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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

EDITORIAL 22.12.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month december 22, edition 000709, 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. CREATING A SHORTAGE
  2. BABU BOUNCES BACK
  3. PAKISTAN FEIGNS HURT INNOCENCE - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION - JS RAJPUT
  5. WHISPERS MATTER LESS THAN SHOUTS - DANIEL PIPES
  6. THE PARADOX OF OBAMA'S AFGHAN POLICY - GWYNNE DYER

MAIL TODAY

  1. PM GESTURE INADEQUATE TO END STAND- OFF WITH OPPN
  2. MORE AT WORK THAN ONIONS
  3. IS IT ABOUT MONEY HONEY?
  4. CONGRESS EXCELS IN FEAR MONGERING - BY MANVENDRA SINGH
  5. WHY BIHAR'S GAIN CAUSES PUNJAB'S LABOUR PAIN - VIKAS KAHOL

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. BREAK THE CYCLE
  2. ONION RINGS
  3. AS THE DRAGON BREATHES FIRE - GAUTAM ADHIKARI
  4. 'I LIVE IN A WORLD OF MY OWN' - SUBHASH K JHA
  5. FAMILY BUSINESS - JUG SURAIYA 

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. MISS THE WOOD FOR THE JPC
  2. PEELING THE PINCH
  3. FRENCH DRESSING
  4. HERALD A NEW ORDER - DANIEL TWINING
  5. ANIME INSTINCT - AASHEESH SHARMA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. PRIVILEGED BOND
  2. IN GOOD FAITH
  3. HOW TO BE INCLUSIVE - ARUN MAIRA 
  4. FOUND OUT IN TRANSLATION - SHIVANI NAIK 
  5. OUR CORRODING REPUBLIC - JAITHIRTH RAO 
  6. DARING TO BE DIFFERENT — AND RIGHT - ROHINIPANDE 
  7. REFUSING TO THINK STRAIGHT
  8. KILLING

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. ONION TEARS
  2. IMBALANCE SHEETS
  3. OF BAD GOVERNANCE & HINDU TERROR! - MK VENU
  4. HOW GUJARAT LANDED AN OPPORTUNITY - YOGINDER K ALAGH
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. MOON MAGIC

THE HINDU

  1. IF THERE'S NOTHING TO HIDE...
  2. RECOVERY DESPITE DISHARMONY
  3. WHEN INDIA SITS AT THE HORSESHOE TABLE - CHINMAYA R. GHAREKHAN
  4. $2 trillion debt crisis threatens 100 U.S. cities - Elena Moya
  5. MILLIONS AT RISK IF VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT IN SUDAN - MAGGIE FICK

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. THE PROBLEMS OF COALITION DHARMA
  2. COLLECTIVE AMNESIA - P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. TILAK AND THE STAR OF THE VEDAS - JAYANT V. NARLIKAR
  4. THE HARD FACTS ABOUT A SOFT STATE - S.K. SINHA

DNA

  1. THE FIRST REFUGE OF SCOUNDRELS — HOSPITAL
  2. ONION PRICES BAD NEWS FOR CONSUMERS
  3. PM'S MOVE, A CASE OF TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
  4. BIG BUSINESS IS A MOTH DRAWN TO CHINA'S FLAME - VENKATESAN VEMBU
  5. FINALLY, SOME SIGNS OF SPINE IN INDIA'S CHINA POLICY - S NIHAL SINGH

THE KASHMIR TIMES

  1. INCONSISTENCY OVER KASHMIR
  2. WINTER SCHOOLING A JOKE
  3. CORRUPTION MAKES NEO-LIBERALISM GO – I - BY BADRI RAINA
  4. ARE YOU A WORRIED CHICKEN?

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. EXERCISE CAUTION
  2. MASSIVE LITTLE LEGEND
  3. PAKISTAN'S ECONOMY ON THE BRINK - BY M K DHAR
  4. ALERT CALL FOR WOMEN-FOLK - BY PROF. JAVED MUGHAL
  5. KASHMIR DISPUTE DESTROYING THE PARADISE - BY COL J P SINGH, RETD
  6. LOSS OF LIFE IN ACCIDENTS - BY SANJAY KUMAR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. PM'S OFFER TO FACE PAC
  2. TEARS OVER ONIONS
  3. HC DIRECTIVE TIMELY
  4. MALFEASANCE IN THE MILITARY - BY LT-GEN HARWANT SINGH (RETD)
  5. WALKER BUREAUCRATS - BY P.R. CHARI
  6. CONUNDRUM AT CANCUN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. NOT JUST ANOTHER SPORTS MOVIE

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. CONGRESS AND ECONOMY
  2. LEARNING TO BE NO 1
  3. WHO'LL RULE? CHINA, INDIA OR THE WEST? - ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN
  4. EXTREMELY FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH UTMOST CARE - SUBIR ROY
  5. PITFALLS IN PROPERTY SALES - M J ANTONY
  6. SHOULD DIESEL PRICES BE INCREASED?

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. BEING CAESAR'S WIFE
  2. KNOW YOUR ONIONS
  3. ONLY MINISTERS MATTER
  4. THE RUPEE IS NOT TOO STRONG - SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR
  5. CAN HERO DO WITHOUT OWN R&D?
  6. THREATS TO INDIA GROWTH STORY - MOTILAL OSWAL 
  7. GIVING BACK IS GREAT - VITHALC NADKARNI 

DECCAN  CHRONICALE

  1. THE PROBLEMS OF COALITION DHARMA
  2. COLLECTIVE AMNESIA - BY P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. WHO IS US FIGHTING FOR? KARZAI OR AFGHANS? - BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
  4. TILAK AND THE STAR OF THE VEDAS - BY JAYANT V. NARLIKAR
  5. THE HARD FACTS ABOUT A SOFT STATE - BY S.K. SINHA
  6. ONE MANTRA, MANY GODS - BY SADHGURU

THE STATESMAN

  1. FUZZY LOGIC
  2. 'SHARED ENTERPRISE'
  3. NCP'S STRATAGEM
  4. WEST BENGAL'S SHAME - BY RAVINDRA KUMAR
  5. WHAT ROBERT BLACKWILL DOESN'T SAY!
  6. KEEPING UP WITH THE JAINS - ISHWAR PATI 
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. TOO MANY VISITS
  2. SCARED AWAY
  3. SWITCHING CHANNELS - K.P. NAYAR
  4. AFTER THE INTERNET - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

DECCAN HERALD

  1. PLENARY INDULGENCE
  2. COURT CONTROLLED
  3. REAPING THE ADVANTAGE - BY DEVINDER SHARMA
  4. AMBITIONS MEET REALITY IN INDIA - BY NILANJANA S ROY, NYT
  5. FOR WHOM IT RAINS - BY LAKSHMI PALECANDA

THE JERUSALEM  POST

  1. REMEMBER CAST LEAD
  2. IN MY OWN WRITE: MESSENGERS AND THEIR MOTIVES - BY JUDY MONTAGU  
  3. TERRA INCOGNITA: FROM BEAUTY TO BRUTALISM - BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN  
  4. ENCOUNTERING PEACE: WANTED: A PROGRESSIVE LEADER - BY GERSHON BASKIN  
  5. WOOING THE GODS OF THE PEACE PROCESS - BY AARON D. MILLER  
  6. THERE IS NO HEBREW WORD FOR ACCOUNTABILITY - BY ROI MAOR  

HAARETZ

  1. ADVANCING BACKWARD
  2. THE DEFIANT BUBBLE - BY ALUF BENN
  3. BEYOND THE THRESHOLD OF LUCIDITY - BY NA'AMA SHEFFI
  4. SENSITIVE AND SMALL-SCALE - BY AVIRAMA GOLAN
  5. YES, SEPARATE THEM - BY DOV HALBERTAL

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE TAX-CAP ILLUSION
  2. GOV. BARBOUR'S DREAM WORLD
  3. AN UNPAID DEBT
  4. HOUSING FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS
  5. THE LIBRARY AT POOH CORNER - BY JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN
  6. MY MAGI: CRAB, CROCODILE AND SEA HORSE - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  7. JUSTICE BREYER'S SHARP AIM - BY PAULINE MAIER

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON AIRPORT SCREENING: WHY ISRAEL'S AIR SECURITY MODEL WOULDN'T WORK IN THE USA
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON AIRPORT SCREENING: FOLLOW THE ISRAELI MODEL - BY ASRA Q. NOMANI
  3. PALIN: IT'S TIME TO GET TOUGH WITH IRAN - BY SARAH PALIN
  4. CHRISTMAS DECOR IS A SALVE IN TROUBLED TIMES - BY ALCESTIS "COOKY" OBERG
  5. BIG-BUCKS COLLEGE PRESIDENTS DON'T EARN THEIR PAY - BY MARK SCHNEIDER
  6. 2010: Political theater in surround sound - By Chuck Raasch

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. MEMPHIS' SCHOOL STANDOFF
  2. DIGGING US DEEPER IN DEBT
  3. LOTS OF SPENDING, LOTS OF EARMARKS
  4. 'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL' REPEALED
  5. 30,000 die in Mexico's drug war

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - TURKS, ARMENIANS AND COMMON DESTINY
  2. TOWARD A TRULY NEW CHP? - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  3. A RECIPE FOR LEADERSHIP - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER
  4. FROM LEBANON, EGYPT, SYRIA AND ISRAEL WITH LOVE - BURAK BEKDİL
  5. GUIDED BY A TERRORIST - YUSUF KANLI
  6. IT IS NOT ENOUGH BUT YES* - ÖZGÜR MUMCU

THE NEWS

  1. FOR CHANGE?
  2. PRIVATE ROADS
  3. COMPLICITY,DUPLICITY
  4. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER - SALEEM SAFI
  5. COLLATERAL DAMAGE - BRIAN CLOUGHLEY
  6. THE FIGHT BECOMES TOUGH FOR MY FAMILY' - AMINA MASOOD JANJUA
  7. THE GRAVEST THREAT
  8. OUR DEMOCRATIC CREDENTIALS - BASIL NABI MALIK

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NEED TO GALVANIZE ECO
  2. SPEEDY JUSTICE IN IRAN
  3. THE SIMMERING FIRE OF KOREAS
  4. CORRUPTION & GOVERNANCE CRISIS - SHAKEEL AHMED
  5. WHY WEST TERRORISING MUSLIMS? - MAHBOOB A KHAWAJA
  6. MAKING INDIA A WORLD POWER? - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  7. MEDIA UNDER THREAT - SHAUKAT MASOOD ZAFAR
  8. GAUGING PRICE TAG FOR AFGHAN SECURITY - WALTER

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. BEWARE THE POLITICAL RISKS OF OVERBLOWN EXPECTATION
  2. MAKING SENSE OF A POOR PLAN

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE BROADBAND NETWORK GAMBLE
  2. RENTAL DROUGHT AND WAYS TO FIX IT
  3. BRUMBY BOWS OUT AFTER A STRONG PERFORMANCE
  4. LAW REFORM MUST RELY ON THE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. BELARUS: THAT'S ENOUGH DEMOCRACY
  2. DR CABLE: FROM SAINT VINCE TO MR BEAN
  3. IN PRAISE OF … CHRISTMAS AT HOME

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. CANCUN HAS DONE ITS JOB
  2. PROTECTING THE ELDERLY FROM ABUSE
  3. U.S. TRAPPED IN A CIVIL WAR  - BY GWYNNE DYER
  4. PROBING THE BERLUSCONI PARADOX - BY PAOLO MESSA
  5. REVIVING THE WEST IS KEY - BY GORDON BROWN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. UNFRIENDLY TO JOB CREATION
  2. VIEW POINT: SEX, LIES AND … LEAKS - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  3. FROM POLITICAL COLLISION TO COLLUSION  - DWI ATMANTA
  4. 2011 LABOR MARKET WILL REMAIN FOGGY? - RIDWAN MAX SIJABAT
  5. IN OBSERVANCE OF MOTHER'S DAY - LYNDA K. WARDHANI
  6. NO RULES OR SELF-MADE RULES? - ATI NURBAITI

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. PUTIN'S FASCISM LITE - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. HIGH CORRUPTION AND LOW GROWTH SPOIL 2010 - BY ANDERS ASLUND
  3. WORKING TOWARD A RUSSIA FOR ALL - BY SIMON SARADZHYAN AND MONICA DUFFY TOFT

CHINA DAILY

  1. PUBLICIZE COURT RULINGS
  2. STOP HURTING CHILDREN
  3. DPRK AT ECONOMIC CROSSROADS - BY JIN MEIHUA (CHINA DAILY)
  4. THE SHADOW OF A HAWKISH JAPAN - BY WU JINAN (CHINA DAILY)

DAILY MIRROR

  1. SOUND OF SILENCE AT SRI LANKA CRICKET
  2. FIRE AND FEAR IN AFGHANISTAN
  3. UN PANEL TO VISIT SL-WIKILEAKS THE CAUSE ?
  4. THE BIRTH OF THE CHRIST CHILD SHOULD BRING HOPE TO THE PEOPLE
  5. BOON'S PANEL TO VISIT LANKA - BY K. GODAGE
  6. REVIEWING THE US WAR STRATEGY 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CREATING A SHORTAGE

UPA HAS MASTERED THE ART OF FLEECING MASSES


While mounting popular anger against the rising price of onions — a kilo now costs up to `100 in many places — because of the UPA Government's mismanagement of what many believe is an artificial scarcity meant to fleece the aam admi already reeling under the twin impact of inflation and galloping food prices is understandable, there really is no reason for surprise. Ever since the Congress returned to power at the head of the UPA in the summer of 2004, there have been three discernible trends. First, living costs have multiplied for every strata of society, more so for the poor and the under-privileged. Not only have daily necessities become more expensive, but food prices have become prohibitive. The aam admi, who is supposed to be the focal point of this Government's policies and programmes and on whose plight Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi waxed eloquent to thunderous applause from the faithful at the party's recent jamboree in Delhi, has been abandoned to his fate. Second, there is a pattern to the repeated shortage of essential commodities that has added to the woes of the masses. From pulses to wheat and sugar to onions, a severe shortage has been manufactured with the active connivance of Ministers, politicians, bureaucrats, traders and hoarders. The Minister who is supposed to ensure adequate supplies and price stability is more interested in 'managing' cricket than fulfilling his responsibilities. The Prime Minister, who is supremely indifferent to all issues of governance other than pandering to the US and appeasing Pakistan, which are the sole items on his agenda, would be clueless as to what has brought about the shortage in the supply of onions, just as he would be ignorant of the reasons behind the periodic spells of shortage economy that his Ministers help create for reasons that do not require elaboration. Third, this is a Government that is repeatedly caught 'unawares' and steps in to 'manage' food shortage at the last moment after the damage has been done and illicit profits reaped.


Corruption comes in various shades. It is not limited to Mr A Raja cheating the national exchequer while hawking 2G Spectrum to fly-by-night operators right under the nose of the Prime Minister. The creation of artificial scarcity — the Government could have imposed a ban on the export of onions and sourced supplies from the international market well in advance as everybody knew of this year's crop failure due to heavy rains but chose not to do so — by Ministers in Mr Manmohan Singh's team also qualifies as corruption because individuals stand to profit from such crises. Of course, it makes little or no sense to berate a regime headed by a Prime Minister who believes his job is done by giving bogus speeches on equitable growth and eradicating poverty while his team exerts itself to device ways and means of hitting the people where it hurts the most. Mr Sharad Pawar is no doubt to blame, as are bureaucrats in his Ministry and NAFED, traders and hoarders, for the shortage in the supply of onions and the consequent spiralling of its price in the retail market. But that does not absolve the Prime Minister of his responsibility. He is welcome to protest and whine about being targeted, but that will not detract from the fact that the latest shortage has been created under his watch. As always, he elected to remain silent. 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BABU BOUNCES BACK

CONGRESS FACES MULTIPLE THREATS IN AP


Until now, many had perceived the most serious threat to the Congress Government in Andhra Pradesh emanating from Mr YS Jaganmohan Reddy's rebellion against the party high command, if not the simmering popular rage in the Telangana region. But all of a sudden Telugu Desam Party leader and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has queered the pitch for the Congress with his indefinite fast to draw the Government's attention to the plight of millions of farmers who are mired in misery and trapped in debt on account of their crops being destroyed by the recent excessive rains. All of these factors put together do not bode well for the new Kiran Kumar Reddy Government which is yet to settle down. Mr Naidu has managed to send across the message that the State Government has been lax in moving to provide relief to the farmers. More importantly, he has scored a big political point with the Left and the BJP rallying behind him. Faced with a vigorous and united — at least on some issues — Opposition, the Congress, therefore, may have to contend with an early election in the State that it does not want. If that were to happen, the ruling party will have entirely itself to blame for it has mismanaged every single issue since YS Rajasekhara Reddy's death in a helicopter crash. Mr K Rosaiah, who succeeded him, failed to either win over or isolate Mr Jaganmohan Reddy. Nor could he effectively handle the agitation for a separate Telangana State, which has led to the party being wiped out in the Telangana region in recent elections. However, it would be unfair to blame Mr Rosaiah alone for the mess that prevails. The Congress high command is equally, if not more, to blame as it mishandled Mr Jaganmohan Reddy and under-estimated his potential to inflict damage. Worse, he was allowed to choose the timing of his exit. 


Perhaps the Kiran Kumar Reddy Government would have begun on a better note had it concentrated on problems that the masses, including farmers, face. But so far it has been more busy targeting Mr Jaganmohan Reddy and denouncing Mr Naidu instead of concentrating on governance issues. Land reforms, tenancy farming and even the implementation of MNREGS have been put on the backburner. There is some irony in the fact that Mr Naidu, who lost power because he had apparently lost touch with the masses, busy as he was refurbishing the capital city of Hyderabad and wooing industrialists and IT professionals, should have bounced back in the reckoning, riding piggyback on farmers' woes. If the TDP leader appears credible doing so today, it only points to the distancing that has taken place between the Congress Government in Andhra Pradesh and the State's people. The Congress may take solace that neither of its regional opponents is on a common platform, at least not yet. But it does not take long for parties to unite against a common foe. 

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

PAKISTAN FEIGNS HURT INNOCENCE

ASHOK K MEHTA


Islamabad should know that there is little reason for New Delhi to believe its claims on fighting terrorism. India is yet to see action against 26/11 culprits


The sense one got from an annual India-Pakistan Track II conference hosted by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, New Delhi, at Dubai earlier this month was that there's a perception in Pakistan that India is not serious about reviving the dialogue ruptured since the Mumbai terrorist attack. Further, that New Delhi is happy keeping Islamabad out in the cold while engaging with big powers. 


Similarly, the thinking in Pakistan that Jammu & Kashmir has been put on the back burner is incorrect and begs the question why does Pakistan return to linking outcomes on other subjects with this issue. Pakistanis just don't appreciate the fact that just as Jammu & Kashmir is the core issue for them, terrorism is for India. The new line adopted by the Pakistanis is that they too are victims of terrorism, targeted at them more ferociously than India. For a change, one of the Pakistanis admitted that some of the terrorist groups are "our own creation and we are in deep trouble".


For India the dilemma of reviving the dialogue process is compounded by the existing dual chain of command in Pakistan where the Army and the ISI, and not the elected civilian Government, call the shots. While there is little disagreement over this historical fact, Pakistanis recommended that India should engage in talks with the civilian Government as this would strengthen the hands of democracy.


One of the retired Pakistani Generals, once close to Gen Pervez Musharraf, said that Pakistan was now ready for formal talks between the military and intelligence chiefs of the two countries. Soon after the Mumbai terror attack, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was ready to send the ISI chief, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, to New Delhi but the Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ruled it out. Later, Lt Gen Pasha made some friendly overtures towards an Indian Defence Adviser in Islamabad but there was no follow-through. 


The sticking point to resuming dialogue has been Pakistan's inability and unwillingness to demonstrate that it is serious about taking meaningful action against the perpetrators of 26/11. The question naïvely asked is what Pakistani actions will satisfy India in order to break the logjam. Since 2002, India has received written and oral assurances from Pakistani leaders that its soil will not be allowed to be used for terrorism against India. That pledge has been violated consistently without any consequences for Pakistan.


India's astonishing tolerance and baffling restraint to repeated terrorist assaults have sent the wrong signals to jihadis. Further, India has been overly generous in reducing its demands on terrorism sourced from Pakistan -- from 'dismantling of infrastructure of terrorism and disabling terrorist groups' to just 'punishing the culprits of the Mumbai attack'. A former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan attending the conference said that the perception in Pakistan is that India has set "impossible benchmarks and must be seen to be wanting peace to succeed". And, he added, "Pakistan must make its actions on terrorism more credible." 


Two years after the Mumbai attack, it was pointed out that Pakistan has been facing serious difficulties in prosecuting terrorists. Foremost is the fear factor -- evidence is not allowed to be presented in courts and nearly 2,500 militants held after Swat operations have not been tried. Even Omar Shaikh, convicted for killing Daniel Pearl of The Wall Street Journal, is yet to be hanged. Judges are under threat and the trial judge of the Mumbai attack case has been changed thrice. About Lashkar-e-Tayyeba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h supremo and Mumbai mastermind Hafiz Saeed being free to roam around despite cases being registered against him, a Pakistani participant recalled that if Gen Musharraf could not act against him, how could a weak civilian Government do so now? 


It was left to the retired Pakistani General to explain why the Army was unwilling to act against militant groups, specifically the LeT/JuD, targeting Jammu & Kashmir and India. He said that the military was stretched and did not have the capacity to open a third front and that the Americans had been told about it. This is the same excuse Gen Kayani gives the Americans for not acting against the Afghan Taliban and conveniently adds: "If Kashmir is solved, we can focus better on the war in Afghanistan."

 

Jammu & Kashmir, like terrorism, has become an inalienable part of every Track II dialogue and Dubai was no exception. In Pakistan, there is less readiness now to revive Gen Musharraf's four-point formula on Jammu & Kashmir which, according to many observers in both countries, was within a whisker of an agreement. In Dubai it appeared that the idea, though not dead, will be difficult to retrieve as the Pakistani Government has fallen back on the familiar rhetoric of self-determination and human rights violations in Kashmir Valley. Clearly Pakistan is using Jammu & Kashmir as a bargaining tool, said a Kashmiri Pandit, while another Indian described it as the driver of the peace process. Jammu & Kashmir will remain central to the dialogue process, having regained its core status in Pakistan.


Like in India, in Pakistan too, two views are expressed. That India and Pakistan will never be able to resolve their differences; and relations are not necessarily doomed to failure. With the situation in Afghanistan worsening, the proxy war there could escalate -- fuelling rather than dousing the conflict, given Pakistan's aim to be seen as part of the solution and not the problem. Creeping Talibanisation in Pakistan is a new worry that India has to reckon with and build strong fences against. 


India-Pakistan relations at their best during the Musharraf era have dipped to their lowest since the Mumbai attack. A question that was not raised at the conference: Was 26/11 the repudiation by the Pakistani Army of the gains made during Gen Musharraf's tenure, notably on Jammu & Kashmir? It is believed that this act was cleared by Gen Kayani who is intractably opposed to India. The incorporation of Gilgit-Baltistan, renamed from Northern Areas, into Pakistan and accessed by the Chinese military and business interests are part of a new Great Game. 


Adding water to politics in Pakistan has given terrorist groups a new battle cry: Water wars. With no light at the end of the tunnel, both sides at Dubai hoped for a meeting of the two Foreign Ministers in 2011 though any breakthrough seems highly unlikely. Till then, India-Pakistan relations will have to be managed and fingers kept crossed over another Mumbai-like attack. 


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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION

JS RAJPUT


Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has earned votes cutting across cast lines because his effort to change the education system touched all hearts. Giving education the primacy it deserves in policy matters is not only a sure-shot recipe to win votes, but also to build a strong nation free of corruption and casteism


Political analysts may have their own explanations as to what were the factors that thwarted an 'anti-incumbency' tide in Bihar and turned it completely in favour of Mr Nitish Kumar, but definitely his approach to education problems in the State played a role. People of Bihar has drafted to dustbin the loudmouths who had ruined Bihar for decades together, breaking the caste barrier, at least partially, in this election. It can be said with certainty that the solution to social ills, including parochialism, casteism, religious discord and corruption, will emerge only when education gets its due. For the downtrodden and deprived, the first human right in the 21st century must be recognised as 'quality education to each one'. In Bihar, if Mr Nitish Kumar has earned votes cutting across caste lines, it is because he tried to change the education scenario in the State by providing uniform to students and bicycles to girls. Teachers are now attending schools and even teaching. And such measures have enhanced people's aspiration. 


In rural India, anyone who would provide an effectively functional school is likely to win the hearts of the people, including the poorest of the poor. They would love him irrespective of every conceivable diversity and the deep-rooted local political considerations. Not all has been achieved in the education frontier in Bihar, but the reversal of downslide has become evident. May be another five years later, Mr Nitish Kumar would be in a position to issue an ordinance: Children of all those who draw their salary from public funds must study in schools run by public funds. No education allowances would be given to people whose children are not studying in Government schools. That would mean sincere implementation of the concept of 'common school system'. For the first time, the possibility of such a concept taking concrete shape has emerged. 


In early 90s, policy-makers in Shastri Bhavan were often heard saying that if a policy can bring even a little change in Bihar, it is sure to be sucessful elsewhere. Let political leaders in other States, keen to return to power, think of the long-term dividends that accrue from according education the primacy it deserves. Education is equally important along with roads, drinking water and shelter.


The education scene can be only transformed when political will becomes evident. Of course, the perpetual impediments like frequent transfers of teachers, delaying their salaries and other dues and bureaucratic high-handedness have to be controlled. If teachers can get appointments without the corrupt practices prevalent for decades, the change will be definitely evident to win votes. However, if the money transacted for getting recruited as a teacher in Government-run schools come to light, it would sure be a deterrent to new education programmes. Precisely, this has been the case when schemes like 'Operation Blackboard' were launched in 1989-90. There was a chance of changing the face of school education, but what followed was a few inquiries and suspensions. It also proved another point: Additional funds are necessary but funds alone are not sufficient unless political approach to education changes at the policy level and the work culture is drastically transformed. 

Indian education system has gathered sufficient experience in the post-Independence period to identify the reasons that have led to the failure of some of the major initiatives and what needs to be done in order to transform the system. In our country, the most important challenge remains the role of education in value inculcation, emotional nurturance and character development. The nation is witnessing unparalleled erosion of values. Practically, one can see a crisis of character all around as it manifests in the form of corruption eating away at the system of governance, judiciary and other sectors. 


When the British had introduced their education system in India, their objectives were very clear: Train people for employment under the Government of the day. They were hardly interested in inculcating human values and Indian culture. Rather, they were keen to demolish our culture and values and replace them by their own. They were highly successful in their long-term objectives. Not a week passes when cases of gross impropriety, corruption and unashamed accumulation of wealth do not make headlines. Those in positions of power and authority would stoop to any level to line their pockets and that of their kin. What is worse is that the system is so crippled that practically no wrongdoer is punished. The money looted is never recovered and the damage done to the nation and the people is irreversible. The culprits remain part of the system by shamelessly changing sides and continue to enjoy the fruits of power. 


The rot can be stemmed if recruiting quality school teachers become the primary focus of the education system. They can change young minds by teaching them the essence of our value system and the need for strong character. Of course, such a resolve would need political patronage at all levels of education. 


Providing children quality education is the most intense aspiration of every parent in today's India. Unfortunately, educational planning seems to revolve around high-fee charging public schools, institutions with foreign collaboration and issues like nursery admission criterion. One reason may be the dismal conditions of Government-run schools. While posts of teachers remain vacant, there are no proper classrooms and essential facilities like toilets and computers are missing. If the Government wants to achieve any transformation in the conduct of its functionaries, it must evolve long-term strategies. Otherwise, continued apathy to the functioning of Government-run schools will be a spanner in the wheel of nation's growth. Bihar has shown the way to educational reforms. Why not others follow? 


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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION

BIHAR CHIEF MINISTER NITISH KUMAR HAS EARNED VOTES CUTTING ACROSS CAST LINES BECAUSE HIS EFFORT TO CHANGE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM TOUCHED ALL HEARTS. GIVING EDUCATION THE PRIMACY IT DESERVES IN POLICY MATTERS IS NOT ONLY A SURE-SHOT RECIPE TO WIN VOTES, BUT ALSO TO BUILD A STRONG NATION FREE OF CORRUPTION AND CASTEISM

JS RAJPUT


Political analysts may have their own explanations as to what were the factors that thwarted an 'anti-incumbency' tide in Bihar and turned it completely in favour of Mr Nitish Kumar, but definitely his approach to education problems in the State played a role. People of Bihar has drafted to dustbin the loudmouths who had ruined Bihar for decades together, breaking the caste barrier, at least partially, in this election. It can be said with certainty that the solution to social ills, including parochialism, casteism, religious discord and corruption, will emerge only when education gets its due. For the downtrodden and deprived, the first human right in the 21st century must be recognised as 'quality education to each one'. In Bihar, if Mr Nitish Kumar has earned votes cutting across caste lines, it is because he tried to change the education scenario in the State by providing uniform to students and bicycles to girls. Teachers are now attending schools and even teaching. And such measures have enhanced people's aspiration. 


In rural India, anyone who would provide an effectively functional school is likely to win the hearts of the people, including the poorest of the poor. They would love him irrespective of every conceivable diversity and the deep-rooted local political considerations. Not all has been achieved in the education frontier in Bihar, but the reversal of downslide has become evident. May be another five years later, Mr Nitish Kumar would be in a position to issue an ordinance: Children of all those who draw their salary from public funds must study in schools run by public funds. No education allowances would be given to people whose children are not studying in Government schools. That would mean sincere implementation of the concept of 'common school system'. For the first time, the possibility of such a concept taking concrete shape has emerged. 


In early 90s, policy-makers in Shastri Bhavan were often heard saying that if a policy can bring even a little change in Bihar, it is sure to be sucessful elsewhere. Let political leaders in other States, keen to return to power, think of the long-term dividends that accrue from according education the primacy it deserves. Education is equally important along with roads, drinking water and shelter.


The education scene can be only transformed when political will becomes evident. Of course, the perpetual impediments like frequent transfers of teachers, delaying their salaries and other dues and bureaucratic high-handedness have to be controlled. If teachers can get appointments without the corrupt practices prevalent for decades, the change will be definitely evident to win votes. However, if the money transacted for getting recruited as a teacher in Government-run schools come to light, it would sure be a deterrent to new education programmes. Precisely, this has been the case when schemes like 'Operation Blackboard' were launched in 1989-90. There was a chance of changing the face of school education, but what followed was a few inquiries and suspensions. It also proved another point: Additional funds are necessary but funds alone are not sufficient unless political approach to education changes at the policy level and the work culture is drastically transformed. 

Indian education system has gathered sufficient experience in the post-Independence period to identify the reasons that have led to the failure of some of the major initiatives and what needs to be done in order to transform the system. In our country, the most important challenge remains the role of education in value inculcation, emotional nurturance and character development. The nation is witnessing unparalleled erosion of values. Practically, one can see a crisis of character all around as it manifests in the form of corruption eating away at the system of governance, judiciary and other sectors. 


When the British had introduced their education system in India, their objectives were very clear: Train people for employment under the Government of the day. They were hardly interested in inculcating human values and Indian culture. Rather, they were keen to demolish our culture and values and replace them by their own. They were highly successful in their long-term objectives. Not a week passes when cases of gross impropriety, corruption and unashamed accumulation of wealth do not make headlines. Those in positions of power and authority would stoop to any level to line their pockets and that of their kin. What is worse is that the system is so crippled that practically no wrongdoer is punished. The money looted is never recovered and the damage done to the nation and the people is irreversible. The culprits remain part of the system by shamelessly changing sides and continue to enjoy the fruits of power. 


The rot can be stemmed if recruiting quality school teachers become the primary focus of the education system. They can change young minds by teaching them the essence of our value system and the need for strong character. Of course, such a resolve would need political patronage at all levels of education. 

 

Providing children quality education is the most intense aspiration of every parent in today's India. Unfortunately, educational planning seems to revolve around high-fee charging public schools, institutions with foreign collaboration and issues like nursery admission criterion. One reason may be the dismal conditions of Government-run schools. While posts of teachers remain vacant, there are no proper classrooms and essential facilities like toilets and computers are missing. If the Government wants to achieve any transformation in the conduct of its functionaries, it must evolve long-term strategies. Otherwise, continued apathy to the functioning of Government-run schools will be a spanner in the wheel of nation's growth. Bihar has shown the way to educational reforms. Why not others follow? 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED


WHISPERS MATTER LESS THAN SHOUTS

DANIEL PIPES


It's intuitive to privilege the confidential over the overt and the private over the public. Still, the utility of WikiLeaks revelations regarding what Arab leader told the Westerners sotto voce is more likely to distract from perceived facts about Arab policy


Of all the WikiLeaks revelations, the most captivating may be learning that several Arab leaders have urged the US Government to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. Most notoriously, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called on Washington to "cut off the head of the snake". According to nearly universal consensus, these statements unmask the real policies of Saudi and other politicians.


But is that necessarily so? There are two reasons for doubts. First, as Lee Smith astutely notes, the Arabs could merely be telling Americans what they think the latter want to hear: "We know what the Arabs tell diplomats and journalists about Iran," he writes, "but we don't know what they really think about their Persian neighbour." Their appeals could be part of a process of diplomacy, which involves mirroring fears and desires of one's ally as one's own. Thus, when Saudis claim Iranians are their mortal enemies, Americans tend uncritically to accept this commonality of interests; Smith maintains, however, that "the words the Saudis utter to American diplomats are not intended to provide us with a transparent window into royal thinking but to manipulate us into serving the interests of the House of Saud." How do we know they are telling the truth just because we like what they are saying?


Second, how do we judge the discrepancy between what Arab leaders tell Western interlocutors sotto voce and what they roar to their masses? Looking at patterns from the 1930s onwards, I noted in a 1993 survey that whispers matter less than shouts: "Public pronouncements count more than private communications. Neither provides an infallible guide, for politicians lie in both public and private, but the former predict actions better than the latter."


The Arab-Israel conflict, for example, would have ended long ago if one believes confidences told to Westerners. Take the example of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's strongman from 1952 to 1970 and arguably the politician who most made Israel into the abiding obsession of West Asian politics.


According to Miles Copeland, a CIA operative who liaised with Abdel Nasser, the latter considered the Palestine issue "unimportant". In public, however, Abdel Nasser relentlessly forwarded an anti-Zionist agenda, riding it to become the most powerful Arab leader of his era. His confidences to Copeland, in other words, proved completely misleading.


The same pattern applied to specifics. He spoke in private to Western diplomats about a readiness to negotiate with Israel; but addressing the world, he rejected the very existence of the Jewish state as well as any compromise with it. After the 1967 war, for example, Abdel Nasser secretly signaled to Americans a willingness to sign a non-belligerency accord with Israel "with all its consequences" while publicly rejecting negotiations and insisting that "That which was taken by force will be regained by force". The public statement, as usual, defined his actual policies.


Not only did Abdel Nasser's shouts offer a far more accurate guide to his actions than his whispers, but he tacitly admitted as much, telling John F Kennedy that "some Arab politicians were making harsh statements concerning Palestine publicly and then contacting the American Government to alleviate their harshness by saying that their statements were meant for local Arab consumption." Thus did Abdel Nasser precisely describe his own behaviour.


Contrarily, when speaking privately not to Westerners but to their own, Arab leaders do sometimes reveal the truth. Memorably, the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat publicly signed the 1993 Oslo Accords recognising Israel but he expressed his real intentions in private when he appealed to Muslims in a South African mosque "to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem".


It's intuitive to privilege the confidential over the overt and the private over the public. However, West Asian politics repeatedly shows that one does better reading Press releases and listening to speeches than relying on diplomatic cables. Confidential views may be more heartfelt but, as Dalia Dassa Kaye of the Rand Corporation notes, "what Arab leaders say to US officials and what they might do may not always track." The masses hear policies; high-ranking Westerners hear seduction.


This rule of thumb explains why distant observers often see what nearby diplomats and journalists miss. It also raises doubts about the utility of the WikiLeaks data dump. In the end, it may distract us more than clarify what we know about Arab policies.


The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

THE PARADOX OF OBAMA'S AFGHAN POLICY

GWYNNE DYER


US and its allies are unwittingly trapped in an Afghan civil war. Hence, Obama's reiteration that the US has made enough progress in Afghanistan to start 'responsible reduction' of forces might be referred to as a coded signal to the Taliban, if not just nonsense


President Barack Obama seems to be working under a serious misapprehension. Releasing the White House's annual strategic review to the public on December 16, he declared that US policy in Afghanistan was "on track" to defeat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Who told him that the US is fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?


"It was Afghanistan where Al Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks that murdered 3,000 innocent people," he said, which is an accurate historical statement.


"It is the tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border from which terrorists have launched more attacks against our homeland and our allies," Mr Obama continued. Note the leap of logic: Suddenly, he's no longer talking about Afghanistan, but about the "Afghan-Pakistan border". In fact, he's really only talking about the Pakistani side of that frontier, which American forces could not control even if they killed every insurgent in Afghanistan.

"And if an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan, that would give Al Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks," Mr Obama concluded. Maybe, but why would Al Qaeda want more space to plan its attacks?

If it actually wants more space, Al Qaeda could easily increase its presence in Somalia, for example, but western Pakistan is quite big enough to hide in. Pakistan also has big, busy airports where Al Qaeda recruits can slip into and out of the country, and it's far too big for the US to invade.


So, what would be the point of winning a war against the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, even if Mr Obama's apparent belief that they are just the Afghan branch of Al Qaeda were correct?


So long as the US does not control every square metre (foot) of Pakistan — and it never will — the only way to prevent Al Qaeda attacks will remain good intelligence gathering, not heavily armed US troops clattering around in foreign countries. Indeed, good intelligence work is always the best way to stop terrorist attacks.


But what if the Taliban sweep to power in Afghanistan once the Western forces leave? That's not all that likely to happen, because the Taliban are almost exclusively drawn from one ethnic group, the Pashtuns. They account for 40 per cent of the population, but they never managed to conquer the heartlands of the other ethnic groups even when they ruled the country in 1996-2001. Why would they succeed now?


The US and its allies are unwittingly trapped in an Afghan civil war between the Pashtuns and everybody else. That's why 98 per cent of Nato casualties happen in Pashtun-majority areas. It's also why the Afghan Army that Washington is trying to build up (so that it can leave) is overwhelmingly made up of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks — anybody but Pashtuns. They don't even speak the same language as the insurgents.


But what if the Taliban do gain control of at least part of Afghanistan after Western troops leave? It wouldn't matter all that much, because having "even more space to plan these attacks" wouldn't make Al Qaeda any more dangerous. "Bases" are a conventional military concept that is virtually irrelevant in terrorist strategies.

In any case, it's unlikely that a victorious Taliban insurgency would really invite Al Qaeda to set up in Afghanistan again. They share many of Al Qaeda's ideas, but their actual situation would be very different — just as it was before 2001.

 

Al Qaeda's members were (and still are) revolutionaries trying to win power, mainly in Arab countries. Back then, they were getting nowhere because they lacked popular support. The 9/11 attacks were intended to sucker the US into invading a Muslim country, in order to inflame Muslim opinion against Washington and the Governments it backs in the Arab world. Then, perhaps, some of Al Qaeda's stalled revolutions might actually happen.

No surprise there. That's a standard terrorist strategy, though few people in Washington seem to realise it. But the Taliban were already in power; they didn't need a revolution. Why would they back an Al Qaeda operation that would trigger a US invasion and get them driven from power? It's very unlikely that they even knew about it in advance.


But if the Taliban were not involved in Al Qaeda's terrorist attacks on the US even back then, it's hardly credible that they would support such attacks now. Does President Obama understand that? It doesn't sound like it — but then, Mr Obama could never offer this analysis even if he shared it.


The simplistic mythology about Al Qaeda's motives that was disseminated by the Bush Administration — "they are Islamic crazies who attack us because they hate our values" — has taken such deep root in the American population that Mr Obama cannot argue with it in public. He cannot say that what happens in Afghanistan after the Americans leave hardly matters to the US. But he may understand it in private.


Consider the comment in the strategy review that the US has made enough progress in Afghanistan to start a "responsible reduction" of forces in July 2011. That is nonsense: There has been no serious progress, and the Taliban will know it.


But it may be a coded signal to the Taliban that Mr Obama wants to get out, but cannot do so if the Taliban are looking too successful. So stay low for a while, please, and we'll soon be out of your hair. You know, like the deal that Henry Kissinger made with North Vietnam in 1972.


Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist. 

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

PM GESTURE INADEQUATE TO END STAND- OFF WITH OPPN

 

THE Prime Minister gets full marks for trying to assert his personal probity by showing his willingness to appear before the Public Accounts Committee ( PAC) of Parliament.

 

Sadly, however, this still seems to fall short and appears to be yet another attempt at avoiding a Joint Parliamentary Committee ( JPC) probe into what is now called the 2G spectrum scam.

 

The fact that a JPC can summon the Prime Minister and the PAC can't is only one of the many aspects that make the former a more effective mechanism of parliamentary oversight.

 

The United Progressive Alliance government's discomfiture with a JPC probe goes much beyond its potential to summon the Prime Minister. A JPC probe, though headed by a person from the ruling coalition, will have much wider powers than a PAC, which functions mainly as an auditing body.

 

Moreover, unlike the PAC which has a one year deadline, a JPC probe can extend over several years; therefore it can potentially be used by the opposition parties to keep the issue of governmental corruption alive in the run- up to the next general elections.

 

A JPC probe can also go into matters that are a potential cause of embarrassment for the government such as showing how corporate lobbyists and fixers may be involved in deciding who will be in the Union Council of Ministers, something which is supposed to be the Prime Minister's prerogative.

 

It is undoubtedly important that the standoff that marked the Winter session of parliament is not stretched into the Budget session and the Prime Minister's offer is a significant step towards resolving the deadlock. But clearly he needs to do something more than merely offer to appear before the PAC to neutralise the Opposition onslaught.

 

MORE AT WORK THAN ONIONS

THERE are only two reasons for the recent astronomic spurt in onion prices, which is snatching even this humble food away from the plates of the common man: greed, and an abject failure of governance.

 

India is the world's second largest onion producer. The crop is grown all over the country, and thanks to varied crop patterns, there are barely two or three months in a year when an onion crop is not reaching the market from somewhere.

 

The failure of the crop in Nashik and parts of Rajasthan, while denting the supply, should by no means have led to prices shooting up 800 to 1000 per cent in virtually every market in the country. The crisis is largely manmade, caused by hoarding and speculation.

 

The government, instead of cracking down on this, is adding fuel to the fire. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who, in a cruel joke on the consumer, is also tasked with safeguarding their interest as civil supplies minister, is predictably talking the market up by stating that the crisis should take three weeks at least to abate.

 

Onion prices have stayed up for a couple of months now, and preventive measures like banning exports could have been taken well before the situation worsened to the current point. It is high time the government actually walked its ' aam admi' talk.

 

IS IT ABOUT MONEY HONEY?

POOR Elizabeth Hurley. The British model and actress who got into an affair with former Australian cricketer Shane Warne, only to soon detect that he had been two- timing her, is likely to now be left with neither a boyfriend, nor her husband of Indian origin Arun Nayar.

While Ms Hurley has figured out for herself Mr Warne's philandering ways — a fact everybody, but her, always knew— her husband seems to have done with her in his life.

 

Reports that Ms Hurley has been begging her husband to accept her back are amusing since the lady, on being found out about her affair, had tweeted that her marriage was over. So what is it now that's made her change her mind? There will be those who attribute it to the instinct of clutching at marital straws after being wounded in love. But we suspect it could well be the fear of having to pay Mr Nayar a handsome alimony that's made the rich Ms Hurley give her marriage another chance.

 

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            MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

CONGRESS EXCELS IN FEAR MONGERING

BY MANVENDRA SINGH

 

THE UNITED Progressive Alliance touts, amongst various things, the passage of the Right to Information Act as one of the highpoints of governance. It is easy to see why; with a constant presence of the non- governmental types in the posh parts of society, a bill driven by them that aspires to transparency sounds just the correct thing to do. It just sounds good that India passed such a bill, and now has an Act across the country that gives the citizenry more information than they've ever had.

 

After all this is the global trend, and India is part of the globalised world.

 

Taking this logic to its obvious ends, WikiLeaks has sprung one back on the world, and on India in trickles. Julian Assange and his team are either heroes, or villains, and there is no middle ground on this phenomenon. Charges of anarchism and anti- Americanism are being thrown at Assange. Even the sterile environs of Sweden seem tainted by the spectre of a meddling ménage.

 

WikiLeaks

 

For good or for bad, WikiLeaks has taken the logic of right to information into a different realm. And opened many an eye, and many a mind to how diplomats think, and to the processing of information by them.

 

Some years ago I sat on a dining table at the residence of the United States ambassador in Delhi. Somebody visiting from one of the US departments wanted to sell the idea of peace between squabbling neighbours, and I asked if peace was possible with an army that denied the honour of a military burial to its troops by disclaiming them in death. There were retired generals sitting on the table, and I asked the visitor to confirm with them if I'd erred in my questioning of military ethos. There was no suggestion of any WikiLeaks happening then, but I did wonder how the visitor and his dinner host would be reporting our conversation to Washington. Or if they'd ever report, for it is entirely a question of prioritising subjects, and guests.

 

From the last Indian cables provided by WikiLeaks it is clear that the US Ambassador was worried by the apparition of ' hindu terror' as much as his Congress guest. It is still too early to say if they were more worried, or not, for the tranche of leaks continues. And in their collection there could be more Indian cables that have yet to see the light of information.

 

And, therefore, more cables to be put out that may, or may not, disprove this theory.

 

But for the time being it is ' hindu terror' that is of greater concern, for the Congress, and for their American hosts.

 

There is a pattern to this Congress obsession with ' hindu terror'. A number of its senior functionaries have repeated this charge, on various occasions. In the Congress scheme of things there is a requirement to be seen and heard as being more secular than the most. With Mani Shanker Aiyer maintaining a strategic silence over this matter, it is left to others to plunder away at history and logic.

 

Terror

 

The use of terror tactics is inspired by a desire to influence political decisions.

 

That is the simplest explanation possible of terror as the word is commonly used and understood. For all their reprehensible actions that have caused the deaths of innocents, those that perpetrated the acts of violence now labelled as ' hindu terror' do not appear to have a political message.

 

There is nothing in their actions, and acts, that suggests a political message, a desire to influence public policy. What have been perpetrated are unforgivable and punishment deserving actions. But to give them a label of ' hindu terror' is stretching the realms of imagination beyond enforceable boundaries.

 

To find a ' hindu' message, a communiqué aimed at influencing political policies, in the ghastly acts of violence is as reprehensible as are the actions themselves. But it is the Congress messaging that runs in a deep hue of politics. For there is a method in the idiocy of its actions, and language.

 

Even as it raises the spectre of a majority running amok, this obsessive messaging seeks to instil a fear amongst a section of the population that is vulnerable to such imaging. A minority that has been fed on fear for the last 60 years, and an intelligentsia that loathes nativity with a passion, are the most obvious targets of this Congress obsession.

 

The politics of the Congress has revolved around instilling fears and phobias in the largest minority. It is by creating an aura of hate and violence around the minority that the Congress plays its politics, thereby rallying the fearful into a cadre of the faithful. It has gone to such extremes that even defies being funny. The Government of Rajasthan has contrived to lay the blame on Indiresh Kumar, a national executive member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for the blast at the dargah in Ajmer. Its thesis is apparently based on Indireshji's mobile number appearing in the phone book of one of the accused.

 

Well, his number is in my phone book, and he can't be held responsible for any action that I take, voluntarily or

accidently.

 

Pattern

 

He is the target because of his actions as the senior RSS functionary responsible for running the Nationalist Muslim Forum.

 

Yes, such a thing exists, and it draws supporters from every tehsil of the country, including parts of Kupwara where the writ of the state government barely runs. The activities of the NMF have clearly been irking the leadership of the Congress, for it is based on the participation of Muslims, as a part of nationalist majority, rather than a cowering fearful minority.

 

A growing majoritarian attitude amongst the Muslims will nullify all the ghettoisation achieved through years of fear mongering. Thus the spectre of ' hindu terror', in public through senior members, or in private with an ambassador of a country that once tried to haul India over the coals for targeting Christian missionaries.

 

There is a pattern to this fear mongering, for India is a country with a chilled majority.

 

The writer is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party's National Executive

 

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MAIL TODAY

WHY BIHAR'S GAIN CAUSES PUNJAB'S LABOUR PAIN

VIKAS KAHOL

 

NOT many people in Punjab are happy with Nitish Kumar's victory in the recent Bihar assembly polls. As Bihar politics was re- scripted in November this year, alarm bells rang for two major sectors in Punjab — agriculture and industry — which form the backbone of its economy.

 

Reports suggest that distress migration from Bihar — which had already receded during Nitish's last term as chief minister — is likely to decline further.

 

The prime sectors of Punjab's economy have learnt the lesson that skilled and unskilled hands sustaining them for decades would now head where they have better employment opportunities.

 

Nitish's second innings has ushered a hope among Bihari migrants to Punjab that there are better prospects back home.

 

The dividends of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act reaped by people in Bihar during Nitish's last term would continue to give them additional purchasing power. The people from Bihar — who would come to Punjab during the non- farming season in their native state — are gradually dumping Punjab which was considered one of the most progressive states in India. The estimates put migrant population in Punjab close to 30 lakh.

 

One third of the migrants — nearly 10 lakh — are in the industrial city of Ludhiana.

 

]They have been instrumental in making the industry grow.

 

The helpless industrialists in Ludhiana have long been alarmed of the unnerving decline in migrant labour. But, there was greater discomfort among them after October. A large number of migrants went back to Bihar in October for casting their vote in the assembly elections and celebrate Diwali. Many chose to stay back in Bihar.

 

This trend has spelt danger for industry in Ludhiana — known as the Manchester of India. The industry has been experiencing severe shortage of labour and the problem is gradually intensifying.

 

At present it is home to 30 thousand registered and eight thousand unregistered small scale units. Due to labour shortage, they have had to cut their production. Ludhiana also has eight large integrated knitwear factories, roughly six thousand small to medium sized knitwear factories, 10 big hosiery yarn mills and 150 small to medium sized worsted and woolen yarn factories. There are also firms manufacturing bicycles, machine tools, sewing machines, generators, diesel engines, tyres and tubes, and other consumer goods.

 

J ALANDHAR — a town synonymous with sports equipment, rubber goods, and auto part industries — is also losing its supremacy due to the shortage of migrants. It is also the world's biggest manufacturer of leather tool pouches and aprons with major American and European customers buying from factories here.

 

The country's grain bowl is also dependent on migrant farm hands. Punjab is the largest contributor to the central rice pool. It produces nearly 150 lakh tonnes of rice every year bringing 26 lakh hectare under paddy cultivation.

 

For about three years — the farmers too have been experiencing labour shortage in Punjab during the paddy season.

 

They are forced to scour railway stations across the state in anticipation of the arrival of migrant labour and lure them with higher wages and comforts including non- vegetarian food, dessert coolers, mobile phones and clothes. Social scientists say that Punjab's economy cannot grow without migrants. A survey by the Punjab Agricultural University had estimated that Ludhiana has more than 10 lakh migrants against its 50 lakh population. About five lakh migrants contribute to paddy cultivation every year. They are hard working and do not form unions. They are not arrogant and are known to take up any job they get.

