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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

EDITORIAL 14.12.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month december 14, edition 000702, 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. POT LOOKS FOR A KETTLE
  2. THE HEALING TOUCH
  3. BELLIGERENCE TELLS A STORY - A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. KASHMIR ALWAYS PART OF INDIA - ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
  5. TRAPPED IN 'UTOPIA' OF COMMUNISM - BARRY RUBIN
  6. CHECKMATING CHINA NEEDS SERIOUS ENGAGEMENT - CP BHAMBHRI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. TRADE AND BEYOND
  2. ON A HIGH
  3. IT'LL TAKE HARD WORK - HARSH V PANT
  4. IT PROVIDES CHECKS AND BALANCES
  5. JUST AN AVENUE TO DISPENSE PATRONAGE - KAUTILYA KUMAR
  6. SHOOTING THE MESSENGER - VIKRAM SINHA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. EATING INTO OUR GROWTH PLAN
  2. LL IS FORGIVEN
  3. BACK TO HOUSEKEEPING - SITARAM YECHURY
  4. ALL PR IS NOT BAD PR - SHARIF D RANGNEKAR

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. BARRIER TEST
  2. WINTER OF DISCONTENT
  3. BIHAR SHOWS THE WAY
  4. THE CAN-CAN'T AT CANCUN - LAVANYA RAJAMANI 
  5. IT'S NOT OVER YET - COOMI KAPOOR 
  6. 'THE GOVERNMENT MUST RECONNECT WITH CORPORATE INDIA. THERE IS - SHEKHAR GUPTA 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. ALONG EXPECTED LINES
  2. INFORM ALLAH ...
  3. EVASIVE VOTING
  4. MISDIRECTED MISSILES - GOPAL JAIN
  5. NEW SILK ROUTES - TNR RAO
  6. EAVESDROPPER

THE HINDU

  1. THE EU-INDIA SUMMIT
  2. SUSTAINING PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
  3. PATRONAGE AS A U.S. FORCE MULTIPLIER - RAHUL BEDI
  4. MADE IN GUANGZHOU, SOLD IN INDIA - ANANTH KRISHNAN
  5. $19M FOR CONSERVING CAMBODIAN FORESTS
  6. 'OUR WILL TO INVEST IN INDIA IS HIGH'

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. A SNAP POLL WON'T BE GOOD FOR INDIA
  2. ARMY'S SOFTER FACE - SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. UID'S IDENTITY CRISIS - JAYATI GHOSH

DNA

  1. EDUCING PARLIAMENT TO IRRELEVANCE
  2. DIGVIJAY'S SECULAR BLUFF IS CALLED
  3. CHANT MANTRAS FOR PEACE OF MIND - SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR
  4. SAINA SHOWS SHE IS THE PLAYER TO BEAT
  5. WHY WE ARE THE WORLD'S WORST BUNCH OF KOWTOWERS - RAJEEV SRINIVASAN
  6. CRABBY CLIMATE CHANGE CAMPAIGNERS POLLUTE THE AIR - PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. WHEN LIFE HALTS
  2. MAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT
  3. NUCLEAR POWER FRONT STILL HAZY - BY T.K.KRISHNAMURTHY
  4. ENERGY CONSERVATION - BY VIKRAM GOUR
  5. LANDMARK VERDICT OF DELHI HIGH COURT - BY K.N. PANDITA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. A SMALL STEP FORWARD
  2. A WASTED SESSION
  3. DELHI REMAINS CRIME CAPITAL
  4. WIKILEAKS HIGHLIGHTS THREAT FROM PAK - BY T.V. RAJESWAR
  5. HELL-BENT TO SERVE - BY G.K. GUPTA
  6. ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY MISSED - SUNITA NARAIN
  7. WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED
  8. SHARED VISION

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MANUFACTURING GROWTH
  2. PROBLEM WITH PULSES
  3. TAKING THINK TANKS SERIOUSLY - SUMAN BERY
  4. MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR DEFENCE OFFSETS - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. CULTIVATING FARM RESEARCH - SURINDER SUD
  6. 2010'S BEST NON-FICTION - BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. LEAD, PRIME MINISTER
  2. WELCOME EU TRADE DEAL
  3. PIGS CAN'T FLY
  4. BALANCING SINO-INDIAN ECONOMIC TIES - AMIT MITRA
  5. INFRASTRUCTURE MATTERS 
  6. STATUS OF CITIES IN EMERGING INDIA - SAMUEL PAUL & KALA S SRIDHAR 
  7. ENLIGHTENMENT IS A LIMITED LIABILITY - MUKUL SHARMA 

THE STATESMAN

  1. FARCICAL FINALE
  2. WOOING TEACHERS
  3. STRIDING ALONG
  4. RIGHT TO INFORMATION - VINOD VYASULU
  5. GROWING POTENTIAL OF RENEWABLE ENERGY - BHARAT DOGRA 
  6. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
  7. FROM THE UN

DECCAN  CHRONICALE

  1. ARMY'S SOFTER FACE - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  2. AMERICA'S ECONOMY ISN'T A STALLED CAR - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  3. A SNAP POLL WON'T BE GOOD FOR INDIA
  4. UID'S IDENTITY CRISIS - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  5. HUMOUR IN PUBLIC SPEAKING
  6. STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART

DECCAN HERALD

  1. UNSAFE CAPITAL
  2. GROWING TIES
  3. KEEP THE PUBLIC VOICE - B G VERGHESE
  4. EGYPT'S DEMOCRACY IN A SHAMBLES - MICHAEL JANSEN
  5. HIDDEN SIGNS - BY J S RAGHAVAN

THE JERUSALEM  POST

  1. NO SUBSTITUTE FOR DIALOGUE
  2. THE FEMINIST DECEPTION - BY CAROLINE B. GLICK  
  3. OUR OWN WORST ENEMIES - BY DAVID NEWMAN  
  4. ENCOUNTERING PEACE: SO, WHAT COMES NEXT? - BY GERSHON BASKIN  

HAARETZ

  1. CELEBRATING THE RISE IN CONSTRUCTION
  2. ARAB MKS AND ISRAELI DEMOCRACY - BY MOSHE ARENS
  3. SUBJECT TO BAIDATZ'S APPROVAL - BY AMIR OREN
  4. IN SCOTLAND, THE GUY RESIGNED - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  5. THE ORTHODOX TYRANNY

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. COLLEGE, JOBS AND INEQUALITY
  2. THE LATEST HEALTH CARE DECISION
  3. CONGRESS AND THE COURT
  4. SWEDEN'S NEAR MISS
  5. A U.N. PLAN FOR ISRAEL - BY ROBERT WRIGHT
  6. BEN FRANKLIN'S NATION - BY DAVID BROOKS
  7. WHAT IKE GOT RIGHT - By JAMES LEDBETTER
  8. ADDING FAIRNESS TO THE TIP - BY TIM AND NINA ZAGAT

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON 'INDIVIDUAL MANDATE': RULING ON HEALTH LAW OFFERS A VICTORY FOR FREELOADERS
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON 'INDIVIDUAL MANDATE': 'UNFAIR, HARMFUL' - BY GEORGE ALLEN
  3. ROMNEY: WHY TAX CUT IS A BAD DEAL - BY MITT ROMNEY
  4. OBAMA NEEDS TO LOOK DEMOCRATS IN THE EYE - BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM
  5. WE'RE GETTING MATERNITY CARE ALL WRONG - BY JENNIFER GUNTER

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. PROBLEMS IN NATION'S SKIES
  2. A MOST SHAMEFUL GAP
  3. 'TAX HIKE' MISLABELED 'TAX CUT'
  4. IMPORTANT EDUCATIONAL GAINS
  5. SNOW (A LITTLE)!
  6. APPALLING JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT
  7. TENNESSEE RIVER WATER TO GEORGIA?

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - CHP'S 'FOUNDATIONAL' REFORM EFFORT
  2. EU'S TURKEY DEBATE DEEPENS FURTHER - SEMİH İDİZ
  3. A POINT I'VE FAILED TO SEE: THE GÜLEN-PKK TIES CLOSE UP - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER
  4. HOLBROOKE TOUCHED CYPRUS, TOO - FERAİ TINÇ
  5. MEASURES AGAINST HOT MONEY INFLOWS
  6. FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE EAST - ARIANNA HUFFINGTON
  7. HURLING VIRTUAL EGGS - YUSUF KANLI
  8. OUR LIVES ARE FULL OF HYPOCRISY - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

THE NEWS

  1. MERKEL'S HARD LINE
  2. THE GAS DEBACLE
  3. CHECKING EXTORTION
  4. INDIA OF GANDHI'S DREAMS? - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  5. LESSONS FROM KARBALA - FARHAN BOKHARI
  6. CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR THE IDPS - DR ASHRAF ALI
  7. LIMITS OF MONETARY POLICY - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  8. REFORM AND RESISTANCE - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. HUMAN RIGHTS DAY - RIZWAN ASGHAR

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PUNJAB INDUSTRY COMES TO A HALT
  2. TALIBAN: MUSHARRAF HAS A POINT
  3. DEATH OF A TOWERING EDITOR
  4. AFGHANISTAN – AMERICA'S NIGHTMARE - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. WHAT WIKILEAKS REVEALS TO US? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. THE DIFFICULT DAYS AHEAD - I M MOHSIN
  7. PAK-CHINA NUCLEAR COOPERATION - SOBEA TABBASUM
  8. REALITY CHECK - THOMAS L FRIEDMAN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. WHY WIKILEAKS NEEDS A FILTER
  2. LABOR MUST JOIN THE DOTS
  3. CANCUN SIGNALS A RETURN TO PRACTICAL CLIMATE POLICIES

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. BASHING THE BANKS WITH A FEATHER
  2. BACK ON COURSE AFTER CANCUN
  3. CLIMATE CONFERENCE AT BEST A MODEST ACHIEVER
  4. NEW BANK RULES MERELY A GOOD START

THE GUARDIAN

  1. SILVIO BERLUSCONI: A CONFLICT TOO FAR
  2. LOCAL GOVERNMENT: CONDEMNED TO BE FREE
  3. IN PRAISE OF … LUTON

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. ACQUITTAL INSTEAD OF DEATH
  2. THAI KING'S CALL FOR UNITY
  3. SETBACKS IN INDONESIA'S ANTIGRAFT POLICY - BY DONNY SYOFYAN
  4. SPLITS, RUMORS OF SPLITS, AND THE HOLE IF KAN SPLITS

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. INTEGRATING SUPERVISION
  2. 'BARONGSAI' AND TIFATULISM THREAT - KHAIRIL AZHAR
  3. NATURALIZATION AND RI'S HUMAN DEVELOPMENT - PUTERA SATRIA SAMBIJANTORO
  4. GLOBAL WARMING AND CIVILIZATION - ROKHMIN DAHURI

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. TIME IS NOT ON KREMLIN'S SIDE - BY NIKOLAI PETROV
  2. SILENCING THE WHISTLEBLOWER - BY VLADIMIR RYZHKOV

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

POT LOOKS FOR A KETTLE

OPPOSITION IS NOT CONGRESS'S HAND MAIDEN


It's amusing to hear Congress president Sonia Gandhi defend her party's (as opposed to the Government's) decision not to accept the Opposition's demand for the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to inquire into the 2G Spectrum scam. According to Ms Gandhi, the Government "has nothing to hide" and "nothing to fear"; if that be the case, then why is the Congress so fearful of a JPC inquiry? Similar assertions were made when the Bofors scandal came to light. On that occasion, too, Rajiv Gandhi had insisted that there was nothing to hide and nothing to fear as his Government had done nothing wrong. What emerged subsequently is known to all; the exertions of the Congress during UPA1's tenure to save and exonerate Italian middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi who received the Bofors payola and whose proximity to the Congress's first family is no secret are still fresh in public memory. By setting up a JPC with the remit to look into the various aspects of the telecom scam that has caused national outrage and left the public exchequer poorer by Rs 1.76 lakh crore the Congress — or the Government — would not have "undermined the CBI and the PAC", as has been claimed by Ms Gandhi, nor would it have shown disrespect towards the Supreme Court. A JPC inquiry is an independent exercise meant to look at possible lapses and fix political responsibility. It is not a criminal investigation. In any event, it is laughable that the Congress should be suddenly so concerned about upholding the prestige, dignity and independence of the CBI, the PAC and the judiciary: Whenever it has been in power, the party has sought to misuse the CBI, gloss over the PAC's reports and abridge the judiciary's independence. The misuse of CBI to settle political scores and the various affidavits submitted in the Supreme Court by the UPA since 2004 bear out this contention; the PAC's reports have never stirred the conscience of the Congress's leaders. Ms Gandhi's claim, therefore, is devoid of merit.


It is equally laughable that the Congress should mock at the Opposition parties, especially the BJP, for daring to point out corruption in the Government it heads. The Congress's 'high command' is meant to manage the party's affairs and image, not those of others. Critics would suggest that Ms Gandhi's fulmination at Monday's CPP meeting amount to the proverbial pot desperately looking for a kettle to call it black. It's neither here nor there. The issue is not who else is corrupt, but that the Congress stands accused of massive corruption under its watch; the "wise leadership" of the Prime Minister, of which Ms Gandhi has waxed eloquent, has till now failed to prevent the loot of the nation, best exemplified by Mr A Raja's brazen thievery. Not to concede the Opposition's demand is a political decision; in its wisdom, such as it is, the Congress has decided to brazen it out, regardless of the mounting perception that the party has a lot to 'hide' and much to 'fear'. Yet, Ms Gandhi has chosen to admonish the Opposition for 'politicising' corruption and making a political issue out of the scandals that taint the UPA. The Congress cannot arrogate to itself the right to decide what can and cannot figure on the political agenda of parties that do not subscribe to its unscrupulous conduct of public affairs. The Opposition is not there to pander to the Congress or be mindful of its susceptibilities and vulnerablities. If the Congress finds this discomfiting, it has only itself to blame. The UPA Government's blunders cannot become the burden of the Opposition.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THE HEALING TOUCH

LEAST WE CAN DO IS SAVE OUR ANIMALS


The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation & Conservation deserves to be applauded for taking care of the needs of ailing and abandoned wild animals, nursing them back to recovery and releasing them in their natural habitats. This systematic wildlife rehabilitation and wildlife health monitoring is, in essence, furthering wildlife conservation which is in a fragile state in India. The centre, one of its kind, is following the legacy of wildlife conservationist Billy Arjan Singh, who had been largely responsible for persuading Mrs Indira Gandhi to initiate Project Tiger. Billy Arjan Singh showed the way by bringing up an orphaned male leopard cub, whom he called Prince, and subsequently two female leopards, Harriet and Juliette, allowing them to roam free and later reintroducing them into the wild. It is common for elephant calves getting trapped in deep and narrow trenches dug for draining water, tigers getting injured in poacher's traps, leopard cubs being left orphaned, or birds hit by cyclones. In such events, separated from the natal herd, the distressed animals feel as insecure as humans in distress and need shelter, food and medical care. In fact, caring for animals has always been an integral part of Indian culture. Not only do we worship animals, they are portrayed as heroes in Indian fables to inculcate love for animals among children. Prince Siddhartha, according to the Jataka tales, was moved by the pain of an injured bird and took it upon himself as his moral duty to protect the bird till it recovered. Unfortunately, today it seems we are forgetting ancient Indians' compassionate attitude towards animals. 

That over the years the CWRC has become a home for hundreds of injured or abandoned animals, reminds us of Noah and his ark. The Biblical story about Noah building an ark, following god's instruction, and housing a pair of every known animal species on Earth to see them through the great deluge resonates strongly today given the increased conflict between man and animal. With the alarming rate at which our wildlife species are disappearing, it does not merit reiteration that India needs a far greater amount of energy and effort on conservation. We need better implementation of existing projects, better management of wildlife reserves and better people at the helm of affairs to monitor these projects. But most important, we need to create awareness among people living near forest areas about the concerns of the wildlife species, the dangers they face and that they can be badly hit due to natural calamities or development projects pursued by us. No doubt addressing the issues of encroachment on forest land and relocation of villagers need to be pursued far more vigorously than we have been doing till now, but we could do a little better by creating more centres to attend to the wounded animals and release them in the wild once they have recovered or are able to take care of themselves. 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BELLIGERENCE TELLS A STORY

A SURYA PRAKASH


Why is the Congress so adamant about refusing to set up a JPC to probe the 2G Spectrum scam? Whom is the party trying to shield?


The Congress has been blocking a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the 2G Spectrum scam and behaving as if such an inquiry could prove fatal to the party's image and political prospects. Going by past record, it must be said at the very outset that the party has never held out this long and staked its reputation merely to protect a Minister, that too one from an alliance party. Is there a message in the party's obduracy?

A glimpse at what transpired in three earlier JPCs may help us answer this Rs 1.76 lakh crore question. The first of the three JPCs in question was the one which probed the Bofors deal. This committee was set up, after much resistance, following revelations made by Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987 that Indian politicians and officials had been bribed by the Swedish arms-maker Bofors to win the contract to supply field guns to the Indian Army.

The deal was signed by the Rajiv Gandhi Government just a year before news of the scandal broke. Though the Congress had 410 MPs in the Lok Sabha, it was rattled by the 'breaking news' from Sweden and launched a massive cover-up to shield Rajiv Gandhi and his family from the allegation that they had received commissions from Bofors via front companies and friends with Swiss bank accounts. As more and more information about the payoffs poured in, the Opposition stepped up the pressure for a JPC.


The Congress conceded the demand three months hence when it realised that the people had begun to believe that the Prime Minister had something to hide. However, even as it did so, it ensured that the terms of reference put the committee in a straitjacket. It did not want the committee to travel abroad or record the testimonies of witnesses in Sweden and Switzerland.


Given these constraints, the Opposition felt that the JPC was a toothless wonder and decided to stay away. The Congress, however, went ahead with this lame duck inquiry, packed the committee with loyalists of the Nehru-Gandhi family and chose the most trusted loyalist — Mr B Shankaranand — as its chairman.


Since it had over 400 members in the Lok Sabha, this JPC was an overwhelmingly 'Congress Parliamentary Committee'. Further, in order to give the committee an 'all-party' veneer, some MPs of the smaller 'friendly' parties, which reluctantly occupy Opposition benches, were drafted as members.


As can be seen from the final outcome, Mr Shankaranand lived up to the great expectations that his leader had in him and produced a report which was dubbed a 'whitewash' by all citizens who could sift fiction from fact. The committee claimed in its April 1988 report that no middleman was involved in the field gun deal and there was no evidence of commissions or bribes having been paid.


The committee did not summon a single Minister or pose a single question that would have embarrassed the Government. Within weeks, the media produced damning evidence of payments made by Bofors to several entities, including Ottavio Quattrocchi, a friend of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi, in whose account Bofors had deposited $7.3 million.


A year later, the Comptroller and Auditor-General questioned many conclusions of this JPC, including the ones pertaining to agents and commissions. He wondered why the Government had not acted on the advice of the Indian Ambassador in Sweden that Bofors's books of account be examined by Indian auditors and why the Bofors contract did not specifically contain the "No Agents" clause. As all this evidence tumbled out, it became obvious that the Shankaranand Committee Report was not worth the paper it was printed in. No other parliamentary committee has wrought such damage to the institution of Parliament as this one.


But then, the credibility and dignity of Parliament has always been sacrificed by the Congress to protect its first family. The party even reduced Parliament to a rubber stamp to enable Mrs Indira Gandhi to survive in office after she was unseated by the Allahabad High Court for corrupt electoral practice.

However, the party displays sweet reasonableness and becomes responsive to public opinion when the Nehru-Gandhis are not involved, for example, the sacking of Mr Ashok Chavan over the Adarsh Cooperative Housing scandal.

That is why the JPC that probed irregularities in securities and banking transactions between August 1992 and December 1993 when PV Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister produced a comprehensive report with minimal interference by the Congress. Similarly, the JPC on the Stock Market Scam (constituted in April 2001; report submitted in December 2002) when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister did an exhaustive analysis of the problem and compelled the Government to step up vigilance and regulation in the financial sector.


Mr Manmohan Singh was examined by both these JPCs (as Finance Minister in 1993 and former Finance Minister in 2002). Apart from Mr Singh, the 1992-93 JPC examined Mr Shankaranand, Health Minister, who earlier held the petroleum portfolio, and Madhu Dandavate, former Finance Minister. The 2001-2002 JPC examined two Ministers — Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha — and two former Ministers, Mr Manmohan Singh and Mr P Chidambaram.


But, despite all this experience, why is the Prime Minister blocking a JPC probe into the 2G Scam and why is he afraid of possible summons from the committee? Why should a man with such abundant familiarity with JPCs flinch at the prospect of another tete-a-tete with a JPC now? Whom is he protecting? Those who say nothing comes of JPC investigations have obviously not read the reports of these two committees. It is rather strange to hear spokespersons of the Congress saying this, unless of course they have the Bofors JPC in mind.


According to the CAG, the 2G scam could have cost us Rs 1.76 lakh crore. This is possibly the biggest loss that a Minister has caused to the exchequer via a single policy in the democratic world. If this is not worthy of a JPC probe, pray, what is? Yet, the Congress has held out throughout the Winter session of Parliament and, displaying utter contempt for public opinion and parliamentary processes.


There are enough clues in history as to when the party displays such crass obstinacy. So, if you think the 2G Spectrum scam is all about Mr A Raja and the DMK, think again. You could be barking up the wrong tree. 


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THE PIONEER

OPED

KASHMIR ALWAYS PART OF INDIA

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA


It's absurd to suggest that Kashmir was never a part of India or that India had no links with Kashmir through centuries of its political, cultural and civilisational history. Kashmir has always been integral to India as it existed before it became a modern nation state. Those who question this are ill-informed and poor students of history 

The 'debate' on whether or not Kashmir was ever a part of India, which is periodically instigated by callous statements of separatists and their supports in the intelligentsia, is really spurious and needless. Those who claim that Kashmir was never a part of India are clearly ignorant of history. 


Rakhahari Chatterjee of Kolkata has brought to notice what Alberuni has recorded. Alberuni, while accompanying Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni to India in the beginning of the 11th century, had this to say on Kashmir: "Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country and performed wonderful exploits, by which Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions. This is the reason, too, why Hindus have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benares, and other places." 


We could, however, begin with a look at the broader issue: What was, or is, India? India, as we know it today, finds a description in the epics and the puranas:


"Uttaram yat samudrasya

Himadreschaiva dakshinam,

Varsham tad Bharatam nama

Bharati yatra santatih". (Vishnu Purana)


"The country that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bharata; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."


Thus India has existed since time immemorial as a political entity if not a nation state. Hence, as luck (or bad luck) would have it, there was no single political entity before August 15, 1947, notwithstanding the existence of a huge landmass of India or Bharatvarsha with a cultural continuity and history. Thus, Kashmir or Kamrup, Pundravardhanabhukti or Takshila, Khyber or Kutch, all existed within the geographical territory of India. 


In this connection, one may ask those who insist that Kashmir was never a part of India: Is the present-day Pakistan, which was born in August 1947, ever a part of India? Else, how do historians write the pre-1947 history of Pakistan, if any? Can self-declared 'historians' like Arundhati Roy bare their thoughts on an accurate and balanced interpretation based on an 'authentic' version of the history of South Asia?


It would, therefore, be useful to have a look at a brief summary of Kashmir's history as it was through the ages vis-à-vis India. The dominions of Ashoka included the secluded vales of Kashmir. The chronicles of Kashmir mention Jalauka as the son and successor of Ashoka in the Kashmir Valley in the 3rd century BC. Historian Kalhana hints at Kashmir's attempted secession during the rule of later Mauryas. Towards the close of the 3rd century BC, the Kabul Valley (the immediate neighbour of Kashmir) was ruled by Subhagasena whose title was 'King of the Indians'. Hence, two things clearly stand out. First, Kashmir showed signs of secession even in the 4th and 3rd century BC and the Kabul Valley constituted a part of Indian geography and the fractured polity thereof. 

In the 1st century AD, the Kushan king Kanishka's empire (whose capital was Purushapura or Peshawar) included Kashmir, as testified by Kalhana in his Rajatarangini. In the 7th century AD, however, "Kashmir grew into a first-rate power under a local dynasty, styled as Karkota, founded by Durlabhavardhana." And the man who took the power of Kashmir to its zenith was Lalitaditya, the grandson of Durlabhavardhana, leading his troops to distant countries, including Tibet and the land inhabited by Turks along Indus and in Gaud (modern northern Bengal).


According to noted historian RC Majumdar, "The province of Kashmir in the far north of India produced in the 9th and succeeding centuries a number of teachers who are reckoned among the greatest exponents of the Saiva doctrine and philosophy". If we fast forward to 14th century, we will find that Shah Mirza, a Muslim adventurer from Swat, "entered the service" of the Hindu Prince of Kashmir in 1315 AD. After the death of the Prince, Shah Mirza usurped the throne of Kashmir in 1339 and assumed the title of Shams-ud-din Shah and issued fresh currency embossed with his emblem. 


Shah Mirza's dynasty continued till 1540 when Mirza Haidar, a relative of Humayun, annexed Kashmir. The liberal rule in Kashmir, meanwhile, had badly suffered owing to some of Shah Mirza's insensitive successors who were extremely intolerant of non-Muslims and imposed jizya on Hindus. There was a brief period of benevolent and enlightened rule when Zain-ul-Abidin (described as the 'Akbar of Kashmir') was in power. Kashmir was ultimately absorbed into the Mughal Empire by Akbar in 1586, thereby becoming another subah under Delhi's direct rule. 


During the war of succession between the sons of Shahjahan in the mid-17th century, Kashmir figured prominently in the scheme of things of the fighting siblings. As Aurangzeb emerged victorious, he soon came in direct confrontation with Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Sikh Guru based at Anandpur, who protested against certain measures of the Emperor and instigated the Brahmans of Kashmir to resist the Mughal Emperor.


Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali conquered Kashmir in 1751 and forced the Mughal monarch Ahmad Shah to cede a huge swath of land up to Sirhind. In 1819, however, Kashmir once again came under an Indian ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. From this point onwards, the trajectory of the history is too well known to be repeated. It would suffice to say that Kashmir has been linked to the history of India for thousands of years.


Hence, when some 21st century non-Kashmiri celebrities betray a lamentable lack of basic knowledge of their own country and its civilisational and cultural history, how can one blame or criticise non-Indians who display lack of judgement and avoid an objective analysis of historical facts? Thus, the statement of Arundhati Roy, in the light of Alberuni's recorded history, along with the journey of Kashmir through the ages, makes her a poor student of history. We need not take her seriously at all. 


--The writer is a public affairs commentator. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TRAPPED IN 'UTOPIA' OF COMMUNISM

BARRY RUBIN


It is vital to understand the story of Communism: Its big promises based on humanitarianism and very different performance; the power it exercised in intellectual circles in the West despite being wrong both morally and in terms of its prescriptions


History does not simply repeat itself, wrote Karl Marx. It often happens that a phenomenon's first round is a tragedy; the second round is a farce. So is it today as thousands of young people devote themselves to extreme Left-wing causes, including the destruction of their own countries, democracy and liberty, all in the name of some utopia that will never be attained and in a struggle that will make human life worse.


Here is how, Bertram Wolfe, one such person of that earlier first-round generation later wrote of his infatuation with Communism in the 1920s and 1930s:


"Dreams of cosmopolitanism and internationalism ... in an ever more open society, dreams of ... curbs upon dictatorial power and autocratic power, dreams of the final abolition of serfdom ... of a greater respect for human life and human dignity, of gentler and juster laws, equal for all and binding on all, dreams of liberty, equality and brotherhood and of a new humanity, free in spirit and intelligence, free in critical inquiry mastery to an ever greater extent of nature, of man's own nature, and his social institutions."


He continued: "For me, as for the most sensitive persons, the existing society had many obvious defects ... shortcomings from our dreams of perfection. One felt superior when he noted and criticised these imperfections and offered a learned-sounding ... remedy that cured everything at once ... How nice to think that one had answers to all problems, cures for all ills, a simple, certain, manifest remedy backed by books of enormous learning ... And how wonderful, when one did not understand the past or the present, to be so certain of the future."

After twenty years of devotion to the cause — he and his wife even choosing not to have children in a misguided effort to devote themselves to the world's betterment — Wolfe broke with Communism over his disgust at the 1930s Soviet purge trials that framed and murdered the very leaders who had made the Russian Revolution. But it took him almost another decade for him to repudiate Marxism and understand where he'd gone wrong.


Typical of the radical in transition, he at first berated his foreign hero — in this case, Stalin — for letting down the cause, telling a 1938 rally: "He has made infinitely harder the task of those of us who love the Soviet Union and would make the world understand its wonders of achievement, of those who would defend it against attack from the ruling class of all lands."


But then he came to comprehend that this was no miscommunication but the fundamental evil of the cause to which he'd devoted his life. He was horrified to discover that he had been helping tyranny when he thought he was helping to create a better society.


Then, Wolfe crossed the line from having been almost always wrong to being almost always right. The cause of that transition was Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the September 11 for that generation.


Wolfe's background had equipped him to comprehend what few others saw: The Allies would win the war but afterward the USSR would be Europe's most powerful country and would extend its empire ever further westward. If Stalin wasn't stopped, the result would be another terrible war. 


Wolfe could find no one willing to publish these ideas until May 1943 when a small magazine accepted such an article. Wherever Wolfe spoke, Communists disrupted the lectures. Hecklers called him a Fascist and Trotskyite, but ultimately, due to the USSR's own actions, America woke up and understood that this analysis was right. Wolfe's book on the USSR explaining his views, Three Who Made a Revolution, sold just one hundred copies the first year 1948. By 1970, it had sold 3,00,000. 


All of these things, along with the USSR's repressive, dictatorial nature may seem obvious today (for the relatively few who still remember them) but they were barely known in 1948, the year that the Communist-front Progressive Party ran a serious, though ultimately failed, presidential campaign. In theory, the United States might have had a soft-line, basically pro-Communist president in the midst of the Cold War. 


How much would that have changed history, how far might the United States have been fundamentally transformed! But the Progressive effort then was far less sophisticated and the identity of the enemy abroad and at home was becoming increasingly clear. Of course, too, back then the Progressives neither captured the Democratic Party (which is why they had to run separately) nor intimidated America's great liberal leaders, among them the incomparable Harry Truman. 


Wolfe's task was both easier and harder than that of his spiritual successors. A single ideology, party and model country exercised a stronger pull and discipline in his time, but it also was an idol more easily shattered than the varied ideas, loyalties, and groups that characterise what I call today's "third left" (after that of Communism and the New Left). 


In Wolfe's time, Robert Minor, editor of the Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker, publicly declared, "Honesty is a bourgeois virtue". Today, hundreds of mainstream media journalists and editors implicitly accept that they should report only what supports their political views and use their positions to attack those holding different ones.


How little has changed in essentials, how little has been learned from that past. It is vital today to understand the story of Communism: Its big promises based on humanitarianism and its very different performance; the power it exercised in intellectual circles in the West despite being deeply wrong both morally and in terms of its prescriptions; the fellow travellers and well-meaning fools who slandered opponents and silenced critics; the culture of lying on behalf of a "good cause". 


Yet where in our schools and universities, in our public debate are the lessons of Communism taught? How are people being inoculated against an "idealistic" ideology that did so much harm in the name of doing so much good, of apologists for foreign states and movements, of the concealing of crimes, the foolishness of the intellectuals, the belief that the more Government control the better, the failure to understand that the far Left was as much an enemy of liberalism as the far Right, and of all the other mistakes involved in that experience? 

But it is more than that. There can be no better explanation of the Left-wing fellow travellers with revolutionary Islamism or the Multiculturalist and Political Correctness advocates with reactionary Third World regimes and cultures than Malcolm Muggeridge's critique of fellow travellers with Stalin's USSR:


"There were earnest advocates of the humane killing of cattle who looked up at the massive (secret police) headquarters with tears of gratitude in their eyes, earnest advocates of proportional representation who eagerly assented when the necessity of a one-party dictatorship was explained to them, earnest clergymen who walked reverently through anti-god museums and reverently turned the pages of atheistic literature (Today it is the exact reverse! — BR), earnest pacifists who watched delightedly tanks rattle across the Red Square and bombing planes darken the sky, earnest town-planning specialists who stood outside overcrowded ramshackle tenements and muttered: 'If only we had something like this in England!'"


And what better remark on how Western apologists for Islamic and Arab nationalist tyranny function can there be than what Wolfe wrote in response to the report of a 1952 British mission about how wonderful life was in the USSR:


"Mr Cadbury is slandering the Russian people by saying that they are 'content' with the way in which they live. The hundreds of thousands that have died in purges (or been) ... sent to concentration camps demonstrate that the Russian people are not the ignorant cattle that Mr Cadbury suggests they are. So do the hundreds of thousands of ... escapees testify to the fact that this people like any great people knows what freedom is and what slavery is."


Anyone care to substitute the word "Iranian" for Russian?


Quotations from Robert Hessen, Breaking with Communism: The Intellectual Odyssey of Bertram D Wolfe.

 

--The writer is director of the GLORIA Center, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHECKMATING CHINA NEEDS SERIOUS ENGAGEMENT

DESPITE ENHANCED TRADE AND COOPERATION, INDIA AND CHINA NEED TO REMOVE MUTUAL SUSPICIONS PEACEFULLY TO MOVE AHEAD, SAYS CP BHAMBHRI


If India's response to China's policy announcements, pronouncements or actions is guided by a simplistic or ideologically driven analysis, then it will be counterproductive. India-China relationship is not determined by the single factor of security and strategic consideration, but other factors of mutual interest as well. Apart from being largest trade partners, India and China meet quite frequently, being members of BRIC, to discuss problems of mutual interest. 


China's first foreign policy goal is to assert its new-found economic and military power while dealing with the US. Its state actors are quite conscious of their new status in world affairs. The Americans had to plead for Chinese intervention in the recent Korean peninsula stand off because without China's restraining power over North Korea, the conflict between the two Koreas could lead to a devastating war. China considers itself not only a competitor but also capable of checkmating any expansionist or interventionist policies of America. It should not be forgotten that the US is not used to any such challenge from any country in the so-called 'unipolar' world. So it is difficult for the Americans to digest the new reality of power shift in favour of China. China's priority is to contain American influence in world affairs and completely change the balance of global power from America-dominated world to multi-polar global system where it can act as a strong counterveiling force while dealing with the US. India-China bilateral relationship has to be contextualised by keeping in mind that China is focussed on containing the US, especially in Asia, and in its strategic calculation India occupies a central place. 


China targeted India in the 1950s and 1960s because it started perceiving India as anti-China following the granting of asylum to Dalai Lama. Thus, the bilateral relationship after the 1962 India-China war was completely frozen till 1970s. Such a situation benefitted Pakistan the most. Pakistan's active engagement with China got an impetus when it facilitated the secret visit of Mr Henry Kissinger and Mr Richard Nixon to China in the early 1970s. 


The special relationship between the two countries has further cemented because Pakistan has been benefiting from its dependence on China. China has helped in Pakistan's military build-up, in enhancing its nuclear power capabilities, and it has sided with Pakistan on its Jammu & Kashmir dispute with India. Not only Pakistan has seceded a part of Kashmir's territory to China but also depends on its clandestine support to needle India on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. It is not without reason that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during his latest visit to China observed that 'coming to China is like home coming' for him. On its part, China has also played the Pakistan card against India whenever it has felt necessary to restrict India.


This is one foreign policy reality that should directly affect India's responses towards China. Pakistan can effectively influence China's actions at the international fora. In the past, it had succeeded through China's intervention in the UN Security Council to stop the international body from imposing sanctions against terrorist organisations like Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h of Hafiz Saeed. 


Further, China is asserting its maritime rights especially in South China Sea. It is also building dams on the Brahmaputra river from the side of Tibet and India is worried about the water issues which can emerge after the dams have been constructed. India is a lower riparian state and expects the Chinese to safeguard water interests while constructing dams on Brahmaputra. 

Apart from the boundary issue that continues to divide the two neighbours, there are some serious doubts among the Indians about China's South Asia policy and China reciprocates the same feelings of suspicion towards India. China suspects that American-Indian axis is emerging to contain its rising influence in Asia. On the other hand, India, a victim of state-sponsored terrorism, finds China's support to Pakistan on Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorist groups is aimed at destabilising India. Though China has never supported Pakistan military in its wars against India, but it definitely enjoys a special relationship with Pakistan. 


Though Prime Minsiter Manmohan Singh has publicly tried to remove Chinese doubts by asserting that 'there is enough space in the world for these two big countries', the two countries still have to deal with some complex issues to move ahead. India-China relationship cannot be seen with binary perspective because many inter-dependencies exist between these two neighbours. Since these two countries have to co-exist as neighbours, diplomacy should never become a tool in the hands of committed ideologues who see things only in black and white. China and India, being two rising powers in Asia, should bring their relationship to a level where differences could be resolved around the table and mutual suspicions could be removed peacefully. In anticipation of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has correctly stated on December 4, 2010 that 'we need an ambitious agenda for engagement'.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TRADE AND BEYOND

 

That Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrives tomorrow for a three-day visit with the largest ever trade delegation from that country should dissuade fatalists who proclaim India and China are destined to clash. However, if economics is to thread together the Asian giants an enabling political environment needs to be created. Hopefully this will be firmly on the agenda during Wen's visit. This is essential not just to help us realise our full and combined potential, but because the future of the bulk of the world's population from Kanyakumari to Mohe county - China's northernmost territory - and including all of Southeast Asia depends on it. 


All this is aided by India's Look East policy and attempts to develop our north-east, which fits China's aim of developing its hinterland. That Kolkata port is the closest to the south of many Chinese cities hints at the possibilities for trade and commerce. Realising them requires China ending practices on the ground at odds with what its leadership agrees to in New Delhi. Most perplexing is the border issue. In 2005, both sides agreed to a formula to resolve the border issue. Based on the principle of territorial accommodation in the unsettled areas of contention, the implications were clear. India accepts the fait accompli of Chinese-occupied Kashmir and the western sector, while China renounces its claims along the eastern sector. Despite this, China began its visa stapling policy and made shrill objections to the prime minister visiting Arunachal Pradesh. 


Though Wen's delegation is trade-centric, there are areas of dissonance when it comes to economic issues as well. Of consequence is not so much that India runs a trade deficit with China - Indians are voting with their pockets by buying Chinese. What is troubling is that Indian exporters face a host of non-tariff barriers in China, from delayed permits to customs harassment. If Beijing moves to redress this New Delhi, on its part, could undertake to be more welcoming of Chinese investments in India. 


Undeniably, relations are more than economics and New Delhi and Beijing have demonstrated they can work effectively together in multilateral forums. We continue to cooperate on WTO talks and climate change, as well as in other forums such as BRIC and G20. Both governments must build on these common factors. Facilitating people-to-people exchanges is a great way of defusing antagonisms that come about when two nationalisms collide. Above all, India-China ties could take a great leap forward if the border issue could be resolved. Let's hope that Wen's visit will provide a political impetus to such a resolution, on which there has been considerable backsliding since his last trip to India.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

ON A HIGH

 

By bagging the Hong Kong Super Series title on Sunday, ace shuttler Saina Nehwal has signed off on what has been a brilliant year for Indian badminton. The victory was made even sweeter by the fact that she conquered China's Asian Games gold medallist, Shixian Wang, in the final and overcame Pui Yin Yip - her Guangzhou nemesis - in the quarters. This also takes Saina's career Super Series title count to four - including three this year - which is a first for any Indian. Credit goes to Saina's steely determination and sound work ethic for bouncing back magnificently from the Asiad disappointment. Indeed, these are qualities that are fast turning her into a role model not just for badminton but for Indian sport in general. Coach Pullela Gopichand's contribution towards his protege's success cannot be emphasised enough. His disciplined approach to the game is what keeps Saina grounded despite her meteoric rise. 


To capitalise on Saina's success it is imperative that Indian badminton works towards replicating the Chinese model. As things stand, Saina is head and shoulders above other Indian shuttlers. And with Saina's recent achievements, the tendency has been to get carried away by her individual accomplishments rather than focus on the sport as a whole. This in turn means every time Saina steps out onto the court, she is burdened with huge expectations. Whereas the Chinese shuttlers' strength lies in the fact that they have several quality players. Saina needs similar support from her compatriots. Internal competition will not only raise the bar for Indian badminton in general but also free Saina from undue pressure. The aim should be to cultivate many more Sainas.

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

IT'LL TAKE HARD WORK

HARSH V PANT

 

After a year of turmoil in India-China ties, India will be hosting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao from December 15 to 17. This comes at a time when there is a new assertiveness in India's China policy. After trying to push significant divergences with China under the carpet for years, Indian decision-makers are being forced to grudgingly acknowledge that the relationship is becoming increasingly contentious. 


Ignoring pressures from Beijing, New Delhi decided to go ahead and take part in the Nobel peace prize-giving ceremony for the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in Oslo who was awarded "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China". Beijing asked several countries, including India, to boycott the ceremony or face its displeasure, describing the prize as open support for criminal activities in China. India was among the 44 states that did not lose its nerve for once and decided to participate even as states like Pakistan, RussiaSaudi ArabiaIran and Iraq were among the nations that did not attend. 


Meanwhile, New Delhi has also adopted a harder line on Tibet in recent weeks by making it clear to Beijing that it expects China to reciprocate on Jammu & Kashmir just as India has respected Chinese sensitivities in Tibet and Taiwan. The Indian foreign secretary openly referred to the need to show mutual sensitivity, arguing that "the Chinese side needs to be sensitive to our concerns in Jammu and Kashmir like India has been sensitive to Chinese concerns on Taiwan and Tibet." 


China has also slightly modified its position on India's quest for permanent membership of the UN Security Council by confirming its willingness to "increase consultations and communications with India". This came in response to US President Barack Obama's endorsement of India's candidature. 


There were a number of concerns that India had flagged before the visit. The most significant concerns involved included issues impinging on India's sovereignty, such as the Chinese presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Beijing's issuance of stapled visas to Indians from J&K. India has also expressed its concerns about China damming rivers like the Brahmaputra and trade barriers against Indian companies. India is keen on gaining access to Chinese markets, especially in the area of pharmaceuticals, information technology and engineering goods where it argues that its companies face non-tariff barriers. 


India-China relations today remain fraught with tension despite some fitful improvements. The discord between the two remains deep-seated and their increasing economic strength and rising geopolitical standing have only underlined their rapidly growing ambitions. The interaction between these two powers will deeply affect not only their own future trajectories but the stability and prosperity of the entire region. 


India's challenge remains formidable. It has not yet achieved the economic and political profile that China enjoys regionally and globally. But it gets increasingly bracketed with China as a rising power, an emerging power or even a global superpower. Indian elites that have been obsessed with Pakistanfor more than 60 years have suddenly found a new object of fascination. India's main security concern now is not the increasingly decrepit state of Pakistan but an evermore assertive China which is widely viewed in India as having a better ability for strategic planning. The defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962 has psychologically scarred the elite and its perceptions of China are unlikely to change in the near future. China is viewed by India as a growing, aggressive, nationalistic power whose ambitions are likely to reshape the contours of the regional and global balance of power with deleterious consequences for Indian interests. 

Indian policy makers, however, continue to believe that China is not a short-term threat but needs to be watched over the long term though Indian defence officials are increasingly warning in rather blunt terms about the disparity between the two Asian powers. The Indian naval chief has warned that India neither has "the capability nor the intention to match China force for force" in military terms while a former Indian air force chief has suggested that China posed more of a threat to India than Pakistan. 


It may well be that the recent hardening of China's posture toward India is a function of its own sense of internal vulnerabilities. But that is hardly a consolation to Indian policy makers who have to respond to an Indian public opinion that increasingly wants the nation to assert itself in the region and beyond. India is rather belatedly gearing up to respond with its own diplomatic and military overtures, setting the stage for Sino-Indian strategic rivalry between India and China. 


It is certainly in the interest of both India and China to stabilise their relationship by seeking out issues on which their interests converge but strategic problems do not inevitably produce satisfactory solutions merely because they are desirable and in the interest of all. A troubled history coupled with the structural uncertainties engendered by their simultaneous rise is propelling the two Asian giants into a trajectory that they might find rather difficult to navigate in the coming years. India-China ties have entered choppy waters and they are likely to remain there for the foreseeable future. 


The writer teaches at King's College, London.

 

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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

IT PROVIDES CHECKS AND BALANCES

 

Speaking at a seminar on electoral reforms, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan likened the Rajya Sabha to a 'market' and sought its abolition. However, the absurdity of Chouhan's demand is such that he has himself retracted his comments since, as they tend to reject the general edifice of India's parliamentary democracy. Critics would do well to read the extensive debates in the Constituent Assembly to make sense of Rajya Sabha's utility. 


Our founding fathers envisaged a federal system where powers would be divided between the Centre and states. Given the vast diversity of India, it was the right thing to do. Such a division of powers necessitates the existence of a bicameral legislature representing both the people and states. Bicameral legislatures have been adopted by democracies across the world. Look at the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, CanadaMalaysiaSwitzerland - the list is legion. In many of these, bicameral systems are explicitly linked to their federal character. But they also serve the general purpose of incorporating checks and balances into the political system, which any liberal democracy should have. The Rajya Sabha as the federal chamber gives states an important role in policymaking in the Union, and also embodies the principle of checks and balances. For instance, in the past two decades, the lack of majority of the government of the day in the Upper House has drastically reduced the misuse of Article 356 against states. 


Besides, the Rajya Sabha provides a forum for the representation of people of unique skills from different fields, which may not be possible in the case of Lok Sabha where elections are often contested on the basis of caste and petty agendas. It's pointless blaming money power for playing a role in the selection of candidates for the Rajya Sabha, there's plenty of money power at play when it comes to MPs and MLAs of lower houses as well. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

JUST AN AVENUE TO DISPENSE PATRONAGE

KAUTILYA KUMAR

 

Shivraj Singh Chouhan has articulated a concern that many others have raised in the past. He may have since clarified his remark, but the Madhya Pradesh chief minister's description of the Rajya Sabha as a market is not far off the mark. As Chouhan demanded, it is time to do away with the Upper House of Parliament. 


The founding fathers of the Republic felt that Parliament needs to have an Upper House that could be insulated from the complications of electoral politics and work as a forum of enlightened individuals. The original idea was to have a group of people who would be politicians' politicians, specialists and intellectuals. They were to showcase the country's diverse political and intellectual traditions. The idea may have worked in the initial years of the Republic, but not anymore. 


Today, the Upper House has become a parking lot for politicians who are incapable of winning elections or are coy of facing the electorate. It is also coveted by businessmen, journalists and other such who see it as a platform to claim parliamentary privileges and, through that, further personal interests. Chouhan even said there's open selling of Rajya Sabha tickets. It's an open secret that many political parties use the Rajya Sabha to dispense patronage. 


Why then should we continue with the Upper House? As for mere representation of states in Parliament, the Lok Sabha MPs are sufficient. Many state legislatures function without the Upper House. Governance hasn't suffered wherever legislative councils were abolished. Real power in terms of framing public policy lies with the lower House, in assembly and in Parliament. The Upper House can only counsel, that's if and when it rises above partisan interests. That's rarely the case. It's just a poor clone of Lok Sabha, divided along party lines. Why continue with an institution that only eats up precious public funds?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

SHOOTING THE MESSENGER

VIKRAM SINHA

 

"We are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information." That happens to be from a recent US state department press release concerning the US hosting World Press Freedom Day in 2011. This, while the US political establishment from the White House down continues to voice outrage over the WikiLeaks information dumps with all the subtlety of a cudgel to the head. The irony is so blatant that it straddles the line between cringe-inducing and amusing. Meanwhile, shrill rhetoric continues to gloss over the nuances of the issue. 


The central issue here is the right of a country's government to operate in secrecy for furthering national interests. Assange has chosen to take a maximalist position. He holds that such secrecy is illegitimate, trumped by the people's right to know what their government is doing in their name. Is it a feasible point of view? Not entirely. The entirety of a government's dealings taking place in the public sphere is a utopian ideal. Nor does Assange's ideological standpoint appear free of personal prejudices. As his detractors point out, there are any number of regimes across the world that have committed far greater crimes of omission and commission than the US government. By portraying the latter as the greater evil, he is either deluding himself or being wilfully blind. 

None of which justifies the way Washington has moved against Assange, a pursuit that has increasingly come to resemble a witch-hunt. Consider the reaction: politicians such as 
Sarah Palin calling him a terrorist; attacks on the WikiLeaks site; web-hosting companies refusing their services to WikiLeaks after heavy-handed hints by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Visa and Mastercard refusing to process any donations to WikiLeaks. A sense of proportion is conspicuously absent in the entire affair. Little surprise that when Assange is hunted across countries and an Interpol Red Corner notice issued against him for the alleged crime of having had sex without a condom, Washington's claims of having nothing to do with it are laughed out of court. 


