DISCARDING the democratic verdict of the Burmese people in the 1990 elections, the military junta had arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of her supporters, letting loose a reign of terror that forced more than a million people to seek refuge in India and elsewhere. An estimated 50,000 refugees from Myanmar reside in India, treated as illegal immigrants, often jailed under the Foreigners Act and periodically pushed back across the borders into the hands of the Myanmar army. 


The Indian government did not formally award the Nehru Peace Prize to Suu Kyi to appease the junta. The refugee camps set up in Mizoram were closed under pressure from Myanmar. As a quid pro quo, Myanmar offered to crack down on India's north-east insurgents. Distancing itself from the policy of 'sanctions', India opted for "constructive engagement", anxious to balance China's rapidly increasing influence in Myanmar. India has sacrificed its commitment to democratic values, rule of law and respect for human rights in the interest of securing its security. It begs the larger question: is India likely to be more secure by having an autocratic, military-ruled Myanmar? To seek to emulate China in Myanmar, and in our neighbourhood as awhole, dangerously overlooks that what India has achieved is not in spite of its tumultuous democracy, but because of its democratic culture and values. Should we sacrifice our core values? 


The EU has positioned itself as a "soft power" and is consolidating itself as an economic powerhouse. The EU is proud of its democracy. It is following a policy of engaging with China without abandoning its commitment to democracy and human rights. The enlightened national interest of India requires that we do not support undemocratic regimes in our neighbourhood. The release of Suu Kyi is welcomed as a possible opportunity, and India should step forward to strengthen that opportunity by speaking up for democratic values. 


That is also the path for strengthening Indian democracy at home. 

(The author is also a documentary filmmaker)







BEYOND the joy of nailing a villain, what is the fallout, if any, from the telecom scandal that has taken a minister's scalp, transfixed Parliament and thrown assorted telecom licensees into a tizzy of uncertainty? What is needed is a radical rethink of the entire policy of allocating spectrum and regulating telecom in a manner that will break the emerging stranglehold of Chinese companies on the market for telecom infrastructure and give Indian companies an opportunity to dominate a new, possibly global market in telecom. 


The technological premise for such a radical change is that the present practice of allocating dedicated spectrum to specific uses and specific service providers is obsolete and inefficient. Technology is ripe for switchover to new network design and architecture which can realise the potential to increase network capacity in proportion with the number of users. Only the absence of regulatory innovation holds up the change. India must take the lead, rather than wait for someone else to take the plunge. 


Underlying the notion that different bands of spectrum should be dedicated to different uses like broadcast, telephony, space communications, etc, and, further, to particular service providers within each use category is the idea of interference — different wavelengths would interfere with one another and spoil the signal, if they are not segregated user- and use-wise. This might have been valid in the misty beginnings of radio communications, but not anymore. 


Interference is a limitation of the signal receiver's capability to make sense of different frequencies, coding, modulation, etc. Physical radio waves do not interfere with or damage one another. Modern, sophisticated pieces of equipment are not struck dumb by signals that are not meant for them, because they can receive and sort the entire range of signals, unscramble and assemble the signals meant for them and pass on, with a signal boost, whatever is not meant for them. They can make use of the entire range of spectrum all at the same time, and each become a booster of network capacity. 


Software-defined radio, spread spectrum, ultra-wideband and smart antennae are bits of the jargon that will hit anyone trying to explore advances in communications made possible by digital signal processing and the networking of networks (inter-networking). But before proceeding further into the wonderland of technology, we need an explanation as to why, if such a possibility already has opened up, no one in the world has ventured to explore it in practical terms. 


The short explanation, as in the case of the telecom scam, is vested interests. The technologically evolved economies also have powerful entrenched players making a lot of money from the current system of dedicating specified chunks of spectrum for uses and users, and banning the deployment of equipment in a network architecture that would seamlessly embrace the entire range of spectrum and re-transmit signals en route. Theseincumbents reinforce the inertia derived from laws and regulation that have been built on the basis of early 20th century technology. (For a guided tour of the new terrain, look up 'open spectrum' or David P Reed). 


Why should Indian fools rush in where the technologically evolved fear to tread? For two sets of reasons, one relating to equity and the other, to commercial opportunity. 


Dedicated spectrum wastes resources and raises costs, both of which are crimes against the poor in a country like India. Allocating dedicated spectrum via auctions jacks up the cost of the spectrum and transfers funds from the private sector to the government. Further, operator monopoly over its chunk of dedicated spectrum lowers overall spectral efficiency, lowering the quality of communications and raising their costs. A policy regime that fails to achieve anything other than the least cost, widest capacity communications is anti-poor, given the potential of communications to transform lives. 


Indian industry has few winners in the current paradigm of privatised, segregated spectrum. In the paradigm of open spectrum, the focus of revenue will shift from network management to the software and hardware in the devices that ride on the network and simultaneously serve as its nodes. If India takes the lead in developing and articulating the technology, standards and regulation that will constitute the new paradigm, its companies will stand to dominate the new, significantly cheaper and more efficient communication industry. 


This cannot happen on its own. The government must take the lead, where the private sector lacks the guts or resources — this, and not making steel or running hotels, is what the public sector is meant for. Let it bring together, say, 10,000 young engineers, with a sprinkling of lawyers, economists, information theorists and those who study technology trends, give them competitive salaries and visionary leadership, along with a mandate to give concrete shape to the new communication paradigm and its phasing in. Now, that would be royal fun.


Technology is ripe for a new paradigm of network architecture and regulation devoid of dedicated spectrum 
Developing and articulating it will open new global commercial opportunity for India and serve the cause of equity 

The government must take the initiative, as it had with C-DoT a generation ago, to galvanise the beneficial change







SCIENTISTS have just exhumed the body of the 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. His remains are to be analysed to check if he was poisoned. Brahe's hagiographers say 'good manners' supposedly caused his sudden death at the age of 54: he stayed too long at a formal dinner without relieving himself and possibly burst his bladder in the process! 


But hair samples from his tomb at an autopsy done in 1900 showed high levels of mercury. This could be due to his penchant for alchemy. The poison theory got a boost in 2004 with the publication of a biography that accused Brahe's celebrated protégé, the German mathematician Johannes Kepler, of poisoning. Kepler went on to overturn the geocentric model of the universe by using elaborate measurements made by his mentor over decades. However, Kepler had stolen the data which had been bequeathed to Brahe's heirs, and fled the country after the astronomer's death. 


Now even if he were to be exonerated of Brahe's death, Kepler's actions still raise vexing questions. First, because his theft breaks a cardinal Commandment — thou shall not steal. This is compounded by the fact that the stolen books represent Brahe's patrimony to his children. 


What complicates matters is that Kepler arrived at his revolutionary laws of celestial motion legitimately, by using his own intellect on the reams of data 'borrowed' from his deceased host. For, hadn't Brahe also invited the promising mathematician to Prague just for that purpose, to help with the calculations and to derive the laws? 


Once Kepler came over, however, the Danish polymath apparently didn't seem very forthcoming with his remarkable observations; these were made without telescopes which were yet to be invented! In Kepler's defence it can be said his theft wasn't 'selfish' in the sense that the ultimate beneficiary of hisresults was all of humankind. 


His three laws represent a major advance in the history of global civilisation and knowledge. Later, it was Sir Isaac Newton's turn to stand on the shoulders of giants such as Brahe and Kepler: the eccentric genius used Kepler's laconic laws to single-mindedly spark the modern revolution in physics and astronomy, which challenged the older geocentric models of Aristotle and Ptolemy. 


In the final analysis, Kepler can be let off for having used the data. But did he kill for it? We may never know.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The Union home ministry has shown purposefulness in asking the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for a report on the sudden collapse of a five-storeyed building in a slum area in East Delhi's Laxmi Nagar earlier this week, which caused the death of about 70 labourers who lived in that hellhole. Many are still trapped in the debris and the fatalities could be higher. An unconscionably large number of poor families have also been seriously injured. This could mean the impairment for life, in a single incident which is neither an industrial accident nor a natural calamity, of a significant number of daily wage earners. So massive has been the tragedy that the National Disaster Management Authority has had to step in. In some ways this makes the episode unique. The home ministry's action suggests that the Centre is alive to the sorry reality that the rampant corruption in civic governance, which allowed such a building to be in existence in the first place, is likely to be an all-India phenomenon. The home ministry's directive, one hopes, is also indicative of the fact that the Centre will take the further step to alert all state governments to look into the question of hurriedly constructed buildings in major urban centres within their jurisdiction, especially those that house the migrant poor who flock to big cities in search of employment in construction, road building and other largescale civil works (as was evident during the recent Commonwealth Games). Followup measures by the Centre that might be of practical value to the state governments in dealing with the problem are also called for. A large number of the daily-wage earners killed in the Laxmi Nagar tragedy happened to be from West Bengal. But they could just as well have been from other places. Cross-country livelihood-seeking migration of the poorest (since core agriculture cannot sustain a rising rural population, and agro-industries are generally absent) has been a reality for long. With the expansion of urbanisation as the economy expands, provision must be made to house the poor in a hygienic and safe environment, and not throw them into the embrace of real estate sharks — whose numbers are rising in direct proportion to housing shortages in cities — that was evidently the case at Laxmi Nagar. This is a pressing need. So is the decongestion of major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru so that better amenities for all, not excluding the poor, can be supplied. In this respect we have fallen behind many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Not for a moment should we lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming bulk of employment in India is in the unorganised sector which receives the least funding for the provision of the basic necessities of life — health, housing, schooling, even when ill-paid jobs can be had. The home ministry might have done well to ask the MCD and the Delhi government for an action taken report on the arrests made. Illegal structures in Delhi — mostly of faulty design and resting on shaky foundations — could run into lakhs, and many of these can cave in without warning.








The release of Aung San Suu Kyi comes at an important juncture in India's relations with Burma. During the visit of General Than Shwe — leader of the junta and Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council — to India earlier this year, the two sides concluded a raft of economic and security deals and agreements. The lengthy joint statement issued at the end of the visit made no reference to the political situation within Burma, let alone anything about the internment of Ms Suu Kyi. This was particularly problematic in the context of political developments in the country: the adoption of undemocratic election laws; the disqualification of Ms Suu Kyi and the dissolution of her party, the National League for Democracy.


India's stance has been criticised by Western democracies. US President Barack Obama's pointed observations in his speech to the Indian parliament captured the prevailing views on this subject. India, he noted, had "often shied away" from condemning gross violations of human rights. When the Burma junta openly suppressed democratic aspirations of its people, "democracies of the world cannot remain silent". India's concerns, he suggested, stemmed from a misplaced concern about violating the principle of state sovereignty.


In fact, concerns about state sovereignty have seldom inhibited India from speaking its mind. Think of India's consistent and vocal criticism of apartheid in South Africa — not least when Western democracies were mealy-mouthed on the issue. Rather, India's stance on Burma reflects both its better understanding of the problem and its realpolitik calculations. The latter, however, seem to be based on questionable assumptions. And there is scope to finetune and bring them in sync with our democratic identity and values.


The dominant Western narrative about Burma is of a struggle dating back to the 1980s between forces of democracy led by Ms Suu Kyi and the repressive junta. This captures an important facet of the political context in Burma, but it is too simplistic and myopic. Any meaningful attempt towards a democratic transition will have to address a larger set of problems — issues that played a critical role in weakening democracy and tightening the junta's grip in the first place. The country's debilitating problems date back to World War ii. Some of the most difficult and brutal battles of the war were fought in Burma. The British decided that a war-ravaged Burma was not worth holding on to. By the end of 1946, they began to parley with the leader of the Burmese resistance forces, Aung San (father of Ms Suu Kyi). The following year tragedy struck, as Aung San and several members of his cabinet were murdered under circumstances that still remain obscure. Worse, by 1948 the situation in Burma had spiralled into a civil war.


The communist party was the first group to take up arms against the government. Soon, an Islamist insurgency erupted in the north of Arakan. Shortly thereafter, the Karens and Kachins of the highlands turned against the Rangoon government. A couple of years later, the Shans joined the ranks of rebelling tribes. These groups had enjoyed considerable autonomy under the British and feared that their standing would be eroded in a self-proclaimed Buddhist Burma. Some of the groups were rather well armed, having played a major role in the anti-Japanese resistance during World War ii. Others benefited from covert support by China and Thailand.


This anarchical situation resulted in gradual militarisation of the Burmese state. The military began to consume the largest slice of the financial pie and became by far the most powerful actor. Only in 1989 did the government begin to negotiate ceasefire accords. These have been concluded with 16 groups so far. But the underlying disputes are yet to be resolved. A broad attempt at national reconciliation will have to focus on these disputes as well as the demands of Ms Suu Kyi. Reacting to her release, foreign minister S.M. Krishna expressed hope that this would be "the beginning of the process of reconciliation in Burma". But New Delhi can do more than simply hope for "an inclusive approach to political change". It can certainly nudge the junta to move further and faster.


Part of the reason why India is unwilling to do so is its concern about China's influence in Burma. China is its largest trading partner, supplying everything from military equipment to foodgrain. China's involvement in a range of infrastructure projects has also been a matter of concern for India. These are seen as facilitating China's access to the Indian Ocean. Yet New Delhi should not over-estimate China's clout nor regard every Chinese move as detrimental to Indian interests. Historically, Burma's relationship with China was rarely smooth. Although the two sides managed to resolve the boundary dispute, China continued to assist Burmese communists and insurgents. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, anti-Chinese riots erupted in Rangoon. It was only after 1989 that China and Burma grew closer, united by the international criticism of their human rights record.


Nevertheless, in the past few years the Sino-Burma honeymoon appears to have ended. The junta purge of 2004 and the dismantling of military intelligence network removed key Chinese contacts. The decision in November 2005 to relocate the capital to Naypyidaw took the Chinese by surprise. Beijing made its displeasure clear in January 2007, when its envoy told the UN Security Council that the problems in Burma were "quite serious". Later that year, Beijing allowed the Security Council to issue a presidential statement critical of the junta. In the wake of Cyclone Nargis the following year, the Chinese urged the junta to cooperate with the UN.


New Delhi need not assume that a more forthright stance towards the junta will necessarily redound to Beijing's advantage. Our Burma policy has to remain ahead of the trajectory of political developments inside that country. Let's not forget the central feature of recent democratic transitions: before it happens every revolution seems impossible, but after it happens it seems inevitable. The challenge is to avoid being caught out by history.


- Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi









On NovEMBER 4, Anderson Cooper did America a favour. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumour that US President Barack Obama's trip to Asia would cost $200 million a day. This was an important "story". It underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said a century before the Internet, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes". But it also showed that there is an antidote to malicious journalism — and that's good journalism.


In case you missed it, a story circulated around the Web on the eve of President Obama's trip that it would cost US taxpayers $200 million a day — about $2 billion for the entire trip. Cooper said he felt impelled to check it out because the evening before he had had Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican and Tea Party favourite, on his show and had asked her where exactly Republicans will cut the budget.


Instead of giving specifics, Bachmann used her airtime to inject a phoney story into the mainstream. She answered: "I think we know that just within a day or so the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him. He'll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending".


The next night, Cooper explained that he felt compelled to trace that story back to its source, since someone had used his show to circulate it. His research, he said, found that it had originated from a quote by "an alleged Indian provincial official", from the Indian state of Maharashtra, "reported by India's Press Trust, their equivalent of our AP or Reuters. I say 'alleged', provincial official", Cooper added, "because we have no idea who this person is, no name was given".


It is hard to get any more flimsy than a senior unnamed Indian official from Maharashtra talking about the cost of an Asian trip by the American President.


"It was an anonymous quote", said Cooper. "Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it. No proof was given; no follow-up reporting was done. Now you'd think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right? But there hasn't been any follow-up reporting on this Indian story. The Indian article was picked up by The Drudge Report and other sites online, and it quickly made its way into conservative talk radio".


Cooper then showed the following snippets: Rush Limbaugh talking about Obama's trip: "In two days from now, he'll be in India at $200 million a day". Then Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: "Have you ever seen the President, ever seen the President go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion — $2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending — he's travelling with 3,000 people". In Beck's rendition, the President's official state visit to India became "a vacation" accompanied by one-tenth of the US Navy. Ditto the conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage. He said, "$200 million? $200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents".


Cooper then added: "Again, no one really seemed to care to check the facts. For security reasons, the White House doesn't comment on logistics of Presidential trips, but they have made an exception this time. He then quoted Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, as saying, "I am not going to go into how much it costs to protect the President, (but this trip) is comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush travelled abroad. This trip doesn't cost $200 million a day". Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said: "I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd, this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 per cent of the Navy and some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier in support of the President's trip to Asia. That's just comical. Nothing close to that is being done".


Cooper also pointed out that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the entire war effort in Afghanistan was costing about $190 million a day and that President Bill Clinton's 1998 trip to Africa — with 1,300 people and of roughly similar duration, cost, according to the Government Accountability Office and adjusted for inflation, "about $5.2 million a day".


When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem. It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues — deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate — let alone act on them. Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together. But the carnival barkers that so dominate our public debate today are not going away — and neither is the Internet. All you can hope is that more people will do what Cooper did — so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people's first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it.










All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief J. Jayalalithaa has been out of power since 2006 and five years is too long a period for the impatient lady who somehow wants to return to the chief minister's chair at Fort St. George. She was hoping that the Congress would bite her bait, but the assertive rejection by senior Congressmen like Ghulam Nabi Azad shattered her dream and, in fact, turned it into a nightmare, as she would now have to find new ways of fooling her cadres and wait for something else to resurrect her sunken fortunes.


But why did Ms Jayalalithaa make that dramatic announcement of support to the Congress? She is very desperate to return to power. Her desperation was explicitly demonstrated by her offer of support. That she chose to make this offer through a TV channel only showed that she has no channel of her own to directly deal with the Congress.


The assurance that she could muster 18 MPs was itself deceitful. She could guarantee her nine MPs, but what about the rest? The promises from H.D. Kumaraswamy of Janata Dal (Secular) and Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Janata Dal are only second-hand; that is, these two gentlemen were supposed to have promised their MPs to the lady and she, in turn, was offering the grand total to the Congress! Even if, hypothetically, the Congress took her offer, she would have produced her wishlist the next moment and demands would have mounted by the minute. Also, Mr Kumaraswamy and Mr Singh were not offering their services free. All this would have meant a circus of blackmailers and our Congress friends were intelligent enough to see this predicament when they very correctly nipped the lady's misplaced ambition in the bud. Congressmen have not forgotten what had happened to Atal Behari Vajpayee.


Ms Jayalalithaa was not intending to be the saviour of the Congress party; Her aim was to somehow help herself from drowning by grabing any twig that came her way.