 

If Bihar continues to offer better employment opportunities to its natives — which it must — it may be disastrous for Punjab.

 

Punjab too must wake up and work out a strategy to save its economy. Maybe they can take a leaf or two out of Nitish's book.

 

BECAUSE ENVIRONMENT MATTERS

 

AN NGO called Environment Matters has taken an initiative to sensitise school children and teachers on environmental issues.

 

The NGO has been holding workshops in schools in collaboration with the Environment Department, Chandigarh.

 

The programme has been launched under the Environment Ministry's National Green Corps Programme. The NGO's chairman Sandeep Garg believes that knowledge must lead to Action. " We are approaching school eco- clubs and hold practical training programmes for students and teachers.

 

We are also targeting colleges," said Garg.

 

The NGO also invites students to an equipped laboratory to demonstrate the ill effects of pollution and ways to reduce it. The NGO's chief executive Dr RS Saini hopes that students use this knowledge when they make their way out of the classrooms.

 

BABUS JUST DON'T CARE ABOUT OUR FREEDOM FIGHTERS' LEGACY

OFFICIAL apathy has taken its toll on the Dwarka Dass Library at the Lala Lajpat Rai Bhawan in Chandigarh. The library has many old books.

 

One of which was published in 1702. The administration has been paying a meager ` 20,000 a month for its staff and upkeep. There has been a crunch of space for displaying the entire collection.

 

Lalaji founded the library in the memory of his friend — Dwarka Dass — in Lahore in 1928. It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. The material was shifted to India after the partition. The library is maintained by the Servants of the People Society. Lalaji also donated his personal library to the society.

 

The library also contains several original historical sources such as resolutions of the Indian National Congress ( INC) and letters of Lala Lajpat Rai. It is also the treasure trove of literature read by martyr Bhagat Singh when he was in prison in Lahore. The library in Lahore had become a " revolutionaries' shrine" since it was a meeting ground for Bhagat Singh and his comrades. The books issued by Bhagat Singh from a library in Lahore have been kept at the Dwarka Dass Library. A newspaper carrying the news of his execution in 1931 is also kept here.

 

The library also has the drape Lalaji was wearing when he was beaten up by the police before his death.

 

vikas.kahol@mailtoday.in

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

BREAK THE CYCLE

 

With assembly elections in West Bengal around the corner, political violence in the state is on the rise. Manifesting itself in the form of clashes between student bodies supported by the ruling CPM and opposition Trinamool Congress, university campuses have been turned into battlegrounds in a manner that's eerily reminiscent of the bloody 1970s. On account of the campus strike called by the Students Federation of India (SFI) to protest the murder of a student, allegedly by Trinamool goons, most educational institutions in the state remained closed on Monday. Sporadic clashes were reported from Howrah and north Kolkata that left at least 20 injured. On its part, Trinamool's large funeral procession of an alleged party worker through the heart of the state capital did nothing to bring down the temperature. 


West Bengal has an unfortunate history of politicisation of educational institutions. It is true that the blame for turning colleges into hubs for political activity rather than academic excellence lies with the Left. Over the last three decades, student unions in the state came to be dominated by the SFI through the patronage of the party in power. Other state institutions such as the police too were made subservient, giving goons owing allegiance to the CPM a free run. 

 

But as the political tide slowly turns in favour of Trinamool, thanks to the popular disaffection with the ruling dispensation and its decades-long neglect of reforms and industry, campuses across the state are becoming microcosms of the larger political battle being fought for Writers' Buildings. And with an emasculated police force, law and order has become the first casualty. In that sense, electoral politics in West Bengal is stuck in a time warp. As elections in other parts of the country become increasingly peaceful and orderly - the recent assembly elections in Bihar is a good example - West Bengal continues with an archaic brand of politics that relies on muscle power and intimidation to ensure electoral success. 

 

For Trinamool to take the political battle to the streets and try and match CPM cadre man-for-man is disappointing. As the party projecting itself as a viable alternative, it should take the moral high ground instead of trying to beat the CPM at its own game. Mamata Banerjee must realise that taking the latter course severely dents her promise of bringing about a transformation. Replacing CPM goons with Trinamool goons is not what people of the state have in mind. They desire a change in the very culture of politics that has been the bane of West Bengal. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

ONION RINGS

 

The price of onions has often made aam aadmi cry. Ditto for governments, especially at polltime. So, the UPA will worry that retail prices have in recent days exceeded Rs 50 a kg in most regions, hitting Rs 80 in Delhi and other cities. The trigger was beyond anyone's control: crop damage in Maharashtra and other places courtesy heavy rains. But, as UPA ministers say, hoarding may have done its bit in contributing to the price spiral. Steps taken so far include an exports ban, which has had some impact, and a minimum export price hike where no-objections were issued. Cutting import duty can also help traders - already importing from Pakistan - to access varied suppliers. Above all, disturbing allegations that hoarding in some onion-producing states have officialdom's blessings demand probing and, if needed, tough punitive action. 


The fact is that food inflation remains sticky, even as the UPA talks of spurring farm productivity and food security. That's a reminder of the need for structural changes to better combat periodic crises, whatever their cause. Our farm-to-fork supply chain is poorly integrated and short on facilities. Reform is required for organised retail's expansion, benefiting farmers and consumers while creating jobs and infrastructure, especially in storage and distribution. It's scandalous that prices frequently soar while farm produce rots for lack of infrastructure. Price volatility issues equally from deficient post-harvest marketing networks and rules denying farmers direct sales avenues. Given India's size, a seamless, private initiative-friendly market - unencumbered by multiplication whether of taxes, entry barriers, intermediaries or monopolies like those of state-supported agricultural produce market committees - is needed. Commodities must move easily, especially during emergencies from surplus to deficit areas. With agriculture's modernisation boosting farm incomes, there'll be less need for palliatives like ever-climbing support prices, another prop for high food inflation. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

AS THE DRAGON BREATHES FIRE

GAUTAM ADHIKARI

 

WASHINGTON: To borrow a line from the nuns in that old musical, how do you solve a problem like China? It isn't a will o' the wisp that'll go away; it isn't a clown, though it might think the rest of us are. It is a worry for the world and a headache for India. 


The Economist, which is now a weekly must-read for trend analysts everywhere, ran a special survey recently on 'The Dangers of a Rising China'. Several Asia-watchers have written volumes full of anxiety. One by Martin Jacques, titled 'When China Rules the World', declares in its subtitle: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. China's influence, says Jacques, will extend well beyond the economic sphere. It will have social, cultural and political repercussions. 


Chinese leaders talk of its "peaceful rise". On the surface, it would seem so. China doesn't have naked colonial aspirations like erstwhile imperial powers, it generally works through multinational groupings, not unilaterally, in world affairs, and it has gone out of its way to settle border disputes with many neighbours. Still, it houses 20 per cent of the human race, will soon become the world's largest economy and maintains the biggest standing army of any nation. And it is ultra-nationalistic. 


A prickly nationalism has replaced communism as the driving ideology of the party-controlled Chinese state. It has indeed settled several border disputes; yet, when it deals with, for instance, Japan or India it bares its teeth over territorial claims. It skirmishes with Japan on the seas. It demands chunks of Indian territory and makes whimsically aggressive gestures over granting visas to Indians. 


Its almost hysterical reaction to the award of a Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned dissident, is an example of a disturbing paranoia. Instead of brushing off the award as something that mattered little, it snarled through an official organ that the members of the Nobel committee were a bunch of "clowns". In fact, that would be an apt description of the pathetic bunch of 18 or so dictatorships and eccentric nations that it rounded up to boycott the award. 


As leader of the world's largest democracy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh absolutely the right thing in ignoring Beijing's demand that India join that motley bunch. China's supporters and a few intellectually geriatric souls may spy sinister motive in India's refusal to join the boycott, but the best motive of all is democracy itself. It is high time that New Delhi abandoned being apologetic to anti-democratic clowns. Its democracy has flaws, as all democracies do since they can only approximate an ideal that by definition is a set of feasible compromises, but it is a model that one day might rival China's as a beacon of growth and sustainable prosperity. 

Although it may appear laughable in current circumstances, a contest of ideals in the future, perhaps beginning as early as a decade from now, is likely between India and China. They will each be a billion and a half strong, they will be two of the world's three largest economies and, unless either changes radically, they will showcase competing models of sustainable growth vying for appeal among other growing economies. If it can get its act together to sustain high growth, India's democratic alternative to China's authoritarianism can prove to be the better option. 


By that time, the spell of China enjoying a demographic dividend will end. India will expand its youth bulge which will make its average age 29 against China's 37 in 2020. India will have more productive workers of an active age than China, which will bear an economic and social burden of age while India's productivity will rise. 

China's growth will slow by 2015 when India's rate is expected to surpass it, says the 
World Bank. And there are signs, say investment bankers, that in 10 to 15 years' time India's economic potential may turn out better than China's. 


We tend to blame democracy for our comparatively poor performance but India has in recent years had high growth with democracy. Forty years of wrong economic policies were more to blame for lacklustre performance than free elections or a free media. Free speech allows an escape for pent-up frustrations. China allows few valves for releasing popular emotions even as it witnesses, according to several reports, around 90,000 spontaneous protests every year. When an expanding middle class demands more in the open market and if galloping inflation hits hard thanks to policy errors or unforeseen global conditions, can China's model survive? 

No doubt, India hardly performs at optimal efficiency. Uneven growth, weak governance, poor hygiene and persisting mass poverty continue to hamper our quest for prosperity. But democracy is not to blame for managerial ineptitude, as the relatively strong performance of several states in the north, west and south shows. Even Bihar has demonstrated signs of growth with good governance in recent years. Actually, democracy helps hold this hugely diverse nation together by allowing a plurality of views to compete with one another. It seems messy but it works better. 


In short, democracy is the best selling proposition of Brand India. When the enraged dragon breathes fire, roar right back. Let's stop being chicken. Instead, be the tiger we say we are. 


The writer is a FICCI-EWC fellow at East West Centre in Washington DC.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q & A

'I LIVE IN A WORLD OF MY OWN'

SUBHASH K JHA

 

Hum Dono is being colorised and released in cinemascope with digital sound. Is that a healthy thing to do? 

Listen to me. I never look back. I was getting ready with my new film Chargesheet when they came to me with the newly-done version of Hum Dono. I never asked for Hum Dono to be colorised. They got it done with American collaboration and brought it to me. I was wary. But when i saw the sample i liked it. The new version is outstanding. It's modern. The film doesn't feel 50 years old. It's about war, family values, love and loyalty. These can never go out of fashion. When the first print was screened in Delhi, it was crammed beyond capacity. The experience was euphoric. Having said that, i must say some black-and-white films do not render themselves to colour. Fortunately, Hum Dono is an exception. 


So we'll have two Dev Anand films, Hum Dono and Chargesheet, separated by nearly 50 years soon? 

I've sacrificed the release of Chargesheet by a few weeks to accommodate Hum Dono. Hum Dono is set for February 4. I want to come with Chargesheet on February 25. I feel that would give both the older and the newer generation of movie goers an insight into my career. They can see Dev Anand then and Dev Anand now. 


Don't you think turning black-and-white films into colour is an unwelcome use of technological advancement? 

Like i said i didn't ask for it. But on seeing it i am fully satisfied. It has wonderful songs. The number ''Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya'' has served as the philosophy of my life over the years. The music by Jaidev is outstanding. Jaidev came into my production company Navketan as an assistant to Ali Akbar Khan. Then he became an assistant to S D Burman. I thought Jaidev deserved an independent chance. I put him with lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. Whatever i've done in my life i've done with conviction and pride. 


What do you think of the trend of remakes and Hollywood adaptations? 

It is such an exhilarating experience to let the creative process flow through you. When you are falling back on a remake or remix how are you being creative? A remake is an easy way out. Instead of tapping your own creativity you simply tap into another person's creativity. How can you think of doing something that's been done already? I can never do it. Today, people remember my Guide and Hare Rama Hare Krishna as vividly as they did when they were made. So why remake them? I'd never remake Hollywood films either. They are filled with gimmicks these days. Go back to the grand Hollywood era of the 1950s of the great makers and stars...where are they now? 


At 87, how do you manage to be so enthusiastic about cinema and life? 

I am a loner. But i am not lonely. I live in a world of my own. My world is inside me. I feel a great creative freedom. 

Will there ever be another Dev Anand? 

I don't know. I am too much of an egoist to think so.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

FAMILY BUSINESS

JUG SURAIYA 

 

When during the Congress party's plenary session Sonia Gandhi described Manmohan Singh as "an embodiment of sobriety, dignity and integrity", it sounded like a testimonial from the head of a feudal clan for an old family retainer. And in fact this is exactly what it was. Today the Congress is the personal fiefdom of Sonia and Rahul. And instead of trying to gloss over this reality which is obvious to all the Congress should flaunt it as its unique selling proposition. Because apart from the Gandhi brand name, the party doesn't have anything else to recommend it.

 

At the plenary session - the 126th of the Grand Old Party of Indian politics - both Sonia and Rahul focused on the two biggest evils confronting the country today: corruption and communalism. Describing corruption as a "symptom of a closed and opaque economic and political structure (which)... snatches away the common man's opportunity to progress", Rahul called for "severe" and swift punishment for all those found guilty of graft. As the Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh housing society, the auction of the 2G spectrum, the Karnataka land swindle and UP's foodgrain scandal have shown, scams have no political affiliations; they are common to all parties.

 

However, if one were to trace the genesis of the epidemic of corruption it could be argued that the disease could well have been spawned during Indira Gandhi's regime where the ruinously high rates of taxation - 97 per cent in the highest tax bracket- and the licence raj inevitably fostered both the generation of black money and the unholy nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and big business. With its catchy slogan of 'Garibi hatao' and its populist gimmicks like bank nationalisation and the abolition of privy purses, Indira Gandhi's socialism was in fact the legitimising of a sarkari mafia.

 

Did the communalisation of the Indian polity similarly have its roots in Indira Gandhi's time? To split the growing Khalistan movement she is believed to have created the ultra-fanatic Bhindranwale, setting in motion a tragic escalation of conflict which was to culminate in her own assassination.

 

Despite these charges, Indira Gandhi occupies pride of place in the Congress pantheon of deities which include her father, her son, and now her daughter-in-law and her grandson. What better tribute to the untarnishable brand equity associated with the Nehru-Gandhi name?

 

The Congress party's much-touted secular credentials - while certainly an improvement on the BJP's ill-disguised communalism - were compromised by the demolition of the Babri masjid on Narasimha Rao's watch and by Rajiv Gandhi's opportunistic ambivalence over the Shah Bano case. Moreover, secularism has been debased from being a bedrock of the Indian republic to a catchphrase for vote-bank politics.

 

The Congress party's sales pitch of being anti-corruption and anti-communal is unlikely to woo the increasingly sceptical voter. Which leaves the Congress only one card to play with which to trump its only national rival, the BJP: the Gandhi card. The party should come out of the closet and openly declare itself to be what it has long been seen by everyone else to be: a family-run enterprise based on dynasty. There seems to be no other reason, ideological or conceptual, for its existence.

 

This should be seen not as a matter of discredit but of pride. Corporate studies have shown that in India, unlike in the West, family-managed businesses do significantly better than those run by professionals. This could be because of our national ethos in which rules matter less than relationships, and family ties take precedence over impersonalised codes of conduct.

 

What works in business works in the business of politics. To score over rivals, the Congress used to boast of its TINA factor: there is no alternative. Today the TINA factor needs to be internalised. In the Congress, there is no alternative to the Family. True to the principle of truth in advertising, why not change its new name to the Gandhi Party?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

MISS THE WOOD FOR THE JPC

 

There was a genuine question mark over the efficacy of the probe being conducted by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament into the 2G spectrum allocation scam. And the matter of discontent, articulated quite forcefully and successfully by the Opposition, was the perception that by refusing to install a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to deal with the contentious issue, the Congress-led government was shielding the prime minister from any inquiry. On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not only took the wind out of the Opposition's sails by offering to appear before the PAC for questioning, but he also brought the focus back to getting to the bottom of the truth about the 2G scandal rather than using the 'PAC vs JPC' debate as a politicised punching bag that would, by proxy, determine whether the government or the Opposition blinked first. Till now, the Congress had unhelpfully defended the government's decision not to conduct a JPC by invoking the 'sanctity' of the prime minister. This line of action had actually provided grist to the Opposition's mill. So Mr Singh's acknowledgement that, as prime among the government's body of ministers, he bears responsibility for the alleged wrongdoings of any of his colleagues and, therefore, his being answerable to any such inquiry is indeed welcome.

 

Mr Singh has also shown commendable reason by calmly explaining why the need for a JPC is redundant, at least, at this stage. As he pointed out on Monday, the PAC is examining the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General indicting former Union telecom minister A Raja for his role in the 2G scam and the PAC's report would be placed before Parliament and will be up for debate. He also added that the "government is obliged to take action on the recommendations of the PAC". This is the kind of clarity that was required and that the Opposition should be pleased to get, coming from the prime minister himself. The bone of contention, in any case, was always about getting Mr Singh to answer questions regarding the actions of his former colleague, Mr Raja — for instance, why, despite his boss's interventions and concerns, Mr Raja chose to go ahead with 2G spectrum allocations in the manner that he did. Mr Singh will now be willing to face such queries from a statutory body.

 

It is one thing for the Opposition to push the government, and push the government hard, to get to the truth regarding a ministerial act of corruption of the magnitude of the 2G scam. It's quite another to become fixated with something that's purely a war of one-upmanship, even as the core reason for a demand for a JPC — that the prime minister is answerable to questions — has been granted. Mr Singh has shown maturity, and more than a little bit of courage, by solving what seemed like an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Now it's for the Opposition to show some practical sense and let the PAC get some necessary answers out of the PM.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

PEELING THE PINCH

 

Onion prices spike for three reasons: the crop fails, the supply pipeline is clogged, or profiteering. In every case, the Indian citizen holds the government responsible, as it should. Spectacular electoral debacles over the price of this vegetable are evidence of the common man's sensitivity to issues that show up when onion prices hit the roof.  Foremost is farm productivity, which has languished for a quarter of a century. India has been unable to build on the gains of the Green Revolution, its food security is  under threat. Second, India's farm supply chain remains antiquated and a quarter of its vegetables rot before reaching the market. Finally, the trade in India's agricultural output is loosely policed, with prices tripling between the farm and the kitchen.

 

Since onion does not travel well, deep agricultural reforms are the only safeguard against recurrent price surges. The political cost of ignoring the signal from the humble bulb is high enough to merit this attention. The irony is the government of the day respects the onion, but little else. Food price inflation has averaged 14% between April and September with a business as usual approach in the ministries concerned.

 

The Congress has admitted that inflation is the Achilles' heel of UPA 2 and that the government needs to raise farm productivity and improve the food supply chain. With onion prices at R80 a kilo, it now realises that hoarders are at work. Why can't we shake off the feeling we've heard it all before?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

FRENCH DRESSING

 

At the end of his recent visit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a joint statement reaffirming their "shared endeavour to strengthen democracy, transparency and accountability". However, apart from promoting these "shared values", Sarkozy was looking to win business deals for France. The biggest such deal involved nuclear reactors for Jaitapur, a town on the Konkan coast at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.

 

If this deal goes through, Jaitapur could become the site of the world's largest nuclear complex. The French firm, Areva, is proposing to set up six European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs), each of which is supposed to provide 1,650 MW of power. This is more than one-third of India's total installed nuclear capacity of 4,780 MW.

 

However, the residents of the area are unimpressed. On December 4, several thousand people came together to protest at the project site. The Maharashtra government reacted by  arresting about 1,500 people — a significant fraction of the population of the surrounding villages. This was not the first time that the locals had expressed their opposition. At the public hearing for the environmental impact assessment in May, the overwhelming majority of those present opposed the project. Nevertheless, Jairam Ramesh, heading the  Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), went ahead and fast-tracked the project's environmental clearance.

 

The locals are worried that the nuclear plants will destroy the neighbouring fisheries and have a deleterious impact on farmers. The MoEF agreed tacitly: "The nuclear power complex raises many questions on the carrying capacity of the ecologically sensitive region in which it is located," Ramesh noted. However, instead of attempting to find answers, the minister merely instructed the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) to follow certain "conditions and safeguards".

 

The environment ministry often grants such 'conditional clearances'. Unfortunately — as the environmental group, Kalpavriksh, pointed out in a recent study titled Calling the bluff — its record of later ensuring compliance with these conditions is dubious. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the ministry is serious this time around. For example, it has given the NPCIL 12 months to come up with a "comprehensive biodiversity conservation plan" but has not even set up a review mechanism to ensure that this plan meets the needs of the local population.

 

The most serious concern of the local residents has to do with safety. However, Ramesh refused to engage with this, simply stating that he was "not the competent authority to pass judgement" on the matter. The Jaitapur plant, like any other nuclear reactor, is capable of suffering a catastrophic accident. In fact, both Areva and the locals are worried about this eventuality. This is why Sarkozy insisted that India should amend its liability norms to follow the Vienna convention where the nuclear supplier is completely indemnified from the consequences of any mishap.

 

It is clear from the government's actions during the passage of the liability Bill that it concurs with Sarkozy. To get around India's new liability law, which allows the operator of the nuclear plant a "right of recourse" against the manufacturer, the government might sign a contract renouncing its right to seek damages from Areva. Since this would subvert the spirit of the Indian law, the Jaitapur contract must be opened to public scrutiny.

 

Moreover, the locals do not have this option of indemnity; they will bear the brunt of any accident. So, the least that the government can do is to be transparent on the question of safety. In India, contrary to international practice, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, which vets reactor designs, does not place its assessments in the public domain. This must be corrected, and given that this issue affects the lives of the neighbouring residents, the government should proceed with the project only if  they are satisfied that it is safe.

 

The MoEF also argued that this project was "the first practical outcome" of India's civilian nuclear agreement. If so, this is a remarkably poor outcome. Not a single EPR is in operation  anywhere in the world. Areva commenced construction on its first EPR in Olkiluoto in Finland with much fanfare in 2005. This reactor is now three years behind schedule and heavily over budget, while its partners are busy battling over who is to bear the additional cost. The next EPR at Flamanville in France has also been plagued by cost increases. Areva has not yet cleared the regulatory process in Britain and the US and, in both countries, regulators have flagged safety issues.

 

In India, Areva is quoting a price of $9.3 billion for two reactors and fuel for 25 years. Excluding the cost of fuel, this works out to less than $4 billion per reactor. Given that the reactors in France and Finland will be almost twice as expensive, this is just a recipe for another Enron.

 

If the government does go ahead with the project, in spite of these concerns, it should at least sign a 'turnkey' contract with Areva, and make it responsible for any cost overruns. Most importantly, on questions of safety, environmental impact, cost and liability, it would be nice for the people of Jaitapur to see some  "democracy, transparency and accountability".

 

Suvrat Raju is a physicist at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad. MV Ramana is a physicist at Princeton University, US. The views expressed by the authors are personal.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

HERALD A NEW ORDER

DANIEL TWINING

 

United States President Barack Obama accomplished three important things during his visit to India last month. He put to bed a notion that held sway earlier in his administration that a US-China 'G2' could jointly manage Asia and the world.  He rejected a re-hyphenation of India-Pakistan relations that many had urged on him. And he took ownership of a relationship with New Delhi that had been on the rocks since he took office. He deserves credit for expressing America's core interest in India's rise and success as a future democratic superpower.

 

Obama's vision of a transformative partnership with India — to manage global diplomatic and security challenges, catalyse prosperity and promote good governance in Asia and beyond — was bracing. It helped mitigate concerns in Washington that Obama does not care about the balance of power in Asia — he now does, thanks largely to China's misbehaviour over the past year. It also underlined an historic and bipartisan American belief that democracies make the best allies in world affairs.

 

In New Delhi, Obama made a strong case for the exceptionalism of India-US ties that would help chart the course of the 21st century. His embrace of India came just in time to check a growing chorus of pessimism in Washington. Prominent among the sceptics is George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Perkovich was an India expert before it was popular in America, so his arguments carry weight. That is why his recent Carnegie report (http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=41797) arguing that India cannot be the partner America wants it to be — and that ambitions of the kind Obama expressed for the relationship are harmful to it — deserves attention.

 

Perkovich argues for a more "realistic" relationship that treats India in many ways as the impoverished, isolated, defensive, even hostile-to-the-West country it once was. India does not want to be an Asian balancer, the report maintains; US efforts to facilitate India's co-equal rise with China will only create discord between Asia's giants and upset China's peaceful development. Rather than converging, the report maintains that Indian and US interests hopelessly diverge on a host of important issues, from climate change to Iran. America's embrace of India is actually detrimental — it has alienated China and Pakistan and up-ended the old nuclear order.

 

Thankfully, the majority view among Republicans and Democrats in Washington today is different. It holds that Indians and Americans enjoy natural affinities, and that America has an intrinsic interest in India's success — as a country that can shape a non-Western modernity that is inherently peaceful, pluralistic, prosperous, and attractive to the wider world.

 

India's economic growth under democracy puts the lie to the myth that China's model of authoritarian development is the wave of the future. India's bottom-up, domestically driven development is a welcome antidote to the State-directed Chinese mercantilism that has so destabilised the global economy. That is why the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have praised a new 'Delhi consensus' on development.

 

More broadly, the character of a country's foreign policy cannot be separated from the nature of its internal rule. Asian nations from Japan to Australia want India to play a bigger role in their region even as they seek to leaven China's heavy hand.

 

America, more than any country, is invested in India's success. As Senator John McCain has said, "India and the US share common values…. It is for this reason that we are confident that the ongoing rise of democratic India as a great power… will be peaceful, and thus can advance critical US national interests.... We seek not to limit or diminish India's rise, but to bolster and catalyse it."

 

The affinities between the US and India are striking. Both are threatened by terrorism, State weakness in Pakistan and Afghanistan, China's assertive rise and economic protectionism. Both countries want to live in a world safe for the values of open societies. Indian Americans are the wealthiest immigrant community in the US. Indians have traditionally outnumbered other foreign students at American universities.

 

But thanks to a residue of mistrust stemming from five decades of Cold War alienation, India and America don't enjoy the habits of cooperation that lubricate relations among other great democracies. Hence the importance of Obama's passage to India. That is why China and Pakistan are so concerned about closer Indian-American ties — and why Indians and Americans must continue to nurture them.

 

Daniel Twining is Senior Fellow for Asia, German Marshall Fund, Washington. The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ANIME INSTINCT

AASHEESH SHARMA,

 

'What animal is Sagittario and what sun sign am I?' he asked. "Well, you are Taurus and Sagittarius is usually an archer who's half-human, half-horse," I said. "But why are you asking me all this? What have you been learning in kindergarten?" I quizzed my five-year-old.

 

"No school on Monday till I get Metal Fusion," he announced, pulling me towards a toy shop. It wasn't my idea

of a weekend outing but the Sunday Dad in me had relented out of guilt.

 

"Metal fusion is out of stock," announced the salesman and my wife's brow furrowed. I hadn't seen her as panicked about onion prices hitting Rs 75.

 

"Where else can we get it from?" she asked him. "Nowhere, supplies from China have dried up," said the pimply salesman, acquiring the tone of a Rajya Sabha veteran.

 

This couldn't have been the Jiabao effect. Wasn't the Dragon supposed to deluge the Elephant with Chinese imports? "What's the big deal about Beyblades ?" I finally decided to probe and asked my wife. "Hands-off dads like you wouldn't know better," was the stinging retort.

 

"All your son wants to see in newspapers is TV listings for Beyblade shows. He can't read but wants to know the sun sign of everybody from the security guard, to his teachers and friends. This is because the repackaged latttoo (spinning top) is a hit with children in our apartments and they come in sun signs. Hell, there's even talk of a Beyblade championship in January," she went on as my jaw dropped.

 

The last time I was enlightened on new-age toys was when Paddle Tops made an entry into my daughter's lexicon. And now the little Beyblader Samurai wanted one each for practice and competition and none were available. I was secretly relieved to save the precious Rs 700 (two books, six litres of petrol, 70 teabags went the Math) but sonny wasn't convinced. "Let's go to other shops. I'd have dinner only after I get one," he said and dived in the manner of a satyagrahi. In the middle of milling shoppers, I didn't have the heart to act ruthless dad.

 

The hunt continued till late at night till he fell asleep and went to school only after extorting a promise of two Beys. Readers who know where to get Pegasus Thunder Whip and Rock Aries please e-mail this author. Couriers, reindeers and Santa will be paid on delivery. Merry Christmas!

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PRIVILEGED BOND

 

President Dmitry Medvedev has done well to dispel the growing misperception that Indo-Russian relations have lost their salience amidst India's new warmth with the US and the West. Bringing up the rear of a long caravan of leaders visiting New Delhi in recent months, he underlined the enduring relevance of the Russian connection for India. If the 1990s were about salvaging the traditional ties with Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the last decade saw sustained efforts at injecting some substantive content into them. In signing 30 agreements — ranging from nuclear and space cooperation to a variety of defence and business deals — Delhi is sending out an important message. While its options have increased after forging a new bond with the US, a rising India is determined to preserve and strengthen its special relationship with Russia. On the eve of Medvedev's visit, there were tendentious reports that Moscow was wary of India's deepening defence cooperation with the US. Russia's support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council was said to be weakening. There were also hints that Moscow was reaching out to Islamabad to compensate for its declining status in Delhi. The results from his visit, however, prove that India and Russia have chosen to hang together. The Russian leaders are realistic enough to recognise that in order to retain their historic standing in Delhi, they must adapt. On arms supplies, Russia has shown the political will to transform the old buyer-seller relationship into a defence industrial collaboration that emphasises joint development of weapons. That in turn has enormously increased India's bargaining power with the US and European suppliers of advanced conventional weapons. Russia also continues to offer technologies and systems — for example, nuclear submarines — that the West is unwilling to consider. Dr Singh and Medvedev have also begun to address the one real weakness in bilateral relations — on the trade and economic front. On the political front, Medvedev was unstinting in his endorsement of India's case for a permanent seat on the UNSC. He was unambiguous in his demand that Pakistan must bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to book, and emphasised that Afghanistan can't be stabilised without eliminating the safe havens for terror in Pakistan. Medvedev's visit, then, not only marks the celebration of a privileged partnership built during the last decade but also lays out a framework for deeper engagement in the next.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IN GOOD FAITH

 

In a somewhat unprecedented turn of events, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared his readiness to submit to ques-tioning by the Public Accounts Committee investigating the 2G spectrum allocation. "Caesar's wife should be above suspicion," was the rationale he offered. The Congress has held this up as evidence of its commitment to the probe and as a final undercutting of the opposition's rhetoric on a joint parliamentary committee. The BJP, meanwhile, has flung the offer right back saying that the PAC is confined to auditing questions and cannot address the systemic collusion that put A. Raja in the cabinet and allowed the spectrum allocation process to be subverted. It insists that only a JPC has the wide ambit required to take on the investigation, and that the PM could not choose the forum that is going to question his government. In short, no headway has been made in resolving the bitter political battle over the method of parliamentary investigation.The PM's willingness to face a PAC does constitute some movement forward. The government needs urgently to change the subject from a deadlock in Parliament not just as a medium-term effort to rescue the forthcoming budget session of Parliament, but also to reverse the impression of a policy freeze that has formed after the disastrous winter session. When legislative business is not taken up, the inertia cannot but appear to spread to the executive. Instead of getting tangled up in a debate about which dock to appear in, the prime minister would do better to allay suspicions and reach out to the opposition personally to exit all sides from the zero-sum-game of PAC versus JPC. Certainly, the intransigence over instruments, on both sides, seems to have overwhelmed the real questions. To the wider public, it seems mystifying that Parliament could be put in deep freeze over the comparative merits of JPCs and PACs.Too much time and productive energy has been wasted in this tussle. The government must expend greater energies in satisfying the opposition's concerns on addressing every dimension of the scandal. As the head of the government, the prime minister is the right arbiter, and has the greatest stake in ensuring that parliamentary work resumes. It would only enhance the stature of his office if he were to be personally invested in carving a reasonable common ground with the opposition over how to get past this crisis.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOW TO BE INCLUSIVE

ARUN MAIRA 

 

The Indian media has been filled with the sound of vessels. Pots calling kettles black. Both declaring pans are the blackest. And questions about how black the skillets are. Political parties are arguing about who amongst them is most corrupt. Corporate leaders' candid views of others are out in the open. The media is turning on its own. And even the judiciary is being doubted. And all are blaming others for the sorry state of the kitchen. The fabric of trust in institutions in the country is wearing very thin. Meanwhile the economy keeps growing, and many economists project that it may grow even faster. Some propagandists for India say that the acrimonious cacophony in the public discourse is the music of democracy. Others say that the disorder in the country is the source of its innovativeness which goes right down to its grassroots. Both these explanations seek to excuse the disorder. They would even suggest that the disorder is the energy for the growth of the economy. Indeed, an analysis of the growth of European economies from 1950 to 2000 showed that the country with the largest proportion of black money in its economy, the most violence and the largest number of government changes (and coalitions) had grown the fastest. This was poor Italy which caught up with queue-forming, institution-respecting Britain. Some would argue that if corruption and chaos turbo-charge the animal spirits, the greed and entrepreneurship required for economic growth, do not dampen them. However, in stampedes of self-concerned people rushing to get ahead, it is always the weakest that get left behind and even trampled upon. This is India's challenge: the need for not just more growth, but much more inclusive growth. It is the slogan of political parties and the title of the country's plans: Inclusive Growth. Nobel Laureate Douglass North and other economists have emphasised the role of institutions in the development of economies and societies. Money, savings and investments are necessary for the growth of countries, as they are for the growth of companies. However, just as companies with the same levels of financial performance can have very different cultures, so also countries with the same growth rates can be very different societies. When the leaders of a company get down to seriously developing a vision for their company — not merely putting together some fashionable slogans into a vision statement — they always ask themselves a soul-searching question: What sort of company do we want to be? So too, we, the people of India, and our leaders, must have a tangible vision of what sort of country we want to be. The Planning Commission has embarked on a more inclusive process of planning than it has ever before. It is engaging with civil society organisations across the country, representing various groups who have felt not sufficiently included in the progress of the Indian economy, to help it shape the approach to the next Plan. These include the urban poor, Dalits, street children, women, minorities, the disabled and rural youth. In a meeting about solutions for the urban poor, a participant pointedly asked whether it would be better to have slower and more inclusive growth than merely faster economic growth. The challenge, the meeting acknowledged, was to have both — more inclusion along with faster growth. For this, the meeting concluded, better institutions are the key. Institutions for development, as Douglass North and others have explained, are the "rules of the game". Institutions are the principles by which organisations work, and the norms of intercourse between people and between organisations. They are broader than laws and "written rules". They include the "unwritten rules" also. Such rules of the game are the culture of a society. They are driven by the values of people and the goals their leaders pursue. Lord Krishna says in the Gita that when trust in the world breaks down and there is confusion, God will reappear. The corrosion within and amongst institutions in India calls for God to return. Or at least better leaders to rise. Much of the debate in the media has been about who is most responsible for the state of affairs in the country. We must shift the discourse to who will strengthen institutions. In a society in which we do not want one overbearing institution, or an overbearing leader, and in which we want many, independent institutions — in business, in the judiciary, in government, and in the media — a new class of leaders must arise in all of them.Leaders in these institutions are expected to deliver short-term results of course: quarterly performance in companies, annual plans in government. And they must respond to external events too. Like pilots, they must ensure their organisations land and take off on schedule, and navigate through bad weather. If they do that much well, the passengers on the plane are grateful. However, we now need leaders who will redesign institutions to improve their culture and capabilities. We need a higher order of leadership that will redesign planes as they are flying. The performance of such great leaders is gauged not only by their task delivery. It is revealed by the improvement they bring about in the quality of institutions while they were at the helm. The legacy of such leaders is the institutions they leave behind. India needs institutional builders to shape the capabilities and the values of its institutions. These leaders must change both the written as well as the unwritten rules by which the game is played. Such leaders are needed at the Centre, in the states, and in local bodies too. Many more such role models must rise in political parties, government, corporate sector, judiciary, and the media. Along with a prayer to God, the call for a higher order of leadership in India has become urgent.

 

The writer is a member of the Planning Commission express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

FOUND OUT IN TRANSLATION

SHIVANI NAIK 

 

For a country with 199 gold medals at the Asian Games last month, a harmless poser thrown at some of the Chinese youngsters at Guangzhou caused plenty of head-scratching and then some consternation and finally heartache. The simple question was, which was their favourite Chinese sports team — though they seemed to assume it was some sort of an insinuation from a citizen of India, itself a very modest nation in the sporting world in comparison. In my defence, this "favourite team" question was sandwiched between who was their favourite kung fu hero, Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, and which was their favourite Chinese green, pak choi or broccoli? The head-scratching started after I looked unsure at their most common reply, table tennis. Consternation took over when I raised my voice, believing they had not understood the question, and screeched, "Team, team, team." Heartache was writ large on one Chinese face after another when, like some cocky quizmaster, I waved aside table tennis as a wrong answer with what must have come across as an offensive indifference to their beloved sport in which they had swept all the seven gold medals available. Never did not knowing the local language hurt as much as in those moments when something as basic as the definition of "team sport" was getting lost in translation. Trouble was Indians don't think much about sports that have less than 11 in a side when they think "team sport". The Chinese, meanwhile, can be content in thinking that their paddlers — men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles — who have dominated the sport for years now can nicely constitute one big, happy, winning "team". And given their success, perhaps you can't blame them for thinking so. But at the outset, I'd bargained for a toss-up between football and basketball for their favourite sports team. Not a complicated format of tallied results of many individual matches taken into account between players of two nations — likewise in badminton, shooting, archery and every sport that can be moulded into a team event — and that can be tweaked to suit different organising committees.Bigger trouble for China though was that this sporting superpower with its staggering medals tally at the Beijing Olympics — tipped to top the table at London in two years time too — struggled at the global altar of team sport; or the idea of team sport with many players and one ball that we have come to believe conventionally. Its men's football team then was in shambles after a series of corruption scandals and a largely young and inexperienced unit taking the field, and losing promptly to some of its smaller neighbours and arch-rivals in East Asia. Basketball, after some bad press for an on-court brawl with visiting Brazilians, followed by a defeat, earlier in the year, was still to redeem itself through a gold medal at the Asiad, but China was still some distance away from being a world power to reckon with like the Europeans, South Americans and the US. Ditto for handball. One reason why Chinese women's volleyball is venerated across the length and breath of the country is that it remains a rare "team" unit to have tasted success with two Olympic titles, the last being in 2004, and half-a-dozen world titles through the 1980s and 1990s. It was the first-ever global success for a Chinese "team", and according to Matt Horn, a professor of English at one of Guangzhou's broadcast institutes, the 2004 gold medal remains popular in language essays on their favourite sporting moments for a Chinese "team".Even as the stupendous growth in sporting achievement for China — as reflected in medals at the ultimate quadrennial — has come in individual endeavours like swimming, diving, gymnastics, badminton, canoe, kayak and myriad other Olympic disciplines as a single athlete or the pairs, the country senses a hollow emotional space to slot that one team sport the Chinese can root for that could claim superiority globally. Filling football stadiums hasn't been difficult in China as several marquee European clubs visit their shores, but the nation craves a team of its own that can evoke the sort of sentiment that only team sports can.Indians, then, should consider themselves lucky and generally inhabiting a happy space in this regard. There was always the hockey since Independence for the populace to feed off, and draw pride from. And cricket more or less pervades every emotional crevice now, where sporting achievement can be equated with a collective self-esteem, even though the sport has well-defined roles, each task etched out individually within a team dynamic. That apart, India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi after the Krishnans and Amritrajs have kept afloat the nation's presence in the Davis Cup in tennis's team event that has greater following than badminton can manage globally. So even as India celebrates Abhinav Bindra, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar, Saina Nehwal and a host of its individual champions in a year replete with such achievements across disciplines, it can smugly claim it has never felt the absence of a favourite Indian "team".

 

shivani.naik@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OUR CORRODING REPUBLIC

JAITHIRTH RAO 

 

In engineering-obsessed contemporary India, studying history is not fashionable. The worlds of politics, social change and cultural movements do not respond predictably like engineering systems where an input-output (the infamous I/O) matrix works. History simply does not repeat itself in an identical manner as machines and computers do in controlled environments. But historical insight can and does help individuals as well as collective groups like nation-states to respond as intelligently and as sensitively as possible. Arnold Toynbee argued that all societies face challenges - environmental, technological, etc. These challenges are sometimes internal to the society concerned and sometimes arise from external shocks. The central theme of the study of history according to him, is to understand why some responses to these challenges are creative, productive and in the path of progress. Other responses are sterile, destructive and regressive, leading to the collapse and subjugation of the societies concerned.

 

The First Republic of India (and I use this expression not lightly——as I believe that this republic should last for a very long time) faces a set of challenges today where our collective response seems to be anything but creative; it is in fact full of negative energies. And therein lies the danger. As Gibbon told us a long time ago, great empires do not collapse merely on account of external invasion, although that almost invariably seems to be the ostensible reason. Great empires collapse when their innards are corroded, when the moral purpose of their social arrangements is abandoned and cynical amorality settles into the interstices of the souls of their elites. And this corrosion can occur when at a superficial level, things seem to be going well.

 

A high economic growth rate and spectacles of state power, usually in the form of buildings that intimidate and impress citizens, have in the past been correlated with social dysfunction leading to disastrous consequences. Think of France in the early 1900s. Monsieur Eiffel had built his tower — an expression of the power of the French Republic inspiring awe among spectators; the Paris exhibition was a great success; verily Paris was the centre of the world! Think of India today with its 9 per cent growth rate, with its fawning visitors (the presidents of the US and France, the prime minister of Britain, the Supreme Leader of China among others), the immense concrete structures for the Commonwealth Games — the analogy is not exact, but methinks there is a parallel. And all the time, there was something rotten in the State of France as there is in the State of India. The Dreyfus scandal tore apart French society and left it weak and unready to respond to the German guns of August 1914. But for the help of its allies, France would have collapsed as it did in 1940. The current set of scandals: IPL, Adarsh, Commonwealth Games, illegal mining, sweetheart deals in land, the colossal spectrum scam, the bitter correspondence among judges, the nauseating and titillating telephone tapping affair (can we call it l'affaire Radia as a tribute to l'affaire Dreyfus?) — all put together are tearing our society apart. And it could leave us with wounds from which we may not be able to recover. I for one, do not think the disease is limited to politicians who we like to deride all the time. The failure is collective. Judges seem to have strange lapses of memory; army generals are stealing from the widows of their own soldiers; journalists are cringing in shame; our investigating agencies are mocking all of us by going after horses that have bolted long ago from the stable; our business leaders are tarnished in more ways than one; our politicians are determined to pursue venal short-term interests even at the cost of sapping the foundations of our state. We are all ghoulishly enjoying the prospect of fresh and exciting headlines each day little realising that our Republic is in peril. In the spring of 1914,even as France hurtled into World War I, the entire focus of the French public was on the shenanigans of a minister who was torn between an angry wife and a petulant mistress. The parallel is ominous.

 

Think France again. In the 1780s, the French newspapers extensively covered the "Affair of the Queen's Necklace". In contemporary parlance, Jeanne de la Motte would have been referred to as a lobbyist. She "lobbies" on behalf of a cardinal; she hires a certain Nicole who has a striking resemblance to Queen Marie Antoinette; she successfully steals a diamond necklace worth two million livres. Historians are now pretty much agreed that neither the king, Louis XVI, nor his queen, Marie Antoinette, were central to the scandal or were beneficiaries of the frauds. But as the venerable Wikipedia reports, the scandal (or scam to use a modern word!) "led to a huge decline in the Queen's popularity¿¿.was important in discrediting the Bourbon monarchy in the eyes of the French people years before the French Revolution". And I hate to say it — today's India resembles the France of the 1780s somewhat. And our numerous scandals which grow like a multi-headed hydra even as one head or the other is cut off, is having an impact orders of magnitude greater than the affair of the necklace. The middle classes, who are generally in favour of stability lost faith in the French monarchy. The fall of the Bastille followed almost as an inexorable consequence.

 

If we are to save ourselves from the consequences of our self-inflicted indulgence in masochism, we need humility (admission of transgressions for instance), speedy resolution of issues (so that the cancers do not grow), sobriety (an understanding that fixing one's political or business opponents is less important than saving the edifice of the nation) — and if we collectively cannot summon up these qualities from our inner recesses, then I am afraid we are living in the Last Days of the First Republic of India. One shudders at the future prospects of anarchy that such an eventuality can lead to.

 

The writer divides his time between Mumbai, Lonavala and Bangalore jerry.rao@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DARING TO BE DIFFERENT — AND RIGHT

ROHINIPANDE 

 

The Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012. Key developed countries appear unlikely to sign on to a new serious international agreement to reduce carbon emissions worldwide unless developing countries, many of whom are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, are also engaged in the process. Developing countries argue, however, that growth is a priority, and that their emissions per capita are still much lower than in the West.

 

India's negotiating team at the Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico has shown a way out of this deadlock. Jairam Ramesh's proposal that, under the right conditions, India would allow verification of, and hard caps on carbon emissions, is a bold move that seeks to induce all other large polluting countries, including China, to agree to submit to a similar regime. The proposal requires that this must be accompanied by extensive handover of clean technologies — with the know-how for how to use and manufacture them — from rich to developing countries, a tremendous potential gain for numerous emerging markets. Some might question India's proposal. How can it be right to ask countries that are now finally growing to put in place regulations that may inhibit this growth?

 

First, India is likely to pay a high price for global inaction and deadlock in confronting climate change. State-of-the-art climate models predict that, if current trends in greenhouse gas emissions continue, India will have more than 100 extra days per year where temperatures exceed 32 degrees Celsius. As last summer's heat wave demonstrated, high temperatures exact a toll in India. Research (by Greenstone) indicates that at these temperatures, mortality rates become substantially elevated, especially in rural areas. Further, these hot days reduce agricultural yields, lower wages, and lead to higher prices for consumers in rural areas. Climate change is also likely to lead to increased climate instability, and more episodes of destructive severe weather comparable to this year's flooding in Pakistan.

 

Second, global coordination still remains the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and India's position could prove the necessary bridge between the key interests. It is striking that China, the world's largest polluter, has so far proven unwilling to take action on this issue — but China may be more willing to act if other emerging markets also follow the same restrictions. The support for hard caps could assuage the concern by several key players in the negotiations — including the United States and Japan — that emerging markets' emissions increases will undo any progress made in developed countries. These pieces appear essential for rich countries to produce the resources necessary to help poorer countries cope with the costs of reducing emissions and of adapting to climate change.

 

Third, the pledge of verification and caps will pave the way for creating a global emissions reduction target. This would be a promising development for India, because it would lay the foundation for a robust global trading market for carbon from which India would be poised to benefit economically. Specifically, developed countries would look for opportunities in India to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would pay for those opportunities. This would generate a flow of money for India's businesses and citizens, as well as encourage modern, clean energy investments in India. This would be a welcome replacement to Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism that has thus far provided India with 81 million certified emission reduction (CER) credits but whose future is threatened by legitimate concerns about the validity of the claimed reductions.

 

Climate change is a real threat to the global economy, to vulnerable populations, and to the world's natural resources. This is especially so in India where many still live in rural areas, the economy is heavily dependent on the climate, and the temperatures are already high. India's leadership at Cancun was bold, farsighted and politically, economically and morally correct. Other countries should take note.

 

Michael Greenstone is the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at MIT and the Director of The Hamilton Project. Rohini Pande is the Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

REFUSING TO THINK STRAIGHT

 

At this point it is clear enough who invaded Iraq. Contrary to general opinion, it was Iran. After all, applying the Roman principle of cui bono — "to whose benefit?" — there can be no question that Iran, the greatest beneficiary of the ousting of its enemy Saddam Hussein and the rise to power of Shiites in Baghdad, must have done it.

 

I know it appears that the United States was behind the invasion. What about "shock and awe" and all that? Hah! It is true that the deception was elaborate. But consider the facts: The invasion of Iraq has weakened the United States, Iran's old enemy, and so it can only be — quod erat demonstrandum — that Tehran was the devious mastermind.

 

This mocking "analysis" is often deployed deadpan by my colleague, Robert Worth, the New York Times correspondent in Beirut. After three years living in Lebanon and crisscrossing the Arab world, he uses this "theory" to express his frustration with the epidemic of cui bono thinking in the region.

 

I say "thinking," but that's generous. What we are dealing with here is the paltry harvest of captive minds. Such minds resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world.

 

While I was in Beirut this month, the conspiratorial world view was in overdrive, driven by WikiLeaks and by the imminence of an indictment from an international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri: more on that later.

 

The notion was actually doing the rounds that recent shark attacks at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh were the work of Mossad, the Israeli secret service. Hadn't someone seen an electronic device attached to a shark being directed from Tel Aviv, video-game style, to devour a Russian tourist's leg?

 

One Egyptian government official suggested the theory was plausible enough. After all, damage to the Egyptian tourist industry could only please Israel. Cui bono?

 

In his seminal collection of essays, The Captive Mind, Czeslaw Milosz described the intellectual's relationship to Stalinist totalitarianism: "His chief characteristic is his fear of thinking for himself."

 

Lebanon is a freewheeling delight on the surface — as far from Soviet gloom as can be imagined — but it betrays the servile mind-set of powerless people convinced that they are ultimately but puppets. This playground of sectarian interests, where each community has its external backer, may be the perfect incubator of conspiracy theories.

 

But Lebanon is only an extreme case in an Arab world, where the Internet and new media outlets have not prised open minds conditioned by decades of repression and weakness.

 

Hariri, who was pro-Western and anti-Syrian, was assassinated in downtown Beirut. Suspicion fell on Syrian agents. A United Nations tribunal was set up to investigate — itself a reflection of Lebanon's weakness in that the country's own institutions were deemed inadequate.

 

Five years later, I found the investigation irrevocably infected by cui bono fever. "Who took advantage of the killing?" Talal Atrissi, a political analyst, asked me. "Not the Syrians, they left Lebanon afterward. It was the United States that benefited." Hah!

 

Ali Fayyad, a Hezbollah member of Parliament, told me: "The tribunal is entirely politicised, an illegal entity used by the United States as one of the tools of regional conflict against Syria and the resistance."

 

Theories abound that Israel penetrated the Lebanese cellphone system to coordinate an assassination portrayed as providing the pretext for a failed anti-Syrian putsch by the West (much as 9/11 is grotesquely perceived in the Arab world as a self-inflicted pretext for the United States to wage war against Muslims).

 

Why, it is asked, was an international tribunal set up for Hariri but not for Benazir Bhutto's killing? Why has the CIA not been interrogated? Such questions now have such a hold on Lebanon that I have reluctantly concluded that justice and truth in the Hariri case are impossible, victims of the captive Arab mind.

 

In the cui bono universe there can be no closure because events stream on endlessly, opening up boundless possibilities for ex post facto theorising.

 

Of course, the saga of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange and the leak of a quarter million secret US diplomatic cables are also viewed as part of some grand conspiracy. They reflect the decline of America and the revolt of its vast federal bureaucracy! No, they demonstrate America's enduring power, recruiting female Swedish agents to accuse Assange of sex crimes!