If Washington had strongly questioned the necessity and ethics of what Assange did, it may have found a fair number of buyers for its argument. Instead, the world's champion of individual liberty and freedom of expression chose to play a movie heavy. Leaving aside the calls to try Assange under the Espionage Act - the absurdity of trying an Australian citizen for treason against the US state is self-evident - the attitude towards freedom of the press has been more than a little disturbing. When the chairman of the senate committee on homeland security accuses media outlets of being culpable in Assange's 'treason' by dint of carrying the leaks and calls for an inquiry into a major US newspaper by the justice department, it merits a pause and a step back to look at the larger picture. 


Perhaps Assange should have exercised more self-censorship. A whistleblower operates within the sphere of public interest, and it's not clear that revealing pointless diplomatic tittle-tattle and gossip served that interest. But revealing US actions in Iraq as his earlier leaks did, or that the US is actively involved to the extent it is in Yemen and Pakistan and that it may have wanted UN members spied on, as he did this time, fall well within that sphere. Uncomfortably so for Washington and several other governments, but as a private individual, Assange has no obligations to them. Washington, on the other hand, does have obligations to uphold the liberties it is so visibly attempting to clamp down on. It is a counter-productive effort. All it has managed to do so far is hand the moral high ground to Assange and WikiLeaks.


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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

EATING INTO OUR GROWTH PLAN

 

As scam upon scam flood us this festive season, the 'masses' have obligingly faded into the background, quite literally. In Mumbai, where the mega Adarsh scandal is still unfolding, a more insidious scam, that which has caused persistent urban malnutrition has been in the works for decades. While the focus on malnutrition has been largely rural, those in urban slums have fallen between the cracks of apathetic policy and abysmal delivery systems. At last count, 3.5% of urban slum children in Mumbai did not live to see their sixth birthday. If this is the case in affluent Mumbai, the plight of children in urban slums in other smaller metropolises can only be worse.

 

The issue of malnutrition in urban slums has never really been a priority since the families residing in these places don't fall in the below the poverty line category. But what has been overlooked is that often with both parents working to make ends meet, the children receive little or no nutritional attention. In the fetid conditions of slums, the already undernourished child is more susceptible to infections and far less able to overcome them. The problem starts with the undernourished, overworked and illiterate or semi-literate mother whose children are born with a nutritional disadvantage. In Mumbai alone, according to the National Family Health Survey 2006 data, 99.2% of women received no health services of any sort in the slums. This means that the 35-year-old Integrated Child Development Services which is supposed to provide immunisation and monitor the growth of children up to the age of three has either failed or has been devastatingly ineffective. The reasons why this is so are not very far to seek. There are not enough clinics, there is not enough trained staff and mothers don't realise that something as invisible and silent as malnutrition could impair the child's life forever. In conditions where there is poor sanitation, lack of clean drinking water and excessive population density as in the slums, malnutrition could literally mean the difference between life and death for children.

 

Rural to urban migration is not a new phenomenon, it is something which will increase in the years to come. It speaks for skewed priorities and shoddy planning that migrant workers are not afforded even a basic standard of living in the cities. In an economy which is and will continue to be driven by skilled labour, children who are malnourished will never be able to be productive. At least in enlightened self-interest, more people who have the power and resources should make the battle against malnutrition more visible and effective than it has been so far. The less people have to eat, the more this will eat into the vitals of the economy in the long run.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

LL IS FORGIVEN

 

The return to the BJP fold of Uma Bharti is so touching that one can be forgiven for seeing it as the final scene in a film. With LK Advani making the news of her return public and BJP president Nitin Gadkari smoothening things out, Ms Bharti's return should be seen as the last scene of the second part of a trilogy that has till now charted the rise and fall of the BJP. What her re-entry into the 'mother ship' will mean for the party will, of course, be the stuff of the 'final' part of 'The Lords of the Wring'.

 

But Ms Bharti is not the only prodigal returning. Azam Khan returned from the wilderness to the Samajwadi Party (SP), admittedly a party in the wilderness. But as is the wont with born-agains, he's already in the act, charging Mulayam Singh Yadav's left-, right- and centre-hand man who was responsible for throwing Mr Khan out, Amar Singh, of being a "supplier". With not much of an infrastructure left in the SP, Mr Yadav has no choice but to project Mr Khan as, perhaps, the new 'improved' Amar Singh.

 

What has set Hindi heartland aflutter is that both Ms Bharti and Mr Khan have made their different ways back into the heart of the Indian political beast: Uttar Pradesh. Much of the landscape has changed in the state since we last saw Ms Bharti pacing up and down within the BJP ranks and since Mr Khan, well, did his bit in the SP. Chief minister Mayawati has had relative peace, given that the SP, the BJP and the Congress have been pretty much in exile from the UP theatre. One now will have to wait a bit for us to know whether the two  have come back brighter or are just 'returned goods'.

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

BACK TO HOUSEKEEPING

SITARAM YECHURY

 

As we stood at attention to the national song signalling the sine die closure of this winter session of Parliament, the enormity of damage that a completely wasted session has caused our democracy hung like a dark cloud. The Prime Minister, on a (by now common place) foreign visit during the Parliament session, echoed such concern by saying in Germany: "I am worried about the future of the parliamentary system (in our country)". Such concern, however, completely contradicts the obduracy of the government in refusing to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to go into the 2G spectrum scam, which by all counts, is the biggest corruption scandal in independent India. 

 

The French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu had laid down the necessity of a concept of checks  and balances in constitutional governance by drawing attention to the dangers inherent in the concentration of legislative, executive and judicial powers in one authority.  All modern democracies drew on this to define and demarcate these three wings and establish norms for their inter-relationships to play a joint and participatory role. While doing so, our Constitution defines the centrality of the will of the people. The preamble defines this eloquently: "We, the people of India… do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution."

 

The executive (government) and the legislature (Parliament) are vested with the responsibility under the Constitution to manage public affairs while being accountable to the people. Accountability, in fact, differentiates democracy from other systems of governance. The legislature, apart from exercising its authority to make laws and draw the attention of the government on matters of public importance, is vested with the responsibility of ensuring executive accountability through effective legislative scrutiny. The centrality of the sovereignty of the people in our Constitution is, thus, established by the executive being accountable to the legislature which, in turn, is accountable to the people. 

 

When Parliament ceases to function due to disruptions, the government of the day escapes from being accountable. While this may be convenient and comfortable for the government, this grievously undermines the foundations of our constitutional scheme of things. This is precisely what is happening with the government's obstinate refusal to constitute a JPC to investigate this 'mother of all scams'.

 

It is being argued that the 2G spectrum scam is being investigated by various other agencies, including Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Now, the PAC, by definition, is an accounts committee and will, surely, examine the report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG). The other investigative agencies will, surely, pursue the case to identify those guilty of corruption.

 

This 2G scam, however, goes much beyond the issue of mere graft. This scam involves a massive manipulation of our system that permits such a colossal loot to take place. Further, this scam has also exposed a very deep unholy nexus between unscrupulous sections of politics, business, bureaucracy and the media. 

 

These avenues for the manipulation of our system need to be plugged to ensure such scams don't recur.  This can be done only on the basis of a thorough holistic investigation that can result in the recommendation of new regulations or new laws, if necessary. In our constitutional scheme of things, it is Parliament alone that can enact laws. Hence, it is only a JPC that will have this authority. Given this, the government's obduracy on this score is utterly incomprehensible. In the past, JPCs have been constituted to investigate scams of much smaller dimensions. 

 

It is further argued that since the Supreme Court is seized of the matter, there is no need for a JPC. Quite the contrary. The apex court last week observed that "the issue raised in the case (2G spectrum scam) is not only limited to the R1.76 lakh crore but has a much wider compass. We would not like to prejudice the probe. But what happened in 2001 needs to be looked into." In 2001, the Vajpayee government adopted the 'first come, first served' policy. Regarding the policy of transfer of dual technology — CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) — the apex court observed that the CAG had not gone into this matter. In fact, the apex court went to the extent of suggesting the need for a special court in view of the magnitude of  the offence as otherwise the objective of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Foreign Exchange Management Act cannot be achieved. 

 

It is precisely in view of the magnitude of the offence and the multi-dimensional aspects of the scam that the constitution of a JPC becomes imperative. Some ask: Do you not have any faith in the judiciary? Of course, we do. We are proud of the independent and impartial judiciary created by our Constitution as an interpreter of law and custodian of the rights of the citizens through the process of judicial review. However, we must recollect what Jawaharlal Nehru said in the constituent assembly: "No Supreme Court and no judiciary can stand in judgement over the sovereign will of Parliament representing the will of the entire community. If we go wrong here and there, it can point it out, but in the ultimate analysis, where the future of the community is concerned, no judiciary can come in the way… ultimately the fact remains that the legislature must be supreme and must not be interfered with by the court of law in measures of social reform."

 

In the interest of our democracy, the legislature must be allowed to discharge its constitutional role. During the two months before the Budget session, the government must take the initiative in breaking this logjam.

 

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

ALL PR IS NOT BAD PR

SHARIF D RANGNEKAR

 

It's often a struggle for public relations (PR) consultants to explain the work they do, not because of the vagueness of their job but the diversity of the roles they play. While PR consultants build and protect images and reputations of companies and other institutions, the role of PR extends to outreach, advocacy and creating a share of voice for organisations. The end results are often aimed at changing mindsets that is not too different from advertising or the media.

 

Still, as a result of these diverse functions, a PR consultant may not necessarily be a lobbyist and vice-versa. The same could be said for an agency — not all agencies have public affairs departments providing advocacy as a service. More importantly what needs to be understood is that advocacy or lobbying helps in maintaining plurality. The problem, though, is whether the means for obtaining a share of voice or a say in public policy is through ethical ways or clandestine illegal ones. There can't be any two views on clandestine activities as is the case with any industry.

 

What is often forgotten is the role that lobbying or advocacy plays in any democracy. Its success lies in the ability to influence, to be heard and, at times, change the way people think. Advocacy brings about change, often with positive outcomes. The liberalisation process that India has seen, for instance, is a result of public debates that lobbies have been part of. India may never have seen the opening up of the insurance, pharmaceutical, defence, telecom and the media sectors had it not been for lobbying and public debate that resulted from it. The role of a lobbyist is similar to that of a tourist guide who draws up the things to do or avoid during a visit to a place. The unknown commodity for many companies is the corridors of the government and the maze of legislation.

 

Does the lobbyist need to be checked? Of course he does. But how he needs to be checked needs to be discussed. The Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI) has a set of guidelines on standards and ethics (not all agencies or lobbyist have signed on to the association). These range from how agencies work with clients to media transparency norms clearly defining the line for the ethical and unethical. They also include a significant principle of respect towards the tax-payers' money when conducting work for the government. The PRCAI has no power to penalise. Self-regulation works well and the current case involving Vaishnavi Corporation is an aberration, but one that can't be ignored.

 

There is a view that the US Lobbying Disclosures Act (LDA) is something that India needs to look at. The Act largely aims to recognise the lobbying business with disclosures on meetings or 'contacts' (the word used in the law) being recorded in a register. Even a phone call is considered a contact although collection of information from a government servant isn't necessarily a contact as it isn't technically 'lobbying' for a specific purpose. The law also penalises for knowing and failing to comply with the Act. All this sounds good, but lobbying in the US has grown murkier despite the law.

 

What needs to be explained is that lobbying is not an activity undertaken alone by PR agencies. There are lawyers, former bureaucrats, former journalists, corporate affairs heads, industry associations and many others who also play that role. Lobbying — or even PR — doesn't exist on its own. Public policy is normally debated and discussed by the media, the political spectrum, government, think-tanks and industry associations. They influence the final outcome and lobbyists often have to reach out to each of them to get their clients views across.

 

So what is required is an all-inclusive approach to lobbying — a stronger application of ethics across politics, media and government. Self regulation among the media, parliamentarians and bureaucrats has to be stronger and available for public scrutiny. The same for the PR world.

 

Sharif D Rangnekar is president, Public Relations Consultants Association of India. The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BARRIER TEST

 

After the advent of the new age of terror, security was supposed to be the great leveller. High or low, mighty or weak, you were supposed to undergo the same set of security checks at airports. Matters of aviation security could not afford even the tiniest crack for risk. The US Transportation Security Administration's guidelines were recently ramped up and the option to frisk diplomats too was left to security officers' discretion — they would no longer be automatically exempted, to go by the book at least. That's what happened to India's ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar. The Indian foreign ministry's continued claims to taking offence and reciprocating reveal a shockingly brittle sense of national honour. More so, its warning that such incidents "naturally" call for a review of privileges extended to US diplomats in India.

 

It appears that for the Indian establishment nothing can be the great leveller. It so staunchly swears by the feudal ideal of hierarchy that the foreign minister has linked such incidents at US airports to the cordiality of bilateral relations. Do we laugh or express exasperation? Are foreign relations built on the trivial and personal? Well, the tit-for-tat the ministry of external affairs has been harping on would be not only unbecoming of a democratic government but also juvenile. And diplomacy, certainly, must not entertain such silliness.

 

There's been enough consternation about former Indian presidents, ministers and filmstars being frisked elsewhere. If others choose not to recognise the cordon of privilege we erect around our VIPs, they are only erasing the great divide we have driven between the elect and ordinary, most visible at our airports. What the government should seriously consider is reviewing and streamlining all privileges rather than its school-yardish threat of a pat-for-pat. The government has got the Meera Shankar provocation all wrong. It's not about national honour. It is a reminder of the neo-colonial stratification we impose at our own security barriers.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WINTER OF DISCONTENT

 

One of the most stubbornly gridlocked sessions of Parliament has finally been clocked out. This winter, Lok Sabha worked for the tiniest fraction of scheduled hours, because of the seemingly irreconcilable differences between government and opposition over the 2G spectrum allocation probe. In every sitting, deliberation gave way to demonstration, as opposition parties walked out, shouted slogans, and crowded the floor. The opposition is hellbent on a JPC, and the government equally determined to resist one, insisting that existing mechanisms like the public accounts committee were sufficient.

 

The question of which instrument to pick has ended up obstructing not just the 2G debate this session, but also other vital pieces of legislation. Even matters listed as urgent public-interest issues, like the plight of small loan borrowers, handloom weavers and frequent railway accidents, could not be debated. The opposition parties seem to think that they are to be congratulated for pinning down the government and refusing to change the subject. L.K. Advani said, "Sometimes, business not proceeding also yields results." Meanwhile, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said the people would not forgive the opposition for wasting an entire session. It sets a very dangerous precedent, if a cluster of parties can gang up and stall legislative functioning altogether.

 

But no matter how objectionable the opposition's attempt to armtwist the government by stalling Parliament is, the consequences are still worse for the government. Barely in its second year, UPA 2 cannot afford to have the opposition bail out in Parliament, and render its functioning hollow, its majority meaningless. For its own sake, and in the larger public interest, the government needs to put greater energies into floor management, into overcoming this harmful impasse. It needs to give in on some things, if it doesn't want to squander the rest of its tenure. If a JPC is what it takes, the UPA should unclench its fist and submit to one. Either way, it has more to lose in this limbo, as it risks looking rudderless and compromised.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BIHAR SHOWS THE WAY

 

The NDA's landslide victory in the Bihar assembly elections would predictably have given Chief Minister Nitish Kumar a long honeymoon. But even with the weight of that victory, it takes a brave person to hack away at the powers of the very legislature class that underwrites his massive majority. In a show of the change that can be, the Bihar cabinet has in principle decided to abolish the Local Area Development Scheme for MLAs and MLCs (members of the upper house) to execute capital works in their constituencies.

 

To get a sense of the extraordinary initiative taken by Nitish, consider the genesis of the scheme in the early '90s, as a brainwave by P.V. Narasimha Rao to give then Lok Sabha members a stake in incumbency, with huge funds suddenly put at their disposal for projects. Since then, the scheme has been replicated not just in state assemblies, but even in municipal bodies. In fact, last year, there was unanimity in the Lok Sabha Standing Committee on MPLADs that the annual budget for each MP be raised five-fold to Rs 10 crore. It is, therefore, a measure of the gauntlet thrown down by Nitish that even Lalu Prasad's RJD has offered "full backing" for the radical reform. So far, stakeholders had insulated the local area development scheme from challenge — especially after the Supreme Court refused to abolish it. What Nitish has done is to make the political argument against the scheme, and dent a daunting consensus. He has cut through the hypocrisy surrounding the scheme and, more impressively, he has done so by curbing the power of incumbents.

 

It's reported that the Bihar reform is aimed at eliminating kickbacks in the allocation of contracts. Yet the scheme is bad not just in execution and oversight mechanisms but also in conception. It blurs the separation of powers between legislature and executive. Elected representatives are meant to keep a vigil on the executive and the local administration, not to become stakeholders in selected, and often arbitrarily conceptualised, projects of their choosing. Therefore, Nitish Kumar should go the last mile and resist the discontent building up, with legislators demanding at least a say in recommending capital works of a certain value. In fact, with their state having wrested the high ground on a reform even the

 

Administrative Reforms Commission and the all-powerful National Advisory Council could not pull off, Bihar's MPs should take a similar proposal to Parliament.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE CAN-CAN'T AT CANCUN

LAVANYA RAJAMANI 

 

The Cancun climate negotiations stretched, as now customary, into the early hours of the day after its scheduled end. The events of the final day were far less acrimonious than one would have expected after Copenhagen. Indeed, had it not been for the pesky Bolivian delegation repeatedly drawing attention to the lack of ambition in the "Cancun Agreements", it would have been a virtual love fest. The Bolivians, despite their lengthy, lucid, and legally sound — if inconvenient — interventions were eventually beaten down by the euphoria in the room. Climate negotiators, still reeling from the trauma of Copenhagen, found a glimmer of hope in the pleasant climes of the Mayan Riviera, and the benevolent leadership of the Mexican secretary of foreign affairs, Patricia Espinosa.

 

Bolivia, without support from other Bolivarian Alliance countries (Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador), as in Copenhagen, could not block agreement in Cancun. A consensus-based decision-making rule does not deliver veto power to every nation. So it was said, and so it proved.

 

Espinosa pulled together two texts, one under the Kyoto Protocol, and one under the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). These texts emerged from consultations facilitated by ministers in the final hours. Although Jairam Ramesh chose not to take a visible facilitating role, perhaps fearing domestic repercussions, he played a constructive role, edging parties towards compromise solutions. Espinosa accordingly singled him out for appreciation in her remarks.

 

The Cancun Agreements which, in the words of Espinosa, launch a new era of climate cooperation, represent the outcome of three years of work since Bali in 2007. The international community agreed in Cancun to "work towards" identifying a global goal for emission reductions as well as a timeframe for peaking of emissions, and to "consider" (not resolve) these at the next conference in Durban in 2011. Parties did "recognise", however, that "deep" unspecified cuts are required to "hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."

 

Intriguing as these perceived advancements are in the international community's shared vision on climate change, the real treasures are to be mined in the mitigation text. In the lead-up to Cancun, many developed countries, in particular the US, had argued for ways to "anchor" in the FCCC process, the pledges submitted under the Copenhagen Accord. Neither the accord, given its tortured birthing process, nor the pledges inscribed in its appendices, has any formal legal standing in the FCCC process.

 

The Cancun text, in an effort to anchor these in the process, "takes note of" developed country "targets", and developing country mitigation actions, communicated by them and contained in an "information" document. This "information" document is not currently in existence. The operational assumption is that this document will contain the pledges that countries have inscribed in the Copenhagen Accord. These pledges, if faithfully implemented, set the world on a 3-4 degrees Celsius warming path. In effect, the conference took note of a document that does not exist, and when it does is likely to contain targets and actions that will not hold, as is the stated aim, temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

 

There are, however, several saving graces as far as developing countries are concerned. The Kyoto Protocol, much to the chagrin of Japan and Russia, lives to see another day. The text under the Kyoto Protocol track is crafted on the upbeat assumption that there will be a second commitment period after 2012. That this will come to pass, of course, is highly unlikely.

 

The text on measurement, reporting and verification of developing country mitigation actions is perhaps the most balanced part of the Cancun Agreements, and it appears to have benefited from iterations of Ramesh's discussion note on the issue. The agreement enhances the frequency of national reporting and inventory requirements, but recognises a clear distinction between supported and unsupported mitigation actions, confines the review of information to the non-threatening realm of technical experts, and excludes a discussion on the "appropriateness" of domestic policies and measures. In addition, the Cancun Agreements establish a Green Climate Fund, a Technology Mechanism and an Adaptation Framework, fulfilling the promise of the Copenhagen Accord.

 

The Cancun Agreements represent the best of what can be hoped for at this stage. While the mitigation text is inadequate and perplexing, it mirrors the permanent flux the international community is in due to US climate intransigence. On other aspects, Cancun delivered incremental progress. And, after Copenhagen, even incremental progress in the climate negotiations is hailed as a historic achievement.

 

The writer is a professor of international law, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT'S NOT OVER YET

COOMI KAPOOR 

 

The winter session of Parliament ended on Monday without having transacted any of the usual business of the House. No debates or discussions on matters of public interest, no special mentions, no Zero Hour, no questions were answered orally and no supplementaries raised. In his valedictory address, Rajya Sabha Chairperson Hamid Ansari pointed out that out of the 23 working days, the Upper House sat for a mere two hours and 44 minutes and most of this time was taken up in just adjournments and disruptions. He urged all sections of the House to meditate on the sorry state of affairs.

 

Unfortunately, neither the government nor the opposition seems in a mood to look within and back down from their stated positions on the demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum allocation. Some in the government may have heaved a sigh of relief at the end of the charade the two sides enacted throughout the month-long Parliament session, but hopes of a reprieve are misplaced. The opposition now proposes to hold a series of rallies and take the demand to the streets. Corruption, which had become a secondary issue in political discourse in recent years, is back at the top of the agenda and the glue holding together a disparate opposition. As of now, there appears to be every likelihood of the opposition persisting with disruptive tactics when Parliament meets for the budget session in February.

 

The scenario is reminiscent of 1987 when the opposition had similarly paralysed Parliament for a prolonged period demanding a JPC into the Bofors contract. It took the Rajiv Gandhi government a full 45 days to finally concede a JPC on Bofors. This time, however, the government seems adamant on not giving in. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while expressing concern over the future of the parliamentary system, did not offer any solution to end the deadlock. Sonia Gandhi scoffed at the BJP for its double standards and doublespeak on corruption and warned that Indians would take a dim view of the way the opposition has mocked Parliament. A line of speculation making the rounds in political circles is that a mid-term poll may be the only way out of the impasse. This is an unlikely possibility, considering that the Manmohan Singh government has three-and-a-half years left of its five-year term and knows that it is on a much weaker wicket than it was less than a year ago.

 

It may be difficult, however, for UPA 2 to live down its image as a lame-duck government so early in its term. One key ally, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, has been less than supportive on the JPC demand. The Congress's relations with another ally, the DMK, are increasingly strained. It was a DMK minister who got the UPA into this muddle. Besides, the state Congress apprehends that its ally's prospects in the forthcoming Tamil Nadu assembly elections may not be all that bright.

 

Short of a JPC, the ruling party has brandished every other option to convince a very recalcitrant opposition that it too is keen to get to the bottom of the 2G scam, perhaps the biggest corruption case in the country's history.

 

A. Raja was finally pushed out of the telecommunication portfolio kicking and screaming when the DMK, after stoutly resisting Raja's removal for over a year, caved in meekly. Realisation has dawned that the balance of power in its equation with the Congress has shifted in favour of the latter in the run-up to next year's assembly polls. CBI investigations have begun with a lot of sound and fury, but this may well signify nothing. Sceptics point out the much publicised series of raids and the alleged recovery of diaries are a year late.

 

The Congress insists that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquire into the 2G allotments, rather than a JPC. But the only person who seems to have bitten that bait is BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi, who, as chairperson of the PAC, was hoping to grab the limelight. Joshi's efforts to rush ahead with the PAC probe were nipped in the bud by his indignant NDA colleagues, who pointed out that he was undermining the demand for a JPC.

 

The finer distinctions between the PAC and a JPC are lost on most people. The former acts on the basis of CAG reports and ministers are not called before the committee to give evidence. A JPC, on the other hand, can focus on whatever aspect it chooses, including government policy, and can call for documents and summon evidence from all and sundry, even the prime minister. The Congress therefore apprehends a fishing expedition with almost no boundaries and with little chance of any concrete result. It cites the four earlier JPCs, which generated headlines but turned out eventually to be damp squibs, with most of the committee recommendations ignored by the government. For instance, in the Bofors case, it was the media, not the JPC,which unearthed the many clues to the pay-offs. In fact representatives of the Swedish firm had been cautioned by the Indian government not to disclose any details before the Indian parliamentary committee. As a consequence, the Bofors JPC performed a cover-up operation.

 

The official position of the UPA is that JPCs are a waste of public money and time. But these two considerations have seldom weighed with the government when ordering inquiries. To scuttle the JPC demand, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal hastily ordered an additional inquiry into the telecom scam by a retired Supreme Court judge even when Parliament was in session, inviting charges of breach of privilege. The government is clearly running scared that a JPC could open a Pandora's box. A JPC could well be a platform for the opposition to grandstand and leak information, thereby embarrassing the government on a daily basis.

 

History shows that no government has ever been returned to power after setting up a JPC to look into skulduggery. Small wonder that neither side seems prepared to yield.

 

coomi.kapoor@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'THE GOVERNMENT MUST RECONNECT WITH CORPORATE INDIA. THERE IS DISILLUSIONMENT AMONG THE OLD CORPORATE HOUSES'

SHEKHAR GUPTA 

 

 Shekhar Gupta: I am at Mumbai's Cricket Club of India and my guest today is a cricket enthusiast but not somebody who is going to talk cricket with me. Deepak Parekh, let's talk about what's happening to corporate

 

India, Indian economy, growth. Tough times.

 

Deepak Parekh: Yes, these are tough times. Everything was going so well a few months ago. We were the darling of the western world and multinationals and everyone wanted to invest money in India. And suddenly, there is a snap. It was building over a period of time but it has really taken the wind out of our ambitions and I am very disappointed, saddened more than disappointed, to see what's happening. What is happening is that businessmen are killing businessmen. MPs are eating MPs and Parliament. Media is eating media. There are half-a-dozen media people who are standing in judgment whether some of your colleagues were right or wrong. How can media people stand in front of other media? And it's the same in business versus business.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So everybody is being judgmental about their own.

 

Deepak Parekh: What is happening is a very sorry state of affairs if you look at the big houses in India today. The Tatas are investing abroad, not in India. They want to, but they can't.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Why is it that they can't?

 

Deepak Parekh: They don't get the land. They have old land, they don't get extension of the mining leases. Then someone accuses them of mining illegally.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You put them under pressure by accusing them of mining illegally and give the same mines to some crony of yours.

 

Deepak Parekh: I am aware of the fact that it has been 10 years that the Tatas have been trying to put up a steel unit in Orissa and they still haven't got the land. So why should they invest in India? If you see their (Tata's) strategy, they say they are getting 50 per cent of their revenues from overseas. You see the Ambanis, they are putting money in shale gas in the United States. Mukesh Ambani has gone on record to say that he has already put $5-6 billion in shale gas.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And he is going to invest another $12 billion in America.

 

Deepak Parekh: And Sunil Mittal. He has taken a huge debt on his Indian balance sheet to grow in Africa. What has happened in telecom globally is consolidation, but in India consolidation is not happening. There are so many players. No one wants to sell, no one wants to merge, no one wants to work together.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Particularly when people can move real estate money to telecom.

 

Deepak Parekh: Well, real estate money into telecom. Have you heard of that anywhere?

 

Shekhar Gupta: Well, so many real estate companies bought telecom in India.

 

Deepak Parekh: Yes. There are players like Tatas, Birlas, Docomo, Sunil Mittal. These are big boys with deep pockets. Still there are new players getting into it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And just causing a mess of the market.

 

Deepak Parekh: It is only a scarce resource. Corner it, make money. Hoard it, make money. The other issue is that in legal cases, our jurisdiction must improve. How many cases are pending, where is the judgment? Where are court decisions being taken? The Satyam case is still going on. What are the charges? What is the final verdict?

 

Shekhar Gupta: So all these are driving Indian entrepreneurs away? Do you see India's capital flying away, Indian investment flying away?

 

Deepak Parekh: The big boys are looking outside because there it's easier to do business, it's simpler to do business. It's a straightforward business, it's no grey matter. You may pay a higher price to acquire companies, but in a year or two you make up for that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You are a sort of friend, philosopher, guide and uncle of corporate India. Do people come and share this problem with you? Do they say, we can't do business in India anymore?

 

Deepak Parekh: Many people have talked about it. See, we need newer industrialists but we need genuine industrialists. We don't need cronies-come-lately. And this is all related to two or three areas. Land, land and land. Take urban land in Mumbai. If you make an IT building, you get a higher FSI, so you bid for the land. Then you get the government to change the definition of IT. In Mumbai, IT now includes banking, back office, insurance, asset management, private equity. Land aggregators are the ones who are making money.

 

Shekhar Gupta: People are building land banks.

 

Deepak Parekh: You see that happening in Alibaug, Panvel or around Delhi. The aggregators buy small land, accumulate them and then go to an industrial group and say, 'I am going to give you the land at this price'.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And the industrial group has a deal with the chief minister.

 

Deepak Parekh: So basically, the people who suffer are the original land owners. They sell it at a low price. The land aggregator adds his huge margin because he says he has to pay people and then again, the land owner suffers.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You were a member of the Prime Minister's investment commission. Your job was to invite big ticket investments to India. Does it hurt to see Indian investment going out?

 

Deepak Parekh: I think Indian companies should also have overseas ambitions but not at the cost of growth. India is a growth story. For the next 10 years, we are going to get a 9-10 per cent GDP growth.

 

]Shekhar Gupta: But not if the big Indian companies start moving out.

 

]Deepak Parekh: Yes. Get big quick, get rich quick—we don't want those type of industrialists. You want industrialists to grow over a period of time. Tatas, Birlas, Reliance— all have grown over 30-40 years.

 

]Shekhar Gupta: How does the PM fix this?

 

Deepak Parekh: You know the system has become so difficult. Corruption is part of our lives. The whole system is corrupt. What can the poor Prime Minister do?

 

Shekhar Gupta: How does this government reconnect with corporate India?

 

Deepak Parekh: I think there is a need to reconnect. There is disillusionment among the old corporate houses. The feeling is that we are not being given an equal opportunity because we are too straight. Those kinds of fears have to be dispelled by the PM. If Tatas can take 10 years to get land, then what is the future of other industrialists?

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because Tatas, for all their alleged lobbying clout, haven't got a single mining licence in 10 years. All kinds of crooks are now squatting on mines.

 

Deepak Parekh: And the ironic thing is that in this government, we have the largest number of professionals. Honest people and professional, yet we are unable to do anything and it has become worse.

 

Shekhar Gupta: If you look at this Cabinet, it has the largest percentage of truly honest people. So corruption is one thing. The second is communication and attitude. Where do you think has the government gone wrong? Where have the corporates gone wrong?

 

Deepak Parekh: Well, the government has liberalised a lot of issues. They are talking so much about opening up new sectors but they are doing nothing about it. Take insurance. For five years, we have been hearing that it's happening tomorrow. It just goes on. I know it may not be high in the priority of the government but for foreign companies, it's a huge thing. India can get $3 billion if they open up insurance. Retail is one, defence is another. Look at the amount of money we spend on defence.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So the government's credibility suffers.

 

Deepak Parekh: The government has to take decisions. You can't keep everything under the carpet.

 

Shekhar Gupta: There is also this new mindset that corporates are crooks. That the state is being taken over by corporates. You are saying that corporates have been victimised.

 

Deepak Parekh: I think the fault is on both sides. There are corporates who like to get quicker decisions by paying off. So, you have to come out with some law—why is the giver not penalised and only the taker penalised? But you know the growth opportunities in India are so tremendous. We've never been in this positive situation when the entire world is looking at India.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So what are the three things that the Prime Minister should now do to change this mood?

 

Deepak Parekh: First of all, the Prime Minister is handicapped because it's a coalition government. Coalition members are pulling in different directions. What could the PM do?

 

Shekhar Gupta: Within his limitations, what are the three things that the PM should do now?

 

Deepak Parekh: I think he should get back to the big groups who have a proven track record. Decisions have to be taken faster.

 

Shekhar Gupta: What has made you find so much negativity?

 

Deepak Parekh: Disbursements on large projects are not happening, environment issues are coming in the way of development. Now, we want the environment to be protected, we want ecological improvements, but somewhere, we have to draw a balance. Do we want growth, and if we want growth, we have to make some sacrifices or take precautions. But you cannot say that you cannot give permissions. There is a disconnect between the industry ministry and the environment ministry. My personal view is, look at the existing industries that are creating all the pollution, emissions. They are going scot-free. Why can't you try and clean the existing ones? I think you should have a responsibility to improve the existing industries. Don't block a new entrant. And I don't think we've lost it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: We can lose it.

 

Deepak Parekh: Today, various people are asking if the growth in India is going to last.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So what does the PM do to sort out things like mining linkages, mineral linkages, environmental clearances. These are the few bottlenecks.

 

Deepak Parekh: See, the different ministries have to work as a team. If each manager or each departmental head pulls in different directions, you will not have a good company or good results. The big boys in the government are pulling in different directions and not working as a team. We all have the same objective to see a better India, to see a prosperous India.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You find the big boys in the government too distracted or following their own agenda?

 

Deepak Parekh: No, they are following their own department's agenda and not looking at the broader picture. I think the PM has to get that organised.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Do you sometimes get the feeling that the Prime Minister has become a bit distanced or preoccupied?

 

Deepak Parekh: No, I don't think so. I think he is trying his best but I feel he is in that position because of coalition parties. Coalition parties have different agendas.

 

Shekhar Gupta: He is also in the situation because of the peculiar situation in his own party, as he himself tells you. Circumstances have made him the PM. And I think he takes that argument much too seriously.

 

Deepak Parekh: I think he has a good opportunity. We still have three-and-a-half years of his government. And suddenly, we see in the papers 'mid-term polls'. We don't want a mid-term poll. We just had elections. We want to see growth for three years.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And that should apply to the Opposition as well that's blocking Parliament for the whole session.

 

Deepak Parekh: Democracy is coming as a disadvantage. No Bill could be discussed, no Bill could become an Act. There are so many pending issues in Parliament.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Have you heard the tapes? Have you read about the tapes? What do these tell you?

 

Deepak Parekh: I haven't heard the tapes. I don't want to waste time on that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You talked about all this negativity. Have the tapes contributed to some of it?

 

Deepak Parekh: I am not interested in reading (about) the tapes but the simple question is, why was the phone tapping done? You can't have telephones tapped for two years. That is invasion of privacy. Even if it's a crook, even if someone is doing something wrong, does it take you two years to find out whether something was wrong? You take action against that individual, you act against that individual. You question that individual. If you continue tapping the phone for two years, it is an invasion of privacy.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Have you spoken with Ratan Tata? Or with Mukesh or any of the people?

 

Deepak Parekh: No, but there is a concern that if phones are tapped, then one has to be extremely careful because some of the conversations are strategic. Some of it is business secret, some of it is confidential. It's your new venture.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So do you think the PM can bring in some calm or he should try and bring in some calm?

 

Deepak Parekh: I think the team has to function cohesively, the senior ministers. One man can't do so much but he has to say something and then the team has to be incentivised to work together. The industry minister gives you permission; environment (ministry) stops it. The state government gives permission to build Lavasa, environment (ministry) says stop it. After so much bank money that has been invested and after so many years... they are trying to create a new township. I have gone and seen Lavasa. I think HCC (Hindustan Construction Company) has done a remarkable job — it's not that he has built it without government approval. But you can't give an order now that you stop construction and get back to 2003 or 2004 levels. What are we trying to do, break it down?

 

Shekhar Gupta: All I can say is that your speaking on the subject brings in calm. Everybody knows that your personal interest in any of this is zero. You spent so much time in Satyam for not even a rupee. You are seen as a captain who doesn't get paid, but bowls, bats, fields and also lifts the finger when somebody is out.

 

Deepak Parekh: As I said in the beginning, I feel saddened. Which year has India had the US president, the French president...all in one year and in quick succession?

 

Transcribed by Deepali Sharma

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ALONG EXPECTED LINES


To say the BJP has double standards on corruption, as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi did while addressing the party faithful, is to state the obvious. A party that refuses to dismiss a chief minister who acknowledges he favoured his children in land allotments, and justfies this by saying his predecessors did the same, is surely a party that deserves to be lampooned. But beyond this, what are we to make of what the Congress party chief said? The Supreme Court, she said, is monitoring the probe, the CBI is conducting an investigation and a retired Supreme Court judge is also examining issues—given this, she argued, there was no need for the JPC over which the BJP is stalling Parliament. This sounds reasonable but what Gandhi forgot to add was that the Supreme Court has been extremely critical of the manner in which the CBI was conducting the probe—why hadn't ex-minister A Raja even been questioned for over a year, the Court asked, after which the CBI raided Raja's premises. Or that the Court has sent a notice asking the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, appointed by the government even after the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj protested against this in writing, why he should be allowed to continue in office—the CVC, a former telecom secretary, failed to take any action against the companies Raja had helped and even wrote to the CAG saying it had no authority to probe the matter. It is after the Court came down heavily on the CVC that he offered to recuse himself from the probe—the CBI reports to the CVC.

 

Nor is it quite clear as to what the party's stand is on the issue. Sure, at some point, the telecom ministry will send out show cause notices to 85 of the 122 licencees asking why their licences shouldn't be cancelled, given that they'd furnished incorrect information while applying. Telecom minister Kapil Sibal, however, hasn't tackled the issue on whether the licences were woefully undervalued, as the CAG has said. On the contrary, Sibal has pointed to how earlier ministers like the BJP's Shourie and the UPA's Maran had also issued licences, in 2004 and 2006, at the prices got in 2001. Given the fact that in 2008, there were 4.5 applicants for each licence issued versus 1 applicant for each of the 4 licences issued in Shourie/Maran's tenures, it is obvious the losses due to Shourie/Maran can't be anywhere as large. It is possible that the Justice Shivraj Patil committee will find the 2003 UASL licences issued by Shourie were not in order—but keep in mind that, in 2003, Arun Shourie got erring firms to pay the 2001 auction prices and also a hefty penalty. More important, the Congress has a gigantic fraud in front of it, and it needs to tackle this, not point out that other frauds were committed in the past. Scoring political points is fine, provided the Congress backs this with credible action in cancelling the licences or levying hefty penalties. So far, this hasn't happened.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

INFORM ALLAH ...


Who do you blame for Air India's vendors threatening to stop supply of spare parts on credit, or for the airline dashing off a note to the aviation ministry saying it cannot pay salaries beyond March unless it gets some urgent cash infusion from the government? Its current chief, Arvind Jadhav, that's who. That's what the airline's warring independent directors would have us believe, with several in the ministry supporting them. The seeds of trouble, however, were sown earlier in the decade when, instead of closing the airline or privatising it, the government decided to run the airline and, to do this, decided to buy a huge fleet of new aircraft for $11 billion (to be serviced on an equity base of Rs 145 crore!) and merge Air India and Indian Airlines as well. What followed was a behemoth, where two sets of officers worked at cross purposes, and an airline overladen with debt.

 

From then on, it was even faster downhill for the airline. A combination of the airline's inefficiency, the government's meddling and the huge debt ensured that losses of the airline increased from Rs 2,226crore in 2007-08 to Rs 5,548 crore in 2008-09 and further to Rs 5,656 crore in 2009-10. Though a Group of Ministers reviewed its financial position in June last year and a turnaround plan focused on cost reduction, revenue enhancement, fleet rationalisation, route profitability, manpower rationalisation and other structural changes was prepared, the results have not been very encouraging. To make matters worse, the changes were restricted by employees unions who went on a flash strike. Instead of focusing on ensuring the airline got a restructuring package of Rs 10,000 crore of equity and low-cost debt of a similar amount—witness how supportive the ministry was when it came to restructuring the debt of private airlines—the independent directors focused on appointments by the new COO. With the board and the management at loggerheads—the COO of Air India Express, whom the Board wants removed, continues to function in this position even today!—it's clear the airline is going nowhere fast. Why not just close it down? Of course, the government will still have to take on its ballooning debt.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

EVASIVE VOTING

 

Messrs Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru (India), Rop Gonggrijp (the Netherlands) and Alex Halderman (the US) have jointly published a paper titled, Security Analysis of India's Electronic Voting Machines, which concludes that "in spite of the machines' simplicity and minimal software trusted computing base, they are vulnerable to serious attacks that can alter election results and violate the secrecy of the ballot". In the US, two presidential elections have been mired in doubts concerning the reliability of computerised machines to count the vote. In

 

the Netherlands, doubts concerning the security and accuracy of electronic elections led to EVMs getting banned. In India, Prasad

 

was actually arrested on the charge of stealing an EVM. Other than theft, it was charged, how did he get his hands on an EVM long enough to demonstrate its fallibility? Now, Prasad's coauthor Halderman has reportedly been deported on arrival. Without taking sides on the question of EVMs' reliability, it seems odd to us that Indian immigration authorities are acting as defensively as they are.

 

We believe that one of the biggest strengths of Indian democracy is its openness to dissent. We believe that Indian voting systems can withstand the most rigorous of scrutinies. We also know that the Prasad, Gonggrijp and Halderman paper is up on the Web anyway. So, we think Halderman's deportation is really uncalled for. Speaking to the Indian Express before getting deported , he said: "I am about to be thrown out of this country and there is no reason anyone is giving me." Are we short of explanations because we are in the wrong here?

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

MISDIRECTED MISSILES

GOPAL JAIN

 

Imagining India is a nightmare … corruption, scams, policy flip-flops, violation of legal rights, lack of respect for institutions (CVC) and now judicial verdicts. This India fits the description of a 'banana republic'—nothing is a given, nothing is final, the rule of law is like elastic; it is stretched to suit the political expediency and compulsions of a coalition government.

 

The latest in the list is the filing of a curative petition in the Supreme Court to reopen the Bhopal Gas Leak compensation case. The trigger point, after 20 years, was the inadequate punishment in a criminal case! Before firing a salvo/ missile, one must identify the real target and send it in that direction; but here is a case of a misdirected missile.

 

Shift the blame while sacrificing those who can be made easy scapegoats and guinea pigs (those who are politically expendable) and mete out punishment so it appears that action has been taken. But the rule of law requires a prior adjudication, a determination that gives the benefit of the doubt—innocent till proven guilty. This has been given a go-bye. This is evident from precedent. There was Bofors—a JPC white-washed it and gave it a clean chit. Nothing was done to recover the money that caused a loss to the exchequer; there was Tehelka—those who dared to expose the systems and scandals and blow the whistle were crucified but the distortions/loopholes were not fixed. Then comes the 2G scam, where governments went into deep slumber and suddenly the CBI raids Raja as if expecting to find 'spectrum' in his house. This is an eye-wash. And then there is Bhopal, where the government had a constitutional duty to look after its people, provide relief and rehabilitation, but failed miserably.

 

Filing the curative petition is a facet of 'strong arm tactics' and has to be seen in its correct perspective and context. Let's look at the facts that emerge from the record:

 

1) The Government of India and Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) enter into a settlement in February 1989.

 

2) The settlement was filed in court and the Supreme Court recorded the terms of settlement by two separate orders dated February 14 and 15, 1989, based on the settlement [Union Carbide Corporation vs Union of India (1989) 1 SCC 674]. The settlement clearly provides that it finally disposes of all past, present and future claims, causes of action and civil and criminal proceedings, with respect to all past, present and future deaths, personal injuries, health effects, compensation, losses, damages and civil and criminal complaints of any nature whatsoever against UCC, Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL), Union Carbide Eastern, and all of their subsidiaries and affiliates.

 

3) An attempt was made to re-open this settlement, which was rejected by the Supreme Court in 1991. However, the Supreme Court left the settlement and the orders undisturbed, holding that if the settlement fund is exhausted, the reasonable way to settle claims would be for the Union of India, as a welfare state, to make good the deficiency [Union Carbide Corporation vs Union of India (1991) 4 SCC 584].

 

4) Another attempt was made to re-open the settlement (on the grounds that compensation was inadequate). This was yet again rejected by the Supreme Court in 2007.

 

5) The Bhopal incident happened in 1984. The operator of the plant was UCIL. Its legal successor was Mcleod Russel, which has been renamed as Eveready Industries India Ltd. This company is fully alive and solvent even today. So far, so good. The government found none of this actionable, even though protesters and victims have been crying hoarse. Now drag in Dow Chemicals, which is nowhere on the scene and had no link or connection to the incident. A reverse merger took place in 2001 between a subsidiary of Dow and UCC, 17 years later—at a time when UCC was no longer doing business in india, resulting in shares of UCC (the surviving entity) being transferred to the Dow Chemical Company. The real culprit (now called Eveready India Ltd) remains a separate and distinct entity, which again has no link with Dow.

 

6) The government (EGoM) takes the view that the ministry of chemicals & fertilisers and CBI may be directed to file appropriate motions before the courts concerned and request the courts, specifically the MP High Court, to expeditiously decide the question of liability of Dow Chemicals Company or its successors to UCC/UCIL. Once this question is decided, various legal proceedings involving Dow and others liable can be taken forward. The government makes an application, which is pending. But without awaiting the verdict of the court, the government jumps the gun and, in a pre-determined manner, makes Dow a party and lodges its claim in the Supreme Court without establishing Dow's role and link, as none exists. It appears that the curative petition would amount to contempt of court.

 

Clearly, the government is shifting the blame and onus, though it has to foot the tab. The whole case is misconceived. Only the objective of sending a political signal is achieved—'we are on the job!'

 

This is the report card that shows a faulty approach, one which would fall in the category of 'rarest of the rare'. The government cannot re-open a case that is settled, i.e., it cannot be unsettled. In doing so, it will be using/abusing the legal process for serving a political end.

 

So what is the way ahead? How do we 'cure' this? India is seen as a mature democracy, growing economy and a haven for private/foreign investment. Investors come where there is certainty, minimum risk and their rights are secured. This means the integrity and sanctity of contracts/promises have to be adhered to; the government, as a sovereign, must fulfil its commitments; judicial verdict must be complied with in letter and spirit.

 

The government, having agreed to a settlement, is bound by it. It has given its word in a written document, received money by way of compensation and now cannot post facto wriggle out of it. If it takes the view that the compensation was not sufficient, it is obliged to pay out the balance as it has committed to do as a welfare state.

 

In the end, the government is duty bound to be just and fair. It cannot target companies or institutions but must target the real problems, the real issues and, in doing so, must reach out to the real people to provide prompt relief and rehabilitation and put them out of their misery and suffering. India will then truly be a 'shining India'.

 

In doing so, we need a complete overhaul and a 180-degree turn in the government's stand and approach as it plays out a political game in the legal arena. The 'climate' must change (and not at Cancun) to re-imagine India as the India that Gandhi-Nehru-Ambedkar foresaw. Namely, an India with obedience to the rule of law. It is the beginning of yet another struggle.

 

The author is advocate, Supreme Court

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

NEW SILK ROUTES

TNR RAO

 

Gas pipelines, today, are considered the modern equivalent of the spice routes of the Middle Ages, which extended international links to deliver the essentials of civilised life to Europe from strange and distant lands. Today, pipelines deliver the essential gas to the energy-hungry countries for development. But the overland spice routes, from central Asia, were disrupted by the success of the Ottoman empire in the 15th century, provoking a crisis in the West, just as the disruption of Russian gas supplies through Ukraine has done 550 years later. That disruption, in the Middle Ages, to vital imports inspired the great European voyages of discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries, opening up several sea routes to bypass the troublesome transit regions. So has the Ukraine incident, spurring new pipeline routes through safer areas.

 

Looking at the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) pipeline purely from a gas supply point of view, have any lessons been learnt from the two decades of negotiations on the IPI pipeline? Our oil minister's statement at the signing of the TAPI framework agreement lists all the issues and caveats that need to be resolved before the pipeline becomes a reality, issues that actually bedevilled the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline. Furthermore, it adds to the already existing physical security concerns, with transit in Afghanistan to be taken care of, in addition to Pakistan. As a tailender, India's security risks are higher, not lower, in TAPI.

 

]Then, why does India still want to be a partner in a venture that may not be realised? India's desire to go through the motions on TAPI appears driven more by its foreign policy imperatives than energy needs. TAPI has, in the same measure, all commercial and security concerns that have remained unresolved in IPI. Reportedly, India agrees to take delivery of gas at the Turkmenistan-Afghan border, assuming responsibility for its safe transit through Afghanistan's Taliban tracts, after balking at taking delivery at the Iran-Pak border in the case of IPI pipeline. This change in stance on delivery points underscores the foreign policy objective of the need for India's strategic presence in Afghanistan. This way we may, at most, ensure the delivery and transit of gas within Afghanistan but will hit the bottleneck at the AfPak border. However, this will give India an upstream pressure point on Pakistan, unlike in the IPI pipeline, where India's role is marginalised, since Iran concluded a deal with Pakistan without India. This pressure point, if activated, could cost India its supplies, but that cost becomes affordable if alternative secure supplies are in hand. Having once been an enthusiastic supporter of TAPI's, there would be no point if India fails to be a player in the regional pipeline realpolitik.