I sympathise with Ms Jayalalithaa's Communist allies because while she counted Mr Kumaraswamy and Mr Singh as her partners, she conveniently dumped the comrades. For, where would the Communists go if Ms Jayalalithaa joined hands with the Congress, assuming such a political impossibility happened?


Ms Jayalalithaa's offer was a political blunder because now she has made her Communist friends suspicious of her intentions. As for the Tamil Nadu voter, she will be facing them as a woman who made an offer that was rejected.


T.K.S. Elangovan is DMK MP and spokesman


No. It was hurly, burly but wise


Cho Ramaswamy


Although J. Jayalalithaa's statement that she was prepared to give the support of her MPs and also get others to make up for any loss that might be caused to the Congress by splitting with the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) was called an offer of support by the media, I consider it more as a challenge to the Congress party.


The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader was in effect telling the Congress that it cannot hesitate to take action against former telecom minister A. Raja any longer on the ground that the DMK would withdraw support. She disarmed the DMK. Whether the Congress accepted her so-called offer or not, she stood to gain.


If the Congress decides to ditch the DMK and opt for an alliance with the AIADMK, it could together sweep the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu. If the Congress does not take up her offer, she still stands to gain, for she would have exposed the Congress as being hand-in-glove with the DMK on the issue of 2G spectrum.


Also, she gave the jitters to DMK chief M. Karunanidhi — he was already not very sure about what the Congress was going to bargain for in the Assembly elections, and now Ms Jayalalithaa had empowered the Congress to stand up against the DMK. He could no longer threaten to pull down the Central government.


With this, Ms Jayalalithaa delivered a message to the people that if the Centre did not act against Mr Raja, it could only mean that others were involved. Thus, with a single statement, she set a new political agenda. Mr Karunanidhi, who considered the telecom ministry as his family property, now had to watch silently as the ministry went to Kapil Sibal. This could happen only because Ms Jayalalithaa made her politically sagacious move of assuring the Congress.


Now it is up to the Congress and the Prime Minister to order a thorough probe into the 2G spectrum scandal and see that all those who are guilty are punished. Her so-called offer to the Congress was indeed a wise move. It surprised political watchers, but then Ms Jayalalithaa bats like Sehwag, not like Dravid. Her aggressive approach put the DMK on the defensive.


Though Gulam Nabi Azad has said the Congress would stick to the DMK in Tamil Nadu, one cannot rule out the possibility of wiser leaders deciding otherwise. If the Congress fails to take advantage of Ms Jayalalithaa's statement, they would continue to live not only with the DMK but also with the spectrum scam.


Cho Ramaswamy is magazine editor, author and political analyst








Man has always craved happiness. All material sciences and fields of activity are geared towards achieving this one goal. Whatever we do, or even what we renounce, is meant only for happiness. But despite the goal being one, happiness still seems to elude us. It is not that we lack comforts in life, we do have moments of happiness; all is not misery and sorrow. Despite experiencing and knowing moments of happiness, there is no contentment, peace or fulfilment in life. We say that we have pleasures and comforts, but something is missing and not knowing very clearly what we want, we go through nameless sorrows.


If we want to be happy in life, the first prerequisite is good health. If we are unhealthy, weak or suffering from some pain or disease, any joy of life means nothing. Then there are our addictions, whether smoking or drinking. People drink to someone's health and destroy their own! Can we say that such people really love their bodies or care for them? The Bhagvad Gita says that the practice of yoga or meditation becomes a happy experience for a person who is moderate and disciplined in his habits of eating, sleeping, exercising and work. Such a person becomes a happy man. We know that prevention is better than cure, but generally we destroy the body first and then reach out for all kinds of medicines, cures and so on. They say, "Please take rest". It means that nobody will give you rest. The world is bent upon making you restless. You have to find the time for rest on your own. We need rest, but we also need work. We require feasting, but we also require fasting. There has to be discipline, moderation and the understanding that I alone am responsible for my own health.


The second important thing in life is wealth. However, in India, earning money is considered a sin. Everybody wants money, but they think it is immoral. Without money how can you live in this world? If you lead a hand to mouth existence, can you really be happy? You will be worried all the time. But that does not sanction making money in any way — corrupt ways will end only in sorrow, not happiness. We must understand the importance of wealth in life. If we ourselves are poor, how can we help others? So wealth is required. Do not ignore it, but let it not become an obsession.


In order to acquire health and wealth, discipline is required. People erroneously believe that discipline is bondage. When we are punctual and disciplined, we have more time to achieve what we want. Undisciplined people are always busy, catching up with or finishing pending work. They are unable to do anything on time and are often under stress. There are some people who have a wrong notion that they function more efficiently when under stress. They only end up having a nervous breakdown.


Krishna says in the Gita: The one whose mind and senses are under his control, meaning, who is disciplined, is a happy person.


He then talks about a person who is undisciplined and disintegrated. Such a person has no peace. And where is happiness for a restless man? These two things cannot go together. He is one whose mind, intellect and sense organs are not integrated with each other. Our intellect is convinced of something great, but our mind has different cravings. The senses are extrovert and this conflict is constantly going on in our life between what we know and what we do. In this world, there is sorrow, not because we lack knowledge, but because we do not put it into practice. This is disintegration.


There are some who have oneness in thought, word and deed, but they are wicked through and through. We are not referring to such people. Here the reference is to how our thinking, words and action should be full of sweetness. This is called oneness of thought, word and deed. He who has this, is peaceful and happy and other people around him are also at peace and happy with him.


— Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya
Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit[1].


© Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.







In the heat generated by the various scams and allegations of corruption at high levels, many other issues have not got the attention they deserve. One such is the rising criticism of reality shows like Rakhi ka Insaaf and Bigg Boss. Many are getting concerned at the shocking content of such programmes — the former, which is about summary justice doled out by a loud Rakhi Sawant has even been blamed for causing the suicide of a participant. On the latter, a motley group of almost famous and notorious characters, including a former dacoit (Seema Parihar), a petty thief who was asked to leave the show in the first week itself (Bunty), and a loudmouth woman whose vocabulary seems to consist of only bad language (Dolly Bindra), are in their element as they try to make themselves interesting. How low can these channels go in their bid to attract TRPs, is the question that is being asked.


We have been here before. In 1991, soon after the first Gulf War brought satellite television into our homes, thus breaking the monopoly of Doordarshan, Star TV of Hong Kong launched its service with a whole bouquet of entertainment programmes. There was music, there was dance and there were the soaps. Music videos became the rage on Channel V. Star Plus gave us sitcoms and soaps, usually a few years old in the US but still fresh and dazzlingly new for us.


One of the shows was The Bold and the Beautiful, a daytime soap opera about the goings on in a California family, the Forresters, who were in the fashion business. The stars were uniformly good looking, the sets were opulent and stylish and the storylines were, well, complicated. There were love affairs, break ups, jealousies and intrigue galore. And there was… kissing. For the first time, audiences saw kissing scenes on the small screen, beamed right there in their living rooms.


The government was already concerned about the attack on DD's monopoly by satellite broadcasters; when some people began complaining about this attack on Indian culture, it was forced to sit up and take notice. All kinds of proposals were discussed, including investing in equipment to jam the signals. The moralists were outraged and housewives were quoted as saying they could no longer watch television along with their families.


How quaint those days seem. Kissing on television is hardly noticed now; much worse (in a manner of speaking) is now available on the box, to say nothing of the Internet. Parents can't, even if they want to, stop their kids from watching adult films; they are so freely available.


The interesting point is that much of the muck on television today is not from abroad; it is by Indian producers made for Indian audiences. Each passing day brings a new abomination which touches a new low.


Take Rakhi ka Insaaf. The show is a cross between two American concepts, Judge Judy and the Jerry Springer Show. The first has a genuine judge who arbitrates on petty matters between two people. Her style is usually that of a strict law officer with dollops of common sense and grandmotherly strictures. Her verdict is final. The ambience and mood is almost like a real court, with all the attendant formalities.


The Jerry Springer Show is much more raucous. Issues such as homophobia, illicit affairs, incest are freely discussed; no perversity is too shocking to be aired. The participants come from the lower strata of society — commonly called trailer trash — and are seemingly chosen for their sheer vulgarity, in looks, appearance and language. Half way through the show it usually gets into the two sides hitting each other (literally) and then someone or the other takes off their clothes. It has been called the worst show in the world, and it is a badge the producers wear with honour.


By comparison Rakhi ka Insaaf is much milder, but for how long? We have already seen people hitting each other. Fights break out on Bigg Boss all the time. The objective is clear — make it loud, make it nasty and the TRPs will follow.


Should we be concerned? Taste is in the eyes of the beholder, so setting objective standards is never going to be easy and certainly not by the government. Plus, nobody wants censorship. In the simpler 1990s too the proposal to somehow jam the shows was discarded, not the least because government censorship is anathema in a free society. But then what can be done to prevent such cheap programming?


Any change can only come about when the two most important components in the television equation — the viewers and the advertisers — show their disapproval, the first by tuning off from such shows and the latter by withdrawing sponsorship. When marketers see that TRPs are falling (and they will, once every cheap trick in the book has been utilised), they will pull out which, in turn, will force producers to try other types of programming. That may not happen for a long time, so brace yourself for even more schlock and sleaze on your television sets.


- The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai








IT is with a sense of guarded optimism that Delhi must view the Bangladesh foreign minister's statement that her country is open to Indian investment for the development of Chittagong port and the deep sea port at Sonadia island in the Bay of Bengal. It is open to question whether Dipu Moni was playing to the Indian gallery when she wondered aloud in Tripura: "Why alone China? We want all our neighbours to take part in developing our ports." It might be tempting to interpret the offer as an opportunity for India to undercut China's influence not least because the Chittagong port and Sonadia Island are integral to Beijing's so-called String of Pearls policy, a geo-strategic gambit. Not quite. There is no official, let alone convincing indication, that Dhaka is equally willing to accommodate the interests of India, Nepal and Bhutan.  It bears recall that Dhaka's appeal to Beijing to invest in the projects was advanced when Prime Minister Hasina visited China last March. Not only has China readily agreed to invest in the two ports; it has even been encouraged to revive its plan for a tri-nation highway from Kunming to Chittagong via Myanmar. Ergo, Dhaka's commitment to protect China's interests remains its first priority. And it shall remain the dominant international partner in this segment. Eight months after the Beijing-Dhaka agreement, it will be a small consolation prize for Delhi to be content with a "me-too" status in South Asia's maritime diplomacy. The foreign minister's offer calls for reflection.
At another remove, the resumption of the boundary talks merely signals that the ice has been broken after five years with the change in the political dispensation. No, it didn't go beyond the customary jaw-jaw on the undemarcated land boundary, the exchange of enclaves and the irregular possession of enclaves. The decision to "allow 24-hour unfettered access through the Tin Bigha corridor'' ~ to quote the joint statement ~ is a diplomatic victory for Dhaka. For India, the risk of an increased exodus through this transit point is substantial. Well may Dr Manmohan Singh want all outstanding boundary issues to be settled in the spirit of the 1974 agreement. It is a fair guess though that the issues will be settled on Bangladesh's terms, even after the Awami League is back in the saddle. For close to 40 years, India has been ever so ready to treat the migrants as state guests.



WHILE the land issue has fetched Mamata Banerjee political dividend, the impressive turnout at her rally in Rajarhat on Kolkata's eastern fringe confirms that it still has strong appeal for the large community of land-losers who constitute a sizable vote-bank. She is understandably keen on retaining that advantage while espousing concern for industrialisation in her overtures to industrialists. But even soul-stirring arguments on forcible land acquisitions by the Left wouldn't convince anyone that the idea of returning ten per cent of developed land at Rajarhat is practical. Trinamul has sought to include this in the amendment to the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 that the UPA is keen on introducing in the current session of Parliament. Before it becomes law, it is pointless to assume that any part of acquired land could be returned. If Miss Banerjee insists on making it an issue ~ using dramatic gestures like the display of files supposedly containing complaints from farmers ~ West Bengal's housing minister plays his own part in the serio-comic drama with an offer of eleven per cent at Rajarhat should his tormentor agree to a ten per cent ratio in Singur, and a return of the Tata Nano. Trinamul and the Left should know that such posturing produces the climate for a poll campaign, not for a serious debate.

Miss Banerjee's audience wouldn't possibly grasp the fallacy of Trinamul leaders suggesting that they woke up to a "scam'' after endorsing Rajarhat as a model township. She herself approves of IT hubs and an art village, confirming her realisation that it is impossible to repeat the offensive that stalled the Nano project at Singur and a chemical hub at Nandigram. She can campaign on the single point of forcible acquisitions with threats of gherao and other forms of disruption that may bring development work in the township to a halt till the Assembly election. The answer to the Trinamul strategy surely cannot be a Left-sponsored trade-off that is untenable and meant for public consumption. It is not clear how the housing minister can take the liberty of assuming that the state cabinet will approve the deal ~ that is, if the Tatas are still interested. On her part, the Trinamul chief also assumes that a ten per cent ratio will find the UPA's endorsement. All this suggests that competitive populism will sully the poll campaign, and possibly degenerate into turf wars. While the Left does it to defend a crumbling fortress, Trinamul makes it an integral part of a successful offensive.



NOT surprisingly, the sports minister seems to have got it all wrong. Again. In informing Parliament (courtesy a statement laid on the table amidst  characteristic din) that the country would not conduct a "similar" sporting event until "we carefully take on board the recommendations of the Shunglu Committee, the CAG and the CVC", MS Gill has thrown a low blow at the aspirations of top athletes who perform best before home crowds. Given the mess that was the Commonwealth Games a moratorium on hosting major international festivals might go down well: but in reality that would apply essentially to an Asian Games a few years down the road. So was his "target" just Suresh Kalmadi and his IOA buddies whose ambitions still run shameless riot? Fair enough, but the vague tenor of his statement could cast a shadow over other less-extravagant competitions and lead India into isolation of sorts. The international hockey federation, to cite one example, has allotted some important events to India. Has the minister queered the pitch? A clarification would be reassuring. As well as give both players and organisers something to which they can look forward. Not all federations, and those leading them, are cast in the CWG-mould and the ministry's typically bureaucratic approach would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Hardly a just reward for the athletes, their coaches and federations too, which saw them perform far beyond expectations in New Delhi recently. Performances which the minister boasted to Parliament were the fruit of a Rs 678-crore preparation scheme implemented over two years. Were it not for that three-figure medals tally the glitches in the Games would have been the predominant memory.
That already the various probes have established corruption or worse, mismanagement etc might "satisfy" the general public. But the nagging question that the investigations could leave unanswered would pertain to dismal failure of, among others, Gill's own ministry, to monitor the functioning of the CWG Organising Committee; more so since much noise had been made by the blunt Mike Hooper. The ban, call it by another term if you prefer, even if temporary, is the easy way out. An efficient sports ministry that plays its facilitating role without overusing its financial clout is what is required. The Gill formula hardly fits the bill.








AUNG San Suu Kyi, authentic hero of our time, has finally been released from detention. Throughout her prolonged incarceration, she stood firm and refused all proffered incentives to compromise. The great outpouring of welcome that has greeted her release, with crowds gathering spontaneously at her residence to express their joy, shows that she may have been tucked away out of sight for the last seven years but has never lost the adoring esteem of her people.

Already, with her release, the political landscape in Myanmar is shifting. Splinters from her own party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) had broken with her when she refused to take part in the recent elections but have made conciliatory remarks since she came out. Keeping the NLD out of the elections made room for others, less adamant, to be co-opted into supporting the junta's electoral initiative, so that many observers consider the present scene in Myanmar as much more complex than when she was detained after her overwhelming victory in the previous election: the challenge before her is correspondingly more testing.
The ruling junta has felt confident enough to hold elections, in order to give itself an ersatz civilian face while retaining effective power, but the efforts to project an alternative civilian leadership have done nothing to diminish the ecstatic welcome for Suu Kyi. She has emerged with her aura heightened and her status enhanced and her release is a notable moment of triumph that has been widely celebrated at home and abroad.
As yet, Suu Kyi has given few indications of how she will proceed, beside calling for the people not to give up hope and proclaiming that her struggle for human rights and rule of law will continue. She has expressed her desire for a non-violent peaceful revolution, something that will bring about great change for the better, and said she is ready to talk to the leaders of the junta. Meanwhile, the military rulers remain watchful and silent. A close eye is kept on those who visit the freed leader though no denial of access has been reported. Some assessments of the situation suggest that the junta feels sufficiently strengthened by the elections of a few days ago to have taken the step of releasing Suu Kyi, expecting perhaps to ride out the inevitable swell of emotion in her favour and anticipating that it would subside before too long. Yet though she has called for reconciliation, she would very likely be regarded as a threat to the legitimacy, hence to the continuity, of the regime.
International reactions to the elections have been very mixed. Within Asia, especially in nearby ASEAN, a guarded welcome was extended, in the hope that the elections would be the first step towards political reform.


In the West, however, the elections were strongly criticized and seen as illegitimate. The USA came out strongly against as did the EU. The UN Secretary-General was also critical. Since Suu Kyi's release, there is a mood of wariness among her supporters abroad: she has been released on earlier occasions, only to be re-arrested and returned to prison. There is also great sympathy for the hardships she has had to undergo - for fear of not being permitted to return to Myanmar, she has refused permission to leave, even to meet her ailing husband, now deceased. Nor has she been able to meet other family members, including her son. The regime has been unrelenting. Numerous international efforts, especially by the UN, to try some sort of mediation came to nothing. The regime in Myanmar has shown itself to be impervious to world opinion, thus the fear cannot be dismissed that it may strike again if things do not go as it wishes. 

India's official reaction was contained in a statement by the External Affairs Minister who welcomed the release and expressed the hope that this would be the beginning of reconciliation in Myanmar. New Delhi's has been a restrained response and there has been nothing said by any other senior leader after the initial statement. By contrast, the country in general has given a more wholehearted and spontaneous welcome. The college in Delhi, where Suu Kyi was once a student, has greeted her release with enthusiasm, and there are many others who sympathise deeply with her and her cause and have been appalled by her prolonged detention. When the army in Myanmar first took over so many years ago, India was at the forefront of the international condemnation. All India Radio became a focal point, providing information and succour to pro-democracy activists, and India zealously raised the matter in many forums. But gradually, of necessity, matters began to change. Myanmar is a neighbour and cannot be wished away, its military regime showed no sign of being dislodged, and India found it necessary to establish effective working relations with it. Security considerations had to be taken into account, for the India-Myanmar border is a place of shared concern and needs to be stabilized through mutually supportive arrangements. Since then, many exchanges at different levels have taken place and, differences on democratic practice and on human rights notwithstanding, progressively the two countries have instituted normal relations on trade, border cooperation, people-to-people contact, and so on. New areas of cooperation in economic areas and transit routes have been explored. Thus pragmatism has become the watchword, and a readiness to engage, rather than maintain the censorious aloofness of earlier days.
At the back of much of this activity on the part of India is the awareness that China has emerged as is an active partner and prominent associate of Myanmar. Unlike India, China established cooperative ties with the new rulers from the start. Especially visible were the expanded military ties between them: arms supplies strengthened the Myanmar generals and helped consolidate their rule. More troubling for India were reports of Chinese naval posts along the Andaman Sea. India realised that it could not leave the field to its neighbour and that there was a strategic necessity of developing ties with Myanmar. On its part, Myanmar was willing enough, not wishing to be drawn too close to any of its powerful neighbours. Both these neighbouring giants are developing economic projects and access routes through Myanmar, for which there is great potential. But the reality cannot be ignored that Suu Kyi's cause and her resistance to her country's military rulers attract great international sympathy, and India's ability to maintain pragmatic dealings with Myanmar without seeming to condone anti-democratic actions will be under scrutiny, especially now that it is to be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. So, testing times lie ahead. 