 

The truth is more banal. The WikiLeaks cables reveal autocratic but powerless Sunni Arab governments calling on the United States to do everything they are unable to do themselves—- from decapitating Iran to coordinating a Sunni attack on an ascendant Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such fecklessness, and the endless conspiracy theories that go with it, suggest an Arab world still gripped by illusion.

 

Milosz wrote powerfully of the "solace of reverie" in worlds of oppression. I found much solace in Lebanon but little evidence that the Middle East is ready to exchange conspiratorial victimhood for self-empowermen— - and so move forward.

 

ROGER COHEN

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

KILLING KYOTO

 

An article in the CPM journal, People's Democracy, focuses on the just-concluded climate change conference at Cancun. It says a closer look at what was actually decided at Cancun, and what was not said, reveals a very different picture. "It would show that in fact, all the disastrous formulations in the US-driven Copenhagen Accord have been carried through and formalised at Cancun, and will now inevitably form the basis for any new global climate agreement arrived at in Durban next year," it says, noting that the clear continuity in content has prompted some radical critics to label the summit "Cancunhagen".

 

"The Kyoto Protocol, with its crucial distinction between developed and developing countries, was critically wounded in Copenhagen and has virtually been buried at Cancun. It is now almost certain that the Kyoto Protocol will be replaced by a single framework for all categories of nations.

 

"Binding targets for developed countries decided on the basis of the science regarding sustainable limits for atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations now appear set to be replaced by a pledge-and-review process with highly uncertain outcomes," it notes.

 

It says it is telling that in the Cancun Agreements, the LCA document is of 30 pages, the one on forests, again mainly in developing countries, nine pages, and the Kyoto Protocol document is just two pages long. "Most of the meat of the Cancun Agreements is contained in the LCA text and it can safely be predicted that the LCA text will form the 'single framework' basis for any agreement that emerges at Durban," it claims.

 

Rotting pillars

 

The CPI's official voice, New Age, focuses on the "rot in the media" in the light of the Niira Radia tapes. It says the revelations in the tape show that the rot in the media is no less than the one that has affected the other pillars of the democracy. "Much is being talked about the political corruption and involvement of the corporate houses in promoting it, the most corrupt in the whole episode; the bureaucracy has not been touched. It is well known that the administration at all levels is stinking with corruption... Astonishing is the fact that the same corrupt bureaucracy has now started manipulating the Niira Radia leaks as well," it says. In the light of the matter going to the courts, it argues that a plan is afoot to confuse the whole matter and shield the real culprits, although the editorial maintains that the leaks are definitely selective.

 

Pointing out that corruption by those politicians in power was a known fact, it says what is new is that corruption is spreading to all spheres of economic and social life. "The holy cows of judiciary and defence forces too have been badly affected." While a two-member bench of the apex court has insisted that there is something rotten in the Allahabad high court, a sitting judge of the West Bengal high court is going to face impeachment proceedings and another judge of the Karnataka high court is facing similar charges. "More and more cases of corruption are tumbling out of the cupboard of the defence forces. In such a situation, it was expected that the media, supposedly the fourth pillar of the democracy and its watchdog will play its due role. Alas, it is not so. The journalists have turned out to be lobbyists," it says.

 

US string-pullers

 

The CPI(ML) says that the most significant aspect of the WikiLeaks disclosures about India was the extent of US interference in India's affairs, especially relating to the nuclear deal and foreign policy, though the media has lost sight of these crucial revelations as it is largely focusing on the off-the-cuff remarks made by Rahul Gandhi to the US ambassador.

 

As far as the controversy over Gandhi is concerned, the lead editorial in CPI(ML) weekly journal ML Update says that the Congress today lacks the courage to boldly uphold even the stand taken by Jawaharlal Nehru, who had categorically said that while majority and minority communalisms are both dangerous, majority communalism is more so as it can masquerade as nationalism and therefore grow into fascism.

 

But behind the red herring of Gandhi's remarks, attention has been diverted from the most significant WikiLeaks revelations about India. "They show how not only the Congress and UPA government push pro-US policies, but even the BJP is persuaded by the US ambassador to calibrate their opposition to the nuke deal just enough, so as to ensure that the bill is passed," it says.

 

"They also reveal how both US and Indian officials are very aware that Indian people have no tolerance for US interference or for inequality in the US-India relation, and therefore collude to mask this interference and inequality. For instance, former Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is heard cautioning the US ambassador against publicly instructing India on foreign relations," it says.

 

It says that Menon told US officials that India has to be seen following an independent foreign policy and Home Minister P. Chidambaram conveyed to the FBI director that "we must be able to say we had access, even if Headley did not speak". In other words, the editorial says, "we are being lied to by our government, about the extent to which 'coordination' and 'dictation' are taking place".

 

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ONION TEARS


With onion prices crossing Rs 60 per kg, it's back to the old export bans and similar strategies of getting government agencies like Nafed to start selling onions at half the price at their retail outlets (whether that will affect prices is unclear since a lot depends on whether Nafed has enough stocks). Thankfully, no one has started blaming traders and hoarders, the two terms generally being used interchangeably on such occasions. Nor have politicians, stung by an electoral defeat the last time prices rose like this, started talking of massive imports—given the time it takes to import and then the time taken to get the produce to the retail level, it is obvious imports aren't the solution. Indeed, the problem with export bans and other such solutions is that they disrupt the natural working of markets—given the crop has a 3-month cycle, a hike in prices will lead to more acreage and more crops, but the export ban kills the cycle.

 

Though India is the world's second largest producer of onions, the real problem lies in the the supply being erratic, which is why prices have fluctuated quite wildly over the years. Though the immediate reason for the current surge seems to be the weather conditions that have affected 20-40% of the crop, this is no isolated case. Figures for the last five years show that wholesale prices of onion have risen by 17% on average, around twice the rise in food prices during the period. And the trends over the last 68 months show that the range of fluctuation varied from a negative 51% (fall) to a high of 153% whereas the overall food prices fluctuated in a much more narrow band of 1-22%. While onion prices declined in 33 of the 68 months, they rose by more than 100% in 10 months—onion prices rose by a normal 1-10% in only 4 of the 68 months. This has more to do with supply logistics than anything else. The area under onion doubled from 0.42 million hectares in 2000-01 to 0.83 million hectares in 2008-09 while the yield per hectare has gone up from 10,786 kg to 16,260 kg, pushing up production almost three-fold from 4.5 million tonnes to 13.6 million tonnes during the period. Given Maharashtra's yield is a third that of Gujarat, the potential is a lot higher. Exports have been erratic, with the government often restraining exports, as it did in September when the minimum export prices were raised. The major reason for the erratic supply is the inadequate cold storage facilities to hold large stocks to ensure steady supplies. We know the problem, but continue to beat around the solution.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 IMBALANCE SHEETS

 

Arthur Andersen, it it true, was finally acquitted of the charge of helping the now-defunct Enron to cook its books, but by the time the judgement came, the charge that it was guilty had stuck and resulted in the firm folding up. The Big Five, as the accounting giants were known, then became the Big Four and, if the New York Attorney General has its way, may even become the Big Three. The New York Attorney General's office is set to file a civil suit against Ernst & Young for 'window dressing' Lehman's accounts. In other words, the accountancy firm failed to identify (or bring to the fore, as the case may be) balance sheet manipulations and misleading reports filed by the firm's management, filings that made it appear healthier than it really was. One such instance, apparently, was not raising objections to Lehman moving $50 bn off its books the day before it declared its results, even though past practice made it clear Lehman would borrow it back the next day.

 

Are auditors responsible for errors of omission, or do they just collect their fees for acting in good faith? That's the crux of the question being repeatedly asked, especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis. And not just of auditors. Much the same is being asked about credit rating firms who okayed sub-prime bonds. While credit rating firms haven't faced penal action, a new set of rules is already in place to govern them.

 

In India, similarly, a host of such questions got asked when Price Waterhouse auditors failed to point out the Satyam scam; indeed, the auditors were even jailed. In earlier scams, auditors have been put on a black list for a couple of years by RBI for failing to audit bank accounts properly, but the action has been restricted to that. Given the number of irregularities emerging in publicly traded companies' accounts, it may be time for regulators to enact more stringent policies, similar to the Dodd-Frank financial reform Bill in the US. For now, keep an eye on the New York proceedings.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

OF BAD GOVERNANCE & HINDU TERROR!

MK VENU

 

The Congress party's national plenary session held on the outskirts of Delhi gave an interesting peek into what shape the nation's politics might take in the months ahead. Most significantly, the plenary, attended by 25,000 delegates from all states, was held against the backdrop of the UPA's political equilibrium having got completely shaken following the spectrum scam and the disruptions it caused in Parliament's functioning.

 

At one level, the tone and tenor of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's closing address to the delegates seemed like one that is normally delivered when general elections are round the corner. There seemed a note of urgency in her voice when she told the Pradesh Congress delegates to go back to their states and hold one public meeting in every Assembly constituency to apprise the people of UPA's achievements. She also sought to energise the Congress cadres by saying she had greater regard for Congressmen who worked for the party selflessly, without seeking any reward in the form of office or power. She even added that those Congressmen holding office needed to learn from such ordinary party workers.

 

Clearly, Sonia Gandhi was trying to raise the morale of Congressmen that might have got dented by the sheer drift that has enveloped the UPA government in recent months. With several critical state elections due in the next six to nine months, and the Opposition suddenly coming alive over the issue of corruption, the Congress is thinking very hard as to how it can wrest the initiative from the Opposition in the months ahead. The Congress is acutely aware that there are moments in politics when the tide turns in an irreversible way. Political pundits often miss such inflexion points until after it occurs.

 

In the past few days the UPA appears to have managed some damage control on the issue of 2G spectrum scam that has bogged down the leadership completely. Manmohan Singh finally spoke up at the Congress plenary and agreed to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to give any clarification on the 2G spectrum allocation policy. The Prime Minister had maintained his characteristic silence on the A Raja issue for such a long time that people had begun wondering where he was.

 

Even on the CWG scam, Manmohan Singh broke his silence after a fairly long period. By now there is an established pattern to the manner in which the Prime Minister chooses to communicate through his silences. Unfortunately, such long silences do not help amidst the daily noise created by the Opposition through TV channels.

 

The UPA has taken two decisions that will help stabilise its political centre of gravity in the short to medium term. One, the CBI's investigation of the Raja scam has been brought directly under the Supreme Court's supervision. The people of this country still have lot of faith in the Supreme Court. Two, Manmohan Singh has offered to appear before the PAC to clarify any matter in regard to the spectrum scam.

 

The Opposition parties should be satisfied that they have managed to get the Prime Minister to appear before the PAC. True, a JPC would have given the Opposition a much wider political leverage for a longer time period in which it could have re-examined afresh all the files related to the spectrum allocation. I remember covering the JPC probe into the Harshad Mehta scam in the early to mid 1990s. For a long time, all media attention was on what the JPC would unravel on a day-to-day basis that would be revealed through press briefings and informal chats with JPC members, especially of the Opposition. The Congress wants to avoid repeating this spectacle over the spectrum scam.

 

In any case, the spectrum issue is now being thoroughly probed under the Supreme Court's supervision, which is also being covered on a day-to-day basis by the media. So the JPC effect, in terms of incessant media coverage, is already there. This should make the Opposition happy.

 

While the Congress has managed to do some damage control in regard to the spectrum probe, it remains to be seen how it will keep its alliances together in the various critical Assembly elections falling due in 2011.

 

There are two serious issues that are rubbing off on its alliance partners in a negative manner. Corruption and unabated food inflation are potent and worrisome for the UPA. The Congress believes that part of the higher food inflation is being caused by rising rural incomes, which is not such a bad thing. However, when the overall mood turns negative then food inflation can add fuel to fire. Besides, the link between high onion prices and political churn is only too well known!

 

The Congress is trying to counter the growing popular resentment over corruption with its new strategy of pitching "Ayodhya as a source of BJP's fascist politics" and the RSS as a fountainhead of Hindu terror. The RSS recently asserted that the Ayodhya site should be handed over to the Hindus. The Congress hopes such politics will drive away potential allies of the BJP who are uncomfortable with Hindutva politics. This partially explains why Digvijay Singh projected RSS as a source of Hindu terror at the Congress plenary.

 

This strategy can possibly help at the margins. It is not a core issue in the current political climate. Also it cannot become a substitute for decent governance by the UPA at the Centre. Unfortunately, governance is not much in evidence over the past many months. The UPA appears to have squandered a lot of its goodwill within two years of coming back to power. From here on, the battle is clearly uphill.

 

mk.venu@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOW GUJARAT LANDED AN OPPORTUNITY

YOGINDER K ALAGH

 

Gujarat has introduced an interesting land policy for industrialisation, which may well be the beginning of the end of the land crisis, at least to the extent it is man-made. The policy essentially follows the model some of us have advocated, which is to make the farmers stakeholders in land development for non-agricultural purposes. The state has a long tradition of support to industry, particularly small industry for infrastructure provision. It has a highly decentralised pattern of industrial location. I remember a cousin-in-law who, in 1972, had developed, in his garage in Surat, a centrifugally-casted oil liner for auto engines when the usual liners were sand-casted. He wanted to shift to Ahmedabad for mass production and went to the industrial estate office. In six weeks time he shifted to Ahmedabad and went into production. In more recent times while the state is growing fast, land for industry is increasingly becoming scarce. Gujarat's urban and industrial sectors were expanding fast. It also had a relatively diversified agricultural economy, further supporting decentralised market towns, although in recent years the growth of wheat and rice is faster on account of Sardar Sarovar waters.

 

Land for urban construction was always easily available and even in the days of urban land ceilings the government would make available land for housing. In cities like Ahmedabad, a few land developers were always available supplying housing at, say, a rate roughly a quarter above the cost of self construction. But land has become increasingly scarce in recent years and land prices have been shooting up. Land purchases for industry is expanding very fast, but by the government agencies for industrial estates is slowing. This has led to the new policy. It provides for purchase at close to market prices, as estimated by an independent planning consulting university. Of course, market prices can only be figured out with recent land transfers and the data is on the low side since prices declared for transfers are lower than the transacted prices on account of tax evasion. However, these prices would be much higher than the price paid for land acquisition.

 

The policy also provides that out of the surpluses that would accrue after farm land is developed for industrial purposes, a share would be given to the farmer who originally sold the land. Also, his kin would get training for industrial and other support jobs likely to emerge with the new activities. The farming communities could then be genuinely called stakeholders in the process. These are novel features that create an interest in agro-based urbanisation by the farming community in a process of balanced growth. It tries to frontally face and resolve the traditional hostility of farming communities to perceived land grabbing by outside groups. The Bharat Krishak Samaj has protested against the new policies but it is likely the farming community will stand by them.

 

This would still leave the lone ranger who would stand in the way of transfer of land and this problem may need to be resolved by state power, hopefully in the framework of community support to the process. This is an old public finance problem and the literature has solutions to it. One of the features we wanted to be looked at was creating community organisations of farmers, say producer group companies, to get involved in the newer activities being planned but the government stayed away from that and opted, for understandable reasons, for negotiations with individual farmers on a liberal negotiating platform.

 

It is also interesting that the civil servant who reportedly designed the scheme has filed a case to protect his individual rights. He has argued that as a public servant he is not obliged in RTI queries to disclose his wealth. It is time that honest civil servants stood up against busy bodies who want to interfere everywhere.

 

The author is a former Union minister

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

SILENCE OF THE CIIS

Industry chamber CII, which held a seminar on the Jalan committee on stock exchanges on Tuesday, may finally submit its views on the report. The chamber, former CII President Subodh Bhargava said, had meetings on the report but did not come to a conclusion on the matter. Later, after the discussion, Bhargava was seen telling CII officials that they should take a view on the report since it was still not too late to do so.

 

FLAGGING A CONCERN

For all those wanting the national anthem as a ringtone, the telecom ministry has just said that's not possible. It has written to mobile phone firms saying giving the national anthem as a ring-back tune is a violation of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971. It has told telcos that failing to comply with its directives would also be considered a violation of the terms and conditions of their licences. Now that the ministry is being hauled up for allowing Raja's favoured firms to violate their licence conditions—by not rolling out their networks—with gay abandon, the ministry's taking no chances.

 

TOO PUBLIC TO MATTER

While inaugurating the seminar, Bhargava said the report was an important one, but he wasn't too sure how well it would be publicised since the discussion was out in the open, and not a private one. In case the audience didn't get it, Bhargava said the media was more interested in private conversations, not public ones.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

MOON MAGIC

 

We missed it in India because it happened while we were still on day time. But something pretty unusual took place yesterday. For probably only the second time in 2,000 years, earthlings greeted the arrival of the winter solstice alongside a lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse, of course, happens when the sun, the Earth and the moon are so aligned that our planet is perfectly in the middle. And the Earth's atmosphere acts like a prism for the sunlight passing through it, bending the longer red wavelengths of light a little bit so that our moon appears orange or russet or red before going back to normal. You can witness this spectacle without any special glasses, which is definitely not the case with a solar eclipse. The skygazers who were blessed with sufficient hemispheric and weather conditions to witness yesterday's lunar eclipse enjoyed the sight while greeting the arrival of winter solstice, which marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere.

 

Back in 1638, the last recorded year in which the intersection of a lunar eclipse and the winter solstice took place, sources say that Emperor Shah Jahan began the construction of the massive Red Fort in Delhi, after moving his capital here from Agra. The project would take another decade to reach completion. In the same year, the first Africans arrived in the US as slaves. Which is to say that if anyone is going to be reading omens for the future on yesterday's fortuitous, celestial overlap, well, there are plenty of directions for them to take.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

IF THERE'S NOTHING TO HIDE...

 

Magnanimous though it may seem to Congress partisans, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer to appear before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to answer questions relating to the allocation of 2G spectrum the question of why his government is so keen to avoid the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee. Dr. Singh said that, like Caesar's wife, the Prime Minister should be above suspicion and hence his willingness to be questioned by a committee whose chairman is the formidable Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart, Murli Manohar Joshi. Sticking with Roman references, however, many will say that having crossed the inquisitorial Rubicon, the Prime Minister ought to have no reservations about appearing before a JPC either. This newspaper has argued before that the scale and dimensions of the spectrum scam give rise to questions that are well beyond the remit of a PAC whose job, normally, is confined to examining audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and that a comprehensive enquiry by a JPC was a political imperative. There has been some talk in government circles of expanding the mandate of the PAC in the 2G spectrum matter but the onus really is on the Prime Minister and his advisers to sit down with the Opposition to ensure an agreement that will allow the spectrum scam to be probed and the Budget session of Parliament to take place unhindered.

 

Apart from spectrum, the themes of corruption and communalism figured prominently in the 83rd plenary session of the Congress that concluded in Burari near the Capital on Monday. Party president Sonia Gandhi spoke of a five-point agenda to root out corruption. Missing from these five points, however, was an undertaking to push out of Cabinet any Minister against whom a court made an adverse finding. Today, Union Heavy Industries minister Vilasarao Deshmukh continues in government despite the Supreme Court fining Maharashtra Rs. 10 lakh in a case in which he, as Chief Minister, had abused his authority by getting the police to go easy on a moneylender. Similarly, Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh is functioning undisturbed despite a Himachal court charge-sheeting him in a corruption case. And then there are other Ministers against whom no direct evidence of wrongdoing has surfaced yet but under whose watch money is undoubtedly being made. "The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power," Shakespeare tells us in Julius Caesar. What we see in government today is no remorse or introspection despite the steady accumulation of evidence of corruption on a staggering scale.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

RECOVERY DESPITE DISHARMONY

 

The world economy, according to most forecasters, is expected to grow in 2010 by nearly five per cent. This surprisingly good performance, however, hides the fact that the recovery continues to be uneven among the three broad categories — the United States, the Euro zone, and the developing countries. Equally significantly, the recovery is taking place despite a marked lack of coordination among the major economic powers in solving their common problems. Dire predictions of a year ago have not materialised to the extent feared. Financial sector concerns shared by many countries have dissipated in recent months, although, as the world's leading central banks never fail to warn, the possibility of another global financial crisis cannot be ruled out. In the U.S., regulatory rules for the financial sector had to be toned down. Going by several indicators — including the relatively buoyant stock markets, greater investor confidence, and the pick-up in cross-border flows — the world economy is a more confident place today, with the deep pessimism of just a year ago receding. To be sure, deep-seated problems remain. High up in the list is rebalancing of the global economy, which remains elusive despite being an important part of the agenda at all the G20 summits. The highly publicised currency wars — the most visible manifestation of the global imbalance — are now seen in a muted fashion.

 

It is clear that, in the context of the global recovery, countries have fewer incentives to negotiate and reach an agreement on the outstanding problems. Besides, the uneven recovery has prompted many countries to address domestic concerns first. Protectionism has resurfaced in the U.S. and some other developed countries. There is very little chance of concluding the Doha round any time soon. Beset with persistently high unemployment rates and low demand, the U.S. has fashioned an ultra-loose monetary policy that is akin to a stimulus for its economy. But it is flooding the emerging markets with cheap dollars. The tax cuts agreement reached two weeks ago by President Obama with the Republicans will also act as a stimulus. In contrast, Europe as a whole has embarked on a programme of austerity. Some of the European countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain are facing economic stress, while a few led by Germany are posting robust growth. A weak recovery in the developed world might have an adverse impact on exports from the developing countries. The divergence in economic policies, however justified by short-term domestic concerns, militates against global harmony. One hopes the divergence in performance does not lead to trade and currency conflicts that may derail the economic recovery.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

WHEN INDIA SITS AT THE HORSESHOE TABLE

WE MUST NOT TREAT OUR NON-PERMANENT MEMBERSHIP OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL OVER THE NEXT TWO YEARS AS A PROBATIONARY PERIOD FOR OUR ASPIRATIONS FOR PERMANENT MEMBERSHIP.

CHINMAYA R. GHAREKHAN

 

On January 1, 2011, India will take its seat at the Horseshoe Table in the temporary structure of the United Nations building in New York; the original building is undergoing massive renovation which will last another 3-4 years. It has been 20 long years since this writer had the privilege of taking his colleagues in the permanent mission to the Security Council to represent India. We all felt proud, as should the present permanent representative and his team. Twenty years sounds like, and is, a long time, considering that there was never a gap of more than six years for India to be returned to the Council. Successive governments in Delhi hesitated to contest for a seat on the Council after Japan thrashed us in the election for a non-permanent seat in 1996 —142 votes for Japan, 40 for India! (No, this writer was not the PR at the time.) This time, only five countries did not vote for us and Pakistan was not one of them. In the meanwhile, other aspirants for permanent membership have had at least two 2-year terms on the Council, not that it means much insofar as a country's case for permanent membership is concerned.

 

The uninitiated might be curious about the functioning of the Security Council, perceived to be the most important organ of the United Nations charged with the awesome responsibility of maintaining peace and security in the world. How do 15 countries discharge the nearly impossible task of preventing a breach of peace or of punishing those found guilty of committing aggression against another country? (The crucial word is 'found'.) The answer is: they do not always manage to do justice to their mandate, or, rather, they manage to do that less often than not. It cannot be emphasised enough that the Security Council is not a court of law, it does not take its decisions on the basis of merits of a case or complaint; its decisions are almost always the result of hard negotiations among its members, or, to give the process its proper description, horse-trading around the horseshoe table, especially among the permanent members. Sometimes, the act of aggression is so blatant that unanimity is reached without even having to discuss the issue, as was the case with Iraq in 1990 when Saddam Hussein attempted to swallow Kuwait. But when India complained about Pakistan's aggression in December 1947, our case got tangled in what was still the incipient stage of the Cold War. We never got satisfaction, or justice, from the Council. We ought to realise by now that the Council is not about justice in any legal or moral sense; it is and will always be a political body, which tries its best to clothe its judgments in a legalistic and moral language. However, once we recognise this — as we must — everything will fall in place and we ought to be prepared to play by the rules, mostly unwritten, which guide the work of the Council.

 

A few words about the modus operandi of the Council might be useful. After more than six decades, the Council still does not have definitive rules of procedure; it functions on the basis of provisional rules which nobody wants to tamper with. The presidency of the Council rotates among its members every month according to the English alphabetical order. Thus, India will become President in August 2011. Normally, a non-permanent member gets to serve as President twice during its term. The President calls other members for informal consultations in the first week to decide on the 'organisation of work' for the month. This is done on the basis of the agenda of the Council and other factors. The only slight discretion the President has is about the timing of convening the meeting. The written rule is that the President must call the meeting when a member of the Council asks for it but even this requirement is not always respected, most often by one or more permanent members. All substantive decisions are held in informal meetings held in a small room next to the main chamber and all compromises and concessions are worked out in bilateral or more-lateral conclaves outside the Council, often even outside the U.N. building and in capitals around the world. There is no requirement for a quorum, but the firm practice is for all 15 members to be present before the President calls the meeting to order. The then Soviet Union boycotted the meeting of the Council in the early 1950s to protest against China being represented by the Kuomintang regime based in Taiwan instead of the new PRC and regretted it forever; in its absence, the Council branded North Korea the aggressor and authorised military operations; the American troops based in South Korea are still technically blue helmets serving under the U.N. flag.

 

The Charter of the United Nations, which is its Constitution, is truly a remarkable document. It is amazing how the countries participating in the San Francisco conference in 1945 reached agreement during the brief period of three months on the text of the Charter. The article containing the famous veto took the longest time to agree upon. What it says is that any decision on a substantive matter needs the concurring votes of the permanent members. Over time, 'concurring' has come to be accepted as meaning 'no negative' vote of a permanent member. Thus a permanent member may abstain or even not cast its vote on a particular resolution so as to not block its adoption. The politics of this is that when a permanent member abstains, it is in effect voting in favour whereas when a non-permanent member abstains, it is usually meant to indicate its unhappiness with the resolution but is unwilling, always for a political reason, to actually vote against.

 

Some members of the 'strategic' community in our country have convinced themselves that it is not in India's interest to serve on the Council since it will compel us to speak up, "take positions" on issues which it would be politic for us to avoid. However, the same experts are anxious for us to play a major or big power role on international stage. We cannot have it both ways; we must not shy away from 'taking position'; that would not suggest prudence but lack of confidence in ourselves. At times, we will invariably make one or more countries unhappy with our stance but that comes with the turf. Besides, there is also the bright side; we can use our membership to oblige some countries.

 

When India came aboard the Council in 1991, this writer was convinced that we must utilise our membership to undo the damage that had been caused to our interests and moral authority by prevaricating on the question of Iraq's aggression against Kuwait. Our refusal to 'condemn' Saddam Hussein's action for misguided reasons cost us dear in diplomacy. It was not a question of doing the right thing; it was above all a question of taking a position which would have been completely in our national interest, besides having the added advantage of being 'right'. The fact that we were isolated in NAM was not bothersome; after all, we were isolated on the question of NPT. This writer remembers a meeting between Indian and Kuwaiti Foreign Ministers in the U.N. building. The Indian Minister, who knew Kuwait was not happy with India, assured his Kuwaiti colleague that India was "100 per cent, even 110 per cent with Kuwait." The Kuwaiti said: "Excellency, we would be satisfied with 100 per cent, all we want is that India should "condemn Iraq's aggression'." Even then, we refused to use the word 'condemn'. We effectively used our membership in the Council to repair the damage caused by our short-sighted approach by voting in favour of resolutions, or by abstaining on resolutions which were not to our great liking; we contented ourselves by making strong statements in explanation of our votes.

 

]We must not treat our non-permanent membership over the next two years as a probationary period for our aspirations for permanent membership. That would be a huge mistake. We must deal with issues, including what might appear to be difficult ones, by the yardstick of our national interests, and not by how our vote will please or displease some members. This might be easier said than done. We will come under pressure from others. After all, no country follows a truly independent line. But if we justify our vote by the criterion of our interests, others will understand. More importantly, the people of India will understand. The government must take the citizens of our country into confidence and must be more proactive in explaining its decisions to the people.

 

The Security Council has become more assertive in expanding its jurisdiction in dealing with issues which might not fall within the rubric of 'security'; it has tended to interpret its mandate more broadly. It is only a matter of time before it decides to discuss environment and other such issues. It is in India's interest to be associated with a body which might draft new rules of international behaviour. While it would be wonderful to have the right of veto, it is simply not going to happen. Permanent membership without veto, if and when it happens, will be of immense importance for us. If that were not the case, why would some countries so vehemently oppose it?

 

(Chinmaya R. Gharekhan is author of The Horseshoe Table: An inside view of the U.N. Security Council. )

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

$2 trillion debt crisis threatens 100 U.S. cities

Local authorities that have overspent by as much as $2tn are approaching municipal meltdown, a star analyst has warned.

Elena Moya

 

More than 100 U.S. cities could go bust next year as the debt crisis that has taken down banks and countries threatens next to spark an urban catastrophe, a leading analyst has warned.

 

Meredith Whitney, the U.S. research analyst who correctly predicted the global credit crunch, described local and state debt as the biggest problem facing the U.S. economy, and one that could derail its recovery. "Next to housing, this is the single most important issue in the U.S. — and certainly the biggest threat to the U.S. economy," Whitney told the CBS "60 Minutes" programme on December 19.

 

"There's not a doubt on my mind that you will see a spate of municipal bond defaults. You can see 50 to a 100 sizeable defaults, more. This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of defaults," she said.

 

New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, summarised the problem succinctly: "We spent too much on everything. We spent money we didn't have. We borrowed money just crazily. The credit card's maxed out, and it's over. We now have to get to the business of climbing out of the hole. We've been digging it for a decade or more. We've got to climb now, and a climb is harder." American cities and states have debts totalling up to $2tn (£1.3tn). In Europe, local and regional government borrowing is expected to reach a historical peak of nearly €1.3tn (£1.1tn) this year.

 

Cities from Detroit to Madrid are struggling to pay creditors, including providers of basic services such as street cleaning. Last week, Moody's ratings agency warned about a possible downgrade for Florence and Barcelona and cut the rating of the Basque country in northern Spain. Lisbon was downgraded by the rival agency Standard & Poor's earlier this year, while the borrowings of Naples and Budapest are on the brink of junk status. Istanbul's debt has already been downgraded to junk.

 

U.S. states have spent nearly $500bn more than they have collected in taxes, and face a $1tn hole in their pension funds, said the CBS programme, "The Day of Reckoning".

 

Detroit is cutting police, lighting, road repairs and cleaning services. The city, which has been on the skids for almost two decades with the decline of the U.S. auto industry, does not generate enough wealth to maintain services for its 900,000 inhabitants.

 

The nearby state of Illinois has spent twice as much money as it has collected and is about six months behind on creditor payments. The University of Illinois alone is owed $400m, the CBS programme said. California has raised state university tuition fees by 32 per cent. Arizona has sold its state capitol and supreme court to investors, and leases them back.

 

Potential defaults could also hit Florida, whose real estate bubble burst two years ago, said Guy Benstead, of Cedar Ridge Partners in San Francisco.

 

In Europe, where cities have traditionally relied more on bank loans and state transfers than bonds, financing habits are changing. "Cities are on their own. Governments won't come to their rescue as they have problems of their own," said Andres Rodriguez-Pose, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics.

 

Istanbul

 

Turkey's ancient metropolis is one of the few European cities with a "junk" credit rating. Its impeccable location, linking Asia and Europe, does not compensate for its serious weaknesses — including "low revenue flexibility and a lack of predictability regarding future reforms", according to a recent report from the Standard & Poor's credit-rating agency. The city also has high investment demands, leading to large deficits, and mounting debt, the agency said. It is trying to develop other sources of income, especially by developing its emerging financial industry, hoping that new glass towers will appear on its famous skyline of mosque domes and minarets. The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said this month that he planned to move the stock exchange across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of the city as part of plans to turn the Atasehir district into a financial centre. Naples The credit rating on this historic city in southern Italy is just one notch from junk level. If 2,000 years ago the nearby town of Pompeii was a model of public administration, today's Naples has one of the lowest tax-collection rates in Europe — and the worry is that not enough is being done to change it.

 

]With higher unemployment and a greater dependency on state and EU help than other Italian capitals, Naples faces increasing delays in paying for some of its running costs. At least the city — with a population of almost a million — has a higher percentage of children than the national average and a lower percentage of over 65s, limiting the costs of its care for the elderly.

 

Florence

 

The Tuscan capital was warned about a possible credit downgrade last week, following its decision to stop payments on some derivatives contracts to banks including UBS and Bank of America. In 2006, the city signed contracts with a group of banks, setting a fixed interest rate on about €200m (£170m) of debt. The move was aimed at protecting the city coffers from any potential interest rate rises. Florence, however, has been caught out by two years of record low interest rates, which make their current agreement substantially more expensive than prevailing market rates. Florence, due to pay the banks €9m this month, now says that it would be illegal, under Italian law, to honour those obligations. Some of the creditor banks have already filed a claim at London's high court. S&P has an A+ rating on the city, one of its highest, based on the strength of its tourism industry.

 

]Madrid

 

Spain's capital city, with a staggering €7bn of debt, was recently stopped from rolling over some of its obligations by the central government. Years of a booming property market pumped up the city coffers, leading officials to start multibillion-euro projects such as covering the city's orbital motorway. In 2007, at the peak of the market, the city hall also moved buildings in a change that cost locals millions. But the tax take has fallen sharply while the doors to international financial markets remain mostly shut. Investors are worried about the city's high debts, projected to reach as much as 155 per cent of its revenues by 2012. Madrid's payments to some of its trade creditors, including cleaning service contractors, are severely delayed.

 

Barcelona

 

Catalonia's capital was placed on review for a possible downgrade by Moody's last week, amid plunging revenues and a tougher control on central state transfers. Despite the recent tourism boom, Barcelona and Catalonians are struggling to recover from the effects of the property sector's collapse.

 

The regional government recently had to issue bonds to its own citizens as it faces ostracism by international bond investors, given its high debts. However, with almost 1.6 million inhabitants, Barcelona is still one of Spain's richest cities, S&P said.

 

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

MILLIONS AT RISK IF VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT IN SUDAN

MAGGIE FICK

 

The U.N. is planning for the possibility that 2.8 million people will be displaced in Sudan if fighting breaks out over the south's January independence referendum, according to an internal report reviewed by The Associated Press on December 21.

 

Just over two weeks remain before voters in Southern Sudan decide whether to remain with the Khartoum-based north or "more likely" to secede and create the world's newest country.

 

Tensions are high over the vote. The U.N. report said both northern and southern militaries have been rearming. Both militaries have reinforced their positions along the border in recent months, hindering aid work. If either the north or the south doesn't accept the results of the January 9 referendum, the result could be a "war-like" situation, it said. "A deterioration of the North-South relationship, as well as tensions within northern and southern Sudan could lead to large-scale outflow of people to neighbouring countries," said the U.N.'s humanitarian contingency plan, which is stamped "Not for wider distribution" but was obtained by AP.

 

The north and south ended a two-decades-plus civil war with the signing of a 2005 peace accord that also guaranteed the south the right to hold an independence referendum. Some two million people died in the war.

 

In Sudan's capital Khartoum on December 21, the leaders of Egypt and Libya met with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir to discuss the future of Sudan after the vote. If worst-case violence scenarios play out after January, the U.N. plan anticipates an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced people within Sudan and an additional 3.2 million people who may be affected by a breakdown in trade and social services.

 

Egypt says the Khartoum talks are designed to ensure that the referendum is held in a "climate of freedom, transparency and credibility" and that the four leaders would review outstanding issues between the north and south, such as the demarcation of the border and the future of the oil-rich border area of Abyei.

 

Both Libya and Egypt view Sudan as their strategic backyard and would want to see the breakup of their southern neighbour to be peaceful and avoid any massive flow of refugees into their territory as a result of fighting.

 

While Libya sees Sudan as a vital piece of its Africa-focused foreign policy, there is much more at stake there for Egypt, the most populous Arab nation. Sudan lies astride the middle reaches of the Nile, the primary source of water for mainly desert Egypt. The White Nile, a main tributary, runs through Southern Sudan.

 

]Egypt fears an independent south may come under the influence of rival Nile basin nations like Ethiopia that have been complaining Egypt uses more than its fair share of the river's water.

 

In preparation for potential problems, the World Food Programme is positioning 76,000 metric tons of emergency food to 100 hubs throughout the south. Emergency shelter supplies, medical kits, and water and sanitation equipment have also been prepositioned.

 

Another challenge is the influx of southerners returning home from northern Sudan, where an estimated 1.5 million have lived since before the 2005 north-south peace agreement was signed. The U.N. refugee agency said that 55,000 southern Sudanese have returned to the south in past weeks.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE PROBLEMS OF COALITION DHARMA

 

The way the concept of "coalition dharma" — a telling expression coined by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee — has developed in national politics, the principal party in the ruling alliance at the Centre has all too often been at the mercy of regional allies and been compelled to accept their shenanigans. Managing national coalitions has taken a grievous toll of the authority of the Prime Minister in the process, thus undermining the élan of the administration. This was more than evident in the NDA period. Following the exposure of the 2G spectrum scam, turning a blind eye to perceived wrong-doing by a coalition partner — in this case the DMK — has come to haunt the UPA-II government in a manner few could have envisaged. The larger issue is corruption in public life, which is at the bottom of nearly every unsavoury manoeuvre that we come across in our national life. This used to be papered over, but the sheer scale of the spectrum case, and the attendant exposure of widespread malignancy highlighted in the Radia tapes, demands that commensurate punitive action must follow.


Silence on the part of the Union government when wilful vandalising of public funds, which constitute a key element of the integrity of the state, has come to pass is no longer a policy option, even if the larger object is to protect a democratically constituted government from erosion. The Manmohan Singh government is not rotten to the core. The Prime Minister is personally completely above board, and is seen to be such by the people in the country, whatever the Opposition whispers. And yet, the Prime Minister permitted a minister from an alliance party to ride roughshod over him, belittling his authority, and allegedly cheat the national exchequer.

 

This was presumably tolerated by the highest functionary of the government in order to protect the ruling coalition. However, when thousands of crores of public money are at issue, the people at large can have no sympathy for the idea of coalition dharma, which has been cooked up by politicians to retain their hold on power. It is, therefore, time for the Congress to weigh its alliance with the DMK in the balance. If money from the spectrum scam has found its way to the coffers of senior elements in the DMK, no one who subscribes to high principles of governance can cover up for political shabbiness.


From available reports, there is restiveness in the DMK and the Congress in Tamil Nadu. Both parties are faction-ridden, although in the case of the DMK this is not permitted to become evident. At any rate, the people in the state are disheartened by all accounts. The DMK's sheen appears to have worn off. In such a situation the Opposition parties could well have the upper hand in the state elections which are only a few months away. It is likely that the investigation in the spectrum scandal would not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion by then.

 

Even so, the Congress is likely to be stung on account of its associates.


The party is naturally in a bind. If it seeks to withdraw from the present political arrangement in Tamil Nadu — its support is crucial to the survival of the minority government run by the DMK — the Congress-led government at the Centre is likely to become extremely vulnerable. The latitude it has in policy-making could be a thing of the past when not even half the term of the UPA-II government is done. This is nothing if not a case of Hobson's choice. And yet, the right decision needs to be taken to uphold the majesty of the state and the integrity of its critical processes. After the recent Congress plenary at Burari, near Delhi, where fighting corruption was sought to be made the party's hallmark, it will be interesting to see how the leadership of UPA-II navigates its Tamil Nadu crisis.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

COLLECTIVE AMNESIA

P.C. ALEXANDER

 

Quite a lot has been said and written in recent weeks about mega scams involving grave acts of corruption by some bureaucrats and politicians. While it is right and necessary to bring the damage caused by the scams to the attention of the people, there is another issue thrown up by these scams which has not received the focus it deserves: the failure of the governments concerned to follow certain well-established procedures and conventions in decision-making. This is particularly true of the decision-making process in the telecommunications ministry of the Central government on the allocation of the 2G spectrum.


It is necessary that time-honoured practices are followed in taking decisions on projects which require the cooperation and involvement of several government agencies, especially when huge sums are involved. It is the duty of the implementing ministry to obtain the views of the concerned ministries in writing and, if there are differences of opinion with other ministers that cannot be resolved by inter-ministerial discussion, then to seek the approval of the Cabinet.


The implementing ministry may have strong reasons for pursuing a particular line of action, but if it doesn't have the concurrence of other concerned ministries, like finance and law, it must be compelled to modify its proposals on the lines approved by the Cabinet. Even if a particular minister disagrees with the consensus arrived after discussions in the Cabinet, the Cabinet decision cannot be disowned by him/her because once approved by the Cabinet the decision becomes the collective responsibility of all members of the Cabinet, i.e. the Government of India.


What we notice from the documents already before the public is that the ministries of law and finance conveyed their disagreement on some important provisions of the proposal in unambiguous terms, and yet, even after noticing that the telecommunication ministry had ignored their opposition, the ministers of finance and law did not press that the proposal be placed before the Cabinet for a discussion. This is rather strange. It shows that the ministers were not willing to go beyond sending their views in writing. If they believed that the telecommunication minister's proposal was really harmful to national interests, they should have insisted on their opposition and asked that their views be placed before the Cabinet. Failure to do this gives the impression that while they were not convinced of the proposals made by the telecommunication ministry, they did not care enough to pursue the matter.


The manner in which the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) dealt with the proposals from the telecommunication ministry on the allocation of 2G spectrum was also, to say the least, very surprising. It cannot be claimed that the PMO was not fully aware of the grave loopholes in the telecommunication ministry's proposals. The Prime Minister himself knew from the telecommunication minister's letter dated November 2, 2007, that the ministry had decided to continue with the policy of "first come first served". His letter to the telecommunication minister of the same day asked him to consider "introduction of a transparent methodology of auction, wherever legally and technically feasible, and revision of entry fee, which is currently benchmarked on old spectrum auction figures". But instead of complying with his suggestion, the telecommunication minister replied on December 26, 2007, that he had enough material in his ministry to ensure that the allocations were fair and transparent. After this came the Prime Minister's letter of January 3, 2008, to the telecommunication minister, simply acknowledging the minister's letter of December 26, 2007, which can be interpreted by those who support the minister's action as indicating that the Prime Minister is not pressing his opposition anymore. At any rate, no action was taken by the PMO to ensure that the minister paid any heed to the views conveyed by the Prime Minister to him.

In my very long experience of working in the Central government, I have not come across a single instance where a minister has chosen to ignore the suggestion given by the Prime Minister on a major proposal such as this. It is not that powerful Prime Ministers like Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi didn't accept suggestions given by their ministerial colleagues on administrative matters. Nehru, in fact, had as his colleagues leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Azad who were his equals in the Congress Party and he tried to accommodate their advice to the maximum extent possible, even making some compromise with his own views.


It is now well known that in 1954, Nehru could not include Krishna Menon in his Cabinet in spite of his keen desire to do so because of the strong opposition from Maulana Azad. Azad had strong reservations about Menon because of some allegations of financial irregularities against him during the period when he was high commissioner to the United Kingdom. Maulana Azad even informed Nehru that he would resign from the Cabinet if Nehru went ahead with his proposal to induct Menon. Bowing to the views of Azad, Nehru shelved the idea. Similarly, Nehru had accepted the suggestion of Sardar Patel to create the Indian Administrative Services on the pattern of the ICS of the British days in spite of his own strong dislike for continuing the ICS type of civil services in Independent India.


I can also say from personal knowledge that on certain very important and delicate matters requiring decisions at her level, Indira Gandhi had obtained the informal advice of R. Venkataraman who was her finance minister and P.V. Narasimha Rao, her foreign affairs minister. However, it would be wrong to draw any parallel between these great stalwarts in the Cabinet during Nehru's or Indira Gandhi's days with Prime Ministers' colleagues in later years.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, if he was really keen that the proposal of the telecommunication minister should be amended on the lines indicated by him, could have easily done so without any difficulty — he had only to place the matter before the Cabinet.


Administrative procedures, like the ones I have given above, may not sound very significant, but if time-tested rules and procedures are allowed to be violated at the whim of individuals in a parliamentary democracy, the whole system of administration will stand in danger of gross distortion and deterioration and ultimate collapse, as it has happened in many newly-independent countries.

 

P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

TILAK AND THE STAR OF THE VEDAS

JAYANT V. NARLIKAR

 

The Vedas are described as apaurusheya, that is, written by no man. They were transmitted down from one generation to the next without anyone having a clue as to who wrote them. This question of authorship of the Vedas is linked with another, perhaps more tractable, question: When were they written? From the study of the contents, the language and allusions to events, Western scholars arrived at the figure of around 3.5 to four thousand years ago as the age of Vedic literature.


Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, known to most Indians for his leadership of the Indian national movement for Independence, before the arrival on the scene of Mahatma Gandhi, had a multifaceted personality. He was well versed in mathematics, had written a learned commentary of the Bhagavad Gita called the Geetarahasya, had a philosophical bent and took great interest in social issues besides running a national newspaper, Kesari, of which he was also the editor. Last, but not the least, he possessed basic knowledge of astronomy which he put to use in a highly original fashion to decide the antiquity of the Vedas.


To understand the basis of Tilak's approach, let us first look at the way the earth spins around its axis as it goes round the sun. It is because of that spin that we see the heavenly bodies go westward in the sky in a 24-hour cycle. Only the Pole Star appears to be fixed in space, because it lies on the axis of spin. An excellent comparison with the earth's spin is provided by a spinning top, which can be spun by pulling the string wrapped around it. With sufficient practice, one can toss such a top on the floor and watch it move round as it spins.
Such a spinning top shows another feature. Its axis of spin is not fixed in space, but it precesses, that is, moves along a cone thus making the top wobble. The same applies to the earth: its spin axis too precesses in space. But, did we not say that it is fixed in the direction of the Pole Star? Well, that was an approximate statement. It will be more accurate to say that the axis precesses very slowly, making a single round on the cone in around 26,000 years. So to us mortals it seems fixed in space within our sub-century lifespan. However, if we compare astronomical records over several centuries we would discover this motion. For example, the star Polaris (or the star Dhruva in Indian literature) was not the Pole Star 5,000 years ago. Another star, today known as Thuban, had that status because the earth's spin axis pointed in its direction then.


But can a layman notice any change in the stellar or terrestrial environment when looking at the astronomical records? The answer is "yes" and to see how that happens, let us see how, when viewed from the earth, the sun changes its direction through the year. Observers over the centuries have used known stellar groups to identify this change of direction. These are the so-called signs of the zodiac. So the sun moves against the zodiacal background and can be located with reference to the sign of stars at its back. The calendar of the year identifies the 12 signs of the zodiac with 12 months and the apparent path of the sun is called the ecliptic.
We learn in school geography that the length of the day changes through the year, being the longest on June 21 and the shortest on December 22. In between, there are two locations on the ecliptic where the day and night are equal. These are called the spring equinox and the autumn equinox. These fall on March 21 and September 21 respectively. This variation in the length of the day would not have occurred if the earth's spin axis were perpendicular to the ecliptic. In reality, the axis makes an angle of approximately 66 degrees. And as we saw earlier, the spin axis is slowly precessing. The result is that the points of equinox also slowly move along the ecliptic, taking 26,000 years to make one round.


We also learn in geography texts that seasons arise because of the above configuration. Spring begins when the sun is at the spring equinox and autumn when it is at the autumn equinox. However, as we just saw, the equinoxal points slowly change their positions against the zodiacal groups of stars. Therefore, in the annual calendar, the months identified with a season will slowly change. In particular, if we decide to start the year with the sun at the spring equinox, the first month of the year would change because of the slow shift of the spring equinox.


This was the clue that Tilak worked on. He was led to it by a shloka from the Bhagavad Gita in which Lord Krishna, identifying himself with the best and most important in any class of objects or people, says: "I am Margashirsha amongst the months and spring amongst the seasons".


In modern times Margashirsha does not fall in the spring season; rather it falls closer to the autumn. So why this discrepancy? The discrepancy is resolved if we argue that the statement was made when Margashirsha fell in the spring season. By turning the earth clock backwards, we move the equinoxes backwards until the spring equinox was in the zodiacal group identified with Margashirsha. This gave him an estimate of the antiquity of the statement.


Tilak used this approach to look at astronomical allusions in Vedic literature and from them sought to build up the stellar framework that must have existed when the statement was made. His monograph, The Orion: Research into the Antiquity of the Vedas, is a scholarly discussion of this approach. He arrived at an age for the Vedas much older than the age estimated by Western scholars. This opened the door to controversy as to which method is correct. While Tilak's reliance on astronomical data gave him a reliable clock, the weakness of his method probably lay in the authenticity of the allusions he had used. Whatever the eventual outcome of this ongoing exercise of dating our ancient literature, we have to give credit to Tilak for his ingenious approach.

 

Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune University Campus, and a renowned astrophysicist

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE HARD FACTS ABOUT A SOFT STATE

S.K. SINHA

 

A soft state shies away from taking hard decisions. It is ever ready to make compromises. Matters get compounded when it pursues the policy of appeasement. That makes the soft state even softer.


We have been apologetic and defensive about Kashmir, when both legally and morally our position is indisputable. The UN recognised the legitimacy of India's legal status in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah's endorsement provided moral justification. The UN Ceasefire Resolution of August 13, 1948, called for the withdrawal of all Pakistan forces from Kashmir while the Indian Army was to remain in the state during the plebiscite. While delineating the Ceasefire Line, the 200 sq. mile Tilel Valley, which was no man's land, was not shared between India and Pakistan. The UN made it inclusive to India. But Delhi has been mute in pressing its claim to territory under Pakistan's illegal occupation.


There have been agitations and violence in Gilgit-Baltistan over Pakistan's anti-Shia policy, denial of basic democratic rights and efforts to alter the demographic profile by settling Pathans and Punjabis. We do not even give them moral support. Neither our mission in Islamabad nor our visiting dignitaries to Islamabad ever contact their leaders. Our excuse is that we should not ruffle feathers. On the other hand, we allow complete freedom to separatist leaders from the Valley to remain in touch with the Pakistan high commission in Delhi and meet visiting dignitaries from Pakistan.


India is constantly being pilloried by Pakistan, the separatists and our own human rights activists for human rights violations. The Army is demonised despite the fact that its record of upholding human rights is far superior to that of the Pakistan Army in erstwhile East Pakistan, Baluchistan and Waziristan, or, for that matter, the US Army in Vietmam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and the US have been carrying out airstrikes and artillery bombardments against militants. India has never once used these weapons against militants in Kashmir. All allegations of human rights violations are investigated.


Over 90 per cent have been found to be false. Army personnel found guilty have been promptly punished and dismissed from service with imprisonment from two to 14 years. An example comes to mind to illustrate the difference between the Indian and Pakistani approaches. Mohammad Akbar Bugti, the veteran separatist leader in Baluchistan, was eliminated by an airstrike ordered by former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the veteran Kashmiri separatist leader, not only enjoys the freedom to indulge in sedition and promote terrorist violence, but is provided the best available medical care. He was supposed to be terminally ill with liver cancer in 2007 and wanted to go to the US for medical treatment, but the US denied him a visa because of his terrorist connections. He went to Mumbai where a Kashmiri pandit doctor performed a complicated surgery and saved his life.


In 2007, the government took the bizarre decision of giving pensions to the families of terrorists killed in encounters with security forces. This is not done anywhere in the world. Now the demand is to get the "misguided boys" back from PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) and give them rehabilitation benefits. They are trained terrorists who have lived in terrorist camps. On the other hand, little has been done for the return of Kashmiri pandits or for the repair of scores of their vandalised temples. The pandits have been languishing in refugee camps.


