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Saturday, November 20, 2010

EDITORIAL 20.11.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month november 20, edition 000683 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. A STRANGE SILENCE
  2. ORGANS NOT FOR SALE
  3. TIBET ISN'T KASHMIR - CLAUDE ARPI
  4. INDIA'S ELUSIVE UNSC SEAT- SWARN KUMAR ANAND
  5. SHORT CUT IN LONG ROAD AHEAD? - DILIP LAHIRI
  6. INDIA DOESN'T DESERVE VETO RIGHT - RICHARD GRENELL

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. OF COMMONERS AND KINGS
  2. SAVE CAPITALISM FROM PROTECTIONISTS - JEAN-PIERRE LEHMANN
  3. THEY APPEAL TO BASE INSTINCTS - JAY KUMAR
  4. THE SHOWS ARE DEMAND DRIVEN

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. WHO'LL CUT THIS GORDIAN KNOT?
  2. STILL A SCORCHER - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
  3. GENTLE FOLK, RENAISSANCE MEN - PRATIK KANJILAL

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. HAZY WATERSHED
  2. FAMILY MATTERS
  3. AAM AADMI VS SAB CHOR - SHEKHAR GUPTA 
  4. GO BACK TO THE TEXT - A. FAIZUR RAHMAN 
  5. NEW TAX ON THE BLOCK – RUCHIKA TALWAR 
  6. IRELAND CAN BARELY COMPREHEND ITS DEBT
  7. THE AMATEURS IN CHARGE - KSHANKARBAJPAI 
  8. A MARRIAGE OF MANY MINDS - COOMI KAPOOR 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. YEDDY MUST GO
  2. BRAND SUCCESS
  3. INNOCENT OF THE LAW - SUNIL JAIN
  4. FACEBOOK'S NEW FACE - CARL SCHRAMM
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. ANTIMATTER

THE HINDU

  1. FLAWED PROCESS, FAILED OUTCOME
  2. TIME UP FOR YEDDYURAPPA
  3. LIGHT AT THE END OF IRAQI TUNNEL - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  4. AUNG SAN SUU KYI: I WAS BOTH PRISONER AND MAINTENANCE WOMAN - JACK DAVIES*
  5. STUXNET WORM WAS PERFECT FOR SABOTAGING CENTRIFUGES - DAVID E. SANGER AND WILLIAM J. BROAD
  6. POWER SHIP TO SUPPLY ELECTRICITY-STARVED PAKISTAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. HEED TRAI, START THE CLEANUP NOW
  2. TOLERATING INTOLERANCE - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. ENCASH OBAMA'S UNSC CHEQUE - DILIP LAHIRI
  4. MONITORING MINDS - SHOBHAA DE

DNA

  1. MIND YOUR MANNERS - AKSHAYA MISHRA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. CANCELLING THE LICENCES
  2. ON A STICKY WICKET
  3. NEPAL'S MAOIST PROBLEM
  4. AMERICA'S $4-TRILLION QUESTION - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  5. A FLY ON THE WALL - BY RACHNA SINGH
  6. DEFENCE DEALS: STING OF THE US LAW - AIR MARSHAL B.D. JAYAL (RETD)
  7. FOCUS MORE ON TECHNICAL SUPPORT - WG CDR D.P. SABHARWAL (RETD)

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. VISVESARAYA'S SECOND CANDLE

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. SOLUTIONS EXIST
  2. T N NINAN
  3. FINANCIAL ENGINEERING - DEEPAK LAL
  4. RIGHT FACTS, WRONG ARITHMETIC - ALAM SRINIVAS
  5. MAY DELHI KEEP SHINING - SUBIR ROY
  6. OF FRENEMIES AND COEPITITION - DEVANGSHU DATTA
  7. SALMAN RUSHDIE'S MAGIC CARPET OF STORIES - V V
  8. AIR INDIA'S SWEET SECRETS - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  9. THE BARE AND SIMPLE FACTS - RAMA BIJAPURKAR

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. THE PM'S CHALLENGE
  2. STIGLITZ HAS A POINT
  3. MEGA PERKS
  4. COMPETITION LAW & INCLUSIVE GROWTH - MADHAV MEHRA
  5. 'LET'S GIVE A BETTER DEAL TO FARMERS' - RAMKRISHNAKASHELKAR 
  6. CANCUN MUST NOT REPEAT COPENHAGEN - MUKUL SANWAL 
  7. PRAYER CHANGES NOTHING BUT YOU - TEJINDER NARANG 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. HEED TRAI, START THE CLEANUP NOW
  2. TOLERATING INTOLERANCE - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. CHINA, GERMANY, GOP BULLYING FED - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. EUROPE, US ALIGNED FOR THE FUTURE - BY BARACK OBAMA
  5. MONITORING MINDS - BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE
  6. ENCASH OBAMA'S UNSC CHEQUE - BY DILIP LAHIRI
  7. ENCASH OBAMA'S UNSC CHEQUE - BY DILIP LAHIRI

THE STATESMAN

  1. BENGAL'S SORROWS 
  2. GOOD QUESTION  - IRISH STEW 
  3. FURIOUS FLOODS - BY BHARAT DOGRA
  4. 'STRIKES MORE POLITICAL THAN LABOUR-BASED'
  5. ON RECORD
  6. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. THE FIRST MINISTER
  2. APPAMS ARE YUM

DECCAN HERALD

  1. PERVASIVE CANCER
  2. HUNGER CRISIS
  3. WINGLESS DREAMS - BY M K BHADRAKUMAR
  4. AWARD DRAMA - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. A PARADISE IN PUNNATHUR - BY MAYA JAYAPAL

NEW YORK TIMES

  1. OPT-OUT ILLUSION
  2. HONORING LIU XIAOBO
  3. THE UPROAR OVER PAT-DOWNS
  4. MR. PATERSON AND THE (LATEST) CASINO
  5. THE ZOMBIE JAMBOREE - BY GAIL COLLINS
  6. LET'S RESCUE THE RACE DEBATE - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  7. HIDING FROM REALITY - BY BOB HERBERT
  8. A FALSE TARGET IN YEMEN - BY GREGORY JOHNSEN

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. POLITICAL TEMPERATURE RISING STEADILY
  2. ATTEMPT TO SHIFT BLAME ON SAUDI ARABIA
  3. US GIVES SECOND THOUGHT TO UNSC SEAT FOR INDIA
  4. FALSE MORALITY IN MIDST OF IMMORALITY - M D NALAPAT
  5. KASHMIR DISPUTE REMAINS ON UN AGENDA - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  6. EXPANSION OF INDIAN AIR FORCE - AIR MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN (R)
  7. MISUSE OF TV IN PAKISTAN - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  8. AXIS OF DEPRESSION - PAUL KRUGMAN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. KEVIN RUDD: HERE TO HELP
  2. SEX AND THE WHOLE DAMN THING
  3. OVERLAND'S CRITICISMS OF RAID STORIES WERE HOLLOW

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. A LONG, HAPPY LIFE, AND ONE OTHER THING...
  2. WHERE'S THE BROOM WHEN YOU NEED IT?
  3. RESERVE BANK IGNORES BRIBERY ALARM BELL
  4. SPYING ON EMPLOYEES HAS NO PLACE IN THE WORKPLACE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. NATO SUMMIT: START MUST NOT BE STOPPED
  2. WORLD CUP: FIFA'S OWN GOAL
  3. UNTHINKABLE? A NEW SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. TOO CLOSE TO THE DEATH PENALTY
  2. GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR MYANMAR

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. SERVING THE NEEDY
  2. PUBLIC TRUST
  3. THE ETHOS, PATHOS AND LOGOS OF OBAMA'S SPEECH - SETIONO SUGIHARTO
  4. MADE IN INDONESIA – SOLD AROUND THE WORLD - ASHISH LALL
  5. FAUZI FAILS TO DEVELOP BUSWAY, PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN JEOPARDY - DARMANINGTYAS 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

A STRANGE SILENCE

PM MUST SPEAK BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE


The constantly expanding contours of the 'Great 2G Spectrum Robbery' make it what it truly is: A stunningly shameful and shocking scandal. Worse, the scandal now threatens to scorch, if not taint, an accidental politician-turned-Prime Minister whose sole asset till now has been his unimpeachable integrity. Nobody is suggesting, nor should anybody even think of it, that Mr Manmohan Singh was in any manner involved with l'affaire Raja which, according to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, has cost the public exchequer a mind-boggling `1.76 lakh crore. But it is increasingly becoming obvious, through assertions made under oath in the Supreme Court and the publication of official letters, including in this newspaper, that Mr Singh failed to take a stand when he should have — both as primus inter pares, the man who heads the Union Cabinet, and the custodian of the values on which our Republic is founded, namely, the Government shall be constantly mindful of the interests of the people it governs. When Mr Dayanidhi Maran, as Telecom Minister, sought to keep the auctioning of 2G Spectrum out of the purview of the Empowered Group of Ministers, a mechanism that was devised to ensure transparency and prevent bending of rules, Mr Singh should have bluntly rejected the demand of the Congress's ally in Government. Integrity and probity cannot be — indeed, must not allowed to be — held hostage to the so-called compulsions of coalition politics. That would trivialise governance itself and make a mockery of the basic principles according to which the Cabinet as a collective entity and Ministers as individuals are supposed to function. It was not for Mr Maran to decide what he should or should not be allowed to do, but for the Cabinet to take a collective view. Sadly, that was not done, nor did the Prime Minister exercise his executive authority.


Similarly, Mr Singh failed to respond adequately to the shenanigans of Mr A Raja after he took over as Telecom Minister from Mr Maran. The disgraced Telecom Minister's rant in self-defence need not be taken seriously, but he is not being entirely untruthful when he says that the Prime Minister was aware of the entire affair at every stage. There is documentary evidence to prove this point, as also to demonstrate that despite such knowledge Mr Singh did not even wag his finger in admonition. Instead, he stood aside, as if by distancing himself from the scam as it unfolded would give him immunity from being held accountable. Mr Singh was morally obliged to stand between his Telecom Minister and fly-by-night operators and do the right thing by scuttling the conspiracy to defraud the nation. He failed to do so — some would even say that he chose not to do so. More importantly, as Prime Minister he should have been more receptive to information that was forwarded to him from time to time, alerting him about the mischief afoot in Sanchar Bhavan. Once again, he did not bother to take note of the information — or, as others would say, he chose to ignore it. It would be facetious to suggest that on both counts he was found wanting because of the 'compulsions' of coalition politics. It would be equally facetious to suggest that he has redeemed himself by getting rid of Mr Raja: That happened because there was no other option left. 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

ORGANS NOT FOR SALE

CURB ILLICIT TRADE WITH HARSH PUNISHMENT


The news about Moradabad police busting an international smuggling ring in the city engaged in an illegal human organs trade has once again brought to the fore the shocking plight of the poor and disadvantaged who are duped and fleeced by unscrupulous people, including doctors, for a fistful of money. That the racket was being run by Government doctors in collusion with the police — together they would lure vulnerable labourers and illiterate people and deprive them of their organs — will not surprise many as organised crime in this country is not an exception but the rule. A couple of years ago, we were witness to the multiple crimes of a Gurgaon-based doctor's kidney transplant racket. He and his men tricked poor people to part with their kidneys which would then be transplanted on foreigners willing to pay a fortune. A similar racket was unearthed in Chennai where a doctor was arrested for selling kidneys to patients from Gulf countries. What is most disconcerting is that lawkeepers jump into action only when such cases are exposed and feign to act only till the heat is on. While dealers in human organs deserve no mercy and should be given exemplary punishment, little is known about what happened to the doctors running their flourishing illicit trade in Gurgaon and Chennai. Were they punished? Are they on bail? Or have the cases been buried through the expedient means of greasing the right palms? 


Poverty, no doubt, contributes to the illicit trade in human organs. Hunger forces men and women to sell their kidneys, often for a pittance. It is also poverty that makes parents offer their children for organ trade. Illiteracy and ignorance are equally responsible for this pathetic state of affairs. The tragic reality, as it has once again unfolded, this time in Moradabad, can be tackled only if authority decides to crack down on illegal organ trade, simultaneously launching a massive mass awareness campaign to alert the poor and the illiterate, especially in our villages and urban slums, about the dangers of trading their vital organs for a few hundred rupees. But that would only serve half the purpose. The other half would necessarily be served only through strict enforcement of the law of the land and punishing those who violate it swiftly, mercilessly and demonstratively. There is no percentage in pretending the hideous crime of illicit organ trade does not exist in our country; not only does it exist, but it flourishes. An ostrich-like attitude is not going to help curb this criminal enterprise. Nor should State Governments be allowed the privilege of claiming that tackling this crime lies in their domain: The Union Government must assert itself, if necessary by amending laws. Anything less is unacceptable. 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

TIBET ISN'T KASHMIR

BEFORE EQUATING THE 'KASHMIR ISSUE' WITH THE 'TIBET ISSUE', CHINA SHOULD THINK TWICE. UNLIKE JAMMU & KASHMIR, TIBET HAS NO AUTONOMY

CLAUDE ARPI


To the surprise of many people, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna recently told his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi that New Delhi expects Beijing to change its position on Jammu & Kashmir by reciprocating the way India has handled Chinese "core issues". 


It is the first time that India has equated Jammu & Kashmir with Tibet. This happened during a 70-minute bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Russia-India-China trilateral conference.


After the meeting, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao was more explicit: "Our Minister referred to the need to show mutual sensitivity and that the Chinese side needs to be sensitive to our concerns in Jammu & Kashmir like India has been sensitive to Chinese concerns on Taiwan and Tibet." 


This issue started when China began issuing stapled visas for residents of Jammu & Kashmir. Apparently, by doing so China wants to make a point: Beijing does not recognise Jammu & Kashmir as an integral part of India. As former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal says, "This would suggest that the Chinese now consider India's presence in Jammu & Kashmir as lacking in legitimacy." 


Later, China denied a visa to Lt Gen BS Jaswal, chief of the Northern Command, to attend a scheduled defence meeting in Beijing. To make matter worse, the Chinese Embassy stated that the General was serving in the "sensitive location of Jammu & Kashmir" and "people from this part of the world come with a different kind of visa".

Interestingly, the position of Beijing has historically been quite clear: China wanted Pakistan and India to solve the 'Kashmir issue' bilaterally (even though Beijing's favours have always heavily tilted towards Islamabad).

The recently declassified transcript of a meeting between Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and the Pakistani Ambassador to China, Ahmed Ali, in February 1957, offers a good historical perspective. During the discussion, Zhou Enlai repeatedly asked the Ambassador, "Is there a danger of conflict breaking out over the Kashmir issue?" The Pakistani Ambassador wouldn't reply even after Zhou Enlai clarified, "The two countries of Pakistan and India are sister countries; if a conflict occurs, it is not only disadvantageous to the two countries, it is also disadvantageous to the peace of Asia."


When Zhou drew a parallel with Taiwan, the Ambassador retorted, "The Taiwan issue and the Kashmir issue are different. We hold that Taiwan is a part of China, and that this issue will eventually resolve itself. But the Kashmir issue is a point of contention between two independent countries." 


Zhou answered, "Of course the Taiwan issue and the Kashmir issue are different in nature. (But) we have always hoped that the two countries of Pakistan and India can peacefully resolve the Kashmir issue."


In another interesting historical document, Zhou Enlai told another Pakistani Ambassador just a few weeks before the October 1962 attack on India: "(About our) attitude towards Kashmir, we have repeatedly demonstrated that China holds a neutral stance: (We) have not stated that Kashmir belongs to (this or) that side, but have advocated seeking a resolution for this issue through peaceful negotiation. We also listened to India's opinion, but did not express any preferences. We respect the two sides' resolution reached through negotiation."

The Chinese Premier continued, "During my second visit to India (in 1957), Nehru repeatedly hinted about this issue (Kashmir). He deliberately invited a Kashmiri prince (Karan Singh) to a banquet; I did not take any notice of it. We adopted an extremely objective attitude."


This has remained Beijing's policy for decades, but since a few months things have changed. China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was ambiguous in his response to Mr SM Krishna. Could it be otherwise? Today it is clear that it is not Mr Yang Jiechi who decides China's foreign policy. However, the use of the 'Kashmir card' by Beijing is new, at least in this open and deliberate manner. How else can it be explained? 

To understand the issue one should look at a larger perspective. India is not alone to face a problem emanating from China. In recent months, Japan, Korea and other neighbours of China have encountered Beijing's change of mood. 


Most China watchers agree that it is due to the increasing interference of the People's Liberation Army in that country's foreign policy, sometimes in opposition to the 'civilian' State Council's positions (the theory of the 'Peaceful Rise of China' seems, for example, to have been forgotten). 


These developments are quite worrying. The Wall Street Journal published an article last month affirming "China's Army Extends Sway". The Wall Street Journal's correspondent Jeremy Page wrote: "The Chinese military's political clout is expected to grow as the Communist Party's ruling Politburo Standing Committee repares for China's change to new leadership in 2012." 


Page added, "It is unclear to what extent the PLA is unilaterally expanding its traditional role — to defend the party and Chinese territory — or being encouraged by party leaders to redefine China's broader national interests. But the military has become far more outspoken in recent months, frequently upstaging the Foreign Ministry and heightening concerns in the region and beyond about how China plans to use its economic muscle."

In September, the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation had noted: "While China and India have long sparred over the Dalai Lama and Tibet's status, border incursions and China's growing footprint in southern Asia, a perceptible shift in the Chinese stance on Kashmir has now emerged as a new source of inter-state friction. Throughout the 1990s, a desire for stability on its south-western flank and fears of an Indian-Pakistani nuclear arms race caused Beijing to take a more evenhanded approach to Kashmir, while still favouring Islamabad."

The jockeying for key positions in the next Politburo and its mighty Standing Committee as well as the coveted seats in the Central Military Commission probably explains the latest Chinese moves.


However, Beijing should think twice before equating Jammu & Kashmir and Tibet. The 'civilian' or PLA leaders should not forget that Jammu & Kashmir lives under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Though a similar Article in the Chinese Constitution for Tibet would probably be the ideal solution for solving the Tibetan issue, it may not be to Beijing's taste. For the Dalai Lama, it would undoubtedly be interesting to have a 370-type Article barring non-State subjects from other Provinces to settle or start businesses in Tibet.

Jammu & Kashmir also has its own Constitution, flag, Legislative Assembly and its own elected Government. Indian laws have to be ratified by the State Assembly before being implemented and several other features exist, providing a large autonomy for Jammu & Kashmir. This sounds close to the 'genuine' autonomy for Tibet on which the Dalai Lama insists.


Suppose tomorrow New Delhi tells Beijing, "If you must club Jammu & Kashmir with Tibet, why don't you have something like 'Article 370' for Tibet and all the Tibetan-inhabited areas? It will be to your benefit, the Tibetan issue will be settled, and after a 'larger autonomy' is granted to Tibet, one can certainly find an arrangement to sort out the India-Tibet border issue."

 

Perhaps Mr Krishna did not have this in mind, but whoever decides foreign policy in Beijing should think about it before unnecessarily upping the ante on the 'Kashmir issue'.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

INDIA'S ELUSIVE UNSC SEAT

SWARN KUMAR ANAND


The Obama address has generated unrealistic hopes of an Indian seat in the United Nations Security Council in real time. But viewed from both Indian and American standpoints, many questions hang


US President Barack Obama's endorsement of India's "rightful place in the world" — a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) — despite no mention of timeline for the Security Council reforms, represents a significant evolution of US policy towards both India and the global body. 


Nobody denies that the present UNSC veto-holding membership — US, UK, Russia, China, France — is a poor reflection of the present and future world order. With the increasing self-confidence among new UN members, the old structure that came into being after WWII no longer remains unchallenged. But a berth in the UNSC is very important, as the coveted veto-wielding membership to the UNSC prevents the world body from acting against the self-interest of its members. In major conflicts like Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Vietnam War, China's repression of Tibet and recently the US invasion of Iraq, the UNSC failed to rise to the occasion.The first serious attempt to reform the UNSC came in the wake of the intense conflict generated by the US-led invasion of Iraq without the Security Council agreement. The then UNSC Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, appointed a High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which proposed more "involvement in decision-making of those who contribute most to the United Nations financially, militarily and diplomatically." India, by virtue of its status as the world's largest democracy, began diplomatic lobbying for UNSC membership in the 1990s. Japan, a major contributor to the UN's finances, has also been a contender. Although, India's first tryst with the UN started in 1948 following Pakistan's attempt to militarily annex the princely State of Jammu & Kashmir when Prime Minister Jawarhal Nehru took the conflict to the UNSC. Under Atal Bihari Vajpayee the first serious and concerted diplomatic offensive towards recognition of India's bid was made. 

However, in April 2005, Kofi Annan refused to make a specific commitment of support for India's campaign for a permanent seat. Annan had then reiterated that none of the proposals under discussion would allow for India, or any new member, to be granted power of veto on the Security Council. 


But the time has changed and so is the prevailing international environment. Moreover, India's indices in terms of its geo-strategic location, economic health, military strength and domestic stability have brought about changes in the US treatment. Even during second phase of Iraq invasion, the then US President, George Bush, had requested India to send a full army brigade of more than 17,000 troops, second only to the then presence of US military, for non-combat activities — to take the responsibility of administering the northern sector of Iraq, an area of sharp tensions between ethnic Kurds and Arabs. The then US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, pushed Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani to approve the proposal, and President Bush was even ready to send a Pentagon team to New Delhi to answer India's queries regarding nature of military activities in war-devastated Iraq. Besides, a political pay-off of promising to press the then Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to put a halt to "cross-border terrorism" into India, Bush also told Advani that he "feels" that India should get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.


Cut to the present; the India visit of Obama was warranted following his 2009 trip to China in which he was generous in giving time and energy to his hosts. Then he had suggested a Chinese role in South Asia, overlooking India's regional dominance and aspirations. But the present India — a democratic, English-speaking, free-market and dedicated to the rule of law — promises to deliver more to the US. India is buying all kinds of stuff from the US starting from military transport aircraft to to jet engines to oil and gas equipment, etc. And it is here that Obama claimed that India created 53,670 jobs for Americans. Moreover, it suits the traditional US role as offshore balancer. 


However, the road ahead is not that easy for India. The talk of the UNSC reform is often dismissed as hopeless, as the five permanent members (P5) are reluctant to give up their monopoly and the alliance like Uniting for Consensus, a group of middle-ranking countries led by Pakistan and Italy, which is opposed to expansion of veto-holding membership, is always ready to scuttle other's entry into the UNSC.


The serious block, however, is China, whose rapidily-flourishing relationship with Pakistan is purely based on Chinese self-interests. But these self-interests view both India and Japan as rivals. 


Though this year, India won temporary membership in the UNSC with the support of 187 members after 19 years following a strong lobbying by External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, who personally spoke to the foreign ministers of 123 countries. 


Interestingly, for the first time, the Security Council would witness the simultaneous presence of all BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) countries, and three of the four G-4 countries (India, Brazil and Germany), which are considered to be a strong lobby for India, but the influence of the sole power US can't be discounted. This is more after the Pakistan government expressed "strong disappointment" at Obama's support for India's claim to the UNSC seat. 


However, even if India's membership claim is considered, it might require a protracted and highly unlikely process of UN reform, which has failed all attempts since 1979. Nevertheless, the boost given by Obama's speech in Indian Parliament has the merit of injecting new momentum into the issue of Security Council reform. 

Even if the Pakistan and other anti-India lobbyist allege that India's claim to the veto-holding membership is controversial because of its long-running dispute over Kashmir with Pakistan, certainly Kashmir cannot disbar India from having a permanent seat any more, as Tibet couldn't for China and Northern Ireland couldn't for the UK. 

The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SHORT CUT IN LONG ROAD AHEAD?

DILIP LAHIRI


Barack Obama's undertaking on US support to India's UN Security Council membership bid is only a positive step. The complicated UN system, plus hostility from Pakistan and somewhat legitimate African opposition are major issues


Obama's announcement in Parliament on US support for India's permanent membership in the UN Security Council was greeted with euphoria. However, the highly nuanced formulation and the text of the Joint Statement have subsequently raised many questions.


This is what Obama said to Parliament: "In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member." The Joint Statement improved on this: "Prime Minister Singh welcomed President Obama's affirmation that, in the years ahead, the United States looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member."For all the years of endless discussion on formulating criteria for qualifying for permanent membership, and the reams of self-serving position papers submitted to buttress one or other proposition, the crux of the matter now is to find a formula which can win 128 votes in the United Nations General Assembly. The current line-up is that the G4, consisting of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, have proposed an increase from the current 15 to 25, with six additional permanent members (themselves and two from the African Union) and four non-permanent members; they have sought to finesse the veto question by providing the possibility of a veto right for the new permanent members after 15 years. The African Union (AU) variant is that the expansion should be to 26, with the AU getting one extra non-permanent seat, and the veto right being extended to the six additional permanent members unless the current P5 agreed on the abolition of the veto.


The most vociferous opponents of the above approach are a group of countries led by Italy and Pakistan called variously as the "Coffee Club" or "Uniting for Consensus" (UfC). Their proposal is for 10 new non-permanent members, eligible for immediate re-election, with no expansion in the permanent category. Faced with the prospect of prolonged deadlock, France and the UK have proposed an intermediate reform, proposing the addition of a number of temporary seats that would become permanent if the members so wished. Germany has shown preparedness to flirt with this arrangement, specifying however that this kind of solution "must be constructed in such a fashion as to pave the way for an expansion in both categories", allowing member States to make the transition to a permanent expansion in both categories at a review conference within 15 years. The UfC and AU have opposed the proposal due to the danger, as they saw it, of the category of temporary members in effect being transformed to permanent members. This approach is however gathering increasing steam.

And then there is the question of the veto. None of the current P5 is prepared to consider any dilution of their privileges under the UN Charter. There is also no appetite among UN members to add more veto-wielding permanent members. On the other hand, it would scarcely be reasonable to expect new permanent members to accept without compensation a new caste stratification.


The biggest obstacle at this time to achieving the 128 vote target is the position of the African Group, which insists on designating the two permanent members from Africa, without the preparedness to devise a mechanism, by voting or otherwise, to decide among the several claimants. Apart from Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, who are the leading candidates, there are others such as Kenya and Senegal. It is widely agreed that Nigeria and South Africa have the largest support. But none of them are prepared to put themselves forward without the endorsement of the African Group and to chance a vote o in the UNGA against the wishes of its largest regional group with 53 votes.


Other major obstacles to achieving the 128 vote target are the opposition of the US to more than a limited expansion of the Council beyond, say, 20; the demand of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which counts 56 Muslim countries of Asia and Africa among its members, for representation in both the permanent and non-permanent expansion (the inclusion of Nigeria would however satisfy this demand); and the League of Arab States, which also wants an assured share of the cake. Neither the OIC nor the Arab League has much of a record of its members adhering to their decisions. But in a situation where every vote counts, the prospect of disgruntled elements working to eat into the available votes is clearly a deterrent.


It should realistically be recognised that none among the P5 is enthusiastic about more permanent members, though they understand that the current anachronistic structure of the Council reduces the legitimacy of the continued presence of some of them as permanent members and stretches the credibility of the Council itself. The UK and France have extended strong support to Germany and later to the G4 and the proposal they have put forward. But this is mainly due to fear that, unless Germany gets permanent membership, it will demand that the separate seats of UK and France should be replaced by a single permanent seat on the Council for the EU. It is a different matter that this is not currently feasible, both since there is no provision for membership of an intergovernmental body like the EU in the Council , and also since EU member states have still reserved most political and security issues for national decision.


It should be clear from the above that Council restructuring may not be around the immediate corner. At the same time, there could be very quick movement if the question of the two permanent members from the African Group could be resolved, or an appropriate resolution based on the UK-French intermediate proposal, came up for voting in the UNGA.


With this background, the real substance of Obama's support can be analysed. Is it a big deal? Absolutely — US support may not be a sufficient condition for obtaining a permanent seat, but it is certainly necessary. Active opposition by the US would have made 128 votes unattainable. Does it commit the US to support India for early realisation of this objective? Not necessarily. The words "in the years ahead" are similar to Obama's Prague declaration on a nuclear weapon-free world which was, according to him, was unlikely to happen in his lifetime. And Obama is a fairly young man. Does it commit the US to support procedures e.g. voting, which may be essential to clinch matters? No, not unless explicitly agreed. Does this commit the US not to oppose expansion of the Council including India beyond 20, as has been their consistent? position in the past? No. Given the politics in the UN, there is little possibility of consensus, or of obtaining the 128 votes necessary for an UNGA Resolution approving an expansion, unless the expansion goes up to 25 or 26 to satisfy the requirement for equitable regional distribution.


Permanent membership of the Council is an important determinant of rank in the international pecking order. India will repent at leisure if it gives up the race now only to find, after some years, that countries with lesser weight but greater perseverance have left us irretrievably a rung lower in the international hierarchy.


Ambassador Dilip Lahiri has served as India's envoy to many countries and UN institutions; he is now Distinguished Fellow with the Observer 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

INDIA DOESN'T DESERVE VETO RIGHT

WHILE OUR MEDIA IS SPREADING JOYOUS EUPHORIA ABOUT UNEQUIVOCAL AMERICAN "SUPPORT", HERE'S SOMETHING TO SOBER EVERYBODY: CONSERVATIVE OPINION IN THE US STILL OPPOSES INDIA'S BID WHICH DELHI CAN IGNORE ONLY AT ITS OWN PERIL

RICHARD GRENELL


President Barack Obama arrived in India with a gift in hand. He announced to the world that America would support India as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The support from Obama was a huge coup for the Indians but took diplomats at the UN by surprise. 


India, after all, was being rewarded despite the fact that it has done very little to help reform the UN. Ironically, it has been India that has stood in the way of the very sweeping reforms that will now be needed to ensure its ascension to a permanent Security Council seat. India has refused to support UN budget reforms that would remove outdated mandates and programmes, refused to support tough new standards for the human rights council and has consistently worked to keep intact the outdated way dues are assessed on member nations. India, too, has paid just $11.2 million in regular 2010 UN dues but receives millions more in UN assistance due to its status as a developing nation. Rewarding India without first demanding support for basic US-led reform efforts at the UN seems naïve at best. And agitating Pakistan while at the same time ditching Japan, which is also in the run for a permanent Security Council seat, seem to increase American security concerns in Afghanistan and North Korea. 


Obama's announcement was another blow to the real UN reform he has never sought. The Indians, after all, have led the resistance to it and Obama has validated their behavior. The Bush administration worked hard to reform the UN and its budget process but received only scant support from other countries. While India worked hard with other developing nations to thwart most reforms proposed by the Bush administration, Japan worked hard to implement many of the reforms the US was pushing. In fact, India voted 11 per cent of the time with the United States on issues important to the US while Japan voted 86 per cent of the time with the US. Obama rewarded the country working against us and dismissed the country working with us. 


President Bush ended up announcing the US' support for Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council only after it supported UN reform and other good governance policies. Bush's support for Japan was a reward for good work. Obama's support for India's bid signals his desire to keep the UN as it is. Japan pays 12.5 per cent of the UN's regular budget while India pays 0.5 per cent (only a few years ago Japan was paying 19.5 per cent signaling their growing frustration with the world body). That means India pays $11.2 million in regular UN dues compared to Japan's $264.9 million. Further, India is a net beneficiary of the UN and its programmes in that it receives more than $200 million a year from just peacekeeping payments and the UN's World Food Programme to help feed its people. A full tally of UNDP, UNHCR, UNEP and other UN programmes would surely show that India's participation in the UN is a financial boon.


Supporting India for a permanent seat on the Security Council comes at an even greater cost to the war on terror by unnecessarily upsetting Pakistan at a time when controlling the borders and mountainous regions of Pakistan is key to rooting out al-Qaida. Almost instantly after Obama's announcement on India, a government spokesmen in Pakistan issued statements pointing out that India has not lived up to its responsibility in the disputed territory of Kashmir and that it wasn't qualified to be a global leader sitting on the UN's most prestigious body. Pakistan's political class has roundly criticised Obama for his decision to support India at a time when the US needs Pakistan's stalwart support. And Japan, the second most generous funder of the UN behind only the United States and one of our closest allies at the UN, was left wondering if it would get the same endorsement from Obama when the president visits Tokyo.


The Obama team's short-sightedness in dealing with difficult international issues in exchange for quick bursts of popularity while traveling abroad has made it more difficult to make progress on US priorities at the UN. Obama has shown that he is all too willing to sacrifice American security for his personal popularity as was the case with Obama's announcement that the US would no longer seek to put a missile shield in Eastern Europe while negotiating with the Russians and his flip-flop on promising to remove troops from Iraq as a candidate and telling military leaders to continue the course as President.


When President Obama arrives in Japan he should tell the Japanese taxpayers that they deserve to have a permanent seat at the UN table. President Obama should also be unambiguous that reforming the UN is the first condition for US support for any nation seeking a permanent Security Council seat — even though it won't be a popular position. He should also make clear that India hasn't earned its seat yet.


The writer is a US diplomat at United Nations 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

OF COMMONERS AND KINGS

 

Better Kate than never. Yes, Prince William has chosen his future bride. But many Brits today aren't as gaga about royal romances as when Charles and Diana wed. Recession-hit, a sizeable tribe of the penny-wise wonder how big the hole in taxpayer pockets will be, post-wedding tamasha. Though the royals are set to payroll the revelry next year, the public may have to foot a security-related bill. Now, we Big Fat Indian Wedding lovers don't mind shaadi ka kharcha. As long as it's paisa vasool. 


In this case, it is. Fairy tales mean collective money-spinning. The Kate-William story, it's said, could give a "#620 million consumer spending boost" to UK's drooping economy. It's boomtime, folks, for businesses from UK to Kenya - pen-pushers, paparazzi, tour-operators, honeymoon planners, bridal lingerie-makers, you name it. UK's furniture-wallahs, for instance, are offering "Crown Jewel" beds. The extra bounciness is because marriage comes with springs attached. Bookies too expect to make a killing. Wanna bet, they ask, on this marriage lasting a decade? 


Also, everybody's happy royals no longer compulsorily marry for convenience. In the past, monarchs conducted phoren policy via nuptials to augment wealth, power and territory, the spouse being the fringe benefit. But modern princes woo commoners without inviting social grimaces. Stiff upper lip, bye-bye. Britain now has a queen on Facebook. Prince Charles champions trendy causes. And the on-off-on relationship of king-in-queue William and girl-next-door Kate resembles ordinary people's love lives. English royalty's no longer a snob story. 

We can't say the same for India's political royalty. Here, monarchy, titles, privy purses, all lie buried. Yet it's a royal blunder to expect changed raja-praja equations. Our political commoners act like royalty, their flashing insignia telling lesser mortals: "Do you know who i am?" We desis don't need blue blood to have kingsize egos, monarchical pretensions or feudal retinue. Number games turn netas into frog-princes, and taxpayers into retainers. Build a political dynasty, and factotums say mai-baap. Distance ruler and ruled, and all manner of official murk is beautified in rituals, codified in protocol and buried in babudom's XXX-files. 

No wonder the Great Indian Coalitional Wedding enriches democracy less than a political aristocracy. So, while maha-Raja dispenses spectrum by divine decree, scam-hit unions like the Congress-DMK's stay superglued by "coalition compulsions". A study says married adults may lose 730 hours of sleep yearly due to their partners' snoring. Rajneeti's strange bedfellows slumber through far nastier spousal habits, like rifling the public till. Ask Singh-is-King who wears a crown of thorns. 2G scam-watchers wag fingers at him, saying, "While you were sleeping..." 

Some dynastic products seem to be wooing commoners for real. Congress's "yuvraj" Rahul dines in rural homes and train-travels alongside aam aadmi. Is this courtship of the people aimed at remaining politically 'single', Pachmarhi-style? Or is it to gain popular support for making power-wielders' togetherness less about sharing spoils than governance? Either way, hope floats that coalitions will eventually reform, becoming more than just Mergers-for-Acquisitions. Isn't the Great Indian Political Wedding really about asking voters: mujhse shaadi karoge?

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

SAVE CAPITALISM FROM PROTECTIONISTS

JEAN-PIERRE LEHMANN

 

The two most critical priorities on the global agenda, trade and climate change, once again got pushed under the Group of Twenty (G20) carpet last week in Seoul. Of the two, trade is the most immediately critical. There is a grave risk that the world economy will collapse into a protectionist spiral. The best means to ensure that this does not happen is to conclude the Doha Round. Rather than address the issue seriously, the G20 has again done no more than pray the lid will stay on the protectionist cauldron. 

 

Seoul was a variation on what has become by now a depressingly familiar G20 theme. At the Washington 2008 summit the leaders declared they would instruct their trade ministers to conclude the Round before the end of the year. In April the following year in London, it was to be concluded by 2009. In Pittsburgh, the moveable feast was postponed to 2010. This June in Toronto, it was deemed safest to opt for the vague "as soon as possible". 

So what did the "Leaders' Declaration" from the November 2010 Seoul summit have to say on the subject? The relevant Article (43) declares that "2011 is a critical window of opportunity" and consequently "we direct our negotiators...to promptly bring the Doha Development Round to a successful, ambitious, comprehensive, and balanced conclusion". 


There are four points to be raised here. First, the language is not only depressingly similar to that used in all previous G20 summit declarations, but also to meetings on trade convened by the League of Nations in the late 1920s and early 1930s! 


Second: 2011 a window of opportunity? With France in the G20 presidency? Nicolas Sarkozy is a visceral protectionist. While leadership could have been hoped for from Korea on trade, any such expectations in respect to France should be rapidly obliterated! 


Third, it is not up to the trade negotiators to conclude the Round, but the heads of government themselves. Trade negotiators take orders from their political bosses. Fourth, and most critical, there will be no conclusion to the Doha Round until and unless big business really commits. In parallel to the G20 summit, Seoul hosted a B20 summit of business leaders. The business leaders present did make the case for the revitalisation of trade. 


However, business does not speak with one voice. One big disappointment at Seoul was that US President Barack Obama and Korean President Lee Myung-bak failed to conclude the bilateral US-Korea free trade agreement. This was a vital litmus test; its conclusion could have served as a lynchpin to a renewed trade agenda. A major opponent and obstacle was the Ford Motor Co. Business is more active and obstructive behind the scenes and hence more effective than on public platforms. 

The global trade scene has undergone unprecedented transformation. A decade ago, in 2000, China was not yet in the WTO and was still a somewhat peripheral actor in global trade. A decade later the erstwhile global trade applecart dominated by the "quad" - Canada, EU, Japan and US - has been completely upset. China has emerged as the world's leading trading power, while other "emerging" countries – Brazil, VietnamIndiaTurkey, South Africa, Chile, etc, etc - are both far more present on global markets and demand greater say in global trade governance. Transformations invariably cause turbulence. 


The fact that there is turbulence is all the more reason why leadership, good governance and a solid rules-based multilateral trade framework are absolute imperatives. This, however, is unlikely to happen without business involvement and leadership. Yet business leadership - something which as the 21st century advances is increasingly becoming an oxymoron - is sadly myopic and blinkered. 


What is at stake is nothing less than the global open market system and capitalism itself. We are, as in the 1930s, at a crossroads. The conclusion of the Doha Round would provide the single most important boost to confidence in the system and also a great stimulus to the world economy. It would also demonstrate the commitment of global leaders to the development agenda. It is not, one must hasten to add, a panacea. But in the same breath one can also say that failing to conclude the Round soon will exacerbate the forces of protectionism and hasten the demise of capitalism. 


Business support, indeed leadership, for the conclusion of the Doha Round is not a matter of idealistic global altruism; it is one of enlightened self-interest and it is an urgent imperative. So, for the prospects of global trade, do not look to the Elysee, but to the CEOs and boardrooms of those 3,500 or so multinational companies that account for the bulk of world trade. 


It has been said that the main problem with communism is communism, while the main problem with capitalism is capitalists, that they are the agents of their own destruction. As capitalists face the system's gravest challenge in eight decades, it remains to be seen whether this adage is true. 


The writer is a professor of international political economy at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

THEY APPEAL TO BASE INSTINCTS

JAY KUMAR

 

Despite the recent controversies surrounding some reality shows on Indian television channels, they are being celebrated as the New Age entertainment recipe. And of late, there has been a mindless proliferation of reality shows ranging from singing and dancing competitions to celebrity shows. But, is there any sense or logic in having these shows when we know they are anything but real? 


Let's accept that the term 'reality show' has become a misnomer, an oxymoron. Writers and producers from many shows have admitted that their shows are either partially scripted or edited to create storylines. The producers not only specifically select the participants, they also fabricate an atmosphere to encourage particular forms of behaviour and conflict. Often, these shows pander to some of the worst excesses of human sentiment. The sole aim of these shows is to cash in on voyeuristic tendencies, and the atavistic desire of humans to peep and pry into other people's lives. The much-touted success of these shows is based on the desire of viewers to see others humiliated. They are thus becoming nurseries of cruelty. 


But can we make a mockery of human emotions for the sake of television rating points? Can we allow such negative mindsets as creative expression? Further, can we completely turn a blind eye towards the social impact of such shows, especially when the medium is as powerful as television, with a powerful impact on viewers, particularly children? In this context, the information and broadcasting ministry's decision to regulate the timings of two reality shows doesn't go far enough. The reality show is a pernicious and morally unacceptable genre that must be banished from the small screen. Instead of merely portraying dark shades of human behaviour, television ought to have positive and uplifting themes. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

THE SHOWS ARE DEMAND DRIVEN

 

The last few years have witnessed a mushrooming of reality TV shows across the television-viewing spectrum in the country. Whether it is singing for a music album contract or performing death-defying stunts for a significant amount of prize money, reality shows have become standard programming on most television channels today. However, reality shows have also been at the receiving end of criticism from certain quarters. There have been calls to ban them, on the ground that they are inherently voyeuristic and cater to the basest of human instincts. It's also been said that they are merely scripted simulations of reality, therefore a sham as they do not offer what they promise. None of these criticisms are valid. 


It's true that reality shows can be voyeuristic, but so is biography or fictional literature. All of these forms help satisfy innate human curiosity about how other lives are lived. The other side of the coin is an exhibitionist urge on the part of participants in such shows to put themselves or their lives on display. This too is an urge many people share, and it's not confined to reality shows. Anyone who has spent some time on the internet or on social networking websites can attest to this. The strong human appeal of reality shows is evident in the high TRP ratings they attract. If they were truly such a turn off, so many people wouldn't be tuning in to watch them. 

If reality shows are merely scripted simulations of reality and not the real thing itself, the same is true of biography and realistic fiction. It's the dramatic approximation of the real that matters, else we would get television that's as dull as CCTV footage. It's also important to remember that no two reality shows are the same. Clubbing all of them together is patently unfair.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

WHO'LL CUT THIS GORDIAN KNOT?

 

Now it seems that when it comes to Afghanistan, 2014 is the new 2011. But not quite, because even 2014 is not a deadline, merely a goal. The US still holds to the view that it will begin to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan from 2011 onwards.  Many assumed this meant a US pullout just before Americans go to choose a president in late-2012. This weekend the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) summit in Lisbon put its imprimatur on a scenario where the US troops linger on until 2014 before handing over security to an Afghan army. Even here, both Nato and President Barack Obama have made it clear there will be no abandonment of Afghanistan. The truth is that no one, and Washington least of all, knows when and for how long the US will persevere in that country.

 

Unfortunately, this is a very large known unknown. The US troop presence is the single most important obstacle for the Taliban. In the near-term, the uncertainty of the US's role is determining the responses of every other player in the Great Game. The most-important players are all betting on early US departure or a half-hearted presence. This includes the Taliban, the Pakistan military and, it seems, also Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Taliban and their supporters in Rawalpindi, therefore, wage what is a simple war of attrition against the US troops. Mr Karzai's increasingly unhelpful attitude to the US seems motivated by a similar calculation. The Americans will leave soon and, therefore, Mr Karzai is more interested in wooing Taliban factions and distancing himself from a US campaign destined for defeat.

 

Mr Obama is reported to have said recently that the AfPak calculus rested on the need to change the mindset of Pakistan. He seems to have diagnosed the regional illness but come up with a prescription that is guaranteed to not heal anything. Pakistan's mindset has been reinforced by Washington's "we're going, we're staying" flip flop. It is understandable that the US would like to withdraw from Afghanistan as fast as possible. It is also understandable that Mr Obama wants to keep the Democrat's pacifist wing happy. But these policies are contradictory. To appease the latter, he undermines his ability to do the former in an orderly fashion. Cutting this Gordian knot is what leadership is all about. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has not been evident when it comes to the US and its Af-Pak conundrum.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

STILL A SCORCHER

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

 

Seven score and seven years ago, yesterday, Abraham Lincoln made his immortal speech at Gettysburg. Beginning with 'Four score and seven years ago…' that brief address has been carved into the tablet of great orations.

 

And yet Lincoln's was not the main speech of the occasion. Those organising the consecration of the cemetery for the men who fell in the civil war at Gettysburg had invited not Lincoln, but the orator Edward Everett, a former US Senator and Congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, Secretary of State, Phi Beta Kappa poet at Harvard and President of Harvard University, to give the main 'Gettysburg address'. Everett's 13,607-word oration began with words rehearsed in the school of declamation:

 

"Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labours of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice…"

 

Everett spoke for one hour and 57 minutes without faltering. When he finished, he was heartily applauded. Carl Sandburg writes in his great biography of the President, "… Lincoln knew when the moment drew near for him to speak. He took out his own manuscript from a coat pocket, put on his steel-lowed glasses, stirred in his chair, looked over the manuscript, and put it back in his pocket." And when he was called, rose, and holding in one hand the two sheets of paper, made his 'Dedicatory Remarks'. A mere ten sentences long, they took no more than two to three minutes to read. So brief, they are worth reproducing in full :

 

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

 

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

 

Sandburg says the applause that followed was "formal, a tribute to the occasion". On resuming his seat Lincoln told the person next to him "…that speech won't scour. It is a flat failure and the people are disappointed."

 

]Newspapers were divided on its impact. The Chicago Times, no supporter of the President wrote, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dish watery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States." But the Chicago Tribune reported "The dedicatory remarks of President Lincoln will live among the annals of man."

 

Why has the speech so possessed the human imagination across the world and over the decades?

 

At a purely textual level this is because it is a model of concision, easy to remember and easier to recite both on account of its brevity and its cadences. Reaching and staying at middle flight, Lincoln is neither breathless, nor makes his listeners so. He wafts, he does not soar. He uses rhythm, not rhapsody. Rhythm is typically achieved by measured repetition. He repeats the word 'nation' four times. It becomes, in fact, the speech's refrain. 'Dedicate' occurs as often, followed by 'devotion'. The three words — nation, dedication and devotion — form the speech's triad. On their firm pedestal, Lincoln seats the power of his speech. In the final sentence — which is also the longest — comes the speech's most famous repetition — 'people' occurs in a threesome fluency that versifies prose and defies decay. But all this is dry dissection.

 

Lincoln's speech is not a text to be analysed for its literary devices, accidental or deliberate. It is a living, pulsing utterance to be experienced.

 

The phrase 'All men are created equal' was known to Americans since the time of Jefferson's famous proposition. It was cherished by those Americans who believed the Negro slave to be a human being and hated by those who did not. In invoking that idea and that belief, Lincoln was ringing a bell everyone had heard before.

 

It feels good to hear a known sound intoned. But then he went on to do something altogether unexpected, different. The war was far from over. In fact, even as he listened to Everett's prolonged cataract of eloquence, Lincoln was getting reports on the civil war's progress, one of which told him of Grant's preparing for a big battle at Chattanooga. Incidentally, he was also getting reports on his son Tad's grave illness, back at White House. Emancipation was at risk. Union was in peril. Death was at hand.

 

In those circumstances, what would a chief executive say ? That Emancipation is at risk, Union is in peril and Death is aboard?

 

Yes, a chief executive might. Not Old Abe.

 

He would call for something new, not moan. I referred to three words that occur repeatedly in the speech. They are, in themselves, ordinary words. But there is another word, also ordinary, that he uses twice, with telling effect. And it is that which, almost without being noticed, makes the Gettysburg address what it is. The word is : 'new'. It occurs routinely in the first sentence and alchemically in the last. '…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.'

 

Nehru's 'Tryst With Destiny' speech, starting like Lincoln's, with '…years ago' and climaxing its key sentence with '…life and freedom' invokes Gettysburg magically.