 

But if Putin is today's Mehmet II in disrupting supplies, he has also proved to be the one to explore and establish non-spice route options for his gas. The new gas pipeline from Russia to the EU is the South Stream, running under the Black Sea to avoid the troublesome Ukraine, and transports 80% of Russian gas exports to Europe. Its sister pipeline, Nord Stream, will run under the Baltic Sea. The EU is pursuing the Nabucco project to bring gas from central Asia bypassing Russia. When vital interests are at stake, every country, including India should keep all its options open.

 

Natural gas has emerged as a key game-changer in the world of energy politics and India cannot afford to be left out of this game. Both as a large consumer and because of its geographical location, India is the default demand centre for the gas from Middle East and central Asia. What then are India's options for real-time energy supplies? With the experience of the IPI pipeline, it is clear that even TAPI, if and when it materialises, would take considerably more time. Like the examples of Russia and the EU mentioned above, a viable option is to resort to geopolitically neutral routes for pipelines bringing gas to India. While the MOU for the Iran-India pipeline was being signed in the early nineties, it was suggested that Iran explore the option of a mid-sea tie-in with the sub-sea Oman-India pipeline. But Iran didn't choose this option. The sea route avoids problematic areas and enables India to transport gas from countries bordering Iran, like Turkmenistan, by swapping with Iranian gas. With secure supplies in hand, India will be able to play its strategic role more effectively.

 

The author is chairman of the Energy Think Tank and former secretary, ministry of petroleum & natural gas

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

 

Believe me, or the TV?

 

At the hearing of the Ratan Tata privacy case in the Supreme Court, Justice GS Singhvi asked the media to exercise restraint and not to sensationalise news. On one day, the judge said, his wife asked him what order he had dictated that day. When he said he'd dictated nothing, his wife put on the TV, which had a story saying 'SC raps Home Secretary'. At which point, Attorney General GE Vahanvati pitched in to say he'd seen various stories saying 'SC raps AG' while what happened wasn't quite the same.

 

Don't overdo it please

 

At the hearing, Harish Salve, who was appearing on behalf of Ratan Tata, said we needed to keep in mind the corporate ownership of media as well. Salve mentioned various magazines and TV channels that were owned by corporates. Anil Divan, the lawyer for Outlook magazine, was sufficiently riled to say that none of these allegations formed part of the petition and if Salve felt ownership of media houses was important and had a bearing on their news coverage, why didn't he put it in an affidavit? Rajeev Dhawan, appearing on behalf of Open Magazine, said that very few newspapers globally, he mentioned the Guardian as one, are run without any corporate ownership.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE EU-INDIA SUMMIT

 

The relationship between India and the European Union does not have the same hyper-resonance as New Delhi's other bilateral relations. Yet, as the annual EU-India summit testifies, both sides are engaged on issues of vital importance. The 11th summit, for which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew to Brussels last week, was significant for several reasons. Both sides hope to conclude a free trade agreement by the spring of 2011. EU is among India's biggest trading partners. Last year, the two-way trade in goods and services was worth €69 billion. The 27-nation EU is also a big investor in India. The Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement, in the works since 2007, aims to dismantle tariffs on most products traded by the two sides. Expectations are that it could push bilateral trade to as much as €100 billion. But the negotiations had stumbled on EU insistence over including a clause on sustainable development that would hold trade and investors to strict human rights, particularly labour rights, and environmental standards. India had resisted this. It is unclear if the joint declaration's reference to "significant progress" in the negotiations means the two sides have resolved the issue. The EU had indicated it would not let this condition stand in the way of the agreement, but it is in India's own interests to follow best practices while ensuring adequate protection to the interests of domestic trade and industry and the workforce. Both sides are also trying to negotiate two other major irritants — a dispute over intellectual property rights relating to Indian-made generic drugs, and the resistance of EU member-states to free movement of Indian professionals. The accommodation of Indian concerns on both is crucial to a satisfactory trade agreement.

 

This was the first EU-India summit to be held after the Lisbon Treaty came into force a year ago. Among other measures, the Treaty aims to raise EU influence in global affairs. Accordingly, the group has been eager to look beyond trade in its relations with India, and give it more political and strategic content. Cooperation in combating terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, non-proliferation, disarmament, climate change, the role of G20 in global economic governance, and the proposed EU-India agreement on cooperation in the development of peaceful nuclear energy were all discussed at the summit. In recent years, the EU has signalled the willingness to play down what India sees as an overly activist attitude on the Kashmir issue — at this summit, it was not even mentioned. As it seeks to broaden ties with India, much will depend on how the EU tackles the challenge of reconciling the positions of its numerous member-states on important issues to present a coherent foreign policy.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SUSTAINING PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

 

Ubiquitous economic actions are often not studied enough. One such instance is the everyday process of people moving across international boundaries — either as students, workers, refugees or asylum-seekers. The World Migration Report, which estimates that the number of international migrants will swell from 214 million in 2010 to about 405 million by 2050, makes important and inter-related points. Despite a current slowdown owing to the global economic crisis, the international movement of people will continue. Consequently, there needs to be a focus on building capacities across states to support sustainable migration. One of the undercurrents directing the future of international migration is the expected slower growth in labour force in developed economies (where its strength is projected to remain at about 600 million until 2050), compared with the less developed countries (where it is expected to increase from 2.4 billion in 2005 to 3.6 billion in 2040). It is thus clear that the attention of policymakers should be aimed at putting in place structures providing for sustainable international migration.

 

Creating such systems requires the generation of key and accurate data, particularly relating to migration and labour market. Also useful would be properly defined national migration policies and priorities. For example, assessments of a country's work requirements, the expected areas of shortages, and the manner of sourcing them through international migrants can be made available. This, in turn, would help in the mainstreaming of migration into domestic and international policies. This is presently lacking in many countries. However, one welcome change is in the mindset of countries that complained of "brain drain" —they now see migrants as a source of economic value. Remittances by migrants, at $414 billion in 2009, are also set to increase, offering governments an opportunity to dovetail domestic development and, possibly, poverty reduction plans to such inflows. The report's observation that remittances have surpassed official developmental assistance in most of the non-rich world, barring sub-Saharan Africa, points to a positive outcome of migration for developing countries. There are attempts internationally to identify meaningful ways of channelling remittances towards development. India, which got $49,256 million by way of remittances in 2009 — the highest for any country — has a great opportunity to make the best of its enduring strength: an internationally productive labour force.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

PATRONAGE AS A U.S. FORCE MULTIPLIER

FROM SCHOLARSHIPS AND TRAINING PROGRAMMES FOR OFFICERS TO PROMISES OF GREEN CARDS AND JOBS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS, AMERICA IS DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO BUILD A LOBBY FOR ITSELF IN INDIA.<

RAHUL BEDI

 

The loquacious charm employed by United States President Barack Obama during his India trip is merely one of the many force multipliers exercised by an economically beleaguered Washington seeking to sell New Delhi varied military equipment for billions of dollars, and affirming bilateral strategic ties as a hedge against a resurgent China.

 

The other more protracted and consequently effective inducements are the raft of scholarships to American universities handed out to the offspring of top Indian politicians, civil servants and defence and intelligence officers, and the patronage extended to Service officers under the long established Military Education and Training (IMET) programme.

 

So blatant, widespread and generous is Washington's largesse to the students — facilitating and financing, as it does, their pursuit of eclectic disciplines like the liberal arts, English literature and, even, art and history in leading U.S. institutions — that it is worth asking to what extent Indian policy on a range of issues of interest to America remains 'hostage' to the children of a growing number of Delhi's powerful decision-makers. The scholarship recipients' list is embarrassingly revelatory.

 

It is also not unknown for senior Indian intelligence, security and military officials travelling to Washington to negotiate sensitive bilateral issues and agreements to ask their obliging hosts, who by now have a measure of their Delhi counterparts, for favours like Green Cards, extension of student visas and even employment prospects for their brood in the U.S.

 

Needless to say, negotiations the following morning become significantly compromised by the promises of the night before.

 

Leading Indian journalists too have been asked to write their own itinerary on either whistle stop lecture tours of U.S. universities and think tanks — all paid for, of course, or alternately to opt for study curricula which were fully facilitated. Many have been known to frequently avail themselves of this bounty by a patron that does not believe in free lunches and admits as much.

 

The IMET programme under which Washington organises visits to the U.S. and training courses for Indian military personnel inside it for periods varying from a few weeks to several months or more is yet another subtle effective force multiplier with regard to Delhi's materiel procurement decisions.

 

As the U.S. State Department clearly enunciates on its website, the IMET programme is an "instrument of national security and foreign policy and a key component of U.S. security assistance to personnel from allied and friendly nations," a euphemism for trying to profitably expand American areas of influence and win over important friends who can influence lucrative decisions.

 

In essence, the IMET, whose estimated allocation for India was $1.2 million in 2010, allows its personnel to attend courses from the 2000 offered annually at some 150 U.S. military schools, receive observer or on-the-job training in addition to orientation tours.

 

In comparison, Pakistan's IMET allocation has more than doubled from $2.03 million in 2006 to $5 million in 2010. It is, of course, no secret that till the Soviet army's ignominious retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, the U.S. defence and security establishment liberally patronised top Pakistani generals to the extent that even before the omnipotent corps commanders' periodic conferences ended, their minutes were faxed to the American embassy.

 

It took the U.S. a lot more effort and money before a similar modus vivendi was secured after it returned to the region in 2001 after 9/11. It had to pay the price of abandonment when it abruptly upped and left Pakistan in 1990, having ensured Moscow's military humiliation in Afghanistan that triggered the eventual disintegration of the Soviet Union.

 

Under the IMET, 'fast track' mid-level Indian military officers — almost certain to reach higher rank and hence decision-making positions and selected by the three Services — are provided a wide exposure to the U.S. military and its thinking. In many instances, their tactical and strategic opinions, based on their operational experiences, were avidly sought by senior American officers — an ego massaging indulgence they were rarely, if at all, accorded by their superiors back home and one which eventually in many instances does reportedly translate into influencing important military procurements the U.S.' way. In short, Washington's patronage extended to the Pakistani and other militaries around the world is now being avidly extended to India.

 

But as far as the Indian military and the throng of strategic thinkers is concerned, the U.S. is preaching to the converted. Two analyses — "Indo-U.S. military relationship: Expectations and Perceptions," sponsored by the Director, Net Assessment from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and executed by private consultants Booz, Allen, Hamilton first in 2002 and then again in November 2008 indicate the growing proximity between the two defence establishments.

 

The initial 130-page report, produced after interviewing 82 senior American and Indian officials, largely serving and retired military personnel, views the strategic relationship with India as a "hedge" against losing out significant allies such as Japan and South Korea. American interviewees argued that with India as a strategic partner, the future Asian environment might be less threatening and more easily managed.

 

In the document, the U.S. acknowledges the Indian Navy as a "stabilising force" in the Indian Ocean Region and wants a closer working relationship with it as it straddles the strongest area of strategic convergence — sea lane protection. According to senior, unnamed U.S. officials, naval cooperation is perhaps one of the more promising and "non-threatening" areas of service-to-service cooperation for the U.S. and India. Naval cooperation can occur without causing political anxieties in India as American officials maintain that the U.S. Navy leaves no 'footprints' in the country, the report declares.

 

The analysis also envisages India as capable of providing new training opportunities and ultimately "basing [facilities] and access for U.S. power projection." India has already allowed the U.S. army admittance to its counter insurgency jungle warfare school at Virangte in the northeast but is still considering opening up the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) at Gulmarg to American soldiers.

 

But despite disallowing the U.S. access to HAWS, its Special Forces (SF) conducted high altitude exercises in Ladakh in September 2003 with the Indian SF to augment "inter-operability" between the two armies. These exercises, conducted a year after similar manoeuvres at Agra, marked the first time India permitted foreign troops into the geographically strategic region. Force multipliers invested in a few years earlier seemed to be paying off.

 

The follow-on "U.S.-India Defense Relationship: Reassessing perceptions and expectations" paper of November 2008, for which 51 American and 45 Indian serving and retired government and military officers and analysts and strategic thinkers were interviewed, largely reinforced the findings of the earlier analysis. The major difference, however, was that symbiotic military and strategic ties had significantly improved, underpinned by impressive materiel sales, joint manoeuvres and reciprocal visits by senior officials and military personnel exchanges. Patronage once again has delivered dividends.

 

(Rahul Bedi is New Delhi-based defence analyst.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS  ANYLYSIS

MADE IN GUANGZHOU, SOLD IN INDIA

RISING INDIAN IMPORTS OF A RANGE OF CHINESE GOODS HAVE PROPELLED THE COUNTRY TO BECOME INDIA'S LARGEST TRADE PARTNER. BUT A RECORD TRADE IMBALANCE HAS DIVIDED OPINION ON WHETHER THE RELATIONSHIP IS SUSTAINABLE.

ANANTH KRISHNAN

 

Every month, India ships up to nine million tonnes of iron ore to China — by far, the country's biggest export. Much of the ore from the mines of Karnataka and Orissa eventually finds its way to China's southern manufacturing heartland, and to factories such as Su Jianguo's production units on the outskirts of the port city of Guangzhou. At the Guangzhou Sea Link Industrial Corporation, the ores from India are efficiently processed into myriad objects, from casters — a special kind of wheel that is used in shopping carts, wheelchairs, airport trolleys and even trucks — and locks, to door-closers and hand-railings for airport terminals.

 

The locks that roll off Su's assembly-line bear a familiar label for an Indian eye – the name "Godrej" is prominently etched into the steel. Every year, 10 million locks are compressed into 1,000 crates, which make their way from Guangzhou's sprawling state-of-the-art port, across the Indian Ocean, to Godrej's warehouses and eventually, Indian homes. Su's hand-railings, meanwhile, man the shiny escalators at the new Bangalore airport, while his door-closers ensure the airport terminals in Hyderabad stay climate-controlled.

 

Variety of goods

 

Every year, Guangzhou Sea Link ships out $4 million worth of goods to India. And it isn't just low-end locks and accessories that southern China makes for India, using Indian ores and natural resources. A few hours down the six-lane expressway from Su's factory lies Shenzhen, where telecom giant Huawei is based. Huawei sells millions of dollars of telecom equipment to India every year, equipment that has helped fuel India's telecom revolution. And, a hundred kilometres north is the base of one of China's biggest power companies, Shanghai Electric, which only last month signed a record $8.3 billion deal to sell 36 power generators to Reliance Power.

 

"Chinese companies are realising that India is perhaps our most important market in the next few decades," Su says in an interview in his Guangzhou office, which is stacked with a range of goods he ships to India. On one shelf are paper weights with an image of goddess Saraswati, rendered perfectly. Another has glass idols of the god Ganesh. "Earlier, we were all focused on Europe and the United States. But the past year has shown, without a doubt, we need the Indian market," he says.

 

Bilateral trade

 

For almost three decades, Su has closely watched the unfolding of China's remarkable manufacturing story. He was part of the first generation of entrepreneurs unleashed by Deng Xiaoping's opening up experiment in 1978. Sea Link opened its first factory in Guangdong province, where the reforms began, in 1981. Following the financial crisis, Su has begun to notice a gradual change in local factories' patterns of production — a focus less on the West, and more on emerging markets such as India and South-East Asia. It should come as no surprise, then, that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will arrive in New Delhi on December 15 with the biggest ever trade delegation from China. More than 400 representatives of 200 Chinese companies will accompany Mr. Wen, all with a single objective — to sell.

 

The rising Indian demand for Chinese goods propelled China to become India's largest trade partner in 2008, as trade reached $51.8 billion — an unthinkable feat at the turn of the last decade, when trade stood at a paltry few billion. This year, bilateral trade will cross $60 billion. China will again become India's biggest trading partner, after temporarily losing out that position during recession-hit 2009. The trade statistics are, no doubt, impressive. But as Indian and Chinese officials have noted, the trade relationship has become increasingly imbalanced. When the Chinese premier last visited India, in 2005, India's trade deficit with China was less than $4 billion. Last year, the trade deficit reached a record $16 billion. It is forecast to grow even wider.

 

The nature of the trade relationship has divided opinion. On the one hand, officials say, China enables India to build its infrastructure, develop its power sector and take forward its telecom expansion at prices the West could never offer. But on the other, officials on both sides acknowledge the trading balance-sheet looks increasingly sick, and that the deficit is unsustainable.

 

"The deficits with China are a microcosm of India's overall trade deficit," says Zorawar Daulet Singh of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in New Delhi, and the co-author of "Chasing the Dragon: Will India Catch up with China?" "Last year, China accounted for 20 per cent of India's deficits," he says. "The relationship is not sustainable. India is only exporting raw resources like iron ore, and is unable to compete in selling to the China market."

 

India has little success

 

Indian Information Technology, pharmaceutical and engineering companies have had little success so far in making an impact in China. Indian officials have called on the Chinese government to improve market access in these sectors. But as Mr. Singh says, the problems go beyond market access issues. "Most of the problems are at home," he says. "To compete with Chinese manufacturing, the Indian government needs policies that help create a level playing-field. This means improving infrastructure, and as China does, providing the right subsidies in specific sectors."

 

Liang Wentao, an official at China's Ministry of Commerce, adds that Indian companies, too, are not doing enough to push their products in China. Representatives from industry bodies like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) acknowledge that an information gap, surprisingly, still persists. Liang cites the example of the pharmaceuticals sector. The sector is on the verge of an unprecedented expansion as a result of a $2 billion healthcare reform, and has attracted a growing number of foreign firms. Indian companies, however, have struggled to make a mark. "We hope Indian companies can learn from the experiences of others," he said this week. "As long as Indian companies are active in exploring the China market and trying their best to go through the [registration] process as soon as possible, their products can enter the market."

 

Trade tensions

 

Nevertheless, the widening imbalance remains a source of concern, particularly because trade has emerged as the one bright-spot in the bilateral relationship amid persisting political uncertainties. Trade tensions are on the rise. Last year, India filed more anti-dumping investigations than any other country against China at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A number of those cases were, however, subsequently either withdrawn or resolved. Concerns have also been raised in specific sectors like power, where Indian companies say the development of local industry will likely be crippled by the inflow of Chinese imports. Calls for import duties are growing louder.

 

But perhaps the biggest factor likely to drive the future of India-China trade relations are changes unfolding here in China that are likely to fundamentally alter the country's growth model. At the Sea Link factory in Guangzhou, Su has raised workers' wages by 30 per cent in the past 12 months, in keeping with the rest of Guangdong province. Rising labour shortages, in part driven by demographic changes, and growing demand for higher wages among an increasingly assertive workforce have reduced Chinese competitiveness. "The export model is changing," Su says. "This trend of China exporting to India, and the world, will not continue forever." In fact, he adds, he is already considering shifting his production base out of Guangdong. His preferred destination — India.

 

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THE HINDU

$19M FOR CONSERVING CAMBODIAN FORESTS

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved to provide $19million to Cambodia for conserving threatened forests in the Cardamom Mountains and north-eastern provinces, according to a bank release on December 13.

 

ADB's board of directors approved a total package of $69m of which $30m is a loan to Vietnam, and $19m and $20m are grants to Cambodia and Laos respectively, for the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Project.

 

For Cambodia, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be the executing agencies for the project, which is due for completion in September 2019. Ros Sothea, communication coordinator at ADB-Cambodia, said that Cambodia's biodiversity conservation in the Cardamom Mountains and north-eastern provinces, will begin in April 2011 and end in 2019. The project will include planting of native trees and other plants to restore habitats.

 

The mountains are thought to shelter at least 62 globally threatened animal species and 17 globally threatened trees. The highest elevation is Phnom Aural at 1,813 m (5,948 ft) high. This is also Cambodia's highest peak. The place forms one of the largest and still mostly unexplored forest areas in SE Asia. Many areas were the refuge of the Khymer Rouge. The area also contains Neolithic "jar sites" scattered around the mountains. The press release said that the whole project covers more than 1.9 million hectares of threatened forest land, home to over 1,70,000 mostly poor, ethnic minority people in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.— Xinhua

 

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THE HINDU

'OUR WILL TO INVEST IN INDIA IS HIGH'

INTERVIEW WITH LOUIS GALLOIS, CEO OF EADS.

 

Louis Gallois is the CEO of EADS, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, a large pan-European aerospace corporation. The company develops and markets civil and military aircraft, including the Airbus family, the Eurocopter and the Eurofighter, as well as communications systems, missiles, space rockets, satellites, and related systems. A graduate of HEC, France's elite commercial school and the even more prestigious ENA or school of administration, Mr. Gallois has served as President of Snecma, Aerospatiale and the SNCF, France's impressive railway network. He has also held senior posts in the Ministry of Defence.

 

EADS is in the race to sell military hardware such as the Airbus tanker, the Eurofighter combat aircraft and Eurocopter (military) helicopters to India. Airbus signed a leasing deal worth €5 billion with Air India and Jet Airways during French President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent visit to India. However the deals, to be done directly with the leasing companies, are unlikely to give new business to Airbus.

 

This interview, with The Hindu's Vaiju Naravane , was conducted in Paris on November 26 but at the express request of Mr. Gallois, its publication was delayed until after President Sarkozy's visit to India.

 

Is it true that the contract for the Eurocopters fell through because the Americans, who were also bidding, pulled out at the last minute leaving you as the sole bidding party, something that the Defence of India Rules do not permit?

 

I cannot confirm that since that is an issue regarding the customer, not us. The tender was interrupted. It has been re-launched. We have responded and we are expecting that the decision will be made in a few weeks.

 

But when the contract or tender was interrupted suddenly — did the Government of India give you no explanation at all?

 

I do not want to enter into this discussion because it is a question of relations between customer and supplier and I think it is for the customer to give you an explanation, not for us.

 

There is another major contract in the offing which is for 126 MMRCA or the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft — a $10.2-billion contract. How far have you gone in the talks? Have the field trials taken place and is there a cut-off date?

 

Nobody knows the exact amount because it's a tender and at the end we shall see about the price. However, there is a process underway. We are responding, the field trials have been done and we understand that there will be a short list.

 

Is it a question of the French Rafale versus the European Eurofighter?

 

It is not just the Rafale against the Eurofighter. There are the U.S.-built F-16s and F-18s and at least one Russian offer.

 

That is true. But from the European point of view, there are two products. Would you say President Sarkozy is pushing for the Rafale not only because it is a purely French product but also partly because its manufacturer Mr. Serge Dassault is a good friend of his?

 

I would not say that. President Sarkozy is promoting a French product. He is not alone.

 

President Obama was in India a few weeks ago and he was promoting the American product. I think that chiefs of state are engaged in the promotion of products because external trade and exports are decisive for economies and it is perfectly legitimate for them to do so. Mr. Liam Fox, the British Defence Secretary, was in India to promote the Eurofighter. So I do not have any problem with that.

 

How would you measure the competitiveness of the Eurofighter against the Rafale?

 

I think it is for the Indians to measure that. We know that the Indian Air Force is extremely professional. They are used to this sort of competition. They have placed very high specifications in the tender and every bidder has to develop new capacities to reach those specifications. Each one, the F-16, the F-18, the Sukhoi, the Rafale, the Eurofighter, each one has to develop new capacities because the specifications requested by the Indian Air Force are currently not available on existing aeroplanes. Perhaps on the F-22, but that is not for export.

 

How much of an additional investment does that mean for you?

 

I shall not give any figure but it is clear that for us it is an investment. It will be partly on our back and some of the capabilities could interest our European customers. And if they are interested, they will have to partly finance this.

 

The Rafale is not a new plane. It has been around for a very long time.

 

You know, a fighter plane has different standards. And we are developing new standards for the Eurofighter just as the Rafale is developing new standards. I can also say that the F-16 and the F-18, which are older still than the Rafale or the Eurofighter are also developing new standards.

 

Then how do you account for the fact that not a single Rafale has ever been sold outside French shores?

 

This is a question that I shall not answer.

 

What about the Airbus multi-role military tanker? Are you in the running for that too?

 

We are proposing the tanker to the Indian Air Force. We consider that we have the best product in the world. We have sold it to four countries – Australia, the U.K., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. We won all the competitions against Boeing and we won in the U.S. itself in 2008 and now we are proposing this product to India. We think we have the benchmark.

 

There is of course the question of off-sets. For certain products the Indians are placing the figure as high as 30 per cent or even 50 per cent. How do you go about finding the right collaborators in India?

 

Off-sets are not an obstacle for us. Our will to invest in India is high and the off-set factor is not a big constraint. We want to invest in India because we feel it is one of the most promising markets in the world, whether for civil products or for military products. We have 250 people in India at the moment; we will have almost 700 people in 2012. To get access to the Indian market we have to invest, that's clear. In India we find the technological resources we are looking for. We are extremely happy with Bangalore where we have not just a design office but a research centre now being developed and we will have a design office for Airbus and Cassidian, our defence division. More globally, EADS has to be built on three pillars — one in Europe, certainly because our roots are in Europe, one in the United States because half of the world defence market and 40 per cent of the aeroplanes flying are in the U.S., but the third pillar has to be in emerging countries. Growth and dynamism will be with the emerging countries in future and India is certainly one of the most promising. It's a country where we can partner with local industry, where we could find technological resources, where we have one of our main partners for space. We are partners on helicopters, on Cassidian (defence projects) — for some products for the Eurofighter and certainly for Airbus. It means our four divisions can work in India and partner in India with Indian companies. The market is equal to the size of the country — huge.

 

But there have always been questions in India about technology transfer. Doors for the Airbus might be made in India but the strategic items remain a western preserve. When is that barrier going to come down?

 

I think each company is protecting its intellectual property and we are not different from other companies — we are protecting our know-how, patents, etc. But we are more open than all our competitors in terms of partnership and exchange of technologies. Moreover, we are more used to working in a multicultural environment because the basis of the company is multicultural. I think this is an advantage we could present to the Indian government.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

 

A SNAP POLL WON'T BE GOOD FOR INDIA

 

In recent times it is difficult to recall another session of Parliament that was as blighted as the just-concluded Winter Session. While the government managed to push through the essential business of appropriations and supplementary grants approved through voice vote in the noise and din relating to the Opposition's demand for aprobe by a joint parliamentary committee into the 2G fiasco, it is clear that this is no way for our democracy to function. On many occasions in the past, the Opposition parties have staged walkouts to press their demands, permitting official business to go through unhindered. That too was hardly a satisfactory way: for after all, democratically-elected legislatures should not pass laws without discussion. The difference between the current logjam in Parliament and earlier occasions is this: this time the issue threatens to spill over into the next session. If the Budget Session, which begins a couple of months later, also comes under a shadow, the remaining three years of the House may well prove infructuous. The political class should then spell out if will be justifiable to have a fresh general election within two years of the last one instead of the usual five.


It is possible that as soon as the session ends, the BJP and its allies, as well as the Left and its friends, will begin organising mass rallies on the issue of corruption in the government. The clear implication will be that the government is not moved by wrongdoing by ministers and senior officials. That is, of course, not true: serious steps have been taken over the Commonwealth Games irregularities as well as the 2G mess. But this will not stop the faithful from responding to calls by the Opposition parties. It is quite another matter that non-partisans are unlikely to be swayed by the Opposition's logic in this case. Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that the government did not act rightaway when the smoke signals first became visible. In the 2G case, this was perhaps due to coalition management as it was a DMK minister who was allegedly involved. In the CWG affair, the scale of the malady wasn't grasped in time. This has proved a large enough opening for both the Left and the Right. The Opposition's demand for a JPC appears neither reasonable nor logical, although it might politically suit them. A thorough inquiry into the 2G scam by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament — suggested by the government — is indeed likely to be more fruitful since the PAC is chaired by a senior BJP leader. The position of the ruling alliance and the Opposition appear to leave little room for flexibility. The victim is likely to be the country itself if the situation ends up leading us in the direction of a fresh general election. This is not good for India. We are on a reasonably good track and a sudden election will be a needless disturbing factor.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had perhaps this in mind when he told journalists during his recent visit to Europe that he feared for the parliamentary system in the country. This was an unfortunate choice of words that will bring the government little credit in the wake of the mess in which it is mired. India has hardly rejected the parliamentary system, as the enthusiastic participation of voters shows in election after election. It is plain to see that it is our cynical politicians who are letting us down. In any case, when the Winter Session of Parliament was technically still on (even if plainly unproductive), the PM's office ought not to have agreed to engagements abroad. According to our convention, that is a denigration of Parliament.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

ARMY'S SOFTER FACE

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

"Women hold up half the sky" — an ancient Chinese proverb favoured by Mao Zedong.
The recent grant of permanent commission to 12 women officers in the legal and education branches of the Indian Army and awarding the prestigious Sword of Honour to a woman cadet at the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, must be considered in the context of Mao Zedong's aphorism and its military connotations. Presentideological adherents of Maoism — the Maoists (Maobadis) in Nepal and Naxalites in India — profess to maintain this principle within their organisations. But, apparently this principle has given mixed results. According to the accounts of women Naxals who surrendered, they are generally kept as "helpers and companions" and often, severely exploited.


Strangely enough, this is corroborated to some extent by experiences of women soldiers in the rank and file of the United States Army too — an aspect which is often downplayed in the interests of political correctness.
Given the interminable debate in this country on women personnel in combat assignments (which, in all probability, will never be satisfactorily resolved unless the dimensions of combat itself are re-examined), it is interesting to note that the United States Marine Corps is attempting its own experiment during counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to address this issue by deploying "Female Engagement Teams" (FET) of three to six women Marines. They accompany infantry patrols in an effort to connect with the hearts and minds of women amongst the affected population.


"… Don't start by firing off questions, do break the ice by playing with the children, don't let your interpreter hijack the conversation… and, oh yes, if you have a pony tail, let it show out of your helmet so people know you are a woman…". These are some of the conversational trivia about local cultures and customs conveyed during preparatory orientation for the FET's before they are sent on patrols into potentially hostile territory.
The female (but sometimes perhaps not very feminine!) Marines initiate woman-to-woman interaction amongst locals to try and build confidence and cooperation. But the idea has had very variable success because strapping Caucasoid or African-American women Marines in combat fatigues are simply too culturally alien to establish rapport with their Pashtun or Arab counterparts sequestered in purdah within a deeply conservative population that is also generally alienated. Also, all Afghans are under constant overwatch by the Taliban and even the slightest degree of fraternisation can be punished by death, or even worse for women, by painful mutilation.
Women Marines are armed and combatant but there is also a significant concern by the US Marines themselves about the safety and security of their own women soldiers during these expeditions, which are always vulnerable to improvised explosive devices, ambushes and heaven forbid, even kidnapping or capture.
However, asymmetric warfare against terrorism, insurgency and militancy is a separate category altogether in that it is as much a military conflict as a war of ideas, where the "hearts and minds" of the affected population is the ultimate strategic objective. But what is generally overlooked here is the requirement of a differently calibrated approach for influencing "half the sky" amongst the affected population. Insurgents are only too aware of this and make special efforts through their women cadre towards influencing this component of the population but regular forces generally tend to remain woodenly oblivious to this aspect.


The Indian Army has been extensively engaged in counterinsurgency operations for almost 62 years since Independence. However, the gender sociology of counterinsurgency is a novel aspect that has just not been thought of or addressed. The Indian Army practices a very strict "no-fraternisation" policy in operational areas, which on the one hand, has almost totally eliminated gender-sensitive incidents, but on the other has also closed off any possibilities of incorporating women into structured "hearts and minds" programmes as a separately focused target population. "Female interaction" during counterinsurgency operations may appear unorthodox to many but is certainly logical and it is a moot question whether the fledgling American FET experience provides any lessons for an Indian environment.


Permanent commission to women is a significant milestone in the Army that adds a new dimension into the overall management of the entire officer cadre. Obstructionist prejudices of a minority have been summarily dismissed, but subterranean mutterings persist at the working level about a level-playing field in the connected aspect of postings in hard areas and on physically hazardous and demanding assignments for the women officer cadre.


The Army is a conscientious "equal opportunities" employer, but equal opportunities demand a reciprocal willingness to shoulder equal responsibilities, especially during a time of taxing overstretch of a long running, asymmetric "hot peace" proxy war, insurgency and border control. The Indian Army recruits women only at the officer level and is unlikely to allow them into the traditional battlespace of conventional warfare as the risks of capture and possible physical mistreatment as prisoners of war are just too great.


However, women officers can (and do) certainly participate very effectively in the related domains of electronic, information and psychological warfare, cyber warfare and intelligence operations. In many respects, women officers are valuable operational resources, limited in numbers, which can and must be employed in the best overall operational interests of the organisation regardless of their specific branch or service.


If utilised imaginatively, they can be a significant force multipliers when interacting with the population during internal security, counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism measures. The armed forces, most of all the Army, have to live and operate amongst the people and operations have to be people friendly, demanding a "kinder, gentler" face, especially when large number of women and children are affected. The presence of women officers on internal security and civic action missions will display a "softer" picture of the Army and undoubtedly facilitate positive interaction. They must be prepared to willingly undertake these commitments. These issues cannot be softpedalled and the Army will have to address them squarely in the interests of its own long-term health.


For this, a change of mindsets and perceptions is necessary on all sides.

 

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

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

UID'S IDENTITY CRISIS

JAYATI GHOSH

 

For some reason, governments — as well as the development "industry" as a whole — have always had a tendency to look for universal panaceas, particular silver bullets that will solve all or most of their implementation problems and somehow achieve the development project for them. The latest such initiative bullet that seems tohave been accepted as a silver bullet is the Unique Identification Project, which is now seen as the easy means to ensure no corruption and no leakages, and to ensure efficient access to what are going to be targeted systems of public delivery.


On the face of it, the Unique Identification (UID) project appears to have many advantages for ordinary citizens, especially the poor. After all, the requirement of having multiple cards for particular kinds of access to public or other services, each of which is typically difficult to acquire, places disproportionate burdens on the poor. Anyone who has tried to get a ration card without some preferential access to lower level bureaucracy knows how prolonged and nightmarish the process can be. Even something like opening a bank account used to be a horrendously difficult and complicated process for those without masses of supporting documents. One of the great indirect benefits of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has been the system of payments through bank accounts, which has enabled many rural workers to access banks in a way that was simply denied to them earlier.


All too often, acquiring any of these cards that provide access to some service requires not just lots of time and energy, but also the payment of bribes. So a system whereby the large transaction costs of acquiring different cards for different purposes are reduced and the entire process is simplified for the ordinary citizen is something that should be welcomed. In addition, it could be argued that having a single card for many different purposes would enable public service delivery to shift from its present form which is based entirely on residence, to a more flexible system that recognises the internal movement of people.


But such attempts at simplifying life for those whose various socio-economic rights need to be met is rather different from creating and then enforcing a system that can lead not only to an invasion of basic privacy but also to possibly excessive and undesirable monitoring by the state.


The UID project has already been devastatingly critiqued for its implications for privacy and civil liberties, by scholars such as R. Ramakumar and Jean Dreze. It is worth noting that in most developed countries, similar projects of governments have not been implemented after strong public pressure. Even where they have been, they have generally avoided putting in personal and professional details such as religion, ethnic identity, profession and socio-economic status. Yet such data are all explicitly part of the information gathering exercise for the UID project.


The incorporation of biometric data raises a further hornet's nest, since it is now widely recognised that biometric information is subject to significant errors in large populations. This is among the factors that led the government of China to shelve their own plan for such information to be stored in identity cards. The current evidence on the technological possibilities of biometric data use suggests that it is not a foolproof system for preventing identity theft. It is also increasingly accepted that, since fingerprints of a person (especially those engaged in manual labour) can change over time, they may be unreliable guides to identity. Mr Ramakumar points out that "according to some estimates, in developing countries like India, the share of persons with noisy or bad data could go up to 15 per cent", or more than 150 million people!

What is even more troubling is how the government plans to use the UID data. There are attempts to coerce wage workers in rural India to "voluntarily" enter the scheme by making it mandatory for the issue of job cards of NREGA. There are reports that UID can be used to "solve" the problem of leakages and misappropriation from what is likely to be an immensely convoluted targeted public distribution scheme (TPDS) for foodgrain. Next UID may be introduced in health programmes and other forms of basic delivery, on the false presumption that this will do away with corruption.


This is a very fundamental mistake, which misses out the basic elements of the power relations that enable and assist the pattern of corruption in India, or even the possible errors in targeting. How will a UID system ensure that complicated systems of defining the poor actually do capture the right group and do not have well-known errors of unfair exclusion and unwarranted inclusion? How will it prevent those who systematically engage in siphoning off either NREGA wages or TPDS foodgrains from the rightful targets from continuing to do so? It is a simple matter to ensure that the recipient of wages or grain or any other good or service puts her or his fingerprints in the required spot, even if they receive only a fraction of what is their right. Introducing such a requirement is likely to undermine the very functioning of such schemes, especially the flagship programmes like NREGS.


Technology cannot be a substitute for social transformation. If it is introduced in social and economic contexts of greatly unequal and oppressive power relations, the outcomes are likely to be the opposite of those intended by the most well-meaning of planners and implementers. The important lesson is that purely technological fixes will not work: it is not possible to avoid the crucial political economy challenge of the need to change and overthrow existing power structures that prevent and constrain genuine development.

 

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DNA

            EDITORIAL

EDUCING PARLIAMENT TO IRRELEVANCE

 

The winter session of Parliament has come to a close with almost no work being done — perhaps its lowest productivity since 1985. Of the scheduled 114 hours, only seven hours of work were completed. This means the 2G spectrum scandal has caused more disruption than Bofors.

 

To be sure, the disruption is hardly disproportionate. The amount of bribe money in the Bofors deal was around Rs64 crore. The 2G spectrum bribery could run into several hundred times that figure.

 

But there's more than money involved here. Due to the obstinacy of both government and opposition democracy itself has got derailed. Parliament is integral to our political system and if government schemes and bills are not discussed, we might as well have accountants running the country.

 

Yes, it is possible that both sides have valid points of view and that protest has a legitimate place in the scheme of things, but the true spirit of democracy is compromise and consensus, not confrontation.

 

Let's be clear. There is nothing wrong in the opposition demanding a joint Parliamentary committee to probe the scam, given the gigantic scale of the fraud. But was it necessary to block the operations of Parliament to press this point?

 

If the opposition felt that it needed more say in the investigations, it may have served the nation better by proving its point on the floor of the house rather than stall proceedings.

 

The protests could have been held outside Parliament and on the streets in order to shame the government into more stringent action. Probing scams is important, but generating debate and discussion on the floor of the house is equally important to the running of a democracy. We can't lose sight of that.

 

The government has also played a game here by blocking the opposition with its own obstinacy. It must share the blame for stalling proceedings. By circumventing Parliament, it has eliminated the chance of being questioned on its policies. Sadly, it is the people of India who will, as usual, have to pay the price for the immaturity, venality and chicanery of our politicians.

 

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DNA

REPORT

DIGVIJAY'S SECULAR BLUFF IS CALLED

 

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's foolish innuendo that Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, who was martyred on November 26, 2008, may have been targeted by Hindu right-wing groups needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

 

Singh has been positioning himself as an arch-secularist fighting for innocent Muslim victims of the government's anti-terror operations. Given his ideological orientation, this was to be expected.

 

Just as the Communists saw every diabolical deed as being the handiwork of the CIA or the US government, Singh's decision to give credence to every Sangh Parivar conspiracy theory is par for the course.

 

The Congress has distanced itself from Singh's statements because it makes no sense.

 

You cannot attribute the murders of three senior police leaders to right-wing extremists when the whole burden of the government's song has been that 26/11 was plotted from across the border in Pakistan.

 

Singh has since tried to clarify that he did not mean that Karkare was killed by Hindu terrorists but that Hindu right-wing groups were sending threat emails to him.

 

This is balderdash. Not only is Karkare's widow not amused by Singh's efforts to use her husband's martyrdom for political purposes, but there is also no reason why he should have made the statement intended to float the theory that 26/11 was indeed a Sangh conspiracy. This is simply irresponsible.

 

The fault, of course, is not merely his. The Congress party has preached and practised this kind of blinkered secularism for years and it has undermined its own political standing. It is a lesson that some Congress leaders have learnt, but Singh is not one of them. He and Mani Shankar Aiyar have been brandishing their own brand of secular fundamentalism that does no one any good.

 

Of course, it is doubtful if Singh's statements came without a wink-and-a-nod from the party's high command. The Congress party's future depends on Muslims returning to it in droves — something the Bihar election proves is not going to be easy.

 

The party has to make strenuous efforts to consolidate its old base, and Singh was probably floating his trial balloon to check if the old tricks will work.

 

The tragedy of Indian secularism is that the country's main political party cannot think of more sensible ways to shore up its popularity with the minority community. Secularism cannot be built if the Congress thinks it can go back to running a protection racket for Muslims.

 

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DNA

REPORT

CHANT MANTRAS FOR PEACE OF MIND

SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

 

Mullah Nasseruddin was constantly grumbling from morning till evening.

 

If he was given coffee, he would say, "My wife has given me so much coffee". If he did not get coffee, he would say, "She never gives me coffee".

 

If there was nothing to complain about, he would say, "No good rains. The harvest is very poor this season." Eventually, when good rains would come and bring a good harvest, he would say, "Now I have ended up with a lot of work. I have to go and cut the harvest."

 

As we can see in Mullah Nasseruddin's story, not everybody feels content all the time. Keeping the mind peaceful is a habit. The mind drops good things in life and clings onto the bad things. Good and bad experiences are a natural part of our life and will continue to

 

appear whether we like it or not.

 

Along with these experiences come emotions such as stress, anxiety, fear and sadness which find a way to stick in our mind, and flavour the course of our days, weeks and lives.

 

So what should we do when such emotions arise? Where can we turn for peace and insight?

One way to pursue a peaceful mind is a mantra. Mantra means that which wins over the mind. Mantras are universal and people have been chanting them for thousands of years.

 

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DNA

REPORT

SAINA SHOWS SHE IS THE PLAYER TO BEAT

 

When scams take centre-stage everywhere, sport can lift our spirits. In recent times, we have not been disappointed. Badminton whiz Saina Nehwal has ended the year on a high note by picking up her fourth Super Series title.

 

It was made especially sweet by the fact that she defeated a dreaded Chinese rival. Nehwal may have lost some ranking points because she took time off to compete in the Commonwealth and Asian Games but she has proved she is a formidable player.

 

In cricket, India notched up a 5-0 victory over New Zealand in One-day Internationals. This will be a good basis on which to take on South Africa — the next tour of duty. South Africa will be a tough team to beat at home, but a series win always provides a psychological boost.

 

It has been a good year for our sportspersons as we have also fared well at the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

 

This is commendable considering the hardships which our individual athletes have to endure to get ahead. We have also reduced some of the pressure on our cricketers as others disciplines are picking up the slack. At this rate, surely, things can only get better in 2011?

 

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DNA

MAIN ARTICLE

WHY WE ARE THE WORLD'S WORST BUNCH OF KOWTOWERS

RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

 

The incident in Mississippi was startling: the Indian ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, clad in a sari, was pulled out of the security line at an airport and subjected to a humiliating pat-down, apparently because of Transportation Safety Administration guidelines about 'voluminous clothes'.

 

This, despite the fact that the ambassador produced her diplomatic papers. I suppose one could argue that the Mississippi officers were just doing their job, although it is possible that a little xenophobia, if not a little racism, was thrown in. Somehow I can't imagine them patting down a white woman in a voluminous bridal dress.

 

But worse, the Indian embassy tried to hush this incident up. It turns out this is not the first time it has happened to Meera Shankar. The embassy would have done nothing this time too if a local paper hadn't carried shocked observations by the ambassador's hosts, who felt she had been humiliated by the pat-down in full public view.

 

It appears, sadly, that the first instinct of Indian officialdom is to swallow insults and to, if possible, insist on not having any semblance of a backbone.

 

Consider that other countries do not 'go gentle into that good night', but they 'rage, rage'.

 

When China felt that the Nobel Peace Prize was an affront to them, they simply instituted a competing Confucius Peace Prize, laughable though it may be. When the US introduced intrusive fingerprinting rules for visitors, Brazil retaliated in kind. When the US creates non-tariff barriers, others retaliate.

 

But India, oh, that's a different matter. There seems to be a built-in level of obsequiousness. Are Indian diplomats eyeing post-retirement sinecures in the World Bank? But why are diplomats from other countries willing to stand up for their national interests?

 

Perhaps it is because India has never explicitly stated what those national interests are. The late CK Prahalad once wrote an essay on 'strategic intent' — that is, a long-range plan with a stretch goal: difficult at the moment, but not impossible if one worked assiduously at it. It is now accepted in business circles that firms that do not have a 'strategic intent' are more likely to fail, because there's nothing like a worthy goal to rally the troops.

 

The Americans have strategic intent: it was paraphrased some years ago as something to the effect of "having 8% of the world's population, and enjoying 50% of its resources".

 

China similarly has a strategic intent: they want to be Numero Uno in everything: wealth, military power, soft power. And what is India's strategic intent? To be a toady to some great power? Can't India see that it can be more than a banana republic, it can be a great power itself? It can be the bride, not just the bridesmaid.

 

On the contrary, I find a supreme lack of self-confidence. I understand that when the Chinese once sent a démarche to the Indian embassy past midnight — in diplomatic terms a gross insult — instead of waiting till the next day, the ambassador showed up at the Chinese foreign office at 2am! The Chinese would have considered that to be kowtowing.

 

But when a rude Chinese diplomat claimed in Mumbai that India had no business in Arunachal Pradesh, India did not immediately declare him persona non grata and give him 24 hours to clear out of the country. Instead, he was allowed to hang around and make more offensive statements!

 

A Chinese strongman is due to visit India shortly — and some suggested that India should refrain from the Nobel ceremony in case it would jeopardise the Wen Jiabao visit! Why this walking on eggshells?

 

The gent is not visiting for India's benefit. If he doesn't come, it will make no difference — they will continue the dam on the Brahmaputra, their army's incursions over the LAC, and proliferation to Pakistan.

 

There is no consequence to them for misbehaving with India. We should ensure there is some pain to China, and others, for insulting India. That gains respect.

 

Is there a genetic problem among Indians? Are we so used to obsequiousness that it has become the way we think? Perhaps. Going back to the airport security issue, maybe you have seen the lists in Indian airports of those exempt from security checks: the president, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, and so on… and Robert Vadra!

 

Yes, this person who holds no public office is the only one specified by name as being exempt from frisking. In all fairness to this gent, I am told he didn't ask for it, and it was the work of overzealous flunkeys. If that grovelling is the prevailing pattern in India, then perhaps it is only fair that Meera Shankar was patted down.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

CRABBY CLIMATE CHANGE CAMPAIGNERS POLLUTE THE AIR

PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

On an important issue like climate change, there are only two kinds of voices that are heard. One is of the government; whose representatives prevaricate, equivocate and defend the indefensible.

 

They adopt the tone of rationality when all that they are doing is the most irrational thing. The other is that of the cantankerous and messianic campaigners who want to set up control systems that will arrest and, if possible, reverse the destructive effects of climate change.

 

They pretend that their case is based on scientific evidence and that it is the right cause. They claim to base their stance on truth and morality. But they speak half-truths, quarter-truths and indulge in exaggerations bordering on lies to drive home their point.

 

They adopt a self-righteous tone that is morally repulsive because there is so much venom and hatred in the tone and attitude. Of course, they will say that it is all for the good cause.

 

In the Indian climate change debates, the first voice is that of Union minister of environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh and the second that of Sunita Narain of New Delhi's Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

 

What Ramesh and Narain say is not to be trusted because each one of them is batting for their own side and they both are interested in winning. Neither the government nor the CSE have any scientific data on which to base their arguments.

 

There are no university departments which are studying the climate issue and can come up with value-neutral empirical evidence. As a matter of fact, the campaigners are not interested in evidence. They have made their moral and ideological decisions, and let facts be damned.

 

The Energy Resources Institute headed by RK Pachauri, Nobel laureate and chief of UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has no trustworthy research credentials in the subject.

 

There is no informed source in the country which will help us understand the issue and think over it in a rational frame of mind. Ramesh's announcement to set up a national climate research centre is right but it could be of no use if we do not have scientists who will not take ideological sides.

 

Scientists are not part of this debate and the few scientists who are there on the two sides trim their evidence and arguments to fulfill the prejudiced demands of each side. The scientists on the side of the campaigners are vague leftists who proclaim their dedication to people's causes.

 

And those who work in the government behave like bureaucrats and sometimes even worse than them.

 

Most of the reports that appear in the Indian media derive their information either from Ramesh or Narain and sometimes, from Pachauri.

 

All of them are polluted sources of information. That is why, when Ramesh announced in Cancún that India is willing to take on the legal obligation of curbing green house gas emissions in the future, there was more noise than sense.

 

The minister was accused of changing India's stance, and Narain accused him of capitulating to the Americans. The minister was motivated by politics in what he said rather than by any true understanding of the issue.

 

At least that is what he made it out to be. Instead of stating principles and reasons, he cited the dangers of India being isolated in international fora.