Our response to Pakistan's cross-border terrorism has been tepid. We failed to carry out surgical strikes on terrorist camps in PoK, which is legally Indian territory. Now, Pakistan is a nuclear weapon power and the excuse is that we should not provoke a nuclear war. Pakistan is not deterred by Indian nukes and continues with its terrorist strikes. It knows that India is a soft state.


Terrorism has been losing steam in Kashmir. Since 2008, three mass movements have taken place. The Amarnath land controversy in 2008 was based on total falsehoods and fraud. So was the alleged rape and killing of two women at Shopian in 2009. Both these movements held the Valley to ransom for two to three months. The stone-pelting intifada of 2010, for three months, resulted in 100 stone-pelters getting killed and some 2,000 security force personnel injured. Chief minister Omar Abdullah failed to tackle the situation. Though thoroughly discredited, he was allowed to continue in office. He recently asserted in the state Assembly that Kashmir acceded and did not merge with India, like Hyderabad and Junagadh did. The reference to the latter two states has a mischievous insinuation. He took the oath of office swearing by the Kashmir Constitution, Article 3 of which states that Kashmir is and shall remain an integral part of India. He is irked by references to Kashmir being an integral part of India. Yet Delhi gives him all-out support.


The latest trend is for separatist leaders to tour the country preaching sedition at meetings in Delhi, Kolkata and Chandigarh. Their demand for "azadi" will lead to colonial subjugation of the majority in the state. Kashmiri Muslims are only 45 per cent of the state's population. The remaining population is of other Muslims and non-Muslims, who are not separatists. Some publicity-crazy individuals have been supporting these separatists. They have even been turning history on its head by saying that Kashmir had never been a part of India. Srinagar was founded by Ashoka the Great.


The state has chosen to turn a blind eye to these shenanigans, seeking shelter behind the plea of freedom of speech in a democracy. No state, no matter how liberal and democratic, allows the freedom to propagate sedition and treason. John Amery, son of Leo Amery, the secretary of state for India in Churchill's War Cabinet, had joined the Nazis and broadcast Nazi propaganda on Berlin Radio. After the war, he was tried for treason and sentenced to death. There is no reason why those indulging in treason should not be proceeded against. It is only in a soft state that people can be allowed the freedom to propagate sedition.

 

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

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DNA

 

THE FIRST REFUGE OF SCOUNDRELS — HOSPITAL

 

The minute the Central Bureau of Investigations wanted to interview former Union telecom minister A Raja, where does he head?

 

Give yourself full marks if you answered 'straight to hospital'.

 

We accept that high-profile jobs give you stress and when you are found to have been misusing your high-profile job, the stress is bound to increase, but there is a limit to how far you can stretch our credulity.

 

But Raja is, of course, only following in the footsteps of India's rich and powerful: no sooner are they found with their hands in the till, then they clutch their chests and claim that they have a heartache.

 

Not as much heartache, it must be admitted, as the people who they have scammed and cheated or the sometimes, as in Raja's case, the entire national exchequer.

 

Perhaps all our investigating agencies need to have a few big name cardiologists on standby so that high-powered suspects can be assured of quality medical treatment the minute their wrongdoings come under the scanner.

 

]We could also build special jails with five-star hospitals attached, which could be financed from the ill-gotten gains of the accused.

 

The old saying went that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel.

 

The new version says the hospital is the first.

 

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DNA

ONION PRICES BAD NEWS FOR CONSUMERS

 

Rising food and vegetable prices have remained the bug bear of the UPA-II government ever since it took office in the summer of 2009.

 

First, it was food inflation that was bad news for the 'aam aadmi', the ostensible object of concern of the ruling coalition, especially the Congress.

 

Then it was sugar prices that hurt the people before it could be brought under control. Right now, it the high prices of onion that are bringing tears to the eyes of the consumers more than the onion itself.

 

Onion prices have touched Rs70/kg, sending family budgets haywire and forcing restaurants to stop offering onions as a free side dish.

 

Vendors have warned that onion prices might well touch Rs100 in the coming days. A panicky government has banned onion exports in a desperate attempt to bring prices down and is also pinning its hope on the January harvest to ease the present shortage.

 

Pundits know that rising prices have massive political consequences. Many still remember the Congress victory over the BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi in late 1998 after onion prices soared and the then BJP-led government at the Centre was held responsible for it.

 

While inflation remains untamed, government decisions have only worsened the situation. For instance, did it have to wait till onions touched the present high to announce temporary curbs on exports? The announcement could have been made days, if not weeks, ago, and would have had an inhibitory effect on hoarders, who'd have been forced to release their stocks in the markets.

 

Moreover, government could have considered importing onions to beef up the supply. If the aim is to protect farmers on the verge of harvest, it certainly is laudable, but it looks more like a policy to help traders and hoarders profit from the high prices.

 

This had happened in the case of sugar before Diwali, when prices only dropped after government warned that imports would be allowed. We need a clearer policy on import and export of food items to ensure stable prices.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

PM'S MOVE, A CASE OF TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

 

Prime minister Manmohan Singh is to be commended for his willingness to be questioned by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) which is looking into allegations of corruption in the 2G spectrum allocation.

 

However, it may have been a bolder move had he made it when Parliament was still in session. Instead, rather than make this declaration at a public forum, he has done so during the Congress plenary.

 

It is also heartening that the prime minister believes that he and his office should be above suspicion and therefore would do anything to clear his name.

 

]However, it is also true that the opposition has not accused the prime minister of any wrongdoing in his personal capacity nor attacked his integrity.

 

They have questioned — legitimately — how the former Union telecom minister A Raja was allowed to get away with practically giving away 2G spectrum without anyone checking him.

 

Moreover, the leaking of the taped conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia do paint a rather unsavoury picture of corporates with telecom interests trying to influence Cabinet decisions — particularly to make sure that Raja gets the telecom portfolio. There is also the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and corporates that has emerged here.

 

Quicker action by the prime minister would have engendered more confidence in this government. It may be true that it has worked reasonably fast — by government standards — to get rid of its corrupt and tainted ministers.

 

And it may also be true that the Bharatiya Janata Party has not similarly been able to take Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa in hand. But neither of these facts, in any way, has any bearing on the 2G spectrum scam, the scale of which is phenomenal.

 

The opposition and the government have, both, been equally stubborn on the Joint Parliamentary Action Committee, neither budging, which has not really helped the matter move forward.

 

This prime minister was selected because he was seen as a 'doer' as well as a 'clean man'. Unfortunately, in its second edition, the United Progressive Alliance under Singh's leadership, has faltered at the starting line and the PM's clean record cannot be a sufficient defence here.

 

If this government means to show us that it means business, we need more than pretty rhetoric at this stage. Or it's just one more case of too little, too late.

 

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DNA

BIG BUSINESS IS A MOTH DRAWN TO CHINA'S FLAME

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

Given the strained relationship of the past 50 years between India and China, nobody will ever go bankrupt betting against a dramatic reconciliation or an overnight diplomatic détente between the two Asian giants.

 

For all the ritualistic articulations of goodwill during Premier Wen Jiabao's visit last week, and for all the spin put on the billions of dollars in trade agreements signed, the unvarnished reality is that the two countries are, if anything, drifting farther apart at a political level.

 

In addition to the long-festering border dispute, new wounds are constantly opening up. China was unwilling to allay Indian apprehensions regarding its motives in recent years in questioning Indian sovereignty over Jammu & Kashmir (by offering stapled visas to Kashmir residents travelling to China).

 

India, in turn, held back from its ritualistic affirmation of a 'one China policy', which would have acknowledged Taiwan and Tibet as inalienable parts of China; in substantive terms, however, India's action doesn't amount to much — except to signal disquiet over China's intentions.

 

Eager to showcase some forward movement, the two sides are tom-tomming the exponential growth in bilateral trade in recent years, and have set an ambitious target to elevate it further over the next five years. They also constituted an India-China CEOs' Forum "to deliberate on business issues and make recommendations on expansion of trade and investment cooperation".

 

But betting on bilateral trade to cement the political relationship is a losing proposition, particularly if — as happens with China — that trade relationship is skewed by unalloyed mercantilism and a wilful disregard for international trading rules. The worthy Indian CEOs who will grace the India-China advisory forum will do well to learn from the recent experience of short-sighted Big Business corporations that are flocking to China with an eye on the billion-plus market, but find themselves outwitted and outmanoeuvred by the shifting of goalposts in China to favour local enterprises.

 

Even when they realise they've been robbed of their intellectual property rights — after being forced to transfer their technology as the price for a piece of the China action — these Big Businesses linger on, in the hope that the Pearly Gates of the China market will be opened to them. Worse, in their short-term pursuit of their interests, they become 'spokespersons' for China, speaking out against trade retaliation for its mercantilist and protectionist policies — of which they themselves are victims! It serves to advance Chinese trade and strategic interests to the detriment of its trading partners'.

 

China has demonstrated that it is exceptionally skilled in leveraging its trade clout — and Big Business' short-sighted, profit-driven dependence on it — for strategic gain. And today, having gained the upper hand on the trade and commercial front, it is asserting itself politically and militarily. There's a lesson in that for those who see improved Sino-Indian bilateral trade as an antidote for irreconcilable political strains.

 

All this is not to say there isn't a case for deepening the Sino-Indian trade relationship. Yet, any effort at advancing bilateral trade should be driven by pragmatic promotion of national self-interest, not short-term, profit-driven interests of corporate entities. Our desperate eagerness to be seen to be improving our trade relations with our trans-Himalayan neighbour comes with the risk that we could end up compromising our interests at a strategic level.

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DNA

COLUMN

FINALLY, SOME SIGNS OF SPINE IN INDIA'S CHINA POLICY

S NIHAL SINGH

 

The biggest gain from the just concluded visit of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao for India is that New Delhi has finally buried the ghost of the 1962 border war.

 

There was a hint of a stiffening of the spine in the days leading to the visit by India's rebuff of the Chinese move, asking the world to absent itself from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for a Chinese dissident incarcerated at home.

 

And the joint statement concluding the visit underlined a new Indian assertiveness in refusing to genuflect to Beijing that Tibet is a part of China.

 

In this instance, the omission of the mantra directly made the point that the new Chinese practice of stapling visas of Jammu and Kashmir residents to please Islamabad was unacceptable. In any event, as and when Beijing withdraws this gratuitous insult to India, it would not be a concession.

 

Despite the soft diplomacy Wen indulged in during a visit to a Delhi school and calling India and China partners, not rivals, the message he delivered at his main public speech at the Council of World Affairs was hard-edged, holding out no prospect of an early resolution of the border dispute while reiterating the careful formulations on India playing a prominent role in the United Nations Security Council.

 

Expectedly, the Chinese did not repeat president Barack Obama's declaration that he favoured India's permanent membership.

 

]The Chinese premier's main thrust was the further promotion of trade on Beijing's terms, setting out a $100 billion target. Accompanying him were a posse of some 300 businessmen and executives.

 

He did mention the balance of trade being heavily in China's favour and the need to give fair play to items of Indian strength such as pharmaceuticals and information technology but the proof of the pudding would lie in the eating. For instance, India exports high-quality generic drugs the world over without inviting the kind of restrictions they face in China. In any event, the present gap of nearly $20 billion is unsustainable.

 

Trade deals worth some $16 billion were signed and an agreement marks the beginning of Chinese banking in the country, but the colonial nature of the trade, with India supplying the raw materials and China sending manufactured goods, is hardly desirable from New Delhi's viewpoint. China is a great and growing economic and political presence in the world and cannot be wished away, but the two countries cannot sustain the growing volume without a level playing field for long.

 

In a sense, Wen's visit is the latest venture in an already complicated relationship even as Beijing made a point to show its strong links with Pakistan by going directly to Islamabad after its India visit.

 

Beijing's assiduous cultivation of India's neighbours, in particular Pakistan, is part of a long-term strategy and New Delhi must find its own counter-strategies to cope with the problem. But, obviously the pressing need now is to frame a coherent plan based on realpolitik even while taking into account Beijing's growing power.

 

'Look East' is now a settled Indian policy, but it is important to give it more substance by undertaking substantial joint ventures with the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) and in intensifying relations with South Korea and Japan.

 

The fact that Asean, Japan, and South Korea are demonstrating a keen desire to intensify their relations is plain for all to see. One indication in Japan's case is an eight-member delegation of the independent thinktank, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, that its president, Yoshiko Sakurai, has been leading to Delhi. Apart from official visits, Delhi has frequently played host to Japanese business delegations of every kind; seldom have independent political experts and academics come calling.

 

While India and China must keep open their lines of communication and high-level official visits too have their usefulness, if Beijing is adopting what is described as a string of pearls strategy to contain India, the least that New Delhi can do is to form vital relationships with China's neighbours.

 

Asean countries have made it clear repeatedly that they would welcome a greater Indian presence in the region with an eye on China.

 

What is lacking so far is a coordinated Indian plan to pull together the various facets of economic, political and military relationships

 

to bring out the centrality of common interests the region and India have in helping to maintain regional peace and prosperity.

 

Being friends with Beijing's neighbours signifies no evil intent; rather, it is an exercise in political prudence.

 

In any event, India's neighbours are avidly absorbing the signals from Wen's Delhi visit and the points the Indian leadership made even as the Chinese premier set out his hard-line political agenda.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

INCONSISTENCY OVER KASHMIR

CONGRESS REFUSES TO LEARN LESSONS FROM ITS PAST MISTAKES


UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's belated realization for the need to find out what angers the youth in Kashmir and why there is such deep rooted alienation is a sad reflection of how ill-informed the party holding the reins of the country is. One cannot excuse the Congress led UPA of complete naivette. And this may be not only because the party has been in power for enough time during the last twenty years of very visible alienation and anger, especially in the recent years. The anger has been on the boil for two years but it had started seething in the years preceding that. Instances can be traced through a trail of events including the widespread protests over Ganderbal fake encounter killings in 2005 and the infamous sex scandal in 2006. Interestingly, when these issues rocked the valley, Congress government was in power not only in the centre but also at the helm of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir. It was Congress regime's follies that led to the Amarnath land row agitation, which has been a turning point in the politics of the state, not only fuelling an aggressive anti-India campaign in Kashmir but also sharply dividing the state on communal lines. The party has been in power or has been a major alliance partner of those in power for almost the last one decade, ever since there has been a decline in presence of militant groups, through the years of peace process and the endless rounds of back channel diplomacies or some open consultations. The party has a strong presence in the state, in or out of power. Sonia Gandhi's constrained knowledge about the cause of anger betrays either her lack of faith in her own party based in Jammu and Kashmir for feedback or the inability of the latter to give an honest account. That during its own rule in the state, the party severely bungled, only contributing in increasing the level of impatience and anger in Kashmir, reveals that Sonia's reliance more on the team of three interlocutors that she talked about rather than its own cadre members within the state is due to a bit of both. 


However, it is unlikely that this is a simple case of just plain ignorance and the sudden realisation that there is a need to understand the cause of anger as well. This summer, between the time that anger began turning into violent rage to the announcement of interlocution on Kashmir, the Congress party at the national level oscillated between the extremes of calling these protests as campaigns sponsored by Lashkar-e-Toiba to reinforcing the need for dialogue. The Congress response all along has been marked by inconsistency that is not only the hallmark of this party in power alone but has been the wont of all other political dispensations in power at the Centre, all guided by their own confusing web of dichotomies, inconsistencies and lack of clarity. It doesn't take a genius to realise that a lack of policy on Kashmir is what contributes to the accumulating anger of the people of Kashmir. As for the anger, New Delhi already has enough feedback on why denial to address the political dispute lies at the fountainhead of alienation, that alienation and anger has been further fuelled by a continuum of human rights abuse. Most protests, on bigger or smaller scale, have been inspired by the acts of brutality by security forces and police or the official denial to grant justice. There is a trail of protests from Ganderbal fake encounters to killings during Amarnath land row protests, from Bomai killings to Shopian rapes and murders. Last summer's wave of protests, unprecedented as they were, triggered after the revelations of fake encounter killings and gained momentum as a young boy, not even remotely connected with the protests, was shot dead by a tear-gas shell, and for a week the officials clandestinely tried to pass it off as murder through its usual mechanism of rumours. Doesn't New Delhi get it? Not after media has been reporting these issues? Not after experts have pointed out the gravity of the situation? Not after several rounds of previous interlocution and track two processes? So how does a fresh team of interlocutors assigned the task for a year enable those in corridors of power to become more enlightened. Other than costing the state exchequer a huge sum on managing this team, it may achieve nothing, at least in terms of educating New Delhi about Kashmiris ko gussa kyon aata hai any better than what is already known. The initiative, controlled and monitored, without the much talked about red lines, may as well be an attempt to buy time on Kashmir, for a plethora of reasons, and allow the problem to linger. It is in this light that Sonia's new found compassion for Kashmiris needs to be viewed. It appears to be less inspired by sympathy and more by the crisis of inconsistency and dichotomy that prevails at the highest echelons of power. 

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

WINTER SCHOOLING A JOKE

LIVES OF THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS CANNOT BE PUT TO RISK IN THE ABSENCE OF PROPER INFRA-STRUCTURE


Jammu and Kashmir government's decision to continue with school working during winters in Kashmir valley has turned out to be a cruel joke on the students as well as the teachers. The government and its ministers ruling the roost at the helm of affairs continue to believe that the winter schooling will help the students in covering the syllabus of studies of respective classes which could not be done during the summers when unrest disrupted the teaching activities. Over and above this reason, the classes have been ordered to be functional during the acute winter season for the students who have already appeared in the examinations and results are likely to be declared for some of the students while new admissions have already taken place after the annual results. How does the winter schooling help the students who have moved to the next higher classes after the examinations which were to be partially affected by incomplete courses during the students the previous summer season. Apart from this, there is a practical problem of absence of heating arrangements in most of the school buildings where students and teachers cannot sit and attend the class work because biting cold will only freeze them not to speak of reading and writing something. At the first instance, it is very difficult for the students to reach their schools during this season when the schools remain closed at this time every year. There is a possibility that some of the private schools having good infra-structure may help in heating arrangements for the comfort of their students and teachers but government run schools are the worst sufferers because they don't even have proper windows and doors to save the occupants from severe cold. It is impossible for both the students as well as the teachers to operate from these buildings. If the government is really serious about running the schools in winters on the pattern of other countries then infra-structure has to be put in place so that they can operate smoothly.

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

CORRUPTION MAKES NEO-LIBERALISM GO – I

BY BADRI RAINA

 

These are the days for corruption.


India never had so much lucre going around, so big a class of people with lolling tongues and copious pockets, and so little prohibition to illicit money-making on behalf of the neo-liberal State and its institutions.
Thus, why not? Especially when humongous acquisition and conspicuous consumption have come to be conflated with the promise of salvation not just here but in the hereafter.


But let me backtrack, and indulge some esoteric speculations on what corruption has variously been seen to comprise through the times. As I see it, all of the variants invite considerations with respect to the human subject and how he/she constructs collective human endeavours and defines his/her equation with supra-human stipulations. Or, how such constructions are handed down to him/her by authorised agents of social and spiritual power.
In the good old classical Catholic construction of these matters, it was to be understood that corruption was born of what Milton was to call "man's first disobedience," namely his defiance of god's injunction not to eat of "the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."


In a pre-Copernican world of ideas, then, the homo sapien was not sent to the earth to have a good time, but to constantly mull his sin, and in his exile from heaven to expiate and self-flagellate inorder that his repentance could be rewarded with a re-entrance to the Garden made blissful by god's forgiveness and reinstated love.
In that view of corruption, self-evidently, no one, but no one was free either of sin or corruption, including those who took upon themselves to do god's work in the church and to minister to sinners who came to them for guidance. Or those laggards whom they sought out and not infrequently punished severely for their own everlasting good.


Such a universe of ideas made it a matter of little importance as to who ruled over whom, or how, until of course times changed and such matters acquired enormous and embarrassing importance, often indeed to fatal consequences to individuals, institutions, and nations.


Within "mainstream" Hindu thought, of course, corruption, corruptibility, and nearness to or distance from the deities were and insidiously still remain related to hierarchies of birth across Varnas. Thus the Brahminical castes could never ever be corrupt, or indeed guilty of other forms of trespass. The political class of ruling Kshatriya kings, if anything, had an obligation to pursue Vaibhav (opulence), obligation which the Brahmins were duty-bound to help further through various Yagnyas (oblations etc.,) made to the chanting of hymns to the gods. It must be an interesting and unique feature of Hinduism that its pantheon includes a goddess of wealth, Laxmi, who is to this day worshipped for the bestowal of prosperity on the best known festival-day on the Indian sacral calendar, namely, Diwali, when homesteads are lighted to welcome the goddess into the favour of the worshipper.


The old Christian ways began to change with the advent of what we call the Exchange economy. Slowly but surely, the possibilities of Capital accumulation, of surplus productivity, and of the leap from what one should produce and consume to what one could produce and consume—all of that incrementally at higher and higher levels as rates of profit increased-- seemed to resurrect if not the human soul then the self-esteem of the species, as flesh began to feel not as despicable as the old church had taught. (A matter in which Hindu thought had remained miles ahead in time, until historical circumstances of diverse conquests came to breed squeamishness and denial.)


For groups of men at the helm of affairs, living was now too seductive to be dashed by the teachings of the decrepit old church. Time then to readjust doctrine to suit new aspirations and possibilities. Suddenly the light of a new truth dawned upon the thinking elites of Europe: it was neither the claim of a humble life-style nor of the nature of work done upon the earth in god's name that would justify the human subject to god on Judgement day. Rather, what would count would be the quality of ones' Faith—a category deliciously unquantifiable and unamenable to collective policing.

 

Much as man's sinful nature remained a constant of Christian teaching, a caveat was now introduced: it was discovered that human subjectivity could be neatly cognized in a duality: that whereas man's Will was fallen, his Wit, or some part of it, remained "erect." (Some metaphor there.)


It can then be seen that corruption now began to acquire a moral meaning. It was entirely upto individuals to examine their own ethical lives. Ergo, some may be corrupt, others not, An argument that thus refuted the twin notions that either all mankind was corrupt ontologically, or that corruption ensued necessarily from new and evolved systems of money-making.


Indeed, a Christian theologian based in Geneva was to extend the argument as he struck the last fatal blow even to the possibility or desirability of ethical behaviour. He taught that nothing we did or believed in here on earth mattered a fig to god, since he in his infinite wisdom had predetermined what numbers of us were to be saved at the final account. Such ones were the god's "elect" (the earliest and perhaps most telling definition of the concept of election, except that democracies only elect the lucky ones to ephemeral glory for short periods of time here on earth, whereas god's election was to be forever.)


So, in that scheme of things, how might you know whether god did or did not have kind thoughts towards you? But of course by the quality of life he granted you in the here-and-now. If you proved to be a "loser" here, it was most likely that you were meant to be out of god's favour; but if you proved to be a "winner," acquiring property, wealth, and the powers that came with all of that, why he obviously meant well by you. Thus no more sure indicator of salvation than wealth. And each episode of well-being then began to be followed by an episode of thanksgiving and prayer (just read Daniel Defoe's The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, and you might find that when his goat gives milk, or when he grows the first grains of wheat, he quickly falls to pray—a paradigm of behaviour which suffused the early strivings of those that came to colonise America, much as Crusoe came to colonise the island upon which he was ship-wrecked., including the black man, Friday. By that reckoning, incidentally, the beggars of the world entirely have a good argument against praying, since they have no thanks to give for anything.)


This American paradigm of the inseparability of acquisition and consumption from prayer has, as I have written in columns before now, come visibly to inform the political and spiritual economy of India's post neo-liberal upwardly-mobile classes, a fact that illuminates the marriage of extreme lucre-lust and flaunted religiosity among the Hindutva-espousing Hindus across metropolitan India, extending rapidly even to the hinterlands. (Within the Muslim world decreed by the Koran, inequalities of endowment are entirely willed by God; corruption enters into the question only if those that have fail in the duty that is ordained on them to part with a certain percentage of their wealth to the needy by way of Zakat.)


—(To be concluded)—(Z NET)

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

ARE YOU A WORRIED CHICKEN?

 

Quite a few years ago, as a little child, I read the story of a little worried chicken, running along the road, and after a while met by another chicken, "Why do you look so worried?" asked the second one.
"I am scared the sky will fall on my head!" said the first chicken, looking fearfully at the sky above. The other hen also looked up at the sky, and suddenly the otherwise friendly sky above, did look ominous and scary.
The story goes that the whole chicken coop joined the two and soon every chicken was filled with worry as they looked at the sky above.


Funny story isn't it? But most of us worry likewise: We look at something that seems a little fearful, and begin to unnecessarily look at it with apprehension. Just imagine that same chicken landing up later in hospital, and the doctor looks at it sadly, "You've had a cardiac arrest!"


"Cardiac arrest?" asks its friend, "Why?"


"Worrying that the sky will fall on her head!" says the doctor as another chicken is wheeled in with the same problem.


Worry kills. And we need to work out ways to handle worry before we land up in hospital. What should we do with this killer?


Replace it. Telling somebody not to worry doesn't work. Worry is like an emotional spasm; the only way to break it is to replace it. '...Whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things' In other words, switch the channel! 


Dissect it. '...Fear involves torment...' Worry torments you; your imagination runs amok, conjuring up all kinds of scary scenarios. But it's also illogical; when you take it apart rationally and systemically, it loses its power to control you. 


Rise above it. A well-known person was flying over the Mississippi River one day when the sky grew dark. 'We can't see where we're going!' he exclaimed. Calmly the pilot replied, 'We just need to rise above the ground heat, dust and smoke.' After climbing another 300 metres they emerged into a clear, beautiful world. Corrie Ten Boom called faith 'the radar that pierces through the fog.' When worry tries to fog you in, you can rise above it by placing your trust in the Lord. '...Those who trust in the Lord...will soar...like eagles...' 


Ah! An eagle! That's what you need to be, an eagle soaring into the sky, not a chicken looking up at the same sky and dying with worry..!

 

bobsbanter@gmail.com

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EXERCISE CAUTION

 

All talk that China would do away with stapled visas for the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and desist from interfering in Leh district as well as the Pakistan-occupied part of our State has proved empty. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has come and gone. Ostensibly he has done nothing to address New Delhi's concerns on these issues. If the political grapevine is to be believed there have been intense behind-the-scene deliberations. India has firmly responded by not referring to "One China." It has taken care to ignore whether or not it believes at this juncture that the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is part of China. In any event there is no reason at all why it should clip the wings of Dalai Lama who while espousing his own cause has emerged as a globally revered ambassador of India's spiritual heritage. It is more than just being a tit-for-tit approach. It underlines India's commitment to certain fundamental values. It will not bear any assault on its territorial sovereignty. It can't be made to compromise with its basic commitment to democracy either. It has proved this point again by making itself present at the ceremony to award Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese leader Liu Xiaobo. Of course, looked from another angle, it happily shows our country's increasing assertiveness on the world scene. It is China which has to look for cover given its expansionist tendency and ruthless suppression of individual liberties. In today's world it is indeed strange that China should evoke awe. Its chinks are showing as its fabled iron curtain is falling apart. It is struggling to strike a balance between a failing ideology (in fact, Communism has already collapsed in the Soviet Union) and rising aspirations of its inhabitants (another Tiananmen Square may well prove a last nail in its coffin).

 

We have always believed that India has to thank China for making it wiser about the games played on the world chessboard. It has got a shocker in 1962 that it has not forgotten and should never forget. Since then it has made headway on all fronts. Presently it speaks on the global platform from a position of considerable strength. This is an extraordinary achievement for a country of millions that has to simultaneously tackle the threats posed by poverty, hunger and illiteracy while retaining itself as the world's largest democracy. Our political leaders, regardless of their ideologies, have repeatedly made it clear that they are for a strong nation based on certain sound principles.

 

That is why our priority always is to first search for peace. To that extent we stand committed, as has been said in the joint communiqué with China, "to resolving outstanding differences including the boundary question at an early date through peaceful negotiation." This is in order to "seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution from the political and strategic perspective." Till that is achieved "the two sides shall work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas in line with the previous agreements." Together we can progress if there is quiet periphery. That China is a party to the written accord is to be welcomed. It can't be forgotten, however, is that there has all along been a difference between its words and deeds --- a good reason for us to keep our eyes and ears open.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

MASSIVE LITTLE LEGEND

 

In his case the statistics now hardly seem to matter. Actually, the admirers of cricket have already recognised him as a superhuman. His 50th Test century against South Africa at Centurion in South Africa is the stuff of the epics. No batsman before him has achieved this landmark. It is already being conceded that no batsman will ever do so in future. To keep playing international cricket for more than two decades is in itself phenomenal. To keep doing so without an apparent loss of stamina is incredible. He is the brilliance personified. He is the perfection personified. It is futile to go into the long list of records he has set. The argument that he is better than Don Bradman is meaningless. The figures are quoted in support of the latter's averages and fast track record to underline that the Australian legend is the all-time great. Who will talk about it these days except the cynics in the name of being dispassionate observers? The 50th Test hundred is mind-boggling. All of us have our eyes wide open and are pinching ourselves hard to believe that it is indeed true. He has not only delighted connoisseurs of the game. He has made all Indians feel inches taller. What is equally significant is that all along he has shown himself to be a true gentleman, a reverent son and a great patriot. He is credited with enriching the nuances of batting. At the same time he has proved by example that it is possible to play the game in the spirit of the game without losing tempers. He has dedicated his latest achievement to his late father. Who can ever forget his stirring remark that Mumbai is for all Indians? He had asserted this at the height of the panic created by those who emphasised that the country's commercial capital was only meant for "Marathi manoos" (Mumbai for Marathis). His terse observation had sent the so-called Marathi zealots running for cover; they in fact openly declared that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar (both Marathis) and Amitabh Bachchan, who although not a Marathi has made his career in Mumbai, were to be treated respectfully and not to be targeted or dragged into controversies.

 

Sachin Tendulkar, much like Lata Mangeshkar, transcends all judgements. His Arjuna-like focus in cricket and all-round excellence has endeared him to one and all. He is an accomplished genius who has behaved as if to prove that a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to preserve and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. There are quite a few thinkers who have concluded that "a hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer." Sachin Tendulkar has translated it into a reality on more than one occasion for his team India including at Centurion. On the whole, as we know, he has stayed put at the crease even as generations of cricketers have come and gone. Such dedication and perseverance are part of cricket lore. To overwhelm him one will have to be like him and still better. That means a lot in every sense. Will anyone be able to perform that miracle? Will it happen ever?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN'S ECONOMY ON THE BRINK

BY M K DHAR

 

The disastrous performance of Pakistan's economy, huge defence spending, runaway inflation and unbridled corruption have brought the country on the verge of bankruptcy. There is little doubt, however, that the United States will, as in the past, continue to under-write its economy with hefty grants and military assistance packages (the bulk of which is diverted to buy arms to threaten India) but the foundations of political stability have been weakened in the process. The situation, in part, is also due to the lack of accountability of the same state institutions and civil-military bureaucracy that determine its politico-economic structure.


The biggest drain on the country's budget are the Armed Forces that take away 40 per cent of the entire revenue. Transparency International estimates that corruption costs the country Rs. one lack crore a year. If this were to be reduced by half and channeled into infrastructure, health, education and housing for the poor, the living standard of its people would undergo a change for the better and the persisting threat to democratic institutions from fundamentalists and economically-deprived sections of the population would come down. Presently, over 40 per cent of Pakistan's population lives below the poverty line, compared to 30 per cent four years ago.


Last year's disastrous floods have further depressed the economy due to fall in agricultural production, as also tax and other revenues, but the fundamentals of the economy remain weak. Instability has become a permanent feature of the political landscape due to the failure of the political class and machinations on the Army, which dominates all aspects of life. The latest shock has come from the International Monetary Fund which has postponed the release of the latest trench of the $ 11.7 billion bailout package unless Pakistan undertakes tax reform by widening the net and roping in rich people. The country is running an unusually large fiscal deficit of close to 9 per cent of the GDP and inflation is a high 25 per cent. Even the United States has publicly asked Islamabad to tax the rich when it proffers the begging bowl in Washington at the expense of the US taxpayers during difficult times.


Less than 1.6 million people pay taxes in a population of 180 million and the number of registered sales tax payers is only 1.5 lakh. The feudal class, which runs Pakistan's politics and owns millions of acres of fertile land, does not pay any taxes. Since this class dominates the two houses of parliament, the Government is in no position to impose additional taxes to raise resources. The modest suggestion of a 15 per cent Revised General Sales Tax to bridge the budgetary deficit to some extent also has been turned down by parliamentarians and the Gilani government does not have the majority to push through tax reform on its own. If it risks a vote without seeking a consensus among the ruling coalition. It is sure to be booted out of office, plugging the country, once again, into another major political crisis.


As it is, political uncertainty, chronic instability and budget deficits constitute a continuing threat to the country's recovery. The situation is such that Pakistan is seen unattractive for many investors. Foreign Direct Investment has almost halved over the past year, standing at $ 1.7 billion. Proposal for a value added tax also has been rejected. There is not economic cushion for the Government in the event of a serious economic shock, constantly forcing it to look externally for assistance. That limits the resources available for social services and infrastructure -- the crying needs. With little spending on education, madarasaas which provide free religious education to children proliferate and turn out more and more fundamentalists and terrorists who are now taking on the Pakistan State because they have neither education, nor jobs.


For a long time the IMF has been urging Pakistan to drastically reduce its defence spending, which could be brought down by as much as Rs. 25,000 crore a year. That requires a public assessment of the elements of national security, including the requirements of a strong economy and building the blocks of peace in the neighborhood. Pakistan's India-centric paradigm is based on an internally weak economy. As Pakistani editor Najam Sethi argues, considering the country's security needs, it does not require such a large Army and an air force, nor is there any justification for increase in the arsenal of atomic weapons, which it is reported building at top speed.


The Pakistan Army has been getting away with exaggerating the threat from India -- indeed, escalating tension from time to time to frighten the people -- in order to get the maximum allocation from the federal budget at the cost of development and poverty removal. The threat form India bogey stood exposed by the fact that "it is Pakistan which has provoked all the wars with India since partition. Therefore, that it is not India's intension but its military capability which matters, is a recipe for a crippling arms race with India, which is breaking our back. But, we don't do this because it is not Pakistan's national security that is at stake but the Empire of Military Inc. that is threatened, especially the Army's political lordship over the civilians". 


Excessive reliance on the Army has enfeebled democratic institutions in Pakistan and not allowed them to take deep root and grow. Moreover, the Pakistani forces do not sustain themselves on the Federal budget allocations. The military hardware from the United States comes at knocked down next-to-nothing prices. China has emerged as a major supplier too. It gave Pakistan the nuclear bomb, together with enrichment equipment and components and materials. It has supplied tanks, fighter jets, artillery, missiles etc to Pakistan at "friendship" (means gift) prices, just to contain India. In fact, Pakistan's actual defence acquisitions are several times the figure shown in the budget.


As regards worries among the people over Pakistan's descent into chaos, a recent Foreign Policy magazine survey ranks the country as the 10th most failed state among 177 countries in the world, worse than Nepal and Myanmar. If the people are unhappy with the state of affairs, they are unable to express themselves because the political class too is corrupt and the Army is milking the country dry to sustain itself. Even the Wikileak cables have confirmed, the Pakistan Army has become the main source of instability in the country by promoting fundamentalism and terrorism.


It should be obvious that, by providing more resources for development, a suitable tax and general economic reforms agenda will help provide a social net for the poor in Pakistan and ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth in order to protect the political system from outbreaks of anarchy. The military must appreciate the cost the nation is paying for patronising fundamentalist parties and using them to recruit terrorists for action in India and Afghanistan. Pakistan will never be able to stabilise itself economically and politically unless the well-to-do sections are made to realise their social responsibility to contribute more, the Military-jihadi nexus in broken and the destabilisers thrown out of business. (NPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ALERT CALL FOR WOMEN-FOLK

BY PROF. JAVED MUGHAL

 

The time has come for women to understand themselves and categorically underline the areas where they are subjected to commercial intrigues and pin-point the components of the system that have always exploited them for their ulterior motives. They will have to stand up against the nefarious designs of certain rapscallions and get their identity and dignity tangibly and perceptibly accepted by the society. If in modern age of awareness and enlightenment the women or the girls receive step-motherly treatment despite the countless laws being in their favour, they themselves are responsible for it. They do not have right to blame anyone at all. 
Today our girls are not so backward as to be unable to feel distinction between social exploitation and the empowerment. They should not allow themselves to be limited to being only a good package of entertainment. The first and foremost step to be taken by the educated lot of female society is to be literally aware and make their fellow ladies (who are the worst stake-holders) well acquainted with the reality simmering underneath. There are thousand and one uneven happenstances that an ordinary woman comes across every day-in her domestic clime or out in the society and the tragedy is that all of us know but cannot speak out either because of our inability or ulterior motives or for many other reasons known to those who suffer but remain tongue-tied. A woman whether in factories, in administrative department, in politics or toiling on the roadside is facing exploitative ravages of this male dominated society. To my extreme surprise, even now in the awakened society when a woman has also been on the equally higher pedestal of the modern system, she does care much for down-trodden segment of the female society. What does it mean to fight for the reservation in Lok Sabha, State Assembly, Municipal Corporation or in the field of employment? Have they ever thought of those who are deplorably struggling for their survival and are being put to various inhuman tortures? Has the Govt. chalked out some fool-proof via-media to reach to them and redress their heart-rending grievances? Govt. conducts survey to trace out the exact number of the molestation case, rape-cases, suicides, dowry-deaths, suicidal attempts, and many other incidents of cruelties and coercion on women and succeeds to a great extent in providing an almost exact number to the reading public. Yes, the Govt. has done a marvelous job to come to know that in 1999 about 7812 women were murdered; out of 23864 abduction cases reported, the women victims were more than 67 percent with 54 percent under 18; and there has occurred a considerable rise in sexual harassment after 2000. After every 43 minutes one kidnapping of a woman occurs; sexual harassment takes place as soon as 42 minutes are over; one female is burnt to death in every 93 minutes and one rape case is detected in 34 minutes. This picture is in the notice of the Govt. and the society but a larger number of the cases of the same nature are supposed to be in dark from the eyes of the responsibles. One gets shocked to know that in relation to the rape case, 84 percent offenders stand spotted out and reported to the police and some of them are challanned in the court but most of them are acquitted because of no solid witness that the poor lady-victim can't produce. The Govt. and the police want that to provide witness a lady should create a scene of her plight. 


But the question is why to take all this trouble when nothing is done to stop it because it is normally impossible especially in an unmanageably corrupt country where ten people sleep in night and fifteen get up in the morning from the same place. A major chunk of illegitimate generation is breathing on this soil of divinity. Most of the self-respected women die of the men's tortures but don't speak for they know that they are going to get nothing out it at all. But how long? Their silence is paving a way for the same state of affairs for countless others who can do nothing. Today's woman will have to open her eyes to the reality and take it for granted that no Divine Messiah is to come to her rescue to exculpate her from the shackles of multi-faceted degradation on the pretext of so-called advancement and get up to flex her muscles to counter the veiled forces operating against them. Laws have been enacted but how fast they have practically been implemented is clear to everyone and to our women-folk also. Countless cries die in the abyss of negligence of the system and floods of innocent tears flow down along the helpless faces of many quite unnoticed or deliberately neglected daughters of this soil. The woman folk holding prize-positions must not be contented with their lot and think of those who need their support at every tick of clock. The modern day portrayal of women on the screen, in advertising and in sundry other forms has played an important, though inglorious, role in the diminishing of respect for women as individuals and the mystique attached to them. The overt sexual nuances in most forms of the mass media, in so-called fashion parades and even in women's magazines play a significant role not only in the creation of inappropriate stereotypes of women in the male mind, but also the creation of wholly perverse role models for the pliant minds of teenage girls. Even the western style of providing illicit and immoral websites of women to cash their honour for endless money selling like hot cake on the soil of India has been welcomed by our society forgetting that our own daughters of India can flash on the same websites if not hampered well in time. The conversion of the heroine into the vamp and the woman who uses her sexuality for scandalizing the audience is a case in point. 


In recent years, in India, there has been a spate of movies in which female sexuality has been perversely portrayed. Even now most of the heroines of our ill-fated film industry are displayed against the walls, at the cross-roads and on the railway platforms as attractive sex symbols. Such attempts clubbed with the tacit acceptance by the male-stratum lured many actresses to indulge in exposing and catering to the perverse tastes of the male audience which shows the women-folk as characters of psychopathic judgment who could not perceive the evil intentions of the male-dominated society. The ladies are even preferred to males as receptionists at the shopping malls, in private sector-offices for simple reason that have sex appeal and seducing beauty just to attract the customers and to make the matter worse all this is accepted by the girls of our society for a negligible amount of money. Their honor and chastity is commercialized on the rock-bottom price which is extremely disheartening. 


The concept of using the female model by exploiting her sexuality, for all its worth, has gained tremendous support. The model dressed in clinging apparels, intimately accoutered beckons the consumer to achieve at once two desirable aims one, buy the product, and two, acquire at the same time a proximity to the female form. Advertisements ranging from those for bathing soap, skin creams and even automobiles and horse racing have exploited the sexuality of women models to promote their products. If this is empowerment and advancement of our women-folk, it is better for them to remain under-powered and under-developed.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

KASHMIR DISPUTE DESTROYING THE PARADISE

BY COL J P SINGH, RETD

 

Many documents released by Wikileaks have yielded very disturbing information about Kashmir's vulnerabilities particularly because of internal and external imbroglio. Anne Paltersn, erstwhile US Ambassador's reports about Pakistan Army's and ISI's support to the four militant groups viz LeT, Afghan Taliban, Hekmatyar Group and Haqqani Taliban net work confirms the apprehension. The cables sent by the Ambassador stated that Pakistan will never abandon LeT and other groups irrespective of American pressure. US Ambassador reports also suggest that Pakistan is never going to give up on Kashmir and will continue to use these terrorist net works for creating insurrection and unrest in the valley. Another disturbing revelation is that after 26 / 11 Pakistan feared Indian retaliatory attack (Operation Cold Start) in which case Pakistan got into an act of getting prepared to exercise nuclear option should such need arise due to military and strategic set back. 
It is well known that LeT has a dedicated hard core cadre of over 50,000 militants who are well trained and fully armed. Majority of them are present in Pakistani Punjab. Most disturbing is that majority of these terrorist are Pak Army and ISI ex commandos as is evident from revelation from Pak website owning martyrdom of Nk Zulfiqar Ahmed of ISI in India as suicide bomber. We also know that LeT is operating in Kashmir valley and is being funded generously by Pakistan and many Islamic countries. Despite America declaring it as banned terrorist organization it is very much active and operating its financial assets under disguised names. It is LeT which is overtly operating in the valley and has active net work in other parts of India. 


What is more clear from Wikileaks and other intelligence inputs is that Kashmir is a key issue for Pakistan on which its survival and stability depends. Pakistan can even go to the extent of exercising nuclear option against India and the cords of such calamity are connected to the Kashmir dispute. Hence Pakistan will do everything possible to force another partition of India while shining India is denigrating into sordid farce glorifying graft and incompetence. Over the last six months one has seen agitations in the valley with growing dismay and disgust. It appears that stage is almost already set for weakening India and consequently weakening its hold on Kashmir. Pakistan being in a state of political instability with Army and ISI ruling the roost, India remains threatened all the times. Pakistan army can undertake another misadventure against India any time for enforcing resolution of Kashmir issue militarily and to garner Western support, funding and weapons. It was Musharraf as Army Chief who clandestinely captured Kargil without the knowledge of the civilian govt of Nawaz Sharief thereby internationalizing Kashmir issue to a much higher pitch. Kashmir tangle has never been easy for India to handle bilaterally as well as internationally all these years. We all know the stakes involved in resolving the complex Kashmir issue. Gen Kayani is the most important and most powerful person in Pakistan today who sees Kashmir with tainted glasses and believes in the mushrooming of terrorists in Pakistan as strategic asset. Hence a conclusion can safely be drawn that Pakistan will never abandon its support to the terror groups like LeT and will never give up Kashmir. Two and two put together lead to another inference that Pakistan will continue using terrorist groups to foment unrest and insurrection in the valley. Hence Kashmir, a lone paradise on the earth, is a confirmed Indo-Pak battle field for ever as seen during the past decades. Kashmir issue is a symptom of a much serious malaise. India and Pakistan are going to be perpetually on war over Kashmir. The consequences of this stand off is certain destruction of the Paradise.


Kashmir has been getting unprecedented and undue attention from India and abroad because Kashmir is being perceived as entire erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir by Delhi and foreign countries when in reality it is just about 1/4th of J&K with almost half the population in a small geographical area. Just because it happens to be majority Muslim area and contiguous to Pakistan, the Muslim leadership of the valley has exploited the religious sentiments by creating doubts in the minds of people about accession and Indian secularism thereby arousing dreams of independence or merger with Pakistan. Plethora of accords, agreements, initiatives, appeasement and packages to Kashmir valley have not changed the situation any better and nor four wars and many accords with Pakistan have made it any different. So far as Pakistan is concerned, it is not satisfied with 1/3rd of J&K in its occupation, but carries Kashmir baggage as unfinished agenda of the partition. It is true that majority population in the valley is Muslim but the reverse is the case in Jammu and Ladakh. Since Delhi has been focusing on the valley only, the diverse leadership of the valley has communalized and vitiated the issue and done their best to make it volcanic out of nothing by projecting Pakistan as the dreamland of Muslims. Wishing dreams coming true, more often than not, a small intrigue is turned into an explosive bomb. One sees one action being aggravated by a similar another action. Admittedly violence in the valley erupts to promote the concept of Azadi. Given the pristine beauty of the valley and intelligence of the people, Kashmir should have been the Silicon Valley of East and not the grave yard of India. 


Separatist leaders are correct so far as they say that Kashmir is a disputed territory but miss many points. No doubt that Kashmir is a majority Muslim area but that does not mean that it has any right to decide the future of non Muslims of the state as well as of Ladakh and Jammu. While the valley has been invariably under turmoil, Jammu and Ladakh have been peaceful. Kashmir is a dispute because of forced division of J&K by Pakistan. Kashmir no doubt is a political issue and will remain a dispute between India and Pakistan but why should it effect the valley and turn it into a hell and make the life of ordinary people miserable. With interesting regularities, Kashmir dispute erupts volcanically as it flared up in June this year and continued for over 100 days. More interestingly it happens when we see things getting better and better and that is the vulnerability of Kashmir and disturbing game plan of Pakistan. 


Kashmir is the paradise where wisest people live. Why cant they see Kashmir being sucked into Afghanistan like disaster which will destroy the beautiful valley. Can't they see the youth in Afghanistan being turned to Taliban and pushed into the war and annihilation. Do they want their children to be like them or be partners in the new era of economic prosperity. Kashmir with its scenic beauty and climatic conditions can become Switzerland of Asia. It can become Silicon valley but that is possible only when Kashmiri leaders decide whether they want to give computers or AK 47 in the hands of their children. It is they who have signed the obituary of the Paradise. Do they want Paradise to prosper or perish is the question which they have to answer.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

LOSS OF LIFE IN ACCIDENTS

BY SANJAY KUMAR

 

In this post-modern and globalised world if there is something having immeasurable value then it is the 'human resources'. Almost every state is desirous to develop its human resources and infact there are distinct ministries for the purpose (like HRD). But, ironically, it is happening the other way round; the clock is running in the reverse direction. Whether you take the example of big nuclear disasters like Bhopal gas tragedy or any other accident people are being killed like anything.


In the present context I am particularly concerned about the unwanted accident that occurred on the Udhampur-Ramnagar-Ghordi road near channi morh, two days back, in which more than five persons were killed and many others were injured. Many families left without food because there is no body to earn; the only earner got killed in the accident. What were the reasons of this mishap are as usually unknown.


Moreover, this is not the first time when this sort of accident occurred on this road. Even few days back one accident took place on the same road near Ghaghote. Similarly, many terrible accidents had happened on this route; one such occurred in Barmeen, a station on Udhampur-Ghordi road which connects Ramnagar and Udhampur via Ghordi, where 35 persons were killed.


Apart from everything the most significant question is why the accidents like this occur frequently. It seems as if it is some routine of the concerned authorities. On behalf of the people of this region one must ask the question that what is the reason of this sort of attitude of government in general and the concerned departments in particular? It seems apparent that they are in complete failure to avoid this sort of accident.
So far as general observation is concerned it is nothing more than the unconcerned attitude of the authorities; they are more into their own business rather than taking care of people of their region. First and foremost is the issue of vehicles which have been running in this area including Ghordi-Ramnagar-udhampur. They all are not in travelling condition. They are in a condition that each part of their body moves except engine. They are in such a condition that they consume more petrol and travel less. Due to this reason the travel agents over-load the passengers which lead to the accidents. 


Secondly, drivers are not trained enough to drive on busy roads, but have been issued licences to hill and cause accidents. 


Interestingly, in the modern world we talk about saving our wildlife (like Tigers) at a time when we are at complete failure to save the human life. I think one should stop playing the drama of saving the tigers if we fail to save humans. If this is the situation, how come we debate in the development of human resources?
I appeal to the concerned authorities to take necessary action in this direction because it is an issue pertaining to the common people They authorities can derive their meaning only when people or masses are there and they are valueless without the support of the people. Also, I would like to appeal to the masses of the concerned area to wake the authorities up and make them realize their duties and social responsibilities.


(The author teaches at Degree College Poonch)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PM'S OFFER TO FACE PAC

IT IS TIME OPPOSITION RELENTED

 

BY offering to appear before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to answer questions in connection with the 2G spectrum scam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has indeed taken the wind out of the Opposition's sails. With one clever masterstroke, he has snatched the initiative from the BJP, the Left and other forces that had disrupted an entire session of Parliament seeking the appointment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe corruption scandals under the present dispensation. Acutely aware that the impression was being spread that the Congress refusal to appoint a JPC had to do with the possibility that it would summon the Prime Minister so as to embarrass him with inconvenient questions, Dr Singh thought it fit to dispel such an impression while addressing the plenary of the party in New Delhi. His apt assertion that like Caeser's wife, he must be above suspicion restored some of the sheen that has characterised Dr Singh's governance.

 

Whatever BJP spokespersons may now say, the cold reality is that the Opposition's failure to return to Parliament in its budget session in February next would be seen by people at large as an act of gross irresponsibility unworthy of a constructive opposition. Considering that the PAC is currently headed by the BJP's senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi, there is little credibility in that party's position that the PAC cannot effectively get to the root of the 2G scandal. To quibble now, as BJP leader Arun Jaitley has done, that the Prime Minister cannot choose the forum where he will present himself, is not only to show woeful lack of grace but also a manifestation of destructive politics. The BJP is perfectly within its right to organise a nationwide campaign against corruption under the UPA regime as it is proposing to do, but it must accept the Prime Minister's offer and return to do business in Parliament in its budget session.

 

The government on its part must do everything possible to ensure that corruption scandals like 2G, the irregularities in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh Housing Society scam are investigated and action taken without shielding anybody. The CBI must be allowed to do its work without impediments and as much of the scams money as possible must be restored to the exchequer. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TEARS OVER ONIONS

IT IS MISMANAGEMENT, AGAIN

 

IT is surprising that despite price rise being such a politically volatile issue the UPA government has not learnt any lessons. What is worse, it keeps repeating its mistakes. Earlier, Sharad Pawar, who holds the dual charge of Agriculture and Civil Supplies, had shown unusual incompetence in controlling the prices of essential commodities in general and that of wheat and rice in particular even when the country's godowns overflowed with cereals and the Supreme Court rapped the government for letting food grains rot in the open. Now the same minister has been caught napping once again as onion prices have hit the roof.