The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary







Claude-Henri de Rouvroy de Saint Simon (1760-1825) was the first socialist thinker to grasp the logic and dynamics of the new industrial system that emerged in Western Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century. As a product of the French Enlightenment, and like Montesquieu and Voltaire, he looked to England as the seat of comparatively free institutions, and liberty and hoped that France would emulate these.

As a rationalist, he was optimistic about the benefits of technology and human progress. He believed in science and knowledge and disliked the Clergy. He accepted the Enlightenment faith, that with the help of scientific knowledge, one could transform society. He, however, distanced himself from their critical and revolutionary perceptions for his intention was to be inventive and constructive. Saint Simon was a towering intellect whose genius was acknowledged by JS Mill and Durkheim. Engels described him as the "most erudite and all-round mind of his time" and the second most encyclopedic mind after Hegel. He played an influential role in positivism, sociology, political economy, philosophy of history besides socialist thought. 

Saint Simon hoped to transform nation states into great productive corporations led by scientists and technicians anticipating Burnham's thesis of a managerial revolution. It was a socialism that bestowed immense faith in technocracy. He emphasised the general well-being, happiness and cooperation within the community. Being inherently sceptical of politics and politicians, he desired a social order that was organised on the principle of "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs", a phrase that Marx subsequently borrowed. Saint Simon was concerned with the elimination of poverty and with the material and cultural elevation of the proletariat. Though he believed that the proletariat suffered in the industrial society, he did not look upon them as a viable political force capable of fomenting a revolution. He never spoke of class struggle because of his inherent faith in cooperation and goodwill. He believed in a world governed by the scientific elite. 
There were, broadly, four stages in Saint Simon's works and activities. In the first and the formative period, he was influenced by the developments in science and abstract humanism. During the second, he refused to see capitalism as a permanent and natural system and worked towards its replacement. The third stage began when his followers and disciples, on his death, elaborated and developed Saint Simonism as a socialist doctrine. It included abolition of private ownership of the means of production, distribution of goods according to labour and ability, and planned production patterned after the capitalist credit banking system. It established a nexus between exploitation and the institution of private property responsible for the crisis and anarchy within capitalism. Significantly they saw socialism as developing within capitalism. The fourth stage, from 1831, represented the decline of Saint Simonism though even today he has a sizeable following in France. 
Unlike the other early socialists for whom association meant small scale group organised in a particular occupation or place of work, Saint Simon wanted a universal association which would first unite the entire society, the European continent, and then the whole world. He tried to create a science of humanity and a universal Philosophy of History for the purpose of advancing the lives of human beings. He understood history, like Machiavelli did, as alternating between destruction and construction. However, his approach was euro-centric for he regarded non-European societies as still in their infancies and hence did not merit any serious introspection. 

Saint Simon's ideal was a cooperative commonwealth ruled bureaucratically by an aristocracy of science. Though not a man of science, he gave scientists a pride of place in the modern society. He looked to them as the floating elite with no natural class affiliation. Along with the moralists and administrative directors, they could create a good society. He was confident that if scientists occupied the top slots in social organisations, conflicts would cease and reason would prevail. He opposed violence and revolution and was confident that feudal rulers would relinquish their power and position peacefully after being convinced that their days were over. The scientists possessed unified knowledge to infuse a spirit of solidarity. They could act as trustees of the poor for they had the knowledge to increase productivity, diffuse purchasing power and raise  general well-being. 
Saint Simon looked to the 19th century as the epoch of applied natural science and believed in perfectibility of human society and progress made possible by scientific knowledge. He visualised the possibilities of creating enormous wealth through scientific use of technology unhindered by private property and its laws of inheritance. This arrangement could be transferred to the state when it became an association of workers. He desired a system in which merit alone would be recognised and rewarded and that meant abolition of privileges that birth and inheritance gave. He also insisted that everyone  performed labour which would be the basis of respect within the community. He dismissed the privileges of the old world based on idleness. Each had right to property according to the services rendered. Production would be planned and organised with a gradation of authority and ranks. The directing authorities decided the value of services rendered by each to society and the rewards they would receive. This was the best possible and desirable principle of equality.

He never spoke about fundamental antagonisms between the employers and employees for he looked upon them as a single class with common interest as against those who did not do useful work. There was no room for class and power conflicts, since the natural elite of an industrial scientific society were based on talent, intelligence and capacity which were instantly recognisable. Since organisational society was based on rule of law rather than men, slowly political rule would disappear. Administration rather than government would be important. 
Saint Simon was the originator of the idea of European integration. He believed that every nation state would merge within a European confederative association for a prosperous economy needed larger territorial units. Within the nation state the central government would diminish for it would not be able to provide order amidst the new demands of the corporate world which would demand a decentralised administrative state. 
Saint Simon comprehended the new social forces that were unleashed by the political revolution and scientific advancements and insisted on the need for a planned organisation and control of production for common interest. He taught the importance of organisation as having a decisive power and importance over all things. He was the first to see the importance of economic organisation in the affairs of the modern society and affirmed the crucial role economics played in social evolution. He was also the first to contemplate a New Encyclopedia which assembled together all the new advancements in science. He admired the medieval separation of temporal and spiritual powers because that led to the establishment of an independent, international and pre-eminent body of the educational elite. 

Saint Simon did not look at the ugly side of industrial capitalism though his analysis foresaw four developments that are clearly visible today. First is the role of corporate bodies to make and impose their decisions on society. The second is the hierarchy based on science and exercise of knowledge. Third is the conception of partnership among the different European states. Fourth the inadequacy of nation state to cope with forces of internationalism unleashed by industrial and technocratic forces. His socialism, like that of Fabian collectivism, was authoritarian and hierarchical because of his emphasis on order and regulation. He desired a new social order that recognised and rewarded talent, expertise, competence and scientific knowledge. 
Apart from leading a very adventurous life, Saint Simon's prophecies and proposals of building a Panama Canal and European integration prove his extraordinary capacity to grasp the momentous changes that was possible due to technological revolution. He could clearly see that technology would drastically change society and looked to skilled people as the key to the glory, advancement and prosperity of a nation for without them "the nation would become a lifeless corpse". 

The writers are Delhi-based professors of political science







IT IS traditional that the father of the bride pays for his daughter's wedding. But when it comes to royal nuptials custom favours the commoner.

The cost of Prince William and Kate Middleton's union will run into millions and will be largely met by public funds. The bulk of this expense will go on the huge security bill for the occasion.

The announcement of a wedding adds another red letter day to a police diary already overflowing with costly events. One member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Scotland Yard's board of governors, warned that budgets were already tight.

Green politician Ms Jenny Jones said a compromise could see the Windsors contributing to the cost of policing. She said: "In this age of austerity, it's unrealistic to expect the taxpayer to pay millions for policing a wedding, however beautiful. We can keep costs down by making it a low-key event or the Royal Family can contribute. That would seem the fairest solution."

The Queen and the Prince of Wales will be expected to pay their share of the costs of the pageantry and private parties. In the recent historic deal over the future public funding of the Royal Family, exceptional provision was made for supporting the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

In the wake of last month's Comprehensive Spending Review, the Queen agreed to cut total Royal Household spending by 14 per cent in 2012-13. It was also announced that Buckingham Palace had cancelled its £50,000 Christmas party. The Department for Culture, which pays £15m a year towards the upkeep of royal palaces, has already demanded that maintenance costs for the palaces and royal travel costs be reduced by 25 per cent.
The Royal Household and the government claimed that the new deal over a sovereign grant would save the public money. An additional financial burden ~ such as a Royal wedding ~ makes such a claim sound a little hollow. It also raises the prospect of the Queen going back to Parliament to ask for another hand-out.
Mr Graham Smith, a spokesman for the anti-monarchist group Republic, said: "William is not the head of state; there is no guarantee he will ever be head of state. This is a private occasion which I'm sure the Palace will want to milk for maximum PR effect. It is not for the taxpayer to pay for any part of this event; the Windsors must cough up."

Securing the Royal Family, VIP guests and key locations will be at the centre of the expensive police operation. But monitoring thousands of onlookers who will surround the venue and line the route is likely to be the most high-profile police responsibility.

In 1981, thousands of police officers and members of the Armed Forces lined the route of procession of Diana, Princess of Wales, from Clarence House. Up to 600,000 people gathered in central London and the spectacle was watched by some 750 million people worldwide.

In 2005, officers from the Met and Thames Valley Police oversaw the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in Windsor. Officers from specialist squads including royalty protection, diplomatic protection, CO19 and Special Branch were involved, as well as beat teams.

the independent





A Retrospect 

When the announcement was made that Lord Minto was to succeed Lord Curzon as Viceroy the general impression undoubtedly was that Mr Balfour and his colleagues, having come to the conclusion that India was in need of rest, had selected a ruler who would give this country leisure to recover from the breathless series of changes introduced by Lord Curzon, who would abstain from provocative speech or action, and under whose soothing policy of tactful inertness the inexplicable irritation, as it seemed in England, caused by the Partition of Bengal would die down. Lord Minto's term of office as Governor-General of Canada had been blameless and uneventful. It was hoped that his Viceroyalty would be equally peaceful and equally inoffensive. What might have happened if the Conservatives had remained in office is a question to which no certain answer can be given, but the probability is that if Lord Minto had displayed any unexpected ardour as a reformer his ambitions would have met with a frigid response from those responsible for his selection. The Conservative Government were weary of innovations which, however seemingly innocuous, led to angry conflicts in the Olympian heights of Simla or in the sweltering plains of Bengal. Lord Minto himself, by his first utterance in India, a speech at the St Andrew's day dinner in Calcutta, confirmed the universal belief that he had come out with the fixed purpose of avoiding contentions. The advent of Mr Morley to the India Office, however, completely t transformed the conditions under which the new Viceroy began his career, with the result that Lord Minto's name will be associated with epoch-making reforms and also with a period of turbulence and unrest unparalleled since the Mutiny and in many respects of more sinister significance than a sepoy revolt. The explanation of the new role forced upon a Viceroy destined for a different part in the Indian drama is not far to seek. In the first place, the return to power of a Liberal Ministry and especially the appointment of Mr Morley as Secretary of State for India roused the leaders of the agitation against the Partition to renewed
















The institution of the comptroller and auditor general has a long history in modern India. It plays a critically important role in maintaining the checks and balances that are vital for the proper functioning of a democracy. The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has very aptly described the CAG as "an important watchdog of democracy". The CAG ensures that all financial transactions of the government are above board and have followed the necessary rules and regulations. Since the government, by definition, handles money that is not its but belongs to the public, the CAG ensures accountability and rectitude in the government's financial affairs. This is a very onerous responsibility which assumes that the CAG should be scrupulously fair in the course of its own work and during the preparation of its report on any given matter. The prime minister drew attention to this when he emphasized that the CAG should take care to distinguish between "wrongdoing and genuine errors.'' He drew attention to this distinction between "a bonafide error and a deliberate mistake'' while speaking at the 150 years' celebration of the CAG.


The prime minister perhaps did not say enough to guarantee that the CAG remains always fair. One elementary principle of fairness is the recording of the views of those against whom allegations have been made. No CAG report can be either complete or fair as a mere case for the prosecution. It has to include the case for the defence as well. Yet, it is often the case, that the preliminary and interim report of the CAG, without the arguments of the accused party, is leaked to the media who for their own selfish interests lap up such leaks. It is part of the CAG's responsibility to guarantee that these leaks do not happen as a matter of routine as happens in India. The CAG cannot be seen as the guardian of rectitude and yet itself be subject to leaks that are unfair and improper. The prime minister has drawn attention to the proneness of the CAG to see mala fide motives in what are no more than ordinary human errors. Following that dictum, it is not necessary to project motives behind leaks emanating from the CAG even though they happen with alarming regularity. It is the responsibility of the CAG to see that only its full report and assessment come into the domain of public discourse. Without that guarantee, its work will be half done.








A new state is much more than a redrawing of political geography; it is essentially a promise of a better future for its people. Ten years ago, three new states — Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal — came into being. Each of them has its share of social and economic problems. But only in Jharkhand, the promise of a new beginning has been so completely shattered. Nothing illustrated this more starkly than the declaration during the Foundation Day celebrations in Ranchi that 11.44 lakh more have now joined the state's list of people living below the poverty line. Jharkhand's plight is particularly shocking because its mineral and other natural resources are among the richest in India. Sadder still, it is their own leaders who have let the poor people of Jharkhand so ruthlessly down. Politicians everywhere in India take to corruption as fish to water. But many of Jharkhand's leaders have done little else than drain the state's coffers in order to amass personal fortunes. In 10 years, the state has had two chief ministers who are now facing legal action on corruption charges. The state's unending political instability made corruption the prime mover of its politics. The result is a great betrayal of the dream that inspired the tribal people's long struggle for a separate state.


The chief minister, Arjun Munda, has now made yet another promise of a new beginning. In his Foundation Day speech, he has set new priorities, which include making Jharkhand a power-surplus state and reaching power to all its 32,615 villages. His immediate goal is to complete irrigation projects in order to tackle the challenge thrown up by the current spell of drought. But then, setting priorities or goals was never a problem with Jharkhand's successive chief ministers. The problem was that the governments and the politicians showed no real interest in implementing the goals. A real beginning for the state's makeover, therefore, has to start with a change in its political culture. If even a semblance of governance returns to Ranchi, Jharkhand can benefit immensely from the country's new economic regime. Iron ore is currently the rage for investors, domestic or foreign, and few other states can rival Jharkhand's stock of the mineral. New Delhi's revised mining policy promises to be the cornerstone of a new agenda for development. But the rulers in Ranchi must first clean up their acts.









It is with trepidation that one opens the morning newspapers these days or tunes into the electronic media, for fear of being exposed to further news of damage to the revered institution of our armed forces. An institution that upheld the honour and integrity of the country, not only through wars and combating insurgencies in different parts of the country, but also in providing relief during natural calamities and international peace-keeping operations with the United Nations.


On the morning of Diwali, even as this newspaper published extracts of the sombre interview of the chief of army staff expressing anguish at the damage to the institution of the army resulting from the Adarsh Housing Society episode, another newspaper broke the news of a scandal involving the air force and naval housing board with an erstwhile naval chief being named. The nation must wonder how many more skeletons lie buried. If they can let down the men and women they command then letting the country down is but a small incremental step.


The bigger danger is to those of our serving men and women on whose shoulders rests the responsibility of keeping our future secure. How are they to differentiate between commanders to be respected and those to be shunned? And when the moment of reckoning comes, could this fleeting doubt make a difference between obeying a lawful command blindly or pausing to reflect? These are harsh questions, but in the context of the unimpeachable integrity expected of our armed forces, they need to be posed.


While it is not the writer's case to pass judgment on those that are being named in various exposés, it is to the wider damage to the very fabric of our armed forces and their morale that our attention must be drawn. After all, the vital ingredient of a potent fighting force is morale, which is not born out of any magic potion that commanders can administer but out of the unshakeable trust and resulting bond between the leaders and the led. Morale is high when commanders enjoy the blind confidence of the men they command. Good commanders can feel the morale of their troops in their bones — as morale is not displayed on uniform sleeves.


If today there is a perception among many commentators and including this writer about the profound impact of all this adverse publicity on the morale of the armed forces, it is amply justified. The reality is that whilst most of us have the luxury of watching this drama unfold from our drawing rooms and to indulge in sterile debate, to those of our forces that are manning our borders, skies and oceans it is a question of whether the larger commitment to the cause for which they are risking their life and limb daily is real or hollow.


There are three distinct facets of life in our armed forces. The first relates to our field formations, on which rests the war-fighting capability of the nation. It is here that the officers work and train to become true leaders through baptism by fire and it is here that, in peace and war, our young soldiers and officers are giving their youth so that the nation may get on with its life. In the bargain, unsung martyrs are born daily. For them there is no breaking news and no obituary. They and their families are left to mourn in silent dignity and to face an uncertain future. Significantly, this is also where the armed forces remain cocooned from the civil side of national governance and hence uncorrupted by its rapid degeneration. Having had the privilege to command such a body of men and women, this writer can predict confidently that they will remain so, no matter where our decaying governance or politics takes us. To that extent the nation can heave a sigh of relief.


There is, though, another variant of this facet when the armed forces are called upon to aid civil authority, as has happened for over six decades in the various states of the Northeast and for over a decade in Jammu and Kashmir. Here, not only are these field formations exposed to the politics of the states and the civil administration, but they are sometimes even made targets of the very governments whose chestnuts they have been called upon to pull out of the fire. In such situations, the armed forces find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Of late, state governments in both Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir have targeted the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, painting it to be something that the armed forces use to abuse human rights. The lawmakers who have enacted the law, and the government that implements the law, have failed to dispel this motivated notion, remaining ambivalent. It has been left to the service chiefs to defend what legitimately should have been the task of the government. It is the right of civil governments in a democracy to exercise full authority over the armed forces, but this carries with it an obligation to keep them insulated from politics. Failing to do so and sitting on the fence on critical issues bode ill for both our democracy and the institution of the armed forces.


This brings us to the third facet, which is the management of the armed forces at the command and service headquarters level and their interface with the various ministries and departments of the government, the bureaucracy and the political leadership. It is here that the foundation of years of leadership and training in the field is either built on or shattered. When exposed to the unfettered power of a bureaucracy without accountability, the lack of understanding and the indifference of the political leadership to all things military and to the sheer power of patronage within the system, many a potential senior service leader falls prey. The short-term benefits to their careers, postings, promotions and, in some cases, even financial or post-retirement opportunities are far too tempting to let go of. Thus an unholy nexus is created at variance with the fabric of the institution of the armed forces. The Adarsh episode is a clear example of this.