 

If there had been true concern about climate change, then Ramesh's announcement would have been welcomed. But the campaigners are engaged in a political contest.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

WHEN LIFE HALTS

 

There are some moments in our public life when life itself is brought to a complete halt. Normally these are the outcome of an instant reaction on our part to something we don't approve of. We react bitterly and angrily and stop working. Since we are all one during this period we don't have to persuade each other to fall in line. Our bonds only grow stronger if there is further provocation or a tragedy inflicted upon us. As recently as in 2008 we have come across such phenomenon in this region. Virtually all of us had then joined hands to protest against ambivalence over the issue of land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) in the Valley. Old-timers recall the "Roti" agitation in this city in 1943 against soaring prices coupled with scarcity of foodgrains. On September 24 in that turbulent year thousands of local inhabitants had stood up against lathi -charge and police bullets at the City Chowk. Seven of them had lost their lives on the spot while two succumbed to their injuries later. There was strike for nine days and Maharaja Hari Singh was forced to appoint a three-member inquiry committee of which the report was never made public. In recent decades the police firing on students in the Government Gandhi Memorial Science College on October 17, 1966 and at a few other places has rocked city. Three students namely Brijmohan, Gulshan Handa and Subhash Chand were killed in the College premises while Gurbachan Singh Pissu was shot in Rajendra Bazar. They were demanding the establishment of a full-fledged university in Jammu. The deaths of young boys had cast such gloom over the city that for days together the people did not open their commercial establishments. There was eerie silence all around.


Many in the 50-60 age-group now can vividly recall those days with a lot of emotions. Perhaps nothing moves us more than a young death. Normally death should be considered a distant rumour to young persons. Yet, it can come at any age. If it is embraced in the course of achieving a noble cause it is called martyrdom. The belief that "the good die young because they see it's no use living if you've got to be good' is not applicable in such cases. By adopting an argument like this we simply seek to console ourselves in the face of a grim tragedy of a young life being cut short due to an ailment. Practically speaking we are upset and livid over our inability to present such loss. With this background in view it is not surprising that our tempers flare up as and when we find a person being killed in a road accident or similar other situation. 


Off and on we keep reading about the people taking the matters into their hands when confronted with such scenario. The latest occurrence has taken place in Mendhar town which observed total bandh early this week in protest against the alleged murder of a young person. Before that in Nowshera in Rajouri district, a speeding vehicle has crushed a six-year old girl child. Who will not be touched by these tragedies? That the people have stopped the traffic on Jammu-Rajouri road in protest is understandable. Their response could have been worse. How can we blame them? 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

MAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT

 

Not very long ago the government circles have expressed concern about increasing conflicts between man and animal in the higher reaches of this region. From time to time these incidents have been reported from Poonch district on the one side and the erstwhile Doda district on the other. It is not that the Valley is safe on this count. It too is vulnerable. Now and then we do get reports of such clashes over a vast area spreading from Anantnag district in the south to Kupwara district in the north. In a straight fight it is very difficult for any of us to defeat an animal. In fact we may take to our heels if we come across one of a fearsome variety. The only way we can get the better of it is by using a weapon. Alternatively many of us get together to scare the threat away. By no means is it an easy battle. The best course for us is to ensure that animals of all types grow in their natural habitats. However, it is easier said than done. Our need and greed have combined to play havoc with green gold. We are not able to control our population. We require more cemented structures for ourselves. In the process we are not shy of intruding into forests. How else can it be explained that in the Winter Capital itself there have been instances of encroachments? This blatant abuse of the law in this regard has been officially acknowledged. Why can't we undo it? On the part of some there is temptation to acquire as much land and as quickly as possible because it of its amazingly high returns. It yields more income than even jewellery. The wiser among us have come up with the idea of setting up specially earmarked enclosures for animals especially those considered extinct. It is a thoughtful plan. Yet, its implementation is half-hearted. We have a number of sanctuaries but their boundaries are not clearly fenced. From Nandini close to this city to faraway Kishtwar there is not much difference in the state of affairs. Why has the dignified Hangul in as much sought after a national park as Dachigam at the outskirts of Srinagar has witnessed a sharp decline in visibility? It is not easily explained. Zoos have been planned for the two Capital cities on either side of the Pir Panjal. These may provide some relief to animals. 


On the whole, however, it is doubtful whether these are a lasting solution. An advantage may be that the zoos add to our knowledge about our rare breathing assets from Lakhanpur to Leh. Possibly the possession of such information propels us to care more for them. There are certain well-prescribed measures to contain animals without harming them: (a) tranquillisation, (b) capturing the straying ones and releasing them back into forests; and (c) building community support to realise their importance. We have to look upon the phenomenon as more than a struggle merely for our existence and survival. We have to provide food, water, space and accommodation to animals. This is a conflict basically in terms of territory and resources. Primarily we have to learn that the only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction. Animals will follow suit.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

NUCLEAR POWER FRONT STILL HAZY

BY T.K.KRISHNAMURTHY

 

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), India's sole nuclear utility, and Areva SA signed a "framework agreement" recently, overseeing the setting up of two EPRs at Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
This has come on the heels of the ministry of environment and forests granting its clearance to the site. While these developments certainly augur well for the Jaitapur project they are but one aspect of a much larger Indo-French nuclear strategic relationship.


Media reports suggest that the contract value for the two initial EPRs is $9.3 billion or roughly 7 billion euros. However, NPCIL's project director for Jaitapur, C. V. Jain, maintains that "negotiations on the final price point are still on and the framework agreement merely serves as a guideline provider for the final contract".
The reported contract value, if confirmed, compares favourably with the 8 billion euros that the Chinese paid for the two EPRs presently being constructed at Taishan under the aegis of a joint venture between Chinese nuclear utility CGNPC and the French nuclear utility EDF.


In spite of all going well there is a serious problem what astrologers call a jinx. As per their view, July, 2005, when the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh signed the first agreement on nuclear deal with the US, was an inauspicious moment.


After this, things have never been smooth for our nuclear dreams. India on its part has done every thing but it encounters new forms of arms twisting. Will we ever be able to sit at the promised nuclear high table? Clearly, the official India is wary of answering this vital query. There are lots of uncertainties.


Goalposts are being shifted and benchmarks are left undefined. Still worse, there are signs of an invisible cartel emerging to hurt our interests. All this might be dismissed as doom saying. But look at what has happened in the past six weeks. First one month, we were led to believe that the changes in the liability bill were effected after the US ok. Thus the subsequent silence in Washington was taken as approval.


The truth, however, is that suppliers have refused to sign any solid agreement with the NPCIL. The Russians and French, with better technology and track record, were ready with blueprints. For the past three years, their Governments and executing firms had shown enthusiasm to set up plants. The Government had identified two sites each for the US, Russian and French firms to set up the plants. Acquisition has been in progress. But suddenly, they have all developed cold feet. Two months before the Obama visit, we went gaga about making the occasion a nuclear fest. Obama was to bring CEOs of nuclear firms like GE and Westinghouse to sign the final commercial agreements


Obama's visit was the reason cited for rushing with the nuclear liability bill in Parliament.
Obama came and he proudly announced that the two nuclear plants will create more jobs in US. But the two firms refused to sign agreements on nuclear supply on the ground that the liability clause in the Indian act were too harsh.


This was the first shock in Delhi. The second occasion was French president Nicholas Sarkozy's visit this month. French firm Areva has been a pioneer in the civilian power generation, especially of high capacity plants. The total tally of business deals signed during Sarkozy's visit was double that of Obama's.
These included upgrading of the Mirage aircraft, joint mining projects and a framework agreement on two nuclear reactors.

The two plants at Jaitapur, which itself is facing massive environment protests from the local people, will produce 10,000 MW of power as against our present capacity of just 4,000 MW. But what was not revealed was the sudden cold feet developed by the French. In the course of negotiations, Areva officials refused to even negotiate the commercial contract for the two plants. They insisted on changes in India's nuclear liability act. This was rather surprising for the Indian side which was all the while under the impression that unlike the US firms, the French and Russians are not bound by any domestic law.


More over, Areva and Russian firms like Atomstroyexport and Rosatom are government- owned, and thus enjoy sovereign guarantee.


Due to this, Russians and French were in the forefront of negotiations while the US firms were mulling. Before going into this sudden turnabout by the French, it is necessary to mention the other hurdles. First, the EPR ( European pressurised reactors) technology which the French plans to introduce at Jaitapur itself is yet to be tested to the suppliers' satisfaction.


This is an aspect officials here want to avoid.


The second relates to pricing and such commercial details. Pricing is a complex issue with no clear benchmark to go by. Supplier firms cite different local factors to quote the cost of projects.


This is something shrouded by considerable opaqueness This is because there is no clear open market in the nuclear business. It is guided by so many factors. This had prompted concerned citizens to suggest global bids for setting up the nuclear plants. This, they argue, will enable India get the best deal for which it has, in any case, pay through the nose. In fact, India could have used its massive market strength to set a world trend.
In the case of defence purchases, we had tried such a bidding system. But of late, international ' politics' has forced us to drop this competitive system, and settle for Government- to- Government deal with the US. India cannot wriggle out of it because offer of nuclear business has been a commitment a lure it had made to the US nuclear firms. The US lobby firm BGR ( to which India had paid $ 140,000 during July- September with an additional $ 180,000 each quarter previously) was the bedrock of the Indian lobbying in US in favour of the nuclear deal. The third hurdle with France is Japanese obstruction. The latter supplies vital components like vessels (cylinders that contain nuclear fuel). That means India will have to sign separate agreements with Japan, a country that has declined to cooperate with India due to its own proliferation concerns. Fourth is the "liability" dispute. This is rather surprising because the French and Russians had in the past glossed over this issue.
In the case of Russia, there seems to be more embarrassment in Delhi. Russia has been India's traditional friend and the source of its missile and nuclear technology.They have also now joined the "liability club." As in the case of Obama and Sarkozy, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's visit this month is being projected as an occasion for signing final contracts for new Russian plants. Now this also seems impossible. (INAV)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ENERGY CONSERVATION

BY VIKRAM GOUR

 

Keeping in view the alarming situation on the Energy front in the country, December, 14, every year is celebrated as National Energy Conservation Day to involve the masses in the process of energy conservation. There is a large 'ever widening gap' between the supply and demand relating to the Electric Power and the other

energy resources including the crude oil.


Almost for the last more than three decades the gap between supply and demand of electric power has been steadily increasing and we have not been able to reduce the gap or we may say we have not made any serious effort to reduce the gap. In spite of the fact that our State has the highest potential in the country for hydroelectric power generation of about 20,000 MW yet its forbidding cost of production has prevented the state from going in for increasing power generation. It is, therefore, imperative that we find alternate methods of reducing the gap between supply and demand.


According to economists the cheapest form of alternate energy resource is 'energy saved'. As one unit of energy produced is equivalent to 1.25 units of energy generated taking the losses in transmission and distribution (T&D) to be only 25 percent (But in our state the losses are more than percent).The reduction in (T&D) losses, the theft and misuse of electricity can significantly increase the availability of electric energy to the law abiding citizens' for multifarious purposes of development of the state.


The above statement is truer in case of our state where the losses due to T&D and theft/misuse amount to a whopping 70 percent. But the PDD places its T&D losses at 62.1 percent. Of about 10, 0081.17 MU of recorded energy made available to the users in the state only about 38.9 percent electric energy is recorded as sold (as per PDD calculations). Only if we are able to prevent about 50 percent from theft and misuse and reduce our T&D losses to the national standard of 19-20 percent we shall be making tremendous gains in the availability of electric power to the genuine power user. Say if we reduce our (T&D)loses from 62.1 percent to our national average of about 19-20 percent we shall be making available about 4,200-MU of recorded additional power to the genuine consumer. This would not only stabilize the power distribution system but would also increase revenue manifold. Added to this huge amount of investment required to be made to meet the shortage of power availability would be saved. This can be done by 100 percent metering and strict accountability of the field staff involved in the power distribution system.


Since the PDD has started the metering of the installations and a target of 100 percent metering is on the anvil the electricity bill of the consumer is bound to rise tremendously if he continues to use the electricity as he was using before. To reduce his bill to his paying capacity the user shall have to adopt means to make fair use of electricity. If you look at your last power bill you will find that with just a little extra care and alertness your power bill could be brought down.


There are some useful tips for consumers to economize on the use of energy.


* Switch off an extra light here and a fan there.


* Switch off fans and lights in unoccupied rooms.


* Change over to compact fluorescent lamps, CFL (9-12 watts) from incandescent bulbs and slim tubes (20-40 watts with choke).

* Mix hot water in a bucket for a bath rather than a geyser shower which consumes more power and up to 90 litres of water for a bath. Get the geyser element changed every 5-6 years.


* Switch on the AC an hour later and switch off an hour earlier. Keep the windows closed after switching off to retain the cooling effect for a longer time. Clean the AC filter at least once every fortnight.


* Switch on electric iron only after getting together all the clothes to be ironed.


* Keep lights and fixtures clean and dirt free. Dust and dirt reduce the lighting level as much as 30 percent.


* Clean and lubricate fans regularly and replace old regulators with electronic regulators. They help reduce electricity consumption significantly at lower speeds.


* Cool the food sufficiently before storing in refrigerator. Check on gasket lining of the fridge-avoid opening the fridge frequently. Defrost the fridge once the ice gets more than 1/4"inch thick. Regular defrosting reduces the power consumption.


* Do not unnecessarily waste water in your daily chores and use water economically. This will reduce running of your water pump for filling overhead water tank.


* Look for ISI mark when buying electric appliances e.g. desert coolers, ACs, fans, electric iron, or any other appliance for domestic use.


We should avoid using heavy electric appliances during morning and evening peak load hours i.e. 6 to 9 morning and evening.


These are just few useful and easy tips to avoid excessive power usage. These tips will lead to substantial savings on your power bill- without compromising on comfort or convenience in any way. This will certainly help bridging the energy gap by cutting down on the enormous wastage in homes, offices, factories and fields.
While the above mentioned tips will effect saving on the individual bills the J&K state which itself is paying very heavily for importing power from the various agencies from outside the state also needs to seriously ponder over how to effect saving on its import bill which runs into hundreds of crores, precisely Rs 2453.78 crores for the year 2010-11. 


The biggest culprit in wasting the electric power is the government sector itself which mercilessly misuses the electric power. Right from various government departments to office buildings to official residences including those of ministers and of high ups in the government. Just for example if we consider Public Health engineering department, one of the major user of electric power we will see that in Jammu alone they have an installed capacity of about 40 MW in the shape of Tube Wells, Filtration Plants, and Booster Pumps etc. With all these installed equipment they pump out 218-MLD of water per day for public use. As per the latest estimates worked out by ERA (Engineering Reconstruction Agency) the total loss of water in distribution pipes of all sizes up to the consumer end is 57-60 percent (PHE department claims the loss to be only 40percent). This does not take into account the loss of water due to overflow into the drains while pumping water in over head tanks at the user's place. Thus with 60 percent loss the wastage works out to 24 MW of electric power which costs crores of rupees to the state exchequer besides creating scarcity of power availability to the average user. Only if the water wastage/losses are reduced to 15-20 percent nothing less than 16 MW of electric power will be made available to power users besides reducing the scarcity of water as well.


The following are a few tips which if followed by the government and the PDD at the official level would certainly reduce burden on the state exchequer besides reducing the gap berween supply and demand.
* Creation of awareness among masses about energy efficiency through mass media (both print and electronic) campaigns and educational programmes right from the school level with the help of NGOs wherever necessary.


* Dissemination of information on energy consumption and energy conservation potential in various sectors. 


* Training of technical and managerial personnel on Energy Management.


* Execution of technical and policy studies on energy conservation.


* Improve the existing infrastructure for transmission and distribution of power supply to the universally accepted standards so as to reduce the T&D losses to nationally accepted norms. 


* Strict accountability at all levels of PDD for causing any energy loss to the system. 


By a combination of the above measures, the State Government (PDD) can attempt to create conditions in the economy to promote energy conservation and save hundreds of crores of the state-exchequer. This saving can be effectively used to improve the infrastructure and bridge the Energy Gap. But this can be effective only if the energy consumers also take affirmative and positive action for energy conservation. 


(The author is former Superintending Engineer)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

LANDMARK VERDICT OF DELHI HIGH COURT

BY K.N. PANDITA

 

Independence of judiciary is one of the greatest boons of democracy. Its operative part depends on two crucial factors: One is how far the regime shows it due respect, and the other is how far the honourable judges maintain their integrity.


In developing countries, judiciary is usually under stress owing to the dynamics of economic and social development that ask for upgrading and democratizing existing laws, and enacting and reinterpreting many new laws. Although it is the assembly which has to do the law making business but ultimately it is the judiciary that becomes the custodian of the law and its operator. 


As highly conscientious members of civil society, judges cannot be immune to the phenomenon through which the country is passing. It is just possible that at times the actions and decisions of the Government may not be fully compatible with the requirements of law and justice. This is a critical situation for the dispensers of justice. By and large, it is found that in such tight situations, upright judges have stood fast by their professional integrity and tried to be just and not partisan.


A case in point is the recent judgment by a Delhi Court in a lawsuit filed by some Kashmiri Pandit employees of the Central Government who, after their retirement, were asked to vacate the Government accommodation. 
The 170 - page verdict given by Justice Geeta Mittal, of the honourable High Court of Delhi in this specific case is an eye opener of how humanitarian consideration, common sense, natural justice and circumstantial exigency should justifiably supersede cut and dried rules and laws of governance. The verdict restraining eviction from Government accommodation may not be the first of its kind, but taking into account the raw deal given by the powers that be to the internally displaced persons from Kashmir valley for last two decades, it is a remarkable piece of adjudication. 


It is for the first time that a court of law in India has recognized some vital constitutional implications of internal displacement, which the government condescendingly ignored, circumvented or rejected in the past. Undoubtedly, political considerations always supervened to deny the victims of Theo-fascism their rights and privileges. It is something unexpected of a democratic welfare state, a Ram Rajya state of Gandhiji's dreams.
The verdict is very significant in more than one way and it will have noteworthy bearing on the entire spectrum of internal displacement like status, rights, and privileges of the affected people, and, more importantly, the contentious issue of their return and rehabilitation in the valley. 


First of all, cognizance by the honourable court of their status as "internally displaced persons" sets aside the nomenclature of "migrants" arbitrarily thrust on them by the state and the Union Government. This vindicates the prayer of Kashmiri Pandits to the National Human Rights Commission in early days of their exodus that was turned down obviously on political considerations. The victimized minority community has been stating on national and international fora that it fulfills all conditions set forth by the UN Human Rights Commission for entitlement as "Internally Displaced Persons" because it did not cross national borders. The high court verdict now entitles them to demand not only the proper nomenclature but also privileges and rights that accrue to them as IDPs. They are to be treated as international refugees for all intents and purposes like relief, asylum, concentrated rehabilitation of their choosing etc.

 

The second major implication is that the verdict of the honourable high court explicitly recognizes that "violent situation forced them to flee (the valley), and forcing them to return to the areas where they were persecuted violates the principles of International Law forbidding expulsion of a refugee into an area where such persons might be again subjected to persecution".


In combination with this observation there is the honourable court's additional declaration that the "Government has failed to ensure their safety there." The two observations namely (a) they were persecuted and forced to flee, and (b) government failed to ensure their safety, invalidate and dismiss government's plan of taking the displaced persons back without fulfilling the pre-requisites of rehabilitation of the refugees. Under international law, to which the honourable court has alluded, these refugees have a right to be rehabilitated concentratedly in an area or a region of their choosing. This is precisely what the UN Human Rights Charter sets forth for the rehabilitation of IDPs. Government of India is a signatory to that Charter. Demand for a homeland emanates from the Charter in question.


The third implication is that the honourable court has asserted in most forceful words that there has been "unprecedented ethnic cleansing of minority community from Kashmir valley on account of the inability of the state to protect them and their property from violence, who, as result were rendered homeless".
The verdict again vindicates Kashmiri IDPs who had made an appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India to register a case of their genocide in Kashmir but the Commission, again perhaps on political considerations, would not agree though sadistically its verdict stated that "genocide-like conditions were created." 


The IDPs from Kashmir have been fighting for their genuine rights with great fortitude on regional, national and international levels. They were able to convince the international community that for long their religious minority community has been subjected to discrimination and persecution, and finally ethnically cleansed of their homeland. But unfortunately, their similar entireties cut no ice with the central and the state governments. Even when this writer struggled at the UN Human rights Commission in Geneva for several years and was successful in persuading the Minority Rights Group of the Human Rights Commission to incorporate "reverse minority as Kashmiri Pandits" in the body of definitions of Minority, which later on went into all relevant documentation at the UN, the Union Government has been loath to accept it.


Looked from these facts of history, we regret that the government has been willfully undermining the status, rights and privileges of IDPs from Kashmir. It has been all along immune to the human aspect of the case. Disregard of humanitarian aspect still continues. Delhi administration refuses to regularize the services of 230 trained graduate and post graduate Kashmiri IDP female teachers in its education department for last 20 years. Despite equal work load with regular teachers, they are paid not even half the stipulated salary.
The decision of the honourable High Court of Delhi in this particular case is a historic decision and greatly enhances the prestige of judiciary for its human face. It makes space for the refugees from Kashmir to stake their claim for all rights and privileges as IDPs. The court verdict is an indicator and path breaker. Evidently, if the Pandits are able to legally pursue the salient features of this verdict, there should be no doubt that the Government of India will have to revise its Kashmir policy including its present scurvy treatment of this community. 


(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A SMALL STEP FORWARD

CANCUN KEEPS HOPE ALIVE

 

THOSE who see the glass half full may cheer even the modest success achieved at the UN climate change summit in Mexico's beach city of Cancun. It is dubbed a success partly because expectations of any breakthrough were low. Secondly, a repeat of Copenhagen failure has been avoided. Bolivia and Cuba alone disagreed with the remaining 193 countries as they found the agreement to hold the increase in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Centigrade too soft. It is a weak achievement but the widely shared feeling is at least something is better than nothing.

 

Those who see the glass half empty say, and rightly so, the countries failed to commit to "real and binding targets" for reducing emissions by which performance could be measured. But even the critics cannot deny that the Cancun "breakthrough" will at least lead to the setting up of a Green Climate Fund to raise $200 billion by 2020 to help the developing countries to adapt to climate change effects like droughts and rising seas. New mechanisms have been agreed to for the transfer of clean energy technology. Compensation will be paid for the preservation of tropical forests.

 

The developed countries' commitments to cut emissions under the Kyoto protocol will end in 2012. These have been agreed to be followed in principle until 2013. Japan, Canada and Russia had initially adopted a hard line on this issue because the US and China, the two major polluters, are not bound by these commitments. However, India, China, Brazil and South Africa affirmed their faith in the second commitment period and the Cancun deal too backs their stand. Indian minister Jairam Ramesh caused a stir back home by his unexpected shift in India's stand, saying the country would agree to legally binding commitments on carbon dioxide emissions. A growing country like India needs to be pragmatic. If it is committed in principle to cut emissions and has also formulated a climate policy back home, why worry unduly about binding commitments at global forums?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A WASTED SESSION

PARLIAMENT LOGJAM A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY

 

IT is a sad commentary on the functioning of our Parliament that its winter session has been washed out because of the rigid posture by both the UPA government and the Opposition over the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into mega scams like the one on the 2G spectrum allocation. The manner in which both sides have contributed to its paralysis gives rise to fears that the days of Parliament's usefulness are numbered. There are indications that the Opposition is determined to extend the stalemate over the setting up of a JPC to the Budget session. Even as some Opposition leaders had hinted on Sunday that they might allow the smooth passage of the Finance Bill in the Budget session but will not climb down on the JPC demand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi have refused to bow to the Opposition's pressure tactic. Consequently, there is no sign of any rapprochement in the near future.

 

This is deeply disturbing because the victim in the entire episode is parliamentary democracy. The principal function of Parliament is to ponder over issues, inform and educate public opinion about them, sift facts from prejudice, reconcile differences and, if this is not possible, to ensure that majority opinion prevails while assuring the minority that it has to wait for another day in a fair debate. Parliament works at two levels: through public debate between policies and points of view; and in the privacy of committees in which it is agreed by consensus what is to be debated, when, for how long and under what rules.

 

Clearly, there is no issue which MPs cannot debate in Parliament. This not only reflects the people's will but also the trust and confidence that people bestow upon them. However, the Opposition has abdicated its constitutional responsibility by thwarting a debate in Parliament on the mega scams. Instead of cornering the government on these issues legitimately in Parliament through measures like adjournment motion, it sought to conduct the debate on television channels and newspapers. The UPA government, too, is yet to convince the nation as to why it is against a JPC probe. Surely, this is not the way in which the affairs of the nation ought to be run. The nation expects the government and the Opposition to see reason, rectify their folly and restore the smooth functioning of Parliament.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DELHI REMAINS CRIME CAPITAL

WOMEN ARE THE WORST HIT

 

THE national Capital remains among the highly unsafe cities of India despite its having an adequate police strength. The latest incident to illustrate this reality is the abduction and gang-rape of an 18-year-old married woman of Delhi's Mangolpuri area on Sunday. The four rapists dragged her inside their car to commit the heinous act when she protested against the lewd remarks they passed at her. The accused, of course, have been arrested but not because of efficiency of the police. Six hundred police personnel took two hours to nab the culprits and that too owing to the efforts made by the woman's companion, a neighbour, who kept on asking people in the area if anybody had noticed the incident and remembered the number of the car. This sensational case was reported soon after a similar incident in the Capital's Dhaula Kuan area involving a BPO employee.

 

There is no end to such crime on Delhi's roads. Every 29 minutes a woman is raped somewhere in the national Capital, though most cases of this nature remain unreported. Crime against women has increased considerably for some time with the buses on Delhi's roads being glaringly unsafe for them. It is not only rape and abduction which are reported routinely. Murders, burglaries, chain-snatchings and many other kinds of crime have been keeping the people virtually terrorised.

 

The fast rising crime graph shows that the fear of law has virtually disappeared. Why? Without doubt, our criminal justice system is mainly to blame. Criminals rarely get exemplary punishment. Then we have the culture of the police spending much of its time and energy on the security of the VVIPs and VIPs, leaving the ordinary citizens to fend for themselves. The police remains ineffective in preventing crime because of the high level of corruption. There is need to have a system so that the police personnel are held accountable if any major incident of crime occurs in their area and is not solved in a fixed time period.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

WIKILEAKS HIGHLIGHTS THREAT FROM PAK

INDIA NEEDS TO REVIEW ITS SECURITY MEASURES

BY T.V. RAJESWAR

 

MANY documents released by WikiLeaks have yielded disturbing information about India's security environment. American Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson had conveyed to the US State Department in September 2009 that Islamabad would always support the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). The ambassador had specifically said that the Pakistan Army and its ISI were covertly sponsoring four militant groups, including the LeT, the Afghan Taliban and the latter's allies, the Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks, and would not abandon them for any amount of US money. It was also pointed out that there was no chance of Pakistan considering enhanced financial assistance as sufficient compensation for discontinuing its support to these groups.

 

A leading think tank based in Delhi, the Observer Research Foundation, has come out with the information that the LeT has a core cadre strength of 50,000 trained and armed men — 5000 in Karachi and the rest across Punjab. The cadre consists of dedicated men, and many of them are former army and ISI commandos. They have access to the latest weapons and funds. The Punjab Government of Pakistan had also reportedly made a grant of nearly $1 million in 2009.

 

All these factors only underline the need for India to be vigilant against the threat from Pakistan, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. There are further reports that the LeT has opened its units in Nepal and Sri Lanka for running training camps for the infiltration of cadres into India. It is mentioned that from Sri Lanka these terrorists are likely to launch attacks on specific targets in South India. This is the first time that South Indian targets have been mentioned in any of the LeT plans. One wonders whether the LeT cadres are targeting the comparatively peaceful southern part of the country by launching attacks on some of its famous temples at Rameswaram, Madurai, etc. The consequences throughout India of such attacks can be imagined. Possibly, these elements are looking for opportunities to disturb communal peace by planning such attacks.

 

The WikiLeaks expose has also thrown light on the dangerously unstable situation in Pakistan. President Asif Zardari has been afraid of being overthrown or even assassinated by the Army. Zardari asked for US help for protecting his life as well as ensuring that in the event of his being overthrown, his sister should be made the next President and not his son Bilawal as was thought after Benazir Bhutto's death. The latest reports state that Zardari has sought asylum for his family and himself from the President of the UAE. Benazir herself had stayed in exile for many years in Dubai before her return to Pakistan and her subsequent assassination.

 

Gen Ashfaque Kayani, however, has his own idea about President Zardari's succession. General Kayani mentioned his own choice, A. Wali Khan of the Awami National Party, as a possible replacement. The government led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani would, however, remain undisturbed so as to pre-empt fresh elections in which case former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif might stage a comeback. General Kayani hates Nawaz Sharif more than anyone else and hence his choice for the Awami National Party chief.

 

Despite Pakistan's economy being in serious trouble, American appraisals have it that Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world. This has been mentioned in one of the cables released by WikiLeaks. The assessment was made in 2008. At the same time, the safety of a huge quantity of enriched uranium in one of the nuclear facilities in Pakistan was causing security concerns to the US which seriously thought of lifting the enriched uranium with the consent of the Pakistan Army. Pakistan, however, later backtracked on it.

 

]It may be recalled that after the LeT attack on Indian Parliament in December, 2001, the Indian Army came out with Operation Parakram, resulting in massive forward troop mobilisation along the western front. The exercise was more in the nature of a warning shot to Pakistan since the troops were called back after US intervention.

 

The diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that in the aftermath of the 26/11 killings by ISI-assisted LeT terrorists, Pakistan expected an attack from India — Operation Cold Start — and Islamabad was prepared to consider the nuclear option if the need arose. India did not go beyond holding discussions with Pakistan at various levels and urging it to prosecute all those involved in the 26/11 attack, an exercise still going on.

 

]What is clear from all these exchanges is that Pakistan is prepared to consider exercising the nuclear option if faced with setbacks in a normal confrontation with India. With Pakistan being in an unstable state and with the dominance of the army over all the aspects of life in Pakistan, India has to be on the alert all the time.

 

]Former Pakistan ruler Gen Parvez Musharraf has gone on record with his assertion that he trained terrorist groups to operate from Pakistan on a regular basis. Now that the former US Ambassador has clearly testified to the fact that whatever be the financial disbursement and the pressure from the US, Pakistan will never give up on Kashmir. The Kashmir problem has never been easy for India to handle all these years. The report of the interlocutors sent to Kashmir to talk to the various sections of people and politicians and come up with their suggestions for a solution has to be awaited. We know well the stakes involved in resolving the Kashmir problem.

 

The Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister is quoted as having said that a Pakistan military leader told him that the Pakistan Army was no match to the Indian Army — the justification given by Pakistan why it needed nuclear weapons.

 

The US has reportedly told Pakistan that it needed to have a new security arrangement with India as a pre-condition for a civilian nuclear deal with Washington DC. Senator John Kerry, considered a foreign policy czar in the US, reportedly told this to Zardari in Islamabad in January 2010. Kerry has also reportedly advised Zardari to have a security arrangement with India in the interest of Pakistan's own stability.

 

Another bit of interesting information is that General Kayani told a top American diplomat that the Pakistan Army wanted resumption of back channel talks with India but President Zardari was against it. General Kayani reportedly has the backing of General Pasha of the ISI in this regard. This thinking should be encouraged and eventually there may be talks with General Kayani himself since he is the most important man in Pakistan today. General Kayani and General Pasha may be encouraged to talk directly with Indian interlocutors, who may consist of the National Security Adviser and the Army Chief.

 

]Now one can draw the conclusion that Pakistan would never give up supporting the terror groups like the LeT and would use them for creating problems for India, at least in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

]The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal.


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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

HELL-BENT TO SERVE

BY G.K. GUPTA

 

THE world is not totally bereft of people who under the most trying and hellish circumstances are known to take up the challenge to serve and alleviate the suffering of others. There are many instances when people risked their lives so that others could live. Consider the hair-raising stories of what happened during World War II.

 

Auschwitz in occupied Poland was the site of the greatest mass murder of all times, the most infamous Nazi death factory, the most heinous place on earth where  millions of  Jews — men, women and children — were mercilessly put to death in gas chambers,  extermination camps or starved   to death.  When those in the Auschwitz death camp would have done anything to escape, a British POW, Denis Avey, smuggled himself into their midst to help some of them get out after swapping his British POW uniform with the dirty, stripy uniform of a Jewish condemned prisoner.

 

Sir Nicholas Winton, who now at 101 stands erect, rescued 669 Jewish children at great personal risk from their doomed fate in the Nazi death camps.  He ensured that the kids whose parents had already perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz were out of the reach of   Nazi power. Both Avey and Winton were honoured by Gordon Brown, the last British Prime Minister, at a function a few weeks before he gave up his premiership.

 

One most remarkable man whose name is revered by millions was Oscar Schindler, an ethnic German. He outwitted Hitler and the Nazis to save more Jews from the gas chambers than by any one else during World War II. He spent millions bribing and paying off the SS (most feared Nazi organisation) and kept the Nazis out of reach from the 1,200 Jews under his protection. He died penniless in 1974. All this is so well recaptured in Hollywood's Schindler's List, the 1993 epic film and winner of many awards.

 

Most  poignant are the stories of how during the German occupation of  Poland, some dedicated Poles embarked on  the dangerous mission of   smuggling out a number of Jewish children from Nazi death camps, gave them refuge in their own settlements and then helped them escape to freedom. All this was regardless of religion, race or any ethnic considerations.

 

In the light of the above,  now consider that Bollywood is planning a film on Hitler, the universally hated dictator. Interestingly, it is entitled "Dear Friend Hitler", the name borrowed from the contents of two letters Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Hitler on stopping the war and on preaching non-violence. In a belated realisation, Anupam Kher, the veteran actor who had agreed to play the role of Hitler, has walked out.  Israel and particularly the Indian Jews migrated to Israel were shocked and so was the small Jewish community in India who vehemently protested against any glorification of one of history's worst mass murderers.

 

Coming to our day-to-day life,  complete strangers flit past us at times whose little acts of  kindness stir our lives like an exquisite tune of melody. They always symbolise to us the acme of all that is noble and magnanimous in a human being. Such uplifting moments when sublime, heart-warming human messages come my way are worth treasuring.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY MISSED

SUNITA NARAIN

 

THERE is not doubt that the world was meeting in Cancun with little or no expectations for a deal. At the last meeting in Copenhagen, the split between the industrialized world and the rest was still wide open. The world remained divided on how it would share the economic and ecological space, given that growth depended on who had the right to pollute.

 

In Cancun there has been an unexpected breakthrough. The outlines of an agreement have been finalised in the form for the text of the Long Term Cooperative Action working group. The Western media has been liberal in its praise. Even the critics say that pragmatism won and the world has taken a small step ahead.

 

The question is what has been agreed to and will this move the world ahead on its difficult mission to cut emissions of carbon dioxide? My analysis, based on the proceedings at Cancun, is the opposite of the widely held perception.

 

First, let us understand the outcome against the challenge we face. It is well accepted, that to keep the world below the already dangerous 2 degree Centigrade temperature increase, global emissions need to drop to 44 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (the mix of greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2e) by as early as 2020 — as against the roughly 48 billion tonnes of CO2e currently. In other words, the world has already run out of space and has to cut fast and drastically.

 

This is why at the Bali climate conference held in 2007 the proposal on the table was that industrialized countries would cut emissions drastically by 2020 — some 40 per cent reduction over the 1990 levels was being discussed. It was also agreed at this meeting that developing countries, including India and China, would take on steps to avoid the growth of emissions. But as this energy transition — still not afforded by the industrial world — would cost money, they would be enabled by technology and funds.

 

This is what was being discussed in Cancun. How much would the industrialized countries cut, by when and what would be deal on technology and funding.

 

The outcome

 

Now let us what we have got:

 

On emission reduction targets it says that "there will be scaled up mitigation efforts, needed for stabilization, with developed country parties showing leadership by undertaking ambitious emission reductions and in providing technology, capacity building and financial resources to developing countries."

 

There are no specific targets have been set for the industrialized countries, based on their historical responsibility to the problem.

 

Instead, what it endorses are the voluntary 'pledges' made by industrialized countries. The pledges add up to as little as 9 per cent reduction below 1990 levels to as best as 15 per cent (if the countries are extremely ambitious). In other words, they fail any target of reduction by any measure. The US, which has been instrumental in getting the deal at Cancun, will have the most to gain. As against the 40 per cent reduction it needed to do by 2020, it will get away by doing zero per cent reduction over its 1990 levels. It is no wonder it is laughing its way to the bank.

 

The burden shifts to us

 

The agreement also marks another big shift in the global architecture. The distinction between the developed and developing countries has been removed as there will be universal agreement for all. This is unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which asked for binding actions from the industrialized countries as the first step, based on their responsibility to the problem.

 

The agreement is based on each country's pledge to cut emissions, including ours. Now, if these 'pledges' of developing — including India's target to cut energy intensity by 2020 — are compiled, then a curious fact emerges. The burden of cutting emissions has in fact been shifted to us.

 

Therefore, while the total amount that the rich will cut, amounts to some 0.8-1.8 billion tonnes of CO2e, the poor developing countries have now agreed to cut 2.3 billion tonnes of CO2e by 2020. In other words, the agreement shifts the burden of the transition to us.

 

Equity is given a go-by

 

The agreement has all the right words on equity, which would satisfy the uninitiated. But the fact is that as of this agreement, the concept of global equity in climate negotiations has been undermined, if not completely destroyed. How?

 

First, it is based on creating a new framework, one, which is based primarily on what countries pledge they will do domestically. It therefore, does not demand that countries take on targets based on principles of historic responsibilities or equity.

 

Second, it dilutes the provisions for equity in the agreement itself. In the previous drafts it was unambiguously stated that developing countries would have equitable access to the global carbon budget. This equitable sharing of the atmospheric space has been replaced by the vague statement "equitable access to sustainable development". In other words, we have bargained away the need to apportion the global atmospheric space to protect our future right to development.

 

Thirdly, the deal requires that a developing country's actions must be internationally reported, measured and verified. While this does not mean that we have agreed to a legally binding global deal, it does take the first steps to internationalise our domestic actions and so paves the way for a legal global agreement for all. This is in fact part of the agreement for the next meeting scheduled in Durban.

 

Bad for the world's climate

 

The Cancun agreement and our fatal compromises could even have been justified, if the world was indeed on course to cut emissions to avoid catastrophic changes. We know we are most vulnerable to climate change. But the bottom-line is that the agreement in Cancun is not just too little, too late. It is nothing. All data shows that the current pledges — developed and developing — put the world on track for at least 3 degree Centigrade increase. It is a climate disastrous deal.

 

Finance, technology: no gains

 

Lets then look at the agreement for finance — needed for adaptation in the already vulnerable world and for mitigation in the rest. It was agreed in Copenhagen that there would be fast track funding available — some US$ 30 billion by 2012 and some US$ 100 billion by 2020. When this figure was put out, it was already considered too little for the challenge ahead.

 

But the Cancun agreement goes no steps ahead. It only calls for the creation of a green fund. No money is seen or promised.

 

In the case of providing technology for mitigation is concerned, the agreement is even weaker. It only talks about the setting up of a climate technology centre and network, with no idea of how low carbon technologies will be made available on free or concessional terms to the South. The contentious expression, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is not even mentioned.

 

Based on these facts, it is clear that however much we would like to believe that the Cancun glass is half full, it is completely empty. The developing world has made major compromises in its position; it has staked its future. But it has got nothing in return. Worse, the world has not got a deal to avert climate change. It is a dud deal, which will devastate large parts of our world.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED

SHARED VISION

 

This means the big overall picture.

 

The Aim An official aim, accepted by all, of halting global warming at a rise of less than 2C above pre-industrial levels (it presently stands at about 0.8C above those levels). Recognition that industrialised countries must do more. Setting a date for a global peak in carbon emissions.

 

The Deal The 2C target was agreed and the need for stronger action by developed countries was recognised, The idea that the world's CO2 emissions should peak was recognised — for "as soon as possible" — but no date was set.

 

What are we waiting for? A date for this emissions peak — 2020 was what Chris Huhne wanted — and perhaps an even tougher target than 2 degrees, such as 1.5. (Small island states threatened with sea level rise want this). A scientific review will look at this in 2013.

 

Legal Form

 

This means what future agreements are going to look like.

 

The Aim Developing countries wanted a pledge to renew the Kyoto protocol, with its commitments only on rich countries to cut their emissions. Rich countries want a universal emissions treaty binding on everyone.

 

The Deal A compromise in which both of these potentially irreconcilable positions were held in abeyance without wrecking the talks through clever language drafted by Chris Huhne and his team.

 

What are we waiting for? A second commitment period of Kyoto, with perhaps a parallel treaty legally binding everyone (which Britain would accept). A target for next year's climate conference in Durban.

 

Emissions Pledges

 

This refers to the cuts in carbon emissions that countries say they will carry out

 

The Aim The bringing into the official UN climate change negotiating process of the pledges that many developing countries, such as China, have made over the past year under the Copenhagen Accord. This was an ad-hoc document drafted by heads of state as a face-saver at the meeting last year that has no official status.

 

The Deal The pledges have been brought into the UN process and documentation, or in the jargon, "anchored".

 

What are we waiting for? Industrialised countries, including Britain, would like to make these developing country pledges legally binding; that's some way off yet.

 

MRV

 

This refers to Monitoring, Reporting and Verification

 

The Aim A system by which the world community as a whole could be guaranteed that countries which claimed they were cutting their carbon emissions were actually doing so.

 

The Deal A softened version of the original MRV proposals that the Chinese angrily rejected as too intrusive at Copenhagen. It was drawn up by the charismatic Indian minister for the environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh.

 

What are we waiting for? Widespread application of monitoring.

 

Forests Agreement

 

An outline treaty to prevent deforestation because of the carbon emissions released.

The Aim Financial sticks and carrots to halt deforestation. Many countries wanted the full-scale "monetisation" of protected forests so rainforest countries could generate carbon credits and there would be a new market commodity, forest carbon.

 

The Deal A large-scale agreement to halt deforestation in developing countries in return for rich-world funding, but reference to market mechanisms was left out at the insistence of Bolivia. Various safeguards, including rules to protect forest peoples and wildlife.

 

What are we waiting for? The emissions-credits-from-forests idea is the big attraction for many investors, private and public. It will doubtless creep back in.

 

Green Fund

 

A new institution to channel some of the vast new flows of climate finance to the developing countries — likely to be $100bn (£63bn) annually by 2020.

 

The Aim To bring the fund into existence now. Developing countries wanted a big say in how it will be run.

 

The Deal It was brought into existence yesterday at Cancun, with the World Bank as its trustee. It has got a board, a design committee, terms of reference and a one-year deadline for it to be up and running. Developing countries are well represented.

 

What are we waiting for? For the fund to start lending money for climate change projects. This will probably happen after the next UN climate meeting in Durban next year.

 

— The Independent

 

The writer, a well-known environmentalist, is the Director of the Centre for Science and Environment

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT

INDIA MUST DIG DEEP THIS MONTH TO MASTER THE BOUNCE AND TRULY BE REGARDED AS THE WORLD NUMBER ONE TEAM

 

On a windy cold winter morning, Sourav Ganguly sought me out in the clubhouse gallery in Mohali and asked, loudly, mischievously, within earshot of new chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar: "So what's the score in South Africa?" We both laughed. In the distance, Vengsarkar, too, could not suppress a chuckle. 

 

It was a time when cricket politics was at its highest point. Greg Chappell's India had been bowled out for 91 in Durban, on its way to a 4-0 series whitewash. The Test matches were starting in 10 days. On streets across the country, stones were being pelted and effigies were being burnt. And in Chandigarh, where Ganguly was leading Bengal against Punjab, thousands of locals were descending on the stadium every day, chanting "Dada, Dada", and rooting for him against their own state team. 

 

The following week, all three – Ganguly, Vengsarkar and I – found ourselves in sunny Johannesburg for a pre-Test nets session. Indian cricket had turned on its head, and from there on, it was a South African trip to cherish. The strange machinations off the field as Chappell's scowl got deeper, and the moments of joy on the pitch as the 'seniors' he disliked – Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar – all played their part. India still lost the series 2-1, but the best of Test cricket was on display during the historic win at Wanderers, and for a few sessions under the Table Mountain at Newlands. 

 

Now, four years after that tour, another Indian team is in South Africa: better led, better coached, less political, more self-assured, but with a lot more at stake as they attempt to do what none of their predecessors havedone before – win a series against the rising ball. 

 

Of the different types of Test cricket around the world – from England, where the ball swings prodigiously; to India, where it can turn on occasion; to the Sri Lankan dust bowls that seem determined to finish the game's purest format forever – the most engaging kind is played on the fast, bouncy pitches found in Australia and South Africa. 

 

The first Ashes Test, with scores of 481 and 517 for one, was a clear example of that. That same scoreboard, easily replicated in any Indian Test centre, could've easily told the story of five dull, dour, depressing days in which records were broken ad nauseum and boredom was the most likely mode of dismissal. However at the Gabba, where the ball was bouncing chest high, it was chronicling a riveting encounter, with gritty batting and dropped catches responsible for the draw, rather than a surface on which the world is rosy as long as you know how to get on the front foot. 

 

Snapping out of this front-foot mode in Test cricket – which will (as always) be India's biggest challenge over the next month – is far more difficult in practice than it seems in theory. You're asking your body to go against its natural instincts developed over years on flat tracks where the ball rarely rises above your knees. Your feet, your arms, your back, your head, are being told to consciously break out of a comfort zone you've so meticulously constructed. It's not making an adjustment, it's tossing up everything you know about batting and mentally rearranging it as it comes down. 

 

The Indian line-up will have to go through this gravity-defying process on every single delivery, and that too against world-class bowlers such as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who're a handful even for batsmen raised in those conditions. 

 

Since last year, the No 1 crown has been resting uneasily on the head of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. No Test team can be considered the best until it beats either South Africa or Australia at home. This series is India's chance to become the leader of the cricket world – not in terms of money or markets or T20 leagues, but in the real sense.

 

KUNAL PRADHAN LOOKS AT THE FLIP SIDE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD OF SPORT

 

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

EDITORIAL

MANUFACTURING GROWTH

POLITICAL STABILITY NEEDED TO SUSTAIN INDUSTRIAL GROWTH

 

Even as the political stalemate in Parliament continued and the winter session ended without transacting much business, the Indian economy seemed to be chugging along. While every passing day has its share of worrying news on the political front for the government of the day, the news from the economy is good and offers some comfort to a beleaguered government. Last week's news on industrial production, as shown by the government's index of industrial production (IIP) data, was better than what most expected. While most analysts assumed growth would pick up but remain in single digits, the IIP registered a 10.8 per cent rate of growth for the month of October 2010, contributing to a cumulative average growth rate of 10.3 per cent for the period April to October 2010. This latter number compares with 6.9 per cent for the same period last year. Clearly, the industrial sector has seen a revival of growth after the slowdown of 2009. Broken down into its various components, industrial growth data showed a 11.3 per cent growth in manufacturing sector output, 8.8 per cent for electricity and 6.5 per cent for mining. When classified into use-based categories, the IIP shows a whopping 31 per cent growth in consumer durables and a 22 per cent growth in capital goods for the month of October. In the first half of 2010-11, April to October, capital goods output increased by 24 per cent compared to a mere 6 per cent for the same period last year. Consumer durables production increased by 24.4 per cent in April-October of 2010-11, compared to 18.6 per cent for the same period last year. Manufacturing sector growth, of 11 per cent in April-October 2010 compared to 6.8 per cent in 2009, covered a wide range of industries, including agro-based, food processing, metals and mining-based, machinery and transport equipment and plastics and petrochemicals.

 

All in all, the industrial production data point to renewed growth in the industrial sector. There is no reason why this revival cannot be sustained. However, to ensure this, the government and India's macroeconomic authorities must extend a supportive policy environment. By and large, both monetary and fiscal policy have been supportive. Even exchange rate policy and inflation management have by and large been supportive of industrial revival. There are, however, some areas of concern. Weak infrastructure remains a major barrier to higher growth. Inadequate development of the power sector is another. In fact, the only worrying data from the IIP is the low growth of electricity output, estimated at a lowly 4.6 per cent in April-October of 2010-11, compared to 6.3 per cent in the same period last year. Power shortages and poor management of the power sector remain a constraint on growth. It is comforting, though, that the surge in capital goods production has been driven partly by the high growth in power equipment manufacturing sector. However, to sustain this growth performance, the country needs a more business-friendly environment, more investment in infrastructure and more rational pricing policies for energy, and above all, political stability. It would be dangerously short-sighted and wrong to assume that the economy can be expected to continue to do well, irrespective of what happens within the realm of politics.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

PROBLEM WITH PULSES

BETTER FARM PRICES AND MORE R&D ARE ONLY WAY OUT

 

Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's plea to hire land abroad to grow pulses to meet India's supply shortage seems well-intentioned, but a better and more enduring solution would be to boost domestic production. Pulses are a major source of protein for most people, especially the poor. While demand for pulses continues to rise, domestic supply is perennially falling short, with the demand for pulses rising in recent years. This has in great part contributed to food price inflation. The import of pulses is problematic. This is because, widely consumed pulses like pigeon pea (arhar or tur), black gram (urad) and green gram (mung) are not grown in too many places around the world. Moreover, even if Indian entrepreneurs respond to Mr Pawar's call and choose to go abroad and invest in pulses farming, they are likely to come up against the same hurdles that farmers in India face.