 

How does one explain the self-created shortage except blaming it on the monumental mismanagement by the Pawar ministry? Only a few months ago the country was exporting truckloads of vegetables, including onions, to Pakistan as floods had washed away the crop in that country. How could the government allow the export of essential commodities without maintaining a reasonable buffer stock to meet domestic needs? Now when the prices have zoomed to Rs 70 to 80 a kg, the ministry has woken up and slapped a ban on onion exports.

 

Private traders seem to be more alert about the ground reality than the government. They have started importing the scarce commodity from Pakistan through the land route undeterred by the 7 per cent import duty. The situation may ease a bit with imports but only the next crop, due in February, will really make a difference. The unexpected rain in Maharashtra and Gujarat has largely contributed to the onion shortage. The government's delayed response has worsened it. The UPA needs to shift the busy minister's attention from cricket and corporate problems to ordinary issues like the soaring prices of onions. Remember last time when the onion prices had shot up beyond control, the tears shed by poor and middle-class housewives had brought down the BJP government.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

HC DIRECTIVE TIMELY

EXPEDITE ACTION ON BISHNOI'S PETITION

 

ON the face of it, the Punjab and Haryana High Court's directive to Haryana Assembly Speaker H.S. Chatha to decide on the disqualification of five Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) MLAs in four months is justified. The directive cannot be faulted on technical and legal grounds. Under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with the anti-defection law, the Supreme Court and the High Courts can adjudicate the Speaker's decision as also give him directions on the petitions seeking disqualification of MLAs and MPs. Significantly, in his order on Monday, Justice Ajay Tewari has ruled that the judiciary can intervene even during the trial of HJC leader Kuldeep Bishnoi's petition seeking disqualification of the five legislators from his party — Sat Pal Sangwan, Vinod Bhayana, Narender Singh, Zile Ram Sharma and Dharam Singh. He said that without the help of the five MLAs, the present government could not have been formed. Consequently, according to Justice Tewari, adjudication of Mr Bishnoi's petition under Article 191 of the Constitution could not be limited only to law but must encompass the essential concept of democracy.

 

Clearly, the Speaker should not have adjourned the hearings and extended time to the MLAs to file their replies to the petition filed by Mr Bishnoi as far back as December 9, 2009. His prayer to speed up hearings on April 21, too, went unheeded. The HJC leader has claimed that the Speaker's action was "a perversion of the judicial role" conferred on him. The root cause of the problem, as witnessed in many states, is the Speaker's partisan role in adjudicating the disqualification petitions. He invariably takes decisions in favour of the ruling party. Interestingly, either he delays decision on the petitions inordinately (as Mr Kesrinath Tripathy did in Uttar Pradesh) or promptly disposes of the petitions (like K.G. Bopaiah in Karnataka).

 

While the Karnataka High Court has upheld Mr Bopaiah's decision in disqualifying 11 BJP MLAs, it is yet to pronounce verdict on the disqualification of five Independents. The disqualified legislators have appealed against the ruling in the Supreme Court. It is a moot point whether Mr Chatha will challenge the High Court order in the Supreme Court, buy some more time and delay the hearings further. He would do well to follow the court directive in the right spirit and expedite adjudication on the disqualification petitions.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

MALFEASANCE IN THE MILITARY

IT CAN BE RELIED UPON TO APPLY THE CORRECTIVES 

BY LT-GEN HARWANT SINGH (RETD)

 

FOR some time the military has been much in the news for almost all the wrong reasons. With the increasing number of scandals and scams being reported by the media, one cannot help but suffer the sinking feeling that the Indian military, too, along with almost every other constituent of the government is on the downward slide. Some may argue that the military can be no other than a mirror image of society from which it draws its manpower. Even so the ethos, the sense of honour and discipline in the military make it apart from society at large and as such can be relied upon to apply the correctives and stay on course.

 

It may be instructive to put in the right perspective some of the scams which have in the recent past drawn attention of the media and seem to tarnish the military's fair image. Take the case of Sukna scandal. It relates to the issue of the No-Objection Certificate ( NOC ) to a private party for building a school on a piece of land outside the cantonment (not Army land). This NOC contravened a law that no civil construction can be allowed within 1000 yards of the cantonment boundary, but there has to be a notification to that end by the civil authority. In this case,there was no notification. Even so, the NOC issue was taken as an improper act and disciplinary action initiated against the officers concerned, including three general-rank officers.

 

In the Tehelka episode, one senior officer was put behind the bars and the career of another general came to an end for merely accepting dinner from a Tehelka team. Some others suffered various degrees of punishment. As against this, those from the Ministry of Defence and involved in the case are yet to be punished. The additional secretary who accepted a gold chain from the Tehelka team was soon promoted. One defence secretary charge-sheeted in the Bofors case, instead of facing proceedings against him, was given the assignment of a Lt-Governor, placing him outside the reach of the long arm of the law. Another defence secretary was indicted by the Delhi High Court for altering the annual confidential report (an official document) of an air force officer. He was merely shifted to another ministry. Then there was the case of a defence secretary who on his own went ahead and entered into a dubious deal for the purchase of one lakh rifles for the Army for which no ammunition was available in the world market. Nothing happened against him. It would be interesting to note that none of these cases were brought to light by any internal mechanism of the Ministry of Defence. This was done by outside agencies.

 

In the case of some other scandals and fake encounters by Army men, which have been in public domain, action was taken and those involved were arrested, including a few senior-level officers, while some others were given a range of punishments. A number of cases reported later have not seen timely disposal, as the officers concerned have been seeking relief from civil courts, resulting in delays. They may be able to buy time, but in no way will they escape the wrath of the military law.

 

In the high-voltage case relating to the Adarsh Housing Society flats in Mumbai, the malfeasance is far more serious than the Sukna scam. In this particular case, the land (named Khukhri Park) was given to the Army by the civil administration a few decades earlier in exchange for some land of the Army elsewhere, taken by the civil administration to make a bypass, etc. Since this land was given to the Army, in the first place it should have come on the land records of the Defence Estates Department (a department of the MoD). This was obviously not done and the land remained on the records of the civil administration, though ipso facto the land belonged to the military and was in its possession. There is no provision under which this piece of land could be given to anybody, even to Kargil widows/heroes, without sanction from the Union Cabinet in Delhi. Putting the label of "Kargil war widows/heroes" on the Adarsh Housing Society appears to have been a later-day innovation.

 

It was the implied ambiguity in the ownership of the land which was exploited by RC Thakur, a functionary in the Defence Estates Office ( DEO ) at Mumbai. Though the military was the de-facto and de-jure owner of this land, slip-up, intentional or otherwise by the Defence Estates office, in not taking it on its records was of little consequence. While the military land records are maintained by the Defence Estate Office, it is the Army Commander who is the custodian of all kinds of military land within his command.

 

The sub-area commander of the military station at Colaba (who later came back as area commander after an NDC course), the subsequent area commanders and some others most shamefully collaborated in this nefarious scheme. They also roped in some of their greedy seniors. Not to be left out, those in the politico-bureaucratic set-up who were to give various clearances for the project picked up slices of the cake for themselves, friends and relatives. Eventually they formed the majority. Some others who could and were equally desperate for that piece of cake too joined in. Since this building was originally meant to have only six floors, its foundation would have been laid to cater to that requirement. Therefore, how could the building with the same foundation be raised to 30/31 floors? The mischief runs deeper.

 

From the large number of cases that have been brought to light, the impression seems to prevail that the military, too, has gone under. With officer-strength of over 35,000, even dozens of cases should not cause any alarm. The environment in the country is conducive to corruption, and an increasing number of Army men are not able to resist the temptation. It would be interesting to note that only the military organisations that come in contact or deal with the civilian contractors and wheeler-dealers of civil organisations are affected by the corroding influence of corruption. All the others in the military abide by high standards of integrity and honesty.

 

]Therefore, it would be seen that it is the military's own internal mechanism which invariably brought these cases to light and then proceedings were launched against the suspects. One can be certain that in the Adarsh Housing Society case, too, those whose actions are still governed by the military law (military law continues to operate in the case of an individual up to two years after retirement ) will face the military's music.

 

While the military can be relied upon to routinely deal with the rot that seems to be creeping into its system, more vigorous and determined efforts will have to be made by the top brass to dig out every suspected case of corruption and misconduct and promptly dealt with. The exaggerated notion of scale and scope of privileges which supposedly go with higher ranks needs to be curbed. The present Army Chief is known for high integrity, probity and moral values and will surely clean up the Augean stables.

 

The writer is a retired Deputy Chief of the Army Staff.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

WALKER BUREAUCRATS

BY P.R. CHARI

 

ONCE upon a time the middle-rung bureaucrats in X — one of our provincial capitals — were struck by a common malaise. Individually and severally, they were found to have high blood pressure. Not surprising. Late nights, gorging foods brimming with fat and drinking to excess will exact their toll. All leading to rotundity, politely described as being slightly overweight, or somewhat obese.

 

The surprise element was that the bureaucrats were diagnosed to be having the same condition at the same time. Discreet second opinions only confirmed the earlier diagnosis. So, what to do?

 

Medicos of all persuasions — allopathic, homoeopathic and Ayurvedic — were consulted, but were unanimous on the line of treatment. The bureaucrats must lose weight. A healthy diet was prescribed: the usual thin slice of bread, sugarless tea, salads, uninteresting fruits, plenty of water without alcohol and so on.

 

But this had to be coupled with exercise. Taking relevant factors into account like age and shape of the bureaucrats, walking was prescribed as the ideal exercise, starting gently and for 20 minutes, but increasing eventually to one hour of brisk walking. Plus the usual homilies — take the stairs and not the elevator, walk to work, and so on.

 

That is where our tale begins. The bureaucrats started walking in the early mornings before setting forth to the Secretariat. Great surprise was expressed on meeting each other in these unusual non-office circumstances. But, some careful, over-casual probing of one another's intentions revealed the disconcerting truth that they were individually and severally, afflicted with high blood pressure and needed to walk to shed the excess kilos.

 

So, they decided on a cooperative effort. They would walk together, discuss their files and career strategies and, of course, talk about who was being posted where and when and why. In time, walking became a relaxation, and not a deadly chore.

 

All was going well until nemesis struck. How? It happened one day when one of the bureaucrats made an innocuous suggestion at the end of the walking. "Guys," he said, "come in for a cup of tea." The lady of the house was most hospitable and, along with the tea, came the biscuits — two kinds. Gratefully appreciated, since there is nothing like morning walking to make one peckish.

 

Everyone departed that fatal morning with the resolve that they would take turns to host the walkers' cooperative union to tea after concluding their exercise. And, since the ladies were in touch with each other, an element of healthy competition crept into the snacks department. Neither were the bureaucrats remiss in expressing their preferences. Suggestions like "Bhabhiji, let's send out for jalebis", or "Bhabhiji, let's have pakodas today" were made, and complied with.

 

This is a sad tale. At the end of a few months, nobody lost weight; indeed, some gained weight. The medicos, being savvy persons, opined that the high blood pressure of the bureaucrats had now stabilised.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CONUNDRUM AT CANCUN

NOT MUCH IS KNOWN ABOUT THE INDIAN POSITION AND OTHER ISSUES AT THE JUST-CONCLUDED UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE AT CANCUN. IN A LETTER TO THE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT UNION MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS JAIRAM RAMESH HAS CLARIFIED CLIMATE CHANGE POLICIES AND NEGOTIATING POSITIONS. HERE ARE EXCERPTS: 

 

ALL parties agreed on a set of decisions, known as the "Cancun agreements", for further discussion on the two tracks of negotiations, namely the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol.

 

A shared vision for long-term cooperative action was a matter of intense debate with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Association of Small Island States countries pushing for much more ambitious targets. In the end, a goal of restricting temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, with a provision for review at a subsequent date was agreed upon.

 

Significantly, the agreed final text makes no mention of either quantitative targets for emission reduction by 2050 or global peaking year, thus protecting the interests of developing countries. Largely due to India's efforts, references to "equity" and "equitable access to sustainable development" were included in this section as the basis of working towards this goal.

 

A Cancun Adaptation Framework was agreed upon. It exhorts developing countries to prepare and implement national adaptation plans and at the same time calls upon developed countries to provide finance, technology and capacity building support for the same. It also decides to establish an Adaptation Committee to promote implementation of adaptation actions.

 

Under the Cancun agreements, the developed countries, including those that are parties to Kyoto Protocol or otherwise, will list their economy-wide emission reduction targets for the period from 2013 onwards and implement the targets according to the agreed rules.

 

For the first time, and on India's insistence, the agreed text calls for an "international assessment and review" of developed country emission reduction targets, which means that there will be a mandatory in-depth review of implementation of the commitments by developed countries, including assessments by experts and consultations with developing countries.

 

At the same time, the parties to Kyoto Protocol have agreed to continue to work towards finalising their targets for the second commitment period (post-2012 period) with the aim to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the Protocol.

 

Under the agreements, the developing countries will also list their nationally appropriate mitigation actions (not mitigation commitments or targets) in a document under the convention, and implement them with the financial, technological and capacity building support provided by developed countries for such actions.

 

The text also calls for "international consultation and analysis" of developing country actions in a manner that is non-intrusive, non-punitive, facilitative and respectful of national sovereignty. This will apply to nationally determined actions, implemented on a voluntary basis in pursuance of the domestic mitigation goal and reported through the official national communication of the country concerned. This was a key area where India played a crucial role in mediating an agreement that was acceptable to both developed and developing countries.

 

The agreement encourages developing countries to undertake actions on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of forest stocks, and sustainable management of forests (the latter being most relevant to India, where we are actually increasing our forest stock through sustainable forestry). It calls upon developing countries to prepare national strategies/plans for the same. The agreement also asks for full and effective participation of indigenous people and local communities in developing and implementing these strategies. An assessment of financial options to support these actions is also to be worked out.

 

The developed countries were urged to ensure that their climate actions avoid negative consequences on developing countries. On unilateral trade measures, it notes that measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. This seeks to address an important concern of India and other developing countries that climate change should not be used as an excuse to impose unilateral trade measures on developing countries.

 

]The developed countries will provide "fast start finance" of $ 30 billion in 2010-12 to developing countries and submit transparent information regarding the provision of these resources. The agreements also recognize the need for providing long-term finance by the developed countries and inscribe their commitment of raising $100 billion per year by 2020 for supporting adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries. Most importantly, the parties have decided on the establishment of a Green Climate Fund as the operating entity of the financial mechanism.

 

The agreement decides to establish a technology mechanism for supporting research, development, demonstration, deployment, diffusion and transfer of technology in the area of mitigation and adaptation. The mechanism will be governed by a Technology Executive Committee with 20 members — 9 from developed countries and 11 from developing countries — and its functions will be implemented by a Climate Technology Centre and Network. India was the key player in drafting the text on the technology mechanism.

 

India's contribution

 

]India made some specific contributions to the final agreed text in addition to its contribution to the process over the entire period of the conference. India ensured that for the first time the phrase "equitable access to sustainable development" found mention in the shared vision text (para 6). This is critical as climate change is largely a problem caused by historical emissions and late developers like India need this equitable access to address their development priorities and to eradicate poverty. The phrase "equitable access to sustainable development" is superior to the phrase "equitable access to carbon space" which connotes a fundamental "right to pollute" that is seen today as negative and insensitive to the global challenge of climate change.

 

India ensured that the mention of 2015 as a peaking year and the mention of a quantitative target of emissions reduction by 2050 did not find mention in the final text. This is important as such conditionalities could have imposed emission reduction commitments on developing countries like India too early and could compromise their development prospects.

 

India's detailed formulation on international consultation and analysis of developing country mitigation actions in a manner that is non-intrusive, non-punitive and respectful of national sovereignty was the key input that broke an important deadlock and helped achieve progress on issues relating to mitigation.

 

It was India that ensured that for the first time developed country mitigation actions will be subject to "international assessment and review", which means that experts, including those from developing countries, will have the right to review whether developed countries are living up to their commitments.

 

India's formulation on technology development and transfer through a technology executive committee and climate technology centre and networks formed a critical component of the final text, and a major win for developing countries.

 

Due to India's insistent efforts, the parties avoided a decision at Cancun on the phrase "legally binding agreement". Instead, the Ad Hoc Working Group has been requested to "continue discussing legal options" with the aim to reach consensus, if possible, on this issue by the next conference of parties.

 

At a press briefing on India's proactive domestic actions on addressing climate change I highlighted the (i) National Action Plan on Climate Change; (ii) Indian Network for Comprehensive Climate Change Assessment; (iii) Expert Group on Low-Carbon Strategy for Inclusive Growth (iv) activities being undertaken by various state governments; and (v) our regional initiatives in SAARC and with countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

 

Binding commitments

 

At the high-level segment, I made a detailed statement which highlighted India's efforts on addressing climate change. In this statement I also said that "all countries must take on binding commitments in an appropriate legal form". This statement has formed the basis for much discussion at home. So I feel that I must clarify what I intended to convey and the context in which this statement was made.

 

There appeared to be a view being pushed by a majority of developing and developed countries at Cancun that all countries must agree to a legally-binding agreement. Most countries, including our BASIC partners Brazil and South Africa, our developing country partners in AOSIS, LDCs, Africa, and four of our SAARC partners (Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan) shared this view. The only countries opposing this were the US, China, India, the Philippines, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Saudi Arabia. It was, therefore, important for India to demonstrate that it was not completely oblivious and insensitive to the views and opinions of a large section of the global community.

 

First, I have called for commitments in an "appropriate legal form" and not a legally-binding commitment. This is an important distinction. My statement leaves open the need for differentiation between Annex I (developed) countries and non-Annex I (developing) countries. Annex I commitments could be legally binding with penalties. Non-Annex I actions could be purely voluntary and without penalties.

 

Moreover, the reference to an "appropriate legal form" is a very broad one. Indeed even decisions of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC are of an appropriate legal form. Similarly, commitments that our government makes to our Parliament are also, in our view, of an appropriate legal form. In fact, on October 5, 2009, I had mentioned the idea of introducing domestic legislation that will not contain explicit emission reduction targets but will have implicit performance targets for mitigation and adaptation (such as mandatory fuel efficiency standards by 2011, mandatory energy conservation-compliant building codes by 2012, 20% contribution of renewables to India's energy mix by 2030 etc.). Many countries like Brazil and Mexico already have such laws and others like China and South Africa are also considering such legislation.

 

Secondly, contrary to some misquoted references in the domestic media, I did not make any commitment on India undertaking absolute emission cuts. India has made it very clear that while it will undertake voluntary mitigation actions, including reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020 on a 2005 reference year, India will not take on any emission cuts or agree to any peaking year for its emissions. There is no change in this position.

 

Thirdly a legally binding agreement is not acceptable to India at this stage. Unless we have clarity on (a) what the substance of such an agreement is, (b) what the penalties for non-compliance are, and (c) what the system for monitoring is, we will not be able to even consider a legally binding agreement. This position remains unchanged.

 

My effort was to walk the thin line between safeguarding our position while showing a level of sensitivity to the view shared by the majority of countries at Cancun, including many of our developing country partners. I believe we have been able to walk this thin line effectively with this stand. This nuancing of our position will expand negotiating options for us and give us an all-round advantageous standing.

 

My constant effort has been to ensure that our negotiating stance on climate change is guided by three principles: (i) the need to protect our economic growth, inclusive development and poverty eradication agenda; (ii) the pursuit of our domestic environmental policies; and (iii) the achievement of our foreign policy objectives, in particular that India be seen as a constructive, solution-oriented player in global negotiations. I believe we have managed to accomplish these three objectives at Cancun. 

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

NOT JUST ANOTHER SPORTS MOVIE

THE PROBLEM WITH PITCHING A STORY WAY, WAY TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

 

We open with a young boy," gushes the director breathlessly – exaggeratedly enthused by every word he himself utters, his very tone an exclamation mark – hardselling his pitch. "Cute, middle-class, short even. With an afro. Wants to play cricket, be a fast bowler." 

 

The producer grunts, a non-committal, potentially dream-crushing grunt. "Another sports movie? And bowling toh already had Iqbal na. Make him a batsman." 

 

"Okay, okay," says the director, undeterred and eager to compromise. "Bowling coach tells him he'd bat better. So he does. Young teenager, total prodigy. We can even have a Gavaskar cameo, where he gives the boy his own pads after seeing him bat. When he's 15, he scores a hundred in every match he plays. At 16, they pick him for the team." 

 

 "For India? At 16?" 

 

"Yeah, yeah India, boss. And he debuts against Pakistan! Bloody fast bowlers hammer him. Just picture it: in slow-motion, he wipes the blood off his nose and plays the next ball." 

 

The producer scratches his belly, yawning. "So phir, success and more success?" 


 "Haan boss, but the scale of it! Something else! Boundary pe boundary, century pe century! Soon, he's the best player in India. And he's only 20, 21. Whole world watches him bat. Stadiums chanting. Bowlers having

nightmares." 


 The producer leans forward. "Okay, okay, I get it. And then? What's the twist? Health problem?" 

 

 "Well yeah, his back starts cramping. Long innings start to worry him. But then he gets over it." 


    The producer groans impatiently. "Uff. Then maybe some scandal? Match fixing?" 


    "Oh totally, sir. Fixing changes the face of Indian cricket, but only proves this guy is super-clean. He even wins matches India is supposed to lose." 


    "Listen, how can this work?" demands the producer. "Where is the drama? Conflict? Any ladki issue at least?" 
    "No, no, he marries early on." 


    "Then what, one day he just loses form? New kids start playing better?" 


    "Actually yes, after he turns 30, the magic seems to dry up." 


    "Aha," smiles the producer, finally relieved. "So then, loss of form, forced retirement, drinking, frustration. I see. And then at the end of the film," he soothsays, getting ahead of himself in that way producers do, "we have redemption: he turns into a coach or something, gives something back. Interesting." 


"Nahin boss, after a couple of years of bad form he starts clicking again." 


"Huh? But you said he was 30. Retire nahin karega kya?" 

 

 "Arre sir, what are you saying? This is when he gets really special. Becomes even better than he ever was. Breaks every record in the books. People routinely call him better than Bradman. Full-blown worship, you see?" 

The producer's exasperated hand slams sweatily onto the sunmica desk. "Abe yaar, what is this? You said sports drama. This is saala fantasy movie, like Krrish or something! Does he also have a cape? Your damn batsman is more than Batman even. No thanks," he snorts. "I want to make something realistic, which excites people. This is a fairytale, a complete comicbook kahaani. Nobody will ever believe it only." 

 He's right, you know, that hardboiled producer. As Mark Twain said, Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't. And, yeah, none of us would buy that film. Yet here we are, pinching ourselves in awe, year after year, match after match. Happy 50, SRT. And thanks.

 

RAJA SEN LOVES TO RANT, RAVE AND BLATHER ABOUT CINEMA, OFTEN AT HIS OWN PERIL

 

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

COLUMN

CONGRESS AND ECONOMY

POLITICAL WILL NEEDED TO SUSTAIN INCLUSIVE GROWTH

 

The economic resolution adopted by the All India Congress Committee at the Burari session is a reiteration of the party's last two election manifestos. It combines a commitment to rapid economic growth with that to redistributive policies that would help make the growth process socially inclusive. There is a helpful explanation of the three sources of inflation — excess demand, improved prices to farmers and global commodity price inflation — that can help party members explain inflation rather than merely attack it. There is understandable concern about slow development of infrastructure that must be seized upon by the prime minister to improve ministerial leadership in infrastructure ministries. The renewed commitment to public spending in agriculture, to provide a much-needed productivity boost, the formulation of a "national manufacturing policy", to deal with the challenge of slow-paced industrialisation, and a commitment to continue the effort to make India a knowledge-intensive society within a decade are all well taken. While the resolution's commitment to "better management of the public sector" is good, the assurance that the public sector will be expanded should have come with some explanation of what role the Congress party sees for the public and private sectors in years to come. In defence production, for example, the public sector has woefully failed and encouraging domestic private investment would help.

 

The resolution's commitment to an aggressive expansion of the manufacturing sector in the national economy is particularly welcome and timely. India has already paid a heavy price for attempting to leapfrog the conventional development process, by adopting a services-led growth strategy, to the detriment of manufacturing. The National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council has outlined a strategy to aggressively boost the share of manufacturing in national income from the present 16 per cent to 26 per cent by 2020. The cornerstone of this report was the strategy to revitalise the largely ignored small and medium enterprise segment of manufacturing, with a view to boosting sector-wide productivity and employment. The party's call to adopt an "FDI-driven, manufacturing-led" growth strategy is reminiscent of China's growth model enunciated in the mid-1980s. However, FDI cannot work in a vacuum and particularly in the case of China, foreign capital inflows were in response to enabling conditions created by the Chinese government. These included a commitment to develop world-class infrastructure, labour market reforms, creation of special economic zones, especially along the eastern seaboard which permitted agglomeration economies, favourable government procurement policies and, above all, a decentralised approach that allowed local governments a greater say in adopting policies that suited local conditions.

 

 It is unfortunate that the economic resolution did not examine the link between economic performance and better governance. The improved functioning of regulatory institutions is vital to sustained economic growth. India still rates among the more difficult countries to do business in. Forget about getting FDI in, even retaining domestic investors in India is becoming a challenge. By and large, the economic resolution identifies all the challenges correctly, and also lists a large number of relevant policies. If there is better appreciation of the issues raised within the Congress party, the government would find it easier to implement policies that are required to sustain 9 per cent inclusive growth.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

LEARNING TO BE NO 1

INDIA HAS CRICKETING HEROES, IT NEEDS A HEROIC TEAM

 

After losing the final of the 1983 World Cup to India in June, West Indies came visiting four months later. They won the first Test by an innings and 83 runs, drew the second, won the third by 138 runs, drew the fourth, won the fifth by an innings and 46 runs, and drew the sixth. It was a comprehensive drubbing handed out to the new world champions. Clive Lloyd's marauders had had their wish in what was termed the "revenge series". The average Indian cricket fan seems to have very little recollection of that drubbing. They do remember the series, but for the two centuries Sunil Gavaskar scored in two drawn matches. They discuss in detail Gavaskar's century in the second Test, his 29th, an uncharacteristically breezy one off just 94 balls, which brought him on a par with Donald Bradman. In the last Test, batting at number four, as opposed to the opening slot he occupied for most of his career, Gavaskar scored 236 not out. This took him not only beyond Bradman but also beyond Vinoo Mankad's highest individual score by an Indian, a record which had stood for three decades.

 

Much has changed since then. West Indies, a world-beating force, have become the whipping boys. Australia have dominated and dissipated. Generations of players have come and gone. India has learnt to win overseas and risen to the position of the number one Test team in ICC's rankings. It is not dependent on any one player anymore, as it depended on Gavaskar in the 1970s and 80s, and on Sachin Tendulkar for the entire decade of the 1990s. But one look at the last few days' coverage of the first Test in South Africa will make any half-informed person wonder if much has changed. To be fair, Tendulkar accomplished a stupendous feat, his 50th century in Tests. That Gary Sobers, a bonafide all-time-great, scored 26 in his career would put Tendulkar's accomplishment in perspective. However, the celebration around it glossed over the fact that, even as Tendulkar remained unbeaten when thundershowers washed off the fag-end of the fourth day's play, India were staring at certain defeat. Curiously, the mood was celebratory, even euphoric. Everyone was busy digging out the list of Tendulkar's centuries, his childhood photos, and the talking heads had a field day. No one would listen to the man himself, who insisted that 50 was just another number.

 

This could have been forgiven in the days when the team lost regularly. After all, everyone needs something to celebrate. Tendulkar often gave us the reason. His 114 as a 19-year-old in 1992 at Perth, whose pitch had much more spite then, is celebrated by his peers as arguably his best. Well, we lost that Test by a small matter of 300 runs! This attitude can be forgiven in an underdog. No one expects them to win, so they celebrate whatever they can, and cricket offers ample scope for an individual to shine even as the team surrenders. But, to be beaten by an innings and some, while being the number one team in the world, should call for some embarrassment, some hand-wringing.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

WHO'LL RULE? CHINA, INDIA OR THE WEST?

A GREAT, NEW BOOK SUGGESTS THAT HISTORY FAVOURS CHINA'S FUTURE OVER INDIA'S

ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN

 

One of the greatest non-fiction books, no make that the greatest book, written in recent times is out:Why the West Rules — for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris of Stanford University. If Jared Diamond's classic, Guns, Germs and Steel, was daring in ambition, breathtaking in the breadth of erudition, magisterial in execution, and provocatively parsimonious in explanation, Morris, save on the latter dimension, out-Diamonds Diamond.

 

 Morris, like Diamond, seeks to answer a variant of arguably the most important question in the social sciences: why are some countries, regions, and peoples poor while others are rich? And the reader will be richly rewarded for not seeking the short cuts that I or others might have to offer.

 

Diamond started the tape of humanity at about 13,000 BC. Morris pushes us back to about a million years BCE (and one feels cheated that we don't get his take on the period leading up to the Big Bang and even previous Big Bangs). Diamond was reticent about the future. Morris fearlessly wades into the future and possible multiple futures, including some requiring fantastical imagining (or perhaps imaginative fantasying) of the Issac Asimov variety.

 

Diamond did not shy away from using and presenting key numbers and data. Morris not only returns the favour but does so by creating a series on social development, going all the way back to 14,000 BCE with some inventive tapping of sources, heroic assumption-making, and creative data-mining.

 

Diamond drew upon most of the sciences and social sciences to answer the big and basic question. Morris is deficient on ornithology compared to Diamond but makes up by taking the reader on excursions into the worlds of archeology, science fiction and literature. In this era of specialisation and compartmentalisation of knowledge, Morris' book is a throw-back to the era of, and resounding victory for, encompassing erudition.

 

]And whereas Diamond gave us one explanation for everything, Morris has to rely on three times as many. Father William of Ockham (of Occam's Razor fame) would be the only unhappy man if he were to read the Diamond and Morris tomes.

 

But what does this book have to do with any end-of-year musings on India? This book should both provoke the curiosity of Indians and give reason for pause. Surprisingly, India hardly gets attention in the book. In the comparison between the West and the East that is its central focus, the only country/region to represent the East is China. Rather the East, for Morris, is China (and to some extent Japan). The reason, I think, seems to be Morris' underlying view that throughout the last fifteen millennia, China has always had higher levels of development than India. Did Chandra Gupta Maurya rule over a poorer kingdom than the later rulers of the Zhou dynasty? Was Mughal India not comparable to Ming China? I am no historian and do not know the answers to these questions but it would be great if Indian scholars could engage in these questions, and take on Morris' conclusions where appropriate.

 

The one neglect of India and Indian history that did seem odd even to someone with only a superficial knowledge of Indian history related to Morris' discussion of the so-called Axial Age. This term, used by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers, describes the centuries around 500 BCE, when a new and revolutionary view of man arose. This view advocated that men turn within, focusing on themselves rather than on gods or on despotic rulers (which was distinctive of the preceding times) as the means to salvation.

 

Now, Morris' list of the key contributions of this Axial Age includes Confucian and Daoist texts from China, Greek Philosophy, the Hebrew Bible, and Buddhism and Jainism from India. The only real export from India that is said to have wider impact, according to Morris, is Buddhism. The obvious omission here seems to be some of the older Upanishads — the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya — which are thought to be clearly pre-Buddhist in origin and which represent no less radical a break with the past than those that feature on Morris' list. Is Morris' inattention to these texts justified? And was India's economic development commensurate with such intellectual achievement at that point in time? Again, these are questions worthy of inputs from Indian scholars.

 

Why the West Rules will give pause for India in one important respect. There is a cottage industry of writings on the "will-it-be-China-or-India" question and I do not want to rehearse well-trodden arguments. But if Morris' view that China was consistently ahead of India in the past is correct, it carries the implication that the economic future is better for China.

 

The reason relates to two historical correlations noted by him: regions that were relatively more developed in the past tend to industrialise and develop faster than those which were less developed; and countries that avoided European colonisation also tended to industrialise faster than the colonised. Japan was developed in the past (before 1800 or so) and not colonised; China was highly developed in the past and only partly and intermittently colonised; and India was both less developed and colonised. Looking ahead, therefore, India's prospects may be bright but China's are brighter still.

 

Now, there is nothing deterministic about any of the patterns identified by Morris. But it would be imprudent to ignore them altogether. India can no doubt rule in the future but that might require it to defy to some extent, rather than return to, the patterns of history. At least, it should guard against the complacency on India's relative prospects that is reflected in three routine invocations: "India is a democracy", "India has the demographic dividend going for it while China is ageing", and "India has a better, more dynamic private sector".

 

Economic growth might not be a zero-sum game so that there is enough room in the world to accommodate the rise of China and India. If so, discussions of the relative prospects of China and India are unnecessary and meaningless. But for India to keep its eyes fixed on China is no bad thing if not as a rival and threat, then as a partner for expanding mutual economic possibilities, as an inspiration, and not least, as setting a floor on India's ambitions.

 

The author is senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Center for Global Development

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

EXTREMELY FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH UTMOST CARE

THE STRATEGY MUST BE TO AVOID ANY KIND OF PROVOCATION, STAND FIRM ON ONE'S OWN GROUND AND WORK ASSIDUOUSLY OVER TIME IN IMPROVING CAPABILITIES

SUBIR ROY

 

The visit to India of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao did not mark any significant movement in relations between the two countries — forward or back. But it is still important as it allows an opportunity to know exactly where the relationship stands. China is rapidly emerging as the country that matters the most to India. To its long-standing border dispute, two newer factors have been added — one, China is now a major economic power and likely to acquire even greater economic clout over time and two, partly as a consequence, it is now India's foremost trading partner with a highly skewed trade balance in its favour.

 

 The recent stilting of relations with China — deterioration will be too strong a word — dates back to the Bush presidency when the US singled out India for special upgrading of relations in what China saw as an attempt to create a countervailing force to itself. This has turned India's relations with the two super powers into a zero-sum game — if relations with the US warm up, those with China will cool.

 

A sharp edge has been added to this by developments within China. Its large and increasingly prosperous and educated middle class is touched with a sense of self-importance bordering on hubris. A clear demonstration of this came from the stand-off with Japan over the arrest and subsequent release of the Chinese fishing boat captain. The belligerence which the Chinese showed, including putting a question mark over export of rare minerals, sent a chill down the Indian spine. We now know from the latest round of Wikileaks that on the rebound India sought closer cooperation with the US because of "China's more aggressive approach".

 

With relations so delicately poised, it is perhaps a real gain that India-China ties have not got any worse. On what bugs India the most, the stapling of Chinese visas for people from Jammu and Kashmir, China has not budged. In response India has not allowed a reiteration in the joint communiqué of China's sovereignty over Tibet. If that is a stand-off, then there has been real gain for India in the mention of "good cooperation" between the two on "trans-border" rivers. This is crucial for India. China building dams across the Tsangpo, which becomes the Brahmaputra in India, raises fears that free flow down the major river can become an issue anytime China wants. The fact that it has reassured India on this is a no mean thing.

 

India can also derive some comfort from the stated position on the trade imbalance. China has agreed on measures to promote Indian exports and "enhancing exchange and cooperation on pharmaceutical supervision". This should be in China's interest as there is substantial complementarity between the pharma capabilities of the two countries. As a high-ranking Chinese pharma representative has pointed out, there is enormous scope for the two to join hands to promote third-country exports. Whereas both have strong capabilities in the manufacture of bulk drugs, India has a clear edge in formulations and, most important, is miles ahead in having gained regulatory approval in developed markets.

 

There can hardly be any ground for keeping Indian formulations out of China when the whole world welcomes them. China has also agreed to "speedier completion of phyto-sanitary negotiation on agro products".

 

On the other hand, the decision by Reliance Power to enter into a massive $8.3 billion import deal with Shanghai Electric, topped up by a large $1.1 billion loan to pay for it, and the Indian government's refusal to impose duties on the import of power equipment sought by L&T underline what India has to do in setting right the trade imbalance — up its manufacturing competitiveness. Indian industry has miles to go in the manufacture of not just capital goods but consumer goods also, and large-scale import of capital goods over time will skew the trade balance against India even further.

 

What India needs to do in putting its own house in order is even more important when it comes to defence preparedness. For very nationalist-minded Indians and the BJP which waves the flag as part of its political strategy, this immediately translates into a demand for more defence spending. But the key question is: are the armed forces capable of efficiently using all the resources they get? The succession of financial scandals involving defence brass raises questions as to whether India has a trim and fit fighting machine, and not something that is bloated and self-serving. The 1962 debacle showed up both enormous political miscalculation and poor military leadership.

 

Since China is so important to India, relations with it must be marked as extremely fragile, to be handled with utmost care. Even a single misstep will be unaffordable. The strategy must be to carefully avoid any kind of provocation, stand firm on one's own ground and work assiduously over time in improving capabilities, be they in manufacturing or defence preparedness. The obvious friendliness of Mr Wen can be taken at face value but it must be remembered that the Chinese leadership is not a monolith. There are conservative hardliners who are rather full of themselves. Strengthening trade ties should help by creating a stake in the Indian market for Chinese business. But it also has to be remembered that the importance of the US to the Chinese economy has not prevented China from following a carefully confrontationist path.

 

subirkroy@gmail.com 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

PITFALLS IN PROPERTY SALES

REAL ESTATE DEALERS CAN PLAY HAVOC WITH HARD-EARNED MONEY IN THE ABSENCE OF PROPER LAWS

M J ANTONY

 

The anxiety indicator of a buyer or seller of property is high on the hypertension gauge. Carrying a Santa Clause-size bagful of cash is not the only nightmare. Legal validity of the transfer, title of the owner and encumbrances on the property are issues too cumbersome to be handled by an ordinary person. They are usually left to the real estate agent and his wily lawyers. The Supreme Court has often pointed out that bad laws, and more often, the absence of laws, create this situation.

 

Some months ago, the Supreme Court pointed out in the case, Suraj Lamps Industries vs State of Haryana, that "power of attorney" (POA) sales generate black money and cheat the government of huge revenue in stamp duty. The case was described as "a typical example of an irregular process spreading across the country". The POA sales, said the court, enabled large-scale evasion of income tax, wealth tax, stamp duty and registration fees.

 

 Moreover, such transactions enable people with undisclosed wealth to invest their black money and earn profit, encouraging circulation of black money. These transactions have disastrous collateral effects. For instance, property wheeler-dealers can buy assets that are already subject to POA sales and then threaten the previous POA buyers from asserting their rights. "Either way, such sales indirectly lead to growth of a real estate mafia and criminalisation of real estate transactions," the judgment emphasised.

 

Last week, the court found two more lacunae in the system. In the case, T G Ashok Kumar vs Govindammal, it asked the Law Commission to remedy these serious flaws afflicting property transactions. The court explained the problem thus: "It is necessary to refer to the hardship, loss, anxiety and unnecessary litigation caused due to absence of a mechanism for prospective purchasers to verify whether a property is subject to any pending suit, decree or attachment. At present, a prospective purchaser can easily find out about any existing encumbrance over a property either by inspection of the registers or by securing a certificate relating to encumbrances from the sub-registrar. But he has no way of ascertaining whether there is any suit pending in respect of the property, if the person offering the property for sale does not disclose it or deliberately suppresses the information."

 

This gap can have disastrous consequences. The buyer, after paying the money, may get the shock of his life when he discovers that the property he bought is subject to litigation that could drag on for decades and ultimately deny him the title. The unfortunate buyer will have to wait for the litigation to end or he may have to take over the litigation if the seller loses interest after the sale. The court may also deny the buyer an opportunity to plead his case.

 

There are two suggestions from the Supreme Court. It says, "Property litigation could be reduced to a considerable extent, if there is some satisfactory and reliable method by which a prospective purchaser can ascertain whether any suit is pending (or whether the property is subject to any decree or attachment) before he decides to purchase the property." Some states like Maharashtra have already legislated preventive measures. For example, if a case is pending in any court over a property, the fact should be registered under Section 18 of the Registration Act. Such property cannot be transferred by any party to the suit so as to affect the rights of another.

 

The Supreme Court pointed out another serious issue. At present, sales agreements are not compulsorily registered since they do not involve transfer of any right or title. Unscrupulous property owners enter into sales agreements and take huge earnest money and then sell the property to others, plunging the original agreement holder and the subsequent purchaser into litigation. Registering sales agreements will reduce such litigation.

 

It will also end the prevalent practice of entering into sales agreements showing the real consideration and then registering the sales deed for only a part of it. Compulsory registration of agreements will go a long way towards discouraging generation of black money in real estate matters, and undervaluation to save stamp duty. It will also discourage the growth of a land mafia and musclemen who dominate the real estate scene, according to the court.

 

However, recent scams suggest lawmakers are beneficiaries of the status quo. The anarchic system is functioning well both for them and the middle class. Therefore, the court's well-meaning suggestions are more likely to be stacked high up in law journals. The court has taken up the task of prodding state governments to wipe out POAs, but the response of the states has been tardy. The rest of the problems should be handled by the legislators.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SHOULD DIESEL PRICES BE INCREASED?

THE INCREASE IN PRICES WILL IMPACT PRICES OF FOOD AND OTHER ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT IF THE OIL MARKETING COMPANIES ARE TO PROGRESS SO THAT THE COUNTRY CAN MEET ITS EVER-GROWING ENERGY NEEDS

 

D RAJA

CPI MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

 

The government has not made any sincere attempt at accelerating the exploration of oil and natural gas in the country to augment domestic supply to control the price rise

 

The Union government has become insensitive towards rising prices and rampant corruption in the country and the people will teach it a lesson when the next general elections come around.

 

The country is facing huge losses on account of the price at which 2G spectrum was sold to private operators and from questionable contracts for the Commonwealth Games. But the government seems to be more concerned about increasing the prices of petrol and other commodities. After the government decided to raise the price of petrol by Rs 3 a litre, the price of diesel is certain to be increased any moment.

 

There have been several such increases since the United Progressive Alliance government came to power. The recent price rise would also have a cascading effect on the common people because increasing the prices of petrol and diesel would impact the prices of food and other essential commodities. In the past six months, the price of petrol has gone up by Rs 8.41.

 

Interestingly, a substantial part of the duties imposed by the government on petrol and diesel goes to the government. I would like to know why the Union and state governments can't cut their share of taxes on these products. The Left parties have been raising these issues, both inside and outside Parliament, and we will continue to ask the government this question.

 

If prices continue to rise in the same manner, how will the common people in this country pay for essentials? Latest reports show that 77 per cent of the people earn barely Rs 20 or less per day. How will they buy food items if prices continue to rise? Poverty is a big problem in India and half the population is not even earning half-a-dollar a day. To make things worse for them, the government is not even considering raising minimum wages. I want to know how people will buy vegetables and other essential food items with the same income. The government must explain this.

 

]On the issue of oil price decontrol, ever since the Union government gave oil companies the autonomy to selectively determine product prices, the prices of petrol and diesel have only increased. I don't remember a day when the oil companies actually reduced the prices of petrol and diesel. It seems the autonomy was given only to the oil companies to raise prices and burden the people. The government is not clear about what it is doing by increasing these prices.

 

]Oil producers might argue that the price rise is a function of demand and supply. But it is also true that the government has not made any sincere attempt at accelerating the exploration of oil and natural gas in the country to augment domestic supply. It has not made serious efforts to carry out exploration work near Bombay High and Krishna Basin to find new reserves of oil and natural gas within the country to control the oil price rise.

 

The Supreme Court has also said natural gas is a national asset. I want to know how the government is using these national assets for the welfare of the common people. The government has to come out with short-term and long-term perspectives for energy security.

 

Earlier, the government was talking about Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline and now, it has suddenly started discussing a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. If the IPI pipeline is not feasible how can the government even consider TAPI viable? The government doesn't consider discussing these issues either inside or outside Parliament.

 

The government has so far maintained that rich people can afford to pay higher prices for petrol. I want to know what steps the government is taking to improve the public transport system in different cities. Will the government increase taxes on luxury cars? The entire process of increasing petrol and diesel prices smacks of profiteering.

 

It has become the mindset of this government to generate revenue by increasing prices of petrol and diesel. The government should generate revenue for exploration and to augment resources but it should not be done at the cost of the common people.

 

AS TOLD TO GYAN VERMA

B M BANSAL 

Chairman, IndianOil

The deregulation of diesel has the potential to unlock the value of the oil firms. Today subsidies affect both oil marketing companies and upstream companies

 

It is normally assumed that regulation is beneficial and the only prudent approach in a nation as complex as it is poor is to have a policy that benefits the underprivileged. But some regulations are often rendered obsolete owing to dynamic shifts in the business. And soon, the realities of the market start impinging on even the best of good intentions! Diesel has long been seen as a sensitive fuel along with kerosene and LPG. It was thought that kerosene and LPG impacted the aam aadmi and the price of diesel was linked to inflation. It is correct that diesel prices have an implication for the economy with the "trickle down" effect on the freight and goods sector.

 

The flip side is that over a period of time with the cost of diesel kept artificially low in comparison to alternatives, passenger transport tends to get "dieselised". You only have to look at the number of diesel passenger cars and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) being sold, especially in the luxury segment. The question is: are we subsidising an SUV culture? Should the relatively low-income earning two-wheeler owner pay for free-market petrol while owners of high-end luxury cars and SUVs get a subsidy from the government?

 

We need a mass rapid transit infrastructure policy under which the transportation of people and goods should not depend on roads alone. The potential of the railways should be fully tapped. The diesel subsidies can actually be invested in big-ticket mass transportation systems that will wean people off the addiction to diesel-based transport.

 

The central government has already rationalised customs and excise duties to alleviate the impact of volatile international prices on retail selling prices. But the state governments have chosen to keep the sales tax at fairly high rates in view of the revenue-earning potential of diesel. This apart, private oil companies have closed their retail outlets despite making quite a lot of investment in them, a move that has meant a shift in sales to public sector oil marketing companies' outlets, which has resulted in an additional burden. Investments made by the private sector in the hydrocarbon value chain, especially the retail network, have been rendered useless.

 

Deregulating diesel has the potential to unlock the value of the oil companies. Today subsidies affect both oil marketing companies and upstream companies. Valuable resources being spent by the government could actually go into ensuring oil security. Today, we have excellent examples of companies that have been rewarded by investors who are even willing to pay a premium. Ultimately, the beneficiary is the nation because these companies are owned by the people of India. The price of crude is a much speculated issue and it is commonly accepted that the days of cheap crude oil are long gone. And countries that are dependent on foreign sources for the energy needs are scouting for and investing in oil equity assets. These efforts are being led by national oil companies backed by Sovereign Wealth Funds. The best example is China, which is building a "Great Wall" of energy assets that will fuel its needs into the distant future.

 

The way forward for India is for our national oil companies to get into the act to build a truly international portfolio of oil and gas assets. The government has been supporting the efforts of the national oil companies by empowering them through the Maharatna status. But, investing for the future should obviously come from the present. And by paying the right price for energy products and services we generate the revenues for investing for the next generation.

 

Beyond urban India, which has benefited from the rapid growth of the last decade, is the real India, where there are millions of our people struggling to make ends meet. When the oil marketing companies moved to the rural market, opening up retail outlets and appointing LPG distributors, we so a tremendous difference to livelihoods. All this will take long-term, sustained investments for the real "aam aadmi". And the sooner we define the "real aam aadmi" the better, for we need to tackle the real and imperative task of delivering energy assurance to over a billion Indians into the next decades as well.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BEING CAESAR'S WIFE

SYSTEMIC POLITICAL REFORMS NEEDED


ONGRESS President Sonia Gandhi's five-point plan to counter corruption, announced during the recent plenary session of the party and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the spectrum scam are, on paper, reasonable measures aimed at reversing the toll the series of scams and controversies have taken on the government. But without concrete action and setting up of mechanisms which can effectively implement countercorruption measures, such talk will remain mere symbolism. Given the levels of corruption in India, countering it will need systemic reforms, followed through with determination. One of the main problems with the Indian system is that politics has come to mean power for pelf, and reforming the political system must be one of the main aims, envisaged as a project shared across the political spectrum. Some of the measures outlined by Sonia Gandhi at the plenary session, such as fast-tracking corruption cases against politicians and public servants, transparency in public procurements and protection to whistleblowers, as well as ending the government's discretionary powers to allocate land and award contracts, make eminent sense. She also posited the issue of changing the system of financing elections, which must be one of the cornerstones of our political reform project. For, the wider, deeper, issue is how political parties are funded in the country, leading to massive amounts of unaccounted cash flowing unaudited through the system. 

 

One way out could be state funding of elections, with the issue of who will be entitled, and to what extent, being decided, for example, on the basis of the percentage of votes garnered by different political parties in the most recent general elections, with in-built mechanisms to deal with new parties or independents. It is common knowledge that funding for political parties mostly consists of cash inflows, making disclosure and auditing virtually impossible. A way out could be making donations to parties strictly payable through cheques. Transparency, at least, will enable some accountability.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

KNOW YOUR ONIONS

TOO COMPLACENT ON THE FARM FRONT

 

THE government would appear to be in denial on the food front. We have a normal monsoon and so food prices will come down, forcing overall inflation also down to reasonable levels — this has been the official chant. Onions have now challenged this comforting hypothesis, the price of the commodity rising above . 75 a kg at the retail level. But the government has chosen to rule out shortage as the reason for the hike in prices, blaming it on hoarding. How did the government suddenly discover onion hoarding? If it knew about it, why didn't it act to prevent it? Now, it has banned exports till mid-January, and hopes this will bring domestic prices down, with the help of some imports from Pakistan. There are no futures markets in onions, to send an advance price signal about supply conditions of the commodity. At about 10 million tonnes of annual output (which works out to an abysmally low 20 grams per day per person, not counting exports), it is not considered a major crop. However, it is a politically sensitive crop. And it would be a big mistake for the government to ignore the real possibility that onion prices have gone up because of a production shortfall, arising from unseasonal rains. There is the very real possibility that unseasonal rains in northern and western India, combined with poor rainfall in the east, could well make short work of official expectations of good agricultural growth this year. Unseasonal rains have pushed back sowing in key wheat growing areas, and if the cold season does not obligingly last longer than usual, the yield would suffer, upsetting a long chain of calculations. 

 

The key takeaway from the sudden spike in onion prices is that official complacency on the farm front is completely unwarranted. If vegetable prices go up, that could well be an advance indicator of major food crops also not doing as well as could be expected from a normal monsoon, as measured by total rainfall over the season. We need to redefine a normal monsoon, taking into account spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall. And considerable more policymaking and political attention have to be devoted to raising the aggregate farm output than agriculture has been receiving so far.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ONLY MINISTERS MATTER

NOT ASIAN GAMES GOLD MEDALLISTS!


IT'S easier for an Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the Asian Games than to be treated with respect even at a function where she or he is supposed to be the chief guest! After winning the 3,000-metres steeplechase event on November 21 at the Guangzhou Asian Games, UP's Sudha Singh was invited to be the chief guest at a minimarathon race organised in Lucknow by a girls' college on December 18. However, the officials ignored her and did not even introduce her to the state sports minister who was present. She later stated that she would never again attend any function in Lucknow. The officials offered her money to keep quiet about the incident but Ms Singh went public with it. 