 

Since every society, every nation, in every epoch has known freedom to be won only to be lost, gained only to be traduced, enjoyed but only by some, and since people everywhere and in all ages have seen their trustees become tyrannical and their delegates turn despotic, the human breast has longed for a new birth of freedom.

 

For as long as the world has people that need a new birth of freedom, what Lincoln said five score and forty seven years ago, will continue to startle the deprived with hope and scour deprivers with guilt.

 

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

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BEYOND THE BYTE

GENTLE FOLK, RENAISSANCE MEN

PRATIK KANJILAL,

 

November took away two men I admired. Prof P Lal (1929-2010) and LC Jain (1925-2010) were in their 80s, but I never thought of them as old. They had the independence of spirit that is the mark of youth. For them, idealism never became a dirty word. Gentle folk who wore their greatness lightly, they joyfully swam against the current. But they politely declined to make waves. So the nation did not remember them as fulsomely as it might have, though they were harbingers of its future.

 

Jain was promoting participatory development shortly after Independence, almost half a century before the term was coined. One of his first experiments was Delhi's satellite town of Faridabad, built by refugees with community ownership of civic facilities and even factories. He was a key figure in the cooperative movement which created many enduring institutions, from the Cottage Industries Emporium to Amul butter. And Super Bazar, India's first quality-assured supermarket chain, a bulwark against the rampant food adulteration and hoarding of the Indira years.

 

Jain worked in the Nehru administration, though he was appalled when it trashed the daring Gandhian experiment of village-centric development in favour of a command economy run by indifferent bureaucrats. It is only now, half a century too late, that the government is promoting rural self-sufficiency through Band-Aid employment guarantee schemes. 

 

P Lal, too, was ahead of his time. When the Empire wrote back in the hand of Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth, it owed something to his cottage industry. Writers Workshop, established in Lal's Kolkata study in the 50s, published literature in English when it was vilified as the coloniser's tongue, the brand of slavery. In fact, Seth's debut volume of verse, Mappings (1980), was published by Writers Workshop. Lal made books by hand and with love — handset type printed on a hand-operated press in a neighbour's garage, covers calligraphed with a Sheaffer fountain pen and bound with Orissa saree cloth. LC Jain would have applauded the nod to rural artisanship.

 

There are few major Indian writers and poets in English who did not make or build a reputation with the help of Writers Workshop. Like Lal, who had published Modern Indo-Anglian Poetry (1959), some went on to anthologise and chronicle Indian literature, in translation and in English. Adil Jussawalla edited New Writing in India (Penguin, 1974) and former poet Pritish Nandy, who has wandered irretrievably far from literature, edited the cult poetry anthology strangertime (Hind Pocket Books, 1977).

 

Nandy is the only beneficiary of Lal's patronage who has publicly admitted that in the great tradition of new writers, he has been ungrateful to the man who gave him a break. In the bibliographies of writers launched by P Lal, early work is often listed as "independently published", without crediting Writers Workshop.

India on the make has become embarrassingly eager to forget. LC Jain is redundant because ethnic is in, a travesty of his conception of village products as elements of daily life rather than fashion statements. P Lal is dispensable now that Indian names thickly populate the Booker shortlist. And, more importantly, we are inclined to forget that it is possible to be an idealist and go against the current without ceasing to be a gentleman.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine n pratik@littlemag.com The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WIKIJOURNALISM

 

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks currently in flight from Swedish authorities for allegations of sexual assault, has reignited an old debate about press freedom and journalistic ethics. To sum it up: how do we know the dancer from the dance? In proclaiming the birth of a new journalism, has Assange done what the media should logically extend itself to doing (if it's not doing so already), or has he assumed a complicity and inevitability that needn't characterise the media as a whole? Is this one dancer's steps we're examining, or the steps of the dance itself?Despite our age of disclosures, officialdom persists in preserving its power through secret communication. It's this WikiLeaks sought to puncture by publishing 76,000 intelligence-military reports from the Afghan war in July; following up in October with almost 400,000 secret documents from the Iraq frontlines. These are valuable for raw facts that wouldn't have made it to the public and enforced insights into the reality of warfare. But WikiLeaks also made public names of informants that could get put them in danger, apart from tactical information that could endanger public safety.WikiLeaks disclosures are not the Pentagon Papers, as Steve Coll argued in The New Yorker, and overvaluing them is unnecessary. However, the heart of the problem is this: in demanding absolute accountability of others, WikiLeaks hasn't held itself similarly accountable. The New York Times and Washington Post successfully defended publishing the Pentagon Papers in court, increasing their impact. This time, the Times worked on the WikiLeaks documents, organised them and pointed out what's of value — because in each case, then and now, certain conventions of news dissemination couldn't be thrown out with the bathwater. Journalism should tell truth to power, without disregarding the rule of law. The real challenge for organisations like WikiLeaks is credible publishing on a sustained basis, in keeping with the ideals of press freedom they call for.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HAZY WATERSHED

 

This week the information and broadcasting ministry sought to have the broadcast of two television shows postponed, citing adult content. The channel broadcasting one of them, the reality show Bigg Boss, obtained a stay from the Bombay high court, thereby retaining its telecast in the 9-10 pm prime slot. The specific contents of Bigg Boss apart, and the court is expected to pass a final order on November 22, this episode once again highlights the lack of an independent regulatory mechanism to establish what may or may not be permissible at times when children and young adults watch television.Most countries have a clearly laid down watershed schedule, that's the period when what's deemed to be adult content can be telecast, mostly starting between 8 pm and 10 pm and ending early morning, and a violation of guidelines can invite an indecency fine. Indecency is, crucially, a tricky charge to level. Television, like cinema, retains an edginess by pushing the envelope on what subjects can be within the purview of telecast and in what manner. Certification of such content and decisions on its suitability for wider viewership require an open mind on the changing context; the parameters cannot be constant. This is why such decision-making needs to be made in a zone apart from the government (which, even when it's not actually moving on a censorship impulse, will always be viewed with suspicion) and the broadcasters (which, obviously, would take as liberal a view of guidelines as possible). In the UK, for instance, the Office of Communications was established by an Act of Parliament in 2003, as a forum where, among other things, concerns about programming can be raised, discussed and acted upon.There's been no shortage of occasions to perceive the absence of such a mechanism in India: from questions about some of the live coverage of the November 2008 Mumbai attack, to the full-throated demand in Parliament last year for curbs on entertainment channels, to I&B's Bigg Boss initiative. The failure of government and industry to move beyond these periodic face-offs, however, leaves the impression that each is rather more comfortable with the current arrangement.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FAMILY MATTERS

 

Though the earth hasn't stopped shaking after A. Raja's resignation, the DMK has blithely moved on. The Karunanidhi family was front-and-centre in national affairs, as they turned a private ceremony, a wedding in the family, into a political ceremonial to display the durability of their alliance with the Congress. It's no secret that the family is a feud-riddled, shaky ship — Karunanidhi's sons Stalin and Alagiri are locked in a struggle for control of the party machine. The DMK's decisions about divvying up political positions at the Centre or assigning responsibility in the state are also highly fraught decisions, given this flammable family situation. At the wedding, Karunanidhi pointed out that it was a "self-respect marriage" — and the reference only underscored how far the party has drifted from its founding ideals. That the DMK has debased itself, from being a movement of rationalist convictions led by a dedicated cadre, to a party that submits to the patriarch's will for every decision and allows the family's well-being to be its sole guiding concern, is its own problem. However, those decisions have such tremendous national ramifications. Karunanidhi's desire to placate one force or the other, and for the party to demand the most lucrative ministries at the Centre, so that it can throw money around in the state, have now made allying with the DMK a highly difficult choice. It has now put the prime minister and the entire UPA in a place it wouldn't want to be seen in, brought it the Supreme Court's reprimand and great public scorn. The DMK might think that wringing a sector dry passes as suitable ministerial behaviour, but its actions have put the whole government into question.The Congress appears determined not to let the Raja incident sour the relationship, as Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram's presence at the Madurai wedding indicated. Both sides emphasised how well they understood each other, and their intent to keep the alliance going. The tensions, if any, had been papered over. However, much as it needs their political strength, the Congress must realise the cost of accommodating the DMK's succession concerns. The rest of the country may not be as cynical and accepting about the sordid give-and-take and accommodation that many Indian joint families take for granted.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

AAM AADMI VS SAB CHOR

SHEKHAR GUPTA 

 

Make a roll call of the key members of this Cabinet and you wouldn't think they could preside over one of the most corrupt governments in India's history. The prime minister is sometimes attacked by the opposition for being weak, fence-sitting, and once, famously, he was even called "nikamma" or rather some milder English equivalent (inept), but not even his worst enemy would ever call him corrupt. You could say pretty much the same for the finance, home and defence ministers. So the four most important men in the cabinet are entirely clean. And yet, if you held an opinion poll, a vast majority would say corruption is India's biggest challenge today. There are multiple scams breaking in the media every morning. And if you scan the regional media, you will find many more surfacing in the states.So how can a government with such clean, efficient and experienced people at the top land itself in such a mess? At a time when the economy is booming, the internal situation is stable and external environment so promising, the last thing India needs is this bitter mood of "sab chor hain". How accurate the generalisation is we can debate in better times. But as they say in business, never fight with the customer or the market. In a democracy, the people, the voters, are your customers. And if they are so furious, and so readily inclined to believe that everybody is a thief, that every deal is a scam, you cannot wish it away as some seasonal virus. Somebody has obviously got something very wrong somewhere. Three things, however, are clear. One, that while the top leaders of this cabinet and the Congress party are individually clean, they have failed to exercise adequate control over the system. Two, that for too long have they erred — and gravely so — in casually and lazily personalising the issue of corruption. So blame telecom on Raja (and use the alibi of that horrible expression, coalition dharma), CWG on Kalmadi and Adarsh on Chavan. Three, and this is the most serious one, that they have failed to keep pace with changes in a reform-charged economy. Consequently, politics, governance and regulation have fallen way behind business and the market, resulting in the rise of an entirely new system of rent-seeking. And a new generation of kleptocracy which has its roots in politics, bureaucracy and private enterprise.

 

The scams of today are fundamentally different from those of the past in that almost all have something to do with the government/ private sector interface. In the past, scandals were all about government purchases and contracts and, as economic reform began, the stock market (which saw one each under Congress and BJP watch, Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh, respectively). Government purchases became less of a story because of reform. Even the key PSUs became listed companies and therefore had to become a lot more transparent. The reason we have run one of the cleanest stock markets in the world for a decade now is simply the correctives that followed the two scams, with the strengthening of SEBI as such a powerful and autonomous regulator and unrelenting prosecution of the scamsters. But the failure of the same reformers to prepare the system for challenges that would have inevitably followed is intellectual as well as one of a lack of political will.

 

Over the past few years, almost all scandals have involved misuse, or a widely believed allegation of misuse, of discretionary powers by the government, either for old-fashioned rent-seeking, or its new child, crony-capitalism. What has happened with telecom is only the most brazen example of both, and has given India a bad name globally, particularly because this is such a sunrise industry and one of the greatest post-reform success stories of India, along with IT, followed by automobiles and aviation. Whatever happens domestically, damage to India's international reputation will be humongous as the scandal now takes some of the largest global telecom players in its sweep. Meanwhile, under the same dispensation, the government's own telecom companies have been systematically destroyed. One of these (BSNL) has been denied a public listing on the most specious of arguments but understandably on the most obvious of motives (to keep the ministry's grip over its contracts and largesse). Public listing brings transparency and diminishes discretion, and those are the last things you want when you so crave cronyism and rent. Kapil Sibal has thus been handed a challenge bigger, and more urgent, than even HRD. You would only hope the excuse of "coalition dharma" is not used again to hand this portfolio back to the DMK. No government can survive for three-and-a-half years after dumping so much credibility and, even if it does, it can forget about getting re-elected.

 

Let's look beyond telecom. Each major scandal the UPA has faced has stemmed from misuse of discretionary powers by its ministers, either to make money, or to favour cronies or fellow travellers. From petroleum, to mining leases, coal linkages, almost all the major scandals that create today's "sab chor hain" mood have resulted from the fact that impartial, autonomous and modern regulation has failed to keep pace with the reform and growth of our economy. Free markets cannot survive without equally free and wise regulators. That is where the UPA's record has been so shoddy. Raja is not the only one to have undermined his (telecom) regulators. The petroleum ministry has systematically decimated its own. Civil aviation has only talked of a regulator for six years now without a step taken in that direction. For how long can higher education, which is becoming a big business now, be left to be "regulated" by the UGC and AICTE and MCI? There is so much discretion left with the environment ministry that in the past it was widely known that some of its residents pretty much had tariff cards for clearances. That, mercifully, is not the situation now. But this kind of discretionary power leaves scope for enormous whimsicality as well as corruption, and transparent, autonomous regulators, often talked about, are nowhere on the horizon. And where is the real estate regulator without which there is no protection of the rights of the emerging new middle class that is betting its future so bravely to borrow and buy its proud new homes, and without which the property business cannot come out in the transparent domain, with the emergence of modern price-discovery and liquidity mechanisms like REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)? You know why all politicians, particularly at the state level, love discretionary powers over land so much. But so was the case with industrial licensing and Manmohan Singh dismantled that. Why has he not been able to do so with property now?

 

These scandals could ruin this government, and, most unfortunately, the prime minister's name. But he has been in that place before, and knows what needs to be done. He needs a new 100-day project now to institutionalise all these regulators and take away his key economic and resource ministries' discretionary powers. They will protest, particularly those manning what can be aptly described as ATM ministries: you shove the card, cash starts dropping out of the slot. He also needs to abolish ministries which are built as pure ATMs, like Steel and Coal, as these are also anachronisms in a reformed economy. It won't be easy, but it won't be as tough as the nuclear deal, particularly when public support for a clean-up is guaranteed. If he doesn't, he will see the clock firmly set back on his own reform under his own charge. Surely, that's not the Manmohan Singh legacy that Manmohan Singh would like.

 

sg@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

GO BACK TO THE TEXT

A. FAIZUR RAHMAN 

 

It is said that "a folly oft-repeated loses its absurdity and takes the shape of reason." This seems to be the case with the misogynist fatwas of the Darul Uloom Deoband which, despite their incremental risibility, pass off peacefully without evoking an indignant response from Muslims. It is not surprising, therefore, that the recent fatwa legitimising divorce in jest was not greeted with the criticism it deserved although it victimised an innocent woman whose Qatari husband not only committed the indiscretion of typing the dreaded word "talaq" thrice during an Internet chat but was also foolish enough to seek a fatwa on the consequences of his naiveness.

 

The Deoband muftis promptly obliged him by terminating the marriage on the grounds that the marital relationship gets severed once "talaq" is uttered thrice, even over a mobile phone (as per a fresh fatwa) and when the wife is unable to hear it due to "network" problems! It may be recalled that last year Deoband issued a similar fatwa validating triple talaq given by a drunken man.

 

Undoubtedly, these rulings are a gross violation of Islam and it is time the Quranic procedure of divorce is highlighted.

 

Four steps before the first talaq (Quran, 4: 34-35): As a first step, when there is marital discord, the Quran advises the husband to gently talk it out (fa'izuhunna) with his wife. If differences persist, the parties are asked to sexually distance themselves (wahjuruhunna) from each other in the hope that temporary physical separation may encourage them to unite. And even if this fails to break the deadlock, the husband is instructed, as a third step, to once again explain (wazribuhunna) to his wife the seriousness of the situation and try to bring about a reconciliation.

 

For instance, in pursuance of wazribuhunna, the husband may point out to his wife that if they do not resolve their differences soon enough, their dispute could go beyond the confines of their house and become a subject of gossip, which may not be in the interest of both parties. This would be true, because, if the dispute still remains unresolved, as a fourth step, the Quran requires the matter to be placed before two arbiters, one from the family of each spouse, for resolution.

 

Three talaqs: It is only after the failure of the aforementioned four attempts at reconciliation that the Quran allows the first talaq to be pronounced, followed by a waiting period called the iddat. Not more than two divorces can be pronounced within this period, the duration of which is three monthly courses [2:228-229]. For women who have passed the age of menstruation the period of iddat is three months, and in the case of pregnant women it is till the termination of pregnancy [65:4].

 

And if the parties are unable to unite during the period of iddat as envisaged by verse 2:228, the final irrevocable talaq can be pronounced, but only after the expiry of the iddat [2:231]. Once the final talaq has been invoked the marital bond is severed and the parties cease to be of any relation to each other. However, even after the period of iddat has lapsed, the Quran offers the contending parties a chance to reunite, provided the final talaq has not been pronounced [2:232]. In other words, after the expiry of iddat, as per verses 2:231 and 232, the parties are given the options of remarriage or permanent separation — the separation being the third and final irrevocable talaq to be pronounced in the presence of two witnesses [65:2].

 

However, to emphasise the sanctity of marriage and the enormity of breaking it for frivolous reasons, the Quran warns that once the parties choose to separate after the expiry of the iddat, they cannot entertain hopes of marrying again unless the wife takes another husband and the second husband divorces her [2:230]. It is understood here that a divorce may result only if the new husband has serious differences with his wife, and in the rare event of such differences cropping up, he is required to follow the procedure of divorce as discussed earlier. The extreme unlikelihood of this happening serves as a severe deterrent against arbitrary divorce.

 

Unfortunately, this Quranic injunction has been circumvented by sectarian seminaries to overcome the impracticality of triple talaq law of the medievalist Hanafi school. To help the victims of this law a pliable person is set up to marry the triple-divorced wife, consummate the marriage overnight and divorce her the next day so that the original husband can remarry her in accordance with 2:230. This outrageousness which an innocent woman is subjected to is known as halaala.

 

The abhorrent practice continues only because Muslim women are reluctant to show dissent and have allowed themselves to be indoctrinated into prioritising comparatively smaller problems such as the ban on the burqa. If the present-day shariah is to be reformed and brought into conformity with the original teachings of the Quran and the Prophet, Muslims must come out and intellectually challenge patriarchal interpretations of Islam.

 

The writer is the Secretary General of Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among Muslims, Chennai express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NEW TAX ON THE BLOCK

RUCHIKA TALWAR 

 

New tax on the block

After the flood relief tax and special excise duty on non-essential and luxury goods, comes the reformed general sales tax, or RGST, needed for Pakistan to receive the second tranche of a loan from IMF. Pakistan's parties stand divided over the issue. The PPP's coalition partner both in the central and Sindh governments, the MQM, opposes the RGST. The Nation reported on November 15: "Altaf Hussain has made it clear that MQM will not be part of any step that goes against the interest of the people of the country." The PPP's other coalition partner in the federal and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa governments, the Awami National Party, is also undecided about the RGST. Dawn quoted the party's president, Asfandyar Wali Khan, as saying that it had constituted a committee to review the bill before deciding. However, Khan was quoted by The News on November 14 as saying that the "tax-base needed to be broadened, but those already taxed must not be burdened with new taxes."

 

As the ruling PPP tabled the bill in parliament, Dawn reported on November 16: "PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is reported to have asked Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif not to support... the RGST. PML-N sources said following PM Yousaf Raza Gilani's statements that Shahbaz Sharif had given an 'undertaking' to the federal government... that the Punjab government would cooperate in the imposition of RGST, Nawaz Sharif summoned his younger brother to Raiwind... and sought a clarification. The sources quoted Shahbaz Sharif as saying that he had agreed in principle... He was also quoted as saying the cooperation would enable Punjab to get financial concessions from the Centre. But... Nawaz Sharif was not convinced and he directed his younger brother not to lend support to the 'anti-people' measure because, in his opinion, its political cost would nullify the 'financial concessions' Punjab was expecting from the federation."

 

Daily Times reported on November 17 that the PML(Q) is willing to extend conditional support to the PPP on the new tax as it doesn't want the government to fall at a time when its "allies and opposition are trying to destabilise it."

 

Getting people's goats

 

Prices of sacrificial animals created news on Eid-ul-Azha. Daily Times reported on November 17: "Most of Pakistan's Muslims will be unable to join in Eid celebrations with the traditional animal sacrifice this week, as cattle prices have more than doubled in the wake of the country's fatal floods." Dawn added: "the average price of a goat has climbed to Rs 21,000..." Traders were reportedly complaining that "we have bought the animals but nobody is buying..." Another side to the story was reported by Dawn: "But another market trader, Jalil Khan, was not convinced the floods were the cause of the problem, saying: 'A large number of animals are being smuggled to Afghanistan.' Cattle fetch even higher prices in the neighbouring war-torn country, where livestock is in short supply all year round."

 

Power induction

 

Pakistan's troubled electricity-generation sector got a shot in the arm, reported Dawn on November 18. "A Turkish ship carrying a rental power plant, as per an agreement with the government of Pakistan, anchored at berth number 4 of Karachi's port on Thursday. The ship, which sailed from Tuzla port in Turkey and brought a rented power plant with a 232-megawatt capacity, will further shift the plant to the Korangi thermal power plant on November 20."

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

IRELAND CAN BARELY COMPREHEND ITS DEBT

 

This year there were no fireworks. Throughout most of the past decade, for weeks before and after Halloween, the night skies over Ireland were filled with the crack and crash of bursting rockets and fountains of multicoloured flame. Since fireworks are illegal here they had to be bought in Northern Ireland and smuggled across the border — quite a turnabout from the days when the IRA smuggled tons of explosives the other direction, during the Thirty Years' War it waged on the Protestants and the British Army garrison in the North from the 1960s to the 1990s.

 

Throughout the 2000s there was a lot of cross-border shopping, almost all of it one-way, since usually in those years the euro was strong and the British pound weak. Newly rich middle-class couples from the Republic, riding the broad back of the Celtic Tiger, would travel north on Saturday mornings and return at evening happy as Visigoths with their booty — liquor, cigarettes, electrical goods, designer-label clothes and, as the autumn set in, boxes and boxes of fireworks. Those were the sparkling years.

 

Now, with the Tiger dead and buried under a mound of ever-increasing debt, a silence is falling over the land. This year, the eve of All Saints passed in a deathly hush, save for a few damp squibs. There seemed little left to celebrate, with nothing to be seen in the skies save, in the murky distance but approaching ever nearer, the Four Horsemen of our particular Apocalypse: the IMF, the European Commission, Brussels and the Iron Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The shopping trips of yesteryear are gone with the snows; indeed, many of the SUVs that carried the merry marauders northward have been sold off at a loss, or repossessed.

 

The wildest urban legends are readily believed. There is said to be a two-month backlog at the abattoirs, as families abandon the expensive pets, including thoroughbred racehorses, that they can no longer afford to feed. One hears stories of the return of bartering: a yacht swapped for a mobile phone, a Harley-Davidson exchanged for a bicycle. There are moments of giddiness and breathless panic when it feels as it must have in the last days of the Weimar Republic.

 

At first, when the poor beast began to sicken, we Tiger cubs set up a great roaring and ranting. Who is to blame for our sudden travails? we demanded — somebody must be to blame. The bankers? Them, certainly. The politicians? Well, the politicians are always to blame, so nothing new there. The markets, those shadowy entities that seem to operate by whim? Ourselves, perhaps? — now, there was a sobering possibility.

 

Pundits in those early days used to urge us to think of the country as being at war and to fire ourselves up with the same plucky spirit that saved civilisation when it was threatened by German and Japanese warmongers. But how is it possible to be at war when the enemy cannot be identified, and when those who raided our coffers and beggared us are by now beggars themselves? One Irish building firm, owned by a well-meaning man, is said to have debts of a billion and a half euros. Imagine that poor fellow's nights.

 

It is the figures, mainly, that cow us into silence. It is estimated that the banking debt of this nation, which has a population of only 4.6 million, may be substantially more than 100 billion euros. That is 100,000 millions and rising. When we were at school it amused our science teachers to dazzle us with astronomical statistics — so many myriads of light years, so many zillions of stars — but the numbers that we are being forced to count on our too-few fingers now have nothing to do with the fanciful dimensions of outer space. They represent precisely the breadth and depth of the financial hole into which we have toppled headlong.

 

In the months after September 2008, when the Irish government, after a night-long crisis meeting, was forced to give a guarantee of some 400 billion euros — money we had no hope of ever having — to save the Irish banks from collapse, we used to say that it would fall to our children to pay for our financial folly. Now we know that it will be our children and our children's children and our children's children's children, unto the nth generation, who will bear our debts, including the "substantial loan" from international lenders that officials now acknowledge is necessary.

 

There used to be a nice acronym that neatly expressed how the Irish people conceive of themselves: MOPE, that is, Most Oppressed People Ever. For a decade or so, when the Tiger was at its fiercest, we threw off the mantle of oppression, as once we had thrown off what used to be called "the yoke of British rule." On Wednesday, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced in Brussels that his government stood ready to help Ireland in its hour of need. Oh, bitter day.

 

All the same, life goes on, somehow. We are learning a new resilience. Humbled as we are, we might even begin to learn social responsibility, a quality in which we have been singularly lacking up to now. Who knows, we may at last recognise the irreplaceable value of public and private honesty. But let us not light the firecrackers just yet.

 

John Banville

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE AMATEURS IN CHARGE

KSHANKARBAJPAI 

 

Blaming Pandit Nehru for everything wrong with India has grown from a fashion to a rage, so the letters he addressed to American President John F. Kennedy on November 19, 1962, will be used as another stick with which to beat him. Destructive denigration serves him as ill as the idolatry in which he could do no wrong. Of course he made mistakes, who doesn't, and to pretend they really were not mistakes — worse, to conceal facts — only feeds his detractors. What our country owes him becomes ever more apparent, time and our travails keep confirming its value. Viewing so great a man whole, faults and all, cannot diminish his stature, or our debt. What we need is to learn from the mistakes, his and ours — which we stubbornly refuse to do.

 

November 1962 was a national disaster, all the more painful for being so self-inflicted: blinding ourselves to it is to invite repeats. Panditji must bear his share of responsibility, but the totality of our failure extends far beyond individuals. India failed to function as an organised state, alive to its challenges and opportunities, appropriately prepared to deal with them. Have we used our experience to become such a state now?

 

People today cannot realise the horrific pressures of those weeks. Despite our foolishness in imagining that suppressing facts can change them, plentiful evidence has been published by important actors of the time, inter alia recording the frightening situation Delhi saw itself facing that November 19 morning. Key positions had been left to the enemy, Sela and Bomdila augured horrendous dangers, civil officers had started being withdrawn and a complete evacuation from Assam was being considered, the DIB even starting to plan a resistance movement. An outstanding soldier, Major-General "Monty" Palit wrote 20 years ago that he was shown the draft letter seeking 12 fighter and two bomber squadrons; as "DMO, at a desperate stage of a war that seemed to be moving along a course of escalating disasters, [he] could only welcome the proposal of obtaining military help, whatever its source," though confessing he "had not for a moment imagined that... the architect of India's non-alignment policy, would ask for actual intervention by US forces." (War in the High Himalayas pp 342-343)

 

Nehru-baiters will indulge their love of taunts on this: how could this proud nation plead to be saved by outsiders, a champion of non-alignment by one of its prime opponents? Even as the second letter was being delivered, we were already told of the unilateral ceasefire, exposing us to more sarcasm.

 

Contrarily, guardians of his image (largely self-appointed and self-seeking) who discern hard-headed realism underlying Panditji's idealistic rhetoric, will argue that in our hour of need he had no hesitation in supping even with the devil. Also, that he was a shattered man, the Chinese attack a mortal blow to his whole worldview as well as his longing to develop India in its own special way. Temporarily, he let himself be guided by advisers. Palit records being told only the PM, foreign secretary and joint secretary (ground) of defence, who consulted him, knew of the draft. It was certainly known Panditji was not himself those days, and the letters were indeed drafted by advisers, especially his strange foreign secretary. And, sure enough, as soon as he was better we were more non-aligned than ever. No doubt our reversion was encouraged by the derisory nature of the Anglo-American response — but the explanation that we had never in fact deviated but only practiced realpolitik will be elaborated.

 

It won't wash. The letters clearly show to what depths we had fallen. It was as embarrassing for Carl Kaysen, the US deputy national security advisor, who was as high as we could reach at that late hour, to receive the second letter, as it was for the great public servant who was our envoy to deliver it. Panditji signed them, the onus falls on him. Let's just acknowledge that, and focus on the broader causes of a national failure.

 

Apart from Palit, two criticised officers, B.N. Kaul and J. Dalvi have left accounts which, even allowing for their special pleading, leave convincing impressions of the utter amateurishness of our whole approach to, and handling of, this first great challenge to our state. B.N. Mullick gives the most vivid picture of our chaotic ways, soldiers and civilians rushing back and forth, our top leaders hovering around a front commander conducting operations from a Delhi sickbed; greatly respected in his profession, this director of the Intelligence Bureau justifies claims of reliable intelligence, but unintentionally makes things look worse by citing involvement in operations — which is none of an intelligence officer's business. Memoirs of two foreign secretaries, Y.D. Gundevia and Rajeshwar Dayal, independently recount how, barely a few days before the Chinese attacks, they were bewildered by being called to meetings under the defence minister to be solemnly told (with the director's concurrence) that it was not China that was preparing mischief but Pakistan!

 

None of the civilians had the slightest notion of grand strategy, much less of fighting a war; with some honourable exceptions, our military emerge no better. Except for the gallant victims of our ineptitude, nobody comes out well.

 

These letters have been available for years on special request by scholars, awaiting dispassionate study in the context of the whole story. (Incidentally, no copy was kept in our embassy, but our lunatic attitude towards archives and secrecy needs separate attention). Everything, from our assessment of security needs, the planning of strategy, the build-up of resources, not least the application of trained minds — we were like schoolboys playing games. The key to serving a state is statecraft, which we simply will not learn. Today we have the added problem that the instruments of state have become increasingly dysfunctional. The wake-up call of 1962 keeps ringing, unheard, after 50 years.

 

The writer is a former ambassador to Pakistan, China and the US, and secretary at the ministry of external affairs

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A MARRIAGE OF MANY MINDS

COOMI KAPOOR 

 

Big fat Indian weddings proclaim one's social status. But when a politician hosts a wedding extravaganza for his offspring, the political message can be even more significant than the social statement. When Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister M.K. Alagiri's son Durai Dayanidhi got married in Madurai this Thursday, it was, as expected, a hugely political affair. Alagiri had taken nearly six months off from his duties as Union cabinet minister to make the arrangements. Keen to establish his supremacy in both the DMK and in Tamil Nadu politics, the wedding provided him an opportunity to show his clout. He was able to demonstrate his hold over his pocket borough of Madurai, where political rival Jayalalithaa had the temerity to organise a huge rally at the Tamukkam grounds, the very venue of the wedding, merely a month back. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's elder son was also anxious to prove to his father, who has propped up his younger brother M.K. Stalin as his heir apparent, that it is he and not Stalin who has a firm grip over the party's organisation. To facilitate Stalin's appointment as deputy chief minister, Karunanidhi had banished an unwilling Alagiri to Delhi. His supporters suggest that the wedding will be a turning point in his political career. Alagiri wants to leave Delhi, where he feels uncomfortable because of his lack of fluency in both English and Hindi, and return to his home turf in Tamil Nadu.Despite the friction in the family, all sections of this very divided first family of Tamil Nadu presented a united front for the wedding. Brother Stalin, cousin Dayanidhi Maran and even stepsister Kanimozhi helped with the distribution of wedding cards to UPA leaders. Invitations were issued in the name of the aging patriarch, M. Karunanidhi, who sent personally handwritten notes to Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The DMK believed that Gandhi and Singh's presence at the wedding would end speculation about the continuation of the Congress-DMK alliance ahead of the assembly elections next year. Jayalalithaa, who has recently made overtures to the Congress, would be put in her place. Unfortunately, the plan has not gone quite as scripted. Both Gandhi and Singh excused themselves on the grounds that Parliament was in session. The timing of the wedding has, in fact, turned out to be very inopportune, since the 2G scam cast a shadow over the celebrations. The Congress is furious with its southern ally for putting it in an indefensible position. An emboldened Congress has, at least temporarily, retained the telecommunications portfolio to the annoyance of the DMK. However, to keep the DMK boss in good humour, both Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram flew to Madurai with Mukherjee making the right noises about the DMK-Congress partnership. Nevertheless, there is still a question mark as to whether the two parties will fight the Tamil Nadu assembly elections unitedly. Significantly, Rahul Gandhi who has visited Tamil Nadu five times, has not called on the DMK patriarch even once, an expected courtesy in the state. Thursday's wedding turned out to be a political jamboree. Alagiri left no stone unturned in making it a grand public spectacle. Local authorities even removed all the illegal encroachments on the long road leading to the venue. Inevitably, comparisons are being made with Jayalalithaa's glittering show for the marriage of her adopted son Sudhakaran with film icon Sivaji Ganesan's granddaughter in 1995. But while the numbers at Alagiri's function may have been larger, the extravagance at Jayalalithaa's party was more visible, with even the national media commenting on the opulence of the jewellery and saris. Actually Alagiri should have learnt a lesson from that ill-fated marriage. The display of wealth and misuse of official machinery was one of the reasons why Jayalalithaa was voted out of power a year later. Indeed the marriage also fell apart, and Jayalalithaa ended up disowning her foster son.Weddings which proved to be the undoing of a politician were Lalu Prasad's grand circuses for the marriages of his two elder daughters. In one case, government employees were ordered to construct a road and lay water pipelines to the groom's ancestral village, as well as build a house for the couple within 10 days. Swanky cars in Patna showrooms were commandeered for the wedding guests without so much as a by-your-leave. Incidentally, a major difference between north Indian and south Indian political weddings is that in the south, those from rival political parties are not usually invited. At the Alagiri do, there was no one from the AIADMK and none from the NDA central leadership. In a contrast to the usual over-the-top political weddings, Sonia Gandhi hosted such a low-key function for her daughter Priyanka's wedding that even among the relatives, only one representative from each family branch was invited. Another who set an inspiring example was the late Rajesh Pilot who married his daughter with such simplicity that only his old air force colleagues were called. But these are rare exceptions.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

YEDDY MUST GO

 

The festival season seems to have suddenly metamorphosed into a season of scams with a series of unscrupulous deals rapidly unravelling across the country, right from the telecom scam in the nation's capital to the defence housing scam in its commercial centre in Mumbai and extending to the large land scams deep down south of the Vindhyas at its IT hub in Bangalore. While the Congress has now succumbed to the pressures, albeit belatedly, and booted out both the telecom minister A Raja and the Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, the BJP, which initially claimed to have secured satisfactory answers to its queries from its beleaguered Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, is still engaged in consultations. Though the chief minister has now agreed to a judicial probe into the denotification of the government-acquired land over the past 10 years, it is clearly not enough as he has also been accused of bestowing favours on close relatives in various land deals, including to two sons, whose companies have take huge loans from persons who have been favoured with generous leases and plots of land. Strikingly, the chief minister has still only sought to defend his actions by pointing to the similar discretionary allocations of cheap land and land use changes made by his predecessors.

 

However, the BJP may find it difficult to take strong corrective action, especially since any central intervention to change the chief minister and take remedial steps will only add to the instability of the Karnataka government, its first in the south. But any efforts to defend the chief minister will prove even more costly in the BJP for a number of reasons. One, it will not only erode the credibility of the BJP's demand for setting up a joint parliamentary committee to probe into the 2G spectrum scam but also drive another big question mark over its claims to being a party with a difference. The BJP, which has accused the Prime Minister of sacrificing the interests of the nation for the sake of the survival of the government cannot adopt a different yardstick when it comes to its own chief minister. Only a reliable investigation into the Karnataka scam after removing the chief minister will help restore the credibility of the BJP's claims to greater probity in public life.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BRAND SUCCESS

 

Companies go for rebranding or making their brands don a fresh coat of paint to signal different things. It could be change in product mix, announcing entry into new markets, a new management vision, being in sync with the industry nomenclature or simply to contemporarise a fuddy-duddy image. Back in early 2000s, a host of Indian companies went in for a name change. Tata Engineering became Tata Motors to signal its ambition to be seen as a global car company, not just an Indian truck maker. Somehow its old moniker, Tata Engineering, didn't sit well with what Bombay House had just embarked on—benchmarking its marquee auto company with the best globally. Around the same time Vam Organics changed into Jubilant Organosys to better reflect its focus away from bulk to specialty chemicals. It recently changed to Jubilant Life Sciences, again to reflect the changed business focus.

 

And so is it with the country's largest telco, Bharti Airtel, now fifth largest in the world, with over 200 million customers, after its takeover of Zain in Africa earlier this year. The company has gone in for rebranding, its third since inception in mid-1990s, complete with a new logo, new brand tune and all. It's using the occasion of rolling out its airtel brand (yes, with a lower case now, to signify humility in serving the customer) into its newly acquired markets in Africa, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to signal its new global company status and also set the tone for its businesses. The new logo—for which the company is running a customer-led naming contest—and the airtel word in bright red is an attempt at better traction with the young demographics that will drive its value-added businesses like third-generation telephony across Asia and Africa. The logo, part swoosh, part reminiscent of digital era and hip-hop, taps into the company's desire to be seen as 'modern, vibrant, and friendly' in a highly competitive industry where the product and service is fast becoming parity, and the only differentiation perhaps is the brand.

 

In the past decade both Tata Motors and Jubilant have gone from strength to strength by making the right calls on new products, research, acquisitions and reading the customers' evolving needs right. Thus, in hindsight, the now decade-old rebranding looks like a precursor to a real change in its business approach—whether it was focus on value engineering and bold acquisitions like Jaguar-Land Rover with Tata Motors or research-led high-value business for Jubilant. How well Bharti Airtel is able to pull off its around $10 billion Zain acquisition, and return to high profitability in the Indian market will alone determine how its current over Rs 200 crore rebranding effort is finally judged—mere spin-doctoring or a prescient move.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

INNOCENT OF THE LAW

SUNIL JAIN

 

The government has probably done well to ask Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam not to represent the Prime Minister in the Supreme Court when the Subramanian Swamy case comes up again next week. For while there can be a debate as to whether the Supreme Court should have asked the PM to explain his silence on Swamy's request to be allowed to prosecute the then telecom minister A Raja, it does appear Subramaniam goofed up by telling the Court that Swamy's letter had been dealt with on many occasions—when Swamy said he had received just one letter saying his application was premature, the Court then asked Subramaniam to put down his statements in an affidavit.

 

What's worse is the affidavit he filed in the Court a few days before Raja was asked to go. While the PM's defence has all along been that Raja had acted without his consent, indeed against his wishes, the affidavit (para 94) says the PM's advice was never ignored. "It has further been contended that the advice of the Hon'ble Prime Minister has been disregarded. This is again wholly incorrect. … Thus, not only was there no difference of opinion with the Hon'ble Prime Minister, his office was also kept fully informed of all decisions." Hardly surprising then, that when a top minister had an off-record briefing on the Court's statements on the Prime Minister, he said he wouldn't be having this briefing if Subramaniam had done his job properly.

 

The question of course is whether the government is jumping from the frying pan into the fire since the replacement, attorney general Goolam Vahanvati, has also been arguing the same line and defending Raja all this while—so, any smart attorney will probably trap him on what he's said before. Vahanvati defended Raja's line in the Delhi High Court when STel challenged Raja's policy, and lost the case in July 2009—he also challenged the high court decision unsuccessfully before the Supreme Court. (Indeed, on December 26, 2007, Raja wrote a letter to the PM saying he'd met Pranab Mukherjee to explain the case to him and even called in Goolam Vahanvati to explain the legal position.)

 

More important, it also appears the law officers gave incorrect advice and, in that sense, helped Raja justify his actions. Opinion, it also appears, they shouldn't have even been giving since the law minister had clearly said matters should be brought before the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM). A look at some of the specifics:

 

* Para 92 of the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court says, "the Ministry of Law and Justice has not given any advice regarding the policy in force on grant of UAS licences or the first-come-first serve issue". Well, para 86 of the same affidavit, while talking of Raja's press release of no cap and first-come-first-serve of January 10, 2008, says, "the said press release was issued after obtaining legal advice"!

 

* Para 88 goes on to say there was no preponement of any cut off date—this is the big illegality Raja has been accused of since, while applications were to be accepted till October 1, 2007, his press release said only those received till September 25 would be accepted. So here's what the affidavit says: "there was no preponement of any cut-off date. It was rather a case of batch-wise processing of applications. No application was rejected because it was received after 25.09.2007—its processing was merely postponed."

 

This is clearly being economical with the truth. The affidavit didn't say the ministry had approached the Trai since it didn't have enough spectrum to give to the post-September 25 applications and that the Trai recommended a cap be put so that more licences didn't have to be given.

 

It also contradicts something said in para 83, that the government simply didn't have enough spectrum to give to all applicants … "therefore, it was not even theoretically possible to accommodate all the applicants ..."

 

So why tell the Court the government will process the other applications as well?

 

There is then the matter of whether the law officers even had the authority to give the telecom ministry the opinions it did. On November 1, 2007, the law secretary put up a note to the law minister on the telecom ministry's request on how to deal with the 575 applications it had got for licences. The law secretary said the questions posed were too broad to be of any use; the file then went to the law minister who said the matter should go to the EGoM. Given that Raja ensured he didn't go to the EGoM, how were opinions even given?

 

While dismissing Vahanvati's argument on July 1, 2009, the Delhi High Court had pointed out that while Raja said he had accepted the Trai recommendation that there should be no cap on the number of service providers, by amending the cut-off date, he had actually placed a cap. That is, the ministry was violating the Trai Act, which says any changes made have to be referred back to Trai—when Vahanvati was explaining the legal position to Pranab Mukherjee on December 26, 2007, didn't he realise this? Didn't Subramaniam realise this while clearing various affidavits for the ministry? Both, after all, have been arguing telecom cases for 10-15 years. By the way, even last week's affidavit in the Court carries on saying the Trai recommendation of no cap was accepted by the ministry—the law officers didn't even have the honesty to tell the Court that the Delhi High Court, and even the Court itself, had previously held that the Trai policy had not been accepted.

 

It's time the government realised its lawyers are as fallible as others. So the next time around, it should stop parading the attorney general or the solicitor general's opinion as God's own truth.

 

sunil.jain@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FACEBOOK'S NEW FACE

CARL SCHRAMM


Can Facebook really be the solution to serious social problems of our time? In the words of George Yeo, Singapore's long-time foreign minister and not a man given to easy enthusiasm, it now is "arguably the most important social infrastructure in the world today."

But what about using it and other forms of social media on the one issue that—given burgeoning youth cohorts entering the labour market in many developing economies—is more pressing today than any other: the need to create more jobs? Can it help us find pathways towards innovative solutions to real-life problems and promote entrepreneurship and innovation?

 

Sounds far-fetched? Perhaps not. Here is why: New jobs are best created on the basis of ideas generated either to meet new demands—or to solve, at long last, some very old problems. These include providing access to healthcare, reforming education systems and focusing on a cleaner environment and greater resource preservation all across the range of human activity. Fortunately, these are issues young people are focused on. That is quite natural, in part because the younger generation tends to be drawn to solving the problems insufficiently addressed by their parents' generation. And there can be no denying that we baby boomers have fallen short in some critical regards. If there were ever a time to focus attention on the need for human ingenuity, it is surely now.

 

It is easy to trivialise the potential effect of social media, just as it is easy to overstate their importance. What matters is that while terms like 'crowd sourcing' or 'collaborating in the cloud' still sound alien to many people over 30, they are anything but gimmicky. As anybody who has worked at a large corporation lately can attest this is pretty much what large companies try to accomplish in working with their worldwide staff.

 

Take a company like IBM. Characterised as being on the death bed not so long ago, it has dramatically reinvented itself. That was not an easy task, considering it is one of the world's largest corporations. But the reinvention process worked for two reasons, as it has—and does—at other corporate behemoths who are re-learning the art of being nimble on their feet.

 

First, one has to truly globalise the internal innovation strategy and processes, without regard for rank and work location. Second, more so than ever before, this process of innovation is entirely team-oriented. This isn't any longer a world of lone rangers toiling away in remote labs to come up with the next big idea.

 

To leverage the inherent ingenuity of its staff, which is any corporation's only real asset, has also meant moving far beyond just American and European teams of engineers, which were dominant for many decades. Like at many other companies, IBM researchers today, or those at, say, pharmaceutical or car companies, work on a given problem on a 24-hour basis. Using IT, work-sharing platforms and wikis for internal knowledge management, they pass the project around the globe to research teams located in different time zones. It is much like big banks pass their trading books around the globe, from Hong Kong to London to New York.

 

In addition, good engineers no longer are the good corporate soldiers they used to be. They want to live where they like to, and that is not necessarily where the big research centres are located. That has forced big corporations to cope with a formerly unimaginable thing—letting their people go, quite literally, to where they feel most creative.

 

Now why, you may ask, have I dwelled on the changed nature of large companies at such length? For two reasons: the first is to underscore the degree to which today's business world—the successful companies at least—is already in the grip of youth-embraced, technology-enabled trends such as online collaboration and crowd sourcing. The second is to point out that the world has yet to organise its collective business acumen and drive in vital ways. We are still far from finding the most effective ways to collaborate across the globe and really tap into the ingenuity and drive of the younger generation.

 

Does that sound like a pipe dream? I think not—and for a very straightforward reason: if work processes and innovation management become more informal inside large corporations, it stands to reason that there is no obstacle to using the same informality outside of corporate structures. What large corporations have learnt the hard way is that they must create a fertile environment in which that moment can happen—and happen often, without predicting where or by whom.

 

It is that rare and hard-to-predict moment when a mix of people, ideas and circumstances come together that yields fresh insights and true innovation. It is precisely in these moments when new ideas emerge that can then be pushed forward into new markets by determined entrepreneurs.

 

With that in mind, the Kauffman Foundation organised Global Entrepreneurship Week, now in its third year. Held in November, this collaboration of more than 10 million young people in 103 countries during the week is a critical part of this effort. We are putting increasing emphasis on social media activities as platforms to create an environment conducive to generating innovative ideas and fertilising the soil for global entrepreneurship.

 

The realisation of much of future economic growth comes down to opening our eyes, providing new platforms for that purpose and jumping off. Getting young people engaged globally is the key untapped resource in this equation.

 

The author is president & CEO, Kauffman Foundation

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

Social work comes first

Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa may have been tense about his meeting with the BJP's top brass, given how everyone speculated that he was on his way out, but he didn't show it. He told the BJP's brass that he would only be able to meet them in the evening as he had to distribute sarees in Karwar and Davangere in the morning.

 

Incomplete justice

 

A senior minister did some damage control yesterday, briefing the press on the condition it was off-record about the Supreme Court's observations regarding the Prime Minister. The minister said the judges hadn't been briefed properly on the fact that the Prime Minister couldn't possibly sanction prosecution till the CBI finished its investigation. He mocked the efforts of Solicitor General in explaining this to the Court and said he wouldn't be holding the briefing if the SG had done his job well. The courts, he said, couldn't base their observations on a few media articles and if observations start becoming rules, then "God save the nation".

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

ANTIMATTER

 

Cern scientists made big news chasing the God particle. They are back, tracking Big Bang this time

 

Engineering, stand by for warp drive, Captain Kirk would say and Starship Enterprise would promptly perform a feat firmly rooted in a fictional world. But Cern scientists, as reported in Nature magazine this week, have brought us just a little bit closer to figuring out the kind of matter-antimatter processes that the good Captain had at his fingertips. Physicist Paul Dirac posited antimatter as ordinary matter in reverse as far back as in 1931: every particle has an antiparticle that has an opposite electric charge but is otherwise nearly identical, right down to mass and lifetime. This is key to all theories of physics assuming that at Big Bang, some 15 billion years ago, equal amounts of matter and antimatter were generated. Yet, little antimatter survives and that's a big mystery. To solve the mystery, scientists need to see antimatter in action. This has proved nearly impossible as matter and antimatter annihilate each other on contact (creating the energy that could power a starship). So, what has Cern actually pulled off?