This is by no means a new phenomenon. For decades now, promotions to higher ranks and to commanders and chiefs have been subject to both political and bureaucratic patronage, as is well known in the corridors of the service headquarters. Rules have been manipulated and various tricks used to benefit the privileged and pull down the deserving. In some cases, chiefs who were themselves beneficiaries of this munificence are co-opted to perpetuate this injustice. That the service takes it in its stride and continues to perform merely substantiates what has earlier been said about our field formations. But this dichotomy cannot last forever, especially in the present information age. The cracks are now beginning to show and, as the recent series of scandals indicate, they are by no means hairline, they are crevasses.


In the past, every instance of wrongdoing at the highest levels of the armed forces has drawn instant notice, debate and retribution in keeping with the special acts that apply to the respective armed forces. While this is necessary and keeps the institution of the armed forces on its toes and holds it accountable, the other systemic institutional weaknesses and lapses are simply glossed over. So, after Tehelka, the only people punished were those in uniform, with all others remaining untouched. Today, all eyes are on the army and its chief. Where, one wonders, is the ministry of defence, which is directly responsible for the director-general of defence estates, whose officers are also within the Adarsh net and perhaps the brain behind it? It is these double standards that are not lost on those serving in uniform.


The truth, however, is that the way our higher defence organization is structured, in every important area, from procurement to promotions and postings of senior officers, the authority rests with the ministry of defence and not with the service headquarters. There is thus a strong motivation to maintain status quo, and that is why the integration of service headquarters with the ministry of defence, a long overdue reform and one recommended by the Kargil review committee continues to be resisted. After all, exercising unfettered authority over the armed forces with no corresponding accountability is too attractive an incentive to surrender.


Now that there is suspicion that many of our very senior armed forces officers have conducted themselves in a manner not befitting the positions that they hold, the nation must ask how such people were able to reach the pinnacle of their careers, where the promotional pyramid is not only steep but competition extremely tough? Indeed, how many more are there whose misdeeds lie unexposed? What role did institutions other than the armed forces — namely, the ministry of defence, the intelligence bureau and the cabinet committee on appointments — play in failing to be diligent, and were these merely errors of omission or of commission as well? What are the organizational weaknesses that have allowed such fatal lapses in the security of the nation to take place and, importantly, what must be the institutional lessons learnt?


If allegations of severe wrongdoing for personal gain can be laid at the doors of chiefs and commanders who were serving, then no time can be lost in cleaning the Augean stables. The nation is at the end of its tether and people are owed an assurance. At the level of individual service, this can be done best by each service conducting a self-cleansing exercise, including those high-ranking veterans whose integrity has been the subject of whispering campaigns. At the national level, this writer can only repeat what was recommended in these columns earlier ("Through thick and thin", The Telegraph, June 3, 2009): setting up a blue ribbon commission not just to find answers to the vexed questions asked above, but to that of where the nation wants to peg the institution of its armed forces.


The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Force








Time has proved the pundits wrong again. After Greece, it is neither Spain nor Portugal that has fallen, as had been predicted, but it is Ireland, with a $20 billion debt default. Ireland's present public debt burden is nearly 99 per cent of its gross domestic product. It also has to bail out its distressed banks at a cost of $54.3 billion. In 2009, it had the highest budget deficit of 14.3 per cent in the euro zone. Ireland's credit rating had dropped from AAA to AA+ in March 2009, then to AA in June 2009, to become AA- this year, the lowest since 1995. The irony is that unlike Greece or Portugal, Ireland had been doing fine when it joined the euro. Since then, till mid-2008, Ireland had one of the fastest growing economies in Europe when banks, both foreign and domestic, just poured in cash in its property market. Prices zoomed, but by mid-2008, when the music had stopped, there were few takers for these properties. The market crashed, along with stocks and jobs in the construction sector.


Ireland has been strictly following the rules set by the European Central Bank to keep the euro stable — cutting budget deficit, slashing salaries and wages, keeping taxes competitive, living austerely and trying to boost exports. Yet, its credit rating is dropping. Interestingly enough, the International Monetary Fund used to set the same conditions, plus capital mobility, for its loans to the developing economies. The catch is that this solely market-based, 'export-led' growth model ignores the fact that import demand, like home demand, is very much a function of income, as price is. In fact, at times, income is the dominant factor governing demand. So, when a recession or a feeble recovery engulfs nations and/or their major trading partners, their consumption and imports are cut sharply and the model fails. This is the predicament of Ireland.


Depressed times

Ireland entered recession in mid-2008 for the first time since 1983, and was the first euro-country to do so. Thousands of jobs were lost in construction and the malaise spread to other sectors through linkage effects. Unemployment soared from six per cent in 2008 to 12 per cent in 2009, and can rise to 14 per cent this year. While consumer price inflation averaged 4.1 per cent in 2008, it has been falling since the last quarter of 2008, thanks to declining demand. In 2009, it became -4.5 per cent and is estimated to be -0.5 per cent or lower this year.


Ireland, thus, has been in deflation since late 2008. In such a situation, business delays investment decisions and households delay their purchases, expecting prices to drop further. So, both consumption and investment, the two components of 'home demand', shrink. It is in this context that the ECB-dictated austerity programme is to be judged. With both home and export demands reduced significantly, it is only government demand that can lift Ireland out of the morass. Since mid-2008, Ireland has passed three slashed budgets with sharp cuts in public sector salaries, child benefits and social welfare payments. These are estimated to have sucked about five per cent of the GDP. The ECB has set 2014 as the year by which Ireland has to reduce its budget deficit to three per cent. Consequently, it could face tax raises and further cuts on public spending to the tune of $20.6 billion over the next four years. GDP would fall, causing the tax revenue to drop, making debt-servicing far more difficult. The economy might be propelled into a full-scale depression then.


Till now, there have not been many strikes or riots. But the ruling party is stuck at below 25 per cent in the polls for more than a year and can lose the parliamentary strength necessary to implement the austerity measures. In that case, either the ECB alters its rigid stand regarding the budget deficit or Ireland exits the euro. The latter would be beneficial for the Irish people.



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





The supreme court's adverse comment on the delay on the part of the prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, in responding to a request for sanction of prosecution of former telecom minister A Raja for corruption in the allocation of 2G spectrum should cause embarrassment to the holder of the country's highest executive office. The prime minister should actually feel more than embarrassment because the court has rarely directed such pointed criticism at his office. It said that the inaction and silence on Subramanian Swamy's letter to the prime minister is troubling, and when the reply was made it was not convincing either. The reply said that the request was pre-mature, but the court has found no basis for that reason while the case against Raja was specific.

Dr Swamy wrote to the prime minister in November 2008 and received a reply only in October 2010. There was a delay of 11 months. A number of supreme court judgments and guidelines issued by the Central Vigilance Commission have prescribed a maximum period of three months for grant or denial of such permission. The prime minister's office is in violation of this and that puts it in bad light. It raises the question whether the errant minister was being protected by the prime minister. The telecom ministry under Raja had claimed that all its decisions on 2G spectrum allocation were within the knowledge and with the support of the prime minister. But the Comptroller and Auditor-General's report, which has exposed huge irregularities in spectrum allocation, has found that the minister had actually ignored the advice of the prime minister and many ministries. The issue then turns out to be whether the prime minister exercised his power of oversight over the decisions and actions of the ministry, when it became clear that they were irregular.

The court has sought an explanation from the prime minister over the delay in action on Dr Swamy's request. The people also need convincing that no extraneous considerations influenced the PMO's soft-pedalling  of the issue, in spite of Dr Swamy's request and other warnings. If Raja's wrong-doing, which caused a gigantic loss to the nation, was ignored because his party was a coalition partner whose support is crucial for the government, that amounts to a failure of prime ministerial responsibility. Dr Singh is known for his personal integrity and clean image. His explanation to the court will be watched with interest by the nation.








By ruling that a triple talaq uttered by a man over mobile phone is valid even if the wife was unable to hear it, the Dar-ul Uloom Deoband has laid bare yet again its regressive streak. This is the second time in a month that the powerful Sunni seminary has issued absurd fatwas on divorce. A month ago, a youth reportedly uttered triple talaq in jest while chatting to his wife over internet. He approached the seminary to find out whether his talaq was valid. The latter said it was. More recently, another man said he uttered the triple talaq to his wife over mobile. In this case too, the seminary held that the talaq was valid, although the wife said she did not hear it, neither were there witnesses to his utterance. The motives of the two men in turning to the seminary are not clear. It is possible that they wanted the divorce and took the issue to the seminary. However, more condemnable is the response of the Deoband. Its clerics said the wife was now 'haraam' and that the husband had lost the right to remarry her without 'halalaah' ie she would have to marry someone else, divorce him and then observe the mandatory waiting period.

Progressive Muslims have been calling for doing away with triple talaq as it is un-Islamic, unjust and biased heavily in favour of men. They have pointed out that it has been repeatedly misused by men. It injects a fresh dose of arbitrariness and injustice in a law that is hugely illogical and anti-women to start with.

Several Muslim countries have proscribed or watered down the use of triple talaq. What is holding back India? India is right in making reforms in personal law a matter for the concerned community to decide on. However, in the case of Muslims this decision has been in the hands of the community's most reactionary sections. The rights of Muslim women in marriage and divorce are not safe in the hands of regressive ulema and the reactionary All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. There are millions of Muslim women and men who want personal laws that are more in touch with today's world, laws that are based on principles of equality. The government must listen to their voices too.







Dr Singh is now the prime minister and considering the magnitude of the scam, he simply can't get away with vague and whoolly excuses.


It is a strange paradox that Independent India's two biggest scandals — the stock market scam of mid-90s, and the current telecom scam — occurred under the benign superintendence of the man who is universally hailed as "one of the most sincere and honest" leaders that this country has seen. As the mind-boggling, head-reeling telecom saga continues to unfold, the nation will await to see whether this turbaned paragon of integrity is also capable of listening to his conscience and acting decisively to uphold the faith of a billion people.

We are living in difficult times. Constitutionally-mandated personalities, who are expected to work as trustees and uphold public interest at all time, compromise with principles and bare themselves as men with feet of clay, completely unmindful of the exposure. Here in Karnataka, we have a chief minister brazen enough to justify corruption and nepotism as part of his 'power package' and at the Centre, we have a prime minister who willingly turns a blind eye to all the muck around him, wallowing in the belief that as long as his personal reputation is white as a lily, he doesn't have to care a damn.

It was the same Dr Manmohan Singh as finance minister in the Narasimha Rao cabinet, who, when the Harshad Mehta-engineered scam broke out, remarked that he 'would not lose sleep' over it. After the Joint Parliamentary Committee investigated into and exposed the dubious activities of a handful of share brokers who milked the economy of crores of rupees illegally, Dr Singhís diagnosis was that it was 'a systemic failure'.

Dr Singh is now the prime minister of the country and considering the magnitude of the scam, he simply can't get away with vague and whoolly excuses. As the Comptroller and Auditor General of India's report has revealed, the former telecommunications and information technology minister Andimuthu Raja arrogantly discarded the advice of several ministries and the prime ministerís own counsel in arbitrarily awarding the 2G spectrum in January 2008 and yet Dr Singh maintained 'silence' till it exploded in his face.

In a stunning disclosure, the CAG has confirmed that 85 of the 122 applicants for 2G licence were ineligible, that they suppressed facts or gave fictitious information, that the cut-off date for licence letters were advanced arbitrarily, that most of these companies were created barely months before they were issued licences and that the owners of these licences after obtaining them at throw-away prices, in turn, sold significant stakes to Indian/foreign firms at high premium within a short time.

The CAG has estimated that the presumptive loss to the exchequer is of the order of Rs 1.76 lakh crore and of that, two dubious entities, Unitech and Swan alone made Rs 1,27,292 crore from the sale of equity to other players. Even major telecom players happily participated in the loot as Raja appeared to be the king of all that he purveyed, with the prime minister being a mute, disinterested spectator.

Opposition's failure

The scam had surfaced in January 2008 itself and the Left parties, to their credit, had raised a stink before the May general elections that year, but the UPA's 'resounding' victory in the polls and the principal opposition BJP's intra-party troubles ensured that the Manmohan Singh government was able to sit tight over the mega scam.

After the elections, Dr Singh made only a feeble attempt to take away the telecom ministry from the DMK and no more than that: After all, he was only a 'mukhota' for Sonia Gandhi and her 'parivar' who conducted negotiations with the DMK patriarch, M Karunanidhi on ministry formation. With the lid on the scam still firmly in place, Raja came back with a bigger smirk on his face.

What is mystifying is that Dr Singh, who seems to love the label of 'Mr Clean', never bothered to take a second look at 2G Spectrum allocation nor ordered an investigation. Is it possible then, that the amount involved in the scam being so huge that the DMK was only one of the players and the other hidden 'hands' must have been too hot for the prime minister even to contemplate taking any action?

But the truth could not be supressed for too long and here, the officers of the CAG must be complimented for a job thorough and meticulous. When some portions of the report inadvertently leaked out, a cocky Raja kept insisting that he had done no wrong and whatever he had done was with the 'knowledge' of the prime minister.

For the image-makers of the prime minister and the UPA, Raja had now become a hot potato and he had to be dispensed with. The Congress head hunchos conveyed their 'decision' to Karunanidhi, who had no option but to accept it with the elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly only months away and his bete noir, Jayalalitha always lurking in the corner.

If the Congress thought that the Opposition would be satisfied with Raja's 'head' and parliament would return to normal business, the supreme court's embarrassing questions to the prime minister and the full disclosure of the CAG report have put paid to any such illusions.

Just as the land scandals involving Yeddyurappa, his family members and cabinet colleagues, have reached a stage where the BJP central leadership will perforce have to step in to lend credibility to their campaign against corruption at the national level, Dr Manmohan Singh will have to step out of his facade and initiate credible action to show that in the evening of his life and career, he has no reason to be 'used' by anyone, any more.








'A Plan for Social and Economic Policy' contains 291 proposals and defines a new model for the country.


After a long wait and numerous postponements, the Cuban Communist Party, which oversees and directs the politics of the island, has decided to hold its sixth congress, in April 2011. The last was held in 1997, more than 13 years ago.

At the same time as the announcement of the meeting, which was made by the second secretary of the organisation and president of the republic, General Raul Castro, the release of a 32-page pamphlet entitled 'A Plan for Social and Economic Policy', was made public. The document contains 291 proposals and attempts the definition of a new model for the country's economic, productive, commercial, and social policy which, it is hoped, will help Cuba weather the current crisis.

The release of the Plan is in keeping with the principle that "the socialist planning system will remain the cornerstone of the management of the national economy" and with intent to move the island towards greater efficiency in production. It seeks the elimination of a wide range of paternalistic practices of the Cuban state and will establish its credibility with new and old foreign investors.

Public debate

The goal of the massive distribution of the Plan is to make the text into an object of debate among both party organs and citizens in order to see where there is agreements and disagreement and to devise changes to its concrete, tactical, and strategic elements. However, the categorical formulation of many of its points, the specialisation necessary to understand many of its sections, make it clear that its general application is a work in progress carried as part of the so-called "perfecting of the Cuban economic model" promoted by a government struggling with the difficulties, incongruencies, and incapacities of the system in place up until now, which was in many ways a response to the profound crisis the country experienced in the 1990s and which resulted in the existence of a double currency scheme, among other ills.

While many aspects of the document stand out, the most notable include the decentralisation of the economy by granting autonomy to entrepreneurs and the introduction of economic and financial instruments in a process that is usually dominated by political and administrative decisions, often anti-economic, as the reality of the country demonstrates.

Thus in very precise language, the Plan warns that in the period to come the survival of almost all businesses will depend on their ability to generate earnings, and if they don't they will face 'liquidation'. Meanwhile entities that receive state money will be reduced to a bare minimum. The Plan also states that the solidarity projects with other countries will be subjected to economic evaluation, never previously the case.

The Plan also contains numerous calls for ending subsidies, the elimination of jobs in state companies, and the promotion of forms of non-state production, services, and land use, with a projected increase in the work force in cooperatives and free lance operations.

These developments will be accompanied by the rollout of a new fiscal policy that includes imposition of a high tax rate for the highest earnings.

The economic shakeup that has begun in Cuba is in every way radical and profound, though there is no parallel wave of major changes to the single-party political system and government structures. Nonetheless, the social impacts of the changes that have already occurred and those to come will constitute a serious challenge to the Cuban political system.

For the people, the most controversial changes involve the new labour policy and the elimination of subsidies, which extends even to education and health care. The possibility that a part of those laid off in coming months will move into freelance work just as many who are already freelancers will have their status finally legalised makes this one of the more complicated solutions, given the country's critical economic situation.

It is clear that the 'structural and conceptual' changes in the Cuban model announced three years ago by then interim president Raul Castro are starting to take shape and make their presence felt in Cuban social and economic life. Now we will see how they effect the lives of millions of Cubans, doomed to live in a country in which economic competition and work must now take the place of state paternalism, and where efficiency will now try to displace subsidies, and where economic and social inequality is certain to rise after decades in which equality was officially created and promoted.








Apparently, there is always that dichotomy of thought processes in us.



Often, wonder how much of coordination exists between our thoughts, speech and actions. Apparently, there is always that dichotomy of thought processes in us — while we would be thinking of something inwardly, we would also concurrently be thinking of things to be uttered outwardly!

Once I had strung along with a buddy to her aunt's place. As we were bidding au revoir to her aunt, her neighbour, suddenly put in her appearance. Beaming with joy, she spilled news of her son getting married to a winsome girl, from a well-heeled family. 

Hearing this, my friend's aunt gushed in a dulcet tone, 'Tumba santhosha.' But soon after her neighbour left, she spewed out, "What's so great in 'getting spliced'. Everyone gets married on someday!"

Slowly she added, "Look at my lad, a lame-brained loser, who with his love-lariat can't lasso even a lunatic lass." Obviously my friend's aunt was disillusioned with her son, who, though nearing 40 years, hadn't found a suitable bride, owing to his middling career.

Another time, while sauntering on a side-walk with a friend of mine, we brushed against a female, attired in her knee-length apparel, who happened to be my friend's acquaintance. "Hey! How is my new dress?" asked that lady in a sing-song manner, to which my friend chirped, "Ravishing looking!" The moment that lady's back was turned, spat out my friend waspishly, "She thinks she's one heck of femme fatale! Just look at her. 'Peeche se personality; aage se municipality!"

Yet another time, while cramming down food at a street-side bistro with another pal of mine, we ran into her ex-colleague, who on seeing my friend, came sprinting towards her. After a rib-crunching hug, she informed, she was flying abroad as part of her promotion in the new company she had joined. To which my friend caroled, "That's cool. We'd like to raise a toast to your success."