 

The latest incident is not an isolated one, but part of a tradition of Indian sports officials treating athletes as attendants or worse. Indian female pugilists may have won gold medals at the world boxing championships but there have been recent instances of them being asked to serve tea to 'distinguished' visitors at the National Institute of Sports. Time was when Indian male wrestlers slept on the floor at international meets abroad while sports officials occupied the beds meant for their wards. Five decades have elapsed since Milkha Singh won gold for India in the 440-yards race at the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games and just missed a bronze in the 400-metres event at the 1960 Rome Olympics. When Milkha Singh returned from Rome, there was a popular joke about how when he was told one night that a thief had stolen something and was running away, the athlete tried to apprehend him but ran so fast that he overtook the miscreant and left him far behind. That apocryphal narrative only underlined the point that India's greatest athlete was also supposed to double up as a watchman! Sudha Singh can testify that not much has changed since then.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE RUPEE IS NOT TOO STRONG

INDIA HAS FINALLY IMPROVED ITS ABILITY TO ABSORB CAPITAL INFLOWS, AND THIS IS REFLECTED IN A HIGHER CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT. THIS IS A SIGN OF HEALTH, NOT DISEASE, SAYS SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR


IRARELY cross swords with Shankar Acharya, former chief economic adviser and one of the savviest observers of the Indian scene. But I must do so on the exchange rate. Contrary to what he and some other analysts claim, the rupee is not overstrong and is not hurting exports and manfacturing. Exports rose 26.7% in April-November, while imports rose only 24%. This would be impossible if the rupee was over-strong. 

 

 Since 1993, the Reserve Bank of India has intervened in forex markets to keep the real effective exchange rate (REER) of the rupee from appreciating. Acharya feels that this approach kept the economy on track, but now a strong rupee threatens derailment. 

 

He cites Goldman Sachs' prediction that the current account deficit (CAD) will touch 4% of GDP in 2010-11 and 4.3% the year after. He attributes this to "the sharpest ever increase in the real effective exchange rate of the rupee in a 12-month period (of 18%, March 2009 to March 2010)." 

 

The accompanying table lists fluctuations in the RBI's two measures of REER, one based on a six-currency basket (all hard currencies) and the other on a wider 36-currency basket. After fluctuating around an index level of 100 for over a decade, the REER (sixcurrency basket) shot up to 112 in 2009-10 and further to 118 in April-November 2010. 

 

The other REER (36-currency basket) averaged 98 in April-November 2010, a slight depreciation since 1993. However, by this measure, the REER was not constant in the last two decades. It depreciated gradually from 100 in 1993 to 85.89 in 2006-07, then rose to 89.85 in 2007-08, sank again to 84.6 during the Great Recession, and has now appreciated sharply to 98. 

 

Which of the two measures is more relevant? Some will back the six-currency basket, since most trade is designated in these currencies. But India's exports are typically very different from those exported by the big six economies. Rather, India's main competitors are other developing countries, which figure in the 36-currency basket. Hence this is more relevant for our exports. It suggests the REER has not appreciated since the 1990s. It has indeed appreciated sharply in the last 18 months. But this is mainly a reversal of the rupee's fall during the Great Recession. Today's REER of around 98 is only modestly above the pre-recession level of 94 in 2007-08. 

 

Acharya wrote in September, "Goods exports, which had risen to 18% of GDP in the first half of 2008-09, helped by the global commodity boom, not only fell to 13% of GDP in the second half of the year as global trade plummeted post-Lehman, but pretty much remained there in the subsequent six quarters. Exports of $50.7 billion in the first quarter of 2010-11 were running 12% lower than two years ago. In contrast, imports, which had also peaked in the first half of 2008-09 and dropped sharply in the second half, have grown quite strongly, from the trough of 20% of GDP in Q4 of 2008-09 to an estimated 25% of GDP in Q2 of 2010-11. This means that as India's good recovery from the "growth recession" of 2008-09 has sucked in more imports, the trade deficithaswidenedtoabove10%ofGDPin the current quarter." 

 

SCARY?Yes, but looking at goods exports is misleading: India's service exports have been rising so fast that they may soon overtake goods exports. What matters ultimately is the current account deficit, measuring the deficit in goods plus services. This widened sharply earlier this year, alarming Acharya and many others. But it shrank subsequently. 

In contrast to Goldman Sach's earlier pessimism, Citibank's latest estimate of the CAD this year and next year is just 3.1% of GDP, assuming an average oil price of $80/barrel this year and $90/ barrel next year. 

 

The latest trade data is very encouraging. Yes, exports in some months were lower than they were two years ago, but the world at that time was on an insane overspending boom, which is no benchmark. The Great Recession meant that in 2009-10, exports fell 20.3%. 

 

Three months ago, Acharya described exports as sluggish. Not any more. Although the base effect is eroding fast, exports are booming and look certain to exceed the year's target of $200 billion. In April-November, exports rose 26.7% while imports rose 24%. In November, exports rose 26.8% while imports rose only 11.2%. The monthly trade deficit fell to an eightmonth low of $8.9 billion, much lower than the August deficit of $13 billion which alarmed Acharya. 

 

Commerce secretary Khullar says this is the first time in years that export growth has outpaced import growth. Indeed, the current export growth rate of 26.7% is faster than in the pre-recession year of 2006-07 (22.6%) when the rupee was 15% lower. The shrinking trade deficit suggests that the rupee is actually more competitively valued today, not over-strong. 

 

The best performance has come from engineering exports, up 50% in April-November. This surely demonstrates that a strong rupee has not crippled manufactured exports or production. Industrial growth data has been very volatile, and this may have misled Acharya and other critics. Manufacturing growth was just 4.6% in September, but shot up to 11.3% in October. Auto exports are up 48%, cotton yarn 46%, pharma 13.2% and chemicals 21%. No sign of an over-strong rupee here. 

 

Even if the current account deficit does decline to 3% of GDP, critics may argue that this is too high. I disagree. India has finally improved its ability to absorb capital inflows, and this is reflected in a higher CAD. This is a sign of health, not disease. 

 

We cannot be complacent. If the price of oil crosses $100/barrel, the balance of payments will feel the strain. Corporate governance concerns may reduce foreign portfolio flows to India. But this hardly justifies alarmism. The economy has sailed through much stormier seas.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FAC E - O F F

CAN HERO DO WITHOUT OWN R&D?

 

RAKESH BATRA 

LEADER, AUTO SECTOR E&Y NO, IT NEEDS IN-HOUSE RESEARCH CAPABILITY 


THE Hero Group cannot without an in-house R&D, given the size and scale of its current operations, competitive market conditions and customer and shareholder expectations of the brand as the market leader. Its own R&D capability is important from three perspectives — products, customers and brand. The twowheeler industry, like other automotive segments, is a volume business that is driven by new products with better mileage performance and greater driving comfort. This requires regular model upgrades, more fuel efficient engines and other changes to the range of products offered to its customers. Besides, as one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world by volume, Hero would need to have its own R&D capability to position the brand globally. There has to be a clear value proposition associated with the brand for the customers to be able to differentiate it from the other brands. Technology plays an important role in brand positioning. Such is the nature of the auto industry and all mature global players in this industry have a strong internal R&D capability. 

 

An in-house R&D capability would provide Hero control over its product portfolio decisions, driven by customer expectations and the markets it would operate in. In a global playing field, product needs can vary across markets. This requires the ability to leverage platforms across these various markets to be able to control product development costs and optimise product profitability. Besides, with the emerging trends towards electric vehicles, the market leaders need to ensure that they are able to develop and offer these products as part of the product range. Such development in new technologies/products is not possible unless you have an internal R&D capability that can also be a source of the first-mover advantage in future. Hero can, of course, seek another international technology partner, but that would probably come with similar conditions as its existing partner Honda. That would prevent it from achieving its aspiration to be a global player in the two-wheeler market.

 

R L RAVICHANDRAN 

CEO ROYAL ENFIELD 

 

It can outsource R&D in the near term 

AFTER 2014, Hero Group has to compete with Honda, the worldwide market leader. Its other competitors are Suzuki and Yamaha of Japan, with Suzuki leading in scooter volumes and Yamaha in greater than 125cc bikes. Bajaj is already a leader in the premium commuting segment of bikes, partnering Kawasaki in the supersports range & KTM in Offroaders. TVS has gained a predominant position in scooters. Bajaj & TVS have strong in-house R&D teams and successfully launched products over the last three decades, be it in scooters, commuter bikes or sports premium segments. Bajaj and TVS strenghtened their product development skills, even when they were associated with their technology partners. 

 

Today, Hero Honda enjoys supremacy of design and styling whether in vehicle engineering or power train, and meets stringent emission compliance, thanks to Honda. But to sustain the lead in future with no demonstrated in-house R&D track record will be a tall order. HMSI has made significant inroads in India, with its sales of scooters and motorcycles hovering around a million units. With its second plant on the anvil and the launch of new sports and commuting bikes slated in 2012, sales are poised to reach 2 million in 2012 and 2013. This will be 40% of Hero Honda's volumes. Bajaj is consolidating its sharply-defined product/brand strategy. It will also look at scaling from three million to four million. 

 

These companies have planned a clear strategy by creating additional marketshare by segmentation and new products. Hero Honda has to perfect the art of winning all the test matches without losing the one-dayers. It takes 36 months to create a complete new bike from the stage of concept to commercial production. 

 

Hero can outsource R&D if it has an existing strong team and product development experience and wants to co- develop and validate a new engine, new vehicle or new parts. Ultimately, even if Hero outsources the basic specifications and design, the "house of quality" of any new product has to be created by Hero's own R&D.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

THREATS TO INDIA GROWTH STORY

MOTILAL OSWAL 


THE GDP growth of 8.9% in 2QFY11 is a resounding validation of the India growth story. India has effectively endured a global crisis and the worst drought in 30 years. It continues to be one of the fastest growing economies — its GDP is likely to grow at ~9% in FY11 and well into FY12.

 

With nominal GDP growth of 14-15%, at constant exchange rates, India's next trillion dollars (NTD) will come in just five-seven years. We juxtapose the NTD idea with the GDP growth of China to arrive at India's GDP of almost $5 trillion by 2020. India's current gross domestic saving is at 34% of GDP. In line with the long-term trend, we expect this to rise to 40% by 2020. This translates to cumulative decadal saving of over $10 trillion, compared with $2.7 trillion during the current decade. The large savings pool presents ahuge opportunity for many businesses. 

 

India enjoys a special demographic advantage. With over 200 million households, India is not only a huge consumer market but also an attractive investment destination. However, the journey is unlikely to be smooth — a number of speed-breakers and roadblocks will be encountered along the way. The fallout of the lack of radical reforms has shown up in high consumer inflation which, though trending down, continues to persist. The rising global commodity prices are adding further fuel to the fire. Interest rates are headed up. The speed with which the reforms process is progressing is less than desirable. Macroeconomic and business headwinds apart, markets have reason to be concerned about the serious and relentless issues of corporate and political governance, which India is currently embroiled in. 

 

 A serious challenge that faces India is ensuring that the fruits of progress are not restricted to just a few. The bottom one-third of India's 1-billion-plus population still lives below a contentiously-defined 'poverty line'. The prevailing economic and social inequality is already fuelling social unrest and insurgencies in various pockets of the country. Relations with neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan and China, need to be effectively managed. 

 

Subsidies do not reach the people they are targeted at. For instance, kerosene is underpriced because it is supposed to be used by the poor for cooking and lighting and also aimed at discouraging the use of wood for burning. However, it is illegally diverted to adulterate diesel and petrol because of price differentials and is smuggled out of the country. Similarly, diesel prices have still not been fully deregulated due to the direct impact of higher diesel prices on inflation. Diesel is used to power generator sets used in irrigation and to fuel trucks that carry agricultural products, raw material and finished products. However, the unintended beneficiaries are owners of luxury cars and SUVs, who can do without the fuel subsidy. 

 

India levies high taxes on petroleum products — half the selling price of petrol and nearly a third the price paid by consumers of diesel go towards various imposts levied by the state and central governments. High petro-product subsidies have a negative impact on India's fiscal health, which, too, eventually culminates in higher inflation. A more holistic approach to fuel pricing — including the possibility of lower imposts on petro products — is necessary in India's context. 

 

While projects such as the Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South and East-West corridors are laudable, the sustenance of India's growth story will depend to a large extent on continued investment in infrastructure. Development expenditure has been concentrated in a few urban centers. This is evident in the stark difference between Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra. Lop-sided development comes with its own set of social issues — one that makes regular news is the issue of migrant labour. Looking at human resources in general, education and training is an area where much needs to be done. 

 

Food security is another issue that India needs to wake up to. While India is agriculturally well-endowed, 60% of its total cropped area is not irrigated and dependent on a four month-long monsoon during which period 80% of the year's total precipitation takes place. There is a need to develop extensive irrigation infrastructure throughout the country. Policies relating to agricultural produce — fertiliser subsidy, administered pricing mechanism and public distribution system — need to be re-examined. 

 

One roadblock that India needs to demolish quickly is rampant corruption. Serious and relentless issues of corporate and political governance have been coming to light. Such brazen acts of corruption are a big deterrent to national prosperity and can damage the brand India story. While India needs a total overhaul of its anti-corruption delivery system, it is even more important to revamp the education system. Without a holistic education system, India's greatest strength — its army of young people — could turn out to be its greatest weakness!

 

The sustenance of India's growth story will depend to a large extent on continued investment in infrastructure 
Looking at human resources in general, education and training is an area where much needs to be done 
Brazen acts of corruption are a big deterrent to national prosperity and can damage the brand India story

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

GIVING BACK IS GREAT

VITHALC NADKARNI 

 

IN 1857, the year that Indian war of independence was fought, Charles Dickens published Little Dorrit. The central theme of his novel was imprisonment, whether it was imposed by others with iron bars or by oneself because of a closed heart or misanthropic social mores. In his graphic depiction of the Marshalsea debtors' prison Dickens drew upon his own childhood experience, when his bankrupted father, John Dickens, became a 'resident' of a jail for a few months to the eternal dismay of the whole family. 

 

Little Dorrit also contained a first-rate description of a Ponzi scheme: William Dorrit meets Mrs Merdle at Martigny, who invites him to invest his money in her husband's London bank. Many people including the hero, Arthur Clennam, have done so. To cut a long story short, Merdle's bank collapses and the owners commit suicide; Arthur himself lands at Marshalsea as a debtor. 

 

But by the end of the novel everything gets sorted out: the hero comes out of prison, thanks to mysteriously returned papers and codicils. He sorts out his emotional emptiness by marrying the heroine. But the million-dollar question is: how realistic is all this? Can fortunes once lost ever be recovered due to repentance or magnanimity shown by the very people who benefited most from the dubious schemes? 

 

Life does seem to imitate art as shown by the recent developments in the Bernard Madoff case, the largest Ponzi scheme in history, which wiped off tens of billions of dollars of wealth from thousands of investors, including the elderly, universities and philanthropic groups. The 72-year-old Madoff is currently in prison serving out a 150-year sentence. His son, Mark, committed suicide recently on the second anniversary of the father's arrest. 

 

 Meanwhile, the charitable spirit of Christmas, which famously transformed another Dickensian meanie, Ebenezer Scrooge, seems to be thrillingly alive — the billionaire widow of one of the largest beneficiaries of the scheme has agreed to pay back $7.2 billion to make up for others' losses in the fraud. Her action seems to resemble that of Mrs Clennam in the novel; she seeks out the cheated heroine and beg her forgiveness. 

 

To be sure, the benefactress has only paid back the difference between what her late husband invested and withdrew. But didn't Mother Teresa say, "It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving?"

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE PROBLEMS OF COALITION DHARMA

 

The way the concept of "coalition dharma" — a telling expression coined by the former Prime Minister, Mr

 

Atal Behari Vajpayee, — has developed in national politics, the principal party in the ruling alliance at the Centre has all too often been at the mercy of regional allies and been compelled to accept their shenanigans. Managing national coalitions has taken a grievous toll of the authority of the Prime Minister in the process, thus undermining the élan of the administration. Following the exposure of the 2G spectrum scam, turning a blind eye to perceived wrong-doing by a coalition partner — in this case the DMK — has come to haunt the UPA-II government. The larger issue is corruption in public life, which is at the bottom of nearly every manoeuvre in our national life. This used to be papered over, but the sheer scale of the spectrum case, and the exposure of widespread malignancy highlighted in the Radia tapes, demands that commensurate punitive action must follow.

 

Silence on the part of the Union government when wilful vandalising of public funds has come to pass is no longer a policy option, even if the larger object is to protect a democratically constituted government from erosion. The Manmohan Singh government is not rotten to the core. The Prime Minister is personally completely above board, and is seen to be such by the people, whatever the Opposition whispers. And yet, the Prime Minister permitted a minister from an alliance party to ride roughshod over him, belittling his authority, and allegedly cheat the national exchequer. This was presumably tolerated by him in order to protect the ruling coalition. However, when thousands of crores of public money are at issue, the people at large can have no sympathy for the idea of coalition dharma, which has been cooked up by politicians to retain their hold on power. It is, therefore, time for the Congress to weigh its alliance with the DMK in the balance. If money from the spectrum scam has found its way to the coffers of senior elements in the DMK, no one who subscribes to high principles of governance can cover up for political shabbiness.

 

From available reports, there is restiveness in the DMK and the Congress in Tamil Nadu. Both parties are faction-ridden, although in the case of the DMK this is not permitted to become evident. In such a situation the Opposition parties could well have the upper hand in the state elections which are only a few months away. It is likely that the investigation in the spectrum scandal would not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion by then.

 

The party is naturally in a bind. If it seeks to withdraw from the present political arrangement in Tamil Nadu — its support is crucial to the survival of the minority government run by the DMK — the Congress-led government at the Centre is likely to become extremely vulnerable. This is nothing if not a case of Hobson's choice. And yet, the right decision needs to be taken to uphold the majesty of the state and the integrity of its critical processes. After the recent Congress plenary at Burari where fighting corruption was sought to be made the party's hallmark, it will be interesting to see how the leadership of UPA-II navigates its Tamil Nadu crisis.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

COLLECTIVE AMNESIA

BY P.C. ALEXANDER

 

Quite a lot has been said and written in recent weeks about mega scams involving grave acts of corruption by some bureaucrats and politicians. While it is necessary to bring the damage caused by the scams to the forefront, there is another issue thrown up by these scams which has not received the focus it deserves: the failure of the governments concerned to follow certain procedures and conventions in decision-making. This is particularly true of the decision-making process in the telecommunications ministry of the Central government on the allocation of the 2G spectrum.

 

It is necessary that time-honoured practices are followed in taking decisions on projects which require the cooperation and involvement of several government agencies, especially when huge sums are involved. It is the duty of the implementing ministry to obtain the views of the concerned ministries in writing and then to seek the approval of the Cabinet.

 

The implementing ministry may have strong reasons for pursuing a particular line of action, but if it doesn't have the concurrence of other concerned ministries, like finance and law, it must be compelled to modify its proposals on the lines approved by the Cabinet. Even if a particular minister disagrees with the consensus arrived after discussions, the Cabinet decision cannot be disowned by him/her because once approved by the Cabinet the decision becomes the collective responsibility of the members. What we notice from the documents already before the public is that the ministries of law and finance conveyed their disagreement on some important provisions of the proposal in unambiguous terms, and yet, even after noticing that the telecommunication ministry had ignored their opposition, the ministers of finance and law did not press that the proposal be placed before the Cabinet for a discussion. This is rather strange. It shows that the ministers were not willing to go beyond sending their views in writing. If they believed that the telecommunication minister's proposal was really harmful to national interests, they should have insisted on their opposition and asked that their views be placed before the Cabinet. Failure to do this gives the impression that while they were not convinced of the proposals made by the telecommunication ministry, they did not care enough to pursue the matter.

 

The manner in which the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) dealt with the proposals from the telecommunication ministry on the allocation of 2G spectrum was also, to say the least, very surprising. It cannot be claimed that the PMO was not fully aware of the grave loopholes in the telecommunication ministry's proposals. The Prime Minister himself knew from the telecommunication minister's letter dated November 2, 2007, that the ministry had decided to continue with the policy of "first come first served". His letter to the telecommunication minister of the same day asked him to consider "introduction of a transparent methodology of auction, wherever legally and technically feasible, and revision of entry fee, which is currently benchmarked on old spectrum auction figures". But instead of complying with the Prime Minister's suggestion, the telecommunication minister replied on December 26, 2007, that he had enough material in his ministry to ensure that the allocations were fair and transparent. After this came the Prime Minister's letter of January 3, 2008, to the telecommunication minister, simply acknowledging the minister's letter of December 26, 2007, which can be interpreted by those who support the minister's action as indicating that the Prime Minister was not pressing his opposition anymore. At any rate, no action was taken by the PMO to ensure that the minister paid any heed to the views conveyed by the Prime Minister to him.

 

]In my very long experience of working in the Central government, I have not come across a single instance where a minister has chosen to ignore the suggestion given by the Prime Minister on a major proposal such as this. It is not that powerful Prime Ministers like Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi didn't accept suggestions given by their ministerial colleagues on administrative matters. Nehru, in fact, had as his colleagues leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Azad who were his equals in the Congress Party and he tried to accommodate their advice to the maximum extent possible, even holding back his own views.

 

It is now well known that in 1954, Nehru could not include Krishna Menon in his Cabinet in spite of his keen desire to do so because of the strong opposition from Maulana Azad. Azad had strong reservations about Menon because of some allegations of financial irregularities against him during the period when he was high commissioner to the United Kingdom. Maulana Azad even informed Nehru that he would resign from the Cabinet if Nehru went ahead with his proposal to induct Menon. Bowing to the views of Azad, Nehru shelved the idea. Similarly, Nehru had accepted the suggestion of Sardar Patel to create the Indian Administrative Services on the pattern of the ICS of the British days in spite of his own strong dislike for continuing the ICS type of civil services in Independent India.

 

I can also say from personal knowledge that on certain very important and delicate matters requiring decisions at her level, Indira Gandhi had obtained the informal advice of R. Venkataraman who was her finance minister and P.V. Narasimha Rao, her foreign affairs minister. However, it would be wrong to draw any parallel between these great stalwarts in the Cabinet with the Prime Ministers' colleagues in later years.

 

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, if he was really keen that the proposal of the minister should be amended on the lines indicated by him, could have easily done so without any difficulty, he had only to place the matter before the Cabinet. Administrative procedures, like the ones I have given above, may not sound very significant, but if time-tested rules and procedures are allowed to be violated at the whim of individuals in a parliamentary democracy, the whole system of administration will stand in danger of gross distortion and deterioration and ultimate collapse, as it has happened in many newly-independent countries.

 

- P.C. Alexnder is a former governor ofTamil Nadu and Maharashtra

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHO IS US FIGHTING FOR? KARZAI OR AFGHANS?

BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

 

Friends of his would enjoy disputing whether his heart or his ego was the larger, but it was sad to know, as diplomat and peace-maker Richard Holbrooke's heart eventually burst, that he had strained a good deal of it in upholding a policy in which much of his best advice had been, or was being, ignored. He was frequently left off the Obama plane when sensitive talks with Pakistani officials were in prospect. He was publicly rebuked by the administration when he stated that almost every Pashtun family contained at least one Taliban sympathiser. His early warning about the stupidity of incinerating the Afghan poppy crop was often ignored. And his death coincided with the latest confused review of a policy — known as "Af-Pak" — whose very abbreviation contains the seeds of its own negation.

 

The word Pakistan is already enough of a crude acronym. Cobbled together in the 1930s by an exiled Muslim propagandist named Choudhary Rahmat Ali, it represents the provinces of Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir and Indus-Sind, with the last four letters a hasty add-on to mean "land" — in the Urdu language, Pakistan means "The Land of the Pure". The Baluchi and Bengali peoples, orphans and victims of partition and of the Punjabi military elite, are simply left out. But the Pakistani claims on Afghanistan and Kashmir are included within the confection. By using the A and the K again, as with Af-Pak, we echo Pakistan's own claim that it needs its own semi-colony in Afghanistan the better to combat India in India. This is the problem to begin with and the reason why so many of our forces are permanently endangered by having to fight an enemy — the Taliban — that was created by and is still subsidised by our "friends".

 

There are policies that might permit victory and policies that merely guarantee defeat. At first sight, a surge that emphasises the date of its own abandonment so well in advance belongs in the latter category. But there are those who say that Afghans are encouraged to resist the Taliban by the assurance that Nato will not remain on their soil indefinitely. Tenuous as that sounds, it could explain why important areas in and around Kandahar have gone so quiet lately. But so does the rival explanation that all the Taliban need do is wait till the inevitable withdrawal.

 

The critical political question is now this one: Are we committed to Afghanistan or to the Karzai government? There are many, many Afghans who will fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda whether we continue to do so or not: the Hazara and the Tajiks and a good number of the nation's women and city-dwellers. Not to feel some sort of duty and solidarity here would be morally deaf. But in what sense are these allies represented by a regime that cannot any longer even claim to have won an election? Or, even worse, by a predatory regime that may have a mutually hand-washing covert agreement with the Taliban itself?

 

On December 13, the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran provided a hair-raising account of a meeting involving Hamid Karzai, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. The American side was warning the President that a precipitate cancellation of contracts with overseas private-security firms would leave many crucial targets unguarded. Karzai's response, before storming out of the room, was to shout that he now had three main enemies: the Taliban, the United States and the international community, and that, "If I had to choose sides today, I'd join the Taliban". This is not the only time he has made this hysterical threat.

 

Chandrasekaran's report went on to note drily that, in many known cases, allies or relatives of Karzai would be the beneficiaries of such contracts being reassigned to local bidders. Thus it is for him a "win-win strategy", allowing him to pose as a defender of Afghan autonomy while enriching his own warlord clientele. Needless to say, this is a severe lose-lose outcome for the Nato alliance, as well as an arming and reinforcement of what might become a future Taliban coalition-partner.

 

According to Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former British envoy and special representative to the country, Karzai "is neither the hero nor the zero depicted by US politicians and press, but a genuine patriot struggling to balance and control internal and external forces far greater than those available to him". This analysis, while not uncritical, allows us to preserve the idea that there are still two sides in Afghanistan, where we are attempting rather clumsily to shore up the lesser evil or perhaps the weaker yet better one. Another diagnosis is that "the government, local power brokers often work with the Taliban to enrich themselves and to share control of key areas". The first conclusion could argue that the present course is highly quixotic yet still defensible. The second conclusion is almost too horrible to think about, which is why it must be confronted very honestly and very soon.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TILAK AND THE STAR OF THE VEDAS

BY JAYANT V. NARLIKAR

 

The Vedas are described as apaurusheya, that is, written by no man. They were transmitted down from one generation to the next without anyone having a clue as to who wrote them. This question of authorship of the Vedas is linked with another, perhaps more tractable, question: When were they written? From the study of the contents, the language and allusions to events, Western scholars arrived at the figure of around 3.5 to four thousand years ago as the age of Vedic literature.

 

Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, known to most Indians for his leadership of the Indian national movement for Independence, before the arrival on the scene of Mahatma Gandhi, had a multifaceted personality. He was well versed in mathematics, had written a learned commentary of the Bhagavad Gita called the Geetarahasya, had a philosophical bent and took great interest in social issues besides running a national newspaper, Kesari, of which he was also the editor. Last, but not the least, he possessed basic knowledge of astronomy which he put to use in a highly original fashion to decide the antiquity of the Vedas.

 

To understand the basis of Tilak's approach, let us first look at the way the earth spins around its axis as it goes round the sun. It is because of that spin that we see the heavenly bodies go westward in the sky in a 24-hour cycle. Only the Pole Star appears to be fixed in space, because it lies on the axis of spin. An excellent comparison with the earth's spin is provided by a spinning top, which can be spun by pulling the string wrapped around it. With sufficient practice, one can toss such a top on the floor and watch it move round as it spins.

 

Such a spinning top shows another feature. Its axis of spin is not fixed in space, but it precesses, that is, moves along a cone thus making the top wobble. The same applies to the earth: its spin axis too precesses in space. But, did we not say that it is fixed in the direction of the Pole Star? Well, that was an approximate statement. It will be more accurate to say that the axis precesses very slowly, making a single round on the cone in around 26,000 years. So to us mortals it seems fixed in space within our sub-century lifespan. However, if we compare astronomical records over several centuries we would discover this motion. For example, the star Polaris (or the star Dhruva in Indian literature) was not the Pole Star 5,000 years ago. Another star, today known as Thuban, had that status because the earth's spin axis pointed in its direction then.

 

But can a layman notice any change in the stellar or terrestrial environment when looking at the astronomical records? The answer is "yes" and to see how that happens, let us see how, when viewed from the earth, the sun changes its direction through the year. Observers over the centuries have used known stellar groups to identify this change of direction. These are the so-called signs of the zodiac. So the sun moves against the zodiacal background and can be located with reference to the sign of stars at its back. The calendar of the year identifies the 12 signs of the zodiac with 12 months and the apparent path of the sun is called the ecliptic.

 

We learn in school geography that the length of the day changes through the year, being the longest on June 21 and the shortest on December 22. In between, there are two locations on the ecliptic where the day and night are equal. These are called the spring equinox and the autumn equinox. These fall on March 21 and September 21 respectively. This variation in the length of the day would not have occurred if the earth's spin axis were perpendicular to the ecliptic. In reality, the axis makes an angle of approximately 66 degrees. And as we saw earlier, the spin axis is slowly precessing. The result is that the points of equinox also slowly move along the ecliptic, taking 26,000 years to make one round.

 

We also learn in geography texts that seasons arise because of the above configuration. Spring begins when the sun is at the spring equinox and autumn when it is at the autumn equinox. However, as we just saw, the equinoxal points slowly change their positions against the zodiacal groups of stars. Therefore, in the annual calendar, the months identified with a season will slowly change. In particular, if we decide to start the year with the sun at the spring equinox, the first month of the year would change because of the slow shift of the spring equinox.

 

This was the clue that Tilak worked on. He was led to it by a shloka from the Bhagavad Gita in which Lord Krishna, identifying himself with the best and most important in any class of objects or people, says: "I am Margashirsha amongst the months and spring amongst the seasons".

 

In modern times Margashirsha does not fall in the spring season; rather it falls closer to the autumn. So why this discrepancy? The discrepancy is resolved if we argue that the statement was made when Margashirsha fell in the spring season. By turning the earth clock backwards, we move the equinoxes backwards until the spring equinox was in the zodiacal group identified with Margashirsha. This gave him an estimate of the antiquity of the statement.

 

Tilak used this approach to look at astronomical allusions in Vedic literature and from them sought to build up the stellar framework that must have existed when the statement was made. His monograph, The Orion: Research into the Antiquity of the Vedas, is a scholarly discussion of this approach. He arrived at an age for the Vedas much older than the age estimated by Western scholars. This opened the door to controversy as to which method is correct. While Tilak's reliance on astronomical data gave him a reliable clock, the weakness of his method probably lay in the authenticity of the allusions he had used. Whatever the eventual outcome of this ongoing exercise of dating our ancient literature, we have to give credit to Tilak for his ingenious approach.

 

 Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus atInter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune University Campus, and a renowned astrophysicist

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE HARD FACTS ABOUT A SOFT STATE

BY S.K. SINHA

 

A soft state shies away from taking hard decisions. It is ever ready to make compromises. Matters get compounded when it pursues the policy of appeasement. That makes the soft state even softer.

We have been apologetic and defensive about Kashmir, when both legally and morally our position is indisputable. The UN recognised the legitimacy of India's legal status in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah's endorsement provided moral justification. The UN Ceasefire Resolution of August 13, 1948, called for the withdrawal of all Pakistan forces from Kashmir while the Indian Army was to remain in the state during the plebiscite. While delineating the Ceasefire Line, the 200 sq. mile Tilel Valley, which was no man's land, was not shared between India and Pakistan. The UN made it inclusive to India. But Delhi has been mute in pressing its claim to territory under Pakistan's illegal occupation.

There have been agitations and violence in Gilgit-Baltistan over Pakistan's anti-Shia policy, denial of basic democratic rights and efforts to alter the demographic profile by settling Pathans and Punjabis. We do not even give them moral support. Neither our mission in Islamabad nor our visiting dignitaries to Islamabad ever contact their leaders. Our excuse is that we should not ruffle feathers. On the other hand, we allow complete freedom to separatist leaders from the Valley to remain in touch with the Pakistan high commission in Delhi and meet visiting dignitaries from Pakistan.

India is constantly being pilloried by Pakistan, the separatists and our own human rights activists for human rights violations. The Army is demonised despite the fact that its record of upholding human rights is far superior to that of the Pakistan Army in erstwhile East Pakistan, Baluchistan and Waziristan, or, for that matter, the US Army in Vietmam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and the US have been carrying out airstrikes and artillery bombardments against militants. India has never once used these weapons against militants in Kashmir. All allegations of human rights violations are investigated.

Over 90 per cent have been found to be false. Army personnel found guilty have been promptly punished and dismissed from service with imprisonment from two to 14 years. An example comes to mind to illustrate the difference between the Indian and Pakistani approaches. Mohammad Akbar Bugti, the veteran separatist leader in Baluchistan, was eliminated by an airstrike ordered by former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the veteran Kashmiri separatist leader, not only enjoys the freedom to indulge in sedition and promote terrorist violence, but is provided the best available medical care. He was supposed to be terminally ill with liver cancer in 2007 and wanted to go to the US for medical treatment, but the US denied him a visa because of his terrorist connections. He went to Mumbai where a Kashmiri pandit doctor performed a complicated surgery and saved his life.

In 2007, the government took the bizarre decision of giving pensions to the families of terrorists killed in encounters with security forces. This is not done anywhere in the world. Now the demand is to get the "misguided boys" back from PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) and give them rehabilitation benefits. They are trained terrorists who have lived in terrorist camps. On the other hand, little has been done for the return of Kashmiri pandits or for the repair of scores of their vandalised temples. The pandits have been languishing in refugee camps.

Our response to Pakistan's cross-border terrorism has been tepid. We failed to carry out surgical strikes on terrorist camps in PoK, which is legally Indian territory. Now, Pakistan is a nuclear weapon power and the excuse is that we should not provoke a nuclear war. Pakistan is not deterred by Indian nukes and continues with its terrorist strikes. It knows that India is a soft state.

Terrorism has been losing steam in Kashmir. Since 2008, three mass movements have taken place. The Amarnath land controversy in 2008 was based on total falsehoods and fraud. So was the alleged rape and killing of two women at Shopian in 2009. Both these movements held the Valley to ransom for two to three months. The stone-pelting intifada of 2010, for three months, resulted in 100 stone-pelters getting killed and some 2,000 security force personnel injured. Chief minister Omar Abdullah failed to tackle the situation. Though thoroughly discredited, he was allowed to continue in office. He recently asserted in the state Assembly that Kashmir acceded and did not merge with India, like Hyderabad and Junagadh did. The reference to the latter two states has a mischievous insinuation. He took the oath of office swearing by the Kashmir Constitution, Article 3 of which states that Kashmir is and shall remain an integral part of India. He is irked by references to Kashmir being an integral part of India. Yet Delhi gives him all-out support.

The latest trend is for separatist leaders to tour the country preaching sedition at meetings in Delhi, Kolkata and Chandigarh. Their demand for "azadi" will lead to colonial subjugation of the majority in the state. Kashmiri Muslims are only 45 per cent of the state's population. The remaining population is of other Muslims and non-Muslims, who are not separatists. Some publicity-crazy individuals have been supporting these separatists. They have even been turning history on its head by saying that Kashmir had never been a part of India. Srinagar was founded by Ashoka the Great.

The state has chosen to turn a blind eye to these shenanigans, seeking shelter behind the plea of freedom of speech in a democracy. No state, no matter how liberal and democratic, allows the freedom to propagate sedition and treason. John Amery, son of Leo Amery, the secretary of state for India in Churchill's War Cabinet, had joined the Nazis and broadcast Nazi propaganda on Berlin Radio. After the war, he was tried for treason and sentenced to death. There is no reason why those indulging in treason should not be proceeded against. It is only in a soft state that people can be allowed the freedom to propagate sedition.

- The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ONE MANTRA, MANY GODS

BY SADHGURU

 

The inward process does not belong to any particular group. Whether it was Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Krishna or Rama, whatever they started was to cleanse our life, to make our life rise beyond the limitations of normal living and know the freedom of being divine. It is just that they spoke according to what was suitable for people around them in those times. The way they spoke basically depended on the cultural, religious and language backgrounds in which they lived. But if you really look at the crux of their teaching, it doesn't matter from which part of the world or from which culture they came from — wherever the Enlightened spoke, you will see it was always about turning people inward.

 

Now, I am taking Christianity as an example. You must understand that Jesus was initially functioning in a very hostile atmosphere. So to begin with he said many things about going to heaven, what God will do for you, how to reach the kingdom of God and all this stuff. But when people really gathered around him, he turned around and said the kingdom of God is within you. So if the kingdom of God is within you, you know what you should be doing — you should be turning your energies inward and you must be looking inward. You must become meditative naturally, isn't it?

 

So if you go to the crux of the teaching, the whole thing is about turning inward. Gautama the Buddha could afford to speak in a direct language about being meditative because the calibre of people and the social structure around him was very different. Jesus was not fortunate enough to have that kind of people. His followers were simple people — fishermen, farmers, and market people. He could not afford to talk to them on those levels, so he spoke in his own language; but he did not speak anything different nor has any other divine being at any time in the world spoken anything different from this — that "the kingdom of God is within you".

 

It is just that they have expressed it in many different ways, in different languages and different methods, but fundamentally they are trying to tell us that the source of our joy and happiness is not outside, it is inside us. If we turn inward, everything that needs to be known can be known. If we really want to fulfil the desire of becoming unbounded, the only place that one can look is inward.

 

If we look outward, we will always end up frustrated because externally there is a limit as to what we can do and what we cannot do. Internally there is no limit; we can go to unbounded possibilities.

 

— Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader. An author, poet, and internationally-renowned speaker, Sadhguru's wit and piercing logic provoke and widen our perception of life. He can be contacted at www.ishafoundation.org [1]

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

FUZZY LOGIC

DR SINGH STOOPS ~ DOESN'T CONQUER


WERE it not for the dwindling traces of the Prime Minister's leadership credentials, his offer to appear before Parliament's PAC ~ "if required", please note ~ processing the CAG's report on 2G Spectrum allocation would have been slammed as mischievous manipulation. Still, public opinion would probably write it off as too little too late. Not surprisingly the Congress trumpets it as a "master-stroke", for it is a pernicious political ploy. Dr Manmohan Singh's playing the role of injured innocent is one element of the Congress' gameplan to extricate itself from the corruption-corner into which it has painted itself. At no stage, even as 2G allegations fly thick and fast, has Dr Singh's personal integrity been doubted; indeed the JPC demand is targeted at Sonia Gandhi and her role in the entire mess. What has been seriously questioned is his capacity to deliver clean government: either as a result of lacking the spine to bite political bullets and curb a scandalous coalition partner, or being near-comatose when loot ran riot in the approach to the Commonwealth Games. So to try and inject a personal element is essentially a devious diversionary tactic. The contention that the PAC could not "summon" the Prime Minister was only one ~ neither the sole, nor the principal ~ of the arguments favouring a JPC. If there was sincerity to Dr Singh's "offer" it would have come earlier and not just as part of the Burari script to fight fire with fire. But only after having been badly burnt.

 

What the Congress conveniently ignores is that the severe body blows under which it is reeling were thrown not by the noisy Opposition (its functioning has also been gravely flawed: the people are least concerned with JPC-PAC, they demand action) but by the CAG and the Supreme Court. The Radia revelations go far beyond the 2G scam, the role of big money (obviously "black") in government formation and conduct are not a creation of the BJP or Left. The impression of India being corruption-ridden has been globally exacerbated, the business community feels battered. The anti-corruption watchdog is toothless after a dubious but deliberate appointment of its head. Yet all the Congress can do is counter-accuse the BJP, as if one sin absolves another. The manner in which the party's spin doctors work themselves into a lather is telling: they are aware the cobwebs of their creation can be easily blown away. As usual Chidambaram takes the cake. He punctures the BJP's hopes of coming to power this decade, aam aadmi would have been more impressed had he set that time-frame for eliminating corruption. Back to the "master-stroke", it is not insignificant. But it does testify to the completion of the transition of Dr Manmohan Singh from statesman to politician!

 

'SHARED ENTERPRISE'

VICE-PRESIDENT DELIVERS A HOME-TRUTH

HE Vice-President has upheld the certitudes of federalism. Monday's foundation day lecture at Calcutta University is also mildly critical of the HRD ministry, struggling to cope with a turmoil of ideas. Mr Hamid Ansari has questioned the pattern of funding with the caveat that higher education can excel only if the state universities are adequately funded.  The system, at least over the past few years, has been remarkably imbalanced. And the disconnect goes beyond the customary cavil over Centre-State equations. Indeed, the pattern can be said to be out of joint going by what the Vice-President calls "anecdotal evidence".  What needs urgently to be addressed is the disproportionate budgeting. To quote Mr Ansari, "the budget of one Central university is same or more than the budget of all state universities in some states". This is the home-truth that the likes of Kapil Sibal must accept. Implicit in Mr Ansari's presentation is the HRD ministry's obsessive concern with Central institutes of higher learning. As often as not, this has worked to the detriment of state universities, if not learning as a whole.

His strident pitch for state universities may carry a faint echo of the Left's traditional perceptions, but he can't be factually faulted.  While calling for an upgrade of the infrastructure in the states, he has obliquely addressed his message to the Centre and the UGC. Precisely, that it is states which enrol the "bulk of the students pursuing higher education". Hence the imperative for suitable funding and the right infrastructure. It is ridiculous if some of the new universities, in West Bengal for instance, have to function from old college buildings, and without the structural needs of a university court, syndicate and governing council. At another remove, Central universities, notably Visva-Bharati, have expended the bounty on profligacy. It is this disconnect that is the small print of the Vice-President's presentation, one that hobbles the Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan, vocational education and colleges across the states. Mr Ansari has delivered a resounding message to the regulatory authorities ~ "the Centre should vastly enhance its support to state universities as a shared enterprise".

 

NCP'S STRATAGEM

DOUBLE-THINK RUN WILD

Sharad Pawar, as the country's food minister, has been decidedly inept; his outfit styled the NCP is less than a non-entity in West Bengal and Kerala. And the decision to pursue two opposing strategies for the forthcoming assembly elections in the two Left-ruled states confirms its political bankruptcy. It thus comes about that while the party will team up with the Trinamul Congress in Bengal, it will attempt to ride piggy-back with the Left in Kerala. It isn't actually a question of which horse the party is backing; right or wrong is hardly relevant to the context. Suffice it to register that a more glaring instance of double-think run wild will be difficult to conceive of. To claim, as the party has done, that widely variant electoral arrangements are rooted in "pragmatic coalition politics" is to engage in a convoluted exercise in self-deception. Theoretically, the general secretary, Tariq Anwar, may be right. Granted that coalition politics lend scope for "each party to tread its independent path", as the NCP claims in its laboured defence of an arrangement that passes understanding.


Parties and politics don't count in the NCP's reckoning; it would be an understatement to describe its moves as "sheer opportunism" as its detractors have done. Mr PA Sangma has been entrusted with the task of negotiating the seat-sharing deal with "like-minded parties" in the two states. As it turns out, Trinamul fulfils that appellation in Bengal; the Left in Kerala. The NCP is game for any entity, however different the persuasion.  Its electoral tie-ups verge on a caricature. The latest bout of flirtations are of a piece with its deviant strategies. It bears recall that while the NCP had shared power with the BJP in Meghalaya in 1999-2000, it had fought against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra. It comes through as a party virtually bereft of principles. Bihar has seen through the bluff; the NCP might wish to reflect on the zero representation in the assembly instead of experimenting with its skills on the political chequerboard.  Such spurious experiments have wrought havoc to one of life's essentials ~ food.

      

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

WEST BENGAL'S SHAME

MINDS FILLED WITH DREAD, HEADS DROOPING IN ANXIETY

BY RAVINDRA KUMAR


THERE is a sense of the surreal about politics being practised in West Bengal today. Of critical importance ~ and needing informed debate ~ are areas of governance. Dominating centre-stage though are macabre displays of bodies and rhetorical non-sequiturs that achieve little and lead the state nowhere. 


The Left is fighting with its back to the wall, and with very little to show for more than three decades in governance. Hence, it was to be expected, indeed it was inevitable, that the CPI-M and its allies would attempt to divert their opponent's attention with meaningless and debilitating duels, not all of them verbal. 


But it would entirely be the Trinamul Congress' fault if it allows these diversionary tactics to derail its ambitions. A party in Opposition is entitled to ask, and the party in government is obliged to answer, questions about governance. And there are several questions that need to be asked and answered. Bengal's tragedy is that there are neither informed questions, nor well-argued answers; only drivel being offered by either side in what passes off for debate. 


First, the Opposition's focus ought to have been on the state of West Bengal's finances ~ parlous for many years, and now on the brink of collapse. Indeed, if reports emerging from Writers' Buildings are even half-correct, the state is in the grip of a serious financial emergency.  The government is hard pressed to pay bills, but curiously there is nothing to suggest the Opposition is either capable of or willing to confront the Finance minister. 


Next, the state's infrastructure ~ roads, bridges and power distribution outside Kolkata ~ are in a shambles. The Opposition seems unable to confront the ministers responsible. Third, the education sector ~ at all levels ~ is in a mess and at a time when the country has committed itself to compulsory education for all. The Opposition has raised few questions, and offered fewer prescriptions, on how it proposes to tackle this mess if elected. 

 

Fourth, industry presents a picture of stagnation, occasional announcements of one software company or the other showing interest in expansion notwithstanding. The Opposition appears to suggest that industrial growth will have to be preceded by a settlement of the land acquisition question. This argument takes the state nowhere, because it presumes that no industrial expansion is possible without more land being acquired, and ignores the thousands of industrial sheds and dozens of industrial estates that produce little or nothing and cry out for better utilization, or the many existing industries ~ such as leather ~ that could perform better, much better, with a little assistance. 

 

 All that the Trinamul does is harp on the law-and-order situation, in the belief that it can directly target the Chief Minister ~ who holds the Police portfolio ~ for the disturbances and tensions. This is possibly the weakest argument to adopt, because violence can as easily be blamed on the Opposition as it can on the ruling Left Front. People, after all, aren't blind. And it isn't as if Left cadres are demonstrably assaulting Trinamul supporters without facing any retaliation, or with the other cheek being offered. Both sides are involved in the violence, and for one to say that the other started it is hardly enough reason to buttress a claim to rule West Bengal. 


In the net, therefore, the Trinamul shows itself as a party that is passionate about the need for change without quite being clear about what change will entail for those whose support it seeks. It is possible the party is unable to spell out its plans, or that it proposes to wing it ~ as it were ~ if it comes to power. But to ask voters to choose Miss Mamata Banerjee over Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee only because change is essential, which it well might be, reveals the hollowness of both individuals. 


The little evidence we have seen so far of Trinamul's ability to govern isn't encouraging. The Mayor of Kolkata, for instance, appears to do little except fall into swimming pools. Is he aware, for instance, of the state of city roads? It doesn't take three months after a monsoon to get roads repaired, and it can't be a display of black humour that a stretch of the EM Bypass where several hospitals are located has enough potholes to give both orthopaedic surgeon and trauma care specialist enough business. 

 

In short, the political debate lacks substance; sadly it even lacks decorum. For a state that prides itself on the intellectual prowess of its citizens, it must be depressing to see the levels at which political discourse is carried out. The Trinamul has offered us its share of verbal idiocies but the Left ~ shockingly for a party in power as long as it has been ~ appears to have lost all sense of proportion. 


While intemperance, indeed worse, is expected of habitual loudmouths such as Mr Biman Bose and Mr Benoy Konar, recent utterances of a former Member of Parliament, Mohammad Salim, are shocking, in as much as they reveal the presence of a sick, even diseased mind. To suggest that an opponent should not talk of Mother Earth or the motherland because she has never been a mother is disgusting. This is as idiotic as saying a Hindu cannot feel the pain of minorities because he visits a barber periodically or has not been circumcised. 


Had we known Mr Salim to be the sort of man whose tongue isn't entirely under his control, we might have felt less troubled. But this is an articulate face of the Left, the CPI-M's spokesman no less, a man who knows the art of measuring his words. In the absence of a retraction, or an expression of regret, the only explanation we are left with is that the Left has decided to abandon all pretence. The words are ominous ~ for if they can be so foul, how foul shall be the deeds? 


Nobody expected the Left to give up power without a fight, and few people expected the fight to be clean. Nobody expected the Trinamul to provide the perfect alternative ~ there is too much power concentrated in a single individual, and too little talent on display for that to become a reality any time soon. 


If democracy is to be celebrated, people must eagerly await the chance they periodically get to endorse ~ or reject ~ a political formation. Residents of West Bengal, though, can only view with fear and trepidation the prospect of the next four or five violent and disturbed months. This isn't what democracy is about; this sickening state of mind where ordinary people wish that the mess of an election is over and done with as soon as possible. 


We have a lot to be ashamed of, but most of all the kind of people we choose as our leaders. In Tagore's 150th birth anniversary year, the mind is filled with dread, the head droops with anxiety, and such streams of reason as there might ever have been are filled with the sludge of political decay. Truly have we allowed scum to rise to the top.

 

The writer is Editor, The Statesman  

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

WHAT ROBERT BLACKWILL DOESN'T SAY!

 

Former US Ambassador to India and present Fellow at the US Council of Foreign Relations Robert Blackwill had created a stir earlier by advocating the de facto partition of Afghanistan. In a recent article, he has returned to the theme. His case is simple. He agrees with the widely held assessment that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily. He accepts that a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by Nato could lead to chaos and immense problems for neighbouring countries. He recognizes the ethnic divide in Afghanistan between the largest community of Pashtuns and the remaining clusters of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Shiites and the rest. So, he offers a simple alternative to a strategic US defeat resulting from its withdrawal by any stated deadline. 
Blackwill recommends a de facto partition of Afghanistan. He would like US troops to be stationed in the northern parts of Afghanistan inhabited by the non-Pashtuns. He would withdraw US troops from the south and the east where the Pashtuns dominate. He would allow the Pashtuns to rule themselves in their area, but he would reserve the right to bomb their areas if they transgressed into the territory controlled by the US or if they harboured the Al-Qaida and allowed it to pursue its activities against neighbouring countries. 


Blackwill is a strategist. He has been driven to his conclusion after studying ground realities. He has offered his version of a practical plan for the US to disengage itself from Afghanistan in a phased manner. In so doing, he has, without specifying the consequence of his plan, totally vindicated the formula for resolving the Af-Pak crisis repeatedly advanced by this scribe through these columns. Consider what would follow if Blackwill's suggestions were implemented. 


Stretching from central Afghanistan down south across the tribal belt in Pakistan right up to Peshawar, the Pashtuns would have virtually no foreign interference among their tribes. Already the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is almost invisible due to cross border movement. A de facto Pashtunistan would have been created. Already Islamabad has little or no control over its tribal belt area. What would emerge? Would it not be a loose, undeclared version of the Pashtunistan dreamt of by the late Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan?


How would Islamabad or Kabul counter the growing sentiment for the formal emergence of this entity? Let it be noted that there are thrice the number of Pashtuns in Pakistan as there are in Afghanistan. And let it be further noted that the most popular leader among the Pashtuns in Pakistan presently is Afsandyar Wali Khan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan's grandson. A sovereign independent Pashtunistan would alter present international borders to divide both Afghanistan and Pakistan. 