 

Using hydrogen atoms, where positrons and antiprotons would be the counterparts to electrons and protons, they used several stages of cooling to stabilise (relatively speaking) the antimatter so that 38 antihydrogen atoms were successfully trapped inside a magnetic bottle for 0.2 seconds. That wouldn't generate enough energy to make a cup of coffee let alone the ultimate rocket fuel. But for the physicists, this is a dramatic step forward.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

FLAWED PROCESS, FAILED OUTCOME

 

The integrity of the process always determines the quality of the product that comes out of it. If a process is wrong, the product seldom turns out right. It is now a common conclusion that the procedure for the allocation of spectrum in 2007-08 for the second generation (2G) telecom services was flawed, and grossly so. When there were many more aspirants for the licences than there was frequency spectrum, and an auction should have been the obvious method to decide on the winners, the licences were handed out instead in a non-transparent, first-come-first-served basis and at a low price set seven years earlier. These are the charges that the former Union Minister for Telecommunications, A. Raja, faces, and the ones that forced his resignation. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India found that some of the licence winners had not met even the basic requirements when they applied. It comes as little surprise therefore that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is advising the government to cancel the licences of all the six companies for not conforming to the licence conditions. The relevant requirement was simple: within 12 months of getting the licence, mobile phone operators must make their cellular signals, and therefore the service, available in at least 10 per cent of each district headquarters in each telecom circle. Spectrum being scarce, this was necessary to ensure that licencees did not take the spectrum and not provide the requisite telephone service to the community. Remarkably, none of the six licencees has managed to roll out service as stipulated; some indeed have barely started operations. The 2G fiasco is thus strikingly complete.

 

The Manmohan Singh government has no option but to take serious note of the glaring non-performance by these companies. Perhaps it was inevitable they would fail, because as the CAG discovered, many of these companies did not have any experience in telecommunications. Revoking their licences would therefore be a rational and appropriate response. The case of one or two of the licencees who exerted themselves enough to accumulate a few million subscribers may be tricky, but even that is not beyond resolution. The spectrum that will be wrested back must be quickly put through as transparent an auction as defined the allotment of the third generation spectrum earlier this year. It requires no genius to predict that the government's take from the sale will be substantially larger than the Rs.12,386 crore it got in 2007-08. There will be nothing to fear for customers of the scratched companies; if the government were to facilitate number portability as promised, they can painlessly switch themselves to another service provider.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

TIME UP FOR YEDDYURAPPA

 

At a time the Bharatiya Janata Party is taking the moral high ground on corruption, the land allotment scam in Karnataka involving Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa is turning out to be a severe embarrassment. No matter what party president Nitin Gadkari throws at the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance government on alleged corruption in 2G spectrum allocation, the Commonwealth Games, and the Adarsh Society, the BJP will be unable to gain any political advantage without acting decisively in Karnataka. Mr. Yeddyurappa faces serious allegations of nepotism and irregularities: wrongful de-notification of lands and allotment to family members. Moreover, his defence is weak, a political counter devoid of any legal merit. While acknowledging that his family members were benefitted, he claimed that his predecessors belonging to the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) too had made similar allotments. This line of defence makes a strong pitch for a thorough probe into all such instances of de-notification of land, but hardly absolves him of the charges of wrongdoing. Similarly, while the Chief Minister's announcement that his family members would surrender the lands is welcome, it cannot be used to gloss over the serious procedural irregularities and the legal infirmities in the original de-notification and allotments.

 

Against this background, the judicial probe ordered into such allotments seems to be a move to pre-empt the Opposition, which has taken the issue to the Lokayukta. The probe, which is to cover the period from 1994, when JD(S) leader Deve Gowda was Chief Minister, should not be used to deflect the allegations of corruption and nepotism. Mr. Yeddyurappa cannot seek to extend his stay in power on the ground that a fact-finding judicial exercise is on and some corrective measures have been taken. For the BJP, the land allotment scam could not have come at a more inopportune moment. Not only does this take the force out of its offensive against the UPA on the scams related to the 2G spectrum, the CWG, and the Adarsh Society, it also raises serious questions about the survival of the party's government in Karnataka. Even before the land scam, Mr. Yeddyurappa was clinging on to a slender majority in the Assembly through blatantly unsavoury means. A change at the helm could again result in a shake-up of the BJP's legislature party, and wreck its only government in the south. But whatever be the compulsions, Mr. Yeddyurappa will have to go in the interests of a clean and transparent administration in Karnataka. Whether the BJP will gain or lose on account of his exit is a matter of minor importance.

 

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

LIGHT AT THE END OF IRAQI TUNNEL

WHAT HAS EMERGED IS THAT THERE IS PROBABLY SOME DEGREE OF U.S.-IRANIAN CONVERGENCE ON THE POWER-SHARING DEAL IN BAGHDAD.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

 

The first major foreign policy success of the Barack Obama presidency began surfacing last week. This, of course, is an optimistic way of looking at the power-sharing deal in Baghdad, which was sealed eight months after the inconclusive general election in March. But wasn't the deal brokered by Iran? How can it be counted as Mr. Obama's success story? It can be. The heart of the matter is that the United States has tacitly consorted with Iran, which only underscores political realism on the part of the Obama administration.

 

The Baghdad deal, which followed three days of high-pressure talks between the Iraqi political factions, envisages that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite will have another term in office. So also Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, will continue as President, while the post of Speaker of Parliament has gone to Osama al-Najafi, a Sunni Arab credited with an obscure past of links with Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. As part of the deal, a new statutory body, National Council for Strategic Policy (NCSP), is being established to oversee security, which will probably be chaired by the former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, a "secular" Sh'ite from the mainly Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, who many regard as a U.S. proxy. And, to complete the tapestry, if rumours gather substance in the coming days, the post of Foreign Minister may go to Saleh al-Mutlak, the "secular" Sunni politician who is commonly linked to the Baath Party.

 

It is almost impossible to be certain about who won and who lost in a pantomime. The Americans, prima facie, "lost" and yet, as the witches in Macbeth would say, they may have "won" as well. So has Iran. The U.S. initially backed Mr. Allawi for prime ministership, failing which it worked for a power-sharing deal between him and Mr. Maliki. At a later stage, it sought to have Mr. Allawi as President. But Mr. Maliki trumped Mr. Allawi and the Kurds (who have been sturdy American allies), rebuffed the U.S. and insisted on retaining the presidency. The U.S. has now been left to persuade Mr. Allawi to accept the post of head of NCSP, whose powers are yet to be defined. Again, the U.S. sought to exclude the fiercely anti-American Shi'ite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, from the power structure but the current deal is riveted on his group's undertaking to support a government with Mr. Maliki, and the Sadrists may hold as many as a quarter of Cabinet posts in the new government. Indeed, Mr. Maliki travelled to Iran to meet Mr. Sadr (residing in the holy city of Qom) and publicly acknowledged his appreciation of Tehran's role in persuading Mr. Sadr to set aside his visceral hatred of him (Mr. Maliki).

 

The noted Middle East analyst and historian, Juan Cole, wrote: "I don't think there is any way to interpret what has happened except as a victory for Iran … Iran has been working hard to put back together the fractured coalition of Shi'ite religious parties ... As the U.S. withdraws its troops over the next year, Iran's favourable position in Iraq will now likely be strengthened." True, the current deal is not what the U.S. would have preferred. On the other hand, the deal also reflects the U.S. influence insofar as it provides for an inclusive government that does not disenfranchise Mr. Allawi's Sunni supporters. The Obama administration has all along argued that the new government must be broad-based and should include all major factions and accommodate all groups, including even the Baathists of the Saddam era.

 

What has emerged is that there is probably some degree of U.S.-Iranian convergence. The deal in Iraq leaves one guessing all over again about the backchannel contact between the two implacable adversaries that never quite stops working. We know for sure that the backchannel has been working steadily on Afghanistan in the recent period. All the same, it is hard to tell whether it was a mere coincidence that, in a dramatic turnaround on November 3, the U.S. State Department designated the Jundullah as a terrorist organisation. Tehran has been accusing Washington of secretly supporting the Jundullah to bring about a "regime change" in Iran. In March last year, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly warned the U.S. that Iran had intercepted communication between the Jundullah terrorists and American operatives. He chastised Mr. Obama: "In a neighbouring country, bandits, terrorists and murderers are in touch with American officials. They say 'Let's negotiate, let's start relations'. They have the slogan of 'change'. But where is the 'change'? 'Change' has to be real. You change, and we shall change as well." Is the Obama administration finally changing course and addressing the mother of all "injustices" that Tehran alleges successive U.S. administrations have perpetrated on Iran through the past three decades — the covert policy to seek a "regime change?"

 

]Of course, Tehran will wield influence over the new government in Baghdad so as to ensure that Iranian interests are not jeopardised. But it knows well enough that Mr. Maliki is first and foremost an Iraqi nationalist — so is Mr. Sadr — who is a master-tactician in balancing competing interest groups and superb practitioner of the politics of expediency. Mr. Maliki all along kept lines open to Tehran and Washington, besides having his own regional connections, as is apparent from his success in winning over Syria (which, along with Saudi Arabia and Jordan, has been supportive of Mr. Allawi) to his side. In sum, Tehran is accepting a power structure in Baghdad that is dominated by Shi'ite groups but accommodates Sunni groups and possibly at some stage Baathist elements as well. Iran's main consideration is that Iraq should remain stable and friendly.

 

Mr. Obama's enthusiasm for the Iraqi formula is equally meaningful. He called it "another milestone in the history of modern Iraq." He said Washington had been lobbying for precisely such a "broadbased government". In recent days he (and Vice-President Joe Biden) spoke to several Iraqi leaders, coaxing them to compromise, during which, as Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes put it, the President "reiterated our strong desire to see an inclusive government in Iraq, and welcomed the steps that have been taken toward reaching that goal." Mr. Obama called up Mr. Allawi to prevail upon him to agree to the current deal brokered by Iran and to hold positions in the partnership government. Of course, the U.S. would have to stay engaged in the coming period also. Mr. Allawi's followers seek the repeal of the "de-Baathification" laws so that Saddam Hussein's followers can hold office. This may not find favour with the Shi'ite and Kurdish groups. Again, it is unclear whether Mr. Mailki will allow his prime ministerial prerogatives to be circumscribed by the NCSP. The Shi'ite-Sunni power struggle has been institutionalised in Iraq.

 

To be sure, Mr. Obama's pragmatism in hailing a political dispensation in Iraq comprising stakeholders ranging from Arab nationalists, pro-Iranian Shi'ites and radical anti-American Islamists to U.S.-backed moderates (and possibly erstwhile Baathists) is noteworthy. How long can Mr. Obama shy away from showing statesmanship to the Hamas in Palestine and the Hezbollah in Lebanon — groups that have, like the Sadrists in Iraq, demonstrated their support via the ballot box? More important, is there scope for extending similar "pragmatism" to the Afghan conflict?

 

Although no two conflicts can be analogous, the contours of an Afghan settlement can be discerned from what has been happening in Iraq. By no means is Iraq's regional milieu less turbulent than are the raging storms in the region surrounding Afghanistan. Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran — they all have specific interests in Iraq. Iraqis and Afghans face similar problems of ethnicity and fragmentation of their political economies. Of course, Iraqi society is far more urbanised. But then, Afghanistan faces nothing like Kurdish separatism or Shi'ite-Sunni schism or the legacy of brutal authoritarianism. Yet, the big difference is that the Pakistani military leadership is yet to show the wisdom and cosmopolitanism of the Persian mind. It remains rooted in the tribal instincts of a zero-sum game. It continues to waffle on the core issue of Afghanistan's stability and takes recourse to detours — 'The road to Kabul runs through Kashmir,' etc.

 

The crucial difference is that in Iraq, General David Petraeus was allowed to do his job and the insurgency was checked so that the political processes could gain traction. The Taliban has to be weakened first. That is the game-changer in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has seemed to grasp this lately and the Pakistani generals are mighty upset about it. The strength of the Afghan Army and police is scheduled to reach 3,50,000 by 2013. Therefore, Mr. Obama should push back the July 2011 deadline for the start of the American drawdown. Hamid Karzai suggested 2014 as the key date for handing over the defence of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Concurring with Mr. Karzai will be Mr. Obama's "Afghan pragmatism".

 

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: I WAS BOTH PRISONER AND MAINTENANCE WOMAN

THE PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADER TELLS OF HER CAPTIVITY; THE MYANMAR CASE IS 'MORE DIFFICULT' THAN APARTHEID.

JACK DAVIES*

 

Finally free from the clutches of Myanmar's (Burma) ruling generals and the lonely life of house arrest they

subjected her to, Aung San Suu Kyi now finds she cannot escape from herself.

 

At the headquarters of her currently-outlawed political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), images of her are everywhere: on posters, calendars and pamphlets, T-shirts and earrings.

 

As she poses politely for photos, the Guardian asks who the golden bust behind her represents. "It's supposed to be me," she says. "I wish people wouldn't make busts or posters of me, it is a very strange thing to be looking at yourself all the time. It's not like this at my house, I promise you. I have pictures of my children." The building is filled to overflowing; a hundred conversations reverberate off the peeling wars and concrete floors. Today, there are more people than chairs, and those left without crouch against walls.

 

Spies watch

 

Across the road, perched on conspicuous orange motorbikes, the government's spies are kept busy, watching through camera lenses and binoculars. But Aung San Suu Kyi is unconcerned about the attention from the military's special branch. They will be her companion every day she is free.

 

"That is for them to worry about. I can only do what I feel I need to do, what I can do for the people of Myanmar," she says. "They will follow me, I cannot stop that. I cannot worry." Aung San Suu Kyi is 65, but looks 20 years younger. A hint of grey at her temples is the only physical sign of the strains of two decades spent resisting a brutal military regime. She has a piercing gaze, and her response is deliberate when pushed about the government's overt, hostile attention. She is not frightened that she could be detained again — a fate that has befallen her for 15 of the last 21 years.

 

"It is not a fear, it's a possibility that I live with. I understand that is the situation, and I have to accept it. They have done it before, and it is very possible they will do it again, but it is not something I fear every day. It is my situation." It is nearly a week since military officials came to her door at 54 University Avenue, Yangon (Rangoon), and told her she was free, noting perversely, her good behaviour.

 

Since then, she has been almost constantly in meetings of one sort or another. Diplomats and journalists have formed a queue to her door. She has taken phone calls from presidents and prime ministers. She has met with NLD party elders to discuss strategy and legal challenges.

 

But she has stopped too, amid the throng of admirers, to talk to people on the street, old women who claim kinship, children who have a flower for her.

 

She has spoken with her sons by phone every day — something she could never do before, though there is no word on when she will be allowed to see them — she has visited the high court to appeal against her party's disbanding, and visited an HIV/AIDS shelter. Everywhere she goes, she is mobbed.

 

She is happy, "because now I am free".

House arrest

 

She talks candidly about her years under house arrest, saying it was "far, far easier" than the time currently being served by Burma's 2,100 political prisoners. They must be freed before any real progress will be made, she insists.

 

Reluctantly, she concedes that there were moments of pessimism. "Despair is not the right word, but there were times that I would worry ... a lot, not so much for myself, for my situation, but for the future of the country." But she has little time for introspection and none for self-pity. The overwhelming feeling during the last seven-and-a-half years she spent confined to her damp, two-storey home was, she says, that "there weren't enough hours in the day".

 

"I had to listen to the radio for six hours every day, just to make sure I caught all of the Myanmarese programmes, just so I could keep up with what was going on. Because if I missed something, there was no one to come to tell me 'did you hear about' I needed to keep myself informed." She read, for work and pleasure, biographies and spy novels were favourites, and she meditated regularly. "And then there was the house to run and to maintain." She laughs at the ridiculous lengths the junta went to in its ad hoc imprisonment. "I was both prisoner and maintenance woman," she says, mimicking a feeble effort with a hammer.

 

"No one was allowed to come to fix the house. I had to fix everything that went wrong. The two people I was with (her live-in maids, a mother and daughter) were completely non-mechanical and non-electrical, so I had to learn with great difficulty how to do these things." She was not always successful. For several days following cyclone Nargis in 2008, the trio lived by candlelight.

 

But she is less interested in reflecting on the years of isolation than on what happens next in her country.

 

Comparison with South Africa

 

Internationally, Aung San Suu Kyi's release has been described as Myanmar's "Mandela moment", comparing it to the day in 1990 when Nelson Mandela walked free from prison in South Africa. She is wary of the comparison.

 

"I think that our situation is much more difficult than South Africa's. South Africa had already made some movement towards democracy when Mandela was released. Here in Myanmar, we are nowhere near that. We haven't even begun." South Africa's fault line was clear-cut, apartheid was based on race, she says. "Colour is something that everyone can see straight away. Here, it is less obvious who is who, because we are all Myanmarese. It is Myanmarese discriminating and oppressing Myanmarese.

 

"I have often thought everything would be much easier if all the NLD supporters were coloured purple. Then it would be obvious who is being jailed and who is discriminated against. And the international community would be angered more easily, they could easily say 'you cannot discriminate against the purples.'" Where Myanmar goes from here is unclear, she says, "we are a country in limbo."

 

She realises the power of her freedom to the people of Myanmar, though she is always conscious that there are many others in her movement, and thousands still in prison. "I don't believe in one person's influence and authority to move a country forward. I am honoured by the trust people have in me, but one person alone can not bring democracy to a country.

 

"Change is going to come from the people. I want to play my role ... I want to work in unison with the people of Myanmar, but it is they who will change this country." (Jack Davies is a Guardian reporter writing under a pseudonym)— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

STUXNET WORM WAS PERFECT FOR SABOTAGING CENTRIFUGES

NEW FORENSIC WORK NARROWS THE RANGE OF TARGETS AND DECIPHERS ITS PLAN OF ATTACK. THE LATEST EVIDENCE DOES NOT PROVE IRAN WAS THE TARGET.

DAVID E. SANGER AND WILLIAM J. BROAD

 

Experts dissecting the computer worm suspected of being aimed at Iran's nuclear programme have determined that it was precisely calibrated in a way that could send nuclear centrifuges wildly out of control.

 

Their conclusion, while not definitive, begins to clear some of the fog around the Stuxnet worm, a malicious programme detected this year on computers, primarily in Iran but also India, Indonesia and other countries.

 

The paternity of the worm is still in dispute, but in recent weeks officials from Israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether Israel was behind the attack, or knew who was. U.S. officials have suggested that it originated abroad.

 

Plan of attack

 

The new forensic work narrows the range of targets and deciphers the worm's plan of attack. Computer analysts say Stuxnet does its damage by making quick changes in the rotational speed of motors, shifting them rapidly up and down.

 

Changing the speed "sabotages the normal operation of the industrial control process," Eric Chien, a researcher at the computer security company Symantec, wrote in a blog post.

 

Those fluctuations, nuclear analysts said in response to the report, are a recipe for disaster among the thousands of centrifuges spinning in Iran to enrich uranium, which can fuel reactors or bombs. Rapid changes can cause them to blow apart. Reports issued by international inspectors reveal that Iran has experienced many problems keeping its centrifuges running, with hundreds removed from active service since summer 2009.

 

"We don't see direct confirmation" that the attack was meant to slow Iran's nuclear work, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview on November 18. "But it sure is a plausible interpretation of the available facts."

 

To hit certain equipment

 

Intelligence officials have said they believe that a series of covert programmes are responsible for at least some of that decline. So when Iran reported this year that it was battling the Stuxnet worm, many experts immediately suspected that it was a State-sponsored cyberattack.

 

Until last week, analysts had said only that Stuxnet was designed to infect certain kinds of Siemens equipment used in a wide variety of industrial sites. But a study released on November 19 by Mr. Chien, Nicolas Falliere and Liam O. Murchu at Symantec, concluded that the programme's real target was to take over frequency converters, a type of power supply that changes its output frequency to control the speed of a motor. The worm's code was found to attack converters made by two companies, Fararo Paya in Iran and Vacon in Finland. A separate study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that finding, a senior government official said in an interview on November 18.

 

Then, on November 17, Mr. Albright and a colleague, Andrea Stricker, released a report saying that when the worm ramped up the frequency of the electrical current supplying the centrifuges, they would spin faster and faster. The worm eventually makes the current hit 1,410 Hertz, or cycles per second — just enough, they reported, to send the centrifuges flying apart.

 

In a spooky flourish, Mr. Albright said in the interview, the worm ends the attack with a command to restore the current to the perfect operating frequency for the centrifuges — which, by that time, would presumably be destroyed.

 

"It's striking how close it is to the standard value," he said.

 

The computer analysis, his November 17 report concluded, "makes a legitimate case that Stuxnet could indeed disrupt or destroy" Iranian centrifuge plants.

 

<>The latest evidence does not prove Iran was the target, and there have been no confirmed reports of industrial damage linked to Stuxnet. Converters are used to control a number of different machines, including lathes, saws and turbines, and they can be found in gas pipelines and chemical plants. But converters are also essential for nuclear centrifuges.

 

 

A game changer

 

On November 17, the chief of the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity centre in Virginia, Sean McGurk, told a Senate committee that the worm was a "game changer" because of the skill with which it was composed and the care with which it was geared toward attacking specific types of equipment.

 

Meanwhile, the search for other clues in the Stuxnet programme continues and so do the theories about its origins.

 

From Israel?

 

Ralph Langner, a German expert in industrial control systems who has examined the programme and who was the first to suggest that the Stuxnet worm may have been aimed at Iran, noted in late September that a file inside the code was named "Myrtus." That could be read as an allusion to Esther, and he and others speculated it was a reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.

 

Writing on his website last week, Langner noted that a number of the data modules inside the programme contained the date "Sept. 24, 2001," clearly long before the programme was actually written. He wrote that he believed the date was a message from the authors of the programme, but did not know what it might mean.

 

Last month, researchers at Symantec also speculated that a string of numbers found in the programme — 19790509 — while seeming random, might actually be significant. They speculated that it might refer to May 9, 1979, the day that Jewish-Iranian businessman Habib Elghanian was executed in Iran after being convicted of spying for Israel.

 

Interpreting what the clues might mean is a fascinating exercise for computer experts and conspiracy theorists, but it could also be a way to mislead investigators.

 

Indeed, according to one investigator, the creation date of the data modules might instead suggest that the original attack code in Stuxnet was written long before the programme was actually distributed. According to Tom Parker, a computer security specialist at Securicon LLC, a security consulting firm based in Washington, the Stuxnet payload appeared to have been written by a team of highly skilled programmers, while the "dropper" programme that delivered the programme reflected an amateur level of expertise.

 

He said the fact that Stuxnet was detected and had spread widely was an indicator that it was a failed operation.

 

"The end target is going to be able to know they were the target, and the attacker won't be able to use this technique again," he said. (John Markoff contributed reporting.) —© New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

POWER SHIP TO SUPPLY ELECTRICITY-STARVED PAKISTAN

 

The world's largest ship-based power plant has arrived off the Pakistani coast to try to mitigate the country's chronic electricity shortages, a company official said on November 19.

 

The new supply still won't come close to ending electricity shortages that plague Pakistan, increasing widespread public frustration with the U.S.-allied government as it struggles to contain the Taliban insurgency.

 

The ship, which burns furnace oil, will generate about 230 megawatts for the national power grid, said Asad Mahmood, a spokesman for the vessel's Turkish owner Karkey Karadeniz Electrik. The owner has a five-year contract with the Pakistani national power company.

 

Now anchored off the southern port city Karachi, the Kaya Bey will begin feeding into the national grid within four weeks after a dedication ceremony on November 21, Mr. Mahmood said.

 

The ship's contribution will only make a dent in the overall power crisis. Pakistan's energy demands outstrip supply by an estimated 5,000 MW, thanks to a lack of investment, soaring usage and a crumbling electricity generation infrastructure that heavily relies on hydropower.

 

Power outages last up to 16 hours per day in some areas and damage industrial growth. The situation is worst in summer, when temperatures soar but power cuts mean that fans and air conditioners won't work.— AP

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

HEED TRAI, START THE CLEANUP NOW

 

It is the mood of the present, generated by the resignation of controversial communications minister A. Raja and the sense of some political uncertainty that has ensued, that probably explains the recent recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to cancel 62 of the 122 spectrum licences issued by the former minister.

Knowledgeable commentators had indeed begun to advise such a course so that some of the money lost to the national exchequer be recouped and politically connected offenders brought to book.


The licence-baggers were supposed to roll out their network in 10 per cent of every district within a year. Not only did they renege on this, they also got away without paying the penalty of `5 lakhs per week per circle for the first 13 weeks of delay, increasing progressively to `20 lakhs for delays up to 26 weeks. Could this have happened without a quid pro quo? The real story is that the licence-baggers were waiting for buyers for these licences so that they could exit the scene after making a killing. Many of them had nothing to do with telecommunications in the first place, but had the political clout to get the scarce and much-in-demand spectrum. For them it was a big money-making business, as illustrated by the case of Swan Telecom — earlier controlled by the builders DB Group. It used influence to get the licence for `1,651 crores and sold it to a party from the UAE for `4,000 crores without any network or even equipment being ordered. Others were waiting to do the same. They also realised that revenues per minute were dropping in the sector and wanted out.
With the Trai recommendation coming in, the government should act on it with dispatch unless it wishes to be regarded with suspicion even with Mr Raja gone. Noises are already being made about customers being harmed if the licences are taken away. Some would rather that penalties weren't collected, arguing speciously that these are enormous. The offending companies claim to have 1.3 crore subscribers, but there could be a well-founded view that the real figures might be just half of this. So it won't be a big deal if the licences are indeed revoked, repudiating the self-serving arguments being advanced. Let us not reward the offenders. A provision in the licence says that if for some reason a party cannot fulfil its obligations, then the government can take it over. Thus, it could be that either BSNL or MTNL can take over the subscribers who might find themselves at a loose end. Another measure that needs to be adopted is to auction the spectrum that has been taken over to the existing serious players, whose could number about 200 out of the 575 who applied for licences. The government is said to have about 10-15 megahertz of spare spectrum. This could be auctioned. Based on the price-level achieved for this transaction, it could auction the spectrum of the 62 licensees named by Trai. Only the serious players will remain under this method, and the government might stand to earn handsomely as it did for the 3G auction.


It is to state the obvious to suggest that the government must also immediately seek to trace the money that the national exchequer has lost, no matter how influential the carpet-baggers might be — whether they are politicians, bureaucrats or corporate entities. Here we are not talking of relatively small sums that could be hidden in a mattress, Sukh Ram style. Worse, the stakes are likely to get political soon, and a cleaning up of the Augean stables cannot be postponed for long.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

TOLERATING INTOLERANCE

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

"I loved a dog He loved me back Then he found a bitch —
Alas! Alack!"

From Laments of a Petwalla by Bachchoo

 

The old ones are, on occasion, the best:

"The difference between Iran and Britain? In Iran you commit adultery and get stoned, in Britain you get stoned and commit adultery, boo-boom!"

 

Thatone is descriptive and, looking at it all ways, harmless. Telling it, in Britain at any rate, shouldn't cause you to be arrested, prosecuted or persecuted. There is, as far as my lay knowledge stretches, no law against characterising Iran as a rather nasty place or against jesting about the loose morals of Brits. But as Milan Kundera made us aware in the masterpiece that brought him and his writing to the attention of the world, a joke, however harmless, can bring the horsemen of the Apocalypse in the shape of the secret police, the apparat of the Communist Party and the Stalinist abyss to your door. Kundera's novel is set in Soviet Czechoslovakia. The story begins with its hero being sent off to hard labour in the mines for sending a postcard to his girlfriend denigrating the optimism of Party propaganda as "the opium of the people" and wishing at the same time the renegade Trotsky a long life.


British mines have been, for the most part, shut since the regime of Margaret Thatcher and today's Party dissidents, as far as I know, can't be punished by being sent down them. So at least the fate of Kundera's hero doesn't await Counsellor Gareth Compton, the Conservative who was arrested and suspended indefinitely from the Tory Party for what he admits was a feeble attempt at a joke he posted on Twitter.


Mr Compton's Twitter account has been closed down and today he must feel much as Kundera's joker felt. Mr Compton has been charged by the West Midland's police for "sending an offensive or indecent message", racially aggravated it is said — and if he is brought to court and convicted, he faces being banned from his profession as a barrister.


Mr Compton was reacting to the broadcast opinion of the columnist Yasmin Alibhai Brown who was invited onto Radio Five Live's Breakfast Show to talk about British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to China. There was a difference of opinion on whether he should condemn China's record on human rights. Ms Brown was of the opinion that no politician had any moral right to condemn human rights abuses, not even the stoning to death of women under Sharia law.


Mr Compton Tweeted his reaction to this opinion, or perhaps passed an implicit verdict on all her opinions expressed over the years, mainly in the Independent, saying "Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing really".


Soon after, he posted another Tweet to say his previous Tweet was an ill-conceived attempt at humour and he didn't mean any offence.


It is reasonable to conclude that this regretful retraction was the result of a little reflection (or of instant warnings from friends) about the possible consequences for himself, of this impulsive burst of intended humour. It certainly wasn't a hasty retraction rescinding an order to inflict fatal harm on Ms Brown, because even a junior Conservative councillor from Erdington in Birmingham must realise that he is almost powerless to get the bins cleared on time, leave aside condemning anyone to death by stoning.


However unfunny the joke, the context, the culture, the country in which it was made, the concern that his leader Mr Cameron and Party have the moral duty to condemn the stoning to death of a woman in Iran, indicate that Mr Compton could have had no illusions or intention that his joke was any sort of "fatwa". It wasn't the word of an Ayatollah asking Muslims to murder Salman Rushdie. It wasn't the word of some cleric telling his congregation that British soldiers were kafirs who should be sent to hell by any means necessary. It was a laddish, ironic joke by someone who obviously wants stoning to death condemned.


Ms Brown is not herself without a sense of historic vengeance, though perhaps a little devoid of ironic appreciation. In one exchange some years ago, if I remember correctly, Gavin Essler, a TV journalist responded to something she was saying by asking, "What's wrong with white guys, by the way?"
Ms A-B replied, "I don't like them. I want them to be the lost species in a hundred years". Hitler was more ambitious.
And so to a confession: The evening before the Radio Five Live broadcast and Mr Compton's folly, I was invited to the premiere of a play by a touring Mumbai theatre group at a West London venue. The audience was largely of South Asian origin. After the play there was a reception in the foyer and I spotted the same Yasmin Alibhai Brown speaking to some friends of mine. I am not well acquainted with Ms Brown but have met her on several occasions and exchanged anodyne pleasantries. I went up to the group, greeted my friends and said, "Hello Yasmin".


She turned and left the group saying: "I am not speaking to you, you are dangerous".


However flattering it may be to be deemed and dubbed "dangerous", I was baffled as were my friends. They asked why I was dangerous. I said I was unaware of ever having given any offence, intentional or otherwise. I don't do Twitter and I am not on any blog or website.


Then it occurred to me that the snub may have been the result of Ms Brown knowing that I am acquainted with a niece of hers, one Farah Damji, a writer and self-confessed fraudster and convict and I have been told by both that they are not friends. But then a lot of people have come across and made the acquaintance of Farah Damji and surely Ms Brown doesn't believe that it makes them all "dangerous".


The snub remained mildly puzzling until I remembered that I once said to someone apropos of her columns that Ms Brown "had put the 'aunty' back in 'dilettante'". I am not conscious of having put such the remark out on Twitter but it obviously got back.


Now all I can do is put the chain on and wait for the knock at dawn.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

ENCASH OBAMA'S UNSC CHEQUE

DILIP LAHIRI

 

U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement in Parliament that "in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council (UNSC) that includes India as a permanent member" was greeted with immediate euphoria. However, its highly nuanced formulation has subsequently raised many questions.

 

The UNSC expansion involves a two-step process. An amendment of the UN Charter, requiring 128 votes in the General Assembly has to be followed by ratification by two-third of the UN membership, including the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5). The resolution for the only other expansion in 1963 was adopted in the General Assembly with France and the USSR voting against, and the US and UK abstaining. However, all permanent members eventually ratified the charter amendment, allowing the expansion to go forward. The crux of the matter now is to find a formula which can win 128 votes in the General Assembly.
The current line-up is that the G4, consisting of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, have proposed an increase of the UNSC from the current 15 to 25, with six additional permanent members (themselves and two from the African Union). They have sought to finesse the veto question by postponing the issue for 15 years. The African Union (AU) has a variant which wants expansion to 26 with the veto either being abolished or extended immediately to the six additional permanent members.


The most vociferous opponents of this approach are a group of countries unalterably opposed to one or other of the G4, called "Uniting for Consensus" (UfC), led by Italy and Pakistan. Their proposal is for 10 new non-permanent members eligible for immediate re-election, no expansion in the permanent category, with all decisions in this matter being taken by consensus. The numbers in the above group are not large enough to block an expansion resolution. A straw vote a few years ago of countries supporting UNSC expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories gathered 140 votes, well above the 128 required for passage of an expansion formula.


Faced with the prospect of prolonged deadlock, France and the UK have proposed an intermediate reform which would add a number of temporary seats that would become permanent after some time if the members so wished. The UfC has opposed the proposal due to the danger, as they see it, of temporary members being transformed into permanent members.


The biggest obstacle at this time to achieving the 128 vote target is the position of the African group, which insists on designating the two proposed permanent members from Africa, without being able to decide among several claimants. None of the claimants are prepared to chance a vote without the endorsement of the 53-member strong African group.


Other major obstacles to achieving the 128 vote target are the opposition of the US to more than a limited expansion of the UNSC beyond, say, 20, and the demand of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the League of Arab States for an assured share of the cake.


Voting in contested elections for the Security Council is a highly chancy exercise. Committed votes often do not materialise, as India found to its cost when losing two elections against Japan and Pakistan. In this year's contest for two non-permanent seats between Germany, Canada and Portugal, Canada reportedly had 136 written commitments, but ended up getting 113 in the first round, and 78 in the second before it withdrew.
While the UNSC restructuring may not be an immediate prospect, there could be very quick movement if the question of the two permanent members from the African group could be resolved, or an appropriate resolution, based on the UK-French intermediate proposal, came up for voting in the General Assembly. If the African group got its act together , there is no reason why the G4, acting together with Nigeria and South Africa, and with the support of UK and France, should not be able to garner the 128 votes for their endorsement as permanent members.


With this background, the real substance of Mr Obama's support can be analysed.


w Is it a big deal? Absolutely. US support may not be a sufficient condition for obtaining a permanent seat, but it is certainly a necessary condition. Active opposition by the US would have made 128 votes unattainable.
w Does it commit the US to support India for early realisation of this objective? Not necessarily. The words "in the years ahead" are similar to Mr Obama's Prague declaration on a nuclear weapon free world which was, according to him, unlikely to happen in his lifetime.


w Does it commit the US to support a vote, which may be essential to clinch matters? No, not unless explicitly agreed.


w Does this commit the US not to oppose expansion of the UNSC including India beyond 20, as has been their consistent position in the past? No.


There is, therefore, much work to be done with the UN membership and much to consult and clarify with the US. The Japanese were promised support by the US on this matter in even more explicit terms decades ago, but have still to cash in their cheque.


The one luxury India cannot afford is to get persuaded by the siren songs of the "sour grapes" advocates who say that the UN Security Council seat, particularly if without the veto, is not worth so much effort, that it is demeaning to have to keep asking motley countries for support, or that permanent membership will be offered to India on a platter as our political and economic strength grows.


For all its weaknesses, the UNSC is the only body whose decisions under Chapter 7 relating to peace and security are required to be implemented by all countries under international law. Permanent membership of the Security Council is an important determinant of rank in the international pecking order. India will repent at leisure if it gives up the race now only to find, after some years, that countries with lesser weight but greater perseverance have left us irretrievably a rung lower in the international hierarchy.

 

Dilip Lahiri is a former ambassador to Japan

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

MONITORING MINDS

SHOBHAA DE

 

Poor Pamela Anderson. Imagine the woman's plight… her entire identity is located in her mammary glands. The world largely knows her for the size of her breasts. It is as if the rest of her doesn't exist… doesn't really count. Pam is a woman attached to the world's most talked-about boobs. And most people talk to her chest. Good sport

 

that she obviously is, this famous Playboy Bunny is not complaining. She admitted candidly to a Mumbai reporter, "My assets get me in the door". That's truthful. But that's also smart. Here's a woman who has made a small fortune flaunting her twin peaks. Her cup size is what has taken her places. She is not embarrassed to admit as much. If anything, her bouncies are her best friends. The Baywatch star is, finally, in the land of the Kamasutra… clad in a clingy, diaphanous white sari, Pam richly deserves the nearly one crore rupees a day she'll be earning as a participant in a much-watched reality show. With her entry, all the other Bigg Boss bombshells (past and present) appear totally pheeka… underdeveloped.
Perhaps, it is the arrival of Bazooka Pam that prompted the Indian government to suddenly wake up to the "X-rated" content of some shows and clamp a few meaningless restrictions on them. By trying to push back the slots of shows that beam "objectional and vulgar" content to 11 pm, some prudish babus must be patting themselves on the back for saving the country from moral degradation. Give us a break, fellas. The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry officials should get a few basics in place first. Bared breasts and crude abuses no longer send shock waves across the nation. We, in India, are used to the sight of uncovered bosoms (women happily breastfeed their babies in crowded train compartments) and the gaalis Rakhi Sawant spouts on her show are mild compared to what one hears from politicians and members of Parliament in public. Balasaheb Thackeray spares nobody when he decides to lash out — his abuses cover generations and involve animals, sisters, mothers, brothers, friends and enemies. So what? Does that lead to rioting on the streets? If this silly directive is designed to protect our children, someone please tell those fellows, desi children rarely sleep before midnight. We are not British. Our kids are seen and heard. Annoying but true. In which middle class Indian family are the bachchas packed off to bed at 7 pm after supper at 6 pm? Television time largely remains unmonitored and unrestricted. It is considered bonding time. Families that watch heaving bosoms and hectic pelvic thrusts together, stay together. Big deal. What kids watch (or aren't supposed to) ought to be the parents' and not the government's responsibility. Going by this new "adults only" ruling, what about commercial Hindi films that feature the most provocative "item songs" and are peppered with abuses with actors screaming "bastard" routinely? Kids watch those and worse… so why the double standards? One set of rules for television programming, another for cinema?
Our society is schizophrenic and confused. News bulletins carry detailed reports about a villainous cop called S.P.S. Rathore, who molested Ruchika Girhotra, a teenager, but are not allowed to carry clips from reality shows that are deemed offensive. What could be worse or more obscene than the smug smile of a sexual predator whose defenceless victim (Ruchika) committed suicide? There are rapist cops on the loose in nearly every city of India. The TV reportage of such cases is anything but coy, restrained or discreet. Sensationalising news while focusing on the gory aspects of crime has become the rule, given the unhealthy TRP wars being fought fiercely by the big players. So-called "talent hunts" on television, featuring precocious kids indulging in the most risqué dance moves, remain unmonitored and accessible to any and everybody. In any case, what's the Internet for if not to surf? How many parents check what their precious bachchalog watch obsessively for hours on end?
This new government diktat is meaningless and unfair. All reality shows are phoney, most are fixed. This is the space in which appalling taste meets eager eyeballs. So be it. The ultimate power remains in the hands of viewers. The person who holds the remote control, is the sole decision-maker as to what is acceptable viewing and what isn't. Indians are not sheep. Let us, the viewers, be the ones to take a call on whether or not we wish to ogle Ms Anderson's ample assets or clean our ears after Ms Sawant is done with her raving and ranting on camera. Whether it is the bleeped out cuss words on Emotional Atyachaar or the aggro attitude displayed by Roadies on a rampage — this is the 21st century, folks. Anything goes! So long as it sells. Before the government gets into the act and dictates what our kids can watch and when, how about a thorough scrutiny of what constitutes actual pornography in today's transparent times — like the live telecast of parliamentary proceedings? That is perhaps the only time concerned parents feel like shielding the eyes and plugging the ears of impressionable kids. Pamela's boobs harm nobody. But the atrocious behaviour of some of our netas definitely damages the delicate psyches of India's youth. Pamela will pick up her pay packet and jet off to Malibu to be with her two sons, Dylan, 13, and Brandon, 14. We, in India, will be left panting for more. Unless, of course, those amazingly canny TV bosses locate an international has-been with even bigger body parts, or a local starlet with a filthier vocabulary than our Rakhi's.
Tauba! Tauba! What will those moralistic masterjis in the I&B ministry do then? 3.30 am may become the new slot for prime time viewing. Even at that ghastly hour, our pesky kids will be wide awake and watching. Bottoms up, everyone.

 

— Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MIND YOUR MANNERS

AKSHAYA MISHRA

 

Look, who's talking manners. It's Navjot Singh Sidhu, and the man who must learn it, the former cricketer feels, is Rahul Gandhi. Well, in the good old days, when TV was not a pervasive presence, it would have evoked some chuckles and a bit of that snide 'look at yourself in the mirror'

 

remark. Not anymore.

 

With basic instincts ruling the roost in the age of real and reality shows, Sidhu might well be right. Rahul comes across as an old school gent. He'd better watch TV more.

 

Illuminating. That is what you might call your everyday TV experience. It throws light on all the dark aspects of the human character that good upbringing and sober pontificating from elders seek to hide. So there you have it all: Scheming housewives, nasty in-laws, diabolical relatives and twisty, evil plots. Give it to the idiot box.

 

Nobody gives the myth of the great

 

Indian family such daily battering as TV does. But we all enjoy that, don't we?

 

Now, back to manners. Reality TV has redefined them as possibly no saint or holy book could. It has brought street language, profanities included, to homes and made it acceptable too. Dolly Bindra is a cute darling. She picks up fights and lets out

 

invective-loaded curses. Rakhi Sawant delivers justice in a show where participants hurl shoes and bad language at each other. There are more blips than words in conversations in many shows.

 

But vulgarity is what sends TRPs soaring. Manners are for the sissies. Here's a curious case of a parent trying to

 

decipher the language of his five-year-old twins. "Papa, you, blip, blip. How come you blip, blip?''

 

The 'blip, blips' were an imitation of the cover-up for bad language used on TV shows, the man realised later. The kids had turned it into a game of missing words.

 

"What if the boys pick up the real words and replace the blip, blips with them?'' he wondered, panicking a bit. Reality shows do to the manners what a rapist does to his victims, he says often.

 

But to be fair to these shows, they have been designed to bring out the worst in the participants. Notoriety is an essential qualification here. "Switch off if you are not interested. You have been forewarned,'' the makers would say.

 

But what about regular shows? They also have turned sophistication into a virtue of nerds. "Provoke them, bring the animal in the man out and rip apart that veneer of dignity." This seems to be the standing guideline here. Watch anchors butting in during debates, participants getting into a shouting match and nobody really making a point while everybody is busy proving a point.

 

No wonder, TV has spawned a

 

personality type, exclusively designed

 

for it. The prerequisites are clear: a loud mouth and go for the jugular mindset. Manners, of course, have to wait. These are obsession of losers. For Rahul Gandhi, it will take a lot of unlearning.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CANCELLING THE LICENCES

TIME FOR TRAI TO DO SPRING CLEANING

 

AS the Opposition has forced Parliament to adjourn and the Supreme Court has become proactive in pursuing the Raja case to its logical conclusion, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) too has jumped in to remove the stink left behind by the disgraced Telecom Minister from the DMK. TRAI has asked the government to cancel 62 licences of five telecom operators for network rollout failures. The CAG has found that 85 of the 122 licences were issued to companies that did not meet the eligibility criteria. It has slammed the ministry for not recovering the Rs 679 crore penalty from the licence-awardees for missing the network rollout deadlines.

 

Obviously, Raja was not working alone in handing over licences to the favourite companies on the so-called first-come, first-served basis. There were bureaucrats helping the boss in the shady deals. Some of them continue to be in positions of power. While Raja has been shown the door, they too need to be removed and brought to justice. The new minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, should also re-examine the government case in the Supreme Court, which is largely in defence of Raja. The Telecom Ministry's affidavit reportedly claims that the courts have, at best, " a limited role in looking at policy matters". The government should ask the Supreme Court for more time and present a fresh affidavit in keeping with the changed scenario.

 

Though the "licence-permit raj" has been banished from parts of the polity, it has continued to flourish right under the nose of the "original reformers". The wily DMK leadership knew the "revenue-generating potential" of ministries like Telecom and Highways and insisted on getting these lucrative portfolios for the party MPs, extracting a good price for its support to the UPA government. The Congress has itself to blame if part of the telecom scam mud is hurled at its top leaders. The party not only gave in to DMK blackmail but also tried to defend the indefensible.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ON A STICKY WICKET

YEDDYURAPPA MUST QUIT ON MORAL GROUNDS

 

MR B.S. YEDDYURAPPA'S continuation as the Chief Minister of Karnataka has become untenable following reports of his alleged involvement in a multi-crore land scam in the state. Ironically, at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party is in the forefront of the Opposition campaign against corruption, it is applying different standards for the Congress and the BJP. While it is demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into three scams — 2G Spectrum allocation, Commonwealth Games and Mumbai's Adarsh Housing Society scandal — and asking the Prime Minister to "come clean" about his purported delay in responding to Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy's petition seeking his sanction to prosecute former Telecommunication Minister A. Raja, the BJP doesn't see the need to direct Mr Yeddyurappa to quit office on moral grounds.

 

Bowing to mounting pressure, Mr Yeddyurappa's son and daughter have surrendered their respective plots to the government. These plots were illegally de-notified and then allotted to them. The surrender amounts to admission of guilt by the Chief Minister. While Mr B.Y. Raghavendra, MP, surrendered a 50x80 feet plot allotted to him in the upscale RMV Extension in Bangalore, Ms Umadevi sought cancellation of two acres of industrial land allotted to her near Harohalli by the Karnataka Industrial Development Board. The State Cabinet has also ordered a judicial probe into the allotment of land by successive governments in the state in the last 10 years. What is the BJP government's intention of ordering a probe that also covers the governments of Mr S.M. Krishna, Union External Affairs Minister, Mr Dharam Singh (both Congress) and Mr H.D. Kumaraswamy (Janata Dal-Secular)? Doesn't this amount to sidestepping the main issue of Mr Yeddyurappa's alleged involvement in the land scam? In any case, a free and fair investigation into the scandal is not possible as long as Mr Yeddyurappa is at the helm of affairs in the state.

 

Moreover, if Congress leaders like Mr Ashok Chavan and Mr Shashi Tharoor have quit their respective posts because of the public perception of their roles, Mr Yeddyurappa falls in the same category and hence cannot claim any immunity from action. Surely, the BJP leaders in Bangalore and New Delhi cannot take the high moral ground and preach principles to the Congress while prescribing different standards for their own people. It would only be fair if Mr Yeddyurappa resigns voluntarily and upholds the sanctity of the high office.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NEPAL'S MAOIST PROBLEM

ACCUSING INDIA WILL NOT DO

 

IF the Maoists are to be believed, India is responsible for most of the problems Nepal has been faced with since the end of the monarchy there. Whenever they find an opportunity they accuse India of "intervention" in Nepal. In their opinion, India is also responsible for Nepal's inability to elect a leader to form a government in Kathmandu. The Himalayan nation has been run by a caretaker government since the Madhav Kumar Nepal ministry resigned five months ago. It must have a democratically elected government soon for peace and stability in the country. But the Maoists seem to be preoccupied with seeing an end to "unequal" treaties like the Nepal-India Friendship Treaty of 1950.

 

The Maoists have made the maximum contribution to the present state of uncertainty in Nepal. The Madhav Nepal coalition government, which had been doing reasonably well, had to resign owing to the unrealistic demands of the Maoists. The failure to find a new leader to head the government has brought the country to the edge of a precipice. Somehow caretaker Finance Minister Surendra Pandey succeeded in presenting the annual budget on Friday despite the opposition from the UCPN (Maoists). The government was on the verge of collapse without any provision for funds to run its affairs.

 

Now the peace accord signed by Nepal's political parties stands threatened with the Maoists insisting on allowing their armed cadres — members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) — to attend the November 21 plenary session of the UCPN (Maoists). Besides the caretaker government, the UN peace mission in Nepal has urged Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, to keep the PLA away from the plenum, keeping in view the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies, and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. So far, the Maoists are refusing to listen to any advice. They do not seem to have abandoned their earlier agenda of having a communist dictatorship. As pointed out by India's Ambassador in Kathmandu Rakesh Sood, they recently gave training to a group of Indian Maoists in Nepal. This shows that the Nepalese Maoists remain a threat to peace and stability not only in Nepal but also in India.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

AMERICA'S $4-TRILLION QUESTION

TOUGH TIMES AHEAD FOR OBAMA

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

PRESIDENT Barack Obama's visit to India has been hailed on both sides as a great success, and justifiably so. For the rest, however, he is getting no kudos from his countrymen. On the contrary, on his return home, the United States is seething with resentment against its President's inability to accomplish anything during his stay in Seoul, especially at the G-20 summit. Not only did South Korea refuse to sign a trade agreement with him but also the G-20 "rebuffed" him on more counts than one. It "shunned" a US plan to "reconcile" the divisions over trade imbalances and exchange rates, and even refused to heed his request to sharpen its criticism of China for keeping the exchange rate of its currency artificially low. Ironically, countries like Germany and Brazil rubbed in that the infusion of $600 billion in the US economy by its Federal Reserve was nothing short of "competitive devaluation".