 

The real problems with pulses are the low productivity of existing strains, a virtual absence of technological progress and the inability of modern science to address the problem of high vulnerability of pulses to pests and diseases. Unlike wheat and rice, where high-yielding germ plasm could be obtained from overseas for breeding India-specific crop varieties, such a possibility is minimal in pulses. Given the low demand for pulses worldwide, especially in the developed world, there has so far been little investment in research and development (R&D) to improving the genetic production potential of pulses. Given that a third of the potential production in pulses is lost due to attacks by pests and germs, the inability to find a technological solution has become the real barrier to increasing pulses production and productivity. This has constrained evolution of high-yielding, fertiliser-responsive and disease- and pest-tolerant varieties of pulses. Moreover, being protein-rich crops, pulses require far more energy to bear grains than cereals like wheat and rice do. Farmers end up not investing enough in the required inputs also because the risk element is high in this heavily rain-dependent crop.

 

 Prior to the current spell of high pulse prices that began in 2008, pulse farming had generally been not as lucrative as farming in competing crops. As a result, the cultivation of pulse crops has got confined largely to the marginal, less fertile, rainfed lands where other relatively more profitable crops cannot be grown. The recent rise in wholesale prices of pulses and the hike in minimum support prices (MSPs) in the last three years may finally encourage farmers to step up pulses production. This year a record 16.5 million tonnes of harvest is expected. It is worth recalling that the previous occasion when the wholesale prices of pulses had similarly skyrocketed was around 1992-93. The farmers even then had responded in the same manner. The pulses production exceeded 14 million tonnes in 1994-95, creating a glut. Clearly, until a technological solution to the problem of low productivity is found, price can be the only policy instrument in the hands of the government that can encourage higher domestic production. Increased investment in R&D is the other. India is the most important home to most pulses and so must do its bit at home.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

TAKING THINK TANKS SERIOUSLY

INDIA'S THINK TANKS NEED TO DIVERSIFY THEIR SUPPORT TO ENHANCE THEIR CONTRIBUTION

SUMAN BERY

 

At a time when the Indian economy is once again booming, domestic politics is in turmoil and the fate of the euro is in the balance, some justification is needed to devote a column to India's economic policy research organisations, more commonly referred to as "economic think tanks".

 

 I can offer two reasons. This month marks the end of ten exciting years for me as the director-general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). As I prepare to hand over to my successor, this seems a good moment to reflect on some of the challenges facing this profession in India.

 

The last few weeks have also seen the official launch of the Think Tank Initiative (TTI) in South Asia. The Think Tank Initiative is a multi-agency effort administered by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada, dedicated to the belief that strong, well-funded, autonomous local policy research organisations can make a significant contribution to consideration and discussion of rational, evidence-based economic and social policy in developing countries*.

 

This global initiative began by funding 24 institutions in East and West Africa, selected through a competitive call in 2008. The programme was extended to countries in Latin America and South Asia in 2009. Sixteen South Asian institutions were selected as grantees, of which nine are from India. NCAER is fortunate to be selected as one of these nine Indian awardees.

 

The consortium of donors has committed around $110 million to support the global programme of which $65 million has already been allocated to the grantee institutions. All institutions have been assured of stable support for several years, designed to give them the freedom to build core capacity in specific areas.

 

Writing in The Hindu (October 26, 2010) on the eve of the official South Asia launch, IDRC President David Malone (a distinguished academician and a former Canadian high commissioner in India) observed that the programme sought to support "sophisticated multi-issue research centres that can (among other strengths) relate and sometimes prioritise issues relative to each other".

 

India needs to aim higher. Policy research on economic development dates to the 1950s, and was stimulated largely by funding by the major foreign aid agencies in the midst of the Cold War. One result was the creation of important centres of applied development research in the advanced countries, often linked with the great universities. As this initial wave wound down, leadership in development research passed in considerable measure to the multilateral agencies, particularly the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

 

]With the transition of the major developing countries to the status of emerging markets, it is appropriate that the next wave of globally significant research centres be located in the leading emerging markets, India included. Unlike the first wave, credibility will depend not just on quality and rigour, essential as these are, but also on local relevance and impact.

 

As India's fast economic growth has become more firmly established, there has been a notable pick-up in visitors to NCAER from a range of developing countries (Africa, the Gulf), seeking a better understanding of "the Indian model". There is also a perceptible desire to understand this experience directly, rather than being intermediated through the filter of the multilateral agencies.

 

Two questions arise. Given the impressive international commitment to local capacity development that the TTI represents, what else needs to happen to help us grasp these opportunities? How would India as a whole benefit if we succeeded?

 

When NCAER was set up in 1956 (with the generous support of the Ford Foundation), its mission was to provide independent advice and analysis to both government and the private sector in support of India's economic development. Even though the Planning Commission was actively involved in its creation, there was concern that a "think tank" within government could not be sufficiently neutral or objective. NCAER was set up as a board-run, non-profit, membership-based organisation. By its charter, it was expected to support itself through contract research for at least two reasons: first, because there was no other funding model available and, second, to ensure that its work programme addressed practical problems rather than reflecting the intellectual interests of its staff.

 

]Today, 54 years later, many elements of this "business model" are increasingly unviable. While contract research for government remains an important part of our portfolio, it is becoming an increasingly unsatisfactory business. Output is delayed or suppressed by mid-level bureaucrats, payments are sometimes withheld even for completed work, and different officials or departments hold widely differing attitudes to public disclosure or publication of the contracted work. This is obviously not an environment conducive to professional development.

 

As Sanjaya Baru noted in a column in this paper earlier this year ("Indian minds, foreign funds"; Business Standard, August 9, 2010), the outcome has been to drive many such organisations to avoid contact with government if at all possible. While his concern was with foreign policy think tanks, the incentives facing economic think tanks are not very different. Meanwhile, a long-established consensus that the activities of such institutions should be tax-exempt has been upset by recent changes in the law, perhaps reflecting abuse of these provisions by newer players.

 

Finally, efforts by Indian think tanks to become regional centres of excellence are being frustrated by increasingly restrictive visa restrictions on visits by scholars for seminars or for research. I remember a leading American academician once remarking to me that, because of visa uncertainty, she recommended that only her students of Indian origin take up a career of research on India. A recent notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs has now clarified that even holders of OCI cards need to seek permission to undertake research on India.

 

International research on the role of think tanks suggests that they come into their own once the business sector begins to feel that it benefits more from rational policies rather than specific rent-seeking. Outsiders seem willing to bet that the time has come for this transition in India. It will be interesting to see if our own corporate and foundation sector follows suit.

 

*Apart from the IDRC, donors include the Hewlett and Gates Foundations, and the British and Dutch governments

 

The author is director-general, National Council of Applied Economic Research, and member, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council. The views expressed are personal

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR DEFENCE OFFSETS

THE MOD MUST ABANDON ITS TIMID, HANDS-OFF APPROACH TOWARDS OFFSETS AND DIRECT VENDORS TOWARDS CAREFULLY IDENTIFIED INDIAN COMPANIES

AJAI SHUKLA

 

Tomorrow the MoD's apex procurement body, the Defence Acquisition Council, will consider and possibly dilute India's defence offset policy. The proposed changes — especially the "liberalisation" of defence offsets into fields like civil aviation and homeland security — would nullify the very rationale of a defence offset policy, which is to direct foreign money and know-how into India's nascent defence industry by leveraging our position as a major buyer in the global arms bazaar. Global arms corporations quite predictably resist investing in other countries' defence industries. So, global arms corporations have a persuasive counter-argument that portrays offsets as unscrupulous commercial arm-twisting, which is counterproductive since it yields jobs only in the short term, with the costs borne by the buyer since the vendors load them onto the basic contract.

 

Foreign vendors selling weaponry to India have constructed an even more pernicious argument: that our defence industry is incapable of absorbing the vast offsets that will arise from arms purchases over the next five years. With a CII-Deloitte report in June projecting that the MoD will spend Rs 360,000 crore ($80 billion) on the capital purchase of weaponry by 2015, India's defence industry would be required to absorb at least Rs 108,000 crore ($24 billion) worth of offsets. Therefore, suggest these vendors helpfully, the buyer should "liberalise" the policy by permitting offsets in easy fields like infrastructure, homeland security, health care, etc, where investment is attractive.

 

These self-serving arguments are, worryingly, being swallowed by the MoD, which is forgetting that it fire-walled the defence offset policy from the national offsets policy expressly to jump-start Indian defence industry. To now allow vendors to discharge offset liabilities in non-defence spheres would be a turnaround that reeks of capitulation before foreign pressure groups.

 

Instead, the MoD must remind global arms vendors that, by participating in Indian defence tenders, they have explicitly accepted the obligation to meet our defence offset requirements. This places on vendors the responsibility to build the capacities of their local offset partners, if necessary by transferring the technology needed to develop Indian suppliers into viable links in their global supply chain.

 

Any difficulty that foreign vendors are encountering in finding Indian partners stems from a lazy reluctance to reach above the low-hanging fruit — defence PSUs like Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Bharat Electronics and large private corporate houses like L&T and the Tata group, which are already flush with offset offers — and instead identify partners from amongst the many small- and medium-scale industries that have emerged over the last decade. The Indian defence landscape has an entire ecosystem of defence firms with impressive technological skills and entrepreneurial talent.

 

Much of the government's muddle-headedness on these issues stems from the absence of a clearly articulated aim for the defence offset policy. Consequently, Indian pressure groups lobby self-servingly.

 

To direct offsets into IT or repeat manufacture is wasteful, since these sectors will anyway attract foreign investment based on commercial logic. Nor should offsets be wasted on high technology, which is best prised out of vendors by leveraging the power of major contracts in competitive tendering. India's $10-billion multi-role fighter tender, in which the MoD has stipulated — and vendors have accepted — the transfer of heavily guarded AESA radar technology, provides the ideal model for obtaining technology.

Instead, offsets must have the clearly stated aim of furthering the defence minister's oft-enunciated objective of indigenising at least 70 per cent of our defence equipment needs. The MoD must abandon its timid, hands-off approach towards offsets and direct vendors towards carefully identified Indian companies with demonstrated technological skills in key areas. Offset partnerships with global giants would allow such companies to bridge technology gaps and — by becoming a part of the vendor's global supply chain — scale up and generate the financial muscle needed for serious R&D.

 

For this, the MoD must empower and staff its Defence Offsets Facilitation Agency (DOFA), so that it can map Indian defence industry, creating a capability and technology matrix that can be matched with prospective platform development requirements. Offsets could then be directed to fill the gaps. This would involve an enormous MoD mind shift from its current approach towards offsets where a man-and-a-dog DOFA plays passing-the-offsets-parcel with an equally reluctant Acquisitions Wing, both hoping that when the music stops, the other will be left holding the responsibility for offsets.

 

The need for an activist and empowered DOFA has been understood by the industry, if not by the MoD. The CII and Ficci had earlier pledged Rs 25 lakh each to set up a DOFA secretariat at Pragati Maidan, which could monitor and account for the tens of thousands of crores worth of offsets that lay ahead. But, with trust in short supply, the MoD felt that the companies that would benefit from offsets should not have any role in accounting for them; and the corporate houses felt, "Why should we do the babus' job for them?" It is time to come together to galvanise India's defence industry.

 

ajaishukla.blogspot.com

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CULTIVATING FARM RESEARCH

A PROJECT SEEKS TO BUILD COMMERCIAL BENEFITS FROM INNOVATIONS, BOTH WITHIN THE AGRI-RESEARCH SYSTEM AND OUTSIDE

SURINDER SUD

 

The launch of the World Bank-assisted National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) four years ago marked a new chapter in agricultural research. Researchers began viewing agriculture as a business and not just a means of subsistence for farmers. As a result, research models now encompass the entire value chain from farm to market. The project broadly aims to make Indian agriculture and agricultural research knowledge-based and IT-enabled so that it can cater to the market and meet fast-changing consumer demands. The mantra is to capitalise on innovations and innovative ideas regardless of whether these are generated within the farm research system or outside. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), which is implementing NAIP, is reaching out to non-agricultural knowledge centres such as general universities, science and technology institutes, private bodies and even civil society organisations for innovative ideas and research. The concept of innovation, which is interpretable variously, has been given a precise definition to guide NAIP's philosophy: "Using something old in new ways or applying something new to successfully produce desired social and economic outcome is innovation."

 

This approach is also being adopted for down-the-line activities right up to the consumption level to ensure the research outcomes are put to gainful use. "This project will prepare Indian agriculture to face the emerging challenges, including those from climate change, in the whole chain from seed to market," says ICAR Director General S Ayyappan. About one-third of the NAIP's budget of Rs 1,200 crore has been earmarked for building the national agricultural research system's (read ICAR's) capacity to serve as a catalyst for change. The rest of the funds are allocated to research projects in three other broad areas — production to consumption systems; sustainable rural livelihood security; and strategic research in frontier areas of science, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and so on.

 

 To expand the researchers' access to knowledge, over 2,900 international research journals have been made available online to some 124 libraries in various agricultural institutes and farm universities. Most of these journals are cost-wise unaffordable for these libraries. Besides, over 7,000 PhD theses, which normally remain confined to the libraries of the universities concerned, have been digitised and put on the Internet.

 

A significant step towards commercialising farm research outcomes is setting up 10 business planning and development units (BPDUs) in the ICAR institutes and state agricultural universities. These units identify the technologies and facilitate their scaling-up for commercial production. Over 150 enterprises are already said to have come up with the support of these BPDUs.

 

The results are showing. Jasmine flowers grown in Tamil Nadu villages are now arriving in flower markets in the US, Europe and the Gulf countries, after being suitably treated to enhance their shelf life. Banana stem is being gainfully utilised to extract fibre for combining with other yarns to prepare fabrics. This has provided employment and income to people in rural areas in the banana growing tracts of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where fabric manufacturing units are coming up.

 

Besides, several ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat health foods based on coarse grains have been developed under the NAIP project. The technology for manufacturing them has either been passed on to prospective enterprises for commercial production or is available for that purpose. Multi-grain chapattis made of a mixture of sorghum, wheat and soyabean flours is one example. A bakery unit has already started producing such chapattis for sale in the market. The flour mixture is also modifiable to include bajra, ragi, maize or barley for greater health benefits.

 

NAIP has, in a sense, built on the strong foundation laid down by its predecessor, the National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP), which was completed in 2005. That project, also supported by the World Bank, had infused fresh blood in the country's farm research infrastructure, which had started showing signs of fatigue and was, rightly or wrongly, being held responsible for the deceleration of agricultural growth in the 1990s. NAIP now has an opportunity to use the rejuvenated farm research system to add greater value to it. This will benefit not only the farm-dependent rural masses but also the common man.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

 

2010'S BEST NON-FICTION - BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR

NILANJANA S ROY

 

The best biographers understand exactly what David McCullough meant when he said: "People often ask me if I'm 'working on a book', and I say yes, because that's what they asked, but in fact they've got the wrong preposition. I'm in the book, in the subject, in the time and the place." In the second part of this series on the year's most compelling non-fiction, here's a look at the best biographies and memoirs.

 

Indian memoirs/biographies: Three memoirs broke the very Indian jinx of the memoir-as-dry and dreary curriculum vitae. Fali S Nariman's Before Memory Fades (Hay House) brought to life the legendary legal maven's wit and insight. This memoir sparkled, even when it dealt with his defence of his decision to defend Union Carbide; the Bhopal tragedy casts a long shadow across the book. Ashish Bose's Headcount: Memoirs of a Demographer (Viking/ Penguin), written by the man who identified the BIMARU states, contains innumerable swift sketches of everyone from J R D Tata to Raj Narain — an essential read for those who want to understand India, and the state's many failures.

 

 B G Verghese's First Draft: Witness to the Making of Modern India (Tranquebar) takes a long view of the nation, from the country's first Republic Day to the dark years of the Emergency — his candour makes this a valuable addition to the history shelves. Though Fatima Bhutto's Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter's Memoir (Penguin India) dominated the headlines, this is a courageous rather than a great book. Bhutto's insider's take on her family, the blood feuds and the assassinations, makes for some indelible moments — this one is long on drama, short on analysis.

 

An unusual and sadly overlooked book, Robert Hutchison's The Raja of Harsil: The Legend of Frederick 'Pahari' Wilson (Lotus/Roli) is the riveting account of a complex man. Pahari Wilson, "so well-known in these hills", played a role in the Great Game and witnessed both the Anglo-Sikh War and the Mutiny of 1857. Hutchison's retelling brings back a lost world. Jerry Pinto's Leela: A Patchwork Life (Penguin) was perhaps one of the most entertaining biographies of the year — the lovely, fragile actress provides the always acute Pinto with enough grist for his mill, from her two marriages to her films to the now-infamous story of a "naked count, a Russian assassination and camomile tea". Sonia Faleiro'sBeautiful Thing (Viking/Penguin) is an intimate, intensely personal portrait of a very different Leela — a dancer in Bombay's seedy and now almost defunct dance bars. Faleiro's respect for and closeness to her subjects makes Beautiful Thing, with its tales of sex, greed and survival, one of the most compelling reads of the year.

 

Biography and memoir (general): Perhaps the best and most thorough look at the man in the White House, Jonathan Alter's The Promise (Simon & Schuster) was an uncompromising look at Obama's first year. It's the kind of political biography that we could do with in India. If Andre Agassi's Open (Knopf) was one of the most unusually honest sports biographies of recent times, with his revelations about his drug use and his hatred of tennis, Keith Richards' Life(Little, Brown) rocked the music scene. Life captured the insanity and intensity of the Stones, and sparked off an endless Internet debate on the size of Sir Mick's assets.

 

In Hitch-22 (Twelve), the other British bad boy, Christopher Hitchens pulled no punches and made no apologies as he scanned through his street-fighting years. Nothing seems to slow or soften Hitch, including his recent struggle with cancer. But if there was one book you had to read this year, it would be Sebastian Junger's War (Twelve), the account of a platoon of US soldiers in Afghanistan. Junger brings the landscape and the political mess in Afghanistan alive, through intensely personal stories — among the best works of war journalism to be produced in recent years.

 

Science: And some of the best reads of the year came out of operating theatres, cancer wards and neuroscience. Sheena Iyengar's The Art of Choosing (Hachette/Twelve) blended cross-cultural insights with the Jam Experiment to explain the mysteries behind how we exercise choice, and how we could do it better. In The Mind's Eye (Knopf), Oliver Sacks explores the limitations and frailty of the brain along with its immense ability to adapt by using the examples of patients with alexia and aphasia — and his own struggles. This is one of his most thoughtful and most touching explorations of consciousness.

 

One of the most pleasant, and poignant, surprises of the year was Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner). Using his experiences as a medical surgeon, Mukherjee comes up with a compelling, heart-wrenching and extraordinarily compassionate exploration of the killer disease, reaching back to Shakespeare and J B S Haldane for consolation. This was not just a great medical biography; it's one of the great non-fiction books of the decade.

 

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEAD, PRIME MINISTER

INDIA OUT OF THIS POLITICAL MORASS

 

SINE die literally means without a day. When Parliament was adjourned sine die on Monday, the adjournment came without a day either being fixed for its next meeting or of effective functioning in its current session. The Opposition's behaviour has been irresponsible: it has the right to demand a joint parliamentary committee, but not to prevent Parliament from functioning if the demand is not met. If it thinks the government is unfit to continue, it should move a vote of no confidence. More drastic steps like resigning en masse from the Lok Sabha are open to it, putting moral pressure on the government to quit, on the lines of what it had done in the wake of Bofors. Or it can agitate on the streets, mobilising the people of India to oppose the government, its actions and inaction on some counts. These are the democratic options open to the Opposition. Obstructing Parliament is not one of them. However, if the Opposition is bankrupt, how should the ruling side proceed? At any rate, it cannot collude in that bankruptcy by swooning into paralysis, which is what the government gives the impression of having done. It must take purposive action, getting on with the job of governance, a whole lot of which can be done without fresh legislation. Those bits that call for new laws should be acted on with the help of ordinances that would come up for ratification in the Budget session. 

 

The onus lies on the Prime Minister. The division of authority between the chief of the ruling coalition and the PM is unusual but far from unworkable. Dr Manmohan Singh has the wisdom and trust he needs to make a difference; what he needs to summon, in addition, is political will of the kind he had brought to bear on the Indo-US nuclear deal. He must crack the whip on errant ministers and initiate radical political and legal reform. The fight against corruption can even begin only with reform of political funding, and be institutionalised only with a functional legal system. The Congress must back such reform and the people will back it. The alternative would be counterproductive.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WELCOME EU TRADE DEAL

MULTILATERAL DEAL WOULD BE EVEN BETTER


THE imminent prospect of a free trade agreement between the European Union and India needs to be broadly welcomed for its range, scope and huge potential. It would include in its purview trade facilitation, services and investment. It would pave the way for the EU to boost economic engagement with fast-growing India, while we benefit by way of better global integration and openness, which should rev up our competitive advantage. However, should the FTA be configured to essentially aid 'shallow integration', confined mostly to reduction of tariffs, there is the real possibility of trade diversion exceeding trade creation. That would be suboptimal. Hence the pressing need for 'deep integration', with much scope for trade-induced productivity gains, spillovers and the formation of business clusters. One study says that there is potential for 30% increase in each way flow of bilateral FDI, following an FTA with the requisite bandwidth. Anyway, India's share in the EU's trade is a lowly 1.5% for both imports and exports. So, India would not be seen as a major threat. The share of the EU in India's trade basket is higher: about a fourth of imports, a bit lower for exports. But then, we have been diversifying and looking east, etc, for long. 

 

India is on a strong wicket in services, and we need to press for easier movement of skilled personnel, even as we liberalise sectoral FDI norms here. Trade in agricultural products is unlikely to be a stumbling block for structural reasons. However, given the low overlap of production structures between the EU and India, India's high (mid-teens) average applied tariffs on goods and very high tariff peaks on a small number of goods, the FTA has considerable scope for trade diversion. It would lead to India increasing its imports from the EU, but very much at the expense of more efficient suppliers in third countries. Which is why it makes eminent sense for India to call for multilateral trade reform and closure of the long-running Doha Round by next year. But, in parallel, we need to strike bilateral deals like the FTA with the EU.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PIGS CAN'T FLY

BUT THEY DO HELP BRIT KIDS BEHAVE


AN ACCIDENTAL tourist, were he to find himself in London or, indeed, any other major British city, on a Saturday night, somewhere in the vicinity of a nightclub, would probably think a riot was imminent. And that perception would chiefly be brought home by the sight of youngsters, boys and girls alike, going rather mental after a bout of binge drinking. Tales abound of teenagers, and sometimes even pre-teens, running riot in the street, smashing things up, even assaulting people and each other. But beyond rather bad behaviour after getting gobsmackingly drunk, there have been enough reports about the problem of teenagers in the UK, well, behaving badly even without the aid of spirits. Things got so bad that the authorities even had to bring in a special law, the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, or ASBOS, to try and deal with the situation. But that's containment, really, not quite the holistic remedy. But if a school in the Greater Manchester were to set the example, the Brits might just have found a way to deal with the issue, at an early stage that is. If anti-social tendencies set in at a young age, the school seems to have found a remedy by letting a couple of pigs mingle with four-year old pupils in the school, even inside the classrooms. The pigs, named Charlie and Lola, have apparently had an effect, and the students now are better behaved. The pleased head-teacher avers the children are now 'calmer, quieter and generally nicer towards each other'. 

 

It's a moot point whether the experiment will catch on, and if it will lead to a better-behaved set of British youngsters. But there will be some psychological explanation for why little piglets are helping cut down kids being noisy and nasty to each other. But then the school also happens to have pygmy goats, hens, cockerels, rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas. So, maybe it's not the pigs. It's quite a menagerie, though. And perhaps one of those odd British eccentricities one hears about.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

BALANCING SINO-INDIAN ECONOMIC TIES

DURING CHINESE PRIME MINISTER WEN JIABAO'S VISIT TO INDIA THIS WEEK, THE TWO COUNTRIES MUST FIND WAYS TO ADDRESS THE TRADE IMBALANCE AND THE LOW VOLUME OF INVESTMENT FLOWS BETWEEN THEM, SAYS AMIT MITRA


WEN Jiabao's visit to India provides us with a great opportunity to take stock of our growing economic relations, and where these relations with China are headed. On the face of it, one can see an unprecedented growth in trade from $1.82 billion in 1999-2000 to a whopping $42.4 billion in 2009-10. We also note the massive export of vital plant and machinery from China to India and the beginnings of investments into each other's economy. The Asian giants have begun to tango. 

 

However, underlying these seemingly positive trends, there is one deep concern. Let it be noted that unprecedented growth in trade of this kind can also be a slippery slope. The key concern that is attached to this burgeoning trade is the trade imbalance in favour of China. While India's exports to China almost doubled between 2005-06 and 2009-10 (from $6.7 billion to $11.6 billion), China's exports to India during the same period tripled (from $10.8 billion to $30.8 billion). This has left India with a trade deficit of $19.2 billion. To provide a measure of comparison, this deficit is close to the total GDP of a country like Tanzania and well above the total GDP of many countries including Bolivia, Uganda and Ghana. This imbalance will have to be corrected in the years ahead.

 

Fortunately, it is not only India that recognises this problem. The Chinese leadership too has recognised the problem of unsustainability of our trade relations and is keen to increase the country's imports from India. We, therefore, look forward to some major initiatives on this matter during Premier Wen's visit. If this were to really happen, year after year, the imbalance could certainly be corrected. But, do we manufacture products in India that could be competitively exported to China to actualise this laudable intent? 

 

Interestingly, Ficci's research finds that there are a whole host of items purchased by China from across the world that are in fact manufactured inIndia and successfully exported to highly competitive and regulated markets, but not to China. Targeting the export of these items to China could become the first step towards correcting the trade imbalance. Two such examples would suffice. 

 

Take the case of pharmaceuticals manufactured in India. We are exporting bulk drugs and formulations to over 100 countries in the world, including the stringently regulated markets of the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. However, Indian companies have found it near-impossible to export to China due to the nature of its regulatory practices. Prime Minister Wen's visit could see the opening up of China's vast pharma market for Indian products. Our hopes lie in the fact that a major pharma delegation from China will be hosted by Ficci during the VVIP visit. This occasion may well be the starting point for Indian pharma products to find a place in Chinese pharmacies. 

 

Similar is the case of processed meat products which China imports in huge quantities. We know that China is a large importer of bovine meat in particular. But, China refuses to import this product from India on the supposed grounds of rinderpest infestation. I am reminded of the 'fruit-fly' imbroglio over Indian mangoes by the US, EU and Japan in the past! But, the fact is that Indian livestock has been free of rinderpest for many years now and India is exporting bovine meat to nations across the world, including those with the toughest regulatory structures. This non-tariff barrier could easily be overcome through dialogue during the high-level visit.

 

ASIDE from the issue of trade imbalance, the second growing concern relates to the low volume of investment flows between the two fastest-growing economies of the world. With a rising trade relationship between our two great nations, it is most natural that both would be investing into each other's economies hugely. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 

 

While India is importing a significant amount of power equipment from China, India now expects China to manufacture such equipment through FDI into India. In this context, it is interesting to note that one of the largest global import deals has been inked by Reliance Power for $8.3 billion with the Shanghai Electric Power Company. However, Chinese investments into India in power equipment manufacturing locally and setting up of R&D and after-sale service facilities are yet to take off in any sizeable manner. The criticality of this became evident when a turbine supplied by a Chinese company to the Durgapur power plant malfunctioned and the Chinese asked for it to be taken back to China for repairs. 

 

The time has come for China to move beyond the mere export of equipment to an 'integrated service model' with a strong investment component in India. China's competitive advantage in certain class of capital goods and infrastructure-related machinery must now see a place in India's list of FDI. For the record, China's FDI into India stands at a mere $52 million. One hopes that Wen's visit to India could well be the tipping point of major investment flows from China to India. 

 

In the same spirit of partnership, India, too, must raise its investments into China. Data shows that India's investment into China between 2004-05 and 2010 was a reasonable $879 million. This is 1.2% of India's total investment of $77 billion across the world. It is time for the two nations to push the envelop on the agenda of two-way FDI flow. Just as we welcomed Huawei and ZTE to India, we wish to see manufacturing companies like L&T and Suzlon expand their operations in China. 

 

Prime Minister Wen's visit to India comes at a critical phase in China's own transition. In 2012, Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao will hand over the reins of power to the 'fifth generation' leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. This visit of Wen could well create the legacy for the next generation leaders of China to build on and carry forward — a relationship engaging one-sixth of humanity. 

 

(The author is secretary-general of Ficci)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

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

INFRASTRUCTURE MATTERS 

 

WITH the Congress leadership set to hold the mandatory AICC plenary session this weekend, the ruling establishment's focus has turned inward to the mega agenda of a cabinet reshuffle. A little bird says a recent review on the performance of all infrastructure ministries, a key area of UPA-2's administrative mantra, has found many of them quite below expectations. Indications are that many Congress ministers in charge of infrastructure ministries are precariously placed as Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi are slated to hold critical discussions in the run-up to the cabinet reshuffle that will also reflect on the upcoming AICC rejig. Experienced Congress political weathermen see clouds of uncertainly descending over the ministries of road transport & highways, heavy industries, steel, power, mining and shipping. 

 

See-saw games 

FOR outsiders, Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad are two top leaders in the Congress inner circle. But for many party men, the moves of these two trusted 10, Janpath allies present an exciting see-saw game. So, when Azad was dispatched as PCC chief of J&K in those uncertain days of 2002, his critics dubbed it his Waterloo, more so since Ahmed reigns as political secretary to Mrs G. But the Congress' survival specialist Azad then used the tricky J&K turf to achieve what he always wanted — to be the state CM — before returning to the Union Cabinet and AICC. His critics, however, said Azad was a fish out of water in the non-political' health ministry. But the game got curious when the high command chose Azad as the chief firefighter in Hyderabad when YSR Jr revolted. Adding to the in-house excitement is the whisper that the Kashmiri leader has expressed his desire to return to Congress HQ full time. Watch out for the action and reaction in this season of checkmating games. 

 

Karnataka formula 

L K ADVANI finally making public the magic formula for Uma Bharti's homecoming — physically and politically implanting her on UP from Madhya Pradesh — has made some imaginative BJP campers think aloud about a grander remedy for its crisis-torn Karnataka government. According to this, Yeddyurappa rival Ananth Kumar could be sent on political exile to neighbouring AP. This, besides giving the hassled CM some breathing space, can also help in keeping Venkaiah Naidu on factional tenterhooks. Then, one of the Bellary brothers can be asked to invest his expertise in grooming their old friend's son, Jaganmohan, while the other can continue to control party rebels. Arun Jaitley's re-entry into Karnataka as de facto BJP manager can be emotionally balanced by making Sushma Swaraj in-charge of Bihar or Punjab for similar "attachment reasons". 

 

 A perch for Rosaiah 

THE Congress high command is trying to figure out how to keep its promise on a particular humanitarian rehabilitation task. Almost three weeks after Kiran Reddy's crowning in Hyderabad, the man who had vacated the throne without visible tears — ex-CM K Rosaiah — is waiting to be rewarded for his 'sacrifice'. Apparently, AICC managers who had executed the change of guard in Andhra Pradesh have assured the 77-year-old Rosaiah that his helpful exit from the tumultuous chief minister's bungalow will soon be compensated with a happy and peaceful stint as a governor. And Rosaiah, the ever disciplined soldier of the Congress party, is now waiting for that Raj Bhavan entry.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

STATUS OF CITIES IN EMERGING INDIA

SAMUEL PAUL & KALA S SRIDHAR 


WHAT is the state of our cities? In a study we have recently completed of 15 cities of Karnataka, we compared the cities along several dimensions such as governance, demographics, economy, finances, public services, infrastructure and quality of life including air and water quality, and opportunities for recreation such as parks and museums. Such an attempt enables sharing of best practices across cities, encourage competition among cities for firms and residents, provide information to researchers and investors, and stimulate more targeted policies. 

 

We found Karnataka's urban scene is dominated by Bangalore, as reflected in several indicators. Bangalore accounts for 49% of the value of private investment proposals in all the 15 cities during 2006-09, and 82% of the bank credit disbursed. Its municipal corporation leads in total revenue receipts (. 2,721 per capita), and capital expenditure, including that on water supply (. 1,896). 

 

This, however, does not mean that Bangalore leads in all respects. Smaller cities did better on several counts. Mangalore, for example, had the highest volume of investment proposals (per capita at . 2,76,727) among all cities. Mangalore and Udupi also had the largest number of bank branches per lakh population (35 and 39, respectively). Several smaller cities (such as Bidar, Chitradurga and Chikmagalur) were better than Bangalore in property tax collection efficiency, and the proportion of population with water supply connections was higher in Mangalore, Bellary and Mysore. Eight of the 15 cities we studied had greater number of engineering colleges per lakh population than Bangalore and seven had greater number of medical colleges per lakh population than Bangalore in the relevant age group. 

 

Even in basic public services, several smaller ones did better than Bangalore in door-todoor garbage collection. Also, several smaller cities had more public toilets per slum than Bangalore. Surprisingly, Bangalore had more public parks (516) than public toilets (421). Public sanitation is thus low priority! 

 

However, we found the smaller cities that did better than Bangalore in several respects had no investment proposals in sight (Mangalore being an exception). Their per capita public capital expenditure (excluding that on water) was also abysmally low in comparison with Bangalore (Bangalore accounted for 85% of the capital expenditure by all the 15 cities of our study). Most of them, however, had a higher proportion of vacant land, an indicator of their potential for future growth. 

 

We found public bus transport is significant only in the larger cities — Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore and Hubli-Dharwad. With little public transport, we found most small cities experience worse traffic congestion and more accidents/deaths per lakh population than the larger cities. There is clear evidence that increased public transport in the smaller cities (such as Chitradurga) could reduce these adverse consequences. Thus, our tier-two and three cities have miles to go before they can play a larger role in the growth process. In the power sector, Udupi and Bangalore had the lowest T&D losses of all cities. The highest were in Bellary and Gulbarga. With BESCOM having done the best in the cities in its jurisdiction, we found there is a close correlation between T&D losses and the ESCOMs that manage them. 

 

As for air quality, most cities, including Bangalore, were within the acceptable limits prescribed by the state pollution control board. Hubli-Dharwad and Gulbarga had the worst record. In terms of drinking water quality, all cities met the turbidity norms except Belgaum. We also found little evidence of a direct relationship between temperature change over the past two decades and the growth of the cities. 

We found that despite the JNNURM and numerous urban poverty programmes, basic information on the urban poor is sorely lacking. We were not only struck by the lack of data on several indicators, but also the unreliability of data, where they exist, as in the cases of urban poverty, education (school enrolment) and health. All these data inadequacies, we conclude, have severely undermined the formulation of meaningful urban, health or education policies not only at the state level but also at the city level. 

 

Rising above the details, the emerging policy challenges on the urban front are several: tackling the wide inter-city variations in service provision; upgrading the quantum and quality of services; stepping up public capital expenditure in the smaller cities; expansion of public transport in the smaller cities, improved traffic management in smaller cities; identification of and greater attention to the needs of the urban poor; correcting the imbalance in the delivery of services between the poor and the non-poor; and last but not least, creation of an urban information system that can assist in both policy formulation and implementation. We fervently hope that these challenges remain in the forefront in the context of the twelfth five year plan. 

 

(The authors are both with Public Affairs     Centre. Views are personal.)

 

While our big cities dazzle visitors into declaring India as having emerged, smaller cities suffer neglect 
A survey of towns in Karnataka finds that many small towns are better run than Bangalore, which has more public parks than public toilets But these small towns have huge requirements of unmet investment

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

ENLIGHTENMENT IS A LIMITED LIABILITY

MUKUL SHARMA 


THE camera of our senses that clicks on reality has been criticised by many for being too limited in scope. In many ways this may be true because the five elemental apparatuses of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell that we've been able to develop till now are perhaps not enough to convey the total significance of all that's really there to appreciate and understand fully. But do we need an enlightened mind to tell us this? If we look around at the life that surrounds us we can see that they can 'see' things which human minds can never hope to comprehend at any imaging level except only academically. 

 

Pigeons, for instance, perceive the world differently. They have in their beaks small particles of magnetite that enable them to sense the Earth's magnetic fields which we can't do. Thus homing pigeons can touch base from wherever they're taken. Turtles and rainbow trout also use similar systems. Bees can see ultraviolet light that's reflected by red flowers. They also see polarised light which in a blue sky forms a distinctive pattern around the sun so that even when it's is hidden behind clouds they can discern its presence. 

 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Bats, whales and dolphins have the ability to determine orientation to other objects through interpretation of reflected sound, or what our technology calls sonar; flies and butterflies have flavour organs on their feet, allowing them to taste anything they land on; several species of fish, sharks and rays have the capacity to recognise changes in electric fields in their immediate vicinity; the pit viper can detectinfrared radiation while other snakes feel molecules with their tongues. And the tuatara — it has a third eye on the top of its head that can determine differences in day and night cycles. 

 

So, already on just a single planet, we have so many cameras processing the same external reality impinging on them that it hardly matters none of us manage to comprehend the complete picture of what really is out there except through an associational interpretation done by what exists in here inside the head. Is this the same head which is our limitation? No. Because, together, if we multiply that many million times by the multiverse of life that might otherwise also exist, we begin to not only approximate the big picture but actually get into it. The fact that we can do this is often enlightenment enough.

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

FARCICAL FINALE

WASHOUT MIRRORS POLITICAL DECAY


COINCIDENCE can be cruel, sinister, cynical, even hypocritical. Nine years ago security personnel had sacrificed their lives while countering terrorists seeking to attack the temple of democracy. Hours after paying lip-service to their memory on Monday, completed was another episode in the sustained desecration of that temple ~ from within, by the human pillars of the institution that had survived the terrorists' foray. A "black day" in more ways than one is 13 December and will be recorded as such in the annals of the legislature for this is the day when the washout that was the winter session of Parliament finally drained itself. Tragically, the enormity of the implications of both Houses remaining non-functional for virtually an entire session will hardly register with those to whom the people had entrusted the task of directing national governance. Having ignored all previous criticism of how they were wrecking the system of parliamentary democracy, squandering public funds, setting bad precedents and examples, and lowering the nation's international image, over the next few days they would be defending their intractable positions, trading charges. It was the ultimate manifestation of false prestige from both the Treasury and the Opposition. The presiding officers also contributed to the farce: once it was obvious that no resolution was imminent they ought to have adjourned sine die rather than permit the daily dose of disgrace. Not everyone will agree with the Opposition's insistence on a JPC, they have not proved very effective. Similarly, few will agree with the specious argument (among the many advanced by the ruling entity) that the PAC was adequately empowered to investigate A Raja's misrule, and the sick spin-offs from the 2G Spectrum scam. But there would be unanimity that the government had failed to convince the nation that it was "clean", or that Parliament could not provide the detergent. The action in the Supreme Court would confirm that conclusion of aam aadmi: though skepticism will persist if even judicial strictures serve to shame these days.

 

Much has been lost these 20+ non-working parliament days. Not the least being the credibility of the Prime Minister. His prolonged silence has made him appear feeble, a "political prisoner" of another kind. Had he displayed the courage to rise in Parliament the Opposition would have been in a fix. Had it shouted him down it would have lost the appreciation it had earned for making corruption an issue. It would have also opened the door to Dr Singh using the media to state his case. Now an impression has been created that he has "no case". A stalled Parliament actually mirrors the decay in public life.

 

WOOING TEACHERS

WITH A DUBIOUS BAG OF PROMISES

THE Left Front has had serious problems with education. They started with the abolition of English at the primary stage and continue with the recent case of PTTI students left stranded and compelled to agitate. The unfulfilled promises that left PTTI students in dire distress now find echoes in assurances being given to thousands of part-time teachers engaged under the Centre's Sarva Siksha Abhijan that they will all be absorbed when the scheme ends in 2015. The chief minister needs to make such inspiring announcements at public rallies when the Election Commission has begun the process of fixing the date for the assembly election. More than 50,000 of these teachers have come under the Left banner and therefore need to be rewarded. But while the chief minister recognises the vote-bank, the thunderous cheers that greeted his announcement must be laced with doubts about whether the state will be in a position to upgrade their scales and provide them with the benefits of full-time teachers when the Centre discontinues the allotment of funds under a scheme introduced for a specific period and purpose.

The Left has never been short of generosity towards loyalists. In this case, however, the extraordinary degree of humanitarian concern has to be seen in the pre-poll context involving as it does a huge burden at a time the state cannot pay bills for essential expenses. If other states where the central scheme is in force haven't demonstrated similar concern, it is because they are neither so bankrupt nor so obliged to create a burden at the fag end of a term. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee must be extremely confident that the promise will hold after the election and beyond 2015 when the Central allotments under the scheme will dry up. More important is whether he is confident about the competence of part-time teachers engaged from the neighbourhood and with strong political affiliations in measuring up to long-term commitments when their interests may lie elsewhere. Whether or not the teachers are convinced by the chief minister's announcement, the question remains whether the assurances can be fulfilled on technical grounds or on account of possible changes after the election. The Left may not be in a mood to acknowledge the pitfalls. That can only be because the education scene cannot possibly get any worse.


STRIDING ALONG

WHEN THE SHOE IS NOT ON THE FOOT

IT isn't nice to have someone hurl a shoe at you. The younger George Bush knows the feeling. So does P Chidambaram. Joining this group of illustrious politicians now is Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. A man named Ajit Singh has been arrested for hurling a shoe at Hooda in Hisar. Unlike in the Bush and Chidambaram cases, where those responsible were journalists from aggrieved communities, Singh was miffed because security officers wouldn't let him meet the Chief Minister. So he decided to let his shoe do the talking. While he was arrested, and must by now doubtless have learnt the ways of the Haryana Police, it is unlikely he will suffer greater discomfiture than a few blows of the lathi and some choice abuses, tinged we suspect with the admiration of policemen who often appreciate earthy ways of making a point. In the Indian context at least, hurling a shoe at someone isn't yet a crime, at least not in those terms. Unless the shoe is particularly heavy, and the attacker blessed with a particularly strong and accurate arm, it is unlikely to cause any physical hurt. There are, of course, assorted provisions in our antediluvian penal code that can be tweaked to create a crime out of shoe-hurling, but often it is in a mortified victim's interest to not seem vindictive. In short, Ajit Singh will likely get away with it.


Of greater concern to the political class, though, will be the fear that every public ~ or semi-public ~ engagement carries with it the risk of being targeted. You can't make everyone take off their shoes; equally, and quite apart from the fact it would seem ridiculous, it might not always be easy for a politician to ask that a net or a screen be used to separate him (or her) from the audience. This leaves us with the somewhat intriguing ~ and appropriately unwholesome ~ thought that Ajit Singh, as did his predecessors, might well trigger off a wave of such protests. But our politicians are robust characters, if nothing else. Well might we see a day in the not so distant future when facing a hurled shoe becomes a mark of achievement, and not opprobrium. After all, a group that celebrates criminal records is unlikely not to take shoes – and chappals ~ in its stride.  

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

 RIGHT TO INFORMATION

NEED TO MAKE IT MORE EFFECTIVE

VINOD VYASULU


THE newspapers this morning [13 December 2010] carried reports about proposals from the department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms of the Government of India to amend the Rules and Regulations under the Right to Information Act. These draw from the experience of the administrating the Act in recent years to make it more effective. Since the RTI is one of the most important pieces of legislation for ordinary citizens after Independence, it is important that these proposals are discussed widely so that the end result is a better law. 


It is important to remember that this Act was passed as the result of a regular demand from citizens. The demand is best exemplified by the struggle of the Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Sanghatan in Rajasthan. This was followed by the National Campaign for People's Right to Information and other agencies.  The Act is not a "gift from above". It is a right that has been carved through struggle. There have been strong opponents of clauses in the Act. Former President Abdul Kalam had reservations on some matters. So does Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Supreme Court of India had reservations and faced a piquent situation when it appealed to itself against a judgement of the Delhi High Court on the demand for information about the assets of judges. All this shows how strongly citizens feel about this right ~ and how strongly those in authority feel.
Citizens' comments are to reach the Government by 27 December. Attempts to find these proposals on the web came to nothing. It is as if the Official Secrets Act has widened its reach. The issue is too important to be delayed because of access to information problems. As an aside, is such a small-time frame for citizens' comments reasonable? 


That a review of practice is being conducted is to be widely welcomed. The RTI is a progressive Act, but in a country as large and diverse and ill educated as India, it is important to constantly make it both more citizen friendly and administratively practicable. We need to understand the difficulties faced by citizens, the travails of officials as well as the experience gained by the Information Commissions across the country. Whether the current proposals are based on such an exercise I do not know. 


One suggestion is that an application be limited to one subject. Citizens in their enthusiasm had been asking many questions in an application, and this had led to difficulties in a culture where secrecy was the norm. Officials felt their prerogative to decide was under threat; citizens were revelling in a new found right. There have been irritants on both sides in the new situation. There could be a case to accept the officials' request that an application be limited to one subject.


The second suggestion that the topic be limited to 250 words is harder to understand. Why 250? There should not be such a limit as citizens work under the disadvantage of not knowing the system. Officials do not help citizens in framing questions; they are hostile. They could even mislead citizens. All that is required is that the issue be clearly spelled out. Officials should not be given any discretion; they could reject an application if there was a grammatical error. 


It has been suggested that the fee for information be increased. It may be true that the cost to the government of supplying information may sometimes exceed the ten rupees that a citizen now pays. But it must be remembered that the tax paying citizen pays for the government to run. Apart from the Sixth Pay Commission salaries and perks, the citizen pays for the cars and computers and everything else that government officials use.
 The citizen has put up with endless inefficiencies, not to speak of scams, to be told that the request for information is costing the government money. There is no case at all for such an increase. The government, at all levels, must first meet its own obligations under the RTI before asking citizens for more.
The RTI makes it the responsibility of the government to provide information suo moto. For example section 4 (1) says; "Every public authority shall ~ (a) maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated". How many offices have met this requirement? Why have they not done so? And while failing to meet the requirements of the law, how can they ask the citizen to put up with more inefficiency. 
Section 4 [1] [b] requires the government to "publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act" a whole range of information ~ there are 17 items mentioned in detail. More than 120 days have passed since this Act was passed. How many departments have met this requirement? How many have tried to do so? One can understand shortfalls and gaps in such a massive task. But no progress at all? It is sheer arrogance on the part of government servants to ask for more. There are issues beyond the RTI that we should talk about. Are civil servants still required to abide by the provisions of the Official Secrets Act? Should they not take an oath to live by the requirements of the RTI Act?


Schedule 3, section 2 in the Constitution provides for an Oath of Secrecy for ministers. "I, A.B., do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person or persons any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as a Minister for the Union except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as such Minister." This is a overarching clause, not limited to matters of national security and the like.


There is no such requirement for the President of India. The time has come for us to debate the need for such an oath.


27 December is too close for a satisfactory debate on issues of such importance. We should work towards a situation in which there is no need for Wikileaks.


The writer, formerly a professor at IIM, Bangalore and XLRI, is a consulting economist who has worked with ILO, World Bank, UNDP and other agencies.

 

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THE SATESMAN

GROWING POTENTIAL OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

A CAMPAIGN WHICH CONCENTRATES ON RURAL ENERGY NEEDS SAYS THAT INDIA'S VILLAGES HAVE BEEN TREATED VERY UNJUSTLY BY THE MAIN ELECTRICITY GRIDS WHICH ARE GEARED TO PRIORITISING THE NEEDS OF BIG CONCENTRATIONS OF POPULATIONS, SAYS BHARAT DOGRA 

 

The ecologically protective role of renewable energy sources has been widely recognised. As the threat of climate change has been increasingly established, the desirability of promoting renewable energy sources has been re-emphasised. However, a widespread belief still persists that, for many years to come, renewable energy can have only a marginal role in meeting our energy needs.


 However, a recent campaign by Greenpeace has challenged this myth of the marginality of renewable energy sources. This campaign which concentrates on rural energy needs says that India's villages have been treated very unjustly by the main electricity grids which are geared to prioritising the needs of big concentrations of populations such as those in mega cities. 


 In sharp contrast, the needs of particularly the more remote villages are badly neglected. In many villages the electricity supply is more off than on. In other villages, the main settlements may be well lit but the more distant settlements are neglected. 


 In many remote villages (such as in hilly and desert areas), entire rural settlements remain in darkness. Within rural areas, it is often the settlements inhabited by weaker sections such as scheduled castes and tribes which are often worst served by the main electricity grids.


 If a substantial section of the population is so unjustly served by the electricity system, then the answer according to the Greenpeace campaign is a decentralised energy system based on a mix of various renewable energy sources. This campaign emphasises that as far as rural energy needs are concerned, renewable energy need not and should not be treated as a marginal source. 