But, after she left, bristling with rage my friend burst out, "She's veritable work-shy person, with tonnes of indolent attitude. Always skived off work, shuffled responsibilities and saddled others with her task. Just riding on massive wave of luck, since her cerebral calibre is zilch! Scan her brain, and you'll find out 'there is nothing right about her left brain, and nothing left in her right brain!"

As I'm penning this piece, I hear the telephone trill. A relative, more garrulous than me, coos, "Am I bothering you?" "Not at all" I tell her, though I'm smouldering inside for catching me at wrong time. After 15 minutes of jacking me around, she warbles again, "Hope you weren't disturbed by me," to which I say, "Chillax! It was a pleasure." As I place the phone in its cradle, I mutter, "What a pain in the neck."




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




The world's nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl. After months of negotiations with the White House, he has decided to try to block the lame-duck Senate from ratifying the New Start arms control treaty.


The treaty is so central to this country's national security, and the objections from Mr. Kyl — and apparently the whole Republican leadership — are so absurd that the only explanation is their limitless desire to deny President Obama any legislative success.


The Republicans like to claim that they are the party of national security. We can only hope that other senators in the party will decide that the nation's security interests must trump political maneuvering.


The treaty, the first with Russia in a decade, calls for both sides to reduce their deployed warheads modestly to 1,550 from 2,200. More important, it would restore "verification," inspections and other exchanges of information about the American and Russian arsenals.


If the treaty founders, it would also do huge damage to American credibility just as Mr. Obama is making progress rallying many countries — including Russia — to press Iran to curb its illicit nuclear program.


So what are Mr. Kyl's objections?


In a statement on Tuesday, he said there is not enough time to act during the lame-duck session, given other unspecified items on the Senate agenda and the "complex and unresolved issues related to Start and modernization."


What Mr. Kyl did not mention is that there have already been countless briefings and 21 Senate hearings on the treaty — sufficient for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the country's top military leaders, six former secretaries of state (from both parties), five former secretaries of defense (from both parties) and seven former nuclear weapons commanders to endorse it.


As for concerns about "modernization," President Obama has already promised an extra $84 billion over 10 years to modernize the nation's nuclear weapons complex and its arsenal. That would raise spending 20 percent above the levels of the Bush years and is far more than we think is necessary.


If Mr. Kyl were just one vote, the White House and the country could safely ignore him. Two-thirds of the Senate is needed for ratification, so the treaty cannot get through without some Republican support. And most Republicans have not taken a public stand, apparently awaiting Mr. Kyl's instructions.


Senator Richard Lugar, the Senate's leading expert on arms control, isn't waiting. On Wednesday, Mr. Lugar repeated his strong endorsement of the treaty. He urged President Obama to press ahead with the vote, warning that a failure to act would place the country "in some national security peril."


He also warned that if the treaty is defeated, the Congressional consensus for vastly increased financing for the nuclear complex could shatter. We hope that members of his caucus are listening closely.


The White House said on Wednesday that it would push for ratification before the end of the year. President Obama needs to fight hard. He needs to bring the case for New Start directly to the American people and demand that the Republicans explain why their opposition is anything more than political obstructionism.


The stakes couldn't be higher.








As the financial crisis swept around the world, the Irish government's response seemed right out of a bankers' dream. It has turned into a nightmare for Ireland, and Ireland's troubles are now threatening the stability of Europe's financial markets.


In 2009, with housing in free fall, the economy shrinking and tax revenues dwindling, Ireland cut public-sector pay, slashed child benefits and fired teachers and nurses to contain its budget deficit. But it stood firm behind its banks, taking over their bad loans, injecting capital and guaranteeing their liabilities to shield their creditors from losses.


The cost of the bank bailout has risen to $70 billion, about a third of Ireland's gross domestic product. This year the government is expected to report an astonishing budget deficit of 32 percent of its G.D.P., and government debt could hit 150 percent of G.D.P. by 2014.


Financial markets are now rebelling. The interest rate on Irish bonds have risen as high as 9 percent, some 5.5 percentage points more than those in Germany. Smelling blood in the water, investors have also started dumping the bonds of Portugal and even Spain.


Worried the crisis could spin out of control, officials from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund are scheduled to start negotiations on Thursday with the Irish government on a bailout from the trillion-dollar rescue fund that was set up after Greece's financial meltdown earlier this year.


Showing they haven't learned anything from Ireland's plight, the I.M.F. and the E.U. are expected to demand further, deep budget cuts in exchange for a financial lifeline, much of which will be plowed into the nation's still foundering banks. Meanwhile, any bailout will inevitably increase the nation's already enormous burden of public debt.


While a financial rescue for Ireland could help calm European financial turmoil, the reprieve, at best, will be only temporary unless it addresses the core of Ireland's financial woes: the need to reduce the burden of debt it took over from its banks.


What Ireland needs more than anything is a plan to restructure its banks' unsustainable debt, convincing creditors to take a discount and finally bear part of their own financial losses.


Even that is not guaranteed to bring Ireland back from the brink. The economy is still suffering from the aftermath of the recession. Still, removing this liability would go a substantial way to restore its public finances. What is absolutely certain is that a solution that does not cut this debt burden is no solution at all.







Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the darling of the Republican right for bleeding his state budget and rebuffing billions of dollars in federal funds. Back home, however, the picture is very different.


After Mr. Christie killed a much-needed mass transit tunnel under the Hudson River as too costly (thereby losing $3 billion from the federal government and untold future benefits), Mayor Michael Bloomberg's transportation wizards are offering to come to the rescue. They are proposing an alternative tunnel at a much lower price as an extension of New York City's subway system into New Jersey.


It's nice to know somebody is thinking big about the region's economic future.


The Bloomberg plan is sketchy, and it is not clear where the money would come from. But the essential idea is to extend the city's No. 7 subway line across Midtown Manhattan, under the river and into New Jersey. The subway could then connect with New Jersey Transit, rerouting thousands of commuters a day and relieving traffic through the 100-year-old tunnel that now serves Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.


What makes the Bloomberg concept intriguing is that much of the drilling for this subway tunnel is already being done in Manhattan. For the other tunnel that was scrapped by Governor Christie, known as ARC, the biggest cost would have been for a new corridor deep under Manhattan's Far West Side. ARC's total cost was edging up to $11 billion before it was canceled. "ARC-lite," as some city officials are calling the Bloomberg tunnel, has an estimated cost of about $5.3 billion.


Mr. Bloomberg's proposal, if it works, won't repair all the damage Mr. Christie has done. New Jersey has to pay back the Federal Transit Administration at least $271 million already spent on the big tunnel.


While Mr. Christie was busy hacking away at public education in his state so he could preserve lower tax rates for multimillionaires, his administration also bungled its application for education money through the Race to the Top program and lost $400 million. He also lost federal matching funds for family planning by vetoing the state's share.


Perhaps some sage from one of the big universities — Princeton or Rutgers? — could help the state spend almost $60 million from the federal government to weatherize New Jersey homes. After all, Mr. Christie is busy making news and charming the right by downsizing his state, so it falls on others to think about the future.









Roberta Farrington was only 48 years old six years ago when she received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. In a matter of months, she went from being a single mother with a full-time job to a single mother with no job, wondering how exactly how she would get her teenage son, Jeffrey, through his remaining high school year.


Ms. Farrington moved in with her mother for several years. By 2007, she required more care than her mother could provide. She moved into a nursing home. "This was not the future I was planning for," Ms. Farrington said. "The disease interrupted my life in every respect."


Medicaid and Medicare cover her living expenses, but that is about all. Help from The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund has allowed her to stay in touch with friends and savor a milestone in her son's life.


A social worker from Westchester Jewish Community Services, a beneficiary of the UJA-Federation of New York, put $400 from the Times fund toward a laptop computer with voice-activation technology that Ms. Farrington says allows her to "connect with the world outside." The social worker also drew $843.99 to send Ms. Farrington to SUNY Albany for Jeffrey's graduation. "It was probably the proudest I've felt," Ms. Farrington said.


Donations to The Times's Neediest Cases Fund go to seven charities: The Children's Aid Society; Brooklyn Community Services; Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York; Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens; the Community Service Society of New York; the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; and UJA-Federation of New York.


To help, please send a check to: The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, 4 Chase Metrotech Center, 7th Floor East, Lockbox 5193, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11245. You may also call (800) 381-0075 and use a credit card or donate at:










IT is fitting that the Motors Liquidation Company — that portion of General Motors that was sliced off during its bankruptcy and so is not a part of the "New G.M." that is having its initial public offering this week — has been shortened in common parlance to "Old G.M." "Old" is the euphemism we use when talking about a closed auto factory, and Old G.M has plenty of old plants.


Some of these plants will find buyers and be put to new uses. But many — perhaps most — will not. They're old and unwanted, and as I'm from Detroit, where one can't help but develop a fondness for the forgotten, I find myself thinking of Old G.M. and its old plants even as press attention turns to the new company and the initial public offering that's supposed to help it pay off the $40 billion it still owes the government.


I understand why Old G.M. has faded to the background, but my problem with the current news foreground is this: I can't consistently remember what I.P.O. even stands for. And, while I know that they exist, I wonder, do I.P.O.'s actually exist? How would I recognize an I.P.O. if I bumped into one?


I do know what closed auto plants look like, though, and I bump into plenty of them on my daily drives through Detroit. Depending on the day, I'll pass by the old Continental plant, the old Budd plant, the old Packard plant and the old Fisher Body plant, among others.


For the better part of a year in 2007 and '08, I paid visits to the old Budd Company stamping plant on Detroit's East Side. Recently closed auto plants are sad places, enough to drive the sunniest disposition to dark thoughts. I was beginning research on a book, and while at that time a few big auto suppliers like Delphi were already in bankruptcy, we had no idea that the Chrysler and G.M. bankruptcies, and the Great Recession itself, were around the corner. "Carmageddon," as it's been called, was unthinkable.


The Budd factory had for more than 80 years produced brake drums, wheels and auto-body stampings for the major car companies. I spent most of my time there watching the plant's press lines be taken apart to be shipped abroad — to Mexico, to Brazil. The cast of characters in the dismantling was equally international: Spanish, Portuguese and German were among the languages spoken, as well as English of various dialects.


By December 2007, the beginning of the Great Recession, the news outside seemed a shadow of what was occurring inside the plant — where, among other hardships, there was no heat. The crew taking the presses down warmed themselves over fires in metal barrels; grimy men huddled around flames put one in mind of a Hooverville. It was one of the coldest and snowiest Detroit winters on record, and snowflakes fluttered down from holes in the plant's roof.


Some signs of the plant's productive past still lingered. The workers from a Brazilian auto supplier that had purchased one press line had used old paper scraps scattered about the plant as identifying tags for the pieces being trucked to Houston (where they would board a boat to São Paulo). The markings "Biela Cabecote 01 F. D. Lado Int.," for instance, were scribbled on the back of a Budd Company card reading "Paid Absence Allowance Authorization," for which there was no longer much call. There were a bunch of these forms about: "Request for Shift Change," "Application for Supplemental Unemployment Benefits," "Job Opening."


Plant closings cost jobs, of course. But on a smaller scale, for a finite time, they also create them. I talked to workers from the auction company that ran the initial fire sale; to the riggers who took the equipment apart; to the truckers who hauled the equipment away; to workers from the scrap company that cut up the presses that hadn't been sold overseas.


All kinds of businesses are involved in plant closings, so many that there's even a trade publication: Plant Closing News, a biweekly newsletter "targeted to surplus industry service providers," including "rebuilders, used equipment dealers, dismantlers, demolishers, remediation contractors, equipment riggers, craters and equipment transport firms looking for current business opportunities, particularly those arising from the closing or relocating of North American industrial manufacturing plants."


There's a lot to absorb in that passage, not least "surplus industry service providers," a phrase for our economic times if ever there was one. Taking apart industry is an industry, and tracking the decline of the one for the benefit of the other is the job of Jon Clark, who runs Plant Closing News.


I met with Mr. Clark in Houston after the Budd job was finished. I was on my way to central Mexico, to visit the plant of the Spanish auto supplier Gestamp where the Budd factory's biggest press line had been shipped (and had begun producing stampings for the Dodge Journey sport utility vehicle).


It was a week after the 2008 presidential election and Mr. Clark, as humane and articulate a compiler of plant closing information as one could hope to meet, mentioned a conversation he'd had in 2004 — four years, he noted, and 5,000 plant closings earlier. The connection between all those closings, indicative of the employment collapse, and Barack Obama's election seemed clear.


]It seems equally clear that the plant closings of the last two years had a similar impact on the 2010 elections. And we can guess what effect two more years of bad or middling employment news will have on the 2012 race.


]Closed plants occupy an outsized amount of psychic space. New G.M. will no doubt have a successful stock offering, for which we should all be grateful. But for many workers, in cities and towns across the country, that initial success — on computer screens, or stock exchanges, or wherever it is that I.P.O.'s exist — is going to be outweighed by the plant closing down the road.


In this part of the country, the auto bailouts were the "good" bailouts, as opposed to the bailout of Wall Street. The connection between the money kicked in for the car companies and the jobs kept was crystal clear. As for the billions that went to the banks, well, who knew what that was all about?


Today's public offering marks the moment when the Main Street and Wall Street bailouts meet. But the Wall Street firms haven't been divvied up as G.M. has, in ways so visible to the eye. For General Motors, divided into its "Old" and "New" halves, there's an inescapable paradox: the only possible route to future profitability is to create, through plant closings, monuments to past unprofitability. Old G.M. may have gone away for the purposes of the stock offering, but it didn't go away in what might rightfully be called actuality.


ACROSS the nation, as in Detroit, there is an economic disconnect, a split between what the economic numbers say and how things feel on the ground. The economy is growing, but the unemployment rate hasn't budged. The recession officially ended in June 2009, but more jobs have been lost than have been added since that "ending."


Handling this disconnect requires political acuity. It brings to mind something Philip Roth once said about those who have little feel for literature and the texture of lived experience it provides and so "theorize" it. Mr. Roth imagined a scene of a father giving his son this advice while attending a baseball game: "Now, what I want you to do is watch the scoreboard. Stop watching the field. Just watch what happens when the numbers change on the scoreboard. Isn't that great?" Then Mr. Roth asks: "Is that politicizing the baseball game? Is that theorizing the baseball game? No, it's having not the foggiest idea in the world what baseball is."


It'll be fun, for a day or two, to look at the scoreboard, and to see what G.M.'s shares are going for: $26? $29? $33? $35? The numbers on the exchange will change; it'll be great, and a welcome, temporary relief from the numbers, still difficult to comprehend, of jobs lost and plants closed. Soon enough, though, we'll have to go back to watching what's actually happening on the field, where there's still a blowout in progress, with the home team way behind, and no one, seemingly, with the foggiest idea what to do about it.


Paul Clemens is the author of the memoir "Made in Detroit" and the forthcoming "Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant."






I know you've been asking yourselves: What does the United States Senate election in Alaska mean to me? Really, I know it.


Senator Lisa Murkowski has just claimed a historic write-in victory against Joe Miller, the Tea Party champion who beat her in the Republican primary. The first thing you will want to know is that this will make Sarah Palin miserable.


Murkowski's father, the former senator and governor, was one of Palin's archenemies back in the days of yore when Palin was all about attacking Big Oil and corrupt politics. Her interests have changed, but her antipathy toward the Murkowskis lives on. She threw one of her superpowerful Facebook posts Miller's way, delivering both attention and money in his direction.


As soon as she saw the write-in vote count was looking good, Murkowski did an interview on CBS News with Katie Couric. Take that, Sarah!Murkowski took the opportunity to offer her opinion about Palin as presidential timber: "I just do not think that she has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity, that allows for building good and great policies." And that!


All of these developments make the Senate results in Alaska important for those Americans who find sunshine in any day that goes badly for the former Republican vice presidential candidate. Many of these same people feel an equal amount of pain when things run in the other direction, and it is important to keep these reactions under control. I am thinking of Steven Cowan from the town of Vermont, Wis. According to a police report posted on The Smoking Gun Web site, Cowan became so upset by the political implications of Bristol Palin's continuing victories on "Dancing With the Stars" that he shot the family television, precipitating a 15-hour standoff with local police. The complaint notes that Cowan did not think that Bristol "was a good dancer." Also, he had been drinking.


Since Murkowski made it crystal clear all along that she would stick with the Republican caucus, her victory is not going to have any particular effect on the makeup of the next Senate. But Democrats and independents saved her political hide. Perhaps in the future she will occasionally pull a Joe Lieberman and do something to drive the party that dumped her in the primary crazy.


Thanks to Alaska, there are still going to be 17 women in the United States Senate. That's a pathetic number, but not quite as disheartening as it would have been if it had dropped to 16, courtesy of Joe Miller, whose primary win was mainly because of the anti-abortion rights movement.


Murkowski, however, took this thought into overkill, portraying herself as a beleaguered victim of male chauvinism. She sent out a flier with a picture of a noble-looking woman being screamed at by a mean guy with a bullhorn.


"For all the times you have been overruled — when you know you had the right ideas and solutions," it read. "For all the times your accomplishments have been ignored while others who scream and yell get the credit ... This vote for Lisa Murkowski is a vote for you, too." It then described attack ads that called Murkowski "a princess" as "what women have been dealing with for centuries."


Actually, a United States senator who ends a debate by saying "I have been leading this state for eight years" is not really a person who seems to have much trouble with being ignored. And the "princess" line referred to the fact that Murkowski got her Senate seat because her father gave it to her, appointing her to fill his unexpired term when he became governor. Which is not the sort of thing most of us can count on.


Miller would constantly point out that he, in contrast, had been raised without "a silver spoon," a comparison that might have had an impact if he had not turned out to be one of the worst candidates in the history of candidates.


The Democratic candidate, Scott McAdams, who also was not born with a silver spoon, got only about a quarter of the vote. "Our momentum continued to grow, but we ran out of time," he said. "I have no regrets."


He also had no money, or at least a lot less than his competition. As of the last reporting date in October, McAdams had $861,000 in contributions, compared with $1.9 million for Miller and $4 million for Murkowski. "She's about as entrenched with special interests as anyone, at least from a campaign finance standpoint," said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics. Unlike her opponents, Murkowski got most of her money from political action committees, many of them in the energy field.


Murkowski's first step upon returning to Washington will be to lobby to retain her post as the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.


So not exactly a victory for oppressed womanhood. However, a definite defeat for Sarah Palin. Let's take our little pleasures where we can get them.







Earlier this month, I offended a number of readers with a column suggesting that if you want to see rapacious income inequality, you no longer need to visit a banana republic. You can just look around.


My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.


That's right: I may have wronged the banana republics.


You see, some Latin Americans were indignant at what they saw as an invidious and hurtful comparison. The truth is that Latin America has matured and become more equal in recent decades, even as the distribution in the United States has become steadily more unequal.