There would be only one option left to avoid alteration of present international borders. And that would be the creation of a South Asian Community with joint defence, common market and free movement of goods and people across international borders. That alone would allow cultural nationalism to find expression within the present status quo. Rest assured that, if such events unfold in Afghanistan, the situation in Kashmir would not remain unaffected. The choice then would be clear. Either South Asia must coalesce into a community or it must face restructuring of international borders. What would Islamabad, Kabul and New Delhi choose? 

 

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

KEEPING UP WITH THE JAINS

ISHWAR PATI 


"Do you know what Mrs Jain has now got?" My wife whispered in a conspiratorial tone. The Jains were the residents of the flat below us in our apartment complex. I tried to think of all the things that the Joneses, sorry the Jains, did not have but were dying to have. They had all the gadgets that any modern yuppie couple like them aspires to possess, like microwave, washing machine, wall-mounted plasma TV, hi-fi system with DVD player, latest model of car, blah, blah. Oh, yes, they didn't have a dishwasher. Neither did we. That's it, that's what they must be carting into their flat, to go one up on us! "A dishwasher," I answered confidently. 


She bombarded me with an earful of logic. "What fool will buy a dishwasher with the present water situation in our building? Dishwashers guzzle water, you know." 


"Ah, a BlackBerry then?" I hazarded. If not a white item, it had to be one of those latest smartphones which, parked inside Mrs Jain's purse, had escaped my notice. 


"No berry, werry," my wife said, thinking that I was referring to some sort of juicy fruit of that botanical family. 


"Well, what is it then?" I gave up and waited for her to spill it out. 


"Mrs Jain has gone and got a whole body check-up done!" 


"Why did she have to go herself for a body scan of their car?" I asked foolishly. 


"Don't be ridiculous!" she said. "It's her own medical check-up I'm talking about. This new hospital is giving an introductory discount of 50 per cent, and more than 50 per cent of the people in our complex have already availed of the offer." So the "keeping up with the Joneses" virus had thrown up a queer mutant in our building! In any case, I couldn't argue with percentages reeled off by my better 50 per cent ("better half" in plain English). 


"You want to get your body, your whole body and nothing but your body examined?" I asked her in very plain English. 


"Very funny! Actually it is you I'm thinking of. You need a thorough check-up. God knows what diseases you may be harbouring? Of course, since the offer is there, I might as well get one done too!" So we followed in the footsteps of our neighbours and landed up at the swanky new hospital. We paid swanky new rates (after discount) to have our swanky ~ no, no, tawdry ~ bodies prodded and pushed and pricked. What came out of the tests will constitute another story. Needless to say, the "keeping up with the Jains" fever ensured that the new hospital got its custom from all the residents of our building. I have a lurking suspicion that the only person in our block who gained was the manager ~ not in kilos, but in kickbacks. 


A few days later, as we tucked into bed, my wife mentioned with a sort of awe in her voice, "You know, Mr Jain has got a bypass done. It's the in-thing they say, what with heart disease being so rampant and all." 


"You mean, I should get one done too, just to keep up with him?" 


"No, no, I didn't say that. But, yes, it will give me peace of mind. Besides, I can always claim that my husband's heart has been properly looked after." 


"May be I should go in for a double by-pass then," I suggested. "That way you can double your boasting of looking after my heart!" She would have smothered me with her pillow had I not taken evasive action, in which event the Jains would have had a hard task keeping up with our "grave" act.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

NEWS ITEM


THE BAKR-ID TROUBLE 

Marwaris Still On Strike 

It was expected in some quarters that at the end of the Bakr-Id festival, the Marwaris would resume business and the shops in Burra Bazar would be opened, but inquiries on Thursday last showed that this expectation is not likely to be realised for some days yet, the Marwaris being apparently as determined as ever  not to resume business. Ninety per cent of the shops and business place remained closed, as on the days previous, and only a number of confectionery, fruit, and hardware shops were open. It further appears that Bengali merchants carrying on business in piece-goods and other things in the same locality, have made common cause with their fellow-traders, their shops being closed too. 


Despite the resumption of the tram service along Harrison Road and the complete withdrawal of the troops, Burra Bazar and vicinity were comparatively deserted on Thursday last. The Marwari and Khetri merchants seem to favour the idea of boycotting British goods, and thee was a general rumour that they would have nothing to do with British piece-goods in future, as the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, on whose assistance they had counted much, would not exert themselves in any way on their behalf to bring about an amicable settlement in the matter of the cow-sacrifice at the Armenian Street musjid. It was said in some quarters that they would fall back upon country-made goods exclusively, and, further, if they could not meet the demand in the market, they would even go to the extent of manufacturing things in India. It was further said that they would have nothing more to do with Mahomedan merchants either as capitalists, agents or brokers. 
No disturbance was reported to have happened during the day and everything looked quite peaceful. The Kabulis found carrying lathis were disarmed by the police, and for fear of losing heir sticks, very few ventured out with them.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

TOO MANY VISITS

 

Diplomats in well-tailored suits may not convey the impression, but diplomacy demands hard work. Behind the joint communiqués and the glittering signing ceremonies lie hours of home work, hard-nosed negotiations and pages of drafting and redrafting carried out by anonymous mandarins belonging to the foreign services of the countries concerned. Given this almost self-evident reality concerning a visit of a head of State/government, it is incredible that four heads of State/government have come to India between the second week of November and now. The presidents of the United States of America, France and Russia and the premier of China provided India's ministry of external affairs with an embarrassment of riches over seven weeks. It could not have been easy for Manmohan Singh either, especially given the domestic scandals he had to face and the meeting of his party's plenary he had to attend. This raises questions about drawing up such a hectic and whistle-stop schedule, which could not have left the Indian foreign office and concerned ministers and bureaucrats with much time for reflection and the weighing of pros and cons.

 

This kind of schedule lends ground to the suspicion that there was very little time for proper preparation. The reference is here not to protocol and ritual, which are probably pretty well laid down and established. It refers to the time left for home work to be done by the relevant secretaries, especially the foreign secretary, on whom falls the responsibility of leading the backroom negotiations. What does India gain by so many important visits within such a short space of time? It conveys the impression that leaders of powerful States are eager to come to India to renegotiate or reiterate the terms of their relationship with India, which is perceived now as a significant global player. This gain should, however, be placed against the drawbacks of going under-prepared to the negotiating table. Indian diplomats, this time round, may have been fortunate, but that is no guarantee that their luck will always hold. In diplomacy, as in life, it always pays to be safe rather than sorry. Surely, it is not obligatory to have important visits clubbed together within a few weeks. All it requires is some sort of forward planning and to accept the offer of visits to India on India's terms and convenience, rather than on terms set by the itinerary of foreign dignitaries.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

SCARED AWAY

 

Much of the news about West Bengal today must be an investor's nightmare. Singapore's foreign minister, George Yeo, was literally closer to reality when he happened to be in Calcutta and to personally witness the dark clouds that hung over the city and other parts of West Bengal. His stay in the city coincided with political activists parading the streets with the body of a slain colleague. If he had stayed on a few more days, he would have seen the ruling party activists, led by none other than the chief minister, holding the city to ransom on some other issue. Obviously, Mr Yeo could not have commented explicitly on such extraordinary acts of West Bengal's politicians or the chaos that prevails in the state. But there is no way one can miss the point in what he said about Singapore holding back its investment plans for the state. The point is that the current spell of violence, chaos and collapse of governance is enough to make potential investors shun the state. And, what Mr Yeo said must also be the feeling of domestic entrepreneurs. Between the ruling coalition and the Opposition, the state's politicians have managed to restore West Bengal's old reputation as a hopeless state where violent, partisan politics kills all productive activity.

 

The chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, must bear the primary responsibility for this state of affairs. He is not only the executive head of the government but also the most important leader of the principal ruling party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He seems to be utterly incapable of stopping political violence or using the administration to stem the rot. What is worse and even more dangerous is the fact that he has been calling upon his party activists to "resist" the Opposition's attempts to "unleash forces of anarchy". True, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress and the Maoists have posed serious challenges to his rule. But, instead of getting the administration to deal with it, Mr Bhattacharjee seems to rely more on his party to do it. The result is an administrative collapse that has left the field free for violent turf-wars between rival political parties. The Left's militant politics scared investors away from the state in a big way in the 1960s and the 1970s. Now, its abdication of its responsibilities as a party of the government threatens to do worse for West Bengal.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

 

SWITCHING CHANNELS

INDIA SHOULD THINK BEYOND FAMILIAR WAYS OF DEALING WITH CHINA

DIPLOMACY - K.P. NAYAR

 

To judge the outcome of the Chinese premier's visit to India last week, it is first necessary to choose a running mate. In the short run, the results of Wen Jiabao's three-day visit to India are open to debate. But in the long run, Wen and the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, may have laid the foundations for Sino-Indian engagement of a kind that future generations of Indians and Chinese will thank them for.

 

If there is one item in the joint communiqué issued at the end of Wen's visit that trumps everything else, it is this: "Both sides recognized the importance of educational exchanges, including promoting wider knowledge of each other's languages." Few other shortcomings underline the distortions in India's school curriculum as dramatically as the absence hitherto of Chinese among the 32 languages at the secondary and senior secondary levels that students can choose from. It would be inconceivable for school students in Ukraine not to be able to choose Russian as a foreign language or for schools in Slovakia not to have facilities to teach German, which is the mother tongue of the neighbouring Austrians and of the Germans just beyond them.

 

After the human resource development minister, Kapil Sibal, met his Chinese counterpart, Yuan Guiren, in Beijing in mid-September, Sibal concluded that it was imperative to give his countrymen an opportunity to learn the language of their big neighbour. Sibal's ministry is notorious for making grand announcements and then dragging its feet when it comes to follow-up action, which is left to institutions that are autonomous.

 

But in this instance, the exception deserves to be applauded. Maybe because Wen's visit was on the anvil, and it was necessary to follow up on what was agreed between Sibal and his Chinese counterpart, an expert committee was set up in only six weeks to finalize the curriculum and prepare textbooks. Taking everyone by surprise, the Central Board of Secondary Education is to introduce the Chinese language as an option in its school curriculum as early as the next academic year beginning in April, 2011.

 

It was a decision that did not come too soon. At Peking University, the number of students learning Hindi has gone up by 2,000 times between Rajiv Gandhi's historic visit to China in 1988 and now. Even granted that their number rose from a low base, India would have been daft not to do the reverse by way of creating a balance. It is a reflection of the inability of Peking University to accommodate a surging demand for learning Hindi that in March, this year, the Indian embassy in Beijing began offering free Hindi classes taught by volunteers. The mission's cultural centre offers two courses, one for beginners and another for businessmen. That is not the whole story. This year alone, two universities in China, one in Kunming and another in Guangzhou opened Hindi departments. In all, there are nine institutions of higher learning in China that now offer Hindi as a subject of study.

 

Understatements have always been an essential part of Sino-Indian engagement, and this time it was no different. Wen and Singh announced the creation of "the India-China Outstanding College Students Exchange Programme". In reality it is an ambitious, long-term initiative that is comparable to exchanges between the Indian institutes of technology and their American counterparts. If the initiative develops the way its authors hope it will, IIT graduates can hope one day to replicate in China the successes of Indian Americans who now run American companies or have created thriving businesses of their own in the United States of America — and vice versa, as China eventually replaces the US as the world's biggest economy.

 

Why does the joint communiqué not say so explicitly, in that case? Because, believe it or not, China and India do not even recognize each other's degrees and diplomas. When a Chinese leader comes visiting, it is tempting for pundits to harp on seemingly intractable issues like the border dispute and Kashmir because they catch the imagination of TV watchers, newspaper readers and similar masses. In the process, significant progress that is incrementally being made on issues like education, culture and people-to-people exchanges, which actually constitute the core of neighbourhood diplomacy, is easily ignored. As a direct sequel to discussions between Wen and Singh last week, the two sides will now start work on an agreement that will lead to mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas. As India and China record continued economic expansion and grow into big powers, the significance of this cannot be overstated.

 

The Chinese, as many Indians from the generation that followed the great proletarian cultural revolution will recall, are fond of catchphrases. The catchphrase in China these days about India is "information deficit". Yet, it is revealing of the nature of Chinese society that when they get information about India, it is often not easily digestible. In a recent programme on a Chinese television channel, where the Indian ambassador, S. Jaishankar was a guest, the anchor was absolutely disbelieving that India would allow a film like Slumdog Millionaire not only to be shot in India, but also to be shown in domestic theatres. It wasn't just politics, the Chinese concept of national shame wouldn't allow such a film to see the light of day, the anchor said.

 

What is being missed in the largely sterile debate among pundits about Kashmir and the border dispute is how changes in China are giving India unprecedented opportunities to influence Chinese opinion and shape the evolution of Sino-Indian relations. During the programme in which Slumdog Millionaire came up as an issue, which divides the way China and India look at common problems such as poverty and under-development, Jaishankar made the most of the opportunity of addressing the Chinese people directly through their medium. He said, for instance, that India does not hide its poverty. The ambassador then shocked the hosts by saying that the book on which Slumdog Millionaire is based was written by his colleague in the Indian foreign service, Vikas Swarup. Of course, in China it would not have been possible for a diplomat to write anything remotely like Q&A, the book in question, and still remain in government service.

 

Implicit in Jaishankar's answer was a suggestion that China window dresses its society and hides its problems while India is an open society where the warts and all can be seen by anyone. Until a few years ago, it would have been inconceivable for an Indian envoy to be able to use a Chinese platform to put across such views. The change is fascinating. While cartographic diplomacy and signals such as the length of the handshake between Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping continue to be important, India must learn to use effectively the new avenues outside the strict bounds of the state machinery in order to influence the course of Sino-Indian relations.

 

Appearing on another Chinese TV programme, Jaishankar made the case that while Indian information technology personnel were in China in large numbers, they were all working almost entirely for Western companies and not for Chinese enterprises. In comments that were reminiscent of the ones made by the environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, during a visit to Beijing some months ago, Jaishankar plainly told the Chinese that there was no level playing field for Indian IT professionals when it came to working for Chinese companies. China's former ambassador to India, Cheng Ruisheng, who was also on the programme, blandly denied the charge, but he could not offer anything to substantiate his denial. The host quickly changed the subject, but a point had been made.

On a third occasion, Jaishankar took to Chinese TV to make the case that non-availability of medicines was an issue in China and yet the Chinese system was baulking at the idea of importing medicines from India despite the capacity of Indian pharmaceutical firms to meet the Chinese demand. All of this points to the need to give a pause to the old and familiar ways of engaging China, and think out of the box, instead, on how to deal differently with the complex neighbour.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

AFTER THE INTERNET

WORDCAGE - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

The right to free speech is precious and rare. Governments hate it; all of them, not just the one-man or one-party sort. Witness WikiLeaks: the rulers of both America and France, self-advertised cradles of human rights, plainly find Julian Assange's doings on the Web worse than anything he may have done in Swedish bedrooms.

 

They're wrong, but they have a point, as he might feel if he found his pillow-talk broadcast to the world. And the issue is a live one. Free speech, till now, existed largely in theory. Anyone could say what he liked, but to whom? His friends, a crowded meeting maybe, but seldom wider: you won't find much Marxism in capitalist media, or anarchism in the State's. But no longer: on the Web, you and I today can talk (and listen) to the world.

 

That's a gain for freedom. But not an unmixed one. Read a few blogs, and you'll find logic, common sense, restraint and decency butchered. And the language; at least if it's English, and, I'd guess, Russian or Cantonese.

 

Is this merely how language grew, from the speech of the common man into the glories of Shakespeare? No: the Web is special. In daily life, few of us give much time to raucous self-assertion and abuse of others who disagree. Too many bloggers do, and they coarsen English.

 

Big question

 

Really? Read the comments on any newspaper website. India's included, though its English-language readers don't plumb American depths; partly because loud-mouthedness is a very American trait (and by now, in the blogosphere, a British one), but more, maybe, because America's commonest men speak English and India's don't.

 

The trouble is not that bloggers are inarticulate; pity they aren't. Nor that many never met grammar and can't spell. It is that they use language as a club, not a rapier. If they disagree with someone, it's not —in their eyes and prose — that he and his views are wrong, but that he is one obscenity and his views another.

 

That opens the big question about free speech: just how free it should be. It's not just governments that want some limits. A British television comedian recently made vile jokes, one crudely sexual, about one specific victim — who is both autistic and just eight years old. The audience laughed. The TV company argued that there must be space for humour like this, and he was just pushing the boundaries. I can think of several obscenities for comedian and company alike. Publicly, I'll just call them mistaken.

 

Not wise

 

Of course, political correctness, which is often mere decency, can be pushed too far. How far that is depends on the context. Was it wrong to write in an email we have a chimpanzee in the White House? Many Afro-Americans might think so. So do I, but only mildly. It was, after all, in a private email (though no wise ambassador in Washington would use it; one can WikiLeak both ways). And who wrote it? Sarah Palin? Some Ku Klux Klan nutcase? No, the wife of brown-skinned Binayak Sen, at whose Raipur trial it was cited, absurdly, as evidence of links with anti-American terrorists.

 

And in fact, as maybe she knew, unlike most who took offence, the phrase arose long before Americans even thought of electing even a faintly coffee-coloured president. I still don't think it wise, and one blogger's use of it shows why: most Obama voters would be happy with a chimpanzee in the White House, they wouldn't know the difference. But it's not plainly racist like, say,nigger in the woodpile: a phrase that no context or history can justify, born, alas, long before the Internet.

 

thewordcage@yahoo.co.uk

 

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

EDITORIAL

PLENARY INDULGENCE

'PREACHING FROM THE PULPIT IS NOT ENOUGH.'

 

It is no surprise that the Congress plenary session near Delhi, held to mark 125 years of the party's history, was almost entirely devoted to a discussion on corruption and prescriptions and platitudes on how to tackle it. The series of high-profile corruption cases that came into public view in the last few weeks has hurt the party and the government that it leads very badly. The steps taken to deal with the cases have not been convincing. Blaming opposition governments, which certainly do not have a better record, and opposition parties for a motivated campaign has not cut much ice. The Congress and the government are facing the worst crisis in many years and need a major clean-up operation to get out of the situation they are in.


Brave words and rhetoric may not be enough for that. Prime minister Manmohan Singh's offer to appear before the public accounts committee to answer questions on the 2G scam does not explain why the party is not ready accept the demand for a joint parliamentary committee investigation. Congress president Sonia Gandhi's five-point plan to fight corruption sounds good but the important question is whether the party and its governments will go beyond words to implement it. Each of the five points — fast-tracking of corruption cases, transparency in procurements and contracts, open and competitive ways of selling natural resources, shedding discretionary powers of chief ministers and ministers and state funding of elections — addresses a major source of corruption in the country. Will the party's governments at the Centre and in the states immediately start acting on them? There is no need for fresh legislation to implement most of them. What is needed is a change of attitude, political will and administrative efficiency ensure that they get acted upon.


Fast-tracking of cases will not help in the absence of independent investigation and prosecution. That presupposes freeing investigative agencies from political control. And discretion is the major part of moral squalor associated with corruption. The idea of using power to dispense patronage — in the case of land, contracts, licences and every decision in which money is involved — is deeply entrenched in the country. As the party with the longest record of government, the culture of rent seeking is strongest in the Congress. Unless it breaks away from that culture, which may result in political pain in the short term, no preaching from the plenary pulpit will carry conviction.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

COURT CONTROLLED

'SC'S SUPER-VISION GIVES CREDIBILITY TO INVESTIGATION.'

 

The supreme court's decision to take upon itself the responsibility to monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation's probe into the 2G spectrum scam may not put an end to the opposition parties' campaign for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe. They have made that clear. The CBI probe, which will cover the grant of licences from 2001 when the NDA government was in power, will also cover the same ground as the recently appointed Shivraj Patil committee. The Enforcement Directorate will also be part of the probe. The court's decision to directly supervise the investigation is right because it cannot, for different reasons, allow the government or the CVC to monitor the case. It is also not confident of allowing the CBI to conduct the probe on its own. The court has been very unhappy with the record of the CBI in investigating the case. It had passed serious strictures also about its conduct of the case in the past.


It has told the CBI to file a progress report on the investigations in February. Considering the complexity of the case and its wide scope, the investigation will take a long a time. The progress report in February is unlikely to satisfy the opposition parties which have said that they would take their demand for a JPC probe into the next parliament session too. The Patil committee's report also should be available by then. But there are serious doubts about the relevance of this committee's investigation when the CBI also has much the same brief.

The CBI has been told by the court to go ahead with the investigation without fear of interference from any quarters. There may be doubts whether this is possible in the environment in which the CBI is working. It should be noted that the court has set up no special investigating team, as in the case of investigation into the Gujarat riots. Even there, there are complaints about the SIT. It is likely that there will be criticism of the CBI's conduct in this case too. Therefore, it is for the agency to bury its dubious record in the investigation of sensitive cases and ensure that all those who acted wrongly and illegally are brought to book, however highly placed they are. The supreme court's supervision gives credibility to the investigation and the court should see to it that it is conducted properly.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

REAPING THE ADVANTAGE

BY DEVINDER SHARMA


Farmers' unions, who only organise protests demanding higher prices, have failed to educate their members.

 

As 2010 fades into history, I wonder whether the New Year will bring any hope for farmers. For several years now I have been silently praying and hoping that at least this New Year farmers will have something to cheer. But, unfortunately, it has not happened. With every passing year, their economic condition has further deteriorated.

Excessive use and abuse of chemical fertilisers has poisoned the soils; hybrid crop varieties being pushed at a subsidised price have destroyed the soil fertility and sucked the groundwater dry; drenching crop fields with all kinds of chemical pesticides has not only poisoned the food that we eat but have also brought in more pests; and finally the farmer is left high and dry with no income in hand.


There is no denying that much of the blame would rest with farm officials and university scientists for creating a bloodbath that we witness on the agriculture front. There is hardly a day when dozens of farmers across the country are not drinking chemical pesticides to end their lives. In the past 15 years, more than 2,00,000 farmers have committed suicide. Millions of farmers continue to somehow live in perpetual indebtedness.


Blaming the government is not without any reason. But somewhere deep down, farmers do know that they are equally at fault. The greed to make a fast buck has lured them to unsustainable farming systems. Over the years, farmers have become completely dependent upon what seems to be a well laid out trap by the agribusiness industry. No wonder, the profits of the industry grew whereas farmers were left to die.


However, much of the farm crisis has in many ways been created by farmers themselves. How long can you go on passing the buck to the government and the agricultural university? Why can't you resolve to turn agriculture more income-generating and sustainable in the long-run? And don't tell me it is not possible. If you had refrained from following the herd, and adopted low-external input sustainable faming systems you would have been the role model.


Here is a farmer who has shown the way. Meet Subhash Sharma, a farmer from Daroli in Yavatmal district in the heart of the suicide belt of Vidharba. At a time when thousands of farmers in Vidharba have taken the fatal route to escape the humiliation that comes along with increasing indebtedness, he provides his farm workers with bonus and leave travel concession. If this farmer can do it, there is no reason why others cannot live in eternal happiness.


Organic cultivation

Sharma is not a big landlord. He owns only 16 acres of farm land. And like most of the farmers in the country, he too was in the thick of a vicious cycle of external inputs and perpetual indebtedness. Fed up, he then decided to abandon the fertiliser-pesticides model of farming, and shift the organic cultivation, and the turnaround has led me to a new beginning.


He says that the only way to pull out farmers from the vicious cycle of indebtedness is to push them out of the Green Revolution model of farming. It is during the workshops that he is conducting in several parts of the country that he teaches them by practical training on how to shift to natural farming practices and thereby emerge out of indebtedness.

From 16 acres of land, if Sharma can demonstrate an economically viable model, with inclusive social equity and justice, you too can do it. Here lies the answer to agricultural growth and also to country's food security. He has even built up a corpus, a Social Security Fund, of approximately Rs 15 lakh, for meeting any eventuality that the workers might encounter. Some death in their family or the marriage of the girl child does bring additional burden, and some relief comes from the Social Security Fund. He also shares the cost of education of their children and other health expenses. Isn't this a dream that every farmer cherishes but is never able to realise?

Well, when was the last time you heard farm labourers being given an annual bonus and leave travel allowance? Now, don't be startled, Sharma provides an annual bonus to his team of workers — 16 men and 35 women — who labour on his farm. They get something like Rs 4.5 lakh every year as bonus, which means roughly Rs 9,000 per person. How many farmers, including big landlords, in Karnataka for instance provide bonus to farm workers?

The problem is that farmers' unions have failed to educate their members. They only organise protests demanding higher prices or opposing trade policies, but rarely do you find them taking upon themselves the monumental task of reviving agriculture. Instead of spending energies to contest elections, ryot sanghas need to take on the responsibility of holding ryot pathshalaas to resurrect farming, bring in natural farming system which are not only sustainable but profitable. There is no reason why every ryot in Karnataka cannot aspire to be the new generation farmer like Sharma.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

AMBITIONS MEET REALITY IN INDIA

BY NILANJANA S ROY, NYT


Laws in the workplace have yet to keep pace with the demands that women face today.

 

"Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kocchar, Vinita Bali, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Shobhana Bhartia and, wait, Shikha Sharma," said Preeti Singh. The 21-year-old business management student can rattle off the names of the six Indian women chief executives and company heads most often cited as success stories. They make up the magic '11 per cent' statistic, the one students like Preeti quote as proof that women can make it to the top — 11 per cent of India's chief executives are women.


But the journeys made by Indra, at the helm of PepsiCo, Chanda, a key player at ICICI Bank or Shobhana, one of the most powerful women in the Indian media, are markedly different from the ones that this generation of Indian women will make. As pioneers in the corporate world, Indra and her colleagues faced gender stereotyping and discrimination, but they also came from backgrounds of relative privilege and, in many cases, enjoyed the support of spouses and families. That combination of class advantage, hard work and family support allowed them to break through the glass ceilings of their era. Relatively few women at that time, though, even had the chance to compete.


High ambitions

For Preeti's generation, bridging the aspiration gap will be crucial. A recent survey by the Centre for Work-Life Policy, a New York think tank, offered a closer look at Indian women in the workplace. Ambitions were high. But the survey also demonstrated the gap between aspirations and reality: less than 30 per cent of Indian women outside the agrarian economy are in the workplace. A parallel survey by the NGO, Catalyst, on the leadership gender gap in India offered two interesting data points: women corporate leaders in India are more likely to be never-married, divorced or widowed than their counterparts in the US or Europe. And Indian women are more likely than Indian men to leave the work force temporarily to look after children or elderly parents — 54.5 per cent of women versus 15 per cent of men.


Gita Aravamudan, author of 'Unbound: Indian Women @ Work', says that the rules of the workplace are changing as the numbers of women looking for careers rise. She traces two key shifts. The 1970s was when Indian women began to step out of the home and into the paid workplace. Often, their working lives were made possible only if they had the blessings of their families. The rise of call centres and software companies in the late 1990s, Gita says, brought many more women into the workplace. And that has created its own set of challenges.

What this generation faces, she said, is discrimination that is "insidious rather than blatant."


With the breakdown of the extended family system, she said, child and elder care responsibilities have fallen more heavily on individual women. Women, especially those brought up in traditional families, often struggle to combine these greater domestic responsibilities and jobs outside the home.


Meenal Tiwari, 36, a Mumbai banker, said she doesn't resent looking after her family, but wishes her male colleagues would be more understanding. "It's frustrating when your male colleagues don't get it, because most of their wives aren't working women, and they are relieved of the burden of caring for the family," she said. "For us, it's always a balance. Wanting to be there for my children doesn't make me a bad banker — I can do both equally well."

Her view is backed by Reena Patel, a feminist scholar with a special interest in global labour relations, and her book 'Working the Night Shift' studies women against the backdrop of the call Centre phenomenon.


"It was apparent that call centre employment income did not translate into a demand for change in gender roles at home," she said. "Women did not insist that their husbands, fathers or brothers take an active role in household work."


Instead, jobs like housecleaning and child rearing were typically handed over to another woman — grandmothers, mothers or domestic staff.


Laws in the workplace have yet to keep pace with the demands that women face today. The generation of women who joined the workforce in the late 1970s fought, successfully, for many basic rights — maternity leave and benefits among them. But almost 40 years later, Indian women still have to fight for their rights. It was only in 1997 that sexual harassment was legally defined. This year, the first legislation dealing with sexual harassment was introduced in parliament.


Women's rights advocates are not happy about some sections of the bill, notably its explicit exclusion of domestic workers, on the grounds that sexual harassment in the home is difficult to prove, has been of great concern.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

FOR WHOM IT RAINS

BY LAKSHMI PALECANDA


If you observe events carefully, you can beat the meteorologist at his game.

 

In India, we have three main seasons: summer, which is usually hot and dry, winter, which is cold, and monsoon, when you can expect rains every day. It normally does not rain much the rest of the year. But this year has been unusual in that it has been raining more days than the norm, even after the monsoons. Many people are finding this weather baffling and difficult to predict.


But if you observe events carefully, you can beat the meteorologist at his game, and figure out what the weather is going to be. I have learned to do it. I can easily tell if it's going to rain or not. Really, it is very simple. If I hang out washing to dry, it's going to rain. If I am unable or unwilling to do laundry, it will be a blazing day. The intensity of the rain may vary in proportion to the urgency of having the clothes dry, ie, if the children's uniforms for the next day are at stake, you can expect a steady downpour throughout the day, but if it is a carpet hung out to air, a sudden quick spell, followed by weak intermittent sunshine is enough. This is because a thick carpet once wet is going to take ages to dry anyway.


The beauty of it is that it works almost every single time. I wake up in the morning, and see heavy clouds hanging low from the sky, so I decide to forego laundry that day. And what happens? It stays dry as a bone that day and, adding insult to injury, it clears up beautifully. Then there is a spectacular sunset with not a cloud in the sky to mar it.


It's not just me. I have heard several other women complain about this phenomenon. This phenomenon is not just for drying clothes, either. It also works for other ordinary things like carrying umbrellas and washing cars. The other day, my husband had the car washed and cleaned until it looked like a streak of silver, before he took it out in the city. It came back looking like he had driven through the Himalayan car rally. It only wanted for my children to forget their umbrellas one lousy day and come home looking like little drowned rats, to totally convince me.


I am now a firm believer in the theory that the actions of man, however puny, can affect nature. And if just hanging clothes out to dry or taking out a sparkling car can change weather, just imagine what clearing forests and dumping huge quantities of smoke and other pollutants into the atmosphere might do to our climate!

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

REMEMBER CAST LEAD

 

Prospects or talks producing a peace breakthrough are faint enough; Hamas's rule in Gaza represents a huge obstacle to the implementation of any accord.

 

This time two years ago, Israel was on the verge of launching the 22-day Operation Cast Lead. The fighting began at 11:30 a.m. on December 27 with a wave of F-16 air strikes on Hamas strongholds in Gaza, aimed at putting a stop to the relentless cross-border fire that was terrorizing Israelis living in towns and cities in the South. Now, after two years of relative quiet, Gaza seems to be heating up again.


Late Monday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi ordered the air force to strike eight targets in the Gaza Strip, including a Hamas training camp and a tunnel used for smuggling, in retaliation for a string of offensives against Israeli troops and civilians over the last two weeks. Upping the ante, terrorists in Gaza on Tuesday morning fired a Kassam rocket that struck near a kindergarten in Ashkelon, lightly wounding a girl on her way to school and causing shock to two other people. Later on Tuesday, the IAF struck back again.

 

IDF sources say Hamas is not interested in a full-scale escalation. However, limited escalation does seem to be in Hamas's perceived interest, in part as a means of deflecting growing frustration over its failure to attain political goals such as the release of its prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

TWO YEARS after Cast Lead, renewed terrorist activity from Gaza is a reminder of the split that has taken place in the Palestinian leadership in recent years. While the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority struggles to maintain control of the West Bank and move toward statehood, Hamas is pursuing a bleak policy of low-intensity terrorism from Gaza.

 

Hamas's victory in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections was the culmination of a long process that marked the official end of a half-century during which the Palestinian national movement was dominated by a more secular political culture.Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas leader in Gaza who was killed by the IDF in January 2009, had proclaimed that Hamas's fight against Fatah was to "uproot secularism in Gaza."


It is no secret that Hamas aspires to extend its control to the West Bank. And as the Israeli academic Asher Susser noted in The Rise of Hamas in Palestine, growing Islamism is not limited to those territories either. It is part of a larger trend of Islamic ascendancy and re-Islamization of society and politics from Egypt to Jordan, from Iraq to Syria.


Part of the reason for Hamas's electoral success was disgust with the rampant corruption and cronyism that permeated Fatah and its leadership. But there was also a belief among Palestinians that Hamas's ruthless methods were more effective against Israel. As Azzam Tamimi wrote in Hamas: A History from Within, Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, months before the 2006 elections, was widely regarded as proof that violence and terrorism had produced results where the PLO's professed abandonment of the "armed struggle" and focus on negotiation had failed.


That election victory was followed a year later by a violent coup, in which Hamas gunmen ousted Fatah from the Strip. Even though 2005's disengagement meant there was no Israeli civilian or military presence there, the rocket fire escalated, and a reluctant Israel saw no alternative but to launch its Cast Lead assault on the Islamists.

SOME ANALYSTS believe that Hamas is losing popularity among the Palestinians, who may be internalizing the destruction their Gaza government brought down upon the Strip by goading Israel into military action two years ago. Some argue, too, that Gazans are beginning to look across to the West Bank, where stability and economic coordination with Israel are producing a much-improved day-to-day climate. Finally, it is suggested that Hamas's gradual efforts to impose a fundamental Islamic framework in Gaza are producing growing disaffection.

Whatever the accuracy of these assessments, however, there are no significant signs that Hamas's grip on Gaza is loosening. Having capitalized on ballot-box support to engineer its violent takeover, Hamas will not willingly relinquish control.


The prospects of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations producing a peace breakthrough are faint enough; Hamas's rule in Gaza represents a huge obstacle to the implementation of any substantive accord.


More immediately, the current minor-escalation of fire from Gaza underlines Hamas's potential to wreak havoc in southern Israel with the mortars, rockets and missiles it has been steadily acquiring since Operation Cast Lead.

For two years, the force of that operation evidently served as a deterrent to this kind of cross-border fire. However firm it considers its hold on Gaza to be, Hamas would be foolish to risk forcing Israel into a repeat resort to such use of force.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

IN MY OWN WRITE: MESSENGERS AND THEIR MOTIVES

BY JUDY MONTAGU  

 

One must examine one's own motivation minutely and be quite sure that one is not delivering the message for the sake of any personal benefit.

 

Wikipedia, on the expression "shooting the messenger": 


In ancient times, messages were delivered by a human envoy, sometimes sent from the enemy camp. An easily-provoked combatant might vent his anger on the deliverer of an unpopular message by killing the messenger.


When I read on Sunday that after receiving complaints from users, YouTube had removed from its servers a video channel run by an Israeli NGO for repeatedly airing hate speech, I thought there hardly existed a more perfect example of "shooting the messenger."


Palestinian Media Watch did show videos of incitement that were "indeed horrific," in the words of PMW's Itamar Marcus, but their content was directed against Jews and Israelis and recorded from Palestinian and other Arab media.


True, the disturbing videos were posted as part of an agenda: to educate the wider public about what was being disseminated among Arabs, in their own language, as opposed to what is said in English to Western audiences.


Essentially, PMW took on the role of messenger, and was "shot" for it.


Following outrage from supporters of the Israeli NGO and a report in this newspaper, the website reinstated the PMW channel a day later. Its staff presumably (hopefully) realized that there is a vast difference between those who purvey hate and those who work to unmask them; and that disgusting as a Hamas terrorist's call on Palestinians to drink the blood of Jews may be – to describe just one video – PMW was simply exposing this and similar barbaric exhortations that it believed non-Arabic speakers should be aware of.


The reinstatement of PMW's channel suggests that YouTube's operators understood, albeit belatedly: It's wrong to shoot the messenger.


IN 2002, Time magazine named as its Persons of the Year "The Whistleblowers" – Sherron Watkins, the vice president of Enron, who wrote a letter to company chairman Kenneth Lay warning him that the company's accounting methods were improper; Coleen Rowley, the FBI attorney who caused a tornado with her memo to FBI directorRobert Mueller about how the bureau had brushed off her pleas that Zacarias Moussaoui (now indicted as a 9/11 co-conspirator) be investigated; and Cynthia Cooper, who informed WorldCom's board that the company had concealed $3.8 billion in losses.


The three women weren't after publicity. They initially tried to keep their criticism in-house, and became whistleblowers only when their memos were leaked.


These "messengers" were, in the words of Richard Lacayo and Amanda Ripley, "what New York City firefighters were in 2001: heroes at the scene, anointed by circumstance… people who did right just by doing their jobs rightly… with eyes open and with the bravery the rest of us always hope we have and may never know if we do."

But Watkins, Rowley and Cooper also suffered, "because whistleblowers don't have an easy time. Almost all say they would not do it again. If they aren't fired, they're cornered: isolated and made irrelevant. Eventually, many suffer from alcoholism or depression."


Though that didn't happen to the three women, they say that "some of their colleagues hate them." And Cooper told the interviewers: "There have been times that I could not stop crying."


You don't have to shoot a messenger to give him or her heartache.

 

CHRISTOPH Meili, who in early 1997 worked as a night guard at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich, discovered that UBS officials were destroying documents detailing the credit balances of deceased Jewish clients whose heirs' whereabouts were unknown.


He also found in the shredding room books from the German Reichsbank listing stock accounts for companies involved in the Holocaust, and real estate records for Berlin property that had been forcibly taken by the Nazis, placed in Swiss accounts, and then claimed to be owned by UBS. Destruction of such documents violates Swiss law.

Meili gave some of these bank files to a local Jewish organization, which handed them over to the police; and to the press, which published them.


A brave act: But in many ways, this intrepid messenger was "shot."


A judicial investigation was opened against him for suspected violation of Swiss banking secrecy laws (it was later closed), and he received death threats. He and his family left for the US, where they were granted political asylum. In January 1998, a suit was filed on his behalf against UBS, demanding a sum of $2.56 billion. A $1.25b. settlement, which included Meili's costs, was reached with the bank.


Meili's marriage ended in 2002, and he complained that he never received the money promised in the settlement. He became a naturalized US citizen and started working in security again, claiming that those who had once championed him had let him down, including the Jewish organization he originally approached with his precious find.


He said he was working for minimum wage. He returned to Switzerland in 2009, homeless.


In his book Imperfect Justice, Stuart Eizenstat suggests that the "Meili Affair" was significant in the Swiss banks' decision to participate in reparations for Nazi victims of WW2.


Does Meili's story support some cynics' view that "no good deed goes unpunished," or was he himself instrumental in the downward spiral that followed his brave mission? 


THE world media are working overtime to report on an elusive and shady individual who considers himself a messenger and possibly hero par excellence, bursting to deliver reams of information he believes should be freely accessible. Many disagree.


And many of the politicians and other senior figures who feature in the trove of secret US military and diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange began to publish last month would probably be delighted to shoot him personally.

Failing that, the next best thing, in their view, is the fact that American officials are determined to prosecute Assange to the full extent of the law on charges relating to his release of the 250,000 classified cables. The 39-year-old Australian is also facing charges of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion of two women in Sweden.


Are the latter charges politically motivated – as Assange's supporters claim – cooked up to silence a troublesome and embarrassing agitator? Or is this one "messenger" who does deserve punishment for delivering his message(s)? 


His leaks tend to expose US secrets, but, curiously, none from Iran or China. His sources of funding are obscure, and the data he released was stolen by a traitorous or misguided soldier.


Those who side with him and cheer his dissemination of the cables include Vaughan Smith, founder of London's Frontline Club for journalists and owner of the 10-bedroom British country mansion to which Assange is currently restricted as a condition of his bail as he fights extradition to Sweden.


One thing is certain: The ramifications of the WikiLeaks saga are far-reaching, as "traditional watchdog journalism, which has long accepted leaked information in dribs and drabs, has been joined by a new counterculture of information vigilantism that now promises disclosures by the terabyte," to quote Scott Shane in The New York Times this week.

 

IT'S unlikely we will ever find ourselves in the position of being messengers whose revelations get reported by the media. But suppose we come into possession of intimate knowledge that we feel it is wrong to hold onto.

Suppose a close relative has a serious illness that is being kept secret from him or her, and you have an unshakable conviction that this is bad. Or suppose you know that your best friend's husband is having an affair and feel compelled to tell her for her own good.


Many people who have delivered such personal "messages" have lived to regret it, finding themselves not thanked, but rejected and perhaps even detested by the recipients. The once-best friend may suddenly find herself considered no friend at all.


Discretion, we can discover too late, is often the better part of valor.

 

But should one feel one's conscience urging the delivery of a "message" one knows will not be serenely received, one must consider the implications of such a revelation from every conceivable angle. One needs to seek discreet and expert advice, if possible, and then proceed as if treading on thin ice – which is, of course, exactly what one is doing.


Above all, one must examine one's own motivation minutely and be quite sure that one is not delivering the message for the sake of any personal benefit.


Some folk seem to take delight in spreading bad news. They need to be aware that they themselves may, as a result, come to be regarded as "bad news."

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

TERRA INCOGNITA: FROM BEAUTY TO BRUTALISM

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN  

 

The rise and decline of architecture in Israel.

Conrad Schick arrived in Jaffa in 1846. Born in the village of Bitz in the old German kingdom of Wurttemberg, his sharp mind brought him to the attention of Christian Fredrich Spittler, a clergyman who had a plan to revive the Holy Land, to bring the gospel to the East, and he needed missionaries. So he settled on the Schick to create a German Protestant foothold under the auspices of St. Chrischona Pilgrims Mission.


It doesn't seem it was ever Schick's destiny to convert the East. However his arrival in Jerusalem was to revolutionize the city in another way, through his architectural creations. It is not clear what professional training Schick had in architecture, but he had a keen eye for detail. He taught himself locksmithing, mechanics and watchmaking, and became a qualified amateur archeologist, scholar on the Holy Land and model maker.


Initially he worked out of a bruderhaus, a fraternity, that he rented with other missionaries. Lonely and quiet he tinkered on his clocks while the other brothers worked at soap making and other crafts.


He apparently wrestled with fears that he was becoming too worldly. It seems the death of his patron, Spittler, in 1867 may have freed him from his obligations. Or perhaps his finances ran low. In that year he took on a commission to excavate an area around a tomb that was to become the famed Garden Tomb in east Jerusalem, which some Protestants believe to be the true holy sepulchre.


Schick planned several Jerusalem neighborhoods, among them Mea She'arim, which was constructed in 1874, and the Bukharan Quarter. He designed the Bukharan Quarter to look like a European neighborhood, with wider streets than was then common in Jerusalem. His plans for Mea She'arim called for open spaces and courtyards and the use of the most modern technologies, such as street lights. Not all of his ideas were incorporated, but he left an indelible mark on both neighborhoods.


SCHICK DESIGNED beautiful buildings as well. In 1882 he built a house for himself on Rehov Hanevi'im, an unforgettable gem, which he called Tabor House. He designed Jesushilfe in 1867, a leper hospital in Talbiyeh that was run by a German organization. In the same year he began supervision of the construction of Talitha Kumi, a Christian girl's school that once stood next to Hamashbir on King George Avenue. The building was considered of such architectural value that when it had to be torn down to make way for modern works, its façade was preserved.


His work on St. Paul's Anglican Chapel on Rehov Hanevi'im is considered a gem of Victorian "gingerbread" style. He also designed part of the German Deaconess Hospital, which is now the eastern wing of Bikur Cholim. Schick dedicated his life to Jerusalem and died there in 1901.

 

His architectural gingerbread was followed by Antonio Barluzzi's often neo-renaissance style pilgrimage churches. It seems that, like Schick's overall influence in 19th century Jerusalem, no great Catholic building was built in the land of Israel without Barluzzi's hands having been dipped into the mold. Born in 1884 in Rome, his life did not seem destined for architecture. He obtained a degree in engineering and spent time in the army overseeing archeological excavations. For a while he worked as a builder, rising to director of construction before enlisting once again during World War I. He became a chaplain and somehow got himself torpedoed off the coast of Gaza and ended up in Jerusalem in 1918.

For the next 42 years until his death, he designed and restored some 24 major churches and Christian institutions, from the Church of the Visitation in Ein Kerem to the Church of Beatitudes that overlooks the Sea of Galilee.


Later he wrote: "Whenever possible – as now – it is the duty of all Christians to save these relics and to give them the honor that is due. And in this I do not believe that too much can be done, since no materials or work could be precious enough to be worthy custodians of such holy treasures."


IF SCHICK devoted his energies to designing original structures and neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and Barluzzi devoted his religious faith to the Church's attempt to reclaim the holy sites, then Ram Karmi's achievement has been to translate the socialist pragmatism of Zionist planners into reality. Karmi was born in Jerusalem in 1931, served in the army and studied at the Technion and in London. The son of an important architect, the discipline ran in his veins and it was his expertise.


Like Schick and Barluzzi, his hands reached wide and he grasped many of the great projects of his day, from playing a role in the design of the Knesset, to building that great beast known as the new Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. He was the chief architect of the Construction and Housing Ministry until 1979, built the Supreme Court and has been hired to restore the famed Habimah Theater in Tel Aviv.


In contrast to Barluzzi's neo-renaissance style that sprang directly from his faith and Schick's tinkering, Karmi has been devoted to the Brutalist style. There is nothing more brutal than to behold a Karmi building. Endless reams of concrete flow across the landscape coming together in imposing fortress like structures. The Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, one of the most horrid large buildings in the world, is a monument to the fact that the person who designed it probably never envisioned using it himself.


And this is the tragedy of the country's Brutalist architecture. It escaped the roots from whence it springs, the people, and devotes itself to the stringent socialist belief in the way people "should" live. This is the essence of the planned neighborhoods. Consider the difference between the buildings that Schick hoped to bequeath to his Jewish clients, the courtyards and open spaces, and the ugly decaying tenements the Brutalists have designed for millions of new immigrants. As Paul Barker and Philippa Louis argued in The Freedoms of Suburbia: "It is about the way people wish to live. Why should their wishes be trampled on, in the name of the plan?" 


Zionism has put down roots in the Holy Land in the shadow of three great architects, one who loved Jerusalem, one who loved the Church in Rome and one who loved the concrete plan. We would do well to return to a Schick building and ponder what the next 100 years should bring us in terms of freedom, as best symbolized by what we build.


The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

ENCOUNTERING PEACE: WANTED: A PROGRESSIVE LEADER

BY GERSHON BASKIN  

 

The left side of the political map is in total disarray.

 

The gathering of the leadership of the Israeli "peace camp" on Sunday in Ramallah under the auspices of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and almost the entire leadership of the PLO was its largest get-together in the past 10 years. What is left of the Left is a small group of dedicated individuals divided into splinter groups of political initiatives and non-government organizations sharing a very similar platform with a common sense of urgency and a total inability to work together.


The irony is that it took the PA leader to gather all of those forces together. It is doubtful if any single Israeli leader could pull all of these people together.


Another interesting event happened on the way to the Mukata – Amram Mitzna showed up and found himself as the undeclared new leader of the Left. He was seated next to Abbas, not the serving MKs from Kadima, Labor and Meretz. Mitzna was the main speaker after Abbas.


The army of journalists ran after Mitzna to interview him when the event ended. It all seemed so natural and even called for. Out of the desert and back into the limelight of politics, Mitzna was a welcome addition to a camp searching for a leader and badly needing unity.


I approached him and appealed to him "Run Mitzna, run."


He replied, "Before we run, we have to know what is our goal," to which I replied, "To return to running the country to ensure that Israel fulfills its dream of being the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people and all of its citizens, living in peace with its neighbors and capturing its rightful place among the nations."


In his interview outside at the end of the meeting, Mitzna said: "The window of opportunity for making peace with the Palestinians is running out; now is the time to do it."


He, like every person in that meeting room, knew that unless Israel ends the occupation and makes peace with its neighbors, it will cease being a Jewish and democratic state. It must change from within. US and international pressure on the government may be effective at helping to make hard decisions, but real change will only happen when there will be a shake-up of the political map that will bring progressives back into power.

The idea that "only the Likud" can bring peace is great in principle; the problem is that the Likud led by Binyamin Netanyahu will not bring peace. The Likud will not solve the country's socioeconomic problems, the Likud will not create a more egalitarian society and the Likud will not create a citizen's partnership of Jews and Arabs, religious and nonreligious. The country needs a progressive political force that will bring peace, end the occupation and create social justice, environmental justice and a base for real citizenship partnership and solidarity.

PROGRESSIVES HAVE no political home today that can lead the nation. Knesset elections may take place in 2011 or 2012, and progressives have no idea whom to vote for. We need a new and revitalized progressive political force that does not yet exist; it must be created, shaped, nurtured and presented to the public to join.

There are many initiatives trying to launch a new progressive political force. Meretz is searching for direction, for new members, for youth appeal. The Labor Party is splintering into fragments and, under the failed leadership of Ehud Barak, is now at six seats in the polls with a leadership contest already launched that emphasizes the divisions within. The Green Movement party has turned inward and will focus its activities on the municipal level, leaving national politics for the distant future.


Former Prime Minister's Office director-general Yossi Kuchik has been holding meetings bringing together former Labor people for discussions on their political direction. Avrum Burg has launched the creation of a joint Jewish-Arab political party called Shai – Shivyon Yisrael. The National Left is another interesting development, but it has not addressed the need to be inclusive of the Palestinian citizens of Israel in political change.

Shaharit – a small progressive think tank within the Heschel Center – has been working on how to create a political movement. Hadash continues to attract young Jewish supporters; however, it continues to be perceived as an anti-Zionist alternative that most Jewish voters reject. In short, the progressive side of the political map is in total disarray.


For a progressive political party to succeed, there must be unity. The lack of unity and the absence of a convincing political platform that can be a reasonable alternative to the current right-wing, religious regime is irresponsible and dangerous.


The lack of an agreed leader or a leading political party has devolved into the multiplicity of small and disjointed efforts to create a new force. None of these enjoys any real public support or has the ability to transform into a real political force.


It seems that the various players spend at least equal time bad-mouthing each other as they do supporting the building of coalitions.


THE AGENDA for progressives in Israel is clear and it unifies much more than it divides. Our agenda is based on the Declaration of Independence that promised the country would be founded on the principles envisaged by the prophets – ensuring complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the UN Charter.


This country needs progressive values. It needs a culture of communication and it needs to shun extremists who scoff at the rule of law. It needs to end the conflict before the state loses its Jewish majority and turns into a place of minority rule. It is a choice between ending the conflict or having the conflict end the Jewish and democratic state.


What unites us progressives is our profound commitment to making this country a place where Jewish and non-Jewish citizens can thrive and achieve and live peacefully – even productively – with each other. No group, not even the Likud, has a monopoly over our state symbols – we are as patriotic and proud as anyone.

Our agenda is to celebrate every positive side of being Israeli and Jewish and even the positive side of being Palestinian-Israeli.

This is a dynamic country with tremendous potential. Its achievements in its 62+ years are remarkable.Its democracy is vibrant and offers vast opportunities for citizens to affect public policy. This kind of positive attitude is the narrative we claim in our efforts to recruit a genuine groundswell of progressive support.