 

Even more hurtfully, his major domestic difficulties hounded him through his Asian journey. At a Press conference in the South Korean capital he tried to deal with at least two of these. The first was a report that a bipartisan commission presented during his absence on how to reduce the burgeoning budget deficit. Some of its recommendations have evoked a howl of protest. For instance, the recommendation for higher taxes on high-income groups and abolition of deduction on mortgages above a certain limit are anathema to the Republic Party that has just won the control of the House of Representatives. The reaction to the suggestion for increasing from 65 to 69 the age at which social security becomes operational has also been hostile. The commission's idea of adding 15 cents a gallon to the tax on gasoline has predictably proved highly unpopular in a country that practically lives on wheels.

 

President Obama pleaded with the American people not to reject the commission's bipartisan findings out of hand but to give them fair consideration in their entirety. After all, the commission had also recommended a $100-billion cut in defence expenditure, reducing farm subsidy by $ 3 billion and lowering of corporate tax.

 

However, the bipartisan Deficit Commission's report is something that would be discussed by the two Houses of the US Congress for months, if not much longer. What is hurting the Obama administration the more is an extremely difficult yet emotive issue that has to be resolved within the next four weeks or it might not be resolved at all. It is the future of President George W. Bush's tax cuts, and the Americans rightly call it the $4-trillion question because that is its cost over a decade.

 

Mr Bush's tax cuts to everyone, including the richest, would end on December 31, if they are not extended beyond that date. Since well before the mid-term elections President Obama's position has been that tax cuts of all middle-class households earning less than a quarter million dollars a year and constituting 98 per cent of the tax payers be made permanent but those given to the richest families should be abolished. But the Republicans firmly demand that all tax cuts be made permanent.

 

This, argues the President, would "bust the budget" The Republicans waved it aside contemptuously during the elections and are deriding it now. Because they have surged to power in the legislature, they think they can get what they want.

 

Mr Obama is, therefore, on the horns of a difficult dilemma. If he succumbs to the Republicans dictate, he alienates a great many of his core supporters. If he digs his heels in, he could sink deeper in the morass. For, come January 1 and all middle-class Americans would lose their tax benefits and thus be plunged into greater misery than the economic recession has already heaped on them. To save them from this fate, the future of the Bush tax cuts must be decided by the Lame Duck Congress in which the Democrats have a majority. This Congress will go out of business when its last session ends just before Christmas. Unpredictability about the new Congress has escalated the anxiety of the overwhelming majority of the people. This should explain why at his Press conference at Seoul, as in his first Press conference at the White House after the stinging defeat, Mr Obama spoke of his willingness to "compromise" with the Republicans during the last session of the Lame Duck Congress. But the real question is what kind of a compromise would be feasible?

 

Quite clearly, the President and his party cannot agree to making the tax cuts of the rich permanent though they may be forced to extend them temporarily. In that case the Republicans, assuming that they are inclined to compromise at all, would almost certainly insist that all extensions should be temporary. Interestingly, a number of non-partisan individuals have strongly urged that all the Bush tax cuts be extended for a two-year period at the most and the whole issue be reviewed well before the expiry of the new deadline. That means that the controversy would be at its height during the 2012 Presidential poll.

 

The American concern for the super-rich is surprising. So much so that those who argue that the rich should forgo the tax cuts because this would mean only a "small hit, not a body blow", are usually shouted down. Nobody bothers that the money thus saved from letting the high-end tax cuts expire — estimated at $40 billion in 2011 and more later — could be used for creating new jobs, the most pressing need of the hour.

 

The context in which the rich are being coddled is no less than staggering. When the Bush tax cuts came into force in 2007, the top 1 per cent of the Americans — "the uppermost of the upper crust" — were claiming almost a fourth of the total national income, their highest share since 1928. Remarkably, when Ronald Reagan ushered in the brave new era of "modern conservatism" the share of the top 1 per cent was "one-tenth".

 

It is fashionable to claim even in this rather troubled era of globalisation that rapid economic growth has a "trickle down" effect that should be welcome to the poor. In the words of an American economist, all the fruits of government policy since Mr George Bush evidently "trickle upwards, to the top, mostly to a tiny sliver atop the top".

 

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THE TRIBUNE

MIDDLE

A FLY ON THE WALL

BY RACHNA SINGH

 

WOULD you like to be a 'fly in the ointment'? A 'bee in the bonnet'? A 'snake in the grass'? A 'wolf in sheep's clothing'? I'm sure not. Neither have I ever desired to join the animal ilk.

 

But of late I am being driven by an unknown compulsion to be a fly on the wall. Let me assure you it has nothing to do with being an animal-o-phile in general or a fly-o-phile in particular. Nor does it have anything to do with a 'karma' dependent human-animal reincarnation. It also has nothing to do with any Freudian voyeuristic compulsions (thank God!).Why then was a happy human suddenly gripped by a desire to be a fly on the wall? 

 

It all started some years back. I was given an assignment which involved representing cases in the tribunal. After the arguments in court in a couple of big cases, I was convinced that the cases would be adjudicated in my favour. But to my utter disbelief the decisions were contrary to my expectations. I gathered from informal sources that the 'other party' had taken some out-of-court pleas that had swung the cases in their favour. At such a time how I wished I was privy to the all-important pleas. How I wished I was a fly on the wall.

 

At another time, I was working 'busy as a bee' in my workplace, in the happy expectation of being granted a coveted field assignment. But one fine day as I entered my office 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed', I was told that a junior colleague had been given the assignment in my stead. How had this unhappy state of affairs come about?  Was it my work? Or was it some extraneous consideration? How could I find out? Simple. By being a fly on the wall. 

 

With the passage of time the compulsion slowly faded but only to raise its insistent head at important times in my life. When my beloved jade figurine went missing. When my interview for a coveted assignment was being rated. When a cyst was being examined for malignancy. Oh how I wished at times like these that I was a fly on the wall and witness to all that was happening behind closed doors. 

 

Many of my friends disagree and righteously point out that being privy to existential or other secrets would take the zing out of life. That it is the inaccessibility of the shadowy depths of the world that add excitement and interest to life. And to be a fly on the wall would take away that extra 'zing'. Maybe they are right. Maybe they are not.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

DEFENCE DEALS: STING OF THE US LAW

PROCUREMENT OF AIRCRAFT FROM THE US IS WELCOME, BUT RESTRICTIONS THAT AMERICAN LAWS PLACE ON MILITARY SUPPLIES TRANSCEND THE ARMED FORCES AS USERS, HAVING STRATEGIC RAMIFICATIONS AND IMPINGING ON NATIONAL SECURITY. ADEQUATE THOUGHT HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN TO THE EVOLVING INDO-US MILITARY PARTNERSHIP AND A LOT OF HARD WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE TO UNDERSTAND AND BRIDGE SENSITIVE DIFFERENCES

AIR MARSHAL B.D. JAYAL (RETD)

 

PROPOSING a National Aeronautical Policy in 1994, then President of the Aeronautical Society of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, had stated, "Aviation is one of the most significant technological influences of modern time and empowers the nation with strength for international partnership. It is a major tool for economic development and has a significant role in national security and international relations".

 

Not surprisingly, one of the high points of the recent visit of the US President to India, which was as much to promote US exports as fostering next steps in strategic partnership, was a single deal for procuring ten C-17 Globemaster III strategic heavy-lift aircraft worth about 4.1 billion dollars.

 

Earlier, the IAF had signed for six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft modified and equipped for special operations and three Boeing-737 business jets for VVIP duties. Besides, Indian Navy is procuring eight P-81 long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The first two procurements are through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, involving direct government-to-government dealing. Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) procures the equipment on behalf of India and charges a commission. The Boeings and P-81s went through the direct sale route, though these are subject to "End Use Monitoring Agreements".

 

The Defence Procurement Procedure-2008 makes exceptions to the open tender route in cases involving imperatives of strategic partnerships or major diplomatic, political, economic, technological or military benefits. The above procurements fall under this category and to the IAF, which often falls victim to decision-making processes lasting decades, this quick procedure will be welcome. To the bureaucracy still recovering from the Bofors syndrome, government-to-government deal also makes for smoother decision-making, as the specter of agents and scandals does not haunt the process.

 

For long, the IAF has had on its wish list, weapons and platforms of US origin for reasons of superior technology, high operational performance and very competitive life cycle costs, but geopolitical considerations have come in the way. In lieu, the IAF has made good with procurements from other countries and frequently modified them to maximise operational capability. This has had two beneficial fallouts. First, successfully integrating weapons and systems from varied sources, thus producing a unique operational system, and secondly, gaining valuable knowledge and expertise in integration, testing and certification of complex airborne systems. It would be fair to say this techno-operational approach to achieving flexibility with weapon systems is now part of IAF psyche and it would be loathe to surrender it. Future procurements should preferably be in tune with this philosophy.

 

The sting in the FMS tail, to which little attention has been paid, is the End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) mandated by US law that is far more intrusive than mere monitoring end use. Pentagon's Security Assistance Management Manual also stipulates specific conditions under which FMS equipment can be used limiting it mainly to a self-defence role. It also inhibits any non-original equipment manufacturer integration. CAG in its scrutiny of the purchase of the landing dock ship, USS Trenton, now INS Jalashwa, had also commented on both these constraints. It also observed that binding the navy to support only from the original equipment manufacturers created permanent dependence. It has recently been reported that the army has expressed unhappiness with the support to their Weapon Locating Radars procured in 2002 through FMS, resulting in poor serviceability.

 

In the world of complex geopolitics where one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, self-defence for one can easily be viewed as offence to another. Some restrictions that US laws place on military supplies through the FMS route hence have strategic ramifications that transcend the armed forces as users and impinge on national strategic autonomy itself. If the armed forces are unhappy with FMS conditions, they are justified.

 

It is likely the US industry, which used considerable political capital to support the Indo-US nuclear deal, pressured US State Department to resolve the EUMA issue with India in order to gain access to the lucrative Indian aeronautics market. This was an important agenda on Secretary of State Clinton's visit last year and she appears to have convinced the Indian government, albeit with some cosmetic giveaways.

 

Whilst the aforementioned aircraft purchases relate primarily to support functions, India has issued an open

tender for Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, which once implemented, will be the single largest defence deal in the Indian history. Amongst the six contenders are two US manufacturers. All contenders have been evaluated by the IAF and the report is with the MoD. Respective governments will actively lobby for a programme of such vital strategic-cum-commercial implications. To the operational, technical and economic aspects of the decision-making will now be added diplomatic and strategic elements. One hopes that our tenders have clearly spelt out conditions that are acceptable. If, in spite of this the US contenders remain in the running, it can only be good news for the IAF and the aeronautics sector, as it implies the US military aeronautics market will remain open through the normal commercial route minus strategically crippling conditions. All this, however, is in the realm of speculation and hope.

 

India has been criticised for not having a strategic culture. Whether or not one accepts this thesis, it is clear that adequate thought has not been given to the larger canvas of our evolving strategic partnership with the US in the realm of defence procurements considering various US laws mandating such sales. First there was debate on the EUMA and now India is hesitant in signing the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA). Under US laws, both pacts need bilateral confirmation to ensure sensitive technology control transfers. Failing agreement, India will be denied advanced avionics and communication equipment on all the above projected aircraft sales. The same would possibly also apply to the MMRCA. These are critical limitations and should have been resolved prior to entering into sale agreements. Today, it is not just the flying platforms, but avionics and systems that confer on aircraft potent operational capability. Minus such sensitive technology and systems, some of these platforms will be severely limited in their capability. Limited by FMS agreements the IAF and IN will not even be able to upgrade them with systems from other sources.

 

US laws on sale of defence equipment are not India specific, but apply to all their customers. But the US, by virtue of its being a technology and economic powerhouse, has only sold weapons to alliance partners and client states. India, on the other hand, is just emerging from its non-aligned mindset and such conditions will rest uneasily with its people and the armed forces. If the two countries are to exploit the power of technology towards mutual economic benefit and to enhance the evolving strategic partnership, hard work needs to be done to understand and bridge these sensitive differences.

 

The writer is a former AOC-in-C of South-Western Air Command

 

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TRIBUNE

FOCUS MORE ON TECHNICAL SUPPORT

WG CDR D.P. SABHARWAL (RETD)

 

INDIAN Air Force, by any standards, is an ageing force when one looks at its fleet. Its fighters are over 25 years old. The Jaguars, Mirages and MiG-29s were procured in mid-80s. Same is the story with the transport fleet of AN-32s, IL-76s and helicopters. IAF, for almost a decade, has been operating without a genuine Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft. There have been many reported deals, which include 10 billion dollars for procuring Su-30 aircraft, 964 million dollars for upgrading MiG-29s and another 10.4 billion dollars for medium multi-role combat aircraft. Procurement of transport aircraft, attack helicopters and trainers is also on the cards. On a conservative estimate, IAF will invest 40-50 billion dollars for modernising its fleet.

 

Amidst purchases to retain the cutting edge in the battlefield, the IAF has also initiated a Rs 375 crore ($85 million) programme for modernisation and refurbishment of its Base Repair Depots (BRD) and Equipment Depots (ED). The programme, to be executed on a turnkey basis, shall be covering 27 locations across the country. The projects will be completed within the next 3-5 years. The process of short-listing companies is over and 12 out of original 31 bidders have been selected. The contracts are to be awarded in 2011.

 

BRDs and EDs play a pivotal role in keeping the flying machines operational. Though routine maintenance and minor repairs are carried out in flying units, much more is required to keep the aircraft airworthy. Spares and other materials like fuel, oil, lubricant, gases and weapons are held by the EDs. Needless to say, these EDs must have proper storage facilities, material handing equipment and above all fool-proof accounting systems in place. Most of these requirements are lacking today.

 

BRDs are primarily involved in the overhaul of equipment in addition to carrying out major modifications and defect investigation of equipment, which are tasks beyond the capability of the units operating these systems. There are eight BRDs dealing in aircraft, missiles, avionics and communications. Two at Kanpur and one at Nasik deal with fighter aircraft and their engines. The one at Chandigarh, biggest of all the BRDs, deals with helicopters and its engines. The BRD at Pune deals with radio equipment and the one at Delhi look after radar and communication equipment along with power generation and air conditioning equipments.

 

In a BRD, the aircraft is dismantled and stripped down to its last component. Each component is visually inspected, then checked with gauges and instruments and finally tested for performance, leading to three options: First, if the component is beyond economical repair, it is discarded and replaced. Secondly, the component may be worn out and require re-work. Thirdly the component may still be within permissible limits and hence can be fitted back after cleaning, greasing and other routine operations. It is the second option that is the most demanding. The work required to refurbish a component to original design condition involves many steps like degreasing and cleaning in salt/oil baths, machining, electro-plating, heat treatment, painting and testing Tthese need special purpose machines and equipment.

 

All BRDs were set up over 40 years ago when they were supposed to overhaul simpler aircraft. Though old machinery has been replaced from time to time, it has been a piecemeal exercise akin to fire-fighting. Major facilities in most BRDs are vintage, needing replacement. The current modernisation programme envisages procurement of machines, machine tools, electronics and electrical test equipment, general purpose measuring equipment, calibration and test equipment, refurbishment of electro-plating and heat-treatment processes. The project includes installation of material handling, packaging and allied machinery, besides upgradation of existing hangars which require proper lighting, flooring, pressure pipelines, mechanised doors, earthing pits and bird proofing. Bays and labs attached to hangers require modular equipment, air curtains, installation of gantry and lift, fire alarms and electro-magnetically shielded cabins.

 

The modernisation programme is no doubtlaudable, yet akin to a drop in the ocean. The required work, to say the least, is enormous but the funds earmarked are meagre. Spending Rs 375 crore amongst 27 depots means the biggest depot may get Rs 40 crore or so at the most. The replacement of antique test bed at 3 BRD itself would consume more than half of that amount. Therefore, the budget for this programme, which amounts to just about 0.2 per cent of the expenditure on fleet modernisation, needs enhancement.

 

Another vital area that needs a look into is manpower. It is said that a machine is as good as the man behind it. Every operation in a BRD demands highly trained technicians. Alas, there is no dedicated training programme for technicians posted to BRDs as is the case with technicians posted to a squadron, who undergo a special course at designated "Type Training Schools". There is another linked issue. Once a technician develops expertise, which takes two-to-three years, he is posted out just after another two years or so. This is highly deplorable. There is a need to have a policy that 70-75 per cent of the trained manpower at any BRD should remain there till retirement. It is not a tall order in today's world where there is a high premium on highly skilled and professional technicians.

 

The writer is an aeronautical engineer and has served in Base Repair Depots

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEWS

VISVESARAYA'S SECOND CANDLE

A GLORIOUS SHINING EXAMPLE FROM THE LIFE OF A GREAT CIVIL SERVANT

 

We are getting deluged by stories of scams involving civil servants. Some have signed subsidised flats for themselves. Some have allotted prime land for their own housing societies. Some have chosen to stay in government provided housing and rented their ill gotten flat at exorbitant rents to plush companies. It could be that many people were influenced by their peers. 

 

If everyone is doing it (i.e. dipping into the flowing Ganga), then only a fool would refrain, wouldn't you say? Taking advantage of a public position for private gain seems to be the dharma of a civil servant, so how can anyone resist this dharma? It is but natural to dip a little bit. 

 

After all these are not scams worth thousands of crores like the Telgi scam, or Satyam or the now famous 2G. You might get an argument that only a naïve public servant will remain scrupulous. All else are tainted or compromised. When they rub shoulders with politicians, and with their brethren (and sisters too) indulging in minor dipping into state treasury, it is impossible to find a role model. Right? 

 

Wrong folks. Not only are there many honest civil servants across all sections (secretariat, sales tax, public works department, income tax, customs), but there is in fact a shining example from their tribe. 

 

He is like their "kula daivat", sort of a giant sacred mascot, the real original model of an upstanding civil servant. He was awarded the country's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna in 1955. He didn't lead a short life, but died at the ripe old age of 101 in 1962. He was in active public life for forty four years after his retirement in 1918. 

 

Yes we are talking about the country's most famous engineer, technologist, administrator and civil servant, Sir M. Visvesvaraya (SMV). 

 

SMV was born in 1861 in Kolar district of the then Mysore state, and earned his B.A. in 1881. He then went to Pune to get his engineering degree from Pune College of Engineering in 1884, where he topped the final examination, and was appointed as the Assistant Engineer in Public Works Department (PWD) of the Bombay Presidency (as the state was called then). 

 

His subsequent life was that of innovations, home bred solutions to difficult problems and a continuous quest for perfection. For example he found a solution to get drinking water in Sikkur (Sindh) using sand as a filter. He built a dam in Khadakvasla, designing the sluice gates in such a way so as to increase capacity and reduce flooding. 

 

When he was denied a promotion to Chief Engineer (because a Britisher was preferred) he resigned, and was immediately picked up by the Maharajah of Mysore. Impressed with his work, in three years the Maharajah made him Dewan (like a Chief Minister). In his life he was involved in many great works like the Krishnaraja Sagar Dam, Bhadravati Steel factory, Bank of Mysore, an automobile factory (Premier), an aircraft factory (which became Hindustan Aeronautics), etc. Nehru even took him to Patna. 

When he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, he warned that he wasn't going to stop criticising the government. One of his memorable, and "Adarsh" incident was the day of his retirement. He went in a company car, and returned home in his own car, since he had retired. 

 

The action which spoke the loudest (as a civil servant), was his practice of reading at night in candlelight. He kept two candles, one of which was extinguished at 7pm and then the other one was lit. He said that for after hours private reading, he could not use the government provided candle, but the one paid for by himself. 
    With such a shining candle from our own history, we don't need any other "adarsh" civil servant. 

 

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

EDITORIAL

SOLUTIONS EXIST

HOWEVER MUCH THE MEDIA MAY BARK, IT USUALLY HAS NO BITE; THAT HAS TO COME FROM SUITABLY EMPOWERED INSTITUTIONS

T N NINAN

 

The press (including this newspaper) has been screaming blue murder about the spectrum scandal from the time it was perpetrated in broad daylight, nearly three years ago. Not only did nothing happen, the man at the centre of the scandal retained the telecom portfolio when the second UPA government was sworn in, last year. The story with the Adarsh building scam was no different; there were newspaper reports on the subject several years ago, even as it was happening; again, no one took notice and a 31-storey building went up — again in broad daylight. As for the third scandal to occupy the public mind in recent weeks, the Commonwealth Games, the press kept pointing fingers for many months; yet those in charge continued their merry way. So what is it that has brought scams to the boil suddenly, and caused powerful heads to roll? For an answer, go back to Watergate and the early 1970s.

 

 The Washington Post and The New York Times went after the break-in into the Democratic Party office in Washington's Watergate building, and linked the burglars to the Nixon campaign committee and the White House. The Post reporters were subsequently lionised in a film (All the President's Men). But if you think that President Nixon was brought down by just journalistic heroics, you would be dead wrong, because reporters could only take the story up to a point. Bringing down the US president needed the combined efforts of people empowered to summon witnesses and demand evidence (like the incriminating tapes of presidential conversations): Judge John Sirica, Senate Committee Chairman Sam Ervin, and Special Prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.

 

The parallels with current events in India are obvious. What has got the spectrum scam to boil over, and force the resignation of Andimuthu Raja as telecom minister, is the damning report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). What got the Organising Committee of the Games into trouble was the concurrent audit of expenditure by the CAG, ordered as it happens by Mani Shankar Aiyar when he was the sports minister; the CAG reports confirmed, even before the Games were held, that something was seriously amiss. The prime minister himself is now in a spot because the court has asked some questions. In other words, however much the media may bark, it usually has no bite; that has to come from suitably empowered institutions.

 

There is no shortage of scams in India. Indeed, they unfold every day — the Yeddyurappa land grab in Karnataka; the collapse of an illegal building in the Capital and the bribe-taking that permitted its construction; the real estate hijack being scripted even as one writes, by Delhi bureaucrats, legislators and others who want to gift themselves Games Village flats at less than market rates… It is easy to respond to all this with a resigned shrug of the shoulders (corruption is everywhere, the coalition has to survive, etc.), and ignore media reports that act as warning shots. But as the prime minister must now know, that can be a dangerous course.

 

The purposeful response has to be to work for systemic solutions to the country's No. 1 scourge. Some have

already been put in place, like the Right to Information law. The courts encourage public interest litigation, and sector regulators, at least sometimes, act as a check on ministerial arbitrariness. But also needed is a Central Bureau of Investigation that is independent of the government of the day, a properly led Central Vigilance Commission, and Lok Ayuktas with suo moto powers. The speed with which the spectrum scam has snowballed should spur even those in office to see the merit of such safeguards; they will prevent a whole government, including honest men in it, from being engulfed by scandals.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

FINANCIAL ENGINEERING

INVESTMENT BANKS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO INNOVATE AND TAKE RISKS, BUT MUST BEAR THE FULL COST OF ANY MISTAKES

DEEPAK LAL

 

The story of financial engineering, which created more and more complex debt instruments in which tail risk was ignored, is well known (see Gillian Tett: Fools Gold; Raghuram Rajan: Fault Lines). It was induced by the low interest rates during the Great Moderation, and exacerbated by the Greenspan Put. Two lessons, however, are important. First, (as argued in my last column) it was the policy of the US government, ever since the Great Depression, to promote housing through the financial system which led to the subprime mortgage crisis. Second, it was the moral hazard begun with the LTCM bailout, and the subsequent bailouts of financial firms which were not commercial banks and whose bankruptcy did not threaten the deposit base, which led to the mispricing of risk: with financial intermediaries coming to believe that if their increasingly risky bets were successful, they stood to make immense financial gains, and if they turned sour, the authorities would get taxpayers to bail them out.

 

 These distortions in the US financial system were then internationalised by asset-backed securities which increasingly came to be held by banks around the world. Packaging a host of different securities, including subprime mortgages, into increasingly opaque securities in the belief that this diversification of the assets in each security basket would lower the risk of holding the security, made these securities even more insecure. It was like packaging different types of meat into pies and selling them around the world. When then it turned out that there was an infected piece of meat which had been baked into many of the pies in the form of subprime mortgages which turned sour with the downturn in the US housing market, none of the holders of the pies around the world knew if their pies contained the infected meat. All interbank lending based on these opaque, asset-backed securities ceased, and a global financial crisis was triggered.

 

The immediate official response to the crisis, in which the insurer AIG was bailed out, which then led it to fully repay its counterparties like Goldman Sachs, bailing them out in turn, only justified the beliefs of those who had undertaken the imprudent lending that any losses would be borne by taxpayers. Moral hazard increased even further. It was further accentuated with the classification of institutions as being "too big to fail", and has given an incentive for the creation of even larger universal banks "too big to fail". With the authorities egging on the conversion of previous investment banks into bank holding companies, the US financial structure has become even more oligopolistic.

 

Much worse, the recently passed Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act now formalises the Federal Reserve's role in being the supervisor and lender of last resort of the whole US banking system. There is some obeisance to separating the "gambling" investment from the "utility" commercial banking part through the Volcker rule. Though, as the Financial Times reports, the Wall Street banks have already found a loophole which allows them "to continue to invest billions of dollars of their own capital in spite of new rules aimed at stopping them from taking risky bets" (November 11, p.16). As they are now universal banks, they can continue gambling, knowing that they will be bailed out if their losses threaten the deposit base.

 

As I and many others have argued, as long as there is deposit insurance, something like the Glass-Steagall Act separating investment from commercial banking needs to be instituted. There is, however, the alternative view that the Glass Steagall Act had already been eroded, and its repeal was a sensible measure of deregulating the financial system. Much of this argument is based on assessing whether the Glass Steagall Act was necessary or an immoderate response to the Great Depression. Calomiris (US Bank Deregulation in Historical Perspective, Cambridge, 2000), citing many studies which have examined the claim that there was a conflict of interest in mixing commercial and investment banking, whereby "banks might coerce client firms or cheat purchasers of securities", argues that this argument has now been discredited. But he also notes that another concern behind the Glass Steagall Act "was largely that of economists who correctly worried about the abuse of deposit insurance and the discount window — the possibility of government subsidisation of risk in new activities" (p.xiv). This is the worry which has not gone, particularly as he notes that deposit insurance is the only part of the 1933 Banking Act which now remains "and it is difficult to imagine circumstances that will lead to its repeal" (p.xviii). This is the nub, and it is difficult to see why he would, therefore, oppose keeping investment and commercial banks separate. It is deposit insurance alone that provides a reason for public regulation of any aspect of banking. If the Glass Steagall firewall between commercial and investment baking is maintained, there is no reason why the investment banks should not be set completely free. They should be allowed to follow whatever innovations and risk-taking they choose in competitive markets, but must be made to bear the full costs of any mistakes.

 

By contrast, under the Dodd Frank Act, as Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute (Fiancial Services Outlook July-August 2010) has argued, all "financial firms will, under this new structure, inevitably be subordinated to the supervisory judgments about what the firms can safely be allowed to do... Where financial firms once focused on beating their competitors, they will now focus on currying favour with their regulator, which will have the power to control their every move. What may ultimately emerge is a partnership between the largest financial firms and the Federal Reserve — a partnership in which the Fed protects them from failure and excessive competition and they, in turn, curb their competitive instincts to carry out the government's policies and directions". In short, it is likely to substitute a sclerotic corporatist economic model, replacing the highly competitive and innovative model which, despite its flaws, has brought untold prosperity around the world.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

RIGHT FACTS, WRONG ARITHMETIC

CAG'S CALCULATIONS OF THE NOTIONAL LOSS TO THE EXCHEQUER IN THE 2G SPECTRUM ALLOCATION ARE EXAGGERATED

ALAM SRINIVAS

 

Let us start with a few caveats. This piece doesn't imply that the former telecom minister, A Raja, was correct in selling 2G spectrum cheap in January 2008. It doesn't indicate that there were no irregularities or a strong whiff of corruption in the manner in which spectrum was allocated to new and existing telecom players. What this article proves is that though the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had the right facts, its calculations about the benefits that accrued to private players were wrong.

 

The estimate of Rs 1,76, 645 crore being touted as the "notional loss to the exchequer" is a highly optimistic figure. Even the lower figures, between Rs 57,666 crore and Rs 69,626 crore, that CAG has calculated through other criteria may be way off the mark. The "real" loss to the government in the 2G spectrum scam would have been close to Rs 40,000 crore, which is still a huge figure by any stretch of imagination.

 

 According to the CAG report, the higher figure of Rs 1,76,645 crore was arrived at by comparing the prices paid by telecom operators for 2G spectrum in 2008 to those paid during the auction of 3G spectrum in 2010. It justifies this by quoting from a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) report (2010) that "2G services today are actually offering 2.75G services. Therefore, 'while comparing spectral efficiency and other factors, it is fair to compare the existing 2.75G systems with 3G systems.'"

 

However, this is an unfair method to compute the notional value of 2G spectrum in 2008. Trai, in its September 2006 report, had recommended a reserve price of Rs 1,010 crore for the auction of 3G spectrum; this figure was enhanced later by the Empowered Group of Ministers to Rs 3,500 crore. But the fact remains that 14 months before the allocation of 2G spectrum, Trai's reserve price for 3G was less than what was paid for 2G (Rs 1,658 crore).

 

In addition, the economics of the telecom sector had changed between 2008 and 2010. In 2008, mobile services became commoditised; margins were under pressure due to a steep fall in tariffs and ever-decreasing ARPUs (average revenues per subscriber). This was witnessed in the re-rating of telecom stocks, which took a severe beating in the stock market, partly due to the global recession and partly due to the pessimistic future of the sector.

 

Combine this with the fact that the allocation of 2G spectrum to new licensees meant the entry of newer players and, hence, implied more competition. This, in turn, would have resulted in a further squeeze on revenues, ARPUs, and margins. Given these reasons, any new player was liable to pay less for 2G spectrum allocation in 2008.

 

Between 2008 and 2010, the market dynamics changed. Despite competition, the market grew by leaps and bounds. Raja said that his allocation policy resulted in a huge increase in the number of subscribers — from 300 million to 650 million. But thanks to this, the existing players, especially biggies like Airtel, Reliance and Vodafone, were desperate to acquire 3G spectrum in 2010 merely to sustain their normal services like voice calls, with customers complaining about call drops all the time. Hence, they were liable to bid much more to acquire 3G spectrum than what they did for 2G.

 

It should be added here that in some respects, comparing 2G and 3G is like comparing apples with oranges. 2G is used more for low-value services like voice calls and text, while 3G is supposed to generate higher margins through high-value services like data transfer. Hence, the value of a 3G licence should technically be more than a 2G licence; even if 2G operators are currently offering 2.75 G services, the data download can't be compared with 3G.

 

The other method that CAG employed to compute the losses was to compare the price paid for 2G spectrum in January 2008 to sale of equity by new licensees, who acquired it in the second half of 2008. For instance, Swan Telecom sold 50 per cent of its stake in two tranches, which valued the company at just over Rs 7,000 crore, or over four times the Rs 1,658 crore it paid for the spectrum. Unitech sold 67.25 per cent at a price that valued the company at just over Rs 9,000 crore. Using these examples, CAG computed that the loss was between Rs 57,666 crore and Rs 69,626 crore.

 

Such calculations are beset with problems. Although CAG justified this by saying that the new buyers only paid for spectrum in such sales, this can't be taken for granted. One always pays a premium to a seller who already holds the licence, especially since the new buyer would have had to wait for the auction of 3G spectrum (in 2010) to find a foothold in the Indian market. Time saved (in this case one-and-a-half years), in business parlance, is premium paid.

 

Finally, CAG used a third route to calculate the losses. "On November 5, 2007 S Tel Ltd, which had applied for unified access service (UAS) licence in September 2007, in its communication addressed to the Hon'ble prime minister voluntarily offered to pay an additional revenue share of Rs 6,000 crore to the DoT for a pan-India licence", and through a further communication to the telecom ministry on December 27, 2007, "enhanced its offer… to Rs 13,752 crore". If the last figure is taken as the real value of 2G spectrum, the notional loss works out to Rs 67,364 crore.

 

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) pointed out to CAG, the S Tel offer came with a few "attached conditions to their offer which were not acceptable to the government". The CAG report doesn't mention these conditions. Well, if these included restriction on the number of new players in the future, it can be concluded that STel was willing to pay a premium over the actual price of the spectrum. Therefore, unless we know the conditions, this example cannot be used to calculate the losses.

 

So, the actual loss to the exchequer was definitely lower than Rs 57,666 crore, calculated according to the stake sale by Swan Telecom. If one feels that Etisalat paid a premium of, say 20 per cent, to buy a huge stake in Swan, the figure comes to less than Rs 50,000 crore. If the premium rate is raised to 25 per cent, the figure will be closer to Rs 40,000 crore.

 

alamsrinivas@gmail.com  

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MAY DELHI KEEP SHINING

DELHI, IN A SMALL WAY, HAS BECOME A PLEASING CITY. HOW I WISH IT WILL REMAIN SO AND MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR EVEN THOSE WHOM CHANGE HAS NOT YET TOUCHED

SUBIR ROY

 

On the face of it, Delhi has never felt or looked better — unless you go back to the days when it was a different kind of city. Of dry hot summers and cold clear winters, acquiescing to the label of "administrative village" unkindly stuck upon it, sporting a single, really big hotel and boasting one major classical music festival.

 

The Commonwealth Games have spruced it up the way Asiad did in its own way over a quarter century ago. Then it got its first set of flyovers which enabled longer commutes to work — a process that has gone to insane lengths today of travelling one way 30 km or more.

 

 Major roads have been freshly resurfaced, lines on them neatly drawn. The roadsides are sporting neat signs telling you where the "pedestrian crossing" is, where it is "no stopping no parking", and the ultimate exhortation, "give way". Not very many must know what it means and should the import be absorbed, it will lead to a fundamental change of character in a city where you are a wimp if you cannot shove and push your way forward, on two legs or four wheels.

 

Spaces at roadsides and under flyovers have grown new greenery and the most striking is NDMC's Delhi, which, looking neat in the worst of times, is now looking picture perfect.

 

The other big change is in transportation, the transformation in the bus fleet. Gone are the filthy, horrendous apparitions in blue, replaced by various modern, low-floor vehicles, the queen among them the red ones offering the most comfortable rides and wider views than the eyes can take through entire glass sides.

 

I was so impressed on my first sighting of them, while out walking early on a Sunday morning, on reaching the Outer Ring Road next to Vasant Vihar, that I crossed over, took a ride to Nehru Place, crossed over again and rode back, all under one hour. It didn't come cheap at Rs 20 per ride but this is precisely what you need to tempt people away from travelling in cramped cars with restricted views through what, in comparison, are mini-windows.

 

But it was during this first darshan of mine of the new Delhi that I found another India too. At the Nehru Place roadside, I sought out one of those tea stalls that are hardly clean but serve some of the best tea to go with the early morning chill, rich in cream and flavoured with adrak at Rs 5 or less. Next to the tea stall, a man, who was barely more than a vagrant, was dusting and seeking to fold the torn blanket with which he had covered himself on the pavement during the night. But he couldn't, as he indulgently tried to halfheartedly shake off two roadside puppies who had taken it upon themselves to play with his blanket and tear it even more. There is no level at which man and dog are not friends, I thought.

 

Back at Vasant Vihar, I went looking for the morning papers, all of them, as scribes do, in one of the poshest of posh colonies' markets. But none was to be had. There was no newspaper stall, I was told by the owner of a book and gift shop. When I observed that reading and wealth hardly went together, he vigorously nodded, bearing out what his little shop indicated, that business was none too good. Try sector one market in R K Puram, the shop owner said and I set out in an auto rickshaw in search of my daily newspaper fix. R K Puram, where middle to lower middle level government employees live, eventually obliged and I returned to where I was staying after spending Rs 30 to buy all the English language newspapers and Rs 60 for the auto ride.

 

Then as I kept looking for Delhi, old and new, I found bits of both, sometimes rolled into one. New little gardens have been created around roads, fenced by light wire nets supported by short poles, allowing you a good view of the plants. And there they were, the fences at places falling down and the newly planted plants wilting, for want of watering. In fairly quick time, a lot of these garden patches will be gone, overtaken by good old-fashioned dirt.

 

On my second morning, I again set out to locate a newspaper stall, this time at a market in the Shanti Niketan neighbourhood, with the same result. Helpful people guided me down roads behind the market, past signs reading Nanak Pura, on a down market journey through roads that quickly got dirty without a trace of any Commonwealth Games facelift. In a crumbling, refuse-strewn market I found the newspaper stall, with all the papers, including the business ones.

 

I again met change and continuity side by side when I arrived famished early for an appointment in Jor Bagh. So, I sought out Pigpo (there can be only one of its kind anywhere), acquired 90 grams of ham in two slices which tasted divine and I wolfed down at a speed becoming someone half my age. Then, to beat the chill of the drizzle, I looked for the halwai shop which had been there at the market corner, for a glass of tea. But the halwai shop was gone, having given way to another that generated more revenue per square foot of shop floor.

 

Delhi, in a small way, in bits and pieces, had become a more pleasing city. How I wish it will remain so and make life better for even those whom change has not yet touched.

 

subirkroy@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

OF FRENEMIES AND COEPITITION

DEVANGSHU DATTA

 

It is normal for two students in the same course to be friends and rivals. They are in competition for grades and later, they will angle for the same jobs. But it's in their interests to share notes and cover for each other when bunking, etc.

 

 They are "frenemies". Frenemy is a portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy". The word is used to describe relationships between entities that act in tandem when their interests coincide while competing against each other at other times. Many business situations create frenemies and so do geopolitical equations. The word was coined to describe interactions between the western allies and the USSR in the WW-II period.

 

Frenemies indulge in "coepitition", a portmanteau combining "cooperation" and "competition". Every industry association exemplifies coepitition — business rivals join hands to lobby. Another common example of coepitition is setting industry technical standards, units of measurement, etc.

 

Politics is an industry, or if you prefer, a meta-industry, which generates extremely complex coepitition. Political parties have interests; every individual politician has interests. Those interests collide and coincide with the interests of other politicians and they may cut across party lines.

 

Coepitition is especially marked in coalitions. Coalitions occur after cut-throat but inconclusive electoral competition. Then hard-nosed bargaining becomes inevitable. Politicians are, therefore, inured to cursing each other in public and settling down behind closed doors to talk.

 

It helps if ideological biases can be shelved in favour of practical dialogue. Successful politicians are very good at that. Keeping communications open with the frenemy is integral to coalitions. One of the most convenient ways to do that is to use trusted mediapersons as go-betweens.

 

India is the most evolved coalition marketplace in the world. It has seen nothing but coalitions at the Centre since 1989, and multiple coalitions in various states as well. Each coalition involved multiple bargains forged by a common focus on return on investment (RoI).

 

During this process, the political industry developed a very complex relationship with the media. It is in the interests of every politician to get on with the media. It is also in the interests of every politician to deny the media damaging information.

 

This sets up frenemy relationships, between politicians and mediapersons, and between parties and media organisations. Those frenemy linkages are often invoked when inter-party and even intra-party dialogue is required. Again, the only common factor governing those relationships is RoI (the return is not necessarily monetary).

 

Luckily, the media is comfortable with coepitition. By definition, the media is everyone's frenemy. It's the media's job to dish dirt. Every consumer wants to know the dirt about every other entity, and to keep its own dirt out of the public domain. This is true of the media as well. It is the largest industrial consumer of dirt and would much rather maintain its collective credibility by not having its own chuddis washed in public.

 

This week, a couple of media organisations broke ranks to publish some tapes and transcripts that throw a fascinating spotlight on the neta-patrakar nexus. Assuming the tapes are genuine, those conversations between various frenemies of the Indian state had a bearing on your future electricity and telephone bills, which is where the neta-patrakar nexus affects you.

 

The frenemy relationship between the media and politicians has evolved in an organic response to the market opportunities created by crony capitalism and coalitions. It can neither be regulated out of existence, nor can it be wished away. Anybody who can model the dynamics is likely to be a candidate for the Nobel.

 

In a narrower context, the media has to find ways to cope with the shifting dynamics. The media's USP is credibility. It risks losing that credibility when it indulges in excessive coepitition with its frenemies, but a certain amount of coepitition is inevitable. Where do you draw a line in the sand?

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SALMAN RUSHDIE'S MAGIC CARPET OF STORIES

V V

 

Well look at where have stories landed you now. You follow me? What starts with stories ends with spying, and that's a serious charge, boy, no charge more serious. You'd have done better to keep your feet on the ground but you had your head in the air. You'd have done better to stick to Facts, but you were stuck with Stories… Stories are trouble. An Ocean of Stories is an Ocean of Trouble. Answer me this: What's the use of stories that aren't even true?
— Salman Rushdie: Haroon & the Sea of Stories

 

Salman Rushdie is one of the great story-tellers of our time as his protagonist says in his latest book, Luka and the Fire of Life (Cape, Special Indian Price Rs 499): "Man is a story-telling Animal and that in his stories are his identity, his meaning and his life blood… Do rats tell tales? Do porpoises have narrative purposes?" Two decades ago, Rushdie wrote Haroon & the Sea of Stories to amuse his elder son; he has now come with a sequel for the younger son from the world of Magic, straight from the head of the Shah of Blah, the Ocean of Notions, Luka's great story-telling father, Rashid. Like Alice's Adventurers in Wonderland, Luka, at one level, is a children's classic that offers the imaginative child an escape from the humdrum of daily life and the hard quotidian stuff of home. Yet, at another, it is also a story that adults would enjoy because the World of Magic is also a world of allusions as it goes against the River of Time towards the Lake of Wisdom and Mountain of Knowledge on board of the Flying Carpet of King Solomon as it navigates a journey Back to the Future.

 

 The story goes something like this. On a starry night in the city of Kahani in the land of Alifbay, the twelve-year-old Luka's story-telling father Rashid falls mysteriously into a deep sleep from which there appears no chance of recovery. To save him from slipping away forever, Luka has to go on a journey through the Magic World to steal the Fire of Life.

 

As Luka races towards his goal, against the ultimate enemy, Time itself, he collects a strange bunch of companions: there are Memory Birds, who swim across the River of Time; there is a dog called Bear and a Bear called Dog; there are flying dragons and a coyote. Fortunately, Insultana's Flying Carpet is adjustable: it can be fitted into a pocket or expanded to accommodate all the creatures. But no journey is without its share of problems; there are the detractors who want to scuttle the search for the Fire of Life. Also, not all the animals can be easily brought on board the flying carpet, especially the "mighty Slippy, that gigantic, white, eight-legged steed with two legs at each corner".

 

But Luka is blessed with incredible good luck. Not only does the rag-tag bunch stick together through thick and thin but Luka's magic wand comes in handy when he is attacked by fire-breathing monsters who are out to derail his quest for the Fire. The main enemy is not earthly powers but Time itself; or the know-all Three Jos: Jo-Hua (whatever has happened or the Past), Jo-Hai (whatever is given or the Present) and Jo-Aiga (what is to come or the Future). Time itself has to be defeated, which for his father is running out, and to do this, all things foul and fair are justified. So, there is a great deal of sheer fun and games on the way:

 

"The whole World of Magic was on Red Alert. Jackal-headed Egyptian deities, fierce scorpion and Jaguar men, giant one-eyed, man-eating Cyclopes, the flute-playing centaurs, whose pipes could entice strangers into cracks in the rocks where they would be imprisoned for all time, Assyrian treasure-nymphs made of gold and jewels, whose precious bodies could tempt thieves into their poisoned nets… Valkyries on cloud-horses in the sky… huge rocs larger than the one that bore Sinbad the Sailor to its nest… mermaids, krakens, zaratans…"

 

Rushdie's imagination runs riot, drawing on his reading of the vast corpus of classical and contemporary literature but a great deal more on magic realism, a debt he has acknowledged elsewhere. Here fantasy and reality are entwined in a dreamlike verbal tapestry in which the fantastic is treated as matter-of-fact and reality as a mesmeric invention. It is this method which gives Luka and his other stories a unique character that makes them different from the fairy-tale stuff of others.

 

But there is a problem and it is this. Luka isn't a simple, straightforward story for kids because there are far too many references to mythology, both theirs and ours. How many would know them? Many readers won't be familiar with them. But for those who know (and these aren't western readers), it is great fun. That Salman Rushdie hasn't lost his roots might well be his greatest strength.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

 AIR INDIA'S SWEET SECRETS

HOW THREE BOXES OF SWEETS LEFT BEHIND ON A PLANE LED TO A SUIT AND A SETTLEMENT

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

 

As a regular Air India passenger, I am not surprised to learn that the airline loves sweeteners. They come in many forms, like extension of service beyond the age of superannuation or productivity-linked incentives. The simplest sweetener was issuing 121 free tickets within a matter of months to an officer for his spouse, children, parents, brothers, sisters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, all in the family way. Hindu Joint Family way, that is.

 

But the sweetener that has now been brought to my notice left a bitter taste even though it was probably bought in Delhi's Bengali Market. The news comes by way of my old paper, The Straits Times, or rather, it's stable-mate, The Sunday Times, and bears the impeccable imprimatur of the Law Correspondent, K C Vijayan. It concerns my old friend, Shriniwas Rai, a sweet-spoken Gorakhpuri whose many distinctions include serving as a nominated member of Singapore's parliament for some years while I lived there and authoring a little book titled The Common Heritage: A Survey of Hindi Words in Malay that almost claims Malay as another Hindi dialect.

 

 Now, I wouldn't be surprised if Malays took umbrage at that, but the mystery of the missing sweets suggests that Air India staff (unlikely to be Malay) had it in for him and his wife when they were flying back to Singapore from Delhi by AI 480 on March 21. According to the sequence that unfolded in the court of the deputy registrar, James Leong – remember, we are talking of Singaporeans who rush to sue at the drop of a hat (or sweet) and often even when it doesn't drop, and I hope to god they won't sue me for libel for saying so – the Rais suddenly realised to their dismay after landing at Changi airport that they had left behind on the plane a bag containing three boxes packed with sweets.

 

Homecoming wouldn't have been at all sweet, so off they went to Baggage Claims where the officer telephoned Air India but surprise! surprise! no one answered. So the Rais went to the airline's terminal office where the duty officer swore solemnly that no one had ever set eyes on any bag containing boxes of sweets and that it must all have been a sweet dream. The next stage I must quote from Vijayan's report: "But when he (Shriniwas Rai) was about to leave the office, he spotted a box of the sweets with its contents half empty, according to court papers filed. An airline official whom he then spoke to apologised and said the sweets had been consumed and the remaining two boxes had been given to the crew."

 

Finders keepers, as we used to say? Or do Air India staff just have a sweet tooth? Here's where the plot thickens. "The boxes were delivered to the Rais' home within two hours," says Vijayan. But nary a word about whether they were full, half-full or empty. That's sweet secrets for you.

 

Like a good Singaporean (never mind he was born in Uttar Pradesh), Rai filed a suit against Air India on November 1. The date of hearing came … and went, another flight missed. Later, the airline explained "there was some miscommunication between the Air India-appointed lawyer and the local manager". It was like our London-Calcutta AI 112 stuck for five hours at Delhi, also on November 1. The pilot said the new airport staff wasn't up to handling the sophisticated equipment; the airport authorities said Air India didn't have handlers. Miscommunication.

 

Anyway, Leong didn't wait. When counsel didn't show up, he gave default judgment against Air India for damages and costs. The court would assess the amount of damages at another hearing. But Air India quickly came to an out-of-court settlement with Rai. How much? Rai isn't telling. But he has vowed to give the money to the Singapore Indian Development Association or SINDA, a worthy self-help group.

 

That recalls the small but unexplained deduction from my first pay slip in Singapore. What's this? I asked. It's for SINDA, they said. Every Indian contributes. It's compulsory. No, it isn't, I retorted. Not for this Indian. I choose my charities. And anyway, SINDA helps only Singaporeans. I am not one. Eventually, after a lot of argument, they stopped the deductions and reimbursed what had been taken. It was a question of principle but I felt a bit bad about SINDA. I am glad it will now have Shriniwas Rai's bounty. I hope he stung Air India hard.