The best data series I could find is for Argentina. In the 1940s, the top 1 percent there controlled more than 20 percent of incomes. That was roughly double the share at that time in the United States.


Since then, we've reversed places. The share controlled by the top 1 percent in Argentina has fallen to a bit more than 15 percent. Meanwhile, inequality in the United States has soared to levels comparable to those in Argentina six decades ago — with 1 percent controlling 24 percent of American income in 2007.


At a time of such stunning inequality, should Congress put priority on spending $700 billion on extending the Bush tax cuts to those with incomes above $250,000 a year? Or should it extend unemployment benefits for Americans who otherwise will lose them beginning next month?


One way to examine that decision is to put aside all ethical considerations and simply look at where tax dollars will do more to stimulate the economy. There the conclusion is clear: You get much more bang for the buck putting money in the hands of unemployed people because they will promptly spend it.


In contrast, tax cuts for the wealthy are partly saved — that's both basic economic theory and recent history — so they are much less effective in creating jobs. For example, Republicans would give the richest 0.1 percent of Americans an average tax cut of $370,000. Does anybody really think that those taxpayers are going to rush out and buy Porsches and yachts, start new businesses, and hire more groundskeepers and chauffeurs?


In contrast, a study commissioned by the Labor Department during the Bush administration makes clear the job-creation power of unemployment benefits because that money is immediately spent. The study suggested that the current recession would have been 18 percent worse without unemployment insurance and that this spending preserved 1.6 million jobs in each quarter.


But there is also a larger question: What kind of a country do we aspire to be? Would we really want to be the kind of plutocracy where the richest 1 percent possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent?


Oops! That's already us. The top 1 percent of Americans owns 34 percent of America's private net worth, according to figures compiled by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The bottom 90 percent owns just 29 percent.


That also means that the top 10 percent controls more than 70 percent of Americans' total net worth.


Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley who is one of the world's leading experts on inequality, notes that for most of American history, income distribution was significantly more equal than today. And other capitalist countries do not suffer disparities as great as ours.


"There has been an increase in inequality in most industrialized countries, but not as extreme as in the U.S.," Professor Saez said.


One of America's greatest features has been its economic mobility, in contrast to Europe's class system. This mobility may explain why many working-class Americans oppose inheritance taxes and high marginal tax rates. But researchers find that today this rags-to-riches intergenerational mobility is no more common in America than in Europe — and possibly less common.


I'm appalled by our growing wealth gaps because in my travels I see what happens in dysfunctional countries where the rich just don't care about those below the decks. The result is nations without a social fabric or sense of national unity. Huge concentrations of wealth corrode the soul of any nation.


And then I see members of Congress in my own country who argue that it would be financially reckless to extend unemployment benefits during a terrible recession, yet they insist on granting $370,000 tax breaks to the richest Americans. I don't know if that makes us a banana republic or a hedge fund republic, but it's not healthy in any republic.









As youths, the Greatest Generation endured the Great Depression. As adults, they endured the snows of Bastogne and the heat of Bataan to win a world war. Then they resumed the lives they had scarcely begun, rejoining their loved ones, marrying, having children, building churches and businesses — all with a zeal for life that had been pent up by decades of deprivation.


OUR VIEW: Baby Boomers don't deserve the bum rap they often get


The families they formed were larger than the norm, as was the economy they built to nourish the next generation. How did they do it? Their gratifications deferred, to some extent by the forces of history, they knew how to do without for the sake of others.


My parents were such people. They filled a modest Cincinnati home with 10 rowdy kids. They celebrated like it was Christmas Day when they finally had enough cash to buy a clothes dryer.


One prosperous year they bought their own car, a no-frills station wagon. I wrecked it a month after my 16th birthday. Consider that a parable.


The people of the Greatest Generation viewed their kids as their crowning achievement. But too many of us did not inherit their greatest virtue: an ability to sacrifice. Instead we embraced instant gratification and self-infatuation. We arrogantly thought we had invented sex, when all we did was invent new ways to trivialize it. We mistook wants for needs, borrowed too much, saved too little. In the process we helped our proud and productive nation recast itself as a consumption-dependent economy. Ours became the Age of Appetites.


Appetites have consequences. Out-of-wedlock births are up more than 600% since the 1960s. Household debt is soaring. Our sense of middle-class entitlement is soaring, too.


We Boomers have run the race poorly, but we can finish strong. We enter our last laps with difficult decisions before us. We can demand flush retirements and lavish health care, board gaudy cruise ships, and foist today's deficits on the next generation. Or we can relearn the meaning of sacrifice and the virtues that gave us birth.


Though the hour is late, the choice is ours to make.


Charles A. Donovan is a senior research fellow at the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.





7 suggestions for the new Congress

By Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel


Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot. View the video version of this column at or at USA TODAY's YouTube channel at


Today: Advice for the next Congress. Campaigning is easy. Governing, not so much. Cal and Bob offer incoming members a few tidbits of wisdom for the newly elected.


1. Show some humility


Bob: I know this is like asking a dog not to bark, but what better place to start than asking new members to come humbly into this historic city. Besides, it's good politics. President Obama and many members of Congress seem to have forgotten this. I recall what former Republican senator and now co-chair of the president's debt commission, Alan Simpson, once said: "Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic."


Cal: I know some people recoil at the idea of faith entering our politics, but it's always been there and always will be. So what better way for people to maintain perspective than by attending weekly prayer groups in the House or Senate to acknowledge a higher authority. And if a member doesn't believe in God, then simply find something greater than yourself to believe in. It is more difficult to see a political opponent as evil and someone who must be destroyed after you have heard him (or her) speak of personal struggles and prayed for their success and strength to overcome them. For those not interested in such things, find someone in or out of Congress who will hold you accountable. Then meet regularly with that person so you're kept in check.


2. Ward off special interests


Bob: They're like a Venus flytrap, or drug dealer. You may not be able to completely avoid them, but during your first term stick with those issues that directly affect your state or district. Voters are adopting a verse from that song by The Police: "Every move you make, every breath you take, I'll be watching you."


Cal: I would add that one person's special interest is another's essential interest. New members will do well if they believe they are coming to Washington to represent those who sent them, rather than their own interests. It isn't about you; it's about them and the country. Frank Sinatra's My Way should not be your favorite song. If you become addicted to money and your only concern is re-election, you will become as corrupt as some of those you replaced. Staying pure in Washington is tough, but it can be done.


Bob: A new member should also remember that come election time, you are only as good as your last two years (or six, for senators). If you have any doubts, go to this year's congressional graveyard and see how many longtime Washington fixtures are newly interred there.


3. Beware of sex, money and power


Cal: The unholy trinity of politics can end your effectiveness — if not your political career — faster than you can sayGary Hart. Many self-inflicted wounds are caused by people who drink too much — or frankly do anything in excess. Adopt ethics rules for your office that are higher than those already in place. Be above reproach, so you won't fall beneath contempt. Nancy Pelosi vowed and failed to "drain the swamp," but a better solution is to not be a reptile.


Bob: And it wouldn't hurt to bring your families to Washington. Or at least a dog! For all members of Congress, there is much to seduce you in the nation's capital. Power, sex and money are drugs that can take down even the most well-intentioned lawmaker. Your country and your reputation are not worth the certain free fall of scandal.


Cal: I give you William Jefferson (cash in the freezer), Duke Cunningham (pay-to-play legislation) and Mark Foley(inappropriate behavior with congressional pages) as bipartisan recent examples.


4. Earmarks are not your friend


Bob: Earmarking projects for a member's district or state used to be one of Washington's best-kept secrets. No more. The probable new House majority leader, Eric Cantor, as well as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell have made it clear that earmarks are unacceptable. We'll see. President Obama talked about the evils of earmarks on 60 Minutes two weeks ago. But that's just words. There is a way to get federal help for projects back home that doesn't involve earmarks. Voters correctly view earmarks as Washington sleaze. So go to the trough at your own peril.


Cal: Though a tiny fraction of spending, earmarks symbolize what many people dislike about Washington. What's needed is a groundswell of opposition that would embarrass those who create earmarks. Make them seem unpatriotic — like buying products made in Japan during World War II. John Boehner, I salute you for never having accepted an earmark in your career. As speaker, please encourage members on both sides of the aisle to follow your example.


5. Be open to compromise


Bob: There has been much talk since the election, especially among Republicans, that they have no interest in finding consensus with President Obama and the Democrats. It remains to be seen whether Democrats are legitimately willing to compromise, but they have opened the door. Poll after poll before and after the election has shown that the public, in overwhelming numbers, wants compromise. From Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neillsaving Social Security to George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy on No Child Left Behind, history tells us that bipartisanship leads to the most successful legislation.


Cal: Didn't President Obama say, "I won" when the subject of getting along with Republicans was mentioned? Oh, that's right; that was when Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. I think the key to cooperation, though, is to keep the focus on what works. This country has a history. Look at it and see what policies worked before. Don't fight the same battles all over again.


6. Travel only when necessary


Bob: During this recession and with unemployment so high, many Americans have had to curtail their travel. Members of Congress should do the same. That means no foreign junkets where you may conduct "official business" for an hour or two and then spend several hours playing golf or lounging by the swimming pool at a luxury hotel.


Cal: While they're at it, members should refuse all future pay raises or other perks until the country is restored to economic health. Not all members are rich, but those who are and can sustain themselves without most or all of their salaries should work for $1 a year, at least until a recovery has taken hold.


Bob: Serving in Congress should be seen as a privilege, not a right. Take this opportunity seriously, and the people who sent you to Washington will take you seriously.


7. Simply serve your country


Bob and Cal: Because we are Americans before we are liberal and conservative, we wish you success in governance. Serve with integrity and make this a better nation than the one passed down to you by those who have gone before. By serving America first, you serve yourself best.








To airline passengers: Get ready for naked insecurity.

To the Department of Homeland Security: If you thought this week was bad, brace yourself for a tsunami of protests in the days ahead.


This month Homeland Security has implemented a new rule calling for extremely invasive pat-downs of commercial airline passengers who decline to use full-body, "backscatter technology" scanners that use low-level X-rays. Pregnant women, parents with young children, adherents of religions, amputees and people with wireless insulin pumps or embedded medical devices are increasingly saying, "No thanks." They do not believe they should be exposed to technology that could pose risks, may malfunction, and certainly invades their privacy. So Homeland Security has doubled its trouble by turning to the invasive pat-downs. What the department should do is reconsider its use of these scanners, but after reading Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's full-throated defense of the technology and procedures on this page this past Monday, I'm not hopeful.


Questions, and lawsuits


The technology has already been challenged by recognized academic specialists on both safety and efficacy grounds. After six months of testing at four major airports, Italy is likely to drop these scanners, finding them ineffective and slow. TheEuropean Commission has also raised "several serious fundamental rights and health concerns" and recommends less-intrusive alternatives.


Back in the USA, the legal volleys have begun. Two weeks ago, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research center, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Homeland Security. The suit alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (which calls for public hearings).


Immersed in its own bureaucratic bubble of secrecy and inaccessibility, Homeland Security cites "national security" as justifying its unresponsiveness to critics. Napolitano wrote in USA TODAY that our security depends on being "more creative" in adapting to evolving threats. Indiscriminate pat-downs are anything but creative. Yet the department listens to commercial lobbyists pushing scanner sales, including former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff.


Earlier corporate pitchmen sold the department on the notorious puffer machines. This $36 million boondoggle forced Homeland Security to remove these failed screeners from airports last year at considerable embarrassment and expense.


The department says full-body imaging is aimed at prevention. If so, why do passengers on the 15,000 U.S. registered business aircraft escape screening? Why, nine years after 9/11, is the department still way behind in the screening of air freight on passenger and cargo planes, where far more dangerous packages can bring down a plane?


For more than 40 years, public interest groups have been advocating for airline safety. After the numerous hijackings to Cuba in the late 1960s, we and air security experts pressed the Federal Aviation Administration to require airlines to strengthen cockpit doors and latches — to no avail. It took the 9/11 attacks before the FAArequired the airlines to retrofit. Stonewalling, long a bureaucratic obsession in these areas, must end. A good start would be addressing these uncertainties:


•Radiation: Homeland Security should respond when physics professor Peter Rez of Arizona State University calculates the radiation dose to be 10 times higher than the department is asserting. Or when David J. Brenner of Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research says that using these scanners — with up to 1 billion whole-body X-ray scans per year in the U.S. — "may profoundly change the potential public health consequences to the population."


•Malfunctions. John Sedat, one of four scientists at the University of California-San Francisco who is questioning the department's technical assertions, said these machines could stall, giving passengers "severe burns if not worse." He points out that "software fails often."


And then there are the emerging first-person experiences of travelers. The rough pat-downs experienced by New York Times business travel columnist Joe Sharkey and Atlantic author-writer Jeffrey Goldberg are generating more such passenger complaints. So much for the friendly skies.


Better paths to security


Changing this policy, or even backtracking, doesn't mean we'd suddenly be flying on a wing and a prayer. In fact, better use of available intelligence alone would have stopped last year's Christmas underwear bomber from flying to the USA. Indiscriminate and inefficient dragnet-type security checks of whole populations, if anything, make us less safe by focusing on the wrong things.


One area in which I agree with Secretary Napolitano: Cooperation of the public is key to averting attacks. So it seems counterintuitive to antagonize the very people you're counting on to help you get the bad guys. Meantime, Homeland Security is turning TSA agents, who are at some radiation risk themselves, into government gropers without either suspicion or probable cause. People want security, but they do not like irrational, ineffective, invasive and hazardous over-reach.


DHS continually refuses to hold thorough public hearings or to answer reasoned technical, economic and other policy challenges to its practices. Congress must assert its authority to end what one TSA risk analyst has called its "culture of stupidity."


Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us.







The young adults of the World War II years were, in the coinage of NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, "The Greatest Generation." They stormed beaches in places like Normandy and Okinawa. They built an industrial juggernaut to defeat fascism and, later, communism. They stoically suffered the privations of the Depression and wartime rationing.


Their children, by contrast, stormed places like Woodstock. For the Baby Boomers — people born from 1946 to 1964 — the prosperity their parents built was never good enough. In later years, they embraced the materialism they ridiculed as youths and failed to save adequately for the retirement that they now face. Not surprisingly, the Boomers have been called, among other things, "The Worst Generation."


That sort of generational generalization is, in our view, mostly a bum rap. Fact is, Baby Boomers have made enormous contributions and don't deserve all the abuse they get from the generations that came before and after them. Boomers were, after all, the first to widely embrace racial and gender equality. They started an environmental movement that has given the nation cleaner air and water. They brought an artistic creativity that spanned music, film and the fine arts. And they launched the Internet age with such companies as Microsoft, Apple and Cisco Systems.


Much of the negative attention on Boomers is because the first of them are turning 65, a transition chronicled in a series of reports this week by USA TODAY and CBS News. Retirement wasn't supposed to happen to a generation known for its exuberant youth — exemplified in the line "hope I die before I get old" in The Who's 1965 hit single, My Generation.


But happening it is.


For the Boomers, the timing could not be worse. Traditional, fixed-benefit pensions have been disappearing, while 401(k)s have been on a roller coaster to nowhere over the last decade. For those who want to keep working, holding a job can be difficult in this economy and finding one even harder.


For the rest of the population, the sheer size of the generation— some 80 million — poses problems. It is simply too big for the Social Security Trust Fund. And the generation's size, combined with the lack of political will to rein in health care costs, presents even bigger problems for Medicare.


If Boomers want to improve their reputation, they will have to accept sacrifices. These might include working longer before collecting benefits, paying more in taxes and getting less in benefits. It's the least they can do to avoid leaving future generations buried in debt.


But Boomers did not cause the nation's fiscal problems and are no more responsible for them than other generations. In fact, the taxes they've been paying during their peak earning years have postponed the day of reckoning and subsidized their parents' retirement.


Nor are the Boomers uniquely responsible for the decline of the American family, as some conservative critics charge. Subsequent generations did not return to pre-Boomer sexual mores, or stop doing drugs or getting divorced. In fact, the percentage of children born out of wedlock has grown since the Boomers passed their child-bearing years.


For detractors obsessed with rankings and simplistic answers, self-indulgent Baby Boomers are a ripe target. But a fuller examination of their achievements and their shortcomings shows that they did many things right, and weren't alone when they were wrong. It's time for their critics to give them a break. Or, as Roger Daltrey sang inMy Generation, "Why don't you all fade away."









As an Alaskan Republican senator's egregious earmark funding for the "bridge to nowhere" a few years ago proved, congressional earmarks may be one of the most visible symbols of profligate spending in Washington. Which is precisely why even serial Republican earmark abusers (think Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) decided to change their spots and sign on Tuesday to a tea party pledge to impose a moratorium — but not a permanent ban — on earmarking until after the 2012 elections.


In terms of meaningful reductions in deficit spending, however, this overly hyped moratorium is like using a teacup to bail out the Titanic. Republicans shouldn't believe the public can be snookered by the grandstanding they are giving their party's moratorium.


In the context of the federal government's overall annual spending, earmarks are virtually invisible. Last year's $15.9 billion in earmarks, for example, amounted to less than three-tenths of one percent of the total $3.55 trillion federal budget.


Had those special appropriations not been earmarked, moreover, they would not have reduced the $1.3 trillion budget deficit. Under Washington's usual budgeting and allocation process, that money would have gone instead into the general appropriations bill already budgeted, and subsequently allocated by an unelected bureaucrat to some other expenditure.


That isn't to say that earmark spending shouldn't be better controlled and scrutinized. In fact, the Democratic-controlled Congress has already instituted significant reforms over the past two years. It banned secrecy in the earmarking process and established transparency and accountability. House members now have to post their earmark requests on the House website for public scrutiny. They must certify that they have no financial interests in the earmarks they request. And they cannot direct earmarks to for-profit entities.


Given these substantive changes, it would be a mistake to assume that the new Republican moratorium on earmark spending will prove to be an ineffective salve for what ails Washington's budget making process.


A better way to prove their allegiance to fiscal discipline would be for Republicans to drop their demand to extend the Bush era tax cuts to the top 2 percent of household incomes, more than half of which have annual incomes of more than $8 million.


Those top-end tax cuts will cost $700 billion in new deficit spending over the next 10 years. They were never warranted in the first place, and they are demonstrably unaffordable. Republicans falsely claim, however, that those tax cuts for households with incomes over $250,000 (or over $200,000 in the case of single taxpayers) are necessary to help restore economic growth and to protect small businesses.


Neither is true. Just 3 percent of such earners run small businesses, economic analyses show. And the economy's poor performance since the top-end tax cuts were created in 2001 and 2003 prove precisely that their trickle-down benefits are virtually non-existent.