 A mix of various renewable energy sources (wind energy, solar energy, biomass, watermills and micro hydel etc.) can actually become a major source of electricity for villagers. With some help from the government, such a decentralised renewable energy based system can actually become a reality for a large part of India.
 This campaign has mainly concentrated on creating a renewable energy based system in Bihar, but much of what this campaign says is relevant also for other parts of the country. What is important is that the mix of renewable energy sources has to be identified keeping in view the resource base and other local conditions.


 In the case of Bihar, several sites have been identified where renewable energy sources have made an important contribution. This includes paddy husk based systems in West Champaran district and solar energy based systems in Patna district. The experience of these efforts reveals how several initial difficulties could be overcome to create viable energy systems with increasing acceptability by rural communities. 


 Of course this acceptability as well as cost-effectiveness will increase once the government gives high priority to decentralised renewable energy based systems. Once government regulations and infrastructure are in place to provide a firm base for development of renewable energy sources, their progress can be much faster.
 Recently a strong plea was made for stepping up renewal energy efforts. This was at the Delhi International Renewal Energy Conference in October. The conference was attended by hundreds of delegates from 70 countries with 40 ministerial delegates. 


 The President, Mrs Pratibha Patil, inaugurating the conference, said there is need for a wide awareness campaign regarding the usefulness and importance of renewable energy sources. The Union minister for new and renewable energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, said that renewable energy can make an important contribution in improving the prospects of self-reliance in energy for India. He announced that 10,000 remote villages across the country would be electrified with renewable sources by March 2012 at a cost of Rs. 500 crore.
 The potential of decentralised renewable energy systems can be better utilised if renewable energy is more specifically included in the responsibilities and functions of panchayat raj institutions. Close involvement of panchayats will certainly help to take renewable energy to remote and needy villages.


 The functioning of panchayats at present is far from ideal and there is growing agreement that panchayat raj should be reformed in such a way that the gram sabha or the assembly of all villagers can play a more effective role. Village plans should be prepared on the basis of extensive discussion in the gram sabha with adequate opportunities to weaker sections and women to present their views. The planning for renewable energy should also be linked to this process.


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

 

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THE SATESMAN

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

DELHI OR CALCUTTA? 

 

It is strange that the Corporation of Calcutta should, in the face of the clear hint given by the Viceroy, pass a Resolution in favour of holding the Coronation of the King-Emperor in this city instead of at Delhi. We are disposed to agree with those Commissioners who urged that in the circumstances it was scarcely seemly to attempt to reopen the question. There can be little doubt that the claims of Calcutta have been fully considered. Nor can anyone deny that a strong case can be made out for this city. Whatever may be the historic prestige of Delhi Calcutta is the capital of modern India, a capital, moreover, which, as Mr Radha Charan Pal justly observed, is a striking monument of the triumphs of British rule and of the progress which India has made under a just, unselfish and enlightened Government. The first Coronation of an English King on Indian soil could not be more fittingly held than amidst the teeming commerce of a city which British enterprise has created, where great educational and philanthropic institutions illustrate the ideals of British administration. The contention that Coronation durbars should be located at Delhi because it was the capital of the Moguls may appeal to those who place a blind faith in tradition, but it will appear to most people that English Sovereigns have no need to identify themselves with Mogul rule or to claim any rights of succession. British rule can stand on its own merits, and those merits are typified in its modern capital. But we may be assured that these and other considerations in favour of Calcutta have been carefully weighed and found wanting as reasons for abandoning Delhi. The first and most obvious advantage which Delhi possesses is that it occupies a fairly central position, while Calcutta  has the misfortune to be placed in a remote corner where the splendours of the Corporation would make no impression upon some of the most important races in India

 

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THE SATESMAN

FROM THE UN

 SPOTLIGHT ON 'UNSUNG' HUMAN RIGHTS HEROES 

 

The UN observed Human Rights Day by focusing on the thousands of "largely unsung heroes", the human rights defenders who risk dismissal, harassment, torture, jail and even death for their activities. "Laws to protect and promote human rights are indispensable," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message. "But quite often, progress comes down to people, courageous women and men striving to protect their own rights and the rights of others, determined to make rights real in people's lives''. 

 

Mr Ban called on states to ensure the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly that makes their work possible. "Let us remember that every one, no matter their background, training or education, can be a human rights champion. So let us use that power. Let us each be a human rights defender." 


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay echoed the plea, "We can all be human rights defenders, and given how much we owe to others for the rights many of us now take for granted, we all should be human rights defenders," she said in a message. "At the very least, we should do our utmost to support those who do defend human rights." 


She noted that human rights defenders come from all walks of life, "from princesses and politicians, to professionals such as journalists, teachers and doctors, to people with little or no formal education. There are no special qualifications. All it takes is commitment, and courage," she said.


Ms Pillay underscored the risks they run and cited Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered outside her apartment in 2006, and Democratic Republic of Congo human rights defender Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, who was found dead in his car earlier. "But many of those less well-known defenders who are murdered for their belief in human rights remain unknown to the wider world," she stressed. 


Homosexuality: The Secretary-General has noted that over 70 countries still consider homosexuality a crime and has appealed for its complete and universal decriminalization. He deplored discrimination against homosexuals and the violence of which they are often victims, for which the perpetrators escape punishment, in an event on sexual orientation in New York.


"Together, we seek the repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality, that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, that encourage violence," he said. "When individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation, we must speak out. We cannot stand by. We cannot be silent." 


"This is all the more true in cases of violence. These are not merely assaults on individuals. They are attacks on all of us. They devastate families. They pit one group against another, dividing larger society. And when the perpetrators of violence escape without penalty, they make a mockery of the universal values we hold dear." 
Mr Ban recognized that social attitudes run deep and social change often comes only with time, but he highlighted the collective responsibility to stand against discrimination, to defend fellow human beings and fundamental principles. 


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay echoed Mr Ban's appeal. She underscored the need to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through legislative reform and education initiatives.

EU-India trade pact: UN special rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover warned that a draft free trade agreement between the European Union and India could deprive millions of poor in the developing world of life-saving and life-prolonging medicines, particularly the HIV-infected and called for its urgent revision. "The EU-India draft FTA, as it stands, places trade interests over human rights," Grover said in a news release. 


"Millions in the developing world depend on India for generic medicines at affordable costs. Restriction of generic drug production in India will have a devastating public health impact around the world and adversely affect the right to health of millions of patients." 


He noted that India can provide low-cost generic medicines thanks to its intellectual property laws that allow for local generic production of safe and efficacious medicines, but available leaked texts of the draft FTA contain intellectual property provisions that go beyond current obligations. 


"If the intellectual property provisions remain in the FTA as drafted, the production of generic medicines in India will be severely hampered," Mr Grover said. "As a result, millions of people in India and around the world may not be able to access to necessary, life-saving and life-prolonging medicines. People living with HIV would be disproportionately affected, because the majority of antiretroviral treatments used to treat HIV around the world are provided through generic medicines produced in India." 


European borders: The world refugee agency called on the European Union and its border agency, known as Frontex, to ensure that asylum in Europe is not threatened in the drive for tighter policing of the continent's external borders. "Our concern is that in its efforts to stem illegal migration, Europe should not forget that among those seeking to enter the EU are people who need international protection and are at risk of their lives," Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UNHCR said. 


Europe is a destination for both migrants and asylum-seekers. Migrants may be seeking employment or other economic opportunities, while refugees are people fleeing persecution or violence and who cannot return to their countries of origin, the agency stressed. 


UNHCR said evidence of how difficult it has become for people seeking protection in Europe can be seen in the data on arrivals by sea in the central Mediterranean. "Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta have all seen drastic reductions in arrivals by sea over the past year or two, almost certainly a result of tighter border controls, joint patrols and push-backs at sea," said Mr Mahecic. 


The agency estimated that 8,800 people arrived by sea in the first 10 months of this year compared to 32,000 in the same period in 2009 - a 72.5 per cent decrease. Two-thirds of the 2010 sea arrivals have been in Greece, a third in Italy, and the rest in Malta and Cyprus.


"The stemming of sea arrivals is not solving the problem but shifting it elsewhere," he stressed. "This can be seen in the corresponding sharp rise there has been in overland arrivals in the Evros region of Greece. Evros recorded 38,992 arrivals in the first 10 months of this year compared to 7,574 in the same period in 2009 a 415 per cent increase." 


UNHCR has made no secret about its concerns about the humanitarian situation for new arrivals in Greece, where an asylum-seeker has a "negligible" chance of having claim to refugee status properly assessed, he noted. 

Violence in Haiti: The Security Council has called on all sides in Haiti to refrain from further violence in the dispute over preliminary results from last month's first round of presidential and legislative elections, according to a press statement issued in New York. 


Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain LeRoy, who briefed the Council, "underscored their concern about allegations of fraud and expressed their strong commitment to supporting free and fair elections and called on all political forces to work through the electoral process to ensure that the will of the people is reflected in the outcome of the election."


According to media reports, thousands of protesters have been rampaged through the streets of Port-au-Prince. The UN mission in Haiti reported that the mob set fire to the headquarters of the ruling government coalition, which they accused of rigging the results, after the announcement that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and outgoing President Rene Préval's party candidate Jude Celestin had qualified for the January presidential run-off. 

anjali sharma

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ARMY'S SOFTER FACE

BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

 "Women hold up half the sky" — an ancient Chinese proverb favoured by Mao Zedong.

 

The recent grant of permanent commission to 12 women officers in the legal and education branches of the Indian Army and awarding the prestigious Sword of Honour to a woman cadet at the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, must be considered in the context of Mao Zedong's aphorism and its military connotations. Present ideological adherents of Maoism — the Maoists (Maobadis) in Nepal and Naxalites in India — profess to maintain this principle within their organisations. But, apparently this principle has given mixed results. According to the accounts of women Naxals who surrendered, they are generally kept as "helpers and companions" and often, severely exploited.

Strangely enough, this is corroborated to some extent by experiences of women soldiers in the rank and file of the United States Army too — an aspect which is often downplayed in the interests of political correctness.

 

Given the interminable debate in this country on women personnel in combat assignments (which, in all probability, will never be satisfactorily resolved unless the dimensions of combat itself are re-examined), it is interesting to note that the United States Marine Corps is attempting its own experiment during counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to address this issue by deploying "Female Engagement Teams" (FET) of three to six women Marines. They accompany infantry patrols in an effort to connect with the hearts and minds of women amongst the affected population.

 

"… Don't start by firing off questions, do break the ice by playing with the children, don't let your interpreter hijack the conversation… and, oh yes, if you have a pony tail, let it show out of your helmet so people know you are a woman…". These are some of the conversational trivia about local cultures and customs conveyed during preparatory orientation for the FET's before they are sent on patrols into potentially hostile territory.

 

The female (but sometimes perhaps not very feminine!) Marines initiate woman-to-woman interaction amongst locals to try and build confidence and cooperation. But the idea has had very variable success because strapping Caucasoid or African-American women Marines in combat fatigues are simply too culturally alien to establish rapport with their Pashtun or Arab counterparts sequestered in purdah within a deeply conservative population that is also generally alienated. Also, all Afghans are under constant overwatch by the Taliban and even the slightest degree of fraternisation can be punished by death, or even worse for women, by painful mutilation.

 

Women Marines are armed and combatant but there is also a significant concern by the US Marines themselves about the safety and security of their own women soldiers during these expeditions, which are always vulnerable to improvised explosive devices, ambushes and heaven forbid, even kidnapping or capture.

 

However, asymmetric warfare against terrorism, insurgency and militancy is a separate category altogether in that it is as much a military conflict as a war of ideas, where the "hearts and minds" of the affected population is the ultimate strategic objective. But what is generally overlooked here is the requirement of a differently calibrated approach for influencing "half the sky" amongst the affected population. Insurgents are only too aware of this and make special efforts through their women cadre towards influencing this component of the population but regular forces generally tend to remain woodenly oblivious to this aspect.

 

The Indian Army has been extensively engaged in counterinsurgency operations for almost 62 years since Independence. However, the gender sociology of counterinsurgency is a novel aspect that has just not been thought of or addressed. The Indian Army practices a very strict "no-fraternisation" policy in operational areas, which on the one hand, has almost totally eliminated gender-sensitive incidents, but on the other has also closed off any possibilities of incorporating women into structured "hearts and minds" programmes as a separately focused target population. "Female interaction" during counterinsurgency operations may appear unorthodox to many but is certainly logical and it is a moot question whether the fledgling American FET experience provides any lessons for an Indian environment.

 

Permanent commission to women is a significant milestone in the Army that adds a new dimension into the overall management of the entire officer cadre. Obstructionist prejudices of a minority have been summarily dismissed, but subterranean mutterings persist at the working level about a level-playing field in the connected aspect of postings in hard areas and on physically hazardous and demanding assignments for the women officer cadre.

 

The Army is a conscientious "equal opportunities" employer, but equal opportunities demand a reciprocal willingness to shoulder equal responsibilities, especially during a time of taxing overstretch of a long running, asymmetric "hot peace" proxy war, insurgency and border control. The Indian Army recruits women only at the officer level and is unlikely to allow them into the traditional battlespace of conventional warfare as the risks of capture and possible physical mistreatment as prisoners of war are just too great.

 

However, women officers can (and do) certainly participate very effectively in the related domains of electronic, information and psychological warfare, cyber warfare and intelligence operations. In many respects, women officers are valuable operational resources, limited in numbers, which can and must be employed in the best overall operational interests of the organisation regardless of their specific branch or service.

 

If utilised imaginatively, they can be a significant force multipliers when interacting with the population during internal security, counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism measures. The armed forces, most of all the Army, have to live and operate amongst the people and operations have to be people friendly, demanding a "kinder, gentler" face, especially when large number of women and children are affected. The presence of women officers on internal security and civic action missions will display a "softer" picture of the Army and undoubtedly facilitate positive interaction. They must be prepared to willingly undertake these commitments. These issues cannot be softpedalled and the Army will have to address them squarely in the interests of its own long-term health.

 

For this, a change of mindsets and perceptions is necessary on all sides.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

AMERICA'S ECONOMY ISN'T A STALLED CAR

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Like it or not — and I don't — the Obama-McConnell tax-cut deal, with its mixture of very bad stuff and sort-of-kind-of good stuff, is likely to pass Congress. Then what?

 

The deal will, without question, give the economy a short-term boost. The prevailing view, as far as I can tell — and that includes within the Obama administration — is that this short-term boost is all we need. The deal, we're told, will jumpstart the economy; it will give a fragile recovery time to strengthen.

 

I say, block those metaphors. America's economy isn't a stalled car, nor is it an invalid who will soon return to health if he gets a bit more rest. Our problems are longer-term than either metaphor implies.

 

And bad metaphors make for bad policy. The idea that the economic engine is going to catch or the patient rise from his sickbed any day now encourages policymakers to settle for sloppy, short-term measures when the economy really needs well-designed, sustained support.

 

The root of our current troubles lies in the debt American families ran up during the Bush-era housing bubble. Twenty years ago, the average American household's debt was 83 per cent of its income; by a decade ago, that had crept up to 92 per cent; but by late 2007, debts were 130 per cent of income.

 

All this borrowing took place both because banks had abandoned any notion of sound lending and because everyone assumed that house prices would never fall. And then the bubble burst.

 

What we've been dealing with ever since is a painful process of "deleveraging": highly indebted Americans not only can't spend the way they used to, they're having to pay down the debts they ran up in the bubble years. This would be fine if someone else were taking up the slack. But what's actually happening is that some people are spending much less while nobody is spending more — and this translates into a depressed economy and high unemployment.

 

What the government should be doing in this situation is spending more while the private sector is spending less, supporting employment while those debts are paid down. And this government spending needs to be sustained: we're not talking about a brief burst of aid; we're talking about spending that lasts long enough for households to get their debts back under control. The original Obama stimulus wasn't just too small; it was also much too short-lived, with much of the positive effect already gone.

 

It's true that we're making progress on deleveraging. Household debt is down to 118 per cent of income, and a strong recovery would bring that number down further. But we're still at least several years from the point at which households will be in good enough shape that the economy no longer needs government support.

 

But wouldn't it be expensive to have the government support the economy for years to come? Yes, it would — which is why the stimulus should be done well, getting as much bang for the buck as possible.

 

Which brings me back to the Obama-McConnell deal. I'm often asked how I can oppose that deal given my consistent position in favour of more stimulus. The answer is that yes, I believe that stimulus can have major benefits in our current situation — but these benefits have to be weighed against the costs. And the tax-cut deal is likely to deliver relatively small benefits in return for very large costs.

 

The point is that while the deal will cost a lot — adding more to federal debt than the original Obama stimulus — it's likely to get very little bang for the buck. Tax cuts for the wealthy will barely be spent at all; even middle-class tax cuts won't add much to spending. And the business tax break will, I believe, do hardly anything to spur investment given the excess capacity businesses already have.

 

The actual stimulus in the plan comes from the other measures, mainly unemployment benefits and the payroll tax break. And these measures (a) won't make more than a modest dent in unemployment and (b) will fade out quickly, with the good stuff going away at the end of 2011.

 

The question, then, is whether a year of modestly better performance is worth $850 billion in additional debt, plus a significantly raised probability that those tax cuts for the rich will become permanent. And I say no.

 

The Obama team obviously disagrees. As I understand it, the administration believes that all it needs is a little more time and money, that any day now the economic engine will catch and we'll be on the road back to prosperity. I hope it's right, but I don't think it is.

 

What I expect, instead, is that we'll be having this same conversation all over again in 2012, with unemployment still high and the economy suffering as the good parts of the current deal go away. The White House may think it has struck a good bargain, but I believe it's in for a rude shock.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A SNAP POLL WON'T BE GOOD FOR INDIA

 

In recent times it is difficult to recall another session of Parliament that was as blighted as the just-concluded Winter Session. While the government managed to push through the essential business of appropriations and supplementary grants approved through voice vote in the noise and din relating to the Opposition's demand for a probe by a joint parliamentary committee into the 2G fiasco, it is clear that this is no way for our democracy to function. On many occasions in the past, the Opposition parties have staged walkouts to press their demands, permitting official business to go through unhindered. That too was hardly a satisfactory way: for after all, democratically-elected legislatures should not pass laws without discussion. The difference between the current logjam in Parliament and earlier occasions is this: this time the issue threatens to spill over into the next session. If the Budget Session, which begins a couple of months later, also comes under a shadow, the remaining three years of the House may well prove infructuous. The political class should then spell out if will be justifiable to have a fresh general election within two years of the last one instead of the usual five. It is possible that as soon as the session ends, the BJP and its allies, as well as the Left and its friends, will begin organising mass rallies on the issue of corruption in the government. The clear implication will be that the government is not moved by wrongdoing by ministers and senior officials. That is, of course, not true: serious steps have been taken over the Commonwealth Games irregularities as well as the 2G mess. But this will not stop the faithful from responding to calls by the Opposition parties. It is quite another matter that non-partisans are unlikely to be swayed by the Opposition's logic in this case. Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that the government did not act rightaway when the smoke signals first became visible. In the 2G case, this was perhaps due to coalition management as it was a DMK minister who was allegedly involved. In the CWG affair, the scale of the malady wasn't grasped in time. This has proved a large enough opening for both the Left and the Right. The Opposition's demand for a JPC appears neither reasonable nor logical, although it might politically suit them. A thorough inquiry into the 2G scam by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament — suggested by the government — is indeed likely to be more fruitful since the PAC is chaired by a senior BJP leader. The position of the ruling alliance and the Opposition appear to leave little room for flexibility. The victim is likely to be the country itself if the situation ends up leading us in the direction of a fresh general election. This is not good for India. We are on a reasonably good track and a sudden election will be a needless disturbing factor. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had perhaps this in mind when he told journalists during his recent visit to Europe that he feared for the parliamentary system in the country. This was an unfortunate choice of words that will bring the government little credit in the wake of the mess in which it is mired. India has hardly rejected the parliamentary system, as the enthusiastic participation of voters shows in election after election.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

UID'S IDENTITY CRISIS

BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

For some reason, governments — as well as the development "industry" as a whole — have always had a tendency to look for universal panaceas, particular silver bullets that will solve all or most of their implementation problems and somehow achieve the development project for them. The latest such initiative bullet that seems to have been accepted as a silver bullet is the Unique Identification Project, which is now seen as the easy means to ensure no corruption and no leakages, and to ensure efficient access to what are going to be targeted systems of public delivery.

 

On the face of it, the Unique Identification (UID) project appears to have many advantages for ordinary citizens, especially the poor. After all, the requirement of having multiple cards for particular kinds of access to public or other services, each of which is typically difficult to acquire, places disproportionate burdens on the poor. Anyone who has tried to get a ration card without some preferential access to lower level bureaucracy knows how prolonged and nightmarish the process can be. Even something like opening a bank account used to be a horrendously difficult and complicated process for those without masses of supporting documents. One of the great indirect benefits of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has been the system of payments through bank accounts, which has enabled many rural workers to access banks in a way that was simply denied to them earlier.

 

All too often, acquiring any of these cards that provide access to some service requires not just lots of time and energy, but also the payment of bribes. So a system whereby the large transaction costs of acquiring different cards for different purposes are reduced and the entire process is simplified for the ordinary citizen is something that should be welcomed. In addition, it could be argued that having a single card for many different purposes would enable public service delivery to shift from its present form which is based entirely on residence, to a more flexible system that recognises the internal movement of people.

 

But such attempts at simplifying life for those whose various socio-economic rights need to be met is rather different from creating and then enforcing a system that can lead not only to an invasion of basic privacy but also to possibly excessive and undesirable monitoring by the state.

 

The UID project has already been devastatingly critiqued for its implications for privacy and civil liberties, by scholars such as R. Ramakumar and Jean Dreze. It is worth noting that in most developed countries, similar projects of governments have not been implemented after strong public pressure. Even where they have been, they have generally avoided putting in personal and professional details such as religion, ethnic identity, profession and socio-economic status. Yet such data are all explicitly part of the information gathering exercise for the UID project.

 

The incorporation of biometric data raises a further hornet's nest, since it is now widely recognised that biometric information is subject to significant errors in large populations. This is among the factors that led the government of China to shelve their own plan for such information to be stored in identity cards. The current evidence on the technological possibilities of biometric data use suggests that it is not a foolproof system for preventing identity theft. It is also increasingly accepted that, since fingerprints of a person (especially those engaged in manual labour) can change over time, they may be unreliable guides to identity. Mr Ramakumar points out that "according to some estimates, in developing countries like India, the share of persons with noisy or bad data could go up to 15 per cent", or more than 150 million people!

 

What is even more troubling is how the government plans to use the UID data. There are attempts to coerce wage workers in rural India to "voluntarily" enter the scheme by making it mandatory for the issue of job cards of NREGA. There are reports that UID can be used to "solve" the problem of leakages and misappropriation from what is likely to be an immensely convoluted targeted public distribution scheme (TPDS) for foodgrain. Next UID may be introduced in health programmes and other forms of basic delivery, on the false presumption that this will do away with corruption.

 

This is a very fundamental mistake, which misses out the basic elements of the power relations that enable and assist the pattern of corruption in India, or even the possible errors in targeting. How will a UID system ensure that complicated systems of defining the poor actually do capture the right group and do not have well-known errors of unfair exclusion and unwarranted inclusion? How will it prevent those who systematically engage in siphoning off either NREGA wages or TPDS foodgrains from the rightful targets from continuing to do so? It is a simple matter to ensure that the recipient of wages or grain or any other good or service puts her or his fingerprints in the required spot, even if they receive only a fraction of what is their right. Introducing such a requirement is likely to undermine the very functioning of such schemes, especially the flagship programmes like NREGS.

 

Technology cannot be a substitute for social transformation. If it is introduced in social and economic contexts of greatly unequal and oppressive power relations, the outcomes are likely to be the opposite of those intended by the most well-meaning of planners and implementers. The important lesson is that purely technological fixes will not work: it is not possible to avoid the crucial political economy challenge of the need to change and overthrow existing power structures that prevent and constrain genuine development.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HUMOUR IN PUBLIC SPEAKING

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART

 

Not many people know that VVIPs from Presidents to Prime Ministers and ministers have ghost writers. MP Mani Shankar Aiyar and minister for environment Jairam Ramesh have, at one time, been ghost writers for VVIPs. Of course, none of these worthies ever told us so yet everyone or at least a lot of people were in the know.

 

So it was really beguiling when at a business meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy mentioned in Mumbai that he had not written the speech he was to deliver. He took India Inc, that was present in full force, by surprise when he began by saying: "I am not going to read my speech. Anyway I did not write it. I want to speak from my heart. But you will be given it (official speech)", adding, "I agree with everything in it. I didn't write it and anyway I can't write as well as that". And he then went on to deliver a wonderful from-the-heart speech.

 

Once bitten, twice shy

 

At a function held in New Delhi to celebrate the release of Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram and writer Shashi Tharoor got the stick when he took a dig at US President Barack Obama who had criticised India for not doing enough to promote democracy in Burma.

 

Mr Tharoor had barely finished saying that India didn't need "outside encouragement" (read Mr Obama) when Madhu Kishwar, women's rights activist and editor of Manushi magazine, intervened to say that India's policy of engaging with the Burma military junta was shameful and the country does need to be reprimanded.

 

Sensing the mood on the dais and in the audience, Mr Tharoor replied that Mr Obama's remarks might "not" have been entirely "ill-deserved".

Probably recalling how he got into trouble with his party and government for his previous utterances, Mr Tharoor carefully added that "we are capable of spanking ourselves".

 

Imagine the amount of explanation that he would have had to give if a headline in the next morning's newspaper had screamed, "Cong MP criticises govt's Burma policy"!

 

Jethmalani and Liz Taylor

 

Legal luminary Ram Jethmalani sure does know how to engage his audience, even if he is one of several speakers.

 

Speaking at the function where Burmese exiles had gathered to celebrate the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Mr Jethmalani began by comparing himself to American actress Elizabeth Taylor's fifth husband.

 

"Being the fifth speaker, I feel like Elizabeth Taylor's fifth husband, who confided in a friend, 'I know what I'm supposed to do but I don't know how to make it interesting.'" Needless to say, the audience's attention had been arrested.

 

Proliferation of cells

 

Ask any senior BJP leader how many votes the party got in any of the past general elections and the reply will come within a few seconds.

 

Some of them even remember the votes the party got in some of the important parliamentary constituencies.

 

But there is one question that most of the party leaders prefer not to be asked and that is how many cells the BJP currently has.

 

In his effort to give the BJP a "social outlook", party chief Nitin Gadkari had ended up creating so many new cells (like the good governance cell) that most senior leaders are unaware of which party colleague is heading which.

 

Recalling a recent meeting of cells in-charges, a senior BJP leader said: "I was surprised to see many new faces in that meeting. It was only when I enquired that I found that they were handling the new cells. I have no idea how many cells the party has".

 

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

 

The wildlife managers in Madhya Pradesh are desperately trying to repopulate the Panna Tiger Reserve after this wonderful habitat went the Sariska way and lost all its tigers due to poaching and excessive biotic pressure.

 

After the last Panna tiger vanished by mid-January 2009, two female tigers, one each from Bandhavgarh and Kanha, were relocated to Panna. A male tiger was later brought from the Pench Tiger Reserve in November 2009.

 

After the successful mating of this tiger with one of the female tigers, there was a futile attempt to relocate two more female tigers from Kanha on December 5.

 

This exercise was abruptly abandoned as the decision of the "wildlife experts" to toss the dropping of one of the tigers from Panna inside the Kanha tigers' enclosure to familiarise them with their "would-be mate" ended with both tigers becoming too excited and fighting each other menacingly.

 

Now the foresters are making another bid to relocate these tigers though it raises one big question: Is it being done to meet the objective of conservation or just to fulfil the demand of wildlife tourism?

 

I&B comes of age

 

The government is often blamed for being slow and living in a bygone era when it comes to adopting new technology. The information and broadcasting ministry, however, was able to break away from this mould recently.

 

It was at the high-profile International Film Festival of India in Goa that the ministry decided to enter the hi-tech age with a flourish.

 

As part of this, the ministry kept sending SMSes to journalists, even those sitting in Delhi, about the ongoing conferences, major happenings and events at the festival.

 

The SMS alerts were so prompt that even cynical journalists confessed that the ministry had come of age.

 

Diggy Raja's briefcase

 

The reappointment of the AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh as in charge of Assam affairs may have come as good news for many Congressmen but at the same time his detractors within the party have started reminding everyone of the "briefcase controversy".

 

Mr Singh was in charge in the 2006 Assembly elections also. The controversy began after a local daily claimed to have spotted him carrying many briefcases on his return journey to New Delhi.

 

Though it was not known what was in the briefcases, he was replaced with Union law minister M. Veerapa Moily immediately after the formation of the Gogoi government.

 

With Mr Singh back in the arena, the detractors have dusted the episode so that they can use it again if they find him getting too active for their comfort.

 

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

EDITORIAL

UNSAFE CAPITAL

''THE NUMBER OF RAPE CASES IN DELHI IS ALARMING.''

 

Rapes are being reported with alarming frequency in Delhi. The latest is the case of a gang rape of a teenager. The accused had reportedly passed lewd remarks and when she responded angrily they abducted her and raped her in a moving vehicle. 


A similar incident had occurred a couple of weeks ago when a BPO employee was gang raped. Delhi is clearly an unsafe city for women. Sexual violence has mounted in recent years.


According to police statistics, around 433 cases of rape were reported in the capital this year. There are two worrying trends that have become evident from police records.


One is the growing incidence of gang rape; four cases were reported this month. And the other is the increasing involvement of juveniles in rape. Over the last two months, juveniles were involved in two of the four major cases. Police officials have pointed out that involvement of underage boys in sex related crimes, which stood at 5-7 per cent in recent years has risen to around 27 per cent this year.


Last year when a woman journalist was murdered, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit blamed the victim by describing her as 'adventurous' and said she 'should have avoided driving alone at 3 in the morning.' Now home minister P Chidambaram has pointed an accusing finger at the 'migrants living in the northwest of the city.' While some of the rapists might indeed be from migrant communities, Chidambaram's broad-brushing of an entire section of society as criminal is distasteful and dangerous.


According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there has been a 678 per cent increase in rape cases since 1971. Rape is reported to be the fastest growing crime in the country. This isn't surprising. Rarely are the guilty punished. 

The conviction rate in rape and molestation cases in India is a dismal 27 per cent. Gender insensitive judges and courts, long-winded trials and pressure on victims and witnesses are responsible for the low conviction. But more often the case doesn't even reach the courts, thanks to police failure to register complaints or nab the culprits. 

Most of the victims of sexual harassment and rape in Delhi are northeastern women. Women's groups have alleged that police do not register their complaints or follow up on cases. Timely and decisive action by police will go a long way in curbing the crime. Where there is laxity, they must be pulled up for not making cities safer for women.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

GROWING TIES

''THERE'S SCOPE FOR MORE EU INVESTMENT IN INDIA.''

 

The India-European Union (EU) summit, held last week in Brussels, has given indications that the strategic partnership between both is gaining momentum. The benefits of deeper and wider economic ties between the two sides are evident from the  progress made in the last few years.


The agreements at the summit covered a broad range of issues like joint efforts to counter terrorism,  improvement of cultural ties, fine-tuning of extradition procedures and more importantly, expediting the finalisation of a free trade agreement (FTA). 


Many member countries of the EU are not in the pink of economic health. But they have developed economies and markets. India has a growing economy. Better access to European markets can help India and the EU can benefit from India's increasing economic strength. 


The most important news from the summit was that the FTA, which has been under discussion since 2007, might be concluded by March-April next year. According to the joint  declaration after the summit, the 'contours of a final package' have been agreed upon. There have been many tricky issues like child and human rights, climate change, movement of professionals and intellectual property rights which had to be addressed in the negotiations on the FTA.


Some of the issues have an important bearing on the welfare of marginal farmers and small investors in India and prime minister Manmohan Singh has assured that safeguards to protect their interests would be instituted in the agreement. Free movement of people is important for India which has a growing pool of technical persons, in the context of the curbs being imposed by some EU countries. Indian products face difficulties in EU countries over IPR-related issues. If these issues are sorted out to the satisfaction of both sides  mutual trade and investment can grow much faster. 


There is scope for large EU investments in India in areas like infrastructure development, technological co-operation, research in clean energy projects and education. The trade between India and the EU is now valued at $ 92.2 billion and it is estimated that it can increase to $ 134 billion in the near future and exceed $ 237 billion by 2015 if the trade agreement is put in place now. Diversification of  Indian trade, which is now dominated by China, the US and Asean countries, is also good for the economy.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

KEEP THE PUBLIC VOICE

B G VERGHESE


The public service broadcaster does not have to cater to trivialising news and indulge in programming geared to fetch commercials.

 

The report that the President, Pratibha Patil has given her consent for proceedings to remove the current CEO of Prasar Bharati on charges of irregularities is overdue. This institution, created after years of pleading to represent the public voice of India in an increasingly information age, was ill-designed, and then, in turn, frustrated by being denied personnel and financial autonomy or a proper board, then relegated and finally hijacked by its chief executive to be reduced to a pathetic caricature of what it was intended to be. 


Sadly, and only partly because the experiment was aborted along the way, some of staff are now agitating that Prasar Bharati be scrapped and the body revert to being a government department representing the official voice against all the private radio and TV channels that now abound.


 Genuine autonomy is often feared as it entails responsibility and accountability and the loss of the cloak of anonymity that allows laggards to seek more for doing less and pass the buck for failure to perform to the 'system.' Not that Prasar Bharati lacks good people. But they are a demoralised lot. Autonomy is seldom given. It has to be grasped. 


The rot started ab initio with an Act that placed excessive faith in recruiting the highest functionaries virtually exclusively from within the ranks of the bureaucracy. These functionaries were treated as deputationists and subject to whimsical recall as happened in the case of S Y Quraishi, DG Doordarshan, now Chief Election Commissioner. 

Again, when AIR staff went on strike, the board members who sought a resolution were fobbed off by the I&B minister as busybodies with no jurisdiction over government servants.   


The independent selection panel also singularly failed when it made no appointment to critical positions such as that of Chairman, CEO and  Directors of Personnel and Finance for months on end. It kept waiting for a governmental nod on matters of procedure, salary fixation and so forth. 


Recruitment, training, planning and programming faltered. A hardware-led policy dictated by considerations of 'political reach' through umpteen relay stations ignored matching programme and software development so that the vast infrastructure created has remained hugely underutilised.


 A proposal that the engineering and technical services of Prasar Bharati be hived off as a separate transmission corporation and profit centre was never seriously considered. Programmes were increasingly outsourced and talented Prasar Bharati staff, lacking in-house opportunities took to moonlighting to produce excellent programmes for private channels. 


The final blow came more recently with the CEO usurping the board's powers and rendering it impotent. Finally, the supreme court had to intervene and now the CEO faces possible impeachment and removal. The newly appointed chairperson and board find themselves immobilised. Immediate action is called for if Prasar Bharati, long in coma, is not to die.

Rank ignorance

It would seem that few would mourn such an event -- the government, parliament, much of the staff, the private channels, the print media, advertisers, and most of the listening and viewing public. Rank ignorance of what public serviced broadcasting is about and its seminal importance at this time, combined with indifference born of dissatisfaction with its performance, possibly explains why this is so. 


The idea that the government needs an exclusive broadcast voice is equally baseless. First, 'government' embraces a plurality of regimes, parties and ideologies -- the Central government, 29 state governments, some Union Territories, hundreds of multi-level panchayats and nagar palikas, and autonomous regional councils. Who is 'the government,' or should every 'government' set up its own broadcast facility and should its policies change with every change in 'government.'  Such a policy would result in a cacophony of warring and variables sounds, images and messages at considerable cost to little purpose. 


However, there is a more important reason to make Prasar Bharati a vibrant institution. Private broadcasters understandably solicit advertising to earn their keep and dumb down programmes to earn better ratings in a highly competitive market. The public service broadcaster is under no such compulsion. 

It does not have to cater to the lowest common denominator, trivialise and sensationalise news, manufacture bogus 'breaking news' and indulge in programming geared to fetching advertisements. Government need not be its only support. 


The great difference is that while the private broadcaster primarily caters to the (well heeled) consumer of advertised goods, the public service broadcaster caters to the citizen. While all Indians are citizens, only half or less are 'consumers' of other than basic goods and services. PSB therefore caters to disadvantaged, marginalised, minority (ethnic, linguistic, faith/caste, tribal, remote, isolated) communities that make up the vast plural, disempowered undermass of India. 


It constitutes a powerful tool for empowerment, participation, creating awareness, information, education, dialogue and engendering inclusiveness and accountability. It embodies the right to information. Not that private channels are impervious to any of this, but they must first survive. 


An upwardly mobile India is seeking rights and entitlements. There is a great churning in progress will mould unity out of diversity and quell a million ongoing mutinies by creating conditions for equal opportunity and equal citizenship. It is to make the Preamble of the Constitution come alive in action and to sustain that ideal that India needs a public service broadcaster. That public voice must never die.    

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

EGYPT'S DEMOCRACY IN A SHAMBLES

MICHAEL JANSEN


The regime was determined to secure a mighty majority to ensure presidential election went as planned.

 

Egypt has become a 'one-party state' charge the country's opposition parties and independent human rights organisations. Proof positive, they say, is the landslide victory of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in the country's parliamentary election held on November 28 and December 5. They claim the election was carefully engineered at every stage to ensure the result. 


The NDP, a coalition of oligarchs, took 439 of the 508 elected seats, independents largely affiliated with the NDP won 50 and the oppo- sition 15. The Muslim Brotherhood, which had 20 per cent of seats in the outgoing assembly, took one and the liberal Wafd, six, the same number of deputies it seated in 2005. Tagammu, heir to the socialist union dominant during the time of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952-70), won five seats and one seat each was allocated to four small parties that did not win any in the poll. President Hosni Mubarak will appoint 10 persons to represent Coptic Christians and other minorities.


Hani Shukrallah, a leading analyst, said that no one contested this election other than candidates agreed by the NDP, founded in 1978 by previous President Anwar Sadat. "The NDP keeps repro- ducing itself as a political force. It makes no serious (policy) changes. (The party) has been coming apart for ever and ever but it will survive internally as long as there is no challenge."  


Disintegration

"Failure to address the problems the country faces has destroyed Egypt's pre-modern sense of community. Consequently, the whole social fabric is disintegrating.Things grow worse and worse," he maintains.


Half of Egypt's population of 78 million lives under the poverty level of $2 a day. Ghada Shabender of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights observed that under constitutional amendments adopted in 2007 the police can 'violate all Egyptians' rights. 


The police can enter homes. There are 1.2 million in the security forces and the public has access to information on 'less than half the Egyptian budget.' 


The regime was determined to secure a mighty majority in the largely powerless parliament in order to ensure that next year's presidential election goes according to plan once a plan is made. This is crucial because Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 29 years, is 82 and ailing.  


Since he has no anointed successor or vice president, the regime fears a vacuum once he is no longer around. In the view of veteran analyst Hisham Kassem, Mubarak is certain to run again as long as 'he does not die or lose his mental faculties.' If he dies in office, Kassem said a likely successor would be intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, a military man in a civilian suit. 


Kassem observed that the president who follows Mubarak will, first, 'have to keep the country in line. Mubarak's 30 year presidency has almost become a cult. His successor will have to crack-down on the NDP while the opposition tries to regain ground." Second, he will have to curb private sector investment in infrastructure. "This has made already powerful businessmen more powerful.

"The next president has no option but to carry out reforms due to rampant corruption and abuse of power under the present regime. He must make changes, open the files of the current regime, and crack down on senior (figures who are) symbols of corruption." 


While Kassem insisted that there must be reform, he does not think it can be imposed from outside. He believes the former US administration was mistaken in trying to press the Mubarak regime to democratise. "We need the infrastructure of democracy" which must be introduced in stages, Kassem asserted.


 Once Egyptians become accustomed to making serious political choices, perhaps after a decade, there can be major changes in a system established when the colonels, led by Nasser, overthrew British-backed King Farouk in 1952.  A member of the steering committee of the World Movement for Democracy, Kassem said that the current generation must "start the transition process that will get us to democracy". 

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

HIDDEN SIGNS

BY J S RAGHAVAN


Not all traffic cops have itching palms that require application of grease.

 

Of the many warning signs I had come across, two concerning animals amuse me the most. 'Stray cattle not allowed' is one. Can a footloose cow or a sedentary buffalo  seeking fresh pastures read such warnings? Inexplicable. 

Another I saw was in London Heathrow airport which warned 'Dogs not allowed.' Significantly, this was placed one and a half feet above the floor level, ostensibly for shorties like poodles or Chihuahua to read without craning their necks. May be dogs are literate in London.


Talking of dogs, the Chennai sign on a wall that 'Dogs can urinate here' to shame the  gentlemen having the urge to relieve themselves irrespective of the environs, is another animal related gem.  However, this warning strongly smelling of irony, aims to curb the bladder incontinent human male from seeking instant gratification, but permits dogs to take advantage of such  convenience, though the fastidious canines may not oblige if there is no lamp post around.


'Keep off the grass. And this applies to you' screams another at the fringe of a well-maintained lawn at a public place. The rider that  'this applies to you' is fraught with immense psychological significance. Any warning, however well-meaning and universal   may be construed as meant for others and not to the person reading it, who is by default exempt. 


Even a protruding bulging wallet may fail to tempt a nimble fingered gentleman of the thieving fraternity, but the sign 'Wet Paint'  would call for the utmost mental restraint of even a strong willed person from checking the veracity of such a declaration. 


Though a blob of the sticky paint his finger would collect should  make him look like a silly ass, he would feel flattered that he needed incontrovertible proof and he got it. Period.


Not all traffic cops have itching palms that require periodic application of  grease.


Some even have a sense of humour . A friend of mine who took a 45 degree left turn at a traffic signal in Mylapore was flagged down by a portly sergeant looking every inch a comic character given to sparkling witticisms. 

As he started writing elaborately the challan for the fine, my friend, unwilling to part with one hundred rupees, tried to appeal to be excused as  he failed to notice the obliterated sign 'No free left turn.' 


The sergeant collecting the amount, said now 'you will always remember the left turn here is not free.'

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR DIALOGUE

 

There is no substitute for substantive dialogue, for compromise and for a negotiated agreement.

 

As expected, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has welcomed the US's decision to drop its demand for a moratorium on new building in Judea and Samaria as a precondition for direct talks.


This cornerstone of US Mideast policy since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 has done more harm than good by encouraging Palestinian intransigence.


Now, the abrupt change in policy has created a diplomatic vacuum. In the absence of direct talks, US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell has reverted to shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah.


The most recent failure to make headway on a negotiated agreement based on a two-state solution has fostered pessimism and with it a plethora of potential alternatives to the old paradigms for peace. All of them attempt to bypass the concept of a mutually negotiated peace. All are doomed to failure precisely for this reason.


Over the weekend, for instance, 26 former EU leaders, some of them until very recently shapers of EU Mideast policy, sent out a seven-page letter calling for the imposition of sanctions on Israel and the issuance of an ultimatum to the effect that, if Israel has not fallen into line by April 2011, the EU will seek an end to the US-brokered peace process in favor of a UN solution that would be imposed on Israel.


On the Palestinian front, a concerted effort has been launched to secure international recognition of a Palestinian state throughout the West Bank and east Jerusalem.


Various Latin American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, have already responded in the affirmative.

 

On the Israeli Right, meanwhile, there are voices, on the one hand, acknowledging that it is morally untenable to rule over the Palestinians but, on the other, opposing any territorial compromise. To solve this conundrum, some central figures in the governing Likud – including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, former defense minister Moshe Arens and MK Tzipi Hotovely – have advocated annexing the West Bank but not the Gaza Strip, and gradually granting West Bank Palestinians the full rights enjoyed by Arab Israelis. "When people say that the demographic threat necessitates a separation, my reply is that the lesser danger, the lesser evil, is a single state in which there are equal rights for all citizens," Rivlin said earlier this summer.


FROM THEIR disparate sources, these alternative avenues have one thing in common: They ignore the essential need for a negotiated agreement on the thorniest issues – such as the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the demarcation of territory – that would bring about an internationally recognized end to a century of conflict.


Only through dialogue can we and the Palestinians hope to reach a lasting peace based on mutual respect and recognition. And it is not enough for Israel to be willing to make painful compromises, as it has shown itself to be time and again in recent years. The Palestinians, too, must be forthcoming.

Yet, dismally, in commemoration of the 62nd anniversary of UN General Assembly Resolution 194, passed on December 11, 1948, leading PA figures such as senior adviser Yasser Abed Rabbo and chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat have again chosen to voice extreme positions on the "right of return."


The official demand is that a purported seven million Palestinian "refugees" – the initial number of a few hundred thousand inflated to risible proportions by the unique expedient of including in the count all the generations of descendants of the original refugees, who are 70% of Palestinians worldwide – be allowed to settle in Israel, a move that if implemented would mean the demise of the Jewish state.


The only conclusion that can be reached when such positions are asserted as official Palestinian policy is that the PA/PLO leadership is not interested in reconciliation, and is not prepared to build an independent state that absorbs its refugees in the way the Jewish state absorbed its hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.


A 10-month building freeze all too evidently did not generate a change in the Palestinian stance. And the US apparently concluded that an additional three-month freeze would yield no dramatic shift, either.


However reluctantly, the Israeli consensus has long since come to terms with the imperative for an accommodation with the Palestinians. It can be reached, however, only if and when the Palestinians similarly internalize the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty here, and adopt the necessary compromises.


There is understandable pessimism on all sides regarding the path ahead. But it must be clear to all: There is no substitute for substantive dialogue, for compromise and for a negotiated agreement.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

THE FEMINIST DECEPTION

BY CAROLINE B. GLICK  

 

Nowhere is fraud at heart of feminist movement more apparent than in silence of inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law.

 

Making the rounds on YouTube these days is a film of a group of manly looking women preparing for and conducting a "flash dance" in a Philadelphia food store. The crew of ladies, dressed in tight black clothes and sequined accessories, arrives at The Fresh Grocer supermarket, breaks into a preplanned chant ordering shoppers not to buy Sabra and Tribe hummus and telling them to oppose Israeli "apartheid" and support "Palestine."

From their attire and attitude, it is fairly clear that the participants in the video would congratulate themselves on their commitment to the downtrodden, the wretched of the earth suffering under the jackboot of the powerful. They would likely all also describe themselves as feminists.

But if being a human rights activist means attacking the only country in the Middle East that defends human rights, then that means that at the very basic level, the term "human rights activist" is at best an empty term. And if being a feminist means attacking the only country in the Middle East where women enjoy freedom and equal rights, then feminism too, has become at best, a meaningless term. Indeed, if these anti-Israel female protesters are feminists, then feminism is dead.


IN 1995, then first lady Hillary Clinton spoke at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. There Clinton seemed to embrace the role of championing the rights of women and human rights worldwide when she proclaimed, "It is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights…If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all."


Yet as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – like her fellow self-described feminists – has chosen to single Israel out for opprobrium while keeping nearly mum on the institutionalized, structural oppression of women and girls throughout the Muslim world. In so acting, Clinton is of course, loyally representing the views of the Obama administration she serves. She is also representing the views of the ideological Left in which Clinton, US President Barack Obama, the human rights and feminist movements are all deeply rooted.


Since the height of the feminist movement in the late 1960s, non-leftist women in the West and Israel have been hard-pressed to answer the question of whether or not we are feminists. Non-leftist women are opposed to the oppression of women. Certainly, we are no less opposed to the oppression of women than leftist women are.

But at its most basic level, the feminist label has never been solely or even predominantly about preventing and ending oppression or discrimination of women. It has been about advancing the Left's social and political agenda against Western societies. It has been about castigating societies where women enjoy legal rights and protections as "structurally" discriminatory against women in order to weaken the legal, moral and social foundations of those societies. That is, rather than being about advancing the cause of women, to a large extent, the feminist movement has used the language of women's rights to advance a social and political agenda that has nothing to do with women.


So to a large degree, the feminist movement itself is a deception.

The deception at the heart of the feminist movement is nowhere more apparent than in the silence with which self-professed feminists and feminist movements ignore the inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law. If feminism weren't a hollow term, then prominent feminists should be the leaders of the anti-jihad movement.

Gloria Steinem and her sisters should be leading to call for the overthrow of the antifemale mullocracy in Iran and the end of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia.


Instead, in 2008 Ms. Magazine, which Steinem founded and which has served as the mouthpiece of the American feminist movement, refused to run an ad featuring then foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and then speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik that ran under the headline, "This is Israel."


It was too partisan, the magazine claimed.


Leading feminist voices in the US and Europe remain unforgivably silent on the unspeakable oppression of women and girls in Islamic societies. And this cannot simply be attributed to a lack of interest in international affairs. Islamic subjugation and oppression of women happens in Western countries as well. Genital mutilation, forced marriage and other forms of abuse are widespread.


For instance, every year hundreds of Muslim women and girls in Western countries are brutally murdered by their male relatives in so-called "honor killings."


Pamela Geller, the intrepid blogger at Atlas Shrugs website, has steadfastly documented every case she has found. This year she ran an ad campaign on public buses and taxis in major US cities to bring public awareness to their plight. And for her singular efforts in championing the right to life of Muslim women and girls, she has been reviled by the Left as an anti-Islamic bigot.