 

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE BARE AND SIMPLE FACTS

RAMA BIJAPURKAR

 

There is this interesting scene from a movie on the singer-saint-composer Tyagaraja. He goes, at the behest of his guru, to a musical gathering at Thanjavur where the assembled virtuosos are sneering at him as a janaranjakudu (an unsophisticated, common mass entertainer). One of the assembled virtuosos sings first, rendering a technically astonishing, intricate piece that requires a great deal of musical discernment and knowledge to appreciate. Tyagaraja then sings one of his hauntingly beautiful kritis, "yendara mahanubhavulu, etc." (to all the great ones, my salutations). Amid the thundering silence that follows, the virtuoso says, "I have so far done callisthenics on the swaras (the notes) and thought that was music, but now, I have had an epiphany!'

 

I thought of this story as I was looking at some really basic data, unembellished by any rocket science analytics. The data related to the two magical weapons that we think will annihilate all obstacles and take us to superpower glory. One is the demographic dividend and the other is middle class.

 

 This column presents simple data with obvious takeaways on the demographic dividend from a 2009 survey by NCAER Centre for Macro Consumer Research (NCAER-CMCR) and pleads with policy makers for a segment-wise, targeted employment generation policy (not employment guaranteed through manual labour policy or even a sporadic skills development set of programmes, but a holistic policy that looks at what people we have, what they can do, what jobs need to be done/can be done, and how to fit the two). It also pleads for marketers to think about youth markets as beyond denim branded jeans and style-statement colas or clothes to the hopes, aspirations and desires of these consumers and how best to make them a part of the digital new age world — and yes, also to give them style-statement colas and denim jeans and stylish shoes that don't cost an arm and a leg. More than that, to talk to them and educate them in the broadest sense through IT platforms that are youth-attractive and so on. The next column will discuss the fabled middle class of India.

 

Let us define youth as 15 to 24-year-olds because they an important segment for immediate demographic dividends and also because they are socially the most precious for our stability and the kind of new-age society we hope to build. At this age, they are old enough to work because 16 to 18 is school closure time, because 24 is the outer limit for many, when you get ready to shoulder the responsibilities of grihasta, siblings, parents, and also for society you are at the peak of recency of education and maximum life energy.

 

Also, let us forget percentages for now because they are falsely comforting. In India, even a small percentage is a large number, and needs targeted attention because of its damage potential. 

 

In 2009, India is estimated to have 205 million, 15 to 24-year-olds: 139 million are rural and 66 million urban (all figures rounded off). If our demographic dividend is to not be frittered away, we can't wait to fix urban first, and experiment with a few rural BPOs, and skill development-cum- placement services. We have to do much more. To get a sense of perspective, even if we replicated the entire ITeS and insurance industries, the two most people-intensive businesses, in rural India, it would be a small blip in terms of jobs needed. That holds true even for urban India. 
 

 

Of the 205 million 15 to 24-year-olds, 47 million (23 per cent) are illiterate, 39 million in rural India and 8 million in urban India. The urban Indian illiterate young can probably manage to get absorbed into various services, with self-help adult literacy classes, technology-enabled for them by the government and CSR, making them more productive, and enabling higher wages. But it's the 40 million illiterate young in rural India that we need to think about. What can they be made to do? Skill training for mechanics, drivers, small enterprise owners. 
 

 

That leaves 158 million literate young: 37 million have primary education only, 109 million, secondary and only 13 million graduate-plus qualifications. The middle-of-the-road education story — what do we do with them? 
 

 

Let's take the 20 to 24-year-olds. What do they do today? Twenty-two per cent are still studying and we need to find jobs for them. Twenty-four per cent are unpaid housewives. Only 14 per cent get a regular salary, and 5 per cent are self-employed in agriculture. The rest are casual labourers while about 8 per cent have no job at all. How do you graduate them into a new kind of more productive value-added labour? Gadgets? 
 

 

Finally, let's take the 13 to 19-year-old literate youth. As many as 122 million are still largely rural, 38 million have stopped with primary education, but 43 million are in middle school and 26 million in matric. How do we hold on to them and make something out of them? The HRD ministry has a lot of innovative work to do

 

The writer is an independent market strategy consultant

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE PM'S CHALLENGE

ACCEPT POLITICAL AUTHORITY

 

WHEN the hon'ble Supreme Court asked why the Prime Minister had not acted on Mr Subramanyam Swamy's request for prosecuting the then telecom minister A Raja, it raised two issues: one of procedure, and the other, of political morality. The procedural answer is that the PM had replied to Mr Swamy, essentially repeating what he had told the nation, replying to a question at the press conference he held on May 24, that an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation was already on and action depends on its outcome. The moral question, yet to be answered, is why the PM had allowed someone being investigated by the CBI to continue in his council of ministers, why seemingly arbitrary allocation of licences and spectrum was allowed. The answer is complicated. It is worth pointing out that no one has even tried to introduce into this mix any element of personal turpitude on the part of Dr Manmohan Singh. But political morality is not a personal attribute. It depends on the will to wield authority as well. That restricts the explanation to a combination of two things: the fracturing of political authority and accountability in a coalition set-up and an unusual separation of political authority from the office of administrative leadership of the government, that of the PM. The equations of power within a coalition are broadly determined by numerical strength of each bloc, vulnerability in terms of the likelihood of a member crossing over to the Opposition, availability of potential sources of support outside the coalition in case of need, etc. Beyond this is a small but vital space that is determined by the coalition leader's personal standing vis-à-vis the team he leads. While Dr Singh commands respect for his knowledge, commitment and integrity, he has divested himself of that one vital ingredient that makes respect compelling: political authority. 

 

Many think this stems from the delegated nature of his power. That is an inadequate explanation: Mrs Sonia Gandhi trusts him enough to delegate political authority as well. The problem is that he chooses not to assume the authority he is vested with. This will not work. Dr Singh must assert his political authority as the PM to convert personal morality into political morality.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

STIGLITZ HAS A POINT

INVEST IN EDUCATION


NOBEL laureate Joseph E Stiglitz has rightly advised India to create a learning society for sustained and inclusive growth. His advice, in the latest edition of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture, to build human capital and foster innovation makes eminent sense. Vastly expanding the opportunities for education is a must for India to reap the demographic dividend in full measure. More important, the country needs to produce quality talent, given that only 15% of our graduates are employable today. However, action at the level of higher education alone will not do. Students entering colleges should have a minimum level of knowledge that secondary schooling is supposed to provide. Very few actually do. The backbone for quality talent, therefore, is primary education. Merely spending money will not ensure improvements. We need to raise the efficacy of public spending in education. Stiglitz is spot-on when he says that policies to promote learning processes are specially important for developing countries. Clearly, the gap in knowledge between developed and developing countries can be bridged only if development policy focuses on enhancing learning. This calls for reforms in governance. Teachers who do not turn up in schools and those who are not equipped to teach are part of a sociopolitical reality. This must change. A change would mean empowering people at every level and decentralising administration. Simultaneously, intervention is necessary to disrupt the close correlation between socioeconomic status and educational attainment, mediated by nutrition intake and mental stimulation in the most critical growth phase, infancy. 

 

The government should also make the integration of research and teaching, particularly in science and education, mandatory. It should incentivise knowledge and innovation, making the academic community alive to the demands of industry. While the government must step up its allocations to higher education and research, there is enormous scope to supplement these with private funds, by way of grants and research funding from industry and tuition fees by those who can afford them. India cannot hold back serious educational reform any longer.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MEGA PERKS

A COFFEE CUP SOLUTION

 

NOW that the (in)famous cannabis cafes of Amsterdam are likely to be made out of bounds for foreigners if the new coalition Dutch government has its way, the 'invention' of an American coffee shop owner may become a favoured fix — 'dieci' or 10 powerpacked shots of espresso in a single cup. Or, more appropriately, a mug or a jug. While such a high caffeine intake could actually prove fatal for the faint-hearted, the gigantic serving would certainly shorten the wait between successive strong doubles that coffee aficionados crave when the caffeine count falls. Especially since that hiatus is set to get longer with the king of (coffee)bean counters, Starbucks, decreeing that its baristas will now slow down dispensations — first in the US only, of course — in answer to criticism that its beverages had become increasingly average-tasting and hurriedly served. Then if harried coffee drinkers want multi-tasking and simultaneous order execution in busy cafés, they would have to head for India, where it has been elevated to a very profitable art. 

 

The bean's pep-up effect thanks to caffeine needs no reiteration, but since the stimulant was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances list in 2004 (making performance-enhancing mega-doses legal), the Brooklyn barista's concoction could also have a great market in sports arenas. 'Sip and sprint' could be a great catchline for the new brew except that experiments have proved caffeine is better for 'sub maximal' muscular activity, which makes it more suitable for marathon runners or chess players. Or for other kinds of sustained low-intensity activity such as turning pages or tapping keyboards. That, naturally would make it a perfect perk for Wall Street mavens across the river, making that long haul back to the black.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COMPETITION LAW & INCLUSIVE GROWTH

LIMITING ANTI-COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR WILL BE A DAUNTING TASK, BUT WITHOUT AN EFFECTIVE COMPETITION POLICY, INDIA CANNOT BRIDGE THE URBAN-RURAL DIVIDE AND ACHIEVE INCLUSIVE GROWTH, SAYS MADHAV MEHRA


INDIA has achieved spectacular economic growth during the past decade that has understandably led to a growing conviction among Indians that the 21st century belongs to this country. Unfortunately, the growth has not translated into human development that has to be the overriding purpose of the public policy. India is still home to world's largest number of illiterate, undernourished and hungry people. Of the 771 million illiterate people in the world, 268 million are Indians. Over the last decade, literacy has increased in India by 12%. The 2010 Human Development Report puts India at shameful 119. Its gender inequality, at 122, is worse than even Pakistan. 

 

To ensure that the benefits of market liberalisation reach the poor, the Planning Commission has aptly adopted 'inclusive growth' as a guiding principle. The good news is that inclusive growth is achievable: all it needs is a trigger to spark a nationwide revolution in innovation. Competition law can provide that spark. By curbing the abuse of dominance, it opens the terrain for radical innovators to achieve the twin objectives of offering new technologies and better products at lower costs and throw out old technology incumbents. 

 

In Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation, James Utterback illustrates how no real innovation has come from within the industry. It has always been an outside job. All through human history, rank outsiders brought new technologies that overturned age-old successful companies after protracted battles in which dominant players abused their market dominance to delay new products as long as possible for the cutting edge technologies that eventually replaced them. His case studies include the 50-year battle in which refrigeration replaced New England's block ice industry and the 30-year battle to replace gas lighting with electric lighting. 

 

In the book, Utterback writes: "Industry outsiders have little to lose in pursuing radical innovations. They have no infrastructure of existing technology to defend or maintain and, as is made clear through the case of ice innovators in the southern US, they have every economic incentive to overturn the existing order. Industry insiders, on the other hand, have abundant reasons to be slow to mobilise in developing radical innovations…. Owners and managers of dominant firms who are deliberate in their pursuit of radical innovation are remarkable and few." 

 

The irony is that each startup repeats the behaviour once it achieves success. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, is a classic example. A radical innovator himself who once fought the entrenched gas-lighting companies with the slogan 'we will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles', he fought protracted battles against his competitors by offering better technology. Alarmed by the success of his competitor George Westinghouse, Edison launched a smear campaign against alternating current, going to the extent of electrocuting animals in public to demonstrate its lethal consequences. 

 

History shows that success is its own enemy and incumbents are often unable to forget what made them great. Radicalinnovators unleash Schumpeter's creative destruction and break their moulds. No wonder that from the Forbes' list of 100 top companies of 1917, not one is making money today. 

 

OUR country today suffers from many entry barriers. Motorists cannot use steel radials because tyre cartels would not permit them. Governments themselves are a source of anticompetitive behaviour though public restraints. Movie buffs would have been denied the pleasure of watching Salman Khanstarred Dabaang, Aishwarya and Abhishek Bachchan film Ravan and Ranbir Kapur and Priyanka Chopra film in Anjana Anjani but for the intervention of Competition Commission of India. The local associations had banned their screening by abusing their dominant position. 

 

For competition regime to work, transparency has to be its handmaiden. In this world of uncertainty, the only thing certain is that "thou shalt be found out." To take a few recent examples, had Toyota, BP, CWG organising committee or Indian Premier League been transparent in their conduct, they could haveavoided the flak that engulfed them. We are living in one of the most inequitable worlds in history. About 1,181 individuals have more wealth than the rest of six billion. In Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy, Raghuram Rajan demonstrates how sharpening inequalities have been the root cause of the shifting of earth's tectonic plates in 2008. He blames India's skewed growth on its policymakers being too close to big business. 

 

Competition policy is a complex, cross-cutting and inter-connected instrument. Its implementation requires a holistic and integrated mind with ability to hold two opposing views in mind. Its enforcement is a public policy challenge than a legal argument. It's is an economic law and must aim to secure economic justice. We need the regulatory resolve, legislative learning and judicial wisdom to make it work. Our focus should be to constantly disrupt the status quo, leverage dissent and diversity, and encourage fearless and frank dialogue through full disclosure and transparency. 

 

Limiting anti-competitive behaviour is daunting. We have to navigate a delicate and difficult terrain of dodgy vested interests and political pressures. The 2% Haryanavis who won 40% medals in CWG should be our model. They destroyed the established icons through disruptive innovations in training, practice equipment and coaching, beating the established ways of jugaad. Their feats should inspire judicial activism to overcome purist, doctrinaire approaches, bureaucratic dogmas, legislative lethargy and administrative challenges to make law as a driver of innovation to usher a new era of competition regime. That is the only way to ensure enduring and sustainable prosperity for our children. 

 

Rigours of competition regime will make it hard to live with. But living without them will be catastrophic. Let us use competition law to bridge the divide between India and Bharat. 

(The author is the founder of International Academy of Law and president of UK-based World Council For Corporate Governance)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V ERAJJU D SHROFF

'LET'S GIVE A BETTER DEAL TO FARMERS'

RAMKRISHNAKASHELKAR 

 

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama recently spoke of India and US jointly strengthening agriculture and sparking a second evergreen revolution. A breakthrough in agricultural research and technology is imperative to raise yields across crops, give a better deal to farmers and provide food security to millions of poor. Rajju D Shroff, chairman of Delhibased Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) and managing director of United Phosphorous, is convinced about better farm practices leading to adramatic improvement in yields. 

 

"In Tamil Nadu, Rallis India successfully demonstrated a 40% jump in pulses yield with proper farm practices. This was replicated by United Phosphorous for sugarcane in south Gujarat. However, we need to increase the awareness among farmers to adopt better practices. Experts from UPL guided farmers on scientific methods such as seed dressing where the seeds are dipped with fungicides before they are sown to prevent soil-borne diseases, the distance at which they should be planted, how much and when water, fertilisers, and what preventive pesticide-sprays should be used. The results made our demonstration farm alive learning example for farmers from all parts of the country," Shroff says. 

 

CCFI plans to bring together stakeholders not just from the agrochemicals industry, but also sectors like seeds, farm machinery, irrigation and the dairy sector to brainstorm on ways to improve low farm yields. "We expect these issues to be debated well at a seminar early next month on rural prosperity through better agriculture," he says. 

 

The production of pulses, for instance, has stagnated over the years, forcing the country to depend on imports. Prices have soared globally, too. Clearly, augmenting domestic production is the key challenge before the technology mission on pulses. 

 

According to Shroff, a major problem bogging down farm yields is the supply of spurious agrochemical products. Duplicate pesticides, valued at . 1,500 crore, are sold in the domestic market annually. "Those indulging in the supply of spurious pesticides escape with minor penalty. This has encouraged even larger players to indulge in such malpractices. Recently, for instance, a publicly listed company was found to be illegally exporting herbicide glyphosate to an African country using the brand name and registration number of another listed company. The CCFI has sought a cancellation of the former's licence," he said. 

 

Shroff says it is not easy to discover spurious products and hundreds of small offenders who go scot free. "Spurious products give insufficient pest protection. Farmers lose money buying these products and also their crops to pest attacks, leading to a vicious cycle of debt and poverty," he says. 

 

The other problem that the CCFI wants to deal with is the poor public perception of the agrochemical industry, with reports on pesticide residues, many of which are dubious. "We have proved, many times, that the data used by researchers is faulty. Most of them are unwilling to share their raw data. So, we are using the RTI Act to obtain data, but that is a time-consuming process. Unfortunately, even the legal system today doesn't take any punitive action against claims that have been proven as false," he said. 

 

In one case, an NGO found traces of harmful agrochemicals in vegetables in Delhi's mandi, but it was eventually proven that the data was fabricated. In another instance, pesticides were claimed to have found in vegetables that have been banned not just in India but the world over for decades. If the products have long been discontinued, how can one find its traces today? 

In fact, the country's premier institute for agricultural research Indian Agricultural Research Institute conducts annual surveys of agricommodities at farm level with over 5,200 samples. "Their research shows not more than 3% of samples at the farm level have agrochemical traces. Even in a country like Germany around 5% of farmgate samples have agrochemical traces," Shroff says. 

 

The process of negating false claims takes long. In fact, India's agrochemical consumption is abysmally low at below 600 gram per hectare as compared with between 3 kg and 10 kg in advanced countries such as the US or Japan. Raising consumption — right type of agro-chemicals at right time — holds a key to improving to farm yields. This has been demonstrated in other developed countries, he claims.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

CANCUN MUST NOT REPEAT COPENHAGEN

MUKUL SANWAL 

 

THE increasing global recognition of India's claim to a permanent seat in the UN Security Council requires us to take greater responsibility for global concerns. Therefore, the announcement that we will be flexible and play a leadership role in the next round of climate negotiations at Cancun is timely. It is, however, important to guard against a repeat of the earlier situation where we pledged national actions at Copenhagen only to add reservations when we recorded them with the UN. The US made its pledge conditional on legislative approval in the political agreement itself, in effect taking no commitments. So, what are the areas where we can be flexible? And what do we want in exchange? 

 

We have already shown flexibility with respect to both finance and technology transfer. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that emerged at the Rio meet in 1992 did not specify what is to be done and paid for and by whom and for what purpose. In the subsequent debates over whether developing countries should reduce their emissions and, if so, how much financial support should be provided, the principle remains undefined. Therefore, we can show leadership by suggesting that incremental steps continue to be taken, with the issue being finally decided in the next major review of the convention in 2020. 

 

In the interim, rather than discuss how much of resources should come from developed country budgets, we should change the paradigm and suggest that such resources be provided to enable adaptation measures in the least developed countries. This would also reiterate our earlier announcement that we will not seek any part of the $30 billion pledged as fast-track finance. Similarly, whether or not the intellectual property regime needs to be amended for climate change actions remains a source of tension. 

 

Cancun will also require us to make policy choices on the evolution of climate governance. We are being told by the UN that a package deal need not include legally-binding emission reduction commitments. We can certainly be flexible with respect to the actual numbers to be inscribed, but should not agree to an agenda that would blur the differentiation between developed and developing countries with respect to emissions reduction commitments. The parties to the Kyoto Protocol now argue that, despite an unambiguous commitment, they will agree to a second commitment period only if the US is included, and the latter will make commitments only if China (now the largest emitter) and India (which will become the third largest emitter) make symmetrical commitments. Rather than adopt an adversarial view, we should suggest new rules to determine legall- binding criteria for burdensharing that will apply to all countries. 

 

The policy problem is that current scenarios of the future focus on 'flows' of greenhouse gases, whereas climate change is caused by their concentration in the atmosphere. For bending the curve from a reference line to acceptable global emission pathway international cooperation in the form of sharing the costs requires a peaking year, and review of national actions to ensure it. However, defining the reference line and the assumptions about national and global economies remains controversial, and even the IPCC is considering a global carbon budget. 

 

Arelated concern is that ecosystem services delivered outside national boundaries — by the atmospheric and terrestrial natural resource — have been ignored in the negotiations, effectively setting their value to zero. The current framework ignores the fact that energy and ecological services are directly related to human well-being. Development of infrastructure, urbanisation, manufacturing and food production all need carbon space, essential for eradication of poverty. National carbon budgets are a necessary basis for developing and assessing national strategies. 

For sharing the remaining global carbon budget, we can be flexible and agree to make do with the budget available to a mid-level developed country and move away from debates around historical responsibility. Agreeing to take responsibility corresponding to the development level of the country will have wider acceptability and legitimacy. 

 

Finally, we should take the leadership in discussing options for making the societal transformation to achieve sustainable development. The global community would then ask a different set of questions, instead of the current narrow focus on mitigation and adaptation. They would, for example, need to identify which longer-term trends should be modified, and the best way of doing so at the national level. Multilateral cooperation would then be based around laying out a timetable for joint R&D of new technologies, to meet the scale and speed of the response. Equity would be redefined as patterns of resource use that can in principle be adopted by all countries. We should suggest new rules rather than only oppose existing one. 

    (The writer has worked at the policy level in the 

    government of India and the UN 

    Climate Change Secretariat)

 

India needs to be strategic in the climate negotiations, while ensuring that the priority of poverty eradication is not diluted 


We should suggest new rules to determine legally-binding criteria for burden-sharing that will apply to all 
We should take the leadership in discussing options for charting a path towards sustainable development

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

PRAYER CHANGES NOTHING BUT YOU

TEJINDER NARANG 

 

THE real purpose of prayer is to elevate us from physical to spiritual. It is a silent yearning of the soul for oneness with the lord. However, our daily prayers are wish/demand lists for our physical, mental and material well-being. 

 

Questions a mystic, "Do you remind god of the hours for the sun to rise and for the moon to set in?" Such a lord — If he cannot be a knower then how can he be agiver? Life is riddled with the fear of unknown, constant transition and illusion. Just as our existence is shadowed/ threatened by death all the time, acquisition of wealth, power, position, family comforts, etc, are intimately mingled with fear of losing them. All that is gained is threatened to be lost. How can what is based on fear be source of bliss? We pray in unawareness of consequences of our wish list, without realising that affluence, authority and attachments, etc, push us into another cycle of intense misery. 

 

Given the profanity of human passions and greed, if lord were to accept all that we pray for, the world would have been torn into chaotic pieces. Lord, in perfect wisdom kept absolute power of dispensation at his total discretion. Prayers, when the heart is absent and lips are moving have limited results and satisfy our egos only or help in giving vent to the stress of daily life. The real prayer is done in solitary intimacy with the lord. It might have tears of emotional turbulence of heart — a blessed sadness of separation from the heavenly father. When a child holds the hand of heavenly father, he has nothing to fear. Then come what may, mystery and mess of life can be lived through peacefully. 

 

Can prayer alter the events of life? The answer is 'No' and 'Yes'. Destinies of human beings are karmically interwoven. An example — a person falling sick has to be attended by doctors/nurses/ family members/ pharmacist, etc, — so sickness creates karmic interaction of the patient with others who are connected with healing process. Illness cannot be prevented as karmic matrix cannot be interfered. But 'yes'— prayer, provides spiritual strength to mind for abiding in 'thy will' and this facilitates that period of illness be lived through with patience and fortitude. Prayer thus reduces severity of distress and to that extent the course of life stands altered. 

 

Bad phases in the walk of life are akin to bushes, thorn and stones. Once human consciousness is pious and benevolent, the outer world also responds likewise. So it is the change within that brings change with out.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

HEED TRAI, START THE CLEANUP NOW

 

It is the mood of the present, generated by the resignation of controversial communications minister A. Raja and the sense of some political uncertainty that has ensued, that probably explains the recent recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to cancel 62 of the 122 spectrum licences issued by the former minister. Knowledgeable commentators had indeed begun to advise such a course so that some of the money lost to the national exchequer be recouped and politically connected offenders brought to book. The licence-baggers were supposed to roll out their network in 10 per cent of every district within a year. Not only did they renege on this, they also got away without paying the penalty of `5 lakhs per week per circle for the first 13 weeks of delay, increasing progressively to `20 lakhs for delays up to 26 weeks. Could this have happened without a quid pro quo? The real story is that the licence-baggers were waiting for buyers for these licences so that they could exit the scene after making a killing. Many of them had nothing to do with telecommunications in the first place, but had the political clout to get the scarce and much-in-demand spectrum. For them it was a big money-making business, as illustrated by the case of Swan Telecom — earlier controlled by the builders DB Group. It used influence to get the licence for `1,651 crores and sold it to a party from the UAE for `4,000 crores without any network or even equipment being ordered. Others were waiting to do the same. They also realised that revenues per minute were dropping in the sector and wanted out. With the Trai recommendation coming in, the government should act on it with dispatch unless it wishes to be regarded with suspicion even with Mr Raja gone. Noises are already being made about customers being harmed if the licences are taken away. Some would rather that penalties weren't collected, arguing speciously that these are enormous. The offending companies claim to have 1.3 crore subscribers, but there could be a well-founded view that the real figures might be just half of this. So it won't be a big deal if the licences are indeed revoked, repudiating the self-serving arguments being advanced. Let us not reward the offenders. A provision in the licence says that if for some reason a party cannot fulfil its obligations, then the government can take it over. Thus, it could be that either BSNL or MTNL can take over the subscribers who might find themselves at a loose end. Another measure that needs to be adopted is to auction the spectrum that has been taken over to the existing serious players, whose could number about 200 out of the 575 who applied for licences. The government is said to have about 10-15 megahertz of spare spectrum. This could be auctioned. Based on the price-level achieved for this transaction, it could auction the spectrum of the 62 licensees named by Trai. Only the serious players will remain under this method, and the government might stand to earn handsomely as it did for the 3G auction.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TOLERATING INTOLERANCE

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 "I loved a dog

He loved me back

Then he found a bitch —

Alas! Alack!"

From Laments of a Petwalla by Bachchoo

The old ones are, on occasion, the best:

 

"The difference between Iran and Britain? In Iran you commit adultery and get stoned, in Britain you get stoned and commit adultery, boo-boom!"

 

That one is descriptive and, looking at it all ways, harmless. Telling it, in Britain at any rate, shouldn't cause you to be arrested, prosecuted or persecuted. There is, as far as my lay knowledge stretches, no law against characterising Iran as a rather nasty place or against jesting about the loose morals of Brits. But as Milan Kundera made us aware in the masterpiece that brought him and his writing to the attention of the world, a joke, however harmless, can bring the horsemen of the Apocalypse in the shape of the secret police, the apparat of the Communist Party and the Stalinist abyss to your door. Kundera's novel is set in Soviet Czechoslovakia. The story begins with its hero being sent off to hard labour in the mines for sending a postcard to his girlfriend denigrating the optimism of Party propaganda as "the opium of the people" and wishing at the same time the renegade Trotsky a long life.

 

British mines have been, for the most part, shut since the regime of Margaret Thatcher and today's Party dissidents, as far as I know, can't be punished by being sent down them. So at least the fate of Kundera's hero doesn't await Counsellor Gareth Compton, the Conservative who was arrested and suspended indefinitely from the Tory Party for what he admits was a feeble attempt at a joke he posted on Twitter.

 

Mr Compton's Twitter account has been closed down and today he must feel much as Kundera's joker felt. Mr Compton has been charged by the West Midland's police for "sending an offensive or indecent message", racially aggravated it is said — and if he is brought to court and convicted, he faces being banned from his profession as a barrister.

 

Mr Compton was reacting to the broadcast opinion of the columnist Yasmin Alibhai Brown who was invited onto Radio Five Live's Breakfast Show to talk about British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to China. There was a difference of opinion on whether he should condemn China's record on human rights. Ms Brown was of the opinion that no politician had any moral right to condemn human rights abuses, not even the stoning to death of women under Sharia law.

 

Mr Compton Tweeted his reaction to this opinion, or perhaps passed an implicit verdict on all her opinions expressed over the years, mainly in the Independent, saying "Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing really".

 

Soon after, he posted another Tweet to say his previous Tweet was an ill-conceived attempt at humour and he didn't mean any offence.

 

It is reasonable to conclude that this regretful retraction was the result of a little reflection (or of instant warnings from friends) about the possible consequences for himself, of this impulsive burst of intended humour. It certainly wasn't a hasty retraction rescinding an order to inflict fatal harm on Ms Brown, because even a junior Conservative councillor from Erdington in Birmingham must realise that he is almost powerless to get the bins cleared on time, leave aside condemning anyone to death by stoning.

 

However unfunny the joke, the context, the culture, the country in which it was made, the concern that his leader Mr Cameron and Party have the moral duty to condemn the stoning to death of a woman in Iran, indicate that Mr Compton could have had no illusions or intention that his joke was any sort of "fatwa". It wasn't the word of an Ayatollah asking Muslims to murder Salman Rushdie. It wasn't the word of some cleric telling his congregation that British soldiers were kafirs who should be sent to hell by any means necessary. It was a laddish, ironic joke by someone who obviously wants stoning to death condemned.

 

Ms Brown is not herself without a sense of historic vengeance, though perhaps a little devoid of ironic appreciation. In one exchange some years ago, if I remember correctly, Gavin Essler, a TV journalist responded to something she was saying by asking, "What's wrong with white guys, by the way?"

 

Ms A-B replied, "I don't like them. I want them to be the lost species in a hundred years". Hitler was more ambitious.

 

And so to a confession: The evening before the Radio Five Live broadcast and Mr Compton's folly, I was invited to the premiere of a play by a touring Mumbai theatre group at a West London venue. The audience was largely of South Asian origin. After the play there was a reception in the foyer and I spotted the same Yasmin Alibhai Brown speaking to some friends of mine. I am not well acquainted with Ms Brown but have met her on several occasions and exchanged anodyne pleasantries. I went up to the group, greeted my friends and said, "Hello Yasmin".

 

She turned and left the group saying: "I am not speaking to you, you are dangerous".

 

However flattering it may be to be deemed and dubbed "dangerous", I was baffled as were my friends. They asked why I was dangerous. I said I was unaware of ever having given any offence, intentional or otherwise. I don't do Twitter and I am not on any blog or website.

 

Then it occurred to me that the snub may have been the result of Ms Brown knowing that I am acquainted with a niece of hers, one Farah Damji, a writer and self-confessed fraudster and convict and I have been told by both that they are not friends. But then a lot of people have come across and made the acquaintance of Farah Damji and surely Ms Brown doesn't believe that it makes them all "dangerous".

 

The snub remained mildly puzzling until I remembered that I once said to someone apropos of her columns that Ms Brown "had put the 'aunty' back in 'dilettante'". I am not conscious of having put such the remark out on Twitter but it obviously got back.

 

Now all I can do is put the chain on and wait for the knock at dawn.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CHINA, GERMANY, GOP BULLYING FED

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

What do the government of China, the government of Germany and the Republican Party have in common? They're all trying to bully the us Federal Reserve into calling off its efforts to create jobs. And the motives of all three are highly suspect.

 

It's not as if the Fed is doing anything radical. It's true that the Fed normally conducts monetary policy by buying short-term US government debt, whereas now, under the unhelpful name of "quantitative easing", it's buying longer-term debt. (Buying more short-term debt is pointless because the interest rate on that debt is near zero.)

 

But Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, had it right when he protested that this is "just monetary policy". The Fed is trying to reduce interest rates, as it always does when unemployment is high and inflation is low.

 

And inflation is indeed low. Core inflation — a measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices, and is widely considered a better gauge of underlying trends than the headline number — is running at just 0.6 per cent, the lowest level ever recorded. Meanwhile, unemployment is almost 10 per cent, and long-term unemployment is worse than it has been since the Great Depression.

 

So the case for Fed action is overwhelming. In fact, the main concern reasonable people have about the Fed's plans — a concern that I share — is that they are likely to prove too weak, too ineffective.

 

But there are reasonable people — and then there's the China-Germany-GOP axis of depression.

 

It's no mystery why China and Germany are on the warpath against the Fed. Both nations are accustomed to running huge trade surpluses. But for some countries to run trade surpluses, others must run trade deficits — and, for years, that has meant us. The Fed's expansionary policies, however, have the side effect of somewhat weakening the dollar, making US goods more competitive, and paving the way for a smaller US deficit. And the Chinese and Germans don't want to see that happen.

 

For the Chinese government, by the way, attacking the Fed has the additional benefit of shifting attention away from its own currency manipulation, which keeps China's currency artificially weak — precisely the sin China falsely accuses America of committing.

 

But why are Republicans joining in this attack?

 

Mr Bernanke and his colleagues seem stunned to find themselves in the crosshairs. They thought they were acting in the spirit of none other than Milton Friedman, who blamed the Fed for not acting more forcefully during the Great Depression — and who, in 1998, called on the Bank of Japan to "buy government bonds on the open market", exactly what the Fed is now doing.

 

Republicans, however, will have none of it, raising objections that range from the odd to the incoherent.

 

The odd: on Monday, a somewhat strange group of Republican figures — who knew that William Kristol was an expert on monetary policy? — released an open letter to the Fed warning that its policies "risk currency debasement and inflation". These concerns were echoed in a letter the top four Republicans in Congress sent Mr Bernanke on Wednesday. Neither letter explained why we should fear inflation when the reality is that inflation keeps hitting record lows.

 

And about dollar debasement: leaving aside the fact that a weaker dollar actually helps US manufacturing, where were these people during the previous administration?

 

The dollar slid steadily through most of the Bush years, a decline that dwarfs the recent downtick. Why weren't there similar letters demanding that Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman at the time, tighten policy?

 

Meanwhile, the incoherent: Two Republicans, Mike Pence in the House and Bob Corker in the Senate, have called on the Fed to abandon all efforts to achieve full employment and focus solely on price stability. Why? Because unemployment remains so high. No, I don't understand the logic either.

 

So what's really motivating the GOP attack on the Fed? Mr Bernanke and his colleagues were clearly caught by surprise, but the budget expert Stan Collender predicted it all. Back in August, he warned Mr Bernanke that "with Republican policymakers seeing economic hardship as the path to election glory", they would be "opposed to any actions taken by the Federal Reserve that would make the economy better". In short, their real fear is not that Fed actions will be harmful, it is that they might succeed.

 

Hence the axis of depression. No doubt some of Mr Bernanke's critics are motivated by sincere intellectual conviction, but the core reason for the attack on the Fed is self-interest, pure and simple. China and Germany want America to stay uncompetitive; Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there's a Democrat in the White House.

 

And if Mr Bernanke gives in to their bullying, they may all get their wish.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

EUROPE, US ALIGNED FOR THE FUTURE

BY BARACK OBAMA

 

With this week's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and United States-European Union summit meetings in Lisbon, I am proud to have visited Europe a half-dozen times as President. This reflects an enduring truth of American foreign policy — our relationship with our European allies and partners is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world, and a catalyst for global cooperation.

 

With no other region does the United States have such a close alignment of values, interests, capabilities and goals. With the largest economic relationship in the world, trans-Atlantic trade supports millions of jobs in the United States and Europe and forms a foundation of our efforts to sustain the global economic recovery.

 

As an alliance of democratic nations, Nato ensures our collective defence and helps strengthen young democracies. Europe and the United States are working together to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote peace in West Asia and confront climate change. And as we have seen in the recent security alert in Europe and the thwarted plot to detonate explosives on trans-Atlantic cargo flights, we cooperate closely every day to prevent terrorist attacks and keep our citizens safe.

 

Put simply, we are each other's closest partners. Neither Europe nor the United States can confront the challenges of our time without the other. These summits are thus an opportunity to deepen our cooperation even further and to ensure that Nato — the most successful alliance in human history — remains as relevant in this century as it was in the last. That is why we have a comprehensive agenda at Lisbon.

 

First, on Afghanistan, we can align our efforts to transition to an Afghan lead, even as we sustain an enduring commitment to the Afghan people.

 

Our Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan is comprised of 48 nations — including contributions from all 28 Nato allies and 40,000 troops from allied and partner countries, whose service and sacrifice we honour. Our shared effort is essential to denying terrorists a safe haven, just as it is necessary to improve the lives of the Afghan people. With the arrival of additional coalition forces over the last two years, we finally have the strategy and resources to break the Taliban's momentum, deprive insurgents of their strongholds, train more Afghan security forces, and assist the Afghan people.

 

In Lisbon, we will align our approach so that we can begin a transition to Afghan responsibility early next year, and adopt President Hamid Karzai's goal of Afghan forces taking the lead for security across Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

 

And even as America's transition and troop reductions will begin this July, Nato — like the United States — can forge a lasting partnership with Afghanistan to make it clear that as Afghans stand up and take the lead, they will not stand alone.

 

As we move forward in Afghanistan, Nato will also transform itself in Lisbon with a new Strategic Concept that recognises the capabilities and partners we need to meet the new threats of the 21st century. This must begin by reaffirming the lifeblood of this alliance — our Article 5 commitment that an attack on one is an attack on all.

 

To ensure that this commitment has meaning, we must strengthen the full range of capabilities that are needed

to protect our people today and prepare for the missions of tomorrow. Even as we modernise our conventional forces, we need to reform alliance command structures to make them more effective and efficient, invest in the technologies that allow allied forces to deploy and operate together effectively, and develop new defences against threats such as cyber attacks.

 

Another necessary alliance capability is missile defence of Nato territory, which is needed to address the real

and growing threat from ballistic missiles. The Phased Adaptive Approach to European missile defence that I announced last year will provide a strong and effective defence of the territory and people of Europe and our deployed American forces. Moreover, it forms the foundation of greater collaboration — with a role for all allies, protection for all allies, and an opportunity for cooperation with Russia, which is also threatened by ballistic missiles.

 

In addition, we can work to create the conditions for reductions in nuclear arsenals and move toward the vision I

outlined in Prague last year — a world without nuclear weapons. Yet so long as these weapons exist, Nato

should remain a nuclear alliance, and I've made it clear that the United States will maintain a safe, secure and

effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee the defence of our allies.

 

Finally, at Lisbon we can continue to forge the partnerships beyond Nato that help make our alliance a pillar of

global security. We must keep the door open to European democracies that meet the standards of Nato

membership. We must deepen cooperation with organisations that complement Nato strengths, such as the European Union, the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. And with the attendance of President Dmitri Medvedev at the Nato-Russia Council summit, we can resume practical cooperation between Nato and Russia that benefits both.

 

For just as the United States and Russia have reset our relationship, so too can Nato and Russia. In Lisbon we can make it clear that Nato sees Russia as a partner, not an adversary. We can deepen our cooperation on Afghanistan, counter-narcotics and 21st century security challenges — from the spread of nuclear weapons to the spread of violent extremism. And by moving ahead with cooperation on missile defence, we can turn a source of past tension into a source of cooperation against a shared threat.

 

For more than six decades, Europeans and Americans have stood shoulder to shoulder because our work together advances our interests and protects the freedoms we cherish as democratic societies. As the world has changed, so too has our alliance, and we are stronger, safer and more prosperous as a result. That is our task in Lisbon — to revitalise our alliance once more and ensure our security and prosperity for decades to come.

 

- Barack Obama is the President of the United States

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MONITORING MINDS

BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE

 

Poor Pamela Anderson. Imagine the woman's plight… her entire identity is located in her mammary glands. The world largely knows her for the size of her breasts. It is as if the rest of her doesn't exist… doesn't really count. Pam is a woman attached to the world's most talked-about boobs. And most people talk to her chest. Good sport that she obviously is, this famous Playboy Bunny is not complaining. She admitted candidly to a Mumbai reporter, "My assets get me in the door". That's truthful. But that's also smart. Here's a woman who has made a small fortune flaunting her twin peaks. Her cup size is what has taken her places. She is not embarrassed to admit as much. If anything, her bouncies are her best friends. The Baywatch star is, finally, in the land of the Kamasutra… clad in a clingy, diaphanous white sari, Pam richly deserves the nearly one crore rupees a day she'll be earning as a participant in a much-watched reality show. With her entry, all the other Bigg Boss bombshells (past and present) appear totally pheeka… underdeveloped.

 

Perhaps, it is the arrival of Bazooka Pam that prompted the Indian government to suddenly wake up to the "X-rated" content of some shows and clamp a few meaningless restrictions on them. By trying to push back the slots of shows that beam "objectional and vulgar" content to 11 pm, some prudish babus must be patting themselves on the back for saving the country from moral degradation. Give us a break, fellas. The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry officials should get a few basics in place first. Bared breasts and crude abuses no longer send shock waves across the nation. We, in India, are used to the sight of uncovered bosoms (women happily breastfeed their babies in crowded train compartments) and the gaalis Rakhi Sawant spouts on her show are mild compared to what one hears from politicians and members of Parliament in public. Balasaheb Thackeray spares nobody when he decides to lash out — his abuses cover generations and involve animals, sisters, mothers, brothers, friends and enemies. So what? Does that lead to rioting on the streets? If this silly directive is designed to protect our children, someone please tell those fellows, desi children rarely sleep before midnight. We are not British. Our kids are seen and heard. Annoying but true. In which middle class Indian family are the bachchas packed off to bed at 7 pm after supper at 6 pm? Television time largely remains unmonitored and unrestricted. It is considered bonding time. Families that watch heaving bosoms and hectic pelvic thrusts together, stay together. Big deal. What kids watch (or aren't supposed to) ought to be the parents' and not the government's responsibility. Going by this new "adults only" ruling, what about commercial Hindi films that feature the most provocative "item songs" and are peppered with abuses with actors screaming "bastard" routinely? Kids watch those and worse… so why the double standards? One set of rules for television programming, another for cinema?

 

Our society is schizophrenic and confused. News bulletins carry detailed reports about a villainous cop called S.P.S. Rathore, who molested Ruchika Girhotra, a teenager, but are not allowed to carry clips from reality shows that are deemed offensive. What could be worse or more obscene than the smug smile of a sexual predator whose defenceless victim (Ruchika) committed suicide? There are rapist cops on the loose in nearly every city of India. The TV reportage of such cases is anything but coy, restrained or discreet. Sensationalising news while focusing on the gory aspects of crime has become the rule, given the unhealthy TRP wars being fought fiercely by the big players. So-called "talent hunts" on television, featuring precocious kids indulging in the most risqué dance moves, remain unmonitored and accessible to any and everybody. In any case, what's the Internet for if not to surf? How many parents check what their precious bachchalog watch obsessively for hours on end?

 

This new government diktat is meaningless and unfair. All reality shows are phoney, most are fixed. This is the space in which appalling taste meets eager eyeballs. So be it. The ultimate power remains in the hands of viewers. The person who holds the remote control, is the sole decision-maker as to what is acceptable viewing and what isn't. Indians are not sheep. Let us, the viewers, be the ones to take a call on whether or not we wish to ogle Ms Anderson's ample assets or clean our ears after Ms Sawant is done with her raving and ranting on camera. Whether it is the bleeped out cuss words on Emotional Atyachaar or the aggro attitude displayed by Roadies on a rampage — this is the 21st century, folks. Anything goes! So long as it sells. Before the government gets into the act and dictates what our kids can watch and when, how about a thorough scrutiny of what constitutes actual pornography in today's transparent times — like the live telecast of parliamentary proceedings? That is perhaps the only time concerned parents feel like shielding the eyes and plugging the ears of impressionable kids. Pamela's boobs harm nobody. But the atrocious behaviour of some of our netas definitely damages the delicate psyches of India's youth. Pamela will pick up her pay packet and jet off to Malibu to be with her two sons, Dylan, 13, and Brandon, 14. We, in India, will be left panting for more. Unless, of course, those amazingly canny TV bosses locate an international has-been with even bigger body parts, or a local starlet with a filthier vocabulary than our Rakhi's.

 

Tauba! Tauba! What will those moralistic masterjis in the I&B ministry do then? 3.30 am may become the new slot for prime time viewing. Even at that ghastly hour, our pesky kids will be wide awake and watching. Bottoms up, everyone.

 

— Readers can send feedback to

www.shobhaade.blogspot.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ENCASH OBAMA'S UNSC CHEQUE

BY DILIP LAHIRI

 

U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement in Parliament that "in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council (UNSC) that includes India as a permanent member" was greeted with immediate euphoria. However, its highly nuanced formulation has subsequently raised many questions.

 

The UNSC expansion involves a two-step process. An amendment of the UN Charter, requiring 128 votes in the General Assembly has to be followed by ratification by two-third of the UN membership, including the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5). The resolution for the only other expansion in 1963 was adopted in the General Assembly with France and the USSR voting against, and the US and UK abstaining. However, all permanent members eventually ratified the charter amendment, allowing the expansion to go forward. The crux of the matter now is to find a formula which can win 128 votes in the General Assembly.

 

The current line-up is that the G4, consisting of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, have proposed an increase of the UNSC from the current 15 to 25, with six additional permanent members (themselves and two from the African Union). They have sought to finesse the veto question by postponing the issue for 15 years. The African Union (AU) has a variant which wants expansion to 26 with the veto either being abolished or extended immediately to the six additional permanent members.

 

The most vociferous opponents of this approach are a group of countries unalterably opposed to one or other of the G4, called "Uniting for Consensus" (UfC), led by Italy and Pakistan. Their proposal is for 10 new non-permanent members eligible for immediate re-election, no expansion in the permanent category, with all decisions in this matter being taken by consensus. The numbers in the above group are not large enough to block an expansion resolution. A straw vote a few years ago of countries supporting UNSC expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories gathered 140 votes, well above the 128 required for passage of an expansion formula.

 

Faced with the prospect of prolonged deadlock, France and the UK have proposed an intermediate reform which would add a number of temporary seats that would become permanent after some time if the members so wished. The UfC has opposed the proposal due to the danger, as they see it, of temporary members being transformed into permanent members.

 

The biggest obstacle at this time to achieving the 128 vote target is the position of the African group, which insists on designating the two proposed permanent members from Africa, without being able to decide among several claimants. None of the claimants are prepared to chance a vote without the endorsement of the 53-member strong African group.

 

Other major obstacles to achieving the 128 vote target are the opposition of the US to more than a limited expansion of the UNSC beyond, say, 20, and the demand of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the League of Arab States for an assured share of the cake.

 

Voting in contested elections for the Security Council is a highly chancy exercise. Committed votes often do not materialise, as India found to its cost when losing two elections against Japan and Pakistan. In this year's contest for two non-permanent seats between Germany, Canada and Portugal, Canada reportedly had 136 written commitments, but ended up getting 113 in the first round, and 78 in the second before it withdrew.

 

While the UNSC restructuring may not be an immediate prospect, there could be very quick movement if the question of the two permanent members from the African group could be resolved, or an appropriate resolution, based on the UK-French intermediate proposal, came up for voting in the General Assembly. If the African group got its act together , there is no reason why the G4, acting together with Nigeria and South Africa, and with the support of UK and France, should not be able to garner the 128 votes for their endorsement as permanent members.

 

With this background, the real substance of Mr Obama's support can be analysed.

 

* Is it a big deal? Absolutely. US support may not be a sufficient condition for obtaining a permanent seat, but it is certainly a necessary condition. Active opposition by the US would have made 128 votes unattainable.

 

* Does it commit the US to support India for early realisation of this objective? Not necessarily. The words "in the years ahead" are similar to Mr Obama's Prague declaration on a nuclear weapon free world which was, according to him, unlikely to happen in his lifetime.

 

* Does it commit the US to support a vote, which may be essential to clinch matters? No, not unless explicitly agreed.

 

* Does this commit the US not to oppose expansion of the UNSC including India beyond 20, as has been their consistent position in the past? No.

 

There is, therefore, much work to be done with the UN membership and much to consult and clarify with the US. The Japanese were promised support by the US on this matter in even more explicit terms decades ago, but have still to cash in their cheque.

 

The one luxury India cannot afford is to get persuaded by the siren songs of the "sour grapes" advocates who say that the UN Security Council seat, particularly if without the veto, is not worth so much effort, that it is demeaning to have to keep asking motley countries for support, or that permanent membership will be offered to India on a platter as our political and economic strength grows.

 

For all its weaknesses, the UNSC is the only body whose decisions under Chapter 7 relating to peace and security are required to be implemented by all countries under international law. Permanent membership of the Security Council is an important determinant of rank in the international pecking order. India will repent at leisure if it gives up the race now only to find, after some years, that countries with lesser weight but greater perseverance have left us irretrievably a rung lower in the international hierarchy.