Indeed, people in the top 2 percent, and especially the ultra-wealthy in the top 1 percent, either save their money or spend as they will in any event. Nudging their marginal tax rate up for income above $250,000 will hardly affect their spending or savings rates.


The earmark process, however, can be valuable if held to publicly acceptable standards for justifiable need and transparency. East Tennessee, for example, badly needs specifically directed funding to finish rebuilding the Chickamauga dam lock to prevent the failure, due to concrete growth, of the existing lock, which allows economically important barge shipping upriver of the dam.


If the Army Corps of Engineers can't keep the lock as a priority in a tighter budget process, our representatives would need to preserve their earmark options.


Further reform of earmarks in the Senate, for stricter justification and tighter control, would be a good thing. But it would be a mistake to shut down the earmark process entirely. That's especially so if the purpose is to grandstand on false allegiance to fiscal prudence by a crew that wants to keep unaffordable tax cuts for the super wealthy while whacking other parts of the budget.







The U.S. government is required by law and by custom to balance the competing interests of public safety and individual privacy. The latest skirmish over the issue is taking place at the nation's airports. The introduction of full-body scanners at many sites and the promise of more to come have prompted a noisy debate about the images produced by the machines. Privacy advocates call them invasive and demeaning. Federal officials say they are a necessary adjunct in the war on terror. On balance, the latter appear to have the stronger case.


The new scanners "see" through clothing, using low-level x-rays to produce a milky, full body image of an individual. The resulting portrait leaves little to the imagination.


Scanner opponents, in fact, call the images a "virtual strip search." That might be so, but the new technology also provides security personnel with an enhanced ability to detect items and materials that can be used by terrorists to destroy an aircraft in flight or otherwise create havoc. Many experts agree the new scanner might have helped detect the type of bomb concealed in the underwear of a would-be terrorist on a Detroit-bound flight last Christmas. That threat was not detected by screens in use then, but the bomber's mission ultimately proved unsuccessful.


The question, of course, is whether the utility of the machine outweighs the perceived or real intrusion of privacy the scanner images create. The TSA, mindful of the delicacy of the issues involved, has done as much as possible to minimize such dangers.


The image produced by the scanner, according to those who have viewed them, is detailed enough to detect various explosives, weapons, plastics, powders and other devices that can pose a threat. The outline, though, is vague and faces are blurred.


Moreover, the images are viewed by personnel at a distance from security stations where the scans are made. That makes it impossible to match a specific image with a particular person. Once viewed, scanned images are neither saved nor stored. That should provide a measure of comfort for those concerned about privacy.


If would-be airline passengers prefer not to be scanned, there is an alternative — what John Pistole, the TSA administrator, candidly admits is a more invasive patdown than those depicted on TV or in the movies. TSA agents will manually search an individual's entire body, including breasts and groin. Those who don't like the new scanners or the idea of full-body patdowns have another choice. They can travel by some means other than airplane.


Concern about the scans and patdowns is understandable. Both are unsettling and both challenge long-held American views of privacy and personal liberty. Nevertheless, they should help improve security for the flying public. That's a fair trade, as long as the TSA employs the full-body scanners and the new patdown procedure as directed. Any other use unnecessarily violates the trust and personal dignity of air travelers, and is unacceptable.







Back in the rural "old days" when farmers and ranchers let their livestock run without fences and pens, how could Farmer Brown know which cows or pigs were his — and not those of Farmer Smith?


One custom was to cut notches, or make other discernible marks, in the ears of the farm animals to identify them for their owners.


Well, that was the original meaning of "earmarks" in the days of open ranges. But nowadays, the word "earmarks" has a different meaning — and involves a big cost to taxpayers.


What's it all about?


In Congress, there are many spending bills that are absolutely necessary to approve for the general good. So what could be a slicker way for senators and representatives to pass some special spending to benefit just their home districts or states than to attach their local spending projects to the big bills that are sure to pass?


It was natural for such personal-interest spending items to come to be called "earmarks."


Those items, individually, may be relatively small, but they add up. When many of the 100 senators and the 435

representatives add their "earmarks" for local and personal interests that are not necessarily the proper business of the federal government, they are significant.


That reminds us of the amusing (and ironic) comment attributed many years ago to the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., who became known for trying to keep federal spending in check.


Dirksen is said to have remarked, "A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."


Congress is certainly talking about a lot of "real money" these days, when it is spending well over $1 trillion a year more than even too-high taxes are taking in!


Oh, some say, "earmarks" account for just a relatively small part of federal budget red ink — only about half of 1 percent of the budget. Cutting them out wouldn't balance the budget. But earmarks still amount to a lot of "real money" that the government doesn't have and that taxpayers don't want to pay.


So it is significant that Senate Republicans this week voted to abandon voting for any "earmarks" in the new Congress that was elected this month. The House GOP is expected to do the same.


That unfortunately won't balance the budget. But every little bit of limiting excess and unnecessary governmental spending can help.







One of the most important liberties that we have in our country is the right to be safe in our own homes.


We have a legal right to privacy — and personal safety. We treasure the principle that "My home is my castle."


Even law enforcement officials cannot generally invade our personal privacy without a legal search warrant, issued by a judge after there is a sworn statement of "probable cause" that a law has been violated.


The Fourth Amendment of our Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States provides, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."


Given our assumption that we are safe in our homes, it is shocking when someone invades a home and threatens the lives of its occupants.


Such a terrifying event occurred Monday in Chattanooga. A woman heard someone knocking at her door. She opened it — and was confronted by a man wearing a red bandanna over his face and holding a shotgun!


The intruder reportedly shouted the nickname of one of the home's occupants, and tried to enter the house. One occupant of the home reportedly wrestled with the intruder. Both fell to the porch floor, and the shotgun fired during the struggle.


What a frightening situation!


Fortunately, the home's occupants were able to subdue the intruder and hold him as police were called! He was arrested.


]What would you do in such a situation? No one should ever have to face such a horror.


But as bad as it was, fortunately it was not worse. Just imagine what might have happened.


Academy alum raises the bar at Carson-Newman***************************************





The Medal of Honor is our nation's highest military decoration — presented to a member of our armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."


Chattanooga's Charles Coolidge is one of only 464 service men and women who were awarded the Medal of Honor among 16 million who served in World War II.


The most recent Medal of Honor presentation was Tuesday at the White House. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was recognized for his heroism in Afghanistan.


Giunta "charged headlong into the wall of bullets," President Barack Obama noted. Giunta helped a soldier with a leg wound get to safety, then ran forward to find two Taliban fighters carrying away his injured friend, Sgt. Joshua C. Brennan.


"He leapt forward," Obama said. "He took aim. He killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off." Brennan and another American soldier died, and five others were wounded.


Such is the heroism of many of our troops.







Reason magazine ferreted out a report on ObamaCare by the Congressional Research Service which has not gotten much attention, despite its serious implications.


The long report tried to address the question of just how many new commissions, boards and other bureaucratic bodies would be created by ObamaCare. As it turns out, the answer to that question is not only unknown, but, according to the report, is "unknowable."


"The precise number of new entities that will be created pursuant to [ObamaCare] is currently unknowable," the report stated. The law explicitly requires various leaders and departments — from the president on down — to create a range of government bodies. But lots of other entities could be created, too, depending on multiple factors.


Worse still, the report stated, "It is unclear how the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will be able to independently audit" some of the new government bureaucracies. And most alarmingly, "In many cases, it is currently impossible to know how much influence [the new entities] will ultimately have" on implementing the law.


Sadly, we have no reason to believe that there will be any real accountability for ObamaCare's outrageous spending or for the expanded control over medical care that it will give to the federal government.


And even now, eight months after Democrats rammed ObamaCare through Congress, there remains extremely high public support for repealing it. In the latest Rasmussen Reports survey, almost 60 percent of likely voters polled said they favored repeal. Only 37 percent opposed repeal. Most also said ObamaCare will harm the nation.


That level of opposition is not really surprising, considering the costs and bureaucracy attached to ObamaCare.









REPUBLICANS and monarchists of goodwill will rejoice, as we do, at the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, wishing them a long, happy marriage. The prospect of a glamorous royal wedding has sparked strong interest in Australia. This one has the democratic twist of a bride-to-be from a relatively ordinary family. Her parents worked as flight attendants before launching their own business and aspiring to give their children a good education. Prince William, who experienced the tragedy of his mother's death at an early age, demonstrates maturity beyond his years.


The wedding of a couple who might one day become King William and Queen Catherine of Australia will be a test of the maturity of the republican movement. Those who argue for an Australian head of state have frequently made the mistake of assuming the case to be self-evident and denied legitimacy to arguments in favour of the status quo.


The ill-timed comments of Major General Michael Keating, chairman of the Australian Republican Movement yesterday suggest the big lesson of the failed 1999 referendum has not been absorbed. General Keating claimed the engagement is "pretty irrelevant to Australia" because "it's quintessentially an English moment". His argument might resonate in Newtown, New Farm and Richmond, but it will be poorly received in the outer suburbs and provincial centres where middle Australia will follow the details of the engagement in print and online, just as it sent newspaper circulations to stellar heights after the death of Diana on August 31, 1997, a day few will ever forget.


If the republican cause is to prevail, as The Australian believes it must, those steering it must realise that Australians -- including many who have emigrated from non-Commonwealth cultures -- appreciate the stability and durability of the constitutional monarchy and Westminster system. After adapting to changing conditions through centuries, these have shaped our parliaments and institutions.


The more the republican movement rides roughshod over the popular mood, the longer the inevitable change will take. The movement must respect our emotional ties to the British Isles and the royal family, for all its foibles.


Under Malcolm Turnbull's leadership, the movement made the fundamental mistake of ignoring the people's wishes for a directly elected president and paid the price in 1999. It must show that it has matured sufficiently to acknowledge that our links to our British and European heritage would not change under a republic, and that the indelible ties many Australians feel when visiting London's Imperial War Museum reflects a deep shared experience. Acknowledging our British heritage should in no way make us any less Australian.


As Paul Kelly wrote in these pages yesterday about the referendum to recognise indigenous peoples in the Constitution, the debate will be won only when those promoting a change succeed in engaging more conservative Australians with their case. We will know the Republican movement is comfortable in its own skin when its adherents can raise a glass to William and Kate and understand why most Australians wish them well.








LACK of tradeable property rights under indigenous land title is increasingly recognised as holding back commercial development in some remote Aboriginal communities. Such rights are fundamental to market economies and offer an escape from the welfarism that dogs indigenous groups. But it's not a simple matter of owning your own brick-and-tile. In a report released this week, economist Helen Hughes, a senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, argues the case for private ownership as a way to address the dysfunction of remote communities. She suggests tenants of public housing built on indigenous land should be able to choose, at no cost, to own the homes in which they live. There is some attraction in this idea but the tension between hard-won communal land rights and individual ownership continues to be a major challenge in indigenous politics.


Leaders such as Noel Pearson wrestle with how to balance a communal approach to building a viable society against the need to recognise private rights and responsibilities. Earlier this year, in The Australian, Mr Pearson acknowledged private property as a key principle of the economic liberalism defined by Adam Smith. But he conceded individual ownership remains a difficult issue in a communal tradition. More recently in the context of the wild rivers debate, he has argued that carbon credits are tradeable rights held by the community.


In 2007, the Howard government attempted to balance communal and individual rights through a system of 99-year leases under a head of agreement held by traditional owners. As Nicolas Rothwell wrote recently in this newspaper, "this model seemed to resolve the contradictions between Aboriginal land rights and the need for transferable property titles as a basis for economic development in remote communities". The plan was shelved by the Rudd government and replaced by a different system of lease negotiations, but 99-year leases represented a way to mix private and communal rights.


Direct home ownership is highly valued by many Australians, but those living in remote indigenous communities face a complex landscape. Tradeable property rights are crucial to developing viable economies in these areas. Individual home ownership is part of the answer.






Spending like there is no tomorrow is always dangerous

THE rhetoric is familiar: growth rates the envy of the world; extraordinary prosperity; the bounty of an unprecedented boom; wage hikes in a buoyant jobs market; family payments bonanzas; a magnet for international investment; a modern economic miracle; and a model for others to emulate. Australians are becoming accustomed to such favourable economic assessments, including those of international agencies. The accolades above, however, are among those paid to the Irish economy during the "Celtic tiger" boom from the mid-1990s to 2008.


Australia's economy, fortunately, is light years from Ireland in structure, public administration, resources, GDP composition, budgetary position and the soundness of our major institutions, including banks. The fact that Ireland faces the humiliating prospect of an EU bailout or International Monetary Fund intervention because it is living not only beyond its means but also beyond the willingness of lenders to lend should serve as a sobering warning to Australia about spending the proceeds of a booming economy as if there is no tomorrow, especially on unnecessary handouts and projects of dubious value. It also underlines the importance of adhering to sound economic principles. These include building on comparative advantages, fostering productivity improvements, accumulating reserve funds during boom times, fiscal rectitude, the folly of governments trying to "pick winners" by featherbedding selected industries and avoiding wage and cost spirals that erode competitiveness.


It is sobering to consider how well Australia's economy would stand up in the face of a sharp reversal in our terms of trade through any major fall-off in demand for iron ore and coal from China and India. Ireland's boom was precipitated by decades of pent-up housing demand, an educated workforce paid at relatively low levels before wages skyrocketed to among the highest in Europe, cheap land, EU subsidies and extraordinarily generous government subsidies and tax holidays for foreign firms and investors. Despite enthusiastic claims by Left-leaning interventionist economists, such virtual bribery was never a viable model for other nations, nor for Ireland long-term. Its biggest mistake was squandering the returns of the boom as if there was no tomorrow. Through prudent reform, Australia must work harder to avoid the same folly.









JUST as the Reserve Bank seemed to let the big banks off the hook, by noting their funding costs had been rising faster than their lending rates, a new input has come suggesting the contrary. The Australia Institute, the more ''progressive'' (i.e., interventionist) of our think tanks, has drawn this alternative conclusion from data collected by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, one of the financial system's other cops.


The banks had earlier hailed the Reserve Bank's observations, made during its Melbourne Cup Day meeting which increased its cash rate a quarter of one per cent and just published, as the ''clearest statement'' supporting their position they'd been nobly absorbing cost rises for nigh on a year, but couldn't go on. Hence their increases in mortgage rates above the cash rate rise.


They argue the Australia Institute's picture is too simplistic. Its director, Richard Denniss, had used the homely analogy of a hamburger joint raising its price by the same amount as a rise in the price of meatballs, even they comprised only a third of the inputs. The Australian Bankers' Association is effectively saying Denniss hasn't factored in cost rises for the bun, the garnishes and the sauce.


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The issue clearly deserves more study. But even if the result is inconclusive, it will strengthen the political pressure for a stricter watch on oligarchic tendencies and profiteering by the banks. The danger is that the various remedies being floated, in the government's emerging response and the opposition and minor party bills, will be either ineffective postering


or counterproductive. Portability of bank accounts will be pointless if there is nowhere different to go. Creating new offences for ''price signalling'' could make price decisions more opaque.


Is the whole issue a huge red herring, anyway, drawing politicians away from the real structural problems in our financial system? The biggest problem for people buying a home is not the interest rates they pay, but the size of the loans they have to take out to afford a house in big cities. The Henry report on the tax system gingerly touched the question of negative gearing, but this was immediately ruled off the agenda. Small and medium businesses complain they've been hit with rate rises even when the Reserve Bank kept the cash rate steady, and pay substantially more on business loans than do mortgage-borrowers - even when they've pledged the home as security. The windmills whirl on Capital Hill, and there is no shortage of Don Quixotes ready to charge.







WE SHOULD all look at Europe and feel a bit afraid. A second wave of sovereign default is looming. The jitters affecting the outer fringe of the euro common currency zone are not just a crisis for the heavily indebted nations of Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain. They threaten the continuation of the grand experiment that is the common currency itself, and possibly the existence of the European Union as a coherent world force.


The predicament of Ireland is particularly poignant. As the ''Celtic tiger'' it rode the wave of European integration with exuberance. Its well-educated young people were ready to take the regional head office jobs attracted by Dublin's low corporate taxes. Property speculation fed by transnational debt followed. The 2008 financial crash left it stranded. The government instituted the harshest medicine, cutting back the public sector savagely, but its deficit remains extremely high. Now the markets are betting it will need a big bailout, either from the International Monetary Fund or the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.


The Irish government is resisting the thought. It wants help, but in the form of a capital infusion for its struggling state-owned banks. More than face is involved. Both the IMF and the European bankers would want tight strings attached to the rescue funds. Germany's frugal savers would be asking why they should be helping out countries that attract enterprises and jobs away from them with very low taxes. Without those incentives, investing in Ireland might not be so attractive. Nearly 80 years after breaking free from the British, the Irish face coming under German economic overlordship.


Without the euro, Dublin, Lisbon or Athens could take the traditional way out of balance-of-payments crises - devaluation - and could still theoretically do so by reviving the punt, escudo or drachma. Their debts, domestic as foreign, would remain in euros, however. The escape route might open if Germany itself gets jack of the whole thing, and reissues the mark. The value of the euro might then plummet. It's a dismal prospect, with such default and currency debasement getting some serious discussion.


Perhaps the alternative of tighter fiscal discipline and tax uniformity monitored by Frankfurt will grow in attraction. But it can be expected that resurgent nationalism will also be irresistible for many forces, in alliance with the groups most affected by stringency. The decision of Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, to step aside from British and Northern Ireland politics and try his luck in the Irish Republic's next elections, can't be coincidental.







OVER the past months, The Age has reported concerns about the integrity of Defence force tender processes for lucrative aviation contracts for the transport of troops. Given the relatively small and clearly incestuous nature of the Australian aviation industry the fierce and occasionally personal rivalry between the main commercial players ought to come as no great surprise. But it is precisely because the potential for intrigue, and resentment on the part of unsuccessful bidders, is so great that Defence should be seen as being beyond reproach when it comes to matters of probity.


Yet the force has shown itself unwilling to properly tackle allegations that past tenders were compromised by the passing of information from within its ranks to successful bidders. It has also refused to address its own role in the industry cross-pollination that lies at the heart of these problems.


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As The Age reported yesterday, it has emerged that auditors hired by Defence (for the not insubstantial sum of $600,000) to investigate a recent $90 million contract for transporting Australian troops overseas were unable to interview any of the tenderers or the official at the centre of the row. Such omissions cast serious doubt on the audit's findings that Defence official David Charlton had no influence over the tender process that awarded the contract to aviation charter company Adagold. Mr Charlton, an Army Reserve captain, has worked as a consultant to Adagold Aviation, and documents reveal that last year he intended to establish a commercial relationship to help fulfil a Danish military contract won by the company. The thorough questioning of key players is clearly fundamental to any credible investigation of the fairness of this tender process.