But democracy is under real threat from the right-wing regime and from the increasing support of the racist discourse advocated by the politics of Avigdor Lieberman, Shas and rabbis who cynically use Jewish texts to justify racism. They must be challenged and that challenge cannot wait for tomorrow.


The writer is the 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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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

WOOING THE GODS OF THE PEACE PROCESS

BY AARON D. MILLER  

 

Obama is poised to become increasingly entangled in the Arab-Israeli conflict during the next year. Here's how he can avoid his predecessors' mistakes.

 

Talkbacks (1)

If the peace process gods have a sense of humor (and history), sometime around next summer – the 11th anniversary of Bill Clinton's failed Camp David summit – another Democratic president's peace initiative will be tested.


Right now, the arc of President Barack Obama's peace process efforts (and the other Clinton's, too) is leading inexorably to American "bridging" proposals – ideas on the core issues meant to literally bridge the gaps between Israeli and Palestinian positions – if not a US plan to reach a framework accord on all the big issues, which would constitute an extraordinary breakthrough. Currently, neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are able to bridge the gaps on Jerusalem, borders, security, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But with the Obama administration's inability to resist engaging, the president might end up in another make or break summit.


But Obama shouldn't rush toward another disaster so quickly. A faltering, struggling peace process with some hope is far better than a failed one that leaves everyone hopeless – and without a fallback option. When the time comes for big American moves (and, sadly, it will come given the Israeli and Palestinian lack of ownership over their own process), Obama should pay careful attention to the lessons and circumstances of the last big American effort to resolve the core issues.


Much has changed in the past decade since Clinton asked Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak to come to only the second presidential summit at Camp David in 50 years of American involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Some of the changes have inspired observers to believe the time is right for a big American move: both Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, unlike Arafat, are well-intentioned, practical men with no history of involvement in terrorism and violence; Palestinian security performance is much improved; and the Arabs have put their own 2002 peace initiative on the table. Much good work has indeed been done on the core issues since Camp David in 2000. If the United States doesn't act on this progress soon, say some analysts, there will be no two-state solution to negotiate. And those are the optimists talking.

 

BUT THERE'S plenty of bad news, too. The Palestinian national movement faces its deepest crisis since its inception. It has become a kind of Noah's ark with two of everything: two security services; two different leaderships (Hamas and Abbas's Fatah) controlling two separated populations; two different sets of patrons and funding streams; and, above all, two different visions of Palestine's future. Netanyahu has the power to lead Israel into a deal, but maybe not the incentive; Abbas has the incentive, but not the power. And Iran and those it supports – Hamas and Hizbullah – have the capacity to weaken and undermine the efforts of wouldbe peacemakers.

As Obama weighs his peace process strategy in the new year, he will be told four things by those who are pushing him to be bold and decisive. First, the parties were "this close" to an accord at the last Camp David, they will say, thumb and first finger almost touching. Second, that a tremendous amount of work has been done in the past 10 years by Israelis and Palestinians on the core issues which have brought the parties closer than they've ever been. Third, that everyone knows the broad outlines of an agreement. And, fourth, that trying and failing is better than not having tried at all.


Myth merges uneasily with fact here, and bad analysis and logical lapses seem to rule the day. Let's address these four points, one at a time. First, on no issue were the two sides "this close" or even nearly so at Camp David in 2000. Second, yes, a great deal of fine work has been done on the core issues – but by negotiators who risked very little either because they knew the hour was late and there was no real chance of success, or because they were unempowered to negotiate. Third, the fact that we have a better idea of what a solution might be in no way makes it easier to get there. And, fourth, as for the old college try, that's no substitute for the foreign policy of the world's greatest power. Failure costs, and sometimes, it makes matters worse.


AS OBAMA weighs his approach to Arab-Israeli negotiations in the new year, he should certainly know that on some issues – territory and security – the two sides have moved closer, at least on paper. No doubt he is aware that, even on issues such as Jerusalem, the Israeli and Palestinian publics may be more conditioned to accepting an agreement. How any of this would actually play out in the cruel and unforgiving world of Israeli and Palestinian politics – where Abbas and Netanyahu actually have to make decisions – is another matter. Presumably, the goal of the next several months will be to have the quiet diplomacy of envoy George Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton test out all this.


But far more important to Obama's calculations should be the two unasked questions of Camp David: questions that Bill Clinton and those who advised him (including myself), never asked critically or comprehensively enough. This is particularly important for Obama who, much like Bill Clinton, believes that through the force of his personality, he can act as a transformative agent in international politics.


First, are the two leaders willing, able, and ready to make the big decisions on the big territorial issues and on the identity issues of Jerusalem and refugees? And, second, is Obama himself willing, able, and ready to do what's necessary to be tough, reassuring, and fair – using ample amounts of honey and vinegar to try to make the deal? 


If the answer to the first question is yes, Obama's in business. If both are yes, he might even – with the help of the peace process gods – get an agreement. But he must ask these questions before he commits because, if he doesn't, he will surely fail. And in failing he will be hanging a "closed for the season" sign on American efforts in Arab-Israeli peacemaking. And far from being the architect of a negotiated two-state solution, Obama will end up being the American president whose administration presided over its demise.


The writer is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His forthcoming book is Can America Have Another Great President? This article was first published in Foreign Policy.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

THERE IS NO HEBREW WORD FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

BY ROI MAOR  

 

No society is perfect, but democratic nations are able to examine themselves and learn from their errors. Strong countries are not afraid of admitting mistakes.

 

Democracy's underlying premise – that government is the servant of the governed – relies on a commitment to self-scrutiny. Unfortunately, in Israel the lack of a proper culture of accountability has been demonstrated in several recent developments.


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's extraordinary – and eventually successful – efforts to avert a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the Carmel fire disaster, is a case in point. In Israeli parliamentary democracy, the government is supported by a coalition with a majority in the Knesset, making it very difficult to pass inconvenient measures that would scrutinize government actions, a testament to Israel's weak culture of accountability.

Netanyahu's intervention is a further blow to the Knesset's ability to exercise a check on government excess and incompetence.


Unfortunately, that is not the first time a governing coalition has undermined parliamentary independence. The squabbles between Netanyahu and MK Reuven Rivlin, the Knesset speaker (Likud), over the ability to debate and amend economic reform legislation are a demonstration of that trend.

 

Another instance occurred in the beginning of the government's term, when the coalition managed to choose MK Uri Ariel (National Union) to serve as the opposition's representative on the committee that appoints judges, instead of Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima), the Knesset member favored by most opposition members.


Uri Ariel was also the sway vote in a decision to avoid a parliamentary inquiry into the Carmel fire.


The very fact that a parliamentary inquiry was the only course of action on the table should be cause for concern. In the past, such events would have been examined by a state committee of inquiry, headed by a former High Court justice, appointed by the president of the High Court. The last committee of this type was the 2001 Or Commission appointed with investigating the events of October 2000 in which 12 Arab citizens of Israel and one Palestinian were killed.


Since then, such committees have only been established by the Knesset. A situation was created in which, when faced with public pressure for inquiry, governments have preferred to elect their own inquisitors.

 

The Winograd Committee, established to investigate the failings of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, did not turn out so well for the Olmert government which had created it.


The Turkel Committee, appointed to investigate the response to the Gaza Flotilla in May 2010, in which nine people died, may be a different story. Recently, while questioning a witness, one of its members accidentally intimated that he has already made up his mind about the very questions the committee was set up to answer.

 

UNDER THESE circumstances, the burden falls on other institutions. The State Comptroller, already overburdened and overextended, is supposed to monitor the entire gigantic bureaucracy with relatively limited resources. The legal system was never designed to address the broad need for accountability. Even in the criminal sphere, it achieves poor outcomes, especially when it comes to offenses committed against vulnerable populations, such as minorities or women. Non-governmental organizations do valuable work, but have no authority and limited access to necessary information.


Moreover, all of these nominally independent institutions have come under severe attack from recent Israeli governments. Some have even gone so far as to attempt to pass legislation, or take diplomatic actions, in order to undermine the funding or independence of these bodies and groups.


That should be a cause for concern for all Israelis. No society is perfect, but democratic nations are able to examine themselves and learn from their errors. Strong countries are not afraid of admitting mistakes and engaging critics. The government would do well to ensure that scrutinizing bodies are kept independent of the Knesset, and to end attacks on NGOs, the legal system and the State Comptroller.


By that measure, the undermining of accountability moves us away from democracy, and weakens us.

The writer is an Israeli activist and blogger.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ADVANCING BACKWARD

 

Leaders around the world are losing their patience with Netanyahu and wondering if the Israeli PM is a partner for peace. The way to restore their faith and protect Israel's interests around the world remains freezing settlements.

 

Israel has embarked on a vanguard diplomatic effort to foil the Palestinian initiative to gain international recognition for Palestine in the 1967 borders, and to fend off a resolution in the UN Security Council condemning settlements. The diplomatic activity has been accompanied by a loud campaign against what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls the "delegitimization of Israel around the world." He is trying to convince us that the deterioration in Israel's standing stems from the rejection of Israel's existence, and that this erosion is not related to his government's policies on peace and settlements.

 

The unilateral steps taken by both sides do not build confidence between Israel and the Palestinians and disrupt the implementation of a two-state solution. It would be best if the United Nations recognized the Palestinian state the day after the end of the negotiations on the core issues, with borders topping the list. In a meeting with Israeli peace activists this week in the Muqata in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Netanyahu to begin serious negotiations and stop establishing facts on the ground by expanding settlements.

 

It's unfortunate that instead of cultivating relations with the Palestinians and Arab states, Israeli diplomats have to clash with them in the international arena. It's unfortunate that instead of benefiting from the political and economic fruits of peace, the Foreign Ministry is sent to dust off ancient public-relations papers that failed to convince anyone.

 

Our political leaders only have themselves to blame for the deterioration in Israel's international standing. WikiLeaks has exposed that Ron Dermer, a political adviser to Netanyahu, told guests from the United States in December 2009 that Netanyahu has lost patience with Abbas and does not consider him a partner for peace.

 

In December 2010, leaders around the world are losing their patience with Netanyahu and are wondering if the Israeli prime minister is a partner for peace. The way to restore their faith and protect Israel's interests around the world remains the freezing of settlements and a diplomatic process in which the core issues are seriously discussed. The international community must push the sides toward such negotiations.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE DEFIANT BUBBLE

WHAT DO THE THREE LIKUD MINISTERS WHO REBELLED AGAINST PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU AND VOTED AGAINST ALLOCATIONS TO ORTHODOX MEN HAVE IN COMMON? ALL THREE LIVE IN TEL AVIV.

BY ALUF BENN

 

What do the three Likud ministers who rebelled against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and voted against allocations to Orthodox men have in common? All three live in Tel Aviv.

 

Gideon Sa'ar, Limor Livnat and Gilad Erdan chose to represent their secular city, whose residents loathe the ultra-Orthodox and especially the Shas party; the three stood as a united front against their political patron, Netanyahu, who is trying to protect his coalition alliance with the Haredi parties. Ironically, Minister Silvan Shalom, the prime minister's big rival, spoke out against the allocations but abstained from voting. Perhaps because he lives on the other side of the bridge, in Ramat Gan, where things are seen differently.

 

The trio's revolt expressed the most compelling struggle under way in Israel - the battle of the "bubble." Voters in Tel Aviv and its outlying areas will account for 20-30 Knesset seats in the next elections. These voters cast ballots before primarily for Kadima; but opposition leader Tzipi Livni's apparent weakness vis-a-vis the popular Netanyahu encourages Kadima's opponents to canvass among Tel Aviv's middle-of-the-road voters. They are campaigning persistently for these votes.

 

Gideon Sa'ar from Likud, Isaac Herzog from Labor, and journalist Yair Lapid, who has yet to join the political arena, are three Tel Aviv residents from the same age group, who rub shoulders in the same social circle, and are scouting votes among the same constituency. They have a keen sense of the spirit of the times. In a period of security calm and economic growth, the public drifts toward the moderate right. Revolutionary militants gain strength during times of crisis, after wars or during economic stagnation, when people are worried about their future and seek change. That is how Lenin came to power in Russia, and Barack Obama reached the White House; similarly, Avigdor Lieberman moved from the political margins toward the leadership in a period of stress.

 

]But when the housing market is strong and stock shares are soaring, as is the case in Israel in late 2010, the public is content, and the party continues. This is the hour for prophets of the new main street. Sa'ar, Herzog and Lapid define themselves as belonging to the right, left and center, respectively; that is, they appear to represent differing political camps, but their views are virtually identical. All three promise to resurrect the Ben-Gurion spirit of patriotic bipartisanship, centered around IDF duty and core curriculum studies for every child. All three oppose special allocations to the religious and want the ultra-Orthodox to find jobs, but they are wary of antagonism toward the religious (Lapid: "The law for allocations to the Orthodox is a manifest fraud, but a discourse based on hatred of the Haredim will not move us forward;" Herzog: "The allocations law is self-defeating and reverses the laudable, evolving trend by which the Orthodox are becoming integrated in the workplace." )

 

Regarding diplomacy and the peace process, the gaps between these three are narrow. All agree that Israel has justice on its side, and the Palestinians are responsible for perpetuating the dispute. Herzog, putatively the leftist, says Mahmoud Abbas is a negotiation partner; but, like Netanyahu, he demands that the Palestinian Authority leader recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Sa'ar, supposedly the rightist, supported a freeze in the settlements in exchange for American guarantees and incentives. Both men speak passionately about the threat posed by Iran and about the danger of Israel's "delegitimization" in Europe. These positions point to the prolongation of the status quo in the territories, but they proffer no support to the settlers. In short, they are popular positions in Tel Aviv.

 

Sa'ar and Herzog represent the same political strategy. In their view, Likud and Labor should move toward the center and stay clear of the political extremes. They disagree only about policy toward Arab citizens of Israel. The education minister wants to strengthen Jewish and Zionist values and eliminate the term "Nakba" from textbooks; the social affairs minister brands Lieberman's loyalty pledge law "racism." Hence, attitudes toward Israel's Arab community is what separates the left from the right in Israel, rather than debates about control over the territories. Lieberman was the first to grasp this and fashioned himself the leader of the new right.

 

Livni is in trouble. Her rivals have stolen her positions. Should she not redefine herself, Knesset seats will leave Kadima and drift back to Likud, Labor and some future Yair Lapid party. The next elections will be decided in Tel Aviv. That is where the political map will be drawn; and Tel Aviv residents will decide whether Likud stays in power, whether Kadima survives and whether Labor will be reborn. The rebellion of the Tel Aviv ministers against Netanyahu on the religious allocations law portends an intense future election battle.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BEYOND THE THRESHOLD OF LUCIDITY

LITTLE BY LITTLE, REPORTS CONCERNING THE STATE OF ISRAEL'S EDUCATION SYSTEM ARE COMING IN, EVINCING PATHETIC RESULTS ON INTERNATIONAL EXAMINATIONS.

BY NA'AMA SHEFFI

 

Little by little, reports concerning the state of Israel's education system are coming in, evincing pathetic results on international examinations; fewer than half of our students are eligible for a matriculation certificate; and many of them are incapable of writing a composition when they arrive at institutions of higher learning. And as the ultra-Orthodox educational stream prefers to refrain from reporting on its students' achievements, we can only guess how its graduates will handle daily tasks of the 21st century.

 

]What is so terrible about these reports is that they aren't actually news. Their contents have been declaimed for several years now. Each year, in light of students' poor performance, the Education Ministry gets rid of its existing program and declares it will be launching a new approach that will improve the situation. This year the education minister was bursting with pride, thanks to average grades which are significantly lower than what is commonly seen in the OECD countries. Instead of concentrating on cheap propaganda, he would do better to figure out the source of the deficiency.

 

Most of the students who earn matriculation certificates come from well-off communities, and a minority of them from the economic and ethnic periphery. But we already heard about this phenomenon a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. What has happened since then? Several education ministers have come and gone, each one of them adopting new methods, asking for budgets and explaining that as long as the Finance Ministry and the teachers unions don't interfere, Israel will once again produce geniuses.

 

]Everyone ignored the fact that even those students who have succeeded in receiving the desired matriculation certificate still arrive at institutions of higher education using vocabulary and syntax befitting text messages and Twitter. For years, the universities kept the information about students' writing abilities to themselves. The universities cut back on expenses and forfeited lessons in academic writing, and in the regional colleges they're plowing uncultivated fields, which were neglected by the schools in the outlying areas.

 

]The heads of the institutions of higher learning recently decided to set a standard for lucid writing for those students who want to be accepted in departments of social sciences, humanities and arts. A writing section will soon be including in the psychometric exams (as is done in the United States on the SATs ). Students of the exact sciences and the natural sciences, however, are exempt from having to write compositions clearly; they will seclude themselves in their laboratories.

 

Israeli students have not become stupid. The fools are the ones heading the education system who believe, like the education ministers we have seen over the past 20 years, that getting rid of one curriculum and replacing it with another will change the situation beyond recognition. The heads of the institutions of higher education are also to blame here; for years they remained silent after reading student compositions which were perhaps written in Hebrew letters, but in incomprehensible sublanguages.

 

]The ministry's hasty introduction of new programs on the one hand, and the institutions' silence on the other, have accelerated the downhill slide of the state educational system. Israel has a population whose forefathers attained impressive achievements. Arab history is full of discoveries in the fields of mathematics and engineering. Jewish history is characterized by interpretative, historiographic and artistic writing; Jews also constitute 22 percent of Nobel Prize laureates.

 

Once the heads of the education system stop fleeing from reality, we can return to making outstanding achievements. These officials must acknowledge the root of the problem: an increasing difficulty in teaching students how to learn. In order for the situation to change, the decision makers must stop their denials and contortions and return to the classroom. Instead of investing efforts aimed at pleasing the "clients" - ie, the students - the system must focus on teaching them how to learn.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

SENSITIVE AND SMALL-SCALE

CABINET MEMBERS IN A DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY ARE DISCUSSING THE LIVES OF 20 PERCENT OF THE CITIZENRY AS THOUGH THEY ARE A BUNCH OF POTENTIAL CRIMINALS, WHILE IN THE BACKGROUND LOOM A SLEW OF RACIST LAWS, RABBIS' LETTERS AND DEMONSTRATIONS CALLING ON JEWS NOT TO RENT APARTMENTS TO THE ARABS WHO TRYING TO SEDUCE YOUR SISTER, ON TOP OF THE TENDENCY TO AUTOMATICALLY BLAME ARABS FOR EVERY DISASTER THAT HAPPENS HERE.

BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

 

A brief newspaper article this week revealed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convened a "sensitive and small-scale meeting about Israeli Arabs." This isn't Jane Austen-style sensitivity; it's code for a security issue, and means that the seven top ministers have responded to the exhortations of Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin and listened to the description of what Netanyahu and his advisers call "the dangerous radicalization within the Arab population."

The ministers looked at the Shin Bet and police presentations and expressed concern, while Diskin emphasized that the radicalization trend will be curtailed only if efforts to integrate Israeli Arabs into the wider Israeli society are intensified.

 

You have to rub your eyes to believe it: Cabinet members in a democratic country are discussing the lives of 20 percent of the citizenry as though they are a bunch of potential criminals, while in the background loom a slew of racist laws, rabbis' letters and demonstrations calling on Jews not to rent apartments to the Arabs who trying to seduce your sister, on top of the tendency to automatically blame Arabs for every disaster that happens here. And the only ones calling for greater integration are Shin Bet officials.

 

The Shin Bet has its own reasons, but in a normal country it's the government that's supposed to make sure the security agency is keeping to the fundamentals of democracy, not the other way around. The cabinet should be discussing integration not as a means of keeping "radicalization" in check but as a policy.

 

In referring to integration, Diskin is talking about such ideas as opening up more civil service jobs to Arabs, encour Arab business people and supporting the establishment of industrial zones in predominantly Arab communities - everything the government isn't already doing. But the exclusion of Israel's Arab citizens begins long before they start looking for work. It begins as early as kindergarten or elementary school.

 

The gap between the proportion of Israeli Jews who have passed the national exams necessary to earn a high school matriculation certificate and the proportion of Israeli Arabs who have done so has increased by five percentage points, to 18.9 percent, since 2008. There is a similar gap on the standardized Meitzav exams. On an international exam testing reading skills, native Hebrew speakers ranked 11th out of 68, while native Arab speakers ranked 40th.

 

The contrast becomes even more stark when you take into consideration the high Arab dropout rate and the differences in higher education; of Israelis who have a doctorate, 94.5 percent are Jewish and 2.8 percent are Arab.

 

The causes are well-known: a scandalous shortage of classrooms and Education Ministry inspectors for Arab schools, dismal infrastructure and continued neglect. Innumerable committees have sounded the alarm about this neglect and recommended that it be reversed, primarily through the allotment of additional funds. All these recommendations have been ignored.

 

But the roots of exclusion are still deeper and more fundamental. Arab education in Israel does not, in effect, have a defined legal status. The 1953 State Education Law sees it as a kind of surplus schooling that falls under the "not Jewish" category. The curriculum is solely in the hands of the education minister.

 

The law itself points out the need for a pedagogic council for Arab education, as recommended by a committee established by former Minister Amnon Rubinstein in 1996, and several bills have been submitted on the matter in the past few years. But all for nought. The entire curriculum, including that related to Arab language and culture and Palestinian history and heritage, is set and monitored almost exclusively by the Education Ministry.

 

Where is the integration? Arab intellectuals and academics have almost no influence over the formal education of Israel's Arab citizens.

 

This week Dr. Yousef Jabareen, a law lecturer at the University of Haifa, and Dr. Ayman Agbaria, an expert on education policy and leadership who lectures at the University of Haifa and Beit Berl College, published a detailed report that cites 100 recommendations previously submitted for improving methods of instruction in Arab schools and an earlier report about educating toward a shared life in Israel - all of which were buried.

 

Jabareen and Agbaria's report clearly shows that in the absence of a representative and authentic professional body to develop a unique pedagogic policy for the Arab population, Arab education in Israel will continue to deteriorate. All of Israel's governments have neglected it; the current one is doing so deliberately. Netanyahu and his seven wonders are convinced that what Jabareen and Agbaria have brought to public attention - a legitimate and basic demand that the state recognize the cultural and national uniqueness of the Arab minority, encourage it and support it - is hiding the frightening aspiration of isolationist political autonomy.

 

But fear makes for a poor adviser, and spreading fear is a weapon of mass destruction. In the absence of a well-developed autonomous education system that is open and transparent, other entities are taking up the space. These include Arab-language satellite TV channels and websites, and even the Islamic Movement. In light of the "sensitive and small-scale meeting," and past experience, it's difficult not to conclude that that's just what this government prefers.

 

***************************************


HAARETZ

OPINION

YES, SEPARATE THEM

THE MIX OF POLITICS AND RELIGION IN THIS COUNTRY HAS CREATED AN ENDLESS CYCLE OF MORAL TURPITUDE AND FRATERNAL HATRED. THE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT CORRUPTS THE FABRIC OF THE STATE, WHILE THE STATE CORRUPTS THE FABRIC OF RELIGION.

BY DOV HALBERTAL

 

As an ultra-Orthodox man, I'm about to write some very strong things. I can't help but write them, though, having reached the conclusion that it's time for radical change.

 

Regretfully, I have to focus on the downside rather than the upside. Just as the occupation corrupts - as even its supporters will admit - so does politics corrupt religion. The mix of politics and religion in this country has created an endless cycle of moral turpitude and fraternal hatred. The religious establishment corrupts the fabric of the state, while the state corrupts the fabric of religion.

 

The only possible solution, for the benefit of religion and for the benefit of the state, is to adopt the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and separate church from state.

 

I don't believe anyone has to pay for my beliefs. It's not ethical that the secular public finances yeshiva students and the high birth rate among the ultra-Orthodox. There is nothing more infuriating to secular Israelis than to be spit in the face after they've given the ultra-Orthodox a generous sum of money. The ultra-Orthodox oppose the values of a secular society - Zionism, creativity, army conscription, sexual equality and more. However, they have no qualms about demanding and receiving money from this society, thereby intensifying public animosity toward them.

 

Let's be honest with ourselves. There is no reason the secular public should finance those who show contempt for its values. The solution I propose will benefit religion more than the state. I don't want to be part of a society that uses coercion. I don't want to be part of a society in which there is incitement to racism, and I don't want to be part of an ungrateful religious society.

 

Distorted thought processes are not part of Jewish halakha. They originate in distorted interpretations that primarily result from the repugnant connections made between politics, the establishment and religion. American Jews would not dare block streets and harm policemen because a shopping mall was open on Shabbat. In the United States, rabbis would never dream of issuing a manifesto prohibiting Jews from renting apartments to Gentiles.

 

The time has come to say "enough": enough to the religious parties; enough to their disgraceful self-centered preoccupation with budgets, as they ignore the rest of the country and the world; enough to the moral and aesthetic corruption of religion; enough to forcing laws down the throat of a public that does not believe in them.

 

To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., I, too, have a dream: I have a dream that politics will be separated from religion; I have a dream that a secular child will study the Jewish sources out of love and not out of fear of the results reflected in the display window of the religious establishment; I have a dream of belonging to a moderate Haredi religious society with broad horizons, whose slogan is "Live and let live."

 

Sometimes it seems the Haredim are motivated by a sense of victimization. This is what defines them and their right to exist, as though topping the agenda of President Barack Obama and the Supreme Court was the question of how to eradicate religious Judaism. Is it any wonder that anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred are flourishing? What would we ourselves think of a condescending religious sect, focused on itself that considers itself a light onto others but sows controversy and isolation?

 

Every person, Jew or Gentile, must be allowed to live according to his beliefs, with equal rights, out of genuine recognition of the human rights given to all those created in the image of God. One thing is clear: There is no worse combination than religion and politics.

 

The writer is a lecturer on Jewish law and served in the past as the head of the office of Israel's chief rabbi.

This story is by: Dov Halbertal

 

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

EDITORIAL

THE TAX-CAP ILLUSION

 

At a time when Americans are feeling overburdened, capping property taxes can sound like a great idea. It certainly does to Andrew Cuomo, the governor-elect of New York. But a tax cap sounds a lot more helpful than it is. It is a blunt instrument that ends up punishing many of the taxpayers and communities in need of relief.

 

History shows, painfully, that caps can do more harm than good. California's Proposition 13 led to the deterioration of universities, schools and other public facilities. Massachusetts imposed a cap in 1980 and soon police officers and firefighters were laid off and senior centers were closed. By 1991, the State Board of Education warned of a crisis with too many classrooms simply "warehousing" students.

 

The effects of tax caps are more powerful in bad economic times, and in poorer neighborhoods. Many tax caps — like the one in New Jersey — can be overturned by a majority of voters in a district. Richer communities tend to agree to the higher taxes, usually to improve their schools. Poorer ones more often go without. The New Jersey cap also has exemptions for health care and pensions — areas where costs are rising rapidly.

 

Mr. Cuomo would be the third recent New York governor who wants to limit annual increases in property taxes outside New York City. He is calling for a 2 percent cap, very limited exceptions and a requirement that 60 percent of voters agree to an increase above the cap. Like the other two governors, Mr. Cuomo is on the wrong track. What he should be worrying about are the underlying reasons that property taxes keep rising:

 

¶Personnel costs are skyrocketing. Outside New York City, the cost of pensions, health insurance and others benefits for workers has been increasing about 10 percent a year since 1998, according to the State Department of Education. The Legislature over the years has sweetened benefit packages as a way of rewarding teachers or other workers. Mr. Cuomo should push for regional collective bargaining instead of district by district. The goal should be pensions and health care systems for government workers that are more like those in the private sector.

 

¶The Legislature enjoys passing laws without giving locals the money to pay for them. Take special education, which at more than $24,000 per student is far more expensive in New York than in most other states. For years, lawmakers have added 257 additional requirements to federal disabilities laws, according to the Citizens Budget Commission. Those additions cost local districts extra, mostly for personnel. Mr. Cuomo needs to do a sweep of the extraneous mandates before imposing a tax cap on local communities.

 

¶There are too many separate school districts — about 700 ranging from New York City, with 1,100 teachers, to others that have fewer than 200 students. Consolidation could save money and even enhance curriculum.

 

¶The formulas for giving out educational funds in New York still fail to recognize that the least well-off districts need more money. The state still sends plenty of money to the public schools on Long Island, including some that are better than private academies, thanks to the rich communities around them. That leaves barely enough for the Bronx or some of the poorer, rural areas upstate.

Mr. Cuomo should address these issues first. Instead, he is focused on a tax cap. Perhaps he will change his mind when the firehouses, the police cars and — mostly — the schools start to deteriorate.

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

GOV. BARBOUR'S DREAM WORLD

 

In Gov. Haley Barbour's hazy, dream-coated South, the civil-rights era was an easy transition for his Mississippi hometown of Yazoo City. As he told the Weekly Standard recently, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an unmemorable speaker, and notorious White Citizens Councils protected the world from violent racists.

 

Perhaps Mr. Barbour, one of the most powerful men in the Republican Party and a potential presidential candidate, suffers from the faulty memory all too common among those who stood on the sidelines during one of the greatest social upheavals in history. It is more likely, though, that his recent remarks on the period fit a well-established pattern of racial insensitivity that raises increasing doubts about his fitness for national office.

 

In the magazine's profile of the second-term governor, Mr. Barbour suggests that the 1960s — when people lost life and limb battling for equal rights for black citizens — were not a terribly big deal in Yazoo City. "I just don't remember it as being that bad," he said. He heard Dr. King speak at the county fairgrounds in 1962 but can't remember the speech. "We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do," he said. "We paid more attention to the girls than to King."

 

And the Citizens Councils were simply right-minded business leaders trying to achieve integration without violence. Thanks to the councils, he said, "we didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."

 

The councils, of course, arose in the South for a single and sinister purpose: to fight federal attempts at integration and to maintain the supremacy of white leaders in cities and states. Mississippi's council, formed in reaction to the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, was one of the most powerful political forces in the state, and later raised funds for the defense of the murderer of Medgar Evers. The council chapter in Yazoo City, so fondly remembered by Mr. Barbour, published the names of N.A.A.C.P. leaders who dared to demand the town's schools be integrated in 1955. Those on the list systematically lost their jobs and their livelihoods, boycotted by white citizens.

 

Mr. Barbour hastily issued a statement on Tuesday describing the councils as "indefensible" and the era as "difficult and painful." But this is the same man who in 1982 made an indefensible remark to an aide who complained that there would be "coons" at a campaign stop. If the aide persisted in racist remarks, Mr. Barbour said, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks. His campaign for the governor's office was also racially tinged.

 

Memory has long been the mutable clay of the South, changing the meaning of the Civil War and now the civil-rights era. But the memory of Mr. Barbour's personal history will not soon fade. That should give pause to the Republican Party as it considers his future.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN UNPAID DEBT

 

Anyone who was in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, remembers how the ash, paper and dust of the collapsing towers blew across Lower Manhattan. For days afterward, there was that peculiar smell — of burned paper and chemicals and death. That was the air that filled the lungs of tens of thousands of firefighters, police officers, nurses, paramedics, soldiers and civilian volunteers who toiled for months to uncover the dead.

 

More than nine years later, many of those first responders are dead. Many are sick. Some are dying. Thousands need care for illnesses contracted through their heroism at ground zero. America owes them help, and Congress is poised to give it to them, if die-hard Republican objectors get out of the way of the majority.

 

The 9/11 health and compensation bill provides health screenings, treatment and follow-up monitoring for ailing first responders who meet strict eligibility rules. It requires New York to pay 10 percent of the costs.

 

The bill passed the House in September but ran into a filibuster threat in the Senate from Republicans, ostensibly over the cost. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma called it a waste of money and complained that Democrats were rushing it to a vote. "This bill hasn't even been through a committee," he said on Fox News, somehow forgetting that the proper committee held a hearing on the bill on June 29. (Mr. Coburn is a member. He didn't attend.)

 

Senate Democrats, led by Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York, have trimmed the costs to $6.2 billion from $7.4 billion. It is fully paid for with such measures as excise fees on certain foreign companies that have federal government contracts and higher visa fees on companies that hire many foreign workers.

 

Supporters say they have the votes to bypass a Republican filibuster on Wednesday. The House would then have to pass the amended bill. The risk is that senators like Mr. Coburn will delay a vote until the clock runs out.

 

We will leave it to the Republicans to work out the riddle of the gap between their professed honor for American heroes and their shabby disdain for those who risked their health and lives at ground zero. Mr. Coburn, at least, should allow a vote. President Obama should stop letting Jon Stewart carry the ball, step in and insist that Congress pass the bill. Congress should delay its Christmas break, if needed, to get this done.

 

***************************************

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOUSING FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS

 

The recession has made it impossible for Louisiana and other gulf states to replace thousands of affordable housing units swept away five years ago by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Congress tried to fix this problem last week with a one-year extension of a tax-credit program that encourages companies to invest in affordable housing as a way of offsetting tax liabilities.

 

But one year does not allow enough time for weather and construction delays; investors have already made it abundantly clear that they will avoid the program unless Congress gives them at least 18 months to get the deals signed, the buildings erected and tenants installed. This should be an urgent priority for the next Congress.

 

Nearly all the affordable rental housing in this country is built through the low-income tax-credit program. After the two storms, Congress allotted Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama more than $300 million in credits under a program requiring that projects be ready for occupancy by the end of this year.

 

The credits sold briskly while the economy was booming. But demand dropped off steeply during the recession when businesses had progressively smaller tax liabilities. The market picked up again with the recovery, except in the Gulf of Mexico region, where investors worried they could lose money by buying into projects that would miss the ready-for occupancy deadline.

 

Last spring, Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat of Louisiana, introduced an amendment extending the occupancy date by two years. Congress dragged its feet up until last week when lawmakers demanded that the extension be cut back to one year.

 

This will help a handful of projects that are already in progress. But it will do nothing for the 70 or so projects scattered around the gulf states that are still searching for investors. The next Congress will need to quickly extend the tax credits by another year.

 

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE LIBRARY AT POOH CORNER

BY JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN

 

Belgrade Lakes, Me.

EIGHTY-FIVE years ago this Christmas Eve, The London Evening News published a short story about a boy and a bear written by an assistant editor at Punch named A. A. Milne, thus engendering four children's books, a slew of films and videos and a merchandising empire estimated to be worth more to the Disney Corporation than Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto combined.

 

(Not to mention providing the inspiration for Dorothy Parker's most withering review, when she responded, in her Constant Reader column, to Pooh's line that "pom" makes singing more "hummy" with the comment, "And it is that word 'hummy,' my darlings, that marks the first place ... at which Tonstant Weeder Fwowed up.")

 

It also resulted in my finding myself in tears last Christmas in the Stephen A. Schwarzman building of the New York City Public Library.

 

The story goes back 35 years. In the 1980s, I had a gruesome copy-editing job at E. P. Dutton, the American publishers of the "Winnie-the-Pooh" books. One of my colleagues was a crusty septuagenarian named Eliot Graham, whose title was director of publicity emeritus. Eliot was the shepherd of the original Pooh stuffed animals — Pooh, Tigger, Kanga, Piglet and Eeyore — which were kept in a glass case in the Dutton lobby on 2 Park Avenue.

 

He'd take them to schools and literary festivals and the sets of early morning news shows. We used to talk about the Pooh animals together, Eliot and I, as if they were members of a rock band, and Eliot their long-suffering manager.

 

When Dutton was sold in 1985, the Pooh animals became the private property of the company's former owner, John Dyson, the chairman of the New York State Power Authority. I don't know the exact terms of the agreement that handed the Pooh animals over to the Dyson family. What I do know is that the glass case in the E. P. Dutton lobby was empty afterward, and Eliot Graham had no animals to shepherd any more. Some days you'd see him just standing there, looking into the empty case. It was sad.

 

I hadn't thought about any of this in 25 years, until the week before Christmas last year, when I walked into the Schwarzman building to see a friend who works in the Children's Book Room. There in a glass case in the center of the library were all the Pooh animals, just as I remembered them — Pooh, Eeyore, even little Piglet, who is not much more than a threadbare pincushion. (Owl and Rabbit were fruits of Milne's imagination; Roo is said to have been lost in Ashdown Forest in England in the 1930s.)

 

]As I learned, the animals had not remained with the Dysons forever; the family donated them to the New York Public Library, where they have been ever since. A 1987 article in The Times noted that an older man, a Mr. Eliot Graham, was present on the occasion of the animals' return to New York. "If I were an ordinary person," he was quoted as saying, "there'd be tears in my eyes."

 

I quit my job at Dutton in 1985 and headed off to graduate school to study fiction writing. Back then I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me, once I went out in the world to seek my fortune. It seemed entirely possible to me, at the time, that I was about to fall off the edge of the earth.

 

On my last day of work, there'd been a knock on my office door, and a crusty, bearlike voice said, "There's someone here who wants to say goodbye to you." And I turned to see Eliot Graham standing there, holding the original Winnie the Pooh. He held the bear toward me, and nodded. "Go ahead," he said dryly. "You can hug him."

 

So I did. He was soft.

 

When I was done, I gave Winnie the Pooh back to Eliot. He looked at me, and nodded, and said, "Good luck at school," and walked away. That was the last I saw of him.

 

I've thought about Eliot every once in a while, in the years since then. I suppose I should have called him up some time and let him know I did not fall off the edge of the earth. But of course he died years ago, while I was busy typing.

 

On that December day last year, my friend and I headed out into Midtown. New York was all dressed up for Christmas. There on the corner was the restaurant where my father used to take me. There was the Daily News building, where I had a job in 1984. There was the lollipop street clock at 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue where my sister and I used to meet. I haven't seen her in a long time.

 

And I thought of the ending of "The House at Pooh Corner," in which our hero takes his leave of the companions of his youth: "But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing."

 

Jennifer Finney Boylan is a professor of English at Colby College and the author, most recently, of the young adult novel "Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror."

 

***************************************

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

MY MAGI: CRAB, CROCODILE AND SEA HORSE

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

WASHINGTON

 

Last Christmas I got a jolt.

 

I learned that my brother Kevin collects crèches. They were all over his house, crammed onto every mantle, table, counter, lawn and closet — 17 in all, including the modest plastic stable our mom put over the fireplace when we were little.

 

I was perturbed. I knew Kevin, a salesman, was a fanatical guardian of the word Christmas, as opposed to the pagan, generic "holiday," but I had no idea that he had such a monomaniacal hobby.

 

Maybe I was scarred by reading "The Glass Menagerie" as a teenager. But books and records aside, collections always struck me as vaguely creepy. I had shuddered for years as my sister accumulated clowns and Don Quixote objets. And the porcelain baby collection of an older cousin actually made me feel queasy.

 

I wondered why Kevin was so obsessive about crèches. Was it a way to stay close to our late mother? An homage to our old church, Nativity?

 

]As a child, he treated St. Joseph, the shepherds and three kings as action figures, staging smack downs.

 

]"The shepherd had an advantage because he was holding the lamb, and he could use it as a weapon," Kevin recalled fondly.

 

I also remembered that he got very upset one year when St. Joseph was stolen from the outdoor Nativity scene at Nativity, and he fretted over why Christ's stepfather disappeared from the New Testament so abruptly.

 

Could that make him hoard a houseful of St. Josephs — and send his three sons to a college named St. Joseph's?

 

]I was curious enough about the manger mania that when he told me he'd been invited to the Friends of the Creche annual convention in New Haven one weekend in November, I asked if I could go, too.

 

]Touring the crèche display at the Knights of Columbus hall, we met collectors who had 300, 500, even 600 crèches, the kind who might put an addition on the house just to display their stables.

 

Kevin began to feel inadequate with a mere 15. (He gave two to his oldest son.)

 

Bonnie Psanenstiel, a heavyset 52-year-old nurse from Owensboro, Ky., told me that she has more than 500 sets packed into her "Nativity meditation room," even though "I'm not really into religion."

 

She got her first, which was hand-carved out of olive wood, on a high-school trip to Morocco and spent four years baby-sitting and cleaning houses to pay it off.

 

She's most attached to the set given to her by a woman she helped when she was a rape-incest counseling volunteer. "We used to sit by the Mississippi River and just talk," Bonnie said as she started to cry. "She would slowly gather up some of this Delta clay, and she made me a set."

 

She believes Nativities represent "renewal."

 

Father Tim Goldrick, the gregarious pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Fall River, Mass., said his grandfather told him it was a Portuguese-Azorian tradition that the man of the house set up the crèche. He begged to put up their Woolworth's set.

 

For years, the priest kept hundreds of crèches in milk crates in his guest room, which precluded actual guests.

 

"There was no room in the inn," he said wryly.

 

When he transferred from his last parish, he called a mover and explained that he owned no furniture but did have a lot of Christmas decorations. "It took three men two days to box them up and ship them," he said.

 

Mike Whalen, 61, of Clinton Township, Mich., the president of the crèche society and proud owner of 400, said he doesn't know of crèche fixations causing any marital battles. "There's a lady from California whose husband is Jewish, and he's very involved," Mike said. "He came up with an Excel system to organize things."

 

Rita Bocher of Wynnewood, Pa., does the society's newsletter. In the '80s, doing market research for the Franklin Mint, she had to research crèches. "I thought nobody collects Nativities," she said. "Turned out, I was totally wrong." Now she has 700 subscribers around the world.

 

She saw her favorite in a German museum. It was a prequel, showing the Magi getting ready to go on their trip, ordering around servants, gathering gold, frankincense and myrrh.

 

Father Tim explained to Kevin that Joseph might have disappeared so abruptly all those years ago because of the belief that if you bury a St. Joseph statue in the yard, you can sell your house quicker. (A tradition that has revived with the recession, according to The Wall Street Journal.)

 

]I couldn't fight the fanatics, so I joined them. I bought a Cape Cod crèche at the convention made by Nathaniel Wordell of South Chatham, Mass. Mary's a mermaid. The baby Jesus is covered with a striped beach towel. The Wise Men are crab, crocodile and sea horse. The "livestock" are frog, turtle and starfish. Joseph has a trident.

 

]Sadly, it did not draw my brother and me closer. "That is sacrilegious," Kevin said, staring in horror. "The Virgin Mary does not have a tail."

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

JUSTICE BREYER'S SHARP AIM

BY PAULINE MAIER

 

Cambridge, Mass.

WHILE the federal judge who ruled that portions of the health care reform law were unconstitutional made the big headlines, another important constitutional debate was reopened last week by Justice Stephen Breyer during an interview on Fox. He argued that the historical record — in particular, James Madison's thoughts and writings — supports the dissenters in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court said the Second Amendment established an individual right to bear arms, and on that basis struck down a District of Columbia ban on handguns.

 

Conservatives were quick to accuse Justice Breyer of pursuing an activist judicial agenda. Their charges are misguided.

 

]The dissents — written by Justices Breyer and John Paul Stevens and joined by Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — held that the Second Amendment affirms the right of the people to "keep and bear arms" as part of a "well-regulated militia," but not an absolute individual right to own a gun. And if there is no constitutional right at issue, gun regulation should be set by elected legislatures and local governments, not the courts. That's not "activist."

 

Indeed, contrary to what many Second-Amendment absolutists suggest, Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion in Heller did not preclude all regulations of firearms, only those that amounted to a prohibition on ownership or prevented their use in the home for self-defense.

 

However, Justice Breyer went further in his Fox interview. He said that James Madison wrote the Second Amendment because some Americans feared that Congress would call up the state militias and nationalize them. Madison proposed the amendment, the justice said, to appease these skeptics and to "get this document ratified." Justice Breyer continued: "If that was his motive historically, the dissenters were right. And I think more of the historians were with us."

 

There is a problem with this argument: by the time Madison proposed what became the Second Amendment on June 8, 1789, the Constitution had already been ratified and was in effect. Rhode Island and North Carolina had yet to ratify, but it's hard to believe that Rhode Island, with its many Quakers, would be enticed into the Union by an amendment affirming the right to bear arms.

 

Madison's actual motives for proposing the amendments, as a representative in the first federal Congress, are well documented. He hoped to "parry" the call for a second federal convention to consider amendments proposed by several state ratifying conventions, one of which would have modified Congress's wall-to-wall taxing powers.

 

He proposed amendments asserting "the great rights of mankind" — to which, ostensibly, nobody could object — in hopes of cooling support for a new convention that might have curtailed the powers of the new government. Madison did not include an unambiguous assertion of an individual right to own guns on his list; clearly he did not consider it one of the "great rights" on a par with freedom of conscience and of speech.

 

Instead, Madison reassured those who feared Congress's new military powers, as he had done earlier in Federalist 46. The Constitution said Congress could raise an army and navy. Nonetheless, one of his proposed amendments promised that the people would never be subject to federal military rule because their "right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well-armed, and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country."

 

Congress rewrote Madison's language somewhat — "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." In 18th-century laws, the preamble (in this case, the first clause) stated the purpose of an enactment. Thus the right to keep and bear arms was granted as a means to sustain that "well-regulated militia." That's what Congress meant, and what the states approved.

 

Incidentally, did you ever wonder what happened to the militia? It was beloved in the 18th century because of the belief that as an amateur home-defense force drawn from the adult male population, it would never turn against the people like the standing armies that did as they were commanded. Indeed, the militia would protect the people against tyrannical power.

 

Those traditional militia companies, which were normally called into action by the states, were never a particularly effective military force. They limped along through the 19th century until the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, when militiamen fraternized with the strikers rather than protect the railroad owners' property.

 

Their actions provoked a reorganization and professionalization of the militia, which became known as the National Guard. Finally, the so-called Dick Act of 1903, named after Charles Dick, an Ohio Congressman, made the National Guard a backup to the Army, and mandated that it adopt the same organization, weapons and discipline.

 

The Constitution says Congress can call up the militia only to "execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions," all tasks performed within the United States. Yet today there are National Guardsmen in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is possible because the militia, which the Second Amendment was intended to protect, is defunct. Are we less secure or less free as a consequence?

 

Thanks to the decision in Heller, an individual right to bear arms is now established in American law. And in Heller's sequel, McDonald v. Chicago, the court majority last summer said the states are bound by the Fourteenth Amendment to honor that right.

 

How far the court will go in striking down state and local gun laws remains to be seen, although the outcry against Justice Breyer's comments shows that conservatives are looking to press the issue. In any case, one thing is clear: to justify such rulings by citing Madison and the other founders and framers would not honor their "original intent." It would be an abuse of history.

 

Pauline Maier is a history professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of "Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788."

 

]***************************************


******************************************************************************************

USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON AIRPORT SCREENING: WHY ISRAEL'S AIR SECURITY MODEL WOULDN'T WORK IN THE USA

 

For weary holiday travelers coping with the hassles of airport security, some politicians and TV pundits are peddling a simple solution: Just do what the Israelis do. Several members of Congress are praising "the Israeli model" as an alternative to the U.S. screening process. What the Israelis do "is the way it ought to be done," addsRepublican presidential hopeful Mike HuckabeeFox NewsSean Hannity extols the Israelis because "they target, they profile, and they do not have these body checks."

 

There's no question the Israeli system has been a success in a country beset by terrorist threats and suicide bombers. But if you can count, and if you understand American values, it's easy to see why that system wouldn't translate to the United States.

 

To start with, Israel has one major international airport, Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv, which handles about 11 million passengersa year. The USA has 450 airportsthrough which 770 million people pass. Put another way, U.S. airports handle more passengers in a single week than Israel — a New Jersey-sized nation with few domestic flights — does in a year.

 

Moreover, in Israel, where screeners are highly trained and El Al pays for much of the security costs, the airline spent about $57 per passenger last year, according to The Washington Post. And in the United States, where the government picks up most of the tab? Less than $7 per passenger. We don't hear the Transportation Security Administration's critics calling for an eightfold increase in this year's $5.3 billion air security budget.

 

Even if volume and cost weren't obstacles, Americans wouldn't put up with such Israeli practices as having toget to the airport as much as four hours ahead of departure, being interrogated at length by airport screeners, or having their luggage confiscated. Everyone still has to pass through metal detectors.

 

Central to Israeli security is ethnic profiling and background checks. While many travelers pass through Israeli airports with minimal scrutiny, Israel singles out Arabs, including many who are Israeli residents, and other foreign nationals for intrusive questioning, screening and searches. In July, Israeli news media reported, former Clinton Cabinet member Donna Shalala, now president of the University of Miami, was detained for more than two hours of questioning because of her Lebanese name.

 

Israelis have been willing to trade both personal privacy and civil liberties for air security. But even after 9/11, many Americans have balked at that trade-off, as a vocal minority made clear in the recent uproar over full-body scanners and enhanced pat-downs. In 2003, a TSA plan to tap into fliers' personal credit card and other data, then assign them security risk ratings, ignited such an outcry that it was scrapped.

 

Nor is it clear that ethnic profiling would work. True, most terror suspects have been young Muslim men. But such profiling would have missed "Jihad Jane," the petite, blond-haired, blue-eyed Philadelphia woman arrested in March for allegedly recruiting Americans and others for terror plots. Or Richard Reid, the white British citizen who tried to blow up an airliner in December 2001 with a shoe bomb.

Religious radicalism can infect the brains of people of any complexion or ethnicity. On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC he's worried about terrorist attacks on the U.S. by Americans.

 

Certainly, it would be helpful if the TSA used more common sense and sophistication than it does now in picking fliers for extra screening. But its critics have to recognize that facile advice about Israel and profiling crumbles under the weight of a single question: How, exactly, would you make that work here?

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON AIRPORT SCREENING: FOLLOW THE ISRAELI MODEL

BY ASRA Q. NOMANI

 

America is at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we face a battle front closer to home: our airports and airliners.

 

In 1998, after a foiled plot by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to bomb U.S.-bound jets, Osama bin Ladenurged Muslims to down U.S. and Israeli jets in "pitiless and violent" attacks. Since then, we've had a series of al-Qaeda-inspired plots, including three schemes against Los Angeles and New York airports, "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, the Christmas 2009 "underwear bomber" and the recent air-cargo bomb attempt. And, of course, the plot we will never forget, onSept. 11, 2001.

 

Sadly, to me, as an American Muslim, there is one common denominator to these plots: The perpetrators are all Muslim.

 

As a nation, we need to be less politically correct and more pragmatic in assessing threats. It's a painful choice, but we should follow the Israeli model and allow profiling based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, national origin and age, as part of a wider screening strategy that includes behavioral profiling. Profiling makes sense whether it involves screening white Christian extremists to find those intent on bombing abortion clinics or Muslims to find al-Qaeda operatives targeting airliners.

 

The Justice Department has said that because of the "incalculably high stakes involved" in preventing "catastrophic events," such as jet attacks, airport screeners "may consider race, ethnicity, and other relevant factors."

 

There are several ways to implement this strategy:

 

•Ensure that profiling is limited to threat assessment, not harassment or discrimination.

 

•Have passengers input into a database vital information — Social Security, driver's license or passport numbers — when they make an airline reservation to clearly establish identities, travel patterns and, when possible, other elements as part of pre-screening. Let fliers voluntarily add more data, such as race, religion, ethnicity and national origin, to the database. Let security officials access that database for use in secondary screening at the airport.

 

•Train a larger cadre of professional screeners in identity and behavioral profiling so they can respectfully use both to identify people for extra screening.

 

With an honest national conversation about the threat from a small, radicalized group of Muslims, I believe we can marginalize and defeat their interpretation of Islam. And, I hope, soon see a day when Muslims will no longer be a part of the threat profile.

 

Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who covered airlines, is the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam. She teaches journalism at Georgetown University.

 

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USA TODAY

OPINION