 

- Dilip Lahiri is a former ambassador to Japan

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ENCASH OBAMA'S UNSC CHEQUE

BY DILIP LAHIRI

 

U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement in Parliament that "in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council (UNSC) that includes India as a permanent member" was greeted with immediate euphoria. However, its highly nuanced formulation has subsequently raised many questions.

 

The UNSC expansion involves a two-step process. An amendment of the UN Charter, requiring 128 votes in the General Assembly has to be followed by ratification by two-third of the UN membership, including the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5). The resolution for the only other expansion in 1963 was adopted in the General Assembly with France and the USSR voting against, and the US and UK abstaining. However, all permanent members eventually ratified the charter amendment, allowing the expansion to go forward. The crux of the matter now is to find a formula which can win 128 votes in the General Assembly.

 

The current line-up is that the G4, consisting of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, have proposed an increase of the UNSC from the current 15 to 25, with six additional permanent members (themselves and two from the African Union). They have sought to finesse the veto question by postponing the issue for 15 years. The African Union (AU) has a variant which wants expansion to 26 with the veto either being abolished or extended immediately to the six additional permanent members.

 

The most vociferous opponents of this approach are a group of countries unalterably opposed to one or other of the G4, called "Uniting for Consensus" (UfC), led by Italy and Pakistan. Their proposal is for 10 new non-permanent members eligible for immediate re-election, no expansion in the permanent category, with all decisions in this matter being taken by consensus. The numbers in the above group are not large enough to block an expansion resolution. A straw vote a few years ago of countries supporting UNSC expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories gathered 140 votes, well above the 128 required for passage of an expansion formula.

 

Faced with the prospect of prolonged deadlock, France and the UK have proposed an intermediate reform which would add a number of temporary seats that would become permanent after some time if the members so wished. The UfC has opposed the proposal due to the danger, as they see it, of temporary members being transformed into permanent members.

 

The biggest obstacle at this time to achieving the 128 vote target is the position of the African group, which insists on designating the two proposed permanent members from Africa, without being able to decide among several claimants. None of the claimants are prepared to chance a vote without the endorsement of the 53-member strong African group.

 

Other major obstacles to achieving the 128 vote target are the opposition of the US to more than a limited

expansion of the UNSC beyond, say, 20, and the demand of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the League of Arab States for an assured share of the cake.

 

Voting in contested elections for the Security Council is a highly chancy exercise. Committed votes often do not

materialise, as India found to its cost when losing two elections against Japan and Pakistan. In this year's contest for two non-permanent seats between Germany, Canada and Portugal, Canada reportedly had 136 written commitments, but ended up getting 113 in the first round, and 78 in the second before it withdrew.

 

While the UNSC restructuring may not be an immediate prospect, there could be very quick movement if the question of the two permanent members from the African group could be resolved, or an appropriate resolution, based on the UK-French intermediate proposal, came up for voting in the General Assembly. If the African group got its act together , there is no reason why the G4, acting together with Nigeria and South Africa, and with the support of UK and France, should not be able to garner the 128 votes for their endorsement as permanent members.

 

With this background, the real substance of Mr Obama's support can be analysed.

 

* Is it a big deal? Absolutely. US support may not be a sufficient condition for obtaining a permanent seat, but it is certainly a necessary condition. Active opposition by the US would have made 128 votes unattainable.

 

* Does it commit the US to support India for early realisation of this objective? Not necessarily. The words "in the years ahead" are similar to Mr Obama's Prague declaration on a nuclear weapon free world which was, according to him, unlikely to happen in his lifetime.

 

* Does it commit the US to support a vote, which may be essential to clinch matters? No, not unless explicitly agreed.

 

* Does this commit the US not to oppose expansion of the UNSC including India beyond 20, as has been their consistent position in the past? No.

 

There is, therefore, much work to be done with the UN membership and much to consult and clarify with the US. The Japanese were promised support by the US on this matter in even more explicit terms decades ago, but have still to cash in their cheque.

 

The one luxury India cannot afford is to get persuaded by the siren songs of the "sour grapes" advocates who say that the UN Security Council seat, particularly if without the veto, is not worth so much effort, that it is demeaning to have to keep asking motley countries for support, or that permanent membership will be offered to India on a platter as our political and economic strength grows.

 

For all its weaknesses, the UNSC is the only body whose decisions under Chapter 7 relating to peace and security are required to be implemented by all countries under international law. Permanent membership of the Security Council is an important determinant of rank in the international pecking order. India will repent at leisure if it gives up the race now only to find, after some years, that countries with lesser weight but greater perseverance have left us irretrievably a rung lower in the international hierarchy.

 

- Dilip Lahiri is a former ambassador to Japan

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BENGAL'S SORROWS 

NOW CONFIRMED BY OFFICIAL STATISTICS 

 

Official statistics on the number of bogus ration cards and "sick'' industries are the last thing that the Left needs when it has engaged professional consultants to project its achievements. The damage that will be done to its campaign to get elected for an eighth term is that the figure of 60 lakh bogus ration cards in West Bengal out of 1.78 crore which have been ordered to be cancelled by the Union agriculture ministry over the past four years tells us two things ~ first, the extent of maladministration, and, second, that the figure could be much higher. That the objective of supplying subsidised foodgrain had virtually collapsed was underlined when ration shops faced popular ire in several districts. The administration may have dealt with the law and order problem. What survives is the spectre of corruption that allows a thriving practice in bogus cards, one that could not have lasted so long without support from local power centres. To this must be added the initiative taken by political busybodies to convert this sizable section of bogus ration cardholders ~ a large number of them illegal immigrants ~ into voters. 


Less than six months before the Assembly election, it may be too late to make amends. What the Left must still do is to cope with the indictment that confirms the worst fears in the public mind on how it has prioritised political interests over governance. It explains the delay in the preparation of comprehensive BPL lists which the chief minister ascribes rather glibly to the "problems of the delivery system''. There are more unflattering realities which have resulted in more than 16,000 small units in the state being officially declared sick out of the 77,000 in the country. Even this figure would be conservative, the opposition will argue. 


While the government thinks big in terms of industrialisation, the existing small-scale sector with enormous employment potential has suffered because of the combined effect of infrastructural inadequacies, limited marketing opportunities and unionised excesses. Predictably, the Left's campaign managers may describe the disclosures from Delhi at this time as "motivated''. There are many more who will perhaps be convinced that the figures represent only a partial reflection of Bengal's sorrow ~ prolonged by an administration that is politicised and corrupt.

 

GOOD QUESTION 

WILL THE ANSWER 'IMPACT'? 

APPRECIATION is due to the Punjab & Haryana High Court for authoritatively raising the query about how now-convicted SPS Rathore was elevated from Inspector-General to Director-General, and appointed the head of the Haryana force, when the serious charge of molesting a young woman was pending against him. It has called upon both the central and state government to furnish the files and notes since he was on deputation to the Centre when the promotion was made; the top appointment followed. The buzz has been that "jurisdiction" complexities had come in the way of his being denied the promotion, and that the state had misled the Centre by creating an impression that he had been exonerated. The replies that are required to be furnished to the court might help address the concerns of so many. Cynics, however, would contend that the answer is really an open secret ~ proximity to powerful politicians. And that is what elevates the issue well above the individual under the scanner. The nexus between politicians and officials is at the core of the corrosion of the administrative machinery. Police officers are of special value to unprincipled netas because they are adept at wielding the big stick when doing their boss' dirty work. That can range from extorting funds to pressing false criminal cases ~ to complement the babu who ignores the rule book to accommodate the politicians' "recommendations". Were that nexus not at work the most ruthless and shameless police officers would not flourish. But they do, and virtually all over the country at that. 


Perhaps the most disturbing "angle" to this despicable reality is that even after the court receives the replies, and comments on them, the malaise is unlikely to go away. A cynical mindset has gripped almost all those who wield power, no rules or principles apply to them. Molestation may not be the norm, yet in so many other ways do cops and officials get away with murder ~ occasionally literally ~ because they enjoy political patronage. And that is obviously extended in lieu of "services rendered". What else is to be expected when union ministers are permitted to  brazenly ignore the opinion of the head of government? The abuse of authority gushes down, snowballs…

 

IRISH STEW 

ANOTHER SICK MAN OF EUROPE

Scarcely have Greece and Portugal recovered, when another sick man has emerged in Europe. As Ireland grapples with a fiscal crisis, economists have warned that the country may be on course towards near or complete insolvency. Yet there is hope in the European Union's assurance on a bailout package; the continent can't afford to contend with another meltdown so soon after the Grecian crisis last May. The scheduled meeting of the EU big powers and the International Monetary Fund in Dublin over the weekend is expected to work out the contours of the rescue mission. Yet there is reluctance within the Irish cabinet to accept a bailout, perceived as humiliating, and involving loss of sovereignty. It is the smaller countries that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of an economic crash. And should the contagion spread once again to Greece, Portugal and Spain, the value of the euro could decline to an alarming degree. Ireland may yet be rescued in a manner that may be against the wishes of some of its ministers, one that will  be designed no less to protect the euro and the interests of Britain, France and Germany. 


It is the impact in humanitarian terms that has lent a sharper edge to the economic crisis. With increasing joblessness, many are considering leaving the country in search of work. The raging blight, it is feared, would lead to an exodus of 100,000 people, indeed a wave of emigration that will be a decidedly painful aspect of Ireland's debt crisis. Substantial is the risk of the debt and spending crisis leading to a "brain drain" of skilled workers, whose opportunities are shrinking in the wake of spending cuts and the slump in the construction industry. The banks are said to be on life support, the once-booming housing market is languishing, and crippling has been the cumulative impact on the people. Ireland showcases a tragic mix of poverty, double-digit unemployment at 13 per cent, and emigration ~ however reluctant ~ tearing families apart. The blight is economic; the tragedy is social.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

FURIOUS FLOODS

THE DANGERS OF DAMS AND EMBANKMENTS

BY BHARAT DOGRA


AS winter sets in, a huge challenge confronts the Pakistan government. Millions of people need rehabilitation and relief in the aftermath of the century's worst floods. Almost one-fifth of the country has been devastated. Both Pakistan and its neighbours must grasp the factors behind such calamities.


Daanish Mustafa, a water expert from Pakistan who teaches at King's College in London, said in a recent interview with the BBC that by walling in the Indus and destroying natural floodplains, Pakistan has substituted high frequency, low intensity floods for low-frequency, high intensity calamities. Mustafa added: "Unfortunately the river managers in Pakistan do not recognize the importance of wetlands in modulating the flow. Instead, the focus has been on dams, which have their usefulness, but wetlands unfortunately have been drained and settled and removed. As a result, the river's excess water has nowhere to go."


A somewhat similar view has been expressed by Patrick McCully, Executive Director of International Rivers, an organisation which has been in the forefront of efforts at preventing floods. He said recently, "The way we have mismanaged the Indus and countless other rivers around the world for the past century has provided various short-term benefits, but at a major longer-term cost that we are now having to pay. We have reduced small and medium-scale flooding on many rivers through building dams and embankments. But in doing so we have greatly increased the scale of, and vulnerability to, very big floods."


In the more specific context of Pakistan's recent floods, McCully writes, "Sediments that once would have been

deposited onto the floodplain in 'normal floods' are trapped within thousands of miles of embankments. These sediments build up on the riverbed, steadily reducing its capacity to handle large flows. Inevitably a major flood comes. The shrunken river channels can no longer hold the flow, and the Indus surges out over the densely populated floodplain."


Mushtaq Gaadi, a teacher at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, recently recalled that in the course of the World Bank funded work at Tunsa Barrage on the Indus, local NGOs had demanded a review of the project. They called for greater attention to the deposit of sediment, but their warnings were ignored. Now the embankments have breached, resulting in extensive destruction in areas that are not normally flooded.
The phenomenon is evident in several parts of South Asia. The study titled, 'From risk to resilience of the Rohini River Basin, India', is particularly relevant. The survey was conducted in Uttar Pradesh by Daniel Kull, Praveen Singh, Shasikant Chopde and Siraz A. Wazih. It states, "Construction of embankments for flood control has been the primary strategy for risk management over the last half century. Detailed analysis undertaken through the project demonstrates that this investment cannot be concluded to have been economically beneficial." 


The study concludes, "Given the many uncertainties involved, it cannot be concluded that the Rohini river embankments have performed in an economically satisfactory manner." These embankments slow down the river flow. Sediment gathers in the channel and the riverbeds rise above the surrounding lands. In parts of the Ganga basin, the riverbeds in areas where embankments have been constructed rise at the rate of over 10 cm a year or a metre per decade. Four decades after the construction of the embankments, river beds can be as much as four meters above the surrounding land. This reduces the river's carrying capacity between the embankments and is a major factor behind frequent breaches.


Within the survey area, 13 villages were found to have been trapped between the river and the embankments. The result was increased flooding and accumulation of sand. The crisis gets aggravated because these villages lack the basic infrastructure. Frequent flooding has rendered much of the land unfit for cultivation. There are 40 villages located within one kilometre outside the embankments.  Large tracts are almost always waterlogged. The embankments block the rain water from flowing into the river. The kharif crop is either partially or completely destroyed. Even the rabi seeds cannot be sown. And even if they are, the productivity is low.
An additional 75 villages are equally vulnerable. Approximately 136 out of 837 villages in the basin are directly affected by floods, made worse by embankments. Another 267 villages are situated within two kilometres of the river, in the upper reaches of the basin. Here, flooding is caused by the  hill streams and drainage channels. The villages are unprotected by embankments. Thus a total of 403 (136 + 267) villages out of 837 are exposed to floods or waterlogging.


Another report titled 'Adaptive Capacity and Livelihood Resilience: Strategies for responding to floods and drought in South Asia' (edited by Murus Moench and Ajaya Dixit) states:  "Interviews conducted as part of this study reveal that many residents in the villages of both Bihar and UP perceive floods as a natural social phenomenon and feel that the overall condition of their villages was better before embankments were constructed than it is now. Before embankments were constructed, they explained, floods often drained quickly and deposited a thin fertility enhancing layer of silt on their fields. Now, many villages face serious problems: where flood flows are concentrated, sand casting prolonged, flooding and waterlogging plague villages. In places where embankments reduce shallow flooding, groundwater recharge is limited and drought-like impacts lower soil moisture."


While embankments and dams have not curbed floods, their adverse 'side-effects' are far more devastating than what is generally perceived. A recent report in 'World Rivers Review' states that because of the 19 dams on the Indus, the river no longer reaches the sea and its sediments no longer replenish the delta. As a result, 8800 sq. km of agricultural land have been lost to the sea since dam-building began on the river. Trade, agriculture, and availability of water have suffered considerably in the coastal areas that were once prosperous. 


According to a wider study by Brian Richter, Director of the Nature Conservancy's Global Fresh Water Program, as many as 472 million people worldwide are likely to have been harmed by dams built upstream of their homes. This is much higher than the estimated 60 million people likely to have been displaced by dams.
An overdependence on dams and embankments make an area particularly vulnerable to floods. This should be cause for concern in the wake of climate change. Pakistan received 200 to 700 per cent excess rainfall than the average and it was accompanied by cloudbursts in the mountainous areas. The fact that many of these ecologically fragile hills have been devastated by indiscriminate use of explosives and reckless deforestation is likely to have accentuated the damage. Ecological damage and major alteration of the natural flow of rivers are likely to wreck havoc if the climate changes.  As Patrick McCully says, "The Pakistan floods serve to remind us that the hydrological past is no longer a reliable guide to the hydrological future, and we need to rethink our management of rivers to take account of this."


The writer is a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

 

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THE STATESMAN

 

'STRIKES MORE POLITICAL THAN LABOUR-BASED'

THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW 

 

In spite of India's impressive growth story, trade unions have been on the  warpath for almost a year now. Starting with nationwide protest marches on 28 October last year, the unions had a jail bharo programme on 5 March this year, followed by a Bharat Bandh on 5 July. The Congress-led Intuc and the Sangh Parivar's BMS joined these actions supported by all Opposition parties. Despite assurances by the government, the unions led by Intuc organised another all-India strike on 7 September and are now planning a march to Parliament. The Union minister of state for labour and employment, Harish Rawat, 62, a seasoned Congress MP from Uttarakhand and earlier president of the National Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers for several years, tells DEEPAK RAZDAN how far the unions' protests are justified. 


Trade unions have already organised two all-India strikes this year, and are threatening more protests. Why? 
The issues on which the strikes were held had an element of politics more than labour demands. Inflation and disinvestment have been raised by political parties in Parliament more than once. The government had made its position clear. Inflation was countered with increasing availability of food in the market. Disinvestment is being done for certain social objectives. If some PSUs are being disinvested to raise money for their modernisation, it can't be called privatisation. 


As for labour issues like minimum wages and contractual workers, the government is engaged in a constant dialogue with all social partners, including trade unions. During the past one year, six labour laws have been amended like the Gratuity Act, the ESI Act, Workers' Compensation Act and the Industrial Disputes Act. All of them favour the workers. For unorganised workers, their social security law was enacted in 2008. The strikes did not have any major labour-related issues. 


Don't the repeated nationwide strikes indicate a breakdown of dialogue? 


All forums of dialogue with the trade unions are active. We meet and talk at every opportunity whether it is the state labour ministers' meet or other occasions. The Indian Labour Conference is meeting soon. There is no issue on which we don't talk, or we don't want to talk. But (the problem is) they straightway insist disinvestment be stopped and inflation be brought down. 


The Congress Party's own union Intuc is now deeply involved in strike strategies. How is this happening? 
The Intuc stand  is that it is participating in strikes for larger labour unity. The Intuc has stated it cannot leave the field of labour issues to the Left or other unions. This is the reason why is it joining strikes or protests. The Intuc has pointed out that others can take political advantage if it appears slow on workers' issues. 


The unions have announced further actions including a march to Parliament? 

I don't think that many will come forward to join the protests now.  Economic recession affected the whole world. In fact, it is recognised now that the Indian economy faced it better than other countries. India was the first country to show employment going up both in its organised and unorganised sectors. 
 
Violation of labour laws figures in the unions' charter every time they strike. Why? 

We are equally concerned. Labour is on the Concurrent list. The Centre and the state governments are both responsible for the laws. In fact, the implementation is more in the area of the states. The issue of non-registration of trade unions has been discussed at the state labour ministers' meet. The problem of non-implementation of labour laws is not confined to Congress-ruled states, even states under Communist parties' rule are facing it. 


Trade unions complain that the economic stimulus packages after recession ignored workers. 
The economic stimulus was given to save jobs, to see that competitiveness of industry stays, industry survives and exports sustain. The end-beneficiary of all this was the working class. From 2009 onwards, surveys by the Labour Bureau have shown an increase in jobs. The stimulus was effective. What the unions are saying is not based on facts. 

 

In one of your speeches, you said industry wanted labour reforms but was shy of corporate social 

responsibility... 
Our ministry has been pro-active. The ESI Act and the EPF law have been changed and the Social Security Act is being activised with the formation of the Rs 1,000-crore fund for unorganised workers. The six Acts that were amended recently met social security objectives only. There are more laws in the pipeline. In spite of this, we are spending less than some of our neighbours on social security. The unorganised sector is contributing significantly to the economy. 


Other than a cess of just one per cent, the corporate sector is not spending on the unorganised workers. If you want labour reforms, you should fulfil your social responsibility.  Industry wants the ID Act amended to allow them to hire and fire, even when they are employing more than a hundred workers per unit. This demand is imaginary. The fact is, whenever permission was sought, it was hardly ever denied. Denials have taken place perhaps in five per cent of the cases. What we say is that before the law is amended, industry should be ready to contribute to their social responsibility.  


Do you think the Indian worker is complaining more than he should? 

As far as industrial relations are concerned, there is peace and harmony and this is reflected in the increase in production. Strike calls which are given by the organised trade unions have a political overtone, otherwise there is decline in unrest. Even if it is there, we are able to resolve it. The overall labour scenario is quite harmonious. Certain unions do have complaints such as  non-registration, exploitation of contract labour and violation of the Contract Labour and Abolition Act and Minimum Wages Act. On all these issues, we are in dialogue with all stakeholders, including central and state  government departments, employers and trade unions.

 

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THE STATESMAN

 

ON RECORD

 

We have to work, work and work ahead. For that, we must fight the Maoists. If they get to increase their influence even slightly, they will ruin all development work. 


West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Purulia. 


 
If necessary I would respond to the chief minister and not to any land dacoit. There are categories of leaders and I am not going to respond to B, C and D categories of leaders.


Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee, responding to the housing minister's charge that she had lied at her rally in Rajarhat. 

I happened to be on a flight once. A fellow industrialist sitting next to me said: 'You know, I don't understand; you people are very stupid. You know that the minister wants Rs 15 crore. Why don't you just pay? You want the airlines.' I said you will never understand this; I just want to go to bed at night knowing that I haven't got the airline by paying for it. 


Ratan Tata while recounting the incident to reporters in Dehra Dun. 


One cannot forget that the debt has been accumulating since the 1950s. Net small savings collected in Bengal is the biggest part of the debt burden ... Our government had championed the cause of small savings to save people from chit funds. 


West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta while dismissing Opposition allegation that the state was heading towards bankruptcy. 


 
She is asking for 10 per cent of land to be returned to Rajarhat. I will give back 11 per cent land. However, she will have to accept that 10 per cent of land will be returned to farmers in Singur so that the Tatas can come back. 
West Bengal housing minister Gautam Deb. 


 
My leader advised me to tender my resignation... My conscience is clear. 


Outgoing Union telecom minister A Raja. 


 
Raja had been mocking all constitutional institutions, including the office of the Prime Minister, the central vigilance commissioner, the CAG and the Supreme Court. 


AIADMK supremo J Jayalalitha demanding that A Raja be arrested. 


 
We hope that the release of Suu Kyi will be the beginning of the process of reconciliation in Myanmar. 
Union external affairs minister SM Krishna. 


 
I don't like to criticise people for the sake of criticising them. There may come a time ~ I hope there won't be many of those times ~ when I will have to repeat criticisms. 


Aunt San Suu Kyi in Yangon. 


 
I am not a fan of reality shows. I love traditional shows like Baywatch. 
Pamela Anderson. 


 
Bigger firms should have the guts not to give money. 


Rahul Bajaj on corruption.

 

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THE STATESMAN

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE 'KARMAYOGIN' PRINTER 

 

To The Editor 


SIR, ~ In your issue of the 19th instant you comment on the delay in connection with the release of prisoner Monmohan Ghose intimating that there was some detention on the part of the prison authorities. As you seem to be labouring under some misconception regarding the case, I should be glad if you would kindly publish this letter setting forth the following facts:- 


It would appear that though the sentence on this prisoner was set aside on the 7th instant, the release order only reached the Presidency Magistrate's Court on the 14th instant. It was received by the Jail Authorities on the morning of the 15th instant at the Presidency Jail and was despatched by hand to the New Central Jail, Kalighat, where the prisoner had been transferred some months before.


I have ascertained that the New Central Jail Authorities sent the order then and there by the post of that day, ie, 15th, to the Motihari Jail where the prisoner had been again transferred. I have further ascertained that the order reached Motihari Jail on the evening of the next day, i.e., 16th instant after lock-up, and that the prisoner was accordingly released the following morning, ie, 17th, it being against Jail Code Regulations to release any prisoner after lock-up. 


The rules on the subject were complied with and the release order passed on by hand and post and the prisoner released as soon as possible under Regulations as prisoners are not released by telegram. 
There has not, therefore, been any unnecessary delay whatever on the part of the Jail Authorities from the time of the first receipt of the release order on the 15th morning up to the prisoner's release on the 17th morning. 
Any previous or subsequent delay does not in any way concern the Jail Department. ~ Yours, etc., G.Y.C. HUNTER, Major, I.M.S., Superintendent, Presidency Jail, Calcutta. 


(We are glad to give publicity to the above explanation, but Major Hunter is mistaken in supposing that we suggested that the Jail Authorities were to blame in the matter. We made no attempt to place the responsibility, but merely drew  notice to the continued detention in jail of a man who had been acquitted by the High Court. That the present mode of procedure in such matters is defective is clearly shown by Major Hunter's letter. ~ Editor. 

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

 

THE FIRST MINISTER

 

It is not unfair to assume that the prime minister of India is an extraordinarily busy man. It is easy to imagine that on any given day he receives innumerable letters, petitions, reports and other forms of communication. Is it possible for the prime minister or his office to respond to all of these? Obviously not. He and the officers assisting him sort the communications that he receives and decide which demand his immediate attention and which deserve to go into the wastepaper basket. This is the prime minister's personal decision and no external agency, private or institutional, can dictate to the prime minister on which matter to accord priority. Even the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body of the Indian republic, cannot decide that it was mandatory for the prime minister to respond to a particular communication sent by a particular individual on a particular matter. All this sounds self-evident, yet Manmohan Singh, the present prime minister, has become the subject of a huge controversy — indeed of something like a reprimand from the apex court — because of his delay in responding to a petition sent by a political leader asking for action against the former minister of telecommunications, A. Raja.

 

The controversy should be seen in its broader context. The Supreme Court is absolutely right to be concerned about an issue relating to corruption and loss to the exchequer. In fact, it has earned the gratitude of the nation by taking a very strong position on such practices. While applauding the court, it needs to be noted that there is a very clear distinction between the scope of the judiciary and the prerogatives of the executive. In fact, that distinction forms a critical part of the checks and balances that are essential for the functioning of a democratic polity. That distinction would suggest that the prime minister was well within his right to even ignore the concerned petition. The comments of the Supreme Court, despite being motivated by the noble intention of eradicating corruption from public life, tread close to blurring the distinction between the judiciary and the executive.

 

The prime minister's respect for the Supreme Court and for the latter's concern regarding corruption in government will in no way be diminished if he upholds the distinction between the executive and the judiciary. It is the prime minister's duty to uphold the Constitution and the principles of democratic practice enshrined in it. After all, Mr Singh's executive powers flow from the principles laid down in the Constitution. Mr Singh has already taken action against the erring minister by asking him to resign. If necessary, he should politely assert before the Supreme Court his executive prerogative. The prime minister of India will lose nothing by behaving as the prime minister of India

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

APPAMS ARE YUM

THE AESTHETIC CASE FOR VEGETARIANISM

POLITICS AND PLAY: RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

The finest meal I have had was in the Admaru Mutt, a home for priests connected to the famous old Krishna temple in Udupi. The year was 1994 and I had come to the neighbouring town of Manipal to attend a seminar on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's 125th birth anniversary. The seminar was organized by the Kannada writer, U.R. Ananthamurthy, and it was at his initiative that the participants were taken to the Mutt for lunch.

 

Manipal and Udupi lie between the sea and the Western Ghats. The terrain is staggeringly diverse, and the plant life too. Over the centuries, humans have taken advantage of nature's bounty to nurture a suitably varied cuisine. The wild mango found in the Ghats lends itself to a fabulous pickle. Anotherachaar special to the area is made from bamboo shoots. The rainfall is heavy enough to favour the jackfruit, an item rare elsewhere in India, here eaten in the form of salted chips or a spiced curry. All other vegetables known to humans are grown here as well. So are a great number of pulses. These are eaten with a soft and aromatic rice, made from a salt-resistant variety of paddy raised in fields close to the sea. Meanwhile, the district's cattle range freely in the forest; their milk, and its derivatives, therefore have a freshness and sweetness missing in more arid or more contaminated environments.

 

In theory, every resident of the Udupi district can take advantage of this natural and cultivated diversity. In practice, it is only the priests who have the time, and the leisure, to make the most skilful use of their surroundings. Sustained, in every sense, by those who labour on field and in office, they accord equal importance to the satisfaction of the palate and to the study of the scriptures.

 

For Ananthamurthy's guests, the Admaru Mutt had prepared their 'special' lunch, which had as many as 42 items listed on the menu. We squatted on the floor, a banana leaf in front of us, as the younger priests brought them to us one by one. On my left sat a Bengali scholar to whom a meal without any meat was an eccentricity reserved for unfortunate widows. On my right was a Sikh sociologist, in whose carnivorous culture what we were being served was known dismissively as ghaas-phus — grass and such-like rubbish. By the end of the meal, they were as satisfied as I was.

 

I was reminded of that meal in Udupi while reading a recent issue of The New Yorker, where an American critic had reviewed Eating Animals, a polemic by Jonathan Safran Foer against the ways in which animals are reared, slaughtered and eaten in the United States. The reviewer noted that the book "closes with a turkeyless Thanksgiving. As a holiday, it doesn't sound like a lot of fun. But this is Foer's point. We are, he suggests, defined not just by what we do; we are defined by what we are willing to do without. Vegetarianism requires the renunciation of real and irreplaceable pleasures. To Foer's credit, he is not embarrassed to ask this of us."

 

Pity poor Foer, for whom — as for very many other Westerners repelled by the barbaric treatment of farm animals — vegetarianism is wholly or perhaps one should say merely a matter of moral choice. One reason I had enjoyed the feast in the Admaru Mutt so much was that I had just spent a year in Germany, where to be a vegetarian meant being served boiled cabbage for lunch and baked potatoes for dinner. In Spain and Scandinavia, my fate might have been even worse. Despite the fables about French cooking, the only country in Europe that can turn out a decent vegetarian meal is Italy — but how long can one live on pasta and pizza?

 

Ironically, it is even more difficult to be a vegetarian in Pakistan. As is well known, in recent decades, the State and its ruling elite have increasingly abandoned the syncretic culture of South Asia in favour of the monochromatic monotheism of West Asia. In the desert, there is a limited number of plants that can be grown; these, besides, are needed to feed the goats and camels on which the humans, in turn, are sustained. The eating habits of West and Central Asians are ferociously carnivorous and, in coming closer to these places politically, the Pakistanis have also intensified their scorn for vegetarians, whom they were, in any case, inclined to look upon as effeminate and unmartial.

 

The homeland of Jonathan Safran Foer is somewhat better served in this respect. Once a country of immigrants from Europe and Africa, the US has, in recent decades, seen millions of Asians move to its shores. The Midwest and the South are still heavily meat-centric, but in the cities of the east and west coasts a vegetarian has the choice of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Nepali and Indian restaurants.

 

In these places the vegetarian can survive, after a fashion. This is not to say that what, outside India, are called 'Indian restaurants' do anything like justice to the multiple cuisines of the subcontinent. What one gets here is standard North Indian fare — a black or yellow daal, with random dishes mixing paneerwith a limited number of vegetables (chiefly peas, potato and cauliflower). Speaking as a South Indian, I should state that in my extensive travels in Europe and North America, I have never ever smelt or seen the Andhrapesarattu, the sanas of the west coast of Karnataka, the appam of Kerala, or the puliyodarai of Tamil Nadu, or, indeed, their accompanying chutneys and curries. However, I am not a Southern chauvinist, and enjoy a Gujarati thali, which I can get in Ahmedabad or Mumbai, but not — or at least, not yet — in New York or London.

 

 

The art and skill involved in Indian cooking is hard to explain to a foreigner. It uses a greater variety of grains, vegetables and spices, and of techniques as well. The most celebrated European chefs know only to bake and grill, but Indians have for centuries soaked, ground, fermented, steamed, fried as well as baked and grilled ingredients and dishes. The flavours themselves range from the soft and delicate to the aromatic and spicy. It may only be in the quality of their desserts that European chefs exceed their Indian counterparts.

 

Like the finest art and the finest music, the finest food has its genesis in hierarchical and class-ridden societies. However, in the year 2010, one does not have to be a Mughal emperor to admire the Taj Mahal, or a rich landlord to appreciate the khayals and thumris once performed by courtesans for their masters. Likewise, the great and unsurpassed glories of Indian vegetarian cooking are now available to us all.

 

Back in the 1990s, I used to make a living as an intellectual migrant worker, teaching for a term every other year in an American university. I stopped doing this in part because I wanted to travel more within India, and in part because I missed the vegetarian cuisines of my homeland. In school and college, I ate meat, but gave up the habit in my thirties. I found that eating too much chicken and mutton coarsened the tongue, limiting the pure pleasure one otherwise got from eating sanas, or appam, or puliyodarai, or dhokla, or thepla, and whatever else is served with them.

 

For the typical American, Spaniard, Nigerian and Pakistani, the embrace of a vegetarian diet is equated to joylessness. Here, one might choose to stop eating animals, if one is compelled to do so on ethical grounds. In fact, the aesthetic reasons for becoming a vegetarian are even stronger. I have spoken already of the beauties of South Indian and Gujarati cooking, but one of the best meals I have had was in the home of a historian in Assam. For here, as in the Western Ghats, the fabulous diversity of the landscape sustains a comparable diversity of cultivated and cooked plants.

 

Contrary to Jonathan Safran Foer and his reviewers, being a vegetarian is really a lot of fun. One merely has to choose the right place to become (or be born as) one.

 

ramachandraguha@yahoo.in

 

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

FIRST EDIT

PERVASIVE CANCER

'BRIBE DEMANDS COME FROM THOSE IN OFFICE.'

 

Ratan Tata's disclosure that it was a Rs 15 crore bribe demand from a minister that stymied the group's plan to enter the aviation business would not be disbelieved when corruption has become an established fact of life in the country. It is immaterial which minister had sought the bribe. The Tatas wanted to set up a domestic airline and to buy a stake in Air India. It was not just political opposition but the personal demands of politicians that grounded the plans which the group persisted with for many years. The credibility of the Tatas would vouchsafe for the possibility of the demand for bribe, against the poor record of politicians, and it is not important to prove the truth of the demand. When it is so difficult to prove even the taking of hundreds of crores of bribe, how can just a demand, which was not fulfiled, be proved? And the proof won't make any difference too.

 

But the pervasiveness of corruption, small time and big, evident anecdotally and otherwise, will hamper the country in all sectors of life. We don't need the figures of Transparency International to know that we are world leaders in the business. It is also no comfort to be told that China is not much better than us. Corruption is not a just moral problem but an economic and political hazard which weakens the country and makes it so much more difficult to achieve national goals. It directly flows from the poor quality of governance and deterioration of the institutions that should regulate individual conduct. A recent report had shown that almost all bribe demands came from government officials, including politicians in office. The unhelpful situation is that while the role of government is paramount in a poor country, its very essential nature gives the power to those in it to feather their own nests. While we are outraged by the big amounts made public, it is also not realised that the small amounts which are involved in the deals and engagements ordinary people have with the government are cumulatively much higher. That is why poor people are hurt more by corruption.


The new attitude of brazenness and defence of corruption on the ground that others too have indulged in it is even more dismaying. It legitimises misuse of power and immorality and obliterates the line between right and wrong. It is still more dangerous to accept it as passé.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

HUNGER CRISIS

'THE NUMBER OF HUNGRY IN THE US HAS RISEN.'

 

Hunger in the world's richest country, the United States, has touched record levels. According to a report by the US department of agriculture, around 14.7 per cent of American households were 'food insecure' in 2009, with 5.7 per cent falling in the 'very low food security' category. This is the highest level of food insecurity in the US since 1995, when food insecurity was surveyed for the first time ever. A quarter of those who go to bed hungry in the US are children. The report draws attention to a clear racial dimension to food insecurity. It found that African-American and Hispanics were worst affected. Households that were headed by single parents were also found to be more vulnerable to hunger. Hunger and food insecurity have long been regarded as concerns of the developing world. The USDA report reveals that the severity of the problem among the poor in rich countries is no less worrying. Recession and the resulting unemployment have taken a very heavy toll. It has manifested in the hunger crisis in the US.


There is a silver lining, however. Food insecurity has not worsened significantly since 2008 despite the fact that the number of unemployed rose from 9 million to 14 million in the same period. An important reason for food insecurity not matching the sharp rise in unemployment is that the reach of the food safety net was expanded. Thus many who might have fallen prey to hunger were able to avoid it because of the food and nutrition programmes. For instance, 5 million people more benefited from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (SNAP), bringing the total number of SNAP beneficiaries in 2009 to 42 million. Had these programmes not existed the food insecurity crisis in 2009 would have been alarming.


The USDA report provides useful pointers not just for the US but for the world. A rich country, even one that is the world's only superpower, cannot escape hunger if its policies are aimed at making the rich richer. It serves as a reminder that safety nets are necessary to prevent the poor from crashing down especially in times of economic crisis. There are lessons for India too. Food and nutrition programmes need to be expanded so that our poor, who are struggling with the devastating impact of economic liberalisation, do not have to go to bed hungry.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

WINGLESS DREAMS

BY M K BHADRAKUMAR


There is worldwide acceptance of the need for UN refo-rm, but getting two-thirds majority in the General Assembly seems improbable.

 

The outcome of the visit by the United States President Barack Obama shows that the two countries took pains to balance their respective interests. The Indian 'sherpas' did well.


Now, as the carnival gets over and the morning-after dawns, it is time to reflect on the journey ahead. The sobering reality is that all three gains of the Obama visit are 'conditional' and the Washington bureaucracy is known to drive hard bargains — US endorsement of India's bid for UN Security Council permanent membership, amending the so-called Entities List and support for India's membership of international technology control regimes.


Make no mistake, the US' own 'check-list' is still intact: 3 pending military agreements and the Nuclear Liability Bill, which has got to be watered down to accommodate US business interests.


With regard to Security Council, a hiatus already exists. The Indian estimation has since been forcefully articulated: "We are entering the Security Council (in January as a non-permanent member) after a gap of 19 years... We have no intention of leaving the Security Council. In other words, before we complete our two-year term, we will be a permanent member."


Pat came the response of the US state department: "I would caution against expecting any kind of breakthrough anytime soon… I think the president and others have made it clear that this (UN reform) is going to be a long and complicated process and that we're committed to a modest expansion both of permanent and non-permanent seats."


Actually, the Indian optimism is intriguing — and worrisome. There is worldwide acceptance of the need for UN reform, but forming a reform package within a two-year period and getting two-thirds majority in the General Assembly seems improbable. The recent RIC (Russia-India-China) foreign-minister level meet at Wuhan retracted from its relatively favourable position at the Bangalore session last year.


Russia has added a caveat to its earlier support for India — an international consensus — and China remains ambivalent. The five permanent members aren't in any hurry to erode the exclusivity of their club. Then, many countries with vaulting ambition like India, are convinced of own credentials: Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and so on.


So, how much to expand, who all should come in, whether it should be on regional basis or rotational, what about Islamic world, who should have veto power — these remain intractable questions. Finally, Pakistan will do its utmost to frustrate the Indian bid, since if India's bid succeeds, its strategic pre-eminence in the Indian Ocean region becomes unstoppable.


RIC meet


Unfortunately, Security Council membership dream has become the leitmotif of Indian diplomacy. The RIC meet witnessed an uncharacteristic Indian display of muscular diplomacy. The RIC, of course, is an entity that the US loved to strangle in its cradle. But we have no reason to serve as Uncle Sam's instrument. Like any serious regional power, India would rather aspire in today's fluid international situation to optimise its regional networking instead of rendering ineffectual the potentially useful forums.


Obama exhorted the Indian elites to 'engage' the Asia-Pacific, which is code word for joining the US strategies toward China. There are 'hawks' within the Indian establishment who would respond to Obama's call, assuming it is an invitation to the barricades. (They already did once in 2005.) But what is the essence of the US' new power game in the Asia-Pacific?


China has integrated far more than India into the western-sponsored global trading and financial system and its economy is closely intertwined with the US — Beijing often speaks of 'mutually assured dependence' betwixt the US and China. Without doubt, Washington will roll out the red carpet for the state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington in January and make it a 'historic success,' as secretary of state Hillary Clinton promised. The ailing US economy needs a big hand from China.


The US works for a close and productive relationship with China while keeping other Asian powers as standbys ('hedge') to meet contingencies that may arise when China emerges as the world's largest economy. On the contrary, India has specific interests with regard to China and has a highly problematic relationship — and we aren't lacking in expertise on Sinology.


Again, the joint statement on Obama's visit fudged our position on the Iran issue — namely, the issue should be settled at the IAEA (rather than Security Council); Iran has the right to pursue a nuclear programme; and, the sanctions route is avoidable — and instead it reflected the US stance focusing on Iran's unilateral compliance. It also overlooked the contradictions over David Headley.


As regards AfPak, the government agreed to 'coordinate' with the US on Afghanistan. Yet, the grim reality is that a long-term US military presence is heavily predicated on the cooperation of the Pakistani military, which remains rooted in its 'India-centric' mindset. These are worrying signals and are inconsistent with the prime minister's open statement regarding the 'terror machine' in Pakistan.


Having made the UN Security Council issue the leitmotif of foreign policy, the government may count on launching its millennium dream on American wings. But in international diplomacy, there is nothing like free lunch. The optimism of Indian diplomats that their government's dream will materialise by end-2012 gives cause for serious concern.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

AWARD DRAMA

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


A R Kidwai served as governor for 17 long years in Bihar, West Bengal and Haryana.

 

He retired a few months ago to settle down in his alma mater, Jamiah Milliah. I can't recall when I met him first time, but I enjoyed his hospitality in Raj Bhawans of Kolkata and Chandigarh. I owe a lot to him. He had the Rohtak University confer an honourary doctorate on me. When I found going to Kasauli tiresome because of traffic snarls, he arranged police escort for me. With sirens blaring and no stops to pay toll taxes I was able to get there in a little over four hours. He continues to drop in off and on to see if I need help to cope with old age problems. 

Some time ago he came with a few elderly men and women and told me that they intended to give me some kind of award and asked to fix a date. I did not catch what the award was for, but since I never turn down offers of awards — my motto is never look a gift horse in the mouth to count its teeth to find out how old it is. I said, "Thanks, any evening that suits you will suit me."


Some weeks later a Mrs Choudhary rang me up and fixed date and time for giving the award to me. I still did not have a clue what it was for but invited her and others to come over and join me for drinks at 7 pm sharp.


I poured myself a stiff Single Malt and waited. They arrived on the dot. Eight members of the Secular Life Society along with a photographer and a tall handsome, strapping six footer Deepak Vohra, Indian Ambassador in Poland. Kidwai was unwell and could not come. What followed was a charade which went somewhat as follows: presentation of a bouquet of flowers — snapshot, garlanding — snapshot; shawl round my shoulders — snapshot. Presentation of citation — snapshot, presentation of a bronze head of the Buddha — snapshot. The prettiest of the group explained to me that the Buddha was a symbol of secularism (I was not aware of that). I asked that what would they like to drink — Scotch, wine, vodka? All of them replied "something soft".

Even Vohra refused liquor. He had an odd manner of coming to attention like a soldier when he spoke: "But you enjoy your drink," said a lady sitting next to me. She picked my glass and put it to my lips. I put it back on the table and said: "I can't enjoy my whisky in a room full of teetotallers." The pretty one asked me, "would you like us to leave?" I replied, "If you want me to enjoy my drink, yes." They walked out without finishing their soft drinks.


It was all over in 15 minutes. And I did not know what the 'tamasha' was about. I added another slug of single malt in my glass and drank in silence till dinner time.


The next morning I took a look at the framed citation. It was for promoting secularism. I rang up Mrs Choudhary to send me details of the society and her role in its activities. She came next evening. She is a Bihari Brahman, born in village Brahmpur in Madhubani district. She went to Kolkata where her father was posted and did her schooling and college education: she is fluent in Bengali. She had an arranged marriage with Anil Kumar Choudhary and has two daughters. She has acted in Bengali films and represented India in cultural programmes in Finland and Estonian. She appears on Doordarshan programmes. It seems the only one who did not know about her was myself. She is now chairperson of the Secular Life Society, set up in 1986 to propagate its ideals.


There is nothing great in being secular. I follow the dictionary which makes it clear that secular is the opposite of religious. I regard people who subscribe to community-based organisations are not secular. So there was nothing exceptional I had done to merit the award. I am sure A R Kidwai was behind my getting it.


Down with fanaticism


This is a true story of an incident which took place in a Gurdwara in Noida. A Hindu who excelled in singing Gurbani had been invited to do the Kirtan. A large crowd turned up. Amongst it was a lady friend of mine who went all the way from her home in South Delhi to Noida to hear him. Everyone was enchanted by the man's melodious voice. The young man who was acting as the Granthi recited the Ardas and then spoke: "I want to say something important," he said. 


"I agree that it was a very good kirtan and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But I think no one who has not unshorn hair and beard should be allowed to sing in a gurdwara." The fellow evidently did not know about Sikh 'maryada' (tradition). 


If I had been there, I should have told him: "O khoteya (you donkey) do you know that till the partition of the country in August 1947, the principal Ragis of the Golden Temple were Muslim descendants of Guru Nanak's first disciple Bhai Mardana. All Sindhi ragis like famous Bhai Chella Ram are cleanshaven. At the bhog ceremony of my closest life-long friend, Prem Kirpal the Kirtan was sung by a Muslim Jatha based in Delhi.

Although the Noida fellow did not think about hurting anyone's feelings, he did so by his stupid bigotry. If I had been there, I would have got up and slapped him on his face. I hope he reads this column and tenders an abject apology in the Noida Gurdwara Sangat

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

A PARADISE IN PUNNATHUR

BY MAYA JAYAPAL


The elephants looked sleek and shining, their coats dappled with the sunlight.

 

I am standing watching the big guy eat. He is imperious and regal, not just by size but by his demeanour, grace and dignity. He swings his trunk to and fro in a balletic movement, picks up a cluster of branches and leaves, swishes it gracefully to rid it of mud, faecal matter and insects, until he is thoroughly satisfied, then rolls his trunk inward and stuffs it in his mouth. All his movements are deliberate, assured.


I am in Punnathur Kotta, an elephant farm about 3 km from the famous Guruvayoor temple in Kerala. It is perhaps the only one of its kind in the world: the elephants here are offerings from devotees to the Lord. The place belonged to a local ruler and has an old, badly maintained building with a nalukettu, the traditional hub of a Kerala house. But the elephants looked well cared for, sleek and shining, their coats dappled with the sunlight filtering through the leafy canopy above.


Most are males. We watched the mahouts caring for them. Some were being washed down with hose; others were being bathed in the pond. The mahouts and their helpers first hosed them down while standing in the shallow pond. Then the mahout asked it to lie down. "Iri"(sit) he said. The elephant just looked at him mischievously. "Iri", he repeated in a louder, more commanding voice, whereupon the animal, slowly lowered his legs, turned to the side and lay down. He seemed quite happy, now that his fit of rebellion was spent. Then they scrubbed him with coconut husks; obviously the hide was thick enough to turn it into an enjoyable process. I am told that in the lean months when the elephants are not needed for temple festivals, they also undergo an ayurvedic or health treatment.


There are about 60 elephants. The elephants here are revered more than ever. People talk of the legendary Guruvayoor Kesavan with awe. I have attended the Thrissur pooram, where many elephants from surrounding temples, heavily ornamented in the  humid heat of March/April, take part in the procession which requires tremendous patience, especially in the midst of the pancha vadyam music performance, with mahouts on top changing parasols, waving fans of peacock feathers, etc. It is an impressive sight.
Many are the stories told of the loyalty of the animals, legends of how they stand watch over injured or dying mahouts until help comes. However I was told that when in heat, they lose all sense of proportion and are known to have even injured or killed their mahouts. So why do the mahouts take up this precarious job? Obviously because they love their charges.


It was no wonder that when I saw the elephants at Punnathoor kotta, I thought of the words from the verse which talks about God's creatures great and small.

 

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

EDITORIAL

OPT-OUT ILLUSION

 

Texas and several other states are flirting with the idea of dropping out of the Medicaid program and trying to shift most of the burden of providing health insurance for the poor to the federal government.

 

The idea appears to be driven at least as much by ideology as economics: Republicans' fierce opposition to President Obama's health care reform and their insistence that state budgets can be balanced solely by cutting services, like Medicaid, rather than raising taxes.

 

The idea originated with analysts at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization based in Washington. They argue that many states would be irresponsible not to drop Medicaid in 2014 and direct poor residents to buy commercial insurance on new competitive insurance exchanges, where they would receive generous federal subsidies. A Heritage analyst believes that 40 states and the District of Columbia could save money this way and estimated that Texas could save $46.5 billion between 2014 and 2019.

 

That may sound great. Even assuming it is legal — a big question — at the core, this would amount to a shell game. It may save money for some state budgets but only by driving up costs for the federal budget and for the poor enrollees, who would have to pay more for commercial policies even with the federal subsidies.

 

And for all of the me-firstism out there, state taxpayers need to remember that they are also federal taxpayers. Even if their state drops Medicaid, they will continue to pay taxes that support the subsidies in the insurance exchanges and Medicaid programs in other states.