And yet the Deloitte report makes it clear the auditors were forced to rely on transcripts of interviews conducted by third parties, did not interview Mr Charlton or any of the tenderers, and did not verify information obtained from interviews or tenderers. Indeed, the report came with a heavy disclaimer: ''We believe that the statements made in this report are accurate, but no warranty of completeness, accuracy or reliability is given in relation to the statement, and representations made by, and the information and documents provided by Defence personnel.'' Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston is on firm ground in criticising the probe as an ''incredibly expensive whitewash''.


The Adagold contract is not the only tender under scrutiny. More serious allegations of impropriety surround the 2005 Middle East flight tender, which has been referred to police. In this case, it was revealed that Mr Charlton and another Defence official, John Davies, an army warrant officer, passed information to the winning firm, Strategic Aviation, before joining it in senior management roles. Mr Davies has explicitly denied playing a role in the 2005 tender process, while Mr Charlton consistently could not be contacted. Both individuals held key positions in the Joint Movements Group, the unit overseeing the 2005 tender. But while it is up to the police to determine whether this matter warrants the laying of charges, Defence can and should be proactive in tackling the broader issues of integrity involved.

Australian Defence Association executive director Neil James has said the controversy over Defence's aviation charters showed there needed to be a two-year ban on Defence personnel - and others involved in awarding tenders - from accepting employment with winning firms. Defence would be well advised to act on this suggestion if it wishes to avoid conflict-of-interest claims in future contracts. It must also convince the public that it genuinely seeks the truth about the conduct of key players in both the 2010 and 2005 tenders.






THE Queen is ''absolutely delighted'', the Prince of Wales says he's ''thrilled, obviously'', the Countess of Wessex says it's ''absolutely thrilling'', and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, says, ''In a weird way, it cheers everyone up.'' What else could it be but a royal wedding? After eight years of togetherness, and ending the interminable speculation, Prince William and Catherine - Kate - Middleton are engaged. Absolutely fabulous! Prime Minister David Cameron's newly created ''happiness index'' - designed to measure the country's state of well-being - must be jumping off the top of the page.


The symbol linking the impending nuptials with those of William's father, Prince Charles, and the late Diana, Princess of Wales (nee Spencer) nearly 30 years ago, is the oval sapphire and diamond engagement ring on the third finger of Kate Middleton's left hand. In 1980, its first wearer, young and nervous and standing with her fiance outside Buckingham Palace, said of her impending ascent into royal marriage, ''Naturally, it's quite daunting. I hope it won't be too difficult.'' Alas, it was. On Tuesday, at St James's Palace, a more confident Ms Middleton, seated alongside her intended, said, ''It's quite a daunting prospect but hopefully I'll take it in my stride.'' It is hoped she will.


There is another link, though, between the two events that goes beyond jewellery and pageantry. Mayor Boris was right in emphasising the cheerful aspect of royal weddings, especially at times of national sturm und drang. In 1981, Charles and Di provided essential distraction from Britain's rising unemployment and social unrest; and the mounting frenzy of Wills and Kate will no doubt divert attention from the country's present dire economic situation, with its severe cutbacks in public spending. Not that these will include the marriage of the second-in-line to the throne, although there is talk the event will be more in keeping with the age of austerity.


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While Britain rejoices in the match of ''Babykins'' and ''Big Willie'' (to use their respective terms of affection), best wishes are pouring in from various parts of the world. In Australia, where the groom's grandmother is still the head of state, a royal wedding may not galvanise the public consciousness in quite the same widespread way; but this should not diminish affection and goodwill towards Prince William - a recent, and popular, visitor to this country - and his bride. The Age, which believes in a republican Australia, can also believe in fairytales. Congratulations!










There have been two key events in Scottish and Welsh politics since the UK general election in May. The first was the 20 October spending review, in which George Osborne cut current expenditure in the devolved administrations by around 7% from 2011 and capital spending by around 40%. The second was yesterday, when the two devolved governments – the minority nationalist one in Scotland and the Labour-nationalist coalition in Wales – revealed how they would pass Mr Osborne's budgetary parcel on to their voters. Yet these announcements were shaped by a third event, the Scottish and Welsh elections next May, in which all the devolved government parties aim to run as opponents of cuts emanating from the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in London.


So far, so inevitable. Yet there is a striking difference between the Edinburgh and Cardiff strategies. In Scotland, the SNP's budget covers only 2011-12. Though it aims at balance, it does nothing to address any of the large voter-friendly programmes – free personal care for the elderly, free NHS prescriptions, a council tax freeze – which help the SNP administration to mark itself out from London ways. Little is said, either, about the problematic state of Scottish university funding without any form of tuition fees. Instead, the budget gambles that efficiencies and a public sector pay freeze above £21,000 will balance the books. It is, in short, a shameless electioneering budget, in which all hard choices are postponed until after next May. If voters in Scotland elect a Labour-led administration, then the SNP has given itself a "Don't blame us; blame the London parties" platform for opposition. If Scots re-elect the SNP, on the other hand, expect some U-turns 12 months from now in the 2012-13 budget.


In Wales, where the budget is half the size of Scotland's and where revenue-raising powers are, for now, more curtailed, the Labour-Plaid budget is no less indignant but far less opportunist. Having been dealt a tough hand, the Welsh not only look ahead across the whole spending review cycle but also grasp some painful nettles, in spite of their belief that Mr Osborne's cuts are too deep and too fast. Health, schools and social services will be protected as much as possible; the economy, transport and the environment will all take big hits.


In both countries, this feels like the end of the easier phase of devolution, when everything was possible. Now, in tougher times, choices between priorities have to be made. Of yesterday's two budgets, the Welsh is a more honest and progressive offer than the Scottish. But times are hard everywhere now, and the days of easy popularity for the devolved governments are drawing rapidly to a close.









The phrase you will hear much of over the next few days as Nato gathers for its summit in Lisbon, is that it has an enduring commitment toAfghanistan. Just how enduring, however, is changeable. The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, have all in the last week said that 2014 will be the key date for handing over to the Afghan army. Yesterday, Nato's representative in Kabul, Mark Sedwill,said that Afghanistan could experience "eyewatering" levels of violence after that and that the 2014 target might not be met. At the same time, the generals have been busy talking up the effect their military operations are having. General Sir David Richards, the head of the British army, said they were "hammering" the Taliban. General David Petraeus of the US army has also struck a relentlessly upbeat tone in public, in preparation for a review of the campaign by President Barack Obama in December which is expected to rubber stamp current tactics.


One of these generals has in private admitted that the war is unwinnable militarily, but that it is still capable of being lost militarily. This gap between breezy public confidence and dark private thoughts may be just one of the reasons why the handover date is being pushed relentlessly back into the blue horizon. It also attests to a war which is being incompetently run. Political strategy is being surrendered to the generals, who are the wrong people to form it. When left alone to run them, generals have a tradition of losing wars. After getting his way in two wars and two countries, General Petraeus has acquired the status of a soldier statesman. If he wanted it, the Republican presidential nomination is his for the taking. And yet no one, least of all a politically damaged president, is powerful enough to question whether the strategy of this Periclean figure is working. It is one of the greater paradoxes of modern times that a civilian commander-in-chief should be so supine with his top general when he holds the fate of his master in his hands.


Hammering is the wrong image to use about the Taliban. Squeezing a balloon or brushing back a pool of water would be more accurate analogies. By next spring the fighters will be back, younger, more determined, less ready to compromise, better trained and equipped. The savage war is dealing with the effects of a problem rather than its causes – decades of civil war and the collapse of the state. The Taliban know they will never be able to capture Kabul again. And the predominantly Tajik Afghan national army know they will never able to hold Helmand and Kandahar for more than 24 hours on their own. While indulging in the rhetoric of capturing hearts and minds, General Petraeus resorts to a series of quick, and potentially dangerous, fixes, such as night raids which deplete the ranks of the Taliban, but fan the fury of the population, or arming indisciplined or unaccountable local police – "community watch with AK47s" as he recently put it. Ask Hamid Karzai whether night raids are capturing the hearts and minds of the local population.


The time that this military juggernaut will come to a halt has not been brought any closer by putting the foot down on the accelerator. Military and civilian casualties are growing – 1,271 civilian deaths in the first six months of this year, a 21% increase on the same period last year. Peace will come when policy is reversed, and conditions are sought for a ceasefire. Instead of killing the Taliban, the US should be finding out who in their ranks will talk directly to them and where this will be done. Forget the process, there is not even a venue for the talks, as there was with the IRA in Laneside outside Belfast. Continue as we are with the so-called transition to local Afghan forces and Helmandis will face a brutal choice – between the puritans and the narco-mafia. Most will seek the former, whether it is now, 2011, 2014 or in 10 years' time.







Hosting artists such as The Sixteen and Mark Padmore, the Temple Church's success as a venue is anything but peculiar


Built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, the Temple Church in the Inns of Court is celebrated for one of the most peculiar designs and histories of any building in London. This is appropriate, since in Church of England terms the Temple Church is officially a peculiar – a place of worship that is not part of any diocese. Nowadays, the Temple Church is most widely known for its role in Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. Through most of the 20th century, however, it also enjoyed nationwide fame for its music and, in particular, for the 1927 recording by the Temple Choir of Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer and O For the Wings of a Dove, featuring the boy chorister Ernest Lough, which earned the choir one of the earliest gold discs. The Temple Choir remains one of the most important in London, but the church has put itself on the map as a compelling music venue in other ways too. Since 2002, when the largely barrister-funded Temple Music Foundation raised funds to enable the premiere of John Tavener's all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple to take place there, things have gone from strength to strength.Temple Music has become one of London's most rewarding concert series, specialising in a mix of ancient and contemporary choral and vocal music. This week's events there boast The Sixteen performing Monteverdi's Vespers and Mark Padmore singing a Roxanna Panufnik world premiere. With artists of that calibre, the Temple's current wave of success is anything but peculiar.









Last week, a political leader who had spent the past seven years in custody was set free. That leader once began a speech with these words: "It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."


Besides the fact that former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky also spent the last seven years in prison, there are few parallels between his situation and that of Myanmar political figure and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the person who spoke those words. The party that Suu Kyi led won a near landslide victory in 1990 elections, and only military force enabled the junta to retain power in Burma (officially renamed Myanmar after the junta gained control) and to arrest the person who should rightfully rule the country. In the case of Russia, everything was just the opposite. The decisive victory for pro-Kremlin parties in the 2003 State Duma elections after Khodorkovsky was arrested in October 2003 laid the foundation for the current vertical power system.


However, Suu Kyi's words ring just as true for Russia as they do for Myanmar. The show trial against Khodorkovsky is a huge malignant tumor that has crippled the Russian political system. Its metastasis has far more serious consequences than simply the arrest of an outspoken oligarch and the dismantling and appropriation of Yukos. It set a negative precedent for the courts, which had only just been starting to take shape in the 1990s, by demonstrating that political interference is a natural part of judicial procedure. After two difficult decades of attempting to establish an independent and viable judicial system, we ended up back where we were in 1991 — with the courts serving as an extension of the political leadership's power structure.


The implications for the political system were no less dramatic. Having turned the political dispute with Khodorkovsky into a battle to the death, his opponents turned out to be hostages themselves. In fall 2007, the fear of having to step down from power prompted President Vladimir Putin to deal the final death blow to the system of parliamentary elections, but the natural question arises: Why would Putin need to take such extreme measures to hold on to power if the country he is ruling is democratic?


Putin and the Kremlin's political machine have spent most of its resources in pursuing one goal: the preservation of the status quo. For this reason, personal loyalty to Putin becomes increasingly important with each passing year. Needless to say, any system focused so entirely on maintaining the status quo is hardly capable of initiating a modernization program. Meaningful reforms and progress can only be achieved on the basis of open, democratic social and political institutions, and establishing those would take at least one or two full election cycles — up to a decade.


As with a malignant tumor, the campaign against Khodorkovsky has a malignant effect on the overall political and economic environment in the country. Meaningless statements about conditions under which he might one day be released will do nothing to stop the tumor from spreading even further into Russian governmental institutions.









One year has passed since 37-year-old Sergei Magnitsky died while being held on trumped-up charges in a Moscow pretrial detention center. Magnitsky was a lawyer at Firestone Duncan law firm and defendedHeritage Capital, once the largest foreign investment fund in Russia. His death, which was caused by the prison authorities' refusal to provide medical care, falls under the international definition of torture and essentially qualifies as extrajudicial execution.


Magnitsky's death on Nov. 16. 2009, was followed in April by the death in pretrial detention of Vera Trifonova. She was a seriously ill businesswoman who, given her poor health, should never have been held in prison pending trial. She was mocked by prison officials, who told her that the best way to cure her ills was to sleep standing up.


Most Russians were enraged by these two prison deaths. The sharp public response — particularly among bloggers —  prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to examine widespread abuses in pretrial detention centers and in prisons. To Medvedev's credit, several Moscow prison chiefs and regional Federal Prison Service heads have been fired over the incidents. In addition, Medvedev submitted amendments to the State Duma that ban pre-trial detentions for most economic crimes under Article 33 of the Criminal Code. These detentions have all too often provided Interior Ministry officials opportunities to extort money from individuals accused of crimes.


But the picture is mixed one year later. The Duma approved the president's amendments, and Medvedev announced major reforms to the Interior Ministry to create a more professional police force. The system has improved by one criterion: Fewer people have been imprisoned as result. In the first nine months of 2010, the number of people sentenced to prison terms dropped by 7.2 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the Supreme Court's judicial department. More significantly, according to the Federal Penitentiary Service, the total number of accused held in pretrial detention dropped by 10 percent — from 131,400 to 120,100.


At the same time, however, Moscow City  chief justice Olga Yegorova said that in the last six months, the court had rejected fewer than 6 percent (36 of 649) petitions for the arrest of businesspeople. The shows in part what many had expected after Medvedev announced the restrictions on holding businesspeople in pretrial detention centers — that the courts have been  largely able to bypass the presidential amendments by claiming that the activities of the entrepreneurs were not related to business.


This was clearly demonstrated in the second trial against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev. The judge in the case could have denied investigators the right to hold them in pretrial detention on the new charges, although this was an academic issue only since Khodorkovsky and Lebedev would have remained in prison anyway based on their conviction in the first trial.


At the same time, though, the prosecutor took pity on the oligarch and asked the court that he remain only an

extra 14 years behind bars, instead of the expected 22 ½ years.


Legal experts and businesspeople say the conveyor belt of arrests of entrepreneurs has only slightly slowed down. The largest reduction of arrests has occurred among small businesses that are a less attractive target for corrupt investigators and prison officials. But the problem remains among larger, more prosperous businesspeople.


The investigation into Magnitsky's death ran up against stiff opposition from Interior Ministry officials who were implicated by Firestone Duncan, Hermitage and others for embezzling government funds, seizing companies owned by Hermitage and causing Magnitsky's death. Adding insult to injury, several of these investigators  were recently awarded professional honors. In addition, on Monday, Irina Dudukina, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee, claimed that it was Magnitsky and Hermitage who had misappropriated 5.4 billion rubles ($230 million) in budgetary funds, not Interior Ministry officials.


Meanwhile, Medvedev continues his legislative battle against widespread abuses by Interior Ministry officials against businesspeople. But it remains to be seen whether new, tougher laws will significantly halt the high level of extortion and number of pretrial detentions of entrepreneurs.


Supreme Court chief justice Vyacheslav Lebedev has not given much reason to be optimistic. He recently said judges still see businesspeople as their "class enemies." Just like during the worst periods of the Soviet era.








The jury is out. Or at least it would be if there were one.


Fascinated or appalled, the world awaits the verdict in the latest trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky. His fate now lies in the hands of Judge Viktor Danilkin.


Few doubt that the court's independence has been compromised by the Kremlin. Khodorkovsky, who was sentenced to eight years in a Siberian prison for fraud, has become a focal point for liberal dissent in Russia and critical opposition abroad.


Should they free Khodorkovsky, it's unlikely that he would maintain airwave silence. If, as Khodorkovsky predicted in his closing statement to the court, he is sentenced to an additional six years on embezzlement and money laundering charges, he will symbolize something deeply troubling about Russia.


President Dmitry Medvedev doesn't need his legal background to be aware that the judicial process throughout the Khodorkovsky affair has been less than satisfactory. He also should know that Russia may be facing a "Mandela moment" of sorts.


The analogy to Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years under South Africa's apartheid regime, may seem like a stretch. The causes they championed were diametrically opposed. Mandela was fighting for freedom from a racist government. Khodorkovsky was mostly concerned with personal enrichment and is hardly viewed as a flower of liberty. But the two cases illustrate defining moments for two nations that struggled to adopt democracy and the rule of law.


Supporters of the defendants have been courting the Western media and ensuring that Khodorkovsky receives mostly sympathetic press. These days, Russian leaders no longer have the option of eliminating someone in Siberia, and they will be wary of conferring martyr status on the former oil tycoon. They must also consider the prospect that they may have to go through the whole travesty again when his next parole is due. Khodorkovsky can't be gagged indefinitely.


His case also serves as a political barometer to investors in Russia. At this juncture, the government can't afford to alienate international capital through another public relations disaster. At a price-earnings ratio of less than 10, Russian stocks trade at a hefty discount, compared with 12.5 for Turkey and 14 for Brazil. The nation aims to plug its budget deficit with the help of an ambitious $50 billion privatization process that will require the support of global fund managers.


Unusually for currencies considered viable for the carry trade that has characterized emerging market investment, the ruble has fallen 2 percent against the U.S. dollar this year, and Russia's economic recovery has been more sluggish than its trading partners. Russia also fell eight places in Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index to No. 154, tied with Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea, Laos, the Central African Republic, Cambodia and Kenya. This is hardly the direction into which Medvedev meant to take his country.


Russia must tackle these issues, and dispatching Khodorkovsky back to the gulag will only intensify international criticism, jeopardizing Russia's modernization program. Sending him on a long walk to freedom may be galling for Putin, but compromise may be unavoidable.


The domestic and international furor over another conviction would surely cast a cloud over the presidential election campaign for 2012 and overshadow Medvedev's efforts to project a better image for Russia.


There are signs of late that the Kremlin has grasped the importance of international public relations. But the

stage management of Khodorkovsky's second prosecution has been as clumsy as his first one. It is doubtful whether Khodorkovsky will ever be proved unequivocally guilty of anything, except perhaps hubris.

The South African regime once viewed Mandela as a terrorist. Now they think of him as a savior. It's too much to think that the same could ever be thought of Khodorkovsky, but a politically savvy display of leniency toward Khodorkovsky might be the catalyst that will change for the better the way nations and investors view Russia.





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