Former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to flee Holland and live surrounded by bodyguards for the past six years because she has made an issue of Islamic oppression of women and girls. The Left – including the feminist movement – has treated this remarkable former Muslim and champion of women's rights as a leper.


IF ALL the feminist community's policy of ignoring Islamic oppression of women did was keep it out of the headlines it would still be unforgivable. But the fact is that by not speaking of the central challenge to women's rights in our times, the organized feminist movement, and the Left it is a part of, are abetting Islam's unspeakable crimes against women and girls. It does so in two ways.


Tyranny unchallenged is tyranny abetted.

And the first way that the organized feminist movement and the Left abet the oppression of women by Islamic authorities is signaling to those authorities that they can get away with it. This truth is laid bare by the responses of Islamic authorities in the rare cases where their oppression of women has received Western attention.

For instance, in 2006, an Iranian Islamic court found Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani guilty of adultery and sentenced the ethnic Azeri kindergarten teacher and mother of two to death by stoning. She was later also found guilty of murdering her husband.


Ashtiani's confessions in both cases were extracted under torture. She has already received 99 lashes for her reputed initial crime. Not a Farsi or Arabic speaker, when her adultery trial ended, Ashtiani didn't even know she was convicted or what her sentence was.

In recent years, Ashtiani's children assisted by Iranian émigré and non-leftist human rights groups launched a courageous campaign to save her life. Over the past year, the campaign was covered in the Western media and garnered the support of notables such as the French and Canadian prime ministers' wives as well as international film stars like Lindsay Lohan, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Robert Redford and Juliette Binoche.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International got on board this past summer and decried her treatment. Clinton herself gave a half sentence condemnation of Ashtiani's persecution in August. Indeed, the international attention focused on Ashtiani may have been the reason the Obama administration belatedly voiced opposition to Iran's election to the new UN women's rights council. Iran was elected by acclamation in April, but later defeated by India when a roll call vote was called.


Reeling from this criticism, Iranian authorities began backtracking. First they claimed Ashtiani's death sentence would be cancelled.


Then they said she would be hanged rather than stoned. Today her fate remains unclear and her life is still in grave danger.


But if pressure on Iranian authorities keeps up, there is a reasonable chance that Ashtiani's long ordeal will end in life, rather than death.


Ashtiani's case is proof that when the West makes the barbaric abuse of women an issue, the Islamic world attenuates its abuse of women. Pressure works. In contrast, an absence of pressure empowers the oppressors.

THE SECOND way that the feminists and the Left they are a part of abet Islamic oppression of women is through their animosity towards Israel. When the Shariahbesotted leaders of the Muslim world see the Western Left devote its energies to attacking Israel – the only human rights and women's rights protecting country in the Middle East – they see there is no reason for them to reconsider their willingness to tyrannize their women and girls.

Take Indonesia for example. In 2003, then Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri agreed that as part of a ceasefire agreement, the separatist Aceh province was allowed to institute Shariah law as the law of the province. In 2009, the Aceh parliament passed a law making adultery punishable by stoning. On the central squares of the province that is home to four million, people are routinely publicly whipped for offenses against Islam.

Just last Friday, Anis Saputra, 24, and Kiki Hanafilia, 17 each received eight lashes in a public ceremony outside a local mosque for being caught kissing in October. The two are reportedly married to other people and they apparently were given lashes rather than stoned to death because they had yet to consummate their alleged romance.

Last year the province also forbade women and girls from wearing pants. A France 24 investigation of Shariah in Aceh showed a traumatized 14-year-old girl who was beset by Islamic police on her way home from school. They cut her jeans off in the middle of the street.


Yet rather than criticize Indonesia for these appalling developments, last month Obama visited Jakarta and waxed poetic about Islamic tolerance of differences and applauded Indonesia for its commitment to democracy.

And while ignoring Indonesia's repressive Shariah-ruled province where Islamic oppression is the rule not the exception, Obama devoted his criticism to attacking Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in Jerusalem.

There is no doubt that attitudes that discriminate against women exist today in Western countries as well as in Israel.

Women in the free world have unique challenges to overcome because of our gender.


But a sense of proportion is required here.


These challenges are not overwhelming, systemic or in most cases life-threatening.


On the other hand, hundreds of millions of women and girls throughout the Islamic world are terrorized daily by everyone from their families to their judges. They have no reason to believe that if challenged their rights – even their right to life – will be protected.


The fact that the ladies in Philadelphia decided to take their stand against Israel and that Clinton and Obama attack Israel for building homes for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria while they all ignore the suffering of the women of Islam speaks volumes about the degradation of the West under the Left's social and political leadership.

It also tells non-leftist women in the West that being pro-women's rights and being a feminist are increasingly mutually exclusive.


caroline@carolineglick.com

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

THE FEMINIST DECEPTION

BY CAROLINE B. GLICK  

 

Nowhere is fraud at heart of feminist movement more apparent than in silence of inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law.

 

Making the rounds on YouTube these days is a film of a group of manly looking women preparing for and conducting a "flash dance" in a Philadelphia food store. The crew of ladies, dressed in tight black clothes and sequined accessories, arrives at The Fresh Grocer supermarket, breaks into a preplanned chant ordering shoppers not to buy Sabra and Tribe hummus and telling them to oppose Israeli "apartheid" and support "Palestine."

From their attire and attitude, it is fairly clear that the participants in the video would congratulate themselves on their commitment to the downtrodden, the wretched of the earth suffering under the jackboot of the powerful. They would likely all also describe themselves as feminists.


But if being a human rights activist means attacking the only country in the Middle East that defends human rights, then that means that at the very basic level, the term "human rights activist" is at best an empty term. And if being a feminist means attacking the only country in the Middle East where women enjoy freedom and equal rights, then feminism too, has become at best, a meaningless term. Indeed, if these anti-Israel female protesters are feminists, then feminism is dead.

IN 1995, then first lady 
Hillary Clinton spoke at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. There Clinton seemed to embrace the role of championing the rights of women and human rights worldwide when she proclaimed, "It is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights…If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all."


Yet as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – like her fellow self-described feminists – has chosen to single Israel out for opprobrium while keeping nearly mum on the institutionalized, structural oppression of women and girls throughout the Muslim world. In so acting, Clinton is of course, loyally representing the views of the Obama administration she serves. She is also representing the views of the ideological Left in which Clinton, US President Barack Obama, the human rights and feminist movements are all deeply rooted.


Since the height of the feminist movement in the late 1960s, non-leftist women in the West and Israel have been hard-pressed to answer the question of whether or not we are feminists. Non-leftist women are opposed to the oppression of women. Certainly, we are no less opposed to the oppression of women than leftist women are.


But at its most basic level, the feminist label has never been solely or even predominantly about preventing and ending oppression or discrimination of women. It has been about advancing the Left's social and political agenda against Western societies. It has been about castigating societies where women enjoy legal rights and protections as "structurally" discriminatory against women in order to weaken the legal, moral and social foundations of those societies. That is, rather than being about advancing the cause of women, to a large extent, the feminist movement has used the language of women's rights to advance a social and political agenda that has nothing to do with women.


So to a large degree, the feminist movement itself is a deception.

The deception at the heart of the feminist movement is nowhere more apparent than in the silence with which self-professed feminists and feminist movements ignore the inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law. If feminism weren't a hollow term, then prominent feminists should be the leaders of the anti-jihad movement.

Gloria Steinem and her sisters should be leading to call for the overthrow of the antifemale mullocracy in Iran and the end of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia.


Instead, in 2008 Ms. Magazine, which Steinem founded and which has served as the mouthpiece of the American feminist movement, refused to run an ad featuring then foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and then speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik that ran under the headline, "This is Israel."


It was too partisan, the magazine claimed.


Leading feminist voices in the US and Europe remain unforgivably silent on the unspeakable oppression of women and girls in Islamic societies. And this cannot simply be attributed to a lack of interest in international affairs. Islamic subjugation and oppression of women happens in Western countries as well. Genital mutilation, forced marriage and other forms of abuse are widespread.


For instance, every year hundreds of Muslim women and girls in Western countries are brutally murdered by their male relatives in so-called "honor killings."


Pamela Geller, the intrepid blogger at Atlas Shrugs website, has steadfastly documented every case she has found. This year she ran an ad campaign on public buses and taxis in major US cities to bring public awareness to their plight. And for her singular efforts in championing the right to life of Muslim women and girls, she has been reviled by the Left as an anti-Islamic bigot.


Former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to flee Holland and live surrounded by bodyguards for the past six years because she has made an issue of Islamic oppression of women and girls. The Left – including the feminist movement – has treated this remarkable former Muslim and champion of women's rights as a leper.

IF ALL the feminist community's policy of ignoring Islamic oppression of women did was keep it out of the headlines it would still be unforgivable. But the fact is that by not speaking of the central challenge to women's rights in our times, the organized feminist movement, and the Left it is a part of, are abetting Islam's unspeakable crimes against women and girls. It does so in two ways.


Tyranny unchallenged is tyranny abetted.

And the first way that the organized feminist movement and the Left abet the oppression of women by Islamic authorities is signaling to those authorities that they can get away with it. This truth is laid bare by the responses of Islamic authorities in the rare cases where their oppression of women has received Western attention.

For instance, in 2006, an Iranian Islamic court found Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani guilty of adultery and sentenced the ethnic Azeri kindergarten teacher and mother of two to death by stoning. She was later also found

uilty of murdering her husband.


Ashtiani's confessions in both cases were extracted under torture. She has already received 99 lashes for her reputed initial crime. Not a Farsi or Arabic speaker, when her adultery trial ended, Ashtiani didn't even know she was convicted or what her sentence was.

In recent years, Ashtiani's children assisted by Iranian émigré and non-leftist human rights groups launched a courageous campaign to save her life. Over the past year, the campaign was covered in the Western media and garnered the support of notables such as the French and Canadian prime ministers' wives as well as international film stars like Lindsay Lohan, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Robert Redford and Juliette Binoche.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International got on board this past summer and decried her treatment. Clinton herself gave a half sentence condemnation of Ashtiani's persecution in August. Indeed, the international attention focused on Ashtiani may have been the reason the Obama administration belatedly voiced opposition to Iran's election to the new UN women's rights council. Iran was elected by acclamation in April, but later defeated by India when a roll call vote was called.


Reeling from this criticism, Iranian authorities began backtracking. First they claimed Ashtiani's death sentence would be cancelled.


Then they said she would be hanged rather than stoned. Today her fate remains unclear and her life is still in grave danger.


But if pressure on Iranian authorities keeps up, there is a reasonable chance that Ashtiani's long ordeal will end in life, rather than death.


Ashtiani's case is proof that when the West makes the barbaric abuse of women an issue, the Islamic world attenuates its abuse of women. Pressure works. In contrast, an absence of pressure empowers the oppressors.

THE SECOND way that the feminists and the Left they are a part of abet Islamic oppression of women is through their animosity towards Israel. When the Shariahbesotted leaders of the Muslim world see the Western Left devote its energies to attacking Israel – the only human rights and women's rights protecting country in the Middle East – they see there is no reason for them to reconsider their willingness to tyrannize their women and girls.

Take Indonesia for example. In 2003, then Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri agreed that as part of a ceasefire agreement, the separatist Aceh province was allowed to institute Shariah law as the law of the province. In 2009, the Aceh parliament passed a law making adultery punishable by stoning. On the central squares of the province that is home to four million, people are routinely publicly whipped for offenses against Islam.

Just last Friday, Anis Saputra, 24, and Kiki Hanafilia, 17 each received eight lashes in a public ceremony outside a local mosque for being caught kissing in October. The two are reportedly married to other people and they apparently were given lashes rather than stoned to death because they had yet to consummate their alleged romance.

Last year the province also forbade women and girls from wearing pants. A France 24 investigation of Shariah in Aceh showed a traumatized 14-year-old girl who was beset by Islamic police on her way home from school. They cut her jeans off in the middle of the street.


Yet rather than criticize Indonesia for these appalling developments, last month Obama visited Jakarta and waxed poetic about Islamic tolerance of differences and applauded Indonesia for its commitment to democracy.

And while ignoring Indonesia's repressive Shariah-ruled province where Islamic oppression is the rule not the exception, Obama devoted his criticism to attacking Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in Jerusalem.


There is no doubt that attitudes that discriminate against women exist today in Western countries as well as in Israel.

Women in the free world have unique challenges to overcome because of our gender.


But a sense of proportion is required here.


These challenges are not overwhelming, systemic or in most cases life-threatening.


On the other hand, hundreds of millions of women and girls throughout the Islamic world are terrorized daily by everyone from their families to their judges. They have no reason to believe that if challenged their rights – even their right to life – will be protected.


The fact that the ladies in Philadelphia decided to take their stand against Israel and that Clinton and Obama attack Israel for building homes for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria while they all ignore the suffering of the women of Islam speaks volumes about the degradation of the West under the Left's social and political leadership.

It also tells non-leftist women in the West that being pro-women's rights and being a feminist are increasingly mutually exclusive.


caroline@carolineglick.com

***************************************


THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

OUR OWN WORST ENEMIES

BY DAVID NEWMAN  

 

Prompted by Brazil and Argentina, recognition of Palestinian state could take on mass momentum, further isolating us if we refuse to acknowledge this.

 

The only surprising thing about Monday's discussions by the EU and last week's decision by Brazil and Argentina to formally recognize the independent State of Palestine even before it has been formally established was that it took so long in coming.


Given the green light by the Palestinian Authority, it is almost certain that the majority of countries would add their recognition, drawing in many who are dithering. Israel, the US and perhaps a handful of Western European democracies – and even the latter is by no means certain – would probably declare such recognition meaningless.

Israel would take a stronger stand, as indeed it did last week following the Latin American announcement, and declare that this is contrary to international law, that it derails the peace process (what peace process?) and that it serves only to strengthen the forces of evil and terror. But no one would be listening, and I am not even sure our own policy-makers are listening to the words they roll out as they automatically reject any move toward resolving this conflict through the establishment of two independent and equal states, a position which – as they need reminding – is the official position of the Israeli government and has been for a number of years.

UNTIL NOW, the PA has been ambivalent about the international community recognizing the state of Palestine before a peace agreement has been signed, if only because of the threats which Israel has issued concerning the possible ramifications of such a move. But the truth is that the PA has absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain by a universal recognition of its independent state which would probably lead to its acceptance as a full member of the UN.


The fact that Brazil and Argentina afforded such recognition last week is also important. While they have not been among the strongest supporters of Israel, neither are they categorized among the Israel haters. They are not Third World countries which automatically vote against anything to do with Israel, they do not harbor large terrorist groups, the influence of Islamic groups within their societies is minimal, they enjoy friendly diplomatic relations with Israel, and they are associated with a continent largely perceived as neutral in terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict.


They both have significant Jewish communities which live in relative harmony, while Brazil is seen as one of the major economic players – a sleeping economic giant – in the newly forming global economy.


THE LATE Ya'acov Herzog, a foremost diplomat and religious scholar during the first three decades of the state was absolutely right when his book of essays, A People which Will Dwell Alone, was published in the 1970s. Based on the biblical prophecy of Balaam, Herzog argued that the sad fate of the Jewish people and state was to be isolated within the international community for eternity.


But, unlike Herzog's interpretation of this famous prophecy, today's increased isolation is not simply due to an everlasting hatred of the Jews brought on by anti-Semitism.


Much of the isolation is brought on by our own government's intransigent policies, talking peace but doing exactly the opposite, and rejecting any chance at reaching some form of resolution because of the compromises which will have to be made. We love to talk of our yearning for peace, security and stability, but absolutely nothing we do points to the fact that we are prepared to translate these words into actions.


And so we bring on our own isolation within the international community, whose major players – the US and EU – have played along with us for a long time, but are becoming increasingly dissatisfied.


It should be clear to all that we are no longer seen as a peace-loving country, not even by our friends and allies, and that we can no longer lay the sole blame for this at the door of the Palestinians. It is a situation which has increasingly been brought on by our own elected government.


Yes, the world is sympathetic when suicide bombers unleash terror in our cities. And yes, the world is sympathetic when it hears threats of driving the Jewish people into the sea and a refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state. But no, the world does not accept that a strong Israel which, more or less, has found ways of dealing with these threats, continues to occupy another people, and no the world does not accept that Israel, as the stronger side in the conflict, cannot give that bit more to reach the painful compromises which are necessary.

In a world where the self-determination of ethnic and national groups has long been a given, the Palestinians no longer have to justify their separate status to anyone. And unlike most other self-defined national groups desiring at the very least autonomy, and at most independence, they do not have to deal with the problem of secession from an existing state. Since the end of the 
British Mandate in 1948, the West Bank and Gaza Strip have never been part of the sovereign state of either Jordan or Israel. The legal status of these territories has always been "undetermined," and it is for this reason that the international community has little problem in recognizing the establishment of a state there – as it has done in recent years with respect to both East Timor and Kosovo.


It won't take much for the Latin American recognition of Palestine to become a mass international recognition, even further isolating us if we refuse to acknowledge this. Better that we take the necessary steps than have it forced upon us.


The writer is professor of political geography at Ben-Gurion University. The opinions in this article are his alone.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

ENCOUNTERING PEACE: SO, WHAT COMES NEXT?

BY GERSHON BASKIN  

 

Now that the US has finally decided that negotiations about negotiations are over, the real work will get under way.

 

Has the US actually plotted a new course for the peace process, or was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Saban Forum speech simply rehashed merchandise, as some Palestinian Authority officials have stated? Is a return to proximity talks a retreat in the peace process? Is Israel's refusal to again freeze all settlement building recognition that the two-state solution is no longer viable? Can a peace process get anywhere if the conflicting parties are not speaking to each other directly? These and many other questions will be answered in this brief Q&A on the peace process.


Question: Is the US marketing old goods by going back to proximity talks? Answer: No. When it first proposed proximity talks, through the shuttle diplomacy of George Mitchell, the goal was to reach direct negotiations. This was a mistake, and precious time was lost on process issues rather than on issues of substance.

But the US has now decided that negotiating negotiations is over. Clinton announced that "we will push the parties to lay out their positions on the core issues without delay and with real specificity. We will work to narrow the gaps, asking the tough questions and expecting substantive answers. And in the context of our private conversations with the parties, we will offer our own ideas and bridging proposals when appropriate."

Negotiations will now get under way for the first time since Barack Obama stepped into the White House.

Q: But how can they negotiate when they aren't even speaking to each other? A: Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat did not speak to each other directly in Camp David. The US team shuttled between them. It is true that the experts, advisers and other political leaders did speak to each other directly, and that as the talks progressed, direct talks between the parties took place. 
President Jimmy Carter then took charge of the process. He set the agenda, he proposed the bridging ideas and he, with his team, drafted the Camp David agreement.


The US should now do the same. Mitchell or any other US mediator should not shuttle between Jerusalem and Ramallah every couple of weeks. The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators should be invited to a secluded location in the US for intensive negotiations for as long as it takes, with the US mediator setting the agenda, assigning tasks and drafting the agreement.


Q: Will the US always be willing to assist in the peace process? A: Thomas Friedman, the New York Times journalist suggested this week that since the parties are less interested in negotiations than the US, the US should simply step down. "The most valuable thing that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could do now is just get out of the picture – so both leaders and both peoples have an unimpeded view of their horrible future together in one state if they can't separate."


No one knows if Obama will follow Friedman's advice, but given America's problems and his desire for a second term, it certainly seems logical that America's patience in the Middle East will not last forever.

Q: What will happen if there are no negotiations? A: With growing international support, it seems that the Palestinians have already come to realize that ending the occupation and securing a state are no longer negotiable.

In this respect, the issue of two states for two peoples has already been decided. The gradual but consistent recognition of Palestine will continue, with two South American states doing so last week, four European countries upgrading the status of the PLO representative to ambassador, and an EU Council and foreign ministers proposing that within a year, 27 EU member states will also recognize Palestine.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad confirmed there was no need to unilaterally declare a state because that was done by Yasser Arafat in 1988. Countries are now being asked to recognize the state in the 1967 borders, with final borders to be negotiated and Jerusalem to be the capital of both states. No, this will not change the reality on the ground. But Israel would be very wise to also agree to recognize the state of Palestine in secure and negotiated borders.

Q: Prime Minister 
Binyamin Netanyahu states that Israel must continue to control the Jordan Valley to guarantee its survival. Is this true? A: The introduction of ballistic missiles to the West Bank, even of the homemade Kassam type, can be a strategic threat because of their ability to reach civilian aircraft landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. Likewise, anti-aircraft weapons in the West Bank are a much greater threat than similar weapons in Gaza.


The Jordan Valley is about 20 percent of the West Bank, and its primary land reserves are for development and future refugee resettlement; no Palestinian leader will agree to a state without it. The strategic threat of not ending the occupation is far greater and more difficult to deal with than the problem of preventing the smuggling of missiles into the West Bank.


Today the Israel-Jordan border is secured by joint security measures. After peace with the Palestinians, the Jordanians will continue to secure their side of the border. The line today is protected by sophisticated electronic devises monitored mainly by a couple of hundred young female soldiers, with several platoons of soldiers patrolling the border, intelligence gathering, drone surveillance, etc.


In negotiations and in private talks Palestinians have already indicated a willingness to include Israelis in joint patrols, or in a multinational force.


Cooperation with Jordan will continue. Many possibilities exist for dealing with other real security needs. The excuse for continuing to control Palestine's eastern border is not related to real security but to the psychological difficulty of letting go.


We cannot have peace while continuing to control Palestine's external borders. No people will agree to live in a sovereign cage. Not us, and not them.


The writer is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org), and is in the process of founding the Center for Israeli Progress (http://israeli-progress.org).

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

CELEBRATING THE RISE IN CONSTRUCTION

 

True, the scope of settlement construction was four times larger during the premiership of Ehud Barak; but remember, that's also why negotiations with the Palestinians ended.

By Dror Etkes

 

Anyone who has visited the West Bank in recent months has been greeted by the din of mountain-moving bulldozers and jackhammers, alongside giant foundation drills sending up clouds of dust that can be seen for miles. Cement mixers are working around the clock, and everything is being done in a grab-what-you-can atmosphere.

 

In dozens of settlements, including those where not even a stone has been moved for years, accelerated work is underway to fulfill hundreds of Israeli families' dream of having a house and a yard in what is still perceived here as pastoral scenery. This is in addition to the preparation of huge areas and construction in the largest settlements, where for decades work hasn't stopped for a minute: Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel, Modi'in Ilit and Beitar Ilit.

 

In contrast to what happened in the months preceding the moratorium and during the 10 months of the "freeze" (which was no more than a media gimmick a la Benjamin Netanyahu ) - during which a relatively large portion of the construction was in settlements east of the West Bank separation barrier - the building begun in recent months has again migrated to settlements west of the approved barrier route, those that Israel is trying to accustom the world to seeing as part of the settlement blocs.

 

]Illegal construction is also going on. New projects in official settlements that don't include a single legal house, such as Eli and Ofra, are flourishing. The unauthorized outposts haven't seen such massive building momentum in a long time. In a few - such as Shvut Rachel, Nof Harim, Palgei Mayim, Bruhin and Mitzpeh Kramim - it is permanent construction, the likes of which has not taken place since 2002-2003.

 

Hundreds of laborers are energetically constructing hundreds of homes, completely disregarded by the Civil Administration, whose dozens of inspectors were apparently too busy recently with demolishing the picnic table and garbage can settlers had installed near a spring adjacent to Elon Moreh. Why confront the real issues at hand when you can continue doing nothing other than send messages to West Bank reporters about purported enforcement activities?

 

Construction in the settlements on such a scale has not been seen since the premiership of Ehud Barak - who recently scolded the Palestinians for their unwillingness to resume negotiations, arguing that during his term as prime minister the talks continued even though the scope of construction was four times larger than today. Despite his exaggeration, what is interesting is precisely what Barak forgot to mention: the way his negotiations with the Palestinians ended.

 

And perhaps that is precisely the reason the Palestinians refuse to resume negotiations. They've already seen this movie - which began with 110,000 settlers in 1993 and has now reached 330,000, with more on the way.

 

It's no wonder the Palestinians prefer to move the forum of their struggle with Israel to the United Nations. There, like the Jews in 1947, they are perceived as the weaker party, whose demand for recognition of a state along the 1967 borders is naturally and justifiably supported by most countries in the international community.

 

The story, as one of my friends recently concluded, is no longer about right versus left in Israel, because there is no longer a left in Israel. It is a campaign waged by the right-wing settler movement, assisted by the Netanyahu government, which is playing for time, against the entire world - except for our new friends in the European neo-fascist groups and the American evangelical right. With friends like these, Israel should seriously consider reaching peace with the Arab world, and quickly.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ARAB MKS AND ISRAELI DEMOCRACY

MOST JEWISH CITIZENS, HAVING LITTLE DIRECT CONTACT WITH ARAB CITIZENS, INEVITABLY BASE THEIR OPINION OF THE VIEWS HELD BY ISRAEL'S ARAB POPULATION ON ARAB MKS' SPEECHES.

BY MOSHE ARENS

 

The Israel Democracy Institute's annual publication of "Auditing Israeli Democracy - 2010" contains interesting and revealing information regarding the attitude of Israel's Jewish citizens to its Arab citizens.

 

But while the recent polling results that appear in the publication are revealing, they are not really surprising: 86 percent of Israel's Jewish citizens believe that decisions of major importance for the state must enjoy the support of a Jewish majority, while 62 percent of Israel's Jewish citizens believe that as long as Israel is engaged in a conflict with the Palestinians, Arab citizens' opinions on matters of security and foreign policy should not be taken into account.

 

These views are certainly not in accord with the norms of modern democracies, where the views of all citizens, regardless of ethnic or religious background, carry equal weight in national elections and parliamentary votes on all issues up for decision. This has also been, and continues to be, the practice in Israel for the past 62 years.

 

When matters relating to security or foreign policy were brought to a vote in the Knesset in the past, the majority was generally large enough that Arab Knesset members' votes were not decisive. But still fresh in our minds is the Knesset's no-confidence vote on the Oslo accords in 1993, a vote the Rabin government probably could not have won without the cooperation of Arab Knesset members. It was a reminder that under certain circumstances, the Arab vote could turn out to be a tie-breaker.

 

Do the polls conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute indicate that a majority of Israel's Jewish citizens have not really absorbed the basic precepts of democratic government? That something is amiss in the education of our youngsters, and that if only greater stress were to be put on teaching democratic principles in our schools, this seeming aberration in the views of so many of our citizens would in time disappear?

 

Before we reach that conclusion, let us listen to the speeches of our Arab Knesset members. Without exception, they are hostile to the State of Israel, accuse the Israel Defense Forces of war crimes and are supportive of Israel's enemies - Hezbollah and Hamas. Most Jewish citizens, having little direct contact with Arab citizens, inevitably base their opinion of the views held by Israel's Arab population on these speeches. If these are the views of the Arab public's representatives, they reason, they must surely reflect the views of Israeli Arabs.

 

The demonstrative appearance of MK Hanin Zuabi on the ship organized by a group of Turkish terrorists, and the frequent visits by Arab Knesset members to countries that are at war with Israel, only reinforce this view. Add to that the nefarious activities of the northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement, a Siamese twin of Hamas, which preaches hostility to Israel and prays for its destruction, and one can begin to understand that many of Israel's Jewish citizens believe that giving Israeli Arabs the opportunity to decide on Israel's future would be tantamount to committing national suicide. Even a fervent belief in the principles of democratic government may not be enough to neutralize such sentiment.

 

This raises the question of whether a majority of Israel's Arab citizens really support the views espoused by Arab members of Knesset. Since the percentage of Arab Knesset members is considerably lower than the percentage of Arabs among Israeli voters, it is certain that not all Arab voters vote for them; many distribute their votes among the other parties.

 

But do all those who do vote for them identify with their views, or do some vote for them for lack of another alternative - an Arab party that wants to further equality of opportunity for Israel's Arab citizens but does not support Israel's enemies? There would seem to be room for such a party, as well as for greater Arab participation in Israel's other parties. In any case, the Israel Democracy Institute could provide an important service by polling Israel's Arab citizens on these questions.

 

In the meantime, what is clear is that the Arab MKs, by their incessant attacks on Israel and their support for Israel's enemies, are doing a great disservice to the establishment of harmony between Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens. And such harmony is a necessary condition for the integration of Israel's Arab population into the fabric of Israeli society.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

SUBJECT TO BAIDATZ'S APPROVAL

BAIDATZ IS ONLY A BRIGADIER GENERAL, SUBORDINATE TO THE MI CHIEF AND, SOON, TO A NEW CHIEF OF STAFF. BUT WITHOUT HIS EXPLICIT APPROVAL, THE BELLIGERENT MEMBERS OF ISRAEL'S LEADERSHIP WILL HAVE DIFFICULTY JUSTIFYING FAR-REACHING MILITARY MOVES.

BY AMIR OREN

 

A senior General Staff officer took advantage of a free hour last week to study some papers in his briefcase while on a helicopter flight south. Among the top-secret documents lay a humble report, classified merely "reserved" - a daily analysis of the WikiLeaks reports.

 

At the instructions of Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, an officers' team headed by a lieutenant colonel sifts through the thousands of American cables to select the ones most interesting to Israeli intelligence. The report's recipients dub it "Wikilon."

 

Baidatz, who has headed the research division of Military Intelligence for the past five years, is the son of Brig. Gen. (res. ) Uri Baidatz, a veteran combat commander. His brother Shlomo, an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, was killed in the Yom Kippur War.

 

Despite their misgivings, Yossi's parents permitted him to follow in his brother's footsteps and enlist in that unit. But at the recruiting center, he was stung by a bee and suffered a general organ failure. Only after a struggle with the Medical Corps was he allowed to return to service, this time in intelligence. Among other things, he served as intelligence officer for Sayeret Matkal and the Northern Command.

 

]When Baidatz studies the Wikilon, he may read about himself as well, as the person who briefs Americans posted in Tel Aviv or visiting it.

 

Following the chain of reports link by link is fascinating. For example, on February 22, a report from Tel Aviv says Baidatz informed the U.S. Embassy that MI knows of immediate Syrian plans to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon with Scud-D missiles. Baidatz asked the American administration to dissuade Syria from transferring the missiles to Hezbollah, and to do so before Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrived in Washington on February 25, to prevent Damascus from getting the wrong impression that Israel and the United States had cooperated to expose and thwart Syria's plan to give Hezbollah the missiles. Why should Israel care if the Syrians thought this? Only Barak knows.

 

The State Department decided it shared Israel's concern and did as it was asked on February 25. Its embassy in Damascus was instructed to contact Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad to express concern over this escalation and urge Syria to act with restraint, because its strategic interests are not identical to Iran's and Hezbollah's.

 

Washington's explanation to its diplomats in Syria - it has no ambassador there - mentions the Scuds, but the written request relayed to Syria refers only to "ballistic missiles," "lethal long-range missiles" and "new missiles," vague terms that do not necessarily imply a change in the kind of missiles. The name "Scud" disappeared from the conversation.

 

Miqdad agreed to meet Charles Hunter, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, that very day, Hunter reported. Miqdad was clearly surprised, listened carefully, took detailed notes and interrupted Hunter twice to make sure the missiles in question were ballistic and to ascertain whether this was an American or an Israeli warning.

 

In the end, he totally denied that any weapons were reaching Hezbollah via Syria. Although the American diplomats were not misled by Miqdad's response, they found a silver lining: The meeting was arranged without delay, even in the midst of a holiday and during a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 

Hunter's cable of February 26 shows again that the Syrians are a tough nut to crack. Washington's next move was a sweeping instruction to its diplomats in major European and Arab capitals to ask those governments to pressure Syria not to supply Hezbollah with surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles.

 

Life, however, did not stop at the end of February, when U.S. soldier Bradley Manning stopped hoarding cables and key codes. MI still devotes a great deal of thought to assessing the pace of Iran's nuclear program and the chances of extracting Syria from its suffocating embrace.

 

Baidatz, as far as is known, belongs to the sober, moderate school on both these related issues. He is only a brigadier general, subordinate to the MI chief and, soon, to a new chief of staff. But without his explicit approval, the belligerent members of Israel's leadership will have difficulty justifying far-reaching military moves. After all, MI's research division will report its views to the cabinet, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and ultimately, the public - without WikiLeaks.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IN SCOTLAND, THE GUY RESIGNED

A FEW DAYS AGO, A HEAVY SNOWSTORM HIT SCOTLAND, PARALYZING THE NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION NETWORK. AIRPORTS WERE CLOSED AND VEHICLES WERE STUCK IN THE SNOW. NO COMMISSION OF INQUIRY OR STATE COMPTROLLER'S REPORT WAS NECESSARY.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

They found the culprit. No, it's not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Interior Minister Eli Yishai. It's not even Fire Commissioner Shimon Romah. The blame lies with pro-market ideas that took hold of the country and the privatization policy driven by the treasury over the past 25 years. This is what dime-a-dozen politicians and commentators who jumped on the bandwagon say.

 

As far as they're concerned, the guilty ones are the "treasury boys," who didn't provide enough money to the fire service because they wanted it to be privatized. So the firefighters didn't have the proper equipment, and a disaster was only a matter of time.

 

It's unbelievable, because what's happening in the fire service is the complete opposite. No one at the treasury recommended privatizing the service. The complete opposite was recommended: total nationalization. The idea was to take 24 municipal firefighting associations operating under the loose control of the local authorities and the Interior Ministry, and combine them into one national fire service under the Public Security Ministry, similar to the police. This way, a professional, economical fire service could be built, and this has nothing to do with the privatization bogeyman.

 

There's no disputing that the fire service lacks fire trucks, advanced materials, logistics equipment and manpower. But pouring millions on those 24 municipal associations is an appalling waste because the current system is sick, ineffective and unmanaged. And if it gets the extra budget without going through reforms it will only become fatter, slower and more profligate.

 

The budget of the municipal fire associations is NIS 500 million a year. Some 80 percent of that goes to salaries, so only 10 percent is left for buying equipment. That's like a high-tech company paying good money to its workers but not giving them computers to use.

 

The chairman of the national firefighting association, Asi Levi - a member of the Likud Central Committee - is against uniting the 24 associations into one national authority. He says the head of every local association has a salary of NIS 50,000, an expensive SUV, a personal secretary and administrative powers. Who would agree to give that all up?

 

The fire service has become a fertile ground for the political appointment of Likud functionaries, and these are people no minister would dare confront. After all, they rule fates in the primaries. As for the firefighters' salaries, Levi says: "Even doctors don't make that much money; the entire budget goes to paychecks, and everyone ignores this."

 

As for the fire commissioner, Levi thinks he's a joke. Levi says Romah doesn't actually manage anything, "he can't tell a firefighter in the field to move a hose half a meter." The real boss is the chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, Shlomo Bohbot, so it's small wonder that Bohbot also opposes the reform. Another man against it is Ofer Eini, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation. He agrees for firemen to have salaries and work conditions like policemen, but he won't agree to give up the right to strike, as the police have done.

 

And because Yishai doesn't want to open a front with Eini, the reform of the fire service is stuck. So the great fear is that Netanyahu and Yishai will reach an agreement on channeling massive funds to the ailing fire service without a reform, to quell public criticism. After all, Netanyahu wants to avoid a state commission of inquiry, and Yishai wants the public to stop pressing him to resign.

 

A few days ago, a heavy snowstorm hit Scotland, paralyzing the national transportation network. Airports were closed, trains stopped and vehicles were stuck in the snow and ice. No commission of inquiry or state comptroller's report was necessary. Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson resigned immediately, writing in his resignation letter that he "could have done much more to ensure that members of the public were better informed of the situation."

 

But where are we and where is Scotland? Where's Stevenson's culture of government and where is Eli Yishai?

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE ORTHODOX TYRANNY

ON THE ISSUE OF IDF CONVERSIONS, THE CONCEPT OF A COMPROMISE IS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED.

 

The weakness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and of the crude ties with which he bound his disparate coalition together, have been revealed anew by his convolutions over the issue of military conversions.

 

On one hand, he is being pressured by Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman to support a bill proposed by MK David Rotem that would ratify all conversions carried out by the Israel Defense Forces, thus bypassing the Chief Rabbinate. On the other hand, he is being threatened by Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who fears for the standing of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, a protege of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Juggling between them is Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who is trying to broker a compromise.

 

But any choice Netanyahu makes, even a compromise, will lay bare his increasingly strained efforts to keep the coalition's fraying bonds from breaking. More than anything, this effort attests to a fundamental flaw in the coalition itself.

 

Rotem's bill and Shas' stubbornness may seem like opposites, but in reality, both are warped expressions of the same problem. The sole concern of Yisrael Beiteinu's leaders is catering to to potential voters for their party who converted during their military service. The party's conversion initiatives, like its civil marriage initiative, make it clear that it has no interest in breaking the Orthodox monopoly. All it wants is a "special track" for immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not considered Jews according to halakha.

 

Shas, for its part, has responded in kind: All it cares about is the standing of "its" rabbis.

 

Both parties are acting in line with the Orthodox tyranny and contrary to the interests of both the general public and the IDF, which is now helpless against the establishment it had tried to bypass. This tyranny, which has of late reached new heights - "rulings" by racist rabbis against renting or selling homes to Arabs, yeshiva heads encouraging insubordination by soldiers, inflated powers given to rabbinical court judges - distances Israeli society from normalcy and brings the state into conflict with Diaspora Jewry.

 

The solution does not lie in another bypass or compromise. It would be better to consider replacing the institution of the Chief Rabbinate with municipal or community arrangements, thus bringing the Orthodox tyranny, which undermines Israeli democracy and good governance, to an end.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

COLLEGE, JOBS AND INEQUALITY

 

Searching for solace in bleak unemployment numbers, policy makers and commentators often cite the relatively low joblessness among college graduates, which is currently 5.1 percent compared with 10 percent for high school graduates and an overall jobless rate of 9.8 percent. Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, cited the data recently on "60 Minutes" to make the point that "educational differences" are a root cause of income inequality.

 

A college education is better than no college education and correlates with higher pay. But as a cure for unemployment or as a way to narrow the chasm between the rich and everyone else, "more college" is a too-easy answer. Over the past year, for example, the unemployment rate for college grads under age 25 has averaged 9.2 percent, up from 8.8 percent a year earlier and 5.8 percent in the first year of the recession that began in December 2007. That means recent grads have about the same level of unemployment as the general population. It also suggests that many employed recent grads may be doing work that doesn't require a college degree.

 

Even more disturbing, there is no guarantee that unemployed or underemployed college grads will move into much better jobs as conditions improve. Early bouts of joblessness, or starting in a lower-level job with lower pay, can mean lower levels of career attainment and earnings over a lifetime.Graduates who have been out of work or underemployed in the downturn may also find themselves at a competitive disadvantage with freshly minted college graduates as the economy improves.

 

When it comes to income inequality, college-educated workers make more than noncollege-educated ones. But higher pay for college grads cannot explain the profound inequality in the United States. The latest installment of the groundbreaking work on income inequality by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez shows that the richest 1 percent of American households — those making more than $370,000 a year — received 21 percent of total income in 2008. That was slightly below the highs of the bubble years but still among the highest percentages since the Roaring Twenties.

 

The top 10 percent — those making more than $110,000 — received 48 percent of total income, leaving 52 percent for the bottom 90 percent. Where are college-educated workers? Their median pay has basically stagnated for the past 10 years, at roughly $72,000 a year for men and $52,000 a year for women.

 

A big reason for the huge gains at the top is the outsize pay of executives, bankers and traders. Lower on the income ladder, workers have not fared well, in part because health care has consumed an ever-larger share of compensation and bargaining power has diminished with the decline in labor unions.

 

College is still the path to higher-paying professions. But without a concerted effort to develop new industries, the weakened economy will be hard pressed to create enough better-paid positions to absorb all graduates.

 

And to combat inequality, the drive for more college and more jobs must coincide with efforts to preserve and improve the policies, programs and institutions that have fostered shared prosperity and broad opportunity — Social Security, Medicare, public schools, progressive taxation, unions, affirmative action, regulation of financial markets and enforcement of labor laws.

 

College is not a cure-all, but it will certainly take the best and brightest minds to confront those challenges.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE LATEST HEALTH CARE DECISION

 

 

It was no great surprise that a federal district judge in Virginia, nominated by President George W. Bush, declared a provision of the health care reform law unconstitutional. Yet his decision offers at least some hope for health care reform because it bends over backward to limit the scope of his ruling in two important respects.

The core of his ruling is that a requirement in the law that people buy health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congressional powers to regulate interstate commerce or to impose taxes for the general welfare. Two other district court judges nominated by President Bill Clinton — in Michigan and in another part of Virginia — have ruled the mandate constitutional.

 

Judge Henry Hudson concluded that Congress can't regulate "economic inactivity," the failure to buy health insurance, as if it were "economic activity" that affected interstate commerce. Yet it seems clear that decisions not to buy insurance will, in the aggregate, affect costs in the broader health care markets. We hope higher courts will find that a decision to forgo insurance simply shifts much of the cost for subsequent illness to hospitals, doctors and insured individuals. Taxpayers' costs would rise to pay for billions of dollars in uncompensated care given to individuals who can't pay for it.

 

Judge Hudson also ruled that the penalties for failing to buy insurance, though administered through the Internal Revenue Service, were really a penalty not a tax and thus can't be justified by Congress's authority to raise taxes for the general welfare. Yet there are precedents that seem to suggest that penalties can be considered taxes if they raise some revenue.

 

Virginia's attorney general had asked the judge to invalidate the entire law if he found the mandate to buy insurance unconstitutional, but Judge Hudson invalidated only the mandate. He said he was following a time-honored rule to "sever with circumspection" by removing only problematic parts of a law.

 

The attorney general had also asked the judge to stop implementation of the law until a higher court rules on its constitutionality. Judge Hudson sensibly denied that request in part because the crucial provisions of the mandate, the only issue he was addressing, don't take effect until 2013. Preparatory steps are not irreversible and states should not hang back while this case is being appealed and likely decided by the Supreme Court.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CONGRESS AND THE COURT

 

David Henderson was discharged from the military in 1952 after two years of duty in Korea when he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He received a disability rating of 100 percent and full benefits. Almost 50 years later, he filed a claim for added coverage of in-home care. The Department of Veterans Affairs denied it. He appealed — 15 days after the statutory 120-day period for his appeal had ended.

 

Now the Supreme Court has to decide whether he should have been given leeway. Clearly, that was the right thing to do. It was his illness's terrible disorienting effects that kept him from meeting the deadline. (He died this fall, but his wife is entitled to his back benefits.)

 

But because of a recent Supreme Court decision interpreting the statute, a federal appeals court said the deadline was inflexible. A concurring opinion said Congress should fix the problem. That's right, but this dysfunctional Congress is unlikely to do it anytime soon.

 

]In this sort of case, there are competing philosophies on the Supreme Court about how justices should interpret statutes. One, framed by Justice Antonin Scalia, has in mind a Congress that doesn't exist. The other, framed by Justice Stephen Breyer, is realistic.

 

The three branches of government were designed to check and balance each other. They were intended even more to work together in common purpose. For example, Congress has relied on the executive branch to exercise the power they share in carrying out the many wars that Congress hasn't declared. The question is how Congress and the court should interact in giving meaning to statutes.

 

The Scalia view is that justices should apply meaning expressed solely in the words of a law and not try to figure out what Congress intended. If they do, they will find no trustworthy answer and will apply what they think the law should be, usurping Congress's role.

 

The Breyer view is that justices should apply the meaning found in a statute's words, the context for the words in the statute, and the statute's history, to help fulfill the law's purpose.

 

In a perfect world, Congress would strive to make its meaning clear in every statute, and, when it learns of a defect through a Henderson-type case, address it quickly. In this imperfect world, Congress is not going to do that. The court should be a partner, challenging Congress to correct defects in laws, while working to glean the purpose of a statute.

 

In this case, the law is clear in setting a deadline. But it's not a reasonable deadline, and the court can and must conclude that the law and precedent allow veterans like Mr. Henderson leeway. Otherwise, the neediest, most challenged veterans would be the least likely to obtain essential benefits, which is certainly not the purpose of the law, nor the nation.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

SWEDEN'S NEAR MISS

 

No country is immune from terrorism in today's world, not even Sweden, with its unusually open society, traditional commitment to peace and wariness of military alliances.

 

On Saturday night, Stockholm had a narrow brush with catastrophe when a man tentatively identified as an Iraqi-born Swede (who had studied in Britain) detonated an explosives-laden car on a busy downtown street at the height of the Christmas shopping season. As in New York City's Times Square seven months ago, hundreds of innocent bystanders might have been killed. Fortunately, the would-be terrorist was the only fatality.

 

The bomber appears to have acted alone, incensed by the publication of Swedish cartoons he considered blasphemous and the sufferings of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, where 500 Swedish soldiers serve under NATO command.

 

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has responded in keeping with Sweden's finest traditions. Denouncing the attacks as "unacceptable," he urged Swedes to "stand up for tolerance," not jump to premature conclusions and "let the justice system do its job."

 

Mr. Reinfeldt's firm and timely championing of traditional Swedish tolerance showed political courage. In elections three months ago, his center-right coalition fell short of an absolute majority as a result of alarming gains by the misleadingly named Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party of the extreme right.

 

Center-right politicians elsewhere in Europe — France and the Netherlands, for example — have been quick to pander to similar xenophobic parties and their supporters. Mr. Reinfeldt declared defiantly on Monday that Sweden's open society is worth defending. We couldn't agree more.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A U.N. PLAN FOR ISRAEL

BY ROBERT WRIGHT

 

The blogger Andrew Sullivan has called America's policy toward Israel "assisted suicide." That may be an exaggeration, but on Friday it became less of one. The occasion was a speech by Hillary Clinton, much anticipated after the collapse of talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

 

The good news is that Clinton sees the peril that Israel is moving toward. "The ever-evolving technology of war" means that, in the absence of a peace deal, "it will be increasingly difficult to guarantee the security of Israeli families." Further, "long-term population trends … are endangering the Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic state."

 

Translation (with embellishment): If there is no two-state solution, Israel can either (a) give Palestinians in the occupied territories the vote and watch as the Arab birth rate turns Israeli Jews into a minority; or (b) keep denying the vote to Arabs it has ruled for decades, thus incurring charges of apartheid, moving toward pariah status among nations, continuing to give propaganda fuel to regional troublemakers and raising the chances of disastrous war.

 

Sadly, here is the policy Clinton unveiled to avert this catastrophe: America will talk to the two sides about what they might say should they ever talk to each other. As The New York Times headline put it, "Clinton Says U.S. Is Committed to Mideast Peace but Reverting to Old Strategy." You're familiar with how well that strategy worked?

 

There is a strategy that could actually work. It would take boldness on President Obama's part, but it could win him a place in history and the enduring gratitude of most Jews and Palestinians.

 

Seizing the opportunity involves first seeing the flaw in one premise of our current policy. As Clinton put that premise on Friday, "The United States and the international community cannot impose a solution. Sometimes I think both parties seem to think we can. We cannot."

 

Yes we can.

 

The United Nations created a Jewish state six decades ago, and it can create a Palestinian state now. It can define the borders, set the timetable and lay down the rules for Palestinian elections (specifying, for example, that the winners must swear allegiance to a constitution that acknowledges Israel's right to exist).

 

Establishing such a state would involve more tricky issues than can be addressed in this space. (I take a stab at some of them atwww.progressiverealist.org/UN2states.) But, however messy this solution may seem, it looks pretty good when you realize how hopeless the current process is.

 

Palestinians and Israelis have taken turns impeding this process, and lately Israel has been in the lead. A raft of American inducements failed to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to forgo for even three months the construction of Israeli settlements that are banned under international law. It would be nice to think that this is just a phase, the product of an ephemeral far-right coalition. But there are signs that Israel's drift to the right runs deep.

 

Only last week the chief rabbis in dozens of Israeli municipalities — who get government salaries — decreed that landlords shouldn't rent to non-Jews. Meanwhile, hard-line settlers are systematically populating the upper levels of the military. And moderates seem to be heading for the exits. From 2000 to 2009 the number of Israelis applying for permanent residence in America nearly doubled.

 

Every day, settlement construction — especially in East Jerusalem — makes it harder to imagine two-state borders that would leave Palestinians with the minimal dignity necessary for lasting peace. As chances of a deal shrink, international impatience grows. This monthBrazil and Argentina recognized a Palestinian state with 1967 borders.

 

By comparison, a United Nations solution looks Israel-friendly. Borders could be drawn to accommodate some of the thickest Israeli settlements along the 1967 lines (while giving the new Palestinian state land in exchange). But perhaps the biggest advantage is the political cover this approach would give President Obama.

 

Sure, he'd have to endure some noise from America's Israel lobby. But at least he'd have to put on his noise-canceling headphones only twice: (1) when he agreed to explore this path with other members of the "quartet" — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations; (2) when the quartet, having produced a plan, handed it to the Security Council, at which point America would vote for it, or at least not veto it.

 

By contrast, the current path involves Obama taking political heat every time he tries to move Netanyahu a few inches toward the goal line. And there are 97 yards to go.