 

There is no question that Medicaid is badly straining many state budgets. And state leaders need to do a lot more to make their systems more efficient and reduce waste and abuse. The burden, and the need for reform, will undeniably grow under health care reform because the states will have to enroll many adults not previously covered and allow people with somewhat higher incomes to enroll.

 

The federal government, however, will pay for most of that increase — 100 percent of the cost for newly eligible enrollees for three years and at least 90 percent ever after, as well as 90 percent of the added administrative expenses. Despite that largess, the Texas health agency estimates the state will have to spend $27 billion of its own money over a decade. Outside experts are skeptical of those numbers.

 

Before any more politicians get excited about the opt-out idea, they need to consider several basic issues.

 

First, none of these maneuvers will help states meet their current budget crises. The exchanges won't exist until 2014, by which time state revenues will probably have picked up.

 

Even more important, no one seems certain whether the federal government can even legally pick up the Medicaid burden, or would be willing to. One provision of the reform law indicates that the poorest people on Medicaid — those earning less than the federal poverty level — could not receive subsidies on the exchanges; a separate table implies that they might be eligible. If that issue is not clarified by federal officials, it may have to be resolved in the courts or Congress.

 

Large numbers of people, mainly low-income elderly and disabled patients who need long-term care services, would not be eligible to buy insurance on the exchanges. These are the two most expensive groups to cover, and the cost of their care would fall solely on the state. It is conceivable that a state with small enrollments of these groups might be able to shoulder the whole burden; states with big enrollments ought to be wary about relinquishing federal matching funds.

 

Medicaid is also so intertwined with multiple parts of the health care system that political leaders will need to be wary about harming a wide range of medical institutions that depend on Medicaid reimbursements.

 

Despite all of the campaign rhetoric, there are no easy fixes out there.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HONORING LIU XIAOBO

 

China's autocrats have tried pretty much everything they can think of to stop the world from celebrating the courage of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned democracy activist. It tried to bully the Nobel committee into not awarding Mr. Liu this year's Nobel Peace Prize. When the committee went ahead, China confined Mr. Liu's wife to her home, barred others from attending the ceremony, and warned governments not to go.

 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has rightly decided to proceed with the Dec. 10 awards ceremony. The rules say the prize must be presented to the winner or a member of his family. So the committee is expected to postpone bestowing the medal and the $1.5 million award but read some of Mr. Liu's writings aloud.

 

The peace prize has been awarded three times to detained human rights and democracy activists — the Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov; Myanmar's opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; and the Polish trade unionist Lech Walesa. In those cases, family members accepted the awards.

 

The last time neither a winner nor any family member could go to Oslo was in 1936 when the German journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky was barred from leaving Nazi Germany. That historical comparison is chilling — and should shame Beijing.

 

Some governments have decided to stay away: Russia, Cuba, Kazakhstan and, most disturbing, Iraq. Whether they're doing that because of Beijing's demands, or their own autocratic ways, isn't clear. The good news is that many more countries — 36 by last count — will attend. All governments should go and honor Mr. Liu.

 

The scholar, writer and social commentator is the first Chinese to win the Nobel Peace Prize. His credentials are beyond reproach. During the 1989 pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, he negotiated a peaceful retreat of student demonstrators. Since then, he has refused to be silenced. His 11-year jail sentence on spurious subversion charges is punishment for helping write Charter 08, which called for democratic reforms.

 

China's government is now denouncing the award at home as some devious Western plot. The desire for freedom transcends any political boundaries or system. China's people should be proud of their Nobel laureate.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE UPROAR OVER PAT-DOWNS

 

Americans understand the need for security screenings at airports and are remarkably patient. So there is no excuse for the bumbling, arrogant way the Transportation Security Administration has handled questions and complaints about its new body-scanning machines and more aggressive pat-downs.

 

The Times reported on Friday that civil liberties groups have collected more than 400 complaints since the new pat-downs began three weeks ago. That is a minuscule number compared with all the people who flew. But there are far too many reports of T.S.A. agents groping passengers, using male agents to search female passengers, mocking passengers and disdaining complaints.

 

Lawsuits have been filed asserting that new, more powerful body-scanning machines violate the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches. In general, it seems to us that the scanners are not unconstitutional, but the lawsuits are a healthy process that will require the government to prove that the scanners are reliable and more effective than other devices.

 

The Fourth Amendment would certainly protect Americans from unnecessary, overly intimate security checks. And nothing in the Constitution permits power-happy or just downright creepy people from abusing their uniforms and the real need for security. The government could start by making their screening guidelines clear. And they should respond to the concerns of people like the woman who told The Times that she is patted down every time because of an insulin pump.

 

Some passenger groups are planning demonstrations during the Thanksgiving rush. That's their right, although if they interfere with air travel, or with security measures, they have to assume the risk that applies to any civil disobedience: they might be arrested.

 

The federal authorities need to take customers' complaints seriously. And while they're at it, they should be hard at work filling in the really huge hole in the security of air travel: the inadequate screening of cargo.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

MR. PATERSON AND THE (LATEST) CASINO

 

Gov. David Paterson of New York has only a few weeks left in office. But that hasn't stopped him from making a bad deal with an out-of-state Indian tribe to build a casino in the Catskills.

 

Mr. Paterson clearly hasn't learned enough from his disappointing tenure. The deal was mostly done in secret. Never mind that less than a month ago, the state's inspector general issued a scathing report on the haphazard way a company was chosen to create another gambling facility at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens.

 

The governor, who was accused of basically handing off that decision to incompetent Democratic leaders in the State Senate, had to rescind the selection. That should not give anybody confidence in this new deal.

 

The agreement is supposed to get the Stockbridge-Munsee, a Wisconsin-based tribe, to drop its claims against New York State lands. In return, New York would support the tribe's application to convert 330 acres to tribal territory to build the 584,000-square-foot casino. Under the deal, the tribe would pay the state and local community far less than nontribal casinos and certainly not enough to cover the social damage gambling leaves in its wake.

 

The location, 90 miles from New York City, means the new casino would compete for patrons with gambling operations in Monticello and Yonkers and the yet-to-be remodeled Aqueduct "racino." Other New York-based tribes that have been looking for similar land swaps are furious.

 

Environmentalists have also vowed to fight the construction. The Natural Resources Defense Council has warned of "a dramatic spike" in air and water pollution in "one of the most important freshwater ecosystems" in the country.

 

The deal will need a revised environmental impact statement and approval from the federal Interior Department. And it will almost certainly go through the courts. Those hurdles are really the only good news about this whole last-minute Catskill deal from a departing Governor Paterson.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE ZOMBIE JAMBOREE

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

Zombies are in. This cannot possibly be a good sign.

 

The hottest new show on television is "The Walking Dead," in which a small-town sheriff wakes up from a coma and finds that almost everybody in the country has turned into a zombie. Being out of commission in a hospital is the classic way that horror movie heroes manage to avoid contagion while the rest of the world mutates into something unpleasant. I have always wondered why the newly hatched zombie nurses don't just use their coma patients for a quick snack.

 

In BBC's "Dead Set," the only people to escape zombification are the contestants locked away on the reality show "Big Brother." Soon, the term "elimination day" takes on a whole new meaning.

 

The best seller "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is about to be made into a movie. "How is the road to Meryton?" Mr. Darcy asks politely in the graphic novel version of the book. "Do you often meet with zombies?" Mr. Collins proudly announces that he has been honored by the patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh "after she had been forced to behead her previous rector when he succumbed to the walking death."

 

There's a zombie game app that will allow you to kill time by killing zombies and a popular "Political Zombies" post on YouTube that shows you John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin morphing into undead versions of themselves. (But, really, that's too easy. You can turn anybody into a zombie on the Web. See: "My Zombie Kitten.") Over in Arizona, someone reprogrammed an electric road sign on a highway near Tucson to read: "Caution Zombies ahead!"

 

What's the attraction of zombies? They don't really do anything but stagger around and eat raw flesh. The plot possibilities seem limited. Zombies come. Humans shoot them. More zombies come. Humans hit them over the head with shovels. Nobody ever runs into a particularly sensitive zombie who wants to make peace with the nonflesh-devouring public. ("On behalf of the United Nations Security Council today, I would like to welcome the zombie delegation to the ... aaauuurrgghchompchompchomp.")

 

Maybe that's the whole point. Our horror movies are mirroring the world around us. The increasingly passé vampire story is about a society full of normal people threatened by a few bloodsuckers, some of whom are maybe just like you and me, except way older. It was fine for the age of Obama. But we've entered the era of zombie politics: a small cadre of uninfected humans have to band together and do whatever it takes to protect themselves against the irrational undead.

 

The new incoming Tea Party Republicans are lurking in the halls of the Capitol, hiding behind the statuary and hoping to leap out and behead a Democratic zombie spendthrift. (Dan Quayle's boy Ben promised to "knock the hell out of Washington" and now he's there, ready for action.)

 

Bipartisanship is so ... Twilight novel. Give them an inch and they'll take a liver. In an interview with Robert Draper for The Times Magazine on Sunday, Sarah Palin said she had been "innocent and naïve" when she began her political career in believing that the two parties could work together. "I learned my lesson. Once bitten, twice shy."

 

Well, for sure you do not want to be bitten.

 

On the other side, the Democrats are waking from an election night coma to find that the country is overrun

with zombie Republicans who are demanding to be allowed to shut down the government even before their swearing-in. And when President Obama invited their leadership to break bread and talk about working together, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell said a pre-Thanksgiving sit-down didn't fit into their schedules.

 

Wouldn't want to be there when the meal finally comes off. "Bless us, oh Lord, and these, thy gifts, which

...aaauuurrgghchompchompchomp."

 

In private, the Democratic senators complained bitterly about the old Obama let-us-reason-together strategy. Zombies aren't going to make a deal on the Bush tax cuts or pass the arms treaty! All they care about is plump, tasty Democratic thighs and calves and kidneys.

Obviously there are some big problems here. One is that both parties think they're playing the small-town sheriff. The other is that this story line never really ends all that well. Zombies are impossible to eradicate. They're worse than bedbugs. All you can do is hope to find a safe haven in some remote part of the world.

 

Which is why we were so interested to hear a report from National Journal that Bob Ney, the congressman who spent 30 months in the clink for his part in the Jack Abramoff scandal, is now in India, studying meditation techniques with Buddhist monks. He described himself as "very happy — very, very happy."

 

Unlike the rest of us back here.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

LET'S RESCUE THE RACE DEBATE

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

"There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. ... Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs ... There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don't want the patient to get well."

This 100-year-old, cobbled-together quote from the "the Great Accommodator" Booker T. Washington has gotten quite a bit of circulation in the right-wing blogosphere since the Tea Party came under attack over racial issues.

 

The quote helps support a broader sentiment that the current racial discontent is being fueled by a black liberal grievance industry that refuses to acknowledge racial progress, accept personal responsibility, or acknowledge its own racial transgressions. And that the charge of racism has become a bludgeon against anyone white and not in love with President Obama, thereby making those whites the most aggrieved — victims of the elusive reverse-racism Bigfoot. It's perfect really: the historic words of a revered black figure being used to punch a hole in a present-day black mythology and to turn the world of racism upside down.

 

(The fact that those on the right would glom onto this quote is fascinating from a cultural/historical perspective. The quote is a not-so-subtle swipe by an aging Washington at his young nemesis, W.E.B. Du Bois, an Obama-like figure who advocated a more broad-based, activist movement for racial equality to be led by an erudite black intelligentsia. This is so riddled with ironies that I couldn't possibly tackle them all in this column. Maybe another time. Rain check, please!)

 

The argument of these whites minimizes the victimization of others while magnifying their own victimization. While their argument may hold for some individuals, when you look at blacks writ large, the argument falls apart.

 

According to an ABC News poll conducted last year, blacks are even more likely than whites to admit that they "have at least some feelings of racial prejudice." Thirty-eight percent of blacks admitted to those feelings while only 34 percent of whites did. I use the word admit because people notoriously underreport negative behaviors on polls, and knowing which groups may underreport and to what degree is impossible to gauge. For more objectivity, we need more scientific measures like Project Implicit, a virtual laboratory maintained by Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia that has administered hundreds of thousands of online tests designed to detect hidden racial biases. Tests taken from 2000 to 2006 found that a whopping three-quarters of whites have an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias, while 40 percent of blacks had a pro-black/anti-white bias, about the same amount as those admitting racial prejudice in the poll.

 

Furthermore, a January poll by the Pew Research Center found that most blacks agree that blacks who can't get ahead are most responsible for their own condition. Only about a third said that racial discrimination was the main reason.

 

This whole hollow argument is further evidence that many whites are exhibiting the same culture of racial victimization that they decry.

 

The latest evidence of this comes in a poll released this week that was conducted by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and financed by the Ford Foundation. The poll found that 62 percent of whites who identified as Tea Party members, 56 percent of white Republicans, and even 53 percent of white independents said that today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. Only 30 percent of white Democrats agreed with that statement.

 

It's an extraordinary set of responses. And my question is the same one used by the right to defend the Tea Party against claims of racism: Where's the proof? There's a mound of scientific evidence a mile high that documents the broad, systematic and structural discrimination against minorities. Where's the comparable mound of documentation for discrimination against whites? There isn't one.

 

We can find racial prejudices in all segments of the population, but pretending that the degree and consequences are comparable is neither true nor helpful. And attributing to the agitation of the "colored" masses to the self-aggrandizement of a callous few is truly detrimental.

 

In fact, some on the right seem to be doing with the race issue what they've done with the climate-change issue: denying the basic facts and muddying the waters around them until no one can see clearly enough to have an honest discussion or develop thoughtful solutions.

 

I had thought that the reflexive denials and defenses of many on the right were simply an overreaction to, in their view, being unfairly accused of racism on too broad a scale. My present worry is that denial may be the new normal and that the hot language of the past summer has cooled and hardened into a permanently warped perception of the very meaning of discrimination and racism. I worry that the last bit of distance between where we are and where we want to be on racial reconciliation is being drawn through an ever-narrowing, ever-more-treacherous terrain.

 

In the name of progress, the public must reclaim the facts of the race debate in this country. Many racial problems have been solved but many remain. Some we must tackle within our individual communities and others must be dealt with between them. Racism isn't everywhere we imagine it, but it is in far more places than we admit. If we can start from common points of agreement, we can come much closer to common ground. But to do that, everyone must step out of the shadows of denial and into the brutal light of honesty.

 

Booker T. Washington was right that there are some who may not "want the patient to get well." Those people exist on all sides of the debate, and they will always be there. But they're a minority. Cast them aside. Let the rest of us start with this point of agreement: The patient is doing better but is still sick.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

HIDING FROM REALITY

BY BOB HERBERT

 

However you want to define the American dream, there is not much of it that's left anymore.

 

Wherever you choose to look — at the economy and jobs, the public schools, the budget deficits, the nonstop warfare overseas — you'll see a country in sad shape. Standards of living are declining, and American parents increasingly believe that their children will inherit a very bad deal.

 

We're in denial about the extent of the rot in the system, and the effort that would be required to turn things around. It will likely take many years, perhaps a decade or more, to get employment back to a level at which one could fairly say the economy is thriving.

 

Consider this startling information from the Pew Hispanic Center: in the year following the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, foreign-born workers in the U.S. gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million. But even as the hiring of immigrants picked up during that period, those same workers "experienced a sharp decline in earnings."

 

What this shows is not that we should discriminate against foreign-born workers, but that the U.S. needs to develop a full-employment economy that provides jobs for all who want to work at pay that enables the workers and their families to enjoy a decent standard of living. In other words, a resurrection of the American dream.

 

 

Right now, nothing close to that is happening.

 

The human suffering in the years required to recover from the recession will continue to be immense. And that suffering will only be made worse if the nation embarks on a misguided crash program of deficit reduction that in the short term will undermine any recovery, and in the long term will make true deficit reduction that much harder to achieve.

 

The wreckage from the recession and the nation's mindlessly destructive policies in the years leading up to the recession is all around us. We still don't have the money to pay for the wars that we insist on fighting year after year. We have neither the will nor the common sense to either raise taxes to pay for the wars, or stop fighting them.

 

State and local governments, faced with fiscal nightmares, are reducing services, cutting their work forces, hacking away at health and pension benefits, and raising taxes and fees. So far it hasn't been enough, so there is more carnage to come. In many cases, the austerity measures are punishing some of the most vulnerable people, including children, the sick and the disabled.

 

For all the talk about the need to improve the public schools and get rid of incompetent teachers, school systems around the country are being hammered with dreadful cutbacks and teachers are being let go in droves, not because they are incompetent, but strictly for budget reasons. There was a time when the United States understood the importance of educating its young people and led the way in compulsory public schooling. It also built the finest higher education system in the world. Now, although no one will admit it publicly, we've decided to go in another direction.

 

In New York City, for example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's choice to run the public school system is Cathleen Black, a wealthy corporate executive with no background in education whose children attended expensive private schools. Mr. Bloomberg has asserted that Ms. Black's management expertise will be a boon to the city's public school children. But the truth is that Ms. Black, if she gets a necessary waiver for her new job, will be presiding over budget cuts that can only hurt the schools. As part of a proposed austerity budget, the mayor is planning to eliminate the jobs of thousands of public school teachers over the next two years. Take that, kids.

 

We've become a hapless, can't-do society, and it's, frankly, embarrassing. Public figures talk endlessly about "transformative changes" in public education, but the years go by and we see no such thing. Politicians across the spectrum insist that they are all about job creation while the employment situation in the real world remains beyond pathetic.

 

All we are good at is bulldozing money to the very wealthy. No wonder the country is in such a deep slide.

 

We don't even seem to realize how deep a hole we're in. If student test scores jumped a couple of points or the jobless rate fell by a point and half, the politicians and the news media would crow as if something great had been achieved. That's how people behave when they're in denial.

 

America will never get its act together until we recognize how much trouble we're really in, and how much effort and shared sacrifice is needed to stop the decline. Only then will we be able to begin resuscitating the dream.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

A FALSE TARGET IN YEMEN

BY GREGORY JOHNSEN

 

Cairo

 

EARLY last week, as a federal court in Washington was hearing arguments over the Obama administration's decision to authorize the killing of an American linked to Al Qaeda, the man at the center of the case was having his own say. The same day, Nov. 8, Anwar al-Awlakiappeared in a 23-minute video that concluded: "Don't consult anyone in killing Americans. Fighting Satan doesn't require a religious ruling."

 

The coincidental timing of the video added to the urgency of a case the judge has called "extraordinary and unique." Unique, indeed. But in truth Mr. Awlaki is hardly significant in terms of American security. Contrary to what the Obama administration would have you believe, he has always been a minor figure in Al Qaeda, and making a big deal of him now is backfiring.

 

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents in 1971, left the United States for good in 2002 before eventually settling in Yemen in 2004. He is believed to be hiding in the southern province of Shabwa, where his tribe, the Awaliq, holds sway.

 

The federal lawsuit, which is being brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights at the request of Mr. Awlaki's father, has set off a broader debate over whether the government should be allowed to assassinate an American in a country the United States is not at war with. The administration maintains that the president has sole authority over such strikes, while the other side is arguing that judicial review is required.

 

It's a vexing legal question worthy of debate. But no one should remain under the mistaken assumption that killing Mr. Awlaki will somehow make us safer.

 

He is far from the terrorist kingpin that the West has made him out to be. In fact, he isn't even the head of his own organization, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. That would be Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who was Osama bin Laden's personal secretary for four years in Afghanistan.

 

Nor is Mr. Awlaki the deputy commander, a position held by Said Ali al-Shihri, a former detainee at Guantánamo Bay who was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and put in a "terrorist rehabilitation" program. (The treatment, clearly, did not take.)

 

Mr. Awlaki isn't the group's top religious scholar (Adil al-Abab), its chief of military operations (Qassim al-Raymi), its bomb maker (Ibrahim Hassan Asiri) or even its leading ideologue (Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaysh).

 

Rather, he is a midlevel religious functionary who happens to have American citizenship and speak English. This makes him a propaganda threat, but not one whose elimination would do anything to limit the reach of the Qaeda branch.

 

He's not even particularly good at what he does: Mr. Awlaki is a decidedly unoriginal thinker in Arabic and isn't that well known in Yemen. His most famous production is a lengthy sermon-lecture series called "Constants on the Path of Jihad," which emphasizes the global nature of holy war: "If a particular people or nation is classified as ... 'the people of war' in the Shariah, that classification applies to them all over the earth." But "Constants" isn't really his own creation; it's an adaptation of a work written by a Saudi militant killed in 2003. At most, Mr. Awlaki is a popularizer, someone who takes the work of others and makes it his own.

 

When he preached in the United States, first in San Diego and then in Virginia, he exploited his knowledge of Arabic and his Yemeni heritage to burnish his credentials as a genuine Islamic voice. He has been linked to Maj. Nidal Hassan, the psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at a Texas Army base in 2009, and some of the 9/11 hijackers attended his services. But until the Obama administration put him on its hit list, he had little standing in the Arab world.

 

Now, however, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is taking advantage of this free advertising. No propaganda from the group had ever mentioned his name before it was reported in January that the United States had decided he could be legally assassinated. Shortly after, an article in the official Qaeda journal trumpeted that Mr. Awlaki had not been killed in December, as had been reported, in an air attack on a gathering in Shabwa Province.

 

So now that it has given Mr. Awlaki such a high profile, the administration is in a bind: if it ignores him, it will look powerless; if it succeeds in killing him, it will have manufactured a martyr. The best way out is to redouble its efforts to track down the real, more dangerous leaders of the Yemen group like Mr. Wuhayshi and Mr. Asiri, who likely made the bombs used in the parcel attacks and carried by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas Day bomber.

 

Mr. Awlaki's name may be the only one Americans know, but that doesn't make him the most dangerous threat to our security.

 

Gregory Johnsen is a doctoral candidate in Near Eastern studies at Princeton and writes the blog Waq al-Waq.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

POLITICAL TEMPERATURE RISING STEADILY

 

PRIME Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has been repeatedly assuring the nation that his Government was steadfastly pursuing the policy of reconciliation, which has paid dividend and that it would take all important stakeholders including coalition partners and the Opposition on board on all important national issues. 

However, some of the latest developments indicate that political temperature was rising again steadily because of inept handling of the situation by the Government. This Eid, the Prime Minister undertook a major PR exercise when he telephoned to almost all important political personalities to extend them greetings on the auspicious occasion. Availing the opportunity, he also informed PML(N) leader Mian Nawaz Sharif that his letter addressed to the PPP Co-Chairperson and President Asif Ali Zardari was being studied and would be responded to. But the question arises, whether it is a letter writing competition or the need to engaged into dialogue to resolve the problems identified by the PML (N) Quaid in his letter, which are also a source of concern to the people of Pakistan. The fact remains that the Government has already missed an important deadline given in the letter i.e. tabling of a unanimous bill in the last session of the National Assembly for across the board accountability. But it seems the authorities concerned are in no haste to finalize the draft and remove objections of the Opposition or incorporate its saner proposals in the said bill. Similarly, relations between the coalition partners have also received a setback due to decision of the PPP to appoint its own nominees in the parliamentary commission meant for appointment of judges to the superior courts. No doubt, the PPP has tried to strike a regional and gender balance in making nominations but this could have been done by accommodating other coalition partners — an ANP nominee from the NWFP, JUI(F) nominee from Balochistan and MQM nominee from Sindh while the PPP could have nominated its own man from the Punjab, which remains unrepresented, as far as the Government is concerned, as Nayyar Bokhari represents Islamabad Capital Territory and not Punjab. However, instead of adopting the course that could have made the parliamentary commission ideal, the Government is trying to console the coalition partners by offering political bribes instead. The decision to appoint Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani as Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) is surely aimed at wooing JUI (F) at the cost of a national institution. Sheerani might be a religious personality but not a scholar of the required background and non-controversial figure and his appointment would be seen as politicizing an important constitutional body. We, therefore, believe that there would be more polarization in the days to come.

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ATTEMPT TO SHIFT BLAME ON SAUDI ARABIA

 

THE scandal ridden Ministry of Religious Affairs, instead of offering itself for a transparent and maybe judicial inquiry, is now making attempts to shift focus of the people away from its alleged corrupt practices. The tirade of the Ministry, led by Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is highly deplorable and condemnable.


The Ministry has committed two grave crimes this year compounding problems of the Pakistani pilgrims and bringing bad name to the country besides trying to spoil our relations with a country that comes to the rescue of Pakistan during every crisis, the latest being the massive assistance for flood affected people. The first crime of the Ministry is the unprecedented mismanagement and corruption in acquiring accommodation and transport for the pilgrims in which, according to an inquiry conducted by relevant standing committees of Parliament, about one and a half billion rupees were minted by some unscrupulous elements. It was in this background that Director Hajj Rao Shakeel was recalled from Saudi Arabia and arrested by FIA a few days back. Rao has implicated a highly placed Ministry official in the scandal during his first appearance in the court, which remainded him to FIA for further investigation. Despite earning of huge commission and kickbacks, those responsible for acquiring accommodation failed to complete the task in time and as a result Pakistani pilgrims, for the first time in history, were stranded on roads and streets of Makkah. Again, despite charging exorbitantly from pilgrims, they were made to stay miles away from Haram Sharif whereas pilgrims from other countries were accommodated much closer to Haram on much less rent than charged from Pakistani pilgrims. Corruption in acquisition of accommodation was corroborated by a Saudi prince who wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan but here again attempts were made to prove the letter as fake but latest reports confirm its authenticity. Like accommodation, arrangements were made with dubious characters for transport as well and resultantly thousands of Pakistani pilgrims did not get official transport despite payment on this account. The second crime of the Ministry is that in a bid to cover up its alleged corruption, it is now making hue and cry over faulty arrangements in Mina. But intriguingly, only Pakistani pilgrims reportedly faced problems while no one from any other country faced any difficulty there. Saudis are known for working out minute details and deft implementation of Hajj plans and they never disappointed pilgrims. They have invested billions of riyals to ensure safety at Mina, during stoning of Devil and now have added train service as part of the plan to ease the traffic congestion during Hajj. Anyhow, Saudis have ordered an inquiry and things would become clear as to who was really to be blamed and similarly the apex court has already taken notice of corruption in acquisition of accommodation and hopefully culprits would be brought to book.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

US GIVES SECOND THOUGHT TO UNSC SEAT FOR INDIA

 

THE US has cautioned against expecting any breakthrough "anytime soon" on the UN Security Council reforms, dampening India's hopes for a permanent seat just a week after President Barack Obama backed its quest for this prestigious slot. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake has pointed out that the President and others have made it clear that this (reform) is going to be a long and complicated process and that we're committed to a modest expansion both of permanent and non-permanent seats.


While making the offer, the US President claimed that India was not a rising power but has already risen. However, the world totally differs from this one-eyed observation of ground realities in India where poverty is commonplace, bad governance at peaks and the quantum of corruption can be judged by the fact that a Washington-based institution has calculated illegal transfers from the country to the tune of heft 462 billion dollars since independence. Leaving apart this aspect, ascension of a country that flouts UN resolutions and has adopted a perpetual belligerent attitude towards its neighbours, amounts to trampling of the sanctity of an otherwise prestigious institution. It is satisfying that the US seems to be giving second thought to its earlier announcement, which caused ripples around the globe and kick-started an unending race among different aspirants for the coveted slot.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

FALSE MORALITY IN MIDST OF IMMORALITY

GEOPOLITICAL NOTES FROM INDIA

M D NALAPAT

 

During her younger days, the present Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (House of the People, or Lower House in Parliament) Sushma Swaraj was a modern woman, definitely in step with the most progressive elements of the 20th century. Originally a Socialist before she joined the conservative Hindu-centric Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 1990s, Swaraj championed the right of a woman to her own lifestyle, earning for herself condemnation from those who believe that a woman's role is what has been described by the ancient Indian lawgiver Manu: as a slave of first her father, then her husband and finally her own son. She dressed soberly but attractively, and refused to observe "purdah" and avoid contact with men. In the modern world, men and women need to work closely together, so it was understandable that Ms Swaraj (who is happily married) functioned in close proximity to such socialist giants as former Defense Minister George Fernandes and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, steadily rising in stature as a woman politician who understood the need for India's society to modernize and move away from ancient restrictions and prejudices. However, once she took over as Information and Broadcasting Minister in the BJP-led government in 1998, Sushma Swaraj had a transformation, even demanding that female newsreaders in the state-run broadcasting service cover their arms fully while on air.


Clearly, this new avatar of a once-progressive woman politician would have been comfortable with the dress code enforced in Iran, where a woman has to be fully draped even in the privacy of her own home when men are present who are not husbands and sons However, Ms Swaraj should not be blamed for such a return into the medieval past. She naturally wishes to someday become the second lady PM after Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, and has calculated that only a Saudi-style adherence to "modesty" and to its enforcement will gain her the support of conservatives in the BJP, many of whom marry off their daughters at a young age and are against the teaching of English to the young. These days, she demurely covers her head and modestly lowers her gaze when men are present, a very different avatar from her bold, pathbreaking past, a past that energized and motivated hundreds of thousands of young Indian women to follow her example and break free from the fetters of convention into a lifestyle that is closer to that followed in Europe or China. 


Like Ms Swaraj, Ms Soni - also happily married and as charming as the Leader of the Opposition - is now seeking to win over the followers of the ancient lawgiver Manu by seeking to cleanse Indian television programs of "adult" content, which in her definition means any contact between two adults of the opposite sex. The latest to feel the Soni whip has been a "reality show", Big Boss, which has been ordered to be screened only after 11pm (by which time hopefully, Ms Soni would be fast asleep and thereby immune to the severe cultural and moral danger of being exposed to onscreen men and women in close proximity to each other). 


The television channel, apparently in the belief that India is a democracy, has thus far refused to obey her orders, leaving it open to harsh punishment from an angry I & B Minister who entered politics as an acolyte of the ruthless younger son of Indira Gandhi, Sanjay and has now shifted her loyalty to a lady not entirely popular with Sanjay Gandhi, his sister-in-law Sonia Gandhi who (though of European origin) seems comfortable with the Moral Policing of the airwaves being carried out by her ministerial follower. Like Sushma Swaraj, Ms Soni was at one time a modern woman, who presented an attractive role model to hundreds of millions of young Indian women, who are no longer willing to allow themselves to be dictated to by men. Of course, neither she nor her BJP cultural twin (who too originally hails from the Punjab, as does Leader of the Opposition in the Upper Houese Arun Jaitley and PM Manmohan Singh, thereby bringing India closer to Pakistan) seem to be aware of the internet or to the presence of foreign television channels, through which any citizen can get access to the sort of programming that they have judged to be "un-Indian". Perhaps Ms Soni needs to use the harsh internet laws passed by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram ( a believer in strong controls and restrictions, except where they relate to his own family and friends and to the extended family of UPA boss Sonia Gandhi) in order to send to jail any individual accessing the internet.


These days, almost all users get spam that when opened reveals "adult" content. According to the laws prevailing in "democratic" India, merely opening such attachments can earn the luckless internet surfer a prison term of two to six years, another innovation brought in by the Sonia Gandhi team since 2004. Today, the citizen is subject to the same harsh laws and penalties that were the case when the British were in charge, to escape which the only recourse is the payment of bribes. Small wonder that corruption since Sonia Gandhi took charge of the country six years ago has mushroomed into a scale that is threatening to topple the Prime Minister, who looks fated to go down in history as "Scam Singh". Unless, of course, he succeeds in thwarting the fixers and dealers in the Congress Party who are working hard to make him the scapegoat for their actions, interestingly in collusion with key Opposition leaders, whose families too have become stupendously rich during the past two decades. 

The only way to clean the mess up would be an independent probe directed by India's spotlessly clean Chief Justice Kapadia, but this seems unlikely. The politicians want to control the probe, as it affects them and their friends and family. Unless arrests of VVIPs takes place - rather than just detentions of small fry - the Prime Minister may lose the present battle to save his government and his reputation and quit in disgrace. His colleagues in the Congress Party - who are working hard to secure his resignation - are hoping that the PM's stepping down will cool down the anger of the Indian middle classes at the corruption that is making their lives hell Sushma Swaraj and Ambika Soni are both outstanding women leaders, who have set an example for millions. 

It is sad to see them succumb to those who wish to push India away from progress and into a medieval mindset. They need to ask themselves if a mere reality show on television is a greater danger to the country than the moral turpitude of their own political class. These days, politics in India is all about money, and the more the better. Dubai, London, the Maldives and other pricey destinations are witness to hordes of politicians from India, cavorting even as they pretend to uphold family values back home. Each office-bearer of a recognized political party, together with each minister and high-ranking officials, need to make public details of the foreign travel of themselves and their relatives, so that the nation is kept aware of what its leaders do for so many months of the year. Certain politicians go abroad once or twice each month, usually in different company, to silence from a media that is terrified of the vast powers of the Income-tax and Enforcement authorities.

Interestingly, the individual who as a central minister ensured that these agencies did the bidding of the High Command of the Congress Party (a group that does not include Manmohan Singh) is today the chief minister of India's most lucrative state, Maharashtra. No one has commented on the many investigations and probes of the politically inconvenient that have been done by central agencies on the (oral and written) orders of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The High Command of the Congress sees the downfall of Manmohan Singh as the only sacrifice that can cool the anger of the people. Those in the know see the PM as the only hope of bringing to book the VVIP corrupt, and hope that he will finally act like a true Punjabi and show some guts.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

KASHMIR DISPUTE REMAINS ON UN AGENDA

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the 15-member council's president for the current month, while presenting the annual report to the 192-member assembly, did not mention the Kashmir dispute in the context of unresolved long-running situations, despite the fact that it is included in the annual report. Earlier, press reports suggested that Pakistan's acting ambassador to the world body, Amjad Hussain Sial, in his speech to the General Assembly on Friday, November 12, had referred to the omission of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in a statement by the president of the Security Council. It has now been clarified that the matter was not dropped in UN's annual report, as reported in a section of press. "The Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains on the United Nation Security Council's agenda", a UN spokesman categorically stated on Monday, while rejecting as inaccurate, reports that it has been removed from the list of unresolved issues. "We understand this was an inadvertent omission, as Jammu and Kashmir is one of the oldest disputes on the agenda of the Security Council," Sial remarked after Grant's statement. The omission of Jammu and Kashmir from a list of disputes under the observation of the UN Security Council was noticed by Pakistan whose envoy has lodged a protest.

Given the atrocious attitude of British Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to India where he had accused Pakistan of exporting terrorism, one can only suspect that Mark Grant's omission was not inadvertent and could be an effort to gauge Pakistan's reaction and also reaction of other countries. He must realize that with his 'error' of omission he had shocked the people of Kashmir as well as people of Pakistan. Matthew Trump had given a piece of advice in 'Mother Earth News' a decade ago in these words: "Diplomacy is the art of knowing what not to say." While talking to Indian business leaders in Bangalore on July 28, 2010 the British Prime Minister, in reference to Pakistan, said: "We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world". Pakistan foreign office had taken strong exception to the speech of British Prime Minister which came close to endorsing the Indian government's view that the authorities in Pakistan have a hand in exporting terrorism.


An editorial in the widely circulated leading English daily had said: "Mr Cameron's harsh criticism of Pakistan in India was seen by many as an attempt by the British prime minister to please his hosts. After all his entourage included one of Britain's leading arms manufacturers that will get $775m from India for selling 57 trainer jets. But Cameron appeared to go overboard when he used words that even those who count among Pakistan's harshest critics have not." It is deplorable that those who claim to be champions of human rights and freedoms give overriding consideration to business rather than principles and values. In Kashmir, Indian forces continue with barbarities on the people of Kashmir, who are not allowed to lead their lives according to their faith. On Eid day, Chairman of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and veteran Kashmiri Hurriyet leader, Syed Ali Gilani have condemned Indian authorities for disallowing them to lead Eid-ul-Azha prayers, describing the action as a blatant infringement of people's religious rights. The APHC Chairman said in an interview: "It is for the first time in 250 years ever since the institution of the Mirwaiz was created in Kashmir, the authorities did not allow Mirwaiz to lead prayers in Srinagar".


Mirwaiz Umer Farooq pointed out that not allowing him to lead the prayers is an extreme step by the authorities, however, such tactics would not cow down the people of Kashmir, who will continue their struggle for a lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute. Syed Ali Gilani in his statement appealed to the international community to take cognizance of the state repression in the occupied territory. He said that the resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute was the only way for achieving a lasting peace in South Asia. Syed Ali Gilani condemned the recent arrests of his party activists. It is unfortunate that Muslim countries and for that matter Organization of Islamic Conference do not show their earlier spirit when they used to support Pakistan's stance on Kashmir. More than six decades have elapsed, but international community shows insouciance towards sufferings of Kashmiris and has failed to impress upon India to implement the United Nations Security Resolutions bestowing on Kashmiris the right to self-determination. Even those countries that had in the past supported Pakistan's genuine stance now suggest that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir dispute through bilateral negotiations, knowing full well that many rounds of dialogue have taken place including the stalled composite dialogue, but to no avail. 


India takes the plea that according to Tashkant Declaration and Simla Accord both countries are obliged to resolve the issue through bilateral negotiations. India should bear in mind that the Kashmir dispute is pending in the UN, and if the dispute is not resolved within reasonable period of time, Pakistan can approach the UN with the demand to play its role and make arrangements to hold plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir as per United Nations Security resolution. In fact, Pakistan should not waste time and take the matter to the United Nations Security Council. There is no denying that state violence or counter violence never helps solve the problem but the big powers should understand the gravity of the situation and help resolve the Kashmir issue. However, it does not look like that they will do it because only when public protest fits into the geopolitical designs of the US and the West that they declare it a popular movement and honour it with the award of a colour label. The orange revolution of Ukraine, the rose revolution of Georgia, the cidar revolution of Lebanon and much earlier velvet revolution of Czechoslovakia would pale before the Kashmiris' movement for their freedom yet they were given colours by the colour-blind big powers. 


International community should help resolve the Kashmir issue because tension between the two nuclear states would not only make the environment of the region perilous but also the world at large. But the US and the West are impressed by India - the largest democracy in the world. And they want to benefit from the plus one-billion market. On the other hands, Indian leaders convey an impression that they want to have a dialogue with Kashmiri leaders. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently emphasized the need for dialogue with Kashmiri leaders. Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Syed Ali Geelani, however, rejected with disdain stating that talks could be fruitful and acceptable only after India accepts the three points - right to self-determination, complete troop withdrawal and talks within the ambit of United Nations resolutions vis-à-vis Kashmir dispute. 

The All Parties Conference on Kashmir called by the government could not reach consensus and had ended in a deadlock. Congress President Sonia Gandhi made an impassioned appeal to the participants for creating space for reconciliation that could end turmoil and conflict in trouble-torn state. But she must understand that people of Kashmir want freedom from Indian occupation, and they will not accept anything short of freedom.


—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist. 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

EXPANSION OF INDIAN AIR FORCE

AIR MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN (R)

 

According to the Chief of the Air Staff of the IAF Air Chief Marshal Force, half of the weapons and equipment used by the Indian Air Force are obsolete and need urgent replacement. Several modernization and expansion programs have been underway for some time, but inadequate funding has caused inordinate delays. Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, hopes that the bulk of the 3.5 billion worth of defense deals with the United States likely to be signed during President Barack Obama's visit to India will prioritize IAF's urgently needed modernization requirements. He said half of the existing fighter jets, radars, transport aircraft and air defense weapons will run out of their useful life unless upgraded by 2014-15.


With 1300 aircraft and 170000 personnel Indian air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world after USAF, Russian Air Force and Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLA). The IAF's fighter aircraft inventory includes Mig-21, Mig-25, Mig-27, Mig-29 and Su-30 MK-1 of Russian origin. Other frontline fighters are British made old Jaguar jets and French Mirage-2000. Indian Air Force is engaged in enhancing the operational life of its weapon systems and vital equipment by up-gradations or rebuild, as we call it in Pakistan. Over one hundred Mig-21 Bi's fighters were updated and modernized in Israel, Russia and at HAL Bangalore. The statement of the Indian Air Chief that half of the IAF aircraft will run out their useful life, is more for the political gallery to influence the Indian government before and during President Obama's visit to New Delhi, to accord priority to the requirements of the IAF.


India is engaged in massive procurement of offensive weapons for its Army, Navy and the IAF. During Obama's visit India purchased ten Globemaster strategic transport aircraft for 5.4 billion dollars, with an option for six more. The total cost with spares would be about ten billion dollars. The country is reportedly negotiating a 3.5-billion-dollar defense deal with the United States for the purchase of fighter aircraft, and precisions weapons including guided missiles. Secret negotiations have been underway for the purchase of 126 F-18 Hornets from Boeing aircraft. The estimated cost is $3.78 billion dollars with spares.


ACM Naik said that the Indian Air Force Force has already presented the case for a 25-billion-dollar defense deal with Russia to buy advanced stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft. This is a huge amount, whereby all aircraft and weapon systems of Russian origin could be replaced with advanced Russian equipment and the size of the Indian Air Force could be doubled. But this implies that the present eighty percent IAF's aircraft and weapons inventory of are of Russian origin will continue. IAF already has over one hundred and fifty Su-30 MK-1multirole fighters with strategic attack capability, able to reach all selected targets in Pakistan. They pose a serious threat to Pakistan's security. Supply of hundreds of F-18 Hornet fighters by the United States to India will tilt dangerously the airpower balance in India's favor. This will divert the attention of the Pakistani defense planners from the western front totally towards the eastern front. After President Barrack Obama's visit, US sales of industrial products, military equipment and services exceeds $ 15 billion. This does not include the expected purchase of 126 F-18 Hornet Fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. Islamabad cannot ignore such massive build up and modernization of the Indian Air Force by New Delhi.The plight of the Indian Air Force and 50 per cent of its equipment being obsolete and needs to be replaced is a twenty years old story. During this period the IAF has been modernized and reinforced by Russian, Israeli, French and British weapons systems.But ACM Naik bitterly complains that, "Ten years ago we had no money for modernizing the IAF. This caused operational set backs and delays in the up-dating of vital weapon systems, the most important being fighter jets. According to the Indian Air Chief the Indian Air Force is just a third of the size of rival China's and far short of what is needed to meet the security challenges facing the country, especially the enhanced threat from the PLA Air Force. But China is a peace loving country, with fifty years peace plans to maintain its very rapid rate of economic growth. China's policy of peace towards all regional countries, especially towards India has helped both the countries to achieve high rates of economic growth. The fears of the India's Air Chief Marshal are therefore unfounded.


The Indian Air Force has refurbished with Israel's help fuel tankers purchased from Russia. India has also contracted 18 Spyder low-level quick reaction missile systems from Israel and is jointly developing a medium-range surface-to-air missile system with them, to defend India from air threat from China and from Pakistan. The greatly enhanced strategic airlift capability of the Indian Air Force, enabling airlift of tanks, APC's and heavy artillery to Kargil and Leh in Ladakh, makes the US supplied Globemasters, force mulipliers. Obviously this is a very serious threat, because it will increase Indian offensive capabilities many fold in crucials sectors. Beijing also needs to take note of this threat to its Tibet border, which India has claimed since long. Considering New Delhi's past military offensives, the modernization and expansion plans of the Indian Air Force has serious

implications for regional countries.


India has tried hard to make inroads into the US research and development capabilities, but without success. The US is very secretive about research and development of sensitive war material and equipment. US and NATO troops and for that matter Pakistani land forces that is The Army and The Frontier Corps (FC) have suffered from improvised explosive devices -IED's planted by Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan, FATA, Waziristan, Bajaur, Swat and Malakand. The super-power and Pakistan are at a loss, as to how to deal with this menace, which have cost hundreds of precious lives of military personnel. US scientists and weapon designers have now evolved the,"Ultimate Transformer", A US Army Humvee that flies. "With its bullet proof windows, and armored doors, the flying HUMVEE will be safe from the proliferation of IED's on the ground. The hovering Humvee will keep soldiers out of harms way. According to Pentagons technical specialists the flying Humvee will combine the advantages of armored vehicles and helicopters, and will provide flexibility to the movement of the infantry. Pakistan's Ministry of defense and the Joint Staff Headquarter should find out the details, and press Pentagon to clear sale of the "Flying Humvee" to The Pakistan Army.


All the eight IAF airfields in West Bengal, Assam, and in the North East are being rebuilt with jet capable extended runways, and covered concrete pens. Five of these will be made into operational fighter aircraft bases, for the deployments of advanced multi-role aircraft such as Su-30 MK, and Mig-29 fighter interceptor aircraft. IAF Su-30 MK fighter-bombers operating from these airfields will be able to penetrate 3000 miles into China. These are nuclear weapon capable aircraft, and will pose a very serious threat to the security of The Peoples Republic of China. With five IAF airbases already surrounding Bangladesh, with another eight fighter airfields, Bangladesh will be shackled by Indian air power. Bangladesh needs to develop its air defence capability. Talk of obsolescence of the IAF by the Indian Air Force therefore is untrue. The regional countries must do everything to defend from the growing menace of Indian air power.


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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MISUSE OF TV IN PAKISTAN

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

Good, bad, indifferent, there are about ninety channels which are beaming TV programs including news, current affairs, talk shows, soap dramas, pop music etc twenty four hours a day. These include TV plays, films and certain other programs from India minus news and some English language programs including news, films and all types of entertainment items in English acquired from English and American TV channels. There is no censorship as such and Indian and English programs are shown directly from the source. Mostly all programs are televised through various cable networks which are regulated by an authority under government control, named PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority).


For quite some time this authority lay dormant not using its regulatory powers, with the result that most TV channels went berserk, particularly in reporting the news correctly based on facts rather than speculation and sensation to earn more advertising revenue and gain greater popularity. Likewise some religious channels spread fanaticism and sectarian hatred through fake molvis who distorted the teachings of the Holy Quran. Some others promoted the western culture at its worst through semi nude dances and pop music. The Urdu language was also corrupted through indiscriminate mixing with English words. Suddenly PEMRA seems to have woken up imposing heavy fines on some channels for reporting false news in clear violation of PEMRA code. It also took serious note of excessive use of advertising beyond the prescribed limit of 12 minutes per hour and airing indiscriminately harmful and deceptive advertisements during their program and newscasts. It is hoped that PEMRA will continue to take action against such channels and cable operators who violate with impunity the code laid down by the authority using as much advertising and as little programming as possible during their transmissions. In fact some popular channels have turned into full advertising channels with minimum possible sprinkling of program content in between. There is so much greed for money and so little concern for the viewers and the national interest that they are showing all kinds of junk that advertisers choose to dish out. There is no internal or external censor on ads or for that matter on programs. 


PEMRA which was previously named EMRA came into existence during the caretaker government of Malik Meraj Khalid in 1997, subsequent to the dismissal of Benazir's Government by President Farooq Leghari. The EMRA bill was piloted by veteran journalist Mr. Irshad Ahmad Haqqani who died recently. This Bill was of historic significance as it allowed Radio and TV to originate news and current affairs programs independently for the first time in Pakistan. As happens with authorities under the government control, PEMRA became sluggish and inactive in many ways. Gradually private TV channels started playing havoc with advertising in collaboration with major advertising agencies. They started churning out good, bad, indifferent commercials which TV channels started using excessively in their programs without any self censor. The result was an avalanche of mostly damaging and indiscrete commercials corrupting the morals of the younger generation flooded the TV screens in Pakistani homes. The cell phone companies which have emerged as major players in the TV channel market with billions to squander are playing a very dirty game in a cut throat competition to corrupt the morals of the teenagers. One such ruse is the offer to the youth of free packages for night long chatting with their friends or beloveds, not realizing that such gimmicks may destroy both health and education of the country's younger generation. If the callous advertisers are not worried about this nation, why do the TV channels accept these dangerous commercials? Probably they too don't bother as long as they are earning advertising revenue. 


Since advertising has grown into a major source of income for TV channels, they are tempted to give more than one third space of their prime time to commercials. The viewers are naturally frustrated with frequent commercial breaks which are not only irritating but also adversely affect the charm and continuity of programs. Likewise, TV channels and largely circulated newspapers give as much as fifty percent of their space to advertisements. In their quest for maximum advertising revenue, they do not hesitate to put on air indecent and offensive ads which are not suitable for family viewing. The dream merchants of advertising are weaving a web of false and deceptive mirage of prosperity in Pakistan where millions of people are living in abject poverty. Another form of advertising is puffery which is an American slang for false and deceptive advertising which could mislead the consumer. In the United States, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been empowered by the Supreme Court to stop the false and deceptive advertising as "representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer and lure him to buy such products which may be harmful to his health". FTC has now been empowered to impose fines or altogether ban deceptive advertising. It has formulated specific regulations to stop false and misleading advertising of products for children's' markets. These actions have resulted in considerable reduction in the incidence of gross distortions and misrepresentations. Similarly, advertising of such products as cigarettes and certain brands of drugs and hard liquor which can cause terminal diseases, have been banned altogether on the electronic media in the United States and the majority of countries of the world.


Pakistan is probably the only country in South Asia where products which are recognized health hazards are being advertised unchecked through "puffery" and false and misleading claims. There is no agency, official or otherwise to check and control such harmful advertising, nor are there any pressure groups in society to provide protection to the unsuspecting consumers.


The Pakistan Advertising Association incorporated under Companies Ordinance, carries a clause in its Memorandum of Association calling for "protecting the art and trade of advertising and sales promotion from unethical practices and monopolies of foreign and house agencies", but in the present scenario it seems that this clause is not being implemented, but in fact is being willfully ignored by the advertising agencies themselves. There is need for print and electronic media in Pakistan to join hands in launching a vigorous education program to protect the consumers of the country from: a) Deceptive claims of producers of goods and services and misleading sales promotion by advertisers. b) To avoid excessive spending under the influence of advertising. c)To protect children from the harmful effects of advertising through resistance techniques. The government may consider setting up a watchdog commission to protect consumers from misleading and undesirable advertising.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AXIS OF DEPRESSION

PAUL KRUGMAN

 

It's not as if the Fed is doing anything radical. It's true that the Fed normally conducts monetary policy by buying short-term U.S. government debt, whereas now, under the unhelpful name of "quantitative easing," it's buying longer-term debt. (Buying more short-term debt is pointless because the interest rate on that debt is near zero.) But Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, had it right when he protested that this is "just monetary policy." 

The Fed is trying to reduce interest rates, as it always does when unemployment is high and inflation is low. And inflation is indeed low. Core inflation — a measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices, and is widely considered a better gauge of underlying trends than the headline number — is running at just 0.6 percent, the lowest level ever recorded. Meanwhile, unemployment is almost 10 percent, and long-term unemployment is worse than it has been since the Great Depression. So the case for Fed action is overwhelming. In fact, the main concern reasonable people have about the Fed's plans — a concern that I share — is that they are likely to prove too weak, too ineffective. But there are reasonable people — and then there's the China-Germany-G.O.P. axis of depression. It's no mystery why China and Germany are on the warpath against the Fed. Both nations are accustomed to running huge trade surpluses. But for some countries to run trade surpluses, others must run trade deficits — and, for years, that has meant us. The Fed's expansionary policies, however, have the side effect of somewhat weakening the dollar, making U.S. goods more competitive, and paving the way for a smaller U.S. deficit. And the Chinese and Germans don't want to see that happen.

For the Chinese government, by the way, attacking the Fed has the additional benefit of shifting attention away from its own currency manipulation, which keeps China's currency artificially weak — precisely the sin China falsely accuses America of committing. But why are Republicans joining in this attack? Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues seem stunned to find themselves in the cross hairs. They thought they were acting in the spirit of none other than Milton Friedman, who blamed the Fed for not acting more forcefully during the Great Depression — and who, in 1998, called on the Bank of Japan to "buy government bonds on the open market," exactly what the Fed is now doing.

 

Republicans, however, will have none of it, raising objections that range from the odd to the incoherent. The odd: on Monday, a somewhat strange group of Republican figures — who knew that William Kristol was an expert on monetary policy? — released an open letter to the Fed warning that its policies "risk currency debasement and inflation." These concerns were echoed in a letter the top four Republicans in Congress sent Mr. Bernanke on Wednesday. Neither letter explained why we should fear inflation when the reality is that inflation keeps hitting record lows. And about dollar debasement: leaving aside the fact that a weaker dollar actually helps U.S. manufacturing, where were these people during the previous administration? The dollar slid steadily through most of the Bush years, a decline that dwarfs the recent downtick. Why weren't there similar letters demanding that Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman at the time, tighten policy? Meanwhile, the incoherent: Two Republicans, Mike Pence in the House and Bob Corker in the Senate, have called on the Fed to abandon all efforts to achieve full employment and focus solely on price stability. Why? Because unemployment remains so high. No, I don't understand the logic either. So what's really motivating the G.O.P. attack on the Fed? 


Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues were clearly caught by surprise, but the budget expert Stan Collender predicted it all. Back in August, he warned Mr. Bernanke that "with Republican policy makers seeing economic hardship as the path to election glory," they would be "opposed to any actions taken by the Federal Reserve that would make the economy better." In short, their real fear is not that Fed actions will be harmful, it is that they might succeed.Hence the axis of depression. No doubt some of Mr. Bernanke's critics are motivated by sincere intellectual conviction, but the core reason for the attack on the Fed is self-interest, pure and simple. 

China and Germany want America to stay uncompetitive; Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there's a Democrat in the White House. And if Mr. Bernanke gives in to their bullying, they may all get their wish. —The New York Times

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

KEVIN RUDD: HERE TO HELP

 

WE have never doubted Kevin Rudd's global ambitions, but it's interesting to see the Foreign Minister has changed his mind on funding for his department.

 

As prime minister, he cut the foreign budget, but now that he is back in the game, he is arguing the case for more resources. Mr Rudd blames earlier administrations, of course, neatly adopting a 14-year timeframe to note that overseas staff numbers have dropped by 18 per cent in that time and that Australia has the smallest "diplomatic footprint" of all G20 countries. He has a point -- even at a time when the government must exercise fiscal discipline. An adequately funded foreign service is essential for any modern democracy. But Mr Rudd should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. He needs to take a good look at where resources are applied to ensure that staffers are not tied up for years on issues like whales or the seemingly endless attention needed on the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, rather than being deployed on working with key allies. He should make sure, too, that his dogged pursuit of an Australian seat on the UN Security Council does not distort our aid efforts nor divert attention from more pressing issues in the region. Better diplomacy is about making the right calls, not just increasing the budget.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

SEX AND THE WHOLE DAMN THING

 

HOOKING up used to mean marriage and kids but, as we report today, there is a whole new meaning to the phrase for many young Australians.

 

The casual sex the term describes may alarm older and more conservative readers but the acceptability of connecting for a few hours for sex creates significant options about how young people organise their lives. Hooking up feeds into broader economic and social trends around delayed parenting and attitudes to the permanency of marriage and divorce. But is this laissez-faire approach a threat to the social fabric? Will it make our young men and women less willing or able to fall in love and build lasting relationships? Is casual sex now a recipe for unhappiness later?

 

It is worth noting that the one-night stand is nothing new. This generation's parents -- perhaps their grandparents -- were well acquainted with the concept. The difference is that today's players have largely dropped the guilt -- although that doesn't mean it's all beer and skittles. The freer market in sex is not for everyone and negotiating the terrain remains complex. But in the week when romance and marriage is in the air (think Prince William and Kate Middleton; Glenn McGrath and Sara Leonardi), it's interesting to reflect on whether a culture of casual sex means a society of transitory relationships down the track. It's a matter of opinion whether "hooking up" trivialises love and partnering or whether it is a sensible sexual outlet for young people on the road to adulthood. But it is naive to imagine that attitudes to sexual behaviour remain static as a society changes. A wealthier, consumer-oriented, less overtly religious culture necessarily changes the way we view our personal relationships.

 

It would be foolish not to listen carefully to those like Cardinal George Pell who warn that the casual sex that has been driven by the contraceptive pill can disempower young women, in particular. There have always been winners and losers in sex and hooking up doesn't of itself level the playing field. Yet our story suggests there's no need for moral panic either.

 

The right for Australians to live socially responsible lives as they choose is a principle this newspaper holds dear. If young, or for that matter old, people want to get it on with virtual strangers, we rather think that's their business. Just as it is their responsibility to decide when and how -- and indeed whether -- they make the transition to more permanent engagement.

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                                                                                                                                                          THE AUSTRALIAN

                                                                                                                                                            EDITORIAL

OVERLAND'S CRITICISMS OF RAID STORIES WERE HOLLOW

 

IF he reads it carefully, Victoria Police Commissioner Simon Overland will find the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity's latest report grim reading.

 

Sixteen months ago, Mr Overland complained bitterly about The Australian's story in which Cameron Stewart revealed the Melbourne raids by Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and ASIO that thwarted an alleged terrorist plot to attack Australian diggers at Sydney's Holsworthy barracks. The facts detailed in the ACLEI report show that Mr Overland's criticisms were unfounded and unwarranted. The episode has also exposed a petty turf war between the AFP and Victoria Police over who should get the credit for joint operations and the shallow, compliant coverage of police issues by much of the Melbourne media.

 

The report confirms that The Australian co-operated fully with the AFP and, at the force's request, withheld the story for five days in the interests of national security. Yet Mr Overland claimed that his officers' lives had been put at risk because a handful of copies of the final edition of the newspaper, the only edition carrying the story, were available in Melbourne from about 2am on the day of the raids.

 

The ACLEI report, however, affirms that the Operation Neath joint management group, including a senior Victoria Police officer, were kept abreast of every step of the dealings between the AFP and The Australian. These extended as far as our allowing the vetting of drafts of Stewart's stories by Operation Neath partner agencies, including the Victoria Police -- an exceptional concession which demonstrated abundant good faith.

 

At no time in the five days before publication did anyone from the Victoria Police ask for the story not to run on the morning of the dawn raids. It is hard therefore to understand why Mr Overland felt out of the loop, unless he was on holiday and his deputies felt he would not want to be disturbed. While some copies of the paper were available in Melbourne from about 2am, the ACLEI report makes no reference to any risk to police officers, which would have been negligible as the suspects were unarmed and under surveillance.

 

The long-standing tension between the AFP and Victoria Police, explicit in Mr Overland's comments after the raid, is deeply troubling. Given the seriousness of the case, it is extraordinary that Mr Overland felt it appropriate to utter these words: "I don't think the reporting in The Australian this morning did do due justice to the joint nature of this investigation. It has very much been a joint investigation. We have worked very effectively with the federal police and other law-enforcement agencies across Australia and I just want to reinforce the point that it has been a joint investigation . . . I think it is important that that is appropriately reflected in the reporting of these events." Given the magnitude of Australia's security challenges, there is no place for arguments as petty as this between the two police forces.

 

The compliance of most journalists in reporting Mr Overland's extraordinary allegations without a hint of scepticism is a sad reflection on the Victorian media. The Age succumbed to rumour by running a story citing a federal government source claiming erroneously that The Australianhad threatened the AFP with publication of the story. ABC morning radio host Jon Faine suggested to Mr Overland, on air, that he raid The Australian's Melbourne office. Their compliance in accepting Mr Overland's unwarranted criticism of The Australian and making that the story, rather than look at the evidence itself, served Victoria police well but their audiences badly. The ABC and The Age have surrendered hard-won journalistic principles by condoning the notion that authorities should further restrict the public's right to know.

 

After hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars spent on an investigation necessitated by the self-serving intransigence of the Victoria Police, it is gratifying to see that the ACLEI has set out what was obvious to any objective observer from the start. That included Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who acknowledged The Australian's goodwill in holding back publication. The story was handled with the utmost responsibility and propriety.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

A LONG, HAPPY LIFE, AND ONE OTHER THING...

 

The wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton has already been compared with those of the prince's father and grandmother. Will it be an austerity wedding, like the then Princess Elizabeth's in 1947, which might suit a Britain which is still emerging from the global financial crisis? Or will it be a lavish affair, like Prince Charles's in 1981? And then discussion moves on to the dress, the church, the guests … Much like any wedding, really.

 

Coronations may be the solemn reconfirmation of the institution, but nothing displays the normally latent strength of the monarchy like a royal wedding. It is an event which all who are members of any family can relate to and share. At once ordinary and impossibly grand, the event attracts the uncritical attention of billions. It is that combination, too, of ordinariness and grandeur, of family continuity and regeneration, which gives the monarchy its continuing power over the imaginations of many.

 

Once, commoners might perhaps have wished they had been born royal. Would many people wish that now? The idea would have made sense when ordinary lives were short and burdened with drudgery, oppression, ignorance and pain, and what few pleasures were available were dangerous or fleeting or both. A royal life lived amid plenty would have seemed comfortable by comparison, and enviably free of constraint. But now, at least in Western countries, the lives of most ordinary people are not so very different from those of royalty. The distance between the two is not unbridgeable as once it would have been. The mystique of royalty lives on in a much-diluted form, but the royals have become far more like other celebrities: people famous for being famous, and the object of gossipy interest. However, royalty and celebrity are different, and they fit together poorly.

 

Prince William's mother, Diana, united royalty and celebrity in one person - and the awkwardness of the fit eventually consumed her. Her marriage proved disastrous for her, and its failure nearly proved disastrous for the British royal family, which struggled to understand - let alone cope with - the outpouring of grief and anger at her subsequent death. It is no accident that the House of Windsor is referred to as ''the Firm''; like any well-run enterprise, it tries to learn from its mistakes. There have been quite enough of those: three of the Queen's four children have divorced. It would appear from the long period of acclimatisation which has been granted to Middleton that this time the Firm wanted to make sure she was up to the task of being a royal wife. That she is a commoner - not brought up with an excessive expectation of privilege - may perhaps stand her in good stead. She is probably less glamorous, but - to judge from her stoicism during the couple's temporary split in 2007 - also less vulnerable than her fragile and emotionally needy late mother-in-law. No one - least of all William - would wish a repeat of the Diana episode. Not only monarchists in Australia will wish the couple well. The whole country will be hoping they have a long and happy life together.

 

Yet the state of the British monarchy and its members will be of only passing interest to this country, even though William may one day be Australia's head of state. The monarchist movement may see the wedding of a prince of the blood to a commoner as proof that the institution can modernise and renew itself. That may be so, yet it does not alter anything in the debate about an Australian republic or change the fact that no Australian can be Australia's head of state. Monarchists believe there should be no move for change while the Queen is on the throne. That appears to be the political consensus in Australia, although there is no reason for it. They may see William's coming wedding as a way to obscure the succession of the less-popular Charles to the throne which they view with some foreboding. We do not believe Charles will be anything less than a competent and popular monarch - although his Green-tinged views on a range of issues may not sit comfortably with those of many monarchists.

 

The case can be stated simply: no event within the royal family affects the case for an Australian republic. Regardless of the glamour of the coming wedding, regardless of the conduct and character - past and future, admirable and otherwise - of the members of the House of Windsor, a hereditary monarchy can never modernise itself sufficiently to be a suitable constitutional arrangement for an independent, democratic Australia.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

WHERE'S THE BROOM WHEN YOU NEED IT?

 

JOE HOCKEY may have a shaky grasp of economics, he may not add much except kilograms to the opposition frontbench, but on one matter his views are incontrovertibly sound: the evil that is the leaf blower. Hockey has complained to Parliament's Speaker, Harry Jenkins, about attendants using leaf-blowers outside his window when he is being interviewed for radio. We rarely give interviews, but we feel his pain. With the possible exception of the jet-ski and the trail bike, there is no invention which detracts so much from human happiness while contributing so little to the progress of civilisation. The leaf blower has no defenders willing to argue the case in public. No one admits to owning one. There is no Leaf Blower Council of NSW, offering newly retired state Labor MPs jobs as spokespersons to put the case for this appalling contraption, explain the term "mulch ratio", or palliate its utter frightfulness. Such a council does not exist because it cannot. The leaf blower is beyond spin. It is contrary to both God and nature. It is Satan in metal and grey plastic. Death to it. Death.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

RESERVE BANK IGNORES BRIBERY ALARM BELL

 

THE activities that took place under the nose of the Reserve Bank, a central pillar of Australia's financial regulation, are astonishing. RBA subsidiary Securency used money-laundering techniques to transfer payments through a front company in a notorious tax haven up to six months after police began investigating bribery allegations. As today's report recalls, in May 2009, when Reserve Bank deputy governor Ric Battelino responded to the first Age inquiries about the use of offshore bank accounts in tax havens, he said: ''If this is happening, it is against all the policies and procedures that the RBA has put in place.'' How, then, could these practices continue?

Securency, which is half-owned by the RBA, sells the polymer material used to make plastic bank notes in 30 countries. Securency documents obtained by The Age, and given to police, detail the trail of millions of dollars in suspected bribes paid in instalments after Securency won a contract from Nigeria. The money flowed through a Seychelles-based company in August and September 2009. Up to $23 million in suspected kickbacks was paid to win contracts in Nigeria. The documents show the money was later transferred from the Seychelles to other offshore accounts belonging to Lebanese and British businessmen, from where the payments are suspected to have gone to Nigerian officials. At the least, these transfers flout rules on tax havens and money laundering. Yet bank officials have refused to explain why they failed to stop such payments.

 

The RBA fully owns another subsidiary, Note Printing Australia, and an assistant governor chairs both company boards. Three other RBA appointees sit on the Securency board. The RBA did order an audit of Securency, which found senior executives failed to disclose important information to the board. It also recently banned payments to overseas middlemen to win deals, a year after The Age revealed the scandal. NPA dismissed all its foreign agents in 2007. As a result of corruption concerns identified by a probity audit, the company resolved to ''deal exclusively and directly with the note-issuing authority'' of each country. The RBA, of all bodies, would have been acutely aware of the reasons for the NPA decision and the need to comply with rules designed to prevent corrupt payments. It seems inexplicable that Securency was still able to flout these rules.

 

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The criminal investigation appears to be making progress. The firm's deputy chairman, British businessman and Securency founder Bill Lowther, resigned after his arrest last month by British corruption investigators working with the AFP. It is not within the powers of police, however, to examine the second aspect of this scandal: the failure of multiple authorities and government agencies to ensure the propriety of Securency's conduct, even though some worked very closely with the company.

 

Labor and the Coalition, both of which held office during the years in which Securency flew under any regulatory radar, have blocked a Senate inquiry into the roles of ministers and departments, Austrade and trade officials and the Reserve Bank itself. Authorities have taken refuge behind the police investigation, but this cannot resolve the bigger and more important issues of oversight and governance raised by this scandal. Australia was put on notice by the Australian Wheat Board bribery scandal in Iraq. Police investigations and the prospect of charges did not stop the government setting up the Cole inquiry, although AWB's stonewalling frustrated its ability to examine the role of government and regulators.

 

Now, once again, the same questions arise. Who knew what about Securency, who aided or condoned its dubious business practices, and how could these have continued on the Reserve Bank's watch even after being exposed by The Age? These matters involve much more than an isolated lapse of judgment or a rogue agent or two. Securency had established networks of payments and agents - many of them recommended by Austrade as being ''well-connected''. The firm appears to have used these networks to pay bribes to secure contracts in several of the 30 countries with which it does business - including Nigeria, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia - through tax havens such as the Seychelles, Isle of Man and Switzerland. None of the bank appointees to the Securency board have been held accountable for their failures of oversight.

 

Of course, an inquiry is likely to prove embarrassing, but leaving critical questions of responsibility unexamined is even more damaging to confidence in Australian governance and financial regulation. With the role of senior Reserve Bank officials in question, an internal inquiry would not be enough to restore confidence. A comprehensive, independent inquiry is essential, possibly undertaken by a senior judicial figure, and in camera if need be. The findings, though, must be made public. This scandal is a test of Australian governance. If the government fails to get to the bottom of it, it will have allowed Australia to edge unacceptably closer to the countries where the lack of official accountability means bribery is part of doing business.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SPYING ON EMPLOYEES HAS NO PLACE IN THE WORKPLACE

 

NOT SO long ago, a prominent trade unionist had nothing but praise for the building company in charge of the $5 billion desalination plant project at Wonthaggi. Dean Mighell, the Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, said, ''You just wish every builder would be as open about their projects as they are.'' Mr Mighell was talking about the generous salaries and working conditions negotiated between the joint-venture partners, Thiess Degremont, and the five industrial unions involved in the state's biggest infrastructure project.

 

Unfortunately, as it has turned out, not every operation of the project has been as open. Today, just a week until the state election, the site stands idle, and is likely to remain so until at least Monday. This follows Thursday's allegations that Thiess management, supposedly without the knowledge of its chief executive in Australia, Neville Power, hired Australian Security and Investigations, a Tasmanian firm headed by controversial strike-breaker Bruce Townsend, to infiltrate the workforce at Wonthaggi. Although Mr Power says the secret operation - dubbed the Pluto Project - was to help minimise security problems, the more disturbing allegation is that it was designed to spy on union members, delegates and contractors. In response to this scandal, workers were sent home on Thursday. As The Age reports today, the unions involved and Thiess met yesterday but are still a long way from reaching a deal. Meanwhile, the site's project and human-resources managers have been stood down, pending investigation.

 

It is already clear that if Thiess was not aware of what was going on, it should have been and should have done something about it. Spying on employees is unacceptable and an affront to proper workplace relations. The alleged activities, let alone the employment of an inflammatory figure such as Mr Townsend, have no place in a project of such magnitude and public significance.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

NATO SUMMIT: START MUST NOT BE STOPPED

 

Republican efforts to undermine the Start treaty threaten to destroy the rapprochement between Russia and the

west

 

Barack Obama's decision to overturn the neoconservative policy of containing Russia has become the major foreign policy achievement of his presidency. It was meant to be only the start of a series of moves to cool international tensions – including direct talks with Iran, and starting final status talks on Israel-Palestine. As fate had it, pressing the reset button with Moscow produced real dividends.

 

They are worth listing, because they stretch beyond Europe's borders. It transformed Poland's fraught relations with Russia. It produced a new strategic arms reduction treaty (Start), cutting the number of deployed strategic warheads by one-third; it secured Russia's (reluctant) backing for sanctions on Iran and stopped it delivering S-300 air defence missiles to Tehran. It helped non-proliferation efforts as Russia shut down its last remaining weapons-grade plutonium-producing power plant. Russia became a vital route for supplies and troops heading for Afghanistan, and provided one-third of the fuel US troops use. When ethnic violence broke out in Osh and Jalal-Abad in Kyrgyzstan, Russia and the US sang from the same hymn sheet. It could have been a repeat of Georgia, a proxy war in the middle of volatile central Asia. Both Russia and US have airbases there. It turned out to be anything but.

 

All of this progress and more has now been put in jeopardy by Republican threats to put a stop to Start. Two-thirds of the Senate are needed to ratify the treaty, which means nine Republican votes in the current lame-duck session (an outside possibility) or 14 votes in the new Senate that comes into session in the new year (an impossibility). The Republicans are stalling to extract more concessions. Mr Obama has already tossed them a juicy bone – an extra $84bn to modernise nuclear arsenals, which is more than that George Bush committed. That was not enough, and this week the influential Republican senator Jon Kyl warned that there was not enough time to push the treaty through the lame-duck session. This despite the fact that Start is an extension of the arms-control legacy of Ronald Reagan, that the entire military establishment backs the treaty, and that the treaty itself has been through seven months of deliberations and 20 hearings in the Senate, and been the subject of more than 700 submitted questions.

 

It is time for the concessions to stop and for the tables to be turned on the Republicans, who have a nauseating habit of wrapping themselves in the national flag and calling their stands patriotic. Yesterday Mr Obama said ratifying Start without delay was no longer a party political matter but an issue of national security. America would be weakened without it. And he was not exaggerating. Without the ability to deliver the deals he makes with foreign leaders, not just Russian ones, this US president will become window dressing on the international stage. No one, least of all Europe, will benefit from that.

 

The reset button has not transformed Russia into a liberal democracy, but it has started to change attitudes. A Pew poll published two weeks ago found that the proportion of Russians who viewed Nato favourably had risen from 24% to 40%. This helps the liberal wing of advisers under President Dmitry Medvedev's protection when they argue that Nato is not plotting to encircle Russia. Mr Medvedev will be attending the Nato summit that opens in Lisbon today more as a potential participant than as a reluctant neighbour. A paper published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies outlines how such participation might work – by initiating Russian co-operation on missile defence, upgrading the level of interoperability between Nato and Russia, and reforming the Nato-Russia Council. All Europe would benefit from this, and the cold war that still rages in the minds of some senators could at long last be consigned to the annals of history.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

WORLD CUP: FIFA'S OWN GOAL

 

Fifa is acknowledging corruption in its ranks on the one hand, and denying it on the other

 

As befits an organisation that brands itself "For the game, for the world",Fifa doesn't bear its responsibilities lightly. Its own code of ethics bestows a special responsibility of safeguarding the integrity and reputation of the game, to strive constantly to protect football from immoral or unethical practices. And for a while yesterday in Zurich those promises seemed to be holding good. Two members of the key World Cup-awarding executive committee were banned in the wake of a Sunday Times investigation into corruption; another four officials were also booted out. If not quite an Augean stables moment, it was justice delivered swiftly, and openly. But then the twist: the journalism that prompted the findings was sensationalist, wrenched out of context, intolerable. The allegations that prompted the sackings bizarrely became, in the words of Fifa, rumours propagated to sell more newspapers. Questions on the paradox of how it came to the conclusion that its own top-level officials were guilty if the allegations were abject distortions were evaded. And there was similar ducking over the claims that Qatar, bidding for the 2022 World Cup, had colluded with the Spain-Portugal 2018 bid to exchange a bloc of votes – something strictly forbidden and which could scupper England's own attempt to host 2018. The investigation seemed to have gone on the lines of: we asked them if they did anything wrong, they said no, so case unproven.

 

Fifa is acutely embarrassed by the affair, particularly as it is only two weeks from decision day for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Those driving England's claim to host the tournament share the same feelings – that the mischief-raking British media are an impediment to our chances of staging glorious games that deliver a commercial bonanza. That nervousness is compounded by the imminent prospect of a Panorama special on the same subject, although in this case the BBC programme needs to deliver fresh evidence to escape criticism of opportunistic rehashing. What Fifa performed yesterday was a damage-limitation exercise, expelling the guilty while casting confusion on the extent of culpability, proclaiming its own decisiveness while ignoring structural inadequacies. After the International Olympic Committee found itself mired in corruption after the Salt Lake City fiasco, it embraced reform, including a ban on informal visits to bid cities – where promises would be sought and given – and exacting conflict-of-interest rules. This is where Fifa should be focused after 2 December when the winners are named. Meanwhile, we can only wish David Beckham, Prince William, David Cameron, Gary Lineker, Fabio Capello and the rest of England's bid team good luck.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? A NEW SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE

 

A government whose commitment to political reform was even-handed would stop the clock on the Lords

By what logic does a government which is cutting the size of the House of Commons do what this one did yesterday? Under the parliamentary voting system and constituencies bill, the number of MPs in the elected house will be reduced by 50, from 650 to 600. Yet this same government yesterday increased the number of members of the unelected House of Lords by 54 to nearly 750. There is, as ever, a partisan defence for these actions. The government would say it is committed to a smaller and more fairly elected Commons by 2015 and to a wholly or largely elected (and smaller) Lords by the same date. In that context the new peers are thus merely temporary, while the fact that 43 of the 54 are coalition supporters simply redresses the previous regime where Labour had transformed itself into the largest party in the Lords. This is, though, a shabby claim. The coalition parties already have a majority over Labour in the Lords; yesterday's appointments merely extend it. More importantly, the new appointments, many of them involving rich donors to all three parties, give a sugar rush to the old politics that the coalition says it wishes to destroy. A government (and an opposition) whose commitment to political reform was even-handed, not partisan, would stop the clock on the Lords, passing a Cromwellian self-denying ordinance to appoint no new peers until the upper house was reformed. Instead, yesterday gave us an example of unreformed Bourbon politics at their worst. Shame on them all.

 

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            THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TOO CLOSE TO THE DEATH PENALTY

 

Six lay judges and three professional judges at the Yokohama District Court on Tuesday handed down a death sentence to a 32-year-old man for murdering two men in a Chiba Prefecture hotel in June 2009 — the first death sentence under the lay judge system introduced last year.

 

This contrasts with a life sentence that the Tokyo District Court gave Nov. 1 to a 42-year-old man who had murdered a female ear-cleaning shop worker and her grandmother in Tokyo's Minato Ward in August 2009. It was the first case under the lay judge system in which the prosecution had demanded a death sentence. In that case, the judges took into consideration the fact that the defendant had become depressed and had fallen into despair because of unrequited love.

 

In the Yokohama court case, the brutality of the crime and the defendant's greed in committing it led to the death sentence. The ruling said that in conspiracy with another man, who had trouble with two men over business and is now on an international wanted list, the defendant volunteered to murder the two in order to obtain concession to smuggle stimulant drugs and sell them in Japan.

 

While the two victims pleaded for their lives, he stabbed one in the neck and used an electric saw to behead the other. The ruling said the crime was "relentless, atrocious and inhumane" and the second victim's "dread and physical suffering are beyond imagination."

 

Some four-fifths of Japanese support capital punishment. Tuesday's ruling shows that ordinary citizens can find themselves in a situation in which they, as lay judges, must think deeply about capital punishment in a concrete way.

 

Despite this, the current system, which prohibits lay judges from speaking about their deliberations in court, deprives lay judges who hand down a death sentence of the chance to share with other citizens what they thought and how they may have agonized over their decision. The system needs to be revised. At present, even the simple matter of whether a death sentence was unanimous or based on a majority opinion cannot be divulged.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR MYANMAR

 

Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest. That does not mean she is free. Rather, it means that the military junta that rules Myanmar is stepping up efforts to rehabilitate its international image without really changing its repressive habits. That charade must be exposed and Myanmar pressed to undertake real democratic reform if it is to return to the community of nations.

 

The release of Ms. Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize laureate held in prison or under house arrest for 15 of the past 20 years, was expected after the junta held parliamentary elections for the first time in 20 years. Silencing her, along with other prominent democracy activists, ensured a predictable result — although to take no chances, the government also fixed the vote. Not surprisingly, government parties won some 80 percent of the seats up for election.

 

In comments after her release, Ms. Suu Kyi said that she is prepared to work with the people who imprisoned her. This is a departure from her past and the election strategy of her party, the National League of Democracy, which boycotted the vote. Ms. Suu Kyi added that her willingness to work with the government depends on its readiness to give the opposition a voice.

 

That should not be too big a bone for the junta to swallow. After all, it holds virtually every seat in the Parliament. Compromise should be possible without fatally weakening the government's position. While that may sound like the counsel of the defeated, Ms. Suu Kyi, like-minded activists and supporters of democracy in Myanmar must aim to change the system over time. That means finding cracks in the military's hold on power and exploiting them.

 

Real change only comes from within. It is only when democracy supporters find allies within the power structure that external support can make a difference. Nevertheless, friends of Myanmar must push the junta to make room for an opposition. That is the best — if not the only — way to ensure genuine change in that long-suffering state.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

SERVING THE NEEDY

 

We have witnessed many fatal incidents in the past during the distribution of donations to needy people.

 

Unfortunately, we have not learned from many such sad incidents as this week's distribution of sacrificed meat, part of the Idul Adha celebration, was still marred by chaos in a number of places in Jakarta and elsewhere.

 

People penetrated an iron fence when they tried to retrieve several kilos of meat distributed by the management of Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta on Nov. 17. We also learned of chaotic situations during the distribution of meat in other places, where many people were not patient enough to wait their turn.

 

Although there were no reported fatalities in this year's distribution of meat, it is regrettable that organizers have failed to create a better system in distributing assistance, even though this is an annual event. Disorderly people still crowded designated places before receiving meat, instead of queuing for their turn.

 

Only two months ago a blind man was killed after he was trapped in a chaotic situation when he competed against thousands of people who wanted to greet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the Idul Fitri celebration. In 2008, 21 people were killed in stampede when a rich man in Pasuruan, East Java, invited thousands of people to his house to distribute alms to them.

 

It is obvious that we need a better system for distributing assistance, particularly if it involves large numbers of people. The best mechanism is for organizers to deliver donations to recipients at their respective residences. It will not only avoid chaotic situations, but the process would treat recipients more humanely.

 

But if inviting large numbers of people is still the chosen mechanism, safety should be prioritized. Any organizing committee of such an event has to create effective queuing lines to make sure that those who come first will be served first. Of course, the organizers need to deploy an adequate number of security officers so that order can be maintained.

 

Indonesians will still witness mass donation distribution efforts in the coming years because poverty remains a major problem in our country. Donation ceremonies will continue to take place because there are so many religious observances that are traditionally marked by the distribution of charity — not to mention relief efforts where aid is collected and distributed in the aftermath of natural disasters.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

PUBLIC TRUST

 

It is with great concern that we acknowledge reports of financial impropriety by certain members of the media relating to their news coverage.

As a pillar of democracy and guardian of good governance, the media has an exalted role in championing the progress of this nation. Even the slightest allegation, underlining that these are still preliminary accusations, of conduct which violates the ethics which we the press hold so dear, is a shattering blow to our most important asset: Public trust.

 

The Indonesian Press Council and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) are currently conducting investigations into allegations that a group of journalists had demanded share allotments and financial gratuities in PT Krakatau Steel initial public offerings earlier this month in return for positive news.

 

The journalists, allegedly under the auspice of the Indonesian Stock Exchange Journalist Forum, demanded shares totaling Rp 637.5 million (US$71,000).

 

We encourage a swift and thorough investigation to clarify this matter. We are also confident that media institutions will support this inquiry and take necessary disciplinary action if needed.

 

The established mainstream Indonesia media organizations, while not perfect, have thus far retained a high degree of discipline and commitment to their profession. These allegations, if proven, are not a reflection on the integrity of the commitment of Indonesian journalism ethical standards, but rather on how morally ragged individuals continue to undermine the integrity of the profession.

 

Indonesian media, of which The Jakarta Post is at the forefront, has made great strides to upgrade professionalism and the quality of journalism. Turning a profession once marred by the cancer of rampant kickbacks and economic-political collusion, it has become one of the most respected media hubs in Asia.

 

The lesson learnt from this episode is the need to remain vigilant toward the moral hazards that journalism can succumb to and the necessity to impose stricter oversight in strategic areas of coverage where the lure of currency is of elevated persuasion.

 

These efforts cannot be undertaken alone. An eager open palm does not form the habit of receiving privileges if there is nothing to regularly feed the lust.

 

Society must cease the habit of compromising journalists through gratuitous rewards.

 

As this case is demonstrating, journalists can easily cross the line from being informed watchdogs, to vested players. Mechanisms should be placed and applied which can easily prevent conflicts of interests.

 

At stake here is not only the credibility of the media, but also the Indonesian Stock Exchange, or any institution, for that matter, which needs to serve the public with information.

 

In a country where the good governance is an uphill battle, once the media becomes loose, this nation loses a large chunk of self-respect and hope.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

THE ETHOS, PATHOS AND LOGOS OF OBAMA'S SPEECH

SETIONO SUGIHARTO

 

Mass hysteria, created by some 6,000 attendees during the recent speech delivered by US President Barack Obama, can certainly be attributed to not only the president's charming, relaxed and affable persona, but also to his listener-friendly speech.

 

Known as a shrewd orator and politician, Obama is always able to put his audiences into his frame of mind everywhere he delivers his speeches.

 

The fact that the speech he delivered at the University of Indonesia amazed most Indonesians is reminiscent of an Arisotelean tradition of oratory, which emphasizes three modes of appeal: ethos, pathos and logos.

 

Ethos is simply the personal appeal of the orator. Pathos appeals to the emotions of the audience through the appropriate choice of topoi (themes) and tropes (metaphors) of the oration, and logos appeals to logic or reason

 

Highly personal in tone, substantive and dialogic in its content, relaxed and light in the choice of its dictions (coupled with a local argot), the speech reflects Obama's character as an outstanding orator, who refrains from using stilted, ceremonial oratory styles with least understood political jargon. What is more, Obama's supple paralanguage (facial expressions, gestures, eye movements) mirrors his prowess in demonstrating the art of oratory.    

 

His personal tone in the speech indicated by the frequent use of the personal pronoun "I" demonstrates the importance of voicing one's personal interests, biases, values and opinions –  essential parts of democracy. And with plenty use of the inclusive "we" implies a dialogic nature to his speech, inviting the audience to ponder over the discussed issues such as the vital role of democracy and the maintenance of universal values upheld by the two countries.

 

 The inclusive "we", in the context of the speech, is an effective linguistic sign used by Obama as a Christian to embrace the ideology of our Muslim-dominated country to call for commitment to upholding what he calls "shared humanity". The quote of his country's motto E pluribus unu, which he equalizes to Indonesia's Bhinneka tuggal Ika (unity in diversity) supports this assertion.          

 

The mode of pathos lies, in fact, in the nostalgic opening part of the speech. Prior to mentioning the strategic partnership between Indonesia and the US in the body of his speech, Obama intelligently spoke about his nostalgic memories of four years of living in Indonesia during his childhood and fore grounded it as the topoi (themes) in the opening part of the speech.

 

Initiated with a greeting in Arabic and Indonesian, and followed with an emotive utterance Indonesia bagian dari diri saya (Indonesia is part of me), Obama further elaborated his narrative mainly relating to his childhood life as well as his own family life in Jakarta.

 

By attaching such a theme as an introductory remark, Obama put his audience in to his frame of mind before he proceeded to elucidate the partnership and the role of democracy in the two countries. In doing so, he tried to engage with his audience by filling them with nostalgia for his childhood life in Jakarta.

 

 Finally, appealing to logic or reason are clearly heard when Obama touched on areas such as development, democracy, and religious faith, which are, as he argues, fundamental to human progress.

 

Reasons for arguing and counter-arguing these issues are explicitly spelt out, and proof to strengthen his arguments are made clear through real examples.   

 

No less intriguing is the speech's epilogue, which Obama formulated in the form of a strong reminder for the country whose practice of democracy is still in its infancy. Still seeing the relevance of the country's Pancasila ideology, Obama reminded us that as a consequence of practicing democracy "Islam flourishes, but so do other faiths".

 

This is, however, not simply lip service, as Obama has proven his commitment to respecting pluralism in the world by allowing the construction of a grand mosque near the Ground Zero location.

 

And more recently, despite his short stay in Jakarta, his memorable visit to the grand Istiqlal mosque further testifies his commitment to honoring other faiths.

 

The writer is an associate professor at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta. He is chief editor of the Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

MADE IN INDONESIA – SOLD AROUND THE WORLD

ASHISH LALL

 

There has been a lot of good economic news from Indonesia lately.  The economy is expected to grow by at least 6 percent per annum over the next five years.  Nominal per capita GDP is expected to cross the US$3,000 mark and the size of middle class is expected to reach 52 million by 2015.  

 

Foreign direct investment was about $2.9 billion in the first half of 2010 and is expected to surpass the previous high in 2005 by the end of the year.  Indonesia's sovereign debt rating is at a 12-year high and is just a couple of notches below investment grade.

 

Yet there are many challenges, some typical of developing countries and other particular to Indonesia.  There is much needed infrastructure investment in the utilities sector and Indonesia's geography poses particular logistics problems which will require huge investments in inter-island transportation.  

 

Job creation and skills are another issue as the workforce will grow by 20 million in the next 10 years. 

 

Income inequality and remoteness lead to inequitable access to services such as healthcare and finance.  Infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than those in Vietnam, Philippines, Sri Lanka and China and only half the population has access to formal financial services.

 

Some of these challenges such as upgrading infrastructure will require traditional solutions but for others, such as access to healthcare and financial services, Indonesia could look toward innovative solutions developed domestically and by multinationals in other developing and emerging economies.  

 

Indian conglomerate Godrej and Boyce developed ChotuKool with input from potential customers — rural women. This product is a portable refrigerator weighing less than 8 kilograms and priced at $69. It uses high-end insulation to stay cool even without power.  It has only 20 parts instead of about 200 in the typical refrigerator. It does not have a compressor, but runs on a cooling chip and a fan similar to one used in computers and it can run on batteries.

 

NeoNurture is a baby incubator designed from car parts. The prototype was developed by among others, students, faculty and volunteers from a number of American universities.  


"Indonesia could look toward innovative solutions developed domestically and by multinationals." 

They had conducted interviews with hospitals and rural clinics in a number of South and Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia to understand the challenges of newborn care in developing countries.  

Why car parts? Because they found that cars can be repaired reliably in most rural communities and car companies have distribution channels to provide parts in remote communities.

Aravind Eye Hospitals in India has used process innovation to treat over 2.5 million out patients and perform 300,000 surgeries in rural India last year. Multinationals are joining the fray because they find that the markets for products developed in industrialized countries and only marginally modified before being sold in developing countries are only going to allow them to reach a small proportion of the large population of emerging markets.

 

In some instances, the market segment is pretty much non-existent — ovens for example are a common household appliance in industrialized countries, but have no place in the average Indian kitchen.

 

Innovation is about context.  There are many constraints to conducting business in developing countries. Per-capita incomes are low and much of the population lives in rural areas relying on agriculture for their livelihood. The infrastructure is poor, as is access to healthcare, water, sanitation, electricity and education.  Governments also devote a smaller proportion of GDP to expenditure on these items.  

 

This context is the reality in which domestic firms have built successful businesses.  

 

Multinationals that increasingly have to rely on emerging markets for growth, are developing products in and for this constrained environment and also exporting them back to their home markets where the products can serve new segments and applications.

 

General Electric (GE) has developed a portable electrocardiogram for India (Mac 400) which sells for about $1000 and a PC-based portable ultrasound (Vscan) for China which sells for about $15,000.

 

Portable medical equipment is useful not just in developing countries but can also be used in developed countries to provide healthcare in remote communities and for use at accident sites — the market it turns out, is global.  

 

About a year ago, GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt and professors Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble from Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA, wrote about this in a Harvard Business Review article, calling it 'reverse innovation'.  Clearly, there is a new paradigm and developing countries need no longer absorb and assimilate technology from developed countries.

 

The biggest challenge in implementing reverse innovation is an organizational one. GE has set up "local growth teams", which are connected to the global technology team in the US and other locations, but everything else is local, including product development, manufacturing, sourcing, marketing, selling and distribution.

 

So why should Indonesia care?  Because this gives it a new way of thinking about both foreign direct investment and innovation.  Prior to 2004 Indonesia's attitude towards foreign direct investment was ambivalent at best and when it comes to innovation one is reminded of Dr. B.J. Habibie's audacious aspirations in aviation and shipbuilding.  

 

Now things are different and both BKPM chairman Gita Wirjawan and Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu are eager to attract investment.  With reverse innovation, products will be developed in Indonesia, for the Indonesian market, which will help in the provision of public services and new products to lower income groups.  

 

Later these products can boost exports not just to industrialized countries but also to other developing countries including China and India.  The local growth teams will use local resources and provide good quality jobs for young Indonesians.  

 

Of course GE alone cannot make this happen but it is worthwhile thinking about scaling up Jeff Immelt's idea, since Proctor & Gamble, Microsoft, Nokia, Nestlé, Unilever / Hindustan Lever, Philips, Danone, Hyundai and LG Electronics are also doing the same in India, China, Kenya, Mexico and Bangladesh … why not Indonesia?

 

The writer is associate professor, Asia Competitiveness Institute, Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

FAUZI FAILS TO DEVELOP BUSWAY, PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN JEOPARDY

DARMANINGTYAS

 

TransJakarta Busway is the only mode of mass transportation that the Jakarta administration has. It is true that other modes of transportation do exist in Jakarta in the form of electric trains and big buses, but they do not belong to the local government.

 

The Jabodetabek electric trains belong to the central government, while the big buses are operated by a central government-owned private company.

 

The TransJakarta Busway was initiated, implemented and operated by the Jakarta administration through its Technical Operational Unit, the Transportation Agency, known as TransJakarta BLU (Public Service Agency).  

 

As the only mode of transportation that it owns, the TransJakarta Busway should be the pride and jewel of the Jakarta administration. Its existence is the result of a painstaking and complicated process because initially many residents of Jakarta opposed its construction.

 

Its existence cannot be separated from the hard work and efforts of governor Sutiyoso who was persistent in having it constructed albeit with much opposition from the public.

 

By the end of his term (Oct. 7, 2007), he had been able to lay the foundations for 10 corridors: 7 corridors were fully operational, while 3 corridors (Corridor 8 Lebak Bulus-Harmoni, Corridor 9 Cililitan-Pluit, and Corridor 10 Cililitan-Tanjung Priok) were in the process of construction and expected to be fully operational in September 2007.  

 

Corridor 8 has been in operation since April 2009, but it has not been operated fully. It only covers Lebak Bulus-Grogol and uses buses from other corridors.

 

The local government promised to operate the other two remaining corridors, Corridor 9 and 10, by the end of 2010, but there are no signs of them being operational soon.

 

The repairs of bus stops in Corridor 10 have not been completed and it will take at least one month to 
do so.

 

The transfer of power from Sutiyoso to Fauzi Bowo (popularly known as Foke) has brought a great impact on the fate of TransJakarta Busway.

 

The new governor does not seem to have a commitment to continue the busway construction.

 

During his three years in office, there has been no concrete action to improve the service of TransJakarta Busway or to operate the other remaining three corridors, although the infrastructure of these corridors has been constructed.

 

He also did not show any commitment to accomplish the construction of all 15 busway corridors by 2010 as the Macro Transportation Plan has planned.

 

Governor Fauzi's lack of commitment to develop TransJakarta Busway is shown from his decision to cancel the plan to construct the remaining three corridors.

 

From 15 corridors planned for construction, there will only be 12 corridors that will be constructed, and the construction will even be done in several stages.

 

In 2011, there will only be one corridor constructed and in 2012 another one.

 

In other words, during his term between Oct. 8, 2007 to Oct. 7, 2012, Fauzi will only construct two corridors, while the other 10 were constructed during Sutiyoso's term. This is obviously not an achievement. Rather, it is a major failure.

 

The cancellation of the plan to construct the three corridors will mean the public has even fewer options for safe, comfortable and punctual public transportation, so that it will be impossible to advocate users of personal vehicles to shift to public transportation. On the other hand, the increase of the number of personal vehicles reaches 10 percent per year.

 

This increase can only be discouraged by constructing safe, comfortable, punctual and affordable modes of public transportation. It is very wrong for Fauzi Bowo to construct flyovers (Antasari-Blok M and Kampung Melayu-Tanah Abang) in order to solve the problems of traffic congestion in Jakarta because the flyovers will only promote the higher use of personal vehicles.

 

It will be very childish and unwise if his lack of commitment to complete the construction of the TransJakarta Busway is because TransJakarta Busway is always associated with Sutiyoso.

 

A good governor will continue the program of his predecessor if the public considers that program to be good and at the same time he will create a new program to leave his mark.

 

It seems that Governor Fauzi Bowo wants to focus on the birth of Lebak Bulus-Dukuh Atas MRT that was proposed 20 years ago. There is nothing wrong with this focus, if it does not neglect other existing modes of transportation such as the TransJakarta Busway.

 

If it only focuses on the MRT and neglects TransJakarta Busway, it will lead to disaster for Jakarta residents. First, the process of constructing the MRT can take a very long time, at least five years.

 

It means that for the next five years, there will be no good mass public transportation available. Waiting for five years to pass is not a short time for chaos to occur.

 

Second, during the five years process of constructing the MRT, there is a high probability that traffic congestion will occur on the roads of the construction site and the alternative roads surrounding it.

 

The traffic jams that occur during the construction years are inevitable.

 

Third, after the MRT is constructed with its limited route up to Dukuh Atas, the question is with what mode of transportation will the MRT passengers continue their journey to their destinations if the busway is neglected?

 

Waiting for the MRT route to be constructed up to Kota will take more time, at least three more years after the Lebak Bulus-Kota MRT is in operation.

 

There are indeed many modes of mass public transportation, but without any good mode of public transportation it will be difficult to force people to leave their cars at home and shift to using public transportation.

 

The cancellation also creates pessimism on the plan to have a policy to limit the use of personal vehicles. How is it possible to limit the use of personal vehicles when there is no mass public transportation available adequately?

 

Thus, Foke's lack of seriousness to develop the busway will create a domino effect and lead to more traffic chaos in Jakarta.

 

From what is described above, he has achieved nothing in the issue of transportation. Instead, he has failed.

 

I think Jakarta does not need a smart leader, but one who has the courage to make the right and appropriate decision and listen to what the public says.

 

The writer is deputy chairman of the MTI (Indonesian Transportation Community

 

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