 

A prediction: if the United Nations does take the initiative, domestic resistance will be largely confined to the right wing of American Jewish opinion. Vast numbers of American (and Israeli) Jews will rally to the plan, because lasting peace will finally be within reach.

 

This Op-Ed column appeared in print on December 14, 2010.

 

Postscript: Several months ago Amjad Atallah and Bassma Kodmani proposed that, in the event that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapsed, as they now have, the United Nations should take action different from what I'm advocating: "to obtain United Nations membership for [a Palestinian] state along with a Security Council resolution in which it assumes responsibility for finalizing the terms of a two-state deal." For an argument that the collapse of negotiations could be a "potentially useful, clarifying moment," see this very smart essay by Daniel Levy (who was on the Israeli negotiating team at the Taba talks in 2001) in The National Interest.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

BEN FRANKLIN'S NATION

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

After you read this column, go to YouTube and search "Hans Rosling and 200 countries." You'll see a Swedish professor describe the growth of global wealth and well-being over the past 200 years.

 

He presents an animated time-lapse chart. It starts in 1810, when the nations of the world were clumped on the bottom left-hand side of the chart because they had low income and low life expectancy. Then the industrial revolution kicks in and the nations of the West surge upward and to the right as they get richer and healthier. By 1948, it's like a race, with the United States out front and the other nations of the world stretched in a long tail behind.

 

Then, over the last few decades, the social structure of the world changes. The Asian and Latin American countries begin to catch up. With the exception of the African nations, living standards start to converge. Now most countries are clumped toward the top end of the chart, thanks to the incredible reductions in global poverty and improvements in health.

 

This convergence is great news, but the change in the global social structure has created a psychological crisis in the U.S. Since World War II, we've built our national identity on our rank among the nations — at the front with everybody else trailing behind. But in this age of convergence, the world doesn't have much of a tail anymore.

 

]Some people interpret this loss of lead-dog status as a sign of national decline.

 

Other people think we are losing our exceptionalism. But, the truth is, there's just been a change in the shape of the world community. In a world of relative equals, the U.S. will have to learn to define itself not by its rank, but by its values. It will be important to have the right story to tell, the right purpose and the right aura. It will be more important to know who you are.

 

Americans seem uncertain about how to answer that question. But one answer is contained in Rosling's chart. What is the core feature of the converging world? It is the rise of a gigantic global middle class.

 

In 2000, the World Bank classified 430 million people as middle class. By 2030, there will be about 1.5 billion. In India alone, the ranks of the middle class will swell from 50 million to 583 million.

 

]To be middle class is to have money to spend on non-necessities. But it also involves a shift in values. Middle-class parents have fewer kids but spend more time and money cultivating each one. They often adopt the bourgeois values — emphasizing industry, prudence, ambition, neatness, order, moderation and continual self-improvement. They teach their children to lead different lives from their own, and as Karl Marx was among the first to observe, unleash a relentless spirit of improvement and openness that alters every ancient institution.

 

Last year, the Pew Research Center surveyed the global middle class and found that middle-class people are more likely than their poorer countrymen to value democracy, free speech and an objective judiciary. They were more likely to embrace religious pluralism and say that you don't have to believe in God to be good.

 

]Over the next few decades, a lot of people are going to get rich selling education, self-help and mobility tools to the surging global bourgeoisie. The United States has a distinct role to play in this world.

 

American culture was built on the notion of bourgeois dignity. We've always been lacking in aristocratic grace and we've never had much proletarian consciousness, but America did produce Ben Franklin, one of the original spokesmen of middle-class values. It did produce Horatio Alger, who told stories about poor boys and girls who rose to middle-class respectability. It does produce a nonstop flow of self-help leaders, from Dale Carnegie to Oprah Winfrey. It did produce the suburbs and a new sort of middle-class dream.

 

Americans could well become the champions of the gospel of middle-class dignity. The U.S. could become the crossroads nation for those who aspire to join the middle and upper-middle class, attracting students, immigrants and entrepreneurs.

 

To do this, we'd have to do a better job of celebrating and defining middle-class values. We'd have to do a better job of nurturing our own middle class. We'd have to have the American business class doing what it does best: catering to every nook and cranny of the middle-class lifestyle. And we'd have to emphasize that capitalism didn't create the American bourgeoisie. It was the social context undergirding capitalism — the community clubs, the professional societies, the religious charities and Little Leagues.

 

For centuries, people have ridiculed American culture for being tepid, materialistic and middle class. But Ben Franklin's ideas won in the end. The middle-class century could be another American century.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHAT IKE GOT RIGHT

By JAMES LEDBETTER

 

LAST week the National Archives released a trove of drafts and notes that shed new light on President Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address, in which he warned America about the "military-industrial complex."

\

The release comes just in time for the speech's 50th anniversary next month. And so while scholars and historians use these documents to scrutinize the evolution of the speech's famous phrase, it's worth asking a broader question: does America still have a military-industrial complex, and should we be as worried about it as Eisenhower was?

 

By one measure, the answer to the first question is yes. Over the past 50 years there have been very few years in which the United States has spent less on the military than it did the year before.

 

This has remained true whether the country is actively fighting a war, whether it has an obvious and well-armed enemy or whether Democrats or Republicans run the White House and Congress. Despite regular expectations that the United States will enjoy a peace dividend, we continue to spend more on the military than the countries with the next 15 largest military budgets combined.

 

Such perpetual growth seems to confirm Eisenhower's concern about the size and influence of the military. It used to be, he said, that armies should grow and shrink as needed; in the Biblical metaphor of the speech, he observed that "American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well."

 

But World War II and the early cold war changed that dynamic, creating what Eisenhower called "a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions." It is not a stretch to believe that this armaments industry — which profits not only from domestic sales but also from tens of billions of dollars in annual exports — manipulates public policy to perpetuate itself.

 

But Eisenhower was concerned about more than just the military's size; he also worried about its relationship to the American economy and society, and that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military. His alarm was understandable: at the time the military represented over half of all government spending and more than 10 percent of America's gross domestic product.

 

Today those figures are not quite as troubling. While military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has been going up as a result of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the overall trend since 1961 is substantially down, thanks to the tremendous growth in America's nonmilitary economy and the shift in government spending to nonmilitary expenditures.

 

Yet spending numbers do not tell the whole story. Eisenhower warned that the influence of the military-industrial complex was "economic, political, even spiritual" and that it was "felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government." He exhorted Americans to break away from our reliance on military might as a guarantor of liberty and "use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment."

 

On this score, Eisenhower may well have seen today's America as losing the battle against the darker aspects of the military-industrial complex. He was no pacifist, but he was a lifelong opponent of what he called a "garrison state," in which policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite.

 

The United States isn't quite a garrison state today. But Eisenhower would likely have been deeply troubled, in the past decade, by the torture at Abu Ghraib, the use of martial authority to wiretap Americans without warrants and the multiyear detention of suspects at Guantánamo Bay without due process.

 

Finally, even if the economy can bear the immediate costs of the military, Eisenhower would be shocked at its mounting long-term costs. Most of the Iraq war expenses were paid for by borrowing, and Americans will shoulder those costs, plus interest, for many years to come.

 

A strong believer in a balanced budget, Eisenhower in his farewell address also told Americans to "avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow." Too many of today's so-called fiscal conservatives conveniently overlook the budgetary consequences of military spending.

 

Eisenhower's worst fears have not yet come to pass. But his warning against the "unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" is as urgent today as ever.

 

James Ledbetter is the author of the forthcoming "Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ADDING FAIRNESS TO THE TIP

BY TIM AND NINA ZAGAT

 

BESIDES being major names in the culinary world, what do Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay, Danny Meyer, Keith McNally, Drew Nieporent, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael White have in common? In recent years, their restaurants have been caught up in a wave of lawsuits — almost all class action — alleging violations of labor laws regarding wages and overtime. And new suits are being filed almost daily. What's behind this onslaught?

 

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that many of the city's restaurants are routinely cheating their workers by confiscating waiters' and busboys' tips to share with managers and other ineligible employees, among other charges. Restaurateurs, in turn, point to a confusing hodgepodge of outdated wage and hour laws and opinion letters from the State Department of Labor that have made it hard to know whether they're in compliance.

 

Whom should diners believe? There's likely some truth to both versions. As in all industries, it's probable that some restaurateurs are unscrupulous. They deserve to be held accountable. But it defies common sense to think that so many of the city's most respected restaurateurs have intentionally cheated their waiters — and continue to do so despite the threat of costly lawsuits that could drive them out of business.

 

Regardless, almost all restaurateurs settle these cases, even while denying wrongdoing, rather than go to trial. That's because a loss in court would bring a number of draconian penalties. In fact, thanks to the Wage Theft Protection Act signed into law by Gov. David Paterson on Monday, employers will soon have to pay plaintiffs not only back pay owed, interest and lawyers' fees, but also damages equivalent to 100 percent of the wages due — up from 25 percent under the old law. (Under federal law the same penalties apply.)

 

The biggest worry for restaurateurs, though, is that one error — for example, just one ineligible employee found sharing in tips — could cost a restaurant its "tip credit," which permits restaurants to pay their waiters less than the full minimum wage because the state assumes that they get $2.60 an hour in tips. If a restaurant's tip credit is yanked, it has to repay that much for every hour worked by every tipped employee for up to three years.

 

Though no two cases are exactly alike, many center on these seemingly simple but surprisingly arcane issues: tip sharing and pooling arrangements; miscalculation of overtime pay; and service charges for banquets and private parties.

 

This last issue was the subject of an important 2008 New York State Court of Appeals decision. In a case in which the employees of the dining fleet World Yacht claimed that the company had not shared the mandatory service charges with them, the court ruled that if "a reasonable patron" would believe that a service charge was a gratuity, then the entire amount must go to the members of the service staff (who may already earn an average of $20 or more an hour at private events). The decision unleashed a new wave of lawsuits.

 

The regulations governing these issues came under review by the State Department of Labor in 2009. But it wasn't until October that aproposed new hospitality wage order was published for comment, and if all goes well, it should take effect by early next year. Though both sides believe that this revised order would help clarify confusing areas in the law, neither side believes it would stop the lawsuits. Indeed, it should be only the first step in a much-needed overhaul of the current system of laws and regulations.

 

Here are some next steps that could protect workers while preventing crippling lawsuits from putting restaurants out of business:

 

The Department of Labor should enact the proposed wage order without further delay — and make arrangements to educate both employers and employees about its requirements.

 

The State Legislature should grant the industry amnesty from the retroactive application of the 2008 State Court of Appeals decision.

 

]The Legislature should reduce from six years to three the statute of limitations for which restaurants might be liable for back wages, which is more in line with federal wage and hour laws and those of most other states.

 

A special judicial board, versed in the relevant regulations, should be appointed to hear all pending and future cases, on an expedited basis. This would cut down on legal costs for both sides, promote early settlements and give plaintiffs with legitimate claims a chance to be heard quickly.

 

]One way or another, New York City and State have an interest in clearing up this mess — before it cuts into all of our diets.

 

Tim and Nina Zagat are the co-founders of Zagat Survey.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON 'INDIVIDUAL MANDATE': RULING ON HEALTH LAW OFFERS A VICTORY FOR FREELOADERS

 

Opponents of the nation's new health reform law are now batting 1-for-3. A federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that requiring most Americans to buy health insurance violates the Constitution, but another federal judge in Virginia and one in Michigan had already held that the controversial law is constitutional.

 

So despite all the chest-thumping the opponents were doing Monday, it's way too soon for either side to be doing a victory dance — or for any of these early decisions to be definitive. Several more lawsuits are pending, including one in Florida brought by 20 state attorneys general.

 

Troublingly for the judiciary, which is supposed to be politically independent, judges so far have divided along the same political lines Congress did when the law passed: Democratic-appointees for, Republican-appointees against. The two judges who upheld the law were nominated by Bill Clinton; the judge who struck it down Monday was named to the bench by George W. Bush.

 

After Judge Henry Hudson's ruling, it's not hard to envision the bitter politics that accompanied passage of the health law continuing all the way to the ideologically divided Supreme Court. The high court is expected to resolve the conflicting lower court decisions, perhaps two years from now.

 

The focus of the legal challenges— the so-called individual mandate to buy insurance, which takes effect in 2014 — isn't just another part of the health law. It's the centerpiece to making reform work.

 

]The only reasonable way insurance companies could afford to stop their most noxious practices, such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or cancelling coverage once someone became seriously ill, was if more Americans shared the risk and insurers got millions of new customers who were required to have coverage.

 

If the requirement that most Americans buy insurance is thrown out, but the insurance reforms remain in place, premiums would skyrocket for existing policyholders.

 

The individual mandate once enjoyed significant support among conservatives, who saw it as promoting an ethic of personal responsibility, but the drive to oppose President Obama's signature reform led many of them to abandon that principle and denounce the insurance mandate as big government run amok. They had it right in the first place.

 

There's ample legal precedent for a law requiring people to buy health insurance. Most states require drivers to have car insurance and doctors to carry malpractice insurance. The Supreme Court has long held that the Constitution's Commerce Clause grants the federal government wide latitude to regulate economic activity among the states. In one key case from 1942, a mandatory wheat-growing limit was upheld against a single farmer who insisted he was growing wheat only to feed his chickens. The high court reinforced that decision as recently as 2005.

 

]Opponents claim that requiring Americans to buy health insurance destroys liberty, but just the opposite is true: A mandate guarantees that those who play by the rules won't have to pay for uninsured people who could afford coverage but would rather rely on emergency room care when they get sick.

 

]Such freeloading might not be unconstitutional, but it's surely not fair to everyone else who ends up subsidizing the irresponsible.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON 'INDIVIDUAL MANDATE': 'UNFAIR, HARMFUL'

BY GEORGE ALLEN

 

The federal court ruling that the individual mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance is unconstitutional is a serious blow for the federal government's takeover of health care. It's also a clear victory for the people in the fight to restore the constitutional balance of power between the states and the federal government that is necessary to maintain individual liberty.

 

The Constitution was specifically designed to limit the power of the federal government. It provides only certain enumerated powers to the government, with all others being reserved to the people and the states. The Constitution does not provide the government with the power to force people to engage in economic activity, such as being required to buy health insurance.

This unfair, harmful, unconstitutional federal government takeover of health care and its odious mandates was ably challenged by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. If the federal government has the power to tell you that you must buy health insurance, then the federal government has the power to force Americans to purchase anything it determines is "good for you." Such a government would be unrestrained and omnipotent, and "we the people" would be less free.

 

There are those who would forgo our constitutional freedoms because they think the federal law is good policy; no policy that undermines the Constitution and limits liberty can be considered good. The American people, led by the Tea Party movement, emphatically made that point clear during town hall meetings and at the ballot box.

 

Another reason why the federal government should not be permitted to usurp the powers of the states is that this government intervention prevents the states from serving as laboratories of innovation. Many of the best ideas come not from Washington but from states, localities and the private sector.

 

The federal takeover of health care, with its mandate that people purchase insurance or face a government penalty, is unconstitutional.

 

This decision is a victory for the rights and prerogatives of Virginians and potentially for people throughout our United States. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson properly arrived at a sound, constitutionally based decision, defending liberty against federal usurpation and dictates.

 

George Allen is a former Republican senator and governor from Virginia.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ROMNEY: WHY TAX CUT IS A BAD DEAL

BY MITT ROMNEY

 

Death and taxes, it is said, are life's only two certainties. But in the wake of President Obama's tax compromise withcongressional Republicans, only death retains the status of certainty: The future for taxes has been left up in the air. And uncertainty is not a friend of investment, growth and job creation.

 

The deal has several key features. It reduces payroll taxes, extends unemployment benefits and keeps current tax rates intact. So far, so good. But intermixed with the benefits are considerable costs of consequence. Given the unambiguous message that the American people sent to Washington in November, it is difficult to understand how our political leaders could have reached such a disappointing agreement. The new, more conservative Congress should reach a better solution.

 

The deal keeps current tax rates from rising to pre-Bush era levels for two years. But in 2013, unless Congress acts again, rates will increase dramatically.

 

Extension temporary

 

Of course, delay now is better than an immediate tax hike. But because the extension is only temporary, a large portion of the investment and job growth that characteristically accompanies low taxes will be lost. When entrepreneurs and employers make decisions to start or expand an enterprise, uncertainty about tax rates translates directly into a reduced propensity to invest and to hire. With only a two-year extension, investors know that before their returns are realized, tax rates may be jacked up to the levels favored by President Obama. So while the tax deal will succeed in temporarily putting more money in the hands of consumers, it will fail to deliver its full potential for creating lasting growth.

 

It will also add to the deficit. In many cases, lowering taxes can actually increase government revenues. If new businesses, new investments and new hiring are spurred by the prospects of better after-tax returns, the taxes paid by these new or growing businesses and employees can more than make up for the lower rates of taxation. But once again, because the tax deal is temporary, a large portion of this beneficent effect is missing. What some are calling a grand compromise is not grand at all, except in its price tag. The total package will cost nearly $1 trillion, resulting in substantial new borrowing at a time when we are already drowning in red ink.

 

Part of the tax deal is a temporary reduction in payroll taxes. The president was insistent, however, that only the employee's payroll taxes be reduced — the portion paid by the employer is to remain the same. Again, the president is looking to get more money into the hands of the consumer to boost near-term spending. But by refusing to lower the cost of hiring a new employee, he fails to encourage what the American people want even more than lower taxes — more good jobs. Like the income tax deal, the payroll tax deal will add to the deficit.

 

For those without jobs, the tax compromise extends unemployment benefits for 13 months. A decent and humane society must have a strong safety net for the unemployed. I served for 15 years as a lay pastor in my church and saw the heartbreak of joblessness up close; a shattering loss of faith in oneself is but only one of many forms the suffering can take. Nonetheless, the vital necessity of providing for those without work should not be used as an excuse to ignore the very real problems of our unemployment system.

 

In this, as in so many other arenas of government policy, unemployment insurance has many unintended effects. The indisputable fact is that unemployment benefits, despite a web of regulations, actually serve to discourage some individuals from taking jobs, especially when the benefits extend across years.

 

Redo jobless benefits

 

The system is also not designed for a flexible economy like ours in which some employees move from job to job for short periods, and are therefore ineligible for unemployment compensation when they are faced with a protracted spell without work.

 

]To remedy such problems we need a very different model, perhaps establishing individual unemployment savings accounts over which employees would exercise direct control when they lose their jobs, or putting in place financial incentives for employers to hire and train the long-term unemployed. One thing is certain: While we cannot rebuild our flawed system overnight, we are surely not required to borrow the funds to pay for it. In spending $56.5 billion to extend benefits, the deal is sacrificing the bedrock Republican principle that new expenditures be paid for with offsetting budget cuts.

 

President Obama has reason to celebrate. The deal delivers short-term economic stimulus, and it does so at the very time he wants it most, before the 2012 elections. But the long term health of our great engine of prosperity will remain very much in doubt. To the twin inevitabilities of death and taxes, we may now have to add persistent high unemployment.

 

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OBAMA NEEDS TO LOOK DEMOCRATS IN THE EYE

BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

 

In that awkward moment when PresidentObama left the White House press room for a holiday party while former president Bill Clinton stayed behind to defend the tax extension deal Obama struck with Republicans, the Democrats' most vexing problem became painfully clear.

 

"What we've got here," in the words of the reprobate captain in Paul Newman's 1967 movieCool Hand Luke, "is a failure to communicate."

 

While ceding the White House press room podium was no outsourcing of his presidency, it was an admission from Obama that he's having trouble communicating with key members of his own party at a critical time in his presidency.

 

Great communicator

 

Communication used to be one of Obama's great strengths. It certainly was in 2004 when the then-Illinois state senator propelled himself into the national spotlight with a speech at the Democratic National Convention that stirred the imagination of those who yearned for an end to this nation's partisan political bloodletting.

 

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America," Obama said in the address that began his transformation from "a skinny kid with a funny name" to political rock star.

 

And four years later, when his presidential campaign was nearly derailed by some racially charged sermons by the pastor of his church, Obama gave a speech in Philadelphia that convinced millions of Americans he was a healer, not a divider. "I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together — unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction," he said.

 

Obama miscalculation

 

But now that he faces one of the toughest tests of his presidency — selling the tax deal he brokered with Republicans to congressional Democrats — Obama seems unwilling to communicate directly with members of his political base. That's a serious miscalculation.

 

The House Democratic Caucus has objected to the agreement, which gives the GOP a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Like Obama, House Democrats have long pushed for extending the tax cuts only for those making less than $250,000 a year.

 

In return for giving in to Republicans' all-or-nothing position, Obama won GOP support for a 13-month extension of emergency unemployment insurance and a college tuition tax credit, along with some smaller and less controversial tax breaks.

 

Obama should come up to the Capitol and look Democrats "dead in the eye" and explain the deal he made with Republicans, longtime Obama supporter Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told The Hill, a publication that covers Congress. Instead, Obama has used surrogates to convince congressional Democrats that his deal with the GOP is the best agreement he could get a month before Republicans retake control of the House and increase their minority in the Senate.

 

While Clinton is still a persuasive voice among Democrats, Obama, who met with Republicans on the tax-cut deal, ought to do the same with his own party. If you're going to ask people to take a vote that might cost them their seats, you might be more persuasive if you look them in the eyes when you do.

 

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

WE'RE GETTING MATERNITY CARE ALL WRONG

BY JENNIFER GUNTER

 

The new health care law aims to expand maternity services by legislating that both private insurance and high-risk exchanges provide maternity benefits in addition to expanding Medicaid.The problem? Studies, including a comprehensive review of 20 years of research published this year in The Journal of Women's Health, indicate that increased access to publicly funded maternity care doesn't always translate into improved birth outcomes. Just because a woman might be Medicaid-eligible doesn't mean she can navigate the complexities of enrollment or physically get to a clinic. And even if she can access care, there is a wide range of practice standards, so maternity care varies not only county to county but also hospital to hospital. Prematurity is only one outcome of this system.

 

Premature delivery — considered any birth before 37 weeks — affects one in eight pregnancies in the U.S. It is the No. 1 cause of infant death and disability. The national cost of providing the care just to get preemies safely home from the hospital is about $6 billion a year. And the expense doesn't end at discharge. Premature babies are more likely to develop a host of chronic health problems, and many grow up to become heavy users of the health care system. Children who were born prematurely are the biggest consumers of special education services in schools and are more likely to receive Medicaid and SSI (Supplemental Security Income). All told, we spend a conservative $30 billion a year on prematurity.

 

Renewed debate

 

With Republicans winning control of the House, the health care reform law is expected to get renewed debate when the new Congress convenes in January. Inadequate maternity care is one of the biggest risk factors for premature delivery. Yet, as a nation, we are investing our public medical dollars at the wrong end of the maternity spectrum.

 

What really matters with preventing prematurity is the maternity program itself. Take Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The busy county facility serves a medically indigent population (meaning without health insurance), yet only 4.9% of the approximately 15,000 babies born there each year are premature. How does Parkland have a rate that is far better than other public programs and most private insurances in the U.S.? By not only providing high-quality maternity care to every pregnant woman, but also giving women care they can actually access.

 

According to Dr. Kenneth Leveno, who detailed Parkland's experience in 2009 in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, "If they're pregnant, we take care of them." Enrollment is essentially showing up for care (although proof of residence is eventually checked) and the program operates 10 neighborhood clinics, located on bus lines or in shopping malls, so they are easily accessible. The doctors, nurse practitioners and midwives also follow set guidelines. The faculty evaluates its own studies as well as the literature, comes up with practice standards and everyone agrees to follow them. This could be one reason why interest in Leveno's study has been less than enthusiastic, especially from OB/GYNs who might feel threatened with programs in which there is a certain relinquishing of autonomy. "No one wants to talk about just good maternity care; they want a gene or a sexy new drug," Leveno says.

 

He hypothesizes that the decrease in preterm births is the result of an evidenced-based, geographically accessible, barrier-free public maternity program that targets the population at greatest risk. Other studies of publicly funded maternity care show targeted outreach, such as mobile programs or additional points of contact by telephone, can be helpful; but no one has results close to Parkland's numbers. This is probably because Parkland has made outreach part of maternity care. Leveno's study shows that it is the maternity program at Parkland that makes the difference, because the rate of premature delivery at the hospital is 15% among women who receive no maternity care.

 

Federal, state and local governments already pay for more than one-third of maternity care and approximately 50% of neonatal intensive care unit bills. Every baby fewer than 2 pounds 10 ounces at birth gets SSI, and in 39 states, these low birth weight babies automatically qualify for Medicaid. Taxpayers are already paying one way or another; it's just the residents of Dallas County are getting a better return on their investment because every dollar spent on maternity care saves $3-$4.50 in pediatric costs.

 

]How to 'fix' system?

 

"Fixing" health care is so big and such a vague concept that it is hard to know where to start. But reforming Medicaid-funded maternity care is an ideal test of change — it is a small and discrete part of reform with clear, measurable outcomes. In addition, a successful model already exists. Parkland demonstrates that a primarily publicly funded maternity program can be hugely successful if it is accessible, accountable and evidence-based.

 

Shouldn't all doctors and hospitals that accept government funds for maternity care deliver results as well as babies?

 

Reforming Medicaid-funded maternity care to reduce premature deliveries will save money in SSI, Medicaid payments for children, and special education services so the publicly funded expansion of maternal eligibility in 2014 can be cost-neutral. Never mind doing the right thing, it's just good business sense.

 

Jennifer Gunter, a physician, is author of The Preemie Primer.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

PROBLEMS IN NATION'S SKIES

 

The Federal Aviation Administration has a problem. The agency is missing vital data on who owns about a third of the about 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the United States. In normal times, that would be a bureaucratic nightmare. Nowadays, when fears about terrorists and drug trafficking and other criminal acts abound, the lack of information is at best disconcerting and at worst dangerous.

 

There's little debate that the problem exists. The FAA admits that about 119,000 aircraft currently on the U.S. registry have "questionable registration." In some cases, the forms are missing. In others, addresses are no longer valid or the sale of a plane from one owner to another has not been reported. The situation is so fouled up that the FAA apparently is unable to say in some cases whether a plane is still capable of flying or if it has been scrapped. In the words of one veteran pilot, the situation is "very, very scary."

 

Officials rightly worry that criminals or terrorists could exploit the current situation by buying planes or appropriating the registration, or tail, numbers, of aircraft without the FAA's knowledge. That's not idle speculation. The FAA, other agencies and some pilots already have reported incidents in which drug traffickers have used fake numbers to their advantage. There also are reports of mistaken identity in which law enforcement officials have targeted the wrong plane because of poor record-keeping.

 

The registration system should be overhauled to promote safety in the skies and to thwart possible criminal acts. The FAA is tackling the task. It soon will start canceling the registration of all U.S. aircraft and require reregistration. The incremental process will take about three years. The goal is to significantly reduce problems tied to aircraft registration.

 

There is no assurance that will be the case. If it is to be effective, the FAA will have to revise the way it has done business. Previously, for example, the agency sent notices every three years asking aircraft owners to update contact information. That didn't do much good. There was no punishment for failing to do so, and many owners simply did not take the time to return the paperwork. The FAA says that will no longer be the case.

 

Agency officials are confident -- publicly at least -- that required reregistration will be beneficial. They say that new computers and record-keeping systems will enhance tracking. Stricter enforcement accompanied by meaningful penalties for failure to abide by the law is on tap as well. The latter includes the loss of registration and grounding of a plane.

 

Those who own planes already are complaining about the rules. It's true that the requirements are an inconvenience, but they are not onerous. They are, in fact, a small price to pay to clean up a system that now is open to exploitation by those intent on harming the United States or in breaking its laws.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

A MOST SHAMEFUL GAP

 

In this conflicting season of Christmas charity and compassion on the one hand, and the pending extension of vast and unaffordable tax cuts for the nation's ultra-wealthy, it's especially appropriate to reflect on America's standing with regard to our most vulnerable population, the children of the poor. A new report by UNICEF, the United Nation's Children's Fund, is rather startling in that regard. Among the richest 24 nations of the world, the United States ranks among the worst in its neglect of poor children across each of the broad categories measured.

UNICEF usually focuses on the status of children in underdeveloped and developing countries. In its report, UNICEF looked, for a change, at the status of poorer children in the world's richest nations. It found a surprising disparity: a greater inequality than it usually finds in less wealthy countries between children considered to have a "normal" life and those whose lives are disadvantaged by poverty.

 

Among the 24 richest countries, the United States, Italy, Greece, Belgium and the United Kingdom had far larger gaps than their peer countries between children in average, or normal, economic conditions and those in poverty. In Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Ireland, among others, poor children fared far better in most categories across the economic spectrum.

 

The report measured the scope of disparities between children with normal lives, and those in poverty, in the areas of material well-being, education well-being and health well-being. Material well-being included indices for living space and educational resources. Education well-being measured such aspects as literacy in math and science. Indices for health well-being considered complaints of health problems, healthy eating and vigorous activities.

 

The United States ranked 23rd overall among the 24 richest countries in disparities in material well-being for children in poverty (19th in educational resources and 22 in living space); it ranked 19th overall in educational well-being for poor children (24th in science literacy and 23 in math literacy); and came in 22nd overall in health well-being for the most vulnerable children (24th in complaints of health problems, 20th in health eating, and 16th in vigorous physical activity).

 

These are dismal figures compared to the top-tier countries in the gap between the exeriences of children in normal circumstances and those in poverty.

 

Poor children in America experience a much larger disparity than their "normal" peers in their health, education and home life, than poor children experience in most of Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The United States is not only behind rich northern European countries in its treatment of poor children; it's also behind less affluent countries like Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain and Portugal.

 

A large part of these disparities owes to the nation's public policies and aid to families for housing, food and education. In a very real sense, policymakers at all levels of government do not walk the talk they spout about family values.

 

It reflects, moreover, an increasing level of disinterest among Republican policymakers, who had rather put their muscle behind tax cuts for the nation's super-wealthy even as they discuss tightening budgets for social programs.

 

Their preferences are impossible to ignore. The extended Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would give households in the top 1 percent of earners an annual tax cut averaging $72,466 per household -- fully a fourth of the value of the tax cuts. Those in the top one-tenth of 1 percent would get an average tax cut of $371,650 per household.

 

When lawmaker make tax expenditures like that for the ultra-wealthy, while cutting social programs for the poor, we must ask, where are their family values, where is their fairness and compassion. The answers are shamefully obvious.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

'TAX HIKE' MISLABELED 'TAX CUT'

 

One of the most unjust features of our nation's complicated tax code is the death tax. During a person's life, his income and other financial holdings are taxed — sometimes more than once! But the death tax levies a tax on the same money yet again when he tries to pass it on to family or other heirs. That is not only unfair, but it also endangers the small businesses that some people try to pass along to their families, and that can kill jobs.

 

Fortunately, the federal death tax dropped over the past few years until it disappeared altogether this year.

 

But among current proposals before Congress is a plan to slap a new 35 percent death tax on estates that are above a certain value.

 

Not only is that wrong, but the way the proposal is being described is deeply dishonest. It is bizarrely being called a "tax cut." How can that be? How can going from "no" death tax this year to a 35 percent death tax next year possibly be a "cut"?

 

Well, here is how the people who call it a "tax cut" justify that label: They say that since a 35 percent death tax is lower than the 45 percent rate that many Democrats would prefer (or the 55 percent that will be imposed if Congress does nothing), that counts as a "tax cut."

 

But all those rates still represent a major tax increase from current law!

 

Think of it this way: If Congress proposed increasing ordinary income taxes by 45 percent but instead "settled" for "only" a 35 percent income tax increase, would you feel that you were getting a "tax cut"? Of course not! Your taxes would be rising in either case!

 

Considering the dishonest way that the death tax and other tax-and-spending proposals before Congress are being discussed, do you feel confident that Washington will ultimately act reasonably — or even rationally?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

IMPORTANT EDUCATIONAL GAINS

 

We all know how important it is to gain as much good education as we can. It can open avenues of enjoyment, opportunity and economic achievement.

 

But for varied reasons, some people's education may be interrupted along the way. That's why it is a wonderful thing that our community offers opportunities for enterprising people to earn "general educational development" — GED — diplomas by picking up special studies where they left off.

 

Last Sunday at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 40 eager adults were awarded their GED diplomas after the successful completion of their course. In addition to the satisfaction of personal achievement, they will have broader opportunities for personal economic achievement for the rest of their lives.

 

The new GED graduates deserve commendation for their enterprise and achievement. We wish them much greater successes.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

SNOW (A LITTLE)!

 

It doesn't take very much snow in Chattanooga to get our attention and arouse an air of excitement. Just a light dusting Sunday night and early Monday made our community a winter wonderland.

 

Fortunately, the snow was mostly just beautiful, not deep enough to cause widespread traffic dangers and tie things up in a distressing way. But we were reminded of the need to be careful (before the snow melted) as we ventured about in our cars and on foot.

 

We also are reminded that, while most of us have warm and comfortable homes, some of our people and our pets may be encountering difficulties.

 

Let's be careful to avoid accidents. Some local residents may need help with frozen pipes, and some of our pets need protection from the cold. Wild birds surely would appreciate a little food left out for their needs this winter, too.

 

We certainly hope that all of us will be attentive, as well, to avoid fires and other dangers that mount during especially cold weather. Many people will be glad to give helping hands if they just know when needs arise.

 

Our cold snaps don't usually last more than a few days. But until the weather eases, let's be alert to our neighbors' welfare, and be ready to offer a little help where it is needed.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

APPALLING JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT

 

It is not only the direct harm caused by cases of judicial misconduct that is troubling. It is also the damage that such behavior does to the public's faith in our legal system.

 

That faith took a blow recently when the U.S. Senate convicted a federal judge on four articles of impeachment.

 

To illustrate how serious the misdeeds of U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana were, he was only the eighth federal judge in history whom Congress has removed.

 

Porteous, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, apparently developed problems with drinking and gambling. House of Representatives prosecutors said that led him to take cash and other favors from lawyers and bail bondsmen who had business with his court. In addition, he lied to Congress during his confirmation hearings and filed for bankruptcy under a false name.

 

Two attorneys who had worked with Porteous testified that at one point they gave him $2,000 stuffed in an envelope just prior to his ruling in favor of their client in a civil case. A bail bondsman said that in exchange for fancy meals, trips and other perks, Porteous made sure the bondsman got the maximum fees possible.

 

Think of the sense of injustice that many of those who appeared before Porteous over the years — and who did not try to "buy him off" — must now feel! How can they know they received impartial justice, and that they did not suffer for their "failure" to give him money — especially if "the other side" in their case was paying him?

 

There should be no delight taken in Porteous' downfall. But his unethical, damaging behavior left no alternative to impeachment and removal from office.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

TENNESSEE RIVER WATER TO GEORGIA?

 

We in the Chattanooga area certainly have no water shortage problem, with the broad Tennessee River flowing through our area and Chickamauga Dam impounding a great deal of water to generate electricity. We have plenty of water for consumption, navigation and everything else that requires it.

 

But time after time, the subject arises as to whether, when and how some of our plentiful water might be diverted from Tennessee to Georgia, where our Tennessee River flows close to the Georgia border.

 

It's a sensitive subject. Parts of Georgia need water. Tennessee has it. But there are questions about how much might be needed, diverted and used — and about the effects on the Tennessee people contributing water and the Georgia people receiving it.

 

Water conservation, purification and use are important matters — especially for those who don't have all the water they need or want.

 

We should all want to be good neighbors, and for all of us to thrive in a reasonably cooperative way.

 

But when major natural resources may be diverted, the questions and the answers are never simple. Therefore, no such plan should be approved without extremely cautious consideration beforehand by lawmakers in Tennessee — if it is approved at all.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - CHP'S 'FOUNDATIONAL' REFORM EFFORT

 

At first glance, the "bloc" vs. "sheet" voting skirmish within the main opposition party we reported yesterday appears as little more than a banal protocol fight. But it is far more important than the positioning of the rostrum, the decision on who gets seats in the front row or the choice of speakers for the opening and closing addresses in the party congress that begins Saturday.

 

We think this fight over voting procedures is a critical test. It is a test generally for the future of Turkish democracy and specifically for the prospects for the party in question, the Republican People's Party, or CHP. 

 

The point is that the methodologies for any election system are boring, the province of insider technicians who can – and do – master the system. They are also important. In Great Britain, for example, a reform of the Anglo-Saxon method of "first past the post" elections to the House of Commons is under assault and may lead to reform. By electing the candidate with the most votes, regardless of the number of candidates, the British get anti-democratic results. In 2005, for example, the firebrand MP George Galloway (who we know well in Turkey) polled the votes of only 18.4 percent of his constituents, yet ended up in the House of Commons. 

 

The United States is famous for its system known as "gerrymandering," where congressional districts are tailor-made by parties to suit incumbents, making the U.S. Congress one of the least democratic legislatures in the world. 

 

We have often noted in this space that Turkey has no political parties in the textbook sense of the term. Rather, it has patronage networks that operate as fiefdoms of the party leader.

 

Such clan-like dynamics have led to great, self-inflicted damage on Turkey's political institutions and culture. But the damage has been self-inflicted most dramatically on the social democratic left. Seldom in recent decades has any party ostensibly representing these values come close to reflecting the popular, grassroots sentiment.

 

If the CHP is to become a real political party, if Turkey's elections are to be truly democratic, if voting is to be an honest contest, this reform of the CHP's process for selection of its 80 assembly delegates is a foundational reform. Without this foundation, all else Kılıçdaroğlu may do to drag his party out of its paleolithic political past is mere tinkering.

 

It is a bold move. It is a risky move that could, as former leader Deniz Baykal has warned, plunge the party into dangerous internal squabbling. But we think the risk worth running. The importance of this test cannot be underestimated.

 

We hope this reform is embraced by the CHP. We hope all Turkish political parties will ultimately follow to transform themselves into real democratic institutions.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EU'S TURKEY DEBATE DEEPENS FURTHER

SEMİH İDİZ

 

It must be a source of serious annoyance for those who are trying to keep Turkey out of the EU to have four key European foreign ministers giving strong support to Ankara's membership bid. This flies in the face of Europe's apparently ascendant ultra-right wing, whose existence in fact tells us more about Europe than about Turkey.

 

It cannot be too pleasing either for someone like French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who continues to oppose Ankara's bid for full EU membership. No one expects, of course, the op-ed by Sweden's Carl Bildt, Italy's Franco Frattini, Great Britain's William Hague and Finland's Alexander Stubb (published in the International Herald Tribune on Dec. 10) to change the current morass in Turkish-EU ties overnight.

 

If anything, one should expect it to make Europe's chagrined ultra-right wing even more determined in maintaining their negative positions. This does not however do away with the basic facts laid bare by the four ministers in their op-ed piece.

 

These ministers have spoken out on behalf of Turkey in the past, of course, and have not tried to mute their support for the sake of populist political considerations at home. This takes courage at a time when supporting Ankara is not a vote winner in Europe.

 

There is also the fact that there is a significant list of former European presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers who have always spoken out on behalf of Turkey, and continue to do so.

 

So why do we have this strong support at this point in time? The answer lies hidden in what Bildt, Frattini, Hague and Stubb are saying. Here is an itemized summary of the key points in their op-ed that carried the headline "Europe, Look Outward Again":

 

1: The EU's historic mission to bring further stability, democracy and prosperity to the whole continent is not yet finished.

 

2: Emerging from the economic crisis, Europe cannot afford to overlook the opportunity of expanding the free flow of capital, goods, services and labor.

 

3: In Turkey, EU-inspired liberal reforms have turned the country into one of Europe's principal growth engines.

 

4: The crucial question is not whether Turkey is turning its back on Europe, but rather if Europe is turning its back on the fundamental values and principles that have guided European integration over the last 50 years.

 

5: Turkey, like no other country, has the ability to advance European interests in security, trade and energy networks from the Far East to the Mediterranean.

 

6: Turkey is in a class of its own. It is an influential actor on the world stage with considerable soft power.

 

7: Turkey's economy is expected to expand by more than 5 percent this year, compared with a eurozone average of 1 percent. The OECD predicts that Turkey will be the second-largest economy in Europe by 2050.

 

8: Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe already run 40 billion euros worth of businesses and employ 500,000 people.

 

So, to return to the "why now?" question, it is clear from these points that there is a growing notion in Europe that a rising Turkey is going to be increasingly important for the EU as time goes on. It is equally clear that the four foreign ministers in question are worried about Turkey's highly apparent drift away from Europe, and indeed the West as a whole.

 

Turkey's drifting away from Europe may be welcome news for the continent's ultra-right wingers. Whether it is good news for the likes of President Sarkozy, on the other hand, is an open question.

 

It is clear from their "special partnership" offer to Ankara, instead of full EU membership, that they too see Turkey's importance – especially in terms of their national interests. Their problem is that they want to keep Turkey at a healthy distance from themselves. That, however, is not a formula that Turkey will swallow anymore.

 

]The increasingly self-assured and assertive ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has clearly made it a strong – almost retaliatory – policy point to prove to Europe that it has potential alternatives in other lucrative parts of the world. Prime Minister Erdoğan's speeches and statements often reflect this. He also has facts and figures to back his contentions to a significant degree.

 

It is clear that the four foreign ministers are looking to the future, rather than getting bogged down in shortsighted populism by riding the crest of public European fears. They are trying to chart a course for the "Old [and apparently tired] Continent," whose future does not appear as secure and made as some would like to think.

 

Contrary to what many in Europe may want to believe, the EU is not a "done deal" yet that stands in front of us as a monolithic structure providing ideal targets and benchmarks for "others" to aspire to, the members having already achieved these.

 

From today's perspective the EU's future in fact looks as open-ended as Turkey's membership bid is persistently said to be. This is also a key factor complicating Ankara's EU bid.

 

The rise of essentially anti-EU ultra-right wing sentiments, on the other hand, is merely symptomatic of atavistic fears that fuel regressive tendencies. One would have thought that Europeans had come to terms with these tendencies after the experiences of 60-70 years ago, but apparently that is not the case yet.

 

The bottom line – as the op-ed by the four foreign ministers appears to show – is that there is a growing concern among European policy makers that without an anchor in the EU, Turkey will drift away from Europe, and perhaps the West as a whole.

 

This they clearly see as being detrimental to Europeans interests. The four ministers appear therefore to be telling Turkey's European opponents that historically speaking they are making a serious mistake (not that those making this mistake are too bothered given the basic nature of their political outlook).

 

The ministers also appear to be telling an increasingly skeptical Turkish public, which has clearly lost faith in Europe, that anti-Turkish sentiments are not a fully crystallized European fact, since there are still countries and important leaders, as well as individuals, who continue to support Turkey as a potential EU member.

 

It is clear given what is transpiring in this country that the ministers are right to worry about the direction Turkey is taking and the potential negative long-term fallout for Europe as a result.

 

Those who senselessly burn bridges today that will be needed tomorrow may not see this.

 

There are, however, many influential people who clearly do, and they want their positions to be noted publicly for the future, even if doing so will not fetch them much popularity in parts of Europe today.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A POINT I'VE FAILED TO SEE: THE GÜLEN-PKK TIES CLOSE UP

CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER

 

A columnist writes if s/he can analyze or comment a certain issue or has an idea about it.

 

But I will eschew this rule and write about a point that I have failed to see; or rather, I will try to share some questions that have been bugging me.

 

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, wants to approach the Fethullah Gülen community. Daily Zaman's columnist Hüseyin Gülerce met with the PKK's lawyers in the northwestern province of Yalova.

 

Gülerce is a friend of mine. He is among the most conscientious and straight-forward men I've met in this country. So, I truly believe what he wrote on Dec. 9 in Zaman. Apparently, the PKK lawyers wanted to have a meeting with Gülerce and he talked to them as a journalist through listening to the voice of his conscience and reason.

 

However, I've been puzzled by such an unexpected move.

 

We all know that the Gülen movement and the PKK have closely worked together in the Southeastern Turkey. It is even a fact that the PKK has committed violence against the community.

 

But above all, the PKK and even the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, believe that the "KCK [the Kurdish Communities Union, or the alleged urban wing of the PKK] operations" were organized by the pro-Gülen groups that have penetrated the Security Department.

 

In fact, the Kurdistan People's Initiative, close to the PKK, made the following statement on Apr. 18, 2009:

 

"As known, the Justice and Development Party [AKP] and its mentor, Fethullah Gülen, targeted our legal and democratic representatives, the Democratic Society Party [DTP] and the Kurdish Institution representatives, and have launched a wave of arrest and made inaccurate claims. Institutions affiliated with the Gülen community in Kürdistan and Turkish metropolis and the AKP top officials are our clear target." (An excerpt from a Barış Tekelioğlu article dated Dec. 9, posted on the Odatv website.)

 

A year has not even gone by and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan said the following:

 

"They are trying to keep al-Qaeda and Arabs under control as they try to control the Islamic movement in Turkey via the Gülen movement… Fethullah Gülen is in fact a hostage in the United States." (ibid)

 

After the Gülerce-PKK lawyers meeting, Ahmet Türk, former chairman of the closed DTP and the current chairman of the Democratic Society Congress, or DTK, emphasized his concerns about the Gülen community, according to the daily Milliyet on Dec. 11:

 

"The chairman of the DTK, Türk, stressed that Kurds are more pious than others and said… someone comes in and tries to teach us religion… and they say on behalf of Islam. 'Yes, let us help you to improve your belief but forget about your identity…'" Türk said.

 

However, following the same meeting, Öcalan made the following "new" announcement on the Gülen community:

 

"To me, it's much more a civil society organization in Turkey and the Middle East. They, as other civil society organizations, could play a role in democratization and enlightenment of the society with no thought of personal gain. They are even like a political party in the Middle East. I see it this way. They have very dynamic men, so have we. In case of mutual understanding and solidarity between us, Turkey will settle many important issues." (Odatv-ibid)

 

Öcalan loves to appear with a handful of new ideas every day. Is this meeting with Gülerce spontaneous or is it a new condition that has been forced upon Öcalan by Turkish intelligence services?

 

I don't get it.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HOLBROOKE TOUCHED CYPRUS, TOO

FERAİ TINÇ

 

On Friday, Richard Holbrooke had a heart attack during a meeting with United States State Secretary Hillary Clinton and underwent surgery. We knew him during the period of collapse of the former Yugoslavia.

 

We might say that Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Treaty signed in 1995 to end the Bosnian War, is one of the international actors who developed a formula to deal with the Cyprus issue by applying it into the European Union parameters.

 

Following the dispersion of the Soviet Union, Holbrooke focused on Europe. From 1993 to 1994, he was U.S. ambassador to Germany. Holbrooke served as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs until 1996.

 

Following the Dayton Peace Agreement, he was appointed as former U.S. President Bill Clinton's special envoy to Cyprus in July 1997.

 

Another leading actor involved in the Cyprus conflict, Sir David Hanney, key in the British world of diplomacy, in his 2005 book titled "Cyprus: The search for a solution" reveals how Holbrooke approached the European Union "trump card." Hanney says Holbrooke found himself in the middle of the process as soon as he was appointed special envoy. After Holbrooke's appointment, Hanney said during a meeting in the house of the U.S. Ambassador to Britain that Holbrooke realized Turkey's EU membership was the key to Turkey's position.

 

He continued, saying that if there was to be progress on this matter Turkey could concentrate on the Cyprus issue and search for a solution because it was obvious there was an inconsistency between Turkey's EU aspiration and the status quo in Cyprus. Holbrooke thought that if Turks hadn't reached a point in terms of membership they wouldn't see any reason to comply with any especially difficult terms of a possible solution to the Cyprus issue.

 

Hanney also tells Holbrooke the EU didn't pay attention to Turkey during the first wave of EU enlargement, namely because the EU was tackling the "Agenda 2000." But Holbrooke's reaction was interesting. The U.S. diplomat said that they should either force the EU to change their approach or admit the mistake to launch talks on the wrong foot by trying to make progress before Turkey was ready.

 

Hanney went on to say that Holbrooke seemed impatient as he tried to explain how complicated talks in Cyprus were. As the British diplomat stressed the fact that the EU and the United Nations should be in accord, Holbrooke told him he had an obsession for the process. According to Holbrooke, the sides shouldn't get hung up in technical details and key players should reach critical decisions.

 

What happened then? As Greek Cyprus took a step toward a membership with the EU, balance (suggested by Holbrooke) in accession talks between Turkey and the EU couldn't be achieved, and had even deteriorated.

 

Holbrooke is an important figure in U.S. diplomacy. As I learned about his illness, I remembered the old days. Time has shown us that the membership of Greek Cyprus to the union was not a good idea either for the solution of the issue or for Turkey's EU bid. Holbrooke was successful in Dayton but not in Cyprus.

 

* Ferai Tınç is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MEASURES AGAINST HOT MONEY INFLOWS

 

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

 

Brazil has been taking new measures to slow down the inflow of "hot" money to its financial markets. Some other countries facing the same problem might follow Brazil's lead if this measure proves to be really effective in slowing down the inflow of hot money without creating other problems for the economy.

 

As mentioned several times in this column, some businesspeople, especially exporters, a large section of economists and even some politicians from various political parties in Turkey are